Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review and Q&A - - The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

The Book Charmer
by Karen Hawkins
Dove Pond - Book 1
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

My thoughts:

I have fallen in love with Dove Pond and her citizens, both old and new. Karen Hawkins brings this small North Carolina town and her inhabitants to vibrant life in this charming novel filled with humor, heart, a touch of magic (who among us wouldn't want the ability to converse with the books we love), and satisfying emotional depth. This story, and these characters, really spoke to my heart. This is the first of a series so expect some stage setting as well as introductions to several characters. Also, keep in mind that while the author's previous books were full-on romances, The Book Charmer is more contemporary fiction with a romantic thread. Expect the signature humor and heart that are intrinsic to Hawkins' other books but not as much focus on romance. There are the first tentative threads of a blossoming romantic relationship for Grace but the primary focus of this story is not on that romance. It's more about the inter-twining relationships among several characters, with Grace's family relationships and her new friendship with Sarah taking center stage. That friendship is the bedrock of this book and one that I enjoyed immensely. I'm looking forward to the continuation of their friendship, as well as the evolution of Sarah's romantic journey, as the series continues. And I'm excited for the stories to come for the other Dove sisters as well. 

Q&A with Karen Hawkins

Hi Karen! Welcome back to The Romance Dish. Thanks for visiting with us today.

Thank you. It’s always a delight to be here!

Your newest novel was released yesterday and, I have to say, it’s one of my favorites of your entire collection. Please tell our readers what they can expect from The Book Charmer and the Dove Pond series that it launches.

I’m excited to share THE BOOK CHARMER with readers. It really is the book of my heart and it took me almost a year and a half to write it.
It seems to me that the world is a little dark right now, and I wanted to write a hopeful book, one that inspired readers to smile. So I wrote about a family of seven sisters who had special abilities and their quirky, fun town in the mountains near Asheville, NC.
I’ve been writing magic realism into my historical romances since The Talisman Ring series first came out back in 2002, so when I decided to write a contemporary magic realism book, it was a natural step to take.

I’ve fallen in love with the Dove Pond community. How many books do you plan to set there? Are you able to share anything about the next book in the series?

There will be seven books in this series, one for each sister. Every one of the Dove sisters has their own special abilities, so it’ll be fun to explore them all.
Right now I’m writing about Ava Dove, who makes specialty teas that help people. Everyone thinks Ava is the sweet, simple, happy-go-lucky Dove sister, but they don’t know that Ava has a secret trapped in a shoe box wrapped in duct tape under her bed, and it’s fighting to get out . . . A CUP OF SILVER LININGS will be out next spring.

I think all of us who love books have tried our hand at book matchmaking from time to time though certainly not with Sarah’s unique ability. You’ve given each of the Dove women a magical gift. If you could choose one such gift for yourself, what would your magical ability be?

Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I’d guess I’d like the ability to make the people around me happier. It’s what I strive to do in my writing and is probably what I’d want to do in real life. But I wouldn’t mind having Sarah’s ability to know who should read what book. That would be a way to make people happy, too.

I was in Grace’s corner from the get-go and thoroughly invested in her journey. Her romantic thread is enjoyable, and her family relationships tugged at my heart, but it’s the friendship she and Sarah form that, for me, is the bedrock of this book. Will we continue to see Grace, and her relationships within Dove Pond, evolve throughout the series?

Oh yes! And as you must have noticed as you read The Book Charmer, Sarah’s story isn’t finished, either. That’s the beauty of a small town series – a number of character arcs can travel through book after book. I LOVE that!

Without giving away spoilers, what was your most difficult scene to write in this book? Which was the most fun?

The scenes with Mama G and Grace were the hardest to write because I loved Mama G SO much and yet I also knew what was happening to her. I’d write and weep, write and weep, even as I wrote happier scenes. She meant a lot to me.
The most fun scenes to write were the ones with Mama G and Trav, because they connected so well. They shared a similar fear – their world was changing and they were struggling to handle it, but in opposite ways. Mama G was fighting to keep her memories while Trav was trying to forget his, and yet they had such a positive impact on each other.

