Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coming Attractions

I don't know about you but I'm more than happy to wave good-bye to the month of January. With the post-holiday slump, gray days, cold temperatures and realization that all those holiday sweets have pushed my favorite pair of jeans to the back of the closet (working on that one - I promise), it's a good thing we had an abundance of wonderful romance books and visiting authors to brighten my days.  Moving forward into February, the days are getting longer, the temperatures will begin to edge up a bit and we are so fortunate to have another terrific group of visiting authors here at TRD. Not to mention all those wonderful romances hitting stores this month! February is the month of love, after all. 

We kick off the month on Monday, February 2nd with Harlequin SuperRomance author, Anna Sugden. The third book in Sugden's New Jersey Ice Cats series, A Perfect Catch, releases February 3rd. Once again, her characters are heating things up both on the ice and off!

On Tuesday, February 3rd we welcome the Karina Bliss RISE review tour to the blog. You'll want to be here to read what Janga has to say in her 5-star Top Dish review of this first book in Bliss's new Rock Solid series. RISE features a bad-boy, rock star hero - a secondary character from Bliss's What the Librarian Did that most fans of that book (including Janga) considered irredeemable.

Patience Griffin joins us for a Q&A on Wednesday, February 4th. Griffin's debut book, To Scotland with Love was on many "Best of 2014" lists (including Janga's and PJ's). The second book in her contemporary Kilts and Quilts series, Meet Me in Scotland was released January 6th and is already garnering lots of great reviews.

Friday, February 5th brings Andrea's New Releases for February. You won't want to miss any of the terrific new books coming out this month!

On Monday, February 9th, Karina Bliss will join us to answer questions from Janga and PJ about RISE and other projects she has on the horizon.

Kat Martin returns Tuesday, February 10th to blog with us in the second half of her Against the Sky book tour. The romantic suspense story set in Alaska continues the saga of the Brodies of Alaska.

Whether you're celebrating Valentines Day this year or not, stop by the blog on Saturday, February 14th for fun, friendship and some special Valentines giveaways.

Tuesday, February 17th brings the dynamic romantic suspense duo of Debra Webb and Regan Black to TRD. Successful authors in their own right, they've combined forces to co-write contemporary romantic suspense books that will have you begging for more. Their newest book, Heart of a Hero, part of their The Specialists: Heroes Next Door series for Harlequin Intrigue was released January 20th.

Contemporary author Christi Barth returns Tuesday, February 24th for a Q&A with PJ. Releasing February 9th, All for You, the second book in Barth's Shore Secrets series for Carina Press takes readers back to Seneca Lake for another terrific story of friendships, secrets and unexpected love.

We round out the month on Thursday, February 26th with a visit from the husband and wife writing team of V.K. Sykes. Their February 24th release, Meet Me at the Beach kicks off their contemporary Seashell Bay series, introducing readers to the residents of this small island off the coast of Maine and bringing us a story where residents have an opportunity for second chances - in life, in careers, in families and in love.

We hope you'll join us for these events plus book reviews, spotlights, giveaways and more as we celebrate the month of love here at The Romance Dish! 

Tracy Brogan Winner

The winner of Tracy Brogan's prize package is:



To claim your prize package, please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Kat Martin Winner

The winner of a copy of Against the Sky by Kat Martin is:



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

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

You have your choice of a print, Kindle or Nook copy of the book. 

Jessica Peterson Winner

The winner of a copy of The Millionaire Rogue by Jessica Peterson is


Congratulations, Connie!

To claim your book, please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

LAST CALL - - Rose Lerner Winner

This is the last call for JUSTINE to claim her book 
from Rose Lerner.

If we do not hear from you by midnight, February 1st we will draw a new winner.

To claim your prize, please send an e-mail to us at
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, January 30, 2015

Today's Special - The Girls of Mischief Bay Excerpt Tour & Giveaway

News of a new book from Susan Mallery is always cause for celebration here at TRD but news of a new series that's kicking off with a pre-publication 16-stop exclusive excerpt tour complete with a fabulous California Dreamin' prize package at each stop? Well, that sends the excitement level right off the charts! Here's the blurb for the first book in the new Mischief Bay series, The Girls of Mischief Bay, followed by our exclusive Excerpt #5.

