Thursday, January 31, 2013

Coming Attractions

February is the month of love and romance and we have plenty of both planned for you right here at the Romance Dish!  Mark your calendars so you don't miss any of the fabulous authors, book reviews and prizes.  We do love to give away prizes! 

Andrea kicks off the month on Friday, February 1 with her New Releases.  There are a lot of fantastic books coming out next month so you won't want to miss this list!

Historical romance author Anne Gracie joins us Monday, February 4.  Anne's new book, The Autumn Bride, which kicks off her Chance Sisters serieswill be released February 5.  PJ says, this one's a keeper!

Make Your Reservations on Thursday, February 7 when Andrea and I share with you the books that we're most anticipating in March.

Trish Milburn brings us the latest news and reviews from the world of Young Adult romance with her Teen Menu on Sunday, February 10.

Meet debut author Maire Claremont when she blogs with us on Monday, February 11th.  Claremont's Victorian romance, The Dark Lady has been garnering great reviews.

Tawny Weber returns to the Romance Dish on Tuesday, February 12th.  Tawny has a new Harlequin Blaze series that focuses on strong, sexy Navy SEALS and the women who capture their hearts.  The second book in the series, A SEAL'S Surrender will be released February 19th.

Friday, February 15th brings authors Kim Law, Patrice Wilton and Cheryl Bolen to The Romance Dish for a Q&A.  These three authors are part of the new Kindle Serials, multi-part romances from

You'll want to be here Monday, February 18th when Avon debut author Jennifer McQuiston blogs with us.  PJ has been raving about Jennifer's upcoming historical romance, What Happens in Scotland!  

On Wednesday, February 20th, historical romance author Regan Walker joins us for an interview.  Regan has a Valentine's Day short story, The Shamrock & the Rose, out this month!

Anna Campbell returns with another Second Helping review on Sunday, February 24th.  This month, Anna's spotlight falls on Susan Mallery.

We'll have an interview with historical romance author, Jillian Hunter on Wednesday, February 27th.  Jillian brings readers another Boscastle story with The Mistress Memoirs: A Boscastle Affairs Novel, releasing on March 5th.

That's our lineup for February.  Hope you'll join us for what is sure to be a terrific month at The Romance Dish!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Manda Collins Winner

The winner of a copy of How to Entice an Earl by Manda Collins is:

Cerian Halford

Congratulations!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Teresa Medeiros Winner

The winner of an autographed copy of
The Temptation of Your Touch by Teresa Medeiros is:


Congratulations!  Please send your full name and mailing address to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Today's Special - - Sarah MacLean

My special guest today is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling historical romance author Sarah MacLean.  Sarah's newest book, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, the second book in her Rules of Scoundrels series, is one of the best books I've read in quite some time and features one of my all-time favorite romance couples.  If you haven't read any of Sarah's books yet, I strongly recommend you begin with this one.  It's brilliant!

Sarah was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me recently.  

Welcome, Sarah!  Congratulations on the release of your newest book!  Please tell our readers about the Rules of Scoundrels series and what they can expect from One Good Earl Deserves a Lover. (fabulous title!)

The Rules of Scoundrels series is centered on a pre-Victorian casino, The Fallen Angel. The Angel is widely believed to be the most scandalous, most exclusive club in London. It’s filled with excess and sin, and a member of the club can get anything he likes there. The four owners of the casino are Bourne, Cross, Temple & Chase—four fallen aristocrats, each exiled from society either by chance or by choice, and now royalty in the London underworld—where scoundrels rule.

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover is the second in the series and tells the story of Cross, the clever, controlled financier of the Angel, who has a carefully crafted reputation for wickedness that makes him the obvious mark for Lady Philippa Marbury, who is about to be married, and on a hunt for answers to questions no lady should ever be asking. When Pippa arrives in his rooms, Cross has to use all of his power to keep her at a distance, for fear of ruining them both.  

