Friday, April 23, 2021

Review - - Sunset on Moonlight Beach

Sunset on Moonlight Beach
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 5
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Reviewed by PJ


Jenna Jones has been standing on the shore of the Sea of Love for too long. Even with two good men interested in her, she's been afraid to wade in. According to her best friend, Courtney, she should. The water’s fine. Life is great! Practically perfect, if you don’t count Courtney’s problems with her cranky ex-boss. Maybe Courtney’s right. It’s time to dive in.


When tragedy strikes, everything changes and Jenna's more confused than ever. But this fresh heartache might help her figure out at last who she can turn to when times get tough.




PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about Sheila Roberts' books is the community she creates. While each book in a series has a primary romantic couple, other characters and their own journeys are seamlessly interwoven throughout. Reading one of the books in her Moonlight Harbor series feels like I'm sitting around a campfire on the beach with my neighbors, sipping a cold beverage and catching up on all the latest happenings in their lives. 

Jenna Jones has been a key character in Moonlight Harbor since arriving in book one, bitter and broke after being betrayed by her cheating, free-loading husband (now her ex). Moving in with her great-aunt, Jenna and her teenage daughter have slowly become part of the fabric of the small beach town. With the court-appointed alimony she's had to pay her ex for the past few years about to come to an end, Jenna is starting to finally look ahead at what she wants her life to be once she doesn't have to work two jobs and pinch pennies to support her lazy ex and his girlfriend. And part of that future is the possibility of trusting another man enough to enter into a new relationship. The problem is...which man will it be?

I've enjoyed watching Jenna evolve over the course of the series and have been eager for her to finally get her own happily ever after. She's sure earned it. Roberts doesn't give her an easy path though. There's heartache, another betrayal, loss, weaselly relatives, and the slow realization that the heart wants what the heart wants, regardless of obstacles in the way. It's a sweet, heart-tugging, humorous, emotional story about family, standing up for yourself, refusing to settle, and claiming your heart's desire that had me laughing, crying, and sighing with satisfaction. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review - - Faux Paws

Faux Paws
by Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogmothers - Book 8
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



At a personal and career crossroads he never expected, Navy nuclear engineer Theo Santorini faces the fact that his once charmed existence isn’t so charmed anymore. Then, on a cross country trip, he saves a desperate and abused dog, hoping he can turn around both their lives. When he arrives at Waterford Farm in North Carolina with his rescue, Clementine, Theo’s matchmaking grandmother and her best friend immediately launch a plan to help both man and dog. Theo doesn’t hate their idea of getting an assist from a beautiful, enigmatic “pet psychic” while he figures out his next move. But the woman’s preposterous claims that she can read an animal’s mind seriously test an engineer who lives for logic and flees from feelings.

After bolting from the church when she learned the groom waiting at the altar had cheated on her, Ayla Hollis can now add “runaway bride” to her short resume. But this perennial people-pleaser has broken free from her stifling upbringing and is finally ready to begin a new life. She’ll start by openly admitting to the world that she has a gift that might seem bizarre to some, but she can help animals, and in a town that loves dogs, that makes her a local hero. Her first “patient” is an emotionally damaged stray dog held in the strong arms of a handsome, but skeptical, owner. Ayla soon finds it can be much easier to understand an animal’s feelings than those of a man who refuses to believe her abilities are real.

As Theo and Ayla work together to help Clementine heal, they can’t deny one thing is real: their sizzling chemistry that quickly grows to feelings of forever. But before the Dogmothers can claim another successful match, Ayla’s psychic skills thrust her into a perilous spotlight that threatens everything. With their love on the line and a dog’s life in the balance, Ayla’s gift could save them all…but only if Theo will finally risk his heart and believe.


