Sunday, September 30, 2012

Coming Attractions

The autumn leaves are beginning to show their colors and summer heat has given way to cooler temperatures but here at The Romance Dish, October promises to be another sizzling month!  

We kick things off on Monday, October 1 with a visit from historical romance author Vanessa Kelly!  Vanessa's holiday themed romance, His Mistletoe Bride, releases October 2.  

On Tuesday, October 2, we welcome the always entertaining Anna Campbell!  Anna will be blogging about her new book, Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed.  Check out PJ's 5 star review of Anna's new book here.  

Thursday, October 4 through Sunday, October 7, Andrea and PJ will be attending Georgia Romance Writers' Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.  Watch for photos and on-the-spot reports from the conference and if you live in the Atlanta area, why not drop by on Saturday, October 6 for the public book signing.  Here's more detailed information and a list of the authors who will be signing.  

Don't worry about missing Andrea's list of new releases while we're away at conference.  The new list for October will be right here for your viewing - and buying - convenience on Friday, October 5.

We're putting the focus on another Christmas romance when historical author Theresa Romain blogs with us on Monday, October 8.  Those of you who enjoyed Theresa's debut, Season for Temptation and have been waiting for Louisa's book will want to make sure you check out Theresa's October 2 release, Season for Surrender!

Trish Milburn returns Wednesday, October 10 with news and reviews from the Young Adult world with this month's Teen Menu.  

On Thursday, October 11 we'll be Making our Reservations for our most anticipated November releases!

Talented author Juliana Stone blogs with us Friday, October 12.  One of PJ's favorite paranormal authors, Juliana will be launching her first contemporary romance, Offside on October 2 and will follow that with a new contemporary series in 2013.    

Monday, October 15 brings paranormal romance author Carrie Ann Ryan to the Romance Dish!  Carrie Ann's September 24 release, Charmed Spirits has been garnering rave reviews!

On Wednesday, October 17, we welcome erotic romance author Katie Porter to TRD.  Katie Porter, for those of you who don't know, is the pen name of the writing team of Carrie Lofty and Lorelie Brown, both talented and successful authors in their own right.  Hold 'Em,  the most recent addition to their smokin' hot Vegas Top Guns series, was released September 25.  

Successful contemporary and romantic suspense author, Helen Kay Dimon blogs with us on Tuesday, October 23.  This busy lady has six new books out this year!  Her next book, Lean on Me, a digital contemporary for Carina Press, will be released October 22 and will be followed in November by Switched, a Harlequin Intrigue.

Anna Campbell is back on Wednesday, October 24 with a Second Helping of book reviews for your reading pleasure!

We round out the month with a visit from historical author Maggie Robinson!  Maggie's newest book, Lord Gray's List will be released October 30 and features a witty, sizzling battle of the sexes.  

We hope you'll join us!  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jessica Scott Winner

The winner of an e-ARC of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU by Jessica Scott is


Congratulations, Lisa!  Please send your email address to
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, September 28, 2012

My Fictional BFF, Kate Sheffield

Six months ago, I blogged about my favorite bad boy hero, Saint (from London's Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch). Now I'd like to tell you about my my favorite heroine, or as I like to call her, my fictional BFF, Kate Sheffield. This blog was first published over at Romance Novel TV, but now I would like to share it with our Romance Dish readers. WARNING: This blog contains possible spoilers for those who haven't read The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn...though, I'm pretty sure most of you have. *g*

My Fictional BFF, Kate Sheffield

There comes a time in every reader’s life when you read a book that just clicks on all levels – a flawless, much loved storyline, a dashing, sexy hero, a darling heroine you’d want as a best friend and the endearing secondary characters who become like family.  Such was the case for me with Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me.  The first time I read it I was completely blown away and it’s one of the few books that I’ve read multiple times.  It’s my “go to” book . . . my comfort read . . . and yes, my very favorite book.  It features one of the most popular and beloved heroes of all time, Anthony Bridgerton, the head of the well-known Bridgerton family.  But what would Anthony be without his leading lady, Kate?  Nothing, I tell you.  This blog is all about my girl, Kate. 

