Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Excerpt and Giveaway - - Beachside Beginnings


Beachside Beginnings
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 4
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 21, 2020

Moira Wellman has always loved makeovers—helping women find their most beautiful selves. Funny how it’s taken her five years with her abusive boyfriend, Lang, to realize she needs a life makeover. When Moira finally gets the courage to leave Lang, the beachside town of Moonlight Harbor is the perfect place to start over.

Soon Moira is right at home, working at Waves Salon, making new friends and helping her clients find new confidence. When she meets a handsome police officer, she’s more than willing to give him a free haircut. Maybe even her heart. But is she really ready for romance after Lang? And what if her new friend is in hot pursuit of that same cop? This is worse than a bad perm.

With all the heart and humor readers have come to expect from a Sheila Roberts novel, Beachside Beginnings is the story of one woman finding the courage to live her best life. And where better to live it than at the beach?


Excerpt

You’re not in the city anymore, Moira thought, as she and Jenna walked into The Drunken Sailor. The clubs where she and Lang used to dance were slick and expensive, with fancy bars and hip d├ęcor. This place was . . .  What was it?
          Two carved wooden lady pirates with boobs spilling out of their pirate vests greeted them. Off to one side was an eating area with a floor littered with peanut shells. She watched in shock as a couple of patrons, enjoying their beers, shelled peanuts from a plastic bowl and dropped the shells on the ground. She might not have had the most high-class childhood, but even she knew you shouldn’t throw stuff on the floor.
          Jenna saw her gaping. “It’s part of the charm.”
          “Okay,” Moira said dubiously, not sure if Jenna was being serious or facetious.
          A couple of pool tables sat across from the dining area and adjacent to the bar, both in use. Moira saw Seth Waters standing by one, leaning on his pool cue and waiting his turn to play. She gave him a tentative wave, and he smiled and lifted a hand from the top of his pool cue. She was sure Jenna had seen him, too, but she didn’t wave. What was with those two?
          They moved farther into the place, stopping at the bar to pick up sodas and say hi to Brody, who was comfortable with a beer and some nachos.
          “I see you brought a recruit,” he said, smiling at Moira. The man sure had a high-wattage smile.
          “I did,” Jenna replied.
          “Are you going to dance?” Moira asked him.
          “No,” Jenna answered for him. “He’s too chicken to get out there and make a fool of himself.”
          “Cluck, cluck,” Brody said and lifted his beer in salute. “I’d rather watch. Jenna’s worth the price of a beer,” he added with a grin.
          She shook her head at him. “Thanks.” She picked up her Coke and said to Moira, “Come on. I’ll introduce you around.”
          There were plenty of people to meet, including their teacher, Austin Banks, who was dolled up in tight jeans, elaborately embroidered boots and a Western shirt. She’d finished off her outfit with pink earrings shaped like miniature cowgirl hats.
          Great hair, thought Moira as they were introduced. Thick and long and highlighted. Where did Austin get her hair done? At Waves?
          “Austin and Roy own the kite shop,” Jenna explained.
          Moira had never in her life flown a kite. What would that be like? Maybe she’d have to find out.
          Tyrella Lamb was there, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, her dreadlocks clacking with colorful beads. “You’re going to love this,” she promised Moira.
          Moira’s heart did a little giddyap at the sight of a certain good-looking man who was just stepping onto the dance floor to join the dancers. “I think I am,” she said.
          Nope, this sure wasn’t some club in the city. It was better. Way better.
Moira had thought the guy looked sexy in his police uniform, but now, in boots, jeans and a black T-shirt that hugged those impressive pecs, Victor looked ready for the cover of a romance novel. She caught a glimpse of a tattoo peeking out of his sleeves. Tats on guys were so sexy. Hazel eyes, square jaw. He was the whole package. With all that thick hair, he’d probably never have to worry about going bald. And it had some body to it. Oh, yes, she’d like to get her hands in his hair.
          He seemed to be walking in their general direction, so Jenna called him over. “Victor, have you met Moira Wellman?” she asked him. “She’s staying with us at the Driftwood until she can get settled.”
          “I’m betting he’s wanting to,” Tyrella said, and her words made a pink tide rise up his neck and onto his cheeks.
          A man who blushed, that was adorable. “We did meet, sort of,” Moira said. “He gave me a police escort to work.”
          “Our tax dollars in action,” Jenna teased, and the pink grew deeper.
          I don’t like to ticket newcomers if I can help it,” he said in his own defense.
          “We’re just giving you a hard time,” Jenna told him. To Moira she said, “Victor is one of our best cops, and we’re lucky to have him here in Moonlight Harbor.”
          “Moira suspected any woman would be lucky to have him. Period.
          “Are you settling in okay?” he asked her.
          She nodded. “I am. Everyone here is . . .” not nice, so much more than nice “. . . so kind.” It wasn’t a very fancy word, but kind truly said it all.
          He nodded.
          Tyrella and Jenna both suddenly saw other people they needed to talk to and left Moira and Victor to themselves. Hardly obvious at all. Now Moira could feel her cheeks getting a little warm.
