Saturday, March 31, 2012

Coming Attractions!

We’ll start the month off with New York Times bestselling contemporary author Susan Mallery dishing with us Monday, April 2nd. Susan’s latest, Barefoot Season, is the first in her new Blackberry Island series. It released March 27th!

Maggie Robinson, author of super sexy historical romance, drops by on Thursday, April 5th to talk about her newest book, Master of Sin. This one, which also came out March 27th, is the fourth book in her popular Courtesan Court series.

Andrea’s going to help put a dent in your wallet with her list of New Releases on Friday, April 6th!

Trish Milburn, aka Tricia Mills, brings us all the latest and greatest in the world of Young Adult in her Teen Menu on Tuesday, April 10th. Perhaps she’ll give us a report on the new Hunger Games movie...?

You’ll want to stop by on Wednesday, April 11th when New York Times bestselling author—and Dish favorite—Eloisa James stops by! I’m sure she’ll chat about her memoir, Paris in Love, which releases April 3rd. You will want to pick this one up!

Make Your Reservations on Thursday, April 12th, as we let you know which books we are looking forward to in May.

The incredibly talented Kate Noble joins us Friday, April 13th. Her latest historical romance, If I Fall, releases next Tuesday (April 3rd) and is not to be missed!

Grab a fan and a cold drink before you visit on Sunday, April 15th, because we’re sure that Buffie’s latest Hot Dish will make it feel like the middle of summer!

Stop by on Saturday, April 21st to see what books we recommend in our Stock Up Saturday reviews.

Historical author Donna Fletcher dishes with us on Monday, April 23rd. The third book in her Warrior King series, A Warrior’s Promise, hits shelves on April 24th!

On Tuesday, April 24th, Anna Campbell brings us her Second Helping of a book that you may have missed the first time around. We’re sure it’ll be something good!

Author and Editor Genevieve Graham joins us Thursday, April 26th. Her first novel, Under the Same Sky, came out in January; her latest, Sound of the Heart, releases May 1st!

In addition to all this romantic goodness, we’ll have a bunch of great reviews and a few giveaways, too! April is sure to be a good month here at The Romance Dish!

Friday, March 30, 2012

A New Chapter

I've always enjoyed the sense of anticipation that comes at the end of a chapter in an exciting book, knowing that the next chapter will bring something even better. And so it is with my life and the new chapter I have begun. As this new chapter unfolds, the previous one comes to a close. The Romance Dish will have on
e less dish, officially. ;-)

A little over three months ago, I started a business page on Facebook for my Reiki and intuitive healing business, which was, and still is, in it's infancy. Well, I have been truly blessed, and my page has taken off like a proverbial rocket. It has kept me incredibly busy---happily so---but I have discovered that I don't have as much time to devote to this blog, and reading romance, as I used to. And I have also discovered that my passion is now focused on helping and healing others. So after 46 years, I have finally found my life purpose, and I couldn't be happier.

Some of you may be wondering what Reiki is, so I will give you a brief explanation. The word Reiki comes from two Japanese words - Rei meaning "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which means "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy." It is an ancient hands on healing technique that uses this life force energy to balance energy in the body. Reiki can also be sent distantly, as energy is not bound by time or space. I have done distance healing sessions on clients as far away as Australia, and it works beautifully.

Part of my new path is working on simplifying my life, i.e. reducing the clutter in my home. Well, practically every room in my home runneth over with books, and while I have no intention of getting rid of all of them----there are way too many comfort books on my keeper shelves that I cannot part with---I have been paring down. I am boxing them up, and they will need a new home. So who's interested in "adopting" some books? I will randomly choose three people to send these romances to. But fear not, I will not be completely giving up books, nor will I completely disappear from The Dish. Hey, you can't get rid of me that easily. *g* Now I have a question for you.

If you could take a leap of faith and start a new career, project, etc., what would it be?

***Winners are limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada, in order to save my wallet.***

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What (and where) Are You Reading Winner

The winner of a copy of A WEEK TO BE WICKED by Tessa Dare is

(comment #45)

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

Today's Special - - Lena Diaz

It's our pleasure to welcome Lena Diaz to The Romance Dish today!  Lena grew up a Navy Brat, but while two of her three siblings followed her father's footsteps and joined the Navy, Lena loosely followed her musically talented mother's footsteps by choosing a more creative path, writing.

Lena has had two novels published so far - HE KILLS ME, HE KILLS ME NOT and SIMON SAYS DIE. She's won the TARA, the Daphne du Maurier, and was a finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® contest. Today Lena can be found in North Florida with her husband of twenty-plus years, and her two children.

Take it away, Lena!

Thanks so much for having me on The Romance Dish today! It’s always fun to discover new blogs and meet new people online. I’m old enough to still think the internet is amazing, but young enough to dive in and enjoy it too.

The internet has become a far more integral part of my life than I would have ever expected it to become. As an author, going online is the main way I meet people and spread the news about my books - like my new release, SIMON SAYS DIE. But I also use it for research.

What do I research? Settings for one. SIMON SAYS DIE is set in Savannah, Georgia. I LOVE Savannah. There’s just something about the name, how it rolls off the tongue like warm molasses, that makes me think of a lazy summer day sitting on a wrap-around porch watching barges float down the river. And that’s exactly what you can do in Savannah, watch the boats float down the Savannah River while you walk up and down River Street.

