Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review - - Ayesha At Last

by Uzma Jalaluddin
Publisher: Berkeley  
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

I am a sucker for a twist on Pride & Prejudice (or a Beatrice & Benedick, where I think the whole trope of pride and prejudice first went viral when it came to romantic pairings.) Therefore when I saw a summer beach read list that said, “It’s a Muslim Pride & Prejudice,” I bought it immediately. I did not regret my purchase--even though I am rather stingy when it comes to trade paperbacks--and I lapped up every page of mistaken identity, Pride & Prejudice ‘I-Know-It!’ scene, and immersive detail that felt like I was invited into my Muslim neighbor’s home for some samosas and gossip. It was by turns hilarious and farcical, and also uncomfortable and real. It was one of those experiences where you thought you’d just enjoy it for its own sake, but came out learning so much more. 

Blurb: Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejectng her hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices, and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

Khalid is not your usual romantic hero in the romance cover sense. While he is honorable, kind, smart, a loving son and brother, hardworking, and funny, he is also uber-religious, has a long beard, and wears robes instead of more modern apparel. I think the author did a clever twist in that Khalid tapped into the prejudices readers would associate with the original Mr. Darcy (OMG, the things that come out of his mouth!), but his outer appearance as well as his conservative behavior tapped into the reader’s prejudice of what one thinks of a fundamentalist Muslim. It certainly made me consider my own prejudices--or assumptions--and after a while, the beard grew on me. Khalid really was a dreamy romantic hero worth rooting for. 

Ayesha is lovely and amazing--the best kind of heroine in my book: beautiful, smart, sassy, kind, hilarious, and brave. She’s the heroine of a thousand books--and many of my friends. She was easy to relate to and see in the world, a well-rounded character. The author also does a great job of creating secondary characters that also reflect other romantic ideals of love. Ayesha’s grandparents are adorable and in love. Ayesha’s best friend Clare and her boyfriend, Rob, are also loving and complicated. Khalid’s sister and her husband--a surprising couple. Love comes in many ways, in its own time. 

But it’s not all lovey-dovey romance. Oh, no. This is a close community with lots of aunties and arranged marriages and teas. There is gossip, there is pettiness, there is revenge. It’s by turns horrifying and hilarious. And again, it feels very much like Everyman because we’ve all belonged to these communities who are all up in everyone’s business, causing more drama than was ever needed but entertaining everyone just the same. 

If you’re as much a fan of Pride & Prejudice as I am, I suggest giving this one a try. While there is no ‘wet shirt’ scene to swoon over, there is a scene between Ayesha and Khalid after they have a date (of sorts) that positively burned up the page. Pure romance and top dish!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Winners - - Karen Hawkins

The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

Love in the Afternoon by Karen Hawkins is:


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of 

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins is:


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Who's Your Daddy

The randomly chosen winner of a 

Kindle copy of Who's Your Daddy is:

Carol L


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Tour Review - - One Fine Duke

One Fine Duke
by Lenora Bell
School for Dukes - Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Raised in the countryside by her overprotective uncle, Miss Mina Penny’s dream of a triumphant London season is finally here. She determined her perfect match long ago: Rafe Bentley, the wickedest rake of them all. There’s only one very large, very unyielding obstacle: Rafe’s brother Drew, the reclusive Duke of Thorndon.
This was supposed to be simple. Duke goes to London. Duke selects suitable bride. Love match? Not a chance. But when Drew meets Mina, she complicates everything. How can a lady armed with such beauty and brains fall for his irresponsible degenerate of a brother? Drew vows to save her from heartbreak and ruin, no matter the cost.
But Mina is no damsel in distress. She’s daring, intuitive, passionate…and halfway to melting Drew’s cold heart. And although Mina thought she knew exactly what she wanted, one breathtakingly seductive kiss from Drew changes everything. Now Mina must decide between long-held dreams and dangerous new desires. Could her true destiny lie in the arms of a duke?

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this new book by Lenora Bell. It's filled with likable protagonists, witty banter, emotional depth, and feel-good, laugh-out-loud humor that had me smiling from beginning to end. Mina is everything I would have wanted (but probably wouldn't have had the courage) to be had I lived in Regency England. And Drew? Seriously swoon-worthy. He's sexy as all get out but also dealing with severe, long-term PTSD from a traumatic incident in his youth. I wanted to hug him one minute and have my wicked way with him the next. Kind of like Mina does. These two have some incendiary chemistry between them. I love how Mina challenges Drew and how he supports her. I love how they work together to vanquish their enemies and gain the life together that neither knew they wanted...or needed. They're one of my favorite romance couples this year.  I adored them, both individually and as a couple. 

