Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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

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

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?

My thoughts:

When I read The Bad Luck Bride, the first book in Janna MacGregor's The Cavensham Heiresses series, I was not inclined to be sympathetic to the secondary, villainous character of Paul Barstowe, former best friend of the book's hero. In book two, The Bride Who Got Lucky, there were glimmers of a better man - or at least the possibility of one - hidden deep inside and I began to wonder if there could be more to Paul than I had first believed. I queried the author and learned that the fourth book of the series would be Paul's journey to redemption and love. The Good, the Bad, and the Duke releases today and, as I suspected, there is indeed much more to this man than his previous behavior would have indicated. Not only did Daphne fall in love with him but I did too. In fact, not since Lisa Kleypas's Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent have I enjoyed a redeemed hero this much. 

Who better to match with a formerly dissolute, currently striving for redemption hero than his ex-best friend and current enemy's younger sister, right? As much as I enjoyed Paul, his heroine, Daphne is equally as wonderful. It was pure pleasure to watch her recapture the sense of self and adventurous spirit that she'd kept firmly on the shelf since the death of her sister and see her go to toe-to-toe both with her family over her relationship with Paul as well as with Paul himself. I adored these two together. The banter between them sparkles, their chemistry is off the charts, his tenderness with her is sigh-worthy, her defense of him is cheer-worthy, and the bond formed in their youth, while stretched to its limits by Paul's actions and Daphne's brother's enmity, remains strong and unbroken - a solid foundation upon which to build a love for a lifetime. Their beautifully paced evolution as a couple, as well as individually, engaged both my mind and my heart and put me firmly in their HEA corner. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Duke is not only my favorite book in Janna MacGregor's The Cavensham Heiresses series but also one of my favorite books of 2018. It has my enthusiastic recommendation. 


Monday, November 26, 2018

Review - - Diamond Fire

Diamond Fire: A Hidden Legacy Novella
By Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.
Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle.  Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home.  Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.
To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic.  But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness.  Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

My thoughts:

I've fallen in love with the magical world created within Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy series and the characters that inhabit it. In the first three books, readers have watched Nevada and Rogan fall in love, vanquish enemies, and find their happily ever after. We've also been introduced to the members of Nevada's family, characters with oodles of potential for stories of their own, characters like her younger sister, Catalina. 

Diamond Fire is a novella that ties up Nevada and Rogan's journey with a happy bow while also setting up the next trilogy in the series. It's a fast-paced, action-packed, suspense-filled story chock full of betrayal, intrigue, and magic. And humor. I love how Andrews uses laughter to balance the darker elements of her stories.  

It was fun to watch kick-ass Nevada Baylor turn into a bundle of nerves over the prospect of planning her wedding and, especially, meeting her future mother-in-law. I adored Connor's mother! She's an intriguing character with powerful magic, a good heart, and no patience for anyone who threatens those she loves. I'm looking forward to hopefully learning more about her in future books. 

While the secondary cast is well-developed, the star of this novella is Catalina. The eighteen-year-old really begins to come into her own in this story and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her slowly begin to embrace her powers. I can't wait to find out what the future holds for her in the next trilogy. 

Diamond Fire is the newest addition to my Ilona Andrews keeper shelf. It's a brilliantly executed transition from Nevada's journey to Catalina's and I highly recommend it to both fans of the first Hidden Legacy trilogy as well as those new to the series. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review - - Bark! The Herald Angels Sing

Bark! The Herald Angels Sing
By Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogfather - Book 8
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

With Christmas and a family wedding fast approaching, there’s happy chaos in the air at Waterford Farm. However, not everyone in the Kilcannon clan is caught up in the magic of the moment. Matriarch, octogenarian, and beloved blogger Gramma Finnie hears the clock of her long life ticking far too fast, while her great-granddaughter, teenager Pru, feels squeezed out of planning her mother’s nuptials. 

But when this unlikely duo is tasked with the project of producing the “Somethings” for the wedding – and only have Christmas Eve to get the job done – Gramma Finnie and Pru have a purpose and a plan. They set off to find the perfect old, new, borrowed, and blue treasures, but it doesn’t take long for things to spin out of control faster than Gramma’s Toyota in a snowstorm. Detoured by a stray border collie, thwarted by nature and an elf parade, and trapped by a rifle-toting mountain man, it will take more than the power of the Kilcannon clan to save these two from a Christmas catastrophe. It will take the luck of the Irish, a love story from long ago, and a whole lot of help from the angels to make this holiday merry and bright.

