Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review - - When Stars Collide

When Stars Collide
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Chicago Stars - Book 9
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Thaddeus Walker Bowman Owens, the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars, is a team player, talented sideline coach, occasional male underwear model, and a man with a low tolerance for Divas.

Olivia Shore, international opera superstar, is a driven diva with a passion for perfection, a craving for justice, too many secrets—and a monumental grudge against the egotistical, lowbrow jock she’s been stuck with.

It’s Mozart meets Monday Night Football as the temperamental soprano and stubborn jock embark on a nationwide tour promoting a luxury watch brand. Along the way, the combatants will engage in soul-searching and trash talk, backstage drama and, for sure, a quarterback pass. But they’ll also face trouble as threatening letters, haunting photographs, and a series of dangerous encounters complicate their lives. Is it the work of an overzealous fan or something more sinister?

This is the emotional journey of a brilliant woman whose career is everything and a talented man who’ll never be happy with second place.  Tender and funny, passionate and insightful, this irresistible romantic adventure proves that anything can happen…when two superstars collide.

PJ's Thoughts:

Is it wrong that I want Phillips to spend the rest of her writing career creating new Chicago Stars stories? Not that I don't enjoy her other books - I do - but there's just an extra sumpin sumpin about the books in the Stars universe that check my happy reader boxes.

When Stars Collide is brimming with many of the things I enjoy about Phillips' books: snappy banter, sizzling chemistry, and a  satisfying depth of emotion. This book also tosses in a mystery/suspense thread that builds throughout the book and kept me guessing right up until the reveal. 

The book started a bit slow for me but once Olivia and Thad teamed up it began to pick up speed and kept its pace until the conclusion. I really enjoyed seeing these two go up against one another. They're so sure they are polar opposites and neither has much respect for the other at the beginning, which made the unraveling of their misconceptions, and development of their relationship, so much fun to watch. I also found the behind-the-scenes look at life as an opera star fascinating. It allowed readers to gain a deeper understanding of Olivia, while the push and pull between Thad and the rookie QB replacing him with the Stars offered insight into what makes him tick. 

If you like opera or football or just a well-executed story with romance, suspense, heart-tugging emotion, and a generous sprinkling of SEP wit and humor, give this one a try. It's the ninth book in the Chicago Stars series but stands well on its own. 


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - Falling in Love on Willow Creek

Falling in Love on Willow Creek
by Debbie Mason
Highland Falls - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Single mom-to-be Sadie Gray will do anything to find her younger brother before the law catches up with him. Even if it means returning home to the small town of Highland Falls with a baby due any moment. But when that moment comes sooner than expected, and Sadie finds herself stranded on the top of a mountain—in labor--she couldn’t be more grateful for the park ranger who finds her and helps deliver her daughter safely. Soon they’ve formed a tight friendship, and while he may be hinting at more, Sadie isn’t planning to stick around after she finds her brother.

FBI agent Chase Roberts wasn’t looking for love when he agreed to go undercover as a park ranger to find an on-the-run informant. But he can’t help being drawn to beautiful, warm-hearted Sadie and her sweet baby daughter. He’s always longed to put down roots and start a family. But how can he hope to keep Sadie’s trust when she finds out that his job is to arrest the brother she’s been looking for? 

PJ's Thoughts:

When I finished reading Debbie Mason's Christmas, Colorado series, I didn't know how she was going to top it. But then she introduced readers to Harmony Harbor and I was completely immersed into the town, the families, and the ghostly thread that ran through the series. I was so sad to say goodbye to those characters and, once again, was certain her next series would be good but would be unable to replace the Gallagher and DiRossi families in my affections. And then along came Highland Falls and my heart expanded to welcome more feel-good stories and the heart-stealing characters who bring them to life.

After reading an advance copy of this book a couple months ago, I had planned to skim it once again over the weekend before writing a review. I hadn't even reached the end of the first chapter before these characters pulled me right back into their story and I ended up re-reading the entire book for a second time. Every single word. Mason's balance of romance, suspense, hilarious comedy, and heartfelt emotion kept me eagerly turning pages from beginning to end. Her descriptions of Highland Falls brought the small mountain to life and have pretty much convinced me that if I hop into my car and drive a couple hours west I'll be right there with my favorite Highland Falls residents in all their nosy, supportive, sometimes quirky, and frequently hilarious small-town glory. I've fallen for them all, enjoy catching up with them in each book, and eagerly welcome all new arrivals to town. 

