I can’t read. Well I can. But just not right now.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. I haven’t blogged since June. My last blog wasn’t even a run-of-the-mill blog. It was one of those – “I’m going to save the world and end poverty, and look at me, I can conquer anything!” blogs. You know, not quite. But sort of. So yeah, what happened to me?

June was going to be life changing. I was going to write and finish a manuscript (destined for Harlequin Presents) in one month. For the first half of the month I was on track to do just that. Then I became sick. Then my husband turned 40. Then, under the weather and slightly off kilter I experienced something that triggered memories of my experience with post natal depression. Cue several months of emptiness. I want to write about that one day. But right now let’s get to the real point of this blog.

I can’t read. Well I can. But just not right now…and not for the last few months. If you’re a reader, devouring stories daily, you’ll have an idea how I feel right now.

I’m in a funk. Clearly there’s something on my mind. I can barely read the first two sentences of a book before I throw it down and self medicate with chocolate. My usual go-to authors aren’t doing it for me. I keep buying books in the hope one will pull me out of this fog. Instead, I just have a large pile of books. Where do you go when your go tos don’t work?

When I start reading a book I find myself mentally critiquing the style or format. I’m not engaged. I’m not getting lost in the story. I don’t like Prologues. I find too much of the first chapter written from the hero’s point of view tiresome. I want the hero and heroine to meet on the first page. I want lots of dialogue. Blah. Blah. Blah. Even I’m getting tired of these restrictions and excuses. 

I have several theories on what could be wrong with me. So does my husband apparently. I apologise in advance for the dot points.

– I wonder if I could be depressed and not realise it. Though with my history, I’m sort of a pro at identifying the onset of ennui. Mad skillz everybody.

– The 50k in 30 days (Romance Writers of Australia) may have been too confronting for me. Did I burn out? Was I overwhelmed by the acceptance and support I received?

– I just may have backed myself into a genre specific corner. I know exactly what I want and I want it written exactly how I want it and I want it now. (For those of you who are curious: I want a Presents Sheikh. A not-so-damsel-in-distress. Lots of sand. Tents. Adventure. And not a ‘Tycoon’ to be seen. Not that hard to find right?)

– I may have a story sitting in my heart that needs to be completed before I can allow myself anymore bliss in reading. Perhaps I’m punishing myself for not completing my manuscript?

Are you still with me? I totally understand if you’ve nodded off.

My husband’s theories:

– He wonders if my perception of the industry has changed. Perhaps I know too much about the ‘behind the curtain’ stuff now? Is my developing knowledge of the publishing process taking the magic out of reading these stories?

– He wonders if my relationship with these books has changed. After moving closer to family this year, perhaps I don’t need these characters to fill my emotional void anymore?

– He wonders if the events of the entire year have exhausted me emotionally. Leaving full time employment and my dream job to move back to our home town to be closer to family and be a stay at home mum again might have affected me more than I thought.

– Have my life priorities changed? Is reading and writing the romance genre not that important to me anymore? (My heart cries just typing this so hopefully not.)

So I put this to you, am I depressed? Do I have something on my mind not yet identified? Have I backed myself into a genre specific corner? Is not being able to sit down and read a book a #FirstWorldProblem? Where did I put my chocolate? Is there a part of me that wants to burst forth and write MY story? Am I now too close to the process? Do I know too much? Do I know too little? Has my dream changed? Do I not need these emotional supports in my life anymore?

Have any of you experienced something similar? If so, how did you move forward?

Thank you for listening. *A kitten and a box of chocolate to those of you who made it through this whole mess of blog entry.

X Angelina.

*Disclaimer: I’m not really giving out kittens and chocolate. If I had kittens and chocolate I’d be running a kitten circus, serving chocolate, and riding the wave of kitten circus success.

She Gets Me: A Brief Essay on Maisey Yates. Or Heir To A Desert Legacy: A Review.

