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

Monday, February 28, 2011

COMING ATTRACTIONS


Aaahh, March. I love March! Not only is it my birthday month, but it is also the beginning of spring, a time when beautiful flowers are budding and blooming. The flower I look forward to seeing the most and which always brings a smile to my face is a daffodil. Those yellow flowers are like little trumpeters heralding the beginning of spring. We have a lot of things blooming here this month too. March looks to be another stellar month.






We start March off with a guest blog by author Ashley March on Tuesday, March 1. Ashley will be discussing her month-long March Madness celebration on her website.



Get your pen and paper ready for Friday, March 4 as Andrea will surprise us all with the massive list of new releases this month. I’m always shocked at just how many new releases there are.




On Monday, March 7, Julie Ann Long guest blogs with us. Her latest release, What I Did For A Duke, which was released on February 22, 2011, has received raved reviews everywhere.




Anne Mallory guest blogs on Tuesday, March 8. Anne’s latest book, One Night Is Never Enough, was released February 22, 2011. Don’t you love that title?



Andrea gives us a sneak peak of April releases on Wednesday, March 9 in her Make Your Reservations blog.



Want to know the latest in YA news? Then be sure to stop by on Thursday, March 10 when Trish Milburn fills us in everything YA.



Bring out your fan and a frozen drink because you will need it on Tuesday, March 15 when Buffie shares her latest Hot Dish selection.




On Thursday, March 17, Emily March guest blogs with us. Emily’s latest book, Angel’s Rest, was released February 15, 2011.




Gannon interviews Kensington debut author Bronwen Evans on Friday March 18. Bronwen’s debut, Invitation to Ruin, was released on February 22, 2011 and is a gritty, sensuous Regency romance.



We will share several book reviews in our month Stock-up Saturday blog on Saturday, March 19.

Anna Campbell’s Second Helping book reviews are always a hit! Be sure to stop by on Thursday, March 24 when Anna shares with us the book that has her attention this month.



And as always, we will have plenty of reviews and giveaways throughout the month.



~ Buffie

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review -- Playing For Keeps

Playing for Keeps
by LuAnn McLane
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Release Date: March 1, 2011






Rich or poor, young or old, city bred or country born, there was still just one thing that really mattered at the end of each day. Love.



After having careers as an award winning major league relief pitcher and more recently as a soap opera hunk, Noah Falcon returns to his small hometown to hone his acting skills in a small local production. Cricket Creek holds a special place in Noah’s heart. Not just because he was the high school baseball star, but because it is the only place he has ever felt himself. No team or manager to impress, no paparazzi to evade, just the good ole folks who knew Noah before he was a star and who still treat him like one of the gang. Well, that is everyone but Olivia Lawson, his old high school tutor. After running into Olivia a couple times, Noah wonders if this cute Southern girl can see that he is not all smoke and mirrors like most Hollywood types, but that he is still a genuine Southern gentleman.

Olivia Lawson is an English teacher at Cricket Creek High School. Olivia loves her job and her town. Sadden by the effects of the down economy and lack of tourism in Cricket Creek, Olivia hopes the production of a romantic comedy at the local theatre can help start a revitalization of her beloved home town. Determined to lend a hand, Olivia takes the female lead in the play. Her excitement over the play is quickly overshadowed by doubts when she learns that she will be playing opposite none other than Noah Falcon -- hot shot athlete and so-called actor … and years ago the high school senior who barely acknowledged her when she tutored him. Back in the day, she dreamed of prom night with Noah Falcon. But what jock wants to take a geek to a dance? At the site of a mature Noah Falcon, Olivia’s heart still goes pitter patter and her faces flushes. But can this hunky Hollywood guy see a heart of gold buried beneath a one-time geek? And can Olivia’s Southern charm and small-town-sturdy self win the heart of Cricket Creek’s golden child?

First and foremost, I really loved this book! Cricket Creek is the perfect backdrop for this Southern romance. The interaction between Olivia and Noah is just fabulous. The emotions felt by Olivia and Noah run the gamut of lingering high school insecurities and complex uncertainty about life choices to the simple sweetness of holding hands during an evening walk and the steamy passion of making love, which makes the progression of their relationship pure magic.

