Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coming Attractions

It's here!  It's here! My favorite month of the year! December will arrive tomorrow and this Christmas elf couldn't be happier. My tree is up and decorated, its lights shining brightly in the night, it's branches cradling beloved ornaments that tell the story of my life. Presents (not all, but many) are wrapped and displayed beneath the tree and Christmas cards are patiently waiting for the personal notes I write in each before winging their way to friends far and near. Delicious aromas will be wafting from my kitchen over the next three weeks as I make goodies to be shared throughout the month and shipped to family far from home. And, just for me, a stack of books and novellas waits to bring me hours of reading pleasure and happy ever afters with a holiday flair. Here at TRD, we'll be doing our best to bring you special guests, book reviews, a holiday recipe or two and some surprise giveaways to bring happiness to your holiday month! So whichever holidays you celebrate, we hope you'll share the joy of your December with us here at The Romance Dish.

Vanessa Kelly kicks off the month on Monday, December 1st with a blog about Tall, Dark and Royal, the newest story in her The Renegade Royals series. Fans of the series will be delighted with this novella that tells the story of Dominic and Chloe. 

Wednesday, December 3rd brings a return visit from one of our favorite Aussies, Kandy Shepherd. A Diamond in Her Stocking, the third book in her Dolphin Bay series from Harlequin Romance releases on December 1st. It brings a heartwarming romance along with the sun, sand and surf of the warm Australian coast. 

On Thursday, December 4th, PJ turns back the clock with a Throwback Thursday review of a highly anticipated 2009 book from one of her favorite authors plus a reunion of many favorite characters in a newly released epilogue novella. 

Andrea brings us her list of New Releases for December on Friday, December 5th. You'll want to make note of all the titles you'll be buying with those gift cards under your Christmas tree!

Allie Burton joins us with a guest blog on Tuesday, December 9th. Atlantis Glacial Tides, the 5th book in her Lost Daughters of Atlantis series is due to be published on December 4th. 

On Tuesday, December 16th, we host Katie Lane's blog tour for her new book, The Last Cowboy in Texas, due to be released December 16th.

Don't miss Anna Campbell's farewell post on Wednesday, December 24th. After five years of bringing us her monthly Second Helping reviews, Anna is "hanging up her ballet slippers" (as she says). We are deeply grateful for her many contributions to TRD and wish her all the best in her future adventures...which we hope will include writing many, many books!  

The Dishes are taking a break to enjoy the holidays with our families from December 25 - 31 but we're already working hard to make 2015 another terrific year here at TRD. We hope you'll join us! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gwen Jones Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday to check out Gwen Jones' blog.
The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of 
Gwen's new book, The Laws of Seduction is:


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

Review - - Twice Tempted

A Drake’s Rakes Novel
Author: Eileen Dreyer
Publisher:  Grand Central
Release Date: November 25, 2014

This is the first book by Eileen Dreyer I’ve ever read. When PJ offered me the ARC of Twice Tempted, I was very excited to read it because I’d head good things about her books, and the premise of this story sounded great.  While there were a few aspects of the book I liked, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped I would.

Twice Tempted is the story of Alex Knight, Lord Whitmore, and Fiona Ferguson. Alex is a member of Rake’s Drakes, a group of aristocrats who are secretly covert agents for the Crown. Years ago, Alex saved Fiona and her twin sister Mairead from life on the streets and delivered them to the safety of their grandfather’s home. Or so he thought. Little did Alex know that the Ferguson girls’ grandfather was a cold, harsh man more concerned with reputation and appearance then their well-being, and would throw them back out on the street at the first opportunity.  Once Alex finds out, he’s determined to find Fiona and her sister and help them take their rightful place in society. However, fate intervenes and instead, Fiona and Alex get caught up in a complicated web of secrets, lies, murder, and treason.

Fiona Ferguson is a woman who seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Charged with the care of  Mairead from a young age, she has become stoic, independent, and fierce, and protective. Through bitter experiences from her past, she learns to rely and trust no one.  While Fiona has indeed been tested enough for ten lifetimes, and her strength and determination is incredibly admirable, her character frustrated me at times. Her flight or flight response seems perpetually set to flight. Every time an obstacle is encountered, her instinct is to run away and start over, instead of making the hard decisions and having the hard conversations to deal with the issue. Fiona never trusts Alex’s feelings, and keeps chalking it up to his feelings of honor and duty.  In fact, her choice to run one last time was especially maddening because it was SO self-sacrificing that it bordered on martyrdom.  Her rationale was that she loved Alex too much to make him choose between her and his father, so she and Mairead were going to disappear to spare him that agonizing choice.  While noble on the surface, added to a litany of similar thoughts and actions, it became way too much. For some reason, she also keeps beating herself up for what she’s done in her past, as if it were all her responsibility and all within her control. Many would consider what she did to survive and protect her sister admirable, but Fiona thinks herself inadequate and unworthy of the love of a good man because of her “failures”.  However, I will say that I really enjoyed the relationship between the sisters, and truly do admire the kindness and patience Fiona exhibits in dealing with Mairead, whose quirks and idiosyncrasies stem from a form of autism and can make her challenging to manage.

