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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coming Attractions



It's time to turn another page on the calendar and extend a warm welcome to the month of June!  Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting longer and the temperatures warmer.  It's the perfect time to grab a bag of romances and head for the beach...or the pool...or maybe just a beach blanket in the back yard.  Down in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is just around the corner, making it the perfect time to snuggle under a cozy blanket in front of a roaring fire and get lost in a new book, maybe from one of the terrific authors visiting with us this month!
   


We kick off the month Friday, June 1 with a special treat from New Zealand when historical author Bronwen Evans joins us for a stop on her blog tour to promote her newest book, Invitation to Scandal.










The fun continues Monday, June 4 with a return visit from NYT bestselling romantic suspense author Kat Martin.  Kat's newest book, Against the Sun hit the shelves May 29.







Andrea returns Tuesday, June 5 with a list of New Releases sure to whet your reading appetite!


Thursday, June 7, PJ and Andrea share the July books they're most looking forward to reading in this month's Make Your Reservations!





Be sure to stop by Friday, June 8 when PJ shares her recent interview with historical author Amelia Grey.  Amelia's new book, A Gentleman Says "I Do" was released May 1.









Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills keeps her finger on the pulse of the world of YA fiction and will be back Sunday, June 10 with all the latest news in this month's Teen Menu.








RITA© award winning contemporary author Beth Andrews will be blogging with us Tuesday, June 12.  Beth's June release, Unraveling the Past kicks off her emotional new series from Harlequin SuperRomance.










Wednesday, June 13 brings historical author Donna MacMeans to the Romance Dish.  Donna's newest book, The Casanova Code kept me so enthralled yesterday that I ended up having pretzels and ranch dip for dinner because I couldn't put it down long enough to cook anything!  ;-)













You won't want to miss Sunday, June 24 when we bring you another terrific Second Helping from Anna Campbell.  This month, Anna dips her reading toes into YA waters when she turns her spotlight on a double RITA© finalist.  






Another favorite Aussie, Christina Brooke joins us Wednesday, June 27 to celebrate the June 26 release of A Duchess to Remember, the third book in her popular Ministry of Marriage series. 










Rounding out the month on Friday, June 29 we're delighted to welcome debut romantic suspense author Carey Baldwin!  First Do No Evil, a romantic suspense thriller kicks off Baldwin's Blood Secrets series.  







Wherever you are, we hope you stay tuned to The Romance Dish this month for author spotlights, book reviews, giveaways and maybe a few surprises!


~PJ





Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Not Goodbye ...


I have never been a fan of goodbyes.   I think that stems from my childhood.  As a child, I said goodbye to my sister when she married and moved out of the house.   Then my parents decided to move from Florida when I was 12 years old, I said goodbye to the only friends and home I knew.   From there, I moved with my parents three times in the span of 2 years.  That’s difficult for any middle school kid, let alone a shy girl with a different name. 

To this day I still don’t like goodbyes.   Just the finality of the word goodbye gives me the chills, so I don’t say goodbye anymore.  

So I won't be saying goodbye to you today.  Instead, I am blogging to say … see you around.    

Yes, I’m leaving my cyber friends and the warm, cozy home of The Romance Dish.  

While I absolutely love blogging and reviewing here at The Romance Dish (and who could have better partners than Andrea, PJ and Gannon, right?), I realize the demands of my (and my family’s) busy schedule are becoming overwhelming.   I work fulltime in a supervisory position at a law firm.   I also have two boys who are growing up faster than my mind and heart can keep up with.   And don’t forget the loving hubby is who has always supported my love of romance novels.   It is time for me to devote more of my time to my family while our boys are home.   That is where my heart is.

But don’t think you will never see me around!!   My love for romance novels will keep me in the sphere of all things romance.  I will be stopping by from time to time to see just what is going on.   And as you know, there is always something going on here ;-)

Before I go, I would like to thank Andrea, PJ and Gannon for the years of fun at The Romance Dish.   Thank you for including me in this fantastic venture.  I have so many wonderful memories of our time together, like Russian accents *vbg*   But I thank you even more for your love and friendship.   You each have a very, very special place in my heart.  

And thank you dear readers for you encouragement and support.   You are a wonderful group of ladies with a kindness like no other.   Thank you for embracing me and The Romance Dish.

In honor of my last day here, I’m offering a wonderful prize today.   One random commenter will win a signed copy of PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James.    I personally attended one of Eloisa’s signings and had the book signed.   

So my dear friends, please tell me where is your favorite place to meet up with a friend you have seen in while?

Guess I'll see you around!!

~ Buffie

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Taking the Stage

I've enjoyed Tony Award winning musicals in legendary Broadway theaters and been captivated by spectacular operas performed in ancient Roman amphitheaters but I can't remember when I've been as completely entertained as I was the other night at my grandniece's kindergarten - 4th grade production of The Wizard of Oz.  I had no idea what to expect when we arrived.  Actually, none of us did.  The kids had been attending top-secret rehearsals for the past six months but all we knew besides the title of the play was what character my grandniece would be playing (a Munchkin) and what her costume looked like.  Beyond that, it was all going to be a surprise.