          “I’ve never done this before,” she confessed. She looked down at her suede half boots. “I don’t have any cowgirl boots.”
          “You don’t need ‘em. You’ll be fine,” he said. “Ask me if you need any help with the steps.”
          Their teacher took her place in front of the dancers and spoke into her mic. “Okay, everybody, are y’all ready to shake it?”
          “Oh, yeah,” said several people.
          “We’ve got a couple of newbies with us,” Austin said, “so you experts be sure to help them out. And just so our newcomers don’t feel too lost, let’s all demonstrate a couple of steps, starting with a grapevine. You just step with one foot, put your other foot behind and then land back on your starting foot. Easy, right? Let’s all try it. You ready? Here we go, to the right.”
          That was easy enough. Moira managed to keep up.
          “We’ll often do a triple step. It looks like this,” she said and demonstrated. “Okay, let’s all try that.”
          Moira triple stepped right along with the best of them.
          “All right. And a kick-ball-change.”
          Kick-ball-change. It was getting a little harder.
          “Good,” said Austin. “I think we’re ready to learn a new dance. Let’s start with ‘Dirty Boots.’”
          Dirty boots, dirty dancing . . . sex. Okay, slow down, Moira told herself.
          Speaking of slowing down, was there a remedial line dancing class? “Is this a beginner’s class?” she asked Victor.
          “This first part is pretty much. She gets more complicated after the first half hour.”
          If this was beginner level, Moira sure didn’t want to see the more advanced stuff. By the time Austin had walked them all the way through the first dance, Moira’s brain was on the verge of exploding.
          “Now, let’s try this with the music,” Austin said.
          “Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up,” Victor assured Moira.
          The steps didn’t want to be picked up. It seemed at every turn she was either facing the wrong way or running into someone. Wow! Who knew line dancing was so hard?
          And it only got harder with the next three dances.
          Moira was more than ready to take a break by the time the dance lesson ended.
          People were moving toward the bar to get drinks. Jenna was busy talking to Brody, and Moira was busy feeling like the proverbial third wheel when Victor came up to the bar where they were standing and asked Moira, “Can I buy you something to eat?”
          She was broke. And hungry. And he was friendly and interested and had her hormones hopping. But did she need to be hopping into anything?
          “Never turn down a free meal,” Jenna said to her with a wink.
          It was only something to eat, and she wasn’t going home with him. “Okay.”
          “We’ll save you a place by the dance floor,” Jenna promised and left.
          “I see a free table over in the corner,” Victor said and led her to it, their feet crunching on peanut shells as they went. “So, what do you think of Moonlight Harbor?” he asked, once they’d settled at the table.
          “It’s really charming,” she said. Sure different than where I lived in Seattle.”
          “Yeah?” he prompted.
          “You know what cities are like—lots of traffic, people, high cost of living.” And not just in terms of money.
          “Oh, yeah. Here there’s no such thing as rush hour.”
          “Or crime?”
          He shrugged. “We have some break-ins, some people living on the edge, doing drugs. No place is crime-free. But Moonlight Harbor comes close.”
          “Have you always lived here?” Moira asked.
          “No. I’m from Portland. Wound up in Seattle after the army—I was an MP, and police work seemed like the next step. I got hired by the Seattle PD. My family’s there, so I tried it for a while, but then this job opened up. I always wanted to live by the beach. This works for me. How about you? What brought you here?”
          Fear. She gave him her standard line. “It was time to move on.” That was what she’d done: she’d moved on, not run away. Okay, she’d run away, and she was glad she had.
          Their waitress came over to take their orders, and that put a halt to the conversation. But after they’d ordered burgers, he returned them to it.
          He took a drink from his water glass, then casually asked, “Did you leave a lot of friends behind?”
          “Some good ones.” She was going to miss hanging out with Michael and his family.
          “Anyone special?”
          Of course he wanted to know. He was obviously interested in her. And she certainly was attracted to him. Still, she wasn’t going to tell all to someone she’d just met. “There was someone, but he turned out not to be special at all. How about you?”
          “Nope. But I’m thinkin’ I might have found someone here,” he said and smiled.
          Dimples. He had dimples when he smiled.
          “I like your ink,” he said, pointing to her neck.
          She’d put her hair up, and the butterfly was on full display. “Thanks.”
          “Any reason you picked a butterfly?”
          Lots of women picked butterflies because they were so pretty. Moira had a different reason.
          “I like the symbolism,” she said. “Breaking out of a cocoon, flying free. That was how I felt after I finished beauty school and moved out. Like I could go anywhere and do anything.”
          He nodded. Then he pulled the sleeve of his T-shirt up to give her a full view of the tattoo on his forearm of a police badge.
          “I guess I don’t need to ask what that symbolizes,” she said.
          He told her anyway. “Commitment, care, peace and justice.”
          He was not only gorgeous, muscled, sweet, but noble, as well. Where was the catch?
          “Okay, what’s wrong with you?” Oh, no. Had she really just said that out loud?
          His eyebrows shot up.  “Huh?”
          Someone had lit her face on fire. Oh, yeah. Her. “That didn’t come out right. I guess what I meant is, everyone’s got flaws. I’m not seeing any in you.” She hadn’t seen any in Lang, either. Not for a long time.
          Victor shook his head and smiled. “I’ve got flaws.”
          “Well, you can’t do drugs.” They tested for that kind of stuff, right?
          “No way. Seen too much of what that does. Not a big drinker, ether. I like a beer once in a while, but that’s about it. I’m competitive. Don’t like to lose at anything.“ He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m pretty boring. Did all my wild stuff when I was a teenager—sneaked out after curfew.”
          Oh, yeah, pretty wild. Moira thought back to her shop-lifting phase and cringed.
          “I got in some fights—a lot of ‘em with my brother,” he added with a grin.
          Fights. The word triggered an uneasiness that had her ignoring her hunger and her burger when the waitress set the plate in front of her. “I read somewhere that police have a bigger domestic abuse problem than the NFL.”
          Victor’s dimples disappeared. “Bullshit.”
          “Sorry?” she said in a small voice.
          “The cops I’ve known are good guys, just trying to do their job.”
          “Of course, I didn’t mean to insult you,” Moira said, backpedaling. Something she’d gotten very good at doing, thanks to Lang.
          “You didn’t. It’s just . . . cops aren’t all that popular these days. I’m guess I’m a little sensitive about it.”
          “People are fearful.”
          “Are you?”
          She hesitated. Was she? Still? Yeah, probably a little. She shrugged. “Not of cops. Really. Just violence in general.”
          His brows pulled together. “I know we just met, but . . . were you around someone with a violence problem?”
          She bit her lip and stared at her burger.
          “A man?”
          No point in denying it. She nodded.
          “That’s why you’re here, in Moonlight Harbor?”
          She nodded again.
          “I’m sorry, Moira. I really am.”
          “It’s behind me now. I’m making a new start. But I’m starting slowly. They said it’s not good to jump into a new relationship when you’ve just gotten out of one.” There was the nebulous they again.
          “I get that,” he said. “And you should take your time. People rush into stuff, and then they’re sorry later.”
          She was so done being sorry. “Thanks for understanding.”
          “I get the whole not-wanting-to-be-burned-again thing. I met somebody a while back who’d been with a copy who cheated on her. After that, she didn’t want anything to do with cops.” He shrugged like it was no big deal and took a bite of his burger.
          “Not even with you? Moira guessed.
          “Hard to imagine, huh?” he joked, and his cheeks took on a rosy hue.
          “Yes, it is,” she said and felt her own face heating up again. “I guess when it comes down to it, we all just want to be loved and treated well.” And sometimes we fall for somebody and let him walk all over us because we’re so desperate for love. No more, though. She refused to ever be that desperate again. Lang had convinced her that he was the best she could do. But if she couldn’t do better than him, she’d rather do without.
          “Guess so,” Victor agreed. He seemed so kind and honest. Could she take a chance on another man, on this man? Could she ever trust her instincts again?

~~~~~~~~~~~


USA Today bestselling author Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest—and in a beachside retreat. She’s happily married and has three children. She’s been writing since 1989, but before settling in to her writing career, she owned a singing telegram company and played in a band. Her band days are over, but she still enjoys writing songs. Her novel, ANGEL LANE, was named one of Amazon's top ten romances in 2009. Her novel, ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS, was a Lifetime Network movie, and her romance, THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS, was made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences or hanging out with her girlfriends, she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. Read more about her on www.sheilasplace.com



Moira chooses the beachside town of Moonlight Harbor to begin the next chapter of her life. Tell me about your favorite beach town...or the one you would most like to visit.

Two people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, April 9, will receive a copy of Beachside Beginnings. 

*Must be 18 or older






Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Coming Attractions




Well, here we are, folks. April is upon us and, so far, 2020 is like no other year I've ever lived. When so many of us said we were tired of 2019 and couldn't wait for the new year, this is not what we had in mind. I've now been living away from home for two months. I was visiting family in another state when the virus broke and, as I live alone, everyone (including yours truly) felt it would be safer for me to stay put. I have a wonderful friend taking care of my home for me and I'm grateful to have family who have welcomed me into their home for an indefinite stay. So far, we've managed to not drive one another crazy. ;-) 

One of the things I've discovered during this crisis is that "stuff" is not important...but books are. I do not consider my books "stuff," in case you were wondering. I have a feeling this year's spring cleaning, whenever it occurs, will be very different from years past. Streamline and declutter will be my mission directives. My books - romances, in particular - are still the vehicles that allow me to escape fear and worry for a while, though it's increasingly been much more difficult to focus my thoughts into a review that allows you readers to share the comfort these stories are giving me. I hope I'm giving the books, and authors, the credit they deserve. The good news is that there are some wonderful stories on the horizon over the next few months and I can't wait to share them with you. For now, I send you love, courage, strength, my wishes for good health and safety, and good books to bring you comfort.



