Friday, June 23, 2017

Review - - The Swallow's Nest

The Swallow’s Nest
By Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Reviewed by Janga






A year after Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham Randolph, was diagnosed with lymphoma, she is exhausted by the twelve-month battle, thrilled to have him home and returning to health, but almost afraid to trust that he is in remission. Lilia is a home decorating blogger who named her successful blog The Swallow’s Nest after the house in San Jose, California, which Lilia inherited from an aunt and which she and her husband have renovated and in which they now live. She shared the difficulties of the past year with her blog readers and she is also sharing details about the celebration she and Graham are hosting. Their friends and business associates, all the people who care about Graham, have gathered at Lilia and Graham’s home to celebrate after a frightening, bleak year. Graham’s parents are notably missing, but since they are largely absent from his life, no one is surprised. When the voluptuous Marina Tate, a business acquaintance of Graham, arrives unexpectedly, Lilia thinks only that he must have invited her. Then Marina shoves a baby into Lilia’s arms and introduces him as Toby Randolph, the three-month-old son of Lilia’s husband.

Devastated by Graham’s betrayal, Lilia retreats to Kauai and her large, loving extended Hawaiian family. But she is forced to return to San Jose because the Swallow’s Nest, both the home and the blog, require her presence. She falls in love with Toby and soon feels as if she is his mother. It takes longer for her to forgive Graham, but eventually the three of them become a happy family. A few months later, another devastating blow leaves Lilia fighting two other women for her son: Marina, Toby’s birth mother who regrets abandoning her baby, and Ellen, Toby’s paternal grandmother, who sees in him a way to make up for her failures as Graham’s mother.

I expect an Emilie Richards book to give me characters who demand my emotional investment in their story, a plot that offers something different from the usual, and themes that challenge me to think deep thoughts. The Swallow’s Nest is vintage Richards in this respect. Although some characters are more sympathetic than others, except perhaps for Graham’s father (who has dollar signs in place of a heart), there are no villains in this story, just flawed human beings who make bad choices, sometimes with far reaching effects.

The concept of family runs through the novel, both in terms of what makes a family and in terms of how family shapes the person one becomes. Romance readers should be aware that this book is women’s fiction. Lilia, Marina, and Ellen each have a romance thread, but the heart of the book is who they are as women and as mothers and what is best for the child each woman loves within her capacity to do so.

I read, on average, more than thirty books a month and review 40-50 percent of those. Most books I remember in general terms—a sense of characters and an overview of plot; fewer leave me with these plus vivid fragments—favorite lines, particular scenes, an apt image or two. Rare books haunt me, pushing themselves to the forefront of my mind even as I read other, very different books. The Swallow’s Nest belongs in that last group. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Today's Special - - Maggie Robinson


It's always a pleasure to welcome Maggie Robinson to The Romance Dish because that usually means she has a new book out and that makes this reader very happy. Maggie's new book, Seducing Mr. Sykes is the second book in her Cotswold Confidential historical romance series. It's the perfect summer read with likable characters, plenty of humor, feel-good emotion, and an ending that will have you smiling while counting the weeks until your next visit to Robinson's fictional celebrity rehab village of Puddling-on-the-Wold. For more information about Seducing Mr. Sykes, be sure to read Janga's 5-star review.

Welcome back, Maggie!



Thanks so much for having me visit today! It wouldn’t be a proper book release week without a stop at the Romance Dish!


I live in Maine, where the sun first hits the United States. Where winter seems to last thirteen or fourteen months, and summer is gone in the blink of an eye. So when the first inch of green shoots up under the melting piles of snow, I am ecstatic.





Gardening has become my go-to when I want to de-stress or think
or just mindlessly enjoy nature’s beauty, not that I can get down on my knees and get up easily anymore, LOL. In the seven years we’ve owned our house, I’ve spent way too much money putting in delicious bulbs for the squirrels and chipmunks. My climbing roses hate where they are and refuse to climb or bloom. Some plants have thrived, some have spread like wet gremlins, and some have curled up and died. It’s been a learning experience, but when I sit in a folding chair and water (no sprinkler because that’s cheating), it’s the highlight of my day.

A garden plays a pivotal part in Seducing Mr. Sykes, where the characters use it for the very reasons I do. Of course, my modest perennial garden is nothing like the acres of garden rooms that my hero Tristan Sykes maintains—he has green fingers, whereas I have only half a green thumb at most.

