Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review - - His Secret Mistress


Back in February, 2008, I gathered my courage, stepped out of my comfort zone, and made the decision to attend a small romance author-reader event a couple hours from my home. The first person I met that weekend was Cathy Maxwell and by the end of the event, I felt that I had not only discovered a new author to read but had also made a new friend. Twelve years later, I still eagerly anticipate each new book Cathy writes and am happy to say our friendship continues to flourish. Her newest book, His Secret Mistress, launches her A Logical Man's Guide to Dangerous Women series. Logical men? Dangerous women? You have to know I'm all over that!

Please give Cathy a warm welcome to The Romance Dish.

~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, Romance Dish readers, you and I can talk.  We read loads of historical and contemporary romances. We celebrate every aspect of the genre.  We’ve watched it expand and change over the decades.  We get that paranormals are never about vampires and shape-shifters  but celebrate the outsider--the people who don’t fit in, who have cut themselves off from anything resembling love or trust in the world.
               The high-minded duke is just another name for the person whose position creates a barrier between the real, the honest, the accepting. There isn’t a small town contemporary that doesn’t celebrate second chances, or a new adult that isn’t rooted in the importance of finding one’s self.
And that corporate raider?  Well, he or she needs a wake-up call to realize that a meaningful relationship is the only true currency of value, something you and I already know. We get it.
Recently, a friend asked for a copy of one of my books to read. She is not a romance reader. She is also highly intelligent, a progressive in all matters, and values her feminist credentials.
I think she asked for one of my books to read because, perhaps, I was not what she expected a romance writer to be? I don’t own a feather boa. I rarely talk about my books. I believe I seem sensible to her.  However, I do like bonbons.
Of course, I gave her a book. I gave her TREASURED VOWS, one of many I’ve written where the female protagonist isn’t afraid to face the challenge of living the life of her dreams.  Isn’t that what we all want?
I also included IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU about a woman struggling with the mistakes of her past.  Are they like other historical romances? Yes, yes, and yes.  The tales I write are about characters stepping it up in their lives. They have goals, desires, and love is important . . . because you and I know that how well we love and how well we are loved in return is the only true measure of a fully lived life. 
Of course, my hope is that my friend enjoys the books. My dream is that she joins the legions of us who once looked down our noses at romance novels. We believed books should be critical, challenging, mind puzzles that can be sometimes dismal in their pessimism.
And then we discovered reading should also be fun.  We learned that a happy ending is not a pat on the head but what we dearly wish for in all of our relationships. Most of all, we learned that the pursuit of love is always fascinating and worth the time..

~~~~~~~~~~~


Woodard Photography Studio

Cathy Maxwell has been in publishing for over twenty-five years. Yes, that makes her a war horse, i.e. she has seen a lot of stuff.  Over the course of that quarter of a century, Cathy has written over thirty-five historical romances, hit the New York Times and USA Today lists, been nominated for or won some nice awards, made dynamite writing friends, and has had the time of her life. Her upcoming book has the old school title of HIS SECRET MISTRESS and will be out February 25, 2020. You can find out more about her at www.cathymaxwell.com Or, if you wish to stalk her, www.facebook.com/maxwellcathy. She usually yaks back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~



His Secret Mistress
by Cathy Maxwell
A Logical Man's Guide to Dangerous Women - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 25, 2020

At the Logical Men’s Society—an exclusive bachelor’s club—brandy flows like water, bawdy stories abound, and a gentleman tempted to marry is always persuaded to reconsider . . .
Brandon Balfour made the mistake of trusting his heart to the exquisite, strong-willed actress, Kate Addison, with whom he shared one intimate night before fate intervened. Now a decade later, Brandon is a leading member of the Logical Men’s Society—for no woman since Kate has managed to captivate him.
To Kate, the memory of that night still burns strongly, because it was followed by a stunning betrayal. A chance encounter may have brought Brandon back into her life, but that doesn’t mean Kate will ever forgive him. She’s vowed to make him pay—even as she realizes the promises of the young love they once shared are still etched upon her heart . . .
Loving her exiled him.
Trusting him ruined her.
And now, a clash of passions threatens everything each of them ever desired.

