Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Winner - - The Stranger I Wed


The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George is:

Pam Mantovani


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - Christa Comes Out of Her Shell


The randomly chosen winner 

of a print copy of

Christa Comes Out of Her Shell by Abbi Waxman is:

Jody Hunt


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Winner - - The Kiss Countdown


The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton is:

Naomi B


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, April 26, 2024

Review - - Earls Trip

Earls Trip
by Jenny Holiday
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 23, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Even an earl needs his ride-or-dies, and Archibald Fielding-Burton, the Earl of Harcourt, counts himself lucky to have two. The annual trip that Archie takes with his BFFs Simon and Effie holds a sacred spot in their calendars. This year Archie is especially eager to get away until an urgent letter arrives from an old family friend, begging him to help prevent a ruinous scandal. Suddenly the trip has become earls-plus-girls, as Archie’s childhood pals, Clementine and Olive Morgan, are rescued en route to Gretna Green.

This…complicates matters. The fully grown Clementine, while as frank and refreshing as he remembers, is also different to the wild, windswept girl he knew. 
This Clem is complex and surprising—and adamantly opposed to marriage. Which, for reasons Archie dare not examine too closely, he finds increasingly vexing.

Then Clem makes him an indecent and quite delightful proposal, asking him to show her the pleasures of the marriage bed before she settles into spinsterhood. And what kind of gentleman would he be to refuse a lady?

PJ's Thoughts:

In thinking of words to describe this book, the ones that came immediately to mind were fun, poignant, and endearing. All three could describe not only the story but the characters as well. The antics Clem and Archie got up to were fun. The friendships depicted - not only between Clem and Archie but among the three men - were infused with humor but also endearing. And the scenes with Archie's mother were simmering with poignant emotion. Anyone who has had a loved one live with dementia or Alzheimer's will be able to relate. 

It took me a while to get into the story but once the ladies entered the picture it took off and kept me happily reading until the end. While the romantic focus is on the slow-burn, reunited friends to lovers journey between Clem and Archie, there are other relationships and storylines explored that are just as important. I enjoyed the evolution of the friendship between Clem and her sister, Olive, a character who turned out to be surprisingly different from what I had first expected. The men, friends since school, were also different from the characters who typically appear in the Regency romances I read. Their steadfast friendship - more of a chosen family situation - touched my heart, especially in regards to how they love, support, tease, and accept one another as they are. Very much a found brotherly dynamic going on. All three have a sweet, cinnamon roll hero feel to them. It will be interesting to see if that continues to play out in the next two books or if we will see a different side to them.

If you enjoy a Regency set romance with plenty of humor, forced proximity, a country setting, emotional depth, and two reunited friends who are the last to realize they've fallen in love, give Earls Trip by Jenny Holiday a try. 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Review - - Fake It till you Make It

Fake It Till You Make It
by Siera London
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 23, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

When Amarie Walker goes for something, she goes big—including starting over. Leaving her cheating ex and entire D.C. life in the rearview, she crash lands in a small town with no plan, no money, and no job. An opening at the animal clinic is the only gig for miles, no surprise considering the vet is a certified grump. If Eli Calvary ever cracked a smile, Amarie might faint on sight from shock. At least his adorable golden retriever appreciates her fabulousness…and shares her love of daily treats!

When Eli took over his late father’s practice, he quickly discovered the clinic was facing foreclosure. So there’s no time for social niceties, especially not flirting, even with someone as gorgeous, bubbly, and business-savvy as Amarie. Yet when Eli needs to invent an investor on the fly, it’s her name that comes to his lips. Now, for the sake of their furry clients, Eli and Amarie hustle to save the clinic, trying to ignore the nonstop sparks between them. Because while their partnership may be fake, their connection already feels way too real.

PJ's Thoughts:

Do you enjoy small-town, grumpy-sunshine romance with plenty of humor, family dynamics, emotional depth, steamy chemistry, and a strong sense of community...not to mention adorable animals? If yes, I recommend adding Siera London's Fake It till you Make It to your spring/summer reading list. 

