Hi romance friends!

It’s the last week of January (quite a month in every arena, at least in the Dumas home), so I thought I’d check in with my reviewer friends!

Last November you may recall I had weekly “Best of 2016” posts with PJ Ausdenmore, Scandie from Scandalicious, librarian Lynn Wall, and SOS Aloha.

I touched base with them last week to see if they had any recommendations for recent books they’ve read and here’s what they have to share:

From PJ (at The Romance Dish) -

In Staying for Good, the second book in her Most Likely To series, Catherine Bybee continues the stories of three childhood friends that began in Doing It Over.  Using themes of friendship, family dysfunction, and second chances (with a first love), she drew me into this story and left these characters in my mind, and my heart, well after turning the final page. Perhaps it’s because threads of this book are based on Bybee’s own childhood that the paths followed by her characters resonate with greater truth and deeper emotion. The author skillfully balances the darkness of the heroine’s family with humor, some quirky secondary characters, a hero I adored, a touch of suspense, and the two friends who always have her back, no matter what. If you’re looking for a contemporary romance with women’s fiction overtones, strong bonds of friendship, a love that captures your heart, and a woman who finally finds her voice, her strength, and the life she is meant to live, look no further than Catherine Bybee’s Staying for Good. While this book stands on its own, for deeper enjoyment and a more complete understanding of the characters, I recommend reading the books in order.

1.26 betweendevil When you’re reading a book that refuses to release you from the story until you turn the final page at 2:34 AM, dream about the characters when you fall asleep, then wake the next morning wanting nothing more than to start over at page one, you know you’ve found a winner. Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen is one of those books. Alex Lavoie is a gambling club owner, partner in an exclusive “fix it” agency, and, secretly, one of the richest men in London. Angelique Archer is to the manor born, but her family’s enormous wealth disappeared with the death of her father, her brother, the heir, is a drunk, and no one knows that Angelique is keeping the family from starvation by using her mathematical genius at Alex’s gambling tables…until Alex makes it his business to find out who the beautiful woman with the brilliant mind is and why she’s spending her nights in his club. Sparkling dialogue, sizzling passion, a mystery filled with twists and turns, family secrets, heartwarming emotion, and a brilliantly matched hero and heroine who have secured a spot on my list of all-time favorite couples have moved Kelly Bowen to auto-buy status and put Between the Devil and the Duke on my Best of 2017 watch list. If you haven’t read Bowen’s books yet, I highly recommend her A Season for Scandal series: Duke of My Heart, A Duke to Remember, and Between the Devil and the Duke.

In James, the sixth book in the multi-author 7 Brides for 7 Brothers contemporary romance series, Roxanne St. Claire brings readers a ruthless billionaire who is all business and no visible heart who, because of an unwanted inheritance from his father, is determined to sell a small, family-run vineyard on the vividly beautiful Amalfi coast of Italy and matches him with a woman who is all about heart and protecting the winemaking family she has come to love. James is a complex man with layers and walls that St. Claire gradually and skillfully unveils as his heart is slowly opened to the possibilities of a different life while giving him the perfect partner in Kyra, a woman to infuse both his life and his heart with love, light, passion, and fun – all of which have been missing from his existence for a very long time. I was fully engaged with this couple and their journey from beginning to end. James is a book filled with love, laughter, good wine, and a happy ending that filled me with joy. It’s the perfect prescription for a gray, winter day.  

1.26 discovermeSusan Sey doesn’t limit dysfunction to the key families in Discover Me & You, second in her Devil’s Kettle series; she includes the entire population of Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota, a small town on the northern shores of Lake Superior where bluntness abounds and flaws are on display for all to see, but secrets are held close and guarded zealously. Willa Zinc has spent most of her life guarding one of the biggest. She keeps her head down and goes about her business, doing her best to be as invisible as possible. Eli Walker, who’s carrying plenty of emotional baggage of his own, is new to town, which, in and of itself, makes him a target of both interest and suspicion, two things Willa does her best to avoid. When they are forced to work together, things begin to change for both. There’s desire they resist but can’t deny and an explosive secret that threatens to tear the town – and many lives – apart…if Mother Nature doesn’t take care of it first. Discover Me & You has plenty of taut drama, but it’s interspersed with Sey’s quirky humor, heartfelt emotion, and happy ending. I may want to toss some of her characters into the disappearing river for which the series is named, but I’m always ready to come back for more crazy, quirky, maddening, heartwarming fun. For maximum enjoyment (and the backstory on that explosive secret), I recommend reading this series in order, beginning with Picture Me and You.

From Lynn:

Modern Love and a Sizzling Series have my attention this January!

I met K.M. Jackson at RT Book Lover’s Convention in Las Vegas last spring and was thrilled when she told me she was writing contemporary romance for Kensington. Her new release Insert Groom Here is a modern romance with plenty of humor overlaying some serious issues about family dynamics, and obligation. Eva is embarrassed on national TV by a humiliating break up. To save face she agrees to a convoluted plan to redeem herself and get high ratings for the reality TV show she is participating in.  The show launches an eight-week search to find her a husband, #InsertGroomHere. Aidan is the show’s producer. Their first meeting is the perfect blend of pleasure and pain. He and Eva are sexually attracted to from the very beginning, but he must restrain his feelings as he watches her on-screen search for Mr. Right.

Steele Ridge: The Beginning is a very short novella (9K words, currently free on major e-book retailers) by authors Kelsey Browning, Tracey Devlyn, and Adrienne Giordano. They have teamed up to bring us the hard-talking, good looking, brothers of Steele Ridge, North Carolina.  The four Steele brothers Grif, Reid, Britt, and Jonah manage to find action and adventure on a short ride to their mother's birthday party in their small hometown. We get glimpses of old lovers, estranged relatives, and family secrets, just enough to whet your appetite for the full-length novels in the series: Going Hard by Kelsey Browning, Living Fast by Adrienne Giordano, and Loving Deep by Tracey Devlyn.

And from Scandie:

1.26 darknights Rock Chick Reawakening by Kristen Ashley

The highly anticipated story of Daisy and Marcus from our beloved Rock Chick series was definitely worth the wait. This novella hit all of the high points necessary for a fulfilling reading experience. The prose is detailed but uncluttered and the emotions are grueling yet properly tempered. Ashley took a character, Marcus, that we've only really seen in the shadows of this series and turned him into the ultimate hero. I don't think I've read a male character, especially a Kristen Ashley hero, as sweet and unconditionally loving as Marcus. Not only that, his words - lordy be the things he said! - were completely unexpected and glorious. Nary a grunt in sight. Ashley also delivers an epilogue, which she is famous for, that tied up a series we already thought complete, with some of the best surprises yet. I mean who doesn't love more Rock Chick babies?!!

Thirst (Energy Vampires #1) by Jacquelyn Frank

A lovely twist on a common story, Thirst gives us a slightly different spin on the vampires many of us love to read. The mythology surrounding their existence and the hierarchy of their present day existence kept my pages turning. Instead of cold blood suckers, we get warm energy consumers. These energy vampires are quite eco-friendly! Add an unflappable, smart heroine to the mix with an action packed murder mystery to solve and you've got hours of reading enjoyment. I am very excited to see where Frank takes us next on this journey.

SOS Aloha is bowing out this month, but you can find some recent reads and an interview with legend Jodi Thomas at the SOS Aloha blog.

Also, congratulations to Beverly Jenkins and Forbidden for best romance on the ALA 2017 Reading List – the book is a prequel to this month’s Breathless – and to all the nominees for RT’s Reviewers Choice Awards.

Brava Romance! #HappyReading

So what are you reading and looking forward to this week/month?