Sunday, July 31, 2022

Coming Attractions & Giveaway

 


The dog days of summer are upon us. Time to curl up in the AC or grab a floatie and hit the pool/beach/lake with a new book. Here are the titles that are taking us away to new and intriguing places this month at The Romance Dish.




We're visiting merry old England on Monday, August 1 with a review of The Rake's Daughter by Anne Gracie. This second book in Gracie's Brides of Bellaire Gardens series features a cross-class, grumpy-sunshine romance that's sure to charm. 




On Tuesday, August 2 we're off to southern Louisiana for The House on Blueberry Lane, the sixth book in Brenda Jackson's popular Catalina Cove series. Though this second-chance romance includes previous couples from the series it also stands well on its own. 




Hellie joins us on Wednesday, August 3 with a review of For the Love of the Bard. The first book in Jessica Martin's Bard's Rest series is earning raves, including from Hellie!




Farrah Rochon wraps up her Boyfriend Project trilogy with a steamy, snappy, heart-tugging, enemies-to-lovers romance that kept me eagerly flipping pages from start to finish. Stop by Thursday, August 4 for a review of The Hookup Plan and a chance to win copies of the first two books in this popular series. 




We're hosting a tour review stop for The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden on Friday, August 5. Be sure to stop by to read what Santa has to say about this story that features a piemaker given the magical chance to live the life she didn't choose the first time around.




Join us on Tuesday, August 9 for a review of Beauty and the Thief, a new novel that launches Shana Galen's The Royal Saboteurs historical romance series. 







Thursday, August 11 brings a tour review of Michelle McLean's The Gunslinger's Guide to Avoiding Matrimony. I'm about 25% into this historical western romcom and haven't stopped grinning yet. 






It's a sprinkle of Christmas in August on Monday, August 15 when we share an excerpt and host an ARC giveaway for The Road to Christmas. This upcoming novel (20 September) by Sheila Roberts is sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit. 




It's A Table for Two on Tuesday, August 16. Stop in to read a review of this small-town, enemies-to-lovers romance by Sheryl Lister





On Wednesday, August 17, Santa will be here again to share her thoughts about Knot Again. This romcom by Kwana Jackson is the second book in her Real Men Knit series.





If you're an Ilona Andrews fan you won't want to miss our review of Ruby Fever on Friday, August 19. This final book in Catalina's Hidden Legacy trilogy is everything I could have hoped for. And more.




We're heading from the rodeo arena to the beach on Monday, August 22 with a review of Kiss Me Now, Cowboy. This friends-to-lovers contemporary romance launches Dylann Crush's new Cowboys in Paradise series.




A fierce female blacksmith, a handsome scoundrel, and a marriage of convenience? Yes, please! Join me on Tuesday, August 23 when I share my thoughts about Sophie Jordan's The Scoundrel Falls Hard




We're returning to one of my favorite new small town series on Wednesday, August 24 with a review of Return to Cherry Blossom Way by Jeannie Chin. This one features a second-chance romance with plenty of family disruption, meddling friends, drool-worthy food, sizzling chemistry, emotional baggage, and a hard-won happily ever after. 




Join me on the Isle of Skye on Thursday, August 25 for a tour review of Together Under a Snowy Skye. Lisa Hobman's heart-tugging, romantic tale has me itching to book a flight to spend my own holidays in the warm and welcoming village of Glentorrin. 




Friday, August 26 brings a review of another second-chance romance. This time it's The Hellion and the Hero, a historical romance by Emily Sullivan and it's the heroine who once left the hero broken-hearted. 




How's your summer going? Any new author or book discoveries?

What's on your reading schedule this month? 

