Monday, January 16, 2017

Blog Tour - - Ready Set Rogue by Manda Collins

Ready Set Rogue
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: January 3, 2017

Recently deceased Lady Celeste Beauchamp, eccentric spinster and member of a wealthy, aristocratic family, leaves her home, which has been in her family for centuries, to four female scholars: Aphrodite Wareham (informally known as Ivy) a translator and student of ancient Greek texts; Sophia Hastings, a painter; Sophia’s sister Gemma, whose focus is fossils; and Lady Daphne Forsythe, a mathematician without a social filter. Given the difficulties confronting female scholars during the Regency period, the women are understandably delighted with their good fortune and set off for Beauchamp House.

Torquil “Quill” Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, may have been lax about visiting his aunt in recent years, but he has fond memories of her and of Beauchamp House. He refuses to believe that Lady Celeste would have been so lacking in family feeling as to leave her historic home outside the family. As head of that family, he is convinced that it is his duty to see that the four women understand that they will not be allowed to profit from what was clearly their exploitation of his aunt. With this goal in mind, the marquess leaves London for Beauchamp House.

Ivy, the granddaughter of a duke and the eldest of seven daughters of a former Oxford don,
and Quill meet at an inn near Lady Celeste’s estate. Quill mistakes her for a governess—an attractive one despite her spectacles--and he defends her against discourtesies she is subject to at the inn. Ivy is impressed by his behavior. However, Quill’s consideration and Ivy’s admiration last only until he discovers her identity and accuses her of deceiving his aunt. Their ire does not prevent Quill from offering Ivy transportation to Beauchamp House nor Ivy from accepting his offer.

They find the other heirs already at the manor house along with Lady Serena Fanning, Quill’s cousin, who is there to chaperone the four younger women by Lady Celeste’s arrangement. Serena insists that Quill’s suspicions are unfounded, but he does not lose hope that he can rid his late aunt’s home of the women her terms “interlopers.”  However, thanks to a letter Lady Celeste left Ivy, Quill and Ivy are soon partners in finding her murderer. Thrown into one another’s company by their sleuthing, the marquess and the classics scholar move from enmity to intimacy. If they can outwit the murderer, they may discover a happiness neither ever expected.

I’m a Manda Collins fan and a fan of bluestocking heroines. Thus, it is hardly surprising that I loved this book. I found both Ivy and Quill appealing characters—intelligent, witty, and interesting. I was particularly pleased that Ivy, although independent and assertive, is also practical enough to see the advantages of sharing Lady Celeste’s letter with Quill from the beginning. Quill’s arrogance is tempered by his basic decency and his affection for his cousins. Watching Ivy upset his certainties was a delight.

Collins has a knack for balancing mystery and romance so that neither overshadows the other. She employs that skill to good effect in this book. Another winning characteristic of this author is the twist she gives the mystery that ensures the reader is caught by surprise even when the identity of the murderer is known. Ivy and Quill’s relationship has ample sizzle, but the pace allows time for them to know one another so that the reader understands that intimacy for them is more than a synonym for sex.

The secondary characters are vividly drawn and engaging. Lady Daphne almost steals the scenes of which she is a part. Since Ready Set Rogue is the first book in the Studies in Scandal series, readers can expect the stories of the other bluestockings to follow. I am especially eager for Daphne’s book. I hope we also get more of Lady Serena’s story. She and Jeremy, her six-year-old son, were among my favorite characters.

If you like historical romance that includes mystery in the mix, you should be reading Manda Collins. Her novels offer sensuality and sense (with the Austenian meaning) and characters who captivate. If you have enjoyed Collins’s earlier series, I think you will love this book. If Collins is a new author for you, Ready Set Rogue is a terrific introduction to her work. I highly recommend it.


Do you enjoy historical romances with bluestocking heroines?

Do you like a little mystery mixed in with your romance?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post before 11:00 PM, January 17, 2017 will receive a print copy of Ready Set Rogue. (U.S. addresses only) 

Manda Collins is the author of The Lords of Anarchy series, which includes Good Earl Gone Bad and A Good Rake is Hard to Find, as well as several other Regency-set romances. She spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she’s not writing, she’s helping other people use books, as an academic librarian.

