Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Janga's Top Ten Winner

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the blog to share your favorite books of 2014.

The randomly selected winner of a package of books from PJ, including 

Janga's top book of the year, THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X 

and her top debut of the year, TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to us at

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Anna Campbell Farewell Winner

The winner of a personalized ARC of 

Dee Foster

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Vacation

For all who celebrate, the Dishes wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

May your holiday be blessed with peace, joy and love.

We're taking a holiday break but will return on 

New Year's Day with the

Coming Attractions for January.

See you in 2015! 

~PJ and Andrea

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Monday Winners

The winners from PJ's December 22nd Merry Christmas Monday post are:



Patty B43

You have each won a package of books. (U.S. addresses only)



Anita H

You have each won your choice of a Kindle copy of 
one novella from those reviewed in the post.

Goodnight, Sweetheart, Well, I Hate to Go!



Gnashing of Teeth!

Riots in the plaza! 

Well, nice to know I'm going quietly...

This is my last post for the Romance Dish for a while. You never say never, right? I've so appreciated the chance to be part of this great blog and I'm so grateful that the original four Dishes asked me to be part of the lovely world they've built up here.

By the way, the photo at the top of the blog has three of the four originals (Gannon must have taken the pic). Left to right there's Jeanne Adams (who's a Romance Bandit!), Andrea, moi, Buffie and PJ. I'm not sure whether that photo was taken at RWA in Washington DC or Orlando. Perhaps PJ or Andrea will remember.

Anyway, as I announced two months ago, for various reasons, I'm retiring my Second Helping column for the moment. PJ asked me if I could devote my last piece to what I'm doing in 2015 which is very nice of her (but then, she IS very nice).

A whole column talking about little ole' me? Let me at it!

One big change I thought I'd be dealing with in 2015 was a new house, but fate has decreed I'm staying where I am. Given I'd prepared my mind for the shift, it's now taking a bit of a mental shift to come to terms with the fact that there will be no big move. However, at least one of my plans for 2015 is still in place, a big research trip to the U.K. although it's now going to happen in September instead of March. I'll miss spring over there, which is my favorite season, but on the other hand, I won't be trying to squeeze my travel in between other commitments.

And now a rundown of those other commitments! My fourth Sons of Sin book is out on 28th April, yay. A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT tells the Marquess of Leath's story - he plays a major part in WHAT A DUKE DARES and I've had quite a few people contacting me to ask if he's going to get a happy ending. Of course he is, but he's got a way to go before that happens! And he ends up falling in love with the last woman he ever imagined he would. I always relish seeing lords of all they survey sent into a spin when they're head over heels with someone completely unsuitable.

Don't you just love that cover? You can read the blurb on my website here: http://annacampbell.info/scoundrelmoonlight.html Look out for an excerpt in March and if you want an extra special sneak peek, I'm giving away ARCs in my January/February website contest.

At this stage, I'm not sure if that will be the last full lengther in the Sons of Sin series. There are at least two more novellas in the pipeline. One tells the story of Lady Marianne Seton, the woman Cam jilted to marry Penelope. I really like her and I've got a lovely hero lined up to put a sparkle in her eyes. I'm also writing a novella that gives us some backstory on Sirius, Sir Richard Harmsworth's clever dog. He helps to unite a pair of feuding childhood sweethearts before he places himself in Richard's custody. I've always had a very soft spot for Sirius who was usually the cleverest one in the room!

Otherwise I'm working on a new historical series based very much in the glamorous world of Regency high society. Apart from WHAT A DUKE DARES and the novella DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, most of the Sons of Sin books take place in the beautiful English countryside. The next series will be sexy, emotional stories revolving around the drama and extravagance of the London Season. I could tell you more but then I'd have to kill you!

Finally, I'm going to write another Christmas novella, featuring a Scottish hero. Those seem to be de rigueur for my Christmas stories (so far all three have featured Scottish noblemen!). I must say I've been overwhelmed at the reception this year's novella, HER CHRISTMAS EARL, has received and I just love having a story out for the Holidays. 

