Friday, September 20, 2019

Review - - The Fixer Upper


The Fixer Upper
by Maggie Mae Gallagher
Echo Springs - Book 1
Publisher: Blushing Books
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 



Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break. 

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he’s discovered a journal hidden away by the previous tenant, and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life. 

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed. The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around – even though she should, because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing – because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

My thoughts:

There are some books I love, some I like, and some that are just okay. Then there are those few that I stumble upon and, within the first chapter, get that feeling that the author has written this story just for me. Everything syncs. This was my first book by this author but I had an immediate connection with the characters, the humor took me straight back to my childhood and the things we'd laugh ourselves silly over within my family, and I felt like I had a personal stake in the outcome of the couple's relationship. Gallagher had me laughing one minute, wiping away tears the next, and vigorously fanning myself the one after that. She's hilarious and writes with so much heart as well as some delicious heat. I adored both Abby and Nate and fell head over heels in love with Rufus, Nate's goofy dog. Gallagher really has the Great Dane personality nailed. So much so, that he darn near steals every scene he's in. Then there's the throwback love story featuring Abby's unmarried aunt, told through journal entries (his, not hers), that provides a guiding light for Abby and Nate's deepening relationship. That relationship, between two characters who had already passed on, engaged my emotions just as deeply as the one between Nate and Abby that was playing out on the pages. And yes, there were tears. 

Then there are the intriguing secondary characters, both male and female. Gallagher gives them enough page time - and drops just enough delicious clues about each of them - to have me already eagerly anticipating their stories. I'll be returning to Echo Springs for as many books as she decides to write. 

This one has my 5-star, feel-good, enthusiastic recommendation. 


~~~~~~~~~~

What's the last book you read that felt like the author had written it just for you?

Have you read The Fixer Upper yet?

Do you have a goofy dog in your life? Tell me about them.

Today's my birthday and you know what that means. Gifts for you! :) 

One person who comments before 11:00 PM (EST) tonight will receive a $20 Amazon (U.S.) e-gift card. 

One person who comments before 11:00 PM (EST) tonight will receive a package of books from my conference stash. (U.S. only) 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Review and Q&A - - London's Late Night Scandal


London's Late Night Scandal
by Anabelle Bryant
Midnight Secrets - Book 3
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    



In Anabelle Bryant’s novel of unexpected romance, a lord and lady learn that not all emotions can be expressed in the light of day . . .
 
Chief Officer of the Society for the Intellectually Advanced, Lord Matthew Strathmore, Earl of Whittingham, takes his position very seriously. Not only does it distract him from the painful aftermath of a gunshot wound to the leg, earned most honorably, it is important work. So he feels duty-bound to question esteemed scientist Lord Talbot about a suspect article. Matthew dashes from London to Oxfordshire, despite wretched weather that only exacerbates his injury, reminding him he is far from the dashing gentleman he once was . . .
 
Theodosia, Lord Talbot’s granddaughter, has inherited his gift for inquiry, enjoying her pursuits safely away from the artifice of London society. But her identity as the true author of Talbot’s article is about to be exposed. And if Matthew expects a dour bluestocking, surprises abound. Not only do Theodosia’s botanical concoctions soothe his leg, he’s clearly attracted by her delicate beauty. But dare she hope for more? It will take an urgent trip to London for both to discover how passion and lasting love can ignite under the cover of darkness . . .



My thoughts:

Add another author to my auto-buy list. I thoroughly enjoyed this story by Anabelle Bryant and can't wait to dive into more of her books. Matthew and Theodosia are wonderfully complex characters, obviously made for one another. Bryant gives them intriguing layers, challenging obstacles, and heartrending baggage to overcome before skillfully guiding them to their happily ever after and I was with them every step of the way. I adored their banter, their intellect, and their slowly evolving passion. I appreciated the care and sensitivity the author used in depicting Theodosia's grandfather's debilitating disease while also showcasing the reality of the marked difference in how people react to those suffering from dementia and other similar conditions. There's one scene in particular where Matthew's behavior had me in tears - the good kind - and convinced me he was worthy of both Theodosia's love and mine. 

Bryant's prose is beautiful and evocative, stealing my breath with its mental images and eliciting emotions with ease. Take this passage, during the time when Theodosia is fighting her deepening feelings for Matthew:

First her parents, and now Grandfather. She couldn't bear to fall in love and be broken again. Loneliness didn't hurt nearly as much if nothing was at risk. 

