Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lenora Bell Winners

Congratulations to the following winners from Lenora Bell's visit:

(prize package from Lenora Bell)

(prize package from Lenora Bell)

Ms Awesome
(Print or Kindle copy of How the Duke Was Won - winner's choice)

(Print or Kindle copy of How the Duke Was won - winner's choice)

Winners: Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 29, 2016

Today's Special - - Anna Campbell

She's back! Anna Campbell joins us today to answer a few questions about her newest novella, Winning Lord West. It releases April 30th, which means I'll be stalking my Kindle tomorrow morning. I've loved the first two Dashing Widows novellas and can't wait to see what this newest story will bring. 

Welcome, Anna!  Your new historical romance, Winning Lord West (with yet another stunning cover) will be released April 30th. What can readers expect from this third novella in your Dashing Widows series?

Hi PJ! So glad to be back with in old stamping grounds, the Romance Dish! Thank you for hosting me today.

Winning Lord West is a reunion story – Helena and Lord West were childhood sweethearts before she
fell under the dark influence of her horrible (and now dead, hurrah!) husband, the Earl of Crewe. Over the 11 years since Helena and West parted, they’ve always had a prickly relationship. She’s one of those characters who hides her vulnerabilities under a witty and occasionally sharp tongue, and she’s always blamed West for introducing Crewe to her family as a great guy.

The story starts at the fateful picnic at Richmond that plays such an important part in The Seduction of Lord Stone. Lord West tells Helena that things are about to change, and he intends to pursue her in earnest. Then to his frustration, he gets sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission so poor Helena is left fuming all alone, with only his letters to keep her company.

The bulk of the story takes place at the country house party leading up to Caroline and Silas’s wedding, with lots of chances to catch up with old friends. And West and Helena have lots of chances for… you know! This couple made me laugh – sometimes you have to hit your characters with an ax to get them into bed. NOT with these two!

So what to expect? Obviously plenty of steam! And plenty of sparky dialogue (well, at least I hope it’s sparky!). Appearances from Caro and Silas, and Fenella and Anthony. A couple of subtle hints for future Dashing Widows stories. A wedding for our first Dashing Widow. And a blissfully happy ending. Oh, and an epilogue for this particular trio of widows that I hope will wrap everything up in a nice big bow for the readers.

And, yes, isn’t that cover gorgeous?

Oh, that sounds lovely! Winning Lord West is a first love – second chance romance. What is it about this trope that appeals to you as a writer?

As a reader, I love reunion stories. It’s interesting – I haven’t written that many of them. Previous reunion stories of mine are Days of Rakes and Roses and The Winter Wife, both novellas. I think reunions are amongst the most optimistic of romantic tropes – and let’s face it, romance is already a terrifically optimistic genre. Reunion stories say that you get the chance to try again and succeed this time, using the wisdom that you’ve gained in the time apart. They also have this lovely circular structure of returning to where you started out and seeing the place/person with fresh eyes. For novellas, I think reunions work particularly well because it means you don’t have to do insta-love (although sometimes insta-love is great fun and I’m certainly not dissing it!).

Like you, I adore second-chance, reunion stories. I enjoyed both that you mentioned with The Winter Wife being a particular favorite.

Here in the U.S., spring is in the air and colorful flowers are beginning to bloom. Aside from the allergies, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Which season is your favorite? What makes it so?

Oh, I so envy your Northern Hemisphere spring, PJ. I’ve been lucky enough to be in Europe for a couple of springs and I adore the explosion of life and color after drab winter. You can see why it’s such a powerful symbol of hope, can’t you? I live in a subtropical part of Australia which is nice pretty much all the time (think Florida with koalas). We’re heading into winter here (brrrr, I might have to wear long sleeves in a month!). This is my favorite time of the year on the Sunshine Coast. Autumn here is glorious – clear days and crisp nights.

What writing projects are on your schedule this year? Will there be more dashing widows?

As you’ve probably gathered, at the moment, I’m madly in love with novellas. I have plans to go back to full-lengthers, but right now, getting my characters to a happy ending in 150-odd pages suits me down to the ground. When I started the novella craze, the plan was six, then it became 10. And I think at the moment, I’m planning another two on top of that (Carey and Brandon from Tempting Mr. Townsend are heroes in the making!). The next release is a cute and funny stand-alone  (I hope readers agree with me) called Stranded with the Scottish Earl which will be out 30th June. Then I’m going to start another Dashing Widows trilogy, with the first book featuring Amy, Silas’s little sister, who makes a brief appearance in Winning Lord West. Then I’m involved in a top secret Christmas project. Ooh, mysterious.

