To Love and to Cherish by Leigh Greenwood

CHERISH
To Love and to Cherish by Leigh Greenwood
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (354 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

After her husband’s death, widow Laurie Spencer is left with nothing but the money she finds in the saddlebags of a dead soldier. Determined to be independent, she invests it in a ranch with Jared Smith, but when she doesn’t have enough for a full partnership, she reluctantly throws herself in as part of the deal.

Playing housekeeper means plenty of time in close quarters with the sexy cowboy. Soon, they’re in each other’s arms, but personal demons keep Jared from admitting he’s falling in love. When he finally sees what was right in front of him, it’s going to take more than a lasso to get her back into his arms where she belongs.

Yes! To Love and to Cherish is another western historical love story that is a keeper—another Leigh Greenwoods novel that shows his artistry with words.

If you’ve read A Cactus Creek novel, you may recognize some names like Naomi, Colby, Noah, Dr. Keesling, and Norman (yuck).

But, there’s a new man in town, a rancher, Jared Smith, recently out of the army and now furnishing beef for the fort near Cactus Creek. He’s not well-known; however, he shows up to offer his condolence when Noah Spencer, the banker’s brother and Laurie Spencer’s husband, dies. Jared does not go unnoticed. His handsome, eagled-eyed appearance, his sensuality, and his air of self-possession and purpose cannot be overlooked.

Even though, her body quivers when she sees him, Laurie, the young widow, has no interesting in ever having another husband. First controlled by a strict father that makes her ashamed of her body and later controlled by the man her father forced her to marry when she was seventeen, Laurie thinks she will now be independent since her husband died. She can make her own decisions and control her own life.

When things do not work out as Laurie thought they would, she finds that she and Jared Smith have the same enemy. They conspire so they can each get what they want. The obstacles, risks, and conflicts mount up to what seems like an insurmountable level.

Intriguing, compelling events paced just right, subtle character development, a touch of humor, and a hint of secrets kept this reader turning pages. The subplots are like icing on a cake. They enhance the total flavor of the story. Best of all, the love story sparkles with both tears and laughter.

Many of the secondary characters grab the reader’s attention. Fifteen-year-old Steven, Jared’s nephew, won my heart. Then there is Norman Spencer, the banker; he really raised my hackles. He is an antagonist that lives up to the title.

Leigh Greenwood’s Cactus Creek is inhabited with flawed characters (some good, some not so good) whose lives are entwined and tangled. The reader gets to vicariously share in their resolute efforts to build their lives in Arizona after the Civil War AND also gets to enjoy a memorable love story.

Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick M Garry

FLIPPER
Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick M Garry
Publisher: Kenrick Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (263 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Walt Honerman has just about given up on life. He is thirty-eight years old and lives alone in a small apartment above a hardware store in Billings, Montana. But because of a promise made to a dying uncle, Walt embarks on a cross-country driving trip with two passengers: Moira Kelly, a young woman who had befriended Walt’s uncle during his recent hospitalization; and 76-year-old Izzy Dunleavy, a loquacious nursing home resident who wishes to return to his hometown of Crawfish Bay, Maryland.

During their trip, Izzy entertains Walt and Moira with elaborate tales of the grand resort he once owned in Crawfish Bay—a resort with a mythical reputation for being a place of good luck. But when they arrive in Crawfish Bay, a suddenly confused Izzy is arrested on a decades-old embezzlement charge.

After Moira insists on staying to help Izzy, she and Walt discover that most of Izzy’s stories are pure fiction. More discoveries occur when they meet Felix, Izzy’s former business partner, and Emily, a single mother who worked at the nursing home in Billings and who came to Crawfish Bay because of Izzy’s promise of a job at his fictional resort.

This mismatched group, thrown together as much by anger as by nostalgic affection, begins investigating the money Izzy supposedly embezzled when he disappeared from Crawfish Bay years ago. And despite his retreat from life, brought on by a past tragedy, Walt finds himself being pulled into the wake of wild dreamers.

