Winnawarra by Elizabeth M. Darcy

Winnawarra by Elizabeth M. Darcy
Publisher: Luminosity Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (277 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Emily Perkins is over the moon to learn Jock Macgregor has left her a share in Winnawarra Station in the magnificent Kimberly region of Outback Australia. The bonus comes when she realises, his handsome grandson, Doug is the man of her dreams. She loves working beside him and every day is an adventure.

After receiving a letter from Jock, she discovers he was convinced the accident that killed his son and daughter-in-law was actually murder, and he included her in his will to investigate the deaths.

When accidents start happening to Emily, and she hears footsteps outside her room at night, she is convinced someone is stalking her.

Is she next on the killer’s list?

Isolated on an Outback cattle ranch, will strong, dependable Doug be able to keep her safe?

A murderer is loose at Winnawarra Station, and she must race against time to identify the killer before he strikes again.

I definitely recommend this book but I don’t recommend starting to read it late in the day because it is one of those impossible to put down books. Also I would not suggest reading it while home alone, especially if it’s dark outside. I made all those mistakes. I should have heeded the warning in the synopsis when it said “heart pounding suspense”.

Honestly, the suspense was really like “are you kidding me?” “Again?”. How many times was the hero, Doug, going to say “I’ll keep you safe” and then we hear the “Tap, Tap, Tap”. I can’t say any more than that but let me tell you I fell for it every stinking time. My heart pounded and I was terrified to read what came next. I seriously began to lose trust in Doug’s ability to keep the heroine, Emily, safe. However, I kept the faith in the strong, dependable and handsome Doug.

It was a good thing he was so handsome, and Emily was smitten with him from the moment she saw him at the airport when he picked her up. I too found myself drawn into his masculine aura. True, Doug was attracted to Emily’s beauty but also to her whit and he needed her in more ways than one. Together they completed each other.

I have to tell you, when I read the synopsis my excitement about reading this book was mediocre at best because it sounded similar to other books I’ve read in the past. Well, I was the fool. This novel really surprised me with several original elements and, plot twists, and let’s not forget the “Tap, tap, tap”. You’ll just have to read the book to know what I’m talking about. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the Kimberly region of Outback Australia.

This book was truly a romance after my heart even though my heart was having frequent palpitations. I started to think I was next on the killer’s list. I fear some people might think this book had too many repetitive phrases because that thought certainly crossed my mind, but I think Ms. Darcy’s writing style successfully walked that fine line. Instead of being repetitive it gave me a sense of a very real and evocative drama. Elizabeth M. Darcy pulled it off and wrote a very engaging and enthralling romance story. This is an easy book to recommend.

#iHunt Mayhem in Movieland by David A Hill Jr.

#iHunt Mayhem in Movieland by David A Hill Jr.
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lana hunts monsters for a living. She absolutely hates hunting ghosts. So, of course, a friend is calling in a favor and having her hunt a ghost. Not just any ghost, but Old Anne, an urban legend at Movieland, a theme park inspired by the golden age of Hollywood. Worse off, Lana used to work at Movieland, and was fired after she had a… little incident killing three vampires on park property. So in addition to hunting ghosts—which she doesn’t want to do—she has to sneak around and not get noticed by her former coworkers. This is Book 3 of #iHunt. But it’s a completely standalone story—you don’t need to have read the others to get this. Content Warning: Drug use, violence, minor gore, descriptions of anxiety attacks.

Monster hunting is never as easy as it looks in the movies.

There’s nothing quite like trying to catch a bad guy that doesn’t play by the rules. The more I learned about this creature, the more curious I became to discover what it really was and why Lana was having so much trouble figuring out how to fight it. It was one of the most creative parts of the plot, and it kept me guessing until the end.

The pacing would have worked well in a full-length novel, but it felt uneven for a short story because of how much time it took for Lana to discover any clues at all about who or what was killing people at the amusement park. As much as I enjoyed seeing what she was up to again, there was a lot of room here to include more conflict in the storyline.