I’ve never sat at a cafe’ and had coffee with Maisey Yates. I’ve never even met her. Yet, she gets me. She knows me better than I know myself. She knows my pain and she knows my passion and she put it all in the pages of Heir to a Desert Legacy.

I’m obviously not a Sheikh, nor do I have great wealth or visit glamorous locations often. I haven’t been a prisioner of war and I havent seen death. However, like many people I have experienced trauma and the resulting myriad of emotions. That’s the great thing about pain. It’s indiscriminate. As is the ability to feel passion, or even indifference. Each of these states of being are beautifully explored by Yates in a manner which truly demonstrates how similar we all are, despite our vast differences.

While I relate to Sayid on a purely emotional basis I also identify with Chloe. I am a mother, and like many mothers I am scarred physically as well as emotionally. I would die for my child, or like Chloe, put my own needs last in the pursuit of wellbeing and happiness for my child. Yates captures and presents these emotional struggles in a manner which manages to make me feel almost voyeuristic as I progress through the book. Especially so during Yates’ beautifully conceived lovemaking scenes. Maisey Yates manages to push the brief of the Presents title to its limits while remaining true to its origins.

While Yates engages me on an emotional level she also engages me through her writerly skill and brilliance. Her devotion to character is an inspiration. While Sayid’s emotional arc develops through the book, his character stays amazingly consistent. Without giving too much away, Yates’ devotion to character is also demonstrated beautifully within the first few pages of the book where she manages to introduce Chloe’s character hilariously and adeptly through the panels of a door.

While I have utterly fallen in love with this story and quite possibly Maisey Yates, I don’t think I needed the Epilogue. However, I do understand the need to have one in this particular story to provide closure to the narrative. Read the book and decide for yourself and come back and share your thoughts.

In summary, we are all the collateral damage of someone else’s trauma. Maisey Yates manages to express this expertly. You might think it remiss of me not to delve further into the plot for the purpose of this review, however I believe the real magic can be found between two heartwarmingly damaged strangers thrust together through circumstance, stubbornness, perceived duty, and love.

5/5 Stars.

X Angelina.

For more information about Heir to a Desert Legacy and Heir to a Dark Inheritance – the second book in the Secret Heirs of Powerful Men series – please visit Maisey Yates’ website here.


Why it’s important to have Heroes, and not just the Alpha, ‘I’m a Cowboy Sheikh Tycoon With a Tortured Past’ Hero. The other ones. But you know, the Alpha ones are great too.

Last night I realised my husband doesn’t have a hero. As I presented this new found realisation to him and he made appropriate noises to my revelations, I realised more and more how my heroes affect my daily life. They represent my goals and life standards. They’re in my head talking to me and influencing every step I take. They’re fluid and changeable with age and influence, but they are there. I consult them daily, they just don’t know it.

This wouldn’t be a blog primarily focussing on my passion for reading and writing if I didn’t mention here that my current hero is Maisey Yates. Those of you who devour Harlequin Presents know who I’m talking about.

My natural inclination is to insert an essay on Maisey’s contribution to the romance genre but I’ll contain myself. Just. Instead I’ll keep that essay for my next post. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome.

I digress. I asked my husband if he’d ever had a hero. He ummmed and ahhhhed and vaguely cited a couple of people he’d felt an affinity with over the years. But no one who truly inspired him. This made me sad. It made me wonder how important it really is to have a hero.

My hero helps me focus on my goals. She is the standard to which I base my own work. How do you stay focused when you don’t have a hero? How do you define standards in your life if you never aim for higher or more skilled practices?

It was at this point in my ramblings from the couch that my husband started to really become part of the conversation. By that I mean he looked at me occasionally and smiled as well as ummming and ahhhhing. But I knew I’d piqued his interest. We are subtle people.

So I leave you with this:

Do you believe in heroes? How does your hero keep you focused on your goals?

*cue ‘I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night…’*

X Angelina.

Dreams Aren’t Always Shiny. That’s What Makes Them So Beautiful.

