Monday, October 31, 2011

What a Year!

Have two years really passed since The Romance Dish began?? Well, they do say that time flies when you're having fun, and we have all kinds of fun around here with our guests and all of you. We Dishes have chosen some of our highlights of the past year---boy, have there been a lot! As the song says, "These are a few of my favorite things." *g*

Gannon -- It's been such an exciting and event-filled year here at The Romance Dish, so I had a hard time narrowing my favorite things down to just a few. I have to say that PJ's RWA week was one of my top choices, especially since Andrea, Buffie, and I could not attend this year. PJ's pictures (always fabulous) and her minute by minute coverage was almost like being there. Our blog wouldn't be complete without visits from some amazing authors, many of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting: Vanessa Kelly, Christina Brooke, the ladies of The Ballroom Blog, and Joanna Bourne. Fun, friendly, and incredibly talented, each and every one. Jo's recent blog about heroines and the gemstones that describe them was as unique and creative as she is. I know now when I read a book, I will look at characters in a whole new way! That's just a few favorites from me. And speaking of favorites, Andrea, Buffie, and PJ are three of the finest women I know. I am happy and blessed to call them friends and share this blogging adventure with them. Of course, our adventure wouldn't be complete without all of you stopping by and sharing in the fun. Thank you!

Andrea -- Wow, it’s hard to believe that another year has passed and here we are celebrating our second anniversary. We’ve had so many amazing authors dish with us and a lot of great reviews to help my TBR pile grow by leaps and bounds. Some of my favorite blogs from the past year are: It’s Beginning To Taste A Lot Like Christmas, which featured some really yummy recipes for holiday goodies that I’m already considering making this year, too; Fresh as a Daisy!, where Anna Campbell introduced us to her beloved Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola of these days I’m going to find them; PJ’s Second Chances or the First Day of the Rest of My Life, where she talked about the day she was shot and we all needed a tissue; Love at First Sight, where I gushed about my love of Harry Potter; Buffie’s Hot Dish for September featuring the oh so hot Jed Hill; and Gannon’s wonderful review of Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk...and there are so many more. Most importantly, I have to say how incredibly blessed I am to have Buffie, Gannon, and PJ as my friends and partners and to have so many lovely people visit our blog so regularly. Thank you so much for two wonderful years and here’s to many, many more!

Buffie -- I just can’t believe that The Romance Dish has been going strong for 2 years. I guess that old saying “time flies when you are having fun” is true. We have shared some wonderful times this year. As amazed that I am at all of the talented authors who visited with us, I am doubly amazed at all you wonderful followers and commenters. Thanks for sharing this journey with us! This year has been chocked full of highlights, which made it very difficult for me to choose from but here are a few that come to mind. Who could forget the Ellora’s Cave Showcase? I’m surprised the site didn’t melt with all those steamy stories - LOL!! I really enjoyed learning about illustrated romance novels from photographer and author Jenn LeBlanc. One of my personal highlights was interviewing a favorite author of mine, Nalini Singh. Talk about a fan girl moment for me! I readily admit that I’m an historical romance reader by heart, but this year author Cynthia Eden opened my eyes to the joys of romantic suspense and thus my TBR pile has grown. A personal thank you goes out to authors Lila DiPasqua, Vanessa Kelly and Ashley March for not only writing fabulous books this year, but for also becoming dear friends to me. Last, but most definitely not least, thanks to Andrea, Gannon and PJ for being the ones to share my love of books with, for always having my back and for getting out on the dance floor of life and making the best of it all!

PJ - - They may call it the "terrible two's" but here at The Romance Dish our second year on the web was exciting, exhilarating and more fun than I could have imagined when Andrea, Buffie, Gannon and I first conceived the idea at Moonlight & Magnolias in 2009. I could fill the entire page with favorite memories of the past year but I've done my best to pare it down to a few special highlights. Kaki Warner blew me away with her Blood Rose debut trilogy which made interviewing her in January a total fangirl moment for me. Her answer to my question of who she would take on a campout in the Old West still has me laughing. Another highlight was my blog, Second Chances or The First Day of the Rest of My Life, not because of the story I shared but because of the courage and resilience shown by many of you in the life stories you shared. I had a wonderful time representing The Romance Dish at the RWA National Conference in New York City in July and sharing the experience with you all through my blogs and photos. A very special highlight of that trip was meeting Dish regular, fsbuchler and her wonderful husband! Who wouldn't relate to Sarah MacLean's joy, excitement and pride at being asked to provide a cover quote for her writing inspiration in The book that started it all? Could there be any better group to celebrate a "zero" birthday with than all of you at The Romance Dish? I think not! Thank you to all the wonderful authors and readers who joined me for my three-day birthday bash and a very special thank-you to my Sept. 20th birthday pal, Julie Anne Long. Not only did I have a fantastic birthday party but I discovered that I share my birthday with one of my favorite authors. Can't get much better than that!

Tell us, friends, what are some of your favorite "Dish" moments from the past year?
**NOTE: We are giving away prizes all week and want everyone to be included. Please put U.S. (if your mailing address is in the United States) or INT  (if you live in a country other than the United States.) at the end of each of your comments, so we know which prize drawings to enter you in. The more comments you leave this week, the more chances you'll have to win!**

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coming Attractions

November is one of my favorite months. Not just because the leaves are in full display of jewel tone colors and the air has a clean crisp feel, but because we celebrate Thanksgiving and my husband’s birthday. Speaking of celebrations, November is a great month here at The Romance Dish because we kick off the month with our anniversary celebration extravaganza. In addition to our party, we have lots of reviews, guest authors, and fun things in store for the month.

