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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming Attractions



I'm still trying to figure out where December went, let alone January, and here we are just one day away from welcoming February, the month of love and romance. It may zoom by as quickly as January but it promises to be fun while it's here. We have heartwarming books, talented authors, insightful reviews, giveaways and much more to keep you entertained.  We hope you will visit us frequently. Here are our coming attractions for February.









Wednesday, February 5th brings a visit from Sharon Sala's Curl Up & Dye blog tour.  We are so honored to host this beloved, bestselling author who will soon celebrate the release of her 100th published novel.










Debut author Elizabeth Michels joins us on Thursday, February 6th to celebrate the release of her first novel, the delightful historical romance, Must Love Dukes. Elizabeth has frequently been featured in our Shoes of M&M and Shoes of RWA blogs.  It's fun to celebrate her book this time around instead of her awesome shoes!







Don't miss Friday, February 7th when Andrea will share her list of new releases for the month of February.






Manda Collins returns on Monday, February 10th for a Q&A with PJ.  Manda's newest book, Why Earls Fall in Love, is another winner from this talented author.











One of our favorite Aussies, Kandy Shepherd joins us on Tuesday, February 11th. Kandy's first book for Harlequin Romance, The Summer They Never Forgot, will be released February 1st.










Valentine's Day is sure to be filled with lots of romance as we welcome Hope Tarr on Friday, February 14th. Hope will be blogging about Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them, a collection of essays written by twenty-eight romance authors in which they share their real life love stories. 100% of the royalties from the sale of this book will go to Women In Need, a New York charity that helps disadvantaged women build independent lives for themselves and their children.







Barbara Devlin stops by for a Q&A on Monday, February 17th. Barbara's newest historical romance, My Lady, the Spy is racking up 5 star reviews on Amazon.  Can't wait to find out more about her lady spy!











Anna Campbell will be here with a Second Helping Harlequin Roundup on Monday, February 24th. You won't want to miss this one!









We wrap up the month with a return visit from the always fun Cathy Maxwell on Thursday, February 27th. The second book in Cathy's The Brides of Wishmore series, The Bride Says Maybe will be released February 25th.








See you in February!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review - - Rodeo Queen

Rodeo Queen
By T.J. Kline
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: November 26, 2013




Newly crowned rodeo queen, Sydney Thomas has big plans and the talented horse trainer hopes her new title will help them come true.  When a well respected stock contractor offers her a job it puts her professional goals within reach and she happily accepts his offer.  Then she meets the gorgeous, arrogant, chip-on-his-shoulder man who will be her boss and starts second guessing her decision.

Scott Chandler has no use for rodeo queens.  Experience has taught him that they are pampered, self-absorbed divas who will stomp on a man's heart then hit the road without a backward glance. He doesn't agree with his boss's decision to hire Sydney and has no intention of making things easy for her. Instead of softening his feelings toward her, the fact that she's a hard worker and seems to be a nice person only makes him dig in his heels harder.  But the fact that she's drop dead gorgeous and sexy as all get out has him more than willing to indulge his desire for her even if he still thinks she's hiding her true nature.

Just when Sydney and Scott begin to realize that there might be more than desire at the root of their growing feelings, the past intrudes on the present, putting much more than their fledgling relationship at risk.  Will they allow negative forces to come between them or will they find the strength and courage to fight for a happy ending?

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It has several elements that I enjoy:  a western theme, a strong heroine, a brooding hero, horses, sexy cowboys and a touch of danger as well as an author who knows the life about which she writes.  There's a lot of potential here for character growth, a gradual deepening of sizzling desire into a solid emotional commitment and a triumph of love over hate.  I wanted to like it a lot but there were issues that tempered my enjoyment.  Maybe I'm just used to reading about contemporary characters with more life experience and stability but I found the hero of this story very immature.  True, he's had heartbreak in his life but he had more mood swings than a 13-year-old girl and I didn't care for his treatment of the heroine nor her willingness to have an ongoing physical relationship with him in light of it. I was happy with the heroine's growth over the course of the book but I would have had more confidence in a happy-ever-after if the hero's growth had been commensurate with her's. Having said that, there are still many things I like about the author's writing and I'm sure that there are many people who will like this book much more than I did.

This is T.J. Kline's first book and, while it didn't knock my socks off, it shows enough potential for me to definitely check out her next one.

~PJ

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spotlight on Romancing the Duke


Historical romance author Tessa Dare launched her new Castles Ever After series yesterday with the release of the first book in the series, Romancing the Duke.  We're happy to offer you a sneak peek into this delightful story, courtesy of HarperCollins publishers, as well as an opportunity to win a $50 gift card (details below).  



In the first in Tessa Dare's captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too.  The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off.  One by one by one.
  • Ugly duckling turned swan?
  • Abducted by handsome highwayman?
  • Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?
No, no, and... Heh.

Now Izzy's given up yearning for romance. She'll settle for a roof over her head.  What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who's never even been kissed?

This one.





