Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review - - Dead Girl Running

Dead Girl Running
By Christina Dodd
Cape Charade - Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another. 

U.S. Army veteran, Kellen Adams is on the run but the problem is that she doesn't know entirely from what...or from whom...she's running. She has a scar on her forehead that's almost certainly from a bullet but has no memory of being shot. In fact, she doesn't remember anything from an entire year in her past. As the newly hired assistant manager of the Yearning Sands Resort on the Pacific coast of Washington State, Kellen is looking forward to a quiet off-season while she gets comfortable in her new position and hoping this will be a place she can stay. But then the owners go on vacation, leaving her in charge, the mutilated body of the former assistant manager is discovered, along with evidence of smuggling on the resort property, and that's just the beginning. Who can she trust? Who should she not? And, as if the resort crimes aren't enough, is her past also coming back to haunt her or are someone's intentions much more deadly?  

I should know better by now than to start reading a Christina Dodd book late in the day. I was once again fully immersed from the first page to the last...which I read at about 3:00 in the morning. This story simply refused to let me go. Kellen is a relatable character whose situation is believable and heart-rending. I understood the terror that influenced her past decisions and applauded her tenacity and bravery in the way she moved forward to claim a new life in the midst of heartache. I was in her corner the entire way. The mystery is well-paced, intricately woven, and, once again, Dodd kept me guessing the entire way. Just when I was sure I had figured everything out, there she went again, off in a different direction. She's become increasingly proficient at that with each new book she's written since moving to suspense thrillers. 

There's a rather large cast of secondary characters (as is the case in the first book of many new series) but I never felt confused or overwhelmed by them. Many of them are quite intriguing and I hope we'll be seeing more of them.   

If you enjoy suspense thrillers with intriguing characters, plenty of atmosphere, twists and turns that keep you guessing, and a surprise twist at the end that I did not see coming (I love when authors do that!), then Dead Girl Running should be on your must-read list.

Though there is a romantic thread, this book is a suspense thriller, not romantic suspense. Be prepared for a lot of mystery and action but know that your heart will be touched as well and while there is not a happily ever after the book will leave you with the possibility of one. Given how the book ends, I'm hopeful that Kellen and her relationships will continue to evolve throughout the series. Also, though this book launches a new series, there are loose connections to two previous series by Dodd. While fans of those series (like me) will no doubt appreciate the connections, first-time readers should be able to enjoy Dead Girl Running without having read the earlier books. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review - - The Duke of Her Desire

The Duke of Her Desire
by Sophie Barnes
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Reviewed by Santa

This is the second in her Diamonds in the Rough series but can easily be read as a stand alone. Amanda Matthews is the sister of the newly minted duke, Raphe Matthews. They, along with their sister, grew up in the slums of St. Giles following an unfortunate series of events when they were very young. Amanda is finding it a challenge to fit into the society she finds herself in now. While in St. Giles, she ran the household and moved around independently in those streets. Such freedoms are frowned upon for young ladies of the Ton. She misses a sense of purpose and feels that she is now in a position to do more with her time and for the children of those slums.

Thomas Heathmore, Duke of Coventry, has promised to work with his mother and Amanda's cousin Lady Everly to help Amanda in her entrance into society. He also promised his friends to look after her and her sister while her brother went on his honeymoon. 

Amanda's first sally did not go particularly well. She heard some young ladies whispering about her beginnings and how she would never fit in. Add to that Amanda's own feelings for Heathmore and Amanda is sure all these efforts will lead to disaster as Thomas always seems to walk in on her just as she makes a cake of herself.

Heathmore finds her compelling and refreshing and while she gets herself into a few unseemly situations, he vows to keep his promise to his friend and fights any inappropriate feelings he is developing where she is concerned.

I really enjoyed reading Amanda and Thomas' story as they both come to know the other more. They are both independent and strong minded which causes tension and presents some challenges which enrich their journey.