Have you ever been around old people? They remember before like it was yesterday but might not know your own name. They can be crabby, stubborn and insistent. They’re often unhappy. So why would someone take them on a road trip 2,000 miles across country?

This was a surprising book. I expected it to be sort of a farcical tale. Instead Mr. Garry turned this into a look at humanity. He puts odd characters together, they travel and enjoy themselves for the most part, and they grow as they go.

Izzy is the old man. He’s going back to where he started. He fantasizes about his old business, how palatial it was, a lost love, and looks forward to seeing his old partner. Walt is the man whose uncle has just died. That’s how he got stuck with Izzy. It seems his uncle told him about going to Baltimore to see the game, and now he wants to hitch a ride. Walt has given up on life. He lost his fiancé in silly trick he and a buddy pulled and he doesn’t believe in love or life anymore. So what does it make if he takes Izzy along for the ride? Then, he suddenly has another passenger. A young woman visiting the nursing home wants to go, too. What’s one more?

As they travel, Izzy entertains them. Walt gets a bit irritated here and there, but he lets it go. Nobody is exactly what they appear to be. Izzy has some secrets (he may have forgotten them but they haven’t forgotten him), so does Moira, and Walt is still trying to find a spark to keep going.

I really enjoyed reading the escapades of Izzy and the budding romance between Moira and Walt. What bothered me was that death was waiting in the shadows. It goes with the story line and has a good message even if it’s a bit sad. The author handled it well. He has a clean writing style that is easy to read. He also made you really care about his characters. That’s what really matters in the long run.

You can take this trip across the country, too, just grab a copy of this book now. When you set it down, you won’t forget it quickly.

Embrace the Night by Caris Roane

Bella Media Management
Embrace the Night by Caris Roane
The Blood Rose Series: Five
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (122 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

He ignored his deepest needs for a hundred years…

Mastyr Vampire Jude has kept his distance from all women because he lost his wife and daughter to an enemy attack a hundred years ago. He won’t go through that kind of loss again. And he won’t jeopardize another woman’s life while the deadly Invictus wraith-pairs still pose a threat in the Nine Realms. But when Hannah saves his life by creating unexpected fire from the palms of her hands, he knows that something ‘very realm’ is going on with her and he can no longer ignore his long-suppressed desire for the beautiful owner of the Gold Rush bar. When his cravings for her blood and her body drive him to take her to bed and tap into her vein, his world shifts forever. But can Hannah make the adjustment to a life lived on the frontlines of an ongoing war? And if anything should happen to her, how could he ever live with himself?

There is something compelling about this series that keeps me coming back for more. Ms. Roane has created a world that mixes a drop of contemporary with a whole lot of ‘other’ and comes up with a new and fascinating twist for the vampire romance genre. So far, I’ve read every short and novelette that she’s written regarding the nine realms and none have let me down.

First, Embrace the Night is a standalone. There are some references to characters that I’ve met in the past but they show up like listening to a one-sided telephone conversation; they provide clues and information but don’t interfere with the main focus of the story: the romance between Mastyr Jude and Hannah.

The talent that Ms. Roane wields is formidable. Every story, no matter the length, always makes me feel like I got a full story, complete with emotional and sentimental undercurrents, action, drama, some humor, amazement and even some very sexy loving – emphasis on sexy. This tale is no different. The hero has experienced loss in the past that hurt him so bad, he’s adamant that he’ll never succumb to love again. The heroine is a woman who prides herself on her independence and is doing fine but finds herself wanting something that she should not, Jude. When they get together, passion simmers and pops until they succumb and something is unleashed that catches them both by surprise. What happens then is a journey. Jude and Hannah have to balance their newfound knowledge with finding acceptance in their new roles. What complicates the matter is the villain.

