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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review - - In Bed with a Highlander

In Bed with a Highlander
Highlander Series - Book 1
By Maya Banks
Publisher:  Ballantine
Release Date:  August 30, 2011







I'm a huge fan of medieval romance and of Julie Garwood in particular.  Her book, Saving Grace has been my all-time favorite comfort read for many years and until now, I hadn't found a book to rival it in my reading affection.  Saving Grace now has a new neighbor on my keeper shelf:  In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks.  I've already read this book three times and have found new things to love about it with each reading.  If you read medieval romance, buy this book now.  If you don't read medieval romance, now's a great time to start and I highly recommend you begin with In Bed with a Highlander.

 

Mairin Stuart knelt on the stone floor beside her pallet and bowed her head in her evening prayer. Her hand slipped to the small wooden cross hanging from a bit of leather around her neck, and her thumb rubbed a familiar path over the now smooth surface.


For several long minutes, she whispered the words she’d recited since she was a child, and then she ended it as she always did. Please, God. Don’t let them find me.








The bastard daughter of a king, Mairin Stuart has spent most of her life hidden in an abbey.  Endowed with a rich dowry that will bring her future husband wealth and power, Mairin is well aware that she must be very careful whom she chooses to marry for many unscrupulous men would do anything to hold that power, even kidnap her from the abbey and beat her to within an inch of her life to force her to marry.  But the villain of our story, Duncan Cameron, has met his match in Mairin Stuart.  She refuses to marry Cameron and manages to escape him with the help of young Crispen McCabe, a lost 8-year-old boy Mairin encounters during the  journey from the abbey to Cameron's home.  Mairin saves the boy's life and he, in turn, promises her the protection of his father, Laird McCabe if they can escape and make their way to McCabe land.

Ewan McCabe lives for the day he can make Cameron pay for the near destruction of the McCabe clan and the deaths of Ewan's wife and father.  He has neither the time nor the desire to take another wife but when his lost son is found and returned to him in the company of a young woman who could bring his clan the money they desperately need, he knows marriage is the only answer for both the McCabe clan's survival and Mairin Stuart's protection.  He makes the logical decision for the sake of his clan and the lass, never expecting his heart to become part of the equation. 

Mairin is a wonderful heroine!  She has an innate kindness, a stubbornness to rival any Highland laird and a core of strength that serves her well during her perilous journey to love. Pair that with the innocence and  vulnerability of someone who was raised by nuns and she's hard to resist. She also has the unfortunate habit of saying whatever she's thinking which leads to a number of humorous situations with Ewan, his brothers and other members of the McCabe clan such as this encounter with Ewan before their marriage.

His gaze narrowed and she could see his hands twitching again like he'd love nothing more than to throttle her.  She was beginning to think it was an affliction of his.  Did he go around wanting to choke the life out of everyone or was she special in that regard?

"I'm afraid 'tis an urge that is entirely original to you," the laird barked.


She clamped her mouth shut and closed her eyes.  Mother Serenity had vowed one day Mairin would regret her propensity to blurt out her least little thought.  Today just might be that day.

Ewan is my favorite kind of hero.  Of necessity, he's a hard man.  Responsibility for his family and his clan rides on his shoulders and duty is all-important.  As laird, he demands complete loyalty and trust from his clan and is thrown for a loop when Mairin doesn't meekly fall in with his plans.

"You are under my protection.  You will obey me without question."  

"Not bloody likely," she muttered.  

I just love it when a strong, alpha male is thrown off kilter by a slip of a girl who turns out to be so much more than anyone expects.  As Ewan fell in love with Mairin, I fell in love with Ewan.  To watch this battle-hardened warrior slowly discover, and ultimately accept, his feelings for her melted my heart.  There were a few scenes that brought me to tears but the one with the most impact occurs when they are torn apart and don't know if they will ever see one another again.

Mairin was being pulled away, her eyes filled with tears, her arms outstretched to Ewan.

"Mairin!" Ewan called hoarsely.  "Listen to me.  Survive.  You survive!  Endure.  No matter what.  Endure what you must but survive for me."

I get chills every time I read that scene.

Surrounding the hero and heroine is a wonderful cast of secondary characters.  Crispen, especially, is so endearing and we learn much about Ewan and Mairin through their interactions with him. 

This is my first book by Maya Banks and I can hardly wait to read the next.  She has a way of writing that pulled me right into the story and into the thoughts and emotions of the characters.  The words flowed with nary a hiccup, touching all of my emotions, and the story held me captive until I finally turned the last page with a deep, heartfelt sigh.  I can't wait to return to Scotland for the stories of Ewan's brothers, Alaric and Caelen. Luckily, I won't have to wait long and neither will you!  Seduction of a Highland Lass will be released September 27th followed by Never Love a Highlander on October 25th. 

~PJ

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beth Kerry Winner!



The winner of the signed copies of The Hometown Hero Returns and Liam's Perfect Woman is:




Di



Congratulations, Di! Please send your full name and address to us at

theromancedishATgmailDOTcom

so I can get your books sent to you ASAP! Thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting.





Coming Attractions for September

September is going to be a busy month here at The Romance Dish.  We have a full schedule loaded with book reviews, author visits, prizes, a birthday celebration and on-the-ground reports from the Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta.  Mark your calendars so you don't miss a moment of the Romance Dish fun!






We kick things off Thursday, September 1st with a visit from a woman who always makes us smile; New York Times Best Selling Author, Cathy Maxwell!  Cathy's new book, THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL is in bookstores today.  This is one terrific historical romance that you won't want to miss!






Andrea will be here September 2nd with her list of new books being released in September.




