Monday, July 25, 2016

Blog Tour Review - - The Daredevil Snared


The Daredevil Snared
The Adventurers Quartet - Book 3
By Stephanie Laurens
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: June 28, 2016







Although he captains his own ship, as the youngest of four sons, Caleb Frobisher is still considered the reckless baby of the family by his older brothers and, as such, has been excluded from the more dangerous assignments taken on by his family in support of the Crown. Caleb is determined to prove that he has the skill and maturity to handle any mission on the table. The third leg of the government's covert plan to shut down an illegal diamond mine in Africa and rescue the kidnapped men, women, and children who have been forced into slave labor there should suit his purposes perfectly.

Traveling from England to Africa, Katherine Fortescue has settled into her new role as governess for a Freetown family when she disappears. Kidnapped by mercenaries and taken deep into the jungle, Katherine is held prisoner along with other men, women, and children who are forced to work a secret diamond mine. Katherine's role, along with cleaning and sorting diamonds, is to oversee the children of the camp and keep them in line. Outwardly, she appears to have accepted her captivity but underneath that calm exterior flows a deep determination to find a way out...for all of them. When the mercenary in charge agrees to allow Katherine to accompany a young boy outside the camp to gather nuts she encounters Caleb and members of his crew who have been secretly observing the camp.

Caleb's orders are to locate the mine then return to England where the fourth segment of the Crown's plan - a rescue - will be put into effect. Katherine and her fellow prisoners are determined to stay alive long enough to see that plan happen. Unfortunately, the sadistic mercenary running the camp is determined to see both of their plans derailed.

The Daredevil Snared is a much slower-paced novel than the one that precedes it though no less necessary. Think of it as more of a chess match than a sword fight. There are several new characters introduced and, in some ways, it feels like the introduction to a new series rather than the third installment. However, it does move the overall series arc forward and more information is revealed surrounding the mystery of those who are behind the kidnappings and the mine. In Caleb and Katherine, as well as their fellow prisoners, Laurens has created characters that intrigued me and for whom I came to care as I began to know them. And while the action is not as fast-paced nor the tension as "in your face" as the previous book in the series, the more subtle evil of their captor and the certainty of what awaits when there are no more diamonds to mine brings a chilling effect to this third story in The Adventurers Quartet.

The books in this series do not stand well on their own. Each book builds upon the previous one and I strongly recommend reading them in order.

~PJ

Are you reading The Adventurers Quartet?

Do you enjoy historical romances set outside Great Britain?

Do you like trilogies or quartets with an overarching mystery that isn't solved until the end of the series?



a Rafflecopter giveaway




Purchase Links

Connect with Stephanie

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Happy Birthday!





Happy Birthday, Janga!

Wishing you laughter, love, warm hugs,

and lots of wonderful books!

May the next year bring you

blessings, fun adventures, 

and all the joy your heart can hold.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sale Spotlight - - FLASH FIRE by Dana Marton



NY Times bestselling author Dana Marton is excited to announce that FLASH FIRE (A Navy SEAL Romance), the 2016 RITA Winner for Romantic Suspense, will be on sale for just $0.99 for one week from 7/25/16 - 7/31/16. FLASH FIRE was one of my favorite romantic suspense novels of 2015. Here's what I had to say about the book when it was released last November:

Dana Marton is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. I know when I pick up one of her books that I'm about to be treated to a compelling, fast-paced story that will keep my heart in my throat and my nerves on edge. Clara Roberts, the heroine of FLASH FIRE is a character I cheered for from beginning to end. A buttoned-up former accountant now working to retrieve American citizens lost, kidnapped, or imprisoned abroad, her world is turned upside down with a single phone call that sends her into the Mexican jungle with ruthless former SEAL, Light Walker. ::Sigh:: What can I say about Walker. He's a tortured soul, bent on revenge, and not about to let anyone get in his way, least of all Clara. With determination as solid as his rock-hard body, it's difficult to believe there's even a kernel of softness remaining within him but, slowly, without trying, our heroine burrows her way into his heart and soul. Will it be enough to save him from his course of destruction? 

Buckle up and get ready for another wild ride from Dana Marton's FLASH FIRE. I highly recommend it!   
~PJ

     

FLASHFIRE (A Navy SEAL Romance) Blurb:

Former SEAL turned lawless mercenary Light Walker just wants to be left alone to avenge his brother's death. He wants nothing to do with Clara Roberts, a by-the-book investigator on a secret mission, who is trying to talk (cough) badger (cough) him into helping her recover an American teenager who'd disappeared abroad. Clara Roberts isn't crazy about the uneasy partnership either. How can tequila-swilling Walker be her best option? And, dear Lord, the things that come out of that man's mouth! 
Soon the sparks they generate--and the trouble they stir up--threaten to set the jungle ablaze. But as attraction grows into love, looming danger turns into all-out war. Clara and Walker must hold on to each other and race against time to survive. Fast-paced, heart pounding, laugh-out-loud funny. Get ready for a wild adventure!

