Monday, November 23, 2020

Review - - Summer Warrior

Summer Warrior
by Regan Walker
The Clan Donald Saga - Book 1
Publisher: Regan Walker Publishing
Release Date: October 7, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
 

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. All hope seemed lost when he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.


Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable story of his path to victory that forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won him the heart of a Norse king’s daughter.

PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about a Regan Walker book is her impeccably researched historical detail and authenticity. That research is abundantly evident in this new novel inspired by the life of Somerled, a real person who played a pivotal role in the 12th century lives of the Gaels, Scots, and Irish. 

While key facets of Somerled's life are recorded such as his birth, death, marriage, children, etc., many details are unknown. Using imagination based upon research, Walker has penned a story that takes readers back to medieval times, bringing real people and fictional characters to life. Through well-developed characters and events, she offers insight into their way of life, including goals, obstacles, and emotions as they might have occurred. 

Using a narrative style, Summer Warrior unfolds in an intriguing and effective way that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time in which they lived. Reading the book was reminiscent of sitting around an open campfire, listening to a master storyteller weave tales from days of yore. 

If you enjoy sagas rich in historical detail and authenticity, Regan Walker is an author I highly recommend. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Winner - - A Duchess A Day

 




The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

A Duchess A Day by Charis Michaels is:

Eileen AW

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com





Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tour Review - - It's Raining Men

It's Raining Men
by Rich Amooi
Publisher: Rich Amooi
Release Date: October 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ






On a dare, Faith Daniels tosses a coin into the infamous “Fountain of Love” and wishes for the perfect man, laughing it off as the dumbest thing she’s ever done. Like magic, her quiet life turns upside-down when men begin to appear out of nowhere, like zombies, but drop-dead gorgeous and without the odd limp. There’s a doctor, a lawyer, a firefighter, and a swimwear model, for starters. All of them are kind, generous, and successful. All of them are interested in Faith. But who is Mr. Right?




PJ's Thoughts:

When I pick up a Rich Amooi novel I can always count on plenty of humor and heart. The same holds true with It's Raining Men but this time there's a bit less laugh-out-loud humor, a greater depth of emotion, and a range of complex, and complicated, relationships. Faith married her high school sweetheart then lost him when he was killed in action overseas. Now approaching forty, her friends have convinced her to get back into the dating game. All of a sudden, Faith's surrounded by gorgeous guys all vying for her time but could her second chance at love be with the one who's been right in front of her all this time? 

I enjoyed Faith and her group of friends and I was all in with Faith's second chance at love. I really liked the guy she ended up with and the fact that their slow-burn relationship was built upon a solid foundation of friendship. I did have to keep reminding myself that I was reading fiction because I had a hard time buying into the way the dynamic among the group of friends played out, especially with Faith, her best girlfriend, and the man Faith ends up with. It's to Amooi's credit that he convinced me it would all work out happily and none of the relationships would suffer in the end.

The secondary cast really lit up the page, bringing humor, conflict, and endearing sweetness to the story. Amooi excels at creating a community of characters who weave in and out of the story seamlessly, adding to its richness and leaving the reader feeling as if they've spent time with good friends.  

If you enjoy romantic comedies with heart, humor, characters with some life experience, and plenty of chemistry but no sex on the page, give Rich Amooi a try. I always turn the final page of his books with a smile. Always. 


Monday, November 16, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - A Duchess a Day

A Duchess a Day
by Charis Michaels
Awakened by a Kiss - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed by PJ




An heiress with a plan…

Lady Helena Lark has spent years trying to escape her wedding to the vain and boring Duke of Lusk. She’s evaded, refused, even run away. When her family’s patience runs out, they pack her off to London to walk down the aisle. But Helena has another idea: find a more suitable bride to take her place, even if she must look for a replacement duchess every day.

 

A bodyguard with a job to do…

Declan Shaw, better known as “The Huntsman,” is a mercenary who can pick and choose his clientele. After his last job, escorting a young noblewoman to France, landed him in jail under false accusations, he wants nothing to do with aristocrats or women. But the law isn’t done with him, and if he agrees to babysit a duke’s errant fiancĂ©, the payout could make his legal troubles go away.

 

A most unexpected alliance…

When their worlds collide, Declan realizes that containing his new client is only slightly harder than keeping his hands off her. Helena senses an ally in her handsome new bodyguard and solicits his help. Together they must escape the forces that oppose them and fight for the fairy-tale love they desire.