Oh, I would love to eventually see stories for Carey and Brandon! 

I have an Amazon gift card that’s burning a hole in my pocket. Have you discovered any books that should be on my reading radar?

Ooh, so glad you asked. As some of you know, for a few years, I did a column here called Second
Helping where I recommended classic or older romances that might have gone under readers’ radar. Having said that, I haven’t been reading a lot of romance lately. I’ve only just started discovering Agatha Christie so she’s keeping me busy, and I’m reading the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters and just loving those. Both AC and EP include romances in most of their stories, but they’re definitely not the focus of proceedings! Last year was also the year of Nora Roberts for me – I had an absolute craze on her stories and I couldn’t tell you how many I got through.

A couple of romance standouts from the last six months or so are Susan Sey’s Blake Brothers series (I think they would be my favorite reading from last year) and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley which is a wonderful time slip novel with a great romantic relationship at its heart.

I love to snack on a mixture of raisins, chocolate chips and cashews while losing myself in one of your stories. Do you have a favorite snack that you nibble on while writing?

Oh, now I have a lovely picture of you snacking away while you read Winning Lord West. I approve! I’m a sucker for potato chips. The myth is that writers love chocolate (and obviously I like chocolate – who doesn’t like chocolate?), but any potato chip that crosses my threshold is immediately under threat!

You’ll be traveling to the U.S. later this year. Will you be attending any conferences or book signings where readers will have the opportunity to meet you in person?

I’m coming to Spokane in September for the Historical Romance Retreat where I’m so excited that I’ll get to catch up with you, PJ – and a lot of other dedicated historical romance fans. Here’s the website: There’s a huge signing open to the public there on Saturday, 24th September. At this stage, I can’t confirm any other appearances – partly because I haven’t worked out my travel arrangements! That’s a task for the next week or so! Watch this space.

I'm so excited to see you in person again, Anna. It's been six years! 

Thanks for visiting with us. Would you like to ask our readers a question today?

Thanks again for hosting me, PJ. I always love visiting the Dish.

PJ asked me what my favorite season is. I’d love to know yours and why. People who leave a comment are in the running for 2 Kindle downloads of Winning Lord West. Good luck!

All rakes are the same! Except when they’re not…
Spirited Helena, Countess of Crewe, knows all about profligate rakes; she was married to one for nine years and still bears the scars. Now this Dashing Widow plans a life of glorious freedom where she does just what she wishes – and nobody will ever hurt her again. So what is she to do when that handsome scoundrel Lord West sets out to make her his wife? Say no, of course. Which is fine, until West focuses all his sensual skills on changing her mind. And West’s sensual skills are renowned far and wide as utterly irresistible…
Passionate persuasion!
Vernon Grange, Lord West, has long been estranged from his headstrong first love, Helena Nash, but he’s always regretted that he didn’t step in to prevent her disastrous marriage. Now Helena is free, and this time, come hell or high water, West won’t let her escape him again. His weapon of choice is seduction, and in this particular game, he’s an acknowledged master. Now that he and Helena are under one roof at the year’s most glamorous house party, he intends to counter her every argument with breathtaking pleasure. Could it be that Lady Crewe’s dashing days are numbered?

Aussie Anna Campbell is a self-confessed bookaholic and is very proud of her shady past as a regular contributor to the Romance Dish. Her historical romances have won numerous awards, including the 2015 Australian Romantic Novella of the Year.  

Buy links:

Social media links:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday Review - - Open Country

In a recent interview, I was asked to list my top ten favorite romances. One of the books on my list is Open Country by Kaki Warner. This western historical romance is the second book Warner published and the second story in her award-winning Blood Rose Trilogy. Open Country was a 2011 RITA® finalist and the first story in the trilogy, Pieces of Sky won the 2011 Rita® award. I thought it would be fun to post the review I wrote of Open Country when it was originally published in June, 2010.  This is a book that has stood the test of time for this reader. I'm still in love with these characters six years after first reading their story. 

If you're interested, here's the link to the interview I did with Kimberly Rocha of Book Obsessed Chicks Book Club when she named me one of her "Cheerleaders for Romance." 