The Romance Dish is celebrating our 2nd anniversary in bloggerland. Wow, we can’t believe it has been 2 years!!! Our anniversary celebration extravaganza begins Monday, October 31, and runs through Friday, November 4. We have a lot planned for the week, including games, highlights, and a special guest. Then on Saturday, November 5, we will announce all of our winners … and there will be a lot of winners. We even have three special giveaways just for our international readers. So make sure you stop by every day for your chance to win!

Are you looking for a ready to print shopping list of the new releases for November? Well, we have got you covered! On November 7, Andrea provides you with such a list in her New Releases blog.

On Tuesday, November 8, guest reviewer Janga interviews Rita Award winning author Molly O’Keefe.

Trish Milburn/Trisha Mills shares the latest in YA news on Thursday, November 10. Anyone looking forward to the Breaking Dawn – Part 1 movie?

Get a sneak peak of the December new releases on Friday, November 11, with Andrea’s Make Your Reservations blog.

Even though the weather is getting colder here in the United States, The Romance Dish sizzles on Tuesday, November 15, when Buffie shares her latest Hot Dish.

New York Times Bestselling author Lori Wilde guest blogs with us on Thursday, November 17.

On Saturday, November 19, we share several reviews at one time with our Stock Up Saturday Reviews.

On Monday, November 21, debut author Joan Swan stops by The Romance Dish on her Journey of a Debut Author blog tour. Joan is a triple RWA Golden Heart finalist as well as a double Daphne Du Maurier finalist and her debut FEVER releases February 28, 2012. Joan is bringing a special guest with her, and I think you will like who it is!

Anna Campbell returns on Thursday, November 24, with her latest review. No matter what book Anna is reviewing, it is bound to be one to add to your TBR list.

We hope to see you frequently during the month of November!!

~ Buffie

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review - - Bring Me Home for Christmas

Bring Me Home for Christmas
By Robyn Carr
Publisher: Mira
Release Date:  October 25, 2011

Three years ago, Denny Cutler broke Becca Timm's heart when he re-enlisted in the Marines and ended their relationship before shipping out for Afghanistan.  Reeling from the death of his mother, Denny convinced himself he was doing what was best for Becca, who was still in college.  By the time he came home two years later, he had realized his error but it was too late.  Becca had moved on...or so she said.  Denny left San Diego and settled in Virgin River, a small mountain community in the northern California mountains.  In the past year, he's put down roots, found a job that fulfills him and made good friends he considers his extended family.  But he hasn't forgotten the girl he let get away.

Becca Timm is at a crossroads.  The private school where she's been teaching has been closed and the wealthy law student she's been dating for the past year is talking about engagement rings.  As Christmas approaches, there are major life decisions to be made but Becca can't seem to take that final step forward.  She may have told everyone that she's over Denny but the truth is she still has feelings for him.  She decides that the only way to put those feelings firmly in the past is to tag along with her twin brother (Denny's friend and fellow ex-Marine) to their "guy's week" of fishing and hunting in the "backwoods" town of Virgin River, see Denny and confirm that she made the right decision in not giving him a second chance.

At first, that's exactly the conclusion she reaches.  She and Denny can't seem to be in the same room without arguing and she can't believe he's made the decision to spend his life in what she considers a hick town in the middle of nowhere.  She's sure she could never leave her beloved beach and all the city has to offer.  But when Becca injures her ankle, forcing her to stay in Virgin River beyond the planned week, things begin to change. She begins to realize how much Denny has grown up in the past three years and remembers why she once hoped to spend her life with this man.  And, as she comes to know the people of Virgin River, she begins to wonder if perhaps she's been looking for her happiness in the wrong place.  Only time will tell if the magic of a Virgin River Christmas will open her eyes to the man, and town, that are perfect for this city girl.

Bring Me Home for Christmas is another heartwarming tale from Robyn Carr's Virgin River.  While I've enjoyed some of the books in this long-running series more than others, I never tire of visiting with the warm-hearted people of Virgin River and the surrounding area and am already looking forward to returning December 27th for Hidden Summit

If you're looking for a heartwarming, small town, second chance romance to put you in the holiday spirit, I recommend curling up with a copy of Bring Me Home for Christmas.

What holiday romances are you looking forward to reading?  Have you visited Virgin River yet?  Do you have a favorite book - or character - in the series?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review -- Scandalous Desires

Scandalous Desires
Maiden Lane—Book 3
By Elizabeth Hoyt
Publisher: Grand Central
Release Date: October 18, 2011

A year ago, Silence Hollingbrook was humiliated in the worst possible way by infamous river pirate “Charming” Mickey O’Connor. Mickey and his crew had stolen the cargo from Silence’s husband’s ship and she petitioned the pirate to return it in order to save William’s life. Mickey told her he’d replace it if she would spend the night with him. She agreed, but nothing happened...and no one believed her. Not her sister, not her brother, and especially not her husband. Things were never the same between Silence and William and six months later, he died at sea. “Charming” Mickey’s words have haunted Silence since that fateful night: “If he loves ye, he’ll believe ye.”

