Monday, April 29, 2019

On the Road with Anna Campbell: 2019 - Episode 3

It's that time of month again! Anna Campbell is back for episode three of her exciting four month journey. So far, we've enjoyed the beauty of Italy and Ireland. I can't wait to discover what's next. I don't know about you but after tagging along with Anna via her words and photos, I'm ready to book a trip across the pond right now. Welcome back, Anna!

On the Road with Anna: 2019 - Episode 3
by Anna Campbell

So where has our intrepid heroine been over the last month? The sad, but true answer is that she’s mainly been poring over printouts or her computer as she got the final version of The Highlander’s Lost Lady ready for its release. On the upside, she’s had her head down in very picturesque places!

Let’s start with a show and tell for the historical romance fans out there. When I was in Ireland at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I took this picture of heather. In Scottish-set historicals, you’ll often see a description of hills covered in heather. This lovely flower is what they’re talking about.
I finished up my month-long stay at the TGC at the beginning of April. If you read last month’s post (, you’ll know I was having a lovely time writing at a beautiful country estate in Ireland. I’m including some pictures of the lake at the bottom of the garden at different times of day.

My next stop was a very quick visit to the Isle of Bute near Glasgow. I was there for only two nights, mainly to see the magnificent Victorian mansion Mount Stuart. Rothesay, the island’s capital, is a charming if faded Victorian resort. The UK abounds in places like this, once bustling with thousands of visitors from Britain’s industrial cities who were seeking sea air and a bit of fun. These days, most of those visitors chase the sun in places like Spain. The resorts are left with often very pretty promenades, a lot of empty shops, and large hotels that you can generally stay in for a song. This photo was taken from my room – as you can see, I had a lovely view across the old-fashioned seafront back toward the mainland. There’s a very particular, melancholy but romantic atmosphere in places like this. I always enjoy visiting them.

I’d finagled my way into a private tour of Mount Stuart, the magnificent Victorian mansion which was the home of the Marquis of Bute, one of the richest men in the world in the late 19th century. If possible when I go to old houses, I love to have someone showing me around because you get the stories about the families who lived there. Those stories are gold for someone writing historical romance, as you can imagine.

For all its luxury, Mount Stuart was actually quite a cozy place. Look at those pictures of the reception rooms. You can definitely imagine curling up on those sofas with a good book, can’t you? The house is a piece of fantasy – part medieval castle, part Venetian palazzo, all in beautiful grounds sloping down to the Clyde estuary. Even better, when I was there, there were 200,000 daffodils in the garden. Amazing. 
The house was full of mod cons à la 1880, including under-floor heating, electric lighting, a heated swimming pool, saunas, and surround showers, not to mention a secret passage leading from the library up to the billiard room. One of the glories of the place was the extravagant stained glass. You can see some examples in the photos.

The Marquis was a devout Catholic convert so there is both a beautiful white marble chapel and a rather spooky private chapel based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
If you’d like to know more about Mount Stuart or even if you’re thinking of visiting (highly recommended), here’s the website:

I left Bute for the long, but spectacular trip along the Road to the Isles to the Isle of Eigg. Those of you who read last year’s On the Road posts will remember the spectacular small island just south of the Isle of Skye where I did a whole lot of writing. Well, this year I did a whole lot of editing! But the view from my B&B remains spectacular and Laig Beach just down the hill is still one of my favorite places in the world.

I’m going to finish up with some pictures of Rum just across the channel from Eigg in changing light. As you can see, the sunsets are A-MAZ-ING!!!

I’ve got another week here before I head over to another small island called Canna which belongs to the National Trust. Make sure you check back next month to see the photos from there. After that, I’m heading south to see some friends in England and hopefully a few more old houses. Hard to believe I’ve only got a little more than a month to go on my huge trip!
I’ve got a giveaway this month, a download of my new story THE HIGHLANDER’S LOST LADY, which is out 29th April. No geographical restrictions. Just leave a comment on this blog to be in the draw.
I’ve told you about one of my favorite places in the world. What’s yours? See you next month!

The Highlander's Lost Lady
by Anna Campbell
The Lairds Most Likely - Book 3
305 pages
Release Date: April 29, 2019

A Highlander as brave and strong as a knight of old…
When Diarmid Mactavish, Laird of Invertavey, discovers a mysterious woman washed up on his land after a wild storm, he takes her in and tries to find her family. But even as forbidden dreams of sensual fulfillment torment him, he’s convinced that this beautiful lassie isn’t what she seems. And if there’s one thing Diarmid despises, it’s a liar. 

