Sunday, October 31, 2010

PJ's Halloween Winner

Happy Halloween!  

Thanks to everyone who took a stroll down Halloween memory lane with me the other day.  I had a blast! has selected one of you to receive a treat from my book stash and that person is:


Congratulations!  To claim your prize, please send your full name and snail mail address to me at, with "Halloween Winner" in the subject line, and tell me if you prefer Contemporary, Historical or Paranormal.

Coming Attractions for November

November is going to be one fun-filled month here at The Romance Dish!

We start the month off right with a week-long party as we celebrate our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Can you believe it? Man, it is hard to believe we have been blogging for a year!! We have a few special guests, some great games and as always fabulous giveaways. So make sure you stop by November 1 through November 5. You don’t want to miss anything!

Drop by on November 8 when Andrea shares that always-needed list of new releases. There are so many great books coming out this month!

On November 9, historical author Lila DiPasqua visits and talks about her latest release, The Princess in His Bed.

Trish Milburn/Tricia Mills gives us the latest scoop on all things YA (young adult) on November 10.

On November 11, Andrea shares with us a sneak peak of a few December releases in Make Your Reservations.

Kate Carlisle visits with us on November 12 and talks about her latest release, The Lies That Bind, which is a mystery novel with romantic elements.

On November 14, historical author Angela Johnson blogs with us about her newest novel, Vow of Deception.

While things are cooling off here in the states, Buffie plans to start a fire with her latest pick for the Hot Dish! So mark November 15 on your calendar!

On November 16, 2010 RITA finalist Kylie Brant talks to us about her latest book, Deadly Intent.

Contemporary author Dee Tenorio visits with us on November 17.

Don’t forget to stop by on November 20 when we provide several mini-reviews in our "Stock Up Saturday" blog.

On November 24, Anna Campbell tells us all about her latest read. I wonder what she is reading this time!

Author and graphics design guru Kimberly Killion talks about her latest project, Hot Damn Designs, on November 27.

See, now didn’t I tell you November is going to be a great month?

Of course, in addition to all of these, we will have several reviews throughout the month.

So pencil us in! On second thought, better use permanent marker :-)

~ Buffie

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review - - The Reckless Bride

The Reckless Bride
The Black Cobra Quartet - Book 4
By Stephanie Laurens
Publisher:  Avon
Release Date:  October 26, 2010

In India, five English soldiers are assigned the task of uncovering the identity of the Black Cobra, the cold-blooded leader of a murderous cult wreaking havoc throughout the country.  When the youngest of their group is murdered by the cult, the remaining four vow to make sure that the proof he uncovered, that the Black Cobra is a member of English nobility, makes it to England and brings the Black Cobra to justice.  They resign their commissions and leave by different routes, three carrying copies of the evidence and one carrying the original.  The three decoys, those carrying the copies, have all reached their destination.  Only Rafe Carstairs, and the original evidence, have not yet arrived. 

Orphaned at the age of twelve, Loretta Michelmarsh has been raised by her straight-laced oldest brother and his wife.  Loretta learned quickly that adopting a prim and proper facade was the easiest way to be left to her own devices but now, at twenty-four, and having just rejected her eighth marriage proposal, Loretta's brother is forcing the issue.  Just in the nick of time, their great-aunt, Esme sweeps in and whisks Loretta away on a tour of European cities - a reunion tour of all the places Esme had visited with her late, diplomat husband - a convenient excuse to remove Loretta from her brother and sister-in-law's influence and turn her into a true Michelmarsh female:  one who doesn't exist on the sidelines but, instead, one who will grab life with gusto and open her heart to a passionate, life-long love. 