The fictional Sykes estate garden was inspired by a real-life place, Painswick Rococo Gardens in Painswick, England. I went to it a couple of times when we rented a cottage in the town for a month a few years ago. Established in the 1740s, it’s been receiving recorded visitors since 1757. It’s difficult to think of my house standing for centuries and its garden attracting anything but deer and rodents, but the Rococo Gardens are going strong. It’s famous for its exquisite garden follies and its snowdrops, the first harbingers of spring. I could wander around there forever and never get bored. (www.rococogarden.org.uk)

The Sykes garden is where Tristan and heroine Sadie (AKA Lady Sarah Marchmain, a duke’s daughter) realize they’re in love, after a very rocky beginning with a forced marriage. Seducing Mr. Sykes is a marriage of in-convenience story, one of my favorite tropes. I like to think that, like plants, people can grow together, their roots intertwining in unexpected harmony.


Are you a gardener? Do you have a favorite flower? I think I’m a peony person, but sunflowers, lilacs, hydrangeas, foxgloves, and pansies are also very welcome at Casa Robinson.

One commenter will receive a download of the first book in the Cotswold Confidential series, Schooling the Viscount, and an extra package of goodies!


Seducing Mr. Sykes
By Maggie Robinson
Cotswold Confidential - Book 2
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: June 20, 2017


In Maggie Robinson's sparkling new series, the quaint village in Gloucestershire is where the wayward sons and daughters of Great Britain's finest families come for some R&R-and good old-fashioned "rehab." But sometimes they find much more . . .

No one at Puddling-on-the-Wold ever expected to see Sarah Marchmain enter through its doors. But after the legendary Lady's eleventh-hour rejection of the man she was slated to marry, she was sent here to restore her reputation . . . and change her mind. It amused Sadie that her father, a duke, would use the last of his funds to lock her up in this fancy facility-she couldn't be happier to be away from her loathsome family and have some time to herself. The last thing she needs is more romantic distraction . . .
As a local baronet's son, Tristan Sykes is all too familiar with the spoiled, socialite residents of the Puddling Rehabilitation Foundation-no matter how real their problems may be. But all that changes when he encounters Sadie, a brave and brazen beauty who wants nothing more than to escape the life that's been prescribed for her. If only Tristan could find a way to convince the Puddling powers-that-be that Sadie is unfit for release, he'd have a chance to explore the intense attraction that simmers between them-and prove himself fit to make her his bride . . .

Review - - Seducing Mr. Sykes


Seducing Mr. Sykes
By Maggie Robinson
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Reviewed by Janga

 




Lady Sarah Marchman, only child of the Duke of Islesford, has been fighting her father’s attempts to marry her off to one of his debtors since she turned seventeen. Lady Sarah, known as Sadie to her few intimates, will inherit her late mother’s fortune when she turns twenty-five or upon her marriage. She is determined to hold out until her fortune is hers rather than yield to her father’s efforts to use her marriage to add money to his empty coffers. With her fortune, her lineage, and her beauty, Lady Sarah has an abundance of suitors. Her battles to remain unmarried have sometimes been literal; she has blackened a few eyes in the process. More often, she has used her wits to make herself a scandal. As a last resort, her father has used the last of his funds to send her to Puddling-on-the-Wold, a Gloucestershire village where generations of Britain’s wealthy families have sent their non-conforming relatives to be “restored” to more conventional behavior.

Sadie is an expert at breaking the rules the Puddling-on-the-Wold Foundation has laid down for their visitors. Her antics, which include theft of items ranging from pants to pastries, have drawn comparisons to another duke’s daughter, Lady Maribel de Winter, who terrorized her hosts eight decades ago.  Sadie has already exceeded the usual twenty-eight-day stay, but she is not eager to leave, fearing that her father’s threat to have her declared insane and institutionalize her may be more than an empty threat. She must walk a fine line to convince her hosts that she remains unrestored, but not hopelessly mad.

Tristan Sykes is an architect by profession and a member of Puddling-on-the-Wold’s first family. His grandfather, Sir Colin Sykes, married the infamous Lady Maribel, who remained a law unto herself. After a tempestuous marriage that ended in a scandalous divorce shortly before his wife’s death, Tristan wants a life free of chaos, shattered boundaries, and troublesome women. He thought he had found that ordered life in the space he created for himself on his father’s property and filling in for his absent father as head of the board of governors for the village enterprise. He refuses to allow one headstrong woman to violate his peace, regardless of the unwelcome desire the tall, voluptuous, flame-haired beauty stirs in him.