PJ's Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of two characters who are given a second opportunity to capture a happy ending that eluded them fifteen years earlier. But, not without facing a whole lot of baggage from their earlier relationship, including each one's misunderstanding of the events of the past, of perceived betrayals. Their journey is filled with humor, snappy banter, heartache, sizzle, forgiveness, and love.

I enjoy characters with life experience behind them. It gives them depth. Kate and Brandon in their younger years wouldn't have been nearly as complex or interesting while introducing us to them in their mid-thirties brings more of a richness to them, more layers to be unveiled. I felt a connection with them, especially with Kate, and a greater investment in the outcome of their relationship.

Characterization is something at which Maxwell excels and in this book, she gifts readers not only with a complex main couple but with an entire community of fascinating folks. I look forward to discovering more about them in future books and am especially curious to find out if my suspicions about a potential future couple prove true. In the meantime, if you're looking for a fast-paced, smooth-flowing, historical romance that will elicit both laughter and tears, I recommend you give His Secret Mistress a try. 

Have you read Cathy Maxwell's books?

Do you have a favorite?

Do you consider yourself a "dangerous woman?"

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, February 28, will receive a signed copy of His Secret Mistress that I brought home from Coastal Magic.

Must be 18 or older.
U.S. addresses only.










Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Coastal Magic - - Back from the Beach!





I'm back from my first Coastal Magic Convention and my thought upon leaving Sunday was, "When can we do this again?" If you're looking for a small (250-300) author-reader event where you can mingle with fellow romance readers, chat with favorite authors, discover new-to-you authors, and enjoy Florida in February, look no further than Coastal Magic. It's casual, warm, welcoming, and fun!

Here are a few highlights from the weekend. 




The weekend kicked off with a Roaring Twenties welcome mingle. Here's reader Amy with author Maggie Mae Gallagher. If you missed my review of The Fixer Upper, the first book in her Echo Springs series, check out my review here and download it to your Kindle today for only $1.99. 











Hildie McQueen writes sweet Western romances and Highland historicals. Check her out!













Jeanne Adams writes stories for a variety of readers, including romantic suspense, time-slip, paranormal, space opera, and more. And, as you can see, she also has a wonderful sense of humor. 











JD Monroe and her adorable dragon were a hit at the Roaring Twenties meet and mingle. 










Author Tigris Eden made jars of Bathtub Gin a/k/a Eucalyptus-Lavender bath salts and they smell so good! 









With the wonderful Nancy Naigle. Have you seen her new Hallmark Movie, The Secret Ingredient yet? 










With two of my favorite authors...and people: Cathy Maxwell and Amalie Howard.
Don't let the sunshine fool you. It was cold and very windy out there! 







Flapper extraordinaire, Elicia Hyder. I've yet to meet the reader who doesn't love her...and her books! 













I met so many new-to-me authors at this event whose books I'm looking forward to reading. One of those was Shana Gray. She came all the way from Canada! 










With the multi-talented Xio Axelrod. Her newest book, Frankie and Johnny: Let the Music Play, is waiting on my Kindle and I can't wait to dive in. 











April Alieda writes salty-sweet contemporary romance with magical elements. And has the best hair! 













Again with the fabulous hair! Seressia Glass (who also writes as Mallery Malone) is the author of  contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy.  And has the sweetest smile. 









Here's mischief waiting to happen! Ashlyn Chase, Cynthia D'Alba, and Eve Langlais are ready to party at the Roaring Twenties meet and mingle. 










Hailey Edwards and Avery Flynn ready to greet readers at Saturday's book signing. 









I was delighted to discover upcoming debut author, Yaffa S. Santos was one of the readers sitting at my lunch table Saturday. Her first book, A Taste of Sage, will be released May 19. 







It's always fun to catch up with YA Paranormal author, Shaila Patel. Not only one of the nicest people around but also a terrific, award-winning, author. 









A few of the wonderful featured authors who were in attendance at this year's Coastal Magic. 










