Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Taking Time Off...and Recommended Reads

Hi Everyone,

The blog is going to be quiet for a couple weeks. I had to make an emergency trip out of state a week ago. One of my brothers is dying and I'm with him and other members of my family. I'm the oldest in my family and he's next in line - 5 years younger. We've always been incredibly close, share a love of music, theater, and football, and I can't begin to wrap my mind - or my heart - around the fact that he will soon be gone. 

As I have with past tragedies in my life, I've been escaping into romance novels as I sit at his bedside. The love and hope in the stories we all enjoy bring me a measure of comfort as I deal with the sadness of losing someone I love. I've tried to write full-length reviews to share these books with you but I'm just not able to focus my mind enough to do that right now. Instead, I'm listing five of the books below with a few of my thoughts. I hope you'll check them out. They are all wonderful! 

Thank you for your understanding.


The Governess Game
By Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 28, 2018

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson
The accidental governess
After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.
The infamous rake
Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

I admit that I'm a huge fan of Tessa Dare's writing. I've read every book she's written and most of them have places on my keeper shelf. Yet, even among that exalted "keeper" company, for me, The Governess Game shines as one of her best. I loved the chemistry between Chase and Alexandra, the witty banter, the sensuality, and the heartfelt emotion. I adored the two orphaned girls for whom Chase is responsible and appreciated the fact that they are not wallpaper but fully developed, essential characters with key roles in the evolution of Chase and Alexandra individually as well as them as a couple. Dare's trademark humor also shines in this book with many laugh-out-loud scenes. If you're looking for a feel-good romance with plenty of humor, sizzle, and heartfelt emotion, you can't go wrong with The Governess Game


When a Duke Loves a Woman
By Lorraine Heath
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 21, 2018

Gillie Trewlove knows what a stranger’s kindness can mean, having been abandoned on a doorstep as a baby and raised by the woman who found her there. So, when suddenly faced with a soul in need at her door—or the alleyway by her tavern—Gillie doesn’t hesitate. But he’s no infant. He’s a grievously injured, distractingly handsome gentleman who doesn’t belong in Whitechapel, much less recuperating in Gillie’s bed . . .
Being left at the altar is humiliating; being rescued from thugs by a woman—albeit a brave and beautiful one—is the pièce de résistance to the Duke of Thornley’s extraordinarily bad day. After nursing him back from the brink, Gillie agrees to help him comb London’s darker corners for his wayward bride. But every moment together is edged with desire and has Thorne rethinking his choice of wife. Yet Gillie knows the aristocracy would never accept a duchess born in sin. Thorne, however, is determined to prove to her that no obstacle is insurmountable when a duke loves a woman.

This is the second book in a series that is quickly becoming one of my favorites by Lorraine Heath. Heath's writing is emotional and romantic, with superbly crafted characters, and stories touched with occasional humor and a whole lot of heart. I thoroughly enjoyed Gillie and Thorne and am already looking forward to the next story in this series.


Tempted by Love: A Montana Heat Novel
By Jennifer Ryan
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 21, 2018

Alina Cooke—little sister of his two best friends—is the last woman DEA agent Jay Bennett should be waking up next to on the day of her brother’s wedding. But their powerful attraction ignited a powder keg of desire, and their once simple friendship has just become impossibly complicated.
Alina’s always been steady, focused, and lived on the safe side of life. Jay is totally devoted to his dangerous job. She knows a future with him will be filled with worry that one day he won’t come home. She’s done it with her brothers. She’s not sure she can face that uncertainty with the man she loves. Yet being in his arms is a bad idea they keep repeating, again and again.
When Alina is run off the road, Jay fears his job has made her a target. But the threat in Alina’s life is closer than they think. As the enemy gets more ruthless, Alina proves she’s no easy target and Jay will do anything to bring them down. Because surviving and being together is the only thing that matters.

