Thursday, February 29, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Waiting for the Flood

Waiting for the Flood
by Alexis Hall
Spires - Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Quietly heartbroken, Edwin Tully lives alone in the house he used to share with the man he once loved. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to build a future from the fragments of the past. Then the weather turns, and the river spills into Edwin's quiet world, bringing with it Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight, this stranger with roughened hands and worn wellingtons offers Edwin the hope of something he thought he would never have again.

As the two men are drawn together in their struggle against the rising waters, Edwin slowly lets down his guard as he comes to accept he can't shield his heart from everything—and perhaps he doesn't even need to try. Because love doesn't only leave scars…sometimes, it heals them, too.

PJ's Thoughts:
What a lovely, lovely story. I am awash in all the feelings. Hall is a master of language and emotion, crafting a gentle, thoughtful story that flows with a lyrical, almost poetic quality. Like the impending flood, I was swept away by the pain, the healing, and the hope within Edwin's world.
Sometimes our hearts are broken. We feel we aren't worthy of being loved. The grief of losing the life we were certain we were meant to live sets us adrift. Those are all facets of Edwin that Hall deftly addresses with an honest but nurturing hand, creating a deeply emotional journey of moving on that I was hard pressed to put down. He made me laugh, touched my soul, and certainly brought about a flood of tears. Through Edwin, and Adam, he shows us that love that ends is not love wasted. Worthy of grief and sadness, certainly, but not a waste. Sometimes, it's just not the right time for that love to continue. And, sometimes, a new love will come along. A love that's better, deeper, healthier, and right for the person you have now become. I'm pretty sure I'll be thinking of these characters and their story for some time to come. 
Alexis Hall wrote Edwin's story almost a decade ago. This book is a reissue of that original story but includes new content. The author has now penned a story for Marius, the former boyfriend of ten years who left Edwin and broke his heart, sending him into a two-year spiral of quiet grief. "Chasing the Light" follows Marius as he deals with the fallout of the events he set into motion when he left Edwin and the possibilities of forgiveness, acceptance, and moving on. It's edgier than Waiting for the Flood, as Marius is a flawed character with a sharpness that at times leans to cruelty. His journey is an interesting character study of both him and the man who comes into his life at a vulnerable moment, illustrating once again that we are all worthy of love and, if we're lucky, will meet that right person who will love us, flaws and all. I appreciated the crossover of characters in the two stories, bringing much needed closure to both Edwin and Marius, enabling them to move forward with a healed heart. 
Waiting for the Flood is a book I'll be visiting again. I have no doubt that each time I read it I'll be moved by something new in Alexis Hall's gentle, masterful prose. 

Have you read any of Alexis Hall's books?
Do you have a favorite?
One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, March 1 will receive a print copy of Waiting for the Flood
*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Review - - Chasing a Highland Dream

Chasing a Highland Dream
by Lisa Hobman
The Highlands - Book 2
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Release Date: February 28, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Since having to drop out of her design degree, Bella Douglas has been unlucky in just about everything life has thrown at her.

She’s lost more jobs than she cares to remember and despite her Granny Isla’s best attempts to set her up with every eligible bachelor in the Scottish Highlands and she’s still single.

Currently PA to her best friend, aka, Lady Olivia MacBain, at the 17th century Drumblair Castle, Bella is yet to find a role that sets her soul on fire. But when disaster strikes for Olivia, Bella steps into the breach to rescue her best friend from a fate worse than a bad interior designer.

When Bella and her Granny Isla find themselves homeless, they relocate to the castle where a handsome new neighbour brings mystery, intrigue and a spark of romance.

Is Bella finally on the track to find true happiness? Or do more catastrophes lie ahead? And does true love hide where you least expect it?

