Monday, May 28, 2018

Review - - Then There Was You

Then There Was You
By Miranda Liasson
Publisher: Grand Central /Forever
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Dr. Serafina “Sara” Langdon has returned to her hometown of Angel Falls, Ohio, to help care for her grandmother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Sara is eager to be there for her beloved Nonna, but she has mixed emotions about returning. She is happy to have more time with her siblings, sisters Evie and Gabby and younger brother Rafe and Evie’s two adorable kids, but she wonders if her father is pleased to have her join him in his practice. She is also still haunted by the debacle of a bachelor party a year ago that left her a jilted bride with a distaste for cake and left Tagg Milhouse, her boyfriend of ten years, living with the woman who jumped out of the cake in the house where Sara and Tagg expected to start their married life. Sara holds Colton Walker responsible for what she lost at that bachelor party, and she knows there is little chance of avoiding the man with whom she has been at odds (most of the time) since she was fourteen.

Colton was an angry teenager who could easily have gone in the wrong direction had it not been for his dead father’s cop friends and Tagg and his family who befriended him. Now he’s chief of police in Angel Falls and a favorite son of the town where he constantly goes the extra mile to care for the people. Colton has had a crush on Sara since high school, but he has always stepped back in favor of Tagg to whom he owed a debt. But now Sara is back, Tagg is not, and Colton is determined to take his chance at winning Sara—if only he can find time between his job and caring for his grandmother and younger sister.

Sara’s brother insists that Colton is a better man than Tagg, and the more time Sara spends with the police chief, the more she believes her brother. But just as she starts to believe that Colton is her Mr. Darcy, Tagg is back in town, begging for a second chance and creating complications in a relationship that seemed headed for an HEA.

Then There was You introduces Liasson’s Angel Falls series, and it does exactly what a first book in a small-town series needs to do. First, it establishes Angel Falls as the kind of heartwarming but imperfect place that readers will want to revisit. Second, it introduces a cast of characters that readers will want to know more about. Sara’s family is an interesting group. They have suffered from the death of her mother when the Langdon siblings were young, and now they are dealing with their grandmother’s Alzheimer’s. Their father has remarried, but his silence about his first wife bothers his daughters. Lawyer Gabby is dissatisfied with her job and seems to be settling in the romance department. Firefighter Rafe’s life has been filled with loss, and he now avoids commitment. Readers will be longing for both their stories.

Colton’s relationship with his young sister Hannah furnishes some leavening humor as well as some touching moments, and young as Hannah is, she is already in love. Will he prove to be the love of her life? Most important, Sara and Colton are believable, likable characters who are interesting people as individuals and whose romance offers an enemies-to-lovers tale with a bit of a twist that will win contemporary romance fans, especially those who have a fondness for that trope.

Kudos to Liasson for making the Alzheimer’s thread read true. This is not anther trendy disease story. This author shows the pain of losing someone you love by degrees, the need to cherish the moments when the real person shines through, the difficulty of recognizing the patient’s autonomy as long as possible while protecting them from the dangers into which they may wander, and the reality of laughing sometimes to keep from crying. I’ve been there, and I confess this story moved me to tears more than once. At the same times, Nonna’s story never overshadows the romance. And I love the fact that her unfiltered comments move several threads in the right direction.

This first book was sufficient to make an Angel Falls fan of me. If you like small-town romance that feels real and touches your heart, I think you will like this one too.


Have you read any of Miranda Liasson's books?

Do you enjoy light, fun contemporary romances or those with more emotional depth? Or maybe, a bit of both?

