Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who's Your Birthday Buddy?

It's that time again! Another year is in the books while all the excitement, anticipation and joy of a new year of adventures looms on the horizon. The celebratory tiara is polished and packages of books sit waiting to wing their way to new homes.  Do you know what that means, dear readers? Of course, you do! Hang the streamers! Blow up the balloons! Grab a drink and a cupcake and get ready to
celebrate because...it's my BIRTHDAY!

I'm always excited to find someone who shares my birthday, especially someone I know.  Julie Anne Long is one of my favorite historical romance authors.  The books of her Pennyroyal Green series hold special places on my keeper shelves and there's a big red circle around March 31 on my 2015 calendar. That's when her next book, It Started With a Scandal (isn't that cover simply gorgeous?) will be published.  Happy Birthday, Julie!  Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, smiles, good friends and great books!

I also share a birthday with my Uncle F.  I didn't have the opportunity to meet him - he died at two years old - but I always felt a special bond with him, as if I had my very own guardian angel watching over me from above.  Considering the near misses I've had during my life, Uncle F has been one busy dude. Happy Heavenly Birthday, Uncle F!

Sophia Loren turns a glorious 80 years old today.  Beautiful, sensual and comfortable in her own skin, Sophia continues to age with dignity and grace; not complaining of getting older but embracing each day of life and all it has to offer. That's how I want to approach each day I'm given in this life. Grazie, Signora!  Buon Compleanno!

Philip Phillips was born on September 20th.  If you're not a fan of American Idol or Top 40 music, you may not know Phillips but I daresay you'll recognize his debut single, "Home." I don't buy a lot of singles but I downloaded this one the first time I heard it.  Happy Birthday, Philip!

I've been a sports fan for as long as I can remember and for much of that time my NBA basketball team of choice has been the Boston Celtics.  It doesn't make a lot of sense considering I grew up in Michigan but there you have it. I'm proud to share my birthday with the long-time coach and president of the Celtics, Red Auerbach. In addition to his 938 victories and 16 NBA championships and ever-present victory cigar, this Hall of Fame coach was also a ground-breaker. He drafted the first African-American player into the NBA in 1950 and sent the first African-American starting five out onto the court in 1964 - bold moves in 1960's America. Auerbach died in 2006 but his legacy lives on. Happy Heavenly Birthday, Coach!

Juan Pablo Montoya is a Columbian race car driver who has the distinction of being one of a small number of drivers to have participated in NASCAR, CART, Formula One and IRL racing. It's fitting that we share a birthday considering the fact that my teenage dream was to be a race car driver. I never made it to the race track but my passengers (a/k/a younger brothers) would tell you it was a dream fulfilled none-the-less. *grin*

Last week I discovered that one of my favorite new historical romance authors is also a September 20th birthday buddy! Elizabeth Michels sparkles and so do her wonderful historical romances.  If you haven't checked them out I enthusiastically encourage you to do so.  They'll leave you smiling as bright and beautifully as their creator! I asked Elizabeth if she'd like to share a few thoughts on this, our shared birthday.  Of course, she responded with an enthusiastic "YES!" So, without further ado, heeeeeeeeere's Elizabeth!

*Twirls onto the blog singing, Happy Birthdaaaaaay toooooo youuu!!!* What a wonderful day! The leaves are changing colors, it’s finally cute boots weather, and not only is it PJ’s birthday, but it’s my birthday too!  What? We share a birthday?  That’s crazy.  Or was that just my reaction?  When I discovered I shared this fine day of birth with such a lovely lady, it made me curious who else arrived in the world on September 20th.  Apparently, George RR Martin and Sophia Loren are celebrating today too.  And, they’re next up on The Romance Dish! Just kidding.  But, I’m here, and I’m excited to announce a giveaway of two signed copies of my books in honor of this fabulous day! I hope you have fun reading Desperately Seeking Suzanna and How to Lose a Lord in 10 Days or Less! I have big, sparkly plans to write a little, shop a little, and go to dinner with my family.  It’s a special Birthday dinner where I will dip things in cheese and chocolate, but not at the same time.  Happy September 20th and Happy Birthday to PJ, George, and Sophia!

Thanks, Elizabeth! A very Happy Birthday to you too!

