Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Special - - Manda Collins

I'm so pleased to host Manda Collins today, on the release day of her newest book, How to Romance a Rake - second in her Ugly Ducklings series.  I've had the pleasure of following Miranda's progression from drabbles on the Eloisa James bulletin board to manuscript writer to published author and it's such a thrill to know that the readers of the world (including me!) now have the opportunity to read this talented author's work. 

When Manda isn't busy writing richly emotional romances with an intriguing touch of mystery she's busy guiding students in her role as academic librarian at a small liberal arts college or gracefully navigating the cyber waters of social media.  I'm sure that somewhere in there she finds time to sleep.  I'm just not sure where. :)  You can find more information about Manda and her books at her website.  You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Please join me in giving Manda a warm Romance Dish welcome!

A Heroine Like Me
by Manda Collins

First of all, thank you to the wonderful ladies of The Romance Dish for having me back for the release of my second book in the Ugly Ducklings series. This book release thing never gets old! And this book in particular holds a special place in my heart, because it features, for better or for worse, a heroine who is disabled like me.

Let me say up front that Juliet is not me, or a rough facsimile thereof. One of the fun, fabulous things about writing is that you can create characters who have a bit of you in them, but who aren't you at all. Such is it with Juliet. For one thing, I was not saddled with the kind of mother who makes Mommie Dearest look like Mother of the Year!

First, a little background. Juliet's mother was one of a trio of sisters—the Featherstones—who came to London in their late teens from no one knows where, and took society by storm on the strength of their beauty and charisma alone. Rose Featherstone, now Lady Shelby, has worked hard to earn her position in society as a great beauty and when her only daughter suffers an incurable injury to her lower leg while the family is in Vienna for her husband's diplomatic work, Rose is determined not to let her daughter's lameness overshadow her own social position.

For Juliet, this means that she must do whatever it takes to blend into the background. Though she is a gifted pianist, her mother prefers that she not play in public—though she sometimes does—because that would draw attention to Juliet and her injury. Though she is quite pretty in her own right, her mother's wishes mean that she must downplay her looks, and do whatever she must to keep to the fringes of society. And, most significantly, Juliet must never, never call attention to her injury. Because, as crazy as it might sound to us, Lady Shelby fears that her daughter's bum leg will detract from her own beauty.

But it is only in Juliet's third season that Lady Shelby hatches a plan to remove her daughter from her sight all together. She'll marry her off to middle-aged painter, Lord Turlington. When Juliet protests, of course Lady Shelby is ready with a put down to keep her daughter in line, playing to her deepest fears:

     "I do not mean to be unkind, my dear, truly I don't. But husbands require certain…duties of their wives. Duties that require a certain degree of…physicality. I simply do not believe your injury would allow you to participate in such activities. At least not with the regularity that a young man might require….An older husband…would be much more willing to overlook your frailty.  Indeed, I believe he might even be willing to let you continue with your study of the pianoforte.  After all you will need some way to occupy your time."

Fortunately for Juliet, she has learned that Lady Shelby is not someone she can trust, and Alec Devenish, Lord Deveril, is more than happy to put this fiction Juliet's mother has crafted to rest.

Though Lady Shelby is not the villain of How to Romance a Rake, a great deal of the novel is spent, I think, proving all of her assertions about Juliet's place in society, and her place in the world, wrong.

Obviously I live in an era that is much more tolerant of people with all sorts of disabilities than does Juliet. (This week, a double amputee from South Africa will be the first ever to compete on the track as a runner at the Olympics.) But even so, I felt some trepidation about writing this story. I'm not saying all readers are like this, but I've read threads on romance bulletin boards before where readers proclaimed themselves to be totally squicked out by heroes and heroines with missing limbs. There is still, for better or worse, a tendency on our parts to place anyone who isn't like us into the "other" category. We might not be as overt about it as Lady Shelby, but we are all—even me—guilty of it.