We first meet Katharine Grace Sheffield when she and her sister, Edwina, are embarking on their first London season together.  At twenty-one, Kate may seem a bit old to be having her debut, but her family only had enough funds for one trip to London, so they decided it best to do so when Edwina turned seventeen.  They are there with Kate’s stepmother and Edwina’s mother, Mary.  Right away, we learn three important things about Kate: she is fiercely loyal to her family, she is sensible, and she is completely selfless.  Despite the fact that her sister is this season’s “incomparable” and is beauty and grace personified, Kate doesn’t pout about it nor feels any jealously towards Edwina.  She accepts it as fact and is happy for and utterly devoted to her sister.  Who wouldn’t want a sister like that?  In fact, Edwina and Kate are so close, that Edwina pronounces that she will not marry anyone her sister does not deem worthy.  When Kate observes Edwina dancing with Viscount Bridgerton, the “reprehensible rogue”, her defenses are instantly raised.  There is no way that that rake is going to marry her sister.  Later, the viscount tells Kate that she is as lovely as her sister.  Big mistake, but Kate handles it very well.  “And you, Lord Bridgerton,” she replied in a tone that could have frozen champagne, “are almost as handsome as your brother.”  Heh.  Kate gives as good as she gets. 

Competitive only begins to describe how Kate is around Anthony at first.  In fact, it is their conflict and verbal sparring that absolutely drive this story.  Not to mention it creates some of the most memorable scenes in any historical romance, such as the Serpentine debacle and the infamous Bridgerton Pall Mall game.  Who doesn’t love that Kate, having picked the black “mallet of death”, deliberately sinks Anthony’s pink ball in the lake?  I could read that scene over and over and never tire of it. 

But it isn’t always combative between the two.  While it’s obvious they enjoy vexing each other, it’s even more obvious that there is a spark there.  The more they’re around each other, the more they want to be.  And Kate’s heart really softens towards Anthony when he does the one thing she doesn’t expect – he rescues her friend Penelope from the young lady hurling nasty insults at her by giving her the cut direct. 

. . . and in that moment Kate had the oddest feeling that she understood this man completely. 

But even stranger – suddenly she wasn’t so certain that he was the soulless, reprehensible rake she’d taken such comfort in believing him. 

“Did you see that?” 

Kate, who, along with the rest of the assembled company, had been staring openmouthed as Bridgerton led Penelope from the room, his head bent to hers as if she were the most fascinating woman ever to walk the earth, turned to see Edwina standing next to her. 

“I saw the whole thing,” Kate said in a dazed voice.  “I heard the whole thing.” 

“What happened?” 

“He was . . . he was . . .” Kate stumbled over her words, unsure of how to describe what exactly he’d done.  And then she said something she’d never thought possible: “He was a hero.” 

This is how I picture Kate. How fitting!
(Photo courtesy of
At this point, poor Kate is torn.  She now knows the true Anthony Bridgerton and knows that he would indeed make a fine husband for Edwina.  Except that now she wants him for herself.  And then the unthinkable happens as they are forced to wed thanks to a pesky bee and the biggest gossip in London.  Yes, Kate wanted him, but not like this.  She may not be happy with the circumstances, but my girl is no idiot.  She knows the ramifications if they do not wed.  She accepts and suddenly Anthony has a revelation about his betrothed. 

With great reluctance, he slowly tore himself away from her, letting his hands rest on her slim shoulders and straightening his arms to keep himself far enough away so that he wouldn’t be tempted to continue where he’d left off. 

And the temptation was there.  He made the mistake of looking at her face, and in that moment he would have sworn that Kate Sheffield was every bit as beautiful as her sister. 

Hers was a different sort of attraction.  Her lips were fuller, less in fashion but infinitely more kissable.  Her lashes – how had he not noticed before how long they were?  When she blinked they seemed to rest on her cheeks like a carpet.  And when her skin was tinged with the pinks of desire, she glowed.  Anthony knew he was being fanciful, but when he gazed upon her face, he could not help thinking of the new dawn, of that exact moment when the sun was creeping over the horizon, painting the sky with its subtle palette of peaches and pinks. 

Wow.  What girl wouldn’t want to have someone feel that way about her?  But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), despite what Anthony thinks of her, he tells Kate not to expect love from him.  They will always have a mutual friendship and respect, but never love.  Kate tells him that that is okay with her, but deep down inside, it’s not.  And Kate starts to become a little selfish.  Good for her! 

All her life, she’d been the one who’d received the second glance, the second greeting, the second kiss on the hand.  As the elder daughter, it should have been her due to be addressed before her younger sister, but Edwina’s beauty was so stunning, the pure and perfect blue of her eyes so startling, that people simply forgot themselves in her presence. 

