Monday, July 31, 2023

Second Chance Winner - - The Summer of Second Chances


The giveaway of 

The Summer of Second Chances by Miranda Liasson

has not been claimed.

The second-chance winner is:

Ruth Carpenter


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - What's a Duke Got to Do With It


The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

What's a Duke Got to Do With It by Christina Britton is:

Patricia B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Not That Duke


The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

Not That Duke by Eloisa James is:

Cherie J


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Flirting with Fire


The randomly chosen winner of 

a print copy of

Flirting with Fire by Jane Porter is:

Diane Sallans


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Review - - Lucky Star

Lucky Star
by Anne Stone
Publisher: Anne Stone
Release Date: May 26, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

One reckless night in Vegas changes everything when Chase breaks the 
hands off your best friend’s little sister unspoken rule. Worse, only he remembers them getting hitched.

Growing up, Megan Howard had a crush on her big brother's best friend, Chase Devine, but the 8-year age difference kept them apart. Though, their ages are no longer a barrier, Chase is content with his life in Lucky and her dream is to move to Nashville to start her singing career.

Without her knowledge, Chase follows Megan to Vegas to keep her out of trouble while she's there for a singing contest. After she loses, he 
accidentally meets up with her in the hotel bar. She's already drowning her sorrows and a night of bar hopping follows. The next morning, they wake up in bed together, but she leaves before they can discuss the previous night's visit to the Chapel of Bliss.

Two years later, Megan has a hit on the radio but her singing career is threatened after a stalker attack. So, Chase convinces her to recuperate in Lucky, out of the limelight of Nashville. Now that they are in the same town, can they resist their mutual attraction? What will happen to their blossoming relationship when the truth comes out? Can they find forgiveness in their hearts and find a second chance at love?

Welcome to Lucky, the perfect place for a second chance.

PJ's Thoughts:

Anne Stone utilizes one of my favorite tropes in her contemporary romance debut. Okay, actually two: best friend's little sister and secret marriage. Toss in a second chance and it's like she knew exactly what I'd been craving. 

This charming, feel-good, contemporary romance is a gem of a debut. Megan is a heroine I'd love to be friends with. Firefighter Chase is a hero I fell hard for. Their chemistry is undeniable, their friendship grounded in years of knowing one another, and their love a slow-growing emotion that withstands every obstacle thrown their way. I loved their banter, their small-town roots, the caring and respect that goes both ways. 

The touch of suspense adds an edge to the story that I always enjoy without overwhelming the romantic journey of the main couple. The supporting cast is well drawn and already has me eager to know more about certain secondary characters.

Lucky Star is the first of a series and showcases the writing talent of this new author. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Lucky and another enjoyable journey to love. 

Content Warning: Stalking, Violence, Mental Illness


Friday, July 28, 2023

Review - - Summer's Gift

Summer's Gift
by Jennifer Ryan
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 20, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

A DNA test tells you who you come from, not who you are.

All her life, Summer Sutherland felt like the missing piece in a puzzle, left out and looking for the place she truly belongs. And when an at-home DNA test reveals her selfish mother and well-meaning grandfather lied about her father, Summer sets out to discover the truth.

Her new instant family comes with two half sisters: one who accepts her with open arms, the other resistant to the stranger staying in their house. But somehow Summer senses this is where she is meant to be—so she settles into her father’s Carmel home, ready to get to know them and find her place in the family she always wanted.

But while her newfound parent is thrilled to get to know Summer—and her romantic connection to his business partner, Cody, heats up—tensions rise within the family.

Will she ever fit in? Or should she return to her other life before tearing all their lives apart?