The production was going to be performed at the high school auditorium and judging from the size of the crowd waiting for the doors to be opened it was going to be a sell-out.  It was clear from the scenery on stage that a great deal of thought and work had gone into this production and we all waited with anticipation as the two narrators (fourth grade boys) stepped onto stage.  And then the fun began...

The microphones wouldn't work.  (A teacher ran down the aisle from the back of the auditorium to swap the non-working mics for new ones then ran back up the aisle to the sound/light room.)  The show continued...for about two minutes.  Then the new microphones started cutting in and out.  Back came the teacher, running down the aisle to the stage again.  After the second microphone swap, we finally heard the narrators.  Sort of.

Next on stage came Dorothy.  At least it looked like Dorothy.  It was kind of hard to tell with no lights.  Glitch #2:  no spotlight.  This time there was no teacher running down the aisle.  Instead, there was a voice rising from the darkness assuring us "there will be light."  Soon!

With the spotlight restored, the play was off and running.  Well, except for that little glitch when the curtain caught on Dorothy's house and pulled it over.  Who needs tornadoes?  Dorothy, bless her heart, was a pro through it all.  Obviously, she had been well rehearsed and wasn't going to let anything get in the way of delivering her lines.  You know, things like the mic going out again, or the curtain getting stuck or Toto running circles around her legs (yes, Toto was a live Yorkie on a leash) or pulling Dorothy all over the stage as he tried to get to his owner in the wings.

All things considered, the action was moving along pretty smoothly at this point.  True, the mics were still going in and out but the lighting seemed to have been conquered and we were on our way to Oz with newly acquired friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.  Sure, Tin Man had a minor meltdown when he forgot his lines but came back with gusto after a five minute time out behind closed curtains, Scarecrow exhibited a sharp wit and I'm firmly convinced the Lion is destined for a career on Broadway.  Then the curtain got stuck...again...and the little flowers refused to leave stage (they were mesmerized by the people from the Emerald City)...and Toto staged a sit-in center stage and refused to move...and Scarecrow forgot that he was now using a hand-held microphone and, therefore, we couldn't hear anything he was singing when he flung his arms out wide.  Scarecrow, it turns out, is a very enthusiastic singer!

During intermission, the audience was encouraged to partake of hot dogs in the hallways while the teachers frantically tried to fix the glitches.  Two minutes into the second half brought home the reality that not only were the glitches not fixed but new ones had surfaced and the more things went wrong, the funnier they got.  By now, not only the audience members were laughing but so were the actors.  (My six-year-old grandniece who was finished with her part and now sitting on her dad's lap kept asking why people were laughing because "it's not supposed to be funny!")  Of course, that only made things funnier!

By the time the four main characters reached OZ, they were all sharing the only (somewhat) working microphone, passing it back and forth and trying to remember who had the next line and, therefore, got the mic next.  Let's just say the mic didn't always get handed to the correct person.  Then the mic stopped working again and all four characters turned around simultaneously, hands on hips and glared - actually glared - at the teachers in the sound booth! The audience dissolved into laughter again and this time Scarecrow uttered the best line of the whole night, saying "We oughta just turn this into a comedy"... just as his microphone started working again.  Needless to say, the audience roared and Scarecrow - with a silly grin - accepted his due for the brilliance of his ad lib.

Once the play ended and the cast took a well earned curtain call, my grandniece's mom leaned over and said to me, "I wasn't planning to buy the video but there's no way I'm not getting one now.  I haven't laughed this hard in years!"  Judging by the smiles and chuckles filtering through the audience as we exited the auditorium,  I have a feeling the school probably set a record for number of videos sold.  It was an imperfect production - cluttered with glitches and mishaps, forgotten lyrics, off-key singing and stubborn dogs - performed by a group of fresh-faced, enthusiastic students who put their hearts and souls into each word spoken and every lyric sung...whether they hit the notes or not.  In other words, it was an imperfect production that was perfectly wonderful.

What's tickled your funny bone lately?




Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering...




On this United States Memorial Day, the Dishes are remembering all those who have given their lives in service to our country in addition to those who continue to serve and protect the freedoms we enjoy every day.  

To you and your families we say, 
"Thank You."    





Saturday, May 26, 2012

Carly Phillips Winner

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of KARMA by Carly Phillips is

anncut

Congratulations!  Please send your full name and mailing address (with "Karma Winner" in the subject line) to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your book.


Karen Hawkins Winner

The randomly selected winner of a signed copy of MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE and a THE TAMING OF A SCOTTISH PRINCESS t-shirt from Karen Hawkins is

susanna in KY

Congratulations!  Please send your full name and mailing address to theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.  Please put "Karen Hawkins Winner" in the subject line.

Thanks!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Hot Dish for May


First, I must apologize to everyone for not posting the Hot Dish on May 15. 
I was busy preparing for a 3-day field trip with 120 eighth grade students and it totally slipped my mind.

So in order to make it up to you, I have chosen a very special Hot Dish.

WARNING:  The following picture will make you thirsty .... among other things *VBG*






So gals, do you love milk as much as I do??