Open Country
Blood Rose Trilogy – Book #2
By Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: June 1, 2010

Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get – even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister’s children, she must provide for her wards while outrunning the relentless trackers their vicious stepfather has set on her trail. To secure their future, she marries a badly injured man, assuming that when he dies his insurance settlement will provide all they need. But there is one small problem.

The man doesn’t die.

Since she was thirteen years old, Molly McFarlane has been assisting her famous surgeon father in the care of Civil War soldiers and taking care of herself. She’s never had a social life, never been courted by a young man and now, at twenty-six, she finds herself on the run with two young children. Far from their Georgia home, they are lucky to escape serious injury when the train on which they’re riding derails in Texas. Desperate for money to keep the children safe, when Molly hears that the train company will pay the families of the dead $300, she pretends to be the fiancé of a fellow train passenger who is seriously injured and not expected to survive and, when they won’t pay a fiancé, she convinces the local minister to marry them, even though the groom is unconscious. But, when she realizes that there’s a chance the man might live, and the only doctor in town is a drunk who’s convinced he’ll die, her conscience and her many years of nursing won’t let her walk away.

Hank Wilkins is a complex, quiet man. He’s content to run the family ranch with his brother, Brady and visit the local brothel when he needs “attention.” Having his heart smashed to pieces by a fickle woman has destroyed his trust and he has no interest in giving love, or marriage, a second chance. Following the train crash in which he is almost killed, Hank awakens with amnesia, his only memory the sweet, southern voice of a woman who says she’s his wife.

A figure moved closer. A woman. She bent close and spoke in a calm, soothing voice. “You’re safe, Henry. Stay calm. I’m here to help you.” 

Who the hell was Henry?

Her voice was familiar, but her face was only a blue. He tried to remember, but the effort sent him sliding back toward the void. Terror thundered through him. “Don’t go,” he choked out as blackness pressed against the edges of his vision.

“I won’t. I’m here.”

He felt her hand on his cheek, her palm cool and soft against his skin.

“You’re safe, Henry. You’re all right. I won’t leave you, I promise.”

Her touch was his lifeline, her voice his beacon. In desperation, he clung to it with all of his mind as the smothering darkness sucked him under.

Feeling guilty for what she’s done, Molly tells Hank’s brother, Brady, that she will have her marriage to Hank annulled but while Brady doesn’t trust Molly, he quickly realizes that she’s his brother’s best chance of survival. Not only that, but he’s terrified that his pregnant wife will have complications as she did with her last pregnancy so he convinces (blackmails) Molly to travel with them to their remote family ranch and stay until Hank is healed and Jessica has safely delivered their baby. Grasping the opportunity to keep the children safe, Molly accepts, never expecting to fall in love, not only with Hank but with his entire family.

While Hank and Molly have plenty of life experience, when it comes to love and romance, they are both as awkward as newborn chicks, as is evidenced in the following two internal monologues as they each contemplate the rituals of courting.

     It was starting to sound less fun by the minute. He didn’t like courting. He didn’t know how to act or what to say, and the one time he’d tried it – other than with Molly, apparently – he’d felt big and awkward and clumsy. So much easier if he could just say, “We’re married. Take off your clothes.” Neat and simple.

He glanced at her, wondering if he should give it a try.

Her expression said not.

Just as well. He wasn’t feeling that perky.

     Courting. What did that mean, exactly? What was she supposed to do? Did she even have the proper clothes? It was ludicrous, really, that at the spinsterish age of twenty-six all those adolescent yearnings and doubts should grip her so strongly.

Would he recite poetry? Tell her she was beautiful?

The notion almost made her laugh. Romantic words from the man who had wrestled her over a chamber pot? Not likely.

As time passes and Molly and Hank grow closer, they both learn to open themselves to the possibility of love and trust between them. Molly yearns to truly belong to this man…this family…this beautiful but unforgiving land. But with the secret of their sham marriage, the knowledge that Hank’s memory could return at any moment and a madman closing in for the kill, the question becomes not whether Hank will forgive her and love and accept her as his wife but if any of them will live long enough to see tomorrow.

I loved this story! Kaki Warner grabbed me from the opening of the book and never let me go. Even now, days after turning the final page, I’m still thinking about the characters from this intensely emotional and realistic frontier story. Not just Molly and Hank, but the whole family. I came to care about all of them and hope to see them again in the next book in this series. The secondary characters in Open Country are a colorful cast and very important to the story, especially Molly’s niece and nephew. The scenes between six-year-old Penny and “papa-Hank” are some of the best in the book and had me laughing uproariously in some and wiping away tears in others. Fans of Warner’s first book, Pieces of Sky will be delighted to discover that Brady, Jessica and their children are featured prominently in Open Country.