PJ's Thoughts:

If there was a competition among authors for queen of dysfunctional families, Jennifer Ryan would definitely be in contention for the title. This talented writer is an expert at guiding her characters through the many peaks and valleys of this particular situation, as evidenced by her newest novel, Summer's Gift

Imagine you've spent your entire life believing - being told - your biological father wants nothing to do with you. Imagine discovering in your early twenties that he never knew you existed. Now imagine a happy, successful family unit - father, mother, two teenage daughters - whose lives are turned upside down with the discovery of the existence of a previously unknown family member. How would you feel discovering your husband had a child with another woman (before you met him), a child now competing for his love with your own daughters? As the previous (spoiled) first child, how would you handle a new sister not only stealing the spotlight from you on the eve of your high school graduation but also the affections of your secret crush? And what about Summer? Not only does she need to navigate the shark-infested waters of a new family but there's also the feelings of betrayal for the family members who lied to her for so many years. 

I love how Ryan drops this bombshell into the lives of these characters then deftly navigates them through the debris as they each begin to slowly stitch the pieces of the fabric of their family back together. Will it ever be the same? No. Will it be better? Stronger than before? Quite possibly. 

I really liked Summer. She's smart, accomplished, and well respected in business. She's a kind person with a good heart, the mediator in her family, taking care of everyone else while never having known true unconditional love herself. She's so deserving of love. I couldn't help but be in her corner rooting her on the entire way. While Summer is the central figure of the story and the character most fully explored, each of the surrounding characters impacted by the DNA test is also explored individually. It's fascinating to follow their reactions as their new reality sinks in. Some react better than others. Some create chaos. Ryan does a wonderful job of developing each of them, so much so that I feel as if I actually know them, became invested in them, in their growth and happiness. They are just all so real. There's also a strong romantic thread in the story (with a HEA) that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is Summer's story of growth and change with her romantic relationship being a key element of that evolution. 

If you enjoy women's fiction with well-defined, relatable characters, strong romantic elements, and family at its core, check out Jennifer Ryan's Summer's Gift. I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Review - - The Heiress Swap

The Heiress Swap
by Maddison Michaels
Publisher: Entangled Amara
Release Date: July 25, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Evie Jenkins didn’t know what she was thinking by agreeing to switch places with her American heiress cousin. After all, she’s naught but a poor―and usually quite 
sensible―companion. All she has to do is spend six weeks among London society, pretending to be an heiress…and ensure that absolutely under no circumstances does she accept any proposals of marriage.

When his cousin declares himself in love with a new woman visiting from the States, Alexander Trenton―the sixth Duke of Hargrave―is determined to prove that the young lady in question is just another American "Dollar Princess" desperate for an English title. She seems innocent enough, but Alex is determined to expose her…by thoroughly seducing the lovely and fiercely intelligent heiress 

What he assumed would be just one simple kiss erupts into something wild, uncontrollable, and 
much too public. Now the duke must save her reputation with a betrothal…little knowing that his charming Princess harbors a secret that would certainly ruin them both.

PJ's Thoughts:

A fossil loving, sensible young woman pretending to be her American heiress cousin meets a fossil loving, American averse, English duke. She's fascinated by the grumpy man who is the first to share her scientific interests as well as set her heart aflutter. He's fascinated by this young woman who seems more interested in an ancient lizard than his title. She's well aware they have no future. Past experience has taught him to be wary of her motives. Yet love is determined to have its way, regardless of the obstacles in their way. Did I mention that one of those obstacles is an unknown person determined to get them both out of the way? 

Maddison Michaels has crafted a fun romp that kept me entertained throughout. Evie is a wonderful heroine. I love how open and genuine she is, unafraid to voice her opinions and be herself. The banter between Evie and Alex sparkles. She may be affecting an American accent (she grew up in London) to mimic her cousin but everything else she presents to Alex is pure, unadulterated Evie. I was in her corner, cheering her on the entire way. Alex has some issues to work through - there were times I wanted to dump him in the Thames - though I very much enjoyed how his close friends, and Evie, held him to account. In the end, he learned the lessons he needed to and made satisfying amends.

There's a bit of a mystery woven through the story that adds another layer of intrigue. I was certain I knew who the villain was right up until the reveal when - whoa - I did not see that twist coming! I love when an author catches me off guard. 