Twitter: @MandaCollins
Facebook: @MandaCollinsAuthor

Buy Links: Amazon | BAM | iBooks | B & N | Indiebound | Kobo

Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Second Thought - - A Rose for Maggie

A Rose for Maggie
By Eileen Dreyer writing as Kathleen Korbel
Publisher: Eileen Dreyer
Release Date: December 14, 2016
(Originally published as Silhouette Intimate Moment #396,
July 1, 1991)

River Roads Publishing, a small, regional company, has scored big with the Binkley Brothers series, children’s books written and illustrated by L. Wood Dowd. The head of PR is eager to seize the moment and have the popular author touring across the country, but Dowd, an obvious pseudonym, zealously protects his identity.  The publishers know only his post office box number, the sound of his answering machine, and the skill of his lawyer. Allison Henley, Dowd’s editor, is assigned the task of tracking down the man behind the name. She is uneasy about the task, believing that Dowd has a right to his privacy, but with her job at stake, she feels that she has little choice but to comply. A single mother with a special needs daughter, she needs her job because it allows her the flexibility to earn a living and still be there when her child needs her. Thus, after some clever detective work, on a spring day, she prepares to meet Dowd, one Joseph Burgett, at his home. Allison’s image of Dowd as a white-haired cross between Mark Twain and Santa Claus is shattered the moment she meets the real Joe.

Joe Burgett is a man happy with his life. He is a carpenter who takes pride in his work and enjoys being one of the guys. He is an indulgent uncle who delights in the nieces and nephews with which his many siblings have obligingly provided him. He is a musician who plays a mean saxophone. His success as Dowd has allowed him to buy an old Victorian house he has coveted since childhood. He knows that he cannot preserve his anonymity forever, but he is reluctant to have fame change his comfortable life. Regardless of his reservations, he can’t resist Allison, the pretty, cautious young woman who has him thinking that his plans for someday may have shifted into present tense.

Allison is no less attracted to Joe and the more she sees of him, the more irresistible she finds him. But Allison has determined that there is no room in her life for romance. Her first priority is Maggie, her beautiful six-month old daughter who has Down syndrome and a heart defect that threatens her life. If Maggie’s own father could abandon her four days after her birth, unable to deal with an imperfect child, how can Allison expect another man to accept Maggie? Joe falls more and more in love with Allison and with adorable Maggie, but can he deal with the challenges that come with loving this mother and daughter? And can he persuade Allison that what they can be together is worth the risk to her heart?

I almost danced with joy when Eileen Dreyer announced that she was reissuing the books she had written as Kathleen Korbel. I eagerly downloaded them as they were released and waited for my favorite, A Rose for Maggie. This book has been on my keeper shelf and on my list of all-time best romances since the summer in 1991 when I first read it. I have reread it countless times since and loved it more with each rereading. For more than twenty-five years, it has been one of the books I cite in my response to those who ramble on about the limitations of romance.

Korbel/Dreyer takes on a tough subject and presents it with clarity and empathy. Allison and Joe are deeply human characters who are confronted with real problems. They are likable, even more so because they are not perfect. Allison, whose devotion to Maggie is genuine and powerful, is torn by fear and guilt. Joe has to ask himself not only whether he can be a father to Maggie but whether his love for Allison is great enough to surrender some of his own dreams. This novel not only touches the reader’s heart; it also pushes her to think some long thoughts.

Allison is both strong and vulnerable, and her anguish and conflict pack a huge emotional punch. Joe is quite simply one of the best heroes ever—smart, funny, loving, honest, generous, and all the other qualities that are most essential in the catalog of heroic qualities. I don’t think it is mere coincidence that this Joseph is a carpenter who commits to loving and rearing a child that is not his own. Yet sainthood aside, he is real. Maggie is not just a generic baby with a problem. She is a definite person in her own right. Lucille, who helps care for Maggie, and Joe’s large, loving family are also deftly drawn. Even the Binkley Brothers, the monsters who inhabit Joe’s books and whom the reader meets in excerpts, are memorable. And the ending is perfect.

A Rose for Maggie won a Rita in 1992, and it won a permanent place on the best of romance list of many readers. To say I highly recommend this book feels like an understatement. If I could send you all copies with a message saying “Please read this. You will be glad you did,” I would do so. If you have not read it, I hope you will. If you have not read it recently, it is well worth a reread.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Review - - The Marriage Lie

The Marriage Lie
By Kimberly Belle
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: December 27, 2016

Some people seem to lead golden lives. Iris and Will Griffith were among this group. They enjoy their jobs, Will as a computer scientist and Iris as a counselor at an exclusive private school. They have a lovely home in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood, and seven years and one day into their marriage, they remain passionately in love. They have just decided that it is time to try for a baby. When Iris hears the news that Flight 23 from Atlanta has crashed with all 179 passengers presumed dead, she is sick with dread until she learns that the plane was bound for Seattle rather than Orlando where Will is headed to speak at a cyber-security conference. A few hours later, she finds that her relief was premature. William Matthew Griffith is listed on the passenger list of Flight 23.