I’m recommending everyone add The Book Charmer to their summer reading list. What books are on your reading list this summer?

Thank you! Here are some books I’ve recently read:
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (fabulous and fun)
Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries (such a fresh and entertaining read)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (I’ve devoured every book he’s written and still want more)
It’s Getting Scot in Here by Suzanne Enoch (this hero – OH MY GOSH, so GOOD) 

Will you be attending any book signings or events this year where readers will have an opportunity to meet you?

On August 3rd I’m having a book launch party complete with hors d’oeurves and beverages at Blantyre, a Gilded Age manor and now a luxury hotel in Lenox, MA right off the Massachusetts Turnpike. There will be a huge book giveaway, too!

Where can readers find you online?

Thanks again for visiting with us, Karen.  Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

First, if you enjoyed THE BOOK CHARMER, there’s also a fun enovella set in Dove Pond called LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON. It’s about a man who has a ghost living in his bathtub handing out life advice. It’s a fun introduction to Dove Pond.

And second, yes, I’d love to ask a question! PJ asked me what special magical ability I’d like to have. The sisters in my book can do everything from speaking to books, to making tea that can help you find your car keys. If the sky was the limit, what one magical ability would you like to have?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Spotlight on The Conspiracy by Kat Martin

Today marks the release of the Mass Market Paperback edition of The Conspiracy by Kat Martin. The hardback copy of this first book in Martin's Maximum Security series, filled with high stakes suspense, intrigue, danger, and romance was released in January, 2019. Click here to read my review.

Harper Winston’s brother has disappeared. Pursuing his dream of sailing the Caribbean, Michael hasn’t responded to texts or emails in days. When even the Coast Guard can’t find him, Harper is forced to take desperate measures. Which means going to Chase Garrett, once her brother’s best friend, now the only man she can trust…or so she hopes.

As the successful owner of Maximum Security, Chase has learned to trust his gut. He knows Harper’s father is mixed up in a deadly business, and suspects there’s more to Michael’s disappearance than meets the eye. Getting involved again with the Winstons goes against everything he stands for, yet old loyalties die hard. As the case draws him closer to Harper and deeper into the Winstons’ snarled crime family, he is forced to put everything on the line to keep Harper safe…and both of them alive.

The Texas Mystique

Since my book, THE CONSPIRACY, Chase Garrett and Harper Winston’s story, is set in Texas, I thought it might be fun to talk about one of my favorite places.
There is something special about Texas.  My husband and I lived in Houston for a couple of months one summer and it was a wonderful experience.  The people in Texas are extremely friendly, and always seem to be in a good mood. 
We stuffed ourselves on gourmet meals in some of the country’s finest restaurants, ate a ton of delicious Tex Mex, enjoyed Asian, Indian flatbread, and just about everything else.  We visited art galleries, the beach, and drove past some of the beautiful ranches in the area. 
That was the good news.  The bad news was Houston in August is HOT.  It’s also muggy and sticky and you just can’t wait for October to arrive.  Or maybe September.
Two years ago, we traveled to Lubbock for a Western Writers of America conference.  I was reluctant to go in the summer, but it turned out to be a really great trip--hot but dry.  We visited the Museum of Texas Tech and met some fun people, including old-time movie star, Barry Corbin, who’s been in everything from Urban Cowboy to The Best Little Whore House in Texas.   
For the past few years, I’ve been setting my stories in Dallas, one of my favorite cities.  In THE CONSPIRACY Harper Winston’s brother has disappeared.  Desperate to find him, Harper is forced turn to the wealthy owner of Maximum Security, private detective, Chase Garrett, once her brother’s best friend.
But dealing with the Winston crime family won’t be easy.  With time running out, Chase must find a way to keep Harper safe...and both of them alive. 
Texas is a place that captured my soul long ago.  If you don’t have time to visit, I hope you look for Harper and Chase in THE CONSPIRACY, out in paperback July 30th, and that you enjoy. 
Till next time, all best and happy reading, Kat