I’ve explored Savannah both online and in person, because it’s way too close to where I live (North Florida) NOT to visit in person. I had a ball when I went there on a research trip for my book. I rode a charming trolley through the historic district, walked along River Street, rode a paddle-wheeler up and down the River. I’ve eaten at Paula Dean’s, and honestly couldn’t tell a difference between their food and the good old southern cooking I grew up with. But hey, maybe that’s the point, share the southern traditions with people who didn’t grow up in The South.

When I set a story somewhere I can’t easily drive to, or if I just don’t have the time for a research trip, I use Google Earth to go there on a cyber-trip. Isn’t it amazing that you can actually see street-views of places on the computer, just as if you were there walking those very streets?

Besides researching settings, I research cool stuff like guns and forensics. I have no doubt I’m on an FBI watch list somewhere. In fact, after googling such things as ‘how to poison someone and it not be detectable’, I’d be disappointed in our federal law-enforcers if I wasn’t on a watch list. J

I’m grateful I can use the internet as a tool to help me do my job, but it has its downsides. The biggest downside is that meeting and chatting with new people on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites can be addictive. I can lose hours, days, on those sites. And suddenly a writing deadline is looming and I wonder where all my time went and why I’m not further along in my book. (sigh)

For SIMON SAYS DIE, one of the online resources I used that was the most valuable was the crimescenewriter yahoo loop. This is a place where thriller writers, law enforcement experts, and medical experts get together to chat about questions authors have. It’s an amazing resource and just plain fun to be able to talk to police officers, FBI agents, US Marshals, EMTs, you name it. I’m forever indebted to this group, which was started by Wally Lind, a retired police crime scene investigator. I asked a question on that loop while writing SIMON SAYS DIE, and one of the members hooked me up with a knowledgeable medical expert off-loop. We brainstormed my crazy questions about cool ways to kill people (fictionally speaking of course).

In the end, it’s all a balancing act. The internet is an incredible way to get information these days, or take a trip ‘on the cheap’. It’s one of my tools in my author toolkit, but one that I have to use sparingly so it doesn’t steal all my time!

Obviously if you are reading this blog, you’re an internet fan of sorts just like me. If you know of some cool blogs (besides The Romance Dish of course!) that you think I should check out, let me know. Or if you’ve stumbled across some really awesome websites that a thriller writer might enjoy (hint - anything to do with law enforcement or forensics!), pass them along. I’d love to hear about your favorite internet haunts!

And while you’re on the internet, if you should happen to stumble onto an online etailer site and decide to pick up a copy of SIMON SAYS DIE, well, that would be pretty cool too. J

Below is the blurb for my new release, SIMON SAYS DIE.

Simon says: I'm watching. Simon says: I'm coming. Simon says: Die.
Madison McKinley knows someone is stalking her. The police tell her she's imagining things, and they're too busy trying to find the "Simon Says" killer to investigate. But day by day, hour by hour, Madison's terror grows stronger, and not even the return of FBI Special Agent Pierce Buchanan into her life can calm her fears. Besides, how can she ask Pierce for his help after the way she ended things between them?
Pierce still wants Madison's love, and his drive to protect her is more powerful than ever. He believes she's in danger, even if the cops don't. Finally, as more people start dying and the evidence mounts, the police turn their attention to Madison—as a suspect. Was Pierce a fool to trust her again, or are they both caught in a complex game that neither will survive?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joan Swan Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and
commented on debut author Joan Swan's post. has chosen the winner of a copy of FEVER by Joan Swan.

And the winner is (drum roll).....


Congrats to you Rebekah E.!!!!!!

Please send your full name and mailing address to
theromancedish AT gmail DOT com
with "Joan Swan Winner" in the subject line.

~ Buffie

What (and Where) are You Reading?

A few weeks ago, I awoke to one of those days when I just want to crawl back under the covers.  You know the kind.  Low gray clouds, rain dripping from leafless trees and a chill in the air that you feel deep in your bones.  The perfect kind of day to surround yourself with a cozy blanket and escape into the pages of a great book.  I chose A Week to Be Wicked, a new historical by Tessa Dare that I'd been looking forward to for months. (Read my Top Dish review here.)

A few days later, the sun began a lively game of peek-a-boo with the clouds, temperatures climbed into the 70s and a gentle breeze lured me out of my cozy cocoon.  It was a perfect day to relax in the hammock with Paris in Love, a charming memoir by Eloisa James that we'll be reviewing next week.

This past weekend, temperatures soared into the 80s, dogwoods and azaleas burst into color and the sun returned in all its glory.  Time to slather on the sunscreen. haul out the lounge chairs and take my winter white body to the deck with a huge glass of iced tea and a fun, flirty contemporary.  I chose Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis.

Where are your favorite places to read?  Do your choices change according to the weather?  The season?  Your mood?  What are you reading these days?  Any recommendations?

Because I loved it so much, I'm giving away a copy of Tessa Dare's A Week to Be Wicked to one randomly chosen person leaving a comment today.  Good luck, everyone!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PJ's RITA/Golden Heart Winners

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday for the RITA® and Golden Heart® announcements. It was fun to share the excitement with all of you! Our randomly chosen winners of a book from our prize room are: 





Diane and Cheryl have already claimed their books. Gamistress66 and Librarypat, please send your name, address and preferred sub-genre to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com. 