Sadie and Chase a/k/a Michael have secured their place as one of my favorite Mason couples. I fell hard for Michael in the first chapter, almost as hard as he fell for Sadie and her newborn daughter. My heart melted over his special bond with the baby and his determination to keep both Sadie and her daughter safe, even if he had to bend a few of his sacred rules to do so. My heart ached for Sadie as she struggled to find her footing as a single mom with a colicky baby while dealing with her scumbag ex, trying to keep her grandmother out of bankruptcy, trying to track down her on-the-run younger brother, staying one step ahead of the bad guys, and falling for the man who is lying to her about who he really is. That's a lot to handle, but handle it she does. I really enjoyed the evolution of her character, the inner strength she discovered, the support she found through her female friendships, and, how she handled her relationship with Michael after his true purpose for being in Highland Falls was revealed. 

As with the first two books in the series, the supporting cast is vast, vividly depicted, and integral to the lead couple's story. I absolutely adored Finn, the kleptomaniac pooch who forms an immediate bond with Sadie's daughter and I can't wait to find out what Mason has in store for potential new couples in future books. Falling in Love on Willow Creek can be read as a standalone but because key characters and past events from the first two books are prominently featured in book three I suggest reading the books in order beginning with Summer on Honeysuckle Ridge, followed by Christmas on Reindeer Road, and then Falling in Love on Willow Creek.  

But the story doesn't end there! There's a bonus novella, A Wedding On Honeysuckle Ridge, included at the end of Falling in Love on Willow Creek that is an absolute delight. There are reluctant brides, over-zealous groomzillas, matchmaking grandmothers, trouble-making grandfathers, adorable babies, a six-year-old romance advisor, and last, but definitely not least, a sweetly sentimental but hilariously inept marriage proposal that still has me laughing. 

I enthusiastically recommend adding Falling in Love on Willow Creek to your summer reading list. 

Debbie Mason is one of the authors I turn to when I'm looking for a good comfort read that tickles my funny bone and touches my heart. What author fills that need for you?

Six-year-old Teddy Buchanan is one of my all-time favorite children in fiction. I adore that kid! Do you have a favorite fictional child?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 30 will receive a print copy of Falling in Love on Willow Creek

*Must be 18
*U.S. only
*Void where prohibited

Monday, June 28, 2021

Review - - A Duke in Time

A Duke in Time
by Janna MacGregor
The Widow Rules - Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri's accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she's been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.

Meri's far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she's Meri's widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri's two other wives, Katherine doesn't have time for much else. But there's something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they'll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other's hearts and futures.

PJ's Thoughts:

A Duke in Time launches Janna MacGregor's new series and sets the stage for what looks to be a very entertaining group of books. The premise is intriguing, with a group of main characters I'm looking forward to learning more about, and a bit of a mystery that looks to play out over the course of the series. I'm eager to discover what out-of-left-field bequests from the deceased "trigamist" show up next!

What drives this story are the characters and, I have to say, they're some of the most likeable I've met in some time. Christian and Kat are good, honorable, caring people who I was pulling for from start to finish. I enjoyed Kat's determination to earn her own keep, her clever innovations, and her willingness to help those in need. In light of that innate goodness, it wasn't a stretch to believe she would step forward to help Constance and Beth but what I really enjoyed was the sisterhood ultimately formed by this trio of women who were all betrayed by the same man.  

I appreciated Christian's support of Kat, how they worked together, how he listened to her ideas, and his determination to help those less fortunate, especially the soldiers who came home to nothing. I enjoyed their flirtations, their chemistry, and their foundation of friendship that deepened into love. 

The supporting cast of characters were all vividly depicted, bringing additional depth, humor, and conflict to the story. I'm already looking forward to seeing more of some of them in the next book.

