The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels


The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (457 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When the love of Lady Isabelle Fairlyn’s life is betrothed to her twin sister, Isabelle vows to find a suitable replacement before the end of the season. He must be a talented dancer, have a keen fashion sense, and be perfectly dashing in every way.

Fallon St. James is the farthest thing from perfectly anything. As head of the secretive Spare Heirs Society, he must stick to the shadows…even as Isabelle’s friendship pulls him reluctantly into the light. But when Isabelle gets involved with the one man who could destroy Spares, Fallon must decide between protecting his life’s work―or risking everything to save the woman whose warm smile leaves him breathless.

Isabelle Fairlyn, so naïve and yet so eager to have a marriage founded on love, makes one want to reach out and steer her away from faulty judgments she makes about men. Her maturing as she learns the outside appearance does not really show the true nature of a man makes for page-turning reading. Her innate joy and innocence come alive on the pages.

Fallon St. James, all business as he works tirelessly to save the Spare Heirs Society, sees her as a mystical beauty, innocent, a wood nymph who makes him smile; something he rarely does. How the two of them become friends is a delight to read. How they become more than friends is even better.

How Elizabeth Michels weaves in back story and the villain Reginald Gapling is masterful. Gapling’s elusiveness and threat create an edginess to the plot and a sense of unease for the well-being of Isabelle. In her naiveté, she finds him charming.

Elizabeth Michels uses all the usual trappings of early nineteenth century life in England, but with twists and unique main characters. The spare heirs, so often the misfits, become guardians of the seamier side of London while making a living in a society that often leaves spare heirs in limbo with no trade and no inheritance..

The Wicked Heir, extremely well crafted, is captivating and powerful with an elaborate plotline and intriguing characters, plus the innocence and joy for life woven into it all makes it extra special.

Falling Star Valentine by E. D. Parr


Falling Star Valentine by E. D. Parr
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Fashion photographer Dale Walker takes a train to his hometown, relocating there after nursing a broken heart for six months in another city. His train makes an unscheduled stop to take on a mysterious passenger.

For a long time, Valentine Steel has hoped to meet a man who will love him. When he sees Dale on the train, he’s overjoyed to find a vacant seat beside him.

Dale’s immediate attraction to Valentine has him on edge. He doesn’t want another broken heart, and yet Valentine is so magnetic that Dale’s frozen heart begins to thaw.

Valentine sets out to charm and capture Dale in his sparkling aura. He can’t let the chance to have Dale’s love slip away.

After a nasty break up, Dale is alone for Valentine’s day and has had enough. Determined to quit his moping and refusing to spend the lover’s holiday pining for his ex, Dale decides to leave the city. On the train, he meets a handsome stranger, Valentine Steel. Can these two men be exactly what the other needs?

This is an interesting short story to my mind. I was a little confused until right at the end about the mystery surrounding Valentine – his back-story is where the paranormal element comes into the plotline. Despite the fact most of the plot remains mysterious until the end of the story, I found it refreshingly unique – Valentine’s character and his “quest”. My confusion didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the story, though I would have liked to have understood the subtleties a little earlier on so I could enjoy the growing relationship between Dale and Valentine.

I felt the characters were well written. Dale is a fairly typical man and hero, unlucky in love and wanting to find his soul mate. Valentine, despite some of the mystery surrounding him was also interesting and I enjoyed reading about him trying to woo Dale and fall in love with each other. While there is plenty of steamy sex I didn’t find any aspect of the M/M relationship too envelope pushing. Readers who like a bit of spice with their romance should find this a fun and sexy read.

With a different plotline and two very interesting characters I found this to be a great read. While I would have liked the paranormal aspect of the plot to be a little less mysterious this is a fun and deliciously short read that has plenty of spice and romance.

Sticky Sweet by JJ Lore


Sticky Sweet by JJ Lore
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (39 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From a race known for their hedonistic delight in life and emphasis on pleasure and amusement, Artem is a frustrated chef serving prepackaged meals to bored customers on the space station. His one true pleasure comes in the form of an end-of-shift dinner-visit from Constable Driver, once every third day. For months, Artem’s been dreaming about serving the Constable a more physical dessert. When he thinks Driver’s been reassigned, Artem grabs what might be his only chance and woos Driver by palate. If he’s lucky, it might just end up sticky sweet.

Two lonely souls, a diner and a chance to open up. Who wouldn’t want to take the chance?

I wasn’t sure what I was getting when I picked up this short book. I mean, Sticky Sweet. It’s an interesting title, but will the story be overly cutesy or will there be something more? I’m glad to say there was a lot more.

