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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today's Special - - Maggie Robinson

Photography by Jan Delima

I'm delighted to welcome Maggie Robinson back to the Romance Dish to celebrate another book in her terrific Ladies Unlaced historical romance series.  I've been reading - and enjoying - Maggie's books since her debut but this series, with In the Arms of the Heiress, In the Heart of the Highlander and, now, The Reluctant Governess is my favorite and, I feel, her best work yet.  You can find more information about Maggie and her books at her website and connect with her online at Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Welcome, Maggie and congratulations on the release of The Reluctant Governess!

Thank you for allowing me to share this special release day at the Romance Dish! The Reluctant Governess is the twelfth historical romance I’ve had published! True, I’ve had novellas and a short story in four anthologies, but this makes a dozen full-length novels with my name on the spine, ten as Maggie Robinson and two as Margaret Rowe, my eviler alter-ego.

People always ask me how many books I’ve written, and I never come up with a snappy answer. There are three “under the bed” which will gather dust bunnies for all time because they are basically hideous, the ones waiting for their publication date, and the ones I’m always working on. So, there’s no magic number—but when I realized Governess was officially Number 12 out in the world, I thought that was worth celebrating.

Like most of my books, Nick and Eliza’s story is an opposites-attract trope. Nick is a bohemian artist who’s spent much of his adult life in France and Italy escaping the strictures of his well-to-do Scottish family, and Eliza is the quintessential good girl who works to help support her ailing widowed mother. Nick is wild; Eliza definitely is not. Here’s the back-cover blurb:

A secretary for the renowned Evensong Agency, Eliza Lawrence may have a pretty face, but she’s much prouder of her mind and her morals. When she’s pressed into temporary governess duty as a favor to her boss, she doesn’t expect to bend one bit for the rakish Nicholas Raeburn. Not even when he opens the door to her half-dressed…

Despite his bad reputation, Nicholas is a man of honor. To Nick’s way of thinking, he doesn’t need any help raising his daughter, Domenica. If only he weren’t so drawn to the meddlesome woman’s sparkling wit and uncommon beauty...

But when an act of misplaced chivalry goes seriously awry, resulting in mayhem and almost murder, Eliza becomes the only woman he can depend upon. Nick will do anything to protect his family, but who will protect him from falling in love with his reluctant governess?

Loosening up prim Eliza and straightening up naughty Nick was so much fun. The whole first chapter can be read here on my website: http://www.maggierobinson.net/books/the-reluctant-governess/

To celebrate “the dirty dozen” and “lucky thirteen” next month, I’m giving away a Kindle Fire HD to one newsletter subscriber, plus other assorted prizes to three other subscribers. You can subscribe here: 
and then enter the contest here: www.maggierobinson.net/contest 

Good luck!

Today’s prize for Romance Dish readers: a signed copy of In the Heart of the Highlander (or any book from my backlist), where Eliza makes her first appearance on the page. Just leave a comment below and tell me what dozen things you’d love to have delivered to your house. Eggs? Donuts? Men in kilts? ;)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review - - Swan Point

Swan Point
By Sherryl Woods
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Adelia Hernandez is recently divorced from her faithless husband and is beginning to make a new life for herself and her four children, ages eight to thirteen. Some members of her traditional Catholic family may still be unhappy with her decision to end her marriage, but Adelia knows she made the right choice. She has moved into a new home in Swan Point, an older area of her hometown, and her boss, Raylene Rollins, is so pleased with Adelia’s contributions at Chic, a clothing boutique, that she promotes her to manager. Raylene even talks to Adelia about a partnership. After years with a husband who did nothing but find fault with her, Adelia basks in praise for a job well done and her belief in her ability to insure that her children are healthy and happy grows stronger. She’s not even thinking about a romantic relationship, at least not until she meets Gabe Franklin.

Gabe Franklin grew up in Serenity, a rebel with a chip on his shoulder, ashamed and defensive about his mother whose drinking and promiscuity made her a ready target for town gossip. He left town soon after his mother’s death, but he has returned determined to show the town that he is no longer the angry troublemaker he was. He’s grateful to have a job as second in command in the construction company belonging to his cousin but he’s not certain he’s in Serenity for the long term. He is certain, however, that he is not the man for permanent relationships. His attraction to Adelia Hernandez may be strong, but he respects her concern about her children. They all deserve better than another man who will move in and out of their lives. 