Colton is a police officer and and Sara's brother, Rafe (please let him have his own book!) is a firefighter. What is it about a man in uniform?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post before 11:00 PM, May 30 will receive a print copy of Then There Was You. (U.S. addresses only)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sneak Peek Excerpt & Giveaway - - Threat of Danger

Threat of Danger
By Dana Marton
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: June 5, 2018

Jess Taylor and Derek Daley were in the throes of first love in a small Vermont town when they were kidnapped by a serial killer. They escaped his clutches—but not the trauma of the unsolved crime. With their lives changed forever and their romance cut short, they went their separate ways to exorcise their fears.
Jess is living on the edge as Hollywood’s hottest stuntwoman. It’s no longer terror thrumming through her veins. It’s adrenaline. Derek is a former Navy SEAL spinning his ordeals into heart-pounding bestselling thrillers. But when Jess is called home on a family emergency, she must face the past—and face the man she left behind, who is just as haunted and, like her, still so much in love.
Now, as an old flame reignites, Jess and Derek are taking advantage of second chances and putting their bad memories behind them. But here, in the quiet town of Taylorville, a killer is getting a second chance as well.


Common sense said to walk away. She’d worked hard to make a life for herself in LA that worked for her.

Screw common sense. He stepped forward and reached around her, looped his fingers around her slim wrists, and tugged her hands from her pockets. Then he took those hands and drew her closer to him.

“Derek . . .”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d ever come back.”

“I’m only back temporarily.”

“Is that how you left things with Eliot?” That she’d be going after him soon? His mouth tightened at the thought.

“He had to go. He had meetings scheduled with directors. And new equipment coming in that he has to test and make decisions on before the next shoot.”

When she talked about Eliot, she talked about the business. That gave Derek hope. Sounded like they’d parted as friends and colleagues, not as lovers who couldn’t wait to reunite.

Two and a half weeks left, at the most. He knew her shooting schedule from talking with Zelda. About eighteen days more before Jess had to report to the set. So why in hell was he wasting time?

He dipped his head and brushed his lips over hers. He’d gotten lost once in the Iraqi desert for three days. He hadn’t been as thirsty for water back then as he was now for a taste of Jess.

When she didn’t protest, he pulled her fully into his arms and kissed her.

The point of no return. He needed to find out if things could still work between them. He wanted her, and he could no longer pretend that he didn’t.

Her body was firm, but her lips were soft and silky, as sweet as Zelda’s prizewinning angel food cake. As sweet as the old Jess. Except, this new Jess, she was a woman. She had the power to bring Derek to his knees.

He’d told her that he would give her whatever she needed from him. He hoped she’d figure out that he was what she needed. He was going to have to help her reach that conclusion.

He breathed her in. She smelled like redemption. Like maybe he could have a do-over and get it right this time.

She stood still in the circle of his arms. Undecided. Wary.

Better than a sharp knee in the balls, but Derek wanted more. He nibbled her lips and licked the seam, tasting her.

She tasted like a whole new world opening up. She tasted like the blank page of a book before he’d written the first word, the possibilities limitless.

Was the story of his life written on her heart? Was the story of her life written on his?

Too early to tell. But he wanted to find out. Letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence. If only she’d let him.

She did let him in, let him deepen the kiss. Progress, but this was just the opening of her lips, not the opening of her heart. Still, Derek wouldn’t have been a good SEAL if he didn’t grab every advantage, no matter how small. And, really, the kiss could not be called small by any measure.

As he swept into Jess’s mouth, he felt his boundaries expand. Need rushed in, and filled him like water flooding into a torpedoed submarine. He sank onto the seabed of things he always wanted but never believed he could have. Jess’s forgiveness . . . and more.

All these years, he’d thought her forgiveness was all he wanted.

He’d been stupid.

He wanted thisJess. And he knew in that moment that he was going to do whatever it took to get her and keep her. Eliot couldn’t have her, no matter how handsome he was, or how much they had in common, or how hot women thought it was that the guy was some grandmaster of stunts.

Derek wasn’t going to let Eliot have Jess. He didn’t care if the guy jumped out of a burning helicopter, tied hand and foot, with a ticking bomb in his backpack, and got an Oscar nomination in every single category for the performance.


Are you a fan of second-chance romance?

Have you read any of Dana Marton's books? Do you have a favorite?

