Saturday, May 18, 2024

Winner - - Mistakes We Never Made

 



The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

Mistakes We Never Made by Hannah Brown is:

Jami Birnbaum

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - Three Little Wishes

 



The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

Three Little Wishes by Debbie Mason is:

Shari

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Friday, May 17, 2024

Review - - Random in Death

Random in Death
by J.D. Robb
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Reviewed by Nancy



Jenna’s parents had finally given in, and there she was, at a New York club with her best friends, watching the legendary band Avenue A, carrying her demo in hopes of slipping it to the guitarist, Jake Kincade. Then, from the stage, Jake catches her eye, and smiles. It’s the best night of her life.

It’s the last night of her life.

Minutes later, Jake’s in the alley getting some fresh air, and the girl from the dance floor comes stumbling out, sick and confused and deathly pale. He tries to help, but it’s no use. He doesn’t know that someone in the crowd has jabbed her with a needle—and when his girlfriend Nadine arrives, she knows the only thing left to do for the girl is call her friend, Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

After everyone on the scene is interviewed, lab results show a toxic mix of substances in the victim’s body—and for an extra touch of viciousness, the needle was teeming with infectious agents. Dallas searches for a pattern: Had any boys been harassing Jenna? Was she engaging in risky behavior or caught up in something shady? But there are no obvious clues why this levelheaded sixteen-year-old, passionate about her music, would be targeted.

And that worries Dallas. Because if Jenna wasn’t targeted, if she was just the random, unlucky victim of a madman consumed by hatred, there are likely more deaths to come.

Nancy’s Thoughts:

Few series reach fifty-eight books. Most run out of steam well before then, and the last few often seem pale retreads of the earlier ones. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with Random in Death. The plot is tight and twisty, and we learn new things about familiar characters.

As you can see from the blurb, Eve Dallas’s friend Nadine Furst and her lover, Jake Kincaid, play prominent roles in this story. Regular readers have often seen Nadine step to the fore, but this is the first extended look at Jake and at the two of them as a couple. Jake may be astoundingly famous, but he’s a decent guy, the kind fans would hope Nadine would fall for. He and Avenue A offer their help at every step of the investigation. At the end, they offer something priceless, which I won’t spoil, to Jenna’s family. 

The murder appears to be random, with Jenna crossing the killer’s path at the wrong time. But is it? Aware that a random killing is among the hardest to solve, Eve and her team search doggedly for an explanation of why Jenna and why now. Before they find the answers, the killer makes a mistake that gives them a lead.

Many of the elements of the story are standard police procedural components. Where did the murder weapon come from? Who had access to the components? Did the killer know the victims? If not, did they fit a type? What keeps the story in Random in Death fresh is the array of characters. Robb gives each victim a family different from the others, uniting them grief or anger for their daughters.

Along the way, other familiar characters play their roles. We learn what Jamie Lingstrom is doing. He’s a tech genius who wants, much to Roarke’s frustration, to become a cop rather than work in the much more lucrative private sector for Roarke or someone like him. Jamie teams up with Quilla, a clever, independent teenager who first appears in Concealed in Death. They play an important role in the investigation.

There are also updates on the joint building project of Peabody and McNabb and on Mavis and her family. Dr. Louise DiMatto and former licensed companion Charles Monroe contribute to the hunt, as do Dr. Charlotte Mira, Eve’s homicide cops, and the forensics team at Cop Central. We see these characters frequently, the scenes with Nadine and Jake offer a new, interesting element. Nadine has had relationships before, but this one seems different. And, of course, there’s Roarke, who has evolved in the series into Eve’s very effective partner in crimefighting as well as in life. Overall, though, I think the continuing appeal of this series is Robb’s ability to keep the plot fresh without letting it get scattered and to add a bit here and there to the characters readers already know and like.

Random in Death can stand alone, but readers who start with this book will miss Eve’s evolution from a loner to someone with an extensive found family and the gradual growth of her relationship with Roarke that eventually forged them into a unit. Given the tight plot, great pace, and beautiful character bits, I rate this book as five stars, highly recommended.

