Orphaned at a young age, Hallie Mediate was raised by her (slightly) crazy Great Aunt Grace on the wrong side of the tracks in Cincinnati. Hallie dreamed of escaping her hometown and never looking back. After putting herself through college, landing her dream job in Chicago, and setting her sights on her handsome running partner Bo Pompillio, life is finally exactly as she wants it.
That is, until she’s transferred back to her hometown.
Hallie is a woman with a plan, and when her boss Piper has her ‘shipped off’ to manage the Gucci store in her hometown, she can’t help but think that she’s trying to get rid of her! But life isn’t all it seems down south, especially after she discovers a talent that could change the course of her life forever.
Carpe Bead’em was a fun, fast read. The kind where you just keep needing to turn the page to find out what happens next. Comedy, romance, drama – it’s all there. You totally get behind Hallie’s character who’s life is punctuated by chaos and drama, be it at work, from family, friends or unrequited sexy running partners. In the midst of all this she finds some remanence of sanity in beading. I loved how the theme of beading ran through the book and how we were taken on this journey with her. I also enjoyed reading about Hallie and her BFFs (felt a little Sex & City, albeit Windy City). And how can you not cackle over the likes of Great Aunt Grace and the crazy 2am phone calls! Laugh out loud moment when 92 year old Aunt Grace steals a passer-by’s poodle because she’s hitting on her husband!
Did you get your hands on this hunky fella’ yesterday? If not, be sure to head over to Amazon to get your copy of Taking Charge today. This was a much anticipated book for me, and Mandy together with the teams at loveahappyending.com and Sapphire Star Publishing have done a fantastic job of publicising the book and getting readers involved (more on that later).
In Taking Charge, we meet our heroine sassy Robyn Matthers at the airport, heading back home to Portage, having been living in the UK for the last 9 years. A mishap with her carryon and Bam! she runs into him on the left – the gorgeous Cole Ryan. Within minutes (let’s put it down to nerves) we know she’s headed back home to look after an ailing father, his rundown roadhouse and the town’s ice hockey team. Robyn embraces these challenges with gusto – no questions asked…and along the way maybe falls in love. Personally I think this is one of the feistiest female characters Mandy has written, but don’t be fooled, Robyn may come across as having lots of chutzpah, wanting no needing to take charge, but beneath that bravado is a young woman trying to deal with a difficult past, in the only way she knows how.
I seem to have taken the spotlight off of our hero. What shall I tell you about Cole? Tall, dark and handsome – a bit Freddie Prinze Jr like, hockey player extraodinaire, closet geek (yep this side of him took me by surprise), dealing with his own drama and he cooks and cleans! He might like to sell himself as a hot dog eating, beer guzzling ‘Jack the lad’, but he’s smart, talented and sensitive. Very quickly he becomes ensconced into Portage life, but you probably have little choice when a whirlwind like Robyn careens into your life.
Comedy and quirky characters are a plenty in this book. Look out for the Twilight twins, kind hearted Uncle Bob, bleach blonde Nancy and the forever coughing Max to name a few.
Taking Charge isn’t just a romantic comedy (although it ticks that box too), but deals with far deeper, darker issues, which I think have been tackled both realistically and sensitively. Without giving too much away I found it really hard to read Robyn’s interview with Trudy – it was like the literary equivalent to watching a scary movie through your fingers! Mandy’s writing style has matured in this book and there is far more depth to her characters, most of whom you can’t help but fall in love with. 5 stars for me!
I’ve really enjoyed the marketing of this book; getting to meet Cole Ryan on twitter, reading the interview with The Portage Panthers, Mandy’s singing and the #TCparty yesterday. Well done to all involved and I wish Lady Baggot the very best.
For Mandy Baggot fans, the 3rd May has been marked down in diaries as the date her new book, Taking Charge is released! To tide over the anticipation of this event, I decided to download the last of her books I haven’t read – Breaking the Ice! Dancing on Ice fans, this is definitely one you have to pick up.
