Friday, January 31, 2020

Tour Review - - Lilian and the Irresistible Duke

Lilian and the Irresistible Duke
by Virginia Heath
Secrets of a Victorian Household - Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin Historical
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Mills and Boon
Release Date: January 23, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

A reunion in Rome…Sparks an affair to remember!
Responsible widow Lilian Fairclough is persuaded to travel to Rome for a hard-earned break and to let down her hair! She’s surprised to be reunited with passionate, cynical Italian duke, Pietro Venturi. He reawakens her sensual side and intrigues her with glimpses of pain beneath his rakish surface. Enticed into a secret and temporary affair – what will happen once she returns home?

PJ's Thoughts:

I enjoy reading about characters at all stages of life but being a woman "of a certain age," I have to admit I do have a special fondness for a hero and heroine with a bit of seasoning. There is, after all, no expiration date on desire and romance. Both the hero and heroine in this book are past their 40th birthdays, widowed, and have no interest in marrying again. Lilian deeply loved her husband and had a wonderful marriage while Pietro, whose father forced him into an arranged marriage at a young age, has never loved. But both are still vibrant, sensual people and the attraction between them, immediate and fierce. 

I love that Heath takes Lilian out of her English comfort zone and away from friends and family for whom she would have remained "proper." By setting the story in Italy, she allows Lilian to blossom, throwing off societal restrictions, and engaging in a glorious love affair under the Roman sun. While it was a joy to watch Lilian embrace the latent sensuality that had always been a hidden part of her, it was equally enjoyable to watch Pietro, a notorious playboy who has indulged his sensuality frequently, learn to gradually open himself to emotions of the heart. 

The city of Rome features prominently in the story, with Heath bringing various parts of the ancient city alive through her descriptions. For someone who has visited multiple times, it was as if I was walking through ancient ruins and scenic hillsides along with the characters. For readers who have yet to visit Rome, it will make you want to book a ticket and pack your bags.

Pietro and Liliana's love story takes a leisurely path yet there was enough conflict, and growth, to hold my interest throughout. It can be read as a standalone, although references made to past events, and people, in Lilian's life left me wondering if there was more to learn about her character than what was included in this book. I began to question whether this book was part of a series and discovered that it, in fact, is the fourth book in a multi-author series with the first three books telling the stories of Lilian's three children. I enjoyed Lilian and the Irresistible Duke, and can recommend it as a standalone, but I have a feeling I might have had a deeper appreciation for Lilian's character, and the events that had brought her to this stage of her life, had I read the previous three books first which, after reading the epilogue, I am now inclined to do. 

Do you enjoy heroes and heroines with a bit more life experience?

Have you read any of Virginia Heath's books yet?


When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Despite that, it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Winner - - The Carousel

The randomly chosen winner of a Kindle copy of

The Carousel by J.A. Stone is:



Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review - - Scot Under the Covers

Scot Under the Covers
by Suzanne Enoch
The Wild Wicked Highlanders - Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

In Scot Under the Covers, a resourceful English lady and a hot-blooded Highlander join forces to trick a scoundrel, and every rule will be broken!
Miranda Harris is known for her charm, wit, and ability to solve any problem she encounters. But when her brother lands neck-deep in gambling debt to a crafty villain and Miranda is subsequently blackmailed into marrying him, she must enlist the help of the devil himself to save the family honor—and herself.
Devilishly handsome Highlander Aden MacTaggert knows next to nothing about the ways of the ton, but he most certainly knows his way around gaming halls and womens’ hearts. Still, Aden is not sure how he’ll manage to find a Sassenach bride in time to save his family’s inheritance. When his almost sister-in-law Miranda comes to him for assistance, he proposes a partnership: She will help him navigate London society and he’ll teach her everything about wagering…and winning back her freedom. The beautiful, clever lass intrigues Aden—but is she playing her own game, or are the sparks between them real? He is accustomed to risking his pocket. But betting on Miranda’s love is a game he can’t afford to lose. . .

PJ's Thoughts:

I am having so much fun with this new series by Suzanne Enoch. Following on the heels of book one, It's Getting Scot in Here, Niall and Amy's story, Scot Under the Covers brings middle brother, Aden into the spotlight. Readers met Aden in book one but he's still a bit of a mystery when his book begins so I came into this story with an open mind about both him and his heroine, Miranda.

The story begins a bit slow but takes off once Miranda approaches Aden, a man she neither likes nor respects, for help in foiling the villainous man who holds the future of Miranda's family, and especially Miranda, herself, in his hands. Knowing Aden gambles, she figures he's cut from the same cloth as the man threatening her. As she comes to learn, that's not the case. From that point on, we're treated to plenty of witty banter, sizzling chemistry, matching of wills, and, a gradual deepening of emotion as Miranda and Aden slowly lower their guards and open themselves to one another...and the reader.  

Aden is so much more than what he's allowed people to see. He made me smile, sigh, and cheer him on every step of the way. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly invested in him and his future happiness. I love how much he respects Miranda's intelligence and her abilities, how he treats her as a partner (even while trying to keep her safe), both in their attempts to take down a villain and when they finally come together in the bedroom. Miranda is someone I'd enjoy being friends with. I appreciated the growth of her character throughout the book, admired her ability to admit she was wrong about Aden, cheered her on when she took control of her life, both in standing up to those threatening her happiness and, again, when she made the decision to take control of her body, her future, and her relationship with Aden.  

Enoch also brings wonderful humor to this book, much of it intertwined with secondary characters such as Smythe, the stuffy English butler, Rory, the well-dressed, stuffed deer the brothers brought with them from the Highlands and installed in their mother's home, Brogan, the dog Aden rescues that he insists is a male (she's not) and insists followed them all the way from the Highlands (she didn't), and, surprisingly, eldest brother, Coll. I'm now eagerly anticipating his book and excited to find out what Enoch has planned for him. 

Another secondary character who has appeared in both books is Miranda's younger brother (the one who put her in danger). I don't know what Enoch has planned for Matthew, who is betrothed to Eloise, the younger sister of Aden, Niall, and Coll, but I'm not nearly ready to forgive him for his actions in Scot Under the Covers. He took baby steps at the end of this book but he's going to have to do some major growing, and groveling, before I'm ready to accept him as Eloise's husband. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - The Carousel

The Carousel
by J.A. Stone
Publisher: Juliana Stone Publishing
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

An emotional journey of four women joined by blood, love, loss and time.

Pruett Fontaine is at a crossroads. Divorced, she’s lost herself and is struggling to find her place. When her estranged mother dies unexpectedly, she’s drawn back to Louisiana, to a family and town she left behind twenty years ago.

With no choice but to deal with her mother’s estate, a father she doesn’t know anymore, and the woman her mother left them for, she brings her teenage daughter to Sweetwater and collides with a past she’s been running from since she was eighteen.

Her mother’s journals open her eyes to a woman she barely knew, and she can’t outrun the sins of the past. Secrets are exposed, tragedies are revealed, and temptation rears its head over the course of one long, hot Louisiana summer.

PJ's Thoughts:

J.A. Stone didn't just tell me a story; she dropped me smack-dab in the middle of Sweetwater, Louisiana, and Prue Fontaine's broken family, both guarding painful secrets of the past, and the fragile hope of forgiveness and redemption in the present. Stone's descriptions of Sweetwater were so vivid that I convinced myself I could smell the sweet aroma of backyard gardens, feel the dense humidity trickle across my skin, and hear the faint strains of a Johnny Cash song intermingled with the sounds of the bayou on a warm, summer night. I could feel the soothing relief of ice-cold beer as it slides down a parched throat, lick the sweet tang of slow-cooked barbecue from sticky fingers, and relive the joys of youth as long-separated friends are reunited and long-ago damaged fences, delicately mended. 

Stone's characters are so realistic, so fully formed, that as I accompanied them on their journey, I felt like I was experiencing it with friends rather than reading about fictional characters on a page. Dysfunctional relationships are fully explored and, based on Prue's relationship with her daughter, I'm very confident the author has mothered a teen-age girl at some point in her life. But it's the character of Lila, Prue's deceased mother, who held me most spellbound. Told through her journal entries, as well as personal recollections of other characters, we all - especially Prue - begin to know the full scope of this character and the impact certain events had on who she was as a girl and who she became as a woman. It was fascinating, heartbreaking, and, in the end, healing. 

I read this book in one day. Once I began reading, the story refused to let go. The characters drew me in, engaging both my interest and my emotions from beginning to end and the mystery of Lila kept me guessing right up to the reveal. It's the kind of story I'd love to see played out on screen. In fact, the experience of reading this book was so immersive that at times I felt like I was watching a movie. I hope that Stone will venture into this type of storytelling again. She has a clear talent for it.


Because I enjoyed this book so much, I'd like to share the experience with one of you, so tell me...

What was the last book you read that you'd love to see on screen?

Have you read any of Juliana (a/k/a J.A.) Stone's contemporary romances? 

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, January 29, 2020, will receive a Kindle copy of The Carousel

*Must be 18 or older 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Winner - - Elicia Hyder Giveaway

The randomly chosen winner of the

Elicia Hyder Giveaway is:



Please send your full name, mailing address, and choice of book

 (The Detective, The Mercenary, or The Archangel) to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - For Love of the Duke

The randomly chosen winner of a copy of

For Love of the Duke by Christi Caldwell is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, January 24, 2020

Coastal Magic Author Spotlight - - Elicia Hyder

Welcome back to another spotlight of a featured author for the 2020 Coastal Magic Convention. The convention is only four weeks away and the author I'm delighted to introduce you to today is the irrepressible and multi-talented Elicia Hyder. I first met Elicia four years ago at a reader-author event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I've been fortunate to attend many events over the years where I have met numerous authors but few - no, let me amend that - none have been quite as memorable as my introduction to Elicia. You see, rather than shaking hands over a table at an author signing, or exchanging conversation over cocktails at a meet and greet, I first met Elicia in the hallway of my hotel, in my pajamas, with bed head and no makeup, somewhere between midnight and dawn, while fire alarms were blaring all around us. Even if I didn't enjoy her books - and I do - and even if she wasn't a woman whose zest for life is inspiring - and it is - she would still be an author I would never forget. A very interesting life path (read more on her website and follow her on social media) has led this wife and mother of five to a full-time career as a writer of paranormal suspense and contemporary romance/women's fiction. 

Back in the eighties, my late husband and I became avid fans of women's roller derby, watching bouts on TV and supporting our local team so, of course, I was excited when I first heard that Elicia Hyder was planning a contemporary series set within that world. Even more exciting was learning that she created this series after spending time "living the life" as a member of the Nashville Rollergirls. Her first-hand experience comes to life in these stories that are filled with humor, likeable characters, strong female friendships, and women challenging themselves to discover their strengths, and weaknesses, and, ultimately, be their best selves.

The first book in Hyder's Music City Rollers series is Lights Out Lucy

Lucy Cooper isn't looking for love when she finds it - or slams into it, rather - during rush hour traffic. But her heart, like her car, is a total loss the moment West Adler steps out of his truck to inspect the damage. 

West truly is the perfect guy; handsome, funny, rich. The benefactor of not one, but two children's hospitals. And he's the main sponsor of the Music City Rollers, Nashville's championship roller derby team. 

When Lucy discovers the Rollers are actively recruiting "Fresh Meat," she puts her life on the line to catch West Adler's attention. But will accident-prone Lucy skate off with the heart of Nashville's Most Eligible Bachelor? Or will she get herself killed in a sport that promises, "It's not a matter of if you'll get hurt - but of how bad and when."

It's a story that had me smiling from beginning to end, immersed in the lives of these characters, and totally hooked on the series by the time I reached the final page. 

Book two, Britches Get Stitches, was released last March. 

Best revenge on a cheating man?
A dozen eggs.
A stolen dog.
And a night with his very best friend.

After a two-year struggle to conceive ends with her husband getting another woman pregnant, Grace "Britches Get Stitches" Evans is taking out her frustrations on the roller derby track. Full-contact violence and absolutely no cheating men? Best divorce-support group ever. 

With the help of her teammates, Grace is reclaiming one piece of her broken heart at a time--starting with the family dog, which she lost in the divorce. When the dognapping ends with a call to the police, the best revenge shows up at her door in the form of Officer Jason Bradley. He's hot. He loves animals. And he's her ex-husband's best friend. 

Then her ex does the unimaginable, threatening everything she has left as well as the new life she's started to build. Only Grace isn't the woman he kicked to the curb anymore. Derby has taught her a priceless lesson... 

How to hit back.

I was there for every step of this multi-layered, personal journey as Grace rediscovers her passion for life, and love, along with her confidence, strength, and self-worth. It's a journey filled with laughter, anguish, devious revenge (I may have cheered), more laughter, a few tears, and a sigh-inducing, dog-loving hero who not only captured Grace's heart but mine as well. And then there's the wonderful supporting cast, led by Grace's college intern, a snobby senior customer with surprising depths, Grace's family (loved them but I would never accept an invitation to dinner), and Bodhi, the adorable dog who might turn her into a felon (but it would be so worth it). 

I can't wait to find out what Elicia Hyder has in store for the ladies of the Music City Rollers next! 


When Elicia isn't busy writing contemporary roller derby romance she's hard at work creating new additions to her enormously popular The Soul Summoner series and The Soul Summoner Companion Stories. If you enjoy paranormal suspense or urban fantasy thrillers, you won't want to miss these spellbinding stories. 

Blessed or cursed with a connection to the souls of others, Sloan Jordan can see the best in people...and the worst. With nothing more than a glance at a photograph, she can judge the living from the dead and the good souls from the evil ones. For twenty-seven years, she's kept her ability a secret, but eleven young woman have been murdered in the mountains of North Carolina, and Sloan may be the only hope of finding their killer. 

She has agreed to help Detective Nathan McNamara with the case, when a stranger--who is as alluring as he is terrifying--shows up at her doorstep with a dark past and another puzzling mystery: she can't see his soul at all.

Now Sloan is on the hunt for a deadly psychopath with two irresistible men. One of them would die for her, and the other one would kill to keep her safe. 

With more than 1800 reviews and a 4.5 star average on Amazon, the first book, The Soul Summoner, will have you hooked and eagerly anticipating each subsequent book in the series (many of which are currently on sale or available in reduced-price boxed sets). Hyder brings this beloved series to a conclusion on March 31, 2020 with the release of book nine: The Daughter of Zion

It all ends where it first began...

Life as Warren Parish knew it fell apart during his short time away from Earth. Now the most vile demon of all time is assembling his army to destroy mankind.

The final showdown has begun.

The Detective, The Mercenary, and The Archangel are companion stories featuring the three leading men of The Soul Summoner series. Elicia would like to know which type of leading man is your favorite: the funny, drool-worthy detective, the badass, sexy Marine, or the seductive Archangel of Death? 

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, January 25, will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and their choice of a signed copy of The Detective, The Mercenary, or The Archangel. 

*Must be 18 or older

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review - - Blame It on the Billionaire

Blame It on the Billionaire
by Naima Simone
Blackout Billionaires - Book 3
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Release Date: February 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

It was a night filled with secrets, lies…and soul-stealing passion. And now the blackout that turned lowly executive assistant Nadia Jordan and start-up billionaire Grayson Chandler into insatiable lovers leads to a proposal Nadia can’t refuse. As she steps into Grayson’s privileged Chicago world, will his matchmaking mother and vengeful ex destroy her dreams? Or will her fake fiancĂ© make those dreams a reality?

PJ's Thoughts:

I don't know why I haven't read Naima Simone before now. I've certainly heard about her, had friends recommend her books, meant to pick one up. I guess it's always been one of those too-many-books-too-little-time situations. But then, Harlequin sent me an email, asking if I'd like to read and review Blame It on the Billionaire. It's like the universe was telling me I'd waited long enough and needed to read this author. Now. You know what? The universe was right. Simone's well-developed characters, fast-paced plot, steamy chemistry, and emotional depth kept me immersed in the story and cheering for this unlikely couple from beginning to end. 

I couldn't get enough of Nadia. While all the characters, both primary and secondary, are vividly rendered and well-developed, and I loved Nadia and Grayson as a couple, Nadia is the highlight of this book for me. Strong, nurturing, confident, and protective of those she loves, she's put her dreams aside to raise her younger brother, working hard to move them away from their toxic southern hometown and ensure his dreams are fulfilled. She's someone I'd want in my corner, as Gray slowly comes to realize. I love how she defends him against those who should have his best interests at heart, but don't. She may have been the poor, neglected child of a woman of ill repute but the woman she's grown into can hold her own with a billionaire businessman and the elite Chicago society into which he was born. Did I mention how much I loved this character?

It's been a while since I read a Harlequin Desire and Naima Simone's Blame It on the Billionaire was the perfect opportunity for me to dip my reading toes back into their delicious, steamy goodness. This may have been my first Simone novel but I guarantee it won't be my last. In fact, many of her titles are currently on sale for $2.99 and $3.99 in e-book format. Excuse me while I venture off to download Simone titles to my reader's heart's content. 

One more thing. While this is the third book of a series, it stands well on its own. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review - - Five Days With a Duke

Five Days With a Duke
by Christi Caldwell
The Heart of a Scandal - Book 5
Publisher: Christi Caldwell
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Years earlier, Connell Wordsworth, the Duke of Renaud gave up the woman he wanted for the responsibilities thrust upon him. After loss upon loss, he heads to London, for a new home with no memories, no staff, and the only thing he wants in life…to be alone. He’s managing that feat quite nicely until…

Lady Constance Brandley, has a secret. She and her family don’t have two farthings to rub together. A spinster, long past the age of either love or marriage, she finds herself presented with a unique opportunity that could improve her circumstances. Except, that opportunity also brings the unlikeliest of gentlemen into her life—her best friend’s former betrothed, the Duke of Renaud.

Thrown together with the notorious scoundrel, it isn't long before Constance discovers there’s far more to Connell, the Duke of Renaud than the world sees. And soon she finds herself longing for, everything she shouldn’t—the heart of a duke.

PJ's Thoughts:

I adored these two! Connell is an emotionally wounded hero who, suffering painful loss too many times, has shut himself - and his heart - away from the world with only his two (outspoken and highly untrained) servants for company. Constance has also known painful loss but instead of giving up, she decides to save herself by taking a job - a job that leads her directly to the duke who, ten years earlier, dumped her best friend. It's safe to say he is not someone she holds in high esteem. What ensues is snappy banter, sizzling attraction, painful introspection, redemption, forgiveness, and love...accompanied by much laughter, a few tears, and heartfelt sighs of satisfaction. In other words, a typical Caldwell book. She never fails to make me think, make me feel, and leave me happy to have tagged along on another journey to love. 

I'm kind of particular about reading a book series in order, something I usually strongly recommend with Caldwell, but when an author is as prolific as she is, sometimes I have to toss my preferences out the window and just dive in. Five Days With a Duke is the fifth, and final, installment in Caldwell's Heart of a Scandal series. I have not read the first four books in this series yet but did that lessen my enjoyment of this book? No, it did not. As I read Constance and Connell's story, not once did I feel lost or as if I was missing something. Caldwell's storytelling gave me everything I needed to fully embrace these characters, understand the events that had brought them to this point of their lives, and experience the peaks and valleys of their emotions as they forge ahead. Of course, as is typically the case with Caldwell's books, I'm now so fully immersed in her Heart of a Scandal world that I'll be downloading and reading the rest of the books in the series at the first opportunity.


Have you read any Christi Caldwell books?

Do you have a favorite Caldwell book or series?

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, January 23, 2020, will receive a signed, trade-size, print copy of FOR LOVE OF THE DUKE, the first book in Caldwell's Heart of a Duke series. 

*Must be 18 or older
*U.S. addresses only

Monday, January 20, 2020

Review - - Wicked Bite

Wicked Bite 
by Jeaniene Frost
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy

Warning: This is a sequel to Shades of Wicked and picks up where that book left off. There are spoilers for Shades of Wicked in this review.

Everyone’s favorite vampire rogue, Ian from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, finally took center stage last year. In Shades of Wicked, the first book of the Night Rebel trilogy, he teamed up with a vampire Law Guardian named Veritas to hunt down a demon. Veritas wants the demon, Dagon, dead because he tortured her, repeatedly killing her and watching her resurrect, to gain worshippers and power thousands of years ago. Ian wants him dead because, in a moment of horrible but mistaken grief, he sold Dagon his soul. Veritas and Ian formed a somewhat grudging alliance. As they worked together, however, she realized there was much more to Ian than the horny reprobate he showed to the world. He realized she was vulnerable and insecure under her tough facade. They grew to trust each other and even married.

Unfortunately, their confrontation with Dagon was disastrous. He killed Ian and took his soul. Veritas killed Dagon, then bargained with her father, a demigod, to revive Ian. Her father obliged, but he warned her Ian wouldn’t remember anything. To keep Ian safe, she left him with Cat and Bones from the Night Huntress series and went after Dagon on her own.

That brings us to the beginning of Wicked Bite. When the story opens, Ian has remembered far more than anyone anticipated and is gradually regaining other memories. He knows Veritas is his wife, and he wants her back. She’s avoiding him, however, because she’s still going after Dagon and doesn’t want to risk Ian being killed again.

Ian eventually tires of leaving messages Veritas ignores and sues her employer, the vampire council, for keeping her from him. Forced to appear before the council, she tries to convince them she and Ian are not married. She’s still determined to keep him safe by staying away from him while she hunts Dagon. She also doesn’t think he remembers the closeness they’d built and can’t bear to be with him when their relationship is a shadow of what it was. She repeatedly tries to ditch Ian, only to have him pursue her.

