Renee Conoulty: July 2017


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Beautiful Messy Love by Tess Woods

What happens when love and loyalty collide? Two couples must deal with the consequences of their messy love not just for themselves but for those who depend on them. For lovers of passionate romance in the vein of Nicolas Sparks.

When football star Nick Harding hobbles into the Black Salt Cafe the morning after the night before, he is served by Anna, a waitress with haunted-looking eyes and no interest in footballers famous or otherwise. Nick is instantly drawn to this exotic, intelligent girl. But a relationship between them risks shame for her conservative refugee family and backlash for Nick that could ruin his career.
Meanwhile, Nick's sister, Lily, is struggling to finish her medical degree. When she meets Toby, it seems that for the first time she is following her heart, not the expectations of others. Yet what starts out as a passionate affair with a man who has just buried his wife slips quickly into dangerous dependency. 
Through attraction, breakups, triumphs and tragedies, these two couples learn just how much their beautiful messy love might cost. A West Side Story for the modern day.

Hey! Here's my review.

Tess Woods's debut novel, Love at First Flight, stayed with me long after I finished reading it, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of her second novel, especially when I discovered that Beautiful Messy Love was the story of the children from the first book. Beautiful Messy Love is a stand alone novel, though. You don't need to have read Love at First Flight to enjoy it, but once you read it I'm sure you'll fall in love with Tess's incredible writing and rush out to grab a copy. I was lucky enough to receive an advance ebook copy and devoured it within a couple of days. I also received a surprise paperback advance copy too. I loved the story so much that I bought the audiobook the day it released and finished that within a couple of days, too. So now, I have the whole set!

Wow! This was the best audiobook I've ever listened to - and I've listened to almost 200 audiobooks (you can see them all HERE). There are four different narrators that are perfectly matched to the four different point of view characters. The book was a five-star read anyway, but this extra attention to detail took it to the next level. If you're an audiobook fan - this is an auto buy. If you're not sure about audio then this book is a great place to start. The narrator for Toby - SWOON! 

I found Lily very relatable - in my early 20s, I also struggled with studying a difficult university degree and debated whether to finish it. My heart went out to Anna and I loved Tante Rosa - the grumpy Egyptian matriarch made me smile. My favourite character would be Toby's brother, John - he cracked me up so many times with his inappropriate, self-absorbed comments. He was like the Aussie version of Joey from Friends - but more of a prick (and his girlfriend's name was Renee - I'd never put up with his crap, though). 

I went from laughing at hilarious one-liners to sobbing, on multiple occasions - a roller coaster of emotions. Two intertwining love stories, overcoming issues of race, religion, fame and grief. This book is firmly at the top of my Best of 2017 list.


  • Where: Harper Collins, NetGalley & Audible
  • Format: ebook, paperback & audiobook

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Return to Summer by Melissa Baldwin *Release Day Blitz*

Hey Everyone!

I'd like to introduce you to Melissa Baldwin, who has just released her latest romantic comedy novella, Return to Summer.

Melissa Baldwin is an avid runner, planner obsessed, and has always had a love for writing. She is a wife, mother, and avid journal keeper who took her creativity to the next level by fulfilling her dream with her debut novel, An Event to Remember...or Forget. Melissa writes about charming, ambitious, and real women and is now a published author of nine Romantic Comedy novels and novellas.

Where to Find MELISSA

Return To Summer

Summertime has arrived and things aren’t only heating up outside for Summer Peters. After a rocky spring, Summer thinks she’s finally moved on from the heartache of last year. She’s found a new place to live, her company has new clients, and her relationship with Alexander Williams is going strong, despite the desperate attempts by others to sabotage it.

Just when Summer thinks everything is finally falling into place, she receives another crushing blow, and this time it could even affect her business. Summer knows it’s finally time to put a stop to the one thing that threatens her happiness, even though it requires a difficult decision in order to do this. Will this season bring her everything she’s always wanted or will history repeat itself?
Find out how Summer’s one-year journey ends in this final installment of the Seasons of Summer Novella Series.


Return to Summer by Melissa Baldwin

Read the first three SEASONS OF SUMMER novellas!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Brake Failure by Alison Brodie

“Is it too late to tell him you love him when you are looking down the barrel of his gun?” 

An English debutante transforms from Miss-Perfectly-Correct to criminally insane as she breaks the bonds of her rigid upbringing. Sheriff Hank Gephart tries to reel her in - but she’s out of control and she’s not hitting the brakes. 

