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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review - - Kiss Me Hello

Kiss Me Hello
By Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: March 3, 2015

Mackenzie Knightley is the criminal trial attorney in the firm he founded with his younger brothers Trent (A Single Kiss) and James (The First Kiss). He is the best at what he does, the criminal lawyer prosecuting attorneys in Damson County, Maryland, most hate to face in the courtroom. Even with a ferociously busy calendar, Mac finds time for to work as a farrier. He is at the Damson County Therapeutic Riding Association working with a neglected horse when he learns that the new owner of the four-hundred acre farm on which the Knightley brothers grew up needs help with two draft horses she has just discovered on the farm. Because he has a feeling he may know the horses, Mac volunteers to provide the needed help. He may be prepared for Daisy and Buttercup, horses that his father bought shortly before his death, but he is not prepared for the farm’s new owner to be an outspoken blonde who has him wanting to know her better.

Sidonie Lindstrom views her move to Damson County as a stopgap measure. She has no plans to stay there, but buying a farm allows her to live more cheaply until her brother’s estate is settled. It also offers a better, safer place for her sixteen-year-old foster son, Luis Martineau. She knew rural life would be different from what she was used to, but nothing could have prepared her for the super-size horses who end up in her stable, her foster son’s affection for those horses, or the sigh-worthy neighbor who can shoe a horse, befriend a teenage boy, and send Sid’s heart beating triple-time.

It has been so long since Mac was romantically interested in a woman that his brothers are ganging up on him to push him into having a social life and the citizens of Damson Country are all abuzz over the friendly kiss Sid bestowed upon him in the local pizza parlor, but even all the attention is not enough to deter the normally spotlight-avoiding Mac from his interest in Sidonie. Their developing relationship is so promising that Mac decides not to mention that he’s a lawyer, a profession Sid loathes as much as she does the social workers who complicate her life with Luis. Of course, this omission causes trouble, but even though Sid’s sense of betrayal has her refusing to take his calls, Mac still proves a Knightley in shining armor when she needs a hero to help her defeat a self-important, heartless bureaucrat who tries to take Luis away

This is the third novel in Grace Burrowes’s Sweetest Kisses series, her first contemporary series. Mac and Sid are interesting, engaging characters who quickly have readers rooting for their HEA. Beneath Sidonie’s fierce independence and Mac’s need to fix every problem for those he cares about are two vulnerable people who eventually come to understand that they need each other. Luis is an appealing character, a believable teenager with the usual mood-swings, insatiable appetite for snack foods, and the paradoxical qualities of a boy growing into manhood. His conflicting loyalties to his birth family (the mother who is in prison and his two younger sisters) and to Sid and the family the two of them have created add another layer to his character. Fans of the first two books will enjoy seeing Trent and James and their respective families appear in this book. I appreciated that their appearance felt organic rather than contrived to please series-loving readers.

I am always a bit leery when an author who has written books I have loved in one subgenre of romance writes in another subgenre. Too often books in the new subgenre fail to measure up to familiar favorites. This was not true of Burrowes. Her gift for creating multidimensional characters with fascinating family ties that made the Windhams one of my all-time favorite historical series is evident in Kiss Me Hello and the other Sweetest Kisses books. These contemporary romances have earned a spot on my keeper shelves, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Burrowes will continue to write both historicals and contemporaries.

I highly recommend Kiss Me Hello. It can be read as a standalone, but why would you want to miss the delight of reading the first two books as well. They all get a thumbs-up from me.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review - - One Wish

One Wish
By Robyn Carr
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Isabella Grace Dillon Banks, better known as Izzy Banks, was once the brightest star in the galaxy of American figure skating, but the Olympic Gold medal winner walked away from the fierce competition and sometimes vindictiveness of that world to settle into a quiet life as Grace Dillon, owner of a flower shop in Thunder Point, Oregon. Only Jake Galbraith, owner of the ice rink where Grace sometimes skates alone for an hour or two, recognizes Grace, and he has promised to keep her secret. Even her friends know nothing about her other life, and that is the way Grace wants it. Envied for her accomplishments and resented for her family’s wealth that made her skating career possible without the level of sacrifice required of most skating families, Grace made few friends in the figure skating community, and even those few distanced themselves after she made an accusation against a successful coach. Her relationship with her mother was strained by Grace’s decision to leave skating, and her former coach, with whom she does maintain contact, is unlikely to appear in Thunder Point. Grace is content to be just another Thunder Point resident, one who is living a normal life and finding her place in the community.

Troy Headly, a history teacher at the local high school, is young enough to be considered cool by his students and handsome enough to be the object of student crushes. Troy loves his job even if he has to work a second job filling in at Cooper’s bar in order to support his hobbies, which include skiing, white water kayaking, and other adventurous sports. Troy and Grace have hung out together and developed a friendship of sorts, mostly linked by their ties to Iris McKinley (The Homecoming). Iris’s recent marriage to Seth Seleski has left Troy’s heart bruised, and he is looking for a rebound relationship. Grace meets all his criteria; she is pretty, smart, and athletic. Besides, he thinks she needs more fun in her work-focused life—and he is just the guy to coach her in the art of filling her life with fun.

Grace, who missed out on all the usual activities growing up, is not exactly a tough sale when Troy explains what he has in mind. Soon the two are sharing hikes with unexpected conclusions, movie nights with popcorn and beer, and service as chaperones at a high school dance. All this togetherness intensifies the simmering attraction between Grace and Troy, and the friends become lovers. Troy isn’t sure he’s ready to promise forever, and Grace knows she needs to surrender her secrets if she wants the feelings that she can scarcely acknowledge to have a chance to grow. When bits of Grace’s past intrude on their idyll, her secrets are disclosed. Surprisingly, Troy handles her celebrity well but stumbles over her wealthy background. Grace proves stronger than even she suspected she could be when Troy backs off just when the situation grows more complicated. Can Troy recognize all he stands to lose before it’s too late?

