A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Monday, March 28, 2022

Review: The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.


Series: standalone
Publication date: March 29, 2022
Published by: William Morrow
Genre: historical fiction

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In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son--but Hitler's invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper--a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC--until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila's past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

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Praise for The Diamond Eye:

"The Diamond Eye is sharply observed, multi-faceted and brilliantly alive—historical fiction at its best!" -- Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance

"A riveting, authentic story of a Soviet woman who becomes a sniper during WWII. In page-turning prose, Kate Quinn illuminates the tale of Mila Pavlichenko, who, after killing more than 300 of Hitler's most formidable officers, comes to the U.S. to promote America's entry into the war. With vivid characters, unforgettable battle scenes, and moments of intense humanity and love, The Diamond Eye is a master class in historical fiction. It will leave you breathless, choking on tears."  -- Elena Gorokhova, author of A Train to Moscow

"Readers can all but smell the gunsmoke in The Diamond Eye, so thoroughly does Kate Quinn immerse you in the grim and grey world of the Russian Front — and in the psyche of her remarkable real-life heroine, Mila Pavlichenko. Quinn’s page-turning account of Mila’s transformation from student to sniper measures the unimaginable toll of pulling the trigger, portraying with power and compassion Mila’s urge not to kill, but to protect. Unputdownable!" -- Bryn Turnbull, author of The Last Grand Duchess

"Kate Quinn amazes me. With each new book she reaches new heights in her craft as a writer of page-turning plots and prose. The Diamond Eye is a remarkable story filled with heart, intrigue, breathtaking drama and, perhaps best of all, meticulously researched details that prove that history provides the absolute best raw material for storytelling. Like her sniper subject Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Kate Quinn has brilliantly hit her mark--this is a stunning novel about a singular historical heroine."  -- Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post 

“A sparkling gem of a story about a fabulous and fascinating woman. Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s journey from history student and mother to sniper and national hero is beautifully rendered by Kate Quinn in this utterly absorbing novel.”  
-- Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Riviera House

“The brilliant Kate Quinn is at the top of her game with an unexpected historical heroine to root for. The young Russian mother and war hero will steal your heart by stealth--just as she stole the heart of Eleanor Roosevelt, America's most celebrated First Lady. You'll be wowed by this unlikely tale of love and lasting friendship that transcends ideology. It kept me reading late into the night!” 
-- Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette

“From blood-soaked Russian battlefields to the White House Rose Garden, Kate Quinn takes expert aim at one of history’s forgotten heroines to bring us a story that will pull you in from the very first sentence. The Diamond Eye is her best yet!”  
-- Alix Rickloff, author of The Way to London 

"The Diamond Eye is another winner from Kate Quinn. A historian-turned-sniper who falls in love in wartorn Russia and then befriends Eleanor Roosevelt – what’s not to love? The thrilling showdown at the end is not to be missed!" 
--  Kaia Alderson, author of Sisters in Arms 

"An epic journey with history's deadliest female sniper from the trenches of the Russian front to the halls of American power, The Diamond Eye is an enthralling page-turner brimming with emotion and excitement. Kate Quinn writes with a diamond eye for detail." -- Taylor Adams, author of No Exit and Hairpin Bridge


Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” and “The Rose Code.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

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The Diamond EyeThe Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

   When you’re young and you’ve known nothing but peace, 
you assume there will always be time for everything.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it was compulsively readable. Oftentimes with historical fiction, you have to be patient while attempting to get engrossed in the book. Setting the historical scene and balancing fact and fiction can be a time consuming thing, albeit usually worth your while. Similar to world building in fantasy books, slow and steady can win the race in a big way. In The Diamond Eye, Kate Quinn manages to add just enough historical detail to transport you while simultaneously drawing you in from page one. I managed to plow through a book of this heavy nature in less than twenty-four hours. The author's trademark dual timeline plot that eventually merges past and present was used once again. Personally, I found the past sections to be a much more engrossing read than the Washington present sections, partly because I was most excited to read about this heroic female figure's wartime contribution on the front.

Mila Pavlichenko was a fascinating study of contradictions. She was at once an introverted, intelligent, abused young mother, and a fierce survivor with a will of steel and enduring loyalty to her country. She may get knocked down time and again, but no matter what transpires to break her spirit, she picks herself up to fight again every single day. The last person you would expect to become a decorated wartime sniper would be a studious young woman whose self-confidence had been damaged by her emotionally abusive ex. You truly see her evolve throughout the story as she gains an incredible amount of grit. She fights sexism from her peers and commanding superiors and simply uses it to become stronger. Not only does she rise in the ranks to lieutenant, she earns the respect of the men under her command at a time when women were barely tolerated on the front. She wanted to be seen as an individual whose talent helped to make a difference-the goal wasn't glory and acclaim. She managed to achieve both.

