Interview with Sabrina Darby, Author of The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe

Sabrina Darby is the author of The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe.  I enjoyed this quirky read, and was delighted when Sabrina agreed to answer some of my questions.  Check out what she has to say:

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Sabrina Darby] From my bio:  I’ve been reading romance since the age of seven and learned my best vocabulary (dulcet, diaphanous, and turgid) from them!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe?

[Sabrina Darby] This story was so much fun to write because the premise is basically a mom hiring a mistress for her son.

The official blurb is:


A beautiful young woman—preferably one with no connections, who won’t ask too many questions—to spend two weeks in the North of England with an obstinate, aloof, and utterly handsome man.

Must love dogs, fixing up crumbling castles, and gorgeous and complicated war heroes who may or may not be hiding hearts of gold under their gruff exteriors.

Must not, under any circumstances, fall in love . . .

Simpering misses need not apply.

You can find an excerpt at

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Sabrina Darby] This story actually started as a blog post on, where I was playing with some of the common story elements in historical romance: wounded, war-scarred hero, meddling mother, castle, etc.  It grew into a series of posts and then into a novella.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Angelina?

[Sabrina Darby] Ambitious, Determined, Unconventional

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things John would never have in his pocket?

[Sabrina Darby] This is a hard one.  John’s definitely the sort of guy who might collect random things if he thought they could be put to good use. Of course, he’s also very neat, so there would be nothing in his pocket by the end of the day. I do think, by the time the story happens, he would likely never have a gun in his pocket.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Angelina had a theme song, what would it be?

[Sabrina Darby] Just prior to meeting John, I’d say her theme song is the Dar Williams version of Comfortably Numb. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Sabrina Darby] Another good question, and hard to pick just a few since there is no doubt that I’m influenced by all of the amazing artists who have come before me. However, for now, I’d say Ani DiFranco, Carole Maso and Magritte.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Sabrina Darby] Something to write with, something to write on, and a latte. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Sabrina Darby] If we’re talking romance, then I’d have to say the last Sarah MacLean book that I read. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Sabrina Darby] I can’t remember because I’ve been reading voraciously for as long as I can remember. However, books like Harriet the Spy definitely contributed to my love for writing. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Sabrina Darby] In the past, I used to love ballroom dancing and karate. These days, I like going to museums (Los Angeles has some of the best!), traveling and spending time with my husband, family and friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Sabrina Darby] I love when I get to interact with readers! You can find me online at,, or at

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order The Short and Fascinating Tale of Angelina Whitcombe from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital (digital is only .99!!)

Excerpt: When You Wish Upon a Duke by Isabella Bradford

Random House is sharing an excerpt of When You Wish Upon a Duke, the first book in Isabella Bradford’s Wylder Sister’s series.  Check it out, and if you want to read more, click the widget below to order.

When You Wish Upon a Duke by Isabella Bradford (Preview)

More about When You Wish Upon A Duke –

In a sparkling new series filled with irresistible charm and sizzling romance, award-winning author Isabella Bradford introduces us to the eldest of three Wylder sisters—unruly country girls whose passion for life leaves their London suitors breathless.

Raised in the Dorset countryside, Lady Charlotte Wylder doesn’t care one bit about well-bred decorum. The dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty would rather ride a horse than attend a stuffy ball. So when Charlotte learns that she is to leave immediately for London to wed the Duke of Marchbourne, a perfect model of aristocratic propriety, she is less than enchanted with her arranged marriage.

But to her delight, their first encounters are brazenly flirtatious, and their wedding night burns with passion. March’s broad shoulders and dark countenance make Charlotte want to rip every button off his waistcoast. She may even be falling in love with her new husband. Yet whenever their desire boils over, March reluctantly pushes Charlotte away. Will past secrets and present misunderstandings mire their marriage in scandal, or serve to strengthen a bond that is destined to last a lifetime?

You can order When You Wish Upon a Duke by clicking the widget below:

Excerpt: The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber and Giveaway!

Thanks to the super-duper peeps at Random House, I have 10 ARCs of Debbie Macomber’s The Inn at Rose Harbor to giveaway.  I’m geeked about this!   Matchmakers first introduced me to Debbie’s writing, and I have read so many of her books since then!  Check out the excerpt below, and then enter for a chance to win an ARC of your own!

Here’s a description:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start. Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine.

Her first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, and Joshua has little hope that they can reconcile their differences. But a long-lost acquaintance from Joshua’s high school days proves to him that forgiveness is never out of reach and love can bloom even where it’s least expected.

The other guest is Abby Kincaid, who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. Back for the first time in twenty years, she almost wishes she hadn’t come, the picturesque town harboring painful memories from her past. And while Abby reconnects with family and old friends, she realizes she can only move on if she truly allows herself to let go.