The fight scenes were exciting. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about this series so far is how vulnerable Lana is when she’s fighting something that has supernatural strength. She’s not a superhero, and she has sustained serious injuries from her battles in the past. There is always the very real danger that one of her opponents will kill or severely injure her. While I never like the thought of her being hurt, the genuine tension of not knowing for sure that she’ll be okay keeps me coming back for more.

This is the sequel to iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy. It should be read in order.

I’d recommend #iHunt Mayhem in Movieland to anyone who loves gritty books about killing monsters.

Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories by Marilyn Todd

Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories by Marilyn Todd
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Not all detectives are heroes.
And when the dead can’t defend themselves, help comes from the most unlikely sources.

It might be from P.I.s with offices in unusually high places (“Heaven Knows”). It might come from shapeshifters in love (“Stakes & Adders”). Hell, it could even come from…you’ve guessed it, Hell. (“667, Evil and Then Some”). But whether you’re cruising a narrow boat down an English canal (“The Way It Is”) or taking a break on an idyllic French lakeside (“Dead & Breakfast”), justice is like the endings in these stories. You never see it coming.

Listening to what a character doesn’t say is sometimes just as important to listening to what they do say.

In “Something Rather Fishy,” Stevie and her accomplice, Patti, ran multiple scams on unsuspecting strangers in order to steal their money or sell them products that were nothing at all like what was advertised. What I enjoyed the most about their scams was how much thought was put into them. Stevie put a lot of time into figuring out how to get people to do what she wanted without them realizing what was happening. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and that was a good thing. It fit the tone perfectly while still being a pleasant surprise.

There were some tales in this collection that I thought could have used more clues about what was really going on in them. For example, “The Great Rivorsky” showed what happened when a magician’s attempt to accomplish that famous trick involving sawing a woman in half didn’t go as he had planned. As amused as I was by the main character’s narration, I needed more details about what was going on to figure out why his assistant was so badly injured and who might have been responsible for it.

A small, sleepy town isn’t typically where anyone would expect to find three murders over the course of a short period of time, but that’s exactly what happened in “The Longboat Cove Murders.” The muted reactions of the townsfolk to the first few murders shocked me. They also made me curious to find out what happened and why no one was panicking about the suddenly high death rate in their community.

I’d recommend Dead and Breakfast & Other Stories to anyone who is in the mood for mysteries that require their audience to pay close attention to detail in order to solve them.

The Dating Diet by Daralyse Lyons

The Dating Diet by Daralyse Lyons
Publisher: Books To Go Now Publications
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (288 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

What if you found yourself climbing out of a bedroom window, naked, in the middle of the afternoon, to avoid being caught in bed with your married lover? Would you have second thoughts about dating?

After Shayla Ross discovers that yet another potential “Mr. Right” is, in fact, incredibly wrong for her, she decides to go on a diet. No. She’s not going to forgo her much-loved, sinfully-delicious girl scout cookies or her (admittedly too frequent) trips to McDonalds. Shayla is going on a dating diet.

An incredibly hapless and infinitely loveable heroine, elementary school teacher Shayla Ross decides to take her summer vacation from teaching as a period of self-discovery. Much to the chagrin of her meddling mother, Shayla sets out to find herself and, in the process, bumbles into a series of successive funny and heartwarming interpersonal interactions that will have readers falling in love with her.

A dating diet sounds easy, right? In reality Shayla find it’s not easy at all. After several dead end dates and a relationship with a divorced man, who’s not really free, she decides to swear off men for the summer. Things go well until she meets Dunkin but thankfully they decide to remain friends.

I really enjoyed this book. It is lighthearted and goes from one hilarious episode to another. Dunkin and Shayla play off one another in a series of one upmanship where they try to embarrass each other. Shayla gets involved in various disastrous events and her gay friend Brice involves her in his on again – off again relationship and after the dust has cleared everyone is able to see the funny side of things.

