Monday, August 31, 2020

Coming Attractions



September is on the horizon (wow, how did that happen?) and it's bringing a whole lot of great books with it. It's also bringing plenty of fun to The Romance Dish! Here's what's on the schedule for September.

We kick things off Tuesday, September 1 with a review of Jayci Lee's Secret Crush Seduction. This second book in Lee's The Heirs of Hansol series for Harlequin Desire is a friends-to-lovers story, centered within a Korean-American family and their fashion empire. It's sexy, emotional, and hard to put down.


Wednesday, September 2, brings a review of Trust Fund FiancĂ© by Naima Simone. Also a Harlequin Desire, this 4th book in the multi-author, Texas Cattleman's Club, Rags to Riches series can be enjoyed on its own. In fact, I've already enjoyed this marriage-of-convenience, friends-to-lovers story twice, and probably will do so again. 

Stop by Thursday, September 3, for a review of Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay. The second book in Livesay's Girls Trip series, this one is a sexy, sassy, heart-tugging, friends-to-lovers romance I couldn't put down. 

On Tuesday, September 8, join us for Nancy's tour review of Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine. This dystopian novel releases on September 1.

Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor will be in my review spotlight on Thursday, September 10. Stop by to read my thoughts about this new contemporary fiction novel about "profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets."  

Stop by Monday, September 14 for my tour review of The Bachelor Duke by Cecilia Rene and a Q&A with the author. This is my first book by this author but the lure of a hero who has vowed never to marry and a curvy heroine who is the opposite of what society deems fashionable was too much to resist. 

On Friday, September 18, I'll be sharing my thoughts about The Prince Who Loved Me, the third book in Abigail Sharpe's humorous and heartwarming contemporary romance series. I've enjoyed the first two books in this series and am looking forward to Brandi and Sebastien's story.  

Tuesday, September 22 brings a tour review of Beyond Power by Connie Mann. The description of this second book in Mann's Florida Wildlife Warriors series calls it a "slow-burn sultry romantic suspense set in Florida's untamed wilderness filled with mystery, action and adventure." 

Don't miss the fun on Thursday, September 24 when I welcome Lenora Bell for a Q&A about her upcoming historical romance, Love is a Rogue, as well as an excerpt from the book. This first book in Bell's new Wallflowers vs Rogues series is an absolute delight. Fans of Bell's last book, One Fine Duke, will no doubt be excited to discover that Beatrice, the duke's bookish sister, is the heroine of Love is a Rogue and her cross-class hero is a dream. 

Nancy Northcott and Jeanne Adams join us Friday, September 25 for a look inside the creation of Caynham Castle, the site of their multi-author anthologies: Christmas at Caynham Castle and the upcoming Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle.

Join us Tuesday, September 29 for another tour review when Santa shares her thoughts about A Tail for Two by Mara Wells. Put a dog on the cover of a book and I'm there!

That's it for the schedule as it currently stands. I have more books in my review queue though so I'll be adding new reviews to the schedule as they are ready. Periodically check this post for updates throughout the month. You can easily do that by clicking on the link in the right sidebar.

What are you looking forward to in September? Cooler temps? Colored leaves? New television shows? Fall sports? (I'm still in a wait and see mode regarding sports) 

What upcoming books are on your reading radar?

I'm still cleaning out my bookshelves and have more packages to send out. Comment on this post by 11:00 PM (Eastern), September 1 for a chance to receive one of them. 
*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only



Second-Chance Winner - - Susanna Craig


The second-chance,

 randomly chosen winner of  

  one print Susanna Craig 

back list book of their choice is: 


 Congratulations, Lil! 

Please send your full name, mailing address, 

and choice of book to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Last Call Winner - - Susanna Craig


Last call for the

 randomly chosen winner of  

  one print Susanna Craig 

back list book of their choice. 


 Please send your full name, mailing address, 

and choice of book to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than 11:00 PM, (Eastern), August 30.

If not claimed by that time, a new winner 

will be chosen.

Last Call Winner - - Lady Guinevere and the Rogue with a Brogue


Last call for the

 randomly chosen winner of an e-copy of

Lady Guinevere And The Rogue With A Brogue

by Julie Johnstone  

Sandy Pochapin

 Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than 11:00 PM (Eastern), August 30

to claim this book.

If not claimed, a new winner will be chosen.

