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Nov 15 2016 12:00pm

First Look: Theresa Romain’s My Scandalous Duke (November 15, 2016)

My Scandalous Duke by Theresa Romain

Theresa Romain
My Scandalous Duke
Theresa Romain / November 15, 2016 / $2.99 digital

After three years of widowhood, Eleanor Palmer is ready for a second marriage. The first time she married the younger son of an earl, “the most flashy, dashing rogue in London,” after three season of vainly hoping Nicholas Bradford, heir to the Duke of Hampshire, would look at her with something other than friendship. This time Eleanor is ready for respectability, stability, and children. She has no illusions that Nicholas, now the Duke of Hampshire, will be more than a good friend. The man she is looking for will be “the most proper, the stolidest, the most staid man possible,” the very opposite of the scandalous duke.

Theresa Romain uses color throughout her novella to contrast the life Eleanor has been living and the life she thinks she wants with the vibrant life that love can offer. The prodigality of her husband forced her to give up the fashionable wardrobe of her girlhood and make do with refurbished gowns during her eight years of marriage. After her husband’s death Eleanor dyed her worn gowns the black of deep mourning. Nicholas thinks of them as “Plain and jetty, they bled the color from her face and made her look wan.” More recently, she has worn half-mourning: “Some were dyed again in grays and lavenders—wan colors for a widow’s half-life.”

[Read more...]

Nov 14 2016 9:30am

First Look: Terri Osburn’s Her Hopes and Dreams (November 15, 2016)

Her Hopes and Dreams by Terri Osburn

Terri Osburn
Her Hopes and Dreams (Ardent Springs #4)
Montlake / November 15, 2016 / $12.95 print, $4.99 digital

A love for strong heroines is a frequent refrain in discussions of romance fiction, but strength can be measured in many ways. In Terri Osburn’s Her Hopes and Dreams, Carrie Farmer, who has been a cheating wife with husband #1 and a battered wife with husband #2, defies the odds to become an admirable heroine, one who can stand up for herself, fight for those she loves, and reach out to help those who are where she has been find a place of sanctuary.

Carrie has been a widow for a year when the story opens. She has a job she likes, a young daughter she adores, friends who care about her, and real purpose in her commitment to seeing a women’s shelter in Ardent Springs, Tennessee. She takes pride in her home, a single-wide trailer on a patch of land she bought with the life insurance of Patch Farmer, the husband who could have killed her. Carrie is not unaware of the irony of that purchase nor of the irony that she escaped from her abuser through the help extended by the woman now married to Spencer Boyd, Carrie’s ex-husband (Her First and Last, Ardent Springs #1). Despite all the good things in Carrie’s life, she is not free of her past. She says to her friend Lorelei Boyd, “Even after a year, Patch is like this specter that hovers in the shadows, waiting to pounce. I know he’s gone, but the fear was so real for so long.”

[Read more...]

May 31 2016 12:00pm

First Look: Nancy Herkness’s The All-Star Antes Up (May 31, 2016)

The All-Star Antes Up by Nancy Herkness

Nancy Herkness
The All-Star Antes Up (Wager of Hearts # 2)
Montlake / May 31, 2016 / $9.98 print, $4.99 digital

“No strings, no rings.” That’s Luke Archer’s motto. As the champion quarterback for the New York Empire—not to mention a self-made billionaire—Luke has given up on serious relationships. Women only want him for one thing: the thrill of being with a superstar. And he likes it that way too. But when his best friend announces he’s retiring from football to spend time with his wife and kids, Luke feels like he’s missing out on something much bigger than his career.

The assistant concierge in Luke’s luxury high-rise, Miranda Tate fled her family’s dairy farm to come to the bright lights of New York City. She works hard to move up and sends her spare earnings home to her brother. When she and Luke meet, there’s an instant sexual attraction which turns steamy quickly, but they’re in completely different leagues. Could Miranda be just the woman Luke needs to win the most important game of his life?

