Thursday, August 18, 2022

Review -- Sanibel Tides

Sanibel Tides
by Hope Holloway
Shellseeker Beach - Book 5
Publisher: Hope Holloway
Release Date: August 19, 2022
Reviewed by PJ



In order to secure a high-profile feature story for Shellseeker Cottages, the family must come together like never before. But as they do, some of the strongest relationships face daunting challenges, and more than one heart may be left broken on the beach.


Olivia and Deeley’s lives are suddenly thrust into a new kind of chaos, and the solution threatens to end their brand new romance. Camille is struggling with feelings she’s never had before, both thrilling and terrifying, while others are being pulled away from the oasis on the beach.

Like the tides that bring a bounty of shells every morning and night, change is the only constant…and love is the foundation that holds this found family firmly on the sands of the place they call home.

PJ's Thoughts:

Just like the tides that lap at the shore, this fifth book in Hope Holloway's Shellseeker Beach series is filled with highs and lows. There is so much depth to these stories. Holloway excels at creating layered, complex, fully-developed characters who she then sends on complicated, realistic, life journeys. I've become so attached to them. They feel more like good friends, even family, by this point rather than characters in a book. 

I love the fact that all generations in these books have compelling storylines and full lives. Romance is not only for the young in Holloway's universe. Nor is it easy. There are some deep emotional valleys traveled in this book and scenes that ripped my heart out. I'm not ashamed to admit the tears were flowing. I like that Holloway keeps things real, exploring the real-life challenges of relationships that many experience on the path to our happily ever after. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, and when the final page was turned all I wanted to do was go back to the beginning and read it all over again. I probably will. 

This is a series where each book builds upon the events and relationships from the previous one and continuing characters evolve over the course of the series. For maximum enjoyment, I strongly recommend reading the books in order. 

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Review - - Secrets in Cypress Bayou

Secrets in Cypress Bayou
by Susan Sands
Louisiana - Book 2
Publisher: Tule
Release Date: August 16, 2022
Reviewed by PJ


Some secrets are buried deep…


When newly minted attorney Carly Bertrand returns to Cypress Bayou, Louisiana, to be close to her family, her first priority is finding a job. She’s shocked to get an offer from her childhood crush, Tanner Carmichael, whose town roots are as deep as hers. Carly accepts, confident she can help Tanner get his new law practice up and running, and keep her attraction to him under lock and key. She’s no longer a starry-eyed teen admiring from afar.

Their first client is a woman searching for her birth mother who mysteriously disappeared decades ago without a trace. Carly and Tanner take the case and soon find themselves drowning in a swampy patch of secrets, political corruption, and danger. And the further they dig, the more it looks like Tanner’s powerful, narcissistic father is involved.

As they work to unravel the mystery, Carly’s old feelings resurface and Tanner can’t believe the shy girl next door has become such a brilliant, beautiful, and determined woman. Should they risk everything for the truth, including their hearts, or settle for safety?

PJ's Thoughts:

Like the first book in the series, Secrets in Cypress Bayou was an immersive page turner that kept me eagerly reading from start to finish. The characters were multi-layered and fully developed, engaging both my interest and my emotions. Sand's descriptions evoke the culture, food, and flavor of Louisiana and the twisty mystery was filled with surprises that I did not see coming (love when an author can do that). Relationships within Carly's family continued to evolve after the explosive revelations in book one, leaving me shaking my head at some points, occasionally gasping, and helplessly laughing at others because what else can you do with a mother like Carly's? That woman is a piece of work. 

The relationship between Carly and Tanner was slow growing and satisfying. It isn't always easy to move back to your hometown, especially when your family is as dysfunctional as the Bertrands. Sands handles the transition well, as she also does with the changing relationship between Carly and Tanner. I loved how they found their footing with one another as adults and how their attraction - and subsequent feelings - deepened as they worked together to solve the mystery of their client's birth mother's disappearance and attempted to right decades-old wrongs.

