“A Tea Party & Books” Scavenger Hunt

Hi, Romance Readers!

I’ve got a special treat for you. I’m one of the sponsors of the Night Owl Romance “A Tea Party & Books” Scavenger Hunt.

During this event I’m going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check out Boracay Vows along the way, if you haven’t done so yet. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

The grand prize is a $100 Amazon Gift Card.

Enter Now at: https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Blog/Articles/Tea-Party-Books-2018

Event Dates: Feb 15 – Mar 8

TeaPartyandBooks2018BigSplash

 

 

Lone Star Book Blog Tours’ 2017 Bloggers’ Choice Awards

I’ve only just joined, but I’m excited to share these award-winning Texas books and authors with y’all.

BNR BLOGGERS'CHOICE AWARDS BANNER JPG

The Lone Star Book Blog Tours team has voted, and the results are in! From Best Fiction to Most Engaged Author, we have seventeen awards to hand out to the awesome Texas books and authors featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours in 2017. From February 14-23, 2018, please join us as we hop around the LSBBT blogs and share the winners, runners-up, and shortlisted titles. Don’t miss it!

LSBBT 2017 Titles

AWARDS SCHEDULE:

  • 2/14: Awards Announcement
  • 2/15: AWARDS: Best Hook & Best Creative Concept
  • 2/16: AWARDS: Best Non-Fiction History, Best Biography/Memoir, & Best Western
  • 2/17: AWARDS: Best Children’s/Juvenile/YA & Best Series
  • 2/18: AWARDS: Best Literary Fiction & Best Religious/Inspirational/Spiritual
  • 2/19: AWARDS: Best Mystery/Suspense, Best Romance, & Best Fantasy
  • 2/20: AWARDS: Best Cover & Most Engaged Author2/21:
  • AWARD: Best Texas Book2/22:
  • AWARD: Best Non-Fiction Book2/23:
  • AWARD: Best Fiction Book

 

word cloud 2

 

PARTICIPATING BLOGS: 

(Not all blogs posting every day)

A Page Before Bedtime

Book Fidelity

Books and Broomsticks

Books in the Garden

Carpe Diem Chronicles by Maida Malby

Chapter Break Book Blog

Forgotten Winds

Hall Ways Blog

Missus Gonzo

Momma on the Rocks

The Librarian Talks

The Love of a Bibliophile

The Page Unbound

Reading by Moonlight

Rebecca R. Cahill, Author

StoreyBook Reviews

Story Schmoozing Book Reviews

Syd Savvy

Tangled in Text

Texas Book Lover

 

My January 2018 Reads

I was 8 for 10 in January for my Reading Challenge. I have three Works-In-Progress and finally joined Twitter; my reading time was severely curtailed. The good news is that I thoroughly enjoyed the eight books I read in January.

My first five-star read was Sonali Dev’s A Distant Heart. I tooa-distant-heart-sonali-devk my time reading this book even though I had a deadline to rate and review it within two weeks of its release. I wanted to not only delve deep into the story and characters, but also study the writing style and learn from it. I’ve decided that the majority of my books will be set away from the US and this is a perfect model for me to emulate. Sonali transported me to Mumbai from the first word. She deftly weaved the Indian culture into the story without the need for a glossary and lengthy explanations.

a devil in scotlandFrom India, I traveled to the Scottish highlands in Suzanne Enoch’s A Devil in Scotland. I enjoyed this action-packed Highland story of redemption and second-chance love. I especially liked Callum’s growth from a drunken irresponsible youth to a sharp businessman, loving father figure, seductive lover, and worthy clan leader. I adored little Margaret and her pack. I appreciated the slow(ish) build up of trust between Callum and Rebecca. The realization of their mutual attraction came as a natural progression due to their shared history and re-acquaintance rather than the lightning strike of instalust. Four stars. This was an ARC from NetGalley.

I love that I’m traveling through space and time with my reading. My next book Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan took me to one of my most favorite cities in the world, during what’s quite possibly my favorite holiday –moonlight-over-manhattan-by-sarah-morgan Christmastime. I rated it four stars. I love that both hero and heroine are self-aware, mature individuals yet they still both grew in the telling of this story. I adore that there are several cases of misunderstanding, but they were discussed and resolved right away. There’s a lot to admire in both Harriett and Ethan, that you just have to root for them to be together. I also appreciate the dogs, the friends, the family who played important roles in the MCs romance. If I have a critique, it would be that the pacing could have been a bit “faster” and the hero and heroine could have more flaws.

beyond scandal and desireWe go back to Victorian England with Lorraine Heath’s Beyond Scandal and Desire.  I loved loved loved that the romance between Mick and Aslyn is at the center of this book and Lorraine Heath never strayed from it. The revenge angle never overwhelmed it as I’ve seen in some other books I read recently. I cried at the end with the reveal and the discussion of baby farming. Ms. Heath has always been able to do that to me and I love her for it. A four-star read for me, this book sets up the new series very well. I’m looking forward to the stories of Mick’s foster siblings. Edelweiss kindly provided me with the Advance Review Copy of this book.

Back to present-day Napa Valley with Love Me Like love me like thisThis by Bella Andre. This was another ARC. Love Me Like This is incredibly sweet and unabashedly romantic. This story of a second-chance love between college best friends, who mistakenly thought their love for the other was not reciprocated, is the very definition of a romance novel. I always enjoy Bella’s books and Love Me Like This didn’t disappoint. I recommend this to everyone who wants to be reminded that there are positive stories out there, stories of generosity and kindness, stories of love and hope. They can be found in the pages of romance novels. Four stars.

heretics of thran

I haven’t taken a break from reading romance in a while so I decided to check out this series prequel by Tai. It turned out to be a great choice because it was a quick, fun read. What I loved is the world-building is happening without excessive info-dump at the start. I’m seeing it unfold as the scenes happen. Also, the characters are introduced in such a way that the reader is not confused by their sheer number, each distinct and easily identifiable. Heretics of Thran is a fast-paced action-packed adventure-fantasy romp and I cannot wait for the Distant Stars series to begin. I hope Edrich gets a love interest somewhere along the way. 😉 That’ll make my romance-loving heart happy.