Guest Review - - Just Down the Road

Just Down the Road
By Jodi Thomas
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 3, 2012

Jodi Thomas takes readers back to Harmony, Texas, for the fourth time in Just Down the Road. Life in Harmony continues as the community buries Jeremiah Truman at the end of a long and productive life and welcomes into the world Brandy Lee Smith, the new born daughter of Tyler Wright’s housekeeper. Although the stories of favorite characters from other books (Welcome to Harmony, Somewhere Along the Way, and The Comforts of Home) are advanced, the central story of the fourth book is that of Tinch Turner, a grieving cowboy who doesn’t much care what life does to him, a young boy in a desperate situation, and Dr. Addison Spencer, who runs to Harmony in an attempt to seize control of her life and falls for the cowboy and the boy.

Since his wife Lori Anne died, Tinch Turner has just been going through the motions of living, spending too much time in the Buffalo Bar and Grill and ending too many nights with brawls. But Tinch’s life is about to change. First, Addison Spencer, a woman as uninterested as he in relationships, stitches him up and gains his attention. Then, Sheriff Alexandra Matheson, brings five-year-old Jamie Noble, the son of Lori Anne’s half-sister to Tinch. Dead in suspicious circumstances, the half-sister has left her son to Lori Anne and Tinch. With Lori Anne dead, Tinch is the boy’s only known relative, and the men who murdered his mother may be after him. Tinch agrees to keep Jamie safe, but Jamie, intimidated by his new uncle, agrees to stay only if his “angel,” Dr. Spencer, stays as well. Bonding over their mutual commitment to Jamie, Tinch and Addison soon find themselves irresistibly attracted to one another, but Addison believes her escape from the life her father has planned for her is temporary. Any relationship between her and Tinch must end when she returns to the job and the man her father has chosen for her.

Reagan Truman is heartbroken over the loss of her Uncle Jeremiah, the man who gave her a name, a home, and a family. Brandon Biggs, as always, is there for her when she needs a friend, and rodeo star Noah MacAllen seems to be further and further removed from the generous boy with big dreams with whom she fell in love. But there are some surprising developments in this triangle.

Kate Cummings has one final, dangerous deployment that must be completed before she can settle permanently in Harmony with Tyler Wright. Tyler is eager to marry Kate, but Kate seems reluctant. In their relationship, too, unexpected developments bring significant change. And young Beau Yates is impressing a lot of people with his skills as a singer/songwriter. People are predicting big things for him. Woven among these plot lines are bits of the lives of other Harmony characters, the familiar and the new.

Jodi Thomas is one of the best storytellers in genre fiction, and in the Harmony books she has created a town that fits the small-town trend and yet remains a distinctive place with characters who are refreshingly different. One of the reasons I love this series is that Thomas takes the characters who would be limited to secondary roles in more conventional books and moves them front and center to feature their lives and their romances. Tinch Turner is no more a typical hero than is Harmony’s undertaker Tyler Wright, but Thomas reveals both as men with a wealth of courage, tenderness, and romanticism.

Thomas also avoids the common fault of comparing two loves, usually to the detriment of the early relationship. Tinch and Lori Anne were childhood sweethearts who married young and loved one another devotedly until her death. Three years later Tinch is still devastated by his loss. When he falls in love with Addison, he doesn’t see it as a greater, or lesser, love but as one that is different.

He tried to fall asleep, thinking of Lori Anne and all the gentle nights of loving they’d shared. They’d been best friends, forever friends, she used to say. He could read her thoughts, and she knew him so well sometimes he swore they could go weeks without talking. They breathed together, always knowing how the other would act.

. . . They were two halves of a whole. They always had been. When she died he felt like someone had cut him in half and then left him to stumble around.

[Addison} was totally different. Not only did she not know what he thought, but Tinch had a strong feeling that most of the time she didn’t care. Making love to her would never be calm and comfortable. It would be a battle, half surrender, half conquest.

I’d love the book for that treatment alone.

It’s possible to read Just Down the Road as a standalone, but readers who do so will miss much of the richness of the continuing stories. I’m not certain it will be a five-star read for readers new to the series, although Tinch, Addison, and Jamie’s story is enough to make it a strong book. But for readers who already know Harmony, it is one not to be missed. I highly recommend it.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Lois Greiman Winner

The winner of an Amazon gift card from Lois Greiman is


Please send your name and address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize.

And the Finalists Are...

Do you watch the Golden Globes?  Get up early to hear who's been nominated for an Oscar?  Drool over the gorgeous gowns on the red carpet?  Why, yes, I do!  I love awards season - from the suspense of who will be nominated to the excitement of the red carpet to the emotion of the winners' speeches.  I always have tissues handy for those winning moments and, I'll admit it, use them often.

The Hollywood awards season is now behind us but, for those of us who love romance fiction, our season begins today with the announcement of the finalists for the prestigious 2012 Golden Heart® and RITA® awards. The Golden Heart® (for unpublished manuscripts) and RITA® (for published works) are awarded by Romance Writers of America.  Today, we find out who the finalists are in each category.  The winners will be announced at a gala event at the RWA National Conference in Anaheim, California in July.

Authors around the globe will be on pins and needles today waiting for their phones to ring.  Each finalist will be contacted by someone representing RWA who will deliver the news personally.  Once that has been accomplished, the announcement will be made public - making this an all-day event filled with cheers, tears and plenty of discussion over the books that make it...and those that do not.

