Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pink Heart Picks Book Club - Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper

Welcome to the first discussion post for the Pink Heart Picks Book Club!  I hope you had a chance to pick up our first selection, Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper by India Grey (Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern).  I should start off by saying this year I plan to pick books from different lines each month so there will be something for every taste AND give the "club" readers a chance to discover new authors or lines.  I know I read widely but there are some category lines I don't read that often, and I'm really looking forward to branching out.

There's no major plan for the books I pick either. In fact, I scrolled through all the month's offerings at eharlequin, and made a short list of the ones that simply jumped out at me.  Then I had to narrow it down.  Why did I pick India's?  I think it was the combination of the promise of a hot Italian hero, a Cinderella story, and a heroine who was someone I could relate to - a woman who enjoys food and doesn't pick at a piece of celery (even though it's an admirable vegetable) and wears magic knickers to smooth out the lumps so to speak. 

Plus there's the fact  that I've read some of India's work before and loved it.  I love her voice and the way she mixes down to earthness with a sense of glamour and elegance. 

So...what did you think?

I'll tell you what stood out for me.  The evil stepsister was great (who reminded me a little of the self-absorbed sister in The Wedding Date.  I only wish Fenella could have been the raunchy cousin from that movie, she was priceless).  The fact that Sarah faded into the woodwork and worked herself to the bone fit the Cinderella premise perfectly.  She was so taken for granted by everyone because she simply handled things.  Sarah is hugely capable - but her self-image took a real hit thanks to her ex, aided by her guilt about her father.

That guilt, by the way, was a stunning revelation that I thought was lovely.

I loved the hero, too.  This is something I really want to stress because so often these days Presents/Modern books get a bad rap for those "brutish alpha heroes" who stomp around and order people about and exact revenge in horrific ways.  That would be a generalization that is grossly unfair, and India's book is a prime example.  If you read this book, you'd say, "What?"  Because Lorenzo is not that type at all.  Lorenzo has been hurt.  He's rich and yes, powerful, and even used to getting his way.  But he is also kind, and gentle, and generous.  He sees in Sarah what needs to be seen and makes her feel beautiful.  He becomes her champion.  He is the first person to see not Sarah the Cinderella but Seraphina, the Princess.

Whisking her off to Venice for the movie premiere (the ball), having her choose a gown (hello Fairy Godmother) and take a water taxi (coach, anyone?) all falls into the Cinderella story brilliantly.  And so does Sarah fleeing back to England when the fairy tale is supposedly over.

The ending though -oh, the ending.  I had a little sniffle at the end.

So...now let's start the discussion.  What did you think?  Was this your first book of the Presents line, your hundredth, or  somewhere in between?  Was it what you expected?  Were there any elements that really stood out for you?  Don't be shy!  We want to hear all about it....

And then:

Next month's selection comes from the Romance line and it's Lights...Camera...Kiss the Boss by Nikki Logan.  Again - I went through all the offerings for February but there were a few things that made this title stand out.

One:  This is Nikki Logan's debut...and I'm ALWAYS curious about new sales and what an unpublished author did to break into the biz - what set them apart and really made them stand out and get noticed.

Two: February is International Grooms month in the Romance line.  All six titles feature international heroes which sounds pretty darn exciting to me.  I love me the exotic heroes.

And three:  Romantic Times rated this book a whopping 4 1/2!!!!!!!!  For a debut!  Clearly Nikki has done something really right.  I've already heard some great buzz about the book and so I'm very excited to pick it up and lose myself in it for a few enjoyable hours.

We'll come back on February 23rd to chat!  I hope you join us!


  1. Hi all, I sincerely hope everyone who reads this first book club post reads India's book. Sincerely if she doesn't win an award for this story I'll be amazed.

    I literally just finished it and I'm trying to dry my eyes, it was so emotional and like Donna I adored Lorenzo and how he honored his love for Sarah and her daughter in the ending chapters.

    How Lorenzo and Sarah met set the theme of the story and my heart ached for Sarah reading how much she gave to her daughter and family and her lack of self esteem. However, Lorenzo saw her inner and outer beauty and that’s what made this particular love story so magnificent.

    Thank you Donna for starting this PHS Book Club and also thanks to India Grey for writing this emotional and lovely book.

  2. Our first guest!

    Thanks for posting so early Marilyn - I think we should make the room cozy with some teas and perhaps coffee for the early risers, and I've got a craving for cinnamon buns.

    This has posted UK time but I'm off for bed, so I'm hoping to find some more friendly faces when I come back in the morning!

  3. I am not a huge Presents fan. And, yes, I tend to lump all those alpha heros in the 'brutish' category. I read some of these books in the 70s, couldn't stand the heros and tried again in the 80s. When I still didn't like the heros I pretty much gave up on them. But in the past few years I have read a few here and there. The biggest change I have seen is changes in POV.

    I don't remember much of a male POV in the past. The Presents I like now do shift POV.

    This particular hero was awesome. He knew what he wanted and made it happen, but not at her expense. She was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste, but he made up for everything.

    A well-written book is a well-written book and India Grey knows how to write.

  4. Well, it's not quite the 26th here in sunny FL, but I'll go ahead and comment. I thought this was a great read. I never would have picked it up if not for the "book club" and I am glad I did. Donna is right, it is a perfect Cinderella story, altough I think the step-sister was just a little used to being given everything. The part where she is holding her neice in her lap and gives her a kiss shows that she isn't intentionally being evil. Again, great read and I am definately going to pass it on to a friend.


  5. I have read Presents books in the past. Not so many these days. I did not like the title, but this was a gift (a lucky gift for me) I read it and I really liked this book. Lorenzo comes off as having it all, but he has been betrayed. Sarah was also betrayed and they both are flawed and yet wonderful characters. Being together brings out the best in each other. I was very impressed with this story and I will look for more books by India Grey.

