Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review - - The Intimacy Experiment

The Intimacy Experiment
by Rosie Danan
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Reviewed by Hellie


Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won't hire her. 

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag nominated him as one of the city's hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Low on both funds and congregants, the executive board of Ethan's new shul hired him with the hopes that his nontraditional background will attract more millennials to the faith. They've given him three months to turn things around or else they'll close the doors of his synagogue for good. 

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems--until they discover a new one--their growing attraction to each other. They've built the syllabus for love's latest experiment, but neither of them expected they'd be the ones putting it to the test.


Hellie’s Heeds: 

An ex-porn star and a rabbi fall in love. This seriously sounds like the biggest joke ever. When I was asked if I would want to review the book, I was like, “Umm, the heroine used to be a porn star?” I mean, the romance novel industry has definitely found its brand in promoting sex positive stories for women, but I was somewhat hesitant about a happily ever after for a heroine who used to be a sex worker. All my conversations and “experience” about sex workers was that this was an industry that exploited women, and I was concerned that a heroine who had been in the industry wouldn’t be mentally, emotionally ready for a relationship (especially the kind that romance seems to promote: monogamous.) Of course, then I thought: “Well, Hellie, you don’t have this problem if it's a rake, right? I mean, isn’t a rake...sorta like a sex worker? You believe in their HEAs, don’t you?” So from before I even read the first page, this book was challenging my long held beliefs of what a romance story should be or do.  

When I first started the book, I admit, I was determined not to be impressed. The opening paragraphs were okay, but my writer’s eye was critiquing them, looking for weaknesses in the heroine. And then I got to page 5 and I was sucked into the story. I started laughing. I started rooting for this tough-as-nails heroine whose hardness was very armadillo in nature, protecting a soft underbelly from ever being seen. And then I met the rabbi--and I was a goner.  

As soon as I met Ethan Cohen on the page, I knew he would ruin me for all other rabbis. Soon he began to ruin me for all other fictional heroes. He was kindness, openness, and sweetness itself--all the while being sex on a stick. If Captain America had happened to be a rabbi--that’s what he was. And Naomi, while definitely sex on a stick, was not sweetness and kindness itself--she was more prickly than a hedgehog that fell into a nest of cacti. She acknowledges it. And yet being with Ethan makes her softer and sweeter--and he loves her just as she is. She was vulnerability itself, even as her outside seemed bullet proof.  

It was so interesting to read a romance where both characters had each done so much work on themselves, who knew their faults and owned them, and yet still grew in the course of the story, allowing the reader to grow with them. It was also a book that showed the scope of what I think romance novels do: they show the intimacy of a relationship between two people, how it develops, what it reveals--and it’s not sex itself that reveals it. It was amusing to me to have a sex-worker heroine who loves sex...but doesn’t have sex with the hero until way long into the book. But it doesn’t mean this book isn’t sexy or romantic--it had those things in spades. I laughed hysterically throughout this book--the author has a real knack for dialogue and secondary characters that add to the primary characters’ development. But I also cried at scenes that were just beautiful to read, that were so visceral for the characters themselves, things that though I’m not Jewish...or an ex-porn star, I found relatable.  

It’s a rare book--romance or otherwise--that can change a reader in a myriad of ways, but this one did for me. It may not be that book for everyone else (no book is), but I love how this book challenged my assumptions, grew my knowledge in topics I didn’t know or thought I did, and left me well satisfied and happy for the escapism I sought--as I usually do--with my romance novels. I am happy to see even more diversity in the romance book industry, more representation for more cultures and identities (not just cis-gender WASP identities), and I’m happy to learn from these diverse stories so I can be a better human in the real world, which I think is one of the primary things we all learn from our romance stories. 

5 stars, Top Dish (I mean it, BUY IT NOW)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review - - Picnic in Someday Valley

Picnic in Someday Valley
by Jodi Thomas
Honey Creek - Book 2
Publisher: Zebra
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Marcie Latimer longs to run away from Someday Valley—especially since her ex-boyfriend spun a web of lies that almost led to tragedy in neighboring Honey Creek. Little wonder so many locals have turned their backs on her. But not Brand Rodgers. The quiet cowboy comes to listen every time she sings at Bandit’s Bar, offering a glimpse of safety and calm that Marcie’s rarely known.

