Thursday, March 23, 2023

Review - - The Love Wager

The Love Wager
by Lynn Painter
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by Santa

Hallie Piper is turning over a new leaf. After belly-crawling out of a hotel room (hello, rock bottom), she decides it’s time to become a full-on adult. She gets a new apartment, a new haircut, and a new wardrobe, but when she logs onto the dating app that she has determined will find her new love, she sees none other than Jack, the guy whose room she snuck out of. 

After agreeing they are absolutely 
not interested in each other, Jack and Hallie realize they’re each other’s perfect wing-person in their searches for The One. They text each other about their dates, often scheduling them at the same restaurant so that if things don’t go well, the two of them can get tacos afterward. 

Spoiler: they get a lot of tacos together. 

Discouraged by the lack of prospects, Jack and Hallie make a wager to see who can find true love first, but when they agree to be fake dates for a weekend wedding, all bets are off. As they pretend to be a couple, lines become blurred and they both struggle to remember why the other was a bad idea to begin with.

Santa Says:

The Love Wager by Lynn Painter was a hit for me from the first page! A solid five stars filled with witty banter as Hallie Piper and Jack Marshall text their way into each other’s hearts. There were several times where I laughed right out loud! They hooked up at a wedding where she was a bartender and he very narrowly escaped becoming engaged to a shrew. You would think that was the end of their story. Hallie certainly wasn’t looking for more coming off a horrible break up with a man she was sure was going to propose to her. Her life was stagnating and she needed to get her life together.   

Friends decide to set her up on a dating app and as she is scrolling through she discovers Jack is also on the app. They agree not to date one another but start acting as each other’s wingman eventually meeting up after their dates. They become fast friends and best friends. But there is always something simmering underneath it all. I felt like shouting ‘Come on!’ They even make a bet as to who would find true love first. Oh, this is going to end well. 

It takes a lot for Jack and Hallie to finally admit they really love one another. That it could be more than a hook up at that wedding. They decide to pose as fake boyfriend and girlfriend for her sister’s wedding. There’s no way that would never cause them problems. Not even when there’s only one bed involved. Favorite romance trope alert! I was cheering for them just before it blows up spectacularly!  

Fear not, Lynn Painter brings them into an impasse that is painful to witness and gets them right out of it. Their happily ever after scene is sigh worthy and beautifully written. I am very excited for this writer. I am going to add her first book Mr. Wrong Number to my TBR list. And I look forward to her next book, too.  



Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Winners - - The Good Luck Cafe


The randomly chosen winners of a copy of

The Good Luck Cafe by Annie Rains are:

Cherie J


Kathleen Bylsma


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year


by Rochelle Bilow

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 14, 2023

Reviewed by Hellie

When a thirty-something American food writer moves to a Scottish village for one year to fulfill her dream of writing a cookbook she finds more than inspiration—she meets a handsome Scotsman she can’t resist.

Ruby Spencer is spending one year living in a small cottage in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands for three reasons: to write a bestselling cookbook, to drink a barrelful of whisky, and to figure out what comes next. It’s hard to know what to expect after an impulse decision based on a map of Scotland in her Manhattan apartment—but she knows it’s high time she had an adventure.

The moment she sets foot in Thistlecross, the verdant scenery, cozy cottages, and struggling local pub steal her heart. Between designing pop-up suppers and conversing with the colorful locals, Ruby starts to see a future that stretches beyond her year of adventure. It doesn’t hurt that Brochan, the ruggedly handsome local handyman, keeps coming around to repair things at her cottage. Though Ruby swore off men, she can’t help fantasizing what a roll in the barley might be like with the bearded Scot.


As Ruby grows closer to Brochan and the tightly held traditions of the charming village, she discovers secret plans to turn her beloved pub into an American chain restaurant. Faced with an impossible choice, Ruby must decide between love, loyalty, and the Highlands way of life.

