Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review - - A Heartfelt Christmas Promise

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise
by Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Vanessa Larkin was supposed to be spending Christmas in Paris, France on a business trip she hoped to enjoy as a working vacation. Instead, she’s been assigned to Fraser Hills, North Carolina—home of the Best Fruitcake in the USA—to convert her company’s property into warehouse space and shut down Porter’s, the fruitcake factory. Offering retirement packages and selling locals on new job opportunities may not spread holiday cheer, but Vanessa believes she’s helping secure the town’s future.

Mike Marshall’s family founded Porter’s. For decades, the factory served as the lifeblood of the community until his grandfather sold the business to a Chicago corporation. The sale cost the town its independence—and the Marshalls their family ties. A horse farmer, Mike was never involved with his grandfather’s company, but still felt Fraser Hills lost part of its identity. And as a widower raising a teenage daughter, he’s suffered enough losses in one lifetime. News of the factory’s closing means losing another piece of the town’s legacy.

Far from the skyscrapers and rapid pace of the city, Vanessa finds herself enjoying the easygoing rhythms of rural living. With Mike as her guide, she learns to appreciate the simple pleasures found in shared holiday festivities among friends. Fraser Hills is a town she is growing to love—and Mike is someone she is falling in love with. Now all Vanessa needs is a Christmas miracle to give her newfound friends and home a gift they’ll cherish for many New Years to come.

PJ's Thoughts:

Much like the Hallmark Christmas Movies I fill my DVR with every winter, A Heartfelt Christmas Promise is a sweet, charming, small-town romance that had me dreaming of the scent of pine trees in the air and rich, sugary cookies in the oven. It's a story of life choices, starting over, forgiveness, slowing down enough to rediscover the joys that have been there waiting for you all along, and realizing it's never too late to give love a chance.  

Naigle has brought the town of Fraser Hills to life, along with her citizens. She has me wanting to drive into the mountains to try the banana pudding at the Blue Bicycle Bistro, pick up a bouquet of flowers at The Stalk Market, sing along at the Christmas Parade, hang out with an enterprising teen while sampling a piece of fruitcake at Porter's (and I don't even like fruitcake), snuggle an adorable, mischievous Lab puppy (with a very big best friend), share a cup of coffee with the goodhearted folks who call Fraser Hills home, talk Mike Marshall into a wagon ride pulled by his magnificent Percherons, and meet the woman who saved a town and discovered everything she didn't know she needed in the most unlikely of places.  

If you enjoy charming, heart-tugging, Christmas romances set in scenic mountain towns, with lively townspeople, adorable animals, a business in peril, more than one romance brewing, and, of course, happy endings all around, pick up a copy of Nancy Naigle's A Heartfelt Christmas Promise

Winners - - PJ's Birthday Boxes


The randomly chosen winners of a 

box of books and swag from my birthday are:

AmyD Avid Reader




Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tour Review - - Beyond Power


Beyond Power
by Connie Mann
Florida Wildlife Warriors - Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

When your heart's involved...
If you dare venture beyond Disney's magic and Miami's high-rises, you'll find yourself in Florida's untamed wilderness. A bush pilot and officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Josh Tanner is one of the tough cops needed to manage these rugged areas. And the minute he finds Delilah Atwood deep in the woods without a good explanation, he knows something is very wrong...

All the stakes are raised...
Delilah barely escaped her ultra-fundamental militia family years ago. Now she's back to save her sixteen-year-old sister, and no government man is going to stop her. Josh isn't going to stand by and watch Delilah risk her life, but unless he can get her to trust him, she may end up being the next victim.

PJ's Thoughts:

This was my first Connie Mann novel. I'm not sure why I've waited so long to give her books a try but it only took this one story to hook me for good. I'm now over here scanning her back list and downloading like crazy. 

