Friday, March 31, 2023

Review - - The Beach House on Amelia Island

The Beach House on Amelia Island
by Hope Holloway
Seven Sisters - Book 1
Publisher: Hope Holloway
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

The start of a heartwarming saga of sisterhood, secrets, and second chances...

The very moment that Raina Wingate learns her husband of sixteen years wants to separate, she gets a call that her father has suffered a stroke. Racing to her family’s home on Amelia Island, Florida, Raina hopes the time apart will heal her cracked marriage and that she can step into her father’s real estate business and keep it running.

Her sister, Tori, a divorcee who owns a catering business in Boston, also flies in to join the others at the hospital. But an unexpected run-in with their father’s rather attractive neurologist adds a new dimension to the days and weeks ahead.

They gather around their father, but it doesn’t take long to see that it is Susannah, mother to three and stepmother to four of the sisters, who needs them the most. A woman who maintains appearances at all times, sixty-one year old Susannah nearly breaks at the possibility of losing her husband. She has never needed her daughters more.

When the clouds roll over the beach house on Amelia Island, the Wingate women learn over and over again that the bond between the seven sisters is as strong as steel, as gentle as an ocean breeze, and as lasting as their family legacy.

PJ's Thoughts:

One book into this seven-book series and I am already fully and wholeheartedly invested in these complex characters and their complicated lives. That's the magic of Hope Holloway and her ability to create intriguing people (because that's how I think of them, as people, not characters on a page) with whom I want to be friends. People I care about. People I cheer for, cry with, and laugh with. 

While the primary focus of this first book is on Susannah, Raina, and Tori, all of the sisters are introduced and each will get their turn in the spotlight in future books. I enjoy how Holloway spotlights two or three different characters in each book while also weaving the others' storylines into those stories too. The sisters' father is also an integral part of this first book, both with his stroke bringing everyone home but also because of a mystery tied to him. I'm guessing that mystery will unfold throughout the series but I'm already searching for clues because, dang, this author knows exactly how to pique my curiosity. 

As she has done with her previous series set in the Florida Keys and on Sanibel Island, this setting of Amelia Island is so vibrantly - and accurately - depicted it is almost a character in itself rather than just a backdrop for the characters' journeys. She's brought the beaches, quirky shops, rich culture, and history of the island to life. It made me want to hop in my car and take a trip up the road for an overdue visit. 

If you enjoy immersive, heart-tugging family sagas with humor, relatable challenges, character growth, romance, and mystery, check out the first book in Hope Holloway's Seven Sisters series: The Beach House on Amelia Island.  And if you're eager (like me) to know what happens next, you only have to wait until June for book two, The Cafe on Amelia Island and August for book three, The Bookstore on Amelia Island


Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Review - - A Kiss in the Moonlight

A Kiss in the Moonlight
by Cathy Maxwell
The Gambler's Daughters - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

To Marry a Duke…

Once there were three Irish sisters—Gwendolyn, Dara, and Elise—who had to fend for themselves when their gambler of a father disappeared, leaving them with an unscrupulous cousin. Dara hatches a daring plan: they gamble what little they own to finance a London season. Her goal: to use their looks and their wits to find a duke to marry for each sister!

It seems her crazy plot might work when the sisters are declared the “Incomparables” of the Season. Dukes and lords line up at their door, but bold women and scandal always go hand in hand. Particularly when Dara’s plans are challenged by the likes of Michael Brogan, who provokes Dara as much as he tempts her. The handsome, clever, and rising politician is definitely not a duke, but he’s determined to teach her about ambition, men, and, above all, love, making Dara wonder if her plans are about to change. 

PJ's Thoughts:

I'm a fan of Cathy Maxwell's books. I love how they make me laugh, sigh, and swoon. She's a master of all three. Her newest, A Kiss in the Moonlight introduces her Gambler's Daughters series and the three Lanscarr sisters from Ireland: Gwendolyn, Dara, and Elise. It's an intriguing journey filled with mystery, danger, unexpected romance, and a heart-wrenching family rift (hopefully to be mended in book two). 

This first book sets up the series with a fair amount of time devoted to each of the sisters. We begin to learn about their personalities, their desires, and how they each behave within the network of their family and sisterhood. I liked them. Well, I liked two of them. Elise has some significant growing to do before she engages my support. I'm eager to see what Maxwell has in store for her in book two. I'm already fully invested in Gwendolyn and her potential hero (he better be her hero!) and looking forward to that journey. 