A solid four stars for me.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Second Chance Winners - - Welcome to Moonlight Harbor

The second chance winners from our spotlight on

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor are:

Candice mast
(Moonlight Harbor prize package)


(Choice of print or digital copy of Welcome to Moonlight Harbor)


Please send your full name and mailing address to us at:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review - - Just in Time

Just in Time
By Marie Bostwick
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Grace Saunders, thirty-one, met her husband Jamie in high school. They married young, left their native Midwest, and settled happily in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after their move, Jamie was injured in a hiking accident. For almost two years, Grace’s life has consisted of her work as an administrative assistant for a commercial realty company and visits to her husband whose brain injury has left him in a vegetative state. Grace finds her job unsatisfying, but the health insurance keeps her husband in a facility where he receives excellent care. Neither widow nor wife in anything but name, Grace is grieving for the husband she loved and the life she lost—and feeling guilty for wanting more than her life has become.

Monica Romano, forty-two, was widowed eight months ago when her husband was killed in a boating accident caused by his mistress, who survived. Monica was left to run his restaurant and care for her two teen-age stepchildren. Fifteen-year-old Alex is angry and belligerent, and his sister Zoe, thirteen, is desperately trying to add years to her age. The restaurant demands long hours, and the troubled kids are making Monica’s life more difficult. She has a history of bad relationships with Italian men. Her late husband was the worst, and she is “pissed off but not grieved.”

Nan Wilja, sixty-two, was widowed twenty years ago when her husband was killed in a plane crash. Nan regretted that her time with her beloved Jim was cut short, but she took comfort in her four biological children, who were twelve, ten, eight, and five at the time of their father’s death, and in the three children she adopted.  With her children all adults, she enjoys their annual summer reunions complete with eight grandchildren. Her life is filled with gardening, needlecraft, and the nurturing that she feels called to give to bereaved humans and animals. Rainbow Gate, a rescue organization for dogs whose owners have died, is a particular interest. But her lost daughter, a drug addict living on the streets, is a constant source of grief.

Grace and Monica meet Nan and her therapy dog Blixen when the two younger women drop out of a grief support group composed of elderly widows. The three women are different ages with different life experiences, but they bond and form their own support group. The friendship they share sustains them through tumultuous times of grief, growth, and second chances at love.
Just in Time is a heartwarming women’s fiction novel about grief, friendship, and the unexpected turns life takes. Bostwick has a masterly touch at creating female characters who are likable, flawed, and real. She does it again with Grace, Monica, and Nan. Readers will find these women and their stories engaging. Romance readers will be pleased that while the friendship of the three women and their journeys, individual and intertwined, is the heart of the book, each woman’s story has a romantic element with a conclusion that should leave the most HEA-addicted reader smiling. Bostwick is a dependably consistent writer, and Just in Time offers the kind of believable, life-affirming story that has made her a favorite with readers.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Last Chance Winners - - Sheila Roberts

The following people have not claimed their prizes from the

Spotlight on Welcome to Moonlight Harbor:

A Melvin


Lynda Gordon

Please send your full name and mailing address to the 

email address below no later than

11:00 PM, April 21. 

After that time, new winners will be randomly selected.

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review, Q&A, & Giveaway - - Scandal in Spades by Wendy LaCapra

Scandal in Spades
By Wendy LaCapra
Lords of Chance - Book One
Publisher: Entangled:Scandalous
Release Date: April 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

The Marquess of Bromton has just learned that he’s a bastard. Feeling his honor is at stake, he attempts to bestow his estate upon a rightful heir by manipulating a high-stakes card game. But the winner demands more than Bromton bargained for—a marriage…to his spinster sister. Lady Katherine may be the least marriageable lady in all of England, but a child of their union would be a rightful heir…
Scandal has hardened Lady Katherine and narrowed her world to duty and family. There’s nothing to be trusted in the Society she left behind…especially not the imperious marquess with his single-minded pursuit. Or his knee-weakening kisses. Except, the more their connection deepens, the more Bromton surprises Katherine. But the truth about their courtship could destroy everything…

I love a story where the hero does all the wrong things for all the right reasons. Giles, Marquess of Bromton did not have a happy childhood. Nor did he have the comfort and security of loving parents. All he has is his title and his honor but both are scattered to the wind with his mother's revelations. In pursuing the hand of Lady Katherine, he's doing his best to restore what he truly believes is the lost honor of his title. He thinks marrying her, thereby restoring her standing in society, and ensuring her child will inherit, will be good enough. He's delighted by his attraction to her but he knows nothing of love and doesn't expect this pairing to produce it; isn't even sure if he's capable of the emotion, having never experienced it. He's in for a big surprise.  

