Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Releases winner!

Okay, the saying "better late than never" will definitely apply here as I just realized that I never picked a winner from last month's New Releases post! I am SO SORRY!! Needless to say, it's been a busy month. So, without further ado, the random (thanks to random.org) winner of a book from my stash is:


Congratulations, Maria! Please send your full name and address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom with "Andrea's winner" as the subject and I'll get your book in the mail as soon as possible! Thank you!

Coming Attractions for June

Is it just me or is this year flying by at warp speed?! June is on our doorstep and it's time to get ready for summer fun and reading in the sunshine. As always, The Romance Dish will bring you plenty of new books, guest authors, and reviews. Stop by often and don't miss out on the fun.

Andrea will bring us her New Releases on Friday, June 3rd. It's the perfect time to add to your TBR list.

We are so excited to have New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh with us on Saturday, June 4th. Kiss of Snow, the latest book in her wildly popular Psy/Changeling series was released May 31st.

On Wednesday, June 8th, New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra will be dishing with us about her latest book in her fantastic Children of the Sea series, Forgotten Sea. It will be released on June 7th.

It's time to Make Your Reservations on Thursday, June 9th. Stop by to see what July releases the Dishes are looking forward to.

Trish Milburn is bringing us her latest picks in the YA world on Friday, June 10th with her Teen Menu. I've read some great YA books thanks to Trish's recommendations.

Our Romance Bandit buddy Susan Sey will be with us on Tuesday, June 13th. Her second book, Money Shot will be released on June 7th. I've been hearing wonderful things about it.

On Thursday, June 15th is time to crank up the AC because it always heats up around here with Buffie's Hot Dish! Definitely one of my favorite days of the month. *g*

Our own Anna Campbell will be here on Friday, June 24th with her Second Helping blog. Yes, my TBR pile continues to grow thanks to Anna's book reviews!

Of course we will have lots of reviews and maybe even a prize or two, so make sure you drop in and "dish" with us. June is going to be a wonderful month at The Romance Dish.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review -- The Secret Desires of a Governess

The Secret Desires of a Governess
By Tiffany Clare
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: May 24, 2011

I’ve been lucky to read some really terrific historical romances so far this year and Tiffany Clare’s The Secret Desires of a Governess is no exception. Infused with a gothic feel, this highly sensual tale now has a permanent spot on my keeper shelves.

After accepting a position as governess, Abigail Hallaway travels to Brendall Castle, nestled in the wilds of Northumbria, to begin her new job. Abby doesn’t need to work—her two sisters are countesses and she has enough money of her own—but she longs to go her own way and gain a little independence. But when she arrives in the nearby village, she is shocked that no one is there to meet her and is forced to walk the many miles to the castle...at night...in the rain! On top of that, the master of the house, Lord Brendall, is gruff and rude to her the moment she arrives. But he soon learns that Abby is no frightened miss.

“Why is it that you don’t find me intimidating, Miss Hallaway?”

She didn’t miss the note of wonder in his voice. But it was an odd question to ask her. Was she supposed to run shamefaced and embarrassed from the stable? She should have protested his improper inspection of her injured knee.

“You are a bit of a brute at times.” She was proud of herself for keeping her voice level, uninterested. Even a bit superior.

“So I’ve been told,” he replied.

... “I doubt that.”

Elliott Wright, Earl of Brendall, is surprised to find that the new governess his long-time housekeeper hired for his son is not only young, but also pretty. He can’t help but be attracted to her, even though he knows he shouldn’t be since she is in his employ. He has too many secrets that he would like to remain hidden. After he gets to know her and sees how good she is to his son, Elliott knows he’s in over his head. And when terrible “accidents” start happening to Abby, much like ones that happened to his deceased wife, Elliott vows to do everything in his power to protect her. But at what cost?

The Secret Desires of a Governess is a book that I could not put down! Not only does it contain scorching hot romance (oh, yes!), there is also a hint of mystery. Ms. Clare does a great job by giving readers bits and pieces at the perfect spot to make you want to keep reading. Abby and Elliott are wonderfully drawn and the pull between them was potent.

Every second they were together made her want more between them.

A realization dawned on her with that admission: She was irrevocably, wholly his. Just as she’d wanted.

Which meant she’d allowed herself to do the one thing she’d always promised never to do...she’d lost herself to a man. Not because she hadn’t wanted it or because they had joined in the most intimate way a man and woman could, and certainly not because he was the only potential suitor in the wilds of Northumbria, but because he’d stolen into her heart bit by bit; wormed his way so deep that he was a permanent fixture there.

I absolutely adore these two! Abby is patient, strong, and gutsy—my kind of heroine. She sees through Elliott’s rough exterior to the good-hearted man beneath. He isn’t really a beast, but he allows people to assume he is for his own privacy and to protect his precious secrets. But to those who really know him, he is the very image of chivalry. What a guy! Add in some hot, passionate tension, a slightly aloof household, and one adorable little boy and you have the makings of a wonderful book! I can't wait to see what's next from this rising star in historical romance!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Winners -- School's Out!!!

Thank you everyone for all the comments on my School's Out blog.