Esme and Loretta are beginning their journey back to England when Esme is set upon by ruffians and rescued by Rafe and his companion, Hassan.  Esme, never one to miss an opportunity, recognizes Rafe as a fellow member of the ton and, since they have all booked passage on the same river boat, insists he and Hassan join her party as their bodyguards.  Seeing a chance to "hide in plain sight" from the Black Cobra operatives, Rafe accepts but quickly regrets that decision when he discovers Esme's beautiful, young grand-niece and the matchmaking glimmer in Esme's eyes.  Rafe and Loretta's attraction is immediate but both resist for their own reasons.  Rafe's complete attention must remain on his mission and Loretta, who has never felt these emotions before, doesn't know how to handle her feelings.  However, a long, leisurely river voyage and a meddling great-aunt wear down their resistance and they begin to gradually fall in love.  But, with the increased danger of Rafe's mission as they draw closer to England, the biggest challenge is not opening their hearts to the love growing within them but whether or not they'll live long enough to have the opportunity to do so.

I've really enjoyed this series and I wanted to love The Reckless Bride.  I liked it but it didn't blow me away as much as I wanted it to or as much as the first three books did.   I had anticipated the same fast pace, adventure and life-or-death action, especially as this is the final book in the series.  I did get that but, for the most part, only in the final 100 pages.  For the first 350 pages, the story flows at a very leisurely pace, much the same as the characters' slow sail down the Danube.  I appreciated the opportunity to get to know the characters and watch Rafe and Loretta's romance gradually bloom but towards the middle of the book it started to drag for me.  I wanted more action and intensity.  The final third of the book, however, more than met my expectations and had I been reviewing just that portion I likely would have given it five stars.  Here was the action and adventure I had been anticipating, that kept me glued to the pages and culminated in a jaw-dropping conclusion that I never saw coming.   While I would have liked more of that intensity throughout the entire book, I still enjoyed The Reckless Bride, and the entire Black Cobra series, and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys historical romance sprinkled with adventure, intrigue and simmering sensuality.   


Review - - Highland Hellcat

Highland Hellcat
By Mary Wine
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: October 1, 2010

When Connor Lindsey's promised bride is willingly disgraced by another man, Connor does what any self-respecting Highlander would:  he steals her younger sister.  Connor's position as laird of the Lindsey clan has not come easily.  Branded a bastard, he's determined that there will no rumors about his bride nor whispers about the legitimacy of his children.  He needs the promised alliance with the Chattan clan and a chaste bride to stand by his side.  Brina Chattan, a young woman promised to the church, fits the bill perfectly.  Unfortunately, neither Brina nor her father are in favor of the sister-switching. 

Brina Chattan has known from birth that she is destined for life as a bride of Christ.  Her clothing is plain, any gifts she receives are practical and, unlike her sisters, who are destined for marriage, she has not been taught to defer to men.  She's been raised to be independent, self-sufficient and physically and spiritually pure.  What she's become is a head-strong beauty with a will of iron.  Kidnapped from her father while en route to the convent to fulfill her obligation to the church, she finds herself the unwilling substitute for her disgraced sister.  But Brina is no wilting flower and this highland hellcat is determined to honor her father's promise to the church.  Except...why does Connor's smile make her breath catch?  And why does his gentle touch make her quiver?  And why is she now, after all these years, wondering if, perhaps, she's not destined to be a nun after all?

     "Formality would be best between us."  She drew in a deep breath.  "And distance."

      "Why does it matter where I stand?"

     Brina blinked, trying to restore her clear thinking.  "Because my thoughts become muddled when ye are so near."  She was talking without thinking again, and she pressed one hand on top of her lips to still her words when she witnessed how much her confession pleased him.  His blue eyes sparkled with it.

     His lips twitched up farther, and she discovered her attention focusing on his mouth.  A tingle of memory traveled across her lips, awakening a yearning to feel his kiss against them once again.  He reached out and gently pulled her hand away from her lips.

     "I confess that ye have the same effect on me, lass."

Mary Wine has once again transported me to the ruggedly beautiful Highlands of Scotland for another adventurous and emotional medieval journey with clan and political intrigue aplenty and a love story that warmed my romantic heart.  If you haven't read any of her books yet, I encourage you to give them a try.  As for me, I'm anxiously awaiting the next offering from this talented author!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghosties, Goblins & Dinner? Oh, my!

I love Halloween!

