Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Review - - The Paris Connection

The Paris Connection
by Lorraine Brown
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

When Hannah and her boyfriend, Simon, set out to Amsterdam, they’re confident that they’ll make it to his sister’s wedding in time. However, unbeknownst to them, their train is scheduled to divide in the middle of the night. And when it does, half of it continues the route to Amsterdam. And the other half—the one with Hannah in it—heads three hundred miles away, to Paris.

Left without her belongings or hope of reuniting with Simon, Hannah has no choice but to spend the day in Paris before the next train out. Worse than being stranded in a foreign city alone? Being stuck with Léo, the handsome but infuriating Frenchman who blames Hannah for his own unwanted delay. The series of mishaps that sends them traipsing through the City of Light is only further proof that Hannah’s day has gone from bad to worse. But as she takes in the glorious sights of the city—and spends more time with Léo—Hannah discovers that the unexpected detour might actually be leading her to the life she was always meant to live . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're feeling the travel deprivation (as I am) you're going to enjoy this debut novel by Lorraine Brown. It's clever, witty, and brimming with the beauty and charm of Paris. 

I really enjoyed "traveling" with Hannah and Leo. They're both multi-layered characters and it was fun to watch those layers unravel as they wandered the streets of Paris. Without being consciously aware, Hannah has reached a crossroads in her life - - and Leo has reached a bit of one himself. It takes a change of seats during the night (who knew the train would split?) to land Brit Hannah in Paris without her luggage, cash, phone, or boyfriend, and in the company of a similarly misdirected and annoyingly direct Frenchman who, like her, needs to get to Amsterdam. 

Hannah is in no mood to venture out of the Paris train station while waiting for the next train to Amsterdam, several hours later. Her one and only trip to Paris, several years earlier, had ended in heartbreak and disillusionment and she has no wish to revisit those emotions. But Leo convinces her to let him show her "his" Paris. What follows is eight hours of charming neighborhoods, historic architecture, drool-worthy cuisine, stunning vistas, and gentle challenges to everything Hannah thought she was, wanted, and needed. She returns to her boyfriend a changed woman. Will her new-found confidence strengthen the relationship she had begun to doubt or will secrets revealed and one day in Paris guide her on a new - and better - path? You'll have to read the book to discover what happens but I will say that I was happy with the outcome, as well as the way it was handled. I very much enjoyed the author giving the characters the time and space necessary to validate decisions and feelings.

Also, Leo can guide me through Paris anytime. I've only been there once (as a teen) but seeing it through his eyes, with his emotions, made me fall in love with the tiny alleyways and grand boulevards of the city all over again. Either the author is an exceptional researcher or she's spent time in Paris because the love and affection for this city shine through clearly. 

I enjoyed The Paris Connection and will be on the lookout for more books by Lorraine Brown. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Last Chance Winner - - A Duke Worth Fighting For


The copy of

A Duke Worth Fighting For by Christina Britton

has not been claimed.

Annmarie Weeks

You have until September 2 to claim this giveaway

by sending an email to 

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

If unclaimed, a new winner will be chosen on September 3.

Release Blitz Review - - Not Playing Fair


Not Playing Fair
by Terri Osburn
The NOT Series - Book 2
Publisher: Macie Rae Publishing
Release Date: August 26, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

The universe is not playing fair.

First, my new boss says changes are coming to our library that threaten the programs I run. Then a letter arrives from my mother—whom I haven’t seen in more than twenty years—saying who knows what because I’m refusing to open it. Last but not least, the man who dumped me eight months ago is telling people that I’m trying to get him back.

Universe, I assure you I am not.

The one bright spot in all of this is the new guy in my life. He’s sweet, adorable, and seems totally interested. There’s just one problem. I might have bent the truth a little when we first met, and now I need to confess before he finds out from someone else.

Maybe I can’t blame the universe for everything.

Not Playing Fair is about family, forgiveness, and the friends who stand by us through it all. Come along as librarian Megan Knox becomes the heroine of her own story, and finds love along the way.