I loved the differences between Amarie and Eli. He's all follow the rules, we don't need a computer, I work better alone, and if it was good enough for my dad it's good enough for me. She's social media, TikTok live streams, what's the good of computers if we don't use them to make life easier and more organized, and here, let me help you with that. It kept things lively, for sure. The banter between these two had me laughing out loud many times, especially when Eli's matchmaking mom also got involved. 

While the humor in the book is plentiful, I was happy that the author also took the time to explore the hidden layers within these two. Emotionally impacted by earlier relationships and experiences, both romantic and familial, they had lessons to learn, confidence to restore, trust to build, and healing to occur before they'd be ready to move forward, whether individually or together. I loved how they brought out the best in one another, how they encouraged and helped each other though, admittedly, Eli was slower to accept that help. He had some pretty strong walls that needed to be knocked down. My heart ached for how some people in Amarie's life had let her down. It made her evolution all the more cheer worthy. 

The first few chapters were a bit slow and the ending (pre-epilogue) felt a bit rushed but, overall, this was a fun read with characters I happily cheered for, villains I actively jeered, and a family - and townspeople - I hope to see more of in future books. There are, after all, two more Calvary brothers in need of a happily ever after. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - The Stranger I Wed

The Stranger I Wed
by Harper St. George
The Doves of New York - Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 23, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Cora Dove and her sisters’ questionable legitimacy has been the lifelong subject of New York’s gossipmongers and a continual stain on their father’s reputation. So when the girls each receive a generous, guilt-induced dowry from their dying grandmother, the sly Mr. Hathaway vows to release their funds only if Cora and her sisters can procure suitable husbands—far from New York. For Cora, England is a fresh start. She has no delusions of love, but a husband who will respect her independence? That’s an earl worth fighting for.

Enter: Leopold Brendon, Earl of Devonworth, a no-nonsense member of Parliament whose plan to pass a Public Health bill that would provide clean water to the working class requires the backing of a wealthy wife.  He just never expected to crave Cora’s touch or yearn to hear her thoughts on his campaign—or to discover that his seemingly perfect bride protects so many secrets...

But secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface, and Devonworth has a few of his own. With their pasts laid bare and Cora’s budding passion for women’s rights taking a dangerous turn, they’ll learn the true cost of losing their heart to a stranger—and that love is worth any price.

PJ's Thoughts:

A promising start to Harper St. George’s new series about three American sisters and their British journeys to love…or not. It’s an interesting take on the American dollar princesses who were typically the adored, legitimate daughters of industry icons, not the cast aside illegitimate daughters of a member of one of New York’s wealthiest, founding families and his (also cast aside) mistress.

First up is eldest sister, Cora, an opinionated feminist, protective of her younger sisters, wary of love, and needing to marry a peer in order to obtain an inheritance from the grandmother who shunned her in life. Enter Leo, the Earl of Devonworth, a peer with a concern for the lower classes, a need for money, protective of his family and, oh yes, also wary of love. What follows is a slow-burn marriage of convenience that had me cheering these two on to their hard-earned, well-deserved, happily ever after…after negotiating more than a few road blocks along the way. 

St. George brings the Gilded Age to life in this book (as well as her previous series). In fact, a few of the main characters from the earlier series have pivotal roles in this one. I enjoy the setting, especially the emergence of women in more visible public roles (though suffrage is still considered a radical movement and can be a dangerous enterprise). One of the things that endeared Leo to me was how respectful he was of Cora’s opinions and how they worked together on his speeches to Parliament. Of course, he’s also very concerned about her safety which leads to a few confrontations but, as with any relationship, it’s a work in progress. I enjoyed the slow burn of their romance, how the desire and depth of feelings gradually evolved from partners to friends to much, much more. It felt very authentic, especially considering past events in each of their lives. 