There’s the usual ex girlfriend, ex boyfriend relationship interference which add a bit of spice to the story. There’s also an air of mystery in a will they – won’t they get together and this is not resolved until the end. Even then a disastrous decision by Shayla could make it go either way.

As I got involved with the characters and the story I couldn’t help thinking it reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s style of writing. Amusing story with a light hearted approach and an underlying serious thread.

Ruthless by Kara Lowndes

Ruthless by Kara Lowndes
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pages)
Other: F/F, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A small-town lesbian in the big city. It should be easy. Except for Ruth, it’s anything but predictable. Born with powers she can’t explain, she escaped to the sprawling metropolis of Dollar to figure out why she was endowed with her mysterious gifts. But, three years later, she’s none the wiser–until she gets hit by a car and a mysterious nurse named Killian comes to her rescue. But Killian has a dark past that she’s desperately trying to leave behind and, as a dangerous organization uncovers Ruth’s secrets, they must fight to keep their intense romance alive.

Many people are full of secrets. Killian and Ruth are no exception to this rule.

Ruth and Killian had excellent chemistry. It was nice to see them get to know each other for a little while in the beginning before anything physical happened between them. Due to how shy they both were about sharing certain important parts of their pasts, this was a smart decision on the author’s part. It also gave me a chance to figure out their personalities right away which was something I was glad I got to do.

I would have liked to see way more time spent on the world building. Ruth’s background was especially confusing because of how little she knew about her powers, why she had them, or what she was capable of. While I didn’t expect every question about her background to be answered, it would have been helpful to at least have a basic understanding of how powerful she was and what, if anything, she wasn’t able to do. I was also never quite sure how her abilities fit into what life in this universe is like in general, and that made it difficult to imagine how certain scenes played out.

With that being said, Killian’s backstory was much more well-developed. I enjoyed the process of slowly uncovering clues about what happened to her in the past and why she was so jumpy in certain situations. Her extraordinarily cautious nature made perfect sense to me once I’d come up with an educated guess about what had caused it. I couldn’t wait to find out if my theory was correct and was pleased with how much thought I had to put into this aspect of the plot.

I’d recommend Ruthless to fans of urban fantasy and erotic tales alike.

Texas Rebels: Elias by Linda Warren

Texas Rebels: Elias by Linda Warren
Publisher: Harlequin Western Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (224 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower


Maribel McCray knew moving back to Horseshoe, Texas, would mean facing Elias Rebel, the cowboy she was forbidden to love in high school. She just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. With her teenage son, Chase, in trouble, she needs Elias’s help. He may be a Rebel, sworn enemy of every McCray, but he’s also Chase’s father.

For the lone bachelor of the Rebel clan, there’s only one way to make up for lost years with his son—become a family for real. But Maribel’s distance runs deeper than the Rebel-McCray feud. Elias won’t settle for a marriage of convenience with the woman he’s falling for again. How can he convince Maribel some second chances are worth taking?

I really enjoyed this book. I’m disappointed that I didn’t find the Texas Rebels series by Linda Warren sooner. This is the seventh and last book in the series. I am going to have to go back and read the rest of the stories because I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy them based on how much I enjoyed reading this one.

I really need to point out that this story was a heartwarming romance about second chances. The heroine, Maribel, was written in a way that she could very possibly be me or someone I know. She has realistic issues that I can’t get into but I genuinely could understand from a personal perspective. In fact the advice she was given had a direct impact on me. Therefore I can consider this book to be inspirational. I quote, “You may not understand that kind of love, but sometimes people love the way they can”. That statement spoke to me and was powerful and meaningful to the plot. I admired Maribel for her courage and vulnerability as well as her ability to forgive.

I really connected with Elias, the hero, because he shared my values in a relationship. Elias and I both need vows of love to be shared at some point in the relationship. However, Maribel shared my values as far as needing to see love through actions not just with the words “I love you”. Together they demonstrated true love. I respected how Maribel and Elias were direct and honest with each other. No mind games.