Stubbornly refusing to believe that Will could have been on the plane to Seattle, Iris furiously begins checking, only to find not only was Will a no-show on the Orlando flight but also that the conference he was supposed to be attending did not exist. Will’s lies included a fake four-color flyer for the conference that never was. This is just the beginning of the inconsistencies that Iris begins to uncover. Items such as a recent will and life insurance policies totaling $2.5 million raise more questions. When a friend of Will’s, of whom Iris has never heard, tells her that Will had a job interview in Seattle but the Seattle office denies any knowledge of Will Griffith, Iris knows that she must find the truth. She and her twin brother fly to Seattle to begin their investigation. Everything Iris thought she knew about her husband turns out to be fabricated, and every truth she finds suggests that the real Will was a very different man from the one she knew and loved for seven years. Iris needs answers to all her questions, but each fragment of the truth merely raises more questions. Was her husband a liar, a thief, and perhaps a murderer? Who is sending her anonymous texts? Who is threatening her life?

I should probably give this book two ratings. Responding as objectively as possible, I must say that The Marriage Lie is a well-written, compelling psychological thriller that offers a layered mystery that challenges the reality of what appeared to be a happily-ever-after story and leaves the reader with questions about what marital love is and is not. Iris is an immensely sympathetic character and her grief is real and painful. Since the reader sees Will through her eyes, she/he is as confused and frightened as Iris is by the two Wills. The secondary characters are vividly drawn, particularly Iris’s brother and parents and the lawyer who is another victim of the plane crash. If I were a reader who loved such tales, I’m fairly certain that I would give the book five stars.

But I am a wimpy reader who prefers my mysteries cozy and habitually avoids psychological thrillers. I once rushed Nora Roberts’s Divine Evil to the UBS because it gave me the creeps to think about the book mixed with my beloved Roberts keepers. My favorite romance reads have a guaranteed HEA, and if they have an epilogue that includes tender scenes with babies, I smile as I sigh with satisfaction. I had to force myself to finish this book because I had committed to a review. Otherwise, it would have been a DNF for me about a third of the way through it when I realized it was not going to be another women’s fiction tale about a husband’s secret life and a new love for the heroine. I usually don’t rate DNFs, but if pushed, I would have awarded this one three stars for likeable characters whose lives I’d rather have seen move in a different direction. My conflicted response explains the four-star rating.

My recommendation is also two-pronged. If you like psychological thrillers, this one is skillfully executed with interesting characters and twists and turns aplenty. I highly recommend it. If your preferences are closer to mine, you probably want to skip The Marriage Lie.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Today's Special - - Madeline Martin Highland Spy Blog Tour

I'm delighted to welcome Madeline Martin back to The Romance Dish today. Her newly released book, Highland Spy, checks all the boxes on my Medieval era, historical romance reading list. I read it in one day and am already eagerly anticipating book number two! Madeline is a USA Today Bestselling Author who lives in Jacksonville, FL (shout out to my former home city! with her two daughters and menagerie of pets. Her hobbies include rock climbing, running to Mud Runs, and just about anything exciting she can do without getting nauseated. She grew up in Europe and still enjoys traveling overseas whenever she can find time to get away. Her favorite place to visit thus far: Scotland. Prior to Highland Spy, she authored three Scottish Historical novels: Deception of a Highlander, Possession of a Highlander, and Enchantment of a Highlander. Visit her website at and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter

Welcome, Madeline! Congratulations on your new book! I’m a huge fan of Medieval romance stories, especially when set in Scotland which, of course, has me very excited about this new series. What would you like readers to know about your Mercenary Maidens and their journeys to love?
Thank you so much for having me here today, PJ! J And thank you for being so excited about my upcoming series. I think the most important thing I want people to get out of the Mercenary Maidens series is that these are ordinary women who face extraordinary circumstances and get a second chance at life. Through the education of their skills, they find something many of them were lacking before going to Kindrochit Castle for training – their confidence. They’re empowered not only by what they’ve learned externally, but what they’ve discovered internally. I feel like that’s so indicative of us as women. Hard times can bring difficult lessons, and we typically emerge tougher and with a stronger knowledge of who we are – and we’re better for it. These girls are all the same.

What was your inspiration for these female warriors?