Tristan’s resolution is put to the test when the cottage where Sadie is housed catches fire, and the board of governors pressures him to move her into his father’s house. Now the exasperating woman is in his face every time he turns around, and she appears to delight in wearing trousers that make her long legs impossible for him to ignore or undergarments that reveal far too much of her other assets for his peace of mind. When Sadie’s father shows up during one of these encounters, irate at finding his daughter in a compromising situation and threatening the village’s reputation as a safe rehabilitation site, Tristan does the honorable thing and proposes marriage. However, when two people, neither of whom wants to be married but neither of whom can ignore the chemistry between them, are forced to marry, the journey to an HEA is filled with adjustments, misunderstandings, problems--and for the reader, delightful fun.

Seducing Mr. Sykes is the second book in Maggie Robinson’s Cotswold Confidential series, and it is even better than the first book, Schooling the Viscount. Sadie’s behavior may seem a bit over the top in the beginning, but the reader soon comes to understand that she is a smart, great-hearted woman driven to desperate measures by her particular circumstances and a culture in which a family-sanctioned marriage was the expectation of women of her class. She made me laugh, and she won my heart. Tristan comes across as a classic controlling prig until the reader learns his history and understands that his need for order and control are credibly rooted in his experience. I loved seeing this hero’s pomposity punctured by an audacious, unconventional heroine who lost her heart while winning his. Although this novel unquestionably has the qualities of a romp, it also has substance in its revelations about women’s roles and marriage and, less obviously, in determinations of insanity. The reader may laugh at Sadie’s ploys, but the threat she faces is real and scary.

I give high marks to Maggie Robinson for a book that made me laugh, sigh at some sweet and spicy scenes, and consider some grim historical realities. If you enjoy historical romance that has a light-heartedness without being lightweight, I highly recommend Seducing Mr. Sykes. And when you have finished this rewarding read, mark November 21 on your book calendars. That’s the release date of the third Cotswold Confidential book, Redeeming Lord Ryder, in which the lovers are both Puddling-on-the-Wold “guests.” It is a highly anticipated, starred item on my list.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Winner - - White Hot






The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

White Hot by Ilona Andrews is:

Maureen

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address 
(U.S./Canadian addresses only) to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Spotlight Excerpt - - The Alice Network


The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 6, 2017


In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.


