Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review - - The Unforgettable Hero and The Untamed Earl

The Unforgettable Hero
By Valerie Bowman
Publisher: Swerve
Release Date: February 2, 2016

Cecilia Harcourt, the orphaned daughter of the younger brother of a viscount, is desperate to see the novel she has written published. Its publication offers her the only way to escape marriage to her repulsive cousin Percy and also a means to provide medical care for her younger sister. Her maternal uncle and aunt are determined on the marriage in order to claim her small dowry. Cece, as her sister affectionately calls her, is discouraged and worried when the publisher rejects her manuscript, not on the grounds that it is poorly written but because publishing romance is a risk he is not willing to take. But before she can return home to share the bad news with her sister, Cecilia is the victim of a hit-and-run carriage driver.

Lieutenant Adam Hunt, recently discharged from the army, is on his way to the home of his oldest brother, military hero Derek Hunt, Duke of Claringdon (hero of The Unexpected Duchess, Playful Brides #1) when he sees the accident. Adam is determined to let his brother know he resents interference in his life and to refuse the money the duke is determined to give him, but that plan takes a back seat to the need to help Cecilia. That help becomes more complicated when the blow to the head Cecilia receives results in amnesia. The doctor assures Adam and the duke and duchess that the memory loss will likely prove temporary, but when her memory returns Cecilia believes she is Lady Magnolia and Adam is the heroic Duke of Loveridge, the lead characters in her rejected novel. What follows is a delightful romp, part farce and part melodrama, that takes some of the most cherished tropes of historical romance—villainous relatives, amnesia, mistaken identity, interrupted wedding, to name a few—and gives them a twist that will leave the reader smiling.

This novella that falls between the fourth and fifth novels in Bowman’s Playful Brides series was great fun to read. When the story opened with “And they lived happily ever after,” I expected clever humor, and the story delivered exactly what I expected. My reaction might have been different had I not anticipated the author’s promise of playfulness to be fulfilled. But I did, and it was, and I enjoyed the humor and the wit. The novella should have particularly strong appeal for readers steeped in the conventions of the genre who should enjoy the gentle send-up.

The Untamed Earl
By Valerie Bowman
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: May 3, 2016

Even at fifteen, Lady Alexandra Hobbs, younger daughter of the Duke of Huntley, knew that she would never be as adventurous as her younger brother or as beautiful as her older sister, but she nevertheless aspired to become more like them. But when she observed Lord Owen Monroe, heir to the Earl of Moreland, in a chivalrous moment, he instantly became the hero of heart. From that moment, Alexandra’s greatest aspiration became to marry Lord Owen.
Alexandra’s belief in the heroic nature of Lord Owen Monroe was unique. The rest of their world saw him as rogue whose primary interests were drinking, gambling, and womanizing. Owen seemed bent on reinforcing that opinion. If some of his activities challenged that view, he was careful that such actions remained secret. He was content to live down to his father’s opinion of him. However, the consequences of such behavior was his father’s announcement that it was time for his heir to settle down and marry, and the proper wife in the earl’s opinion was Lady Lavinia Hobbs, older daughter of the earl’s friend the Duke of Huntley. Although the two fathers have agreed that the marriage should take place, the duke has added the proviso that Owen must win Lavinia’s consent.

Owen has no interest in proper young ladies, but he has a major interest in seeing that his allowance continues to flow from the ducal coffers—and his father makes clear that the unimpeded flow of said allowance is contingent upon Owen’s successfully wooing Lavinia. Owen, accustomed to effortlessly charming any lady he chooses, hits a snag with Lavinia from the start. First, he confuses the identity of the Hobbs sisters and asks Alexandra to dance. Then he finds Lavinia, who has a reputation for being “difficult,” immune to his charm.

When Alexandra offers to teach Owen how to win Lavinia in exchange for his help in making Alexandra a belle, he eagerly accepts. Alexandra, once she is convinced Lavinia truly has no interest in Owen, turns her considerable gifts to seeing that it is the rogue rather than the shrew who is tamed in this exchange. But will even true love be able to thwart the marriage plans a duke and an earl have for their eldest offspring?