My initial inspiration was Mariel Brandon - the heroine from my debut release, Deception of a Highlander. I enjoyed writing her character as a spy so much, I was craving to write another series about a group of women who were all spies. After that, I did some research on female spies in history and came up with some pretty incredible women to inspire me. There have been so many women through history who have sacrificed so much – their families, their freedom, even their lives – for their countries and/or what they believe in. It was easy to write strong women with such shining examples.  

Highland Spy (Jan. 10) kicks off the series. What should readers expect from Ariana and Connor’s story?

            A lot of action, adventure, and a love that builds as two lost souls come to fully appreciate and             really understand one another. Also, some really kickass women. ;)

You visited Scotland last year. (I loved following along via your videos!) What was your favorite part of the trip? Will we see any of the places you visited in your upcoming books?

Thank you so much! The trip was just amazing. I got so many wonderful ideas, not just for
Findlater Castle
the Mercenary Maidens series, but also for the idea brewing in my mind for my next series, the Jacobite Jezebels (yeah, I have a thing for alliterations).

My favorite part of the trip was going to Findlater Castle – it’s a ruined castle set on the coastline. We were cautioned to not bother wasting our time because it was ‘just a pile of rocks’. Well, that pile of rocks ended up being the coolest thing ever.

From far away, it was nothing to look at, true – but after following a narrow path down one very steep hill and climbing up the cliff, I found the pile of rocks were the still-intact walls of the castle. And further inspection found gaping holes in the back of the castle so I could climb down inside it. Seriously – it was my Indiana Jones moment. The ten year old in me was in the middle of Goonies crawling around down in those buried rooms, going down to the floors buried beneath the rubble and peering into rooms long since abandoned. It was the most amazing experience ever and made me so glad we’d gone to see that pile of rocks. ;)

One of the places we visited was Urquhart Castle, which you will definitely see in Highland Spy. It’s Connor’s family home, and one he hopes to recover.

I enjoyed watching Ariana discover her inner warrior. What new skill(s) would you choose to be inside you, awaiting discovery?

Oh, that’s a great question. I think I’d love to learn how to shoot a bow. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but is something I’ve never had the opportunity to try.

Your Highland Spy is on my 2017 Most Anticipated Books list. What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

Thank you so much – I’m honored to have made that list! J I confess due to my lack of free time, I listen to all my books. So the books I’m most looking forward to listening to in 2017 are: The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer, Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig.

I don’t make resolutions but I do set goals at the beginning of each year. What are your goals for 2017?

I actually do something similar – goals are so much more quantitative and easily broken down than a blanket statement to alter something about ourselves. I have a spreadsheet of goals, but I’ll just highlight the main ones. First of all, I want to get control of my health again in 2017. After a very busy 2016, I found myself giving me permission to skip gym workouts and not eat as healthy as I was used to. I didn’t like the results. My goal for 2017 is to stay on top of my health with eating healthy and sticking with a stricter gym regimen I’ve implemented most of my adult life.

Regarding my books, I’ll be in three anthologies in 2017, so I’ll be writing and releasing those all in 2017. Additionally, I’m hoping to write the first two Jacobite Jezebels stories, and hopefully release at least two of my Mercenary Maidens books.

Any big trips planned for this year?

Yes! I’m so excited! I’m going to be one of the guest authors at the Historical Romance Retreat in Spokane, WA. I’ve already started shopping for historical gowns for it! Registration opens on January 10th for people who want to attend – more info can be found here:

I’m also planning to attend the RWA National conference as well as RT in Atlanta. Also, the minions and I want to go to Asheville, NC to check out the Biltmore – we recently read Serafina and the Black Cloak and can’t wait to check out the estate!

What’s next for your Mercenary Maidens? Do you have a scheduled release date for Book #2?

There will be three books in total for the Mercenary Maidens (Highland Spy, Highland Ruse, Highland Wrath). I’m not sure on the release date for the second book yet. I actually just finished the third book – it’s with my beta readers and will soon be delivered into my publisher’s hands once I finish beta reader edits/suggestions. 

It’s been a pleasure visiting with you, Madeline. Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thank you so much for having me, PJ – it’s always a pleasure to be here. J 

I’d love to hear from your readers about what they think their most empowering strength is. J

Readers, Madeline's publisher is giving away one print copy of Highland Spy to a randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's post before 11:00 PM, January 13th. 

Connor Grant is in search of a lady. Not a bride, but a woman to become a skillful and seductive spy in the service of King James. In addition to being the King's personal assassin, Connor heads a group of female spies who aid him in his work, women with nothing left to lose. 