I adore Pippa and Cross!  They have become one of my all-time favorite romance couples. What one thing do you want readers to understand about these two?
I’m so happy you liked them, PJ! They’re incredibly special to me. I think the thing that struck me to be the most interesting about this book and this couple is this: In all my other books, I could imagine that in a different world . . . at a different time . . . the heroes and heroines might have been able to find happiness with someone else. In this book, however, Cross and Pippa are the only ones who are right for each other. They wouldn’t be able to find love if not now. Here. That was a powerful realization for me as I was writing the book.

It's a feeling that comes through in their story, Sarah.  I cannot imagine either of them with anyone else.  They are simply destined to be together.  
I’m fascinated with these heroes who live in the dark corners of London.  What is it about them that inspired you to tell their stories?

We all love a bad boy. I know I’ve loved my fair share of them! And we’ve all made the mistake of thinking that we can save a bad boy. (Not me, of course.) When I conceived of the Rules of Scoundrels series, I knew I wanted to write about bad boys, and I wanted to explore two things about this fantasy that we all love so much – first, how they become bad boys, and second, what it really would take for a woman to save them. Love couldn’t be the only answer. If I was going to really make the heroes of these books bad, and put them in dark corners with even darker characters, then I had to make their heroines strong. And that’s when the series really started to take shape.

Your heroines are among my favorites and Pippa is at the head of the line.  If you could step into the life of any romance heroine, who would you choose and why? 

See, this is a trick question . . . because the natural response would be to think of the hero I want to end up with and back myself into the heroine I’d like to trade places with. But invariably, that’s a bit of a problem . . . for example, I would sell my living soul for a lifetime with Hardy Cates from Lisa Kleypas’s Blue Eyed Devil, but I don’t really want to be Haven – I mean, that girl has some demons.

So I’m going to go with Jessica from Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. She’s clever and strong-willed and won’t take any of Dain’s early self-loathing. And she isn’t afraid to shoot a man for what she wants. Oh, and she ends up with Dain, who is, quite possibly, the most loving, doting husband and father ever. A qualifier: There is a time-traveling doctor in this story to take care of flus and, oh, I don’t know, scurvey and what not. Or no deal.

Jessica has been getting a lot of love around here this week!

We all have our favorite comfort reads.  What book (or author) do you turn to when you feel the need for some fictional comfort?

Judith McNaught’s Almost Heaven, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine and Eloisa James’s Pleasure for Pleasure.

Great choices!  These three all have places on my keeper shelves.  

We readers enjoy learning more about the authors who create our favorite stories.  What one thing would we be surprised to learn about you?

As I am obsessed with Twitter & Facebook, it feels like there isn’t much that readers would be surprised to know! That said, I think it would be surprising for readers to know that I always give my heroines some physical or character trait that I have in real life. Pippa, for example, has crooked fingertips. So do I. It’s true. Ask me to show you!

That's fascinating!  Now I'm going to be re-reading all of your books to see if I can find the traits.  ::grin:: 

Will you be attending any conferences this year where readers will have the opportunity to meet you?

As always, I’ll be at RWA (in Atlanta) and RT (in Kansas City), and this year I’ll also be at the Public Library Association conference in Indianapolis. This spring, I’ll be at events in LA, Las Vegas & New York, too – you can always check up on me on the tour page of my website.

What’s next?

Temple’s book! No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is the third book in the Rules of Scoundrels series. Temple, who is the opposite of quiet, perfect, cerebral Cross. Temple is all physical–a broken-nosed, bare-knuckle boxer who, aside from being massive, brutally intense and wickedly sexual, is widely believed to be a killer.

I can't wait to discover what you have in store for him!  

Thank you for answering all of my questions, Sarah.  It's always a pleasure to visit with you.  

You can find more information about Sarah and her books at her website (and enter her awesome release week giveaway).  You can also connect with Sarah at Twitter and Facebook.  

Readers, tell me:  If you could step into the life of any romance heroine, who would you choose and why?  