In this second novel of her Wager of Hearts series, Nancy Herkness crafts a character who proves that a man doesn’t have to wear a mask or a cape or possess a single supernatural gift to be a super hero who is the stuff of fantasy. If Luke Archer needs credentials to affirm his super status, four Super Bowl rings and two Heisman Trophies may serve. More significantly for romance readers, he possesses the qualities they most desire in their heroes.

[Oh and we desire him a lot...]

May 23 2016 11:00am

First Look: Liz Talley’s Charmingly Yours (May 24, 2016)

Charmingly Yours by Liz Talley

Liz Talley 
Charmingly Yours (Morning Glory #1)
Montlake / May 24, 2016 / $9.50 print, $3.99 digital

Charmingly Yours is an appealing play on the charm bracelet that serves as catalyst in Liz Talley’s new series, and the title also hints at the charm of Morning Glory, Mississippi, hometown of the heroine. But the title fails to suggest Talley’s substantive exploration of the will to risk that is required to break free from familial tethers that makes this novel more than just another sweet, small-town romance.

Rosemary Reynolds loves her hometown where, except for her college years, she has spent all of her twenty-seven years.

Morning Glory was a way of life. It was sweet tea and porch swings. Mayhaw jelly in a mason jar and fireflies dotting the night.  Morning Glory was Sunday Morning church bells, gossip at Dean’s Diner, and traditions that didn’t make sense but were carried out regardless because that’s the way it was.

[And that's the way it was gonna stay...]

May 4 2016 11:00am

From My Mother’s Bookshelves: Celebrate Mother’s Day with Classic Romance

My love affair with romance fiction began more than half a century ago with books borrowed from my mother’s bookshelves. The summer I turned ten, my mother, weary of my whining about being bored and having nothing to read, pointed me toward her bookshelves and ordered me to find something to read. I found Emilie Loring.

Love Came Laughing By by Emilie Loring

Loring’s is not a name frequently mentioned in romance fiction circles these days, but over a million copies of her romance novels were in print by the time of her death in 1951 (a number of years before my tenth summer). Loring’s novels would be classified as “kisses only” by today’s standards, but they seemed quite daring to a ten-year-old in a more innocent age. I still remember my shocked delight at one scene in a marriage-of-convenience tale when the hero plunged his hand down the heroine’s housecoat (far more glamorous apparel than the humble noun suggests) to retrieve a key she had dropped there to prevent his venturing into danger. I read a dozen or so Loring books that summer, I remember the titles—Here Comes the Sun (1924), The Solitary Horseman (1927), Today is Yours (1938), Love Came Laughing By (1949)—but details of characters and plots are beyond the scope of memory. What I do remember is the joy I found in the independent heroines, the strong heroes, and the happily-ever-after endings, qualities that I still look for in my romance reading all these years later.

[That's some staying power...]

Apr 11 2016 8:30am

First Look: Miranda Neville’s Secrets of a Soprano (April 11, 2016)

Secrets of a Soprano by Miranda Neville

Miranda Neville
Secrets of a Soprano
Miranda Neville / April 11, 2016 / $11.99 print,  $3.99 digital

Teresa Foscari, Europe’s most famous opera singer, comes to London to make a fresh start and find her long lost English family. Her peerless voice thrills everyone—except Maximilian Hawthorne, Viscount Allerton, the wealthy owner of a rival opera house. Notorious Teresa Foscari is none other than Tessa, the innocent girl who broke his youthful heart. Yet Max still wants her, like no other woman.

Amidst backstage intrigue and the sumptuous soirées of fashionable London, the couple’s rivalry explodes in bitter accusations and smashed china. Tessa must fight for her career—and resist her attraction to Max, the man she once loved and who now holds the power to destroy her.

Miranda Neville puts a new spin on the celebrity romance in this reunion story of a celebrated soprano and the man who captured her heart and broke it when she was simply Tessa Birkett, more than a decade before she became La Divina. Neville gives her readers not only an emotionally rich romance but also a look at the world of opera at a time when the public’s fascination with the stars of opera paralleled contemporary obsession with rock stars and top box-office draws. La Divina’s first appearance in England has London agog for details of her rages, her love affairs, and her jewels, particularly those presented to her by the Tsar of Russia and the Emperor of France. Behavior that would bar someone else from polite society leaves a hostess gloating over the success of her event when La Davina is the source.