Jeanne Adams joins us Tuesday, September 6th.  PJ recently interviewed Jeanne about her thrilling new romantic suspense story, DEADLY LITTLE LIES.  Jeanne's books have been getting rave reviews, including a 4.5 Star, TOP PICK from RT Magazine for DEADLY LITTLE LIES, which will be released on September 6th. 






Don't forget to Make Your Reservations for October's books when we list the stories we're looking forward to reading on Thursday, September 8th.






Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills will be back on Saturday, September 10th with the latest YA news in her Teen Menu.  Trish's newest book release, DANGEROUS KISSES is available in digital format. 









We are excited to welcome New York Times Best Selling Author Carly Phillips on Monday, September 12thSERENDIPITY, the first book in Carly's new contemporary series, will be released September 6th.









Jeanne Lin, award winning author whose historical romances bring the Golden Age of China to life will be blogging with us on Tuesday, September 13th.  Jeanne's new book, THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL will be released September 20th.





September may bring cooler temperatures but you can be sure temps around here will be rising on Thursday, September 15th when Buffie unveils her monthly Hot Dish!

Saturday, September 17th brings another Stock-Up Saturday when we share shorter reviews of books we've enjoyed lately.



Sunday, September 18th kicks off PJ's 3-day birthday celebration.  It's a "milestone" birthday this year but rather than ignoring it, she's decided to throw a party at TRD!  Be sure to drop in for surprise guests, plenty of fun and lots of presents...for you! 








Wednesday, September 21st brings historical romance author Ashley March to TRD.  Ashley's newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, will be released September 6th and was recently reviewed here by Buffie.











Anna Campbell returns Saturday, September 24th with another Second Helping book review.  Anna's most recent book, MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION, was released in April. 










Tuesday, September 27th brings a guest blog from New York Times and USA Today Best Selling historical romance author, Sarah MacLean.  Sarah's one of the talented authors from The Ballroom Blog who recently visited with us.  If you missed that interview, you can read it here






The Dishes will be wrapping up the month at the annual Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  Watch the blog for reports and photos from the conference! 

~PJ

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's Special - - Maggie Robinson

It's our pleasure to welcome Maggie Robinson back to The Romance Dish.  You're always guaranteed sassy wit and sizzling sensuality when you pick up one of Maggie's books and her novella, "To Match a Thief," in the recently released anthology Improper Gentlemen is no exception.  I loved it!  (Read my review here.)   Maggie's next full-length novel, Mistress by Marriage will be released tomorrow (August 30th) and promises more of the same.  Here's Maggie to tell you more about the third book in her Courtesan Court series, Mistress by Marriage!


Thanks so much for having me back! I’m excited to talk about Mistress by Marriage, the last “Mistress” book in the Courtesan Court series, which comes out tomorrow. They all take place on Jane Street, my fictional mistress row in London. I get a kick that people actually Google “Jane Street” now looking for it on a map. It’s only in my head, and you’d get lost for sure in there. ;)

But wait…there’s one more book in the series, but it’s a “Master” book, Master of Sin, and Jane Street is traded in for a wild island in the Outer Hebrides. I hope I get invited back next April to talk about it, (PJ popping in to tell Maggie she's always welcome here!) but if you want to get a sneak peek, I’ve posted the cover and the back cover copy on my blog at www.maggierobinson.net

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Edward and Caroline’s story. Edward’s all ice, and Caro’s all fire. They’re completely unsuited to each other. They should never have gotten married, but Edward did the first and only impulsive thing he’d ever done in his life and asked her to marry him. He suffered from a coup de foudre, that fabulous French phrase that indicates thunderbolts of desire. And Caro says yes, because she’s desperate. Once they wed, she’s desperately unhappy. By the time Mistress by Marriage starts, they’ve been separated for five years and Edward wants a divorce.

Well, I couldn’t have that. The book would have been over by page 20. I had to throw them back together somehow. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Too late for cold feet

Baron Edward Christie prided himself on his reputation for even temperament and reserve. That was before he met Caroline Parker. Wedding a scandalous beauty by special license days after they met did not inspire respect for his sangfroid. Moving her to a notorious lovebirds’ nest as punishment for her flighty nature was perhaps also a blow. And of course talk has gotten out of his irresistible clandestine visits. Christie must put his wife aside—if only he can get her out of his blood first.

Too hot to refuse

Caroline Parker was prepared to hear the worst: that her husband had determined to divorce her, spare them both the torture of passion they can neither tame nor escape. But his plan is more wicked than any she’s ever heard. Life as his wife is suffocating. But she cannot resist becoming her own husband’s mistress…

Edward comes up with a brilliant idea. Not. He thinks if he gives Caro a list to follow, she’ll become a suitable, dutiful wife. Caro, as you might expect, has other ideas.

Are you a list-maker like Edward or impulsive like Caro? What would be on your list to assure a happy marriage? One commenter will get a signed copy of Mistress by Marriage! And for another chance at a book, today is “Mistress Monday” on Twitter. Just add the hashtag #MistressMonday to a tweet for a chance to win.

Thanks for visiting with us today, Maggie.  I can't wait to find out Caro's response to that list! 


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review -- Home to Harbor Town Series, Books 1 & 2

I really love a good series, and the Home to Harbor Town series by Beth Kery fits the bill perfectly. Rekindled love, family drama, new love, tragedy, and the healing power of faith and love. These two books are the first two in the series, and I'm looking forward to more---there should be more stories involving the Kavanaugh, Itani, and Reyes families. I certainly hope so, because I would love to return to the charming town of Harbor Town.