Introductions to Kate were usually met with an embarrassed, “Of course,” and a polite murmured greeting while their eyes slid back to Edwina’s pure and shining face. 

Kate had never minded it much.  If Edwina had been spoiled or bad-tempered it might have been difficult, and in all truth, most of the men she’d met were shallow and silly, and she hadn’t much cared if they only took the time to acknowledge her after her sister. 

Until now. 

She wanted Anthony’s eyes to light up when she entered the room.  She wanted him to scan a crowd until he saw her face.  She didn’t need him to love her – or at least that’s what she was telling herself – but she desperately wanted to be first in his affections, first in his desires. 

And she had an awful, terrible feeling that all this meant she was falling in love. 

Falling in love with one’s husband – who would have thought it could be such a disaster? 

Well, it didn’t end up being a disaster, but it sure was a bit of an uphill battle for Anthony and Kate.  Anthony helps Kate conquer her biggest fear and she knows that what she feels for him in indeed love, though she doesn’t understand why Anthony can’t feel the same.  (Readers know that he believes he’ll die before he turns thirty-nine, as his father did.) Drinking himself into a stupor along with some shrewd advice from his brothers confirms to Anthony that he does love Kate and that it shouldn’t matter if he dies in five, eight, ten or fifty years from now.  What matters most is loving that one person with all your heart while you can. 

“I was so sure that it was the one thing that could make this . . . this . . . I don’t really know what to call it – this knowledge of my own mortality . . .” He raked his hands through his hair, fighting for words.  “Love was the only thing that was truly going to make that unbearable.  How could I love someone, truly and deeply, knowing that it was doomed?” 

“But it’s not doomed,” Kate said, squeezing his hand. 

“I know.  I fell in love with you, and then I knew.  Even if I am right, even if I’m fated to live only as long as my father did before me, I’m not doomed.”  He leaned forward and brushed a feather-light kiss on her lips.  “I have you,” he whispered, “and I’m not going to waste a single moment we have together.” 

Kate’s lips spread into a smile.  “What does that mean?” 

“It means that love isn’t about being afraid that it will all be snatched away.  Love’s about finding the one person who makes your heart complete, who makes you a better person than you ever dreamed you could be.  It’s about looking into the eyes of your wife and knowing, all the way to your bones, that she’s simply the best person you’ve ever known.”
Yes, all ends well for Kate and she absolutely deserves it.  We learn through her journey in finding her “happily ever after” that she is loyal, sensible, selfless (and a little selfish when the moment occurs), intelligent, witty, compassionate, honorable, vulnerable, strong in her convictions, stubborn when she needs to be and patient when she needs to be, as well.  Julia Quinn does a masterful job of not just telling us these things about Kate, but showing us.  We know that Kate is each of these and more, and I couldn’t ask for better qualities in a BFF, fictional or otherwise.

So, dear readers, as you can tell, I love this book and I absolutely adore its heroine, Kate Sheffield. Who are some of your most unforgettable heroines? What qualities do they have that make you feel that way? Please share!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review -- How to Capture a Countess

How to Capture a Countess
The Duchess Diaries—Book 1
By Karen Hawkins
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: September 18, 2012

From the Diary of the Duchess of Roxburghe 

I have concluded that neither my nephew nor Miss Balfour is able to refuse any challenge made by the other, regardless of how reckless it may be. 

I am beginning to worry that neither will survive what is either the oddest courtship known to man, or the most serious game of one-upmanship I’ve yet to witness. 

Either way, the outcome is sure to be vastly entertaining.

How to Capture a Countess is the start of a new series by Karen Hawkins called the Duchess Diaries. Each chapter of this book begins with a diary snippet from the Duchess of Roxburghe, so I thought it fitting to start my review with one of my favorites and one that describes this book perfectly. The duchess has no children of her own, so she dedicates herself to “helping” her sister and her sister’s grandchildren.... 

Six years ago at a ball, Lord Alton Sinclair, also known as Lord Sin, endured humiliation at the hands of Miss Rose Balfour after a kiss in a moonlit garden landed him in a fountain. The lady swiftly ran off and it wouldn’t have been so bad if Sin hadn’t subsequently been discovered by a small group of the guests who promptly labeled him as “Lord Fin”. He searched for Rose to settle the score, but was not able to find her. Six years later, Sin spies Rose’s name in a letter from his great aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe. In the letter, the duchess takes Sin to task for refusing to attend her upcoming house party and lists the names of a few of her goddaughters (one of which is Rose) who might be in attendance. Sin immediately changes his mind and accepts the invitation, and insists that Miss Balfour be invited. He sees this event as the perfect opportunity to exact revenge on her. 