We'll be updating the site with the names of the finalists as we learn them.   If you hear of one, please let us know in the comments and we'll add it to our list (after confirmation).  Nominated authors, we'd love to hear from you too!

Since it's a day for celebration, we're going to include all of you in the festivities by giving away some books.  Check back throughout the day to find out if you're a winner!

While we wait for the news, let's kick things off with a question.  What books (published in 2011) would you like to see among the finalists?  



Best First Book:
Warped by Maurissa Guibord
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Beautiful Disaster by Laura Spinella
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling
The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane
I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtier
The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

Contemporary Series Romance:
How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward
A Bravo Homecoming by Christine Rimmer
Donovan's Child by Christine Rimmer
A Mother's Homecoming by Tanya Michaels
I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon
Rancher's Twins: Mom Needed by Barbara Hannay
The Texan's Bride by Linda Warren
Dukakis's Apprentice by Sarah Morgan

Contemporary Series Romance-Suspense/Adventure:
Cooper Vengeance by by Paula Graves
The Man from Gossamer Ridge by Paula Graves
Soldier's Last Stand by Cindy Dees
Nothing But the Truth by Kara Lennox
Stranded With Her Ex by Jill Sorenson
Taken to the Edge by Kara Lennox
The Doctor's Deadly Affair by Stephanie Doyle

Historical Romance:
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase
Always a Temptress by Eileen Dreyer
The Danger of Desire by Elizabeth Essex
The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Heartbreak Creek by Kaki Warner
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley

Inspirational Romance:
Katie's Way by Marta Perry
The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren
Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon
Love on the Line by Deanne Gist
The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown
Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones
The Christmas Child by Linda Goodnight
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements:
Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep
The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn
Death Magic by Eileen Wilks
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray 
Shadow Walker by Allyson James

Paranormal Romance:
Nightfall by Ellen Connor
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Changeling Moon by Dani Harper
Envy by J.R. Ward
The Lost by Caridad Pineiro 
Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh

Regency Historical Romance:
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish by by Grace Burrowes
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling
How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane
Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke 
To Seduce an Angel by Kate Moore

Romance Novella:
"Chaos in Death" by J.D. Robb from The Unquiet
"Compassion Can Wait" in More Than Words, Vol. 7 
"I Love the Earl" by Caroline Linden
"Resolution" by Linda Winstead Jones in The Heart of Winter
"One Wish: a Christmas Story" by Jodi Thomas in A Texas Christmas
"Unforgiven" by Ruth Ryan Langan in The Unquiet
"Angel's Wolf" by Nalini Singh in Angels of Darkness
"The Storm Within" by Trish Morey in A Royal Engagement

Romantic Suspense:
New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb
True Colors by Joyce Lamb
True Shot by Joyce Lamb
Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison
Hidden Away by Maya Banks
Hot Zone by Catherine Mann
Secrets of Bella Terra by Christina Dodd
Hush by Cherry Adair

Young Adult Romance:
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtier
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Warped by Maurissa Guibord
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Flawless by Lara Chapman

Contemporary Single Title:
Black Ties and Lullabies by Jane Graves
Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves
Silver Sparks by Starr Ambrose
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale
At Hidden Falls by Barbara Freethy
The Welcome Home Garden Club by Lori Wilde
Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe
Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D'Alessandro


Regency Historical Romance:
"Scandal in Spades" by Wendy La Capra
"A Whisper to the Wind" by Eileen Emerson
"King of Swords" by Anne Kenney
"The Last Light of Dusk" by Joanne Lockyer
"The Perfect Heiress" by Kimberly Ohara

Historical Romance:
"Highland Promise" by Tracy Brogan
"A Private Affair" by Jennifer McQuiston
"A Knight of Her Own" by Wonch Oberon
"Love in the Music Room" by Moriah Densley
"A Duke's Wicked Kiss" by Kathleen Bittner Roth
"A Hero to Hold" by Sheri Humphreys
"Notorious" by Alison Atwater
"The Devil May Care" by Elise Marks (writing as Elise Beatty)

Inspirational Romance:
"Language of Love" by Dristen Ethridge
"Love's Advocate" by Karen Fleming
"Powerless Consent" by Jan Nash
"Whispers in the Night" by Carol Post

Young Adult Romance:
"The Matter of Souls" by Stephanie Winkelhake
"Canvas Crossers" by Natalie Vawter
"Pandora's Clock" by Natalie Vawter
"Forget Tomorrow" by Pintup Dunn
"The Silent Sister" by Megan Macijausk (writing as M. Kassel)
"Angel Academy" by Cecily White
"The Suspicions of Cairo Jones" by Mary Danielson
"Wired" by Romily Bernard

Contemporary Series Romance:
"Second-Chance Bride" by Ami Weaver
"The Divorce Deal" by Kat Cantrell
"Montana Cherries" by Kim Law
"Cyrano at Your Service" by Tamra Baumann
"Tell Me Something Good" by Jamie Wesley
"A Perfect Wife" by Caro LaFever
"Bachelor:  Baited, Hooked and Bedded" by Lexi Greene
"His Perfect Partner" by Priscilla Kissinger

Novel with Strong Elements:
"Low Country Boil" by Susan Boyer
"Beulah Land and the Happy Hour Choir" by Sally Kilpatrick
"Song Without Words" by Lisa Laing
"A Tangled Season" by Natalie Meg Evans
"The Devil She Knows" by Anna Stewart (writing as AJ Stewart)
"Taking Wall Street by Disguise" by Terri Bolyard
"The Lazarus Gambit" by Deborah Wright
"Faking It" by Nikki Figueiredo
"Mere Mortals" by Catherine Villalobos