The villain and her horde are not explored too thoroughly here. That was done in Embrace the Mystery when the ‘who’ was finally revealed. In this story, enough is shared with a new reader to understand the danger without making a reader feel lost. The powerful fae sends a new kind of threat to attack Jude’s realm and the menace becomes personal when she targets Hannah. Jude has to make a choice, embrace his potential relationship with Hannah or lose her forever. Hannah has to decide how much her independence is really worth and what is she willing to lose to keep it. Both internal conflicts play nicely off of each other and provide a wonderful backdrop for an adventurous, romantic novelette.

The secondary characters that come to play are always interesting, helpful and give flavor to the storytelling. The one component that I believe the author relies heavily upon is Davido and his wife. They are nice people and interesting but they are a powerful couple who the author has used as a tool to get her main protagonists from point A to B. I believe that they are the glue or the facilitators that allow such short stories to flow in the cohesive manner I’ve come to expect. Not that it’s a bad thing, far from it, because it works. However, sometimes it comes across as too perfect or too helpful and I had a sense of that in this story. Then again, it’s also a way to keep the angst level low and the reading enjoyment high and smooth flowing. It’s a tricky balance.

Embrace the Night is a must read for vampire romance fans that are looking for something new, vibrant and fascinating. The concept of the Blood Rose is intriguing and the world Ms. Roane has created is full of nuances, fantasy folklore characters, vampires and lots of dire and interesting predicaments. Hannah and Jude made for a wonderful couple and their romance was delightful. If a reader hasn’t had the experience of reading this series before, this is a fun one to start off with. If anything, it might even intrigue a reader enough to read the previous books in the series. And that would be a great thing because a couple are even better than this one. Which is me saying – go forth and read. The Blood Rose series is pure entertainment and Embrace the Night is a great addition to the tales of the nine realms. I’m glad I read it.

Under Starry Skies by Judy Ann Davis

Cover_UnderStarrySkies

Under Starry Skies by Judy Ann Davis
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical (Early American)
Length: Full (306 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.

Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.

When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he is the target of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she is the target instead of the handsome rancher.

With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?

A fun trip back in time to post-Civil War era America!

Abigail and Maria O’Donnell have hit on some hard times. Their father’s death left them in great debt and have few options other than to head to Colorado to live with an uncle. All well and good until they discovered he was murdered.

I have to be honest and say I didn’t read the blurb to this story before I picked it up, and I honestly believed the heroine was Abigail. The first few chapters are from her point of view and from Tye’s and Maria is barely a blip on the radar (and it was a rather unfavorable blip for me … she came across as weak and whiny). Imagine my surprise when the story veered off from my expectations, and Maria was our heroine! Thankfully, as time passes, Maria grows a spine and by the end of the book is a woman to be admired.

There is a secondary story with Abigail and a potential beau, and I suspect she will be the lead in the next story of this series. Speaking of which, this is apparently the second book in a series, but I had no problem at all sorting things out. Honestly, had I not checked (and had Abigail’s story not been so open-ended), I might not have realized it was part of a series at all, so fear not if you worry about reading it on its own.

The mystery in this story is fairly weak, so if you’re a mystery buff this might not be the best choice. There was never any real doubt as to who killed Uncle Henry, so it’s mostly about trying to prove it and understand why it happened.

I enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Two Bears and Millie, and I also appreciated how relatively independent so many women in this story were (which made it harder for me to believe Maria was that worried about losing her job if she married Tye). Honestly, the conflicts here weren’t that strong, but my fondness for the characters and the writer’s skill at writing kept me turning pages. Yes, the author has remarkable talent with her words. Plot blips aside, her talent for characterization, description, etc., kept me well engaged.

I might not have picked up Under Starry Skies on my own, but I really enjoyed it. More, I really liked Abigail and do hope the author selects her as the heroine for the next book. I’d truly like to see how things turn out for her!

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A Rake by Any Other Name by Mia Marlowe

RAKE
A Rake by Any Other Name by Mia Marlowe
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (345 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When his father, Lord Somerset, tumbles off the roof, Richard Barrett, Lord Hartley, is called home from his Grand Tour to take the reins of the estate while the marquess recuperates. Somerset is in serious financial difficulty, which can only be remedied by marriage to an heiress, Miss Sophie Goodnight, lately arrived from India with her nabob father.

