Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review - - The Grifter

The Grifter
by Kimberly Kincaid
Publisher: Kimberly Kincaid
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



Only one person has ever rocked Detective Shawn Maxwell’s titanium composure. 
Francesca Rossi, his ex-partner. His ex-everything.

He hasn’t seen Frankie since she left him eight years ago and now he has to work with her on an undercover case that could break them both.

But when Shawn’s world is turned upside down by the news that he has a three-year-old daughter, Frankie stuns him by being an unlikely ally.

The more they’re together, the more the walls between them begin to crumble and the less he can resist the fierce, beautiful woman he fell for. But their past comes with wounds that run deep and the present holds danger neither of them see coming.

Until suddenly, they aren’t just fighting for love. They’re fighting for their lives.

PJ's Thoughts:

The Grifter is the third book of Kincaid's Intelligence Unit romantic suspense series. Although it features continuing characters from the first two IU books along with cameos by characters from her other series set in Remington, NC, the book works well as a standalone. 

Frankie and Shawn are complex, multi-layered, flawed characters with a complicated history between them. Kincaid did a wonderful job of bringing them to life along with their awkward, intense, and deeply emotional second-chance romance. These two really grabbed my heart with their unexpected tenderness, vulnerability, integrity, strength, and sizzle (I found myself reaching for a fan more than once). Then there's the bond of love that had been tested to its limits but, to their surprise, had never broken. 

The romance in this book is well balanced with an intense, edge-of-the-seat suspense thread that had me gasping frequently. Kincaid has created a stone-cold, psychopathic villain who gave me chills. This dude is the stuff of nightmares. He leads Shawn and Frankie on a not-so-merry chase with life or death consequences that had me on edge from start to stunning finish. 

As I mentioned earlier, characters from earlier books set in Remington weave in and out of this book with ease. Fans of the series will no doubt enjoy catching up with favorites while those readers new to Kincaid should be able to jump into The Grifter without missing a beat. If tightly woven romantic suspense with complex emotion, plenty of steam, and an unexpected character who brings out the tenderness in both our hero and heroine are your jam, give The Grifter a try. It has my enthusiastic recommendation. 

CW: Drug Addition and Murder

 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Review - - Messing with the Billionaire

Messing with the Billionaire
by Breezie Bennett
Maid in Miami - Book 1
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing
Release Date: October 15, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



When a case of mistaken identity goes too far…can this billionaire win the trust of a woman who thinks she loves the gardener?

TJ: Buying a winter home in Miami Beach has its benefits. Not only did I escape the pressure of being a hedge fund manager in New York, but when my housekeeping team shows up and an adorable bubbly blonde is in charge, I find I like the tropical sun even more. Sure, I let her believe I’m the gardener because the mistake was amusing, and she was amazing. I obviously planned to tell her when she says yes to our first date, but…I didn’t. For once, a woman is really into me without the trappings of my wealth and status. But the joke’s on me when feelings get real and telling her the truth could wreck the best thing I’ve ever had.

Lilly: It's official. I've met the perfect guy. At least, he seems perfect. He might not be the best landscaper in Miami, but he looks great in a sweaty t-shirt out on the lawns of my client’s mansion. For once, I’ve found someone who appreciates hard work and, like me, didn’t get anything handed to him. The only problem is...I think he's hiding something. Something big. I want to believe that the sweet and humble gardener I'm falling in love with is as real as he seems...but some unanswered questions make me wonder if this is all just too good to be true. Who is he and can I trust him with my heart?


PJ's Thoughts:


Breezie Bennett takes readers back to Miami for the first book in her new sweet and sassy, Maids in Miami romantic comedy series. When five best friends wrap up their business school post-grad degrees with no jobs on the horizon, they decide to return home to Miami, combine forces, and launch a high-end housekeeping service. These savvy, hard-working women are on their way, with a crew of top-notch workers and some solid contracts but what they really need is to land a few "rich and famous" clients for their business to soar. Will those clients also bring unexpected love? 

I really enjoy Bennett's breezy (no pun intended) style of writing. It's fresh, fun, full of charm, has great depth of emotion, and a sweet, endearing sizzle. Lilly and TJ are likeable characters who have an immediate attraction that leaves them both - especially TJ - a bit flustered. It was easy to understand how - and why - mistaking TJ for the gardener occurred and why he let the assumption stand, especially when it was such a novelty to be admired and desired for himself and not his money. It gave the author time to explore their characters as well as allow them the opportunity to get to know one another without pre-conceived opinions. I enjoyed watching them slowly become friends, then more, as they opened themselves to one another. The only real issue I had with their relationship was how long it took for TJ to come clean about his real identity. Yes, he felt awful about it and yes, I did understand why it was so difficult for him to do it but it went on longer than I was comfortable with. Of course, I forgave him - as did Lilly - because, well, let's just say that soul-baring confessions and heartfelt grand gestures go a long way when securing a happy ending. 