Adelia and Gabe have to fight not only their own attraction to one another, but also all the well-intentioned friends who encourage the match. Even Adelia’s kids are soon won over by Gabe. On the other side are some members of Adelia’s family and her slimeball ex-husband. But the greatest obstacle the two have to overcome on their way to an HEA is Gabe’s own uncertainty that he can ever be husband and father material.

The eleventh book in Woods’s popular Sweet Magnolias series, Swan Point is a sweet romance heavy on small-town interactions and very light on sensuality. Although this book is not an inspirational, it is essentially a kisses-only romance. Readers of the series will be familiar with Adelia’s backstory and will be pleased to see her gaining self-esteem and taking definite steps toward creating a new life after her divorce. Gabe is appealing as a man who wants to change the reputation he acquired in his misspent youth and as one who still bears scars from his past. Some readers will find that his interactions with Adelia’s children add to his appeal. When Adelia’s teenage daughter circulates a photo of Gabe in tiara and boa at a tea party with her younger sisters, his reputation as a good guy is pretty much sealed.

Doubtless Sweet Magnolia fans will be delighted to see many characters from earlier novels in the series playing minor roles in this one. I think that reactions to this latest in the long-running series will be determined by the level of devotion to this author generally and to other books she has set in Serenity, South Carolina. While I have enjoyed some books in the series, I found this one a too-predictable read, and for me the moments of genuine sweetness were not enough to overcome a setting that is weak in Southern flavor and a real sense of Adelia’s culture. If you like sweet small-town romances and have never read Woods, I recommend you start with the early books in this series or in her Chesapeake Shores series to see her at her best.  


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review - - Mr. Right Goes Wrong

Mr. Right Goes Wrong
By Pamela Morsi
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Mazy Gulliver has a long history of falling for losers. In high school the loser was Tad Driscoll, wealthy, good-looking Mr. Everything who denied paternity when Mazy became pregnant, leaving her to bring up her son, Tru (now fourteen), on her own. But even for Mazy, her most recent bad judgment was a doozy. She covered for a crooked CEO and ended up not only losing everything but also being charged with conspiracy, serving four hundred hours of community service, and owing $15,000 in restitution. But that devastating experience and some understanding of her behavior acquired through therapy have left Mazy determined to break the pattern.  With that intention, she returns to her hometown and demands that her ex Tad Driscoll give her a job. He does; he employs her as a loan collector. It’s not a job likely to endear Mazy to the citizens of Brandt Mountain, North Carolina; nevertheless, it provides an income. Mazy sets out to create a new life for herself and her son.

Eli Latham can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t in love with Mazy Gulliver, but since he was a year younger and the boy next door, she never really took him seriously. Even though he twice served as her rebound lover, Mazy still thought of him only as a good friend. Eli was too nice to be her type. Despite their history, Eli is happy that Mazy is back in town. His family cautions him that crazy Mazy will just break his heart again, but this time Eli is going to see that one nice guy finishes first, even if he has to jettison his nice-guy ways in order to give Mazy the man he thinks she wants. “How tough was it to be a hard-ass? Some of the stupidest guys he knew managed it nearly every day of their life.

In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, Morsi gives readers two imperfect characters. Mazy is a smart, independent woman who loves her son, but she has made deeply flawed choices in romantic partners. Eli is a genuinely nice guy—kind, loyal, and hard-working, but he is almost too much of a good thing. And his decision to turn himself into a five-star jerk with the help of the Internet is cringe-evoking. Of course, there is humor in the irony of Eli’s transformation occurring at the very moment Mazy begins to see him clearly and appreciate his sterling qualities, but I found parts of this novel difficult reading. Eli enjoys his bad-boy behavior too much at times, and Mazy is too long-suffering. The emotional payoff is large, and I ultimately decided it was worth the uncomfortable moments. However, I’m not sure how many other readers will agree with me.

The one character I adored without equivocation is Tru. He is the kind of caring, mature teenager that I know from having spent decades teaching the age group really does exist. The following exchange is just one of the reasons I love Tru:

“I can do the time,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. Just watch your own self. Don’t hook up with another jerk.”
“I’m done with that,” Mazy promised.
Tru shook his head in a way that was far too world-weary for his age. “Mom, there is always going to be someone. I get it. For you, being alone is always going to be just a lull between…adventures.  I’m okay with it.”
“Oh, Tru, I really hate that I’m like that.”
“I don’t,” he said. “You’re really good when you’re in love. You’re happy and carefree and well…fun. You deserve some fun, Mom. But please, no more thieves, cheaters, megalomaniacs or assholes.”