Giles isn't the only one keeping secrets. Scorned by society after two failed betrothals, Katherine retreated to her family's estate where she has devoted herself to raising her younger sister, managing her brother's estates, and teaching the children of her village. If there are parts of her that yearn to be set free, she keeps them in firm control. After all, the one time she allowed desire free rein it led to tragic consequences that drowned her in shame. She's captivated by Giles yet she can't shake the feeling that he's hiding something though the more she's with him, the fainter the echoes of suspicion become. By the time the truth is revealed, both Katherine and Giles' hearts are fully engaged but will their love be deep enough to fight for their happiness?

I thoroughly enjoyed this first book in LaCapra's new Lords of Chance series. It's filled with the sparkling banter, witty humor, sensuality, and deep emotion I've come to expect from her stories. I loved Katherine's intelligence, her take-charge attitude, her loyalty to her family, and her innate kindness. I enjoyed watching her blossom as she begins to accept her worth and take charge of her happiness. And Giles, how my heart ached for him. He had lessons to learn before he could open his heart fully to the love and happiness just outside his reach. And when he finally does? Oh, my, how my heart fluttered! LaCapra has created an intriguing cast of characters surrounding our hero and heroine who already have me eagerly anticipating their own stories. I'm especially excited for Katherine's sister, Julia and the hero I so hope will become her own.

If you enjoy emotion-filled historical romance with wit, humor, complex characters, sizzle, a good grovel, and sigh-inducing endings, I highly recommend you give Scandal in Spades a try. 

Q&A with Wendy LaCapra

Welcome to The Romance Dish, Wendy!

Thank you, PJ! I absolutely love this blog!

Scandal in Spades launches a new historical romance series for you. Please tell our readers what they should expect from this series. What can you share about future books in the series and do you have a publishing timeline?

I’ve planned four books for the series. I’m not sure of the release dates, but the next two, one for ‘Diamonds’ and one for ‘Hearts’ are due in quick succession.

The sparkling banter, battle of wills, and scorching chemistry between Lady Katherine and Lord Bromton were an absolute delight yet you kept me guessing until the very end as to whether they would be able to overcome the obstacles between them. What was it about this couple that convinced you they were destined to be together?

OH! That’s lovely to hear. Thank you so much! Well, Lady Katherine and Lord Bromton both experienced an event that completely altered their self-worth. Katherine’s personality, her love for her siblings, and her inner strength helped her survive. In surviving, she became the perfect match for Bromton, not because of her bloodline, but because of her values. Bromton wants to be a better man, but doesn’t have the same resources to help him find his way.

One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Bromton finally lets down his guard at The Pillar of Salt. What was your favorite scene to write in this book? The most difficult?

I love that scene, too. The song he sings is a real drinking song, by the way. “Blowzabella my Bouncing Doxie” (Very Bawdy for its time). I think I had the most fun with the Billiards scene, though. And I cried when I wrote two other scenes- the carriage ride to London and the final scene between Bromton and Mrs. Warren. It was almost as if I was transcribing something I was watching. That almost never happens.

Having four younger brothers, I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Katherine and her younger brother, Lord Markham. Please tell me you’ll be giving Katherine a chance to meddle in Markham’s love life when his turn comes around?

Yes! Oh, yes! He’ll have his happy ending, though he's been giving me some trouble (it’s awfully hard to get a man named Hearts to settle down). 😊

Two secondary characters I thoroughly enjoyed were Katherine’s sister, Julia and Lord Rayne’s sister, Clarissa. Do you have happy endings planned for these two? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for certain heroes for each of them!

