- Wild Horse Press
- Release Date
- May 2011
How do you relate to a man who doesn't want you to?
Josie Sergeant has learned one thing by carving out her living from the wilds of the Canadian north: perseverance, optimism and the willingness to do what has to be done can overcome even the harshest of obstacles. Life has taught Theo Sabich, a fellow rancher from Australia, that optimism is a fool's hope.
When their beloved siblings' impetuous marriage plans pit Josie and Theo against one another to defend their families, they find more than they bargain for. And when they start seeing each other as more than enemies, they face their greatest challenge - finding the courage to reach out for happiness.
Under the northern lights, their attraction ignites beyond their control... The trouble is a one-time "no strings attached" release of passion is easier said than done when love is hanging by a thread.
Approximately 55,300 words.
Aug 30, 2011 [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
357 people found the following review helpful
Who knew the wilds of the Canadian North would be such a romantic setting? Anne Holly apparently! Bringing a quirky love story to life in her latest novel, Anne Holly's STRINGS ATTACHED will capture readers' "hopeful" romantic soul.
Josie Sergeant defines independent woman. Having taken over the family sheep ranch, she not only survives but thrives in the wilderness. Kept company by her dog and cat seems to suffice until she examines her life a little too closely after receiving a call from her brother, Richard, with news of his engagement to his girlfriend, Julie Sabich. And as distressed as she is about her brother's upcoming Christmas wedding, her reservations don't even touch those espoused by Julie's brother. Their initial meeting in Winnipeg goes badly, despite their instant attraction to one another, but Josie adores her brother and agrees to "entertain" the surly Theo at her ranch while the lovebirds plan their nuptials.
STRINGS ATTACHED snags the readers' attention from the start. Well written with beautifully descriptive scenes and witty dialogue, Ms. Holly spins a tale of hope, redemption and love. While the plot was relatively simple in nature, the characters themselves were strong and relatable. Occasionally, point of view shifts distracted from the story line but overall the story moved quickly and was very enjoyable. Ms Holly's skillful unveiling of the deeper emotional motivations of her main characters had this reader in tears - the good kind that promises hope and happy endings.
A classic contemporary romance, STRINGS ATTACHED delivers a solid story. Josie and Theo's romance is well worth the read. This reader highly recommends this slightly sappy, but nevertheless sweet story of two souls who fall in love despite their best efforts not to. Theirs is the kind of romance that makes you want to know what happens after "The End"!
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Book Review by Rho (reviewer)
Jan 19, 2012 [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
347 people found the following review helpful
An unlikely couple finds love across the world in STRINGS ATTACHED. This sweet romance boasts great writing, and deep and complex characters all along the backdrops of the Canadian North and Australian Outback.
Josie knows how to survive. As a rancher in some extremely harsh conditions, she's able to persevere. She knows loss too, but she chooses to see the good in life instead of letting the bad things bring her down. So when her impetuous brother announces he's engaged to another woman before he's even gotten divorced from his current wife, she tries to be supportive. She didn't realize that being supportive would mean that she had to house the surly brother of her future sister-in-law, Theo.
Theo is out to stop his sister from making a mistake that will ruin her life, so he leaves his Australian home to go to Canada in order to stop her wedding. He doesn't plan on meeting Josie though and they begin to forge a reluctant relationship.
Eventually they admit their attraction to each other, but neither is willing to risk their hearts. But what they don't know is that they already have.
I really loved this. The writing was top notch with the eloquent descriptions that literally drew you right inside the story. I've never been to either location but I felt like I could see them both so clearly in my mind.
Theo is probably one of my favorite Heroes of the year. The tragedy that he suffered left him so cold, but getting to the root of it, and learning about the devastation he endured literally made me ache for him. I really felt like the other characters paled in comparison because I was so drawn to him. The transformation that he made during his both physical and spiritual journeys was phenomenal.
The attraction between Josie and Theo was inevitable, but I liked watching it develop. Both of them were very strong in their own way, but they complemented each other well. Josie really balanced Theo's surliness and softened him, which he sorely needed.
Overall, I thought this was a wonderfully written romance. STRINGS ATTACHED is my first Anne Holly book, but I've already added several to my ever-growing "to be read list".
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BOOK INTERVIEW on January 2012
Interview by Rho
Thank you, Anne, for joining us to answer some questions about your book, STRINGS ATTACHED.