This seventh book in Carr’s Thunder Point series gives readers another friends-to-lovers tale, although the friendship of Grace and Troy is considerably briefer than that of Iris and Seth in Book Six. This friendship also begins as a much more light-hearted relationship. The development of Grace and Troy’s relationship includes some deliciously humorous moments. My favorite such moment is Grace’s response early on when Troy asks her about current and past boyfriends. She mentions one who is “like a medieval knight” and a bit later adds to the list:

“And they’ve all been amazing. I spent time with a guy who actually owns a plantation in South Carolina, a guy with a British title of some kind—viscount I think. There’s Malone who owns a lobster boat on the East Coast, there’s a bar owner, a guy in a ski patrol, a navy SEAL . . . very, interesting, sexy guys.”

If the reader is not quick enough or well-read enough in romance to pick up on the allusions to romance novel heroes, including the hero of Catch of the Day by the author’s pal Kristan Higgins, Carr gives it away when Grace adds, “And there’s Wrath . . . I’m afraid he’s a vampire, but a very nice and sexy vampire.” You have to love a heroine with a filled ereader, a keeper shelf in case technology fails, and an appreciation for book boyfriends who never cheat and never necessitate that one undergo STD screening.

If that exchange leaves the reader smiling, the conclusion of Grace and Troy’s first fun adventure will leave her laughing out loud. Troy’s stubbornness leaves him drenched by a huge wave in thirty-eight degree temperatures. Since it is New Year’s Day, a souvenir shop offers the only available dry clothing: a sweatshirt with the words “My Heart Is in Coos Bay” and “a pair of women’s shorts with eyelet lace sewn around the legs,” size XL. If the image doesn’t cue the giggles, a run-in with a police officer when Troy is changing into his new outfit surely will.

As funny as these scenes are, there is nothing humorous about Troy’s request for “space” when Grace needs him most. However, he redeems himself from jerkdom with a heart-melting declaration scene. Darker emotions are also woven into the story when Grace learns that her mother has been diagnosed with ALS and with the heartbreaking history of a new character. Familiar characters also make appearances, and readers who have followed the series receive a special treat when many Thunder Point folks gather for the colorful and exciting Basque wedding celebration of Peyton Lacoumette and Dr. Scott Grant (The Promise).

Carr’s Thunder Point series still runs second to her Virgin River books for me, but her superb characterization skills and fine storytelling make this series well worth reading. If you haven’t paid a visit to Thunder Point yet, One Wish is a good place to start. Carr fans definitely won’t want to miss it; there’s even a Virgin River connection. Fans of small-town romance who have never read Carr owe it to themselves to try the author often credited with starting the trend. I believe that any day I read a Robyn Carr book is a good day. I recommend One Wish—and I’m already wishing for the next two Thunder Point books—A New Hope, which includes a murder mystery, set for release on June 30, and Wildest Dreams, an August 25 release.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Coming Attractions

At the beginning of February, I made a comment about looking forward to longer days, warmer temperatures and lots of great books to read. Okay, so at least I got one out of three. The days are getting longer but here in North Carolina we've had two significant snowfalls (unusual for us), broken 100+ year old records for low temperatures and while lots of great books were released over the past month, I've been so worn out from battling injury and illness that I haven't been able to stay awake long enough to read them. To say I'm looking forward to March would be the understatement of the year! lol! Because I really need the time to recover and regain my strength we're going to dial the number of posts and guest authors back a bit this month. We may not have new content every day but we'll still have reviews and a few surprises so we hope you'll check in often but also have patience with our slower pace as I work on getting back up to speed. Thanks for your understanding! 

Friday, March 6th brings Andrea's list of new releases for March.

Debut author Wendy LaCapra joins us for a Q&A on Monday, March 16th. Lady Vice, LaCapra's historical romance debut, will be released March 9th.

Joan Kayse brings a bit of the blarney to TRD with a Q&A on St. Patrick's Day, Tuesday, March 17th. Ruarc: Bound by Stone, the first book in Joan's new Guardian Isle series was released February 21st. Who doesn't love a sexy Irish hero for St. Paddy's Day?

It's always an exciting day when the annual RITA finalists are announced. Be sure to stop by Thursday, March 26th to find out if your favorite books have made the finals!

Tuesday, March 31st bring back Dish favorite Manda Collins for a Q&A with PJ to celebrate the release of her new book, A Good Rake is Hard to Find. The first book in her new The Lords of Anarchy series, A Good Rake... has been getting some great advance reviews.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review - - The Perfect Homecoming

The Perfect Homecoming
By Julia London
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Despite an inability to speak anything but the unfiltered truth, Emma Tyler has found a niche in the events planning business which she fills so successfully that she has become a vice-president in one of Los Angeles’s top events planning companies. But when a part of her private life that she keeps carefully hidden impinges on her professional life, she resigns and heads for Pine River, Colorado, and Homecoming Ranch, the debt-ridden inheritance her worthless father left her and her two half-sisters. Damaged by a mother whose expectations she could never satisfy and a mostly absent father whose betrayal was a defining moment in her life, Emma arrives in Pine River uncertain why she has come, what she will do there, or how long she will stay, but she finds unexpected purpose and friendship in volunteering to help care for Leo Kendrick, a young man terminally ill with a motor neuron disease. But Emma’s past is not so easily left in California.