LuAnn McLane is my go-to author when I am looking for a feel good love story. Not only are her novels centered around romance (like every romance novel), but her novels are focused solely on the love of two people. That special love we all search for. The kind of love that makes you smile every single day. And while I love mystery and intrigue in romance, there is just something special about a simple, pure love story. In this novel, LuAnn’s masterful writing brings to life the quintessential charm of a small Southern town and the unique characters who call Cricket Creek home. I got such a kick out of all the secondary characters in this book. LuAnn is a master of creating lovable secondary characters that do not crowd the hero and heroine. These adorable characters just add flavor and flare. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … no one does Southern love like LuAnn McLane!



Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review -- Invitation to Ruin

Invitation to Ruin
By Bronwen Evans
Publisher: Kensington Brava
Release Date: February 22, 2011









One Good Lady is About to Go Bad...

The only thing Miss Melissa Goodly has ever wanted out of a marriage is love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible--and unobtainable--man in all of England. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.

Avowed bachelor Anthony Craven, Earl of Wickham, never meant to seduce an innocent like Melissa. Yet now that the damage is done, it does seem like she'd make a very convenient wife. After all, she is so naive he won't have to worry about ever being tempted. Or so he thinks, until the vows are spoken and they are left alone-and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own...


Anthony Craven is known as The Lord of Wicked, a notorious rake whose main goal in life is pleasure. His newest goal is to make Lady Cassandra Sudbury his mistress, which is why he agreed to attend her ball. She has made it perfectly clear to Anthony that she would love to be his mistress, so he plans to come to her bedroom later that night to begin their relationship. Thanks to the scheming---well meaning, of course----of his twin brother Richard, Anthony finds himself in the bed of Miss Melissa Goodly, Cassandra's look-alike young cousin. When they are discovered, Anthony knows he must do the honorable thing and marry her, even though Melissa tells him it's not necessary. But even rakes have some honor.

Melissa Goodly fell for The Lord of Wicked the first time she saw him, and while she has many dreams of them together, she knows that he would never want to truly be with her. Never in her wildest fantasies did she expect to find Anthony Craven in her bed, making love to her, so she thought it was one of her dreams. But Melissa does not want a forced marriage, she longs for a love match, however that's not to be. Her brother, Christopher, is deeply in debt and has been searching for a wealthy suitor for her, so when he finds Melissa and Anthony together, his worrying is over. All Christopher cares about is himself, not Melissa's happiness. Melissa is determined to find a way to win Anthony's heart. He believes he is unlovable and incapable of loving another, due to the extreme cruelty of his father, a truly evil man. Anthony believes the same evil runs in his veins, so he has sworn never to father a child, letting his brother become his heir. Anthony finds it hard to resist Melissa, so she sets about seducing him, and teaching him to love.

Debut author Bronwen Evans has written a dark, sexy historical that touches on some difficult subjects like slavery and abuse. Anthony is my favorite kind of hero: dark, brooding and tortured, but with a heart of gold which beats for his heroine. Melissa is outspoken and independent, never giving up on Anthony. Fast paced, filled with an interesting cast of secondary characters, and sizzling with sensuality, Invitation to Ruin is sure to entertain historical romance fans.

~ Gannon


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Friday, February 25, 2011

Battling the Bronchial Blues

I used to get at least one bronchial infection every winter, often more, but those infections have been severely curtailed since I started getting weekly allergy shots three years ago.  Last month, I was bragging to a friend that it had been two years since I'd had bronchitis.  I know.  I know!  What was I thinking?!?  Less than two weeks later, I was in my doctor's office getting a chest ex-ray and being diagnosed with acute bronchitis and sinusitis. At my age, I really should know better than to tempt fate.

Armed with good drugs and instructions to get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids, I headed home determined to battle the dreaded demon into submission.  Easier said than done.  It's now been three weeks and though I've won a few skirmishes, I have yet to win the war.  I'm on  my second round of antibiotics (much stronger this time), a steroid pack, inhaler and prescription cough meds and while they appear to be working , they're taking their own sweet time about it.  I went back to work yesterday feeling pretty good and dragged myself home six hours later about ready to collapse.  In fact, after taking the dogs out, that's exactly what I did.  I crawled into bed, covered myself with three blankets and slept for ten hours.  ::sigh::

Usually, I'm a pretty good patient.  I'm not demanding.  Not whiny.  My motto tends to lean more toward "suck it up and get over it."  Today, not so much.  I'm tired of being sick.  My tummy is queasy, my head is swoony (no, I don't think that's a real word but I like it), definitely whiny and in need of comfort.  I need a little help from my friends.