I’m eager to discover what the author has in store for Cora’s two younger sisters as well as their somewhat unpredictable mother. I’ll be looking forward to books two and three with eager anticipation.

Have you read Harper St. George yet?

Do you enjoy Gilded Age romances? Do you have a preference between those set in the U.S. and those in England? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, April 26 will receive a print copy of The Stranger I Wed.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review - - The Lady Plays with Fire

The Lady Plays with Fire
by Susanna Craig
Goode's Guide to Misconduct - Book 2
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: April 23, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

As the daughter of a clergyman, Julia Addison knows she’ll never be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of acting on the stage. But writing forthright reviews of the Season’s most popular plays for 
Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses, popularly known as Goode’s Guide to Misconduct is surely the next best thing. Even better, she’s got a ticket to Ransom Blackadder’s latest irritating satire about English society. Best of all, she’s sharing a theater box with the gruff but handsome Lord Dunstane, which is enough to make Julia call for an encore . . .
Graham McKay, the Earl of Dunstane, rarely leaves his home in the Scottish Highlands. Why would he? Nothing about London has ever held his interest—until he meets Julia. But when Graham realizes she is the critic who panned his last play—and she discovers he is in fact the man behind Blackadder’s wicked pen—will it bring down the curtain on their romance—not to mention the magazine that published the humiliating review? Or can an unexpected collaboration set the stage for a scandalous love affair?

PJ's Thoughts:

This second book in Susanna Craig's Goode's Guide to Misconduct series pairs a grumpy Scottish earl (who secretly pens satiric plays) with a delightful woman (who secretly reviews those plays). It's another enjoyable foray into the lives of the young women who, unknown to their families, secretly share their talents through the pages of the popular Mrs. Goode's Magazine for Misses and the men who capture their hearts. Eventually.

One of the facets of Craig's writing that I most enjoy is her development of characters, a skill on full display in this book. I love the complexities of Graham and Julia, how their layers are slowly revealed to the reader - and to one another. The banter between them is lively and on point and the chemistry is steamy with Julia taking full control of her desires. I love the push and pull between them, how Julia unknowingly pushes Graham to be better, to be his true self, and how they put their hearts on the line for one another, even as an unknown person strives to ruin both of their good names. 

If you're a fan of Craig's books, you'll no doubt enjoy the easter eggs sprinkled throughout the book (from earlier books and series) while readers new to her writing should have no difficulty jumping in at this point. If you enjoy immersive, well-researched, character-driven stories that hold your attention and deliver a well-earned happy ending, might I recommend The Lady Plays with Fire...or, really, any Susanna Craig novel. She never lets me down.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Review - - My Season of Scandal

My Season of Scandal
by Julie Anne Long
The Palace of Rogues - Book 7
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: April 23, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

A London season is the chance of a lifetime for Catherine Keating. But the ton’s glitter and decadence and casual cruelty threaten to crush her hopes of finding a husband before her season even begins...until she accidentally acquires one of the most scandalous men in England as a secret chaperone.

Famously fiery Lord Dominic Kirke can hold the House of Commons—and any woman he chooses— in thrall. But when his house goes up in flames in the dead of night, he finds himself at the Grand Palace on the Thames. And there he discovers his cynical armor is no match for another guest: an innocent country girl with a crackling wit and eyes like a summer sky.

He's maddening, elusive, hopelessly charismatic, wrong in every way—perfectly designed to break her heart. But she doesn't know she holds his battered heart in her hands. And though it will destroy him, Dominic knows loving her means setting Catherine free for the life—and man—she deserves.

PJ's Thoughts:

She always does it. Each time I declare one of her books the “best ever,” back she comes with a new one that sets the bar higher. Like My Season of Scandal. The feelings, the scandal, the ton crocodiles, the tenderness, the humor, the deep, deep emotions. The clover. My heart!