The Hometown Hero Returns Home to Harbor Town, Book 1 Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition Release Date: March 22, 2011



He'd followed her for three blocks, undecided whether he would call out or just fade back into the shadows of their mutual memories. The weight of the past had frozen his vocal cords, but the sight of her graceful figure drew him like a magnet.


This opening paragraph captured my attention immediately, and I just knew that I would enjoy this book. I was right.

Marc Kavanaugh hasn't seen Marianna Itani in more than fifteen years, just after the car crash that killed her parents and his father, the man who caused the whole thing. Marc and Mari were on the brink of adulthood and very much in love, but the tragedy ripped them apart; Mari and her brother moved away from Harbor Town to live with their aunt, while Marc stayed behind with his family and a life that would never be the same. But fate is in their favor when Marc and Mari run into one another in Chicago. The spark is still there and it doesn't take much for it to reignite their passion. Their one night together changes their lives completely when Mari discovers she's pregnant.

Several weeks later, Mari returns to Harbor Town to make plans to open a facility for victims of substance abuse. Since her parents were killed by a drunk driver (Marc's father), Mari wants to help others who have been in her shoes, but she's afraid that the Kavanaughs may not share her views. Will the love she and Marc share be enough to heal the scars of the past and how will he feel about the baby she carries?

Reunited lovers is a favorite romance trope of mine. Marc and Mari have never truly gotten over each other even though they have lived full lives, had other relationships. The Hometown Hero Returns shows how love can heal the wounds that are inflicted by an unspeakable tragedy. I was definitely rooting for Marc and Mari to find their happily-ever-after.






Liam's Perfect Woman
Home to Harbor Town, Book 2
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Release Date: July 19, 2011




Natalie Reyes was the lone survivor of the car crash that killed her mother, the Itanis and Derry Kavanaugh sixteen years ago. She was a young adolescent girl who suffered injuries which caused her physical and emotional pain over the years. While other kids her age were having fun and experiencing young love, Natalie was enduring multiple surgeries to repair facial scarring. Now twenty-seven years old, she is shy and wary of being with a lot of people. Even though she feels everyone else whose lives were impacted by the crash has moved on, Natalie hasn't quite managed. She wants more answers; why would a successful business man and loving husband and father like Derry Kavanaugh get behind the wheel of his car with the equivalent of twenty drinks in his system? Natalie can think of only one man who may be capable of finding the answers: Liam Kavanaugh, former big-city cop turned Harbor Town chief of police...and son of Derry Kavanaugh.

Liam Kavanaugh is perplexed when he Natalie Reyes asks her to meet with him, but he is truly taken aback when she asks him to investigate the crash and his father's behavior that night. There's a part of Liam who has always known that there was something more to the way his father acted the night of the crash, so he accepts Natalie's offer. He is also attracted to Natalie and intrigued by this shy, beautiful woman. They are both surprised by the passion that overwhelms them, but it turns out to be a gift in a time of turmoil and uncertainty, as the investigation uncovers secrets long buried that have the potential to turn more than one person's life upside down.

Natalie is so fragile, but there is a core of strength deep inside her. Liam is a strong, yet sensitive man, the perfect person to bring Natalie out of her shell and show her just how beautiful she really is. They will touch your heart and make you believe that with love anything is possible. I highly recommend reading this series---a visit to Harbor Town is a perfect escape on a summer day.


**I have a signed copy of The Hometown Hero Returns and Liam's Perfect Woman which one lucky commenter will win.

~ Gannon








Saturday, August 27, 2011

Winners! Winners!









Below are the winners from two recent author blogs.



The winner of a copy of JENNIFER'S GARDEN by Dianne Venetta is:



TRAVELER





The winner of a copy of A MIDNIGHT DANCE by Lila DiPasqua is:



LIBRARYPAT



Congrats to you!!!



Please email your full name and mailing address



to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom.



Be sure to include the title of the book you won in the subject line.





~ Buffie


Review -- Romancing The Countess

Romancing the Countess
By Ashley March
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: September 6, 2011








“You want me to help you forget your wife.”

He shook his head, muttering a curse. Then he stepped closer. “You foolish woman,” he whispered, his expression tortured. His hand cupped her cheek. “Do you not remember when I said it before? No matter, I’ll say it again. I want you.” His thumb swept across her upper lip, much as it had done before he’d kissed her in the garden. “I desire you.” His hand left her cheek, his fingers stroking over the ends of her brows, across her eyelashes as she closed her eyes, meandering down her face until he held her chin.



Devastated by the sudden death of his wife in a carriage accident, Sebastian Madinger’s world is rocked further when he discovers his beautiful, supposedly perfect wife was having an affair with his best friend. Finding himself questioning the paternity of his young son, Sebastian is determined to keep the affair a secret from society so that others do not make judgments about young Henry. The person he needs to speak with first and foremost is Leah George, the wife of his best friend. Believing he will find an emotionally wrecked woman, Sebastian is aghast to learn that Leah is planning a country party a mere few months after the accident.

Leah George has known about her husband’s affair with the Earl of Wriothesly’s wife for over a year now. As much as she would like to, Leah is unable to erase the memory of walking in on Ian and Angela during one of their love making sessions. Living with a man who loves and desires another woman has been hell on earth for Leah. So when she receives the news that Ian and Angela were killed in a carriage accident, Leah does not cry any tears of grief. No, she has grieved the death of her marriage for over a year now. This time, Leah’s tears are tears of relief. Though society believes she should put on her widow clothes and grieve for the next year, Leah is ready to move on with her life.