I'm giving away a copy of One Good Earl Deserves a Lover to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment on today's blog.  (open internationally to any country on's mailing list)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today's Special - - Manda Collins

We'd like to welcome Manda Collins as our special guest today.  Manda is celebrating the release today of How to Entice an Earl, the third book in her Ugly Ducklings trilogy.  All three of Manda's books have been garnering rave reviews, including a 5 star review from PJ for her second book, How to Romance a Rake and a RT Reviewers' Choice Awards nomination for her debut, How to Dance With a Duke.  If you haven't read Manda's books yet, now's a great time to start! 

You can find more information about Manda's books at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Welcome, Manda!

How to Push a Boundary
By Manda Collins

Since my first book, How to Dance with a Duke, opened with the heroine being forcibly kept out of a gentlemen only establishment, it should come as no surprise to you, gentle reader, that I harbor a deep dislike for institutions that discriminate against women. (And for that matter, anybody the proprietors might deem unworthy to pass through their hallowed doors.)

I think this probably goes back to the seething resentment in my pre-pubescent heart when I was, as a girl, not allowed to be an Altar Boy lo these many years ago. Of course now they’re called “Altar Servers” and girls are totally allowed. (Hence, the change from “boy” to “server.”)  But that was my first encounter with being denied something solely on the basis of a fact about myself I could not change.

Surprising to no one who recalls that women got the vote less than 100 years ago, the Regency Period was also less than accepting of women in places that were deemed only suitable for men.  Though it was perhaps freer than the Victorian period would be decades later, Regency England still endeavored to keep women—especially ladies—out of spots where the men in power thought they did not belong.

In my latest Ugly Ducklings story, How to Entice an Earl, Maddie runs into the same sort of nonsense when she desperately needs to visit a gaming hell for research purposes only and none of her male acquaintances will agree to take her. Because, as they reason, such places are not suitable for an unmarried young lady of gentle breeding. For someone as resourceful as Maddie, however, a little thing like a refusal is hardly going to stop her. All it takes is a bit of sibling blackmail…

As you may have guessed, I love reading about women who rattle the cage and buck the system and fight the power…and so on and so forth. One of my favorite heroines is Loretta Chase’s classic Lord of Scoundrels. In fact, pretty much all Loretta Chase heroines resist the roles society imposes on them.  Do you have a favorite “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” romance heroine? Do tell! Inquiring Minds Want to Know!

One commenter will win a copy of How to Entice an Earl! (Open 

Manda also has an interview today at  Drop by and leave a comment for another chance to win How to Entice an Earl.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today's Special - - Teresa Medeiros

It's my pleasure to welcome one of my favorite authors and people back to the blog today.  I first discovered Teresa Medeiros when I picked up a copy of her 1999 historical romance, Charming the Prince and I've had a non-stop love affair with her books ever since.  Many of them have honored places on my keeper shelf, including her newest release, The Temptation of Your Touch. (Check out Andrea's 5 star review here!)  Teresa is not only a successful author of immense talent but she's also one of the nicest, most charming and most genuine people I've had the opportunity to meet.  I hope you will join me in giving her a warm welcome to the Romance Dish.


Since I spent my last book (The Pleasure of Your Kiss) exploring the exotic pleasures of a Moroccan harem, I couldn’t wait to return to the misty shores of England for its sequel The Temptation of Your Touch.

Ever since I read The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt when I was only seven years old, classic Gothics have captured both my heart and my imagination. And what could be more deliciously Gothic than a haunted manor perched on the edge of the stormswept Cornwall cliffs, a mysterious portrait of a beautiful woman, a brooding master with a recently broken heart, and a tart-tongued housekeeper hiding some enticing mysteries of her own? (Of course, this being a Teresa Medeiros novel, I also managed to sneak in a disdainful cat named Sir Fluffytoes and a slightly deranged dog with an underbite named Piddles for all of the reasons you might suspect he was named Piddles.)

After indulging in the sensual excesses of the harem, I had so much fun exploring the Downton Abbey-esque passions simmering between master and housekeeper—a housekeeper who isn’t nearly as prim and proper as she’s pretending to be. (It’ll be fun to see if YOU can figure out which scenes I was writing when I nearly wore out my Downton Abbey soundtrack!)