The Alice Network
Excerpt


Night had fallen by the time I staggered, weary and starving, off the train in London. The city rolled out in front of me in one huge dark smoky mass—I had no idea where 10 Hampson Street might be. I had a few coins left in my pocketbook, and as I hailed a cab I prayed it would be enough. I really didn’t relish having to yank a pearl off my grandmother’s necklace just to pay for a taxi ride. Maybe I shouldn’t have left that waitress a whole pound . . . But I wasn’t sorry.
The driver took me to what he said was Pimlico and dumped me at a line of tall row houses. It had started to rain in earnest. I looked around for my hallucination, but there was no flash of blond hair. Just a dark street, the spitting rain, the worn steps of number 10 climbing to a dingy peeling door. I hoisted my case, clambered up, and banged the knocker before my courage deserted me.
No answer. I banged again. The rain was falling harder, and despair rose in me like a wave. I pounded and pounded until my fist ached, until I saw the minute twitch of the curtain beside the door.
“I know someone’s in there!” I wrenched the door handle, blinded by rain. “Let me in!”
To my surprise the handle turned, and I flew inside, falling at last off my impractical shoes. I hit the floor of the dark hallway on my knees, tearing my stockings, and then the door banged shut and I heard the click of a pistol being cocked.
Her voice was low, graveled, slurred, ferocious. “Who are you, and what the bloody fuck are you doing in my house?”
The streetlamps sent a blurry light through the curtains, half-illuminating the dark hallway. I could see a tall gaunt figure, a straggle of hair, the fiery end of a lit cigarette. The gleam of light off a pistol barrel, pointing straight at me.
I should have been terrified, recoiling from the shock and the gun and the language. But fury had swept aside the last piece of my feel-nothing fog, and I gathered my legs under me to stand, torn stocking snagging. “I’m looking for Evelyn Gardiner.”
“I don’t care who you’re looking for. If you don’t tell me why I’ve got a damned Yank breaking into my house, I’ll shoot you. I’m old and I’m drunk, but this is a Luger nine-millimeter P08 in excellent condition. Drunk or sober I can take the back of your skull out at this range.”
“I’m Charlie St. Clair.” Pushing the wet hair out of my eyes. “My cousin Rose Fournier went missing in France during the war, and you might know how to find her.”
Abruptly the electric wall lamp switched on. I blinked in the rush of harsh light. Standing over me was a tall gaunt woman in a faded print dress, her graying hair straggling around a time-ravaged face. She could have been fifty, or she could have been seventy. She had the Luger in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other; she kept the pistol steadily trained on my forehead as she raised the cigarette to her lips and took a long drag. Bile rose in my throat as I saw her hands. Good God, what had happened to her hands?
“I’m Eve Gardiner,” she said at last. “And I don’t know anything about this cousin of yours.”
“You might,” I said desperately. “You might—if you’ll just talk to me.”
“That’s your plan, little Yank?” Her hooded storm-gray eyes surveyed me like a contemptuous bird of prey. “Burst into my house at nightfall, no plan, and I’m betting no money, on the chance I’d know something about your m-missing friend?”
“Yes.” Faced with her gun and her scorn I couldn’t explain why, why the chance to find Rose had turned suddenly all-consuming in my wrecked life. I couldn’t explain this strange savage desperation, or why I had let it drive me here. I could only state the truth: “I had to come.”
“Well.” Eve Gardiner lowered her pistol. “I suppose you’ll want t-tea.”
“Yes, tea would be—”
“I don’t have any.” She turned and made her way back down the dark hall, walking long-strided and careless. Her bare feet looked like an eagle’s claws. She weaved a little as she walked, the Luger swinging freely at her side, and I saw she still had a finger through the trigger. Crazy, I thought. The old cow is crazy.
And her hands—they were monstrous knobbed lumps, every knuckle misshapen and grotesque. They looked more like lobster claws than hands.
“Keep up,” she said without turning, and I scurried after her. She struck a door open and flicked on a light, and I saw a cold sitting room—a mess of a place, grate unlit, drapes drawn so no chink of light could come in off the street, old newspapers and dirty tea mugs lying everywhere.
“Mrs. Gardiner—”
“Miss.” She flung herself down in a shabby armchair overlooking the whole messy room, tossing her pistol down on the table beside it. I winced, but the thing didn’t go off. “And you can call me Eve. You’ve f-forced your way into my house, so that’s a level of intimacy I’m already disliking you for. What’s a name?”
“I didn’t mean to force my way—”
“Yes, you did. You want something, and you want it badly. What is it?”

I pulled up a hassock and sat down, suddenly uncertain where to start. I’d been so focused on getting here, I hadn’t thought how exactly I should begin. Two girls times eleven summers, divided by one ocean and one war . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~


Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.


Connect with Kate:
Facebook: @KateQuinnAuthor
Twitter: @KateQuinnAuthor

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway - - Silver Silence


Silver Silence
By Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott







Silver Silence is the latest installment in Nalini Singh’s popular Psy/Changeling series.  The heroine, Silver Mercant, will be familiar to established readers of the series as the assistant to cardinal telekinetic Kaleb Krychek, the hero of Heart of ObsidianSilver Silence, however, stands alone. 

Even though Silence, the emotionless way of life ingrained in the Psy for generations, is no longer required, Silver clings to it.  The discipline it offers protects her from one of her own gifts, making it a haven for her instead of the prison it was for some Psy.  Still, she can’t quite tell the alpha of the StoneWater bear clan, Valentin Nikolaev, to leave her be.  He uses any pretext his business with Krychek offers to contact Silver.  Despite the excellent security in her building, he has a habit of showing up frequently.

It’s a good thing for Silver that he does.  One of his unexpected visits occurs while there’s an attempt on her life.  Valentin saves her and, after conferring with her powerful grandmother, takes her into his clan’s den for safety.  There, surrounded by the open affection and playfulness of the bears, Silver finds her silence cracking and her desire to experience an emotional life growing.

She takes her first steps toward emotion tentatively, and Valentin, despite his obvious desire for her, restrains himself to her pace.  Meanwhile, the bear clan’s welcoming nature and loyal support are working their own magic on her heart.

The romance plays out against the background of conflict over the Trinity Accord, the agreement forged by Changelings, Psy, and Humans after the fall of Psy’s Silence.  Not everyone believes in the pact, and some will stop at nothing to destroy it. Silver has a prominent role in the new administration, one that puts her at risk. Along with Valentin and Krychek, she deals with emergencies created by terrorists while trying to unmask the being who attempted to kill her.