My thoughts:

The stories in Roxanne St. Claire's The Dogfather contemporary romance series aim straight for the heart and this new holiday novella is no exception. In the final days leading up to the wedding of reunited lovers Molly and Trace (Bad to the Bone), the couple's teen daughter, the uber-organized Pru, is feeling left out of the preparations and her great-grandmother "Gramma Finnie" is feeling left out of life. When the two combine forces to find four very special "somethings" (old, new, borrowed and blue) for the wedding, their enthusiasm leads them into a snowy adventure with unforeseen, and potentially perilous, consequences that could see the Kilcannon family spending Christmas without their beloved matriarch and "General" Pru.

I adored this story. St. Claire has brought these characters to life throughout the course of this series but, for the most part, they've been secondary characters, not the main focus. In this novella, Gramma Finnie and Pru finally step into the spotlight, giving readers the opportunity to learn more about them and the special bond they share. Especially enjoyable is the window St. Claire opens into the past as Gramma Finnie shares the untold story of how she met her beloved late husband, Seamus. Moving flawlessly between 1940s Ireland and their present-day adventure, Gramma Finnie's story is poignant, heart-wrenching, and hopeful. St. Claire has a way of pulling me into a story so that rather than reading about the events within I feel as though I'm actually experiencing them along with the characters. I could easily identify with both Pru, a girl on the cusp of young womanhood, as well as Gramma Finnie, a woman in the sunset of her life, wondering if all of her adventures are behind her and after "meeting" young Finnie and learning about that part of her life, I have even more affection and admiration for this woman who is the very heart of the Kilcannon family.

Whether you've read the earlier books in this series or not, this is a short, heartwarming story that celebrates family, the joy of the season, the unconditional love to be found in a four-legged companion, and the absolute necessity of kindness. Pru and Gramma Finnie's adventure made me laugh, cry, and fall in love with the Kilcannon family all over again.

It isn't necessary to read the entire Dogfather series in order to enjoy Bark! The Herald Angels Sing but I do recommend reading Molly and Trace's journey to love in Bad to the Bone first. Once you've finished those two stories, head on over to Roxanne St. Claire's website to sign up for her newsletter for access to the heartwarming and poignant bonus story of Molly and Trace's wedding. You'll want to keep the tissues handy! 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review - - Rancher Untamed

By Katherine Garbera
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Reviewed by Hellie

For Pippa, what should have been a simple one night stand before she takes her life back turns into something much more complicated. She’s been in hiding for four years until she comes of age and can return to inherit her place as head of a global jewelry corporation and finally be out from under her father’s thumb and insistence for the right man (read: hand-picked husband) to guide the helm. On her last week in hiding, she finally decides to have a fling with her temporary home’s Most Eligible Bachelor, Diego Velasquez. Diego is also the head of his family’s multi-million dollar corporation, and he has had eyes for Pippa since he first met her--though she’s been determined to evade him. Until now.

Pippa buys Diego at the charity bachelor auction, and they go out on a whirlwind date, which of course, ends up with the whirlwind whisking off their clothes and there being lots of happy, naked fun times. Until the morning after. Diego has no idea of Pippa’s other identity, though he does know she’s a secretive woman; and Pippa is dismayed to find that her carefully laid plans to be casually laid blows up in her face. The rationale was simple: a relationship with Diego would never work, but having a little bit of pleasure is better than none at all, right? Except now she’s questioning the future she was so sure she was getting; and the possible future she’s leaving behind.

Both the hero and heroine are very likeably flawed and the conflict was real and deep enough that I did wonder how such a long distance relationship could work out. However, as promised, Ms. Garbera does make it work--and Diego and Pippa get their much deserved happily ever after. For me, the story felt a little thin. This story lives up to all the expectations of a Harlequin Desire (200 pages, lots of sex, HEA)--I’m afraid my lack of enthusiasm stems more from the constraints of those expectations than the characters themselves.