If you enjoy romantic suspense with a western flair, you'll want to give Jennifer Ryan a try. I discovered her a couple years ago and have been happily gobbling up her books ever since. In Tempted by Love, Ryan brings us one of my favorite tropes: little sister falling for her brother's best friend. In the case of Alina and Jay, he's the best friend and co-worker of two of her brothers. Double the trouble if they find out, right? Though this is the third book in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone. However, I'll warn you that once you meet Alina's brothers in this novel, you'll probably be downloading their stories too!


Through the Fire
Rocky Mountain K9 Unit - Book 4
By Katie Ruggle
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: August 28, 2018

Kit Jernigan despairs of ever fitting in with her new tight-knit K9 unit—they've been through too much to welcome a stranger. So when a killer strikes, it's a fight to convince her fellow officers to trust her long enough to catch the woman she knows is responsible.
She can't do it on her own. What she needs most is a partner: local fire spotter Wesley March.
Wes knows in his heart that Kit is right, and he's willing to leave his lonely tower to help her prove it. But the more time they spend together, the hotter the fire smolders...and the more danger they're in. A member of the K9 unit's inner circle is determined to have her revenge—no matter who gets burned in the process.
This time, it's personal.

Over the past two years, Katie Ruggle has become one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. In Through the Fire, she brings readers another intense, suspenseful, and emotional story set high in the Rockies and once again, she had me glued to the pages from beginning to end. Each of her series has four books with a mystery beginning in book one and concluding in book four. For that reason, I strongly encourage readers to read the books in order. For this series, those books are: Run to Ground, On the Chase, Survive the Night, and Through the Fire


The Laird's Willful Lass
The Likely Lairds - Book 1
By Anna Campbell
Release Date: July 31, 2018

An untamed man as immovable as a Highland mountain…

Fergus Mackinnon, autocratic Laird of Achnasheen, likes to be in charge. When he was little more than a lad, he became master of his Scottish estate, and he’s learned to rely on his unfailing judgment. So has everyone else in his corner of the world. He sees no reason for his bride—when he finds her—to be any different. 

A headstrong woman from the warm and passionate south…

Marina Lucchetti knows all about fighting her way through a wall of masculine arrogance. In her native Florence, she’s become a successful artist, no easy feat for a woman. Now a commission to paint a series of Highland scenes promises to spread her fame far and wide. When a carriage accident strands her at Achnasheen for a few weeks, it’s a mixed blessing. The magnificent landscape offers everything her artistic soul could desire. If only she can resist the impulse to smash her easel across the laird’s obstinate head. 

When two fiery souls come together, a conflagration flares. 

Marina is Fergus’s worst nightmare—a woman who defies a man’s guidance. Fergus challenges everything Marina believes about a woman’s right to choose her path. No two people could be less suited. But when irresistible passion enters the equation, good sense soon jumps into the loch. 

This book marks Anna Campbell's return to full-length novels and though I've thoroughly enjoyed her novellas of the past few years, it was wonderful to immerse myself in one of her longer tales again. In this book, she takes us to beautiful Scotland and introduces us to two characters - a traditional, autocratic Scots hero and an artistic, independent Italian heroine - for whom marriage is not a goal. As you can imagine, plenty of friction and banter - not to mention sizzling chemistry - ensues. Traveling the road to love along with these two was pure pleasure. Campbell's descriptions of the Scottish countryside reflect her love of this country and created a stunning portrait as vivid and vibrant as the paintings her heroine creates with her brush. 

What are you reading that you would recommend?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Review - - The Duke Buys a Bride

The Duke Buys a Bride
By Sophie Jordan
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Reviewed by Santa

The Duke Buys A Bride by Sophie Jordan is a 5 out of 5 winner for me. I have to admit, as horrid as it sounds, I love me a bride sale. It is as awful as it sounds. A husband could ‘get rid of a spouse’ by auctioning her off. It was seen as the sensible thing to do as divorce was not an option within any class unless you were titled and could afford both the cost and stigma of it.