Within that time, a baby girl was left on the doorstep at the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children in St. Giles where Silence helps her brother Winter, who runs it. Silence has since come to love little Mary Darling as if she were her own child. When Mary goes missing, Silence knows exactly where to look for her—the gaudy palace of Mickey O’Connor. Mickey has taken the child—his child—to protect her from his enemy who has discovered her existence. Silence pleads with him once again, but Mickey cannot let Mary go. The only way Silence can be with Mary is to stay protected in Mickey’s palace until his rival—the Vicar of Whitechapel—is dealt with. After, she can leave and take Mary with her. Reluctantly, Silence agrees but warns Mickey that she will stay just to take care of Mary Darling, nothing else.

Mickey has come a long way since his severely poverty-stricken childhood. He has fought hard to make something of himself—even if it is illegal—to become a king, of sorts, to the people of St. Giles and to never want for anything again. And now the one thing Mickey wants is the pure and virtuous Silence Hollingbrook.

He went to stand next to the bed and even though the room was unlit, he could make out, faintly, her slight form beneath the covers. The sight somehow calmed his soul. She lay in his bed, in his house, and no matter what bargain she thought she’d made with him, he knew the truth.

He had no plans to let her go—ever.

Despite the fact that Silence is disagreeable and wants nothing to do with him, he can’t resist giving in to her.

He was enjoying himself, he realized with something like surprise. He’d never chased a woman for more than a day or so—a week at most. They all fell at his feet, some within minutes. He knew, cynically, that his attraction couldn’t all be put down to his pretty face. His power, his money drew them just as much if not more.

But not Silence.

Mick smiled to himself and sat back to select a sweetmeat. Silence disliked him, disobeyed him, argued with him, and was all but starting a rebellion amongst his people, and still he indulged her.

While staying under his roof, Silence gets to know the man beneath the flashy exterior. The man who treats his people well. The man who loved his mother. The man who spoils her even as she defies him. And she comes to understand him...and ultimately wants to stay with him. But can Mickey keep her safe—and his—as danger closes in on them?

Wow! Scandalous Desires is a book that I’ve been anticipating for a long time and it exceeded all my expectations! I was captivated right from the beginning and did not want to put it down. Elizabeth Hoyt does a masterful job of redeeming “Charming” Mickey without compromising his character. She takes an imperfect man (who readers wanted to despise in Wicked Intentions, but couldn’t) and makes him into a dashing hero that I will never forget. Silence Hollingbrook is his greatest weakness but also his greatest strength. Mickey is drawn to her purity and sweet spirit because that is something he’s never really known but perhaps longed for. She evokes feelings in him that he wants to continue to experience...with her. Silence feels safe and protected with Mickey plus she sees and appreciates the goodness and worth of the man himself. These two heated up the pages whether they were bickering, simply talking, or making love. And Ms. Hoyt writes some of the best love scenes out there. They are passionate, sexy, and blazing hot. Oh, and the Ghost of St. Giles is revealed and I totally guessed who it is!

Scandalous Desires is a must read historical romance and my favorite book of 2011 so far. I’m confident it will remain so. I simply adore Ms. Hoyt’s books for her sensuous prose, multifaceted characters, and intense, well developed story lines. And she delivers every single time. It’s no wonder all of her books are on my keeper shelves. Do yourself a favor and pick up Scandalous Desires. Go can thank me later. *g*


Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Third Chance Winner - Season for Temptation

Okay, folks, we're going to give this another try.  Librarypat has already won a copy of Season for Temptation at another site so we've drawn another name.  The new winner is


Congratulations, Laurie!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.

Today's Special - - Kat Martin

I am so excited to introduce you to our special guest today - New York Times Bestselling author, Kat Martin!  I've been reading Ms. Martin's books for more than twenty years, beginning with her historical romances and following her into contemporary, paranormal and romantic suspense.  This bestselling author of more than forty books lives in Montana with her husband, Larry Jay Martin, who is the author of more than twenty westerns and mysteries.  I'm wondering who takes care of these two when they're both in the writing cave!  

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Kat Martin!

INSIDE THE MIND OF A WRITER (You might be surprised)
by Kat Martin

Then again, you might not.

Most people have the impression that a writer sits down at his desk and thoughts and words just pour out of his head. The truth is oftentimes the thoughts roll around for weeks, months, years before they get the chance to spew out on the pages.

Sometimes it never gets to happen at all.

From as far back as I can remember I’ve had stories percolating in my head. I used to tell my brother and sister wild tales when we were kids. (I would get in my brother’s crib and tell my little sister that I was in jail and she would cry!)

I guess I was testing my story telling abilities even then. In college, people in my dorm would sit on the floor of my room and I would make up stories to entertain them. (I barely remember that since I am such a forward-thinking person and my past is sort of a fog in my brain.)

I never thought of becoming a writer--not until years later when my husband wrote an historical novel and I was helping him with the edits. I decided to try to write a book of my own and picked a Western Romance, Magnificent Passage, because the Old West was a subject I knew a lot about and to which I felt very connected. Our home in Montana is full of Western memorabilia and our library is filled with reference books on the subject.

