Thursday, November 30, 2023
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
It HAD to Be a Duke by Vivienne Lorret is the first book of her newest series The Liars' Club. I am a huge fan of Ms. Lorret’s books and this one did not disappoint. The banter between the two main characters was spot on. The funny moments were hilarious. The tender moments were sublime. It was a real page turner for me because I couldn’t wait to see how Verity and Marcus, her duke finally got out of their own way and into each other’s hearts. At times it felt like the odds were stacked against them.
It all started with a little white lie that Verity Hartley told her obnoxious nemesis that snowballed into a fake betrothal with a duke. And not just any duke but the son of a man her father used to call a friend. And Marcus Warring, Duke of Longhurst wasn’t having any of it. He could not see himself leg shackled to a plain miss who was the daughter and sister of the very men who brought his family to the brink of bankruptcy. Verity and Marcus decide a fake engagement would fool his family and the ton long enough for Marcus to cry off and save face and Verity’s reputation.
Fake engagements are one of my favorite romance tropes. I love seeing how each character develops in the relationship. Verity and Marcus do not disappoint in this. As stubborn and determined as the duke is, he can not help but fall in love with Verity who is all that is good no matter what scrapes she finds herself in. And Verity, a confirmed spinster, fairly blossoms right before his eyes even as she does not see herself as someone to take note of.
And the story is carried forward with some real characters in Verity’s eccentric, beautiful and talented sisters, a thespian father and an intrepid brother. Marcus’ own grandmother and sister add to the mix. His mother proves to be a tough nut to crack. Throw in the real villains of the story from a surprising quarter and you can see how I couldn’t put this book down.
I advise you, readers, to run to your nearest bookstore or e-reader and grab this gem! I am already looking forward to the next one in this series! Enjoy!
Monday, November 27, 2023
Sunday, November 26, 2023
Thursday, November 23, 2023
To my fellow Americans celebrating Thanksgiving today, I wish you a safe and happy holiday. Whether you're gathering with family, friends, or enjoying quiet times with a good book, like our turkey friend up there, may your day be filled with blessings and joy.
My thanks today include each and every one of you who choose to join me here in my little corner of the internet. You brighten my days with your comments and are the reason I continue to have so much fun doing this fourteen years after opening The Romance Dish doors. Thank you!
How are you celebrating Thanksgiving today?
What are you reading or looking forward to reading?
One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, November 25 will receive a package of books.
*Must be 18
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Monday, November 20, 2023
Thursday, November 16, 2023
Three times the holiday magic. Three times the chaos.
As strangers and seatmates Maryam Aziz and Anna Gibson fly to Toronto over the holidays—Maryam to her sister’s impromptu wedding, and Anna to meet her boyfriend’s wealthy family for the first time—neither expect that severe turbulence will scare them into confessing their deepest hopes and fears to one another. At least they’ll never see each other again. And the love of Maryam’s life, Saif, wasn’t sitting two rows behind them hearing it all. Oops.
An emergency landing finds Anna, Saif, Maryam, and her sister’s entire bridal party snowbound at the quirky Snow Falls Inn in a picture-perfect town, where fate has Anna’s actor-crush filming a holiday romance. As Maryam finds the courage to open her heart to Saif, and Anna feels the magic of being snowbound with an unexpected new love—both women soon realize there’s no place they’d rather be for the holidays.
I wouldn’t just give this 5 stars. I’d give it 6…or 11…or all the stars in the sky. This is a magical book. It is as classic as It’s a Wonderful Life, full of feels and tears and laughter as we all wish to be part of a time and place like Snow Falls, where the Big 3 Faiths all cross for one glorious and heart-felt celebration.
Maryam and Anna, strangers with completely opposite personalities, get off to a rocky start on the plane to Toronto, but once they are both relocated to Snow Falls due to bad weather, their shared experience on the plane and the confessions they made start them on a friendship that becomes a “ride-or-die” kind of camaraderie. Of course, being relocated to Snow Falls, with no chance of getting to Toronto in time for the events they both have scheduled to within an inch of their lives leads to seismic shifts in their everyday normal. Soon they will be questioning the way they’ve been handling things in their old lives–or namely, not handling, due to not wishing to rock the boat or disappoint others.
Meanwhile both of them have potential for romances under their own noses: Maryam with a childhood friend-turned-hottie who happened to overhear her confession of a childhood crush; and Anna, with a handsome stranger who turns out to be not who she thinks. The romance and tension is delicious and well-written as both couples have to overcome big hurdles and vulnerabilities to make the romance work. But the romance does not take center stage to the transformations each woman makes in changing their lives for the better, by reclaiming themselves and putting themselves first, even as they take care of everyone around them.