A touching novel of life’s grand possibilities and the heart’s ability to heal, The Inn at Rose Harbor is a welcome introduction to an unforgettable set of friends.

Read the excerpt, and then enter the giveaway to win an ARC!

The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber (Preview)


Ready to enter for your chance to win an ARC of The Inn at Rose Harbor?  This is an easy giveaway to enter!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter widget below, and earn extra entries by Tweeting about the giveaway!  Open to US addresses only.


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Didn’t win? You can preorder a copy by clicking the widget below.  Available in print and digital.

Review: Deep Autumn Heat by Elizabeth Barrett


Title: Deep Autumn Heat

Author: Elizabeth Barrett

Publisher: Random House-Loveswept Romance

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.


I don’t think I have read many romances featuring chefs.  Either they didn’t make an impression on me at all, or my innate dislike of cooking has steered me away from books with chefs.  I just don’t find them very sexy.  Sure, it would be divine to have a culinary artist at my beck and call, preparing mouth-watering dishes to please my taste buds and tame my wild heart, but then I remember what a glutton I am, and I realize that if I did find a sexy chef of my own, I would soon weigh as much as my horses.  Like, both of them put together.

In Deep Autumn Heat, both protagonists make a living by cooking.  Lexie runs a small restaurant in Star Harbor, a tourist town on the East coast, and Seb is a glamorous and wealthy chef. His New York restaurant is popular, expensive and five-stars in every way, and his skill in the kitchen has made him rich.  His good looks has landed him a TV show, and, well, this guy has an ego the size of a houseboat.  His first opinion of Lexie’s place is that it’s quaint and a step or three beneath him.  He makes a terrible impression on Lexie; first, he treats her like she’s “just” a waitress, and then he acts as though being in her place should be an honor for her.  He’s THE Sebastian Grayson, after all, and he is eating in HER restaurant.  Then he tries a slice of her coconut cake and it’s all over for him.  He loves her cake and wants to know what’s in it.  After sizing her up again, he decides that he wouldn’t mind getting to know what’s in her pants, either.

Lexie, for her part, is too busy and too focused on making her business successful to give Seb much more than a second glance.  OK, so she gives him a third and a fourth glance, because he is drop dead gorgeous.  Of course he is!  He’s rich, dresses in black, and rides a motorcycle, too, which makes him like a bad boy chef.  A bad boy chef who knows how to clean pots, pans, and various cooking implements, and has a smile that makes every woman’s brain go numb when he flashes a great big smile her way.  Kind of like gulping down a gigantic Slurpee and getting a case of brain freeze.  That is Seb’s effect on all women, including Lexie, though she does try her best to take little sips to minimize the brain freeze effect.

Even though Seb spent most of the book being a pompous ass, I still liked him.  I want a big, sexy hunk of man to cook me breakfast and then clean up the mess.  I want to go on rides on the back of a motorcycle, too.  Le sigh.  This is not in the cards for me.  While I do remember with fondness Dean whipping up Mac & Cheese dinners when I was in college and working full-time, he didn’t do such a good job cleaning up, and he has never owned a motorcycle.  Boo!

I enjoyed the banter and the sparks that flew between Lexie and Seb, and I loved how she calmly put him in his place.  Like, all the time.  She had a gift for thinking well under pressure, she was a natural leader in the kitchen, and better yet, she could cook every bit as well as Seb.  I thought their cook-off was a very fun scene, and enjoyed the interaction between all the characters during that sequence.  I can’t believe that such a diverse cast of people could be crammed in one kitchen and not come to blows.  While Lexie and Seb’s relationship was very competitive at first, they quickly become a team – both in and out of the kitchen.

Which brings me to the part of the review where I share what didn’t work for me in this story.  Lexie has fled from a previous, abusive relationship, and when it appears that her ex is stalking her, she refuses to accept that she might be in mortal danger, or that he might have tracked her down.  Instead, she is convinced that all of the threatening notes and little mishaps that have been plaguing her are the work of a rival who wants her coconut cake recipe.  While it turns out that lots of folk are after the secret behind her yummy cake, Lexie is a really smart woman and her firm denial was annoying.  She was already threatened by the slime ball she used to live with, and she was more than familiar with how awful he could be, so some of her behavior didn’t ring true.  When everyone is telling you that you are in danger, most rational people pay attention, especially if they are scared to death of the person and have experienced the violence they are capable of first hand.  

I thought the pacing was a little slow for the last 20% of the story, and even though I enjoyed Buster’s kick butt moves, I thought that the plot thread introduced during Lexie and Buster’s supply run didn’t fit well in this book.   It’s set up for another book in the series, but to me it just felt like an under developed plot point, and I wouldn’t have missed it if it hadn’t been included.