Which brings me to the fact that this isn't just my last Second Helpings; it's also Christmas Eve! However you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you all peace, love, good health and fabulous books to read. I'd also like to pause to send PJ and Andrea a pair of really mushy kisses and big hugs to thank them for letting me a part of this blog.

As my Regency society heroines would say, I've had a ball!

So what are your reading plans for 2015? Any books I should look out for?

STOP PRESS: Those kind people at Grand Central Forever have sent me some ARCs which arrived this very day (clearly they have great timing!). As a farewell gift to my friends here at the Romance Dish, I'll give one person who comments (international) the chance to win a personalized copy of A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Janga's Top Ten Romance Novels of 2014

Those of you who know me personally or through my now-defunct blog Just Janga know that I am almost as addicted to list-making as I am to romance fiction. It thrilled my list-making heart when PJ asked if I’d do a top ten of 2014 list. I’ve read less this year than I usually do, but I still read well over three hundred books—about 80 percent of them romances. Since I generally don’t finish books I don’t like, most of what I’ve read I consider good reads, books that left me feeling that my time and my money (sometimes) were well invested. But even among good books, there are those that stand out, that earn not just a spot on my keeper shelves and highly-recommended raves but, if you will pardon me for waxing sentimental, a multi-starred place in my memory and in my heart.

One final explanatory note: Since it would probably take me until this time next year to complete this post if I ranked these books 1-10, I present them in their order of publication, indicating only my #1 book of the year.

1.      Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner (March 18)

This novel, with its cross-class romance, party politics plot, and not one but two bad mothers who seem disturbingly real, is a treasure.  Phoebe Sparks, widow of a newspaper editor and printer, and Nick Dymond, a war veteran and the middle son of an earl, are likeable and flawed, their meeting is credible, and their relationship is based on more than libidinal urges. Set in the town of Lively St. Lemeston, the story offers a portrait of ordinary life in the second decade of the nineteenth century and shows the extraordinary relationship between two complicated people who earn their HEA. And I love that the title is taken from a Robert Herrick poem which Nick quotes at a meaningful moment.

2.  Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James (March 25)

In 2009 when A Duke of Her Own, the concluding book in the original Desperate Duchesses series was released, I longed to know more about what happened to the illegitimate children of the Duke of Villiers, especially Tobias, the oldest of the group. When I asked if EJ would ever write Tobias’s story, she held out the tantalizing possibility that she would. Five years and the Fairy Tale series later, she gave readers Tobias’s story in what many think is her best book yet. Tobias, now Thorn, is more than his father’s son. He is a self-made man who earned his fortune, who accepts his bastardry, and who refuses to disguise a roughness that is natural to him but foreign to the polished Villiers. And he is matched with India, a designing heroine who uses her natural ability to turn chaos into order to buy her own diamonds and choose her own husband. She is perfect for him. This is, hands down, my best book of the year, one that I have already reread several times.

3.   Home to Stay, Terri Osburn (May 13)

I loved Anchor Island from my first glimpse of it, and I have only become fonder of it with each book in the series. But Home to Stay is my favorite. Will is a phenomenal heroine who demonstrates that love can heal even the deepest wounds and give the wounded warrior the strength to fight and win the necessary battles. But Randy is the reason this book is my favorite. A giant beta with a heart to match, he is my #1 book boyfriend of the year.

4.      To Scotland with Love by Patience Griffin ((June 9)

I owe this one to a recommendation from PJ. “Read it,” she said. I did and found it just as wonderful as she said. The title may suggest this is just another Scotland-set historical, but it is a contemporary romance with a journalist heroine, Cait Macleod, who retreats to Gandiegow, Scotland, her childhood home, after the death of her faithless husband and discovers Gandiegow is also the place to which Graham Buchanan, a reclusive movie star, has retreated. Cait is confronted with her own past, a complex hero who challenges her at every level, and a test of her morality. This is a beautifully written debut novel, easily my top choice for debut of the year.