One of my favorite lines from the book is where a family friend, Farah, tells Maryam: “It took me a long time to accept that we deserve our happy endings, too, even if they look a little different from what our family imagined for us.” While I’m not the child of immigrant parents, my parents did have expectations of me that allows me to empathize very well with the expectations of desi parents for their children…and the children who have to reckon with those expectations. The other favorite line from the book is from the grandfather, who is a widower, speaking about grief and life after you’ve lost someone you love very much: “You have to take happiness as it comes to you, while accepting that grief will always live with you too.” Oh, how true those words are. I cried no less than three times while reading various parts of this book. It’s a rom-com, but oh, so emotional.
The book is full of the best emotional payoffs you want in a story–the romance, the sweet over-the-top gestures–it has it all. It has complications where you worry our heroines will go back to what is easy–but then delivers when they do the right, hard thing and it all comes out as it should. It’s marvelous. I believe this will go on my keeper shelf to be re-read each December…when I need to be reminded we can be all good, kind people who accept each other just for being who we were meant to be. Please add it to your TBR pile–or Santa list. You won’t regret it.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Monday, November 13, 2023
Katerina Wilmot and Christopher Petruchio shared backyards as kids, but as adults they won’t even share the same hemisphere. That is, until Kate makes a rare visit home, and their fiery animosity rekindles into a raging inferno.
Despite their friends’ and families' pleas for peace, Christopher is unconvinced Kate would willingly douse the flames of their enmity. But when a drunken Kate confesses she’s only been hostile because she thought he hated her, Christopher vows to make peace with Kate once and for all. Tempting as it is to be swept away by her nemesis-turned-gentleman, Kate isn’t sure she can trust his charming good-guy act.
When Christopher’s persistence and Kate’s curiosity lead to an impassioned kiss, they realize “peace” is the last thing that will ever be possible between them. As desire gives way to deeper feelings, Kate and Christopher must decide if it’s truly better to hate than to never risk their hearts—or if they already gave them away long ago.
Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew is not exactly the easiest play to modernize, what with the spanking and well, rudely sexist pall the entire story seems to have. Nevermind that “shrewish” behavior in women is still a thing that is perceived negatively by men and women, even though most shrewish behavior is really, just human behavior and even now, we’re more willing to excuse a bad temper in men than we are with women. *waves fist at the Patriarchy* But Chloe did give it the old college try–and all in all, it was not a bad re-telling of this comedy.
Chloe did take the time to share the nuances of each of the leads, showing vulnerabilities that I don’t think easily show in the original. Sure, Kate might be shrewish–but she has every right to be; and she’s saddled with angst and fear as she struggles to fit in with her family. Christopher can also be shrewish and judgmental–which secondary characters call out thankfully–leading to Christopher taking a longer look at himself to see if he’s the problem. He is. In his effort to keep Kate at a distance, he’s created his biggest enemy–and now he realizes she is like this because she thinks he hates her. Well, obviously he doesn’t hate her. Quite the opposite. That’s why he’s been acting like a complete prat. How could she think he hates her?
Enemies-turned-lovers is a challenging trope in my opinion. Mainly because it can be so fun to make the fights between them–but the clean up can be monumental. And I always am a bit suspect at the level of forgiveness I could have for someone who called me names or made me feel like shit about myself. But I know Jane Austen set that bar high in making the enemies-to-lovers an ideal in romance. All considered, Chloe does a fair job at having the characters clean up the messes they’ve made and make a clean slate going forward, stronger together.
What I think really holds this book together is all the delightful secondary characters who each in their own way mentor and hold up mirrors to the main leads so they can grow as individuals and as a couple. There’s also a lot of donuts and a love for Fall-themed snacks, which I admit was delicious to read. And Christopher knows how to make pasta from scratch–so there’s a little “Ghost-scene-at-the-pottery-wheel” with Kate and Christopher that is delightful. Best of all, both characters find a sense of home and belonging that they had both been missing…and that is the best happy ending of all.
I will also be going back to read the first of the books too because the secondary characters were so good. It’s a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing–which is my favorite of the enemies-to-lovers trope, and features Kate’s sister, Bea. And there seems to be an upcoming story about Juliet–huzzah!--though the play seems to be a Midsummer’s Night Dream (which considering how Romeo and Juliet ends, probably for the best.) At any rate, there’s plenty of great stories here for your TBR piles!
Friday, November 10, 2023
The forecast for Christmas is chilly with a chance of major life changes for three sisters who have been brought together by their aunt. The month in Asheville has already opened the women’s eyes to new possibilities, and each of the sisters must make major decisions this holiday season.
With her daughter joining the family at the cabin, Angie faces the fact that her marriage is over, but has no idea how or where to start again. Noelle can no longer deny that the boy she once loved is now a man she could love again…although it would mean giving up her big city life and exciting New York career. Eve and her husband discover an opportunity that would upend their comfortable lives, but might bring them immeasurable joy.
Can one Christmas in Asheville change everything? Join these strong, funny, and loving women as the holiday spirit lifts them as high as the Blue Ridge Mountains and promises a whole new life ahead.