Thursday, March 4, 2021

Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway: Anabelle Bryant's Duchess If You Dare

 
Duchess If You Dare
by Anabelle Bryant
Maidens of Mayhem - Book 1
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: March 30, 2021
Available to Pre-Order


Scarlett Wynn’s tragic childhood taught her that life can be cruel to women with little power. So when a local seamstress disappears, Scarlett vows to find out why. Armed with a weapon and her courage, Scarlett scours London for clues—and crosses the unlikely path of Ambrose Cross, the Duke of Aylesford, at an unlikely place: an upscale brothel. The Duke is trying to solve a mystery of his own, and Scarlett is sure they can help each other—if she can resist the attraction that draws them together . . .


As Duke of Aylesford, Ambrose is duty-bound to protect his family name from scandal no matter the cost. But Scarlett’s fearless spirit forces him to look beyond his world of privilege. Scarlett is as intoxicating as she is dangerous, igniting a fire in him like no other. But when the pair learn both mysteries they’re trying to solve are tied to a string of missing women, the tangled scheme they uncover may put their lives, and their growing love, in mortal danger—and lead them to search their hearts like never before . . .


DUCHESS IF YOU DARE - The Story Behind the Story  

by Anabelle Bryant

 

What do you get when you cross Little Women with The Justice League?

The Maidens of Mayhem, of course.

This elite group of women is a force to be reckoned with although they don’t have magical powers or fly around London. They possess fierce human skills and extraordinary talents so you wouldn’t want to ignite their temper or get caught while breaking the law.

Publishers Weekly recently called the Maidens of Mayhem, “crime-fighting and wrong-righting heroines who are part Robin Hood and part Batman”. Even more than that, they are strongminded women who believe everyone deserves to be respected and protected no matter what level of society they come from.

The idea for this new historical romance series came together as I watched Captain Marvel with my husband and son. Captain Marvel is strong, beautiful, and capable of saving the world. Only a fool would glance at her pretty face and underestimate her power.

Yet even now in 2021, women are still fighting to be respected and have their voices heard. Imagine how frustrating it was as a woman in 1817. While society pressured females to accept their roles in a more passive way back then, I believe there were many women of the time who wanted freedom to make decisions, start a business, manage their own money – to be independent and responsible, and in control.

Naturally, not everyone in the Regency era belonged to the upper class or aristocracy. So, who helped women in need? Who took their ideas seriously? What was their daily life like with no support from society?

These questions contributed to my concept for the Maidens of Mayhem. I wanted to shine a light on the female spirit and how women are resilient, emotionally strong, creative thinkers – back then and present day. I also wanted to write about life outside the ballroom, to show parts of London usually not depicted positively, and the challenges that existed for women. I touched on this condition in my BASTARDS OF LONDON stories, but that series was more focused on consequences for men.

Writing DUCHESS IF YOU DARE was freeing and exciting. Scarlett is a woman in control of her own life until she meets the Duke of Aylesford and matters become complicated. Perhaps she’s not in as much control as she once believed. Perhaps her heart is the one thing she can’t command to listen. She struggles with the choice between freedom and love until she realizes one doesn’t exclude the other. I hope you’ll read her story and discover all the emotion and excitement in her journey.

~~~~~~~~~~

Duchess If You Dare excerpt

In this scene, Scarlett and Aylesford are in a dark alley together keeping watch on a private gaming hell. Their conversation eventually turns personal and the duke is both surprised and impressed after hearing Scarlett reveal her tragic past.

 

“And still, you seek to make London a better place at the cost of your time and safety.”

She didn’t reply to this comment. She’d never shared so much of her personal history with anyone before, never mind a nob. Still, there was so much to tell, she’d only offered a thimble’s worth. Nevertheless, she wasn’t inclined to offer more.

“I haven’t any connections to the underworld, this culture alive and thriving in London away from Mayfair where I suspect the man with the ruby ring conducts business.” Aylesford filled the silence. He moved closer and didn’t stop until he stood directly before her. With her shoulders against the bricks, she had nowhere to escape though she was profoundly aware of his attention. “And you need access to some of society’s more exclusive events so you might discover this nobleman who entices women away from the brothel never to be heard from again.”

“But isn’t the man you mention one and the same?” She shook her head and raised her eyes to match his. “Aren’t we both seeking the same person?”

“Of course. Perhaps. Maybe,” he murmured, the air between them fraught with a strange combination of disguised emotion and unspoken words. “Maybe not.”

They stood that way a minute longer and the mood changed. Precarious questions hung in the quiet. Their breathing paired in tandem. She relaxed by degree. The gaming hell was forgotten. When he placed his gloved palm on the wall at her back, she knew what he meant to do and despite her brain screaming an objection, her heart began to flutter a faster beat. A rush of anticipation swept through her. This was foolish. As foolish as throwing a knife blindfolded and having it bounce back and slice into one’s brow. As foolish as she’d ever behaved. And yet still she didn’t object.

He was going to kiss her and bloody hell, she wanted that kiss.

