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Wed
Dec 21 2016 9:30am

Come Visit RaeAnne Thayne’s Small-Town Christmas Romances!

The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle by RaeAnnne Thayne

I am a fan of well-written romance fiction with small-town settings, and I love Christmas romances. It is hardly surprising then that I count RaeAnne Thayne’s Christmas books among my favorites. Thayne began her Cowboys of Cold Creek Special Edition series in 2006, and this month marks the publication of the fifteenth novel in the series. Eight of these books, including the last five, are Christmas romances set in and around Pine Gulch Idaho. The stories are linked not only by setting but also by the theme of Pine Gulch as sanctuary and/or retreat. As one character says, “People who come to Pine Gulch are either looking for something or running away.” For many of the people in Pine Gulch, Christmas is a time of painful loss and cruel memories, but in the small community, they find that Christmas can also bring healing and new beginnings.

[Read more...]

Sat
Dec 17 2016 4:35pm

Smile After Smile: Christmas with Children in Romance from Balogh, Morgan, and More!

Kiss Me, Santa by Karina Bliss

Karina Bliss mentioned in her most recent newsletter that she just reissued Kiss Me, Santa, her novella in Harlequin’s 2010 Christmas anthology, That Christmas Feeling. I own a print copy of the anthology, but I rushed to download a digital copy of the novella. (This Christmas season most of my reading is done Kindle Fire in hand.) Kiss Me, Santa is the kind of Christmas read I like best. The season is more than a backdrop, and the novel has a child in it—a believable kid who is all real-boy and who is integral to the story, a child of divorce who loves both his parents. I understand that many readers dislike children in romance fiction, but I am not one of them. I especially enjoy children in Christmas romances. For me, Christmas and kids go together like mistletoe and kisses; Christmas trees and A Charlie Brown Christmas music and “Silent Night” in my life...and the holiday romances I love.

I started my annual reread of Christmas favorites last month. Among those at the top of my Christmas TBR list are these top ten favorites with kids.

[Read more...]

Wed
Dec 14 2016 2:30pm

The Discovery of Self: The Identity Theme in Katharine Ashe’s Falcon Club Series

When a Scot Loves a Lady by Katharine Ashe

In When a Scot Loves a Lady, the first book in Katharine Ashe’s Falcon Club series, the hero, Leam Blackwood, says to the heroine Kitty Savege at their first meeting, “But things be not always whit thay seem.” That statement, which Kitty understands all too well and later repeats to herself, introduces a theme that is woven through the Falcon Club books, the original trio of novels and the two books in Ashe’s current Devil’s Duke series. Neither Leam nor Kitty is what they seem to be, and this will hold true for the protagonists of the four novels that follow as identities shift and meld and emerge. The theme reaches its richest complexity in The Earl, Ashe’s most recent novel.

Some of the identity theme is part and parcel of the Falcon Club with its secrets and code names that identify each agent in his or her role within the club and its activities. Another issue connected to the identity theme is parental influence. In The Rogue (Book 5), Colin Gray, the head agent, tells Lady Constance Read that she is her father’s daughter whether the likeness pleases her or not. Lady Emily Vane follows his comment with this statement: “We are all marked with our parents’ stamp ... It is the manner in which we cast off those marks that defines us.” Repeatedly in these five books, the reader sees that characters are shaped in significant ways by the presence—or absence—of a parent in their lives.

[Read more...]

Sun
Dec 11 2016 1:00pm

We Wish You A Jo Beverley Christmas

Star of Wonder by Jo Beverley

One of my favorite Christmas rituals is rereading Christmas books from my keeper shelves. For more than two decades, Jo Beverley has been part of this tradition. I start with the novellas. Any reader who has followed Ms. Beverley over her career knows that she loved writing medievals, and her Christmas stories affirm that love. Two of her novellas, “Day of Wrath,” first published in Star of Wonder (1999), and “The Wise Virgin,” first published in The Brides of Christmas (1999), are set in the medieval period.  They are an unusual mix of violence, romance, and Christmases quite different from the ones we know. “Day of Wrath” (retitled “Star of Wonder” in the e-book boxed set Mistletoe Kisses and Yuletide Joy) takes place in 999. Wulfhera of Foxton leaves her convent amid the chaos of Viking raids and millennium expectations of the Second Coming of Christ to return to her home where turmoil has overtaken it as well. Raefnoth Eldrunson, the man she loved and lost, has become an embittered widower consumed with guilt and a thirst for revenge. Hera’s own family is scattered, with her father near death, her eldest brother in Rome, and her younger sister besotted with an enemy. Can even the legendary star sapphire necklace of which Hera has sung bring happiness from all this misery? “The Wise Virgin” is set later in the period, but it is no less fierce. When Joan of Hawes secretly replaces her cousin Lady Nicolette de Montelan as the Blessed Virgin in the traditional Christmas pageant, it is Joan who ends up kidnapped by the celebrated Edmund de Grave, the Golden Lion, “[b]eautiful as St Michael, brave as St George, protector of the weak, defender of the right.” Not only does the kidnapping mean that Nicolette’s pregnancy will be revealed, but it also means the generations old feud between Joan’s family and the de Graves will likely erupt into another battle. But when a sharp-tongued lady and a legendary warrior spend Christmas Eve trapped together in a cave, the spirit of the season may bring unexpected peace and love.

[Read more...]

Tue
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...]

Mon
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...]

Tue
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...]

Mon
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...]

Wed
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...]

Mon
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 ...]

Mon
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 ...]

Sun
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 ...]

Thu
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 ...]

Tue
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...]

Mon
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? ...]

Sat
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...]

Thu
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...]

Thu
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 ...]

Tue
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 ...]

Mon
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...]