PJ's Thoughts: 
Roxanne St. Claire aims straight for the heart and never misses. I adored this book. I know it may seem like I say that with each newly-published book in this series but sometimes there's an extra-special something that pushes a book to the top of the heap and Faux Paws has it. As soon as I finished my first read-through, all I wanted to do was go back to the beginning and read it all over again. With more tissues. As I said, straight for the heart. 
In Faux Paws, St. Claire brings us three main characters (two and four-legged), newly arrived in Bitter Bark, North Carolina, who are all at a crossroads in their lives. I love the way she explores the challenges, possibilities, and decisions facing each of them. Yes, even Clementine, who is definitely in the running for my favorite rescue pooch in this series. Her journey is a hard one that had me reaching for tissues more than once. Don't worry, she definitely gets her happily ever after. 
I love the chemistry between Ayla and Theo but I also enjoy the fact that St. Claire takes her time with them, gradually building a friendship before introducing deeper feelings. They have some fundamental differences to work through before those deeper feelings can take root. I always enjoy the emotional layering that occurs in these stories, along with the slow burn. The relationships that form are very realistic, with humor and conflict along the way while the main characters are complex people I'd enjoy knowing in real life. In fact, they're so realistic that I'm still halfway convinced they're all living happy lives in a lovely little North Carolina town only a couple hours away from me. 
The extended families - including the matchmaking Dogmothers a/k/a one Irish Gramma and one Greek Yiayia - all add an emotional richness to the story along with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. If you're a fan of The Dogmother series, as well as The Dogfather series, you'll enjoy catching up with some of your favorite characters in this book, while also welcoming new babies and pups to the clan. For readers who are new to these books, you should know that you can jump in with any of them and feel right at home.
If you enjoy family-centric contemporary romance with humor, sweet (but deeply emotional) romance, characters you'll want to be friends with, and rescue dogs who will flat-out steal your heart, this book is for you.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Cover Reveal - - The Scoundrel's Daughter

 

The Scoundrel's Daughter
by Anne Gracie
The Brides of Bellaire Gardens - Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 24, 2021

When Lady Charlton is forced into becoming London's most reluctant matchmaker, sparks fly and romance ensues, from the national bestselling author of Marry in Scarlet.


Alice, Lady Charlton, newly-widowed and eager to embrace a life free of her domineering husband  is devastated when a scoundrel appears, brandishing letters that could ruin her. To prevent their publication he wants Alice to find a noble husband—a lord!—for his daughter, Lucy.

Alice is forced to agree to his blackmail but when Lucy arrives, she has absolutely no interest in her father's scheme. A lord, she says, will only look down his nose at her—and she's having none of that!

Desperate to retrieve the letters, Alice enlists the aid of her handsome young nephew, Gerald, who in turn seeks the help of his former commanding officer, James, Lord Tarrant. James is soon beguiled by the marriage-averse lady and sets out to teach her about love.  Meanwhile, Gerald and Lucy strike sparks each time they meet.

To combat the dastardly plot, Alice and Lucy must learn to trust each other. But can Alice put the past behind her and open her heart to love?


PJ Says:

Isn't that cover stunning? I love the colors! 

Anne Gracie is one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors so, of course, news of a new book by her is always cause for celebration at my house. After Marry in Scarlet, last year's triumphant conclusion to Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series (read PJ's 5-star review), she's been hard at work on a new slate of characters to win readers' hearts. The Brides of Bellaire Gardens launches on August 24th with The Scoundrel's Daughter and the back cover blub has me salivating. I can't wait to discover what Gracie has planned for this new slate of characters. 

Have you read any of Anne Gracie's books? Do you have a favorite series by her?

I love the vibrant purple and green on the cover of The Scoundrel's Daughter. What colors on a book cover catch your attention?

I have a print copy of Marry in Scarlet for one randomly chosen person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM, April 21.

*Must be 18
*U.S. Addresses Only


Review - - A Waterfront Wedding

A Waterfront Wedding
by Leigh Duncan
A Heart's Landing Novel - Book 3
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Reviewed by PJ



It’s the wedding of the year…


But who will get to host it?

In Heart’s Landing, Evelyn wants to prove she’s a good manager of the Captain’s Cottage by the bay—a favorite place for weddings. Meanwhile, Ryan has invested his life savings to remodel the town’s old boatworks into a brand-new wedding venue.

When a Marine and his bride win the Wedding in a Week contest, they have seven days to put together a romantic, all-expenses-paid event. It’ll be written up in Weddings Today magazine. But will they choose Evelyn’s cottage or Ryan’s boatworks?