So tell me, dear friends.  What methods do you employ when you need a pick-me-up?  Do you have a favorite comfort read that always makes you smile?  A comfort food that turns your personal gloomy days into ones filled with sunshine and smiles?  A tried and true home remedy that soothes a sore throat, clears a stuffy head or just makes you feel less like the living dead?  A joke or silly story that will make me laugh?  ('cause I could really use a good laugh about now!)

One random person leaving a comment today will get a book from my stash and another book will go to the first person who pulls me from the grumpy gloomies back to my normal sunny self with a good, deep belly laugh!

~PJ

Treachery In Death Winner!




The winner of the copy of Treachery In Death is



Pamela Keener



Congratulations, Pamela! Please send an e-mail with your name and address to
theromancedish(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
Please put "Treachery In Death Winner" in the subject line.





Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fresh as a Daisy!

by Anna Campbell

Hello, my name is Anna Campbell.

And I'm a Daisy Dalrymple addict.

Phew, glad to have got that off my chest!

I discovered these wonderful books through Facebook. How terrifically 21st century of me! If only I could work out how to send a text from my cell phone!

Carola Dunn posted a couple of really pretty photos of where she lives on the Pacific Coast in the U.S. So I went over to her page and saw she'd written a series of cozy mysteries set in her native England. It immediately became clear that Carola's mysteries had a large and enthusiastic following and that they sounded exactly my cup of tea.

The Honorable Daisy Dalrymple is a viscount's daughter determined to support herself financially in 1920s England. So she finds work, much against her aristocratic mother's wishes, writing articles for magazines.

The first story, the enchanting DEATH AT WENTWATER COURT (odd to discribe a murder mystery as enchanting, I know!) covers Daisy's visit to a stately home that is the subject for one of her articles. It's the depths of winter (the house is soon snowed in) and when one of the guests is discovered dead on the skating pond, Daisy turns sleuth to reveal the murderer. So the scene is set for the classic English country home murder mystery, with all the suspects trapped in one spot and our intrepid major character determined to unmask the villain.

One of the fun things about the Daisy mysteries is that Carola Dunn is clearly a huge fan of the Golden Age of British detective fiction. There are so many sly nods to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and the other classic writers of the 1920s and 1930s.

While she's certainly no slouch, Daisy isn't a super-brain like Sherlock Holmes or Peter Wimsey. But she's unthreateningly pretty, outwardly guileless and she has an uncanny talent for making people confide in her. She's also intuitive and observant. So an ordinary girl in many ways, but one who has gifts that make her a great detective.

Just before snow closes the house off from the outside world, a couple of policemen from Scotland Yard arrive. Among them is dashing, clever, masterful Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher. Alec is an example of the 'new' man. He's been to university, but not Cambridge or Oxford, and he's middle class. Oh, and he's also all set to become the romantic hero of the series.

Alec is alternately annoyed and grateful for Daisy's interference. There's an immediate attraction between them although class differences create a barrier to their courtship. Carola Dunn does a wonderful job of outlining the sometimes uncomfortable relationships that resulted once the world changed after World War I and so many of the old certainties were swept away. One of the many pleasures of the books is that they convey this new world so beautifully even as they don't shy away from the overwhelming tragedy of the recent war. Daisy's brother and fiance were both killed in the trenches and her father died in the Spanish flu epidemic shortly afterwards so a cousin inherits the estate where she grew up. Daisy, brought up to a privileged life, is suddenly left to make her own way - and she does it with guts and grace so you like her even more. She really is such an appealing heroine!

The setup for the second book in the series THE WINTERGARDEN MYSTERY is similar - Daisy is on assignment to write another article and Alec turns up to solve the crime and to become even more enamoured. In the third book, REQUIEM FOR A MEZZO, Alec and Daisy witness a murder at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall when he's finally asked her on a date. Alec's oft-repeated complaint that Daisy's always stumbling over dead bodies seems justified! The fourth in the series is one of my favourites. MURDER ON THE FLYING SCOTSMAN features a cast of wildly eccentric characters. It's a fun nod to books like MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, except instead of Poirot with his moustache, we get sweet but perspicacious Daisy and her guileless blue eyes that always discern the baddie.