After the futuristic sci-fi/fantasy, I’m back to romance the ones who got awaywith Roni Loren’s The Ones Who Got Away. Ms. Loren is a new-to-me author and this is the first one I’ve read of her work. It will certainly not the last. I gave this book five stars because it ticked all the boxes for books I enjoy the most. It was satisfying. There’s angst, hot sexytimes, family dysfunction, lots of humor, and what I love best, female friendships. The theme of taking one’s fate in hand and going for your dream in the present is something that parallels my own motto of Carpe Diem that’s why I have such an affinity with this book. “… I won’t play it safe. I won’t be practical. I’ll live a passionate life … I promise, Class of 2005, to live the life that scares me.”

unraveled

The last novel I completed in January is the first book of Lauren Dane’s Whiskey Sharp series – Unraveled. I was conflicted with this book. I love everything that had to do with Maybe and Alexsei. They are wonderfully well-rounded characters, who are real people and highly relatable. I adore their interactions and the sizzling chemistry between them. Their journey to love was funny, sweet, and oh-so sexy. On the other hand, I didn’t love the storyline with the parents. It overpowered the book. In the end, I will still follow this series, but I’m hoping the villains are gone quickly in the next novel.

 

To start February, I already have four books opened, both ebooks and paperback. I’ll try to catch up this month and read 12 books. Good thing, one of my WIPs will go to the editor in the middle of the month. I’ll have a little bit more time to read and be able to scale my Mt. TBR.

See my full reviews on Goodreads.

Boracay Vows Recipe: Pork Sinigang

Blake loves to watch Krista eat. In Chapter Three, they have their first “date”. Here’s a snippet:

“Krista tucked into her meal with gusto, leaving Blake enthralled by the way she puckered her lips after taking a sip of the broth from her sour sinigang soup. He had to mentally shake himself to pay attention to his own food.”

Sinigang, one of the most popular viands in the Philippines, is a sour and savory soup. It’s usually made with pork, but can also can be cooked using beef, shrimp, salmon or just vegetables. The typical sour ingredient is green tamarind fruit, but other fruits like kamias (bilimbi), guava, or santol can be used as well. As fresh tamarind is hard to find here in the US, I’ve taken to using a tamarind seasoning mix as a shortcut.

Sinigang na Baboy sa Sampalok

20180111_162807280_iOS

Ingredients:  

  •  1 pouch soup base mix (I recommend also Mama Sita’s Tamarind Seasoning Mix)
  •  2 lbs. pork (I use pork belly, but other parts like shoulder or neck are fine, too)
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 cup tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup onion, quartered
  • 2 cups green beans, cut into 2″ length (Filipinos use sitaw or long beans)
  • 2 cups radish
  • 2 cups eggplant
  • 1 pc. long green pepper (Anaheim or other)
  • 2 cups leafy vegetables (spinach or kangkong/morning glory)
  • patis (fish sauce) to taste

 

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring water, pork, tomatoes, and onion to a boil. Cook until pork is tender. Approximately 30 minutes. Simmer for five minutes.
  2. Pour in soup base mix. Increase the heat and bring to a roiling boil.
  3. Add green beans, radish, eggplant, green pepper, and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the leafy vegetables. Cover to steam-cook.
  5. Serve hot with rice.

20180111_185613324_iOS

 

Like Krista in the book, I eat it with fried fish–tilapia, bangus (milkfish), or galunggong (mackerel scad)–but it can be served on its own.

Enjoy!

 

Happy New Year – 2018 Goals

A review of my 2017 Goals/Plans:

year-end-review-shutterstock_540968041

  • Rewrite and edit Boracay – Done
  • Write New York and Singapore – partially done
  • Publish Boracay and New York – Boracay Done
  • Set-up a blog – Done
  • Set-up a Facebook Author page – Done
  • Join Romance Writers of America – Done, plus the San Antonio Romance Authors chapter, too
  • Win NaNo again – Not done
  • Read 180 books – Read and reviewed 208.
  • Spend only $240 on books – Success! Spent only $190.
  • Attend a writing conference – Not quite. Attended a one-month editing workshop and four reader events all over Texas.

Based on these results, I consider 2017 to be a successful year.

 

goals-2018-620x330

For 2018, here are my goals/plans:

  • Finish writing New York Engagement, have it edited and published. Target date: Saturday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)
  • Finish writing Singapore Fling. Publishing target: July 2018.
  • Achieve full PAN status at RWA.
  • Get Boracay Vows into independent bookstores all over the US.
  • Secure local distribution for Boracay Vows in the Philippines. Attempt a movie deal.
  • Read and review at least 120 books for Goodreads Reading Challenge:
    – 1 craft book on writing/editing/publishing
    – 1 male author/non-romance
    – 4 historical romance (2 from my Mount TBR, 1 ARC, 1 new/new-to-me)
    – 4 contemporary (2 from Mount TBR, 1 ARC, 1 indie author)
    Rereads will be after the 10 have been fulfilled.
  • Attend a writing conference.
  • Spend only $180 on books.
  • Register a profit on all books.

So, here’s to 2018. May it be the Best Year Ever.

Boracay Vows Recipe – Pancit Bihon

The second recipe I’m sharing with you is Pancit Bihon, one of the three variants of pancit mentioned in Boracay Vows.

  • In Chapter Three, Blake included pancit bihon among his favorite Filipino dishes along with adobo and lechon.
  • In Chapter Seventeen, Krista ordered pancit canton at the restaurant.
  • In the Epilogue, Krista’s mom cooked pancit Malabon for her and Blake.