   “I am death.” To over one hundred invaders, anyway. 
Not enough, the thought whispered. 
Too many, whispered an answering thought.

The "past" sections focused on the development of Mila as a sniper as well as the close personal relationships that molded her. Her best female friend Lena, her "shadow" sniper partner Kostia, and Kitsenko. There was a bit of a love triangle here that crops up, though it doesn't take over the real story in the forefront of the plot. A romance would have been difficult for countless reasons during that time. The life or death situations she endured every day took a huge toll on her emotionally until there wasn't much left to give. As well, getting involved with one of the men could wreak havoc on the friendships she had painstakingly built. It was a monumental risk with potentially devastating consequences. There really was no question in my mind whom Mila would choose if it did happen, because right from the start you feel the attraction between them. Mila tries to ignore as well as discourage what is budding before it gets a chance to grow. However, the persistent charm of her pursuer is not as easy to shoot down as the enemy in her crosshairs. This person gives her the total respect and acceptance she had always craved in her life as well as unconditional love. It's something that she's smart enough to know is a gift that many never find and she takes the leap, putting her vulnerable heart on the line.

When you're reading a wartime story, you would expect a lot of tragedy and hardship, and yes, there was much of that here. But there was also a lot of inspiration to discover from the heroes so often forgotten throughout history. That's the key thing I took out of this novel. Where there is extreme adversity, you can find spectacular courage to make you feel proud of the persevering human spirit. The dichotomy of the Nazi's grisly crimes and the heart of those who stood courageously for freedom is a striking glimpse of human nature. Kate Quinn always manages to give us the hope without abandoning the harshness it took to get there. I admire her skill in crafting her story as well as honoring female heroes with her detailed research. If you love war novels based on real life events and people, you can't go wrong with this author. I urge you to give her a chance because you will surely reap the rewards of her words.

I hadn’t asked for any of this. 
I wanted to stay home, cuddle my son, 
finish my damned dissertation. 
I didn’t necessarily want the other side dead; 
I only wanted them gone. 
But they weren’t going, 
and so help me, I would settle for dead.



Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Review: How to be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

From New York Times bestseller Eloisa James, a new Regency-set novel in which a heiress with the goal of being a wallflower engages a rugged American in a scorchingly sensual, witty wager that tests whether clothing does indeed make the man—or the wallflower!


Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #1
Publication date: March 22, 2022
Published by: Avon Romance
Genre: Historical romance

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Miss Cleopatra Lewis is about to be launched in society by her aristocratic grandfather. But since she has no intention of marrying, she visits a costume emporium specifically to order unflattering dresses guaranteed to put off any prospective suitors.

Powerful and charismatic Jacob Astor Addison is in London, acquiring businesses to add to his theatrical holdings in America—as well as buying an emerald for a young lady back in Boston. He's furious when a she-devil masquerading as an English lady steals Quimby's Costume Emporium from under his nose.

Jake strikes a devil's bargain, offering to design her “wallflower wardrobe” and giving Cleo the chance to design his. Cleo can't resist the fun of clothing the rough-hewn American in feathers and flowers. And somehow in the middle of their lively competition, Jake becomes her closest friend.

It isn't until Cleo becomes the toast of all society that Jake realizes she's stolen his fiercely guarded heart. But unlike the noblemen at her feet, he doesn't belong in her refined and cultured world.

Caught between the demands of honor and desire, Jake would give up everything to be with the woman he loves—if she'll have him!

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Eloisa James:

“Eloisa James writes with a captivating blend of charm, style, and grace that never fails to leave the reader sighing and smiling and falling in love. Her style is exquisite, her prose pure magic. Nothing gets me to a bookstore faster than a new novel by Eloisa James.”  -- Julia Quinn

"The romance galaxy is filled with luminous stars, but few twinkle as brightly as James, who, with the launch of her Regency-set Would-Be Wallflowers series, once again dazzles readers with superbly conceived characters, a sublimely sensual love story, and sparkling wit." -- Booklist starred review

“Another bright, delightful read from a queen of historical romance.” -- Kirkus Reviews starred review for Say No to the Duke

"James delivers all the banter and sizzle her fans expect in the nuanced fifth Wildes of Lindow Castle Georgian romance...Series readers will be pleased." -- Publishers Weekly on Say Yes to the Duke

"A story as wild as the heroine's family name and one that will reward romance fans who want a funny book about an unusual heroine." -- Kirkus Reviews on Wilde Child


New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her novels have been published to great acclaim. A reviewer from USA Today wrote of Eloisa's very first book that she "found herself devouring the book like a dieter with a Hershey bar"; later People Magazine raved that "romance writing does not get much better than this." Her novels have repeatedly received starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal and regularly appear on the best-seller lists.