Winner - - Brazen in Blue


The randomly chosen winner of an

e-copy of Brazen in Blue by Rachael Miles is:

Martha Lawson

Congratulations, Martha! 

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, August 28, 2020

Review - - Highland Gladiator

Highland Gladiator
by Kathryn Le Veque
Scots and Swords - Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

When Lor Careston's quiet Highland village was attacked and burned, he felt helpless against the raiders who destroyed his home. Seeking revenge, but lacking the fighting skills he needs to execute his mission, he sets out to find the Ludus Caledonia—a mysterious fight guild that turns men into warriors.

Lor trains hard, proves himself in the ring, and earns a place with the very clan that decimated his home, having decided to set his plan for revenge in motion from inside the clan. But his plan didn't include Isabail Keith, a fiery lass who prefers broadswords to embroidery and isn't afraid to stand with the warriors of her clan. Lor thought the Keiths were his enemies, but when Isabail is threatened, he'll have to decide what he's willing to risk for the woman who has captured his heart and the clan that has become his home.

PJ's Thoughts:

Kathryn Le Veque takes readers to Medieval Scotland for an emotional saga of clan feuds, a special place that trains only the best warriors, and a man and woman destined to love only one another. I couldn't put it down.

Le Veque created such a perfectly detailed sense of time and place in this book that I was immersed completely into the lives of those living in the fifteenth century Scottish Highlands. Her characters are fully formed, fully engaging me in their lives. I loved Lor (an endearing hero with a transformative journey) and Isabail (a formidable, take-no-prisoners warrior in her own right) and their sweet, some might say, destined romance. I experienced their journeys with them, laughing, crying, cringing, and loathing (a particularly despicable villain). I may have cheered at the way in which the author served up justice in the case of that despicable villain.

The first half of the book was a bit slow while stages were set and characters formed but by the time the action picked up around the mid-point I was fully invested in both Isabail and Lor and the challenges they faced. Surrounding the main couple is a vividly depicted cast of secondary characters who propel the story forward, helping to reveal characters' hidden depths, of Lor in particular. I enjoyed the brotherhood at Ludus Caledonia and the friendships Lor formed there. Isabail's family provided splashes of humor, with siblings who show pesky brothers have been around in every century, and a father whose reaction to a question from Lor had me laughing out loud. Then there's Lor's grandfather who adds a particularly poignant secondary story line to the mix. 

The tag line for this series is "Gladiator meets Fight Club in the Scottish Highlands" which sets pretty high expectations for this lover of Scottish historical romance. Le Veque met my expectations in this emotion-packed story that left me sighing with satisfaction and eagerly anticipating the next book in her Scots and Swords series. That book, Highland Defender, is scheduled to be released January 21, 2021. 

Have you read any of Kathryn Le Veque's books yet? Do you have a favorite book or series?

Do you read Medieval romance? Which authors writing in that era do you most enjoy?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Guest Post and Excerpt - - The Quiet Girl by S.F. Kosa

S.F. Kosa 

PJ, here. I love an intense psychological thriller and  discovering authors new to the genre always gives me a special kind of thrill. Today, I'm pleased to welcome author S.F. Kosa to the blog. Kosa is a clinical psychologist with a fascination for the seedy underbelly of the human psyche. Though The Quiet Girl is her debut psychological suspense novel, writing as Sarah Fine, she is the author of over two dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their (blended) brook of five young humans.  

Connect with the author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

A Whole New World, Literally


The Quiet Girl is my debut novel … sort of. It’s my first in the psychological suspense genre. And it feels like a first in other ways too—new pen name, new publisher, new readers. But in other, equally fundamental ways, it isn’t a new experience at all: under the name Sarah Fine, I’ve written twenty-one trade-published novels. It would be fair to ask why my twenty-second feels so different. It’s just another book, right? Been there, done that. 

Well. Let me tell you. Those first twenty-one books? The rules were different—in that I invented them. The novels were fantasy. My characters journeyed to the afterlife, where they fought sadistic, soul-stealing beasts. They skulked around meat factories inhabited by armies of mechanical spiders. They had the power of ice and fire magic. Or dealt magic as a drug. Or had magical decks of tarot-like cards with which they could save lives or wreak absolute havoc. 

With those books, I created the worlds—alone, in a room, in my head. The political systems, the malevolent forces at work, the powers the heroes used to stop them. Whenever I put my characters into dangerous situations, I could conjure a new rule or power to help them out. It’s an exhilarating experience to be that powerful, even if it’s only within the bounds of your own mind, even when it’s entirely solitary. 

When I sat down to write The Quiet Girl, I admit I felt a bit constrained. Like I’d once been Superman, but someone had slipped Kryptonite into my drink. At first, as I considered what could happen to Mina, the character whose disappearance lies at the center of this novel, my musings veered toward the mystical (witchcraft! Spirits! Maybe a portal??) I began to wonder if I could work within the bounds of this new, real world—and if I wanted to. 

Then I remembered why I wanted to try; I find new challenges and puzzles just as exhilarating as the supernatural (it’s why I love reading psychological thrillers and suspense so much). I find the human psyche to be just as vast and dark and exciting as a new system of magic. I learned that it’s an entirely new game with different rules—and that this time, I couldn’t do it alone. This time, the research involved actually talking to other people! [As a side note, you might wonder why I, a clinical psychologist, would have only written fantasy to this point and avoided talking to others, but that’s an entirely different blog post!] 

I was quite nervous when I reached out to a detective at the Provincetown Police Department, asking her for an interview about the town and the way the police work missing person cases. In my first email, I felt I had to offer credentials to show that I was a “real” author. But she was totally game, generously willing to spend an entire afternoon with me, telling me all about how the police might respond to a man whose wife had disappeared. 

At first, I was worried that she’d throw a damper on my plans for the mystery and twists in my book. Then I asked: “Where could I put an abandoned car, wallet and keys inside, for a few days without drawing immediate attention?” 

And she blew my cramped little imagination wide open. She explained in detail why, even if the car was found in this particular place in Provincetown, the police wouldn’t assume foul play. She took me there, pointed out exactly where I could park that car, exactly who would notice it first, exactly what might happen next. Rather than limiting my options with real-world constraints, she expanded them into places that held new possibilities for surprises and twists. New ways to keep my readers heads spinning. 

I’ve thought about that moment with Detective Lobur repeatedly as I finished The Quiet Girl and prepared for its release, and as I wrote my next suspense novel. It might seem simple and small, but to me, it was an important lesson. Delving into reality doesn’t have to be limiting. It’s just as invigorating and fun as fantasy. Just as mind-twisting as inventing an entire world or magical system. If I’m willing to do the legwork, to reach out and explore other people’s expertise and reality, it’s equally satisfying and challenging. And also just as fun.

The Quiet Girl
by S.F. Kosa
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: August 11, 2020

Good girls keep quiet. But quiet girls can't stay silent forever—and the consequences are sure to make some noise.

When Alex arrives in Provincetown to patch things up with his new wife, Mina, he finds an empty wine glass in the sink, her wedding ring on the desk, and a string of questions in her wake. The police believe that Mina, a successful romance author, simply left, their marriage crumbling before it truly began.

But what Alex finds in their empty cottage points him toward a different reality: Mina has always carried a secret. And now she's disappeared.

In his hunt for the truth, Alex comes across Layla, a young woman with information to share, who may hold the key to everything his wife has kept hidden. A strange, quiet girl whose missing memories may break them all.

To find his missing wife, Alex must face what Layla has forgotten. And the consequences are anything but quiet.




A Standalone Psychological Thriller
© 2020 S.F. Kosa (Sarah Fine)




The batter flowed in undulating ribbons and melted into a smooth, creamy lake. Mina scraped every bit from the bowl before shaking each cake pan to settle the contents. Everything had to be perfect.

When the pans were safely ensconced at 350 degrees, she moved to the next step. Humming a long-ago tune, she poured the premeasured and sifted powdered sugar into the mixing bowl over the softened butter and the extract, just enough to do the trick without overwhelming the flavor.

Baking was chemistry. Baking was precision. Never more than today.

When the frosting was the right consistency, she separated half into three bowls and used the droppers to apply the colors. Blue for innocence. Yellow for youth. Pink for so many things. Love. Warmth.


The effect would be neat. Cheerful. Enough to leaven a sultry summer night, draw the hands to the plate, the fork to the mouth, a smile to the lips.

