Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Book Review: The MacKinnon's Bride, by Tanya Anne Crosby

The MacKinnon's Bride (The Highland Brides, Book 1) by Tanya Anne Crosby
Published December 2017, 3rd edition, by Oliver-Heber Books

About the Book:

From a New York Times Bestselling Author, The MacKinnon's Bride brings us love, honor, suspense, passion--all the good things we love in a Highlander Romance.
When laird Iain MacKinnon's young son is captured by the English, the fierce Scottish chieftain retaliates in kind, capturing the daughter of his enemy to bargain for his boy's return. Fiercely loyal to kin, Iain never imagines a father can deny his child--or that he will become Page FitzSimon's savior. "Keep her, or kill her!" FitzSimon proclaims when Iain forces his hand. What can a good lad do, but take the lass home. Even as Page blames her reluctant champion for welching on a bargain with her father, she suspects the truth... the shadows hold secrets... and danger. Now only love can save MacKinnon's fiery new bride.
My Take:

It might be that I'm jonesing for the next season of Highlander to return to my television screen, but I thoroughly enjoyed this Scottish Highlands tale of romance and adventure, including the phonetic brogue and all.

The romance between Iain and Page starts as a kidnapping, the Scottish clan hoping to ransom Iain's small boy away from his English captors. Things don't work out the way they'd anticipated, as the English lord doesn't love his daughter like a father should. It may sound far fetched, but it works wonderfully in the context of the  story and the heat of the moment.

Okay, maybe that particular moment wasn't "heated" in the way romance readers prefer, but trust me. This story has plenty of heat.

Page FitzSimon is strong-willed and independent, as well as utterly rebellious, unusual traits for an English highborn maid of the  period. But it makes perfect sense in context, as her father has dissed her for her entire life and treated her as a servant rather than a daughter. She's a great character, and her inner journey is wonderful to follow as she learns to trust the men around her, and her own feelings. I'll admit that she had a lot more depth than the hero did, as he was a lot more of a stereotypical alpha male Highlander - which, okay, is pretty hot all by itself. But he was also kind and caring and great with his son, and very respectful of Page's feelings and situation. Trust me, it all works well and I flew through this book in way less than a day, albeit a rainy, windy day where I was pretty much housebound anyway, but the pages practically turned themselves.

Oh, and this is the first book of a 6 book series (!) if that helps you make up your mind....

Totally recommend. Grab a copy on AMAZON

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Please forgive my absence....

I know I've been missing in action for several posts now, with no explanation. I thought I'd post one, and then start moving on, back to my routine next week.

As per usual, life got in the way. (If you have to let things go to focus, blogging is usually at the top of the "ignore it" list, am I right?)   My mother-in-law underwent major surgery this week, and so far so good, she seems to be recovering well. My sister-in-law has been wonderful in the hands-on decision making as well as keeping everyone in the loop. My husband has been a bit of a wreck, but trying to hold it together. I'm focused on helping any way I can.

I'm taking a little time this morning to clean up my half-finished posts and reschedule them for next week and beyond. Thanks for your understanding.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday Book Review: Can't Stand the Heat, by Peggy Jaeger

Can't Stand the Heat (Will Cook for Love, Book 3) by Peggy Jaeger
Published April 2018 by Lyrical Shine, a division of Kensington Publishing

About the Book:
In Peggy Jaeger’s delectable series, delicious food is just an appetizer for life’s main course: the kind of love that feeds your soul.

With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .

Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .
My Take:

Peggy Jaeger delivers once again, with a captivating contemporary romance full of slow burn chemistry that sizzles off the page. If you haven't read one of Ms. Jaeger's books yet, you're in for a treat! If you're already a fan, Can't Stand the Heat will not disappoint.

First though, can I complain a little about the cover art?

I may be overly picky, but Kensington is a big name publisher, right? I'd like to think that the cover artists try to reflect the characters in the actual story. The blonde on this cover kind of resembles the Stacy in my imagination (except, of course, you can see her forearm, which she Always wears long sleeves, for reasons we discover halfway through the story, so bit of incongruity there.) But the guy? No way. He's not Nikko. First of all, he's supposed to tower over Stacy, not be the same height. And second? He's too young.

Okay, rant over. Back to the good stuff - the story. The characters. The lyrical way Ms. Jaeger writes, describing emotions and inner turmoil so precisely that the reader feels it swirling through themselves as well as the characters.