A sneak peek of ROMANCING THE DUKE:

The driver pocketed her offering and touched his cap. “What was yer name again, miss?”
“Goodnight. Miss Izzy Goodnight.”
She waited to see if he would recognize it. Most of the literate people in England would, and a great many of their domestic servants, besides.
The driver only grunted. “Jes’ wanted to know it, in case someone comes around asking. If you’re never heard from again.”
Izzy laughed. She waited for him to laugh, too.
He didn’t.
Soon driver, team, and carriage were nothing more than the fading crunch of wheels on the road.
Izzy picked up her valise and walked through the barbican. A stone bridge carried her over what once had been a moat but now was only a slimy green trickle.
She’d done a bit of research in advance of her journey. There wasn’t much to read. Only that Gostley Castle had once been the seat of the Rothbury dukedom, in Norman times.
It didn’t look inhabited now. There was no glass in many of the windows. No lights in them, either. There should have been a portcullis that dropped to bar the entrance—but there was nothing there. No door, no gate.
She walked through the archway and into the central, open courtyard.
“Lord Archer?” Her voice died in the air. She tried again. “Lord Archer, are you here?” This time, her call got a respectable echo off the flagstones. But no answer.
She was alone.
Dizzied from her strange surroundings and weak with hunger, Izzy closed her eyes. She coerced air into her lungs.
You cannot faint. Only ninnies and consumptive ladies swoon, and you are neither.
It started to rain. Fat, heavy drops of summer rain—the kind that always struck her as vaguely lewd and debauched. Little potbellied drunkards, those summer raindrops, chortling on their way to earth and crashing open with glee.
She was getting wet, but the alternative—seeking shelter inside one of the darkened arches—was less appealing by far.
A rustling sound made her jump and wheel. Just a raven taking wing. She watched it fly over the castle wall and away.
She laughed a little. Really. It was too much. A vast, uninhabited castle, rain, and now ravens, too? Someone was playing her a cruel trick.
Then she glimpsed a man across the courtyard, standing in a darkened archway.
And if he was a trick, he wasn’t a cruel one.
There were things in nature that took their beauty from delicate structure and intricate symmetry. Flowers. Seashells. Butterfly wings. And then there were things that were beautiful for their wild power and their refusal to be tamed. Snowcapped mountains. Churning thunderclouds. Shaggy, sharp-toothed lions.
This man silhouetted before her? He belonged, quite solidly, in the latter category.
So did the wolf sitting at his heel.
It couldn’t be a wolf, she told herself. It had to be some sort of dog. Wolves had long been hunted to extinction. The last one in England died ages ago.
But then . . . she would have thought they’d stopped making men like this, too.
He shifted his weight, and a slant of weak light revealed the bottom half of his face. She glimpsed a wide, sensual slash of a mouth. A squared jaw, dark with whiskers. Overlong hair brushed his collar. Or it would have, if he had a collar. He wore only an open-necked linen shirt beneath his coat. Buckskin breeches hugged him from slim hips to muscled thighs . . . and from there, his legs disappeared into a pair of weathered, dusty Hessians.
Oh, dear. She did have such a weakness for a pair of well-traveled boots. They made her desperate to know everywhere they’d been.
Her heart beat faster. This didn’t help with her lightheadedness problem.
“Are you Lord Archer?” she asked.
“No.” The word was low, unforgiving.
The beast at his heel growled.
“Oh. I-is Lord Archer here?”
“No.”
“Are you the caretaker?” she asked. “Are you expecting him soon?”
“No. And no.”
Was that amusement in his voice?
She swallowed hard. “I received a letter. From Lord Archer. He asked me to meet him here on this date regarding some business with the late Earl of Lynforth’s estate. Apparently he left me some sort of bequest.” She extended the letter with a shaking hand. “Here. Would you care to read it for yourself?”
That wide mouth quirked at one corner. “No.”
Izzy retracted the letter as calmly as she could manage and replaced it in her pocket.
He leaned one shoulder against the archway. “Aren’t we going to continue?”
“Continue what?”
“This game.” His voice was so low it seemed to crawl to her over the flagstones, then shiver up through the soles of her feet. “Am I a Russian prince? No. Is my favorite color yellow? No. Would I object if you were to come inside and remove every stitch of your damp clothing?” His voice did the impossible. It sank lower. “No.”
He was just making sport of her now.
Izzy clutched her valise to her chest. She didn’t want Snowdrop getting wet. “Do you treat all your visitors this way?”
Idiot. She cursed herself and braced for another low, mocking “no.”
He said, “Only the pretty ones.”
Oh, Lord. She ought to have guessed it earlier. The fatigue and hunger had done something to her brain. She could almost believe the castle, the ravens, the sudden appearance of a tall, dark, handsome man. But now he was flirting with her?
She had to be hallucinating.
The rain beat down, impatient to get from the clouds to the earth. Izzy watched drops pinging off the flagstones. Each one seemed to chisel a bit more strength from her knees.
The castle walls began to spin. Her vision went dark at the edges.
 “I . . . Forgive me, I . . .”
Her valise dropped to the ground.
The beast snarled at it.
The man moved out from the shadows.
And Izzy fainted dead away.

Could your “castle” use a pick-me-up? Enter to win a $50.00 BED BATH & BEYOND gift card below for a home improvement happy-ever-after of your own!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Today's Special - - Cathy Maxwell


It's always cause for celebration around here when Cathy Maxwell comes to visit.  This New York Times Bestselling author is not only one of my auto-buy authors but also one of my favorite people.  Her joy and positive energy is infectious and comes through not only in person but in her writing as well. Today, Cathy is celebrating the release of her newest book, The Bride Says No which is also the first book in her new The Brides of Wishmore series. 

Cathy spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, "Why do people fall in love?" It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with her children, horses, dogs, and cats.

To learn more about Cathy and her books, check out her social media:

Website:  cathymaxwell.com




Cathy is also blogging today at the USA Today Happily Ever After Blog.  If you get the chance, stop by and say hello!  http://tinyurl.com/lzr649n


Happiness
by Cathy Maxwell

            Can reading a romance novel make you happy?

            Okay, this isn’t quiz. I know it can. 

            Books of all sorts have been instruments of change in my life.  I remember reading my first self-help book when I was fourteen. It was a Dell paperback, had been written by a female fashion photographer who loved to travel, and opened the world to me.

            For a long time, I was not a fiction reader.  My imagination was too active and since a good portion of the books I felt I must read had “real” endings where life is dismal, I wasn’t a fan.  My mother was an avid romance reader—but who wants to read what your mother likes?