~ Buffie

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Michael at Midnight

by Anna Campbell

I've noticed that when I'm talking classic romance and books that influenced a lot of writers, Mary Stewart's name is bound to come up. From all I could discover, Mary Stewart is still alive at the ripe old age of 96. Here's a link to a bio and some info about her books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Stewart_%28novelist%29

There's something charming about someone whose maiden name was Rainbow! And like many of her heroines, she was a nice English vicar's daughter. She's credited with inventing the modern romantic suspense novel, so I'm grateful to her not just for her books but for the many stories in this genre that I've enjoyed since.

I haven't read these books since late primary school/early high school so needless to say they're dim memories to me in terms of plot detail, if not in terms of how fondly I remember them. I still recall some of the wonderful landscape descriptions for which Mary Stewart is so famous. The midday heat and the cicadas and the scent of fragrant herbs in the South of France from MADAM, WILL YOU TALK? (1954), for example. I blame Mary Stewart for at least part of what spurred me to travel - do you think she'll refund some of my airfares?

No, I didn't think so either.

The people next to our farm were considerably better off than we were and had a library. To a bookish young 'un like me, that was the height of sophistication. And they were Mary Stewart fans - I still remember them lending me beautiful hardcover book club editions of books like AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND (1965), about the Lipizzaner stallions in Austria.

Ah, memory lane! That's right, you wanted a review, didn't you?

My friend Annie West is a great Mary Stewart fan and has read the books a lot more recently than I have. My copies are long gone, but Annie snaffled WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT and MY BROTHER MICHAEL for me for this review.

MY BROTHER MICHAEL (1959) was the first Mary Stewart I ever read. It somehow got mixed up with the box full of category romance we brought back from the book exchange that particular year. I loved it - I must have been about ten and I'd never read anything like it. And I loved that I learned things from it. Geography and history and art and mythology, for a start.

Our wide-eyed but far from silly heroine, Camilla Haven, flees a broken engagement in England to visit Greece. When the book opens, she's writing a letter to a friend saying nothing exciting ever happens to her. Be careful what you wish for! A stranger rushes into the cafe and gives her the keys to a car due in Delphi on a matter of life and death. Camilla seizes the opportunity for adventure and sets out for the unknown. The unknown turns out to be danger and violence, and a meeting with the attractive but enigmatic Englishman Simon Lester. Simon is in Delphi, searching for the truth behind his brother Michael's mysterious death during the Second World War.

I know I'm going on at length, but check out this beautiful passage, describing Camilla's first sight of Delphi, from the road below at sunset:

Ahead of us the mountains thrust that great buttress out into the valley, the river of olive-trees swirling round it as the water swirls round the prow of a ship, to spread out beyond into a great flat lake that filled the plain. High up, in the angle where the bluff joined the mountain, I saw it, Apollo's temple, six columns of apricot stone, glowing against the climbing darkness of the trees behind. Above them soared the sunburned cliffs, below was a tumble, as yet unrecognizable, of what must be monument and treasury and shrine. From where we were, the pillars seemed hardly real; not stone that had ever felt hand or chisel, but insubstantial, the music-built columns of legend; Olympian building, left floating - warm from the god's hand - between sky and earth. Above, the indescribable sky of Hellas; below, the silver tide of the olives everlastingly rippling down to the sea. No house, no man, no beast. As it was in the beginning.

You can see why writers rave about her descriptive powers, can't you? This is so vivid, you feel like you're there.

The second book I read for this review, WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT (1956), follows a much more conventional form. It's basically a country-house murder set on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides. I've been to Skye, and take my word for it that Mary Stewart perfectly captures the slightly creepy but breathtakingly beautiful atmosphere of this place, especially in the shadow of the Cuillin Mountains.

Our less wide-eyed heroine Gianetta Brooke goes to Skye to recuperate after a difficult divorce from handsome rotter/writer Nicholas Drury. And what do you know? Nicholas is staying in the same hotel! There's quite a high body count in this one, but the story is compelling and while the romance gets less space, it's effectively done. And Nicholas does a lovely grovel at the end (I don't think I'm spoiling it for you by saying that!).

You can see there's a pattern to these books. Lone woman out of her comfort zone thrown into danger and adventure and forced to sink or swim. Through her courage and initiative (both these girls are pretty stalwart, for all that they look like fragile English roses), she solves the mystery and emerges worthy of true love.

Actually speaking of true love, I really could have done with a bit of kissing in MY BROTHER MICHAEL. What can I say? I'm shallow as a puddle at the Parthenon! True to their era, there's not a lot of naughty stuff in these stories although there's excellent sexual tension.

Both books were excellent reads and featured rather gothic heroes - because the books are in the first person, the heroes' motivations are opaque for most of the stories which increases the tension considerably.

If you're interested in dabbling in old-school romance and you want to sample beautiful writing and exciting tales, I'd highly recommend either of these. Re-reading them after all this time has definitely whetted my appetite to return to Mary Stewart.

Have you read Mary Stewart? Do you think she still holds up today? Do you have a favorite? Are you a romantic suspense fan? Any recommendations?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review -- Rescue Me

Rescue Me
By Rachel Gibson
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: May 29, 2012






Sadie Jo Hollowell grew up in Lovett, Texas, but left shortly after graduating because she felt there wasn’t much there for her. Her beauty queen mother passed away when she was five and Sadie had never been close to her rancher father. For years, she tried her best to make him happy, but quickly learned he was impossible to please. So Sadie left without a backward glance. She saw her father every few years and that was enough to satisfy them both. Sadie returns to Lovett for the first time in five years to be in her cousin’s wedding. She doesn’t particularly want to go to the wedding (and wants to wear the bright pink dress even less) because she is still single and knows that everyone in the small town will comment on it, as usual. But family is family, so she honors the request. She’ll go and then head back home to Arizona. 