As Valentin and Silver grow closer, the stakes go up, both in terms of danger from without and of the risks posed by her abandonment of Silence.   

The characters are sympathetic and have depth.  There’s also a lot of humor, some of it involving tabloid news media.  The story moves at a good pace.  Characters from other books in the series make brief appearances without distracting from the main story.

Highly recommended.


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



 SILVER SILENCE by Nalini Singh
Excerpt

Laughing at the cubs’ antics, Valentin jogged down the slight incline and waded into what had to be ice-cold water after kicking off his boots and socks. He splashed the cubs, laughed when they splashed him back. Running so they could chase him, he turned abruptly and chased them back, to their unhidden joy.
Silver took a seat on the grass. When the female bear looked her way, she inclined her head in a silent greeting. The bear did the same, then they both watched an alpha bear play with two energetic cubs, his hands holding rough care for their small bodies.
By the time Valentin made his way back to her, he was drenched and his eyes weren’t human in any way. When he spoke, his already deep voice was so low it felt like thunder against her skin. “Couldn’t resist,” he said, pushing back his wet hair with one big hand. “If you weren’t in recovery and if I wasn’t in terror of Nova’s wrath, I’d have invited you. The small monsters wanted to play with you.”
Silver didn’t get to her feet. “Can we stay here a little longer?” It was patent that Valentin had an extremely high tolerance for the cold, but he might want to dry off.
“Sure,” he said, and, moving away several feet, shook off the wet.
Fine droplets settled on the skin of her cheek, but she didn’t flinch at the unintentional tactile contact. She also controlled her urge to reach up and touch the water where it lay against her skin. There was no reason to do that, and Silver was alive because she only did things that were rational.
Settling beside her, Valentin waved at the cubs as their guardian led their tired forms toward a path in the trees that was at the same level as the stream. “Gentler climb,” Valentin told her.
“They seem too exhausted to make it to Denhome.
“It’s all an act—they’re hoping for a ride on their aunt’s back.” His tone held the same fond affection she’d heard when he spoke of Dima. “It’d take more than a few minutes’ play in the water to wipe out those two.”
The cubs had played with Valentin for almost a half hour. “They’re hyperactive?”
“They’re baby bears.”
Silver watched as those baby bears turned toward her and rose up on their back paws, as if in challenge. A stern sound from their caretaker, and they dropped down and scrambled to catch up with her. Their bodies disappeared into the trees as dusk began to turn from orange to shadowy gray.
Beside her, Valentin sprawled out, bracing himself on his elbows. His drenched T-shirt clung to the ridged muscles of his abdomen, pulled tight across his pectoral muscles, shaped itself over his shoulders. His jeans weren’t much better, outlining the raw muscle of his thighs.
Valentin Nikolaev was a man of violent physical strength even in human form. Yet he clearly had iron control over it; when he’d played with the children, they’d displayed zero fear of their alpha.
“You thought about where you’re going to live when you escape the bears who’ve kidnapped you?”
When she raised an eyebrow at him, he grinned. “Fringe netter with his own Internet channel sent out a breaking report last night. Pasha—who obviously needs more work duties—made up a fake account and posted a comment swearing to have seen you being pulled into a black van by six burly bears in bear form.”
“You don’t seem too concerned.” Amber eyes and deep voice, he remained very much a bear in human form.
“Well, according to this ‘eyewitness,’ the getaway driver was in bear form, too. Must’ve been tough for him to steer with one paw since he was drinking a beer at the same time.”
Bears,” Silver said, making Valentin throw his head back and laugh that huge laugh that wrapped around her.

Posted by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2017.

Do you enjoy paranormal romance?

Have you read any of Nalini Singh's books?

Do you like an alpha hero who can also find joy in uninhibited playfulness?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post before 11:00 PM, June 21 will receive a hardcover copy of Silver Silence. (U.S. only)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review - - White Hot


White Hot
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott




White Hot is the second book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy paranormal romance series.  It’s set in the same world as the prior volume, Burn for Me, and continues the romance of the two leads from that book, Nevada Baylor and Connor Rogan (a/k/a Mad Rogan).

With help from her family, Nevada runs the private investigations agency that supports them all.  Her rare magical talent, being able to tell when someone’s lying, is often useful for her work, but if her ability were widely known, government agencies and others needing a reliable interrogator would take over her life.

Those are the problems she anticipates.  She doesn’t know there’s someone else out there who would crush her family if the truth about her abilities, which are steadily growing stronger, were known.