While this story focuses on Evie and Alex, Evie's cousin Aimee is in London at the same time pretending to be Evie while she learns the secretarial trade at her father's company. We only get glimpses of Aimee's experiences but it's enough to leave me wanting more. I do hope the author has plans to write her story as well. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - Not That Duke

Not That Duke
by Eloisa James
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 25, 2023
Reviewed by Santa

Bespeckled and freckled, Lady Stella Corsham at least has a dowry that has attracted a crowd of fortune-hunting suitors—which definitely doesn’t include the sinfully handsome Silvester Parnell, Duke of Huntington, who laughingly calls her “Specs” as he chases after elegant rivals.

And then—

The worst happens. Marriage.

To the duke. To a man marrying her for all the wrong reasons.

How can Silvester possibly convince Stella that he’s fallen in love with the quirky woman he married?

Santa says:

I’m back with an exciting review of Eloisa James’ latest book, Not That Duke. This five star read was a triumph! I fell in love with Silvester and Stella from the very first pages. It's a slow burn romance of friends to lovers. But that trope over simplifies how these two people fall in love - and kind of out of love - on Stella’s part while our hero is in hot pursuit of this year’s original, Lady Yasmin who we met in the previous book in this series, The Reluctant Countess

Silvester believes in love and fancies himself in love with Lady Yasmin. He decides to court her. It’s what any steadfast Duke would do. She’s a safe bet. Not one to call attention to herself in Silvester’s eyes, her beauty speaks for itself. And that should be enough, right? 

Stella for all her intellect and forthright opinions struggles to not knock over everything in sight. In her eyes, she is the exact opposite of Yasmin. She’s ‘sturdy’ and freckled. She sees Silvester and Yasmin as a golden couple. 

Stella is a not too reluctant wallflower. It’s safe there against the wall. No chance of knocking into someone, spilling something or trodding on anyone’s feet on the dance floor. But when disaster strikes Silvester is right there ready to help her along. 

However, his teasing and alleged barbs - fed to her by a particularly vicious cat of the ton, Lady Lydia - hurt Stella as she has been half in love with him for quite some time. She tries to hate him and rebuffs his attempts at befriending her but they reach a tentative friendship over their daily games of chess. 

Over time, Silvester’s feelings change. He finds himself lustfully attracted to Stella. He is desperate to have her in his life and in his bed. And not necessarily in that order. He proposes to Stella in the most unromantic way. Stella wants someone to be in love with her and she feels that Silvester is still in love with Yasmin.

They marry much to Stella's chagrin. But as time goes by Silvester realizes that he was only in love with the idea of Yasmin who turns out to be in love with his best friend, Giles.

Can Silvester convince Stella that he really does love her? It takes the concerted efforts of Silvester’s unconventional mother, the dowager duchess, and Stella’s aunt, with just a bit of groveling at the end. 

Once again, it’s time to run and devour another Eloisa James novel. I guarantee you will be as delighted as I was. Be prepared to laugh out loud, to sigh with joy and you may even shed a tear or two!

PJ here. I hope you enjoy this book as much as Santa and I did. It really is a treasure.

What's the last book that made you shed a tear, sigh with joy, and laugh out loud?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 29 will receive a print copy of Not That Duke.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Review - - How to Tame a Wild Rogue

How to Tame a Wild Rogue
by Julie Anne Long
The Palace of Rogues - Book 6
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 25, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

He clawed his way up from the gutters of St. Giles to the top of a shadowy empire. Feared and fearsome, battered and brilliant, nothing shocks Lorcan St. Leger—not even the discovery of an aristocratic woman escaping out a window near the London docks on the eve of the storm of the decade. They find shelter at a boarding house called the Grand Palace on the Thames—only to find greater dangers await inside.

