Someone To Kiss by Scotty Cade


Someone To Kiss by Scotty Cade
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Dane McCormick’s job negotiating leases and building out furnished office suites takes him all over the country. He stays until the job is done—and then he moves on. As satisfying as the job is, it leaves him no place to call home and no chance to build a personal life. After arriving in Greenville, South Carolina, for a job, a severe stomach virus knocks Dane for a loop. He finds a local urgent care clinic… and a tall, dark, and handsome doctor who goes well above and beyond his duties to treat Dane. The doctor’s bedside manner makes Dane forget all about his stomach flu.

Carter Baldridge has dedicated his life to caring for others. Since graduating from medical school, he has spent all his time and energy building his urgent care business. But the morning he steps into his examining room and sees Dane McCormick on the table, he realizes it might be time to devote some attention to a part of life he has neglected. The spark is there, but so is a major obstacle in the form of Dane’s peripatetic lifestyle and a bad experience in Carter’s past. Both have to decide if the risk is worth the reward.

Dane was ecstatic. He was deliriously happy with his boyfriend, Carter, and they’d both agreed to spend the Christmas vacation together, alone. Best of all, Dane was thrilled to finally have someone special to ring in the New Year with, someone to kiss at midnight. A dramatic and unavoidable change in his work plans, however, could derail not only that special New Years kiss, but possible Dane’s whole future with Carter. Can they both survive the holiday season?

I found this to be an emotional and well written short story. I thoroughly enjoyed both Dane and Carter’s characters, finding them realistic, vibrant and interesting. The issues that Dane and Carter found themselves faced with when Dane’s work forces them both into a huge upheaval were well handled I felt and kept me invested in both men and their relationship. I thought the author did a great job balancing between each of their desires and kept the storyline rooted in reality when it could have easily become over-dramatic or a little soap-opera-ish.

I was a little disappointed that a very large part of the start of the story was actually flashbacks to when Dane and Carter actually met. About a third of the story was taken up in this matter and I felt could have really been put in a better, more logical order. While I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing Dane and Carter’s initial meeting and the showing of the start of their relationship, it felt quite jolting to me for the story to literally go backwards. I completely understand why the author wanted to add the “meeting each other” section and I do feel it added positively to my understanding of Dane and Carter’s relationship and the story as a whole, but the placement of it felt jarring and I actually hurried through this quite large section – wanting to get back to the “present” and see how Dane and Carter dealt with their current problems. The writing itself was excellent and I genuinely enjoyed learning more about Dane and Carter’s history together, but I can’t help but feel it made the story itself feel jolting and this could have easily been avoided and the story would have been much smoother, I feel, if the author had kept everything sequential time-wise.

This is a very emotional, and in its own way romantic, story that I genuinely enjoyed. I was hugely invested in both Dane and Carter’s characters and particularly their relationship. While the back-and-forth time hopping wasn’t to my personal taste, the overall plot of Dane and Carter’s relationship was engrossing and I desperately wanted to know that they could both pull through their troubles. I was very satisfied with the ending and would happily read other stories by this author.

Dante’s Circle by Dorien Grey


Dante’s Circle by Dorien Grey
An Elliott Smith Mystery, #4
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (132 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Dante Benevetti is the darling of the music world…and why not? He’s handsome, talented—and arrogant as only a man convinced of his own brilliance can be. As far as he’s concerned, the rest of the world exists for his benefit.

So, when he hears Dante is dead, a victim of murder, Elliott isn’t really surprised. Nor is he surprised when Dante comes for a post-mortem visit, demanding Elliott find out who killed him. Was it the well-known lyricist who was the only one in the house at the time? The talented young musician whose work Dante plagiarized? Or some unknown the great pianist had mortally offended?

Being famous is never a guarantee that everyone will like you.

One of the things I appreciate the most about this series is how much attention Mr. Grey always pays to his characters. No one is ever one hundred percent virtuous or villainous in this universe. The good guys have their fair share of faults, and even the most devious potential murderers have admirable character traits, too. This pattern continued in this tale. In fact, it was stronger than it’s ever been before, and that made it impossible for me to wander away from these characters until I knew how everything had been resolved and if Elliott would figure out who killed Dante.

I had some trouble keeping track of all of the secondary characters. While I wasn’t as confused by all of the new faces as I was in the third instalment in this series, I still would have liked to see a bit more time spent explaining how they all knew each other. This would have been especially helpful for the characters who only showed up a handful of times in the entire plot. With that being said, this is a minor criticism of a book that I otherwise enjoyed a lot.