For those of you who have celebrated previous birthdays with me, you know how much I love presents.  For those who are new to the Dish, here's how it goes:  since I'm the birthday girl I get to choose the presents and because giving gifts gives me great joy, the recipients of my birthday presents will be you, my favorite readers! Six randomly chosen people who leave a comment on my birthday blog will receive a package of books from my book stash and one person will receive signed copies of Elizabeth's books, Desperately Seeking Suzanna and How to Lose a Lord in 10 Days.  (U.S.addresses only)  For my international friends, I'm giving away a copy of What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell and Snow on the Bayou by Sandra Hill. 

So tell me, dear readers, who shares your birthday? 

Do you have any special traditions you follow in celebrating your birthday? 

Do you usually have a birthday cake? What's your favorite flavor?  

Thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday! 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today's Special - - Tracy Solheim

I'm delighted to welcome Tracy Solheim to TRD today!  Tracy and I share a mutual love of football and romance so it stands to reason that fall would be one of our favorite times of year.  If you're a football fan in the south then you already know that the tailgate is a critical element of college football season.  Tracy joins us today to talk football, tailgates and her awesome Out of Bounds romances! 

After years of writing reports and testimony for Congress, Tracy Solheim decided to put her fiction writing talents to better use.  In 2013, Berkley Publishing launched her Out of Bounds series, featuring the fictional Baltimore Blaze football team.  She lives in the heart of SEC country, also known as the suburbs of Atlanta, with her husband and their two works-in-progress.   When she’s not at the barn with her daughter or working out with friends (i.e. lifting heavy bottles of wine), she’s writing.  Except for when she’s reading, but according to her, that’s just necessary research. 
In January she’ll release her first book in a new series:  Back to Before.  But readers will recognize the small town setting and several of the characters from her second Out of Bounds book, Foolish Games.  See what she’s up to at www.tracysolheim.com.  On twitter @TracyKsolheim and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TracySolheimBooks

Time to Tailgate!

Thanks to the ladies of the Romance Dish for hosting me today.  In case you haven’t guessed it by now, PJ and I are big college football fans!  And since my Out of Bounds series, featuring Game On, Foolish Games and Risky Game, deals with football, I thought I’d talk about the most important aspect of the game—tailgating! 

Have you noticed that these days, the “art” of tailgating has become as competitive as the actual football games themselves?  Certainly for many fans (particularly in college football), more time is spent tailgating than actually enjoying the game.  Hey, if you don’t believe me, spend a football Saturday in Athens, Georgia where most die-hard fans fire up their grills or smokers in the pre-dawn hours—even if it’s night game.

But these pre-game parking lot parties aren’t made up of just coolers and grills anymore.  Nope. As with everything else in our society, bigger is always considered better and tailgates are no exception.  They need to be epic.  I mean, why bring a minivan to a game when you can bring…well, a fire truck!

Or an actual train car.  

At my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, we travel to the game via the Tennessee River, tying up the boat with hundreds of others in the Vol Navy, right there in the shadow of Neyland Stadium. Many of the boaters try to one up each other with bright orange rigging, big screen televisions hanging above the stern deck sofas. Heck, we’ve even seen one boat with a stripper pole on its deck.  (You’ll have to excuse me for not having a photo for that one because I was trying to keep a gaggle of fifteen-year-old boys below deck while the “show” was going on.)

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the football game—especially if we win!  But I love hanging out with friends who you might only see once a year during football season.  It’s the one time when the college kids are eager to spend time with the older crowd.  After all, we did bring the food!

I’m working on the fourth Out of Bounds book—Sleeping with the Enemy--right now and I want to include a little scene describing what goes on at tailgate parties.  I’d love some help from readers. 

So tell me, what do you do to get ready for the “Big Game”? (The big game can be high school football, too.)  One lucky commenter will get a signed book from my backlist and a fun recipe card for our family’s tailgate food—the big sandwich!

Wanna talk more about football and romance?  Visit me every Monday at USA Today’s HEA blog for Monday Night Romance.  Kim Lowe and I talk about football and romance—two of my favorite things!

Risky Game
Book 3 in Tracy Solheim's Out of Bounds series.
May 6, 2014

Baltimore Blaze tight end Brody Janik is a natural-born football star. At twenty-seven, his record-breaking athletic performance and his cover-boy good looks have turned him into a household name. But Brody’s hiding a major secret behind his charming public persona: a health condition that may cut his career short.

PhD candidate Shannon “Shay” Everett works multiple jobs to put herself through school—including an unpaid internship with the Blaze training department. Strapped for cash, Shay answers the call of an NFL gossip blogger to uncover personal details about the Blaze players. Sneaking into the locker room one night, she gets entangled in Brody’s secret…and swept up by his charm.