Purchase Links:
Kindle UK:  http://amzn.to/1Phwmlt


A VERY STYLISH RAFFLE

Enter to win these fabulous British phone booth bookends, a Kate Spade pencil bag with goodies inside, and a signed copy of FLASH FIRE. Click on the graphic below to enter. GOOD LUCK!!!
Raffle ends on August 1st, 2016.

 




Friday, July 22, 2016

The RITA Goes to....


Last Saturday night, Romance Writers of America wrapped up their national conference with the announcement of the 2016 RITA® and Golden Heart® award winners. For those of us who weren't able to travel to San Diego, RWA provided a live stream of the event. Granted, it was a bit late for us East Coast readers (11:00 pm starting time) but, determined to stay awake while my travel companions slept, I curled up in a chair in my dark hotel room in Virginia, popped in my ear buds and (mostly) silently cheered for my favorites for the next couple hours. I may have squealed when Julie Anne Long's name was called and I admit to stunned silence with tears streaming down my face when she mentioned Janga and me in her acceptance speech. Never in a million years would I have ever expected to be acknowledged in someone's RITA® acceptance! Listed below are the winners of this year's RITA®.



BEST FIRST BOOK

Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided...by your future self. 

It's Callie's seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision -- a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they're meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist. 

Or in Callie's case, a criminal. 

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in prison. The only person who can help is her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn't spoken to in five years. 

Logan breaks her free, but can she trust him? He's almost the same boy she remembers, but now he's a whole lot hotter. And he's got his own past to deal with. Callie's falling for him, fast, but she soon learns he has secrets of his own. Secrets that mean they can never be together.

Now, Callie's on the run not only from the government, but also from her fate. If she wants any hope of a future with Logan, she must find a way to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all -- herself.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: LONG

Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates


There are lines best friends shouldn't cross, but in Copper Ridge, Oregon, the temptation might be too much… 
If practice makes perfect, Connor Garrett should be world champion of being alone. Since losing his wife he's concentrated exclusively on his family's ranch. Until Felicity Foster needs a place to stay and Connor invites her to move in temporarily. That's what friends do. What friends don't do? Start fantasizing about each other in their underwear. Or out of it… 
Since high school, Liss has kept her raging crush in check. But helping Connor rebuild his life only reinforces how much she longs to be a part of it. One explosive encounter, and she'll discover that getting what you always wanted can feel better than you ever dreamed…
There are lines best friends shouldn't cross, but in Copper Ridge, Oregon, the temptation might be too much… 


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: MID-LENGTH

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

They don't play for the same team. Or do they?  
 
Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley's biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he'll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever. 


Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions-- can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself. 


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: SHORT

The Nanny Plan by Sarah M. Anderson

This billionaire bachelor has a baby challenge… 
Being a father to his orphaned infant niece is out of this tech billionaire's comfort zone. Lucky for Nate Longmire, Trish Hunter is a natural at motherhood, and she's agreed to be his temporary nanny. But long glances, slow kisses and not-so-innocent touches are strictly off-limits… 
Trish's goal is to help Nate in exchange for a big donation to her charity for Lakota kids. Falling for her bachelor boss—and his adorable baby girl—is not part of the plan. But when the month is up, will she be able to walk away?









EROTIC ROMANCE

For Real: A Spires Story by Alexis Hall

Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission. 

Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being. 

Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love. 

The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have — no matter how right it feels — can’t last. It can’t mean anything. 


It can’t be real. 


HISTORICAL ROMANCE: LONG

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

In each of her Chicago World's Fair books, Deeanne Gist has created a sense of time and place that draws me into the world of her characters as if I'm traveling their journey with them. Her research is impeccable and it shows in the details sprinkled throughout. The characters are true to their time and I appreciate the intimate glimpses into their daily lives that show us how people actually lived in 1893 New York City. Another by-product of all that research. The secondary characters run the gamut from Flossie's parents to her co-workers at Tiffany's to angry, male strikers to her fellow boarders. Gist's method of revealing details about each of the boarders is clever and gives us insight into each of them without having to employ an "info dump." I found it delightful and wished Flossie had a question for me. Real people and fictional characters are interwoven seamlessly in this book, with the fictional characters being so well developed and realistic that, at times, I forgot which was which. Not mere window dressing, many of the secondary characters contribute significantly to the story and move the plot forward.

