Thursday, February 12, 2015

PJ's Contemporary Romance Round-up

I've been indulging my love of contemporary romance lately with some of the new 2015 releases. Here are my thoughts on four of the books that I've recently enjoyed. ~PJ

Love Me Sweet
By Tracy Brogan
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: January 27, 2015

Delaney Masterson isn’t looking for fame.

Yes, she has famous parents and a reality TV show, but she’s not the wild-child celebrity the paparazzi have painted her to be. Until…The Scandal. When an old boyfriend releases a private video, Delaney’s name becomes every comedian’s favorite punch line. To escape the media, she sneaks away to Bell Harbor, Michigan—during the worst winter in fifty years.

Adventure show cameraman Grant Connelly has stayed away from Bell Harbor—mostly by choice—but when a family obligation converges with a spontaneous career decision, it’s time to return home.

When bad weather, missing money, honky-tonk musicians, and Elvis impersonators throw Grant and Delaney together on an unexpected road trip, emotions get all shook up. They know only fools fall in love, but they can’t help falling. Still, Delaney has a secret that could tear them apart forever.

Can they weather the storm? Or will this romantic ride end at the Heartbreak Hotel?

With each book she publishes, Tracy Brogan further solidifies her place on my author auto-buy list. Her contemporary romances are filled with humor without sacrificing substance and her fully-formed characters carry the show. This could easily become slapstick comedy without the depth infused into Brogan's characters. Delaney and Grant have both reach a turning point in their lives and while their journey is humorous (frequently laugh out loud funny), it is also meaningful, with growth exhibited in both characters. They are a couple I liked and cheered for throughout the story.

While Delaney and Grant are the primary focus of this book, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the quirky cast of supporting characters: from the star-struck male wedding planner who immediately sees through Delaney's disguise to the Paradise Brothers country music band that give Grant and Delaney a ride south on their tour bus when Delaney's VW dives head first into a snow bank to Grant's well-meaning, klepto mother with the slight gambling problem to the step-father who thinks everything can be fixed with a sloe gin fizz. They all contribute to the rich colors that complete the tapestry that is Love Me Sweet.

While Love Me Sweet is the third book in Brogan's Bell Harbor series, you do not have to have read the previous two books in order to enjoy this one. However, if you're like me, as soon as you read one Tracy Brogan book, you'll be scrambling to download her back list as fast as you can. Her books are that much fun!

A Perfect Catch
By Anna Sugden
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance
Release Date: February 3, 2015

When it comes to romance, Tracy Hayden is not looking for a rematch. She's had epic passion—and problems!—with professional hockey player Ike Jelinek. Brilliant on skates and magic in bed, his too-traditional-for-her views were like a bucket of ice water on their affair. 

Then an injury takes Ike out of the game, and everything changes. Suddenly he needs her services-providing business—even though he once claimed it was their biggest problem. Tracy's determined to be professional, despite the sizzling attraction between them that won't go away. 

Maybe they need a second fling to fix that!

Tracy and Ike are two people who have been shaped by their life experiences. After living under the thumb of both a controlling father and ex-husband, Tracy is determined to guard her independence at all costs, even if that means turning her back on the feelings she has for Ike Jelinek. As the oldest child, Ike was forced to grow up fast and take responsibility for both his mother and younger brothers when his father took off. He saw the toll working two jobs while raising a family took on his mother and is determined to provide everything his wife needs. What he sees as "being considerate and caring," Tracy views as controlling. While these two have no trouble burning up the sheets, it's going to take a whole lot of compromise and sharing if they have any hope of a permanent happy ending.

I'm really enjoying Sugden's Ice Cats of New Jersey series. Set within the world of professional ice hockey, it's readily apparent that Sugden knows her subject. But while hockey is the backdrop, it doesn't overshadow the characters and their journeys to love. Ike and Tracy have real-world problems to which I could easily relate and to which there are no easy fixes. Sugden gives them the time to work through their differences and reach a realistic, satisfying happy ending. We also have the opportunity to view the progression of relationships begun in the first two books of the series as well as continue the journeys of characters whose stories will be told in future books. I hope there will be many!

Firelight at Mustang Ridge
By Jesse Hayworth
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: February 3, 2015

Ever since striking it big on a gemstone claim in the Wyoming mountains, Sam Babcock has known luck is on his side—except when it comes to the people he loves. When he forms a surprising connection with an alluring newcomer staying at his friend Wyatt’s ranch, Sam starts to question everything he thought he knew....

