Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Winners - - Love in Catalina Cove

The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of 

Love in Catalina Cove by Brenda Jackson is:


The randomly chosen winner of a signed copy of
Love in Catalina Cove by Brenda Jackson is:

Pamela Devereux


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

TLC Tour Review & Excerpt - - Seduced by a Scot

Seduced by a Scot
by Julia London
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

When a prominent Scottish family faces a major scandal weeks before their daughter’s wedding, they turn in desperation to the enigmatic fixer for the aristocracy, Nichol Bain. Remarkably skilled at making high-profile problems go away, Nichol understands the issue immediately. The family’s raven-haired ward, Maura Darby, has caught the wandering eye—and rather untoward advances—of the groom.

Nichol assuredly escorts Maura toward his proposed solution: an aging bachelor for her to marry. But rebellious Maura has no interest in marrying a stranger, especially when her handsome traveling companion has captivated her so completely. Thankfully, Nichol loves a challenge, but traveling with the bold and brash Maura has him viewing her as far more than somebody’s problem. Which raises a much bigger issue—how can he possibly elude disaster when the heart of the problem is his own?

My Thoughts:

Having already met the hero of this story, Nichol Bain, in London's previous book, Tempting the Laird, I was not predisposed to view him with fondness as I began reading his story. It didn't take long, however, before London began slowly peeling back his layers to reveal the heart, soul, and vulnerability residing within this man who is paid to fix the problems of others while carefully hiding his own. He wasn't at all what I had expected him to be and as the twists and turns of the story revealed the secrets and events that had brought him to this point in his life, I began to be more and more in his corner. Until he let his stubborn male nature take the reins, of course. Then I just wanted to toss him out the castle window! Don't worry, he eventually won me over again.

Maura snagged my interest and my heart immediately. I grieved for the young girl who was sent to live with people who resented and mistreated her after her beloved father's death and shared her anger over the circumstances of her departure from their home. But I cheered her on with gusto when, pushed beyond her limits, she finds her strength and lets her inner woman roar. If Nichol thought he was in for an easy job with this one, he was sadly mistaken and if he thinks he can hand her over to another man and walk away after giving her his heart...well, Maura just may have something to say about that. 

This final book in the Highland Grooms series had me eagerly turning pages from beginning to end. I so enjoyed it! London has penned an engaging, fast-paced story with vividly crafted characters, witty dialog, adventure, emotional vulnerability, surprising twists and turns, and an ending worthy of a smile and a sigh. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

Fans of the series will enjoy reuniting with characters from other books in the Epilogue while readers new to the series should have no trouble enjoying Seduced by a Scot without having read the other books first. 


Maura turned away from the door and looked at her prison. She had a small stack of books that were keeping her occupied, but which she’d soon finish. She was running out of wood for the hearth, her clothes needed washing and she’d lost all manner of decency. The clothes she’d been wearing the night he’d put his hands on her were discarded onto the floor, where they would remain, unless she resorted to burning them for warmth. She hadn’t bothered to dress her hair or don a gown over her stomacher and petticoat in days.
She fell onto the chaise longue at the end of the bed, and stared morosely at the ceiling with its peeling paint. She couldn’t survive in here much longer. Last night, she’d concocted an elaborate plan in her head, whereby she would will herself to make it to spring when the days would be warmer. She could simply walk out of this house once Mr. Rumpkin had fallen into unconsciousness with his fingers wrapped tightly around a bottle. But then she’d grown sullen, for spring was too far away, and there was an entire winter to endure.
She needed to devise another, better plan.
She had only a few coins, some shoes that were worthless for anything other than dancing or strolling around manicured gardens, one decent gown and one serviceable gown. The third gown she’d been allowed to leave Stirling with was the one lying in a heap on the floor.
As she lay there contemplating, she heard a sound that she would have thought was a rat scurrying by had it not come from outside the window. She slowly sat up, staring at the window. It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t, this Mr. Nichol Bain. Maura shot up from the chaise and hurried to the window. She opened it slightly, just enough to see out.
All she could see was an auburn head of hair as the man picked his way up the thick vines that covered the tower.
Bloody bounder. Mr. Garbett must have paid him handsomely to ferry her off to yet some other hell. She closed the window and latched it shut. If he thought she would open it to him, he was a fool. She went back to the chaise and plopped down onto her back, one bare foot on the moldy carpet, one arm slung across her body, waiting for the inevitable moment that he pounded on the window demanding entrance. She hoped he fell and landed on his arse. She hoped his fingers ached so much that it brought a tear to his eye.
She did not expect him to punch his fist through the glass, but that’s what he did, shattering the pane into a rain of chunks. That same fist reached through the opening for the latch and swung the window open. Maura was so stunned by this that she couldn’t move, and watched, dumbfounded, Mr. Nichol Bain’s acrobatic entry into her room.