Cooper Jessup, partner in a company that provides adventure and extreme sport experiences and occasionally performs other tasks for those who can pay for them, has been hired at an exorbitant sum by a Hollywood power broker to find Emma and reclaim an item of immeasurable value which Emma has stolen. Emma and Cooper have a brief history, having met at a bat mitzvah for a spoiled Hollywood brat, and recognized a kindred spirit in one another. Although Emma, convinced she is unlovable and terrified of being known by a man like Cooper, cuts their conversation short, Cooper cannot forget Emma’s startling beauty or the warm, real woman he met who seems very different from the promiscuous bitch that others describe. Having grown up with an older brother who was a lawbreaker from an early age, Cooper is skilled at detecting lies, and he knows Emma is lying when she denies having the object he is seeking. What he doesn’t know is why she stole it or why she denies having it. Determined to return the stolen object to its rightful owner, he also falls in love with the beauty of Pine River and becomes more and more fascinated with the complicated woman that is Emma Tyler.

Emma has spent a decade trapped in a cycle of increasingly self-destructive behavior. Her self-loathing is so great that she cannot conceive of anyone loving her. She takes her physical beauty for granted, but she sees nothing but ugliness beneath the surface. Only when she can believe in the woman Leo, her sisters, and most of all, Cooper see in her will she be whole enough to give and receive love.

The Perfect Homecoming is the conclusion to London’s Pine River series, a trilogy filled with romance, poignancy, and themes of self-acceptance, redemption, and the triumph of the human spirit. It packs the greatest emotional punch of the three novels, both because Emma is the most damaged and emotionally fragile of the three sisters and because Leo, a scene-stealer throughout the series, plays a larger role in the story even as his personal story draws to its inevitable conclusion. Emma and Cooper separately and together touch—and sometimes break—the reader’s heart. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing more of Maddie and Luke (Homecoming Ranch) and Libby and Sam (Return to Homecoming Ranch), including glimpses of Maddie and Luke’s wedding. But for me, the real star of the series has been Leo. I admire London’s courage in not just including a character with a motor neuron disease in the trilogy but in making him a vital part of the stories with all his bravery, humor, and humanity. She gave romance fiction an unforgettable character.

I highly recommend this novel. It is an intense and moving story on many levels. And if anyone gives an award for the highest hanky epilogue, I think The Perfect Homecoming has it won.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Today's Special - - V.K. Sykes

PJ here. I'm always delighted to host historical romance author Vanessa Kelly and her husband Randy who, together, comprise the contemporary and romantic suspense writing team of V.K. Sykes.  Vanessa and Randy join us today to celebrate the release of Meet Me at the Beach, the first book in their new Seashell Bay contemporary romance series. (Read my review here) You can find more information about V.K. Sykes books at their website and connect with them online at Facebook and Twitter.  You can also find information about Vanessa's historical romances at her website and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter as well.    

Please give them a very warm welcome!

Hi PJ and Andrea! Thanks so much for hosting us today. Actually, I should say hosting me (Vanessa). Randy is very shy when it comes to promo, so he tends to leave that to me. But he’s lurking in the background, and you know how much he loves you ladies!

I’m so pleased to be here today to talk about Seashell Bay, our new small town contemporary romance series from Forever Romance. This series takes place on a little island off the coast of Maine—in Casco Bay, a very real and very lovely place. If you were to look on the map, you would see that the city of Portland sits at the south end, on the mainland, while dozens of islands dot the bay itself. So many, in fact, that they’re called the Calendar Islands because there are supposed to be 365 of them. You could fill up an entire year visiting an island a day. Cool, eh?

Our island, of course, is imaginary but is modeled on the real thing. Meet Me at the Beach, book one in the series, features the little town of Seashell Bay on the island of Seashell Bay. The town and the island are both so small that they’re one and the same. It truly is the kind of place where everyone knows your name, which is both good and bad, right? We love small town romance for that sense of community and intimacy, but it also means that most of your neighbors know your business. And in Seashell Bay, it seems that nobody has a problem weighing in on everybody’s business, either!

Specifically, everyone wants to know what prodigal son Aiden Flynn is going to do. Aiden left the island years ago when he was offered a contract to play major league baseball. And since he was fleeing an abusive father and lots of unhappy memories, he stayed away. But now he’s back in Seashell Bay, and for a very special reason—he and his father and brother own a sizeable and beautiful piece of land. It’s land that a big city developer is interested in acquiring in order to build townhouses and a large resort. Aiden’s father and brother went to sell their holding for quite a bit of money, but they need Aiden’s signature on the contract to do so.

Enter Lily Doyle, a local girl who not only loves Seashell Bay, but also took up her father’s fishing business and now captains a lobster boat. Lily is smart, beautiful, and totally down to earth, and she’s determined to do everything she can to save her lovely island from the big city developer. She and Aiden also have something of a history as each other’s high school crush. To say that Lily and Aiden have sexual chemistry is something of an understatement!

But here’s the thing—they never acted on those feelings because the Flynn and Doyle families hate each other. The two families have been involved in a feud that goes back several generations, and Lily and Aiden just couldn’t get past that hostility when they were young. But now they’re both grown up and Aiden is back in Seashell Bay.

Will they allow their families to keep them apart again, even if they are on opposite sides of the development project? It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but with lobster, beer, sunshine, and an HEA! Personally, Randy and I think Seashell Bay is a wonderful place to visit—we hope you’ll join us there to find out exactly how Lily and Aiden keep their hardheaded families at bay (no pun intended!).