From the beginning, Alex Knight is a man haunted by demons from his past. He has incredibly high expectations of himself and like Fiona, beats himself up for every perceived failure and shortcoming. I never fully understood why he seemed compelled to take on everyone’s problem as his own and blame himself every time something went wrong, even when it was clearly out of his control.  There were moments I wanted to shake him and tell him to get over himself, and to give himself a break already.  I also found his near-worship of Fiona a bit disconcerting. He clearly has held a torch for Fiona for quite some time, but he seems to have put her on a pedestal and think she can do no wrong.  That is a relationship dynamic I have trouble dealing with.  However, I do like that he is honorable and brave, and determined to protect Fiona and Mairead no matter what the costs. One of my favorite parts of the book is the relationship between Alex an d his father, Sir Joseph. The father/son dynamic was really wonderfully done.

I did like the suspense and mystery aspect of the book, and Dreyer does a great job of depicting the slums and rookeries of London. I also really enjoyed the wide cast of secondary characters, including street urchin Lennie and Alex’s friend Chuffy, who ends up having a sweet secondary romance with Mairead. In fact, sad to say, I ended up liking the Chuffy/Mairead relationship better than Alex and Fiona’s.

While Eileen Dreyer’s books and stories appeal to many, Twice Tempted definitely did not work for me. I didn’t connect to the couple, and while the plot was good, I wasn’t wowed by the writing. I may give her books another chance in the future, but given what I’ve read so far, I don’t have high hopes.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Today's Special - - Gwen Jones

Photo by Andrew Chattaway
Gwen Jones is a mentor and instructor in Western Connecticut State University’s Master in Creative and Professional Writing program, and an Assistant Professor of English at Mercer County College, in West Windsor, NJ. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, The Kelsey Review, and The Connecticut River Review, and she is the author of the HarperCollins Avon FRENCH KISS series, Wanted: WifeKiss Me, Captain, and The Laws of Seduction. A writer of women’s fiction and romance, she lives with her husband, Frank, near Trenton, New Jersey.

Visit my website – Gwen Jones Writes
Like me on Facebook - gwenjoneswrites
Follow me on Twitter – gwenjones25
Buy my books!  - See all titles

Welcome, Gwen!

Why Alpha Males Need Strong Women

            One of the basic tenets of romance concerns the hero and heroine overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to fall in love. It doesn’t matter if he is a detective, a duke or a ditchdigger—or if she’s a countess or a country bumpkin or a feminist attorney. Their problems can be of class differences or underlying neuroses or even as simple as she hates men who wear Panama hats. Whatever the bone of contention, it has to forceful enough to cause night sweats and rashes, yet still won’t stop them from crossing mighty rivers or hacking through buffalo grass to get to each other. And nine times out of ten, it’ll be the hero doing the hacking because as sexist as that sounds, most romance readers still like their men physically stronger than they are.

            All right…don’t get your knickers in a twist. There’s reasons for that, and if you’ll just calm down a second I’ll tell you what they are. First off, romance heroines are strong women. That’s right–tough, inside and out. They’re also smart enough to spot a sniveler a hundred yards off. So of course – and here’s the logic – a strong and smart woman is not going to be looking for a man weaker than her. It just wouldn’t make sense, because if he was, she’d barely give him the time of day. She’ll be looking for her equal at least, but more often than not, she’s looking for someone to knock her off her feet. He can’t be anything less than an Alpha Male, someone powerful, smoldering, unrepentant. And looks alone aren’t enough, because our savvy heroine can get anyone she wants with a crook of her little finger. Her man, in any form he takes, has to be everything she’s looking for plus. Plus equaling that inimitable quality only she can define, and recognize the moment she meets him.  Because when she collides with someone who can actually best her, it’s such a mind-blower she’s instantly intrigued, whether for good or for bad, for love or for hate. And from there, the chase begins.

