Monday, September 30, 2019

Review - - Archangel's War

Archangel’s War
by Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley Jove
Release Date: September 24, 2016
Reviewed by Nancy

Archangel’s War is the latest installment of Singh’s Guild Hunter series. As promised by the blurb and by the prior book, Archangel’s Prophecy, the story builds to a showdown with Lijuan, the rogue Archangel of China. It’s a difficult book to review without spoiling it because almost everything in it is important. So bear with me if this review seems a little vague. I don’t want to risk ruining the book for anyone.

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front—Raphael and Elena are alive. Most of us probably assumed that, given that the Guild Hunter series is named for her and this is a romance series. At the end of Archangel’s Prophecy, Elena was dying. Raphael tore out part of his heart and gave it to her. He fell onto the bed beside her, and a chrysalis gradually formed around her. The chaotic force known as the Cascade intends to turn her into a power reservoir for Raphael, obliterating her own personality.

Archangel’s War picks up there, shortly before they awaken. When they do awaken, they’re dramatically changed by the experience. Bits of Elena’s mortal heart circulate in Raphael’s blood, and his archangelic power is linked to her. 

The first part of the book focuses on Elena and Raphael dealing with the changes they experienced in hibernation. This includes their many friends and allies’ reactions to these changes and to their awakening. Not all the changes are easy to interpret, and the mystery there keeps the pages turning through the scenes of happy reunions, which are so based on the characters involved that they’re not at all repetitive.

Eventually, however, darkness creeps into the joy. Those keeping watch on China while Lijuan sleeps after the last battle report disturbing changes. The rest of the archangel Cadre have kept watch while Raphael was unavailable, but he needs to take a turn now to meet his responsibilities. He also needs to show that he’s still capable to protect his territory. Even though Lijuan sleeps, healing, she has found new ways to use the people in her territory to build her strength. 

As though that weren’t enough for the Cadre to deal with, Ancient archangels are awakening, complicating the lives of Raphael’s friends and the power dynamic of the Cadre. Elena and Raphael continue experiencing change in their powers as the story builds to Lijuan’s return and a showdown in the streets of New York. 

All the characters we love are there, Raphael’s Seven and his Tower and household staff, the Guild Hunters, the Legion, the Cadre, and Elena’s family. We learn more about some of them and their personal struggles in ways that also serve the larger plot. The Legion fulfills its purpose at last, leaving Elena and Raphael with a cryptic clue they must figure out if they’re to succeed against the supremely powerful monster Lijuan has become. I rarely cry over books or movies, but the scene where the Legion reveal their mission to Elena and Raphael and then conclude it had tears running down my face.

The events of this book change the Cadre even as they change Raphael and Elena. Every series regular has a moment to shine, though some who seemed about to redeem themselves instead betray their allies’ trust. Some characters remain in their regular roles while others move on. Still others don’t make it through the crisis.

One of the joys of this series is the detailed worldbuilding. Every character has layers and depth, and so does the world. As the story rolls toward its climax, seeds planted in earlier books come to fruition. Raphael’s and Elena’s changing powers also become important in unexpected ways. Archangel’s War is a powerfully emotional and action-packed story. It’s a superb conclusion to
this arc, but it isn’t a good book for jumping into the series. It’s really of a piece with Archangel’s Prophecy and will make more sense to those who’ve read that book first. With that caveat, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Review - - Temptation

by Inara Scott
Bad Angels - Book 2
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: August 26, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

As close friends and coworkers, attorney Zoe Riva and tech genius Connor Ashton know they can never get involved.
Until a scooter accident lands Zoe in Connor's arms—and his overnight custody—and she starts to see a man she's never seen before. With her career and her heart on the line, Zoe can't afford to take any chances. But when combustible chemistry takes over, even the smartest people in the room can make the biggest of mistakes…

My thoughts: 

I am having so much fun getting to know the group of friends in Inara Scott's Bad Angels series. I want to hang out at their favorite bar, sip whiskey with Connor and Zoe, pet sit their pups, and get to know all of them better. I don't know how many books Scott has planned for this series but I hope it doesn't end anytime soon! 