So I’ve always had lots of story ideas and not all of them have turned into books. One of my wilder story concepts involved a Viking from an unknown island who washed up on English shores in the 1850’s. That was Heart of Honor and I’m not so sure that one went over too well with my readers.

More recently, I’ve been writing Contemporary Romantic Suspense and I’ve discovered it’s a really nice fit for me. The books all feature rugged, tough-as-they-come heroes, and women who can handle them.

In my latest, AGAINST THE STORM, Trace Rawlins is an ex-Army Ranger turned private detective. Trace knows from experience that redheads are nothing but trouble, but when photographer, Maggie O’Connell, comes to him for help against a stalker, Trace can’t resist.

I love the characters in this book. Because of my schedule these days, I don’t always have the entire story fleshed out as I used to do. Now it’s an adventure to see what problems the protagonists are going to encounter and figure out a way to help them get those problems solved. Though I don’t recommend starting a book without knowing the end of a story and a credible way to help the characters get there.

I hope you’ll watch for AGAINST THE STORM and that you enjoy Trace and Maggie’s adventure.

Very best wishes,

P.S. Would love for you to take a peek at my Against the Storm trailer (above), interview (below) (I do these under duress!),

reviews, and excerpt. Please visit my website, enter my contest and why not connect with me on facebook.  

Former Army Ranger, Trace Rawlins, knows that redheads are nothing but trouble. But when fiery, red-haired photographer, Maggie O’Connell comes to him for help in finding a stalker, Trace reluctantly agrees to take the case. Trace isn’t sure he believes her story and his suspicions grow as he uncovers more and more of Maggie’s dark secrets. But what if the stalker is real and Maggie is telling him the truth? Trace has no choice but to protect her. Even if it means putting his heart at risk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Second Chance Winner - Theresa Romain

The copy of SEASON FOR TEMPTATION by Theresa Romain has not been claimed by our original winner so we have drawn a new name.  Congratulations to


You're our new winner!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your book.

Today's Special - - Cara Elliott

I'm so happy to welcome Cara Elliott to the Romance Dish today.  I had the pleasure of meeting Cara at the RWA national conference in New York City this past summer and was delighted when she agreed to visit with us here at the blog..  Cara's new book, TOO WICKED TO WED, features not only a delicious hero but one of my favorite heroines of the year and a wonderful story that kept me reading late into the night. Please give Cara a warm welcome!

Hi everyone, I’m so delighted to be visiting here at the Romance Dish today. I always love “dishing” about books and the stories behind the stories. My new historical romance trilogy, “The Lords of Midnight” launches this month with the release of TOO WICKED TO WED and it’s all about . . . taking a gamble in life.

Now, betting was not just popular in Regency England—it was a passion! Gentlemen wagered on everything, from card games, horse races and boxing matches to marriage match-ups and how many bottles of port they could drink in one sitting. There is even a story of two club members betting on which rain drop would be the first to slide down to the bottom of a windowpane (after tossing back quite a few glasses of that port, I would guess.)

There were gaming “hells” all over London, from the swanky environs of Mayfair to the seedy streets of the slums. Fortunes were often won and lost in a single evening of play. So as I started planning my “Lord of Midnight” trilogy, which features three dark and dangerous rogues, I decided that such a place would make a perfect setting for some of the action.

Alexa Hendrie, the heroine of TOO WICKED TO WED, is a very smart, sensible, practical young lady. But she’s also a little exasperated over the fact that ladies have so many rules governing their behavior, while gentlemen get to go out and play.

So she throws caution to the wind for just one night, and decides to see if she can beat the men at their own game . . . with unexpected results! She wins—and wins big. When the last card has fallen, she fins that she is now half owner of one of London’s most notorious gambling hells.

And her new partner is the infamous Earl of Killingworth, better known as the “Irish Wolfhound."

Connor has taken a gamble too. He’s trying to rebuild the family fortune squandered by his profligate father, rather than simply marry an heiress. He keeps the fact that he own a business a secret from all but his closest friends . . . so he’s not overjoyed to learn that one of them has lost half-ownership in The Wolf’s Lair in a high-stakes card game. That the winner is a prim country miss makes the news even harder to swallow.

The partnership will never work . . . or will it? When a canny enemy seeks to put The Wolf’s Lair out of business permanently, Alexa and Connor are forced to work together in order to survive . . . and they soon discover they have more in common than they ever imagined. But are they willing to risk everything on love? (Oh, don’t worry—it’s a safe bet to guess that the dice rolls in their favor and they win a HEA!)

Now what about you? Are you a risk-taker—someone who will take a gamble, even if it’s a little dangerous, a little naughty? Or do you err on the side of caution? 

Do share! I’ll be giving away a signed copy of TOO WICKED TO WED to one random commentator. (Sorry but the offer is limited to U.S. addresses) 

Click here to visit Cara's website, here to visit her Facebook page and here to read an excerpt from TOO WICKED TO WED.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marvelous Mirabelle!

by Anna Campbell

As many of you know, I have a soft spot for a particularly good Harlequin SuperRomance. And today, I have THREE particularly good Supers to talk about.

I first discovered Helen Brenna courtesy of FROM THE OUTSIDE, part of the Nascar series. Racing cars aren't really my thing but tortured Argentinian racing driver Roberto Castillo was certainly my thing (if only!). I immediately realized I'd encountered a writer who could write convincing, heart-wrenching emotion and create memorable characters who were so real, they haunted my mind long after I closed the book.