I’m working on Julia’s story now! Julia was inspired by a young lady I met when we were both staying at her uncle’s home a few years ago. I’d never met someone with such sparkling energy & I just knew the world would be wowed by her when she was ready. We haven’t stayed in touch, but I thank her for that inspiration. Clarissa will have her moment to shine as a heroine, too.

Her Duke at Daybreak (which I loved!) was recently named as a finalist for the 2018 Romance Writers of America RITA award for Romance Novella. Congratulations! How did you celebrate? Will you be attending the conference in Denver this summer? And, most important, have you chosen a RITA dress yet? 😉

I’m not sure I *have* celebrated—it doesn’t yet feel real. I’m very proud of Her Duke at Daybreak. At the time, I felt like it was the best thing I’d written. If all goes well, the second book in that series, His Duchess at Eventide, should be out in August. It will be released as part of “Legends of Love,” a group of Regencies by different authors, each retelling a classic legend within the Regency. His Duchess at Eventide is a retelling of Odysseus’s return with more Penelope and (*winces*) without the infidelity/murder/plundering.

And, yes! I will be in Denver. I haven’t purchased a dress, but I have purchased an underdesk cycle that I hope will help me meet my deadlines AND fit into a red dress that I love. 😊

Scandal in Spades was recently named one of my Most Anticipated Romances for 2nd Quarter 2018. What upcoming books are you looking forward to reading?

I am SO excited about Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. I’ve adored the Westcott series and I can’t wait for Viola’s story. I just finished Stacy Reid’s The Earl in My Bed, and *fans self*--what a fabulous story of revenge and reconciliation.

I enjoy tagging along on your travel adventures through Instagram and Facebook. Any exciting journeys on the horizon?

Actually, I’m about to take a long-planned trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise from Southampton, UK back home to NYC. I had hoped to spend some time in England, but, unfortunately, that’s not going to be possible. It’ll be a working vacation. Things have been kind of crazy this year, and I’m looking forward to being able to write without distraction and, of course, I’m looking forward to heading down to the bar in the evenings for music & fun!

Where are the best places for readers to catch up with you online?

I write under my own name, so if readers don’t mind family posts in the mix, they are welcome to friend me on Facebook. For those that prefer strictly book talk, I have a Facebook page. Twitter is probably the second most likely place to find me. And, I’m warming to Instagram.

Thank you for taking the time to visit with us today, Wendy. Is there anything you’d like to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thank you so much for having me! It’s a pleasure and an honor. I can’t think of a good question at the moment (unless your readers have tips on getting a good night’s sleep), but I would like to say thank you to everyone for joining me on this ‘visit’!

Readers, let's help Wendy get some sleep so she can write more great books for us to read. What are your best tips for a good night's snooze?

Two randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM (eastern), April 21 will receive a digital copy of Scandal in Spades

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reviews - - A Harlequin Trio

In A Heartbeat
By Janice Kay Johnson
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Nate Kendrick, a venture capitalist in Seattle, refuses to feel guilty when business requires him to bail out on a promise to chaperone a field trip for his seven-year-old daughter, Molly. But when a man dies saving Milly from drowning in a nearby river, Nate is troubled by the guilt he feels and by his concern for the man’s widow and two young children who are struggling financially. His offer to help is met with the widow’s scornful rejection of “blood money.” There seems to be little that Nate can do.

Anna Grainger has been a stay-at-home mom to seven-year-old Josh and four-year-old Jenna, and except for an occasional worrisome thought, has left family finances in her husband’s hands. But when Kyle drowns while rescuing one of Josh’s classmates, Anna discovers the depth of his fiscal irresponsibility. Kyle cashed in his life insurance and his retirement fund, leaving his family almost destitute. Forced to sell her home for barely enough to pay off the mortgage and pay the real estate agent’s reduced commission, Anna is looking at the possibility of being homeless.

