Thursday, April 30, 2015

Coming Attractions

In my corner of the world, we're starting to reap the benefits of all those April showers with the blooming of beautiful May flowers. It's the season when the slumbering winter world comes back to life, bringing proms, colorful blossoms, graduations and a whole boatload of terrific new books, Here's what we have going on this month at The Romance Dish.

We kick things off Monday, May 4th with Andrea's New Releases. So many great new books will be published in May and Andrea has the titles you won't want to miss.

We love debut authors around here and we're bringing you another one on Tuesday, May 5th when Madeline Martin blogs with us. Madeline's first book, Deception of a Highlander was released April 28th and has everything I love in a Scottish historical romance. I'm excited to see what she brings us next!

On Tuesday, May 19th, we welcome the Carolyn Crane Behind the Mask blog tour. Behind the Mask, the fourth book in the RITA® award-winning author's romantic suspense Associates series, will be released May 19th.

Kat Martin joins us on Friday, May 22nd. The third book in Martin's popular Brodies of Alaska series, Against the Tide, will be released on May 26th.

On Wednesday, May 27th, we'll be hosting the Stephanie Laurens book tour as Laurens takes readers back to Scotland for her May 26th release,A Match for Marcus Cynster.

We wrap up the month on Thursday, May 28th with the Cara Elliott Hellions of High Street book tour. First released in digital format last year, the three books - Scandalously Yours, Sinfully Yours and Passionately Yours - are being released in paperback in March, April and May of 2015.

Maria Geraci Winner

The randomly chosen winner of an autographed copy of THAT THING YOU DO

plus some beach swag from Maria Geraci is:


Congratulations, Glenda!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Lindsay McKenna Winner

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of 

Taking Fire by Lindsay McKenna is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today's Special - - Anna Campbell

Okay, who's missed Anna Campbell? Me too! Oh, I know she's been busy writing (totally okay with that), traveling (I always enjoy her photos), and baking (sure wish I lived closer) but I still expect to see her name on the 24th of each month when I look at the Dish calendar. Is it any wonder that I'm over-the-moon excited to welcome her back today?  

Always a voracious reader, Anna Campbell decided when she was a child that she wanted to be a writer. Once she discovered the wonderful world of romance novels, she knew exactly what she wanted to write. Anna has won numerous awards for her historical romances, including the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice, the Booksellers' Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence, the Aspen Gold (twice), and the Australian Romance Readers Association's most popular historical romance (five times). Her books have twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA Award and three times for Romance Writers of Australia's Romantic Book of the Year.

When she's not writing passionate, intense stories featuring gorgeous Regency heroes and the women who are their destiny, Anna loves to travel, especially in the United Kingdom, and listen to all kinds of music. She lives near the sea on the east coast of Australia, where she's losing her battle with an overgrown subtropical garden.

You can learn more at:

Hi PJ and Andrea! Lovely to be back here. I’ve missed treading the halls of Dish Central.

It's wonderful to welcome you back, Anna! We sure have missed you around here. What have you been up to since taking a hiatus from your many blogging endeavors?

I’ve actually had a mixed few months. On the downside, I fell over and did something awful to my left arm so I’ve been on the sick list for nine months and counting (it’s much better now, I’m pleased to report). Also I put my house on the market and it didn’t sell. On the upside, I put my house on the market and it didn’t sell (turned out I’m really glad to stay after all that!). Writing-wise, I’ve been preparing for Scoundrel’s release and writing some indie novellas. Brace yourselves for a flood of new releases in the second half of the year (well, three!).

So happy to hear your arm is improving. And big cheers for the three new novellas! A new story from you is always cause for celebration. 

I’m sure that I speak for all of our readers when I say I’m very excited for the release of A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT. What should readers expect from this newest book in your Sons of Sin series?

How lovely that you’re excited about the book, PJ. I just loved writing those characters – Nell and James are completely wrong for each other, except that they’re so completely right for each other. Love that dynamic. I got to play with mistaken identities and revenge and love across the class divide with this one. Not to mention a very strong Cinderella trope! There’s lots of sexual tension and snarky dialogue, both of which were fun to write. And I had huge fun with the moment when the immovable object gives in to the irresistible force.

A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT includes two of my favorite romance themes, mistaken identity (as you mentioned above) and enemies to lovers though in this case, our heroine is the only one who knows they’re enemies.  Our hero is mostly bewitched, bothered and bewildered, as the song goes. How do these themes inspire you as a writer?

It’s interesting quite how often mistaken identities appear in my books. Or at least questions of identity. In fact, there’s some mystery of identity in everything I’ve ever written – and I had no idea until it was pointed out to me that was the case! It’s at least partly to do with the fact that most of us present some kind of persona to the world, but when we fall in love, we can only claim that love if we reveal our true essence to the other person. And of course, that’s absolutely terrifying! By the end of the book, both Nell and James have discovered that they aren’t quite the people they always thought they were – and they’re better for it.

I love your description of James being B, B and B. That was exactly how I thought of him – he doesn’t want this overwhelming attraction, poor boy, but he’s stuck with it. As a reader/filmgoer, I’ve always loved the enemies into lovers trope. So much at stake and every reason not to fall in love, but as gradual understanding builds, falling in love becomes inevitable. I also look forward to that moment when the enemies just give in to their feelings. It’s always a lovely aww scene.

James Fairbrother wasn’t a very likeable guy when we met him in WHAT A DUKE DARES yet there was something about him that I found intriguing. How did he convince you to give him his own story and what do you want readers to understand about this character?

Forever Romance and I both felt that the Sons of Sin series wasn’t done, although it was originally envisaged as a trilogy. Like you, I found Leath intriguing when I was writing him as Cam’s antagonist in WHAT A DUKE DARES. As you say, he’s not wholly a sympathetic character in the earlier story, although I don’t think he’s evil. What I’d like readers to understand is that we see Leath almost entirely from Cam’s point of view in Duke and Cam has good reasons for resenting him. Leath’s actions are perfectly acceptable in the Regency. Great political families like the Fairbrothers regularly made arranged marriages and in setting Sophie up with Desborough, he’s only following family tradition. Desborough, although far too old for Sophie, isn’t a bad man either – it’s a good match, especially in worldly terms. Harry Thorne, the man the young and innocent Sophie falls in love with, doesn’t look like much of a bet on paper and Leath’s attempts to keep her out of Harry’s hands stem from love and overprotectiveness. He’d be a very irresponsible guardian to trust his beloved sister to a rakish, fortune-hunting wastrel. The reader gets to see into Harry’s head and knows that he sincerely loves Sophie. Leath doesn’t have that luxury!

I actually based Leath on Winston Churchill (bear with me!). Like Leath, Churchill was son and political heir to a brilliant man who died young with his promise unfulfilled. And like Leath, people were always comparing the son to the father (often unfavorably, especially in Churchill’s case). Before his death at 46, Churchill’s father Randolph was widely touted as a future prime minister. I was interested in how a background like that could form a man – both positively and negatively.
Of all the women in England, Nell Trim would be one of the least likely candidates for the position of James’s wife. What was it about her that convinced you she’d be his perfect match?

Ha, perhaps the fact that she’s the least likely candidate? Right from the first mention of Leath in A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, he was a man concerned with rank and status and doing the right thing and supporting the status quo. He’s also clearly a man who has a lot to learn before he’s worthy of his happily ever after. When we meet Leath, he lives for duty – and of course, marrying a housemaid is the least dutiful thing he could do! But Nell challenges and intrigues him and excites him and makes him question whether he’s living his life for himself or for the father who died too early.

Love that Winston Churchill provided inspiration for Leath! I wonder what he would say about being the inspiration for a romance hero. ;-)

The covers of your Sons of Sin books have been stunning. Do you have any input into your book covers?

Aren’t they gorgeous? I still think that cover for SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen. Forever always ask me for ideas for the cover and for detailed descriptions of the hero and heroine – then they do their best to match my inner vision. In the case of A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT, I’d pictured Nell as a girl like Daenerys from GAME OF THRONES. There’s a lot in the book about her white blond hair and Leath has a bit of a thing about it. I’m delighted that they’ve given me exactly what I wanted there. And the cover features the first kiss scene in his bedroom which was also what I’d asked for.

Let's move away from books for a bit. I’ve noticed a large number of photos of baked goods – mostly cookies - on your Facebook page lately. (You have very lucky friends!) What’s your favorite cookie to make? Do you have any newly-discovered recipes you’d like to share?

Ha, haven’t I been busy? My latest fave is gingernuts from the Australian Women’s Weekly Biscuit cookbook. One proviso – if you’re going to make it, you’ll need to source Golden Syrup from a British food store. Apparently it’s not available in the US as a normal grocery item (who knew?). This photo gives you the recipe. I’m also sharing another recipe, one I made up this time, on Cathryn Hein’s Friday Feast blog on 8th May, so if you’re a baker, you might like to check that out:

Several authors have been journeying to Europe this year and their photos have me itching to pull out my passport and follow their example. Do you have any travel plans this year? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Funny you should ask. Brace yourself for some postcards because I’m doing a UK research trip in September. Can’t wait! I think if I had endless money and time, I’d love to settle into Venice for an extended stay. There’s something magical about a city with no cars and all that water.

How exciting! One of these days I'm going to make it to the UK. In the meantime, I'll be watching the mailbox. *grin*  I enjoyed visiting Venice though I don't think I'd want to stay for an extended time. A villa in Tuscany is more my style. :) 

I’ve discovered some interesting new books and authors this year. What are you reading these days? Do you have any books or authors that you’d recommend?

Well, PJ, so glad you asked (and I’d be interested to see your list). I miss talking about fave books on the Dishes! I think in romance, my recommendations are Susanna Kearsley who writes time slip novels (you know, there’s some major influence of the past on the present, and often scenes set in several eras), especially her SHADOWY HORSES which I found riveting. I’d also like to recommend a book that may have gone under your readers’ radar – COLD DECEPTION by D.B. Tait. It’s an Aussie romantic suspense and it’s edge-of-the-seat stuff with twists and turns that will keep you awake until after midnight. Lovely romance too. In nonfiction, I think my standouts are both by Cheryl Strayed: WILD which became the film and her collection of advice columns, TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS. Both beautifully written and so incredibly honest, they’ll bring tears to your eyes.

New books to add to my wish list! Thank you, Anna! I've missed reading your book recommendations. 

What’s next?

I’m putting out a novella around the 130-150 page mark in June. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Marianne Seaton, Cam’s jilted squeeze, and Elias Thorne, Pen’s brother, are just begging for a story at the end of SCOUNDREL so I’m obliging with THREE PROPOSALS AND A SCANDAL.

 Yay! That makes me a very happy reader. 

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Anna. You've really brightened up the place! Would you like to ask our readers a question?

When I was a regular reviewer here, I used to love hearing recommendations from the Dish's knowledgeable readers. So tell me - what have you read lately that you've really enjoyed?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anything can happen in the moonlight . . .Justice. That's all Nell Trim wants-for her sister and for the countless other young women the Marquess of Leath has ruined with his wildly seductive ways. Now she has a bold plan to take him down . . . as long as she can resist the scoundrel's temptations herself.

From the moment Nell meets James Fairbrother, the air positively sizzles. Yet for all his size and power, there's something amazingly tender in his touch. Could he really be such a depraved rogue? The only way to find out is to beat the devil at his own game . . . one tempting kiss at a time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Today's Special - - Maria Geraci

Andrea and I are delighted to welcome Maria Geraci back to the Dish today. Maria's new book, That Thing You Do kicks off her Whispering Bay series and will be followed by Then He Kissed Me (5/19/15) and That Man of Mine (6/9/15). Count me one happy reader!

Maria writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with a happy ending. The Portland Book Review called her novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, “immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.” Her fourth novel, A Girl Like You, was nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA ® award. Her current addictions include watching the STARZ adaptation of OUTLANDER to drool over Sam Heughan, hitting the beach on the weekends, and searching for the perfect key lime pie recipe (but not the kind they served on Dexter).

Welcome back, Maria!

I’m so happy to be back at The Romance Dish! Thank you to PJ and Andrea for hosting me today. This past year I’ve done something I wasn’t sure I could. I wrote 3 books nearly all at once. And while my family thought I was crazy (I thought I was going crazy myself!) now is the fun part—seeing those books come out for the rest of the world to read.

All three books take place in the fictional town of Whispering Bay, Florida and incorporate the characters from my first two books, my Bunco Babes series, so it was almost like coming home again. I really loved writing these stories and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

In the first book in the series, THAT THING YOU DO, Allie and Tom who were once high school sweethearts, must reluctantly join forces to figure out what’s causing the strange goings on in the town’s old abandoned senior center. Tom wants to tear the building down, but Allie wants to investigate it. Add in the fact that their relationship ended on a very bad note and sparks soon begin to fly. Here’s a snippet from the opening scene in which Tom discovers Allie snooping around inside the locked building.

Allie tried not to stare, but it was impossible. This certainly was not the Tom Donalan of her fantasies. The ones she had (only occasionally) after eating too much Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. In that world Tom Donalan had a beer belly, was bald, and missing a couple of front teeth. A lot of deterioration for only twelve years, but, hey, a girl could dream, right?
This Tom Donalan, on the other hand, had far superseded the promise made by his high school boyish good looks. Tall. Broad shouldered. With a full head of dark blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He stood there staring at her with his arms crossed over his chest like he was Captain Friggin’ America in charge of the planet.
He looked angry, which didn’t make sense. She was the wronged party here! He’d practically attacked her, for Pete’s sake.
She took a deep breath and tried to act as if running into her ex was an everyday occurrence. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Tom Donalan. I see you still have all your teeth.”
He blinked and shook his head. “What?”
I see you still have all your teeth.
Of all the Tom Donalan scenarios she’d played in her head over all the years, this was not what she was supposed to say to him. She was supposed to be witty. Charming. He was supposed to be dumbstruck by her brilliance. He was at a loss for words, all right.
Allie pasted a smile to her face and tried again. “You need to be more specific. What, as in, what’s my favorite color, or what do I have programmed on my DVR for tomorrow night, or what—”
“What, as in, what are you doing inside this building?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I could ask you the exact same question. Where’d you come from anyway?”
“I was driving by and I saw a car in the parking lot. So I stopped to investigate. Now it’s your turn. What are you doing back in town? I thought you lived in Tampa.”
He knew where she lived? “I don’t need a reason to come back home. Certainly not one I need to run by you, anyway. And I thought you lived in Atlanta.”
“Things change,” he said.
“Right. Things change.”
“So are you going to answer me or not?”
The way he stared at her made Allie squirm. Instinctively, she went to run a hand through her hair, then remembered that she’d pulled it back in a ponytail. She didn’t need a mirror to know exactly what she looked like. Ratty shorts, skinned up knee, no makeup. Her When-I See-Tom-Donalan-Again-Revenge-Fantasy was officially zero-for-two now.

As you can see, running into her ex has Allie more than a little frazzled! I think we all dream of looking like a runway model when we run into the One Who Got Away. 

Has this ever happened to you? Have you run into your ex looking not as good as you’d prefer?

Leave a comment, and I’ll randomly select one person to win a signed autographed copy of THAT THING YOU DO, along with some beach swag! (US only)

Deadline for comments to be entered for giveaway is Midnight PST, April 28, 2015.

Allie Grant doesn’t believe in second chances. She does, however, believe in the power of a permanent paycheck. So when a tipster reports that the soon-to-be demolished senior center in her hometown is haunted, Allie hightails it to Whispering Bay to get the scoop that could secure her dream job at Florida! magazine. What she finds, though, is far scarier than any ghost. Cue her ex-boyfriend, sexy construction foreman Tom Donalan. 

When Tom catches Allie poking around his construction site, he quickly realizes his former high school flame is just as feisty as ever. And, heaven help him, her irresistible, mile-high legs still take his breath away. But Tom isn’t about to delay the building’s demolition because of a silly ghost story. 

With neither of the stubborn exes backing down from their opposing positions, sparks fly. And, underneath the surface, the fire of their old attraction burns as hot as ever. When strange things start happening with increasing frequency around town, even a tough skeptic like Tom is tested. The question is, can Allie and Tom stop fighting long enough to get to the bottom of Whispering Bay’s ghost problem—and the more important matter of mending their broken hearts?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Today's Special - - Lindsay McKenna

It is my pleasure to welcome military and romantic suspense author Lindsay McKenna's Running Fire Blog Tour to The Romance Dish today. I've been a fan of Ms. McKenna's work since the early 80's and a new book from her is always cause for celebration in my house. According to her website, McKenna has published more than 100 books since 1981 with 22 million books in 22 foreign languages sold world-wide. That's a whole lot of great reading! A ground-breaker in the romance industry, her 1983 Silhouette Special Edition, Captive of Fate launched the military-adventure romance genre, a segment of romance fiction that has become very popular over the years.  You can find more information about Lindsay McKenna and her books at her website

Choosing Names for Characters
by Lindsay McKenna

                The name I choose for every character I write about means everything to me.  The name needs to resonate within me, inspire me, sweep me off to the hero and heroine’s personality, their thoughts, emotions, desire, dreams and wounds.  A name has energy to it and a very specific vibration.  That name is a template from which the character “talks” to me for the duration (and sometimes, after) the book.   

                When I start a new book, I’ll see a character come forward and introduce themselves to me.  I see what they look like, how they are dressed, the expression on their face, etc.  From that, I pick up a vibe about him or her.  I can feel who they are inside and out, as if they are utterly transparent to me on every level with me.  This is the magical part of creation which I love.

                The only downer is my characters never tell me their names!  I go through a number of books, thumbing through them, muttering a bunch a names to see if one “fits” them or not.  I go to tons of baby names websites on the Internet.  I look for unique, interesting or oddball names.  I’ve written over 135 books and all my favorite names have long ago, been used up!  

                Choosing every name of every character is one of the most important things I do when developing a story.  Every time I say that name out loud, I get an instant telepathic and emotional hit on that character.  I never go out-of-character because of this.  Choosing a name that embraces the particular character’s personality is vital. 

                I favor short names over really long, convoluted ones.  I like names you can create a nickname from or around. For example, the hero of RUNNING FIRE is a US Navy SEAL named Kelly Ballard.  But everyone has, forever, called him by his nickname, Kell.  And so, he grew up with it.  There’s usually a reason why some people get nicknames spinning off their given name.  Sometimes, there isn’t.   In Kell’s world, people around him just automatically shortened it.  Besides, Kell is an easy going sort of man and wasn’t one of those people who went around correcting everyone every time they didn’t call him by his real name, Kelly. (There are people out there like that, believe me).  I also don’t care for a name I can’t pronounce without stumbling all over it.  I figure if I do, so will my reader.

                It was tougher for me to find the heroine’s name: Leah Mackenzie.   Names sound strong or weak to me.  When I say the name, I want to investigate the layers  enclosed within its vowels and consonants.  In Leah’s case, when she came forward to introduce herself to me, I felt layers of steel, of grief, of suffering, but also, family meaning everything to her, a kindness and a loyalty that ran deeply through her.  She was a highly complex and compartmentalized person, so I needed a name that had far more layers than normal to it.  

                Above all, Leah was a person who cared deeply for family, and less for herself.  I needed a name with vulnerability built into it.  I wanted that softness that I felt deeply hidden and guarded by her.  I had to have a name that contained those juxtapose polarities:  marshmallow combined with steel.  I spent seven days and finally discovered the name that resonated with her:  Leah.  

                Afterward?  I always have fun looking up on the Internet what a name means by the country of its origin.  And also, any historical or religious significance to it, or not.  I’m always amazed, after I choose a name and then scour the basics of the name through history, that it ends up reflecting some basic tenets of my character. Go check the name Leah on Google, and you’ll get a ton of information!  

                I hope you enjoy the many layers, twists and turns of Running Fire!  Please run over to my website and sign up for my quarterly newsletter (free).  It contains exclusive information, giveaways, and surprises that only my subscribers will receive!  I love to hear from my readers, so make yourself known to me at  

Thank you for blogging with us today, Lindsay! 

Readers, are character names important to you? Have you ever read a book with characters whose names don't "fit" in your mind? Do you have difficulty connecting with a character when you don't know how to pronounce his/her name?

What does your name mean? Have you ever felt like you should have a different name? If you could re-name yourself, what name would you choose?

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's post will receive a copy of Taking Fire. (US/Canada only)

Click for other stops on the tour.

He was a haven in the midst of Hell… 

Temporarily assigned to the Shadow Squadron in a troubled region of Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer and pilot Leah Mackenzie is no stranger to conflict—even if most of her physical and emotional scars are courtesy of her vicious ex. Still, she's got a bad feeling about picking up a team of stranded SEALs. A feeling that's all too justified once enemy fire hits their helicopter and all hell breaks loose… 

SEAL Kell Ballard's goal was to get the injured pilot out of harm's way and find shelter deep in the labyrinth of caves. It's a place of dark intimacy, where Leah finds unexpected safety in a man's arms. Where prohibited attraction burns brightly. And where they'll hide until the time comes to face the enemy outside…and the enemy within their ranks.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review - - His First and Last

His First and Last
By Terri Osburn
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date: April 21, 2015

Twelve years ago, Lorelei Pratchett burned her bridges in grand style before heading to Los Angeles to chase her dream of becoming an actress, leaving behind a whole lot of people who were more than glad to see her go. Let's just say things didn't work out quite the way she had envisioned. With no career, no money and at the lowest point of her life, she's returning to Ardent Springs - to her feisty granny, the ex who looks even better than when they were teens and the small Tennessee town that doesn't exactly welcome her with open arms.

When Spencer picks up Lorelei at the Nashville airport at her grandmother's request, two things are immediately apparent: (1) this is not the same take-the-world-by-the-horns girl who left him twelve years ago and (2) he's still as drawn to her as he was the day she threw his ring in his face and stormed out of town. Though Lorelei insists this visit is simply a stopping off point, Spencer is determined to prove to her that her happiness awaits in Ardent Springs...with him.

The desire between them sizzles but Lorelei is hesitant to acknowledge it. She's stubborn, struggling to figure out what she's going to do with the rest of her life, and still reeling from being deceived by the man in LA that she had planned to marry. Life hasn't been easy for Spencer either. He moved on after having his heart broken by Lorelei, marrying a sweet local girl but his ex-wife cheated on him and, together, they shared a devastating loss. Still, he's willing to risk his heart again for his first love but he's going to need all the patience and understanding he can muster if their second chance has any hope of a happy ending.

Terri Osburn is one of my auto-buy authors. She won me over with her debut and each successive book has validated why they all sit on my keeper shelf. Her characters are fully formed, with the flaws and multiple layers found in real-life friends. There are times I want to hug them and other times I want to whack them upside the head which only makes them that much more real to me. Her stories go below the surface, exploring the complexities of small-town life; revealing the good and the bad within her characters, their families and the town itself. She creates situations and characters with which most people can relate or at least understand and empathize. She also taps into this reader's emotions, occasionally eliciting tears and, more frequently, laughter. I appreciate the fact that she doesn't rush her characters, nor does she make things easy for them. As in real life, those things most worthwhile rarely come to us without hard work and, sometimes, pain but that makes us appreciate them all the more when we finally achieve them. I have no doubt that Spencer and Lorelei fully appreciate their second chance. I look forward to watching their relationship continue to develop as well as meeting new couples and reading their stories in future Ardent Springs books.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review - - Hold Me

Hold Me
By Susan Mallery
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: April 28, 2015

Destiny Mills has just arrived in Fool’s Gold prepared to enjoy her three-month stay, her first in California. She has been sent by her employer to lead the team training the town’s search and rescue squad in the use of STORM (Search Team Rescue Management Software) after she maps the physical geography of the wilderness area around Fool’s Gold so that the million-dollar software program is customized for the company’s newest client. Destiny likes her job and the rolling-stone life that comes with it. Since she is never in one place long enough to set down roots, she never has to worry about the drama that is often part of long-term relationships. Destiny had enough drama to last a lifetime growing up with two country music superstars as parents. When she does settle down, Destiny is determined that it will be with an ordinary guy who can offer her a sane and stable life.

There is nothing ordinary about Kipling Gilmore. World-class skier, Olympic Gold medalist, and a media darling known as G-Force for his love of speed, Kipling is as celebrated for his good looks, personal charm, and party credentials as for his athletic accomplishments. A horrific accident may have ended his spectacular career, but he is still the kind of man who draws attention and interest. Kipling knows he is lucky to have survived the accident, lucky to be walking with only scars and a limp as evidence of his brush with death. He is finding it easier than he expected to adjust to his new life as head of Fool’s Gold’s search and rescue program, even though he is not crazy about the name--HERO, Help Emergency Rescue Operations. He is ever conscious of the debt he owes Mayor Marsha Tilson who not only came all the way to New Zealand to offer him a job when he wasn’t certain he’d ever walk away from his hospital bed but somehow arranged to have his sister Shelby rescued from their abusive father when Kipling had failed her. His search and rescue job and his partnership in The Man Cave, Fool’s Gold’s newest bar keep him busy, but Kipling thinks Destiny Mills may be just what he needs to add excitement to his personal life. He has a weakness for redheads, and the fact that she is only in town for three months makes her perfect for a serial monogamist who limits his love life to short-term relationships.

Destiny is doing her best to ignore the sparks between her and Kipling. She is not immune to his appeal, but she is convinced that this thrill-seeker is the last thing she needs in a life already filled with new challenges. She has recently assumed responsibility for her fifteen-year-old half-sister, Starr, and she is finding it difficult to find common ground with the sister she met only ten days ago, particularly since a dozen years ago Destiny turned her back on music, the natural bond between daughters of Jimmy Don Mills. Things get complicated when, despite Destiny’s intention to remain just friends with Kipling, their relationship becomes that of friends with benefits. But Destiny mistrusts passion, and Kipling is skeptical about love. Can these two find their way past all their differences to an HEA even when they have a pressing reason to do so?

I’ve been a Susan Mallery fan for many years, and I’ve been a Fool’s Gold fan since Mallery produced the first trilogy back in 2010. I’ve read every book in the series, but I had some problems with this sixteenth book. Although I liked both Destiny and Kipling and found Destiny and Starr’s relationship as engaging as the romance, I just could not get past Destiny’s behavior at one point in the story. What might be forgivable in a dreaming teenager just seemed to me inexcusably stupid in a mature, twenty-first-century woman, regardless of her inexperience. And that’s all I can say about that without moving into spoiler territory.

Then there is the issue of The Man Cave and Jo’s Bar. We are told that Fool’s Gold is a town of approximately 125, 500, and yet we are to believe that there is not enough business for two bars without one threatening the success of the other. And that is not even addressing the clear gender distinction in their target customers. I understand that the term “small town” is inexact, and a small town in California may be much larger than a small town in my home state where outside of metropolitan Atlanta, only three of the state’s more than 530 cities have a population over 100,000. But any town with more than 125,000 people in it is too large for all the citizens to know one another and too large for the patrons of bars to be limited to a relatively small group of connected people. My reasoning just would not let me suspend disbelief, and I was thrown out of the story.

Perhaps most significantly, I thought the story was just too busy. With their family baggage and their very different goals, the tensions between Destiny and Kipling provide ample conflict. The little “complication” and the bar competition struck me as more irritating than riveting.

So, overall, I rank Hold Me as one of the weaker novels in this popular, long-running series. Does this mean I’ve sworn off this series or this author? Indeed not. Susan Mallery is still on my auto-buy list, and I’m still looking forward to Kiss Me in July and to the stories of the five Mitchell brothers, beginning with Thrill Me in August. And I’m sure that many Fool’s Gold fans will not be bothered in the least by the things I found distracting.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review - - All's Fair in Love and Scandal

All’s Fair in Love and Scandal
By Caroline Linden
Scandal Series, Book 2.5
Publisher: Avon Impuse
Release Date: April 21, 2015

I really enjoyed All’s Fair in Love and Scandal. Caroline Linden manages to pack in a whole lot of great characters, emotional story arcs, and plot within the shorter format.  Novellas are quite tricky to pull off because readers expect the same good plot, well developed characters, and happy ending as they find in full length novels, but at a fraction of the word count.

Douglas Bennet is a man who has the world at his feet-good looks, fortune, social status, and a happy, comfortable carefree life.  However, his world gets turned upside down when he accepts a wager from a friend to unmask the identity of a mysterious author.  In his quest to win this wager, he crosses paths with widow Madeline Wilde. I thought Caroline wrote a great character arc for Douglas. Throughout his whole life, he has had everything he wants or needs handed to him.  Things have always come easily to him and he has rarely, if ever, encountered an obstacle or something he couldn’t obtain with his money or charm.  But Madeline proves to be a tough nut to crack, and for the first time in his life, Douglas has to dig deep, rise to the occasion, and put himself on the line to earn the woman he loves.  He comes to learn that the best things in life mean more when you earn it through hard work, sacrifice, and risk instead of it being handed to you

While Madeline appears to be a barely respectable widow who keeps to herself, there is more to her than meets the eye. I liked Madeline almost immediately.  She is a strong, resourceful person who uses her intelligence and ingenuity to support herself after her husband dies. Using her social connections within the ton, she is now a gossip journalist for a small newspaper. Given her new profession and her complicated family background, she is naturally suspicious of Douglas when he first approaches her for an introduction, and his subsequent overtures and attempts to win her over.  I loved that Madeline eventually learns to let go the baggage of her past, and learns to trust in her heart, and in a rogue like Douglas. Indeed, there is a scene where Madeline puts the adage “If you love someone, let them go.  If they come back, they’re yours. If not, they were never yours to begin with” to the test. Luckily, we know that both Madeline and Douglas will pass this test and learn to believe and trust in each other.

There is a great array of secondary characters in this book, including Mr. Nash the cat and Constance, Madeline’s maid. I found Liam MacGregor, Madeline’s business partner and editor very intriguing, as well as Sir Philip Albright, Douglas’s competitor to unmask Lady Constance, turned ally. I sense hero potential in both characters, and am looking forward to seeing if I’m right or not.
I definitely recommend All’s Fair in Love and Scandal for any reader who enjoys novellas with great compelling characters who you can’t help but root for with a good dollop of humor and emotional depth on top.

The running theme throughout the Scandal series is 50 Ways to Sin, a very naughty and explicit collection that tells the story of Lady Constance and her myriad lovers and trysts.  The author of 50 Ways to Sin still remains unknown, but I’m hoping the next book in the series will finally clear up that mystery.