Four randomly chosen people who comment before 11:00 PM, August 1 will each receive a package of books from my stash.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

*Void where prohibited


Winner - - Double Dog Dare

 



The randomly chosen winner of a 

signed, print copy of 

Double Dog Dare by Tracy Solheim is:

Diane Sallans

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Winner - - Storm Echo

 



The randomly chosen winner of

a hardback copy of

Storm Echo by Nalini Singh is:

Ina

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Winner - - The Godparent Trap

 



The randomly chosen winner of a

print copy of

The Godparent Trap is:

Kathleen Bylsma

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Review - - Thank You, Next

Thank You, Next
by Andie J. Christopher
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 14, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie



Alex Turner is never The One—but always the last one an ex dates before finding love—and now she’s determined to find out why in this hilarious new rom-com
. 

Single divorce attorney Alex Turner is watching reality TV when she sees her latest ex’s new fiancĂ©e picking out her wedding dress. Yet again, the guy she dumped went on to marry (or at least seriously commit to) the next person he dates after her. Fed up with being the precursor to happily ever after, she decides to interview all her exes to find out why. 

Up-and-coming chef Will Harkness mixes with Alex like oil and vinegar, but forced proximity growing up means their lives are forever entwined. When Will learns Alex and her friends are going on a wild romp through Los Angeles to reconnect with her ex-boyfriends, he decides to tag along. If he can discover what her exes did wrong, he can make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake with Alex.  

On this nonstop journey through the streets of LA, Alex realizes the answer to her question might be the man riding shotgun…

 

Hellie’s Heeds: 

Warning: If you prefer your heroines more Disney-Princess sweet (even when furious) and not equipped to speak fluent sailor, this book is not for you. Technically speaking, I think in general, in that circumstance, Andie Christopher’s books are not for you, because Andie’s heroines all live at the intersection of “Zero fucks to give” and “Fuck around and find out.” This is awesome–but it can make a reader go, “Why don’t I like this heroine?” I give this warning because I too can be hard on my heroines, requiring them to be nicer, more civil than the alpha males that tend to line the covers of my favorite books. I too have been Socially Gendered and when I encounter heroines in books who are either too abrasive, too bossy, or too sexually liberated (especially for what I consider the time period), I get balky. But…if you don’t mind your women on the salty side, you should be just fine with Alex Turner, the divorce lawyer and young woman with daddy issues and childhood trauma she’s still working through. She feels modern and relatable.  

Now the hero, Will Harkness, is much easier to love (not the least of which because we usually give men a pass) and he cooks us food–can’t hate anyone who takes care of your hangry. And sure, the rejection he gave Alex was YEARS ago, but I can go on record, there are still guys from my teen years I won’t talk to for very similar reasons and I’m happily married now. There is just something about the trauma of a teenage rejection that just stays and stabs your self esteem for the rest of your life, no matter how many times you tell yourself, “It wasn’t personal, Hellie. Really.” And I mean, he didn’t have to be so adamant about turning her down, did he? Honestly. 

Now Alex’s ride or die friends, Jane and Lana, are worth the read alone as is her grandmother, Lexie, who basically raised her…and is the sort of person we all want to be when we grow up. I recommend reading just for the ideas of what you should be doing in your retirement: younger men, aerial yoga, and extensive travel. The ex-boyfriends Alex revisits to figure out why she is the problem are hysterically awful–though my personal favorite is the yoga instructor. (I read that particular scene to my husband and he wheezed coffee out of his nose and said my SoCal accent was spot on for the character.)  

I think my particular favorite bit–and it was an on-going bit–was the reference to the Attachment Style of the hero and heroine. It seems both characters were familiar with the book, Attached, a non-fiction book about attachment types. Both characters are the Avoidant attachment type–you can’t get too close or they bolt (or you leave because you realize it’s fruitless.) Now if you’ve read this book (my husband has), you’ll know that getting two avoidant types to be successful is near to impossible–and knowing this, there were times, especially when I saw Alex acting out–that I wondered, how is this possibly going to work? But I think the premise is that you just at least need to be aware this is your attachment style–and that you need to communicate better if you want to make the relationship work; and Andie does successfully do that for the characters, in my opinion. (You may ask, Hellie, what’s your attachment style–anxious attachment, thank you for asking, and possibly anxious avoidant, which is the WORST of the types–and no I didn’t read the book. I did take the quiz. Well, partly, basically I just told my pre-husband: look, I assure you, it’s anxious. And because I’m anxious, I tend to pick people who are unavailable or avoidant because I like to be right about my anxiety.) TLDR: I understood Alex, even if she was one salty sailor.  