The mystery of Dante’s death kept me guessing until the very end. There were enough clues to pique my interests, but they were also shared so sparingly that it wasn’t easy to figure out how they all fit together. I liked the fact that I needed to think so much about who may have killed this musician and what motive they might have had.

This is the fourth story in this series. While the storyline itself could be read as a standalone work, I’d recommend reading them in order to anyone who is interested in seeing how the main characters have evolved over time.

Dante’s Circle should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a thought-provoking mystery.

Frost & Claus by Matilda Janes


Frost & Claus by Matilda Janes
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

She loves to frost cookies. Now he’s going to frost hers.

Santa’s eldest daughter Chrystal Claus is curvy, cute, and loves to bake. Opening her bakery has been a dream come true, she loves to watch her customers smile after they’ve eaten one of her treats. It’s her gift and she’s never been happier. That is until Jack Frost comes back into town, seemingly intent on disrupting her life with his scowling eyes, grumpy growls, and all his bulging muscles, she can’t help but notice! After he embarrasses and hurts her feelings she decides she can’t stand the handsome jerk. But when she’s kidnapped, Chrystal discovers not all is as it seems.

Jack Frost has been waiting for Chrystal Claus for an eternity, and when she comes of age Jack wants to claim his mate. But it isn’t to be; bound by a promise, Jack reluctantly leaves Christmas Town. When he returns years later he can barely contain himself. He wants nothing more than to claim his mate and no one will stand in his way. Or so he thinks.

Can Chrystal accept being Mrs. Frost? Will Jack convince Chrystal that being naughty can be nice?

Chrystal and her sisters have all been good this year. Only time will tell how they’re rewarded for that.

Ms. Janes had a descriptive and playful writing style that worked well for her subject matter. From the opening scene in Chrystal’s bakery to the steamy experiences she shared with Jack in private later on, I was always able to easily picture what was going on. The author did a good job at showing the audience what was happening in her story at every step along the way.

I would have liked to see way more time spent developing the chemistry between the Claus sisters and the men who wanted to be with them. This was something I noticed especially between Jack Frost and Chrystal Claus. He had a strong desire for her from the very first scene, but at the same time he barely knew anything about her at all. Due to this, the chemistry between them never felt right to me.

The dialogue often made me smile. I liked discovering how many Christmas and folklore references the characters made throughout the plot. Not only did the mixture of all of these references give the storyline a creative spin, it made Christmas town come alive in my imagination. It felt like a real place to me, and that’s not something that’s easy to accomplish in a story of this length.

Frost & Claus should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a sultry version of life at the North Pole.

Turning the Tides by Nell Castle


Turning the Tides by Nell Castle
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (258 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Ever the black sheep of her adoptive family, Lee Cooper has finally buckled down to a responsible job as a social worker in Southwest Florida. Defending her client against charges of child abuse awakens buried memories of her own abandonment in a Korean orphanage. Can she remain objective for the sake of a child?

Bricker Kilbourn, the court-appointed guardian, doubts Lee’s judgments–and his opinion might determine the little boy’s fate. He’s got his own family issues and haunting secrets to keep. Falling for a woman is not part of his plan.

He’s running from his past. She’s searching for answers. Will their resolution to protect a child bind them together or wrench them apart?

Sometimes our past comes back to haunt us in unexpected ways.

Lee Cooper works in Social Services assisting parents and children to build better lives after the concerns are raised by Child Protective Services. When one difficult case arises where Lee is convinced that the foster mother is being manipulative of the system, Lee must act. Yet, when she meets the Guardian Ad Litem for the child, she finds more than she bargained for. When Lee learns some hidden information about Bricker, the plot thickens, and Lee’s past comes bursting forth and impacts her future with the one man she feels truly comfortable with.

Nell Castle does an excellent job, telling the story from various points of view. Although Lee Cooper is the primary point of view, the story goes much more in depth and has a great dynamic that many readers would not have anticipated. Several different sub-plots all converge on Bricker and Lee’s relationship, which also entwines another dynamic completely.

The conversations are engrossing and fit right in with the various plots. The characters are strong and each character has an in-depth background which impacts their current character development. The plots are all relevant and the aspects of work and the legal ethics are well researched and strongly presented. I personally liked the interaction between Lee and her supervisor which led to some interesting dynamic between Lee and Bricker down the road.