Romantic Suspense:
"Edge of Deception" by Elizabeth Bemis
"In Wolf's Clothing" by Sally Eggert
"Spy in the Harem" by Donna Belchase 
"Rescuing Rembrandt" by Jean Willett
"Rogue's Return" by Sharon Wray
"Chemical Attraction" by Mary Oldham
"Exposure" by Robena Grant
"Body of Evidence" by Rachel Grant

Paranormal Romance:
"Never Deal with Dragons" by Lorenda Christensen
"Trouble in Mind" by Donna Frelick
"Unchained Memory" by Donna Frelick
"Bathtub Jimn" by Kay Hudson
"Better Dead" by Pamela Kopfler
"Draxis" by Laurie A. Green
"Figs from Thistles" by A.J. Larrieu
"Flannigan's Grace" by Marni Donnelly

Contemporary Single Title:
"Meant to Be" by Terri Osborn (Terri Osburn)
"All Beautiful Things" by Nicki Salcedo
"No Peaking" by Talia Quinn Daniels
"Blackjack & Moonlight" by Magdalen Braden
"You Had Me at Habari" by Maggie McConnell
"Thrown" by Colette Auclair
"Cat on a Hot Steel Flight Deck" by Heather Nockodem
"Earning Wings" by Laurie Sanchez

Saturday, March 24, 2012

(Upstate) New York! New York!

by Anna Campbell

I love the way being part of the online romance community, including the Romance Dishes, has enriched my reading choices. I couldn't tell you how many books I've picked up and adored, thanks to a recommendation from someone whose judgement I trust who mentioned an author on a blog or a Facebook post. And often they're books I wouldn't have discovered on my own.

So long live the Internet community!

I've gone through stages in my life where I've read a lot of mysteries - I particularly remember a Dorothy L. Sayers craze and a P.D. James craze. But over recent years, I'd lost contact with mystery fiction, so it's been a joy picking up a whole new (pretty much after all this time!) genre, thanks to my social media friends.

As you'll know if you've been following my reviews here, I've become a devotee of a whole string of wonderful series, including the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear and the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn. My latest craze, which also includes a wonderful forbidden love romance (and we know how that builds sexual tension, just ask Tristan and Isolde!), was thanks to a recommendation from Janga here with the Dishes.

Julia Spencer-Fleming has written six Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries set in the very chilly Adirondacks town Millers Kill. The name isn't quite as creepy as it sounds; apparently 'kill' is an old Dutch word for creek. Although I'm sure 'kill' making us think of 'murder' is quite deliberate. I'm currently halfway through the fifth book ALL MORTAL FLESH and loving every word.

So I thought today, I'd share my thoughts on the first four books in this wonderful series.

The first book, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, introduces intrepid, occasionally reckless, but always interesting Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson as she begins her first placement as a minister at St. Alban's Church. Poor Clare! She's freezing cold, she's viewed with suspicion by many of her conservative congregation, and she discovers an abandoned baby at the church door. Clare is a former military helicopter pilot, so clearly she's no wuss, but life in supposedly peaceful Millers Kill isn't the rural idyll she expected.

As the mystery of the baby's identity deepens, Clare finds herself flung into the company of attractive but very married police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. Yup, there's the forbidden love. Both Clare and Russ are principled people and have no intention of acting on their passion, but yanno, that can be really tough when they're so often together and passion is kinda irresistible. The sexual tension as these two people clearly made for each other deny their urges really ramps up the emotional content. I think through these books, the romantic arc is at least as important as the mystery elements.

In the second book, A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD, a spate of murders of gay men arouses suspicion that Millers Kill is the site of a hate crime spree. But is it? And how do these killings relate to the building of a swish new spa on the outskirts of town? It was great to see Clare show off her helicopter skills in this story - she really is a great heroine, strong and resilient and with a wonderfully dry sense of humor that endears her to the reader. The other thing I really like about Clare is that while she's a priest, she's never preachy.

The third book, OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY, would probably be my favorite in the series so far. Part of that could be that in this book, the story ranges across different time periods, between the Prohibition 20s, the 1950s and the present day. Anyone who's read my reviews knows I'm a sucker for a historical mystery! When the doctor who runs Millers Kill's free clinic disappears, long-buried secrets and scandals raise their heads to threaten the living. The writing in all these books is astonishingly good but in this one, there's an added emotional depth that just hits this particularly story out of the park, at least for me. I dare you not to shed a few tears when you're reading OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY.

The fourth book, TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH, turns into a tragedy of errors all set during one day (brilliantly handled in terms of unity of time) when an eco-activist heiress goes missing just before she signs her family property over to the local wilderness society. The plotting in this one is amazingly clever and intricate - you really have no idea where it's all going to end up!

So why would I recommend these books to any reader, romance or not? Firstly, the wonderful characters. It's not just Clare and Russ. Everyone we meet in the pages, from Ross's dotty but lovable mother to pompous powers within the church to the occasionally eccentric locals, is beautifully delineated and comes alive in the reader's mind. The great, galloping stories so you keep the light on till late at night to see what happens. The vivid atmosphere of this small, isolated town where winter comes down so hard, it can kill you. The passion that grows between Russ and Clare, despite their efforts to do the right thing. All round, these books are fabulous reads! Give them a go!