Sparks begin to fly between Leah and Sebastian upon their first meeting. Sebastian doesn’t know what to think of Leah as she is not the picture of a grieving widow but he is somewhat captivated by Leah’s “ready to live life” mentality and her no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is talk. Leah knows that Sebastian is in the midst of many emotions – shock, hurt and anger – just like she was a year ago when she found out about the affair. She slowly draws Sebastian away from those emotions through small, seemingly insignificant activities during the country party. A laugh here, a smile there. And before you know it, Sebastian is thinking about life beyond his dead wife and her betrayal. Both of them had to learn to trust and feel desired again. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the emotions of Leah and Sebastian chart a course to a happily ever after.

He stepped forward, not close enough that they touched, but enough that she could feel the heat of his body warming her own as he bent his head. “And I promise you,” he murmured in her ear, “I want you more than he ever did. Much, much more.”

Ashley March’s writing is smooth and easy, yet so very intoxicating. One page, one chapter, is just not enough. I continually found myself saying, “I will just read one more chapter.” This book is a read-from-front-to-back-in-one-sitting kind of book. So carve out some time, find a comfy spot and enjoy a few hours of love and romance courtesy of Ashley March. You won’t be disappointed!


~ Buffie


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Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest Review - - Sweet Kiss of Summer

Sweet Kiss of Summer
By Sophie Gunn
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: August 1, 2011









Nina Stokes tried to follow the instructions her brother Walt left in his final letter to her. She spent two years after Walt’s death in Afghanistan trying to contact Mick Rivers, the army buddy to whom Walt left his house. When Mick failed to respond, Nina, somewhat uneasily, began to make the house her own. Since she lost all her money to a con artist, she needs the house.

Mick Rivers barely survived his time in Afghanistan, and the experience left him with memory loss and posttraumatic stress disorder. He has a bad feeling about the task Walt Stokes, a man he didn’t know well or like much, left him, and he has qualms about claiming the house. But he is deeply loyal to his family, and the only way he knows to raise money that’s critically needed for a family member is to sell the house that Walt left him.

Nina is determined to hold on to the house, and she’s equally determined to get some answers about her brother’s death. Mick sees the impasse as a lose-lose situation. Nina will lose the house, and he’ll end up feeling like jerk for taking it from her. But he feels that he has no choice. When Nina invites Mick to stay in the house, proximity, chemistry, and greater knowledge of one another play their predictable parts, and amid secrets, thefts, bad news, and bad choices, Nina and Mick make their way to an HEA

This is the second book in Gunn’s Enemy Club series about four high school enemies who become friends and vow to always tell one another the truth. The premise promises to be different and interesting, and I loved How Sweet It Is, the first book in the series. This one? Not so much.(Read Janga's review of How Sweet It Is here.)

Nina wants to redeem her reputation as the flaky artist and keeps insisting she’s no fool. But she acts foolishly at times, and her willingness to trust even against evidence bothered me. I admire her indefatigable optimism, but I longed to see it more tempered by mature judgment. I found Mick more appealing and understood him better. It’s hard to resist a psychically wounded hero with a troubled childhood who is clearly one of the good guys. But the hero who keeps silent and leaves to protect the heroine is one of those plot points that makes me want to scream—loudly. And with both Mick and Nina, I felt much of who they are was inadequately unexplored.

I was also confused by the villain’s role. I can’t say much for fear of spoilers, but I never understood exactly how the smuggling worked. Also, I understand that loose threads are sometimes necessary for the purpose of the series, but since the house had a pivotal part in the story line, I was irritated when that particular thread was left dangling.

I do like the relationship among the four women, and the scene where Nina first sees Mick is enough to make me glad I read the book.

The man pulled his T-shirt over his head in a swift, one-armed movement. She ducked low, tried to swallow, pulled the brim of her sun hat low to cover her blush and her ridiculous smile. -The most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on is stripping my driveway. God, I love this town.

Even though Sweet Kiss of Summer wasn’t all I hoped it would be, I liked it enough to hang in for Jill’s and Georgia’s stories. Georgia became a more interesting character in this book, and I assume her story will be next. Nina’s not the only optimist. I look forward to the third book.

~Janga

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review -- Changing the Game

Changing the Game
Play-By-Play – Book 2
By Jaci Burton
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Release Date: August 2, 2011





Sports agent Elizabeth Darnell is fully aware that she works in a male-dominated industry, but doesn’t let that deter her from being exceptional at what she does. So when she messed with her biggest client’s (Mick Riley from The Perfect Play) love life, Liz knows that she screwed up, and she paid the ultimate price—she lost an important client and dear friend. She naturally assumes that Mick’s brother Gavin (who is a star Major League Baseball player and also her client) will follow in Mick’s footsteps and fire her as well. Since the “incident”, Liz has done her best to avoid Gavin so he can’t do just that. When Gavin corners her at a team party and says he needs to talk to her, she thinks this is it. He drives them to his beach house to talk and Liz is surprised when he doesn’t fire her—he just wants to know why she’s been avoiding him. Even when he gives her a seductive look, she simply can’t tell him the truth.

She always kept her distance from him, usually met him in crowds and at public events where she’d be safe.

And she had a damn good reason for it.

One, she was four years older than him. She didn’t date younger guys. Ever.

Two, she was in love with him and had been for years.

Three, he was totally, utterly, and completely oblivious to it, and she intended to keep it that way.


Gavin knows that Liz made a huge mistake, but she apologized and made up for it so he’s good with it. Her detachment prompted him to look at her in a different light and he can’t stop thinking about her. When their “talk” leads to a blazing hot night of sex, Gavin wants more. He asks Liz to stay at his place through spring training and she agrees. During this time, he gets to know the real Liz underneath the cold-hearted façade she shows most people. Liz begins to wonder if she and Gavin can keep their professional and personal relationship separate. Or do they have to?