Deep Autumn Heat is a quick read, with scorching sex scenes.  The electricity between Lexie and Seb quickly flared out of control, and I loved the book until Seb had to go back to his business in New York.  Then, without the blazing encounters between the protagonists, the story lost some steam.  Lexie’s emotional baggage was also resolved too quickly, but overall, this is a fun summer read, so load it on your reader before heading to the beach!

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Elizabeth Barrett, Author of Deep Autumn Heat and Giveaway!

Elizabeth Barrett is the author of Deep Autumn Heat, a new Loveswept Romance that kicks off her Star Harbor series.  Elizabeth dropped by to answer a few questions, and she brought along a digital copy of Deep Autumn Heat for one lucky reader to win!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Elizabeth Barrett] I’m a reader, writer and mother. I love my family and have built my life around them. I’m passionate about music (especially jazz) and food.

I think I went one character over. Should we take off the last period?

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Deep Autumn Heat?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Sure! The book is set on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and is the story of two stubborn chefs who find that despite their very different personalities, they can’t resist each other. Lexie Meyers wants to open a catering business as an extension of her already-successful Star Harbor restaurant, but Sebastian Grayson, a famous New York City chef and former local bad boy, is back in town and has Lexie in his sights. Sparks fly in more than just the kitchen when Lexie and Seb clash. When Lexie is threatened both personally and professionally, she turns to Seb for help…and he’s happy to oblige. The book features two hot-as-heck chefs and one delectable coconut cake.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Elizabeth Barrett] I spent three idyllic summers in high school and college living and working on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. That area is gorgeous and so very romantic. When I decided to write my first book, I knew I’d have to set it on Cape Cod. As far as the specific characters, I personally love strong heroes and even stronger women who can stand up to them. I also love cooking and follow the food industry pretty seriously. The idea of a brash, charismatic celebrity chef and the spunky café owner who won’t let him run the show was just too enticing to resist.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Getting Sebastian to toe the line between arrogance and obnoxiousness. He kept wanting to run away with the book and it was very difficult not to let him.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Lexie?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Spunky, and warm, but guarded.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Seb would never have in his kitchen?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Imitation ingredients, people who can’t cook, anything that would jeopardize his health code rating.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Elizabeth Barrett] I take a lot from nature, actually. I love watching the seasons change, and the little details that can sometimes get overlooked. Like the color of the daffodil stems when they first emerge from the ground is this pale green. You look back a few days later and it’s darker. That’s what I notice.

I also closely watch people…and things…and mannerisms. I like the way people smile. Do they do it slow or fast? Do they show their teeth? Do their eyes crinkle at the edges? Do they get those little brackets around their mouths?

I don’t think this is really answering the question, so I’ll just say, “life observations.”

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Elizabeth Barrett] My laptop, a chair that won’t maim my back, and relative quiet. White noise is okay.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Wow. Okay – one book? From a young age, I was always really into reading. I’d just devour books. As a young woman, though, I’d say Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery. I must have read that book fifty times. It had everything I loved (and still do): a small town, a tight-knit family, and an amazing heroine.

[Manga Maniac Café] What’s the last book you read that knocked your socks off?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Oh, man, this is so tough, but if you’re forcing me, I’ll say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It’s a quiet, slice-of-life story and the prose is just gorgeous. It keeps resonating long after you finish reading.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Elizabeth Barrett] Spend time with my family, read, sing, hike – the usual stuff. My kids have figured out that I’m really good at making up stories, so they usually beg for some tall tales I’ll spin just for them.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Elizabeth Barrett] You can reach me at my website, on my blog, or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads!
Thank you so much for having me here today!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!


Ready for your chance to win a digital copy of Deep Autumn Heat?  Answer the question below and fill out the widget to enter!  Extra entries for following.  Open Internationally.

Elizabeth says:

One commenter on my interview will be randomly selected to win a NetGalley preview of Deep Autumn Heat. Contest ends July 8th at midnight (EDT).You’ll need a NetGalley account, and to answer the question below:

I told you the last book I read that knocked my socks off. What’s yours?

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Didn’t win?  You can purchase Deep Autumn Heat and Blaze of Winter from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Cover Shot! Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I thought Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown put a fantastic spin on mermaid mythology, and I can hardly wait for Deep Betrayal, the next book in the series.  Sadly, I have a long, long time to wait!

In stores 2013.

It’s been thirty days, two hours, and seventeen minutes since Calder left Lily standing on the shores of Lake Superior. Not that she’s counting. And when Calder does return, it’s not quite the reunion Lily hoped for. Especially after she lets her father in on a huge secret: he, like Calder, is a merman. Obsessed with his new identity, Lily’s dad monopolizes Calder’s time as the two of them spend every day in the water, leaving Lily behind.

Then dead bodies start washing ashore. Calder blames his mermaid sisters, but Lily fears her father has embraced the merman’s natural need to kill. As the body count grows, everyone is pointing fingers. Lily doesn’t know what to believe—only that whoever’s responsible is sure to strike again. . .

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