From beginning to end, Beyond Power held me in its power. Mann has created an intense, suspenseful, and emotional page-turner filled with so many twists and turns I was still guessing as to how everything would play out with only a few pages left to read. Her characters are so vividly depicted they leap from the pages, pulling me into their world. And let's talk about that world. It's clearly evident Mann knows the wildlife areas of Central Florida well. She created a sense of place that placed me smack dab in the middle of the overgrowth, rivers, forests, and wild animals that populate the undeveloped areas of this region then added characters who brought a sinister quality to the areas that our heroine once called home, adding to the intensity of the story and sense of urgency that continued to escalate.

My heart was with Delilah from the start and even more-so once her story began to unfold and the reasons for her return became clear. It's an emotional journey for her with significant personal issues to tackle. I admired her strength and fortitude. Josh won my heart right along with Delilah's. I adored his strength of character and nurturing heart. I also fell for his family and band of friends and co-workers. I'm already looking forward to more stories for this dedicated group. 

I love when I forget I'm reading a book and slide into the story instead. By the time I turned the final page of Beyond Power, it took me a minute to come back into myself. I could feel the sultry heat, touch the vegetation, hear the monkey chatter, smell the sweat of fear. It's a skilled writer who can pull me so deeply into their world that I forget I'm still in my own. 

If you enjoy intricately-woven romantic suspense with relatable characters, atmospheric settings, and hard-won happy endings, I highly recommend Beyond Power.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Birthday Giveaway


Today is my birthday! 

Some people may look at me and think, "Aren't you a to still be celebrating birthdays?" To that I say, "No! Any birthday spent on this side of the grass is worth celebrating." So, since I'm still on the right side of the grass, let's celebrate!

Gifts from my neighbor (she knows me well) and my out-of-state bestie. I'll open those during our FaceTime call today.

I kicked off my birthday weekend yesterday with a lovely, cool day that allowed me to open my windows and embrace the crisp freshness that fall air brings. It's my favorite season of the year.

A trip to the new bakery in the neighborhood elicited sighs of delight and a box of goodies to bring home. One should always have cake on their birthday. This year, I chose two gluten-free cupcakes: carrot and toasted coconut. Plus, a few macarons for a yummy bonus. ;-)

With treats in hand, I then stopped by the grocery for my weekly bouquet of flowers, a small kindness I began giving myself in May that I've continued through the summer and now, into the fall. They add a burst of color to my days and bring me so much joy. 

I was saving the bakery goodies for today but I needed something sweet for football watching Saturday, right? I mean, it is my birthday weekend. What's better for a crisp fall afternoon than fresh from the oven Apple Crisp with my favorite organic vanilla ice cream? Nothing! It was mmmm....mmmm...good.

This morning, I awoke to full-on fall: bright blue sky, 48 degree temperature, and the return of Canadian Geese. They're gathered right outside my patio, squawking (singing?) as if they had returned just to help me celebrate. ;-) 

Now, I'm back from a brisk, rejuvenating walk - honestly, I feel so much better when I walk in the morning - and ready to whip up a birthday breakfast. Have you noticed that my birthday tends to be centered around food? 😂 I'm thinking a ham and cheese omelet with sliced avocado and roasted tomatoes. That, plus a steaming mug of coffee, should keep my tummy happy and set the tone for the day.

That's how I'm celebrating in these weird times. Not exactly the norm but I'm finding the joy and grateful for the opportunity to greet another new year. 

How do you celebrate your birthday?

Do you have to have cake or is another dessert your go-to? 

Are you ready to embrace fall or hanging on to summer for all you're worth?

Are you looking forward to hot chocolate, snuggly blankets, and a good book? I am!

Because I believe birthday joy should be shared, two randomly chosen people who leave a comment on this post before 11:00 PM, September 21, will each receive a birthday box of books and swag from me. 

*Must be 18

*U.S. addresses only

Friday, September 18, 2020

Review - - The Prince Who Loved Me

The Prince Who Loved Me
by Abigail Sharpe
Just Add Peaches - Book 3
Publisher: Abigail Sharpe
Release Date: September 23, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

He loves her. ♥

She loves him not...yet.

