I stumbled across Bella Andre last year purely by accident. I was reading an article last June about successful self-published romance authors and her name popped up. Coincidentally it was right after she had released her first book of the Sullivan series, The Look of Love. Be warned, these books are only available as ebooks, so print only romance readers are bound to go unsatisfied. Maybe this is the push you need to get one of those cheapy Kindles finally?
With over 3600 Twitter followers, Bella Andre is someone who clearly understands the digital world, hence her success. Already an established print romance novelist, she had books that weren’t being picked up that she wanted to get out there. Starting with Amazon’s platform she got them up in ebook format, but realized if she marketed to the other ebook websites like Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc., she’d reach a larger audience. Finding the interface accessible, she forged ahead, selling a thousand titles a day, and retaining a much larger chunk of the proceeds than with a traditional publisher. Sounds like a savvy, experienced author knew just how to play the self-publishing game!
Bella confesses that she feels one of the key features of her success was the introduction of the Nook Color since it showcases her beautiful covers (and my Kindle iPad app agrees with that). We know that everyone judges a book by a cover and I was no exception. I was looking for a romance novel for under $5 that I could download that instant, and when I read all the great reviews for Bella and her books on my Goodreads account, I made the plunge. She is, hands down, one of the best values in the romance novel world. I can honestly say that I would pay a lot more for these books (but please don’t raise the price!) but I’m intensely grateful to never have to budget for them.
The first book begins on a rainy night on a road near the Napa Valley vineyard owned by Marcus Sullivan. His brother, world renowned photographer Chase Sullivan, is driving back to the vineyard when he spots a broken down car driven by a despondent Chloe Peterson. Spotting the bruise she’s sporting, he realizes this ravishing beauty not only outshines the models which surround him but she is also in serious trouble.
Chloe takes one look at gorgeous Chase and knows she’s in trouble. Her abusive ex had caught up with her and she’s beginning to despair of ever being free of him. Yet this handsome man looming over her in the night inspires trust rather than fear. When he brings her back to the beautiful vineyard where he is having a fashion shoot, she finds herself opening up her body and her heart. Oh, and the balcony and bathtub scenes. *Mrrrrrooowwww*
Chase is determined to have both those things and Andre’s talented writing breathes life into these two characters from the very first page. The Sullivans are a family of eight children and their lovely mother who lost their father at an early age. Each of the kids are distinct individuals and intensely devoted to family. We’ve got a nice selection of upscale glamour (Smith is a movie star, Chase the noted photographer, Lori the renowned choreographer), a workaholic (Marcus the oldest and the vineyard owner), and the sexy professions (Gabe is a firefighter, Zach a mechanic, and Sophie the librarian). [Okay, I know that's seven, and I'm pretty sure there's a younger sister I'm not thinking of right now, but she hasn't been the in the stories so much. So sue me! I'm sure her story will be great, too.]
You end up wanting to just BE a Sullivan! In the first book, Marcus comes across as a little uptight, mostly due to the references to his cranky, be-yotch girlfriend in San Francisco, but you realize he’s wrestling with something bigger. The second book, From This Moment On, picks up with Marcus finding out about said girlfriend cheating on him. He realizes he hasn’t had feelings for her, well, forever, but is wrestling with the fact that he’s so remote and can’t open up to someone. Is it because of his dad dying so young and leaving Marcus as the male head of the family with all the responsibility? He decides to blow off steam and head to the nearest club to see if he can indulge in some casual sex and get his mind off his troubles.
Enter Nicola, one of the hottest performers, who is running from a relationship that should carry a scorched earth warning. Her ex got her name in the tabloids by releasing a video with the two of them…well, you can imagine. She decides to leave her penthouse hotel suite and head out to a club to see if she can get a little of her self-esteem back. When she and Marcus catch sight of each other, they quickly leave the club and adjourn to his brother’s empty apartment where…she falls asleep, dead on her feet from her grueling work schedule.
And so begins an incredibly hot, tender romance. Marcus and Nicola see something in each other, recognizing that they have a deep connection and can see beyond the surface – what everyone else sees – to each person’s real self. The part at the end of the book where Marcus follows her concerts. *Sigh* So romantic.
The third book, Can’t Help Falling in Love, leaves the wealthier Sullivans behind and focuses on sexy firefighter, Gabe, who is literally in the middle of battling an apartment fire, to make his way to a woman and child trapped behind a wall of flame. It’s Megan Harris, who is busy shielding her young daughter in their bathtub, praying help comes in time. Gabe injures himself in the process, but manages to save both their lives and when she and her adorable little daughter go to thank their savior, the sparks that fly could easily cause another inferno.
But rather than elation, Megan and Gabe both feel a kind of panic. Megan is a widow whose husband was an adrenaline junkie so she’s had her fill of men who have potentially fatal jobs and now she has a little girl to worry about hurting with a relationship that doesn’t last. Gabe is beside himself – he falls for Megan’s daughter as hard as for her stunning mother, but he had a previous hook-up/relationship with a woman he had saved and she went Swimfan on him in a big way. Watching the two of them work through their issues and recognize how important they are to each other is a sensual, occasionally painful joy.
Which brings us to the most recent Sullivan novel, I Only Have Eyes for You, just released February 21st. Librarian Sophie is twin to choreographer Lori, and their respective nicknames Nice and Naughty, describe how the family sees their personalities. In previous novels, we’ve gotten the sense of how Sophie has feelings for Jake McCann, her brother Zach’s good friend and someone the family calls “the ninth Sullivan”.
This story opens at Chase and Chloe’s wedding, which Sophie has organized. She’s decided that no matter what (including the warnings from her twin, Lori) she is going to make Jake notice her, and her clingy pink bridesmaid’s gown and movie star hair and makeup have him picking his jaw off the floor.
Jake has actually loved Sophie from a distance since they were both little, but his crappy home life (abandoned by his mother and raised by an abusive alcoholic father) and academic shortcomings have him believing he’s not good enough for her. Yet seeing her at the wedding and thinking of her with someone else make him mental. Even though he knows he’s wrong for her, when she throws herself at him, he catches her with open arms, only to have the best night of both of their lives.
But the following morning, he steers clear of her like she has the plague, despite knowing that he’s hurting her, thinking it’s for the best. Until two and a half months later when Sophie has an announcement which will change both their lives – if they let it.
Jake and Sophie are both fabulous characters and I love the way Bella Andre weaves in the previous characters seamlessly but not intrusively. The focus is always on the couple involved but the enthusiastic reader still finds themselves wrapped in Sullivan love and affection while not feeling like the other characters are living some kind of epilogue in the middle of the current novel. It’s a skill I wish other authors would master.
Consider the value in these books. At $4.99 for each book, $20 for the series, you get four terrific novels about a family you simply can’t get enough of. No editing errors, fabulous characters, and fresh, sensual plots with heart-wrenching love – this is undoubtedly one of the best values for the money. If you have an ereader of any kind, I would strongly encourage you to give this series a chance. You’ll be happy you did!