Rose Balfour was infatuated with Lord Sinclair from the moment she first laid eyes on him years ago at sixteen years old. Her heart thrilled at the chance to finally speak with him. However, she didn’t know what to expect when they were alone. Despite nearly being caught in a compromising situation with the earl, Rose never forgot the sensation of her first kiss. She hasn’t seen or heard from Lord Sinclair in the years since. Rose is surprised when she sees him at her godmother’s house party, not realizing that he is her godmother’s great nephew. Upon their first meeting since “The Incident”, Sin tells her his plans for revenge. 

“We have three weeks together, Miss Balfour. During that time, I shall seduce you. And you—” He let his hand drift from her cheek to her neck, to the fascinating hollows that harbored the wild flutter of her heart. “You will make up for the mockery I’ve had to endure since our last meeting.” 

“Hm. I can see where you might feel that you are owed.” She met his gaze evenly, her lips slightly pursed as if she were considering a weighty issue. Finally, she gave a short nod. “I can see where you feel that you are owed. Very well. You may attempt to seduce me. I can’t promise to succumb, but it’s only fair that you be allowed the attempt.” 

Sin didn’t know whether to laugh or—hell, he didn’t know what to do. “Miss Balfour, you seem to be suffering under the illusion that you have a say in the matter. I will not attempt to seduce you, I will do it.” 

She smiled kindly. “We will see, won’t we? Meanwhile, feel free to seduce away. At the least, it will give you something to do other than moan about the past, which you seem sadly given to.” 

These two constantly go at it and neither one likes to give in. This leads to plenty of witty repartee, which I love! The more time Sin and Rose spend in each other’s company, the more they discover what makes the other tick. Sin learns that Rose has always taken care of others and rarely does things for herself. Rose finds out just how much “The Incident” hurt Sin and why he is so cynical. They also realize how much they are alike and their opinions of the other slowly begin to change. 

Six years ago, had anyone told Sin that he and Rose had far more in common than anyone else he’d ever met, he would have mocked the idea. But the more time he spent with her, the more he recognized her independent spirit and appreciated her strength. Neither of them enjoyed being told what to do, and neither liked to lose. 

She was so different from what he’d assumed all those years ago. He’d expected a hothouse bloom. Instead, he found a much more ragged, and far more interesting, wild Scottish rose. 

How to Capture a Countess is classic Karen Hawkins! I have been a long-time reader of her books and this book reminds me of her earlier works which made me fall in love with her writing. This one is a straight historical romance—no villains, curses, or magic in sight—and features Ms. Hawkins’s trademark humor and snappy dialogue. I was completely entertained from beginning to end. I thoroughly enjoyed Sin and Rose’s battle of wits and the hilarious machinations of the meddlesome Duchess of Roxburghe. I can’t wait to see what schemes she’ll come up with in the next book! And I absolutely cannot forget to mention her adorable pugs with their equally adorable names—so cute! If you love witty historical romance, don’t miss this one! I highly recommend it!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Today's Special - - Jessica Scott

It's my pleasure to welcome Jessica Scott to the Romance Dish today.  I was first introduced to Jessica a few years back at various romance internet sites where we both posted - at the time, she was on active duty in Iraq - and I've followed her writing, and military, journey since then.  She's a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats, three dogs and two escape artist hamsters, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy.  She has commanded two companies, served in Germany, Korea, Fort Hood and Iraq.  She says she's a terrible cook and an even worse housekeeper but she's a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon.  Her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.  Her debut novel, Because of You was released last November and October brings another new book, Until There Was You.  You can find Jessica on the internet at her websiteblog, FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.  Sign up for her newsletter here.   

Welcome, Jessica!  Congratulations on the upcoming release of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU.  Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book. 

Evan & Claire are an opposites attract storyline. They battle so often and so much when they actually start getting along, neither of them can believe it. Here’s the official blurb:

From the back cover:

He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .
A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.
Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye.
He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Sounds like a story I'm going to enjoy!  Jessica, as an Army officer, you’re already intimately acquainted with military life.  How does this knowledge help – or hinder – your writing process when creating stories set within the military?