I really enjoyed reading about all your summer plans and

some of your favorite summertime memories.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to have THREE winners!!!

Thanks to Random.org ... the winners are:





Ladies, please send your mailing address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom

with "School Winner" in the subject line.

~ Buffie

Thursday, May 26, 2011

School's Out!

Like the old Alice Cooper song goes: No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty look's .... school's out for summer!

It is hard to believe that another school year has ended.

Today is the last day of school for my boys. I have mixed emotions about it. I'm excited my children have done so well this year and have achieved many milestones. I'm so proud of them!! But the Mom in me realizes I'm another year closer to seeing my children out of the nest and that makes me a little sad. We have to make every moment count while the kids are at home. That is why the hubby and I have planned a lot of activities for the summer. Things we hope will give our children some great memories ... like a week at the beach, visits to amusement parks and the zoo, weekend getaways, picnics at the park, a family reunion, and anything else we can cram into the next two months.

So tell me, what do you have planned this summer? Any favorite summer childhood memories you would like to share?

Two random commenters will receive a book from my stash pile.

~ Buffie

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Review - I Can't Make You Love Me, But I Can Make You Leave

I Can't Make You Love Me, But I Can Make You Leave
By Dixie Cash
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: April 5, 2011

The Domestic Equalizers are back with book 7, and it may be their funniest adventure yet. Darla Denman was once the brightest star in the country music galaxy, but currently her star has so shrunk in size and luster that she’s reduced to a third-rate tour on a single bus that may or may not get her to her next gig. She’s a living legend who’s been off the charts so long that her fans believe she’s dead. On her way to a telethon in Midland, Texas, the tour bus breaks down near Salt Lick, a town Cash fans will recognize as the home of hair stylists and sleuths, Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins-Martin, whose “Styling Station,” in what was once a gas station, gives equal billing to their two professions. When Darla finds herself missing two backup singers, she persuades Debbie Sue and Edwina, both loyal Darla Denman fans, to take their place.

Before the new backup singers get their moment in the spotlight, Roxie Jo Denman, Darla’s much younger opening act and current wife of Bob Denman, Darla’s ex-husband and manager, is found murdered. Roxie Jo has managed to alienate nearly everyone on the tour bus and half the population of Salt Lick, and thus, the list of those who would like to have made her disappear is too long for a single page of a legal pad. But Darla is the prime suspect. Debbie Sue and Edwina, convinced of Darla’s innocence, are determined to do what they do best—“talking, listening, and spreading some bullshit around.” The Domestic Equalizers are on the scene, and all their skills will be needed for this case since Darla has confessed and been given a county-appointed attorney named Rooster, who never heard of Perry Mason.

Just the title of a Dixie Cash book is enough to set a reader smiling, and once the story begins, the smiles turn to laughter. Darla, “tucked, plucked, and sucked” in her battle against age, is an endearing character with a heart as big as her reputation once was, and readers will root for her HEA with Bob, ex-husband #1. The large cast of secondary characters is colorful and humorous. But it is Debbie Sue and Edwina—their sleuthing, their friendship, and their relationships with their husbands and their community—who keep the reader hooked and eager for their next outrageous act. They may occasionally doubt themselves. Edwina responds to Debbie Sue’s reminder that they are professionals on a mission with these words: “I feel more like Lucy and Ethel . . . . And I’m not sure we can even save ourselves.” But the reader never doubts that the Domestic Equalizers will prevail, although they may be battered and bewildered before they win.

Dixie Cash is the pseudonym of sister act, Texans Pamela Cumbie and Jeffery McClanahan. I Can't Make You Love Me, But I Can Make You Leave, like their other rollicking tales, will appeal to those who like the humor in their funny mysteries broad. It may be less palatable to those who prefer classic mysteries. Some readers may also be troubled by a victim so self-centered and malicious that the story’s justice seems to lie in her murder rather than in the mystery’s resolution.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Perfect Presents!

by Anna Campbell

Today, I'm reviewing three delicious category romances by Sarah Morgan. CAPELLI'S CAPTIVE VIRGIN. POWERFUL GREEK, UNWORLDLY WIFE. ONE NIGHT...NINE-MONTH SCANDAL.

Yup, we're in the land of Harlequin Presents (called Modern in the U.K. and Sexy in Australia - which gives my Aussie Presents writer friends the chance to say, "Hey, I'm a Sexy Author!"). The land of virgins and billionaires and sheikhs and Greeks. Secret babies. Marriages of convenience. Revenge. Oh, my!

I grew up reading Harlequin Presents (Anne Mather was my favorite when I was a teenager - oh, my sainted aunt, she was pretty hot for back in the Dark Ages!). Except they were called Mills and Boons back then - all published under one line. It's a while since I've had a real binge on Presents. I read all three of these in one day - talk about total immersion!

Sarah is an English writer and all these books feature unworldly English heroines - although these girls are from from the wimpy virgins of legend! The heroes are all larger-than-life Mediterranean tycoons, one Italian, two Greek.

