Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review - - Not the Girl You Marry

by Andie Christopher
Publisher: Jove/Berkley
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he's not sure he wants her to dump him.

Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who's focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she's determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.

Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other.

Hellie’s Heeds

This book was a bit of a mixed-bag for me. There were parts I really liked, things that made me laugh, characters I enjoyed, and some scenes and character growth that I thought were very well handled, that made me think about things differently. I also loved the premise of a flipped script of HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS. Those things are the reason I give this a 4 star rating. 

But...there’s always a but, isn’t there?...there were things I didn’t enjoy so much. I found the heroine a bit on the unlikable side, the hero a bit on the too fantastical side, and the writing style not as funny as I hoped. Humor, of course, is subjective, so the brand of humor this book employs may be more your cup of tea. I hope so because the parts I liked, well, I hope other people come to enjoy them as well. I wanted to love a heroine who was A Bit Much, because I too am a bit much--and don’t we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are without being made to feel we need to be someone else to be worthy of love? Ironically though the heroine was A Bit Much for me. 

If I could compare this author’s writing voice to another bestselling author’s voice--it’d be Tessa Bailey. If you enjoy Tessa’s books, I think this would definitely be a book to add to your list of Must Reads for Fall 2019. I, myself, do not care for Tessa Bailey’s author voice because I think her heroines sound too crass (which believe me is ironic for me to be sniffy about when others would likely accuse me of being just that.) But another way to interpret these heroines are those who are not afraid to own their sexuality, be honest rather than polite, and live authentically. 

However, that is not how I interpret those heroines to be--and for me, this sort of characterization and writing slowed my reading of the book until I dragged it out by another two weeks. I finished it; it was good--but I wouldn’t take it with me to an island. (If I graded this book by how I felt about the heroine for most of the novel, I would have given it a 3.) However, after a few days rest and picking up for the final few scenes, I found much to be charmed about the story. As I said: a mixed bag. 

Once again, I enjoyed this was a book with a heroine I feel we don’t see a lot of in mainstream romances: a woman of color; and I also enjoyed that the hero is just a really nice guy. There’s no alpha edge about him, though he’s still sexy as hell and I certainly didn’t miss it. The secondary characters are very delightful and add much to the growth of both of these characters. And for a remake of a beloved rom-com, I think the story itself was well done.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Review - - Close to the Heart

Close to the Heart
by Suzanne Ferrell
Westen Series - Book 5
Publisher: Suzanne Ferrell Productions
Release Date: November 2, 2019
Reviewed by PJ

During a state-wide blizzard, Westen sheriff’s deputy Daniel Löwe finds a little girl named Lexie abandoned, freezing and terrified. He takes her—undernourished, dressed in thread-bare clothes—to the only available place in the small town, the Westen House for at-risk teens. Daniel’s protective instincts compel him to check in frequently to assure the girl's safety. A man who gave up all hope of a family, Daniel enjoys spending more and more time at Westen House with Lexie and the four teen boys who live there. But it’s the new housemother, Melissa Davis that drives his heart faster.
After surviving an abusive ex-husband, a wiser, less-trusting Melissa is forging a new life for herself. The moment Lexie arrives bundled in a quilt and asleep in the handsome deputy’s arms, Melissa's fierce maternal impulses rouse and she fears Lexie's drug-addicted mother will find and claim her. As Daniel helps track Lexie's mom and still finds time to teach the little girl how to play baseball, Melissa realizes that Daniel's a good man who keeps his promises, no matter how big or small, and the walls around Melissa’s heart start to crumble.
Their newly forged hope shatters when multiple bodies are discovered in abandoned drug dens and Daniel realizes Lexie's in real danger from her mother's dealer. Fearing for the little girl’s safety, Daniel and Melissa must lean on each other if they want to prevent the monster from stealing Lexie's life.

My thoughts:

I always enjoy returning to Suzanne Ferrell's small town of Westen, Ohio for heartwarming tales of suspense-filled romance. In Close to the Heart, drugs are once again threatening this close-knit community but, this time, it's a six-year old girl in the cross-hairs of a ruthless dealer. 

I adored Lexie. Ferrell captures this neglected little girl at the center of the story, and each of her relationships, perfectly. Daniel's care and patience with her are a window into his heart for the previously abused Melissa, showing her she can trust him with her own. He's such a sweetheart of a guy. I really appreciated his quiet strength and tender approach with both Lexie and Melissa as well as the role of mentor he takes on with the boys. I enjoyed watching Melissa grow in strength and self-confidence as she cares for and protects Lexie. And the relationships between Lexie and the four teen boys already under Melissa's care are spot-on sibling dynamics. 

The heartbreak caused by the the appearance of drugs in town is not sugarcoated in this story. Ferrell lays it out clearly and realistically, adding additional depth and emotion to the story, and drawing me more completely into the lives of the characters involved. 

Fans of the Westen series will enjoy catching up with favorite characters in this fifth book of the series while readers new to the town should be able to fully enjoy Close to the Heart on its own. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Winners - - Christmas Knight

The randomly chosen winners of a copy of

Christmas Knight by Pam Binder are:

Annette N

Robin B

Carol L


Please send your full name, mailing address, and 

choice of trade paperback or e-book to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Harlequin Holiday Tour

The randomly chosen winner from the 

Harlequin Holiday Blog Tour is:

Cheryl C


Please send your full name, mailing address, 

and choice of title to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Review - - My Fake Rake

My Fake Rake
by Eva Leigh
The Union of Rakes - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 26, 2019
Reviewed by Santa

In the first book in Eva Leigh's new Union of the Rakes series, a bluestocking enlists a faux suitor to help her land an ideal husband only to be blindsided by real desire…
Lady Grace Wyatt is content as a wallflower, focusing on scientific pursuits rather than the complications of society matches. But when a handsome, celebrated naturalist returns from abroad, Grace wishes, for once, to be noticed. Her solution: to “build” the perfect man, who will court her publicly and help her catch his eye. Grace’s colleague, anthropologist Sebastian Holloway, is just the blank slate she requires.
To further his own research on English society, Sebastian agrees to let Grace transform him from a bespectacled, bookish academic into a dashing—albeit fake—rake. Between secret lessons on how to be a rogue and exaggerated public flirtations, Grace’s feelings for Sebastian grow from friendship into undeniable, inconvenient, real attraction. If only she hadn’t asked him to help her marry someone else...
Sebastian is in love with brilliant, beautiful Grace, but their bargain is complete, and she desires another. Yet when he’s faced with losing her forever, Sebastian will do whatever it takes to tell her the truth, even if it means risking his own future—and his heart.

Santa's Thoughts:

I had the pleasure of reading My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh recently and it hit all the marks for me as a solid five star read! 

You see, I love me a good Beta hero! A bit rough around the edges but delicious nonetheless especially if they wear spectacles. In this reader’s opinion spectacles on a Beta is as delicious as pockets on a ballgown. For the most part, Betas are the most likely not to catch one’s eye but when they do - you are guaranteed to lose your heart. AND better yet is one who harbors an unrequited love for a certain lady in their life. Mr. Sebastian Halloway, bespectacled anthropologist, is one such hero.

The lady for whom he holds a tendre is also a kind of Beta heroine, if you will. Lady Grace Wyatt’s scholarly pursuits as a naturalist present her as a singular lady in a predominantly male world. She, too, harbors an unrequited love for another colleague who has yet to see her merits as a woman. She comes up with a plan to make this other man take notice and want to marry her so they can go off together on expeditions as husband and wife.

Sebastian is the perfect subject to transform into a fake rake. As lessons progress with the aid of Sebasian’s friend the Duke of Rotherby, Lady Grace soon recognizes that she has feelings for her fake rake which completely goes against her plans. 

This book will make you laugh and cheer and I guarantee you will shed a tear or two, as well!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tour Review - - Lake Season

Lake Season
by Denise Hunter
A Bluebell Inn Romance - Book 1
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: November 12, 2019

When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream of turning their historic Bluebell, North Carolina, home back into an inn. Staying in town would be temporary—three years at most—then they plan to sell the inn, and Molly can get back to chasing her own dreams.
Adam Bradford (aka bestselling author Nathaniel Quinn) is a reclusive novelist with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to the setting of his next book, a North Carolina lake town. There, he meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

Molly and Adam strike up an instant friendship. When Molly finds a long-lost letter in the walls of her inn, she and Adam embark on a mission to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But Adam has secrets he isn’t ready to share. Past and present collide as truths surface, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

PJ's Thoughts:
This is such a lovely read. Sweet and poignant, it follows two love stories, one that began in 1962 (when the lost letter found at the inn was written) and Molly and Adam's journey in present day. I like how Hunter slowly unveils the earlier couple's story through flashbacks as Molly and Adam uncover clues. It feels like watching two romances unfold side by side, both stories equally intriguing, both couples capturing my interest and engaging my emotions. 

I was with Adam and Molly every step of the way as they worked together to solve the mystery of the lost letter and cheering on their romance. They needed some help, Adam especially, but I never lost faith that he would find the courage he needed to open himself to the woman he's falling in love with. I enjoyed how it all played out and the twist at the end had more than a few tears falling. 
But this is not only a romantic love story. It's also a story of families and Hunter has created one that I want to know more about. Molly and her siblings have suffered a devastating loss that has affected each of them in a different way. I enjoyed watching the dynamics of this three-sibling unit shift and change as they work together (some reluctantly) to turn their family home into an inn and I look forward to, hopefully, watching those relationships evolve as this new series continues.

If you enjoy a story that flows well, has realistic characters, plenty of heart, a setting so wonderfully depicted that I wanted to hop into my car and go there, a mystery, a happy ending, and a promise of more to come, pick up a copy of Lake Season. I hope you enjoy these characters as much as I did. 

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Denise

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Harlequin Holiday Blog Tour

If you're looking for a variety of holiday romances to curl up with this month, check out these titles from Harlequin! There are stories that will make you laugh, make you cry, make you sigh, and fill your heart with joy.

Coming Home for Christmas
by RaeAnne Thayne

Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth was trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents and she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life.

And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger, or the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined.

As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

This book has all the feels! RaeAnne Thayne engaged just about every emotion I have with this story, ripping my heart apart then putting it back together stronger than before. I've read almost her entire back list and I think this is some of her strongest writing ever. What this family has endured is heartbreaking, leaving all of them dealing with strong emotions when they're finally reunited after seven years. I found all of their reactions to be realistic and understandable. Thayne doesn't give them any quick fixes, instead flawlessly guiding them through the peaks and valleys of grief, anger, fear, and forgiveness as they all begin to deal with their new realities. I couldn't stop reading. I cried for what they'd been through and I cried with joy for what they'd found. This one is a keeper. 

An Alaskan Christmas
by Jennifer Snow

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

Sometimes, you really can go home. I so enjoyed this journey to love between two strong-willed people: a workaholic, city surgeon and a small-town, search and rescue leader. Talk about opposites attracting! Snow packs this first book in her Wild River series with lots of sizzle, heart, action, adventure, and complicated family dynamics. Her characters are complex and multi-layered. I became invested in them quickly and fully engaged in the issues surrounding them and standing in the way of a potential HEA. Snow's descriptions of Wild River bring the small town to life as well as the people who live there. I'm already looking forward to many more stories set there and hoping Cassie's will be next. 

A Wedding in December
by Sarah Morgan

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.
Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…
Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!

A lovely blend of women's fiction and romance, Sarah Morgan's A Wedding in December will have you laughing, sniffling, and sighing with delight. There's such a wonderfully real, and complex, family dynamic going on here that's fully explored along with each of the three romantic relationships. Bride and groom to be, Rosie and Dan are young, in love, and I couldn't help but be in their corner. While both of them seem to be easy going and uncomplicated at first, I liked the bite Morgan puts in each of these characters and enjoyed their evolution through the book, especially Rosie's. Katie, the over-protective older sister has perhaps the greatest amount of growth throughout the story. My heart ached for her and, though I didn't care much for her at the start, she ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the book. But it's the parents who stole the show, at least for me. Their hilarious, complex, and poignant second chance romance, set in motion because they lied and told everyone they were on their second honeymoon, was the highlight of the book for me. I enthusiastically recommend adding A Wedding in December to your holiday reading. 

Cowboy Christmas Redemption
by Maisey Yates

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?

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!

Christmas From the Heart
by Sheila Roberts

Olivia Berg’s charity, Christmas from the Heart, has helped generations of families in need in Pine River, Washington, but this year might be the end of the road. Hightower Enterprises, one of their biggest donors since way back when Olivia’s grandmother ran the charity, has been taken over by Ebenezer Scrooge the Second, aka CFO Guy Hightower, and he’s declared there will be no more money coming to Christmas from the Heart.

Guy is simply being practical. Hightower Enterprises needs to tighten its belt, and when you don’t have money to spare, you don’t have money to share. You’d think even the pushy Olivia Berg could understand that.

With charitable donations dwindling, Olivia’s Christmas budget depends on Hightower’s contribution. She’s focused her whole life on helping this small town, even putting her love life on hold to support her mission.