I love the support, love, laughter, and life-long friendships among these five women who, at this point, are really more chosen family than friends. I'm already invested in their happiness and eager to see more of all of them in future books in the series. 


 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Last Chance Winner - - Tracy Solheim

 



Beth Reimer

You have not claimed this giveaway. 

Please send your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than 11:00 PM, October 18.

After that date, I will choose a new winner for this giveaway.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review - - No Words

No Words
by Meg Cabot
Little Bridge Island - Book 3
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
 


Don’t Judge a Book by Its Author...

Welcome to Little Bridge, one of the smallest, most beautiful islands in the Florida Keys.

Jo Wright always swore she’d never step foot on Little Bridge Island—not as long as her nemesis, bestselling author Will Price, is living there.

Then Jo’s given an offer she can’t refuse: an all-expense paid trip to speak and sign at the island’s first ever book festival.

Even though arrogant Will is the last person Jo wants to see, she could really use the festival’s more-than-generous speaking fee. She’s suffering from a crippling case of writer’s block on the next installment of her bestselling children’s series, and her father needs financial help as well.

Then Jo hears that Will is off-island on the set of the film of his next book. Hallelujah!

But when she arrives on Little Bridge, Jo is in for a shock: Will is not only at the book festival, but seems genuinely sorry for his past actions—and more than willing not only to make amends, but prove to Jo that he’s a changed man.

Things seem to be looking up—until disaster strikes, causing Jo to wonder: Do any of us ever really know anyone?


PJ's Thoughts:


Cabot returns to the Florida Keys for the third book in her Little Bridge Island romantic comedy series and it's my favorite so far. 


One of Cabot's strengths is her ability to create a setting that is so realistic and appealing that it has me wanting to pack my bags and hop a plane. She then populates that setting with a variety of quirky, endearing, frequently complex, and occasionally villainous characters who, by the end of the book, feel more like friends than fictional characters. Okay, maybe not the villainous ones but the others, definitely.


I really enjoyed the evolving relationship between Jo and Will. Cabot took the story in different directions that I originally anticipated, allowing both characters significant growth in the process. I was surprised to discover how much my opinion of each of them evolved as they did themselves. 


I also loved how the author brought Jo's Kitty Katz, Kitten Sitter book series to life in this book. I wish it was a real children's book series. I have two five-year-olds in the family who would adore it! 


It's obvious Cabot has attended her share of book conferences/festivals in the way she writes the details of Little Bridge's first book festival and the authors who are in attendance. I found myself laughing out loud many times and also missing those events, even the awkward and sometimes embarrassing moments that inevitably occur. Whether you've attended one or not, there is plenty in this one to both entertain and amuse. 


While No Words is the third book of a series, and there are a few characters from the first two books who make appearances, it stands on its own and readers can jump in without missing a beat. If you enjoy upbeat rom-coms with well-developed characters, heart-tugging emotion, and plenty of humor, take a trip to Little Bridge Island with Meg Cabot's No Words


Friday, October 15, 2021

Review - - Romancing the Holidays, Vol. 2

Romancing the Holidays, Vol. 2
by 14 authors from First Coast Romance Writers
Publisher: First Coast Romance Writers
Release Date: September 22, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



Looking for a Happily Ever After? How about fourteen of them?! Romancing the Holidays, Volume 2 is a collection of romantic short stories all with the happy ending you crave. Genres include: contemporary, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense and young adult.


And what better time to find romance than during the holidays? Escape into these Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Three Kings Day and Valentine’s Day adventures, and swoon anew with each couple as they fall in love.

Proceeds from this anthology benefit First Coast Romance Writers, a non-profit chapter of Romance Writers of America that helps writers hone their craft and expand their knowledge of the publishing industry.

PJ's Thoughts:

This collection of holiday short stories has something for everyone. Whether your reading choice is contemporary, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense, new adult, or something else, chances are good you'll find a story to enjoy. And, you just might discover a new author to binge or possibly a new sub-genre you've yet to try.

Paranormal is usually not my first choice when selecting a book but Melody Johnson's Halloween romance, "Fated by Fire," drew me in and held me captive. I will definitely be reading more of this author!

Abigail Sharpe is an author whose contemporary romcoms I have enjoyed. In "New Year's Ex-Pectations," she takes takes readers to a Wyoming dude ranch for a heart-tugging, low-heat, second-chance romance that packs a lot of emotion into a short story.