Click for other stops on the TLC tour for this book. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

TLC Tour Review - - Love in Catalina Cove

Love in Catalina Cove
By Brenda Jackson
Catalina Cove - Book 1
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

In the wake of a devastating teen pregnancy that left her childless and heartbroken, Vashti Alcindor left Catalina Cove, Louisiana, with no plans to return. Now, over a decade later, Vashti reluctantly finds herself back in her hometown after inheriting her aunt’s B and B. Her homecoming gets off to a rocky start when the new sheriff, Sawyer Grisham, pulls her over for speeding, and things go downhill from there.

The B and B, a place she’d always found refuge in when it seemed like the whole world was against her, has fallen into disrepair. When a surprising benefactor encourages Vashti to reopen the B and B, Vashti embraces a fresh start, and soon old hurts begin to fade as she makes new memories with the town—and its handsome sheriff…

But some pasts are too big to escape, and when a bombshell of a secret changes everything she thought was true, Vashti is left reeling. With Sawyer and his teenage daughter determined to see her through the storm, though, she’s learning family isn’t always a matter of blood—sometimes it’s a matter of heart.

My thoughts:

In this first book in her new Catalina Cove series, Brenda Jackson introduces readers to the residents of Catalina Cove, Louisiana with a sexy, heart-tugging tale that kept me turning pages from beginning to end. Vashti and Sawyer have chemistry off the charts and I was invested in their journey from the moment they he was writing her a ticket for speeding. Their relationship takes a while to heat up but once it does these two set the sheets on fire. However, while I certainly enjoyed their physical journey, it's their emotional journey that had my heart yearning for both of these strong, and honorable, characters to find their happiness. Jackson doesn't make it easy for them, especially with Vashti's mistrust of men and relationships, understandable once her past is revealed, and widowed, single-dad Sawyer having no intention of marrying again. Both characters are caught off guard by the deepening physical and emotional bond growing between them but as secrets are revealed, and the story twists and turns, Sawyer and Vashti will have some difficult truths to face, and forgiveness to find, if they have any hope of moving beyond the past and forging a future together. Some of those secrets are almost insurmountable, and I'll admit, there are actions of some (secondary) characters that I'm not sure I'd have been able to forgive. 

Jackson creates a real sense of community in this book and populates Catalina Cove with some very intriguing characters, dropping hints of future stories along the way. There's a future hero with amnesia (Forget Me Not - March 2019) and former best friends with a secret in their past who are ripe for an enemies to lovers story. I'm on board for both!

The characters in this book are skillfully portrayed, realistically flawed, and vivid enough that I would fully expect to meet them in the local cafe or at Vashti's inn were I to travel to Catalina Cove. One of my favorites is Sawyer's romance novel loving, teen daughter, Jade. She has such a great relationship with her dad and is very likable in her own right. I'm hopeful we'll see more of her, as well as Sawyer and Vashti, in future books.  


Have you read a Brenda Jackson book? Do you have a favorite?

In Jackson's next book, Forget Me Not, the hero has amnesia. I've read plenty of books featuring heroines with amnesia but I can't remember one with a hero. Have you read any that you'd recommend?

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, October 30 will receive a copy of Love in Catalina Cove from TLC Book Tours. (U.S. only)

I met Brenda Jackson at Avon's KissCon in Atlanta last week and brought home a signed copy of Love in Catalina Cove. It goes to a second randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, October 30. (U.S. only)

Click for a schedule of tour stops for Love in Catalina Cove. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Winner - - The Good, the Bad, and the Duke

The randomly chosen winner of a signed, print ARC of

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke by Janna MacGregor is:

Betsy Spahiu


Please send your full name and mailing address, 

with MacGregor Winner in the subject line to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winners - - KissCon Atlanta

The randomly chosen winners of the 
KissCon Atlanta packages are:




Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Malcolm & Isabel

The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

The Legend of Lyon Redmond and Malcolm & Isabel is:



Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - Mutts and Mistletoe

Mutts and Mistletoe
By Natalie Cox
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Thirty-one-year-old Charlie isn't in the mood for Christmas cheer...