Usually stir-fried, pancit or pansit is a noodle dish the Filipinos adapted from the Chinese. It can be eaten for lunch, snack, or dinner and is a staple during fiestas and especially during birthday celebrations to accompany the wish for long life.

Again, there are as many ways to cook pancit bihon as there are islands in the Philippines. This is my version.

20171222_184618368_iOS

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. cooking oil
  • minced garlic (from 2 cloves to a whole head)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 cup boiled pork (or chicken, and/or shrimp), sliced
  • 1 small cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, strips
  • 2 tbsps. soy sauce (add more for desired taste and color)
  • 1 1/2 c. broth (I use chicken)
  • 1 bunch Chinese leeks (or green beans)
  • 1 bundle first class bihon (rice noodles)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • (Optional) 2 pcs chorizo de bilbao or lap cheong (Chinese sausage)
  • spring onion, chopped
  • calamansi (or lime/lemon)

 

Instructions:

  1. Saute garlic in cooking oil, add onion, pork, carrot, and cabbage. Season with soy sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  2. Add broth and simmer, add the leeks (or green beans). If using shrimp, add here.
  3. When the vegetables are cooked, mix in softened bihon noodles and season with salt.
  4. Garnish with chorizo and spring onions. Serve with calamansi.

 

20171222_193915561_iOS

 

Boracay Vows is available in ebooks from all your favorite etailers and in paperback from Amazon. An autographed copy can be ordered on this website.

 

 

My Year in Books: Best of 2017

When you read Romance, all four seasons are seasons of love. As the song asks, “How do you measure a year in a life?” I measure in books. This year, Goodreads tells me I’ve read 208 books so far. Will probably end with 215. It’s a good number, but way below my average before I started writing. It will probably go down even more in 2018 as I plan to write 2 books and a novella. One thing won’t change, though. I will always be reading. I need to.

On to the list. I have loved so many books this year. These below are some of those I gushed about in 2017. I rated them five stars, posted about them in social media, and recommended them to as many people as I could.  Many of these were not published this year, but I only read them for the first time in 2017. Some are rereads. All are amazing.

January: My first five-star rating of the year wentromancing the beat to a craft book: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. I used it extensively when I revised Boracay Vows to get it ready for pitching. I have this in both ebook and paperback. I’ve since recommended it to my writing group.

devil in spring coverFebruary: The best new book of the month for me was Lisa Kleypas’s Devil in Spring. The Wallflowers is my favorite of her many series of books and seeing Marcus, Evie, and Sebastian again made me really happy. Pandora and Gabriel held their own. My short Goodreads review read: “Lisa Kleypas did it again. Gabriel and Pandora, Sebastian and Evie – they all made me laugh, cry, love, and learn. It’s unputdownable.”

March: I feasted in books this month. My friend Eva Moore released her debut novel Someone Special and I loved it. I said in my review, “This story is so real to me. Like I’ve met these people in real life. Eva made them come alive for me. The situations and emotions are things I myself have been in and felt. This book is not just about the romance between Dani and Nick, but also about friendship and community.

If there was a book I gushed over the most, it has to be Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game. I put it on hold at the San Antonio Library in November, but I didn’t get it until March. That’s how long the queue was for this book. When I got it, I devoured it in a couple of hours and immediately wanted to reread it. I posted about THG on OSRBC, I friended Sally Thorne and joined her fan club The Flamethrowers. I’ve since gotten my own digital and paperback copy. Now if only I can get it signed by Sally, my fangirl-ing will be complete. My review reads, “Five glowing stars. I am so envious of Sally Thorne for writing this outstanding first novel. This book is fresh and young, and utterly delightful. Josh and Lucy are fantastic characters, their chemistry is electric. I adore their conversations. I’m always antsy when they weren’t talking. I didn’t want the book to end. I want to read more. One of my new favorites.”

Another great find in 2017 is Katy Regnery’s The Vixen and the Vet. I was looking for Beauty and the Beast retellings to prepare for the live action movie and this came up on my search. It was also OSRBC’s New School Book of the Month in March. As with Sally Thorne, I also friended Katy on Facebook, became one of her Katy’s Ladies, and received a signed copy of The Vixen and the Vet. This was my review: “5 stars. A perfect 10 stars, if possible. This has to be one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. Will definitely be on my Top Ten. I couldn’t put it down once I started. I cried and cried. Great writing.”

April: I read 26 books in April and I rated 6 of them 5-stars. That’s a fantastic percentage.

Nora Roberts’s Born in Fire was OSRBC’s Old School BOTM for April and I reread all three books in the series. I rated Fire and Ice 5 stars, Shame 4 stars. My reviews were long so I won’t repeat them here, but this is a highlight: “Even though this was a reread for me, I savored every word as if I was reading it for the first time. This book proves why Nora Roberts is my most favorite romance writer ever.”

I’ve been reading Sophie Jordan’s historical romance novels since 2010, but she didn’t become an auto-buy for me until her contemporary Devil’s Rock series. The third book, Fury on Fire, is my favorite. “Five red-hot stars. For me, Fury on Fire is the best of the three Devil’s Rock books so far. Both North and Faith are such great characters. I felt so much for North and what he had gone through inside the prison. I like it that although the attraction was there from the start, they didn’t act on it until later. I also liked that there was no heavy external conflict and that the HEA was not drawn out.”

I didn’t read Susan Elizabeth’s Phillips’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine when it was OSRBC’s BOTM in July 2015. I don’t remember why and I regretted that I hadn’t read it sooner. It was wonderful. Here’s my review: “5 Lucky Charms-flavored stars. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a genius. She has the gift of making me laugh out loud and cry like my heart is breaking. All of the characters in Nobody’s Baby but Mine are wonderful. Jane, Cal, Lynn, Jim, Annie, Ethan, Kevin – they’re all great, crazy but in a good way. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it to romance readers looking for happy books with substance.”