Victoria Holt is also one of my personal role models because what could be more fitting for a writer than to die on a cruise in your late 80’s while researching another delicious romance?! 

So how many of you grew up reading Gothic novels? If you did, who was your favorite author? Victoria Holt? Mary Stewart? Phyllis A. Whitney? And what was YOUR favorite Victoria Holt novel of all time? (For me it’s a tie between On the Night of the Seventh Moon and Shadow of the Lynx!)  

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's blog will win an autographed copy of The Temptation of Your Touch.  (Open internationally)

Here's a late-breaking bulletin from Teresa:  The Temptation of Your Touch is coming out tomorrow and for the first time ever, both The Temptation of Your Touch and The Pleasure of Your Kiss will be enjoying a simultaneous release this week in Australia, New Zealand and the UK for the Kindle, Kobo and Apple e-readers.  (You can also find Charming the Prince, The Bride and the Beast, A Kiss to Remember and One Night of Scandal in those countries with more of my books to follow in 2013!)  

Connect with Teresa at her website, Facebook and Twitter.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guest Review - - That Night on Thistle Lane

That Night on Thistle Lane
By Carla Neggers
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: January 29, 2013

Carla Neggers returns to Knights Bridge, Massachusetts, for the second book in her Swift River Valley series. Librarian Phoebe O’Dunn is a sensible woman. The mystery of the hidden attic room in the Knights Bridge Library and the glamorous gowns it contains may stir her imagination but she resists the encouragement of her sister Maggie Sloan and her friend Olivia Frost to wear one and join them at a charity masquerade ball. But after Maggie (wearing the gown Grace Kelly wore in To Catch a Thief) and Olivia (wearing the gown Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) leave, the combination of wine and an Edwardian gown fit for a princess weakens Phoebe’s resistance. With a wig and a mask to complete her disguise, Phoebe dons the silk satin gown and sets out for the ball.

At the ball, this Cinderella meets not a prince, but a swashbuckler in black whom she calls D’Artagnan after the adventurer and swordsman who is the hero of the Dumas novels. Their dance is a scene from a romantic dream, but Phoebe, like a fairy tale princess, runs away before she is recognized. The last thing she expects is that her swashbuckler will turn up in Knights Bridge. The swashbuckler is Noah Kendrick, the billionaire genius who founded NAK, a high tech company that has recently gone public, leaving Noah at loose ends. He’s in Knights Bridge because his best friend and former NAK associate, Dylan McCaffrey, is there with his fiancée, Olivia Frost.

Although the initial attraction between Phoebe and Noah is strong, they are both wary of relationships. At twenty, Phoebe thought she was on her way to her own fairy tale ending, but the man she expected to marry jilted her mere days after her father died in an accident. Phoebe stopped believing in romance outside the covers of books and filled her life with her family and her work at the library. Dylan’s experience with women more interested in what his money can do for them than in him as a person has made him a skeptic in the romance department. Their mutual wariness is about all the wealthy entrepreneur from San Diego and the small-town librarian have in common. Yet neither can forget the moments they shared at the ball, and the more they see of one another, the steadier the flame of attraction burns.

Their romance plays out against a low-stakes mystery and a subplot involving Phoebe’s sister Maggie and her estranged husband Brandon. Knights Bridge is an appealing setting, and the family dynamics and community history add interest to the story.

Phoebe and Noah are likeable characters, but their relationship moves slowly. I enjoyed all the details about the dresses in the secret room, but I found the mystery more distraction than vital thread in the story. The beginning had a certain fairy tale appeal despite its clichés, but the development of Phoebe and Noah’s relationship seemed missing some essential ingredient. I found myself more engaged with the secondary romance. I liked Secrets of the Lost Summer, but I thought That Night on Thistle Lane was a weaker book. Still, I like Knights Bridge and its people enough to at least check out any other books in the series.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Review -- The Temptation of Your Touch

The Temptation of Your Touch
By Teresa Medeiros
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: January 29, 2013