Meet our heroine Samantha, London based, almost West End box office assistant, at Civic Hall. Slightly neurotic, uber efficient and overwhelmed by social situations. She’s been working at Civic Hall for the last 5 years, is committed to her job, loves the history behind where she works, the shows and not to forget the regulars.
Meet the hero, Jimmy Lloyd, once a gold medallist ice skater, now on tour with “Skating on Broadway” (playing at the Civic Hall) and a recovering alcoholic.
The dilemma: unbeknownst to the motley crew at the Civic Hall, the local council’s Art budget isn’t big enough to keep 2 entertainment venues open in the same area. Could this be the end of Civic Hall? Can Jimmy help “Sam” to save her second home?
The book opens with Samantha stuck in her work freezer, surrounded by 4000 tubs of Berry Fruits ice cream, courtesy of her incompetent boss, Dave. We quickly learn that despite her title, Samantha has many hats on at work, which leaves her with little time for herself. There is quite a lot of comparison to/history about her older sister Chloe – her opposite; blonde, outgoing and the a bit of a sexual predator. I’m not sure how necessary that was to the story, as we learn more about Chloe as we go on anyway, but once I got past what was an initial hiccup for me, I really got into the story. I loved the subtle introduction of the two main characters to each other, their time on the ice and how they helped each other out. Samantha’s character definitely evolves throughout the book and could it be that Jimmy is much more boy next door than the tabloids would have you believe? As usual Mandy manages to intersperse her writing with humour (how many times have you used a mannequin as a battering ram, sober?) and once again managed to include an unexpected twist to the story. Without giving too much away, as reunions go this wasn’t what I was expecting and I loved how the scene surprised me.
I’m not sure why this was Mandy’s book I left to last. Growing up in the 80s, I love the romance around ice skating, Torvil and Dean and getting my yearly fix of Dancing on Ice. I’ve even donned the skates myself and taken a couple of classes! I’m glad I finally round to it though and for those of you missing DOI, look no further, this book has enough lean bodies, leotards, sequins and blindfolds (!?!) to keep you hot, hot, hot until next season!
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman of thirty-nine and in possession of a good complexion must be in want of a good husband. And a baby. Unless you are me.”
Kim Izzo’s debut novel opens with a brief introduction to our heroine Kate on her wedding day, flash back 6 months and the story begins, with the above quote – a twist on the infamous beginning of Pride & Prejudice. Are you hooked yet? Wait it gets better…
Kate, acting beauty editor (she’s the one that gets called in when someone goes on maternity leave), comes from a line of women who’ve never been able to depend on men. So, in order to avoid betrayal and disappointment, she’s schooled herself into believing she doesn’t need all that! Unfortunately, due to a series of events, Kate’s plans for an independent, self-sufficient lifestyle gets pulled out from underneath her. The broke, homeless (ok so she sleeps on her sister’s couch) and somewhat disappointed heroine needs to re-strategise. Opportunity comes a knocking when she is asked to write a freelance article based on whether or not she can find a rich man to marry using Austen’s rules.
So like Kate I love all things Austen, although my copies are possibly not as well thumbed as hers and I’ve never had the opportunity to lay my hands on a first edition! The title alone, was therefore enough to pique my interest. A beautiful cover, great writing and the modern twist on the ultimate Austen dilemma (a suitable marriage) had me devouring this gem like chocolate cake. Despite rationed reading time between “revision”, my time with Kate was over before I knew it. And despite her being a decade older than me, Kate was easy to empathise with. I loved her tenacity, elegance and humour.
It’s a little while before we get introduced to the Darcy-esque hero, but it’s well worth the wait. I have to say I think he had just the right amount of gruffness to keep you rooting for him. And as heroes go he was always around when he needed to be!
Kim Izzo brings you the modern day Austen heroine with all the trimmings. There are plenty of exotic characters; a Southern Belle, a swarthy stable hand and Scottish Colonel to name a few. High jinx and hilarity swiftly follow. Two words: cow condom! So, does Kate find her rich husband? Does she fall in love? Or will she be played at her own game? Read The Jane Austen Marriage Manual to find out more.