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

The Conspiracy, by Kat Martin
EXCERPT 5 of 5

As the land cruiser rolled along the highway, Harper tried to relax, but worry nagged her.  She didn't like the big, dark-haired man with the obsidian eyes and scarred face.  With his hard features and powerful, muscular body, Killian Dawson made her more than a little uneasy.
Even his name set her on edge.  Killian.  Kil, he called himself.  She wondered if he spelled it with two LLs.   
She couldn't imagine how a man who hadn't cut his hair in months, hadn't shaved in days, could possibly be handsome, but somehow he was.  She thought that a man who exuded that kind of masculinity wouldn't have any trouble attracting women, though his crude brand of sexuality didn't appeal to her and only made her dislike him more. 
It didn't matter what she thought of him.  They needed his help to find Michael, and Dawson clearly knew what he was doing.  She would follow his orders, do whatever she had to. 
Besides, she was armed and so was Chase.  In a different but equally masculine way, Chase was Dawson's equal.  He was smart, his body hard, all lean-muscled power and strength.  She could count on Chase to protect her, believed that in every cell of her body. 
Maybe it was because she was Michael's sister, or that she was a woman, but she didn't think so.  Something was happening between them.  She had begun to see it in Chase's eyes whenever he looked at her and thought she wouldn't see. 
Something hot and sexual was happening that neither of them wanted--Harper revised the thought--or at least something Chase didn't want.  Harper was growing more and more certain having sex with Chase Garrett was exactly what she wanted. 
Whatever the truth, at least for now both of them were doing their best to ignore it.  They were there to save Michael and Pia.  That was all that mattered.
An hour and a half after they left Santa Marta following the GPS coordinates Tabitha Love had given to Chase, Kil Dawson pulled the Land Cruiser off the Mingueo-Santa Marta highway onto a two-lane road headed directly toward the ocean.  The road quickly narrowed to a single dirt track, and a few miles later, the sea appeared in front of them, an endless expanse of blue. 
The road turned slightly south and ran along the edge of a cove.  A ways farther on, a few weary structures appeared ahead of them, a gas station with only a single pump, and what passed for a restaurant with rooms above.  A permanent VACANT sign swung in the breeze on a pole outside the entrance.  Next to it, the door to the Las Palmaras Cantina stood open.
The village was mostly deserted, just a kid on a ratty, bicycle and a couple of older women in ankle-length, gathered skirts walking along the dirt street.  A mongrel black and white dogged sniffed a trash can in the ally beside the restaurant looking for something to eat.
It was the sleek white sailboat bobbing at a long wooden dock on the west side of the cove that captured Harper's attention.  Her mouth went dry as she recognized her brother's beautiful yacht, BUZZ Word.  
"There it is!"  She pointed excitedly over Chase's shoulder.  "Michael's boat.  That's it!"
Dawson pulled the vehicle off the main road onto an even narrower dirt track that wound into deep green foliage.  Reaching beneath his seat, he dragged out a pair of binoculars and began to scan the dock, the village, and the area around it for what seemed the longest time. 
"Looks deserted," he finally said.  "No way to know for sure till we check it out."
Harper's gaze remained on the boat, her heart throbbing.  They'd found the yacht, but what had happened to Michael and Pia?  She didn't see anyone aboard the vessel.  Had they been murdered for the money the valuable yacht would bring?  She shoved the grim thought out of her head.  Her brother was alive somewhere and being held for ransom.  Chase had said it was still a possibility. 
Putting the cruiser into four-wheel drive, Dawson drove farther down the muddy trail until they were completely hidden from view.  The engine went dead and Dawson stepped out of the vehicle.  At the same time, so did Chase. 
Silently, the men walked to the rear of the cruiser and opened the tailgate to the cargo area.  They both started unzipping gear bags and pulling out clothes and equipment. 
When the men began to peel off their shirts and jeans, Harper looked away.  By the time she looked back, both men were dressed, both wearing camo pants and T-shirts.  The olive drab Tee that Chase had put on outlined the muscles across his chest and abdomen and stretched around his amazing biceps.  He'd strapped one of Dawson's long-bladed knives to his thigh and a second pistol hung from a belt around his waist. 
He looked like a man she had never seen before.  Tall, hard-edged, hard-bodied, and determined.  He hadn't shaved since they'd left Aruba and the dark gold beard along his jaw now joined the rough stubble on his cheeks, making him appear rugged and dangerous.  A looked like a man who could handle whatever he faced, exactly the right man for the job ahead of him.
It was exactly the wrong time for her to feel a shot of lust.
Kil Dawson closed the back of the cruiser while Chase walked around and opened the rear passenger door.  "You need to stay here," he said.  "You've got a gun.  If you get in trouble, fire off a shot.  We won't be far away."