In The Duke Buys A Bride we find Marcus, Duke of Autenberry, a runaway duke of sorts. Marcus woke from a coma only to find himself comatose on the floor of a barn, taken prisoner for disorderly conduct. After paying his debt to society he tries to make his way to his estate in the Northern most part of Scotland, to the Black Isle.

Alyse Bell was married to Mr. Beard for seven years, keeping his house and raising his children when she was no more than a child herself. It was a chaste marriage which ran its course when a neighboring widow caught his eye. The way to dissolve the marriage was to auction her off on market day at an old, unused custom of a bride sale.

That’s what Marcus comes upon as he tries to leave the village and it enrages him to see a young lady leered and jeered at by the very people of her own village. He outbids everyone and gets a bill of sale and, unbeknownst to him, a wife. He is even more outraged and remains incredulous that it is even a true marriage but this is Scotland.

Alyse has no one to go to and no place to call home and so agrees to follow Marcus to his estate and become his housekeeper. Their journey is not an easy one. They have much to learn about one another and themselves. I enjoyed their journey and their love story! This is a great addition to Sophie Jordan’s The Rogue Files but equally brilliant on its own.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Review - - Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place
By Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martins
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott

Shelter in Place, a standalone novel, follows a format unusual for Nora Roberts’ works in that it spans a period of 14 years.  The book opens with a horrible event, a mass shooting at a mall. Teenager Simone Knox is at a movie in the mall theater with friends. Through a combination of circumstances, she survives the shooting. So does Reed Quartermaine, a college student working as a waiter at a mall restaurant.

Simone and Reed are the primary characters in the novel, but each of them has friends and/or family members who were at the mall on the fateful night. Roberts deftly examines the psychological aftereffects on others who survived the event and on those who love them. While Reed and Simone are the story’s romantic leads, they don’t actually meet until well into the book. Along the way, each finds a calling and a way to deal with the events of that fateful night. The effects of the experience on their relationships with those around them also influence the story.

Simone is closest to her grandmother, artist CiCi Lennon, who’s “a little bit psychic.” She also has a friend and family members who are fellow survivors.  The family dynamics don’t go smoothly, in part because of Simone’s and her sister’s differing reactions to the event as well as their different lifestyles and tastes.

Reed also has a family, but his relationship with one of the police officers who responded to the 911 calls during the shooting plays a more prominent role in the story. She becomes a mentor to him and helps him find his path in life.

Gradually, Simone’s and Reed’s paths bring them together.  The roads they travel and the factors that influence them along the way are skillfully developed, and it seems better to be somewhat vague about the particulars here than to risk spoiling them. Roberts doesn’t take us through every month of the 14 years the story covers but looks in on the characters at couple of different points during that period.

As Reed and Simone build their lives, they’re unaware that someone isn’t happy that they and so many others survived.  Patricia Hobart, sister of one of the three shooters at the mall, sets out to finish the job she sees as bungled by her brother and his friends.  Reed begins to suspect that someone is targeting survivors, but not everyone in law enforcement is prepared to support this theory.  He has to fight for it, and that fight is part of what leads his path across Simone’s.

The last part of the book takes place on an island off the Maine coast that’s accessible only by boat.  It has some echoes of two of Roberts’ prior books, Northern Lights and The Search.  Considering the number of books she has written, it’s not surprising that there would be occasional similarities.  These aspects of the story are similar but definitely not the same. The situations are structured differently.
This story is emotionally wrenching at times, and Simone and Reed are both engaging, sympathetic characters.  (Reed gets extra points for the rescue of a stray mutt.) Those around them are largely sympathetic, but not always.  The conflict between Simone and her sister, for example, is persistent and not easily resolved. Not until that resolution does her sister reveal motives that are understandable. Roberts handles the characters’ emotional issues skillfully and without going for pat solutions anywhere.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Review - - Iron and Magic

Iron and Magic
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: NYLA Publishing
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Reviewed by Nancy Northcott

Readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series know Hugh D’Ambray as the warlord for her powerful and devious father, Roland. In that role, Hugh hasn’t exactly been a good guy. When Iron and Magic opens, however, he’s a wreck of his former self, cast out by Roland for failing to bring Kate under her father’s power. Without Roland, he has no purpose, and we learn why.