5.     The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble ((July 29)
Noble gives her readers an intricate plot and a sizeable cast of characters in a story that is part romantic romp, part moral tale. Her hero Ned is totally unprepared for the realities of life without the privileges that he takes for granted. The taciturn, introverted Turner is no more prepared for the social responsibilities and lack of solitude that comes with Ned’s title than Ned is for the lack of status his secretary is given. Both men learn from the experience. Phoebe is a wonderful heroine who has a rare wholeness in that there is little distance between the beliefs she espouses and the way she conducts her life. However, it is the hero’s growth that is central to this story. Ned grows into a man with a keener mind, a sharper conscience, and a larger heart—and I loved watching his growth.

6.      A Love to Call Her Own by Marilyn Pappano (August 26)

I think it is impossible to read A Love to Call Her Own and not be moved by the experiences of these characters and root for them to find happiness again. Perhaps most significant is a new awareness of all the stories that lie behind the media coverage of casualties and memorial services and of the price paid not just by those who serve but by their families as well. Although this novel may move you to tears, it is more than a sad story. It is also filled with laughter, the warmth of friendship, the endurance of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit. It is also one of the best portrayals of stages of grief that I have encountered in fiction.

7.   Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney (August 26)
One of the things that I appreciate most in Putney’s fiction is that she is unafraid to create characters who have bodies, minds, and spirits. In a genre that typically ignores the spiritual (except for the Inspirational sub-genre), Putney has long woven stories with characters who tackle issues of faith and belief, most notably in The Rake, Thunder and Roses, and Twist of Fate (the third book in her contemporary trilogy, retitled An Imperfect Process in a 2013 reissue). She does it again with skill and insight in this book. The religious beliefs of the heroine Laurel are at the heart of this book, and there is nothing simplistic about her struggles.

8.     The Songbird’s Seduction by Connie Brockway (September 16)

An Edwardian-set romance that pairs a chanteuse and a professor in a romance that reminded me of The Lady Eve, My Man Godfrey, or Bringing Up Baby, and other romantic comedies from the Golden Age of that genre in film, this is another Brockway gem. Lucy Eastlake and Professor Ptolemy Archibald Grant have joined a long list of Brockway characters I adore. And, as usual, this author’s secondary characters are richly drawn and memorable. Every Brockway book I read serves to remind me why she has a long-established, permanent spot on my auto-buy list.

9.      In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins (October 5)

The fourth book in the Blue Heron series, this book is filled with the things that make Higgins’s books perennial favorites: hold-your-sides funny moments, families with their quirks and kerfuffles and myriad manifestations (and sometimes failures) of love, and protagonists readers want to add to their circle of friends—plus, of course, puppy love for canine fans. Emmaline is a heroine in whom independence and insecurity are blended in fascinating measure, but it is Jack, who is saved from perfection by a twenty-year-old, life-altering wound, that makes this book a standout in the work of an author who has the knack for crafting keepers.

10.   Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean (November 25)
It’s now official: Sarah MacLean is brilliant. This book is sweet, sexy, poignant, intelligent, and funny. Chase’s triple identity is smart, artful writing that makes this story distinctive from other disguise plots, and the fact that Duncan West is caught up in protecting bits of his own identity is a wonderful touch. I don’t believe the perfect book exists, but this one comes very close. It is a superlative conclusion to an outstanding series.

I have a difficult time cutting my list off at ten. If I had been doing a top 15, I would have included The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie (March 25), Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long (March 25), I Adored a Lord by Katharine Ashe (July 29), My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas (August 5), and What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell (August 26). Each is an extraordinary book that helped to make this year a memorable one for this reader.


(Some of my comments are self-plagiarized from my reviews of these books.)

