Thursday, March 21, 2019

RWA: The 2019 RITA and GH Finalists Are...


2013 RITA Winners Sarah MacLean & Eloisa James


I look forward to this day every year. Today is the day Romance Writers of America® announces the finalists for the Rita® and Golden Heart® awards, honoring the best published books and unpublished manuscripts of 2018. Winners of the 2019 Golden Heart® will be announced at an awards luncheon Thursday, July 25, 2019 at the RWA national conference in New York City. Winners of the RITA® will be announced at an evening awards ceremony on Friday, July 26, 2019, also during the national conference.  

I'll be posting the names of the finalists as they are announced throughout today. All finalists will be revealed by 3:00 PM (Eastern).



What books do you hope to see on the 2019 list?

Which category or categories are your favorites?

Share your thoughts about the finalists. For which books will you be cheering this July?

Two randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), March 22 will each receive a package of books. (U.S. addresses only)



2010 RITA Finalist Tessa Dare



RITA 

Contemporary Romance: Long

Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that are 84,000 or more words.  

A TALL, DARK COWBOY CHRISTMAS by Maisey Yates
BAD BACHELOR by Stefanie London
BEST OF LUCK by Kate Clayborn
LONG SHOT by Kennedy Ryan
MELT FOR YOU by J.T. Geissinger
THE HEARTLESS BOYFRIEND by Erika Kelly
LUCK OF THE DRAW by Kate Clayborn

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that are between 56,000 and 84,000 words in length.

PART-TIME HUSBAND by Noelle Adams
GIVE AND TAKE by Lee Kilraine
LENNON REBORN by Scarlett Cole
KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA by Julie Hammerle
LOVING A WARRIOR by Melanie Hansen
NOT QUITE CRAZY by Catherine Bybee
CELEBRITY SPIN DOCTOR by Celia Mulder
RELAY by Layla Reyne
SERGEANT SEXYPANTS by Tawna Fenske
SLEEPOVER by Serena Bell
ADVANCED PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY by Susannah Nix


Contemporary Romance: Short
Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that are between 40,000 and 56,000 words in length.


A BABY TO BIND HIS BRIDE by Caitlin Crews
CLAIM ME, COWBOY by Maisey Yates
FAIR GAME by Amy Andrews
TANNER'S PROMISE by Kaylie Newell
THE MILLION POUND MARRIAGE DEAL by Michelle Douglas
THE CAPTAINS' VEGAS VOWS by Caro Carson
THE BACHELOR'S BABY SURPRISE by Teri Wilson
A SAFE PLACE TO LAND by Dee Ernst
A FOOL AND HIS MANNY by Amy Lane
  


2014 Rita Finalist Courtney Milan


Erotic Romance

Novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.).

THREE-WAY SPLIT by Elia Winters
PICTURE PERFECT COWBOY by Tiffany Reisz
SINFUL GAMES by Shelly Alexander
TOTAL EXPOSURE by JA Huss

Historical Romance: Long

Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are longer than 89,000 words.

A WICKED KIND OF HUSBAND by Mia Vincy
AN EARL LIKE YOU by Caroline Linden
A SCANDALOUS DEAL by Joanna Shupe
LADY IN WAITING by Marie Tremayne


Historical Romance: Short

Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are between 40,000 and 89,000 words.

HELL'S BELLE by Annabelle Anders
NEVER DARE A WICKED EARL by Renee Ann Miller
THE DEVIL TO PAY by K.C. Bateman
A DUKE IN THE NIGHT by Kelly Bowen
WHAT ALES THE EARL by Sally MacKenzie
WITH LOVE IN SIGHT by Christina Britton





2018 Rita Finalist Wendy LaCapra

  

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.

A GIRL DIVIDED by Ellen Lindseth MORNINGS ON MAIN by Jodi Thomas
BELLEWETHER by Susanna Kearsley
FIVE YEARS GONE by Marie Force 
HOW TO KEEP A SECRET by Sarah Morgan 
MORNINGS ON MAIN by Jodi Thomas 
  

Paranormal Romance

Novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.