Q: Where did you get the idea for STRINGS ATTACHED?
I wrote the original draft of Strings Attached back in 2000 or 2001, I think, so it's difficult to remember what all went into it. I do know that certain elements involving Katie's death were inspired by real life events in the news at the time, though not exactly. I was also passionate about animal rescue at the time, and still am, so a lot of the pets in the book were based on real fur babies I knew and loved. The general setting, though, was inspired by my own childhood growing up in a very rural, wooded area, growing food and raising animals. I didn't grow up in Manitoba, but I have a great respect for Canada's nature.
What inspired me to write it in the first place, though, was LaVyrle Spencer's last book before she retired – she spoke so warmly of her wonderful career, I started to think about writing romance. I had always written, and I had always loved romances, but I hadn't put two and two together – until that book, Then Came Heaven. Then I wrote Strings Attached. This is why Strings Attached so strongly reflects a classical contemporary romance tradition, I think, because I was inspired by her books. Theo, by the way, is nicknamed Teddy in the book in honour of one of LaVyrle Spencer's heroes.
Q: I loved the gorgeous descriptions of the ranches and the surrounding lands that were plentiful in the STRINGS ATTACHED. What type of research went into making those places come to life?
I had several friends who were from Canada's west and from Australia, or who had travelled extensively around these regions, so I picked their brains and made sure they test-read the manuscript for me. Back when the original draft was written, I was very new to the internet, but I managed to make contact with a few people involved with buffalo ranching. Where I lived as a child, there was a family who owned a few bison, so I have always been fascinated by such wild icons living on a farm. I read a lot about the business and then clarified with people I met around online. I did a lot of climate and nature research – out of books, mostly, way back then, if you can believe it! I had a friend who was a meteorologist, who helped a good deal making sure things were as correct as I could make them. And, of course, my whole childhood was research in taking care of a working family farm.
Q: I have to ask about the book cover. It's certainly not what we typically see on a romance novel. Please share with us the story behind it.
Yeah, I suspect a few people would tell me to change it, so it reflects the genre better. I know embracing, pretty people are more typical. I have a friend, Amanda Wood, who is a fantastic American artist, and I commissioned her to do the cover, because I wasn't yet sure if I approved of photographic covers. I grew up on painted covers, so I was partial to a painting. She read the book, and then we went through several concepts and sketches, debating what we should do. We both agreed, very early on, that I didn't want a bodice ripper type, and I think she was grateful. But she brings a special skill to animal paintings, so it seemed natural to go with the bison. For me, the lone bison was so thrilling – a story all by itself. A tower of strength and isolation in that beautiful cold night. He summed up the book in some ways.
Besides, I like the idea of readers being able to imagine Theo and Josie for themselves; remake the book for themselves, in a way. That was something I always loved about LaVyrle Spencer's books. Her covers often showed something decorative or a pretty painting of the setting, but it was up to me to give the characters faces. This was one of the problems I had with photographic covers. I felt they reduced some of the imagination involved with reading, and, therefore, the reader lost some of that connection with the characters. Though, I admit, I have gotten over that reluctance. My covers for Rebel Ink Press have been photographic, and I love them.
Q: Josie was from Canada and Theo was Australia. What was the motivation behind the two very different locales?
Canada and Australia are wonderful extremes of nature, and are a world apart, but are also quite similar in many ways. To me, it seems natural to put them together. The landscape is almost a character in this book, so the scrubby lands of Theo's ranch in Australia said something about him, the same way that the lush wintery magic of Manitoba said something about Josie, if that makes sense. The geographical distance was symbolic of how far apart their initial world views were. Besides, I'm not keen on stories that have no real obstacles to the couple aside from the failure to communicate or be honest, so the practical issues of living in different places were useful for the story.
Q: Theo is not a typical hero, what was it about him that drove you to write him the way that he is?
I'm glad you think so! He's certainly big, and tough, and handsome, like most romance heroes, but he's seasoned. He's had set-backs, and you can see that in him, so it kind of makes him more tragic and romantic to me. I guess, I'm a sucker for creatures who need rescuing, so a wounded hunk is better, to me, than one who's never faced loss or had life throw him lemons. I've always admired people who come back from troubles. I've known a few people who came out of trial stronger than before, and I find it wonderful. Theo's story reflects my belief, though, that doing everything alone doesn't necessarily mean you're stronger. It takes a lot of courage to accept help.