 ~~~~~~


Duchess If You Dare is about being brave and facing fears. When is a time when you had to be your most brave?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, March 5 will receive Anabelle Bryant's generous prize package below.

*Must be 18

*U.S. only




 




Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Review - - All Consuming

All Consuming
by Jaci Burton
Brotherhood by Fire - Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Reviewed by PJ


When firefighter Kal Donovan transfers to the Tactical Rescue Team, he's determined to succeed by giving work one hundred percent of his attention. This proves more difficult at his ten-year high school reunion when he runs into Hannah Clark, his first love. She's still the smart, funny, beautiful girl he loved in high school, but everything has changed. She's divorced, has a son, and has zero interest in exploring an old romance.

 
Hannah has moved back home after a disastrous end to a marriage that never should have been. Now her only focus is getting her hair salon up and running, and making sure her son is happy. She doesn't have time for love—especially not with Kal. She intends to look forward, not backward, and Kal is most definitely part of her past.
 
However as Hannah and Kal start spending time together, Hannah realizes that what she's feeling for him isn't nostalgia, but red-hot attraction. Kal's intent on showing her what it's like to be cared for, romanced, and consumed with passion—and Hannah loves it. But she wonders if she has the courage to risk her heart again, even as Kal vows not to lose her a second time.

PJ's Thoughts:

I seem to be reading a lot of second-chance romances lately and All Consuming is another good one. I enjoyed Kal and Hannah together. Their teenage relationship ended ten years ago and when they reunite at their high school reunion it's with no lingering guilt or hard feelings regarding the end of that young romance. They're adults now, with life experience under their belts, moving forward into a potential new relationship but with a foundation of friendship at its core. I enjoyed their banter, the spark of attraction between them, and the steam they generate when they finally act upon it. I especially enjoyed the fun they have together, in and out of the bedroom. There's such an ease between them that comes from that foundation of friendship. I also enjoyed the attention that was given to each of their careers, giving readers glimpses into their daily lives away from one another. I like learning new things and also gaining a more complete understanding of the individual characters.

Something Jaci Burton excels at is creating families I want to know better and there are some good ones in this book. It was fun to meet and get to know Hannah's young son, Oliver (I loved the relationship Kal forms with him), Hannah's mom (she's a hoot), and Kal's parents, his brothers, and their significant others. They all add an additional richness to the story. I hadn't read books one and two before beginning this one. All Consuming stands fine on its own but by the time I finished, I was so enamored with the Donovan family that I immediately downloaded both Hot to the Touch and Ignite on Contact.  

If you enjoy heart-tugging, second-chance, contemporary romance with likeable characters, a bit of steam, feel-good fun, and smile-inducing happy endings, give this one a try. 



Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Coming Attractions

 



March is upon us which means Spring is just around the corner. Are you ready? I sure am!



Launching the month on Monday, March 1 is a review, excerpt, and giveaway of One Snowy Night by Patience Griffin. Stop by to discover why I gave this first book in Griffin's new Sweet Home, Alaska, contemporary romance series 5 stars. 




Wednesday, March 3 brings a review of another contemporary romance. This one, All Consuming by Jaci Burton, is the third book in a trilogy about three homeless boys rescued from a fire who were then adopted by their fireman rescuer and his social worker wife. Now grown men, and firemen themselves, these are the stories of their journeys to love. 



Thursday, March 4
brings Anabelle Bryant to the blog with a guest post about her upcoming historical romance novel: Duchess if you Dare. Don't miss this opportunity to learn the "story behind the story" of this new book that launches Bryant's Maidens of Mayhem series and enter for a chance to win a terrific giveaway package. 





Tracy Solheim joins us on Friday, March 5 with a guest post about her upcoming book, Just for Kicks. This football-themed, contemporary romance launches Solheim's new Milwaukee Growlers series. 




Join me on Tuesday, March 9, for my release day review of The Guardian by Kimberly Kincaid. This newest book in Kincaid's Intelligence Unit series is packed with steamy romance, breath-stealing suspense, and surprise twists I did not see coming.





On Monday, March 15, check in to read my review of Tracy Solheim's Just for Kicks.








The Less Than Zero rock stars are back on Thursday, March 18 with my review of Fearless by Kaylene Winter. This time, it's Connor and Ronni in the spotlight. I can't wait!





Friday, March 26 brings my review of Wilde Child, the newest book in Eloisa James' The Wildes of Lindow Castle, historical romance series. This time, it's theater-mad daughter, Joan's turn in the spotlight along with an unlikely hero who will be familiar to fans of the series. 