If you want a strong romantic story that integrates how our past can come forth to impact our future, you won’t want to miss Turning the Tides!

Roger by SJD Peterson


Roger by SJD Peterson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short Story (51 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

exas native Colt Burrow isn’t happy about his third cold, lonely Christmas in frozen Michigan. But when fate sends him a gift in the form of an abandoned puppy, he can’t keep his heart from melting. With the puppy’s companionship, he doesn’t feel so isolated anymore, and the holidays don’t seem as bleak. He even finds enough Christmas spirit to take Roger tree shopping. But just when Colt’s starting to hope Roger’s owner doesn’t show up… he does, and Colt doesn’t want to say goodbye.

Will Roger end up being Colt’s Christmas heartbreak… or his Christmas miracle?

Colt had grown up in Texas, so the bitterly cold, snowy Michigan winters had come as an unpleasant surprise to him. Whether it was the insane cold, or perhaps residual feelings left over from a particularly nasty break up a few years ago, Colt found himself far more Grinch-like than he was comfortable with. Braving the bitter snow for a cigarette, Colt finds a small dog, Roger, lost and shivering. Can Roger help return Colt’s Christmas spirit?

I found this to be a sweet and interesting Christmassy sort of story. While I completely sympathize with Colt and his distaste of the cold, snowy winter he’s enduring I was pleased how finding Roger managed to snap him out of his funk. Readers looking for a strong, erotic romance might not find this story quite to their tastes. The bulk of the story is actually between Roger (the lost dog) and Colt, though towards the end of the story Roger’s rightful owner, Killian, does show up. I, personally, was quite enthralled by Colt and his emotional attachment to Roger. I could understand readers being somewhat disappointed if they pick this story up wanting a sensual, erotic romance story, but readers looking for a sweeter, man-and-his-dog sort of story should be satisfied, as I found the emotion and connection in the story was vibrant and quite realistic. Aside from a sweet, chaste kiss there’s no sex or “on screen” spice – while an intimate relationship is alluded to in the epilogue there is no spice within the story itself.

While the story is set around Christmas-time, I found the theme of Christmas to absolutely take a back seat to the connection between Colt and Roger. While not romantic as such, the relationship between dog and man certainly seemed front-and-centre to me, and deservedly so. I found it interesting and extremely well written and I could happily enjoy it for what it was. I was happily satisfied with the ending – a lovely happy ever after for Colt and Killian and wonderful to me as a reader.

Readers looking for a happy and friendly short story – one that can be safely shared with both younger and older readers – with the main relationship surrounding a lonely man who finds his happiness with the joy from a lost pet dog should find this short story heart-warming and sweetly satisfying. A great story with no sex and a lovely happy ending.

Six Dogs til Sunday by Lia Farrell


Six Dogs til Sunday by Lia Farrell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

It’s January in Rosedale, Tennessee, and Mae December is preparing for her March wedding to Sheriff Ben Bradley. Mae, who boards dogs for a living, is also busy tending to her pregnant dog and scouting locations for the movie featuring the music of her former fiancé Noah West, who died in a car accident four years earlier. Fortunately the picturesque old house at the end of Little Chapel Road is for rent.

Just as filming is about to begin, a man is shot on the set, but manages to drive himself to the hospital, where he dies before he can ID his killer. He was a member of the film crew, but also a local, and circumstances point to his being a confidential informant for Ben’s predecessor, Sheriff Trey Cantrell, also the owner of the house turned movie set. At the time of the shooting, the victim had been stealing a large sum of money from a safe on the premises. Whose money is it, and where does it come from?

The Rosedale Sheriff’s Office not only has another murder case on its hands, but one that will dredge up a past long buried. How far will the guilty parties go to protect their secrets?

This family sort of reminds me of the “Real McCoys” except with class.

This was a fun, light read. I would identify it as a cozy but it had plenty of substance to keep a reader’s interest the whole time. It has some extra advantages because I like dogs but actually I think the word “dogs” is used more in the titles of the series than dogs having any meaning in the story. However dogs do exist in this story as well as cops and bad guys and weddings. Not a bad mixture at all.

This is a really good example of character development. I think I could name all of the essential characters who made up this story but more importantly…I think I know what they look like. That may sound crazy but good authors write well enough that you have a picture of the characters and their surroundings. I also think that once that has been achieved, you won’t stop reading. There might have been a scene or two that I thought could have been cut but the book didn’t seem long. On the other hand maybe those scenes are why I know the characters so well.

