Monday, October 21, 2019

Review - - To Tame a Scandalous Lady








To Tame a Scandalous Lady
by Liana De la Rosa
Once Upon a Scandal - Book 3
Publisher: Entangled:Amara
Release Date: October 21, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    



In the wake of a fire that decimates his racing stock, Christian Andrews, the Marquess of Amstead, struggles to keep his family's stud farm from slipping into ruin and painstakingly rebuilds the program. When one of his prime stallions is injured, he notices his new assistant trainer has a special way with the horses. As talented as the trainer is, once he realizes he is a she…and a very beautiful, spirited she at that…he should sack her before scandal breaks. But it’s only weeks before the high stakes race he’s counting on to build back his fortune, and Flora should be by his side for the win.
Miserable under the weight of the ton’s expectations, headstrong Lady Flora Campbell laments her privileged life in London. Embracing her dream of working with racehorses, she disguises herself as a lad and slips away to learn as much as she can from England’s premiere expert, Christian Andrews, never thinking of the scandal she courts but the glory to be had.
Although she develops a tendre for the dashing marquess, she can never let on that she’s not only a woman, but the daughter of a duke...

My thoughts: 

I enjoy how De la Rosa gives her characters depth, realistic flaws, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome. I like how she challenges societal norms for the time in which she writes. And I love how she draws me into a story and into her characters' hearts and minds. 

Though Flora (a/k/a William) is the daughter of a duke, growing up in Scotland she was allowed to indulge her life's passion training horses and pretty much running her father's estate. But when she arrived in London with her siblings, that all changed and she was forced to give up the work that gives her purpose...that feeds her soul. I understood what drove her to disguise herself and seek employment with the man acknowledged to be the best horse trainer in England and I cheered her on as she did so. But I also appreciated the fact that she is not without flaws. I enjoyed her growth throughout the book and the (sometimes painful) lessons she learns.  

I also liked Christian even though at times I wanted to whack him upside the head. He's an autocratic male who thinks he knows best but he's also desperate to save his family's estate, while at the same time dealing with a fair share of grief and guilt over the events that have led him to this point. I liked the friendship that develops between him and Flora, the sizzling chemistry, and the mutual respect. I enjoyed watching them work together to train Asad. But I also understood the changes to those opinions and actions once William became Flora - even if I didn't much like them. The author has kept him authentic to the time in which he lives while also allowing him the room to evolve and change some of those opinions over the course of the story. I enjoyed his growth and turned the final page confident in his and Flora's happy future. 

De la Rosa has also surrounded our hero and heroine with an intriguing cast of secondary characters, both two and four-legged. I especially enjoyed Mr. Mubarek, the head trainer who came from Egypt with Asad, a canny elderly duchess, and both Christian's and Flora's brothers. I'm hoping we might see more of both Cedric and Niall in future books. As for those four-legged characters... The vast majority of this novel takes place in and around the stables on Christian's estate which adds another interesting layer to the book. I fell in love with Asad and his stable-mates right along with Christian and Flora. They are each lovingly, and realistically, depicted and I enjoyed getting to know each of their unique personalities. 

While this is the third book in a series, it stands well on its own. 

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | KOBO



 

Liana De la Rosa is a historical romance writer whose stories are set in the Georgian and Late Regency periods. As a longtime fan of the romance genre, Liana can remember sneaking Harlequins into her bedroom to read on the sly. After her second child was born, her husband challenged her to write her own book and she’s been writing ever since. Liana is a proud graduate of the University of Arizona and enjoys cheering on her alma mater in all things (BEAR DOWN!). When she’s not writing witty heroes, saucy heroines, and secondary characters screaming for their own stories, she’s a wannabe domestic goddess and fashionista who wrangles a rambunctious brood of small children with her patient husband in Arizona.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST

 

To Tame a Scandalous Lady

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Winner - - Spotlight on Cathy Maxwell