Maximilian Burke, Earl of Dravenwood, is a misunderstood man. Yes, he has done some deplorable things—namely to his younger brother—but when one knows his whole story, one can sympathize with him on some level. I’m not saying that what he did was right. I’m only saying that being left at the altar by the woman he’d loved for most of his life for his own brother (who said bride had loved for most of her life) can make a man do things he wouldn’t typically do. Things like trying to keep them apart, and fighting a duel with someone who besmirched her name. That duel was the last straw for Max’s father, the duke, so it’s suggested that Max leave London for a little while until things blow over. He travels to one of their remote properties, Cadgwyck Manor, on the stormy coast in Cornwall...a place that is apparently inhabited by a beautiful ghost, the White Lady. The story of the ghost is so daunting that no one in the surrounding village will go anywhere near Cadgwyck Manor at night, as Max finds out the hard way.  

Housekeeper Anne Spencer and her band of misfit servants reside at Cadgwyck Manor. They’ve gone through several masters the last few years and are dismayed to discover that yet another one is about to descend upon their quiet lives. The former masters were easily dealt with, but after meeting the earl, Anne senses that he will be anything but easy to get rid of. She and the others usually spend their days searching for the hidden treasure of the Cadgwyck family and now they must do their best to make life impossible for Lord Dravenwood. They keep the place dusty and untidy while serving him bland food that even a dog couldn’t stomach. Anne quickly learns that she has met her match with the broodingly handsome Maximilian Burke.

The earl stood well over six feet but it wasn’t his height—or even the intimidating breadth of his shoulders beneath the shoulder-capes of his great coat—that was so imposing. It was his effortless command of the room and all who were in it. Another man might have looked ridiculous standing there with hat in hand and mud-caked boots, but Dravenwood looked more inclined to bellow “Off with their heads!” while the potential victims scurried away to fetch him an axe. 


His dark-lashed eyes were gray, as gray as the mist that swirled over the moors. Anne had always thought gray to be an ordinary color, but his eyes had the disconcerting habit of flashing like summer lightning when he was displeased. 

The greatest threat to them was the glint of intelligence in those eyes. He was not a man who missed much, and that, more than anything, could prove to be their downfall if they weren’t careful. When she had introduced herself, his gaze had flickered over Anne, taken her measure, then dismissed her for what she was—a menial, an underling, his inferior. He didn’t find her wanting; he simply found her beneath his notice. 

Which is exactly where she needed to stay.

It is no wonder that Teresa Medeiros’s books always hit the big-time lists and get starred reviews because her writing is exceptional and her stories are so compelling. The Temptation of Your Touch is the sequel to her best-selling The Pleasure of Your Kiss, which features Max’s brother, Ashton, and the woman who came between them, Clarinda. In The Temptation of Your Touch, Max is dealing with the emotion and consequences of his actions toward Ash and Clarinda and his emerging fascination with both the White Lady and his housekeeper. Anne is prim and proper and has very good reason for being so. She holds her cards close to her chest, much like her new master. Both Anne and Max have been hurt after offering their hearts to someone and are reluctant to do so again and risk more heartbreak. And yet, they soon realize that taking a chance on the other may be worth the risk.

Anne gazed into Dravenwood’s eyes, mesmerized by their crystalline clarity. It was as if he was seeing her...truly seeing her for the very first time. His regard was like the most rare and costly of gifts, giving her back something she had believed to be forever lost. 


One more thing I love about this book is that Anne is described as having a “winsome gap” between her two front teeth. That endeared me to her right away as my husband and two kids have winsome gaps between their front teeth, too. J 

Teresa Medeiros may only release one book a year, but she certainly makes it worth the wait. And I have to add that the cover of this book fits the story perfectly! If you enjoy tender, beautifully-written historical romance with a gothic feel and sprinkled with humor, do yourself a favor and pick up The Temptation of Your Touch. I can’t recommend it enough!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Classic Wager!

by Anna Campbell

As many of you know, I'm a diehard Loretta Chase fan. I think she conveys the wit and the elegance of the Regency better than nearly any other writer around at the moment. And she's one of the few modern writers who makes me think of the greatness of Georgette Heyer.  There's a similar lightness of touch and sureness with the emotions, even if contained beneath properly Regency decorum.