Q: Do tell us more about Josie. What makes her the perfect heroine for this story?
Josie. I loved her right from the start. In my initial draft, she was a total Mary Sue character. Absolutely perfect in every way. I was about 21 when I came up with her, so the 30-year-old me laughed my butt off when I re-read that draft in 2010. Oh, how young and naïve I was! Josie, as she is in the version published in 2011 is a lot more developed than she was in the original. She has flaws and weakness, and moments of indecision. I like her even better for that, as a grown woman. I find I relate to her – she had plans, and derailments, but she kept on trucking. Josie, to me, represents how flawed the image of women as the weaker sex really is. We can be tremendously strong, competent, yet human, individuals. She's smart and modern enough to make a go of ranching, which can be a rough, demanding industry, but rooted and independent enough to handle the rugged landscape. As a mother, I find myself channeling my inner-Josie, still.
Q: Josie and Theo seem as different as two people can be on the surface. What is it about them that make them so perfect for each other?
Theo is a loner, but not entirely. He's actually quite a staunch family man, but he's so cautious and weary. Josie is also a big believer in family and making connections, but she's much more open and optimistic. Theo needed Josie, but she needed him, as well. She couldn't ever be happy with a man who couldn't appreciate the land, and that was the big thing they had in common. I have always believed there is a spirit that connects everyone who works the land, from anywhere in the globe. It's a way of walking and seeing that others overlook.
Many of my books have the central theme of outside/inside tension. We've all known couples that we wouldn't have matched up in a million years, yet they make a successful go at it. You can never tell which opposites will lead to murder, and which will complement the other. It's a gamble, and a leap of faith, and I love showing that in my work.
Q: What is the most romantic thing that Theo said to Josie?
"I need you." Simple, wonderful words – when they are healthy and loving, of course, because I suppose in some couples "I need you" is also a form of blackmail. But, it was a huge step for Theo to say that. And Josie needs to feel needed and useful. Mutual need is a major step for two very strong, independent people to embrace.
Q: My favorite scene in the book was when Theo went to the cemetery. I really teared up when he was talking to his daughter. I think I really went a little gooey for him then. What is your favorite scene in STRINGS ATTACHED, and why?
I have lots of scenes I like. I love, in a very bittersweet way, the scene where Theo and his dad talk about Blackie, and the scene where Josie talks with her brother. I also love the scene under the northern lights, which I often share as an excerpt because I find the setting so pretty.
But, I think my favourite scene is when Theo and Josie first meet, and then the dinner scene after that – that is a very sparky, funny scene for me. I'd like to share a bit of that here, and maybe the dinner scene in a blog post here in a couple weeks. To set it up, Theo has come to stop his sister's marriage. Josie, who isn't thrilled about her brother marrying so quickly after his divorce, is, nonetheless, determined to stand by him. Theo's sister takes him to a restaurant, where he is to meet his soon-to-be-brother-in-law, where he can't smoke and he's angry and tense. He spots a girl…
The Abbey was one of the most stylish eating establishments in the city, according to Theo's sister, who continued to jabber away nervously with increasing speed as the dinner appointment neared. She said that she hoped he was willing to try to like it, even though it wasn't really his type of place. Theo found himself a little insulted by her assumption that burger joints, diners, and pubs were all that he enjoyed. In fact, he rather fancied the lovely golden shimmer that the lighting cast about the place, and the browns, golds and greens decorating the restaurant suited him fine.
Standing at the bar, which almost seemed too classy to be a bar, Theo took a draw from his Guinness beer and thought longingly of the Marlboro cigarettes in his pocket. The No Smoking sign taunted him. His dark green suit coat was new, and he resisted the urge to fidget. His sister had insisted on taking him shopping for a new outfit for the weekend's dinners, and he tried not to take offence at her obvious attempts to take the ranch look away from her rough older brother.
Well, a new suit was little enough to do to make Julie happy. But if she felt that her ranch background was something her fiancé wouldn't approve of, it just served to prove to him that this marriage must never take place.
