Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review - - Set the Night on Fire


Set the Night on Fire
By Laura Trentham
Cottonbloom Series - Book 6
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by PJ 





Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and foes - and to herself. So when her marriage ends she decides to invest her energy and money into a place that brings back some of Ella's happiest memories: the Abbott brothers' garage. Maybe, if she puts her mind to it, she can teach skeptical, stubborn Mack Abbott how to make the business a true success. Which would be a lot easier if the hunky mechanic didn't make her motor run quite so fast...and hot.

Mack was furious when his brother, Ford, sold his share of the business. He's in no rush to team up with a wealthy divorcĂ©e who shows up to the garage in stilettos - and the longest, sexiest legs he's seen in forever. But Ella's grit and determination won't quit...and soon Mack can see that she's been down a few rough roads herself. Neither Mack nor Ella can deny the fierce attraction that's revving up between them. Could it be that true love has been in the backseat all along...and they've finally found the key? 

For me, each book in Laura Trentham's Cottonbloom series is like a trip home to visit family and friends. Cottonbloom isn't idyllic, with its divided loyalties between the wealthy Mississippi side of the river and the blue-collar Louisiana side yet it calls to me. Each side brings something unique to the table and the quirky characters plus the crossover couples whose stories have been told in this series continue to bridge the gap and steer their shared-but-separate communities to a brighter future, making Cottonbloom one of my favorite fictional destinations.

One of the things I most enjoy about Trentham's books is her ability to create multi-layered characters who are intriguing and relatable then placing them into situations that challenge them. They have to dig deep, evolve, and overcome the obstacles life places in their path, before claiming their happy ending. With each story, I find myself more immersed in their world. I care about these people and I'm totally invested in what happens to them. 

Based on page time in the previous two Cottonbloom books (Mack's twin brothers' stories), I wasn't sure what to expect from grouchy, set-in-his-ways, Mack and the rich, apparently snooty Ella who shocks the Abbotts by buying one-quarter of their family garage from their estranged brother. I discovered that there is so much more to both Mack and Ella than first appearances would suggest and watching those layers peel away to reveal the truth of their hearts was pure delight. 

Trentham doesn't shy away from tough topics - betrayal, abuse, abandonment - but neither does she allow her stories to become too heavy. There's plenty of spark, humor, and hope...not to mention sensual sexy times...in this story. Love triumphs, as does forgiveness, reconciliation, and breaking free from past emotional chains to claim one's own power and happiness. 

If you enjoy quirky small towns, witty banter, rich, emotional stories, plenty of sexy times, and characters who will linger in your mind long after you turn the final page, a trip to Laura Trentham's Cottonbloom should be in your future. While there are six books in the series, they are actually two sets of trilogies. Each trilogy stands on its own but I recommend reading the three books within each trilogy in order. 


Have you read any of the books in this series?

Do you have a favorite Cottonbloom couple?

Which secondary character(s) would you most like to see get their own story? (I'm hoping for Clayton and Maggie!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review - - Double Dog Dare


Double Dog Dare
By Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogfather - Book 7
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: August 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



The Dogfather has one more child to marry off...but Darcy Kilcannon has no interest in her father's matchmaking shenanigans. The youngest Kilcannon is not looking for a husband. Darcy is ready to launch her own business in town, move into her own apartment, and become her own woman. But when she walks into the gorgeous brownstone that her father just "happened" to help her find, Darcy takes one look at the hot landlord and she knows the Dogfather has been up to his old tricks. Sure the landlord's a hunk and a half, but his "no pets" policy is a huge turnoff to a dog groomer who won't dream of living without her beloved Kookie.

Joshua Ranier moved to Bitter Bark to get out of the shadow of his overbearing stepfamily and keep his shattered heart securely on ice. His only focus is his construction business, and the brownstone he's renting and renovating...until he meets the sexy, sassy blonde tenant sneaking a fuzzy white dog even though he's banned pets because of construction dangers. Then Josh starts thinking about things he shouldn't. And it isn't when the rent's due.