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time.

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all. 

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again. 

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.

The Girls of Mischief Bay
Excerpt 5

She headed into the kitchen and flipped on the wall-mounted TV. John got home between five fifteen and five thirty every day. They ate at six—a meal she’d made from scratch. Every Saturday night they either went out to dinner or had an evening with friends. Sunday afternoon the kids came over and they barbecued. On Memorial Day they held a big party, also a barbecue. It was L.A. When in doubt, throw meat on a grill.
She automatically collected the ingredients for biscuits. Self-rising flour, shortening, sugar, buttermilk. She’d stopped using a recipe years ago for nearly everything. Because she knew what she was doing. John liked what she served and didn’t want her to change. They had a routine. Everything was comfortable.
She measured the flour and told herself that comfortable wasn’t the same as old. It was nice. Friendly. Routines meant things went smoothly.
She finished cutting in the shortening, then covered the bowl. That was the trick to her biscuits. To let them rest about twenty minutes.
Lulu sat patiently next to her bowl. As Pam approached, the dog wagged her fluffy tail and widened her eyes in a hopeful expression.
“Yes,” Pam told her. “It is your dinnertime.”
Lulu gave a bark, then followed her to the refrigerator, where the can waited.
Lulu’s diet was an on-going challenge. She was small so didn’t need all that much. She had allergies and skin conditions, not to mention a sensitive stomach. Which meant she ate prescription dog food, consisting of a “novel protein” diet. In her case, duck and sweet potato.
Pam stuck a quarter cup of water into the microwave and hit the start button. After measuring out the right amount of canned food, she swapped the plate for the measuring cup, then started the microwave again. Hot water was stirred into kibble. Lulu had delicate teeth and couldn’t eat regular kibble. So hers was softened with hot water.
They went through this ritual every night, Pam thought as she held out the bowl. Lulu immediately sat, as she was supposed to, then lunged for the bowl and devoured her meal in less than eight seconds.
“You do remember you had breakfast this morning and a snack after lunch, right? You act like we feed you weekly.”
Lulu was too busy licking her bowl to answer.
Pam rolled out the biscuits and put them on the cookie sheet. She covered them with a clean towel and started the oven. She’d barely finished setting the table when she heard the faint rumble of the garage door opener. Lulu took off running down the hall, barking and yipping in excitement.
A few minutes later John walked into the kitchen, their ridiculous dog in his arms. Pam smiled at him and turned her head for their evening kiss. As their lips touched, Lulu scrambled from his arms to hers, then swiped both their chins with her tongue.
“How was your day?” John asked.
“Good. Yours?”
“Not bad.”
As he spoke he crossed to the bottle of wine she’d put on the counter in the butler’s pantry off the kitchen. It was a Cab from a winery they’d visited a few years ago on a trip to Napa.
“Steven’s working on a bid for that new hotel everyone’s been talking about. It’s right on the water. Upscale to the max. He said they were talking about the possibility of twenty-four-karat gold on the faucets in the penthouse. Can you believe it?”
“No. Who would do that? It’s a hotel. Everything has to be scrubbed down daily. How do you clean gold?”
“I know.” John opened the drawer to pull out the foil cutter. “It’s a bathroom. They’re idiots. But if the check clears, what do I care?”
As they spoke, she studied the man she’d been married to for thirty-one years. He was tall, just over six feet, with thick hair that had started going gray. The dark blond color meant the gray wasn’t noticeable, but it was there. Being a man, it only made him look more appealing. A few months ago he’d asked why she wasn’t going gray, too. When she’d reminded him of her visits every six weeks to her hair person, he’d been shocked. John was such a typical guy, it had never occurred to him she colored her hair. Because he thought she was naturally beautiful.
Silly man, she thought affectionately, as she watched him.
He had a few wrinkles around his eyes, but otherwise looked as he had when they’d first met. Those broad shoulders had always appealed to her. These days he claimed he needed to lose ten or fifteen pounds, but she thought he looked just fine.
He was handsome, in a rugged kind of way. He was a good man. Kind and generous. He loved his wife and his kids and his routine. While he had his faults, they were minor and ones she could easily live with. In truth, she had no complaints about John. It was the her-getting-older thing she found faintly annoying.
He pulled out the cork and tested it with his thumbnail, then poured them each a glass of Cab. She slid the biscuits into the oven and set the timer.
“What are we having?” he asked as he handed her a glass.
“Beef burgundy and biscuits.”
His mouth turned up in an easy smile. “I’m a lucky man.”
“Even luckier. You’ll be taking leftovers for lunch tomorrow.”
“You know I love me some leftovers.”
He wasn’t kidding, she thought as she followed him through the kitchen. His idea of heaven was any kind of red meat with leftovers for lunch the following day. He was easy to please.
They went into the sunroom off the back of the house. In the cooler months, the glass room stayed warm. In the summer, they removed the glass and used the space for outdoor living.
Lulu followed them, then jumped up on the love seat where Pam always sat and settled next to her. Pam rubbed her dog’s ears as John leaned back in his chair—a recliner with a matching mate in the family room—and sighed heavily.