When I read a romance book I want to be able to rave about it. I am so excited to be able to do just that. Everything was remarkable. The writing style, the plot, the characters, the pace, and the originality all had me captured from the start to the end. While this story was the ending in the series, fortunately for me it was my beginning. I will get to go back and meet all of the characters in the Rebel and McCray families that I briefly got to know and fall in love with in Texas Rebels: Elias.

I am quite thankful that I stumbled upon this book and I can definitely recommend it. Texas Rebels: Elias was an extremely enjoyable read for me. Just be prepared to “expect the unexpected”. This novel is more than meets the eye.

Good Girl Gone Bad by Kenzie Mack

Good Girl Gone Bad by Kenzie Mack
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Chloe Thompson plays it safe and wears sensible shoes, until she collides with the most sensual man she’s ever met. A yearning to break down her boundaries with this handsome stranger puts her lifelong, good girl status in jeopardy. Could a pair of naughty girl stilettos really be so bad?

Constantine Knight, the owner of the trendy bar Midnight Luna, can’t wait to cross paths again with the petite brunette haunting his dreams. Her shy manner contrasts the brazen empty hook-ups leaving him lonely. One night with his fantasy woman might not be enough.

One night of pleasure is all she’s asking for. Only time will tell if Chloe’s wish will be granted.

The dialogue was nicely written. I especially liked the scenes that happened in the club early on when Chloe and Constantine were having drinks with their friends. Their flirtatious and playful conversations set the mood quite well for everything that happened later on. It also firmly established the personalities of the main characters which was something the audience definitely needed to know all about as soon as possible.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. While I did appreciate how much time the author spent setting up the main character’s backstory and expectations for her one night stand, I would have liked to see the plot move forward more quickly than it did. Spending so much time on the introduction didn’t leave as much room for the rest of the storyline as I would have preferred to see.

With that being said, the chemistry between Chloe and Constantine couldn’t have been more alluring. From the first time they laid eyes on each other, I couldn’t wait to find out how those initial sparks between them would develop as they got to know one another better. Her shyness was clearly a great match for his more extroverted personality. I simply had to find out what would happen to them next and if they’d realize how well-suited they were for each other.

If you’re in the mood for something short and passionate, give Good Girl Gone Bad a try.

Playing by the Greek’s Rules by Sarah Morgan

Playing by the Greek’s Rules by Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (192 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

It’s time to throw away the rule book…

Idealistic archaeologist Lily Rose craves a fairy-tale love, but in her experience it always ends in heartbreak. So now Lily’s trying a different approach—a fling with her boss, infamous Greek playboy Nik Zervakis!

Anti-love and anti-family, Nik lives by his own set of rules. There’s no one better to teach Lily how to separate sizzling sex from deep emotions! But while Nik has the world at his feet, he also has dark shadows in his heart…

It starts as a sensual game, but can Lily stick to Nik’s rules? And what’s more, can he?

This is a romance story to hug close and re-read when I need a happy boost. The premise uses a typical trope but the delivery is pure magic and Lily Rose is so delightful and funny, I loved the heroine’s personality. Mr. Iceberg Nik didn’t stand a chance.

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Morgan for quite a number of years but I have no idea how in the world I missed reading this little gem. It’s practically perfect. I can say in all honesty that I disturbed my hubby’s concentration as he watched his favorite T.V. show because I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. First it was the power shower, and then there were two other scenes at which I was powerless to stop the giggles bursting forth. I talked out loud to my Nook and gasped when I figured out who Lily was talking to on the phone. Oh no! Oh, yes. That’s Lily for you. The heroine’s effect on Nik must have felt like a roller coaster to him; many times I’m sure he felt the sudden drop after the amazing highs only to feel dizzy from the loop-de-loop that is the heroine’s personality. She kept him on his toes. He never knew what she’d say next and that was half the fun.