Her boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, her mother has absconded with her latest husband for the holidays, and--adding insult to (literal) injury--her London apartment has just been destroyed by a gas leak. Single, mildly concussed and temporarily homeless, Charlie realizes there's only one place to go: Cozy Canine Cottages, where she'll spend the season looking after her cousin Jez's doggy day care center. And if she's not exactly a dog person, well, no one has to know... 

But her plans for a quiet Christmas in a quaint country village are quickly dashed. Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane seem determined to keep her up all night. A strange man has been casing her cousin's house. And where is Cal, the unbearably patronizing but disturbingly handsome local vet, when she needs him? 

As the days tick down to Christmas, Charlie's life has never felt so out of control--but with some help from her new four-legged friends, she just might learn a thing or two about living in the moment, embracing the unexpected and opening herself up to love...

My thoughts:

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this book but being a dog lover how could I not want to know more about Peggy the pregnant beagle and Malcolm the anxious Great Dane? Plus all their canine well as their wary, inexperienced and - okay, let's just say it - shell-shocked temporary caregiver?  And if a broody veterinarian and charming stranger get thrown into the mix, well, who am I to not dive head first into the fun? 

The story is set in England so if you're a Yank (like me), I'll warn you up front that you'll probably be putting your dictionary to good use. However, even though I was looking up unfamiliar words, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. The primary focus of the book is Charlie, a city girl through and through, and her evolution during her unplanned sojourn in rural England. I liked her and thoroughly enjoyed her journey. 

While there's somewhat of a romantic thread, fun flirting, a bit of kissing, and a happy ending, this is not a book that I would classify as a traditional romance but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of it one bit. The relationship that takes center stage for most of the book is that between Charlie, a Londoner more at ease in designer heels and trendy shops than flannel and boots, and the dogs that have been placed into her somewhat inept care. The journey for Charlie and her four-legged housemates is one that I found to be an absolute delight. Not surprisingly, the pups stole my heart. 

If you're in the mood for something a little different this Christmas, pick up a copy of Mutts and Mistletoe. It's a fast-paced story that's a bit chick lit, a bit romance, a bit mystery, and brimming with a whole lot of holiday fun. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Review - - Couldn't Ask For More

Couldn't Ask For More
By Kianna Alexander
The Southern Gentlemen - Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Bryan James's job is on thin ice unless he can secure a contract with a popular design house. He knows his best friend's sister can help—but her terms are more than he bargained for.
Alexis Devers's debut fashion line is a hit. But when Alexis's publicist tells buyers that it landed her a wealthy, gorgeous fiancĂ©, Alexis needs to come up with one—fast. Bryan's offer to strike a deal is perfectly timed. She's more than willing—on one condition...
It's the perfect plan...until feelings start getting in the way. Suddenly, the dangers of mixing business and pleasure become much more real than either of them expected.

My Thoughts: 

This was my first book by Kianna Alexander and I enjoyed it. The hero and heroine are both likable, realistic characters with careers not usually encountered in my romances. I enjoyed the glimpse into the inner workings of a clothing manufacturer and a clothing design house, especially as the story takes place in North Carolina, a state with a rich textile history. It's clear the author knows the state, and its capital city of Raleigh well, creating a well-described sense of place.

Both Alexis and Bryan are surrounded by friends, family, and co-workers who are featured prominently in the book and give readers additional insight into these two characters without stealing the limelight from them. I was intrigued by Alexis's close-knit, supportive family and hope to see more of both Maxwell (her over-protective older brother) and her sister, Kelsey (an abusive relationship survivor) in future books. One of the things I admired about Bryan was his involvement in the community and especially his dedication to mentoring youth. My feelings for his family were not of the warm fuzzy variety but I'm happy to say Bryan turned out to be a great guy, in spite of them. 

There were a couple issues that knocked my rating down a bit. While I liked the gradual transition from fake couple to friends to love, I wanted more emotional depth in their relationship. Also, there's a misunderstanding near the end that Alexis responds to in a manner that I found inconsistent with her behavior throughout the rest of the story and a speedy resolution that had my head spinning. But, in spite of those issues, I still enjoyed the story and am invested enough in the remaining characters to return to Raleigh and the other Southern Gentlemen for the rest of the series. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Spotlight on The Good, the Bad, and the Duke

Even though Paul Barstowe was the villain of The Bad Luck Bride, book one of Janna MacGregor's Cavensham Heiresses series, I still found him intriguing, though definitely unlikable. In book two, The Bride Who Got Lucky, he showed a glimmer of goodness - a remote possibility that he just might be redeemable.  In MacGregor's upcoming novel, The Good, the Bad, and the Duke, we discover just what made Paul, now the Duke of Southart, the man he was and has now become. Is he deserving of a second chance? Is he worthy of Daphne's heart? I've read an advance copy of the novel and, for me, the answer to that question is an enthusiastic YES! 

