Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Review - - Beauty Tempts the Beast

Beauty Tempts the Beast
by Lorraine Heath
Sins For All Seasons - Book 6
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

She wants lessons in seduction

Althea Stanwick was a perfect lady destined to marry a wealthy lord, until betrayal left her family penniless. Though she’s lost friends, fortune, and respectability, Althea has gained a scandalous plan. If she can learn to seduce, she can obtain power over men and return to Society on her terms. She even has the perfect teacher in mind, a man whose sense of honor and dark good looks belie his nickname: Beast.

But desire like this can’t be taught

Benedict Trewlove may not know his parentage but he knows where he belongs—on the dark side of London, offering protection wherever it’s needed. Yet no woman has ever made such an outrageous request as this mysterious beauty. Althea is out of place amongst vice and sin, even if she offers a wicked temptation he can’t resist. But as the truth of his origin emerges at last, it will take a fierce, wild love to overcome their pasts.

PJ's Thoughts:

Somehow I knew Beast would end up being my favorite. Lorraine Heath has wrapped up her Sins For All Seasons series with a book I inhaled in one sitting, then returned to the beginning and slowly savored scene by scene, word by delicious word. Heath is a gifted writer who brings layered stories and nuanced characters to life through her skillful command of exquisite language and heartfelt storytelling. Consider this passage in which Thea begins to realize what her life would have been had she not lost what she thought at the time was everything:

The world in which she'd grown up lacked magic, depth, satisfaction. Only now did she realize it, only now did she understand that without him, her world had been an arid place where she never would have truly come into herself.

Such a beautiful description of how, sometimes, losing everything you thought necessary leads you to who you're truly meant to be and to the person you're meant to be with.   

Beast and Thea are both complex characters which makes them that much more interesting, both individually and as a couple. I loved watching them shift and grow through the deepening of their relationship and the changes in their lives. I enjoyed watching Thea's growing confidence as she took control of her destiny. And Beast has so many intriguing facets. I loved his caring, nurturing nature, his calm, reasoning demeanor, and his fierce love for Thea. I'm not a swooning person by nature but, oh mama, is he worthy of it. My love for them is as boundless as their love for one another. I just finished a third reading of this book and, honestly, all I want to do is go back to page one and immerse myself in their journey all over again. I have a feeling I'll be revisiting them often. 

Heath has packed this story with humor, heart, and deeply sensual emotion. I was immersed from start to finish. And that epilogue! I don't usually enjoy epilogues that take characters decades into the future but this one featuring the entire Trewlove family was glorious. My heart burst with joy while my eyes overflowed with tears and I laughed out loud. I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to one of my favorite Lorraine Heath series. 

And, bonus!  Heath is bringing us two future books featuring secondary characters (Thea's brothers) from Beauty Tempts the Beast with the possibility of Trewlove sightings in those stories. Color me beyond excited! 


Are you reading the Sins For All Seasons series? 

Do you have a favorite book or couple in the series?

Do you enjoy an epilogue that takes you decades into the future?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tour Review - - A Tail for Two


A Tail for Two
by Mara Wells
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Reviewed by Santa

Carrie Burns has a successful business, a young son, Oliver, and an energetic Jack Russell terrier. She doesn't have time in her busy schedule for her ex-husband and his talk of working together again. But when she runs into Lance in the dog park, their lives are turned upside down.

Lance Donovan wants to promote his fledgling construction company by helping his brother Caleb with a big condo conversion. Lance even knows the perfect interior designer to make this project a success—his ex-wife, Carrie. But after a fateful meeting at the dog park, Lance finds himself not only petsitting both his brother's dog and the beloved Jack Russell terrier he had to leave behind in the divorce, but babysitting a young son he never knew he had while his ex-wife tries to get back into dating. How did life get this crazy?

Lance is determined to win back the love he thought he'd lost—but he's going to need a lot of help from his furry friends.

Santa says:

A Tale for Two by Mara Wells is a five out five star second chance romance! This is Mara Wells’ second book following the loves and lives of the delicious Donovan brothers. Having not read the first book in that series, it clearly stands on its own. The book really carries a delightful punch with a building that needs some love, two dogs who ratchet up the scamp quota and a blast from one of the Donovan brothers’ past. 

This is Lance Donovan’s story following his bitter divorce from his wife, Carrie. Lance still did not understand how they went from passionately in love to passionately in disdain. Carrie wonders the same as she swipes through dating apps and keeping up with the demands of her interior design company. 