Needing time and space to heal, former daredevil Danny Traveler is camping out in a valley beyond Mustang Ridge Dude Ranch. She wants to take care of herself for once—and a sexy cowboy might be just the distraction she needs. But when Danny discovers there’s much more to Sam than meets the eye, she begins to long for more than a casual fling. Can she convince the confirmed bachelor that it’s worth changing his ways for a chance at long-term happiness?

Jesse Hayworth's Mustang Ridge Ranch has become one of my favorite fictional places to visit. The Skyes happily welcome strangers to their beautiful Wyoming dude ranch and with each new book in this series, I feel as if I'm also being welcomed back into the arms of this family.

Danny Traveler was right at home within her daredevil family until a devastating fall changed everything. Her ex-fiancee is now engaged to her cousin and her family doesn't understand why Danny hasn't returned to the fold. She hasn't been able to admit to them just how fundamentally her accident has changed her. Will an opportunity offered by her new friends, the companionship of a rescue dog and the understanding of a sexy cowboy give her the courage she needs to finally heal, put the past behind her and forge a new path in life?

Sam Babcock is a man who also needs to come to terms with past events in his life. Rich and successful thanks to a gem discovery on his property, Sam is a good guy surrounded by loyal friends. If you're looking for a fun time, he's your man but if you have something permanent in mind, you best look elsewhere. Consumed by guilt over what he views as his part in the motorcycle accident that killed his father, Sam has his heart locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Danny may be the only woman with a chance of unlocking it but in order to accomplish that, Sam must face his demons and, most importantly, forgive his father - and himself - before they have a chance.

Two of the many things I admire about Jesse Hayworth's writing are her ability to create a sense of place and to allow the reader access into the thoughts, feelings and fears of her characters. When a lightning storm sweeps through the valley where Danny is camping, I swear I can feel the electricity lifting the hairs on my arms and when she's forced to confront her claustrophobia by taking shelter in the small, dark RV my lungs seize right along with her's. I'm not just reading about her experiences. I'm living them right along with her. Her characters and their situations are realistic and easy to relate to. They have a depth to them and interactions - with people and animals - that generate both humor and emotion. These are people I'd like to know and, through the pages of Jesse Hayworth's books and the magic of her writing, I feel like I do.

Rescue Me
by Catherine Mann
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 3, 2015

Detective AJ Parker left undercover work in Atlanta to join a small-town Tennessee police force, hoping for an easier workload and the solitude of his cabin. But the scars left by AJ’s previous work are more difficult to escape than he thought…

Mary Hannah Gallo works with the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue to train therapy dogs for traumatized patients. It isn’t easy, but her life is under control—until she meets the broodingly sensual AJ, who rattles her composure all the way to her toes.

After an assignment confiscating dogs from a backyard breeder reveals a dangerous drug operation, AJ must work with sexy perfectionist Mary Hannah to train an abused rescue dog—a dog now named Holly. While Holly proves to these two very different people that opposites can, in fact, attract, she also knows more than a few explosive secrets that could heal—or divide—the entire town.

I love second chance stories and I love dogs, especially rescue dogs who finally get that forever family who will love and protect them. Catherine Mann knows the rescue dog journey well as she's volunteered with a rescue for many years and recently opened her own. (follow her on facebook for more info on her rescue efforts) In Rescue Me, Mann has fashioned a story filled with hope, heart and healing that gives our three main characters - Mary Hannah, AJ, and Holly the dog - that precious second chance.

AJ's choice to put his trust and his heart into the hands of the wrong person while working undercover in Atlanta has him second-guessing his career. He jumps at the chance to join his cousin on a small-town Tennessee police force where he thinks he's healing until a meth-house bust and an ultimatum from his captain force him to face the truth. Mary Hannah has steered clear of him since a truck stop hook-up his first night in town when she gave him a false name but now that they're forced to work together maybe he'll have the opportunity to break down a few of her walls.

Mary Hannah has spent the past several years trying to pay penance for the mistake that cost her both her marriage and the life of her unborn baby. A counselor by day, she spends her free time volunteering at the Second Chance Ranch Animal Rescue where she lavishes her love on the animals while feeling she'll never be worthy of accepting it for herself. The desire between Mary Hannah and AJ still sizzles and the more she gets to know him, the better she likes him. Unfortunately, once she learns what caused his crash and burn in Atlanta, she knows they have no chance of a future as she's sure he'll never be able to forgive the secrets of her past.