The Untamed Earl is the fifth book in Valerie Bowman’s Playful Brides series. Like the other novels in the series, this one is inspired by a classic. This time, appropriately for an April release, it is Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shew. I’m a fan of smart romance, and I have read all of the books in this series with delight at Bowman’s wit and clever twists of classic tales. I confess that the third book, The Unlikely Lady, inspired by my second favorite Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, and featuring a bluestocking heroine (a trope I love), is my favorite in the series. My feelings about a romance based on The Taming of the Shrew, a play I dislike, were less than enthusiastic. But I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Owen is an amusing hero who charms the reader even if he fails with Lavinia, but it is Alexandra who steals the reader’s heart. Her vulnerability and awkwardness are endearing, her heart is pure despite her deception, and she actively pursues her dream. I adored her! I’m also a series addict who loved seeing characters from earlier books make appearances. (Owen is the older brother of the Countess of Swifdon, née Lady Cassandra Monroe, heroine of The Accidental Countess, the second book in the series).

If you are a reader who demands historical depth and serious angst in your romance, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if, like me, you have room on your bookshelves for engaging romps with captivating characters and deliciously satisfying HEAs, I definitely recommend The Untamed Earl—and don’t be surprised if you find reading it is followed by a search for the rest of the series. I already have The Legendary Lord (a November 1 release inspired by Pygmalion—oh, joy!) on my book calendar, and at least four more books in the series will follow. I can’t wait to see what the inspiration for these will be.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Today's Special - - Miranda Neville

Photo by Thomas Ames, Jr. 

I'm delighted to welcome Miranda Neville back to The Romance Dish today. Miranda grew up in England where she developed a fondness for the books of Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy, and other historical authors. She studied history at the University of Oxford and spent years writing catalogs for Sotheby's in London and New York. Her debut book, Never Resist Temptation was published in 2009. Several more historical romances have been published since then, many of which sit on the keeper shelf in my library. She now lives in rural Vermont where she enjoys cooking, gardening, and cross-country skiing. 

PJ: Welcome, Miranda! Congratulations on the release of your newest historical romance, Secrets of a Soprano.  What can readers expect from this story?

Hi Pj and Janga. Thanks for inviting me to the Dish and asking such juicy questions. The heroine and hero of Secrets of a Soprano are Europe’s greatest opera singer and the owner of Regency London's newest opera house. In addition to their clash of interests, Tessa Foscari and Max, Lord Allerton, share a past, a teenage romance that fell apart due to the manipulations of their relatives. Each blames the other for a broken heart. Readers can expect a second chance at love romance set in the highly dramatic setting of the London theater, at a time when opera singers were celebrities who fascinated the public.

PJ:  I was fascinated too, Miranda. I loved the "behind the curtain" look at opera in the Regency era. In most historical romances, opera singers are portrayed as slightly unsavory, secondary characters. What inspired you to create a story with an opera singer as your heroine?

I like to write stories about people who do things. Especially for the heroines of
historicals, there’s a limited choice of occupations beyond governess and companion. The great singers were actually the world’s most successful women for a century or so, achieving fame and riches on a par with modern day singers and movie stars. (An aside: a couple of days ago I read an article about women’s portraits on currency and learned that no fewer than five opera singers appear on their countries’ paper money, making it one of the top occupations.) I enjoy workplace settings, which add depth of background as well as being a splendid source of romantic conflict.

It is true that among the aristocracy, where most Regency-era romances are set, performers were not entirely respectable—mistress rather than wife material.  Yet some actresses and singers did make good marriages. The trick for the writer is to make the outcome plausible.

PJ: In researching Secrets of a Soprano, what fact about opera in the 1800’s did you discover that most surprised you?

I was fascinated by what I learned about the business of running an opera house or theater. The subscribers—like season ticket holders of today’s sports teams—were vital to the economics of the house. The users of the fancy private boxes provided money up front to fund expenses. However, box holders didn’t have the right to sell their tickets on nights they weren’t using them. They were supposed to tell the theater management if they weren’t using their boxes, then the theater could resell the tickets for extra income. However, box holders weren’t good about letting management know. So theaters employed “messengers” whose job was to find out what the subscribers were doing that night. I imagine them as a team of spies, grilling the servants of Mayfair and discovering all sorts of interesting tidbits about the aristocracy. Great plot fodder for a future book!

PJ: I'd read that book! 

Janga: I’m a reader who loves books rich in context, and one of the things I love most about your novels is that you make your reader aware of the world beyond ballrooms and house parties. Can you tell us anything about the contexts of your next novel?

I guess you can tell I enjoy delving into my settings! My next series, coming in 2017, concerns well-bred young women who lose their reputation and have to make something of their lives. Both the hero and the heroine of the first are writers. The hero is a somewhat Byronic poet, though a much nicer guy—I’m a fan of Byron’s work but not so much his character. However, the book isn’t as much about writing as it is about the literary and publishing world of Regency London. The couple in the second book is involved in science and inventing. As for the third, what can I say? The hero is a duke. People say dukes are overdone but I’m fascinated by the different ways that, historically, dukedoms have wielded power. In Confessions from an Arranged Marriage the hero inherits an immensely important political dukedom to which he is thoroughly unsuited. The Duke of Castleton in The Importance of Being Wicked comes from a family that is all about money, not politics. The Duke of Denford in The Duke of Dark Desires inherits his title unexpectedly and has to figure out what to do with it. My upcoming duke is an older man, in his late thirties, and completely comfortable with his own position and power, so I’ll have to give him some serious problems! That was a question about dukes, right?

PJ: What authors do you enjoy reading when you aren’t busy writing books of your own?

Too many historical romance writers to name so I won’t even make the attempt. I also have a weakness for the old traditional Regencies—shorter reads that have a lot of charm. Lately I’ve been getting into mysteries, which I haven’t read much in years. I recently enjoyed Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, the first of a series set in modern London with a paranormal twist. I have the first of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey books fired up on my reader. I’ve been meaning to read them for ages—better late than never!

Janga:  What unasked question do you wish someone would ask about your book?

What an interesting question! Thinking about it, I’m not sure there is one. Sometimes I read a comment on a character or scene in a review and think “That’s not what I meant!” But once a book is published, it’s in the hands of the reader who has the right to interpret it in any way she wants. I am always delighted to answer queries, but I also let the work stand for itself.
Janga: Is there any chance that you will revisit the Montroses? I love that family!

I am so glad, Janga. I love them too and those four hunky sons are always in the back of my mind. I even have story ideas for the two eldest, Will and Rufus, the botanist and the archeologist. I’d probably have to self-publish their stories because I’ve switched publishers since the Burgundy Club, which introduced the family and the two sisters. Also, no titles! Not sure how four untitled brothers would sell in today’s duke-obsessed market.

PJ: I’m enjoying the bright colors and balmy temperatures of spring. What season is your favorite? What makes it so?

As I write this we have two inches of snow on the ground in Vermont. Brrr. But it’ll all be gone tomorrow, leaves are ready to burst out, and I can’t wait! I love the infinite promise of spring. The only thing it lacks is Christmas.

PJ: Where can readers find you online?

Readers can find out more about me and my books and sign up for my newsletter on my websiteOr find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you for visiting with us, Miranda. Would you like to ask our readers a question today?

It’s relatively unusual for the heroines of romances to be celebrities, especially in historicals. Can you think of a famous woman, alive or in the past, whose story and character would make a great romantic story? Be brave, be bold! No idea is too far-fetched. I shall be taking notes. 

Two commenters will win digital copies of Secrets of a Soprano.

Great fame brings great heartbreak 

No one knows the perils of celebrity better than Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer. The public knows her as a glamorous and tempestuous diva, mistress to emperors, a reputation created by the newspapers and the ruthless man who exploited her. Now she has come to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family. 

Foscari’s peerless voice thrills all London—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy patron of opera—and lover of singers. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. When his glittering new opera house sits half empty, thanks to the soprano filling the seats of his competitor’s theater, Max vows to stop the woman he unwillingly still desires. 

Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirées of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. With her reputation in ruins, Tessa must fight for her career —and resist her burning attraction to the man who wishes to destroy her. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Review Tour - - Doing it Over

Doing it Over
A Most Likely To Novel - Book 1
By Catherine Bybee
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: April 19, 2016

Ten years earlier...

High school graduation was taking them in different directions but best friends, Melanie, Jo, and Zoe made a vow to never forget their close bond and, no matter where they were, to return to their small hometown of River Bend, Oregon for their ten year reunion.

Present day...

Voted the senior most likely to succeed, Melanie left River Bend ten years earlier with plans to set the world on fire but the single mom is returning with no job, little money and a car that didn't even have the decency to wait until she hit the city limits before dying with a gasp and a shudder during a torrential downpour. She's there for her high school reunion but it doesn't take long for the warm welcome from the people of River Bend to remind her of how much she loved growing up there. Might the town that's at the center of her fondest childhood memories offer a second chance for Melanie and her young daughter, Hope?

Leaving the big city five years ago in search of a quieter life, Wyatt Gibson has made a place for himself in River Bend. The sexy contractor isn't looking for a relationship but he's charmed by both Melanie and her daughter and it isn't long before he's hoping they will decide to stay in town permanently. Experience has taught Melanie to rely only on herself. Will Wyatt be able to convince her to give them a chance? Or will a threat from Melanie's past derail their relationship before it has a chance to get on track?

Catherine Bybee is fast becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors with her vividly drawn characters, humor, sweet and sexy romance, and touch of suspense. In this new series, she has created a small town filled with intriguing - and a few quirky - characters who welcomed me home as if I had grown up in River Bend along with Melanie, Jo, and Zoe. I love the realness of her characters and the small town dynamics that she's nailed. And growing up in a town of 1800 people qualifies me to say that. The thread of suspense that she's added to this first book gives it the edge that keeps me flipping pages and guessing how she's going to tie all the loose ends together. And the secondary characters that are introduced as well as the hinted at mysteries surrounding them already have me anxious to read their books.   

If you haven't tried a Catherine Bybee book yet, Doing it Over would be a great place to start!


Have you ever returned home for a class reunion? How did it go?

Have you ever wished for a do-over?

Have you read Catherine Bybee's books yet?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Coming Attractions

Outside my condo door, my patio is bursting with beautiful blossoms and sweet-smelling herbs. Inside, it's bursting with deliciously delightful novels that I can't wait to read. And here on the Dish, the schedule is overflowing with a fantastic line-up of authors.  Welcome to the magical month of May!

We kick things off on Monday, May 2 with the Catherine Bybee Doing it Over blog tour. Doing it Over is the first book in Bybee's new Most Likely To series and reinforces why she's one of my auto-buy contemporary romance authors.

Miranda Neville joins me Tuesday, May 3 for a Q&A. Secrets of a Soprano, Neville's new, stand-alone historical romance, was released April 11 and has my enthusiastic recommendation.

Wednesday, May 4 brings Valerie Bowman's The Untamed Earl blog tour to the Dish with a review from Janga. The fifth book in Bowman's Playful Brides series, The Untamed Earl will be released May 3.

The Jodi Thomas Lone Heart Pass review tour stops here on Tuesday, May 10. The fourth book in Thomas's Ransom Canyon series, Lone Heart Pass was released April 26.

Stop by Sunday, May 15 to check out Janga's May On Second Thought review. Each month, Janga brings us a new review of a previously published book that has been reissued in digital format.

The third book in Adrienne Giordano's Lucie Rizzo Mystery series brings more "in the wrong place at the wrong time" trouble for Giordano's intrepid Mafia princess dog walker who does her best to stay on the right side of the law while keeping the peace between her Italian mafia family and her Irish Chicago Cop boyfriend. Stop by Monday, May 16 when the Dog Collar Couture blog tour stops at the Dish.

If you're looking for historical romances set during New York City's Gilded Age, don't miss Joanna Shupe's visit on Monday, May 23. Magnate, the second book in Shupe's The Knickerbocker Club series was released April 26. Publisher's Weekly named Magnate one of their best summer books of 2016.

Thursday, May 26 brings historical romance author Cathy Maxwell back to the Dish. Maxwell's May 31 release, The Fairest of Them All is the second book in her Marrying the Duke series and one of my all-time favorite Maxwell stories.

We close out the month Monday, May 30 with the Brynn Kelly Deception Island blog tour. If you enjoy romantic suspense with non-stop action, sizzling romance, and outside-the-box characters, you won't want to miss this compelling book that I could not put down. Deception Island will be released May 31.

I hope you'll join us for another exciting month at The Romance Dish.

What are you looking forward to in May? 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lenora Bell Winners

Congratulations to the following winners from Lenora Bell's visit:

(prize package from Lenora Bell)

(prize package from Lenora Bell)

Ms Awesome
(Print or Kindle copy of How the Duke Was Won - winner's choice)

(Print or Kindle copy of How the Duke Was won - winner's choice)

Winners: Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 29, 2016

Today's Special - - Anna Campbell

She's back! Anna Campbell joins us today to answer a few questions about her newest novella, Winning Lord West. It releases April 30th, which means I'll be stalking my Kindle tomorrow morning. I've loved the first two Dashing Widows novellas and can't wait to see what this newest story will bring. 

Welcome, Anna!  Your new historical romance, Winning Lord West (with yet another stunning cover) will be released April 30th. What can readers expect from this third novella in your Dashing Widows series?

Hi PJ! So glad to be back with in old stamping grounds, the Romance Dish! Thank you for hosting me today.

Winning Lord West is a reunion story – Helena and Lord West were childhood sweethearts before she
fell under the dark influence of her horrible (and now dead, hurrah!) husband, the Earl of Crewe. Over the 11 years since Helena and West parted, they’ve always had a prickly relationship. She’s one of those characters who hides her vulnerabilities under a witty and occasionally sharp tongue, and she’s always blamed West for introducing Crewe to her family as a great guy.

The story starts at the fateful picnic at Richmond that plays such an important part in The Seduction of Lord Stone. Lord West tells Helena that things are about to change, and he intends to pursue her in earnest. Then to his frustration, he gets sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission so poor Helena is left fuming all alone, with only his letters to keep her company.

The bulk of the story takes place at the country house party leading up to Caroline and Silas’s wedding, with lots of chances to catch up with old friends. And West and Helena have lots of chances for… you know! This couple made me laugh – sometimes you have to hit your characters with an ax to get them into bed. NOT with these two!

So what to expect? Obviously plenty of steam! And plenty of sparky dialogue (well, at least I hope it’s sparky!). Appearances from Caro and Silas, and Fenella and Anthony. A couple of subtle hints for future Dashing Widows stories. A wedding for our first Dashing Widow. And a blissfully happy ending. Oh, and an epilogue for this particular trio of widows that I hope will wrap everything up in a nice big bow for the readers.

And, yes, isn’t that cover gorgeous?

Oh, that sounds lovely! Winning Lord West is a first love – second chance romance. What is it about this trope that appeals to you as a writer?

As a reader, I love reunion stories. It’s interesting – I haven’t written that many of them. Previous reunion stories of mine are Days of Rakes and Roses and The Winter Wife, both novellas. I think reunions are amongst the most optimistic of romantic tropes – and let’s face it, romance is already a terrifically optimistic genre. Reunion stories say that you get the chance to try again and succeed this time, using the wisdom that you’ve gained in the time apart. They also have this lovely circular structure of returning to where you started out and seeing the place/person with fresh eyes. For novellas, I think reunions work particularly well because it means you don’t have to do insta-love (although sometimes insta-love is great fun and I’m certainly not dissing it!).

Like you, I adore second-chance, reunion stories. I enjoyed both that you mentioned with The Winter Wife being a particular favorite.

Here in the U.S., spring is in the air and colorful flowers are beginning to bloom. Aside from the allergies, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Which season is your favorite? What makes it so?

Oh, I so envy your Northern Hemisphere spring, PJ. I’ve been lucky enough to be in Europe for a couple of springs and I adore the explosion of life and color after drab winter. You can see why it’s such a powerful symbol of hope, can’t you? I live in a subtropical part of Australia which is nice pretty much all the time (think Florida with koalas). We’re heading into winter here (brrrr, I might have to wear long sleeves in a month!). This is my favorite time of the year on the Sunshine Coast. Autumn here is glorious – clear days and crisp nights.

What writing projects are on your schedule this year? Will there be more dashing widows?

As you’ve probably gathered, at the moment, I’m madly in love with novellas. I have plans to go back to full-lengthers, but right now, getting my characters to a happy ending in 150-odd pages suits me down to the ground. When I started the novella craze, the plan was six, then it became 10. And I think at the moment, I’m planning another two on top of that (Carey and Brandon from Tempting Mr. Townsend are heroes in the making!). The next release is a cute and funny stand-alone  (I hope readers agree with me) called Stranded with the Scottish Earl which will be out 30th June. Then I’m going to start another Dashing Widows trilogy, with the first book featuring Amy, Silas’s little sister, who makes a brief appearance in Winning Lord West. Then I’m involved in a top secret Christmas project. Ooh, mysterious.

Oh, I would love to eventually see stories for Carey and Brandon! 

I have an Amazon gift card that’s burning a hole in my pocket. Have you discovered any books that should be on my reading radar?

Ooh, so glad you asked. As some of you know, for a few years, I did a column here called Second
Helping where I recommended classic or older romances that might have gone under readers’ radar. Having said that, I haven’t been reading a lot of romance lately. I’ve only just started discovering Agatha Christie so she’s keeping me busy, and I’m reading the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and just loving those. Both AC and EP include romances in most of their stories, but they’re definitely not the focus of proceedings! Last year was also the year of Nora Roberts for me – I had an absolute craze on her stories and I couldn’t tell you how many I got through.

A couple of romance standouts from the last six months or so are Susan Sey’s Blake Brothers series (I think they would be my favorite reading from last year) and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley which is a wonderful time slip novel with a great romantic relationship at its heart.

I love to snack on a mixture of raisins, chocolate chips and cashews while losing myself in one of your stories. Do you have a favorite snack that you nibble on while writing?

Oh, now I have a lovely picture of you snacking away while you read Winning Lord West. I approve! I’m a sucker for potato chips. The myth is that writers love chocolate (and obviously I like chocolate – who doesn’t like chocolate?), but any potato chip that crosses my threshold is immediately under threat!

You’ll be traveling to the U.S. later this year. Will you be attending any conferences or book signings where readers will have the opportunity to meet you in person?

I’m coming to Spokane in September for the Historical Romance Retreat where I’m so excited that I’ll get to catch up with you, PJ – and a lot of other dedicated historical romance fans. Here’s the website: There’s a huge signing open to the public there on Saturday, 24th September. At this stage, I can’t confirm any other appearances – partly because I haven’t worked out my travel arrangements! That’s a task for the next week or so! Watch this space.

I'm so excited to see you in person again, Anna. It's been six years! 

Thanks for visiting with us. Would you like to ask our readers a question today?

Thanks again for hosting me, PJ. I always love visiting the Dish.

PJ asked me what my favorite season is. I’d love to know yours and why. People who leave a comment are in the running for 2 Kindle downloads of Winning Lord West. Good luck!

All rakes are the same! Except when they’re not…
Spirited Helena, Countess of Crewe, knows all about profligate rakes; she was married to one for nine years and still bears the scars. Now this Dashing Widow plans a life of glorious freedom where she does just what she wishes – and nobody will ever hurt her again. So what is she to do when that handsome scoundrel Lord West sets out to make her his wife? Say no, of course. Which is fine, until West focuses all his sensual skills on changing her mind. And West’s sensual skills are renowned far and wide as utterly irresistible…
Passionate persuasion!
Vernon Grange, Lord West, has long been estranged from his headstrong first love, Helena Nash, but he’s always regretted that he didn’t step in to prevent her disastrous marriage. Now Helena is free, and this time, come hell or high water, West won’t let her escape him again. His weapon of choice is seduction, and in this particular game, he’s an acknowledged master. Now that he and Helena are under one roof at the year’s most glamorous house party, he intends to counter her every argument with breathtaking pleasure. Could it be that Lady Crewe’s dashing days are numbered?

Aussie Anna Campbell is a self-confessed bookaholic and is very proud of her shady past as a regular contributor to the Romance Dish. Her historical romances have won numerous awards, including the 2015 Australian Romantic Novella of the Year.  

Buy links:

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday Review - - Open Country

In a recent interview, I was asked to list my top ten favorite romances. One of the books on my list is Open Country by Kaki Warner. This western historical romance is the second book Warner published and the second story in her award-winning Blood Rose Trilogy. Open Country was a 2011 RITA® finalist and the first story in the trilogy, Pieces of Sky won the 2011 Rita® award. I thought it would be fun to post the review I wrote of Open Country when it was originally published in June, 2010.  This is a book that has stood the test of time for this reader. I'm still in love with these characters six years after first reading their story. 

If you're interested, here's the link to the interview I did with Kimberly Rocha of Book Obsessed Chicks Book Club when she named me one of her "Cheerleaders for Romance." 

Open Country
Blood Rose Trilogy – Book #2
By Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: June 1, 2010

Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get – even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister’s children, she must provide for her wards while outrunning the relentless trackers their vicious stepfather has set on her trail. To secure their future, she marries a badly injured man, assuming that when he dies his insurance settlement will provide all they need. But there is one small problem.

The man doesn’t die.

Since she was thirteen years old, Molly McFarlane has been assisting her famous surgeon father in the care of Civil War soldiers and taking care of herself. She’s never had a social life, never been courted by a young man and now, at twenty-six, she finds herself on the run with two young children. Far from their Georgia home, they are lucky to escape serious injury when the train on which they’re riding derails in Texas. Desperate for money to keep the children safe, when Molly hears that the train company will pay the families of the dead $300, she pretends to be the fiancé of a fellow train passenger who is seriously injured and not expected to survive and, when they won’t pay a fiancé, she convinces the local minister to marry them, even though the groom is unconscious. But, when she realizes that there’s a chance the man might live, and the only doctor in town is a drunk who’s convinced he’ll die, her conscience and her many years of nursing won’t let her walk away.

Hank Wilkins is a complex, quiet man. He’s content to run the family ranch with his brother, Brady and visit the local brothel when he needs “attention.” Having his heart smashed to pieces by a fickle woman has destroyed his trust and he has no interest in giving love, or marriage, a second chance. Following the train crash in which he is almost killed, Hank awakens with amnesia, his only memory the sweet, southern voice of a woman who says she’s his wife.

A figure moved closer. A woman. She bent close and spoke in a calm, soothing voice. “You’re safe, Henry. Stay calm. I’m here to help you.” 

Who the hell was Henry?

Her voice was familiar, but her face was only a blue. He tried to remember, but the effort sent him sliding back toward the void. Terror thundered through him. “Don’t go,” he choked out as blackness pressed against the edges of his vision.

“I won’t. I’m here.”

He felt her hand on his cheek, her palm cool and soft against his skin.

“You’re safe, Henry. You’re all right. I won’t leave you, I promise.”

Her touch was his lifeline, her voice his beacon. In desperation, he clung to it with all of his mind as the smothering darkness sucked him under.

Feeling guilty for what she’s done, Molly tells Hank’s brother, Brady, that she will have her marriage to Hank annulled but while Brady doesn’t trust Molly, he quickly realizes that she’s his brother’s best chance of survival. Not only that, but he’s terrified that his pregnant wife will have complications as she did with her last pregnancy so he convinces (blackmails) Molly to travel with them to their remote family ranch and stay until Hank is healed and Jessica has safely delivered their baby. Grasping the opportunity to keep the children safe, Molly accepts, never expecting to fall in love, not only with Hank but with his entire family.

While Hank and Molly have plenty of life experience, when it comes to love and romance, they are both as awkward as newborn chicks, as is evidenced in the following two internal monologues as they each contemplate the rituals of courting.

     It was starting to sound less fun by the minute. He didn’t like courting. He didn’t know how to act or what to say, and the one time he’d tried it – other than with Molly, apparently – he’d felt big and awkward and clumsy. So much easier if he could just say, “We’re married. Take off your clothes.” Neat and simple.

He glanced at her, wondering if he should give it a try.

Her expression said not.

Just as well. He wasn’t feeling that perky.

     Courting. What did that mean, exactly? What was she supposed to do? Did she even have the proper clothes? It was ludicrous, really, that at the spinsterish age of twenty-six all those adolescent yearnings and doubts should grip her so strongly.

Would he recite poetry? Tell her she was beautiful?

The notion almost made her laugh. Romantic words from the man who had wrestled her over a chamber pot? Not likely.

As time passes and Molly and Hank grow closer, they both learn to open themselves to the possibility of love and trust between them. Molly yearns to truly belong to this man…this family…this beautiful but unforgiving land. But with the secret of their sham marriage, the knowledge that Hank’s memory could return at any moment and a madman closing in for the kill, the question becomes not whether Hank will forgive her and love and accept her as his wife but if any of them will live long enough to see tomorrow.

I loved this story! Kaki Warner grabbed me from the opening of the book and never let me go. Even now, days after turning the final page, I’m still thinking about the characters from this intensely emotional and realistic frontier story. Not just Molly and Hank, but the whole family. I came to care about all of them and hope to see them again in the next book in this series. The secondary characters in Open Country are a colorful cast and very important to the story, especially Molly’s niece and nephew. The scenes between six-year-old Penny and “papa-Hank” are some of the best in the book and had me laughing uproariously in some and wiping away tears in others. Fans of Warner’s first book, Pieces of Sky will be delighted to discover that Brady, Jessica and their children are featured prominently in Open Country.

Several friends recommended that I read Kaki Warner’s debut novel, Pieces of Sky, when it was released in January. I haven’t found the time to read it yet but, now that I’ve finished her second book, Open Country, I’ll be correcting that oversight as soon as possible. Warner is a fresh new voice in historical romance who, through her vivid descriptions, compelling characters and smoothly flowing prose, brings the American Western frontier, with all its harshness and beauty, to life. I highly recommend Open Country!


Are you a re-reader? 

What books have stood the test of time for you?

Have you read Open Country?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today's Special - - Lenora Bell

I met Lenora Bell at the 2014 RWA conference in San Antonio where she won the Golden Heart® for Best Historical manuscript. Not long after that, I had the opportunity to read the first chapter of what would eventually become her debut novel and I was captivated. I'm so excited to host her today as she celebrates the release of How The Duke Was Won. If you enjoy the books of Tessa Dare or Sarah MacLean, you won't want to miss How The Duke Was Won!

Lenora Bell is a third generation Alaskan and her hometown still has no traffic lights or fast food, but the public library is going strong!

An English teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has traveled the globe using music to bring smiles to classrooms. She currently lives in Switzerland with her carpenter husband and two naughty tiger-striped kitties.

In 2014 she won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She’s thrilled to be debuting with Avon Books and hopes you enjoy spotting her very first bad boy at a bookstore near you.

Please give Lenora a warm Romance Dish welcome! 

I have a thing for bad boys. You know the type. Motorcycles. Tattoos. James Dean t-shirt sleeves rolled over bulging biceps. But the 21st century didn’t invent bad boys. From the arrogant Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to the passionate Jamie in Outlander, I’m always searching for a wicked rogue in a cravat…or a kilt. So to help with the hunt, I’ve prepared a handy list for how to spot historical hotties.

Top Ten Ways to Spot a Historical Bad Boy

1. Is his nose crooked from brawling in public houses? How about his linen shirt—is it still on? Bad boys rarely stay fully clothed for long. They’re always finding reasons to roll up their shirtsleeves, or plunge into lakes and emerge with wet, transparent linen clinging to rock-hard abs.

2. If you just met the guy and he calls you poppet, pet, love, or chit in a most infuriating manner...he’s an as-yet-untamed rogue.

3. Does he have a badass nickname like “Satanas” or “Devil Earl” or “Lord Beelzebub”? Hell yeah, he’s a bad boy.

4. Are your knees weak? Is your face flushed with heat? Do you feel a dangerous thrill? You may be in close contact with a bad boy.

5. If he’s prone to risqué innuendos and thinly veiled references to his endowments…he’s definitely a bad boy.

6. Is he always unbuttoning your gloves in public in a sensual, pearl by pearl, manner? Yep. He’s a bad boy.

7. Inventiveness is the hallmark of scoundrels. He won’t just kiss you. He’ll savor you. Slowly. In ways you haven’t even imagined yet.

8. You may have spotted a prime specimen if you discover a dark, painful past. Bonus points if he has trouble sleeping at night. More bonus points if he has literal scars from said dark past. Even more bonus points if looking at you gives him hope.

9. Warriors need love, too. They just don’t know it yet. An initial aversion to emotional intimacy is a sure sign you’ve found a bad boy.

And the number one way to spot a historical bad boy?

10. When he falls, he falls hard. And it’s only your love that can save him.

Lenora wants to know who's your favorite historical bad boy? You can choose from her picks, or throw another one into the mix :)

PJ is giving away two copies of HOW THE DUKE WAS WON (winner's choice of print or Kindle). 

From Lenora, two randomly chosen winners will receive:

A signed copy of HOW THE DUKE WAS WON...

a Divine Chocolate bar (fair trade, 44% farmer owned, female CEO)

and copies of four books featuring some of Lenora’s favorite historical bad boys: Tessa Dare’s WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT, Eloisa James’ FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE, Beverly Jenkins’ DESTINY’S CAPTIVE, and Sarah MacLean’s THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN.

Both giveaways are open internationally. 

Deadline to be included in giveaway is 11:00 PM (EST), April 27, 2016. 

The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.
James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.
Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?
She is not like the others…
Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:
* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]
* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]
* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]
* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]
When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.