When I wrote my obituary I wrote it with excitement and wonder for the future. I suppose it was more of a life plan than I death knell. I’m pretty sure that’s what my Year 11 English teacher had planned. Maybe. Or maybe he was flicking through the pages of ‘Creative Writing 101’ while knocking back schnapps.

Whatever the purpose, I still remember my life plan. A life plan written by a 17 year old with limitless possibilities and a passion for romance. More specifically, romance found between the covers. More specifically, romance found between the covers of Harlequin Mills & Boon novels.

When looking back on my imaginary life – or as I prefer to see it, looking forward to the possibilities – I wanted to be a best selling romance author by age 23, married at 27, have a son with a J name by 28, and wait for it, be an editor for Harlequin Mills and Boon by age 31.

By pure coincidence I married at 27. Thank goodness I didn’t give my son a J name. As any teacher can attest, that would have been madness. I did however marry a man named Jason. Madness. But never boring.

As to being a best selling author at 23? I was in my first year of teaching. I thought I knew everything. I really knew nothing. My dream of being an Editor by age 31? Well, it’s getting close to my birthday so the probability of that happening is low. Also, I must have been absent when my schnapps sipping English teacher taught the class the difference between editors and authors.

This blog is a dedication to the amazing authors who have entertained me, inspired me, guided me, nurtured me, and especially for the authors who made me laugh and who made me cry.

You are the people who are living my dream every day while also living your life with spouses, children, extended family, friends, and all those combined. Hopefully not in the same room. Or maybe in the same room. Because all those people have a lot of fascinating stories.

When I say ‘dream’, I don’t mean that pretty, perfect idea of a life where nothing goes wrong and everything is shiny. I mean a life where I feel complete, happy, and completely in love with me, my family, my friends, and my life. It even involves Vegemite toast in the morning and possibly pretzels and ice-cream. You haven’t tried that? Really? Go. Go now. You’ll wonder why you haven’t tried it sooner.

So where to from here? I ask that every day. However it’s always in relation to how I can extend an interest or ability of one of my students. It’s about time I put that time, thought, and energy into my own loves, interests, and passions.

Today, I write. Not in spite of my life, but in complete harmony with my family, work, and social being. Because after a whole lot of living I know it’s those life experiences that inspire us, guide us, and shape us.

X Angelina.

My Daily Inspiration.

A short review titled: The Importance Of Reviews; Why We Should Always Trust Annie West; A Heated Discussion With My Husband About The History Of Harlequin Mills & Boon; And Why Nobody Does ‘Sheikhs’ Like Annie West Does ‘Sheikhs’. Also, the review of ‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’ by Annie West. An alternate title: Annie West Is Wonderful.

So I recently discovered e-books. Whether you are for or against them I doubt you can dispute what they have done for the romance genre. Particularly Harlequin Mills & Boon. Titles that were long forgotten in sad piles going for twenty cents each at garage sales or local markets are now back, beautiful, and ready to be loved forever. Books I would never have managed to buy and read in time before they were whisked off the shelves are now at my fingertips. Excitingly so.

That’s where I found Annie West. I had come across one of her books years ago. It was part of a series I refused to finish because the blurb on her book just didn’t do it for me. I came across the book again recently and was excited to see it was part of that same series. Thinking it was a different book I read the blurb again. I realised it was the same book but thought I’d give it a chance by reading its reviews. There were none, not even a star rating. So I left it.

Yeah, I’m that person. I will refuse to read a book upon reading its blurb. I will very rarely read a book with a prologue (most of the time they should just be titled ‘Chapter One’ – particularly in Presents/Sexy etc.), and I rarely read an e-book that has less than a 4 star rating. I’m a mum and I’m a teacher and I’m all things in between. So when I want to read a book I need it to be wonderful from the get go. I’ve been reading Harlequin Mills & Boon for 18 years. I know exactly what I want.

Well, I thought I did. Until Annie West taught me a lesson. Always trust Annie West.