PJ's Thoughts:

Humor, heart, emotional depth, and solid friendships abound in this new series from Terri Osburn. I'm really enjoying this group of girlfriends from Pittsburgh in Osburn's NOT series. They laugh together, cry together, and always have each other's backs. I'm eager to read all of their stories. It's Megan's turn this time and she's in for a bumpy, entertaining, and emotional ride. Surprises are on the horizon for her, in her work life, her family life, and her romantic life. She's a likeable character who had me cheering for her from the get-go. 

Osburn explores topics in Megan's journey that are easy for readers to identify with, making her journey very relatable. You better believe I was cheering when she took the initiative to set the wheels in motion for a very satisfying conclusion to her work obstacle. Then there's the way she approached her romantic tangle, both previous and present (Ryan is such a good guy. I adored them together). More cheers. 

Finally, there's her family situation, one that has had a tremendous impact on Megan for most of her life. When an unexpected twist lands her at a crossroads, the author could have taken the easy, feel-good path. I applaud her for keeping it real while allowing Megan, who has grown and strengthened over the course of the book, to steer the course. 

If you're looking for a fast read told from the heroine's point of view, with witty banter, female friendships, emotional depth, sweet romance, and a surprise or two, check out Terri Osburn's Not Playing Fair. It's the second book in her NOT series but stands well on it's own. I do, however, also recommend book one, Not You Again (click to read my review).


Download today or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited!
US: https://amzn.to/3uejZy1
WW: http://mybook.to/notplayingfair

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/NPFGoodreads

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Winner - - The House on Sunshine Corner


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

The House on Sunshine Corner by Phoebe Mills is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - The Scoundrel's Daughter


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

The Scoundrel's Daughter by Anne Gracie is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Review - - The Billionaire's Big Mistake

The Billionaire's Big Mistake
by Breezie Bennett 
The Miami Vices - Book 4
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing
Release Date: August 27, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

One grumpy workaholic on a mission to get the ultimate promotion. One ray of sunshine tour guide whose goal is a good time. He needs to unload the beachfront property her family runs to close a big deal, but never expects to fall hard for the fiery beauty who stands in his way.

Ethan Vice: One deal. One simple deal to flip a few dozen properties to another hotel chain, and I’ll be the CEO of Vice Hospitality, the ultimate goal on my list of business accomplishments. All I have to do is swing by some rundown hotel in the Keys I didn’t even know we owned, and get the guy who runs it to sign some paperwork. But the minute I arrive in Sandpiper Key, I’m blinded by sunshine and beauty and a woman unlike any I’ve ever met. Maria-Elena Martinez is wild and gorgeous and insists that life can be fun, a philosophy I’ve never understood. But before I know it, my heart is melting like an ice cream cone on the beach. What starts out as a playful interlude turns into a serious romance and suddenly I’ve just done the one thing I never do…I’ve screwed up and might not get the deal…or the girl.

Emmy Martinez: The minute Ethan Vice shows up on an official visit to La Magia, I am determined to show our “invisible investor” that the Martinez family has created true magic at our small but unique resort. But I didn’t expect the island tour to include hot kisses and long embraces from a billionaire who’s having fun for the first time. He may be the most serious man I’ve ever crushed on, but he’s also sexy, complicated, and is working his way into my family…and my heart. When our fling begins to feel like something far more permanent, I dare to believe that Ethan could be the magic I’ve been missing in life. That is, until I find out he’s made a terrible mistake that will ruin my family and break my heart. There’s only one way he can rescue our romance…but can this billionaire sacrifice success for the magic of true love?

PJ's Thoughts:

Ethan Vice eats, sleeps, and breathes the Vice family business and has since he was a young boy. All he's ever wanted was to follow in his father's footsteps and now that opportunity is within his grasp. He only has one task to accomplish and the CEO position is his. Supremely confident, Ethan doesn't anticipate it will take more than a few days to convince the Martinez family it's in their best interest to agree to allow their resort to be sold to a huge hotel chain in order to complete Ethan's multi-billion dollar deal. Of course, grumpy Ethan has yet to meet the gorgeous ray of sunshine that is Emmy Martinez, or spend time with her big, boisterous, loving, Cuban-American family, or experience the magic of La Magia and Sandpiper Key. Leave it to Breezie Bennett to take the most no-nonsense, fun-averse, workaholic member of the Vice family and transform him into my favorite hero of the series. I loved Ethan's growth arc and the man he eventually becomes once his eyes are opened, his heart engaged, and his priorities realigned. I loved the reactions of his siblings and their partners when they descended upon La Magia and discovered an Ethan they barely recognize. And I adored the sweet, sexy chemistry between Ethan and Emmy. So much fun! 