Bell is at the top of her game in this novel. Adventurous, witty, heart-tugging, and oh-so-sensual. It's going straight to my keeper shelf where I have no doubt it will be visited again and again.   

Have you read any of Lenora Bell's books?

Do you have a favorite?

What's the last book that made you laugh out loud?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, July 17, will receive a print copy of One Fine Duke. (U.S. only)



“There he is, Wilhelmina,” Grizzy whispered, staring reverently across the crowded ballroom. “The Duke of Thorndon.”
Holy hell he’s handsome, thought Mina.
Jaw-dropping-on-the-floor handsome. Drool-on-your-lace-fichu handsome.
Distract her from her plan with his brother, handsome.
Her uncle had been right. Thorndon was a fine figure of a man. Objectively speaking, the finest she’d ever beheld. 
Tall as a doorframe, with a face hewn from the same granite as the rugged Cornish coastline.
A face rendered seductive by contrasts: sharp cheekbones and curved, sensuous lips. Gleaming ebony hair brushed his collar. His eyes were a light, gold-tinged brown—the only warm thing about him. 
He owned this ballroom. Literally. And he owned everyone in it by dint of his oversized presence and the cold, unsmiling arrogance scrawled across his face. 
He didn’t even follow the dictates of fashion, preferring plain black attire to the white pantaloons and gaily-colored waistcoats of the other gentlemen.
Why should he follow the dictates of fashion? Everyone should follow him.
“When you’re introduced to Thorndon, pray speak as seldom as possible,” Grizzy whispered. “Attempt to appear biddable and do try to recall my decorum lessons. Remember, no one in London knows anything about you, thank the Lord.”
Mina had seen several polished, elegant young ladies staring at her, nudging each other and whispering. She was an outsider, a usurper, her proper place in the social hierarchy not yet established. 
They needn’t worry. She had no designs upon their prize duke. And she was about as unpolished as a debutante could be—as rough as an un-sanded plank. If anyone touched her they might get splinters.
She longed to shed her country skin swiftly and emerge as the sophisticated social butterfly her mother had been. But she knew that it would take time, observation, and experimentation.
Her first flirtatious conversation, first kiss, first taste of brandy, first adventure…it was all ahead of her. 
She couldn’t wait to taste it all.


Lenora Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has lived and worked on five continents. She currently lives in New Zealand with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves hearing from readers! Sign up for her mailing list to hear about new books, sales, and giveaways.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Cover Reveal & Excerpt - - Between Me & You by Kimberly Kincaid

Between Me & You
by Kimberly Kincaid
Remington Medical - Book 3
Publisher: Kimberly Kincaid
Release Date: August 13, 2019

From USA Today best-seller Kimberly Kincaid comes an enemies-to-lovers story full of emotion and heat. This full-length romance features a muscle-bound veteran flight medic and a smart, tart female CEO finding happily ever after...the hard way.

He hates the corporate world.
She's all business.
Now they have to work together
on the one job that could
make or break them both...

Connor became a flight medic
for one reason, and
one reason only.
To help people.
If he can keep his head down
and his past in the past while he's at it?
Even better.

Until Harlow appears to upend his world
with an offer he can't refuse.

She's calculating. Composed.
And she'll stop at nothing to make
her father's business successful.

Even if that means teaming up with Connor
to turn around a failing clinic.

He shouldn't like her.
He definitely shouldn't want her.
But the more they work together
the less he's able to resist.

But Connor's secrets run deep.
Will Harlow's ambition ruin him,

or will she be his salvation?


Because this was so popular with the last book, Kimberly Kincaid is going to do it again! Everyone who preorders BETWEEN ME & YOU and signs up with this form (link below) will get a bonus scene via email!

✅ Use this form to sign up. If you don't fill this out, you won't get the scene! So make sure you do.

✅ Please note: the author can't double check this for you later, to see if you signed up or to make sure you typed your email address in properly, so please make sure you keep track of that and double check your sign-ups before clicking submit!

