Thursday, June 20, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - 15 Summers Later

15 Summers Later
by RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Canary Street Press
Release Date: June 18, 2024
Reviewed by PJ


15 summers ago, everything changed…


Ava Howell seemed to have it all. She moved away from Emerald Creek, Idaho, married the love of her life and published a bestselling memoir. But she never expected that her husband would feel so betrayed by a secret from her past—the truth of what happened to her and her sister all those years ago—that he’d walk away. Now Ava is back home and trying to move on with the only person who can truly understand…

Following years of healing, Madison Howell is finally happy. After college she built a no-kill shelter where she works with animals every day, and she’s in love with the town veterinarian, Dr. Luke Gentry. But she can’t ever bring herself to tell him. Years ago, his dad died protecting Madi and her sister, so how could he ever love her back? 

With the truth laid bare, and the past that Ava and Madison have worked so hard to leave behind threatening everything they have built for themselves, the Howell sisters’ reunion is bittersweet. And as Ava and Madi attempt to remedy the rifts in their lives and reconcile their futures, they must face the demons of their past together.

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're a working person you may want to wait until the weekend to read this book. Once I started reading, there was no way I was going to be able to put it down until I reached the end. It is compelling, heart-wrenching, heart-tugging, and just plain unputdownable. 

This is a book about family, betrayal, resilience, grief, healing, hope, and love. It plays out in present time with excerpts from Ava's book giving readers a look into the events of fifteen years ago, events that led to Ava and Madi, once inseparable, going in different directions, events that changed their lives forever. That changed Luke's family forever. I was riveted by those excerpts, by what those young people, now adults, experienced and by how they were still impacted fifteen years later, as much as I was immersed in their present-day journeys. They felt like people I knew and cared about - that's how invested I became in their lives, in their happiness. 

RaeAnne Thayne is an exceptionally skilled author who seems to outpace her capacity for excellence with each book she writes. She has the ability to reach into the hearts of her characters and her readers, touching us at our very core. That is especially true with this newest book. It touched me deeply.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you read RaeAnne Thayne?

Madi runs an animal rescue in this story. Have you ever worked at or with a rescue? 

This book includes both a friends-to-lovers trope as well as a marriage-in-trouble trope. How do you feel about these tropes?

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 22 will receive a print copy of 15 Summers Later.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Anonymous comments must include a name, screen name, or email address within the comment to be entered in the giveaway.


Content warnings below. Please be aware these contain spoilers about events in the book.
-
-
-
-
-        SPOILERS AHEAD
-
-
-
-
-
Content Warning: cults, death, traumatic brain injury, miscarriage







Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Last Chance Winner - - June Coming Attractions

 





The following winner has not claimed their giveaway:

Beck

June Coming Attractions

Please email your full name and mailing address to 

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

no later than 11:00 PM, June 20. 

If I have not received your information by that time, 

I will draw a new winner. 

Winner - - A Love Like the Sun

 



The randomly chosen winner 

of a print copy of

A Love Like the Sun by Riss M. Neilson is:

Laura L

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - The Summer Escape

 




The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

The Summer Escape by Jill Shalvis is:

Patoct

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Review - - Lady Scandal

Lady Scandal
by Laura Lee Guhrke
Scandal at the Savoy - Book 2
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 18, 2024
Reviewed by PJ




Delia Stratham is an unconventional woman. While other ladies learned proper decorum at finishing school, she composed naughty limericks and admired the gardener’s muscular legs. So naturally when she’s widowed for the third time, she does the unthinkable: she gets a job. Planning events for the Savoy Hotel is perfect for someone with her skills. But her dream career turns into a nightmare when she’s forced to work with the most annoying—and gorgeous—man she’s ever met.


Hotel magnate Simon Hayden knows something fishy is going on at the Savoy: the hotel is constantly busy, yet the books say it’s in the red. He’s determined to root out the fraud and its perpetrators, and that means spending time with one of the most likely suspects: the delectable, infuriating Lady Stratham. She’s definitely getting in his way and under his skin and he can’t decide whether to fire her or kiss her until she stops arguing. But when the sparks between them flare into flame, Simon must choose between his love for Delia and his duty to the hotel. Will his choice bring them together or tear them apart?