While we can't travel through time to visit the 1893 World's Fair, we can do the next best thing and experience it through the wonderful pages of Tiffany Girl as well as the two previous books in this series, It Happened at the Fair and Fair Play (stand-alone books). I highly recommend them all.



HISTORICAL ROMANCE: SHORT

It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

I admit to being a Julie Anne Long fan from her debut book on and to waiting impatiently for the next Pennyroyal Green book since I read the first one in the series. But It Started with a Scandal exceeded even my high expectations. It is an extraordinary book. Lavay in this book, wounded in body and spirit, is a more complex and substantive character than a reader encountering him as a handsome charmer with a dangerous edge in I Kissed an Earl would have guessed. Elise is the kind of strong heroine I most admire, one whose strength stems from her growth, her tenacity, and her ability to prevail against the odds. Long has a gift for capturing her reader’s interest in a few words that offer a compelling invitation to discover more about the characters, and she uses that gift to its full potential in this book.  Lavay is “not so much rough-hewn as sleek and hard as a rock polished over and over by wave after wave of time and experience.” Elise’s life as housekeeper and mother is “stitched together by an intricate network of barters and favors of time and skill and knowledge, of baked goods and canned goods, unused bolts of cloth and hand-me-downs, and herbs and cheeses and books and advice and tutoring.” If Lavay and Elise are fascinating as individuals, they are even more so as a couple. This book could serve as a textbook for aspiring romance writers who need to study how to maintain sexual tension. The pages almost smoke although consummation scenes are few.

I give It Started with a Scandal my highest recommendation. It is one of the best books in one of the best series in historical romance fiction. If you enjoy historical romance with characters who jump off the page and into your mind and heart and story lines that demand your investment, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I plan to reread it just as soon as I add it to my short list of the Best of 2015.



INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned. 

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.


PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles

Trapped in the wrong time, she needs a knight in shining armor, but this damsel in distress might be the real savior.

A damsel in distress...

With a day planner attached to her hip, the last thing Katy Tolson wants is a romance that threatens her well-ordered life. She's set to marry the safe--but bland--guy, but something's not quite...right. A careless wish thrusts her through time into medieval Wales and into the arms of...

A knight in somewhat shining armor...

Sir Robert Beucol, half-Norman and half-Welsh, lives with the shame of his father's treason and vows to reclaim his family's holdings and thereby his honor. To prove himself to his king, he must be more Norman than a full-blooded Norman. What better way to show loyalty than to fight his mother's people? He has no desire to be sidetracked by the mysterious wench with pink toenails, peculiar habits, and passion smoldering behind her cool, collected exterior.

A rebellion that challenges both...

The Welsh uprising fits perfectly into Robert's plans. Katy's on the other hand? That's a no. As they embark on a perilous journey through the heart of Wales, each passionate encounter pulls them closer together, but farther from their goals. When everything they value is at stake, can they save each other and their love?




ROMANCE NOVELLA

Nice Girls Don't Ride by Roni Loren

Natalie Bourne thinks she has the perfect night planned for her twenty-first birthday. But when her car breaks down and her boyfriend bails on her, she's left stranded in an auto shop dealing with a way too cocky, way too hot mechanic, who seems to be intent on pushing every button she has.


Monroe Hawkins knows he shouldn't be messing with a girl from the uppity private college. Especially when he can tell she sees him as the help. But he's having trouble resisting the redhead with the smart mouth and the killer legs. So when Natalie's night goes from bad to worse, there's no way he's letting her spend her birthday alone. He makes her a deal--he'll take her home but not until the sun comes up.

Ten hours, one motorcycle, and the city of Austin at their fingertips...things are about to take a major detour. And soon, there may be no U-turn in sight.




ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Flash Fire by Dana Marton

Dana Marton is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. I know when I pick up one of her books that I'm about to be treated to a compelling, fast-paced story that will keep my heart in my throat and my nerves on edge. Clara Roberts, the heroine of FLASH FIRE is a character I cheered for from beginning to end. A buttoned-up former accountant now working to retrieve American citizens lost, kidnapped, or imprisoned abroad, her world is turned upside down with a single phone call that sends her into the Mexican jungle with ruthless former SEAL, Light Walker. ::Sigh:: What can I say about Walker. He's a tortured soul, bent on revenge, and not about to let anyone get in his way, least of all Clara. With determination as solid as his rock-hard body, it's difficult to believe there's even a kernel of softness remaining within him but, slowly, without trying, our heroine burrows her way into his heart and soul. Will it be enough to save him from his course of destruction? 