I’ve been reading—and re-reading—Morsi for more than twenty years, and I count some of her historicals and some of her contemporary romance/women’s fiction hybrids among my all-time favorite books. Mr. Right Goes Wrong won’t join these cherished keepers, but Morsi, even when she’s not at her best, has the ability to strip away surfaces and show characters in all their complexity, foolishness, strength, pain, general human messiness, and capacity for love. She does so again in this novel, and that makes it worth reading.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review - - No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached
By Susan Andersen
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: July 29, 2014

Seven years ago, twenty-two-year-old Tasha Riordan was on a rare vacation in the Bahamas when, the day before she was scheduled to fly back home to Razor Bay, Washington, she met Diego, a hunk hot enough to melt any reservations the usually pragmatic Tasha may have had about a fling with a guy whose last name is unknown to her. Their one night together was so spectacular that Tasha agrees when Diego asks her to stay so that they can have one more night together. But Diego leaves for a meeting with his boss and never returns. Instead the police show up, and when a search of the room reveals illegal drugs, Tasha spends two nights in a Bahamian jail. The experience rates among the worst of Tasha’s life and leaves her wary of good-looking men who make promises. When Tasha arrives late at a farewell party for the mother of her friend Harper Summerville, she gets the second greatest shock of her life: Diego is one of the party guests.

DEA agent Luc Bradshaw is in Razor Bay to meet his two half-brothers, Jake and Max. He can’t believe his eyes when Tasha walks in. He has never forgotten their time together, and he is perplexed when she responds to his smile with a drop-dead look and makes an excuse to leave the party. Although he tells her that he was deep undercover on a DEA assignment and was rushed off the island by his superiors who had reason to believe his life was in danger and explains that he never knew about her arrest, Tasha refuses to believe him. What’s a guy to do when the woman who has haunted him for years persists in believing he is a rat bastard who ranks lower than a worm’s eyelashes?

Between Luc’s having sublet an apartment that Tasha owns and the fact that he is spending as much time as possible with his brothers, who are spending as much time as possible with their significant others, Tasha’s best friends Jenny Salazar and Harper Summerville, Tasha cannot avoid Luc. It doesn’t help that her attraction to him is undiminished. Luc may be irresistible, but Tasha will do everything she can to see that this time she does not lose her head or her heart.

One of the reasons I’m a huge fan of romance fiction is that I am interested in relationship stories, and I count on Susan Andersen to give me a story that satisfies that interest. In No Strings Attached, Andersen gives her readers a look at many relationships in addition to the central romantic relationship. There are the relationships among the three Bradshaw brothers; the friendship Tasha shares with Jenny, her best friend since high school, and, to a lesser degree, with Harper; and Tasha’s relationship with her employees at Bella T’s. All of these add to the reader’s engagement with the story, and the romance has more substance and credibility because Tasha and Luc have all these other connections in their lives. Also, Andersen always provides plenty of sizzle for readers who want heat with their romances.

I confess that I grew irritated with Tasha’s stubbornness. Her anger over the past is understandable, and certainly jail time would have been traumatic for a young and inexperienced girl. But her refusal to accept evidence and her vacillation about her feelings for Luc grew tedious. It is this factor that kept me from enjoying the third Razor Bay novel as much as I enjoyed That Thing Called Love and Some Like It Hot. However, this flaw was not enough to prevent my appreciation of the book overall.

Fans of small-town romance with rich contexts and interesting characters should like No Strings Attached. Andersen provides enough details about the characters for the book to be read as a standalone, although I recommend that you read all three books for a more rewarding reading experience.  If you have never read Susan Andersen, I also recommend Baby, Don’t Go (2000), one of her best books that was reissued this past spring.


Lenora Bell Winner

Many thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday to welcome 
Golden Heart winner Lenora Bell and share your dreams with us.  
The randomly chosen winner of Lenora's terrific Bolivian gift assortment is:

Crystal C

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

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Jesse Hayworth Winner

The winner of a backlist title of your choice by Jesse Hayworth is:


Congrats, Deb! 
 Please send your full name, mailing address and title of the book you would like to us at:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, August 15, 2014

Today's Special - - Lenora Bell

PJ here.  Remember how I mentioned in a recent RWA blog about how you meet the nicest people in the hotel bar at romance conferences? Today, it's my pleasure to introduce to you a lovely woman I met when I stopped to chat with Tessa Dare in the hotel bar at July's RWA National Conference in San Antonio.  She's smart, engaging, an accomplished writer and this year's Golden Heart® Award winner for historical romance. And she has great taste in shoes!  As her official bio says:

Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines.  
Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage store owner, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt.

Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, cranky twenty-one-year-old cat, and precarious piles of books.

Connect with Lenora online at Facebook, Twitter and her Blog.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can welcome her here as a published author. Today, I've asked her to share with us her writing journey to this point.  Please give a warm welcome to 2014 Golden Heart® Award winning writer, Lenora Bell!  


What do you dream about in the dark? When your mind roams free from the day’s tether, and you can be anything, do anything?

I dream about my name curving over chiseled abs or flowing satin on the cover of a historical romance novel.

I’ve scribbled romance plots on cocktail napkins and grocery receipts the world over. Australia, France, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Bolivia. The constant in my shifting world is this crazy dream. Someday. Someday my books will be on the shelves in my tiny Alaskan hometown library.

There’s not much to do except read during those long, dark Alaskan winters. I fell in love with Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Luisa May Alcott, Virginia Woolf, Anaïs Nin. But it wasn’t until 2005 that I read my first mainstream romance novel, Eloisa James’ Potent Pleasures. I devoured it in one night and I was hooked. 

I immediately started writing my own historical romance. I pounded out three hundred pages...of complete drivel. Seriously. She was a squeaky-clean missionary’s daughter dragged into the seamy underworld of 1890’s Shanghai by a bad boy opium trader. Unfortunately, the star-crossed lovers didn’t meet until page 60. And there was not even a hint of romance until page 100.

The next year I entered the Avon Fan Lit online writing contest and met Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan and a group of other supportive writers who were passionate about romance. We became friends and critique partners. I’ve followed their supernova careers with so much happiness and pride, celebrating each new success and adoring every book. Have you read Courtney’s latest, The Suffragette Scandal? Talk about the perfect combination of smart and sexy. She blows me away every time.

I left romance writing to pursue a master’s degree and start a new career that took me overseas. But every now and then, Courtney or Tessa would ask me when I was going to start writing romance again. It’s because of their gentle nudges, encouragement, and inspiration that I finally worked up the courage to enter a book in RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

I thought of the title CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY before I started writing. It popped into my mind while I was thumbing through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I thought, hmm…this is kind of like a romance novel plot--a rich, successful, powerful guy who needs an heir to his empire. What if I wrote a novel about a duke who invites a group of ladies to his estate to compete for his title? Sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Bachelor. It felt right.
Later, while my husband was cheering on his Green Bay Packers, I started writing romance again. Clay Matthews’ biceps might have had something to do with it. Anyway, that was the start of what became my Golden Heart winning manuscript.

When I found out I was a finalist, I didn’t think I’d be able to go to the conference in Texas because I was working in Bolivia. But then one of my best friends planned her wedding in Alaska the week before the conference. So I could justify the trip because of the wedding. Romance all around! I went to my favorite Brazilian shoe store and found a pair of red sparkly golden heart shoes that turned out to be my good luck charm, and a great conversation starter in the elevators.

I was utterly shocked when my face appeared on the screen at the awards ceremony. I had honestly never considered winning. I thought there were too many talented writers in my category. You can see from the photos that I have that lemur-caught-on-camera look. I was stunned, saucer-eyed, overwhelmed. 

RWA’s Golden Heart contest is an unmatched opportunity for unpublished romance writers. Nothing can guarantee you success in the romance business, but the Golden Heart final helps ensure that your pitch is heard by agents and your manuscript floats to the top of slush piles. It’s a big part of the reason I connected with my amazing agent, Alexandra Machinist with ICM Partners.
Wait, what? I have an agent? I still can’t believe this is my life right now. 
I am one step closer to my dream.
And that’s really all you can do. Open your heart to inspiration. Surround yourself with support and love. Solder words into sentences, and then fuse those sentences into pages.
Put one foot in front of the other.
And keep dreaming.

So, what’s your secret or not-so-secret dream?

Have you ever found the absolute perfect pair of shoes for an occasion and loved them so much it was almost kind of weird?

How much do you adore Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare? I know, right? Other favorite historical authors?