The story takes place in Montana during the hottest part of the summer, where a seasoned television crew has taken over a cattle ranch to film a reality television show titled Beef Battles. The director is a notoriously hotheaded perfectionist who's already fired two executive producers and is already overbudget. The network executives make a deal with Stacy Peters to rein it all in and make it work. She's a young but seasoned food network EP who's already made a name for herself as a miracle worker with fast-paced and/or troubled productions. If she can work her magic with Beef Battles, the network has promised creative control over a show of her own.

Nikko Stamp is an unrepentant perfectionist with control issues dialed to the max, and no time to waste with "babysitters" sent by the network to slow him down or question his vision. He and Stacy get off to quite the rocky start, but she surprises him at every turn by staying calm, cool, and professional, despite his angry outbursts, despite the diva judges, and despite the near constant 100 degree heat of a Montana July. On top of that, the woman pushes buttons he thought had long ago died, making him want things he thinks he doesn't deserve or have time for.

On top of the issues with the show, Nikko's troubled teenage daughter is staying with him on set. It's been two years since her mother died in a car accident where Nikko was driving and also badly injured. It was almost too late when Nikko realized she'd developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for the uncertainty and upheaval in her life, and now can't let her out of his sight.

The story has many layers, each so interesting and woven together with the rest like a multi-hued tapestry. I could have happily read a longer version of this book, where more scenes were played out between the minor characters and other storylines pursued more fully. The behind-the-scenes views of the reality cooking show were so much fun, especially where my son and I watch so many of them on cable already. But this isn't just a "reality television" romance. I've read several of those in the past. This one is more.

The main focus of this story is the relationship between Stacy and Nikko. How two broken people with pain and secrets can learn to trust one another, both in a professional capacity as well as personal. How a people-pleaser and an angry hothead can come together to create chemistry that sizzles off the page. How love can heal, if you give it a chance.

Totally recommend this book and this entire series. Grab a copy now on AMAZON

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from CAN'T STAND THE HEAT, #new from Peggy Jaeger

In Peggy Jaeger’s delectable series, delicious food is just an appetizer for life’s main course: the kind of love that feeds your soul. 
With three successful TV series under her belt, including her cousin Kandy’s, executive producer Stacy Peters is ready to helm her own show. But to make that happen, she has to do her network boss one favor first—spend two months on a ranch in Montana wrangling the notoriously difficult director of Beef Battles. Apparently, he eats producers for breakfast. Yet all Stacy can think when she meets the lean, rugged man is how hungry he makes her . . .
Dominic Stamp—Nikko to his very few friends—has had enough interference from TV newbies. And when Stacy climbs out of the car in Montana, he’s not convinced she’s even old enough to drive, much less produce his show. But he can’t deny that the long-legged blonde with the stubborn will and the dazzling smile whets his appetite. And as Stacy proves her talent with the crew and the budget alike, Nikko vows to prove to her that love is on the menu for both of them . . .
Look for exclusive recipes in each book!  


When Dan Roth caught her eye and grinned widely behind his costar’s back, Stacy lowered her head and bit down on the inside of her lip. If she hadn’t been looking down she would have noticed Nikko stop. But she hadn’t been looking where she was going and, subsequently, barreled right into him.
She would have ricocheted back and fallen from connecting with the solid wall of his chest as she hit if he hadn’t thrust his hands forward and grabbed her upper arms to prevent it.
Like a blast from a stun gun—quick, sharp and penetrating—she felt the heat of his touch burn through her blouse and sear straight through her skin.
Numbed, she dropped her tablet, her hands incapable of holding onto it. They splayed, open palmed, and sought purchase by grasping his elbows and clutching.
“Steady,” he commanded.
Stacy felt anything but. Words wouldn’t form correctly in her mind. All logical, rational thought had flown the moment the warmth of his hands seeped through the fabric of her blouse. It was as if she’d walked into an oven, the temperature set to broil.
His long fingers squeezed once, twice, then tugged her in closer.
 Stacy couldn’t decide which was more intense: the heat in his eyes or the natural warmth radiating from his body.
“I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t…I wasn’t…I—Sorry.” She tried to pull from his grasp, but he wouldn’t let go.
As earlier when she’d caught him staring at her, she once again felt the mesmerizing pull of his gaze and was powerless to look away.
And for some inexplicable reason found she didn’t want to.
The little shards of amber floating among the cognac color of his irises were lighter and brighter than she remembered. They looked like a wolf’s eyes, and, just like a wolf, their stare was predatory, alpha, and hypnotic.
 “Nikko? We’re all set to start up again,” Todd called from the doorway of the production trailer.
Without looking away from her, he called back, “Be right in.” He still hadn’t let go of her arms.
From deep down, as deep as she could reach, Stacy grappled for calm. She watched him watch her while she took a solid, full breath in, then relaxed it out.
“I’m sorry,” she said when she trusted her voice wouldn’t betray her again. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
She shifted back, away from him, but he kept his hands around her.
This close she could read the exhaustion floating in his eyes and his determination to ignore it.
This close she could see the fine, subtle lines fanning out from the corners of his eyes as he narrowed them at her.
This close she could reach out and smooth the corrugations grooving down from his mouth to his rock solid jaw. That she wanted to do just that, to offer him any comfort she could, to soothe the pain he tried so valiantly to keep hidden, stunned her beyond all thought.
Nikko Stamp was not a man who would ever tolerate being comforted or coddled.
Why, then, did she think it was exactly what he needed?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Peggy Jaeger on Writing, and her new release CAN'T STAND THE HEAT