ONE NIGHT...NINE-MONTH SCANDAL sounds like it should be a secret baby story but actually the baby is pretty much common knowledge from close to the beginning (where we have a very passionate encounter!). This story charts the reunion story between Alekos Zagorakis, passionate Greek shipping magnate (of course!), and innocent teacher Kelly Jenkins. In best Cinderella style, Alekos sweeps Kelly away to a life of glamour and drama in Corfu. Lucky Kelly!

POWERFUL GREEK, UNWORLDLY WIFE is also a Cinderella story - another reunion tale between Leandro Demetrios, Greek billionaire banker, and humble farm girl Millie who he married after a whirlwind romance. Sarah Morgan loves these matching-of-opposites tales, and throws in a nice dollop of juicy English class system for good measure. This one has elements of the Princess Di story (especially when it comes to the role of the paparazzi) and is a real page-turner.

CAPELLI'S CAPTIVE VIRGIN uses one of my favorite romance tropes - the passionate lover and the woman of (supposed) ice caught in an attraction they can't resist. To save her sister, relationships consultant Lindsay Lockheart (great name!) accepts a short-term post as secretary to celebrity Italian divorce lawyer Alessio Capelli. He whisks her off to his private island in the Caribbean - and you can imagine what happens after that. Let's just say it's not just the weather that's hot!

As you can probably tell, these stories are all classic Presents. But they're more than that - a lot of elements make them stand out from the crowd. Sarah Morgan writes really beautifully and she has a great ear for witty dialogue. These women might be socially inferior to the men who pursue them, but they're no pushovers. A Sarah Morgan heroine is perfectly capable of standing up for herself and putting her arrogant Greek/Italian in his place when he tries to ride roughshod over her. The relationships are the give and take of equals - and it's lovely seeing the arrogant hero driven to distraction because he's not getting his own way for once. Sarah also writes sexual tension that you can cut with a knife.

I devoured these books like chocolate! And went to the Book Depository and ordered three more. Clearly I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

My verdict - wonderful, irresistible fun!

So are you a Harlequin Presents fan? Are you into Greeks and sheikhs? Does the prospect of a secret baby fill you with quivering excitement? How about a marriage of convenience that you know is going to be SOOOO inconvenient? Are you ready to be whisked off to Corfu?


Monday, May 23, 2011

Review -- Scandal in Scotland

Scandal in Scotland
Hurst Amulet Series, Book 2
By Karen Hawkins
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: May 24, 2011


Despite fame and countless admirers, actress Marcail Beauchamp has never forgotten William Hurst, the audacious seafarer she once loved . . . and lost. Now, forced by a mysterious blackmailer who threatens her family, she must steal an ancient onyx box from the one man she’s vowed never to see again.


To save his brother from a ruthless abductor, William must deliver the artifact as ransom. He’s stunned when Marcail, more lovely than ever, suddenly appears on his ship. But when she drugs him and steals the box, his fury knows no bounds.


William pursues Marcail, but too late: she has already delivered the box. The estranged lovers realize they must work together—both to regain the artifact that could mean life or death to his family and to destroy the mysterious blackmailer’s power over her family. Thus begins a high-stakes quest through the reaches of Scotland, a quest that stirs up long-forgotten memories and an unquenchable passion. . . .

Marcail Beauchamp is a reknowned actress on the London stage, but fame has not brought her the happiness that she once knew in the arms of William Hurst. She enjoys her success, but it has come with a steep price; her father forbids her to associate with her sisters, since being an actress sullies her reputation, in his eyes. Added to that misery, Marcail is being blackmailed and the latest item her blackmailer requires from her is an onyx box. As luck would have it, the box is in the possession of William, and when Marcail goes to him to ask for his help, he refuses. Leaving her no choice, Marcail drugs William and takes the box.

William Hurst is preparing for a voyage to take the antique onyx box to his brother Michael's captors; it is the price of his release. Finding his former lover, Marcail Beauchamp in his cabin on his ship is not a welcome surprise. Her beauty still takes his breath away, but he is still angry at her for leaving him years ago. William refuses to to believe her when she said she needs his help, and when Marcail drugs him and steals the box that is the key to his brother's freedom, William's anger reaches epic proportions.

William catches up to Marcail, much to her dismay, and after he explains the significance of the onyx box---that it may mean the difference between life and death for his brother Michael---Marcail agrees to give it to him. But anything worth having doesn't come easy; the box is taken by the woman who acts as delivery person to Marcail's blackmailer. So William and Marcail begin a game of cat and mouse, hunting down the box, and also rediscovering their passion for each other. But for their passion to turn to the love that is inevitable, they must learn to make peace with their past and learn to trust. As Michael once said:

The past cannot be relived---but the future is the place for atonement.

Scandal in Scotland is an entertaining addition in the Hurst Amulet series. Marcail and William are evenly matched as heroine and hero, both spirited, proud, and passionate. As with all Karen Hawkins' books, there is humor aplenty, as well as tenderness and steamy love scenes. Although this is the second book in this series, there is enough information sprinkled throughout that readers will not feel lost. But, as always, it just enriches the experience to start at the beginning with One Night in Scotland, Mary Hurst's story. There's more fun on the way with Robert and Michael Hurst's books. And if they are anything like their lively siblings (is there any doubt?!), fans have much to look forward to. Reading a book by Karen Hawkins is a guaranteed good time.