Rene Folsom and Jeaniene Frost sharing some book love with readers at Saturday's signing. 







This one had me laughing all weekend. I adore Cynthia D'Alba and her books! 












Cathy Maxwell, earning her Coastal Magic wings!












Kait Ballenger brought her cowboy wolf shifters out to play. 












Bru Baker is not only a talented author but also an accomplished artist. 










And, when all was said and done, it was time to relax with good friends, yummy nachos... 









   





...and $3 margaritas.








Until next year!











Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Winners - - A Few Good Questions






Thanks to everyone who suggested questions for 

my panels at Coastal Magic. 

They were an enormous help! 

The randomly chosen winners of a package of books are:

Patoct

and

Chrisbails

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Monday, February 24, 2020

Review - - Never Kiss a Duke


Never Kiss a Duke
by Megan Frampton
Hazards of Dukes - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by Santa
  

Everything he had ever known was a lie…
Sebastian, Duke of Hasford, has a title, wealth, privilege, and plenty of rakish charm. Until he discovers the only thing that truly belongs to him is his charm. An accident of birth has turned him into plain Mr. de Silva. Now, Sebastian is flummoxed as to what to do with his life—until he stumbles into a gambling den owned by Miss Ivy, a most fascinating young lady, who hires him on the spot. Working with a boss has never seemed so enticing.
Everything tells her he’s a risk she has to take…
Two years ago, Ivy gambled everything that was precious to her—and won. Now the owner of London’s most intriguing gambling house, Ivy is competent, assured, and measured. Until she meets Mr. de Silva, who stirs feelings she didn’t realize she had. Can she keep her composure around her newest employee?
They vow to keep their partnership strictly business, but just one kiss makes them realize that with each passing day—and night—there’s nothing as tempting as what is forbidden…

Santa says: 

Never Kiss A Duke by Megan Frampton is the first book of what promises to be another great series coined the Hazards of Dukes. I would give this one four stars. The Hazards of Dukes follows three dukes - strike that - two dukes and a duke reduced, by circumstances beyond his control, to a mere mister without means. That is what happened to Sebastian, Duke of Hasford who woke up one morning to find he was just a Mister de Silva - a bastard born of his father the Duke and his mother the Duchess. His father had a daughter named Ana Maria from his first wife, and thought he was marrying his dead wife’s cousin when, in fact, he married her sister. No one knew of this until her death which revealed all and made Sebastian a bastard.

What’s a duke to do when he’s no longer a duke? How can he go on as a mere, and let us not forget, pockets-to-let Mister? What skills does he have beyond his charm? What skills can he bring to the real world that he employed as a Duke. His good friends, nee’ brothers, Nash and Thadeus are dukes in their own rights. As a matter of fact Thadeus, as Sebastian’s cousin, took over the dukedom when Sebastian’s own illegitimacy is revealed. They try to help him out with Thad offering him money and an offer to stay on and Nash offering a night of drinking and gambling and a place to crash at the end of it all.

That is how they arrive at Miss Ivy’s Gambling Hell. This is no ordinary gaming hell and Ivy is no ordinary Miss. She welcomes both men and women of any class but one can only lose as much as they came in with. There will be no vowels or extension of credit. Gambling on money readily given by his friend Nash for Sebastian to burn off his ire, Sebastian begins to go from table to table and begins to form ideas about how to draw in more business. He inadvertently causes trouble which Miss Ivy can not allow to happen. Somehow Sebastian’s charm comes to some use. They sit down and as some of Sebastian’s ideas make sense and could work.

He comes to work for Ivy and since he has no where else to stay he takes one of the employee rooms there. Here we see him grow up in a sense. We also see Ivy start to let her guards down regarding men - especially those in the aristocracy. Because of men she lost all she held dear. Actually, her father took care of that when he gambled all they had away - including Ivy’s hand in marriage to a much, much older man. Ivy is made of very stern stuff and challenged the old man for her hand back. With the money she won she was able to leave all she ever had and go to London to ironically become a game hall owner. It was the only way she saw that she could keep her younger sister Octavia safe until they made enough money to get away from it all forever.