Do you get as excited as I do over the prospect of a heroine who takes control of her life and goes head-to-head against the forces threatening her?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM (eastern), May 29 will receive the Dana Marton tote bag (shown below) and a book from my conference stash.  

Be sure to come back Monday, June 4 for my review of Threat of Danger

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Review - - It Started in June

It Started in June
By Susan Kietzman
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

At forty-two, Grace Trumbull is single, successful, and satisfied with her life. She has recently been promoted to vice-president at Broadbent and Shapiro, a prestigious media relations firm, after only eight months on the job. She is the only child of a mother who gave birth to her at seventeen and spent the first eighteen years of Grace’s life reinforcing the idea that Grace was a mistake that ruined her mother’s life. Her rigid, judgmental grandparents whose joyless religion demanded they see Grace as evidence of their daughter’s shameless immorality compounded the problem. When Grace turned eighteen, they dismissed her from their lives. A scholarship to Georgetown proved to be Grace’s salvation. She married at twenty-seven, but the marriage broke up seven years later over Grace’s refusal to have a child. Eight years after her divorce, Grace is content with her beach cottage, the classic Cadillac convertible her ex insisted she take when they divorced, a single close friendship, and a job at which she excels.

Bradley Hanover, a thirty-year-old rising star in the firm, is a golden boy—handsome, charismatic, and a master at charming all he meets. The only son of doting parents, a psychiatrist mother and a pediatrician father, he grew up privileged in Ann Arbor, Michigan, graduated from Yale, and stumbled into media relations, a career that proved a perfect fit for his abilities. He is the new kid at Broadbent and Shapiro, but he has won the acclaim of his bosses and his colleagues. He is elated when he is assigned to work with Grace on the Maritime Museum account because it is a plum assignment and because he is fascinated by the cool beauty of the new vice-president. The fact that she is twelve years older only makes her more interesting.

One evening after working late, Grace joins Bradley for a drink that turns into another drink and ends with the two of them having hot sex in her Cadillac. They begin seeing each other, being careful to avoid places where they might be seen by others who work at Broadbent and Shapiro. They are still at the stage of getting to know one another when Grace finds out that a broken condom has resulted in her being pregnant. Against all advice, Grace decides to have the baby. Bradley is eager to do the right thing, but he has doubts about his readiness to become a father. And there is an assertive young woman, a co-worker, who has no doubts that Grace is too old for Bradley and that Bradley is just the man for her.  

Sometimes a book is well-written, but a reviewer just fails to connect with it. Such is the case with me and this book. I could not get beyond the maturity gap between Grace and Bradley. I use “maturity gap” with deliberation because it is not the age difference that bothers me. Pamela Morsi pairs forty-six-year-old Red Cullen with Cam Early, fourteen years her junior, in Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar, and that is one of my all-time favorite books. But Bradley is a very young thirty. In fact, he reminded me a lot of some of the young men I taught who were in their early twenties.

He says he is tired of shallow relationships, but it is clear that his freedom is a priority. He also has a degree of self-absorption that seems more typical of a “new adult.” It’s nice that he is close to his parents, but they seem excessively involved in his life. Then, there is the infidelity issue, a repeated offense that is never really addressed, and the whole bit was tainted too much by the-woman-tempted-me claim for my taste. Being an adult is about accepting the responsibility for your choices. Then, when the change in Bradley’s character comes, it happens very quickly—over a thirty-day period in his life and within in a few paragraphs in the reader’s experience of the book. The reader sees little evidence that his maturation is substantial enough for him to be the man he needs to be for Grace and their infant daughter Hope. I don’t really trust in their future together. For these reasons, although I found Grace an interesting, credible character, the book just didn’t work for me.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review - - Laird of the Black Isle

Yesterday, I took a look back at Tristan MacGregor, one of my favorite heroes created by the very talented Paula Quinn. Today, let's jump forward in time to Quinn's newest novel, Laird of the Black Isle. In this book, we meet Tristan's beloved daughter, Mailie and Lachlan MacKenzie, the emotionally tortured hero who abducts her from her family only to, eventually, hand her his heart...and win hers in return. I've read their story twice and am already looking forward to visiting these characters again. 

