Hired By the Brooding Billionaire by Kandy Shepherd

hired by brooding billionaireOne thing you can be certain of when you pick up a romance novel written by Kandy Shepherd, you’re in for a well-written, light-hearted read. It’s no accident Shepherd subtitles her website: “fun, feel-good fiction!” Her scenarios are fun; the inevitable happy ending is fun. Yet there are often surprising elements in the writing that adds an extra layer of enjoyment.

In Hired By the Brooding Billionaire, Shepherd rewrites the familiar and favourite trope of Beauty and the Beast. The “Beast” is Declan Grant, a man who has hidden himself away after the death of his beloved wife. He’s inordinately rich – hence the “billionaire” of the title – having made his fortune from a computer game. Despite his wealth, Declan doesn’t find life easy; he has shut himself away inside his Sydney-Eastern Suburbs mansion, rarely seeing daylight, and letting the garden his wife had once cherished grow unkempt.

Into his life walks Shelley Fairhill, not your usual “beauty”, but an amazon-like landscape gardener. The two meet when Shelley approaches Declan for work, wanting to bring his garden back to its former glory. She recognises it as having been designed by “probably Australia’s most famous landscape designer” of the 1920s, Enid Wilson, a woman Shelley wrote her dissertation on at uni. (It’s pretty clear Wilson is based on the real-life Australian landscape designer, Edna Walling, and this is the kind of gently feminist reference I’ve come to expect from Shepherd’s writing.) Despite his need for solitude, Declan is persuaded to let Shelley loose on the garden, and becomes increasingly attracted to her as a muse: he needs a model for his next female-starring computer game.

Shelley is passionate about her work and becomes equally passionate about her employer – this is a romance, after all; but more than Declan’s tragic past throws doubt on their chances for a “happy ever after”. For one thing, Shelley has a desire to work in the most famous gardens in England, and she’s not going to let a man stand in her way.

Don’t get me wrong: Hired By the Brooding Billionaire isn’t a feminist romance. In many ways, it’s a typical Mills and Boon novel: traditional, warm and sweet. But it does portray Shelley as strong-minded and independent; she doesn’t have to rely on a man for her success or happiness, though her “happy ever after” with Declan is welcome when it comes.

~

Author: Kandy Shepherd
Title: Hired By the Brooding Billionaire
Publisher: Mills and Boon
Year: 2015
ISBN13: 9780373743506

This review forms part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2016.

Disclaimer: Kandy Shepherd is not only a fellow Blue Mountains romance writer, she is also a friend and critique partner.

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Love is a Four-Legged Word – A charming, mad cap read

Love is a Four-Legged Word, by Australian author, Kandy Shepherd, is a light, fun-filled read. Its quirky characters, an aspiring celebrity chef and an uptight lawyer, are brought together when the chef’s elderly neighbour dies, leaving her the guardian of an ugly pug who inherits a fortune.

Set on the west coast of the USA, this zany romance reminds me of an old Cary Grant movie – it has the same, light-hearted, feel-good factor. In this story’s world, nothing is too serious, despite seeming life-and-death stakes for the “millionaire mutt”. It’s impossible not to be charmed by the heroine, Maddy, with her bubbly personality and whacky way of seeing the world. Even uptight Tom, the lawyer hero, proves to be just as lovable by the end.

Some readers think the ugly mutt Brutus steals the show, but I disagree. It’s Kandy Shepherd’s delightful comic voice that makes this story. Editors often say that want a new “voice” and some aspiring writers think they have to manufacture that. It’s not true. Writers need to bring out those aspects of themselves that will appeal to the reader.  Kandy’s writing persona very much reflects her warmth and humour in real life – it shines through her stories.

I recently reread the novel after the sequel Home is Where the Bark Is, which tells the story of Maddy’s model friend Serena. The sequence doesn’t matter: each novel stands well on its own. I’m looking forward to the next Shepherd romantic comedy. Kandy’s Castaway Bride came out on ebook recently – and I’m not surprised to see it is topping the best-seller lists.

I’m looking forward to more. How about it, Kandy?

(This review first appeared on Amazon in July 2011 and has been slightly revised)

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Review of Love is a Four-Legged Word by Kandy Shepherd by Elizabeth Lhuede is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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