Or this one, during a visit to the British museum:

Winter's distant sunlight poured through the high windows positioned near the crown molding. The noises surrounding them - discreet conversations and nearby footfalls - faded away. The moment became timeless, as if divinity entered the room, fragile and precious for its rarity. 

Is it any wonder I'm looking forward to reading more from this talented author? 

London's Late Night Scandal is the third book in Bryant's Midnight Secrets series but stands on its own. Feel free to begin with Matthew and Theodosia's story. In the meantime, I'll be over in the corner, losing myself in the first two books of the series: London's Wicked Affair and London's Best Kept Secret. I can't wait! 


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




Q&A with Anabelle Bryant


Hi Anabelle! It was such a delight to meet you at RWA this summer. Thanks for visiting with us today at The Romance Dish.

Your newest novel, London’s Late Night Scandal, will release next week and I’m so excited for everyone to have the opportunity to read it. Please tell our readers what they can expect from this third book in your Midnight Secrets series.

London’s Late Night Scandal is the story of a scholarly woman and a wounded earl who discover life together is the answer to all their heartache. Naturally, the course to this discovery is difficult, but while Theodosia and Matthew immediately realize their affinity for the sciences makes them uniquely similar, they fight their physical attraction until the heart wins out. This novel was my first with holiday elements and I believe the subtle touches of Christmas added another layer of romantic warmth. It can be read as a standalone novel.

I adored Theodosia and Matthew. Which of their scenes together did you have the most fun writing? Which was most difficult?

I enjoyed the snappy conversations between Theodosia and Matthew. Their growing relationship is revealed through the novel as their conversations become more meaningful and intimate. Creating the push and pull of their relationship and highlighting it through, not just their interactions with each other, but also their decisions and reflections was always important to me. I had a lot of fun writing the initial scenes when Matthew is pursuing Theodosia and she’d rather he left the estate and never returned. She chose her brain over her heart…but her heart never stood a chance.

It was difficult at times to write the scenes involving Theodosia’s grandfather’s condition. While I wanted to keep it factual, I strove for tenderness and I’m pleased with the result.

I enjoyed the scientific (medical, botanical, etc.) tidbits scattered throughout this book. What did you discover during your research for London’s Late Night Scandal that most fascinated you?

We have so many remedies and conveniences that we all take for granted. Something as simple as healing chapped lips was a great undertaking during the Regency era. While I researched botanical cures and herbology, I was surprised to read how many minor ailments people suffer with today, were prevalent in the early 1800s and just as much of a nuisance.

Your bio indicates that you’re an avid traveler. What place have you visited that most “speaks to” your soul? What location is at the top of your travel wish list?

I want to answer England, since I’ve visited twice and write about that time period but my heart’s connection is to Paris if I’m speaking from a traveler’s perspective. Something about Paris enchants me and I can’t wait to the next opportunity I have to visit.

I’ve never traveled to Greece and it’s at the top of my travel wish. Any location with a rich culture and history is an immediately temptation for me.

What’s next from Anabelle Bryant?

If you’ve read London’s Best Kept Secret, you’re acquainted with the Earl of Lindsey, a nobleman who is more rogue than titled gentleman. He’s a character who insisted on his own story so look for the fourth Midnight Secrets book in 2020.

Let’s do a fun five to help readers get to know you.

Title at the top of your books waiting to be read: The Secret History of Georgian London by Dan Cruickshank

Favorite fall dessert: Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream

Favorite subject to photograph: Interesting places, doors, windows

Favorite stress reliever: Quiet. I like to sit in a room with absolute quiet and just breathe.

Favorite French fries: LOL! It's true. I love French Fries. My favorite fries are from Little Mac's on the NJ boardwalk.

Thank you for visiting with us, Anabelle!  Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thanks so much for reading. I do have a question. I strive to write historical romance based in history and reality, but I often wonder if that matters to readers. Would you rather read a historical romance with a conceivable plot and smart characterization or an outlandish one that is pure escapism?

Oooh...that's an intriguing question. What say you, readers? 



