Thursday, November 30, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - Highlanders Never Forget

Highlanders Never Forget
by Julie Johnstone
Wicked Willful Highlanders - Book 3
Publisher: Darbyshire Publishing
Release Date: November 30, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

In the game of love, the only way to win is to risk it all.

Fiercely focused Highland warrior Alexander Gordon has one goal—secure a coveted spot on the King’s Night Guard. Being born illegitimate and raised with the constant scorn of his father’s wife, he wants nothing more than a home of his own where he feels like he belongs, and the king’s elite warrior group is the only chance to achieve his dream. He doesn’t intend to let anything or anyone derail him, but then the brave beautiful Adeline Brodie strolls into his life, and the harder he tries to push her away to preserve his honor and dreams, the more it makes him want her.

Sweet smart Adeline Brodie is used to being overlooked by men, but she’s never cared much until the day her world collides with Alexander Gordon’s. Not only is the Scot sinfully handsome, but his intense allegiance to his undeserving brother and his noble heart intrigues her in a way no man ever has. When he appears to return her admiration, things seem perfect for the promise of a wonderful future, until betrayal strikes from the most unexpected places.
Desperate to save her chance at love, Adeline creates a plan to save it, but the qualities she admires most in Alex—loyalty and determination—may be the very things to tear them apart forever.

To secure a future together, Adeline and Alex must face painful truths and make dangerous choices to champion themselves, each other, and the forbidden love that’s grown between them that’s worth any price—even that of old dreams.

PJ's Thoughts:

She's done it again. When I want to immerse myself in the adventure, danger, and atmospheric authenticity of Medieval romance, Julie Johnstone is the first author writing today to whom I turn. She has a knack for bringing it all to life, making me feel like I'm right there, in the midst of the action, from start to finish.

In Highlanders Never Forget, Johnstone has created a star-crossed couple for whom I felt an immediate affinity. Alex and Adeline are good, honest, loyal, likeable characters you just can't help but cheer for. They have an immediate connection but, of course, there are complications. Complications, betrayals, complex family dynamics, and obstacles aplenty. Alex's honor is tested to its limit. Adeline's eyes are opened to unpleasant truths. Danger comes from an unexpected corner and salvation from yet another. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions, with a well-developed cast of characters, that had me turning pages well into the night, eager to discover what would happen next.  

Highlanders Never Forget is a standalone story that you can jump right into and enjoy without having read any of Johnstone's other books. Fair warning though, this author's writing has a tendency to be addictive. Don't be surprised if once you finish this book, you immediately start exploring her backlist. Lucky you, there are so many wonderful books to find there! 

Have you read any of Julie Johnstone's books yet?

Do you read Medieval Romance? What do you enjoy about it?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment by 11:00 PM, December 1 will receive an e-book copy of Highlanders Never Forget

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Review - - It HAD to Be a Duke

It HAD to Be a Duke
by Vivienne Lorret
The Liars' Club - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 28,  2023
Reviewed by Santa

Verity Hartley always tells the truth. Well, mostly. However, when her snooty neighbor returns to their small hamlet to brag about having a grand Season, a plethora of ballgowns, and so many suitors that she cannot possibly decide which one to marry, Verity tells a lie. She claims to be betrothed. To a duke. Who happens to be her family’s sworn enemy. But what are the odds that he would ever learn of this one, little, harmless falsehood?

Magnus Warring, the Duke of Longhurst, is on the precipice of marrying an heiress to save his estate from financial ruin. At least, he was. Until he hears an unbelievable rumor that he is already betrothed. To the daughter of a liar, cheat, and swindler! Needing to protect his reputation, he hunts down the culprit. And when he finds the untamed beguiler, she has the audacity to ask him to lie for her. To pretend to be her fiancé!

One week, that’s all Verity needs. Then Magnus can return to his life. But nothing is ever that simple. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long to fall in love, even with the enemy.

Santa Says:

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

Review - - One Night in Hartswood

One Night in Hartswood
by Emma Denny
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Release Date: November 7, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Oxford 1360

When his sister’s betrothed vanishes the night before her politically arranged marriage, Raff Barden must track and return the elusive groom to restore his family’s honour.

William de Foucart — known to his friends as Penn — had no choice but to abandon his fiancĂ©, and with it his own earldom, when he fled the night before his enforced marriage. But ill-equipped to survive on the run he must trust the kindness of a stranger, Raff, to help him escape.

Unaware their fates are already entwined, their unexpected bond deepens into a far more precious relationship, one that will test all that they hold dear. And when secrets are finally revealed, both men must decide what they will risk for the one they love…

PJ's Thoughts:
Oh my gosh, the feelings in this story. So. Many. Feelings. I was invested almost from the first page, immersed into the medieval lives of these characters. And once Raff and Penn set off on their journey? Well, there was no putting the book down until I had reached the end and knew, finally, how their tale would play out. I was well and truly hooked. 
Medieval romance is one of my favorite eras, especially in the hands of an author who brings it to life on the page, as does Denny. Not once did I feel as if I was reading a "modern" romance dropped into the 1300's. Everything about this story felt authentic and true to the times, further enhancing my enjoyment. The danger, adventure, hardships, parental cruelty, and lack of control over one's own life had me feeling as if I was right there with these characters. 
And speaking of characters, what a wonderful cast Denny has created. There are more than the lead couple to whom I've become emotionally attached. I have my fingers crossed for more stories from this debut author. There are three secondary characters begging for a story of their own and I would love to read them. 
While Raff's and Penn's siblings contributed to my overall enjoyment of the book, as well as to Raff's and Penn's relationship, there is no doubting that the lead couple are the heart and soul of the story. They captured my emotions with their endearing, achingly romantic, soul-deep love and the lengths to which each of them would go to protect the other. They have continued to live in my mind and my heart since finishing their story. I have no doubt I'll be revisiting them again in the future, whenever I need a dose of romantic, endearing, enduring love. This one's a keeper. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Winner - - Never Met a Duke Like You


The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

Never Met a Duke Like You by Amalie Howard is:

Nicole B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Thanksgiving Giveaway


The randomly chosen winner of

a package of books is:



Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving Giveaway


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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Review - - Four Weddings and a Puppy

Four Weddings and a Puppy
by Lizzie Shane
Pine Hollow - Book 5
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: November 21, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

When two childhood friends return home after their sports careers don't go as planned, a puppy just may give them a second chance at happiness together.

She’s always been the girl with the plan . . . until the plan crashed big time

Kendall Walsh has exactly one second to save a fancy, five-tiered wedding cake and any possibility of being a wedding planner—not to mention her family’s struggling ski resort. All because of one very cute, very furry, golden menace of a retriever who has a serious thing for butter chiffon icing. Which is exactly when Olympic skier Brody James shows up and saves the day . . . and the cake.

Brody makes Kendall feel about a million indecipherable things. He’s her brother’s bestie. Her first crush. And a ridiculously popular Olympic hero, which only reminds her of her own failed Olympic dreams. What Brody isn’t telling her is that he’s walked away from it all. The fame. The sponsorships. The celebrity girlfriend. Now he and Kendall are both lost somewhere between their past and a future they can’t yet see. But four weddings, one mischievous puppy, and a few steamy kisses later, these two might just realize that they are both exactly where they need to be…with each other. 

PJ's Thoughts:

I don't know how I managed to not read any of the books in this series before getting an ARC of book five, Four Weddings and a Puppy. Once I began reading I couldn't put it down. Finished the entire book in one day then immediately bought the first four books in the series. Then, I read all four of them back-to-back over the next five days. I am in love with Pine Hollow, the pups, and all of the residents!

Shane has created a friends-to-lovers trope simmering with emotional depth, snappy banter, and swoony romance. Brody has enjoyed a stellar career on the slopes while Kendall's crashed spectacularly just short of achieving her dreams. Yet both are now at a crossroads and unsure of their next steps. It's the perfect time to reunite them as adults and toss some unexpected romance into the mix. I loved how they each supported the other, challenged one another, their open and heartfelt conversations, and the perspective, confidence, and direction gained. I really enjoyed these two together. 

While the book deals with some tough topics - mental health, debilitating injuries, dysfunctional family relationships - its overall tone is upbeat and hopeful. Let's face it, when you have a town brimming with lovable dogs and a good friend who runs the local shelter, there's bound to be plenty of laughter and smiles. 

Although I usually prefer to read a series in order, I had no issues with jumping into this one at book five. However, as I mentioned above, by the time I had finished Four Weddings and a Puppy, meeting Kendall's friends and numerous pups in the process, I couldn't wait to go back to book one and read everyone else's heartwarming journeys to love. If you enjoy charming ski towns, great friend groups, heartwarming romance, and adorable dogs, don't miss Four Weddings and a Puppy, as well as the earlier books in Lizzie Shane's Pine Hollow series. I laughed, cried, and willingly handed over my heart in all five books. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - Never Met a Duke Like You

Never Met a Duke Like You
by Amalie Howard
Taming of the Dukes - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: November 14, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Lady Vesper Lyndhurst is beautiful, clever, and popular. Afforded every luxury as a duke’s daughter, she fills her days with friends, intrigues, and a self-professed knack for matchmaking. She may have sworn off love for herself, but she is rather excellent at arranging it. 