Is there a special place you love to go to for vacation, or do you already live in a special kind of town? Tell us about it for a chance to win a copy of MEET ME AT THE BEACH!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review - - Meet Me at the Beach

Meet Me at the Beach
By V.K. Sykes
Publisher: Grand Central
Release Date: February 24, 2015

First things first. Do not be misled by the cover and title of this book into thinking it's a fluff beach read with a lot of surface fun and no substance. Not that there's anything wrong with a book like that. It's just that this book is so much more. Set on a quaint island off the coast of Maine where lobster fishing is the primary industry and residents are hardy New England folk, this is a rich, meaty, well-written story of choices, second chances, community, dysfunctional family, life cross-roads, lucrative development vs preservation of tradition, forgiveness, compromise and the complexity, heartache, and ultimate joy of love offered and accepted.

Aiden Flynn couldn't leave Seashell Bay fast enough and really, who could blame him? After a life of abuse at the hands of his drunken father, the last thing Aiden wanted was to spend the rest of his life toiling on his family's lobster boat. Aiden loathed lobster fishing. The day after high school graduation, he boarded the ferry and set off to pursue a career in baseball. Over the past 14 years he's only been back on the island once, for his mother's funeral, until now. Released by his team because of his bad knees, the baseball superstar is at a crossroads, refusing to believe his beloved career could be over. The last place he wants to be is on the island but his father and brother want to sell the prime pieces of real estate that were left to the three of them by Aiden's mother to a mainland developer and need Aiden's agreement since he owns the center lot and only with his approval can the sale move forward. He plans to wrap things up quickly and get back to his life. Life has other plans, namely one Lily Doyle, hottest girl on the island, the star of his teenage dreams and one secret, unforgettable night of passion.

Seashell Bay is Lily Doyle's home and lobster fishing is her passion. She's never wanted to live off-island or do anything else but run her own lobster boat. When Aiden Flynn steps off the ferry, Lily knows two things: the rumors of his family selling their prime coastal land must be true and her high school crush on Aiden Flynn is not a thing of the past. The desire between them sizzles just as hot as ever but the multi-generational feud between their families that kept them apart as teenagers hasn't gone away. And the fact that Lily is leading the community fight against developers coming in and changing their way of life just ups the ante. Still, the desire between them still burns strong and neither has married in the time they've been apart. Maybe there's still a chance for them?

When a bet made during a game of darts at the local pub results in Aiden crewing on Lily's boat, his plans to make a hasty exit off the island hit a roadblock. Will their time together on the water remind Aiden of all the reasons he left Seashell Bay or give him new reasons to stick around? Will Lily convince him to stop the sale of the Flynn land or will the needs of Aiden's brother and father send his allegiance in the opposite direction? Will the sparks between Aiden and Lily continue to simmer or will they ignite into an inferno of desire from which - this time - neither will be able to walk away?

I liked both Aiden and Lily a lot and really cheered for them throughout this book. They are vibrant, complex, fully dimensional characters who touched my heart. Their road to a happy ending is littered with obstacles which, for me, makes their arrival at an HEA that they had to fight for all the more satisfying.

V.K. Sykes has created a unique island removed from the chaos of the mainland, accessible only by ferry or private boat and populated it with a community of strong-minded people who work hard, take pride in their heritage and band together to celebrate the good times and get through the bad times as they protect and support each other. And yes, even as they fight, feud and disagree with one another. It's a real community filled with the mix of bad, good and colorful characters that one expects in real life. It's a place I want to visit with people I want to know. I care about these characters. They've touched my heart and I'm now invested in their happiness. I can't wait to catch the ferry over for my next visit to Seashell Bay!


Review - - First Time in Forever

First Time in Forever
By Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Emily Donovan never expected to become guardian of her young niece, and she is terrified of the responsibility. However, she understands that the first order of business is to protect the child from the paparazzi who have haunted her since the accidental death of her high profile actress mother. One of Emily’s closest friends, Brittany Forrest, offers them the use of Castaway Cottage, a small house on Puffin Island in Maine’s Penobscot Bay that Brittany inherited from her grandmother. The good news is that the cottage on the tourist-crowded island is a place Emily remembers fondly from the college summers she spent there with Brittany and their friend Skylar Tempest. And it provides an ideal sanctuary where Emily and six-year-old Lizzy, the celebrity offspring formerly known as Juliet, can grow to know one another and where Emily can decide exactly what the changes in her life (including a job loss and the end of a three-year relationship) mean in the long run. The bad news is that an island is a troublesome choice for Emily who has suffered from a near-paralyzing fear of the ocean since a childhood tragedy changed her life forever.

Ryan Cooper, Puffin Island native and yacht club owner, promises his old friend Brittany that he will keep an eye on Emily, and once he sees her, he finds that no hardship. He is all set to make her the latest in a line of women with whom he has brief and mutually enjoyable relationships, but when he sees Lizzy, he knows Emily is off limits. Ryan was only thirteen when his parents were killed in a winter weather-related accident, and he spent the next five years bearing joint responsibility with his grandmother for his three younger siblings, twins Sam and Helen, four years younger than Ryan, and Rachel, nine years younger. Ryan loves his family, but from the time he escaped Puffin Island to attend college, his only emotional commitment has been to remaining single and responsible only for himself. Four years ago, after an episode that nearly killed him, he left his position as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to return home and become a Puffin Island entrepreneur, but his career change has not changed his mind about marriage and family.