Thanks so much for having me here today! I’d say the military experience makes it harder b/c I speak the lingo and understand so much more intuitively than non military readers. I don’t say or think improvised explosive device, I say/think IED. I don’t say physical training uniform, I say PTs and everyone around me gets that. So forcing myself to translate makes things a lot tougher, you know? That’s usually something I save for the round of revisions.

That has to be difficult when using acronyms is the norm.  My late husband was career military (though we didn't meet until after his retirement)  and I was forever asking him to translate the lingo.   

Many scenes from books and movies end up on the “cutting room” floor.  What’s the one scene you would never cut from UNTIL THERE WAS YOU?

Oh wow. In my last book there were a couple of scenes that made it through every single draft. On this one, I can’t think of a single scene that survived since the first draft. I think the one scene that could not change, though, would be the one where Claire first learns Evan’s secret. It’s probably my most favorite scene.

Most military-set romances are romantic suspense yet your books are straight romance.  Was this a conscious decision you made before you started writing or did the characters dictate their story to you?

Well, first off, I suck at writing suspense. Love reading, can’t write it worth a damn. But that not withstanding, I did make a conscious choice to write these books as contemporary romances. I wanted to showcase real things soldiers were facing and have more emotional connection to them, if that makes sense.

That makes perfect sense!  I know a lot of readers who enjoy romances in a military setting but don't want the suspense.  

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU is your second novel.  Is it a stand-alone or will readers enjoy it more if they read BECAUSE OF YOU first?

It’s a stand alone novel. Originally, it was connected and the last book of the trilogy but my editors worked with me to change things up to make the storyline more powerful. There’s actually no overlap between UNTIL THERE WAS YOU and BECAUSE OF YOU.

You’re a wife, mom, active duty Army officer and author.  That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air!  How do you balance all of your roles? 

I don’t. Some days, being a mom wins. Some days, being a soldier wins. Other days, being a writer takes precedence. Anyone who tells you they’ve got everything covered, well, that person isn’t me. I drop things all the time. My housework for instance. There is a mountain of laundry in my hallway that I should be deeply ashamed of. Instead, I’m writing
J and happier for it, I should add.

I imagine the above-mentioned roles also bring a great deal of stress into your life.  What’s your favorite way to relax and “get away from it all?”

Every so often, when things get really out of control, I go get a massage. It’s therapeutic in a lot of ways.

I'm a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of massage.

We never tire of hearing how a new author receives “the call.”  The story of your first sale is unusual and fascinating.  Will you share it with us?

Last year, right after the Navy SEALS got Bin Laden, the romance world went nuts for military romance. Sue Grimshaw had just been hired on at Ballatine Bantam Dell and I saw a blog where she said she was looking for a military romance that was not romantic suspense. I sent her a note on twitter because her old email address had bounced and well, the rest as they say is history. Seriously, DO NOT do this unless editors/agents say they’ll accept pitches that way.

What’s next?

Next up is finishing up BACK TO YOU which will tie into BECAUSE OF YOU. That will be the last book in this leg of the Coming Home series. After that, we shall see where the muse takes me!

Thank you for visiting with us today, Jessica.  It's been a pleasure!  Do you have a question for our readers?   

Tell me how you decide to try a new author?  

I’m giving away a digital eARC of UNTIL THERE WAS YOU to someone today!   


Jessica is having a preorder giveaway - the UNTIL THERE WAS YOU PREORDER SWEEPSTAKES -  all throughout September until Oct 7th! If you preorder UNTIL THERE WAS YOU, you get entered into a chance to win a Kindle Fire HD or a Nook Color. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s the official excerpt! UNTIL THERE WAS YOU by Jessica Scott, Excerpt You can preorder UNTIL THERE WAS YOU at these ebookstores or wherever ebooks are sold! B & N | Amazon | Powell's| iBookstore

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review - - Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed
Sons of Sin - Book One
By Anna Campbell
Publisher:  Grand Central
Release Date:  September 25, 2012


Unfairly robbed of his birthright, Jonas Merrick has turned into a bitter, ruthless man focused solely on increasing his wealth and wreaking vengeance on his enemy.  When he discovers that his enemy's wife has a weakness for gambling, he uses it to put her in his debt then offers to erase the debt in exchange for seven nights in his bed.  His plans go awry when the woman who appears on his doorstep one dark and stormy night is not the shallow beauty married to his enemy but her lovely, innocent younger sister.  When that woman turns out to be smart, feisty, courageous and lit from within with an innate goodness, Jonas goes from annoyed to intrigued and a new plan is born.  He offers her a wager:  spend seven days and nights as his guest.  During that time he'll do his best to seduce her but sleeping with him will be her choice and, at the end of the seven days, Sidonie will be free to leave his home with her sister's debt paid in full, whether his seduction attempts are successful or not.