I’ve created a little Bolivian gift basket that I’d love to share with a randomly chosen commenter. It includes a box of yummy organic Bolivian chocolates, a cute fuzzy llama, a colorful woven basket, and a small purse made from Bolivian fabric and leather. (open internationally)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review - - I Adored a Lord

I Adored a Lord
By Katharine Ashe
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 29, 2014

As a small child in a home for foundlings, Ravenna Caulfield learned to escape from the bullies who tormented her. Once she and her two sisters were adopted by a vicar, she still put the skill into practice, leaving the usual pursuits of female children to tag after the groom and learn what he knew about treating ill horses, to follow the gypsy boy hired by the vicar to learn the healing art he could teach her, and later to watch the doctor treating her oldest sister, adding all he could teach her to her store of knowledge. At sixteen, she and Beast, the big, black dog who had been her inseparable companion from her eighth birthday, left home to join the household of Sir Beverley Clark as caretaker for the three wolfhounds, nine pugs, and assorted macaws and parrots that belonged to him and his friend Mr. Pettigrew. For six years, she was happy, caring for the menagerie, learning all she could from the coachman, and being cossetted by the two men she fondly called “the nannies.” Then everything changed. First, Ravenna’s sister Arabella married Luc Westfall, Duke of Lycombe (I Married the Duke), and some people felt Ravenna’s employment was unsuitable for a member of a duke’s family. Then, Beast died. Arabella arranged for Sir Beverley and Mr. Pettigrew to escort Ravenna to a house party held at Chateau Chevriot, a remote castle in the mountains of France, where Prince Sebatiao of Portugal has gathered a bevy of marriageable ladies from whom he is expected to choose a bride.

Arabella is concerned about Ravenna’s isolation in grief over Beast, but the duchess has not forgotten the gypsy’s prophesy that only when one of the Caulfield sisters marries a prince will they know their origin. Maybe this is their chance for a Caulfield to captivate a prince. Ravenna is uninterested in princes or in marrying. She is not happy to be among Prince Sebatiao’s guests, but she's trapped for the duration of the gathering.

Lord Vitor Courtenay is no happier than Ravenna to be at Chateau Chevriot. A veteran of war and betrayal, he has spent two years in a monastery in search of healing and peace and had just decided he was not intended for a monk’s life when he was pressured to join the house party and make sure his half-brother, the spoiled young prince, chooses a bride--an eligible one. Vitor is not expecting to enjoy his stay, but he is accustomed to doing what he perceives as his duty. He is no stranger to danger; still, he is unprepared for the spitfire who attacks him with a pitchfork in a dark stable or for the unforgettable kiss they share. He’s even less prepared for a dead body in a suit of armor or for the spitfire who insists on being part of the murder investigation that is ineptly handled by local authorities. Ravenna may be no match for the prince, but she may be the perfect match for the brother who is not looking for a bride.

I Adored a Lord, the second book in Ashe’s Prince Catcher series, is part romance and part mystery in the vein of the British country house mysteries of the golden age of that genre when authors such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy B. Sayers, Georgette Heyer, and Margery Allingham were turning out classic tales. With more than twenty suspects snowed in at the chateau where an uninvited guest lies murdered, a dog worth more than the ostentatious jewels worn by some of the guests has been kidnapped, and mayhem accompanies various matches and mismatches, Ashe’s novel is a worthy successor to those tales. Ashe herself has compared the story to a game of Clue, and I promise reading it is as much fun as a lively game of guessing Professor Plum in the library with the knife or Miss Scarlet in the billiard room with the candlestick. 

The unquenchable Ravenna is smart, independent, and stubborn. The restless Vitor is handsome, honorable, and driven. I found them both to be interesting, likeable characters, and watching the advance and retreat of their relationship is a delight. The banter sparkles, the wit amuses, and the mystery sufficiently challenges.  A large secondary cast, drawn with a deft hand, adds to the fun. I am always charmed by authors who have the ability to capture the essence of a character in a few words, and Ashe proves her skill at this in such sentences as this description of Prince Sebatiao: “He was a boy of tender conscience in the skin of a spoiled prince, unstable at worst and too greatly indulged at best.” At levels large and small, this book works wonderfully.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, but I think the second is even better. If you like your romance with a shade of difference, a generous serving of mystery, and a blend of tenderness and sizzle, I highly recommend I Adored a Lord.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Today's Special - - Catherine Bybee Blog Tour

The Weekday Bride Series, Book Five
Montlake Romance, Contemporary
August 12, 2014, First Edition
Paperback & Kindle

College graduate Judy stands ready to conquer the world…if she can find a job. Hoping to transition from aspiring architect to famous architect as quickly as possible, the dark-haired beauty moves to LA, staying in the home of her celebrity brother, Michael Wolfe. But it’s hard for Judy to focus on work when the sexy bodyguard she fell for last summer keeps showing up in her life and leaving her breathless.