The rival business owners cozy up to the bride and groom, helping them plan their military wedding. And even though Evelyn and Ryan both grew up in Heart’s Landing, they learn they never truly knew each other until now. But can they trust each other when only one of them can win?

PJ's Thoughts:

If you enjoy feel-good Hallmark movies, you are going to love this book. Leigh Duncan brings the town of Heart's Landing, in all its wedding-themed glory, to vibrant life. I don't need to be getting married; I just want to spend a week there soaking up the atmosphere. And by atmosphere, I mean dinners at the Italian restaurant on Bridal Carriage Way, tastings at I Do Cakes, horse-drawn carriage rides, and bicycling along the shore. Then there's the award-winning, premiere wedding venue at the Captain's Cottage. But, wait, there's a new kid in town and it looks like his waterfront wedding venue just might give the perennial favorite a run for its money.

This book was an absolute delight. I love a good friends to lovers romance and this one gave me that, plus more. We have childhood friends who are reunited when Ryan returns to town, but now they're business rivals who each are determined to be the venue selected by the special couple chosen to receive an all-expenses paid Heart's Landing wedding.  When Ryan and Evelyn are forced to work together to guide the couple through the week-long series of events, they begin to rediscover friendship as adults, a friendship that gradually starts to deepen into more. But always underlying those feelings is the knowledge that one of them is going to lose out when the couple makes their venue choice. And for Ryan, that could mean not only the end of a dream but the end of his business before it even has a chance to get off the ground. 

One of my favorite parts of this book is the community Duncan has created. I love how she weaves relationships together - family, romantic, and business - without ever being confusing or overwhelming. By the end of the book, I felt as though I knew these people and was part of their community. Ryan and Evelyn's romance is sweet but with a solid depth of emotion. I was cheering for them. And I thoroughly enjoyed the secondary romance between the couple who won the contest. It was fun to get to know them a bit, both individually and as a couple. 

I don't know if Duncan plans any more books in this series but I would happily return to Heart's Landing if she does. I wouldn't mind seeing these characters brought to life on the Hallmark Channel either! 

 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Winner - - Janna MacGregor

 




The randomly chosen winner of one print book from

Janna MacGregor's published titles is:

Karen H

Congratulations!

Please send your full name, mailing address, and choice of title to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winners - - Sunset on Moonlight Beach

 



The randomly chosen winners of a 

print advanced reader copy of

Sunset on Moonlight Beach by Sheila Roberts are:

Patricia B

Glenda

penney

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Friday, April 16, 2021

Review - - The Billionaire's Big Game

The Billionaire's Big Game
by Breezie Bennett
The Miami Vices - Book 1
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing
Release Date: April 16, 2021
Reviewed by PJ 



A billionaire bachelor up for auction. A single mom trying to avoid him. The last thing he wants is a commitment… but that happens to be the only thing she wants.

Noah Vice: When my mom signs me up for another one of her ridiculous fundraisers, I don’t think much of it. Until, that is, the drop dead gorgeous girl who ghosted me six months ago is announced as my highest bidder. Now’s my chance to finally get to know Zoe…and figure out exactly what she’s hiding. But when I meet her adorable, four-year old secret, I know this isn’t a game I should play.

Zoe Taylor: The last thing on earth I need right now is a casual fling with a hot billionaire. With a four-year old daughter and classroom full of eighth graders, there’s only one kind of relationship I’m looking for…a lifelong partner. But now, because of my meddlesome grandmother, I’m stuck with Noah for five unforgettable dates. He’s not marriage material, but I can’t resist a little fun. The only problem is… I might not beat him at his own game.


PJ's Thoughts:

Breezie Bennett is quickly becoming one of my favorite new contemporary romance authors. Her fully-developed characters, intriguing storylines, impeccable comedic timing, steamy passion, and heart-tugging happy endings have me eager to return for each new book she publishes. 