Since then, I've bought every book Helen's published and as luck would have it, most of those books were part of a lovely series called "An Island to Remember".

So far, there have been seven books set on the fictional island of Mirabelle in Lake Superior. The island is largely reliant on tourism and has beautiful summers and harsh winters. One of the great things about returning to Mirabelle is that the reader gets a wonderful sense of community and a chance to find out how beloved characters from former stories have moved on with their lives.

The most recent three entries in the series were released back to back in July, August and September this year and are still readily available through online sources. It was wonderful having such a feast of Helen Brennas to keep me awake at night.

The first, THE PURSUIT OF JESSE, is a story of rising above the mistakes of the past to forge a new and more fulfilling life (actually I think that describes most of these Mirabelle stories - it's such a profound theme and it can be worked out in many ways). Both Sarah Marshik, the island's wedding planner, and Jesse Taylor, brother to the island's sheriff Garrett, have a lot to forgive themselves for and both are convinced they're unworthy of love. But the magic of the island and a once-in-a-lifetime attraction work together to change their minds - after a lot of turbulent emotion, a few false starts and a great deal of courage.

The second, HER SURE THING, was one of my favorites of the series. Supermodel Grace Andersen left Mirabelle as a rebellious teenager and now returns after an accident that has brought her modelling career to an abrupt end. She's hurt and bitter and coming to terms with the fact that all her adult relationships have been superficial, including that with her ex-husband. This would seem the worst time to fall in love, especially with the island's doctor, Sean Griffin. Everybody in Mirabelle loves Sean. Everybody on Mirabelle thinks Grace is nothing but trouble. Yet these two people, on the surface ill-matched, can't keep away from one another. Again, another wonderful story of healing and hope.

The last book I'm talking about today is REDEMPTION AT MIRABELLE. The redemption theme that is so deeply ingrained in these stories is blatant here in the title. It would probably be my favorite of these three books I'm talking about today. It's just a magical read! Helen Brenna does a wonderful brooding, wounded hero (another favorite is reclusive writer Jamis Quinn from THEN CAME BABY earlier in the series). Adam Harding comes to Mirabelle with his two young children to help the islanders rebuild after a tornado devastates the area. He's a man who's been on the run emotionally and physically from his wife's tragic suicide and he has no intention of settling down any time soon. Marin Camden is on the run too, from her unfulfilling life as an executive in New York. From the first she's attracted to Adam, but she's a woman who plans on a childless future, and Adam's world revolves around his children. Watching these two damaged, wary people maneuver their way to love is enormously touching and reminds me again just how beautifully Helen Brenna writes emotional growth.

You can find out more about Helen and her books at her website:

So are you a Helen Brenna fan? Do you have a favorite series of books where the setting keeps drawing you back for more? What's your favorite redemption romance?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jodi Thomas winners!

The random winners of a copy of THE COMFORTS OF HOME by Jodi Thomas are:

Karyn Gerrard (comment #30)

Barbara E. (comment #19)

Di (comment #27)

Congratulations Karyn, Barbara, and Di! Ladies, please send your full name and email address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom with "Jodi Thomas winner" as the subject and we'll get your book in the mail.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joanna Bourne Winner!

The winner of a copy of The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne is

Eli Yanti

Congratulations, Eli! Please send your name and mailing address to us at


I will forward your information to Joanna so she can send you your book.

Thanks to everyone for commenting on the blog. It was a fun day.

Stock Up Saturday

Seduction of a Highland Lass
McCabe Scottish Historical Trilogy - Book 2
By Maya Banks
Publisher: Ballantine
Release Date: September 27, 2011

In medieval Scotland, most marriages are made to acquire land or strengthen alliances. Rarely, are they a matter of love. Highland warrior, Alaric McCabe, a man of honor and fierce loyalty, knows he must marry Rionna McDonald to secure the alliance with her father's clan that will help the McCabes defeat their enemy and live in safety and peace. The fact that he barely knows Rionna and feels no attraction to her, nor she to him has no bearing on the matter. They both know their duty. But, on the way to formalize the betrothal, Alaric is attacked near the border of the McDonald lands and left for dead, only to be rescued by a woman who will test his patience, his heart, his loyalty and the honor that defines him.

Betrayed by her family, Keeley McDonald has been on her own since she was a young girl. Cast out by the McDonald chieftain and his wife, the healer lives quietly, supporting herself by tending members of the same clan that refuses to claim her. Stumbling upon a beautiful (her word), unconscious warrior in the forest near her home, she cannot turn her back on him, dragging him into her home and using her healing skills to save his life. When Alaric's older brother, Ewan (clan laird and hero of In Bed With a Highlander) finds them, he decides to bring Keeley back to the McCabe keep along with his brother and keep her there to help his wife, Mairin safely deliver their child. (The rugged warrior is a wee bit protective of his pregnant bride.)

The fiercely independent young woman isn't happy about being taken from her home (it's all she has) but, over the winter months, as she continues to nurse Alaric back to health, she slowly finds a place for herself within the McCabe clan as well as a place in Alaric's heart. Love, deep and true, blossoms between them but a heartbreaking decision looms ahead and when word comes of the impending arrival of the McDonald chieftain and his daughter, Alaric and Keeley are both forced to make the impossible choice between their love for one another and their love for, and loyalty to, the McCabe clan.