In this book, it's rule-making, middle sister, Dara (the plain, overlooked one in her opinion) who unexpectedly steps into the romantic spotlight. She and Michael are such a wonderful match. I loved their banter, chemistry, and partnership as they worked together to bring a traitor to justice. Michael really couldn't have found a better life partner. It was so gratifying to watch Dara evolve, accept that she's deserving of love, and finally realize the self-confidence and self-worth that had been outside her grasp. I may have cheered out loud when she finally stood her ground and claimed that which she deserved. 

One of my favorite parts of this book is the beginning of each chapter where the author shares one of Dara's proper rules, followed by flask-carrying Great Aunt Tweedie's less than proper response. Snort laughing may have ensued over more than one of those responses. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Review - - What Happens in the Ballroom

What Happens in the Ballroom
by Sabrina Jeffries
Designing Debutantes - Book 2
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

A young military widow, Eliza Pierce is enjoying both freedom and financial success as part of Elegant Occasions. When her late husband’s best friend, Nathaniel Stanton, the Earl of Foxstead, hires Elegant Occasions to help another young widow of an officer become part of high society, Eliza wonders why. Is the woman a relative? Or is she the earl’s mistress and her adorable toddler his child? If so, why does he take Eliza in his arms every chance he gets . . .

Foxstead’s family situation makes it difficult for him to marry, so his visceral attraction to his best friend’s widow is an unwelcome complication. Burdened by family secrets and those of his commanding officer, he’s determined to do his duty even when it means being around Eliza every day. But how can he resist when the fetching Eliza keeps tempting him to break his own rules? For if he dares to expose the truth, will she ever forgive him? Or will she banish him from her life forever . . .

PJ's Thoughts:

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series. The sparkling banter, witty dialog, multi-layered stories, and food (oh my gosh, the food) are lively reminders of why I first fell in love with Jeffries' writing voice. And, as much as I enjoyed book one in the series, I enjoyed this one even more. 

Generally, I'm not in favor of the hero or heroine keeping secrets that directly affect the other but in this case I understood Nathaniel's reasons. There were many lives that would have been impacted had those reasons become public knowledge. I also believed that he would have eventually shared the information with Eliza. I liked him and I especially liked how he treated Eliza (secrets aside) with respect, with care, and with you-are-remarkable-and-I-can't-wait-to-get-naked-with-you desire. Yes, siree, this grown-up couple is hot for each other and I am there for it!

I loved the affection and support among Eliza and her sisters, how they rallied to protect one another. But I also appreciated Eliza's independence and determination to take control of her life, whether as a partner in their business or with Nathaniel in the bedroom...or other rooms. She had been diminished too much during her first marriage and deserved a man who would honor her, celebrate her, desire her, and not lie to her. Her journey with Nathaniel may have been a bit rocky at times but it was also filled with fun, laughter, sizzling chemistry, swoony - if slightly offkey - grand gestures, and a deep, everlasting love. I was cheering them on every step of the way.

Next up is youngest sister, Verity. Her book will be released in 2024 and I cannot wait to discover if her hero will be the mysterious 'Phantom Fellow' who keeps showing up at Elegant Occasions events. Or, if not, how he figures into the story. In the meantime, I enthusiastically recommend picking up a copy of book one, A Duke for Diana and Sabrina Jeffries' current release, What Happens in the Ballroom


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Review - - The Love Wager

The Love Wager
by Lynn Painter
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by Santa

Hallie Piper is turning over a new leaf. After belly-crawling out of a hotel room (hello, rock bottom), she decides it’s time to become a full-on adult. She gets a new apartment, a new haircut, and a new wardrobe, but when she logs onto the dating app that she has determined will find her new love, she sees none other than Jack, the guy whose room she snuck out of. 

After agreeing they are absolutely 
not interested in each other, Jack and Hallie realize they’re each other’s perfect wing-person in their searches for The One. They text each other about their dates, often scheduling them at the same restaurant so that if things don’t go well, the two of them can get tacos afterward. 

Spoiler: they get a lot of tacos together. 

Discouraged by the lack of prospects, Jack and Hallie make a wager to see who can find true love first, but when they agree to be fake dates for a weekend wedding, all bets are off. As they pretend to be a couple, lines become blurred and they both struggle to remember why the other was a bad idea to begin with.

Santa Says:

The Love Wager by Lynn Painter was a hit for me from the first page! A solid five stars filled with witty banter as Hallie Piper and Jack Marshall text their way into each other’s hearts. There were several times where I laughed right out loud! They hooked up at a wedding where she was a bartender and he very narrowly escaped becoming engaged to a shrew. You would think that was the end of their story. Hallie certainly wasn’t looking for more coming off a horrible break up with a man she was sure was going to propose to her. Her life was stagnating and she needed to get her life together.   

Friends decide to set her up on a dating app and as she is scrolling through she discovers Jack is also on the app. They agree not to date one another but start acting as each other’s wingman eventually meeting up after their dates. They become fast friends and best friends. But there is always something simmering underneath it all. I felt like shouting ‘Come on!’ They even make a bet as to who would find true love first. Oh, this is going to end well. 

It takes a lot for Jack and Hallie to finally admit they really love one another. That it could be more than a hook up at that wedding. They decide to pose as fake boyfriend and girlfriend for her sister’s wedding. There’s no way that would never cause them problems. Not even when there’s only one bed involved. Favorite romance trope alert! I was cheering for them just before it blows up spectacularly!  

Fear not, Lynn Painter brings them into an impasse that is painful to witness and gets them right out of it. Their happily ever after scene is sigh worthy and beautifully written. I am very excited for this writer. I am going to add her first book Mr. Wrong Number to my TBR list. And I look forward to her next book, too.  



Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Winners - - The Good Luck Cafe


The randomly chosen winners of a copy of

The Good Luck Cafe by Annie Rains are:

Cherie J


Kathleen Bylsma


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Review - - Ruby Spencer's Whisky Year


by Rochelle Bilow

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 14, 2023

Reviewed by Hellie

When a thirty-something American food writer moves to a Scottish village for one year to fulfill her dream of writing a cookbook she finds more than inspiration—she meets a handsome Scotsman she can’t resist.

Ruby Spencer is spending one year living in a small cottage in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands for three reasons: to write a bestselling cookbook, to drink a barrelful of whisky, and to figure out what comes next. It’s hard to know what to expect after an impulse decision based on a map of Scotland in her Manhattan apartment—but she knows it’s high time she had an adventure.

The moment she sets foot in Thistlecross, the verdant scenery, cozy cottages, and struggling local pub steal her heart. Between designing pop-up suppers and conversing with the colorful locals, Ruby starts to see a future that stretches beyond her year of adventure. It doesn’t hurt that Brochan, the ruggedly handsome local handyman, keeps coming around to repair things at her cottage. Though Ruby swore off men, she can’t help fantasizing what a roll in the barley might be like with the bearded Scot.


As Ruby grows closer to Brochan and the tightly held traditions of the charming village, she discovers secret plans to turn her beloved pub into an American chain restaurant. Faced with an impossible choice, Ruby must decide between love, loyalty, and the Highlands way of life.

Hellie’s Heeds

Admit it: you too have watched Outlander and wanted to jaunt over to Scotland to find your very own Highlander, drink whisky, and find out just exactly what is under that kilt. I have longed for Scotland my entire life–or at least the entirety since I discovered boys were cute and started fantasizing about who I would marry. Highlanders have been on my list since I was 14. (Yes, I was precocious. Though admittedly I was a bit boy crazy prior to this and from the ages of 5-13, I was still hung up on Bo Duke. But once I got into romance novels, it was all Highlanders.) So this book checked every one of my boxes. 

A slightly older heroine who is having a bit of an identity crisis? CHECK.

A grumpy, taciturn Scot who has a marshmallowy center? CHECK. 

Small town village life with secrets, missing parents, and a tacky business that wants to take over the town? CHECK CHECK CHECK!

Also, I love to cook…and the characterization layering of the main character cooking and developing recipes was also up my alley, though I would have liked a few recipes at the end. Though this wasn’t that kind of book. (I do love a book with recipes in the back.) As an added bonus: the heroine has NORMAL parents who are kind, supportive, and not neurotic or mysteriously absent and villainous. It’s so nice to have some well-adjusted heroines who are having identity crises for other reasons. 

Go find a copy of this book and enjoy this little bon-bon as the well-deserved treat you deserve. It’s the sort of Rom-Com that hearkens back to how rom-coms should be: funny without being biting, cute without being too cliched (i.e. tropes are familiar but don’t feel like they’re poorly executed) and a satisfying ending. OH, and it’s WHISKY, not Whiskey with an E. After I finished reading the book, I was passing a shop and spied one of the whiskies mentioned…and thought, “How great is this!? She really did her homework.” Well done. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Review - - The Heiress at Sea

The Heiress at Sea
by Christi Caldwell
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

A seafaring journey is the second chance for a lady and the last chance for a marquess in a thrilling novel about rebellious love, secrets, and danger by USA Today bestselling author Christi Caldwell.

Perpetually unattached Lady Cassia McQuoid has accepted her fate as a spinster. But how can she be expected to lead a life confined to drawing rooms and royal balls when there’s a vast, exciting world to explore? Cassia can find but one solution: she masquerades as a thrill-seeking lad and stows away on a ship bound for open waters. Adventure awaits. So does notorious privateer Nathaniel Ellsby.

Nathaniel doesn’t want to be the Duke of Roxburghe. Instead, the second-born son relishes his freedom to do as he pleases: pursuing enemy ships in service of the war effort. But when his older brother dies, Nathaniel embarks on one last mission before he fulfills his ducal duties with an arranged marriage. That’s the intention, at least―until he discovers that his woefully green deckhand is a fetching but vulnerable woman in disguise.

Nathaniel’s new mission is to protect Cassia from the perils of the sea, both above and below the water, by sharing the close confines of the captain’s quarters. As roiling emotions turn to love, Nathaniel and Cassia realize the greatest risks―to the Crown, to their futures, and to the heart―still lie ahead.

PJ's Thoughts:

I may as well admit it right upfront: I'm a pushover for a stowaway-heroine-in-disguise and a stern privateer (with a marshmallow center) thrown together in a seagoing romance. Pair them with Christi Caldwell's snappy banter, impeccably-timed humor, and crackling chemistry and you have a book I happily read in one sitting, pretty much grinning from beginning to end. But don't think this is all fluff and no substance. There's plenty of emotional depth here too, something at which Caldwell excels.

The Heiress at Sea has gone straight to my comfort-read keeper shelf where I can visit it again and again whenever I need a mood boost. If you're looking for a feel-good, sea-adventuring romance that will lift your spirits give this one a go. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

Although it's not marketed as part of a series, Cassia is the older sister of Lady Myrtle McQuoid, heroine of Caldwell's The Duke Alone (click to read PJ's review). I'm hoping this means we'll be seeing more McQuoid siblings find their happily ever after in future books!

Monday, March 20, 2023

Review - - A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes

A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes
by Manda Collins
Ladies Most Scandalous - Book 3
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Reviewed by Santa

England, 1867
: Miss Poppy Delamare is living a lie. To escape an odious betrothal, she fled to London where she’s been hiding as the unassuming secretary Flora Deaver. However, when her beloved sister is accused of murder, Poppy cannot leave her to the wolves. Only a most unexpected—and unwelcome—collision interrupts her journey home . . . 

Despite a rather dismal first meeting, Joshua Fielding, the Duke of Langham, has no intention of abandoning a lady in need. But he’s not above asking a favor. A fake betrothal will give Poppy and her sister the power of the dukedom 
and protect Langham from the society misses intent on becoming his duchess.

Yet the longer the ruse goes on, the more Poppy and Langham realize how false their first impressions were—and the less pretend their engagement feels. But before Langham can propose in truth, their search reveals a tangled web of lies and betrayals. With time running out, can Poppy and Langham find the real culprit—before Poppy becomes the next victim?

Santa Says:

A Spinster’s Guide To Danger and Dukes by Manda Collins is an utter delight! I was fortunate to get an early release of this five-star book. Come for the mystery, stay for the romance. There’s a delicious fake engagement between frenemies Miss Poppy Delemere and Joshua Fielding, Duke of Langham. Intrigue in spades! The banter is spot on! The players come to life right off the pages and there is quite a cast of characters! 

We met both the Duke and Poppy in Manda Collins’ previous book in this series. There is no love lost between these two although the Duke would like to see what lies beneath Polly’s prickly exterior. They literally run into each other at the train station. Poppy is desperate to get back to her family while Joshua dreads his trip home. Poppy is running back to the very situation that drove her away to London. Joshua is returning to his grandmother’s birthday bash which he knows will only be an opportunity for her to parade blushing debutantes before him.  

They strike a bargain to thwart his grandmother and he promises to help Poppy with her family’s problems. Poppy becomes the Duke’s fake fiance. Her sister is accused of killing her betrothed. There are confidence men with nefarious designs. A murder mystery to solve, secret societies resurrected and more twists than the connected chalk caves. And love, always love. 

I could not put it down! It is, without a doubt, the best in this series. I may have said that about every book in this series but this one hits all the marks! There were moments that were hilarious, as well as moments that were so poignant. I highly recommend this one and look forward to more in the series. I’m looking at you Adrian.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - The Good Luck Cafe

The Good Luck Cafe
by Annie Rains
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Moira Green is perfectly content with her life. She has a rewarding career and plenty of wonderful friends, including the members of her weekly book club. Then everything in her life goes topsy-turvy when the town council plans to demolish the site of her mother’s beloved cafĂ© to make room for much-needed parking. Moira is determined to save her mother’s business, so she swallows her pride and asks Gil Ryan for help.

Moira and Somerset Lake’s mayor were good friends once, the kind who could laugh at everything and nothing at all. Until one night changed everything between them. And now, with Gil supporting the council’s plans, Moira is forced to find another way to save Sweetie’s—and it involves campaigning against Gil. Going head-to-head in a battle of wills reveals more than either of them are ready for, and as the election heats up, so does their attraction. But without a compromise in sight, can these two be headed for anything but disaster?

PJ's Thoughts:

Reading an Annie Rains book feels like a cozy visit with good friends. I know before I even turn the first page that I'm about to be immersed into a town I want to visit, populated by people I want to meet. 

In The Good Luck Cafe, change is coming to Somerset Lake with 911 dispatcher Moira and mayor Gil at the center of it. I enjoy a second-chance romance, especially one with complex issues to overcome, and boy howdy, do these two have issues. Their story starts a bit slow but picks up the pace a few chapters in. By that time, we know a bit more about each of them, including Moira's secret and Gil's unrequited feelings. It explains a lot about Moira's dating reticence and Gil's steadfast honor and support. It's going to take a fair amount of growth on both their parts to reach their HEA. Good thing character growth is something at which Rains excels. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about these two at the beginning of the book but they ended up being one of my favorite Somerset Lake couples. 

As always, the main couple is surrounded by a rich secondary cast who add plenty of humor, and emotion, to the story. I love the friendships among these characters as well as the families. Gil's brother, Doug is a particular favorite with an empowering and heart-tugging storyline of his own. Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy seeing favorite couples from earlier books progressing in their own relationships while readers new to Somerset Lake should have no trouble starting with this book if they wish. Though fair warning, once you meet the other couples there's a good chance you'll be buying their books as well. 

Have you read Annie Rains?

I adore the cover of this book. It would definitely grab my interest on a store shelf. What draws your attention to a book?

Tell me about the book you're reading now. 

I have two copies of The Good Luck Cafe to give away, a print ARC and a print finished copy. Post a comment before 11:00 PM, March 19 for a chance to win one of the books. Two people will be randomly chosen. 

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Winners - - Mermaid Beach


The randomly chosen winners of

a print ARC of Mermaid Beach are:

Patricia Barraclough

Jody H

Susan Chew


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Review - - Cease and Desist

Cease and Desist
by Lori Matthews
Callahan Security Series - Book 6
Publisher: Wild Coyote Press
Release Date: February 16, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

One retired SEAL, one former librarian, and one big mystery combine to make one amazing adventure!

Thane “
Hawk” Hawkins is feeling lost. His corporate job no longer excites him and he’s missing his SEAL days. His friends at Callahan Security dangle an interesting job in front of him, but require a small favor in return. “Think of it as a trial run,” they said. Their idea of a small favor will send him on his most dangerous and mysterious adventure yet.

Remington “
Remy” Tanger is putting the pieces back together after losing her last family member. Running her grandfather’s bookstore is her way of honoring him. But Gramps had a secret life that brings trouble stumbling into her shop and almost gets her killed.

She’s determined to navigate on her own; He’s determined to keep her alive. They’re both determined not to fall in love. Sometimes fate has other ideas.

PJ's Thoughts:

Lori Matthews is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. With Cease and Desist, she has once again penned a high-octane, fast-paced story that reeled me in and refused to let go. 

This book took me places I wasn't expecting. Remy's life is thrown into chaos - and danger - as she unexpectedly comes face to face with her late grandfather's secret life and Hawk, whom she has just met, seems to be the only person she can count on to help her navigate this unexpected journey while also keeping her alive. Even if every ounce of her resents his least at the beginning. 

I could not turn the pages of this book fast enough. It's such a tightly-woven, suspenseful, passionate, and danger-filled journey littered with surprising twists, moral dilemmas, and life-changing decisions. The characters are complex, multi-layered, and intriguing. Both Remy and Hawk undergo unanticipated evolutions as they each reach a crossroads where the choices they make will have a profound, and unalterable, impact on the rest of their lives. I love how Matthews slowly unveils their layers, especially Remy's, challenging her and infusing her with the strength to claim her man, her rightful inheritance, and all that entails. 

Speaking of layers, there are side characters - one in particular - with multiple layers and less than honorable back stories who I need to know more about. I sense a new series in the future.

While this is the sixth book in the Callahan Security Series and characters from the earlier books make appearances in this one, Cease and Desist stands well on its own. Readers new to Matthews should have no trouble beginning with this one. 

If high-stakes, adrenaline-fueled, emotion-packed romantic suspense is your jam, you'll want to add Lori Matthews to your reading list.