Both Emily and Ryan recognize the power of the sexual chemistry that heats up with each meeting, but they are determined to ignore it, even if the size of Puffin Island and Ryan’s promise to an old friend make it impossible for them to avoid one another.

“He was the sort of man who made most women lose their heads and throw caution away with their underwear.
Emily had never lost her head or her underwear. Relationships were something to be thought through, measured and calculated, like every other important decision in life. She’s never found that difficult. But nor had she ever met anyone who made her feel the way Ryan Cooper did.”

“The fact that she’d put her life on hold for her orphaned niece was laudable, but at the same time put her strictly out of bounds.

Ryan wasn’t looking for that level of complexity or intimacy in his relationships.”

But, of course, the best laid plans of Emily and Ryan go astray. Not only is the physical attraction irresistible, but Ryan feels compelled to help Emily free herself from the fears that cripple her emotionally. Emily finds herself falling for Ryan and the community to which he belongs. And they both love Lizzy and want to ensure that she has a stable, happy life. But is love enough to change the entrenched patterns of these two wounded people and allow them to claim the HEA they deserve?

First Time in Forever is the first book in Sarah Morgan’s new Puffin Island series. Based on this introduction, readers can expect another emotionally rich series with complex, believable characters who are flawed, vulnerable, and conflicted enough to be both interesting and likeable. The histories of Emily and Ryan are explanations rather than excuses for the way they have built their lives. Lizzy’s sweetness and vulnerability are mixed with enough of a typical six-year-old’s stubbornness and attachment to favorite things to make her a real child rather than merely a catalyst for some of the plot points. I was totally engaged with all three characters.

Puffin Island is a wonderful setting, historically and geographically interesting with all the warmth and quirkiness that fans of small-town romance look for in novels. Morgan introduces a sizeable cast of secondary characters to create the sense of an actual community without taking the focus away from the central couple. That’s no small feat. Emily’s friends predictably will be the heroines of the next two books—Some Kind of Wonderful (the story of Brittany Forrest and her ex, former bad-boy and adventurer Zachary Flynn, an August 25 release) and Christmas Ever After (the story of Skylar Tempest and Alec Hunter, a cynical, half-British maritime historian, an October 27 release). But I’m also hoping to see at least secondary plots featuring Rachel, Ryan’s youngest sister, and Lisa Butler, the single mother who owns the ice cream parlor. That is a large part of Morgan’s magic: she pulls the reader into the world she creates and makes her care about all the characters.

If you like the kind of sweet, sexy, small-town stories that make Robyn Carr and Kristan Higgins beloved authors, you should give Sarah Morgan a try. Her first single-title trilogy, last year’s O’Neil brothers, made her an auto-buy author for me. I definitely recommend First Time in Forever.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today's Special - - Christi Barth

Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance. Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband.

Please welcome Christi as she chats with PJ about her new book, All for You.

Hi Christi! It’s a pleasure to welcome you back to TRD to celebrate the release of All for You, the second book in your Shore Secrets series. For readers who aren’t yet familiar with this series, will you please give us an overview? 

Book 2
Thanks for the opportunity to share my disclaimer: this whole series is based on real life. The premise is of a mailbox on a lakeshore where everyone in town anonymously writes their questions and problems - and people respond with their advice. As crazypants as it sounds, the idea came to me after hearing a radio story about a town in North Carolina that actually does this. Wild, huh? So yes, each book contains secrets the hero and heroine keep from each other...but the whole rest of the town finds out. 

All for You was released February 9th.  What should readers expect from this book?

Oh, the usual: romance, sex, laughs, bromance. Oh, you want specifics? There's a park ranger who has been hiding - in plain sight - from the nation for over a decade. Casey wants a summer fling with the hot new college professor. Except...he's more than just a professor. Zane's a world famous cult expert who has been searching for the last survivor of the Sunshine Seekers for his entire career. Can she risk revealing her secret for love? Would Zane choose another guaranteed book and film deal if he learns her true identity - or her heart?

Would you like to share an excerpt from All for You

Bwahahaha - of course!

Zane lifted one finger to cut her off. "Stop."
Sorry, I babble when I'm nervous. And I'm really, really nervous. I don't want to embarrass you.
Or accidentally insult someone."
"Casey, I stared because you look exquisite. You take my breath away."

He reached out, hauled her off her feet into a tight hug and kissed her. Kissed those glossy, luscious pink lips until she moaned and opened them beneath his persistent pressure. They didn't have time, and this sure as hell wasn't the place. Still, Zane slid his tongue inside in an already familiar caress.
Her hand clutched the shirt at the back of his neck. Ordinarily, he would've love this display of her passion. But tonight, with a navy tie already noosed around him, Zane could barely breathe. He wrenched out of the lip-lock. 
"Can't breathe," he gasped.
Casey clapped her hands to her mouth and giggled. Then giggled some more. "Well, you said I took your breath away."
"Very funny." Zane smoothed his tie. "As long as my near-strangulation was for a good cause. Are you still nervous?"
"Not really. But now I have to fix my lipstick before we go inside."
"Are you complaining?"
"Not a bit. Your kisses are worth dozens of re-swipes of lipstick." She snapped open a gold purse not much bigger than his smart phone and pulled out a silver tube. To his surprise, Casey swiped it across her lips without a mirror. Women were miraculous that way. Zane couldn't even put sunscreen on his face without leaving white streaks behind.

Some readers like to use their imaginations to visualize characters in a book while others prefer real-life people.  Who do you use as visual inspiration for your heroes and heroines? 