When Nate’s ex-wife, Sonja, passes out in a drunken stupor, leaving Molly terrified and vulnerable, Nate insists Sonja enter rehab. Faced with the necessity of finding someone to care for his daughter for whom he now has full custody, Nate sees a way to solve two problems. He offers Anna a job that includes the vacant apartment intended for a housekeeper. Desperate, Anna reluctantly accepts. As the two families integrate, Anna comes to love Molly and, more gradually, to appreciate that Nate is not the man she had imagined him to be. The more she sees him as a devoted father whose nurturing extends to her children as well as his own child and as a man whom she finds uncomfortably appealing physically, the more difficult she finds it to cling to her prejudices. Nate has been attracted to Anna from the beginning, but he knows their history complicates things. Can Anna move past her grief and the guilt her feelings for Nate evoke and allow Nate into her life and into her heart?

In a Heartbeat is Janice Kay Johnson’s final Superromance. The imprint is being phased out by Harlequin. I’m sad to see this. HSR has long been my favorite category line, and Johnson has been a favorite author since the mid-1990s. She has written more than seventy HSRs, and I have read most of them. I love her richly developed, believable characters and the emotional punch her stories pack. Johnson will be writing for Harlequin’s Intrigue imprint now. Given her skill with romantic suspense, that should be a good fit, but I will miss the contemporary romances that focused on family relationships with their myriad complexities. I’m glad this last HSR is one of those books. It looks at loss and forgiveness and second chances in a story that makes me care about the characters and sigh with contentment when they reach a happy resolution to their conflicts. If you too enjoy this kind of story, I recommend In a Heartbeat.

The Baby Switch
By Melissa Senate
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga 

Single father and corporate president Liam Mercer has astonished his family and friends with his transformation to devoted dad since the birth of Alexander West Mercer six months ago. Young Alexander’s mother, a former girlfriend of Liam’s, died when Alexander was born, but Liam has surrounded his son with love and attention along with all the privileges of being born a Mercer. Then one day Liam receives a phone call from the Wedlock Creek Clinic where his son was born. The clinic administrator requests that he come in and bring his lawyer.

Shelby Ingalls, owner of Treasures, a second-hand shop, is also a single parent. Her former husband, a rodeo cowboy, left town with another woman as soon as he learned Shelby was pregnant. Six-month-old Shane is the light of Shelby’s life and is adored by her colorful extended family. When the Wedlock Creek Clinic calls asking her to come in with her lawyer, she fears there was more to Shane’s recent virus than she was first told. The blood work that stemmed from that virus did reveal something startling, but it is not anything that Shelby would ever have imagined.

The clinic administrator informs Shelby that Shane cannot be her biological son. There is a very real possibility that the two male infants born minutes apart during a November snowstorm six months earlier were identified incorrectly and sent home with the wrong parent. Neither Shelby nor Liam can bear the thought of losing the child they love, but neither can they bear not claiming the child that may be their own. Liam proposes a marriage of convenience that will allow both of them access to both babies, but that convenient marriage may prove most inconvenient for their wary hearts.

Senate introduces her Wyoming Multiples with this sweet story that may be far-fetched but is just close enough to possible to keep the reader believing. Liam and Shelby are appealing in their vulnerability and maturity. There is also a mystery thread that involves a family secret. It seemed rather contrived to me, and it didn’t make me more sympathetic to Liam’s father. The man’s behavior toward Alexander made me want to kick him. Nevertheless, likable protagonists keep this one entertaining, especially for readers who like romance with babies added to the mix.

Love Songs and Lullabies
By Amy Vastine
Publisher: Harlequin Heartwarming
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga


Piper Starling, platinum selling country music star, is poised to be the next crossover sensation, but she gets a big surprise when she visits a Nashville emergency room to have a twisted ankle checked out and receives a bonus diagnosis—she is pregnant. The father-to-be is Sawyer Stratton, a new artist whose first album has just been released. Piper and Sawyer worked together writing songs, and things briefly took a turn toward the passionate. But two months ago, they decided the relationship was bad for their careers and broke things off before anyone else realized they were together.