The randomly chosen winner of a package of 

Cathy Maxwell books is:

LSUReader

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Review - - When the Marquess Was Mine


WHEN THE MARQUESS WAS MINE
by Caroline Linden
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie
 

In the game of love…
Georgiana Lucas despises the arrogant and cruel Marquess of Westmorland even before learning that he’s won the deed to her friend Kitty’s home in a card game. Still, Georgiana assures Kitty the marquess wouldn’t possibly come all the way to Derbyshire to throw them out—until he shows up, bloody and unconscious. Fearing that Kitty would rather see him die, Georgiana blurts out that he’s her fiancé. She’ll nurse the hateful man back to health and make him vow to leave and never return. The man who wakes up, though, is nothing like the heartless rogue Georgiana thought she knew…
You have to risk it all
He wakes up with no memory of being assaulted—or of who he is. The bewitching beauty tending him so devotedly calls him Rob and claims she’s his fiancée even as she avoids his touch. Though he can’t remember how he won her hand, he’s now determined to win her heart. But as his memory returns and the truth is revealed, Rob must decide if the game is up—or if he’ll take a chance on a love that defies all odds.

Hellie’s Heeds

The wonderful romantic tropes of Reformed Rake and Florence Nightingale collide for a delicious mashup that also uses some classic plot devices like: Pride & Prejudice, amnesia, and a bit of a spy thriller to make for a cozy, delightful, Regency set romance. 

Our weary rake, Rob, doesn’t know where he is or how he got there, but the beautiful young woman who is calling him her fiance and who has stayed by his side as he’s recovered from the beating he doesn’t remember makes him wish he did remember her. Except Georgiana isn’t actually engaged to Rob--she only said he was her fiance because if the hostess she is staying with realizes who Rob really is, she would leave him on the front steps to die. 

Rob’s reputation as a rake and hell-raiser precedes him as he comes to the countryside to return a property deed to the lady of the house, a property deed her husband lost in a hand of poker and has immediately written to the family he was cheated out of. No good deed goes unpunished. Georgiana interrupts a criminal thrashing during a morning ride and insists on the groom taking back the fallen traveler, but she is immediately aghast that the victim is none other than the man coming to throw everyone out of the house! She can’t explain even to herself why she lied, but even more concerning, when Rob awakes, it seems he is not Evil personified after all. Can she trust a man who doesn’t even know who he is?

Hoping Rob doesn’t suddenly recover his memory and either a) kick everyone out of the home like she fears or b) suddenly go, “Wait, I’m the Marquess--we’re not engaged” and ruin her reputation, Georgiana does a very merry dance during Rob’s recovery. 

Come to find out, there is more to Rob than his title--and he’s a bit of a spy himself, doing his bit for king and country--yet it’s Georgiana who more than holds up her end of the show, making me wish there were more stories with her in which they work together to right wrongs and battle for justice, because Georgiana can certainly think on her feet...and even win the day when needed. 

Caroline Linden is frequently a very solid read for me in the Regency set romances--and this one is no exception. Happy reading!


Friday, October 18, 2019

Review - - Wild Ride


Wild Ride
by Breezie Bennett
South Florida Riders - Book 1
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    




A smoking hot wide receiver with a tattered reputation. A feisty tomboy with dreams of being a sports agent. Can he build his brand with a fake fiancée? Can she snag the promotion she desperately wants? Sure. If he can keep it in his pants and she can resist taking the ride of her life. Fall in love with Leo and Frankie as their romance slides from fake to forever.






My thoughts:

Debut author Breezie Bennett hits the ground running with this fast-paced, steamy, contemporary romcom set within the world of professional football. I'm a self-admitted football junkie who loves romance which makes Frankie's and Leo's story my own personal catnip. I was immediately pulled into their lives and those of their friends and associates within Bennett's (fictional) South Florida Riders professional football team. Bennett's deep well of football knowledge is clear and lends authenticity to the story while her well-developed, multi-layered characters keep things lively.

I've always been a pushover for a sexy, bad-boy jock and Leo certainly fits that bill. At first, he's all flash but I like how Bennett slowly allows the reader - and Frankie - to discover the layers within. I also like how he evolves over the course of the story without losing the essence of who he is. I enjoyed Frankie a lot. She's a woman who knows what she wants in her career and is willing to go after it but she also has layers. And baggage. I love that she owns her sexuality and enjoys the physical expression of it (there's some serious sizzle going on here) but I appreciate her vulnerability when it comes to relationships. She has good reason to be cautious. Frankie's also a life-long tomboy who's never really tapped into her "girly" side. There's plenty of humor and a bit of self-awakening during her fake engagement transition. The first-person point of view, alternating between Frankie and Leo by chapter, took me a bit to adjust to but once I was into the flow, I really enjoyed being in each of their heads - and getting to know them - as the story progressed.

Bennett's dialogue is fast-paced and sassy - and also salty.  There are more than a few f-bombs however they always feel organic to the characters, never gratuitous. This is an author writing what she knows: twenty-something characters who are realistic and relatable.  The sex is steamy and Bennett had me (happily) reaching for a fan more than once during those scenes - but she also made me laugh with her well-timed humor and touched my heart with the satisfying emotions that gradually develop between Leo and Frankie. In the end, she gave me a Wild Ride I was happy to take. 