After Texas Ranger Colby McBride saved Honey Creek’s mayor, Piper Mackenzie, from a fire, she claimed him with a kiss. That was five months ago, and Colby still isn’t sure where they’re headed. Piper loves her town—but does she love Colby? And is he even ready for what comes next?
Pecos Smith, Honey Creek’s emergency dispatcher, is grateful to have a new bride he adores and a baby on the way—even if one vital piece of the puzzle is missing. But as trouble comes stalking through the valley, lives will cross surprising paths. And Marcie, who’s always felt that a forever love was out of reach, might discover that Someday is the perfect place to find it . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

Reading this book really does feel like catching up with friends and neighbors at a Sunday afternoon picnic. Thomas is a master at creating communities, especially small Texas communities, then populating them with complex characters and intriguing storylines. I become invested in her characters, both primary and secondary; by the end of the book I feel as though I've made new friends. I find myself emotionally attached and am eager to discover where life will take them next. There are many such characters in Picnic in Someday Valley. And then there's the town itself. Thomas's descriptions are so detailed, her sense of place so acute that if I close my eyes, I can convince myself I'm actually there in Honey Creek. 

This is the second book in Thomas's Honey Creek trilogy. It can be read on its own but I encourage you to first read book one: Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe. Some of the continuing storylines begin in that book and carry through book two while others begin in book two and will hopefully carry through to the third book in the trilogy. My enjoyment of Picnic in Someday Valley was richer and my understanding of several characters (and character relationships) deeper after I read book one. Now I'm counting down the weeks until book three, Dinner on Primrose Hill releases on October 26th. I have no doubt it will be another enjoyable trip to Honey Creek where old friends welcome you back and new ones are ready to make your acquaintance. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Review - - The Paris Apartment

The Paris Apartment
by Kelly Bowen
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

2017, London
: When Aurelia Leclaire inherits an opulent Paris apartment, she is shocked to discover her grandmother’s hidden secrets—including a treasure trove of famous art and couture gowns. One obscure painting leads her to Gabriel Seymour, a highly respected art restorer with his own mysterious past. Together they attempt to uncover the truths concealed within the apartment’s walls.
Paris, 1942: The Germans may occupy the City of Lights, but glamorous Estelle Allard flourishes in a world separate from the hardships of war. Yet when the Nazis come for her friends, Estelle doesn’t hesitate to help those she holds dear, no matter the cost. As she works against the forces intent on destroying her loved ones, she can’t know that her actions will have ramifications for generations to come.

Set seventy-five years apart, against a perilous and a prosperous Paris, both Estelle and Lia must unearth hidden courage as they navigate the dangers of a changing world, altering history—and their family’s futures—forever.

PJ's Thoughts:

My advice to readers: If you begin Kelly Bowen's The Paris Apartment early in the day, be prepared to toss your to-do list out the window. Start it in the evening? You'll be up all night. And when I say all night, I mean all night. I tried putting this book down at midnight, at 1:00 AM, and again at 2:AM. These compelling characters absolutely refused to allow me to stop reading until they had shared their entire perilous journey. I turned the final page at 4:00 AM, in awe of the courage of these brave souls who placed their lives on the line day after day to gather information, protect the wounded, hide the persecuted, and aid the Allies in the fight against the Nazi regime. 

Dual timelines don't always work for me but Bowen's transition from present to past and back to present is seamless, enhancing the overall story. Both timelines are anchored by strong, compelling, and intriguing women. I was emotionally invested in all three of them: Estelle and Sophie in the past and Lia in the present. I loved how Bowen weaved their stories together while also giving each a complete story arc of her own. By the end of the book, I felt as if I knew each of them intimately, as if they were my friends. I had shared heartbreak, fear, rage, hope, despair, love, and joy with all of them, especially Estelle and Sophie. I knew I would not soon forget them.

Bowen also brings the city of Paris to life in this book, especially the Paris that was occupied by the Nazis. She creates an immersive experience that places the reader in the setting, allowing all the emotions of that dangerous time to flow through me as though I was walking those streets alongside her characters. There are so many small, but important, details that expand the reading experience. I loved all the information about art, couture fashion, architecture, and history. It's clear this book was impeccably and thoroughly researched. 