I enjoyed how Sebastian and Ivy grew closer, clashed, grew more attracted to one another. They were on fire! Their crash was heart wrenching but, fear not, there is a great HEA at the end. Sigh worthy indeed. I can’t wait to read the other two books in the series, as well.



Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Looking for a Few Good Questions...And Giving Away Books




I'll be attending the Coastal Magic Convention in Daytona Beach, Florida this week and I need some help. As part of my duties as one of the featured bloggers, I'll be moderating four author panels. I just got my panel assignments and now I need to come up with questions to generate discussion for at least 40 minutes per panel. I already have a few questions for each panel but I'd like some more. That's where you come in. I hope! :) 

The panel audiences will consist primarily of readers, so I'd like to know what questions you would ask if given the opportunity. I'll list the panels with their descriptions below.  


Panel 1: FICTIONAL FURBABIES 
Real-life 4-legged friends and fictional pets in some of our favorite stories. 

Panel 2: SHOULD’A BEEN A COWBOY 
Western Romance chat about cowboys, cowgirls, ranch life, and everything that makes readers swoon.

Panel 3: TIMELESS TALES 
Historical Romance authors chat about what draws them to the past and why readers love these stories today. How much has changed and what has stayed the same?

Panel 4: THE BOY / GIRL NEXT DOOR 
Bakers and Florists and Handymen…Oh, my! Authors of small-town romance share the inspiration behind their sweet stories and chat about their wide-spread appeal.

Hit me with your questions, friends. To thank you for your help, I'll randomly choose two people who post comments before 11:00 PM, February 20, to receive a package of books. 
*U.S. addresses only.

Winner - - In Love on Anchor Island






The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

In Love on Anchor Island by Terri Osburn is:

Carla Loves to Read

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review - - Isaiah's Legacy


ISAIAH’S LEGACY
by Mesu Andrews
Publisher: WaterBrook
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie
    


At eight years old, Shulle has known only life in a small village with her loving but peculiar father. When Uncle Shebna offers shelter in Jerusalem in exchange for Shulle's help tutoring King Manasseh, Judah's five-year-old co-regent who displays the same peculiarities as her father, she's eager to experience the royal court. But Shulle soon realizes the limits of her father's strict adherence to Yahweh's Law when Uncle Shebna teaches her of the starry hosts and their power.

Convinced Judah must be freed from Yahweh's chains, she begins the subtle swaying of young Manasseh, using her charm and skills on the boy no one else understands. When King Hezekiah dies, twelve-year-old Manasseh is thrust onto Judah's throne, bitter at Yahweh and eager to marry the girl he adores. Assyria's crown prince favors Manasseh and twists his brilliant mind toward cruelty, beginning Shulle's long and harrowing journey to discover the Yahweh she'd never known, guided with loving wisdom by Manasseh's mother: Isaiah's daughter, the heartbroken Hephzibah. Amid Judah's dark days, a desperate remnant emerges, claiming the Lord's promise, "Though we're helpless now, we're never hopeless--because we serve El Shaddai." Shulle is among them, a girl who becomes a queen through Isaiah's legacy.

Hellie’s Heeds

Mesu Andrews had her work cut out for this story. As she tells the reader prior to the start of the story: “Manessah became Judah’s wickedest king and destroyed everything his father rebuilt.” Manessah (Nessah) is more villain than anti-hero, though Mesu does an admirable job of creating flawed but nuanced characters who persevere and eventually triumph, and shows God never gives up on a human heart. 

If you are interested in historical fiction (and/or Christian fiction), this book will tick all the boxes, even though at times it is a hard read. Nessah, after all, does really awful things for most of the book, including sacrificing his own children to other gods. In addition to Nessah, there is Shulle’s uncle Shebna--who I think is even more wicked than Nessah--who forces Shulle into a relationship with the child-king and manipulates her in order to gain more power. Then there are the Assyrian kings, Sennacherib, then his son Esarhaddon, and his grandson Ashurbanipal, each seemingly more terrifying than the last. Still, with all its gritty historical detail and darkness, this book is one of hope, which shows itself through Queen Zibah (Nessah’s mother) and the holy prophets who try to touch Nessah’s heart. 