PJ's Thoughts:

I adored this book! It's smart, witty, endearing, adventurous, sensual, heart-tugging, funny, feel-good, and all those other adjectives that check my happy reader boxes. Once I began reading I couldn't put it down; I didn't want to put it down. 

Helena is one of my favorite romance heroines this year. I admired her determination, reveled in her deliciously devious mind, cheered her on as she continued to fight against the miserable fate everyone else thought she should be delighted to accept, and melted with her as her heart recognized its mate in the least acceptable person possible. 

And that brings us to Declan. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. His struggle was real and had my heart aching for him, even as I couldn't help but laugh at the predicaments Helena landed them in, sigh at the growing passion between them, and wonder how in the world they were going to find a way out of the entanglement in which they were caught. He was a perfect "Huntsman" who tickled my fancy and captured my heart.

The pace never slowed in this addictive, grown-up fairy tale that had me laughing, sighing, and shedding a few tears for good measure. I love romances inspired by fairy tales and using a secondary character who never got a happy ending as the hero of a new story is such an intriguing premise. Add in the cast of supporting characters, the very clever duchesses-a-day, a loathsome, string-pulling villain, and a surprising savior, and you have a top-notch historical romance that filled me with joy and has me eagerly anticipating more Awakened by a Kiss stories from Charis Michaels.

~~~~~~~~~

What's your favorite fairy tale?

Do you have a favorite romance inspired by a fairy tale?

Have you read Charis Michaels yet? (If not, A Duchess a Day is a great place to begin!)

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, November 18 will receive a print copy of A Duchess a Day

*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only



Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review - - The Captain's Midwinter Bride

The Captain's Midwinter Bride
by Liana De la Rosa
Publisher: Author
Release Date: November 12, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
 
 

Life at sea sharpened Captain Phillip Dalton into a shrewd and strategic military man...yet none of those skills prepared him for the intricacies of planning his daughter’s upcoming Christmas wedding. His family, most especially his wife, are all but strangers to him thanks to his service to the Crown. But if Phillip finds himself bewitched by his practical, charming, and guileless wife, he does his best to hide his struggles.


Annalise Dalton raised two children and built a comfortable life for herself while her husband of convenience provided for them from afar. But now Phillip's home to stay, and she finds it impossible to ignore his gruff manner, brilliant blue eyes, or the gentle way he looks after her needs. And if Annalise is unnerved by the budding feelings her husband inspires in her, she does her best to hide how they unsettle her.

When past secrets and misunderstandings threaten the tenuous steps they've taken to create a real and loving marriage, can Phillip and Annalise overcome the years they spent apart to forge a happy future together, and for every Christmas to come?

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're looking for a quick (114 pages) holiday romance with mature characters, heart-tugging emotion, passionate chemistry, and a sigh-worthy happy ending, this one's for you.

I really enjoyed the depth of emotion in this novella. Marrying for convenience at a young age, with Phillip leaving soon afterward for sea, and infrequent shore leaves over the course of his career, he and Annalise are more strangers than husband and wife. They've been wed for 25 years and have two children but they've never had a real marriage, never formed an emotional bond. I liked them a lot and was pulling for them the entire way. There are many issues they need to work through; not surprising after basically living separate lives for 25 years. I appreciated how De la Rosa took her time with them, navigating them through the awkwardness, the resentment, and the yearning while leading them to a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another. Leading them to what might just be a forever love. 

I also enjoyed the fact that Phillip's reunion with his entire family, not only his wife, was explored in this story. It was so poignant to watch him learn how to be a father to his adult daughter, on the cusp of a marriage that may not be in her best interests. He remembers the young girl who idolized her father but reality has placed him in the path of a resentful adult, firmly on her mother's side, who does not make their reunion easy for him. I enjoyed her journey as well. 

I don't know if the author has plans for future stories for this family but I'm invested in them now, hoping for a happy ending for Beth and definitely intrigued by Oliver. There are also a few other loose family threads that I'd like to see resolved. I'm curious to know what happened all those years ago, and why, and see justice for those who were wronged. I am not ready to say goodbye to the Daltons. 


Friday, November 13, 2020

Review - - Sleigh Ride

Sleigh Ride: A Novella
by Breezie Bennett
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing 
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed by PJ


It's Christmas in the Tropics…but not everyone on the South Florida Riders team is feeling the cheer. When the players and their families gather for a holiday dinner with their beloved coach John Watson, they learn that he’s facing heartbreak in his happy home. Determined to do whatever they can to turn the tide, the couples devise a plan to save Christmas and their coach’s marriage by recreating the night John and Jeanette met…in Vermont. In the snow. On a sleigh.

Can they turn the beaches of South Florida into a romantic winter wonderland? Can they make it snow? Find a sleigh? Get a reindeer to South Beach? When love is on the line, these guys and their wives have to get quite creative. But if there’s one thing a South Florida Rider can do, it’s win at love. All they need is a Christmas miracle and some holiday magic under the palm trees.


PJ's Thoughts:

Breezie Bennett wraps up her South Florida Riders series with a big red bow in this heartwarming, sweetly sexy, and often hilarious Christmas novella. I've been missing these characters and this is such a sweet, fun, and funny way to bid them adieu. 

Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character which gives fans of the series the opportunity to catch up with favorites and see how the characters and the relationships of all the couples have progressed since their books, complete with kids, pets, and a few sweetly sexy times. 

They all head into this project with supreme confidence (they are Super Bowl winning football players, after all) but, of course, their plans don't go quite as smoothly as planned, resulting in much laughter, awkward situations, a few madcap antics, and hastily constructed backup plans. The end result is a feel-good story that kept me happily grinning, and frequently laughing, from the first page to the last.

If you're a fan of Breezie Bennett's South Riders series, you're sure to enjoy this wonderful encore. If this is your introduction to the series,  Bennett has written it in such a way that it can be enjoyed on its own. However, these characters are so fun, and their relationships so charming, that, after reading this novella, it won't surprise me if you want to know them better and immediately download their individual books. As for me, Sleigh Ride made me so happy I just might go back to the beginning and read the series all over again. 


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Review - - Jane in Love

 

Jane in Love

by Rachel Givney

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Reviewed by Hellie

 

 

A charming, romantic debut novel in which Jane Austen, heralded author, ends up time-traveling almost 200 years in the future. There she finds the love she's written about and the destiny she's dreamed of...but is it worth her legacy?

Bath, England, 1803. At 28, Jane Austen prefers walking and reading to balls and assemblies; she dreams of someday publishing her carefully crafted stories. Already on the shelf and in grave danger of becoming a spinster, Jane goes searching for a radical solution—and as a result, seemingly by accident, time-travels. She lands in...

Bath, England, present day. The film set of Northanger Abbey. Sofia Wentworth is a Hollywood actress starring in a new period film, an attempt to reinvent her flagging career and, secretly, an attempt to reinvent her failing marriage. When Sofia meets Jane, she marvels at the young actress who can’t seem to "break character," even off set. And Jane—acquainting herself with the horseless steel carriages and seriously shocking fashion of the twenty-first century— meets Sofia, a woman unlike anyone she’s ever met before. Then she meets Fred, Sofia’s brother, who has the audacity to be handsome, clever, and kind-hearted.

What happens when Jane, against her better judgement, falls in love with Fred? And when Sofia learns the truth about her new friend Jane? And worst of all, if Jane stays with Fred, will she ever achieve her dream, the one she's now seen come true?

 

Hellie’s Heeds: 

I confess I started writing this review before I even finished the book. I also confess I committed the egregiously grave sin of reading the last pages to make sure the ending would be satisfactory. I confess the last time I loved a book so much that I was telling everyone about it and insisting they read it before I was even a third of the way finished, it was the book written by the author who is featured recommending this book on the cover, Graeme Simsion, who wrote The Rosie Project. I confess myself utterly charmed from beginning to end with this story, which when one dives into the world of Jane Austen spin-offs, they are a bit like wish-fulfillments of what we wished had happened. In this regard, this love letter to Jane Austen the author is the kind of wish fulfillment I can get behind. While by no means is “finding a man” the be-all and end-all of happiness, for the author who gave us six near perfect love stories, we do wish she had been able to find that sort of happiness for herself too. In this book, she does (to an extent) and it is as witty and delicious and comical as if Jane had composed it herself.  

I enjoy a good time travel romance--tropes ebb and flow in popularity and I do hope to see more time travel in my future reads--and Jane Austen makes the perfect fish out of water in modern day Bath and London. The author does not make Jane Austen a modern heroine--she is quite in keeping with her time period and social mores, which I appreciated more than I can put into words. The modern characters, Sofia Wentworth and Fred Wentworth are delightful, the former an aging movie star wanting to win her husband back (or does she really? I mean, he’s a real asshat in my book) and the latter a history teacher who thinks this Jane Austen wannabe is taking advantage of his dear sister. We also have this handsome librarian who is very helpful and not at all an asshat who I think deserves his own happy ending.  