~Nancy


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Tomorrow is for the Brave

Tomorrow is for the Brave
by Kelly Bowen
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 14, 2024
Reviewed by PJ



1939, France
: Lavish parties, fast cars, and a closet full of the latest fashion—to the average eye, socialite Violet St. Croix seemingly has it all. But what she truly wants is a life full of meaning and purpose. So when France falls to Germany, Violet defies her parents’ wishes and joins the war effort.  With her impeccable skill for driving under pressure, she is soon sent to North Africa to shepherd French Foreign Legion officers carrying valuable intelligence through dangerous territory.

But as the Allies encounter one mishap after another, Violet becomes convinced there is a spy in their ranks. And when her commanding officer is murdered, Violet realizes she might be the only one who can uncover the traitor and save the lives of countless soldiers on the front lines. Convincing others to believe her is difficult enough. Finding someone she can trust just might be impossible.

PJ's Thoughts:

I have a book hangover. I started reading Tomorrow is for the Brave yesterday. It didn't take long before I realized that I may as well toss my to-do list to the side. Clearly, nothing was going to be accomplished until I had read the entire book and I didn't care. I was that deeply immersed into the life of Violet St. Croix. With each chapter read, I was that much more invested in her, a woman who defied her family - and 
fiancé - to do what was right for her country, a woman who risked her life on the front lines of the WWII North Africa campaign, a woman who became a symbol of hope against the murderous Nazi regime, a woman who seemed to be the only person willing to entertain the idea that there might be a deadly spy among them. I simply had to know what happened next!

Kelly Bowen, a historical romance auto-buy author for years, has now become one of my go-to authors for WWII historical fiction. Her research is impeccable with fictional and actual events - and people - woven together into compelling stories that are darn near impossible to put down and a sense of place that puts the reader in the middle of whatever is occurring. Each time I looked up from the pages of this story, it took me a minute to realize that I was reading a book in the comfort of my home in 2024 and not on a twisty coastal road in southern France in 1939 or a dug-out desert bunker in North Africa in 1941. It's that immersive and realistic.

Bowen's character development is so complete that it's difficult to not think that these were actual people who lived. Violet, George, and Henri, in particular, are characters who engaged my interest - and affections - completely. I was right there with them through all of the peaks and valleys of their intertwined journeys and fully invested in what happened to them. (While all three of these characters are fictional, Violet was inspired by a real woman, Susan Travers, the only woman to ever serve in the French Foreign Legion. Be sure to read the Historical Note at the back of the book for more information about Travers as well as events depicted in the book.)

As if the trials of war weren't enough, Bowen has also woven a deadly mystery through this book with plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing as to the actual identity of the "spy among us." Just when I decided I had figured out the spy's identity, she would throw another twist into the mix that had me second guessing. I love when authors stump me like that. I did finally figure it out but even then, it in no way took anything away from the suspense and danger as events played out.  