Desperate, destitute, and jilted, Lady Daphne Worth knows the clock is ticking on her last chance to save herself and her family: an offer of a loveless marriage. But while the storm rages and roads flood, she and the rogue who rescued her must pose as husband and wife in order to share the only available suite.

Crackling enmity gives way to incendiary desire—and certain heartbreak: Lorcan is everything she never dreamed she’d wanted, but he can never be what she needs. But risk is child’s play to St. Leger. And if the stakes are a lifetime of loving and being loved by Daphne, he’ll move any mountain, confront any old nemesis, to turn “never” into forever.

PJ's Thoughts:

If you read only one historical romance this summer, make it How to Tame a Wild Rogue by Julie Anne Long. That's it. That's the review. Okay, that's not the whole review but it could be. Because, this book? It's just that good. 

I've said this before but it bears repeating. Julie Anne Long paints pictures with words like no other author I have ever read. Composers create stunning, immersive, soul-stirring masterpieces that send our souls into flight. Long does it with words. They challenge, entice, anger, seduce, empower, excite. They swirl her characters - they swirl me - into an emotional maelstrom then deposit all of us, still, spent, changed, in the gentle swirl of waves lapping the shore in sunset's lambent light. That is the power - and the beauty - of this book.

With her vivid descriptions and well-developed characters, Long immerses readers into the daily life at the Grand Palace on the Thames, a most unique boarding house. While Lorcan and Daphne are indisputably the most important characters of this story, they are surrounded by a richly-depicted and entertaining supporting cast. Forced into close proximity by torrential rains, secondary characters unerringly stir conflict, generate humor, and provoke thought, all helping to move the story forward. Some are recurring characters who readers slowly come to know over the course of the series while others are newly introduced. It's fun to discover new layers to those characters familiar to fans of the series but readers new to this world should have no issues jumping in at any point. 

While secondary characters provide richness and texture to this tale, it's Daphne and Lorcan who are at the helm of the story. Oh, how I loved these two. A privateer and a lady. A chance meeting, a fake marriage. A sensual, self-made man used to taking what he wants. A prim and proper lady who puts everyone's needs before her own. A fiery, tender, sensual, unexpected, empowering, all-consuming, cross-class love for the ages. Is it any wonder I couldn't put it down?

Long never makes a misstep in this book. It is beautifully balanced, nuanced, and simply perfection from beginning to end. Lorcan and Daphne have become one of my favorite romance couples, not only from Long but from any author. Reading their story, for me, was an all-encompassing, visceral experience, one I would happily repeat time and time again.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Tour Review & Giveaway - - Flirting with Fire

Flirting with Fire
by Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 25, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Forty-nine-year-old Margot Hughes has lived and breathed theater for the past twenty-five years. After a devastating breakup with her playwright fiancĂ©, she wants nothing to do with the industry. She has sworn off New York, theater, actors—all of it. She returns to her hometown on California’s central coast and takes a job in real estate, where she manages significant investment properties. But Margot’s suddenly thrown back into the theater world when Sally, her friend and boss, who had been restoring and funding Cambria’s historic theater, has a heart attack. Before she knows it, Margot is tapped to take over the troubled summer production of 
Barefoot in the Park.

But the play is no walk in the park—the leads and director have all quit, and Margot struggles to find new actors…until Max Russo arrives. Forty-five-year-old Max is a former soap opera star turned rugged cowboy on TV’s most popular western series.  Max has a huge following and is the perfect hero to step up and save the play, provided Margot stars opposite him.   Although adamant she would never return to theater, Margot enjoys the long hours of rehearsal with a professional like Max, who is charming, witty, and passionate. But when the curtains close, can Margot allow herself to fall for Max when he represents everything she left behind?

PJ's Thoughts:

I have really enjoyed the three books in this new trilogy by Jane Porter. Mature couples bring with them a multitude of life experience - and baggage - adding texture and interest to both their individual characters as well as new relationships.