~ Gannon


Barnes and Noble



Sunday, May 22, 2011


Congratulations to the winners from my Author Lunch blog!  The randomly selected book recipients are


You've won a signed copy of TEN BEACH ROAD by Wendy Wax!



You've won a signed copy of THE BEACH TREES by Karen White!

To claim your prizes, please send your full name and address to us at theromancedish (AT) gmail (DOT) com.  Please put "Author Lunch Winner" in the subject line.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Stock Up Saturday

Honey Grove
By Genell Dellin
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: May 3, 2011

Bless her heart. What would it be like to grow up in limbo without anybody telling you how you fit into your family tree and where you got your temper and who passed down those big, violet-colored eyes and whose nose you’d inherited?

It must be sort of like floating in space, untethered.

These are rancher Lilah Briscoe’s thoughts after seeing her granddaughter, Meredith, for the first time in over twenty years. The death of Lilah’s wayward daughter and Meredith’s mother brings the New York City attorney to Rock Springs, Texas. While Meri is there, Lilah tries to show her the charm of Honey Grove, the family farm, and the rest of the town. At first, Meri wants nothing to do with it—she needs to get back to New York and her busy life. However, when Lilah is badly injured, Meri feels obligated to stay and help her grandmother. It doesn’t take long for Meri to see the appeal of the town and its people, including the handsome Caleb Burkett. Once Meri learns that her grandmother may lose her precious Honey Grove, she and Caleb want nothing more than to help Lilah save the farm. And in the process, they just might find a whole lot more.

Honey Grove is a touching small town story about the power of forgiveness and the strength of family. The book is classified as a contemporary romance, but I would call it women’s fiction. While there is a bit of a romance between Meri and Caleb, the main focus is on the relationship between a stubborn, outspoken grandmother and her equally obstinate granddaughter. One has always had a place to call home and the other never has...until now. Old habits are hard to break, but these two strong women find a middle ground through compromise and the help of some vibrant secondary characters. This book is the start of a series and I look forward to the next charming tale set in Rock Springs, Texas.



Warrior Betrayed
By Addison Fox
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Release Date: May 3, 2011

Millennia ago, the Goddess of Justice created a race of fierce warriors, each imbued with a special power of the zodiac and charged with protecting humanity from the darkest evils.

Montana Grant spent her childhood without her mother, who left when Montana was a very young child. What Montana does not know is that her mother is Eirene, the Goddess of Peace, which makes her the daughter of Themis, the Goddess of Justice. When Eirene fell in love with a mortal years ago and turned her back on her sacred duties, Themis cursed Eirene’s unborn child that she would one day replace her mother on Mount Olympus. Montana is now in charge of her late father’s shipping company, and suddenly her mother returns babbling nonsense about Mt. Olympus, curses and immortal warriors. Montana’s first thought is that her mother is in need of some serious psychiatric help, but when she and her company become a target and her life is in danger, she begins to realize maybe her mother’s not so crazy after all.

Quinn Tanner is the security executive who is overseeing Montana Grant’s safety. He’s also a Taurus Warrior who finds himself attracted to his charge, against his better judgment. True to his sign, Quinn is stubborn, “bull-headed”, and used to being completely in charge. This time, however, his heart---and libido---have a mind of their own, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. One thing is certain; Quinn will do everything in his power to protect Montana and help her reach her destiny, with a little help from his warrior “brothers.”

Addison Fox’s Sons of the Zodiac series is an action-packed and emotionally charged good time, and Warrior Betrayed picks it up and keeps on running with it. Quinn and Montana are quite a pair; two strong individuals who must learn to work together and realize that love will only make them stronger. As with any series, I love “revisiting” characters from previous books and meeting new ones. Let me assure you, these Zodiac warriors are hot with a capital ‘H’! It is not necessary to read the series in order, although it makes it more interesting. If you choose to read them all, here they are in order: Warrior Ascended, Warrior Avenged, and Warrior Betrayed. Enjoy!

~ Gannon


Friday, May 20, 2011

It's a Date!

Wendy & Karen
 A couple weeks ago I received an email from Yahoo Upcoming Events announcing a Book Your Lunch event with authors Karen White and Wendy Wax.  Having never heard of Book Your Lunch, I really didn't know what to expect but a few things caught my attention.  First, the event was being sponsored by Fiction Addiction, a local independent bookstore and I always do my best to support local businesses.  Second, Karen White and Wendy Wax are two favorite authors who write southern womens fiction and womens fiction set in the south (yes, there is a difference) respectively, and having met them at a previous Georgia Romance Writers conference in Atlanta, I knew they would be entertaining.  Finally, the event was being held at The Lazy Goat, a terrific Mediterranean cuisine restaurant I'd heard about so I knew we'd be well fed.  (I have my priorities!) Favorite authors, fellow readers, terrific food and a chance to support a local indy bookstore?  Total win!  I bought my ticket and two days ago attended my first, but surely not my last, Book Your Lunch event. 