If you're in the mood for a compelling, immersive, coming-of-age story featuring a young woman raised in the lap of luxury who leaves it all behind for a greater purpose amidst the turmoil and danger of WWII, finding courage, love, and a sense of self in the process, look no further than Tomorrow is for the Brave by Kelly Bowen. It has my highest recommendation. 

~~~~~~~~


Have you read any of Kelly Bowen's books?

In Tomorrow is for the Brave, Violet is both an accomplished driver as well as mechanic, very unusual for a woman of her time. How are your driving/mechanic skills? Any wanna-be car racers among us?

I love historical fiction, especially those set in the WWII era. Have you read any WWII books lately that you would recommend?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, May 18 will receive a print copy of Tomorrow is for the Brave. 

*U.S. / Canada only
*Must be 18

 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Review - - Love, Lies and Cherry Pie

Love, Lies and Cherry Pie
by Jackie Lau
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: May 7, 2024
Reviewed by PJ



Mark Chan this. Mark Chan that.

Writer and barista Emily Hung is tired of hearing about the great Mark Chan, the son of her parents’ friends. You’d think he single-handedly stopped climate change and ended child poverty from the way her mother raves about him. But in reality, he’s just a boring, sweater-vest-wearing engineer, and when they’re forced together at Emily’s sister’s wedding, it’s obvious he thinks he’s too good for her.

But now that Emily is her family’s last single daughter, her mother is fixated on getting her married and she has her sights on Mark. There’s only one solution, 
clearly: convince Mark to be in a fake relationship with her long enough to put an end to her mom’s meddling. He reluctantly agrees.

Unfortunately, lying isn’t enough. Family friends keep popping up at their supposed dates—including a bubble tea shop and cake-decorating class—so they’ll have to spend more time together to make their relationship look real. With each fake date, though, Emily realizes that Mark’s not quite what she assumed and maybe that argyle sweater isn’t so ugly after all…

PJ's Thoughts:

I hadn't read Jackie Lau before this book so I really didn't know what to expect. What I discovered was a charming rom-com with strong Asian-Canadian roots, complex family dynamics, a cute fake (to real) romance, and a delightful Toronto setting. I need more books set there. It's a city I grew up visiting but haven't been to in much too long. 

There's a lot to like about this book. First of all, there's Emily's family. Lau does a great job of creating this loving, but very complicated, family of four sisters and their parents. The tensions are visceral but the strong bond is as well. The young nieces are hilarious and so well drawn. The babysitting scene between the nieces and Mark is one of my favorite scenes in the book and when I knew this man was a keeper. Parental relationships are also well developed, especially the one between Emily and her mom. I love how this relationship evolves over the course of the story. There's a discussion between them near the end of the book that I wasn't expecting but that brought me to tears. For good reasons. 

Friendships are also an important part of Emily's life. The relationships with her two girlfriends are lively, supportive, funny, and real. I enjoyed the humor and heart that they brought to the story. 

The first half of the book is almost entirely from Emily's point of view so I was surprised - but pleased - when it suddenly shifted to Mark's. It was fun to get inside his thoughts and see things from his perspective. The second half picked up the pace and I became more invested in their relationship, largely due to that dual perspective. 

If you're looking for a fun, slow-burn, rom-com with emotional depth, strong Asian-Canadian rep, drool-worthy food, matchmaking mamas, and a hard-won happy ending, give Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie a try. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Review - - Love at First Book

Love at First Book
by Jenn McKinlay
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 14, 2024
Reviewed by PJ
 


Emily Allen, a librarian on Martha’s Vineyard, has always dreamed of a life of travel and adventure. So when her favorite author, Siobhan Riordan, offers her a job in the Emerald Isle, Emily jumps at the opportunity. After all, Siobhan’s novels got Em through some of the darkest days of her existence.


Helping Siobhan write the final book in her acclaimed series—after a ten-year hiatus due to a scorching case of writer’s block—is a dream come true for Emily. If only she didn’t have to deal with Siobhan’s son, Kieran Murphy. He manages Siobhan’s bookstore, and the grouchy bookworm clearly doesn’t want Em around.

Emily persists, and spending her days bantering with the annoyingly handsome mercurial Irishman only makes her fall more deeply in love with the new life she’s built – and for the man who seems to soften toward her with every quip she throws at him. But when she discovers the reason for Kieran's initial resistance, Em finds herself torn between helping Siobhan find closure with her series and her now undeniable feelings for Kier. As Siobhan's novel progresses, Emily will have to decide if she’s truly ready to turn a new page and figure out what lies in the next chapter.

PJ's Thoughts:

Okay, who among us has had the occasional fantasy of moving to an Irish village and falling for the hot owner of the local book shop? Just me? That is certainly not what Emily had in mind when she accepted author Siobhan Riordan's offer to be her assistant but that's exactly what happened. Well, that's what happened after a fair amount of push and pull between the "let's modernize the bookshop" Em and the "change is not in my vocabulary" Kier. Oh, and did I mention that Kier - the bookshop owner - is also Siobhan's overprotective son? Or that there's a very good - and secret - reason for the fact that fans have been waiting ten years for her to write the final book in her wildly popular book series? Or that Em's main reason for moving to Ireland was to escape her suffocating existence under her emotionally abusive mother's thumb? Yeah, there's a lot going on in this book. I may have used more than a few tissues but there was also plenty of laughter and a whole lot of fun. 