When she arrives at the entrance to her father’s ranch, she sees a handsome man stranded on the side of the road next to a truck with its hood up. At first she attempts to drive right on by (after all, she is alone on an isolated road), but her Texas-bred hospitality won’t let her. She gives him a lift into town, but not without first checking his license (and phoning his info to a friend) and letting him know she’s armed with a stun gun (which is a total lie). He thanks her when she drops him off and tells her that if there’s any way he can repay her to let him know. Sadie bites the bullet and asks him to take her to her cousin’s wedding...but he turns her down flat. 

Former Navy SEAL Vince Haven doesn’t turn Sadie down because he isn’t attracted to her—far from it. He tends to shy away from women who aren’t trouble-free and Sadie seems everything but. He comes to Lovett at the request of his aunt who owns the local Gas and Go. Aunt Luraleen said she had a proposition for him and Vince believes she wants help fixing the place up. Instead, she wants to retire and offers to sell the gas station to him. Because Vince is good at turning places over for profit, he agrees to buy it and stay in Lovett for awhile. When Sadie ends up staying in town longer than planned, Vince thinks that perhaps they can enjoy a simple no-strings-attached relationship. He quickly learns that very little is kept secret while living in a small town...which isn’t necessarily good for someone who has secrets he’d like to keep. 

Rescue Me is my introduction to Rachel Gibson’s books and I am so glad I “found” her! With one book I have fallen in love with her charismatic writing and distinctive characters. Sadie and Vince are completely realistic individuals who stole my heart. Vince is a hot, sexy alpha hero and Sadie has the moxie to match him. I felt for them both in regards to their fathers. Sadie and her father had a challenging relationship—an emotional tug of war that she always lost—while Vince’s father walked out on his family when Vince was ten leaving a very vulnerable little boy without a dad. Sadie and Vince are two wandering souls who find solace and an intrinsic connection with the other. Their exchanges are sensuous, mature, and extremely sexy. Oh, and I loved Sadie’s take on men: 

She didn’t need a man for his money. She needed him for other things she couldn’t do for herself like lift heavy object and knock boots. 

Simple, but it was always shocking how many guys weren’t great at knocking boots. Which was just baffling. Wasn’t sex their number one job? Even above actually having a job? 

Filled with charming secondary characters and cute phrases such as, Bless your heart and You’re just as cute as a bug’s ear, Rachel Gibson’s Rescue Me is sure to please. It was so much fun that I could not put it down. I highly recommend it!


~Andrea

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview - - Karen Hawkins

It's my pleasure to welcome NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Hawkins to The Romance Dish!  The author of more than twenty humorous historical and contemporary novels, Karen is one of my go-to authors.  Her newest book, The Taming of a Scottish Princess (check out my review here - I loved it!) releases today.  You can find out more information about Karen, her books, her life and her obsession with Hugh Jackman (grin) at her website.  You can also find her online at Facebook, on Twitter and at The Goddess Blogs. 


Happy Release Day, Karen!  Those of us who have been enjoying the Hurst Amulet series are delighted to finally have Michael’s story hitting the shelves.  Please tell our readers a bit about this series and what they can expect from The Taming of a Scottish Princess.

Thank you! Release days are always the awesomest days of all. 

I'm so excited that THE TAMING OF A SCOTTISH PRINCESS has finally - FINALLY - hit the shelves. The final book in the Hurst Amulet Series is a Regency set action adventure romance with a good dash of comedy tossed in. My hero, Michael Hurst, has just been freed from captivity by the energetic efforts of his siblings (see the first three books in the Hurst Amulet Series: ONE NIGHT IN SCOTLAND, SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND, and A MOST DANGEROUS PROFESSION) and is hot on the trail of the Hurst Amulet, a long lost family heirloom. 

As he always does, Michael travels with his personal servants, which include his assistant, the no-nonsense Miss Jane Smythe-Haughton, a woman so excellent at doing her job -- overseeing Michael's comfort -- that he hardly notices her. That is, he hardly notices her until his search for the Hurst Amulet takes him to the remote Isle of Barra and he begins to unravel the truth about both the amulet, and the suddenly mysterious Jane.

I've waited so long to meet Michael and Jane.  What’s one thing you want readers to understand about these two?

In the beginning of the book, Michael comes across as a complete ass. And he really is a complete ass because he's brilliant and knows it and is used to getting his own way. It will take a huge transformation before he goes from 'sexy but still an ass' status to 'sexy and hero material' status, but transform he does -- because of Jane.

I thoroughly enjoyed that transformation!  


Every book has at least one scene that stays with the reader long after they’ve finished the book.  What’s the one scene you would never consider cutting from The Taming of a Scottish Princess?

Oh wow. That's a tough one. Hmmm. I would never cut the scene where Jane and Michael first discover the cliff on Barra. It was a ton of fun to write because I had to act parts of it out using my couch as the cliff ledge so that I could adequately describe it. 