I really enjoyed Changing the Game! Liz was the “villain” who made a huge mistake in the previous book and while she did make amends, I was super curious how Jaci Burton would handle her as a heroine. Well, she certainly convinced me. I came to care for Liz every bit as much as Gavin. And I can totally see why she’s held a torch for Gavin for years when he says things like:

“Honey, I am that good. I know what you want, and I can give it to you. Anytime you want it. Anytime I want it. That’s why you want to be here with me.”

Yes, Gavin is that good. He’s a macho alpha who takes on a woman who likes to be in control all the time. This of course led to some serious sparks between the two. And even though he did something that made me want to strangle him, I chocked it up to him being a man...and he more than made up for it. *g* I love this series because even though they are erotic romance, they’re more than just sex. These stories are full of heart and real, multi-layered characters that I truly care about. I just adore the whole Riley family. After reading the excerpt in the back of this one, I am extremely eager for their sister Jenna’s story, Taking a Shot, coming in February of 2012. Until then, I definitely recommend both The Perfect Play and Changing the Game!

~Andrea


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ballroom Winners

Many thanks to all of you who stopped by to visit with the ladies from The Ballroom Blog this week!  We hope you all had a good time.  Random.org has selected the winners of six books generously donated by the Ballroom authors and they are:

Bella - Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean

LSU Reader - A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Virginia - My Wicked Marquess by Gaelen Foley

Kissablesweet1 - Captured by a Rogue Lord by Katharine Ashe

Amieam - On These Silken Sheets by Sabrina Darby

Beebs - The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville

Congratulations, ladies!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your book. 



Amazing Maisie!

by Anna Campbell

I've got a real treat for you today! The Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear.

This last twelve months or so, I've been reading out of the romance genre, although I still love my romances. A genre I've discovered and absolutely fallen in love with is historical mysteries.

Back in my 20s, I read a lot of mysteries, mainly British stories like P.D. James or Golden Age fiction that now SEEMS historical, although it was contemporary when it was written, like Ngaio Marsh and Georgette Heyer and one of my all-time favorite writers (who I really should do a second helping on at some stage), Dorothy L. Sayers. By the way, if you're looking for a great romance plot, you can't go beyond DLS's Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Breathtakingly emotional, packed with conflict and with a lovely sigh-worthy conclusion.

So far, my two favorite discoveries in the historical mystery genre are the charming Daisy Dalrymple stories by Carola Dunn (reviewed on the Romance Dish here) and the much darker Maisie Dobbs series.

They make an interesting compare and contrast exercise. Both take place in Britain in the shadow of World War I. Daisy is set in the 1920s and Maisie (hmm, this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss! Does Daisy drive you crazy? And Maisie is so hazy! And I only like my eggs green, thank you very much) in the 1930s. Both use their setting brilliantly and have an authenticity of tone that make you immediately believe these two women are products of their time and society.

The books are markedly different as well. Daisy is a viscount's daughter and there's a lovely, sparkling roaring 20s feel to her stories, whatever dark shadows murder casts upon proceedings. There's also a slow-building and very sweet romance with Scotland Yard inspector Alec Fletcher in the DD books. Daisy's books in many ways hark back to that classic Golden Age of detective stories so we get country house murders and lots of funny, eccentric characters. While somebody dies in every book (usually more than one someone), it's usually easy for the chambermaid to clean up the few drops of blood before high tea is served on the terrace.

Maisie, on the other hand, is a working-class woman who rises to success because of her exceptional intelligence and special gifts. Because in many ways, she's classless in a class-ridden society, she moves easily between the slums of London and the highest of high society.

Book one, MAISIE DOBBS, is as much Maisie's biography as it is a murder mystery. Flashbacks guide us through Maisie's life as she works as a maid in a grand house where her employer recognizes her potential. We then learn about her time as a scholarship girl at Cambridge and, most harrowing of all, her experiences as a nurse in the trenches in World War I. In France, Daisy experiences love and loss and she returns to England after the war ready to seize her destiny and devote her talents to her work as a psychologist and investigator.

The next three books are much more conventionally structured although I'd definitely recommend reading them in order because revelations about the characters are carefully placed. Maisie takes on clients who present her with a mystery and through ingenuity and courage and perception, she solves them.

Book two, BIRDS OF A FEATHER, starts out as the search for a missing heiress and ends up uncovering a web of evil stretching across all levels of society. Book three, PARDONABLE LIES, forces Maisie to face her painful memories of France when she sets out to discover the truth behind the death of a pilot in World War I. Book four (one of my favorites of the series), MESSENGER OF TRUTH, puts Maisie in an artistic milieu as she investigates the supposedly accidental death of a controversial artist.

There are romantic subplots in all these stories but I certainly wouldn't describe them as romances. The most fascinating element is Maisie herself, continually testing the extent of her gifts. She's a fascinating character, not least because she possesses an uncanny intuition that occasionally adds a mystical dimension to the stories.

She's surrounded by a cast of regular characters who are all fully drawn individuals and a major part of the series' appeal. Maisie's costermonger dad is a real charmer. There's Lady Rowan Compton, her employer and later friend, who recognizes the potential in her chambermaid. Simon Lynch, Maisie's doctor fiance in the first book. Billy Beale, her assistant who lives through a complex character arc of his own. Her mentor Maurice Blanche who helps her identify and control her gifts. When you read a Maisie Dobbs novel, you enter a real, richly textured world that is addictive.