Ariana Fitzroy is the perfect mark. Destitute, orphaned, and completely alone, she's missed her chance at an advantageous match at court and cheats at cards to survive. When Connor catches her in the act, he threatens to expose her, unless she joins his elite roster of spies

She agrees and is whisked away to a deserted Scottish castle to begin her training. Ariana quickly takes to her lessons in seduction, deception, and hand-to-hand combat, but less easy to fight are her feelings of lust toward the ruggedly handsome Connor, feelings she suspects may be reciprocated. 

When Connor recruits her help on a mysterious task, the pair must work together to track a dangerous target. But Ariana suspects Connor isn't telling her everything — not just about the mission, but also about his past. Will the secrets between them threaten their mission? And will they be able to fight their attraction as they wonder who they can trust? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Musings Winners

The three winners from my Winter Musings post are:


Amy Higgins

Annette Naish

Congratulations to you all! 

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - Sweet Southern Bad Boy

Sweet Southern Bad Boy
By Michele Summers
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: December 6, 2016

Katie McKnight is elated to have found a house that seems perfect as the location for her father’s latest horror miniseries featuring teen zombies. Having failed as production runner, production assistant, and boom operator for her father’s studio, she is desperate to prove herself successful as a location scout. It doesn’t matter that she has a degree in elementary education and found joy in teaching and in her avocation, photography; the McKnight parents and their two lawyer sons measure success in dollar amounts, and Katie has never measured up. But securing this old farmhouse in Harmony, North Carolina, as the setting for McKnight Studio’s paranormal scream fest could change the family’s view of Katie.

Vance Kerner is facing his own version of desperation. He has published twelve novels, war thrillers that have enjoyed considerable success. However, with the deadline for the final book in his bestselling Honor series a mere month away, Vance is faced with a handful of assorted scenes and a blank computer screen. His writer’s block is exacerbated by his temporary responsibility for the children of his older brother, a soldier on another deployment to Afghanistan, and his sister-in-law, who is recovering from a skiing accident that left her with two broken legs, a sprained wrist, and assorted bruises. Caring for seven-year-old Donald, five-year-old Dover, and three-year-old Dana Sue, aka Danny, plus Pixie the dog and Lollipop the kitten doesn’t leave Vance much time to write, and the Kerner siblings strike terror in the hearts of nannies. When Katie arrives at the farmhouse door, Vance mistakes her for the newest nanny and, almost incoherent with gratitude, immediately begins giving her instructions. He is so desperate to make a meeting with his agent that even when Katie corrects his error, he cannot resist the deal she offers: babysitting services while he makes his meeting in exchange for fifteen minutes during which he will listen to Katie’s pitch for using his house as a setting for a miniseries.

He returns to find that a California Mary Poppins with family issues and low self-esteem has cleaned the house, cooked a meal and tamed the kids--all this plus Vance has fallen in lust with curvy Katie almost at first sight. He has no interest in turning his ancestral home into a site for zombie adventures, but he is very interested in a month with Katie as live-in nanny. Soon Vance’s closest friends are playing matchmaker, and half of Harmony is aiding and abetting them. Katie can’t believe that Vance, affectionately and alliteratively known as Harmony’s hottie and the hunk of Harmony, could possibly be interested in her even though he is the star attraction in her fantasies from their first meeting. Their journey to an HEA is heavily populated with supporting characters and complicated by Katie’s domineering father and one-dimensional ex, but Katie and Vance act like adults and make choices that affirm the strength of their love for one another.

Sweet Southern Bad Boy is the third book in Summers’s Harmony Homecoming series. I have not read the first two books, but except for thinking when the leads of the earlier books were introduced that their stories must have already been told, I had no problem reading this book as a standalone. I found Katie and Vance likable, and the family issues—both Katie’s need to win her family’s approval and Vance’s estrangement from his father, a retired two-star general—provided interesting context. I admit that early on I longed to see Katie grow a spine and confront her family with a healthy dose of truth.

Their strong will and influences had impacted her life on so many levels that she had no idea who she was anymore. Her past kept crowding her present. She hated being a wimp, and she hated not living life on her terms.

I wanted to give her a good shake and say, “Honey, you are twenty-eight not eighteen. Speak up.”  But she does just this finally, and it is a moment made more wonderful because she acts on her own, although her love for Vance and the sense of belonging she finds in Harmony have helped to make her strong enough to act. I have a weakness in life and in fiction for Southern charmers with an edge and a rich vein of guarded but genuine sweetness, so Vance won my affection more easily.