Laird of the Black Isle
By Paula Quinn
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Lachlan MacKenzie, Laird of the Black Isle, may still draw breath but his life as he knew it ended two years ago with the deaths of his wife and young daughter. Their murders sent him on a rampage and when he found their hired killers he showed no mercy. But satisfaction was fleeting, leaving a hollow, scarred shell of the man he once was. He's become a recluse, quietly and anonymously seeing to the needs of his clan but holding himself apart, not allowing any of them to get close to him. Then comes an emissary of Ranald Sinclair, Earl of Caithness with incredible news: Annabel, his daughter, lives and all Lachlan has to do to be reunited with her is to abduct the earl's beloved, bring her to Black Isle and wait for word from the earl. Lachlan is an honorable man but he's also a father desperate to believe in the possibility of a miracle. He knows abducting Mairie MacGregor is wrong and he regrets his actions almost immediately but he'd do anything for the return of his precious child. 

Mairie MacGregor is no timid lass and she is not Ranald Sinclair's beloved, facts she makes abundantly clear to the beast who has kidnapped her. If he refuses to release her she'll make sure he wishes he had. Lachlan craves quiet and solitude. Mairie talks his ear off. He lives in darkness. She floods his home with light. He resists interacting with the villagers. She brings two young orphans home to live with him. At first, her actions are designed to annoy but once she discovers the reason for her abduction, Mairie, who has always known the love and support of her family, opens her heart to his dilemma and begins searching for solutions. As Mairie and the children work their magic, Lachlan's emotional shields begin to lower, allowing glimpses of the kind, loving man beneath the pain, anguish, and desperation. And slowly, so very slowly, she begins to pull him back into the light, back into life, into the first, fragile tendrils of love. 

"I slept well." He smiled back. He looked happy and it made her heart soar. "And 'tis...ehm...'tis nice to wake up and see ye."
"That was difficult to say," she teased.
"I am not eloquent," he told her on a throaty growl as she came close. And then closer still.
"Nae, and I like it. 'The less there is of eloquence' " - she said, quoting "The Sleeping Beauty" - " 'the more there is of love.' "
He blinked, looking lost and utterly adorable. She'd let him think about it.

Mairie is confident her family will find her eventually but by the time they do will she still want to leave or will Lachlan, Will and Lily have captured her heart completely? And what of Sinclair? The man is pure evil and, judging by his past deeds, there's a good chance he's lying about Annabel in order to get to Mairie. She's terrified by the prospect of what he will do to her if he has her in his control but if there's even a shred of possibility that Lachlan's daughter lives, how can she not sacrifice her own freedom if it will bring Annabel home? 

I loved this book so much. From beginning to end, it grabbed my heart and never let go. I wasn't sure if Quinn would ever create a hero who could rival Tristan, Mairie's father, in my affections. It seems fitting that Lachlan MacKenzie, the man who gives his heart to Tristan's beloved daughter, should also be the hero to equal Tristan in mine. I loved the push and pull between him and Mairie, the snappy banter, the reluctant attraction, and the fact that even when she pushes him to his limits he never snaps but always treats her with care. As with Quinn's previous books, there's a fair amount of humor in this story as well as heartfelt emotion. The poignancy of Lachlan's interactions with the orphaned Will and Lily in the face of his own losses brought me to tears more than once. Mairie is a wonderful heroine and exactly what I would expect of Tristan and Isobel's daughter. Her confidence, compassion, intelligence, humor, bravery, and fierce protectiveness of those she holds in her heart make her a true MacGregor and a perfect match for Lachlan. I loved them, both individually and as a couple. 