I'm so excited to have Peggy Jaeger as my guest today to talk about writing! I love Peggy's books, and the strong female characters she features. She has a new book out this week in her Will Cook for Love series, and is blogging today about her inspiration for writing series books about big families.

I love a good series. On television; at the movies; in books. My favorite types of series are those that center on families – big families. I love the whole dynamic of birth order, how it determines your personality, how you learn to interact with people. Plus, I love the LOVE a big family generates; knowing you always have someone covering your back in bad times, and pushing you ahead in good. One of my favorite TV shows growing up was the Waltons. Grandparents, parents, and children all lived together in one big house – a house filled with love, trying times to be sure, but so much wisdom and care tugging at your heart, that it’s no wonder it was such a hit for the network for over a decade.

I tell you all this because the other day I was at a book signing and a reader asked me why I love writing about big families so much since I am an only child.

I kinda think the answer is in the question, but if I’d said that, it would have sounded a little snarky, she would have given me a wonky look thinking I’d insulted her and I didn’t want that because…book sales, you know?

I was/am/always will be an only child. Most people who have siblings have told me my entire life how lucky I am. It’s always quiet, no little kids running around screaming/crying/whining when you’re trying to do homework or read. I’ve never had to share my toys, wear hand-me-down clothes; no one has ever borrowed my makeup and not returned it or worn my favorite blouse and given it back torn or stained. I’ve gotten all my parents’ attention, never once having to take a back seat to a younger sibling, a sick sibling, a star-of-the-family sibling.

I begin and end the food chain of birth order. I am, literally and figuratively, the end all, be all.

And I’m here to tell you it sucks. Majorly. Like, wind tunnel and vacuum cleaner force, sucks.

The thing most people forget about when they say only children are lucky is the loneliness factor.

I was a latchkey kid from the time I was 8 until I went off to college. After school I’d come home to an empty, quiet house. So quiet, it sometimes bordered on spooky and scary.  It was no wonder I chose to spend most of my afternoons in the library until it was time to get home and start dinner. And yes, I made dinner for myself and my mother and stepfather from the age of 8, on. I longed for a sister or a brother, or a bunch of them just so I would have company. Just so I would have people who had an actual connection to my DNA. Just so I had someone else in the house to bounce ideas off of, tell secrets to, keep secrets for. Just so I wasn’t the only one living with and listening to the fights and screaming and verbal lashings my folks hurled at one another.

Longing for that kind of family connection prompted me to write stories about girls who had siblings. In my imagination I invented the family I wished I had. Older sisters who would teach me the mysteries of boys and love and makeup. Older brothers who would protect me from bullies, teach me how to fight for myself, and be my defenders if I needed them. I wanted younger siblings so I could be revered as the big sis, the knower of things, the homework helper, the caretaker of skinned knees and bloody elbows.

Having siblings teaches you so many things you need to know as an adult to navigate through the world. To this day I don’t play board games, team sports are a mystery to me, and I always –always- get picked last as a group/team member. If I’d had siblings, I know I would have learned the way to place myself in a group, interact as a member and not the de facto leader.

The people that study these kinds of things say that most only children grow into leaders because it falls naturally for them to be decision makers and constructive thinkers. Okay, maybe that has some semblance of truth. But it’s nice to be a team player, too, and be told what to do, and not the one people look toward for guidance and direction all the time.

 So when I decided to write romance books, all those people I’d invented for my wished-for family when I was a kid made their presence known, demanding I tell their stories. And I have.