  6. No, this wasn't my first "Presents", and YES I did love it.
    I did.
    I liked the fact tha tshe wasn't afraid of food. Love, love, love that in a heroine.
    The ending had me crying.
    I wanted to scratch Tia's eyes out!
    And what was up with the women in Sarah's family? No, I don't expect all women to be willing to climb up on a leaking roof during a rain storm, but all those women drove me nuts! They were completly helpless, not that I'm blaming India for this, I understand characters are well characters, but I wanted to shout at them to grow a darn backbone. I mean really are all rich women spoiled like that? GGGRRR. Sarah couldn't have been from the same stock, could she of?
    I do love Sarah's full name; Seraphina. It is just so beautiful!

  7. Dorothy, I forgot the food thing and shame on me. My son just graduated from culinary school!

    Donna, I'm thinking about a full breakfast that Sarah might have prepared for those she loved.

    Tammy, it's my understanding the author doesn't have a say in the title and I agree it could have been better but it's India for me an auto-buy, she's incredible!

    Melinda you're spot on, the perfect Cinderella story, I still can't get it out of my mind.

    Nancy, glad you're back to reading Presents. I love them because they take me away and there is definitely always a lesson to be learned. However, I'm such a fan of all Harlequin genres. Can't wait for next months book club pick.

    Donna when you next see this post, I want a full breakfast!

  8. Hello all - it's very early here and I've just staggered out of bed and switched laptop and kettle on at the same time, not expecting to see anyone at all here so early! So great that so many people have joined in the discussion so far (can I say THANKS to Donna again for coming up with the brilliant idea of the book club, and putting the time and energy into making it happen? THANKS DONNA!)

    Thanks also to everyone who's picked up a copy of my book when they wouldn't otherwise have done in order to be able to join in the discussion. I'm really looking forward to it! Think the best thing to do is not so much address each individual point, but maybe the general issues raised - hope that's OK with everyone?

    (Donna, I could really go for cinnamon buns now you've mentioned them...)

    The Cinderella story element is really interesting, especially when I see it broken down so brilliantly by Donna in her opening post. Believe it or not, I didn't have any intention of writing it like that at all and didn't think of is as a Cinderella story until Michelle Styles identified that element in an email discussion about titles. (Her suggestion was 'The Italian's Cinderella Mistress' which I loved. Like Tammy I'm not a huge fan of the title it ended up with!)

    But Donna's absolutely right, I guess. It is a Cinderella story, and I possibly would have made more of that element if I'd been aware of it at the time. In the scene where they meet in the bar there is a Cinderella reference when she drops the envelope with her name on, but I would have made more of shoes and pumpkins if I'd been more aware!

    Marilyn, I think you hit the nail
    on the head when you say that Lorenzo saw Sarah's inner and outer beauty. I wanted to convey that magical thing that happens when you fall in love with someone and suddenly the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Lorenzo starts to be aware of Sarah's outer beauty as well as his feelings towards her change. I really, really do believe that all women are beautiful in so many different ways, and wanted to kind of celebrate that. Sarah doesn't fit in with the narrow magazine definition of beauty, and while Lorenzo appreciates that from the start it's only as he starts to fall in love with her that he really notices she has long legs and a great cleavage and clear, gorgeous skin. In other words that she really is beautiful.

    (This is getting a bit long now, so I'll break off to put the kettle on again and come back in a min!)

  9. And here I thought I would be one of the first.

    I will admit to still thinking of this one as The Italian's Cinderella's Mistress and so I was pleased that it was brought out in the blurbs.

    For me, I enjoyed the whole dreams aspect and how well some dreams change, others you hold fast to. For Lorenzo Sarah's father's book had touched an inner chord.
    I also like the use of stars and exploration and how things become possible.
    I loved Lottie and thought she added a lot to the story.

    One thing about this book is that it helps to show the diversity of the Presents line. Lorenzo is an Alpha hero but he is not over bearing.

    I do think India Grey is becoming better iwth each book.

  10. (Back again... more tea in hand...)

    Nancy, I'm glad you've returned to Presents and I completely agree - there has been a big shift to include more hero POV and it makes a massive difference. I'm thinking about this quite a lot at the moment as the hero I'm writing now is quite dark and troubled (ie. a bit of an arrogant pig at the start) but I'm hoping that readers will understand why and bear with him, because the book is almost 50% his POV.

    I'm also really interested (and glad!) that Lorenzo came across as being strong and heroic enough for you, because my fear was that Sarah was the dominant character and he might be wishy-washy. It's really good to know that for you at least this wasn't the case (though it'll be interesting to see if other readers might disagree!) Thanks so much for the vote of confidence anyway, and hope you'll be a regular Presents reader in the future!

    Melinda and Dorothy both picked up on the secondary characters in the book. This is always a bit of a minefield in catagory romance, as with a relatively short word count and the focus having to be firmly on the hero and heroine, it's not easy to write secondary characters that are subtle and rounded individuals. Mostly they're there for a purpose (to show something about the main characters or further the story in some way) so you have to be quite firm and keep them in their place!

    I entirely agree that the women in Sarah's family were a pretty unwholesome bunch, but Melinda I'm really glad that you got the fact that her sister wasn't really evil, just very different to Sarah and preoccupied with her own drama. Dorothy, they drove me nuts too a bit! (When I was writing that scene in the rain storm I got to the bit where Sarah's mother appears in the palazzo with a drink in her hand and was literally gasping with outrage on Sarah's behalf!) I kind of enjoyed making them annoying too, but the trick is not to make them do anything that they themselves wouldn't be able to explain away or justify if you were writing the story from their POV. So, if Angelica was the heroine, the actual story could still be the same, but by giving her take on it the reader would see it, and her character, in a completely different light.

    (But come to think of it, Tia doesn't really fit into that model at all. Don't think I could ever make her the heroine! Just out of interest, did anyone spot which Hollywood star she was *loosely* and kind of unintentionally based on?!)