Susan Sands' Cypress Bayou has become one of my favorite fictional places to visit. I am beyond eager to discover what she has in store for readers in book three, A Bayou Christmas, due to be published November 1 2022. I already have it on pre-order.

This is a series where I strongly recommend reading the books in order. Book one is Home to Cypress Bayou.







Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - A Table for Two

A Table for Two
by Sheryl Lister
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 16, 2022
Reviewed by PJ


The best meals. The perfect company. And just enough sparks to make it complicated . . .


Serenity Wheeler’s Supper Club is all about getting together with great friends, incredible food, and a whole lot of dishing—not for hooking up. Still, Serenity knows inviting her friend’s brother to one of her dinners is just good manners, but the ultra-fine, hazel-eyed Gabriel Cunningham has a gift for saying the wrong thing at the really wrong time. Especially when it comes to her cooking.

Gabriel isn’t quite sure how they got off on the wrong foot, but something about Serenity makes him nervous. Maybe it’s because he’s new to the small-town vibe. Maybe it’s because the woman is so gorgeous that he can’t think straight. Or maybe it’s because there’s an attraction between them he can’t seem to shake. 

Though refreshments and camaraderie may be the supper club’s mantra, Serenity and Gabriel know there’s more between them than just sharing delicious meals. But she can’t let herself fall for Gabriel. Because while cooking with love is one thing, trusting it is quite another...

PJ's Thoughts:

A word of caution before you pick up a copy of A Table for Two: do not begin reading this book on an empty stomach. Both Serenity and Gabriel love to cook - and I love to eat - so, believe me when I tell you there was a whole lot of drooling and tummy rumbling going on as I read this story. ;-)

A Table for Two is a charming, low-drama, small-town, contemporary romance that moves along at a steady, leisurely pace. I enjoyed Serenity and Gabriel. Both are likeable, relatable characters who have been burned in previous relationships, are reluctant to trust, and not looking for anything permanent in the romance department. Plus, Gabe is only in town for a limited time. He's a big-city boy who has no interest in small town life. Of course, that's before he moves in next door to Serenity. 

Anyone who has read a small-town romance or watched a Hallmark movie knows how this story is going to end. But that's the conclusion we all sign up for - or at least I do. It's the journey that makes the book enjoyable. This journey has some ups and downs, and initial conflict that is pretty quickly resolved, but overall it's low on the angst. What it does have is an interesting supporting cast, a main couple I could happily cheer for, sizzling chemistry, sparkling banter, and plenty of charm. It held my interest, had me rooting for Gabe and Serenity to make things work, and introduced me to some new recipes (did I mention the food?) that I'm eager to make. I loved Serenity's Supper Club, for both the food and the friendship. Also loved the dynamic among Gabe and his business partners/friends.  

I don't know if this book will be a standalone or the start of a series but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the series. If Lister plans to write stories for the supporting characters introduced in A Table for Two, I will definitely be buying them. I haven't had nearly enough time with Serenity's friends or Gabe's! 
 

Do you enjoy romances that feature food?

Do you like when authors include recipes in their books? Have you ever made any of them?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, August 18 will receive a print copy of A Table for Two.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited


Monday, August 15, 2022

Sneak Peek Excerpt & Giveaway - - The Road to Christmas


 

THE ROAD TO CHRISTMAS

From USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts, three generations of travelers embark on a Christmas road trip filled with humor and heart, set against the snowy mountains of Washington State.


The Road to Christmas
by Sheila Roberts
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: September 20, 2022


Michelle and Max are not planning on a happy holiday. Their marriage is in shambles and the D word has entered their vocabulary. But now their youngest daughter, Julia, wants everyone to come to her new house in Idaho for Christmas, and she’s got the guest room all ready for Mom and Dad. Oh, joy.

Their other daughters, Audrey and Shyla, are driving up from California and hoping to meet a sexy rancher for Audrey along the way. What they don’t plan on is getting stranded on a ranch when the car breaks down.