This is Book 6 in the series which is called “A Mae December Mystery”. There was not one time in this book the author left me unable to figure something out because of a previous book in the series. The story of the previous books was never given away but they seemed to fit in enough to not leave you hanging in this one. There is no question this book can be read out of order in the series. That being said, if you don’t have a reason you have to read them out of order, don’t. Start with Book 1 and read through Book 6. Maybe there will be a Book 7 by that time. I hope so.

Identity Thief by R. Franklin James


Identity Thief by R. Franklin James
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (258 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Probate attorney Hollis Morgan is branching out into criminal law. Pardoned after serving time for her then-husband’s white-collar crime, she knows something about the workings of the criminal mind. Hollis’ first criminal case quickly gets complicated. Her client is a young man initially accused of identity theft, but his charge soon includes murder. Hollis has a knack for detecting lies, and although Justin Eastland lies with every breath, she doesn’t believe he is a killer. Eastland is let out on bail as bait, and Hollis struggles to keep her client alive. She enlists the services of her young friend Vince, a former addict she helped get back on track, telling him to not let Eastland out of his sight. At the same time Hollis is handling a sensitive probate matter for a whistle-blower hiding from a revengeful cartel. It has not been easy for Hollis to learn to trust again, and in both these cases, a surprising number of people are not telling her the whole story. She thinks she can sort the truths from the half-truths and the outright lies, but how reliable are her instincts? Hollis’ sense of justice does not always consider the law. If she’s wrong, her clients aren’t the only ones who could lose their lives.

Absolutely wonderful characters…

This has a good storyline. One that flows well and keeps your interest. Plenty of twists and turns but not one hiccup. Nothing here that throws off your rhythm of reading; makes you have to turn back a page or two to see what you missed. Clean, clearly written, crime fiction.

However, the main reason I liked this book was the characters. The author did a good job of overall character development but she made me love some of the characters. Hollis is the main character. She’s feisty and strong and knows her own mind. Although she’s had some knocks in life, she has picked herself up and become a member of a law firm. Hollis has helped some people that were down on their luck in life too. One of those people is Vince and I came to love him too in this story. My point here is that this author made me care about these characters. I don’t have to like all of the characters, the result of that would make for a very boring book. However, I sure have to know all of the characters and be able to draw my own picture of them. Sort of like a movie in writing. That’s important to me as a reader. This writer accomplished that.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this sixth book in a series that R. Franklin James has titled the Hollis Morgan Mysteries. While this is the first I have read, I am positive that all of the other five must be an interesting read. I hope there’s another to follow.

Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae


Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae
The Ships in the Night Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (174 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Lady Charlotte Talbot hasn’t seen Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, her oldest childhood friend and once betrothed, since his family returned to India when she was fifteen. Since then, she has left a groom at the altar, changed her name to Catalina Sol, opened a house for unwed mothers and orphans, and captained a ship, the Liberté, crewed by the best fighters in the Spanish Main. She’s no longer the lady he left behind, not that she’d admit to wishing he’d return.

When Armand’s brother is kidnapped, he breaks his rule of never engaging with pirates. But desperation drives him to the Liberté and a life he thought he’d left far behind. He’d do anything to save Henri, but Armand never expected to find Charlotte here, and now that’s he’s found her, he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.

Together, they must face kidnapping, pirate captains, blackmail, and themselves. The Liberté may sail thousands of miles from the shores of England, but that might not be far enough to escape the past.

The series was definitely launched with a substantial start. Heart and Dagger is book one in The Ships in the Night Series and introduces the heroine, Lady Charlotte Talbot, also known as Catalina Sol. Catalina took in strays and runaways while purposely forgetting her past, which became impossible when she ran into the hero, Armand Rajaram de Bourbon whom she’s known since her childhood. Armand has a story of his own and when mixed with Catalina’s it made for an interesting debut for a new series. I enjoyed getting to know several of the characters since they were well developed, relatable and likable. I am hoping there will be a story for Catalina’s sister, Eliza and Armand’s brother, Henry, in the future.