    Tammy, I really love that you got that Lorenzo and Sarah brought out the best in each other. I think that's one of the most important elements in the story, and about love in general. So many people in everyday life - ordinary people, who aren't wealthy or A-list beautiful or amazingly talented - are made extraordinary by being loved. I wanted to show that in this story.

    And now it's definitely breakfast time for me! Marilyn, what time is it where you are? Shouldn't you be in bed?! (Glad you're not, but wish you were here to share hot cinnamon rolls!)

  11. Morning Michelle - missed you there!

    I kind of glossed over your role in shaping this story, but as always your input and ability to get straight to the heart of an issue was totally invaluable. The dreams aspect is interesting, and not one that I'd thought of, but you're right (again.) For Lorenzo it was making the film he'd always wanted to make and being true to the vision he'd had as a young, idealistic man. Sarah had actually forgotten her dream, but under Lorenzo's gentle questioning remembers that once, before she had Lottie and life took over she wanted to live in Italy and learn about the food. Thanks for spotting that!!

    The moon and stars and planets aspect came about via Lottie, who right from the start when I first had the idea for the book I knew wanted to be an astronaut. Who knows why that came into my head?! Totally random.

  12. Can I keep it simple? I. Loved. This. Book. Read it all in one go - totally unputdownable. What made it "different" for me was the hero's occupation. I can't remember reading a HM&B that featured a film director before. Caroline x

  13. Gorgeous heroine (with whom I could totally identify!), hero I could fall for immediately, the fact that the hero could see her worth immediately (and was still kind to her awful family), beautiful lyrical writing (when I go to Venice in April, I am SO going to make sure I'm up for the dawn, and all because of this book), and the tribute the hero makes at the end... Stunning.

    (And I'm not just saying this because she's my friend!) I too tip this one for an award (and will be nagging her to enter several).

  14. Ok I'll have to admit straight up that I'm biased, because firstly I love presents novels, (which helps as I write for them), and secondly I happen to love India Grey very much and think she has a wonderful brain (and is spectacularly beautiful which is quite annoying).
    But all bias aside, this is simply a brilliant book and what I love, is that it is different to the 'stereotypical' presents novel - which is one of the reasons why I think the line is so popular because there are so many different voices...
    But this story...*sigh* - no-one can infuse a story with the kind of lush sensuousness of India Grey, she's like a painter. It oozed out of every page - Sarah's literal lush sensuality and the way she was with her daughter and with her food and her love for everyone around her, and the gorgeous dark wounded Lorenzo's repressed sensuality which came out when Sarah was around.
    Gorgeous book, gorgeous Italy - I want to go and live with Sarah and Lorenzo and soak up all that love and lushness and eat pasta and drink wine forever!
    I thought the motif of using the moon and the stars was particularly gorgeous and clever and of course couldn't stop the waterworks at the end. It was like a particularly satisfying gorge-tastic meal...
    x Abby

  15. OK I have to confess that anything written by India Grey is a must have for me! From the moment I read her first book I've made it a point to buy each one of hers. And yes she does get better with every one!

    The emotion oozes off the page. Lorenzo is so different from any Presents hero I've read before and yet it works! Beautifully!

    My special favourite is how Lorenzo's love for Seraphina comes out through his tribute to her on her daughter's birthday outing. Sigh ... this is what romance is all about!

  16. I've read every one of India's books and,as has already been mentioned, they just get better and better. But I have also learned to be careful where I read them as she ALWAYS manages to wring a tear out of me. I've now cried on a beach, a train,a playground...I could go on, but it's not a pretty sight!

    I particularly enjoyed the characterisation in this one. It was so easy to identify with Sarah who has a little bit of all of us in her without losing the Presents glamour and fantasy element I love. And Lorenzo was so KIND--absolutely gorgeous.

    I loved the part where Lorenzo filmed Sarah's tear dropping down the stairwell as she watched her daughter from above and when the scene reappeared at the end? More tears of course--mine!

    A fantastic read, can't wait for India's next one.


  17. For Marilyn, and because I've already worked out and haven't eaten breakfast yet and am starving, I am leaving a full breakfast of a southwest omelette, croissants with my personal favourite, blackberry jelly, fresh orange juice, and coffee.

    India - I didn't mention it but I TOTALLY saw the parallel between the glass slipper and the envelope and the escape from the bar as running away at midnight. :-)

    I'm so pleased to see so many faces here today!

  18. I absolutely loved the book! It was a wonderful read. I really didn't care much for the sister though. I thought she was very self centered. The Lottie was so cute and adorable. I laughed and cried with this book. For me that makes a huge impact. I love a book that I can get that into the book. India you did an absolute awesome job on the book. What I loved most was the way that she ran from him in the pub to only end up sitting on a roof top in the rain and who rescues her? No other than the man she ran away from. It was great.


  19. Wow, it is amazing to see so many people here. Morning Donna- and that comment about working out didn't get past me! I'm feeling very guilty about the hot cross bun in front of me now...

    Caroline, I'm not sure I've read another film director story either (though there must be some - has anyone else come across one?) Jane Porter wrote one about a Hollywood actor a couple of years ago and I loved it. It was another one that was a bit outside the norm and the premise could easily have not quite hit the mark, but of course being Jane she absolutely made it work to perfection. I think this possibly shows that it's OK to carefully bend the 'rules'.

    Hello Kate and Abby! Kate, I haven't been to Venice myself so I'm madly jealous of your trip - you'll have to share lots of photos.

    In the last chapter of the book there's a copyediting mistake which I failed to spot when I checked the proofs. At the bottom of page 176 there's supposed to be a page break between Lorenzo's scene and Sarah's, and the fact that it's not there really ruins the tension I think! Picky, picky, picky, I know but... gah!!