The ones with the shortest drive are Grandma and Grandpa—also known as Hazel and Warren. It’s still a bit of a trek, and Hazel doesn’t like the idea of driving all that way in snow, but Warren knows they’ll have no problem. They have a reliable car—and snow tires and chains if they need them. They’ll be fine.

Surprises lie in store for all three sets of intrepid travelers as they set out on three very different adventures, all leading to one memorable family Christmas.

 

 

Excerpt

 

Audrey and Russ sat talking late into the night, long after everyone else had gone to their respective bedrooms. They covered everything from crazy childhood experiences to higher education, both in and out of the classroom. They shared classes they’d liked most in college—American literature for her, geology for him— favorite movies and what books they were reading. His reading was as all over the map, like hers. He enjoyed everything from Carl Sagan to Kurt Vonnegut.

“And I’m a big Lee Child fan,” he said.

She cocked an eyebrow.

“What?” he said defensively. “Are you a reading snob?”

“Talk about fantasy,” she scoffed. “Jack Reacher can outfight and outthink mortal men, plus he wears the same clothes for days but he always finds a woman willing to fall into bed with him when he rolls into town all scruffy and stinky.”

“And how would you know about his hygiene habits?” countered Russ. One corner of his mouth hitched up.

Busted. “Okay, I’m not above reading an occasional bit of male fantasy,” she said with a shrug, mirroring his smile. “Those books are fun. And I have to admit, they’re a great lesson in self-defense. So don’t mess with me, or I’ll gouge out your eyeballs.”

He laughed. “I guess we all enjoy some escape once in a while. So when you’re not slumming, reading male fantasy, what else do you read?”

Audrey named the titles of several favorite nonfiction books, including one about the history of Uber as well as her Michio Kaku book.

“Yeah, I read that one by him,” Russ said. “Fascinating stuff. But what do you read when you want to escape? Any favorite authors?”

She rattled off the names of her favorite romance authors, which ranged from Brenda Novak and Susan Wiggs to Jane Austen.

“I’m afraid I don’t know any of them. Well, except for Jane Austen.”

“They write romance novels.” She realized she was feeling a little like someone confessing to a drug addiction. Probably because she’d just dissed his favorite escape reading.

“Ah,” he said, nodding slowly.

“Don’t judge. Even though I just did,” she added.

“Wouldn’t dream of it. We all need our fantasies, right?”

“I guess we do,” she agreed. “You don’t always get that happy ending in life. Maybe that’s why I like to read a good romance. Everyone should have a happy ending somewhere, and if you can’t get it in real life, you ought to at least be able to find it in a book.”

“I think you deserve a happy ending in real life,” he said.

“Yeah?”

Russ started playing with a lock of her hair, and she began to go all mushy inside. “Oh, yeah,” he said, his voice a caress. “You never know where you might find a happy ending. Or with who.”

Whom,” she corrected absently. Did she really just say that? “Shoot me now. I’m doing it again, being the world’s biggest know-it-all.”

He chuckled. “Hey, I already told you what I think about smart women, so feel free to be yourself.”

Free to be herself. There were enough times growing up when she’d felt anything but. The teacher’s pet, the show-off, the oddball who loved doing homework and discussing the symbolism of Lord of the Flies and All Quiet on the Western Front with the teacher.

“Being smart is a gift. You should use it. And if somebody can’t deal with that, too bad,” said Russ.

“My ex sure couldn’t.”

“He was obviously all wrong for you.”

“Yes, he was,” she agreed. So his rejection shouldn’t have hurt. But it had.

“I, on the other hand, am a man who understands the importance of communicating properly.” He moved aside the lock of hair and skated his fingers up her neck, murmuring, “How’s this for a grammatically correct sentence? You have the softest skin.” He touched his lips to the sensitive spot behind her ear and sent tingles shooting in all directions.

Oooh. “I think that’s very good.”

“There you go. I’m improving already. Next time I have to write a business letter I’ll have you proofread it.”