Of the three couples, all of whom I liked, Margot and Max are my favorite. There's so much to cheer for with these two. I liked them as people, related to their life experiences, especially Margot's. Approaching her 50th birthday, she's faced with a number of realizations: unfulfilled dreams, paths not taken, but also new opportunities on the horizon. If she's courageous enough to take the first step. Her journey with Max is a reminder that sometimes second acts can be the best acts. That's a theme that flows through all three books in this series and one Porter navigates well. 

As a theater geek, I loved all the intricate details of the community theater and the fact that Max's character is a working - and successful - actor. Just like Margot, I couldn't help but fall for Max. I wanted to hug the little boy in him for all he had endured, climb the rugged, sexy man he had become, and reassure him that he wasn't broken but, in fact, has overflowing amounts of love and commitment for the right person. I was cheering him on the entire way.

The secondary cast is well drawn, bringing the right amount of support, conflict, and texture to the story without detracting from the main couple. Porter blends them all together seamlessly into an intriguing, empowering, emotionally satisfying story of growth, forgiveness, understanding, new beginnings, and love. 

I don't know if Porter plans to continue these stories featuring couples in their 40's and 50's but if she does I will definitely be here for them. They are an important reminder that love can find us at any age and new beginnings are always just around the corner. 

Have you read any Jane Porter books?

Do you enjoy older couples in the romances you read?

Have you experienced a second act, either in your professional life or in romance?

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, Tuesday, July 26 will receive a print copy of Flirting with Fire

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - What's a Duke Got to Do With It

What's a Duke Got to Do With It
by Christina Britton
Synneful Spinsters - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: July 11, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

In this emotional tale of acceptance and healing, a woman unlucky in life and love has a second chance at romance when she runs into a dashing Duke from her past.

The last thing Katrina Denby expected to find in her garden is the body of the man who ruined her three seasons ago. No matter that his death is a tragic accident, the rumors are enough to kill any woman’s prospects. With two scandals now hounding her, the best she can hope for is a hasty marriage of convenience—until her first love shows up in her drawing room, reminding her of all the reasons why she wanted a love match. If only he weren’t already engaged. . .

Sebastian Thorne, Duke of Ramsleigh, knows what he has to do to save the dukedom from the crushing debts and scandal his father left: marry and marry well. He’s picked the lady, too—a baron’s daughter who is pleasant, if a little boring. But seeing Katrina again makes him want to throw all those perfectly laid plans out the window. The first chance he had with her, he chose his duty over his heart. Doing so again might prove utterly impossible.

PJ's Thoughts:

I fell hard for all three couples in Christina Britton's Isle of Synne series but you know what? I'm enjoying her spinoff Synneful Spinsters even more. A collection of intelligent, independent-minded women past the first blush of youth who don't quite fit in with society for a variety of reasons but who win the hearts of men who love them precisely because of who they are, not in spite of it. 

I always enjoy a complex, emotionally-layered, second chance romance, especially when the couple was separated by events beyond their control. In this case, Sebastian and Katrina were on the verge of declaring their feelings when his father's health called him away and another man's stupid decision cast Katrina out of society in shame (though she did nothing wrong). When they are unexpectedly reunited years later, it quickly becomes apparent the feelings they once held still simmer but circumstances for both are quite significantly changed. Which will prevail this time around? Hearts? Or duty?

Oh, the yearning in this book. So much yearning between these two. I loved it. Britton does a wonderful job of layering their journey with a complex web of obstacles and emotions that test their resolve. She gives them opportunities to become reacquainted which then begin to deepen feelings between them that never really went away while also keeping the reasons that prevent them from being together in full view. She does not make it easy for these two and, I confess, I couldn't quite figure out how she would work it all out to my satisfaction in the end. Of course, she did. 

I love the chemistry between Katrina and Sebastian but also the foundation of friendship that it is built upon. I enjoyed the clear communication between them, how they both moved forward with eyes open, knowing the consequences for any actions and making decisions together, how they defended and supported one another. Especially, how Sebastian repeatedly leaped to Katrina's defense. I also loved their easiness and humor and especially how Sebastian interacted with Mouse, Katrina's lovable but exceedingly exuberant Great Dane. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats your dog. Just saying. 

The secondary cast once again provides richness and texture - not to mention matchmaking - with several characters from other books popping in and out. You can absolutely enjoy this second Synneful Spinsters book on its own but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I highly recommend all of the books in the two Isle of Synne series. 

If you enjoy emotion-driven romances with complex characters, witty dialog, strong female friendships, swoony heroes, intrepid heroines, humor, and a hard-won happily ever after, you can't go wrong with Christina Britton's What's a Duke Got to Do With It. And, if you especially enjoy seeing the heroine's selfish, unfeeling brother get what's coming to him in the end? Well, that's just extra icing on this delicious historical romance cake. 

Have you read Christina Britton yet?

Do you have a favorite Isle of Synne couple?

What's your favorite breed of dog? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, July 23 will receive a print copy of What's a Duke Got to Do With It.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

Thank you to Forever for their generous donation of today's giveaway. 

Friday, July 14, 2023

Review - - Say Yes to the Princess

Say Yes to the Princess
by Charis Michaels
Hidden Royals - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: July 11, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

A hidden princess…

Princess Regine Elise Adelaide d’Orleans is no longer a princess, but she’s also no commoner. She’s obscure French royalty, exiled to England in the aftermath of the revolution. She lives as a glorified houseguest of the British Royal family, guarded and gilded, but also trapped.

The cynical outcast…

Mr. Killian Crewes serves as the “Royal Fixer” in St. James’s Palace, making messy situations disappear. As the second son of an earl, cleaning up indiscretions was hardly Killian’s goal in life, but his mother’s notoriety makes him less of a peer, and more a member of staff.

A royal scandal…

When Princess Elise spots her long-lost brother in a crowded market, she's determined to find him. But her search puts the palace in an uncomfortable position, and they hire Killian to seduce the princess to distract her from meddling. Except, no one anticipated that Killian would be the one seduced instead. Now he’s risking everything for the lonely princess—his job, her reputation, and both of their hearts.

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're not reading Charis Michaels, you're missing out on sparkling conversation, endearing, well-developed characters, infectious humor, adventure, and heart-tugging romance, all of which are front and center in her newest book, Say Yes to the Princess

There are so many things to love about this story. First are Killian and Elise. As the "Royal Fixer," I expected Killian to be the rescuer in this relationship and, yes, there are instances when he does come to the princess's rescue. What I did not expect was that the princess would also be his rescuer, in situations where both his physical and emotional well-being were at stake. 

Killian has many layers to reveal and deep-seated emotional baggage to overcome. He's a charmer who excels at his job but he meets his match when he's tasked with distracting Elise. Despite his best efforts, he grows increasingly smitten with Elise, developing deep, genuine feelings for her. His core of honor keeps him from acting on those feelings but he soon learns the princess has other ideas and a will of iron. Really, he never stood a chance.  

Elise also has emotional baggage, rooted in the events that precipitated her escape from France and then nurtured by ten years of exile in England's royal palace that can best be described as an emotional void. It was so satisfying to watch her re-engage with the world around her. She's outspoken, opinionated, and determined to discover what has happened to her siblings, regardless of obstacles put in front of her but she's also kind, loyal, and compassionate.  She's falling hard and fast for Killian and determined to fight for him...and them. 

These two were so easy to cheer for. I enjoyed them immensely but I also enjoyed their supporting cast of characters. Particular favorites include Killian's family, a mish-mash of individuals who he insists are not his family though he takes both financial and emotional responsibility for them while still holding himself apart (some of that emotional baggage I mentioned) and Elise's best friend, confidante, and protector, Sister Marie. 

If you're looking for a charming, adventurous, historical romance with a fresh, intriguing plot and a feel-good happily ever after, add Say Yes to the Princess to your summer reading list. I highly recommend it.