And then there are the secondary characters, some with minor roles, others with substantial impact, like Gabriel. I really enjoyed his storyline with Lia, how they both connected to the events - and characters - of the past and to one another, the impact those past events had on their lives today, and their potential for a shared future. The entire group of secondary characters contribute to the overall impact of this story. Even those with only a paragraph or two have significance, a purpose. Some of those characters are heartbreaking, some offer lightness and humor, some are chilling in their evil supremacy and careless disregard for human life, while others remind us not to give up hope, to keep fighting for what is right and just. Bowen's ability to create well-developed, realistic characters who elicit a vast range of emotions in readers is one of her best skills and a key facet of this novel. It isn't only the main characters that I will have a hard time forgetting. 

The Paris Apartment is one of the most compelling and unforgettable WWII historical fiction novels I've read. I highly recommend it. 


Monday, April 26, 2021

Review - - A Second Chance for Love

A Second Chance for Love
A Sea Glass Bay Romance Book (anthology)
by Anna J. Stewart, Kayla Perrin, Melinda Curtis and 
Cari Lynn Webb
Publisher: CAEZIK Romance
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

With Mother’s Day approaching, four women living in a picturesque coastal town discover a second chance at love when they finally find their happily-ever-after partners in this anthology of contemporary romance novellas.

Claire Bishop’s life as an art teacher in Sea Glass Bay is full and rewarding, but her heart longs for a family she’ll never have. When she agrees to help out widower, Sully Vaughn, by taking care of his daughter after school, Sully is concerned his little girl, Lindie, is growing too attached to her favorite teacher. Sully is trying his best to protect his child from the heartache of loss that nearly destroyed him, but he hasn’t taken into account his passion for the dynamic woman—nor Lindie’s determination to lay claim to the perfect mom.

Jazzy Dunbar is enjoying life as a single mom, proving that you don’t have to have a man to have it all. Jeremiah Caldwell, a good friend, made the perfect sperm donor. He’s happy with their “no strings attached” relationship ... or is he? He wants to be more than a sometimes-father in baby Caleb’s life. Jazzy doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by allowing their attraction to flare, but when a serious situation threatens, will Jeremiah be able to prove that they can have love and the perfect family?

Single mom Leah Martin needs to find a wedding date for her ex-husband’s wedding. Their son, Owen, is going to be the ringbearer and her attendance is required. But this florist has no time to date around the busy Mother’s Day holiday, which is why she agrees to let her friends set her up for a blind date. Hank DeLeon’s bar shares an alley with Leah’s florist shop, which is the perfect location for a restaurant if she’s willing to relocate. When he’s asked to take her on a blind date, he has to wonder: is this a great chance for a business proposition? Or a once-in-a-lifetime chance at love?

After a corporate restructuring at her accounting firm, Paige Duffy moved north to Sea Glass Bay and opened a handmade candle booth at the coastal town’s popular local craft market. Now her severance is running out and Paige discovers she’s pregnant from a one night stand. Charter boat owner, Gavin Cole, lost his grandfather six months ago, promising him he’d finally pursue his dreams of sailing the open ocean. But when Paige tells him that she’s pregnant with his child, Gavin must decide what adventure he really wants: the one he’s always dreamed of, or the one he never believed possible.

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're a fan of sweet, small-town romance, liberally sprinkled with humor and heart, supportive female friendships, second chances at love, engaging characters, and a solid family foundation (in whatever form that may take), you'll want to pick up a copy of A Second Chance for Love

Stewart, Perrin, Curtis, and Webb all bring their own unique spin to these stories while also giving readers a seamless transition from couple to couple, maintaining consistency among the characters as well as the setting. I enjoyed the different relationships that played out over the course of all four stories. I became invested in the four main couples, but also in several secondary characters. I'm curious to know if there are more anthologies planned for this quartet, or possibly more stories for certain characters by individual authors? I'd certainly be in line to buy them.

This anthology is a bit like a box of assorted sweets. There are varied tropes, diverse characters, and heroines (and heroes) at different stages of their lives. You may have your personal favorite but they're all equally good and sure to satisfy.  

Have you read any of the authors in this collection?

Sea Glass Bay looks like a place I'd like to visit. What beach would you most like to visit? Or, do you prefer relaxation in other places?

I love that all of the heroines in this collection have booths at their local street market. Does your town have craft, farmers, or some type of other street market? Which booths are your favorite to visit?

Two people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, April 27 will each receive a print copy of A Second Chance For Love

*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Review - - Evade and Capture

Evade and Capture
by Lori Matthews
Callahan Security Series - Book 4
Publisher: Wild Coyote Press
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Can Jameson Drake save his sister and the woman he loves?

Spencer Gordon wasn’t expecting the call from Kathleen Drake, a woman she’d spent years keeping safe as part of the Witness Protection program. The terrified woman begged Spencer for help. Taking a leave of absence from her job with Homeland Security, Spencer hurries to her friend’s side. But the threat to Kathleen is larger than Spencer bargained for, forcing a call for reinforcements. She didn’t count on being attracted to Kathleen’s arrogant, annoying, and sexy as hell brother.

Searching for his sister has been a driving force for businessman and multimillionaire Jameson Drake. When a woman approaches him out of the blue claiming to know where his sister is, he has no choice but to go along. He’d imagined all kinds of wild theories about what happened to Kathleen but the truth is more shocking than even he’d ever guessed.

Forced to work together to keep Kathleen safe, Spencer strikes an uneasy alliance with Drake, wavering between wanting to shoot him, and needing to kiss him. Other than their mutual attraction, the one thing they do have in common is their desire to keep Kathleen safe. If only the mob didn’t have a different agenda.

PJ's Thoughts:
Talk about your wild rides! Lori Matthews cranks up the danger, action, suspense, and romance in this fast-paced, non-stop fourth book of her Callahan Security series. I could not put it down.
If you're a fan of this series, you know Jameson Drake has never stopped searching for his sister. It's been the driving force in his life for the past sixteen years and a common, secondary thread through the first three books of this series. I was hopeful for a positive resolution to his search but, come on, it's been sixteen years, right? I couldn't figure out how Matthews was going to bring Kathleen back into his life and keep it realistic or how she would manage to pull off a happy ending for everyone once we got into the heart of the story but that's exactly what she accomplished...while keeping me on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out what would happen next, and flipping pages for all I was worth from beginning to end. 
I loved how Drake's character evolved in this book, showing us a softer side along with well-hidden facets of the millionaire businessman that I never would have guessed. I wasn't sure how I felt about him in earlier books (his character really isn't fleshed out until this book) but he ended up being one of my favorite characters of the series. I didn't know what to make of Spencer at first but she won me over with her staunch loyalty to Kathleen and her kick-ass, take no prisoners attitude backed up by well-honed skills. She also is a character who evolves over the course of the book and I really enjoyed her growth from beginning to end.
If you enjoy fast-paced romantic suspense with intriguing characters, snappy dialogue, sizzling romance, breath-stealing danger, unexpected twists and turns, and guaranteed happily-ever-afters, at least for the good guys, give Lori Matthews' Evade and Capture a try. I highly recommend it.
*Evade and Capture is the fourth book in the Callahan Security series. While heroes from previous books are instrumental in this story and Drake's search for his sister is introduced early on in the series, his own story really doesn't take off until the beginning of this book. Evade and Capture can absolutely be enjoyed as a standalone. 

Winner - - Marry in Scarlet


The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 23, 2021

Review - - Sunset on Moonlight Beach

Sunset on Moonlight Beach
by Sheila Roberts
Moonlight Harbor - Book 5
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Jenna Jones has been standing on the shore of the Sea of Love for too long. Even with two good men interested in her, she's been afraid to wade in. According to her best friend, Courtney, she should. The water’s fine. Life is great! Practically perfect, if you don’t count Courtney’s problems with her cranky ex-boss. Maybe Courtney’s right. It’s time to dive in.

When tragedy strikes, everything changes and Jenna's more confused than ever. But this fresh heartache might help her figure out at last who she can turn to when times get tough.

PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about Sheila Roberts' books is the community she creates. While each book in a series has a primary romantic couple, other characters and their own journeys are seamlessly interwoven throughout. Reading one of the books in her Moonlight Harbor series feels like I'm sitting around a campfire on the beach with my neighbors, sipping a cold beverage and catching up on all the latest happenings in their lives. 

Jenna Jones has been a key character in Moonlight Harbor since arriving in book one, bitter and broke after being betrayed by her cheating, free-loading husband (now her ex). Moving in with her great-aunt, Jenna and her teenage daughter have slowly become part of the fabric of the small beach town. With the court-appointed alimony she's had to pay her ex for the past few years about to come to an end, Jenna is starting to finally look ahead at what she wants her life to be once she doesn't have to work two jobs and pinch pennies to support her lazy ex and his girlfriend. And part of that future is the possibility of trusting another man enough to enter into a new relationship. The problem is...which man will it be?