            I can hear you saying, but it’s not real. Most men have foibles, shortcomings, are far from perfect. But this isn’t the real world, dahlings–this is fantasy. Yet in so many ways, it isn’t. Fact or fiction, real life or not, don’t we all realize something in our object of affection that no one else can? Aren’t we privy to insider info maintained for our eyes only? Of course we are. Because only when we’re in love do we open up our hearts, to share the things no one else can see, to an enraptured audience of one. Who would want it any other way?

            Ah, amor!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Readers, do you enjoy strong heroines and even stronger heroes? Who are some of your favorites?

Have you read any Avon Impulse titles yet?

One randomly chosen person will receive a print copy of 
The Laws of Seduction.
 (U.S. addresses only)

When Rex Renaud, the COO of Mercier Shipping, is arrested for a crime he didn't commit, he knows he'll need a miracle to clear his name … and sassy lawyer Charlotte Andreko is the perfect woman for the job. Charlotte has built her career defending pro bono clients against womanizers like Rex Renaud, and she'd much rather let him sweat it out in a jail cell than defend him in court. Yet Rex swears he's been set up, and when he offers her a shocking sum of money in exchange for her legal counsel, the financial security is too tempting to resist. The court dubs Rex a serious flight risk—how many people have their own jet?—and he's released on one condition: Charlotte's his new jailer, and he's stuck with her until his arraignment. But when a bomb threat sends Rex and Charlotte on the run, neither is prepared for the explosive chemistry and red-hot passion that flare between them as they hunt for the truth about his arrest. - See more at:

Buy Links

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review - - Last Chance Family

Last Chance Family
By Hope Ramsay
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central)
Release Date: November 25, 2014

A gambler by profession, Mike Taggart has been on his own since before he turned eighteen when he ran away from an alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, but he has always felt guilty that his leaving left his younger half-sister, Angie, with no defender. Now Angie is dead, the victim of Chicago street violence, and Mike has become the guardian of Angie’s five-year-old daughter Rainbow and Rainbow’s inseparable companion, a cat named Tigger. Mike has traced his half-brother, Timmy, whom he hasn’t seen since Mike was five and Timmy was three, to Last Chance, South Carolina. Mike is willing to support Rainbow financially, but he wants a better life for her than she will have in Vegas as the ward of a poker player, even a winning one. He believes Timmy, now the Reverend Timothy Lake, pastor of Last Chance’s United Methodist Church, can give the child the life Mike wants for her.

Dr. Charlene Polk is an assistant veterinarian and a member of a prominent Last Chance family. With thirty in her rear view window, Charlene is more than ready to be a wife and mother, but she has a history of choosing the wrong man. Her latest crush is her boss, a sweet, good-looking man who is uninterested in romance with Charlene or with any other woman. She meets Mike and Rainbow when they show up with a sneezing Tigger at the animal clinic where she works. She wants nothing to do with Mike, or so she tells herself after labeling him a self-centered bad boy, but in the lonely, hurting, mixed-race Rainbow, Charlene sees not just a child in need of love but a means to redeem the greatest mistake of Charlene’s life.

Mike is happy to see Charlene and Rainbow bond. If he can only get Charlene and Tim together, they can be the family Rainbow needs. Mike thinks he can ignore his own attraction to Charlene. But throw three kittens, a bachelor auction, a matchmaker’s ambiguous message, and Charlene’s controlling, bigoted parents into the mix, and things get really complicated. It takes a crisis for Mike and Charlene to realize they are Rainbow’s best chance at building a new Last Chance family.

This book is the eighth in Hope Ramsay’s Last Chance series. Last Chance, with its Southern accents, more than its share of eccentrics, busy church ladies, and a steady flow of gossip, mostly benevolent, has a familiar feel to me. I have enjoyed my visits to this small town, and the new one has the humor and heartwarming quality that have characterized the series—even if Golfing for God fails to be a significant factor in this one. Mike and Charlene are appealing characters—unconsciously funny, vulnerable, and genuinely likeable--and Rainbow will touch readers’ hearts.

If you are a fan of the contemporary small-town romance, you should certainly add the Last Chance books to your reading list. Last Chance Family works well as a standalone, but I’m betting that if you read it, you will want more of the town’s stories. I read somewhere that this was the last book in the series, but book #9, Last Chance Hero, is set for a June 30 release. It features Ross Gardiner, fire chief, and Sabina Grey, antique store owner, both of whom have minor roles in Last Chance Family. I’m happy that I’ll have another chance to visit Last Chance.      


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review - - Burn for Me

Burn For Me
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 28, 2014

As a longtime fan of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels urban fantasy series, I was excited to see that the husband-and-wife writing team were venturing into paranormal romance.  The Kate Daniels books have strong romantic elements and great sexual tension, so I was expecting the same, only more, here.