It's my second favorite holiday and a big deal at my house.  It has been for years.  I grew up in a small town where we knew everybody and kids could safely go door-to-door on Halloween night.  My mom made our costumes each year and neighbors went all out making homemade treats such as caramel apples and popcorn balls.  My late husband's childhood experiences were the opposite.  Growing up in a big city with a single mom who worked long hours and not having much money, he had never known the fun that could be had on Halloween. Imagine his shock when I charged into his life with the Halloween enthusiasm of your average 10 year old (though I was 24 at the time) and the complete confidence that he would be thrilled to dress up with me.  Poor guy didn't know what hit him!  lol!

To his credit, he indulged me that first year and had such a good time that from then on, he took over the planning of the Halloween "event" and had more fun than a litter of puppies! He'd plan our costumes, help me decorate the house and be dressed and eagerly awaiting the first ring of the doorbell about the same time the kids were getting out of school.  To say he got excited would be an understatement of mammoth proportions!

Whenever I said anything about how much he enjoyed Halloween, he'd say to me, "I may grow old but I'll never grow up."  My memories of our years together are a vivid testament to that!  It's been almost ten years since he died but every year his playful, enthusiastic spirit is with me as I dress in costume, apply my make-up and prepare to greet bright-eyed, laughing little goblins at my front door.  As you learned on my birthday, I have no problem sharing photographic evidence of silly life moments with the world so, with that in mind, here's a little stroll down our Halloween memory lane.

As you can see, the dh was a man secure in his masculinity.  Either that, or he had a hidden fondness for short skirts and curly blonde hair!  The kids who came to our door loved the costume, especially when he did a cheer for them.  For months afterward, kids would ride by on their bikes while he was mowing or working in the yard and chant, "Rah! Rah! Rah! Sis! Boom! Bah!" 

This was the year he was the Hunchback of Notre Dame and discovered that oatmeal tinted with green food coloring doesn't come off as easily as one might think.  He sported traces of the "look" until close to Thanksgiving! 

This year's costume was inspired by the late Dik Browne, who wrote the Hagar the Horrible comic strip, one of the dh's favorites. 

My brother designed our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes and my husband made them.  I nicely thanked them both and took pictures.  I know my limits. *g*

The last year that he was well enough to dress up with me was widely recognized by the 100+ people who visited our house as our best Halloween costume ever.  As you can see from the photo, I was a chef and the dh was "dinner."  I kept the lid over his head until the trick-or-treaters walked up to the table to take their candy from the tray.  Then I'd offer them a taste of the "specialty of the house" and lift the cover.  Reactions were priceless!  Only one person was scared.  Mostly, the kids were amused, curious or downright fascinated. 

A neighbor girl refused to leave until I lifted the tablecloth to prove to her that yes, the rest of his body was still attached. 

Another little girl wanted to know how long it took me to bake him. 

But the cutest reaction was from one little boy who stood there staring at him for close to five minutes while his parents tried to entice him back to the street.  Finally, he turned to me and in a quiet, awestruck voice asked "Does he take batteries?"   I've always wondered how many Christmas lists the "dinner head" ended up on that year! lol!

I've continued the tradition of dressing up to greet the goblins who ring my doorbell on Halloween night.  A couple years ago I was a gypsy fortune teller.  I wish I'd thought to put out a recorder to capture some of the questions I was asked.  Had me laughing for weeks!

Do you celebrate Halloween?

Do you dress up?  If you do, what costume are you wearing this year?  If you're not dressing up this year, tell me about your favorite Halloween costume or favorite Halloween memory. 

What's your "must have" Halloween candy?

I love mini Butterfingers, Snickers and Kit Kat bars.  It's the only time of year that I allow myself to eat them so I enjoy every single bite.  I dump them in the bowl first so if I have any candy left over, it's my favorite kinds. *g*

I also make molded chocolates and chocolate-covered caramel apples for Halloween but they go to special people like the nurses and other volunteers at the hospital.  Being safety conscious, I only hand out store bought candy at the door. 