Unfortunately, Richard believes he has already lost his heart to Lady Antonia Pruett. And Miss Goodnight isn’t too keen on becoming Somerset’s purse with feet, so she foils their families’ attempts to throw her and Richard together at every turn. To make matters worse, the reason Lord Somerset fell off the roof in the first place is a secret that threatens to upend all their lives.

Mia Marlowe’s marvelous magic with words involves the reader in A Rake by Any Other Name from page one. Two strong personalities square off in a way that made me smile. They see the world from very different points of view. That the heroine, Sophie Goodnight, is no shrinking violet is quite clear. No pampered young lord is going to intimidate her.

Family machinations and social pressure of the ton have Richard Barrett, Lord Hartley, boxed in a corner that seems impossible to escape. His life is no longer his own. He’s come from flitting around the Continent spending money to shouldering the heavy financial burden of saving the family estate. The first thing he sees on his arrival home is some unknown young woman viciously pruning a rose bush his grandmother had planted years ago. Even worse, she shows no obsequiousness toward him. His friend Lawrence Seymour is amused but Richard is furious, which seems lost on the mutilator of his roses.

The symbolism of Sophie cutting away the dead and entangling canes of the rose bush so, hopefully, new growth can flourish sets the tone of her role in the unfolding drama that takes place at Somerfield Park. The old ways that worked at one time to keep the estate viable no longer get the job done. New ways must be embraced and she helps Richard find a new way, even though his elders are sure it will taint the family name. Her sharp mind and sharp tongue cut to the chase often as she and Richard spar.

Many characters that seem minor have much to do with how the plot unfolds. How Ms. Marlowe weaves them in keeps the reader totally involved in the many levels of doings at Somerfield Park. The reader needs to keep them all in mind, from the lowest level servant girl to the high and mighty Antonia Pruett that Richard planned to marry.

The changing times of the early 1800s in England, with tradesmen getting wealthy and the peerage finding it hard to maintain their holdings while struggling to hold on to a social structure that shows signs of decay , sets the scene and the temperament for A Rake by Any Other Name. There’s intrigue, secrets, evil intent, deception, humor, and, of course, the love scenes sizzle. EXCELLENT READING!

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper

NGS
Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper
Publisher: PocketStar
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (355 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children’s librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed twenty-five dollars in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that’s sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she’s mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.

Jane is now the latest recipient of a gift basket from the Newly Undead Welcoming Committee, and her life-after-lifestyle is taking some getting used to. Her recently deceased favorite aunt is now her ghostly roommate. She has to fake breathing and endure daytime hours to avoid coming out of the coffin to her family. She’s forced to forgo her favorite down-home Southern cooking for bags of O negative. Her relationship with her sexy, mercurial vampire sire keeps running hot and cold. And if all that wasn’t enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What’s a nice undead girl to do?

Being mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead wasn’t even Jane’s worst day. The fact that it all happened on a day she was fired from her dream job and given a gift certificate for potato skins at the local dive bar did not help matters. However being turned into a vampire certainly gave Jane’s life, now unlife, new perspective. Now she has a sexy but somewhat unstable Sire to contend with along with small details such as blood sucking, flameablilty in sunlight, and the usual quagmire of crazy relatives of both the living and ghostly kind. Trying to navigate her new undead existence is not easy and that all happens before she starts to be framed for a series of vampire murders. A girl just can’t catch a break.

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs is book one of the Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper. The main character of Jane is well developed and three-dimensional. She’s snarky, witty, and irreverent. The highlights of the book for me are not the female leads, since they are predictable, but the fun plot and use of secondary characters. Here the idea that Jane is bumping off other vampires and has to figure out who is framing her actually works because while the culprit is obvious very early on, Jane herself seems to go about the detecting work in a reasonable fashion. She’s clueless until the long monologue revealing exactly who did what and how by the “bad guy”, but I forgave her.  She’s intelligent but lacks serious common sense and the ability to put clues together. The writing relies on quips and Jane’s sense of humor to really carry the book, which works decently well even if it’s slightly repetitive.