If you love quick sexy reads with heroes who are conscientious, kind, and smoldering in that “consent is sexy” way, throw this book in your cart and take it for a spin. If, however, you prefer more story to sexy times, more high-leg to thongs, and more probable HEA to possible HEA, maybe find a longer book set in a period before g-strings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Winner - - Maggie Robinson

The randomly chosen winner of a signed, hardback copy of

Nobody's Sweetheart Now is:

Katie Chapman


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Vanessa Kelly

The winner of a prize package from 

Vanessa Kelly is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review and Q&A - - Unmask Me if You Can by Shana Galen

Unmask Me If You Can
By Shana Galen
The Survivors Series - Book 4
Published by: Shana Galen
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

This masked lord... 
Lord Jasper, younger son of a marquess, suffered horrible burns fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. He wears a mask to hide his face from the stares and screams and finds comfort in the shadows. Jasper is an exceptional bounty hunter, so when a woman summons him to her deathbed and asks him to find her runaway daughter before she passes away, he doesn't refuse. Jasper is close to his quarry when he's knifed by an assailant. Imagine his surprise when he regains consciousness in the arms of the woman he seeks. Except she's not at all what he expected.

Is not the only one with scars.
On a remote cliff on the sea, Olivia Carlisle calls her five-year-old son in from an approaching storm. But the little boy is more interested in the man he's found on the trail to their hidden cottage. Olivia fears men and wants nothing more than to leave the injured man where she found him. But his knife wound is severe, and with the approaching storm, she knows leaving him will condemn him to death. As Jasper begins to heal, Olivia acknowledges her attraction to him, even though such emotions terrify her almost as much as returning to London. Jasper must convince her that her only chance at safety is to challenge the man who pursues her. They must travel into the lion's den—he to face his vulnerability and she to face her worst fears.

My thoughts:

I've enjoyed all of the books in Galen's The Survivors series but Jasper and Olivia's story is my favorite. They both carry deep emotional trauma that has led them to hide from others. For Olivia, it meant running away from everything and everyone she knew while Jasper hides his burns beneath a silk mask and his emotional vulnerability even deeper. I liked that the first half of the book takes place in Olivia's secluded cliff-side cottage with the only human interaction between Jasper, Olivia, and her five-year-old son, Richard. It gives this wary couple the necessary time and seclusion to let down their guards enough to become friends, and possibly more, before they have to face the challenges that await in London. I admired Olivia's strength, the tough decisions she made to protect her son and herself, her determination to take back control of her life once the decision to finally confront her attacker is made, and to fight for both happiness and love. I appreciated Jasper's patience and care in light of Olivia's fears, his gentleness with both her and Richard, and his determination to protect them at any cost to himself. These three belong together and I was cheering them on the entire way. 

Speaking of Richard, I love that kid! He's an energetic, inquisitive, scene-stealing, heart-grabbing sweetheart. Many of his scenes are infused with humor (he is a five-year-old boy, after all) but there are some between Richard and Jasper that are so tender and poignant I was almost brought to tears. Theirs is a love story of a different kind and it captured my heart just as surely as the love between Jasper and Olivia.

There are nine more books planned for Shana Galen's The Survivors series. Based on the quality of the first four, I need to make more room on my keeper shelves! 


I recently had the opportunity to interview Shana Galen. I hope you enjoy our Q&A below. Don't miss the giveaway at the end!

Welcome to The Romance Dish, Shana! Unmask Me If You Can is your fourth Survivors story. How many more books are planned for this series?

Initially, I’d planned 12 books, but then I realized I had to write a book for Benedict, the leader of the troop. So there are 13 planned now—9 to go!

What can you share about the next book and when do you expect it to be published?

The next book is about Benedict Draven, the leader of the Survivors (aka Draven’s Dozen). At the start of the war, he saved a young woman by marrying her in a Catholic ceremony he considers completely illegal. He didn’t expect to ever see her again. The Claiming of the Shrew is what happens when Catarina shows up in London after the war, wanting an annulment so she can marry another man. It will be out in April 2019.

I'm already eagerly anticipating Draven and Catarina's story based on their brief interaction in Unmask Me if you Can

I have loved the characters in this series. Will we have an opportunity to catch up with any/all of the couples before the series comes to an end?