So what's the last great series book you read? What do you think gives a series legs so that readers keep coming back again and again for a fix of their favorite characters and places?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review - - A Week to Be Wicked

A Week to Be Wicked
Spindle Cove - Book 2
By Tessa Dare
Publisher:  Avon
Release Date:  March 27, 2012

Before I ever reached the first word of this story, Tessa Dare had already hooked me with this one line dedication:  

For all the girls who walk and read at the same time.

I mean, really, who among us cannot relate to that?

For one of those girls, studious Minerva Highwood, the past year in Spindle Cove has been the best of her life.  Away from the censorious eyes of the ton and with her mother's focus on marrying off eldest daughter, Diana, Minerva has been free to explore the surrounding countryside and indulge her passion for geology.  Life has been good until she hears whispers that Viscount Payne plans to ask for Diana's hand in marriage. Minerva loves her sweet, kindhearted sister too much to allow her to be tied to that womanizing wastrel.  And she refuses to acknowledge those other feelings that thinking of her sister and Payne together cause in the pit of her stomach...or in the region of her heart. The only course of action for a forward thinking lady like Minerva is to beard the dragon in his lair and offer him an incentive he can't refuse to stay away from her sister.

Colin Sandhurst, Viscount Payne, sorely misses the pleasures of life in London but he's stuck in Spindle Cove until his next birthday when his fortune will finally be released to him.  Until his birthday or marriage (an institution he's determined to steer clear of), his funds are controlled by his cousin, Bram who's determined to bring Colin around to the realization that it's time to grow up and embrace responsibility. But then, that quirky Highwood girl appears at his door late one night with an intriguing proposition: pretend to elope to Edinburgh with her so she can make a presentation to the Royal Geological Society about a groundbreaking discovery she's made and she'll give him the substantial prize money.  In exchange, he must promise to stay away from her sister.  Though most view him as a rake at best and scoundrel at worst, Colin has rules by which he lives his life and one of the most important is that he refuses to be responsible for ruining the reputation of an innocent.  He declines her offer yet somehow finds himself going along with it in the light of day.  Minerva has that effect on him.

The seven day trip to Edinburgh proves to be a revelation for both Minerva and Colin, as they bring out both the worst and the best in one another.  Strengths, vulnerabilities and talents previously hidden from public view are all revealed in the course of adventures that await them on the journey.  Layers are expertly peeled away until only the raw truth at the core of their souls remains and a love for the ages awaits.

"And it occurred to her, as she made that mad dash down the lane - clutching a blazing hot pistol in one hand and a fistful of money in the other - that this surely must mark some turning point in her life.  Really, there was no going back from this.

Today, all her mother's judgments had been proved false.  She wasn't plain, but pretty.  She wasn't distracted and awkward, but confident and a crack shot. 

Most of all, Minerva was not hopeless.  She had twenty pounds.  She had an important scientific discovery. 

And she had Colin, the most handsome, charming devil in England, coming fast on her heels.  Save for the ransom-minded highwaymen and angry magistrate's son chasing after them...  

Life had never been so good."

Can I just say how much I adore Colin?  Adore him!   I would love him for this scene alone were there not so many other equally wonderful scenes in this book that further cement my feelings.   He pushes Minerva beyond self-imposed boundaries, tempts her, believes in her, causes her to open her eyes to the wonderful woman she is and helps her discover the confidence to finally ask for what she most wants.  But, for me, what I love most is the sheer joy of life that he teaches her to embrace.

And what Minerva does for Colin... It broke my heart and healed it in the same breath when he finally shares his deepest secret, the heart wrenching experience that has haunted him and molded him since he was a child, that he has never shared with another soul, and Minerva instinctively understands exactly what he needs.

"She couldn't "heal" him.  No woman could.  Events that far in the past just couldn't be undone.  But perhaps he didn't need a cure, but...a lens.  Someone who accepted him for the imperfect person he was, and then helped him to see the world clear.  Like spectacles did for her." 

The following is a quote from my 2009 review of Tessa Dare's debut book, Goddess of the Hunt:

Every year there seems to be one debut author who bursts upon the scene and absolutely knocks my socks off with her superb writing skill.  This year, that author is Tessa Dare.  In her debut book, Goddess of the Hunt, Dare showcases her command of the English language with exquisite prose that sings across the pages with a lyrical quality that is a joy to read.  Her characters are so vividly drawn that they practically leap from the pages and her story unerringly hits all the right notes.

That one paragraph could apply to every book that Tessa Dare has written but none more so than A Week to Be Wicked.  In Colin and Minerva's book, not only does Ms. Dare hit all the right notes, she creates new ones.  In a story that flows like fine wine, she brings us two characters that light up the pages with humor, passion and a romance that had my heart singing with joy.  They made me laugh, made me sigh, brought me to tears and continue to draw me back to them weeks after first reading their story.  Every book Tessa Dare has written sits on my keeper shelf.  I love them all but none has touched me as deeply as this one.

Don't miss A Week to Be Wicked.  It has my highest recommendation!

Note:  A Week to Be Wicked is the second book in Ms. Dare's Spindle Cove series.  It stands well on its own but for a better understanding of the characters and maximum reading pleasure, I recommend reading A Night to Surrender first, followed by A Week to Be Wicked.  


