Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review - - A Rogue of Her Own

A Rogue of Her Own
By Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central/Forever
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Lucas Sherbourne is a wealthy commoner with aspirations to a marriage that will add blue blood to his family lines. He feels obligated to achieve what his grandfather failed to do. He is in London to look for a bride, and thanks to his recent truce with his neighbor, the Duke of Haverford, he is tolerated if not welcomed into tonnish circles. Charlotte Windham captured his interest as he observed her at Haverford’s house party (No Other Duke Will Do), and every glimpse of her in London confirms her intelligence, her originality, and the fascination she holds for him. When an opportunity to rescue her from a pugnacious, pertinacious suitor presents itself, Sherbourne acts. It is then that he first decides to offer her a “sensible proposal.”
There are three Windham brides, but Charlotte Windham is uninterested in making a fourth.  As the “sole remaining marital project” among the Windhams, she is weary of countering the efforts of her family to find a match for her and even wearier of dodging hopeful suitors eager to claim the hand of a Windham. She has also had a surfeit if the jealous gossip that surrounds her. Lucas Sherbourne’s proposal catches her by surprise, but his osculatory expertise almost convinces her that marriage to him might be worth the sacrifice of her freedom. But Charlotte has a cause dear to her heart, and marriage would mean losing her freedom to spend her time and her funds as she wishes. Consequently, Charlotte determines to say no to the eminently kissable Mr. Sherbourne, but a farewell kiss interrupted by the Duke and Duchess of Moreland changes her plans.
A week after Charlotte and Lucas are discovered in that farewell kiss, they are married by special license in the Moreland formal parlor with only six members of the Windham family present—Charlotte’s uncle and aunt (the Duke and Duchess of Moreland), the duke’s heir Westhaven and his countess, and the duke’s eldest daughter Maggie and her husband, the Earl of Hazelton. Immediately after the wedding, the newlyweds leave for Sherbourne’s home in Wales, and their real adventure begins as they come to know each other and discover an unexpected compatibility that encompasses, but is not limited to, the chemistry that made that “farewell kiss” necessary. Burrowes skillfully weaves the threads of Charlotte’s cause and its highly personal genesis and Sherbourne’s colliery into the story of their marriage.
Grace Burrowes is a wonderful storyteller with a particular gift for creating characters who fully engage her readers, but Charlotte and Sherbourne are special even for Burrowes. Their story held great promise in No Other Duke Will Do, and it exceeded even my high expectations in A Rogue of Her Own. I loved this book!

Charlotte is delightfully herself throughout the story—smart, compassionate, witty, and independent. Lucas is his own man with a clear understanding of who he is and what he wants. I love the fact that even before they recognize that they are in love, they appreciate one another’s strengths. Theirs is not a marriage-in-trouble story but rather a marriage-in growth story. Maggie’s marital advice to Charlotte is almost a forecast of their journey: “Marriage is an adventure for two. Look for the good in him, the same as you would with   any friend. Give him your loyalty and the benefit of the doubt, find things to laugh about together, and don’t worry if the early days are a bit bumpy. That’s part of it.”

I’ve been a Grace Burrowes fan since her first book, and reading this latest in the Windham saga just reminded me of all the reasons I find her books so rewarding. I love the interconnectedness of her world. Part of the fun of A Rogue of Her Own is the appearance of or reference to various and sundry Windhams. Elizabeth and Haverford feature most prominently, but the family is present in many ways. I love the family dynamics of Burrowes’s books. There are some difficult relationships, but I especially enjoy the genuine affection that ties siblings together and the way that affection expands to include spouses and children. I enjoy dialogue that makes me smile, and Burrowes always provides that. There is a wonderful exchange in this book centering around the word torrid. Charlotte introduces the topic: “If the right people came upon me in a torrid embrace with the right sort of man, I’d be ruined.”

Sherbourne responds, “Have you ever been in a torrid embrace, Miss Charlotte?” Charlotte admits that she has never even spoken the word aloud, and a bit later, after a kiss that becomes
“intimate, wandering past playful, to curious, then bold . . . to thoughtful, then on to daring,” there is this exchange:

            “That’s a taste of torrid, a mere sample. A lovely sample, I might add.”

            “You torrid very well, Mr. Sherbourne. May I prevail on you to ruin me.”

             “I would rather not ruin you. . . . I am far more interested in marrying you.”