Hellie’s Heeds

Admit it: you too have watched Outlander and wanted to jaunt over to Scotland to find your very own Highlander, drink whisky, and find out just exactly what is under that kilt. I have longed for Scotland my entire life–or at least the entirety since I discovered boys were cute and started fantasizing about who I would marry. Highlanders have been on my list since I was 14. (Yes, I was precocious. Though admittedly I was a bit boy crazy prior to this and from the ages of 5-13, I was still hung up on Bo Duke. But once I got into romance novels, it was all Highlanders.) So this book checked every one of my boxes. 

A slightly older heroine who is having a bit of an identity crisis? CHECK.

A grumpy, taciturn Scot who has a marshmallowy center? CHECK. 

Small town village life with secrets, missing parents, and a tacky business that wants to take over the town? CHECK CHECK CHECK!

Also, I love to cook…and the characterization layering of the main character cooking and developing recipes was also up my alley, though I would have liked a few recipes at the end. Though this wasn’t that kind of book. (I do love a book with recipes in the back.) As an added bonus: the heroine has NORMAL parents who are kind, supportive, and not neurotic or mysteriously absent and villainous. It’s so nice to have some well-adjusted heroines who are having identity crises for other reasons. 

Go find a copy of this book and enjoy this little bon-bon as the well-deserved treat you deserve. It’s the sort of Rom-Com that hearkens back to how rom-coms should be: funny without being biting, cute without being too cliched (i.e. tropes are familiar but don’t feel like they’re poorly executed) and a satisfying ending. OH, and it’s WHISKY, not Whiskey with an E. After I finished reading the book, I was passing a shop and spied one of the whiskies mentioned…and thought, “How great is this!? She really did her homework.” Well done. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Review - - The Heiress at Sea

The Heiress at Sea
by Christi Caldwell
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

A seafaring journey is the second chance for a lady and the last chance for a marquess in a thrilling novel about rebellious love, secrets, and danger by USA Today bestselling author Christi Caldwell.

Perpetually unattached Lady Cassia McQuoid has accepted her fate as a spinster. But how can she be expected to lead a life confined to drawing rooms and royal balls when there’s a vast, exciting world to explore? Cassia can find but one solution: she masquerades as a thrill-seeking lad and stows away on a ship bound for open waters. Adventure awaits. So does notorious privateer Nathaniel Ellsby.

Nathaniel doesn’t want to be the Duke of Roxburghe. Instead, the second-born son relishes his freedom to do as he pleases: pursuing enemy ships in service of the war effort. But when his older brother dies, Nathaniel embarks on one last mission before he fulfills his ducal duties with an arranged marriage. That’s the intention, at least―until he discovers that his woefully green deckhand is a fetching but vulnerable woman in disguise.

Nathaniel’s new mission is to protect Cassia from the perils of the sea, both above and below the water, by sharing the close confines of the captain’s quarters. As roiling emotions turn to love, Nathaniel and Cassia realize the greatest risks―to the Crown, to their futures, and to the heart―still lie ahead.

PJ's Thoughts:

I may as well admit it right upfront: I'm a pushover for a stowaway-heroine-in-disguise and a stern privateer (with a marshmallow center) thrown together in a seagoing romance. Pair them with Christi Caldwell's snappy banter, impeccably-timed humor, and crackling chemistry and you have a book I happily read in one sitting, pretty much grinning from beginning to end. But don't think this is all fluff and no substance. There's plenty of emotional depth here too, something at which Caldwell excels.

The Heiress at Sea has gone straight to my comfort-read keeper shelf where I can visit it again and again whenever I need a mood boost. If you're looking for a feel-good, sea-adventuring romance that will lift your spirits give this one a go. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

Although it's not marketed as part of a series, Cassia is the older sister of Lady Myrtle McQuoid, heroine of Caldwell's The Duke Alone (click to read PJ's review). I'm hoping this means we'll be seeing more McQuoid siblings find their happily ever after in future books!