As a plot point (of sorts), Nessah is portrayed as being autistic (as was Shulle’s father, which is how she becomes a tutor to Nessah.) While I believe this was handled carefully and I value diversity and reality (after all, autism isn’t a “new” thing), I think some readers might be taken aback at Nessah being on the spectrum--and being so evil for so long. I don’t know. Again, the author does address this concern in her author’s note; and this may just be my personal discomfort since I have not read many books with autistic characters, nor have I personally known many people on the spectrum (at least that I’m aware of). The author was walking a lot of tight ropes here--and I do think she handled it as gracefully as possible. I think my only “issue” with the character being autistic is that his family and those he interacted with were a lot more understanding and/or careful with him than I think we have treated people who think/look differently, in the past. In this way, this story was a bit “wish fulfillment” to me, but I know that is one of the struggles in writing historical fiction: how do you write about certain things that would have definitely had different attitudes during that period--and not alienate the readership you’re trying to immerse in this time/culture. 

My last bit of contention is how the author treats any religion or belief system other than Judaism (which I understand, obviously.) Fictionally I understand having your characters who believe in God--the only God--to be dismissive and to hate the “false gods.” This is a Christian book, so the underlying theme is that there is only one true God. However, in the author’s note, she makes mention of the dogs who feature in the book and she indicates the violence of the dogs wasn’t meant to offend, but to “show the depravity of this ancient culture.” Pitting one culture against another in a framework of good and bad is why we do not have peace or understanding. While I commend the author on her ability to write a historical story like this with sensitivity and clarity, I was put off by this personal attitude that created division rather than understanding.




Monday, February 17, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - In Love on Anchor Island


In Love on Anchor Island
by Terri Osburn
131 Page Novella
Publisher: Macie Rae Publishing
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  




Roxie Chandler is a screw up. She doesn’t look for trouble, but it finds her anyway. After creating a scandal in her hometown, she takes refuge on Anchor Island, her cousin’s adopted home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Planning to stick around only until she finds an alternative, Roxie doesn’t expect to make friends. Or to find love.

Alex Fielding is living his dream. A small town doctor making a difference in his neighbors’ lives, he ignores his father’s demands to return to the big city and take his rightful place in the family practice. His life on Anchor Island is quiet and simple, just how he likes it, until a leather-clad rebel with a chip on her shoulder moves in next door.

Roxie and Alex get off to a rough start, but sparks fly even when they’re fighting. The more he learns about her, the more Alex wants to save her from herself. And the longer she’s on the island, the more Roxie thinks about staying. But when her prediction comes true and she screws up once again, Anchor Island may no longer be her port in the storm.



PJ's Thoughts:

They say you can't go home again but that doesn't apply to author Terri Osburn who, in this novella, returns to the fictional island, and beloved characters, she created in her debut Anchor Island series. I loved every minute of it. 

As with the earlier books in Osburn's Anchor Island series, this story is infused with humor, deep emotion, and a strong sense of community. I enjoyed how she wove characters from the original series into Alex and Roxie's journey, giving Anchor Island fans the opportunity to check in with favorite couples while at the same time offering up a fresh, new story, with new main characters, for those readers unfamiliar with the series. 

At first, Roxie and Alex appear to be an opposites-attract couple with a dash of enemies-to-lovers but these two have many more common values than they realize. Osburn gives them wonderful banter, delicious sizzle, and heart-tugging complexities. I loved the growth of both characters and the ways in which they each helped the other achieve that growth. The emotions that accompany their journey are deep, rich, and true; eliciting laughter, tears, and deep sighs of satisfaction. Also, anger and frustration. Osburn has a knack for creating realistic and complex dysfunction within families and certain characters had me ready to rally the troops to ride to Alex and Roxie's defense. 

This story may be a shorter-length novella but it has all the depth and emotional richness I expect in a full-length novel. It checked my happy reader boxes and has me hoping Osburn will decide to return to Anchor Island for more stories in the future. There's something very special about both the island and the characters who live there. 


~~~~~~~~~~


Have you read any of the Anchor Island books?

Do you have a favorite Anchor Island couple?

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, February 18, will receive a Kindle copy of In Love on Anchor Island.

*Must be 18 or older