DEBRIEFING THE DEAD by Kerry Blaisdell
TO CATCH A ROGUE by Bec McMaster
THE LAST WOLF by Maria Vale
HAUNTED HEARTS by Kimberly Dean
OUT OF BODY by Suzanne Brockmann
DEAREST IVIE by J.R. Ward
WRETCHED by Cara Crescent
  



Romance Novella

Novellas are between 20,000 and 40,000 words.

CATCHING IRISH by Katy Regnery
BAD BLOOD by M. Malone
DRAGON LORD by Dana Marton
"Lead Counsel" by Aurora Rey in THE BOSS OF HER:OFFICE ROMANCE NOVELLAS
LOVING THE SECRET BILLIONAIRE by Adriana Anders
SAVED BY THE COWBOY by A.J. Pine 
"The Dragons of Summer" by Jeffe Kennedy in SEASONS OF SORCERY 
  

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.

A MOTHER FOR HIS FAMILY by Susanne Dietze
HOME ON HUCKLEBERRY HILL by Jennifer Beckstrand
THEIR AMISH REUNION by Lenora Worth 
THE SATURDAY NIGHT SUPPER CLUB by Carla Laureano
  

Romantic Suspense

Novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

BEFORE WE WERE STRANGERS by Brenda Novak

CUT AND RUN by Mary Burton
FEARLESS by Elizabeth Dyer
RELENTLESS by Elizabeth Dyer
RECKLESS HONOR by Tonya Burrows
CONSUMED by J.R. Ward
THE BASTARD'S BARGAIN by Katee Robert




2018 RITA Winner Kelly Bowen

  

Young Adult Romance

Novels in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.

MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE by Nisha Sharma
CRY BABY by Ginger Scott
LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS by Ann Aguirre
NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST by Ally Carter
  

Best First Book

A Novel entered in another contest category. To be eligible, the author (or authors in the case of a writing team) shall not have had any other novel or novella previously commercially available in any format.

A WICKED KIND OF HUSBAND by Mia Vincy
LADY IN WAITING by Marie Tremayne
THE LAST WOLF by Maria Vale
CELEBRITY SPIN DOCTOR by Celia Mulder
WITH LOVE IN SIGHT by Christina Britton





GOLDEN HEART

Contemporary Romance

Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that are greater than 65,000 words.

THE CINDERELLA FACTOR by Elly Kate
FOCUSED ON A COWBOY by Makenna Lee
HE OWNS MY HEART by Evie Drae
HOME TO YOU by Sandra Marine
HOT RAIDER by Joy Adare 
NEVER HAVE I EVER by Rosie Donan
PAGE SIX by Alexis De Girolami
ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES by Margot Pierce
SALT + STILETTOS by Janet Walden-West
TEMPTING TALK by Sara Netzley
THE TO DO LIST by Denise Williams
 

Contemporary Romance: Short

Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that are less than 65,000 words in length.

BILLIONAIRE FOR HIRE by Melanie McCarthy
CHASING HOME by Priscilla Cook
LOVE ON THE BOOKS by Betsy Gray
MURPHY'S DEBT by Becke Turner
WOUNDED MARTYR by Courtney Maguire
YOU'LL NEVER LOVE IN THIS TOWN AGAIN by McKinley Reed




Historical Romance 

Manuscripts that are set prior to 1950.

A DANGEROUS AFFINITY by Emily Sullivan
A SEASON FOR SCANDAL by Mary Baumhoer
DANGEROUS PURSUIT by Ann Cheney
INTRIGUING THE IRISHMAN by Emily Sullivan
TEMPTING THE HEIRESS by Emily Sullivan
AN UNLOVED EARL by Eileen Emerson
EVERY TIME YOU'RE NEAR by Shannon Gallagher 
WYLDE AT HEART by Elizabeth King


Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.

BROKEN WHITE LINES by Melissa Wiesner
EVERYTHING COMES BACK TO YOU by Melissa Wiesner
JANE DARLING'S RULES OF INHERITANCE by Megan McGee
LEARNING CURVE by Sharon M. Peterson
LOLITA'S MUSE by Claire DeWolf
PLAYING NICE by Evi Kline
RESURRECTING ANNIE WOLFF by Anna Collins
THE SODA FOUNTAIN SISTER AND THE FLOWER LADY by Sheri Taylor-Emery


Paranormal Romance

Manuscripts in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.