Monday, March 20, 2023

Review - - A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes

A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes
by Manda Collins
Ladies Most Scandalous - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Reviewed by Santa

England, 1867
: Miss Poppy Delamare is living a lie. To escape an odious betrothal, she fled to London where she’s been hiding as the unassuming secretary Flora Deaver. However, when her beloved sister is accused of murder, Poppy cannot leave her to the wolves. Only a most unexpected—and unwelcome—collision interrupts her journey home . . . 

Despite a rather dismal first meeting, Joshua Fielding, the Duke of Langham, has no intention of abandoning a lady in need. But he’s not above asking a favor. A fake betrothal will give Poppy and her sister the power of the dukedom 
and protect Langham from the society misses intent on becoming his duchess.

Yet the longer the ruse goes on, the more Poppy and Langham realize how false their first impressions were—and the less pretend their engagement feels. But before Langham can propose in truth, their search reveals a tangled web of lies and betrayals. With time running out, can Poppy and Langham find the real culprit—before Poppy becomes the next victim?

Santa Says:

A Spinster’s Guide To Danger and Dukes by Manda Collins is an utter delight! I was fortunate to get an early release of this five-star book. Come for the mystery, stay for the romance. There’s a delicious fake engagement between frenemies Miss Poppy Delemere and Joshua Fielding, Duke of Langham. Intrigue in spades! The banter is spot on! The players come to life right off the pages and there is quite a cast of characters! 

We met both the Duke and Poppy in Manda Collins’ previous book in this series. There is no love lost between these two although the Duke would like to see what lies beneath Polly’s prickly exterior. They literally run into each other at the train station. Poppy is desperate to get back to her family while Joshua dreads his trip home. Poppy is running back to the very situation that drove her away to London. Joshua is returning to his grandmother’s birthday bash which he knows will only be an opportunity for her to parade blushing debutantes before him.  

They strike a bargain to thwart his grandmother and he promises to help Poppy with her family’s problems. Poppy becomes the Duke’s fake fiance. Her sister is accused of killing her betrothed. There are confidence men with nefarious designs. A murder mystery to solve, secret societies resurrected and more twists than the connected chalk caves. And love, always love. 

I could not put it down! It is, without a doubt, the best in this series. I may have said that about every book in this series but this one hits all the marks! There were moments that were hilarious, as well as moments that were so poignant. I highly recommend this one and look forward to more in the series. I’m looking at you Adrian.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - The Good Luck Cafe

The Good Luck Cafe
by Annie Rains
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Moira Green is perfectly content with her life. She has a rewarding career and plenty of wonderful friends, including the members of her weekly book club. Then everything in her life goes topsy-turvy when the town council plans to demolish the site of her mother’s beloved cafĂ© to make room for much-needed parking. Moira is determined to save her mother’s business, so she swallows her pride and asks Gil Ryan for help.

Moira and Somerset Lake’s mayor were good friends once, the kind who could laugh at everything and nothing at all. Until one night changed everything between them. And now, with Gil supporting the council’s plans, Moira is forced to find another way to save Sweetie’s—and it involves campaigning against Gil. Going head-to-head in a battle of wills reveals more than either of them are ready for, and as the election heats up, so does their attraction. But without a compromise in sight, can these two be headed for anything but disaster?

PJ's Thoughts:

Reading an Annie Rains book feels like a cozy visit with good friends. I know before I even turn the first page that I'm about to be immersed into a town I want to visit, populated by people I want to meet. 

In The Good Luck Cafe, change is coming to Somerset Lake with 911 dispatcher Moira and mayor Gil at the center of it. I enjoy a second-chance romance, especially one with complex issues to overcome, and boy howdy, do these two have issues. Their story starts a bit slow but picks up the pace a few chapters in. By that time, we know a bit more about each of them, including Moira's secret and Gil's unrequited feelings. It explains a lot about Moira's dating reticence and Gil's steadfast honor and support. It's going to take a fair amount of growth on both their parts to reach their HEA. Good thing character growth is something at which Rains excels. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about these two at the beginning of the book but they ended up being one of my favorite Somerset Lake couples. 