Once the frosting bags and tips were assembled, she sat on the floor in front of the oven. The cakes had turned golden, but she would wait for the timer. She’d learned to trust herself in most things, but time was an entity she’d never mastered. She was always losing track. She couldn’t keep it still or reliably pin all the bits of her past into proper temporal position. Even now, now of all times, she could feel it turning slippery.

She closed her eyes. Not long now.

The timer went off. She jerked, startled even though she had known it was coming. Wasn’t that always the way of it?

Waiting for the cakes to cool was the hardest part, but she filled the time with cleaning. She was so good at it, good at making things pristine. The dishes. The counters. The floors. Herself. She smiled as she remembered how recently it hadn’t been necessary. Every second of messiness, at once hard-earned and effortless, had been worth fighting for. It had given her hope. But she’d been foolish to think she could escape that easily.

Once the heat had bled from the layers, she placed the first on the plastic base and topped it with a generous layer of icing, to be sandwiched between slabs of cake. Of course, that part had to be pink. A nice effect during the cutting process, like slicing deep enough to reach a vein.

After adding the top layer and completing the crumb coat, she applied the white outer layer. Thick and even like new snow, covering all that lay soft and fragile beneath. Next, the frosting bag and Russian piping tip. It had taken a lot of practice to keep the flowers from looking like spiky piles of chaos, but now she was a pro. Soon, the cake was a garden of delight, a riot of color, a treat for the senses.

She donned dishwashing gloves and washed all the extra frosting down the drain, then cleaned the bags and tips by hand, lots of soap, once, then again. She tucked each piece into her decorating kit and slid it into its slot in the cupboard. Alex complained that she didn’t put things away properly, but he was wrong.

She did when it mattered.

The cake was perfect. She turned it this way and that, making sure it didn’t have a bad side. Just like she’d been taught. Then she trapped it under the floral tin dome and attached the wire handles. Ready for transport.

She poured herself a glass of wine and drank it down. One for the road. It unfurled in her bloodstream, loosening knotted muscles, allowing her to breathe, allowing her to move.

She reached for her keys, then caught a glimpse of her hands. No, this wasn’t right.

He would never understand, but he didn’t need to. Because he would never know.

She made the necessary adjustments and stepped into the bathroom. That face in the mirror. Her face, every feature and flaw. And then she recited the line, the one that resonated even now. Especially now. “I know who you are,” she whispered.

The minutes were slipping away, but she allowed herself to stare until her eyes shone.

Then she blinked.

Time to go.


Okay, I don't know about the rest of you but I am ready to dive straight into this story! My thanks to S.F. Kosa for today's post and excerpt from The Quiet Girl

How many of you enjoy psychological suspense thrillers?

Have you read any recently you would recommend?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review - - Emerald Blaze

Emerald Blaze
by Ilona Andrews
Hidden Legacy
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart. 

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won't rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that's tearing their world apart. 

PJ's Thoughts:

After every book in the Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series I wonder how they will possibly be able to top what they've just written. And then the next book in the series comes along and...they do. Emerald Blaze is filled with everything I love about this series. The world building continues to blow me away. I know, I really do know that this is a fictional world but everything in it is so unbelievably vivid and realistic that I find myself completely immersed in it, reacting to the characters, danger, magic, and non-human beings as if it's all real. I engaged in a lot of gasping, hand-wringing, breath-holding, sighs, and, yes, a few tears, before reaching the end of this book. The characters are so well developed that they've become more like real people to me than characters in a story. I care about them and am fully engaged in their lives.

The book starts a bit slow but quickly begins to build then ramps up and takes us on a life or death race to the finish. Catalina's character continues to strengthen and grow in this second book of her trilogy. As much as I liked Nevada, I like Catalina even more. She's growing into her power and position and I can't wait to see what comes next for her. Alessandro, also, shows significant growth in this story. I'm enjoying the person he's becoming and the effect that has on his actions and his tenuous relationship with Catalina. Their romance really develops in this book with unexpected twists and unveiled secrets that pack an emotional punch and create an ever deepening bond. These two have captured my heart and I am so hoping for their happily ever after. There are a couple significant obstacles in their path though, and one more book in the trilogy, which means more hurdles ahead. And I am here for every one of them.

We also get a lot of familial interaction in this book, including Nevada and Rogan (heroine and hero of the first trilogy). I love the dynamics within the Baylor family and am especially enjoying the evolution of Arabella, Leon, Bern and others. Still keeping my fingers crossed for a trilogy for Arabella once she's a bit older.