This book is such a delight - tender, sexy, heart-tugging, and pure magic. Bennett transported me to the Florida Keys with her vivid descriptions and sense of place. I could hear, smell, and feel the tropical beauty of Sandpiper Key. Then she populated the cast with a group of characters who made me want to book the next flight south. I want to experience all of Emmy's tours, fly over the sand with her in her golf cart, and soak in her exuberance for life. I want to enjoy the laughter, joy, delicious Cuban food, and well-loved stories at the Martinez family table. I want to spend time with the newly transformed Ethan and celebrate the special love that shimmers around him and Emmy. I want to go back to the first page of this book and experience the pleasure of their journey all over again, from beginning to end. 

If you haven't discovered Breezie Bennett's The Miami Vices series yet, I highly recommend it. There's such an endearing quality to her writing, along with some sizzle, spot-on family dynamics, humor, emotional storylines, and fun, fun, fun. The Billionaire's Big Mistake wraps up this series but we won't have long to wait before Bennett is back with a new book and a new series. Messing With the Billionaire: A Sweet Romantic Comedy launches Bennett's new Maid in Miami series on October 15, 2021. I've already circled the date on my book calendar. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Winner - - Along Came a Lady


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of 

Along Came a Lady by Christi Caldwell is:

Patricia B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - True Love Cowboy

True Love Cowboy
by Jennifer Ryan
McGrath - Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Cowboys live by their word, their wits, and their loyalty.

Jon Crawford has returned to Montana, determined to take over his father’s ranch and raise his daughter in Big Sky Country, leaving the big-city life behind once and for all. He doesn’t have time to fall in love, but he doesn’t count on stubborn but beautiful Trinity McGrath, who arouses his protective instincts even as she tries to push him away.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Trinity, but now she has everything she needs—her family, friends, and a safe and secure life. With a business to build, Trinity doesn’t have time for romance…until Jon comes barging into her life and all her intentions are turned upside down! 

Still, an attraction like theirs is too powerful to deny, and sometimes true love comes along when you least expect it. But when someone from Jon's past comes back with a vengeance, Trinity and Jon will have to do everything they can to save themselves and their new love...

PJ's Thoughts:

I've been eagerly anticipating Trinity's story. The past few years have not been easy for her and she's still dealing with the PTSD effects of the trauma she experienced. Jon is exactly the type of man I hoped would enter her life and the fact that he has an adorable four-year-old daughter is a sweet bonus. But, these three will have some major hurdles to overcome before they reach their happy ending. 

Ryan is so good at creating suspenseful stories that engage my emotions and keep me on the edge of my seat and this one is a doozy. My heart was in my throat at so many points during the book. There were times I cried, times I was so furious I wanted to scream, gut-wrenching scenes that had me ready to do bodily harm to a certain secondary character, and sweet, poignant scenes that captured my heart. The book is very realistic and difficult to read in certain parts. The villain gets what's coming to them in the end but the pain they cause along the way might be a trigger to some readers. 

As always, I enjoyed the McGrath family coming together to support one another. I always have fun watching the siblings and their partners interact. It was lovely to finally meet their parents, see the relationships of each of the earlier couples progressing, and cheer their happy endings. I enjoyed the solid relationship Jon and Trinity built with one another. I especially appreciated the respect they had for each other, the deep caring, and how they both put Jon's daughter, Emmy first. And I loved how Trinity finally regained her confidence and turned the tables on Jon in a sweet twist at the end. If ever a family had earned a happy ending, it was Trinity, Jon, and Emmy.

This is a book that could be read on its own but for a better understanding of what Trinity endured, I strongly recommend reading the books in order. Or, at the very least, reading Waiting On a Cowboy, the book where Trinity's trauma occurs. If you want to read the stories of all of the McGrath siblings in order, the books are: Tough Talking Cowboy (Drake McGrath and Adria Holloway), Waiting on a Cowboy (Tate McGrath and Liz Scott), Love of a Cowboy (Declan McGrath and Skye Kennedy), and True Love Cowboy (Trinity McGrath and Jon Crawford).

Content Warning: Readers should be aware this book contains child abuse, PTSD, and violence.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - The House on Sunshine Corner

The House on Sunshine Corner
by Phoebe Mills
The Sunshine Corner - Book 1
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Abby Engel has a great life. She's the owner of Sunshine Corner, the daycare she runs with her girlfriends; she has the most adoring grandmother (aka the Baby Whisperer); and she lives in a perfect hidden gem of a town. All that's missing is the thing she wants the most: a family. But after a stint of online dating and a string of bad blind dates, she's ready to give up. And then her ex-boyfriend (aka the love of her life) walks back into town...

Carter Hayes has no intention of staying in Heart's Hope Bay. He's there to help his sister out for a few weeks, and then he's back on a plane to Las Vegas. But small-town living has its appeal, and it’s not long before Carter's reminded of just how much he loves his hometown...and the one woman he’s never been able to forget. But after breaking her heart all those years ago, can Carter convince Abby that he’s her happy-ever-after?

PJ's Thoughts:

I love a second-chance romance. Set it in a small town populated with interesting people and I'm all over it. That's exactly what Phoebe Mills does in her debut novel: The House on Sunshine Corner. It's a promising start to a new contemporary romance series that has me eagerly anticipating more stories.

Abby and Carter were high school sweethearts but he couldn't wait to leave Heart's Hope Bay behind and she can't imagine living anywhere else. When he returns several years later to help care for his niece while his sister recovers from an injury, one of the first people he runs into is Abby, who runs the daycare his niece attends. Suddenly, he's running into her everywhere. Unfortunately, the issues that have kept him away from his hometown still stand between them, not the least of which is Abby's desire for marriage and children when Carter has sworn to steer clear of both. But it's also abundantly clear the chemistry they once shared still simmers. Could a no-strings affair while he's in town really get those pesky feelings out of their system once and for all or will it just prove what everyone has always known: these two are meant to be together.

Mills has penned a charming, heart-tugging story with characters I became attached to and invested in. I wasn't expecting the issues that Carter kept secret from Abby during their teens. They were real stumbling blocks to him staying in Heart's Hope Bay and added another layer of emotional depth to their story. I understood Abby's need to keep her roots there but, after learning more about Carter, I also understood why he wouldn't want to (I really had no idea how the author was going to work that out). I enjoyed the ease of long-time friendship that existed between them with the added edge of tension that came with both their physical attraction as well as the limited time period before Carter would once again leave her behind. It kept the story moving and kept me eagerly reading. 

I love Abby's group of friends. They have such a tight bond, the kind that allows them to be refreshingly honest with one another while always having each other's backs. I'm excited to read each of their stories as the series moves forward. I also enjoyed Abby's grandmother and the tight bond they share. I hope she - and her predictions - will continue to be present for future books.  

If you enjoy small-town, second-chance romances with humor, heart, a likable cast of characters, and just enough steam, give Phoebe Mills' The House on Sunshine Corner a try. Book two, A Wedding on Sunshine Corner, is scheduled to be published March 29, 2022. I've already added it to my reading calendar. 

Do you enjoy small-town romance?

What other small-town, contemporary romance authors would you recommend I add to my reading list?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, August 28 will receive a print copy of The House on Sunshine Corner

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Review, Q&A, and Giveaway - - 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
Reviewed by PJ

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.

PJ's Thoughts:

Overflowing with the wit, humor, passion, feel-good romance, and fully-dimensional characters for which Anne Gracie is known, The Scoundrel's Daughter launches Gracie's new series with a story that kept me fully entertained from start to finish.