The Billionaire's Big Game launches her new The Miami Vices series with another page turner that kept me gleefully reading late into the night. I really enjoyed Noah and Zoe together. Both are likeable characters that seem totally wrong for one another when they first meet. At different places in their lives, it just isn't meant to be. But...six months later, and with the help of a lovingly meddling grandmother, they just might have a chance. Their chemistry is off the charts but Bennett skillfully gives them a slow-burn romance that allows them the time to develop bonds of friendship before sending them into deeper emotional waters. Their five, animal-centric auction dates are an absolute delight that give them the time and space needed to really start to get to know one another without the pressure of actual romantic dates. And the unexpected results of those dates for Noah begin to change his perspective on life in a big way. 

While Noah and Zoe are the primary focus of the book, Bennett gives ample page time to Zoe's adorable four-year-old daughter as well as a few rescue animals with an abundance of love to share. They all enhance Zoe and Noah's love story with their heart-stealing antics and captured mine along the way.

While The Billionaire's Big Game is loosely tied to Bennett's South Florida Riders series (Noah's sister, Ellie is the heroine of book six, Sweet Ride and Noah runs the Riders football team for his family), this first book in Bennett's new series is a great place to begin for readers new to her stories. It has my enthusiastic recommendation. 



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Cover Reveal - - Where There's A Will

Where There's A Will
by Janna MacGregor
Prequel to A Duke in Time
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: June 1, 2021


Katherine, Lady Meriwether Vareck, dreads attending the reading of her husband’s will, but she’s hoping she’ll at least have her dowry returned. And meet her departed husband’s half brother, the popular war hero duke, who seems to be everywhere, including her daydreams. Though the errant duke has never bothered to write or see her, Katherine decides to go to his house and introduce herself. Their first meeting shouldn’t be at a solicitor’s office, after all.


Even though he’s just returned home from the war, Christian Vareck, the Duke of Randford, is quite tired of all the ladies vying for his attention by throwing handkerchiefs his way. That is...until he catches a glimpse of her, the woman with a handkerchief in hand, walking to his front door. When she suddenly turns and leaves without introducing herself, Christian is surprisingly devastated. Determined to discover her identity, he plans to scour the streets of London until he finds her. But first, he must locate his late half brother’s missing will, then meet his late brother’s widow, too…

PJ says:

If I didn't already have Janna MacGregor's next full-length novel on pre-order this prequel would have sealed the deal. A quick (50-page) read, Where There's A Will introduces the main characters of A Duke in Time and sets the stage for their journey with witty dialogue, an intriguing mystery, a peek into events that will help readers understand what motivates Katherine and Christian, and the stirrings of a mutual attraction that could complicate everything...or open the door to a love they could not have imagined. 

Where There's A Will will be released June 1 but is available for pre-order now. Best of all? It's FREE! 

Where There’s a Will

A Duke in Time, the first full-length book in MacGregor's The Widow Rules series, will be released June 29. It also is available for pre-order. 

A Duke in Time
by Janna MacGregor
The Widow Rules - Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: June 29, 2021


Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri's accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she's been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.


Meri's far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she's Meri's widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri's two other wives, Katherine doesn't have time for much else. But there's something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they'll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other's hearts and futures.



Have you read any Janna MacGregor books? Do you have a favorite?

Do you enjoy prequels? What about epilogues? 

One person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM, April 16 will receive their choice of one book from Janna MacGregor's back list (books already published). 

*Must be 18
*Open internationally - if winner does not live in the U.S., their book will be shipped from Book Depository. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Here Comes "Vivian"

 



It's about this time every year that Romance Writers of America (RWA) announces the finalists for the prestigious RITA award, honoring the best in romance fiction published the previous year. In 2020, the RITA was retired, with thanks to Rita Clay Estrada, the woman for whom the award was named. Since then, the contest has been re-worked with new categories (click for new category definitions) and in-depth training to ensure fair and equitable judging. Last week, RWA revealed their new award, the Vivian, honoring Vivian Stephens, the founder of RWA. (Read more about Ms. Stephens and her many contributions to the romance fiction industry in this Texas Monthly article) It is the hope that this new award will honor today's diversity in publishing and inclusion of all romance voices. 

Today, RWA announced the 2021 finalists for the inaugural Vivian Award. Congratulations to all! I don't know about you but I have lots of new titles to add to my summer reading list. :)

The award winners will be announced at a ceremony later this year.