A mother willing to do anything to save her daughter…

Widow Fiona Grant has risked everything to break free of her clan and rescue her adolescent daughter from a forced marriage. But before her quest has barely begun, disaster strikes. She escapes her brutish kinsmen, only to be shipwrecked on Mactavish territory where she falls into her enemies’ hands. For centuries, a murderous feud has raged between the Mactavishes and the Grants, so how can she trust her darkly handsome host? 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Review - - Defending Morgan

Defending Morgan
by Susan Stoker
Mountain Mercenaries - Book 3
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Dispatched to the Dominican Republic to rescue a kidnapped child, former Navy SEAL Archer “Arrow” Kane makes a startling discovery: another hostage—Morgan Byrd, a very beautiful and very well-known missing person who disappeared off the streets of Atlanta a year ago. She’s brave, resilient, and unbroken. All Arrow wants to know is why she ended up in a shack in Santo Domingo. All he feels is the desire to protect.

Morgan is done being the victim and is determined to find out who hates her so much that they want her gone—but not dead. Until then, she has Arrow, an alpha stranger who’s offering a warm and safe place to hide. But as the passion between them flares, so does the fear that whoever took Morgan will do anything to get her back. For Arrow, protecting this woman with a mysterious enemy is the most dangerous mission of his life. And it’s worth every beat of his heart.

My thoughts:

Susan Stoker is fast becoming one of my favorite romantic suspense authors and Mountain Mercenaries, one of my favorite series. Defending Morgan, an action-packed, deeply emotional story of survival and recovery following emotional and physical trauma, is another outstanding addition to the series.

After being kidnapped off the streets of Atlanta a year ago and enduring unspeakable abuse during her time in captivity, Morgan is accidentally rescued when the Mountain Mercenaries are dispatched to the Dominican Republic to find a missing child. Thus begins a perilous journey from victim to survivor and the only person she trusts, the only one with whom she feels safe, is one of her rescuers, Arrow. For his part, Arrow feels an immediate affinity for Morgan and is determined to protect her, help her discover who had her kidnapped, and be there for her every step of the way as she figures out what comes next.

It's always a tenuous line one walks when creating a romance for a rape survivor and, in this case, one who had also been held in captivity for an entire year. Stoker's depiction of Morgan's struggles is thoughtful and sensitive. Her strength and resilience are incredible but she suffered an incalculable emotional trauma and dealing with that is harrowing. I have such incredible respect for this character and was in her corner every step of the way. And Arrow, her alpha hero who treats Morgan with such care, patience, and support is one of my all-time favorites. We should all be so fortunate as to have an Arrow in our corner.

The mystery portion of this story is also well-crafted, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Stoker would throw in another red herring and send me off in a different direction. 

If you enjoy alpha heroes who find their purpose protecting women and children in peril and the strong women to whom they give their hearts, check out Susan Stoker's Mountain Mercenaries. There is a lot of character cross-over among the books in the series but each novel can be read as a standalone. 

Note: While this story deals with the aftermath and recovery from prolonged captivity and rape, those events occur before the book opens and do not play out on the page. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Review -- The Wayward Bride

The Wayward Bride
by Anna Bradley
Besotted Scots - Book 1
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

In only six weeks, Isla Ramsey is due to marry Henry Northrup, the sixth Earl of Sydney. But she remains haunted by memories of the dashing Hugh Courtney, the Marquess Pierce. The handsome aristocrat had hinted at forever and then tossed her aside, leaving Isla with few viable options. Now, as she awaits her new fiancé’s arrival from London, she rides her horse past Hugh’s estate at Hazelwood every day, pining for a man who was never truly hers. 
Hugh Courtney may have left Isla’s life, but he can’t erase her from his thoughts. When he rescues her from a sudden snowstorm, they are forced to take shelter together at his private estate. In such close quarters there is no escaping each other. Yet no man wants a reckless wife—or a woman promised to another. As fate draws Isla further into his world, Hugh vows to keep her out of his bedchamber. However, some vows are meant to be broken . . .

My thoughts:

I've been enjoying Anna Bradley's books since her debut and after getting to know Isla and her brothers in More or Less a Temptress (the third book in Bradley's Somerset Sisters trilogy) I was eagerly anticipating this story. I'm happy to say it did not disappoint!

This is one of the most emotional and angst-laden stories Bradley has penned and I loved every heart-tugging step of the journey. Her characters are multi-layered and complex, with baggage and past trauma throwing seemingly insurmountable hurdles in the way of love. Halfway through the journey, I had no idea how she would resolve everything in the end but, of course, she did and left me sighing with satisfaction. There is one loose character thread left dangling but I'm hopeful that will be tied up in another happy ending in a future book. 

While The Wayward Bride is primarily the story of Isla and Hugh's journey to love, and I enjoyed their journey immensely, there is a secondary male/male romance that, for me, almost steals the book. The physical expressions of love between these two are limited to a few very mild scenes but the emotional connection that deepens into an enduring love is so sweet, so romantic, and so genuine that it made my heart sing. And yes, both couples caused me to shed happy tears. 

The Wayward Bride launches a new series for Bradley and can stand on its own but I do think readers will have a deeper understanding of these characters and the challenges they face if they first read More or Less a Temptress

Winners - - KissCon Weekend Affair

The randomly chosen winners of a signed book from my

KissCon Weekend Affair stash are:

Natty's Mama (Karen T)

Carol L

Latifa Morrisette



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review - - The Summer Retreat

The Summer Retreat
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 3
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.

As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.

Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.

My thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about Sheila Roberts' writing is how she creates a wonderful sense of community in her series. That community might be one of the reasons why The Summer Retreat left me feeling a bit like the new girl in town. You know, the one who doesn't know people's back stories or the inside jokes that have everyone chuckling? It's the third book in Roberts' Moonlight Harbor series and I haven't yet had time to read the first two. As Roberts' characters continue to evolve throughout the books in the series, I have a feeling I would have been less confused and had a greater appreciation for who and where the characters are in their journeys had I read the books in order. Which I will do soon and recommend readers new to the series do as well. 

I hope we continue to see more of Celeste, the primary focus of this book, as the series continues. She still has more growing to do and I'd enjoy seeing that play out over the course of the books. Her sister, Jenna, also has a storyline that continues to evolve and I'm very interested to see what happens next with the two men in her life. And, of course, there are other citizens of Moonlight Harbor still searching for their perfect mates and a "mean girl" who might turn out to be not so much mean as misunderstood.  

If you're looking for a meaty novel with complex characters and deep emotion, this book may not be your cup of tea. If, on the other hand, you're in the mood for an easy, breezy summer story with a town full of quirky characters, some laughs, a sisterly dynamic, a cranky mystery writer, and an adorable rescue dog, The Summer Retreat should be a fun addition to your summer reading list. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review - - Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek
by Mary Burton
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

She’s hunting. He’s watching.
Special Agent Macy Crow is a survivor. After a vicious hit-and-run nearly kills her, she gets right back to work, and now she’s gunning for a spot on the FBI’s elite profiling team. As an audition, she offers to investigate the recently discovered bones of Tobi Turner, a high school girl who disappeared fifteen years ago.
While investigating with local sheriff Mike Nevada, a former colleague and onetime lover, Macy discovers a link between Tobi’s case and several others that occurred around the same time as her disappearance. As Macy interviews victims and examines old cases, she uncovers a sinister picture of a stalker who graduated to sexual assault—and then murder.
Macy and Nevada race to put this monster behind bars before he can come out of hiding. But the murderer’s had years to hone his skills, and soon Macy herself becomes a target. She’s no stranger to pain and terror, but will Macy’s first profiling case be her last?

My thoughts:

How good are Mary Burton's books? Let me put it this way. When I finished reading Hide and Seek (in one sitting) at 10:00 PM, I was so deeply invested in Macy that I had to know what had happened to her before Hide and Seek began. I immediately bought, downloaded, and began reading Cut and Run, the 2019 RITA® finalist in which Macy's story begins. I was unable to put it down. I finished it at 3:00 AM. That's how good Burton is. 

One of Mary Burton's many talents is creating intriguing, relatable characters. I was drawn to Macy from the first pages of this book and the more I learned about her the more invested I became in her success and happiness. But Macy wasn't the only character for whom I was cheering. There's Nevada, the man with whom she shares a past and, possibly, a future. He's one of the good guys and I adored him. They have sizzling chemistry in the bedroom but are equally well matched in the office, working together as a team, with trust and respect. I love when a couple has each other's backs.

