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Lela’s Choice by Jennifer Raines is a Shake Off Winter Doldrums pick #romance #mustread #giveaway

Title: Lela’s Choice


Author: Jennifer Raines


Genre: Contemporary Romance


Book Blurb:


Missing in Malta—A Risk Worth Taking?

Lela Vella has been a dutiful daughter and aunt for the past decade. But her plan to wean her father and orphaned niece off their dependence on her is scuttled when her niece and boyfriend flee Sydney for Malta. Lela suspects her autocratic father of provoking the flight. Lela’s desperate to reach the teenager before her father’s ultimatums blow another generation apart.

Widowed, Australian international child-protection lawyer, Hamish McGregor accepts Giovanni Vella’s request to remain in Malta after a conference to search for Vella’s missing granddaughter. Hamish’s formidable reputation is built on putting the needs of the child first. He doubled down on his work after the revenge murder of his pregnant wife by a client’s husband, vowing never to get close enough to another woman for her to be a target.

Lela doesn’t expect her father’s henchman to beat her to Malta. Hamish doesn’t expect the girl’s doting aunt to see him as an enemy.

Reluctant partners, they navigate false leads and unexpected attraction. Can Lela balance her family’s demands with her love for Hamish? Can Hamish accept living life is all about taking risks?




Chapter One


Hamish MacGregor gave a silent whistle. The images he’d seen of Carmen Vella hadn’t done her justice: professional websites, her niece’s social feed—Carmen was often in the background. Good enough for recognition, although the unskilled snap-and-upload photography was exposed the moment Hamish spotted the flesh-and-blood woman through the customs gates at Luqa, Malta International Airport.


Her hair matched the Insta pics, thick and blue-black, while the gamin cut framed distinctive facial features. Her sculpted cheekbones were balanced by a softly rounded chin, a slightly too-wide mouth, and a straight nose. From close study, he knew her eyes were ebony, not black—the subtle browns and greens had held his attention longer than strictly necessary for identification purposes.


Every single image had missed the energy emanating in waves from the woman walking towards him. He’d want her passion on his side in a fight. Maybe that explained why her father had despatched her from Australia rather than come himself.


She was also gorgeous—impossible to ignore. Her purposeful stride emphasised the vitality contained in her compact body. Her skin tone was a warm olive, a reminder of her family’s Mediterranean origins. She wore a loose tomato-red sweater and tailored, straight, dark trousers atop short leather boots, but the sense of lush curves had him sucking in a breath.


The air around her snapped with electricity.


Ms. Carmen Vella was making a dramatic entrance, if you equated drama with stealing one’s breath. Her head lifted to scan her surroundings, and her rich, dark gaze collided with his.


Desire was immediate—the kind he hadn’t experienced since he was an adolescent, when hormones regularly swamped more cerebral considerations. Any considerations, if I’m honest.


His reaction rocked him. Mindless lust was a relic of his adolescence, along with his drum kit. He valued women, loved his mother and sisters and respected the women who worked for him. It took more than an attractive package to trigger his libido.


Why Carmen Vella?


The kicker was the secrets clouding her eyes in those images he’d studied. They’d stuck in his mind. He understood defencelessness. His success as a domestic violence and child protection advocate depended on it. This woman wasn’t defenceless, but the disconnect between the vulnerability in her eyes in the photos and the self-possession in every line of the elegant Ms. Vella tugged at him. She cleared the final exit, her journey from Sydney, Australia, to Valletta, Malta, complete.


“Carmen Vella?” He closed the last few metres between them.


Her head turned, her body stilled, her expression unreadable. “You work for my father?”


Question or accusation? He held his palms up in a gesture of goodwill. “I work for myself. I was in Malta on other business, but I’ve agreed to stay a few days longer to assist you and your family search for your niece.”


“I haven’t asked for your assistance.” Her voice was deep and low, the soft cadence at odds with the wariness he read in her stare. He hadn’t expected suspicion.


“Your father …” he started.


“I’m here independently of my father.” She placed careful emphasis on each word.


“Carm—I mean, Ms. Vella.”


“Only my father calls me Carmen.”


“Miranda, we’re blocking the exit.” There was a time when saying Carmen instantly sparked the response Miranda—at least in his house, where his grandfather had been hooked on old movies. “Let’s get out of everyone’s way.” He raised his voice enough to explain to a casual onlooker why he’d reached for her suitcase.


“Miranda!” She held tightly to her bag. Her scent, a little peppery, was proving a more reliable clue to the woman than the short bio he’d uncovered in his limited research. “Seriously? Carmen Miranda? A 1940s Hollywood star. What century are you from?”


“Give me an alternative.”


“Who are you?” she demanded. He was close enough to be singed by the sparks flying off her.


“Hamish MacGregor. I’m an Australian lawyer, specialising in the illegal movement of minors across international borders.” He extracted his passport from his jacket pocket and passed it to her. “As I said, I’m in Malta on other business and agreed to provide some assistance.”


“To Papa?” She scanned his passport, a slight tremble in her hand.


“Aren’t you both pursuing the same objective?”


“I’m not sure of his objective.”


Hamish was also close enough to glimpse the weariness he’d missed at first glance. The turbulence in her beautiful eyes testified to an internal battle. He was impressed when self-control trumped tiredness and anxiety about her missing niece.


“Sorry, I wasn’t expecting Papa to contact me so soon.”


“But you were expecting contact.” Hamish’s instructions from Sydney had been explicit.


“Giovanni Vella is my father. I love him. We share a big house with my niece and Papa’s sister. There’s always contact.” She dimpled through her exhaustion, her smile devastating in its charm. Her response was a succinct summary but not quite the truth. Giovanni Vella might be the devil or a saint for all the inflection in her voice, and Hamish was no clearer on whether she’d cooperate in his search. “Tell me what Papa’s asked you to do.”


“Apart from working with you?” he asked. A frown marred her smooth brow, giving Hamish a clue. “You really weren’t expecting me? Here? Now?”


“Not so soon. But here you are.”


“How about I buy you a coffee, talk about what we each expected?” Hamish binned all the assumptions he’d made so far.


She nodded.


He took charge of her suitcase and headed out of the stream of people towards a nearby café.


The ra-ta-tat of her heels hitting the marble tiles of the concourse close behind beat out a message clearer than Morse code, even before she spoke. “I’m agreeing to a conversation. That’s all.”


Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):





What’s your favorite activity to shake off the winter doldrums?


Sydney Australia doesn’t have particularly harsh winters, but on those rare days it’s extra cold and going outside looks uninviting, I snuggle up on the couch with a book. Having a cat or a hot chocolate to hand just makes it better.


Why is your featured book a cure for the winter blues?


Because it takes you to sunny Malta and mixes armchair travel and a bit of suspense with sensual romance.


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $35 Amazon gift card



Open internationally.


Runs March 1 – 31, 2024


Drawing will be held on April 1, 2024. 


Author Biography:


Australian Jennifer Raines writes sensuous contemporary romances set mainly, but not exclusively, in Australia—think Malta, Finland, New Zealand or ? A dreamer and an optimist, her stories are a delicious cocktail of passion, mutual respect and loyalty because she still believes in happily-ever-afters.


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3 commentaires

Lisa J Lickel
Lisa J Lickel
22 mars

Intriguing, what a great getaway place!


09 mars

I I read a lot of holiday romances!


N. N. Light
N. N. Light
06 mars

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your book in our Shake Off Winter Doldrums!

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