I worry that some readers might see How to Romance a Rake as a step backward for the disabled because I focus on the way that Juliet overcomes the stigma surrounding her disability. The goal, of course, is a world where there are disabled characters in novels who are totally unremarkable and who are accepted for who and what they are. But that hasn't been my own experience of the disabled life. And though Juliet is not me, at least at this point in my writing life, I needed to explore the fears and shames and societal pressures of being a disabled woman. And I'm okay with that.

So, gentle readers, are there certain books that have resonated with you because you saw yourself in them? For me, one book that stands out is Edith Layton's To Wed a Stranger, which captured perfectly what it is to be a woman with a serious illness. What's yours? I'll give away a copy of How to Romance a Rake to one commenter.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Box of Books Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the blog yesterday to talk about the GH and Rita winners.  The winner of a box of books from PJ is


Congrats!  Please send your full name and address to us at theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your books.

Coming Attractions

August may be traditionally known as the "dog days of summer" but here at TRD, we're calling it another month of amazing romance!  Come join us for guest blogs, book reviews and lots of giveaways!  

We kickoff the month Wednesday, August 1st with a visit from contemporary author Jill Shalvis.  Andrea has been raving about Jill's Lucky Harbor series, recently posting a 4.5 star review of the newest book in the series, Forever and a Day.

And speaking of books, you'll want to drop by Friday, August 3rd when Andrea posts her list of new book releases for the month of August!

Tuesday, August 7th we turn our focus on Inspirational Romance as we welcome Ann Gabhart to the Romance Dish.  The Gifted, fourth book in her Shaker series, is already pulling in good reviews.

Need something new for your e-reader?  Don't miss Carina Press author, Christi Barth's visit with us on Wednesday, August 8th.  Planning for Love, the first book in Barth's contemporary Aisle Bound Trilogy, releases August 1st.

We're excited to welcome historical author Kris Kennedy for a return visit on Thursday, August 9th.  Deception, Kennedy's July 31st release promises to take readers on another fast-paced adventure through Medieval England.

Don't miss the latest news in the world of Young Adult Romance when Trish Milburn joins us for her monthly Teen Menu on Friday, August 10th.

Ever wonder what it would be like to attend the Romance Writer's of America national conference?  Dish regular, Lisa joins us on Saturday, August 11th to share her experiences as a first-time conference attendee.

Monday, August 13th brings New York Times bestselling Romantic Suspense author Kat Martin back to TRD!

Stop by on Tuesday, August 14th to find out what September books Andrea and PJ are looking forward to in this month's Make Your Reservations!

Contemporary author Maria Geraci blogs with us on Wednesday, August 15th.  Maria's newest book, A Girl Like You promises to be another fun ride!

We're looking forward to hosting Historical Romance author Heather Snow on Thursday, August 16th.  Those who loved Snow's debut book, Sweet Enemy (like PJ!) will be delighted to know the second book in the series, Sweet Deception will be released August 7th.

Don't miss the fun on Monday, August 20th when Suzanne Ferrell is our special guest!  Ferrell's sexy cowboys are not to be missed and she introduces us to another one in her August e-book release, Cantrell's Bride.

Anna Campbell pops in on Friday, August 24th with a new Second Helping blog.  This month she's turning her attention to a Linda Howard classic.  Oh, and by the way, August 24th just happens to be Anna's birthday so come on over and let's help her celebrate in style!

Wow!  It's going to be a busy and exciting month around here!  Hope you'll all join us for the fun!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

And the Award Goes to...

Another year is in the books!  Congratulations to this year's recipients of the Romance Writers of America awards for published books and unpublished manuscripts.  Below is a list of all finalists with the winners in blue.  A heartfelt thank you to RWA and all the authors, readers and bloggers in attendance who tweeted the results live.  You helped us feel like we were right there with you!