Laird of the Black Isle stands well on its own though, as someone who has read all of the books in this series, it was a special treat to see MacGregors from previous books make appearances in this book. I especially enjoyed the father-daughter scenes between Tristan and Mairie (the older Tristan is still as sigh-worthy as when he won Isobel's heart) as well as those between Lachlan and the MacGregor men. The resolution of the villain's storyline was quite satisfying (I may have cheered) and the twist at the end was a lovely surprise. Also, the more I see of Mailie's cousin, Adam the more excited I become for his book, Highlander Ever After, due to be released December 18, 2018. It's my understanding that this will be the last book in this long-running series. I think it may be time for a series re-read. These characters are among my favorites, their journeys well worth the taking, and while I'm sad that there will be no new MacGregors on the horizon, I'm looking forward to whatever Paula Quinn has in store for readers next. 


Do you enjoy a multi-book series?

How do you feel about a multi-generational family series?

What's the last family-centric series that captured your heart?

Are you going to miss the MacGregors as much as I am?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, May 27, 2018 will receive a Kindle copy of Seduced by a Highlander (Tristan's and Isobel's story) and Laird of the Black Isle (Lachlan's and Mailie's story). 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

TBT Review: Seduced by a Highlander

Seduced by a Highlander was my introduction to the sweeping, adventure-filled, sensual, romantic historical romances of Paula Quinn. I fell hard for Tristan MacGregor, the hero of this book, and he's been the standard by which I've measured all other Quinn heroes. To be sure, there have been many wonderful heroes over the fifteen books in this world of Quinn's creation but none has surpassed Tristan in my reader's heart...until now. Laird of the Black Isle, which releases May 29, 2018 tells the story of Lachlan MacKenzie and it's only fitting that the hero who finally equals Tristan in my affections should fall in love with Tristan's beloved daughter, Mailie. But more about that later. First, let's take a look back at Tristan and Isobel and Seduced by a Highlander.

Seduced by a Highlander
By Paula Quinn
Children of the Mist - Book #2 
Publisher: Grand Central - Forever
Release Date:  September 1, 2010 

Reviewed by PJ - October 3, 2010

Where have I been that I haven’t read a Paula Quinn novel before now? I love medievals, especially those set in Scotland. I love deeply emotional stories, simmering with passion, heart-felt romance and delightful humor, a heroine who will fight to protect her family, a hero who will go to any lengths to surround her with his love and clan feuds that threaten to tear them apart – all key elements in Seduced by a Highlander, a superbly written story by my newest “go to” author, Paula Quinn. 

Tristan MacGregor adored his uncle, Robert Campbell and grew up wanting to be honorable and chivalrous, just like his uncle and the knights of old in his stories. He never imagined that a youthful scuffle with Alex Fergusson would lead to Robert's death, a dark moment that broke Tristan's heart and changed the course of his life. 

For ten years, Isobel Fergusson has hated the despicable MacGregors, ever since they avenged Robert Campbell's death by murdering her father and leaving Isobel and her six brothers orphaned and penniless. When she and two of her brothers travel to England for the Duke of York’s coronation, the last thing Isobel expects to find is romance. She’s much too busy caring for her family to be bothered but a chance encounter with a charming rogue leaves her enchanted…until she discovers that the rogue is a member of her family’s most hated enemy…the MacGregors. But Tristan is equally enchanted and determined to convince Isobel that he’s not the enemy.

     “My name is Tristan,” he said, wanting her to see the man she had seen in the garden when they first met. “And if we had no’ been interrupted the other night, I would have told ye that I dinna’ approve of what our kin have done.”
     She laughed, but the sound of it left only anger drifting across the damp courtyard. “Ye are the son of the Devil.”
     “But I was reared by another man.”