As you can probably gather, these are definitely on the lighthearted end of the murder mystery spectrum. There's never much gore or explicit violence and while there's suspense, it's not going to give you nightmares. What you get in these books is a really fun reading experience and a lovely, slowly developing romance. There's a sparkle and a verve that I find impossible to resist. A lot of that sparkle comes from the scrupulously observed 1920s atmosphere. The glamorous clothes, music, cocktails, cars and the quaint slang. Daisy is in a perfect position to show us society from the nobility through to Chelsea bohemia. Many of the characters Daisy encounters could step right out of a P.G. Wodehouse, what ho!

I've just read the ninth DD mystery, TO DAVY JONES BELOW. I'm waiting on tenterhooks for the tenth THE CASE OF THE MURDERED MUCKRAKER (how could you resist that title?) to arrive from the Book Depository. If you want to spend a topping couple of hours with a lovely heroine and her dashing beau, I'd strongly recommend picking up a Daisy Dalrymple mystery.

My verdict? Spiffing!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review - - Angel's Rest

Angel’s Rest
Eternity Springs – Book 1
By Emily March
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: February 15, 2011





When Emily March (then writing as Geralyn Dawson) announced a few years ago that she was taking a sabbatical from writing, I feared that the romance world could be losing one of my favorite writers. I’m delighted to say that is not the case. Returning to her craft with a new name and fresh perspective, March brings us the long-awaited story of John Gabriel Callahan (from her Callahan Brothers romantic suspense series written as Geralyn Dawson) in an emotion-packed, heart-wrenching and, ultimately, uplifting story of loss, hope, friendship and love in Angel’s Rest, the first story in March’s new contemporary Eternity Springs series.

A broken man, widower Gabe Callahan has come to a friend’s mountain retreat near the small, struggling mountain town of Eternity Springs, Colorado to escape the grief, guilt and nightmares of his past but grief isn’t set aside that easily and his demons show no mercy. On a snowy mountainside on what would have been his son’s sixth birthday, Gabe wants nothing more than to end the pain. It will take a miracle to bring him back from the edge and heal his shattered heart.

Following a devastating betrayal by her husband, Veterinarian Nicole (Nic) Sullivan divorces him and returns to the comfort and support of her hometown of Eternity Springs and her steadfast circle of friends. She runs the only animal clinic in town but her clinic, like the rest of Eternity Springs, is barely making ends meet. As winter approaches, she prays that they will find a way to return Eternity Springs to a thriving community but fears it may take a miracle to make it happen.

Retired school teacher, Celeste Blessing is determined to restore hope and faith to the people of Eternity Springs and has the perfect plan to accomplish it: turn her home into a healing center and garden. Sensing that Gabe Callahan needs her help more than most, she convinces Nic to convince Gabe to put his landscape architectural talents to use and take charge of the project. As Nic and Gabe work together, the attraction between them deepens though while Nic embraces it, the wall of pain and anguish around Gabe's heart holds strong…until one fateful day that changes everything, sending them down a path that will either unite them in a deep and abiding love or tear them apart forever.

Angel’s Rest is a story that reached right into my heart, ripped it to shreds then slowly, carefully, piece by piece, stitched it back together again. March skillfully guides a broken man through the layers of his grief in a heartrending, realistic journey from devastation to hope to renewed joy. It isn’t an easy journey but, then, grief never is and I deeply appreciate the fact that the author didn’t sugarcoat that. March excels at getting into the minds of her characters and Gabe and Nic are both compelling characters whom I will not soon forget. I highly recommend their story.

The second book in the Eternity Springs series, Hummingbird Lake, will be released March 22, 2011 with the third book, Heartache Falls coming out April 26, 2011. 

~PJ

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Winners






This is the last call for the following winners from our Ellora's Cave Showcase.


aromagik

ChristineH

Rowan

JulieJustJulie

Traveler



Please send an email to theromancedish AT gmail DOT com with "EC Showcase Winner" in the subject line to claim your prize.



AND .....



This is the last call for our Cynthia Eden Winner.


CATHYP


Please send an email to theromancedish AT gmail DOT com with "Cynthia Eden Winner" in the subject line to claim your prize.


~ Buffie





Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Julianne MacLean winner!