But when a blind dog lands on Josh's doorstep, he needs Darcy's help. As they race to restore little Stella's vision and solve a mystery that's tearing his family apart, Josh and Darcy begin to see the light, too. It will take one double dog dare, two precious puppers, and the full power of  the Kilcannon clan for this couple to find their happy ever after. 


I've fallen more in love with this large, dog-loving family with each book in the series that St. Claire has published. Each sibling faces different challenges in their journey to love but the one constant that remains throughout is the strong family dynamic, the quality writing, the depth of heart-tugging emotion, the humor, and the bond between rescue dog and human. I enjoyed getting to know youngest Kilcannon sibling, Darcy in this book as well as Josh, a recent addition to Bitter Creek. Their chemistry is evident, their banter, lively, and their avoidance of relationships, mutual. They both have emotional baggage to unpack and overcome but they make a good team and I was totally on board with them as a couple. Of course, their dogs are adorable and captured my heart, as has every dog in this series.  

The books in this series lean more toward sweet than steamy but are infused with a deep well of emotion and enough sexual tension to keep me well satisfied. To be honest, I've become so immersed in each of the Kilcannon journeys that I haven't even missed the steam.

Double Dog Dare is the sixth Dogfather book and, while I prefer to read a series in order, each of the books in this series is written to stand alone. Fans of the series will enjoy the scenes in Double Dog Dare that include the entire Kilcannon family and catching up with couples from earlier books but readers new to the series can jump right in with this sixth book and not miss a beat. Of course, if you're like many readers who have discovered this series, you'll fall in love with all the Kilcannons and immediately go looking for books one through five as soon as you finish reading number six. 

The Dogfather, widower Daniel Kilcannon, is scheduled to be the hero of the next full-length book in this series and I am over the moon with excitement for his second-chapter love story! 


Are you a fan of older heroes and heroines in romance?

Have you been reading The Dogfather books? 

Do you have a favorite book or couple in this series?

Dogs or cats? Tell me about your pets or those pets you enjoy reading about in books. 

I have an extra signed copy of Bad to the Bone that will go to one randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), August 15, 2018.  (U.S. only)




Monday, August 13, 2018

Excerpt Tour - - The Black Witch


The Black Witch
An Epic Fantasy Novel
By Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 2, 2018


Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else. 

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecare, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother's legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people - including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians - is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits...if only she can find the courage to trust those she's been taught to hate and fear.







CHAPTER ONE

Halfix


"Take that, you stupid Icaral!"

I glance down with amusement at my young neighbors, a basket of freshly picked vegetables and herbs balanced on my hip, a slight near-autumn chill fighting to make itself known through the warm sunlight.

Emmet and Brennan Gaffney are six-year-old twins with the black hair, forest green eyes and faintly shimmering skin so prized by my people, the Gardnerian Mages.

The two boys pause from their noisy game and look up at me hopefully. They sit in the cool, sunlit grass, their toys scattered about. 


All the traditional characters are there among the brightly painted wooden figures. The black-haired Gardnerian soldiers, their dark tunics marked with brilliant silver spheres, stand valiantly with wands or swords raised. The boys have lined the soldiers up on a wide, flat stone in military formation.

There are also the usual archvillains  - the evil Icaral demons with their glowing eyes, their faces contorted into wide, malicious grins, black wings stretched out to their full size in an effort to intimidate, fireballs in their fists. The boys have lined these up on a log and are attempting to launch rocks at them from the direction of the soldiers with a catapult they've fashioned from sticks and string.


There are assorted side characters, too: the beautiful Gardnerian maidens with their long black hair; wicked Lupine shapeshifters - half-human, half-wolf; green-scaled Snake Elves; and the mysterious Vu Trin sorceresses. They're characters from the storybooks and songs of my childhood, as familiar to me as the old patchwork quilt that lies on my bed.


"Why are you here?" I ask the boys, glancing down into the valley toward the Gaffneys' estate and sprawling plantation. Eliss Gaffney usually keeps the twins firmly near home. 


"Momma won't stop crying," Emmet scowls and bangs the head of a wolf-creature into the ground.


"Don't tell!" Brennan chastises, his voice shrill. "Poppa'll whip you for it! He said not to tell!"


I'm not surprised by Brennan's fear. It's well-known that Mage Warren Gaffney's a hard man, feared by his fastmate and children. And the startling disappearance of his nineteen-year-old daughter, Sage, has made him even harder.


I look to the Gaffneys' estate again with well-worn concern.


Where are you, Sage? I wonder unhappily. She's been missing without a trace for well over a year. What could have possibly happened to you?


I let out a troubled sigh and turn back to the boys. "It's all right," I say, trying to comfort them. "You can stay over here for a while. You can even stay for supper."


The boys brighten and appear more than a little relieved.


"Come play with us, Elloren," Brennan pleads as he playfully grabs at the edge of my tunic.


I chuckle and reach down to ruffle Brennan's hair. "Maybe later. I have to help make supper, you know that."


"We're defeating the Icarals!" Emmet exclaims. He throws a rock at one of the Icarals to demonstrate. The rock collides with the small demon and sends it spinning into the grass. "Wanna see if we can knock their wings off?"

I pick up the small figure and run my thumb across its unpainted base. Breathing in deep, I close my eyes and the image of a large tree with a dense crown, swooping branches and delicate white flowers fills my mind.

Frosted Hawthorne. Such elegant wood for a child's plaything.

I open my eyes, dissolving the image, focusing back in on the demon toy's orange eyes. I fight the urge to envision the tree once more, but I know better than to entertain this odd quirk of mine.      


Often, if I close my eyes while holding a piece of wood, I can get the full sense of its source tree. With startling detail. I can see the tree's birthplace, smell the rich, loamy carpet beneath its roots, feel the sun dappling its outstretched leaves.  


Of course, I've learned to keep these imaginings to myself.


A strange nature fixation like this smacks of Fae blood, and Uncle Edwin has warned me to never speak of it. We Gardnerians are a pure-blooded race, free from the stain of the heathen races that surround us. And my family line has the strongest, purest Mage blood of all.    


But I often worry. If that's true, then why do I see these things?


"You should be more careful with your toys," I gently scold the boys as I shake off the lingering image of the tree and set the figure down. 


The sound of the boys' grand battles recedes into the distance as I near the small cottage I share with Uncle Edwin and my two brothers. I peer across the broad field toward our horse stables and give a start.  


A large, elegant carriage is parked there. The crest of the Mage Council, Gardneria's highest level of government, is artfully painted on its side - a golden M styled with graceful, looping calligraphy.  


Four military guards, real-life versions of Emmet and Brennan's toys, sit eating some food. They're strapping soldiers, dressed in black tunics with silver spheres marking their chests, with wands and swords at their sides.     


It has to be my aunt's carriage - it can't possibly be anyone else's. My aunt is a member of our ruling High Mage Council, and she always travels with an armed entourage.        


A rush of excitement flashes through me, and I quicken my pace, wondering what on all of Erthia could have possibly brought my powerful aunt to remote Halfix, of all places.


I haven't seen her since I was five years old.          


***


We lived near her back then, in Valgard, Gardneria's bustling port city and capital. But we hardly ever saw her.


One day, clear out of the blue, my aunt appeared in the front room of my uncle's violin shop.


"Have you had the children wandtested?" she inquired, her tone light, but her eyes sharp as ice.


I remember how I tried to hide behind Uncle Erwin, clinging to his tunic, mesmerized by the elegant creature before me.


"Of course, Vyvian," my uncle haltingly answered his sister. "Several times over."


I looked up at my uncle with confused surprise. I had no memory of being wandtested, even though I knew that all Gardnerian children were.


"And what did you fine?" she asked probingly.


"Rafe and Elloren are powerless," he told her as he shifted slightly, cutting off my view of Aunt Vyvian, casting me in shadows. "But Trystan. The boy has some magic in him."


"Are you sure?"


"Yes, Vyvian, quite."


And that was when she began to visit with us.


Soon after, my uncle unexpectedly soured on city life. Without warning, he whisked my brothers and me away to where we now live. In tiny Halfix. At the very northeastern edge of Gardneria.


Right in the middle of nowhere.


  

       

Like what you read so far? Buy the book here, and don’t forget to pre-order book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Iron Flower, on sale next month!

Excerpted from The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, copyright 2017 by Laurie Forest. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.



Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Connect with Laurie

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram




Excerpt Tour:

Monday, August 13th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, August 14th: From the TBR PIle
Wednesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode
Thursday, August 16th: A Holland Reads
Friday, August 17th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, August 20th: Rockin’ & Reviewing
Tuesday, August 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, August 22nd: Books & Bindings
Thursday, August 23rd: Girls in Books
Friday, August 24th: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, August 27th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 28th: What is That Book About





        

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review - - Born to be Wilde


Born to be Wilde
By Eloisa James
The Wildes of Lindow Castle - Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by PJ




For beautiful, witty Lavinia Gray, there’s only one thing worse than having to ask the appalling Parth Sterling to marry her: being turned down by him.
Now the richest bachelor in England, Parth is not about to marry a woman as reckless and fashion-obsessed as Lavinia; he’s chosen a far more suitable bride.
But when he learns of Lavinia's desperate circumstances, he offers to find her a husband. Even better, he’ll find her a prince.
As usual, there’s no problem Parth can’t fix. But the more time he spends with the beguiling Lavinia, the more he finds himself wondering…
Why does the woman who’s completely wrong feel so right in his arms?


Before we get into the content of this book, can we all just take a minute to appreciate that cover? I mean, really. Maybe it's shallow of me (and I'm totally okay with that) but when this book joins the other Wildes on my bookshelf this one will be facing outward. Maybe forever. <grin>

Let me start off by saying I'm so enjoying this loud, supportive, meddling, loving family that Eloisa James has created in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series. The family dynamic (both good and bad, humorous and emotional) rings true and reminds me of the large family of siblings and cousins that surrounded me as I grew up. 

Another theme that threads its way through these books is friendship. Specifically, female friendships. In each book, those friendships shift and evolve as do the characters themselves. As each of their stories unfolds, James slowly reveals more of each character, allowing us to see them in a new light even as the character herself begins to recognize and accept the changes, the strengthening, within herself.

Finally, the romance. Parth and Lavinia have been striking sparks off one another since the first book in the series but, of course, both of them chalk it up to their instant dislike of the other. She thinks he's a rich know-it-all while he thinks she's a flighty spendthrift dangling the men of the ton at her feet. Neither is willing to look beneath the surface emotions until unforeseen circumstances force them to. But once they did, my heart was with them the entire way.

Watching Lavinia dig deep for courage and strength, take control of a dire situation, find a way out on her own, and find her passion in the process endeared her to me more than almost any other Eloisa James heroine. The growth of this character was inspiring. I was in her corner, cheering her on the whole way. 

I was in Parth's corner too, often saying, "Wake up! You're going to lose her!" Parth has a fair amount of bias against what he views as Lavinia's shallow obsession with fashion. Man has some hard lessons to learn but learn he does, as his grand gesture near the end of the book proves. I adored it...and him. I found Parth's personal journey to be just as emotional as Lavinia's and necessary to their happy ending. They may have begun their journey at cross purposes but by the end of their story I was confident these two would have a wonderful, passionate life together as true partners, in and out of bed. 

Kudos to Eloisa James for another witty, humorous, sensual, emotional, heart-tugging journey with the Wildes of Lindow Castle. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review - - The Highland Chieftain


THE HIGHLAND CHIEFTAIN
By Amy Jarecki
Publisher: Forever Grand Central
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie




Lady Mairi Mackenzie might have been jilted by her fiance, but she doesn’t want or need any pity proposals from her fiance’s right-hand-man, Laird Duncan MacRae. Sure he’s handsome and rock hard and steady as the day is long--but as her father likes to remind her, she can do so much better. And again, she doesn’t want a man who only offers marriage just because he watched her get jilted.

Dunn MacRae is having a hell of a time persuading the only woman he’s ever wanted--and the only woman he couldn’t have--that his proposal couldn’t be more in earnest. However, the vexing female won’t stand still long enough to even talk to him. It’s only when he rescues her from a brutal attack from redcoats and has to go into hiding that Mairi finally begins to see the man she’s been snubbing this whole time.

I’ve enjoyed Jarecki’s series of highlanders--she is skilled at delivering a hunky, heroic highlander you enjoy crawling in bed with--but hands down, Dunn is the McDreamiest. And possibly the McSteamiest. When it comes to fictional boyfriends--of which I have a new one every week and have had for the last twenty-some years--Dunn is a contender for all things we cheer for in a hero. He’s protective, he’s poetic, he’s kind (though grumpy), and he’s always putting her happiness first. I also gotta say of all the covers that Jarecki has had for this series, this one is my favorite--it’s McSwoony. (I gave a ½ star just for the cover alone.)

As for Mairi, I did struggle slightly with her. I applaud Jarecki for creating heroines who are historically in tune with their times (on the whole) and aren’t Lara Tomb Raider in skirts. However, I sometimes get a little lost in the emotional ride the heroines have gone on and they feel a little immature. Fortunately Mairi’s little rides were infrequent and mostly logical (i.e. didn’t pull me out of the story which is what happens when I think the heroines are being too weepy.) Mairi is definitely an equal partner to Dunn in every way, and makes her loyalties known when the time comes.

So if you’re looking for a Highland boyfriend this summer, make haste and fall in love with Dunn MacRae--and if you haven’t already, the other highlanders in this series.







Monday, August 6, 2018

Review - - A Touch of Flame



A Touch of Flame
By: Jo Goodman
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie




Newly elected sheriff, Ben Madison, has been sent to pick up the new doctor for Frost Falls, Dr. E. Ridley Woodhouse. It seems Doc, who retired in a hurry but reassured Ben that the new physician would be perfect for the role, neglected to mention one tiny thing: the new doc is a woman. Which, Ben will assure you, he noticed right away. Although Ben finds the new Dr. Woodhouse to be efficient and capable in her profession, the town itself is not yet willing to embrace the modern idea of a woman doctor. Even if it is almost the 20th century.

Dr. Ridley Woodhouse has her work cut out for her. She anticipated the town would not be eager to replace the vacancy that the well-beloved Doc had left, but she knew eventually they would have to come around. In the meantime, she would take a few key suggestions from the sheriff by making herself visible in the community and making house calls whether she’s been directly asked or not. Things might even go smoothly if not for one particular family, a married couple with children, whose husband is prone to domestic violence. The laws of the turn of the century aren’t protective of married women in abusive relationships; and both she and Sheriff Ben are frustrated by how little they can do to fix the situation. Still, sticking your nose where it’s not wanted--and without the law on your side--can be quite dangerous, and Ben soon confronts his greatest fear as he may lose the woman he has grown to love.

This book is intense with high drama (which Goodman is known for) and high stakes, but it was the humor that makes me give this one a Top Dish rating. Oh my God did I laugh. I laughed until I was sick. Ben Madison is the funniest, most unflappable male I’ve ever fallen in love with. From the minute he picks up the new doctor--who insists on being called Doctor Woodhouse--and allows the good doctor to assume he is just some lackey sent to pick her up at the station and not someone of such high station as the sheriff, to the time he has to help her dress for a funeral and is holding her corset, equating it to saddling a horse, to trying to guess what the E of her first name really stands for, Ben Madison is stubbornly good-humored and even-keeled.

Ridley is just starchy enough to not be so blessed with such a sense of humor, but this is easily forgiven since she pursued her degree in a field riddled with men who did not take her seriously, so she had to be twice so in order to get the respect she deserves. She is no nonsense, pragmatic, practical, and quick to call anyone on their bullshit. She’s just the kind of heroine we all want to be or be friends with.

This book has it all: sexy love scenes (that feel real and not gratuitous), constant real action that keeps a good pace without being exhausting, detailed setting and historical detail for any lover of historical novels, and well-rounded characters, not just the two main characters themselves. Jo Goodman makes it all look so easy; and it’s so readable it’s easy to appreciate. But as a writer, I know there was a lot in the background we don’t see that was nothing but hard work, as much as her own characters work, I’d say. It is a pure delight to read, a greater delight to admire.



Friday, August 3, 2018

Review - - Cowboy Bold



Cowboy Bold
by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie






Typically, when I gush on and on about a favorite romance novel, it’s the hero I’m most taken by, and while Cade Maguire is indeed worth gushing over, it was the story arc and character of Retta Palmer that made me cry and declare this is my favorite of all Carolyn Brown novels.

Retta Palmer needs a layover job until she can interview for a bank job in Dallas, her dream job she had before her father took sick and she quit to go home to take care of him. But now with her father gone and the home farm sold to pay medical bills, Retta is at loose ends until the end of summer when she can go apply for the job she really wants. In the meantime, holing up at Cade Maguire’s ranch, mentoring a group of young girls, seems like a pleasurable way to spend her time.

But it turns out to be even more than that. Everything about being on the ranch feels right, from her time spent with the girls to every clandestine moment spent with the hot and handsome ranch owner. Still, she’s not ready to give up her dream job to live in the middle of nowhere and farm. It was why she left home all those years ago in the first place. It doesn’t help that everyone from his brothers, to the elderly caretakers, to the kids themselves are all conspiring to make the match work. How do you choose between two loves?

For me, it was Retta’s interaction with the troubled girls who were spending five weeks on the ranch as part of a program to rehabilitate them. Most are from foster home situations; all from poverty and destitute circumstances. Honestly you won’t know which little girl you like the most because they’re all adorable and all hilariously annoying and competitive. While Retta rides herd on the girls, Cade has his hands full with the boys who are also part of the program, and each of them are funny and broken and loveable.

This is a book of healing. Retta who is healing from the loss of her father and her childhood home; Cade who is healing from the heartbreak when he was jilted at the altar a couple years ago; and the kids, who all have their own issues and situations that no child should be burdened with. This book made me cry a lot and made me think of my father. For me, this is a 5 star Top Dish because this felt like a book written just for me, and I thank Carolyn Brown for it. It was a very healing book. I can’t wait to read the other books in this series; and I rather hope we get to see the little girls again. I was really hoping Cade and Retta would adopt one. Fingers crossed.



Thursday, August 2, 2018

Winners - - In Memory of Janga





The three individuals who will receive a book from

my In Memory of Janga post are:

Cathy P

Kathleen O

Quantum

Please email me at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com with your

choice of book - Born To Be Wilde, First Time At Firelight Falls

OR Marry in Scandal - and choice of Kindle or print copy.

If you choose print, please also send your

full name and postal mailing address. 

Your book will be shipped from bookdepository.com.






Winners - - RWA2018 / Part Three






The randomly chosen winners from the

RWA2018 / Part Three post are:

Susan in AZ

and

Glenda

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address 

with RWA Part Three Winner in the subject line to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com






Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review - - The Warrior of Clan Kincaid


The Warrior of Clan Kincaid
By Lily Blackwood
Highland Warrior - Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by PJ



Lily Blackwood brings the medieval highlands of Scotland to life in this third book of her Highland Warrior series. Readers may have had to wait longer than expected for Cull's story but, oh, this story was so worth it. 

Cull the Nameless, King's Guard and knight of Scotland has no memory of his life before the years spent as a ship's slave. What he does know is that at the age of twelve, he was purchased by the Earl of Buchan, fed, clothed, named, and trained to be a warrior. All that Cull is today he owes to Buchan and he proudly serves him as a commander of his soldiers. Which is why he is currently leading a force of those soldiers to demand the surrender of the Laird of Clan Kincaid and all his properties or take them by force if necessary.

For her own safety, Derryth McClaren, pampered sister of the Lady Kincaid is secreted away from the Clan Kincaid castle in the middle of the night to make the two day journey to her childhood home. Plans go awry when their party is attacked and they find themselves taken prisoner by Cull but the warrior is not what Derryth expects. Rather than the evil person she anticipates, being loyal to Buchan, she encounters an honorable man. The more she comes to know him, and sees evidence of his fair treatment of her and those who traveled with her, the more she believes he's not aware of just how evil his lord is or that he may be using Cull to carry out his own personal revenge in the most devious way possible. 

Cull has no knowledge of Derryth's connection to Clan Kincaid. He also has no idea of the truths Buchan has kept from him nor the lies he now tells in his obsessive quest to destroy the Kincaids. He only knows he has fallen in love with a woman who is stronger than she realizes and his perfect match in every way. But there those who will do anything to keep Cull and Derryth apart and one more truth to be told that will change everything...and everyone...in unimaginable ways. 

Cull and Derryth are characters who engaged my heart, my mind, and my romantic soul. Their bond is so deep, so complete that I was certain their love would conquer any obstacle in their way...and Blackwood throws more than a few obstacles in their path. With this book, and the two that preceded it in the trilogy, Lily Blackwood has earned a place among my favorite medieval romance authors. Her characters are fully dimensional, with depths that draw me in and encourage me to cheer for their happy endings...or just punishments, as the case may be. Her words paint pictures, allowing me to visualize life in the highlands as it would have been in 1390. And her storytelling brings me along on a sometimes emotional, sometimes frightening, sometimes sensual, and, ultimately, celebratory journey that I feel like I'm experiencing with the characters. I don't read about their journey, I journey with them, and that's what a good book should do.

If you have not yet discovered Lily Blackwood, I highly recommend the three books in her Highland Warrior series: The Beast of Clan Kincaid, The Rebel of Clan Kincaid, and The Warrior of Clan Kincaid. I don't know if Blackwood plans to return to this world but there's a secondary character in this series who has proven his worth and deserves a happy ending. I'd like to go on record with my wish for a story for Robert and if that story could include the Kincaids, all the better!   

Coming Attractions




With everything happening offline during June and July (Sweden, RWA, serious health crises among friends and family, and Janga's diagnosis and passing), I took a step back from the blog and did not schedule any tours or author visits for the month of August. But don't worry. That does not mean there will not be new content here this month. There will! 

The review team and I will be catching up on our reading so look for reviews and spotlights throughout the month. Also, I know I left you hanging on what happened after Part One of my trip to Sweden so watch for more photos and highlights from that trip. More Swedish souvenir giveaways too. :)

Of course, if any blog tours, Q&As or guest posts are added to the schedule during the month I will also add them to the Coming Attractions post. 

And, all the books I shipped home from RWA have arrived so don't be surprised to see some giveaways sprinkled throughout August too.

Thank you for sticking with me during these difficult days and thank you for your thoughts and prayers for all of us here at the Dish who knew and loved Janga. She was an important part of this blog as well as a dear, dear friend and she will be missed.