For him, though, there are even worse things than being cast aside.  Roland’s necromancers, the controllers of his vampire forces, are killing the Iron Dogs, the military unit Hugh formed and led.  The Dogs refused to follow Roland blindly, and he can’t ignore that. They, too, have been cast out and marked for destruction. Four of them come to Hugh to ask him to pull himself together and lead them again.

For the Iron Dogs, Hugh does what he couldn’t do for his own sake alone. He pulls himself out of the gutter.  He and his four centurions gather the other Dogs, who’ve lost about a fourth of their number, and forge them into a fighting unit again.

That doesn’t solve their problems, though.  Without Roland’s support, they have no source of income and no base, and the leader of his vampire forces is still out to destroy them.

No one wants to do business with them since they often broke agreements on Roland’s orders. Then the centurions discover a settlement in need of protection because Roland wants their land. The settlers have ample food and resources and, perhaps best of all, a castle as a base.  The settlers are led by Elara Harper, a magically gifted woman known as the White Warlock.  Their group has difficulty finding allies because of something about her magic and because of betrayals of allies and other mysterious events in their past.

Joining forces seems like an obvious move, but no one else will believe either side plans to stick to the alliance because of their past failure to honor alliances.  Unless outsiders consider the two groups solidly merged, both will still appear vulnerable. The solution the centurions and Elara’s people devise is a time-honored one, a marriage of convenience between Hugh and Elara.

When the two meet, they take an instant dislike to each other.  Both have long been the alphas of their groups, and neither wants to yield control. At bottom, though, each realizes they need each other. They eventually hammer out an agreement and start working together.  Hugh believes Roland’s forces will try to take the castle sooner or later, and he immediately begins to bolster the defenses. He also proves surprisingly helpful to Elara in negotiating the sales of the herbal remedies that support the settlement.

Meanwhile, a mysterious force is killing people in surrounding villages and taking the bodies.  Hugh and Elara figure out that this is a new breed of enemy but can’t determine why they’re attacking. Facing these and other crises helps forge their two groups into one community and deepens the growing bond between Hugh and Elara.

The attraction between the pair develops slowly and under cover of bickering.  When outsiders appear, the two pretend to be deeply in love to sell their alliance.  Being seen as a unit opens doors for them, and each time they work together develops the trust and honest communication between them.  Neither wants to admit to that trust, though, or to believe in it.

They also have to face repercussions from Hugh’s past actions, especially in regard to the Pack, the shapeshifters of Atlanta in the Kate Daniels series. His reaction to the dark legacy he hadn’t truly faced is emotionally wrenching. Elara’s concern for him, and then her trust that he will protect her people, gradually work their way through his emotional barriers, as his dedication to protecting her settlement erodes hers. When they finally come together, however, neither wants the other to know how much that night means.

This story is set in the world of the Kate Daniels series. The tie-ins to that series are used effectively and serve story purposes other than showcasing familiar characters. There’s also lots of action/adventure and enough explanation of the world to keep new readers from feeling lost.

The exploration of Hugh’s relationship with Kate, which he’d never really thought much about, adds depth to his character.  Elara’s insights about that relationship also develop her character and Hugh’s unacknowledged trust in her. When the final battle comes, Hugh faces a test that has been building throughout the story, and Elara risks everything for his sake. The speech she gives before she does so reveals keen insight into his soul and is emotionally touching. It all leads to a satisfying ending even though there are unanswered story questions that promise more to come.