Oh, and both characters are biracial, if that is also something you like in your books and characters (representation matters!), but honestly these are just two smart, caring, successful people with hot-messes for love-lives who find each other…finally. Enjoy!

 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Review - - Every Rogue Has His Charm

Every Rogue Has His Charm
by Susanna Craig
Love and Let Spy - Book 4
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 
 


Caroline, Marchioness of Chesleigh, has been married for six years—at least in name. In fact, Caro has hardly seen her husband since the early days of their union. Scarred and reclusive, Maxim wasn’t ready to trust his wife with his secrets—or his heart. Instead, he quickly resumed his life of espionage in France, believing Caro was better off alone.
 
When the spy who left her returns upon inheriting the Dukedom, he finds his wife is not the girl she once was. Her heart is a little harder. She’s learned to stand on her own. Yet the desire that once ignited between them burns as hotly as ever . . .
 
Now, the more Caro learns about the past Maxim tried to hide from her, the deeper their bond grows. But danger haunts her husband’s every move, jeopardizing their passionate reunion . . .


PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things that first drew me into Susanna Craig's books was her complex, richly-detailed characters. They hold my interest, engage my emotions, and push her stories forward in realistic, relatable ways. That continues to hold true with the newest installment in her Love and Let Spy series, Every Rogue Has His Charm. Craig's unlikely matchmaker, a spymaster general no less, has his work cut out for him this time!

Caro and Maxim both had so many layers. I enjoyed watching them slowly peeled away to reveal their hearts, fears, vulnerabilities, and love. I'm not typically a fan of reunion romances where one partner abandons the other for long periods of time but Craig made it work, sending Maxim fleeing from unexpected feelings and giving Caro the necessary time - and circumstances - to grow stronger and more confident in herself. When they reunited it was on a level playing field, with Caro not hesitating to go head to head with her long-absent husband, giving me a romantic journey of passion, forgiveness, acceptance, and love that kept me eagerly flipping pages. 

Another thing I enjoy about Craig's books is her propensity for moving her stories out of London and into interesting places brought to life through her detailed descriptions and impeccable research. It makes her stories feel fresh and new and, in this book, added to the mystery of who is behind the accidents that keep putting Maxim and Caro at risk. 

The secondary cast surrounding Caro and Maxim play significant roles in this journey with another potential couple taking their own romantic journey as they also helped move the story forward. As a fan of the series, this secondary romance - as well as the career opportunities - for one particular character filled me with delight. 

Every Rogue Has His Charm is the fourth book in this series but as with the others, it stands well on its own. Readers new to the series can absolutely jump in with this one and not miss a beat. A small warning though: the epilogue is a retirement party for our erstwhile matchmaker that brings all four couples together. You might want to hold off on reading the epilogue until later if you plan to read the first three books (and you should; they're all terrific). The series books, in order, are:

Who's That Earl  
One Thing Leads to a Lover
Better Off Wed
Every Rogue Has His Charm

The first three books are each on sale today in e-book format for only $0.99. 


Have you read Susanna Craig yet?

Do you enjoy a thread of mystery in historical romance?



 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tour Review & Giveaway - - Storm Echo

Storm Echo
by Nalini Singh
Psy-Changeling Trinity #6
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Reviewed by Nancy
 


Silence has fallen. The Psy are free to feel emotion. Free to love. But Silence was never a prison for Ivan Mercant. The biggest threat to his future lies dormant in his brain—a psychic monster that wants only to feed. And now, the brutal leash he’s kept on that monster is slipping. He prepared for this day, for the end of Ivan Mercant . . . but that was before he met Lei.
 