Nalini Singh’s backlist is daunting, especially her Psy/Changeling series. I wanted to read her so bad I decided on her Rock Kiss series as my entry into her world. The second book, Rock Hard, is my most favorite of the four books. I said, “Five rock-hard stars. This is the kind of books I want to be able to write – characters like Charlotte and Gabriel, who have strengths and flaws, who grow up in the course of the book; stories about real people in today’s world, who experience pain, joy, victories, failures; and stories of friendship, family, and love. Rock Hard has all of these. It has humor, conflict, and heart.”

I didn’t discover Lorraine Heath until OSRBC made Texas Destiny its Book of-the-Month in June 2015. I’ve been collecting her books ever since. I wanted to read in order so I started with the Scoundrels of St. James before going into the Scandalous Gentlemen. Oh boy, was I rewarded for my patience when I finally reached The Duke and the Lady in Red. This is easily one of my Top 25 favorite historical novels of all time. “Hurts so good. Five heartrending stars. I’m still ugly crying up to now. I’ve been warned about this book. It’s going to make you cry, my friends said. The feels! I can’t express how amazingly this romance novel breaks my heart and yet put it back together again. Avendale, he is so flawed, yet so heroic. Rose – what a heroine, a swindling angel. And Harry. He was the best part, the heart of the book.”

May: This was the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and I prioritized those authors whose heritage could be traced to the biggest continent and largest ocean in the world.

Sherry Thomas is a new-to-me author in 2017, but I quickly fell for her fluid use of the English language. “Five sumptuous stars. Delicious is the first book by Sherry Thomas that I’ve ever read and if this is any indication of her style of writing, I’m sure I’ll read more. Her voice is unique, the hero and heroine are not your typical characters in historical novels. She’s 33, he’s 37. She’s a cook, he’s a politician. More than her atypical characters, there’s the way Ms. Thomas lays out the scenes. All your senses are engaged, especially when she described food. I swear, my mouth was watering at the thought of eating madeleines. I could feel the sweat on my face while I was reading the bathtub scene. The book made me cry three times. And, at the very end, it made me smile so big. It deserves all the luscious stars I could give it.”

I’ve been reading Alisha Rai since when she was still self-publishing. Her first book under Avon is probably her best. “Five stars. I’ve read Alisha Rai’s work before and her books have always been sexy, but this series, I believe, has the most depth. She expertly laid out Nico and Livvy’s second-chance love amidst their shared complicated family history. This book would always score high for me due to the multicultural characters. That it delivered in the storytelling was a big bonus. I cried, I smiled, I blushed, I felt for all the characters. As a writer of multicultural contemporary romance, I would look to this work as a model of how a book of the sub-genre can be told well.”

Also in May were rereads of After the Night and Sarah’s Child by old school favorite Linda Howard and The Best is Yet to Come from Indie Goddess Bella Andre’s new Summer Lake series.

“Sarah’s Child is one of my most favorite romance novels, one I reread every Mother’s Day. Sarah and Rome are such memorable characters, their story so, so affecting. I love Sarah for her strength. She is self-sacrificing without being a martyr. For all that Rome is such a difficult character, I could never hate him, especially that he loved and cared for Sarah in his own way, and he did change in the end. I also loved the secondary characters- Max, Marcie, and Derek. They provide a good balance of humor and support into the seriousness of Sarah and Rome’s relationship. I cry at the same exact places, every single time. I adore this book. I consider it one of Linda Howard’s best works ever.” After the Night: “This is one of Linda Howard’s steamiest books, but there’s also humor and mystery. One of my favorites of her books.”

The Best is Yet to Come was the first ARC I received from Bella Andre for being a member of her VIP Street Team. She used my review in a graphic to promote the book during the launch. “Five sweet stars. I love the sweet, small town, reunion story of The Best is Yet to Come. There’s real conflict, but Bella did not make it so heavy that you’ll feel depressed while reading it. I appreciate that I could like and dislike Sarah at the same time. I understood her internal struggle and fears. I like that Calvin is strong yet can admit to weaknesses and mistakes. What I liked the best is feeling as if I’m part of the world that Bella is building in Summer Lake. I’m excited for this new series. It has all the elements that I love in a contemporary romance- family, friendship, community, and love. It made me smile and tear up. There’s a freshness and depth to Bella’s writing here.”

June: Another mixed bag of new-to-me authors and reread of a favorite.

After The Hating Game, I was looking for enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn books and found Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. The second book, The Chocolate Kiss, is my absolute favorite. “J’adore ce livre. Enemies-to-lovers, slow burn, multicultural, strong characters, french pastries, hot chocolate – I love everything about The Chocolate Kiss. This book just made me so happy while reading it. I smiled, I cried, I felt for both Philippe and Magalie in their journey to love. Secondary characters were fleshed out well. The descriptions were lavish, evocative, and as decadent as chocolate. I could picture the people and the scenes in my head as I read. It’s sexy, heartwarming, magical.”

Sarah MacLean is the founder of the Old School Romance Book Club (OSRBC) and I fell in love with her books ever since I read A Rogue By Any Other Name. In preparation for the launch of The Day of the Duchess, a bunch of us reread The Rogue Not Taken. This was my review: “TRNT made me laugh, cry, and fall in love with both Sophie and King, and Warnick, and the handsome doctor, even Matthew, the footman. Engaging storytelling, snappy dialogues, great character-building- this book has all of the reasons why Sarah MacLean has become one of my favorite historical romance novelists.”