PJ's Thoughts:
Lisa Hobman returns to Drumblair Castle with another feel-good story set in the Scottish Highlands. This time, it's Lady Olivia's best friend, Bella who is in the spotlight. With her love life in ruins, Bella is determined to go it alone while she works with Olivia to ready Olivia's family castle for it's grand opening to the public. As good as that plan is, fate - and Bella's Granny Isla - may have something else in mind.
Lisa Hobman has become one of my go-to authors over the past few years. I've loved the books in her Skye Collection and enjoyed the first Highlands book, Coming Home to the Highlands (Olivia's story). Her feel-good storylines are heart-tugging, amusing, and leave me wanting to book the next flight to Scotland. Her characters are well-developed and intriguing with relatable, sometimes complex, relationships. I love the friendship threads that run through her stories as much as the romance. I also enjoy the secondary characters who add texture and richness to the story as well as, in some cases, stealing about every scene they're in. Like Granny Isla, the purple-haired octogenarian with a keen wit, sharp eye, loving heart, and propensity for hilarious malapropisms. She kept me chuckling throughout the entire book. 
The love scenes in the book are closed door, the romance a slow burn, with a gradual escalation of feelings that is heartwarming and realistic. For fans of Hobman, there's also a tie-in with her Skye series that's fun but shouldn't cause any confusion for readers new to her books. For those who are new, Chasing a Highland Dream can be enjoyed on its own however, I think you'll enjoy it more if you've already read Coming Home to the Highlands. I don't know what Hobman has in store for readers next but whatever it is, I'll be checking it out. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Winner - - The Diamond and the Duke


The randomly chosen winner of

a print copy of

The Diamond and the Duke is:

Annette N


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Love and Hot Chicken


The randomly chosen winner of

a hard cover copy of

Love and Hot Chicken is:

Patricia B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, February 26, 2024

Review - - The Single Dad Project

The Single Dad Project
by Naima Simone
Rose Bend - Book
Publisher: Canary Street Press
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

He’s the best mistake she ever made…

Back in Rose Bend after a work trip that went wrong, Florence “Flo” Dennison craves the kind of distraction only a searing fling with a gorgeous stranger can provide. And she gets it—in an encounter hot enough to leave scars. But satisfaction turns to shock when Flo realizes her one-night stand is leading the restoration project she’s been hired to photograph. And his sweet little girl has decided Flo’s her new bestie…

Single dad and architect Adam Reed wants stability for his daughter, and he’s sure that Flo—young, ambitious, beautiful—isn’t looking for that. But when his nanny bails and Flo helps him out, it becomes impossible to keep their distance. Now, navigating tangled family ties and her own trust issues, Flo has to decide if one wild night can become so much more.

PJ's Thoughts:

It's a good thing I got my gym workout in before I started reading an ARC of Naima Simone's The Single Dad Project because by the 8% mark I was totally hooked. Figured I might as well toss my Monday to-do list to the side because not a single thing was going to be accomplished until I finished this book. 

Much like the other books in the Rose Bend series, once I was immersed in their lives, these characters refused to let me put their book down until I turned the final page. Even then, the characters continued to live in my mind. Simone filled their journey with steam, humor, endearing moments, emotional turmoil, complicated family dynamics, unexpected friendships, heart-tugging romance, and a whole lot of "yes, please, may I have more?"

I loved the family dynamics in this book that played out alongside the romance between Flo and Adam. It added texture, conflict, and unexpected layers to their journey as a couple as well as their individual evolution. And I absolutely adored Adam's young daughter, Jussy who pretty much steals every scene she's in, along with hearts. 

If you haven't yet visited Simone's Rose Bend, The Single Dad Project is a great place to jump in. Then go back and read the rest of the published books - and novellas - in the series because, yes, they are all that good.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Love and Hot Chicken

Love and Hot Chicken: A Delicious Southern Novel
by Mary Liza Hartong
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

The Chickie Shak is something of a historical landmark. Red clapboard walls, thriving wasp population, yard-toilets resplendent with sunflowers. My best friend Lee Ray and I used to come after our softball games and snag a picnic table while our mammas ordered the home team special. Truth is, most people around here order the same thing until the day somebody throws their ashes off a roller coaster at Dollywood. The line snakes around the building as far as you can see, the grimiest bunch of Jessies, Pearls, and Scooters you ever did behold, hobnobbing in the parking lot from noon until night

When PJ Spoon returns home for her beloved daddy’s funeral, she doesn’t expect to stick around. Why abandon her PhD program at Vanderbilt for the humble charms of her hometown, Pennywhistle, Tennessee? Mamma’s broken heart, that’s why. But truth be told, PJ’s own heart ain’t doing too good either. She impulsively takes a job as a fry cook at Pennywhistle’s beloved Chickie Shak, where locals gather for Nashville-style hot chicken. It may not be glamorous, but it’s something to do.

Fate shakes up PJ’s life again when the town rallies around the terribly retro and terribly fun Hot Chicken Pageant. PJ finally notices her cute redheaded coworker Boof, a singer-songwriter with a talent as striking as her curly hair, and learns to fear her smack-talking manager, Linda.