When the synopsis mentioned that Catalina captained a ship, I was intrigued. That sounded unique and like something I’d like to read in a romance book. It turned out to be a fun and entertaining read. I enjoyed Catalina’s strength and her courage to make difficult decisions, ones that maybe would endanger her or her loved ones. It was refreshing to read a leading heroine that was confident, smart and yet could be a refined lady if she needed to be. It made her irresistible in not only in Armand’s eyes but in my eyes too. I appreciated the writing attempt in using Armand to bring out the sweet and vulnerable side in Catalina. I respected Armand’s ability to trust Catalina and let her lead yet still be in protection mode. It was a fine line for him to walk and the author did a wonderful job exemplifying that fine treading. Armand and Catalina clicked together like a fine tuned piano and together they made harmony. I enjoy knowing their relationship was healthy in the chemistry department. I was secure in the knowledge that they would eventually achieve a happy ending. Armand was a dream-worthy hero.

This was a great book to escape into while I sat in the car for eleven hours traveling home for Christmas. The plot was riveting; between the kidnapping, pirates, blackmail and the budding romance, I forgot I was stuck in holiday traffic since I was too busy flipping pages to find out what was going to happen next.

Heart and Dagger was well written and its conclusion left me with a happy book glow. I especially loved the epilogue. It is my pleasure to recommend this book.

Princess Next Door by Sam Crescent


Princess Next Door by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (108 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Wynter Griffin has finally found her independence after years of being controlled by her parents. The only problem with her newfound peace? Her partying, rock music listening neighbor. She’s at the end of her patience, and demands that he packs up the noise, or she’s calling the police.

Zane Webster likes his neighbor. Her blonde hair, blue eyes, and sweetness remind him of a princess. All she has to do was ask, and he’s more than willing to give her what she wants.

Guilt eats away at Wynter, and it’s not long before she makes friends with the bad boy. After getting drunk one night, she lets it slip that she’s a virgin, and in desperate need of shedding that title. Zane agrees to help, providing they do it at his pace. With Zane, she can finally live her life to the fullest. He even teaches her how to fall in love.

But what will happen when her parents demand she grow up, and do as she’s told? What will Wynter choose? Can two people so different find happiness together?

This was a great book !

Sam Crescent always delivers a solid story with loads of romance, hot sex, and excitement. I loved Zane and Wynter. Sparks flew from the first moment they met. Zane was the noisy neighbor next door so Wynter had to confront him about his partying ways. I loved their instant connection. What I really liked was Zane and how slowly he built the relationship from friends to lovers and then on to the real thing. It was sweet and really it was how they could overcome all the doubts that seemed to pop up from everyone.

This was a sweet and sexy romance. The characters were great. Zane and Wynter grabbed my attention and my emotions. Sam Crescent never fails to deliver vibrant characters and amazing stories and that is what keeps me coming back to this author time and again.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to many more books from Sam Crescent.

Mink Eyes by Max McBride


Mink Eyes by Max McBride
Publisher: Arjuna Books
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (286 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

October 1986—the tarnished heart of the “Greed Is Good” decade. Private detective Peter O’Keefe is a physically scarred and emotionally battered Vietnam vet. Hired by his childhood best friend, ace attorney Mike Harrigan, O’Keefe investigates what appears to be merely a rinky-dink mink farm Ponzi scheme in the Missouri Ozarks. Instead, O’Keefe finds himself snared in a
vicious web of money laundering, cocaine smuggling, and murder—woven by a mysterious mobster known as “Mr. Canada.” Also caught in Mr. Canada’s web is the exquisite Tag Parker, who might be the girl of O’Keefe’s dreams—or his nightmares.

Mink Eyes weaves murder, addiction, obsession, sex, and redemption into a fast-paced, compelling detective novel that also brings in themes of duty, fatherhood, friendship and love. Peter O’Keefe is a reluctant hero who struggles every day to choose in favor of life over death.

Do you sometimes read a book and can’t exactly put your figure on why you didn’t enjoy it as much as you’d hoped? That’s the feeling I got after I finished reading Mink Eyes. I think the plot line is original and it has lots of suspense but on reflection, it could be I didn’t connect enough with the main character, Peter O’Keefe as much as I should have. He’s interesting, don’t get me wrong, but there are other point of view characters in this story and things got watered down so I wasn’t in O’Keefe’s head as much as maybe I should have been for that connection to gel.

There are lots of good things I can say about the story, the setting is great and described well by the author. I also liked that placing it in the Eighties gave it a somewhat nostalgic feel to it…prior to cell phones and the Internet which made for more interesting PI work for O’Keefe.

Pacing is spot on and dialogue is natural sounding, and the underlying theme of fatherhood and friendship is a strong one.

If you like somewhat gritty PI centered stories, I’d say give this one a try and see for yourself. I’d definitely like to see what other stories the author creates using this main character.