Rogan is a billionaire and a prime, which is the highest ranking for a magic user.  He’s also the head of House Rogan, a magically gifted line.  In the Hidden Legacy world, families with magical gifts establish houses to continue their lines.  There’s a non-magical government and civic structure, but these houses hold the true power in Houston, Texas, where the series is set.

Unfortunately for Nevada, she can’t resist using her gift when she sees that it’s truly needed.  She also can’t resist a potential client on a desperate quest for justice for his dead wife, even though that quest pits him and Nevada against some of the city’s most powerful magical houses.

At the end of the first book, Burn for Me, Nevada and Rogan parted ways after he made an offer that insulted her.  Nevada’s family is sure they aren’t done, and various members make a point of saying so. She doesn’t know he’s also investigating the same case she has just taken on.  Employees of his died, and he means to avenge them.  He has information and skills she needs, so she reluctantly agrees to work with him.

The time they spend together shows her that his emotions aren’t as simple as she believed and teaches him that the blunt approach isn’t always best.  At the end of the book, when both their lives are on the line, each would rather die than sacrifice the other.  They have become a team.

The romance picks up early in the book, and Nevada and Rogan’s reunion is explosive.  There is considerable and consistent emotional tension, which is leavened with periodic sexual tension, and the progression of the romance works very well.  Nevada’s family, who were intriguing in the first book, are fleshed out even more in this one, with one person developing a potentially disturbing gift.

Overall, the story moves at a great pace.  The stakes rise through the book so that the ending is riveting.  It’s also satisfying. The only blip is that one subplot was built up to be more than its resolution implied.  I’m hoping that’s because it will be developed further in the next book. An advantage of continuing characters and situations is the ability to start something in one book and move it to the fore in a later one.