Brandi Clayton spent years being a chameleon, trading on her looks for the security of having a man taking care of her. After all, being alone is what her mother taught her to fear. When her grandmother’s will surprisingly reveals Brandi inherited the family business, a new path opens up for her. She’s determined to take charge of Belle’s Medicinal Brewery and her own life. And if she can take that leap, she can find a man who loves her for exactly who she is. With her long-time friend Sebastien’s support, she’s bound to succeed, but she can’t take advantage of Sebastien forever.

A royal with no responsibilities, Prince Sebastien of Casagnes spends his days near Brandi, sketching, and helping his friend whenever she calls. His love for her is like his art -- safely hidden where it can't be rejected. But when Brandi uploads her profile to dating sites, Sebastien fears losing the one woman who is his everything. Can this loyal royal find the courage to put his heart on the line and paint a picture for Brandi of their life together?

The Prince Who Loved Me is a Just Add Peaches novel. Each book in the series is a stand-alone, passionate and playful contemporary romance, but you'll want more than one juicy bite.

PJ's Thoughts:

As with the first two books in Sharpe's Just Add Peaches series, The Prince Who Loved Me is filled with humor, charm, satisfying emotional depth, and a happily ever after. I love a friends-to-lovers story and have been anticipating this one. I couldn't wait to discover how Sharpe would navigate these two from firmly in the friend zone to a committed romantic relationship. She does it skillfully, with a few bumps along the way, but that just makes the end result that much more satisfying, no?

Both Brandi and Sebastien are fully dimensional characters with surprising depths. I really enjoyed their friendship. There's such caring and support between them and so much history. I could easily understand why it might be difficult to put that at risk by changing up the parameters of their relationship. One of the things I most enjoyed about their journey was the character growth for each of them, especially for Brandi. Her evolution was realistically portrayed over the course of the series, putting me firmly in her corner by the end of her journey (which was not the case at the start). Sebastien is such a sweetheart. I absolutely adored him and was cheering him on from start to finish.

Secondary characters once again brought added richness to the story without detracting from the main couple. Sharpe has a talent for bringing all the characters in her stories to life, both good and bad. There's a toxic character in this book who had me thinking decidedly unkind thoughts and got off way too easy for my taste. I was feeling a bit bloodthirsty. Kudos to the author for having the ability to create a character so vividly realistic as to generate that much emotion in me. The end of the book was exactly what I would have hoped for and this close group of friends once again had me cheering happy endings among the peaches. 

The Prince Who Loved Me can be enjoyed as a standalone but for a deeper appreciation of Brandi's character growth as well as evolving dynamics among the cast of characters, I recommend reading the three books in order. 


Abigail Sharpe is currently running a Rafflecopter giveaway for The Prince Who Loved Me. You can access it here:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Spotlight on Naughty Brits

Naughty Brits
An Anthology
by Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, 
Louisa Edwards, Tessa Gratton and Sierra Simone, 
Release Date: September 15, 2020

Everything is hotter with a British accent...

Sarah MacLean - A Duke Worth Falling For:

Her career in tatters, celebrity photographer Lilah Rose retreats to the British countryside, complete with fluffy sheep, rolling hills...and Max, the stern, sexy farmer who tends to them. But their lazy days and lush nights aren't as far from the spotlight as Lilah thinks, and Max will have to reveal the truth if he is going to convince Lilah that some dukes are worth the risk.

Sophie Jordan - Better with You:

When the author of a controversial self-help book starts receiving threats, she has no choice but to accept a bodyguard on her UK book tour. Vee Mathers is famous for asserting that women don't need men--especially for sex!--but at security specialist Luca Moretti's first, burning touch, she starts to think she might need to revise her theory...

Louisa Edwards - Not a Bad Boy:

Writer Mallory Pritchard moved to London for research--and to get over a bad breakup. When she (literally) runs into Hollywood's hottest action hero, Ian Hale, at a dog park, she realizes her heart isn't as broken as she thought! Ian is even more devastatingly sexy in person, which makes Mallory there room for a regular girl in his glamorous movie-star world?

Tessa Gratton - Songbird:

Former American soldier Daniel Kelly's mission is simple: close the deal to buy a Welsh pub on behalf of his family's corporation, and survive another anniversary of the worst day of his service. Too bad that from the moment he sees the pub's owner, Elspeth Gwenlan is the only thing Daniel wants to conquer--even if it means lying to her about his agenda.

Sierra Simone - Supplicant:

After being left at the altar by her cold and brilliant professor, Church Cason, Charlotte Tenpenny had to leave school to take care of her younger brother. But a fateful night brings Church--and his delicious, drugging kisses--back into Charlotte's life. And it stirs up a reckoning years in the making . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

Naughty Brits brought to the page by some of my favorite authors? I couldn't dive into this delicious new anthology fast enough. First up was Sarah MacLean's story, "A Duke Worth Falling For" and, wow, did I ever fall. MacLean may be one of my favorite historical romance authors but this contemporary page-turner between an English farmer (who is also a billionaire duke) and an American photographer proves she's outstanding in any era. Filled with laughter (and darts) at the village pub, deep emotion, baby lambs, and sexy times on ramparts (sigh), it checked all of my reader happy boxes. I'd be happy for MacLean to dip her writing toes into present-day romance anytime, possibly for a couple intriguing secondary characters from "A Duke Worth Falling For?" 

Sophie Jordan is one of my favorite authors writing in both historical and contemporary romance. I'm an easy sell for bodyguard stories and Jordan's had me sighing with delight. Filled with emotion and sizzle, it had me eagerly flipping pages from start to finish. 

Welcome back, Louisa Edwards! After taking time away from writing for motherhood, Edwards returns with a sweet and sexy story that had me falling hard for both of her main characters. There's a lot more to Ian than his movie star image and I love that he falls for a curvy woman who is more at home in the stacks at the British Museum than on a red carpet. Plus, dogs! 

Tessa Gratton (a new to me author) takes readers to Wales for her story between a Welsh woman and American man. I'm not a big fan of the "let's get it on while I'm keeping my real reason for being here a secret" trope but Gratton manages to make it work. 

Sierra Simone wraps things up with a scorcher. If you've read her, you'll already know to be prepared for an intense, deeply emotional, red-hot story. Fans will not be disappointed. 

So, if you're in the mood for some naughty Brits, pick up a copy of this anthology. The stories are meaty (580 pages of romance!) and there's something for everyone. I highly recommend Naughty Brits! 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Spotlight on The Bachelor Duke by Cecilia Rene



Publication Date: July 25, 2020
Paperback & eBook; 296 pages

Series: The Bachelor Series, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance



The Bachelor Duke meets a beautiful, curvaceous lady.

Remington Warren, The Duke of Karrington, lives his life by the name society has thrust upon him. Having witnessed cruelty against the fairer sex with his own eyes, he vows never to marry to prevent himself from becoming like the monster who raised him. After ten years of being The Bachelor Duke, his life is irrevocably changed when he sees Lady Olivia St. John across the ballroom floor.

Having lived a sheltered, pampered life, surrounded by her loving family, Lady Olivia St. John longs to know passion and love. She is beautiful, bold, and has a rather large dowry. According to society, she would be a diamond in the first water of this season if it wasn’t for her one flaw.

Will she find all she longs for and more in the arms of The Bachelor Duke, or will heartbreak be her demise?


Q&A with Cecilia Rene

Welcome, Cecilia and congratulations on the release of your debut historical romance, The Bachelor Duke. What should readers expect from this story?

Readers should expect a love story first and foremost, but also prepare yourself for some drama! Although it focuses on Remington & Livie, the secondary characters do wiggle their way into your hearts so be prepared!

The Bachelor Duke launches your The Bachelor series. How many books will there be in the series? Are you able to tell us anything about book two and when we might expect it?

There are 3 books but I recently had an idea for a 4th!  So we will see! Book 2, whew, I tend to want things fast, so I want Book 2 out in December but the reality is that it may be more January. Book 2 is about Henry & Julia. We know at the end of book 1 Henry left Julia only days before their wedding. Book 2 will find us 3 yrs later, and he’s back and she’s not happy!