Banks has written another fast-paced, emotional and deeply sensual story that kept me up reading way beyond my normal bedtime. I fell in love with the members of the McCabe clan while reading In Bed With a Highlander and this book only reinforced those feelings. Catching up with them during the course of reading Seduction of a Highland Lass was like a long overdue visit with cherished family and friends. Keeley and Alaric broke my heart and, yes, tears were shed before I finally reached the end of the story but the journey was well worth the tears and I'd happily do it all over again. In fact, I probably will but right now my sights are set on the third and final book of the trilogy, Never Love a Highlander. It will be released next Tuesday, October 25th and I'm happily anticipating being back in the Highlands of Maya Banks' imagination before that day has ended!



In Total Surrender
Secrets series—Book 3
By Anne Mallory
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 27, 2011

Andreas Merrick and his brother, Roman, own and run a popular and extremely profitable gaming hell in London’s underworld. That’s not to say that they don’t have their problems. Andreas is hell-bent on revenge against someone from his past (for good reason), so he fends off assassination attempts on a regular basis. When Phoebe Pace boldly walks into his office asking for help and doesn’t leave when he tells her to, Andreas is slightly taken aback.


... “I say, you are most abusive with that word, Mr. Merrick. Poor Bertrand. Do most people hop to do your bidding?”


“Well, that is not good. It builds character to be told no.”

“You must have a lot of character then.”

“That is kind of you.” Warm smile.

“I was being rude.”

“Well, then at least I can say you are an honest man.”

He stared at her. She smiled back.

Phoebe needs Andreas’s help. Her father owns Pace & Co., the finest carriage makers in London, but lately, her father’s health has been declining. Because of that, he has been duped into making bad investments that have racked up enough debt to lose control of the company. Combined with her brother’s mysterious disappearance, Phoebe is desperate and knows that Andreas Merrick has the means and the power to aid her. But what starts off as a cry for help turns into something neither can resist.

In Total Surrender is another winner from Anne Mallory. Her stories are paced perfectly, full of secrets, and just when you think things are coming together, Ms. Mallory throws in a line that makes you say, What?! –in a good way. Andreas and Phoebe have opposing personalities—he is dangerous and gruff while she is upbeat and happy—yet both are intelligent and fiercely loyal. I love that Andreas is constantly unsettled by Phoebe’s smiles and teasing, but doesn’t become mushy. As Phoebe describes him, Andreas Merrick is an intense man, but ruthlessly fair. I enjoyed seeing Roman (from One Night is Never Enough) again and the scene between he and Andreas upon Roman’s return from his honeymoon is priceless. This book had a lot of great lines, but my favorite is from Andreas’s POV while kissing Phoebe: Could it be called a kiss, this meeting of skin where one person pulled the soul from another? Beautiful. As is this rest of this incredible story. I highly recommend it!



The Captain’s Mission
by Debby Giusti
Publisher: Harlequin, Love Inspired
Release Date: October 4, 2011

Criminal Investigations Division agent Kelly McQueen is called to investigate the death of a solider during a live ammunition training exercise on the local Army base. The officer over the training exercise, Captain Phil Thibodeaux, is certain there must have been a lapse in the safety check during the exercise. But Agent McQueen has a gut feeling that something went wrong, terribly wrong, and she is pretty sure it wasn’t an accident.

Upon meeting Agent McQueen, Captain Thibodeaux wonders if she is the right person for the job. While her no-nonsense approach and business-only manners may work in some investigations, this particular one involves the loss of one of Captain Thibodeaux’s own men. So it not just business, it’s personal. Captain Thibodeaux has had enough of business-minded women, beginning with his career-driven mother who didn’t care for the little boy she left at home during those long days as the office.

Agent McQueen has spent her career in the military dealing with soldiers and officers full of male attitude. Add to that feelings of abandonment and bitterness towards her nearly non-existent, deadbeat father and you can see why Kelly is all about her work. She knows she can only count on herself.

As the puzzle pieces of the investigation begin to fall in place, the close working relationship between Captain Thibodeaux and Agent McQueen grows more personal and feelings slowly arise to the surface. Both are unsure how to acknowledge the bud of love blooming, but when danger encircles Agent McQueen and evil suspects come to light, they both realize they need to lean on each other and on God.

This is a wonderful romantic suspense! And though there is intrigue and evil throughout the story, it is also filled with sweet moments between the hero and heroine. While Ms. Giusti keeps you guessing the identity of the murderer, she generously sprinkles the novel with touches of faith that adds richness to the story.

~ Buffie


What are you reading these days? Any recommendations?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today's Special -- Joanna Bourne

We are delighted to have 2009 RITA award winning author, Joanna Bourne join us once again. Her newest release, The Black Hawk, (Check out my review here), is the latest in the series that started with the RITA-nominated, The Spymaster's Lady, and RITA-winning, My Lord and Spymaster. Joanna writes historicals that are so vivid and rich, they capture the imagination and stay with the reader long after they reach the end. As I said in my review, "Reading a Joanna Bourne novel is a feast for the senses: the decadence of a rich chocolate torte, the crisp, bubbly effervescence of a glass of champagne. Light and dark, sweet and spicy. Everything you could ever want and more." Please welcome the incredibly talented, and equally wonderful, Joanna Bourne to The Romance Dish.