While I enjoyed Burn for Me thoroughly, it didn’t live up to that expectation.  First let’s look at the pluses.  It’s set in a world where science has triggered magical abilities, which have become the key to social and political power.  The writing is crisp and clean, and the plot moves right along.

The cast of characters is great.  The heroine is private investigator Nevada Baylor, who has a magical ability she has good reason not to disclose.  The hero, Connor “Mad” Rogan, is a telekinetic of astounding ability, a military veteran who has more or less withdrawn from the world until a family member in need pulls him into the same case Nevada is pursuing.

Nevada doesn’t want the case.  She knows she doesn’t have the magical mojo to stand up to a top-level magical arsonist, let alone capture him alive.  The corporation who forced her to take the case knows it, too, but they don’t want to offend the arsonist’s powerful, magical family by refusing.  Assigning the job to someone with Nevada’s excellent success rate will, even when she fails, get the corporation off the hook.  The fact that they own the mortgage and the business name of Nevada’s agency, which supports her entire family, gives them the leverage they need to force her onto the case.  The fact that she’s unlikely to survive is, as they see it, an unfortunate cost of doing business.

The family includes a number of interesting characters, and they are as prone to clash one minute and close ranks the next as any other family.  They’re none to keen on seeing Rogan join the mix because of his unfortunate first encounter with Nevada.

Rogan is also pursuing the arsonist in an effort to save the man’s accomplice, Rogan’s young cousin.  He initially sees Nevada as both a threat to his goal and a possible source of information.  The attraction between them is immediate and intense and, on Nevada’s side, unwelcome.  The sooner she sees the last of him, she believes, the better.  But Rogan may be her key to surviving this case, so she reluctantly joins forces with him.

The mystery, the chase to capture the arsonist alive, and the push/pull between Nevada and Rogan are all well done.  So what didn’t satisfy me about it?  For starters, Nevada and Rogan don’t meet until page 89 (out of 382).  In an urban fantasy, that’s not a big problem, but I don’t think readers expect the heroine and heroine to spend the first 20-plus percent or so of a romance novel not only apart but not concerned with each other or really aware of each other.

The ending was satisfying, though readers who want one couple per book may not like it as much.  It’s clear that this is the start of a series featuring Nevada and Rogan. 

In rating the book, I tried to take all of this into account.  Burn for Me skates the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance with very strong romantic elements but is, because of the way the story is constructed, really a shade more urban fantasy than romance. If the label on the spine said urban fantasy, I would give this book a 5.  As a romance, because the balance of the plot elements, I’d give it a 3.  So I’ve compromised with a 4.

~Nancy Northcott

A former attorney who never outgrew her love of comic books, science fiction and fantasy, Nancy left the legal profession to pursue her dreams of creating her own action adventure stories.  Check out her terrific contemporary romances set within a fantasy world in present-day Georgia. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Top 10!

by Anna Campbell

If any of you read my review of BLACK SHEEP and ARABELLA by Georgette Heyer last month, you'll know that I'm hanging up my ballet slippers here on Christmas Eve and going off to seek new pastures!

Before I go, I want to do a round-up of some favorites that I've reviewed over the last five years - although basically anything I've talked about here, I've loved. That was part of the column's raison d'etre.

So these are the really special books that stuck in my memory. By the way, the order doesn't indicate anything except that there are 10 books on this list! They're all winners in my opinion!

I thought I'd start with some mystery/romance combos. This genre has become my reading of choice over the last few years, partly because of recommendations from readers here. Thank you!

The first is the Amelia Peabody series from the late, great Elizabeth Peters. I've been eking out this wonderful series for the last few years - I've got three to go.

These books are funny and quirky and full of information about Ancient Egypt. They also feature a string of fabulous romances, starting with the opinionated Amelia and her beloved Emerson, "the greatest Egyptologist of this or any age." There's a long and very passionate relationship spread across several books, featuring Amelia's dashing and enigmatic son, Ramses, who makes a wonderful romantic hero.

Next I'd like to mention the charming Daisy Dalrymple  mysteries by Carola Dunn. These are set in the 1920s and they're absolutely delightful. You'll so enjoy the impetuous Daisy's adventures and especially her romance with police Inspector Alec Fletcher.