PJ here! I love your lists, Janga. Thank you so much for sharing them with us here at TRD. 

Readers, I'm giving away a package of books that includes Janga's top book of the year, Three Weeks With Lady X by Eloisa James and her top debut, To Scotland With Love by Patience Griffin. (U.S. addresses only) So tell me:

What are your top books of 2014?

Top Historical Romance?

Top Contemporary Romance?

Top Romantic Suspense? Paranormal? Womens Fiction?

Have you read any of the books on Janga's list?

Do you keep a list of the books you read?

Let's dish about our best of 2014!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas Monday

Most of the year I have plenty of time to lose myself in a long, multi-layered story so it's no surprise that my reading choices trend toward full-length novels. But when the winter holidays approach and my calendar begins to fill, leaving reading time at a premium, I turn to those delightfully delicious nuggets of holiday happiness known as the romance novella. Here are a few of the stories keeping me company this holiday season.

Her Christmas Earl: A Regency Novella
by Anna Campbell

No good deed goes unpunished… 

To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways? 

Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Is fate offering him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion that lasts a lifetime? 

Take one notorious rake who is more than he seems, add a practical young woman bent on saving her family from scandal, stir in intelligent conversation, a little steam, some deeper feelings. Place it all in the gentleman's dressing room, jam the door shut and sprinkle with Campbell's superb wit, humor and depth of emotion to create a lovely, feel-good story that will leave you sighing with happiness.

The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan

by Paula  Quinn


Janet Buchanan is no man's property. She refuses to marry her family's sworn enemy-consequences be damned. She'd rather take a dagger to the brute herself. Yet when a tantalizing-and infuriating-man from her past comes to her rescue, Janet finds herself undeniably tempted by his hot, hungry kiss.


Notorious for his prowess as a lover and a fighter, Darach Grant has only one goal in mind: to defend his kin's land from the impending siege of a hostile clan. The last thing he needs is the delicious distraction of Janet Buchanan-the only woman who can stir his ire as deeply as she warms his blood. But Janet's intended will stop at nothing to claim her, forcing Darach to choose between surrendering his honor . . . or his heart.

I'm a huge fan of Paula Quinn's Highlanders - the bold, brawny men and the courageous lasses who claim their hearts. After seeing the fire between Darach and Janet in The Seduction of Miss Amelia Bell (you don't have to read this first but it will give you a deeper appreciation of Janet and Darach's relationship), I was among the many begging for their happy ending. While only 25,000 words, Ms. Quinn has given me all I desired in this fast-paced, emotional, action-packed story of honor, betrayal, loyalty and love. 

Once Upon a Christmas Kiss
By Manda Collins


When Sir Lucien Blakemore arrives at his cousin’s estate for a week long Christmas party, he’s shocked to see Miss Winifred Nightingale among the other guests. Employed by his neighbor back in Yorkshire, the governess with the lovely eyes has always seemed off limits, but she’s visiting here as a guest—and there’s nothing like a little mistletoe to make the spirits bright…


Miss Winifred Nightingale never dreamed a holiday visit with her sister would lead to both ladies spending Christmas as the local lord’s guests. But the big surprise comes when she finds the handsome Sir Lucien Blakemore staying there too. The attraction between them is undeniable, but will an old nemesis and a party guest bent on mischief make their first kiss under the mistletoe their last?

One of the things I most enjoy about Manda Collins' writing is the intelligence she brings to her characters, especially the females. With well-conceived story lines, fully developed characters, witty banter, just the right amount of sizzle and a tightly plotted mystery running throughout, she keeps this reader engaged from beginning to end. With a good-guy hero, a heroine everyone can cheer for and a richly developed cast of secondary characters, not to mention a Christmas house party (who doesn't love those?), Once Upon a Christmas Kiss will "kiss" your holidays with pure reading pleasure. 