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Coastal Magic Author Spotlight - - Beverly Jenkins





Morning, Everyone! As I told you in July, I'll be attending the Coastal Magic Convention 2020 next February in Daytona Beach, Florida. As part of my role as a featured blogger at the convention, I'm highlighting seven Coastal Magic Featured Authors between July 2019 and January 2020. The second author in our spotlight is the highly regarded and much loved Beverly Jenkins. I've been a fan of Ms. Jenkins for many years and had the pleasure of meeting her several times at conferences but it wasn't until about a year ago that I discovered we shared a connection. We're the same age, both love sports, especially football, both attended Michigan State University, and were actually students there at the same time. We didn't know each other back then but I am so happy, and honored, to know this remarkable woman now. She has given so much of herself to the romance industry and to those writers within, especially to women of color striving to bring their words to readers everywhere. She is, in her own words, a "slayer of words," as evidenced by the Romance Writers of America® honoring her in 2017 with the organization's Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award and the legion of fans who eagerly anticipate each new story that flows from her heart and mind. Her published books focus on African-American life in historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense and young adult/teen romance. She's been featured in the documentary "Love Between the Covers" and in a special feature on CBS Sunday Morning. 

If you haven't read any of Ms. Bev's books yet, I recommend you begin with her most recent release, REBEL. This first book in her new Women Who Dare historical romance series takes readers back to the Reconstruction era of New Orleans. It's there that we meet Valinda Lacy, a young woman from New York who dares to defy the expectations of both society and her family in her quest to teach freed slaves of all ages reading, writing, and other subjects that had previously been denied them. It's there that we also meet the charming and tenderhearted Captain Drake LeVeq, an architect from a well-known and successful New Orleans family who frees the suppressed hellion lurking inside straight-laced Valinda and captures her heart in the process. It's an emotional journey, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming, that brings the joy and the pain of 1867 New Orleans to life. Jenkins' paints a vivid picture of the lives of people of color in that era that I was never taught in school and delivers it in such a way that the story immerses me into their lives and the world in which they lived. It's a history lesson that doesn't feel like a lesson. When I finish one of her books, I'm not left with the feeling that I've read about her characters but, rather, that I've taken a journey with them and experienced the same emotions; the fear, anger, and frustration with the injustices they face but also, the humor and love that fill them with joy. I have fallen in love with the passion, bravery, and heart of the LeVeq family. I have great admiration for Drake's mother, love the dynamic among the brothers, and fell hard for Drake.  I love the passion and tenderness between him and Valinda. I love how he supports her dreams and the way their relationship evolves from friendship to more. I love how she finally discovers the strength within her, takes control of her life, and realizes her dreams. I was in their corner the entire way, hoping the obstacles between them could be overcome and lead to a life of love and happiness together. If you have yet to discover Beverly Jenkins' novels, it's a great place to jump in. 

For more information about Ms. Bev and her novels, visit her website. Connect with her online at Facebook and Twitter





Q&A with Ms. Bev

Tell us about your favorite childhood or young adult memory?

I had such a great childhood that trying to narrow it down to a single memory is difficult. Do I pick my first Detroit TIGERS baseball game at aged ten, or my first Detroit LIONS football game at age nine? What about the memories of growing up directly across the street from a city park and all the fun tied to that? Or should I share what it was like growing up with six siblings in a house filled with laughter and love? Let's just say I had a great time growing up on the east side of Detroit. 

What's your favorite comfort food and why?

I love old fashioned, made from scratch banana pudding. I also love yeast breads.

Who is your favorite author who more people need to be reading? What makes her/his books special? (Feel free to list a few if narrowing it to one is impossible.) 

Authors I believe should be better known: Vivien Jackson - her fantasy romance Wanted and Wired, was one of my best picks for 2018; Cheris Hodges and Deb Mello both write amazing contemporary romance featuring strong female characters; and A.C. Arthur because she writes everything from contemporary to shapeshifters and does it well. Readers should check them out. 

What's your favorite non-writing activity?

My favorite non writing activities: gardening and baking.

What's your favorite music/group/artist to get your groove on?
   
I grew up in Detroit during the height of MOTOWN, so put all those old groups and singers on my list. I also love Sade, Jill Scott, and Anthony Hamilton. 

Thank you so much for visiting with us today!

Readers, Ms. Bev would like to know: In your reading world, what elements make for a good romance? 