The Girl Has Stones

I've been thinking about female characters and gems.
You thought I meant something else, didn't you?

What it is . . . gems and precious stones have stories woven about them. Topaz and turquoise and tourmaline aren't just pretty. They're the stuff of myth. As far back as we know, rare stones were thought to heal, protect, awaken magic.

Now I'm going to presume these fabled talents and proclivities of rocks are not, y'know, actually valid. But they're the center of universal and ancient beliefs. Without setting my characters to reading fortunes in crystals or dueling with magical sapphires, I can still call on The Power of Stones.

When we write, we reveal our characters by every means possible. We hand visual clues to the reader, telling her what kind of people we're writing about. And we like to be efficient about it, since we're busy and want to settle down to telling story. So we write some of our description in symbols and shortcuts and, if we're not careful, cliches. When our gal picks up a candle and heads down the mysterious staircase, if she's wearing a virginal white gown, we can be pretty sure something scary is going to jump at her out of the darkness. If she's sashaying down in a slinky black silk number, we expect somebody quite different to be waiting. We might assign our heroine long flowing locks, or sassy, bouncy curls or straight hair, hacked off ragged and short. Shortcuts and symbols.

So I'm thinking about gemstones and what they say about a character and how we might use them in telegraphing information to the reader.

Right this moment I'm working on Pax's story. In Chapter One, our heroine opens a letter and a child's ring falls out, a ring with 'a single, rather fine pearl'. Having written that, and thinking about it, I see that pearl saying, 'innocent, vulnerable, and pure'. There's really no other stone I could pick that would convey the same association. I lay down a picture of that ring and brush the reader's mind with two thousand years of legend and art about the pearl. Handy work for a single sentence in Chapter One.

Now, I generally can't load my heroines down with actual sapphires and opals. They're busy and often in hazardous circumstances and can't go running about decked out in gemstones. They are, you might say, always up to the elbows in the dishwater of danger and if they have rings they've put them carefully up on the window sill before they plunge in.
But, in the back of my mind, I assign my folks precious stones that characterize them.

Jessamyn, in My Lord and Spymaster, owns lots of jewelry, being amazingly and unnecessarily rich. For instance, she owns one of the great pearl necklaces of the world.

In a black velvet nest, dozens of pale moons glowed, not white, but the most fragile golden pink. Here were pearls the color of dawn. Mushajjar pearls, from the Gulf of Persia. The largest was the size of his thumbnail. He cupped them in the palm of his hand and they weighed no more than dreams and sea foam. You had to know a lot about pearls to realize just how astonishing this necklace was. It should have been locked in a vault.

Can I compare this string of remarkable pearls to the huge diamond Eve Dallas wears under her cop clothes? The pearls, like that diamond, are a gift and prized because of the giver. The pearls and that diamond are wealth that never succeeds in owning the wearer.

If I were picking a gem that characterizes Jess herself, it's amber. Amber is the gem of outpouring love, warm and golden. Its element is fire, but not uncontrolled fire -- the fire of home and hearth. Legend says amber comes from the tears of the daughters of Phoebus, the sun god. It's suited to her looks. Sebastian calls her a 'passionate Viking'.

Moving along to my Annique from The Spymaster's Lady. Her jewel is the ruby, blood red, intense, and focused. Ruby is the fire gem, the stone of the wounded sun. Rubies were supposed to warn of danger by turning dark, which I supposed Annique would have found useful if she'd been wearing one.

At the end of Spymaster's Lady we have the passage --

Deep, unconditional love swept across her. Thus Grey paid for her freedom with that great secret from his store of secrets. He was like a rajah laying down the legendary ruby of his kingdom to ransom his woman.

For Marguerite in Forbidden Rose, the gem is a pearl. This is even there in her name. Marguerite means daisy, yes. But the deeper origin of the name is pearl. I see Maggie as a baroque pearl combining the sense of vulnerability with lush beauty. The baroque pearl is the most complex and mysterious of jewels. Shift it ever so slightly and you see new images in the dark and light.

And that brings me to Justine in Black Hawk. I see Justine as diamond. The root of the word is Latin, adamas, which means unconquerable or invincible. Clear, bright, hard enough to scratch any other stone, enduring, with an inner integrity that resists coercion, this is the gem you'd choose as a weapon. The center shines with its own light. We say the diamond is clear. But it holds a hundred colors.

Hawker says,
"Owl, at work, was bright as the edge of a diamond, hot as fire sparks."

**I'll be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to some lucky commenter (U.S. and International)**

*Please stop by and check out my blog here. Lots of interesting things over there you won't want to miss.*

So tell me, when you look at your favorite heroines -- what gemstone do you see for them?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today's Special -- Jodi Thomas

We are happy to welcome back the very talented Jodi Thomas! Jodi is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of 34 novels and 11 short story collections. In June 2011, WELCOME TO HARMONY won a RITA, the highest award for contemporary fiction. Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at A&M University in Canyon, Texas. Her latest, THE COMFORTS OF HOME, was review by Janga here. Please give a warm wlecome to Jodi!

I’m very happy to announce the birth of my new book. It’s been a long labor of love, but I know you’re going to enjoy the next Harmony book, THE COMFORTS OF HOME. I want readers to feel like they are walking the streets of a small town. You’ll laugh at some of the people, worry about others and fall in love with a few as they find their way through life.