Since our last winner never claimed their prize, we have picked another winner. The new random winner of a signed copy of PORTRAIT OF A LOVER by Julianne MacLean is:

Antonia

Congrats, Antonia! Please send your full name and address to theromancedish(AT)gmail(DOT)com with "Julianne MacLean winner" in the subject line and I'll forward your info to Julianne. Thanks!

Review -- Treachery In Death

Treachery In Death
By J.D. Robb
Publisher: Putnam
Release Date: February 22, 2011







In the 32nd full length In Death novel, the focus is once again on crime, but this time the criminals are the cops. Eve Dallas' partner, Peabody, finds herself in the middle of a sticky and dangerous situation. After working out in one of the NYPSD's infrequently used gyms, Peabody has just finished showering when she hears two people enter the locker room, arguing. She realizes that she's listening to a pair of dirty cops, who are knee deep in corruption and murder. Lt. Renee Oberman and Detective William Garnet---aforementioned dirty cops---finally leave the locker room without discovering Peabody. Shaken, because she knows she would be dead if she'd been discovered and determined to see justice done, Peabody goes to Dallas's house to report everything she overheard. Eve informs Peabody that Renee Oberman is the daughter of retired Commander Marcus Oberman, aka Saint Oberman, a legend in the NYPSD. Now Peabody, Eve, and Roarke (Eve's husband) will work together to bring those corrupt cops down before they kill again.

Unlike most of the In Death books, the identity of the bad guy is known right up front, but it's the process of gathering solid evidence and bringing the villains to justice that takes center stage. Good guys vs. bad guys. For Eve, seeking justice for victims is what drives her. She takes the honor and privilege of being a cop seriously, and the idea that fellow cops have abused their authority to obtain money and ill gotten gains illegally and murder when it suits their purpose offends her to her very core. Even worse, is the fact that Renee Oberman was raised in a loving home, had a father who was respected and admired in the profession she chose to follow; all the the things that Eve never had. Yet, Oberman chooses to turn her back on all that, by coldly, calculatingly orchestrating every move of her operation, using her power and body, if necessary, to achieve her goals. But now she's made an enemy of the wrong person. Like Eve says, "the blue line breaks for wrong cops."

I have been reading this series since day one (1995), and sixteen years and more than thirty books later, I love it even more. The gritty, futuristic setting is endlessly fascinating, the character development is unparalleled, and the never ending suspense and action keep readers glued to the pages. Eve Dallas is one of my favorite fictional characters---tough, loyal and surprisingly vulnerable when it comes to those she loves. And of course, her husband Roarke is the ultimate man. Rich, gorgeous, brilliant, shrewd and desperately in love with his wife. *Sigh*

Each book in this series can stand alone, but reading them in order allows you to see the growth of the characters, both main and secondary. In fact, the incredible cast of secondary characters is yet another reason I'm crazy about this series. I was so happy to see Peabody take center stage in Treachery In Death and really come into her own. If you aren't already a fan of this series, I encourage you to start reading it ASAP. You won't regret it!

~ Gannon


One lucky commenter will win a hardback copy of Treachery In Death.



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Monday, February 21, 2011

Today's Special - - Julia London

We are so excited to welcome Julia London to the Romance Dish today!  Gannon and PJ had the pleasure of spending some time with Julia at a RWA conference and know that this popular author is as warm, friendly and genuine in person as she comes across online.  Born on a ranch in West Texas, Julia's former career in government took her far from home, including a stint working in the White House.  But Texas eventually lured her back and, luckily for us, this born storyteller turned her efforts to writing.  The author of more than twenty books, Julia has been on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists, has been a four-time RITA finalist and the winner of the RT (Romantic Times) Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance.  Her new book, A Light at Winter's End will be released tomorrow. (Read Gannon's review here.)  For more information about Julia, visit her website (be sure to check out her unofficial bio!), like her on facebook and follow her on twitter.  You can also find her blogging with fellow authors at Whine Sisters and the Goddess Blogs


Five Things You Didn’t Know About Julia

I am frequently asked where I get my ideas, how I like writing both historical and contemporary settings, and how I got started in this business. I thought it might be fun for a change to tell you five things about me that might have crept their way into A Light at Winter’s End. This is a book about two sisters who face an extraordinary conflict with each other, and the lonesome cowboy who appears at a fence line one day and unwittingly steps into their conflict. If you read Summer of Two Wishes, you might want to know that the cowboy is Wyatt Clark, who comes to this novel with some baggage of his own.