Two people who comment before 11:00 PM, September 20, will each receive a copy of REBEL. (U.S. only)  


Beverly Jenkins is the recipient of the 2018 Michigan Author Award by the Michigan Library Association, the 2017 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the 2016 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for historical romance. She has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature, was featured in both the documentary Love Between the Covers and on CBS Sunday Morning. Since the publication of Night Song in 1994, she has been leading the charge for inclusive romance, and has been a constant darling of reviewers, fans, and her peers alike, garnering accolades for her work from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, and NPR. If you would like to be notified when Beverly Jenkins has new releases, events, and other news, sign up for her newsletter at www.beverlyjenkins.net



The first novel in USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins’s compelling new series follows a Northern woman south in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War . . .
Valinda Lacy’s mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.
As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.
      

  
   

  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Review, Giveaway, and Author Q&A - - To Wed a Wild Scot

To Wed a Wild Scot
by Anna Bradley
Besotted Scots - Book 2
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    




Some brides like it wilder...

A single lady of birth, beauty, and large fortune should not have this much trouble making a match. Yet after two failed betrothals, Lady Juliana Bernard is in a bind. She must find a husband at once or lose guardianship of her beloved niece. Her childhood friend the Duke of Blackmore is her last, best hope, but once she tracks him down in Scotland, she receives startling news.

First,the duke is already engaged. Second, it's his brother Logan's fault Juliana is now lacking a bridegroom. So, what's a lady to do when she's lost her betrothed?Marry his scandalous brother, the Laird of Clan Kinross.

Wooing does not go well at first. But just as Juliana begins to welcome the boisterous but tenderhearted Scot into her life (and her bed), secrets come between them once more. And it will take a determined husband indeed to ensure that a marriage begun in haste leads not to heartache...but to love.


My thoughts:

Anna Bradley has combined two of my favorite tropes in this newest installment of her Besotted Scots series. I was intrigued by Lady Juliana Bernard after meeting her in the first book of the series, The Wayward Bride and looked forward to reading her story, especially after her selfless gesture in that book. I enjoy a heroine who takes her future into her own hands and Lady Juliana certainly does that. I liked her, cheered for her, and celebrated the happiness she finally finds...with a most unexpected hero. 

I really liked Logan's loyalty to his clan, and to Juliana and Grace, once he commits. He was in a no-win situation when he took it upon himself to interfere with his brother's business in order to protect his clan, not realizing the broader effects of his actions, but I understood why he did. He has wonderful chemistry with Juliana, aided by Bradley's snappy dialogue, but there's a lot of push and pull before they finally reach the point where they can admit their feelings. I love how these two go toe to toe; how they both try to protect the other. They really could be a wonderful match, if they can just learn to trust one another and communicate

If I had one small quibble with this book, it's how the villain is dealt with. I understand Juliana's actions, and her underlying motivation, but I was left with the feeling that the villain had been rewarded for his actions as opposed to being punished and that left me disappointed. Overall, though, I enjoyed Juliana and Logan's journey and am already looking forward to whatever Anna Bradley has in store for readers next. And, as I noted in my questions below, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that those future plans will include a more complete story for secondary characters, Fitz and Emilia!

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


Hi Anna! Welcome to The Romance Dish. Thanks for visiting with us today.

Thank you so much for having me, PJ! Hello, everyone!

Your newest novel will release this week and I’m so excited for everyone to have the opportunity to read it. Please tell our readers what they can expect from To Wed a Wild Scot.

Well, I’d call it a Highland story, since most of the action takes place in Scotland. It’s an enemies-to-lovers, marriage-of-convenience tale about a heroine who needs a husband, and a hero who, due to some bad behavior (ahem), owes her a marriage. He’s a Scot who’s devoted to his clan, and he’s not enthusiastic about the prospect of marrying an Englishwoman. The heroine is the one who wants the marriage, so there’s a ‘reverse courtship’ element to the story that was so much fun to write!

Marriage of Convenience is one of my favorite romance 
tropes. What is it about this set-up that appeals to you as  an author?


I like the forced proximity element of it. If the hero and heroine are married, they can’t exactly avoid each other, and that makes for some pretty wild scenarios and some interesting character development opportunities. It’s fun to see two strong-willed characters have to work toward a truce. Marriage of convenience also allows lots of opportunities for a slow burn romance, which is my favorite kind.

Even though they’re not the hero and heroine of 
this  novel, I so want to know more about Fitz and Emilia’s journey. Have you – or do you plan to – write their story? Perhaps a novella?

