Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping – and steamy – love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling… Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.
So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by superstar author Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?
Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after…
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review
This story didn’t draw me in immediately, the tone was so negative. Since this author is known for her positivity, I decided to read on. After the first chapter, I realised the reader is in the main character’s head, and she is in a bad place. So don’t be put off, read on.
There is a lot to like in the remainder of the story, a stunning setting, which I love. Having visited the Lake Garda region in 2004, I can confirm that the author’s description really does capture the essence of this lovely region. The writers’ retreat is also interesting, interspersed with writing and publishing tips, this gives the story its authenticity.
Brie’s life is nothing like her public persona and she begins to wonder if romance exists beyond the passionate words she creates in her sexy novels. When she meets Arran, there is chemistry but also conflict. They are both emotionally raw and have seemingly incompatible personality traits.
I liked the realistic nature of their relationship, with two characters that get under your skin, until you really want them to have their happy ending.
An enjoyable romance, full of vivid imagery and believable characters, and for the most part is positive and heartwarming.
‘All I can think of is that Brianna Middleton. Wow, that lady knows how to write a sex scene. Just thinking about the gorgeous guys she features in her books is enough to get me in the mood to jump into someone’s arms!’ She laughs and for one moment a look of horror passes over my face.
Oh, dear! Am I unwittingly killing the art of romantic love by concentrating on the intense passion and the hot sex? Isn’t that a modern-day disease, anyway? We want everything instantly and it seems that people forget that some things are worth waiting for. Wasn’t it more exciting when couples didn’t jump into bed before they’d had a chance to get to know each other? And then when they did get to that point it held more meaning. How many people wake up the next morning regretting the night before, I wonder?
‘Guess we’re all looking for a hero.’ I smile up at her in the mirror, doing my best to push aside my concerns.
‘Tell me about it! I can’t remember the last time a guy held a door open for me. Or picked up the tab for a meal out without expecting to go Dutch.’
I nod, glancing in the mirror and relieved to see that my face isn’t giving anything away.
Zena excuses herself to go and mix up the colour for the first step in the transformation. She returns wheeling a cart with two black bowls both containing a creamy white mixture. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the colours aren’t too loud.
‘Can you turn up the music, please?’ She addresses the receptionist who is manning the desk. ‘I love this one.’
Relief washes over me. It’s not a record I know but at least it curtails the conversation. I’m not being moody but the less said the better.
Closing my eyes for a moment to rest them, I’m horrified when a sudden jolt rouses me. There’s a buzzer on the shelf in front of me and it’s jumping around. I can’t believe I fell asleep.
Zena returns, and I follow her over to the basin. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be pampered and the head massage alone is a tonic. I didn’t realise I was quite so stressed out and now I’m longing for that full body polish and massage Mel and I have booked for later this morning.
After wrapping a towel around my head, Zena and I walk back to her styling station. She begins by twisting the majority of my hair up on top of my head, securing it with a clip. Scissors in hand, she turns her attention to the first layer at the back and begins cutting.
With my head tilted forward slightly, I look at the growing pile of debris on the floor. The colour looks okay but then it’s still wet and it’s hard to tell how it will look once dry. It’s been a long time since I wore my hair this short, that’s for sure. I glance across at Mel but she’s engrossed, listening to her iPod. Usually, I love thinking time, but my head is in such a mess that what I need now is a distraction. So instead I grab a magazine from the shelf in front of me and read about the latest red carpet event in Hollywood. I can identify with the sadness behind some of those fake smiles.
The cutting seems to go on forever and I lose interest. I decide it’s time to stop looking in the mirror and wait for the reveal. Eventually, the scissors disappear back into the neat little pouch strapped around Zena’s slender hips. She uses a generous squirt of mousse to scrunch up the longer hair at the front, with her hands, then the blow drying starts in earnest. My head is feeling curiously lighter and it’s a fight to avoid glancing in that mirror.
‘I think we’re done.’ Zena takes a step backwards, sounding pleased with herself. The girl from the reception desk walks by on her way to the coffee machine.
‘On fleek, Zena. A hot new look there, Ms Middleton, it’s time for a new author photo! I rang my mum and she just popped in with one of your books, so I wondered if you’d sign it for me? I have them all! I couldn’t bear to miss one of your hot, sexy heroes.’
I feel the heat rising up around my ears as my cheeks begin to burn; Zena’s jaw has dropped. Fortunately, Mel steps in, making a big fuss over my new hairdo and then whisks me off to the reception desk. I do my usual writerly scrawl just inside the front cover of the book lying on the counter while raising a smile and trying to look composed.
It isn’t until we’re out through the doors and walking down the corridor to find the nail technician that I feel I can finally breathe. I stop to catch my reflection in a glass panel and swish my hair from side to side.
‘You look gorgeous, Brie. On fleek, even!’
She looks at me with a big smile on her face.
‘I don’t feel like me. I look my age; I look like I’m ready to party.’
‘Well, after some new nails and a relaxing massage you will be. Tomorrow we hit the gym and I’ve booked us a session with a personal trainer. Tonight, we are dining in the spa’s acclaimed Nature’s Best restaurant. Nude food is the theme, as nature intended. They’ve stripped everything away and it’s all about the quality of the produce and keeping it simple.’
‘You have to let me pay for this, Mel. It’s way too much. Just the fact that you’ve organised all this is more than I deserve. I’ve been a very bad friend, lately.’
I lean in to give her a hug.’
Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award. Twitter Facebook