I would tell you more, but that would take away the fun . . . but let me say for the record that my two dogs are pretty sure I'm insane.


I'm sitting here laughing over you acting out that scene with your couch filling in as the cliff.  Sure would love to see that on video!  lol! 


Your last two multi-book series have told the stories of siblings.  What inspires you to write about families? 

In addition to my brother and sister and myself, my parents took both foster kids and exchange students. At times there were fifteen or more of us in our little house. It was rather like living at summer camp - loud, boisterous, and at times very exciting. It really taught me to treasure my family and as a result, I find myself writing about large families. I love that relationship dynamic.

Moving from the book to the author; what’s one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

Hmm. Maybe that I met my new and improved Husband 2.0, aka Hot Cop, while researching one of my contemporary books, TALK OF THE TOWN. I never thought of research as sexy until I started interviewing cops. 


If you could step into the life of any romance heroine, who would you choose and why?

I would love to have been in Jane's shoes and traveled through Egypt during the early 1800s. It was an exciting time historically and culturally and the experience would have been phenomenal.

What do you enjoy reading when you’re not busy creating stories of your own?

Besides research books (which I love), I always read contemporary romances while writing historical romances and vice versa. Recently, I've been reading Rachel Gibson, Susan Andersen, Christie Ridgway, and Susan Mallery. As soon as I'm off deadline, I'll dive into Suzanne Enoch, Connie Brockway, Teresa Medeiros, Sabrina Jeffries, and Madeline  Hunter. 

I read a LOT. I can't imagine not doing so.

What’s up next?

The first book in my new Duchess Diaries Series, HOW TO CAPTURE A COUNTESS. It's about a very busy-body duchess who tries to match-make everyone she meets. HOW TO CAPTURE A COUNTESS comes out in September.


Marking my calendar for September 18.  It will be a perfect "Happy Birthday to me gift!" :)
Quick Six!

Salty or Sweet?
Salty!  No, sweet! No wait, salty! But I couldn't live without sugar, so ...

Both!

Mountains or Beach?
Mountains! I live near a beach, but grew up in the mountains and I miss them.

Dogs or Cats?
Dogs! I have two rescue dogs right now, Sadie and Po.

Alpha or Beta?
Both! I like to mix up my hero-quotient. :)

Fly or Drive?
Fly! Hot Cop has his pilot license so we fly often.

Tom Boy or Girly Girl?
Tom Boy with mud on my jeans from sitting under a tree while reading a romance novel.


Thanks, Karen!  Do you have a question for our readers?

Thanks, PJ!!!  I've been thinking of writing a series of short stories just for fun.  Do you like short stories?  How long do you think a short story should be?

One lucky person leaving a comment today will win a signed copy of MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE and a THE TAMING OF A SCOTTISH PRINCESS t-shirt!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review - - The Taming of a Scottish Princess

The Taming of a Scottish Princess
By Karen Hawkins
Publisher:  Pocket
Release Date:  May 22, 2012



For the past four years, noted Egyptologist Michael Hurst has relied upon Miss Jane Smythe-Haughton for organizing every aspect of his life from his household staff to trips abroad to the crispness of his morning bacon.  Michael can recite every characteristic that makes Jane the perfect assistant for an explorer such as himself but would be hard-pressed to note any that make her an attractive woman - until one night in a crowded London ballroom when his eyes are unexpectedly opened to the fact that other men find Jane appealing for more than her organizational skills; a fact he finds baffling, to say the least.  But the seed has been planted and, gradually, begins to grow.

Why haven't I noticed her eyes before now?  I've seen them hundreds - no, thousands - of times and yet I've never really paid attention to the color.   


Jane Smythe-Haughton left her true heritage - and her real name - behind at the age of sixteen, determined to travel the world.  Now, fourteen years later, she's headed back to the last place she wants to go when her employer's search for the missing Hurst Amulet takes them to an island off the coast of Scotland.  Jane is certain she can help Michael find the amulet without being recognized or giving away any of her deeply held secrets but conditions on the island aren't what she expects...

Surely no one from Barra will recognize me.  That would undo all that I tried to accomplish...if it hasn't already been ruined.  "Jaimie, you fool," she muttered.  "What did your father talk you into this time?  You promised to hold firm.  You promised!"  

...and she's forgotten just how determined Michael can be when presented with a challenge.

Perhaps here, on this windswept isle, he'd discover the answers to the two greatest mysteries of his life:  the location of the elusive Hurst Amulet and the true history of the long-dead princess of Barra.  It wouldn't be for lack of trying.

Suddenly, he's staring into her eyes, leaving her breathless with kisses and treating her like a woman.  Is it any wonder her heart is dancing with delight?  But will that keen mind of hers follow suit or hightail it in the direction of her hard won independence when things get serious?

I've enjoyed all the books in this series but, in this reader's opinion, Hawkins saved the best for last.  Fast paced adventure, genuine emotion, a satisfying conclusion to the mystery that's been at the center of the series, plenty of humor and some of the best banter between a hero and heroine that I've read in awhile all combine to make The Taming of a Scottish Princess a winner.

