Moccasin Trace by Hawk MacKinney

moccasin trace

Moccasin Trace by Hawk MacKinney
Publisher: Archebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (237 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

… it was about the land…a tale of love and loss and hope…

“The most engaging and brilliantly crafted historical work since Margaret Mitchell’s great classic.” Barbara Casey Author, The Gospel According to Prissy

Hamilton Ingram looked out across the fertile Georgia bottomlands that were Moccasin Hollows, seeing holdings it had taken generations of Ingrams to build. No drop of slave sweat ever shed in its creation. It was about the land…his trust, his duty to preserve it for the generation of Ingrams to come…

It is July of 1859, a month of sweltering dog days and feverish emotional bombast. Life is good for widower Rundell Ingram and his Hazel-eyed, roan-haired son, Hamilton. Between the two of them, they take care of Moccasin Hollows, their rustic dogtrot ancestral home, a sprawling non-slave plantation in the rolling farming country outside Queensborough Towne in east Georgia. Adjoining Ingram lands is Wisteria Bend, the vast slave-holding plantation of Andrew and Corinthia Greer, their daughter Sarah, and son Benjamin.

Both families share generations of long-accepted traditions, and childhood playmates are no longer children. The rangy, even-tempered Norman-Scottish young Hamilton is smitten with Sarah, who has become an enticing capricious beauty—the young lovers more in love with each passing day, and only pleasant times ahead of them.

But a blood tide of war is sweeping across the South, a tide that might be impossible to stand before.

Charm marks Mackinney’s civil war-era romance: The charm of the south, the built-in, home grown sort of charm that happens in families that rely on one another, and among people who strive to maintain their own sense of self in such times. There is much here on the strength and gentility of specific personalities that have struggled through such a difficult time.

Mocassin Trace is full of the sense of old time southern flavor–war torn and struggling, but somehow still sweet. Conversations, from tone to choice of language help create an aura of ‘old time south.” Hamilton and his lovely Sarah are our main characters, and both are refreshingly human. They are nice people, obviously attracted, but also, human and flawed. They aren’t the sort of characters, nor have they the sort of relationship, that keeps one madly turning the page, but they are interesting, if a bit precious.

Although the story ‘starts’ in 1865, events can happen at different times: more than once I was confused as to whether I was reading something that had happened, or was looking forward to something that was going to. This story is both their marriage and their courtship, and there’s no concern on giving away the romance, as it sets off with them married. They run in to their share of troubles, and that is the more unpredictable piece.

In this work, oddly enough, some secondary characters are greater and more appealing than the main characters. The wisdom of Corinthia shines through whenever she appears, and her voice seems so authentic. “Although my place is here, I can’t put away thoughts of other mothers and daughters weeping for sons and loved ones and husbands they may never hold again. It’s the same dread I felt when you had whooping cough. That whole dreadful night Bessie and I sat up praying for you…”

And author Mackinney has a deft hand with humor as well, and makes the most of a turn of phrase (For example: We don’t want you mopin’ like some cow off its feed. from Bessie, who has a whole different slant on Wisdom.)

Those interested in the era will find this book heartwarming.

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Ablaze by Nancy Tesler

BLAZE
Ablaze by Nancy Tesler
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (330 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Samantha Barron, victim witness advocate for the Bergen County, NJ prosecutor’s office and a Munchausen by Proxy survivor, has her world shaken up when the man who threw her off his elite crisis response team for defying his orders and running into a burning building to save a dog, insinuates himself into a case involving the disappearance of one of her clients. A terrified young girl had shown up at Samantha’s office blurting out a story about having witnessed a horrific stabbing murder at the Greenwich Village Halloween parade; then suddenly bolts crying that she is a Judas, she should never have come.

Samantha must put aside her feelings about this man, attorney, Douglas Ruark, with whom she had once been passionately in love. They are forced to work together to find and rescue the girl before the religious cult that they believe is holding her captive discovers that she can identify the murderer. When another eyewitness is found bludgeoned to death and a prostitute mysteriously kidnapped, Samantha, to Ruark’s distress, agrees to enter the cult house ostensibly as a perspective convert, but in reality as bait.

From the relatively safe streets of suburbia to the remote country house of a malevolent sect, Samantha finds herself caught up in a world where power and greed rule, where “love” is given and withdrawn as a brainwashing technique, and life is cheap if you’re a troublemaking outsider…

The title says it all! This book sizzles with suspense, mystery, drama and steamy romance. Samantha and Douglas are white hot together. When a young girl needs help, Samantha and Douglas team up once again to expose a deadly religious cult.