As always, the main couple is surrounded by a rich secondary cast who add plenty of humor, and emotion, to the story. I love the friendships among these characters as well as the families. Gil's brother, Doug is a particular favorite with an empowering and heart-tugging storyline of his own. Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy seeing favorite couples from earlier books progressing in their own relationships while readers new to Somerset Lake should have no trouble starting with this book if they wish. Though fair warning, once you meet the other couples there's a good chance you'll be buying their books as well. 

Have you read Annie Rains?

I adore the cover of this book. It would definitely grab my interest on a store shelf. What draws your attention to a book?

Tell me about the book you're reading now. 

I have two copies of The Good Luck Cafe to give away, a print ARC and a print finished copy. Post a comment before 11:00 PM, March 19 for a chance to win one of the books. Two people will be randomly chosen. 

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Winners - - Mermaid Beach


The randomly chosen winners of

a print ARC of Mermaid Beach are:

Patricia Barraclough

Jody H

Susan Chew


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Review - - Cease and Desist

Cease and Desist
by Lori Matthews
Callahan Security Series - Book 6
Publisher: Wild Coyote Press
Release Date: February 16, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

One retired SEAL, one former librarian, and one big mystery combine to make one amazing adventure!

Thane “
Hawk” Hawkins is feeling lost. His corporate job no longer excites him and he’s missing his SEAL days. His friends at Callahan Security dangle an interesting job in front of him, but require a small favor in return. “Think of it as a trial run,” they said. Their idea of a small favor will send him on his most dangerous and mysterious adventure yet.

Remington “
Remy” Tanger is putting the pieces back together after losing her last family member. Running her grandfather’s bookstore is her way of honoring him. But Gramps had a secret life that brings trouble stumbling into her shop and almost gets her killed.

She’s determined to navigate on her own; He’s determined to keep her alive. They’re both determined not to fall in love. Sometimes fate has other ideas.

PJ's Thoughts:

Lori Matthews is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. With Cease and Desist, she has once again penned a high-octane, fast-paced story that reeled me in and refused to let go. 

This book took me places I wasn't expecting. Remy's life is thrown into chaos - and danger - as she unexpectedly comes face to face with her late grandfather's secret life and Hawk, whom she has just met, seems to be the only person she can count on to help her navigate this unexpected journey while also keeping her alive. Even if every ounce of her resents his least at the beginning. 

I could not turn the pages of this book fast enough. It's such a tightly-woven, suspenseful, passionate, and danger-filled journey littered with surprising twists, moral dilemmas, and life-changing decisions. The characters are complex, multi-layered, and intriguing. Both Remy and Hawk undergo unanticipated evolutions as they each reach a crossroads where the choices they make will have a profound, and unalterable, impact on the rest of their lives. I love how Matthews slowly unveils their layers, especially Remy's, challenging her and infusing her with the strength to claim her man, her rightful inheritance, and all that entails. 

Speaking of layers, there are side characters - one in particular - with multiple layers and less than honorable back stories who I need to know more about. I sense a new series in the future.

While this is the sixth book in the Callahan Security Series and characters from the earlier books make appearances in this one, Cease and Desist stands well on its own. Readers new to Matthews should have no trouble beginning with this one. 

If high-stakes, adrenaline-fueled, emotion-packed romantic suspense is your jam, you'll want to add Lori Matthews to your reading list. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sneak Peek Excerpt & Giveaway - - Mermaid Beach

Mermaid Beach
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - - Book 7
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 25, 2023

Bonnie Brinks and her all-woman band, The Mermaids, are the pride of Moonlight Harbor. They’re the house band at The Drunken Sailor, and that’s just the right amount of fame for Bonnie. A lifetime ago, she went to Nashville to make it big, but she returned home with a broken heart and broken dreams. Now she’s got a comfortable life and a brilliant daughter, Avril, who plays for The Mermaids alongside Bonnie and Bonnie’s mother, Loretta.

Avril has big dreams of her own. Her life in Moonlight Harbor is good—she loves singing and playing guitar with The Mermaids, and she has the sweetest, most loyal boyfriend a girl could ask for—but it all feels so…small. She can’t help wondering if there’s something more out there for her. And she doesn’t understand why her mom won’t support her going to Nashville to find out.

