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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Southern Sweethearts Blog Tour





Welcome to the Southern Sweethearts Blog Tour!  Between us, Janga and I recently read the August 26th book releases from Marilyn Pappano, Laura Drake and Sandra Hill and share our thoughts about those books below.  Be sure to read all the way to the end for a chance to win the terrific Blog Tour grand prize package! ~PJ





A Love to Call Her Own
By Marilyn Pappano
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 26, 2014


Jessy Lawrence was widowed two years and eight months ago when her husband Aaron was killed in Afghanistan. Grief over Aaron and guilt over the fact that she was considering divorcing him after he returned have pushed Jessy nearly to the edge. Her solution is to stay as busy as possible and to fill the intolerable emptiness with alcohol and occasional one-night hookups. When she is fired from her job at a local bank after losing her temper with a customer, even getting out of bed each day seems to require more effort than she can summon, but Jessy has a core of strength that surprises even her. She also has a group of friends, the Tuesday Night Margarita Club, aka The Fort Murphy Widows Club, who understand her better than she knows and love her, flaws and all. Then there’s Dalton Smith who seems to want to forget their drunken encounter and start over again as two people who have great chemistry, enjoy one another’s company, and just may be one another’s second chance.

Dalton Smith has always known that he would take over the family ranch someday, but he never expected to be doing it alone. It was expected that he and his twin Dillon would keep up the tradition and be the two Ds of the Double D Ranch. But Dillon ran away with Dalton’s girlfriend more than fifteen years ago, and no one in the family has heard from him since. After his marriage to a woman that loved ranch life, Dalton thought his wife would share his life after she returned from her tour as a medic in Afghanistan. Then, when an IED took both her legs, she chose to bleed to death rather than come home forever changed to the people who loved her. Dalton has spent four years protecting his family and his wife’s family from that knowledge and becoming more and more isolated in his grief and anger and bitterness. But a certain smart, smart-mouthed, sexy redhead has him rejoining the human race and thinking about a future filled with something more than loneliness.

Woven into the story of Jessy and Dalton are threads of the lives of other members of the Tuesday Night Margarita Club, some bright with the promise of HEAs and others still filled with question marks. Among these are Carly Lowry who is about to marry Dane Clark (A Hero to Come Home to), Therese Matheson who is creating a family of the heart with Keegan Logan and three kids who are not theirs by blood (A Man in Hold on to), and Lucy Hart who, after six years of widowhood, has met a man who interests her more than the food she has been using to fill the holes Mike’s death left in her heart and in her life. There’s also a new widow, Patricia Sanderson, whose husband, an officer with twenty-nine years of service, was killed just as they were looking forward to retirement years and the end of separations.

I can immediately think of a dozen or more recent or still ongoing series that focus on military or former military heroes whose lives have been changed in various ways by active, wartime duty. Pappano’s Tallgrass series is the only one I know that focuses on what happens to the families who are left to go on living after the casualty call and the military funeral with honors. Reading this book, I was reminded of some lines from “Lament” by Edna St. Vincent Millay”

Life must go on,
Though good men die;
. . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . .
Life must go on;
I forget just why.

But Pappano remembers why. Jessy and Dalton and the secondary characters are flawed human beings with problems that are painfully real and lives that are heartbreakingly messy. I think it is impossible to read A Love to Call Her Own and not be moved by the experiences of these characters and root for them to find happiness again. Perhaps most significant is a new awareness of all the stories that lie behind the media coverage of casualties and memorial services and of the price paid not just by those who serve but by their families as well. Although this novel may move you to tears, it is more than a sad story. It is also filled with laughter, the warmth of friendship, the endurance of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit. A Love to Call Her Own can be read as a standalone, but it more powerful and engaging as part of the series. I highly recommend all three books.

~Janga


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Known for her intensely emotional stories, Marilyn Pappano is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly eighty books. She has made regular appearances on bestseller lists and has received recognition for her work in the form of numerous awards. Though her husband's Navy career took them across the United States, he and Ms. Pappano now live in Oklahoma high on a hill that overlooks her hometown. They have one son and daughter-in-law, an adorable grandson, and a pack of mischievous dogs.