    Abby, you have to be nice of course because otherwise I'll take photos of you in your underwear and send them to Donna to put up here, but you're absolutely right about the line being more diverse than ever. I think this book is at one end of a broad spectrum in Presents because, as Amanda says, the hero is not alpha in the conventional sense and compared to other heroes that I've written and certainly ones in books by other authors. I love that about Presents, and it totally disproves the old cliche that romance novels are all the same!

    Amanda, I had to be a bit careful with that scene at the end because I wanted to remember that it *was* poor Lottie's birthday and not have Sarah and her misery dominate it too much. I think it's a close run thing - as a mum I do disapprove of Sarah being so lost in her own unhappiness at the end, but it was nice to show her mother and stepfather in a more positive light, stepping into the breach a bit! (But the missing page break! All ruined!!)

    Rachel, I think I probably do write heroines who cry a bit much! Makes me feel a bit better that you're right there with them and the tissues!

    Donna, I wish I'd been more conscious of that while I was writing the book - I think there is so much more that could have been made of it. Does everyone else do this and think of how they'd write things differently when they actually glance back through a book? Every time, for me.

    Jessica, I entirely agree that the sister came across as being one spoiled brat, and her punishment was ending up with a man who was waaaaaay inferior to Lorenzo! I'm so pleased you liked that part of the story at the beginning, because to me that kind of set-up plot is the most difficult and painful bit to write and I'm NEVER happy with it. Great to hear that it worked for you.

    Thanks to everyone for being so positive - it's really lovely and my head is swelling very comically. If there are elements of the book that you didn't like and which didn't work for you, please feel entirely free to discuss those too. I confessed yesterday on my blog that I once completely slated the entire literary output of Charles Dickens in a book club, so now it's definitely my turn to face the music! (Goes off to toast another hot cross bun in preparation...)

  20. I'm supposed to be writng my own book not chatting but I can't miss a chance to tell India how much I love her books and how much I enjoyed reading this one. It's intriguing to me that some readers think this is so different for a 'typical' - or as Abby says, a stereotypical Presents - because the truth is that India's book and India's hero in particular shows that the true alpha hero has all those wonderful hidden depths of loving, caring, gentleness etc. Thye might be well hidden but the right woman will draw those wonderful loving characteristics right out into the open.

    Lorenzo was a wonderful example of this. A man who'd been scarred by his past and needed to find new hope for the future. And he and Sarah together complemented each other so well that they just had to have a happy ending. I'm all for a man who thinks his lady looks better 'natural' rather than when the stylists have worked their 'magic'. So I loved Lorenzo for that moment in particular. That was the real 'Cinderella' moment for me

    Oh and I'm going to echo Abby. I'm not surprised that India writes so well because in person she is wonderful, witty company - and yes, quite annoyingly beautiful. I'm thrilled to see her career going from strength to strength

    Congratulations India and here's to the next one!


  21. Have had breakfast. Realized while taking kids to school that my truck was nearly out of gas, and there's a subway on the route. I just discovered their breakfast sandwiches. Lovely egg, ham, cheese, and veggies toasted on a bun, and coffee because I don't make coffee. My husband does and he's away this week. I couldn't resist.

    India, you asked if there were things we didn't like and it's not so much a dislike but an observation of character. I got so mad on Sarah's behalf with the way her family treated her. I really wanted her to lose it and give them what for. Of course she got her reward in the end - gorgeous hero and fantastic life for her and her daughter.

    I keep thinking of The Wedding Date and how the heroine finally told her sister off. It was a turning point kind of moment for that relationship because the sister started crying - and meant it.

    The difference is, and probably why it went the way it did for you, is that Sarah truly felt this GUILT and like she didn't deserve better. When I found out why she felt so guilty, I really ached for her.

    And in reality - it's often simply easier to stay in the background and "do" than it is to confront someone. The fact that I felt so angry FOR her shows that you did your job and engaged me in the story!

    P.S. - FWIW, my favourite IG hero is still your going blind flyboy. YUM.

  22. Had to stop by here and comment. I read this book at the end of last year, ordered directly from M&B because I just couldn't wait to read it.

    I wasn't disappointed, the writing was beautiful and the characters wonderful. I don't know who I loved most. Lorenzo who adored Sarah for exactly who she was or Sarah who is so satisfying normal, someone we can all truly relate to.

    Also, any book that can move me to tears holds a special place in my heart. Which this book did, both with Sarah's love of her daughter and Lorenzo's perfect tribute to Sarah.

    Finally, I didn't even notice the missing scene break--too busy enjoying the story :-)

  23. Oh and yay to Donna for giving us a Book Club on PHS. I think we can all say it's a resounding success :-)

  24. Kate, I know what you mean- I don't know why I'm so excited about this book club malarkey when it's clearly just going to be another way to avoid the wip! (Oh wait a minute, that's exactly why I'm excited about it...) Thanks for abandoning your h and h to drop by. I entirely agree that the 'natural' thing is a huge issue with me - so much so that I think it crops up in a few of my books, and I'm trying to find a way round using it again in the one I'm writing now! I think it ties in interestingly with the whole Cinderella motif, because it's almost turning it on its head. The handsome Prince doesn't fall in love with Cinderella when she's dressed up for the ball, but when she's herself, in her rags in the kitchen. He almost resents the glamorous trappings for obscuring the girl he loves underneath.

    (Thanks for all your support along the way too Kate. Not sure about going from strength to strength - am struggling mightily with the current book, but feel very lucky to have the support of the sisterhood!

  25. Donna, I SO wish I had you as a CP to point all these things out as I'm going along! Again, I'd seen the film The Wedding Date way back in the past and never made any connection with it as I was writing this book, but caught about half an hour of it when it was repeated her over Christmas and saw the similarities of setting. It never actually occurred to me to have a scene between Sarah and her sister... perhaps because, as you say, her issue wasn't specifically with Angelica personally, but with herself and her father. She feels a kind of detached envy of Angelica, and irritation I suppose, and you're absolutely spot on when you say her triumph over her sister was marked by her own happiness with Lorenzo in the end.