Book 1
Oooh! I love an excuse to send people to my Pinterest page! I've got one for every book, where you can see not only my H/H inspiration, but also setting and wardrobe pictures. In All For You, the hero is based on Nathan Fillion and the heroine on Amy Smart. Trust me, they make an adorable couple! 

Any couple that includes Nathan Fillion is adorable in my opinion!

According to your website, the third book in the series, Back to Us will be released in June. Are you able to share anything about that book with us? (I have to tell you, this is the one I’m most anticipating!)

You'll get two romances for the price of one, since a couple of secondary characters that maybe/sorta/no spoilers get interested in each other in book 2 get a HEA in book 3. It is no secret that Ward and Piper had a bitter breakup after high school, so you can be sure there will not only be groveling, but some imaginative tactics used to win his way back into her heart!

Dancing with glee over here! I was so hoping the maybe/sorta/no spoilers secondary couple would get their HEA!

Will there be more books for the Seneca Lake folks beyond these three?

Never say never, but at this point in time, I've wrapped everyone up in tulle and engagement rings, so Back To Us is the end. 

Your books always make me smile. To what authors do you turn when you need a feel-good book fix?

I love immersing myself in another world to do that, so I turn to the paranormal: J.R. Ward, Chloe Neill, Nalini Singh, Darynda Jones. Something about impossible-to-resist magical allure always cheers me up.

What else can readers expect from you this year?

Well, please mark your calendars for the summer release of book three, Back To Us!

In the fall I'm releasing The Opposite of Right, the first novella in my Bad Decisions series about hot rockers.

2016 kicks off with the release of Book One in my just-sold Naked Men series (title still to be tweaked, but currently Risking It All). It centers around five men who survived a high school tragedy, how it made them into the men they are today, and of course, the women who complete them.

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

This book - indeed, the entire series - is about secrets. Big ones. Do you keep any secrets from your significant other? (Don't worry - I guarantee they won't read this blog post!)

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's post will receive a Kindle copy of the first two books in Christi's Shore Secrets trilogy, Up to Me and All for You


Monday, February 23, 2015

Review Tour - - The Girls of Mischief Bay

The Girls of Mischief Bay
By Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Nicole Lord, a former dancer turned fitness instructor, owns Mischief in Motion, a Pilates studio in Mischief Bay, California, a small coastal town near Los Angeles. Thirty-year-old Nicole took a big risk opening the studio, but her business is growing. She is justifiably proud of what she has accomplished, and her son Tyler, just turning five, is an even bigger source of joy and pride. Unfortunately, she cannot say the same for her marriage. Six months ago, her husband quit his lucrative job with a software development company to pursue his dream of writing a screen play, presenting his decision to Nicole as a fait accompli. Nicole is trying to control her resentment over his making such a decision without discussing it with her first, but the distance between her and her husband of six years seems to grow greater day by day. Her marriage has lost any real sense of intimacy, physical or emotional, and Nicole finds herself wondering if it can survive. Thank goodness she has a strong support system in her two best friends, women she met when they enrolled in a Pilates class.

Shannon Rigg decided when she was a child that she was going to become a successful, independent woman who had the means to grant her own wishes. At forty, she has succeeded beyond her dreams. As the chief financial officer of a billion-dollar software company, she holds a job that she finds interesting and satisfying. An annual salary in mid-six figures ensures that she can indulge her love of fashion and travel, but her focus on her career has exacted a price on her personal life. Two broken engagements and a current affair that is high on passion but low on emotional connection have her doubting if her hopes of becoming a wife and mother will ever be realized. A new man met through an online dating service seems to be her version of Mr. Perfect, but can he accept the demands her career makes?

Pam Eiland appears to have everything—a devoted husband with a prosperous business, three adult children who are happy, successful, and still eager to spend time with their mom and dad, and strong friendships that enlarge her life—but when her daughter announces that she is pregnant, fifty-year-old Pam is struck with an inescapable awareness of growing older and the changes age is bringing to her body and her psyche. Just as a couples retreat renews the sizzle in her marriage and an appointment for a facelift offers the promise of at least limited rejuvenation, Pam is struck with a blow so devastating that she wonders if recovery is possible, even with the help of family and friends.

Three women at three different stages of life are confronted with major changes in their lives and the necessity of making decisions with far-reaching consequences. They will discover that every challenge life throws at them can be faced with their own resources and a little help from their friends.

With The Girls of Mischief Bay, Susan Mallery returns to women’s fiction with its focus on the personal journeys of women and the friendships that sustain them. Although I am a long-time fan of Mallery’s romance fiction and am eagerly anticipating the four Fool’s Gold stories set for release in 2015, there is something special about her women’s fiction novels with their celebration of the strengths and friendships of the female characters. I particularly liked the fact that in this new story Nicole, Shannon, and Pam are so different from one another.  Mallery shows that these differences—in age, experience, and lifestyle—add dimensions to their relationship. Another quality that made the novel ring true for me is the way Mallery shows the lives of these women overlapping through their friendships while at the same time showing that each woman has a life larger that their close friendships.

Mischief Bay is another Mallery-created town that serves as a warm, credible setting for the story. The characters who inhabit the setting made me laugh and cry and long to give them advice and hugs. If you are a fan of women’s fiction novels that feature characters who evoke affection and sympathy, you should definitely add this one to your list. If you are strictly a romance reader, you should be aware that this book will not give you a traditional HEA for all three characters. If you can live with that, you will find two wonderful beta heroes and strong romantic elements. Susan Mallery is one of my auto-buy authors; The Girls of Mischief Bay joins my extensive collection of Mallery keepers.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Review - - I Loved a Rogue

by Katharine Ashe
Book 3 in the Prince Catchers Series
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 24, 2015

I Loved A Rogue is the story of Eleanor Caulfield and Taliesin Wolfe, and is the final book in Katharine Ashe’s Prince Catchers series. Like all of Ashe's other books, I Loved A Rogue is chock full of passion, intense emotions, mystery, and adventure.  While I always like reading books in a series in order, each book in this series can be read as a standalone, so readers can jump right in with this book if they’d like.