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Sweet on You
By Laura Drake
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 26, 2014






For Army Medic Katya Smith, the bomb in the streets of Kandahar did more than injure her physically. It robbed her of her confidence, her purpose in life and her ability to handle the stress of wartime medicine. Suffering from PTSD, Katya has been sent back to the U.S. to heal herself, in both body and spirit.  The physical part is easy but peace of mind may be more difficult to achieve. Katya hopes that a temporary physical therapy job with a rodeo sports medicine team working on the Professional Bull Riding circuit will be her ticket back to a full recovery and a return to her Army family in Afghanistan.  If only she can put up with the spoiled professional athletes she's sure to encounter in the interim.

Cam Cahill is a two time world champion bull rider facing the forced end of a much beloved career. His knees are shot, his shoulder isn't far behind and he has no idea what he's going to do once the season ends. At one time, he thought he'd have a family to return to when his days riding bulls ended but an ex-wife who viewed him as a meal ticket and left as soon as she figured out there were better tickets out there has left him gun shy.  Confused, conflicted and short of temper, Cam isn't willing to cut much slack for the new city-slicker physical therapist who obviously doesn't have a very high regard for the hard working cowboys on the PBA tour. They get off on the wrong foot and sparks fly but slowly, gradually, those sparks move from antagonism to respect to desire and, finally, something more. Cam and Katya have a real chance at that elusive happy ending they've been denied.  But will Katya be able to move beyond the emotional contraints of her PTSD?  And with Cam dreaming of marriage and family, what will happen when he discovers that Katya fully intends to return to Afghanistan as soon as she's declared fit?

This was my first book by Laura Drake but it won't be my last.  She has taken a contemporary western format (one of my favorites) and infused it with the deep emotional trauma suffered by so many of today's military members returning from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Both Cam and Katya are such realistically developed characters that I felt that if I attended a PBR event I'd see both of them in the arena. While I warmed to Katya first - Cam really did act like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum at first - eventually, I came to like both characters and was fully invested in their happiness. I was fascinated by Katya's Gypsy roots and the many layers that formed this formidable woman.  Cam, also, is a multi-layered character, slowly unveiled as the story progresses.  I appreciated the fact that Drake allows us to see the tender, vulnerable and uncertain side of this very strong and capable cowboy.

Sweet on You is part of a series but stands on its own.  You do not have to have read any previous books in the series to fully enjoy this one.

~PJ

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Laura Drake grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit, though her stories are set in the west.  A tomboy, she's always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into Pintos and moved to California. There she met and married a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie and her love affair with the West was born. Laura rides motorcycles: Elvis, a 1985 BMW Mystic, and Sting, a 1999 BMW R1100.

In Texas, Laura was introduced to her first rodeo, and fell in love. She's an avid fan of Pro Bull Riding (PBR,) attending any event within driving distance, including two PBR National finals. She is hard at work at her next novel.

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Snow on the Bayou
By Sandra Hill
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 26, 2014




Dumped by his girlfriend and run out of town by her sheriff father, "bad seed" Justin LeBlanc swore there would be snow on the bayou before he ever returned.  Now, seventeen years later, Justin "Cage" LeBlanc is a highly decorated Navy SEAL, respected and well liked, but he's never fully moved beyond the stigma of his youth...or the girl who stomped on his heart. Only the news that his beloved grandmother, the woman who raised him after his mother died of drugs and his father died in prison, has terminal cancer could pull him back. Sidelined from active duty with a knee injured in a HALO jump, Cage returns to Bayou Black to stay with his beloved MawMaw for the time she has left. When a coincidental encounter brings Emelie Gaudet back into his life, he realizes the old attraction is still there.  What he doesn't count on are the feelings that follow or the doors of his past that must finally be opened and faced before they have any chance of a happy ending.