Iron and Magic is a perfect blend of fantasy adventure and paranormal/fantasy romance. It successfully treads the line between building the hero and heroine’s relationship and leaving room for it to grow in subsequent books.  This is a great launch for a new series.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Review - - True Blue Cowboy

By Sara Richardson
Publisher: Forever  
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie

Sara Richardson’s dedication page is to Carolyn Brown, who taught her everything she needed to know about cowboys. This is a very fitting tribute because this story feels like you’ve fallen into a world much like Ms. Brown’s cowboy heaven, one of the books in Richardson’s series about Colorado bronc riders. Stock full of swoon-worthy leading heroes, kind but gritty heroines, and the kind of beautiful setting that includes a manifest of small-town community characters, including some near-and-dear ones featured in other books. If you want the short review, this book hits all the marks that a Ms. Brown--and a Ms. Richardson--story would do, most importantly leaving you very content and believing in a happily ever after for a pair of ordinary people who have an extraordinary love for each other.

Everly Brooks is living the dream (including my dream): she is a small farmer who produces quality food in a field-to-table movement within her new community in Colorado. Everly originated from California as a lawyer, but a series of events has led her to a life she would never give up. She raises animals, runs a seasonal cafe, teaches cooking classes to the locals, and is constantly working to expand her business and get people communing together and eating great food.

Mateo Torres--a dreamy, steamy bronc rider--is finally setting down some roots and ensuring his future will be provided for. Bronc riding is a very finite business, and he wants to put his winnings to good use to provide for his family, many who still live in Mexico. Mateo grew up in very poor, desperate circumstances; and taking care of his family is his one law. Therefore, he can’t let someone’s little run-down farm get in the way of what could be a very lucrative enterprise to provide for his family. The deal, which involves building many high-end condos, would not want to deal with the eyesore of such a place. Besides if the farmer wanted the land so badly, why didn’t she just buy the place? She had ample opportunity. And we’re just at page 32.

Both are proud, fiercely independent and loyal people. Both have had bad incidents in their past that have made them guarded and influence how they interact with people. For people who grew up in very opposite circumstances, Everly and Mateo have more in common than not--and Ms. Richardson does a fabulous job of making sure those similarities don’t all just happen in the bedroom.

Mateo is probably my favorite of all the cowboys I’ve read in this series--and Ms. Brown’s. His story is heartbreaking, but he is not bitter and he’s willing to learn. Everly and Mateo are great at being adults who call each other out on their bullshit and not letting misunderstandings guide their conflict. This was just a very readable book for me. I’m very happy with this series and can’t wait to see what Ms. Richardson has next for us to consume. I have my hopes pinned on a certain deputy for Charity--and possibly a recipe for those cinnamon rolls she kept talking about in this book. Does she have a good recipe for that? They sounded amazing!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Winner - - Bad to the Bone

The randomly chosen winner of a signed copy of

Bad to the Bone by Roxanne St. Claire is:

Pamela Devereux


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review - - Set the Night on Fire

Set the Night on Fire
By Laura Trentham
Cottonbloom Series - Book 6
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reviewed by PJ 

Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and foes - and to herself. So when her marriage ends she decides to invest her energy and money into a place that brings back some of Ella's happiest memories: the Abbott brothers' garage. Maybe, if she puts her mind to it, she can teach skeptical, stubborn Mack Abbott how to make the business a true success. Which would be a lot easier if the hunky mechanic didn't make her motor run quite so fast...and hot.

Mack was furious when his brother, Ford, sold his share of the business. He's in no rush to team up with a wealthy divorcée who shows up to the garage in stilettos - and the longest, sexiest legs he's seen in forever. But Ella's grit and determination won't quit...and soon Mack can see that she's been down a few rough roads herself. Neither Mack nor Ella can deny the fierce attraction that's revving up between them. Could it be that true love has been in the backseat all along...and they've finally found the key? 