Idly, he noticed a pretty, if overly polished, blonde at the end of the bar. He remembered Julie's assertion that he needed to start living his own life. Ridiculous, he thought, and wished again for a smoke. What did she think he did on his ranch all year, pine away for his ex-wife? Really, nothing could be further from the truth. If he'd been a different sort of man, he decided, he could have dated any woman who came along since the end of his short marriage. But he wasn't. He was a man who had learned from life's trials, and one lesson he'd learned was that, by and large, women were more trouble than they were worth.
As he scanned the crowd, he saw a well-dressed urban couple at the coat check. The woman, an adorable five-and-a-half feet, give or take, with a nice physique and glossy black hair, caught his eye. Theo thought to himself that it was times like this that certainly reminded him that he still had the physical desires of a man in his prime, but that a head of silky hair and a nice ass were generally not worth the heartaches.
Despite these grave thoughts, he found himself slightly, and strangely, angry with the handsome young businessman who had his hand proprietarily resting on the small of her wool clad back.
She said something Theo couldn't make out, and her attentive escort laughed, his straight white teeth and fine laugh lines showing to perfection. The couple suited one another, Theo thought. Both had dark hair and eyes, and dressed as if they had been swaddled in Armani. As well, they appeared young, in their twenties. Well matched, Theo thought sarcastically, suddenly feeling old.
Julie should have saved her breath, Theo concluded. At nearly forty, if he wasn't living his own life, he never would.
Just then, the trim-figured woman looked his way, the smile still lingering in her eyes. For a moment their eyes met, and Theo felt the urge to know her name. He thought to smile, but before he could, her friend took her attention back. Then Theo felt very close to hating him.
Feeling silly, he went back to his beer until he heard his name. Julie was standing next to the pretty young woman in the black suit. Distracted, it took him a moment to realize Julie had introduced her, and her name was Josie.
The next revelation hit him when Julie further noted the woman was the interloper Richard's sister.
Q: Which character in STRINGS ATTACHED do you most identify with? Why is that?
All of them, I think I have to admit. In some way, they're all me, or at least contain some of me. Theo and Josie, of course – my inner-pessimist and inner-optimist, forever doing battle. Her other brother, Ike, made an instant connection with me. Like him, I grew up on a family farm and went on to pursue academics. It gives you a very odd between-two-worlds feeling, sometimes. No-nonsense in a world of, well, nonsense – even if you love that nonsense.
Q: Is there a chance that we will be seeing these characters from STRINGS ATTACHED again? Why or why not?
Yes! Actually, I plan on writing a spin-off from Strings Attached for Ike. I never planned on it when I initially wrote the book, but ten years later I still love him a lot. So, I hope this year you'll see his story. I'm not sure if it will be a full novel or just a novella, but I definitely need to give him a happy ending.
Q: Please share with us some of your upcoming projects.
I just contracted another contemporary romance novel to Pink Petal Books, which is currently entitled Textbook Romance, its working title. I'm excited by this one, because I feel it's my best work yet, and my test readers have been positive. It's the story of a university professor, who is also a single mother. She has rejected romance as a fanciful, harmful myth that has destroyed the lives of men, women and children. Her life is about her work and her son, and giving him the stability she never had as the only child of a romantic single mother. Yet, in her "secret life," she writes romance novels. When a mature student, Seth, a single father and former cop, sets his sights on her, she fights a battle with her two sides to figure out a way an intelligent woman can risk so much – and actually come out on top! I hope this will be out in ebook format around Father's Day, and in paperback in the fall of 2012.
Great answers, Anne. Thanks again for being here with us. I really enjoyed STRINGS ATTACHED. I can't wait to read more of your work.
Thanks so much for giving me the chance to talk about Strings Attached. I really love this book, even though it's likely immodest to say so. My first real romance novel, it has a special place in my heart. It's an honour to see someone pay it such close attention, Rho, and to maybe introduce it to new readers. Thank you!
Anne Holly is a Canadian writer of romance and erotic-romance, as well as a mother and teacher. She has been published by Wild Horse Press, Decadent Publishing and Rebel Ink Press, and in 2012 by Pink Petal Books. Anne's work is characterized by its unusual heroes, sweet/spicy balance, witty dialogue, responsible citizenship, and its positive, optimistic nature. She has found a particular niche in holiday romance.
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Strings Attached – Wild Horse Press
Strings Attached – Amazon
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