Jill, Wendy & Karen
They warned me my GPS wouldn't find the restaurant and they were right but I knew the general area and eventually got to the right place.  After circling the parking garage a few times I found an open parking spot then set out to find the right exit to the restaurant.  I had only gone a few steps when I encountered a friendly woman who looked like she knew where she was going.  Turns out she's a fellow blogger by the name of Kathy Roberts who runs a site called Bermuda Onion's Weblog and she's a regular at these events. The next person I met was Jill Hendrix, the owner of Fiction Addiction.  If you're in the Upstate of South Carolina, drop by this great indy bookstore and say hello and don't forget to check out upcoming events at their website. 

Jill is a wonderful hostess, immediately putting her guests at ease.  I was delighted to discover that I had been seated at a table with Wendy Wax and looked forward to chatting with her over lunch but first, we all settled in to listen to Karen and Wendy talk about the ins and outs of writing, being critique partners and their separate journeys to their current releases: The Beach Trees by Karen and Ten Beach Road by Wendy.

Table-Mates Mary Alice and Evonne
 Karen writes an average of two books per year and has published fourteen books over the past ten years.  She describes her writing as the kind that "makes you laugh, cry and not want to stick your head in an oven."  In other words, she'd never be an Oprah pick.  She always writes about the south because that's what she knows and loves.  She especially likes the Lowcountry of South Carolina and has used that area as the setting for several of her books.  One of the things Karen is known for is the relationships between women, especially sisters, in her books.  While Karen has only brothers, her mother has sisters and as a child, one of Karen's favorite things to do was sit quietly under the kitchen table and listen to her mother and aunts talk.  Those memories became the inspiration for the "southern voices" and sister relationships in her books today.

Karen's 2010 release, On Folly Beach spent five weeks on the NYT Bestseller List and is a finalist for this year's RITA for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and her newest release, The Beach Trees, debuted at #15 on the NYT Trade Paperback Bestseller List.  It's apparent that many new readers are discovering the wonders of this very talented author.  Click here to read Janga's 5 Star review of The Beach Trees, posted yesterday at The Romance Dish and watch the video below to hear Karen talk about the inspiration for the story.

A journalism major, Wendy Wax worked in television and radio, including hosting a radio show called "Desperate and Dateless," before turning her talents to writing novels.  She started out writing romantic comedy, publishing books with appropriately amusing titles such as her all-time favorite, Leave it to Cleavage.  A couple years ago, changes at her publishing house caused Wendy to change agents, publishers and the direction of her writing.  She switched from romantic comedy to women's fiction and never looked back.  Her first womens fiction novel, The Accidental Bestseller, a 2010 RITA finalist, is one of my favorites.  Her current release, Ten Beach Road once again explores relationships among women and the journey they embark upon.  Here's the story blurb:

Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager- leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Throwing their lots in together, they take on the challenge of restoring the historic property. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, secrets threaten to tear down their trust-and destroy their lives a second time.
During the writing of Ten Beach Road, Wendy, who says no one in her family is allowed to own tools...for their own safety and the safety of others...became addicted to HGTV's home improvement shows and made a video about it on Youtube.  Click below to check it out.
I hope you all enjoyed this peek into my first author lunch adventure.  I had a wonderful time and am already looking forward to my next one and, after hearing Karen and Wendy speak, I'm more excited than ever about reading their new books!
Have you ever attended an author lunch or an author talk? Do you have events like these where you live?  What author or authors would entice you to attend one?  Have you attended any of the livestreaming author talks that have been on the internet recently? 
We have two books to give away today to two random visitors thanks to the generosity of Heidi Richter at Penguin, Karen White and Wendy Wax.  Just leave a comment to be eligible to win a signed copy of The Beach Trees or a signed copy of Ten Beach Road.  (U.S. / Canadian addresses only)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Review - - The Beach Trees

The Beach Trees
By Karen White
Publisher: NAL Trade
Release Date: May 3, 2011

Karen White calls her fiction “grit lit,” women’s fiction with a strong Southern accent, but in the case of her latest release, The Beach Trees, “grit lit” may serve as well to describe the fortitude of her characters, major and secondary, who prove themselves survivors in the face of profound loss. Sense of place is high on the list of qualities that define Southern fiction generally, and it’s high on the list of things that White does exceedingly well. Her descriptions of New Orleans and Biloxi are so richly evocative that the reader can almost feel the steamy heat, smell the water, and see the scars left by hurricanes and an oil spill. But place is more than mere setting in this novel; it is also a character, as tenacious and resilient as the people who call this region home.

Another convention of Southern literature is an awareness of the past and its intrusion on the present. White shows this intrusion with all her characters, native Southerner and outsider alike. Julie Holt’s life is shaped by an event in her past. Seventeen years ago, her younger sister, Chelsea, disappeared on the watch of twelve-year-old Julie, who watched her family splinter as her mother devoted her life to finding Chelsea. Since her mother’s death ten years ago, Julie has been consumed with doing what her mother could not do. But it is not her own past that brings her to Biloxi; it is rather the past of her friend Monica Guidry, dead of congenital heart defect at 28. Monica, who was estranged from her family, leaves Julie a beach house in Biloxi and the guardianship of Beau, Monica’s five-year-old son. When caring for Beau causes Julie to lose her job at a New York auction house, she sees the house in Biloxi as her only option.