That’s going to be a lot of couples! I don’t know that I could do that in a book and still have it focus on the main characters. Maybe I’ll do an epilogue like I did for the Jewels of the Ton series.

A series epilogue! I like that idea!

What was your favorite scene to write in this book? What was the most difficult?

My favorite scenes to write were those with Jasper and Richard, the heroine’s 5-year-old son. Jasper wears a mask and avoids kids, who are generally afraid of him. He doesn’t know what to do with this kid, who thinks scars are cool and asks all those questions we adults aren’t quite sure how to answer.

The most difficult to write were the intimate scenes with Jasper and Olivia. They’ve both faced so much trauma, and I really wanted to respect that and also show that love can overcome anything.

I thought you did an outstanding job of crafting the intimate scenes between Jasper and Olivia with great care. And the scenes between Jasper and Richard were some of my favorites in the book. 

I’m currently enjoying the crisp, clear days, cool nights, and hearty soups and stews of fall, not to mention the football. I love football! What’s your favorite season? What makes it so? Is there a favorite food or activity that reminds you of it?

My favorite season is spring. I love the warm (but not too warm) weather, the flowers blooming, the baby animals, and dining al fresco. I always feel like it’s really spring when all the St. Patrick’s Day activities kick off. My daughter does Irish dancing, so we do a lot of parades and shows around St. Pat’s.

Let's do a fast five!

Hot cider or Hot chocolate? Hot cider

Dresses or jeans? Dresses

Mountains or ocean? Ocean

Christmas decorations before or after Thanksgiving? After, of course

Must-have Thanksgiving side dish? Mashed potatoes

I shouldn't have asked that last question. Now I'm hungry for mashed potatoes! lol

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Shana. Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask my readers a question?

Readers, I’m about to start having my cover designer work on the cover for The Claiming of the Shrew. All the series covers feature women in beautiful dresses. What color should Catarina’s dress be? (PJ, jumping in to add that the colors of the dresses on the first four covers have been pink, light blue, peach, and mint green.)

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM, November 14 will receive their choice of one of the following books: Third Son's a Charm, No Earls Allowed, or An Affair with a Spare. (print or digital; open internationally)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Helping Julie Anne Long

You all know how much I love Julie Anne Long's books. Whether she's writing lush historical romances or humorous and heartfelt contemporaries, her words always lay bare my every emotion, leaving me laughing out loud or mopping up tears, or doing both, often at the same time. 

Julie lives in Northern California and I knew she was in the vicinity of the Camp Fire that began last week. Thursday night, after the fire had unexpectedly exploded in scope, she posted on her Facebook page that she, her sister, and her sister's family had evacuated and by that I mean they ran for their lives with little more than the clothes on their backs. Julie had enough time to grab her cat, her laptop, and some paper files. That's it. This is the photo she posted Thursday, taken from her car as they inched out of town while surrounded by roaring flames. 

Today, Julie's worst fears were realized when it was confirmed that her house - and everything in it - is gone. What once was a lifetime of memories - photos, books, her guitars, her RITA® award, everything - is now a pile of ash. 

I've had the opportunity to get to know Julie Anne Long over the years. She's a funny, kind, multi-talented, and fiercely independent woman. She would never ask for help for herself so others in the Romance community are asking for her. If you would like to help, here are a few ways:

All About Romance has set up a GoFundMe account. Click here for details.

A gmail account has been set up for anyone who would like to send an e-gift card to help. Visa gift cards, as well as Walmart and Amazon have been suggested.

If you would like to send a message of support to Julie, you can do so my posting at her Facebook page (link here) or comment on this post and I will see that it's forwarded to her. 

Thank you for keeping Julie and everyone who has been, and will be, impacted by these fires in your thoughts and prayers. 

Tour Review - - On Magnolia Lane

On Magnolia Lane 
By Denise Hunter
A Blue Ridge Romance - Book 3
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.
Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.
Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.
Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

My thoughts:
This is a sweet, humorous, and heartwarming Christian contemporary romance set in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of northern Georgia. It's the third book in Hunter's Blue Ridge Romance trilogy but, while characters from previous books make appearances and I'm guessing Daisy and Pastor Jack have evolved over the course of the series, I had no difficulty reading - and enjoying - this third book on its own. 