If you have not yet read Julie Anne Long’s books you’re missing out on some of the best writing in Romance today (in my opinion). This author uses language like a master artist wields a brush. The pictures she paints with words effortlessly evoke a wide range of emotions within this reader. Her cast of characters (primary and secondary) are all beautifully developed, contributing texture and richness to the overall story while progressing the plot forward. Long’s books are decidedly character driven, pulling me into the lives, hearts, and minds of Catherine and Lord Kirke while also spotlighting key secondary characters. No supporting cast wallpaper here. 

After reading How to Tame a Wild Rogue, I would have sworn that no JAL hero would surpass Lorcan St. Leger in my affections. I was wrong. Lord Dominic Kirke, with all his messy emotions and sarcastic deflections, captured my heart as surely as he did Catherine’s, as surely as Julie Anne Long captured my heart with this memorable, humorous, thought-provoking, heart-tugging novel. One more for the Julie Anne Long keeper shelf. 

My Season of Scandal is book 7 in Long’s The Palace of Rogues historical romance series. It can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone but if you’ve already read the earlier books in the series you’re sure to enjoy the subtle nuances and gradual evolution of secondary characters at the Grand Palace on the Thames who appear in each of the books within the series. Whether you’re new to the author or a long-time fan, this book is sure to stand out as one to remember. It’s on my Best of 2024 watch list. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review - - Make You Mine

Make You Mine
by Nan Reinhardt
The Walker Family - Book 1
Publisher: Tule
Release Date: April 16, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

When his family’s company is on the line, business and pleasure definitely don’t mix, but maybe they should…

Madeline Ross left the city and a career glass ceiling behind, hoping to build a new life as the crew supervisor for Walker Construction in River’s Edge. She’s qualified and experienced, but new CEO Jackson Walker hires someone else. Even as she searches for a different job and builds a life in River’s Edge, the sexy memory of Jack teases.

After a rough year, Jackson Walker’s family business is still struggling. He needs a new construction crew supervisor, and Maddie Ross is perfect, except for the first time in his life, player Jack is suddenly smitten with the curvaceous redhead. He wants her in his bed more than on his payroll.

When his second-rate new hire is a disastrous mistake, Jack humbles himself on Maddie’s doorstep with an offer she can’t refuse. Maddie could be the key to saving his company as long as he hides his heart. But does he have to?

PJ's Thoughts:

Nan Reinhardt takes readers back to River's Edge with the first book in a new trilogy set within a familiar world. If you read her Weaver Sisters trilogy, you've already met Jackson Walker but if you're new to the River's Edge books, you can easily jump in with this new book, Make You Mine.

I always enjoy my visits to River's Edge and this one is no exception. Watching confirmed bachelors fall hard is one of my romance joys and Jack, at 39, is more fun than most. This guy is hard-core single, arrogant, and independent, with a string of one-night stands behind him. To see him totally smitten, stumbling over his words, and blushing like a middle schooler was a such a joy. Of course, it takes a while for him to own up to his feelings but that's part of the fun with this guy.

Maddie is one of my favorite River's Edge heroines. I respect her for following her heart into a career considered a man's domain. She's confident, skilled, and carries a take-charge attitude that throws Jack for a loop. I appreciated the fact that she doesn't compromise who she is and how Jack begins to evolve because of that. 

In addition to Maddie's and Jack's romantic journey, this book also has a bit of suspense to it with a defining moment climax that had me cheering and gasping at the same time.

Fans of the earlier River's Edge books will no doubt be delighted with the number of character cameos in this book while, as I mentioned above, those new to Reinhardt should have no difficulties beginning with Make You Mine 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Review & Giveaway- - Christa Comes Out of Her Shell

Christa Comes Out of Her Shell
by Abbi Waxman
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 16, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

After a tumultuous childhood, Christa Liddle has hidden away, both figuratively and literally. Happily studying sea snails in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Christa finds her tranquil existence thrown into chaos when her once-famous father—long thought dead after a plane crash—turns out to be alive, well, and ready to make amends. The world goes wild, fascinated by this real-life saga, pinning Christa and her family under the spotlight. As if that weren’t enough, her reunion with an old childhood friend reveals an intense physical attraction neither was expecting and both want to act on . . . if they can just keep a lid on it. When her father’s story starts to develop cracks, Christa fears she will lose herself, her potential relationship, and—most importantly—any chance of making it back to her snails before they forget her completely.