BLESS YOUR HEART AND OTHER SOUTHERN CURSES by Heather Leonard
INHERENT LIES by Alicia Anthony
TOUCH 3.3 by Valen Cox
THE TRANSFORMATION OF ALEXIS DOE by Jilly Wood
WARRIOR OF EDEN by Fenley Grant
WITCH WAY DOWN by Chelly Pike


Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.

COUNTERFEIT LOVE by Crystal Caudill
THE INN AT MILL CREEK by Kellie Parker
THE PROMISE OF SPRING by Mary Hutchens
  

Romantic Suspense

Manuscripts in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

ALL YOUR BROKEN PIECES by Evie Drae
DIRTY MONEY by Monique Headley
FREE MY HEART by Diane Wiggs
HIGH HEELS AND HANDGUNS by Lisa Heartman
THE HUSTLER by Angie Hockman
DEADLY AIM by Tracy Brody
  

Young Adult Romance

Manuscripts in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.

AFTER I BID YOU ADIEU by Sammi Spizziri
DRAGGED! by Susan Lee
SONG OF THE SOPHOS by A. Y. Chao
THE NASCENT BLOOM by Janet Raye Stevens
THE WALLS BETWEEN by Christine Gunderson


  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Packing My Bags...With Books!





Spring is just around the corner which means it's almost time to launch this year's Romance conference season. Whether large gatherings or small, romance conferences offer readers the opportunity to meet some of our favorite authors. I'll be attending three events this year: Avon's KissCon, Book Lovers Con, and RWA.  Book Lovers Con (think Comic Con for romance readers) is in New Orleans this May while RWA (Romance Writers of America's annual conference) will be in New York City in July but more about those later. First up on my schedule is KissCon.



With Eloisa James at KissCon Atlanta

Avon has hosted one-day KissCon events in various venues around the country over the past few years. I attended one in Atlanta this past fall. Typically, these events include a Q&A or other fun ice-breaker activity with the 8-10 Avon authors in attendance, followed by a book signing, then a reception where you can chat with the authors as well as meet other readers. This year, Avon has chosen to expand that format with a full weekend of events like pajama party movie screenings, dance parties, panel discussions, and more. Excited romance readers from across the country will converge on Chicago for three days of fun with 31 Avon and Harlequin authors. I can't wait! 




With Beverly Jenkins at KissCon Atlanta






Of course, I'll be taking lots of photos to share with you all when I return along with bringing home books and swag for giveaways. That's where you can help. I've listed below the authors who will be attending KissCon Weekend. I'll have limited space in my luggage to bring back signed books for Dish giveaways so, tell me, from which of these authors would you most like a signed book? Thanks for your help!

 





Tessa Bailey
Alyssa Cole
Sonali Dev
HelenKay Dimon
Jennifer Estep
Lorraine Heath
Lori Foster
Megan Frampton
Jeaniene Frost
Sophie Jordan
Brenda Jackson
Eloisa James
Beverly Jenkins
Tracey Livesay
Julie Kagawa
Eva Leigh
Caroline Lendin
Julia Quinn
Vivienne Lorret
Sarah MacLean
Charis Michaels
Jill Shalvis
Alisha Rai
Jennifer Ryan
Cat Sebastian
Sally Thorne
Nisha Sharma
Joanna Shupe
Mia Sosa
Marie Tremayne
Lori Wilde 

There are still a few tickets remaining for the KissCon Weekend Affair. You can choose from the Saturday only ticket at $75, Friday + Saturday at $150, or Friday, Saturday, Sunday at $185. Ticket sales end March 29 or when capacity is sold out. Visit the KissCon website for more information about tickets, authors, and weekend events. 

*Note: The deadline to book hotel rooms at the KissCon discounted rate is March 15. 


Have you ever attended a reader-author event? 

Do you plan to attend one this year?