    (One of the big flaws in the story is the speed with which Sarah's whole family have to be shunted off the stage after the wedding! Sadly I always write too long, and there just wasn't room in the wordcount for the 'day after' scene I would have liked!)

    Joanne, so glad you could relate to Sarah and that her relationship with her daughter worked for you. I must admit, bits of it did spring from my own feelings after I had my first daughter... That feeling of being overwhelmed with a huge sense of responsibility was definitely mine. It's really lovely to know that it touched you - and that you didn't notice the missing page break!!

    And I'm definitely with you on the yay for Donna with the book club. Have an amazon order waiting to be sent off and have just added Nikki's book to it!

  26. Nikki's book is in my amazon order too, India!

    Look, I don't think there's a one of us who doesn't realize things after the fact, like you mentioned with the Cinderella bits (which you should have remained mum about as clearly they were brilliant and marked with subtlety).

    I know I do it all the time, or someone will pick up on something in a book and I'll be all like "I did that????"

    At the end of the day it is about touching a reader's emotions and honey you did that IN SPADES!

    Whoever said that you write with a lushness is so right. You have this innate sense of class but also the ability to take the simplest things and make them beautiful. The result is something that we can all relate to, with a brilliant sense of polish.

  27. I really enjoyed this book. From the very start I indentified with the heroine, stuck in an awkward situation that she couldn't get out of, and the loved the way that her body insecurites were a factor for her consistently through the book.
    The thing that struck me was how lyrical the images in the book were, her walking through the field was such a beautiful image, and wonderful that Lorenzo saw the image through his eye for things beautiful and appreciated it as such. Of course, India is a mistress of dialog and emotion, and didn't disappoint here - Lottie was very skillfully drawn as a character, I don't think I've seen such a proper child written in a m&b before. I loved Lorenzo's profession, and the fact that he wasn't flaunting his millionaire status but was more low key, wealth wise. I also loved the fact that he never, not for a moment, thought she was chunky, that the weight issue was her problem, definitely not one that even registered with him. A truly beautiful book, with great conflicts for both of them, but my favorite would have to be the lyrical, beautiful writing, the motif of the moon woven through was perfect! (And I loved the fact he bought a necklace for her daughter too, whatta guy!)

  28. Just quickly popping in cos I have a ridiculous deadline on my current WIP (which if previous form is anything to go by I have no way of meeting)

    I loved this book, lush and compelling, a hero and heroine who were defiantly individual and as some peeps have already mentioned maybe not what some readers would expect from a Presents... It's always great to see those preconceptions challenged.

    What topped it for me was the film industry motif, having written a film star hero myself I know how tough a subject it is to handle because the film business is such an artificial environment and its hard to give that fantasy world the crucial touch of reality that connects the reader to the character (in this case Lorenzo).

    I was intrigued to see how India would handle it...

    Of course she aced it... Lorenzo is a wonderful hero, so vivid, so tortured (which I love) and yet so tender and touching underneath. And so clever to use Sarah and her genuine, unaffected beauty (both inside and out) as a counterpoint to the often artificial glamour Lorenzo encounters in his job.

    Great read India, well done. But I have to chime in with Abby and Kate and say darn it, why do you have to look so gorgeous too!

  29. Hi. Just thought I'd drop in and tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I've read lots of Presents as it was my mom's favorite line. Although I do own another book of India's, this is her first book I've read and I'll be digging the other book out of my TBR pile. At the risk of sounding redundant, I'll just say I loved Sarah's character. She doesn't realize how strong she is. Lorenzo is a very caring person. Lottie is a really great character. Loved her interaction with Dino even though they didn't speak each others language.

    I was really annoyed that Sarah's family left her and that she climbed up on the roof in the rain. At first I thought it wasn't viable that people would tile a roof upside down but then I remembered my niece telling me about a house being built where they ending up taking the siding off because it had been put on wrong.

    I will be reading more of your books India. So many great authors---not enough time.

  30. Ooh, this looks like a goodie. I just wrote a post about how Harlequin Presents are my guilty pleasure, and now I have to run out and add this one to my pile.

  31. Donna, thanks for breakfast, my favorite!

    India, I'm surprised you haven't been to Vencie, I never would have guessed! You nailed it and it brought back so many memories for me. Kate you're absolutely going to love it.

    I'm still trying to guess who the acturess is and I'm surprised Daisy didn't get it? And yes, the Wedding Date came to mind when I read it as well, I loved that movie.

    Kate, I thought the same thing about how he loved her natural hair and void of make-up.

    India, promise you'll enter this book in a contest and I'm hoping we can talk you into joining us on Facebook.

  32. Kaelee- how could I have left out the children and how they overcame the language barrier? I thought that was gorgeously done and such a nice touch.

  33. I'm all about the subtlety Donna. In fact so much so I go over my own head sometimes! Glad you do that too, and huge thanks for your positive thoughts about the book. Am definitely feeling like it's my birthday as well as Michelle's as everyone's been so nice.

    Sally, it's brilliant to hear that you liked the book - thanks so much. I'm glad you brought up the issue of Sarah's weight and Lorenzo's reaction (or lack of!) to it because her size definitely has a big impact on her self esteem, but to the rest of the world is no barrier to her being beautiful. It was also something that I kept deliberately vague - none of the other characters remark on it (apart from Lorenzo who adores her spectacular cleavage and round bottom) so I wanted it to be something that the reader was left to decide for themselves. (A bit like the ghosts in Henry James's Turn of the Screw!) In the end, it's incidental because she's happy. On the journey to that happiness it is a big preoccupation for her.

    Heidi, you have my huge sympathy on the deadline and I'm right there with you (both with the deadline and the unlikeliness of meeting it.) I have your film star book and have been trying to wait to read it until I'm in the clear with the book, but I couldn't resist a peek at the first chapter - eeek! Explosive and wonderful start!! Have to confess I'm absolutely clueless about the film industry so had to rely on Abby for details about what the career path to becoming a director might be, but the theme of artifice was a really good one to build the book around. Also, Lorenzo's job means he sees things that other people don't see, and he has the ability to make people see things differently themselves, both of which were useful in relation to Sarah.