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Review - - The Smuggler's Escape

Review ~ The Smuggler’s Escape
By Barbara Monajem
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Release Date: July 24, 2019
Reviewed by Nancy

The Smuggler’s Escape is a warm, sexy second chance at love story. Set in Sussex during the later stages of the French Revolution, it’s about Noelle de Vallon, refugee daughter of a guillotined French aristocrat and an English noblewoman, and Richard, Lord Boltwood, a secret agent for the Home Office. More than two years before the book opens, Noelle and Richard had a tempestuous courtship that led to their betrothal and its consummation.

They didn’t realize Richard’s father bore a grudge against Noelle’s and would never agree to their marriage. He had Richard drugged and put aboard a ship for Amsterdam, where he was ordered to gather intelligence for the Home Office. If he attempted to contact Noelle, his father would have her killed. Richard had reason to believe him and so stayed away from his betrothed.

When the book opens, the elder Lord Boltwood, Richard’s Father, has summoned Noelle, who is involved with the local smugglers, to warn her that she’s believed to be a French spy and the Home Office is sending someone to arrest her. He encourages her to flee with all haste, but she can’t leave until she has seen the last smuggling cargo delivered. That night, he dies.

Meanwhile, the excise men, under the able leadership of Lt. Hale, who certainly deserves his own book, are closing in on the smuggling ring. Noelle sees them staking out the house where she lives with her uncle and aunt. Desperate to warn off her accomplices, she sneaks out of the house. The excise men find her and don’t believe her flimsy excuse for being outside at night in a state of undress. Things are going badly for her when Richard, who arrived home that day, emerges from the dovecote. He had been standing below her window, planning to approach her, but hid to avoid the excise men seeing him. To save her, he announces their betrothal.

Noelle considered that betrothal voided by his disappearance the day after they made love and by his long absence. To her dismay, her feelings for him haven’t changed despite her pain over his abandonment. Still, she can’t trust him and so agrees to a sham betrothal only so he can protect her from the excise men.

Richard doesn’t tell her she’s believed to be a spy. He’s certain she’s innocent. His father’s death has freed him to marry her—if he can persuade her to wed him—and he’s determined to find the real French agent. Because he’s determined to marry her, he doesn’t tell her the Home Office sent him to apprehend the French agent.

The local people involved in the smuggling ring are well drawn and likeable, and the method Noelle uses to communicate with her mostly illiterate cohorts is very clever. The espionage plot has enough twists and turns to be engaging and to stay a mystery until the book’s climax.

Noelle and Richard have immediate chemistry, with strong sexual tension and a shared fondness for unconventional behavior. Their love scene, complicated by raiding excise men, is warm, sexy, and satisfying.

My one problem with the book is that there are several occasions when discussing his abandonment of her would be the logical move, but they don’t do it until late in the story. Noelle has ample other reasons not to trust his feelings and to feel she must still flee England, so keeping this a mystery isn’t necessary.

Further complications arise because Lady Darlington, whose husband is Richard’s boss, is determined to have him marry her daughter, Dorothea, a bluestocking who has a great deal in common with Noelle.  Everyone’s efforts to help Dorothea foil her mother lead to some amusing encounters.

This book reads quickly. It has a terrific espionage plot, a lot of heart and just the right infusion of humor.

Highly recommended ~ 4.5 stars

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review - - Ever Faithful

by Karen Barnett
Publisher: WaterBrook
Release Date: June 18, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

There are as many kinds of summer beach reads as there are ice cream flavors--some bold, some comfortable, but all sweet and hit the right spot on a perfect sunny day. EVER FAITHFUL by Karen Barnett falls into the flavor category of familiar yet swoon worthy, the sort of sweet passion of fresh peach ice cream. 