✅ Bonus material will NOT be available to anyone else--ONLY preorder people--and it won’t be released at any time in 2019, or possibly beyond. I (Kimberly Kincaid) try really hard to keep exclusive stuff, well...exclusive. So, if you want it? Sign up now! You may not get another chance to get this scene (DIFFERENT than the last bonus scene!)

πŸš‘ Amazon
πŸš‘ Barnes and Noble
πŸš‘ Goodreads

Previous books in the series (books one and two stand alone, but book 3 contains some series spoilers, so all are best read in order!)

BACK TO YOU (start here!)

BETTER THAN ME (then here!)

PJ, here. I loved the first two books in this series and am so excited for the release of book three, Between Me & You! For more information on what I loved about books one and two, check out my 5-star reviews of Back to You and Better Than Me. And don't miss the giveaway of book one, Back to You, at the end of the post. 

Excerpt (not PG-13)
Between Me & You

Connor hadn’t even made it more than a few steps over the threshold of the clinic before he’d run into a crush of people in various states of injury or illness. Most of the waiting room chairs were occupied, and after getting one woman an ice pack she should’ve received when she’d been triaged and sending a badly bleeding teenager directly to the ED to get the gash in his arm tended to by a surgeon, Connor finally moved past the intake desk and headed to the office in the back of the building.

The door was shut, but the blinds on the window beside it weren’t, allowing him to see inside. Harlow sat primly behind the sleek, walnut desk, a pair of red-framed glasses perched on the bridge of her nose as she pored over something on the laptop screen in front of her.

Her chin was tilted slightly downward, her gaze focused and serious, and for one bright, impulsive instant, Connor wondered what she looked like when she laughed. With her hair all mussed from sleep. When she was caught up in a moment of pure, hot pleasure, and Jesus H. Christ on a Pop-Tart, was he insane? Of all the times to think with his dick, now was probably the most inopportune. He needed to be completely on guard around this woman, not get all gee-I-wonder about what she looked like halfway to orgasm.

Damn, he’d bet she was really fucking pretty when she laughed, though.

Clearing his throat, Connor forced his spine to full attention and his cock to stand down, then placed a sharp trio of knocks on the door in front of him. Harlow’s ice-blue eyes widened as she looked up from her desk, but only by a fraction, and by the time she’d waved him over the threshold, any traces of surprise had disappeared as if they’d never existed.

“Mr. Bradshaw,” she said, and oh yeah, no. They had to nip that in the bud right freaking now.

“No mister,” he corrected. Guard up. “It’s not really my thing.”

Harlow nodded. “Lieutenant, then.”

Oh, the shit Declan and the rest of the guys in his unit would give him for that would last days on end. “No lieutenant, either.” Connor shook his head. “Retired military personnel don’t usually go by their rank. It’s kind of considered bad form.”

“I apologize.” Her voice softened by the smallest degree. “I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
“None taken. Connor is fine.”

Just like that, Harlow’s all-business demeanor settled right back into place. “But what will you have the staff call you, then?”

Connor blinked. “Well, my first name has worked up ’til now with everyone in the ICU and ED. I don’t really see a reason to change that,” he said. In fact, he hadn’t even given it a thought.

“You want everyone to call you by your first name,” Harlow said slowly, as if he’d just suggested the earth was flat and they should all go cannonballing over the edge. “The medical staff, the patients. The members of the board?”

He bit back the temptation to tell her he didn’t want to be anything-Bradshaw, especially with the members of the board. He wasn’t some uptight VP who needed to lord his power over other people. “Sure. Why not?”

If the look on Harlow’s face was anything to go by, the answer to Connor’s question was about to arrive adamantly and in list form. “Well, for one, you’re a director now.”

“It’s just a title, like mister or lieutenant,” Connor argued. He knew he should at least try to keep the heat in his veins away from his voice—if he made a big deal about his name, her radar would surely start to ping, full-bore. But come on. Was she seriously trying to tell him how to have his own staff address him? “What people call me isn’t going to affect how I do the job.”

“The title still matters,” she replied. That she’d controlled her words with near-surgical precision didn’t make them any less of an argument. She gestured to the hallway over his shoulder, leading out to the clinic beyond. “All those physician’s assistants and nurses and staff members out there? You’re their boss now.”

Oh, here we fucking go. “So? That doesn’t make me better than they are.”