Meanwhile, Bonnie threw in the towel on her love life long ago, but Loretta sure hasn’t. She’s determined to be swept off her feet, and she wants the same for her daughter. When the hunky new owner of The Drunken Sailor turns the tables on the band and Avril announces she’s leaving Moonlight Harbor, Bonnie’s comfortable life seems to be drifting away. Will these three generations of Mermaids find their happy endings on the Washington coast? Or will the change in the winds leave them all shipwrecked?

Mermaid Beach

“Let’s go play some pool,” Lee said, after he and his buddy, J.J., walked into The Drunken Sailor. “You can check out the house band.” 

You got a house band? What are they, a bunch of grungy kids in their twenties?” 

Lee smiled at that. “Not quite. It’s a chick band.” 

“A chick band. Interesting. So, grungy chicks in their twenties.” 

“Nope. Mother, daughter and granddaughter. They had another, but she’s off to Nashville to try to become a star. They’re still good though, especially the lead singer. That woman sings like an angel, sometimes like a little devil. And she is something fine to look at. They’ve really been packing in the crowds on the weekend.” 

“That’s good.” 

“The place is doing well,” said Lee. “I know you shouldn’t do business with friends, but since you were in the restaurant business and since you’re the man with the business degree, I thought I’d give you first crack at it.” He suddenly looked wistful. “I kind of hate to let the place go. It’s like losing a part of me.” 

J.J. nodded. “I know how you feel. I hated to let go of my places. Did it all for nothing,” he said bitterly. 

His words brought on an awkward silence. He should have kept his shit to himself. He shook off the downer moment. “Let’s shoot some pool.” 

“Good idea,” said Lee. “And, J.J., I get you not wanting to get sucked into this business again. I’d have liked you to be the one who takes over The Drunken Sailor, but no worries. The right owner will show up.” 

Maybe the right owner had shown up, J.J. thought as they drank beer and waited their turn at one of the pool tables. The place was packed. Lots of out-of-towners, but Lee said he had a ton of regulars who came in during the week as well. Line dancing lessons were offered on Sunday afternoons followed by line dancing. A lot of the old guys came in midweek to play darts, and Lee had recently started a ladies’ night, with half off on drinks on Tuesdays and pool lessons taught by some of the better players, including a guy named Seth Waters, who had been a regular before he got married. According to Lee, he still came in to play pool on Sundays while his wife and her girlfriends line danced. 

“You’ve done a great job of making this the place to be,” J.J. said as they moved to take their turn at a table that had opened up. 

“I like to think so,” said Lee. “Thank God I got lots of good free advice from a pro when I first started.” 

“What are friends for?” J. J. responded. He selected a cue stick and chalked it up. 

“Go ahead and break,” Lee said. 

J.J. took aim at the cue ball, sending it clacking into the others. He sank one of the striped ones and then proceeded to clean the table. 

“Save some for me,” Lee protested. 

“Oh, yeah, I can’t let you lose. It would hurt your delicate feelings,” J.J. taunted. 

“And then I’d hurt your delicate nose,” Lee shot back. 

J.J. did miss the next ball. He stood back and let Lee take his turn. 

It was the end of the game for him because he caught sight of a woman with long red hair, a face that would launch a thousand ships, and legs that wouldn’t quit entering the place. She wore a short black leather jacket, hanging open to reveal a low-cut green top covering a very nice rack. Those fine legs were encased in tight jeans. She wore black boots that made him think of pirates and was carrying a guitar case. Holy Moly! Was that a member of the band Lee had told him about? 

Lee caught him staring. “That’s Bonnie Brinks, one of The Mermaids.” 

“I wouldn’t mind hooking her on my line.” 

“Fat chance. She’s a smiling ice maiden. Been single for years.” 

“Maybe she’s tired of being single,” J.J. mused. 

“Don’t hold your breath. But hey, she sure dresses up the place.” 

J.J. suspected that was about all she did. Lee had a tin ear. He’d probably hired the woman for her looks, despite his claims of her angelic singing. 

Behind her came a younger woman, tall like Bonnie but with darker coloring. Also a looker. And next to her walked a woman who’d never gotten the memo that she was a senior citizen, also wearing tight jeans and heels high enough to trip Tina Turner. She sported spiky white hair and the tips of the spikes were colored green. The mother. His mother sure didn’t look like that. This woman probably had every old geezer in the place ready to take her out. With all three women being so striking maybe nobody cared what they sounded like. 

“Had enough pool?” asked Lee. 

“I think I’ll go over to the bar and get another drink,” J.J. said. 

He snagged the last seat at the bar, one near the end next to a scruffy old dude in faded jeans and a peacoat, ordered another beer and watched as the women tuned up. They couldn’t sound as good as they looked. 

“The band’s good,” the old guy said. “They sing good, too,” he added and chortled over his crack. 

“You know them?” J.J. asked. 

“Of course. Everybody knows everybody here,” the old guy informed him. 

“Looks like this is a popular place,” J.J. observed. 

“Best burgers in town. Plus they have a senior menu.” 

Lee came up behind J.J., hovering like a salesman in a used car lot. “Hey there, Pete. I see you’ve met my pal J.J. This is Pete,” he said to J.J. “He’s one of our regulars. He won our last darts tournament.” 

“Beat out all the young pups,” Pete bragged. “You play darts?” he asked J.J. 

“Don’t take the bait,” said Lee. “He’ll just sucker you into a friendly wager and take your shirt.” 

“Aw, there you go, spoilin’ my fun,” Pete complained. 

A full house and steady patrons. It would be kind of cool to own this pub. A lot of work and time, but it wasn’t like he had much going on in his life anyway other than some day trading, hitting the gym and reading. In the last year he’d bought enough books to stock a small library. He needed something more to do. Lately, he felt like he was drifting with no purpose, no adventure on the horizon. What kind of adventures could he have here in Moonlight Harbor? 

At nine on the dot the hot redhead stepped up to the mike and said, “Hey everyone, let’s get this party started.” 

J.J. would have loved to start a party with her. His fingers itched to play with that gorgeous red hair of hers. 

She looked back at the granny on the drums, who began to bang her drumsticks together, counting off the beat, then the young girl hit the bass and the redhead began to bend those guitar strings all to hell. People rushed to the dance floor as she started to sing. “Get off your chair and get out here and shake your booty. You gotta start this party, so get out there and do your duty.” 

J.J.’s heart went into overdrive. This place was a gold mine, and Bonnie Brinks was the gold. What a voice! The woman was a superstar. He wondered what she was doing buried in the sand of a small beach town. 

“So whaddya think? The place is a good investment, right?” Lee said in his ear. 

“I’d say so,” said J.J. “Looks like the band is bringing in a lot of customers.” 

“We had a lot of customers even before the band,” Lee said. “People want to eat at a casual place with lots of atmosphere when they’re at the beach.” 

“You definitely got the atmosphere,” J.J. said. The goofy carved pirate statues were an obvious hit. He’d seen several people taking pictures with them. The pool tables had been in constant use since they’d walked in, and the beer was flowing. Lee did have a going concern. The band and dance floor were a bonus. And what a bonus that band was. 

The women finally went on break, the older one stopping at a table to say hello to some people. The younger one went to plop down next to a supersized young buck at a table near the bandstand, where her drink was already waiting. A boyfriend, of course. The guitar queen headed for the bar, stopping for a quick word here and there, deflecting a fat lounge lizard, nodding and smiling at something another patron said. 

She came up to the end of the bar next to J. J. and Lee. “Great job as always, Bonnie,” Lee said. 

“Thanks,” she said. Then to the bartender, “Got my Diet Coke, Madison?” 

“On its way,” the woman said and got busy getting her drink. 

“You’ve got a great band,” J.J. said to Bonnie. 

“Thanks,” she said. Her smile was a stop sign. Not interested, so don’t even try. 

What did he look like? Some middle-aged, desperate horn toad? He was just being friendly. There was no need to give him the ice treatment. 

He decided to turn the charm up a notch. “I always wanted to meet a mermaid.” 

“Now you have,” she told him, still with the stop sign smile. The bartender set down her glass, and Bonnie thanked her, the ice melting from her smile. But it was back again for J.J. “Try the garlic fries here,” she said to him. “They’re great.” Then she left before he could get in another word. 

Mermaids were not so easy to catch. 

“Don’t put her on the welcoming committee,” J.J. muttered. 

“Told ya,” said Lee. 

Slick and charming and no ring on his finger, which, considering his age—around hers—probably meant he’d ditched a wife somewhere along the way, Bonnie decided as she walked to the band table. With those blue eyes and that red hair and matching, neatly trimmed beard, he looked like some kind of troubadour from the Elizabethan era. Add broad shoulders and a well-sculpted chest, and he was a regular pheromone factory. 

And that stupid line about meeting a mermaid. Oh, yes, he was a charmer. 

Who did that remind her of? Rance Jackson, of course. 

Let’s get to know him, urged her sex-starved hormones. 

Not happening, she informed them, even though he was as tempting as sin. She could almost feel the tickle of that beard on her skin. But this was the kind of man who broke hearts—trouble in Levis. There would be no getting to know him. 

Put a Mr. Yuck sticker on him and stay far away. 

“It ain’t over till it’s over,” J.J. told his pal, quoting the famous Yogi Berra. 

“It ain’t even started,” Lee taunted. 

“I’ll find a way to start something,” J.J. vowed. 

He continued to watch Bonnie Brinks throughout the next set. She’d been mellow enough talking with Lee, visiting with patrons, but when she was singing those fast dance songs she caught fire. The fire turned to warm embers when she sang a love song, enough to probably make every man present fantasize about sleeping with her. She sure had that effect on J.J. 

What would it take to break the ice? 

He wasn’t the only one wondering that, if the tool who was trying to corner her by the bandstand was any indication. He was probably early forties, tall with legs like tree trunks and the arms of an overzealous body builder—or a dude on steroids. 

She cocked her head and looked up at him as he smiled down at her. He said something that dimmed her smile and moved in closer. She shook her head, tried to move to the side. He mirrored the move, giving her a smarmy smile in the process. 

“Uh-oh,” said J.J. 

Some men didn’t read road signs so well, and this guy wasn’t seeing the same stop sign she’d given J.J. He was the kind of jerk who gave men a bad a name. 

J.J. started to get off his stool. This goon needed a lesson in manners. 

Lee caught his arm. “Don’t bother.” 

“She needs help,” J.J. said, shaking it off. 

“No, she doesn’t. Watch.” 

J.J. watched reluctantly, ready to rush over the second the jerk laid hands on her. 

He started to, reaching out to catch a lock of her long auburn hair. 

“Okay, that’s it,” J.J. growled. 

“Yep, it is,” said Lee as Bonnie sweetly smiled at the dude and stomped on his instep. 

Sadly for the guy, he was wearing sneakers, and her spike heel drove into his foot in a way that had his mouth dropping in pain and him hopping on the one good foot he had left. She gave his arm a there-there pat, and left to join her mother and daughter and the supersized kid at their table. 

“Wow,” J.J. said. Bonnie Brinks really was something else. 

“The woman can take care of herself,” said Lee. 

No knight in shining armor needed. Darn. So much for impressing her with his chivalry. 

But she had to need something. Everyone did. Whatever it was, he hoped he could be the man to give it to her. Maybe he should buy the pub.


PJ, here. I've read an ARC of Mermaid Beach and it's one of my favorite stories in Sheila Roberts' heartwarming Moonlight Harbor series. This book has complex, relatable, multi-generation family dynamics, chasing dreams at a variety of ages, starting over, humor (love her humor), emotional depth, and more than one couple I was cheering for. It features some secondary characters who will be familiar to readers of the series but also works well as a standalone. It's a great place to jump into the series for those who have yet to visit Moonlight Harbor. 