Several friends recommended that I read Kaki Warner’s debut novel, Pieces of Sky, when it was released in January. I haven’t found the time to read it yet but, now that I’ve finished her second book, Open Country, I’ll be correcting that oversight as soon as possible. Warner is a fresh new voice in historical romance who, through her vivid descriptions, compelling characters and smoothly flowing prose, brings the American Western frontier, with all its harshness and beauty, to life. I highly recommend Open Country!


Are you a re-reader? 

What books have stood the test of time for you?

Have you read Open Country?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today's Special - - Lenora Bell

I met Lenora Bell at the 2014 RWA conference in San Antonio where she won the Golden Heart® for Best Historical manuscript. Not long after that, I had the opportunity to read the first chapter of what would eventually become her debut novel and I was captivated. I'm so excited to host her today as she celebrates the release of How The Duke Was Won. If you enjoy the books of Tessa Dare or Sarah MacLean, you won't want to miss How The Duke Was Won!

Lenora Bell is a third generation Alaskan and her hometown still has no traffic lights or fast food, but the public library is going strong!

An English teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has traveled the globe using music to bring smiles to classrooms. She currently lives in Switzerland with her carpenter husband and two naughty tiger-striped kitties.

In 2014 she won the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She’s thrilled to be debuting with Avon Books and hopes you enjoy spotting her very first bad boy at a bookstore near you.

Please give Lenora a warm Romance Dish welcome! 

I have a thing for bad boys. You know the type. Motorcycles. Tattoos. James Dean t-shirt sleeves rolled over bulging biceps. But the 21st century didn’t invent bad boys. From the arrogant Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to the passionate Jamie in Outlander, I’m always searching for a wicked rogue in a cravat…or a kilt. So to help with the hunt, I’ve prepared a handy list for how to spot historical hotties.

Top Ten Ways to Spot a Historical Bad Boy

1. Is his nose crooked from brawling in public houses? How about his linen shirt—is it still on? Bad boys rarely stay fully clothed for long. They’re always finding reasons to roll up their shirtsleeves, or plunge into lakes and emerge with wet, transparent linen clinging to rock-hard abs.

2. If you just met the guy and he calls you poppet, pet, love, or chit in a most infuriating manner...he’s an as-yet-untamed rogue.

3. Does he have a badass nickname like “Satanas” or “Devil Earl” or “Lord Beelzebub”? Hell yeah, he’s a bad boy.

4. Are your knees weak? Is your face flushed with heat? Do you feel a dangerous thrill? You may be in close contact with a bad boy.

5. If he’s prone to risqué innuendos and thinly veiled references to his endowments…he’s definitely a bad boy.

6. Is he always unbuttoning your gloves in public in a sensual, pearl by pearl, manner? Yep. He’s a bad boy.

7. Inventiveness is the hallmark of scoundrels. He won’t just kiss you. He’ll savor you. Slowly. In ways you haven’t even imagined yet.

8. You may have spotted a prime specimen if you discover a dark, painful past. Bonus points if he has trouble sleeping at night. More bonus points if he has literal scars from said dark past. Even more bonus points if looking at you gives him hope.

9. Warriors need love, too. They just don’t know it yet. An initial aversion to emotional intimacy is a sure sign you’ve found a bad boy.

And the number one way to spot a historical bad boy?

10. When he falls, he falls hard. And it’s only your love that can save him.

Lenora wants to know who's your favorite historical bad boy? You can choose from her picks, or throw another one into the mix :)

PJ is giving away two copies of HOW THE DUKE WAS WON (winner's choice of print or Kindle). 

From Lenora, two randomly chosen winners will receive:

A signed copy of HOW THE DUKE WAS WON...

a Divine Chocolate bar (fair trade, 44% farmer owned, female CEO)

and copies of four books featuring some of Lenora’s favorite historical bad boys: Tessa Dare’s WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT, Eloisa James’ FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE, Beverly Jenkins’ DESTINY’S CAPTIVE, and Sarah MacLean’s THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN.

Both giveaways are open internationally. 

Deadline to be included in giveaway is 11:00 PM (EST), April 27, 2016. 