On Monday, March 29, stop by to read my review of Anabelle Bryant's Duchess If You Dare. I love stories that match an adventurous heroine with a prim and proper hero. So delicious!






Rounding out the month on Tuesday, March 30 will be my review of the newest Lorraine Heath historical romance. Scoundrel of My Heart launches the Once Upon a Dukedom series, featuring the brothers of Althea Stanwick, heroine of Heath's last book, Beauty Tempts the Beast.  



 
That's what's going on at the Dish this month. What's happening in your world? Any special activities planned? Books you're anticipating? Good books you're reading?

Have you lined up for your "Fauci Ouchie" yet? I'm scheduled for my second dose next week. One step closer to a return to normal life! :)

February was dedicated to de-cluttering around here and you know what that means. Four randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, March 3 will each receive a package of books from my stash. 

*Must be 18
*U.S. only

Monday, March 1, 2021

Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway - - One Snowy Night

 
One Snowy Night
by Patience Griffin
Sweet Home, Alaska - Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Reviewed by PJ




A woman struggling to raise her daughter alone in a small Alaskan town finds her simple existence upended when the father of her child returns. . . .

 
Sweet Home, Alaska, was once a thriving, idyllic town, where A Stone's Throw Hardware and Haberdashery and the Sisterhood of the Quilt were the cornerstones of the community. Then, in one fatal moment, two young lives were cut short, and everything changed. Now the Stone family businesses have closed, the diner is in the red, and the population has dwindled to 573.
 
After the tragic accident that took her sister's life, Hope McKnight discovered she was pregnant, and gave up her dreams of college to raise her daughter. When Donovan Stone returns to sell his family's properties and to cut final ties with Sweet Home, he's shocked to find Hope still there--and a single mother. The pull between Hope and Donovan is as powerful as ever. But so are the secrets and lies stemming from that long-ago tragedy. Will they be able to overcome the past, or will the heartbreak of bygone days destroy their love again?

PJ's Thoughts:

When I read Patience Griffin's debut, To Scotland with Love, back in 2014 I knew I had discovered an author with the ability to tap into all of my emotions, hold me captive throughout an entire book, and leave me deeply satisfied at the end. That debut launched Griffin's successful Kilts and Quilts series with eight books brimming with laughter, tears, and happy endings, all wrapped up in the charm of a small Scottish village and the (frequently) meddling folks who reside there. 

One Snowy Night launches another new series of contemporary romances for Griffin, this one set in a small, rural town in Alaska. Once again, she's created a compelling story, dealing with difficult, real-life issues, and filled with intriguing characters, deep emotion, and a hard won, happy ending. You'll want plenty of tissues for this one. 

You all know how much I enjoy a second-chance story. One Snowy Night is filled with second chances, and not only for Donovan and Hope. The fall-out from the past tragedy at the core of their relationship touched many lives within Sweet Home. When Donovan returns, he incites hope not only for his own personal relationships but for the entire community. Bringing that hope to fruition, however, will only be successful with forgiveness, acceptance, and the people of Sweet Home once again opening their hearts to one another with love, especially Donovan. Griffin skillfully weaves all the threads of the story together to create a promising future that doesn't erase the pain of the past but, rather, embraces the memories of the lives lived, and lessons learned along the way.

One Snowy Night is a character-driven story and I enjoyed the relationships formed among those characters. Hope and Donovan are at the center, of course, but equally important is the tumultuous relationship between Hope and her daughter, Ella as well as Ella's evolving relationship with Donovan, and the personal challenges threatening Ella's future. There's much mending to be done here. There's also a secondary romance brewing, a surrogate familial relationship between Hope and a local business owner, and the multi-generational bonds of friendship among the girls and women in the Sweet Home Sisterhood of the Quilt. I love these women who come together to support, mentor, and celebrate one another through good times and bad.   

There are several intriguing characters introduced in this book who I'm excited to get to know better. I don't know how many books Griffin has planned for Sweet Home, Alaska but if she writes it, I'll be buying it. 

 

Exclusive Excerpt
One Snowy Night

Donovan scanned Hope, comparing his memory of seventeen-year-old Hope to current Hope. Current Hope needed to eat more, smile more, and get more rest, if the dark circles under her eyes were any indication. What happened to her after he left? “So you’re still in Sweet Home?” It was a leading question but he wanted answers . . . whether she wanted to give them or not.

Her lips turned into a stubborn straight line, letting him know she wasn’t going to respond. She pointed to the other room. “How does Rick know who I am?”

“Intuition,” Donovan deadpanned.

“I don’t think so,” Hope said.

She was all attitude, no longer the sweet go-along-with-anything-he-said-girl. And the weird thing was, he kind of liked her this way.

Hope straightened her shoulders and stared him down. “Where’s your wife?”

Once again, she’d caught him off guard.

“I left her at home,” Donovan lied, trying to be as brazen as Hope.

Rick hollered from the kitchen, “Don’t let him fool you, Hope. He’s not married.” He stuck his head around the corner. “Never found the right woman.”

Donovan raised an eyebrow at Rick. “I think you should go outside and check for bears. Take some food with you. They like that.” Which reminded Donovan that he should pick up bear repellent if they were going to be here for a few days. Maybe a rifle, too. And Grandpa used to keep a soup can filled with marbles on the porch to scare them away.

“I’ll pass,” Rick said. “The kitchen is calling me.”

“What’s your dog’s name?” Hope nuzzled the dog, not meeting Donovan’s eye.

He frowned at his charge. “He’s not necessarily my dog.”

“Yes, he is,” came from the kitchen. “And the dog’s name is Boomer.”

Hope smiled and pointed to the other room. “I like your business manager.” Her face was contorted, as if she couldn’t comprehend why anyone would need a business manager.

“He’s worthless,” Donovan said loud enough for Rick to hear. “I really should fire him.” Donovan moved closer to the fireplace, where Hope stood. “What’s your daughter’s name?”

She stared at him wide-eyed but finally answered, “Ella.”

The name rocked him. “For Isabella?” Hope’s sister.

She nodded, this time with all the sadness in the world. “Yes.”

He went to a safer subject. “How’s your dad doing?”

Misery filled Hope’s eyes and they began to mist. “He’s gone. Heart attack, last month.”

He reached out to touch her but stopped himself. “Oh, Hope. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

She moved her head as if trying to shake off the grief. “I heard about your grandfather. He meant a lot to all of us. As did your grandmother.”

For a moment, mutual grief filled the room. That one small connection felt like old times. Hope had always been so empathetic—issuing compassion as easily as if sharing a Ziploc bag of Oreos during lunch period. But they weren’t kids anymore and he wasn’t in the mood.

He stepped away. “Rick, what are you doing in there?”

A second later, Rick came into the room with a tray of chips, Pop-Tarts, and nuts, arranged like hors d’oeuvres.

“Are you kidding me?” Donovan exclaimed. The guy had been an elite Marine Force Recon and now he was acting like Martha Stewart.

Rick set the tray on the side table closest to Hope. “You have a guest. It’s only right you feed her.”

Hope did need to gain some weight. “Eat,” Donovan said.

Rick sighed heavily. “Sorry about him. He usually has manners.” He snatched a Pop-Tart before taking the seat across from her. “So Donovan tells me you were a better shot than him when you were kids.”

Surprised, she glanced at Donovan for a split second before answering Rick. “I just have better depth perception.”

“I’m the one who taught her how to shoot!” Donovan complained. He could’ve told her he’d qualified for Expert in the Corps but he didn’t share that info about himself.

Rick nudged the tray toward her. “Please have something. I don’t like to eat alone.”

Yeah, Donovan had heard his friend use that line many times on unsuspecting females. Rick oozed charm. And suddenly, Donovan got worried. If Rick spent too much time around Hope, she’d fall for him, like all women did.

“She better go.” Donovan approached Hope, not to hug her good-bye but to take the dog.

“Yes. I need to get home.” Reluctantly, she handed over Boomer before starting for the door.

“Hold up,” Rick said. “Donovan will see you out.”

Donovan gave Rick the I’ll-set-you-straight-when-I-get-back look before handing the puppy off to him.

“Yeah, I’ll walk you out,” he said, following her. “For protection.”

“I can take care of myself,” Hope said over her shoulder.

“Humor me, then.” Donovan hurried around her and held the door open.

“Suit yourself.”

He walked her out to her beat-up Honda Civic. “It was good to see you.” It wasn’t, really. The encounter made him feel uncomfortable on so many levels.

“Sure.” She knew he didn’t mean it. “Good-bye, Donovan.”

Her words were firm and felt final.

Fine by me. He walked back to the lodge, shivering from the cold.

Rick was waiting at the door. “Now that girl is a good reason to stay.”

For you or for me? Donovan shook the thought away. Long ago, he’d told Rick all about Hope, and he was certain Rick would never go after someone Donovan was interested in.

But Donovan wasn’t interested in Hope. Not since the day his brother Beau died.


Have you read any of Patience Griffin's books?

Do you enjoy books set in Alaska? Have you ever visited?

Do you quilt? 

Patience has created a giveaway solely for the readers here at The Romance Dish. The winner will receive their choice of a signed print copy or an e-book copy of One Snowy Night (if winner is in the U.S.) or their choice of a print copy from Book Depository or an e-book copy if the winner is international.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Griffin is also hosting a giveaway for a custom-made Alaska quilt representative of her new series. Click here for more information on entering the quilt giveaway. 




Sunday, February 28, 2021

Winner - - Anna Sugden

 



The randomly chosen winner of 

Anna Sugden's prize package is:

Alina P

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - Lady Constantine and the Sins of Lord Kilgore

 



The randomly chosen winner of an e-copy of

Lady Constantine and the Sins of Lord Kilgore is:

Penney

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winners - - Dream a Little Dream

 



The randomly chosen winners of a set of

the first three books in Melinda Curtis's 

Sunshine Valley series from Forever Romance are:

Eileen AW

and

Annette N

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



TLC Tour Winner - - The Rakehell of Roth

 



The randomly chosen winner of a copy of

The Rakehell of Roth by Amalie Howard is:

AmyH

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review - - Lady Constantine and the Sins of Lord Kilgore

Lady Constantine and the Sins of Lord Kilgore
by Julie Johnstone
Scottish Scoundrels: Ensnared Hearts - Book 3
Publisher: Darbyshire Publishing LLC
Release Date: February 25, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Callum, the Marquess of Kilgore, long ago accepted that he was no saint. So when he’s offered a shameful bet—to seduce the lady some have dubbed the “Ice Queen” and recover the land he foolishly gambled away—he agrees. Yet, as he comes to know Lady Constantine, he realizes this kind and pure woman deserves far better than a reprobate like himself. Now, he would do anything to protect her from the scandal he helped create, even ruthlessly pushing her away. It seems he hasn’t fallen quite as far into sin as he thought…


But a brush with death and an unexpected offer of a marriage of convenience from Constantine provides an opportunity he never anticipated: recoup his squandered fortune and win back the woman he loves. But before Callum can launch his new plan, a heinous plot rips him away, snatching his freedom and destroying any trace of the man who wanted to open his heart.

Constantine hasn’t a clue what to do when the man she loved, hated, and mourned returns from the dead. Though she is still legally his wife, she certainly doesn’t know him anymore—if she ever did. The seemingly unrepentant rogue appears focused solely on revenge, no matter the destruction it may cause—a far cry from the complex man of honor she once believed him to be. Yet, despite the pain of the past and the demons of the present, Callum still holds the power to inexorably fill her with a yearning and a hope she can hardly control. Suddenly, Constantine wants to risk her heart again for the one thing she has always longed for from the only man she ever cared for—exquisite, unconquerable love.

PJ's Thoughts:

Julie Johnstone is an auto-buy author for me. Her books are always filled with period authenticity, heart-stopping action, deep emotion, and beautifully crafted, multi-layered characters. This book is no exception. Constantine and Cal are fully-formed, complex characters with a twisted journey to love that would challenge the strongest of individuals. The depth of anguish, anger, guilt, and betrayal that these two endure plays out across scenes that are heartrending and sometimes difficult to read, especially in the first chapters. True to form, Johnstone challenges them, and their feelings for one another, as they slowly evolve and their relationship deepens, but not without a fair number of obstacles. Their triumphant conclusion is hard won indeed but all the more sweet for the path they are forced to travel to get there. 