1. I am hopelessly un-domestic. I don’t cook, I don’t decorate a house very well, and I have tried my hand at various crafts and either lose interest or really suck at it. In this book, Holly Fisher is a woman who has never had to make a home or cook a meal for anyone but herself. She doesn’t even have a fully equipped kitchen. So when her sister dumps her baby on her and disappears, she has no clue what to do. She doesn’t even know what she can feed the baby.

2. I grew up on a ranch in West Texas. A Light at Winter’s End is set on the edge of the western part of the state, but Wyatt’s ranch and cattle and horses are all things I grew up with.

3. I was forced—forced, I tell you—to take piano for ten years and violin for two when I was a kid. I don’t play either instrument worth a darn anymore, but I do have an appreciation for music and the construction of songs. Holly Fisher is a songwriter, and I think it would be so cool to be that. If I had another life, I would try harder at the music thing. I would want to be a songwriter and play all the different instruments.

4. I was once a public administrator and I know how mind-numbing that can be. For some people, it is truly a calling, and I knew some really fine public servants. But I was not a fine public servant. For me, it was stressful. I am a much better person when I am in a creative occupation. Hannah Drake, Holly’s sister, is in a stressful job that, on top of the dissolution of her marriage, helps to bring her down. My job didn’t bring me down in spectacular fashion like Hannah, but it did imbue me with the desire to move on. And here I am!

5. I love writing this sort of book as much as I love writing historical romance. I love creating these worlds and watching the characters take shape. I think all the characters I write are bits and pieces of people I have known. These three characters—Holly, Hannah, and Wyatt, are definitely bits and pieces of many people I have known and loved. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Thank you so much for having me here today! I am giving a signed copy of Summer of Two Wishes and a Starbucks gift card to one lucky commenter today!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stock Up Saturday Winner

The winner of our February 20, 2011 Stock Up Saturday giveaway is

MAUREEN

Congratulations, Maureen!  You've won a copy of DRAGON WARRIOR by Janet Chapman.  To claim your prize, please send your full name and mailing address, with "Stock Up Winner" in the subject line, to
theromancedish (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

Guest Review - - The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
By Lauren Willig
Publisher: NAL Trade (reprint of 2010 hardcover)
Release Date: January 4, 2011








The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is the sixth novel in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. Like the other books in the series, this one features a blend of espionage and romance and is framed by the story of Eloise Kelly, an American graduate student in England working on her dissertation, a treatise on aristocratic spies during the Napoleonic wars. In book 6, the romance between Eloise and Colin Selwick, self-proclaimed novelist and maybe spy, has progressed, but the heart of the novel is the historical tale, the story of Penelope Deveraux, a secondary character in The Masque of the Black Tulip and The Temptation of the Night Jasmine.

Penelope delights in breaking rules and setting the gossips of London society abuzz until she finally goes too far. Caught in a compromising position with Lord Frederick Staines, she finds herself “ruined in January, married in February, on a boat to the tropics by March.” Her husband is appointed Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad, and Penelope is expected to play the role of Lady Staines, little more than an appendage to her husband. The physical attraction that brought Penelope and Freddy together is a poor foundation for a marriage between two people who share no common interests or values. Freddy spends his time drinking, gambling, and consorting with the Indian mistress he has installed in the home he shares with Penelope. Penelope, who finds she is married to a man she doesn’t even like, keeps busy confounding the expectations of Captain Alex Reid, a controlled, disciplined soldier who escorts the Staines to Hyderbrand. The story is filled with political intrigue, rumors concerning the mysterious spy Marigold, and dangers in unexpected places. Alex, against his own judgment and at considerable risk to his honor, accepts Pen’s help to find the spy and protect British interests in India.

Blood Lily possesses the skillful characterization and historical detail for which Willig is known, and it boasts a more exotic setting than the other books as well as major twists to some established conventions. While India has become more common as a setting for historical romance in recent years, it is still rare enough to be refreshing to readers looking for a change from London ballrooms and English estates. Forced marriages are a staple in romance fiction. Typically the marriage leads to the predictable HEA, but Willig inverts the trope here. Penelope’s forced marriage leads to misery.