Jenn McKinlay creates multi-layered stories with relatable characters with complex layers, giving them emotionally challenging circumstances, realistic flaws, and undeniable chemistry, then guides them through the fray, as they evolve and grow into the best versions of themselves. Sometimes there is heartache. Also, anger and frustration. But, just as often, there's humor, friendship, romantic awakenings, and love. 

I loved the chemistry - and conflict - between Em and Kier. It was fun to watch them spar and then, eventually, come together...for his mother and for themselves. I really rooted hard for these two.

The relationship that developed between Siobhan and Em was heartwarming and also heart-wrenching. After a lifetime of emotional abuse from her own mother, it was wonderful to watch Em flourish under the nurturing attention of Siobhan. My only real quibble with the book is that we didn't get to see resolution between Em and her mother on the page. I really wanted that. 

The sense of place that McKinlay created transported me straight to that Irish village. I could hear the music from the pub, feel the mist on my skin, hear the lyrical tilt of voices from the locals, and want nothing more than to book a flight tomorrow. If this book doesn't make you want to visit Ireland, I don't know what will.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction with humor, heart, romance, complex characters, an Irish bookshop (complete with a broody - did I mention hot - Irish owner), and emotional depth, add Love at First Book to your summer reading list. 

For those of you who read McKinlay's Summer Reading (May 2023 - click to read my review), Emily Allen is the best friend of Sam, Summer Reading's main female character. Em is a secondary character in that book and Sam and Ben appear in Em's story, Love at First Book. You don't have to read the books in order but I enthusiastically recommend them both. 

This may be a bit of a spoiler but for those readers for whom these may be triggers, I feel it's important to know. Also, the impending death is revealed early in the book. 

Content Warning: emotionally abusive parent, cancer, death


Monday, May 13, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Mistakes We Never Made

Mistakes We Never Made
by Hannah Brown
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 7, 2024
Reviewed by PJ




Emma Townsend can sum up her situationship with hot-as-hell romantic red flag Finn Hughes in one word: 
almost. They almost dated in high school. They almost hooked up after college. They almost took things too far one magical night. Their whole story is one series of “almosts” and “nearlys,” and now they just kind of can’t stand each other. Like, at all.

But this weekend, one of their mutuals is getting married . . . and Emma and Finn will have to pretend they don’t remember how disastrous it was the last time they were in a room together.

Emma’s doing a stellar job of playing it cool—until the bride goes missing. Now, with two days before the wedding, Emma and Finn are hitting the road in a sweet vintage sports car in hopes of salvaging someone else’s happily-ever-after.

Yet somewhere between Emma’s breakfast burrito throw down, a high-stakes kayak chase (it can happen), and an outrageous Vegas detour, these sworn enemies are crossing more than just state lines. As old feelings spark once more, Emma begins to question whether risking your heart is ever really a mistake.

PJ's Thoughts:

I was intrigued by Hannah Brown when she first appeared on the national scene in Colton's season of The Bachelor though she wasn't one of my favorites that season. In her season on The Bachelorette, she quickly won me over with her sunny smile, quick wit, self-confidence, and genuine, authentic self. By the end of her season, I was Team Hannah all the way. When she was announced as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, I was ready to tune in every Monday night to cheer her on to her eventual victory (yes, she won the Mirror Ball trophy). So, it should come as no surprise that when Forever announced they would be publishing Brown's debut romance, I was giddy with anticipation. Is there anything this woman cannot do? But, at the same time I was also apprehensive. I mean, what if I didn't like her book? That would totally suck. I am happy to report that this book did, in fact, not suck, that I did like it, and that I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Ms. Brown has plans to take readers back to the fictional world she has created. There's a bit of a cliffhanger with a secondary character (okay, there's a big cliffhanger) and I need to know what happens!

Just like its creator, Mistakes We Never Made is sunny, sparkly, witty, and fun; a fast-paced story with plenty of humor, a solid emotional foundation, and for my fellow Bachelor and Bachelorette fans, a few amusing, well-placed Easter Eggs. I enjoyed getting to know the 'core four' girlfriends in this book. I hope we'll get to see more of them in future books. I love how different they each are, complementing one another's strengths and weaknesses to create a bond of friendship and support that may bend occasionally but never breaks. 

Friends to lovers is a favorite trope. So is enemies to lovers. Both are at play here so I was eager to see how the series of 'almosts' between Finn and Emma would play out. Brown gives them realistic and relatable circumstances at various ages that all contribute to the journey each of them needs to follow in order to reach a time and place where they are both ready to move forward together. They have flaws, they've each made mistakes. Emma has some serious emotional baggage to deal with. Finn owes her a sincere apology for past actions. Their path is humorous, endearing, heart-wrenching in places, and steamy in others, but the roads taken are all necessary to reach their happily ever after. You may want to grab some popcorn before you hit the road with them. It's that kind of a ride. ;-) 

If you're looking for a fun, flirty, fast-paced romcom with relatable characters, emotional underpinnings, and a happy ending, put Mistakes We Never Made on your summer reading list. I enthusiastically recommend it. 