If you'd like to find out more about the books, visit Jacqueline Winspear's website:

http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

These books aren't exactly standard romances but they're wonderful and complex and different and beautifully written. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Michelle Marcos Winner

The winner of a signed copy of SECRETS TO SEDUCING A SCOT by Michelle Marcos is

Cathy P

Congratulations, Cathy!  To claim your book, please send your full name and mailing address to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.

Today's Special - - Dee Tenorio



Today, it's our pleasure to welcome Dee Tenorio back to The Romance Dish. This talented author has more than ten published romances to her credit spanning the sub-genres of contemporary, paranormal mystery/suspense and romantic comedy. Her newest, DECEIVING THE PROTECTOR, second in her Resurrection paranormal-suspense (with Shifters!) series was recently released by Carina Press and has been garnering rave reviews. Please welcome Dee as she blogs about...






Writing Dark For Fun

You may not believe this, but when I was growing up...folks used to think I was weird. I know, shocking. Granted, I was pretty out there. Crazy hair, non-conformity issues and a great big go-to-hell-if-you-don't-like-me attitude. Yup, I was a peach! But those weren't the reasons other kids thought I was weird. That came straight from my reading. I had a thing for Stephen King when I was ten. Went on a Dean Koontz bender by age 12. At 14 I was a total goner for VC Andrews—of course, who wasn't, right? Then I found James Patterson and there was no going back. Nowadays I'd be called "Emo", I'm sure, but that wouldn't fit because the truth is, I just love a great, dark story and all those books gave me the time of my life.

It's probably no surprise, then, that I've found a place in suspense novels as my career has continued.

It gives me a fun thrill to write suspense and I'll tell you why. I like my characters are dark and edgy, with histories that are designed to be complicated. I love complicated. Nothing in this world is meant to be easy and much of it is about doing what you have to, not what would be easiest. In fact, easy is generally pretty hard to write. It comes off as silly when plot points are too simple or too pat. The real fun is in coming up with something that explains a feature of the world building. Like making a delicious chocolate cupcake for a choco shop—it's gotta look as good as it smells or folks won't enjoy it and I really want you all to enjoy what I write.

The other nice thing about writing dark—part of what makes it so fun anyway—is that you don't have limits. If you want to go darker, there's always room to change. Throw in a mystery, find a dead body, get a richer and richer character history. You can really weave in those fathoms that give depth. Lighter stories can and should have some depth, but give too much and you throw off the balance, meaning the entire story would have to change depending on your details. I've just never been good at having limitations.



Readers always know what they want in each type of genre. You have to respect those desires and give them what they ask for. Like the dark outlines of a coloring book image. A suspense in general usually requires a world view that is full of shadows in which to search for clues or comparisons. Paranormals seem to be twice as dark. So, my stories, which are both, have to be embroidered with those colors and tastes. I have to admit, I really love that challenge. I love the prospect of taking what people expect, what they demand, and twisting it just that tiny little bit to make it new and unexpected. That probably makes me a little bit twisted, but what's life without a little challenge, eh?

So how about you tell me. Do you like dark stories? Or is lighter fare where you find your fun?

Deceiving The Protector
Resurrection Series, Book 2 (Stand Alone Book)

Author: Dee Tenorio
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Heat Level: sensual
Publisher: Carina Press
ISBN: 978-142680-9205-9
Price: 5.99
Word Count: 88k
Release Date: August 15, 2011

You can order the book from Carina Press here and read an excerpt here.




Back cover blurb:

The mate he never wanted may be the woman he can never have...


After a series of murders is discovered along the trail of the Shifter Underground, wolf soldier Jensen Tate is assigned to find and protect a missing stray. But Lia Crawford doesn't seem to want his protection. When she eludes his watch and returns with mysterious injuries, Tate knows she's hiding something. To discover her secrets, he'll have to win her trust...and get closer to the woman he thinks may be his mate.


Lia has reasons to keep her distance. The killer is haunting her steps, determined to claim her. He will come after them both if he sees how drawn she is to Tate, though it becomes increasingly difficult to deny her attraction to him. Protecting Tate is vital – but will her deception cost her his love?

Connect with Dee at the following locations:
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
MySpace
YouTube



Monday, August 22, 2011

Today's Special - - Welcome to the Ballroom!



A common definition of ballroom is "a large room for dancing".  That's certainly true, as far as it goes, but those of us who read and write historical romance know it's so much more.  The ballroom is often a refined venue where young ladies are formally introduced to society but it can also be a place of intrigue and flirtation where political deals are hatched, matrimonial deals are sealed and sensual affairs are begun.  

For the past month, Lady B's Ballroom has been the place to see and be seen.  Bestowing her patronage on six illustrious historical romance authors - Gaelen Foley, Katharine Ashe, Miranda Neville, Sabrina Darby, Sarah MacLean and Tessa Dare - has brought readers, authors and fascinating characters (especially those of the male variety) out in droves.  You never know who you might encounter in Lady B's Ballroom!  

Today, Andrea, Buffie, Gannon and I are delighted to welcome these talented authors to our humble establishment to answer a few questions about their new endeavor.  Please welcome Lady B, her intrepid parrot, Albert and the ladies of the Ballroom!


Good Morning, ladies!  You too, Albert!  It's so lovely to have you with us today!  Congratulations on the success of your new blog where, according to your banner, daring ladies, dashing lords and deliciously juicy gossip await. Who came up with the idea and name for this blog? Was it one person or a group effort?