After graduating from Harvard University, Eloisa got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City. Her "double life" is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she's written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women's magazines such as More to writers' journals such as the Romance Writers' Report.

Eloisa...on her double life: 

When I'm not writing novels, I'm a Shakespeare professor. It's rather like having two lives. The other day I bought a delicious pink suit to tape a television segment on romance; I'll never wear that suit to teach in, nor even to give a paper at the Shakespeare Association of America conference. It's like being Superman, with power suits for both lives. Yet the literature professor in me certainly plays into my romances. The Taming of the Duke (April 2006) has obvious Shakespearean resonances, as do many of my novels. I often weave early modern poetry into my work; the same novel might contain bits of Catullus, Shakespeare and anonymous bawdy ballads from the 16th century.

When I rip off my power suit, whether it's academic or romantic, underneath is the rather tired, chocolate-stained sweatshirt of a mom. Just as I use Shakespeare in my romances, I almost always employ my experiences as a mother. When I wrote about a miscarriage in Midnight Pleasures, I used my own fears of premature birth; when the little girl in Fool For Love threw up and threw up, I described my own daughter, who had that unsavory habit for well over her first year of life.

So I'm a writer, a professor, a mother - and a wife. My husband Alessandro is Italian, born in Florence. We spend the lazy summer months with his mother and sister in Italy. It always strikes me as a huge irony that as a romance writer I find myself married to a knight, a cavaliere, as you say in Italian.

One more thing...I'm a friend. I have girlfriends who are writers and girlfriends who are Shakespeare professors. And I have girlfriends who are romance readers. In fact, we have something of a community going on my website. Please stop by and join the conversation on my readers' pages.

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How to Be a Wallflower (Would-Be Wallflowers, #1)How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Eloisa James' books, so of course I was very excited at the opportunity to start a brand new series by her. Though, honestly, the synopsis seemed a bit muddled to me. I couldn't quite figure out what the goal their "competition" was supposed to be. She was going to create a dandified wardrobe for him to wear and he was likewise creating her an unattractive wallflower wardrobe. I assumed that the end goal would be revealed and things would fall in place neatly. Instead, the plot ended up feeling more confusing than anticipated.

Originally they were going to dress themselves, and when they told each other of their plan, decided to dress their opponent in order to make it "fair." That really made no sense to me. If they are truly competing and the hero felt that she was a worthy businesswoman equal to any man, why would they do this? He tells his friend, "All is fair in love and war" yet tries to win the game for her. I just couldn't wrap my mind around that. He grows attached to Cleo almost from the start, and he quickly adjusts his life plan to include a future with her. Unfortunately, she is marriage-shy due to her mother's flighty affections and infidelity towards men.

    I have met any number of eligible men and they find me unsettling. 
Since I share their distaste, marital harmony is unlikely.”

She didn't have a positive role model to show her that relationships could be rewarding, or that marriage could be a joyous experience for the couple. Jake knows that it will be quite a challenge to earn her heart as well as her hand, and secretly decides to use their game to have plenty of time to be close to her. That means that their game/competition is rendered irrelevant right from the start since he secretly concedes and changes his goal.

Cleo was a strong, independent woman who lived the unconventional life that she wanted. She didn't fear a poor reputation or salacious gossip for not being confined to society's construct for women. She was brave in that way, but she had vulnerabilities like anyone else. She feared becoming too much like her mother. Bouncing from one whim to the next, and being ruled by fickle emotions. Her mother never seemed to care too deeply, and had no respect for others' marital status. She lived to please herself and no one else. Cleo did give love a chance in the past but the man ended up betraying her, so that cemented her resolve to avoid romance all together. She successfully runs the commode business her father founded and that allows her to be financially independent. If she married, the fruits of her labor would be transferred to her husband, which only serves to deter her even more from matrimony and love.

    “You told me that a lady was never allowed to invest her own money.” 
“Normally, they are not,” Merry said. “Miss Lewis appears to be a true original.

I love Jake's adoration of Cleo. He falls hard and fast which does not necessarily feel organic, however, I did enjoy his utter determination throughout the book to win the woman that he loved. He was a very blunt, honest man who could be a bit rough around the edges, but what you see is what you get with him. He never plotted to seduce her which showed that he had a strong sense of honor. As well, he was shamed by his father's involvement in the Opium trade and changed his prestigious last name in order to distance himself from his actions. That's a pretty incredible thing to do back then. It showed that he prioritized honor over a false sense of social superiority.