Michael Hurst is one of my favorite types of hero:  the dedicated scientist/explorer who can sniff out antiquities better than anyone but doesn't recognize the female treasure by his side until he's jolted into awareness.  He doesn't tumble easily - or happily - but what would you expect from a dedicated, demanding and, yes, grumpy scholar?  But when the blinders come off?  Katy, bar the door because when that renowned laser focus turns to Jane, all bets are off and when he finally, finally comes to terms with his fate?  Well, that's just too delicious for words.

I can't abide a whiny, woe-is-me heroine who expects the hero to rush in and rescue her from the obstacles life has thrown in her path.  Give me a heroine who pulls herself up by her garters, makes a plan and takes charge of her future and I'll be cheering her all the way to her happy-ever-after finish line.  Give her intelligence, compassion and a hint of vulnerability and that only makes me cheer more.  Jane is just such a heroine and it was pure pleasure going along on her journey.

Hawkins ties up several loose ends in this finale without littering the book with a plethora of characters from previous books.  I was delighted to receive updates on issues facing some of the Hurst siblings (one is an especially happy update!) but am pleased that the focus of this book remains exactly where it should be; on Michael and Jane.  The terrific secondary characters that do surround Michael and Jane are integral to the story rather than simply window dressing.

While this is the final book in a series, Hawkins has written it in such a way that it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.  However, it won't surprise me one bit if, after reading it, you'll be off to discover the joys of the rest of the books in this series.  The Taming of a Scottish Princess is a singular delight.  I highly recommend it!

~PJ


Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Review - - Monarch Beach


Monarch Beach
By Anita Hughes
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: June 19, 2012




Amanda Blick’s life may not be what she dreamed of at eighteen, but it’s one she finds fulfilling. She’s happy in Marin County, California, with her routine of ladies auxiliary lunches, committee meetings, PTA fundraisers, and after school activities for her eight-year-old son Max. She’s still in love with Andre, her sexy French husband, a chef whose restaurant specializes in fondues. Life is good—until everything changes one Tuesday when she drops in unannounced on her husband at his restaurant and finds him enjoying a close encounter of the sexual kind with his Scandinavian sous chef. As a sop to Andre’s pride, the Blicks have been living in a small house and managing on Andre’s income, but Amanda belongs to a wealthy, established San Francisco family and has inherited a fortune from her father. When her mother learns of Andre’s infidelity, she first calls a lawyer and then makes reservations for herself, Amanda, and Max to spend the summer at the upscale St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.

Andre insists that his affair was meaningless, that he loves Amanda and Max, that divorce is ridiculous. Amanda waffles a bit, but she’s almost certain she can no longer live with Andre. What better place to make up her mind than the St. Regis where childcare and surfing lessons are provided for Max, designer fashions are available in the shops, and a perfectly trained hotel staff caters to her every wish from decadent desserts to thousand-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. When she has a surfeit of working out and lying in the sun, she can spend time with Edward, an older, divorced man, also a chef, who welcomes her to his restaurant and to his bed. But when Edward, angry about Amanda’s difficulty in letting go of Andre, spends an evening with an old friend with benefits, Amanda wonders if she can trust any man.

Written in first person, Monarch Beach is chick-lit rather than romance fiction; thus, no one should be surprised that conventions of the romance genre are ignored here. Readers who consider adultery taboo may be turned off by Amanda’s affair with Edward while she is still legally the wife of Andre Blick. Frankly, I was less bothered by her unfaithfulness than by her shallowness. I quickly grew weary of the endless details of couture and cuisine, and I found nothing to admire or like in Amanda’s immaturity and passivity. Andre has made all the decisions in their marriage, and after she leaves him, her mother takes over. Amanda seems to revert to adolescence in the games she plays hiding her activities from her mother.

Even the sex is pedestrian. Although Amanda claims that Edward’s lovemaking leaves her in “a state of sexual bliss,” she hardly seems a participant but rather an object acted upon. Her passivity is not limited to sex. She never behaves like a thirty-something adult. At the end, after she is disillusioned by Edward, it is her mother who suggests Amanda can still become the fashion designer she dreamed of being. It is her mother who makes a series of phone calls to the “right people” and through the magic of money and contacts in a few days has Amanda admitted to the prestigious Parsons School of Design, secures a suite for Amanda and Max to make an unlimited stay at the St. Regis in New York, registers Max at private school with a waiting list, and persuades Andre to accept the divorce. I see little evidence that Amanda changes and grows during the course of the book.

A review is one person’s opinion, and I have never been particularly interested in the lifestyle of the privileged and cheated on. Other readers may be interested and may enjoy Monarch Beach. I didn’t, and I can’t in good faith recommend it.

~Janga
http://justjanga.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Today's Special - - Carly Phillips


We're happy to welcome N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips back to The Romance Dish!  Carly has written over 30 romance novels with contemporary characters and small town settings that today's readers identify with and enjoy.  She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom to two daughters (16 and20!) and two crazy dogs (a 1 year old Havanese named Brady and a 4 year old wheaten terrier named Bailey).  In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. Carly lives in Purchase, New York and would love for you to like and follow her on the ‘Net!

Find Carly on the web:
Carly’s Website – www.carlyphillips.com
Carly on Twitter - www.twitter.com/carlyphillips
Carly on Pinterest - www.pinterest.com/carlyphillips



Why Social Network?