I highly recommend White Hot.


~~~~~~~~~~~


PJ, here. I read this book last week and loved it. Like Nancy, I give it an enthusiastic recommendation. I have an extra copy of White Hot for one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, June 20. (U.S./Canada only)




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Winner - - The Cajun Doctor






The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

The Cajun Doctor by Sandra Hill is:

Patoct

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Friday, June 16, 2017

Review - - The Cajun Doctor


The Cajun Doctor
By Sandra Hill
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Reviewed by PJ
         




Dr. Daniel LeDeux and pilot Aaron LeDeux travel to the swampy bayous of Louisiana, where they discover a long-lost family. The usually stoic Daniel, a burned-out pediatric oncologist, is especially startled by the interfering LeDeux matriarch, Tante Lulu, bless her crazy heart, who wastes no time in setting him up with local rich girl Samantha Starr.
Scarred by a nasty divorce from a philandering New Orleans physician, Samantha has sworn off men, especially doctors. When Samantha’s step-brother gets into serious trouble, she must ask Daniel for help. But Samantha faces even more trouble when the handsome doctor casts his smoldering Cajun eyes her way.
The steamy heat of the bayou, along with the wacky matchmaking efforts of Tante Lulu, a herd of animal rescue rejects, including a depressed pot belly pig, and some world-class sexual fantasies create enough heat and humor to make both Daniel and Samantha realize that love and laughter can mend even the most broken heart.


Fans of Sandra Hill's Cajun books know they're filled with plenty of heart, quirky characters, sexy men, and over-the-top humor. The Cajun Doctor begins with a different vibe as Daniel and Aaron LeDeux deal with deeply emotional issues. But when the brothers - who have grown up with no knowledge of their Cajun roots - head to Louisiana to investigate their heritage, the book takes a turn with Tante Lulu's unique brand of crazy like a fox, a new romance, danger, and plenty of hot LeDeux men.

I'm a long-time fan of Sandra Hill and inhaled each of her nine previous Cajun books as soon as they were released. With their steamy romance and laugh-out-loud humor, they were the perfect escape and always left me excited for the next release. While The Cajun Doctor was good, it didn't reel me in like her previous novels have done and I've been trying to figure out why. The two main characters are well-rounded and their romance, once we finally get to it, is well done. I like Samantha and Daniel together. The villain of the story is believable and his actions, realistic. Secondary characters, as always, provide a lot of color and commentary but there were times when I felt a little overloaded with them. Maybe that's it. I would have enjoyed a little less page time for all the characters from previous books and more focus on the hero and heroine. The secondary animal characters (Samantha's pets), however, were adorable with her depressed pot-belly pig leading the pack and I never tire of Tante Lulu's Cheetos- obsessed pet alligator (though I would never want one in real life!). 

All in all, The Cajun Doctor is another enjoyable trip to Sandra Hill's Louisiana bayou and though it may not have knocked my socks off or had me laughing out loud as previous books have done, it's still a fun way to pass a summer afternoon. I'll be back for the next book in the series, Cajun Crazy, scheduled for release in late November.  

Have you read any of Sandra Hill's Cajun Men books yet? Or her other books?

Do you enjoy her brand of humor?

Would you ever have a pet alligator?

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM (eastern), June 17, 2017 will receive a print copy of The Cajun Doctor
(U.S. / Canada only)











Thursday, June 15, 2017

On Second Thought - - The Callahan Brothers




The Callahan Brothers
Luke (originally Give Him the Slip, October 3, 2006, Signet)
Matt (originally Never Say Never, October 2, 2007, Signet)
Mark (originally Always Look Twice, September 2, 2008, Signet)
A Callahan Carol (originally published December 8, 2010)
By Emily March
Publisher: Emily March
Release Date: August 22, 2014; September 19, 2014; October 17, 2014; November 1, 2014
Reviewed by Janga
        



Caution: Some spoilers may be included.

A decade or so ago, when Emily March was still publishing under the name Geralyn Dawson, she introduced her readers to the Texas town of Brazos Bend and the Callahan family. Branch Callahan, only grandson of the founder of Brazos Bend, and his wife, the former Margaret Mary McBride, were the proud parents of four rambunctious sons known as the “Holy Terrors”: Matthew, twins Mark and Luke, and John. Margaret Mary’s death when the boys were in their teens left Branch in such a stupor of grief that he neglected his parental responsibilities and allowed his sons to run wild. When a drunken prank led to a fire that destroyed the town’s largest employer, Branch disowned his sons. As men, the Callahan Brothers are involved in work to make the world safer: Luke as a DEA agent, Matt as a CIA operative, Mark as a military intelligence investigator, and John through his work with the State Department. When John is kidnapped and Branch’s efforts to free him fail, the remaining brothers blame Branch for John’s death and cut their father out of their lives. This is the situation when Give Him the Slip, the first of the Callahan Brothers books, opens. In 2011, Geralyn Dawson began writing as Emily March. Angel’s Rest (February 15, 2011, Ballantine) was the first of her popular Eternity Springs series. A Stardance Summer (June 27, 2017, St. Martin’s) is the thirteenth book in that series. Both are linked to the Callahan Brothers books.

In 2014, Emily March reissued the Callahan Brothers novels and retitled the first three books, using the names of the surviving brothers.  As a Geralyn Dawson fan, I read these books when they were first published. I reread them in 2010 when A Callahan Carol was first released as a free Christmas novella. I reread them again when the digital version of the reissued books became available and read them a fourth time just before I read A Stardance Summer. Suffice it to say, I love the Callahans!