Samantha almost lost her career because of Douglas. He’s the last person on earth she ever wanted to work with. Douglas did what he could at the time to keep things from completely derailing her career, but it’s obvious Samantha hates him with a pink, orange and purple passion. These two just can’t keep from getting under each others skin. Douglas deals with his frustration by being sarcastic and Samantha closes herself off so he can’t get too close. The two wind up having several ultra knock down drag outs. I couldn’t help but laugh since it was so clear they wanted each other.

When certain information comes to light regarding Samantha’s childhood, Douglas realizes he was a little too harsh on Samantha in the past, but he simply can’t seem to stop trying to control everything so she will be safe. Samantha of course resents his interference. Both Douglas and Samantha had tragedy in their past and it has made them into the people they are today. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Both are sensitive to crimes against children especially and that makes them consider going outside proper procedure to save a life. I loved this couple and enjoyed their fiery banter and hot passion

While we don’t often hear about religious cults in the press like we once did, they are still very active.  Cults have always creeped me out. The idea of being brainwashed and manipulated is just spooky. The fictional cult featured in this book is especially disturbing.

As the case heats up so does the heat between Samantha and Douglas, but Samantha has a big job ahead of her and it’s really dangerous. I was on the edge of my seat when Samantha has to do a little undercover work.

I thought the blend of romance and suspense was well balanced and evenly paced. The characters were human and had good qualities and of course like all of use there were a few flaws. Samantha and Douglas both wanted to be charge and run things their own way, but for different reasons. Trust is a really big thing in relationships and when you have been through something as traumatic as these two have, trust is even harder to achieve.

The storyline is interesting and although cults have been written about numerous times, it’s been awhile since I have read a book that drew attention to this disturbing phenomenon as well as the Munchausen syndrome. The story involving Samantha’s mother was chilling. I don’t know how I would feel in Samantha’s shoes. I do think she handled the situation with grace and for her own sanity it was the best way to go.

There weren’t any psychological twists but there were a few really big shocks, horrifying actually. So, the suspense was top notch.

The book ends on a really positive note. I think Sam and Doug are going to have a red hot relationship and could make a good investigating team if the author ever wanted to bring them back. I could see this turning into a long running series.

I love it when I read a book that entertains me and if I learn something I didn’t know before that makes the experience that much more rewarding. Reading about cults and learning which ones are still going strong in the US right now was very thought provoking. This is still an issue regardless of the lack of exposure the press gives the topic at this time. I’m glad Nancy decided to go ahead with this book even if the original plans for it didn’t work out. Well done!

The Marvellous Cakery by Laura Gavin

CAKERY
The Marvellous Cakery by Laura Gavin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (18 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Baker and fairy godmother-wannabe Ms Cake has a bad habit of lacing her customers’ cake with magic. Her assistant Lacey is the only one who knows about her secret ingredient, or the way she feels about Fred, the bookish cafe owner across the street. But the gossip-mongers of small town Spinningham are about to get a treat. Because when Ms Cake’s well-meaning meddling goes awry, the Marvellous Cakery and its owner start down a path of very sticky self-destruction.

Every job has its share of little mysteries, but Lacey’s workplace might have a few more than average.

Ms. Gavin has a smooth, conversational writing style that makes it hard to stop reading. This was my first introduction to her work, but it times it felt like hearing a dear old friend tell a story over a hot cup of tea instead of reading words from a page. I enjoyed my first taste of her creativity and will definitely be keeping an eye out for more books from her in the future!

This tale includes a larger cast of characters than I would normally expect to find in something this length. While I was soon able to sort out everyone’s identity, it was a little confusing to get to know so many different characters in a short period of time. The plot was well paced, but it would have been helpful for me to have either not met so many of Cake’s customers or to have been introduced to them a little later on instead.

I wasn’t expecting the fantasy elements to be quite as strong as they were, so it was pleasant to see how they interact with the romantic subplot. It was also fun to experience the plot twists alongside Lacey and her boss, especially since I didn’t see them coming ahead of time.

The Marvellous Cakery gave me an almost irresistible urge to run down the street and visit my favorite.

How to Marry a Cowboy by Carolyn Brown

boy
How to Marry a Cowboy by Carolyn Brown
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (324 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Rancher Mason Harper’s two little girls want nothing more than a mama of their own. So when a pretty woman appears on his front porch in a tattered wedding dress, while Mason’s looking for a nanny, he can’t help but wonder if it’s fate.

Annie Rose Boudreaux is in a downright hellish mess. She’s just a few steps ahead of the low-life ex who’s been hot on her heels, but she’s tired of running, and nannying Mason’s two sweet girls may be just what she needs. As her days on the ranch fly by, and the night’s with Mason get hotter, Annie Rose decides that she’s going to stay…for a lifetime.

Carolyn Brown has done it again.

I don’t say that lightly. She’s written quite a few books, but she’s one of the few authors I grab once I see the book on the shelf. Her work sparkles and I’m glad to get the opportunity to read the novels. This one is no different. I felt like I was right there with Annie Rose and Mason. The book is a fluffy, happy read that should be a staple at the beach or on your kindle.

Mason is a bit of a broken and frazzled man. He’s got two little girls who are champions at chasing away potential nannies. Why? They’re precocious kids. They are off the charts. Then again, I can’t say I’ve met too many completely docile kids. I loved how Ms Brown makes Mason lovable and kept nudging me to want to hug him. Did I mention she describes him well, too? Oh yeah.

Annie Rose is another fine mess. Really. She’s on the run from an abusive relationship, ends up in a pond, submerged and in a wedding dress. See? A fine mess. There were times I loved her and times I thought things were a tad too easy for her. Still, I rooted for her the whole way.

If you want a book that is sheer entertainment, then this might be the book for you. Grab a copy today!

Before the Dawn by Emma Weylin

DAWN
Before the Dawn by Emma Weylin
Secret Blood Book 2
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (95 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Samantha Moore doesn’t know she’s a werewolf. For years she believed she was a monster until a hot stranger walks into her father’s bar. With the promise of a better life and freedom from a cage, she decides to trust her animal instincts.
Nicodemus Wolcott works for the shape-shifter Tribunal. When he goes to investigate a report of a distressed shifter, he doesn’t expect to find his mate. He can teach his she wolf how to be a werewolf, but his one chance at love could be lost when nothing turns out as it seemed.

Before the Dawn is a sexy short shot of romance, paranormal drama and wolfish delight. It’s a fast paced novella that covers the gamut of what I look for in a book without being too heavy handed on any of its conflicts.

Samantha is the heroine who has the most adjustment to make in this tale. She’s been living a lie and what I really liked about getting to follow her on her journey was that nothing was as it first appeared. I was surprised, which is a credit to the author’s talent. Samantha has a great capacity for forgiveness despite what she’s gone through. I credit that to her mostly normal upbringing when she was her littlest.

Nicodemus has his hands full. He’s the man who has to juggle all the issues and problems Samantha unknowingly carries with her and I liked that the hero was written in a strong manner. Admittedly he comes across as an alpha jerk too. But for all his heavy handedness, I appreciated that he liked Samantha standing up to him and refusing to take any of his guff. When they butt heads it is fun and entertaining reading. I got to see Nicodemus at his wolfie best and that was fun too.

When Samantha and Nicodemus finally culminate their hot passion it was well done and nicely balanced within the action of the tale. I liked their dialogue, their push/pull relationship and the way the author had them work it all out.

Granted, it being a short story means things happen fast. Some jumps occur that seems way too convenient and improbable; but having the protagonists plod their way through logic and strict reality would have bogged down the story and stalled the fast pace. I guess something had to give. Who needs pesky logic when the story is so fun?

The villains were delightfully treacherous and nasty and I enjoyed how the author lead me through the dawning realization of just how insidious were their plans. It made the final confrontation satisfying.

I give Before the Dawn high marks for entertainment value. It is totally a standalone read with only minor references to the previous book, Dark Forest. This story is wholly focused on Samantha and Nicodemus with a few interesting secondary characters to spice things up. It’s a one sitting read due to the author’s talent of making each chapter even more interesting or revealing than the last. I think paranormal romance readers are going to like this one, especially if they enjoyed Dark Forest. Ms. Weylin knows how to weave a fun tale.

The Man He Needs by Sarah Masters

MAN
The Man He Needs by Sarah Masters
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (60 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal sex, Bondage, Abuse
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Two mistrusting men who have secrets they’d rather not share…

After a drunken night out, Christian goes back to Alfie’s house for sex. The thought never crossed his mind that Alfie would hold him hostage in his cellar. Christian would never have thought he’d come to care for Alfie either—but as weeks pass, he does. Although he can’t explain how he feels, it doesn’t much matter. There’s no one out there to miss him anyway.

Alfie has his reasons for keeping Christian tied up, and they are heartbreaking. He’s had a terrible past, one no child should ever live, and the morning after the night he took Christian home, he snapped. He couldn’t bear for yet another person to leave him and, knowing what he was about to do was wrong, he did it anyway.
Despite their harrowing pasts, the two men form a bond and together discover that there is a way to trust…finally.

Staying was what Christian had in mind even before he was chained in the basement. After an amazing night together, Christian knew he had a connection with Alfie. He could already see them in a relationship and happy together. Unfortunately Alfie was too terrified of his past demons to see the same future so instead he chained Christian in the basement. Most people would have been understandably upset and freaked out at the turn of events but soon Christian realizes that he wanted to stay with Alfie anyway. Now he just needs to find a way to show Alfie the truth.

The Man He Needs is a very thought provoking novella. It’s too short to really develop the characters fully and the interactions between the two are minimal unfortunately. The main thrust of the story takes place in Christian’s head with a significant portion dedicated to Alfie recounting his sad history of relationships. Christian is the first person narrator and it’s hard to engage with his voice. I didn’t really understand what was going on initially and how long he had been held prisoner but eventually the details sort themselves out. Even still most of the story is told in Christian’s head and I didn’t really understand nor like the character. He recounts, for Alfie, a story about his last boyfriend beating him viciously and how he crawled away wondering why he was always a victim. He has a very “why me” attitude while repeating the same behavior that got him in trouble in the first place.

Granted, he couldn’t know that Alfie would hold him hostage so I can’t hold him responsible for that yet I still didn’t warm to him. Alfie is an easier character to pity with a horrible childhood and a pattern of men leaving him for being too clingy and needing love. And I did pity Alfie, considerably, so I was happy to see the two men work things out and realize their needs were very suited for each other. That said, the whole thing was definitely illegal and kind of freaky, not at all non-con in a sexy way; more of a border line serial killer way. However, it does end with a happy ever after so perhaps it doesn’t matter how it got there.

I found The Man He Needs to be a different story featuring two very emotionally damaged men. I think the success to the story for readers may lie in their ability to suspend disbelief. It’s hard to imagine that even though Christian liked Alfie, he would still have all those positive feelings after being chained in the basement for a month. Though perhaps true love really does win!

Ripper’s Torment by Sam Crescent

RIPPER
Ripper’s Torment by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre : Contemporary
Length: Short Story (119 Pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

A late night phone call was never supposed to cause so much torment.

Ripper will do anything for Chaos Bleeds, including cleaning up the Princess’s mess. When Judi calls him without thinking he answers and soon he has a dead body to hide, and a car to destroy. He will do everything in his power to protect the young woman. What he didn’t expect was the lust that hits him from being around her.

Judi never expected to sexually want a man after being used by a pimp. Devil and his crew saved her from hell but Ripper is throwing her head first into heave. Ripper’s touch makes her crave everything she’d given up on.

However, Devil adopted Judi as his daughter. No one touches or hurts the Princess of the club. What will he do when one of his most trusted men has claimed her for his own?

I loved it! Sam Crescent did a great job on this story. It had a good plot that pulled me in fast and made it interesting enough that I couldn’t put it down until the end.

This was Ripper and Judi’s story. Most of the main plot centered around their relationship while at the same time coinciding with another book from The Skulls Series. It was really exciting and easily kept me on edge with everything that was happening. Ripper and Judi kept their relationship a secret while carrying on one red hot love affair. So naturally it all blew sky high when the cat got out of the bag.

Oh My God! They had great chemistry, Sam Crescent really knows her stuff, and their sex scenes burned up the pages. I would say that this one was more character driven with the action being mostly peripheral in Zero, the coinciding book that has the Skulls in trouble yet again. Being character driven as this one was meant getting a close inside look at Ripper and Judi. That was just fine with me. We found some of what happened to Judi and how she came into the abusive situation that Devil had saved her from in the first Chaos Bleeds book. We see the aftermath of that abuse and how much she cares about her new family. Of course, I loved getting to see more of Devil. I loved Ripper. Such an alpha male, but sweet and tender with Judi.

As for the writing it was good. The plot flowed well. It was a fast read and I enjoyed everything about this one. So all in all, it was a great read for me. Loved it and can’t wait for more.

Phantom Fears by Naomi Clark

FEARS
Phantom Fears by Naomi Clark
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (38 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

As a private investigator with a werewolf girlfriend, Shannon Ryan is used to the unusual. But her latest case has even level-headed Shannon questioning reality. Joyce Bonner swears her daughter is being haunted by a poltergeist. Charlotte Bonner swears she’s not. Shannon has one night to uncover the facts behind the supposed supernatural phenomena. Between an over-enthusiastic ghost-hunter and her own skepticism, can she get to the truth?

Not everything that goes bump in the night is caused by the same thing. Now imagine teaming up a skeptic with a true believer of all things paranormal. Can they combine their talents to get to the bottom of the truth?

Shannon has sharp eye for detail that makes her an ideal private investigator. I liked her immediately due to how many clues about her personality the author provides early on. It was especially intriguing to read the references about Shannon’s previous cases. Knowing about them wasn’t necessary in order to understand this adventure, but it sure did make me want to know more about this character’s life.

The ending did end up making sense based on everything else that happened in the plot earlier, but this tale would have easily earned a much higher rating had it been given a little more time to unfold. Finishing it so abruptly made the pacing feel uneven over the last scene or two even though I was originally quite happy with how it was progressing.

This story is part of a series. I haven’t read any of the earlier instalments, but I had no trouble at all figuring out what was happening. It works well as a standalone tale, although I am looking forward to going back and catching up on everything I’ve missed with these characters so far. Some of the hints about their pasts were tantalizing.

Phantom Fears was a wild ride. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary!

Thornbrook Park by Sherri Browning

PARK
Thornbrook Park by Sherri Browning
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (359 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nympahea

In a world poised for epic change…

Disowned for marrying beneath her, Eve Kendal has returned to England destitute after her husband’s death and the mysterious disappearance of their savings. She’s looking for survival, not romance. But from London to the Yorkshire countryside to the elegant estate of Thornbrook Park, Eve’s path seems destined to cross that of the dashing but violent Captain Marcus Thorne.

Anything can happen…

For Marcus, a return home means facing the demons that drove him to war in the first place. As he and Eve begin a steamy affair, tensions that had been simmering just beneath the surface threaten to explode and shake the very foundations of Thornbrook Park.

Two hearts that might not have found their way together will always find love.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sherri Browning, but it won’t be the last. I’m on the look out for more of her works. Why? The writing flowed well. There were times when I didn’t care for the characters, but the writing sparkled and I had to know what would happen next. These characters have flaws, but it was like reading about friends. I could get in their heads and know what was going on with them. That’s pretty cool.

I do have to say there are parts of the book that are predictable. There’s a meddling family member, displeasure in the family and a spark that brings everyone together. Now, that said, the author delivers this story in a fresh way that kept me reading.

I liked Marcus and Eve. Marcus is a typical wounded hero. He’s suffering from PTSD and uses prize fights to keep from dealing with his ‘black rages’. It’s an interesting way for him to deal and I liked how the author wrote him tough but tender. Eve comes to his rescue. She’s in a bind herself and can use him. The sparks really do fly in this book and it’s fun to watch them dance around each other.

If you want a book that’s got plenty of heart, a little fighting and a little meddling, then this might be the book for you.

Dangerous Territory by Emmy Curtis

TERRITORY
Dangerous Territory by Emmy Curtis
Publisher: Grand Central / Forever Yours
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (104 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

A SEXY STRANGER

Flirting with danger is reporter Grace Grainger’s modus operandi. But she’s learned the hard way not to grow attached to the soldiers she’s embedded with in Afghanistan. To escape from her pain and loneliness, she fantasizes about the hot night she spent with a gorgeous stranger three years before in D.C. Grace never thought she’d see him again—let alone need him to rescue her . . .

AN EXPLOSIVE NIGHT

Air Force Master Sergeant Josh Travers knows journalists are nothing but trouble. So when he has to risk his team’s lives to save some reporter who’s been separated from her patrol, he’s not happy—until he recognizes her stunning eyes and delicious curves. Josh has never wanted a woman like he wants Grace. He needs her—even in an Afghan cave with a sandstorm and enemy troops closing in. This might be the end for both of them—or one hell of a beginning.

The conflict between their jobs and the desire they feel for each other forces Josh and Grace to make tough decisions.

People in high-stress job situations are unlikely to have quiet family lives. If anything, the tension and stress are conducive to passionate, but dangerous, romances. Ms. Curtis makes such a situation very believable when she clearly paints the struggles, stress, guilt, and grief that Grace and Josh face in the war zone. Their inner conflicts make them very interesting characters as such, and turns their romance into a lot more than a fling or momentary release. It’s their way of finding inner peace and home.

What added an additional thrill to the story is how authentically the author described the landscape and war zone, the military operations, and the reactions of the local population. This made the dangers that Grace and Josh faced all the more real and thus the novella even more suspenseful and thrilling – and perhaps Josh’s and Grace’s romance more exhilarating.

What I’d like to read more about was Grace’s background, or Josh’s for that matter. His family back home is vaguely mentioned, but we don’t see any of the reasons for Grace’s ‘homelessness’. While this information wasn’t strictly necessary to follow the story, it would’ve added a bit more insight into the main characters.

Dangerous Territory is a story about people with demanding jobs few of us, ordinary people can imagine, but it’s a story about craving intimacy and love, too – something we can all identify with.