That certainly sounded like they were more than simply two people whose paths were temporarily crossing. “Always happy to help,” she said as those incredible lips made their way to her collarbone, spreading holiday tingles as they went.

“I think I’m going to need a lot of help,” he said, planting another kiss. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re doing just fine.”

He smiled at her and then turned his attention to her lips, sliding a hand across her middle as he kissed her.

The kiss left her almost breathless, but she managed to say, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“What?” he murmured, nuzzling her hair.

“This. You. All from having a flat tire.”

“You’ve got to listen to all those pillows and wall hangings you see in the stores. Believe.”

She did. She was tingling all over when she finally made her way to the guest bedroom. Gram loved to quote Bible verses to her, and one of her faves said that everything worked together for good. Everything certainly seemed to be, for Audrey. She was now very happy that they’d had that flat tire, that there’d been no rooms available in any of the town’s motels. And she was especially happy she’d gotten dumped because what was developing with Russ Livingston was so superior to, so much more than what she’d had.

“Merry Christmas to you,” Shyla greeted her when she slipped into the room.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

“Do I detect whisker burn on your neck?”

“You detect nothing,” Audrey said firmly.

“You lie. He really is a great guy, and a great match for you.”

“Well, I’m not going to get my hopes up,” Audrey said.

She sure did lie. Her hopes had climbed even higher, reaching the point where they could have joined the Hubble out there in space.

In spite of that, she still felt shy the next morning when it was time to leave. Vera served them a French toast casserole with blueberries along with high-octane coffee and promised to share the recipe, making sure she got Audrey’s information in her phone.

“You girls really do have to stop by on your way back through, even if it is only for a quick visit,” she said as the family walked them out. “We’ll be disappointed if you don’t.”

“I’d like that,” Audrey told her.

“Me, too,” Shyla said.

Tom wished them a safe journey, then went to the barn to muck out stalls. Rand, too, said his goodbyes and went to help his dad, and Shyla moved off to warm up the car, Vera walking with her. That left just Audrey and Russ lingering on the front porch.

“You sure you want to see us back again?” she asked.

“What do you think?” he said, lowering his voice. “I’m not taking down that mistletoe anytime soon, that’s for sure. I want to keep seeing you. Unless you’re having second thoughts?”

“No way. I want to make sure you aren’t.”

“After last night? You gotta be kidding me.” He slipped his arms around her waist. “Audrey, I fell for you the minute I saw you standing on the road. I’m still down for the count, and I don’t want to get up.”

“And he shouldn’t,” Shyla said after Audrey was in the car and they were on their way. “He’s perfect for you, you know.”

“Yes, I think he might be.”

“Might?”

“Still being cautious, I guess. Everything that’s happened almost seems too good to be true.”

“The way he looks at you? Don’t worry, it’s true. Ho ho ho! Thank you, Santa and Shyla,” Shyla said as they turned onto the highway. “And now, on to the next adventure.”

Audrey’s phone pinged with a text. “Julia’s having a snort,” she reported.

“Tell her to chill,” said Shyla.

On our way,” Audrey dictated to her phone.

“Since when are you so nice?” Shyla teased. “Never mind, I already know. Love has mellowed you. Seriously, I’m happy for you, sissy. It’s about time. I think you’re going to have a happy new year.”

“Not to mention a great Christmas,” Audrey added.

Shyla began singing, changing the lyrics of “Deck the Halls.”

“We are on the road to Christmas.”

Audrey joined in, and they both sang, “Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.”

“Russ’s family’s gonna miss us,” Shyla sang with a grin.

Audrey joined her for more fa-la-las.

“Audrey finally found her mister. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! Merry Christmas to my sister,” Shyla finished, and Audrey joined her for the last fa-la-las.