Emelie Gaudet had loved Justin LeBlanc with the whole of her young heart.  She was devastated when her father ran Justin out of town, threatening him with jail if he didn't leave, but she trusted in their love.  She never expected Justin to turn his back on her, especially at a time when she needed him most.  Now, seventeen years later, Emelie finally has her life together.  She's a successful Mardi Gras mask designer, a part-time blues singer and is slowly rebuilding a relationship with her father.  The last thing she needs is Justin walking back into her life, sexier than ever and just as infuriating.  It's obvious that the desire between them burns just as hot as ever. Though she'll never trust him again, maybe a no-strings affair while he's in town is just what they both need to finally put their relationship to bed...so to speak.

Sandra Hill returns to the bayou for another fast paced, sexy, emotion-packed, heck of a good time in Snow on the Bayou.  Littered with her signature humor (I laughed out loud at least three times in the first 40 pages) and filled with plenty of heart (yes, I also cried), she brings us the story of two people who must face the secrets of the past, open their hearts to forgiveness and trust in what they have found together. Sometimes people are given a second chance at love. Sometimes, the feelings in the heart never go away but simply simmer until a chance meeting brings them flaming back to life. And, sometimes, when that wacky old woman, Tante Lulu, with her St. Jude statues and her custom made hope chests and her Cajun words of wisdom speaks...well, you just better sit up and listen because when that thunder bolt of love strikes, it's certain she won't be far behind.

Pull up a chair, pick up a copy of Snow on the Bayou and, as they say in the bayou, laissez les bons temps rouler.  Let the good times roll!

~PJ

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Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories. She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.

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Readers, have you read any of these authors?  Do you have a favorite title you would recommend to someone new to their books?

Do you enjoy military-themed romances?  

Ever been to a rodeo?  What was your favorite part?

Do you know anyone like Tante Lulu: a nineties-something firecracker who tells it like it is and embraces every second of life with both hands and a big ole grin? 

Do you (or did you) ever have a hope chest?  What did you have in yours?





17 comments:

  1. YOu have been busy reading and reviewing these books they all sound so good...can't wait to get to the store and get them...

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    1. Thanks for dropping in. Hope you enjoy the books! :)

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  2. Great Great prize. Right up my alley - CONTEMPS. THEY ARE all ON MY WISH LIST. HAVE ESPECIALLY BEEN WAITING FOR THE PAPPANO BOOK - love this series and yes I like military romance. Loved her Bethlehem series! Try any of them.

    Do you know anyone like Tante Lulu: a nineties-something firecracker who tells it like it is and embraces every second of life with both hands and a big ole grin? MY AUNT WHO PASSED AWAY 3 YRS AGO at 92. MISS HER ALL THE TIME. SHE WAS A WONDERFUL WOMAN.

    No formal Hope chest - had a few special things saved.

    Read all the authors but Laura Drake. Her book looks good. Believe I have read all of the Tante Lulu books.

    Never been to a rodeo.
    Patoct

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  3. I have to admit that these authors are new to me, so I am even more intrigued to get to know their books.

    I had to laugh at your question about a hope chest. Yes, I grew up in the time when girls had a hope chest. My godmother was always making little things for me to add to it. My ornery little brother used to tease me and call it my "hopeless chest!" :-)

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  4. Laura Drake is the best. For a city bred girl, her insights into the ranching and rodeo world are priceless!

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  5. I'm a Marilyn Pappano fan from way back. Room at the Inn from 1988 is still on my keeper shelf, as are all the Bethlehem books--and now the Tallgrass books. I read and loved Laura Drake's RITA-winning The Sweet Spot, but I have not read Sandra Hill yet. She is in my reading future though since PJ has assured me that I will enjoy the Bayou books.

    Certainly I had a hope chest. So did all my friends. We were proper Southern young ladies. :)

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  6. I have only read books by Marilyn Pappano. Her book Some Enchanted Season is one of my favorite Christmas stories. I need to check out the other 2 authors.

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  7. I've enjoyed Sandra Hill's Cajuns, TALL, DARK AND CAJUN.
    I've also enjoyed her Vikings, THE BLUE VIKING.
    I can't wait to return to the Bayou! Love her crazy sense of humor! I'm interested in the rebuilding of Cage and Emelie's relationship. Sounds like a rocky road ahead.

    I have enjoyed Marilyn PaPPano, THE LAWMAN'S REDEMPTION and ROOM AT THE INN.

