Book Review | “Evie Undercover” by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdays

Posted Saturday, 19 March, 2016 by jorielov , , , , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By:

I am a ChocLit reviewer who receives books of my choice in exchange for honest reviews! I received a complimentary copy of “Evie Undercover” from ChocLit in exchange for an honest review! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

On my connection to Ms Harris:

I have been hosting #ChocLitSaturday chats on a regular basis for the past two years. Eleven in the morning of a Saturday, has become a favourite hour for me to exchange conversation and joy with everyone who shows up to participate in a chat centered around ChocLit novels and the Romance branch of literature in general.

Similar to my previous thoughts I shared about Ms. Courtenay, I have come to appreciate chatting with Ms. Harris, either through #ChocLitSaturdays chats or privately. She is most giving of her time and I have appreciated the opportunity to know the writer behind the stories I enjoy reading! She always shares her happy spirit in the chats too, and her insights into why she enjoys writing the books that speak to her the most.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Harris through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst I host #ChocLitSaturday the chat as well as privately; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. Similarly this applies to all future novels I read by an author I appreciate reading due to the compelling story-lines and characters they continuously bring to their novels and/or novellas.

An appreciator for the fiction Ms Harris writes:

The Road Back by Liz HarrisA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris

Historicals: The Road Back (review) | A Bargain Struck (review)

Contemporaries: Evie Undercover

Novellas: The Art of Deception and A Western Heart

I entered into the worlds of Ms Harris via her historicals A Bargain Struck and The Road Back wherein I travelled through time to two distinctively unique chapters of the historical past. I learnt about A Western Heart when I hosted a special guest feature revealling a bit more about it’s story and of course, I loved the back-story attached to The Road Back (via another Guest Post of hers). As I was mentioning during #ChocLitSaturday the chatty extension of #ChocLitSaturdays, I love soaking inside the collective works of authors I know I want to continue reading – not only if they exchange genres but if they tackle different kinds of stories than the breadth of which you were originally introduced too.

Ms Harris definitely falls into this category for me, as I appreciate the curious pursuit of crafting stories which have something to say that is outside the boxes of their genre designations. By appearances, you think you will know outright how a story of Harris’s might go along but until you’ve read her novels, your in for an unexpected surprise because she crafts them in a way that re-defines the genres they occupy. I appreciate this for several reasons – one it never leaves any genre exploration of hers left to stagnation and secondly, it gives me an edge of constantly moving in and out of my comfort zones. I like writers who challenge me – either by their choices of how they tell their stories or the topics they explore within them.

If a writer can fuse their inspiration across genre divides and still have a way of capturing your curious nature to consume those works of fiction, you’ve been doubly blessed! For me, Harris is a prime example of how writers love to explore different components of their literary wanderings whilst keeping their readers happily refreshed by the choices they are making on behalf of their characters. I’m not only a reader who dances through genre, but like Harris, I too, wander in and out of genres as a writer. It’s keenly wicked to watch another author find her wings and confidence growing between both the Historical and Contemporary worlds whilst inhabiting both novella and novels in length.

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Notation on Cover Art: There was a change of cover-art for “Evie Undercover” as the original version can be seen via my ChocLit Next Reads List on Riffle. What is noted between the two, is the second cover is a bit more revealling of Evie’s personality – she’s an independent woman whose trying to make her way in the world as a journalist but she’s still in transition of learning how far she’s willing to go to get the story she’s commissioned to write. In the original cover, you see the faux Evie the one who was willing to hide behind a more conservative persona in order to hook her mark into thinking she was uninteresting and solely focused on her presumed task as his secretary. I think both covers are aptly suited to the novel and each speak to the story’s lead character in different ways.

Book Review | “Evie Undercover” by Liz Harris #ChocLitSaturdaysEvie Undercover
by Liz Harris
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Berni Stevens
Source: Direct from Publisher

When libel lawyer Tom Hadleigh acquires a perfect holiday home, a 14th century house that needs restoring, there’s a slight problem. The house is located in the beautiful Umbria countryside and Tom can’t speak a word of Italian.

