Book Recommendation ~ Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo

Book Recommendation:

Supermodel Rory Gray just wants to go home. After wrapping up a three-day high-fashion photo shoot overseas, she’s exhausted and ready for the holiday. A holiday that involves Hollywood parties, air-kissing the industry elite, and a whole lot of fakeness…but whatever. Once she gets through that torture, she’ll head to her beloved Seattle and the life of anonymity she misses so much. In less than twenty-four hours, she’ll be there.

Colt Ross has spent the past six months detaching himself from the Hollywood world he grew up in, and home is the last place he wants to be. But he’s been called back by his overbearing father for reasons he can only imagine. Likely reasons that involve taking over the family corporation or fund raising among Hollywood elite—something Colt has no interest in being part of. Not that he has a choice; when you’re the son of an industry executive, rubbing elbows comes with the territory. In less than twenty-four hours he’ll be home. After all this time away, home no longer appeals to him. Especially not at Christmas. Leave it to his father to ruin a holiday.

But when a late-season hurricane grounds both of their flights in the Dominican Republic, Rory and Colt find themselves stuck at the airport far longer than anticipated. As weather conditions worsen, they both begin to realize that this Christmas will be spent with strangers packed inside a single airport terminal—specifically at gate 18.

Rory and Colt are faced with a choice: band together in their misery or make this Christmas one they will never forget. For two people who aren’t real fond of the holiday, this Christmas might turn out to be the best they’ve ever had.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I’m not a big fan of hanging around airports. I travel interstate for work and, if possible, avoid checking in baggage. When my flight home is delayed, I’m thankful the airport lounge serves a light dinner and always has soup as an option.

Rory Gray and Colt Ross are living an airport nightmare. They are stuck in a foreign country on December 23rd due to a hurricane grounding all flights out of the Dominican Republic.

Rory is a supermodel who doesn’t speak Spanish and forgot to pack a toothbrush and a change of clothes in her carry on. That makes her seem ditzy to Colt when he finds her lying beside him in the middle of the night in a crowded corner of Gate 18.

Colt is a bored playboy who has sworn off women. Six months earlier he ran away from his previous life where he worked for his domineering father. He has been summoned home to LA for Christmas.

Colt recognises Rory, although she doesn’t remember that they have previously met in person. During the story he discovers her inner beauty makes her outer beauty pale by comparison.

Rory is a loner who struggles to trust people and let go of past hurts. She’s attracted to Colt and likes that he’s not impressed by her celebrity status. She allows him to glimpse the real Rory during the few days they’re stuck together riding out the hurricane.

The story is funny and light hearted with a few poignant moments. The forced proximity is challenging for Rory and Colt in different ways.

Christmas at Gate 18 is a fun and clean romance novella with a few edgy elements that may be too much for conservative readers. The Christmas setting of a hurricane in the Caribbean was different and I enjoyed being stranded with Rory and Colt at Gate 18.


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Book Recommendation: Sway by Amy Matayo

Sway

Book Description:

Falling in love is a beautiful thing. Unless you fall for the wrong person.

Finally settled after a tragedy-laden life, 24-year-old Caleb has found security in his faith, his friends, and his career. It’s the life he’s always wanted—simple, predictable, and safe. Enter Kate Hawkins, the attractive 21-year-old stranger he rescues from a bar fight who has an odd affinity for the color pink and a unique sense of humor.

It doesn’t take long to realize their connection is intense, but after only a handful of dates, a shocking revelation surfaces. Lines are drawn, sides are taken, and loyalties are decided as their newfound relationship is brought to a sudden halt.

But unlike most couples who split, avoiding each other is impossible. As daily interactions become unbearable, one realization becomes clear: they’ve both fallen hard for the absolute wrong person, which leaves both scrambling for a way to make it right.

Narelle’s thoughts:

I enjoyed Sway, and I read it very quickly once I was a few chapters into the story. My Aussie friends recommended the book to me, and I’m glad they did because I may not have read the whole book without their recommendation. When I’m browsing books, I usually read part or all of the sample. My thoughts on the opening pages determine if I’ll keep reading. Sway is written in first person and opens in a seedy bar in Oklahoma City. Initially I felt like I was reading a new adult romance story about a group of young people with questionable morals who were looking to hook up. That’s not my usual choice of reading material, and I would have missed out on a great story had I tossed it aside and not continued reading.