One of the things that brought this story to life for me is Hunter's depiction of Daisy and Jack. Both are fully dimensional characters, rooted in their faith, but oh, so human, with all the insecurities, challenges, frustrations, and errors of judgment that encompasses. Jack, in particular, is such an endearing character. I liked him so much that I found myself giving him encouragement and advice as I traveled his journey with him, especially during those scenes where his shyness with women - Daisy, in particular - is on display. It took me a little longer to embrace Daisy. In the beginning, I wondered if she and Jack really could be a good match but the growth she exhibits during her journey, especially as it relates to an unexpected obstacle life throws her way, brought me into her cheering section as well. In the end, I happily embraced them both, individually and as a couple, with the confidence that their HEA will be filled with laughter and love - of each other, of their families, of their small community, and of their Lord. 


Do you enjoy pastor heroes in the books you read?

Do you have any favorites you'd recommend?

Click to follow the rest of the TLC tour for On Magnolia Lane.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today's Special - - Vanessa Kelly

I'm happy to host one of my favorite authors today and especially excited because it's in celebration of her new book, The Highlander Who Protected Me. I have to say, I really do love that cover! Vanessa Kelly introduced her Kendrick brothers in her last book and I am all in with this fiercely loyal, somewhat dysfunctional, rowdy, but loving, group of highlanders just begging for happy endings. Welcome back, Vanessa!

Make ‘Em Laugh
Vanessa Kelly

Hi, everyone, and my thanks to PJ for hosting me. The Romance Dish is one of my favorite places on the world-wide-interweb, and I love being here!

I’m particularly thrilled to be celebrating the release of THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME, the first book in my new Scottish historical romance series. The series features the brawny and sometimes rambunctious brothers of the Kendrick Clan, who were first introduced in THE HIGHLANDER'S PRINCESS BRIDE (Improper Princesses 3).

THE HIGHLANDER WHO PROTECTED ME is Royal and Ainsley’s book. For me, it’s very close to what authors call “the book of the heart.” Both Royal and Ainsley are emotionally wounded—Royal, from his wartime experiences, Ainsley, from the result of an assault. But they are fierce survivors, each of them battling the circumstances and people trying to hold them back. I love these two because they never, ever give up—even when they’re fighting with each other! And I also have to admit I cried more while writing this story than with any of my other books.

feels but it has quite a bit of humor, too. Over the years, I’ve discovered that much of the humor in my books comes from secondary characters. In this book, it’s Royal’s grandfather, Angus. He’s an old-school Highlander curmudgeon who was first introduced in THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE, and he’s been trying to take over the series ever since (I’ve had a few stern discussions with him about that). Angus is crusty as heck, but he’s devoted to his family and clan, and will do anything to protect them—including insulting Ainsley on a regular basis, since he’s absolutely convinced she’s not good enough for his grandson. Ainsley being Ainsley, she doesn’t take it lying down, and the two have a fairly lively relationship.

And let me just say that Angus has a way with words. His favorite label for Ainsley is Sassenach saucebox (which she kind of is), but he really hits his stride when it comes to nicknames for the villain of the book—Lord Codpiece is the first that comes to mind, and it goes from there.

Here’s a short snippet from the book, which takes place on Royal and Ainsley’s wedding night. They’ve retreated to Castle Kinglas, the family estate in the Highlands, hoping for some quiet time for themselves, and Ainsley’s infant daughter, Tira. Royal has been desperate to get Ainsley alone, and he finally achieves his goal.


They were just about to sink down onto the plump cushions of the chaise when the library door flew open and thudded against the wall. Ainsley jerked back, her foot tangling around his boot, and they almost tumbled to the floor as Angus stomped into the room.

“Oh, my God,” she gasped as Royal set her upright.

His grandfather scowled at them. “I’ve been lookin’ all over the bloody castle for ye.”

Ainsley leveled an accusatory glare at Royal. “You promised your family would leave us alone. You promised.”

“I bloody well didn’t ask him to come,” Royal protested. “Why the hell are you here, Grandda? It’s practically the middle of the night.”

“Och, it’s not that late,” Angus replied with a casual wave. “I’ve been here for at least a half hour, after a nice ride up from Glasgow. And that glad I am to be away from the stinkin’ city and back home.”