BEST FIRST PUBLISHED BOOK

Cherokee Summer by Susan Antony

Choosing Theo: The Clecanian Series (Book One) by Victoria Aveline

Greedy Heart by A. P. Murray

Her Outback Driver by Giulia Skye

How to Stay by Christina Mitchell

Love Me Like a Love Song by Annmarie Boyle

Lovely Digits by Jeanine Englert

Painting the Lines by Ashley R. King

Perfect Distraction by Allison Ashley

A Song of Secrets by Robyn Chalmers



CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - LONG

The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh

Cherokee Summer by Susan Antony

False Start by Jessica Ruddick

A Fast Woman by Laralyn Doran

Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay

Lovestruck by Bronwyn Sell

The Marriage Game by Sarah Desai


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - MID

Heartthrob by Robin Bielman

Pilot Down by Kimberley Troutte

Roughing by Michaela Grey

The Secret Ingredient by Kilby Blades

Swipe Right for a Cowboy by Karen Foley

Tempting Taste by Sara Whitney

Under His Protection by LaQuette


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - SHORT

Engaging the Enemy by Reese Ryan

Marriage by Arrangement by Sophia Singh Sasson

There Galapagos My Heart by Philip William Stover

Worth Fighting For by Laura Kaye


EROTIC ROMANCE

Pure Satisfaction by Rebecca Hunter

The Redemption by Nikki Sloane


HISTORICAL ROMANCE - LONG

The Clothier's Daughter by Bronwyn Parry

His Secret Mistress by Cathy Maxwell

Once a Spy by Mary Jo Putney

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase


HISTORICAL ROMANCE - MID

For This Knight Only by Barbara Bettis

The Footman and I by Valerie Bowman

A Song of Secrets by Robyn Chalmers

A Study in Passion by Louisa Cornell


MAINSTREAM FICTION WITH A CENTRAL ROMANCE

Accidentally Family by Sasha Summers

Every Last Drop by Sarah Robinson

An Everyday Hero by Laura Trentham

The Last Goodbye by Fiona Lucas


MOST ANTICIPATED ROMANCE

23 and You and Me by Michelle McCraw

Burning Caine by Janet Oppedisano

The Compound by Deena Short

Love, With Complications by Kyl Dinsio

Trivial Pursuit by Ingrid Pierce


ROMANCE WITH RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL ELEMENTS

At Love's Command by Karen Witemeyer

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish by Bethany Turner

Small Town Faith by Michelle Lindo-Rice

Stay with Me by Becky Wade



ROMANTIC SUSPENSE - LONG

Burn by Stephanie Rowe

Code of Conduct by April White

Cold Wicked Lies by Toni Anderson

Hail Mary by Hope Anika

Honor Avenged by Tonya Burrows


ROMANTIC SUSPENSE - MID

Harbour by Claire Boston

K-9 Protector by Julie Miller

Lovely Digits by Jeanine Englert

Storm by Janie Crouch


SPECULATIVE ROMANCE - LONG

Curse of Seduction by Claire Robertson

Echoes of the Runes by Christina Courtenay

A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong

Written in Water by Elizabeth Schechter


SPECULATIVE ROMANCE - MID

Betwixt by Darynda Jones



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review - - The Duke Undone

The Duke Undone
by Joanna Lowell
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Reviewed by Santa



When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can't banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. Compelled to capture every detail, she creates a stunning portrait but is forced to sell it when the rent comes due. What could be worse than surrendering the very picture of your desire? Meeting the man himself. 


Anthony Philby, Duke of Weston, is nobody's muse. Upon discovering the scandalous likeness, he springs into action. His infamous family has been torn apart by shame and secrets, and he can't afford more gossip. Even a whisper may jeopardize his inheritance and his chance at independence. His plan is simple: burn the painting, confront the artist. Or rather, it's simple until he meets Lucy and decides to offer the bewitching young artist a devil's bargain.  He'll help save her foreclosed home, if she'll help repair his family’s brutal legacy.

An irresistible passion ignites between them, but when danger strikes, Lucy and Anthony must risk everything... for a love that might destroy them both.