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
 * This is the third win in this category for Barbara O'Neal which puts her in the RWA Hall of Fame.
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 w/a April Bennet

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 w/a KD Flemming
"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 Peeking" by Tamar Bihari w/a 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

Have you read any of the winning books?  Did you follow along on Twitter or Facebook during tonight's ceremony?  Happy with the results?  Leave a comment and you might win a box of books!  (yes, I'm cleaning again) ::grin::


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gone Missing Winners

Thanks to everyone who commented on my review of Gone Missing by Linda Castillo.  
The two randomly selected winners of a copy of Gone Missing are:



Congratulations, ladies!  
To claim your book, please send your full name and mailing address
 with "Gone Missing Winner" in the subject line to 
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Today's Special -- Jodi Thomas

As many of your know, Romance Writers of America is hosting their annual conference this week. Our special guest today, New York Times best-selling author Jodi Thomas, is there and she is having a blast, I'm sure! But before she left, she wanted to share a little bit about her upcoming release, Wild Texas Rose, which comes out Tuesday, August 7. So, take it away, Jodi!

WILD TEXAS ROSE is my 25th historical romance about Texas and I’m happy to say that I think readers will discover something new in this book that I’ve never seen done in a historical. I love writing about groups of people and this time I have more than one romance going at once. It was great fun to write and I lost a great deal of sleep because even after I turned off my computer I couldn’t turn off the story. The characters were still dancing in my head.

My husband also developed a strange habit of saying, “All right, all you people, get out of this bed. We’ve got to get some sleep.”

WILD TEXAS ROSE is set in Fort Worth in 1876, just after the Texas &Pacific Railroad connected the town to the rest of the world. It deals with two men who were friends as boys and who both came back scarred from the Civil War. Neither believes they will ever find love.

One, Abe Henderson walks with a limp, thinks he wouldn’t know how to love a woman even if he did find one who would give him a second look and has lived with his loneliness so long it feels normal to him. His only real friend, Killian O’Toole, lost the last of his family in the war and cannot turn loose of his brother. He often talks to Shawn as if his brother were still alive and standing next to him. Their lives change as Killian tries to help Abe by telling him suggestions that he claims Shawn, the ghost, has told them.

Both men learn about loving during a crisis involving a runaway bride and a murder threat on a Texas Ranger.

In WILD TEXAS ROSE I loved writing about Rose and Duncan McMurray because I saw them as children in an earlier book called TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN. Though they were both adopted into the McMurray family, they grew up needing to know the other was near. Sometimes people fall in love and sometimes it grows slowly over time. In WILD TEXAS ROSE I had fun looking at all the ways love comes unexpectedly into one’s life.

Come along with me and fall in love.

Jodi Thomas

Wild Texas Rose
By Jodi Thomas

Twenty-five-year-old Rose McMurray may be beautiful, smart, and capable of running her adopted family’s ranch at Whispering Mountain, but she’s backed away from marriage three times without giving any reasons. Everyone thinks Rose is a coward, afraid of any adven-ture, including falling in love. She’s never done a single wild or reckless thing in her life...until now.

Dear readers, what are some of your favorite romances that are set in the great state of Texas? Comment for a chance to win a copy of Jodi's Wild Texas Rose! Contest is restricted to U.S. and Canadian addresses only, please. Good luck to all!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review -- Forever and a Day

Forever and a Day
Lucky Harbor—Book 6
By Jill Shalvis
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: July 31, 2012

Since I discovered Jill Shalvis’s books back in 2010 with Slow Heat and her RITA award winning Simply Irresistible, she has quickly become one of my go-to authors of contemporary romance. Her writing is smart, fun, and sexy, and her books never fail to leave a smile on my face long after I’ve closed the last page. J 