For maximum enjoyment of Catalina's character arc (without reading the entire series), I recommend beginning with Diamond Fire (a novella), then reading Sapphire Flames followed by Emerald Blaze. However, for a complete understanding of the Hidden Legacy world as well as the Baylor family dynamics, I suggest starting at the beginning of the series with book one in Nevada and Rogan's trilogy, Burn for Me, followed by White Hot, Wildfire, and then Catalina's books.

I've already read this book twice and I have no doubt I'll be revisiting it again before the final book in Catalina's trilogy is published. These characters have a tendency to not want to let go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review - - Who Wants to Marry a Duke

Who Wants to Marry a Duke 
by Sabrina Jeffries 
Duke Dynasty - Book 3  
Publisher: Zebra  
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

A past kiss with adorably bookish Miss Olivia Norley should be barely a memory for Marlowe Drake, the Duke of Thornstock. After all, there are countless debutantes for a handsome rakehell to charm beyond a young lady whose singular passion is chemistry—of the laboratory type. But Thorn has not forgotten—or forgiven—the shocking blackmail scheme sparked by that single kiss, or the damage caused to both their names. Now Thorn’s half-brother, Grey, has hired the brilliant Miss Norley for her scientific expertise in solving a troubling family mystery. And the once-burned Thorn, suspicious of her true motives, vows to follow her every move . . .

For Olivia, determining whether arsenic poisoning killed Grey’s father is the pioneering experiment that could make her career—and Thorn’s constant presence is merely a distraction. But someone has explosive plans to derail her search. Soon the most unexpected discovery is the caring nature of the reputed scoundrel beside her—and the electricity it ignites between them . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favorite historical romance authors when it comes to creating family dynamics intertwined with a mystery that evolves across the course of a series and keeping me engaged from beginning to end. I was intrigued by the concept of a thrice-married woman with five children, including three sons who are all dukes. Toss in the gradually developing mystery surrounding the deaths of those husbands, plus the death of a brother-in-law, and I was hooked. 

In Who Wants to Marry a Duke, the siblings inch closer to discovering the truth regarding the deaths of their fathers and it's becoming clear their investigations are making someone very nervous. Miss Olivia Norley, a trained chemist and not your typical society miss, is hired to conduct tests on the remains of one of the fathers and Thorn, with whom she has an adversarial past, is determined to unmask her for the devious fraud he's certain she is. With him dogging her every step, an eventual explosion is inevitable. But what will happen when the dust settles around this plain-speaking, scientific-minded, inexperienced miss, and the suspicious, very experienced duke determined to seduce her, even while he doesn't trust her?

Okay, let me start by reviewing the things I liked about this book. I loved Olivia. She's such a breath of fresh air, with her brilliant mind and focused determination to have a successful career in her chosen field when that was way outside the norm for women. I was in her corner, cheering her on the entire way. 

I enjoyed catching up with couples from the first two books and watching their relationships evolve post-marriage. I'm also enjoying learning more about their mother and am intrigued by the possibility of a new love interest for her.

Jeffries has woven an interesting mystery that still has me trying to figure out the answers. With multiple suspects, and still no clue as to the reason for the murders, I have a feeling she'll have me guessing right up until the reveal. I love when an author accomplishes that.

What didn't work well for me in this book was the romance and that was largely due to Thorn. He came across as immature and self-serving, and I really didn't like him or the way he treated Olivia for much of the book. I also wanted to feel emotional chemistry between him and Olivia, mostly for her sake, but I just didn't, at least not on his side. He does come around at the end of the book, and others may not have this issue with him, but he left me cold. When you read as many books as I do, that's occasionally going to happen.

Still, hero issues aside, I liked the rest of the book, I'm enjoying the series, and I'm already looking forward to the next couple to take center stage. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Review, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Brazen in Blue


Brazen in Blue 
by Rachael Miles 
The Muses' Salon - Book 5  
Publisher: Zebra  
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Lady Emmeline Hartley has overcome every obstacle life has thrown her way. A spinster, disappointed in love, Em is on the brink of a marriage of convenience, when the man who rejected her heart reappears in need of her help. It gives Em a chance to escape, put to use one her most unusual talents—and perhaps convince him once and for all to risk his heart . . .