            And then I got lost. 

            When my first child was born, I gave up my career, happily, I should add.  It was a good decision.  But I spent some years trying to find myself.  Then I had a second child, and discovered the baby blues.  Lost woman and depression--not a good combination.

            A mother with a herd of kids would come into my local library for story hour each week.  She had a spring to her step and a vitality I lacked, and she always brought in a grocery bag of books.  She’d check them all in, have the librarian refill the bag while she toddled around with her kids, and then she would leave—and come back the next week ready for more.

            Her bag was full of romance novels, the books Mother read.  I made some lame comment to the librarian and his reply to me was, “You should read one.  You might like it.”

            I don’t know why I followed his advice, but I’m glad I did. I loved the book.

            In fact, when I finished that book, I went back to the library with my own grocery bag. I’d start the day with a pile of books and have them finished by the time my husband came home from work.

            He’d look around the house and see what was undone.  He’d grow nervous.  However, the kids were still alive.

            Slowly but surely, the depression dogging me evaporated and I got back to the business of loving my life.
            I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it was in romances that pulled me out of an abyss.  Was it the sure fire happy ending? Or the idea of a commitment that can take on all challenges and last a lifetime?

            Maybe it was because I was reading her story and it was on an equal footing with his story?  Or that two people can admire and trust each other even when they want different things?

            And, yes, of course, love is the answer.

            Those books carried me then, and still do now, through days packed with chores and routine.  They taught me that love is both a verb and a noun and encompasses everything I value.

            Today, I and every romance writer I know, receives letters from readers who confide that reading one of our books helped them pass lonely hours or kept them company while they went through chemo or long hospital stays or provided some special insight that helped them understand their purpose. Our books are straight forward and easy to read but they also contain a wealth of nuances and a complex understanding of what is important in life, even when we are writing with humor or about shape shifters. (Maybe, especially when we are writing about those guys.)

            So let’s dish.  My “The Brides of Wishmore” series deals with women coming to terms with the decisions they’ve made and stepping out into their lives in search of what makes them happy.   There, that was my promo moment.

            My question to you is, what makes you happy?  And has a book ever helped you though a difficult patch of life? Or given you the impetus you needed to choose a new direction?

Cathy is giving away one copy of The Bride Says No to a randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on today's post. The winner will have a choice of either a print copy or e-book.  This giveaway is open to anyone living in a country to which bookdepository.com delivers (print copy).  




What happens when a bride says no? 

He is the bastard son of a duke, arrogant, handsome, a little bit dangerous, and, of course, one of the most sought-after bachelors in London. He is also about to be publically jilted by some chit of a girl! Blake Stephens' pride isn't about to let him be humiliated, so he charges after his bride to the wilds of Scotland, determined to bring her to the altar. What happens when the heart says yes? He is promised to one woman, but discovers his soul stirred by . . . the chit's sister! 

Lady Aileen Davidson's reputation was ruined ages ago, which is why she's buried herself in the country, but her fiery spirit and bold beauty threaten to bring Blake to his knees, making him wonder if he has proposed to the wrong lass. And now he must make a choice: marry for honor . . . or marry for love? 



Monday, January 27, 2014

Guest Review - - Cider Brook

Cider Brook
By Carla Neggers
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: January 28, 2014






Samantha Bennett comes from a family of adventurers. A treasure hunter by profession, Sam has a particular interest in pirates, an interest she traces back to her childhood fascination with them and to conversations about famous and not-so-famous real life pirates with her grandfather, a renowned explorer most famous for barely surviving a trip to Antarctica. In fact, it was a painting of a cider mill and a manuscript with the intriguing title “The Adventures of Captain Farraday and Lady Elizabeth” handwritten in an obviously feminine hand that Sam discovers among her grandfather’s treasures after his death that sends her back to Knights Bridge, a small Massachusetts town that Samantha never expected to visit again. It was her first, secret visit to Knights Bridge that led to her being fired from her job with treasure hunter Duncan McCaffrey, something Sam has always regretted, especially since Duncan died before she could explain her secrecy to him. But even knowing Duncan’s son Dylan is now making Knights Bridge his home is not enough to keep her away from the chance of finding answers to her many questions about Captain Benjamin Farraday, a Boston privateer turned pirate in whom Samantha is particularly interested.

Justin Sloan, volunteer firefighter and one of the sons of Sloan & Sons Construction Company bought the old Cider Brook cider mill when the town sold it for unpaid taxes. When an unseasonably warm day erupts into a major thunderstorm, he decides to check on his property. He finds the mill in flames, the result of a lightning strike, and the missing lock warns him that someone is inside. It is only after he carries the young woman he finds inside to safety that he learns that she is Samantha Bennett, the same young woman whose surprising interest in Knights Bridge he reported to Duncan McCaffrey two and a half years ago, a report that led Duncan to fire her. Justin has the feeling that Samantha Bennett may prove to be trouble for him and for his town.

Samantha and Justin try ignoring the attraction that sparks between them, but neither can stop thinking of the other. But can strong chemistry overcome the secrets and distrust that persist between the outsider from a famous family at home all over the world and a hometown boy who knows Knights Bridge is exactly where he belongs?

Cider Brook is the third novel in Neggers's Swift River Valley series. Readers who liked the earlier books will be pleased to see many familiar characters appear in this one. Olivia Frost, heroine of Secrets of the Lost Summer (Book 1) welcomes Samantha to The Farm at Carriage Hill, and Dylan McCaffrey consults with Justin often about the house the Sloans are building for Olivia and Dylan, who are planning a December wedding. Phoebe and Noah are scheduled to return from their honeymoon soon, Maggie and Brandon are enjoying their reunion, and Jess and Mark’s wedding takes place in this book. Even Loretta Wrentham and Julius Hartley are hovering on the brink of true love (That Night on Thistle Lane, Book 2). I enjoyed the updates on all these characters, but I’m not sure how a reader new to the series will respond.