PJ's Thoughts:

This was my first Abbi Waxman book so I really had no idea what to expect. What I discovered was a well-written story with well-developed characters, a fair amount of humor, dysfunctional family dynamics, emotional depth, a nerdy heroine, and an unexpected romance with her teenage crush, the one who had seen her at her rock-bottom worst. 

In a way, this was a healing, coming of age story for Christa, a woman with a tumultuous childhood in the spotlight which transitioned into wild teen years, also in the spotlight. She has finally found peace, on a remote island, with the snails she’s studying and locals who couldn’t care less about her past or her famous father. Of course that’s all thrown into chaos when her father (believed dead the past 25 years) suddenly staggers out of the Alaskan wilderness, throwing Christa back into the path of intrusive media, a complicated relationship with her mother, an estranged relationship with her sisters, a father she doesn’t remember, and a second chance romance with the focus of her teenage dreams. Complications aplenty!

The book started off a bit slow but quickly picked up speed, holding my interest through a series of twists and turns to the end. I enjoyed how the author explored the different relationships in Christa’s life, both familial and romantic, as well as her fraught relationship with the media, not to mention hordes of fans who still viewed her as a fatherless two-year-old thrust into the spotlight along with her mother. I find mother-daughter relationships fascinating and appreciated the time taken by this author to portray the evolution of the fractured one between an adult Christa and her mom. 

Overall, Christa Comes Out of Her Shell was an enjoyable journey with a good blend of women’s fiction/romance vibes, a protagonist I could root for, a genuinely good romantic interest who won my heart (as well as hers), and an array of characters (nice and not so nice) who kept things moving along and oh, so interesting. It was a fun read with surprising depth, a somewhat cynical (but well deserved) look behind the Hollywood curtain of high-powered agents and stars, a second chance at romance, and a fractured family that…well, you’ll just have to read the book to discover what happens there. 

Have you read Abbi Waxman yet?

Do you enjoy books with nerdy/STEM/scientific characters? How about dysfunctional/fractured families?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, April 26 will receive a print copy of Christa Comes Out of Her Shell.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Review - - The Finders Keepers Library

The Finders Keepers Library
by Annie Rains
Somerset Lake - Book 5
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 16, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

For a gardener blessed with a green thumb, Savannah Collins’s life sure seems like it’s all thorns, zero roses. She has no job, no relationship, and no place to live. With nothing but a car full of plants and her new rescue kitten, Savannah heads to Bloom, North Carolina, to spend the summer with her beloved Aunt Eleanor, a retired librarian.

Her aunt shares her love of literature with the Finders Keepers Library, located in her beautiful garden, where anyone can stop by to pick a book or leave a book. When a sudden summer storm destroys the library and many of the roses, it will take a village to get everything ready for the garden wedding that is planned there in just three weeks.

As the entire town joins in to make the necessary repairs, Savannah bonds with their neighbor Evan Sanders over the books that Eleanor has handpicked for each of them, helping them both find healing and self-discovery. Savannah only intends to stay through the summer, but when an unexpected job offer, a sudden health crisis, and a wayward pre-teen push her future in new directions, she has to wonder whether this is the place that she is meant to be—and the family she’s meant to be with.

PJ's Thoughts:

Annie Rains never fails to engage my emotions with her heart-tugging, small-town, closed-door romances. This one is about starting over, confronting our fears, grief, healing, and hope for the future. Once again, I was pulled into her story, into the lives of her characters, and they into my heart. 

I would love to spend the summer hanging out in Bloom. I want Savannah to teach me all she knows about plants (maybe I'll be able to keep one alive). I want Eleanor to hand pick books for me to read (I'm confident she would pick just the right one). I want to talk books with Evan's daughter in the Finders Keepers Library and cheer her on as she finds her place in Bloom. I want to watch the relationships of Evan and Savannah, Charlie and Eleanor, and Madison and Sam flourish amidst the challenges of everyday life. I want Mallory to find her happy ever after. And, I want to talk to the roses. I may not be able to grow them but I'm confident I'd have no problem divulging my deepest held secrets...and feel better for it. 

Rains made the town of Bloom, and her citizens, come to life for me. I loved how she intertwined several relationship threads together, giving multiple characters journeys without sacrificing the importance of any one person or relationship. There are themes of starting over, second chances, compromise, acceptance, healing, and love. Romantic love, family love, and love among friends. It's a story that made me laugh, made me sigh, brought forth a few tears, and, ultimately, left me with a happy, hopeful heart. How could I ask for more?


Sunday, April 14, 2024

Winners - - The Best Life Book Club


The randomly chosen winners of

a print ARC of 

The Best Life Book Club are:

Sharlene Wegner

Trish J

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

Theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Tour Review & Giveaway - - The Kiss Countdown

The Kiss Countdown
by Etta Easton
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 9, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

Risk-averse event planner Amerie Price is jobless, newly single, and about to lose her apartment. With no choice but to gamble on her shaky start-up, the last thing she needed was to run into her smug ex and his new, less complicated girlfriend at Amerie's favorite coffee shop. Panicked, she pretends to be dating the annoyingly sexy man she met by spilling Americano all over his abs. He plays along—for a price.

Half the single men in Houston claim to be astronauts, but Vincent Rogers turns out to be the real deal. What started as a one-off lie morphs into a plan: for the three months leading up to his mission, Amerie will play Vincent's doting partner in front of his loving but overly invested family. In exchange, she gets a rent-free room in his house and can put every penny toward her struggling business.

What Amerie doesn't plan for is Vincent's gravitational pull. While her mind tells her a future with this astronaut is too unpredictable, her heart says he's exactly what she needs. As their time together counts down, Amerie must decide if she'll settle for the safe life—or shoot for the stars.

PJ's Thoughts:

I'm a total pushover for a fake dating trope and this one was a delight. First of all, he's an astronaut? Yes, please! Okay, so maybe not in real life. Like Amerie, I'm a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to certain things like heights, twisty mountain roads, and, oh, I don't know, waving farewell to your beloved as he soars to the moon?!? But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First we have to get these two together.

Easton has crafted a fun, relatable, slow-burn romance that had me jumping into this unexpected relationship with both feet. From the coffee shop meet cute, through meeting the family, to a fake engagement, the breakup, and the reunion, these characters kept me by their side, cheering them on and flipping pages from beginning to end. I enjoyed the exploration of Amerie and Vincent not only through their one-on-one journey but through the interactions with their families as well. Those family dynamics were spot on with the parents and siblings so well developed that I felt like I had actually met them in real life. 

While the romance between Vincent and Amerie is a slow burn, I felt the chemistry between them from the start. The banter between them sparkles even before they begin to catch feelings. Once that starts, we begin to delve a bit deeper into what makes each of them tick, revealing their vulnerabilities, fears, hopes, and more. I love how smitten Vincent was and how hard he tried to hide it. It takes Amerie longer to overcome her fears but once she does, she goes after her man in grand style. It's all about facing our fears. 

If you're looking for a fun romance filled with laughter, family, slow-burn romance, one very sexy astronaut, a ride-or-die girlfriend, and a heroine you might just want to be besties with (I did), pick up a copy of The Kiss Countdown. It's sure to make you smile. 


Have you read a romance with an astronaut hero?

Would you go into space?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, April 26 will receive a print copy of The Kiss Countdown

*U.S. only
*Must be 18