    (I actually think it's a go-er, the Galileo biopic. If any Hollywood script agents are reading this, call me.

    (And gorgeous my elbow! But that very polite comment has definitely earned you a drink next time we meet!)

    Kalee - not redundant! I'm really happy that you picked out that Sarah doesn't realise how strong she is. I liked that about her - that she's determined to manage and she's doing a good job, even though she tends to beat herself up about what she hasn't got right. (Like not having those pink nails.)

    The roof tile thing came from something I saw on TV on one of those house renovation shows AGES ago, so I guess it is possible - if you're really clueless! Originally there was much more in that part of the book about Lorenzo hating what Angelica and Hugh had done to the farmhouse (ie. making it into something smart and far removed from what it was meant to be) which of course was all a metaphor for him loving Sarah for her natural beauty. Not enough space for that so it had to go!

  34. Sorry, struggling to post for some reason - hope that last rambling comment doesn't come up twice!

    Elizabeth - throw off the guilt and embrace the pleasure! There are some cracking reads out in the Presents line up this month. I stood in my local Tesco's the other day for about ten minutes trying to choose one. (Ended up buying 3 of course.)

    Marilyn, I've wanted to go for so long that I'm afraid the reality won't meet the fantasy now, but will definitely get there soon. I'll let Kate do the groundwork and then copy her itinerary! (And the actress is famously predatory, pillow-lipped and beautiful, but not that many women warm to her. (coughs - Angelina.) Honestly, lawyers, it was just a kind of vague inspiration, and all similarities etc etc...)

    Contests and facebook - now you're really scaring me!

    Kaelee - sorry I spelled your name wrong! Dino was my homage to the gorgeous little Italian boy in Cinema Paradiso, which also was a big influence on the spirit of the book. (Especially the final scene.) See him here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSLZLkcMrHU

  35. India,
    Morning! Ok, os its actually mid morning, here leaning more towards noon....but anyway. LOL

    As I said earlier I LOVED this story. One of my favorite quotes from this story is:
    "Funny, he thought acidly, in all the versions of hte story he'd ever read it was a shoe Cinderella left behind when she fled from the ball. He tuned it over. Ah. So her name wasn't Cinderella . . ." - pg 18

    I loved that. Anyway I also had a question for you.
    The necklace, did you just imagine it into being, or have you seen it somewhere?

  36. Yes dear one, Facebook! It's how I communicate with Daisy, Annie, Sarah and all. It's also a great place for me to share your books or interviews. xxx

  37. The only gripe I'd have is not for you, but the art department. I kept flicking back to the cover thinking 'them aint generous curves' and you've talked before about the hero pic looking rather like someone not quite so yummy as Lorenzo!Once I stopped looking at the cover though, all was well!

  38. This was the first India Grey story I read, a month or so ago, and since then I have worked my way through her entire back catalogue - I just finished Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride yesterday. I love every single one of them and here's why: India writes characters who I want to spend time with. I like them. I want them to have their happy endings because I care about them. That's really all I need in a book, and I am surprised how hard it is to find.

    One of the specific things I loved about this book that I don't think has already been mentioned is the way India dealt with the issue of infertility. I liked that you didn't feel the need to explain Lorenzo's infertility, and I liked that you felt you could give these two a happy ending that didn't involve a future full of babies. I liked that one of their earliest conversations established that this really would be what Sarah wanted, too. Babies are fine and I get that in some stories they are an important way of symbolising the HEA, but it's very refreshing to read a Presents that doesn't end that way. In fact, the final scene with them both celebrating each other's achievements was one of my favourite in the book.

    The thing I liked least about the book was, I'm sure, totally beyond India's control, but the girl on the cover is way too skinny for Sarah. I've love to see a properly curvy girl on the front of an M&B novel one of these days.

    The other criticism I have - and it really didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book - is the over-reliance on coincidence. I did raise my eyebrows quite a lot at the two coincidental meetings in Oxfordshire and then Tuscany. I know the first wasn't completely coincidental because of the book link, but I did struggle to believe that Sarah's sister just happened to be Lorenzo's next door neighbour, I'm afraid.

    But great job, and please write more! A LOT more!

  39. *dashing to Kindle to download this book immediately* Can't wait to read it!!! Dark, tortured, REPRESSED hero??? YES PLEASE!!

  40. Returning after feeding time in the kid zoo... Dorthy, I did base the necklace on a real one that I've seen. Seen, and untangled many times as it's one that was passed down to us in a bag of hand-me-down clothes from an older and more glamorous cousin. Our budget version is made from lots of strands of clear nylon (like fishing line, I suppose) threaded with tiny crystal stars, so when you put it on you can't really see the thread and only the stars glittering against your skin. For Sarah I pictured the real thing, with diamonds and platinum and a big sparkling moon too. (That doesn't appear on the original!)

    (Marilyn... yikes... trying not to run for cover at the thought of more internet distraction...)

    Sally and Ros, I'm entirely and sadly in agreement. Poor Lorenzo's the one with the generous curves - or at least the person he borrowed his jacket from must be. It's one of the things over which I have no control and every time I get that box of author copies there's a moment of hope and dread as I wrestle to open it. Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure was my finest moment in the cover lottery. This one is way down at the bottom of the pile with Angelo's Captive Virgin I'm afraid.

    You're right Ros, I don't think the issue of Lorenzo's infertility has come up yet. I do like to write a hero that has some kind of hidden anguish, whether it's Flyboy (as Donna calls him - I like that) with his sight loss or Tristan the Spanish Aristocrat with the scars from his toxic childhood. Infertility is Lorenzo's secret torment.