Wednesday, April 1, stop by to read my tour review of Redeeming the Reclusive Earl by Virginia Heath. This is my favorite of the books by this author that I've read to date.







On Friday, April 3, a new reviewer, A.S. Cookie, joins the Dish with her review of Hidden Hearts by Marci Bolden. If you enjoy romance with mystery and suspense, be sure to check out her review. 





Monday, April 6 brings my review of PIVOT, an anthology with three inter-connected novellas by romantic suspense authors Kat Martin, Alexandra Ivy, and Rebecca Zanetti. I'll be reading more offerings from all three. 






Join me on Wednesday, April 8 for an excerpt from Beachside Beginnings, the upcoming fourth book in Sheila Roberts' Moonlight Harbor series. Along with the excerpt, the publisher will also be hosting a two-book giveaway.






Nancy Herkness launches her new The Consultants series this month with The Money Man. Swing by Friday, April 10 to read my review.








Monday, April 20 brings a tour review of Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, a new women's fiction novel by Robyn Carr.







I'm sharing my thoughts about Liz Talley's upcoming women's fiction novel, The Wedding War on Tuesday, April 21









It's more Sheila Roberts on Wednesday, April 22 when I review Beachside Beginnings





There will be more reviews throughout the month and maybe a surprise giveaway or two so don't be a stranger. 

Tell me what you're doing to find comfort in these scary times.

Are you reading any good books? Share the titles.

Are you stress baking? Share the recipes! (I'll share mine below)

I'll randomly choose one person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, April 8, to receive a $10 e-gift card from Amazon. 


APPLE CRISP

I've made two batches in the past week. It goes fast! 



Peel and slice 8-10 large apples. Place in ungreased baking dish.

Mix 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups baking mix, 1 stick cold butter (cut into small cubes), and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Crumble topping over apples.

Bake at 375 F. for 30-40 minutes.

I use a mix of tart and sweet apples. If using all sweet apples, sprinkle sliced apples with lemon juice before covering with topping. 

Great with vanilla ice cream!



Monday, April 6, 2020

Review - - PIVOT


PIVOT
A three-novella Anthology
by Kat Martin, Alexandra Ivy, and Rebecca Zanetti
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  


In PIVOT, three friends, each survivors of a brutal childhood, grew up together in foster care.

Now as women, they’re fighting for their lives again.

When Meriwether Jones and her young daughter run from trouble in L.A., that trouble follows. By the time Meri reaches Spokane, she's out of gas, money, and ideas. 

Her prayers are answered when ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help his aging father. But Meri is keeping a dangerous secret - and Ian is in danger of losing his heart.  

Melanie Cassidy finds trouble when she tries to save a young boy from being kidnapped. The last thing she expects is former love-of-her-life, Detective Gray Hawkins, to appear and rescue them both. But her good-Samaritan efforts pull her and Gray into a conspiracy of drug dealers and dirty cops - and forces them to examine the relationship they'd once abandoned.  

Michelle Peach is one of Meri’s closet friends. She’s finally content in Portland - until two rough men break into her home and threaten her life. The last person Michelle wants to see is Evan Boldon, a former Marine turned sheriff. But this time Evan is going to stop the trouble stalking Michele - and win her heart for good. 


PJ's Thoughts:

If you weren't a fan of these three authors before, you will be after reading the sexy, suspense-filled, inter-connected  stories in this new anthology. I couldn't put it down. 

The main characters in all three stories are vividly portrayed with realistic obstacles in their way. The women are in danger but not your stereotypical damsels in distress. While the three heroes are all alphas, set on protecting the women they love, those same women are not about to twiddle their thumbs on the sidelines. They hold their own with strength and determination, especially when their loved ones are at risk. And the men, warriors all, are gentle and loving with the ones who hold their hearts. I especially loved Ian's relationship with Meri's four-year-old daughter, Lily.  

I was impressed with the flow and continuity of the three novellas, each written by one of the three authors. While each novella has a beginning and end, together, they form what feels like a full length book, with story and character overlap. By the time I reached the end, it was easy to forget that these characters aren't part of the same fictional world but, rather, are parts of worlds created separately by each of the authors. 

I'm already well acquainted with Kat Martin's books (I've been reading her for years) and enjoyed getting to know another Brodie cousin (I somehow missed this story the first time around (in the novella Against the Heart). While I know of Rebecca Zanetti and Alexandra Ivy, I had not yet read their books. These new novellas, which include ties to series of their own, were enough to have me correcting that oversight. I'll be taking a closer look at Ivy's books soon but the first thing I did after finishing Pivot was to download the three books in Zanetti's Deep Ops series. I cannot wait to read Raider's and Wolfe's stories, especially Wolfe's, a secondary character in Pivot who darn near stole his entire novella. 


~~~~~~~~~


PIVOT

An interesting Concept

My upcoming release, PIVOT, began as a novella that I wrote sometime back to introduce my BOSS Inc. series. Ian Brodie was the owner of the security firm, a tall, good-looking blond man, one of the Brodie cousins. The novella was AGAINST THE HEART, a Romantic Suspense set in a rural area of Spokane, Washington.

A year ago, Alicia Condon, my editor at Kensington, came to me with an idea for a collaborative novel that would include novellas by two other authors. Their stories would revolve around Ian Brodie and Meriwether Jones, the hero and heroine of AGAINST the HEART. The idea intrigued me and we decided to go forward.

Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti, both bestselling authors of Romantic Suspense, came on board and started writing, taking sub characters from Ian and Meri’s story, telling their own stories, and giving us a glimpse of Ian and Meri’s life going forward. In PIVOT, Alexandra and Rebecca started with the premise that the three girls involved in the stories shared brutal childhoods and grew up together in foster care. Now as women, they’re fighting for their lives again.

When Meriwether Jones and her young daughter run from trouble in L.A., that trouble follows. By the time Meri reaches Spokane, she’s out of gas, money, and ideas. Then her prayers are answered when ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help his aging father. But Meri is keeping a dangerous secret—-and Ian is in danger of losing his heart. 

Melanie Cassidy finds trouble when she tries to save a young boy from being kidnapped. The last thing she expects is former love-of-her-life, Detective Gray Hawkins, to appear and rescue them both. But her good-Samaritan efforts pull her and Gray into a conspiracy of drug dealers and dirty cops—-and forces them to examine the relationship
they’d once abandoned.

Michelle Peach is one of Meri’s closet friends. She is finally content in Portland—-until two rough men break into her home and threaten her life. The last person Michelle wants to see is Evan Boldon, a former Marine turned sheriff. But this time Evan is going to stop the trouble stalking Michelle-—and win her heart for good.

I hope you’ll give this fun read a try. And if you haven’t read the BOSS Inc. series, INTO THE FURY, INTO THE WHIRLWIND, and INTO THE FIRESTORM, I hope you will. 

Till next time, happy reading and all best, Kat

 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Review - - Hidden Hearts


  • I'm delighted to welcome my friend, A.S. Cookie to The Romance Dish today and share with our readers her review of Hidden Hearts by Marci Bolden. 

  • Hidden Hearts
  • by Marci Bolden  
  • Publisher: Pink Sand Press (October 15, 2019)
  • Release Date: October 15, 2019
  • Reviewed by: A.S. Cookie
  •   
Former Army Sergeant Holly Austin and her team at the HEARTS agency don’t normally find the police at their door. But it’s been weeks since a local woman vanished into thin air...and now there’s a second victim.