Some readers will doubtless find Harmony too quaint and quirky for their taste. At times, it does feel like Mayberry with Duck Dynasty walk-ons, but Southern eccentrics are more than stereotypes. If anyone doubts their realness, I can introduce you to a few. If you like small-town romance in which Southern accents and attitudes are more true than not, I think you will enjoy Katie and Vance’s story.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spotlight Tour - - SOLO by Jill Mansell

Title: Solo
Author: Jill Mansell
Pub Date: January 3, 2017
ISBN: 9781492632429

It all starts at a party, as these things often do…

· A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences
· Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
· An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
· A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment

One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry.

Whatever’s going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now…

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England. Website | Twitter | Facebook

Buy Links:

Complete this sentence: I knew I had found the love of my life when he ___
Well, I'd only just started seeing Cino when my house was flooded by a burst water tank in the loft, in the middle of winter, so we had no water, no heating and no dry furniture at all. It's the most miserable thing that can happen, but he came and stayed and helped me move all the ruined carpets into the snowy garden, and helped me through the whole nightmare for days on end, and I really hadn't thought he was that type of person, so I was wildly impressed. (Of course, thirty years later it can take him a good couple of years to get around to fixing something tiny like a broken light switch...)


I must be drunk, thought Tessa, kicking off her shoes and sinking into a sitting position on the edge of the vast, canopied bed. When a man like Ross Monahan urged you to spend the night at his place and assured you that you were quite welcome to the bed—he would be happy to sleep on the settee—you knew you were playing with fire.
Either drunk or crazy, she told herself as she pulled her dress over her head, threw it in the direction of a large, red-velvet chair and wrapped herself in the dark-blue toweling robe he had left for her.
But she knew she wasn’t that drunk. She was enjoying the game which had begun so many hours earlier. The challenge had been thrown down and she couldn’t resist it. She was going to seriously enjoy being the only woman in the history of the world to have slept in Ross’s bed…alone.
His suite of rooms on the top floor of the hotel was as sumptuous as she had imagined, particularly since seeing the rest of The Grange earlier. Like stowaways, they had remained closeted in the conservatory until the early hours of the morning when the last guests had departed, either roaring off into the night in their smart cars or retiring to their rooms in the hotel.
Then, taking her hand, Ross had given her the full guided tour, showing her the elegant sitting rooms, the restaurant, the squash courts, the superb gym and the spectacular indoor swimming-pool built inside a second, even larger, conservatory, illuminated by underwater lighting and surrounded on three sides by more tropical vegetation. Ross was as proud of the hotel as a new father. Tessa had been touched by his enthusiasm. But if he was under the impression that she would be so overwhelmed by this display of his success that she would leap into bed with him, he was going to be disappointed.
Saying no was much, much more fun.
Firmly securing the belt of the far-too-big robe around her waist, she threw back the bedcovers and slid between cool white sheets, just as a cautious knock sounded at the door.
“It’s OK, I’m decent.”
“Pity,” said Ross lightly. He was still dressed, and carrying a folded blanket over one arm.
Tessa gestured at the bed. “This is awfully kind of you. You’ll probably have a terrible time trying to sleep on that settee.”
“Probably.” He gave her a mournful look, then grinned. “But I’ll survive.”
She watched him fling the blanket over the narrow leather Chesterfield. “And it’s four thirty now. Nearly time to get up again anyway.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“I’m very grateful.”
“Absolutely no problem.”
Tessa pulled the covers up to her chin and smiled at him. “You’re a true gentleman.”
“I believe you,” said Ross. “Thousands wouldn’t.”
She watched him hover for a few seconds beside the sofa, wondering no doubt if she might change her mind. Then, giving him one last big smile, she plumped up her pillows and turned over. “Mmm, well, thanks again. Good night.”
Tessa didn’t know what time it was when she shifted in her sleep and first realized that she was no longer alone in the bed. Her bare leg was resting against another bare leg, definitely not her own. Sleepily, almost subconsciously, she stretched out her hand and encountered a smooth, warm back. She became aware of the very faint scent of aftershave and toothpaste, and the quiet, regular breathing of someone deeply and peacefully asleep.
To her great surprise, Tessa was neither shocked nor annoyed by this invasion of her privacy. It was, after all, his bed and a narrow, slippery leather Chesterfield was about as conducive to a good night’s sleep as a tin bath.
In fact, she realized drowsily, she had forgotten quite how nice it felt to lie next to another body, accidentally brushing against an arm or a hip, sharing each other’s warmth and enjoying the primal instincts of simply being together.
With a guilty start she came properly awake. For the way her fingertips were trailing down Ross’s spine wasn’t in the least bit accidental. And, without even realizing it, her own left leg had managed to fit against the curve of his right one with all the snugness of a missing piece in a jigsaw.
This was taking the enjoyment of sharing each other’s warmth a little too far.
Regretfully easing her leg back to her own side of the bed and removing her hand from his back, she closed her eyes and attempted to distract her mind from its traitorous wanderings. She had always believed that physical intimacy—not just sex—was something like a video recorder or a Magimix: what you didn’t have, you didn’t miss, it just faded from your mind and became unimportant.
It had been almost a year since her last relationship had ended. At first, of course, she had missed the hugs and the kisses—and the sex—but certainly not enough to go rampaging round Bath in search of males, any males, with whom to satisfy the need for physical contact.
And pretty soon she had become used to being and sleeping alone once more. The withdrawal symptoms had been mild. Because hugging and kissing and sex weren’t physical addictions like heroin. They were something that was nice but also quite possible to live without.
On the other hand, a year was a long time.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Musings

It's cold in my corner of the world today. And white. Very white. Snow began falling Friday night and continued through Saturday. I measured six inches of the fluffy stuff. We awoke to single digit temperatures and haven't ascended above freezing in three days. For those of you who live in northern climes, our 21˚ probably sounds like a heat wave. I grew up in Michigan so I'm well acquainted with both snow and cold (sub-zero) temperatures but, let me assure you, after living below the Mason-Dixon line for lo these many years, what we're experiencing in North Carolina today is COLD! 

So how do those of us in the South deal with snow, ice, and cold? In very different ways. The three dogs who live next door were ridiculously excited. I couldn't help but laugh with joy as I watched them romping through the snow with huge grins on their canine faces. The children in the neighborhood grabbed whatever they could find - garbage can lids, serving trays, inflated pool toys - and hit the hill behind me for some sledding fun. One of my neighbors made chili. Another curled up for a movie marathon. Another, recently arrived from Ohio, couldn't figure out why everything in town was closed. It was only six inches, after all. ;-)

So how did I handle this sudden change in our weather fortunes? Well, Saturday, I got up at 5:30 AM, went outside and absorbed the stillness and beauty of a winter wonderland. After the sun came up, I went out again with my camera and captured the blanket of white in all its glory. When I was a kid, I'd spend hours outside in the cold and snow. My mom would have to drag us inside when it started to get dark. Times change. When my toes started to go numb (after maybe 30 minutes), I retreated to the warmth of my sofa, a cup of hot tea and a cozy blanket where I spent the rest of the day cuddled up with my Kindle. 

By Sunday, I was over the snow and definitely over the cold. I began counting the days until summer. I was too restless to read. I know! Who's too restless to read? So, instead, I began to clean...and I started with books. You all know what happens when I start sorting books. That's right. A giveaway!
So tell me...

What's the weather today in your corner of the world?

How do you spend cold, winter days? Do you read? Cook? Bake? Clean? Knit? Ski? Skate? Have snowball fights?

Are you eager to hit the snow or ice for hours of fun or do you prefer the warmth of a roaring fire?

What book are you reading now? Tell us about it. 

I have one box and two packages of books to give away today. Winners will be randomly chosen from comments posted before 11:00 PM (EST), January 10th. (U.S. addresses only)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Coming Attractions

Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! We're hitting the ground running here at TRD with new reviews, author interviews, and lots of fun giveaways. I hope you'll join us!

We kick off our author/tour bookings on Tuesday, January 10 with a stop on the Jill Mansell SOLO spotlight tour. This chick lit contemporary was released January 1.

Thursday, January 12 brings Madeline Martin back to TRD for a Q&A with PJ about Highland Spy. This first book in Martin's Mercenary Maidens series is set in Medieval Scotland and you know that has PJ excited!

On Sunday, January 15, Janga will share a new On Second Thought review of a previously published book now available in e-book format.

On Monday, January 16, we will host a stop on Manda Collins' Ready Set Rogue tour. Stop by to read what Janga has to say about this first book in Collins' Studies in Scandal historical romance series.

We will be hosting the Delores Fossen Those Texas Nights tour on Wednesday, January 18. The first book in Fossen's A Wrangler's Creek duo, Those Texas Nights was released December 27 and will be followed by the second book, No Getting Over a Cowboy on March 28.