As PJ and Boof fall for each other, Boof’s search for her birth mother—a Pennywhistle native—catapults the budding couple into a mystery that might be better left unsolved. The Chickie Shak pageant takes off, spurring old rivalries and new friendships in this tale of unexpected connections and new beginnings.

PJ's Thoughts:

The perfect, unabashedly Southern, blend of hilarity and heart, this feel-good, small-town debut had me laughing out loud in places and wiping away tears in others. It's a story about family, friendship, searching for your place when your world's been turned upside down, uncovering your beginnings, overcoming grief, and forging new connections in unlikely life, in love, within family, even in a treehouse while on your way to the Hot Chicken Beauty Tour with an unlikely cadre of two and four-legged companions, including the woman you're falling for.

The pace of the book is on the slow side, like a meandering ride down a lazy river, but that fits with the pace of life in PJ's small Tennessee town where everyone knows you and your business. Anyone who grew up in a small rural town will be able to relate, whether Southern or not. Those Southern roots though are on full display with plenty of local wisdom and humor that comes through in a deep Tennessee twang. At least in my mind. I can't be the only one who heard Dolly Parton's voice in my head as I read. 

The (closed door) romance is endearing with enough emotional layers to keep it interesting but not the primary focus of the book. I enjoyed all of the relationships revolving around PJ that are explored, including her lifelong friendship with her (gay male) bestie, her supportive dean at Vanderbilt, the wise elderly town librarian, even her abrasive co-worker, Linda. But I especially enjoyed the evolution of the relationship between PJ and her mother. After being a daddy's girl all her life, watching her slowly bond with her momma was one of my favorite parts of the book.  

If you enjoy Southern, slice of life stories that are brimming with character, humor, and heart, I enthusiastically recommend picking up a copy of Mary Liza Hartong's debut novel: Love and Hot Chicken. She's a sparkling new voice in Southern fiction that I'll be keeping an eye on. 


Do you enjoy humorous Southern fiction?

Who are some of your favorite authors writing in this genre?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, February 25 will receive a hard cover copy of Love and Hot Chicken

*U.S. only

*Must be 18

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - The Diamond and the Duke

The Diamond and the Duke
by Christi Caldwell
All the Duke's Sins - Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

When a wounded soldier and self-proclaimed "beast" finds unlikely friendship with a headstrong and unconventional beauty, they quickly find themselves weaving a tale as old as time…

Despite a hero’s return to England from the Napoleonic Wars, Wesley Audley isolates from the 
ton. Deep wounds from the horrors of combat—and the despair of a broken heart—left him scarred. As he struggles to cope and resume his place in Polite Society, Wesley is quick to cut himself off from everyone…except for Ellie Balfour. 
Independent and strong-willed, Ellie has dreams of captaining her own husband-free life and a penchant for meddling in other’s business. She knows befriending Wesley is a risk but Ellie can’t bear to see his heartache. Nor can she seem to silence all the temptingly intimate thoughts his nearness provokes. 
But Ellie is yet to face a battle she can’t win—and Wesley’s heart is worth the fight. If only her campaigns ever went to plan…

PJ's Thoughts:

With each book she writes, Christi Caldwell takes me on an emotional, heart-wringing ride where love wins but the journey there is one filled with so many feelings. This one, more than most. I loved every single moment.

In Ellie and Wesley, Caldwell has created two characters who have both been changed by pain. For Wesley, it's both the visible wounds of war as well as those hidden in his mind. Ellie's wounds are not so easily seen but no less life changing, giving her the insight to help Wesley heal where all others have failed. I loved her strength, her resilience, her intrepid spirit, and the tender heart she sought to protect. I loved how she never gave up on Wesley even when he did his best to scare her away, how she loved him with all that she was but, ultimately, put his happiness ahead of her own. And then there's Wesley. Oh, how my heart ached for the start. Then, of course, I just wanted to toss him off a cliff but that was all part of his journey, his healing process. Eventually, he won my heart as completely as he did Ellie's.

Both Ellie and Wesley had significant growth arcs in this book that were managed beautifully and realistically by Caldwell. I appreciated the mutual respect that slowly grew between them, the genuine affection and tender moments that evolved over time, and the gradual awakening of their deepest feelings, eventually bringing them to a point where they were finally able to put the past behind and move forward with love, joy, and trust in their hearts. How Caldwell circled back to their first meeting years earlier to tie it into the final scene of the book was heart-tugging perfection. 