I really enjoyed Connor and Zoe. They are confident and accomplished, but also realistically flawed. Both have complicated family backgrounds that have shaped their lives and influenced their actions, both hold their personal histories close to the chest, and neither of them is looking to start a relationship...but fate, and an ill-advised scooter ride, have other ideas. I really liked these two together and was cheering for a happy ending throughout their journey.

Scott slowly reveals each of them to readers as they reveal their true selves to one another, along with a few self-revelations, pulling in other characters along the way but keeping the focus on the leads. Even the scenes with Connor's mother and her (retired scientists), cut-throat, card-playing friends (I adore these women!) help to dig deeper into the characters of both Zoe and Connor while continuing to move the story forward. And, speaking of Connor's mother, I really enjoyed her character arc and the poignant evolution of her relationship with her son. 

The chemistry between Connor and Zoe sizzles, the banter is fast-paced and witty, and their deepening emotional connection had me sighing with satisfaction. The "bro dialogue" among Connor and his business partners is spot-on for guys who've been friends since college and I enjoyed their interactions immensely. I can't wait to see what Scott has in store for these Bad Angels next!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Review, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Cowboy Christmas Redemption

Cowboy Christmas Redemption
by Maisey Yates
A Gold Valley Novel  
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Cowboy Caleb Dalton has loved single mom Ellie Bell, and her little daughter, Amelia, for years. But since Ellie is his best friend’s widow, Caleb’s head knows Ellie will always be strictly off-limits. If only his heart got the memo. So when Caleb discovers that Ellie has a Christmas wish list—and hopes for a kiss under the mistletoe—he’s throwing his cowboy hat into the ring. If anyone’s going to be kissing Ellie and sharing this magical time with her and her daughter, it’s him.

Ellie has dreaded the holidays since losing her husband. But this year, she’s finally ready to make some changes. She never expects the biggest change to be the heart-stopping kiss she shares with Caleb. For almost five years, Caleb has been her best friend, her rock, her salvation. This Christmas, can Caleb prove he’s also the missing puzzle piece of Ellie’s and Amelia’s hearts?

My thoughts:

Friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes and this newest addition to Maisy Yates' Gold Valley series brings all the feels. Though Caleb and Ellie have been best friends for years, the mass of intermingled emotional baggage they both carry has kept them from moving beyond friendship. Until Ellie finally decides to move forward with her life...and Caleb isn't about to let her move on with anyone but him. It makes for a complex, emotional journey that made me laugh, cry, and tingle in all the best ways. 

Yates does a great job of bringing her characters to life and immersing me in their journey. I could feel all the doubts, desire, and guilt that Caleb and Ellie have to wade through. My heart ached for the pain caused by the secrets Caleb has kept from his family, and Ellie, and rejoiced in the forgiveness and acceptance that follow when he finally shares them. 

Ellie and Caleb have been tested by the flames of emotional fire, from which they emerged stronger and wiser, with a solid foundation of friendship and love. I turned the final page of their story confident in the strength of their bond and their future happiness as a family. 

I can't wait to return to Gold Valley for more Dalton family stories!

Q&A with Maisey Yates

Hi Maisey! Thanks so much for visiting with us today. I’ve been eagerly anticipating Caleb's, Ellie's, and little Amelia’s story and you did not disappoint, taking me on a journey filled with both laughter and tears. Which scene(s) in this book did you have the most fun writing? Which was the most difficult?

Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. I think my very favorite scene to write was that first kiss. Caleb has so much passion built up inside of him and I loved when it just exploded. As far as difficult scenes go, definitely anything at the end, prior to them figuring out they loved each other. Ellie is so wounded, and trying so hard to do the right thing, and her grief was tricky to navigate, but very, very rewarding!

Best-friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes. What is it about this trope that appeals to you as an author? 

I love it because I relate to it. My husband and I were friends before we got together, and there’s something that I like about suddenly seeing a person you’ve known for a long time in new way. (this is why I also like the best friend’s little sister trope a lot!)

What’s next from Maisey Yates? 