I have been eagerly awaiting this couple's story and it's exceptionally good so you're probably wondering why I gave it four stars instead of five. It's because of a plot device used that hindered my overall enjoyment of the book. The story begins one year in the past then in Chapter Two jumps forward to the characters' present day. I was immediately plunged into the story and its sense of urgency from the first pages and by the end of Chapter Two was fully invested in Cal and Constantine, their predicament, and the secondary characters who accompanied Cal home. But then, in Chapter Three, the story flashed to six years in the past, where it stayed until Chapter Five which brought us back to the present. That back and forth continued for almost 60% of the book. It's an effective way to tell the couple's complete story from first introduction but it didn't work for me. Each time I became immersed in the present-day story again I'd be pulled back to the past and every time that happened my connection to the characters would lessen. By the time the story finally stayed in the present, I had disconnected from them to the point where I was reading about them rather than experiencing their journey with them. It still created a very good reading experience but not the all-immersive one that would have earned my 5-star rating. 
 

~~~~~~~~

Have you read Julie Johnstone?

Do you enjoy flashbacks in your books?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, February 26 will receive an e-book copy of Lady Constantine and the Sins of Lord Kilgore.

*Must be 18

 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream
by Melinda Curtis
Sunshine Valley - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Reviewed by PJ
 


Darcy Jones Harper is thrilled to have finally shed her reputation as the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. The people of Sunshine Valley have to respect her now that she’s the new town judge. But when the bad boy who broke her heart back in high school shows up in her courtroom, she realizes maybe things haven’t changed so much after all . . . because her pulse still races at the sight of him.


Jason Petrie wants to make amends for the mistakes of his youth—starting with the woman he never stopped loving. Darcy may not believe that he really intends to quit the bull riding circuit and stick around this time but Jason vows—with the help of the matchmaking Widows Club—to pull out all the stops to convince her that they both deserve a second chance.

PJ's Thoughts:

Using a perfectly balanced blend of humor and emotion, Melinda Curtis has created another sweet, witty, and heart-tugging journey to love that had me eagerly turning pages from beginning to end. I love this quirky community of characters that Curtis has created with a wacky band of matchmaking widows at its core. You just never know which couple will land in their sights next.

Second-chance romances are one of my favorite tropes and Jason's and Darcy's romance came with some unexpected twists that I did not expect but that gave their story, and their characters, extra depth. I appreciated Darcy's complexity and her struggle with self-acceptance and forgiveness. I enjoyed her relationship with the gassy, digestive-challenged dog she inherited and the role he played in her journey. I flat-out loved that dog. Jason was no less complex as he struggled with his own life decisions while doing his level best to win Darcy back. I loved how supportive he was, how he accepted responsibility for his part in what led to their parting ways, and how determined he was to do right by the woman he loved the second time around. 

As is typically the case in Sunshine Valley, the main couple aren't the only characters in the spotlight in this book. There's an unlikely mature couple in the making, peeks into relationships that were center stage in the first two books, dysfunctional family dynamics to sort through, stages of grief to navigate for Darcy's late (much older) husband's girlfriend (trust me, it will all make sense), and (frequently unwanted) advice from Judge George Harper (the late husband) who seems to be living in both Darcy's and Jason's minds. Apparently, the Judge, who guided them both through their teens, doesn't see any need to stop imparting wisdom simply because he's beyond the veil.

Once again, a trip to Sunshine Valley had me laughing out loud, sniffling a bit, smiling a lot, and eager for future visits. There are many more intriguing characters ripe and ready for matchmaking and I am here for them all. 


What do you enjoy (or not enjoy) about a series set within a small community?

Have you read any of Melinda Curtis's books?

Are you reading the Sunshine Valley books? Any thoughts on who you'd like to see matched up next?

Forever Romance has graciously offered a terrific giveaway today. Two randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM (EST), February 25 will each receive a set of the first three books in the Sunshine Valley series: Can't Hurry Love, A Very Merry Match, and Dream a Little Dream.

*Must be 18
*U.S. and Canada




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tour Review & Giveaway - - The Rakehell of Roth

The Rakehell of Roth
by Amalie Howard
The Regency Rogues - Book 2
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Reviewed by PJ 


As owner of the most scandalous club in London, the last thing the notorious Marquess of Roth wants is a wife. Keeping up his false reputation as a rake brings in the clients with the deepest pockets—money he needs to fund a noble cause. Even though everything inside tells him not to leave his beautiful, innocent wife behind at his country estate...he must.


But three years later, tired of her scoundrel of a husband headlining the gossip rags, Lady Isobel Vance decides enough is enough. She is no longer a fragile kitten, but as the anonymous author of a women’s sexual advice column, she’s now a roaring tigress...and she can use her claws.

Isobel decides to go to him in London, channeling her powers of seduction to make him beg to take her back. But she didn’t expect her marauding marquess to be equally hard to resist. Now the game is on to see who will give in to the other first, with both sides determined like hell to win.

PJ's Thoughts:

I love both marriage-of-convenience and second-chance romances, especially when the tables are turned on a hero who thinks he's in charge. That's exactly what happens in Amalie Howard's The Rakehell of Roth and it's delicious.

Howard takes Isobel and Roth on quite the journey of discovery, of each other and themselves. Having been wedded, bedded, and abandoned at her husband's family's country estate, Isobel could have resigned herself to her fate and remained stagnant. Instead, with the help of a new friend, she took control of her destiny in a major way. Though Isobel's evolution seemed more dramatic due to her outwardly actions, Roth's was no less significant. In fact, I would say that his growth was more necessary to their happiness than hers. My heart ached for his losses, his misconception of certain events, the distance between him and his family, and the heartbreaking course he set for himself and his bride, even when his stubbornness had me wanting to toss him from a cliff. 

The twists and turns of the sensual dance Roth and Isobel embarked upon were compelling and enticing, even more so with Isobel unexpectedly taking the lead. These two practically set the pages of their story on fire with their encounters, especially during a certain event at Roth's club. They may not have settled their differences yet, but the escalating desire between them was impossible to deny.

Another part of the book that I enjoyed was the physical danger and Isobel's part in it. Sensual seductress one scene and knife-throwing, take-no-prisoners savior in the next; she's one of my favorite heroines in quite some time. Roth may think he's the protector but she's learned to save herself, thank you very much, and her hero too. Howard brought her to brilliant life on the page. I had no trouble whatsoever believing in her strength, determination, and ability to bring her misguided husband to his knees. In the best possible way.

Surrounding Isobel and Roth are a secondary cast of characters no less vividly portrayed and compelling. I do hope we'll be seeing more of them in a future book. 

The Rakehell of Roth can absolutely be enjoyed on its own. However, for a more complete understanding of Isobel's background, what brought her to this point in her life, and how the villain of this book ties into her history, I recommend first reading The Beast of Beswick. Both are outstanding books that were 5-star reads for me. 

~~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of Amalie Howard's books?

Do you enjoy a heroine who takes her circumstances and turns them on their ear? 

The Rakehell of Roth kept me reading until almost 3:00 AM. What's the last book that kept you up reading half the night?

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, February 24 will receive a copy of The Rakehell of Roth

*Must be 18
*U.S. only



Connect with Amalie

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Excerpt, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Hot on the Ice



I've been following Anna Sugden's career since meeting her online in 2007 and in person in 2009. It's always a pleasure to host her here at the blog, especially when it's in celebration of a brand new book (out today!), series, and hockey team. If Hot on the Ice is any indication, this series promises strong heroines, sexy heroes, heart-tugging romance, and plenty of action on - and off - the ice! Read more about Anna at her website and engage with her online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Hot on the Ice
by Anna Sugden
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: February 22, 2021

 
Lily Eddison is on the way to making it—her personalized, gourmet chocolates are in high demand. She has it all going on...until her landlord pulls the rug out from under her. Now she needs investors but the last person she expects or wants to save the day is the oh-so-hot, but arrogant, pro-hockey player Dante “Fireman” Taylor.


Hockey is Dante’s life and as the Docker’s star defensemen, he has no time for love. An opportunity to invest in Lily’s dream is just business, even though he can’t stop thinking about the gorgeous chocolatier. Despite his reluctance to be in a relationship, Dante and Lily move from partners to friends to lovers and he’s all in… Until an obsessive fan’s revenge tanks their romance and it’s dead on the ice.

Great hockey players know they have to take more shots on goal to score a hat trick and Dante gives it his all to prove to Lily that off the ice, she’s the only one for him.

Excerpt
Hot on the Ice

A smudge of pink frosting at the corner of Lily’s mouth drew Dante’s gaze.

He wanted to lick it off. As good as the cupcakes and cookies were, he doubted they’d beat the taste of Lily herself.

His mind created an image of a tasting session where the delicacy on offer was the woman beside him. Only, she was laid out on the marble worktop, as he nibbled his way down her body.

His jeans tightened uncomfortably, as he hardened. Definitely not the kind of thoughts to have when he was trying to take things slowly.

Dante forced himself to focus on the remaining samples. The sooner he got this done, the better—before he embarrassed himself. He picked a cookie, which was shaped and decorated like a bowl of strawberries, from the second tray.

Instead of eating it, he held it out for Lily.

For a moment, she didn’t move.

Her gaze lifted to his. Her eyes darkened.

The air grew charged.

His hand trembled, just a little, as she leaned forward.

Her lips parted and she took a bite from the cookie.

Then, she licked some crumbs from her lower lip. The tip of her tongue swept tauntingly close to that pink smudge.

Dante swallowed hard, before shoving the rest into his mouth. Through the chocolate-flavored shortbread, he swore he could taste Lily.

He gulped down some water.

Lily reached across and chose a pink, fondant-covered cake, iced with blossoms, which she held out for him.

“Be careful. This has a liquid center,” she warned huskily, as he took a bite.

Too late. Raspberry syrup spilled out, over his chin. He wiped it with his forefinger and was about to lick it clean, when he noticed Lily’s gaze fixed on his finger.

He extended his hand toward her. He expected her to refuse his invitation.

She didn’t.

Lily leaned down and sucked his finger into her mouth, laving off the sticky syrup with her tongue.

Dante took the rest of the cake and offered it to her. His gaze dropped to her parted lips as she bit into it.

Syrup spilled over her lips. He wiped her chin clean with the same finger.

He deliberately left the pink smudge. 