Harlow surprised him by conceding. Sort of. “No, it doesn’t. But you’re still in a position of power. Business hierarchies exist for a reason, and titles are part of that. How your staff perceives you is going to have a direct impact on your ability to manage them.”

Finally, one (and only one) thing on which they could agree. “I know I’m kind of new to this side of things, but I promise, my ability to manage the staff will be just fine. And since they are mine to manage as the director of ops”—he made sure his tone turned it into enough of a riiiiight? to make it a point and not flat-out provocation before adding—“Connor it is.”

He gestured to the center of the scrubs he purposely hadn’t changed out of, and after a beat, Harlow sat back against her office chair.

“Suit yourself, I suppose. At any rate, I didn’t expect to see you down here so soon.”

“What can I say?” Connor shrugged amiably. “I’m full of surprises.”

That is an understatement.”

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet and hot and edgy romantic suspense. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to Γ©clairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a USA Today best-selling author and a 2016 and 2015 RWA RITA® finalist and 2014 Bookseller’s Best nominee who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.

Connect with Kimberly:

Stay up to date with Kimberly by joining her mailing list:

Have you read any of the books in Kimberly Kincaid's Remington Medical series?

Do you enjoy hospital/medical romances?

Are you as excited to read Connor's story as I am?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 16 will receive a Kindle copy of book one in the Remington Medical series: Back to You

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sneak Peek Excerpt and Giveaway - - The Book Charmer

I just finished reading an advance copy of Karen Hawkins' upcoming women's fiction novel, The Book Charmer and am happy to report that I was thoroughly charmed. I'll be sharing my thoughts about the book on July 31 when Karen Hawkins  joins us for a Q&A. In the meantime, I'm delighted to share an exclusive excerpt from The Book Charmer along with an early copy of the book for one lucky reader who comments on this post (see end of post for details). For an introduction to the Dove Pond series, download the e-novella, Love in the Afternoon, a funny and heartwarming story where "a cranky old ghost tries to help his former hermit-like next door neighbor to open his heart to the potential of True Love." I adored it. 

The Book Charmer
by Karen Hawkins
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: July 30, 2019

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.