Adam Montclair--one of the most successful agents at the Home Office--rubs elbows with the highest levels of society. Even so, he wasn’t to the manor born. No matter how much he desires Em, as a match he is completely unsuitable. While it pains him to be near her, it’s a punishment he richly deserves. Now on a mission to uncover a plot against the government, Adam knows Em's uncanny ability to recall voices will be essential. Yet as the two thwart the dangers in their path, it may become impossible to deny that Em is essential to happiness itself . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

I love second-chance romances and this one pulled me in with high emotional stakes from the get-go. Em is on the brink of a marriage to her childhood best friend, a marriage that is set to move forward the day this book opens even though both the bride and the groom are in love with other people. When Adam, the undercover Home Office agent Em believes is a criminal, is unable to stay away from watching the woman he loves marry his best friend, the sight of him outside the chapel gives the nervous bride the courage she needs to do the right thing. With Adam's help, Em runs, setting the groom free to marry the woman he loves. But while Em's heart still belongs to Adam, she's a long way from trusting him enough to put her feelings on the line again and Adam knows full well he's not worthy of her love. Especially with those secrets he's still keeping...

One of the things I most enjoy about Miles' books are her multi-layered, complex characters. Fully formed and vibrantly depicted, they leap from the page, pulling me into their emotions, their fears, their hopes, and love. The passionate push and pull between Adam and Em is visceral, immersing me in their adventure, and their relationship, almost immediately. I liked them individually and I loved them together. Em is a character to respect and admire (I love how she stands her ground, going toe to toe with Adam as well as his Home Office superiors) and Adam is her heart and mind match, if only he's able to put his class worries aside long enough to realize it, and if Em's willing to forgive him once all his secrets are revealed. 

Another aspect of this series that I've enjoyed is the ongoing search for the devious criminal known as Charters. The mystery continues in this book, with new leads to Charters' real identity and Em taking a pivotal role in the search. This is one nasty villain who keeps escaping the net of the Home Office. I am gleefully looking forward to him being caught and justice finally being served. 

The secondary cast in this book are much more than window dressing, propelling the story forward in a variety of ways. Adam's Home Office superior continues to pull strings in his agents' lives while maintaining anonymity. His story has been gradually unveiled over the course of the series and I am very curious to see what Miles has in store for him as revealing himself would cause ripple effects far and wide. Miles also introduces a group of new characters, six women, relatives of Adam's, who live a secluded life on a piece of property surrounded by water and with whom I am very intrigued. They have me hoping for more stories. I adored Em's majordomo, Mr. Jeffreys, who has been more father than employee to her since she was a child. And I fell head over heels in love with Em's faithful canine companion, Queen Bess. How she discovers the puppy, Persis who joins their little entourage had me in tears. In fact, Bess had me in tears multiple times. She is one special dog.

If you enjoy well-paced and impeccably researched historical romance with witty dialog, a mystery thread, cross-class romance, and plenty of adventure, give Brazen in Blue a try. Keep in mind, however, that this is the fifth book in a series that has a large cast of characters and a continually evolving mystery. For that reason, there may be some confusion jumping into the series in the middle. 


Q&A with Rachael Miles

Welcome to the blog, Rachael, and congratulations on tomorrows release of the newest book in your The Muses' Salon series. What should readers expect from Brazen in Blue

A runaway bride, a dangerous criminal, a retreat to an almost magical island, and a great big faithful dog.

Second-chance romance is one of my favorite tropes. What is it about this trope that you enjoy as an author?

In terms of plotting, second-chance romance gives me so much to work with. The characters have already been in a relationship before, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out. So immediately there’s a tension that it could fail again. This also solves the problem of making the attraction believable. When characters meet for the first time at the beginning of a book, I have to work really hard to convince the reader that their attraction is real or justified. But if the characters already know each other, if they have a history, then it also sets up a bit of a mystery: why didn’t it work out? who or what was at fault? And the reader can enjoy piecing that together as the plot progresses. As an author, it helps create tension if the characters have already wounded each other in some way, and part of the progress of the romance, then, is to heal that wound so that the characters can move forward.