As the people of Harmony began to sit down and tell me their story (in my head) I found one quiet woman fascinating from the first. At a time in her life when she was young and should have been going out on dates and having a ball, she was silently working at the post office without one person she called friend. The story whirls around with people falling in love, breaking up and living life, but in the corner of my mind, Ronelle Logan waited for her story.

People in general frightened her. One by one they were terrifying. Chapter 2, The Comforts of Home.

In the opening of THE COMFORTS OF HOME she is about to meet a man who will petrify her at first and awaken her to life as they talk.

In a closing note, I’d like to add that you are going to love a new character I introduce. He’s just a kid (17) with long hair, and a dream to make it big in the music world. We’ll be watching him grow up and fall in love several times before he figures women out.

Come along with me to Harmony. We’ll have a grand visit with the people there.

Wishing you much love and laughter in your life,

Jodi Thomas

Do you like watching characters "grow up" during a series? Who are some of your favorites and what series are they from? We have THREE copies of The Comforts of Home to give away to three random commenters (one copy for each winner) living within the United States or Canada.

In Harmony, Texas, twenty-year-old Reagan Truman has found her place, and found her family. But with her uncle taken ill and her friend Noah lost and disheartened with his life, Reagan is afraid of ending up alone again, and she's not the only one. When a terrible storms threatens the town, the residents of Harmony are forced to think about what they really want. Because making the connections they so desperately desire means putting their hearts at risk...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Introducing our Top Dish

Some of you may notice a difference with the rating in my review of The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne. It's 5 stars plus the Top Dish symbol. With our second anniversary approaching, the Dishes realized that there are some books that go above and beyond 5 stars, those extra special keepers that stay with us long after we turn the last page. So we came up with the new Top Dish rating.

We realize that there have been a few books we have reviewed in the past that probably would have received this rating, but we never discussed this until now. Now when you see this rating, you'll know how special we think these books are.

Review -- The Black Hawk

The Black Hawk
By Joanna Bourne
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 1, 2011

Ever since Adrian appeared in The Spymaster's Lady, I have been dying for him to have his own book---me and every other Joanna Bourne fan. Well, that day has finally come, and it is more than worth the wait!

Adrian Hawkhurst, aka Hawker, has come a long way since his boyhood days as an expert pickpocket from the rookeries of St. Giles. Now Head of the British Intelligence Service---and a Knight Companion of The Order of the Bath, to boot---Adrian is, by all appearances, a gentleman of the first order. But looks can be deceiving, because under all that polish, lives the boy of unknown origins and the dangerous spy he grew to be, and his past shows up on his doorstep one night, bloodied and near death. Justine DeCabrillac, his past enemy and lover, the woman he has loved since they were on the cusp of adulthood. His "Owl" had returned.

He was not tall or massive. Not a walking mountain of threat like William Doyle. Hawker was the menace of a thin, sharp blade. He was strong in the deep fibers of his body. Tough as steel in the sinew and bone and straps of lean muscle.

Justine DeCabrillac was just thirteen years old the first time she met Hawker, but she was already in the employ of the Police Secrete in Paris. Though they were enemies, there was an irresistible pull between them, one they gave into a few years later, and continued for many years after. Enemies they have been, but their hearts told a different story. Justine now has critical information she must give Adrian, but someone else will stop at nothing to keep her from delivering it. Stabbed by an unseen assassin, Justine makes her way through the rainy London streets to find the only man she knows who might save her. The one she has never stopped loving. Adrian and Justine must overcome their distrust for one another and the pain of their past if they are to triumph over the unknown enemy who is pursuing them.

When Joanna Bourne first showed Adrian and Justine together as teenagers in The Forbidden Rose, I knew that these two would make for an incredible story, a page turner par excellence. I was right. Learning about their pasts, their trials and tribulations that shaped who they are, made their relationship so much deeper, richer. If ever a hero and heroine deserved a happy ending, it is Adrian and Justine. I'm continually amazed and delighted by the richness of Ms. Bourne's prose. It is lush and decadent, yet at the same time comforting, like a cashmere blanket you want to wrap around you, surrounding yourself in it's warmth. I find myself re-reading passages just to immerse myself in their vivid perfection.

She wore his crimson robe de banyan. Nothing else at all. To clasp his robe upon her was to feel surrounded by masculine arms. The color warmed her like the sun. Red silk for grand gestures, for luxurious desires and recklessness.

And another....

"Truth, then. You want to hear truth." He couldn't touch Owl, except with his eyes, so he let his imagination slide across her, planning where he'd kiss her later tonight. He liked kissing beauty and he'd done a certain amount of that over the years. With Owl, he'd start with beauty and go on to kissing ruthlessness and ideals in the lines at the corners of her eyes. Passion and practicality sitting around her mouth. Not a comfortable woman, his Owl. Not ordinary.

Reading a Joanna Bourne novel is a feast for the senses: the decadence of a rich chocolate torte, the crisp, bubbly effervescence of a glass of champagne. Light and dark, sweet and spicy. Everything you could ever want and more. The Black Hawk has on-the-edge-of-your-seat intrigue, heart-wrenching drama, sizzling romance, and soul-stirring love. It is going to have a place of honor on my keeper soon as I read it again...and again.

~ Gannon

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