PJ's Thoughts:

I'm really enjoying this new series from Laura Lee Guhrke. I've always liked her working heroines. This one, however, is a bit different. Delia is not from the working class. She's a countess. A happily working countess who is very good at what she does. And, she's not about to let grumpy Simon undo everything she's accomplished. 

Give me a grumpy-sunshine, enemies-to-lovers, Victorian workplace romance set in a luxury London hotel? Yes, please! I was hooked by these two from the get-go. Guhrke gave me a heroine I could enthusiastically root for (everyone loves her!) and a hero nobody likes (at least, nobody at the hotel), then set them on a collision course with sparks galore. Both characters have unseen layers and it was a delight to gradually uncover them, offering insight into their pasts and the reasons behind the people they have become. 

I enjoyed watching Simon, who really is a good man, struggle with his new place in society, his unsavory family history, his beloved sister who is growing up too fast for his liking, and his determination to not fail the people who placed their trust in him, while at the same time fighting the urge to give in to his unexpected feelings for Delia and what they could mean for the task he has been given. 

And Delia was not what I was expecting. I developed so many feelings for this character. I really liked her, admired her, and wanted so badly for her to find her happy ending, both personally and professionally. I loved her joie de vivre, her steadfast resolution, and her loyalty to those around her, especially to those who gave her purpose when she was at her lowest. I also appreciated the organic process in which she both developed feelings for Simon and came to terms with the reality of what was happening at the hotel. It felt authentic to the characters and story.

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book. There are events in the story (I had no idea!) involving secondary characters in the book who were actual (well known) people in real life. It was fascinating to watch it all play out in the story while noting the character's names and asking myself, "Could this really be true?" It was!

If you enjoy historical romance with a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract, workplace romance, seasoned characters (they're both in their 30's), humor, emotion, a touch of scandal, and a happily ever after, all centered within the luxurious Savoy Hotel, add Lady Scandal to your summer reading list. It's a delicious delight. 


Monday, June 17, 2024

Review - - Find Me in California

Find Me in California
by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Reviewed by PJ
 


Raised by her fiercely passionate and free-spirited grandmother, Julia Hope has never gone without love. But as she tends to her only living relative during her final days, Julia struggles to overcome her fear of being alone.

A thousand miles away, Matt Gatlin has managed to avoid the coldhearted grandmother with whom he once lived. But after twelve years of her being blessedly out of sight, she needs him. His resentments still raw, Matt packs up his car and reluctantly heads to California to confront a bitter past he thought was long gone.

Over the next six days, Julia’s and Matt’s fates intersect. An old diary exposes the tragedy of a long-lost love. A history of secrets in two families comes to light. And on a lonely back road, Matt picks up an unusual yet captivating hitchhiker with a secret of her own.

For Julia and Matt, something heartbreaking and heartwarming, mysterious and beautiful, will touch their lives—with neither of them realizing that maybe they’re destined for each other.


PJ's Thoughts:


Find Me in California is my first book by this author and I have to say, she packs quite the emotional punch. If you enjoy angst - and I do mean a whole boatload of angst - this is the book for you. My emotions were fully engaged from start to finish. What a ride.


The book focuses on four main characters: Julia, Matt, Julia's beloved grandmother, and Matt's estranged grandmother. Through diary entries and flashbacks, it tells the backstories of the grandmothers while continuing their stories in the present and also giving us Matt's and Julia's. The lives of these four characters, total strangers (or are they?), intersect when the grandmothers end up in the same memory care unit at an assisted living facility. What unfolds is an unexpected tale of friendship, betrayal, abandonment, forgiveness, loss, love, and new beginnings. 