As primal as she is human, this wild changeling brings color into his life, laughter to his soul. Then the dream shatters in a rain of blood, in silent bodies in the snow. Lei is gone. Vanished without a trace . . . until he meets strangely familiar eyes across a busy San Francisco street.
 
Soleil Bijoux Garcia is a healer who has lost everything. She exists in a world of desolate aloneness . . . till the day she finds herself face-to-face with a lethal stranger. The animal who is her other half knows this man, but her memories are tattered fragments. Sorrow and a need for vengeance are all that drive her. Her mission? To kill the alpha of the DarkRiver leopard pack.

 
But fate has other plans. Soon, a deadly soldier who believes himself a monster and a broken healer might be all that stand between life and death for the entire Psy race. . . .
 

[Note: Storm Echo is the sixth book in Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling Trinity series. Like the other books in the series, it can be read as a standalone.]


Nancy Says: 

Storm Echo continues the battle against the mysterious Psy known as the Architect, who is recruiting powerful telepaths called Scarabs to destroy the PsyNet and seize power. A connection to the Net is essential for survival, so the damage and destruction the Architect and her Scarabs cause kills large numbers of Psy. 

Opposing the Architect is a coalition of Psy, including the powerful Mercant family. In Storm Echo, Ivan Mercant steps to the fore. He joined the family after he was orphaned in childhood. He’s a powerful telepath and has devoted himself to the security of his kindred.  He never allows them to get too close to him emotionally, though, because he’s hiding a secret about the direction his telepathy is taking. 

His mother, who died when he was eight, took a street drug when she was pregnant with him. After he was born, she gave it to him from time to time. This drug made his telepathy powerful, but the traces it left in him are greedy. He sees them as a spider in his mind, one that grows ever more powerful and craves the power he could draw from other people, even to a lethal degree. Before it becomes that strong, he plans to imprison himself in a mental cage of his own devising, shutting himself off from everyone in a kind of coma. Until that time comes, though, he’ll protect the family and help the Psy against the Architect. 

Ivan’s plan hits a snag while he’s training with a small but deadly pack of wolf changelings. He injures his leg, and a changeling woman who calls herself Lei, walks out of the woods and tends to him. Their mutual attraction is immediate, and he finds himself wanting more than just a couple of woodland picnics together. 

A bit I love occurs on one of those picnics. Despite Ivan’s preference for nutrient bars, he agrees to try a mushroom tart Lei made, and this follows: The flavors were explosions of sensation on his tongue, an overload of input. He must’ve betrayed some response because she laughed—the kind of laugh that said this was a shared amusement. He knew that even though he had never laughed. 

This bit shows how warm and giving Lei is and how drawn Ivan is to that warmth. She teaches him to play in the forest and to splash in the pool below a waterfall. 

He wants to get to know her, to see her as often as he can in the time he believes he has left. He also wants their relationship to be honest, so he tells her about himself, including the dark things he has done to defend his family, a little at a time lest he frighten her away or disgust her. 

Instead of being repelled, Lei agrees to meet him again. But she doesn’t show. Ivan fights the urge to look for her. Believing she rejected him after all, he tells himself the right thing to do is leave her be. 

She hasn’t rejected him, though. Before she can meet him, disaster overtakes her pack. It leaves her alone, believing her pack destroyed. Her quest to avenge their deaths takes her to San Francisco, where the DarkRiver leopard pack, whose alpha she believes killed her pack, has a base. Ivan also is in the city on family business. They’re on the same street, though she doesn’t recognize him, when the PsyNet ruptures. Every Psy in the area, including Ivan, collapses. Ivan manages to reconnect to the Net. Using the ability that has such dark potential, he seizes minds around him and flings them back into the Net. 