The beach house provides no sanctuary, however; it was destroyed by Katrina. Julie’s resources are thin when a mysterious painting leads her to Monica’s grandmother, Aimee, and brother, Trey. Aimee persuades Julie to stay at the family home to give Beau a chance to know his mother’s family and encourages Julie and the reluctant Trey to rebuild River Song, the beach house. Julie, believing that Beau needs his family and intrigued by the painting that links her family to the Guidrys, agrees. The painting, the work of Julie’s great-grandfather, is a portrait of Caroline Guidry, Trey’s great-grandmother, another Guidry woman who disappeared.

From this point on, White seamlessly weaves together narratives of past and present. Aimee shares her story with Julie, bringing to life the beautiful, unconventional Caroline, her controlling husband, and their two sons, both of whom Aimee loved. As they work together to rebuild River Song, Julie’s adversarial relationship with Trey gradually transforms to a partnership, a friendship, and eventually something more. Secrets long buried are revealed, and questions about Monica’s disappearance, as well as Caroline’s, are answered.

Karen White has been an autobuy author for me since I read The Memory of Water in 2008 and immediately tracked down her backlist. I love her layered characters with their tangled relationships, her evocation of a region I know by heart, her lucid prose with its lyrical passages, and the Southern Gothic touches that flavor but do not define her books. The Beach Trees contains all of these things and more. It is the story of a woman’s journey from shadow to substance, from rootless seeker to one grounded in her place, from a woman owned by the past to one eagerly anticipating the future. It is also a love story—love for a child, a man, and a home. But The Beach Trees is not only Julie’s story. It is also the story of family and place, the story of survivors. Early in the novel, Julie asks Aimee why people rebuild after a hurricane rather than leaving. Aimee responds:

“Because this is home.” She waited to see if the words registered with me, but I just looked back at her, not understanding at all.

After a deep breath, she looked up at a tall oak tree beyond the garden, its leaves still green against the early October sky, the limbs now thick with foliage. “Because the water recedes, and the sun comes out, and the trees grow back. Because” — she spread her hands, indicated the garden and the tree and, I imagined, the entire peninsula of Biloxi — “because we’ve learned that great tragedy gives us opportunities for great kindness. It’s like a needed reminder that the human spirit is alive and well despite all evidence to the contrary.” She lowered her hands to her sides. “I figured I wasn’t dead, so I must not be done.”

I give this book my highest recommendation.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stefanie Sloane winner!

The winner of a signed copy of The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane is:


Congratulations, Lisa! Please send your full name and address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom with "Stefanie Sloane winner" as the subject and I'll forward your info to Stefanie. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review - - Warrior of the Isles

Warrior of the Isles
By Debbie Mazzuca
Publisher:  Zebra
Release Date:  May 1, 2011

Aidan MacLeod is a stong leader, dedicated to the protection and well-being of his clan and, in particular, to his younger half-brother, Lachlan. But, while Aidan loves his brother fiercely and would do anything to protect him, he cannot bring himself to accept that part of Lachlan that has brought so much tragedy into their lives; the Fae blood that flows through Lachlan's veins thanks to their mother's betrayal.

Sweet, innocent and likeable but totally lacking the skills necessary to assume leadership of her people, Princess Syrena is shocked when, following her father's death, the Angels task her with two missions critical to the future of her people: discover who murdered her father and go to the mortal world of the Scottish Highlands to find Lachlan MacLeod, the half-brother she never knew she had, and bring him home to The Enchanted Isles. Syrena is confident that the mission to retrieve Lachlan will be easily accomplished, freeing her to return home before the chaos and power struggles caused by her father's death spiral out of control but she never anticipates Lachlan's less than enthusiastic response to the news that he has a sister nor his refusal to accept that part of him that is Fae and she certainly couldn't have anticipated his strong, handsome, stubborn, mortal half-brother, Aidan nor her unexpected attraction to him.

Following heartrending betrayals by both his mother and his former fiancee, Aidan has no interest in women other than for sport but when he happens upon a beautiful woman in the woods fiercely protecting the deer that was to have been his clan's meal, he finds himself unexpectedly charmed.  Believing her to be a victim of a kidnapping by Lowlanders who has lost her memory, he takes Syrena home, determined to protect her until her family is found.  He has no idea that her purpose there is to spirit his brother away nor that she is Fae, nor that she will fill his heart with joy and, unaware of his hatred for her people, it never occurs to Syrena to enlighten him until it's much too late.

Ms. Mazzuca brings medieval Scotland to life in this sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always engaging page-turner.  Aidan and Syrena's journey is not an easy one, as befits these harsh times.  They both have much to learn and need time to evolve individually before they can grow old together.  Thankfully, the author gives them that time, which makes their happy ending, when it finally arrives, all the more appreciated.