Whatever you do, try this next recommendation if you haven't already. I discovered Julia Spencer-Fleming's fabulous Claire Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries through this site, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I think they're just extraordinary. Romantic and suspenseful and atmospheric and beautifully written, I can't recommend these books featuring a vicar and the local police chief of a small town in upstate New York highly enough. Start with IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, and I bet you're ordering the rest straightaway! I've recommended these to friends high and low and everybody turns into a convert!

If you're regulars, you'll know that I've been on a bit of a Nora Roberts kick lately. I particularly like her stand-alone romantic suspense books and of those, my favorite is THE WITNESS. This features a geeky and very appealing heroine who witnesses a Russian mafia murder as a teenager and spends the rest of her life trying to stay alive. What happens when she falls in love, much against her better instincts, with the local police chief of the town she's chosen as her latest bolthole? If she stays, she risks discovery. If she leaves, she'll break her heart. Wonderful characters and writing and a nail-biting situation. NORTHERN LIGHTS was another favorite!

One of the things I wanted to do when I started here was talk about category romance. Some of the best stories out there are series books and I was keen to share some of my favorite writers with you. I've read some wonderful category romances in the last five years, but I thought I'd pick out three particularly memorable stories from authors who never fail me.

The first is A WEDDING AT LEOPARD TREE LODGE by Liz Fielding. Liz Fielding is an absolutely exquisite writer whose books always make me laugh and cry and then sigh with joy at the end. A WEDDING AT LEOPARD TREE LODGE is about finding love where you least expect it and gathering the courage to risk everything to gain happiness. Highly recommended.

The next book on my top 10 is Aussie author Sarah Mayberry's HOT ISLAND NIGHTS. Another one to make you laugh and cry - and man, is it sexy! There's a fantastic sequel called HER BEST WORST MISTAKE that I think might be even hotter. Well worth checking out. Sarah has such a wonderful understanding of the human heart, and her characters are so real, you expect them to pop around for a cup of tea after you've finished reading the book!

My final category recommendation is Sarah Morgan's RITA-Award winning DOUKAKIS'S APPRENTICE. This one's such fun. It takes the tried and true Harlequin premise of the heroine falling in love with the guy who makes a hostile takeover of her father's ailing business, and then turns it on its head. Full of surprises and laughs and lovely emotion. All of Sarah's books are good, but this one really lingers in my memory as a classic.

My list wouldn't be complete without a couple of historical romances - you knew they were coming up, didn't you?

The first one is among my all time faves ever - Loretta Chase's MR. IMPOSSIBLE. People regularly pick her wonderful LORD OF SCOUNDRELS (also reviewed on this site) as one of the best romances ever written, but for me, there's just a tad extra goodness in MR. IMPOSSIBLE. It's funny, it's sweet, it's steamy, it's clever, and I lay good money that you'll fall in love with Rupert Carsington, the hero.

The next writer on my list is Liz Carlyle who I think would currently be my favorite historical writer. Picking a book of hers to recommend was really difficult, so I thought I'd go with the first one of hers I read, the one that started the addiction. THE DEVIL TO PAY is another book full of unexpected takes on a tried and true formula, a feisty heroine making a rake account for his myriad sins. One of the many things I love about Liz's books is that they create such a rich world. It's wonderful revisitng characters from earlier stories and seeing how the various strands of the series plots intersect and enrich the current book.And don't you love that cover?

My last choice is one of the all-time great romances, historical or otherwise. Laura Kinsale's immortal FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. This is unlike any other book I've ever read and its intensity is amazing. Absolutely unforgettable! If anyone ever tries to tell you that romance is trivial and brainless, steer them in the direction of this book. Actually, don't - it's too good for the naysayers! It's a story of redemption and risk and forbidden love triumphing against impossible odds. A masterpiece.

So that's my top 10 of the books I've reviewed here on The Romance Dish. All are VERY highly recommended.

So what would your top 10 romance novels be? I'd love to see your lists!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Second Chance Anniversary Winners

Okay, let's give this another try. 
Two of our anniversary prizes have still not been claimed. 
The new winners of a package of books are:

Carol L



To claim your books, send your full name and mailing address to us at:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

A Jewel in Time Winners

Thanks to everyone who stopped by Friday to chat with Jeanne, Barbara and Caitlenn!
The randomly chosen winners of a copy of A JEWEL IN TIME are:



Denise Fogleman

Congratulations, ladies! 

Please send us your email address if you want a Kindle copy of the book or 
your full name and mailing address if you want a print copy. 