Unaffected by the rupture, Lei immediately dives into helping the victims around her. She works so hard that she drains herself and passes out. She awakens in a DarkRiver hospital room, where she unexpectedly picks up a familiar scent, one of her supposedly dead pack. Determined to track that scent, she escapes from the hospital. Ivan, who recognized her, has been waiting outside the hospital in case she needed him. He offers her a ride. When they find the source of that scent, what they learn turns all Lei’s assumptions upside down. 

Lei must adjust to a new life and a new pack, but a mating bond is already forming between her and Ivan. He resists it because of the grim future he sees for himself, but they draw ever closer. While the motif of one partner resisting a fated mating runs through the changeling stories, the conflicts that cause the other partner to resist that mating are many and varied. The fated mates trope could easily become repetitive, but Singh keeps it fresh and interesting. 

Meanwhile, the Architect continues to wreak havoc. Ivan joins cardinal telepath Kaleb Krychek (Heart of Obsidian) in trying to protect the PsyNet. The spider Ivan dreads gives him unexpected abilities he must use, risking everything, in a desperate attempt to save the Net. 

The characters are easy to root for. Both Ivan and Lei carry emotional wounds, and his desire to keep her from sharing the dark fate that awaits him is a believable obstacle to their romance. The romance is, by turns, heart-wrenching, sweet, and playful, and it’s a process of growth for both Lei and Ivan. 

Supporting characters include the interesting and varied Mercant family and the warm, communal changelings. Many of the secondary characters first appeared in earlier books, but they’re introduced in a smooth way that gives readers who’re not familiar with those books what they need to know right away. 

The story moves well, and the resolution comes with a surprising, satisfying twist. 

Highly recommended. 

5 Stars 

~Nancy


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Have you read Nalini Singh?

Are you reading the Psy-Changeling series?

If you could be a changeling, what animal would you want to be your non-human half?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 30 will receive a hardback copy of Storm Echo.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

*Void where prohibited




Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Second Chance Winner - - Always Be My Duchess

 



The original winner of the

Always Be My Duchess giveaway

 has notified me that she won a copy of the book 

from another site so a new winner has been chosen. 

Congratulations to:

Deb

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Review & Giveaway - - The Godparent Trap

The Godparent Trap
by Rachel Van Dyken
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: July 19, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Colby's living her best life: as a popular food blogger, she gets to fulfill her dreams of exploring the globe. But her world comes crashing down when a tragic accident leaves her co-guardian of her best friend's two adorable children. Not only does she need to put down roots—fast—but she'll be sharing custody with the one man she can't stand sharing a continent with, let alone a house.  

Accountant-extraordinaire Rip values rules and plans. But when he loses his sister and his best friend and becomes an insta-guardian all in one night, Rip sees his organized life imploding. What he really doesn't need is his sister's irresponsible, flighty—albeit kind and gorgeous—best friend making it worse.

Rip doesn't trust Colby to take their new responsibilities seriously, while Colby can't believe Rip thinks children will thrive under his rigid control. Yet soon Rip and Colby discover they need each other more than they hate each other. Could it be possible that following their hearts is just what their new little family needs?


PJ's Thoughts:

I've not read this author before and didn't really know what to expect when I began The Godparent Trap. The subject matter had the potential to be fraught with emotion but looking at the cover of the novel, one could reasonably expect the story to be a lighthearted romcom. It was both...and so much more than I expected.

The launching point for this story is the sudden, tragic death of a young husband and wife, leaving behind two young children, along with a brother and best friend designated to care for them. A brother and best friend who are polar opposites, had one disastrous date years ago, and have been adversaries ever since. They don't like each other, don't understand each other, and can't deny the simmering attraction that simmers below the surface in spite of that. Throw them into an emotionally volatile situation where they have to live and work together to care for two kids and, oh yeah, it's going to be messy. 

