Sunday, December 18, 2022

Happy Holidays!



The blog will be on break from Monday, December 19 through the end of the year while I recover from surgery (good thoughts appreciated). Hopefully, I will be back to full speed or at least doing well enough to rejoin you all with new posts the first week of January.

Until then, whatever holidays you celebrate, may they be safe, joyous, and spent in the company of those you hold dear.

See you on the flip side!


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Winner - - Christmas in Blue Dog Valley


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

Christmas in Blue Dog Valley is:

Katie Chapman


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, December 16, 2022

Review - - Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas: A Novel
by Courtney Cole
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 11, 2022
Reviewed by PJ

From New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole, the Magic of the Christmas Season sends a woman back in time to the 1940s where she meets her own grandmother and learns the true meaning of family and the holiday.

Piper McCaulley doesn’t know which way is up or down. Her gran, her last remaining family, died two weeks before Christmas, leaving Piper to reevaluate her life. Did she really want to stay chained to the family business just to hang on to this old house? She didn’t care that her great-great-great grandpa had built it with his own hands. How could she make huge life decisions if she’d never even been outside of Alaska?

She needs to leave the snowy wilderness that’s her backyard and see the world, and since her gran left her a battered old compass, Piper takes this a secret message from her beloved grandmother: to follow her heart.

But before she is even a foot outside the door, Piper finds herself caught in a blizzard and wakes up in 1945 in the original home that her ancestors had built—a time when her gran was just a girl Piper’s age. Once she has gotten over the shock, Piper has the joy of getting to know her grandmother in a whole new way, a way that sheds light on everything Piper had come to know and not know about her own past. 

Over the course of one magical holiday season, Piper must go on a journey through time to learn the meaning of real love, home, and how a family legacy can connect one another forever.  

PJ's Thoughts:

This book reached into my heart and left me flooded with feelings. So many feelings. I never knew my great-grandmother but I've always been curious about her. Understandable, as she died minutes after I, her first great-granddaughter, was born. Imagine being transported to a place and time where I might have the opportunity to get to know her as a young woman? Imagine the impact that "meeting" might have not only on my life but on hers as well? Is it any wonder that this book spoke to me? 

The story started slow and, admittedly, didn't grab me right away. It wasn't until Piper landed in the past - where the majority of the book took place - that I began to become engaged, more so with each page turned. The stage the author set in WWII Alaska was brought to life on the page, complete with all of the hardships of the time. But in the midst of the deprivations, she also spotlighted the joy that was to be found in companionship, kindness, and simple pleasures. It wasn't long before I was fully immersed in both the place, the time, the group of veterans boarding at the family lodge, and the reindeer. The adorable, much loved reindeer.

Did I have to suspend disbelief to lose myself in a story where a present-day young woman finds herself sharing a home with her grandmother (at the same age) and the great-grandparents she never knew? Yes. Did I care? Not in the least. Cole made the story so believable that I never once stopped to think, "this isn't real." In my mind, and my heart, it was all happening exactly as written on the page. All those emotions Piper was experiencing as she uncovered previously unknown facets about her grandmother - and herself - were flowing through me as well, including the emotions of falling in love for the first time...with someone living in the past. You better believe I fretted about how that was going to all turn out when Piper was sent back to her own time. If she was sent back. I was so immersed in the story, so invested in the characters and events of the past as they played out that I actually didn't stop to think about that until Piper did...near the end of the book. And then I wondered how the author would possibly give me an ending that made my romantic heart happy. I mean, I knew she'd have to leave eventually. She couldn't be allowed to continue to live in the same space as her ancestors. I wasn't ready for two hearts who had fallen head over heels into a once in a lifetime love to be broken but how to solve the dilemma of them being from two different lifetimes? I won't give away any spoilers so I'll just say that I was very happy with the tear-inducing, sigh-worthy, fill my heart with joy, unexpected ending. 

If you're in the mood for a magical, heart-tugging, feel-good story of love, family, finding your path, and your happiness, pick up a copy of Home for Christmas. It's a book I will be happily revisiting every Christmas. 

Winner - - The Year of Cecily


The randomly chosen winner of 

a signed, print copy of

The Year of Cecily by Lisa Lin is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - Christmas in Blue Dog Valley

Christmas in Blue Dog Valley: A Novel
by Annie England Noblin
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Reviewed by PJ

Welcome to Blue Dog Valley. Home of the Fighting Elk. Population 3,411. 

When Goldie McKenzie, DVM, vet to the L.A. pet stars, arrives from Los Angeles to Blue Dog Valley she realizes three things.

  1. Never agree to upend your life when you’re hungover
  2. Pot-belly pigs are not true farm animals
  3. She’s going to need a warmer coat

At first Goldie is nothing more than a fish out of water, with few clients and few friends. But after a less than pleasant encounter with a man whose dog is suffering from a possibly fatal case of bloat, she’s finally earning the trust and goodwill from her fellow Blue Dog Valley citizens. Her clientele grows to include the many farm animals in the town, including a horse named Large Marge, a cape-wearing therapy alpaca, and a yardful of sweater-wearing goats. Add in Kevin, the “worst sheepdog in Blue Dog Valley,” and a Sphinx cat named Airport, and Goldie is having the best time a vet can have. . . aside from the annoying attractive town grump, Cohen, who seems intent on making sure she always feels like an outsider.

With her newfound goodwill, Goldie comes up with an idea to reinvigorate the once flourishing Blue Dog Valley: a Christmas carnival. A petting zoo, pictures with Santa, a baking contest, what more could they want? After only some brief resistance from Cohen and his father, they begin the great plan to reinvigorate Blue Dog Valley.

Will Christmas be enough to salvage this dying town—and be enough to bring Goldie closer to a certain grumpy man?

PJ's Thoughts:

I love a good fish out of water story and, boy howdy, does this one fit the bill. First off, Goldie is so far outside her comfort zone that, like some Blue Dog Valley residents, I wasn't sure she'd last two weeks. Especially after she stepped out of the airport into frigid temperatures, endured a two-hour, silent ride in a pickup truck with her less than enthusiastic (though very good looking) driver, met her terse, unwelcoming co-worker who informed Goldie that nobody trusted her and all appointments had been cancelled, saw the tiny cabin where she'd be living, and after falling asleep in a kitchen chair awoke to a cat on her head and a huge dog in front of her fireplace. And that was only the first day! But then she discovered Ruby's diner and the best cinnamon rolls in Wisconsin and that outweighed many, many negatives. Like Goldie, I slowly fell in love with the small, Christmas-loving town of Blue Dog Valley and her quirky citizens. And like those citizens, I came to love Goldie as well. Who says you can't start over at forty? 

Noblin is a wonderful storyteller, bringing this tale to life with humor, poignant emotion, sassy banter, and well-developed characters. She captures the vibe of the upper Midwest and the flow of a small town on the brink of collapse impeccably. By the time I reached the final page, I felt as if I knew each of the characters, no matter how small a part they played in the overall story. And that goes for both two-legged and four-legged ones! I was cheering for Blue Dog Valley to succeed. I was ready to decorate my house to the max. I was rooting for Cohen to wake up and realize the happiness that was within his grasp. I wanted to spend the day with Kevin, Airport, Alice and the rest of the Blue Dog Valley animals. And I was craving cinnamon rolls. Hot, sweet, chewy cinnamon rolls. 

I would classify this as women's fiction, or perhaps contemporary fiction (think Hallmark Christmas movie), though there is a romantic element and a happy ending. The primary focus though is on Goldie, her interactions with everyone in town, her growth, her second chapter, finding herself, finding her happiness and, quite possibly, her future. 

Christmas in Blue Dog Valley is a fun, feel-good story that's sure to brighten your holiday reading pleasure. It has my enthusiastic recommendation. 