Faced with an insolvent estate, the Duke of Greydon has no choice but to return to England in a final attempt to revive his family’s fortunes. He’s been gone for years, happy to have escaped his mother and the petty circles of the ton. To his dismay, not much has changed, including the beautiful and vexing heiress next door.  

But when an accident of fate traps the friends-turned-enemies in an attic together, the explosive attraction between them becomes impossible to ignore and even harder to resist. They are total opposites and their lives don’t align in the slightest, but fate, the ultimate matchmaker, appears to have other plans . . . 

PJ's Thoughts:

If you enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers trope with snappy banter, swoony romance, historical authenticity, emotional struggles, and well-placed humor, you're going to enjoy immersing yourself in Amalie Howard's Never Met a Duke Like You. I didn't want to put it down.

Vesper and Aspen (Greydon) are proud people, sometimes too proud, which led to issues between them in the past and to their eventual estrangement. After seven years in America, Aspen returns to England to prevent his mother (she's an evil one) from having him declared dead and stealing the dukedom (with the help of a distant relative). It only takes one unexpected encounter with Vesper for both to realize that the fires of attraction from years earlier still burn. Not that either of them wants them to but that seems to be out of their control. How they respond to it, however...well, let's just say that's going to be heart-tugging and highly entertaining. 

Howard gave me two main characters with intriguing layers and relatable flaws to cheer for. And cheer I did. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them navigate the peaks and valleys of their reunion love story, gradually unveiling each character's thoughts, fears, and feelings along the way. The well-researched information about England's Lunacy Act (Aspen's passion), and how it was used and abused, as well as the Ragged Union Schools (Vesper's passion) that provided free education, food, lodging, and more to London's poorest children offered insight into the hearts and minds of our lead couple as well as an unfiltered view into realities of the time. 

I love the friendships in this series, both female and male, and am already looking forward to seeing more characters travel their paths to a happy ending. Though you will see many characters from book one, Always Be My Duchess (read my review), if you're new to Howard, you can easily begin your reading journey with Never Met a Duke Like you. However, I highly recommend both books and am already eager to discover who will be in the spotlight next. 

Have you read Amalie Howard yet? Do you have a favorite?

Do you enjoy friend groups within the romances you read?

Do you enjoy reunion stories? 

One person who posts a comment no later than 11:00 PM, November 22 will receive a print copy of Never Met a Duke Like You.

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Review - - Three Holidays and a Wedding

Three Holidays and a Wedding
by Uzma Jalaluddin & Marissa Stapley
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Reviewed by Hellie

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.


Hellie’s Heeds 

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

Winner - - The Wishing Bridge


The randomly chosen winner of

a signed print copy of 

The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman is:

Patricia B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - The Bear by Hildie McQueen


The randomly chosen winner of

a Kindle copy of The Bear is:

Jennie Reads


Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, November 13, 2023

Review - - Better Hate Than Never

Better Hate Than Never
by Chloe Liese
The Wilmot Sisters - Book 2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 10, 2023
Reviewed by Hellie

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.


Hellie’s Heeds 

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

Review - - The Asheville Christmas Gift

The Asheville Christmas Gift
by Hope Holloway and Cecelia Scott
Carolina Christmas - Book 2
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: November 10, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

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.

PJ's Thoughts:

With perfect pitch and pacing, book two continues the journeys of triplet sisters Angie, Eve, and Noelle. When they made the decision to spend December at the family cabin they hadn't visited in 20+ years, little did they know how their lives would change. Now each sister is facing a crossroads, one that could change the course of the rest of their lives. 

I have fallen in love with these characters. Scott and Holloway have created complex women about to turn forty, giving them realistic and relatable challenges with which I could easily identify even if I hadn't walked their particular path. Then they surrounded them with supporting characters who add depth, humor, conflict, and love. I want to know them, hang out with them, comfort them in times of grief, and celebrate unexpected joys. 

These stories are filled with hope, heartbreak, family, faith, and the possibility of new beginnings, all woven together into a heart-tugging tapestry that had me laughing, crying, gasping with outrage, and sighing with delight. I'm already counting down the days until book three, The Asheville Christmas Wedding, releases on December 1. 

I enthusiastically recommend the Carolina Christmas trilogy and strongly suggest reading the books in order. Click here to read my review of book one, The Asheville Christmas Cabin