I adored the dogs in this book, especially Queen Bess. Do you have pets? Are they your writing partners or writing distractions?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have animals—and all of my books have a critter of one sort or another in them. Since our ancient cat died, we have just the dogs now, a sweet pack of three, all rescues. The eldest, a terrier mix, is quite old and mostly deaf, so unless one of the other dogs alerts to her to something interesting outside, she sleeps on a bed next to my desk. The youngest—an incredibly smart (and devious) black lab mix—positions herself in the room outside my office where she can watch all the movement in the house. My middle dog—a gentle vizscla/hound mix—stays close by me, and she has a pretty infallible sense of when I need a break. She will stick her nose inside the bend of my elbow as I type and refuse to move until I stop and do what she wants. Though they are sometimes distractions (especially when they spot a chipmunk outside the window), they are more often lovely companions in a process that is by its nature solitary. I can’t imagine writing without them near.

I love the life philosophy of Adams female relatives. Do you have a skill (other than writing) that brings you pleasure?

I have a number of interests that give me pleasure, but which I wouldn’t call skills per se. This year, I dug a small pond outside my office and put koi and water plants in it, and I delight in watching them (and the several kind of frogs that now hang out there). I’ve been (slowly) learning how to identify birds and their songs, and I love listening and watching. I also have a garden every year, and for the last several seasons, I’ve been planting more intentionally for bees, birds, and butterflies. I can grow a pot of herbs (which —other than tarragon—are fairly indestructible), but this year, like many other people, I added vegetables. But that wasn’t much of a success. Other than a nice crop of potatoes and shallots, I mostly created a banquet for all the critters in my neighborhood. This week, I’ve been watching a baby groundhog eat an enormous gourd vine that has flowered too late to bear, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to stop her.

Speaking of Adams relatives, will we be seeing more of them in the future? In, perhaps, their own books (she begged, entreatingly)?  

I’m so glad you enjoyed them! It’s an interesting situation: six cousins (2 sets of 3 sisters) all living on a piece of land cut off by the tides. And they are all artists in some way—whether painting, or weaving, or embroidery, or cooking. And there’s a hint of magic surrounding their island. As I was writing, I kept discovering snippets of their individual stories (one even involving pirates!), and I’d like to pursue those. So, yes, I do think they deserve their own books.

Whats next for The Muses' Salon?

There’s one more book in this contract. Wicked in White picks up several months after Brazen in Blue.  Cecily, Duchess of Rokeby, recently widowed, has returned to London to settle her brother’s estate and to solve a puzzle he sent her shortly before his death. An antiquarian, her brother owned a vast collection of ancient artifacts, but when she arrives at his London home, they are gone, sold, she assumes, but there’s no record of when, why, or to whom. And without the artifacts she has little hope of solving his puzzle. For help, she turns to her brother’s best friend, Simon Worsham, a man who had, long ago, rejected her advances. The attraction still arcs between them. But shortly after she renews her acquaintance with Simon, Cecily is approached by her old teacher, Mrs. Flint and school chum Lady Olivia Walgrave (both from Tempting the Earl) who believe the man arrested for being the master criminal Charters has been framed. And who was the lead investigator in that case?  Simon. It’s a delicious conflict that leads to all sorts of misunderstandings…and opportunities for attraction.

Lets play a quick round of complete this sentence.

On warm, summer days, I want to…dig in my garden.

When I need to quench my thirst, I reach for… a cool glass of water or an herbal iced tea. I’m particularly fond of a particular Peach Fruit tea—which is just chopped-up dried peaches. Yum.

The book Im most eager to read is…Julia Spencer Fleming’s Hid from our Eyes, which came out a few months ago and is on the top of my to-be-read pile. It’s been seven years since Spencer-Fleming’s last Clare Fergusson mystery, and I’ve reread the series in anticipation.

My favorite summer treat is…a tie between peaches and blackberries.

The musical artist (or song) that can always get me dancing is…Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. My Daddy, a Fort Worth native, loved Texas swing, and I grew up listening to it. So while many other songs or artists pull me to my feet, I can’t resist a little two-step around the living room when I hear Bob Wills.

The characteristic a hero must have to win my heart is…kindness. For me, the hero must at some point set aside their own interests to care for another person’s.

Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Rachael. Would you like to add anything else or ask the readers a question?

I would love to know either about your readers’ animal companions or the books they love that have animals as characters.

One randomly chosen person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM (Eastern), August 25, will receive an e-book copy of Brazen in Blue.

*Must be 18 or older

*U.S. only