With his hard body, green eyes, and easy smile, Rick could have any woman he wants. But the Marine-turned-bodyguard only has eyes for Judy and her spitfire attitude. When a faceless villain attacks Judy, Rick will stop at nothing to protect the woman who opened his heart from the monster hunting her.

You know how you sometimes hear great things about a new author but you just don't have time to sit down and read their books?  That was the case with me and Catherine Bybee's Weekday Brides series.  Based on what I had heard, when I started Taken by Tuesday, I anticipated a good read.  I didn't realize that Bybee would reel me in with clever dialogue and witty banter then seal the deal with edge-of-my-seat suspense, holding me in thrall until the final breath-stealing scene.  

A fascinating blend of contemporary romance and romantic suspense with a bit of a chick lit flavor, Taken by Tuesday is a fast-paced story, filled with interesting, multi-dimensional characters and one very scary stalker.  Rick and Judy are so realistically drawn that if I stopped by their favorite bar I'd fully expect to see them flirting across the pool table.  The sexual tension between them is palpable but so is the sweetness and the tentative nature of their new-found feelings.  The secondary cast of characters - primarily, Judy's family and best friend, Meg - only add flavor to this delicious story.  I do hope we see more of Meg in a future book! 

While Taken by Tuesday stands on its own, the presence of characters from previous books and references to their stories may entice you to read this series in order.  I was so intrigued by Judy's family, and entranced by Bybee's writing, that I downloaded the first four books in the Weekday Brides series the minute I finished reading Rick and Judy's story...at 2:00 am in the morning.  

If you haven't yet tried Bybee's Weekday Brides series, what are you waiting for?  (the e-books are currently on sale!) The series books, in order, are:  Wife by Wednesday, Married by Monday, Fiance by Friday, Single by Saturday and Taken by Tuesday.  


Do you enjoy a bit of suspense in your contemporary romances?

Are you a reader who needs to read a series in order?  

Have you read Catherine Bybee's books yet?  Do you have a favorite?

Is there an author you've been meaning to try?  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review - - The Suffragette Scandal

The Suffragette Scandal
The Brothers Sinister Series-Book 4
By Courtney Milan
Release Date: July 15, 2014

I have been looking forward to The Suffragette Scandal ever since the heroine, Frederica “Free” Marshall, made her first appearance in The Heiress Effect. She was bold, fearless, unstoppable, and a total scene stealer. In the ten years since The Heiress Effect, we see that Free has indeed taken the world by storm, just as she promised she would. She is the editor and founder of the Woman’s Free Press, a newspaper for women, by women, that advocates for suffrage and equality for women. Naturally, given the radical stances she takes, Free has made many enemies, especially among the privileged and entrenched elite. When outside forces threaten everything she holds dear, including those closest to her, she realizes she needs help, perhaps from someone who doesn’t play by the rules.

Enter Edward Clark. From the beginning, we see that while his interests might align with Free’s, he has an agenda, and is not all he claims to be. He has a score to settle with his family, and sees teaming up with Free as a two-birds-with-one-stone win-win scenario. However, underneath his jaded and cynical exterior, Edward is a good man, even though he believes himself beyond redemption and hope because of the dark deeds in his past. Edward’s journey towards making peace with his past, and accepting the love and understanding of those who matter most to him, is one of my favorite parts of the book.

I loved the relationship between Edward and Free. There is witty banter, sexy escapades, and rampant chemistry. Sparks flew from the moment they met. I appreciated that from the beginning, Edward saw Free for who she was-a force to be reckoned with who was more than capable of holding her own, and his equal in intellect, daring, and in every way that matters. In fact, it is because of these qualities, not despite them, that Edward is so drawn to her. Edward may want to protect Free from harm and shield her, but he never once looks down on her, or puts her on a pedestal as some sort of pure womanly paragon of grace and virtue. He sees her and understands her as she is, which is wonderful. What I love about Milan’s books is how she takes two characters with flaws and baggage, and shows how they’re imperfectly perfect for each other.