Eleanor Caulfield is the eldest of the three Caulfield sisters, who were orphaned at a young age. According to a gypsy fortune teller, one of the sisters must marry a prince in order to find their true identities and the truth about their parents and their past. Now that her younger sisters Arabella and Ravenna are happily married and settled, it’s Eleanor’s turn to go on her own quest and adventure to seek answers. Seen as the most proper, modest, and reserved of the Caulfield sisters, Eleanor nonetheless has a spirit that thirsts for passion and adventure. Having suffered a serious illness when she was younger, she went through an arduous recovery process that still has people thinking her meek and weak. In reality, she longs to break free of those chains and be the heroine of her own life.

Eleanor is starting to feel stifled by her old life at St. Petroc, especially now that their adopted father, Rev. Caulfield has found a new wife. So, when Arabella offers her the opportunity to travel to Cornwall to search for more clues about their past, she jumps at the opportunity.  However, there is a fly in the ointment in the form of Taliesin Wolfe.  Tali, the man who has teased, infuriated, challenged, tempted her, and wreaked havoc on her heart and emotions since they were children, must accompany her.  The man who abandoned her without a word eleven years ago but still ignites her passions like no ever has, will be by her side whether she likes it or not.  I admired Eleanor’s strength and determination as she found the courage to take charge and be the heroine of her own life.

Taliesin Wolfe has been under Eleanor’s spell since the moment they first met and there has been no other woman for him ever since.  A man raised by a gypsy family, but as educated as any gentleman, thanks to Rev. Caulfield’s tutelage, Tali is a man caught between two worlds, and doesn’t feel like he quite belongs in either.  But one thing has never changed-his love and devotion to Eleanor, and his undying gratitude to the Caulfield family. He will always be there if they need him. So, when tasked with accompanying Eleanor on her quest, he acquiesces even though he knows the temptation of being that close to Eleanor could very well kill him. You could just feel all the underlying tension and passion between him and Eleanor, and it truly was thrilling to see that play out.

Tai and Eleanor truly were a wonderful couple. Ashe does a fantastic job of portraying the intense and conflicting emotions between them, and expertly weaving the threads of what happened in the past, and what’s happening in the present.  They’ve both been hurt by the other and are scared to trust their hearts again, even as they are irresistibly drawn to each other again and again.  The love scenes and passionate moments between them are breathtaking, and Ashe makes you feel every moment of doubt, passion, fear, determination,  love, and pain that erupts between Eleanor and Tali. The moment when they are finally together is made all the sweeter because of all the emotional hurdles they had to overcome.

As Eleanor and Tali embark on the epic journey, the answers slowly unravel. We do indeed find the answers to what happened to Eleanor, Arabella, and Ravenna’s parents. Ashe ties up all the loose ends to that storyline, and in vintage Katharine Ashe style, that story is also rife with passion, drama, danger, and intrigue, in the best way possible. I will give no spoilers as to whether any of the Caulfield sisters married a prince, but I was more than satisfied that Eleanor married her prince, just as her sisters did.

I Loved A Rogue is a great book, and I definitely recommend it for readers who enjoy stories that pack an emotional punch and takes you on a roller coaster ride. There is a great cast of secondary characters, and I truly enjoyed catching up with Arabella and Luc, and Ravenna and Vitor.

I’m also very excited that Katharine Ashe is going back and completing her Falcon Club series. I’m counting down the days until Constance’s story is out.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Janga's Harlequin Reviews

Tempting Donovan Ford
By Jennifer McKenzie
Publisher: Harlequin (Superromance)
Release Date: January 6, 2015

Her mother’s illness was the reason Julia Laurent left Paris to return to Vancouver and fill in for her mother as chef at La Petite Bouchée. With her mother’s death, owning the restaurant where her mother worked for thirty years, the last ten as executive chef, and returning it to its glory days as one of the city’s finest dining facilities becomes a way for Julia to connect with her mother. When the owner sells the restaurant to the Donovan Group, Julia insists on shares as part of her price for remaining.  Donovan Ford is determined that no one outside the Ford family will ever own shares in the business, but he assures Julia that he has no intention of hanging on to La Petite Bouchée and promises her first chance at buying when the Fords sell. 

Donovan is the oldest of the three Ford siblings, and the mantle of authority and responsibility fell on his shoulders when his father had a heart attack that forced him to take a less active role in the family business. A youthful failure decimated Donovan’s trust fund and left him determined to keep control of the family business in Ford hands. He opposed the purchase of La Petite Bouchée because he thinks the family should stick to the wine bars that have made them successful. He is determined to sell the restaurant because he thinks doing so is in the company’s interest and because it will free funds to develop his own dream of expanding into the gastropub market and making a name for himself beyond being his father’s son.

As Julia and Donovan clash and collaborate over the renovations to the restaurant, she finds it more and more difficult to resist the attraction that exists between them from their first meeting. All her determination not to allow her personal and professional lives to become entangled is not enough to maintain her resistance to Donovan’s appeal. She and Donovan prove to be a perfect match as colleagues re-launching a restaurant and as lovers, but just as Julia opens her heart to Donovan and his welcoming family, she discovers that he has been less than fully honest with her. Can anything of her dreams be preserved in light of what she views as betrayal?

