Train travel, sexy baklava and a retro Anne McAllister romance: a running commentary

I was in Melbourne a few weeks ago. As a total wimp and the catastrophising human that I am, instead of braving a one hour flight each way, I caught the 10 hour train to and from Melbourne instead. On the return trip I reread an old favourite Sexy Mills & Boon by the wonderful Anne McAllister called The Antonides Marriage Deal  and I wrote running commentary while I read and travelled. All the photographs are my own taken with the thoughtful and precise skills developed over the years which my sons lovingly (I’m sure) call “The Veros School of Photography”.

Though I am posting this in time for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge, the only thing that is paranormal about it is the smokey jackaroo….

Oh. And a warning: FULL of SPOILERS!

You can fast forward to the end of the blog for the review part.

The TL:DR for this book is Tis Great!

The Antonides Marriage Deal by Anne McAllister

The Antonides Marriage Deal

by Anne McAllister

The Greek tycoon’s takeover…
Greek magnate Elias Antonides has single-handedly regained his family’s fortune. So when his father gambles away a vital share he’s furious! Elias now has a new business partner…stunning heiress Tallie Savas.

The terms of the deal…
Tallie’s eager to prove herself, but she hasn’t counted on Elias being so sexy. Elias has underestimated Tallie, and now wonders if he can make their business arrangement personal — as in marriage!

 

 

 

8:00am Melbourne

The Yarra River in Melbourne, AustralianI’m at Southern Cross Station having just received a text informing me that my train was being replaced by buses

Successful business man Elias Antonides is fending off phone calls from his mother, his sisters, his brothers and other business partners like a pro. He is deliberate in keeping his fickle father waiting on hold but is unable to shake him. His dad, as the majority owner of the company but totally inept of keeping it afloat, insists that his son who saved the family biz from bankruptcy meet with him. The two meet just for μπαμπα to tell Elias that he has sold off half the company from under him to a buy-and-destroy self-made Greek magnate Socrates Savas.

Socrates is an Old Skool Greek man who props up his footloose sons (as Greek sons are known to be ζαχαροπαιδα/sugar boys who dissolve if they aren’t treated as though they are something special – trust me on this) and dismisses his sharp and intelligent daughter Tallie as a possibility to work in his company and instead keeps trying to match her up with Greek dudes (that said, you get to meet Tallie’s brother Theo in The Santorini Bride and he is far from a ζαχαροπαιδο in his romance with Martha, Elias’s sister).

One day Tallie gets a call from her dad and she is suss as to his motivations and whether it is another matchmaking attempt but this time “he doesn’t come bearing Greeks but offers her a job”. Socrates hands her the president position for the company which he dodgily acquired and that appalled and reluctant Elias has been coerced into staying with.

8:30am Leaving Melbourne

I have a window seat on the bus!The bus/coach leaves and though it makes me nauseous to read on a bus, I do so because hey I’m a reading obsessive. Plus comfie seats with lumbar support.

Noice.

So Elias begrudgingly meets Tallie and because this is Anne McAllister, there are no secret agendas and the two openly talk about their fathers’ dastardly actions including Tallie recognising that her dad just bought her a company to hook her up with its hot Greek CEO which shits her to tears because:

1. She’s good at her job and

2. Elias is now off bounds because she doesn’t want a Greek guy that has her dad’s stamp of approval (which of course makes for great tension).

11am Benalla

Rural Victoria. Lush green grass on hills with blue skies and clouds scatteredThe bus/coach has made a short detour at Benalla where it made a three-point turn on the station platform and reversed to what seemed precipitously close to the edge of the train tracks. I ate my doughnut quickly in case it was my last.

As the now president of Elias’s company Tallie attends every meeting, listens carefully and is slow and deliberate in her assessment of the work details, bringing in a much needed “woman’s perspective”. Tallie brings a change into the office through her style of leadership which actually involves feeding her staff. Tallie bakes to relieve stress so every day is a biscuit and keki day. Elias is a grumblebum and complains about the health impacts of her baking so she starts bringing in fruit. He does though observe that the workplace lunchroom becomes a great information exchange space and not one where everyone is gossiping and skiving off work while they eat.