It isn't only the main characters where Burton focuses her character-building strength. There are several secondary characters who are fully developed, engaging my emotions in both positive and negative directions. As good as the author is at creating protagonists who win me over, she's equally adept at creating villains who are pure evil. But, even more fun for this reader, she weaves characters in and out of her stories in such a way that rarely do I figure out who the real villain is until she chooses to reveal them. I'm pretty good at solving mysteries so when an author can keep me guessing until she chooses to tell me who it is, you can bet I'll return again and again each time she releases a new book. 

Hide and Seek is a terrific book on its own, however, I do believe you'll have a greater appreciation for Macy's character with the understanding that comes from reading her twin sister Faith's book, Cut and Run, first. Both novels earned an enthusiastic 5 stars from me. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

KissCon Weekend Affair

Some of you may recall that last October I attended the Avon KissCon event in Atlanta. That event, like all KissCons before it, consisted of a get-to-know-the-authors panel session followed by a book signing and a VIP reception. There were eight Avon and Harlequin authors in attendance and the entire event took place over the course of a single afternoon and evening. A few months later, when Avon announced they were taking KissCon to the next level with a full three-days of events and 30 authors I knew I had to attend. I'm happy to report that KissCon Weekend Affair in Chicago was everything I could have anticipated...and more! Here are a few highlights. 

You know your weekend is off to a good start when you run into three of your favorite authors your first night there and they graciously pose for a photo. With Julia Quinn, Sophie Jordan, and Eloisa James.

Romance readers are the friendliest people around. Lots of out-of-towners arrived Thursday so we rounded up a group of fellow readers for dinner. By the end of the evening, strangers from around the country had become friends. 

Happiness is discovering you're standing in the hotel check-in line directly behind two newly discovered favorite contemporary romance authors: Mia Sosa and Nisha Sharma. I adored Sosa's Love on Cue trilogy (read my 5-star review of Crashing Into Her). If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my 3:00 am post about Sharma's contemporary romance debut, The Takeover Effect. So, so good. 

Twenty-three breakout sessions Friday and Saturday provided plenty of laughter, information, and fun. The "Never Have I Ever" speed round with HelenKay Dimon, Tracey Livesay, Sarah MacLean, Julia Quinn, and Jill Shalvis had us rolling. 

Avon has done a wonderful job of creating an open, friendly, and intimate atmosphere in their KissCon events where readers can comfortably chat with favorite authors at ice cream socials, movie screenings, dance parties, or while leisurely strolling through the hotel. Random photo ops were found everywhere! Here I am with Sophie Jordan and Joanna Shupe. 

And here, with Caroline Linden and HelenKay Dimon. 

I adore romances and I equally adore food. Eloisa James, Alisha Rai, and Jennifer Estep led a lively, and drool-inducing, session called Taste of Romance. I want to eat at their houses!

Jennifer Ryan, Lorraine Heath, Caroline Linden, Beverly Jenkins, and Julia Quinn kept us entertained in the Family Affair breakout session. These ladies write some of the best families around!

Stepping straight from the pages of her upcoming contemporary romance, A Prince on Paper, Alyssa Cole was stunning in the same outfit worn on the cover of her book. She wasn't the actual cover model but she sure could have been. 

You never know when you'll get hungry, right? Not a problem for Lori Wilde; she brought lunch with her in the form of a taco hat! 

Sonali Dev is not only an exceptional writer, she's also one of the nicest women around. And funny. She'll have you smiling in no time. 

Speaking of funny - and nice - Sarah MacLean is high on the list of both. I adore this woman and her books. She's an outspoken advocate for romance and goes out of her way to show her readers how much she appreciates them.  

Brenda Jackson struts the book signing "red carpet" with confidence and sass. I'm enjoying her Catalina Cove contemporary romance series. 

Have you ever met a person who immediately makes you feel like you've known them forever? Here are two of them. Cat Sebastian and Eva Moore. 

This last photo was taken at the airport while I waited for my flight home from KissCon. It isn't author related but was a real thrill for this lifelong Cubs fan so I had to include it. :)

Those are a few of my photo highlights from KissCon Weekend Affair in Chicago. Avon hasn't announced yet if they're going to do this again but I'm hoping they will. It's a weekend of fun I highly recommend. 

Where would you like to see Avon hold a KissCon Weekend Affair?

Which Avon and Harlequin authors would you most like to meet?

Four randomly chosen people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM, April 24 will receive a signed book from KissCon. (U.S. only)