Since I'm all about having fun and giving out treats on Halloween, I'm going to randomly select one person who comments today to receive a treat from my book stash.  Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review -- Passions of A Wicked Earl

Passions of A Wicked Earl
London's Greatest Lovers, Book 1
By Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 26, 2010

They are masters of seduction, London's greatest lovers. Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one...until love takes them by surprise.

Reconciliation stories are among my favorite romance plot devices. There's anger, often betrayal, passion, and the promise of a happily-ever-after. It makes this romance lover's heart sigh with contentment. In the first book of her new series, Lorraine Heath has written a reconciliation story that will have readers crying, cursing, cheering, and sighing with delight.

Morgan Lyons, the eighth Earl of Westcliffe, was betrayed on his wedding night three years ago when he found his young bride in the arms of his younger brother, Stephen. Angry and hurt, Westcliffe banishes his wife to his country estate where he won't have to see her and be reminded of her betrayal. He then proceeds to savor every carnal pleasure available, trying to drive the image of his beautiful wife from his mind, even contemplating marrying his mistress.

Claire Lyons was a virginal seventeen-year-old bride who was terrified of the prospect of her wedding night with a man she barely knows. Seeking innocent comfort from her childhood friend---who is not as innocent as she---Claire is discovered with Stephen. No matter how she tries to explain to Westcliffe that things are not as they appear, he sends her to the country. But now she returns to London with a mission: her younger sister must have her season to find a husband. Claire not only needs Westcliffe's help, but she also needs to become his wife in more than name only. Now she's a woman with wants and needs, and she plans on seducing her husband and finally winning his love.

Taking another step, she staggered, grabbed the back of a chair. Westcliffe was immediately out from behind his desk, his arm about her steadying her. Releasing her hold on the chair, she wrapped her arm around his neck and lifted her gaze to his. "You own my heart," she whispered as tears welled. "I can't tell you the exact moment you took possession of it. I only know that I long to hear your laughter, that I constantly listen for the tread of your boots because even if you are not in the room with me, knowing you are near eases my loneliness.

"I am willing to withstand any public ridicule or scandal so that you might find happiness. If indeed you do love her and cannot love me---"

"Claire," he rasped, his large hand cradling the back of her head, holding her tightly. "How can I not love you?"

Her heart swelled.

"You are all that is good and sweet and innocent," he continued. "To consider that you could truly love me---"

"Do not consider it, Westcliffe. Be certain of it."

Westcliffe is arrogant, unforgiving, and of course, sexy with a capital 'S'. But he wears his stern demeanor like a suit of armor to protect his feelings. He has never felt like he was good enough, worthy to be loved for himself. Claire is the perfect woman to show him just how wrong he is. In spite of his treatment of her, Claire is willing to open her heart to Westcliffe and capture his in return.

Passions of A Wicked Earl is a passionate, touching story that shows just how amazing the power of love truly is. This is a terrific start to what promises to be another phenomenal series from Ms. Heath. I cannot wait for book 2, Pleasures of A Notorious Gentleman (Stephen's story) which will be released November 30th.

~ Gannon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review -- Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After
Bride Quartet - Book 4
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 2, 2010

Many of you know that I have only recently read my first Nora Roberts book and that’s all it took to become a fan. While I know that I will probably never get to read her entire backlist, I am so grateful that I took a chance to read her Bride Quartet series. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on a terrific collection of books. And ever since Parker and Mal first met in the pages of Bed of Roses, the second book in the series, I was so hoping that they would end up together as there were some major sparks between them that only intensified throughout the third book, Savor the Moment. Happy Ever After is their story and Ms. Roberts does not disappoint!

Parker Brown and her three best friends own and run Vows, one of the premier wedding planning companies in Connecticut. The four have been friends forever and played “Wedding Day” every chance they got while growing up. After the devastating deaths of her parents, leaving the family’s large estate to Parker and her brother Del, the girls turned the estate and their love and passion for weddings into an extremely successful business with Mackensie as the photographer, Emma as the florist, Laurel as the baker/pastry chef, and Parker as the coordinator and queen of all the details. In the previous books, Mac, Emma, and Laurel all found love and are now engaged to be married. Because she devotes herself fully to all of Vows’ brides (she carries her BlackBerry with her everywhere she goes), Parker doesn’t spend much time thinking about her own love life. Until the very handsome, and very dangerous Malcolm Kavanaugh enters the picture.