A COWBOY FOR ALL SEASONS is out February 24th 2020, and I’m so excited about that book. It’s a project I worked on with three of my best friends – Caitlin Crews, Nicole Helm and Jackie Ashenden – about four cousins who each spend a season in their late grandmother’s farmhouse and find healing and love with a handsome cowboy. J Then in May my first Women’s Fiction, SECRETS FROM A HAPPY MARRIAGE is coming out. It’s different for me, but also still very much a Maisey Yates book. It’s about forgiveness, healing, a historic lighthouse, and family, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

Let’s do a fun five!

Favorite Halloween candy: Snickers

Dogs or cats (or something else): I would really like a pet raccoon, but I could only ever have one if there happened to be an orphaned one that needed to be cared for, but I would take it in a second!

Favorite sound that soothes your soul: Is it weird to say Dierks Bentley? If so, then I’m weird.

Favorite fall comfort food: I’m not going to lie, it’s for sure pumpkin spice everything.

Last book that kept you reading past your bedtime: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore.

Thank you for visiting with us, Maisey!  Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

I told you a couple of my favorite tropes, what are yours?

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, September 28, will receive a copy of Cowboy Christmas Redemption.

*Winner must be 18 or older.
*Limited to U.S. and Canada only.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Review - - Strangers She Knows

Strangers She Knows
by Christina Dodd
Cape Charade - Book 3
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

I have three deadly problems:
1. I've seriously offended a maniacal killer.
2. I just had a bullet removed from my brain.
3. My new daughter is growing up too fast--and she's in the line of fire.

Living on an obscure, technology-free island off California means safety from the murderer who hunts Kellen Adams and her new family.... Or does it? Family time becomes terror-time, and at last, alone, Kellen faces a killer playing a cruel game. Only one can survive, and Kellen knows who must win...and who must die.

My thoughts:

Christina Dodd brings readers another compelling page-turner in this thrilling conclusion to her immensely satisfying Cape Charade series. Throughout this series, Dodd has excelled at creating vividly portrayed, complex characters who take center stage amidst the suspense, danger, and action of the surrounding plot. In Strangers She Knows, with Kellen still slowly recovering from life-saving brain surgery, and danger stalking her family, Dodd moves the story from their resort in Cape Charade, Washington to a remote island inhabited by only three people: a university environmental intern, her weird husband, and a temperamental housekeeper/cook for the old mansion where Kellen, Max, and Rae will be staying. It's the only location where Max is certain he'll be able to protect Kellen and Rae from the danger that lurks. But is it safe enough?

I have thoroughly enjoyed this entire series and the main characters are some of my all-time Dodd favorites. I so admire Kellen's strength in overcoming all of the obstacles life has placed in her path. What she has survived in her still young life is almost inconceivable and yet she continues to fight for her family and herself. But I also enjoy her vulnerability, especially as she grapples with motherhood and gradually learns to accept the fears and emotions that accompany it.

Max is a hero for the ages. I adore this man! I love his tenacity, his steadfast loyalty to those he loves, his determination to protect them at all costs. If you want a hero who continues to step up to the plate and prove his love day after day, month after month, year after year, in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, Max di Luca is your man. 

And then there's Rae. Smart, sassy, filled with boundless energy and curiosity, staunchly devoted to her family, but caught in the hormonal throes of pre-adolescence that keep her mother's head spinning, and the catalyst for much of Dodd's humor; this kid steals every scene she's in. After "meeting" Rae, you will be left with no doubt that Dodd has, at some point in her life, lived with pre-adolescent girls. Like her parents, she's so vividly, and realistically, portrayed, that it would not take a leap of faith to convince myself these characters actually exist. 

Within the action and suspense of the main story, Dodd has also interwoven a fascinating, secondary, WWII story, as told through the entries in a diary that's found in the island mansion. It adds another layer of emotion and mystery, as well as a very interesting twist.   

While the books in this series are primarily suspense thrillers, not traditional romances, along with the action and danger, Dodd includes the emotional journey necessary for this reader to fully embrace Kellen, Max, and Rae's relationship and their well-deserved, and very hard-earned, happily ever after. In order to appreciate that journey to its fullest, I strongly recommend reading the books in this series in order. They are Dead Girl Running, What Doesn't Kill Her, and Strangers She Knows. The series also includes three short stories: Hard to Kill, Families and Other Enemies, and Hidden Truths

Do you enjoy suspense thrillers?

Are you reading the Cape Charade series?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review & Guest Post - - Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose

Andrea Penrose
Blog for The Romance Dish

I confess, given that my academic expertise in science ended in 9th grade biology class (you know, the one with formaldehyde, dead frogs and very sharp knifes!) it might strike you as rather strange that science plays a big role in the plot of Murder at Kensington Palace, my latest Wrexford & Sloane Regency-set mystery, which releases today! (It’s a key theme in the first two books as well. Allow me to explain . . .

I have an art background, which may seem like the polar opposite from the world of laboratories, microscopes and bubbling chemicals. I thought the same thing until I read The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes a few years ago. In it, he talks about how during the Regency era, the artists and scientists all thought of themselves as kindred souls. For them, exploration and discovery in any discipline required imagination and creative thinking. Painters, poets, chemists, astronomers—they all shared a passion for pushing themselves to think outside the box.

Hmmm, I thought . . . these are just the same qualities required to unravel diabolical mysteries. So it suddenly struck me that having a scientist and an artist could be a really fun combination. In the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane, I’ve sought to create two lead characters who embody the intellectual curiosity—and gritty courage—of the times. They are opposites: a brooding aristocrat whose extraordinary mind runs on the rational new principles of scientific inquiry, paired with a struggling artist whose innate cleverness and intuition are the keys to her survival. Forced to work together, Wrexford and Charlotte find they make a formidable team, despite their differences. (Ah, but as science tells us, opposites often attract!)

Voltaic Pile
To create Wrexford required research of course, and I found it absolutely fascinating to delve into the history of science during the Regency. Like in our own times, new discoveries and new technology were radically changing society—it was both a source of wonder  . . . and terror. (I think we can all relate to the feeling of being a little frightened by the speed of the upheavals in daily life.) As is always the case for me, it’s not simply the innovations that interest me, but the people behind them, and how they can inspire a plotline for a book. From a writer’s POV, it’s the characters who make the history come alive.

Electricity plays a big part in the plot in Murder at Kensington Palace. The first “voltaic pile” (which is basically a battery) was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. The awesome new discovery was hugely exciting to the scientific world during the Regency. In London, people flocked to the Royal Institution, one of the leading scientific organizations of the time, to hear lectures and see demonstrations of voltaic batteries. (They inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.)

I was lucky enough last summer to visit the Royal Institution, that’s still in the
Royal Institution
 same wonderful classical building on Albemarle Street in London as it was in Regency times. In the basement is a recreation of the Regency laboratory of Michael Faraday, a very famous scientist and pioneer in electricity. I was able to see an actual trough battery—which is a more powerful type of voltaic pile—amid all the other scientific equipment of the day. (NO spoilers—ha, ha. I’ll just say that the people at the Royal Institution were very excited to hear I was plotting a murder within their august walls and were gracious enough to give me the thumbs up!)

Charlotte and Wrexford face their most formidable challenge yet in trying to unravel the truth behind a terrible murder, and their investigations that leads them to a “shocking” discovery. And the task is made even more difficult as their own complicated relationship is setting off new sparks. Charlotte must make some very hard decisions about her life, and just what sacrifices she’s willing to make in order to solve the crime . . .

I love writing mysteries, but I also love weaving in a little romance. What about you? Do you enjoy a little personal chemistry in a mystery novel, or do you like having a single sleuth, like Inspector Morse, as the main lead? I’ll be giving away a signed ARC copy of Murder at Kensington Palace to one lucky winner chosen at random from those leaving a comment here.)


Murder at Kensington Palace
by Andrea Penrose
A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery - Book 3
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Wrexford and Sloane must unravel secrets within secrets—including a few that entangle their own hearts—when they reunite to solve a string of shocking murders that have horrified Regency London . . .
Though Charlotte Sloane’s secret identity as the controversial satirical cartoonist A.J. Quill is safe with the Earl of Wrexford, she’s ill prepared for the rippling effects sharing the truth about her background has cast over their relationship. She thought a bit of space might improve the situation. But when her cousin is murdered and his twin brother is accused of the gruesome crime, Charlotte immediately turns to Wrexford for help in proving the young man’s innocence. Though she finds the brooding scientist just as enigmatic and intense as ever, their partnership is now marked by an unfamiliar tension that seems to complicate every encounter.
Despite this newfound complexity, Wrexford and Charlotte are determined to track down the real killer. Their investigation leads them on a dangerous chase through Mayfair’s glittering ballrooms and opulent drawing rooms, where gossip and rumors swirl to confuse the facts. Was her cousin murdered over a romantic rivalry . . . or staggering gambling debts? Or could the motive be far darker and involve the clandestine scientific society that claimed both brothers as members? The more Charlotte and Wrexford try to unknot the truth, the more tangled it becomes. But they must solve the case soon, before the killer’s madness seizes another victim . . .

My thoughts:

Andrea Penrose brings readers another Regency mystery with intriguing characters, fascinating scientific tidbits, a complex, well-crafted plot, and evolving relationships that keep me coming back for more. I'm enjoying the chemistry that's slowly growing between Wrexford and Charlotte as they work together to solve yet another mystery. I enjoy the individual strengths they each bring to the task and the respect, friendship, and caring that continues to deepen. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery that kept me guessing well into the book and the interweaving of both science and art that Penrose uses to help bring the villains to justice.     

Penrose has surrounded Wrexford and Charlotte with a secondary collection of vividly drawn characters who I find just as intriguing as the leads. Charlotte's street-smart, young wards have secured a place for themselves in my heart and I can't wait to see how they continue to evolve. I'm also hopeful that Penrose might deliver a secondary love interest for Wrexford's friend, Sheffield in future books. There's a young woman in this book who would be a wonderful ongoing addition to the cast. There's also Wrexford's scientific valet, Charlotte's indispensable housekeeper/maid, a brilliant surgeon, and a feisty great-aunt whose dialog played out in my head with Dame Maggie Smith's voice. I do hope Penrose has more books planned for this series. I'm already eagerly anticipating the next Wrexford & Sloane adventure! 

This is the third book in the Wrexford & Sloane Mystery series. Penrose does a good job of bringing new readers up to date without the proverbial info dump, allowing this novel to stand on its own. However, in my opinion, readers will have a greater understanding of the characters and a deeper appreciation for their evolving relationships if the books are read in order. Those titles are: Murder on Black Swan Lane, Murder at Half Moon Gate, and Murder at Kensington Palace

Readers may also recognize Andrea from her traditional Regency romances written as Andrea Pickens and her Regency historical romances written as Cara Elliott. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review - - Some Like it Scandalous

by Maya Rodale
Publisher: Avon 
Release Date: June 18, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

They are sworn enemies...
Theodore Prescott the Third, one of Manhattan's Rogues of Millionaire Row, has really done it this time. The only way to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is to marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swann. Of all the girls in Gilded Age Manhattan, it had to be her.
...pretending to be lovers...
Daisy Swann has plans, and they do not involve a loveless marriage with anyone. But when a devastating family secret threatens to destroy her standing in society, suddenly, a fake engagement with Theo is just the thing to make all her dreams come true.
...and now it's time to kiss and make up....
Daisy Swann aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created, but this brainy scientist needs a smooth-talking charmer's flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.

Hellie’s Heeds

I feel I’m slightly late to the game; and I feel everyone is already arriving (or has arrived) to my inevitable conclusion: we should form a protective cocoon around Maya Rodale so she can spend all her time writing and dreaming up these brilliant stories. Maya’s writing style is a balance of plausible modern sensibilities married with the backdrop of almost current history (hey, it’s only been 100 years since we’ve gotten the vote, ladies, and the country is twice as old) with a dollop of sassy tongue-in-cheek details that make a reader think, “Wait, I’m reading a historical and not stuff that’s still happening now, right? Wait, it’s still happening now!” I’m far enough removed from the particular historical era (“Thank God, I don’t have to wear corsets and a thousand layers...and no A/C”); yet some of the things women were fighting for then, we’re still fighting for now. This gumbo of storytelling is what I love best about romances, empowering women even now to advocate for themselves and others. 

I identified whole-heartedly with Daisy Swann, who is stuck with the unfortunate appellation of ‘Ugly Duck’ Daisy Swann due to a cruel, witty boy’s remark when she was thirteen. In the realm of her beautiful mother and siblings, as well as society, she is well aware her nose is too big, her eyes too close, her lips too thin, etc, etc, etc, quack, quack, quack. Being beautiful and fitting in are such key issues for women (and men), and Daisy’s way of dealing with it and finding her purpose and approval in creating beauty products to elevate the beauty in all women is just inspirational. Of course, this is the Turn of the Century--and women do NOT wear cosmetics. The historical detail and conflict was explored while also plausibly introducing a heroine who would nonetheless persist...because you know what? We’ve got lipstick now. And for many of us, makeup does feel empowering and we should feel empowered. 

I thoroughly enjoyed that the attraction between the hero and heroine was not ‘instantaneous.’ While I’m all about a love-at-first-sight (or lust), the fact these two do not like each other but slowly grow in attraction to each other until the lust is finally off the charts was heavenly. The first time Theo kisses Daisy, it wasn’t fireworks. The complete opposite. And when she politely pushes him off and he later asks why the kiss wasn’t working for her, she speaks up for what she wants. She says, “When a man kisses me, I want it to mean something. Desire for me. All of me, body and soul. And I want to feel the same way. That’s all.” Theo is a very beautiful man--which she comments on constantly--but we’re brought back to that truth that for most of us, there needs to be a connection, a click, to spark desire. Men are usually said to be more physical-visual creatures, but for women, we need someone to make love to our brain first or we’re getting nowhere else fast. 

This book explores beauty & what defines it, gender roles (especially what is masculine and acceptable in career choices), equality and access for all genders, fair equity practices in work and relationships, and women’s empowerment across all sectors. (I don’t think most readers are going to be as hung up on these points as much as I was, per se, but it was something I noticed, loved, and applauded.) If you have a friend who doesn’t read romances because they think “romances give women a false idea of love and expectations”, give them this one. It’s all about the empowerment. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Winners - - PJ's Birthday / The Fixer Upper Review

Many thanks to everyone for helping me celebrate

my birthday yesterday! 

The randomly chosen birthday giveaway winners are:

(package of books)

Please send your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


($20 Amazon e-gift card)

Please send your email address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winners - - Beverly Jenkins CM Spotlight

The randomly chosen winners of a copy of 

REBEL by Beverly Jenkins are:

Annette N




Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winners - - Anna Bradley

The randomly chosen winners of an e-book copy of

To Wed a Wild Scot by Anna Bradley are:

Carol L


Eileen AW


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, September 20, 2019

Review - - The Fixer Upper

The Fixer Upper
by Maggie Mae Gallagher
Echo Springs - Book 1
Publisher: Blushing Books
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

Abby Callier is more in love with Shakespearean heroes than any real man, and she’s beginning to wonder if there is life for her outside the pages of a book. It doesn’t help that her esteemed parents tend to view her as they would one of their science experiments gone wrong. On the eve of finishing her dissertation, she escapes her staid existence to live in the house she inherited from her Great Aunt Evie in the small town of Echo Springs, Colorado. Because, let’s face it, when a woman starts comparing her life to horror films, it might be time for a break. 

Sheriff Nate Barnes believes in law and order and carefully building the life you want. In his spare time, he has been remodeling his house in the hope that one day it will be filled with the family he makes. But Nate doesn’t like drama or complications and tends to avoid them at all costs. And yet, when Miss Abigail Callier, his newest neighbor, beans him with a nine iron, he can’t help but wonder if she might just be the complication he’s been searching for all along. It doesn’t hurt that he’s discovered a journal hidden away by the previous tenant, and decides to use Old Man Turner’s advice to romance Abby into his life. 

Abby never expected her next-door neighbor, the newly dubbed Sheriff Stud Muffin, to be just the distraction her world needed. The problem is she doesn’t know whether she should make Echo Springs her home, or if this town is just a stopover point in her life’s trajectory. And she doesn’t want to tell Nate that she might not be sticking around – even though she should, because it’s the right thing to do, the honest thing – because then all the scintillatingly hot kisses with the Sheriff will come to an abrupt halt. Did she mention that he’s a really great kisser?

