On November 2, 2009, the Romance Dish opened its doors and here we are, seven years later, still sharing our love of romance and having fun doing it. Some of you have been with us from the beginning while, for others, we're a recent discovery. I hope you enjoy the time you spend here and want you to know all of you are appreciated!
Year #7 at the Romance Dish was filled with new adventures, new discoveries, and plenty of fun. Here are a few of my personal highlights...
Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt was our first Top Dish review of Year #7 and is one of my favorite books in Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. The book went on to be a finalist for the 2015 RITA® in the Historical Romance:Short category.
One of my favorite posts from Janga during Year #7 was her two-part feature on the Enchanting Stand-Alone Novels of Eloisa James. As Janga notes in Part One of her feature, one definition of "enchanting" is "to delight to a high degree." That definition applies not only to James' novels but to Janga's posts here at the Dish as well. I'm so very delighted and thankful that she is part of the Romance Dish team!
There's always a bit of trepidation when I turn the first page of a book that I've waited years (five to be exact) to read. Such was the case in February when Roxanne St. Claire finally published Barefoot With a Bad Boy, the long-awaited and highly-anticipated story of Gabriel Rossi (a secondary character in St. Claire's Guardian Angelinos series). This is one of those stories that reaches into your soul and doesn't let go. The suspense is riveting, the descriptions, vivid, and while the story is deeply emotional there is also a fair amount of humor sprinkled throughout. I may have gushed a bit in my 5-star review but this bad boy deserved it.
April brought another new-to-me author to the Dish with my Q&A with Laura Florand and her contemporary romance, Chase Me. I adored everything about this book. As I told Ms. Florand in our Q&A, finishing Chase Me left me with a "huge smile, teary eyes, and a happy heart." Can't ask for much more than that!
I love celebrating debut authors, especially when I've followed their journey to publication, which is why I was excited to host Lenora Bell when her sparkling debut, How the Duke Was Won was published in April. I thoroughly enjoyed both Bell's debut as well as her August release, If I Only Had a Duke and am looking forward to more from this talented new author.
In May, popular historical romance author Julie Anne Long made the transition to contemporary romance with the release of Hot in Hellcat Canyon. Those of us who adored her historicals had been holding our breath in the hope that we would not be disappointed by her present-day writing voice. As you can tell from Janga's Top Dish review, Long didn't miss a beat. As Janga says in her review, Hot in Hellcat Canyon is "smart, sexy, and heart-melting." It immediately secured a spot on both of our Best of 2016 book lists. Note: In a triumphant farewell to her beloved Pennyroyal Green historical romance series, Long's It Started With a Scandal won the 2015 RITA® in the Historical Romance:Short category.
Another new-to-me author, Susannah Sandlin took us to the Louisiana bayou with the thrilling first book in her new Wilds of the Bayou romantic suspense series, Wild Man's Curse. I wanted to read it slowly, savoring each word; absorbing the steamy, mystical, sometimes sensual, sometimes sinister life on the bayou while at the same time, racing through the pages to discover what awaited around the next turn. This is one of those books that kept me reading way past my bedtime!
Laura Trentham took us to the Deep South with her heartwarming Cottonbloom contemporary romance series. The second book, Then He Kissed Me, captured my heart and secured a spot on my Best of 2016 watch list. I've fallen in love with this quirky southern town and am so excited by the announcement that more Cottonbloom books will be coming our way.
Katie Ruggle, a new and exciting voice in romantic suspense, grabbed a place on my auto-buy list with her debut Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue quartet. Action-packed, deeply emotional, and with a continuing mystery that had me eagerly anticipating each new book, this series was a highlight of my summer/fall reading. Read more about Katie and the series in our August Q&A.
Vanessa Kelly's August book, My Fair Princess introduced readers to one of my all-time favorite heroines, Gillian Dryden and the always enjoyable fish-out-of-water trope. The illegitimate daughter of an English prince, Gillian grew up in Italy, has a finely honed sense of justice, isn't hesitant to speak her mind, and is armed at all times, even in the middle of a London ballroom. Her oh-so-proper hero, tasked with transforming her into an acceptable English society miss, has no idea what he's in for! Kelly talked about the musical inspiration for this story in her guest post. My Fair Princess is currently on sale at only $0.99 in ebook format.
Another WOW reading highlight for me came with the release of Because I'm Watching by Christina Dodd. This Top Dish suspense thriller is filled with fascinating, complex characters who absolutely refused to let me walk away until I had read every word of their compelling story. Filled with compassion, intrigue, anguish, mystery, hope, murder, forgiveness, redemption, twists and turns aplenty, and a love that heals two broken souls, Because I'm Watching is, in my opinion, one of the best books Dodd has ever written.
September brought my favorite historical romance of the year: Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. I've been reading Dare since her debut and print copies of all of her books grace my keeper shelves but this story, that marries her Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After series, is special. I grinned from the first page to the final one - all three times I've read it - and, still, all it takes is someone mentioning Charlotte and Piers and all I want to do is curl up on the couch and lose myself in their world once again. Is it any wonder Do You Want to Start a Scandal earned my Top Dish rating?
Of course, a big highlight for me this year was attending the inaugural Historical Romance Retreat in Spokane, Washington and hanging out with the fabulous Anna Campbell. It was such a special treat. We hadn't seen each other in six years! You can read about the trip and browse some of my photos here.
What have been your highlights over the past year?
Have you taken any special trips?
Have you discovered any new authors that have rocked your reading world?
What's a celebration without gifts, right? So here's what's up for grabs!
Two $10 Amazon e-gift cards.
One autographed copy of IF I ONLY HAD A DUKE by Lenora Bell. (US only)
One autographed copy of NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL by Sabrina Jeffries plus swag from the Historical Romance Retreat. (US only)
Autographed copies of MAD ABOUT THE MAJOR and THE KNAVE OF HEARTS by Elizabeth Boyle. (US only)
One autographed copy of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE'S BED by Anna Campbell plus swag from the Historical Romance Retreat. (US only)
One autographed copy of MAD FOR THE PLAID by Karen Hawkins. (US only)
One autographed copy of DARLING BEAST by Elizabeth Hoyt plus swag from the Historical Romance Retreat. (US only)
Deadline for comments to be entered in the giveaway is 11:00 pm (EST), November 4, 2016.