The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.
James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.
Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?
She is not like the others…
Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:
* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]
* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]
* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]
* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]
When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review - - The Wedding Pact

The Wedding Pact
By Katee Robert
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 26, 2016

The Wedding Pact by Katee Robert is the second book in her latest series The O’Malleys. They  are a tight knit family but not in cheerful, loving way. Power is everything and they exude on all levels. They have issues and they have enemies. James Halloran’s family happens to be one of  them. Too bad for Carrigan O’Malley because she’s got it bad for James and that ain’t good.  

You would think that this Romeo and Juliet couple would be as doomed as the two young lovers were in Shakespeare’s classic troupe of wrong boy meets wrong girl. But Carrigan and James  are different. They are clay pots fired in the kilns nursed by their over the top insane, ruthless,  power mad patriarches of their families. This had forged in them both keen survival skills and  bold determination to go after what they feel is rightfully theirs.  

Their relationship started off in non too pleasant circumstances in the first book of this series. However, it lit within them the knowledge that they belong to one another. Undeniably so. Once they accept their fate, they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.  

So they defy their fathers. Carrigan must escape an archaically arranged marriage to a rival  Russian mob family. This introduces a nastily  controlling villain and his not very stellar family but  there is more where that came from in the following book in this series.  

In the end, they create their own happily ever after. Separating themselves from their overbearing and overwhelming families to forge a dynasty of their own. You kinda want to cheer them on and  you really should. The Wedding Pact was a good story. For the most part, I liked the characters  as they were presented. The siblings on both sides are strong and I found myself wondering  about their stories and hoping they also escape the ties that bind them. I would have liked to  know more about what made their families sworn enemies and so devastatingly so in this day in  age in Boston. The Halloran and O’Malley families are not Nob Hill Bostonites but you can sense the grit of their Southie roots.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rachael Miles Winner

The randomly chosen winners of a copy of 

Jilting the Duke by Rachael Miles are:

(print copy from Rachael Miles)

(Kindle copy from PJ)


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

Stefany, please send your email address to theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today's Special - - Rachael Miles

It's my pleasure to welcome debut author Rachael Miles to TRD today. Rachael writes romance novels set in the British Regency. Her debut series--The Muses' Salon--is being published in 2016 by Kensington Zebra Shout. Her first novel--Jilting the Duke--has been called a "cosily scrumptious historical romance' by Publisher's Weekly and is the recipient of a 4 star review by RT Book Reviews, which described it as "charming, sweet, and sensual." Cathy Maxwell praised her second novel, Chasing the Heiress, saying "Intrigue, romance, adventure, Chasing the Heiress has it all!" Identified as a 'strong new voice' by Mary Jo Putney for, Miles is a former professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature. She edits the digital archives, Nineteenth-century Women Writers Reviewed and the internationally award-winning Texas Manuscript Cultures. A native Texan​, Miles lives ​in the woods ​with ​her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs,​ an ancient ​c​at​, and a herd of deer who love her vegetable garden​.  

Welcome, Rachael! Congratulations on the release of your debut book, Jilting the Duke.  What should readers expect from this historical romance?

I started Jilting the Duke with a question. What would you do if your worst enemy became guardian of your child? And what if that enemy used to be your best friend? It seemed to be a perfect starting point: all that intimacy gone awry, then brought back into contact, but with the addition of a power dynamic. That’s the situation Sophia Gardiner, Lady Wilmot, finds herself in at the beginning of the book, co-guardian with Aidan Somerville, Duke of Forster, a man she once loved and has never been able to forget. But Aidan sees the co-guardianship as a way to punish Sophia for deserting him all those years ago. So, the two come into contact again with very different motives, only to have those motives shift when it becomes clear that Sophia and her young son are in danger.

As you mentioned above, Jilting the Duke is a second-chance love story with a revenge twist. What is it about the combination of these two tropes that intrigues you as a writer?

I think these two tropes work so well together because they both require forgiveness. In revenge stories, society is fractured: justice has been denied—for whatever reason—to those who deserve it, and the hero or heroine is left to repair the fracture. But without justice, the fracture ripples wider and wider. Think of Hamlet. In gaining his revenge on the man who murdered his father, Hamlet kills or causes the death of his girlfriend, her brother and father, his mother, his uncle, himself, and two university friends. Only one thing can keep the fracture of injustice from erupting into revenge: love. But to love requires the characters to forgive the injustice that started the whole cycle.