Santa says:

The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell left me breathless and I give it five out of five stars. I felt for each character from page one, from the desolate, naked drunk our heroine, Lucy Coover, stumbles across in an alleyway to our hero Weston’s long lost sister. Lucy stumbles across this drunk while trying to make it to art classes, covers him up with her shawl and pays an urchin to watch over him. Set in Victorian England, Lucy is part of a group of women at the Royal Academy hoping to make a name for herself in that male dominated institution. She does make it to class in time and at the end of her day commits to paper every last detail of that drunk - every single detail.

Months later, Lucy painted that portrait and sold it to a bored wife of the ton. Her husband recognizes the man’s face in the picture and confronts him. It turns out the man in the alleyway was in fact a duke. Anthony Philby, the 7th Duke of Weston spends his days a sober, somber man and his nights in a drunken haze - more often than not - fully clothed scouring the streets of London looking for his missing sister. He is bound by a codicil in his father’s will that he must prove he is worthy of his inheritance by remaining sober and scandal free until his 30th birthday which is just a short time away.

The fact that his face is recognizable can cost him everything and so he grabs the picture home with him and tracks down the artist based on the signature on the painting and the accompanying letter stating the painter is a visiting artist at the Royal Academy. He is surprised to find that the artist is a woman, one Lucy Coover, and demands any other renderings she may have or he will expose her. She had no idea the drunk she painted was a duke. She only sold it in order to help pay for the house she and her aunt lived in.  

They soon discover their lives are connected in many other ways. Lucy and Anthony begin to work together to try to save where Lucy lives, to discover what happened to his sister and to find what sinister forces are at play in keeping Anthony helpless in commanding his own life.

The Duke Undone will keep you on the edge of your seat. I really didn’t know how Lucy and Anthony would get their HEA or if Anthony and his sister would ever be reunited but it all comes together in spectacular fashion in the end. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more books by Joanna Lowell.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Excerpt and Giveaway - - Sunset on Moonlight Beach

Sunset on Moonlight Beach
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 5
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 27, 2021


Jenna Jones has been standing on the shore of the Sea of Love for too long. Even with two good men interested in her, she's been afraid to wade in. According to her best friend, Courtney, she should. The water’s fine. Life is great! Practically perfect, if you don’t count Courtney’s problems with her cranky ex-boss. Maybe Courtney’s right. It’s time to dive in.

When tragedy strikes, everything changes and Jenna's more confused than ever. But this fresh heartache might help her figure out at last who she can turn to when times get tough.