Anne Gracie has a talent for creating characters that leap from the page and make me forget that they are actually fictional. I become attached to them, invested in their happiness. I feel their frustration, their pain, and their joy. Alice, the main female protagonist of this story is one such character. My heart hurt for all she had been through in her first marriage but I was so proud of her for the life she built following her husband's death. To open her heart again took tremendous courage. And she didn't only open it to James but also to Lucy, a young woman she had every reason to both dislike and distrust. Lucy is another character to whom life has not been kind. I really enjoyed the evolution of her character and loved the relationship that developed between these two women. 

James won my heart from the moment he went to fetch his daughters. And those girls. Oh my gosh, they had me cheering, crying, and snort laughing from the get-go. Little Debo, in particular, commanded every scene she was in. I can't be the only one who would love to see her as the heroine of her own story someday. It would have been easy to let the girls overshadow the romance aspect of the story but Gracie excels at giving them just enough time without allowing that to happen. While I loved seeing both Alice and Lucy bond with the girls, it was the adult relationship that formed between James and Alice, the care, patience, and passion he gave her when all she had ever known was pain and humiliation, that made my heart so happy.  

And then there was the secondary romance between Lucy and Gerald, Alice's nephew (the only member of her late husband's family who treats her well). Where the relationship between James and Alice was emotional and heart-tugging, Lucy and Gerald's was the polar opposite. It was obvious from their first hilariously exasperating encounter that these two were going to set off enough sparks to start a forest fire. Theirs is an enemies to lovers relationship with all the snappy dialog and sizzling chemistry that entails. I loved it!

Then there's the society villain, a woman who deserves a royal set-down if ever there was one. And how deliciously fun it was to watch it delivered! 

I've read The Scoundrel's Daughter twice and I'm already looking forward to visiting these characters again. Like many of Gracie's titles, it's a book destined for my comfort reads shelf. 


Q&A with Anne Gracie

Hi Anne! Welcome back to The Romance Dish! It’s always fun to celebrate the release of a new Gracie novel.

Thanks so much, PJ — I'm always very happy to visit. Thanks for inviting me.

The Scoundrel’s Daughter launches your Brides of Bellaire Gardens series. What should readers expect from this series?

The Brides of Bellaire Gardens is a series about women who live on Bellaire Gardens which is a large, (fictional) private garden square in London, only accessed by the residents' back gates. Each of the women is trying to live down her father's/mother's/family reputation and make a life on her own terms. And of course, each of them will eventually become a bride. (Photo of Bellaire Gardens inspiration below)

In The Scoundrel's Daughter, Alice, our main heroine—there are two—is a 38 year old widow, thankful to be released from an unhappy marriage and planning never to marry again. Our hero, James, Lord Tarrant has his work cut out to change her mind about that, but he's up to the challenge. Alice has also been blackmailed into bringing an 18 year old out into society — a girl she doesn't know and, in the beginning at least, doesn't like. There's also the scoundrelly blackmailer to be dealt with.

Will we see more of James and Alice, or other characters from The Scoundrel’s Daughter, in future books?

In the second book in the series, The Rake's Daughter (out next year), we do see some of the characters from The Scoundrel's Daughter — they meet up in their beautiful shared garden, of course, but Alice also takes the two sisters in the second book under her wing and chaperones them on occasion.

I enjoyed the additional romance in The Scoundrel’s Daughter. Will a secondary romance be included in each of the books in this series or is that limited to book one?

Thanks, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. A secondary romance (Lucy and Gerald) was necessary in this one, because though Lucy and her scoundrel father were the catalyst for the story, it is Alice's romance that is the main focus of the book. But I didn't want to leave Lucy and Gerald hanging.

I also enjoyed the contrast in the two romances. Lucy and Gerald's romance is a kind of enemies-to-lovers story with a lot of sparks and banter and a good dose of mischief, whereas Alice and James's romance is more of a second chance of love — more emotional and intense.

Here's a snippet — It's the scene where Gerald, the younger of our two heroes, suddenly recalls where and when he had originally met Lucy, the scoundrel's daughter. She, of course, isn't admitting a thing . . .