After a Hollywood stunt gone wrong resulted in serious injury several years before, Malcolm returned home to run the local garage as he’s always been good with cars. He has since turned it into a very profitable enterprise by not only repairing and detailing cars, but also restoring older ones. Beautiful and classy Parker Brown has been on his radar for a while now, especially as he is friends with Del. Mal tempts and teases her until she finally gives in and goes on a date with him—on his Harley. They have a great time and eventually go out again, but Parker wishes Mal would open up more and talk about himself and his past. That’s a very touchy subject with Mal as he feels like the past is the past and shouldn’t have any bearing on what he and Parker have now. He soon realizes that if he wants Parker, he has to give all or have nothing.

I love this story and I just adore Parker and Mal together as they are seemingly total opposites who have plenty of chemistry. She is stylish, sophisticated, obsessively organized, and was brought up in the lap of luxury, though she isn’t one bit snobbish. She appreciates everything she’s been given and works hard to maintain it. On top of that, she is fiercely loyal to those she loves. Mal is a rough-around-the-edges bad boy who is cocky with a smooth tongue, yet is an absolute gentleman to the core. His mother taught him the value in that and in hard work. As Mrs. Grady, the long-time housekeeper who is also like a mother says, “It’s hard to resist a bad boy who’s a good man.” And Parker feels the same way . . . especially during this exchange between the two:

“You better understand I take relationships seriously, so if you think I’m just going to jump into bed because—"

“I didn’t ask you to bed.”

He watched her eyes smolder and had to order himself not to press her right back against the door again.

“You’re going to stand there and tell me that’s not what you want, not what you intend?”

“Sure, I want you in bed—or any place that’s handy—and I intend to have you. But I’m not in a hurry. You jump in? It takes off the edge, and I like the edge. Plus, it’s hard to figure out how something works if you’re busy just banging.”

It was completely honest, and so damn logical she faltered. “This is a ridiculous conversation.”

“It seems sensible and civilized to me. That’s right up your alley. Do you want me to say I think about peeling you out of one of those fancy suits of yours, finding out what’s under it? Getting my hands on what is? About feeling you move under me and over me, and being inside you, watching your face when you let go? When I make you let go?

“I do, Parker. But I’m not in a hurry.”

“I’m not looking for this—you—this.”

“Everybody looks for this. You’re not looking, or you weren’t looking for this with me. I get that loud and clear. But I’m not backing off. Because it’s a solid fact we’ve got a thing, sorry, a physical reaction. And if you didn’t want me to make any moves on it, you’d have shut me down, taken me down. Maybe even enjoyed doing it.”

“You don’t know me as well as you seem to think.”

He shook his head. “Legs, I’ve only scratched the surface, and I’m coming back for more.”

See why I love Mal so much?? Sigh. The previous couples play important roles in this story, especially as they are all preparing for Mac and Carter’s wedding. Whether it’s between a man and a woman, girlfriends, or guy friends, Nora Roberts writes some of the best relationships out there. Happy Ever After is the perfect ending to this series—one that I see myself reading again and again. And one that I highly recommend!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review -- The Dangerous Viscount

The Dangerous Viscount
Book 2, The Burgundy Club
by Miranda Neville
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Sebastian Iverley is a nerd by all accounts. He wears glasses. He dresses deplorably. He loves old books. He doesn’t know how to act around women and thus comes across as a man who loathes the company of women. He has never been kissed, let alone enjoyed a tumble between the sheets. Given his unusual upbringing (raised by his guardian in a home with no women), Sebastian really doesn’t want to waste his time with giggling ladies. During a visit to his cousin’s country estate, Sebastian catches a glimpse of a shapely leg in sensual pink stockings. That small glimpse is enough to send Sebastian into a tail spin. Offering to escort the young woman on her ride, Sebastian finds himself in territories unknown.