JJ Lore has written a fun, yes fun, story in a few pages. The characters are complex and the plot, while it maybe isn’t so complex, it drew me right in. The writing was tight and I enjoyed myself. This is a quick read, but I had to pay attention. I didn’t want to miss a moment…or a morsel. I like stories with mismatches and Artem and Driver are such characters. But the way they’re written, I could see them being together before they screwed up the courage to try to make it so. I loved how Artem finally opened up and his skills in the kitchen are…yeah, out of this world. Then there’s Driver. He’s in law enforcement. Lore totally got the loneliness and the questioning of a man in Driver’s position, but wrote him with a rich balance of questioning and concern for Artem. I liked these characters and will be on the look out for more featuring them.

If you want a hot, sweet book for a lunch hour read, then this might be the book for you. Recommended.

The Bat by Leslie W P Garland


The Bat by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

With “fake news” hitting the headlines, I thought it would be nice to look at “truth” and muse on questions such as “what actually is true?” and “what is Truth?” using a fantasy story as a foil for same.

In this coming-of-age story Thomas recounts the events of a term at school when his class returned to a new beautiful class teacher, a donation of stuffed animals and birds by an eccentric benefactor which he and his friends subsequently discovered weren’t quite as dead as they looked, an exorcism in which a bell-jar which had contained a bat shattered, and then things, which up until then had been strange, turned to being sinister and frightening.

In an attempt to understand what was going on, Thomas found himself reading up on Black Magic, Satanism, the early Christian Church, and the worship of evil, but instead of assisting his understanding this made him more confused than ever. Even a conversation with his local priest failed to resolve the problems he found himself wrestling with. What was true? What was the Truth? And of course, where was the bat?

An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

The difference between good and evil isn’t always as easy to figure out as one might think.

One of the many reasons why I’m such a huge fan of Mr. Garland’s work is that it requires some effort from the reader in order to be understood. He’s the sort of writer who will give his audience a few important clues and then expect them to come to their own conclusions about what happened based on how they chose to interpret those clues. This was the perfect kind of storyline for this writing style because of how slippery people’s memories can be. Two people can remember the same moment in time in completely different ways depending on what their minds were paying attention to back then.

The character development was handled beautifully, too. At times I forgot that the narrator was remembering things that happened to him and his community decades ago because of how caught up I was in what young Thomas was experiencing and how much those events affected the way he saw the world. While I don’t know if the author would ever be interested in write a sequel about this specific character in this series, I’d sure like to read it if he does.

There was nothing gory about the horror in this tale, but that didn’t make any less frightening. I appreciated the way the fear sneaked up on me as I was reading. It wasn’t something I noticed at first, but I was pretty scared by the final scene. There is definitely something to be said for being scared by the threat of something terrible happening almost as much as I was by what actually occurred. Anticipation was one of the narrator’s biggest weapons, and he used it well.

The final reason why I gave this book a perfect score is that it wrestled with so many intriguing questions about faith, morality, grief, and what it means to be a good person without spoon-feeding any answers to the audience. I deeply enjoy philosophical discussions about these kinds of topics, and Mr. Garland gave me a lot of food for thought. I will be thinking about the various points his characters made for a long time.

This is part of the “The Red Grouse” series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

The Bat chilled me to my core. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves though-provoking and intelligent stories.

Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain


Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (326 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend―whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart―and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

Friends who long to be lovers, but fear crossing the line, Kate and Evan tiptoe around their feelings, but crave each other’s company.

The death of Kate’s husband, who was Evan’s best friend, leaves each of them with a heavy load; hers is a load of debts left by her unfaithful husband and Evan’s is a load of guilt. How they work through the conflicts makes attention-keeping reading.

When Nora and Declan, Kate’s children, enter the picture, with their views about life before and after their father’s death, the story gains depth. Their actions and words show so much about how children see, the often complicated, ways that adults handle things.

Kate and Evan are in the company of both their families as they find their way. The contrast in their families’ life styles and the way they see themselves reveals much about how Kate and Evan came to be the way they are – interesting reading. It is easy to see how the world has been gray to Evan most of his life.

The secondary characters, like Janet Ahearn and Mary O’Dowd, along with the back stories and how they figure into the things Kate and Evan must sort out dovetail together in intriguing ways. They even fit in with some of the underhanded ways of the antagonist, Finnian Driscoll.

I particularly enjoyed the dialogue with the nuance, humor, and understatement. The author has an amazing way of writing so the reader feels as if she is right there in the experience with the characters.

The Prize by Ashe Barker


The Prize by Ashe Barker
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Menage, Double Penetration, Toys, Spanking, Voyeurism, Anal Sex, BDSM
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A night to remember…

When she shows up at the prestigious Vivant Club to claim her raffle prize of one month’s free membership, Jessie Barnett doesn’t know what to expect. She’s trembling as she enters, but her inner submissive is dancing for joy, and nothing is going to stop her from claiming what she has won.