As he tries to win her over and she tries to escape to keep him safe, neither manages to gain the upper hand for long. The twists through this part of the book, with each of them foiling the other’s strategies were a delight to read.

Ian eventually forces Veritas to believe his feelings for her, despite his memory gaps, are as strong as they ever were. The two of them then join forces to hunt Dagon.

Veritas’s insecurities are believably and sympathetically drawn. So is the secret part of her nature she fears to unleash lest it turn her into a monster. It’s doubly dangerous because her other nature is magical, but magic is forbidden to vampires, on pain of death. Throughout the story, Ian works to convince her she can accept and control this part of her. His efforts at that and at building their marriage are loyal and stubborn and loving.

As their emotional bond deepens, they’re also resolutely pursuing Dagon. Veritas learns more about the side of herself she stifles, and Ian develops additional, unusual abilities. Their quest leads to an encounter with an enemy from Veritas’s past. This meeting, while it’s nearly disastrous, forces Veritas to confront her past with new eyes. As Ian points out, it’s hard to cast aside beliefs about yourself that were instilled by someone you loved and trusted. That’s exactly what Veritas had to do, and her emotional struggle is skillfully drawn.

The worldbuilding is, as always beautifully done, with the introduction of new races and an exploration of demon culture. The action scenes include choice details without slowing the pace, and the suspense builds to the end of the book. The fights involve a fair amount of blood, and some of them have gory moments. Readers bothered by that may want to skim those scenes.

The one hitch in the book is the arrival of a ghost who supposedly has been helping Veritas but isn’t mentioned until she appears on page eighty-two. She and Veritas then talk as though they’ve been in touch before. I found this confusing.

Veritas and Ian’s confrontation with Dagon at the end of the book forces her to make a choice that could lead to her execution. It also introduces a new demigod, Phanes. If she survives, he’ll complicate her life immensely.

Wicked Bite is a terrific installment in Ian and Veritas’s story. It’s emotionally gripping and full of dynamic action, with great twists and turns in the relationship.

Highly recommended, 4.5 stars.

~ Nancy

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review - - Love Her or Lose Her

by Tessa Bailey
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp. 
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret... and it could demolish everything.

Hellie’s Heeds:

I am all about the 2nd chance at love tropes, and this story ticks all my boxes for a Happily Ever After. What’s even better, it’s not the kind of second chance at love where the couple doesn’t have attraction anymore--oh, no, it’s more complicated. They want each other. BADLY. It’s just they don’t communicate and the reality is, you can’t fix everything in the bedroom, as much as our dear hero Dominic might wish it were so. 

This book about killed me with the romantic gestures that Dominic would do (but no verbal communication! Gah!) and the sizzlingly hot sex scenes...or near sex scenes. (OHMYGOD, “the tip” scene will have you fanning yourself with the book itself. Do not read that scene in public. People will KNOW what kind of scene you are reading. Though that might not bother you--you might just give them the link to Amazon so they can read it themselves, which I highly recommend.) Dominic’s love language, acts of service, will undoubtedly resonate with many readers who have similar mates who would rather have all their teeth pulled than say “I love you” but will do a thousand little gestures that sound unromantic to teenagers but those of us in the trenches recognize as “I Love You” actions. The heroine, Rosie, is adorable and loveable and utterly relatable. She’s a heroine I don’t see represented too often in romance--she’s biracial, and the social conflict that can cause was a new element for me to watch this character navigate something that undoubtedly results in microagressions multiple times a day. But I rooted for her on every page. She’s my favorite Tessa Bailey heroine to date. 

However, it wouldn’t be a Tessa Bailey book if there wasn’t an element of the absurd to have you laughing inappropriately throughout your lunch hour when you sneak another chapter. The “love guru” Rosie picks for their marriage counselor is hysterical. If second chance at love couples aren’t enough for you to pick up this book, do it for the Love Guru Marriage Counselor. And don’t eat or drink anything while you’re reading any scene with him in it because it will come out of your nose. 

The best thing about a romance novel (IMHO) is how it makes the reader reconnect with the idea that love conquers all, and some people are meant to be together if they just do what it takes (within healthy limits, obviously). This couple felt completely real and their happily ever after felt absolute. I highly recommend without reservation. Well, only the reservation, make sure you’re in a safe space when you get to one of the sex scenes… *fans self* Damn.