There are poignant moments, heartbreaking moments, and moments that are just flat-out weird. Are they magical realism? Drug-induced hallucinations? Whatever they were, I couldn't look away. Even when the feelings induced were a bit ick (for me), Lonsdale's intensely immersive storytelling kept me glued to the pages. There are so many twists, turns, and OMG-what-the-heck moments that I had to know what would happen next, especially to these four main characters. Lonsdale gives them flaws, layers, strengths, and weaknesses that bring them to life on the page. The ones that are immensely unlikable still have vulnerabilities that draw sympathy, the beloved ones have unknown flaws that, when discovered, cast a different light on who their loved ones thought they were. There are issues of abandonment, grief, guilt, and the first flutterings of the possibility of love. It's a fascinating character study that held me in its firm grasp.


If you're in the mood for a deeply emotional story with complex characters, unexpected twists, family dynamics, and a bit of romance, give this one a chance. It's a real page turner. 


Content Warning: death, child abandonment, drugs, adultery, suicide, dementia






Saturday, June 15, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - A Love Like the Sun

A Love Like the Sun
by Riss M. Neilson
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Reviewed by PJ


Laniah Thompson is a homebody who craves privacy. Issac Jordan is internet famous and spends his days followed by paparazzi. She runs a small business with her mom in her hometown. He runs an international brand.

And they’ve been best friends since childhood.

When Issac comes home to Providence for the first time in months and discovers Laniah’s dream is slipping out of reach as she and her mom struggle to pay the bills at Wildly Green, their natural hair store, she refuses to take a dime from him. And so, he does what any self-respecting best friend would do: tells the world they’re dating.

Suddenly business is booming, and Laniah agrees to his ridiculous plan to pretend to be lovers for the course of the summer. Just long enough to catch the eye of an investor and get her dream back on track, like she helped him do so many years ago, he reminds her.

Too soon, though, Laniah knows she’s playing with fire, because for as long as they’ve been friends there’s an undeniable pull they’ve never given in to. And as the lines between art and life—real and pretend—blur, it becomes harder and harder to see where friendship ends and something else begins....

Told over the course of three sizzling summer months, 
A Love Like the Sun is about shared history, those who make us our bravest selves, and love in its many forms.

PJ's Thoughts:

The author has penned a thoughtful and deeply emotional story about the journey from childhood best friends to adult soulmates. I loved the deep connection between Laniah and Issac. It's clear from the beginning how much these two mean to one another. Even though they are now living on opposite coasts they have maintained their friendship through geographical distance, life's challenges, and other relationships. 

When Laniah's business is tanking, Issac doesn't hesitate to jump in to help by lending his internet popularity to the cause with a fake-dating scheme. What happens next feels organic, relatable, and authentic to these characters. I understood Laniah's fears of changing their dynamic even though I felt it went on way too long. Can one person really be that oblivious? Issac's feelings came through loud and clear to me and I adored him for it. The deep, abiding love between these two was palpable. The brief flashbacks to various points in their friendship only solidified it. And, the slow transition from friends to lovers - with a few speed bumps along the way - convinced me these two would make it.

The challenges the author put in the paths of both Laniah and Issac gave the story depth and relatability. It was interesting to view all sides of Issac's rise to internet fame and I enjoyed watching him navigate the various aspects of it, especially when they impacted Laniah. And speaking of Laniah, there are many layers to this character which give her depth and flaws and relatability. In particular, a medical side story is one to which many women will be able to relate. It's an important issue that too many deal with.

While the story lagged in a few places, and at certain points I grew a bit weary of Laniah's insecurity, the writing, community of characters, Issac's steadfast support and love (did I mention I adored Issac?), plus Laniah's eventual growth kept me turning pages. A Love Like the Sun is a thought-provoking, heart-tugging, friends-to-lovers romance that I'm glad I read. 


Do you enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope?

What's your favorite romance trope?

Have you ever read a romance where the hero was an influencer? 

One person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 17 will receive a print copy of A Love Like the Sun.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Anonymous comments must include a name, screen name, or email in the comment to be included in the giveaway.