I went on vacation to the UK in June and I decided to read books set there. Lucy Parker’s Act Like It is another book recommended for those who have THG hangover. “I really enjoyed this book. There are so many funny moments and touching ones, too. I loved that the characters are multi-dimensional, not cardboard cut-outs. Lainie and Richard’s fall into love was a journey I willingly traveled with them. There were several characters introduced, but in no way did they overshadow the leads, not even Will. I loved the sparkling dialogue.”

July: Continued the UK trend, dove in to the new Sarah MacLean when I got back to the US, and finally read my ARC of Jill Shalvis’s Lost and Found Sisters which I received from her way back in March. I was also busy with Camp NaNo so I did not read a lot this month.

Multicultural romance is the genre I write in and it’s one I love to read. Melissa Blue’s Under His Kilt series hits the right notes for me. “Five kilted stars. Wonderful relationship building. Fell in love with both Victoria and Callan. And the Baird, Douglass. Just visited Scotland last week and loved it there. Obviously, Melissa Blue did, too.”

Lost and Found Sisters: “Five heartwarming stars ✨ I’ve had this book since March and I can’t believe I didn’t read it until now. It’s wonderful. It’s got everything: romance, friendship, community, and family. There’s humor and pathos. The characters are well developed and relatable. It even had the most lovable “villains”. This is a triumph for Jill Shalvis.”

Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess was excellent as expected. “Devoured it in four hours. Cried from page 2 up to p. 364. Laughed as well, especially with the suitresses. Was a monster and dog-eared pages of my favorite lines (at least 15). Groveling Haven redeemed. ❤❤❤ all the Dangerous Daughters/Soiled S’s.”

August: Another fabulous month of reading with lots of ARCs coming from both NetGalley and Edelweiss and established favorites.

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me: “It has all the elements I love in a romantic comedy. First, it’s really funny with witty and zippy dialogues, hilarious but probable interactions and situations among characters. Second, the hero and heroine are likable and relatable with enough strengths and weaknesses to make them real. I like that Min is full-figured but wasn’t ashamed of it and didn’t try to lose weight to get her man. I liked that Cal has vulnerabilities but is also confident about himself and he really, really knew Min. I love that they tried to stay away from each other yet fate kept bringing them together. I appreciate that they got each other’s backs when it comes to defending the other against their awful families. I also like that although there are a lot of secondary characters in this book, their presence is all because of Min and Cal. I love the friendship, the cat, Elvis, even the families. I love the Stats nickname (that’s me), the cute shoes, the Chicken Marsala, and the doughnuts. This book just hits the right spots for me.”

“SEP should teach a course on character growth in romance novels and Kiss an Angel should be her textbook. Everyone in this book, from Daisy, Alex, Brady, Sheba, and Heather were different people at the end of the book from who they were at the start. The readers get to know them, feel for them, hate and care for them. They were not just names on paper, they’ve become real people. All because of the writing genius of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I absolutely adore this book. It took me on an emotional journey I was only too willing to traverse. I laughed, I wept, I smiled, I got angry, I loved. I loved all the characters, even the minor ones like Trey, Kevin, Max, and Amelia. But, i especially loved the animals – Glenna, Tater, and Sinjun. Kiss an Angel has just become one of my favorite romance novels of all time.”

Kate Meader is another new-to-me author who I became really friendly with. I joined her fan group Kate’s Kittens and I’ve been privileged to receive advance review copies of her books from NetGalley this year. She is so versatile, writing about food, firemen, and sports with equal competence. “Five icy-hot stars. Kate did it again! She delivered another book with a delicious hero one can’t help but fall in love with, a strong heroine you can relate to, a fascinating story you enjoy following along, and fully-fleshed out secondary characters whose future books you’re looking forward to reading. Irresistible You is funny, but also addresses several heavy issues like sexism and violence against women. It’s super sexy and incredibly fun to read.”

In my opinion, Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal is one of the year’s best books. “I devoured this book in two hours. Had tears in my eyes from laughter beginning at Chapter One and throughout the book. Teared up in the end as well from Ash’s fears for his child. The dialogue is sharp, witty, clever, and laugh-out-loud funny. The characters were sympathetic and utterly likable. The attraction between Emma and Ash was strong from the start. Their love scenes were steamy.”

Kerrigan Byrne is another author I discovered through OSRBC. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person next year. “The Scot Beds His Wife, despite its unfortunate title, reinforces my love of the Victorian Rebels series. It has all the elements that I adored in the four earlier books – loads of angst, electric chemistry between hero and heroine, sizzling lovemaking, heart-pounding action, and most especially, the far-from-perfect and diverse characters. What Scot has more of that the others don’t is the lightness of humor balancing the heaviness caused by all the tragedies that are constantly befalling the Rebels and their loved ones.”

“The title of the book, Beautiful Lawman, refers to Sheriff Hale Walters and I love him even though he started all judgmental and tight-assed. He ended up so in love I forgive him for his early behavior. That he’s yummy and so heroic wasn’t too bad, either. But, the star of the book for me is Piper. Sophie gutted me with Piper’s struggles to be a parent to her sister Malia and her determination to rise above the desperate situation she was in when no one was willing to help because of her family history. I got emotional reading this book because I felt so much for what Piper had to go through, what she has to overcome. She was shunned, looked down upon, but she remained strong and resolute. In the end, she truly deserved her victorious happy-ever-after. Another thing I loved about this book is the hot sexytimes. Sophie Jordan’s latest works have become increasingly sensual and I’m loving the extra heat and sizzle of her stories.”

September: Feedback from Beta readers for Boracay Vows started to come in this month and I was in full revision/edit mode. There were still a few gems I managed to indulge in this month.

Lorraine Heath’s When the Marquess Falls: “Cried my eyes out. Short, but oh-so-sweet. The Marquess of Marsden was my favorite part of The Viscount and the Vixen. Reading his full story just about broke my heart. It’s not your typical HEA, but I believe he and Linnie got it in the end.”