As she did in the first two books, Neggers weaves together threads of a mystery rooted in the area’s past with contemporary concerns of an unlikely pair of lovers. She switches things up a bit this time and makes the heroine the one who has led a more sophisticated life. Once more Neggers vividly evokes the past and present of this small New England town. Despite the mystery and the dramatic opening with the hero saving the heroine from a burning building, this is a quiet, slow-paced book.

I like quiet books, so the pace did not bother me. But I never felt the emotional connection with these characters that sets keepers apart from books that engage me in a more limited way. I sometimes found myself more interested in updates on former pairs of lovers than on the progress of Sam and Justin’s relationship. I never understood why Sam’s first visit to Knights Bridge was such a huge betrayal of Duncan, and the secrets of the padlock and the journal seemed silly to me. I did enjoy the exchanges between Justin and his brothers and between Samantha and her rather eccentric family.

In the final analysis, while this book never made me want to throw it in the nearest trashcan, there were times while I was reading it that I cast longing looks at books waiting in my TBR queue. If you like slow-paced books with multiple plot lines that cover the distant past, the near past, and the present, you may find this novel more engaging that I did.

~Janga
http://justjanga.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review - - When the Rogue Returns

When the Rogue Returns
By Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher:  Pocket
Release Date:  January 21, 2014





Victor Cale has been nursing a grudge against his wife for ten long years. Though they had been married only a week, he believed they had a love that would last a lifetime.  But that was before his young wife made a fool of him and left him to take the blame for the jewel theft she and her family engineered.  Now living in London, Victor, the newly discovered cousin to a duke, is not cut out to live a life of leisure so when a friend, who owns Manton Investigations, has a request to investigate a woman in Scotland who sounds suspiciously like his wife, Victor jumps at the opportunity.  Maybe, finally, he'll get an answer to the question that's waited ten long years to be answered.  Why?

At eighteen years of age, Isabella was already a talented jewelry designer specializing in paste replicas but remarkably innocent in the ways of the world and easily manipulated by her family.  For the past ten years she's believed that her husband, the man she loved more than life, abandoned her after stealing priceless jewels from her employer.  But she's not that naive young girl any longer. Extricating herself from her family, she's become a strong woman who has made a name for herself in the jewelry industry and has a good career and reputation in Scotland.  The only thing missing is an answer to why Victor betrayed her all those years ago.



As the truth of what really happened all those years ago unfolds, Isa and Victor face the fact that the feelings between them burn brighter than ever.  But ten years of hard feelings and mistrust are not easily overcome and a secret that one of them is keeping may bring their new-found love to a screeching halt.

Sabrina Jeffries is one of my "go to" authors who rarely disappoints.  One of the things I enjoy about her books is her willingness to venture outside the box.  When the Rogue Returns, the second book in Jeffries' new Duke's Men series features a hero and heroine who are Dutch.  I don't think I've seen that before.  The heroine is in trade, and proud of it, and while the hero has new-found connections to a duke, he's led a working life and is more comfortable there than among the peerage.  Another thing I like about this book is the growth of the characters.  They are both very young when first married and, while still married, they have each changed significantly during their years apart.  The spark that first ignited their young love is still present but they need time to get to know the people they are today and grow together as a couple.  I appreciate the fact that Jeffries gives them that time and that she doesn't make it easy.  They've mistrusted one another for a long time.  Those doubts and feelings don't just disappear overnight, especially when tested by someone determined to keep them apart.  The action is fast-paced, the story line intriguing and the dialogue between the hero and heroine is snappy and realistic.  The supporting cast moves the story forward and gives us a glimpse into the next book in the series which, if my guess is correct, will be filled with fireworks aplenty.  I can't wait!

~PJ

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Guest Review - - More Than a Touch

More Than a Touch
By Alexis Morgan
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: January 7, 2014




Leif Brevik is in Snowberry Creek, Oregon, to help his Army buddy Nick Jenkins restore the home of their fallen comrade Spence Lang and transform it into a bed and breakfast for Spence’s best friend and heir, Callie Redding.  Leif’s condition is similar to Nick’s when he first arrived in Snowberry Creek. He’s still recovering from an injury received in the same battle in which Spence lost his life. He is also suffering from PTSD, and since the doctors have refused to clear him for active service, his military career may be over. Nick’s invitation offers Leif not only a chance to honor a friend, but also a chance to restore purpose to his life.

Former military nurse Zoe Phillips has her own PTSD issues. Although she has returned to civilian life and is working as a nurse practitioner in Snowberry Creek, she has never really healed from the psychic wounds she received during her time in the military. Her wounds may be less visible than Leif’s, but they are no less real. And she is no less in need of healing and resolution.

Leif and Zoe meet at a party to celebrate what has been accomplished thus far with Spence’s house. The attraction between them is immediate and powerful, but when Leif begins physical therapy, he finds that Zoe is the nurse practitioner in charge of his care. Zoe firmly adheres to professional policies that forbid personal relationships between medical staff and their patients. Zoe’s knowledge of his medical history and physical limitations embarrass Leif and deal a blow to his pride. These obstacles to a romantic relationship between these two may seem insurmountable, but the connection forged by their shared experiences, their instinctive understanding of one another, and the strong physical attraction they cannot ignore prove irresistible. Their path to an HEA is not an easy one.