Penelope is not a typical heroine in any sense. She is thoughtless, manipulative, and prone to bouts of self-pity, but she’s also courageous, intelligent, and vulnerable. In other words, she is human with her fair share of weaknesses and strengths. Alex is a more conventional character, but his loyalty to his motley family and the conflicts he suffers save him from being merely typical. More turning convention on its head occurs with the adulterous relationship between Pen and Alex. Willig doesn’t gloss over the adultery. Although Freddy is a faithless spouse, Pen’s adultery, should it be discovered, would be viewed quite differently. Additionally, both Pen and Alex have their own guilt with which to contend.

Meanwhile, in the contemporary world, Eloise is trying her hand at matchmaking and feeling insecure after a near-quarrel with Colin. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and they have a date, complete with a rose, pink champagne, and revelations about the modern-day Selwicks.

Some readers may find Willig’s unconventional choices too much, but for readers who like flawed characters, value great dialogue, enjoy mystery with their history, and appreciate memorable prose, this novel will be a great addition to the TBR stack. If you’ve never read any of the Pink Carnation books, this one works well as a stand-alone book. I’m betting that if you read this one, you’ll look for the backlist. I’m reading The Mischief of the Mistletoe (October 2010) now and looking forward to The Orchid Affair (January 2011).  I also have high hopes that we will see more of Alex’s fascinating family in future books.

~Janga

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stock Up Saturday

Dragon Warrior
Midnight Bay - Book 2
By Janet Chapman
Publisher:  Pocket Star
Release Date:  January 25, 2011

First impressions can be difficult to overcome and Maddy Kimble's first impression of William Kilkenny promises to be more difficult than most.  A ninth century Irish warrior cursed by a witch to spend eternity as a dragon - a very cranky dragon -William has made his way to modern-day Maine in the hopes that Kenzie Gregor (hero of Moonlight Warrior, first book in the trilogy) can help him break the curse and return him to his human body.   When the transformation occurs in the middle of town, leaving William human but buck-naked and looking a lot like Sasquatch (personal grooming being low on the list of ninth century priorities), he finally indulges in the lust he's been feeling for Maddy by kissing the daylights out of her in front of the entire town.  For a modern, independent single mom who's sworn off men, it's not exactly the best way to win her heart.

Maddy Kimble has more going on in her life than she can handle.  She's taking care of her mother, her young daughter, her rebellious brother and the patients at the local nursing home where she works as a nurse.  She's also dealing with the impending marriage of her ex-husband to his 18-year-old pregnant girlfriend.  Who can blame her for not wanting to get involved with a stubborn man shrouded in mystery who seems to know nothing about life in the 21st century?  But she hasn't counted on William's persistence, or his charm, or his reliability, or the fact that, with the help of her elderly patients, he cleans up very nicely indeed...not to mention the fact that, after six years of silence, her hormones are finally doing the happy dance.  Gradually, William begins to win her over but Maddy is terrified of giving her heart away again and William thinks he has no heart to give.  Then, of course, there's that little matter of working up the courage to tell Maddy that he's a former dragon from the ninth century.  That should go over well!  

Chapman brings us another fast-paced, humorous (William's attempts to learn how to drive are hilarious) and steamy romance with snappy dialogue, sexy alpha warriors, independent modern women, mysterious otherworldly occurrences and dangerous demons in the bodies of wolves who threaten the lives of our hero and heroine and those they hold dear.  There's a solid secondary cast.  I fell in love with the spunky nursing home residents and William's interactions with both them and Maddy's young daughter made my heart melt.  We also catch up with characters from Moonlight Warrior and meet the hero and heroine of Chapman's July release, Mystical Warrior

I've been looking forward to William's story since he first appeared in Chapman's books.  I'm happy to say he was all I had hoped for!   Though there are references to people and occurrences from Chapman's Highlander series, it's not necessary to have read those books first (though I highly recommend the entire series).  However, as much of William and Maddy's back story is told in Moonlight Warrior, the first book in this spin-off  trilogy, I strongly encourage readers to read Moonlight Warrior before beginning Dragon Warrior.

~PJ

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Pleasure Me
By Monica Burns
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: March 1, 2011

From the moment I heard that Monica Burns’s next historical would feature an older woman and a younger man (who is a virgin!), I knew I had to read it. It was a combination that I couldn’t resist. And I wasn’t let down. Pleasure Me is a passionate romance that packs an emotional punch.

