Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Review - - Island Affair


Island Affair
by Priscilla Oliveras
Keys to Love - Book 1
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  


Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancĂ© . . .
 
Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their fake relationship fade like the stunning sunset . . . or blossom into something beautiful?


PJ's Thoughts:

I was easily sucked into this fun and flirty story with a sensual island vibe and heart tugging emotional authenticity. Yes, the beginning is a bit implausible but Sara and Luis are so likable, and relatable, that I was quickly willing to suspend disbelief and immerse myself in their story. I really loved these two together. The fact that they are complete strangers when they agree to their fake engagement allows readers to learn about each of them as they learn about one another. It was enjoyable to watch their friendship begin to form, then gradually deepen into something more.  

Both Luis and Sara have families that are integral to their emotional journeys. I enjoyed watching those challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking, family issues play out over the course of the book. By incorporating each of their families into the story and giving them significant page time, readers are able to get to know the secondary characters and more fully understand the nuances, and challenges, within each family. I especially enjoyed time spent with the Navarros and am excited that they will be the focus of this series going forward. I want to sit at their dinner table, cook with Luis's mami, and bask in the loving chaos of this tight-knit, but complex, Cuban-American familia. I am more than ready for more Navarro romance! 

If you've ever visited Key West (or even if you haven't), Island Affair will transport you to the laid back island's sunny days, sultry nights, and rich cultural diversity. The love this author holds for her childhood home, as well as her ability to craft a sweet and sassy story with satisfying emotional depth, shines through on every page. 


Monday, April 27, 2020

Review - - The Deception


Because of tomorrow's Mass Market Paperback release of The Deception by Kat Martin, I'm re-posting the review I wrote in 2019 when the book was first published in hardcover. 

The Deception
by Kat Martin
Maximum Security - Book 2
Publisher: HQN
Paperback Release Date: April 28, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  


When missing turns to murdered, one woman's search for answers will take her to a place she never wanted to go… After searching for her sister for two long years, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she’s called to the morgue to identify Chrissy’s body, the runaway teen the victim of a brutal attack. Guilt and grief send Kate into a tailspin. She failed Chrissy once…she won’t do it again. Even if finding her sister’s killer means following a lethal bounty hunter into the heart of darkness, placing both their lives in danger. Working at Maximum Security has taken Jason Maddox down some dangerous paths, but never for a client he’s so drawn to, or for a case so monstrous. As clues lead them deeper into the city’s underbelly, connections to human trafficking draw them closer and closer to peril, but even Jase’s warnings can’t convince Kate to walk away. As the deadly operation puts a target on their backs, they’ll have to decide what matters most: the truth…or their lives.

My thoughts:

Kat Martin cranks up the heat, and the stakes, in this newest addition to her Maximum Security, romantic suspense series. Filled with non-stop action, edge-of-the-seat suspense, and twists and turns that had me guessing how it would all turn out until almost the end, this page-turner kept me reading late into the night. Jason and Kate are such a well-matched couple. I loved them in the bedroom (hot!) and in the field (where Kate really comes into her own). This is a story of growth, of connection, of determination to avenge a horrible death, to rescue innocents from the same fate, to discover your life's passion and, in the process, the person you're meant to share that life, and passion, with. 

Martin grabbed me from the first page, pulled me into a dark and gritty world of drugs, money laundering, and human trafficking, and kept me riveted until the end. Characters are well-developed, inciting emotional responses across the board. A sub-plot involving a young girl is especially riveting...and heart-wrenching. (content warning for underage human trafficking). It's an emotional roller-coaster with a hard-won, well-deserved, happy ending awaiting the good guys and a satisfying reckoning for the bad ones. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Big news from Kat regarding Linc and Carly
in Beyond Reason! If you haven't read the
book yet, check out my review here

The Deception
Kat Martin

As I was finishing the last few pages of my novel, THE DECEPTION, Hawk Maddox and Kate Gallagher’s story, I got an interesting phone call.  I’m fortunate to be represented by a literary agency in New York as well as an agency in Hollywood. 
Since I love movies, I’ve always wanted to see one of my books made into a feature film.  The Hollywood agency phoned about my novel BEYOND REASON.  The story is set in Texas, an action adventure that revolves around the rivalry between Carly Drake, who inherits her grandfather’s failing trucking firm, and powerful, multimillionaire Lincoln Cain, her number one competitor.
Worse yet, Carly needs Linc’s help to find the men who are willing to kill to keep her from making Drake Trucking successful again. 
Big money is involved.  And very big danger.
The transaction involving the rights was exciting from beginning to end, with David Haring at TinRes Entertainment making the offer, several agents negotiating the terms,and me thrilled to have a chance to see one of my books made into a film.  Most likely, the story will be a made-for-TV movie, but it is also optioned with the possibility of a major motion picture or TV series.  I would love to see 6’5” Lincoln Cain on a weekly TV show!
Once the deal was completed, I went back to work on THE DECEPTION, the paperback is being released on April 28th.  I hope you will watch for it and that you will also keep an eye out for Linc and Carly’s movie.  It takes years to complete a film but I promise to keep you posted on details as they come in. 

Till then happy reading and all best wishes, Kat    




Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin.  More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries.  Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film.  Kat’s next hardcover, THE ULTIMATE  BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released on July 28th.


PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON
Kindle  
Barnes & Noble
Nook  
INDIEBOUND

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Winner - - Seductive Scot






The randomly chosen winner of an e-book copy of

Seductive Scot 

by Julie Johnstone and Cecilia Mecca is:

Pamela Devereux

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Friday, April 24, 2020

Review - - The Highland Rogue


The Highland Rogue
by Amy Jarecki
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 24, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie
 


After a vicious attack on his ship, Sir Kennan Cameron washes ashore on a deserted Scottish island, nearly dead. But he soon finds he's not as alone as he thought. Kennan knows he can't stay on the island, but neither can he leave the brave and bonny lass who has nursed him back to health -- even if she is from a rival clan.

Abandoned by her family, Divana Campbell is both terrified and relieved when a rugged Highlander drags himself from the surf. Trusting Kennan is her only chance for survival -- and by the time they arrive at his castle, she can barely imagine life without him. But as the heir to a powerful chieftain, Kennan could never marry the likes of her.

Together, they'll brave tempests, pirates, betrayal, and ruin. But soon Kennan must decide what matters most: his thirst for vengeance or the woman who's won his heart.


Hellie’s Heeds:

This book grabs you from page one and does not let go. I have read several of Jarecki’s books--and though they are more hit than miss for me--this one is easily my favorite in the series. The more I read, the more I was impressed by the characters, the pacing, and the plot. In the first chapter, the hero’s ship is taken by pirates--and the crew is lost--and you think the hero will be lost (but obviously can’t be--we know he’s the hero!) Then the next chapter shows us the heroine, a young woman who has been exiled to an island to die because she and her family had had smallpox, but she’d lived and had been surviving there for two years. Who are these characters? The hurdles these two overcome are riveting.

Kennen takes Divana with him when he’s able to get a ship to come save them, and he takes her to his family home, promising her a life better than what she had, one with all the blankets and food she could want. It’s clear that he as a laird-to-be and she a young woman of very humble circumstances would never work out to be together, and this conflict of the Lord and the Maidservant is a hard one to overcome in an era where young lords married women of wealth and land. Both characters deeply know they can never be together in that way, but they cannot help but be drawn to each other. For Divanna, she knows she loves him and a life with him would be unheard of, but she is willing to be with him in whatever capacity. 

When Kennan is healed enough to return to the seas to seek revenge on the pirate who nearly killed him, he is surprised to find a stowaway, the sweet and troubling woman who saved him more than once in their short time together. He disguises her as a cabin boy (ha, ha, ha!) and the crew sails on, on the tail of Jackson Vane, determined to get back the stolen treasure as well as kill the man who betrayed Kennan to Vane in the first place. Divana soon finds her stride on the ship; and it’s not long before she and the Captain are sharing more than sleeping quarters. 

When Divana is kidnapped by Jackson Vane, Kennan truly realizes how important she is to him--and that when he gets her back, he will move heaven and earth to keep her. It is ever so satisfying...and Divana is really the perfect match for Kennan in every way. I highly recommend.



Thursday, April 23, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - Seductive Scot


Seductive Scot
by Julie Johnstone and Cecilia Mecca
Highlanders Through Time - Book 3
Publisher: Darbyshire Publishing
Release Date: April 23, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
 


He crossed time on a mission to rescue his family but discovered the one woman with the power to save him.

Reikart McCaim doesn’t want to be saved—despite the fact that he’s a time traveler from 2020 New Orleans stuck in medieval Scotland. He holds his jagged secrets close to his chest and wants to keep them that way. Even if he could open up to the incredible woman fate has tossed in his path, they’d both be shredded by the things he can’t let go of. Still, he needs her help. In his time, his father lies in a coma with only one wish: to see Reikart’s mother again, whom he’s always claimed was a time traveler pulled back to her true time. Two of Reikart’s brothers already traveled back to search for her, but they are missing, too. Now, Reikart must find his family and secure the magic cross they need to return to their time. And the lass who is everything he wants but cannot allow himself to have is the only one who can recover it.

Deirdre Irvine’s life is a disaster, and it’s about to get a whole lot messier. She’s been betrayed by her brother, and she finds herself unwittingly embroiled in a plot to gain control of the Scottish throne. Not to mention she’s harboring enormous guilt over failing the sister she adores. So when the unexpected chance to prove herself to her sister arises, Deirdre will do anything to use the opportunity to her advantage. It doesn’t matter that it means putting herself in danger and joining forces with a man who claims he’s from the future. But she is woefully unprepared for the jeopardy he puts her heart in.

For a scarred man and wounded lass, their greatest obstacle may not be the centuries that divide them, but the walls they’ve erected themselves. As Deirdre’s and Reikart’s lives intertwine and they’re confronted with dangerous enemies, she’s about to discover a strength she never knew she had, and he’s about to learn that facing his ghosts may be the only way to save not only himself but the woman he now loves.


PJ's Thoughts:

After reading Sinful Scot, book one in the Highlanders Through Time series, I was convinced Deirdre Irvine was a scheming traitor who had betrayed both her country and her sister. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she was the heroine of book three! Clearly, matters were not as they appeared in regards to her culpability. Or, so I hoped. As for Reikart, he is certainly more than he appears at first glance. Even his family is unaware of the magnitude of the immense burden of guilt he carries and how it continues to impact his life. Only a woman with Deirdre's strength and determination could have any chance of breaking through his barriers to release his guilt and bring hope - and love - to his future. But even that may not be enough to see these two through to a happily ever after.

I loved this book. It's my favorite of the series so far. The first two books of the series were filled with a lot of danger and action (which I enjoy) but, while this one has its share of that, the primary focus is on the characters, their individual growth, and the evolution of their relationships. Both of them have heartbreaking, emotional wounds that have not healed. Deirdre is determined to earn back her sister's love and trust while Reikart is determined to never open his heart to love again. Both also have a burning desire for the other that cannot be quenched. And, both will do whatever is necessary to keep the other safe. They broke my heart, then filled that same heart with joy. I couldn't get enough of them. 

While there's an abundance of deep emotion in this story (parts were heartbreaking and, yes, there were tears), Johnstone maintains that emotional depth without allowing it to become too dark by lightening the story with well-placed humor and some delicious sizzle. I especially enjoyed the snappy banter between Deirdre and Reikart, and the unabashed matchmaking going on at the hands of Reikart's mother and aunt, and Deirdre's sister (now also Reikart's sister-in-law). And, as always, the historical facts and figures interwoven throughout add an enjoyable realism to the tale. 

I've loved getting to know these brothers, each so different from the others yet all undeniably bound to one another by the love and loyalty of family. I'm already sad about the prospect of saying goodbye to them and yet also eagerly anticipating the fourth, and final, chapter of their journey, youngest brother Ian's story, in book four: Scandalous Scot

If you enjoy time-travel romances, you'll want to be sure this series is on your must-read list. If you haven't discovered time-travel yet, the Highlanders Through Time series is a great place to begin. I recommend reading the books in order: Sinful Scot, Sexy Scot, Seductive Scot, and (coming May 19) Scandalous Scot


~~~~~~~~


Have you read any of the books in this series yet?

If you could time travel, where would you go?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, April 24, will receive an e-book copy of Seductive Scot.

*Must be 18 or older


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Review - - Beachside Beginnings


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


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.




PJ's Thoughts:

What better place to start over than Moonlight Harbor, where new friendships and new beginnings await? I've grown to love this little town and the characters who call it home, and Moira is one of my favorites. I loved watching her evolve throughout the book, gaining strength and confidence while  slowly taking back her life after escaping an abusive relationship. Roberts handles Moira's situation with care, acknowledging its gravity without abandoning hope or giving us a story that is all darkness and no light. Beachside Beginnings contains the author's signature humor and warmth, along with more than a few quirky characters, while also layering in substance and emotion. 

Moira is due some good romance and blushing police officer, Victor King is the man for the job. He's so darn adorable and exactly what Moira needs in her life. She needs friends too and Moonlight Harbor is filled with interesting women ready to step in. It's going to take a village to bring Moira back to the strong, confident woman she was before her ex ripped apart her life, and the friendships she forms in this small town help her do just that. I love that Roberts' takes that street both ways by also taking us along on the journeys Moira's new boss and new friends are traveling. It was satisfying to see these women come together to help one another become their best selves, address difficult situations in their lives, overcome fear to take the first tentative steps into the next chapters of their lives, and triumph over the obstacles standing in the way of their happiness...which, as they learn, can sometimes be themselves.

This is book four in Sheila Roberts' Moonlight Harbor series.  You don't have to have read the previous books to enjoy this one but, if you have, it's fun to catch up with ongoing characters and story lines, especially a certain pastor and the woman who loves him, and a certain motel owner whose heart is being pulled in two very different directions.

Moonlight Harbor is a great place to lose yourself for a few hours and Beachside Beginnings is an empowering, heart-tugging way to do it. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Release Day Review - - The Wedding War



The Wedding War
by Liz Talley
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  


Once upon a time, Melanie Layton and Tennyson O’Rourke were inseparable—but their friends-4ever promises were shattered when an explosive secret was revealed at Mel’s wedding, a secret that destroyed her family. The two haven’t spoken for the past twenty-some-odd years, and they’d be happy if they never crossed paths again.
But now Mel’s daughter and Teeny’s son have fallen in love—and announced their engagement.
Which means the two women must tolerate one another and play nice long enough to plan their children’s dream wedding. From the beginning, they clash. Melanie imagines a classy, elegant event, in keeping with tradition. Teeny’s vision is a bit more extravagant, and thanks to her habit of marrying well, she’s got the cash to plan the flashiest wedding of the season.
Complicating matters are the men in their lives: Tennyson is falling for the wrong guy, and Melanie is trying to hold on to a flailing marriage. Amid the flurry of cake tastings, dress fittings, seating charts, and bridal showers, Mel and Teeny confront their past mistakes—with twenty years of pent-up drama.
When the day of the wedding finally arrives, their friendship might just be something old and something new.

PJ's Thoughts:

I have the feeling this is going to be one of those books that readers will either love or hate (I enjoyed it). It's a poignant, humorous, and sometimes shocking look at the lives of two women, childhood best friends, who, after a life-changing betrayal, are brought together once again when their children fall in love. The characters are not always nice and some of their antics would have even Reality TV housewives doing a double take. I don't know if I would have ever been able to forgive the betrayal that ended their friendship but, in spite of that, I couldn't help but hope that there was still goodness lurking in the depths of one and strength to be found in the other. And, as dysfunctional as their relationship was, I really hoped that they would be able to find a way to, if not repair their former friendship, at least forge a new one going forward. The resolution Talley created is one in which I was able to believe and appreciate. 

Teeny and Mel are flawed, complex women who took me on quite the emotional ride. I laughed, cringed, laughed, gasped, cringed some more, and also shed a few tears before reaching the end of their story. It's a humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, frequently over the top, no holds barred look at a friendship that's gone off the rails, but just might find its way back on track, and I could not look away. 



FREE with Kindle Unlimited
Audiobook
Audible Direct -- https://adbl.co/2QrEBBm
Paperback 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tour Review - - Sunrise on Half Moon Bay





Sunrise on Half Moon Bay
by Robyn Carr
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 14, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
 



Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other.

When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.

Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.

Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.


PJ's Thoughts:

Once again, Robyn Carr has brought a story to life that engaged my interest, and my emotions, from start to finish. Using flawed characters, and realistic situations, she takes readers on one family's journey of heartbreak, self-discovery, reconciliation, unexpected change, and new beginnings. I couldn't put it down.

Of the two sisters, I had a greater affinity for Justine, the older sister whose marriage is falling apart. That may be due to my age, or the fact that I'm the (take-charge) oldest in my family and have a sibling twenty years younger. But in Addie, Carr has also created a younger character who put her life on hold to spend the past eight years as a caregiver. I'm sure many readers, myself included, who have walked that path will also be able to relate to the difficulties Addie has moving forward once those duties come to an end. (I'm glad Carr shows the importance of therapy in dealing with Addie's issues as well as for Justine's daughters). I suspect most readers will identify with one sister or the other, while still more will feel a greater empathy for Justine's teenage daughters as they navigate the changes brought about by the divorce of their parents and the fall-out from their father's ongoing actions. That's part of Carr's skill as a writer: creating a community of unique characters who appeal to a broad range of readers and then bringing them together to create a heart-tugging whole that can be appreciated by all. In this book, she utilizes those skills to allow readers into the thoughts and emotions of each of the women, allowing us to experience their strengths, weaknesses, joys, and fears as they work to overcome the challenges life - and a self-absorbed louse of a husband - have put in their way, strengthen their familial bonds, and redefine what they want their futures to be. I spent a lot of time cheering them on.

In addition to the primary characters, Carr has also assembled a cast of secondary characters who add depth, conflict, and hope to the story. I especially enjoyed the social workers at the workplace reentry center where Addie works. There are also love interests for both Justine and Addie (great guys I was pulling for all the way) who play significant roles in their lives and their personal evolution, though this is not a book that I would classify as romance. It's more women's fiction with romantic elements. The most important journey here is that of the women. Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is an emotion-packed, empowering story that I enthusiastically recommend. 


Buy Links: 
Kobo


Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women's fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan's Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Review - - Smash and Grab


Smash and Grab
by Lori Matthews
Callahan Security Series - Book 2
Publisher: Wild Coyote Press
Release Date: April 9, 2020
Reviewed by PJ
  


Logan Callahan, the CEO of Callahan Security, knows he’s out of his depth.

The woman he came to the Bahamas to investigate was kidnapped, and he was taken right along with her. He knew the sexy lady lawyer was trouble. He just had no idea how much.

Taken. Again. Lacy Carmichael on the other hand, was not new to the “Kidnap and Ransom” game. After all, when your father was one of the largest arms dealers in the world, danger comes with the territory, and she’d learned how to talk or fight her way out of almost anything.

But this time Logan was grabbed with her, so she’ll have to reveal all her secrets in order to save both of their asses.

If only she wasn’t so damned smart and sexy, Logan would find staying level-headed much easier. After all, she could be the spy his brothers are looking for.

Searching for a way out of the mess, and fighting their mutual attraction, will take all of Logan’s and Lacy’s collective skills.

Unfortunately, deception and betrayal by those they trust the most changes the rules of the game, and they find themselves battling for both their lives and their love.


PJ's Thoughts:

This is only the second novel Lori Matthews has published but she is fast becoming one of my go-to romantic suspense authors. Filled with suspense, romance, and plenty of danger, Smash and Grab continues the mystery begun in book one, Break and Enter, while adding a new twist into the mix. The chemistry between Lacy and Logan sizzles and it was fun to watch the two former legal adversaries begin to view one another in a new light as they're forced to work together to outwit their kidnappers. We discover that both characters are much more than expected. The guy we met in book one is not at all the person I expected Logan to be in book two. I loved his hidden depths! Lacy, on the other hand, is a well of secrets and contradictions with family complications - and expectations - that have been steering her toward an inescapable destination. Understandably, as truths are revealed, trust is tested, and Matthews inserts enough twists and turns into the story to keep me (and Logan) wondering right up until the end just how everything will turn out. It's a wild ride and oh, so worth it. 

I can't wait to find out what Matthews has in store for us in the next Callahan Security novel!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Donna Kauffman - - Rest in Peace





I'm so very sad to share the news of the death of Donna Kauffman. The romance community has lost another beloved author. (Read her USA Today obituary

I didn't know Donna well but I did have the opportunity to meet her in person on several occasions. One of those was at last year's Book Lovers Con (photo below). 

Liz Talley, PJ, Donna Kauffman, Sally Kilpatrick


As usual, Donna was upbeat and joyous. In fact, I can't remember a single encounter with her over the years when she wasn't smiling, gracious, and kind. 

Donna's most recent book, Under a Firefly Moon, was released in January and takes readers back to Blue Hollow Falls for another witty, heart-tugging story. As is typically the case with her books, it has garnered plenty of wonderful, 5-star reviews. 

My condolences go out to Donna's family, friends, and all who loved her and her stories. May she rest in peace and may her kindness and joy be a guiding light to us all.