Royal felt like the top of his head was about to fizz up like an exploding squib. “But why are you here?”

“I couldna sleep knowin’ that the little lassie would be missin’ her grandda. So here I am.”

“Oh, my God,” Ainsley repeated, sounding utterly appalled.

“Do Nick and Victoria know you rode up?” Royal demanded.

Angus hunched his shoulders and gave him a placating smile. “Dinna fash yourself, lad. I left them a grand little note to explain.”

“Grandda, this is our wedding trip.” Never had Royal been closer to throttling Angus than he was at this moment.

“Aye, that’s the point. I can watch out for Tira while ye and the missus have a wee bit of private time. Ye’ll hardly even know I’m aboot the place.”

Ainsley switched her Medusa glare to Angus. “You are so irritating. I’m supposed to be looking after my daughter, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Aye, and ye can bloody well use all the help ye can get,” the old man retorted, “especially since the puir wee bairn is feeling poorly. I could tell Tira was off her feed before ye left. It’s no wonder I decided to follow ye.”

When Angus tapped the side of his nose, trying to look wise, Royal had to hold back a scoff. The excuse sounded like complete bollocks to him.

Ainsley went from irate to anxious in a matter of seconds. “What do you mean poorly? I was with her an hour ago, and she was asleep.”

“She’s not sleepin’ now. That’s why I came down to fetch ye.” He flashed her a toothy smile. “As ye say, yer her mother. I knew ye’d want to be with her.”

Ainsley picked up her skirts and pelted out of the room.

Sighing, Royal followed in her wake, Angus falling into step beside him.

“Is Tira really sick, or was that just an excuse to come to Kinglas?” he asked his grandfather.

Angus shrugged. “Probably just another tooth coming in, but ye never know.”

Royal shot him a dirty look. “One of these days, Grandda, I will kill you.”

Angus snorted. “Laddie, none of ye would know what to do without me, least of all yer new missus. Even for a Sassenach, she’s bloody hopeless.”


You can read longer excerpts from the book on my website: https://www.vanessakellyauthor.com/books/the-highlander-who-protected-me/

I often find secondary characters easier to write than my main characters. As a reader, I think a great secondary character can really add texture and color to a book. Sometimes, those characters are so strong they even demand their own stories!

Who are some of your favorite secondary characters in novels, romance or otherwise? 

One person who comments will win signed, print copies of THREE WEEKS WITH A PRINCESS and THE HIGHLANDER’S PRINCESS BRIDE (Improper Princesses 2 & 3), plus some fun book swag.

Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress and darling of the ton, was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancĂ© will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her—Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby—even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . .
Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose—caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review - - Archangel's Prophecy

Archangel’s Prophecy (A Guild Hunter Novel)
By Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Reviewed by Nancy

Archangel’s Prophecy is the latest installment in the story of Raphael, the Archangel of New York, and Guild Hunter Elena Devereaux. The story opens with ominous signs, odd behavior from birds, a lava sinkhole in the Catskills, and an unfamiliar voice in Elena’s mind warning that she must die.  The Cascade, the uncontrolled power that changes angels and archangels, is surging.

On top of that, her angelic abilities are fading.  She suddenly has difficulty flying, injuring herself performing a maneuver she mastered long ago. Other physical problems manifest, and the angelic healers can’t explain why. They think her problems may be due to her unique situation as an angel Made by the ambrosia Raphael fed her as they fell from the sky over New York with Elena mortally wounded. Legends of angels of such making are ancient, but no one can find any records. Meanwhile, the physical changes and problems are accelerating.

The events of the Cascade claim much of Raphael’s attention, and he is also manifesting strange new abilities.  Elena worries that he’ll change so much that he’ll lose the bit of humanity loving her has given him, that he’ll become cold and remote and completely other. He grows increasingly concerned and frustrated by the changes in her and the lack of information and solutions.  As though all that weren’t enough, developments in China, the former domain of the megalomaniac archangel, Lijuan, hint that she may be causing trouble even though she is supposed to be deep in angelic Sleep.