McKenzie gives readers two strong, vulnerable characters in this first book in a new series. Even though Julia and Donovan, each in turn, allow fear to keep them from acting, they are likeable characters whose choices readers will understand even if they deplore them. The chemistry between the two is smoking, and detailed world building and a strong cast of secondary characters in Julia’s best friend and Donovan’s family add to the story’s appeal. I would like to have understood more clearly why Donovan was so strongly affected by that early failure. The reader gets hints that never fully explain why the experience is defining for him. Except for this lack, I found the story interesting and the characters engaging. I’m definitely hooked on the Ford family saga and look forward to the books focusing on Owen, the reformed playboy, and Mallory, whose long-term relationship has mysteriously ended.


Sweet Talking Man
By Liz Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Release Date: February 3, 2015

Leif Lively, the new head of the art department at St. George’s Episcopal School and “artist of slight renown,” has most of the women in Magnolia Bend eyeing more than his art. If his Nordic good looks were not sufficient to set him apart from the other inhabitants of the small Louisiana town, his proclivity for discarding clothing, his ukulele strumming, his tai chi moves, and his vegan diet certainly serve to distinguish him from the natives. But Leif has secrets no one suspects. His artist mother once lived in Magnolia Bend briefly, leaving under a cloud of suspicion, and the father Leif has never known still lives there. It is his desire to discover his father’s identity that sends Leif to the small town.

Abigail Beauchamp Orgeron, single mother of twelve-year-old Birdie/Brigitte, is an uptight, straitlaced preacher’s kid who needs to be in control whether she’s maintaining her bed-and breakfast, managing her newly rebellious daughter, or reigning in her own libidinous fantasies concerning a certain Nordic hunk. Ever since her husband left her five years ago to reinvent himself as a California musician with a musician girlfriend who is barely of legal age, Abigail has been holding things together with an iron grip, trusting that observing all the rules will somehow keep her life from falling to pieces.

Reason tells Leif that he should avoid Abigail, but instinct tells him that she needs the touch of fun and naughtiness he can bring into her life. Abigail’s obsession with parameters tells her that Leif never met a boundary he couldn’t cross, but he makes her remember that she’s a woman as well as a mother, a daughter, and a PTA president. When the attraction proves irresistible, the two begin what is supposed to be a friendship with temperature-raising benefits. Neither of them is prepared for the illusions they maintain and the hearts they protect to be shattered in the process.

I love a good opposites-attract story, and this one is a winner. Leif is a free spirit, and Abigail is an organizer who has a label and file for everything. Leif is a rolling stone with no place he calls home, and Abigail has roots generations deep in the soil of Magnolia Bend. Leif is a commitment-phobe with three broken engagements behind him, and Abigail married her hometown beau expecting their marriage to last forever. Leif couldn’t care less what other people think of him, and Abigail is ever conscious of how others perceive her. Two people could hardly be more different, and yet Leif frees Abigail to be the joyful, unfettered woman she was meant to be, and Abigail gives Leif a sense of belonging for which he has searched. If they can survive the storm created by their own lack of trust and another generated by Abigail’s selfish twit of a daughter, they may find happiness beyond anything they expected.

Sweet Talking Man is the second book in Liz Talley’s Home to Magnolia Bend series, following The Sweetest September, John Beauchamp and Shelby Mackey’s story. Talley’s gift for taking standard romance tropes and pushing against restrictions while remaining within the conventions of the romance genre is what first brought her to my attention, and she does it again with enviable skill in this novel. Abigail is like a lot of divorcees who never expected to find themselves forty, parenting alone, and still reeling from the reverse transformation that turned a prince into a frog who hopped to someone else’s lily pad—except  Abigail is not a type. She is an individual with her own history, her own flaws, and her own pain, and she easily wins the reader’s sympathy and affection.

Leif is anything but a typical hero. His blondness makes him rare enough, but an artist hero with hippie roots that survive in his clothing, his diet, and his habits is unique. And he has a sense of humor and comprehends the intimacy of laughter. I adored him and totally understood Abigail’s response to him.

“But even though Leif looked mighty fine in his worn blue jeans and waffle T-shirt that left little to the imagination, Abigail had to remind herself that he was the David Lee Roth of Magnolia Bend. ‘Just a Gigolo.’ ‘The Ice Cream Man.’ A ‘love ‘em’ and ‘leave ‘em’ sort, with his laid-back charm and sexy blue eyes. She had no business wanting to take a lick from Leif’s ice-cream cone.

She needed to remember who she was--a mother, a business owner, a crappy art student. A woman who should leave ice cream well enough alone.”

I also really like Abigail’s family. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that her parents do not conform to the stereotype of minister and wife, and I loved catching glimpses of John and Shelby. I am looking forward to brother Jake’s friends-to-lovers tale which is next in the series. In fact, the only thing that kept this from being a five-star read for me was Birdie, a twelve-year-old brat with no redeeming features that I could see.  I should add that I have close, personal experience with the brattiness of young adolescents, but I have always found them endurable because their obnoxiousness is offset by flashes of sweetness that remind me a loveable kid still lives inside the body of the bewildering stranger. I never saw those flashes in Birdie.

Regardless of that reaction, I recommend Sweet Talking Man. I’m a big Superromance fan, and Talley is one of my favorites. If you have yet to try her, this book is a good place to begin. It can easily be read as a standalone, and it showcases the many strengths of Liz Talley.