    I hesitated a little over writing Sarah's reaction when he tells her about it because I genuinely didn't know what she could say. In the end I thought actions would speak louder than words. I didn't want to try to 'solve' it at all. Sarah accepts him as he is, just as he accepts her, and in the end they're happy and secure enough not to ask for more or to need to have a child together to complete them.

    I'm also really glad that you raised the point about the coincidences - I'm guilty, I know! I tend to think of books in terms of big concepts and have to work out the details afterwards. That's the part that kills me! When I came up with the idea originally I'd planned it as an English wedding and an English hero, so shifting the action to Tuscany - while upping the ante on lots of other levels - did also stretch the co-incidence element a little bit further. I wrote the scene when they arrive at the palazzo and all becomes clear several million times, trying to work in the plausible explanation that I'd worked out in my mind, but it was all sounding a bit like protesting too much. I just hoped that the world of the story had taken over enough by then and would carry people along. I know that some authors love the early stages of a book, but the set-up where all these details have to be worked out is the bit that I find excruciating! Bring on the bit where emotion takes over from detail for me!

    Hi Maisey - can't believe you're finding the time to read at the moment! Big respect (from someone who barely managed to speak or brush her teeth for the first few months with babies...)

  41. Thanks for responding, India. It's so cool to talk about a book with its actual author!!! What I really liked about how you handled Lorenzo's infertility was that the anguish was so hidden. You have hints at it all the way through, especially in his interactions with Lottie, but I don't think there's anywhere that he talks about how he feels about it. But we know. And that's really great writing. And I love, love, love that Sarah accepts him as he is, and that's more than enough for the two of them. Romance is brilliant and perfect in itself - it doesn't need to pretend to solve every other problem. I liked how you did that with Orlando too - his sight gets worse and worse through the book and there's no miracle cure at the end, but it doesn't matter.

    I've just been watching, and tearing up more than a little bit at, How To Look Good Naked which is featuring women with various disabilities this season. I love the way that the programme doesn't try to change these women or to cover up their problems, but it teaches them to love themselves and see their beauty as they are. That's the theme I see in your books - in every one the hero and heroine help each other to see themselves as they are, and to accept themselves as they are, and be loved for who they are.

    I'll take a few coincidences here and there for books that celebrate such an amazing theme.

    Thank you!

  42. This is going to be quick because I've had child off school sick and a deadline and they don't mix, but I simply had to say how much I LOVED this book - I love everything India writes, but that is particularly true of this book. It's a truly special story, partly because of the fantastic characters, but also because of the emotional storyline which was given an extra touch of reality by India's decision not to tie everything up in a neat bow. As always the language was beautiful and the opening scenes are truly original. After reading the beginning there was no way I was putting it down until the end. The coincidences didn't worry me, but that may be because my life seems to be full of them so I am more accepting than the average reader, or possibly that I read a lot of Thomas Hardy in my youth and his use of coincidence drove me mad. Brilliant India. What a great start to the bookclub!

  43. India, I haven't read your book yet -- it is in my TBR pile. Based on everyone's comments here I'll have to put it to the top of my list.


  44. 'Romance is brilliant and perfect in itself - it doesn't need to pretend to solve every other problem.' Ros- what a fabulous way of putting it!! I love Gok Wan's programme (did a blog post on the subject a while ago! Nothing if not intellectual, me...) because, like you say, he celebrates women - ALL women - so wholeheartedly and sincerely. I hadn't noticed the link between that and what my characters do, so double brownie points and a great-big-thank-you hug to you for saying that.

    Sarah, you can have a deadline-and-sick-child hug - sounds like you've had a grim day. (And yet you still manage to come on here and be so lovely, which makes you a better woman than I am... as if we didn't know that already.) I've learned such a lot about dialogue from your books, which are all falling apart now with being read so often, so you should really get an automatic acknowlegement in the front of all mine! Do you know, I loved Thomas Hardy when I was younger so maybe my reliance on co-incidence can be blamed partly on him. I was actually thinking about the bit in Tess where her letter of confession slips under the mat only a couple of days ago when I was hoovering! (lovely insight into my domestic life, there.) I kind of got to wondering whether it was entirely credible for Tess not to say something to Angel when he didn't mention it, but I guess that within the world of the story and the psychology of the characters it IS. And that's what matters.

    (Lidia, I hope you don't feel completely bored of the story now, before you've picked it up!)

  45. Donna, India.....everyone, I really enjoyed the posts today. What a great place for everyone to gather. I just finished my review of the book. It was hard not to give too much away!

  46. I'm so glad you chose this book Donna because though I do read presents I don't read them often. I would have been really sorry If I didn't read this one. The one thing I really loved was Lorenzo. Sometimes the Hero can be too of a Alpha jerk and it ruins the book for me, but he was great. He had that gentle side for Sarah. I absolutely loved the ending, that's an ending I love to read.

  47. Nicole, thanks very much for saying that - I guess it goes back to the point we started with about the Presents line covering a really broad range of voices and stories. I'm really delighted that this book appealed to you. And the ending too - it's the part I absolutely LOVE writing, so when people say they like that bit it makes me particularly happy.

    Seconding what Marilyn says about having enjoyed the posts here and would like to thank Donna for doing this, and every one who took the time to read the book and post their thoughts about it. It's the most fantastic luxury for a writer to get so much direct feedback from readers - and I never dreamed it would be so positive. I'm hugely grateful (and a bit relieved!)

    Really looking forward to next months' book club and can't wait to read Nikki's book.

  48. I really enjoyed this one and it's not from a series I'd have picked. I have to say the title was simply frightful, and that without this book club I would never have picked it up. I thought 'The Rose and the cyprees' would have been a possible title - Sarah a rose with a few prickles and the hero as tall and reliable as a cypress tree! And I would hate to burst Sarah's bubble, but knowing how gossip magazines work, next year round they'd have been criticising her 'natural' look as skinny swung back into fashion! But I suspect she's much too sensible a person to care,and she'll want to give Lottie a good self-image now she knows how easy it is to shatter it. Thank you, India, for writing a book where I really felt I knew the characters and can discuss them in this fashion!