Buckle up and get ready for another wild ride from Dana Marton's FLASH FIRE. I highly recommend it!   





YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.
Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is-and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?





And that's a wrap!


Did you watch the live stream of this year's ceremony? 

Did your favorites win?

Will you be giving any of the winning books a try? 
(several are currently available at a discounted price)

I have a package of books for one person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, July 23, 2016. (U.S. only) 










Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spotlight Tour - - Marie Force's Fatal Series





On the 26th of July, Harlequin's HQN Books will release Fatal Identity, the tenth book in Marie Force's Fatal series, starring popular couple, Vice President Nick Cappuano and Lieutenant Sam Holland. To celebrate, many of the books in the series are being sold at discounted prices and this tour offers both a Rafflecopter giveaway as well as a special pre-order promotion.






Sample the series by downloading the prequel novella, One Night With You for FREE and the first full-length book in the series, Fatal Affair for only $2.99.





Washington, D.C., Metro Police Detective Sergeant Sam Holland needs a big win to salvage her career--and her confidence--after a disastrous investigation. The perfect opportunity arises when Senator John O'Connor is found brutally murdered in his bed, and Sam is assigned to the case. Matters get complicated when Sam has to team up with Nick Cappuano, O'Connor's friend and chief of staff...and the man Sam had a memorable one-night stand with years earlier. Their sexual chemistry still sizzles, and Sam has to fight to stay focused on the case. Sleeping with a material witness is another mistake she can't afford--especially when the bodies keep piling up.








Register your pre-order of Fatal Identity for a chance to win one of two terrific prize packages. 








Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win the entire set of Fatal books. (books 1-9)



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Fatal Identity
Fatal Series - Book 10
By Marie Force
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 26, 2016


As the first anniversary of her marriage to Vice President Nick Cappuano approaches, Lieutenant Sam Holland is dreaming of Bora Bora—sun, sand and a desperately needed break from the DC grind. But real life has a way of intervening, and Sam soon finds herself taking on one of the most perplexing cases of her career.  
Government worker Josh Hamilton begs Sam to investigate his shocking claim that his parents stole him from another family thirty years ago. More complicated still, his "father" is none other than the FBI director. When a member of Josh's family is brutally murdered, Sam begins to question how deep this cover-up goes. Is it possible the revered director was part of a baby-napping ring and that others involved are also targets? 
With a killer intent on deadly revenge and her team still reeling from a devastating loss, Sam's plate is full—and when Nick and their son, Scotty, take ill, is her dream of a tropical anniversary celebration in peril too?





Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 2.3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold more than 1.2 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Green Mountain Series as well as the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force.  All together, her books have sold more than 5 million copies worldwide!

Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news. 

Join Marie’s mailing list on her website at marieforce.com for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MarieForceAuthor, on Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/marieforceauthor/. Contact Marieat marie@marieforce.com.



Connect with Marie


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ON VACATION.....





We're on vacation! 

We'll be back with more 

news, reviews, blogs, and giveaways on

Thursday, July 21st.

See you then! 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Cathy Maxwell Winner






My apologies for the delay in announcing the winner of a Kindle copy of 

The Fairest of Them All by Cathy Maxwell and my thanks to cheryl c for 

bringing it to my attention. In one of those crazy coincidences, random.org has

chosen comment #13 as the winner and that person is:

cheryl c

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com








Review - - Always My Girl

Always My Girl
By Samantha Chase
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: July 5, 2016





Anna Hannigan and Quinn Shaughnessy have been best friends since they were six years old when the Hannigans moved next door to the Shaughnessys, and Anna has been in love with Quinn almost as long. Unfortunately, her love is unrequited.  Quinn sees Anna strictly as his best bud, just one of the guys. Anna exchanges her job at a local pub, a jeans-and-tee shirt position, for a career in real estate that requires more feminine attire, not as an upwardly mobile career move but as a way to make others see her differently. But the change is not enough to alter Quinn’s perspective.

Quinn, a former NASCAR driver, is a serial dater whose only serious commitment is to his business, a chain of auto repair and restoration shops. When he arrives at the beach site where the wedding of his brother Aidan and Zoe Dalton (Made for Us) is taking place, Quinn sees a curvy beauty in a bikini and is set to make his move when he realizes the beauty is Anna. Then he insists she cover up all that she is exposing. He is uncomfortable seeing Anna as a woman who stirs his libido, and he fights the attraction until desire proves more powerful than fear. But this couple still has major obstacles to overcome.

The pattern of Anna and Quinn’s relationship, with Anna as the giver and Quinn as the taker, is a long-established one, and it does not change when they become lovers. Anna has to learn to assert herself and Quinn has to lose the selfish jerk he often is before this romance has any hope of leading to forever.