Laura Salas brings a Latin flair to the collection with her friends-to-lovers romance, "Love on Calle Ocho." I enjoyed the Cuban traditions, and festivities surrounding the celebration of Three Kings Day on Calle Ocho, in Miami's Little Havana. I really enjoyed Maddie and Carlos and their three day getaway to Calle Ocho that changed everything. 

These are just a few of the entertaining romance "appetizers" to be found in this collection, each one perfect for a quick, uplifting romance boost during the busyness of the holiday season. 


 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Review - - The Reunion at Sugar Sand Inn

The Reunion at Sugar Sand Inn
by Leigh Duncan
Sugar Sand Beach - Book 4
Publisher: Gardenia Street Publishing
Release Date: October 15, 2021
Reviewed by PJ


Escape to Sugar Sand Beach with Erin Bradshaw and her best friends for a second chance at all life has to offer.

Forty-five year old Erin has grown restless with her life. Which is odd because she’s spent the past twenty years roaming the globe. Between summers in Alaska and winters in the Florida keys, she’s climbed the steps of Machu Picchu, hiked long sections of the Great Wall of China, and kayaked down the Amazon. Lately, though, Erin has felt the urge to put down roots, strengthen her neglected relationship with her sister, Reggie, and reconnect with her two best friends, Michelle and Nina.

When Michelle inherits a run-down beach house in sleepy Sugar Sand Beach and invites her friends to help convert it into an inn, Erin jumps at the chance to settle down with the best friends a girl could ever hope to have.

But now that Reggie’s garden is flourishing, customers crowd the tables in the Cafe, and the first of the Inn’s guests are due any day, a figure from Erin’s past makes a surprising appearance. When he threatens the bonds of friendship that have deepened over the summer, Erin must choose. Will she return to her nomadic way of life? Or will she put down forever roots in Sugar Sand Beach?

Join Michelle, Reggie, Nina and Erin as they build new lives in Sugar Sand Beach, where fresh opportunities for life, love and happiness are as limitless as the blue Florida skies.


PJ's Thoughts:


Leigh Duncan continues her Sugar Sand Inn saga with book four, The Reunion at Sugar Sand Inn. Our intrepid friends are in for some major events as they inch closer to opening the doors of their inn. There's the finalization of their partnership agreement (are they all ready for this?), the senior citizen takeover (they never expected that many!), the reappearance of Erin's ex-husband (after twenty years, no less), and, oh yes, let's not forget a major hurricane on the horizon. Yikes!


At this point of the series, I am thoroughly invested in these characters, in their lives, loves, and challenges. While Erin's personal story takes the lead in this book, there's still plenty of page time for the continuation of Michelle's, Nina's, and Reggie's journeys and I am here for all of them. I appreciate the time and care Duncan is taking with these relationships. They feel natural and realistic to me. Which leads me to a slight issue I had with Erin's romance in this book. It's very fast. I had no problem with the attraction but after twenty years of no contact, I had some trouble buying into the rest (trying to avoid spoilers here). I'm hoping the next book will tie things up for me and give me confidence in their relationship. 


The final book in the series, Christmas at Sugar Sand Inn, is scheduled to be released November 19. While I am eager to read it, I'm not ready to say good-bye to Michelle, Reggie, Nina, and Erin. They've become more to me than characters in a book. They've become friends and it has been pure pleasure to watch them soar. I guess I'll just have to set this series to the side where I can revisit it whenever I need a reminder that we're never too old to start over, to find a new passion, to open ourselves to love, and that we should always treasure and nurture the unconditional support and love among our best friends. 


If you enjoy women's fiction with mature characters, female friendships, starting over, and hard-earned happy endings, give this series a try. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend beginning with book one, The Gift at Sugar Sand Inn, and reading the rest of the books in order. 





Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Review - - The Vanished Days

The Vanished Days
by Susanna Kearsley
The Scottish series - Book 3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



In the autumn of 1707, old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England. At the same time, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to bring the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger.

Queen Anne's commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun paying out money sent up from London to settle the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier—an ill-fated venture that left Scotland all but bankrupt.

When the young widow of a Darien sailor comes forward to collect her husband's wages, her claim is challenged. One of the men assigned to investigate has only days to decide if she's honest, or if his own feelings are blinding him to the truth.


PJ's Thoughts:

For my money, Susanna Kearsley is one of the most gifted authors writing historical fiction today. With impeccable research, vivid descriptions, and complex, fully developed characters, she fully immerses me into whatever place and era she writes. 