Text Copyright © 2015 by Susan Macias Redmond

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Want to know what happens after Excerpt 5? Me too!
Click the graphic below to follow the Susan Mallery TLC Book Tours 
Girls of Mischief Bay excerpt tour with a new exclusive excerpt and 
chance to win a prize package at each stop. 

Have you read Susan Mallery's books?

Do you have a favorite Mallery book or series?

Tell me about your girlfriends. Are they life-long? Newly acquired? What makes them special?

Have you ever taken a girlfriend trip to the beach? If you had the opportunity, to what beach would you head? 

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment (including your email address) on today's post will receive the following California Dreamin' Prize Package put together by Harlequin. 

A Pacific blue beach towel
Pure Paradise body cream
Luxury moisturizing bath bar from the San Francisco soap company
An autographed copy of EVENING STARS by Susan Mallery (the first book with a character from Mischief Bay)
Flip-flop tea candle holder
Map of Mischief Bay
Handy bath mini-tote
Susan Mallery lip gloss
Susan Mallery 3D luggage tag
Susan Mallery pen

Deadline for comments to be included in prize drawing is 
11:30pm EST February 2, 2015
(U.S. / Canadian addresses only) 
Void where prohibited.

About Susan Mallery

New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has won the hearts of millions of readers around the world with books described as “immensely entertaining, intensely emotional” (RT Book Reviews), “hilarious” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), and “heartwarming” (Publishers Weekly). One major retailer recently described her as “the queen of romantic fiction.” While she deeply appreciates the accolades of critics and booksellers, Mallery is even more honored by the enthusiasm of her readers and the word-of-mouth that catapults her toward the top of the bestsellers lists time and again.
Mallery lives in not-so-sunny Seattle with her husband and a toy poodle who makes her laugh every day and who’s not even a little bit impressed by her growing fame.

Purchase Links for The Girls of Mischief Bay

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review - - The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
By Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 27, 2015

Iris Smythe-Smith is the kind of young woman who blends into the background, and she likes it that way. A keen observer of human nature, she realizes that she sees much more from the sidelines than she would ever see in the center of things, a position highly coveted by her younger sister Daisy. Unfortunately for Iris, there is one occasion that makes it impossible for her to avoid attention. As an unmarried Smythe-Smith female old enough to have made her debut, she cannot escape playing in the annual family musicale. Even her instrument, the cello, is not large enough to hide her completely from the eyes of their suffering guests. The discerning among the guests realize that Iris is an anomaly among the Smythe-Smith performers: she actually possesses a degree of musical skill. That skill just makes the performance more excruciating for her since she knows how truly awful it is.