Because it’s fun.  I know, as authors, we’re supposed to do these things to promote but I bet you, if that’s the only reason an author blogs, tweets, or puts up Facebook posts, you – the reader – will know immediately that their heart isn’t in it.  I’m a social media junkie!  You can find me on Twitter, FB, and my website is updated often. 

What are my favorite topics?

Between 9 – 11 AM EST I’m usually writing – I #sprint with other writers, meaning we start at the same time, check in after an allotted amount of time and are accountable for how much we write.  My upcoming book, PERFECT FIT, the sequel to KARMA has been written this way.  I look forward to my writing time and the people I’ve come to count on who work along with me.  And we can all commiserate about how well – or how badly – our morning writing has gone.

Between 3-4 PM EST you can always find me talking about General Hospital.  If I’m home watching, I’m tweeting my comments and thoughts – and I follow many people who do the same.

All other times? I love reading almost as much as I love writing, so I’m happy to pick up threads of conversations about books.  I’ve met many readers, reviewers, and bloggers this way.  I’ve also had my world opened up to new books, authors and romance subgenres via recommendations of others. And I’m always out there talking about books and authors I’ve read and loved, so maybe if you follow me, you’ll find new-to-you books and authors too!

On Facebook, which is less immediate, I have discovered that posting funny graphics opens up great conversation.  So do pics of my two crazy dogs. 

So you see, social media really is fun for me.  And if you happen to discover that I have a book out this month, that’s a bonus.  The real enjoyment is in the communication!

Readers, are you social media savvy?  Do you tweet?  Frequent Facebook?  What are some of your favorite social media topics or people to follow?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of KARMA.

KARMA, fourth in Carly's contemporary series set in the small town of Serendipity was released May 1.   
Police Officer Dare Barron has had a crush on Liza McKnight ever since he was a teenager. But despite his lifelong attraction, the closest he's ever come to interacting with her is watching Liza regularly bail out her brother at the station.
 
Dare's dark past with Liza's brother, Brian, has always kept him from pursuing her. But suddenly Liza finds herself in need of protection and Dare appoints himself as the man for the job.  And while the sizzling attraction between Dare and Liza draws them together, the past that  Dare and Brian share threatens to keep the two apart forever.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review -- The Last Boyfriend

The Last Boyfriend
Inn BoonsBoro—Book 2
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 1, 2012





The Last Boyfriend begins shortly after the previous book in Nora Roberts’s Inn BoonsBoro trilogy ended. Owen Montgomery, along with his brothers, mother, and aunt, are adding the finishing touches on the complete renovation of Inn BoonsBoro and getting it ready for the grand opening. Owen is the coordinator/organizer of the family’s construction business and keeps track of all the details. He’s always focused and composed, but when he shares a quick, heated encounter with Avery MacTavish, Owen gets flustered and begins to see his long-time friend in a different light.

Avery owns and runs Vesta Pizzeria which is located diagonally across the street from Inn BoonsBoro. She has watched her friends bring the inn back to life and witnessed her dear friend, Clare, find love again with the youngest Montgomery brother. While helping them, Avery shares a kiss with Owen, whom she has known forever and just happens to be the first boy she ever loved. (Granted, she was five and he was eight, but he did buy her a plastic ring from a bubblegum machine.) The kiss leaves Avery and Owen wondering if they should continue down the path of this new relationship or if they should just remain friends.

I really enjoyed The Last Boyfriend and it is in large part to its wonderful hero. I just loved Owen! He is anal retentive, a neat freak, and an obsessive list maker (squee!). On top of that, he is as loyal as the day is long and a total gentleman. It’s no wonder Avery had a thing for him! I like that they took their relationship slow and that he was patient with her when she had some serious issues to work through. I loved Avery as a secondary character (as Clare's sassy best friend) in the first book, but it took a bit for me to warm up to her as a heroine. She did a couple things that frustrated me, but she ultimately earned Owen's heart. And they shared a very sweet and sigh-worthy scene at the end. *g*  

Some readers may have a problem with Nora Roberts’s talk of construction, interior design, and such. I did not. It not only gave me a clear vision of the appearance of the inn, but I view it as a testament of how much she loves the actual inn this fictional one is based on. In the books, the inn is the central point of the stories and is almost as much of a character as the heroes and heroines themselves. And when they all finally experienced the grand opening in this story, every character’s excitement was completely contagious. J

The Last Boyfriend is a satisfying contemporary romance and a book I recommend. It is the second in the trilogy and stands completely on its own, though I believe reading The Next Always first would definitely enhance your enjoyment. It is great addition to the series and has me on pins and needles for the last book, The Perfect Hope, which releases in November.

~Andrea

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reflections

It's a law office now but this building housed
the public library where I checked out
my first romance novel.
For the past week, I've been on a journey.  Along with my sister-in-law and one of my brothers, I traveled from my home in South Carolina to northern Indiana (where another brother lives) then on to southern Michigan (where yet another brother lives in the small town where we grew up).  It's been a reflective journey, as trips home sometimes are, especially when they are precipitated by sad events, but it's been a journey of celebration, joy and re-connection as well.  Some random thoughts from the past seven days...