Well, I hadn’t intended to, but quite a few readers have asked for that story, so now I’m reconsidering. A Christmas novella for Fitz and Emilia would be fun, or even a full-length romance, if readers want a more detailed story. They’re both wonderful secondary characters, particularly Fitz, who gets quite a lot of page time in TO WED A WILD SCOT. They deserve their own story!

How many books do you have planned for the Besotted Scots series? Are you able to share anything about the next story?

There are three books. The final book, FOR THE SAKE OF A SCOTTISH RAKE releases in February of 2020. The hero of that book is Ciaran Ramsey, the younger brother who’s introduced in MORE OR LESS A TEMPTRESS. He was a bit of a reader favorite! Ciaran gets a really lovely (if unconventional!) heroine named Lucinda (Lucy) Sutcliffe, in a friends-to-lovers romance.

Let’s do a fun five to help readers get to know you.

I’m the mother of two teenagers (help!)

I’m originally from Maine – born and raised. You can’t take New England out of the girl!

I’ve worked with books and writing my entire career – as a writing teacher, a rare books librarian, and now a writer.

I have a terrible sense of direction, and rely on my GPS far more than is healthy.

I’m allergic to gluten, and spend way too much of my time fantasizing about bread!


How about a Quick Fire round?

Binge-worthy TV show you’re currently watching:

I don’t actually watch much TV. I’m pretty hopeless about it, actually, because I’d always rather be reading a book. I can’t wait for the Downton Abbey movie, if that counts, and I do find myself trying to catch episodes of Stranger Things or The Handmaid’s Tale. If readers have any TV show recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

Favorite fall comfort food:

Any kind of soup! I love doing simple dinners with just hearty soup and maybe some really good bread. We get lots of cold, rainy days in the fall in Oregon, so soup or stew is perfect for that weather. I frequently make Italian wedding soup, broccoli and cheese and tortilla soup in my crockpot.

Favorite place to read:

I’ll read anywhere. I’ve gotten so I take a book with me wherever I go. My favorite place, though, is in my bed with my Kindle. It’s a recipe for disaster because it’s way too easy to just keep reading and reading well past my bedtime, but I’ve had the habit for as long as I can remember, and I don’t see myself breaking it anytime soon!

Dogs or cats:

An Old English Sheepdog (Barkley) and two very naughty black cats, Ollie and Odin. My husband’s pushing hard for a puppy right now, but so far, I’ve been able to hold him off!

Favorite podcast (if you listen to them):

I often listen to Dear Bitches, Smart Authors, which is a podcast by Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Jane from Dear Author. It’s wonderful, and specifically for the romance community, which I love. Another podcast I haven’t tried yet but keep hearing is amazing is Late Night Library, so I need to have a listen to that one.

Thank you for visiting with us, Anna.  Do you have anything else to add?  

Oh, I do want to add one thing. I did a 2018 Christmas novella with five other historical romance writers as part of an anthology called YULEDTIDE HAPPILY EVER AFTERS. The second volume of that anthology releases Oct. 1 of this year, so I decided to make the first story in the series, entitled BOUGHS OF FOLLY, available for free on my website. All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get access to it. It’s a fun story about an earl who falls in love with an actress.



Readers, have you read Anna's books yet? I enthusiastically recommend them all!

Anna's looking for some must-see TV shows. What would you suggest?

Two people who comment before 11:00 PM (EST), September 17, will receive an e-book copy of To Wed a Wild Scot. (U.S. only) 


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Winners - - The Fixer Upper







The randomly chosen winners of a copy of

The Fixer Upper by Maggie Mae Gallagher are:

Kate Sparks

and

Carla Loves to Read

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

New winners will be chosen for books not claimed by 9/19/19.


Winner - - BROCK







The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

BROCK by Roxanne St. Claire is:

Rachael B.

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com




Friday, September 13, 2019

Review - - India Black



INDIA BLACK
by Carol K. Carr
A Madam of Espionage Mystery - Book 1
Publisher: Berkeley
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Reviewed by Hellie






When Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, Madam India Black is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.


Blackmailed into recovering the missing documents by the British spy known as French, India finds herself dodging Russian agents-and the attraction she starts to feel for the handsome conspirator.








Hellie's Heeds:

I stumbled upon this “how did I miss this?” gem while at the library, and the opening line grabbed my attention so thoroughly, I put aside some much needed review reading to read this instead. 