“I knew I’d seen you before," Gerald said. "You’re that goose girl!”
She raised a slender, incredulous brow. “I’m the what?”
“That goose girl!”
She gave him a puzzled look, fingered the fluffy trimming on her cloak and said, “It’s swansdown, not goose feather.”
“I’m not talking about the blasted cloak. You’re that goose girl. I know you are, so don’t try to wriggle out of it. We met on the Brighton road, not two weeks ago. You were carrying a goose. I knew I’d seen you before, and it only just came to me.”
I? Carrying a goose?” She sounded utterly incredulous. She glanced at his aunt and Tarrant, as if inviting them to join in her incredulity. “What were you doing on the Brighton road, Lord Thornthwaite, when this goose and I supposedly met you?” Her voice and expression were serious, but her eyes glinted with knowing mischief.
“I was—” he broke off and felt himself redden slightly. He hadn’t told anyone how a goose and an impertinent chit of a farm girl caused him to lose his race. If it got out, his friends would never let him hear the end of it. “It doesn’t matter. What I want to know is why a common goose girl is attending the theater with my aunt.”
“Is she?” The wretched girl looked around eagerly. “Where? Point her out to me.”
Aunt Alice had a sudden coughing fit and buried her face in her handkerchief.

I did think of having two romances in the second book as well, which is about two half-sisters, but then I realized that each girl deserved her own full romance. There might be a secondary romance in book #3, but no promises yet.

What books are you cuddling up with on these cool Australian nights? Any new titles or authors you recommend?

If you want a book with a lot of laughs as well as a yummy romance, snap up BIG SEXY LOVE by Kirsty Greenwood. It's a contemporary romance about friendship, learning to take chances and, of course, love. It's also one of the funniest books I've read in years — seriously, it's laugh out loud in so many places.

I'm also a big fan of Kylie Scott — who also writes contemporaries. Try her YA book TRUST, or her series about members of a band — the STAGE DIVE series.  Very sexy, great dialogue and wonderful characterization.

One of the things I most enjoy about your writing is the vividly depicted characters who leap from the pages of your books. The Scoundrel’s Daughter shines with a memorable cast but it’s little Debo, the youngest of James’ three daughters who steals every scene she’s in. You captured her personality so beautifully. Was she inspired by a real-life person? And do these wonderful characters of your creation steal your heart as completely as they do the readers’?

Thank you — I love it when a character just steps onto the page fully formed, and little Debo was one of those.  She's not inspired by any real person, although I've known a few imperious toddlers in my time. <g>  She took me by surprise in that scene where she first appears to readers and to her father, being very much herself, and as the book progressed she continued to demand her own little spotlight. And yes, she did steal my heart, as no doubt you could tell.

There's a snippet here, where James meets his daughter for the first time — she's four. https://www.annegracie.com/meet-debo/

Characters like Gideon in The Perfect Rake, and Lady Beatrice, Daisy and Freddy in The Autumn Bride, and others in other books also appeared in the same way, fully formed and refusing to leave until they have a bigger part in the story — or a story of their own in some cases. When it happens, it's like an unexpected gift.

However sometimes one of these unexpected characters doesn't fit into the story, or maybe would derail it completely, and in that case I have to prune them firmly back. Gives another meaning to "killing your darlings". <g>

What fills the hours when you’re not writing? Have you discovered any new hobbies or interests?

Not really. I make jewelry — really it's just stringing beads together — and I almost keep the garden weeds under control. We've been in Lockdown for much of the last year — one time it was for nearly four months, where we couldn't go anywhere except to shop for food, medicine etc. So I read a heap. And wrote. And cooked and ate and walked my dog and . . . occasionally thought about doing housework. <g>

I also got into a new writing habit where 5 days a week I meet up with a couple of writer buddies and we write for a couple of hours while we're on FaceTime. It's a bit like working in an office together — we can see and hear each other working, but once the timer is on, we don't talk, and we don't watch each other. It kept us being positive and productive — and of course, broke down a lot of the isolation caused by LockDown and Covid. 

Where can readers connect with you online?

I'm on FB and twitter and Instagram. Plus I blog regularly with the Word Wenches as well as having my own more personal blog, which also has occasional craft-of-writing posts. And I have a newsletter of course. You can sign up for it and the blog on my website.