There were a few issues that kept this from being a 5-star read for me but, overall, it was a well-crafted, heart-tugging story that kept me turning pages, cheering for the (good) characters, taking satisfaction in the consequences suffered by villain, happy with the culmination of Kat and Christian's journey, and eager for the next two books. If you enjoy historical romance, give this one a try. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Winners - - Kate Pembrooke Excerpt Giveaway


The randomly chosen winners from the 

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry excerpt giveaway are:

Laurie G

(Spa Assortment/Tote/Forever Books)


Samantha Tennant

(Tote & Forever Books)

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

If I do not receive your information by July 4th 

a new winner will be chosen.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - West End Earl

West End Earl
by Bethany Bennett
Misfits of Mayfair - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

While most young ladies attend balls and hunt for husbands, Ophelia Hardwick has spent the last ten years in disguise. As the land steward for the Earl of Carlyle, she’s found safety from the uncle determined to kill her and freedoms a lady could only dream of. Ophelia’s situation would be perfect—if only she wasn’t hopelessly attracted to her employer.

Calvin, Earl of Carlyle, is determined to see his sister married this season. And he’ll do it with the help of his trusted right-hand man. But when he finds out Ophelia's secret, and that her life is in danger, his priorities change. Their attraction is passionate, all-consuming, and if they aren’t careful, it could turn downright deadly—for both of them.

PJ's Thoughts:

I was dazzled by Bethany Bennett's debut, Any Rogue Will Do (click to read my review) and eager to learn more about Ethan's friend, Cal in Bennett's second book, West End Earl. Once again, Bennett pulled me into a story from the start and held me spellbound until the end. She's making a habit of that dazzle.

Bennett excels at creating fully-dimensional characters who come to life on the page. I adored Cal and was right there with him as he worked through a plethora of emotions regarding his family, his unexpected relationship with Ophelia (Phee), and the future he yearned for as opposed to the one he felt resigned to. He has a significant growth arc that tests his beliefs as well as his close relationships before he ultimately takes control of his life and learns to fight for his happiness. I loved that Ethan and Lottie (Any Rogue Will Do) were there to help him along the way. Lottie, especially, really shines in this book. 

Cal's younger sister, who also has a significant role in the book, has quite the growth arc as well. I didn't like her at all during the first half of the book but the evolution of her character was very satisfying and left me eager for her story in the third book of the series. 

And then there's Phee, who is without doubt the undisputed star of this book. I'm usually pretty good at ferreting out characters' secrets but not this time. There's a major twist with her character that I did not suspect at any point while reading Any Rogue Will Do. I love when an author is able to surprise me and Bennett certainly did. Phee is one of my favorite characters I've "met" this year. I love her strength, determination, cleverness, and confidence, but also her vulnerability. Bennett took her story in directions I did not expect but, in retrospect, I understood that the decisions she made were the only ones that could have ultimately brought about happy endings for multiple characters. Doesn't mean they didn't make me sweat, wondering how it would all work out. ;-)

If you're a fan of historical romance, give this new author with her fresh, sparkling, page-turning stories a try. I highly recommend both West End Earl and Any Rogue Will Do. Both books can be read as a standalone but I think reading them in order will deepen your understanding of the characters and pleasure in their journeys. 

If you haven't read Any Rogue Will Do yet, it is currently $1.99 on Kindle for a limited time. 

Do you enjoy characters in disguise?

Have you read Bethany Bennett yet?

What's the last book that took characters in a direction that surprised you?

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, June 27 will receive a print copy of West End Earl.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited

Friday, June 25, 2021

Review - - Home to Texas

Home to Texas
by Kaki Warner
Brides of Rough Creek Texas - Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Lieutenant KD Whitcomb had mapped out her career from West Point to the Pentagon. But when an injury under questionable circumstances forces her to leave the army, her dreams fall dead at her feet. Feeling lost and needing to rediscover the tough woman beneath the uniform, she heads back to the family ranch in Rough Creek. Only two things get her through the nightmares and sleepless nights: the support of her family and the CID officer investigating the incident in Afghanistan. He infuriates her. Makes her laugh. Gives her hope.

Richard Murdock is struggling, too. There’s something fishy about this last case…and the threats coming from Afghanistan aimed at both him and KD. He’s ready to leave the army and make a new start. But how will he protect KD? And what should he do about the growing attraction between them? He’s been burned before. But there's something about KD's vulnerability and strength that calls to him, and he'll do whatever it takes to protect her and give her a chance to build new dreams…including helping her start a PTSD equine therapy program at the Texas ranch.
If they can overcome the threats against them and heal old wounds, this second chance might be better than they ever dreamed.