Enter Evie Shaw, masquerading as an agency temp but in reality the newest reporter for gossip magazine Pure Dirt. Unbeknown to Tom, Italian speaking Evie has been sent by her manipulative editor to write an exposé on him. And the stakes are high – Evie’s job rests on her success.

Places to find the book:

ISBN: 9781781892404

Also by this author: A Bargain Struck, Guest Post (A Western Heart) by Liz Harris, Guest Post (The Road Back) by Liz Harris, The Road Back, Book Spotlight w/ Notes (The Lost Girl), Guest Post (The Lost Girl) by Liz Harris, The Art of Deception, The Lost Girl

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romance Fiction, Romantic Suspense


Published by ChocLitUK

on 2nd September, 2015

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 244

Published by: ChocLitUK (@ChocLitUK)

Formats Available: Paperback, Audiobook and E-book

Converse via: #ChocLit

Harris | Historical vs Contemporary styles:

Harris has a clever way of pulling out the emotional connections out of History’s door so effortlessly, you feel as if you’ve become transported directly into the timescape you’re visiting. I appreciated stepping inside a story set in Wyoming where the author has left a piece of her heart (if you’ve read her Guest Post) wherein she tucks us inside the Frontier where a character has a firm grounding of self and a dramatic story to reveal. I loved every inch of A Bargain Struck because it’s not your traditional Western Romance nor is it to be overlooked – it’s one of the gems of the Western genre because it has the classically recognisable setting at the homestead but it’s backlit with hearty dialogue and realistic issues between man and wife. Complicated quite a heap due to the fact it’s a mail-order bride narrative arc which is one of my favourites to read as it speaks to the humanistic hope of finding someone you can build a relationship with in a non-traditional way of meeting them.

On the flipside, whilst I was reading her debut novel with ChocLit The Road Back I was tilted back inside a period of history where social provision was challenged by an unconventional union of souls. It was so very dearly realistic and illuminated more by it’s setting in the East, you could not dare take your eyes off the pages as you read the story. You become so hugged close to the narrative and to the struggle of the lead characters, it’s hard to find a way to put the book down but devouring it in one sitting isn’t advisable either as you want to take your time absorbing all of it; bit by bit.

In her historicals, I found Harris to take her time to carve out the scope of where the story will take us, allowing us to fully envision the setting and the world she’s created at a pace that allows for reflection. In her contemporary styling within the chapters of Evie Undercover she’s quickened the pace and retrofitted her voicing of the characters to match their modern lives. She takes on different points of perspective and different lifestyles each time she composes a story, but it’s how she roots us to the heart of her novels that gives me the most enjoyment to follow her literary career where genre takes a backseat to compelling fiction and relationship-based Romance!

My Review of  Evie Undercover:

As I started to settle into the story, I recognised that one of my favourite parts about the film Under the Tuscan Sun shared a moment of truth with the lead male character: Tom Hadleigh – both purchasers of the Italian homes in need of renovation do not speak Italian nor know enough about how to start fixing the homes! I loved how Hadleigh is under the distinct impression he’s hired a translator to help him with the Italian language rather than realise he’s hired a minx of a tease incognito from her truer nature as a journalist out for the dirt on his name. Evie plays the coy damsel but Hadleigh sees past her taunts except to say, for a moment where a fraction of his sanity evaporates and he acts against his better judgement. It gives him an edge of humanism as even the best intentions to keep social and business relations separate can be blurred when your caught off-guard by a devious mind trying to play off your weaknesses.

The interesting bit for me is how the transition moves off of Evie’s point of view and enters directly into the confusion behind Hadleigh’s new impression of his interpreter – as Evie was playing two roles in one – the efficient assistant who never had to be questioned for sincerity or a decorum of morality on the job and the one who was toying with his sensuality of recognising her as more than a hired employee. Hadleigh turns retrospective quite quickly, trying I think in a way to rationalise what is happening and more to the point ‘why is this happening’ at a point where all was previously well between them.

I liked the tongue-in-cheek flashbacks between Evie and Hadleigh – they each had the space to give their points of view on what was occurring between them but also, the flexibility to see certain events happening twice but from different angles. I am finding lately I appreciate this more and more, as it let’s us as readers re-examine what we think we are being lead to know in a story vs what we might be objectively missing by a distraction of opposite viewpoints. For instance, quite early-on I knew there would be a twist inside this novel, one I might not even expect finding but surely one to be had because that is the beauty of reading ChocLit novels: nothing is ever quite as it appears to be! Especially as this is definitely setting up to being a tale of who will outwit and outfox whom! I love the smart exchanges and the believably of the tables being turnt constantly on both Evie & Hadleigh!

The cheeky bit was that both of them were playing at a game neither one of them knew they wanted to lose, at least not at first. Evie wanted to entrap Hadleigh into admitting to certain affairs to advance her career – a seemingly earnest prospect that did not broker on too much of a challenge for someone with journalism instincts to motivate her to find a way to get Hadleigh to reveal more than he might be willing to express. Yet at the very same time she’s struggling to come to terms with where her journalism career is taking her (as she never intended to write for a trashy kind of zine) Hadleigh is trying to sort out where he stands on love, romance and relationships.

Hadleigh has an interesting introspective vibe throughout the novel, as he’s toying with questioning the merits of remaining emotionally detached inside his relationships whilst wondering why that is his main conviction on having happiness in his life. He’s torn between what he’s learnt by observation and research by listening to accounts of others speaking for him on this score and what he feels in the interim period he’s spent directly with Evie. Both of them are at a crossroads but if you were to ask them about the specifics of that crossroad and what it would mean to them to decide which path to take next, I’d surmise neither of them would recognise their on the verge of personal growth and that their choices will have revelations about their futures.

Harris keeps the realism alive between cultures and languages by including Italian words and short phrases to visualise the spoken dialogue during the scenes that take place in Italy. The main curiosity for me was to seek out the passages where Evie and Hadleigh grew the most and how they would choose to decide how they wanted to live their lives. They were at such a turning stone moment of their lives inside Evie Undercover you were quite hoping they would sort it all out and perhaps, have time enough to linger on developing their relationship a bit further. Not to spoilt the story for a new reader, but for me, there was only one disappointing factor out of the whole – a bit too much time spent chasing one vein of the story-line as I would have loved to have seen the main thread pick up it’s own pace a bit quicker than it had.

Fly in the Ointment:

Although I do shy away from reading too many Contemporaries (in Rom) part of the reason is the language issues I take up with them. As I’m not one to blush when it comes to heat in Romance, as long as it’s tactful and respectfully interwoven into the natural discourse of a relationship that is building between the two characters but when it comes to explicit language and words; I’m less agreeable to their inclusions as let’s face it, strong language is simply not my cuppa tea.

Therefore, although I arched my eyebrow on page 13 more than a few times, I recognised this is a traditional Contemporary Rom and I wasn’t half shocked to find myself blinking past a few blights in the paragraph. They were spoken by a brass editor of whom employs Evie; that in of itself was expected as per the stereotypical personality he was embodying. Point of fact for me? Her boss was a true cad and a bloke I wish had been more limited in appearances than he was as he quite irked my ire after awhile.

There is a lot of strong language peppered throughout the novel, which at times did goad a bit on my disappointment to seeing it so liberally used; but I was so curious what would become of Evie and Hadleigh as they are such unsuspecting partners, I tried my best to overlook a part of the story I most disliked.

Why I appreciate stories by Liz Harris:

I’m a lifetime reader of Ms Harris – I love her instincts for selecting characters and stories to bring to light through her novels which I love discovering. She has great insights about what to research and I love how her research acts as the bridge towards the heart of the stories themselves. I’m hopeful one day, her shorts will go into print or audiobook, so I’ll have the pleasure of knowing them one day, too. This is my true hope for all the lovely ChocLit novellas including Ms Gover’s Christmas in Coorah Creek which is going to be the first installment of the Coorah Creek series I will not be able to read – although I am reading the sequel The Wild One upcoming in early April!

This particular story challenged me a bit because I had to move past my disinterest in strong language to find the heart of the character’s story; this is one of my vexations as a reader, to constantly accept there are going to be vulgarity in today’s modern literature (which I feel is far more abundant than in the recent past) but as a book blogger I’ve endeavoured not to allow the language to ‘turn off’ my interest in the story as a whole if I can find supporting reasons to continue with a story once I’ve found words I’d rather never read on the pages. Prior to being a book blogger I was far more fierce about what I read because if I found one word that turned off my readerly interest I’d forthwith stop reading it outright. Nowadays, I continue to read the stories whose strong language might still wrinkle my brow and shrink a bit of my joy out of those bits of the story itself but if I can find a stronghold of ‘story’ held inside the chapters I’m not putting the books down until I finish seeing what becomes of the character(s).

What anchoured me inside Evie Undercover is what I would say is “Classic Harris” as she has a way of writing a smartly insightful novel which may or may not be what your fully expecting to find inside one of her stories when you first begin them. I’ve been pleasantly surprised thrice over thus far along in reading her stories but it’s how she turnt the focus from Evie to Hadleigh consistently throughout the novel that kept me invested.

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Sharing a bit of insight about “Evie Undercover” from Ms Harris:

I’m very attached to it as the house that lawyer Tom buys is modelled on my sister’s house in Italy. Tom did exactly as my sister did – bought a 14th century stone house on the side of a mountain on a whim. The house needed restoration, and that’s been beautifully done, in a way that’s in keeping with the period of the house.

The reason I felt like sharing this small insight about the novel is because when I first learnt of it myself, it clarified how the inspiration behind the novel and how it was told fit so beautifully together. I love finding small glimpses of a story’s back-story – how it was created or why it was written, these are the things I love to discover and sometimes, the truth behind why a novel was written is rooted in a nod towards real life and the manner in which our memories inspire our stories.

The fact the restoration equalled the era of the house’s origins is champion, as I do agree with restoration specialists who abhor changing a house to live outside it’s century; it’s best to bring back what time has erased than to attempt to reconstruct the soul of a house out of modern technological advances where the materials and ambiance are not aligning properly with the character of the house itself.

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

This book review is courtesy of:

ChocLitUK Reviewer

In case you’ve missed my ChocLit readings:

Please follow the threads through #ChocLitSaturdays!

I disclosed my next ChocLit reads on #BookishNotBookish No.6

And, visit my ChocLit Next Reads List on Riffle

to see which stories I fancy to devour next!

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Don’t forget to Replay the Bookish Chats via #ChocLitSaturday by visiting us on Nurph!

I hope we’ll see you chatting with us! Spread the joy of #ChocLitSaturday to your bookish friends! Visit my post on #ChocLitSaturdays vs #ChocLitSaturday for more information! And, the words I expressed about #ChocLitSaturday on my spotlight for The Wild One by Janet Gover.

Remember you can also drop in on the conversations are your able too!

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Replay Today’s Convo about:

“(Is there a genre of fiction you dislike? A sub-genre of Rom? And if yes why?)”!

(soon to be Storified, as I mistook the hour to begin the chat today as I had forgotten about how daylight savings has not yet begun in the UK; hence why there was a false start & two archived chats on the same topic with a small overlap. Nurph doesn’t yet allow us to cancel a live chat to re-queue a new one)

Replay last week’s Convo about:

“(Does a romance have to end in marriage/two main characters getting together to be romantic?)”!

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Reader Interactive Question:

What do you love about a heroine and hero who write their own unique story whilst conveying a purchase of a second home in a country not of their main residency? What do you love the most about ‘older homes’ with character!?

Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva.

Fast-paced Contemporary Rom wherein characters are smartly written w/ wicked witty exchanges! Click To Tweet

Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

{SOURCES: Cover art of  “Evie Undercover”; author photograph for Liz Harris, author biography, book synopsis and book reviewer badge were all provided by ChocLitUK and used with permission. #ChocLitSaturdays Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all. "I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story) more >> | Hire me as a betareader | Policies & Review Requests
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Posted Saturday, 19 March, 2016 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Britian, British Literature, ChocLitSaturdays, ChocLitUK, Contemporary Romance, England, Fly in the Ointment, Green Publishing, Indie Author, Investigative Reporter | Journalist, Life Shift, Modern British Author, Modern British Literature, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Vulgarity in Literature




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