Blurb: It’s 1933 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal shines like a light against the dark despair of the Great Depression. The government gives unemployed young men an opportunity of a lifetime, but it will mean leaving the cities to brave the untamed West.

Nate Webber takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Although he hides a shameful secret, Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious to see if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well. 

Elsie Brookes was proud to have grown up as a ranger’s daughter but longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer. Elsie is drawn to the beautiful spark within Nate, but she knows the scars she carries are far too ugly for any man to love. 

When tragedy strikes the park, threatening to undo all she’s done to leave her past behind, can Nate and Elsie uncover the truth before all their dreams go up in smoke?

Barnett’s writing is engaging and almost instantly sucks you into the Depression era setting in Wyoming, creating a vivid world of park staffers and the CCC men (almost like a cross between West Side Story with the Sharks and Jets and a little Dirty Dancing, but without the music). The native staffers (i.e. gear jammers, pack rats, pillow punchers, rangers) are as wary of the city boys from Brooklyn (i.e. the Poles, the Irish, etc etc) are of them. But as Barnett impresses upon her readers, adversity creates some great leaders, and one of those leaders is Nate Webber. 

Back home, Nate’s the family failure, too dumb to even finish school, but here in the forest parks of Wyoming, he’s able rise above the things he’s been told all his life. He begins to see a future for himself through the gift of work (something that is in short supply in high unemployment Great Depression.) Soon he is earning a wage he is able to send home to his family; and Nate has earned the respect of his comrades as well as the sergeant of his corps who wants Nate to apply for the manager position. Nate badly wants the job--but one of the requirements of the position is being able to read and write, which he’s unable to do. He certainly doesn’t want to let on he can’t--everyone likes him here and doesn’t constantly call him a dummy. 

Elsie has her own past and secrets: she was the victim of a horrible fire which has left scars on her arms, chest, and neck. She’s the literal ugly duckling, despite her family and friends assuring her that her scars don’t matter. She’s decided therefore she’s unlikely to marry--which is fine because her life’s ambition is to become a teacher. She’s been working the last few years saving up her summer work money until she’s earned enough for tuition to the University of Montana. Elsie gets a chance to teach the men in the CCC education classes--and she’s soon immersing herself in her life’s dream during the last summer before she goes to college. It is the perfect summer. 

Or it would be if someone wouldn’t set intentional fires during one of the driest seasons she can remember. The rangers and CCC men are on high alert to watch the forests as well as clean up the deadwood to keep ahead of what is potentially a tinder season--and they mostly succeed. The investigation into the arson soon uncovers a sinister plot that seems to lead back to Elsie.

For historical fiction and romance, this story gets a definite five stars. It’s sweet and pure (it is Christian fiction), but so romantic that I wanted a Nate Webber of my own by the time I got to the last page. Nate and Elsie made such a wonderful, convincing couple, I felt sure they could have been my grandparents and their “how we met” story by the time it was done, celebrating their 70th anniversary. The historical detail and setting was sublime--reminding me of stories I heard about my uncles who had served in the CCC, humble young men with little education, little food, but great hearts. As for the mystery bit, I thought it was a bit of a fluffy letdown--but I do believe it does fit the coziness factor that I think this book falls into. (But I also think writing a whodunit is hard and I can be take my opinion of the fluff factor with a grain of salt.) The secondary characters on the whole were well rounded--and it was lovely to have parents of characters who are good parents and not dysfunctional, absent or abusive ones (well, Nate’s dad is an alcoholic, but we never met him, so I don’t count it.) Elsie’s dad though is a park ranger and a lovely man who loves his wife, modeling the kind of marriage and manliness Elsie seeks when she begins to think of Nate in that way. Nate’s wingman, Red, is adorable--and the subplot of him and Elsie’s best friend Mary was a delightful romance as if you were getting two for the price of one. 