I’ve read other books by the author set in Half Moon Hollow that revolve around the same group of characters but star different female protagonists. Now having read numerous books by Harper, both set in HMH and others, they are all remarkably similar to the point of formulaic. The heroines are almost exactly the same in each book. They are in their late 20s, single without significant past relationships, hard working, beautiful but they don’t think so, quirky, witty, sassy, and all have a penchant for a different kind of junk food which is usually a variation on candy. The females in the books are interchangeable and have few differences but the male leads are no different. They are all sexy, mysterious, rich, and totally enamored of the heroines to the point of silliness even as the heroine never believes it can be true. It’s classic romance and clearly is exactly what Harper’s readers want. I admit I find her sense of humor entertaining and I enjoy the books but I need long periods of time between them so I can forget that I already know everything about the book before I even start it. They’re predictable down to the details so I think your enjoyment hinges on whether that kind of formula romance appeals to readers.

I think Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs works well because the mystery carries the book since the romance is more lukewarm. Jane and her sire, Gabriel, don’t really have a solid happy ending but they are together and there are more books in the series. The vampire lore is basic and nothing special, even if all the good parts and very few drawbacks are included. For first time readers of this author that like humor in their vampire romance, I think this will be a real treat. For repeat readers it all depends on how much repetition is tolerable. I find the author’s voice and books nearly identical to one another but at least I always know what I’m getting.

What to Do with a Bad Boy by Marie Harte

BOY
What to Do with a Bad Boy by Marie Harte
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (366 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play, Spanking
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Mike McCauley had his soul mate for a precious time before she died giving birth to their son. She left him with the best boy a guy could want, so why is everyone playing matchmaker? He’s sick of it . . . until he meets Delilah Webster.

For some reason, the foul-mouthed, tattooed mechanic sets his motor running. He sees the loving woman buried within. But the closer they get, the more the pain of past wounds throws a monkey wrench into a future he’s not sure he can handle…

After reading this novel, the hero wasn’t the only one needing a cold shower. This story has scenes so hot, I swear the pages scorched my eyebrows.

What to Do with a Bad Boy is finally giving me what I want, Mike’s story. For such a fussy and fastidious housekeeper and father of such a cute little rascal named Colin, I never dreamed he had such sexy and kinky depths hidden in that big hunky body of his. Guess it took a woman with a hint of “bad girl” to get the hero to open up which means Del is the perfect woman for him. Ms. Harte made sure of that.

The internal conflict that holds Mike back is the memory of his first wife. Yes, he loved her and still does but he needs to move on. Even he thinks so. But he’s got this ‘ideal’ that he believes he must have and having any feelings or lust for Del seems so wrong, it scares him. The interesting thing about lust is the power it can have. In this story, it slams into Mike so hard he can’t help but ponder, wonder and salivate over ‘what if?’ That is the chink in his armor that Del slips through and the fun begins.

Del is quite a mix of brash, confident, mouthy and hidden deep inside, sentimental and purely feminine. She’s definitely on the rough side but that works perfectly when she bounces that attitude of hers off of Mike. I also like the fact that she’s capable, smart and willing to step out of her comfort zone for friends. There is a lot for a reader to like about the heroine.

The basic plot is focused on Mike and Del getting over their hang-ups in order to fall in love. Mike’s path is onerous because he has to truly, finally and completely reconcile his past with his present. That pivotal moment was a gut punch. It was well written, dramatic and powerful because it was full of intense emotion and pain. What a great scene. Del has to learn to compromise and trust that for once, she has the real deal, true love, and Mike isn’t simply going to go ‘poof’. She has a hard time with that transition of expecting failure to expecting success instead.