Friday, June 14, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - The Summer Escape

The Summer Escape
by Jill Shalvis
The Sunrise Cove Series - Book 6
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Reviewed by PJ





Anna Moore didn’t just wake up one day and decide to go on a wild questespecially since her life no longer lends itself to wild anything—so how in the world does she end up racing against the clock with Owen Harris, a sexy, enigmatic adventurist, to prove her beloved dad innocent of stealing a million-dollar necklace? 

It’s all Wendy’s fault. Her older, bossy sister, who’s seven months pregnant and on bed rest in their small Lake Tahoe hometown, is desperate to clear their departed dad’s name. Owen, though, is convinced he’s guilty as hell and wants to return the jewelry back to its rightful owner—his elderly great aunt. Together Anna and Owen go on a scavenger hunt for clues to the past (with Wendy remotely along for the ride via an earbud, supplying a running wry commentary to boot).  

On opposing sides and suspicious of each other as they are, Anna and Owen still can’t deny the inexplicable and explosive chemistry between them on this heart-stopping adventure, the outcome of which will prove the necklace isn’t the only thing stolen—their hearts have been as well.


PJ's Thoughts:


The Summer Escape, the sixth (standalone) book in the Sunrise Cove series, is going straight to my personal Jill Shalvis Hall of Fame. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of my top five all-time Shalvis favorites. I've already read it twice. I have no doubt I'll visit it again. It double checked all of my happy reader boxes. 


Shalvis has packed this book with everything I enjoy about her writing and them some. The book is perfectly paced. At no point in the reading did it lag or lose my interest. The snappy banter between Anna and Owen barely conceals the growing chemistry between them in an adversaries-to-lovers trope that evolves into sleuthing partners before pesky feelings show up to play and things get real. I loved these two and the way their relationship unfolded, especially with Anna's sister along for the ride. 


Let's talk about Wendy, Anna's bedridden-bored-out-of-her-mind-enornously-pregnant-with-triplets older sister. I adored the dynamics between these two. Love, snarky humor, exasperation...did I mention love? Their bond is unbreakable but also contains issues that need to be worked through. Such is the case when the older sibling has not only been your mother figure since birth but is also an unapologetic meddler/matchmaker (she just wants her sister to be happy!). Shalvis gives us all the emotion between the sisters, wrapping it up in a way that's poignant, relatable, and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Seriously, I lost count of the number of times I snort laughed when these two hit the page. 


There's also a mystery/adventure/treasure hunt element to this book that kept me on my toes right up to the breath-stealing conclusion. I'd like to see Shalvis do more of this. She's really good at it. 


And finally, is it really a Jill Shalvis book without an animal? I think not. Meet Turbo, Owen's big, fluffy, overly enthusiastic dog who is terrified of stairs, metal grates, and cats. I dare you to not fall in love with him. 


If you're looking for a fun getaway this summer, complete with romance, adventure, a bit of danger, snappy banter, laugh-out-loud humor, and endearing emotional depth, add The Summer Escape by Jill Shalvis to your reading list. It's a winner. 



Have you read Jill Shalvis?


Do you enjoy sibling dynamics in books?


Do you have a pet? I'd love to hear about him/her.



One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 16 will receive a print copy of The Summer Escape.


*U.S. only

*Must be 18

*Anonymous posters must include a name, screen name, or email address in their comment to be included in the giveaway.






 


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Review - - The Lady and the Thief

The Lady and the Thief
by Kate Moore
The Duke's Men - Book 1
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Release Date: June 13, 2024
Reviewed by PJ
 


In 1835 London, companion Vivian Bradish daringly pursues her dream of being a writer by researching and notating her ailing employer’s new book–A Guide to London for Fearless Women. Posing as a mark, Viv boldly enters a street known for pickpockets. When she’s attacked, she accidentally shoots the handsome gentleman who aids her. She brings the wounded stranger to her employer’s home for medical aid, but they are caught in a compromising situation, threatening Viv’s position and dreams.

Her would-be rescuer, Lark, was once a Lost Boy, part of a gang of street urchins and pickpockets rescued by the Duke of Wenlocke. Reformed, he’s now Edward Larkin, posing as a gentleman and searching for clues to his past. Meeting Viv is unexpected, and to save her position in the household, he proposes a fake betrothal.

To “court her,” Lark promises to guide her through the streets of the London she’s never seen so she can finish the book, never dreaming his impulse to help Viv will lead him to his lost family.


PJ's Thoughts:


Is it pure coincidence that I received an advance copy of this book shortly before visiting London for the first time? I think not. Reading this story about a young woman writing a walking guide to London for fearless women while, for the first time in my life, actually walking London was pure pleasure. I just wish I could have had her full guide at hand. And a Lark of my own to be my personal guide wouldn't have hurt either!


This feel-good first book in Kate Moore's new The Duke's Men series reeled me in within the first few pages and kept me invested in Viv's and Lark's story until the very end. Moore brought these characters to life in such a way that they felt real to me. I loved all of the peaks and valleys of their slow, endearing journey to love, from their rather startling first encounter, to a fake engagement, to an unexpected betrayal, and more. Viv's intrepid spirit and thirst for knowledge made me want to explore London with her while Lark's search for his past and determination to be a better man just made me want to hug him. I pulled so hard for these two. 


I am fully invested in Moore's lost boys who are now the Duke's men and am already looking forward to more books in this new series. If you enjoy your historical romance with plenty of adventure, lively characters, emotional depth, personal growth, and sweet romance, give The Lady and the Thief a try. I loved it. 




Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Review - - One Last Summer

One Last Summer
by Kate Spencer
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 11, 2024
Reviewed by PJ



Clara Millen’s life is spiraling out of control: her dream job is a nightmare, she’s resoundingly single, and it’s been years since she’s taken some time off. Thankfully, the last problem she can fix—this year she’ll join her friends on their annual summer vacation to their beloved childhood sleepover camp for a much-needed escape.

But when Clara arrives at Pine Lake Camp, she faces yet another unwelcome change: the owners are retiring and selling the property. The news turns her plans for revelry into a night of reminiscing . . . and prompts a surprise heart-to-heart between Clara and Mack, her old camp nemesis and constant competitor, who's still just as annoying (and 
annoyingly handsome). 

Soon the campfires aren't all that's throwing off sparks. And when one wildly passionate night turns into two (then too many to count!), Clara begins to wonder if she and Mack could have a future together. But when Clara's boss finally offers her everything she's worked so hard for, Clara will need to decide if the life she's always wanted is the life that makes her feel truly alive. 

PJ's Thoughts:

Sometimes, we have to revisit the past in order to figure out the present and find the right path for our future. That's what happens to Clara when she's forced into a break from work that she doesn't want and doesn't think she needs. What follows is a week of reunion that brings nostalgia, growth, mending of friendship fences, personal challenges, a frenemies-to-lovers romance, and, possibly, a new direction in life. 

This newest book from Kate Spencer checks so many boxes for me. Who among us hasn't burned out at some point? I know I have. Clara, desperately in need of a reset without realizing it, is such a relatable character. It put me firmly in her corner, urging her on as she slowly begins to confront each aspect of her life that needs to be addressed. 

I love the bonds of friendship among the former campers in this book. The relationships bring to mind people in my life who I may not see often but with whom I share memories, experiences, and the ability to pick up like no time has passed even if it's been years since we've been together. They also remind me to nurture those friendships.

Spencer put me smack dab in the heart of New Hampshire with her sense of place in this book. I could smell the crisp air, hear the calls of the loons, see the dark, star-filled sky, and feel the chill of the lake. It took me straight back to my own summer camp experiences and some of the happiest, adventure-filled weeks of my young years. I even found myself humming some of those tunes we would sing off-key around a roaring campfire and feeling the urge to toast up a gooey, melty, change-your-life, campfire banana boat. 

I enjoyed these characters, who are all well developed and have storylines of their own that are woven together with Clara's. The story is told from Clara's viewpoint and it's clear that she's the primary character but at no time did her friends feel "lesser" to me. I found myself invested in all of them. 