For me, each book in Laura Trentham's Cottonbloom series is like a trip home to visit family and friends. Cottonbloom isn't idyllic, with its divided loyalties between the wealthy Mississippi side of the river and the blue-collar Louisiana side, yet it calls to me. Each side brings something unique to the table and the quirky characters plus the crossover couples whose stories have been told in this series continue to bridge the gap and steer their shared-but-separate communities to a brighter future, making Cottonbloom one of my favorite fictional destinations.

One of the things I most enjoy about Trentham's books is her ability to create multi-layered characters who are intriguing and relatable then place them into situations that challenge them. They have to dig deep, evolve, and overcome the obstacles life places in their path, before claiming their happy ending. With each story, I find myself more immersed in their world. I care about these people and I'm totally invested in what happens to them. 

Based on page time in the previous two Cottonbloom books (Mack's twin brothers' stories), I wasn't sure what to expect from grouchy, set-in-his-ways, Mack and the rich, apparently snooty Ella who shocks the Abbotts by buying one-quarter of their family garage and restoration business from their estranged brother. I discovered that there is so much more to both Mack and Ella than first appearances would suggest and watching those layers peel away to reveal the truth of their hearts was pure delight. 

Trentham doesn't shy away from tough topics - betrayal, abuse, abandonment - but neither does she allow her stories to become too heavy. There's plenty of spark, humor, and hope...not to mention sensual sexy this story. Love triumphs, as does forgiveness, reconciliation, and breaking free from past emotional chains to claim one's own power and happiness. 

If you enjoy quirky small towns, witty banter, rich, emotional stories, plenty of sexy times, and characters who will linger in your mind long after you turn the final page, a trip to Laura Trentham's Cottonbloom should be in your future. While there are six books in the series, they are actually two sets of trilogies. Each trilogy stands on its own but I recommend reading the three books within each trilogy in order. 

Have you read any of the books in this series?

Do you have a favorite Cottonbloom couple?

Which secondary character(s) would you most like to see get their own story? (I'm hoping for Clayton and Maggie!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review - - Double Dog Dare

Double Dog Dare
By Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogfather - Book 7
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: August 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

The Dogfather has one more child to marry off...but Darcy Kilcannon has no interest in her father's matchmaking shenanigans. The youngest Kilcannon is not looking for a husband. Darcy is ready to launch her own business in town, move into her own apartment, and become her own woman. But when she walks into the gorgeous brownstone that her father just "happened" to help her find, Darcy takes one look at the hot landlord and she knows the Dogfather has been up to his old tricks. Sure the landlord's a hunk and a half, but his "no pets" policy is a huge turnoff to a dog groomer who won't dream of living without her beloved Kookie.

Joshua Ranier moved to Bitter Bark to get out of the shadow of his overbearing stepfamily and keep his shattered heart securely on ice. His only focus is his construction business, and the brownstone he's renting and renovating...until he meets the sexy, sassy blonde tenant sneaking a fuzzy white dog even though he's banned pets because of construction dangers. Then Josh starts thinking about things he shouldn't. And it isn't when the rent's due.

But when a blind dog lands on Josh's doorstep, he needs Darcy's help. As they race to restore little Stella's vision and solve a mystery that's tearing his family apart, Josh and Darcy begin to see the light, too. It will take one double dog dare, two precious puppers, and the full power of  the Kilcannon clan for this couple to find their happy ever after. 

I've fallen more in love with this large, dog-loving family with each book in the series that St. Claire has published. Each sibling faces different challenges in their journey to love but the one constant that remains throughout is the strong family dynamic, the quality writing, the depth of heart-tugging emotion, the humor, and the bond between rescue dog and human. I enjoyed getting to know youngest Kilcannon sibling, Darcy in this book as well as Josh, a recent addition to Bitter Creek. Their chemistry is evident, their banter, lively, and their avoidance of relationships, mutual. They both have emotional baggage to unpack and overcome but they make a good team and I was totally on board with them as a couple. Of course, their dogs are adorable and captured my heart, as has every dog in this series.  