I really respected him as a hero which is probably why I felt a little bit bad for him having to suffer being laughed at as he wore his absolutely ridiculous clothing to evening social events. He suffered the humiliation like a champ, but why should he have to? I felt that it was a little mean spirited for everyone around him to get so much enjoyment out of him looking garish while she got to shine. He even got attacked by thugs one night because he looked like an easy target and at that point I wondered if Cleo would release him from their agreement. I was disappointed when she never felt remorse or gave it a second thought.

The conflict at the end came, and it was just as I had anticipated early on. The foreshadowing made it quite obvious so I was waiting for the moment to come rather than dreading an unknown issue. This could be a positive thing for those who like low drama stories with little outside interference in the romance. Yes, there was a bit at the end that caused a little difficulty between them, but it was resolved quickly with proper communication between the two. I appreciated that aspect of it. While I didn't love this one as much as some others by Eloisa James, there was still plenty to enjoy. It was wonderful to revisit characters from My American Duchess, and I enjoyed Lady Yasmin who was introduced as a secondary character. She will inevitably end up with another side character in this story. Their antagonism and chemistry was very apparent, so I really look forward to seeing them find their HEA together. It will surely be an enemies to lovers romance with plenty of sparks flying. In conclusion, this was not an enthusiastic five star win, but a good series starter that left me in anticipation of what's to come.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Review: The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George

A fake engagement brings together a lady with bold and daring dreams, and the heir whose heart she captured—perfect for fans of Bridgerton


Series: The Gilded Age Heiresses #3
Publication date: February 22, 2022
Published by: Berkley Romance
Genre: Historical romance

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Tall, dark, and brooding—to say that American Maxwell Crenshaw stood out in the glittering ballrooms of London, is an understatement. He vowed never to set foot in England again, but when a summons from his father, along with an ultimatum to secure his legacy, has him crossing the Atlantic for the last time, reuniting him with the delectable Lady Helena March, he can’t deny the temptation she presents. Or the ideas she inspires...

Lady Helena March is flirting with scandal. Instead of spending her time at teas and balls in search of another husband, as is expected of a young widow, Helena pours her energy into The London Home for Young Women. But Society gives no quarter to unmarried radicals who associate with illegitimate children and fallen women, and Helena’s funding is almost run out. So when the sinfully seductive Crenshaw heir suggests a fake engagement to save them both—him from an unwanted marriage and her from scorn and financial ruin—Helena finds herself too fascinated to refuse the sexy American.

As their arrangement of convenience melts oh so deliciously into nights of passion, their deception starts to become real. But if Max knew the true reason Helena can never remarry, he wouldn’t look at her with such heat in his eyes. Or might the Crenshaw heir be willing to do whatever it takes to win the one woman he’s never been able to forget...

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Praise for A Lady Tempts an Heir:

"Luscious historical romance"PopSugar

“With sizzling chemistry, brilliant banter, and an unapologetically strong, feminist heroine, Harper St. George sets the pages ablaze!”—Christi Caldwell, USA Today bestselling author of Along Came a Lady

“Harper St. George just gets better and better with every book, penning the kind of page-turning stories that you will want to read again as soon as you finish each one. Max and Helena are my new favorite couple in the series.”—Lyssa Kay Adams, author of Isn't it Bromantic?

"The central couple’s palpable devotion is sure to delight. Series fans will not be disappointed."Publishers Weekly 

"Hits all the right notes."—Library Journal


Harper St. George was raised in rural Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. It was a setting filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since.

She lives in the Atlanta area with her husband and two children. When not writing, she can be found devouring her husband's amazing cooking and reading.

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The Lady Tempts an Heir (The Gilded Age Heiresses, #3)The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third book in the Gilded Age Heiresses series by Harper St. George and another success for this reader. I've been enjoying each installment very much. This book centers around Maxwell Crenshaw, brother to the first two heroines, August and Violet. I was looking forward to learning more about Max as I felt that he was a bit of a mystery in the previous stories. There wasn't much development around his character and he was very much in the background as a secondary character. In The Lady Tempts an Heir he's truly brought to life and becomes an honorable hero to really root for.

