Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Review - - Beauty and the Thief

Beauty and the Thief
by Shana Galen
The Royal Saboteurs - Book 1
Publisher: Shana Galen
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Callahan Kelly is a conman, pure and simple. With his dark hair, dark eyes, and dimpled smile, he can smooth talk anyone out of anything and has a keen nose for sniffing out liars and thieves. So clearly someone somewhere made a mistake including him on a train heading toward a training ground with an elite group of agents for the Crown. But Baron, the leader of the newly formed Royal Saboteurs, makes a deal with Callahan: stay until his troubles in London die down, and if he still wants to go, he’ll be paid and discharged. But Cal finds the training at the camp fascinating, and even more intriguing is Bridget, the red-haired beauty who’s immune to his charm. When Cal is asked to partner with Bridget to infiltrate a group of Irish separatists or return to London, the choice is neither simple nor easy.

Bridget Murray was sent from London to serve as Baron’s secretary. She never expected to be given the chance to carry out a mission for the Royal Saboteurs. She doesn’t like Callahan Kelly from the moment she meets him. But when they’re paired to infiltrate the Irish nationalists, she reluctantly agrees to pose as his wife. Living in close quarters with Callahan isn’t as awful as she expected, and that’s just the problem. The closer they become and the more real the danger surrounding him, the more she realizes she doesn’t ever want to let him go.

PJ's Thoughts:

I'm always a bit apprehensive when I begin a new series by an author whose last series contained a string of 5-star reads. I'm happy to say that this first book in Shana Galen's The Royal Saboteurs more than met my expectations.

One of the facets I most enjoy about Galen's books are her richly detailed and wholly developed characters. That is especially true with Cal and Bridget. But they weren't the only thing I enjoyed about this book. First, the author took the story out of London society and dropped us at a rural "farm" which is actually a training site for government operatives. Then she gave us a prim and proper heroine who is a personal secretary/code breaker and paired her with a common-born thief and con man who's in it (his mission) for the money. Only the money. And he's the hero! Yes, please! There's so much opportunity for character growth on both sides and Galen takes full advantage with these two, evolving them organically over the course of their journey, especially once they embark upon their mission in Ireland. That's when the pace of the book really picks up as well. 

The chapters set in Ireland feature intrigue, action, and danger - that had me eagerly flipping pages - without sacrificing the growing romance between Bridget and Cal. Their chemistry, snappy banter, and deepening feelings continued to evolve at a realistic and enjoyable pace along with their individual character growth. I loved how textured they were; how Cal slowly revealed the layers that life had placed upon him and Bridget gradually tested the boundaries of her comfort and capability, to the surprise of one another and, in some cases, of themselves. 

The secondary cast includes several characters introduced during the early chapters of the book who are clearly destined for stories later in the series. We're given sneak peeks into their personalities and backgrounds - just enough to stir interest - while keeping the main spotlight on Cal and Bridget. I also have a feeling we'll be seeing more of some of the antagonists (Irish Nationals) in future stories as well. The adversarial relationship between the British government and the Irish Nationalists is introduced in this first book - with plenty of action and intrigue. I appreciated the complexity of the situation as presented in the book. With an Irish hero working for the British government there were bound to be some mixed feelings at play.

It appears that conflicts between the Irish Nationalists and other British operatives introduced in this first book might continue to be a primary focus of future books in this series. Wherever Galen takes her characters, I'm already hooked and eager to discover how it will all play out. Book two, Lady and the Scamp, is scheduled to be published October 11, 2022. I already have it on pre-order. 

 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Last Chance Winner - - traveler

 



traveler

 I have not received an 

email from you for the 

August Coming Attractions Giveaway.

Please send your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com 

no later than August 10

to claim your giveaway package of books.

Last Chance Winner - - Diane Sallans

 



The copy of Double Dog Dare by Tracy Solheim 

has not been claimed by the winner:

Diane Sallans

Diane, please email your full name and mailing address to

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than August 10 to claim this book.


Winners - - Farrah Rochon

 




The randomly chosen winners are:

Eileen R

(The Boyfriend Project)

Hellie

(The Dating Playbook)

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Winner - - The Rake's Daughter

 




The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

The Rake's Daughter by Anne Gracie is:

Laurie Gommermann

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Friday, August 5, 2022

Review - - The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie

The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie
by Rachel Linden
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Reviewed by Santa




Lolly Blanchard's life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother’s tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she's lost.  

 
As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she's ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.