I've already reviewed three of Loretta's wonderful books here, raves every one. LAST NIGHT'S SCANDAL, the classic LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and one of my favorite romances ever MR. IMPOSSIBLE featuring the gorgeous Rupert Carsington.

Before she began writing full-length Regency historicals brimming with sensuality and passion, Loretta had a career writing trad Regencies. Books in this genre are usually described as comedies of manners, but I don't think that nearly does justice to the half dozen lovely trad Regencies that Loretta wrote.

I have two particular favorites from among these early LCs. One is THE SANDALWOOD PRINCESS, a RITA winner from 1991, and the book I'm going to talk about today, the sublime KNAVES' WAGER from 1990.  Later this year, I'll swing by and share my thoughts about THE SANDALWOOD PRINCESS which is a humdinger (suppose that basically encompasses my review!).

One of the things prompting this review is that Loretta's early books have just been re-released at a very competitive price of $2.99 as e-books. Here's the link for KNAVES' WAGER:

By the way, for a bit of fun, here's the original cover for KNAVES' WAGER, the edition that just kept me up well into the small hours, no matter how often I've read it (and I must have read it at least 20 times). A very different feel to the new cover!

One of the astonishing things about KNAVES' WAGER is quite how much story Loretta manages to pack into a short book. It's only 234 pages all up which is shorter than your average SuperRomance, although having said that, the print in my edition is quite small as are the margins. Still, it's a far cry from the 400 pages of the normal historical romance!

We get the stormy, passionate romance between the ton's Ice Queen, Mrs. Lilith Davenant, and notorious rake Julian Wyndhurst, the Marquess of Brandon. We also get a really sweet secondary romance between Lilith's niece Cecily Glenwood and Lord Robin Downs, Brandon's wayward nephew. In fact, it was because of this secondary romance that I turned to this book at this particular time. The third book in the Sons of Sin series has a secondary romance and I wanted to see how Loretta wove the two stories together here. Of course, I became utterly engrossed in the story and ended up paying no attention to anything technical at all! We also get a vivid crowd of secondary characters including Beau Brummell.

Against her better instincts, widow Lilith Davenant becomes engaged to rising political star (and prosy bore) Sir Thomas Bexley. Lilith is a woman of unsullied reputation who is considered something of a dragon when she launches her nieces upon society. Much to her astonishment, she attracts the notice of the dashing and dissolute Lord Brandon. Even more to her astonishment, Lilith who found no joy in her short marriage, finds herself attracted to the marquess. Not only is she engaged, she can't bring herself to trust this attractive, infamous man.

And she's right not to trust him. Little does she know that Julian has ulterior motives for his seduction of the virtuous widow. Julian's nephew is threatening to marry his mistress, the courtesan Elise, and Brandon and Elise have set up a wager where she will abandon Robin if Lilith comes to Brandon's bed.

So we have the classic Regency set-up of virtuous woman and bad boy who fall in love much against their will and their better judgement. Meanwhile, Cecily, who is far from the pretty airhead that people consider her, schemes both to get her aunt and Brandon together and to find her own happiness with Robin. Cecily was the inspiration for Cassie in MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION, if any of you have read that book. I love the twist that the sweet little debutante is actually the smartest player in the game.

Because this is a trad, there are no explicit love scenes but believe me, sexual tension bristles when Lilith and Brandon are together and there are some absolutely lovely kissing scenes. And you'll love the witty dialogue between these two clever, wary people who are falling in love in spite of themselves. 

Seriously this is a treat, even if you think trad Regencies are too staid for you. It's funny and moving and sexy and has one of the loveliest proposal scenes that I've ever read. It's one of those books that makes you laugh and cry and sigh with that lovely romantic satisfaction when you get to the last page. Highly recommended and at $2.99, it's an absolute steal!