What happened to the genteel lady in twin-set and pearls? And why did she shoot Mr Right? 

Brake Failure is set in 1999 in the months leading up to Y2K “meltdown” when the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: "1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world." 

Hey! Here's my review.

Quirky characters, lots of giggles and racoons in the chimney.

Set in the not too distant past, Ruby learns to let go and party like it was 1999 (because it was). A romantic comedy that begins at the end then put all the pieces together. 
I enjoyed Ruby's story and look forward to reading more from Alison.


  • Where: Review request
  • Format: ebook

Monday, 3 July 2017

Matt's Lasagne

Hey Everyone!

It's winter and I'm craving home cooked comfort food just like the lasagne Matt cooked in Don't Mean a Thing.

Excerpt from Chapter 11
I parked Bertie right out front. I took a deep breath and held it for a moment, in an attempt to suffocate the butterflies. A wave of cool air greeted me as Matt opened the front door and invited me in.

“Just give me five minutes to put the white sauce on, then I’m all yours,” Matt said, beckoning to follow him into the kitchen. The scent of garlic and onion hung in the air. I watched as Matt poured the contents of the saucepan into a casserole dish, sprinkled on a handful of cheese then slid it into the oven. “There. We have about half an hour ‘til dinner’s ready.” Matt held up his glass of red wine. “Would you like a wine? I’ve already had one for me and one for the pot.”

“I’d love one.”

Matt poured a glass, then gave me the grand tour of the two bedroom unit. The first bedroom was set up as a study. A bookshelf stood in the corner loaded with books, a comfy chair under the window, and a desk with piles of papers almost hiding the laptop.

I stood still for a moment to taste the wine, taking the utmost care not to dribble any on my white shirt. The merlot went down smoothly, the cool liquid leaving a warm sensation in my chest. Matt opened the door to the master bedroom, and the images that popped into my mind sent that warmth sloshing around my body. Instead of testing out the springs of his mattress, Matt headed back to the lounge room, where he’d set out cheese and crackers on the coffee table. 


“Dinner’s ready,” Matt announced.

A rich cheesy aroma had been wafting into the lounge making my stomach gurgle in anticipation. I could hardly wait to find out if dinner tasted as good as it smelt.
I took a seat at the dining table. The places were set with cutlery, napkins, and even a vase of flowers. Well, it was a glass with a couple of stalks of basil with a spray of small white flowers at the end. I giggled, but when I thought about it, the basil was perfect. Matt topped up our glasses, placed a bowl of salad in the centre of the table, then came back with two plates of steaming lasagne. 

“Wow, this tastes even better than it smells,” I said.

“Secret family recipe.” 


“Not really. It’s the recipe Mum always made, but she actually got it from the back of the box of supermarket brand lasagne sheets. She cut it out and sent it to me while I was at Uni. It’s stuck on the fridge, but a bit worse for wear now.”

“I’ve got the best recipe app on my phone. I’ll have to copy that recipe in. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just make you cook it for me every time I’m craving lasagne.”

Want to find out what happens next? 
It's one of my favourite scenes, involving Tim Tams...

The recipe

The recipe I wrote about was off the back of the Bi-Lo lasagne sheets I used to buy. That supermarket chain has since been taken over by Coles and the lasagne sheets are no longer available. Luckily, just like Matt's mum, I cut the recipe from the back of the box and thankfully I think like Macie and typed it into my recipe app on my phone before it disintegrated. It's the best lasagne recipe I've ever found. 

Matt's Lasagne


1 packet lasagne sheets
500g mince
200g chopped onion
2 tsp crushed garlic
400g tin diced tomato
200g tomato paste
1 beef stock cube
100ml red wine
300ml water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/3 tsp white pepper
600ml white sauce
150g shredded cheese

White sauce
80g butter
600ml milk
80g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt


  1. Brown meat, onion and garlic
  2. Add tomato, paste, seasoning and liquid
  3. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 45 minutes

White sauce

  1. Melt butter then stir in flour
  2. Add milk and stir continuously until thickened
  3. Add salt, cover and stand until required
  1. Grease 22 cm square ovenproof dish
  2. Cover base with thin layer of white sauce then alternate lasagne sheets and meat sauce, finishing with lasagne
  3. Pour over remaining white sauce and sprinkle with cheese
  4. Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes (if cold: bake 1 hour, reducing to 180°C for last 30 minutes)