Anne Gracie links:

Website:  http://www.annegracie.com

Blog:  https://www.annegracie.com/blog/

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/1annegracie

FB AuthorPage: https://www.facebook.com/AnneGracieAuthor/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/annegracie1/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneGracie

Wordwenches: http://wordwenches.typepad.com


What’s next?

The next book in the series is called The Rake's Daughter and it's about a pair of half-sisters, one legitimate, the other illegitimate. The illegitimate one is the heroine of this story, and the hero is the man who insists that London society will not accept a bastard girl of beauty and no fortune. Izzy, my heroine, vows to prove him wrong.

And with any luck I'll find the time to write another Christmas novella to self-publish. I did that for the first time last year with The Christmas Bride, which was a spin-off of the Chance sisters series, and I had a lot of fun doing it.

Thanks so much for graciously answering my questions today.

Thank you, PJ for hosting me — I'm delighted to be here.

Would you like to add anything or ask our readers a question?

Yes, and of course I'll be giving away a book. I'd love to ask readers, what's your favorite romance trope?  (For instance Convenient Marriage, Enemies to Lovers, Beauty and the Beast, Second Chance at Love, Mail Order Bride, Friends to Lovers, Lovers Reunited, Chick in Pants, a Bad Boy (Rake) romance,  Secret Baby, Fake Betrothal. . . and many more.)

One randomly chosen reader who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, August 27 will receive a print copy of The Scoundrel's Daughter.

*No geographical restrictions

*Must be 18

*Void where prohibited

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Review - - I'm Only Wicked With You

I'm Only Wicked With You
by Julie Anne Long 
The Palace of Rogues - Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

He’s the battle-hardened son of a bastard, raised in the wilds of New York. She’s the sheltered, blue-blooded darling of the London broadsheets, destined to marry a duke. Their worlds could only collide in a boardinghouse by the London docks...and when they do, the sparks would ignite all of England. 

Nothing can stop Hugh Cassidy’s drive to build an American empire...unless it’s his new nemesis, the arrogant, beautiful, too-clever-by-half Lady Lillias Vaughn. The fascination is mutual. The temptation is merciless. And the inevitable indiscretion? Soul-searing—and the ruination of them both. Hugh’s proposal salvages Lillias’s honor but kills their dreams for their futures...until they arrive at a plan that could honorably set them free. 

But unraveling their entanglement inadvertently uncovers enthralling truths: about Lillias’s wounded, tender heart and fierce spirit. About Hugh’s stunning gentleness, depth, and courage. Soon Hugh knows that as surely as he’d fight a thousand battles to win her...the best way to love Lillias means breaking his own heart. 

PJ's Thoughts:

You all know I'm a long-time fan of Julie Anne Long. In fact, I've been reading her since her debut novel was published almost 20 years ago. She never fails to delight me with her beautiful language, vividly depicted characters, charming storylines, and happy endings. Book one in this series, Lady Derring Takes a Lover was a 5-star read for me while Book two, Angel in a Devil's Arms was a Top Dish. Book three, I'm Only Wicked With You, takes readers back to The Grand Palace on the Thames and another unexpected romance brewing within its confines. 

The first part of this book sets a very leisurely pace with a slow-burn romance that doesn't begin to smoke until close to halfway through the book. The first third is centered mostly around the entire ensemble of boardinghouse characters and while there are rich humor and sparking embers of chemistry in many of those scenes, I found that the slow pace of the romance made it too easy to set the book aside. I still enjoyed Long's wit and the interactions among the boarders (Mr. Delacorte continues to entertain and Lillias's family are a surprising delight) and staff (Helga and Dot are gems!) at the boardinghouse but it was difficult for me to develop the investment I hope for in the hero and heroine's potential relationship until well into the book. Eventually, Long began to reveal the layers beneath the surface that enabled me to connect with both Lillias and Hugh. There's so much more to both of them than what people would guess. I enjoyed how they each began to open their feelings and allow the other a glimpse into their pain, vulnerability, hopes, and dreams. It led me to embrace the feelings that seemed to be deepening between them. But then the author tossed in a twist that had me wondering if these two should be together. I felt a bit like a rowboat in a storm-tossed ocean the way my feelings kept going back and forth. 