So are you a trad Regency fan? I've noticed that they've had a bit of a resurgence in digital publishing. What's your favorite bad boy/good girl historical romance? Is this a theme that appeals to you?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review - - Blind Man's Bluff

Blind Man's Bluff
A Stone Gap Mountain Novel
By Kay Stockham
Self-Published (paperback and digital)
October 5, 2013

Being a SEAL isn't what Ian MacGregor does.  It's who he is.  What defines him as a person.  Protect and serve; it's as natural to him as breathing. Or, it was.  Until he accompanied his brother Duncan's security team into Mexico to rescue a kidnapped girl.  Now, medically discharged from the military, Ian is bitter, enraged, scared as hell...and blind.  He's going to drink himself into oblivion if Duncan can't find someone to teach Ian how to cope with his new reality.  But Duncan doesn't know Ian's secret:  that he's a severely claustrophobic man living in perpetual darkness. How in the world can anyone help him learn to live with that?

Emma Wyatt knows what it's like to live in a world of darkness.  Blinded at the age of fourteen, in the same auto accident that took her mother's life, she knows  intimately the emotions and the fears that are bombarding Ian.  Emma, however, has had fourteen years to learn how to live a full and productive, if not yet independent, life. She has plans to change that and the money Duncan offers her to move into Ian's mountain estate and tutor him will enable her to live on her own, open a kennel and train service dogs full-time; basically, to make all her dreams come true.

Getting Ian to trust her is no easy task and the battle of wills between the two ebbs and flows while mutual desire simmers under the surface.  Ian is determined to fight her at every step but Emma is stronger than she seems.  Will she be able to help him step back from the brink, regain his confidence and find a new purpose in life?  Will they open their hearts to the possibility of love?  Will Ian be able to protect her when it becomes apparent that someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep them apart or will he set her free to find love and protection in the arms of someone who lives in the light?

I discovered Kay Stockham in 2008 when I read her Harlequin Superromance, A Christmas to Remember.  I couldn't put it down and immediately began searching out her back list as soon as I turned the last page.  Stockham has a talent for developing complex characters and placing them in situations for which there are no easy resolutions.  This is an author who is not afraid to tackle the tough topics.  She delves deeply into characters' hearts and emotions, taking the reader along for the ride.  Her stories are compelling and always tug at my heartstrings, with situations that make me laugh and cry and endings that leave me deeply satisfied.  There's a reason I happily fork over my money for any book she writes.

Blind Man's Bluff kicks off Stockham's new Stone Gap Mountain series. (There's also a novella, "Secrets of a Summer Night" that tells Emma's sister's story.) Blind Man's Bluff is a riveting story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end, not only because of Emma and Ian but because of the sub-plots and richly populated cast of secondary characters as well.  There are Emma's complicated relationships with her father and sister, a beloved uncle facing the end of his life and a long-held family secret that shakes the foundation of everything Emma has spent her life believing to be true.  We are also introduced to Emma's "Besties," women with whom she has been best friends since first grade and whose stories I hope we'll be reading in future books.  Then there are the intriguing men who have Ian's back:  Duncan, Owen and Quinn.  There are some stories there, waiting to be told and I sincerely hope we'll be seeing much more of all three!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guest Review - - Beach House No. 9

Beach House No. 9
By Christie Ridgway
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: January 29, 2013


Jane Pearson has been hired by Griffin Lowell’s agent to see that Lowell, a war correspondent, completes the memoir based on his year embedded with U. S. forces in Afghanistan. When the journalist ignores repeated phone calls from Jane, she decides to beard the recluse in his Crescent Cove beach house. Expecting a man who has withdrawn to brood, Jane is surprised to find Beach House No. 9 the setting for an on-going party where the booze is flowing freely, bikini-clad beauties abound, and Griffin Lowell is more interested in another bottle of beer and dangerous jumps off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean than in meeting a book deadline that is only weeks away.

Griffin Lowell has spent his time since his return from Afghanistan using alcohol and loud music and mindless card games to block out his memories and keep his emotions numbed. The last thing he wants is this prim librarian type with a bad-girl mouth nagging him about the book he can’t bring himself to write and awakening feelings he’s determined to keep contained. But every time Griffin thinks he has driven her off, she pops up again.