“A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas” 

by Louisa Cornell
from the Christmas Revels anthology

Three not-so-wise gentlemen, a pregnant stranger, several tumbling footmen, and an unexpected snowstorm will turn Elizabeth's Perfectly Ordinary Christmas into a disaster ... or a Christmas miracle with the man she loves. 

Louisa Cornell is a long-time friend and a natural-born storyteller. I've been waiting many years to see one of her stories in print. "A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas" is a perfectly delightful debut! It has everything I could ask for in a delicious nugget of reading pleasure. The dialogue is witty and fast-paced with humor that is laugh-out-loud delightful but this story also includes deep and poignant emotion that touched my heart and let loose a few tears. The characters are richly drawn with a depth that is not readily apparent. Cornell unveils those depths in our hero and heroine but teases by only pulling back the curtain a bit with the other primary characters. As a reader, that tells me (I'm not above begging here) that they will be receiving their own stories. For a perfectly wonderful holiday novella, pick up a copy of Louisa Cornell's "A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas" in the Holiday Revels anthology.

Cowboys for Christmas
By Liz Talley, Kim Law and Terri Osburn

Claire, Georgia, and Mary Catherine couldn’t be more different, but they promised they would be there for one another no matter what. And when they all gather in Holly Hills, Texas, for Mary Catherine’s Christmas wedding, they’ll find they have one thing in common: hearts that are about to be branded—by unforgettable cowboys.

In “Love Me, Cowboy” by Terri Osburn, wallflower Claire would be more excited about the wedding if it didn’t mean running into Mary Catherine’s brother—the bull rider she once had a scorching one-night stand with…

Ivy League volleyball coach Georgia never wanted to see Holly Hills—or another cowboy—again. But a sexy veterinarian is making her rethink her vow to never marry a Texas man in “Kiss Me, Cowboy” by Liz Talley.

Claire and Georgia both think that Mary Catherine is getting hitched to the wrong man, despite how perfect he is. And in “Marry Me, Cowboy” by Kim Law, a local rancher with a wild reputation gives Mary Catherine a glimpse of what might have been—and what could still be...

I do love a sexy cowboy so you know this anthology shot right to the top of my holiday reading list. I enjoyed all three of the stories about three best friends who return home to their small Texas hometown and find love in the most unexpected places but my favorite of the trio is "Love Me, Cowboy" by Terri Osburn. Osburn showcases her skill in getting to the heart of her characters with Claire, a woman who has spent most of her life struggling with her weight, her self-esteem and her bully of a mother and sexy, bull-rider Tyler, her best friend's younger brother and the man who owns her heart - a fact of which he is unaware. While Claire has slimmed down and toned up, she still struggles with her self-image and her controlling mother. It's hard to see herself as the person she is today and even more difficult to imagine that while Tyler loves the "new" her, he loved the "old" her just as well. Osburn guides these two through some harrowing emotional minefields with the finesse for which she has become known in her contemporary Anchor Island series. Give this one a try.

Unwrapping her Perfect Match

A London Legends Christmas Novella
By Kat Latham

’Twas a week before Christmas, and at the auction house... 

At six foot one, Gwen Chambers has felt like a giant her whole life. She’s a calm, capable nurse saving lives in a busy London hospital, but healthy men give her heart palpitations. When larger-than-life rugby player “Little” John Sheldon convinces her to bid on him in his team’s fundraising auction, she discovers how pleasurable heart palpitations can be. 

A rugby player was stirring, with desire no one could douse... 

John has wanted Gwen since he first saw her, but when he’s injured in a match just before Christmas he suddenly needs her too. Not only can the sexy nurse help him recover, but she might be able to help him look after his daughter—a shy ten-year-old who speaks only French. 

But will it be a Happy Christmas for all, and for all a good night? 

From decorating the Christmas tree to ice skating at the Tower of London, Gwen helps father and daughter open up and bond with each other—and she bonds right along with them. But when John's agent calls with a life-changing offer, Gwen has to decide how far she’s willing to go for her perfect match. Will their first Noël also be their last?