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke
By Janna MacGregor
The Cavensham Heiresses - Book 4
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: November 27, 2018

Lady Daphne Hallworth is ready to celebrate the holidays with her family. But when they accidentally leave her home alone, Daphne uses the time to work on her dream—opening a home for unwed mothers. But her quest isn’t problem-free: She’s in a battle to win the property for the home against her brother’s best friend-turned-enemy, Paul Barstowe, Duke of Southart. And that’s not all: someone has stolen her personal diary, which holds secrets that could devastate her family. Daphne has always harbored private feelings for the man her family scorns…though perhaps striking a bargain with the handsome Duke will solve both their problems?
Paul, long considered good for nothing, aims to open a hospital to honor his brother and restore his reputation. So when a conflict over the land brings him straight into Daphne’s life, they make a deal: He will help her find her diary if Daphne can change her family’s opinion of him. But before he can win her family’s affection, he has to win hers first. Maybe love was the answer to their family feud all along?


“Paul,” Daphne said a little bit more loudly. “Are you all right?”

No, he wasn’t all right. He’d lost his mind several London street blocks ago. “Yes, I’m fine.”  
“You seem out of sorts. You have ever since we left Pembrooke House.” The soft words held enough of a lilt that they carried across the coach. It had to be his imagination, but they seemed to kiss his cheek.
He could only reach one conclusion—he was a bloody fool.
“I apologize for my earlier behavior.” He’d said the words hoping they’d relieve his guilt and restore his confidence as a proper duke. Instead, he felt as if he were a sniveling child, one who apologized without any real remorse.
He wasn’t really sorry for teasing and playing with Daphne at Pembrooke House. Her entire face had been alight with sheer delight, then it slowly softened to an exquisite emotion that would only be described as arousal when he drew her dress down her arms.
He was surely going to hell for seducing an innocent.
Biting one lip, she tried to hide her smile. It made her even more beautiful. “You seem to apologize frequently around me. Am I a bad influence?”
The silver-pewter of her eyes flashed with laughter and a little something that made the distance between them spark with sexual tension. Whatever this was between them electrified him.  Every particle of his body throbbed with an acute need to gather her in his arms and kiss her until she begged for more. He tightened both hands around the edge of the seat to keep from reaching for her. The more he squeezed, the more the leather squealed in protest.
What was it about her that made her so irresistible? He’d been with other beautiful women who were definitely more accomplished as seductresses. But her innate innocence captivated him. Naturally, a rake such as himself would be drawn to someone as pure as her. Isn’t that what rakes did? Despoil perfect flowers. He ran his hand over his face again hoping to clear every lascivious thought. He’d not allow his own dirty hands to touch her, not after what he’d done tonight.
This evening he would be her protector. He’d be her friend. They’d find her journal, then she’d help ease the distance between Pembrooke and him. His job would be finished. He’d have no other reason to be in her company alone. After he returned her home this evening, he’d check on her tomorrow, wish her a happy Christmas, and then wait for her brother to return to town that evening. He’d call on Pembrooke the next day and explain what had happened. Pembrooke would thank him and extend an invitation for a drink where they’d mend their disagreements. Perhaps they’d even drink coffee and read the papers at White’s again. Paul would even invite Alex and Claire to dine with him. He’d invite Somerton and Emma also. Once Somerton saw that Alex had given up his grievances, Somerton would follow suit.
By helping her, the three of them would be friends again. That’s all he had to remember.
He couldn’t think of the gentle swell of her perfect breasts ever again. 
She tilted her head and regarded him. “Paul, what are we doing? We’ve been sitting here for several minutes.” She raised her hand to rap her knuckles against the coach roof signaling she was ready to depart.
“Before we exit, I have something for you.” He cleared his throat in a poor attempt to purge his thoughts. She lowered her hand when he handed her a half mask that would conceal her eyes and nose. One half was painted black, and the other white. Clear crystals and silver foil neatly lined the edges and the openings for the eyes. The mask was elaborate, but the ties that would secure it around her head were simple black ribbons. With her dark hair, it would be difficult to see the ribbons, thus giving the allusion she was a Venetian temptress looking for a lover during Carnival.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered. Her fingers tenderly skated over every inch of the mask. “What is it?”
He let out an unsteady breath. She caressed the mask like a lover. “It’s a Columbina mask. My mother brought it home from Venice the last time she visited. I want you to wear it tonight. It’ll disguise you. No one will dare approach you with me by your side.”
“Thank you. That’s clever thinking,” she offered. “Will you help me put it on?”
Holding the mask to her face, she turned away from him until she was barely seated on the bench cushion. He reached to tie the ribbon, and their fingers entangled. The urge to pull her against him while he inhaled her sweet scent almost overpowered him. Suddenly, her fingers tightened against his, and he hissed.   
“You’ll need to take off your gloves to tie the ribbons I’m afraid.”
She should be afraid, as he was very afraid. Afraid he’d kiss her in this very carriage and never stop until they were both lost in each other’s arms.  
“Of course.” Passion threatened to explode inside him. His own words sounded guttural.
He made quick work of removing his gloves. As he raised his hands to tie the ribbons, his fingers shook. He took a deep breath and commanded himself to relax. In seconds, the mask was secure.
When she twisted around to face him, he felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. Once again, she refuted his claim that he could manage anything.
Describing her as an ethereal creature was like describing the moon as a circle in the sky. Her loveliness was heavenly. Her skin seemed to shimmer in the faint glow of the carriage lantern. The mask did indeed disguise her, but he knew the hidden depths of her beauty. Her expressive eyes and the familiar tilt of her lips spoke a language that only he could understand.
With a shake of his head, Paul tried to dismiss such fanciful thoughts. “Are you ready?”
“In a moment.” She scooted close to him. “About this morning, I meant what I said about fighting to win the bid for the estate. But I want you to know that I’ll do everything in my power to help you with my brother. It’s reassuring that you’re here with me.” The smile on her lips was radiant.
“Of course,” he said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than with you here tonight, my dear friend.”
If possible, her smile became brighter. It reminded him of sunshine peeking around a cloud. “Whatever happened today won’t impact how we deal with each other tonight.”
With a deep breath, he tapped the window with his knuckles. Immediately, the door opened, and he jumped out. As soon as Daphne placed her slim hand in his, Paul came to a realization that gave him some, but not nearly enough, relief from his complete befuddlement.
All of his discomfort with Daphne could be attributed to his agreement to be friends.
What a ludicrous bargain.
            How could they be friends if all he could think about was seducing her?


Have you been reading Janna MacGregor's Cavensham Heiresses series?

How do you feel about former bad boys/villains as redeemed heroes?

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke pays homage to the theme used in the movie Home Alone, an annual favorite. What Christmas movies do you enjoy watching every year? 

One person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, October 25 will receive a print advance review copy (ARC) of The Good, the Bad, and the Duke. (U.S. only)

Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

KissCon Atlanta

I attended my first Avon KissCon over the weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, KissCon is a fun-filled day with Avon and Harlequin romance authors held in various cities around the U.S. When I discovered this fall's KissCon would be held in Atlanta - an easy drive for me - I knew I had to go and I am so happy I did!

Saturday kicked off with morning tea with Eloisa James at Tea Leaves & Thyme in Woodstock, Georgia. What a lovely tea room. The food and tea were delicious and the company couldn't be beat. 

Terri Osburn and Andrea 

Terri Osburn and former Disher, Andrea wearing the fun and fabulous fascinators each person attending received. 

Fashionably dressed Eloisa James arriving for the Tea.

And check out her adorable shoes!

A few of the goodies...

My friend's wonderful husband dropped her off on his way to the nearby Highland Games and graciously posed for a photo before he left. There's just something about a man in a kilt, am I right, ladies?

The KissCon events began at 1:00 Saturday afternoon with a fun Q&A with the authors followed by a book signing. Authors attending were Maya Rodale, Cat Sebastian, Brenda Jackson, Maisey Yates, Beverly Jenkins, Tessa Dare, Jeaniene Frost, and Eloisa James.

One of the highlights of the day for me was meeting long-time Dish reader, CherylC! 

Another highlight was reuniting with original Dishes, Buffie and Andrea. Many hugs were exchanged! 

Brenda Jackson was signing copies of her new book, Love in Catalina Cove (out later this month). Watch for my review - and a giveaway - next week!

Maya Rodale was signing copies of her new Gilded Age historical, Duchess by Design (out today!). 

After the book signing, those of us who had purchased tickets to the VIP reception meandered across the street to Foxtale Book Shoppe for food, beverages, books, and a chance to visit one-on-one with all of the authors. 

Beverly Jenkins and I went to the same university and discovered while chatting at the VIP reception that we were on campus at the same time! 

With the wonderful Eloisa James and my good friend, J. Perry Stone. I'm loving Eloisa's new Wildes of Lindow Castle historical romance series!

Tessa Dare, Cat Sebastian, and Avon Editor, Erica Tsang. 

With Eva Moore, whose book, Stripped Down, released yesterday. 

Several of us rounded out the evening with dinner at the Century House Tavern in Woodstock. Delicious food, great service, and what a fun exclamation point for a fabulous weekend! This is one of our dinner tables. Let me just say they were wise to seat us in the corner. ;-) 

If you're ever in the area, drop by the Century House for a bowl of Butternut Squash Soup. It's amazing!

If you have the opportunity to attend a KissCon event, I enthusiastically recommend it. Next April will be the first full weekend KissCon event in Chicago with 30 Avon and Harlequin authors. I'd love to see you there! Click here for more information about the event.  

Have you attended any of the KissCon events?

Who would you most like to meet at KissCon?

Are you going to KissCon Weekend in Chicago next April?

I was in raptures over my Butternut Squash Soup. What's your favorite fall food?

One randomly chosen person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM, October 24 will receive a signed Tessa Dare tote bag (unsigned bags available for purchase on Zazzle) and a signed copy of The Governess Game. (U.S. only)

One randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post before 11:00 PM, October 24 will receive an Eloisa James tote and a signed copy of Born to be Wilde. (U.S. only)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: How the Dukes Stole Christmas

How the Dukes Stole Christmas
A Holiday Romance Anthology
by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, and Joanna Shupe
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare

Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless—and unexpectedly handsome—Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.

I read this first novella in the anthology just before bed and was gifted with sweet dreams all night. It's like being wrapped in a warm, Christmas hug while leisurely strolling through a beautiful snow globe. With Dare's trademark wit, humor, and sparkling dialogue, a smart-girl heroine determined to save her family home, and a reluctant Duke who turns out to be much different than expected, this heartwarming tale is one I'll happily re-visit again and again. "Meet Me in Mayfair" is a short novella, quickly read, but packed with so much story, heart, and beautiful characterization that I turned the final page with the deep-seated satisfaction typically reserved for a full-length novel. 

 "The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean

Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm—the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can’t resist the woman he never stopped loving…or the future they'd once been promised. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay…but if ever there were a time for miracles, it’s Christmas…

MacLean takes readers on an emotional roller coaster with this tale of childhood sweethearts, separated for twelve years, who have a second chance to get things right. A series of flashbacks, interspersed among the characters' current-day scenes, reveal the events that have brought them to their reunion, with a few unexpected turns along the way. This one is a real heart-tugger. You may want to keep a tissue or two on hand. 

"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan 

When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

Jordan brings the spice to this stranded by snow romance (one of my favorite tropes) set in the Scottish Highlands. This duke is in no hurry to marry and especially not to an Englishwoman with very different plans for her future. But a snow storm, matchmaking staff, and a fiery attraction can unravel plans, as our couple quickly learn. I really enjoyed this story and even though I'm not always a fan of insta-lust, I totally bought into it with these two. There's just something about a Highlander....  

"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe

Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker’s weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can’t even boil water. When the paper’s owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing—especially when Duke’s attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. Shupe is a talented writer and I have enjoyed her full-length Gilded Age novels but this story just didn't work for me. I had problems with the set-up but, beyond that, I had a hard time buying into the relationship between the hero and heroine. Physical desire was certainly present but the emotional connection I was looking for wasn't there for me and while I liked and admired the heroine a lot, I had a number of issues with the hero. Still, one person's lemon is another's lemonade and while I had issues with this story, it may totally work for you. 

Do you enjoy anthologies?

Have you read any of the authors included in How the Dukes Stole Christmas?

Each of the stories in this anthology features a family shortbread recipe that doesn't exactly turn out as expected. What's your go-to family cookie for the holidays?