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Cowboys for Christmas Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by Thursday to chat with Terri, Liz and Kim. 
I have the feeling their cowboys will be showing up on a lot of Christmas wish lists this year! 
The randomly chosen winner of their prize package is:


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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review - - Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley

Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley
By Emma Cane
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 28, 2014

The day before Thanksgiving Kate Fenelli returns to Valentine Valley, not just to spend the holiday with her family but for a two month sabbatical the senior partners in her law form insisted upon after Kate disagreed with them about a case. Kate grew up in small Colorado town where her parents own Carmina’s Cocina, an Italian restaurant, but Kate was intelligent, ambitious, and eager for a larger world. Not even an early marriage and the birth of a son deterred her from her goals. Becoming a junior partner and being given the responsibility of opening a branch office in Vail kept her immersed in work. Weekends and holidays with her son kept their relationship close. Yet the first person with whom she shares the news of her forced sabbatical is her ex.

Tony De Luca is surprised to see Kate walk into his tavern. He’s even more surprised when she confesses her reason for being in Valentine Valley. Because they both love their son, Tony and Kate have maintained a friendly relationship since their divorce nine years ago. Kate even fronted the loan for Tony to buy his tavern, but he is in no way prepared for Kate to become part of his life again. Friends since childhood and a couple from their high school days, Tony and Kate married when Kate became pregnant. They survived four years of marriage, but by the time Kate finished law school, it was clear that Tony’s dream of their building a life together in their hometown was never going to happen. After the divorce, Kate focused on her career, and Tony became a Monday through Friday custodial parent and tavern keeper. Kate’s reappearance awakens anger Tony was unaware of harboring, and he is determined Kate will not disturb the hard-won balance he has achieved.  

Kate is at loose ends without work to fill her time. She also realizes that, at thirteen, her son Ethan is moving toward independence and may soon resent giving up his activities and plans with his friends to spend weekends with his mother. A foolish bet has Kate working in Tony’s Tavern, and soon the chemistry between them proves as explosive as ever. They agree to a friends-with-benefits relationship, but it is not as easy to keep hearts unengaged as they thought. Kate is rethinking her choices, and Tony is running scared. Will nearly a decade apart and the differences between them prove to be too large a gap for even love to bridge?

Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley is the fifth book in the Valentine Valley series of Emma Cane (aka Gayle Callen). The holiday setting with all its associations with family and tradition seems particularly appropriate for this reunion story. The reunion trope is one of my favorites, and this book reminded me of all the reasons I love such stories. Kate and Tony have a long history together, and even divorce could not eradicate their shared memories. Their son Ethan, to whom they are both devoted, is another enduring link between them. Because their marriage truly broke up because of “irreconcilable differences” rather than from indifference or infidelity, the reunion was an easier sale. Both hero and heroine are likeable characters, although readers’ sympathies may align more deeply with one or the other according to individual temperament.

Secondary characters are also a decided part of the book’s appeal. Both Kate and Tony have close relationships with their respective families, and Tony has continued to be warmly accepted by Kate’s family even in the post-divorce years. Thirteen-year-old Ethan is a delight. His love of sports, his fondness for technology, his affection for his family (pet included), and the growing importance of friendships in his life all reminded me of the thirteen-year-old I know best.

Fans of the series will be pleased with the appearance of characters from earlier books, but readers new to the series will find the book works fine as a standalone. I haven’t read every book in the series, but I have read enough to know that the stories are distinct from one another rather than a retelling of the same story, a major plus in my view. If you like small-town contemporary romances, holiday stories, or romances with a hero and heroine mature enough to have baggage other than childhood trauma, I think you will like Sleigh Bells in Valentine Valley as much as I did.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Today's Special - - A Jewel in Time

Who better to write a book with than your best friends? Today, we welcome Jeanne Adams, Barbara Devlin and Caitlenn T. Ainnsley, best friends and authors of the new anthology, A JEWEL IN TIME. 

Welcome, ladies!

Love, Holidays, Bookish Besties!!
By Jeanne Adams

Do you have a Best Friend?  Most of us have more than one.  And most of us have a circle of acquaintances who we call for lunch, or a movie, or even a night out on the town.
But that best friend?  She’s the one you call when your boss just made a pass and you don’t know what to do.  Or he’s the one you call when you just wrote a breakup letter to your boyfriend.  Or the guy-friend or girlfriend you call to be your “date” for a wedding you don’t want to go to, but have to, and you know your ex-boyfriend/husband/lover will be there.

Besties are all that.  They’re moral support.  They help you talk things through – whatever “those” things may be.  They’ll laugh with you till you both nearly wet your pants.  They’ll help you pack when you have to move, and share the box of tissue until it’s gone.

Besties are just that…the best.  They answer the phone at 2 am, when they see your number come up on the screen.  They tiptoe out to the driveway in their PJs at nearly 4 in the morning to give you your spare keys, when you’ve been at a party and you’ve lost your house keys.  They tell you the truth when shopping - “Yes, it DOES make you look fat.  Here, try this one!”

And about that guy you met on Friday who drives the Mercedes?   “No, I don’t think he’s just divine.  I think he’s a moron!”

When you’re a writer, your Besties take on a new set of challenges.  You MAKE them read your stuff and tell them to be honest.  Put on the spot, they have to tell you what they think.  Ohhhhh, that is a minefield!  It’s worse than the dress thing or the boyfriend-is-a-moron-thing. 

It’s dangerous to the friendship.  It’s like callin’ the baby ugly, as we say down home.

But your REAL Besties won’t let you down.  They’ll still be sweet.  They’ll tell you it’s a good first draft (even when you and they both know it’s the 12th draft.)  They’ll tell you they like the story, but honey, you SO need to work on your spelling!  (“OMG! Didn’t we both have Mrs. Jones for English in 9th grade?  Did you SLEEP through that class?”)

And when you get past THAT stage, and maybe a few more, they’ll say, “HEY! Let’s write a book together!”

Nothing is more fun.

Two of my absolute Besties are here with me today.  We met at the Denver RWA Conference in 2001 and have been laughing all the way ever since. 

And yes, we wrote a book…TOGETHER!!  The Anthology A JEWEL IN TIME came out November, 14, 2014.  WOOT!!!

Barbara Devlin, who wrote the first story, is a fabulous writer.  All the novels in her Brethren of the Coast historical series, starting with ENTER THE BRETHREN, have been BESTSELLERS!!  Woot, go Barb!! 

Debut author Caitlenn T. Ainnsley and I met in the buffet line at RWA National in 2001, and struck up a conversation.  Grins.  This last January, Barb and I persuaded her to join her fabulous comedic, contemporary brilliance to a light-paranormal holiday anthology we’ve just published together.

So, Barbara, Caitlenn and I are, collectively, The Sultry Sisters.  And we’re the proud authors of a A JEWEL IN TIME.  The anthology stories follow a magical, gold and gem-studded glory of a brooch through the centuries, as it passes from mother to daughter.  The beautiful gem is a master jeweler’s work, and it’s key to each young woman’s fate.  The jewel is passed down in the Douglas-Gascoigne-Lake family (whom we first meet in Barbara’s first book, ENTER THE BRETHREN), and it passes each generation to the eldest daughter.

Here, in brief, are the three storylines from A JEWEL IN TIME:

Three incomparable women, one incredible jewel...
Loving Lt. Douglas - It is the Age of Sail, and First Lieutenant Mark Douglas of the Royal Navy has set his sights on a fiery society miss with a spirit to match his own. What happens when Lady Amanda Gascoigne-Lake's father rejects the sailor's suit, and an ancient brooch with mystical power portends doom?
Behind Enemy Lines - In WWII Europe, Lady Grace Corvedale flees Paris as the Germans approach, but Hitler has learned her brooch may have mystical powers, and he vows to possess it -at any cost. Lt Robert "Dix" Dixon, an unofficial attaché to the British Embassy, is dispatched to rescue her, but can he outwit The Führer to save Grace?
The Brit, the Brooch and the Blizzard - When a series of tragic events leaves Olivia DuBois stranded in Boston during a blizzard, a handsome Brit rides to her rescue, and the California girl falls hard. Emerson Gascoigne-Lake manifests the quintessential knight in shining armor, but does a family heirloom foretell true love or destroy it?

Book FIVE of Barbara’s series, CAPTAIN OF HER HEART launched last FRIDAY, right alongside A JEWEL IN TIMECAPTAIN OF HER HEART tells the story of Lady Alexandra Seymour and newly commissioned Nautionnier Knight Jason Collingwood. We got to know Jason and Alex in book 4, ONE-KNIGHT STAND, when they conspired to help Lance and Cara to the altar.  And as for her novella in our anthology, "Loving Lieutenant Douglas," goes back in time, 27 years, to 1785, before ENTER THE BRETHREN begins, when then Lieutenant Mark Douglas romanced Lady Amanda Gascoigne-Lake. 

Caitlenn, author of the contemporary “The Brit, the Brooch and the Blizzard”  gave fiction a rest for a few years as she worked on non-fiction until her friends – Barb and I - made her write with us.  I guess that's that what besties are for.  They don't let you give up on your dream.  In 2015 Caitlenn will be introducing an amazingly fun, kind of crazy, heroine who'll be the star of her series The Conscious Gypsy Chronicles.

As for me, I did the middle bit.  I wrote the WWII story, “Behind Enemy Lines” my first historical.  All of you who frequent The Dish have seen me here recently promoting the first book in my Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romantic Suspense, THE TENTACLE AFFAIRE, A Slip Traveler Novel.  I’ve also just put out a short Romantic Suspense novella called DEADLY DELIVERY.

So, Dishies, what do you think about Best Friends?

Do you have a BFF?  The kind who would bail you out of jail? (Or better yet, one who’d be in the cell with you, saying, “DAMN, that was fun!”)
What’s the craziest situation you and your BFF have gotten into?  Did it involve the police?

We'll give away one Kindle copy and one print copy of  A JEWEL IN TIME.

We’d love to hear from you…Come say hello on FaceBook, Twitter, or on our websites

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Today's Special - - Cowboys for Christmas

Who doesn't love a cowboy? I know, I do! Pair him with my favorite holiday in overlapping stories from three terrific contemporary authors and you have a winning combination. Today, we're delighted to welcome to the Dish, Terri Osburn, Kim Law, Liz Talley and their Cowboys for Christmas!

COWBOYS FOR CHRISTMAS is a holiday anthology crafted by Kim Law, Liz Talley, and myself, Terri Osburn. The initial idea to write a collection of overlapping stories that featured three best friends who fall in love with cowboys came from a conversation between Kim and Liz, and I was the lucky author they invited to join them.
First, let's meet the girls.
In Love Me, Cowboy, the first story, written by yours truly, Claire Campbell has been back in Holly Hills, Texas—her hometown where her family has a long tradition of running the place—dealing with her new job as elementary school teacher and dodging regular insults and judgment from her mother. She's also newly slim, having lost about forty pounds, and not yet adjusted to her new body.
And that's where her hero, Tyler Holly comes to the rescue. Actually, Tyler comes to the rescue more than once in this story, but the most important thing is that he helps Claire see how beautiful she is. And it doesn't hurt that Tyler always thought she was beautiful, regardless of her dress size.
Then we move onto Kiss Me, Cowboy by Liz Talley, where we meet Georgia Hightower. Talk about Claire's opposite. Georgia has an attitude that goes on for days, a giant chip on her shoulder, and, of course, a mushy inner core of demons and doubts. A hard edge with the perfect dose of vulnerability. Not that George would ever admit to a vulnerable moment.
But that soft side is what makes her both leery of and helplessly attracted to her veterinarian hero Reed McCormick. Georgia has sworn off cowboys, but Reed is technically a California boy in a hat and boots. He's challenging, stable, and sees the damaged woman lurking below the surface who wants nothing more than to be loved. And he's hot, but you probably guessed that.
Now we come to the bride, Mary Catherine Holly, aka MC. The head cheerleader and daughter of one of the founding families of the town, MC struggles throughout Marry Me, Cowboy to realize that what she wants is more important than pleasing an overbearing stepmother. She and her fiancé may be perfect on paper, but that doesn't mean he's the man she should marry.
Cue Jax Tipton, bad boy rancher, and MC's high school love. Jax is defensive, defiant, and deceptively cool. Though he tries to respect that MC is marrying another man, the chemistry between these one-time lovers is too strong to be ignored. Jax stirs memories of a time when MC knew who she was, and he's exactly what she needs to make a stand for her own happiness.
Writing these stories was a labor of love, and we hope readers will settle into Holly Hills, pour a warm drink, or maybe a shot of Tequila, and enjoy watching these deserving characters find their happily ever afters.

Now a question for you. Which heroine above do you think you'd most relate to, and if you had your pick, which hero would you chose?

One lucky commenter will win a $15 gift card to Amazon or B&N (winner's choice) along with a notebook featuring the drool-worthy cover of Cowboys For Christmas and a Holly Hills shot glass. (Gift card is international, but the notebook and shot glass are US only.)

Terri Osburn is the bestselling author of the Anchor Island series. She makes her home along the coast of Virginia with an eye-rolling teenager, three fat tabbies, and a hyper yorkiepoo.

Connect with Terri online at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Talley is a former English teacher who lives in North Louisiana with her high school sweetheart, two rough and tumble boys, and a gaggle of pets.

Connect with Liz online at her website, Facebook and Twitter

RITA-nominated and Golden Heart winner Kim Law is a former computer programmer, now spending her days writing happily ever afters. A native of Kentucky, she lives with her husband and a passel of animals in Middle Tennessee. 

Connect with Kim online at her website, Facebook and Twitter