Forever and a Day is the sixth book in Shalvis’s popular Lucky Harbor series and the third book featuring three ladies—Mallory, Amy, and Grace—who call themselves the Chocoholics. In the beginning of the first book (Lucky in Love, ER nurse Mallory’s story), the trio are trapped in the local diner (where Amy works) during a freak snowstorm and bond over chocolate cake. Mallory is a life-long resident of Lucky Harbor, while Amy came there within the past year. Grace Brooks, however, had only arrived that very day. She was from New York and came to Seattle for an illustrious banking job that didn’t work out...especially after she discovered that the job included performing special favors for her boss. She left Seattle and drove as far as the gas lasted in her car, which landed her in Lucky Harbor. Because of the fast friendship she made with Mallory and Amy that eventful night, Grace decided to stay long enough to put in résumés in Seattle and Portland. While waiting to hear back, she gets offered a dog-walking job for ER doctor Josh Scott. Hilarity ensues after she arrives to walk the little “monster”. It is one of the funniest beginnings I’ve ever read! When Josh’s five year old son’s nanny moves earlier than expected, he offers the position temporarily to Grace as he knows she needs the money and gets along well with Toby. Grace agrees and during the brief stint, she will help him find a permanent replacement.  

Dr. Josh Scott is relieved when Grace takes the position. He quickly finds the beautiful blond hard to resist, despite her tendency for throwing a wrench in his busy life...or maybe because of it. She gets along well with Toby, but has a slightly harder time with Josh’s twenty-one year old sister, Anna, a highly functioning paraplegic. Anna has lived with Josh since the accident that took their parents and landed her in a wheelchair. She has had a bitter attitude since then and oftentimes feels like the world is against her. Not only is Josh sensing pressure at home, but he feels it at work as he is overworked trying to keep his father’s practice thriving. The hospital has offered to buy the practice several times which would give Josh a break as they would bring in another doctor. Nevertheless, Josh refuses out of a sense of loyalty to his late father; despite the fact that he prefers the fast-paced energy of the ER. Ever the workaholic, Josh is always taking care of everyone else. But who will take care of him? 

As you can guess, I loved this story! Grace was an interesting character as she is the adopted daughter of a rocket scientist and a research biologist and felt like she had a lot to live up to. Achieve, and achieve high! is her parents’ motto and Grace doesn’t want to let them down. And speaking of her parents, a comical phone conversation involving Grace, her mother, and Josh is a memorable scene that had me laughing out loud! It was like something straight out of I Love Lucy. Grace’s harried responses and Josh’s dry humor is spot-on. I love the relationship Grace shares with Mallory and Amy. Even though she hasn’t known them long, her friends have been a constant source of comfort for someone who hasn’t really experienced that emotion before. Their connection was extremely well-written.  

And Josh. Sigh. Josh is a character that made his appearance in the previous books and has had me anxious for his story. I knew he would be a sexy hero and I was right. I find a hero who is constantly taking care of others extremely sexy. And he couldn’t help being drawn to the sweet, caring Grace. 

He sped up while mentally thumbing through the contacts on his phone, slowing at Grace’s name. 


Moving on. 

Backing up. 

Don’t do it, man. She was smart as hell but she was also a really, really bad dog walker. No way should he burden her with his kid too. Except she’d already handled Toby yesterday for an hour, and everyone had lived to tell the tale. 

She’d come through for him, twice now. Which really begged the question—exactly who was helping who here? 

The truth was, she’d already proven more reliable than half the people in his life. And damn if there wasn’t something in her eyes that pulled him in like the tide, something extremely unforgettable. He knew she was a little lost, searching for something. He had no idea what but he wanted to help. Which was a very bad idea. He needed another person on his plate like he needed a hole in his head, but he couldn’t turn back now. He was drawn to her. 

Josh truly understands Grace and this little snippet shows just how well he reads her: 

“I love your sundresses,” he said against her mouth. “You always look so cool and calm, except for your eyes. Your eyes show it all.”

“My panic?” 

“Your passion”, he breathed. “For everything.” 

Is it any wonder why I love Josh?  Several past characters make an appearance and add flavor and charm to what is one of my very favorite series of all-time—Lucky Harbor. If you haven’t read these books and are a fan of small-town romances, I highly recommend that you do! Jill Shalvis is an author not to be missed!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review and Giveaway - - Gone Missing

Gone Missing
By Linda Castillo
Kate Burkholder Series - Book 4
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Release Date:  June 19, 2012

Gone Missing is the newest book in Linda Castillo's suspense series set in Ohio's Amish Country and starring small town Chief of Police Kate Burkholder.   The New York Times bestselling series has garnered notable reviews, being called "impossible to put down" (BookPage), "gripping" (People) and "teeth-chattering suspense (USA Today).  Less than twenty pages into Gone Missing (my first Castillo book), I was already echoing those descriptions and adding a few more of my own.

Kate Burkholder understands the confusion and secret longing for city life that go hand in hand with many Amish teens.  She has, after all, once walked in their shoes.  Raised in a devout Amish family, Kate rebelled against the strictures of that life and left when she turned eighteen.  Now thirty-three, she has a successful career and sometime relationship with state agent, John Tomasetti but coming to terms with her place in the world, her excommunication from the Amish community and the strained relationship with her family is an ongoing journey.

If we're talking baggage, John Tomasetti has a whole set that he carries in his heart.  A widower whose wife and two children were murdered, he's just beginning to emerge from grief and learning to reach for happiness once again.  He and Kate have worked together, become friends and are occasional lovers but he's ready to deepen the relationship...if he can scale the emotional walls she's erected around her heart.  Oh yes, and keep her alive long enough to tell her how he feels.

When an Amish girl disappears in another part of the state, Tomasetti knows Kate is the person they need on their team if they have any hope of solving the case.  The Amish are a closed society; not trusting outsiders.  They won't be forthcoming with any information that may cast the slightest negative light on them or their religion, even if that information could help find the missing teen.  Kate knows the Amish ways, speaks Pennsylvania Dutch and though she may be viewed with suspicion and mistrust by her own Amish family and former friends, her past gives her the necessary tools to gain the trust of the people in the community where the missing girl lived.  They've barely begun the investigation when another girl goes missing, a body is found and it becomes apparent that these girls are not leaving their homes voluntarily.  The danger escalates and when it touches Kate's own family, she finds herself in a race against time to catch a killer before more lives are lost - including her own.

I love a good romantic suspense story that keeps me on the edge of my seat and this book certainly fits that bill.  I began reading Gone Missing in the waiting room at my doctor's office yesterday, continued reading through dinner and finished it last night.  It's a fast-paced story with numerous twists and turns that grabbed me with it's compelling first scene and still haunts me a day later.  I have the feeling that haunting won't go away for awhile.  The emotions are intense, the suspense thrilling and the mystery well written and realistic.  The characters - good guys and bad - are so vividly and realistically depicted that I was drawn into their lives and their minds with ease.  And let me tell you, some of those minds are scary places to be.  I was also fascinated by the Amish communities in which most of the story takes place.  I already knew a bit about their culture but learned much more through the actions of characters in this book.  It's clear that this aspect of the story was well researched.  I probably would have given this book five stars had it not been written in first person.  I found it a bit disconcerting for the first half of the book.  Having said that, though, by the time I got to the middle of the book when the tension is boiling over, the action practically non-stop and I was wholly invested in the characters, the first person language ceased to be a problem for me.

While this book stands on its own, Kate's individual growth journey begins with the first book in the series and continues with each successive book while her relationship with John begins at some point during the first three books.  I'll be buying those books soon.  I'm so intrigued by this character; by her dedication to helping others through her police work and her emotional struggle with the two worlds she attempts to straddle; liked and well respected in her new life, cast aside by her old.  I'm looking forward to going back to the beginning and taking this journey with her while waiting for the next book in the series (which the author's website says she's hard at work on).

I also recently learned that the first book in the Kate Burkholder series, Sworn to Silence is slated to be made into an original movie starring Neve Campbell in the lead role.  I rarely agree with Hollywood casting of books I love but, with this one, I have to say I think they're spot on and I can't wait to see the movie when it comes out!