Urgency commences when Jane’s books start disappearing from modern time (first Persuasion, then Sense & Sensibility? Oh my! My favorite Alan Rickman movie erased for all time? Jane MUST return!) and Jane is unable to figure out how to reverse the spell to get back to her own time. Further complicating her issues is the fact she is falling more and more in love with Fred. A choice between love in a future (that may or may not exist the longer she stays and things keep disappearing) or returning to her own time and becoming the woman we all know and love? A very modern dilemma: career or love? Still...I think Ms. Givney does an excellent job of giving us both, really, and giving us the wish fulfillment we all dreamed for Jane Austen. I think Jane may even give her own nod of approval from The Other Side, or at least enjoy the social critiques similar to her own for the modern era.  

For me, this is a 5 star, Top Dish, and definitely going on my Keeper Shelf (next to The Rosie Project, incidentally.) That said, those who are purists when it comes to romance will be left a bit cold at this story because when taken at its parts, this is much more a women’s fiction/fantasy than romance (i.e. the guy always gets the girl, the story is primarily about the two getting together and overcoming their hurdles), but I quite enjoyed the feminist themes and didn’t mind that the romance was rather secondary. Or that the more engaging romance wasn’t even between the “primary” characters--since some of the other characters seemed to have better romance trajectories. I know some may take issue with the implication that this book is suggesting women can’t have it all, that the story is forcing a choice that doesn’t have to be made. Haven’t we grown up with “Women can have it all”? We can--at least eventually, I say--but I would also say we can’t have it all at the same time. And still...as women, we know when we’re juggling so many tasks, some things have to be let go, and usually the easiest ones of those to drop are those things we do for ourselves, like writing or making art...and I think that is a conundrum explored in this book. Besides, I think those who are successful at juggling all the tasks do have spouses in their lives who support them in honoring that part of their lives, help them create the space for it, and if you do find someone who loves you enough to get out of your way and let you do what you love, isn’t that the real thing? Isn’t that the true love we all hope for ourselves? I think that is the moral of the story in the end.

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Review - - The Christmas Bride

The Christmas Bride
by Anne Gracie
The Chance Sisters - Book 4.5
Publisher: Gracie Enterprises
Release Date: November 9, 2020
Reviewed by PJ


A chance meeting on a dark highway, a wounded heroine, a hero-in-waiting and Christmas . . .


When Blake Ashton reluctantly returns to England for a business meeting—his first visit in ten years—he learns his partners are getting ready for a big family Christmas in the country. Ash wants none of that. He has just one plan in mind—to show his face, then immediately return to his free and easy life in the Far East.
Making his way to Devon on a freezing dark night, he's accosted on the road by a footpad. Shots are exchanged and to Ash's horror he discovers he's accidentally wounded a girl. Ash can't leave her bleeding in the road, so he stays and tends her.
Charlotte Underwood, in hiding from an unscrupulous guardian, is battling to support herself and her little brother. Wounded, and helpless in the hands of this handsome stranger, Charley soon realizes her heart is in danger from him too.
Swept into a family Christmas with Max and Abby Davenham, and Abby's 'sisters of the heart'—not to mention their imperious aunt, Lady Beatrice—Charley finds the friendship and support her lonely heart craves. And as his feelings for Charley grow, Ash is forced to face up to his own past, and the reason he left England in the first place.

PJ's Thoughts:

It's not an easy task to write a 125-page novella that gives me the emotion, context, and multi-layered characters of a full-length novel but that's exactly what Anne Gracie has accomplished in The Christmas Bride.

First, let me say how incredibly excited I was to discover Gracie had set this story within her Chance Sisters universe. I adore those characters and have always wanted to know what happened to Blake "Ash" Ashton, the partner in Flynn & Co. who refused to return to England. He was somewhat of a mysterious secondary character who was begging for his story to be told. Okay, okay, maybe it was we readers who were begging but the important part of this is that, finally, his story has been told and it is everything I had hoped it would be.

One of the things I most enjoy about Anne Gracie's novels are her beautifully developed characters and they are on full display in this novella. No cardboard cutouts here. Each character is well formed and wonderfully layered. Charley (Charlotte), Ash, and Charley's younger brother, Toby are the stars of the story but Lady Beatrice, the Chance sisters, their partners, and Ash's family all contribute in meaningful ways.

The Christmas Bride is the best kind of Christmas gift, a story brimming with humor, hope, forgiveness, redemption, family, and love. It made me laugh, shed a few tears, and smile with happiness. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those quick, holiday comfort reads I turn to again and again.




 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Review - - The Flip Side: A Novel

The Flip Side: A Novel
by James Bailey
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: November 17, 2020
Reviewed by PJ


To coin a phrase, Josh is suffering a quarter-life crisis. He just broke up with his long-term girlfriend, lost his job, and moved back home with his parents (shudder). Welcome to rock bottom in Bristol. As Josh starts questioning all his life choices, he has a mad thought: Maybe he would just be better flipping a coin. After all, careful planning has landed him homeless, jobless, and single.

What starts as a joke soon becomes serious and Josh decides to start putting his faith in the capriciousness of currency. He doesn’t have anything to lose.

But when the chance of a lifetime and the girl of his dreams are on the line, will the coin guide him to a rich love life or leave him flat broke?




PJ's Thoughts:


The Flip Side is a lighthearted, humorous romcom with a side of sweet romance and a cast of interesting characters. At the beginning of the story, Josh is not what I would call a strong male lead - at times, it feels like he's twenty-eight going on fourteen - and yet he's oddly endearing and I found myself rooting for him. He has yet to choose a career or really see any project he undertakes through to completion, as his friends point out to him repeatedly. After his proposal to his long-time girlfriend goes horribly awry and he finds himself back home with his loving but annoyingly intrusive parents, it's almost understandable that he would turn his decisions over to the flip of a coin. The story follows him through a full year of flipped decisions with consequences that range from cringe-worthy, to sweetly endearing, to outright hilarious and, finally, to a potentially life-altering decision that he just may need to make for himself instead of relying on the coin. I enjoyed his adventures, the excitement, the heartbreak, and the growth he experienced along the way. 


The secondary cast is quite the interesting collection. My favorite secondary character was Josh's grandfather. The relationship between Josh and his Pap really touched my heart. I found the dynamic among Josh and his friends to be realistic and entertaining. Josh's parents walked a fine line between character and caricature, injecting a fair amount of humor into the story though they started to wear on me after a while. I'm guessing some of that may have to do with the fact that I'm American and the setting, characters, and humor in this book are profoundly British. 


The story travels from England to the Continent and I really enjoyed the author's spot-on descriptions of both settings and residents of Amsterdam and Paris. It was a bit like taking a European tour without leaving the comfort of your home.


Josh's romantic thread is not the primary facet of this story but, when we get to it, adds a touch of emotional depth and sweetness. I admit, I was expecting that thread to weave in a different direction but was ultimately satisfied with the path the author chose to take.


Most of the romcoms I've read are told from a predominantly female perspective so having this one be from a male perspective was refreshingly original. If you enjoy lighthearted British humor with a touch of romance give The Flip Side a try. 



Monday, November 9, 2020

Review - - A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
by Manda Collins
A Lady's Guide - Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed by Santa


A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins is a five star read for me. I was beyond excited when I first learned that Manda Collins had written a mystery romance. I was happy to discover it was much more than simply that. Elements of both a mystery and a romance are masterfully interwoven throughout the book making it a winner for readers of both genres. 

Lady Katherine Bascomb is a widow whose unhappy marriage gave her ownership of her husband’s newspaper, The Gazette. Some of the men of her circle see women as too delicate for such an enterprise. To their minds young ladies and women should be shielded from life’s more demanding and, at times, uglier side. To encourage women to be strong and able to take care of themselves would only  lead to mischief and mayhem. 

Lady Katherine could not agree less and she finds a like-minded woman in Miss Caroline Hardcastle. Together they create a new column for the paper that will instruct women on how to better look out for themselves. They name it A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem. Their first column is a massive hit. It provides a description of, what some believe to be, the Commandment Killer. 

This revelation has a ripple effect which throws Lady Katherine into the direct path of Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham who - thanks to the article - was removed as chief inspector on the case. A man is arrested which Andrew thinks is a mistake. Lady Katherine and Andrew clash but soon realize two keen minds are better than one as they together pursue clues which bring them closer to danger and a killer. 

Manda Collins’ writing will keep you on the edge of your seat. The dialog is witty and crisp. Inspector Eversham is both a sigh-worthy and a sharp-minded investigator. He is very different from Lady Katherine’s unlamented late husband. Their passionate exchanges spark an undeniable attraction between these two characters that will keep you turning the page for more.