PJ's Thoughts:

I've been reading Kaki Warner since her debut. One of the things I most enjoy about her writing is her ability to create complex, fully-dimensional characters who pull me into their hearts, minds, and often complicated lives. That skill is once again on display in Home to Texas. I felt like I knew these people. I shared their frustrations, desires, pain, joy, anger, and fear. I was immersed in their journey and eager to discover how it would all play out.

This second book in Warner's Brides of Rough Creek series is filled with both heart-tugging romance and breath-stealing danger. The author does a good job of depicting that danger, both in Afghanistan and Texas, along with the military aspects of the story. While both light humor and heart are evident in many of the scenes with KD's family, Warner doesn't shy away from the dark (sometimes harsh) humor found among people who routinely put their lives on the line for their country. 

I liked both KD and Richard and enjoyed the evolution of their relationship. The spice, sweetness, support, respect, and love between them convinced me they were solid. It was fun seeing KD's family again (after meeting them in book one, Rough Creek). Raney and Dalton were particular favorites but I also enjoyed new beginnings for KD's mama. At times, the suspense plot seemed a bit far-fetched, but still within the realm of possibility. It kept me engaged and on the edge wondering how it would all play out. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Richard and the FBI agents.

If you enjoy complex, military-themed stories with a good blend of romance, action, and danger, give this one a try. It stands well on its own though I do also recommend book one, Rough Creek. Did I mention how much I love Raney and Dalton? ;-)

Physical trauma

Second Chance Winner - - Lizzie & Dante


The hardcover copy of Lizzie & Dante was not claimed 

so a new winner has been drawn.

Bonnie K


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog


The randomly chosen winner of a

signed print copy of

The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog by Carrie Nichols is:

Patty B from NY


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Review - - The Engagement Arrangement

The Engagement Arrangement
by Jaci Burton
Boots & Bouquets - Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Brenna Bellini will never get married again. She plans to live out her days as a happy, successful, single woman. When she's chosen to be a bridesmaid in her friend's wedding at the Bellini family vineyard, she's thrilled. That is, until she realizes who else is in the wedding party. Brenna's going to have to spend four days in the company of not only her ex-husband, but also her high school nemesis. She just knows the fact that she's single and alone is going to be rubbed in her face all weekend long. Well, not if Brenna can help it. She's going to find herself a fake fiancé.

Finn Nolan is thrilled to be offered the job. He's had it bad for Brenna ever since he came over from Ireland to live at the vineyard. After falling for Brenna from afar for years, this Irish cowboy is determined to show the woman of his dreams that he is her Mr. Right. 

So what does a confirmed never-getting-married-again woman do when the man of her dreams unexpectedly lands right in front of her? Because for the first time, she might not be able to walk away. This time it might be forever.

PJ's Thoughts:

I enjoy a good friends-to-lovers/fake engagement story and after reading book one, The Best Man Plan, was curious to see how this one would play out. It was obvious Finn had it bad for Brenna. It was equally obvious that not only was Brenna completely oblivious to his feelings, she had no interest in reciprocating them...not with him or anyone else. This was not going to be an easy road to love.

I'm enjoying getting to know the Bellini family and learning the inner workings of their vineyard, winery, and event planning business. Burton brings it all to life with her vivid descriptions and details. She also brings authenticity to this close-knit family, including the loving but sometimes complicated relationships among the three Bellini sisters, each with a unique personality and place within the family and the family business. There are definitely flaws in these characters that keep things real...and keep me turning pages.

It was fun to learn more about Finn, how he came to live with the Bellini family, his vision for expanding the business, and his long-held feelings for Brenna. I liked him a lot, loved his dog, and was firmly in his corner. Brenna, on the other hand, took a long time to warm up to. There's a whole slew of emotional baggage for her to sort through and a prickly personality that's hard to crack. She has her moments but it wasn't until the final chapter of the book that she convinced me she was the right person for Finn. This was the first book in a while where I wanted to see major groveling from the heroine. ;-)

There's one more Bellini sister waiting for a happily ever after and I'm eager for her story, especially if my guess about her hero turns out to be correct. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Excerpt & Giveaway - - Not the Kind of Earl You Marry

I love discovering debut authors. It's a special treat to be there for an author's first published novel, then travel the journey with them as their career flourishes across the years - and books - to come. I've read an advance copy of Kate Pembrooke's Not the Kind of Earl You Marry (full review to come in July) and, having sampled her storytelling skills, I feel confident that her career is one that will definitely flourish. I hope you enjoy the sneak-peek excerpt from Not the Kind of Earl You Marry. I enthusiastically recommend putting this one on your summer reading radar. 