Dialogue. I absolutely, totally, without doubt or hesitation, ADORED Lily’s dialogue. How Nik held out from falling in love with her as long as he did astounded me. She made me laugh with her turns of phrase. I cannot say enough good things about how Ms. Morgan presented her heroine and her quirky nature. Everyone should have someone in their life that is as imaginative with their dialogue, idioms and phraseology as Lily’s was. It worked because her character came across as sincere, caring, loving and supportive. The one element that I believe is her greatest strength was her capacity for forgiveness. That is a personality trait that would benefit everyone in real life and the author had her heroine live it, not just pay lip service to the sentiment. I was very impressed.

Any reader who is serious about reading quality romance stories needs to pick up their own copy of Playing by the Greek’s Rules to see what I’m waxing poetic about. If I can find this in a print book format somewhere, I’m buying it so I can literally put this on my ‘keeper shelf’. That’s how good this book made me feel after I read the final paragraph and why I give this novel a high rating. Ms. Morgan rocks!

New Year’s Next Door by Amabel Davis

New Year’s Next Door by Amabel Davis
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (43 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ava is eager to say “buh bye” to 2017. After her parents’ health woes, totaled car, deceased pet, and legal worries, what else could go wrong on the last night of December?

Stood up for her friends’ party, all dressed up and no place to go, she returns her secretive neighbor’s escaped dog.

Next door, Caleb’s not faring much better. His career and marriage are over, and the only bright spot in his future is the disobedient dog he’s adopted, until his sexy neighbor turns up on his doorstep.

Caleb extends a neighborly welcome to Ava and their evening is full of banter and candor, a refreshing change for both. The skinny dip in the hot tub to ring in the New Year signals what could be an unexpected and wonderful new beginning—with each other.

There’s nothing wrong with staying in on New Year’s Eve, especially if there’s a distractingly handsome stranger living next door.

The chemistry between Ava and Caleb was fabulous. They both had the same wry sense of humor. This was definitely a good thing given how often both of them liked to respond to serious conversation topics with a joke. There is plenty room for a sequel here. While I was satisfied with how this particular tale ended, I’d be thrilled if the author decided to continue exploring the lives of these characters in the future. They’ve only just begun to get to know each other, and I already love them together.

This is a minor criticism, but I would have liked to see a little more time spent explaining why Caleb adopted such a rambunctious dog. I totally understood why he’d want companionship, but I would have expected him to choose a much calmer animal due to his medical problems. Had this been explained more thoroughly, I would have easily chosen a perfect rating for this story.

I deeply appreciated how much time the characters had to build up their sexual tension before anything happened between them. By the time one of them finally made a move, I was silently cheering in my mind as I read on to find out what happened next. This was exactly the right choice for Caleb and Ava.

New Year’s Next Door was a short, sexy read that I’d recommend for anyone who doesn’t mind some humor in their erotica.

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

The author takes us back in time to the days of moneyed people having more stature than the poor and women being possessions of men. It’s also the time of the Spanish Flu and the war with the Germans. Besides worrying about friends and family being called to duty, Allene has more to worry about. She’s engaged to marry a man she doesn’t love and her friends from the past have been banished from the house. She doesn’t understand why her father hates them so but she has to follow his rules while living in his house.

The reader learns about wartime rules, how the poor survived, and how bleak some of their lives were. It’s realistic but not too in depth about the flu, which is a blessing. When Allene reconnects with her friends, she’s happy to be reunited. When people in their lives begin dying, she starts to get worried. They are not dying from natural causes, they are being poisoned!

This is a tantalizing mystery that gives the reader enough details to ferret out the killer but she always holds back the final clue. The killer is a surprise. The reason why makes sense. And the survivors have to recover and move on.

This world in the past is one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Who wants a man telling you what to wear, what to think, and your whole goal in life is to make him happy? Even if you inherit money, if you marry, it all becomes his. It’s no wonder people in this day and age did desperate things. The ending is a bit sad but it’s appropriate. Justice does prevail.