A second-chance love story doesn’t necessarily start at the same spot as a revenge story—our characters may not want each other dead. But there is still a fracture that separates the characters: a breach left by whatever it is that kept them apart--family, obligation, ambition, misunderstanding, etc. But before the characters can love one another, they have to heal that breach, and that happens (again) through forgiveness.

In Jilting the Duke, then, when Aidan vows revenge for Sophia’s betrayal, that vow carries with it the threat of real destruction, even though the ‘death’ he imagines for her is a social one (rejection by the ton, scandal, etc). But revenge (as Aidan’s valet warns him) is insidious—and even when Aidan thinks he’s set revenge aside to take that second chance, until he forgives Sophia—and she him—the possibility for all sorts of unexpected fractures remains very real. And with a villain who wants Sophia dead, those fractures create opportunities for danger.

Our heroine, Sophia is an intelligent, educated woman with a passion for botany. Do you have a green thumb? What plants will be blooming in your garden this year?

I loved making Sophia a botanist. It was an acceptable pursuit for women in the period, but it also drew on my own love of plants and landscapes. As for me, though, my green thumb depends on the plant. Somehow I can keep an orchid alive and happy, but I can’t grow tarragon.

As for what will be blooming in my yard, I have no idea, and that’s great fun! We recently moved from a semi-arid flat desert (where everything we planted had to be drought and heat tolerant) to a hilly, water-rich landscape, and our new yard shows the remains of a past garden design. This year, then, I’m watching to discover what already lives in the yard. All day today, I enjoyed a lone yellow crocus with magenta stripes down the petals.

What led you to write historical romance?

My path to writing historical romance is a pretty wayward one. I read my first historical romance when I was in elementary school--Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard. The book brought together history (Renaissance England) and magic (the faery folk) and the English ballad tradition (Tam Lin). But what made me read the book over and over again was its plain-faced heroine, Kate: smart, resourceful, and determined, Kate makes decisions that change the landscape of her world. I wanted to write stories like that—and over the years I wrote dribs and drabs of stories (always historical). But I had an academic career, teaching 19thC literature and book history, and I focused my energy into recovering the work of long-forgotten women writers and publishing about those women. And for a long time, I thought that was the place that my writing path ended up.

Then Jodi Thomas came to talk to my book history course about the contemporary book market, and at lunch (the closest thing I could offer to an honorarium), she asked, “Now, honey, what are you going to write?” It’s funny how a single sentence can reorient your whole world. And pretty soon, my brain—so full of 19thC details—began to reshape those pieces into stories. It’s been fascinating and oh-so-much fun.

I love a book that pulls me into its spell so completely that I end up reading well past my bedtime (as Jilting the Duke did). What’s the last book that kept you reading well into the night?

I have absolutely no discipline when it comes to reading. If I start reading a book, and it’s engaging, I will most often read until I finish. But I’ve been trying to reform. Right now, I’m trying not to read in one gulp Amanda Stevens’ The Visitor. I read the first three in her Graveyard Queen series several years ago, so I was excited to see this one come out.

What’s been the most fun part of being a published romance author? The most challenging? The most surprising?

Strangely, the most fun is the process—seeing a book move from idea to manuscript to a book in a reader’s hands. Along the way, you get these lovely bursts of pleasure: there’s an email with your cover image, then the fat package with your proofs (in which the MS suddenly looks like a book!), then the ARCs that you pet while mailing them out to reviewers, then the moment when you (gasp) see your book on a shelf at a bookstore. After that, you have lovely encounters with readers who have read your book. So, each successive pleasure gets replaced by the next—it’s really quite nice.

The most challenging. That’s harder. What’s most challenging depends on the place we are in the process. Since it’s been a difficult year—my father died unexpectedly in the fall and my mother has been in and out of the hospital since then—the most challenging thing with book 3 was finishing it. But now that Tempting the Earl is in production, I’m having more opportunity to engage with readers who have read Jilting, and that’s simply delightful. But every once in a while, I’m grateful that I spent almost 30 years teaching, so I’ve perfected (I hope) not visibly reacting when someone says something unexpected about romance in general or my book in particular or its cover. That unexpected thing isn’t always bad—it’s just the unexpectedness of it that is challenging.

The most surprising. I’m consistently surprised at how generous and kind and welcoming the community of romance writers is. Jodi Thomas and Cathy Maxwell have offered me very helpful advice on the business side of the industry. My agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan, has recently started her own agency—Handspun Literary—and one of her first acts was to throw all her clients together on a private facebook page. It’s a great collegial group with wide-ranging expertise and knowledge. A writer’s life can be very solitary, and the Handspinners (our name for ourselves) make me laugh every day.