~~~~~~~~

Have you watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette?

What's your favorite romance trope?

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

Do you follow Forever Publishing on social media (Facebook) (Instagram)? They have some terrific books coming out this summer. 

Do you follow The Romance Dish at Facebook or Instagram? Sometimes, I post about things there that don't make it to the blog. 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment no later than 11:00 PM, May 15 will receive a print copy of Mistakes We Never Made

*U.S. and Canada only
*Must be 18


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Three Little Wishes

Three Little Wishes
by Debbie Mason
Sunshine Bay - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 7, 2024
Reviewed by PJ
 


Nothing gets Willow Rosetti down. She adores everything about her life in Sunshine Bay, particu
larly the close proximity to her beloved family and her job as a meteorologist. So when she finds out Channel 5 may close and she and her coworkers will be out of work, she goes behind her family’s back to call her estranged aunt, a famous actress. Willow has never met her aunt and has no idea why her family disowned her, but she’s hopeful Camilla can deliver the ratings they need to convince Noah Elliot, the station’s gorgeous and grumpy owner, to save Channel 5.

When Camilla Monroe learns her niece Willow is trying to contact her, she fears the worst—that her secret has finally come out. Distracted, she doesn’t see the e-bike in the road. Now a case of amnesia has Camilla back in Sunshine Bay, and she’s getting Willow into one mess after another.  
 
With a little bit of scheming and a whole lot of heart, this unlikely duo might just have the summer of a lifetime, saving the station, healing their fractured family, and even paving the way for love.

PJ's Thoughts:

Debbie Mason takes readers back to Sunshine Bay and the Rosetti family with a new tale filled with unexpected twists, long-held secrets, laugh-out-loud humor, and heart-tugging emotion. It's everything I expect - and enjoy - when reading a Mason novel. 

I love the dynamics among the women in the Rosetti family - the focal point of this series - the complex relationships, the layers within each of the women, the steadfast bonds among Willow and her two cousins, and the unexplained estrangement among their grandmother, mothers, and aunt. Mason took time to give each character the attention and development they deserved. That also included Noah and his teenage sister, Riley. In fact, the relationship between by-the-book, 15-year-old Riley and mischievous, 40-something Cami (who, because of amnesia, thinks she's 17 for the first half of the book) was one of my favorite parts. 

Willow and Cami are the Rosetti women who evolved the most in this book. I appreciated the complexities of each of their situations as well as their places within the Rosetti family. Or, in Cami's case, outside the family. I really enjoyed watching the growth of both of these women; with Cami as she worked to mend the rift between her, her sisters, and her mother and with Willow as she worked to find her calling and prove her worth. One of the facets of Mason's writing that I especially enjoy is her willingness to dig deep into emotionally fraught and thought-provoking situations. 

The romantic relationship between Willow and Noah is also an important part of this book and one that I enjoyed. Mason is so good at threading together multiple relationships in her books without causing confusion or sacrificing the importance of any one singular relationship. Whether it's friends, co-workers, siblings, mothers and daughters, other extended family, or romantic couples, each gets the attention it deserves and each has the necessary thread to form a complete tapestry. Things got pretty messy at times (just like real life) and there were places in the book where I had no clue how it would all work out - for any of the characters - but, of course, Mason guided them expertly forward to a heartfelt, believable conclusion with laughter and tears along the way. I'm already looking forward to whatever she has planned for this family next. 