In The Vanished Days, that place is Edinburgh, Scotland and the time is 1707. The narrator of the story is Sergeant Adam Williamson, an American soldier of Scottish birth who is tasked with investigating the claim of the young widow, Lily. The story is told through flashbacks, from both his perspective as well as Lily's. It's intriguing, poignant, suspenseful, and powerful. Once I began reading, I could not put the book down, eagerly flipping pages right up until the stunning conclusion. It's a fictional tale of friendship, betrayal, intrigue, pride, mystery, revenge, and enduring love, seamlessly playing out across the historical landscape of actual events with real people interwoven throughout the fictional. I could probably fill three or four pages with everything I loved about this book but readers should have the personal experience of discovering all the facets of these characters as well as the twists and turns of the journey on their own.

While The Vanished Days is the third book of a series, it is actually a prequel to the first two books. Though it does weave in and out of the timeline of book one, The Winter Sea, it stands well on its own and readers shouldn't miss out on anything by reading The Vanished Days first. I do, however, highly recommend both The Winter Sea and book two, The Firebird. In fact, I recommend everything Susanna Kearsley has written. If you enjoy rich historical detail paired with spellbinding storytelling, she is an author you will not want to miss. 


Have you read Susanna Kearsley yet?

Do you have a favorite novel of hers? 

Who are some of your favorite historical fiction authors?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Review - - No Ordinary Christmas

No Ordinary Christmas
by Belle Calhoune 
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
 


Mistletoe, Maine, is buzzing and not just because Christmas is around the corner! Dante West, local cutie-turned-Hollywood hunk, is returning home to make his next movie. Everyone in town is excited . . . except librarian Lucy Marshall. When Dante took off for LA without warning—or even a goodbye—he broke Lucy’s heart. She swore not to spend one more minute thinking about her ex, but Dante makes an offer Lucy’s struggling library can’t refuse: a major donation to film on-site.


Dante is thrilled to help boost his hometown’s economy and finally begin making amends to the people he hurt years ago when he left, starting with Lucy. But seeing his former best friend on set every day feels a lot less like closure and more like a fresh start. It’s one thing for Dante to fall for Lucy all over again, quite another for a famous movie star and a small-town librarian to find lasting romance. Can the magic of the holiday season give Lucy and Dante’s first love a second chance?

PJ's Thoughts:

I feel like I should be sipping hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols while writing this review. Belle Calhoune's No Ordinary Christmas immersed me in all the holiday cheer and tradition of the small Maine town of Mistletoe and the second-chance story of town librarian, Lucy and hometown boy made good, Dante. You all know by now that I enjoy a second-chance romance and this one comes with all kinds of delicious complications to keep me engaged in the story and invested in the potential of a happily ever after. Though, I do have to say, I had no idea how Calhoune was going to pull it off considering the lingering hurt and mistrust from Lucy and Dante's past, not to mention the logistics of the present. But she did, and in a realistic, heartwarming fashion that had me cheering for the happy couple and shedding more than a few tears of joy. 

What she has created is a sweet, thoughtful, and deeply emotional story that played out across my mind like one of my favorite Hallmark holiday movies. Her descriptions brought Mistletoe to life, with it's festive town square, Christmas tree farms, beloved library, and holiday fair. Then there are the citizens of Mistletoe. She's created a diverse community of intriguing characters with interesting back stories who are all but begging for books of their own. I enjoyed the various threads that wove in and out of Lucy and Dante's story, the family dynamics, life-long friendships, and romantic entanglements that added a richness to the overall story. I especially enjoyed Tess, Lucy's 10-year-old sister. I do hope we'll be seeing more of her as the series continues. She's a sweetheart of a scene stealer and I adored her.

This was my first book by Belle Calhoune. It sure won't be the last. If you're a fan of upbeat (closed-door) Christmas romances with humor, heart, diverse characters, and hard-won happy endings, give No Ordinary Christmas a try. I enthusiastically recommend it. 


Monday, October 11, 2021

Review - - The Christmas Village

The Christmas Village
by Annie Rains
Somerset Lake - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ




Once upon a Christmas, she gave him her heart. This year, he'll have to win it back again . . .
 
When Lucy Hannigan returned to her childhood home in Somerset Lake, one of the first things she did was join the local book club. And thank goodness, because now that Lucy’s first Christmas without her mother is bearing down upon her, she can use all the help and support she can get.  Especially when she has to take in a tenant and the only person interested is Miles Bruno, her ex-fiance.

Lucy’s friends keep teasing her about the way Miles is trying to make up for his mistakes but forgiving and forgetting isn’t coming easily to Lucy. With bills piling up and her mother’s finances in disarray, however, Lucy isn’t in any position to say no.