Returning home to their small farm, Isobel tries to put Tristan out of her mind but he, and the single kiss they shared, refuse to go away, especially when Tristan arrives at the Fergusson farm determined to convince Isobel to give them a chance despite the many obstacles in their way. Obstacles that include the six Fergusson brothers, especially the youngest brother whose mischievous ways just may end up killing Tristan before he can prove that he means them no harm.  I love the interaction between Tristan and Isobel's brothers where Quinn uses the humor and determination of young boys to show us the type of man Tristan is beneath the carefree, charming rogue. Rather than detract from the story, the brothers add another dimension that only makes it more satisfying.  

Will Tristan and Isobel find a way to heal one another’s hearts? More importantly, will they succeed in healing the deep hatred between the families that are so important to them or will one of them be forced to turn their back on their own clan in order to claim the love that is more important than their next breath?

Paula Quinn has created a deeply romantic, sweeping story of Highland feuds and everlasting love that went straight to my keeper shelf.  I have no doubt though that it will be pulled down many times for re-reads over the years to come, if for no other reason than to visit with Tristan, a hero who makes my heart sigh.  Who wouldn't love a man who says to his heroine...

     "Lookin' at ye is like baskin' in the summer sun after a long, cold winter.  'Tis like seein' home after a battle that's left ye empty and alone."  He kissed her mouth, her nose, her eyes.  "I dinna' know how 'tis possible, but each time I see ye, ye grow more beautiful to me."

If you want a story that will touch your heart, tickle your funny bone and leave you sighing with pleasure, pick up a copy of Paula Quinn's Seduced by a Highlander!


Have you read any of Paula Quinn's highlander novels? Do you have a favorite book? A favorite couple? 

Do you have a favorite romance hero who is the standard by which you judge all others?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review - - The Nanny's Double Trouble

The Nanny’s Double Trouble
By Christine Rimmer
Publisher: Harlequin / Special Edition
Release Date: May 1, 2018 Kindle); April 17, 2018 (paperback)
Reviewed by Janga

Daniel Bravo of Valentine Bay, Oregon, was eighteen when his parents died, the oldest of eight siblings. He married his high school sweetheart, Lillie Snow, as soon as she graduated from high school, and together they brought up his three younger brothers and four younger sisters. Eighteen months ago, Lillie died, leaving behind newborn twins, Frannie and Jake. Daniel’s job as CEO of the family logging business demands long hours, and child care for his toddler twins is a major concern for the single father. He can’t seem to keep a nanny, and his mother-in-law, who fills in when needed, has been sidelined with four broken bones in her right foot. Grace, the youngest Bravo sibling and the only one who still lives at home, helps with the twins sometimes, but she is set to return to college soon. Daniel is desperate, but he is shocked—and a bit reluctant—when Lillie’s cousin, Keely Ostergard, volunteers to take over nanny duty.

Lillie was the sister Keely never had, and she is not about to ignore the plight of the babies for whom Lillie gave her life, regardless of her reservations about their father.   A successful textile artist and the owner of Sand & Sea, a local gallery, Keely has figured out a way that she can work from the Bravo home and care for the twins. She adores Jake and Frannie, and caring for them is no hardship. As Lillie’s confidante, she is aware that the last years of her cousin’s marriage were troubled, and she holds Daniel responsible for Lillie’s unhappiness. But she has no doubt that she can tolerate Daniel for the sake of the twins.

When Keely joins the household, her relationship with Daniel begins to change. As they work together to meet the needs of two delightful, high energy toddlers, they suspend judgment of one another. Gradually, as they move from crisis to crisis, they become good friend who enjoy each other’s company. Then, to their surprise, they realize their mutual attraction, but it takes a little help from a surprising source before they reach their HEA.

This is the first book in Rimmer’s Bravos of Valentine Bay series, but it is only the most recent in more than three dozen books about various Bravo family groups. It is a layered, emotional story with a big emotional punch. Daniel is something of a curmudgeon, but he is sympathetic nonetheless. His taciturnity and grouchiness are caused as much by anger as by grief. He is angry with Lillie for dicing with her life and losing. She had known since she was a girl that her lupus made pregnancy something she should avoid. She seemed okay with mothering the Bravo brood until Grace, six when her parents died, grew up. She then became obsessed with having a child regardless of the risk to her or of Daniel’s yearning to be free of the responsibility of parenting after years of playing that role for his siblings. Keely is an immensely appealing character—intelligent, talented, self-aware but far from perfect, strong yet vulnerable. I liked them both.