Jane is determined to succeed in her assignment to help Griffin Lowell meet his contractual obligations. After her professional relationship with bestselling author Ian Stone turned personal and ended with Jane betrayed and broken hearted, she owes it to herself and her career to prove she can succeed. Maybe then she can silence the voice of her scientist father echoing from her past, reminding her that she is an incompetent, emotional mess. But keeping one step ahead of Griffin’s efforts to get rid of her is no easy task, and convincing herself that lust is all she feels for the troubled Griffin proves even more difficult.

The conflict between Jane and Griffin is equal parts humor and poignancy. The reader is convinced that these two stubborn people burdened with baggage from their pasts belong together, and watching them reach this conclusion is fun. A strong cast of secondary characters gives the central story greater dimension. All the characters from a drama queen teen to a curmudgeonly Pulitzer Prize-winning neighbor to a wimpy kid grown into a hot firefighter add their own appeal. Hints about a connection between beach house landlady Skye and Griffin’s photojournalist, adrenaline junkie twin brother ensure interest in the series continues.

The subplot of Tess’s marriage in trouble rivals the main story for interest. It was this that kept the book a four-star read for me. At times I found myself more engaged with Tess and David’s story, more eager to know what had created the change in David, than I was in what was going on between Jane and Griffin.

If you’ve read Ridgway before, you won’t be surprised at the mix of heat and heart in this book. (There’s a storeroom scene that is a gem.) If you have never read Ridgway, Beach House No. 9 is an entertaining introduction. With the prequel novella, “Beach House Beginnings,” offered for free download at the usual outlets, and this first book to be quickly followed by Bungalow Nights (February 26) and The Love Shack (March 26), the Beach House No. 9 series is a great way to include some California sunshine with your particular winter mix.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Seasonal Shake-Ups

As I write this, it's a glorious Sunday afternoon; sunny, clear blue sky and about 65 degrees.  The dogs and I have just returned from a long walk - our first ramble around the neighborhood after a long week of cold temperatures and steady rain.  While it may feel like Spring today, one look at the bare trees and brown grass lets you know that the Earth is still slumbering, with it's re-birth weeks away.  However, that doesn't stop me from thinking about it - about longer days, warmer weather, colorful fields of flowers; the changes of the seasons.

When the seasons change, I get the itch to change other things as well.  Things like bed linens and paint colors.  I haunt my local Tuesday Morning store and Pinterest boards looking for ideas. Sometimes, a simple change - like new towels, candles or a vase - is all it takes to bring a freshness to my humble abode.  Last year, I re-painted the front doors and it totally changed the outside feel of the house.  Every now and then, I get the urge to move furniture around and create an entirely new look inside my house.  The dogs make themselves scarce during those sessions.  Smart dogs.

A local furniture store had a fantastic Veterans Day sale in November and I bought a beautiful wood entertainment center for my living room. I love it and can change it up each season - or whenever I get the urge - by rotating the items I put in its nooks.  It's an easy, low cost way to satisfy my desire for change.

A friend uses throw pillows to brighten up the rooms in her house.  Whenever a room starts to feel "stale," she drops by her local fabric store for different material and makes covers for the pillows.  Voilà!  A fresh, new look without having to break the bank!

Right now, I'm feeling the need for the green of Spring.  A trip to my local home furnishings superstore may be in order.  I love to browse their silk plants and trees.  I do grow live plants in the yard during the warm months of the year but, as any live plant that has had the misfortune of being delivered to my home will tell you, I do much better with silk. ;-)

Do seasonal changes give you the urge to shake things up within your home?  Are your changes large scale or small?  

Do you have different sets of bed linens and towels for winter and summer?  I have a friend who has a different set for each season of the year!  

How do you bring the "green of Spring" into your mid-Winter life?  Any tips for economical ways to brighten up the house and make it seem fresh and new?

While I'm in the mood to change things up, what about our on-line home?  Any suggestions for sprucing things up here at the Romance Dish?  New features you'd like to see?  Changes to existing features?  Share your ideas while I'm in a "furniture moving" mood!