Police Detective Jack Tarek wasn’t officially working the Julia Frederickson case until a second victim made the matter personal. Holly is willing to cooperate with Jack “unofficially,” but she quickly becomes a distraction he can’t resist. The leads on their cases might be running cold, but the attraction between the investigators is sizzling hot.

With every lead a dead end, those close to the investigation grow increasingly impatient for answers. Just as hidden secrets come to light, one of the investigators vanishes without a trace. The HEARTS team has just hours to solve the case—or risk losing one of their own.

A.S. Cookie says:  

When I read that book blurb, I was intrigued, and thrilled to receive a copy from NetGalley in exchange for my thoughts.
My go-to genre is romance and one of my favorite sub-genres is suspense/mystery.  This book hits both with finesse.  As a new to me author, I didn't know what to expect when I received Hidden Hearts by Marci Bolden, but am happy to report this book is a winner in my eyes.  
Both the romance and mystery are handled well, enough romance to keep me interested in the characters and enough mystery to keep me turning the pages. She has written an engaging story introducing the women of Hearts agency.  It's a solid and believable premise to continue both the romance and suspense that this first book established. 

The characters are well formed, likeable, yet imperfect, the women are strong and the plot is intricate with nuances. 
While I enjoy many types of books, depending on my mood I'll pick up a New Adult, Women's Fiction, Historical, Comedy, sweet to heat, this story has another favorite element of mine, the characters are "seasoned".  Both Holly and Jack have had life experiences, dangerous professions and have perservered through personal hits and misses. I particularly liked that the Heart agency is run by strong independent women.  They don't "need" men in their lives, but it definitely is a perk!
I will be looking forward to reading more in this series, and revisiting the women of Hearts. I hope their stories are as enjoyable as Holly's. 
As of today, the rest of the books in the Hearts series are #2: Eva in Burning Hearts and #3: Alexa in Stolen Hearts. Yet to come are Renee, Tika and Samantha. 
I am a binge reader, so after I read #2 and #3, I'll be checking out Marci's backlist while waiting (impatiently) for the rest of the series.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tour Review - - Redeeming the Reclusive Earl


Redeeming the Reclusive Earl
by Virginia Heath
Publisher: Harlequin Historical
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  




His heart is a fortress.

And she’s trespassing!After losing all he holds dear in a horrific fire, Max Aldersley, Earl of Rivenhall, shuns the world—until he catches Effie Nithercott digging holes on his estate! He banishes the intrepid archaeologist and the unsettled feelings she rouses within him. But she returns even more determined and infuriatingly desirable than before! He wonders just how deep she’s prepared to dig—so far she’ll reach the man beneath his scars?




PJ's Thoughts:

I only discovered Virginia Heath within the past year but I've become an enthusiastic fan of her writing. I adored Effie and Max, and their unconventional journey to love is my favorite of her books to date. 

Effie is a brilliant, determined woman who has learned through experience that she's probably destined to spend her life alone. Men are typically scared off by her enormous intellect and unwillingness to keep it hidden. In fact, her brain rarely quiets. Neither does her mouth. In modern times, she'd most likely be diagnosed as ADHD. She's driven to uncover the archeological secrets beneath the ground of the Earl of Rivenhall's estate and frustrated by the men of science who refuse to take her seriously simply because she's a woman. She's also equal parts frustrated and fascinated by Max, the reclusive new earl who keeps trying to banish her from his estate. 

The tragic detour in Max's life was sudden and devastating, leaving him grappling with deep physical and emotional wounds. Not only is he mourning the loss of his beloved career but he's also learned to view himself as a scarred monster, unworthy of love. I wanted to toss his former betrothed off the nearest cliff for making him feel that way. Effie is, of course, exactly what he needs in his life but we all know it's going to be a rocky road before he comes to that realization. The journey is both endearing and humorous, and had me laughing out loud more than once while also wiping away a few tears. 

The banter between these two is an absolute delight. I love how Effie challenges Max with dogged determination that ever so slowly begins to bring him out of the darkness and back to life, proving to him that he's worthy of being loved for exactly who he now is and that his dreams don't need to be cast aside. And, I love, love, love the grand gesture that Max uses to show Effie, and the world, that her brilliance should not only be accepted but celebrated. I turned the final page confident that these two are destined for a lifetime of adventure and love. And wishing I could tag along for the ride. 


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