Do you sing? Have you ever been in a band? 

Are you familiar with Sheila Roberts? Have you read any of her books? Are you reading the Moonlight Harbor series?

Is there a career dream you'd like to chase if given the opportunity?

THREE randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, March 16 will each receive a print ARC of Mermaid Beach. 

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

About Sheila Roberts

Before launching her author career, Sheila Roberts owned a singing telegram company, wrote music and played in a band. Now Sheila is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 50 novels, including ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS, which was made into a Lifetime Network movie. Also adapted for the small screen, Sheila’s THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS is a perennial Hallmark channel favorite, and CHRISTMAS ON CANDY CANE LANE debuted on The Great American Family Channel in December. The author has sold more than three million copies of her novels. A cancer survivor, she is a sunny extrovert who loves to entertain her girlfriends and readers at author events and visit with book clubs. Sheila resides in a Washington state beach town with her husband, who is also an author.

For more information about the author, visit        

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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Review - - The Miniscule Mansion of Myra Malone

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone
by Audrey Burges
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 24, 2023
Reviewed by Hellie

From her attic in the Arizona mountains, thirty-four-year-old Myra Malone blogs about a dollhouse mansion that captivates thousands of readers worldwide. Myra’s stories have created legions of fans who breathlessly await every blog post, trade photographs of Mansion-modeled rooms, and swap theories about the enigmatic and reclusive author. Myra herself is tethered to the Mansion by mysteries she can’t understand—rooms that appear and disappear overnight, music that plays in its corridors.


Across the country, Alex Rakes, the scion of a custom furniture business, encounters two Mansion fans trying to recreate a room. The pair show him the Minuscule Mansion, and Alex is shocked to recognize a reflection of his own life mirrored back to him in minute scale. The room is his own bedroom, and the Mansion is his family’s home, handed down from the grandmother who disappeared mysteriously when Alex was a child. Searching for answers, Alex begins corresponding with Myra. Together, the two unwind the lonely paths of their twin worlds—big and small—and trace the stories that entwine them, setting the stage for a meeting rooted in loss, but defined by love.


Hellie’s Heeds 

Short version: I loved it. Completely recommend as a read.  

Long version: it’s a bit more complicated because I’m not sure I would typically put this on my “romance novel” shelves–and I think this might be how this book is labeled. Even from the blurb, I was curious how this was actually a romance-romance because it felt like a more literary or women’s fiction sort of story, and it is. But it is also a romance, in the same way SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is a romance rom-com. Which is how I would describe this book: SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE meets PRACTICAL MAGIC. It ends happily, which I think is why it doesn’t end up strictly shelved in the literary book club area or women’s fiction because under those two classifications, happiness is definitely optional. 

Anyway, if you’re wanting a pure romance where the hero and heroine meet right away and there is banter and sizzling tension and perhaps even a hot scene or two where they complicate the relationship with sex and then try to mess everything up–it’s not that kind of romance. But are the hero and heroine perfect for each other? Was I rooting for them to get together even though the heroine was doing everything she could to sabotage it (for good reason)? It’s definitely that kind of romance. I loved the interactions between Myra and Alex–mostly through email–and following the layered storylines that explain how Myra and Alex, who are located about 2000 miles away from each other and have never met, end up together. I think Ms. Burges does a magnificent job of drawing and showing her characters to all be very vivid, ready to pop into your living room and have some iced tea with you. She creates a world where magic is real and almost ordinary, and you can rather believe this mansion does exist and is held together by magic.  

There is some bittersweetness here and there–real conflict that can’t be easily fixed or even fixed at all. Magical realism in its best definition of the phase–and the writing style is just lovely to read. I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Burges. If you are looking for a shakeup to your normal romance reading selection–something a bit slower paced, yet still romantic and full of relationship growth, written in a beautiful lyrical style that paints a movie in your head–give this one a try.