As for Free, I really enjoyed the inherent contradictions in her character that Milan so expertly lays out for us. Yes, she is fierce and in many ways a hardened realist. Free experiences first hand the horrible treatment women who “don’t know their place” suffer.  I admire her strength, determination, ambition, and drive tremendously. But she, like anyone else, has moments of doubt, insecurity, and vulnerability. In other words, she’s HUMAN. The scene when she goes to see the Duke Clermont is one of my favorites for that very reason. However, at the end of the day, Free is a romantic and idealist. She believes in making the world a better place, and that every voice matters. She dreams of a world where women are treated equally and with respect, and does her part to make that happen, even when it feels like she’s emptying the Thames with a thimble. Imagine that.

I also must give kudos to Milan for the meticulous research she did in regards to the suffrage movement in England. This book is a wonderful tribute to our foremothers and all of the hard work they did to fight for suffrage and equality. Sadly, the rights they shed blood, sweat, and tears to gain are too often taken for granted today. Milan rightly honors their contributions and reminds us that while we have come a long way, we should always remember those who came before us and continue the work they did, even when it seems endless and insurmountable.

The Suffragette Scandal also features a lovely secondary romance for Lady Amanda Ellisford. Amanda, Violet’s niece from The Countess Conspiracy, finds love even though she never expected to. I also loved catching up with the previous couples in the series, especially the scene in the archive room at the end.

I will close by saying I absolutely loved The Suffragette Scandal, and can’t recommend it highly enough. Courtney Milan has written another winner. The writing is superb, the plot and characters engrossing, and romance is as touching, unique, and fun.  Next up is Talk Sweetly To Me, featuring Stephen Shaughnessy (who we meet in this book), and Rose Sweetly. I, for one, can’t wait! I’m also going to include this picture. (Read the book-it’ll make sense then, promise!)


Monday, August 11, 2014

Today's Special - - Jesse Hayworth

Today, we have not one but two of my favorite authors in the spotlight.  Jesse Hayworth, author of the heartwarming Mustang Ridge contemporary romance series will be interviewed by her good friend, Nancy Northcott. Nancy is the author of the action-packed, fantasy romance The Light Mage Wars series.  I highly recommend both series!  Take it away, Jesse and Nancy! ~PJ

Nancy: Our guest today is national bestselling author Jesse Hayworth.  She’ll chat with us about her new release, Harvest at Mustang Ridge and about the various series she’s written.

Welcome, Jesse! What drew you to writing fiction?

Jesse: I’d say it was a quarter-life crisis, really. I was finishing up my PhD in Genetics and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, either with my career or my love life. So I asked myself “What if?” What if I could do anything next? What if I didn’t stay in science? What if my fiancé was out of the picture? Somehow all those what ifs turned into a story about a woman who, after her researcher fiancé’s suspicious death, quits science and retreats to her aunt’s horse farm to grieve.

Of course, there is the mystery of her fiancé’s death to solve, a romance with a hunky photographer who is also caught up in the danger, a cute little kid, ponies, horses, family … in the end, I had almost a thousand manuscript pages with two main plots, a gazillion subplots and five different endings. And I had so much fun with it! More than I was having in the lab, really, and after I took a step back and looked at what the story was telling me, I made a big leap of faith. I finished my degree, left the lab, and worked at a barn for several years until I finally sold a book to Harlequin.

Part of me wants to say that, hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have made some changes back then in the fiancé department, too. But, really, all of the experiences I’ve had along the way prepped me to be in the right place at the right time to meet and marry my wonderful husband, Arizona, a few years ago. (We both agree we weren’t ready for each other in our twenties or early thirties.) These days, I write full time, edit scientific articles on a freelance basis, and always put down what I’m doing and give hubby my full attention when he walks into the room.

Nancy: Please tell us about the Mustang Ridge series.

Jesse: Mustang Ridge Ranch is located in beautiful northern Wyoming, where the mountains hunker in the near distance and the wild mustangs roam. The ranch has been in the Skye family for more than two centuries, and for most of that time, it’s been a top-notch cattle station. But the times they are a changing. Six or so years ago, fresh-out-of-college Krista Skye went up against her grandfather, Big Skye, and swung the family vote to transform the cattle ranch to a high-end dude ranch that offers guided trail rides, roundups, Gran’s down-home country cooking, and a whole lot of hunky cowboys to round out the package. And with Krista, her twin sister Jenny, and a whole lot of single ranch employees and guests coming and going, there’s no shortage of potential for romance!