Once again, we have the Crenshaw parents meddling in their children's lives by forcing the last remaining single sibling to marry. To be honest, this was my only complaint and reasoning for taking off a star when choosing a rating. The theme is reoccurring in every single book and when that happens it tends to get a little stale. Yes, there were some variations to the attempt at forced marriages, but essentially we're reading the same thing. The parents are absolutely despicable and selfishly controlling. They don't go through any sort of redemption arc or grow from what transpires after the first two marriages. They manipulate their kids into marrying nobility for their own selfish gains, get what they want, and then repeat, despite the pain and suffering they cause along the way. It seems to me that the three siblings are very forgiving towards them, and I have to say that I didn't feel any sympathy at all for the father who developed a heart condition in this book and feared for his life. Maybe that sounds a little heartless, but it was hard to mete out any forgiveness when he put his social rank above his three children's freedom and happiness.

Max Crenshaw is the loyal and honorable prodigal son. He is following in his father's footsteps, learning the business at Crenshaw Iron in order to eventually run the company. While he is more than capable of taking over from his father, they have completely opposite values and managing styles when it comes to business. His father is a dictator and doesn't care about his workers' welfare or living conditions. Max is constantly butting heads with him because unlike his father, he believed an organization is the sum of its parts and that success isn't due to one sole person at the top. Another admirable trait was his loyalty to his family. When it came to his sisters, he jumped to defend them at every opportunity and fought for their happiness and well being. His father's sexist attitude toward August's contribution in the company is a constant battle that he's willing to fight for her. He sees the value in her work and he genuinely cares about the projects she initiates for the company. When his father uses that loyalty against him to attempt to entrap him in marriage, that was the final nail in his coffin for me. He threatens to sink August's business plan if Max doesn't get married by the end of the season.

Lady Helena March is a close friend of Max's two sisters. He encountered her in previous books, and there was an attraction there, but he forced himself to put it out of his mind. He had no time at the present to entertain thoughts of marriage, even though he felt oddly drawn to her. When they see each other again, there is an instantaneous reaction between them, and his respect for her only grows as he sees her efforts towards setting up a home to assist unwed mothers. Rather than turn his nose up at her charity for "fallen" women like most in their social echelon, he sees the value in her work and the generosity in her heart. You have to love his willingness to not only confront the snobbery that surrounds them, but his desire to help her achieve her goal. His plan for a fake engagement will assist both of them: he will get some breathing room from his father's threats and she will get the respect needed from her family and society in order to get financial backing for The London Home for Young Women. What could go wrong?

What started out as a fabrication started to feel more real by the day. As their respect, admiration, and passion grew, the line blurred between fiction and reality. However, even as they wished they could make their engagement into a true marriage, they didn't see how they could overcome their lives firmly settled on separate shores. She could never move to America where Crenshaw Iron was based when her own dreams were on the verge of being attained in England. Would they find a way to bridge the gap? There was another major roadblock between them, but that was quickly resolved because of Max's unconditional love and acceptance of Helena. Once he made up his mind that he had to have her, nothing was going to stand in his way.

     His eyes met hers, and it was almost like a physical touch. 
He meant what he said, and she felt the same sense of 
belonging she had felt the night of the music performance. 
It was the both of them together against all the rest.

I really enjoyed reading Max and Helena's story. It was a pretty straightforward story with no excessive drama. They had a ton of chemistry and sweetness between them to enjoy. Helena got the partner that she so greatly deserved after suffering through the heartache of her first marriage. I highly recommend this series if you're looking for historical romances with strong, independent female leads. That seems to be a staple in Harper St. George's stories, and I for one, will keep coming back for more as long as she is producing them.


Blog Tour: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

A chef's journey to success leads to discovering the perfect recipe for love in this delicious romantic comedy.

Series: n/a
Publication date: March 15, 2022
Published by: Berkley
Genre: contemporary romance

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Sadie is a rising star in the trendy Seattle restaurant scene. Her dream is to create unique, modern, and mouthwatering takes on traditional Jewish recipes. But after a public breakup with her boss, a famous chef, she is sure her career is over--until she lands a coveted spot on the next season of her favorite TV show, Chef Supreme.

On the plane to New York, Sadie has sizzling chemistry with her seatmate, Luke, but tells him that she won't be able to contact him for the next six weeks. They prolong their night with a spontaneous, magical dinner before parting ways. Or so she thinks. When she turns up to set the next day, she makes a shocking discovery about who Luke is....

If Sadie wants to save her career by winning Chef Supreme, she's going to have to ignore the simmering heat between her and Luke. But how long can she do that before the pot boils over?

Praise for Sadie on a Plate:

“Sadie on a Plate is a joyful, satisfying romp. I loved it—and I'm still hungry!”—KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times bestselling author of The Chicken Sisters

“Sadie on a Plate reads like the ultimate cooking show comfort-watch—with the added spice of a forbidden romance. A delicious love story and heartfelt ode to Jewish cuisine.”—Rachel Lynn Solomon, national bestselling author of The Ex Talk

“My goodness—Amanda Elliot knows how to write swoon-worthy food! Amidst all the inventive dishes and luscious food descriptions, Sadie on a Plate mixes the drama of a culinary competition, a slow-burn forbidden romance, and a salty-sweet cast of characters into the perfect bookish bite.”—Amy E. Reichert, author of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club

“Amanda Elliot’s debut Sadie on a Plate is a foodie delight. Fans of Top Chef will cheer on Sadie Rosen as she blazes through the Chef Supreme competition. The Jewish meals Sadie cooks are from the heart as is her steamy romance with chef Luke Weston. This sweet sufganiyot of a novel is deliciously delectable.”—Roselle Lim, author of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop

“Sadie on a Plate is a delectable mix of humor, reality show drama, foodie vibes, and heart-fluttering love story. Amanda Elliot has crafted an endearingly imperfect heroine whose hot mess-ness and tenacity will resonate with readers. You'll swoon, laugh, and cheer as you watch Sadie earn the happily ever after she so deserves.”—Sarah Echavarre Smith, author of On Location

"Luke and Sadie are likable characters with magnetic, slow-building chemistry and sympathetic, realistic backstories. The fast-paced, delicious plot is as much about food as romance...Readers, especially those who enjoy shows like Top Chef, won’t be able to put down this fast-paced romantic comedy."Library Journal starred review

“Elliot’s first adult novel has the perfect amount of reality show hijinks and food innuendos that help dial up the heat… A satisfying debut for foodies and romance lovers alike.”Kirkus Reviews starred review

Purchase your copy now!


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

My life has this irritating habit of throwing its biggest changes at me while I'm completely in the nude.

Exhibit one, ten years ago: I was seventeen and enamored with a boy my parents hated, all for the completely unfair reason that he skipped school most days to smoke pot behind the local 7-Eleven. I'd snuck him up to my room, deciding against the back door in favor of the tree outside my window because it seemed so much more romantic. We were in the throes of quiet passion when my door flew open.

"Sadie?" my sister said, and her mouth dropped open. She was four years younger than me, so I would've felt bad for traumatizing her if I wasn't so busy screeching and scrambling for my clothes or a sheet or anything to cover up our naughty bits.

"Get out of here!" I grabbed the closest thing within reach-an old soccer trophy-and hurled it in her general direction for emphasis. It landed with a thunk on the rug, which made her jump and blink her eyes. "Get ouuuuuuuut!"

"Okay. Fine." She blinked again and adjusted her glasses. As she turned to go, she said over her shoulder, "By the way, Grandma died."

Exhibit two, six weeks ago: I was getting out of the shower when I heard my phone ding with a text. It was charging on the nightstand, so I picked it up on my way to the dresser. All I saw on the lock screen was that it was from Chef Derek Anders, my boss, and it started with, Hey Sadie . . . I sighed, figuring he was probably asking me to come in for a last-minute shift on the line. I entered my PIN and read the whole text.

Hey Sadie, I'm sorry but we're going to have to let you go.

Exhibit three, five weeks ago: I was walking around my apartment eating Nutella out of the jar with my fingers for breakfast, psyching myself up to put on fancy professional clothes and head out for my nine a.m. interview at the temp agency. My phone rang with a 212 number, which I knew was New York City, and the only reason I picked up was because I thought that the temp agency had its headquarters in New York and maybe they were calling to cancel the interview because what are you thinking, Sadie, all you've ever done is work in restaurants and all you've ever wanted to do is have your own, why are you trying to get an admin job at some obnoxiously hipstery tech company?

It's not like I want to work at a tech company, I argued silently with the temp agency. It's that I've been blacklisted for the near future from the entire Seattle restaurant scene and need some way to earn money until all this fuss dies down.

The temp agency scoffed in my head. Yeah, okay. Like you could do a fancy office job. All you can do is work the line, and now you can't even do that anymore. You're worthless.

I picked up the phone, my shoulders already drooping. "Hello, this is Sadie Rosen."

"Hi, Sadie!" It was a woman on the other end, her tone far too chipper for this hour of the morning. "My name is Adrianna Rogalsky, and I'm calling from Chef Supreme. Is this a good time?"

I almost dropped my phone. "Yes!" I cleared my throat, trying to keep from squeaking the way I did when I got too excited. "I mean yes, this is a good time."