Note: Be sure to read all the way to the end for two terrific giveaway packages!

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry
by Kate Pembrooke
The Unconventional Ladies of Mayfair - Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: July 27, 2021

"The one woman in London who doesn’t want to marry him is now his fiancée.

William Atherton, Earl of Norwood, is as shocked as the rest of London to discover his betrothal via an announcement in the morning paper. Furious at what appears to be a shrewd marriage trap, William tracks down his alleged fiancée before her plans can affect his campaign for a coveted political post. But then William realizes an engagement, however fake, may benefit them both . . .

Miss Charlotte Hurst may be a wallflower, but she’s no shrinking violet. She would never attempt such an underhanded scheme, especially not with a man as haughty or sought-after as Norwood. Yet his suggestion to play along with the betrothal has its merits . . . and the longer they pretend, the more undeniably real their feelings become. But when the true culprit behind their engagement is revealed, can their newfound happiness survive the scandal?"

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry

Chapter One


London, 1817

The morning began tranquilly enough. Finished with her breakfast, Miss Charlotte Hurst reached for the neatly stacked pile of correspondence beside her plate, when the doors to the dining room unexpectedly flew open and the butler entered, his normally impassive face flushed, his mouth pinched into an uncharacteristic frown.

Standing just inside the doorway, Hopkins turned toward Charlotte’s brother, Phillip Hurst. “My lord, there’s a man who insists he must see you. I explained you don’t receive visitors before breakfast, but he said he couldn’t wait, that the matter was urgent.”

“Did he now?” Phillip cut a bite of ham before spearing it with his fork. “Did this man give you his name? Or explain the nature of this urgent business?”

“He gave his name, sir. He said it was—”


A tall, dark-haired gentleman strode into the room, finishing the butler’s sentence in a commanding, lord-of-the-manor voice.

 Startled, Charlotte dropped her correspondence, scattering the pages in an untidy disarray upon the table. Drat the man and his unheralded appearance.

“Don’t blame your servant, Hurst,” the gentleman said, coming to a halt beside Phillip’s chair. “He made it quite clear you don’t take visitors during meals. However, this cannot wait.”

Phillip laid down his fork. “You may go, Hopkins. I’ll attend to this.”

“Very well, sir.” With a nod, the butler departed.

“I can scarcely imagine any business between us that couldn’t wait, Norwood,” Phillip said.

“Can you not?” The man slapped a newspaper down on the table in front of Phillip. “Then read this. Perhaps it will jog your memory.”

Charlotte blinked, her interest sharpened. So this was the Earl of Norwood. She’d certainly heard of him, although they’d never been introduced. His social set and hers didn’t have much in common. Her brother knew him, since they were both peers in the House of Lords, but this hadn’t led to any sort of acquaintance between Charlotte and the earl.

Still, all of London knew Lord Norwood was a rising star in the world of English politics, and that among his greatest political assets, aside from his impressive family and social connections, were his poise and unflappability, though he seemed to have only a tenuous grip on those traits this morning. He was angry, that much was clear. Less obvious was how it concerned Phillip.

Her brother ignored the earl’s command. “Since Hopkins is usually allowed to usher in our guests, I must presume you have a singular reason for interrupting our meal in this irregular way.”

“I do.” If Lord Norwood noticed the hint of censure in Phillip’s voice, he gave no sign of it.

Phillip glanced at his unfinished breakfast, then picked up the paper and began to read. The earl’s gloved hand slapped softly against his thigh, producing a rhythmic tap, tap, tap that sounded unnaturally loud in the otherwise quiet room.

Since Charlotte remained an invisible entity—Lord Norwood had not yet spared a glance in her direction—she took the opportunity to study him. His manners left a great deal to be desired, but she couldn’t say the same for his looks. He was undeniably handsome with dark brown hair that showed a tendency to curl, and well-appointed features. His lips were firm and finely molded, his nose straight and patrician, and his slate-blue eyes, framed by dark lashes, had faint laugh lines at the corners. However, no hint of humor showed on his face at the moment. Instead, his gaze was stern and unwaveringly fastened on Phillip as he bent over the newspaper.