As the small town prepares for the holidays and competition heats up in the Merriest Lawn decorating contest, Lucy can’t help feeling like a Scrooge. Her mom loved the holidays and won the contest each year, but as much as Lucy would like to carry on the tradition, she isn’t sure she has it in her to deck the halls this holiday.

Yet when Miles shows up with tons of tinsel, dozens of decorations, and lots and lots of lights, Lucy begins to wonder if maybe the spirit of the season will finally mend her broken heart.


PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about Annie Rains is the sense of community she creates within each of her series while also writing each book in such a way that it can be read as a standalone. For fans of the series, there are overlapping characters and continuations that are sure to delight but at the same time new readers are able to jump in with any book in the series without feeling lost. 

This second book in Rains' new Somerset Lake series features Lucy, a midwife who returned home a year ago to nurse her mother through a final illness and Miles, her first love who is also the man who shattered her young heart. Will life give them a second chance to get it right?

I love a second chance romance and this one sure tugs at the heartstrings. Both Lucy and Miles are dealing with personal issues, including but not limited to the implosion of their relationship several years earlier. I enjoyed the journey the author took them on, slowly rebuilding their friendship, and trust, then carefully guiding them into deeper feelings. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the book club women as well as the kids from the youth center. They added another dimension to both main characters. Lucy and Miles are both complex characters who evolve quite a bit throughout their journey. I found their growth to be realistic and believable, speed bumps and all. By the end of the book, I was firmly in their corner and cheering on their happy ending.

Readers who enjoy dogs, cats, strong friendships, community involvement, a bit of a mystery, and second chances with your first love will want to add The Christmas Village to their holiday reading list. 

CW: Death of a parent, grief


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Unclaimed Giveaways

 



A friendly reminder to periodically check the 

Unclaimed Giveaways in the right side bar

so you don't miss out on a giveaway you may have won.

Current unclaimed giveaway winners are:


Annette N

Beth Reimer

Pamela Devereux

Sarahmom335 (at) yahoo (dot) com




Saturday, October 9, 2021

Review - - Rebel Yule

Rebel Yule
by Kate Meader
A Rookie Rebels Holiday Novella
Publisher: Kate Meader, LLC
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



Casey Higgins, assistant to the Chicago Rebels owner, has a smile for everyone who comes into the front office—everyone but goalie Erik Jorgenson. And he has no idea why. For the last year, she’s refused to give him a kind word, and finally, he’s had enough. At the Rebels holiday party he’ll uncover the root of their mysterious conflict and show this woman that goalkeepers do their best work . . . on their knees.

Can a little Yuletide cheer get Erik into Casey’s good graces, warm bed, and frozen heart? Or will he fumble the puck and lose his chance? Join the Chicago Rebels this holiday season and find out if Erik is as good at saving Christmas as he is at saving goals!




PJ's Thoughts:


I'm pretty sure I won’t be the only reader asking Santa for my very own Swedish hockey goalie after meeting Erik Jorgenson in Kate Meader’s Rebel Yule. He's a big, sexy, cuddly sweetheart with absolutely no clue what he's done to make his boss's admin dislike him so much. After a year of Casey treating him like something she'd scrape off her shoe, he's about to find out exactly why and, wow, I did not see that coming. But, boy howdy, did I ever enjoy what followed!


Rebel Yule is a quick read that sizzles with passion, simmers with sweetness, sparkles with snappy dialogue, and has all the heart-tugging emotion of a full-length Meader novel. Casey and Erik's story captured my heart and had me reaching for a fan more than once. I loved their chemistry and the depth of emotion that began to develop once misconceptions were addressed. Watching Casey grow emotionally and regain her self-confidence was wonderful. I loved how Erik was so supportive of her without taking over. There's a scene with the long-time ex-boyfriend who dumped her where I may have been cheering out loud (totally was). I also appreciated the way Meader handled Erik's "issue" (trying not to divulge spoilers here) that caused the initial friction with Casey. I've known someone with the same challenge but had never seen it in a fictional character before. I also enjoyed the banter - and obvious affection - between Erik and his family and the inclusion of their Swedish holiday traditions in the story. Add in Rebel and Rookie Rebel cameos, laugh-out-loud humor, unexpected twists, a closet scene I’ve reread more than a few times, plus a sigh-worthy happy ending, and you have a fun holiday story I'm sure I'll be rereading more than once. 


I enthusiastically recommend adding Rebel Yule to your holiday book shopping list. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy watching the Rebel's endearing goalie finally find his heart's true love and win her heart with the well-meaning (read meddling) advice of pretty much everyone in the organization while for readers new to Kate Meader's hockey franchise, Rebel Yule is a great place to jump in.