This novella was my introduction to Kat Latham's rugby playing London Legends. What did I do as soon as I finished reading it? I downloaded the rest of the books! I admit it. I love a jock. I've been a sports nut since I was a child and an avid romance reader since my teens so combine the two and you've got me. I'm hooked. But these books are not only for sports loving romance readers. Latham's heroes are fully fleshed, complex men who face more than just the conflict on the playing fields. And though they may be rough and tumble athletes, off the field they deal with issues that are deep, complex and sometimes frightening. Take John Sheldon, the largest man on the team, who is felled by a concussion just before Christmas and must rely on Gwen, the lovely nurse he's just met to help him through Christmas - the first one he's spent alone with his ten year old daughter. Did I mention that his daughter lives in France and doesn't speak English? Or that John doesn't speak French? Or that Gwen has struggled her entire life with her self-image and being bullied as a child because of being several inches taller than everyone else? Or how one person's betrayal has left her feeling unworthy and wary of attention from men? Yep, lots of complex issues and Latham handles them beautifully. Take a trip to London this holiday season and meet one of her "Legends." Bet you can't read just one!


What are your holiday reading habits?

Do you enjoy reading novellas?

Do you prefer contemporary or historical?

Have you read any recently that you would recommend?

What titles are on your tbr list?

I have a package of books ready to come home to two of you who leave a comment on today's post! (U.S. only)

And for two of our international readers, you can choose a Kindle copy of one of the novellas reviewed above! 

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

PJ's Add a Little Suspense Winners

The two randomly selected winners from PJ's Add a Little Suspense review post are:

(a print copy of The Hunk Next Door)


(Kindle copies of Judgment and Close to Home)

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

Patoct, please send the kindle email you would like to receive the books to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Add a Little Suspense to Your Holidays

I love a good whodunit. Whether it be romantic suspense, a psychological thriller or a good old fashioned mystery, stories that lure me in, keep me on the edge of my seat and pit my wits against the villain are always high on my reading list. Here are three books that recently kept me up reading way into the night. I highly recommend them!

A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller - Book 1
By Carey Baldwin
Publisher: HarperCollins / Witness Impulse
Release Date: October 7, 2014

If these two rivals can't work together...

Dr. Caitlin Cassidy is on a mission to protect the innocent. Fifteen years ago, she witnessed her father's execution for a crime she's convinced he didn't commit. Now she works as a forensic psychiatrist to make sure that other innocents don't meet the same fate.

Special Agent Atticus Spenser is hell bent on locking the guilty away. A brilliant FBI profiler, Spense loves a good puzzle...especially when the solution takes a psychopath off the streets. But his nemesis, the enigmatically vexing Caity Cassidy, is one puzzle he's never been able to solve.

...one of them is going to die.

When a young coed falls prey to a sexually sadistic killer, Caity and Spense are called in by opposing sides. But before the case can go to trial, the accused man is murdered in a brutal attack and Caity is critically wounded. Now Caity and Spense must put aside their differences and work together to uncover the truth - because the Man in the Maze is coming back for round two.

As a former clinical psychologist, Carey Baldwin knows plenty about the dark corners of the human mind, using that knowledge to superb effect in her newest book, Judgment. Once again, she has created a stunning thriller with a tightly woven plot, smart dialogue and twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. While there is no shortage of action, it's the characters who hold center stage in this story: the villains who will chill your soul and have you taking second looks at people you pass on the street and the hero and heroine who will capture your heart with the vulnerabilities hidden beneath the strength and determination they show to the world.

If you enjoy a story that challenges you intellectually, takes your emotions on a roller-coaster ride, delivers protagonists you can cheer for and villains that have you double checking the locks on your doors then Carey Baldwin is an author who should be on your radar.