Where the first half of the book was too easy to put down, the last quarter or so kept me eagerly flipping pages to discover what would happen next because, to be honest, I had no clue how this was going to end. The final three chapters were one surprise after another, with some of those surprises coming from unexpected corners of the character landscape. I do love it when that happens. And while I may have still been a bit skeptical of this couple's lasting power at the end of the book (for reasons), the Epilogue (one year later) convinced me of the strength, depth, and durability of the love they both feel for the other. Yes, there were sighs, laughter, and happy tears shed. 

If you enjoy a cross-class, American-English, slow-burn romance with a lively and disparate ensemble of characters, give this one a try. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - Along Came a Lady

Along Came a Lady
by Christi Caldwell
All the Duke's Sins - Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Rafe Audley lives to thwart his father, the Duke of Bentley. The ne’er do well who abandoned his children claims he wants to make up for his failures, but Rafe only cares about protecting the people of his mining community and providing for his three siblings, who've been his sole responsibility since childhood. So far, Rafe has turned away the duke's man of affairs, solicitor, and other interlopers, until the clever duke sends the unlikeliest of people to convince Rafe to join English High Society—a bold and intriguing woman.

Edwina Dalrymple has never failed a charge. She's quite adept at successfully transforming young women of the gentry and daughters of newly minted lords to take their place in society. Taming a bastard son of a duke will be child's play, plus this job promises to enhance her reputation within the ton. All she has to do is fetch the wayward Rafe and groom him to be presentable to Polite Society. 

As the tenacious teacher and her domineering, stubborn, refuses-to-be-taught pupil engage in a fiery battle of wills, their chemistry ignites and the true lesson becomes clear: opposites attract and hearts must be heard.

PJ's Thoughts:

Christi Caldwell launches her new series with a story that reeled me in and kept me entertained from start to finish. First of all there's the setup: duke discovers his deceased mistress gave birth to four children (his) and is determined to bring them (now adults) to London to take their rightful places in society, beginning with the oldest, Rafe. A gruff, broody, coalfield foreman, Rafe wants no part of the man he believes knew about them all along and only now wants to acknowledge them. Edwina is an accomplished governess/tutor who would give anything for the opportunity being handed to Rafe and needs the opportunity successful completion of this task will bring her. She's not about to let muddy coalfields, abrasive townspeople, or a scheming, grouchy man - even if he is gorgeous, surprisingly caring, and knows his way around a kitchen - derail her mission. Let the fun begin!

The sparks that these two set off could start a forest fire. I love the snappy banter, the unexpectedly sweet moments, the humor, and the battle of wills that ensue as these strong-willed characters go head to head. They both stretch, grow, and slowly unveil facets of their characters that are only brought out by the other. They are so much fun to watch evolve and grow closer together even though Edwina knows nothing can ever come of that closeness. Or can it?

Caldwell is so good at creating a sense of place. I had no trouble at all envisioning the atmosphere of the perilous, muddy coalfields (a definite Poldark vibe and, yes, I did happily envision Rafe as a deliciously gruff Aiden Turner through the entire book), the dark but lively village pub (Regency "karaoke" scene is *chef's kiss*), and the duke's grand mansion. Her vivid descriptions bring the reader into the scene, no longer an observer but a part of the actual story. 

The sibling dynamic is also very realistic with each of the Audley siblings holding their own unique place in the family. I'm already invested in all of them and eager to read each of their stories. 

My only quibble with the book (and it's small considering how much I enjoyed this story) is that the ending seemed a bit rushed, especially as it pertains to Edwina's family situation. That was such an important part of her character; I really wanted to see it given more attention. As for Rafe and Edwina, I was happily satisfied with the outcome of their relationship and am looking forward to following their progress as a couple through Rafe's siblings' stories. 

It's worth noting that Caldwell has written a prequel novella to this series which tells the duke's story. It Had to Be the Duke is a heart-tugging, second-chance love story that can be read either before or after Along Came a Lady. I adored it. 

Have you read Christi Caldwell yet?

Do you enjoy a rollicking battle of wills between lead characters? 

Who is your favorite battle of wills pairing (books, movies, tv)? 

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, August 25 will receive a print copy of Along Came a Lady

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