Jessie is no stranger to the BDSM scene, but this is a new club, a new city, she knows no one and has no idea what to expect. That’s all right, though, as it turns out the two powerful Doms who are hers for the evening have no doubt at all what they require from her—complete surrender, on her knees.

Jessie is happy to comply. This is what she came here in search of. But will one evening’s pleasure, however intense, however delightfully tinged with exquisite pain, be enough? Once she has submitted to them totally, will Mark and Greg see their business with her as having been concluded? Or is there more to be won, a greater prize, hovering just beyond her reach?

She’s in for the night of her life…if she can handle it all.

I like the work of Ashe Barker. I know there will be a hot time and everyone will come away satisfied. This is certainly the case in The Prize. Jessie knows what she’s going to the club for–because she’s won a month membership. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance for a free month at an exclusive BDSM club? Certainly not her. Then there’s the doms, Mark and Greg. Wowie!! Talk about hot guys. And they know their stuff. No slouches with these doms. The sex scenes were hot and scored the pages of my kindle.

I did have a couple of quibbles, though. I hate to admit it felt like I’d been plunked in to the middle of a longer story. Don’t get me wrong. I liked what I read, but I wanted to know more about Jessie before the story and maybe some after. I didn’t want the story to end. But as it was, I felt like I got one snippet of time for these three characters. Just, boom…together and playing. I know the doms read up on Jessie, but I had problems with her just walking in and submitting to them. This made her night better, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed too quick. I don’t know. It made me a tad uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it will for everyone. I did enjoy how they pushed her and freed her. That was sexy and caring, the way they did it.

If you want a novella that pushes the boundaries, that will scorch the screen and will leave you breathless for more, then this might be the book for you. Grab a copy today.

Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott


Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (202 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

An immigrant from Ireland, Jeremy McKetcheon took the place of a wealthy New Englander drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War. Jeremy, terribly scarred by a shell that set fire to his tent, is now a reclusive lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Maine. He is haunted by flashbacks of the war, and never expects to find love, understanding, or acceptance.

Beautiful but blind from birth, Abigail Morrison sees the world through the intricate carvings her father brings back from Lighthouse Island when he takes supplies there. She wonders about the artistic carver and why he hides from the world. But when the opportunity arises for her to visit the island, she and her father are tossed overboard in a raging storm. Having seen their distress from the lighthouse, Jeremy attempts a rescue in the frigid waters, and all their lives are changed forever.

Abbey’s Tale was a sweet, endearing love story between Jeremy and Abbey. Jeremy, whose face was scarred while fighting in the Civil War, and Abbey who was born blind, were given a chance at love. While together they learned about inner beauty. They both helped each other to overcome their insecurities. Jeremy felt his face was repulsive and would rather be a recluse. Abbey worried no one would fall in love with a blind woman because they’d think she was a burden. From the moment Jeremy and Abbey met their lives changed for the better. If you add an amazing dog named Bailey, meddling relatives, crashing ships, and a criminal who threatens, robs and lies, then you have a recipe for a 5 star book. Oh! Let’s not forget Jeremy’s Irish accent, it was completely irresistible.

In a world that is full of judgmental people it was nice to read how Jeremy and Abbey showed the community what true love is. The plot thread with the criminal added an interesting twist with a bit of suspense throughout the story. I’d like to point out the plot thread when Abbey’s aunt and uncle meddled in Jeremy and Abbey’s relationship. It was well intended meddling and as a parent I understood, but I understood how Abbey felt as a child. As a wife I understood how Jeremy felt. I was all emotionally mixed up but then realized that is what family is about. It all worked out for the good. It’s a perfect example and lesson of why the young should respect and listen to their elders.

This was a well written story that progressed nicely and held my interest from the beginning to the end. I’m glad I chose Abbey’s Tale to read by the pool on my weekend. It was a wonderful, heartwarming love story. There was so much more to this tale that you just have to read it for yourself.

It definitely was a quality read that I’d recommend to others, especially to a reading club because there are thought provoking discussion questions at the end. I could see this book being turned into a movie in the theaters with a young Mel Gibson playing the hero and Julia Roberts playing Abbey. I’d love to see the lighthouse scenery that Katherine McDermott described come to life. I do think this novel would make a beautiful historical romance movie. Abbey’s Tale is a must read!

Myth City by Anya Howard


Myth City: A Modern Retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Anya Howard
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A modern Dystopian retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Romance author Anya Howard.

After a nuclear battle, globalism has claimed power over every aspect of human life. A select group of survivors have been given refuge in the technological haven called the City. Here, every aspect of daily life is dictated by the laws of the governing Elders. One brave woman dares to risk the severest repercussions when an attractive stranger arrives from a place the Elders claim cannot possibly exist. When this man’s skills with a musical pipe are sought by the Elders, the dismal world they govern will be changed forever by the simple breaking of their word.

There’s more to life than following the rules.

The world building was handled well. I really enjoyed learning about the different roles that people could have in the City. It was such a strict society that I couldn’t stop wondering how folks managed to live in that kind of environment for a whole lifetime. The more I learned about it, the more curious I became about how it might change after Graham, the attractive stranger, came to visit. The odd way the City was set up became even more clear when I compared it to how Graham liked to live.

This story would have benefited from another round of editing. I noticed multiple typos in it, especially when it came to run-on sentences and the misuse of punctuation marks. There were also some sentences that didn’t make sense because they were either missing important words or had extra words added to them in ways that weren’t grammatically correct.

The chemistry between Apple and Graham was wonderful. I liked the fact that their relationship was given so much time to develop before anything sexual happened between them. It made a lot of sense due to the rigid culture Apple grew up in. By the time they decided to finally touch, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next or if they’d end up together for good.

Myth City: A Modern Retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin should be read by anyone who enjoys modern twists on classic fairy tales.

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz


The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Time Travel)
Length: Full Length (380 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

She has nothing to live for in the present, but finds there’s something worth dying for in the past…

From Tiffany Reisz, the international bestselling storyteller behind The Bourbon Thief and The Original Sinners series, comes an enthralling new novel about a woman swept away by the tides who awakens to find herself in 1921, reunited with the husband she’s been mourning for four years. Fans of Kate Morton and Diana Gabaldon will fall in love with the mystery, romance and beauty of an isolated South Carolina lighthouse, where a power greater than love works its magic.

Love comes in peculiar ways, but if we’re willing to embrace it we’ll win.

Tiffany Reisz has a way with words. I can’t lie. The author is a true story teller. As soon as I read the blurb, I wanted to devour this book. Who doesn’t like a time travelling romance? Who doesn’t want a happy ending?

I’m glad to say I got what I wanted from this book. The characters are interesting and the landscape fascinating. The descriptions of the lighthouse and what Faye sees are breathtaking.

But…as much as I liked the book, there were a few quibbles. The writing is good, no doubt, but I put the book down a handful of times and getting back into it was difficult. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good book. It was. But it had a hard time occasionally holding my interest. I also had a bit of a time with the jumps in time back and forth to 1921. I had to go back and reread to make sure I knew what was going on. Still, it was good.

I liked Faye, the heroine, too. She’s been through hell and come back. I didn’t always agree with her decisions, but hey, that’s fine. She’s a very twenty-first century woman and seeing her with a very twentieth century man–Carrick, was good. The thing was, I had a hard time connecting with her. I kept expecting more from her. But that doesn’t mean she was a bad character or it was an unsatisfactory read. Far from it. The author deviated from what I thought would happen and that’s fantastic. I’d rather be surprised and I was. Carrick was my favorite character. Strong, quiet and very Irish, I could practically see him whenever he was on the page. He’s the best part of the book for me.

If you’re looking for a book that spans time frames, that’s written eloquently and is not the norm, then this might be the book for you.

Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon


Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (194 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

With the Tasty Tomato Tournament just days away, the small town of Martha’s Point is all abuzz. This is the first year without a sure winner, and the competition is fierce to gain the judges’ approval, even before the tournament starts.

But when Ivy finds one of those judges dead in a shed across the street, things go from bad to worse. All she wanted was seven glorious, kid-free days of messing around with her husband. Instead, she’s going to be tracking down a killer, staying out of the way of a pickle-obsessed farmer, and dodging the new cop who seems out for her blood.

The Tasty Tomato Tournament is just a few days away and Ivy is very glad. Someone is destroying other contestant’s tomatoes and her husband has brought all his in the house in pots. He’s also brought in his gnomes. He says those make his tomatoes grow well. Maybe so, but they aren’t going to be in her house…

While she’s helping carry them back outside, her next door neighbor calls to her. She thinks she’s her husband and wants him to help her. When Ivy says he’s in the shower, she takes Ivy over to show her the problem. What she didn’t mention was that the problem was a dead body.

This is a cozy mystery that flows well, has plenty of action, romance between Ivy and her husband who are trying to vacation since their children are away for a week, cliques of town folk, tomato judges and more. The dead man was a tomato judge. It seems he got stung by wasps but there were no wasps around. He wasn’t all that stellar of a judge either. Then there’s the pickle man who’s handing out flyers and trying to get support for his festival.

With lots of suspects and bad behavior all around, you can’t guess who the killer is ahead of time. The rookie cop would like to blame in on Ivy and her husband. They spend a lot of time fending him off during their investigation. It makes for some amusing reading and a few laughs.

This was an overall good read and Ivy now has her own private investigator license. Life is going to get even more exciting in the future!