J.D. Robb’s In Death is the longest series I’m still following and loving. Now up to fifty-five books and novellas, it remains fun and fresh. “In other In Death books, sometimes the murder mystery overpowers the love story, but not in Secrets. Here, the death is in the background, only a tool employed by J.D. Robb to show the continued growth of the relationship between Eve and Roarke. There is humor and snark, pathos (oh Summerset!), comfort, and intelligent procedural to solve the crime. There’s friendship, collegial camaraderie, community, and family. But, above all, there’s heat and so much love. Scary Roarke and Bitch Cop Eve Forever!

Katy Regnery’s Unloved: “Five heart-rending stars ✨ My eyes are swollen from the tears I shed. My throat aches from the lump that kept forming as I read Unloved. My heart is both heavy and light. I knew it was going to be angsty. I was prepared, but I still felt so emotional. Every now and then you need a book that will break your heart and piece it back together again. Unloved does that.”

October: While my editor worked on copy edits, I read.

Eloisa James’s The Beauty Tamed the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings and this month, A Kiss at Midnight became another. “A Kiss at Midnight is a funny, witty, sexy, touching fairytale with plenty of clever Shakespearean references mixed in. Kate is a delightful Cinderella, smart, feisty, feminist. Gabriel is a not-so charming prince, one who takes his responsibilities seriously. Their attraction is not quite instant, but strong nonetheless and it’s based on banter and character more than appreciation of physical attributes.”

Y’all can probably tell by now that Lorraine Heath is one of my favorite authors. I’m still slowly working on reading all her books. Sweet Lullaby is a real jewel. “This book was cry-a-minute for me. Jake is the best beta hero I’ve ever read. He has suffered so much in his life yet his capacity for love is still boundless. Lorraine Heath always writes remarkable heroes. Her male voice is truly outstanding. Reb is a good heroine. Her actions and reactions, including her confusion, are understandable. It’s not her fault that Jake was drawn better than her. Sweet Lullaby is melodramatic but I don’t mind it. Published in 1994, it doesn’t read old or dated.”

I requested Roomies from NetGalley because I’ve seen a lot of raves for Christina Lauren’s books but I haven’t read them before. Well, I appreciate being gifted the ARC because I was impressed. “This book is a great introduction to new-to-me authors and I will be adding their books to my TBR mountain ASAP. What’s admirable is that they are two writers but Roomies has one unified “voice”. You cannot tell who wrote which part. It was so seamless. The conversations flowed. The situations and the characters’ actions and reactions were all plausible. There was no suspension of disbelief. I laughed, I cried, I gushed with the romance, I blushed during the love scenes, I got angry, I sympathized. I felt everything Holland went through. That’s why I am giving Roomies all the five stars. Books that engaged all my emotions usually get the top score. Roomies deserves nothing less.”

Bella Andre and her Sullivans have become my go-to reads when I need comforting from all the chaos of life’s realities. I’m often reassured that love, friendship, and family are still some of the most important things in the world. That’s why I read romance. That’s why I love You Do Something To Me. “It’s obvious that Bella loved writing Alec Sullivan. He’s strong yet vulnerable, resolute but also unsure, tough and a softie at the same time. He’s what you want your romantic hero to be – honest about his intentions and takes great care of the heroine. Cordelia is a worthy match for Alec. She has her strengths and brings out the best in him. She helps the real him to come out. She can stand on her own but is happiest when she’s with him. I really enjoyed this sweet and sexy friends-to-lovers romance. Anytime a book makes me smile and tear up, it’s sure to get high marks.”

November: Launch month of Boracay Vows plus NaNo meant I only got to read 6 books including mine.

My author review: “Boracay Vows will always be special to me as it’s my first born. Krista has a little bit of me and Blake has a little bit of my hubby in him. The food, hats, and shoes–they’re all me. So is the female friendship. And the closeness of family relationships.”

I took time out of preparing for the launch of my debut novel Boracay Vows and writing my second novel Singapore Fling during naNoWriMo to read Cherish Hard and I consider it time well spent. “As usual, Nalini Singh tells a great love story not just between Isa and Sailor, but also between them and their friends and family. It’s a story that anyone can relate to, even though the characters might not look like them. I love that this book is multicultural and it reflects the reality of the world we’re living in right now. I adore that Isa is older than Sailor and she’s a full-figured woman with the normal insecurities, but with innate confidence as well. I love that Sailor is oh-so-sexy with a big heart. Like Rock Hard before it, Cherish Hard is a keeper for me.”

I’ve been on a Lisa Kleypas binge lately and I am enjoying it so much. On Sugar Daddy: “It’s barely a romance novel, but I loved it anyway. Lisa Kleypas has a very strong historical voice and an equally strong contemporary one. I honestly believe she had poured more of herself in this book and the rest of the Travis series. She obviously knows Texas and Texans. I’ve only been to Houston once, but after reading Sugar Daddy I feel so familiar with it I felt like I lived there during the time I was reading the book.”

December: LK binge continued.

“These days, all we see in the news are reports of sexual harassment to the point of assault–mostly made by men against women. We need a reminder that there are still men out there who cherish and protect women. One such man is the Blue-Eyed Devil himself: Hardy Cates. Next to Roarke, he’s my favorite contemporary romance Book Boyfriend. He doesn’t get a POV, that’s all Haven, but boy does he leap out of the pages of the book. Even in the first book Sugar Daddy he dominated each scene he appeared in. Lisa Kleypas must love him very much because she wrote him so beautifully. Here’s why I keep giving Blue-Eyed Devil five stars: it’s real to me. Haven and Hardy, Churchill, Liberty, Gage, Jack, etc. are not mere characters in a book. They are real people. And that’s why I love Lisa Kleypas. Because she created them and made them come alive. That is an incredible talent. I will always buy her books, even when I hate their covers.”