Working with his brothers Caleb and Knox at their new construction company has helped Lance move on. They are currently working on rehabilitating and updating The Dorothy. It's early days to determine if it was a good idea to work together but their youngest brother, Caleb, has enough positivity for all three. Caleb is also about to marry the love of his life, Riley - so that happiness spills out onto everything.    

In an effort to get the building into shape without putting out the senior residents of the building, Caleb and Riley test run a small honeymoon cruise with some of the residents. Lance agrees to watch their poodle Lou Lou. A trip to the dog park brings a chance encounter with a terrier who looks remarkably like Beckham the dog Carrie ‘won’ in the divorce, Carrie herself, and a sticky-handed toddler named Oliver. It turns out both the dog and the little boy are his. Needless to say, there is a lot of talking and listening that needs to happen. Two things they were not very good at when they were married. 

How can two people who came so far apart ever come back together again? Lance and Carrie begin a journey of rediscovering who they as individuals, parents and as a couple. I loved this book for the sharing in their journey to finding an everlasting love. Go out and get yourself a copy. I intend to read the first book that follows Caleb and Riley’s story. And I’ve already pre-ordered the book that follows their older brother Knox’s story. That is how good I find Mara Wells’ story telling!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Review - - A Highlander is Coming to Town


A Highlander is Coming to Town
by Laura Trentham
Highand, Georgia - Book 3
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Holt Pierson is dreading Christmas. His parents absconded to Florida for the season and left him to handle the family farm which will be his one day—whether he wants it or not. Driven by duty, Holt has always followed the path expected of him. But lately, he’s been questioning what he wants and where he belongs. Will assuming the responsibility of the Pierson farm make him happy or is there something—or someone—else out in the wider world calling to him?

To Claire Smythe, the Scottish lead singer of a touring band, Highland, Georgia, is the perfect place to hide . . .until a very handsome and deeply curious Holt begins to ask all the questions Claire doesn’t want to answer. As Holt draws Claire out from under and into the fabric of small-town life, can Claire put the past behind her and embrace the unexpected gifts of the season—including the new and lasting love?

PJ's Thoughts:

A Highlander is Coming to Town is another enjoyable story in Laura Trentham's Highland, Georgia romantic comedy series. I've been looking forward to learning more about Holt and am delighted that he turned out to be as endearing, kind, steadfast, and genuinely nice as I had hoped he would be. Claire, on the other hand, is new to Highland. She's prickly, secretive, and a fish out of water. Highland may pride itself on its Scottish roots but northern Georgia is a far cry from Claire's home in Scotland.  

Claire has never known unconditional love, never fully trusted another person, never known anyone to perform a kindness without expecting something in return (thanks to her dysfunctional family). Small wonder she regards Southern hospitality with skepticism. I enjoyed watching her slowly lower those protective walls she has built around herself as she gets to know Ms. Meadows (the elderly woman she works for), Holt, and others in the small community. I also enjoyed watching her shake up Holt and his rather complacent life. Holt grounds her, giving her a safe place to land while Claire opens his eyes to possibilities he hadn't considered. 

The pace of this book is slow and easy, with minimal angst, a bit of steam, a lively group of townspeople, and a happily ever after I can believe in. Fans of the series will enjoy new events in Anna's and Iain's relationship (book 2 - A Highlander in a Pickup) while readers new to Highland, Georgia should be able to jump in with A Highlander is Coming to Town

Winner - - Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle


The randomly chosen winner of an

e-copy of Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle is:



Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Review - - Man's Best Friend


Man's Best Friend
by Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogmothers - Book 6
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Declan Mahoney and Evie Hewitt are childhood best friends who become young lovers on one summer night in the Carolina mountains. But the next morning, they learn Declan’s firefighter father has been killed while saving Evie’s family and home. Consumed by grief, and determined to take up his responsibility as the oldest Mahoney sibling, Declan turns from Evie. That heartbreak sends her running halfway across the state, rarely seeing Declan over the next twenty years. But when Evie comes back to Bitter Bark, a couple of meddling grannies who call themselves the Dogmothers hatch their plan to rekindle this romance. They arrange a "chance" meeting and plant some surprises along the way.

When she sees Declan, Evie is knocked over by emotions for the firefighter who might just be the reason she’s forty, childless, and dedicated to her career. She’s also nearly knocked over by the Husky-Malamute mix at his side. With an unexpected assist from a dog who’d been surrendered at the fire station, Declan decides he can’t miss this chance to reconnect with the woman he’s never forgotten. It doesn’t take long for old feelings to burn hot…and it doesn’t take long for Evie, a veterinary neurologist, to notice something's not quite right with the gorgeous dog Declan’s about to put up for adoption.

As they work together to help Judah, more than one creature is healed. Evie starts to demolish the walls grief had raised around Declan’s heart, and he reawakens her dreams of marriage and motherhood. But as they fall back into each other’s arms, Declan discovers the truth about his father’s death, and that revelation threatens more than their love…it could threaten their lives. Will Evie and Declan’s dreams be destroyed by tragedy? Or can they finally let go of the past so they can take hold of the future…together?

PJ's Thoughts:

Roxanne St. Claire writes directly to the heart with characters and stories that have never failed to capture mine. Evie and Declan are one of those couples you know are meant for one another. For the past twenty years, they've led good, productive, separate lives but something has always been missing. Happiness has never been quite complete. Now, at forty and forty-one, with experience and wisdom on their side, they're given another chance to reach for the happy ending that eluded them so many years ago and I was with them every step of the way.

St. Claire knows how to engage my emotions better than almost any other author writing today. In Man's Best Friend, she's created layered main characters with a complicated history, rich (and frequently humorous) family dynamics, an emotional mystery, and a scene-stealing, heart-stealing dog who saves the day in more ways than one. All combined to pull me into their deeply emotional story and keep me eagerly reading from beginning to end. 

Whether you're new to the series or have been reading since the beginning, Declan, Evie, and Judah will pull you into their lives and capture your heart. I highly recommend Man's Best Friend

Winner - - Lenora Bell


The randomly chosen winner of

Lenora Bell's prize package is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Review - - Hiring Mr. Darcy


Hiring Mr. Darcy
by Valerie Bowman
Publisher: June Third Enterprises
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

She’s hiring…
Meg Knightley is a history professor with a little OCD and a lot of love for Pride and Prejudice. When her similarly nerdy history professor boyfriend tosses her over for a starlet on the eve of the Jane Austen Festival and Games, she needs a new Mr. Darcy ASAP.

He’s the man for the job…
Jeremy Remington left a lucrative tech job to follow his dreams—but getting his custom woodworking business off the ground isn’t cheap. When his best friend’s sister offers good money for little more than acting the gentleman, he jumps at the chance. After all, how hard could it be to fly over to England and wear a cravat for a few days?

Until things get real.
She hired him to play the part of a proper gentleman, so why can’t she stop thinking about what’s underneath his waistcoat?
And when Meg finds out Jeremy has had a crush on her for years, will the job turn into a permanent gig?

PJ's Thoughts:

Historical romance author Valerie Bowman brings all the wit and charm for which she's known to her first contemporary romance. It's humorous and heartwarming, with a nod to Bowman's historical roots and a truly swoon-worthy romance. Though it does take a while to get to that romance part.

Bowman's characters are fully formed, with surprising depths, and intriguing lives. It took me a while to warm up to Meg. She's rather judgmental and dismissive at first of anyone she believes is inferior to her intellect and academic achievement. As her brother so succinctly puts it, she's a snob. She's also much too tightly tied to her life checklist. But then there's Jeremy and he makes everything worthwhile. I absolutely adored him and the fact that he's had a hidden crush on Meg for years is just too delicious. He lures Meg out of her academic bubble and shows her what life on "the outside" can be when you follow your heart. 

As a bonus, Bowman takes readers behind the scenes of her Jane Austen Festival and Games and the cosplay participants who are very serious - sometimes humorously so - about their craft. Let's just say the competition is a bit fierce. 😉

If you've enjoyed the witty banter and charm of Valerie Bowman's historical romances, I recommend giving Hiring Mr. Darcy a try. If you're new to her writing, this is a great place to start. I don't know if Bowman has any more contemporary romances hidden under her bed but if she does, I hope she plans to publish them because I am definitely here for them. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Today's Special - - Creating the Castle with Nancy Northcott and Jeanne Adams


Nancy Northcott, Jeanne Adams and friends are back with another anthology set in magnificent Caynham Castle. While last year's Christmas at Caynham Castle treated readers to Christmas holiday revelry, this year's Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle immerses characters - and readers - into the spookiness of Halloween. Jeanne and Nancy join us today to give us a behind the scenes tour of the making of this ancient castle on England's Welsh border. 

Welcome, Jeanne and Nancy!

Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle
An Anthololgy by Jeanne Adams, Morgan Brice, Caren Crane, and Nancy Northcott
Publisher: Rickety Bookshelf Press
Release Date: September 23, 2020

Come to western England’s Welsh Marches and the wickedly, spookily fun Halloween Ball at Caynham Castle. Let the Earl of Caynham and his fiancée welcome you into Halloween fun.

Lovers from Cape May, New Jersey, take a Halloween holiday at the magnificent Caynham Castle in Secrets and Ciphers. As their love and trust deepens, they also stumble across and solve a 700 year old mystery! Enjoy this M/M Romance with Morgan Brice’s Erik and Ben from Treasure Trail.

Follow an archeologist witch from Idaho as she tangles with a sexy photographer from the witchiest town in America, Jeanne Adams’s Haven Harbor, Massachusetts. In Trouble Under the Tower, they discover a hidden chapel, fend off thieves, and help put a dark entity to rest. Somewhere in all that trouble, love sneaks in!

In Mr. Never Again, spies from Nancy Northcott’s Arachnid Agency come to Caynham Castle to guard a weapons designer and her family. When her son goes missing, her loyalty may be at risk. Hunting for him offers Blaine and Dana a second chance at love if they’re brave enough to take it.

In Caren Crane’s tale, Murky Waters, a landscape architect from Massachusetts finds much more than he expects, both in a floral designer from his friend’s shop, and in the woods south of Caynham Castle. Discovery of an evil waterborne spirit threatens the new love he has found, unless his lover figures out how to set him free.

Four spooky, witchy, spirit-filled stories set against the stunning background of Caynham Castle’s epic Halloween Ball and Bonfire Night!


Creating the Castle

by Nancy Northcott & Jeanne Adams



Thanks for having us, PJ, and hi to everybody! 

We’ve had great fun playing in our imaginary castle with our buddies Caren Crane, Seressia Glass, Donna MacMeans, Gail Z. Martin (a/k/a Morgan Brice), and Anna Sugden. All of us wrote novellas for last year’s Christmas at Caynham Castle. This year, we also have a Halloween anthology, Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle. Only Caren, and Gail, wearing her Morgan Brice hat, Jeanne, and Nancy had room in our schedules for Halloween, so we’re the only ones in this anthology. 

Creating the castle was a fun process too. It involved lots of back-and-forth, tailoring the place to the story needs. As we launch the Halloween anthology, we thought readers might enjoy a look behind the scenes of the castle’s birth. 

Nancy: At the Rust City reader event a couple of years ago, I saw a book on Amazon featuring holiday stories in a common location. I love holiday anthologies and have read many centered around events like balls or fairs or house parties. The common location, though, clicked with me in a way the others hadn’t. I don’t know any romance readers who don’t love castles, including me, so I naturally thought of a castle. 

Since Caren and Donna were also at that conference, I floated the idea by them. They were up for that. I also reached out to other writers whose work I enjoy. We ended up with a great group. Jeanne, being Jeanne, immediately offered to do maps and diagrams. 

Jeanne: It’s the former designer/draftsperson in me, Nancy! (Also because I’m a glutton for punishment.) Like Nancy, I adore castles, and the chance to literally create the design for this castle? That was too much fun to resist. Besides, we needed a common template from which to work. Between the basic outlines of the castle itself, we also needed to create common timelines so we all cohesively had something – the Halloween Ball, Bonfire Night, The Frost and Flame Ball, skating on the moat – happening at the same time. We wanted the reader to be immersed in the world with us. 

Nancy: I went to Ludlow, a castle I love, and took more photos than any sane human could possibly want. While we took Ludlow as our inspiration, we also built Caynham Castle from others we’d visited in person or in photos and tailored it to story needs. 

Below is the round chapel, which we all loved. It’s all that remains of the original chapel, which extended back in a rectangle from this circular part to the curtain wall.



Jeanne: We did all love Ludlow’s chapel, so that became a feature in Caynham Castle. This unique, freestanding, round chapel features in several stories in the Christmas at Caynham Castle anthology. I had to draw a map of just the chapel because…well there’s a ringing room, with bells. And gargoyles. Shades of Hunchback of Notre Dame, right? Had to draw that.

Nancy: The first two pictures below are the great hall of Ludlow. Note the stones jutting from the walls’ upper edges. Supports like that are common for a hammerbeam ceiling. The third photo is of the hammerbeam ceiling in Westminster Hall, site of medieval coronation banquets. I love the hall and its beautiful roof. Thanks to Hollywood (looking at you, Adventures of Robin Hood), I think we all expect a castle hall to be as big as the one at Westminster, the fourth photo below. In reality, most are much smaller.



Jeanne: I didn’t draw the ceiling, but drawing the hall has been super fun. Of course, we adapted the Great Hall in the stories to be the Caynham Castle Hotel’s main dining room. It has an amazing, ox-roaster-sized fireplace with dragons and foliate (green man) heads on the mantel and side supports. Adding in the necessary “modern” amenities for a restaurant in a 11th century castle have been a fun challenge when it comes to the drawings, too!

Nancy: The definitely un-modern structure in photos below is the great hall of Middleham Castle (one with and one without Jeanne and me). The openings in the lefthand wall lead to what was the solar next door. Each had half of that level of the keep. See how much smaller it is than Westminster.


Jeanne: Nancy had to explain to the rest of us that a solar was where, in medieval times, the ladies would gather to sew because it had the best lighting. Virtually every castle has one, so Caynham had to have one too. Ha! In Caynham Castle Hotel, it’s an adjunct to the dining room and serves as sort of a lounge. It also houses the gift shop and can be closed off or used as an extension of the hall for special events, as it was in the Frost and Flame Ball for Christmas at Caynham Castle.

Nancy: At Middleham, the kitchen is below the great hall. This photo was taken from the kitchen, looking up at the platform that stands in for the floor of the hall. That placement made sense to us, so we gave Caynham Castle a kitchen below the great hall. We also added a terrace with parking underneath because modern hotel kitchens get deliveries via truck, not horsedrawn wagons.



Jeanne: That also gave us a chance to create hidden spaces beneath the castle – treasure rooms! – and add a more “modern” solarium to Caynham Castle. Every castle may have had a solar for the long-ago ladies, but not every castle has a Victorian glass-house solarium. I’ve always loved the one at Asheville, NC’s, Biltmore House, America’s Castle. So why not at Caynham too? 

Nancy: As you may’ve guessed, doing the maps meant Jeanne handled incorporating the features people needed for their stories. When you’re putting characters in a common space, it’s very important to have everyone visualize that space the same way in their heads and on paper. The diagrams have been invaluable for that. 

Jeanne: Of course I took great delight in mapping all the fun stuff people came up with into the castle as well. Secret rooms. Display rooms set up with set-piece displays a la Downton Abbey. Statues by the Folly (Yes, there’s a Folly!). And don’t forget the lucky gargoyles allllll over the castle! *Grins.* That said, Donna needed the Folly. Anna needed the Ringing Room. Seressia needed a shop in town. And everyone needed a room at the Castle! 

Nancy: We also created a town, Caynham-on-Ledwyche, to go with our castle. Ludlow is in the part of England bordering Wales, which is known as the Welsh Marches. The area is rich in history and legend, so we decided to site our town and castle there. We adapted features common to towns with long histories, including a mix of architectural styles spanning the centuries from half-timbered, thatched-roof buildings to modern British groceries like Waitrose. Jeanne did the diagram for the town, too. 

Jeanne: Drawing the town truly was a study in collaboration, I must say. We added businesses as we needed them for our stories – a bookstore, pubs, tea rooms, a flower shop, a curiousity shop, an old and quite haunted church and churchyard, a secondary hotel, a brewery, some B&B’s. Each has its own history and some of them come with a touch of magic in them! 

Nancy: Everybody contributed to the businesses, legends, castle features, and characters, and each of us used bits created by others. The overlapping was a lot of fun, but it makes for a very long copyright page! 

Jeanne: Yes, but who could resist that pub? When we created the Boar and Knight pub everyone added a bit. Gail contributed photos of pubs she’d been in. Nancy and I used the concept of the fireplace area from a pub we’d visited in Yorkshire. I don’t remember who contributed the idea of the signboard listing the owners/proprietors down through the centuries, but that’s there too. I wrote in a happy macaw who welcomes people in. 

Nancy: Here’s a photo of the fireplace at the Rose & Crown in Bainbridge, Yorkshire. The inn and its pub date back to the 15th century.

So that’s a little about the fun behind the scenes of designing Caynham Castle. 

What’s your favorite book, TV show, or movie set in a castle? If you have any questions about the process of creating Caynham Castle or the anthologies, we’d be happy to answer them. 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 26, will receive an e-book copy of Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Excerpt, Q&A, and Giveaway - - Love is a Rogue

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was excited to learn that Lady Beatrice, bookish younger sister of Drew Bentley, Duke of Thorndon, the hero of Lenora Bell's last book, One Fine Duke, would be the heroine of the upcoming Love is a Rogue. I'm happy to report Beatrice's story is an absolute delight, filled with sparkling banter, sensual passion, and heart-tugging emotion. And Beatrice - and her hero - are everything I had hoped they would be. I adore her, want to be friends with her, and, along with her, fell head over heels in love with her Navy carpenter hero. These two stole my heart.

Lenora joins us today with a sneak peek excerpt of the upcoming Love is a Rogue, a Q&A, and a wonderful prize package that's open internationally. Thank you, Lenora! 

Love is a Rogue is available for pre-order at all online book buying sites. You won't want to miss this one!


Love is a Rogue
by Lenora Bell
Wallflowers vs Rogues - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 27, 2020

They call her Beastly Beatrice.

Wallflower Lady Beatrice Bentley longs to remain in the wilds of Cornwall to complete her etymological dictionary. Too bad her brother’s Gothic mansion is under renovation. How can she work with an annoyingly arrogant and too-handsome rogue swinging a hammer nearby?

Rogue. Scoundrel. Call him anything you like as long as you pay him.

 Navy man Stamford Wright is leaving England soon and renovating Thornhill House is just a job. It’s not about the duke’s bookish sister or her fiery copper hair. Or the etymology lessons the prim-yet-alluring lady insists on giving him. Or the forbidden things he'd love to teach her.

They say never mix business with pleasure. But when Beatrice and Ford aren't arguing, they're kissing. 

Sometimes temptation proves too strong to resist…even if the cost is a heart.

Excerpt from Love is a Rogue

Beatrice peered over the window ledge. Whispers and . . . smacking noises? Were they kissing? And, incidentally, what would a kiss from Wright be like? She stuck her head farther out the window.

Too far.

Her spectacles slipped off her nose and plummeted straight for his head. She dropped into a crouch beneath the window, cheeks flaming and heart thudding. She could only hope that he was too occupied to notice a pair of spectacles falling from the sky.

Silence from below. She risked a quick glance out the window. Egad. She dropped back to a crouch.

Wright had found her spectacles, and apparently he meant to return them to her. He was climbing straight up the rose trellis like a pirate scaling the rigging of a ship, making a beeline for the library window. He couldn’t climb the stairs like other people. Oh no, he must display his brute strength by climbing hand over hand.

Mortification. Noun. Late fourteenth century. From Late Latin mortificationem, “putting to death.”

Could she make a dash for the library door? Not without her spectacles. Nothing for it but to face him.

She’d faced humiliation before. Stared it down. Dared it to break her.

This would be a very brief interaction. He would hand over the spectacles; she would thank him, and then send him on his merry way back down the trellis.

“Greetings, princess.” His voice was velvet-wrapped gravel.

Beatrice rose on wobbly knees. He was fuzzy without her spectacles, a huge shape blocking out the sunlight, a hulking blur with azure eyes. A blue to drown in, she’d heard one of the upstairs maids say swoonily. Beatrice’s brain sank beneath water. Her thoughts went blub, blub, blub. Which wasn’t like her at all. Words were her stock-in-trade, were they not?

Apparently, when confronted by the sudden appearance of a far-too-handsome rogue at her window, she lost the ability to form words into sentences . . . or even to speak at all.

Pull yourself together. Not an ounce of ninny, remember?

He balanced easily on the trellis, gripping the wood with one enormous hand and dangling the wire loop of her spectacles from the fingers of his other hand.

“Good day, Wright.” She spoke in the most nonchalant and unconcerned tone she could summon. “Lovely day for climbing rose trellises, what?”

He dangled the spectacles closer to her. “I presume these are yours?”

“Er . . . yes. I lost them while”—trying to see down your trousers—“watering the roses.”

Ludicrous. If she’d been watering the roses, she would have poured water on his head.

“Really?” His voice dropped to a rough, conspiratorial whisper. “Because I thought you might have been spying on me.”

“Don’t be silly. I needed a breath of air. I opened the window and I . . . I don’t have to explain myself to you. Hand over my spectacles immediately.”

His laughter was low and intimate. “A lofty lady would never spy on a carpenter, is that it?”

“I wasn’t spying.”

“I see,” he said with a smirk.

“I don’t.” She held out her palm.

Instead of giving her the spectacles, he reached forward and set them on her nose, using one thumb to gently hook the wires over each of her ears in turn. She was so startled by his touch that she froze in place.

His thumb brushed her right ear. Somehow the tip of her ear was connected to the pit of her belly. Which was connected to . . . everything.

His face sharpened into focus.

She’d known his eyes were blue. What she hadn’t known was that his left eye contained an uneven patch of golden brown, like a sunflower silhouetted against a summer sky. His chin was hard-angled, and there was a cleft slightly to the left of center. Dark whiskers shadowed his strong jawline.

Don’t do it, Beatrice. Do not melt into a puddle of quivering ninnyhood.

She took a steadying breath. “You’d better climb back down before that trellis breaks under your prodigious weight.”

“Don’t worry about me, princess.” He winked. “Repaired this trellis myself. It’s built to last.”

“Do stop calling me princess,” she said irritably, the nonchalance she’d been striving for making a fast retreat.

“You’re imprisoned in a tower.”

“I’m here quite by choice. I’m writing, or I would be if you weren’t making so much noise.”

“Is it the noise that distracts you?” He flexed the muscles of his free arm. “Or the man.”

Beatrice gulped for air. Why must the man incessantly call attention to his physical endowments? “Such an ostentatious display might be efficacious where housemaids are concerned, but it has no effect whatsoever on female scholars.”

“You’re not fascinated by me.” His voice swirled from velvet to smoke. “You never watch me from behind the curtains.”

He caught her gaze and held it.

He’d seen her watching.

A fresh wave of mortification washed through her mind. “If I happened to glance out the window from time to time, it was due to sheer frustration. You’ve ruined what was meant to be a tranquil literary haven.”

“And here I thought I’d been inspiring you.”

“Inspiring? Hardly!”

“I was sure you were scribbling away at a romantic novel and needed inspiration for describing your hero. That’s why you were always gazing at me from the window.” He gave her a smoldering look. “I’d be happy to provide a more up close and personal study.”

“You conceited peacock!”

“Admit it. You enjoyed the view.”

“I’ll admit nothing of the sort.”

He plucked a single red rose and offered it to her through the open window. “For you, princess. It matches your cheeks when they’re flushed from my proximity.”

“You . . . you . . .” Beatrice sputtered.

“Scoundrel?” he suggested.

“Malapert rapscallion!”

He tilted his head. “That’s a new one.”

“Have you considered that your renovations might progress more swiftly, Mr. Wright, if you did more carpentering and less flirting? First Jenny and now me—don’t you ever exhaust your store of vexatious trifling?”

He propped his elbow on the window ledge and leaned closer. “I thought you weren’t spying on me.”

“I wasn’t. I was watering the roses.”

“I think you were watching.” His gaze dropped to her lips. “Because you wanted to see what a kiss from me would be like.”

Beatrice wasn’t accustomed to men perusing her with that hooded, hazy look in their eyes. She was no beauty. She never incited desire.

She never experienced desire.

And yet . . . the glow in her belly was spreading. She still felt the soft brush of his fingers along the edge of her ear.

“This conversation is over. Be on your way.”

“Not yet.” He wrapped his hand over the window ledge. “I have a question to ask you.”


“I don’t want anyone to overhear me asking it.”

“That doesn’t sound proper.”

“I’m never proper. Don’t even know what the word means.”

“It’s from the Latin proprius meaning ‘one’s own, particular to itself.’ It’s not until the mid fourteenth century that we see the usage meaning ‘by the rules’ or ‘correct and acceptable.’”

“I don’t play by the rules, either.” He slid one knee onto the ledge. “I’m coming in.”

“No. Wait—!”

Too late.

Her sanctuary had been invaded by a rogue.

Q&A with Lenora Bell

Welcome back to The Romance Dish, Lenora! Im always excited when you visit as it usually means a new book for us to enjoy is on the horizon.

LB: Thanks so much for hosting me again, PJ. I always love visiting the Dish! You and your readers are such a warm and welcoming bunch.

Your newest novel, Love Is a Rogue releases October 27 and will launch your Wallflowers Vs Rogues series. What should readers expect from this new series, and from Love is a Rogue in particular?

LB: The Wallflowers vs. Rogues series is a spin-off from the School for Dukes series. Love Is a Rogue features Lady Beatrice Bentley, the duke’s sister from One Fine Duke. Several readers wrote to say they hoped Beatrice would have her own book and I was happy to be able to fulfill their wishes. Readers can expect more pop-culture references (Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars, HGTV…the list will go on as each book is finished) as well as lots of humor, emotion, and heat. 

I enjoyed Beatrices love of words and learned a few new ones while reading her story. Do you share that love? Whats your favorite big word?”

LB:  I’ve always loved learning new words and languages. I grew up in a literary household where we were allowed to read whatever we wanted from the bookshelves. I devoured every Dickens book at a young age. I remember giggling over the word “excrescence” in A Christmas Carol: “What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.” Such a comic and descriptive word. I used one of my favorite “big words” in Love Is a Rogue. I was in a hand bell choir as a child and we were taught the word “tintinnabulation” meaning a ringing or tinkling sound. Beatrice remarks, “And then theres tintinnabulation. What a word! Why you can hear the bells ringing within it!” 