More than a Touch is the second novel in Morgan’s Snowberry Creek series that includes “A Soldier’s Heart,” a novella that introduces Nick Jenkins, Leif Brevik, Spencer Lang, and Mooch, their four-legged warrior comrade; A Time for Home, the first novel that features Nick and Callie; “The Christmas Gift,” a novella in Christmas on Main Street that is a Snowberry Creek story but not directly related to the three Army buddies. Morgan combines the appeal of a small-town setting with the emotional punch of stories featuring heroes who are veterans scarred by war experience. Her heroes are engaged in rebuilding their lives in a town with a distinctive identity and a full cast of interesting people. The combination is not unique, but, like Robyn Carr and JoAnn Ross, Morgan gives readers characters with flaws, complexity, and a high likeability quotient and confronts them with conflicts that are credible and compelling, thus producing stories that stand out from others in the subgenre.

Leif and Zoe’s story is sometimes painfully real. Both the physical and psychological traumas that veterans carry with them from the war zone are presented vividly. Some studies place the PTSD rate among veterans of the Iraqi-Afghanistan wars at 20 percent, but other experts believe it is much higher. Such statistics, which have been widely reported, give an added level of reality to this story.

More Than a Touch is the kind of book I like best, one that focuses on relationships and allows them time to develop, the kind that keeps the romance central but shows the protagonists within the contexts of other relationships with family and friends. If you like this kind of book too, I think you will enjoy More Than a Touch. While I recommend the series, this book can be read as standalone.

Second chance is a theme that runs through the entire series. The theme reaches its zenith in the third Snowberry Creek novel, A Reason to Love, which will be released May 6. It is the story of Spencer Lang, the hometown hero believed to have been killed in Afghanistan. I look forward to returning to the small Oregon town for Spence’s story.

~Janga
http://justjanga.blogspot.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mighty Lights!

by Anna Campbell

Happy New Year! 

As you may know, 2013 was my year of attacking the TBR pile.

I don't know if this rings a bell with any of you, but I just can't resist buying new books. And the new, bright shiny book that has just arrived in the mail tends to get the attention, which means often very good books drop lower in the pile until sometimes they're so far down, they're subterranean.

I keep my TBR pile in my dressing room which had started to look like it belonged to Imelda Marcos - if Imelda Marcos had a book fetish instead of a shoe one! So for the last 12 months, I've been tugging out books that I've had for ages and giving them a go.

As a result, I've discovered some real gems!

A book that had been there for so long that I'd completely forgotten I had it is NORTHERN LIGHTS by Nora Roberts.

Wow, what a great read! And I was lucky enough to have time to wallow in the story and read it in one gulp. Paradise!

Following the shooting death of his partner, Nate Burke leaves his job as a detective in Baltimore to become chief of police in tiny Lunacy, Alaska, in the middle of winter. Which many people consider an act of...lunacy.

Nate is wounded and grieving and guilt-stricken and perfectly aware that this is his last chance to set his life on the right path. At first, he's sure he's made the wrong decision. For a start, Lunacy in January is COLD!!! Beyond imagining cold. And not everyone in the small settlement welcomes the arrival of an incomer as the representative of the long arm of the law.

But Nate sticks it out and gradually finds himself a place and a new purpose. On the way, he falls in love with independent, eccentric bush pilot Meg Galloway who isn't at all sure that she wants a forever relationship, although she's perfectly happy to enjoy Nate as a lover.

So everything is heading in the right direction for Nate at last when some college students stumble upon a corpse in an ice cave up in the mountains. The dead man is Meg's father, a free spirit who everyone assumed walked out on his family sixteen years ago. Not only that, but it's likely that the murderer was a resident of Lunacy, and perhaps still is.

Nate has to draw on all the skills he learned as a homicide detective to solve this crime (and deal with the subsequent mayhem) in a place where he'd fondly imagined he'd only be dealing with minor issues like small-time theft and inappropriate high-spirits.

This is more of a police procedural than I'm used to from the great Nora although the romance between Meg and Nate is wonderful - and in such a long book (my Piatkus edition is 562 pages long), there's enough room for a secondary romance or two as well! All the characters are so real, from Nate and Meg down through the interesting misfits who have made Lunacy their home over the years. The reader falls in love with the townsfolk right along with Nate.

Having said that, I think the setting was the best part of this book. You can feel the cold and isolation and dramatic beauty of this isolated corner of the world. I think it's no accident of writerly intent that Nate arrives in the depths of winter and moves forward into spring - the setting definitely mirrors the new life burgeoning in Nate's cynical, damaged soul.

I've always wanted to visit Alaska - I'm a girl who loves cold! Reading this marvelous, suspenseful, evocative novel made me look seriously at booking a ticket!

So have you read NORTHERN LIGHTS? Do you have a favorite book by Nora Roberts? Have you been to Alaska?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cara Elliott Winner





The winner of a copy of
Scandalously Yours 
by Cara Elliott
is:

dotland101

Congratulations!  Please send us an e-mail and
let us know if you would like an e-book now or a print copy when it's released.

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Nicki Salcedo Winners






The winners of a copy of All Beautiful Things by Nicki Salcedo are:

librarypat
(U.S./Canada)

Quantum
(International)

 Librarypat, please send us your full name and mailing address.  
Quantum, please send your email address.  

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Leigh LaValle Winner





The randomly chosen winner of a copy of
The Rogue Returns
by Leigh LaValle is:

Maureen

Congratulations, Maureen!  Please send us an email at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Guest Review - - The Rosie Project


Andrea and I are happy to welcome Hellie to our Romance Dish review team.  Some of you may know her from her comments here at TRD (as MsHellion) or as Captain of the former Romance Writers Revenge blog or perhaps from Facebook or one of the other sites she frequents.  We hope you all will enjoy her reviews as much as we do! ~PJ



The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: October 1, 2013


 



Graeme Simsion’s THE ROSIE PROJECT is a story of a man who is a little left of center. He’s a bit too precise, particular, and peculiar for the average female to appreciate; and on the whole, he doesn’t understand them or what it is he’s doing wrong to upset them, though he knows he must have done something. He’s never been good with women, but he’d really like to do something about that. He decides to create The Wife Project.