The series leads off with Summer at Mustang Ridge, Winter at Mustang Ridge and Harvest at Mustang Ridge, with more coming in 2015.

Nancy: Horses play a huge role in the Mustang Ridge books.  What’s the best thing about horses to you and how does that influence these books?

Jesse: Growing up, I always felt like an outsider—geeky, awkward, off and on chubby, and always liking the wrong stuff and wearing the wrong clothes—except where it came to horses. Sure, I couldn’t afford my own horse for a long time, and even when I could, I didn’t have the newest equipment or the trendiest clothes, and I didn’t go to the biggest shows. But that’s people stuff. Horses don’t care what brand name is on their tack as long as it’s comfortable, and they don’t care what their humans are wearing. They care that you’re gentle and fair, that the same command always means the same thing, and that good behavior gets rewarded.

That’s an important facet of Mustang Ridge, in fact. From Summer at Mustang Ridge, when a child finds her voice again with the help of a slow-to-develop foal, to the new Harvest at Mustang Ridge, when a wild mustang teaches Krista and Wyatt a few things about being good to each other, horses are woven into the fabric of the dude ranch experience and the love stories that flourish under the wide-open sky.

Nancy: Who are the hero and heroine of your new release, Harvest at Mustang Ridge, and what’s their story about?

Jesse:  Harvest reunites the ranch’s mastermind, Krista Skye, with the college boyfriend who broke her heart eight years ago. Sure, it’s water under the bridge, but are they really ready to team up to train a wild mustang for a prestigious ride-off? Krista might tell herself that off-the-charts chemistry isn’t enough to make a relationship work, but when she gets to know Wyatt again after all these years, the lines blur, sparks fly, and all bets are off…

Nancy: Will you be doing any more of Mustang Ridge in the near future?

Jesse: Absolutely! Firelight at Mustang Ridge will be available next February, with Another Fyne Thing (a Mustang Ridge e-novella) following in late spring, and Coming Home to Mustang Ridge (tentative title) releasing in the summer!

Nancy: In addition to working with horses, you have a science background.  How have you drawn on that in your writing?

Jesse: Yes, ma’am! I wrote more than twenty-five romantic suspenses for Harlequin Intrigue, most of which are either set at my fictional Boston General Hospital (seriously, I don’t know why anyone would ever go there, what with all the nefarious plots and steamy rendezvouses going on!) or involve the forensic side of police work, especially DNA analysis. I’m excited to get back to that soon (more on that later!).

Nancy: Your first series, The Nightkeepers, was Mayan-themed paranormal romance written under the name Jessica Andersen.  What drew you to that type of story?

Jesse: Pure and unadulterated geekdom. LOL. I love ancient civilizations, mythology, archaeology, anthropology, and any other –ology that talks about old stuff, new stuff, the collective unconscious and how they all fit together. I also love hot romances and action-adventure stories, so when I stumbled on an article about a Mayan-prophesied apocalypse, I was all, “Indiana Jones stuff, sorcery, paranormal romance and ancient Mexican pyramids, oh, my!” Eight books and a novella later, and I still adore the Nightkeepers and their world.

Nancy: Do you currently plan to write any more Nightkeepers adventures?

Jesse: I’ve toyed with the idea. I think it would be cool to revisit the Nightkeepers and see how their lives have changed since they averted the apocalypse and sealed the barrier between the earth and underworld, seriously altering their magical powers. But at the same time, I feel like the series came to its natural conclusion, and I have a great deal of respect for storytellers who stop before the audience loses interest (new Battlestar Galactica, anyone?). So I can’t say for sure if there will be more Nightkeeper books. I can, however, promise that there will be some new Jessica Andersen medical romantic suspenses soon, though! Look for the first two or three books in the tentatively titled Outbreak Incorporated series sometime next year!

For more about Jesse, you can check out her website: www.jessehayworth.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/docjess. You can also connect with her on Twitter, where she’s @JesseHayworth.

Jesse and Nancy, thank you so much for a terrific interview! We appreciate you both taking time from your busy schedules to visit The Romance Dish today.

Readers, what if you didn't stay in your current profession/situation? What if you had the opportunity to do anything you wanted? What would you do next? 

One randomly chosen commenter will receive the signed backlist Jesse Hayworth book of her choice J.