A Rogue of Her Own is the conclusion to The Windham Brides, a series within the larger Windham series. I think it is the best in an excellent quartet. If I tell you that upon finishing this book, I went back to The Heir, Burrowes’s debut novel and the first Windham book, and then reread the full series, twelve novels (including the four Windham Brides books) and four novellas, and enjoyed every story as much as I did the first time I read them, you may understand what a delight I found this last book to be. In fact, a second reading kicked my rating from a 4.5 to a full five stars. If you like historical romance that blends a little sizzle, more than a little laughter, and some substantive issues with a love story that is as much about genuine liking, understanding, and appreciation as it is about lust, I think you will fall in love with this book too. I highly recommend it. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Burrowes has more stories of the Windhams in store for her readers. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

RITA & Golden Heart - - The Finalists Are...

It's that time again! Today, Romance Writers of America® (RWA) will announce the finalists for the Rita® and Golden Heart® awards, honoring the best published books and unpublished manuscripts of 2017. A winner in each category will be chosen from the finalists and will be announced Thursday, July 19 at the RWA National Conference in Denver, Colorado. 

We'll be following the announcements here and at The Romance Dish Facebook page and chatting about the 2017 books that were our favorites. Author notifications will begin at 8:30 AM (Central Time). I'll fill in the finalists for each of the categories below as they are announced but I'm sure we all have our own thoughts about what books published in 2017 should final. 

What were your favorite books of 2017?

Which RITA® category is your favorite?

Share your thoughts about the finalists. Which book(s) are you cheering for to win?

Two randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, March 23 will receive a package of books. (U.S. only)

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, March 23 will receive their choice of one RITA® nominated book from (international) or Amazon (U.S.), value not to exceed $10. 


Contemporary Romance: Long
Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are 84,000 or more words.

The Dating Game by Avril Tremayne
Falling Hard by Lexi Ryan
Famous by Jenny Holliday
No One But You by Brenda Novak (Janga's review)
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
Tougher in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell
The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo
The Wingman by Natasha Anders

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length
Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are between 56,000 and 84,000 words in length.

The F-Word by Sandra Marton
His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
Lucky Charmed by Sharla Lovelace
New Leash on Life by Roxanne St. Claire
Redemption by Kelly Moran
Royally Wed by Teri Wilson
Summer Stock by Vanessa North
Tell Me by Abigail Strom
This Can't be Love by Maria Geraci
You Do Something to Me (The Sullivans) by Bella Andre

Contemporary Romance: Short
Novels that are set from 1950 to present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are between 40,000 and 56,000 words in length.

The Billionaire's Christmas Baby by Marion Lennox
Christmas at the Graff by Kaylie Newell
A Christmas Miracle by Amy Andrews
The Cowboy Upstairs by Tanya Michaels
The Doctor and the Princess by Scarlet Wilson 
Miracle on Chance Avenue by Jane Porter
The Princess Problem by Teri Wilson
Second Chance Summer by Kait Nolan
The Sheikh's Convenient Princess by Liz Fielding
Troy (American Extreme Bullrider Tour #5) by Amy Andrews

2017 - Laura Lee Guhrke - RITA: Historical Romance:Long

Erotic Romance
Novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.)

Constant Craving by Tamara Lush
Deposition and a Dare by Evelyn Adams
The Rivalry by Nikki Stone
Stud by Jamie Schmidt
Wicked Dirth by J. Kenner

Historical Romance: Long
Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are longer than 89,000 words.

Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen (one of PJ's Top Ten books of 2017)
The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean (PJ's review and one of PJ's Top Ten books of 2017)
Mad for the Marquess by Jess Russell
The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake
The Scoundrel's Honor by Christi Caldwell (Santa's review)

2013 - Sarah Maclean & Eloisa James - RITA: Historical Romance / Romance Novella

Historical Romance: Short
Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are between 40,000 and 89,000 words.

Blame it on the Duke by Lenora Bell (PJ's review)
The Demon Duke by Margaret Locke
The Rogue's Conquest by Lily Maxton
The Scandal of it All by Sophie Jordan (Santa's review)
A Scottish Lord for Christmas by Lauren Smith
Waltzing With the Earl by Catherine Tinley
Within a Captain's Soul by Lisa Olech

Paranormal Romance
Novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.