Santa Says:

The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden is a smash, five-star hit for me. It is women’s fiction and a romance with a kinda magical swirl of meringue on top. The title is a tease about what the book is really about. The main character, Lolly, is stuck in a rut of her own making but all that changes when her sister reads out from Lolly’s middle school diary a list of things Lolly wants to do with her life.  

It’s a wakeup call of sorts. We all have one or two things we may have wanted to do but never got around to or decisions we may have regretted. Lolly feels trapped but has a unique opportunity to go back and get a glimpse of what life may have been like had things only been different. Her eccentric Aunt Gert gives her three lemon drops to take for each item on her list.  

Each journey offers unique insights and understanding for Lolly and the people she loves in her life and family. The most heartbreaking involves the one man she sent away. The one true love who she never really got over.  

After all the lemon drops are gone Lolly is left just as crumbled as she was in the beginning. By this time, I was wondering where my HEA was! Fear not, Aunt Gert and her best friend Eve provide Lolly with inspiration and new insights. In truth, Lolly needed to get out of her own way, let life unfold as it should and not be the savior of everyone. In doing so, Lolly becomes her true self. I’m not going to spoil the ending here but I will say that true happiness - true bliss - comes when it, and you, are ready for it.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - The Hookup Plan

The Hookup Plan
by Farrah Rochon
Boyfriend Project - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: August 2, 2022
Reviewed by PJ


Successful pediatric surgeon London Kelley just needs to find some balance and de-stress. According to her friends Samiah and Taylor, what London really needs is a casual hookup. A night of fun with no strings. But no one—least of all London—expected it to go down at her high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, millionaire, owner of delicious abs, and oh yes, 
her archnemesis.

Now London is certain the road to hell is paved with good sex. Because she’s found out the real reason Drew’s back in Austin: to decide whether her beloved hospital remains open. Worse, Drew is doing everything he can to show her that he’s a decent guy who actually 
cares. But London’s not falling for it. Because while sleeping with the enemy is one thing, falling for him is definitely not part of the plan.

PJ's Thoughts:

Farrah Rochon not only hit it out of the park with the first book of this trilogy, The Boyfriend Project, she then continued to up her game with book two, The Dating Playbook, finally wrapping things up with The Hookup Plan, my favorite of the series. 

Enemies to Lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes and Rochon takes it to new heights with Drew and London. When uptight workaholic London finally decides to take her best friends' advice and indulge in a little one-night stress relief, who does she choose? None other than her high school nemesis, chief rival for valedictorian, current (surprise!) decider of her hospital's fate, and, yep, rocker of her sexual world. And if that isn't bad enough, the more time she spends with Drew, the more unwanted feelings seem to grow. Does she know how to choose them or what? 

As I mentioned earlier, The Hookup Plan is my favorite of what is an exceptional trilogy by Rochon. London is such a complex character. I loved getting to know her better, uncovering the many factors that motivated her, watching her confront her emotional demons, evaluate her shortcomings, go to the mat for her patients, and reshuffle her priorities (learning that self-care is just as important as caring for others). 

Drew captured my affection pretty quickly. I loved that he had secretly crushed on London in school. It was fascinating to learn his perspective on their "rivalry."  He was pretty awesome but not perfect, carrying his own emotional baggage. I liked that he and London both had work to do on themselves. Their chemistry was fire but it was the conversations between them as they slowly lowered their guards, showed more of themselves, and began to form a real friendship that endeared them to me. I was cheering them on all the way to the finish line. 

The friendship among London, Samiah, and Taylor continued to remain strong and supportive. These women are there for one another, celebrating the happy times, commiserating during the sad times, and not hesitating to apply a forceful nudge when necessary. They are the definition of friend that we should all be so lucky to have in our lives. 

If you enjoy contemporary romance with humor, emotional depth, and strong friendships, pick up a copy of The Hookup Plan. It can be read as a standalone though I do think you'll enjoy the trilogy more if you read the three books in order. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of the Boyfriend Project books yet? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, EDT, August 6 will receive a copy of The Boyfriend Project.

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, EDT, August 6 will receive a copy of The Dating Playbook

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



Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Review - - For the Love of the Bard

For the Love of the Bard
by Jessica Martin
A Bard's Best Romance -  Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie




Literary agent and writer Miranda Barnes rolls into her hometown of Bard’s Rest with one goal in mind: to spend the summer finally finishing her YA novel, the next installment in her bestselling fantasy series. Yet Miranda’s mother, deep in the planning stages for the centennial of the town’s beloved annual Shakespeare festival, has other ideas.  

Before you can say “all’s fair in love and war,” Miranda is cornered into directing Twelfth Night—while simultaneously scrambling to finish her book, navigating a family health scare, and doing her best to avoid the guy who broke her heart on prom night. 

When it comes to Adam, the veterinarian with a talent for set design and an infuriating knack for winning over Miranda’s dog, the lady doth protest too much. As any Shakespeare lovers knows, the course of true love never did run smooth, and soon Miranda realizes she’ll have to decide whether to trust Adam with her heart again.

 

Hellie’s Heeds: 

You know how I raved about A PROPOSAL THEY CAN’T REFUSE, how it was the MUST READ of Summer 2022? Well, your TBR pile just got a little longer. This book gives APTCR a run for your money in the Laugh Out Loud column because I don’t think there was a single page I wasn’t guffawing and reading tidbits to whoever was in the room at the time.  

The set up is a classic “enemies to lovers” and “second chances” mish mash, complete with previous unresolved high school trauma that only an older sister kissing your boyfriend can create. One of the first lines in which I knew I would be placing this book on a keeper shelf and then buying whatever this author puts out next was this: “It wasn’t that I didn’t like Adam. I loathed Adam. I loathed him in the way that one loathes their most vivid memory of being embarrassed, heartbroken, and humiliated. The kind of memory that follows you into adulthood and echoes through the corridors of your entire existence.” I mean, that paragraph resonated…as did most of Miranda’s tart observations and retorts she dishes out to her siblings, Adam, and the hilarious villain-turned-ally event planner, Candace.  

In lieu of the cute older characters I normally enjoy in a story, this one featured the reliably disastrous and prone to eat anything goofy dog. Puck makes for great scene stealing laughs and bonding moments between this couple. There is also a fun-loving lumberjack-looking hipster book agent that is Miranda’s BFF, named Ian, and he’s as much a scene stealer as Puck, just saying. One hopes that he will also receive his own book. In fact I would read any other love story of any of the other characters in the book…anything in order to be able to visit the Bard’s Rest again. In fact, I vote this town actually be created as an ode to the great man himself, complete with competing mainstages, actors and village people, and the pun-riddled establishments that I wanted to visit (especially if there were food stuffs involved.) I will be there with bells on.  

Miranda is everything I love in a heroine: witty, hilarious, but a little self-deprecating. Adam is kind, funny, sexy, and everything you’d want in a modern hero. Now some readers may wonder why Miranda doesn’t cut Adam a break–I mean, it was high school, after all–but I always figure those readers enjoyed high school more than I did…or my friends did. I figure readers fall into two categories where high school is concerned: those who are willing to attend a high school reunion and those who won’t even friend people they went to high school with on Facebook (let alone attend any reunions.) If you fall into the latter category as I do, this book is for you. Miranda is your heroine; Adam is your wish-fulfillment of what you wished had happened to rectify that time called high school teenage angst. But if you’ve already paid for your therapy and believe we should all not be acting like high school teens any longer (i.e. needless drama and grudges), you may think Adam deserves someone a little better (even though Miranda does grow and become a very worthy heroine, IMO.) In fact I think the author does a great job of creating several “difficult” women to stroll the pages of this book, making them annoying but loveable, making me yearn for all their stories. Even Portia’s. I cannot wait to see what this author does next. Well done.  

I would say more–but it would mostly be every single quote in the book I found hysterical, which we do not have time for–so I think it would be better served if you just picked up your own copy and fell in love with Bard’s Rest.

 


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Winners - - August Coming Attractions

 



The randomly chosen winners of a

package of books are:

Patricia B

Patty B from NY

traveler

Patoct

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Review - - The House on Blueberry Lane

The House on Blueberry Lane
by Brenda Jackson
Catalina Cove - Book 6
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 

 

All he needs is a second chance


All she wants is no strings attached


The biggest mistake of Jaye Colfax’s life was letting Velvet Spencer leave. For three years, they were together exclusively and it was great—at least for Jaye. But Velvet wanted more. Jaye wouldn’t commit to anything because he just didn’t believe in love or marriage. Tired of waiting, Velvet left him without so much as a goodbye. Only then did Jaye realize he’d been too proud to admit he loved her. But it was too late—his stubbornness had cost him the love of his life. 

It took Jaye two years to find where Velvet had gone. Now, he’s come to Catalina Cove to prove his love and win back her heart. He’ll do whatever it takes, even buy the local bank and move in next door. But will Velvet have him?

PJ's Thoughts:

Brenda Jackson returns to Catalina Cove with an emotional, and steamy, story of second chances. I became intrigued by Velvet and her mysterious background while reading book five, One Christmas Wish so, of course, I was excited to learn book six would be her story. It was another satisfying visit to the place, and with the characters, who have made Catalina Cove one of my favorite fictional stops. 

Whether this is your first, or sixth, visit to Catalina Cove, Jackson's descriptions bring the small bayou town to life. Each visit makes me wish even more that it was a real place. I want to walk the path along the river, start my day with the mouth-watering blueberry muffins at the Witherspoon CafĂ©, sip a cold beverage while watching the sun set, indulge in the daily soup special at the Green Fig, dig into delicious, freshly-caught seafood, and hang out with all my favorite Catalina Cove residents. 

Let's talk about those residents. While each book focuses on a primary couple, Jackson surrounds them with a lively secondary cast of characters who bring friendship, conflict, and intrigue to the story. It feels very much like actually living in a small town, with all it's quirks and complications. 

And then there's our main couple, Velvet and Jaye. He's set on earning a second chance. She's set on flipping the romantic tables, offering him a no-strings affair with hearts definitely not engaged. He broke hers once; she's not going to give him an opportunity to do it again. I enjoyed their journey. While they reconnected sexually almost immediately, the author took her time with them emotionally. Trust lost takes time to recapture and Velvet needed that time - along with Jaye's actions - to reach a point where she was willing to reopen her heart. It was worth the wait. 

As I mentioned earlier, The House on Blueberry Lane is the sixth book in Brenda Jackson's Catalina Cove series. While characters from earlier books make appearances in this one, and Velvet was introduced in book five, it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. However, don't be surprised if once you finish The House on Blueberry Lane, you immediately search out the other books in the series. I recommend them all.  


Monday, August 1, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - The Rake's Daughter

The Rake's Daughter
by Anne Gracie
The Brides of Bellaire Gardens - Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 26, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
 


Recently returned to England, Leo, the new Earl of Salcott, discovers he's been thrust into the role of guardian to an heiress, the daughter of a notorious rake. Even worse, his wealthy ward has brought her half-sister, the beautiful but penniless Isobel, with her. Leo must find Clarissa a suitable husband, but her illegitimate half sister, Izzy, is quite another matter. Her lowly birth makes her quite unacceptable in London’s aristocratic circles.

However, the girls are devoted to each other and despite the risk of scandal if Izzy’s parentage is discovered, they refuse to be separated. To Leo’s frustration, nothing will convince them otherwise. Even worse, sparks fly every time Leo and Izzy interact.

Called away to his country estate, Leo instructs the young ladies to stay quietly at home. But when he returns, he's infuriated to discover that Izzy and Clarissa have launched themselves into society — with tremendous success! There's no going back. Now Leo must enter society to protect Clarissa from fortune hunters, and try not to be driven mad by the sharp-witted, rebellious, and intoxicating Izzy.


PJ's Thoughts:

Witty banter, engaging characters, an adversaries-to-lovers romance, and two sisters who outwit our hero at every turn make this Regency romance a delight.

I adored Izzy and Clarissa. It was so heartening to watch the bond developed as children - when illegitimate Izzy was dumped on their father's doorstep following her mother's death - grow stronger as they became young women. I loved that while each woman was unique, and very different from the other, they were also equally devoted to and protective of one another. I want to see more of them and am hoping Gracie decides to write a book for Clarissa. She deserves her own happily ever after!

Leo took some warming up to, with his class-conscious beliefs, but he came around nicely in the end. Even though his behavior was consistent with the times, it did not initially endear him to me. He'd obviously never encountered anyone like Izzy - or Clarissa - before which made their encounters so much fun to observe. Izzy challenged him at every opportunity, managing to turn pretty much everything he believed on its head. Adding in the sizzling, and unwelcome, chemistry between them left him all the more confused, and frustrated, which, of course, made his and Izzy's journey all the more enjoyable for me, the reader. 

Fans of Gracie will undoubtedly enjoy guest appearances by some favorite characters from other books. But there are also new characters introduced who comprise a somewhat quirky and entertaining secondary cast. I especially enjoyed Leo's reclusive aunt, Lady Scattergood, his majordomo, Matteo, and his best friend, Lord Randall. I do hope we'll be seeing more of all of them in a future book. 

This is the second book in a series. There are some appearances by characters from book one but The Rake's Daughter can absolutely be enjoyed on its own if you choose to begin here. 

~~~~~~~

Have you read any Anne Gracie books?

Do you enjoy cross-class romances?

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, August 2 will receive a print copy of The Rake's Daughter.

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