"Great!" Adrianna chirped. "I'm calling to tell you that the committee really liked your application and your cooking video. Would you mind answering a few more questions for me?"

My eyes involuntarily darted to my bookshelf, which consisted mainly of cookbooks. I spent too much time in restaurant kitchens to cook much from them-or at least, up until a week ago I had-but I liked flipping through them to gather ideas and marvel at the food photography. Five were written by winners of Chef Supreme, and four by runners-up and semifinalists. I'd watched every episode of all six seasons, seated on the edge of my couch to goggle at every cooking challenge and winning dish and contestant who cried when eliminated.

Season three's winner, Seattle's Julie Chee, was my culinary idol. Derek, my boss, had taken me by her restaurant after-hours one day. She'd laughed when I told her how I'd been rooting for her all season, patted my head like I was a little kid, and then cooked me a grilled cheese with bacon and kimchi. It was the best night of my life. Right after that, I'd started dreaming about competing on the show myself.

"Hello? Sadie?"

And if I didn't get on my game, that dream was going to evaporate like a pot of boiling water forgotten on the stove. I mean, I didn't really think I was actually going to make it on the show, but it wasn't like I was going to hang up on someone from Chef Supreme. "Sorry!" I said. "Bad connection for a minute there. Yes, I'd love to answer some questions." I shook my head and grimaced. Love? Love was a strong word. I should've said I'd be happy to answer some questions. Now Adrianna was probably-

Talking! Already! "Your application from six months ago says that you're a sous-chef at the Green Onion in Seattle?"

I cleared my throat. "Well, um." This was not off to a great start. "I was a sous-chef there until last week. I decided to leave to . . . um, pursue personal business opportunities." Another grimace. Personal business opportunities? What did that even mean?

I really wished I wasn't naked right now. I knew Adrianna from Chef Supreme couldn't see me through the phone, but I still felt way too exposed.

Fortunately, job-hopping is fairly common in the food world. So Adrianna just said, "Great. And how would you describe your personal style?"

I hoped she meant food-wise and not looks-wise, because my personal fashion style consisted mainly of beat-up Converses, thrift store T-shirts, and constant calculations on how far I could go between haircuts before crossing the line from fashionably mussed to overgrown sheepdog. "At the Green Onion, I was cooking mostly New American food with some French influences and a bit of molecular gastronomy," I told her. "But my own style, I'd say, is more homestyle, with Jewish influences? Not kosher cooking; that's a different thing. I'm inspired by traditional Jewish cuisine."

Paper rustled on the other end. "Right, the matzah ball ramen you cooked in your video looked fantastic. We were all drooling in the room!"

I perked up. Forgot that I was naked. Forgot that lately I was a walking disaster. "That's one of my go-tos and will definitely be on my future menu. I've been experimenting lately with putting a spin on kugels . . ."

As I chattered on, I could practically see my grandma shaking her head at me. Grandma Ruth had cooked up a storm for every Passover, Yom Kippur, and Chanukah, piling her table till it groaned with challah rolls, beef brisket in a ketchup-based sauce, and tomato and cucumber salad so fresh and herby and acidic it could make you feel like summer in the middle of winter. Pastrami-spiced pork shoulder? Really, dear?

I shook my own head back at her, making her poof away in a cloud of metaphorical smoke. I had that power now that she was dead and buried and existing primarily as a manifestation of my own anxiety.

". . . so in that way it's really more of a cheesecake with noodles in it," I finished up. My blood was sparking just talking about my food; I had to do a few quick hops just to burn off some of that excess energy.

"I love your passion," Adrianna said on the other end of the phone. "So, I take it that opening your own restaurant is hashtag goals for you?"

"Hashtag goals," I agreed. And my shoulders drooped again, because that was a dream that was never going to happen now. After I got fired by the Green Onion and the chefs at all the other restaurants worth working at learned why, I became the joke of Seattle's restaurant industry. Who wanted to invest in the local joke?

She asked me a few other questions, pertaining mostly to my schedule and availability (there were only so many ways to say, "I'm free whenever you want me, considering I no longer have a job"). I continued to pace around my apartment, circling the coffee table, bare feet padding over the rug. And then, "It's been lovely to speak with you, Sadie."

I stopped short, my shin slamming into the table leg. I swallowed back a curse. "It's been lovely to speak with you . . . too?" I finished with a question, because I couldn't ask what I really wanted to ask. Is this it? Did I not meet whatever criteria you have? What's wrong with me?

"We'll be in touch soon," Adrianna said. "Have a great day!"