God puts people in our path for a reason.  My stepmom was a wonderful woman; a smart, funny, kind woman who loved my dad deeply.  She brought joy and laughter back into his life, welcomed the five of us kids as if we were her own and blended her children, grandchildren and great-children into our family as if we had always been meant to be a unit.  She and my dad showed us that sometimes we get a second chance at love and, no matter our age, we should not fear reaching for it.  She died two weeks ago.  We feel the loss of her life keenly but we cherish the memories she left us.  

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  My small hometown has suffered a great deal over the past several years.  The economic downturn has left its mark in failed businesses and rundown buildings but some traditions remain solid.  School and recreational sporting events still draw large, supportive crowds, the local hardware store still sports a Radio Flyer wagon in its window and the fire department still blows the fire whistle at Noon and 6pm.  It's been a long time since I lived there but each time the fire whistle blew, or a train rumbled through town, I closed my eyes and was transported back in time to my childhood.  The town may have changed but the sounds remain the same.


Nothing says "Good Morning" like good coffee and good friends.  Another iconic fixture of small town America still going strong in my hometown is the diner where locals gather over coffee each morning to discuss the events of the day:  how the weather will affect the crops, what politicians are going to do about the economy, what fish are biting in the lake and whether or not the Cubs (or Tigers) have a shot at this year's pennant.  The Sidetrack Cafe (so named because it sits next to the railroad tracks) is small, worn and probably hasn't had a face lift since it was known as the Midget 45 years ago but it still serves up the best coffee, breakfast and gossip in the area.  Eating there each morning was a bit surreal, however.  It was as if, since the diner hadn't changed, I expected the patrons to be the same too.  I spent my first twenty years in that town.  The population was about 1800 and I probably knew at least 80% of the people who lived there but, for three days, as I sipped coffee, savored breakfast and strolled Main Street, I didn't see a single familiar face.  Do you think the fact that, in my mind, I was visualizing people as they looked 40 years ago may have had something to do with it?

Nobody knows you like your family.  Both of my parents came from large families and I still have a boatload of cousins living in southern Michigan.  Last Thursday, my brother sent out a Facebook invitation to Saturday lunch in our hometown for anybody who was available and wanted to come.  Twenty-two arrived with open arms, wide smiles and plenty of embarrassing stories to tell. Some of them have very good memories! lol!  While I keep in touch with some of my cousins through Facebook and have seen others at events over the years, there are a few who I haven't seen or had contact with in more than thirty years yet we picked up the threads of conversation as easily as if we'd just seen one another last month.

There are many definitions of family.  Our childhood home was on a lake and we were one of only a handful of year-round residents on our street.  Most of the homes were owned by people from Chicago with mothers and children who arrived on Memorial Day and left on Labor Day and husbands who joined them on weekends.  We were particularly close to one summer family who owned the house across the street from ours.  For as long as I can remember (I was four when we moved to the lake), they've been a part of my life.


The street where I grew up.
The dad and mom were always "Uncle Bill and Aunt Dorothy" and she's always affectionately called us "those Colman Kids." Regardless of having no blood connection, we have always been family and no matter how many years pass between visits, every time we come together we're all transported back to those idyllic summers of our youth at the lake when my brothers trailed after her husband and sons like eager puppies and her daughter introduced me to the delights of reading romance.   We took a chance last weekend and drove out to our old neighborhood with the hope that Dorothy, now a spry 91 years old,  might be there.  She was!  Walking into her cottage was like stepping back in time.  It still smells the same; still has that same warm, welcoming feel that kept us coming back day after day, year after year.  While the hometown may have changed and the house we grew up in barely resembles the house we knew, walking into the cottage and Dorothy's arms was coming home.  By the way, the book she's currently reading?  Johanna Lindsey's The Devil Who Tamed Her!


Grandma
You can't outrun genetics.  My aunt is the keeper of some precious pieces of my dad's family history; photos of my grandmother (my dad's mom) as well as ancestors who I never had the opportunity to meet.  As I was gazing at a photo taken of my dad's mother when she was a child, it struck me.  I could have been looking at a photo of myself!  The eyes?  The mouth?  The nose?  All mine.  I mentioned this revelation as my brothers, sister-in-law  and I were visiting with my aunt and they all looked at me like I was nuts.  Apparently, I'm the only one who didn't know I look like Grandma!


Don't wait until tomorrow to tell people you love them.  With our busy lives and many responsibilities, we sometimes forget to tell people how much they mean to us.  Sometimes this message has to be reinforced as has been the case during the past few weeks.  The original reason for our trip north was the news that my aunt and uncle (my dad's sister and brother) are in poor health.  They and my uncle's wife (who may not be related by blood but is my beloved aunt in every other way) are the only ones still alive from my mom and dad's generation and I love them dearly.  Seeing them this past week has brought home very clearly the reality that we only have a limited amount of time on Earth and we never know when that time will come to an end.  Spending time with them and with three of my brothers has made me remember how precious each day is and how important it is to tell those people close to us that we love them.  It has reminded me not to take time or family or friends for granted but to treasure them and let them know they are treasured.

Where did you grow up?  Do you still live there?  If not, have you been back to visit?  Did you find yourself looking for the faces you shared freshman English with instead of the people they are today?  Do you resemble any of your ancestors?  Have you always known which one or, like me, was it a recent discovery?  


~PJ