What a crazy road they had been on, but what a wonderful ride.

 ~~~~~~~~~~

Do you enjoy traveling for Christmas or would you rather have everyone come to you?

When do you begin reading holiday romances?

Have you read any of Sheila Roberts' holiday romances yet? (They're an annual tradition for me!)

Two randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM (EDT), August 17 will each receive a print ARC of The Road to Christmas

U.S. only

Must be 18

Void where prohibited


About Sheila Roberts



Enthusiastic about all things Christmas, Sheila Roberts is the author of almost 50 novels, including ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS, which was made into a Lifetime Network movie. Another book of Sheila’s, adapted for the small screen, THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS, is a perennial Hallmark channel favorite. She has sold more than three million copies of her novels. Before launching her author career, Sheila owned a singing telegram company and played in band. A cancer survivor, she resides in Washington with her husband, who is also an author.      

For more information about the author, visit www.sheilasplace.com.        

Social media links:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/funwithsheila

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/sheilarobertswriter/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/_Sheila_Roberts

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/sheila-roberts

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClUWd1SxFGzd7NEkojcjDtA

 


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Clear the (Book) Shelves Giveaway

 




I took a hard look at my bookcases this weekend. There are many - many - great books coming out over the next few months and...well...I just don't have room for them. So you know what that means. Yep, it's time to clean the shelves. Again. Apparently Mother Nature agreed. Instead of luring me to the pool, she gave me a lovely rainy day to hole up in the office and put together some book packages ready to be re-homed. Are you excited? I am!

For a chance to win one of SIX book packages, tell me..

What are you reading?

Have you discovered any new-to-you authors this summer?

What upcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

Six people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, August 17 will each receive a package of books from my shelves. 

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited





Friday, August 12, 2022

Review - - The Accidental Pinup

The Accidental Pinup
by Danielle Jackson
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 19, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie 


Photographer Cassie Harris loves her job—her company Buxom Boudoir makes people look beautiful and feel empowered with her modern twist on classic pinup photography. Cassie’s best friend, Dana, is about to launch her own dangerously dreamy lingerie line and wants Cassie to shoot and direct the career-changing national campaign. But company politics and Dana’s complicated pregnancy interfere, and Cassie finds herself—a proud plus size Black woman—not behind the camera but in front of it.  

Though she’s never modeled herself, Cassie’s pretty sure she can handle the sheer underwear and caution tape bralettes. She’s not sure she can work so intimately with the chosen photographer, her long-time competitor in the Chicago photography scene, Reid Montgomery. Their chemistry is undeniable on set, however, and feelings can develop faster than film…

 

Hellie’s Heeds 

A glamorous career, body positivity for all sizes and shapes, and a happily ever after? Sign me up. This book is well-paced with a smooth writing style that will have you eagerly turning pages to see what happens next. The secondary characters–of which there are many–are diverse and add to the story. (I was particularly fond of Cassie’s mom, and also the assistant named Sam.) I was looking forward to reading more about them in subsequent books, but I felt that the author tied up the loose ends for these characters quite well. The heroine, Cassie, is everything you want in a heroine: hard-working, willing to go out of her comfort zone, and willing to say the hard things (even to her parents) but in a way that is respectful to both herself and the other person. Reid is also a good guy, but did seem to be the character with the most growth of the book. He’s not a jerk (no alpha moves here) but he did have a lot to learn at times, which made me struggle at times not to want to strangle him.  

Cassie and Reid have polar opposite experiences when it comes to family life: her family is supportive (though of course, always want more for their daughter), financially secure, and happy; his family is dysfunctional, toxic, and avoided at all costs, which leaves him dealing with a younger brother that he feels he has to bail out once too often. While Reid’s reasonings for how he behaves toward his brother–and his reasons for agreeing to “spy” on Cassie for the LL company (the company they are working for) in order to get a bit more money to pay for his shiftless brother are understandable, this reader seriously wanted to send him to diversity and inclusion school, because he seemed to be completely unaware of his white privilege or the reasons why LL were giving Cassie a hard time and unwilling to allow her full reign over the campaign.  