    I have not read Laura Drake.

    I do enjoy military themed romances. Merline Lovelace, Catherine Mann, Lindsay McKenna, Marlin Melton

    I've never been to a rodeo.

    My 90 yo mother is like Tante Lu. She is blunt to the point of being rude. She gives lots of advice. She knows everything. She had a fall in June which forced her to slow down. She just got the OK to golf again. Dancing might have to wait, especially the polka. She reads, does cross word puzzles, plays bridge, gin and sheepshead. She loves to shop and take day road trips. She has a wicked sense of humor too.

    I received my great-aunt Anna's hope chest. She passed away 6 months before I was married. I had embroidered flour towels from my grandma Rose, embroidered pillow cases from my grandma Catherine. I had a table cloth and napkins from my future MIL. I had a set of wine glasses. candlesticks... a lot of small items I liked over the years.

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  8. My great aunt Melda was a lot like Tante Lulu, except she was a Yankee. She played in a bridge tournament a few days before she died (in her 90s) and had a fancy hat for any occasion. She loved it when I sent her Christmas cookies. She was my crazy aunt with cocker spaniels, now I am the crazy aunt with a cocker spaniel. :) I'd recommend Sandra Hill's Cajun books to a new reader.

    I have been reading a lot of military romances lately, especially about returning military, so I've put A Love to Call Her Own on my wish list.

    Never have been to a rodeo, but I've watched rodeo events at the All American Quarter Horse Congress. I like barrel racing as it is a "girl" sport, although I've met plenty of good male barrel racers. I am happy to see the competitors wearing helmets these days.

    I had a hope chest and it was full of Tupperware, antique glass, and embroidery by my Grandma. She made each of the girl cousins a set of pillowcases for their hope chests.

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  9. I only have read Sandra Hill and would recommend Tall, Dark, and Cajun. I enjoy military books. I know a 72 yr. old that reminds me of Tante LuLu and heaven help us when she gets even older lol. No hope chest!

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  10. I've read all three authors and loved each's previous books. I'm going to be looking for these, well, unless some one gifts me copies! I've never been to a rodeo, didn't have a hope chest, but I did have a great aunt who recently passed at the age of 101!! She was the fun aunt with a lake cottage and we visited every year!

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    1. Did you see that you won a book from Maggie Robinson? We haven't received an email from you yet.

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  11. I have not read any of them yet, but going to change that soon.

    I do love a good military themed romance.

    I have not been to a rodeo. Think it would be something to experience.

    I do not

    I do not

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  12. I love military romances. Wounded warriors are one of my favorite types of heroes. I've never been to a rodeo, but love to read books that have them included in the story. I never had a hope chest, but my mother did and I own it now that she's gone.

    Marcy Shuler

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  13. Haven't read any of these authors
    sometimes
    no
    no
    no

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  14. I have read Sandra Hill and love the humor in her books.
    Have read and enjoyed many military themed books. They along with first responders tend to be natural heroes.
    We lived in Colorado and attended rodeos there. They are more common now and we have actually been to more in TN. I will have to admit I like the bull and bronco riding.
    We do have a 94 year old friend much like Tante Lulu. She has been that way since we met her 42 years ago. Unfortunately, she is sliding into Alzheimer's and much of that spark is gone.
    I never did have a hope chest. I do now have my aunt's. It has been very interesting going through the things that she put in her's back in the 1940's.

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  15. What interesting questions!
    I have read only from Sandra Hill and love her stories. I think her best are in the latest Tante Lulu series.
    Yes, I like military themed stories. One of my fave genres is romantic suspense and some of the best military stories are in that genre.
    I was raised on a ranch, attended rodeos all the time, lived amongst cowboys and Western romances are among my favorite stories!
    And no, I've never had a "Tante Lulu" in my life. I grew up in a small town where all of our relatives lived in the same community, about 50 of them...so we all cared for one another, had huge holiday family dinners, laughed and cried together.
    And no, I never had a "hope" chest. I always thought it was a great tradition for mothers and daughters to share...but we didn't do that in our family.
    Thanks for this post and wonderful blog tour! jdh2690@gmail.com

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