Which author(s) would you most like to meet?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review - - Heartbreaker


Heartbreaker
by Inara Scott
Bad Angels - Book 1
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: February 25, 2019
Reviewed by PJ





Dropped out of high school? Check. Ran away with loser boyfriend at age sixteen? Check. Fell for every line from every guy? Sadly, check. But now, Tess Paplion has started over. Juggling multiple part-time jobs while finishing her college degree, she’s not letting anything get in her way. Especially not a sexy angel investor with “one-night disaster” written all over him.
Mason Coleman just inherited a 200-pound invalid Mastiff—and an intriguing, unusual, and thoroughly infuriating dog nanny who turns his life upside down the moment she steps through his front door. No matter how she makes him feel Mason doesn’t do commitment—so what happens when he falls for her? And worse, what happens when she wants nothing to do with him?


My thoughts:

Heartbreaker was my first contemporary romance by Inara Scott and, already, I'm counting the days until the next one. Fun, flirty, and filled with surprising emotional depths, it grabbed my attention from the get-go and held it throughout.

Tess, in particular, is such an intriguing character with a multitude of layers. With the childhood she endured, it's a wonder she's not more of a mess. I really admired her grit and determination to succeed despite the obstacles of the hands she's been dealt by life but appreciated her vulnerabilities as well. They make her a much more realistic, and complex, character. I also love how she's not swept away by Mason's charm but, instead, holds him to account, challenging him at every turn. I was in her corner the entire way.

I adored Mason. I mean, really, how can I not fall for a guy who, knowing nothing about dogs, takes a 200 pound untrained, misbehaving (but lovable) Mastiff who has to pee practically every hour into his immaculate home to help out his sister? It doesn't hurt that he's also gorgeous, successful, and sexy. But I really love his kindness, how supportive of Tess he is, and the depths of his character that he's only now beginning to acknowledge. He really is a lot more than a pretty face. He captured my heart. Oh, and Tess's too...eventually. But that's going to take a while when you have a guy who is just as relationship-averse as the woman he's slowly falling for. 

There's plenty of humor, sizzle, tenderness, and emotion to find in this story. The chemistry between Tess and Mason is great and the banter is so much fun. But I also enjoyed the tenderness and caring that develops. Scott allows us to really get to know these two characters by slowly growing their friendship before upping the stakes for each of them individually as well as a couple. We're also introduced to an interesting group of friends who I can't wait to discover more about in future books. 

If you're in the mood for a fast-paced, contemporary romance, with plenty of humor and heart, likable characters (both two and four legged), and a satisfying, heart-tugging, happily-ever-after, I enthusiastically recommend Heartbreaker by Inara Scott. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review - - American Duchess


American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt
by Karen Harper
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie 




Exquisitely written, meticulously researched, and brimming with larger than life characters, AMERICAN DUCHESS tells the story of Consuelo Vanderbilt, one of the “Dollar Brides” that married into the British aristocracy. Consuelo--beautiful, rich, and kind--is forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough, even though she loves another. As a product of her time and upbringing, she follows through with what is soon apparent to be a disastrous marriage, providing the “heir and the spare”; however, her struggle for belonging, love, and companionship in her new surroundings is constantly thwarted by her husband, who is both jealous of her popularity with his people and family and resentful he had to lower himself to marry an American at all.

The novel sweeps across the majority of Consuelo’s life, starting at her marriage, all the way to 1943 when she is reunited with her true love, Jacques Balsan. In 368 pages, a lot of things happen--I don’t believe the author wasted any pages because each page was gripped with conflict, suspense, and drama--with an acceptable amount of triumph to keep me from putting the novel aside. (Admittedly the Duke of Marlborough was rather tough to handle.) I don’t want to go into too many details because I think like me you don’t know all the history of Consuelo Vanderbilt either, except that as the daughter of the aggressive and scheming Alva Vanderbilt, she was married to a British duke. (Basically I knew her mother--quite famous in her own right--made her marry someone she didn’t want and that their relationship as mother and daughter was very contentious.)