This is the third book in Caldwell's All the Duke's Sins series. It stands well on its own but carries more understanding of family dynamics and emotional significance, in my opinion, if read in order. The earlier books are Along Came a Lady and Desperately Seeking a Duchess. Click the titles to read my reviews of the earlier books.

Content Warning: child abuse (off page-in the past), PTSD

Have you read Christi Caldwell?

Do you have a favorite book or series of hers?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, February 24 will receive a print copy of The Diamond the the Duke

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Thanks for Berkley Publishing for today's giveaway copy of The Diamond and the Duke

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Review - - In Want of a Viscount

In Want of a Viscount
by Lorraine Heath
The Chessmen: Masters of Seduction - Book 3
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

American Leonora Garrison has come to England in desperate search of investors to keep her family business afloat but instead finds surprising pleasure when she visits an exclusive ladies’ club and dares to kiss a stranger, who leaves her yearning for more.

With a libertine for a father, Viscount Wyeth, more commonly known as Rook, vowed to live his life above reproach, with nary a hint of disgrace. Until one night, he takes a mysterious beauty into his arms, a lady who tempts him to cast his sterling reputation aside in favor of more wicked pursuits.

When fate reunites the couple, they are torn between desire and duty. Leonora may want the viscount, but she needs a stakeholder not a lover. When caught in a compromising situation that places everything they hold dear at risk, they must determine how best to win. However, in this scandalous game, nothing except love takes all.

PJ's Thoughts:

You know those authors who never let you down? The ones who give you yearning, angst, sensual romance, and hard-won happy endings time and again? That's Lorraine Heath and she does it once more with her newest Chessman novel: In Want of a Viscount

Even though I've loved all three books in the series, this one is my favorite. It's charming, witty and emotional, with plenty of steam but also soft moments that are endearing and lovely. It really was such a joy to read. 

Rook is kept from embracing - or revealing - his true self due to his father's many...many...scandals (what a horrible man). While he has good friends and is well respected, he's also closed himself off emotionally and has no plans to marry or ever be vulnerable to the whims of love (so delicious to see this type of hero slowly realize he can't live without that one woman who holds his heart). Leonora is unlike anyone he's ever met. She's bright, focused, curious, loyal, caring, remarkably skilled at all things mechanical, and driven to make her family's business a success. All characteristics that have made her an oddity within both society and her own family (don't get me started on them) but make her unique and special to Rook. Together, these two just may be the one and only key that unlocks the other's heart and opens the door to an enduring love and life together. Watching them slowly make that journey, with its unexpected pitfalls, sizzling encounters, and quiet, heartfelt moments, was pure pleasure. I adored them.

This book is set within the same Heath world as her Sins of All Seasons and Once Upon a Dukedom series with many characters from both series making appearances. It's always fun to catch up with favorites from earlier books, like the other Chessmen and their wives as well as the Trewloves. Aiden Trewlove (The Duchess in His Bed) and Finn Trewlove (The Scoundrel in Her Bed) are Rook's illegitimate brothers with Aiden in particular having an important role in Rook's story. Readers new to Heath, however, should be aware that this book can absolutely be enjoyed on its own without having read the others. Though they really should. Read the others, that is. So many great stories.  

If you enjoy epilogues, the one at the end of In Want of a Viscount is *chef's kiss* with interactions that left me laughing, sighing, and mopping up a few tears. That seems to be the case with many of Lorraine Heath's epilogues. She has a knack for wrapping up a wonderful story with an even better "guess what happened next." 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Now in Mass Market Paperback - - Forget What You Know

If you missed this pulse-pounding thriller in hard cover, it's now available in Mass Market Paperback and on sale (today-not sure for how long) for only $2.99 in e-book. I couldn't put it down! ~PJ

Forget What You Know
by Christina Dodd
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: March 7, 2023
Reviewed by PJ (March 6, 2023)

A submerged car is pulled from the bottom of the lake, and i
n an interesting twist, the driver has been shot in the back of the head. No other bodies are found; only the legendary Dragon's Heart remains inside, and as it rises to the surface, greedy collectors from around the world gather. They'll stop at nothing to gain possession of the priceless artifact, and only flower-breeder Zoey Phoenix, the unknowing heir, stands in their way.

Zoey remembers nothing about her early childhood; her mother's desire to leave those years behind never worried her...until she's almost killed in a hit and run and, days later, her mother disappears. Now Zoey fears her family secrets won't stay buried long.  She has no idea who almost killed her or why, but she's determined to unravel the dangerous truths of her past—before they claim her future.