This book is the third in a series about the national parks during this era with the CCC programs--and I plan to look up the first two books in the series. (This book works as a stand alone--don’t worry! I just sought out the other books because I enjoyed the author’s voice so much and hoped for more! I was delighted to learn there were two others.) Barnett’s writing is engaging, romantic, and the kind of sweet comfy read perfect for a rainy day...or a beachy one. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Review - - The Unhoneymooners

by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Simon & Schuster - Gallery Books
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

5 stars--Top Dish--take it to your nearest desert island immediately to read

As we disclose frequently on the Dish, many of the books we review are ARCs generously given to us for our honest review, but I, like all the other members, have an addiction for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I saw an article two weeks ago about summer reads I should check out--and this particular book leaped out at me. I mean: look at the title. I’m intrigued. And then I read the blurb, and boom, I was hooked. I think you will be too.

Blurb: Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister, Ami, is an eternal champion...she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head to Maui. After all, ten days of bliss are worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is...Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

Guys, that premise is merely the first 40 pages--a 40 pages that was filled with witty banter and hilarious comedy that had me spit-taking my soda and hurrying to my co-worker’s office to read her whatever had made me laugh out loud. Which was every page. The characters, story, and writer’s voice checks all my boxes for snarky one-liners, side-splitting comedy gold, and teeth wincing black moments and humiliations only a chick lit/rom-com book can do. It’s also written in first person present tense, which I will rarely do for I’m telling you: this book is exceptional. 

Lauren did a great job of balancing the slapstick with true emotional growth and character development as the hero and heroine went from hating each other’s guts to kissing each other senseless. (Normally I don’t care for that sort of transition, but Lauren made sure to pave the way so that the transition from hate to love felt real, relatable, and natural. Not sexual tension for the sake of a bulging manhood or anything--and in fact there were no references to bulging manhoods, which I want to personally thank Lauren for. All sexual tension was organic and, well, sexy. Which I know is hard to do.) 

Additional to the character growth of Olive, Lauren did an excellent job of creating a family support network (cast of characters) who felt real, flawed, yet extremely loving and supportive. I know in romances we get wrapped up in the new love that develops, but it’s a treat to read about the various kinds of love that we’re supported by everyday, not the least of which is our family (whoever that may be) who may be infuriating but damn, they always got your back. This story also touches on resilience, the concept of luck versus a positive attitude, the importance of honesty and good communication, and not being afraid to be your authentic self--and the possible repercussions if you fail to be authentic. (I’m possibly getting a little deep for a happy, fun and funny beach read--but when I do think about the reasons why I liked a book, these are the sorts of things I reflect on.) 

I read this book is basically 1 ½ sittings--and I want to read it again, just so I can relive the banter between Ethan and Olive, which is Darcy and Eliza personified. If anything, you should read it just to enjoy the wedding banquet scene when the food poisoning strikes. Classic.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Winner - - One Fine Duke

The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Back to You

The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

Back to You by Kimberly Kincaid is:

Trish J


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, July 19, 2019

Review - - The Friend Zone

by Abby Jimenez
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie 

Kristen Peterson doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen -- especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

This book is hilarious. In fact in many ways, this author’s style and voice remind me of rom-coms in the vein of Kristan Higgins: all heart, lots of laughter, some very real tears. If you love sarcasm, plenty of “the hero feeding the heroine” scenes (always sexy!), and a cute dog named Stuntman Mike, you will likely be picking this book up for your light beach read; however, I wish this book had come with a bit of a warning. Like some of Kristan’s books, not everything ends happily. There. Are. Things. Things I cannot allude to because they are definite “giving away the book” but which I think, if you’re like me, you should know going in so you don’t think you’re taking home a cute fluffy rabbit and you arrive home with a badger. 

Kristen suffers from PCOS (which we find out early in the book) and she plans to have a medical procedure that pretty much guarantees she won’t have kids (not that her odds were good with the PCOS anyway.) In a series of unfortunate but hilarious events, she meets Josh who is a threat to all women’s ovaries everywhere. He is the guy you definitely want to fall in love with--and Kristen does. But she knows he can never be hers. He wants a big family--his own family--and she can never give that to him. There are a number of scenes in the book where you want to shake Kristen though you understand why she says and does what she says and does. And Josh does a good job of picking up cues and delivering on the ultimate romantic gesture needed to win Kristen back.