Bishop by Marie Johnston
The Druid Next Door by E. J. Russell
Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones
Song of the Nightpiper by Hannah Meredith
Hunt the Darkness by Stephanie Rowe
Spectred Isle by K.J. Charles
To Enthrall the Demon Lord by Nadine Mutas
Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson

2015 - Tessa Dare - RITA: Historical Romance:Short

Romance Novella
Novellas that focus primarily on the romantic relationship.

"Dancing with the Duke's Heir" by Bronwyn Scott in Scandal at the Christmas Ball
Forbidden River by Brynn Kelly
Her Duke at Daybreak by Wendy LaCapra (read our review)
"In His Arms" by Jules Dixon in Falling:Small Town Love Anthology
"The Pursuit of..." by Courtney Milan in Hamilton's Battalion:A Trio of Romances
The Secret of My Seduction by Caroline Linden
"Sweet Home Highlands" by May McGoldrick in Christmas in Kilts:a Highland Holiday Box Set
Until the Sun Sets by Tara Wyatt

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements
Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.

Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson
A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese
A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander
One Simple Wish by Katy Lee
Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

2015 - Juliana Stone - RITA: Young Adult

Romantic Suspense
Novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

Critical Instinct by Janie Crouch
The Fixer by HelenKay Dimon
Guarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon
Montana Heat:Escape to You by Jennifer Ryan (PJ's review)
Say You're Sorry by Melinda Leigh
Too Wilde to Tame by Tonya Burrows
Touch of Red by Laura Griffin
The Transporter by Liz Maverick
Under Fire by Scarlett Cole

Young Adult Romance
Novels in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Seize Today by Pintip Dunn
The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle

2017 - Cheryl Etchison - RITA: Best First Book

Best First Book
A novel entered in another contest category. To be eligible, the author (or authors in the case of a writing team) shall not have had any other novel or novella previously commercially available in any format.

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel
His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle
Waltzing With the Earl by Catherine Tinley

2014 - Susanna Kearsley - RITA: Paranormal

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins (Janga's review)
Shelter the Sea by Heidi Cullinan
Unloved, a Love Story by Kate Regnery

2010 - Beth Andrews (and Romance Bandits) - RITA: Contemporary Series Romance



Contemporary Romance
Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are greater than 65,000 words.

Beauty and the Blackmail by Jessa Gwinn
Caught on Film by Arianna James
Duet by Gwynne Jackson
Fighter by Sarah Morganthaler
A Hope to Build on by Josee Telfer
How to Reset a Broken Heart by Amy Katherine Jones
The Instant Family Algorithm by Cheryl Ford
North Star by Katherine Olson
Played by Melanie Edmonds
Thrown by Arianna James
Well-Played by Alexandria Bellefleur

Contemporary Romance: Short
Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that are less than 65,000 words in length.

The Billionaire's Stand-in Wife by Meredith Clark
Cole for Christmas by Janet Raye Stevens
Falling for the Best Man by Jamie Dallas
Out of the Shadows by D. Murphy Ryan
Somebody Like You by Marty Mayberry
Space June: Houston, We Have a Hottie by Sara L. Hudson
Watching by Barbra Campbell

2014 - Lenora Bell (with Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan) - Golden Heart: Historical Romance

Historical Romance
Manuscripts that are set prior to 1950.

The Art of Scandal by Suzanne Turner
The Duke's Seduction by Marsha Levinson
The Duke of Charlotte Street by Scarlett Peckham
The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham
A Featured Affair by Kate Belli
The Rakess by Scarlet Peckham
Remember Texas by Laura Connor Kestner
An Unloved Earl by Eileen Emerson

Paranormal Romance
Manuscripts in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.

Awakening the Blades by Alexia Chantel
The Demon's in the Details by Jeanne Oates Estridge
Freeing Eden by Ginger Kenney
House of Ash and Brimstone by Megan Starks
Inherent Lies by Alicia Anthony
Jinn on the Rocks by Kay Hudson
Leap of Fate by Kimberly MacCarron

2009 - Joanna Bourne - RITA: Regency Historical  Romance

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements
Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.