I've enjoyed watching Jenna evolve over the course of the series and have been eager for her to finally get her own happily ever after. She's sure earned it. Roberts doesn't give her an easy path though. There's heartache, another betrayal, loss, weaselly relatives, and the slow realization that the heart wants what the heart wants, regardless of obstacles in the way. It's a sweet, heart-tugging, humorous, emotional story about family, standing up for yourself, refusing to settle, and claiming your heart's desire that had me laughing, crying, and sighing with satisfaction. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review - - Faux Paws

Faux Paws
by Roxanne St. Claire
The Dogmothers - Book 8
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

At a personal and career crossroads he never expected, Navy nuclear engineer Theo Santorini faces the fact that his once charmed existence isn’t so charmed anymore. Then, on a cross country trip, he saves a desperate and abused dog, hoping he can turn around both their lives. When he arrives at Waterford Farm in North Carolina with his rescue, Clementine, Theo’s matchmaking grandmother and her best friend immediately launch a plan to help both man and dog. Theo doesn’t hate their idea of getting an assist from a beautiful, enigmatic “pet psychic” while he figures out his next move. But the woman’s preposterous claims that she can read an animal’s mind seriously test an engineer who lives for logic and flees from feelings.

After bolting from the church when she learned the groom waiting at the altar had cheated on her, Ayla Hollis can now add “runaway bride” to her short resume. But this perennial people-pleaser has broken free from her stifling upbringing and is finally ready to begin a new life. She’ll start by openly admitting to the world that she has a gift that might seem bizarre to some, but she can help animals, and in a town that loves dogs, that makes her a local hero. Her first “patient” is an emotionally damaged stray dog held in the strong arms of a handsome, but skeptical, owner. Ayla soon finds it can be much easier to understand an animal’s feelings than those of a man who refuses to believe her abilities are real.

As Theo and Ayla work together to help Clementine heal, they can’t deny one thing is real: their sizzling chemistry that quickly grows to feelings of forever. But before the Dogmothers can claim another successful match, Ayla’s psychic skills thrust her into a perilous spotlight that threatens everything. With their love on the line and a dog’s life in the balance, Ayla’s gift could save them all…but only if Theo will finally risk his heart and believe.

PJ's Thoughts: 
Roxanne St. Claire aims straight for the heart and never misses. I adored this book. I know it may seem like I say that with each newly-published book in this series but sometimes there's an extra-special something that pushes a book to the top of the heap and Faux Paws has it. As soon as I finished my first read-through, all I wanted to do was go back to the beginning and read it all over again. With more tissues. As I said, straight for the heart. 
In Faux Paws, St. Claire brings us three main characters (two and four-legged), newly arrived in Bitter Bark, North Carolina, who are all at a crossroads in their lives. I love the way she explores the challenges, possibilities, and decisions facing each of them. Yes, even Clementine, who is definitely in the running for my favorite rescue pooch in this series. Her journey is a hard one that had me reaching for tissues more than once. Don't worry, she definitely gets her happily ever after. 
I love the chemistry between Ayla and Theo but I also enjoy the fact that St. Claire takes her time with them, gradually building a friendship before introducing deeper feelings. They have some fundamental differences to work through before those deeper feelings can take root. I always enjoy the emotional layering that occurs in these stories, along with the slow burn. The relationships that form are very realistic, with humor and conflict along the way while the main characters are complex people I'd enjoy knowing in real life. In fact, they're so realistic that I'm still halfway convinced they're all living happy lives in a lovely little North Carolina town only a couple hours away from me. 
The extended families - including the matchmaking Dogmothers a/k/a one Irish Gramma and one Greek Yiayia - all add an emotional richness to the story along with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. If you're a fan of The Dogmother series, as well as The Dogfather series, you'll enjoy catching up with some of your favorite characters in this book, while also welcoming new babies and pups to the clan. For readers who are new to these books, you should know that you can jump in with any of them and feel right at home.
If you enjoy family-centric contemporary romance with humor, sweet (but deeply emotional) romance, characters you'll want to be friends with, and rescue dogs who will flat-out steal your heart, this book is for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Cover Reveal - - The Scoundrel's Daughter


The Scoundrel's Daughter
by Anne Gracie
The Brides of Bellaire Gardens - Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 24, 2021

When Lady Charlton is forced into becoming London's most reluctant matchmaker, sparks fly and romance ensues, from the national bestselling author of Marry in Scarlet.

Alice, Lady Charlton, newly-widowed and eager to embrace a life free of her domineering husband  is devastated when a scoundrel appears, brandishing letters that could ruin her. To prevent their publication he wants Alice to find a noble husband—a lord!—for his daughter, Lucy.

Alice is forced to agree to his blackmail but when Lucy arrives, she has absolutely no interest in her father's scheme. A lord, she says, will only look down his nose at her—and she's having none of that!

Desperate to retrieve the letters, Alice enlists the aid of her handsome young nephew, Gerald, who in turn seeks the help of his former commanding officer, James, Lord Tarrant. James is soon beguiled by the marriage-averse lady and sets out to teach her about love.  Meanwhile, Gerald and Lucy strike sparks each time they meet.

To combat the dastardly plot, Alice and Lucy must learn to trust each other. But can Alice put the past behind her and open her heart to love?

PJ Says:

Isn't that cover stunning? I love the colors! 

Anne Gracie is one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors so, of course, news of a new book by her is always cause for celebration at my house. After Marry in Scarlet, last year's triumphant conclusion to Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series (read PJ's 5-star review), she's been hard at work on a new slate of characters to win readers' hearts. The Brides of Bellaire Gardens launches on August 24th with The Scoundrel's Daughter and the back cover blub has me salivating. I can't wait to discover what Gracie has planned for this new slate of characters. 

Have you read any of Anne Gracie's books? Do you have a favorite series by her?

I love the vibrant purple and green on the cover of The Scoundrel's Daughter. What colors on a book cover catch your attention?

I have a print copy of Marry in Scarlet for one randomly chosen person who comments on this post before 11:00 PM, April 21.

*Must be 18
*U.S. Addresses Only

Review - - A Waterfront Wedding

A Waterfront Wedding
by Leigh Duncan
A Heart's Landing Novel - Book 3
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

It’s the wedding of the year…

But who will get to host it?

In Heart’s Landing, Evelyn wants to prove she’s a good manager of the Captain’s Cottage by the bay—a favorite place for weddings. Meanwhile, Ryan has invested his life savings to remodel the town’s old boatworks into a brand-new wedding venue.

When a Marine and his bride win the Wedding in a Week contest, they have seven days to put together a romantic, all-expenses-paid event. It’ll be written up in Weddings Today magazine. But will they choose Evelyn’s cottage or Ryan’s boatworks?

The rival business owners cozy up to the bride and groom, helping them plan their military wedding. And even though Evelyn and Ryan both grew up in Heart’s Landing, they learn they never truly knew each other until now. But can they trust each other when only one of them can win?

PJ's Thoughts:

If you enjoy feel-good Hallmark movies, you are going to love this book. Leigh Duncan brings the town of Heart's Landing, in all its wedding-themed glory, to vibrant life. I don't need to be getting married; I just want to spend a week there soaking up the atmosphere. And by atmosphere, I mean dinners at the Italian restaurant on Bridal Carriage Way, tastings at I Do Cakes, horse-drawn carriage rides, and bicycling along the shore. Then there's the award-winning, premiere wedding venue at the Captain's Cottage. But, wait, there's a new kid in town and it looks like his waterfront wedding venue just might give the perennial favorite a run for its money.

This book was an absolute delight. I love a good friends to lovers romance and this one gave me that, plus more. We have childhood friends who are reunited when Ryan returns to town, but now they're business rivals who each are determined to be the venue selected by the special couple chosen to receive an all-expenses paid Heart's Landing wedding.  When Ryan and Evelyn are forced to work together to guide the couple through the week-long series of events, they begin to rediscover friendship as adults, a friendship that gradually starts to deepen into more. But always underlying those feelings is the knowledge that one of them is going to lose out when the couple makes their venue choice. And for Ryan, that could mean not only the end of a dream but the end of his business before it even has a chance to get off the ground. 

One of my favorite parts of this book is the community Duncan has created. I love how she weaves relationships together - family, romantic, and business - without ever being confusing or overwhelming. By the end of the book, I felt as though I knew these people and was part of their community. Ryan and Evelyn's romance is sweet but with a solid depth of emotion. I was cheering for them. And I thoroughly enjoyed the secondary romance between the couple who won the contest. It was fun to get to know them a bit, both individually and as a couple. 

I don't know if Duncan plans any more books in this series but I would happily return to Heart's Landing if she does. I wouldn't mind seeing these characters brought to life on the Hallmark Channel either!