A week ago I was going through one of my usual, “Oh no, I can’t find a good book to read. Is it me? Is it the books? Woe is me,” moments. I’d re-read a few old titles on my bookshelf. I was about to turn to my idols Patricia Wilson and Jennie Lucas. Then, in a moment of “There HAS to more,” I typed ‘Sheikh’ into the e-book search and found ‘The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride’ by Annie West. The rest is history.

I could end it there but I won’t.

After reading one after the other of Annie West’s books I began to see and understand what Annie West has done to and for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Not only has she delivered gem after gem but she’s managed to do it with original story lines and with original characters.

On the way home from visiting the doctor this morning with an incredibly sick toddler and my husband sitting next to him on the back seat of the car I had to let it all out. So when I said in the title I had a discussion with my husband, it was more like me gushing wonderment and my husband nodding a smiling. Also, him telling me to keep my hands on the wheel. When I’m passionate about something I flail a little bit. You’ve been warned.

If you’ve read a few romance novels you know about Sheikhs. If you’ve been reading Harlequin Mills & Boon for a few years you might know about the evolution of the different series from their beginnings until now. That essay is for another day. I suppose what we need to know here is how Sheikhs have been portrayed in romance novels over time and how Annie West has turned the tables.

I feel like I’ve read them all, and in the majority of them the Sheikh is tall dark and handsome and completely arrogant. Some have created Sheikhs so arrogant and mean I’ve struggled to finish the book. Some Sheikhs have gone the other way and have somehow found their way into metrosexual territory with not a grain of sand in sight. I suppose all I wanted was the tall dark and handsome with traditional values but with modern ties. Someone who is strong and capable but can show vulnerability and need. I first had a glimpse of that when I read ‘Tamed: The Barbarian King’ by Jennie Lucas. Perfect.

Annie West manages to do all this. All of it. With all of her Sheikhs. All of them. While still creating completely different characters with completely different motivations. She also writes a great sex scene but that’s also for another essay. I was going to try to slip it in here but that might just tip me over from ‘short’ to ‘long’ review.

So after devouring the majority of Annie West’s catalogue in a week I came back across that book with the uninspiring blurb and non-existent reviews. Why was I still cautious? Somebody go back in time and slap me.

Trust Annie West.

‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love Child’ is brilliant. The end.

Tahir is a man desperate to feel. Living on the peripheries of life. Never connecting. His feet never touch the ground. He welcomes the opportunity of death and finds relief in the blackness. Annalisa is a woman stuck between two cultures. Never belonging. Never knowing her true self. Her true potential. Less so now that her father – her one guiding light – has passed away. They meet in a situation that leaves Tahir completely vulnerable. A situation in which Annalisa is saying goodbye to the world she knows and Tahir must choose between death and a life filled with new opportunity.

And that’s just in the first few pages people.

Our hero and heroine each answer a need in the other. With a complete role reversal Annalise is the protector. She is the rock. She pushes Tahir to feel. To live in the light. To take chances. It’s Tahir’s journey more than it is Annalisa’s journey, and that’s okay by me. It’s wonderful to read stories about women who are not only virgins but strong and capable – not shrinking violets who need protection and cosseting.

Not only is this book a wonderful part to a series, but it is able to stand alone. Not many achieve this. If you would like to read the other books in this series look up ‘Dark Hearted Desert Men’. It is the follow on series from ‘The Royal House of Karedes’.

‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’ was a 2010 ARRA Awards Finalist, a USA Today Bestseller, and a Borders Best Seller.

5/5 stars.

So why is it important to review this book? A book that was released in 2010? Because Annie West is wonderful and her creations need to be read. If that takes reviewing all of her titles so people like me who choose reading material on reviews will read her work, then so be it. Did that sentence make sense? Thought not.

Annie West not only writes about wonderful Sheikhs.  Her current title, ‘Undone By His Touch’ was a May 2012 release in Australia/NZ (Mills & Boon Sexy); an April 2012 release in the UK (Mills & Boon Modern Romance); and a June 2012 release in the USA (Presents).  For more information, you can find Annie West here: http://www.annie-west.com/.

X Angelina.

Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child (US Cover)