This is the third novel in Samantha Chase’s Shaughnessy Brothers series, and it has the strengths and the weaknesses of the first novel. The characters are deftly drawn with intriguing layers, and the Shaughnessy family dynamics, including the effect of their mother’s death on each of them, are complex and interesting. Anna has been part of their family for so long that they regard her as one of their own. The affection they have for her complicates matters when she and Quinn move from friends to lovers. I found Anna a sympathetic character. Even when I cringed at her patient Griselda ways, I understood her and rooted for her to take a stand.

All of these factors make for an interesting, engaging read. But Quinn, like Aidan before him, is a hero with a high jerk quotient. In fact, in a contest for jerkiness, Quinn would be the winner. For much of the story, he is selfish and self-absorbed, incapable of seeing any view but his own. Flawed characters often win my heart, but the flaws need to be balanced by appealing qualities. For me, Quinn failed the balance test. Even the transformed Quinn is not enough to overcome my initial dislike.

Final verdict: I wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars for quite a while before settling on 4. As a small-town romance, Always My Girl deserves kudos for its solid characterization and credible creation of tangled familial ties and strong sense of community. Chase excels in weaving humor and poignancy into her stories, and she does not disappoint with this one. Some readers may find Quinn more likeable than I did. Regardless, I like the Shaughnessy family enough to have added This Is Our Song (December 6, 2016), rock star Riley’s story, to my book calendar.

~Janga



PJ's Novella Reviews Winner








The randomly chosen winner of Kindle copies of

A Gentleman Never Tells, Stranded With the Scottish Earl, and Once Upon a Moonlit Night is:

PTupper

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Review - - Then He Kissed Me

Then He Kissed Me
Cottonbloom - Book 2
By Laura Trentham
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: June 28, 2016





Best friends and confidants, young Nash Hawthorne and Tally Fournette were inseparable but, at the age of ten, dual tragedies ripped them apart. Skinny, nerdy Nash was sent to live with his snobby, well-to-do aunt on the Mississippi side of Cottonbloom where he thrived academically, if not socially, going on to excel in college and beyond. Tally remained on the blue-collar Louisiana side of the river that separates Cottonbloom, struggling to survive the dire circumstances in which she and her older brothers found themselves after the deaths of their parents and rebelling when faced with the shame and frustration of being unable to keep up at school because of undetected dyslexia. To say she had a chip on her shoulder would be a major understatement.

Fast forward 18 years...  

Nash returns to Cottonbloom to teach history at the local college. No longer the skinny kid who fished the river with Tally, he's educated, world-traveled, and quite the sexy hunk. He's also determined to rekindle a friendship - and maybe more - with the childhood best friend he never forgot. But there are obstacles - both his own and the ones Tally throws in his path - that must first be overcome.

Though Tally owns a successful gym, she still views herself as inferior, especially to Nash. She's ashamed that she never attended college and while she's a whiz with numbers, she still has difficulty reading due to her dyslexia. She can't imagine why a man who reveres books would want anything to do with a woman who can't read one. Adding to her battered self-esteem is her abusive ex-boyfriend who refuses to leave her alone, consistently reinforcing the belief that she was weak and stupid to ever have let him into her life.  Her feelings for Nash quickly grow but in order to trust in the love and happiness he offers, she will first have to learn to love and accept herself.

Laura Trentham is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. I've fallen in love with the citizens of Cottonbloom and their divided town, especially Tally and Nash. These two really spoke to me. I ached for Tally and all she had endured and while I usually go for alpha heroes, Nash's beta-hero character stole my heart. Trentham's characters are well formed and complex, and she brings them to vibrant and realistic life on the pages of her books. They could easily be people you'd meet at the Saturday morning farmer's market or a Friday night street dance. She surrounds them with a supporting cast of interesting characters, some of whom have stories of their own that are inter-woven with the hero's and heroine's, adding layers of richness to the book without drawing the focus away from the main couple. And then there's the town of Cottonbloom, a character in itself that Trentham brings to vivid life through her words. Reading the Cottombloom books, I can smell the magnolias in bloom and feel the sultry heat of deep south summers on my skin. It's all part of the total reading experience that she does so well. 

Then He Kissed Me is going straight to my Best of 2016 watch list and also to my keeper shelf, along with the first book in the Cottonbloom series, Kiss Me That Way. I have no doubt that they will soon be joined by the third book, Til I Kissed You, due to be released August 2.  I highly recommend Laura Trentham's Cottonbloom books for your summer reading pleasure. As each book builds upon the previous one in the trilogy, I would encourage readers to read them in order. 

~PJ