Sir Richard Kenworthy has left his Yorkshire estate to visit London for the purpose of finding a bride. There is nothing unusual in that, of course, but Sir Richard’s case is different because it is critical that he find a bride and return to Yorkshire with her in less than a month. It is with his purpose in mind that he accompanies his friend Winston Belvestoke to the Smythe-Smith musicale where Richard meets Iris. He very quickly decides that while her dowry may be smaller than he would like, Iris has every other quality he is seeking in a bride. She is not a reigning beauty. Indeed, she is a bit of a wallflower, which means there are no more worthy suitors competing for her hand, but she is intelligent, practical, and most important of all, devoted to her family. The last quality permits Richard to hope she will understand and forgive when she learns his secrets.

Richard’s determined courtship may stir Iris’s senses and awaken feelings the innocent Iris doesn’t quite understand, but she is not so overwhelmed that she fails to understand that Richard is not telling her everything. Her suspicions are confirmed when he manipulates her into a compromising situation, but despite her reservations, her heart and the social realities persuade her to accept his proposal. The quick marriage and rapid return to Yorkshire intensify Iris’s feelings that something is wrong, and Richard’s behavior adds to her concern. But nothing could have prepared her for the truth. Meanwhile, Richard has been falling deeper and deeper in love with his bride, but his reason for marrying her may prove to be the reason she will never accept his love nor return it.

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is the final book in Quinn’s Smythe-Smith Quartet, following Just Like Heaven, A Night Like This, and The Sum of All Kisses. It has the light-heartedness and humor that have made Quinn a reader favorite since Splendid in 1995, and it also has some substance mixed with the froth, another Quinn trait. Fans of the series will recognize Iris. She emerges as a likeable, interesting heroine with an unusual degree of self-awareness for so young a heroine. She not only knows herself well, but she also likes who she is. I found that quality immensely appealing. Her understanding of who she is and her pragmatism, which Quinn shows is an essential part of Iris and not just a convenient plot device, enable her to move beyond the drama of the crisis and assure her own HEA with the man she loves despite his flaws.

I didn’t like Richard as much as I like Iris, but he is a basically decent man who makes a choice to do something he knows is reprehensible because it is the only way he sees out of a situation that has the potential to destroy the lives he wants for his two younger sisters. He can be charming, and I understand why Iris falls for him. But he is also a bit of a coward, and I grew impatient with his delays in telling Iris the truth. Even without the epilogue, I believe they will build a happy life together, but I think Richard is the luckier of the two.

As for secondary characters, there is an ample sampling of Smythe-Smiths in the London-set chapters, and Richard’s two sisters appear in the Yorkshire chapters. Both Richard’s sisters impressed me as sketchily developed characters. Perhaps it is because as a faithful Quinn reader I already knew all of Iris’s family, but they possessed a realness that Fleur and Marie-Claire lack.

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is not Quinn at her best; I don’t think it is even the best in this series. But it is a book with clear strengths, and it is an entertaining read.  If you like Julia Quinn’s books, you will probably enjoy this one without rearranging your list of favorite books by Julia Quinn to accommodate a new title. I would be less than honest if I failed to add that I would think it well worth the price of the book and the time spent reading it if the only positives had been two particular scenes. Harriet, Elizabeth, and Frances have been favorites of mine throughout this series, but the production of Harriet’s play in this book deserves a place among the funniest scenes in romance fiction. I laughed so loudly that members of my family converged on my room from all over the house to find out what was so funny. The sex-explanation scene between Iris and her mother, although not so side-splittingly funny as the play, is also a gem of a scene. Reading the book will also allow you to understand all the unicorn references in Quinn’s recent Facebook posts. These are reasons enough to add this book to your TBR.

Now I’m longing to know what is next from Quinn. Since Winston Belvestoke makes an appearance in The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy, I wonder if his book is planned for the near future.


Review - - All for You

All for You
By Jessica Scott
Publisher: Forever
Release date: November 25, 2014 (Mass Market Paperback)

Making an alcoholic hero sympathetic is a difficult task, but Jessica Scott manages it beautifully in All for You. Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli has been deployed to war zones several times and is looking at another trip to the desert.  He knows he has a problem with alcohol but sees a bigger problem in his efforts to train his unit for their upcoming deployment. His first concern, always, is the welfare of the men under his command, and his dedication to them is the driving force in his days.

Reza has one soldier he thinks is faking emotional issues to avoid work and one who can’t get the help he needs for his PTSD, and Reza carries the weight of both.  Dealing with them brings him into conflict with a new psychiatrist, Captain Emily Lindberg, whose efforts to help are complicated by the military bureaucracy.

Spurred by the breakup with her cheating fiancĂ©, Emily joined the army to do something meaningful with her life.  Her eagerness to learn what the soldiers around her will face helps break down Reza’s initial resentment of what he sees, particularly regarding the soldier he believes is faking, as her interference with unit discipline.

Dealing with the soldiers’ various problems becomes more difficult because of an unsympathetic company commander.  As the story progresses, situations that Reza initially sees as annoying take on a new and more ominous cast, and his difficulty in resisting alcohol increases.

Emily and Reza are an engaging pair.  Scott deftly leads them into finding common concerns despite their differences, and their personal chemistry is hot.  Characters from other books have roles to play, and the camaraderie of the soldiers in Reza’s unit is appealing.

The one fly in the ointment, for me, was a series of references to a potentially disastrous event in Reza’s past that was not fully explained. Those who have read the book in which this happened will understand.  Not having done so, I was baffled and distracted from the main story line. By the third reference to the problem back in Colorado, I was becoming aggravated at not having it explained.  If it’s that important, I want the author to just tell me about it so I understand why it matters so much.

Overall, this was a well written romance with admirable characters, a hot relationship, and an interesting plot.

 ~Nancy Northcott

What's your favorite story involving a military hero or heroine?  What books or movies do you like about characters facing personal trials?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Today's Special - - Tracy Brogan

I'm delighted to welcome Tracy Brogan back to the blog today for a Q&A in celebration of her new book, Love Me Sweet, a story that had me grinning from beginning to end. 

Tracy writes fun and breezy modern stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love, and also lush historical romance full of political intrigue, damsels causing distress, and the occasional man in a kilt.   

She's a best-selling author in both contemporary and historical romance, as well as a Romance Writers of America (RWA) RITA® finalist in the Best First Book category for her debut novel, CRAZY LITTLE THING. She is also a two-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist.

You can find more information about Tracy and her books at her website as well as links to connect with her online.  

Hi Tracy!  Welcome back to the Romance Dish. I just finished reading Love Me Sweet and once again you’ve made me laugh out loud, shed a few tears and sigh with deep satisfaction. Please tell our readers what they can expect from Delaney and Grant and their rocky road to love.

I’m happy to be here, Romance Dish! And thrilled to know that LOVE ME SWEET made you laugh, cry, and sigh. The trifecta!

In this story, Delaney Masterson is a (reluctant) reality TV star on the run from scandal and Grant Connelly is Bell Harbor’s wandering son. He’s spent the last several years as an adventure show cameraman, but thanks to a series of unforeseen circumstances, he and Delaney end up on a road trip full of bad weather, honky-tonk musicians, and a few Elvis impersonators. She’s got a secret, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder, but still they can’t help getting all shook up and, of course, falling in love.

Music has a strong role in this book. I especially enjoyed the scenes on the Paradise Brothers’ tour bus and with the band in Memphis. Do you write to music or do you require silence? If you’re a musical writer, what songs/artists provided the soundtrack for Love Me Sweet?

When I first started drafting this book, I took a trip to Memphis with my best friend from high school. We stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel, visited Graceland and enjoyed all its cheesy goodness, and went to a bar called the Blues City CafĂ© where we saw The Eskimo Brothers. They were adorably enthusiastic singers, not too hard to look at, and their lyrics were blushingly naughty. So during break I chatted them up and said, “I’m a romance writer and you’ve given me an idea for my next book.” I bet they thought I was kidding but I wasn’t! But when I’m writing, I don’t listen to music. I need absolute silence – which is very inconvenient for me because my house is as quiet as a school cafeteria.

Would you like to share an excerpt from the book?

Why yes, I would. Here it is:

Grant pulled her to the dance floor and into his arms. The song was something sad, a story of love gone wrong, but nothing about this felt wrong.
Everything about this was just right.
The truth was, he’d never felt this way before. This was different. He wasn’t naive, of course. He understood she was shiny and bright, and everything about them had that new car smell, but he couldn’t imagine ever growing tired of her. He’d never grow tired of her lips because they tasted like caramel and set his skin on fire. He wouldn’t grow tired of her laugh and the way it burst like a firecracker. And he’d certainly never get tired of the way her body moved like water under his palm. Nope. Never getting tired of that, either.
Grant pulled her closer, nuzzling the curve of her neck. He could spend the rest of his life there, breathing in the scent of that sweet spot. Lane was beauty and heartbreak and everything in between and he had to kiss her. Right now. In the center of a crowded dance floor, he had to kiss her. So he did. She kissed him back, and he knew this night would be even better than the one before. And it needed to start right now.

Delaney is surprised to discover the talent of one of the band members that inspires a baby hat making competition. What talent do you have that readers would be surprised to discover?

Sadly most of my talents are so well hidden I have yet to find them. But I will admit that whenever we play Band Hero, I crush the competition with my rendition of LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD. My family tried to get me to sing it at a hotel’s karaoke bar not too long ago but I didn’t want to make the other caterwaulers feel bad. I can also make all the people in my house quiver with fear when I give them The Look.

Love Me Sweet opens with Delaney on the run from her family’s reality television show. If you could be a contestant/cast member on any real-life reality show, which one would you choose and why?  

Oh, Survivor, for sure. And I’d be the first one voted off the island because I’d complain about the bugs, I’m no good at puzzles, I can’t go more than a few hours without brushing my teeth. And let’s just say wow, thirty-nine days of me without my tweezers? That would be bad. Very, very bad.

I recommend your books to people who enjoy Kristan Higgins. What author would you recommend to readers who enjoy reading your stories? 

That’s so funny! I’m constantly recommending Higgins’ books, too. In fact, I once got a letter from a very sweet woman who said one of my books looked interesting to her but she wondered if it might be too racy. I told her my books weren’t racy by today’s standards but that, just to be on the safe side, she should go read Kristan instead!  I also love to recommend Kim Law’s Sugar Springs series, anything by Marina Adair, and of course there are the masters, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie.

What are your plans for 2015? Will you be attending any conferences/booksignings where readers will have the opportunity to meet you? 

I had to dial back my conference attendance this year but I will be in NYC in July for the Romance Writers of America® National Conference. And I’ve been invited to visit my publisher’s headquarters in Seattle in March. Very excited about that.  I recently learned that my books have sold over one million copies. Apparently that earns you a free trip!

What’s next?  

I’m currently finishing up a Christmas novella called JINGLE BELL HARBOR that I’m so excited about. It’s very light and fun. I probably could have called it Crazy Little Christmas! After that, I’m switching gears and finishing a World War 2 love story that I’ve been wanting to write for ages. Then it’s back to the romantic comedies because I just signed a new five-book deal with my publisher. So that should keep me out of trouble for a bit.

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Tracy. Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thanks so much for inviting me! I hope all the readers have enjoyed learning more about me and the Bell Harbor books. And I’d love to celebrate the release of LOVE ME SWEET with the offer of a lovely tote bag full of Brogan goodies, including autographed copies of CRAZY LITTLE THING and THE BEST MEDICINE. To enter, all you need to do is answer this question:

What is your funniest or worst road trip memory?  (And sometimes those “worst” moments end up being the funniest, too!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review - - Her Highland Fling

Her Highland Fling: A Novella
By Jennifer McQuiston
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: January 27, 2015

I'm frequently intrigued by secondary characters in the books I read and often left wondering what happens to them after the final page. Such was the case with Penelope "Pen" Tolbertson, sister of the heroine of Summer Is For Lovers and William McKenzie, brother of the hero of What Happens In Scotland. You can imagine my delight when I discovered Jennifer McQuiston's plans to write a story for the two in the novella, Her Highland Fling. I'm happy to say it more than met my expectations!

Let the Games Begin …

William MacKenzie has always been protective of his Scottish village. When Moraig's economy falters, he has the perfect solution to lure wealthy Londoners to this tiny hamlet: resurrect the ancient Highland Games! But for this to work, William knows he needs a reporter to showcase the town in just the right light.

A female journalist might be a tolerated oddity in Brighton, but newly minted reporter Penelope Tolbertson is discovering that finding respect in London is a far more difficult prospect. After receiving an invitation to cover Moraig's Highland Games, Penelope is determined to prove to her London editors just how valuable she can be.

Penelope instantly captures William's heart, but she is none too impressed with the gruff, broody Highlander; however, as she begins to understand his plans, Penelope discovers she may want more from him than just a story. She's only got a few days … but maybe a few days are all they need.

McQuiston takes an intelligent man, highly educated and well-spoken, and reduces him to a gibbering idiot at first sight of our heroine. When he's finally able to utter a welcome, he unknowingly insults her. Penelope, on the other hand, certain she's just been welcomed by the village idiot, retains her poise, dignity and ability to speak coherently, albeit slowly, so as not to tax his brain. Not an auspicious beginning for our hero and heroine...and the fun is just beginning.

Readers - and characters - are taken on a fun, fast-paced, heartwarming journey in Her Highland Fling. With witty banter, quirky secondary characters and intelligent writing, McQuiston brings us an entertaining tale with plenty of humor and heart. I've been rooting for Pen since meeting her in Summer is for Lovers. She deserves a man who will show her there's more to life than her pencils and notebooks and who will love her for who she is but first, she must learn to accept that love. I was intrigued by William in What Happens in Scotland but fell head over heels for him in Her Highland Fling.  When he finally declares himself, I decided if Pen didn't want him I was ready to travel back in time and claim him for myself.

The village of Moraig is brought to life through McQuiston's words. Characters from previous books are an integral part of the story, adding richness without detracting focus from the hero and heroine. Touches of whimsy add charm while quiet moments between William and Penelope fan the flames of desire in addition to gradually deepening the emotion and feelings between them.

As I mentioned earlier, Pen and William were secondary characters in McQuiston's first two books. Do you need to have read those books in order to enjoy Her Highland Fling? No. McQuiston has crafted a humorous, sexy, whimsical, tender story that stands well on its own. Having said that, however, there are occasional references that you won't "get" without knowing the previous stories and while William and Pen are fully formed characters, knowing their back stories will only add a greater depth of richness to the people you meet in Her Highland Fling.


Review - - After the War is Over

After the War is Over
By Jennifer Robson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 6, 2015

AFTER THE WAR IS OVER is a historical romance set post-World War I in England. The heroine, Charlotte Brown, is a proper but free-thinking modern woman who is much changed (as is everyone) after the Great War and is content with the life she has carved out for herself, helping the most needy and unfortunate and living in a boarding house with other lively women who are also living this new way of life. As is common with anyone who is not looking for love, two messages come that change her life. One is from an editor who wants her to write for his newspaper, to speak out on the things that other people cannot. One is from her past, reconnecting her with the one man she never got over, Lord Edward Neville-Ashford.

The story goes back and forth in time, showing the history between her and Edward and then reverting back to the current time to show how those decisions impacted current circumstances. She wants to help Edward, especially when she keeps getting glimpses of the boy she fell in love with; however, she knows he can never be hers and should she really scrap the life she’s worked so hard to create for herself.

The tone, voice, and setting are perfect with this period of history; I felt immersed in the story just from these things alone. I wasn’t so sure about Edward. Yes, he was charming and sweet where she was concerned, but when it mattered, would he step up? I worried for Charlotte for loving a man who could so easily set her aside, put her back into the position she was before she created her new life for herself.

If you’re a Downton Abbey fan—and have wanted fiction from around the time period—this book will appeal to you. The heroine reminds me a bit of Edith/Sybil, totally in love with a man she can’t have but willing to risk heartbreak anyway.  Fortunately for those literary heroines who are willing to risk much, much is gained.