Full of warmth and humor, Sunset on Moonlight Beach proves that every ending can be the beginning of a beautiful new story.

~~~~~~~~~~


Sheila Roberts brings readers the long-awaited conclusion of Jenna Jones' story arc in the fifth book of her Moonlight Harbor series: Sunset on Moonlight Beach. Now that Jenna's ready to open herself up to love again, which of the two good men in her life will she choose?

 

Excerpt 

 SUNSET ON MOONLIGHT BEACH

 

Unlike her mother, Jenna had no problem being taken out to dinner. She and Brody enjoyed crab cakes (for her) and steak and lobster (for him) at the Porthole, and, later, a sunset walk on the beach. The waves danced along the shore, their lacy froth making a gentle swoosh like a dancer’s skirt, and the sun set the sky on fire, a final reminder of its power before leaving to let its quiet sister, the moon, take over.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said as they walked close together, his arm around her shoulder. Funny how I thought my life was ruined before I came here.  Turns out it was really just beginning.”

“I’m glad you came,” he said. He stopped them and switched from an arm around the shoulders to both arms around her waist. “My life sure began again when you hit town.” He smiled down at her, then did what Brody did best. He kissed her.

Yes, this was happiness, being with someone who wanted to commit to you, of knowing you’d have a safe and secure future.

“Jenna,” he said softly, “you know how I feel about you.”

She did. Was he going to propose right then and there? Suddenly she felt … what did she feel? Surely not anxious. What was there to be anxious about?

She nodded. And pulled back. Oh, bad body language. What was she doing?

“I’m not going to let you get away,” he said softly, and tucked her right up close again.

With the sun going down the temperature was dropping. The body heat felt good. Body heat. Feeling good. What was she waiting for? Just say it, Brody. Ask me right now. Let’s do this thing before I chicken out.

But she’d pulled away. He’d gotten the message. He started them walking again.

“We need to make this official,” she said, determined to move them in the right direction.

He studied her. “Are you sure?”

Brody was great. What was there not to be sure about? She smiled up at him. “Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well, then, I’m thinking I should be looking around for some bling for your poor, naked finger.”

“I’m thinking that, too.”

He grinned. “So, want to come over to my place and really make it official?”

“After my finger’s not naked.”

He chuckled. “I can hardly wait to see you in the ring. Just the ring.”

“Come on back to the house. We can watch a movie.”

“I’d rather watch you.”

She shook her head at him. “You are so full of it.”

“Is that what you think?” he demanded, pretending to be insulted. “Jenna Jones, I never get tired of looking at you.”

Damien had never said anything like that to her. She was ready to be with someone who really appreciated her. That someone was Brody. What a perfect ending to her story.

No, she corrected herself, a perfect beginning. This was a new story, a much better one. Happily ever after at Moonlight Harbor. Beach walks at sunset, dinners out, having someone who was the polar opposite of her ex, willing to talk about something besides himself. Yes, it didn’t get any better than this. Brody was a great guy, and she was lucky to have him. She’d make him happy.

They went back to the house to find Aunt Edie on the couch, working on her afghan, finishing up watching Casablanca.

“We’ll always have Paris,” Rick said to his former lover Ilsa.

“Not the same as having the woman,” Brody said. “Anyway, I’ll take Moonlight Harbor and walks on the beach over Paris any day.”

He looked speculatively at Jenna. “But what about you? Would you rather have Paris?”

“I wouldn’t mind visiting, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Moonlight Harbor has my heart.”

“Paris would be a wonderful place to honeymoon,” Aunt Edie said slyly.

Jenna could feel herself blushing, although she wasn’t sure why. It was becoming obvious to everyone, including her, that she and Brody were a permanent item.

He chuckled. “It might be at that.” The movie credits began to roll, and he said, “Okay, ladies, time for a second feature. What have you got with guns and gore, Edie?”

“Nothing,” she said. “Well, except for one of those Jack Reacher movies.” She looked accusingly at Jenna. “Jenna bought it for me.”

“You know you enjoyed it,” Jenna said.

“Sounds good to me. Let’s put it on,” said Brody. He knelt in front of the wicker basket that held the DVD collection Jenna had made for Aunt Edie – streaming still wasn’t her thing.

“It was exciting, I’ll say that,” Aunt Edie conceded. “And that Tom Cruise is such a cutie. Not as cute as James Garner was, mind you. Nobody was as gorgeous as him when he was in his prime.”

“Yeah, but Tom is a man of action,” Brody said. “Gotta love that.”

“He doesn’t say a lot in this movie though,” said Aunt Edie.

A man of action who didn’t say a lot. Who did that remind Jenna of? Never mind Seth. He was history now, the road not taken. Brody was the future, a perfect future.

She made popcorn and he got the movie going and they all settled in to watch it. Cozy, homey, comfortable—this would be the rest of her life. Safe. She was more than ready for that after the drama and heartbreak Damien had dished out.