Katharine: I received my first invitation to The Ballroom late one night when I was just about to climb into bed. Of course I was shockingly underdressed (bedtime, you know); I couldn’t possibly wear a t-shirt and boxers to a ball. Also, I thought it’d be more fun to go with a friend. So I called Sarah, hoping she would attend with me (and bring me something pretty to wear on her way over). We decided it’d be even more fun to drag- er- bring Tessa, Sabrina, Miranda and Gaelen to the ball with us. So we all donned gloves and jewels, slipped our dance cards onto our wrists, and—what luck!—arrived just as the party began.

Whose idea was Lady B and Albert? We love them both!

Lady B unquestioningly assumed the name of Beaufetheringstone (pronounced Batman, in true English fashion, of course) upon marrying her lesser-in-rank husband, Lord B (he of the smashing calves). Albert entered the family upon their first anniversary as a token of Lord B's love. You’ll find an early portrait of the Lady and her parrot prominently displayed in the ballroom.

Lady B, all of these ladies portray the very picture of innocence but I’m sure they get into more than their fair share of trouble in the Ballroom. Just between us, who’s the mischief maker of the group? The comedienne? The “good girl” who does her best to keep the rest in line?

When I invited the authoresses, I had a feeling that they would be something of a scandal—part of why I included them on the guest list, honestly—and they haven’t disappointed.

Miss Neville’s knowledge of sexual memoirs is fairly scandalous, and she’s something of a bawd. Miss Dare continually surprises me with her rapier wit as she’s such a well-behaved, charming woman. Miss Foley is quite the agitator, (Irish blood, don’t you know) but I suppose with all those strapping men around her all the time, it would be hard not to cause a scene.

If we must have a “good girl”, Miss Ashe will fit the phrase well enough. After all, I prefer keeping anyone too good from my ballroom, and of course there is her penchant for secret identities, so I’ve long suspected her “goodness” is a mask. Speaking of scandal and intrigue, I’m not entirely certain about Miss Darby. She’s been far too polite for her reputation. I’m certain something is brewing. And Miss MacLean, while she laughs a touch too loudly, appears to enjoy a good party and knows how to be a good guest. After all, she brought that wickedly charming man the other day. What was his name?

Ah yes, good ole what's-his-name.  He definitely was charming...and delightfully wicked...and so very, very tall.  I must say, Miss MacLean, he is one gentleman we are all looking forward to meeting! 

Albert, you must be a virtual fount of information about all the heroes and heroines who follow their creators around waiting for exciting storylines and sensual encounters in shadowy ballroom alcoves. What’s the most memorable ballroom encounter you’ve witnessed thus far?

Squawk! Ladies in pursuit! Squawk!
**Albert flies up to perch on the Corinthian scroll of a nearby column.

Lady B: Oh, yes, Albert, I quite agree. While we’ve had ladies hiding in cupboards and handsome half-wild gentlemen and authors with no small amount of gossip to share, the most memorable encounters in the ballroom have been from the other female guests—I believe the authoresses refer to them as “commenters”—It’s quite exciting to see all these ladies angling for introductions and waltzes from the eligible gentlemen attending the festivities.

Squawk!  Lobster patties!  Squawk!

Lady B: Yes, darling. The lobster treats are memorable. My cook is unparalleled when it comes to crustacea.

Switching from food to fashion (two of our favorite topics), if you were to attend a ball set in one of your novels, what color gown would you wear and why?

Katharine: Blue. The color of the sea, of course!

Tessa: I’m partial to a deep, wine red. Because I like red, and because it lets me drink claret without worrying about spills!

Sabrina: Since The Ballroom Blog debuted, I’ve been attending several of balls a week (although I believe I slept through one) and I haven’t worn the same color twice. I like prints, however, and would likely wear something that incorporates a bit of blue, brown, orange and cream. Yes, I am a daughter of the 70s.

Miranda: I love the drape of satin, the rustle of silk, the magical illusion
of gauze. When it comes to color I draw the line at puce. My preference is always to wear black, one reason I enjoy writing widows (also they are rarely virgins).

Gaelen: Mine would be a rich, dramatic teal with a low neckline, a vandyked lace collar, and long gauze sleeves.

Sarah: Green for me . . . a lovely emerald, simple and A-line to the floor, ruched through the bodice to hide all those unseemly bits. And you can bet I’d be corseted to the nines! 

What a beautiful rainbow of colors you would all make!  

It seems in every historical romance novel, the ballroom is the place for dancing and flirting. Do you have a memory from your own life where dancing and flirting went hand and hand?

Miranda: I have attended a number of English balls and I found them much less fun than an evening in a seedy club or a grungy bar with the right man. A good deal of my misspent youth was spent dancing to the Rolling Stones in poorly lit establishments.


Gaelen: Why I actually met my beloved Prince Eric while out dancing. Of course it was not at so elegant a place as Lady B’s ballroom. I’m afraid the occasion was a jollification at a low establishment, as unmentionable as that which some of our heroes might recognize from their rakehell excursions into the wee hours of the night. These days, I assure you, I am much more respectable. (Shut up, Albert.)

Tessa: Mr. Dare and I went out dancing for one of our first dates. It was a Radiohead album release party in a crowded little San Francisco club. Not precisely an elegant ballroom, but I did wear a quite smart frock! And because it was such a crush, the flirtation mostly took place afterward. 


Katharine: The high school gymnasium, low lights, pounding rock, beers in bottles snuck in under the bleachers (don’t tell Lady B; she thinks I’m “good”), and heart-throbbing flirtations. We danced too, but honestly, I remember a lot more kissing going on than dancing, which is how I like my balls best to this day!