Holly, a female Boxer, has known nothing but abuse and deprivation within the confines of the filthy meth house where she's spent the first four years of her life. She's never dared to dream of anything beyond the horrors of the hand she's been dealt.

Mann offers insight into this heartwarming and, at times, heartbreaking journey from three viewpoints: AJ, Mary Hannah and Holly. AJ and Mary Hannah are both likable people who have made very human mistakes. Not only do they need forgiveness from each other to move forward but, most importantly, they need to forgive themselves. That's something to which I think all of us can relate. Being human - and thereby stubborn - they'll need the help of Holly to finally open their hearts to one another and to the love they need, want and deserve.

Giving the reader access to Holly's thoughts by humanizing them, thereby allowing us to experience the despair, bewilderment, fear, tentative hope, and determination she experiences on her journey from the meth house through a shelter to the ranch where she works to bring AJ and Mary Hannah together to create a forever family is a poignant, heart-tugging experience that's sure to wring tears from the hardest heart. For this animal lover, it was a multi-tissue experience and what vaulted this book to a must-read keeper.

What contemporary romances have you been reading? 

Tell me about the animals that share your life.

Have you ever visited a dude ranch?

What winter sports do you enjoy?

What's the last book that had you laughing out loud?

One person who leaves a comment will receive a print copy of Firelight at Mustang Ridge and Rescue Me. (U.S. only)


  1. I have been re-reading a lot of Nora Roberts contemporaries lately. They are comfort reads for me. A couple of new contemporary stories I have read are Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham and Alex by Sawyer Bennett. We have two cats and our daughter has two crazy dogs that we see all the time. I have never visited a dude ranch and I prefer to be warm in the winter.

  2. Nora's contemporaries are always a good comfort read. I especially like her Chesapeake series. I've been enjoying Kat Latham's London Legends. She's a recent discovery for me. Off to check out Sawyer Bennett!

    I'm right there with you on the warm weather. Walking the dog in 30°F this morning is not my ideal of fun! ;-)

  3. Kate Angell Sliding Home
    Linda Lael Miller's Big Sky series
    Bella Andre's Sullivan series
    Marie Force's Green Mt series
    Shannon Stacey Kowalski family
    Jill Shalvis Lucky Harbor series

    Currently no animals in my life. However, two of my sons have dogs: Bandit is a Yorkie. Chance is an Australian Shepard. Jason also has a Mine Coon cat , Ellie.

    I have never visited a dude ranch. it sounds like a good time.

    I love cross country skiing. I like to build snowmen.

    SLIDING HOME by Kate Angell

    1. I love Kate Angell's Richmond Rogues series, Laurie. I also love her books Crazy For You and Drive Me Crazy!

    2. I need to check out Shannon Stacey's Kowalski books. I've heard so many good things about them.

  4. Wow! Thank you so much, PJ - for the lovely review and for putting me in with such awesome authors. I love Tracy's, Jesse's and Cathy's books :)

    As for authors who make me laugh out loud - Kathleen Long and Susan Sey.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Anna. I haven't read Kathleen Long yet but Susan Sey always makes me laugh!

  5. What contemporary romances have you been reading? Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan, In My Dreams - Kristan Higgans

    Tell me about the animals that share your life. None.

    Have you ever visited a dude ranch? Yes.

    What winter sports do you enjoy? None. LOL.

    What's the last book that had you laughing out loud? Hard to remember. Anything by Shannon Stacey - The Kowalski's.

    These books you listed are all on my wish list.

    1. I loved In My Dreams. Such a good book!

      What winter sports do you enjoy? None. LOL

      LOL! Have to say I'm with you there!

  6. I have all of these books on my TBR list... I am currently reading HIs Only Valentine, which is 13 books by authors from Tule Publishing... I am not a winter sports person, but I do enjoy watching different winter sports on the TV..

    1. I enjoy them on TV too, Kathleen but these days that's as close as I want to get to snow! LOL

  7. I've enjoyed these contemporaries within the last month: Against the Odds (Kat Martin,) Daisies in the Canyon (Carolyn Brown,) One Mad Night (Julia London) and Barefoot Billionaires (Roxanne St. Claire.) Thanks for the recommendations.

    1. I love Roxanne St. Claire's Barefoot Bay books. Each one is like a special treat.

  8. I live Marie Force's Gansett series it has 12 books in it so far and there is everything in them love sex and laughter. i have never been to a dude ranch but my parents were at one when they called to say I had been born and they could now adopt me...,lol. No favorite winter sport e3xcept to watch ice skating (hate the cold) thank goodness my son was never interested in football...
    I have Love me Sweet here from the library so that is my next read the other 3 may get purchased soon if I can make myself go out... Thanks for the reviews!