Although the relationship between Daniel and Keely is the center of the book, his relationship with his siblings, particularly Grace, and Keely’s relationship with her free-spirited musician mother are also significant to the story. So too are the relationships of Daniel and Keely to Lillie and the relationship between the aging sisters, the conventional, maternal Gretchen Snow and the hippie chick, rock star Ingrid Ostergard. The book not only gives readers a satisfying romance, but it also sets up expectations for the new series. The next book, Almost a Bravo, is a marriage of convenience tale that will be released October 1. If it is as good as this first book, I will be a happy reader. If you have never read Rimmer’s novels and like contemporary romance with lots of family dynamics, this book is a great introduction to this prolific author.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review - - Until There Was Us

Until There Was Us
By Samantha Chase
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Megan Montgomery is a classic workaholic, an “IT genius” who typically works sixty hours or more a week and has little time for life outside the workplace. Her focus is on proving to her father that she is more than corporate wife material and making a place for herself in the family business. After a nasty breakup, she becomes even more intense in her commitment to the job. When Megan takes a rare social weekend to attend her cousin Zach’s wedding to Gabriella Martine (I’ll Be There, Montgomery Brothers #6, 2015), she briefly becomes a different person, a woman who wears a sexy dress and heels and who says yes to four dances with Zack’s hot friend. For one weekend, she experiences the kind of connection and passion she has never expected to find.

Physical therapist Alex Rebat considers Zach Montgomery a close friend as well as a former client. He is happy to be one of Zach’s groomsmen at his wedding where the large Montgomery family is a visible part of the celebration. The Montgomery that catches Alex’s eye is Megan, a shy, curvy beauty who sends his temperature soaring. A few dances and searing kisses in a garden convinces him that they can be magic together, and a weekend spent in secluded bliss confirms his belief.

The magic did not last long. With Megan in Albany, New York, and Alex in Portland, Oregon, finding time together was a challenge. Three months after their stolen weekend, the relationship ended, but neither has forgotten the other. Two years later, Megan is thrilled to finally be offered a job in the family business, but her move to Portland to work with Zach also leaves her anxious about how she will handle seeing Alex again. She knows that seeing him will be complicated not only by her feelings but also by the fact that Alex is very much a part of her cousins’ social circle, the cousins who have no idea that she and Alex were ever a couple. At thirty-two, Alex is weary of being always a groomsman and never a groom. He is ready to settle down and enjoy the kind of wife, family, and home life that his friends Zach and Ethan have found. When Alex learns that Megan is moving to Portland to work with her cousin, he wonders if they can recapture the feelings they once shared. But can a workaholic change her focus enough to open her heart to love?

Until There Was Us is the seventh novel in Samantha Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series. (There’s also a novella between books three and four.) I generally enjoy Chase’s books and am especially fond of her series rich in family dynamics such as the Montgomery Brothers and the Shaughnessy Brothers. I was pleased when I learned that she was continuing the Montgomery series, but the book was a disappointment.

Alex is a darling, a white-knight kind of guy who devotes his professional life to helping people and is still there when any of his many friends need him. The guy had been a groomsman in six weddings during the past two years. I also loved seeing Summer Montgomery and Ethan Reed (Meant for You, Book 5, 2015), now the proud parents of baby Amber, and Zach and Gabriella, who are expecting their first child. The matchmaking older generation also plays a role. But all these delightful features are overshadowed by a heroine I could not like.

Megan just seems spineless to me for much of the novel. This is a woman so intent on proving herself to her father that she hides her hobby (crocheting, which she learned as a girl from her grandmother) not just from him but from everyone. She even allows Summer to think she bought rather than made a gift for Amber. She has difficulty being honest with anyone, including herself. She also seems self-absorbed to me. Who forgets her boyfriend, who lives on the opposite coast, is flying three thousand miles for a weekend with her?  Frankly, I wondered why Alex was still interested. It’s true that she transforms and is stubbornly loving and giving by the end, but by that time, I was so impatient with her that it was too late to change my opinion.

My disappointment in Megan does not change my mind about the series, and I hope Chase is planning more Montgomery books. Other readers may find Megan less of an irritant than I did, and the novel has much to recommend it. Fans of the earlier Montgomery Brothers books will likely enjoy this one as well, and the book can be read as a standalone, even though any experienced romance reader will almost certainly realize that Summer and Ethan and Zach and Gabriella’s stories are out there waiting to be read.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Winner - - BVW18

The randomly chosen winner of a prize package from the 

Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - The Sugarhouse Blues

The Sugarhouse Blues
By Mariah Stewart
Publisher: Simon and Schuster / Gallery Books
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Reviewed by Janga

Mariah Stewart revisits the Hudson Sisters in this book. The three sisters are still engaged in restoring the historic theater their father left them. The restoration has become more than a means of gaining the fortune Hollywood agent Fritz Hudson left his daughters. It has gained an appeal of its own based on its history and its importance to Hidden Falls, the Pennsylvania town where Fritz and his sister grew up. The money Fritz provided for the restoration is running low, and expenses keep mounting. Thus, the sisters find their challenge growing greater as they look for ways to make money.

Cara and Joe, the focus of The Last Chance Matinee, book one in the series, are present in this one with an HEA strongly suggested, and the uptight Allie is mellowing a bit and beginning to find herself. However, the focus in this second book is on Desdemona, the middle sister and former child star. Des had built a life for herself in Cross Creek, Montana, where she found her calling in the dog rescue shelter she funded, and she is still finding it difficult to be so far from her home. However, she also likes life in Hidden Falls and getting to know Cara, her half-sister, and Barney, her father’s sister, neither of whom she had known before her father’s death. Her friendship with Seth MacLeod, the three-time mayor of Hidden Falls, is becoming more intimate and more important, but Des is convinced that he is not her type. She stubbornly ignores the zing that Seth’s presence evokes until she can’t ignore it any longer. Meanwhile, an old friend of Fritz’s has returned to town, and the blushes he calls forth in Barney, whom he calls by her given name Bonnie because he thinks it fits her better, persuades the sisters that their beloved aunt may have a second chance at romance. However, Des cannot stop wondering about the identity of the woman in her father’s past, and strong hints of a mystery surrounding the death of Aunt Barney’s first love suggest trouble on the horizon.

The second book in Stewart’s Hudson Sisters series continues the development of the relationships among the three sisters and the effects their time in Hidden Falls is having on each of them. All the sisters are interesting, complex characters. The semi-estrangement between Des and Allie is excavated in this book, and healing has begun. I loved the romance between Des and Seth. He is an immensely appealing character, and the contradiction between his appearance and his teddy-bear beta character is a large part of his appeal.

He was tall, had a totally shaved head, and was dressed in a pair of worn jeans and a faded red T-shirt that had Born to Ride emblazoned over the Harley Davidson logo that did little to hide his broad chest. Deep brown eyes set off by long dark lashes drew her gaze. . . . Tattoos covered both well-toned arms. . . .”

Allie and her relationship with the wounded Ben Haldeman promise greater complexity, angst, and eventual satisfaction in the next book as well as more of the delightful Nikki, Allie’s teenage daughter and one of my favorite characters.

Readers who like romance/women’s fiction hybrids as much as I do will likely find this an engaging read. Those who missed the first book should follow this story with no difficulties since the author provides sufficient summary of what happened in the first book. In fact, those who read the first book may feel bogged down in summaries that are not needed for them. But this is a minor flaw in a strong novel that leaves the reader eager for more of the Hudson sisters and the people in their lives.