My name is India Black. I am a whore.

Still, an opening line is no good without a compelling voice and the kind of wordsmithing to prove your great hook, and Ms. Carr delivers. I cracked up as India first said if you’re virtuous, you’ll put this book aside, glare at the shop owner, and then go home and sleep guilt free; but if you weren’t, but were intrigued and were hoping for a treatise on whore’s tricks, you would be sadly disappointed and the book would cost much more if it had been. 

By the time India sets the stage for what her book will cover, we’re introduced to a successful brothel madam who was looking forward to an evening of making sure her employees weren’t giving discounts to their favorite customers, but instead has to figure out how to dispose of the dead body of a frequent customer without news getting out to other brothels, leading to India’s establishment getting raked through the mud. But it’s no ordinary dead body. It is the corpse of someone who works for Queen Victoria’s government, and he had been carrying state secrets when he keeled over. Except no one knows where the documents have gone.

French, a government agent who works with PM Benjamin Disraeli, blackmails India--who was working to discard the corpse far, far from her place of business--into helping him recover the documents. What follows is a kidnapping, a near death experience at the Russian embassy, and a cross-country chase in the bitter cold to catch the bad guys before they get to Dover (to escape to France.) It’s fast paced and fun and the writer’s voice and wordcraft is to die for. If you are fan of British history, this is your series. The historical details are gritty and thoughtful and will make you want to research more about what you’re learning. The scenes with the Prime Minister Disraeli steal the show--and the line where Disraeli calls his nemesis, Gladstone who wants to become PM, “God’s Only Mistake” made me laugh out loud--and then made me laugh louder when I learned he had actually said that. 

The voice of India Black is cheeky, resourceful, and just the sort of voice of a woman who will lead you on a merry romp. I can’t wait to read more of the series. My only concern is that there are only about four books that I was able to find, but I’m not sure what has become of the author, Carol K. Carr. But I’ll worry about that once I get the series read...in the meantime, I’m off to locate the next one, India Black and the Widow of Windsor. 


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review - - Claiming Sarah


Claiming Sarah
by Susan Stoker
Ace Security - Book 5
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    


Sarah Butler isn’t flattered. She’s angry and unnerved. She’s been getting intimate gifts from a man she barely knows. Nothing threatening yet, but there’s just a weird vibe she can’t ignore. Her recourse is Ace Security. Their solution: self-defense lessons at Rock Hard Gym with a personal, hands-on instructor. One look at the bearded, tattooed, green-eyed alpha is enough to take Sarah’s breath away.
Cole Johnson is definitely the man for the job. He’s eager to train her. Eager to get closer. And when it comes to Sarah’s instincts, Cole knows she’s not imagining things. He’s also not imagining the intense attraction between them—and his desire to protect her is growing. But so are Sarah’s fears, the worst of which come true when she disappears.

Enlisting the help of Ace Security, Cole will stop at nothing to find the love of his life…before she vanishes forever.

My thoughts:

I'm relatively new to Susan Stoker's books, having read (and loved) only the first four books in her Mountain Mercenaries series. When I agreed to review Claiming Sarah, I didn't realize it was the fifth book in a different series. It didn't matter. Though earlier couples pop up here and there in this book, it didn't confuse me or detract from Sarah and Cole's story in any way. Claiming Sarah stands on its own.

This book is fast-paced, intense, and suspenseful, with chemistry between Cole and Sarah that is not only sizzling but also tender and sweet. Cole is alpha-extra (a little much for me at times) and he pursues Sarah with intensity once they connect but he's also caring and protective. Sarah is one of the kindest heroines I've read in ages. In fact, it's that kindness that lands her in the dangerous situation which leads her to Cole for self defense lessons. I enjoyed seeing her evolve throughout the story and watching her hold her own with Cole. They really do balance each other well. I was also glad that when Sarah has every reason to unleash fury during an encounter fraught with danger, her innate kindness guides her actions once again. I don't want to divulge too much for fear of venturing into spoiler territory so I'll just say that I applaud Stoker for the way she handles a situation that could have - and in real life, frequently does - end in tragedy.  


Have you read any of Susan Stoker's books?

Do you enjoy romantic suspense?

How do you feel about alpha heroes?



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Excerpt & Giveaway - - The Fixer Upper


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie Mae Gallagher grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.

Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.

Learn more about Maggie at her website. Connect with her online at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.