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Last Call for PJ's Winners

We haven't heard from the following winners of boxes of books from PJ's March 12th blog:



Please send your full name and mailing address to theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com no later than Sunday, March 25th.  If we don't hear from you by that date we will draw new winners.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Today's Special -- Joan Swan

We are thrilled to welcome back Kensington debut author Joan Swan! Joan's debut novel, FEVER, was released on February 28, 2012. Check out Buffie's review, which is below this post. A triple RWA Golden Heart finalist as well as a double Daphne Du Maurier finalist, Joan is a lover of craft and closet-hoarder of writing craft how-to books (taken from Joan's website). Please give a warm welcome to Joan Swan as she discusses writing stories filled with suspense.

Thanks to the fabulous ladies here at The Romance Dish for having me back!

Every story—no matter the length, the genre, the style, the voice, the author, the editor, the language—has to have suspense. Without suspense, there is nothing urging the reader to turn the page. No drama for the reader to watch unfold. Nothing to take hold of the reader and not let go. In other words… boring.

Fever, my recent debut, has received fabulous reviews, which absolutely thrills me.

“An exciting, on-the-run romantic suspense tale!”~ Christie Ridgeway, BookPage, Top Pick Romance

“…a great, action-packed, sexy read.”~ Novel Reflections Review

“…all-consuming, thrilling, and passionate.”~ The Good, The Bad, The Unread

The whole point to suspense is development of drama within the story. And to create suspenseful drama a storyteller must have:

· Stakes—what will the character win or lose? Is it big enough to make the situation compelling?

· Character—do I connect enough with this person to care whether they win or lose?

· Conflict—one main character must want one thing while another wants something different – usually the opposite.

The best authors use these elements in a delicate balance. Suspense is all about the anticipation. The unknown. In fiction, suspense is built when the author proposes a story or character question, then makes the reader wait for the answer.

How long? It depends…usually on the question itself. Some questions are big and meaningful to the overall story concept. Some are small, maybe a hint about the character’s background that will foreshadow conflict. But regardless of the size (or relative importance) in the most suspenseful fiction, every time an answer is revealed to the reader, another question continues to linger or is introduced. Like that childhood game leapfrog, some question the reader needs answered to understand the story, to satisfy his curiosity, to make him want to read forward, is always in place. This is what creates that need-to-know atmosphere in the best suspense. And when it’s done well, the story skips along, with answers coming at intervals and new questions popping up, keeping the reader flying through the pages.

Timing is everything—when an author drops a new question into the story, when he answers another. It’s a skill that can be developed on a gut level. A sixth sense of sorts. Some authors have developed this sense after years of writing in the genre. Some authors come by it naturally. Many readers have an even better sense of developing tension than authors because reading is a fabulous way of gaining that sensitivity.

Generally speaking, if you, as the author, are bored...the reader will be bored. If your attention is scattered between three different story lines...the reader will also be distracted. And if you allow the suspense to linger too long, the reader will get exasperated and put the book down, but if you push it too fast, the reader has nothing to read on or wait for. Here, the gut feeling is valuable.

Some authors find it easier to write through method. In that case, this graphic might help.

Add in character questions and you get even more complexity and more levels of suspense.

There are different types of suspense a writer can employ to keep the pace moving in creative, thought-provoking ways: the dark, slowly-twining-around-your-throat suspense, the emotional, life-altering-squeezing-your-stomach suspense, and the well-known and loved physical-threat-to life-and-limb suspense. And because I write romantic suspense, I'm also twining in the romantic conflict along the way.

It's fun and challenging and when it all comes together, the result is literally breathtaking.

What was the last book you read with killer suspense?

One random commenter (US and Canadian residents only) will win a print copy of FEVER.

Also, all comments are eligible for Joan's tour grand prize of either a COLOR NOOK or KINDLE FIRE. Stop by Joan's website and enter here.


Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist and writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist. Her debut novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, releases February 28, 2012. Her second novel, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012.

In her day job, she works as a sonographer for one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation and lives on the California central coast in beautiful wine country with her husband and two daughters.

My links:
Website Blog Twitter Facebook Goodreads

Book Blurb: Release Date: 2/28/12

Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish…
But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get out of jail free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble…. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose…
Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.

Buy links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Booksamillion

Review -- FEVER

Phoenix Rising Series, Book 1
by Joan Swan
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: February 28, 2012

He wore burgundy boxer briefs that clung to his muscular ass. He was tan everywhere but for a pale line mid thigh where he’d obviously worn shorts. She could swear every muscle was outlined in perfect relief. Her gaze traveled over the lines and dips and swells and curves. God, he was beautiful.

A beautiful, racist, murdering, escaped convict.

With only 14 days left of her year-long fellowship at St. Jude, Dr. Alyssa Foster is working every possible hour to show her dedication in hopes of receiving a permanent position as a radiologist at the medical center. Exhausted beyond words, Alyssa covers a shift for an ultrasound tech and finds she has to exam prisoners, which is her least favorite duty. Always a little uneasy around prisoners, her unease intensifies exponentially when inmate Teague Creek steps into the exam room.

Her gaze paused on the box labeled RELEASE DATE where the word life had been scribbled. Her lips pursed with an involuntary shake of her head. So young. What a waste.

Then, as her gaze shifts up and down Teague’s body, she observes a rather large man full of muscles and covered in a myriad of tattoos. The life of prison has covered this man from head to toe, literally. One minute Alyssa is reviewing Teague’s chart and the next minute she finds herself in a choke hold with scissors held to her throat.