The story starts at exactly the right place--on the day of her wedding--with this brilliant hook: “Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century. I was calling it the worst day of my life.” I mean, how can you not keep turning pages to find out what is going on with a line like that? It certainly challenges my dreams as a reader of what marrying a young handsome duke would be like. (In fact if you love typical historicals with dashing dukes, this duke may be a bit of a struggle for you. He barely has any redeeming qualities.) But Consuelo is a dream as a heroine: she’s brave, she’s kind, she stays true to herself even when forced to marry. She is easy to root for--and while I knew (because I wikipedia’d it) when she actually died, there were scenarios in the book where I was like, “OMG, is she going to make it?”

Karen Harper ends the book in the right place as well--with the reunion of Consuelo with her beloved husband Jacques (you’ll have to read the road to that happening, my friends--it’s worth it) during World War II. It ends with them together, happy, and with several years before them content. (I don’t think I really gave anything away with that--because as I said, you can google it for that info.) All in all, a wonderful read and a thrilling ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Monday, March 11, 2019

TLC Tour Review - - California Girls


California Girls
by Susan Mallery
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 


The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…
Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.
Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.
Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancĂ© sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.
But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.

My thoughts:

Susan Mallery is one of the best authors out there for creating flawed characters woven into complex family dynamics as evidenced in her newest novel, California Girls. These three sisters, and their self-absorbed mother, could not be more different yet beneath their differences runs a strong bond of connection that, while stretched to its limit, is never broken. It's those contradictions, and connections, that pulled me into this story and held my attention throughout.

Infusing their journeys with humor, heartbreak, selfless generosity, and poignant reflection, Mallery brings each of the sisters to life on the page and in my heart. I suffered, and rejoiced, with them as they gradually evolved and cheered them on as they began to take control of their present, their future, their relationships, and their eventual joy. And, if I was hoping for a happily-ever-after for their mother for the sole reason of getting her off her daughters' backs, I'm okay with that. 

If you're looking for a novel that will make you laugh, make you cry, make you want to string certain men up by their unmentionables, lavish others with affection and praise, and celebrates the special - and complicated - bond of sisters, don't miss California Girls by Susan Mallery.  




Friday, March 8, 2019

Winner - - Tracy Solheim





The randomly chosen winner from Tracy Solheim's

Shot in the Dark post is:

LSUReader

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winners - - Ask Me to Stay





The randomly chosen winners from the review of

Ask Me to Stay by Terri Osburn are:

Rachael B

Kindle copy of Ask Me to Stay
Please send your email address to 
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Sharlene

Signed print copy of Ask Me to Stay
Please send your full name and mailing address to 
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Congratulations!


Winners - - Coming Attractions





The randomly chosen winners of a package of books from 

the March Coming Attractions post are:

Di

and

Cheryl C

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Today's Special - - Tracy Solheim's Shot in the Dark


I'm happy to welcome Tracy Solheim back to The Romance Dish today. Tracy's newest novel, Shot in the Dark released last week and it's another fast-paced, action-packed, suspense-filled romance that's sure to keep readers flipping pages to find out what happens next. I loved the pairing of zoologist, Josslyn who hates guns, rebels against authority, and does whatever it takes to keep her beloved animals safe with by-the-book Secret Service agent, and expert marksman, Adam who has yet to meet a rule he doesn't follow. Add in a secret past encounter, sizzling chemistry, and the fact that they are in the cross hairs of an international poaching ring and you can be sure there will be plenty of fireworks ahead...both in and out of the bedroom. 

Connect with Tracy online at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Bookbub, and Goodreads. Learn more about Tracy and her books at her website.


Shot in the Dark
by Tracy Solheim
Men of the Secret Service - Book 2
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Release Date: February 25, 2019


If there’s anything zoologist Josslyn Benoit abhors more than guns, it’s poachers. When an African “fact-finding” mission with a wildlife conservationist group goes horribly wrong and one of their members is shot, Josslyn and her team must flee for their lives. What’s worse? Josslyn must call in a favor from her older half-sister…the First Lady of the United States. She returns to D.C. to hunt down a major importer of illegal animal products and the last thing she needs on her tail is a gun-toting, testosterone-fueled hottie who’s too sexy for words and too bossy to tolerate.

After suffering an injury in the line of duty, Adam Lockett, commander of the Secret Service’s elite team of snipers, is sidelined on a boring protective detail—guarding the First Lady’s wild-child younger sister, who’s hell-bent on ditching her detail. He’s biding his time until he can return to the job he loves best, and no tree-hugging, animal saving smokey-eyed beauty is going to ruin his perfect protection record. But when Josslyn’s leads heat up, it’s her own skin on the line, and she’s become much more than a job for Adam. 

Can two opposites find happiness, or is it just a shot in the dark?






Who Says Fiction Can’t Be Factual?
by Tracy Solheim

              I’ve spent much of my adult life researching. Whether it was to earn an advanced degree or testify before Congress, I’ve done my fair share of sifting through archives, depositions, micro-fiche, and surfing the Internet. Just because I write fiction now, doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be “real.”

Case in point, my Men of the Secret Service series for Tule Publishing. The agents may be characters of my own imagination, but the weapons they carry, the equipment they use, the code names they utter, are all based on real-life accounts from actual agents. Best of all, the setting for the series is the White House, a place rich with its own history and a treasure trove of fun facts I can sprinkle throughout my books—especially when the plot seems to stall!

Let’s explore some of those fun facts, starting with the Secret Service. Most people aren’t aware that the agency was created following the Civil War to help sort out the influx of counterfeit money that arose during Reconstruction. It was only in 1901 after President McKinley was assassinated—the third US president to be killed while in office—that someone got the bright idea elected officials might need an extra bit of personal protection. Thus, the Secret Service we know today was born. But that doesn’t mean the agency isn’t still on the front lines sniffing out counterfeiters. They continue to lead federal law enforcement’s efforts in that area.

Getting a feel for the White House was easily my favorite
Children's Garden
aspect of the research for this series. The White House Museum has an interactive site where you can wander from room to room within the eighteen acres of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I had fun sending my characters to the historic rooms everyone sees in history books. But it was the obscure places no one knows about that lend a little something extra to the book, like the chocolate shop in RECIPE FOR DISASTER, or the Children’s Garden in SHOT IN THE DARK.


The third book in the series will feature a look at the First Lady’s offices and Camp David. The characters will also spend a hot minute in the White House Calligraphy office. Yep, they address all those invitations by hand! The three White House calligraphers are among 300 staff whose job it is to keep the executive mansion running on a day-to-day basis. And that gives me a deep well of characters to choose from in this series!

Liberty Ford
If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know that I often include animals. In Recipe for Disaster, Otto the Belgian Malinois is a working Secret Service K-9 at the White House. Spoiler alert:  Yes, he does get injured in the line of duty, but he lives. No worries, dear reader. In fact, very few of the working K-9s are injured while working to protect the president. Only one Secret Service K-9 has died in the line of duty and that was an accident. The dog slipped off the edge of a six-story parking garage during a sweep for explosives. According to accounts I read while researching the dogs, the handlers and agents were devastated. The dog received a full law enforcement burial.

In Shot in the Dark, I put another dog in the White House, Fergus the Scottish terrier. There have been many pets—including a few famous Scottish terriers—who called the White House home. FDR’s terrier, Fala, was so popular, she was the subject of a short film. Miss Beazley, the terrier owned by First Lady Laura Bush, was the first pet to be adopted by a president. Bo and Sunny were scene stealers from the Obamas during photo shoots, while who could forget Nixon’s dog, Checkers or Liberty, Gerald Ford’s beautiful golden retriever.

Obama in Children's Garden
But dogs aren’t the only pets to roam the lawns of the executive mansion. There have been a few cats, too. Including the Clinton’s feline, Socks. Other pets included hamsters and parakeets, fish, and canaries. And don’t forget the horses. Many presidents brought their own trusted mounts to live with them. Horses made a home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right up through the Kennedy administration when Vice President Johnson gifted a pony named Macaroni to Caroline Kennedy.

And there were a few exotic pets, too, including a one-legged rooster Teddy Roosevelt owned and a raccoon gifted to Calvin Coolidge that was supposed to be dinner, but who was spared and kept as a pet by the First Family. The Coolidge family ended up with a second raccoon before they left Washington, not to mention a pet bobcat named Smoky! Benjamin Harrison kept a pair of opossums while he was in office. Martin Van Buren wanted to keep a pair of tiger cubs gifted to him by the Sultan of Oman, but Congress quashed that idea, forcing the president to donate the animals to a zoo, instead.

Speaking of zoos, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park has a few scenes in the Shot in the Dark. I’m grateful for the docents within the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) who took the time to answer my many questions and show me around the Elephant Trails exhibit—including the poop pit! I truly am lucky to have this career. And yes, I do base my characters in places I’d love to research, because why not?



I have signed copies of both books in the Men of the Secret Service series (digital copies if the winner is international) for one randomly selected person. Just tell me below if you could get unlimited access, what famous place would you love to explore? 







Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review - - Ask Me to Stay


Ask Me to Stay
by Terri Osburn
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 


Author Liza Teller’s new book is something of a mystery. She’s been hired to ghostwrite the memoir of Ray Wallis, an elderly stranger eager to share a very personal and surprising life story. The moment Liza arrives on beautiful Haven Island off the South Carolina coast, she has to ask: Out of all the semi-successful writers with stalled careers in the world, why her?
Kendall James, the dedicated ex-military man in Ray’s employ, has the same question. Why is this New Yorker in a frilly blue dress so important to Ray? But as protective and suspicious as he is, Kendall can’t help falling for the tempting outsider. And he isn’t falling alone.
As Ray’s life story unfolds, Liza and Kendall’s chemistry ignites. And all of it could be explosive. On an island this small, Liza soon discovers that there isn’t much room to hide—from the secrets of Ray’s past or from her desire for a man unwilling to give her the one thing she truly wants.

My thoughts:

I've been reading Terri Osburn's novels since her 2013 debut, enjoying the humor, heart, complex characters, and deep emotion in each story. All of those characteristics are on display in Osburn's newest book, Ask Me to Stay, though the feel of this standalone women's fiction/contemporary romance blend is different from anything Osburn has previously published. Set on a remote, private island off the coast of South Carolina, the slower pace of this story matches the ambiance of the state's Lowcountry. But don't mistake slow with boring. This story is anything but. It may evoke the soothing feeling of floating down a lazy river on a sultry, summer day but, just as with those lazy rivers, unseen secrets lurking beneath the surface keep this story moving forward and kept me fully invested in Osburn's intriguing characters and their winding journey. 

In a story such as this, it's imperative that the characters are interesting, engaging, and capable of pulling readers into their world. Osburn does a masterful job of doing just that. There are no superfluous characters in this book. Each one - whether primary or secondary - is brought to life through their words and actions, creating conflict, eliciting emotion, and pulling me deeper into their story with each revelation. I loved the push and pull between Liza and Kendall and I enjoyed their gradual evolution from adversaries to friends to much more. Their banter sparks and their chemistry sizzles but there's plenty of sigh-worthy tenderness there too. I love how Osburn opens a window into her characters' emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities though their interactions with others, not telling but showing, as we see during Liza's appearance at the island's book club meeting or her interactions with Kendall's dog, Amos. No mere canine wallpaper, the affable Pit bull is integral to Liza's evolution, her relationship with Kendall, and her overall journey. I adored him.

Ray is the linchpin that pulls this story together and could also blow it apart. It's no easy feat to reveal the truth of his life while still making him a sympathetic character that readers will forgive and accept into their hearts. With Ray, Osburn took me through a range of emotions from sweet affection, to curiosity, to disbelief, to anger, to eventual forgiveness. And tears. Such a flawed character she created but she made me care about him despite his flaws and she made me cry. I love when an author can do that.

Ask Me to Stay has my enthusiastic recommendation. I hope it won't be Terri Osburn's only foray into this type of women's fiction/contemporary romance blend. I thoroughly enjoyed it.




Have you read any of Terri Osburn's books? Do you have a favorite?

Who are your favorite authors writing this type of book? Robyn Carr, Susan Mallery, and RaeAnne Thayne are a few of mine.

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, March 7 will receive a Kindle copy of Ask Me to Stay.

I have a second giveaway to add to today's post. The author of Ask Me to Stay has graciously offered a signed, print copy of the book to one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, March 7. (open internationally)