If you're looking for a feel-good story of friendship, taking stock of your life, and personal growth, with a light sprinkling of romance and a conclusion that leaves you smiling, add One Last Summer to your summer reading list. 


Winner - - Look on the Bright Side

 




The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

Look on the Bright Side by Kristan Higgins is:

dstoutholcomb

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Monday, June 10, 2024

Winner - - Isabel and the Rogue

 



The randomly chosen winner 

of a print copy of

Isabel and the Rogue by Liana De la Rosa is:

Meg

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Sunday, June 9, 2024

Winner - - The Crown Conspiracy

 




The randomly chosen winner

of a print copy of

The Crown Conspiracy by Connie Mann is:

catslady

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com



Saturday, June 8, 2024

Review & Giveaway - - Look on the Bright Side

Look on the Bright Side
by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 28, 2024
Reviewed by PJ



Lark Smith has always had a plan for her life: find a fantastic guy, create a marriage as blissful as her parents’, pop out a couple of kids and build a rewarding career as an oncologist.


Things aren’t going so well.

For one, the guy didn’t work out. Theoretically, she’d love to find someone else, but it hasn’t happened. Two, she’s just been transferred out of oncology for being too emotional. (Is it her fault she’s a weeper?) Three, her parents just split up.

Deviating from the plan was…well, not in the plan. A potential solution comes from the foul-tempered and renowned surgeon Lorenzo Santini (aka Dr. Satan). He needs a date this summer for his sister’s wedding. His ancient Noni wants to see him settled. In exchange, he could make a few introductions and maybe get Lark back into the field of her choice.

As a sucker for old people and fake relationships, Lark agrees. Teeny problem—she instantly falls for his big, warm family. Especially his estranged brother.

Meanwhile, Lark’s mom has moved in with Lark’s colorful landlady, Joy, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. The three women have a long summer and a big beautiful house on the ocean to figure out what’s next…and quite possibly learn that the best things in life aren’t planned at all.

PJ's Thoughts:

A Kristan Higgins book is guaranteed to touch all of my emotions and Look on the Bright Side certainly did that. First of all, how did I not know the Smith family (from last year's A Little Ray of Sunshine-read my review) would also be at the center of Look on the Bright Side? It was like walking into a room and being greeted by old friends, complete with hugs, huge smiles, and snide asides (every family has one). 

Three women, with intersecting storylines, all at a significant crossroads in her life, are at the heart of this book. Funny, sympathetic, flawed women reeling from grief and betrayal, questioning their life choices. In other words, relatable women. Real. Higgins skillfully guides them along their journeys, giving them opportunities to grow, discover new pathways, repair broken relationships, and heal their hearts. Maybe, even fall in love, repair a broken love, or discover the beauty of friendship. Higgins then surrounds them with a rich supporting cast who are much more than a character backdrop, offering up heartache and hilarity. *I feel compelled to add a reader warning here. Do not read Chapter 11 while consuming liquids or with a full bladder. You can thank me later.

How could I not toss my schedule out the window and spend an entire day losing myself in this story, in these characters? I couldn't resist. That's exactly what I did, sobbing on one page, snort laughing on the next, sighing with delight, then off to the races again until I emerged, grinning and heart happy, ready to go back to page one and do it all over again. That's the brilliance of Kristan Higgins. It's what she does. Every. Single. Time.

I should note that you don't need to have read A Little Ray of Sunshine to enjoy Look on the Bright Side though it will give you additional insight into some of the characters if you have. I enthusiastically recommend both books, in whichever order you choose to read them. 

Content Warning: death, cancer, emotional affair

Do you enjoy a book that takes you on an emotional journey but also makes you laugh out loud?

Have you read Kristan Higgins?

What books are on your summer must-read list?

One randomly chosen person posting a comment no later than 11:00, June 10 will receive a print copy of Look on the Bright Side.

*U.S. only
*Must be 18
*Anonymous comments must include a name or email address to be entered in the giveaway.