I love armchair travel. I enjoy 'real' travel, too, but when I can't afford that, in either time or cash, then a good romance in a different location really works for me. That's why I adore historical romance and science fiction and fantasy romance - stories set in different times and places. That's why I am drawn to the novels of Judah Raine.
Judah is South African. She lives near to Durban. She writes about South Africa - the South Africa she knows. She brings me the rhythms of life of the country, of how people live and speak. She shows me the animals. She allows me to experience the weather there, the scents, the tastes. When I curl up with one of her novels, I feel transported to another continent.
Read one, and discover South Africa for yourself.
I'll finish with an excerpt, blurb and latest review from Judah's latest novel, A Thick Black Line.
No one spoke. All attention was riveted on the dance floor, but they were completely oblivious of the audience. Even Caro, who had innocently engineered what she thought was a simple slow dance, was wholly unprepared for the palpable and almost raw energy that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
“Hot-damn!” she breathed. It was an instinctive response, a wholly inadequate response of something close to awe.
“And then some!” That from Andrea who was beside her, mouth open in unmitigated disbelief. “What the hell is going on there?”
Steve was smiling, but it was a kind of shaky, uncertain smile, like he wasn’t quite convinced that he wasn’t dreaming.
“I think,” he said softly, “that it’s the irresistible force and the immovable object.” Andrea shot him a questioning look. “Think of it like Ice Queen meets Sun King - freeze meets fire.”
Andrea looked back at Bo and her brother. Steve’s words sounded ridiculous, but they made sense in an entirely crazy kind of way.
Which was exactly the kind of thing that Bo was wrestling with herself. It had been so simple in the beginning. Just a dance. A challenge. A clash of two perfectly matched strong wills. But somewhere along the line the boundaries had shifted, the conventional rules lost in something that was way bigger, way more intense - something totally, frighteningly, fundamental and consuming.
Bo saw nothing - felt nothing - but the deep, talking blue of his eyes and the potent, demanding magnetism that surrounded him. She felt removed from anything normal, stripped of everything safe and familiar and secure. As if, somehow, on some deep and inexplicable level, they were irrevocably joined and had entered into a place where reason and logic and plain common sense simply didn’t exist.
A part of her wanted to pull back, pull away, free and find herself again. She wanted to grab hold of all things safe and real, but something in her - something strange and unfamiliar - fought back, refusing to give, wanting the crazy, the inside-out, the unthinkable.
When the music finally stopped, when reality at last crept in, she was still bent backwards over his arm. His eyes were unreadable, almost navy with an intensity that mirrored her own. Slowly, reluctantly, the silence penetrated.
“I’ve never really understood that dance,” he said, his voice oddly rough and dragging. “Until now, that is.”
Bo used his shirt to pull herself upright. She couldn’t think of a response, focused instead on the bleak off-white of the fabric. She could see his heart beating rapidly under the white of it, an echo of her own. It was oddly mesmerising.
There was a sharp and sudden burst of applause, like a spell was broken and everyone needed something to ease the tension.
Bo slipped out of Nic’s arms, leaving him there as she strolled - on shaking legs that hopefully no-one noticed - over to the bar. The barman gave her what seemed to be a sympathetic grin.
“Here,” he said, pushing a glass of wine at her. “You look like you could do with a little something.”
“You think?” She gulped down a sip or two. The music had started again. Something safe and cheerful, but it seemed loud and brittle. Bo saw the moment of escape. “I’ll send this back in the morning,” she said, lifting her glass.
He nodded. “You’re the boss.” Bo didn’t feel like it. Didn’t feel anything like the normal, in-control boss-lady she was supposed to be. She slipped around the bar and ducked on through the kitchen door feeling more like a delinquent than a respectable businesswoman. Safely outside, she breathed deeply, had another sip of wine, then picked her way carefully round the side of the building. She was home-free.
Or would have been if Nic Sinclaire hadn’t been doing pretty much the same thing that she was. Swallowing an instinctive shriek of fright, Bo struggled with a temptation to accuse him of deliberately waylaying her. But he was clearly as surprised as she was, and for a long moment they simply stared at one another in silence.
“What the hell happened back there?” he asked at last. He still sounded edgy. At least, she thought stupidly, she wasn’t the only one. Not that the realisation really helped her any.
“Happened?” She managed a good rendition of flippant, like she really had no idea what he was on about. The last thing she needed right now was a dissection exercise. The world still hadn’t quite returned to its usual axis, and examining it was going to be difficult.
“So that’s how you’re going to play it.”
“Play what? I really have no idea what you’re getting at.”
“Which,” he responded dryly, “is why you’re skulking around, slinking out the back door so that you don’t have to face anyone.” Put that way it sounded juvenile - which probably matched the delinquent feeling she was having quite well.
“I’m simply going home,” she protested reasonably, immensely glad that the darkness effectively hid the sudden rush of hot colour into her cheeks. She desperately needed to get a grip, and fast.
“Right. And tomorrow it’ll be all business-as-usual, like nothing happened.”
“Nothing did happen.” Bo was working really hard - against huge odds - to end this. Whatever this was. She still wasn’t sure. But there was no place for it in her world, and exorcism was way up on her to-do-immediately list.
“No.” He sounded thoughtful. Still intense and taut and compelled. Strangely, it frightened her. “But we both know - although somehow I get the feeling that you’d rather die than admit it - that it might as well have. Whatever that was - and I have no idea what it was - it was about as enormous and passionate and downright intimate as the real physical thing.”
Bo gasped her outrage, her indignation. Mainly because she was - very outraged and very indignant. But also because she knew, somewhere inside her, that he was right. And because just the thought of it terrified her, left her feeling like somehow she’d crossed every line she’d so carefully - so painfully, so determinedly - drawn for herself. And because she’d been so utterly powerless to stop it. Which terrified her more than anything.
Bo Carmichael has drawn a thick black line around her heart with good reason. She has worked hard to overcome the anguish of betrayal and the devastation this had wreaked in her family's lives, and is now close to realising her dreams. There simply isn't place in this equation for emotional entanglements, and especially not with Nic Sinclair who is the only man in a very long time who has the ability to breach those defences.
From their first encounter, an impossible chemistry rages between them - a crackling heat that seems set on melting the ice surrounding her.
Then a bizarre new twist makes Nic a constant companion and self-appointed protector, the situation does nothing to ease the conflict between them. As she is gradually pulled into a sinister underworld fraught with tension, fear and distrust, the line between her and Nic becomes smudged and unclear as his role in her life slowly changes shape.
When tragedy pushes her into a cold and lonely private world she is aware of the shifting of her barriers but seems unable to stop the process, is no longer even sure that she wants…
THIS IS WHAT CAMELLIA OF LASR SAYS: "Judah Raine tells an exciting story... The imagery, the wonderful character development so full of energy and intrigue along with the remarkable love lived and revealed enhances a compelling plot. The “bad guys” certainly give the “good guys” a run for their money. They are indeed antagonists to be reckoned with before we can see a happy-ever-after. Superb reading!"