Against the background of all these worries, Elena pursues the unknown assailant who almost killed her newly-Made-vampire brother-in-law. The investigation leads her to the murders of other vampires, acquaintances of his, that are apparently motivated by vengeance. The deterioration in her immortality accelerates, but she’s determined to solve this case before the mysterious assailant makes good his threat to kill her sister and niece.  A confrontation with the killer brings the changes in Elena to a crisis point. Desperate to save her, Raphael makes a drastic choice that endangers his life.

This is a powerful and wrenching story, clearly leading to a new phase in Elena and Raphael’s love. Although the ending is a cliffhanger in that we don’t know the result of Raphael’s choice, a bit leading into the end offers reassurance. Some readers will find that more satisfying than others.  Those who dislike cliffhangers in all their forms may want to wait and read Archangel’s Prophecy back to back with the next book. Those who just want to see what happens to this beloved pair and are fine with not knowing the details will not be disappointed.

Highly recommended, 5 stars


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Today's Special - - Maggie Robinson & Nobody's Sweetheart Now

Nobody's Sweetheart Now
By Maggie Robinson
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Reviewed by PJ

A delightful English cozy series begins in August 1924. Lady Adelaide Compton has recently (and satisfactorily) interred her husband, Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, hero of the Somme, in the family vault in the village churchyard.

Rupert died by smashing his Hispano-Suiza on a Cotswold country road while carrying a French mademoiselle in the passenger seat. With the house now Addie's, needed improvements in hand, and a weekend house party underway, how inconvenient of Rupert to turn up! Not in the flesh, but in - actually, as a - spirit. Rupert has to perform a few good deeds before becoming welcomed to heaven - or, more likely, thinks Addie, to hell.

Before Addie can convince herself she's not completely lost her mind, a murder disrupts her careful seating arrangement. Which of her twelve houseguests is a killer? Her mother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Broughton? Her sister Cecilia, the born-again vegetarian? Her childhood friend and potential lover, Lord Lucas Waring? Rupert has a solid alibi as a ghost and an urge to detect.

Enter Inspector Devenand Hunter from the Yard, an Anglo-Indian who is not going to let some barmy society beauty witnessed talking to herself derail his investigation. Something very peculiar is afoot at Compton Court and he's going to get to the bottom of it - or go as mad as its mistress trying.

My thoughts:

This book is so much fun, which seems a weirdly odd thing to say about a murder mystery. Nevertheless, it's true. For her first foray into English cozy mysteries, Maggie Robinson has hit it out of the park - or whatever the English equivalent would be - with this expertly crafted whodunit. From beginning to end, it's an absolute delight.

With impeccable timing, and wit, Robinson guides somewhat naive Addie as she explores her newly acquired independence, so rudely interrupted by her dead husband's ghostly presence, as dead bodies keep turning up during her house party. The story flows beautifully with perfectly placed twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as to the identity of the killer or killers. There are several plausible suspects and Robinson drops clue crumbs here and there, keeping me - and everyone at her house party - wondering. All of the characters, primary and secondary, are well developed and contribute to the progression of the story in some way. Dev, the Scotland Yard Inspector, in particular, is one I hope we'll be seeing more of in future books. He and Addie have chemistry stirring between them that I'd love to see explored. Rupert, less than exemplary in life, shows great promise in death. The scenes between him and Addie are rife with humor and also a bit poignant. I don't know if he'll continue to be present in future books but I hope so. 

If you're in the mood for a roaring-twenties cozy mystery set in the bucolic English countryside with sparkling wit and banter, a well-crafted mystery, a likable protagonist, a charming, but meddlesome, ghost, a handsome inspector, and a house filled with potential murderers (could it be the school chum in the library with a candlestick?), then Maggie Robinson's Nobody's Sweetheart Now is just the book for you. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.


Welcome back, Maggie! I’m so excited to celebrate the release of Nobody’s Sweetheart Now, the first book in your English cozy mystery series. What a fun story! Please tell our readers what they can expect from this new series.

Well, I’m trying to conquer a new decade and a new genre, the 1920s classic mystery…with a touch of the paranormal. The book comes out next week, on November 13. I’ve written historical romances set in the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras, but I challenged myself to try something a little different. I’ve had more fun than should be legal. My heroine, Lady Adelaide Compton, is a widowed marquess’ daughter. She thought she was rid of her unfaithful husband Rupert, but finds out to her shock he hasn’t quite left this astral plane. He has to make up for his many sins before he can go in a heavenly direction, and discovers his talent for detection. A real detective inspector from Scotland Yard, Devenand Hunter, has no idea he’s being assisted by a ghost!