Pressure grabbed her chest like a giant fist and the room and all its inhabitants dissolved into a blur of light and color. Heat flushed her bare shoulders and neck and her fingers tingled with fear. One hand clenched tight enough to feel her nails digging into her palms through her glove as the other snatched a glass from the grasp of an astonished bystander.

Her aim was never very good with her left hand. The crystal wine glass hit a silk brocade drapery and slid to the floor, miraculously unbroken. But the gesture wasn’t entirely in vain. A carmine stain spread over Lord Allerton’s white linen neckcloth and gray embroidered waistcoat.

[Sing my love praises ...]

Dec 21 2015 2:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2015, Part 2

Radiance by Grace Draven

Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.

It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 2 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1, and stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4:

Maggie Boyd:

My number one pick for Best of 2015 is Radiance by Grace Draven. I've re-read this book numerous times since purchasing it and have recommended it to anyone who stands still long enough to listen. It's the story of an arranged marriage between two different species - Brishen Khaskem is a prince of the Kai, a second son whose only marital worth is to secure an allegiance. Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, is valuable only as a pawn in a strategic marriage. To the Kai, the Gauri look repellent with their round eyes, square teeth and mollusk colored skin. To the Gauri the Kai look like monsters with their razor sharp claws, fang like teeth and eel like coloring. But brave hearts and compassionate souls are the makeup of our hero and heroine and they forge a bond that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with love.

[More greats reads for the end of the year ...]

Dec 20 2015 10:30am

Wishing You a Mary Christmas: Mary Balogh Holiday Stories, 2015 Edition

A Regency Christmas III by Mary Balogh, Sandra Heath, Melinda McRae, Edith Layton, and Mary Jo Putney

This week I changed my playlist to my Christmas setting. Most of the songs on the list I have heard countless times, but listening to them again always leaves me with a smile on my face, a lump in my throat, and a feeling that, to borrow a phrase from Dickens, I am honoring Christmas in my heart. Mary Balogh’s Christmas stories give me the same feeling. It is hardly surprising then that I started my Christmas celebration a little early this year by downloading Christmas Gifts and Christmas Miracles, two newly reissued collections of Balogh’s Christmas novellas. With these six stories and the four included in Balogh’s 2003 collection Under the Mistletoe, all ten of Balogh’s novellas from Signet Regency Christmas anthologies are now available.

Christmas Gifts includes “The Best Christmas Ever” (1991, A Regency Christmas III), “The Porcelain Madonna” (1992, A Regency Christmas IV), and “The Surprise Party” (1995, A Regency Christmas VII). All three have a poignant note, feature children, and end with unexpected gifts.

In the first story, Edwin Gwent, Viscount Radbrook, only son of the Earl and Countess of Crampton, is concerned because his five-year-old daughter Anna does not join her cousins in the family tradition of making a Christmas wish before the fire the night before Christmas Eve. Anna has not spoken since her mother accidentally drowned trying to retrieve Anna’s ball. That happened more than two years ago, and Anna, who lost her voice after screaming for two days, has lived in silence since then. However, she has other ways of making her preferences known, and she makes it clear she prefers Miss Emma Milford to the beautiful Miss Chadwick whom her father is considering as his next bride. Anna’s undeclared wish was for a new mama, “someone very quiet and ordinary. Someone who smells of roses. Someone with soft, slim hands.” But Emma shattered Lord Radbrook’s heart nine years ago when she allowed her parents to persuade her to reject the young viscount’s offer of marriage. Even his daughter’s inexplicable choice of Emma’s company is not enough to make Lord Radbrook risk his heart—and his pride—again, but Christmas can work magic in the hearts of small children and in the scarred hearts of adults as well.

[Balogh has a special place for Christmas and it reads well ...]