Three Little Wishes can be read as a standalone but for a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the Rosetti family, I would recommend reading book one, Summer on Sunshine Bay, first (Click the title to read my review).


Have you read Debbie Mason yet?

What books are on your summer reading list?

Do you enjoy multiple-generation stories or do you prefer books that focus on only one couple? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, May 13 and follows @ReadForeverPub at either Facebook or Instagram will receive a print copy of Three Little Wishes from Forever Publishing. To be entered into the giveaway, you must  include your social media handle in your comment and at which social media platform(s) you follow Forever.

* U.S. and Canada only
* Must be 18 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Second-Chance Winner - - The Chocolate Shop on Amelia Island

 



Annette N already has this book and has asked that

I choose a new winner.

The second-chance winner of

a print copy of

The Chocolate Shop on Amelia Island is:

Nicole B

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Review - - Happily Never After

Happily Never After
by Lynn Painter
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 12, 2024
Reviewed by Hellie



 


Their name? The objectors.

Their job? To break off weddings as hired.

Their dilemma? They might just be in love with each other. 

When Sophie Steinbeck finds out just before her nuptials that her fiancé has cheated yet again, she desperately wants to call it off. But because her future father-in-law is her dad’s cutthroat boss, she doesn’t want to be the one to do it. Her savior comes in the form of a professional objector, whose purpose is to show up at weddings and proclaim the words no couple (usually) wants to hear at their ceremony: “I object!” 

During anti-wedding festivities that night, Sophie learns more about Max the Objector’s job. It makes perfect sense to her: he saves people from wasting their lives, from hurting each other. He’s a modern-day hero. And Sophie wants in. 

The two love cynics start working together, going from wedding to wedding, and Sophie’s having more fun than she’s had in ages. She looks forward to every nerve-racking ceremony saving the lovesick souls of the betrothed masses. As Sophie and Max spend more time together, however, they realize that their physical chemistry is off the charts, leading them to dabble in a little hookup session or two—but it’s totally fine, because they definitely do not have feelings for each other. Love doesn’t exist, after all. 

And then everything changes. A groom-to-be hires Sophie to object, but his fiancée is the woman who broke Max’s heart. As Max wrestles with whether he can be a party to his ex’s getting hurt, Sophie grapples with the sudden realization that she may have fallen hard for her partner in crime.

 

Hellie’s Heeds: 

5 stars, Top Dish, Awesome Beach Read 

The only reason why I wasn’t able to get this review to PJ before she went a-journeying was because I kept stopping in mid-read to hit my husband in the shoulder and go, “Listen to this, listen to this…” and then read it aloud–and then we’d cackle–and I’d go back to reading. It takes me twice as long to listen to the book as it would for me to read it–and here we are. That said, this book was so funny I had to stop every other page or so and read it aloud to whatever half-willing victim (after giving them a “brief” synopsis of the story so far) so they too could enjoy Lynn Painter’s brilliance.  

The story is told in back-and-forth first person POVs of Sophie and Max. Sophie is the greater of the two nihilists, a complete believer that “love” as defined by poets and adolescent idiots does not exist. She’s certainly never felt it. Even when she was about to be married. She felt a companionship for Stuart, an intense friendship–but not “love” of the passionate, all encompassing kind…and she thought he was on the same page. He was not. Turns out he did want a more passionate kind of love–at least on the side–which is how our story starts. Sophie’s bridesmaid hires an Objector, dear Max, to break off Sophie’s wedding so she doesn’t have to marry the cheating SOB. After the failed wedding, when Max comes to collect his paycheck, the drunk almost-bride convinces him to stay and drink with her and the bridesmaid–and he’s almost immediately hooked. 

Neither of them think they’ll see each other again until Max needs her to play the part of Objector in a wedding. Soon they start going to other weddings together, playing Objectors together and having the time of their lives. Each needs the other as a sort of “relationship camouflage” to keep family and coworkers off their backs, which works really well for them until they begin to realize: I really like him/her. Which is shocking to Sophie who does NOT do feelings. Ever. Max isn’t keen on feelings either–but Sophie really doesn’t do feelings.  