Rounding out the story is a rich cast of secondary characters who add dimension, humor, intrigue and adventure to the mix.  I enjoyed seeing beloved characters from Mazzuca's first book, Lord of the Isles, and meeting new ones who I have high hopes of seeing again in future books, especially Lachlan and Evangeline.

If you enjoy medieval romance that's filled with heart-stopping adventure, sizzling sensuality and deep emotion along with a sprinkling of fantasy and the danger of dark magick that threatens not only our characters' happiness but their very lives, I encourage you to give Warrior of the Isles a try.  And, if you're a fan of time travel, don't miss Mazzuca's first book, Lord of the Isles.  You can read my review of that book here


Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today's Special -- An Interview with Stefanie Sloane

As you all know, we here at The Romance Dish love debut authors. Well, do we have a special treat for you today! Not only does historical author Stefanie Sloane's debut book come out next week (I've read it and loved it!), but she has back-to-back-to-back releases! How's that for starting out with a bang?! This English major from Seattle has always loved to read and credits her parents for that. That degree helped her land a job with Amazon's editorial department before she decided to write her own stories of happily-ever-afters. Please help me welcome Stefanie to the blog!


Andrea: Hi, Stefanie! We are thrilled to have you visiting with us today at the Romance Dish. :) Thanks so much for being here.

Stefanie: Thanks so much for inviting me to join you. I have to say, one of the best parts of my job so far has been meeting all of the wonderful bloggers and reviewers out there in Romancelandia. You’re such a fun bunch!

Andrea: Aww, thanks! Huge congratulations on your debut book, The Devil in Disguise, which comes out next Tuesday! (Folks, I’ve read it and you don’t want to miss it!) What is the story about?

Stefanie: William Randall, the Duke of Clairemont, is a wicked rake with little regard for society—a most unlikely suitor for the prim and proper Lady Lucinda Gray. But his latest assignment for the Young Corinthians, an elite spy organization, involves protecting her from a kidnapping plot and to do this, the notorious “Iron Will” must get close to Lucinda, and convince her that he’s a man worthy of her attention. It is a simple enough task to use his devilish charm to seduce her, but William never would have guessed that he’d become enthralled by the lovely Lady Grey—or that he’d lose his own heart in the bargain.

Beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Lucinda has managed to gracefully sidestep even the most persistent suitors. Until the Duke of Clairemont, that is. His rugged features, sinfully sensuous mouth, and piercing eyes are as alluring as the champion thoroughbred he tantalizingly offers in exchange for the honor of courting her, and she finds it hard to resist either temptation. The feelings he stirs in her both excite and arouse, urging her on despite the very real danger he represents. But when the truth is revealed, will Lucinda risk her heart and her life for a chance at everlasting love?

Andrea: Ah, I simply adored Iron Will and can see why Lucinda did, too. *g* The Devil in Disguise is the start of a series called The Regency Rogues. How are these books connected? And how many will there be?

Stefanie: All of the delicious heroes in the Regency Rogues books are members of the Young Corinthians, an elite spy organization that serves king and country with complete and utter devotion. Think James Bond in breeches! As for how many books there will be in the series, I’m contracted to write books four, five, and six. After that, well, if the readers love the first six, hopefully there will be more!

Andrea: Congrats on four, five, and six! I’m sure this series will sell well. Okay, back to The Devil in Disguise. Before Will and Lucinda meet, both are dead set against courtship or marriage. Yet, after they meet and get to know one another, they actually begin to consider it. Why is that? Specifically, what is it about each that makes the other finally contemplate it?

Stefanie: I think it’s that indescribable yet totally consuming quality that love possesses. The quality that opens your eyes and forces you to realize that, despite everything you thought to the contrary, there really is someone on earth who not only understands you, but loves you completely and without judgment.

Andrea: Very well said, Stefanie. I totally felt that love between them. And speaking of love, Lucinda’s love of horses is a key point of the story. Do you share her love of horses? How much research did you have to do?

Stefanie: I absolutely do share Lucinda’s love of horses. I owned a beautiful Egyptian Arabian when I was a girl and have long admired the equine for its stamina, grace, nobility, and intelligence. I volunteered for quite some time with a horse rescue organization and interacted on a daily basis with these amazing animals, so my research was all hands-on experience—the best kind!

Andrea: Oh, wow! That's definitely the best kind of research. In addition to horses, Lucinda also dearly loves her aunts, the “Furies”, and I adored them, too! They are fiercely loyal and funny to boot. Are they based on anyone you know?

Stefanie: No one that I know, but many characters played by Maggie Smith fit the bill. Well, any of Maggie Smith’s characters blown out of proportion then enlarged personality-wise by a factor of ten.

Andrea: Maggie Smith is a great choice! I love her. Okay, since The Devil in Disguise is your debut, and we all love a good call story, can you tell us about the day you received “the call”?

Stefanie: I’ll warn you: it’s a rather unglamorous story. I was scouring my kitchen sink when my agent called. Then one of my dogs started barking, then I emailed my mom with the news—while still on the phone with my agent. Then the second dog started barking, I instant messaged my husband, and somewhere in there I began to cry. Loud, unglamorous, but it’s all mine.