How many books are planned for the series?

The second, Who’s Sorry Now?, comes out next May, and I’m halfway done with the third, tentatively titled Make Believe. The book titles come from popular songs—it was a fabulous decade for timeless music, and there are a lot of songs! I’d like to write them to infinity…but all those bodies building up might give me pause, LOL. I never realized how enjoyable it is to kill characters rather than make them kiss.

Nobody’s Sweetheart Now is set in 1924 England, a time and place that I find fascinating. What is it about this era that inspired you to set your series there?

When I was in high school, I dressed as a flapper for a youth fellowship musical, and Charlestoned the night away—the seed was planted! The twenties were years of wild extremes, which provide lots of plot bunnies. I chose England, specifically the Cotswolds and London, since I’ve been a frequent visitor. I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of those Golden Age of Mystery authors, who were my first reading loves.
The aftermath of the Great War was particularly poignant; a whole generation of young men never returned. My antihero Rupert was a flying ace who became bored by peace time, and is even more bored by death!

I love the vintage autos and fashion described in this book. Please tell us about the car you’d be driving and clothes you’d be wearing if you could time-travel to the 1924 English countryside for a day. With money being no object, of course.

I just so happen to have a Pinterest board which brings me great pleasure and inspiration. Here’s the link: https://www.pinterest.com/maginme/lady-adelaide-series/ so you all can drool too! If my arms were not so flabby, I’d be wearing a sleeveless, sequined flower-embroidered teal silk crepe dress with as many diamonds and aquamarines as I could slap on. I would be chauffeured in a Bentley Landaulet, of course.

Will Addie be helping to solve cases on both sides of the pond?

In the second book, she’s just returned from America, where no one she knew was knocked off during her visit. I think I’ll keep killing off British people so Dev and Scotland Yard can get involved.

What was your favorite scene to write in this book?

For a while, poor Addie thinks she’s losing her mind every time Rupert turns up. Here’s the first page of Chapter 14:
“What are you doing snooping around?” Addie hissed into the bushes.
“Not snooping. Until fairly recently, I was the lord of this manor. Let’s just say I was surveying the property. And checking up on your welfare, too. You were unchaperoned. I don’t trust that foreign fellow.” Rupert stepped out from behind the hedge and brushed his suit off. For something that he’d worn now for six months under unusual conditions, it was holding up well.
“For heaven’s sake—not that you’d know anything about that—Mr. Hunter is not foreign! He was born in Chelsea.”
“Details. Nevertheless, that Sergeant Bob Whosis should have been there looking like an earnest bulldog, scribbling away. Or your maid Beckett, if you could convince her to get her nose out of Movie Weekly long enough. ”
“You pressed your nose against the glass, crossed your eyes and waggled your tongue at me while I was talking to him!”
“See? I don’t understand how you could call that snooping. Snooping requires stealth. Tip-toeing. Near invisibility. There I was, plain as day.”
Rupert always had an answer to everything. Addie wanted to slap him, but reminded herself he wasn’t really there.
Or was he? Could it be possible that she was really, truly being haunted by the ghost of her husband?

Fast five:

Hot tea or hot chocolate?
Hot tea. With too much sugar and a slice of lemon.

Dresses or jeans?
Yoga pants, though I don’t do yoga!

Christmas decorations before or after Thanksgiving?

While the kids and grandkids are home, we drag the tree and decorations up on Thanksgiving Day evening, then spend Friday puttering around. The tree is pre-lit, so there are no tangled strings of lights or cursing involved. The grandkids hang all their favorites in a bunch on basically one branch, and then when they’re gone, I redistribute them more evenly. I am a bad grandmother.

Ghosts: Yes or No?

Rupert seems pretty real to me now, LOL. I can’t rule them out.

Thanks, Maggie! Do you have anything you'd like to ask my readers today?

I’m going to turn your last question around—has anybody had a ghostly encounter or odd feeling in an old house or a woo-woo Ouija board experience? 

I’ll give away a signed hardcover book of Nobody’s Sweetheart Now to a random commenter even if you say no!