When Guy’s Maserati breaks down at the edge of the Cascade foothills, he’s relieved to be rescued by a pretty young woman who drives him to the nearby town of Pine River. Until he realizes his rescuer is none other than Olivia Berg. What’s a Scrooge to do? Plug his nose and eat fruitcake and hope she doesn’t learn his true identity before he can get out of town. What could go wrong?

I can always count on Sheila Roberts for humorous, heartwarming, holiday romance. This year, she's bringing readers a new, feel-good story that gives a nod to the classic tale, A Christmas Carol. Once again, I found myself delightfully immersed in the lives and loves of the citizens of a small, Washington town.  

I love Sheila Roberts' characters. They're so delightfully real, with all the flaws and quirks we find in ourselves and those around us. I like that even though they may have good intentions, they don't always make the best decisions. I enjoy how they evolve, often taking two steps back for each step forward as they move toward their happily ever after, wherever, and with whomever, that may be. I love the spirit of kindness, love, sharing, and forgiveness that she weaves throughout this story. I also turned the final page with a smile on my face, joy in my heart, and the conviction that, once again, two deserving characters have found the person they're meant to share life with. 


Have you read any of these titles yet? I have Brenda Novak's Christmas in Silver Springs on my Kindle so watch for my review of that soon.

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, December 17, will receive one Kindle copy of their choice from the six titles shown in the header. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Excerpt & Giveaway - - Christmas Knight by Pam Binder


by Pam Binder
Matchmaker Café Series - Book 5 
Wild Rose Press
November 2019 trade paperback and eBook

Colin Edward Penrose, a knight from fifteenth-century Glastonbury, England, must solve the riddle of his family's curse and marry a woman out of time—or lose his ancestral home. With a matchmaker's help, he meets a woman to whom he feels an instant attraction, but he knows the curse makes falling in love dangerous for her.

Madeline Murphy, defense attorney in a prestigious law firm, needs a date for her family's Christmas Eve party. In desperation, she turns to a matchmaker for her knight in shining armor. The man supplied exceeds her wildest fantasy but vanishes without a trace. 

A year later she needs a date for her mother's wedding, and she asks the same matchmaker. One problem: In order to find her mystery man, she must travel through time.

For exclusive use of The Romance Dish

The Romani had buttoned up for the night. Children were tucked in bed, the food and tables put away, and the fires banked for the night. Guards patrolled the grounds and men and women took turns tending the fire throughout the night. The message was clear. If they needed to leave in a hurry, all they would have to do is hitch the horses to the wagons. They were a nomadic tribe, distrusted and feared because they were different. Without warning, and sometimes without cause, other people might attack and try to drive them away. They had to be ready.

When they reached the wagon she shared with Aunty Florica, Madeline took the blanket from
Colin’s arms.

“Madeline …” He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he said, “If you were mine, I would never leave you.”

The words were impossible. Merlin's Curse stood between them and made her feel as though a cloud hovered over them. She knew he meant every word. She also held onto too many secrets for Colin's words to become reality. What would he think if he knew she was from the future and had come here with the silly idea of searching for a date while he battled issues that had real-life consequences? 

Making her decision, she let the blanket fall to her feet. She leaned up until his mouth was a breath away from hers, his eyes clear and honest in the starlight. Her life in the twenty-first century was the dream. This was the reality she wanted to live.

Repeating the words he’d spoken, she said, “If you were mine, I would never leave you.”

Colin’s arms wrapped around her waist, crushing her against him. His mouth heated hers, and the world disappeared.


If you could time travel to any time and place, when and where would that be and why?

Who do you consider to be your heroic Christmas Knight?

Three randomly chosen people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, December 17, will receive a trade paperback or e-book (winner's choice) copy of CHRISTMAS KNIGHT from Pam Binder. (Must be 18 or older)

Fantasy, young adult and romance novelist in one package—that’s Pam Binder, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with 10 novels and one novella to her credit.

          Consistent in Pam’s novels are time-bending flights of fantasy, other-worldliness and a reverence for history, with an emphasis on Celtic legends and anything Irish or Scottish. She crafts each novel to support her branding statement that “Time is an illusion and love, the only reality.”  Her next latest time travel novel, CHRISTMAS KNIGHT, is a November 2019 release and the fifth story in her Matchmaker Café series with The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

          A Seattle-area resident, Binder is president of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and annually chairs the group’s Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Devoted to helping aspiring authors succeed, she teaches two year-long courses, "Write Your Story" and "After the First Draft.” She also presents frequently at reader writer and library conventions. Among her many honors is RT Book Reviews’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
          For more information about Binder, visit