One thing about this book is the hotness of it. Once Mike realizes that Del can take anything he can dish out, he taps into sexual yearnings he’s always had but buried deep. With Del, he can be himself and once he realizes that, readers are in for some heat inducing scenes. Seems he has this thing for tying Del up and giving her orders and even spanking her when she’s ‘bad’. For Del, a tough and suffers-no-fools kind of gal, giving Mike that kind of power over her is a heady trip and one that shocks her because she had no clue she wouldn’t mind a take charge kind of guy to that extent. Throughout all the amazing sex scenes, Ms. Harte did something fascinating. She incorporated dialogue, both internal and external, throughout their mating. The author wrote them in such a way that a reader can’t simply skim over them thinking, ‘oh, it’s just another sex scene’. If they do skim, they’ll miss the growth of Mike and Del’s relationship. It’s interwoven so tightly it gives meaning to the sex and makes every single moment thoroughly readable. No mistake though; have the ice handy for a few of them.

The one character I could have done without was Grace. I understood why she was included in this story, she was a conflict foil. Still, she annoyed me. The fact that Mike’s mom acted the way she did annoyed me too. I expected better from her for some reason and the fact she kept on her stubborn blinders about Del just got my goat.

Colin was his usually rascally self. I enjoyed how the author got into his head and allowed me to follow his reasoning as to why Del would be the perfect mom for him. What he did to try to orchestrate it was adorable. All through the series, he was a lovable character and Ms. Harte made him shine in this novel.

I think this book could be read as a standalone but I wouldn’t recommend it only because I believe that the reading of it is more powerful after reading the previous three. Ms. Harte has been slowly seducing readers about Mike and Del for quite some time. If a reader wants the full effect, read at least the previous two novels. They’ll be glad they did.

Reading What to Do with a Bad Boy is like the perfect summer vacation – everything that could make the experience the best it could be, a reader gets. Mike and Del’s story is a home run and closes the series with a winner of a story. The romance is wonderful, the sex is deliciously wicked and all the characters provide that family feeling of continuity and connection. I definitely recommend this book to romance readers, especially those that like their books extra sizzling.

Fatal Consequences by JG Faherty

FATAL
Fatal Consequences by JG Faherty
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (57 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Every decision carries a price.”

Alec Winter is a man haunted by his own cowardice. When a bear attacked his family during a camping trip, he ran and hid. When he returned, his children were dead and his wife badly injured. But everyone believes he s a hero because he led rescuers back in time to save her. Ever since then, his children’s deaths have haunted him. Now, on the anniversary of the attack, strange things begin happening. The people who helped Alec are dying in very violent ways, leaving him to wonder if guilt has finally driven him crazy…or if something far worse is coming for him.

Everyone feels guilty over something in their past, but not everyone tries to hide what really happened. If only Alec knew how to make everything right again.

One of the most important things I look for in good horror is smart writing. This wasn’t the first thing I’ve read from this author, but it is my favorite book from him so far. What I like the most about his writing style is how much effort he puts into developing his ideas. I get the impression that Mr. Faherty spends a great deal of time working behind the scenes to wring out every last drop of horror from his premise before he releases his newest creation into the world.

I was able to figure out the ending fairly early on in the plot. There were a few too many clues about what was happening to Alec and the other characters, and some of them were shared too soon. Had I needed more time to put all of the pieces together, this tale would have easily earned a much higher rating.

Take my advice and don’t read this right before bedtime. This is one of the creepiest things I’ve read in a long time. Normally I’m less frightened once I figure out what’s happen in a horror story, so it was deliciously unnerving to have the opposite experience. Trying to sleep a few hours after I finished it was an exercise in futility.

Fatal Consequences is a great choice for anyone who loves the scary side of fiction.

Baymo by Seth C. Kadish

BAYMO
Baymo by Seth C. Kadish
Publisher: LadyBee Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Baymo” is the story of a young dog who longs for the freedom and excitement of human life without comprehending the responsibility and worries that go along with such a life. Through a bit of magic from Father Moon, Baymo’s wish comes true – he becomes a man – but his subsequent misadventures teach him that being a man has its price.

But he was a man, a man, a man! Baymo was in a state of bliss, filled with joy and radiant. He stood, he fell, he pushed himself back up again. Tottered, veered, spun, teetering, toppling, a spinning top, out of control, overcome with pleasure.

He was so involved in this new game that he did not notice Spike enter the yard. The little pug stared at him with pop eyes, amazed at the sight of a tall, wobbly, naked, golden-haired man, wearing a grin, weird noises bursting out of his mouth. Spike was so startled by the bizarre apparition that he forgot to be scared.

That is, until the naked man took a step towards Spike and smiled. Spike gave a nervous bark. What to do? And where was Baymo to tell him what to do? Where was his best friend, the golden dog?

Baymo teetered and tottered toward Spike, croaking with pleasure at his newfound manhood. To his amazement, the little dog raced back to the safety and sanity of his house, an escapee from the clutches of the horrible stranger.

If wishes were dog bones, Baymo’s stomach would be filled to the brim.

Strong character development is one of the most important things I look for when reviewing a book. I love connecting with the protagonist so deeply that I feel like I’m experiencing their world alongside them. Baymo amused me from the beginning, but it was the way he reacted to everything that happened to him that captured my attention. He was incredibly well-developed. His personal evolution was so gradual and tied to the plot that I was actually caught off-guard by how much information the author was able to pack into something this length.

The vast majority of the plot seemed perfectly suited for kids in early elementary school, but there were a few scenes that made me hesitate. The violence in them wasn’t graphic, but it happened often enough that I raised my age recommendation by two years. It’s definitely something that should be screened beforehand by parents or teachers. If these scenes had been toned down, I would have chosen a much higher rating for this tale.

This was my first introduction to Mr. Kadish’s work. I enjoyed his storytelling so much that I actually read all of Baymo’s adventures over the course of a single afternoon. While I don’t know if the author has any intention of writing a sequel, there is certainly room here to do so. If he does follow up with these characters again, this reader would be quite curious to see what happens next.

I’d recommend Baymo to dog-lovers of all ages.

Cover Your Eyes by Mary Burton

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Cover Your Eyes by Mary Burton
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (392 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Don’t Look

At first, they struggle to escape. Then a torrent of blows rains down upon their bodies until their eyes cloud over in final agony. The killer shows no remorse–just a twisted need to witness each victim’s last terrified moments.

Don’t Speak

Public defender Rachel Wainwright is struggling to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t want to agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned young, beautiful Annie Dawson thirty years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings.

Just Prepare To Die

Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers–but at a price she never thought to pay. Now she’s become the target of a rage honed by years of jealousy and madness. And a murderer is ready to show her just how vicious the truth can be. . .

I’ve never read a Mary Burton book I didn’t like and Cover Your Eyes was no exception. It had all the necessary elements of a first rate romantic suspense novel, secrets, danger, and of course, a budding romance.

I liked the character of Rachel, while tough; she showed a vulnerability for helping the people she believed in. Ms. Burton certainly kept me in suspense knowing if the DNA from a previous crime matched that of her now client, Jeb.

Deke was at times a little arrogant but you like him nevertheless because you know in the back of your mind he’s going to be right about his beliefs and maybe save the day.

I enjoyed the way this story unfolded. A clue here and there, another character thrown in just to keep you on your toes about guessing the story’s outcome. And while I did guess correctly on some of the clues, the ending was perfect for a die-hard mystery reader like myself.

And speaking of other characters, all the secondary ones in this story drew you into their tale. Ms. Burton made them as well rounded as Rachel and Deke.

I also liked the setting. So many stories feature New York, LA , New Orleans or Atlanta but I can’t think of a romantic suspense I’ve read that’s set in Nashville and the music industry. It was a refreshing change which I felt added another layer to the story.

Pacing is actually fast despite this book’s length and I think the “I have to turn the page” quality of Cover Your Eyes had something to do with that.

If you’re looking to add a romantic suspense story to your upcoming winter reading list, I’d recommend this one.