The books in this series lean more toward sweet than steamy but are infused with a deep well of emotion and enough sexual tension to keep me well satisfied. To be honest, I've become so immersed in each of the Kilcannon journeys that I haven't even missed the steam.

Double Dog Dare is the sixth Dogfather book and, while I prefer to read a series in order, each of the books in this series is written to stand alone. Fans of the series will enjoy the scenes in Double Dog Dare that include the entire Kilcannon family and catching up with couples from earlier books but readers new to the series can jump right in with this sixth book and not miss a beat. Of course, if you're like many readers who have discovered this series, you'll fall in love with all the Kilcannons and immediately go looking for books one through five as soon as you finish reading number six. 

The Dogfather, widower Daniel Kilcannon, is scheduled to be the hero of the next full-length book in this series and I am over the moon with excitement for his second-chapter love story! 

Are you a fan of older heroes and heroines in romance?

Have you been reading The Dogfather books? 

Do you have a favorite book or couple in this series?

Dogs or cats? Tell me about your pets or those pets you enjoy reading about in books. 

I have an extra signed copy of Bad to the Bone that will go to one randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), August 15, 2018.  (U.S. only)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Excerpt Tour - - The Black Witch

The Black Witch
An Epic Fantasy Novel
By Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 2, 2018

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else. 

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecare, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother's legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people - including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians - is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits...if only she can find the courage to trust those she's been taught to hate and fear.



"Take that, you stupid Icaral!"

I glance down with amusement at my young neighbors, a basket of freshly picked vegetables and herbs balanced on my hip, a slight near-autumn chill fighting to make itself known through the warm sunlight.

Emmet and Brennan Gaffney are six-year-old twins with the black hair, forest green eyes and faintly shimmering skin so prized by my people, the Gardnerian Mages.

The two boys pause from their noisy game and look up at me hopefully. They sit in the cool, sunlit grass, their toys scattered about. 

All the traditional characters are there among the brightly painted wooden figures. The black-haired Gardnerian soldiers, their dark tunics marked with brilliant silver spheres, stand valiantly with wands or swords raised. The boys have lined the soldiers up on a wide, flat stone in military formation.

There are also the usual archvillains  - the evil Icaral demons with their glowing eyes, their faces contorted into wide, malicious grins, black wings stretched out to their full size in an effort to intimidate, fireballs in their fists. The boys have lined these up on a log and are attempting to launch rocks at them from the direction of the soldiers with a catapult they've fashioned from sticks and string.

There are assorted side characters, too: the beautiful Gardnerian maidens with their long black hair; wicked Lupine shapeshifters - half-human, half-wolf; green-scaled Snake Elves; and the mysterious Vu Trin sorceresses. They're characters from the storybooks and songs of my childhood, as familiar to me as the old patchwork quilt that lies on my bed.

"Why are you here?" I ask the boys, glancing down into the valley toward the Gaffneys' estate and sprawling plantation. Eliss Gaffney usually keeps the twins firmly near home. 

"Momma won't stop crying," Emmet scowls and bangs the head of a wolf-creature into the ground.

"Don't tell!" Brennan chastises, his voice shrill. "Poppa'll whip you for it! He said not to tell!"

I'm not surprised by Brennan's fear. It's well-known that Mage Warren Gaffney's a hard man, feared by his fastmate and children. And the startling disappearance of his nineteen-year-old daughter, Sage, has made him even harder.

I look to the Gaffneys' estate again with well-worn concern.

Where are you, Sage? I wonder unhappily. She's been missing without a trace for well over a year. What could have possibly happened to you?

I let out a troubled sigh and turn back to the boys. "It's all right," I say, trying to comfort them. "You can stay over here for a while. You can even stay for supper."

The boys brighten and appear more than a little relieved.

"Come play with us, Elloren," Brennan pleads as he playfully grabs at the edge of my tunic.