My current release, CAN’T STAND THE HEAT is book 3 in the Will Cook For Love series, about a family that is so close, the cousins are more siblings than they are, well, cousins! Centered around the oldest family member in the present generation – chef Kandy Laine- CSTH tells the love story of Kandy’s cousin Stacy, and how she finds her own HEA. I’ve loved writing the Laine family and hope to be allowed to continue writing more. Kandy has 6 sisters and only 1 so far has gotten her own book!

If you have siblings, no matter how annoying they might have been as kids (or still are as adults!), no matter how many times you’ve wished they were gone or that you were the only child, please please please remember this: family is everything. When all is said and done, your siblings are your connection to something that is greater than you give credit to – a group of people who share your DNA. Who knew you when; who know you now for your good traits and bad ones, and love you for both.
Grab a copy on AMAZON

About the author:
Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children's book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law.

Peggy holds a master's degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer's Disease during her time running an Alzheimer's in-patient care unit during the 1990s.

In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance.

In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader's Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and was a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title.

A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday Book Review: Dirty English and Filthy English, British Bad Boys Books 1&2 by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Dirty English (British Bad Boys, Book 1) by Ilsa Madden-Mills
Published October 2015 by Little Dove

About the Book:

A scarred fighter.
A girl with rules.
One night of unbridled passion.

There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Bennett: she’s smart as a whip, always in control, and lives by a set of carefully crafted rules. She’s learned the hard way that people you love the most always hurt you in the end. But then she meets Declan Blay, the new neighbor at her apartment complex.

A tattooed British street fighter, he’s the campus bad boy she’s supposed to avoid, but when he saves her from a frat party gone bad, all her rules about sex and love fly out the window. She gives him one night of unbridled passion, but he longs for more.

With only a cardboard-thin wall separating their bedrooms, he dreams of possessing the vulnerable girl next door forever.

One night. Two damaged hearts. The passion of a lifetime.

*A modern love story inspired by Pride and Prejudice*
Filthy English (British Bad Boys, Book 2) by Ilsa Madden-Mills
Published July 2016 by Little Dove

About the Book:
A smokin' hot British player...
A jilted girl...
One night of mistaken identity...

Two weeks before her wedding, Remi Montague's fiancé drops her faster than a drunken sorority girl in stilettos. Armed with her best friend and a bottle of tequila, she hops a plane to London to drown her sorrows before fall semester begins at Whitman University.

She didn't plan on attending a masquerade party. She sure didn't plan on waking up next to the British bad boy who broke her heart three years ago--the devastatingly handsome and naked Dax Blay. Furthermore, she has no clue how they acquired matching tattoos.

Once back at Whitman together, they endeavor to pretend they never had their night of unbridled passion in London.

But that's damn hard to do when you live in the same house...

One night. Two damaged hearts. The passion of a lifetime.

*A modern love story inspired by Romeo and Juliet*

British Twins.
Sizzling hot British Twins.

I'm reviewing both books together, because once I read the first I was hooked and had to read the second twin's story. I totally recommend that you do the same. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I read the second story first and then desperately wanted more so went and bought the first book. Each is a standalone story, neither has any loose ends or dangling storylines - I just wanted more. I devoured both in less than 48 hours, and yes, I even had time to sleep and feed the family.

Smart, fast paced, and sassy in all the best ways, Ms. Madden-Mills writes with passion as well as a wink to her literary inspirations (Jane Austen in Book 1 and Shakespeare in Book 2.) The heat level is way, way up there (trust me, the dial is turned up to 11 in each book) both because of the sexy British bad boys, but also because their devilish exteriors hide gooey, emotional centers that the heroines uncover bit by amazing bit.

The hot hunky brothers are both emotionally scarred from the loss of their mother at a young age and the emotional distance of their father. The two heroines are damaged in different ways - in Book One, the story begins with a prom night gone wrong, the consequences being that two years later, Elizabeth still doesn't trust men, and certainly not with her heart. *Trigger warning* While the actual rape isn't described (the book starts the morning after) it is discussed multiple times, and lies at the root of her problems. In Book Two, our heroine finds herself with un-refundable honeymoon tickets to London, but without the husband who left her the week before wedding... so Remi takes her best friend along to make the best of it. Running into the guy from college who broke her heart freshman year is just icing on her heartache, but little does she know he never got over her either.

The stories unfold naturally, the well-paced narratives keep you flipping pages as fast as you can to see what happens next. New Adult is not always my favorite genre, frankly, because they all seem so similar after a while, always first person, usually full of sizzling sex scenes after very little buildup or serious dating of any sort. But this author adds literary spark and a little something extra to the internal monologues as we flip from He said to She said (especially with the twins using British vocab, despite being U.S. college students, so cute!) as well as adding actual tension to the situations between the hero and heroine that are not as straightforward to resolve.