My thoughts:

There are some books I love, some I like, and some that are just okay. Then there are those few that I stumble upon and, within the first chapter, get that feeling that the author has written this story just for me. Everything syncs. This was my first book by this author but I had an immediate connection with the characters, the humor took me straight back to my childhood and the things we'd laugh ourselves silly over within my family, and I felt like I had a personal stake in the outcome of the couple's relationship. Gallagher had me laughing one minute, wiping away tears the next, and vigorously fanning myself the one after that. She's hilarious and writes with so much heart as well as some delicious heat. I adored both Abby and Nate and fell head over heels in love with Rufus, Nate's goofy dog. Gallagher really has the Great Dane personality nailed. So much so, that he darn near steals every scene he's in. Then there's the throwback love story featuring Abby's unmarried aunt, told through journal entries (his, not hers), that provides a guiding light for Abby and Nate's deepening relationship. That relationship, between two characters who had already passed on, engaged my emotions just as deeply as the one between Nate and Abby that was playing out on the pages. And yes, there were tears. 

Then there are the intriguing secondary characters, both male and female. Gallagher gives them enough page time - and drops just enough delicious clues about each of them - to have me already eagerly anticipating their stories. I'll be returning to Echo Springs for as many books as she decides to write. 

This one has my 5-star, feel-good, enthusiastic recommendation. 


What's the last book you read that felt like the author had written it just for you?

Have you read The Fixer Upper yet?

Do you have a goofy dog in your life? Tell me about them.

Today's my birthday and you know what that means. Gifts for you! :) 

One person who comments before 11:00 PM (EST) tonight will receive a $20 Amazon (U.S.) e-gift card. 

One person who comments before 11:00 PM (EST) tonight will receive a package of books from my conference stash. (U.S. only) 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Review and Q&A - - London's Late Night Scandal

London's Late Night Scandal
by Anabelle Bryant
Midnight Secrets - Book 3
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

In Anabelle Bryant’s novel of unexpected romance, a lord and lady learn that not all emotions can be expressed in the light of day . . .
Chief Officer of the Society for the Intellectually Advanced, Lord Matthew Strathmore, Earl of Whittingham, takes his position very seriously. Not only does it distract him from the painful aftermath of a gunshot wound to the leg, earned most honorably, it is important work. So he feels duty-bound to question esteemed scientist Lord Talbot about a suspect article. Matthew dashes from London to Oxfordshire, despite wretched weather that only exacerbates his injury, reminding him he is far from the dashing gentleman he once was . . .
Theodosia, Lord Talbot’s granddaughter, has inherited his gift for inquiry, enjoying her pursuits safely away from the artifice of London society. But her identity as the true author of Talbot’s article is about to be exposed. And if Matthew expects a dour bluestocking, surprises abound. Not only do Theodosia’s botanical concoctions soothe his leg, he’s clearly attracted by her delicate beauty. But dare she hope for more? It will take an urgent trip to London for both to discover how passion and lasting love can ignite under the cover of darkness . . .

My thoughts:

Add another author to my auto-buy list. I thoroughly enjoyed this story by Anabelle Bryant and can't wait to dive into more of her books. Matthew and Theodosia are wonderfully complex characters, obviously made for one another. Bryant gives them intriguing layers, challenging obstacles, and heartrending baggage to overcome before skillfully guiding them to their happily ever after and I was with them every step of the way. I adored their banter, their intellect, and their slowly evolving passion. I appreciated the care and sensitivity the author used in depicting Theodosia's grandfather's debilitating disease while also showcasing the reality of the marked difference in how people react to those suffering from dementia and other similar conditions. There's one scene in particular where Matthew's behavior had me in tears - the good kind - and convinced me he was worthy of both Theodosia's love and mine. 

Bryant's prose is beautiful and evocative, stealing my breath with its mental images and eliciting emotions with ease. Take this passage, during the time when Theodosia is fighting her deepening feelings for Matthew:

First her parents, and now Grandfather. She couldn't bear to fall in love and be broken again. Loneliness didn't hurt nearly as much if nothing was at risk. 

Or this one, during a visit to the British museum:

Winter's distant sunlight poured through the high windows positioned near the crown molding. The noises surrounding them - discreet conversations and nearby footfalls - faded away. The moment became timeless, as if divinity entered the room, fragile and precious for its rarity. 

Is it any wonder I'm looking forward to reading more from this talented author? 

London's Late Night Scandal is the third book in Bryant's Midnight Secrets series but stands on its own. Feel free to begin with Matthew and Theodosia's story. In the meantime, I'll be over in the corner, losing myself in the first two books of the series: London's Wicked Affair and London's Best Kept Secret. I can't wait! 


Q&A with Anabelle Bryant

Hi Anabelle! It was such a delight to meet you at RWA this summer. Thanks for visiting with us today at The Romance Dish.

Your newest novel, London’s Late Night Scandal, will release next week and I’m so excited for everyone to have the opportunity to read it. Please tell our readers what they can expect from this third book in your Midnight Secrets series.

London’s Late Night Scandal is the story of a scholarly woman and a wounded earl who discover life together is the answer to all their heartache. Naturally, the course to this discovery is difficult, but while Theodosia and Matthew immediately realize their affinity for the sciences makes them uniquely similar, they fight their physical attraction until the heart wins out. This novel was my first with holiday elements and I believe the subtle touches of Christmas added another layer of romantic warmth. It can be read as a standalone novel.

I adored Theodosia and Matthew. Which of their scenes together did you have the most fun writing? Which was most difficult?

I enjoyed the snappy conversations between Theodosia and Matthew. Their growing relationship is revealed through the novel as their conversations become more meaningful and intimate. Creating the push and pull of their relationship and highlighting it through, not just their interactions with each other, but also their decisions and reflections was always important to me. I had a lot of fun writing the initial scenes when Matthew is pursuing Theodosia and she’d rather he left the estate and never returned. She chose her brain over her heart…but her heart never stood a chance.

It was difficult at times to write the scenes involving Theodosia’s grandfather’s condition. While I wanted to keep it factual, I strove for tenderness and I’m pleased with the result.

I enjoyed the scientific (medical, botanical, etc.) tidbits scattered throughout this book. What did you discover during your research for London’s Late Night Scandal that most fascinated you?

We have so many remedies and conveniences that we all take for granted. Something as simple as healing chapped lips was a great undertaking during the Regency era. While I researched botanical cures and herbology, I was surprised to read how many minor ailments people suffer with today, were prevalent in the early 1800s and just as much of a nuisance.

Your bio indicates that you’re an avid traveler. What place have you visited that most “speaks to” your soul? What location is at the top of your travel wish list?

I want to answer England, since I’ve visited twice and write about that time period but my heart’s connection is to Paris if I’m speaking from a traveler’s perspective. Something about Paris enchants me and I can’t wait to the next opportunity I have to visit.

I’ve never traveled to Greece and it’s at the top of my travel wish. Any location with a rich culture and history is an immediately temptation for me.

What’s next from Anabelle Bryant?

If you’ve read London’s Best Kept Secret, you’re acquainted with the Earl of Lindsey, a nobleman who is more rogue than titled gentleman. He’s a character who insisted on his own story so look for the fourth Midnight Secrets book in 2020.

Let’s do a fun five to help readers get to know you.

Title at the top of your books waiting to be read: The Secret History of Georgian London by Dan Cruickshank

Favorite fall dessert: Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream

Favorite subject to photograph: Interesting places, doors, windows

Favorite stress reliever: Quiet. I like to sit in a room with absolute quiet and just breathe.

Favorite French fries: LOL! It's true. I love French Fries. My favorite fries are from Little Mac's on the NJ boardwalk.

Thank you for visiting with us, Anabelle!  Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

Thanks so much for reading. I do have a question. I strive to write historical romance based in history and reality, but I often wonder if that matters to readers. Would you rather read a historical romance with a conceivable plot and smart characterization or an outlandish one that is pure escapism?

Oooh...that's an intriguing question. What say you, readers?