Kat Martin joins us with a guest blog on Friday, January 20. Martin's newest book in her Boss, Inc. series,  Into the Firestorm will be released January 31.

On Monday, January 23, we host the Diana Palmer Wyoming Brave excerpt tour. Wyoming Brave is the sixth book in Palmer's western contemporary, Wyoming Men series.

Jodi Thomas' Wild Horse Springs tour stops at the Dish on Tuesday, January 24. The January 24th release is the newest addition to Thomas' Ransom Canyon series.

On Wednesday, January 25, we welcome the Stephanie Laurens Lord of the Privateers tour. This historical adventure romance concludes Laurens' The Adventurers Quartet with a second-chance love story on the high seas.

We wrap up the month Tuesday, January 31 with the Kelly Bowen Between the Devil and the Duke release day blitz. This is the third book in Bowen's
A Season for Scandal historical romance series.

That's what we're looking forward to in January at The Romance Dish. What are you looking forward to this month? 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review - - The Trouble With Dukes

The Trouble with Dukes
By Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central / Forever
Release Date: December 20, 2016

Hamish MacHugh, a former colonel and the new Duke of Murdoch, is uncomfortable with his title. The Scotsman is even more uncomfortable in London where he is ignorant of the conventions of the society in which his title places him. His bluntness, his disdain for social games, and the psychic wounds of war make him an ill fit for rigid Regency society. As if his awkwardness and social errors were not enough to make him the talk of the ton, a nickname from his war service, the Duke of Murder, adds to the unwelcome attention. Only Hamish’s fondness for his siblings, brother Colin and sisters Edana and Rhona, and his promises to them keep him in London. When he meets Miss Megan Windham, he acquires another reason to prolong his stay.

Megan Windham, the granddaughter of a duke, is the third of the four red-haired daughters of Anthony Windham, younger brother of the Duke of Moreland. An observant, intelligent young lady, Megan sees beyond the awkwardness and rumors to the honorable man that is Hamish MacHugh. At their first meeting, he saves her spectacles--and her--from the malicious intent of Sir Fletcher Pilkington, a man Hamish has reason to know is not the gentleman he sometimes appears to be. A younger Megan, infatuated with the handsome, superficially charming Pilkington, unwisely expressed her feelings for him in a series of letters. Pilkington, in need of funds to maintain his lifestyle, decides that Megan’s dowry will serve his needs and is using the letters to blackmail Megan into accepting his suit. Megan is reluctant to appeal to her family for help because she fears jeopardizing not only her own reputation but also the reputations of her three sisters.

Megan offers to help Hamish learn the social skills he needs to function in society. The attraction between the two intensifies as they spend time together. Hamish suspects that Pilkington makes Megan uncomfortable, and Megan confirms his suspicions when she confides in him and solicits his help. Hamish is happy to help her, but the gossip about his violence and disregard for orders, fanned by the determined Pilkington, magnify the Scotsman’s haunting questions about his choices and about whether he can be the man Megan deserves. 

Despite a plot that is distressingly thin in spots, this first Windham Brides book will delight fans of Burrowes’s popular Windham Family series. This author excels at creating endearing, engaging characters, and The Trouble with Dukes offers not only an immensely likable hero and heroine but also the added charm of the Windhams en masse. Megan and Hamish’s is a quiet romance that develops organically in a fashion appropriate for these sensible and deserving protagonists, and it is enhanced by family members who have roles to play.

I confess my frustration with the convenient journey to Wales of Megan’s parents and Megan’s refusal to confide in her powerful family (although she must have known that Pilkington would be no match for her Uncle Percy and his assorted sons and sons-in-law), but it melted in the presence of some of my favorite characters in historical romance. Of course, the Duke of Moreland, Westhaven, and St. Just are not content to be merely present, and the Duchess has opportunity to display her abilities as well. One of my favorite things about the book is that the reader sees Hamish tested, proved worthy, and welcomed into the Windham brotherhood. The loyalty, affection, and relentless teasing that is male bonding at its best is one of the strengths of Burrowes’s world.

If you read and loved the original Windham books or if you have ever wandered into the world of Grace Burrowes and been captivated by the intricate connections that link characters, I think you will enjoy this book. If Burrowes is a new author for you, be prepared to be inundated with appealing characters. You may feel a bit overwhelmed at times, but if you like historical romance that is light but not frothy, rich in worldbuilding, and peopled with characters who will find a place in your heart, I predict you will like this book so much that you will be adding more Windham titles to your TBR.