Breezie Bennett is a fresh, new voice in contemporary sports romance. I enjoyed Wild Ride and am all in for more football, heart-tugging romance, snappy banter, and smoking hot chemistry in future South Florida Riders stories. 


~~~~~~~~~~~

Do you enjoy sports-themed romances?

Were you a tomboy or more of a girly girl? 

If you are a football fan (like me), who are your favorite teams?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Coastal Magic Author Spotlight & Giveaway - - Cathy Maxwell








PJ & Cathy - Buns & Roses 2017
Welcome to my third Coastal Magic Convention spotlight! Today, I'm happy to welcome historical romance author Cathy Maxwell to the Dish. I met Cathy in person almost 12 years ago, at a reader-author weekend event in Columbia, South Carolina. It was the first time I had ventured out of my comfort zone to attend such an event and I was nervous, not having any idea what to expect. How lucky was I that Cathy Maxwell was sitting at the event registration desk when I walked into the hotel. Her smile lit up the room and within minutes (honestly, probably seconds), she had me laughing and feeling like we had been friends forever. If there's a better representative for the fun to be had at a reader-author event, I have yet to meet them. Come join us at the Coastal Magic Convention in Daytona Beach. Is there a better place to be in February than on a Florida beach?

Cathy's zest for life shines through in the many roles she has filled in her career. Beginning as a news broadcaster, she decided she'd rather make news than report it. That led her to the U.S. Navy, specifically Naval Intelligence, as well as time at the Pentagon. After her military career ended, Cathy pursued writing and now has 40+ published novels and novellas to her credit. Many of her books have been on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists and nominated for various awards. She has also been honored by the Washington Romance Writers organization with the Kathleen Gilles Seidel "Legend" award for her service to this RWA chapter.

Cathy's next book, His Secret Mistress is scheduled to be released February 25, 2020, launching her new Logical Man's Guide to Dangerous Women series. 

At the Logical Men's Society - an exclusive bachelor's club - brandy flows like water, bawdy stories abound, and a gentleman tempted to marry is always persuaded to reconsider...  

I love the sound of this new series! His Secret Mistress is currently available for pre-order.

You can discover more information about Cathy and her books at her website and engage with her online at Facebook and Twitter

 Welcome back, Cathy! 




Venturing Out into Romancelandia
By roving cub reporter Cathy Maxwell


I don’t even know where to begin with this blog. I’ve been wrestling with it for over a month. PJ suggested I give you all info on what I learned from all my travel this summer—New Orleans, Paris, Berlin, San Diego, Kansas City . . .  Well, actually, she was thinking of my yakking about Europe, but why limit the subject? I have a great life and it is one you can have as well, because I traveled with romance readers.


PJ & Cathy

So, part of what I want to say is what I learned through my travels about what we are reading in romance and another part is to encourage you to join in the fun. There are conferences all over the country, all over the world.  I even travel alone, because once I arrive at the conference, I’m among readers who will soon be new friends. 

Where to start? Let’s just dive in. This is a hodge podge.  Sorry, not sorry:

#


With German authors in the Green Room

Romance readers are discerning readers, no matter where you go.  Whether I’m in New Orleans or Berlin, readers want bold emotion, great conflict, and strong writing.  I was interested in the number of European readers who are happy to read in English. They want the full emotion of the words and believe they can only receive it reading in the writer’s language.


Kerrelyn Sparks and I had a great workshop on what makes for a great hero.

They may be right. I had the opportunity to talk to several translators They were wonderful fans of romance and shared that the hardest part of their jobs was not translating words but conveying the emotions the writer meant.  The job called for a complete understanding of social mores in both countries, a thorough grasp of romance tropes, and healthy respect for the genre.

I suggested that US readers would be interested in books by German and French authors. That idea was challenged.  They wondered if US readers would want to read a book about a farm girl in Germany.  To be honest, most of the books presented by the German authors were about German girls going to New York City and, yes, I would want to read that book.  Wouldn’t you? Certainly, I have enjoyed the romantic comedies written about young women in London or the fun chick lit (is that term still viable?) set in Ireland. I like reading about different cultures.
#



Lunch out with Lorraine Heath and Kerrelyn Sparks

When I was in New Orleans at Booklovers Con, my table at the signing was located down from Karen Marie Moning and close to Charlaine Harris. 


Book Lovers Con


Rumor has it that paranormal is on the wane but that didn’t appear true from where I was sitting.  The lines were long for both writers.  Plus, my wonderful friend Kerrelyn Sparks sold out.  Lickety split.
#


Elizabeth Hoyt

Speaking of Booklovers, they will be in Nashville next March www.bookloverscon.com.  I hear you protesting.  You would love to travel to a conference and have a grand time like you see from all the social media posts on the romance sites. However, you don’t have anyone to travel with.  