Still...the last third of the book was a hard read. As one of the Amazon reviewers said, “This book just sucked me in and it was 2 AM and I was ugly crying when I got to the end.” That is exactly what will happen. You cannot put the book down. The characters, the conflict, the terrible terrible sadness--it’s all consuming. Now it is a romance. It does end on a happy note, but with everything that happened, the ending felt very bittersweet. 

This is a debut book for Abby Jimenez--and I am looking forward to any other books she comes out with. I also appreciated her author notes talking about PCOS and what the real “happy ending” was. I imagine for most people this book is a 5 star--in fact, the book has 455 reviews, none of them below a 3 and her average is a 5 star. It’s a great story. It’s just for me, for a rom-com trade book, I was possibly expecting a slightly happier read (more froth, perhaps) and this book is not a fluffy white latte macchiato, it’s its darker cousin, caffe macchiato. Enjoy!!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tour Review & Giveaway - - The Kompromat Kill

The Kompromat Kill
by Michael Jenkins
Publisher: Failsafe Thrillers
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

They were preparing for decades – now it’s time to take them down. When a British Diplomat is kidnapped in the heart of London, followed by a brutal double assassination in Chelsea, MI5 braces for the threat of deep sleeper cells coming alive. Hiding overseas with a price on his head, Sean Richardson is tasked to lead a deniable operation to hunt down and recruit an international model and spy. Moving across Asia Minor and Europe, Sean embarks on a dangerous journey tracking an Iranian spy ring who hold the keys to a set of consequences the British Intelligence Services would rather not entertain. As Sean investigates deeper, he uncovers dark secrets from his past and a complex web of espionage spun from the hand of a global master spy. As he inches closer to the truth, the rules of the game change – and the nerve-wracking fate of many lives sits in his hands…….……..

My thoughts:

Michael Jenkins has penned an intense page-turner filled with suspense, drama, and high stakes consequences. It's clear he has his finger on the pulse of today's political climate as well as the global intelligence community, lending a realistic authenticity to this breath-stealing story. The characters within are complex and interesting, bringing with them the unique challenges and moral dilemmas of the espionage game. There are a number of characters in play, however, requiring close attention so as not to become lost or confused. I managed to keep them all straight but it took a bit of effort at times. Perhaps, as many of them have a history with Sean, I would not have had this difficulty had I read the first book before beginning The Kompromat Kill. There are also sections of the book which are repetitive, overly descriptive, and require significant editing. Since I read an advance copy, I'm hoping those issues were addressed before the final copy was released. However, while they may have slowed my reading at times and lowered my score a bit, they didn't keep my heart from racing as the intensity ramps up or flipping the pages in my desire to find out what would happen next. 

If, like me, you're a fan of political or spy thrillers (I devoured every Tom Clancy novel the minute it released), then you might want to give Michael Jenkins a try. I recommend reading his debut novel, The Failsafe Query (Sean Richardson - Book 1) first, followed by the second Sean Richardson book, The Kompromat Kill


I love my romances but, occasionally, I enjoy stepping into another genre. What about you? What other genres besides romance do you enjoy reading?

Do you read spy thrillers or political thrillers? Who are some of your favorite authors writing in this genre?

Giveaway to Win 5 copies of The Kompromat Kill (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize. 

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Author Bio – I started climbing at 13, survived being lost in Snowdonia at 14, nearly drowned at 15, and then joined the Army at 16. Risk and adventure was built into my DNA and I feel very fortunate to have served the majority of my working career as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor within the Corps of Royal Engineers. I was privileged to serve for twenty-eight years in the British Army as a soldier and officer, rising through the ranks to complete my service as a major. I served across the globe on numerous military operations as well as extensive travel and adventure on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that I led or was involved in. I was awarded the Geographic Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for mountain exploration in 2003 and served on the screening committee of the Mount Everest Foundation charity for many years. It was humbling after so many years of service when I was awarded the MBE for services to counter-terrorism in 2007. The Failsafe Query is my debut novel, with The Kompromat Kill, my second. 

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