Lady Diana Fanshawe has finally gotten closer to Lord Blakeney, who is in line to become a Duke and the man she has wanted to marry since she was fourteen. Attending a house party given by Lord Blakeney has been a dream of Diana’s. Too bad the country home is so close to her family home and her somewhat unusual parents. Sneaking away from the house party to visit her eccentric family, Diana is shocked to find Lord Blakeney’s somewhat sheepish cousin in the stables offering to escort her. Thankful that Lord Blakeney will not see her unfashionable family and thus look down on her, Diana agrees to Sebastian’s escort. Upon arriving at her family home, Diana is shocked to see the ease at which Sebastian converses with members of her family as she hasn’t seen him act that way at the house party.

During the house party, Lord Blakeney and one of his friends talk about Sebastian and just how much of a nerd he really is. During the conversation, a bet is proposed – if Lady Diana is able to get Sebastian to kiss her, Lord Blakeney will pay her 500 pounds. Determined to win the money and score points with Lord Blakeney, Diana takes Sebastian out into the gardens during an evening stroll. When Sebastian gives in to his needs and kisses Diana with gusto but not much finesse, Diana coaches him on the finer points of kissing. Surprised by the fast beat of her heart and the feel of strong muscles beneath her fingers, Diana begins to see there is much more to Sebastian than glasses, baggy clothes and old books.

But Diana is not the only one who is surprised. Sebastian is surprised himself. He can’t believe he can carry on an intelligent conversation with Diana (and members of her interesting family), but that he can also feel lust and maybe more for this woman. A lifetime of moonlight kisses under the stars seems like a great idea. So the day after the kiss, Sebastian waits for Diana to arrive in the library so he can ask for her hand in marriage. But instead of Diana, Lord Blakeney and one of his friends arrive. Sebastian quickly hides and overhears the details of the bet. Hurt beyond words, Sebastian leaves the house party without a word.

His plan is now to seek revenge on Lady Diana by seducing her.

Seeking the assistance of his two closest friends, Sebastian transforms from a bookish nerd to a dangerous viscount. A man who dresses the part, talks the talk and has the women practically falling at his feet. The transformation is stunning and no one is more shocked than Diana.

As the tension builds between Sebastian and Diana, both of them begin to realize the extent of their feelings for one another -- feelings that go beyond revenge and lust. But as is the case for any couple searching for their happy ending, Sebastian and Diana are faced with a few unexpected events. These two really have to work for their happily ever after. But all that hard work does pay off! While I am a reader who thoroughly enjoys an alpha hero, Sebastian is a beta hero who quickly had me begging for more. There is something special about a man revealing his vulnerable side. That is quite an endearing quality!

If you are looking for a book that will draw you in and not let go until the very end, then The Dangerous Viscount is the book for you!

~ Buffie

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review -- Firewalker

Stormwalker Series, Book 2
By Allyson James
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: November 2, 2010

Janet Begay's Crossroads Hotel has attracted the supernatural from the day it opened. Witches, Changers, and a mouthy magic mirror have decided to make it their home. But a new, dark power is rising---this time inside Janet herself.

Janet is searching for her boyfriend, Mick, an ultra hot and sexy dragon shapshifter, the one the Navajo call Firewalker. He's missing, and Janet soon finds out that he's in trouble and she's just the girl to help him out. But she's knows she can't do it on her own, so she ask Nash Jones, local sheriff and pain-in-her-butt, for help. Nash is a magical "null", he can absorb and withstand any magic thrown his way. Which makes him a sort of magic shield for Janet. Handy, that!

Janet and Nash find Mick in a cave in the middle of Death Valley, and manage to rescue him, but trouble is never far behind. Janet is part Stormwalker, part hell-goddess, and her magical abilities are vying for dominance. The good versus the bad. After a corpse is found (completely turned inside out--yuck!), Nash suspects that Janet's Beneath powers are taking over and that she has something to do with it. Mick must help Janet find out the truth behind the murder before it happens again. Add to that, another pesky little detail: Mick must stand trial before the dragon council. The charge? Letting Janet live when his mission was to kill her....years ago when they first met.