Teague Creek is one complicated man. This former fire fighter/paramedic turned convicted murderer is not at all what he appears to be. Years ago, Teague and several other fire fighters were involved in a large fire at a government facility. Unbeknownst to the firefighters, they were exposed to some type of government chemical prototype. Each firefighter is affected by the exposure in a different way. Teague is able raise his body temperature to heat and melt items or to heal humans. Since the night of the fire, Teague’s life has spiraled out of control – being set up by some unknown group for the brutal murder of his wife, losing custody of his beloved little girl and serving life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. While at the hospital for a medical exam and with the help of a prisoner, Teague takes control of his life and breaks free from the bonds of prison by kidnapping a doctor.

The majority of this book occurs while Teague and Alyssa are on the run. Slowly, very slowly, Alyssa begins to see past the fa├žade Teague has built and truly sees the man behind the tattoos and the criminal record. Don’t think that Alyssa is some push over of a woman who falls in love with the man who kidnaps and holds her hostage. Oh no, that is SO far from the truth. Alyssa is one tough cookie. She gives as much as she gets.

She tossed her head to get the messy strands out of her eyes and watched him with a look that clearly said, “try it and I’ll kick your teeth in.” How could such a small woman, handcuffed and gagged, look so…formidable?

From the very beginning, Alyssa struggles with her physical and emotional reactions to Teague. She wonders how she can have any feelings for the man who has taken her hostage. Yet as the pieces of Teague’s life slowly begin to come together to form a bigger picture, Alyssa realizes she is in way deeper than even she imagined. Teague is not the criminal she first saw in the hospital, but instead a victim of some covert government cover-up. Using every single honed analytical skill learned from years of medical school and training, Alyssa takes charge of Teague’s escape and urges her attorney brother to help keep Teague out of prison. Teague is shocked and dismayed at the support Alyssa gives him. Afraid to open his heart to anyone since those he loved were taken from him in the past, Teague gives in a little and then retreats. Trust is hard to give after so much time in prison. The road to trust and love is winding, full of curves and blind spots, but the destination is SO worth the trip!

Teague pulled her earlobe between his teeth and nipped gently. “I love your passion.” He continued kissing his way down her neck. “I love your commitment. Your determination. Your courage.” His mouth moved over her should. “I love your intelligence. Your compassion.”

I don’t think I have ever been so tense while reading a book, but in a good way. This book is full of suspense! Every chapter had me holding my breath, tensing for what was to come, hoping for tidbits on Teague’s past and anticipating the physical connection between Teague and Alyssa. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I immediately thought …. I wonder when the next book comes out.

I am really looking forward to learning more about the other firefighters and what exactly happened to this group.

This is one book that I would highly recommend. But please keep in mind … it is not for the light of heart.

~ Buffie

NOTE: Since finishing the book, I have seen a lot of “chatter” regarding the racial slurs used by a gritty, evil secondary character in this book. I will admit that while reading parts of this book my jaw did drop wide open at the language, but I also must admit that this did not stop me from enjoying the storyline and I was not pulled out of the story in any way. The language used by this secondary character actually made me despise him so much that I couldn't wait to read what happened next and see how would the hero and heroine get away from this evil person. It is up to each reader to decide if language affects your view of the book. For me, it was not a problem.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today's Special - - Lois Greiman

Lois Greiman is in the house!  This successful author of more than 22 published novels has a very interesting background.  Born on a cattle ranch in North Dakota, Lois now lives on a small farm in Minnesota with, according to her website, "three children, fifteen horses and a menagerie of pets."  Between North Dakota and Minnesota, she worked as a high fashion model, a fitness instructor, a veterinary assistant and she also professionally trained and showed Arabian horses.  Honestly, I'm not sure where she finds the time to write! Please give her a warm welcome!

Romance novels…I love 'em. But, after writing a couple dozen of them, I finally decided I wanted to try something a little different. Hence, Unzipped, the first book in my Chrissy McMullen series was released from Bantam Books about five years ago. And even though it was a new avenue for me, I found that I really didn't venture too far from my usual haunts. There's still a strong relationship running through the series. There's still flirting and double entendres and that love/hate chemistry that makes me keep coming back for more. But my favorite thing about romance is the pick up lines. I lovvvve me a corny pickup line. So, in honor of romance novels, love/hate chemistry, and mystery novels that reallllly kind of want to be romance novels, here are a few of my favorites:

What has 142 teeth and holds back the incredible hulk? My zipper.

Hi. I have big feet.

Roses are red, candlelight flickers, after the meal, it's off with the knickers.

If a fat man puts you in a bag tonight, don't worry, I told Santa I wanted you for Christmas.

Would you help me find my lost puppy? I think he went into that cheap hotel room across the street.

Your eyes are as blue as my toilet water at home.

I'm not actually this tall. I'm sitting on my wallet.

Are you a parking ticket? Cuz you got 'fine' written all over you.

Not that my male protagonist, Lieutenant Jack Rivera, would ever use any of those corny lines. But Chrissy McMullen…all bets are off where she's concerned. After writing seven of her novels, I'm still surprised at what she'll say or how many new ways she'll think up to torment the good lieutenant.

To celebrate the release of Uncorked, the seventh Chrissy novel, I'm giving away an Amazon gift card to one much appreciated commenter. So…what's your favorite pick up line?