  49. India, I truly adored this lovestory!

    Someone above mentioned the children, and I just have to say that Lottie and Dino added a charm to this story that complimented the Italian setting and sense of family ..

    and with the scene on the roof, I could easily picture poor Sarah, rain drenched and determined, and an exasperated Lorenzo with his skin plastered shirt and also those rippling muscles! ... a girl just loves a man in a rain storm!

    in Venice, the scene with the full moon and how Sarah thinks of Lottie ... this has personal impact ... several times a year, friends from all over North America and I pick the very same hour to look up at a full moon .. this keeps us connected, as we all know we are all smiling at the same moon and it feels as if the moon smiles back at us ... it's quite the feeling .... I love how this connection brought delight to Lottie's birthday .. and well that whole personal tribute was spectacularly well done

    I think you asked about other movie/film lovestories ... in the Presents, Carole Mortimer's Prince Brothers trilogy from 2005 is one (and all three heroes are not typical Presents alpha) ... Susan Napier wrote several about the talented Marlow family .. there were several others from the very early Presents as well

    Once again ... I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah and Lorenzo's lovestory!

  50. Ah Alison, titles are always a thorny issue (do you like my pun on your rose image?!) The editors have to strike a delicate balance between choosing something that sounds appealing and which also does a pretty good job of letting the reader know what kind of story they're getting - and with so many books out every month that isn't easy. However, they are always interested in reader feedback and looking at ways of keeping up to date with what people want, and in the coming months you will see some different (and lovely!) titles emerging. I'm sure your comments, and those made by other posters about the covers, have been noted too.

    That's hilarious about Sarah and the magazines... you're SO RIGHT! I can just imagine her appearing in those lurid 'celebrity cellulite shocker' exposes, but you're right - she'd be laughing all the way to the bedroom with her lovely man. Thanks so much for your input and believing in the characters!

    Katherine, I LOVE that idea of you and your friends staying connected through the moon - what a gorgeous, spine-tingling way to feel close to each other. Thanks for sharing that - and also your Presents expertise! I love Carole's books and Susan Napier's (definitely need to revisit her writing) so I'll look them out -thank you!

  51. India ... the Carole Mortimer Prince Brother trilogy can be downloaded from the Mills and Boon UK site ... it's a three book By Request ... I just discovered it there a few weeks ago and downloaded and read them! .. Carole is one of my all time fav Presents authors

    Susan's books are such fun reads! ... I'll have to ask for more of her backlist to be reissued as ebooks ... her Marlow series are very well done ... I find the tone of them more along the Modern Extras ... alpha heroes but not SOOO alpha ;)

    I've read Presents since a teen when they were first published ... the line has come such a long way ... the guideline used to be all heroine POV ... then later in the 80's I think, hero POV was okay but no more than 40% ... I think that's why some readers have trouble with Presents .. the heroes are so alpha that without their POV they come across as brutes ... but the other side of the coin is that with a book where the alpha hero's POV isn't given, the ending where he redeems himself is usually fabulous! .. there are some awesome Presents (Sandra Marton has a few) where the hero eats such delicious crow! ... after brutish behaviour it is sooo satisfying! LOL

    I do indeed love my Presents! :)

  52. I really don't know what to say, other than "All of the above!" I had access to my daughter's computer, but it's so totally different than mine that I couldn't find my way here. Next month I will be home, so hopefully will have better luck getting here.

    Donna, thank you so much for setting this up for us. I've already been stretched to read a line that I usually stay away from. I read a few Presents many, many years ago, and really didn't like the "brutish" alpha-heros. I have since then gone on to pick other lines as favorites, but it seems to switch every couple of years.

    India, thank you for being so generous with your time, and so welcoming to chat with. Though I'm sorry to tell you that Donna A is still my all-time favorite author. . .

    I'd just like to add that it is indeed possible to put your roof tiles on upside down. Normally a roof is tiled from the bottom (eaves) up. If you start from the top and work your way down, the water will run under each row of tiles, rather than over the top of them. I've seen it done. . . my parents' neighbor did it, and my dad went to help them correct it -- there he was, white shirt, tie, suit jacket and all, just home from church and up on the roof, helping them get it right.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story, the one part I had trouble with was Sarah going up on the roof in the rain. I mean, really, what did she think she was going to accomplish in the rain, in the dark. . . maybe I'm just too practical.

    I will definitely be looking for more of your work, India.

  53. I forgot to add, my father was about 85 years old at the time.

  54. Katherine, I'm so with you on loving Carole's books, but am definitely way behind you on the download thing... I wouldn't know where to start. But as more books are added to the catalogue I know I'm going to have to drag myself into the modern age. (This could spell disaster for my writing time with all those fabulous books literally at my fingertips!)

    Donna, I'm really glad you made it here and it's great to hear from you - and you have impeccable literary taste if Donna A is your favourite author! Thanks for your explanation of the roof tile issue... it's good to know that I didn't completely imagine that.

    I had to have Sarah going up there because I needed a way of showing (as opposed to telling, which is always so much easier!) the reader that she was a girl who was used to sorting things out for herself and not waiting for a man. In the context of the story I guess her justification for doing it was to see if there was a particular place where the water was coming in which could be covered up, but really I just wanted her up there! I needed Lorenzo to see her from the outset as exposed, vulnerable but also very brave.

    Thanks so much for sharing the story about your father. Suit jacket... white shirt... utter selflessness and courage... He sounds like a perfect, real-life hero. x

  55. Thanks, India. Yes, he is my real-life hero, and my husband is close behind -- or maybe it's the other way around. . .

    Ah! Okay, looking for a big hole in the roof she could cover and be the hero-ine for her family. . . works for me!

    I haven't gotten this month's book yet, so I'm going to have to read fast when it comes.