Where can readers interact with you online? 

I’m on Instagram, FB, Twitter, but you can find me on FB more than anywhere. I have a group Cecilia Rene’s Happily Ever After. 

Follow Cecilia Rene






Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Cecilia. Would you like to add anything else or ask my readers a question? 

Thanks for having me! I guess if I had a question it would be what is your favorite trope? I find myself getting obsessed with tropes lately!


Cecilia Rene is a creative, happy, and outgoing Detroit native who majored in Broadcast Communication at Grambling State University. Immediately following her graduation, she started her new life in New York City. As a self-proclaimed New Yorker, her stimulating and diverse career in advertising sparked a drive for hard work and dedication. Her love and passion for writing followed her from childhood through adulthood, where she wrote short stories, poems, and screenplays. Always an avid reader, she stumbled across a book that ignited a deeper need for more and joined a fandom of like-minded individuals. Cecilia and her family made a huge move five years ago to the great state of Texas, where she currently lives with her loving husband, wonderful son, and spoiled fur baby, Sadie. Cecilia Rene loves romance, humor, and all things spicy. For this reason, she will always give you a Happily Ever After.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Winner - - The Highlander's Excellent Adventure


The randomly chosen winner of a

Kindle copy of

The Highander's Excellent Adventure is:

Alina P


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, September 11, 2020

Review and Giveaway - - The Highlander's Excellent Adventure

The Highlander's Excellent Adventure
by Shana Galen
The Survivors - Book 8
Publisher: Shana Galen
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Just because they’ve run away…

Ines Neves and Emmeline Wellesley have both run away. Ines hid in a carriage from a tedious suitor, only to find, too late, the carriage had traveled out of London, not just around the block. To make matters worse, the carriage is that of a stranger: a handsome Highlander. Or perhaps a big, strapping Highlander makes matters better? Emmeline Wellesley has had four Seasons and cannot tolerate another. To force her mother to listen to her, she’s run away. But things haven’t gone well. She’s been locked in a closet, had all her money stolen, and somehow adopted a dog. When an old family friend shows up to save her, she doesn’t exactly welcome his help.

Doesn’t mean they don’t want to be found.
Duncan Murray doesn’t know what to make of the Portuguese-speaking woman in his carriage. She refuses to return to London, so he takes her to meet Nash Pope, a so-called friend who speaks Portuguese. On the way, he meets up with former soldier Stratford Fortescue, and Stratford’s opinionated distant cousin, Miss Wellesley. The four travel together to Nash’s estate, and that’s when everything goes really wrong. On the run to Scotland, Duncan finds himself increasingly attracted to Ines, even though he knows he can never marry her. Stratford has always wanted Emmeline, but his family secret means he doesn’t deserve her. This excellent adventure might bring the couples together, but only if they manage to elude gun shots, a murderous brother-in-law, a vicious dog, and outlaws.

PJ's Thoughts:

This book is so much fun. I pretty much smiled through the entire thing. I'll even go so far as to say it's probably my favorite of the entire series, which is saying a lot considering how much I love this series. Galen gives us a fast-paced, road romance with not one but two couples on unexpected journeys to happily ever after and it just made me so darn happy.

The main characters are very likable and I found myself easily rooting for all of them. Telling the story from each of their alternating points of view adds extra depth to the journey as well as the characters themselves and their relationships. I love a good road romance and this book had all the highs and lows to keep me engaged throughout. I was never sure what was going to happen next! I cheered Ines and Emmeline on during their bid for the freedom to make their own choices, laughed at how they ran circles around two battle-tested former soldiers (actually three, counting Nash, a drunken, half-blind former sharpshooter I hope we'll be seeing again), and sighed with delight as hearts entwined. I also fell head over heels for a huge, scary-looking dog who turns out to be a big ole cuddlebug, but handy to have around when his humans are threatened.

There's conflict, and a bit of angst, but mostly this is a fun romp from London into the Scottish Highlands, filled with humor, danger, passion, excitement, and swoon-worthy happy endings...following some well-deserved hero groveling. I highly recommend it.

While this is the 8th book in the Survivors series, it stands well on its own. However, if you would like a bit more background on Ines I recommend also reading her sister's journey to love with Benedict Draven in book 5, The Claiming of the Shrew. Actually, I recommend the whole series but you really will be okay starting with The Highlander's Excellent Adventure


Do you enjoy road romances? Have any favorites you would recommend?

Have you read any of the books in Shana Galen's The Survivors series?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), September 12 will receive a Kindle copy of The Highlander's Excellent Adventure

*Must be 18

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Review - - Honeysuckle Season


Honeysuckle Season
by Mary Ellen Taylor
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the process. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds.

PJ's Thoughts:

Honeysuckle Season is one of those books that is a total immersion experience. Once I began reading, I had to continue until the final page was turned, the final secret revealed. Two stories told in dual timelines, one in the early 1940's, the other in present day. Lives intersecting, long-held secrets exposed, forgiveness given, and hope restored. This book has it all.

Mary Ellen Taylor has a gift for bringing stories to life. She draws you into her world and into the hearts and minds of her characters. I could feel the desperation of Sadie as the story opened, feel the damp earth beneath her hands, hear the night sounds of rural Virginia as danger surrounded her. 


Tuesday, March 15, 1943

Bluestone, Virginia

Blue Ridge Mountains

There were three tricks to hiding. First, it was important to breathe as shallow as possible. If you were doing it right, your nostrils barely flared, and your breathing was as shallow as the James River in drought-hot summer heat. Next, a good rabbit tamed its racing heart and did not allow it to pound and drum against the ribs. Sounds had a tendency to echo beyond the confines of the body.

And the third trick, and not the least by far, was keeping your eyes cast downward. You never looked at whoever was hunting you. 

Talk about capturing your audience. There was no way I was putting this book down after that. I had to know what happened next.

Alternating between past and present, and from different characters' points of view, this multi-generational saga slowly unfolds under Taylor's expert guidance. The fully-dimensional characters, realistic circumstances, perfect pacing, and exquisitely painted settings had events rolling through my mind like a cinematic masterpiece. This scene, with Libby in the old abandoned greenhouse at dawn, is one of my favorites. I can see it so clearly.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Bluestone, Virginia

The morning air was already warm, and by the time she saw the structure, her shirt was damp. The sun was nearing the horizon and bringing with it streaks of gold and orange light.

She angled her body through the open door and moved to the center of the greenhouse. Enveloped by the thick moist air, she shut off her flashlight and tucked it in her back pocket. She snapped a few pictures of the dome but knew with one glance into her viewfinder the light was not right yet. Good photographers understood the right moment could not be rushed, and if captured, patience and speed were essential. 

Seconds grew into minutes as the sun shyly nudged up over the sloping eastern horizon. The hints of light were brilliant.

She moved to the fountain and raised her camera to the dome. She clicked once or twice and glanced at the image. The right time was close. Water dripped, an animal scurried, and somewhere a glass pane rattled slightly in the breeze.

The air thickening, she sensed someone was standing behind her. She turned, expecting to see Colton or Elaine, ready with a babbling explanation about timing and light.

But there was no one there. There was only the whisper of the wind in the trees that stirred an odd sensation within her.

"Don't be silly," she whispered to herself.

And then, as if a curtain on a magnificent stage opened, the sun tipped above the horizon and made its entrance. Orange and yellow light kissed the glass dome and expanded into a rainbow of colors. Her mind calmed as she raised her camera, knowing she would get the shot. 

Honeysuckle Season is an immersive experience that engaged my heart, my mind, and my emotions. I walked beside these characters every step of their journeys. If you enjoy multi-generational women's fiction with a romantic thread (and a happy ending), I highly recommend this book. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review - - Road Out of Winter

Road Out of Winter
by Alison Stine
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy

When the ARC for Alison Stine’s Road Out of Winter dropped onto my Kindle, I was excited to read it. I love post-apocalyptic fiction, though I stay away from works that have downer endings.  Unfortunately, Road Out of Winter, while it was excellent in some ways, didn’t quite live up to my expectations. 

The setting is interesting and well drawn. This is a climate-disaster world caught in perpetual winter, at least in southeastern Ohio, where Wyl, the central character, lives. Spring no longer comes. Game is dying out or being hunted to extinction. Food, fuel, and other supplies are scarce. The situation is obviously untenable, but Wyl stays in the hope of hearing from her mother, who left with her lover. When a postcard arrives from her mom with a California return address, Wyl decides to set out and find her parent. At this point, the story becomes a road book and examines the ways of the people Wyl and her traveling companions meet along the way have chosen to cope with the situation. 

Stine describes the people and the setting beautifully. For example: 

“Everyone looked gray as overwashed clothes, exhausted and faded, their eyes turning up at the shelves as if they held the answers.” 

“That was the other thing I felt, standing in the doorway of Grayson’s house: a cold so sharp it cut me. A chest-hurting cold, cold that made it hard to breathe. That meant the heat hadn’t been for a long time. Cold had crept into the folds of the drapes, into the cracks on the floor.” 

“The trees shone silver with frost, like they had been shellacked, like the snow globes Mama and I made one winter for presents…Glitter snowed on the miniature world, and it was pretty, safe, to look at the fake cold, contained behind the glass.” 

While the pace is generally good, the passage of several months in the opening chapter without scene breaks between month shifts was hard for me to deal with. The inclusion of several lengthy flashbacks in the middle of dialogue also hurt the pace. Overall, though, the story moved well. 

I liked the protagonists here. Wyl offers a lot to root for. Abandoned by her mother and her mom’s marijuana-growing partner, Wyl tries keeps the pot business going in the basement of the farmhouse where they lived. She has one close friend, a girl who’s a member of a restrictive religious sect known only as the Church, and their mutual loyalty remains important to Wyl even after they part ways. When Wyl sees someone in trouble, she reaches out to help, and therein lies part of my problem with this book. 

One of the things I enjoy about post-apocalyptic fiction is the effort to rebuild a society. This process often starts with creating a small, trusted group. Successfully forming the group depends on the main character’s criteria for deciding correctly who is trustworthy and merits inclusion. That process gets short shrift in Road Out of Winter. 

When Wyl meets an injured stranger, she not only takes him to the clinic in town but takes him under her wing. Then she brings him back to her home. Why? Second thoughts after are well and good, but I missed the situational analysis any woman living alone would make up front. A similar situation occurs with a man she rescues from a riot. Although she doesn’t know who he is, and despite the riot, she dives in to rescue him. She thinks at one point that a character can’t go with her to find her mom. She won’t take him. A few pages later, she decides to take him because she doesn’t want to travel alone. I would’ve liked to see some transition in her thinking. 

People’s choices to leave her group are similarly abrupt. There’s no foreshadowing, and then the person announces they’re not going on with the group. 

Despite being beautifully described, the winter landscape posed another problem for me. No one knows how far south the perpetual winter extends, though California is supposedly free of it. Yet no one worries about how people are going to survive if spring never comes again. On the road, discussing whether to stay in a particular spot, no one brings up the subject of how people will eat when the supplies on hand run out. 

The biggest problem I had with the book was the ending. I expect post-apocalyptic fiction to reach a resolution derived from the protagonist’s choices and efforts. That includes full awareness of the upsides and downsides of those choices, especially the final one. I don’t find it satisfying when the character assumes she’ll be okay among people she hasn’t seen and knows nothing about. 

The things that bothered me about the book might not bother other readers, so I’ve tried to set them out so people can judge for themselves. I would have finished the book even if I hadn’t committed to reviewing it because the characters are engaging, the world is beautifully sketched, and the situation is interesting. 

Recommended. 3.5 stars 


Monday, September 7, 2020

Winner - - Trust Fund Fiance


The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

Trust Fund Fiancé by Naima Simone is:



Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com