Will you be attending any book signings this year where readers can meet you?

I’ll be at RWA in San Diego, but I’m also pretty flexible. If readers have a book club and want me to come talk, I can usually arrange it! I’ve already been to Albany, Chicago and Denver for signings, and it’s been great fun.

Where can readers find you online?

I love to hear from readers! My website is, and in addition to my blog on topics historical, every week I release materials transcribed from 19thC magazines. I’m also on Goodreads (Rachael_Miles), Facebook (RachaelMilesAuthor), Twitter (rachael_miles1), and Pinterest (miles3275).

I'm eagerly anticipating your next book, Chasing the Heiress, which will be released on May 31st. What can you tell us about this story?

Chasing the Heiress begins as a sick-room romance: our hero—Colin—and our heroine—Lucy--first meet at an inn. He’s been shot, and she becomes his nurse. Their attraction is immediate and unexpected and problematic. What I like most about these two is that they have secrets, but they are very open with each other about having them, and each one accepts that the other simply can’t, for whatever reasons, confide those secrets. And of course those secrets almost destroy them.

Thank you for visiting with us today, Rachael. Would you like to ask our readers a question?

I’d like to know what plant they love to grow and why. For me, it’s rosemary—which a dear friend who does aromatherapy tells me ‘reminds you of your true self’—isn’t that a lovely thought?

Rachael is generously offering a print copy of her debut historical romance, Jilting the Duke to one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on today's post. (U.S. only) And, because I enjoyed it so much, I'm giving away a Kindle copy of the book! 

Deadline for comments to be entered in the giveaway is 11:00 pm, April 23 (EST).  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review - - From Here to Home

From Here to Home
By Marie Bostwick
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: March 29, 2016

Marie Bostwick introduced the larger-than-life Mary Dell Templeton as a secondary character in her first Cobbled Court Quilt novel, A Single Thread (2008). She then told the first part of Mary Dell’s story in Between Heaven and Texas (2013). From Here to Home picks up the story thirty years later. Quintessential Quilting, the quilting show that Mary Dell has hosted with Howard, her son born with Down Syndrome, has been successful for many years, but the show’s ratings are declining. A new broom at the network who wants to see the show axed succeeds in getting Howard replaced as co-host and making Mary Dell’s new contract a one-year deal. Meanwhile, it has become clear to Mary Dell that she needs to spend more time at home in Too Much. Her mother is growing older and has some health problems. Her twin sister’s children for whom Mary Dell has served as a substitute mother since their mother’s death are also in trouble. Her nephew, Rob Lee, a veteran suffering from untreated depression and PTSD, has hit a dangerous downward spiral, and her widowed niece, Cady, still grieving for her husband killed in Afghanistan, is overwhelmed by her responsibilities for a six-year-old daughter, the family ranch, and Patchwork Palace, Mary Dell’s quilting shop. Changing the location of her show from Dallas to Too Much may offer a solution to some of these problems, but Mary Dell is not prepared to find Howard not at all upset by his firing but rather excited at the thought of an independent life in Dallas where he can begin community college and spend time with his girlfriend. Her “baby” may be looking toward his thirtieth birthday, but Mary Dell finds it difficult to accept his independence.

Holly Silva, daughter of aging star Rachel McEnroe, inherited her mother’s beauty but not her acting skills or musical gift. Thrilled when her agent lines up an interview for co-hosting duties, she is considerably less pleased when she finds that the show is about quilting, a craft about which Holly knows nothing, and she is dismayed to be told that she is expected to sabotage Quintessential Quilting. A quick course in quilting from Cady has Holly feeling more confident about the show, and the firm friendship that develops between her and Mary Dell has them both determined to thwart the plans of the jerk in charge of network programming.

Both women also find their lives complicated by romance. Mary Dell is surprised when her long-time friendship with wealthy Texas hotelier Hubbell James Hollander, known as Hub-Jay, turns into a love affair complete with marriage proposal. But there is a small problem; Mary Dell has never divorced the husband who abandoned her nearly thirty years ago. Holly tumbles into love with Rob Lee Benton, but he has yet to completely conquer his demons. Is an HEA possible for either of these couples.

A new novel from Marie Bostwick is always a treat, and Mary Dell is one of this author’s most appealing characters. So often in women’s fiction, the protagonist spends so much time in introspection that little seems to happen externally in the novel. In contrast to this norm, Mary Dell is a character who acts. She has a long history of tackling the problems life throws at her head on, and she continues to do so. She is not in search of herself. In fact, she has a marked degree of self-knowledge. At one point, she compares herself to Hamlet, recognizing that she lacks the melancholy Dane’s philosophical bent as well as his introspection: “In short, like Hamlet, Mary Dell had suffered the heartaches and ‘thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,’ but unlike him she had survived.”

Bostwick gives her reader a large cast of vividly drawn characters in From Here to Home, but Mary Dell is the heart of the book. In a large sense, it is she who defines home for the others. Holly and Rob Lee’s romance is sweet and emotionally gratifying, but words are inadequate to describe my delight in having a sixty-year-old heroine who lives fully in all the areas of her life. A less gifted writer might have gone for the clichéd conclusion and reunited Mary Dell and Donny, but Bostwick has the changes the years have brought to Mary Dell include more mature judgment and taste in men. Mary Dell appreciates that Hub-Jay is still a good-looking, virile man, but she appreciates him for other qualities as well.

When she was younger, she doubted she would have found Hub-Jay attractive. But she wasn’t young now. She understood things she hadn’t at twenty, thirty, or even forty—the value of steadiness and patience and humor, and that kindness trumped looks any day of the week. . . . She understood too the value of a man who was not threatened by female intelligence or ambition, a man who was comfortable in his own skin and didn’t demand that you turned yours inside out for him.

I loved this book, and I highly recommend it, especially for readers who like women’s fiction with a rich mix of humor and romance.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review - - Caught Up in Raine

Caught Up in RAINE
By LG. O'Connor
Publisher: Collins-Young Publishing
Release Date: April 18, 2016

With each person in her life who dies, 42-year-old, photographer and romance writer, Jillian Grant tucks her heart away a little more tightly. Her parents and her husband are all dead and her beloved aunt's days seem to be numbered but it's Drew's death that has affected her the most. He was her high school boyfriend, her first love, and their future seemed bright and limitless...until a car accident took his life. For 25 years, the heartbreak and guilt of that day have remained a solid barrier around Jillian's heart, causing her to hold others at arm's length. When a chance encounter brings 24-year-old Raine MacDonald into her life, she's shocked by his resemblance to Drew and immediately asks him to be the cover model for the romance she's writing as a tribute to her lost love, never guessing the role he will eventually play in her life.

Raine MacDonald once had the perfect life but then his beloved mother died, his abusive father went off the deep end and Raine's promising future shattered. He's now struggling to make ends meet; working two jobs, going to college part-time and forced to rent a room from his father. Of course, he accepts Jillian's job offer. He needs the money she's offering and it doesn't hurt that his hormones go on high alert every time she's near. When an altercation with his father lands him in the hospital, Jillian brings him to her home to keep him safe and the more time they spend together, the more he likes her...and wants her. She's hung up on her age but all he sees is an intelligent, desirable woman he'd like to know better. He knows she's attracted. Will he be able to convince her to look beyond the age difference and give him a chance?

On the surface, readers may look at the 18 years between these two characters and think it will never work. But it does. Granted, there are times in the story when Raine seems impossibly young and vulnerable but it never strays into "ick" territory for me. In fact, it mirrors the early days of my relationship with my late husband quite realistically, with the gender roles reversed.  Jillian and Raine have a good balance, a strong physical attraction and an intellectual connection that goes beyond age. She's strong for him when he needs it but he's also strong for her. They both bring emotional baggage into the relationship and even though she's had more life experience, she needs just as much growth on this journey as Raine does. Maybe, even more. The "big black moment" between them is predictable but how they deal with it is not. My heart broke for both of them but especially for Raine. His pain is a living, breathing, thing but the decision he makes is necessary, I think, if they are to have any hope of making it as a couple.

Caught Up in Raine brought me to laughter and to tears. O'Connor's characters are complex, with strengths, fears, insecurities, and a depth of emotion that bring them to vibrant life on the page. Their story is written with a realistic hand, showing their journey both from inside their private relationship as well as through the reflection of how they are viewed by family, friends, and society in general. It's an emotional journey of love, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, and hope. I enjoyed it and look forward to seeing what L.G. O'Connor brings readers next.


* This week only, Caught Up in Raine is available in e-book format at a special launch week price of $2.99.