There are a few very notable scenes between Cassie and Reid where Cassie (once again) is basically having to have a “teachable” moment with Reid about his behavior or how the world works if you’re not a white male. There was literally a conversation about Reid talking about how hard he worked at his craft–that his promotions were all based on his work and nothing else–and I just wanted to scream. And that conversation where he said she didn’t have to be professional all the time–oh, man–that was an eye opener for him. Cassie handled him much more graciously than I ever would have. There are moments where she wonders if this is the kind of relationship she wants to have, where she is always the moral compass of the pair, and I could not blame her. I have not read a lot of romances where this dynamic plays out (where one has white privilege and the other doesn’t), nor how couples navigate it in order to have a successful relationship–but I think the author did an admirable job of making the ending work, where you felt this couple could be together.  

There are also things that Reid does to draw Cassie out, to make her pursue some of her art for art’s sake, which makes her a better person in the end as well. It’s not one-sided–it’s just, I think she has the bigger end of the stick. They both grow and have better and healthier boundaries with their families in the end, which is key, and I enjoyed that as well. The Grovel Scene is pretty darned good (the sort of thing that would work for me); and the epilogue is hilarious. I cannot wait to see what else Danielle Jackson has in store for my reading pleasure. 

 


Second Chance Winner - - Double Dog Dare

 




The second-chance winner of a print copy of

Double Dog Dare by Tracy Solheim is:

Annette N

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Thursday, August 11, 2022

TLC Tour Review - - The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony

The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony
by Michelle McLean
Gunslinger - Book 2
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Reviewed by PJ


At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome—if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself 
unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems.

PJ's Thoughts:

This is the book I had no idea I needed but am oh, so happy I found. I was grinning a few pages in, laughing out loud before the end of Chapter One, and head over heels in love the rest of the way. 
If you're in the mood for a feel-good western with snappy dialogue, laugh-out-loud humor, sweet emotion, meddling townspeople, characters you can cheer for, and a story that unfolds in your mind like a movie on the big screen, this is the book for you.

It seems that many of the books being marketed as "Rom-Com" these days are anything but. That is not the case with this one. Labeled as a "Clever Western Romantic Comedy," it's a story that delivers on all points. The pace never slows, McLean's comedic chops are on full display, the characters are engaging, and the "OMG, what's next?" storyline kept me eagerly flipping pages from start to finish. I lost count of the number of times I had to stop and share lines I was laughing over. One of my favorites is this exchange between Adam and Nora when Adam declares, "Darlin', I've wanted you from the moment you dropped a body at my feet." It says so much about this couple and their hilarious "courtship." 

While the humor is plentiful, McLean balances it nicely with a depth of emotion that tugs at the heart. There were more than a few "ahs" to go along with all of the "hahas." I also loved how she wove the citizens of Desolation in and out of the story, showing us bits and pieces of their personalities and dropping hints here and there that make me want to know more about them. Here's hoping they all have a story planned for down the road because I want more, more, more of Desolation and those who call it home. 

This is the second book in Michelle McLean's Gunslinger series. It can be thoroughly enjoyed as a standalone (as evidenced by my unrelenting laughter) though the main couple from book one, Hitched to the Gunslinger, do have large roles. If you're like me, you'll be downloading Gray and Mercy's story the minute you finish this one. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Review - - Beauty and the Thief

Beauty and the Thief
by Shana Galen
The Royal Saboteurs - Book 1
Publisher: Shana Galen
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Callahan Kelly is a conman, pure and simple. With his dark hair, dark eyes, and dimpled smile, he can smooth talk anyone out of anything and has a keen nose for sniffing out liars and thieves. So clearly someone somewhere made a mistake including him on a train heading toward a training ground with an elite group of agents for the Crown. But Baron, the leader of the newly formed Royal Saboteurs, makes a deal with Callahan: stay until his troubles in London die down, and if he still wants to go, he’ll be paid and discharged. But Cal finds the training at the camp fascinating, and even more intriguing is Bridget, the red-haired beauty who’s immune to his charm. When Cal is asked to partner with Bridget to infiltrate a group of Irish separatists or return to London, the choice is neither simple nor easy.