Romantic Suspense
Manuscripts in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

Deadly Aim by Tracy Brody
Extreme Fear by Pamela Varnado
Fair Haven by Laura Connor Kestner
Fearless by Marty Mayberry
Goode over Evil by Leslie Marshman
Lovely Digits by Jeanine Englert

2011 - Jodi Thomas (with PJ) - RITA: Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

Birds of a Feather by Anna Murray
The Brass Queen by Elizabeth Chatsworth
Circle in Time by Susan Bickford
Jane Darling's Rules of Inheritance by Megan McGee
Keeping the Piece by Brenda Lowder
Midnight on Topanga Canyon Boulevard by Gabrielle Luthy
Veiled Intent by Janet Jimenez
Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

Young Adult Romance
Manuscripts in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.  

All our Broken Pieces by TL Sumner
Engineering Kit Sinclair by Lana Pattinson
Loving Outside the Lines by Kimberly MacCarron
Mouthful by C.R. Grissom
Our Red String by Kimberly MacCarron

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review - - Falling for the Brother

Falling for the Brother
By Tara Taylor Quinn
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Harper Davidson, newly promoted to head of security at The Lemonade Stand, a California women’s shelter, is certain that the Miriam Thomas, the most recent high security risk admission to the shelter, just happens to share a name with the grandmother of her ex-husband. She is shocked when further details reveal that the woman admitted at 2:00 a. m. with a broken arm and multiple contusions on her chin is indeed her daughter’s cherished great-grandmother. Harper is even more shocked to learn that Miriam was brought to The Lemonade Stand by Mason, her oldest grandson and a special crime scene investigator based in Los Angeles, and that he believes his younger brother, Bruce, an undercover officer with the Albina, California Police Department, is the abuser.  Even though she divorced Bruce after a year of marriage because of his repeated infidelities, she can’t believe he would harm the grandmother he adores, but neither can she imagine Mason making such a charge lightly.

Mason has stayed away from Harper since the night she found comfort in his arms after breaking up with Bruce, her fianc√© at the time, over his infidelity. However, he has never forgotten her, and he is haunted by the question of whether four-year-old Brianna is his niece or his daughter. He is determined to identify his grandmother’s abuser and to protect her, but he is also determined to protect Bruce and his career during the process. He needs Harper’s help, and he will have to control his attraction to her and put their personal issues on hold.

Miriam insists that her injuries were sustained in a fall. Her life-long best friend from whom she is recently estranged is certain that Bruce is the abuser. Mason begins to wonder if his brother is innocent and questions if a mysterious neighbor could be the abuser. Harper is torn between her disbelief that her ex, the father that her daughter adores, could abuse his grandmother and the mounting evidence that she never really knew the man she married. As Mason and Harper try to find the answers, the past casts a long shadow over their relationship. They can’t forget. Can they move beyond guilt and sorrow to claim a future together?

Falling for the Brother is the fourteenth installment in Tara Taylor Quinn’s Where Secrets Are Safe series. Like the other stories in the series, this one balances suspense, generally tied to the abuse theme, with romance. The mystery works well in this one since the reader shares Harper’s uncertainties. However, I would like to have seen an expanded conclusion. The end comes very abruptly, and it is more tell than show. I found the romance less successful, but I don’t like love triangles that involve siblings. A reader who finds such tangled relationships more appealing will likely enjoy the romance more than I did. The most interesting part of the story for me was the mix of good and bad in the villain and the theme of family love that forgives and endures.

Harlequin is phasing out the Superromance line within the next few months, but Quinn has one more book in this long-running series before the imprint becomes history. A Defender’s Heart will be released June 5. Later in the summer Quinn will introduce a new series under the Harlequin Special Edition imprint.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review - - A Princess in Theory

A Princess in Theory
By Alyssa Cole
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie

So if you know me at all, you know I'm a little Royal-Mad, as in when Will and Kate got married, I stayed home and watched, even though my family hasn't been a member of the crown since 1776. I have a special place for the commoner who marries the prince. Some fan-readers are die hard secret baby people, but I'm all about the royalty. Imagine my complete fan-girling glee then when I found a book (who knew those Facebook sponsored ads were actually working?) that had all the things I loved: a strong, smart, sarcastic heroine; a hot and articulate prince; and a hilarious case of mistaken identity.

The first page is an email sent to our heroine, which reads like the most cliched of chain letter scam emails from a Nigerian prince who needs a million dollars, and I was hooked. And then there's our original world with Naledi Smith, who is a grad student working to be a scientist to cure infectious diseases, and her interaction with a coworker is a textbook example of the #MeToo movement and
Lean In. It would be hilarious if it weren't just so, so real. I bought the book immediately so I could keep reading. I was so glad I did.

When Naledi finally does respond to that string of scammer Nigerian-esque prince emails with a succinct "Fuck. Off.," her prince in waiting laughs and insists on meeting her in person. Prince Thabiso of Thesolo confronts Naledi, his childhood betrothed who has been missing for twenty years, and is mistaken for a commoner--the new hired staff at the restaurant where Naledi works when she isn't studying. Instead of correcting her, he is intrigued about the possibility of getting to know his absentee bride without the trappings his royal prestige affords him. How will he know for sure if she likes him if she's only fawning over him because he's rich and powerful?

Not to worry. Naledi doesn't like him at all. Oh, she's inexplicable attracted him, which she doesn't have time to think about and is causing her a bit of worry because this. never. happens. It much be his accent. (I hear you, Naledi.) But Jamal--as she knows Prince Thabiso-- is just a fuckboy who is here to screw with her and frankly she doesn't have that kind of time. But Jamal isn't easy to get rid of, not even when she fired him for being the worst server ever. No, no, somehow he manages to be in her life and is worming his way into her heart like some sort of parasite. In fact, she might start to admit she does like him, even as he keeps hemming and hawing that he has something to tell her. Something important.

When Naledi does finally learn Jamal is actually Prince Thabiso; and that she is actually Thabiso's fiance√© and a long lost child of Thesolo, not just an orphaned, unwanted, foster kid of New York, she is livid. She already had trust issues; Thabiso did not help his case. When Naledi is convinced to travel back to Thesolo in order to do research on a new mysterious disease that is harming many of the people, she will be able to do her job without letting her heart get involved with the one man who can hurt her above anyone else? And will Thabiso be able to atone for his deception and convince Naledi she is the only woman for him? 

You guys, this book has become my measuring stick for contemporary romances, and here's some of the reasons why:

1) Consent is sexy. He asks for consent. He doesn't assume. Mind  you, I usually enjoy romances where the hero is kissing without asking, but Cole makes me question why I think that's sexy. This was romantic and sexy without feeling weak.

2) Smart is sexy. Granted, not every heroine can be a scientist, but there is something to be said for having your characters passionate for something that they know a lot about. So much so that their identity is wrapped up in it and their speech, mannerisms, et al, conveys it. Naledi thinks science. When she metaphors, it's in science metaphors. When she jokes, it's science jokes. Her essence speaks in science and it's powerful to read a character so dimensionally drawn on the page. The same is true for Thabiso. He's grown up a prince of Africa, so many of this thoughts, words, references are about the place he grew up. The contrast of the experiences between these characters is so well defined, it should be a textbook example for writing.

3) Safe sex is never tampered with. Cole should get an award for this alone. Even though Naledi makes mention of having backup birth control, both she and Thabiso make sure to use condoms. Because it is the RESPONSIBLE thing to do in this day and age. It's not a big deal in the book; and there is even a brief sentence of disposing of the condom after. Again, not a big deal...and yet in many contemporaries I read, condoms are skipped with a side line that she is on the pill or something. That is not the only thing condoms are for, just saying.

4) Equality and respect are sexy. Even though he was a future ruler of an entire country, he never treated Naledi as if she were second to him. She was a partner in every way; her intelligence and fierceness were the things he loved most about her. Granted many romance novels have heroes that show this, but at no point in this book did he throw her under the bus to save himself or make her look bad. He always defended her and upheld her attributes.

5) Learning from each other is sexy. The flaws in these characters were the kind that are "too much of a good thing"--where at the surface you don't see them as flaws until you see what it's preventing the characters from doing or being. Naledi won't let anyone close, won't let anyone help her. She's self-sufficient, self-reliant, and it's only when working with Thabiso as he says, "You don't delegate enough" that she begins to question if part of the reason people take advantage of her is because they assume she'll do it all. Again, I just wanted to reread just to figure out how to do this in my writing.  

I kept reading parts of the book to my coworker: "Listen omg, this is hilarious!"--this along would make me recommend the book. So if you're looking for a good book to read, it definitely meets that mark. If you write or want to write, I recommend reading this book to pull apart to see what good writing and character development is. I cannot wait until the next book comes out, about Naledi's friend Portia, although I hope in the future, we get to hear of a happily ever after for Prince Thabiso's assistant, Likotsi.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.