The Hunk Next Door
The Specialists:Heroes Next Door - Book 1
By Debra Webb and Regan Black
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: November 1, 2014

In the season of hope, someone's out for blood. Police Chief Abigail Jensen is determined to protect her town—and avoid falling too hard for Riley, the new guy next door. But deciding who to trust can be deadly, especially when he has deep secrets…. 

Agent Riley O'Brien's mission is clear when he joins the CIA's covert Specialist task force: protect a small-town cop from a terrorist, no matter what. Trading his identity for the undercover guise of a handyman is part of the plan…getting close to Abigail on a personal—and passionate—level isn't.

The Hunk Next Door kicks off a new series from Black and Webb that centers around The Specialists, a group of agents who give up their lives to take long-term, undercover assignments to protect people whose lives are at risk.  After reading this first book (in one afternoon - I could not put it down), all I can say is that I hope this series goes on for a very long time!

Protecting her town is Abigail Jensen's sole focus. After busting a major drug trafficking ring, she makes it clear during a television interview that Belclare, Maryland is off-limits to those with criminal intent and, in doing so, unknowingly makes herself the target of a deadly terrorist cell - the power behind the drug ring.

There are few people Abby trusts completely. She has to be suspicious if she's to be successful in protecting her town. When handyman Riley O'Brien shows up to help build the town's Christmas village her radar goes on high alert, especially when a series of escalating events aimed to harm the town and discredit Abby begin after his arrival. Is he the bad guy orchestrating the events or the only one she can turn to to keep the citizens of Belclare safe?

Black and Webb reeled me in from the start with the premise of this series, the fully developed characters and the small-town charm of Belclare with its quirky citizens, political in-fighting and evil simmering beneath the surface. Unlike many mysteries, in this one, the identity of the villain is revealed early in the book.  For me, this ramped the intensity even higher, giving me full access into the villain's thoughts and plans while leaving Abby and Riley on the outside, still trying to figure things out and save the town from an evil adversary as the book races to its stunning conclusion.

I'm already counting the days until February 1st and the release of the second book in The Specialists: Heroes Next Door series, Heart of a Hero.

Close to the Fire
Westen Series - Book 3
By Suzanne Ferrell
Publisher: Suzanne Ferrell Productions
Release Date: September 25, 2014

They once were lovers: 

After ten years of keeping his distance to the one woman he's always loved, Fire Chief Deke Reynolds is finally ready to set aside his grief and confess his guilt to Elizabeth "Libby" Wilson about his part in her brother's death. Libby's own guilty secret has kept her from sharing her life with the man who stole her heart as a teen and awakened her body as a young woman. 

Danger has forced them together again: 

A fire and their odd connection to a new teenager at the local half-way house have this couple finally sharing their secrets with each other. With an arsonist on the loose, threatening the town of Westen and its citizens, have Libby and Deke waited too long to find their love again? 

Suzanne Ferrell has charmed me with the heartwarming and quirky citizens of Westen, Ohio and put me firmly on their side as they battle those who would bring death and destruction into their midst. 

Second chance love stories are one of my favorite romance tropes. Deke Reynolds and Libby Wilson have been in love since their teens but a tragic fire tore them apart ten years ago. If anybody deserves a second chance it's these two but just as it appears they may be finding their way back to one another an arsonist enters the picture, determined to keep them apart...forever.

Ferrell is adept at combining heartwarming with heartrending, engaging the reader's emotions at every level. She had me laughing, crying and holding my breath with fear. She also kept me guessing. Just when I was sure I knew who the villain was she threw in a twist that had me second guessing my conviction. Characters from previous books in the series play pivotal roles, enriching the story without stealing the spotlight from Libby and Deke. 

Close to the Fire stands well on its own but with characters from previous books making appearances there are spoilers from those books. You might want to start with the first book and read them in order. They are - in order: Close to Home, Close to the Edge and Close to the Fire. Ferrell also has a newly released Westen novella, Close to Christmas that takes place following the conclusion of Close to the Fire.


Are you a romantic suspense/suspense thriller fan?