Bridget Murray was sent from London to serve as Baron’s secretary. She never expected to be given the chance to carry out a mission for the Royal Saboteurs. She doesn’t like Callahan Kelly from the moment she meets him. But when they’re paired to infiltrate the Irish nationalists, she reluctantly agrees to pose as his wife. Living in close quarters with Callahan isn’t as awful as she expected, and that’s just the problem. The closer they become and the more real the danger surrounding him, the more she realizes she doesn’t ever want to let him go.

PJ's Thoughts:

I'm always a bit apprehensive when I begin a new series by an author whose last series contained a string of 5-star reads. I'm happy to say that this first book in Shana Galen's The Royal Saboteurs more than met my expectations.

One of the facets I most enjoy about Galen's books are her richly detailed and wholly developed characters. That is especially true with Cal and Bridget. But they weren't the only thing I enjoyed about this book. First, the author took the story out of London society and dropped us at a rural "farm" which is actually a training site for government operatives. Then she gave us a prim and proper heroine who is a personal secretary/code breaker and paired her with a common-born thief and con man who's in it (his mission) for the money. Only the money. And he's the hero! Yes, please! There's so much opportunity for character growth on both sides and Galen takes full advantage with these two, evolving them organically over the course of their journey, especially once they embark upon their mission in Ireland. That's when the pace of the book really picks up as well. 

The chapters set in Ireland feature intrigue, action, and danger - that had me eagerly flipping pages - without sacrificing the growing romance between Bridget and Cal. Their chemistry, snappy banter, and deepening feelings continued to evolve at a realistic and enjoyable pace along with their individual character growth. I loved how textured they were; how Cal slowly revealed the layers that life had placed upon him and Bridget gradually tested the boundaries of her comfort and capability, to the surprise of one another and, in some cases, of themselves. 

The secondary cast includes several characters introduced during the early chapters of the book who are clearly destined for stories later in the series. We're given sneak peeks into their personalities and backgrounds - just enough to stir interest - while keeping the main spotlight on Cal and Bridget. I also have a feeling we'll be seeing more of some of the antagonists (Irish Nationals) in future stories as well. The adversarial relationship between the British government and the Irish Nationalists is introduced in this first book - with plenty of action and intrigue. I appreciated the complexity of the situation as presented in the book. With an Irish hero working for the British government there were bound to be some mixed feelings at play.

It appears that conflicts between the Irish Nationalists and other British operatives introduced in this first book might continue to be a primary focus of future books in this series. Wherever Galen takes her characters, I'm already hooked and eager to discover how it will all play out. Book two, Lady and the Scamp, is scheduled to be published October 11, 2022. I already have it on pre-order. 

 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Last Chance Winner - - traveler

 



traveler

 I have not received an 

email from you for the 

August Coming Attractions Giveaway.

Please send your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com 

no later than August 10

to claim your giveaway package of books.

Last Chance Winner - - Diane Sallans

 



The copy of Double Dog Dare by Tracy Solheim 

has not been claimed by the winner:

Diane Sallans

Diane, please email your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than August 10 to claim this book.


Winners - - Farrah Rochon

 




The randomly chosen winners are:

Eileen R

(The Boyfriend Project)

Hellie

(The Dating Playbook)

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Winner - - The Rake's Daughter

 




The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

The Rake's Daughter by Anne Gracie is:

Laurie Gommermann

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Friday, August 5, 2022

Review - - The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie

The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie
by Rachel Linden
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Reviewed by Santa




Lolly Blanchard's life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother’s tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she's lost.  

 
As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she's ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.


Santa Says:

The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden is a smash, five-star hit for me. It is women’s fiction and a romance with a kinda magical swirl of meringue on top. The title is a tease about what the book is really about. The main character, Lolly, is stuck in a rut of her own making but all that changes when her sister reads out from Lolly’s middle school diary a list of things Lolly wants to do with her life.  

It’s a wakeup call of sorts. We all have one or two things we may have wanted to do but never got around to or decisions we may have regretted. Lolly feels trapped but has a unique opportunity to go back and get a glimpse of what life may have been like had things only been different. Her eccentric Aunt Gert gives her three lemon drops to take for each item on her list.  

Each journey offers unique insights and understanding for Lolly and the people she loves in her life and family. The most heartbreaking involves the one man she sent away. The one true love who she never really got over.  

After all the lemon drops are gone Lolly is left just as crumbled as she was in the beginning. By this time, I was wondering where my HEA was! Fear not, Aunt Gert and her best friend Eve provide Lolly with inspiration and new insights. In truth, Lolly needed to get out of her own way, let life unfold as it should and not be the savior of everyone. In doing so, Lolly becomes her true self. I’m not going to spoil the ending here but I will say that true happiness - true bliss - comes when it, and you, are ready for it.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - The Hookup Plan

The Hookup Plan
by Farrah Rochon
Boyfriend Project - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Reviewed by PJ


Successful pediatric surgeon London Kelley just needs to find some balance and de-stress. According to her friends Samiah and Taylor, what London really needs is a casual hookup. A night of fun with no strings. But no one—least of all London—expected it to go down at her high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, millionaire, owner of delicious abs, and oh yes, 
her archnemesis.

Now London is certain the road to hell is paved with good sex. Because she’s found out the real reason Drew’s back in Austin: to decide whether her beloved hospital remains open. Worse, Drew is doing everything he can to show her that he’s a decent guy who actually 
cares. But London’s not falling for it. Because while sleeping with the enemy is one thing, falling for him is definitely not part of the plan.

PJ's Thoughts:

Farrah Rochon not only hit it out of the park with the first book of this trilogy, The Boyfriend Project, she then continued to up her game with book two, The Dating Playbook, finally wrapping things up with The Hookup Plan, my favorite of the series. 

Enemies to Lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes and Rochon takes it to new heights with Drew and London. When uptight workaholic London finally decides to take her best friends' advice and indulge in a little one-night stress relief, who does she choose? None other than her high school nemesis, chief rival for valedictorian, current (surprise!) decider of her hospital's fate, and, yep, rocker of her sexual world. And if that isn't bad enough, the more time she spends with Drew, the more unwanted feelings seem to grow. Does she know how to choose them or what? 

As I mentioned earlier, The Hookup Plan is my favorite of what is an exceptional trilogy by Rochon. London is such a complex character. I loved getting to know her better, uncovering the many factors that motivated her, watching her confront her emotional demons, evaluate her shortcomings, go to the mat for her patients, and reshuffle her priorities (learning that self-care is just as important as caring for others). 

Drew captured my affection pretty quickly. I loved that he had secretly crushed on London in school. It was fascinating to learn his perspective on their "rivalry."  He was pretty awesome but not perfect, carrying his own emotional baggage. I liked that he and London both had work to do on themselves. Their chemistry was fire but it was the conversations between them as they slowly lowered their guards, showed more of themselves, and began to form a real friendship that endeared them to me. I was cheering them on all the way to the finish line. 

The friendship among London, Samiah, and Taylor continued to remain strong and supportive. These women are there for one another, celebrating the happy times, commiserating during the sad times, and not hesitating to apply a forceful nudge when necessary. They are the definition of friend that we should all be so lucky to have in our lives. 

If you enjoy contemporary romance with humor, emotional depth, and strong friendships, pick up a copy of The Hookup Plan. It can be read as a standalone though I do think you'll enjoy the trilogy more if you read the three books in order. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of the Boyfriend Project books yet? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, EDT, August 6 will receive a copy of The Boyfriend Project.

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, EDT, August 6 will receive a copy of The Dating Playbook

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited