As a reality TV producer, Ana Karina orchestrates extravagant marriage proposals that
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
As a reality TV producer, Ana Karina orchestrates extravagant marriage proposals that
Monday, February 27, 2023
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Will a big-city veterinarian give this small town—and the single dad who’s caught her heart—a chance?
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Exclusive excerpt from The Lady Knows Best by Susanna Craig,
for The Romance Dish:
Daphne Burke’s first act as “Miss Busy B.,” the advice columnist for Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses, is to encourage a young lady to call off her engagement to notorious rake Miles, Viscount Deveraux. But when Miles—who has a great deal of money riding on a wager that he will marry by the end of the Season—discovers Miss Busy B.’s true identity, he blackmails Daphne into finding him a new bride. Daphne offers to marry him herself, but only after a two-week courtship, during which time she intends to discover enough about “that devil, Deveraux” to ruin him in the eyes of society and then jilt him. But is Miles really the man she believed him to be?
In this scene, a few days into their courtship, Miles meets Daphne for a private conversation at a garden party.
When a long silent moment passed, he asked, “Are you afraid that if we converse, you might discover something likeable about me? That you might find me amiable, amusing, attractive?”
Her lips twitched. “Not in the slightest.”
“Then I wonder why you insisted upon a courtship at all. If it distresses you, we could just go ahead and get married without it.” He slid closer and lightly covered her hand with his. “I can have a special license in hand first thing tomorrow.”
She jerked free of his touch. If it were not made of stone, the bench would have swayed with the force of her movement. “You needn’t keep reminding me of your power over me, my lord.”
Miles disguised his own uncertainty by gripping the edge of the bench.
“I suppose that’s why you sent me those quills—to mock me, as you did with that song.”
“Mock you?” he echoed, genuinely astonished. “Is it not a custom of proper courtship for a gentleman to send a token of his esteem?”
“Gentlemen send flowers.” The governess-y tone was back, a sort of exaggerated patience, as if she were delivering a lesson in etiquette to an unruly boy. “Bellis gets them by the cartload. Daisies, usually.”
If he hadn’t been watching, he would have missed the slight wobble of her chin as she spoke those words.
He didn’t think she begrudged her sister those gifts. Not exactly, anyway. But with every bouquet of flowers, every
reminder of her talented and famous elder siblings, she swallowed a pang of something like jealousy. Often enough
that it had become little more than a reflexive tickle in her throat.
And he had unwittingly made that irritation worse.
“I’m quite aware gentlemen send flowers.” He forced a lightness into his tone. “And setting aside any debate over whether that dubious distinction applies to me, I did in fact speak with the clerk at the florist’s shop, who explained to me the botanical meaning of your lovely name.” It was a source of some amusement in certain circles that all the Burke siblings were named after plants. “But a few branches from a shrub laden with poisonous berries didn’t seem quite the thing.”
That made her snicker. Reluctantly, to be sure. Just the tiniest hint of a laugh.
Nevertheless, his chest swelled with pride; he always enjoyed pleasing women. “I thought quills would be at least as apt as Bellis’s daisies. Something befitting the woman you really are. Sharp, yes, but soft too. Strong, but delicate.”
Like most women, in one way or another, he supposed.
But they’d seemed to him a particularly perfect gift for Daphne.
“I pictured you writing your column with them,” he finished simply.
She would start out with a straight spine and a spotless page. But as she went on, warming toward her subject, her quill would fly. Gradually, as if pouring a bit of herself into her words, she would bend her head closer to the paper.
He’d imagined pressing his lips to the soft skin that peeked between the collar of her dress and the few stray wisps of hair that tickled the back of her neck.
After a moment, she asked in a whisper, “Does that mean you intend to permit me to keep writing?”
The question was so unexpected, it took him a moment to comprehend. “Once we’re married, you mean?”
Her chin dipped, almost imperceptibly.
“I will not permit it, my dear,” he said. At that, her head spun and her gaze snapped to his. “I will insist upon it. I for one am eager to read your retraction.”
“Oh, yes.” He lifted his brows suggestively. “It should be easy enough to pen. Once you’ve discovered just how enjoyable it can be, being married to a rake.”
Was it his imagination, or was the spark in her eyes brighter now? Warmer?
Could it be that she enjoyed being teased?
Oh, but that was promising indeed.
“I assume you refer to that old saw about reformed rakes.” She tilted her head toward him and favored him with a look he was fast coming to consider her “Miss Busy B. expression”—part disapproving governess, part insufferable know-all, part inquisitive young lady who couldn’t quite make herself look away, though she knew she ought. “Tell me, my lord. Do you have any intention of reforming?”
He stretched out his legs and leaned back as much as the bench would allow. In a more comfortable chair, his posture would have been described as a sprawl—a blatant invitation for her gaze to travel his body, head to toe. “Which of my vices would you have me give up? My bootmaker? My tailor? Surely, you do not want a shabby bridegroom, ma’am.”
Again, the quirk of lips that were determined not to betray a smile.
“Or perhaps you object to my French cologne?”
“Your French brandy, rather,” she retorted. “Your gambling. Your . . .” Her voice dropped to a whisper, barely audible above the chatter rising from the garden below. “. . . flirtations.”
A little frippery of a hat sat perched high upon her head. Beneath it, her hair was more simply arranged today, the sort of coiffure that could be mussed by a man’s careless fingers without anyone being the wiser. And her gown was pale, diaphanous muslin, embroidered with a green vine and the occasional pink rosebud. Perfect for a garden party. On this warm day, its skirts clung to her limbs most provocatively.
He raked his gaze over her, tipping his head to the side.“Must I stop flirting with you?
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Monday, February 20, 2023
Three days ago, all Maisy Norgate had was a stack of bills, about a gazillion jobs, and her sunny-as-hell outlook. Now, thanks to an uncle she never knew about, she’s inherited an ornate skeleton key with absolutely no idea what it’s for—or why she has it. Which is exactly when a ridiculously handsome guy claiming to be an angel shows up at her door and all hell breaks loose…
Nephilim Rhys Boyce cannot believe that Maisy is the new Keeper of the Key. Why would anyone bequeath this warm, bubbly redhead the key to Hell? And to make matters worse, she’s given the key to the first person who asked for it. A demon. Yep, Maisy is determined to make his job—not to mention some seriously inconvenient temptation—as hard as possible.
First a half angel with a very human chip on his shoulder must find a way to convince Maisy that angels and demons do exist. Then Rhys will have to break the really bad news…that she might have accidentally ended the world.
I try to keep up with my review books, but it feels lately I have had less free reading time–or the free time gets eaten up by out-of-state travel or LOVE IS BLIND episodes. So this is why this is coming out later than I meant and I do apologize. It’s not the book’s fault by any means: it’s a cute book and when it comes to paranormal, I’ll always pick an angelic hero over one who turns into a wolf…or wants my blood. Rhys Boyce lives up to his angelic hype as one gorgeous, broody, protective hero. Maisy is a lovely heroine who is very much the human who is just trying her best to be a good person–and always believing she is falling short–but always impressing Rhys whose experience with humanity has been with a more selfish kind.
The blurb actually sums up the story very well (not always the case) so I don’t feel I need to go into more details because it would give more away. I was impressed by the dark moment for the heroine–the thing she must sacrifice in order to get the key–and also how the ending was resolved. I’m also glad there wasn’t a large dramatic “I’m not worthy of you because I’m only a half-angel” type of black moment where I would have thrown the book down–but a normal amount of romantic doubts that the characters worked through with conversation, trust, and action. Not to say that these characters don’t do dramatic and sorta dumb things–as people do when feeling self-doubt–but I think you and I have both read books where that has been dragged out way too long and you no longer want the couple to get together because you think the whiny hero(ine) should get therapy instead of a relationship.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
You couldn’t design a better hero than the very eligible and extremely charming Earl Grantham. Unless, of course, you are Margaret Gault, who wants nothing to do with the man who broke her youthful heart.
If you enjoy STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) romances, this series is tailor made for you. Everett's women scientists are dedicated, determined, and ahead of their time, making life-changing discoveries. If only they weren't forced to do it in secret. Except for Margaret. Determined to open England's first woman-owned engineering firm, Margaret is challenging London's male-run business community head on. I'm sure you can imagine the challenges she faces in doing so. Everett doesn't make it easy for her lady scientists. While fully embracing the feminist qualities of these women, she doesn't back away from the difficulties created by their choices. It adds complexity and realism to these characters as well as the time in which they lived. It also adds layers to the relationship between Margaret and George.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
by Kyla Zhao
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Reviewed by Nancy
A working-class woman who infiltrates Singapore’s high society to fulfill her dreams risks losing everything in the process—including herself—in this propulsive novel by debut author Kyla Zhao.
Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she’ll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families—and Samantha’s one chance at infiltrating the high-society world to which she desperately wants to belong.
To Samantha’s surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore’s poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed—especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt—forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all.
The Fraud Squad introduces us to Samantha in a scene that demonstrates her uneasiness with her job, where things aren’t going especially well for her division of the PR firm, her love of high fashion and the doings of Singapore’s social elite, and her friendship with Anya. It’s obvious that the two women are very close and trust each other despite Samantha’s understandable envy of the advantages Anya derives from her mother’s social status and wealth. Anya invites Samantha to dinner with Tim, who wants to vent over his latest romantic troubles. Because it’s an exclusive restaurant, Samantha agrees.
Zhao has a tough line to walk with Sam because of her yearning to experience life as the A list knows it. She saves Sam from coming across as shallow in part because her goal is not so much to belong among people far wealthier than she is but to write for the magazine that’s the pinnacle of the fashion press in Singapore. Samantha is also sympathetic because she’s loyal and loving to her mother, who works as a nail technician. Samantha’s father died long before the story opened, leaving his family with a massive pile of debt, some of it owed to loan sharks, to discharge. Sam’s mom hopes Sam will marry a wealthy man who can give her a comfortable, secure life. Samantha prefers to earn that life on her own, but she’s tolerant of her mom’s hopes, as many a daughter has been.
At dinner, Tim shares his frustration not only about the broken relationship but about his parents’ insistence that he stop pursuing creative interests and join the family business, one of Singapore’s most successful hedge funds. He doesn’t see himself as a money man, and the scheme to elevate Sam to the social elite is designed to show them that people’s destinies aren’t determined by their beginnings. So he and Anya set out to launch her in society by getting her invitations to exclusive events, where she’ll wear clothes borrowed from Anya. They call themselves the Fraud Squad.
I found the idea that elevating Sam socially would prove anything about Tim’s chances of making a career in the arts a stretch. Attaining social success and establishing a creative career are very different endeavors. Still, I liked Anya and Sam’s support of Tim’s hopes and Tim and Anya’s willingness to help Sam make the connections that could get her the job of her dreams.
Once Tim and Anya gain access for Sam to any particular event, the impression she makes is up to her. She has to look like she belongs and to establish connections that gain her further invitations and raise her profile. Things don’t always go smoothly, which makes the story more believable.
Little by little, though, Sam begins to turn her social toehold into a niche and then to establish a wider circle of connections that give her the exposure she needs to attain her dream job. Along the way, she makes some choices about other friends that are not endearing though the reader understands why she acts as she does.
The book is somewhat reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada (the movie, not the book, which I haven’t read) in that the heroine sets out to establish a career that involves high fashion, is sucked into the appeal and the standards of that world, and ultimately pays a price for that. The two stories are completely different, but the questions of who the heroine is at heart and what she really values are common to both.
There’s a romantic thread between Sam and Tim that’s sweet and believable. It’s definitely a subplot but figures into the clever way Zhao ties in several plot threads at the moment of crisis. That crisis has a double twist that’s painful for Sam. The way she dealt with those twists was sympathetic and reasonable.
Zhao works in the Singapore setting primarily with place names, business names (kopitiam for coffee shop), and some terminology. I don’t mind looking up a word. When I have to look up several, it pulls me out of the story and becomes annoying. While the meaning of kopitiam was apparent in context, the meanings of two or three other terms were not. I like to understand what I’m reading, so even if I think I might grasp what something is, I look it up to be sure. This disrupts the flow of the story for me. Explaining them in an aside or an internal would’ve given me a much smoother reading experience. Other readers may disagree.
The story moved well, and the characters were likeable. I found the plot engaging. Though I thought the Fraud Squad’s stated goal of helping Tim a bit unlikely to succeed, the part that would elevate Sam’s social profile and help her forget connections was logical and well executed. The twists at the crisis fit well with the characters involved, and the resolution tied everything up in a satisfying way.
Monday, February 13, 2023
The randomly chosen winner of
Love and Other Perennial Habits by Emmaline Warden is:
Please send your full name, mailing address,
and choice of print or Kindle copy to:
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com
Friday, February 10, 2023
When a couple starts to feel like they’re married to a stranger, a flirtatious game of pretend becomes the spark they need to reignite their relationship.
This four star book follows, in a way, that same premise. A couple who love each other find themselves in a rut. Same routines day in and day out. Work. Home. Dinner. Sleep. Repeat.
How do they come out of it and resurrect their love story? Graham and Eliza don’t resort to personal ads - it’s not the ‘70s anymore.
They sort of fall into rediscovering who they are as individuals and as a couple through a reservations fluke a friend of theirs makes. A friend gives them a weeklong stay at a resort to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. The hotel has two rooms in their names. Eliza blurts out that they will keep both rooms. One so she can work on her voice over work without disturbing Graham. This panics him on a couple of levels. He is the more insecure about their relationship. They agree to meet up later at the bar.
Graham then meets David who mistakenly assumes Eliza and Graham are strangers and introduces them to each other. Neither corrects him and they decide to use this opportunity to get to know one another again. They meet up for dates, meet up in the different activities provided by the resort. They start to discover things about each other and themselves.
It may sound a bit contrived or that may be just me but the authors make it work. You want them to come back to each other. You cheer for the friendship that develops with Graham and David. I was even becoming invested in David’s own happily ever after.
Do I Know You? is the second novel by this married writing team in this genre. They are definitely authors to take note of.