It is work to find a traveling partner. I agree with you—which is why I enjoy traveling to conferences because I can go alone. I hop on a plane, go to the hotel, and start making friends by turning to the person next to me and asking, “What are you reading?”



Charis Michaels photobombs Cathy and a French reader





If you are an introvert, use strategy. My advice is to join some of the social media boards like The Romance Dish or Old School Romance Book Club or Contemporary Romance Book Lovers. Truly, there are dozens of fan sites for these books we love to read.  










Start interacting online, let people know you are going to a particular conference and want to know about any meet ups planned.  It really is that simple and they are fun.  How do you think I met PJ? Or Gannon? Or so many others.  Half of the battle is just showing up. Photo below: with the fabulous Bridget Costedoat whom many of us know from romances pages on FB.  


Cathy & Bridget



Other great conferences include The Historical Romance Retreat  www.HistoricalRomanceRetreat.com  Dress for tea, for the ball, for chatting up your friends.  This is an intimate event with loads of fun activities and is usually held at the beautiful Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. Another conference with the same flavor will be Romancing the Gold Coast www.RomancingtheGoldCoast.com  in Glen Cove, NY.

Two fan favorites to consider are Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together www.ReaderAuthorGetTogether.com in Cincinnati, OH and Coastal Magic www.coastalmagic.com in Daytona Beach, FL. I believe Lori’s event leans more toward contemporary. Coastal Magic started off promoting paranormal romance but includes all subgenres now. I will be at the one in 2020.  After all, it is Florida in February. Let me know you are coming at www.facebook.com/maxwellcathy and I’ll be your friend.

Also, let me put in a plug for Mid-Continental Public Library’s Romance GenreCon www.mymcpl.org/events/romance It is romance celebration of author panels, fun games, events, and writing classes and everything is free. Yes, free.  It is also located in one of my fave cities on this earth, Kansas City. Please, check it out.

This is just a small list of romance travel opportunities. You can find more at www.romancerefined.com  A list of romance events is listed under “Resources.” The list also includes one day book signings in fun places. I prefer events where I can mingle but if you just want to meet your fave author, go.  Some of these are also held in exotic, fun locations which brings me to overseas conferences . . .

#

I’ve been to reader conferences in Australia, Paris, and Berlin.  In Paris and Berlin, there were enough workshops in English to keep me happy. I also enjoyed the locations. They were in spots the locals go. Photo below: Panel of Australian Annie West and French authors Marianna and Carine Pitocchi at Festival du Roman Féminin in Paris. 




In Paris, the Festival du Roman Féminin www.facebook.com/FestivalDuRomanFeminin was right off Paris’s Chinatown district or Quartier Asiatique. Need I say the food was phenomenal? The location was also a short Metro ride to the all the tourist sights, but I felt I was a part of the city.


East Berlin

              The Love Letter Convention www.loveletterconvention.com  was held in East Berlin this year which gave me a bit of a charge.  It was also close to some dynamite shopping.  Besides sightseeing, I also took in a show - something I like to do whenever I travel. 


Everyone was excited about Cathy's panel!

            
  The Australian Romance Readers Association www.australianromancereaders.com.au will be holding one day luncheons and book signings in five different cities over a two week period. Two keynote authors will be traveling to all five cities. Next year it will be Susan Donovan and Darynda Jones. That will be a fun adventure. Those two are a good time.

              Australia itself is magic. There is no language barrier and the Aussies are welcoming. Plus, there are a host of fabulous romance writers such as Anna Campbell, Anne Gracie, and Stephanie Laurens for you to meet.

In all cities, the authors, organizers, and attendees could not have been more generous or inclusive. Trust me, I have blundered about and people have been kindness itself when I realize I’ve charged too forward. I also come upon close groups of friends who hadn’t known each other until they attended a conference. Now, they look forward to seeing each other at events.  Just like in the States.
#

              So, are you feeling the itch to do some conference traveling? Trust me, whether it is over glasses of wine or sitting on a beach, talking books is fun with friends.

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, October 18, will receive a package of four Cathy Maxwell books. (U.S. addresses only)




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Winner - - Adventures with PJ - Boonsboro






The randomly chosen winner of the Boonsboro package is:

Martha Lawson

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail  (dot) com


Review - - Christmas Angels: A Novel


Christmas Angels: A Novel
by Nancy Naigle
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
    