Dec 17 2015 2:30pm

Dancing Under the Mistletoe: Top 3 2015 Historical Christmas Anthologies

The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Anne Gracie, Patricia Rice, Cara Elliott, and Susan King

Historical Christmas anthologies are among my most anticipated holiday treats. They are the perfect reading for the season because I can read a full story between baking batches of Christmas goodies, while waiting for more energetic family members to race through one more store at the mall, or while enjoying a cup of spiced cider before gift wrapping. In the digital age, these anthologies have increased in number. I have read a dozen or so this year and have found something to please my romance-loving, Christmas-cherishing taste in most of them, but three earned a spot on my Christmas keeper shelf so that I can reread them during holiday seasons to come.

1. The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Joanna Bourne, Nicola Cornick, Anne Gracie, Patricia Rice, Cara Elliott, and Susan King

This is the second anthology from this group known collectively as the blogging Word Wenches, and it is my favorite of this year’s offerings. I think it is even better than their first anthology, Mischief and Mistletoe. The prologue (written by Jo Beverley) opens with the Dowager Countess of Holbourne, familiarly known as Lady Holly, reminiscing about past Christmas balls as her companion writes invitations to the fiftieth such ball. Lady Holly, who takes pride in the matches made at her balls, has carefully included on her guest list those she deems most in need of a match. In fact, some might say that the Christmas ball is their last chance for an HEA.

One strength of this anthology is the bounty of good stories—eight of them. Another is that the voice of each author comes through clearly.

[HEA's for the holidays ...]

Dec 15 2015 9:30am

First Look: Bliss Bennet’s A Man Without a Mistress (December 15, 2015)

A Man without a Mistress by Bliss BennetBliss Bennet
A Man Without a Mistress
Bliss Bennet / December 15, 2015 / $3.99 digital

In the second book of her Penningtons series, Bliss Bennet gives readers a heroine who refuses to accept the neatly labeled box into which her culture and her family try to force her. Sibilla Pennington has her own idea of what her life should be, and it does not include marriage. Her aunt and her brothers are all committed to seeing her safely wed, trusting that marriage will tame her unconventional ways, but Sibilla, reared by a politically astute father to become a political hostess deftly advancing the cause of “temperate reform,” is determined to keep her promise to her dying father. She believes that she can persuade Theo, her eldest brother, to take his place in the House of Lords, following in their father’s footsteps as a respected and able politician. She plans to serve as her brother’s hostess. Her marriage is unnecessary.

Yes, I’ll see that Theo takes up the cause in your stead, she’d whispered by her father’s   deathbed. And I won’t forget it, either. Not like Jane Carson, and Cissy Hubbard, and the others who abandoned politics as soon as they married. Husband and household, bedding, breeding, and babies—it all left wives far too little time for any pursuit beyond the domestic. No, far better to remain right here at Pennington House, working by her brother’s side, than to risk taking on a husband.

[Enter Sir Peregrine Sayre...]

Nov 9 2015 12:30pm

First Look: Terri Osburn’s Our Now and Forever (November 10, 2015)

Our Now and Forever by Terri Osburn

Terri Osburn
Our Now and Forever (Ardent Springs #2)
Montlake / November 10, 2015 / $9.99 print, $5.49 digital

When Caleb McGraw sweeps Snow Cameron off her feet, she never expects their whirlwind romance to lead to a Vegas wedding chapel. Before she can catch her breath, Caleb starts talking kids and college funds while his wealthy parents make their disapproval painfully clear. Convinced she was blinded by lust, not love, Snow takes off for Ardent Springs, Tennessee, two months into the marriage.

Heir to a media conglomerate, Caleb never experienced struggle or rejection, until Snow sends him on a wild hunt for his runaway bride. When he finally finds her—managing a curiosity shop beloved by the quirky locals—she agrees to give the marriage another chance, but on one condition: no sex for a month. Can their love stand the test, or will they give in to their attraction.

In this humorous and heartwarming Ardent Springs romance, two lost hearts start over in a town where everyone deserves a second chance and love always wins in the end.