Sabrina: Haha, I have many, many, many times. Dance has played an important role in my life, whether at clubs or through studying ballroom dance. However, the time when it was most romantic was about six months into my relationship with my (now) husband, when we were dancing at a friend’s house.

Sarah: I was actually taught to dance by a Broadway actor at a summer stock theatre when I was in college. For a full summer, we’d two-step under the stars outside the theatre’s pub. He was a shameless flirt . . . but ultimately, I wasn’t his type. Wrong parts, if you catch my drift. Too bad, really. He was a handsome, handsome devil.

Lady B: Miss MacLean! Really . . . such scandalous talk for our ballroom! And you, Miss Ashe . . . Did I hear you refer to ale? At a ball?

Time to fill in those dance cards, ladies!  Which historical romance hero (by any author) would you most want to waltz you around the Ballroom?

Tessa: Is it wrong to choose one of my own heroes? I think I’d like to waltz with Spencer, from One Dance with a Duke – because he doesn’t require any small talk, he only ever dances one set, and at the end he’d promptly whisk me out of the ballroom and on to other adventures!

Miranda: Being hopeless at the waltz, I’m torn between the deliciously wicked Saint Albans from Suzanne Enoch’s London’s Greatest Scoundrel and Eloisa James’s Earl of Mayne, from several books. Saint wouldn’t bother to dance for long while Mayne could, I’m sure, make any woman feel light on her feet.

Sabrina: This isn’t a historical romance hero nor, I’m sorry to say, a hero in a published romance novel. However, a friend of mine wrote a choreographer hero that I found incredibly attractive. I would dance with him any time.

Katharine: Liz Carlyle’s Bentley “Hell-Bent” Rutledge. Actually, we don’t really need to waltz. He could just stand there being dangerous and gorgeous and I’d be in heaven. Now, if he picked up a sword… I couldn’t be held responsible for what I’d do then.



Sarah: Oh . . . is it my turn? Fans self. Sorry, I was distracted by the idea of dancing with Mayne. Ok . . . Well, I have to choose Stephanie Laurens’s Devil Cynster—mainly because I would take any moment I could get with Devil. He’s the only man of whom my husband is jealous.

Lady B: I assume all these gentlemen have nice calves?

All, in unison: Oh, yes!


You ladies excel at taking readers back in time with the wonderful stories you write.  If you could go back in time to when your characters lived, what one item would you insist on taking with you?

Sarah: I think the failing of being an historical novelist is that we know far too well the kind of deplorable conditions in which London lived. At the risk of being utterly improper, I’m going to go with tampons.

Sabrina: A time machine that lets me go back to the present whenever I feel like it. Barring that, I’d like to take my husband. (My sister chides me for being eminently practical.)

Katharine: Barring people (grinning nod to Sabrina), nothing! Er, well, maybe a bar of chocolate to eat on the trip.

Gaelen: I’m going to have say a port-a-potty. How’s that for romantic! LOL. Sorry, practical, aren’t I? Well, Regency plumbing left MUCH to be desired.

Tessa: I’m going to pull a Claire Fraser (from the Outlander books) and say antibiotics.


Miranda: Damn, Tessa stole my answer. I’ll see your antibiotics, Miss Dare and raise you a jumbo bottle of Advil 

Great answers!  We're sensing a theme here with Sarah's tampons, Miranda's Advil and Katharine's chocolate. ;-)

Do you ladies have any plans to do a panel at a future RWA conference as The Ballroom Blog?

We’d love to . . . cross your fingers for Anaheim . . . but be warned, Albert doesn’t like the idea of Southern California. He’s a cold weather parrot.

Don't worry, Albert.  As cold as they keep those conference rooms, you'll feel right at home!

What’s up next for each of you?

Katharine: IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS (coming August 30!), the story of powerful lord, a passionate lady, and an enduring love to defy the world.

Sarah: Lady Penelope Marbury, the unfortunate fiancée in ELEVEN SCANDALS TO START TO WIN A DUKE’S HEART gets her own love story in February 2012’s A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME, the first book in my new Rules of Scoundrels series, following four of the kings of London’s Underworld as they find love.

Gaelen: Drake, the most tortured hero spy of the Inferno Club goes off on a suicide mission to destroy the evil Promethean conspirators for once and for all—until he realizes he’s been followed by the girl who has loved him since childhood. Emily is bound and determined to bring him home safe and help him heal, in MY RUTHLESS PRINCE, coming Jan. 2012.

Tessa: A NIGHT TO SURRENDER comes out August 30th, too – it’s a steamy, humorous battle of the sexes set in Spindle Cove, a charming little seaside village for unconventional ladies.

MirandaCONFESSIONS FROM AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE will be out April 2012.The heroine is Minerva Montrose, who has already had a lot to say in The Dangerous Viscount and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton. The identity of her hero is yet to be revealed, but I can promise Minerva hasn’t gotten any less opinionated.

Sabrina: Highwaymen, smugglers and spies. Oh and mistresses. In my stories, there are always mistresses.

Sarah:  Prizes! Lady B will happily gift six commenters with one of our books! She requests that they tell her who *they* would like to waltz with at her next ball. :)  


Ladies, thank you so much for visiting with us today.  It's been a pleasure to host you!  We wish you success with The Ballroom Blog and with all of your upcoming literary endeavors as well.  

For more information about today's guests, be sure to visit The Ballroom Blog or stop by the individual websites of the authors (links below) and don't forget to tell the ladies who you would most like to waltz with for a chance to win one of their wonderful books!

Gaelen Foley
Katharine Ashe
Miranda Neville
Sabrina Darby
Sarah MacLean
Tessa Dare