Growing up, Liz Westmoreland dreamed of taking over her grandparents inn located in the small mountain town of Antler Creek only for it to be sold before she ever got the chance. While browsing the internet, she stumbles upon a listing for what looks to be the picturesque inn and it’s set to go to auction. Liz places a bid, and by a miracle, wins the auction. But when she gets there she finds the property in significant disrepair.

When Matt Hardy narrowly lost the inn and property that butted his land, he just hoped it wasn't another city slicker coming to make matters worse after the previous owners gutted the place for an art gallery. But the minute he recognized the sweet, freckle-faced girl from his childhood and heard her plans to reopen the inn, he jumps at the chance to help his childhood crush restore a place where he made so many fond memories.
While working on repairs, Liz and Matt discover her grandmother’s collection of angels in one of the cabins. When the angels start mysteriously showing up all over the inn, she begins to look at them as reassurance—that restoring the inn is what she's meant to do. But when an accident leaves Liz feeling like she made a mistake, will Matt—and the residents of Antler Creek—be able to show Liz that she's found a home? And possibly true love as well?

My thoughts:

Nancy Naigle is one of the authors I turn to time and again for sweet, feel-good romances set in small-town America. If you love Hallmark holiday movies - like I do - you've probably already watched a film, or two, based on her books. Christmas Angels is one more I'd love to see brought to the screen. 

Naigle brings the North Carolina mountain town of Antler Creek to life through vivid descriptions, colorful characters, and one over-sized pup who captured my heart. Liz and Matt are both likeable, realistic characters who engaged my heart. I really enjoyed Liz's journey, her innate kindness, and her evolution as she finally discovers who - and where - she's meant to be. Matt is a wonderful hero. I adored him. I want him. But, alas, he's meant for Liz and they really are perfect together. Their relationship is a slow burn with a solid base of friendship, chemistry, and deep emotion that left me confident in their future together.

There's a strong thread of kindness and generosity running through this book along with an organic spirituality. Naigle knows her characters and the region in which she's placed them well. I live only a couple hours down the road from the (fictional) Antler Creek and by the time I finished reading, all I wanted to do was hop in my car and drive up there to eat at the diner, browse the candle shop, tour the barn quilts, and bask in the glow of the Christmas lights. And, maybe, catch a glimpse of Liz and Matt, happy and in love, walking together through this thing called life. 

If you're ready to kick off your holiday reading season with a book that brings all the feels, curl up with a cozy blanket, a cup of hot cocoa, and Nancy Naigle's Christmas Angels



Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Review - - Betrothed by Christmas



Betrothed by Christmas
A Holiday Duet
By Jess Michaels and Elizabeth Essex
Publisher: The Passionate Pen, LLC
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Reviewed by Santa
 


I love the holidays and my favorite part – aside from the food – yum, those seven fishes and roast beef with all the trimmings. I digress. My favorite part of the holidays are Christmas romances. And though I loathe to see holiday decorations in the stores, I look forward to Christmas romances filling my hands as early as October. Betrothed by Christmas by Jess Michaels and Elizabeth Essex duet, a romance novella duet, is a five star, hot, hot read that fits the bill. 

I have been a fan of both authors for many years. Their stories are connected by the heroines Evangeline and Tamsin who we meet over a bowl of flaming brandy. I kid. They watch as lackwit lords haul the bowl into the ballroom and prepare to burn off a brow or two as they try to catch a flaming raisin. They both agree that a life of independence is far better than marrying any one of these gents. As young ladies of the ton, they have little choice in this area. Or do they?

The answer to their individual dilemmas is for them to seek out MALE WALLFLOWERS! Hold the phone! Not a rake? Not a rouge? You heard it right, male wallflowers. Where does one find one? Against a wall? By a potted plant? Nope. The library where you’d be surprised to find more than one or two.

Jess Michaels’ “A Lady’s Gift for Seduction” has you cheering for Evangeline and Henry from the first moment Evangeline, the daughter of a duke, approaches Henry, an astrologer and a third son of a viscount. Henry has lived across the park from her father for many years. She hopes to marry and keep her independence and control over her life. Her dowry guarantees that Henry can pursue his research while she continues to be in control of everything else. Both are in for an eye-opening experience as they come to find they are so much more together.

Elizabeth Essex’s “A Lady’s Gift for Scandal” brings Tamsin and Simon. Tamsin wants nothing more than an independent life much like her aunt who holds salons and does as she pleases. Her aunt came to this lifestyle following a scandal and that’s just what Tamsin thinks she needs. Not a huge scandal, just a slight one. That’s where Simon comes in. He seems a retiring sort who presents to the ton as somewhat simple since returning from the war. Our man Simon has built up a reputation that keeps others at bay but not Tamsin whose arrangements bring them both exactly what didn’t know they needed all along.

Go ahead, snuggle on the couch with a throw, sip your pumpkin spice latte and enjoy Betrothed by Christmas!