~~~~~~~

Q&A with Anna Sugden

Welcome, Anna! Congratulations on the release of Hot on the Ice

Thanks, PJ! I’m so excited to be back here. Can’t think of a better group to celebrate my new release with.

This book introduces a new hockey team to readers (doing a happy dance over here). What should they expect from the series, and from Dante and Lily’s story in particular?

Aww, thank you so much. In some ways, this is similar to my NJ Ice Cats, in that the team spirit and the relationship between the guys doesn’t change, nor does my writing of the hockey - which I hope takes readers right onto the ice! And, of course, what won’t change are the emotional, heartwarming stories featuring strong, independent heroines.

But it’s a new team with new personalities and new issues. With the Dockers, I’m hoping to delve into some of the problems facing professional athletes, both on and off the ice, and explore how this affects them both in their career and personally. So, for example, Dante has to deal with an obsessive fan. And how he deals with her impacts directly on his relationship with Lily, bringing up old wounds.

How many books are planned for this new series? 

I have at least 2 planned, with Noah and Jessie up next (fingers crossed) and at least 2 more after that. I’m also hoping to do at least  1 novella and some short stories, like I did with the Ice Cats.

Is Hot on the Ice a digital-only release or will it also be available in print? 

It’s digital first, with Print on Demand. If sales are good enough, then it could go into print too.

You had me drooling all over my Kindle with your descriptions of the dinner Dante cooks for Lily. Is that a dish you prepare yourself? If so, do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share with us?

Lebanese lamb mince curry is something I make and one of my husband’s favourite dishes 😊. It’s based on a recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly Recipe Collection (which is a fabulous source of amazing dishes with easy-to-follow instructions that actually work). Unfortunately, my AWW books were damaged, so I no longer have them. But I’ve adapted what I remember and more than happy to share it (although I warn you, I’m not good at measures, so it is flavor to taste!).

Lebanese Lamb Mince Curry

1 lb. ground lamb

1 large onion, diced
6-8 mushrooms, diced
Vegetable stock (I use a cube, but liquid is fine)
Lamb stock cube (ditto)
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Garam Marsala
1 can tomato puree (around 5 ozs)
Pine nuts
1.     Fry the onions and mushrooms until soft, then add the lamb mince and brown.
2.     Crumble in the 2 stock cubes. If you use liquid stock, add the spices in step 3 first.
3.     Add in 2 tbsp of ground cumin and of ground coriander and 1 tbsp of garam marsala.
4.     Add the can of tomato puree and 1 pint of water. If you use liquid stock, this can replace the water.
5.     Let cook for at least an hour to let the flavours develop. Taste for seasoning and spiciness. If necessary, add more cumin and coriander.
6.     About 10 mins before serving add a handful of pine nuts and stir in.
7.     Serve with basmati rice or tortillas/flat bread.

Also, having a Persian mother, who was an excellent cook, Persian rice or polow is my specialty. And the yoghurt and cucumber dish is also a real recipe, which I’ve also included.

Yoghurt and Cucumber dish
½ cup of diced cucumber
1 cup of plain yoghurt
1 tsp chopped, dried mint

Mix together the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Both of those recipes look delicious. Thanks for sharing!

Lily is a chocolatier (I want to be her best friend). What chocolate treat do you turn to when you’re feeling the need to indulge?

I know it’s sacrilege to admit I’m more of a savoury girl (like Lily!) … I would indulge in a bowl of hot, buttered popcorn before chocolate. But if I feel the need for something sweet, you can’t beat a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (made in England, of course!)

I'm not ashamed to admit that I stock up on Cadbury's Dairy Milk every time I fly through Heathrow. It's been 15 months since my last flight and I'm feeling the Cadbury deprivation. 

What’s next? Will you have any more books releasing this year?  

I’m working on Noah and Jessie’s book, which I hope will also be picked up by Entangled and out either at the end of this year or beginning of next. There will also be at least 1 short story and hopefully the Dockers’ novella too. And I’m planning to rerelease at least 1 more of my Ice Cats series, if the rights are reverted.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for all of those stories!


Let’s play a quick round of complete this sentence.

My goal for this year is… to get to the other side of this lockdown with my loved ones safe and healthy, so I can cuddle our gorgeous grandchildren, visit family and get back to travelling.

The television show I’m currently bingeing – or want to binge - is… a British crime drama called Bulletproof. Not sure how I missed this first time around, but it’s high energy, great fun, with fabulous writing and a big heart.

The book I’m most eager to read is… ack you expect me to pick just one?! Is it cheating to say the next book by one of my favourite authors? If I have to pick something completely different, I’m looking forward to Dangerous Women by Hope Adams, Sisters of the Resistance by Christine Wells and The Codebreakers by Alli Sinclair.

I'm so excited that Sisters of the Resistance is being published in the U.S. I have it on pre-order!

The first destination I want to visit post-pandemic is…Italy - we have a trip to Sicily planned this autumn, so fingers crossed. Next up after that is back to the other half of my heart - the US.

The real-life hockey player most likely to inspire my book hero is… also difficult to pick just one! There are so many who are inspiring. But, I can say that he would have to play/have played for my beloved New Jersey Devils 😊

Thanks for visiting with us today, Anna. Would you like to add anything else or ask the readers a question?

I mentioned that my mother was a fantastic cook - was your mother a good cook or not? What was her specialty dish?


Readers, if your mother didn't enjoy cooking but you do, feel free to share one of your specialty dishes (I'm always on the lookout for new recipes to make).

One randomly chosen reader who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (EST), February 23 will receive a signed book and bar of Cadbury chocolate from Anna (and, yes, I am jealous). 😉 

*Must be 18

*Open internationally