Forget what you know...yet the past remembers.

PJ's Thoughts:

Well, she's done it again, crafted an intensely compelling thriller that kept me reading into the wee hours of the night. With intriguing characters, edge-of-the-seat suspense, impeccably placed humor, emotional depth, and more twists than a two-lane mountain road, there was no way I was going to be able to put this one down until I turned the final page. 

I'm pretty good at figuring out mysteries but Dodd is a master of the surprise twist, a skill she continues to fine tune with each book she writes. Just when I think I've figured things out she throws in a "wow, I didn't see that coming" and sends me off in an entirely new direction. This book is littered with those moments, adding new dimensions to the story and keeping me on my toes from beginning to end.

Another area where Dodd excels is in developing characters and character relationships. In Forget What You Know, we have parent-child relationships, friendships, marriages, second-chance romances, and more with each relationship being given the care and attention it deserves. 

As for the individual characters, each of them, whether primary or secondary, is well developed and integral to the story. Some of them touched my heart, others had me shivering and looking over my shoulder, while more still left me laughing out loud. That's another skill this author uses with great effectiveness: humor. Her sly wit frequently catches me off guard, taking me from breath-stealing intensity to snort laughing in a heartbeat. Keep an eye out for Zoey's former mother-in-law in this book. She's the purveyor of some of the best lines and, frankly, steals just about every scene she's in. 

When a book keeps you glued to the pages until you finally reach the conclusion around 3:00 AM and then all you want to do is go back to the beginning and start all over again, that's a must-read novel. I can't wait to discover what Dodd has in store for readers next. 

If you enjoy twisty suspense, action, heart-tugging romance, quirky characters, and unexpected laughter, add this book to your reading list. Forget What You Know, the newest suspense thriller by Christina Dodd has my highest recommendation. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Review - - Catch and Release

Catch and Release
by Tracy Solheim
Milwaukee Growlers Football Romance - Book 3
Publisher: Sun Home Productions
Release Date: February 19, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

A second chance, enemies-to-lovers football romance.

He’s the pro athlete everyone wants to be.
Quarterback Trey Van Horn didn’t become the league’s MVP by accident. Years of self-discipline and iron-clad control have made him the envy of everyone in and around the game of football. But when he comes face-to-face with the one who got away, his tightly managed life is turned upside down. Now he’ll do whatever it takes to score the greatest comeback of his life.

She’s tired of being every guy’s doormat.
London Headley is on the verge of having the career she’s always dreamed of. Too bad the path to her promotion runs through the guy who broke her heart a decade earlier. So what if everything about the Milwaukee Growlers QB sets her panties on fire? She’s determined to keep things professional. Life has taught her that men will always choose something—or someone—over her. It’s going to take more than a Hail Mary to get her to buy into the fairy tale.

The only problem? Her lips don’t seem to want to follow the game plan. Not when Trey is executing an all-out blitz to prove he’s worth a second chance.

PJ's Thoughts:

Tracy Solheim's books are auto-buys for me. I've read them all. I've enjoyed them all. And, of them all, Catch and Release, the newest addition to her Milwaukee Growlers series, is my favorite. 

I had a feeling after reading books one and two in this series that Trey had hidden layers. I had no idea just how many layers and how well hidden they would turn out to be. Or, just how much I would fall in love with this man who truly believed he was cursed in loved. And then there's London, who has been taught by people in her life (including Trey) that she will never be the one chosen. I wanted to hug her, support her, cheer her on, and share honest truths, just as her best friend Lucy did. And then I wanted to do the same with Trey, side by side with his football teammates. Solheim has a knack for creating strong, supportive, straight-talking friendships and hilarious yet surprisingly nurturing bromances in this series.

I don't believe Solheim has ever written a couple that I've pulled harder for, both individually and as a couple. I loved their complex layers, their enemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance, the fiery chemistry that brought them back together, the emotional layers of their overlapping - sometimes complicated - family relationships, and the balancing of their career dreams with the risk of laying their hearts on the line. They took me on a perfectly paced, emotional ride that bubbled with laugh-out-loud humor, included a few surprise twists, touched my heart with endearing moments, offered up some satisfying steam, and had me mopping up tears more than once. I've read their story twice. I have a feeling that it may become one of my go-to comfort reads in the future. These are characters - both primary and secondary - that I just can't get enough of.