Dr. Don Tillman is a very rational, scheduled, and disciplined man; he’s a genius in his field and he’s solved some of the most trying perplexities in his area of expertise. He can surely solve how to get a wife. So he treats the problem like he would any other scientific problem. He starts by gathering relevant data. He makes a questionnaire, only 16 pages long, to screen to the most likely “data”, not wishing to date a smoker, an alcoholic, or a perpetually late person. He doesn’t have time to waste; and he certainly wouldn’t want to waste anyone else’s time if he knows right away they’re not The One.

Except even with this exceptional screening application, the dates that come from this don’t exactly go to plan. What’s even more hilarious is that although we know Don is picky to a fault, we have to agree with him on his dates that the women he goes out with are not The One. I mean, he’s not being picky if it’s clear they’re not meant for each other, right?

And then he meets Rosie, whom he thinks was screened to be appropriate from his application, but come to find out early on in the date, she is the last person he could end up with. She smokes for one. She drinks like a fish. She swears incessantly. She waltzes around and changes up things in his apartment without getting his permission. She’s extremely stressful to his discipline and routine, never mind his schedule. Yet the time he spends with her is the best time he’s ever had in his entire life. Even better than the time he spent at the Museum of Natural History in New York. It’s unforeseen…and miraculous.

Despite that they are absolutely wrong for each other, which he doesn’t hesitate to tell her, Don finds himself drawn into helping her. Though he can’t explain why he needs to help her. What he doesn’t want to admit to himself is how much he enjoys being with Rosie, even though she’s absolutely the wrong person. It soon becomes apparent, given how he’s willing to disrupt his routine, schedule, and discipline to “help” Rosie with her little problem, he will do most anything to spend more time with her.

This book defies one classification. It’s a love story, yes; but it’s also a mystery and a laugh-out-loud comedy caper and a sweet, compassionate look at how when we set up walls for those we let into our lives, we’re not screening out people because we’re too picky or the persnickety ones, but that it’s our fear of being rejected and unloved for who we are and how we try to stack the odds in our favor. Yes, Don does seem on the surface quite a bit like a certain character on the Big Bang Theory; however, the more you know him, the more he reminds me of Ewan MacGregor’s character in Salmon Fishing in Yemen. The comedy of the first, but the sweetness and vulnerability and growth of the second. Aspies rule, as they say in the book.

So how good was it really? It was so good I actually bought it as an e-book and read it (and I hate reading on my computer; I’d rather have a “real book”); and I read it in about 2 days, but if I had started earlier I would have gotten it done in one. It was so good, I was afraid my neighbors would come over and tell me to stop laughing so loud, especially at 3 a.m., because it was freaking annoying; and I was afraid if they did come over, I would start reading the funny parts to them and insist they buy the book. It’s adorable and hilarious; and at the last page, it ended just the right way and I was so genuinely satisfied, I could have gone back to the beginning and read it again. So eat that, Nicholas Sparks. This is a love story worthy of the name. 

~Hellie


Hellie Sinclair (a.k.a. Fran) was one of the founding members of the Romance Writer's Revenge, where she frequently got to satisfy her love of good books and her need to expound by writing reviews. Hellie loves to craft on projects she rarely finishes, watch British dramas as a sort of Olympic marathon event, and do most anything that fits the description "indolent and pleasurable." Fortunately reading falls into that category. You can find her at her blog, where she writes the occasional review...and shares updates on her never-ending projects.


Readers, tell us about the last book that made you laugh out loud. 



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Today's Special - - Cara Elliott


Cara Elliott is here!  I'm happy to welcome one of my favorite historical romance authors back to the Romance Dish today. Who better to write books than someone who combines a love of books with a vivid imagination?  As Cara shares in the bio on her website: "I've always had a vivid imagination...so much so that I think at times it worried my parents that I was so happy in my own little world, drawing pictures and creating stories."  

Cara majored in art at Yale and earned a MFA in Graphic Design. It took her a while to return to her love of writing but we, the readers, are so very happy that she eventually did. She's here today to tell us about her new Hellions of High Street Regency historical trilogy.  I've read the first book, Scandalously Yours and it's terrific!

Follow the links below to learn more about Cara's books and connect with her online.
Website:  http://caraelliott.com/ 
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/cara.elliott1
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/CaraElliott_1
Word Wenches:  http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/



Take it away, Cara!


Cara here,

Sisters. They are the ones who are always there for you, sharing your laughter and tears, your hopes and fears. And most of all, your dreams. They pick you up when you are feeling down. They tell you when you are right—and when you are wrong.  It’s a bond that may occasionally bend, but will never, ever break. They are, quite simply, the ones who are, through thick and thin, your closest confidant, your best friends forever.



Growing up, I longed to have sisters. Now don’t get me wrong, brothers can be pretty nice, too. You learn a lot of important things from them—like how to hit a baseball, and how to fall out of tree without bursting into girly tears. And then, when they get old enough to drive, they have friends—cute friends—who are suddenly a lot more fun that they were in the ninth grade. (That makes up for all the frogs they’ve put in your bed, especially as none of them turned into a handsome prince when kissed . . . trust me on this.) But you know what I mean when I say there are LOTS of things you just don’t share with boys. (Would you ask your brother whether your new party dress makes your tummy look too fat? Right—I rest my case.)


Well, since I didn’t have that wonderful camaraderie in real life, I decided to create it in my new Regency historical trilogy. The “Hellions of High Street” is all about the three Sloane sisters who share a number of things, including a closeknit friendship, an unconventional sense of humor—and a secret passion for writing. Olivia, the eldest, pens fiery political essays, Anna, the middle sister, writes racy romance novels, and Caro, the youngest is an aspiring poet. As you can imagine, the conversations between them can get rather . . . interesting.

Especially when the talk turns to men.








In Scandalously Yours, the first book in the series, which debuts today (you can read an excerpt here) Olivia has several “men” problems. Which all involve the oh-so proper Earl of Wrexham, a former war hero known in Society as the Perfect Hero. Her fiery political essays, written under a pen name, have attracted his attention, but the problem is, he mustn’t learn that a lady has written them. And then there’s the tongue-in-cheek reply to a newspaper that has been inadvertently sent to the earl’s young son . . .

Her sisters have some clever suggestions on what she should do to put out the flames. But all of a sudden, the sparks seem to be flying out of control! Because as we all know, secret passions can lead a lady into trouble . . .

Well, I have a secret to share, too. As I was writing the Hellions of Half Moon Street trilogy, I realized that one of the wonderful things about “Sisterhood” is that you don’t need to have a female sibling to have a sister. At heart, it’s a state of mind, a closeness that makes you family-in-spirit.






I met my first “sister” in first grade. We both liked drawing, and bonded over cookies and crayons. We still love laughing together, though theses days we’re usually enjoying a glass of chardonnay instead of milk with our chocolate chip goodies. And then there are my roommates from college. Life can be a bit rocky at times, but their camaraderie over the years has helped soothe all the little bumps and bruises.  










What about you? Do you share your secrets with a real-life sister or a sister-in-spirit?  If it’s a sister-in-spirit, how did you first meet her? One comment will be chosen at random to win a copy of Scandalously Yours (Your choice of e-book now or print in several months)




Monday, January 20, 2014

Today's Special - - Nicki Salcedo


PJ here.  I am delighted to welcome debut author Nicki Salcedo back to the Romance Dish.  I met Nicki five years ago at the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight & Magnolias Conference and was immediately captivated by her infectious personality and warm smile.  In the subsequent years, I have come to know her better and have gained an enormous amount of respect for the kind, intelligent and accomplished woman that she is and could not be happier for the success she is enjoying.  Her debut novel, ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS, is an exquisitely written book that captivated me while reading and still has me thinking about the characters more than two weeks after I reached the end of the story.  That is the mark of a good book.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Atlanta, Nicki is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing.  She's a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers, a two-time winner of the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart® Finalist.  She still lives in Atlanta with her husband and children.

Visit her website at http://www.nickisalcedo.com/ and connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter.

Please give Nicki a warm welcome!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s such a pleasure to welcome you back to the Romance Dish, Nicki.  Congratulations on the release of All Beautiful Things.  I recently finished reading it and I have to say, it’s stunning!  Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book.   

All Beautiful Things is a reversal on the beauty and the beast story. The heroine has been scarred. She’s the beast. The hero is the beauty. It is a love story, but it is also a story about other kinds of love. The love we have with our parents, our siblings, and unexpected strangers who care for us when we need it most. There is a little mystery and suspense too. It’s a good book for book clubs. I tried to ask, but not answer, questions on our perceptions of beauty, race, and class. I hope it gets people talking and looking at the world through new eyes.

I can't imagine that it won't get people talking.  The characters in this book provide a fascinating look into how we, as humans, deal with the aftermath of unexpected violence in our lives.  What kind of research did you do for the story?

There are several lawyers in my family. I’ve heard heart-breaking tales of kids and women who have lived in unimaginable situations. I consulted two lawyers to make sure my time frames and legal setup was reasonable. I also toured one of the largest homeless shelters in Atlanta.

For the characters, I couldn’t really research them. I became them. I walked around seeing the world through the eyes of my hero and heroine. When I thought they would react a certain way in a particular situation, I wrote the opposite. If I thought she would be scared, I made her fearless. Later when she should be fearless about something simple and every day, then I made her scared. I’ve been fortunate to have avoided violence and abuse in my life, so I don’t know anything first hand, but I can imagine.

Ava and Graham are compelling, complex characters who engaged me from the beginning, held me spellbound until the end and took my emotions on a roller-coaster ride during the journey.  Without giving away spoilers, what do you want readers to understand about these two and what do you hope they will take away from their story?  

Who Nicki would cast as Graham.



If I told you someone was white or black, you would make certain assumptions (even small ones). Same if I said rich or poor. Woman or man. Ava and Graham are two characters that defy stereotypes. The past does not define who they are now. Guilt and innocent. Forgiveness and revenge. They are both scarred physically and mentally, and they find healing in a strange way. My heroine has to believe in something. My hero has to have doubt. They are each other’s alter ego.

I want readers to come away from this story with new perspective on stereotypes and how we judge people. I want them to look in the eyes of someone completely different than they are and think for a moment that we are all the same.

You certainly accomplished that goal with me.  You made me forget about race, origin and status while reading this story and focus solely on the person inside.  They could have been purple with orange polka dots and it wouldn't have made a difference.  





You are probably one of the busiest people I know.  I honestly don’t know how you manage to keep all of the balls in your life in the air. Any tips for all of us multi-tasking women on how to make it all work? 

I take nothing seriously. Everything is a game. If I can’t laugh at it, I can’t do it. It seems like I do a lot because of my work and family, but I do surprisingly little. If it’s not my family, my job, or my writing, I don’t do it. If you do less, you have time to do it better. I put everything I have into the things I do. So I don’t watch much TV. I’m woefully ignorant of popular culture things and current events. The things I do, I love. It is easy to do the things you love. Only do the ten things you love and laugh at it. You’ll be happier and more efficient doing those things compared to doing ten things you hate!

What excellent advice!

Who Nicki would cast as Ava.
Will All Beautiful Things be a stand-alone book or do you plan to write a book for a certain secondary character?  I’m not ready to say goodbye!   

I have a follow-up book in progress. It is another reversal on a fairy tale. What if Sleeping Beauty was a man? What if he was cursed and woke up from a strange dream. Who would be the woman to break the spell? What kinds of metaphorical dragons would she have to slay to save him? Then put all of those elements in contemporary Atlanta!

Count me one very excited reader!


I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I do map out goals and wishes at the beginning of each year.  What are your goals and wishes for 2014?

Last year was a tough one for me because my dad died. I got the cover art for All Beautiful Things exactly one week after we buried him. I haven’t had much time to grieve for him or to celebrate my book. Part of me is afraid I’ll never feel truly happy about this book, and also afraid that I’ll never properly get to say goodbye to my Dad. I’m afraid to cry. I’m afraid to be happy. He loved reading. The two books on his nightstand when he died were books I’d given him that week. I’d had dinner with him the night before, so that gives me comfort. But he never got to see my book. That hurts. Can my goal be to be both fully happy and fully grieving in 2014? Right now, I’m neither and it’s pretty terrible.

I think that's a perfectly acceptable goal, Nicki.  Having lost my husband and both of my parents, I know how difficult it is to find peace and happiness as we move forward without our loved ones and you do have to fully grieve before finding that happiness once again.  

I am taking up running and I’d like to be able to run a 5K by the end of the year. I’m so terrible at running. I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it. I’m slow. I’m always last. But exercising has been wonderful for giving me clarity in my writing and creative process. A very pivotal scene in All Beautiful Things came to me while running through a park in downtown Atlanta at dawn. I don’t have a lot of writing time, so I have to be efficient while still writing with care. At the end of the year, I’d like to thank running for my writing success.

Seems a worthy goal though I'm still shaking my head at the thought of you running through a downtown Atlanta park at dawn.  

Where will readers be able to meet you this year?  Any conferences or book signings in the works?

I’m usually at Romance Writers of America’s National Conference in July and Georgia Romance Writers’ annual conference Moonlight & Magnolias in October. Hopefully, I’ll be giving a workshop at one or both. I love meeting new writing friends and readers. I’m on all the typical social media spots if you want to Like, Follow, Review, or Pin me! There is a reading group guide for All Beautiful Things on my website.

Thanks for letting us know about the reading group guide.  I plan to recommend your book to my former book club and I know that guide will come in handy.  (Readers, click here to download the reading guide.)

What are you working on now, Nicki?

I’m revising a novel called Pine, and it’s set in a small southern town. There is a strong romantic element, but the main story is a coming-of-age story. I received the Maggie Award of Excellence for this manuscript a few years ago. This has always been the story of my heart, and I’m very proud of it.

And I am working on a follow-up to All Beautiful Things. I finally think I have the right title for it!

I'll be looking forward to both books!

Would you like to ask our readers a question today? 

What is your favorite fairy tale and why? What would be the title you would give for a retold Sleeping Beauty story? And I would love to know about a time when someone who fit one stereotype surprised you.

My example is from ten years ago. I was on the train in Atlanta and huge pregnant. All the business commuters ignored me, but the one filthy indigent guy immediately gave up his seat for me. He shouted at everyone on the train, “All these fancy businessmen, and I’m the one with chivalry!” He grabbed his bike and hopped of the train at the next stopped. I was grateful for the seat, and that he stood up for me. The entire experience was unexpected.

Nicki, thank you for graciously answering my questions.  

Readers, Nicki has three giveaways today so let's get those comments posting.  To be eligible for the giveaways you must include U.S./Canada or International in your comment.  To be eligible for the bonus giveaway you must include in your comment that you are a member of a reading group or book club.  

Today's Giveaways:

1. Kindle book – international. *ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS may not be available in all countries due to copyright restrictions. In these cases the recipient will be given the option to request an exchange for gift credit on their Amazon.com account during the redemption process, or they may contact Customer Service for assistance in exchanging the book.

2. A signed paperback book to US/Canada. I would be happy to mail a book to a lucky person who comments.

3. And I’ll sweeten the pot. If there are any commenters with a reading group (mention that in your comments) I’ll pick another winner. If that reading group decides to tackle my book this year, I’ll call or skype in for the meeting and answer questions for an hour at a mutually agreed upon time and date.


  

The scars. She’ll never forgive her attacker.

Seven years ago, a knife-wielding stranger left socialite Ava Camden for dead on the sidewalk of an upscale Atlanta restaurant. She survived, but her face was brutally scarred. The police, the courts, and the powerful Camden family pinned the assault on only one suspect: Joel Sapphire, a twenty-year-old star athlete on the cusp of a pro football career. Too drunk to remember any details, Joel was found over Ava’s body, holding the bloody weapon. 

The letters. His brother is her only hope for the truth. 

Graham Sapphire grew up fighting on the city’s tough southside, and he’ll never let the Camdens crush his family. Now a wealthy hotelier, he’s determined to clear his brother’s name—and to find the monster responsible for Ava’s scars. Graham started writing to Ava the day his brother entered prison, asking her to give him a chance and offering his help. She never answered—but she never stopped reading. 

The secrets. The truth may destroy them both. 

Now Joel has been paroled, only to vanish before Graham can reach him. Is he lurking in the shadows or on the run from death threats? Ava is the lure that will bring him back, but she’s not alone in the fight. Graham will give his life—and even his brother’s—to protect her. The bond between them is hot, tender, and almost as dangerous as the hunter who waits in the shadows of the city’s darkest streets.