Brody isn’t sure what to make of the gawky girl with the whiskey eyes, especially when he discovers she was snooping. His first instinct is to turn her in as a snitch, but she could destroy him by sharing his secret. Instead, he decides to keep her close…perhaps closer than either of them originally intended… 

Back to Before
January 6, 2015
Available for Pre-order

Chances Inlet, North Carolina, has an infamous power for second chances. But its charms are lost on the town’s favorite son—until she comes along…

When his father’s sudden death puts his family’s construction business in serious debt, architect Gavin McAlister is forced to put his dream career in New York on hold. Making matters worse, his fiancée calls it quits. Desperate to return to his big-city life, he discovers an opportunity to save his family, one that has him reluctantly starring in a home restoration TV show.

Former soap star Ginger Walsh hopes this job as a TV makeup artist will lead to better things. So far it’s only brought her to a hamlet full of people who don’t like her—except Gavin. After a wild night out leads to Ginger waking up in Gavin’s loft—and the rest of town talking—the two of them soon wonder if getting back to before is what they want. Because being in each other’s arms certainly feels like what they need…

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Today's Special - - Caren Crane

We're happy to welcome back Caren Crane today! Caren is celebrating the release this month of the third book in her Cross Springs series, Tiara Wars. Don't you love that title?  I can't wait to find out what the residents of Cross Springs are up to this time. Check out the rest of the Cross Springs books at Caren's website, connect with her online at Facebook and read her regular blogs at Romance Bandits.     

Take it away, Caren!

Best Laid Plans

Most of us have experienced some version of the following. You make a plan—a great plan. Well-considered, detailed and taking into consideration every possible pitfall. Except for the one you never dreamed might happen, which is inevitably the one that happens. It's happened to me any number of times. Cars break down. The air conditioning unit for the house needs replacement. The plumbing backs up. A beloved pet dies. A loved one falls ill and needs help. Anything at all can suddenly blast out of the blue and hit you like a ton of bricks.

That's what has happened to the heroine of my third Cross Springs novel, Tiara Wars. Although no one escapes bad times entirely, Katie Warren has lived a somewhat charmed life. In her small town of Cross Springs, NC, she has always enjoyed popularity and the sort of ease that only the beautiful among us know. But a year ago, her husband of twenty years died. And just before he died, she found out something that rocked her world and made her question everything she believed about herself, her marriage and the bedrock on which her life was built.

Katie has gone into full retreat from the world and everyone in her community has noticed. Her best friend Connie Burns, for one, is fed up with her self-indulgent isolation and plans to jar her out of her grief-stricken stupor. But even Connie doesn't know what's really behind Katie's withdrawal. No one does. It takes a chance encounter with a very rude acquaintance, plus a healthy dose of nagging from Connie to launch Katie back out into the world. Once she decides to take action and reclaim her life, Katie rediscovers her dormant drive to get things done. What she finds out about her husband's secrets forces her life in an entirely new direction. One no one expects—especially not Katie!

You can read an excerpt of Tiara Wars and the other Cross Springs stories at: http://www.carencrane.com/category/books/.

Have your best laid plans gone astray? I know mine have! I would love to hear about something from your life that turned out entirely different from your expectations, whether good or bad. One commenter will win an e-book version of Katie's story, Tiara Wars

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today's Special - - Kieran Kramer

I'm delighted to welcome Kieran Kramer to The Romance Dish today! Kieran first hit my radar when I bought a copy of her debut historical romance, When Harry Met Molly.  I was utterly charmed and Kramer has continued to charm me with each successive novel that she has published. Nowadays, she's writing small-town contemporary romances with a Southern flair.  Her first contemporary, Sweet Talk Me was released in March and her next book, You're So Fine will be published in late December.  

You can find more information about Kieran and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter

Hi, Kieran! Welcome back to The Romance Dish. I just finished reading the first book in your new contemporary series and was thoroughly charmed. Please tell our readers what they can expect from Sweet Talk Me.

Hi, PJ! I'm so glad to be visiting with you and your readers. When they read SWEET TALK ME, they can expect a fun, romantic read with colorful characters, laugh-out-loud moments, some super sexy scenes, and even some poignant ones. The setting is Southern, but the themes about love, family, and connection are universal.

Sweet Talk Me is set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  What qualities make this area unique?  Why were you inspired to use it as a backdrop for this book?