Blue Dog Valley goes all out with Christmas decorations and activities. What does your town do to celebrate?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, December 16 will receive a print copy of Christmas in Blue Dog Valley.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

*Void where prohibited

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Sneak Peek Excerpt & Giveaway - - The Year of Cecily

The Year of Cecily
by Lisa Lin
From Sunset Park, with Love - Book 1
Publisher: Tule
Release Date: January 17, 2023

This is the year of Cecily Chang.

San Francisco attorney Cecily Chang is ready to tackle the New Year head on, so she creates a list of resolutions guaranteed to reboot her life—right after her dutiful visit home to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for the Lunar New Year. Cecily prepares to face her critical, meddling mother, nosy relatives, and the chaos and drama family togetherness brings. At least the food will be delicious. This holiday, Cecily vows to remain calm—as long as she doesn’t see him.

Jeffrey Lee deeply regrets how he ended things with Cecily ten years ago, but he felt it was best for her at the time. When he runs into her again during the New Year, he sees it as a sign. Now a successful screenwriter, Jeffrey is determined to win back Cecily’s heart.

But Cecily doesn’t believe in signs or second chances and embraces her new resolutions. This time, Jeffrey won’t give up—and he’s convinced he can write them a new Hollywood happy ending.


Six hours later, Cecily was walking through baggage claim, ready to head outside to hail a cab to make her way to Brooklyn. She couldn’t help but be smug at all the poor suckers waiting by the carousels while she sailed through with her carry-on. Her phone was blowing up with missed calls from her mother. She rolled her eyes and was digging it out of her purse to call her mother back, when she rammed into a solid wall of muscle. A pair of arms reached out to steady her. Already mumbling an apology, she didn’t notice that the wall of muscle had gone still.

“Cecily?” The voice was deep, incredulous, and all too familiar.

No, it couldn’t be. Cecily stifled a curse as her fingers dug into her palms. She looked up and sure enough it was him.. Damn it all to hell.

All that praying had been in vain after all because there he was. Jeffrey Lee, in the flesh, plain as day. Crap.

Resolution 1—broken. She hadn’t gone looking for drama, but drama sure as hell had found her.


Jeffrey couldn’t stop the goofy grin from spreading across his face. It was as if fate had handed him a second chance and dropped it right into his lap. He couldn’t have written a better meet-cute if he’d tried. “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns,” he murmured.

The deep brown eyes that he hadn’t been able to forget for ten years glared at him. Truth be told, Cecily had been glaring at him like that since they were both in diapers, and the familiarity of it all was a soothing balm. He’d always believed the opposite of love wasn’t hate, but indifference. If the glare was anything to go by, she wasn’t indifferent. It wasn’t ideal but he’d take it.

She looked like a little elf bundled in her puffy winter jacket and red pom-pom hat. A scowling elf radiating hostility and aggravation. Definitely not the image one wants of Santa’s little helper.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted.

He raised a brow. “I imagine the same thing you are.” At her blank expression, he elaborated. “Home for the New Year? Command performance? To play the dutiful son, the epitome of filial piety?”

“I don’t remember you being here last year.” She’d noticed his absence. He was going to take that as a good sign.

“There were…extenuating circumstances.”

“Must have been, for Pam ayi to let you off the hook.” She raised a brow. Technically there was no blood relationship between their families, but Cecily still called his mother “auntie.”

He coughed awkwardly. “Yeah, well.” Hoping to avoid that minefield, he quickly changed the topic. “We should head out. My Uber is going to be here in a few minutes.”

The same blank expression.

“Jet lag hitting you hard, is it?” he teased.

She frowned. “I never said I was going to share a car with you. I can get my own cab. Or take the subway.”

“You’re going to take the subway? All the way to Brooklyn? I don’t think so.”

Cecily bristled. “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I’ve been doing it for a while now.” The unspoken “You of all people should know, you big jackass” hung in the air between them. She turned to leave, and he shot out an arm to stop her.

“Well, consider getting a free Uber ride as me paying my penance.”

She cocked her head, and gave him the side-eye. “One Uber ride and the slate is wiped clean? Really?”

“A guy’s gotta start somewhere. The road to forgiveness can be long—might as well try to navigate it quicker with an Uber ride.”

Jeffrey saw her fight a grin and knew he’d won when she let out an exasperated huff of breath. He gave himself a moment to savor the hard-won victory. It was rare for anyone to win against Cecily Chang. He’d consider that as rare as a yeti sighting.

“I want it on the record that I am only accepting your offer under great duress. And because I am too tired and jet-lagged to fight with you about this.”

“Always the attorney.”

"You bet your ass."


I love a second-chance romance. Even better, if it's an enemies-to-lovers, second chance. What's your favorite romance trope?

One person who posts a comment no later than 

11:00 PM, December 15 will receive a

print copy of The Year of Cecily.

U.S. only

Must be 18

Void where prohibited



Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Review - - Pride and Puppies

Pride and Puppies
by Lizzie Shane
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: November 22, 2022
Reviewed by Hellie

Dr. Charlotte Rodriguez is single—again—and she blames Jane Austen. She made brooding, aloof men sound oh so dreamy. But after years of failing to find her own Mr. Darcy, Charlotte decides it’s time to swear off dating. She’s going to lavish all her love and affection on someone who actually deserves it: her new puppy, Bingley.

And there’s no one better to give her pet advice than her neighbor and coworker George Leneghan. He’s quiet and patient and, best of all, way too sweet to ever be her type. But as their friendly banter turns flirty, the unimaginable happens—Charlotte starts catching feelings. 

Just as Charlotte is trying to untangle what it is she truly wants, George announces he’s contemplating a cross-country move. Suddenly, Charlotte wonders if she’s kept her soulmate in the friend zone so long that she’s entirely missed her chance at a happily ever after. Dear Reader, could it be possible she’s had it wrong all this time?


Hellie’s Heeds 

You ever read a romance novel and think, “Wow, this book is my story–aside from the characters who are preternaturally gorgeous and have more thrilling jobs, of course”? This was that book for me. George–who is as kind and as smart as my own Mr. Hellie–is the proverbial best friend and never the best man. Charlotte, who is kind, funny, generous, and beautiful, just can’t seem to find a good man because she’s constantly chasing ass-clowns. Did I feel a bit attacked while reading this book? I did, dear Reader, but truth often hurts. Finding Mr. Darcy is not the same as trying to turn an ass-clown into a silk purse. And let’s remember, Mr. Darcy had a MAJOR character arc throughout his story, as did Lizzie. So too do the characters in this book–they have to grow and decide they deserve better and in deciding they deserve better, they also need to be courageous and go after the love they deserve.  

But while all this heavy character growth is happening, there are puppies and best friends and all manner of hijinks. I fell really hard for George, who is a transplant to Pine Hollow, and after two years is still being referred to as the “new guy.” Watching him stepping out and becoming a true Pine Hollow resident was heart-warming–and yes, I totally wanted to attend a gig where he and the band he’s a part of were playing. It all felt so real and adorable. There were additional characters I longed to see HEAs for, including a pair that I’m pretty sure are going to get their own book eventually.  

If you like best friends to lovers, this is your book. Even if it’s not your favorite trope, I think this is the book where you’ll change your mind because you can’t help but read it and think, George and Charlotte belong together. While Emma seems to be the book that is supposed to best represent this couple–George has some Knightly moments as Charlotte is definitely an Emma–there are bits of Persuasion woven in as you see love that has been lingering on the sidelines, just waiting its turn, finally winning the happily ever after. This book is a love letter to the Friends to Lovers trope as well as Jane Austen, who I believe has sent most all of us on this road for love and romance, chasing that high that is Mr. Darcy…and Mr. Knightly…and Captain Wentworth. Well done.  

Also the dogs are real cute.


Winner - - A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal by Preslaysa Williams is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, December 12, 2022

Spotlight Giveaway - - A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal

A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal
by Preslaysa Williams
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 8, 2022

It was supposed to be the happiest day of Jaslene Simmons’ life, the day she’d say “I do” to Marcus Clark. But when her sister dies in a tragic accident everything changes—including her once rosy future with Marcus. Jaslene instead pours all of her energy into caring for her now-motherless niece and running the wedding planning company she and her sister had built, wanting to honor her sister’s dream even if she has to sacrifice her own.

As an archivist at Charleston’s Black history museum, Marcus shines a light on the stories of forgotten people. Researching history is better than dealing with his own heartache—and the guilt he has over the role he may have inadvertently played in the death of Jaslene’s sister.

Jaslene never thought she’d cross paths with Marcus again, but her need for an affordable office space brings her to the museum which is faced with the threat of closure. As they work together to save it, their buried feelings slowly reignite. They soon realize there is still room in their hearts for love...if only they can overcome their past. 

PJ Says:

In this follow up to her heart-tugging debut, A Lowcountry Bride (read my review here), Williams brings readers a slow-burn, second-chance romance about healing and moving forward in the wake of grief. Once again set against the lush and historic backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, the book not only shines a light on the lead couple but also on the Black history and culture of the Lowcountry as well as the author's own Afro-Filipina heritage.

I'm looking forward to reading A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal

Have you read Preslaysa Williams yet?

Do you enjoy reading stories that focus on diverse cultures?

Have you ever visited Charleston?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM (EST), December 12 will receive a print copy of A Sweet Lowcountry Proposal

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

Friday, December 9, 2022

Winner - - Miranda Liasson


The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

The Sweetheart Fix and The Sweetheart Deal is:

Patricia Bennett Barber


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Please include "Liasson Winner" in your email.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Review - - The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks

The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks
by Shauna  Robinson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: November 1, 2022
Reviewed by Nancy

When Maggie Banks arrives in Bell River to run her best friend's struggling bookstore, she expects to sell bestsellers to her small-town clientele. But running a bookstore in a town with a famously bookish history isn't easy. Bell River's literary society insists on keeping the bookstore stuck in the past, and Maggie is banned from selling anything written this century. So, when a series of mishaps suddenly tip the bookstore toward ruin, Maggie will have to get creative to keep the shop afloat.

And in Maggie's world, book rules are made to be broken.

To help save the store, Maggie starts an underground book club, running a series of events celebrating the books readers actually love. But keeping the club quiet, selling forbidden books, and dodging the literary society is nearly impossible. Especially when Maggie unearths a town secret that could upend everything. 

Maggie will have to decide what's more important: the books that formed a small town's history, or the stories poised to change it all.

Nancy's Thoughts: 

Shauna Robinson’s The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks is a delightful romance that’s also about a woman finding her place. The story opens with Maggie’s arrival in the town of Bell River. She’s there take over her friend Rochelle’s bookstore when Rochelle goes on maternity leave. The town’s claim to fame is that the writer Edward Bell was from there. The town is named after him (a change from its original name), and there are statues—yes, plural. Tourists come to learn about him and to see where he lived and worked. There’s so much about him, though, that Maggie has a niggling feeling that this is a little cult-like. 

It's more cult-like than she knows. Ralph Bell, who operates the museum dedicated to Bell, owns majority shares in many of the town’s businesses, including Rochelle’s bookshop, and closely controls how they’re run. For example, the bookshop cannot sell any books other than those by Edward Bell and acclaimed classics published before his death in 1968. The nearest place to find popular fiction is the next town over. 

Ralph even has an employee, Malcolm, keep tabs on the businesses to be sure they comply with his rules. Unfortunately, Maggie doesn’t hold Edward Bell in the same esteem as Ralph and his cohorts, and Malcolm happens upon Maggie and Rochelle joking about him. He cautions them and says he won’t report it this time, but this can’t happen again. He’s clearly torn between doing is job and being reasonable, which makes him sympathetic. He becomes more so when we learn his reasons for staying in this job. 

Unfortunately, Maggie runs afoul of Ralph with serious consequences for the bookstore. She’s desperate to keep Rochelle, who is already on leave because of pregnancy complications, from finding out about Ralph’s new restrictions. A local romance author, Evelyn, stops in to see if the 
changes at the store leave room for more popular fiction. Selling anything not sanctioned by Ralph will be disastrous if he finds out, but the store can’t survive under his new orders.  

One thing leads to another, and Maggie and Evelyn devise a plan to do a mashup of Moby Dick and romance (along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)—but secretly, working with a very small audience. Maggie’s trip to a local book lovers convention turns unexpectedly complicated when Malcolm shows up. And more complicated yet when they discover that they like each other and want to spur each other’s interest in different kinds of books. In the back of Maggie’s mind, though, is the awareness that she absolutely cannot let Malcolm find out what she’s doing to bring in revenue in the store.  

At the semi-secret gathering, Evelyn’s reading of her mashup, Hunting for Dick, is a huge success. It also brings in people who convince Maggie there’s a real demand locally for popular fiction and for other such events. If she can meet that demand, that will solve the store’s revenue problems. So she begins selling books banned by Ralph, a choice that gives the book its title.  

Maggie is likeable despite not having found her niche in life. She knows what kind of job she doesn’t want—something restrictive, the position her sister arranged for her as an assistant at a brokerage firm. But she doesn’t know what she actually wants. She’s still trying, though, and is happy to help her friend and take that time to try to figure out a next step. Although she makes choices she knows are risky, she’s doing it to protect her friend from stress and keep revenue up.  

As is often the case, one deception leads to another and another, increasing the secrets Maggie has to keep from Malcolm as their relationship deepens. Matters come to a head when Ralph makes a business choice that threatens a bookstore regular and all the businesses he controls. Maggie rallies the community to resist. The trouble that comes crashing down is predictable, but Robinson leads the reader to understand why Maggie and her friends don’t see it that way.  

Their salvation comes from an unexpected quarter, and I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll simply say it was very satisfying. The foundation for it was laid in a way that made it believable. Even better, the resolution leads Maggie to see the solution to her personal issues and shakes Malcolm out of his rut.  

Although I love the characters and enjoyed the plot, I have two issues with the worldbuilding. The first is the description of Edward Bell as the founder of feminism. Maggie makes it plain early that she doesn’t see where this is coming from, which is fine. My problem lies in the fact that there are works considered feminist published well before this Edward Bell’s work. Little Women, while it’s a children’s novel, is considered a feminist book. So are Ibsen’s The Doll’s House and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. Virginia Woolf and Dorothy L. Sayers also wrote about feminist themes. All these authors were published before the 1930s, when the story world’s Edward Bell wrote the purportedly feminist The First Dollar.  

When Maggie and Malcolm discuss the bookstore and its stock, he laments that Ralph’s sales policy keeps the inventory very white except for slave narratives because there were no Black authors on the New York Times bestseller list until 1970. Bestseller status, however, does not convey classic status, and there were Black authors published before Ralph’s 1968 cutoff whose books have come to be considered classics. Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man was published in 1952. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God came out in 1937. James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright were all published before 1968. 

Dismissing these earlier works by feminist and Black authors yanked me out of the story each time. It made me stop and go, “Wait. What?” I realize this is fiction, but it’s set in this world. So it would seem to me to have the same basic history and conventions and literature as this world. But that may be just me. Other readers may not be aware of these books or, if they are aware, care that they’ve been world-built out of existence. 

Maggie and Evelyn have a brief conversation about who gets to decide what’s a classic. Maybe the author had that in mind when she made her story choices. As I said, while these choices seriously did not work for me, they may be fine with others. 

The story moves at a good pace. The characters are well drawn and likeable. The supporting characters also have their moments to shine, and the mashups at the readings are delightful. Weighing all of that against being really bothered by the dismissal of the earlier authors for worldbuilding and knowing other readers may not mind so much, I settled on 4 stars. I do recommend the book because it was fun despite my other issues. 

4 Stars, Recommended 


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Tour Review & Giveaway - - The Sweetheart Fix

The Sweetheart Fix
by Miranda Liasson
Blossom Glen - Book 2
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release Date: November 29, 2022
Reviewed by PJ

Juliet Montgomery absolutely loves her small town of Blossom Glen, Indiana, and everyone loves her. Except for the fact that she’s a couples counselor who suffered a very public breakup that no one can forget. And now her boss asks her to take a step back…which is exactly when the town’s good-lookin’ and unusually gruff mayor offers her an unexpected job.

Jack Monroe absolutely loves being the mayor of his small town. Except when he actually has to talk to people. Can’t he just fix the community problems in peace? Like right now, he’s mediating the silliest dispute two neighbors could possibly have. When the town sweetheart steps up and solves everyone’s problems in five minutes flat, Jack realizes what this town really needs…is a therapist.

Juliet is able to soothe anyone—other than the surly mayor, it seems. But there’s a reason they say opposites attract, because all of their verbal sparring leads to some serious attraction. Only, just like with fireworks, the view might appear beautiful—but she’s already had one public explosion that’s nearly ruined everything…how can she risk her heart again? 

PJ's Thoughts:

When I pick up a book by Miranda Liasson, I always feel like I'm about to make new friends, in a place I'd be happy to visit. Her fictional communities are warm and welcoming but also realistic. I grew up in a small town. There are pros and cons to everyone knowing your business and Liasson explores both. But it's her characters that shine. Whether it's the lead couple, their friends and families, two neighbors feuding over a tree on their property line, or a lonely old man who has forgotten what it feels like to be a part of the community, Liasson give each of them the care and attention they deserve. And, in doing so, she makes me care about all of them. 

I wouldn't call Jack and Juliet enemies but they certainly start out as adversaries. I love how they challenge each other. The banter between them is terrific. Each of them has reasons for being wary of relationships but that doesn't stop the attraction between them from growing, especially as they spend time together at City Hall and start peeling back those layers that hide the hurts and vulnerabilities acquired over the years. I enjoy how their friendship evolves and solidifies before they take that next step into romantic feelings, though the zing of attraction is there from the start. I also appreciate that the author takes her time with them, leading them to fully confront the emotional baggage they carry before allowing them to claim their happy ending. They're so good together. I laughed, cried, and sighed with happiness with them every step of the way.

It was fun to see all the characters from book one again in this book as well as meet a few new ones. There are no secrets in Blossom Glen as Jack and Juliet are quick to discover. Everyone has a stake in their relationship and isn't above offering the most loving and helpful way, of course. I enjoyed watching Leo and Tessa (The Sweetheart Deal) preparing for parenthood, as well as catching up with other members of their families. And I am already eager to discover what the future will hold for youngest sister, Viv. Will she head overseas again or will love, family, and a new purpose in life hold her closer to Blossom Glen? Only time will tell.

If you enjoy small-town romance with fully-developed, relatable characters, low steam but deep passion, humor, and heartwarming happy endings, give The Sweetheart Fix (and book one, The Sweetheart Deal) a try. They both have my enthusiastic recommendation. 

Have you read Miranda Liasson yet?

What do you enjoy about small-town romance?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, December 8 will receive a print copy of The Sweetheart Fix and The Sweetheart Deal.

U.S. only
Must be 18
Void where prohibited

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Review & Giveaway - - Down in Flames

Down in Flames: An MM Firefighter - Hockey Romance
by Kate Meader
Hot in Chicago Rookies - Book 2
A Hot in Chicago Rookies / Rookie Rebels Crossover
Publisher: Kate Meader LLC
Release Date: December 6, 2022
Reviewed by PJ

It was supposed to be a random hookup.

At a crossroads, my life a hot mess, I swiped right on the guy with the washboard abs and the tree-trunk thighs. His handle was Holt (yeah, really) but as soon as he opened the door, I recognized him: Hudson Grey, the hottest prospect in pro-hockey and apparently, secretly playing for my team. Not mind-blowing enough? He needed someone to punch his V-card, and I was only too happy to volunteer as tribute . . .

Then he ghosted me when it got to be too much.

A year later, my life is back on track and I’m a candidate firefighter at legendary Engine 6. While I might be new to the Chicago Fire Department, I’m a veteran in the game of steamy hookups. My No. 1 rule? No newbies. Except now Hudson has been traded to my hometown team, the Chicago Rebels, and he’s out, proud, and ready to date. And he wants my help introducing him to the local gay scene.

My messy past means I’m the worst guy to be mentoring the shy, sexy jock. But neither can I stand by and watch while others touch the man who already feels like mine.

I might have been his first, but I’m about to learn that the new guy has even more to teach me about hunger, hope, and falling hard.

Includes: First times, hot firefighters, sexy hockey players, mini-golf shenanigans, meddling friends, and fighting like hell for the love of a lifetime.

PJ's Thoughts:

What can I say about Kate Meader's writing that I haven't already? She continues to up her game with each book she releases and is, in my opinion, one of the best authors out there writing in the contemporary romance genre. The majority of her books are male/female couples but occasionally she'll write a male/male romance that stirs my emotions like no other. This is one of those stories.
Jude and Hudson are both incredibly complex, well-developed, relatable characters. I loved how they both evolved over the course of their story and how the dynamic of their relationship shifted in accordance with that evolution. On the surface, Hudson seems to be the one who grows the most - from the shy, awkward, closeted virgin to the strong, confident, openly gay hockey player willing to fight for love - but, in actuality, it's Jude who I felt grew the most. My heart ached for him as his cocky, confident persona began to crumble, revealing the mistakes of his past and the vulnerable core so well hidden, bringing me to tears more than once. 
For those of you who like your physical expressions to be on the mild side, this book may not be for you. The sex is steamy and frequent, but also incredibly tender, and used effectively to move this story along. I loved how hot these two were for one another. If you enjoy steam between two consenting adults that's layered with a whole boatload of emotion, this book gives you both...and then some. Jude and Hudson connect on so many levels. I enjoyed how full-bodied their relationship is, the quality of the time they spend talking about a plethora of topics, how they take care of each other, support one another, tease, laugh, and cry with one another. 
As is typical of a Meader book, there's also a lot of humor balancing the emotion and a richly depicted secondary cast of characters. I'll never look at mini-golf the same way again. Hudson's meddling hockey teammates are pure gold (I can't get enough of them), as are Jude's firefighter pals. Then there's Hudson's parents and how they treat Jude. My heart melted and there may have been tears. 
I don't think I could have pulled any harder for these two opposite, but perfect for one another, men to accept the love they didn't always think they deserved. From their awkwardly sweet introduction to their final, heartfelt declarations, they personified the truth that love is love is love and that love is something we all deserve. This one gets my enthusiastic, heartfelt recommendation. 
Note: The initial meeting between Jude and Hudson plays out in the short prequel, White-Hot Hookup, which is currently available to download at no charge. I recommend reading it before beginning Down in Flames


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Apple Books:
#1 Up in Smoke
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Google Play:
#3 Hot to the Touch – Releasing August 22
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Originally from Ireland, USA Today bestselling author Kate Meader cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron, fire hose, or a hockey stick, and she’s there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with big-hearted guys and strong heroines - and heroes - who can match their men quip for quip.
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