Small-town romance novels are filled with characters who return home to reunite with a former love and live happily ever after. In fact, that is exactly what happened in His First and Last, the first book in Terri Osburn’s Ardent Springs series, but in Our Now and Forever, the second book, two people from separate worlds find a world they can share and in which their love can thrive in Ardent Springs.

[How long can you go without? ...]

Nov 7 2015 3:45pm

Sparkle with Substance: The Romance Novels of Tessa Dare

The Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa DareMany readers first became aware of Tessa Dare when she was competing in Avon’s first FanLit contest in 2006. Dare went on to take top honors in that competition. Her winning entry “Forget Me Not” was published in the HarperCollins e-book These Wicked Games, and her debut novel, Goddess of the Hunt, was published three years later by Ballantine Books. 

Critical reception was enthusiastic, with Goddess of the Hunt receiving starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and a Top Pick from Romantic Times. Dare’s deft characterization, her wit and humor, and sensual appeal all earned praise. PW observed, “Dare seems to have fit all the best of romance into one novel.” Goddess of the Hunt was named Best First Historical Romance in the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice awards and appeared on the American Library Association’s 2009 “Reading List” for outstanding genre fiction.

RT declared that Dare was “on the path to stardom,” and readers were just as enthusiastic. They chose Dare as 2009 Debut Author of the Year in the annual poll at All About Romance, and Dare generated considerable buzz on social media. Although Surrender of a Siren and A Lady of Persuasion, the other books in the series that came to be known as the Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy, did not generate the love that Goddess of the Hunt received, they earned generally high marks, and Dare’s wit and humor were widely praised.

Dare’s use of humor is definitely a significant part of her appeal for me. Like other Dare fans, I can point to favorite scenes that make her one of my top authors for the humorous romance. One such scene is the opening of Goddess of the Hunt in which Lucy Waltham decides that her old friend Jeremy Trescott, Earl of Kendall, is the perfect partner with whom to practice her seduction skills. Jeremy’s reaction—well, I’ll let the scene speak to that.

[And what a scene it is...]

Oct 22 2015 12:00pm

First Look: Sally Kilpatrick’s Bittersweet Creek (October 27, 2015)

Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick

Sally Kilpatrick
Bittersweet Creek
Kensington / October 27, 2015 / $15.00 print, $10.99 digital

From the author of The Happy Hour Choir comes a Romeo and Juliet story with Southern flair—witty, warm, and as complex and heart-wrenching as only love and family can be.

For a century and a half, the Satterfield and McElroy farms have been separated by a narrow creek and a whole lot of bad blood. Both sides have done their share of damage. But the very worst crime either family can commit is to fall in love with the enemy. As teenagers, Romy Satterfield and Julian McElroy did exactly that. Then, on the night they were secretly married by a justice of the peace, Julian stood Romy up.

Ten years later, Romy is poised to marry the scion of one of Nashville's most powerful families. First she has to return home to Ellery to help her injured father—and to finalize her divorce. For Julian, seeing Romy again brings into relief the secrets he's kept and the poison that ran through his childhood. Romy has missed the farm and the unpretentious, downright nosy townsfolk. In spite of her efforts, she's also missed Julian. But though she suspects there's more to that long-ago night than Julian ever revealed, the truth will either drive her away for good, or reveal what is truly worth fighting for. . .

If you mixed Romeo and Juliet with The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, added a bit of Sweet Home Alabama for levity, and then set the mix to a soundtrack that included repeats of Kenny and Dolly singing “Islands in the Stream,” you might end up with something approaching Sally Kilpatrick's Bittersweet Creek. Romy Satterfield even refers to herself and Julian McElroy as “star-crossed lovers.” After all, their families have been neighbors and enemies since before the Civil War, and a long history of fights, fires, and deaths testifies to the enmity.

[Lots of drama to look forward to...]

Sep 17 2015 12:30pm

The Adventures of Sam and Nick: Marie Force’s Fatal Series

Fatal Affair by Marie Force

Note: This post may contain spoilers for all books in Marie Force's Fatal series. We tried to be careful, but sometimes you just can't contain explaining just how awesome a couple is, and in the case of Sam and Nick, well, that meant revealing a few tidbits. Reader beware!

No list of my favorite fictional couples would be complete without Marie Force’s Sam and Nick. In late May 2010, Carina Press published Fatal Affair, the first book in Force’s Fatal series which features Nicholas Cappuano, best friend and chief of staff for Senator John O’Connor, and Detective Sergeant Samantha Holland of the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department. When the popular young senator is brutally murdered and Sam is assigned to the case, she chooses not to disclose that she and Nick had a memorable close encounter of the intimate kind six years earlier. (The novella, One Night with You, released in June 2015, tells the story of their one night stand.)

Sam’s career took a hit when a child was killed in a shoot-out Sam ordered at a crack house.  She needs to stay on this high profile case and solve it for herself, her chief, and her department to offset the negative press they have received since the shoot-out went awry. She tells herself that her relationship with Nick will remain strictly professional during the case, but the chemistry between the two is as explosive as the case itself.  From the moment Sam learns the identity of the victim, she is “surprised and unsettled to discover the memory of [Nick] still had power over her, that just the sound of his name rolling off her lips could make her heart race.”  Nick’s awareness of Sam is no less powerful. Even in his shock and grief, he can’t help wondering where they might be if she had received his messages after that one memorable night.

[Adventures with Fatal's Sam and Nick ...]

Sep 15 2015 3:30pm

First Look: Connie Brockway’s Highlander Undone (September 15, 2015)

Connie Brockway
Highlander Undone
Montlake / September 15, 2015 / $6.98 print, $4.99 digital

While recovering at his uncle’s estate from wounds sustained in the Sudan, Jack Cameron—a loyal Scottish captain in the British army—is haunted by the words of a dying officer: one of Her Majesty’s Black Dragoons is aiding the slavers they were sent to suppress. But how will he find the traitor without sending the culprit to ground? He finds a way while listening to the voices beneath his open window—particularly those of Addie Hoodless, a beautiful widow, and her brother, Ted, a famed artist commissioned to paint portraits of the Black Dragoons’ senior officers.

Posing as an artist, Jack decides to infiltrate the close circle of friends at Ted’s studio to listen in on the unguarded conversations of the officers. But first, he must win Addie’s trust despite the emotional wounds of her past. Will Jack dupe the only woman he has ever loved or stand down from hunting the traitor? If his real identity is exposed, Addie’s life will be in terrible danger.

Several years ago, Bookbug on the Web asked around 200 romance authors what qualities a hero should always have. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequent answers across subgenres was a strong sense of honor. If honor is essential for a character to be considered hero material, what happens when a hero is faced with a choice that forces him to violate his honor no matter what he does? This is the situation in which Jack Cameron finds himself.

[He is the definiton of a hero ...]

Aug 24 2015 8:30am

First Look: Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the Knot (August 25, 2015)

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare
When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After #3)
Avon / August 25, 2015 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

In When a Scot Ties the Knot, the third novel of her Castles Ever After series (after Romancing the Duke and Say Yes to the Marquess), Tessa Dare chooses a liar and a blackmailer as her heroine and hero—not exactly what readers expect of the lead characters in a Regency historical romance. Madeline Eloise Gracechurch is a most atypical heroine in ways other than her less than faithful adherence to truth. Rather than having aspirations of becoming a belle, she is a Cinderella wannabe.

Oh, to be Cinderella in all her soot-smeared, rag-clad misery. Maddie would have been thrilled to have a wicked stepmother lock her in the tower while everyone else went to the ball. Instead, she was stuck with a very different sort of stepmother—one eager to dress her in silks, send her to dances, and thrust her into the arms of an unsuspecting prince.

[Maddie prefers Cinderella over belle...]

Aug 23 2015 1:30pm

First Look: Robyn Carr’s Wildest Dreams (August 25, 2015)

Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point #9)
Mira / August 25, 2015 / $8.99 print, $6.99 digital

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he's never had. In the quiet coastal town he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes. 

Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son, Charlie, are fixtures at Winnie Banks' house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, Lin Su is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie's health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions she doesn't want to answer. 

When Charlie enlists Blake's help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue, and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

Robyn Carr may not have invented the small-town romance, but she certainly qualifies as one of the most successful authors in the popular subgenre. Her breakout Virgin River series was introduced in 2007 with a trilogy: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, and Whispering Rock. By the time the series ended in 2012, annual sales had reached almost 2.2 million copies in print and digital, and Carr had moved from a midlist author to a perennial bestseller. The following year Carr introduced the Thunder Point series with The Wanderer, The Newcomer, and The Hero. In the first book, Hank Cooper, former Army helicopter pilot, arrives in Thunder Point after spending time in Virgin River with his friend Luke Riordan (Temptation Ridge, Virgin River #6).

[Small town love needs a strong community...]

Jun 9 2015 10:00am

First Look: Mary Balogh’s Only a Promise (June 9, 2015)

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh
Only a Promise (Survivor's Club #5)
Signet / June 9, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on...and find a wife so as to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes an outrageous suggestion: Strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

In the fifth book in her Survivors’ Club series, Mary Balogh proves that she can take a marriage of convenience, one of the oldest and most frequently used tropes in romance fiction, and create a story that is original and unmistakably Balogh. Only a Promise is a tale of two unhappy people uncertain of their very identities who marry with limited expectations and in the process discover themselves as well as a happily-ever-after.

[How deep do the vows go?]

Jun 2 2015 8:30am

First Look: Anne Gracie’s The Spring Bride (June 2, 2015)

The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie
The Spring Bride (Chance Sisters #3)
Berkley / June 2, 2015 / $7.99 print, $7.99 digital

On the eve of the London Season, Jane Chance is about to make her entrance into high society. And after a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane intends to make a good, safe, sensible marriage. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog.

Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable—a former spy, now in disguise, he’s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane Chance for his own.

If that means blazing his way into London society, in whatever guise suits him, that’s what he’ll do. Jane knows she shouldn’t fall in love with this unreliable, if devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined—and he‘s a man accustomed to getting what he wants.

Anne Gracie channels Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and fairy tales, most obviously Cinderella, in this third book of her Chance Sisters series, and the result is an enchanting story in which the hero and heroine save one another. 

Gracie uses quotations from the novels of Jane Austen as epigrams for each chapter, and early in the story Jane Chance first encounters Zachary Black in an episode involving a rescued mutt that would have delighted Heyer’s Arabella, who understands the appeal of unprepossessing, endangered canines. However, it is the fairy tale theme that is woven into the story in a fashion that both evokes and subverts the original tales.

[The story goes on...]

May 21 2015 4:00pm

First Look: Shannon Stacey’s Under the Lights (May 26, 2015)

Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey

Shannon Stacey
Under the Lights (Boys of Fall #1)
Jove / May 26, 2015 / $7.99 print & digital

They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…

Chase Sanders’s life has taken a lot of crazy turns lately. But returning to his hometown to help his old coach keep his high school football team afloat might be the craziest thing to happen to him yet. That is, until he starts falling for the last person he should—Coach’s gorgeous daughter…

Kelly McDonnell learned the hard way that cocky, charming men are nothing but trouble, so she knows Chase is bad news. Still, she can’t resist his smile—or the rest of him. But when his loyalty to her father conflicts with their growing attraction, any hope for a relationship might be blocked before it can even begin…

Shannon Stacey adds a new twist to the sports romance with her Boys of Fall series in which the heroes are not professional athletes or even college stars (current or former), but rather former members of a high school football team that won the first championship for tiny Stewart Mills, New Hampshire. Fourteen years later, the town is suffering from the economic downturn, and one result is a tight education budget that means cutting the football team. Kelly McDonnell, daughter of the town’s beloved football coach, and her friends Jen Cooper and Gretchen Walker spearhead a fundraising effort to save the team with a festival that includes an exhibition game between the current team and members of that first championship team. Although the romance between Kelly and Chase Sanders, running back on that famous team, is the heart of Under the Lights, the novel is also a portrait of football and its role in small-town America.

[A little football and small town romance goes a long way...]