Luke begins seventeen years after Branch disowned his sons. Maddie Kincaid, the daughter of rock stars and a paparazzi target herself as “Baby Dagger,” believes she has found the normal life she has sought in Brazos Bend, but even in small-town Texas, trouble finds her. A favor for one of senior citizen clients leaves her with $4,000,000 worth of an illegal substance stashed in her car. Another client (Branch Callahan) suggests she can find the help she needs from “Terri Winston,” a DEA agent in Louisiana. Finding no one at home on the houseboat where the agent is supposed to be, Maddie makes herself and her pet goldfish Oscar at home; then, exhausted from travel and stress, she falls asleep.

The death of his partner, Terry Winston, prompts Luke “Sin” Callahan to resign from the DEA. At loose ends after Winston’s funeral, Luke boards his houseboat with Knucklehead, the stray mutt who has adopted him, and sets out to decompress for a couple of days before joining his brothers for an extended fishing trip. A comedy of errors ensues when Maddie awakens to find Oscar at the point of being eaten by a dog. Her scream brings Luke on the scene. He thinks his stowaway is a whore sent by his father. She just wants to speak to the female DEA agent to whom Branch directed her. She is dismayed to find the agent is male and that his funeral has just taken place. Clearing up the confusion about identities does little to mitigate the distrust between Maddie and Luke. Their distrust continues even as the attraction between them grows. But when Maddie is in danger, Luke’s compulsion to protect her is strong enough to take him back to Brazos Bend. What follows is a wild adventure with danger and thrills and a passionate, bumpy road to an HEA.

The pattern holds in the second book, Matt, in which the eldest Callahan brother, a CIA agent, agrees to rescue the daughter of a general. Matt arrives on a South American island to rescue scientist Dr. Helen Bradshaw. Instead he rescues her twin sister, Torie Bradshaw, a paparazzo photographer who has just witnessed the murder of her sister’s fiancĂ© and who is literally running for her life. Part I of their shared adventure ends when Torie inadvertently shoots Matt in the leg, a career-ending injury. The second adventure begins eighteen months later when Torie seeks Matt’s help when she is being threatened by a stalker. Matt is reluctant at first since he harbors some resentment for his injury and Torie with her purse-size dog Gigi and her pink Glock is a distraction he does not need. But, of course, his protective instinct kicks in, and the explosive chemistry between him and Torie takes care of the rest. “Demon” Callahan has met his match. This is my favorite of the original trilogy because of all the James Bond humor, and the ending is over-the-top delightful.

Mark is the darkest of the three books. The Callahan brothers are in Hawaii on a rescue mission for a Brazos Bend native when Mark, now an ex-military intelligence officer, blunders into an operation in which an old enemy and Annabelle Monroe, a former colleague, are involved. Annabelle is also Mark’s wife, although their marriage is a secret and they have been estranged for two years. They work together to get everyone away safely, but his brothers learn who Annabelle is. Mark and Annabelle enjoyed several years of an unconventional marriage consisting of separations and sexy reunions at sites around the globe, but when Annabelle wanted a child, Mark walked out. His family forces him to recognize that if he can’t give Annabelle what she needs, he should divorce her. He sets the divorce in motion, expecting that he has seen the last of Annabelle. However, several months later they meet at the funeral of a friend who, like them, had been a member of a small, cross-agency, covert group of freelance troubleshooters informally known as “the Fixers.” Annabelle brings the news that four of the Fixers are now dead in suspicious circumstances and four others cannot be contacted. It seems clear that the Fixers are being targeted. As Annabelle and Mark work together to find the killer, their feelings for each other reignite. But Mark cannot begin a new life with Annabelle until he comes to terms with his past—the death of his young wife and child for which he holds his father responsible.

At Mark and Annabelle’s second wedding, the Callahans learned that John did not die in the kidnapping incident. They spent years searching for their youngest brother, to no avail. In A Callahan Carol, more than seven years have passed since that wedding, and the Callahans have been unable to discover any news of John. Hope is fading in the brothers’ hearts, and Branch Callahan has given way to despair, cancelling the family’s traditional Christmas display and even forbidding a Christmas tree because the season’s promise of love, joy, and peace ring hollow to him. When the family puts up the Christmas Wonderland display and decorates a tree, Branch, in the midst of an angry outburst, has a heart attack. Two weeks later, he is in a coma, and the family has brought him home to die in his own bed. In an unconscious state between life and death, Branch is visited by a gray-haired woman on a Honda Gold Wing, wearing white leather, a golden helmet, and angel-wing earrings. In a Scrooge-like sequence, she and Branch visit scenes from his past, and she gives Branch the choice to return to life with his family or to go on to a life beyond. He chooses life and awakens to a Christmas miracle. John Gabriel Callahan has come home for Christmas.

Eternity Springs readers will recognize Celeste Blessing in the figure that visits Branch, and A Callahan Carol ends with John Gabriel Callahan’s promise to tell his family about “a little piece of heaven called Eternity Springs.” This sweet, unabashedly sentimental story is one of my favorite Christmas reads. It also serves as a bridge between the Geralyn Dawson Callahan books and the Emily March Eternity Springs books.

Angel’s Rest, the first Eternity Springs novel, is Gabe Callahan’s story. Veterinarian Nic Sullivan draws the isolated Gabe back into the stream of life and teaches him to open his heart again. A Stardance Summer introduces a new generation of Callahans. The hero is Brick Callahan, the son Mark discovers in the third Callahan Brothers book, grown up and engaged in making a success of Stardance Ranch, his Colorado glamping resort. Callahan cameos abound. PJ and I will be discussing Stardance Summer in our next Just Between Us column on June 30. We hope you will join us then for more of the Callahans.

Meanwhile, I hope you will read the Callahan Brothers books and enjoy them as much as I did. Readers who know March only through her Eternity Springs books may be surprised to find the Callahan novels considerably spicier than you expect. If you like family dynamics, humor, suspense, and sexy times in your contemporary romance, I recommend you give the Callahan Brothers a try.