Are you a fan of romantic suspense?  Have you read any Amish romances?  Visited Amish Country?  Are you reading the Kate Burkholder series?

We're giving away two copies of Gone Missing today provided by St. Martin's Press.  (U.S. addresses only)  Leave a comment to be in the running and be sure to tell us if you're in the U.S.


Review copy received from Big Honcho Media.
For more information about the Kate Burkholder series, visit http://lindacastillo.com/

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Great Mistake!

by Anna Campbell

Wonderful Aussie author Sarah Mayberry  has ventured into self-publishing with HER BEST WORST MISTAKE, a sequel to her 2010 Blaze HOT ISLAND NIGHTS. I loved HOT ISLAND NIGHTS so much that I gave it a glowing review here on the Romance Dishes in September 2010.

In that book, repressed English girl Elizabeth Morgan discovers her father isn’t dead as she believed but is very much alive and living on Phillip Island outside Melbourne. This turns her life upside down. She ditches her polite, decorous life and her polite, decorous fiancé and takes off for the other side of the world where she finds love with gorgeous surfer (and tortured hero) Nate.

HER BEST WORST MISTAKE tells the fiance’s love story and is mostly based back in chilly London during the winter that Elizabeth is in Australia soaking up romance and sunshine. Sarah writes beautiful friends into lovers stories. This one is a twist on that – it’s an enemies into lovers story and it’s brilliant.

Martin St. Clair is one of my favorite sorts of heroes, the stuffed shirt who discovers his inner fire when he falls in love with the last person he ever saw himself wanting. Laura Lee Guhrke does a great line in this sort of hero too and it’s always delicious watching their pompous ways melt away to reveal the passionate man beneath the buttoned-down facade. What’s lovely about this style of hero is that he starts as a man of principle and he remains that in essence; he just discovers his inner tiger along the way!

Elizabeth’s best friend Violet Sutcliffe and Martin have always hated one another. She thinks he’s an old-before-his time stick-in-the-mud. He thinks she’s a flighty, promiscuous flake who’s been born with a silver spoon in her mouth and has had life far too easy. But when Elizabeth runs away, Violet and Martin are thrown together and it rapidly becomes clear that all that sniping and hatred was outward manifestation of frustrated attraction. The first kiss in this book is a doozy – all that repressed longing comes out and how!

The dialogue crackles – I love the way Martin and Violet snark at each other, neither giving an inch. And all the time while they’re fighting so hard to keep the other one at a distance, they’re falling helplessly and completely in love. It’s also wonderful to watch how both Martin and Violet reluctantly and sometimes inadvertently reveal their vulnerable souls. This book could be retitled Pride and Preconceptions! And man, are the love scenes hawt! Martin and Violet can’t keep their hands off each other. No matter how unacceptable they both find this heady attraction, neither can resist the sizzling chemistry between them.

HER BEST WORST MISTAKE is funny, wildly sexy, surprisingly moving as emotional truths emerge when a relationship that’s meant to be purely physical develops in directions neither Martin nor Violet imagined, and beautifully wise. One of the best books I’ve read in ages and I highly recommend it. You can buy it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Her-Best-Worst-Mistake-ebook/dp/B00807FKPA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338160417&sr=8-1 For other stockists, check out Sarah’s website: http://www.sarahmayberry.com/herbestworstmistake

So are you a fan of enemies into lovers books? What about books featuring repressed heroes who break out into a whole new world when they fall in love? Any favorites in either style?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elizabeth Hoyt winner!