    1. Hope you enjoy Love Me Sweet! Get ready to laugh!

  9. All of these contemporaries sound wonderful. My heart is already touched just by reading about Rescue Me's dog Holly. I enjoy reading books that include dogs. Kristan Higgins has written some of my favorites. My husband and I have an adorable grand dog which you will see in quite a few of my Facebook pictures.

    Recent good contemporaries that I have read have been THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS by Brenda Novak, DEATHWISH by Dana Marton, HOME TO STAY by Teri Osburn, and the paranormal/historical/contemporary series THE COUSINS O'DWYER BY Nora Roberts.

    Winter sports? Since football is over, I watch some college gymnastics and professional figure skating.

    1. I loved the Cousins O'Dwyer books, Cheryl. Did you know they've been optioned for a TV series?

  10. I am looking most forward to the Mann and Hayworth books. Have really enjoyed Marie Force's I want to Hold Your Hand, the Kowalski series books and Maybe This Christmas. As for LOL - it is an oldie - The Pregnancy Test by Erin McCarthy. Don't really care for winter sports and have never been to a dude ranch.


    1. I need to catch up with Marie Force's new series. I really enjoy her books.

  11. I've been consumed with reading the In Death series - tho it's in the future it has a contemporary flavor. One of my favorite contemporary series is Emily March's Eternity Springs. I've never been to a Dude Ranch, but if I got the opportunity I'd love to.

    1. I love the Eternity Springs series! I'm a long-time fan of Emily March/Geralyn Dawson.

  12. One of the question was about animals that share my life. My cat, Doozey, always need my lap. If she happens to be on my husband's lap and sees me sit down, she'll immediately move to my lap. LOL

    1. Awww. Sounds like Doozey is a mama's girl. :)

  13. I am looking forward to enjoying New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendricks. Montana Cowboy by Debra Salonen I want to read.
    I have two adorable dogs, A Maltese Guido, and a small dog from lap dog rescue who is a mix and smart, Bogie.
    I have never been to a Dude Ranch.
    No winter sports since I don't do winter
    I am trying to locate a humorous book.

    1. I am looking forward to enjoying New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendricks.

      I'd pick that one up for the title alone!

  14. I am now reading First Frost and then afterwards will read The Nightingale. No animals but do look after my son's dogs frequently which is a joy. Never visited a dude ranch. When I lived in a Northern clime I skated and was out a lot as a kid and when my chidlren were young during the long, harsh winter but I avoid it now. A book that brought me a laugh was a Janet Evanovich book.

    1. A friend of mine just finished The Nightingale. Two words: get tissues.

  15. Love pro football! Never been to a Dude Ranch. I have five very spoiled kitties. I love romantic suspense. Read Vanished by Kendra Elliot, Cold Light of Day by Toni Anderson, and Revenge by Debra Webb. May I also suggest Susan Stoker' s SEALs of Protection to anyone who loves hot military romance? Protecting Caroline, Protecting Alabama, and Protecting Fiona are out now. As for humorous romance, I love Christie Craig, Emma Chase, and Jd Nixon. The latter's Heller series was great for a laugh or two.

    1. Thanks for the Stoker suggestion, Debbie. I love military romances! Have you read the romantic suspense books co-written by Debra Webb and Regan Black yet? They're really good. Both authors will be blogging with us next Tuesday.

  16. No dude ranch or winter sports.

    Loving the funny dialogue in Kristin Hannah's In Your Dreams.

    Loving Marie Force's Green Mountain books and Jill Shalvis Lucky Harbor.

    Natalie's Mama

  17. PJ, these books sound good, and I usually don't read contemps! I have Anna Sugden's newest release and will start it soon...Maybe tomorrow since I am staying home to rest.
    I Luke the title LOVE ME SWEET; very nice!
    I used to ice skate a lot when in my teens. Snowpants and coat helped cushion falls, LOL!
    Sadly, I have not been a voracious reader the last few months...need to change that!

    1. Sorry for the auto correct...I like the title....

  18. never been to a ranch
    no fav winter sport

  19. Reading In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins now and the dialogue is a hoot. I mainly read contemporary. Just love it. I have so many favorite authors.

    Am an older lady and like o spend time with my family, read and watch some of favorite t.v. shows.