Sarah spun on her heel and raced across the street, the books clutched against her hip.
When she reached the library, she took the steps to the door two at a time, almost stumbling in her haste. As she unlocked the doors, Sarah could feel Mrs. Emily’s blazing dislike burning a hole between her shoulder blades.
The doors banged closed behind Sarah as the calming smell of old books and the murmurs of various tomes welcomed her. Heart still racing, she closed her eyes and leaned against the wall while the cool, air-conditioned chilliness soothed her hot cheeks.
Forget them. Think about finally meeting Grace. That’s what’s really important—Grace and Dove Pond. It took a moment, but Sarah slowly regained control of her thoughts. Grace Wheeler was important to the salvation of Dove Pond, that much was clear. But how?
That question needed answering. Fortunately, Sarah knew where to start. Sometimes the only way to begin a journey to the future was with a gentle shove from the past.
She left the wall and set the stack of books she’d been carrying onto the return cart. Then she took out her keys and headed downstairs to the Dove Pond archives, where Charlotte Dove’s cranky journal safely dozed in its glass case, far away from the damaging sunlight and unfiltered air.
The book had aged over the years and it slept more and spoke less. In fact, it had been more than a year since Sarah’d exchanged more than a sleepy hello with it.
She unlocked the door, flipped on the lights, and stepped inside. Rows of shelves and cases filled the basement, the remnants of Dove Pond’s long history. She walked past the boxes and bins and went instead to the far corner, where the journal dozed on an acid-free pillow she’d bought from a library supply catalog her first day on the job.
She softly tapped on the case, but the book slept on.
She waited a moment and then, impatient, tapped the glass a little louder.
The book stirred, grumbling as it reluctantly came awake.
“Hi, sleepyhead,” Sarah said. “Are you up?”
What do you want?
Long gone were the days the journal wanted Sarah to read it. For all of her expertise in the Dewey Decimal System, the previous librarian Nebbie Farmer hadn’t known how to care for an ancient book. And so the journal had been displayed near a sunny window, the glass case magnifying rather than reducing the harmful rays. Nebbie had also placed the poor book on colorful but acidic paper, which had slowly broken down the glue that held it together. The years of unintended neglect had left their mark and the journal’s pages were now delicate, the leather cover laced with deeper cracks, the binding ragged and failing, and its temper— which had never been good—infinitely more curmudgeonly.
Sarah crossed her arms and leaned on the case, peering through the dim light at the journal. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a question.”
The book grumbled, but she couldn’t make out the words, so she continued. “There’s a new woman in town and I think she’s a sign that Dove Pond is about to be saved.”
The book said something under its breath.
“What?” Sarah asked.
I’m not your personal seer, the book groused.
“Look, I just want to know how she’s going to help. That’s your job, isn’t it? To explain how I’m going to meet my destiny? How I’m supposed to save our town?”
The book didn’t answer, and after a moment, Sarah tapped her finger on the glass.
The book jolted as if reawakened.
“Her name is Grace Wheeler,” Sarah said.
The book said in a sharp tone, Ask another book! I’m sleeping.
Sarah had to fight not to snap out something unpleasant. “Come on,” she pleaded. “This is about Dove Pond, and that’s what you’re about. No other book here would know.”
That’s true, the book said grumpily. It sighed and then rustled, as if searching for an answer.
Sarah tried to contain her excitement. She tucked a strand of loose hair behind her ear and, as the minutes lengthened, jiggled her foot impatiently under the case.
Finally, she could stand it no more. Just as she opened her mouth to ask her question again, the book spoke.
She’s the one.
Yes! There it was. Confirmation at last. “I knew she was important! But what will she do? I know she’s here to help me, but how?”
You’ll know.
The book’s flat tone suggested that was all the help it was willing to give. Sarah bit back a frustrated sigh and said, “Come on. Just explain what you mean and I’ll leave you alone.”
She supposed she was lucky it had taken the time to say what it had. “Fine. I’ll make it work. It’s not ideal, having an assistant, because I always thought I’d be the one to do all the work when the time came to save Dove Pond, but hey, I’ve never been one to turn down help, so—yes. This will be great. But I hope she hurries and does whatever she’s supposed to do, because she’s not planning on staying long.”
The book, which had been drifting back asleep as she spoke, suddenly stiffened, the pages rustling. What?
Sarah blinked. “I spoke to her not five minutes ago and she says she’ll be here a year, if that, and no more.”
She has to stay.
“Has to? Like . . . forever?”
Yes, forever. The book couldn’t have sounded more irritated.
“But why? I mean, once she’s helped the town, she can leave, because I’ll still be here.”
She has to stay forever.
Sarah gave an uneasy laugh. “I wish she would, because I’m sure she’s nice once you get to know her, but I can’t just make someone stay in Dove Pond who doesn’t want to. I couldn’t even get my sisters to stay, and I know them.”
She. Has. To. Stay. The book hissed each word, punctuating them as if with a hammer.
Sarah grimaced. “That’s not going to be easy.”
The book didn’t answer but muttered something about “silly people” as it settled deeper into its cushion. Soon, the only noise coming from it was a faint snore, and Sarah knew it was done for the day.
“Well, I guess that’s that.” She straightened, absently staring down at the old journal as she thought about the situation. Of course, she was ecstatic that things were going to turn around for Dove Pond. That was the best news ever, even if she didn’t know exactly how. And despite talking to the book, she still didn’t know why or even how Grace was important, which was frustrating, to say the least.
But progress was progress and Sarah refused to see this new development negatively. Things weren’t happening exactly the way she’d envisioned, but then again, what in life did? She should be happy to have a helper, even a reluctant one. “I’ll just have to convince her to stay.”
From upstairs, Sarah heard footsteps and the faint echo of a child laughing. She looked at the clock and realized it was almost time for Children’s Hour.
Feeling more hopeful than she had in a long time, Sarah patted the case one last time and left the archives, locking the door behind her. Soon, she was too busy to dwell on the events of the morning, although every once in a while, she’d stop what she was doing and smile.
It was finally happening. Dove Pond was going to be saved.


I love the magic realism in this story. Hawkins makes it so organic and realistic. 

Readers, have you read any other books with magic realism?

Have you read any of Karen Hawkins' books? Do you have a favorite book or series?

Sarah has the ability to converse with books. If you could have the magical ability to converse with something, what would you choose?

Karen Hawkins has graciously offered an early print copy of The Book Charmer to one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, July 15. (open internationally)

I'm giving away a Kindle copy of the introductory e-novella, Love in the Afternoon to one randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, July 15.