The movie came to a satisfying end, with the fictional Jack Reacher riding off into the sunset—on a bus instead of the proverbial horse—ready to continue righting wrongs.

Sabrina and Scotty arrived, hungry after a night of laser tag at Sabrina’s friend Hudson’s house.

“How was laser tag?” Jenna asked.

“It was wig,” Scotty said.

Which Jenna knew meant awesome. Hey, she was on top of things.

“Do we have any cookies left?” Sabrina asked Aunt Edie as Scotty plopped on the floor and stretched out his legs.

“We do. I’ll get you some.”

“I can get them,” Sabrina said easily and hurried off to the kitchen.

“What did you guys do tonight?” Scotty asked politely, taking in the three oldies.

Walked on the beach, kissed, the usual female fantasy stuff. “We watched a movie with Aunt Edie,” Jenna said. Yep. Nice, cozy and homey.

Scotty nodded politely. “Cool.”

Probably pretty boring compared to laser tag.

Brody took the arrival of the kids as a signal to leave and stood. “Guess I’ll get going,” he said.

“I’ll walk you to the door,” Jenna offered.

Once there, he snugged her up against him for a final kiss. She could get used to this.

“I can’t get enough of you,” he whispered against her hair.

Oh, yeah. More good female fantasy stuff. Except this was real life now. Her life.

“You always know what to say,” she told him.

He should have. He’d had enough practice. With several women in town, as a matter of fact.

But so what? She was the one he wanted.

Yes, her life was moving forward. She found herself too keyed up to sleep, even after she’d shooed Scotty off and Aunt Edie and Sabrina had gone to bed—one to sleep, the other to text with her friends. The beach was calling.

She crossed the dunes to find someone had a small fire going, a solitary man. She knew exactly who. She should turn back. Beach fires with Seth would hardly be appropriate now that she was moving forward with Brody.

She started to back up, but he had eyes like an owl and he’d seen her. “Join me,” he called.

It would be rude not to. He was a big part of her life at the Driftwood. They were friends.

“Your mom all settled in?” he asked as she took a seat next to him on a log.

He pulled a can of root beer out of the mini cooler at his feet and offered it to her. He knew she wasn’t a beer drinker. Had he hoped she’d see his fire and join him and planned accordingly?

She took it and popped the top, took a drink. She suddenly felt a little hot, sitting there by the fire.

“Yep. I think she’ll be happy down here.”

“Pretty hard not to be. Nice house.”

“She could have stayed with us, though,” Jenna said. “We’d have made room for her.”

“Parents like having their own digs. Both my brother and my sister have tried to talk our mom into living with them. She says the only way they’ll get her out of her place is feet first.”

“What’s your mom like?”

“Good-hearted, strong. My dad wasn’t in the picture for long. She pretty much raised us single-handed. She’s lot like your mom, only a little rougher around the edges.”

“Will she ever come up here and visit?”

“She says she’ll make the trek if I ever get married.” He cleared his throat, took a drink from the beer can he was holding.

“Which will be in a parallel universe,” Jenna said.

A little resentfully? No. She had no reason to be resentful. Her life was all sorted out. She moved them on to new conversational territory. “Thanks again for your help today.”

“You didn’t really need me. You had plenty of help.”

“I’ll always need you,” she said. As a friend, of course.

“I don’t think so. You’ve got the house peddler now. Looks like things are getting serious between you two.”

“I need to get serious with someone,” she said.

“Yeah, you do,” he agreed, but didn’t volunteer for the position. “I want to see you happy.”

“With another man.”

“The guy’s got money, a fancy house, fancy car.”

“As if that stuff’s important to me? How shallow do you think I am?” she demanded.

“You’re not, but there’s nothing wrong with having a good life. He’ll be good to you.”

“I need somebody to be good to me.” It was about time. Past time.

“You deserve that,” he said.

All this nobility. Blech. “You don’t have to be so agreeable, you know.”

“How do you want me to be?” He sounded irritated.

Jealous. Angry. Willing to fight for her. “Why did you invite me to join you, anyway?”

“Heard you coming. I was being polite.”

“Polite, huh? You know what? You’re a tease.”

He crumpled his beer can and tossed it in the mini-cooler. He shoved it shut, then stood and doused the fire from a nearby bucket of water.

“No, I just have a hard time letting go,” he muttered.

“No one told you to let go,” she snapped.

He kicked sand over the sizzling mess. “No one had to.” He picked up his cooler and bucket. “Goodnight, Jenna.”

It was suddenly very cold with the fire doused. She stood shivering and watched him walk away. Seth was damaged and there was no mending him because he wouldn’t let anyone close enough to do that. She truly had made the right choice.

 

~~~~~~~~~

Looks like Jenna has a difficult choice on her hands. Have you been reading Sheila Roberts' Moonlight Harbor series? Which of the two men in Jenna's life would you choose? 

Three people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, April 13 will each receive a print ARC of Sunset on Moonlight Beach.

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