This beautiful photo from Lenora's new homeland inspires lots of big words!

Youre currently living the ex-pat life in New Zealand. Whats that like?  

LB: We’ve fallen head over heels in love with New Zealand. It’s an absolutely gorgeous country that takes environmental regulation very seriously.

And the people have such a great sense of humor—think Taika Waititi.

Beatrices arrival at the masquerade ball was one of my favorite scenes in this book. If you were attending a masquerade, what costume would you wear to best reflect your true self?

LB: I’ve always been bookish, so I suppose I’d dress up as Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë and come with quill in hand and manuscript pages in my pockets.

I loved the pairing of Ford and Lady Beatrice, especially as facets of their romance mirror your own personal life. Will you share the courtship story of Lenora Bell and her own carpenter hero with us? 

LB: I met my carpenter husband, Brian, at a party with mutual friends and shortly afterward I hired him to fix up the basement of my quirky Victorian farmhouse in Portland, Oregon. We worked side by side, knocking out old lath and plaster walls, laying new oak flooring, and installing light fixtures. I used a lot of that experience while writing Love Is a Rogue. Beatrice and Ford fall in love while working on an old house, just as Brian and I did. In the book, Ford gives Beatrice a leather tool belt to wear, which is taken directly from real life :-) 

Ford and Beatrice are one of my favorite Lenora Bell couples. In many ways, book-loving Beatrice reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast but, in this story, Ford is the beauty. He won my heart because, unlike others, he doesnt try to change or improve” Beatrice. He sees her for who she really is and loves her exactly as she is. Did you intend for this to be a flipped Beauty and the Beast story when you conceived it?  (Or is that something I read into it?) 😉

LB: Thanks so much, PJ. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Ford and Beatrice. I had a lot of fun writing their love story and you’re absolutely right — I pitched the book as “Gender-flipped Beauty and the Beast meets HGTV.” All six of my previous historical romances have had wealthy duke heroes. I decided to completely change things up and write a series where the heroes are all working class. Ford from Love Is a Rogue is a ship’s carpenter with the Royal Navy. They say to write what you know—and I know carpenters! My grandfather, father, brother, and husband are all carpenters and builders. 

It felt like you were dropping breadcrumbs for future romantic pairs during this book (and I am so here for that if the couples are who I think they are). Are you able to tell us anything about the other pairs who will take center stage in this series?

LB: The next book in the series will be a gender-flipped Cinderella story featuring Lady Henrietta Prince, the newest member of The Mayfair Ladies Knitting League, who is managing the vineyards on her father’s estate. I’m hoping that Viola Beaton’s story will be the third in the series. I was definitely dropping some bread crumbs for her story. Viola’s a musician and composer who is finishing her father’s symphonies because he’s nearly deaf. Viola is dear to my heart because my mother is a pianist, composer, and music teacher who taught me to sing and play several instruments. 

New Zealand has built a reputation for wonderful wines. Which one would you choose to pair with Love is a Rogue? What makes it a good match?

LB: The wine here is amazing, especially the Pinot Noirs. We have so many new favorites. I might choose the Madam Sass Pinot Noir from Central Otago for Beatrice because throughout the book she’s really learning to own her sensuality and power. The description for Madam Sass wine says “She is an homage to heroines from Central Otagos gold rush era; when gutsy women held little regard for the establishment and relished taking risks.”

Whats next? Do you have a projected release date for book two in the Wallflowers Vs Rogues series? Are you able to share anything about the story?

LB: I just submitted my cover ideas for Book Two and I have a tentative title that I can’t share yet, but that I’m very happy about. It’s a gender-flipped Cinderella story with a working class hero who unexpectedly inherits an earldom. I can’t wait to share more about the book soon!

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Lenora. Would you like to add anything or ask my readers a question?

LB: Thanks so much for hosting me, PJ! I can’t wait to “see” you at the Buns & Roses Virtual Romance Tea for Literacy in October. 

I’m wondering if your readers had to choose, would they prefer to read a romance loosely inspired by Sleeping Beauty, or one inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?

What do you think, readers? Will it be Sleeping Beauty or Snow White? Post a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), September 25 for a chance to win a prize package from Lenora that includes a signed ARC of Love is a Rogue, a $20 Barnes and Noble gift certificate, and assorted swag. 

*Must be 18

*Open internationally