I chuckle and reach down to ruffle Brennan's hair. "Maybe later. I have to help make supper, you know that."

"We're defeating the Icarals!" Emmet exclaims. He throws a rock at one of the Icarals to demonstrate. The rock collides with the small demon and sends it spinning into the grass. "Wanna see if we can knock their wings off?"

I pick up the small figure and run my thumb across its unpainted base. Breathing in deep, I close my eyes and the image of a large tree with a dense crown, swooping branches and delicate white flowers fills my mind.

Frosted Hawthorne. Such elegant wood for a child's plaything.

I open my eyes, dissolving the image, focusing back in on the demon toy's orange eyes. I fight the urge to envision the tree once more, but I know better than to entertain this odd quirk of mine.      

Often, if I close my eyes while holding a piece of wood, I can get the full sense of its source tree. With startling detail. I can see the tree's birthplace, smell the rich, loamy carpet beneath its roots, feel the sun dappling its outstretched leaves.  

Of course, I've learned to keep these imaginings to myself.

A strange nature fixation like this smacks of Fae blood, and Uncle Edwin has warned me to never speak of it. We Gardnerians are a pure-blooded race, free from the stain of the heathen races that surround us. And my family line has the strongest, purest Mage blood of all.    

But I often worry. If that's true, then why do I see these things?

"You should be more careful with your toys," I gently scold the boys as I shake off the lingering image of the tree and set the figure down. 

The sound of the boys' grand battles recedes into the distance as I near the small cottage I share with Uncle Edwin and my two brothers. I peer across the broad field toward our horse stables and give a start.  

A large, elegant carriage is parked there. The crest of the Mage Council, Gardneria's highest level of government, is artfully painted on its side - a golden M styled with graceful, looping calligraphy.  

Four military guards, real-life versions of Emmet and Brennan's toys, sit eating some food. They're strapping soldiers, dressed in black tunics with silver spheres marking their chests, with wands and swords at their sides.     

It has to be my aunt's carriage - it can't possibly be anyone else's. My aunt is a member of our ruling High Mage Council, and she always travels with an armed entourage.        

A rush of excitement flashes through me, and I quicken my pace, wondering what on all of Erthia could have possibly brought my powerful aunt to remote Halfix, of all places.

I haven't seen her since I was five years old.          


We lived near her back then, in Valgard, Gardneria's bustling port city and capital. But we hardly ever saw her.

One day, clear out of the blue, my aunt appeared in the front room of my uncle's violin shop.

"Have you had the children wandtested?" she inquired, her tone light, but her eyes sharp as ice.

I remember how I tried to hide behind Uncle Erwin, clinging to his tunic, mesmerized by the elegant creature before me.

"Of course, Vyvian," my uncle haltingly answered his sister. "Several times over."

I looked up at my uncle with confused surprise. I had no memory of being wandtested, even though I knew that all Gardnerian children were.

"And what did you fine?" she asked probingly.

"Rafe and Elloren are powerless," he told her as he shifted slightly, cutting off my view of Aunt Vyvian, casting me in shadows. "But Trystan. The boy has some magic in him."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Vyvian, quite."

And that was when she began to visit with us.

Soon after, my uncle unexpectedly soured on city life. Without warning, he whisked my brothers and me away to where we now live. In tiny Halfix. At the very northeastern edge of Gardneria.

Right in the middle of nowhere.



Like what you read so far? Buy the book here, and don’t forget to pre-order book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Iron Flower, on sale next month!

Excerpted from The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, copyright 2017 by Laurie Forest. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.

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Excerpt Tour:

Monday, August 13th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, August 14th: From the TBR PIle
Wednesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode
Thursday, August 16th: A Holland Reads
Friday, August 17th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, August 20th: Rockin’ & Reviewing
Tuesday, August 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, August 22nd: Books & Bindings
Thursday, August 23rd: Girls in Books
Friday, August 24th: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, August 27th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 28th: What is That Book About