The last place Sidonie wants to be is standing on the doorstep of Jonas Merrick's castle but she'll do anything to help the sister who took care of her when they were children.  If sleeping with Merrick will keep her sister and nephews safe from harm then so be it; she'll go willingly to the man's bed no matter how hideous he may be.  It doesn't take long for Sidonie to realize that there's much more to Jonas Merrick than what he presents to the world.  Though his face is scarred and he continues to insist he's a bastard through and through, the more time Sidonie spends with him, the more convinced she becomes that a good man lurks beneath the hard shell life's experiences have built around his wounded heart.  Desire flares and, as walls begin to crumble, the first flickering embers of a deep and abiding love spring to life...if Sidonie and Jonas have the courage to reach for it.

I loved this book so much.  I think it's Anna Campbell's best writing to date and that's saying a lot considering the quality of the books she's already published.  She immediately grabbed my attention with the riveting first sentence:

Storms split the heavens on the night Sidonie Forsythe went to her ruin.

As someone who grew up devouring Gothic romances from Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, all it took was that one sentence for me to know I was in for a treat.  Campbell then gave me a hero, damaged both physically and emotionally, and made me care deeply for him.  Jonas tries so hard to be a villain, and he has his harsh moments to be sure, but there's just too much goodness at his vulnerable core, waiting for the right woman to heal his heart and set it free, for him to truly be a bad guy.  He believes his scars make him repulsive; his actions, unlovable.  His response - the parts he shares and those he doesn't - when Sidonie finally gives herself to him made my heart ache.

     He propped himself on one elbow, keeping a careful eye on the edge of the bed, and took her hand.  "Are you all right?"
     After a hesitation, she nodded.  "Yes."
     He waited for more but she remained silent.  For a woman, she was deucedly closemouthed.  How he wished she'd confide in him, trust him.
     Why should she?
     Except she'd trusted him with her body.  He didn't underestimate what that meant.  He wanted to thank her.  He wanted to beg her to stay.  He wanted to tell her she was the most marvelous being in creation.  Emotion silenced him, made it impossible to express what lay in his heart.  He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her palm with a veneration that sprang from his soul.
     He wasn't good enough for her.  But by God, he meant to make her happy while he had her.  

Sidonie is a heroine worthy of our damaged hero.  She's strong, loyal and has so much love to give but she's only seen the bad side of marriage and has no desire to be under a man's control.  And her loyalty, one of her best qualities, causes her to make a decision that could ultimately cost her the love of the man who has captured her heart.  Ms. Campbell had me flipping pages as fast as I could to find out what happens to these two people who so deserve a happy ending.

Adding to the suspense of whether or not our couple finds happiness is a villain I could have easily sent to his just reward and Sidonie's sister, a woman who at times elicited my sympathy while other times I simply wanted to whack her upside the head for being shallow and selfish at Sidonie's expense.

Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed is the first book in Campbell's Sons of Sin series.  I read it in one day then read it a second time more leisurely.  I'll most likely read it again before book two comes out. Yes, I enjoyed it that much. I highly recommend this book and am already counting the months until I can get my hands on the next two in the series.  We meet the heroes of those books, Richard and Cam in this book, along with Sirius, a mutt of undetermined origin with whom I tumbled immediately into puppy love and who Ms. Campbell has assured me has a significant role in the next book, A Rake's Midnight Kiss.  


Monday, September 24, 2012

September Harlequin Roundup!

by Anna Campbell

It's a while since I did a Harlequin roundup (just checked, going back to January this year!), so I thought I'd share a couple of recent discoveries that are still available through the online sellers and as e-books.

I'd like to start with a book that was a bit of a revelation, May 2012 SuperRomance THE LONG SHOT by Ellen Hartman . I actually hadn't heard of Ellen until our wonderful RITA-winning Bandita Beth Andrews invited her to be a guest on the Romance Bandits. Here's a link to the interview:

 Ellen was such fun that I thought I'd give her book a go - I've found a lot of favorite authors because they've come across really well in social media. Well, what a great read - highly recommended!