"You said you changed your mind when you saw me fight," I said. "When I didn't try to kill those assholes in the bar."

Mick lifted me into his arms and cradle me on his lap, his jeans rough on my naked backside. "I was ready to kill you without thought. I admit that. Until I saw you standing alone against those idiots in that bar. That was the moment my world changed. You were the most amazing thing I'd ever seen."

"That's why you let me live?"

He kissed my hair, lips so gentle. "I realized that the dragon council were fools. They're arrogant and ruled by their egos and their fear. You are astonishing, Janet. You're something to be treasured, and I wanted to protect you for as long as you lived."

Firewalker is a thrilling read that is filled with non stop action, mystery, and sizzling romance. The same quirky cast of secondary characters, which first appeared in Stormwalker, is back: Coyote, the sassy bi-sexual magic mirror, Changers, and the human citizens of Magellan. But now there are more dragons, a new wolf Changer, kachinas, and a surprise character (can't tell you!) that makes me incredibly anxious for book 3 (Shadowwalker/ June 2011).

This is one of the hottest paranormal series on the market, and Allyson James continues to prove that she has the creative talent and fertile imagination to keep going straight to the top. The sky's the limit!

~ Gannon

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Ferret has Merit! (Merret?)

by Anna Campbell

OK, the hero of ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES is a Scottish laird (including thick brogue, och aye) who has been transformed into a ferret because he dissed a witch at a debutante ball.

Do I really need to say more? Surely that sells you!

This is Aussie Ebony McKenna's debut young adult novel and it's a hoot from beginning to end! FERRET-astic, in fact!

If you think a ferret called Shambles who is really Hamish McPhee, the seriously hot Laird of Glen Logan, sounds a little crazy but strangely compelling, then read on. There's more to come!

One of the many fun elements of this book is that basically, for all its archaic touches and fairytale magic, it's a contemporary story. The book opens with Ondine in summer camp (where she meets the shambolic Shambles!) and one of the major events takes place at the official opening of a railway overpass. Ondine de Groot, our heroine, is fifteen and she lives with her parents and two older sisters Marguerite and Cybelle at the Station Hotel in Venzelemma, the capital of a small eastern European nation Brugel. Through one madcap summer, Ondine will be romanced by two gorgeous men, discover that her sisters are indulging in secret romances of their own, foil a wicked plot, discover her nascent psychic powers and fall in love.

During the course of this story which involves magic, intrigue, romance, Ondine, Shambles, the de Groot family, the Duke of Brugel, his seriously slimy son Lord Vincent, and assorted other eccentric characters including the witch who turned Hamish into a ferret because he was acting like a weasel, we learn a lot about Brugel. A hugely fun part of this book is the copious footnotes. Here are a couple to give you an idea of the dry humor:

Plütz is Brugel's number one alcoholic export. It is made from fermented peaches, is 32 per cent proof and is the main ingredient in divorce proceedings.

Definition of Oose: Mighty big clumbs of dust that gang up into fluff monsters. The original of this phrase is impossible to verify, much like a Freemason's secret handshake. For more information on Freemasonry, follow the adventures of Pierre in Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. Or check out FREEMASONRY FOR DUMMIES.

There are running jokes on dietary habits, table manners, Scottish dialect and the Eurovision Song Contest (where Brugel always votes for Slovakia even when Slovakia hasn't entered). And sausages - Hamish likes to eat!

I loved this book. It has the sort of inspired silliness that you get in MONTY PYTHON while still telling a touching story about a girl in love with her ferret. Well, her ferret once he's in human guise. Shambles is a marvelous hero. Protective and brave and sweet and smart and very funny - and in the short intervals when he transforms into a human, he's definitely easy on the eye. Ondine is a lovely heroine, loyal and full of heart and optimism.

ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES is utterly charming. I'm really looking forward to the sequel ONDINE: THE AUTUMN PALACE which is out in March next year. Until then I shall FRET for the FERRET!!!!

You can buy ONDINE at Amazon and the Book Depository (post free anywhere in the world). I dare you not to be smiling when you put it down after the last page!