12pm(ish)  Albury 

Flooded Murray River near AlburyThe bus/coach arrives at Albury where we meet our train. We have to wait and wait and wait for one more bus that never turns up (this is as paranormal as this post gets) and I am all happy dancing because I have the only vacant seat on the train but I am deluded because at the last second before the train leaves a dusty, dirty, Akubra wearing jackaroo rocks up with the stench of cigarettes hanging off him like a low cloud and the cloud aura is now permeating my space, my clothes, my air and hair – ughhh!

Both Tallie and Elias continue to skirt each other on a personal level but they work well together towards their organisational goals. They are building up toward an acquisitions meeting. They also are trying to ignore their attraction by going out with other people who don’t make the grade or in Elias’s case get freaked out by his constant calls from his Greek μαμα and sisters.

And then Elias holds a baby and Tallie swoons as man smiling while holding baby can only mean one thing – father material!

1:30pm The Rock (the place not The man) 

You can hand feed me baklava anytime you want, baby!THIS BOOK HAS BAKLAVA IN IT! AND IT IS THE SEXIEST BAKLAVA SCENE I HAVE EVER READ AND IS THERE ANYTHING SEXIER THAN BAKLAVA BEING FED TO YOU WHILST LYING IN BED AND DID I REMEMBER TO TELL YOU IT WAS HOME-MADE BAKLAVA AND FLAILING AND A TRAIN STOPPED AT THE ROCK IS NOT THE PLACE TO GIVE ME UNATTAINABLE BAKLAVA WANTS DAMMIT!

Tallie breaks her ankle and of course Mr Reliability hero Elias to the rescue takes her home and stays with her because the docs say she has to have someone stay with her and then she takes her painkillers and then she gets high-tooting uninhibited high and wwwwannts her baklava….and she wwwwwwaaaannnnntttss it fed to her by hottie tamale Elias and OMG there is baklava finger licking and now I am smiling and it is just AWKS because stinky cigarette cowboy dude next to me is giving me serious side-eye (not in a sexy way just in an ewww way) and then drugged out Tallie kisses Elias thinking she is dreaming and he is freaking out and then he orders in PIZZA like PROPER NOT MESSED UP BULLSHIT GOURMET PIZZA BUT TRADITIONAL PIZZA – OI! THIS GUY!!! LIKE TOTAL SWOON HERO!

Wagga WaggaBut the long of it is that Tallie still has zero interest in being involved with Elias because he is “the man her father had set his sights on for her” AND no Greek women in her right mind hooks up with a Greek guy her father approves of.

Somewhere during this baklava scene we stopped at Wagga Wagga and I barely registered it in time for this photograph and this happened because DUDES! BAKLAVA!

2:39pm Junee

JuneeStinky living-in-a-plume-of-smoke-cloud-cowboy-jackaroo-ain’t-no-outback-romance-hero man is still next to me. I’m feeling rude and curlish about my abhorrence to his overwhelming Eau de Tobacco so I tried to be friendly. I offered him my Greek yoghurt. He politely nodded, ate two spoonfuls and drawled “I don’t like the taste”.

Okay then. Greek yoghurt begone and I give him the cut. I need to read. 

Even the idea of loving Elias is heinous to Tallie as “it would make her father even more power mad than he already was”. Is there any better reason to resist a dude! Succumbing to a CEO + PRESIDENT Greek proxy match up would be AWFUL!

Oh Tallie my love – I feel your pain! Well, I don’t because I never had my parents match me up with anyone let alone force buy me a company to do it but roll with me, people!

4:04pm Cootamundra 

CootamundraOh yay! Smokey the Greek yoghurt hater has disappeared from the train but then new DRAMAS for all with the train engine not working. Was it the disgruntled Jackaroo or was it a paranormal event? I’ll never know. How suspenseful!*

*nod to SuperWendy’s TBR challenge 

Everyone had to disembark for a while before getting back on the train which then needs to go onto a siding making the train run late. JOYS! Thankfully, the new passenger sitting next to me is an innocuous elderly lady who is not a smoker.

Elias has his own frustrations. He has always wanted to own his own boat building company but his sense of doing the “right” thing by his family has forced him to step in and save the family business. He regrets not following his dream. Instead he has to deal with his mum and dad wanting him to “Find yourself a nice girl…”.

So the two then end up bonding over helping his “airhead” sister who is in a predicament herself and just adds “high drama all around” which speaks to the intensity of being in a big Greek family.

4:15pm Harden

Harden*snort* I don’t want to know how this town got its name.

OMG! So Tallie was just stepped on Elias’s foot to keep him in his place and to not say anything upsetting to his sister who is trying to get married to a Greek man Elias doesn’t like. The significance of this moment does not pass me by. There is a Greek wedding ceremony tradition (much frowned upon by the clergy) where upon the moment that the priest is completing the wedding blessings and he says the equivalent of “the woman shall obey her husband”  at which time either the groom or the bride kicks their partner. So… anyway… here is Elias hearing his sister and her boyfriend announce their wedding and Tallie kicks him. Hehe! Tallie is very much signifying her level of obedience.

4.40pm Somewhere 

Lush Green and Gold fields.

The countryside is so lush green and yellow and ever so pretty that it feels unlike New South Wales to me as my last train trip through was during the long drought.

Meanwhile, a toddler is screeching in the aisle from exhaustion and is trying to get to sleep. The sound is grating and reminding me of the horror of having young children and even though I understand how difficult this is to the parent, I wish there was a childfree carriage. 

I regret not bringing noise cancelling headphones.

Of course, with the talk of weddings and such, Elias and Tallie get all hot and bothered and hot damn they get totally down and boogie and I am delighted. These two are great together!

“Because this time there were no painkillers involved.

There was no baklava.

There was only desire.”

I want a sampler of this quote!

5:03pm Yass Junction

Yass JunctionAwkward once again. I’m reading this hot and deeply emotional sex scene and the elderly lady to my right just glared at me and narkily said “Well! What are you doing there? Writing an essay?”

I really don’t understand why she feels confronted by the fact that I am writing in my notepad. She snorted at me when I said “yes”.

How rude!

Oh Noes! Elias doesn’t know how to deal with his feelz for Tallia his President! Ominous times are ahead!

5:20pm I have no idea where I am.

Toddler reading I have not lifted my head to look outside. I love the tension in this book

Ah! The morning after!

Tallie brings up their business deal which puts Elias’s back up. And then she calls their hot night of sexy times “Nice”.

Elias is offended.

Meanwhile, all the My Big Fat Greek family dynamic is bringing Mr Responsibility Elias close to breaking point. He is agitated and upset and in his mind, Tallie is his only respite. Awwwww!

5:48pm Goulburn

GoulburnSomewhere just before Goulburn and ooooooh! Storm clouds!

Tallie is despondent because she feels her father has succeeded. She is in love with Elias but the idea of being “a good Greek wife” offends her

I LOVE Tallie and totally understand why she feels this way. Very little is more offensive to me than when I get described as “a good Greek wife”. It makes me want to scream.

6pm Still not in Goulburn and it is raining outside

Screeching toddler who had fallen asleep is now awake and walking up and down the aisle waving goodbye to everyone.

It’s all building up. The tension! All the family burdens keep heaping onto Elias’s head and he’s just not coping. And the funniest part is all the Greek family meddling.

My Big Fat Greek family gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poor Elias. I imagine he can totally relate to My Big Fat Greek Wedding (1 and 2).

Aside: This is reminding me of my poor son who wanted to totally cut out all of the Greek family for his 18th birthday but I went all meddling Greek parent on him and invited his cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his γιαγια, his godmother, his brother’s godmother and his beerfather. He ended up having the best behaved  party amongst all his friends (this is probably very embarrassing to him considering that he held his party the night after their school graduation and he was planning for it to go wild) and I would merit it all on the Greek aunts walking around offering food, making their presence known (nothing like handing souvlakia out instead of beers) and no-one gets rip-roaring drunk when parents start daggy dancing at your partay.

But I digress…meddlesome Greek families FTW. I am one and both Elias and Tallie have one each.

6:06pm No idea where I am

Cute toddler is loving his game of running up and down the aisles high-fiving everyone. I hate having an aisle seat.

Elias, in a halfassed effort doesn’t admit to loving Tallie (because the hurt runs deep in this one) due to his yucky divorce years earlier.

6:10pm Still no idea where I am

Don't interrupt my readingOh Noes! Narky elderly woman next to me want to chat!

NO!

Go away!

I have 16 more pages to finish my book and I’m at the Point of Ritual Death (Regis) DAMMIT! How will I know how they get to the HEA if you keep talking to me DAMMIT!

So Elias is an idiot and suggests to Tallie that they marry because their dads reckon it is a good idea.

RULE NO 1:

NEVER tell a woman, especially a Greek one whose father considers her role to be a married not a smart corporate that she should marry just because her dad said so. This is a NO BRAINER! Especially if the said woman is already in love with you and you just broke her heart by not saying let’s marry because I love you too.

“The sex is good” >> desperate Elias cling.

“The sex is good?” >> red hot anger of 1000 Tallies.

RULE NO 2:

Never tell a woman you want to marry her to get your parents off your back. Idiot Elias! Why would you say this to a woman you like and with whom you are already in a sexual relationship! Even a meddlesome μαμα  and μπαμπα know this! Sheesh!

Romance heroes – so smart in the office, so stupid at emotions.

6:26pm Moss Vale

Cute toddler still running up and down the aisle high-fiving everyone.

Awww! The moment of ritual death has just happened. Tallie turns Elias down and she feels like love has died in her. *sad*

6:41pm Somewhere in the Southern Highlands

I think I am in CampbelltownCute kid keeps tripping over while he is running up and down the aisles and cries about the ouchies. Poor mum hasn’t sat down in over an hour. 

Happiness! Elias and Tallie have found love. LOVE!

Elias realised once Tallie left that he really loved her but was an idiot and now he tells everyone that he loves her because he is searching for her and he can’t find her and his μαμα is happy that he loves a good Greek girl even if he can’t find her and then he found her and she is baking and they kiss and SWOOOOOON!

7pm and onwards the train will go while I write my review(ish) wrap-up

Love hearts

Ahhh! Anne McAllister! She is so wonderful! No-one writes rich Greek heroes like her. She just nails them. She doesn’t exoticise them. They are deeply Greek in the way that most of the Greeks I know are Greek (with the exception of her incredibly non-Greek non-Orthodox weddings even when it is both the hero and heroine that are Greek. This is soooo not in line with even 3rd and 4th generation diaspora Greeks let alone 2nd generations like the Savas and Antonides families). In all other ways, her Greeks are like the ones that I have known all my life (yep -rich and poor). All their girlfriends, avoidance of relationships, being at the beck and call of their families, lots and lots and lots of Greek food and sometimes struggling to do what you want in your life rather than what your family wants you to do in your life. I also love how funny Anne McAllister is. I love how she throws in tight little zingers.

I love how she brings the characters to a point of revelation that goes beyond their love for each other but she actually draws your attention to the need to love the career you choose. Elias in this novel constantly steps up and helps his family to the detriment of pursuing his own dreams. When he finally takes a step back it is not in pursuit of some individualistic goal but it is being able to visualise how he could still meet family expectations without being the sole person in the family to do so and while still satisfying his own dreams.

Tallie too has such a strong work ethic and though she loves accounting and working in a corporate environment, she walks away to apprentice as a baker. This move actually rankled me – Tallie is a great corporate so taking on the traditional female role of baker/feeder/nurturer felt un-Tallie like to me. Maybe I related to her vision of Greekness too well. I rationalise that her decision was made so as to open a huge Greek baking franchise across the US and she gets to be both a corporate Prez and a baker to fulfil her life’s desire. Part of this reverting back to her love for baking was also done in not rebelling against her heart’s desire, not allowing her father’s actions to dictate her path. Her daughter rebellion was to be in the corporate office and to be successful in her role in the face of her father’s dismissal of her intelligence but this still meant that her career decision was led by his recalcitrant attitudes to women. Her career choices were not led by the work that her heart desired.

Of course, the two of them being able to chase their dreams are just part of the Mills & Boon cashed up fantasy that can only be pursued by the privileged rich. Most people cannot afford to throw in their jobs so as to apprentice with a Viennese baker or to become a boat-builder.

I love this book. It is category romance par excellence. Tallie and Elias are an idealised couple they find love and understanding in each other as well as career and employment satisfaction.  They pursue their heart’s desire both at work and in the home and it is the ultimate dream that both of our protagonists achieve.

Tallie and Elias turn up again 10 years later in The Return of Antonides (Elias’s brother Lukas’s story) where the two are living their HEA with 4 raucous, beautiful children and Tallie is still baking and they are still in love. But I didn’t need to read it to know it  and I KNOW  that this is the only M&B couple that will always be happy together whilst feeding each other home-made baklava.

And it doesn’t get any better than that.

OTP.

I purchased my own copy of this book from a department stores many many years ago.

My train arrived in Sydney Central only an hour late at 9:15(ish) pm. The toddler screamed for the last hour and fun was had by all trying to calm the poor kid down. I highly recommend the rail trip. And I preferred the Economy journey (coming home) than the First Class journey (going there).

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9 thoughts on “Train travel, sexy baklava and a retro Anne McAllister romance: a running commentary

  1. Sooo many amazing things!

    1) BAKLAVA (ZOMG)
    2)How very fortuitous you ended up with a GOOD book to read that enormously long trip (cos if it had been a dreary one – that would have totally sucked)
    3) I can’t believe you had to go out-wagga-wagga way to get back to Sydney! (I know the train system stops right at Nowra/Bomaderry – the next big town up from me – and they are ALWAYS talking about extending it down and meeting up w/ Victoria system – but it never goes anywhere because REASONS) but reading about your trip makes it seem nuts that they keep avoiding it!
    4) Jackaroos are an unfortunate part of the Wagga Wagga route aren’t they? …and they are NEVER outback-romance material. One wonders if the in-book hero ones are created with a veeeery liberal license….
    5) I love how you used ‘cute toddler’ as both a descriptor and a wry insulting oxymoron, wrapped in a euphemism.
    6) BAKLAVA!!!!!!!!!!! Serious craving now. I am DEFINITELY reading this book.

    🙂

    • 1) I KNOWS! BAKLAVA IS JUST!!!!
      2) Well….it wasn’t fortuitous that I had a good book to read. I always travel with at least one of my keepers to read in case the new book is a dud. I also completed a new book – Rachel Gibson’s latest. Though it wasn’t a dud, it certainly wasn’t worth a 3K+ blog post with photos, gifs and joy. And it had no baklava in it.
      3) It astounds me that the train ends at Bomaderry! I have travelled by train to Nowra and to Berry and to Kiama many times and it really does need to be extended down to Victoria because Wagga Wagga is annoyingly far to travel to get to Melbourne. At least it doesn’t continue out to Deniliquin.
      4) There is sooooo much I would love to say about Jackaroos and the falsehood of outback-romance material but I feel that as a total urbanite who has spent minimal time in the countryside (does the occasional visit to my husband’s family’s farm in the Hunter count???) that my experience is not broad enough to really comment. I did go to a friend’s wedding many many moons ago out past Tamworth. She married a guy who worked on the land who came from a long line of farmers/pastoralists and he was an incredibly lovely man as were his friends that we met at the wedding. However…. I have also met Dustys and Wormys and Yobbos and Davos who would never in a million years light a fire in a sane woman’s loins.
      5) I liked my own toddlers but even they were annoying when they went into meltdown. I see no reason whatsoever to pretend I like a stranger’s child melting down.
      6) I do believe there may be a sale on at the moment where you can procure said book in a digital format but I do not promote any particular shop etc as I have zero affiliates on this blog. But search – and you will find it 😉 It is worth it just for the BAKLAVA scene!

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