If you like NA college stories that are a little more grown up, give this author a try. And to be clear, there is a third book in this series (starring their British cousin, whom you meet in Book 2) but I ran out of reading time this week. The author has a slew of other books available as well, which I'm adding to my TBR list for summer vacation for sure.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Feature: Mermaid fans and fantasies

March has been a fun time in my author bubble (the one I pretend to be in when I'm not at my day job or volunteering at something for one of my kids...)

I spoke at a local elementary school to three different classrooms of fourth graders, answering questions about my books, other books, being an author, and writing in general. Great questions from a bunch of interested, respectful, polite kids... most of whom admitted to being enthusiastic readers.

I was invited to participate because one of the teachers happened to have taught all three of my kids when they were at a different middle school, and is a fan of my mermaid series. Since March was author month, she thought it might be fun for the kids to have a real author come in to answer their questions. It was fun for me too.

And then I also got a call from a local bookstore with a request for more of my mermaid books to carry in stock, as people had come in to request them. They took a few extra to put on the shelves, so if you're on the Cape, the Brewster Book Store on 6A in Brewster now has the whole series (so far) in stock!

I received a nice piece of fan mail recently too - from a young reader in Colorado. I actually met her dad at a conference in California, and sat next to him at a dinner. He shared a funny-in-retrospect story about when his daughter was very young and convinced that she was actually a mermaid... and sank to the bottom of a pool and almost drowned. She still wants to be a mermaid, but is now a little more practical about it.

I sent her a copy of DESCENT. It's always fun to connect with a fellow mermaid lover.

Which brings me to today, and the fun piece of fan mail I received by email from a college student in Mexico City whom I've been corresponding with for a few years, since he first read Book One and reached out to me via my website "Contact Me" page. Jorge has lots of suggestions and ideas of prequels and scenes he wants me to write - - he's really anxious for Shea and his mother to spend time and get to know one another.

And he's really anxious for Shea and Kae to have some intimate moments before the end of the series. Don't misunderstand, the way he phrased his request was romantic and poetic, but he still wants them to go there.

I admit to some bemusement - having just been in the elementary school with the same stories.

I don't think I'm going there with this series. I've gotten enough grief from a certain faction of readers over the fact that the characters are teenagers and using the words "I love you." Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, fifteen and sixteen-year-olds use those words to one another when they're in relationships. They may not "mean" it in the same way as a thirty year old, but then again, Romeo and Juliet were sixteen. But getting more intimate than kissing? I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be appropriate for a young YA book like my series.

But romance? Emotion? Longing? Sure.

Excerpt from DESCENT:

Her body shivered under his touch and he remembered why they’d come upstairs in the first place. “You’re still cold?” He put his arm around her and hugged her. She felt warm against him, her body radiating heat like a bonfire. Her hair smelled of salt air and sunshine.
“I’m not cold,” she whispered and shivered again. “Just scared.”
He cupped her cheek with his hand and tipped her face, looking into her wide eyes. “Don’t be,” he whispered, and kissed her lightly. Her soft lips tasted of salt and sweetness, like the saltwater taffy they sold in the center of town. He wound his fingers through her golden locks, her hair silky and fine like spun sunshine. His heart hammered as he kissed her, the blood pounding in his ears drowning out the world around them. He felt like his body was tumbling through space… until a sharp bark brought him back to the present and he opened his eyes. Lucky stood next to the bed, prodding Kae with his black muzzle.
Kae drew away, her cheeks flaming red once again. “Oh,” she said, jumping to her feet. “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
“Sorry?” Shea stood slowly, his brow knotting with confusion. “What is there to be sorry about?”
“I…I… Maybe we’d better get going. My father will know what to do to help your mother.” She turned and walked into the hallway. He felt like all the heat left the room with her, his heart still pounding with a rapid, steady sharpness. Sorry? Why would she say that?
Lucky stood next to Shea. He frowned at the dog. “Way to go, dog. Rule number one? Never interrupt a first kiss.”
Lucky gave another sharp bark and wagged his tail.
“Stay here,” he commanded and followed Kae. The dog whined. “No, boy. You’ve done enough.” He shut the bedroom door behind him. The dog thumped against the door and barked a frantic warning. Shea ignored the noise and followed Kae down the stairs. He had no idea where they were headed, but after that kiss he’d follow her anywhere.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Grab a copy of DESCENT on AMAZON