Andrea: That’s plenty glamorous! Any time that you can get out of doing housework is glamorous. *wink* So, have you always liked to write? What prompted you to pick up the pen?

Stefanie: I entered college with plans of becoming a museum curator. When I slept my way through one of my core art classes, I thought it would be prudent to investigate other career paths. So I looked around for a major that would allow me to do what I loved to do best: reading. Thankfully, I didn’t fall asleep in any of my writing classes, and in fact, finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

Andrea: And here you are—a published author! Another thing we like to talk about here at the Romance Dish is comfort reads. We all have them. What are some of yours?

Stefanie: There are too many to list, but a few favorites are Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, and any of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books.

Andrea: Julia Quinn is a popular comfort read author as her The Viscount Who Loved Me is tops on my list. *g* On your website it states that you are a working mom to two active girls. How do you balance writing and family? What is a typical writing day like for you?

Stefanie: You know the performer in the circus who balances spinning plates with her nose, balls with her feet, and small animals with her hands? That’s kind of what my typical day looks like. My girls come first, so I do most of my writing during the day when they’re at school. And if I get behind—which, um, I am right now—I wait until after they go to bed to pick up the pen. My family always comes first and thankfully, I have a job that allows for this.

Andrea: LOL! I can so picture that as I have two kids, too, and they and my husband always come first. :) Since you write historical romance, if you could go back in time to when your characters lived, what one item would you insist on taking with you?

Stefanie: It’s silly and hardly the one and only thing someone in such a situation should think about, but a toothbrush—you know, a real one. Not a twig or some woody apparatus. I’m pretty sure that my dentist is smiling right about now.

Andrea: I am so with you on the toothbrush. If you hosted a small dinner party and could invite anyone you wanted (real or fictional, past or present), who would you invite and why?

Stefanie: As I’m still thinking about the recent royal wedding, I would like to put together a rather English grouping, including:

Colin Firth. I think the “why” is obvious.

Queen Victoria. A fascinating woman who lived during one of the most interesting periods in English history.

The Clash. They are one of my all-time favorite bands and sorely missed. Perhaps, if I begged, they’d play “London Calling” during dessert.

Alan Rickman. An amazing actor whose voice would soothe the situation should a fight break out between The Clash and Queen Victoria—which I’m fairly sure it would.

Will and Kate, because they’re just so cute.

Andrea: What great dinner conversation you would have! Since we’re on the subject of food, I see on your website that you love Mexican food (but don’t like to cook it). Me, too! To both, LOL! What your favorite Mexican dish?

Stefanie: Well, I love a good tamale. And then there’s guacamole—this doesn’t count as a dish, right? It’s more of a sauce or garnish, so I can have both, yes?

Andrea: Absolutely you can have both! Personally, I love spinach quesadillas...to which my family looks at me funny. LOL! Can you give us a sneak peek of what’s up next for you?

Stefanie: In June The Angel in My Arms will be published:

Injured in the line of duty, Young Corinthian agent Marcus Maxwell, the Earl of Weston, travels to his country estate to recover—or so he believes. His superior’s request that he investigate a smuggling ring run by Napoleon sympathizers seems ridiculous at first, but then becomes all-too threatening as pieces of a treacherous puzzle begin to fall into place. And the most troubling piece of all is Miss Sarah Tisdale, an unconventional beauty whose lust for life is rivaled only by her ability to drive Marcus to distraction. When her family comes under suspicion, Marcus must watch her very, very closely...even if her touch ignites the deep, fiery desire burning just beneath his cool fa├žade.

When it comes to suitors, Sarah’s lush curves and perfectly kissable lips aren’t enough to compensate for her outspoken and willful nature. Sarah’s tasted disappointment before, and she long ago decided that she’s better off without an overbearing husband. Still, flirting with the sinfully handsome Marcus is a pastime worth savoring—even when it leads to wicked pleasures. But when Sarah’s life is in jeopardy, Marcus discovers that the fire between them can no longer be denied—and that he’ll do anything to keep her in his arms.

Andrea: I cannot wait for this one! Quick Six time!

Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds, though chocolate would trump.
Soup or salad? Salad if it’s warm outside, soup if it’s cold. Strange, but true.
Alpha or beta? Oh, I’m an alpha girl. All the way.
Mountains or beach? Since the view from my house is of the Olympic Mountain range, I’ll go with mountains.
Plotter or pantster? Plotter with a capital “P.”
Chocolate or vanilla? See question #1.

Andrea: Thanks so much for answering all of my many questions, Stefanie. Now it’s your turn—is there a question you’d like to ask our readers?

Stefanie: Thanks again for having me! Such fun questions to answer. Now, dear readers, I’d like to ask you a question: If you are a person who enjoys series, how long do you prefer your series to be? Six books? Thirty books? Is there typically a point at which you’d like to see something new from the author?

Answer my question in the comment thread and you’ll automatically be entered to win a signed copy of my debut book, The Devil in Disguise.

Thank you, Stefanie!