As a seasoned courtesan, forty-one year old Lady Ruth Atwood is accustomed to her intimate relationships not lasting overly long. But when her latest lover leaves her for a much younger woman, Ruth is hurt. Knowing how important looks and youth are in her business, she fears her days of being a mistress may be over. Or at least, numbered. Luckily, she has her work with her orphanage to occupy her time. While visiting some property she hopes to buy to house extra orphans, she learns that someone else has an interest in the small estate: Garrick, Baron Stratfield. The same handsome, young man who danced and flirted with her the night before.

Garrick is instantly smitten the first moment he lays eyes on Lady Ruth. He wants her badly, but must be careful. Garrick has learned to control his desires over the years because he is hiding a painful secret. Due to a physical deformity, he has never been intimate with a woman. He tried at the age of seventeen and was humiliated by the girl and his uncle. In order to keep appearances within society, Garrick needs a mistress . . . in name only. But the more time he spends with Ruth, the more difficult it becomes for him to do just that.

Monica Burns has crafted a beautiful story full of tender emotion and characters you completely empathize with. Ruth is sensitive about her age, just as Garrick is sensitive about his condition. You can’t help but root for these two! Throw in a little blackmail and a murder and you’ve got yourself a wonderful historical romance.

~Andrea

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Reaper’s Justice
The Shadow Reapers, Book 1
By Sarah McCarty
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: February 1, 2011


A breed of werewolf soldiers engineered to kill on command, the Shadow Reapers went rogue at the end of the Civil War. Now, exacting justice by their own code, they long to feel human as they contain the beast within…


The War Between the States may be over, but Isaiah Jones continues to fight the battle inside him. He is neither fully wolf nor fully human and the only way he can find any semblance of peace and sanity is when he is near Adelaide Cameron. As he watches her from afar, his desire to be with her grows. Any relationship between the two of them is forbidden by Reaper law, but when Addy is abducted, Isaiah comes to her rescue, Reaper law be damned.

Addy likes her life neat and orderly. Ever since she was kidnapped by Indians years ago----and then rescued by her cousins---she has to feel like she is in control. When she is abducted, Addy’s orderly life goes straight to hell, and she’s not sure if she’ll make it out of this situation with her body and mind intact. But help comes from a stranger who makes her feel alive for the first time in her life. While on some level she finds Isaiah frightening, she is intrigued and attracted to this enigmatic man. Will his dark secret repel Addy when it’s revealed or will she be willing to tame the beast within?

This was quite unlike any werewolf novel I’ve ever read. The Wild West after the Civil War as a setting and werewolves who were created by mysterious individuals certainly made for a compelling read. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series; I’m dying to know who created these werewolf soldiers and I want to know more about Isaiah’s life and the other Reaper’s before they were changed. Action, intrigue, laughter, and plenty of heat---Reaper’s Justice has it all.

~ Gannon

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Taming A Highland Devil
by Kimberly Killion
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Release Date: February 9, 2011

King of his own castle, Dunrobin Castle, and Chieftain of Clan Sutherland, Laird Magnus Sutherland is a man used to getting his way. His way with any woman around! His love for all types of women is common knowledge and his sexual prowess is talked about everywhere. Nagged nearly to death by his mother to sire an heir, Magnus decides to betroth himself to the sister of the neighboring clan chieftain. Secretly, though, Magnus wonders if any one woman can stir his heart and not just his body.

When his betrothed arrives at Dunrobin Castle, Magnus is shocked to find the chieftain has two sisters – the younger, more voluptuous Vanna and the thirty-something, tell-it-like-it-is Effie. While everyone in the Castle (including mommy dearest) believes Vanna is the wiser choice for Magnus’ bride, Magnus is intrigued by the older Effie. Determined to find the right match, Magnus enjoys getting to know each sister but it doesn’t take long for Magnus to know that Effie is the one for him. But now he must use all his strategy skills and wiles to convince her that he is the one for her.

I don’t think anyone else does a better job writing hot highlanders than Kimberly Killion. Magnus is one hot highlander! This story is full of what Kimberly does best – witty, sexy writing than pulls you in and make you cheer for the hero and the heroine.

As a side note, I just have to mention that Kimberly’s dedicates this book to her inspiration for Magnus … none other than hunky Gerard Butler. I love this!

~ Buffie

Those are some of the good books we've read lately.  What are you reading these days?  Any books you'd recommend?  A randomly chosen commenter will win a copy of Janet Chapman's Dragon Warrior.