One of the things I most appreciated about this book was that Van Dyken didn't shy away from those messy emotions that are part and parcel of navigating grief. Some of the scenes were heartbreaking and took me straight back to my own grief after losing loved ones but others had me laughing out loud and elicited memories of doing the same in similar situations. The evolving relationship between Colby and Rip - and the children - was raw, real, hilarious in many parts, and poignant in others. Rip and Colby really were enemies in the beginning with the author using biting humor and disdain (especially on Rip's part) to bring that point home. Kudos to her for giving them no easy fixes, which would have been easy to do. Instead, she took them on a winding journey filled with real-life challenges, attitude adjustments, eye-opening experiences (having full responsibility for two young children will do that), heart-tugging romance, and a slow awakening of possibilities. 

Both humor and emotional depth are strong in this story, one equally balanced by the other. The characters are well developed, relatable, and felt very authentic. I was fully invested in Colby, Rip (once he got rid of that stick up his...and we began to see his heart), the kids, and let's not forget Rip's self-appointed, chatty best friend, Banks, the architect of more than a few of the humorous scenes in this story. Everyone should have a best friend that invested in your happiness. I adored him. 

I recommend adding The Godparent Trap to your summer reading list. Keep the tissues handy but be prepared for plenty of laughter too, along with a satisfying HEA and some surprises along the way.


Tell me about a book that had you laughing and crying in equal measure.

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 29 will receive a print copy of The Godparent Trap.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

*Void where prohibited




  





Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Tour Review - - Point Last Seen



Point Last Seen
by Christina Dodd
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Reviewed by PJ



LIFE LAST SEEN


When you’ve already died, there should be nothing left to fear… When Adam Ramsdell pulls Elle’s half-frozen body from the surf on a lonely California beach, she has no memory of what her full name is and how she got those bruises ringing her throat.

GIRL LAST SEEN

Elle finds refuge in Adam’s home on the edge of Gothic, a remote village located between the steep lonely mountains and the raging Pacific Ocean. As flashes of her memory return, Elle faces a terrible truth—buried in her mind lurks a secret so dark it could get her killed.

POINT LAST SEEN

Everyone in Gothic seems to hide a dark past. Even Adam knows more than he will admit. Until Elle can unravel the truth, she doesn’t know who to trust, when to run and who else might be hurt when the killer who stalks her nightmares appears to finish what he started…

PJ's Thoughts:

She's done it again, delivered a gripping, edge-of-my-seat thriller that kept me compulsively flipping pages from the breath-stealing beginning to the heart-stopping end. Is it any wonder that each new book Christina Dodd releases goes straight to the top of my reading list?

I've been reading Dodd's books for more than 20 years, beginning with her historical romances then following her as she transitioned to contemporary romantic suspense, paranormal, and suspense thrillers. While I've enjoyed her stories in all sub-genres, I believe it's with her current thrillers that this prolific author has found her best, most authentic voice, creating compelling stories that have, quite literally, kept me reading all night long. 

Point Last Seen showcases Dodd's best assets. Her ability to set the stage creates an immersive, sensory experience. Her main characters are intriguing, a bit mysterious, fully developed, and never fail to engage my emotions. I was fully invested in both Elle and Adam and the outcome of the challenges in their paths. I loved their layers, the bits and pieces of themselves that were strategically revealed as the story progressed. 

Then there's the supporting cast. I always enjoy the quirky characters who populate Dodd's books, helping to move the story forward while at the same time offering opportunities for pops of sly humor as well as the many twists waiting to surprise the reader around the next turn. 

It doesn't matter how many of Dodd's books I read, those surprising twists never reveal themselves to me until the author deems it appropriate. It's that kind of writing that keeps me glued to the pages, has me gasping with surprise, that twists my emotions into a pretzel, surprises me with laughter in the midst of chaos, and guarantees that whenever she publishes a new book, I'll be first in line to snag a copy. 

I highly recommend adding Point Last Seen to your summer book-buying list. It's one of my best reads this year.