“Five stars. This is my third reread of A Wallflower Christmas and the time I enjoyed it the most. I actually upgraded my rating from four to five. I loved revisiting the Wallflowers and this is a great wrap-up to the series. The bonus story of Rafe and Hannah’s fall into love was well-done and I adore its development even though it’s short. The toy soldier and love letter more than made up for Rafe’s earlier boorishness with the forceful first kiss and the teacup incident. One of the best parts of this novella though is this quote: “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

So, here they are, the books I loved in 2017. It was a happy reading to me the whole year long. Hopefully, it will be the same in 2018.

 

 

Happy Book Birthday – So Over You by Kate Meader

Cover.Final (1).jpg

SO OVER YOU
Chicago Rebels series, Book 2
Kate Meader
Pocket Star EBooks
December 4, 2017
$5.99
ISBN 9781501168567

“Meader serves up a delicious mix of sports, sexy romance, and complicated, captivating characters with her second Chicago Rebels hockey contemporary (after Irresistible You)…Meader’s erotic scenes could melt ice, and her complex protagonists will keep readers eagerly turning pages.”
—Publishers Weekly (So Over You)

“Things heat up on the ice in Meaer’s latest installment of the Chicago Revels series (Irresistible You, 2017)…Isobel and Vadim’s chemistry is off the charts, and Meader’s engaging details of hockey and Chicago pull you further into their world. Even nonhockey fans will be rooting for the Rebels by the last page.”
—Booklist (So Over You)

“Hockey is a sport that moves a mile a minute, and it’s even more thrilling when the action off the ice has even more speed. In the second Chicago Rebels book, external conflicts make the path to a happy ending difficult for the couple, but that makes it even more satisfying in the end. Meader’s thought-provoking tale has well-rounded characters who touch each other’s lives — sometimes not too gently.”
—RT Book Reviews (So Over You)

“Meader’s strength is creating characters who live, breathe, and jump off the page; Remy and Harper shine, and the supporting cast of characters, including Harper’s half-sisters, is very strong. The mix of sexual tension and emotional decisions will lead Meader’s series launch to many a keeper shelf.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW (Irresistible You, Book 1)

“Meader takes her readers on a breathtaking, non-stop, glorious ride. The sex scenes are lyrically written with fresh, descriptive prose. Enough is included about hockey to add its fast rhythm to the book. Remy’s family is multi-faceted and fills the pages with joy. Readers will love the relationship between Remy and Harper, and will be excited for the next story — Isobel’s.”
—RT Book Reviews Four and a Half Star TOP PICK (Irresistible You, Book 1)

About the book:
Three estranged sisters struggle to sustain their late father’s failing hockey franchise in Kate Meader’s SO OVER YOU, Book 2 in the new sizzling Chicago Rebels series. Middle sister Isobel is at a crossroads in her personal and professional lives. But both are about to get a significant boost with the addition of a domineering Russian powerhouse to the Rebels…

Isobel Chase knows hockey. She played NCAA, won silver at the Games, and made it thirty-seven minutes into the new National Women’s Hockey League before an injury sidelined her dreams. Those who can’t, coach, and a position as a skating consultant to her late father’s hockey franchise, the Chicago Rebels, seems like a perfect fit. Until she’s assigned her first job: the man who skated into her heart as a teen and relieved her of her pesky virginity. These days, left-winger Vadim Petrov is known as the Czar of Pleasure, a magnet for puck bunnies and the tabloids alike. But back then…let’s just say his inability to sink the puck left Isobel frustratingly scoreless.

Vadim has a first name that means “ruler,” and it doesn’t stop at his birth certificate. He dominates on the ice, the practice rink, and in the backseat of a limo. But a knee injury has produced a bad year, and bad years in the NHL don’t go unrewarded. His penance? To be traded to a troubled team where his personal coach is Isobel Chase, the woman who drove him wild years ago when they were hormonal teens. But apparently the feeling was not entirely mutual.

That Vadim might have failed to give Isobel the pleasure that was her right is intolerable, and he plans to make it up to her—one bone-melting orgasm at a time. After all, no player can perfect his game without a helluva lot of practice…

About the author:
KateMeaderKate Meader was raised on romance. An Irish girl, she started with Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, and spiced it up with some Mills & Boon. Now based in Chicago, she writes romances of her own, where sexy contemporary alpha heroes and strong heroines match each other quip for quip. When not immersed in tales of brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, Kate lives on the web at katemeader.com.
Giveaway:
Kate Meader will be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card during release week. To enter, please go here!