Who are some of your go-to suspense authors?

Any recent suspense books you'd recommend?

One person leaving a comment will receive a Kindle copy of Close to Home and Judgment.

One person leaving a comment will receive a print copy of The Hunk Next Door. (U.S. only)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merry Christmas Monday Winners

The two randomly chosen winners of a package of books
from the December 15th Merry Christmas Monday blog are:

Carol L


mickey macD

To claim your package of books, please send 
your full name and mailing address (US addresses only) to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today's Special - - Katie Lane Blog Tour

About The Last Cowboy in Texas, book 7 in Katie Lane’s Deep in the Heart of Texas series
Country music princess Starlet Brubaker has a sweet tooth for moon pies and cowboys: both are yummy-and you can never have just one. Now Beckett Cates may not be a cowboy, but he certainly has the heart, soul-and body-to whet her appetite. He's a sexy ex-Marine with a touch hotter than the scorching Texas sun and arms strong enough to catch her when she lands into trouble.

Playing bodyguard to America's sweetheart isn't easy for Beckett. But falling for her sure is. Unfortunately, Starlet has a reputation for keeping a guy or two wrapped around her finger and Beckett refuses to be anybody's backup. So now it's up to Starlet to prove that she's put her cowboy-crazy days behind her. Otherwise, she'll be singing solo instead of living in harmony with the man who's loved her even before her fame and fortune.

The Last Cowboy in Texas
By Katie Lane
Publisher: Forever - Hachette Book Group
Release Date: December 16, 2014

I enjoy second chance love stories and Katie Lane brings us one with plenty of humor, heart and a twist of mystery. Starlet Brubaker hails from humble beginnings and her heart is firmly attached to the man who showered her with kindness, enveloped her with (brotherly) affection and bolstered her confidence enough to pursue a career in music. Unfortunately, he's married to someone else but Starlet has a plan. That plan goes off the rails when she's rescued from a botched kidnapping by the youngest brother of her object of affection. The last time she saw Beckett Cates, he was a skinny, nerdy kid. My, how a few years - and the Marine Corps - have changed him! 

When Star is forced to leave the concert tour and seek refuge in her small hometown, it's Beckett who signs up for bodyguard duty...and a whole lot more. Going back to her roots reminds Star of the person she used to be before Nashville and her controlling manager took charge. As she slowly peels away the trappings of stardom will she recognize the love that has slowly grown between her and Beckett or will her obsession with another cause her to lose her chance at happiness while putting another's at risk as well.

This is my first book by Katie Lane and I enjoyed it. Lane does a great job of drawing fully dimensional characters with all their associated strengths and weaknesses. She shows particular adeptness with Starlet, a character that could have easily fallen into the "hated heroine" category. She walks a fine line with her but succeeds in revealing a conflicted, misguided woman who ultimately looks deep into her heart and does the right thing. I adored Beckett,  another character with a necessary journey of personal growth ahead of him before he is able to claim not only the woman he loves but his rightful place in his testosterone-laden family. Lane surrounds these two with a rich, multi-dimensional cast of secondary characters who bring small-town Texas life to light.

One drawback for me is that, as stated above, The Last Cowboy in Texas is the seventh book of a series, a fact that quickly became apparent as I started reading. While I enjoyed the story line, Lane's snappy dialogue and the intrigue woven throughout, there were many times when I felt like the new kid in school who doesn't share the combined history or inside jokes of the other students. The Last Cowboy in Texas is able to stand on its own but I think my enjoyment of this story would have been magnified ten-fold had I read the six previous books first, something I plan to do in the near future.


About Katie Lane
Katie Lane is the USA Today bestselling author of the Deep in the Heart of Texas and Hunk for the Holiday series.  Katie lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and when she isn't writing, enjoys reading, going to the gym, golfing, traveling, or just snuggling next to her high school sweetheart and cairn terrier Roo.

Learn more about Katie Lane at:
Twitter, @ktlane3

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