As someone who also doesn’t “do feelings” in a Brene Brown kind of way (“It was a year long street fight”), Sophie was very easy for me to relate to. To those of us in the crowd who may have had less dysfunctional parents or childhoods, you may want to shake her a few times for being so obstinate of what is so clearly obvious: LOVE. It’s a nice change of pace to have the girl being the one who struggles with feelings rather than the guy–in contrast, Max is much more a romantic and is much sooner to admit to himself he loves Sophie.  

The black moment was good–but the Groveling was adorable. I *heart* a great Grovel scene…and Sophie’s presentation will have you laughing out loud. It was a quick read with great pacing and hysterical banter. I think it would be perfect in your beach reading (I know how TBR piles can be). Oh, and the secondary characters? Did I forget them? OMG, Larry! Sophie’s cats! Seriously…go read it. 


Thursday, May 9, 2024

Winner - - The Best Life Book Club

 



The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

The Best Life Book Club by Sheila Roberts is:

Patricia B

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Winner - - The Chocolate Shop on Amelia Island

 




The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

The Chocolate Shop on Amelia Island is:

Annette N

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - Effie Olsen's Summer Special

 




The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

Effie Olsen's Summer Special by Rochelle Bilow is:

flchen1

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - May Coming Attractions

 




The randomly chosen winner 

of a print copy of

A Summer of Second Chances by Miranda Liasson is:

Penney Wilfort

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Review - - The Summer Swap

The Summer Swap
by Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Canary Street Press
Release Date: May 7, 2024
Reviewed by PJ



Cecilia Lapthorne always vowed she’d never go back to Dune Cottage. So no one is more surprised than Cecilia to find herself escaping her seventy-fifth birthday party to return to the remote Cape Cod cottage—a place filled with memories. Some are good—especially memories of the early days with her husband, volatile artist Cameron.  But then there are the memories she has revealed to no one.


After dropping out of medical school, aspiring artist Lily is cleaning houses on the Cape to get by, guilt-ridden for disappointing her parents. Unoccupied for years, Dune Cottage seems the perfect place to hide away and lick her wounds—until Cecilia unexpectedly arrives. Despite an awkward beginning, Lily accepts Cecilia’s invitation to stay on as her guest, and a flicker of kinship ignites.

Then Todd, Cecilia’s grandson—and Lily’s unrequited crush—shows up, sending a shock wave through their unlikely friendship.  Will Lily find the courage to live the life she wants? Can Cecilia finally let go of the past to find a new future? Because as surely as the tide erases past footprints, this summer is offering both Cecilia and Lily the chance to swap old dreams for new…

PJ's Thoughts:

I always look forward to a new novel by Sarah Morgan. She writes stories I can sink into, characters who are intriguing and relatable, and settings that bring everything together in a vibrant, visceral way. The Summer Swap is another shining example of all the facets that make a Sarah Morgan book hard to put down. 

I love character-driven stories and Morgan's are among the best. I appreciate the way she develops her characters, giving them a multitude of layers, realistic flaws, and challenges. The three primary women in this book are of different generations, each at a defining crossroads in her life, each facing a different set of challenges, and yet each with something of value to teach - and learn from - one another. 

Relationships: that's something else Morgan writes especially well. The way the relationships among these women - as well as romantic relationships for each of them - weave together is flawless, encompassing all the emotion and strife to be expected from real-life situations when secrets, betrayals, forgiveness, and unexpected new beginnings are at play. Whether family, friends, business partners, adversaries, or romance, Morgan's ability to guide her characters through the complicated peaks and valleys of difficult relationships, delivering them to the other side - usually happier, stronger, and more complete - is one of the main reasons her books resonate so strongly and are always on my must-buy list. This one is no exception. I loved it the first time through. I'll probably love it even more when I revisit it, likely sometime this summer, as Sarah Morgan once again carries me away to cozy cottages, sandy beaches, and the soft, sultry breezes of a summer's day on a coastal island.

Add The Summer Swap to your summer reading list. I highly recommend it.