When their families are informed about the pregnancy, everyone has an opinion about what Piper and Sawyer should do—marry or not marry, tour together or tour separately. Piper’s father/manager is convinced a pregnancy before a wedding will destroy her good-girl image in the eyes of her conservative country base and thus seriously damage her career. Piper trusts her father, and she is overwhelmingly conscious that her career supports a lot of people, including her brother and his enormous medical bills. Sawyer is only certain he is not in love with Piper. He wants to be a father to his child, but he is adamantly opposed to marrying without love, having lived with the consequences of his parents’ example. His sister supports his decision. Eventually, all parties more or less agree that a fake engagement is the best solution. However, the plan sounds simpler than it proves to be; it just leads to more complications. Will Piper and Sawyer ever cut through the walls and pretenses and be honest with themselves and with each other about their feelings.

This is the third book in Vastine’s Grace Notes Records series, after The Girl He Used to Love and Catch a Fallen Star. It is obvious that Piper and Sawyer have a history, and I think their history must be a thread in the first book. Missing that connection, I found myself impatient with all the drama and the family interference in the lives of the lead couple. They are twenty-five, but much of the reaction would have seemed more appropriate had they been a decade younger. I also felt that much of the tension could have been resolved with one honest conversation between the two people most directly involved.

Faith, Sawyer’s sister, was the only character I truly liked, and I actively disliked Piper’s father. Had this not been a book I had committed to review, it might have been a DNF for me. Readers more dedicated to the Heartwarming imprint than I or who have read the earlier books in the series will likely find it more appealing than I did. That belief persuaded me to award the novel three stars and conclude that I was just not part of the audience that Love Songs and Lullabies targets. (I do like the title.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review - - Come Home to Me

Come Home to Me
By Liz Talley
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Reviewed by Janga 

Fifteen years ago, three members of the Class of 2003 of Mangham High School, Moonlight, South Carolina, left their small hometown. Summer Valentine, a brainy girl with a gift for composing and singing, left for Columbia, South Carolina, where she had a full scholarship to the University of South Carolina. A short time later she was back home, pregnant, and dealing with her father suffering because they were targeted by the wealthy, influential family of her baby’s father. She kept her child against all advice, attending a community college to earn a business degree instead of the life she had planned. From the moment she made her decision, her child has been the most important person in her life. It was for David, now fourteen, that she left Nashville and her dream of making it as a singer-songwriter to return to Moonlight so that her son’s father could be part of his life in a way not possible with eight hours distance between them.

Rhett Bryan left Moonlight to attend college in California. He discovered his freshman year that he had a gift for standup comedy, and through hard work and compromise, he has parleyed that gift into A-list stardom as the host of a popular late-night television show. But when he accidentally kills a child who chases a ball into the street, his life changes. A pending wrongful-death suit and a public meltdown on his show have NBC suggesting he take a long break. He heads home to Moonlight, to his grandfather’s house where he grew up after his parents’ deaths. Maybe in his hometown he can find the boy he used to be and healing for the man he has become.

Hunt McCroy left Moonlight to attend the University of Florida and play baseball for the Gators. Baseball was his life, and when Summer informed him of her pregnancy, his only concern was not letting fatherhood interfere with his dream of a successful college career followed by playing professional baseball. He had little to do with his son for the first nine years of the boy’s life. That changed five years ago when an injury and subsequent addiction to pain medication destroyed his baseball career and sent him back to Moonlight to work for his controlling father. Hunt is determined to be a good father and to avoid repeating the errors his own father made, errors that left Hunt feeling as if he never measured up.

Summer, Rhett, and Hunt discover that the choices they made when they were only a few years older than young David are still impacting their present. Summer always saw Rhett as a golden boy without blemish, but she learns that he is as flawed and vulnerable and scarred as she is. Rhett must learn that Summer is a woman made strong and beautiful by her experience, far different from the teenage girl who tutored him. He and Hunt, once best friends, find out how little they knew about each other. And Hunt learns that to be the father he wants to be he must face the truth of his past and accept responsibility for his mistakes.