The random winner of a copy of Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt is:

Laurie G

Congrats, Laurie! Please send your full name and address to theromancedishATgmailDOTcom with "Hoyt winner" as the subject and I'll forward your info to the wonderful people at Grand Central. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Guest Review - - Mistress of Mourning

Mistress of Mourning
By Karen Harper
Publisher: NAL
Release Date: July 3, 2012

The year is 1501, sixteen years after the Battle of Bosworth and the coronation of Henry II, the first Tudor king. The Tudor monarchy, although still plagued by conspiracies, has gained stability through treaties and trade agreements and marriages. Henry’s heir, Arthur, fifteen, is awaiting the arrival in London of his bride, Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon. The queen, Elizabeth of York, is grieving over the death of her infant son, Prince Edmund, who died in 1500, and a daughter who died in 1495. She is also plagued by questions concerning the murders of her two young brothers, the famous “lost princes,” a decade earlier.

Varina Westcott, a young widow and the owner of the Westcott Chandlery, runs her shop with the assistance of her sister and brother-in-law. Her husband has been dead a year, and she is being pressured to remarry. The man is another successful chandler, and marriage to him seems practical for many reasons, not least his position in the chandlers’ guild. But Varina is reluctant, still grieving for her husband and even more for her young son Edmund who died four months earlier. Her grief over her child has expressed itself in the carving of angel candles bearing the face of her dead son.

When one of Varina’s angel candles is given to the queen, Elizabeth, who remembers the funeral effigy of her father that had been skillfully carved by Varina’s father, sends for the chandler. The queen wants not candle images but full waxen images of her dead children and her murdered brothers. Varina is to be escorted to the castle by a trusted courtier where she will work in secret on the effigies. The two women, one a royal and one a merchant, bond as grieving mothers. Varina’s skills have never been tested by so large a project nor for so elevated a patron, and she is uncertain of the queen’s reasons, but she is committed to the commission.

Sympathy for the queen is not the only emotion the experience awakens in Varina. She finds Nicholas Sutton, the courtier charged with escorting and guarding her, disturbingly attractive. Nick, as he asks to be addressed, is the son of a father who died at the Battle of Bosworth, fighting for Richard III. Nick is dedicated to proving his loyalty to Henry and regaining the status and property his family lost. Varina can’t prevent her growing feelings for him, but she knows he is above her socially and their friendship will end. However, when a mysterious stranger threatens Varina and a friend is murdered, Nick reappears, bringing a guard and gifts and asking for a promise that she remain unwed until he returns from Wales where he's headed as part of the entourage accompanying the Prince of Wales and his princess to their new home.

But tragedy brings Nick back to London sooner than either of them expects. Prince Arthur dies, and the queen sends Varina to Wales as her Mistress of Mourning to oversee the burial preparations. Nick is to be her chief escort, and the queen, suspicious that her oldest son’s death was not of natural causes, charges Varina and Nick with investigating his death. As Varina and Nick probe for answers, other deaths follow. Their lives and the lives of those they love are at risk. Each clue they uncover points to a plot that threatens the Tudor dynasty and those who defend it.

Mistress of Mourning is historical fiction, historical mystery, and historical romance interwoven in a compelling story with complex characters who bring the events, real and imagined, to life. At the heart of the book are two women who share the devastation of losing a child to death. It is a life-altering experience deep enough to link them despite the social chasm that separates them. The two serve as alternating narrators, and each contributes something unique. It is Varina’s narration that creates the larger 16th-century world with the accuracy a reader expects from Karen Harper and a level of detail that shows political struggles, betrayals, uncertainty, and death are not limited to the tales of kings. Elizabeth’s narration makes the figures of royal history fully human as they experience fear, regret, guilt, grief, and other emotions that human flesh is heir to. Harper provides answers to the age-old questions about the deaths of the two lost princes and of Arthur, Prince of Wales (with author’s notes for additional explanation), but she also raises questions about the nature of power and the things men are willing to do to achieve it that she leaves the reader to answer.

Some fans of historical fiction will doubtless complain about the dilution of history by mystery and romance, but fans of historical mysteries and/or historical romance should find this novel an exciting, satisfying read. I’m no purist; I enjoyed every page. I definitely recommend it.