I did not have a great day. Because of Adrianna's call, I was fifteen minutes late to my interview at the temp agency and arrived all sweaty and panting from the rush to get there on time. The interviewer's lip had actually curled in distaste as she touched my damp, clammy hand. The sugar rush from the Nutella had worn off by the time I hurried back out onto the street, and I was starting to feel a little shaky, but the only place to buy food in the vicinity was a coffee shop where I was forced to choose between a stale bagel and some slimy fruit salad.

And that wasn't all. As I chewed (and chewed, and chewed, and chewed) on my stale bagel with too much cream cheese caked on, I ran into an old friend. Like, literally ran into an old friend, as in our bodies collided as I was trying to catch the bus.

"Oh!" I knew it was her as soon as I heard that raspy voice, earned from years of smoking in alleyways behind restaurants. Her eyes widened as she took me in: the sweaty strands of hair sticking to the sides of my face, the thrift store blazer that still smelled like the eighties, even though I'd washed it twice and taken the shoulder pads out. "Sadie! How are you . . . doing?"

I gritted my teeth at the false sympathy in those big blue eyes. "Hi, Kaitlyn. So you heard?"

Kaitlyn leaned in, bringing the smell of smoke with her. I fought the urge to step back. Even after years working in restaurant kitchens, where most everybody was a smoker at least when drunk, I hated the smell. "Of course I heard. I'm surprised you're still here. Not here in SoDo, like, in Seattle."

"I'm still here," I said through a clenched jaw. Kaitlyn Avilleira and I had quasi-bonded in our early twenties, a little over five years ago. We were the only two women on the line at Atelier Laurent, and we had to have each other's backs if we didn't want to get banished to the pastry kitchen.

Having her back didn't mean I liked her.

"That's really strong of you." Kaitlyn pulled me in for a one-armed hug that might actually have been an attempt to strangle me. "I'm rooting for you, girl!"

I gritted my teeth in a smile. This was the song and dance of our relationship: seeing who could pretend harder that we did like each other, because we were busy fighting so many stereotypes about women on the line that there was no way we could fulfill the one where the only two women were enemies. "Thanks, Kait!"

An uncomfortable silence settled over us. I looked in the direction of the bus. No, I stared in the direction of the bus, willing it with my eyes to appear.

Alas, I had not developed any magical powers in the past few minutes.

"We have to get drinks sometime," I said. "And catch up. It's been way too long."

"Way too long," Kaitlyn said. She tossed her long, shiny brown hair. Her eyes sparkled, and her cheeks were naturally rosy. She never had to wear blush or undereye concealer to keep coworkers from asking her if she was sick. "Wait till I tell you about working for Chef Marcus. He works me like a dog." She trilled a laugh. "I almost wish I could take a break like you."

I clenched my jaw and told myself that I couldn't hit her or I'd get arrested, and going to jail was really the only way I could make my situation worse. Well, that, or moving back in with my parents in the suburbs, into my childhood bedroom with the shag carpet and no lock on the door.

"Well, I'd better be going," Kaitlyn said, just as I was saying, "Well, I'll let you go." Our words clashed, and we both laughed nervously before hugging yet again. "You should finally open that restaurant now that you're free and have all this time," Kaitlyn said as she backed away. "I'll be there opening night!"

Thankfully, she was off before I had to respond. I made a face at her back. Of course I wanted to open my restaurant now that I was free and had all this time. But opening a restaurant either took lots of money, which I didn't have even before the whole unemployment situation, or a bunch of rich investors willing to throw their money away on my behalf, which, again, I wished.

The bus was delayed, obviously, and it took me twice as long as it should have to get home, the whole time crammed in next to a manspreader who kept giving me dirty looks for trying to sit in three-quarters of my own seat. I stared hard out the window, watching the warehouses and industrial lofts turn into the residential buildings and parks of Crown Hill. By the time I stumbled through the door of my apartment, I was done with today. I pulled off my clothes, dropping them in puddles on the floor, so that I could shower the stink of failure away and then eat something for my soul. Like more Nutella out of the jar.

My phone chimed. It's probably the temp agency already rejecting me, I thought glumly, digging it out of my bag. Sure enough, it was an email.

But it was from Adrianna Rogalsky of Chef Supreme. And it started with Hey Sadie, just like my firing-by-text. Fantastic. I took a deep breath as I clicked it open, readying myself for yet another important food world person to tell me how inadequate I was.


Photo credit: Cassie Gonzales 2021

Amanda Elliot lives with her husband in New York City, where she collects way too many cookbooks for her tiny kitchen, runs in Central Park, and writes for teens and kids under the name Amanda Panitch.

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