Wow, I could go on all day about what makes the Lowcountry unique! It's a magical place. I grew up on a sea island, where my family’s land overlooks a saltwater marsh and a tidal creek called Bohicket. The Atlantic Ocean is just around the corner, so we get dolphins a lot. There's a sense of time standing still here – in a good way. You can relax, reflect, and just enjoy being in the present moment. I was inspired to use the Lowcountry as the backdrop for this book because it's a truly romantic place. It's also filled with fascinating people, many of whom wear their hearts on their sleeves. What you see is what you get. That can make for some great entertainment—and awesome conflict! In other words, things are never dull around here. That’s how I try to make my stories!!

My car radio automatically tunes to the nearest country music station so drooling over…um…I mean…appreciating a bad-boy country music star as a hero was pure pleasure.  Are you a country music fan? Is Harrison a complete product of your imagination or does he have his roots in a real-life country crooner?

Oh, PJ! I can totally relate to your appreciating that boy country music stars, ha ha! Yes, I'm a country music fan, although my love affair with country music didn't really start until I was older. As a child and teen, I loved the soft American sound of the Eagles. I can do all their harmonies very well. My brothers and sisters and I would sit around with guitar and piano and sing the Eagles. It wasn't really until my 20s that I began to appreciate serious country music, and it started with my love of Patsy Cline. Now I also enjoy a lot of the crossover country music, and I'd have to say my favorite country music artist today is Tim McGraw. I also love cute bad boys like Blake Shelton. I'll take me some Keith Urban, too (watching him play the guitar is quite a treat). My hero Harrison has a little bit of those three superstars in him. But he’s his own man, too. I love his big heart and his bad boy cool. He writes awesome song lyrics, too, if I say so myself, LOL (that was one of my favorite parts about writing the book).

True is a wonderful heroine and so uniquely southern.  I especially admire her refusal to buckle under her family’s reversal of fortune and her determination to make a good life for herself and her sister.  In that regard, she has a bit of a Scarlett O’Hara vibe.  Was that intentional? What is it about growing up in the South that infuses the women with that core of grit and determination beneath the cotillion exterior?

Oh, I am so excited that you love True! Yes, I was definitely influenced by Margaret Mitchell's iconic character Scarlett O'Hara. Scarlett is one of my favorite book characters of all time. I love how honest she is even when it's definitely going to make her unpopular. I love how she messes up, but does she ever give up? Never. I wanted that sort of backbone in True. But Scarlett was only a partial influence. I'm actually much more inspired by real-life Southern women I know. You are so right that the women here have that strong, unfailing sense of survival. Yet they also love their makeup, their hair, fashions, entertaining, and making a beautiful home, especially one that welcomes guests with open arms. Southern women have a lovely mix of strength and vulnerability. I find them endlessly fascinating.

Which character or characters surprised you during the writing of this book? In what way?

That's a very good question. I think Harrison surprised me most of all. And I'm specifically referring to what wound up happening between him and his brother Gage. It's one of my favorite parts of the whole book. I think I was surprised by Harrison’s ingenious way of solving the conflict between them! It was quite frankly adorable. It made me love Harrison more than ever.

You live in the part of the country where your book is set.  Is it easier or more difficult to set a story in an area from which you hail? Do friends and family ask if they’re the inspiration for certain characters in the book? Has anybody claimed Vince? *grin*

Ha ha! I don't know where I came up with Vince. That's the fun part about writing. I can see him so clearly in my head. I like to have surprise characters, someone you might not expect in a certain setting. That was Vince.

I think it's easier to write about a place you live. You know all the nuances. You live and breathe it. It's a certain passion that you can organically infuse in your writing that you perhaps can't do as well if you have never lived and loved in your setting!

So far no friends and family have asked if they are the inspiration for certain characters, LOL! And honestly? My characters are totally original – they may be inspired by certain people but they are their own selves. How do I know this? They’re in my head just like a movie. I simply write down what they do and say and how they look as they journey through the story of my book.

Let’s talk about you a bit.  Have you always wanted to be a writer? Please share a bit about your journey to publication.

PJ, when I was 10 I wrote a short book about a talking baseball that lost his owner. It was called The Adventures of Tom Nooley. I put the small book between the strings of an old guitar propped in a corner, and occasionally I would go by and shake the guitar until the book fell out. I’d read it and put it back. I grew up in a military household with seven children born in nine years, and now I look back and realize this hiding of the book was one way of protecting my dream, of developing as an individual within the unit that was my family. 

I often wrote poetry in high school and took a stab at writing short stories in college. But it wasn't until I was a stay-at-home mom with a husband who was deployed overseas for six or nine months at a time that I began to write actual novels. My kids were very small. I wrote one and when it got rejected, I put it away thinking that I must not be a real writer. I quit for a long time. I spent my entire 30s rearing my children and just being a “regular” person (we all know writers are a bit crazy, LOL!).

But when I hit 40, I realized that my dream was slipping away. As much as I enjoyed my family, I also had my own passion for writing. I believe there is a season for everything, and we all come to our seasons at different times. So it wasn't until my husband was unexpectedly plucked from his Naval Reserve unit to deploy to Afghanistan for a year that I got serious and determined that I was going to become a published author. When my husband was gone – when I missed him desperately and worried for his safety – I wrote When Harry Met Molly
He inspired me to write about true romantic heroes. I wanted to write about good men who appreciate and fall in love with good women. And I wanted to laugh! I still laugh so hard when I read When Harry Met Molly!

What types of books do you enjoy reading when you’re not busy writing your own?

Oh, that’s another great question! I love reading both fiction and nonfiction. For example, I just read a great nonfiction title called Decisive, by Chip and Dan Heath. It's all about learning how to make great decisions. My self-help audio and book collection are huge reasons for my being published today. I need constant inspiration to reach my potential. I love reading other people's stories and honing my skills in my personal and professional toolboxes.

I also just finished Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s new book called Heroes Are My Weakness. I absolutely loved that story! I'm also a fan of Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier, and other gothic-style writers who inspired Susan to write this book.

What would readers be surprised to learn about you?

They might be surprised to learn that I was in the CIA and that I've been on two game shows: Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune.

What’s next? 

Next for me is the release of You’re So Fine on December 30. I absolutely loved this book because I think Lacey and Beau make a great couple, and the setting was inspired by Folly Beach, right outside of Charleston. I call it Indigo Beach. I laughed a lot writing this story, and I cried at parts, too. I also had fun writing some sexy scenes between these two! The contemporary romance I'm working on now is set in the mountains of North Carolina in a small town. But it’s a stand-alone, the same way that Sweet Talk Me and You’re So Fine are stand-alone books.

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

It's been a real pleasure, PJ. I'd like to ask your readers to describe for me their favorite kind of heroine and favorite kind of hero. Here’s another one: I’d love to know what they think about stand-alone contemporary romances versus series. My books are all set in places that I could revisit later, but right now, I’m writing new settings each time. What’s your take? Do you have a preference? There was Biscuit Creek in SWEET TALK ME, Indigo Beach in my upcoming YOU’RE SO FINE, and Kettle Knob in the book I’m writing now (the title’s still a secret!!). I always love to hear what romance readers have to tell me about our beloved romance genre!!! Thanks again, PJ. I hope everyone has a great autumn filled with terrific reads!

Kieran will give away an autographed copy of Sweet Talk Me to two randomly chosen people who leave a comment on today's blog.  U.S. addresses only. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review - - Festive in Death

Festive in Death
By J.D. Robb
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: September 9, 2014

This latest installment of the In Death series finds Eve Dallas trying to track down the killer of a man absolutely nobody liked and many people had good reason to loathe. Trey Ziegler was officially a personal trainer and unofficially a gigolo, blackmailer, and rapist.  As a result, suspects are thick on the ground.

The mystery is tightly constructed, with new revelations about the victim sending the story in different directions as it progresses.  Robb’s knack for writing child characters flashes to the fore with a brief appearance by Tiko, who originally appeared in Memory in Death. She also sketches the secondary characters with her usual skill, each distinct from the others and adding to the range of reactions to the Ziegler’s death.

Winnowing down the suspect list spurs Eve and Roarke to consider the nature of love and of their own relationship.   This story incorporates many kinds of love and affection, both among the series regulars and between the dead man’s associates and victims.  There are many warm moments, especially as Eve deals with Christmas--always such a trial for her--and the personal connections it emphasizes.

Personal stylist Trina, who may be the only person in the universe Eve truly fears, plays a slightly different role this time around.  She also contributes an amusing bit to Eve and Roarke’s holiday party.

One of the pleasures of this series is the evolution of the characters’ relationships, particularly within Eve’s circle.  Two books ago, with Thankless in Death, Robb tied off some running themes in the series, which aren’t listed here so as to avoid spoilers.  While the settling of the questions involved was a natural, welcome evolution within the story world, it also closed some avenues of conflict.  As yet, nothing else has filled the resulting vacuum.

When it comes to giving this book a rating, I’ve gone back and forth.  During some of the holiday scenes, the mystery mostly falls of the radar screen though the scenes revolving around it are first rate.  On the one hand, as a longtime reader of the series, I enjoyed spending time with the regular characters as they celebrated the season and their connections to each other.  On the other, I found that the absence of ongoing conflict at times resulted in the story being less edgy than earlier ones.

So I go with 4.5 stars.

~Nancy Northcott

A former attorney who never outgrew her love of comic books, science fiction and fantasy, Nancy left the legal profession to pursue her dreams of creating her own action adventure stories.  Check out her terrific contemporary romances set within a fantasy world in present-day Georgia. 

Readers, do you enjoy a good mystery?

Are you a fan of multi-book series with continuing characters?

What keeps you coming back for each new book?

Tell us about a series with continuing characters that you've enjoyed. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Joanne Lockyer - Kandy Shepherd Winners

The winner of a kindle copy of 
The Last Light of Dusk by Joanne Lockyer is:

Mary Preston

The winner of a signed copy of 
The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner by Kandy Shepherd is:

Cathy P

Mary, please send your email address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.

Cathy, please send your full name and mailing address to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Heather Ashby Winner

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of
Never Forget by Heather Ashby is:

(comment #47)

Congratulations, Pat!  
Please send your full name and mailing address to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail  (dot) com

Grace Burrowes Winner

The randomly chosen winner of The Captive, The Traitor and The Laird
by Grace Burrowes is:

Anita H


Please send your full name and mailing address to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Second Chance Winners

Two signed copies of Christina Dodd's Revenge at Bella Terra have not been claimed 
so we have drawn new names.  
The new winners are:




Please send your full name and mailing address to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Rose Lerner Winner

The winner of an e-copy of A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner is

Ann Gonzalez

Congratulations, Ann! 
Please send your email address and choice of e-format to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review - - The Arrow

The Arrow
By Monica McCarty
Publisher: Ballantine
Release Date: August 26, 2014

Since I finished reading THE RAIDER in February, I’ve waited with bated breath for THE ARROW to come out. “August!” I lamented, as if the month meant eternity. Now I’ve finished reading THE ARROW, and I spent the last quarter of that book, plotting what’s going to happen in thenext book. There’s just no pleasing some readers—you give them a new book and they just want MORE, MORE, MORE! I am such a reader. I blame Monica, of course.

In THE ARROW, Gregor MacGregor is Bruce’s sniper in the Highland Phantoms. That’s not what he’s called, but that’s definitely what he’s doing. His ability to strike so perfectly where no sound of alarm is ever raised is imperative to the success of the team to get in and out of high-risk situations. His ability to kill efficiently doesn’t come without a price. In addition to being a Tolkien elf with arrows, he’s also the most handsome Phantom of the team—and the handsomest man in Scotland. That’s right. He’s Legolas. In a kilt. Yes, Monica always takes it up another notch.

The heroine is Cate, a young woman Gregor rescued some five years back and has been a thorn in his side ever since. She’s twenty (though he thought she was younger when he rescued her and she didn’t correct him); the lovechild of Bruce (which she doesn’t tell Gregor because she doesn’t want to be known as a bastard); and completely badass (this Gregor knows because he’s had his brother see to her training.) She is madly in love with Gregor the man, not Gregor the Handsomest Man in Scotland, though she has her work cut out for her making him believe it. Some of the reasons he doesn’t believe it: she’s too young; she doesn’t know what she wants; and she doesn’t know what love is. The real reason: Gregor MacGregor is a cowardly idiot.

The story begins as Gregor goes home to get some rest (he has “projectile dysfunction” and his arrow hitting isn’t as “precise”) and arrange a marriage for Cate (since a marriage will take care of that problem.) Of course, no one is good enough for her; he doesn’t want her himself; and he’s also too busy fighting off shallow women left, right, and center. However, despite this, he and Cate end up together…and engaged…and HAPPY. Oh, Reader, they were so, so happy at mid-point of the book. So sexy, so fun, so romantic. You just knew they were destined for a Happily Ever After.

And then it all went to shit.

At first I was, “A little communication will clear this up.” And then there was some talking, and it only made it worse. Huh, well, I’ve had fights like that; it works out. Call me a romantic. Then Gregor self-destructed. I wondered, “Well, how in the hell is Monica going to fix this?” Granted, as soon as Gregor realized he’d crossed a line, he began making up for it, but it was a very fine, dicey line that Monica steered this story down. If you like your stories gritty, hard, real, with the full knowledge some people do stupid hurtful things, but it still works out in the end because, well, love, then I think you too will also enjoy this book.


Hellie Sinclair (a.k.a. Fran) was one of the founding members of the Romance Writer's Revenge, where she frequently got to satisfy her love of good books and her need to expound by writing reviews. Hellie loves to craft on projects she rarely finishes, watch British dramas as a sort of Olympic marathon event, and do most anything that fits the description "indolent and pleasurable." Fortunately reading falls into that category.  Connect with Hellie on Facebook

Friday, September 12, 2014

Today's Special - - Heather Ashby

I am so pleased to welcome military romance author Heather Ashby back to The Romance Dish. I had the opportunity to meet Heather in person at this summer's RWA national conference and she's an absolute delight. Heather joins us today to talk about a very special book, her newest release, Never Forget and the importance of helping others. It's a valuable lesson that applies to each of us. 

Heather is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan and the Middle East.  In gratitude for her Army son's safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation which supports wounded warriors and their families. Never Forget is Book #3 in her series, "Love in the Fleet" published by NY Times best selling author, Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.

Welcome, Heather!

“If You Can’t Help The One You Love, Help The One You’re With”

Thank you for inviting me to the Romance Dish, PJ It’s always wonderful to chat with you. I love sharing stories with your readers about romance novels, the military, and life’s lessons.

Remember that old Stephen Stills song, “Love The One You’re With?” I’m not here to analyze the lyrics and offer advice to the lovelorn, but I am here to share a valuable lesson I learned recently. Basically, my soul has always known this lesson about helping others, but it was never as clear to me as when the following happened on August 15, 2014.

I’m a Navy veteran who writes romance novels set in the Navy with Navy characters. Huh? How did I end up with a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant as my hero in Never Forget? I knew very little about Marines—except that they used to guard the gates at Navy bases. Oh, and that my dad was a Marine Corps staff sergeant during World War II. And that he had a globe, anchor, and eagle tattoo on his left forearm with the initials, “USMC” that I used to trace with my finger as a child. And that he had fought in places such as Guadalcanal and New Britain. And he had a Purple Heart medal I used to play with. But most of that was before I was born. I rarely remember my dad discussing the war. It was best left forgotten.

USS New York
Fast forward to 2012 when I began to write book #3 in my “Love in the Fleet” series, Never Forget. In researching the amphibious assault ships that would be changing home ports to Mayport – the setting for my series – I came across the story of the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow of the USS New York. Eureka! I had an idea. While debating about the right hero for my Royal Navy exchange officer, Gwyn Pritchard, a little voice in my head reminded me that the New York’s job is to transport Marines. Could I do it? Could I come up with enough information about Marines to actually write about one in depth? And who would he be? And what would he be like?

My late father flashed inside my head. He was a strong man with a gentle soul, movie star handsome, humble to a fault, and emotionally damaged from a childhood trauma that haunted him his whole life. Throw in some unresolved war-time PTSD issues, and you have the classic wounded hero. Although my dad was brilliant, creative, and successful, he suffered from depression and always carried an element of sadness about him—as if he didn’t deserve to be happy. My heart ached for him and I spent many years wishing I could make things right in his life. Wished I could heal him – which, of course, I couldn’t.

But I can heal a character in a book.

I gave my hero, Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor my dad’s back story. And I cannot describe the joy it is giving me to heal Adam in Never Forget and Unforgettable! (March 2015) And to work with a Marine Corps advisor, who not only helps me write these books authentically, but also tells me that sharing Adam’s journey may be the catalyst for other Marines to seek healing. (Most troops with combat PTSD are male. Most romance readers are female. Most males who seek help for PTSD are guided to do so by their wives. You do the math.) I love seeing anyone healed from anything in whatever way they can do it!

USS New York
So imagine my excitement when I recently met a medically retired Marine Corps staff sergeant – and debut author – who healed his PTSD by writing a novel. Shawn Garrett, author of 500 Miles an Hour (October 2014 - jabarijaser.com), claims: “Writing is cathartic for him, allowing for the painful memories to flow from his brain and heart, down his hands, out of his body, and onto the page. This, along with the love of his family and friends, has brought stability to his life.”

The school teacher/daughter/mom in me—who wants everyone to be happy—was all over that! I read an advance copy of his book, commented, and offered suggestions when I realized he could use some advice on marketing and promotions. Shawn and I have spent hours chatting, both online and on the phone. He is a strong man with a gentle soul, deeply patriotic, and humble to a fault. Reminded me an awful lot of my late father—the Marine, who went on to be a writer with a career in public relations. And what’s that? Now I have an opportunity to guide this young writer with his marketing?

As I was digesting the fact that I was unable to help my dad—the Marine staff sergeant—heal in his life, but I’m able to help this young man—also a Marine staff sergeant—share his story of healing that can be a catalyst for other Marines to heal, I sat back in my chair, stretched and noticed the calendar on the wall.

August 15, 2014.

Twenty-five years to the day that my dad passed away.

And that’s when the tears flowed in earnest. Great buckets. I could practically feel the warmth of my father’s smile—no longer tinged with sadness—as he watched over Shawn and me in that moment of perfect kismet.

This was the day I truly got it. The day I could actually put into words what I have done for most of my life; as a mother, as a teacher, as a human being: We can’t always help the people we want to help in this world, but we can darn sure help somebody.

Thank you for letting me share with your readers, P.J. I would love to hear their stories of how they’ve helped someone out – sometimes “in honor” of somebody else. I have a copy of Never Forget for one lucky commenter. Thanks for joining me today, readers. And thank you in advance for your acts of kindness that help make the world a better place.

With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow,
what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York
than the sailors and Marines stationed there?

And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?

When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard the USS New York, she’s the only person who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns they must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.

The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.

Passions rise to fever pitch when the New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? Can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?

For a "behind the scenes" look at the inspiration for and creation of Never Forget, check out Heather's September 11th interview with Kim at SOS Aloha. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last Chance Christina Dodd Winners

The winners of a signed copy of 
Revenge at Bella Terra by Christina Dodd are:



Josie C

Please send your full name and mailing address (U.S. addresses only) to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

This is your second notification.  If we do not receive an email from you
by 11:00 pm EST, September 12th we will draw new winners.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review - - Virtue Falls

Virtue Falls
By Christina Dodd
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 9, 2014

She's the woman who, as a young girl, watched her father kill her mother with a pair of scissors. He's a man who has never come to terms with his tortured childhood.  They used to be married, are now divorced and probably still love each other.

Elizabeth Banner, a brilliant geologist, has come back to Virtue Falls for the first time since her mother's murder 23 years earlier to continue her father's study of the geologically rich coastal area of Washington and to confront the man who brutally murdered her mother all those years ago.  Her mother's body was never found and the adult Elizabeth wants answers to questions she seems unwilling to ask. Slowly losing his memories to Alzheimer's, her father has been released from prison and now resides in a Virtue Falls care facility yet Elizabeth continues to resist digging into her father's memories.  What does she fear?

Nothing is going right for Garik Jacobsen. An FBI agent to his core, he's despondent over being suspended due to his actions on a recent case, bewildered by Elizabeth's departure from their marriage, and fearful of the man he believes he's becoming.  He has nothing left to live for. With his favorite meal and his service revolver on the table before him, he's prepared for one final, irrevocable act.

Then an earthquake hits Virtue Falls.  A tsunami soon follows.  Garik rushes to Elizabeth's side. And when the earth gives up secrets that have been buried for 23 years, it will change them and the course of life in Virtue Falls forever. For as Elizabeth and Garik slowly come to realize after Elizabeth's mother's body is found; if what they and the courts believed to be true was false, if Charles Banner did not kill his wife, then who did?  Does a killer walk among them? Will that person strike again? And most important, who will the next victim be?

As this is the first in Dodd's new series, it necessitates the introduction of a rather large cast of characters yet I never felt lost or confused.  Rather, it was like moving to a new town and gradually getting to know its residents: the good, the bad, the quirky and the seriously demented. They are not just window dressing. Each person introduced has a role to play, a purpose, as the foundation is carefully constructed then, slowly, truths begin to be revealed, evil insidiously weaves its tentacles throughout the small town of Virtue Falls and, finally, the story races to its breathless, stunning conclusion. It's an incredible ride; one I'd happily take time and time again.

I've been reading Christina Dodd's books for more than 15 years and I have to say, I think this is her best writing yet.  While not technically a romance, the story has a strong romantic thread at its core and should appeal to fans of both romantic suspense and straight suspense.  It's tightly constructed, expertly plotted and filled with enough twists and turns to keep even the most astute mystery reader guessing until the very end. Dodd draws the reader into her web of suspense one silken strand at a time until you're so entangled in the story and the lives of its characters that you can't walk away. Nor do you want to.

Virtue Falls earns my highest recommendation.


Virtue Falls is available in print, e-book and audio.