Talley uses multiple points of view and a narrative that switches between past and present to give her readers a compelling story that packs a powerful emotional punch. Although Summer and Rhett’s romance is essential to the story, this book is more a general fiction/romance hybrid than a conventional romance. There are really no heroes or villains here. While some of their mistakes are more consequential than others, all three of the central characters are faulty, deeply human creatures who struggle to make meaning out of their lives. Each of them grows during the story and eventually achieves new self-awareness and earned happiness. I liked Rhett and developed a degree of sympathy for Hunt, but Summer is my favorite character. Her love for her son and her capacity to forgive—which is NOT the same as forgetting—is amazing.

The secondary characters add more depth to the story. Rhett’s grandfather is a curmudgeon with a good heart, David is a credible adolescent with an endearing sweetness and the errors in judgment common to teenage boys, and Summer’s sister Maisie is an interesting and sympathetic character. Even Hunt’s father, although a jerk of the first order, is more than a stereotype. Additionally, Talley gives a clear sense of Moonlight’s low-country appeal, but she avoids making the town unbelievable idyllic.

I've been a Liz Talley fan since her Boys of the Bayou Harlequin Superromance series, and her Morning Glory books all earned stellar reviews from me. (I look forward to the fourth book in that series set to be released this summer.) Talley has never been afraid to push the boundaries of the genre, and she is particularly adept at weaving stories around the second-chance trope. This is one of her best. The ending left me sighing happily.  

If you like stories about flawed characters who fall down and get up--and ultimately grab their second chance, I think you will enjoy Come Home to Me as much as I did. I highly recommend it. One caveat: parts of this book may be a problem for readers for whom non-consensual sex is a trigger, and the cover copy fails to warn of this.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review - - Indecent Exposure

Indecent Exposure
By Tessa Bailey
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie

Reading the back of the blurb for Indecent Exposure, a reader might think this was a light, frothy rom-com, like a police version of Top Gun, where the hero has hit on our fair heroine who turns out to be an instructor for the academy he’s currently training. The premise is correct, but the delivery (see: rom-com) is not what I felt was advertised.

Jack Garrett has just met the most beautiful woman in the world--literally, she’s from Ireland--and he’d do anything to spend all his time with her while she is vacationing in New York. Never mind that he has academy to go to during the day; and the fiery little vixen is far too able to keep him at arm’s length, which he’s never had that problem before. He’s got references, if she wants them, of just how popular he is and can be. He can show her a good time. She agrees to meet him for a date the next evening.

The next day, before the best date of his life that he is anticipating, his dream date walks into the academy. She is the guest instructor for target shooting. He can’t believe his luck--he gets to spend his days and nights with her; however, Katie McCoy wants to maintain a bit of professional distance and integrity. Still, she can’t resist Jack, but she is not a girl just interested in a fling. She’s interested in the man beneath. Jack wants to tell her about himself, likes having a girl who is interested in the real Jack--but telling her may send her running. The blurb ends that Jack tells her a little lie of omission.

It sounds like we’re selling vanilla fluffy cupcakes here when what you have is dark chocolate cake with more surprise layers than you can possibly put mousse in. Jack is earthy, sexual, and blunt; he talks dirty often and expertly; and he is intent on making you see God as fast and as often as possible with the skill of his mouth and body. He also has a dark secret that he numbs out by drinking and maintaining a perpetual alcoholic buzz. He’s created his entire life around getting by, which he’s doing at the police academy, because he didn’t know what else to do with his life and his friends were joining the academy.

Let’s just say when I started the book, I was anticipating something in the sweet, dialogue heavy, funny-cute way of a Tessa Dare or a Kristan Higgins, but what I got was something much more wild, darker, and chockful of sexual experiences, some of which *I* haven’t even done.

Too much information. Sorry about that.

Point being, if you’re good with hot, wild, dirty sex (think Elizabeth Hoyt writing contemporary) and darker complicated heroes and characters, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. I will say, for these things Tessa Bailey certainly delivers and uses them to her advantage to advance the character arc and plot. If you were looking for something cute or sweet, a hero who would never dream of using the “P” word when referring to anything on a woman’s body, I’d say just go ahead and give this a pass.