The Fixer Upper
by Maggie Mae Gallagher
Echo Springs - Book 1
Publisher: Blushing Books
Release Date: September 6, 2019


Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break. 

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he’s discovered a journal hidden away by the previous tenant, and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life. 

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed. The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around – even though she should, because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing – because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser? 


 The Fixer Upper by Maggie Mae Gallagher

Exclusive Excerpt for The Romance Dish

Abby opened a bleary eye at the incessant knocking originating from the front door. The clock on her nightstand declared it was just after eight in the morning. On a Saturday, no less. When the knocking didn’t stop but increased in pace, she slid out of bed with a grimace, grabbed her robe and put her glasses on as she headed downstairs.
First order of business for today, kill whoever was at the door. Second, make coffee. Abby was not a fan of mornings. In fact, it was better just to leave her be until she’d had, at the very minimum, one cup of coffee—two were better, three were optimal. Did she have a problem where coffee was concerned? Probably. Did she care? Not in the slightest.
Who the hell was at her door at this hour? She was thinking maybe she should have grabbed her nine-iron until she heard a deep rumbling woof. Rufus, which meant it was Sheriff Stud Muffin banging on her door at this ungodly hour. It would be bad form to kill the sheriff, wouldn’t it? Running a hand over her hair, wishing like hell she had thought to run a brush through it, she unlocked and opened the door. Rufus’ hulking form barreled in, prancing around her entryway with his hello, I’m so excited to see you flair, while his owner stood in the doorway with a bemused expression, sexy as sin in dark jeans and a button-up royal blue flannel shirt, the sleeves rolled up to display his muscular forearms. It should be a crime that he looked so fresh and alert, tackling the early morning the way he appeared to do everything—with the utter assurance that the world bent before him. Abby cringed internally because she knew, when it came to mornings, she always looked like something the cat dragged in, and bemoaned her haggard appearance. Especially considering a part of her brain pushed past wakefulness into aroused as she stared at the way the flannel clung to his broad shoulders and licked her lips. Who knew flannel could be sexy?
“Morning?” Nate’s baritone voice resonated as if calibrated to the right dissonance and frequency to spark every cell in her body to stand at attention.
“Morning,” she croaked, her voice crackling from lack of moisture, making her sound more like a frog than the well-put-together woman she wanted to appear to be. Who the hell was she kidding? Part of the reason she was here, instead of hiring someone to handle her aunt’s estate, was to get a handle on her life and decide what she wanted. It was why she was dipping into her inheritance for the next few months. She had to figure out the right direction, meaning deciding on the university where she wanted to teach and potentially conduct research at after graduation. Both were huge decisions in the scheme of her life, with potentially cataclysmic ripple effects if she selected the wrong one. Perhaps she’d been part of her parents’ world of academia for too long. And while there was a part of her that didn’t want to choose, and would much rather burrow into reality here, she couldn’t forget that this wasn’t home—this was a stopover.
He quirked a lopsided grin in her direction and asked, “Did you forget our date?”
Abby’s brain misfired completely. Date? They didn’t have a date, did they? “What date?”
Date? When did Nate ask her on a date? She would have remembered that little detail. Surely, she wouldn’t forget Sheriff Stud Muffin asking her out. Her brain scrambled to recall their conversations, but it mingled with the romance novel she’d indulged in last night as her body whimpered for coffee.
Nate tilted his head to the side and gave her a perplexed stare. “Our firewood date, remember? Or am I that easy to forget?”
Her body simply went into overdrive at his flirting, with her ovaries doing a victory dance and the distinct urge rising to satisfy her oral craving for caffeine by latching her mouth onto various parts of his body. She stuttered, actually stuttered, flames heating her cheeks which she was certain must be fire engine red by now, and said, “N-n-n-no, I-I-I didn’t forget. Come on in while I make some coffee.”

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



PJ, here. One thing guaranteed to draw my attention to a book is a dog on the cover. Even better if the dog has a fun role in the story. In fact, I can't walk past a book with a dog on the cover without stopping for a closer look. And I can't walk past a big dog in real life without stopping for a cuddle. 

What draws your attention to a book's cover?

Tell me about a dog (or other animal) who brings (or brought) joy to your life.

Two people who comment before 11:00 PM, September 12, will each receive a copy of The Fixer Upper. Many thanks to Maggie Mae Gallagher for the giveaway! 
(U.S. only)