This is one of those books about returning to your beginnings and this time, doing it right. Baseball star Deacon Fallon goes back to his home town after his retirement from the Major Leagues, determined to establish a life for himself and for his younger brother. Through a series of funny mishaps, he ends up coaching the girls' basketball team at the local high school and finds sparks striking with gutsy, clever teacher Julia Bradley. But it's not all comedy - Deacon has a big secret that he knows makes him unworthy of Julia.

This is one of those wonderful books where you stand up, cheering for all the characters. You cheer for Deacon summoning up the courage to share the shame that has blighted his life. You cheer Julia who won't bow down to the sexist attitudes of the good old boys in this small town and even more dangerously, won't let Deacon run and hide from what is obviously true love. And you cheer for the boys and girls at the high school who discover some important life lessons through the basketball season.

This book has everything. It's funny. It's touching. It's inspiring. I've already got my order in for Ellen's next book (September 2012), OUT OF BOUNDS, featuring Wes, Deacon's brother.

My second recommendation is another SuperRomance. I think this is such a great line - you get a really meaty, emotional read and the longer length allows writers to explore subplots and secondary characters more than is possible in the shorter categories (I love them too but for different reasons!).

I've reviewed Molly O'Keefe's books before on the Romance Dish. She's a wonderful writer who tells a darn good story.

She's now writing single title books - here's a link to Janga's five star review of Molly's June release CAN'T BUY ME LOVE: But my most recent Molly O'Keefe is the follow-up to her February 2011 book, HIS WIFE FOR ONE NIGHT. UNEXPECTED FAMILY (June 2012) is another story about going back to your origins and facing your demons. Is it just that these stories appeal to me or is this a popular theme in Supers? Interesting question!

Rodeo superstar Jeremiah Stone returns to the family ranch in the California hills with his three nephews after the death of his sister and her husband. Jeremiah isn't coping with becoming a father, and he refuses to face his repressed anger over giving up a life he loves to take over responsibilities that he feels ill-equipped to handle. He's a good man but he's failing at the monumental tasks he's set himself - and he doesn't know where to turn for help. At this difficult point in his life, the last thing he needs is a rekindled relationship with beautiful and fiery Lucy Alatore who is back home licking her wounds after her Los Angeles business fails.

Again, this is a book where you want to stand up and cheer for the characters. The people in this book are facing big issues and their responses are heart-wrenching. Not to mention that this story has all the wonderful signature MO'K sensuality and sizzle and tension. Again, highly recommended.

My final book in this roundup has nothing to do with people returning to small towns where they grew up. Or even with sports stars coming to terms with life after the spotlight (although the hero of this one is a martial arts expert so perhaps that's not entirely accurate!).

Jeannie Lin won the 2009 Golden Heart for best historical manuscript for her debut BUTTERFLY SWORDS (currently burning a spot in my TBR pile). I bought THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL, the first book of hers that I've read, after someone quoted a beautiful passage about a bamboo forest on a blog that I did for the Romance Bandits about setting. And I'm so glad I did!

In her Harlequin Historical THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL (September 2011), Jeannie sweeps you away to the exotic and dangerous world of 8th century China, a place of warlords and emperors and concubines. Against this glittering, vivid background, Jeannie tells the story of reluctant concubine Ling Suyin and powerful, mysterious warlord Li Tao. It's dramatic, compelling and breathtakingly romantic - and the love scenes are as steamy as a freshly cooked dim sum.

These two characters are wary, worldly and know that the slightest wrong move could mean their death. I kept thinking of the old joke about how porcupines make love. VERY carefully! The sexual tension flares to white hot as these two circle each other, not sure if they should trust, but drawn irresistibly to the other person in spite of the risk.

I love stories like this - the stakes are so high and when the characters fall in love, they fall like a ton of bricks. Big happy sigh when I closed this one up - and then I rushed straight to the book depository to order Jeannie's other two Chinese romances, BUTTERFLY SWORDS (October 2010 - a prequel to this one) and MY FAIR CONCUBINE (June 2012 - what a fun title!). Again, highly recommended.

So have you read any of these authors? Do you like romances about people going home and making sense of it all at last? Have you read any good Harlequins lately? I'm always looking for recommendations.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sneak Peek Sunday

PJ here!  Juliana Stone is one of my favorite paranormal romance authors.  Her jaguar shapeshifter heroes rev my engine and the taut suspense in her novels keeps me on the edge of my seat.  But we're not here today to talk about the paranormal.  The sneak peek we're bringing you today is from Juliana's new contemporary romance (color me excited!) and it brings readers one of my favorites:  a strong and sexy hockey playing hero.  Only, this time, not only does the hero play hockey but so does the heroine!   Take a peek...

When hockey phenom Billie-Jo Barker returns home and decides to play in the local Friday night hockey league, all hell breaks loose. Not because Billie's talent is in question, but because Billie is a woman. And though these are modern times, some of the local guys still have a problem letting a girl into their 'men's club.'

Soon, Billie is at the center of a small town battle of the sexes, with everyone choosing sides. Her sisters. The townsfolk. Her friends. And yet, the only person whose opinion she cares about doesn't seem to care much at all. Logan Forest, the man who broke her heart when she was eighteen and the man she now shares the bench with every Friday night.

She's got a lot to prove and though Billie Jo Barker scores on the ice, will this girl ever score with the man of her dreams?

“I’m just trying to look out for you, kid.”
            Something unraveled inside Billie. Something hot and urgent and big.  It swooshed through her like a tornado, filling her up until there was nothing to do but let it out.
            She took a step toward Logan and glared at him. The air crackled between them.  She felt it like an electric shot that went right through her.
Billie was Indignant.  Annoyed.  Pissed.
Kid?  Really?
            “I don’t need anyone to look out for me.  I’ve been doing just fine on my own for a long time now.”  She paused and tried to grab hold of the emotion inside her.  “I’ve dealt with sexism and small minds for most of my life.  They may have loosened their restrictions in the pro league in Sweden, but that doesn’t mean any of the women who played were welcomed with open arms.” 
            She ran an agitated hand through the tangled hair at her nape.  “I just,” it took a bit of effort to keep her voice calm.  “I just didn’t expect that kind of crap here.” She shook her head.  “I really didn’t, but if that’s the way the guys want to play, they’re stupid if they think it’s enough to stop me.”
            “I’m not done.”
            Logan arched a brow—one that Billie missed—but she was roaring ahead like a freight-train and nothing could stop her now.
            “I’m a big girl.”
            His brow arched a little higher and if she was paying attention she would have seen the slight lift to the edge of his mouth.  It was a sexy lift.
            A dangerous lift.
            “I can see that,” he replied softly.
            “I don’t need someone like you looking out for me.  Not on the ice or off of it either.”
            Her temper boiled over as everything from the night before hit her.  The damage to her car.  The Neanderthal attitudes.  Ed’s smirk from less than an hour ago.
            She leaned forward, so close she could count the long lashes that fringed his eyes.  Her heart sped up and the butterflies in her stomach kicked into overdrive.
            “And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a damn, kid!”
            “You said that.”
            Chest heaving, Billie’s eyes dropped to the pulse that beat at the base of Logan’s neck, and then her gaze drifted upward until she settled on his mouth.
            His incredible, sexy, wanton mouth.  An image of his lips sliding across her body brought a new batch of heat to her skin, but it was a heavy heat, one that settled between her legs in a slow, torturous throb.
            Was she insane?  Probably.  What other reason was there for what she did next?
            Billie took another step forward and Logan took one back, but the truck didn’t allow him to move further.  She stood on her toes, and sank her hands into the thick hair at his neck.  His subtle, clean scent filled her nostrils and it was the sexiest thing ever.  She leaned into him, her eyes never leaving his.
            And then she kissed him.
            Not a soft butterfly kiss. Not a tentative, getting-to-know-you kind of kiss either. But an aggressive, no-holds-barred kind of kiss.  Her mouth was open and she moved against him like she was starving. As if he was the only thing in the world that could feed her.
            His mouth was warm and he did nothing to stop her as her tongue plunged inside.  Her lips skated over his—she massaged his skull and held him in place.  God, he tasted like heaven—sweeter, hotter, and better than she remembered.
Kid?  No effing way. Billie withdrew her tongue and suckled on his bottom lip, her eyes open once more so she could watch him.  So he would know she was playing with him. 
So he would know that she was in control.

Offside will be available in digital format on October 1st from all major e-book retailers.

You can find more information about Juliana, her paranormal books, her indie contemporary, Offside and her upcoming (2013)  contemporary trilogy, The Bad Boys of Crystal Lake at her website.  Readers can also find Juliana at Facebook and Twitter.

Are you a fan of romances with sports heroes - or heroines?  What are some of your favorites?