After a moment, Phillip pushed the paper aside. “I’m as mystified as you are. I’ve no idea how that came to be published.”

Lord Norwood gave her brother a hard, assessing stare. “Then perhaps she does,” the earl said tightly. His gaze swung for the first time to Charlotte, with a look so scorching she had to stifle the impulse to place more distance between them.

“If you think that, you’re barking up the wrong tree.” For some reason, Phillip looked amused rather than affronted by the earl’s angry insinuations. “However, Charlotte can speak for herself.” He slid the newspaper across the table to her. “Have a look at this.”

She hesitated, wishing the earl’s attention hadn’t shifted away from her brother. Lord Norwood glared at her as if she were an annoying insect he’d like to squash. For one defiant moment, she considered refusing, if for no other reason than she didn’t care for his rude, high-handed manner, but her curiosity surpassed this rebellious urge.

“If I must,” she said, deliberately keeping her tone cool and disinterested. She moved her neglected correspondence out of the way, then unhurriedly reached for the paper and drew it over, aware that her lack of haste was fanning the flames of the man’s wrath, and yet unable to behave otherwise. Her dislike of him had overruled any spirit of cooperation.

She read through the offending item, then once more, slowly this time, to make sure she hadn’t misunderstood. Cold tendrils of apprehension swirled through her, settling in a tight band around her chest as the implications of the brief paragraphs sank in. No wonder the man was so angry.

It was the announcement of her betrothal to the Earl of Norwood.

Shocked, she looked back at the earl, blinking stupidly. How had it come to be in the newspaper? It was false and utterly ridiculous. For heaven’s sake, she wasn’t even acquainted with the man. But true or false—it hardly mattered. This announcement could still ignite a firestorm of gossip that would upend her quiet, well-ordered life.

“Well?” Lord Norwood demanded.

The blood pounded in her ears at his accusatory tone. Her actions required no defense. On the contrary, if anyone had behaved indefensibly, it was the earl. Even now, apparently convinced of her guilt, he looked as if he’d like to leap over the table and shake a confession out of her.

“If by ‘well’ you mean to imply I have any knowledge of who published this”—she gestured toward the paper with a dismissive flick of her wrist—“disabuse yourself of the notion right now. I didn’t have anything to do with this, and I welcome it no more than you.”

A look of utter incredulity crossed Lord Norwood’s handsome face. “Forgive me if I sound conceited, Miss Hurst, but there are any number of young ladies who would more than welcome the chance to align themselves with my fortune and title, and—”

“And I assure you I’m not one of them,” she cut in coolly.

His lips pinched together for a second. “Furthermore, this wouldn’t be the first time a lady tried to entrap a gentleman by dubious methods.” He leaned forward and placed both hands on the table, his face so close to hers she could see the darker band that rimmed his blue eyes and smell the spicy scent of his shaving soap. “But make no mistake, I’ve not offered for you, nor shall I feel bound to honor a nonexistent engagement just because our betrothal announcement appeared in the Morning Post. It seems to me the only party who would benefit is you.”

They remained nearly nose-to-nose, Charlotte smarting from the sting of his last words. She searched her mind for a suitably scathing reply, but the perfect set-down eluded her. She settled for meeting his angry gaze with a defiant one of her own.

At last, he straightened and crossed his arms. “So, Miss Hurst? Do you still deny you had anything to do with this?”

It was his impossibly haughty expression, coupled with that presumptive I-know-you’re-guilty tone that loosened her tongue at last.

“I’ve already denied it,” she replied, “but you, with your colossal arrogance, have determined I must be guilty because of your faulty assumption that I’d welcome an alliance with you.” She paused and took a deep breath, determined to maintain control of her temper, especially since he seemed to have such a fragile grip on his. “However, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of society may put a premium on a man’s fortune and title when weighing his worthiness as a prospective husband, but I do not. I’m much more interested in the content of a man’s character than the contents of his purse.”

Her verbal slap hit the mark. The color rose on his face as he drew in a sharp breath.

“To put it plainly,” she continued. “I may not know you very well, but I’m completely sure you’re the last man I’d want to marry.” She shook her head. “No, not even the last man, because that implies a circumstance in which I’d agree to marry you, and I can say with great certainty you’re not a man I would ever choose to marry.”

He scowled at her in disbelief for a long, thunderous moment. Charlotte watched with a certain fascination as he struggled to control his emotions. A vein throbbed at his temple, his jaw tightened like a vise, and the muscles in his throat worked furiously, though no words slipped through his tightly clamped lips.

Once more she resisted the urge to put more space between them. Her rational side insisted his gentlemanly instincts would prevail over any murderous impulses he might presently harbor. And if not, surely Phillip’s phlegmatic nature wouldn’t prevent him from leaping to her defense if necessary.

After several seconds of glaring at her in strained silence, something in the depths of Lord Norwood’s stormy gaze shifted and the rigid lines of his shoulders relaxed ever so slightly. He’d become, once again, the unflappable aristocrat.



Eager to read William, Lord Norwood's response to Charlotte? To receive the rest of Chapter One, simply sign up for Kate Pembrooke's newsletter by clicking on the link below.

As mentioned in Kate's bio, she loves "puttering amongst her flowerbeds, taking beach vacations, and adding to her already extensive collection of cookbooks." So, tell me...

What flowers are you growing this summer? 

Do you have a favorite beach to visit? What types of books do you take there to read?

Do you have a collection? Tell us about it.

Thanks to the generosity of Kate Pembrooke and her publisher, Forever, we have two amazing giveaway packages today.

One randomly chosen person who comments before 11:00 PM, June 25 will receive a print copy of Not the Kind of Earl You Marry, a tote, an assortment of Forever romances, and the spa package shown below. 

A second randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 25 will receive a print copy of Not the Kind of Earl You Marry, a tote, and an assortment of Forever romances.

Pretty awesome, eh? Thank you to Kate and to Forever! 

*Both giveaways are U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited

Kate Pembrooke is a lifelong reader whose path to becoming an author of Regency romance was forged when she first read Jane Austen's 
Pride and Prejudice. Kate lives with her family in the Midwest. She loves puttering amongst her flowerbeds, taking beach vacations, and adding to her already extensive collection of cookbooks.

Kate loves to meet readers. Here's where you can find her online:

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog

The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog
by Carrie Nichols
Small-Town Sweethearts - Book 5
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Let love—and a puppy—lead the way!

Former marine Gabe Bishop is focused on readjusting to civilian life. So the last thing he needs is the adorable kid next door bonding with his dog, Radar—and the boy’s guardian butting in. Addie Miller is afraid of dogs, so why does she keep coming around and making his heart melt? Soon, Gabe finds himself teaching Addie about the beauty of the human-canine bond…and becoming her shoulder to lean on. Could his new neighbors be everything Gabe never knew he needed?

PJ's Thoughts:

Carrie Nichols is one of my favorite authors writing in the Harlequin Special Edition line. Her heartwarming stories, especially those in her Small-Town Sweethearts series, are filled with complicated relationships, sweet romance, emotional depth, hard-won happy endings, and some of the cutest kids around, who are much more than wallpaper. 

In The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog, Nichols gives us Gabe and Addie, characters trying to do their best while dealing with a whole lot of emotional baggage and determined to ignore each other. If it were left to them, they would probably never get together. Good thing they have Gabe's dog, Radar and Addie's little brother, Teddy to lead the way. Talk about adorable matchmakers. 

Once again, Nichols immersed me into the lives of her characters from the start and kept me invested until the happy conclusion of their story. She touched on difficult topics keeping both Addie and Gabe from pursuing a relationship but did so with a deft hand, exploring survivor's guilt, parental addiction, and parental neglect in a way that conveyed the seriousness of the topics while still keeping the tone of the book hopeful. She allowed her characters to grow, find forgiveness, and heal, opening their hearts to the possibilities of love and a life together. She made me fall in love with all four of them, especially Radar, a very special dog with a whole lot of instinctive wisdom when it comes to the humans he loves. 

While The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog is the fifth book of a series and characters from previous books do make appearances, it can absolutely be read and enjoyed on its own. It has my enthusiastic recommendation, along with the other books in the series. 

Have you read any of Carrie Nichols' books?

Do you read Harlequin Special Edition books? Do you have a favorite author writing in that line?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comments before 11:00 PM, June 23 will receive a signed, print copy of The Sergeant's Matchmaking Dog

*Must be 18
*U.S. only
*Void where prohibited