Caleb is a fascinating character who has overcome enormous obstacles to reach a place where he’s content with his life and has a purpose. The first person viewpoint means we are inside his head, and we receive a largely unfiltered male point of view that is mild in language compared to many general market romances, but more overt and descriptive than the typical Christian romance. Conservative readers who prefer very sweet romances may not be comfortable with this aspect of the story.

Kate is a naive and sheltered twenty-one year old who is dragged out to a bar by her friends to celebrate her twenty-first birthday. I thought this aspect of the story was odd until I remembered the legal age for drinking and going to bars is twenty-one (it’s eighteen in Australia). Kate’s so-called friends abandon her in pursuit of one night stands, and Kate finds trouble very fast.

Caleb’s reasons for being in the bar are made clear later in the story. He’s attracted to Kate from the moment she walks into the bar, and he can’t keep his eyes off her. Before long he recognises that Kate’s in trouble, and he rescues her. This is the start of their relationship, although all is not as it seems.  One third of the way into the story we learn more about Kate and Caleb’s very different backgrounds, and the secrets that are revealed blow apart their preconceived ideas about each other and their developing romantic relationship.

The plotting and character development in the story is brilliant. We see both Kate and Caleb challenged by the events in the story and forced to face their greatest fears. Can their new love survive what looks like insurmountable obstacles in their path? This is the story question that stayed with me until the very end, and I found the ending both delightful and satisfying.

I was also challenged to think more about the big issue raised in the story. We haven’t seen as much controversy around this issue in Australia, and it was insightful to gain a broader understanding of American culture in this specific context. I recommend Sway to readers who enjoy realistic and edgy Christian romances that deal with contemporary issues.

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Book Recommendation: The Wedding Game (Reality Show Book 1) by Amy Matayo

The Wedding Game

Cannon James has a plan: Sign on as a contestant for his father’s new reality show, marry a blonde hand-picked by the producers, and walk away two million dollars richer. It’s all been arranged. Easy. Clean. No regrets. Until Ellie McAllister ruins everything by winning the viewer’s vote. Now he has to convince America that he’s head over heels in love with her. Not easy to do since she’s a walking disaster.

Ellie McAllister has her own problems. She needs money, and she needs it now. Despite her parent’s objections and her belief that marriage is sacred, she signs on to The Wedding Game…and wins. Now she’s married to a guy she can’t stand, and if she wants her hands on the money, she has six months to make voters believe she loves him. Not easy to do since he’s the most arrogant man in America.

It doesn’t take long for Ellie and Cannon to realize they’ve made a mess of things…even less time for their feelings for one another to change. But is it too late for them? More importantly, can the worst decision they’ve ever made actually become one of the best?

Narelle: I enjoyed reading The Wedding Game, Book 1 in the Reality Show series. I admit to being a skeptic regarding the marriage of convenience plot in contemporary romances. It works beautifully in historical romances because it wasn’t uncommon for people to marry for reasons other than love. It’s a hard plot to write successfully in the Christian/inspirational contemporary romance genre because we believe marriage is sacred and not something to be entered into lightly. Exceptional character motivations are required to make a modern day marriage of convenience romance story both realistic and believable.

The Wedding Game nailed the character motivations for both Cannon and Ellie and set up a story full of emotional conflict for both characters. Ellie is a small town girl who is thrust into the celebrity spotlight when she wins ‘The Wedding Game’. She’s also hiding a big secret that she’s desperate to keep under wraps in order to protect the privacy of a loved one. Ellie comes across as snarky and rude during her initial interactions with Cannon. As the story progresses we learn why she believes he’s arrogant and an all round horrible person. Cannon is a wannabe actor who has lived a self-indulgent rich kid Beverly Hills lifestyle and made decisions that please his powerful and wealthy father. In a momentary act of defiance, Cannon chooses Ellie, America’s sweetheart, instead of the beautiful blonde who was his father and the producer’s first choice.

The camera’s follow Cannon and Ellie’s daily lives as they share a made-for-tv apartment in LA and fight constantly. They can’t stand each other at the start of their temporary marriage and their enforced close proximity creates a lot of drama that’s filmed for their weekly reality tv show. Their romance is rocky and the sensual tension between Cannon and Ellie builds during the story. Cannon has secrets of his own and a whole new set of problems arise when Cannon and Ellie start to care for each other. The faith element in the story is very low key and readers who are looking for a romance with a strong faith message may be disappointed.

I recommend The Wedding Game to readers who enjoy a light hearted contemporary romance that’s a little bit edgy and has humorous moments.

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