Excerpt: 
“This little job is the difference between you playing and not. Dancing with the Stars, Vaddy baby. It’s where all the washed-up pros end up.”
Annoyed at his reaction to her, he skated away, throwing out over his shoulder, “I will be playing, Isobel. You will have no say in that. I spoke with Moretti—it is clear why you have this job.”
Her brow crimped. Naturally, it was adorable. “Please. Enlighten me.”
“He is new and no doubt under pressure to bow to the owners. You can write your own ticket.”
“If that’s the case, I’d just appoint myself as head coach and be done with it.”
“You are also conscious of what the fans and media think, so you are starting small. Really, you could have called or texted, Isobel. Buying my contract seems like a lot of work to bring me back into your world.”
“You weren’t my first choice. But luckily your poor play this season meant Quebec was happy to offload you.”
He ignored the brief stab. The last six months had been difficult. Isobel understood this, yet they could not resist these little cuts.
“I think you wanted to be closer to me. Just like before, right, Bella?”
A blush crept up her cheeks on hearing his endearment for her.
He would test her. Make her angry and emotional. Make her cry. Because angry, emotional criers were not the stuff of coaches. If she was serious about a career in the NHL, she would hear worse.
She would get him game fit. He would get her battle ready.
He continued to needle. “Yes, I think that must be it. It seems that the female owners of the Rebels would like to abuse their position and use the players for their personal pleasure. Your sister and Remy DuPre—that is interesting.”
“Is it?”
“Harper may have duped a Rebel player into her bed, but please don’t imagine you and I will be renewing our acquaintance in a similar manner.”
That got her attention, at last. Her creamy skin blazed, her crimson mouth twitched, and even from a distance he could see those melted-shamrock eyes darken. She looked like she wanted scream at him. Burst into tears. Slap his face.
Yes, Bella. Let us see if you can handle the barbs of every player, coach, and fan who will dismiss you. Let us see if you can handle me.
Fury powering her stride, she skated over, skidding to a halt mere inches from his face. As before, she was magnificent.
“You’ve found me out, Petrov.”
“I have?”
“It’s all an elaborate ruse. We bought your contract even though you really haven’t been performing well this season. Let’s face it, you’ve sucked donkey balls, Vadikins. But I convinced my sisters that I alone could bring you back to top condition. Make you a valuable asset to the team. I also made sure I’d be the only one working with you . . .” She leaned up on the tips of her blades, a balancing act that required great skill and remarkable ankle strength. Close enough that he could have slipped his tongue between his lips and tasted hers.
Her breath was a hot puff of temptation. “So we would have all this alone time.”
With that fiery gaze, she held his own.
Unerring.
Unflinching.
Until her mouth creased, and she broke into a laugh. He remembered that laugh. Just as before, it hit him right in the balls.
She used the edge of the iPad to poke him in the chest. “You thought I’d go to all this trouble to try to get into your hockey shorts, Petrov? I’m a team owner—I can have any of these Rebel boys with the click of my fingers!” She chuckled, clearly enjoying herself. “Despite what that supersized ego of yours thinks, the only performance I want from you is on the ice. Maybe if you spent less time carousing—”
“Carousing?”
“Yes, it’s nicer than calling you a club-hopping, vodka-sodden manwhore. Less of that and more effort on your day job, please. And don’t worry yourself that I’m interested in ‘renewing our acquaintance.’ I’ve had better lays with the Ukrainian delegation at the last Games.”
He had to say he enjoyed this sharp-tongued, quick-witted version of Isobel. But not enough to admit it to her.
“There is nothing you can teach me.”
“So sure, Russian.”
“I am positive.”
“We’ll see.” She skated back to the edge of the rink. “Again.”

 

My Review:

4.5 stars rounded off high. pro_reader_120

Kate Meader’s books are so addictive. I thought Remy from Irresistible You was my love, but now it’s Vadim Petrov. I’m almost one-hundred percent sure I’ll be falling for Dante next, then Bren after him. That’s because Kate has a very strong male “voice”. Her men are lovable because they’re not altogether flawless. She lets us get to know her characters so well that we understand where they’re coming from when they act in a certain way. So, yeah, Vadim started out super arrogant and cold and Russian, but by the end, he became this sympathetic, vulnerable guy. When he made a unilateral decision to “protect” Isobel, I got mad along with her, but I forgave him even before she did. That’s talent. Kate Meader has loads of it.

Not to say that her heroines are weak or secondary to the heroes. They’re fabulous! Isobel, like Harper before her, is awesome. She knows her own mind but has doubts, too. She’s confident, yet has fears. All very real and relatable.

Isobel and Vadim are great together. They’re sexy, funny, and they’re just meant to be with each other. I enjoyed their interactions and their journey to love.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. The team, the sisters, Vadim’s small family, especially his relationship with his little sister Mia. The sisters. I love them. I love that they’re working together to create a uniquely functional family.

There’s so much love and laughter in So Over You. Shed a few tears, too. Yep, this is a worthy read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for giving me an advanced copy to review.

Boracay Vows Recipe – Adobo

I am so happy that several of the reviews for Boracay Vows have mentioned the food.

An Amazon customer titled her review, “Made me sooo hungry,” and proceeded to say, “I also loved the setting and learning a little about the Philippines and the amazing food that I HAVE to try!”

An iBook reader enthused, “Congratulations and now I want Filipino foooooooood!!!!!”

A photographer friend endorsed Boracay Vows on her page and inspired the quote I used here, “… it’s got plenty of steam and mouth-watering descriptions of food.”

In the Author’s Note, I promised I will post recipes here and I’m starting with Adobo, the unofficial national dish of the Philippines.

On Chapter Four, Blake and Krista had their first meal together. Blake ordered chicken and pork adobo, one of his favorite Filipino dishes and raved about it.

““Hmm, sarap!” The garlic saltiness of the adobo sauce and the perfect tenderness of the meat hit his taste buds and made him groan in satisfaction.”

With 100 Million Filipinos scattered over 7,100+ islands, it is not surprising that adobo is cooked in a variety of ways. Pork and chicken are most commonly used, but other meats, seafood, and vegetables can substitute as well. This recipe is the way I’ve cooked it for more than 20 years. It serves four and can be prepared in as short as 2 hours to as long as 10.

CHICKEN AND PORK ADOBO

adobo1Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pork belly (loin for leaner option), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. chicken (boneless/skinless for lower-fat), cut into serving pieces
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced or crushed
  • 4 pieces dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (low-sodium, if available)
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Instructions: 

  1. Combine first seven ingredients and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Best if left in a closed container overnight.
  2. Heat pot, put in meat, marinating liquid, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour, or until meat is tender. If necessary, add more water.
  3. Strain the meat from liquid, then set aside. In a skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add the crushed garlic. Stir in the meat and cook until all sides are browned. Pour the liquid over the meat and continue simmering until sauce thickens.
  4. Serve hot over rice or with your favorite pancit.

 

Boracay Vows is available in ebook from your favorite etailers and in paperback from Amazon.

amazon logoiBook-icon nook logo  kobo_logosmashwords_icon

 

Credits: