The Masterful Mr. Montague by Stephanie Laurens

MR
The Masterful Mr. Montague by Stephanie Laurens
Publisher: Avon / Harper Collins
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (448 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London’s elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally … and personally.

Violet, devoted lady-companion to the aging Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she’d expected – this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong – everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim.

But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer.who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?

Generally, one would think that having large sums of money deposited to one’s bank account on a regular basis is a good thing. But when one has no idea who is depositing the money, or why, it raises many questions. Lady Halstead has been widowed many years now. She feels that she’s coming to the end of her life and wants to put all her financial affairs in order. Her man of business can’t explain where the money is originating, so she instructs her long time companion, Violet Matcham, to contact London’s premier financial advisor / investigator, Heathcote Montague, to request his assistance.

Montague has worked very hard at his craft for many years, and has earned his stellar reputation. But something just doesn’t feel right. Now, at forty-ish, he notices his colleagues going home to loving wives and children, and feels the pangs of loneliness. Just as his office is about to close, Violet shows up, requesting his help for Lady Halstead. Montague is intrigued both by the case, and by Violet, herself, and agrees to investigate the mysterious funds. However, whoever is responsible for the funds has no desire to be found out. He will take any steps, including murder, to cover his crimes. As danger comes closer to Violet, she and Montague become closer to each other.

Both Montague and Violet are honorable, likeable people. They are straight forward about their developing feelings for each other, and I like that a lot. I also like that we have a hero who is forty-ish and a heroine who is thirty four. Generally I’m very fond of books that have a slow building romance, with the couple building a friendship first. This book was well written, but felt very long, and it lacked the passionate and steamy scenes that Stephanie Laurens is known for, and I missed that. If you prefer a historical mystery, with a subtler romance on the side, this may just be the book for you.

Dark Vengeance by R.T. Wolfe

DARK
Dark Vengeance by R.T. Wolfe
Publisher: ePublishing Works!
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (252 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

Detective Nickie Savage is pursuing a paroled arsonist who’s at it again. Worse, she’s plagued by the most recent victim’s nephew, Duncan Reed, the person she distrusts the most.
Duncan won’t stop until the deadly arsonist targeting his Aunt is back behind bars. But the smart and sassy Nickie Savage is in his way and getting far too close to a 30-year-old secret he’s fought to protect.

When the arsonist strikes again with perfectly timed twin explosions, Duncan and Nickie must re-think everything they once believed about the arsonist and each other.

Another story from author R.T.Wolfe, packed full of suspense, action and plenty of romance. The more I read from her, the more I enjoy her writing.

It’s been a while since I read the other books in this series, and I don’t think this one stands alone as strongly as the other two. There are lots of things happening here that relate to previous books, and I think it would be a bit confusing for new readers. But that’s okay! Read the first two books – you won’t regret it.

This book follows Duncan Reed, artist and survivor of a violent crime when he was small. The book starts with a crime reminiscent of that earlier one, and it’s thus he meets our heroine, Nickie Savage. Nickie is a police detective and she’s been tasked with a few crimes, including a missing teenaged girl, and now with finding out who butchered a dog and left its corpse on Duncan’s aunt’s doorstep.

I admit to being just a touch confused at first as we hopped between the two crimes. Duncan helping Nickie with the missing girl, and she involved in both. I struggled sometimes to figure out what investigation mattered to which crime as Duncan, especially, dug up various clues. Eventually I worked it out, but it did give me some pause at the beginning.

I really loved the relationship Duncan and Nickie built. The romance was incredibly well created, believable and not perfect. It had plenty of heat and eventually also filled with its share of heart. Duncan oozed sex appeal and it’s no wonder Nickie couldn’t resist, even when she thought she should.

The secondardy characters really were the icing on this cake. We get to see Andy and Rose and Brie and Nathan … I love this family. And the author added in another fantastic woman, Gina, Nickie’s foster mother. She was possibly my favorite person in the book.

Aside from the initial confusion I quickly worked through, this book was another absolute winner for me. I’m such a fan of the author and can’t wait for the next book! If you love well written, suspenseful romantic suspense that doesn’t skimp on the romance, I heartily recommend this and all the other R. T. Wolfe books in this series.

Horse of Wind and Shadows by L.B. Shire

HORSE
Horse of Wind and Shadows by L.B. Shire
Publisher: Lycaon Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Evil lurks in the waters off the Oregon coast. A lone girl, a magnificent horse, zombies… Can hope prevail with each hoof beat in the sand?

All Taryn wanted was to have a horse again.

When she spotted the black steed running through the ocean waves, she knew there must be a way to capture the feral horse. Her best friend, Flyn, said it wasn’t possible. Not one to turn away from a challenge, will she risk friendships and love to make her dream come true?

Flyn has been Taryn’s self-proclaimed protector since they were kids. Thrust into a world of unpredictability, he tries his best to keep the strong-willed girl out of trouble. Taryn stumbles upon a horse and decides she wants to make it her own against his growing concerns. Will he be able to keep Taryn safe, or will she be lost to him forever?

Is there any point in wishing for impractical things when there’s no guarantee you’ll live to see tomorrow? Of course Taryn knows how dangerous it is to grow up in a world full of zombies, but she can’t help but to dream of what it would feel like to ride a horse again.

Taryn is one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve met so far this year. Her strengths and flaws reveal themselves early on in her adventures, and she definitely possesses quite a few of each. Sometimes her unrelenting stubbornness made me wish I could climb into the scene and persuade her to listen to other points of view, but her empathy and curiosity kept me rooting for her until the conclusion.

I did notice some grammatical errors in the text as I was reading. There were also a few instances in which the characters’ syntax was unusual. It was never quite clear to me if the author was writing a new type of dialect that was created by the large number of orphans in the plot whose education has been sparse to non-existent or if these oddly written sentences would have disappeared with another round of editing.

Strong, even pacing drew me back into the story. There is little room for sentimentality or nostalgia in this world because the characters are forced to spend so much of their time gathering supplies and outrunning the dead. This realistic look at what it would take to keep a small community functioning under such dangerous conditions when a large percentage of their members are young children and teenagers piqued my interest almost as much as the dilemmas Taryn and her makeshift family face.

The paranormal elements of this tale captured my attention immediately. It’s fairly rare for a zombie novel to include the types of phenomenon that the author inserts into the text, so I was curious to see how everything would tie together. I would have liked to see more time spent developing this subplot. It’s a unique twist, yet the amount of space it was given wasn’t quite enough to explain all of the questions I had in the beginning.

It took me a while to determine the most appropriate age recommendation. Taryn is a few months shy of 16 when the story begins, but her emotional response to her circumstances and her obsession with the horse make her come across as someone who is a few years younger than her chronological age. There is a genuinely innocent and naive side to this character that is often at odds with her surroundings, and it is because of these traits that this story is suitable for high school students of any age.

I’d recommend Horse of Wind and Shadows to anyone who would like to shift effortlessly between genres. This novel is equal parts young adult and science fiction with just enough horror thrown in to remind the reader that there are always zombies lurking beyond the perimeter.

Vincent – Part One by Sarah Masters

VINCENT
Vincent – Part One by Sarah Masters
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (44 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal sex, Mild BDSM
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Vincent has missed Julian for two years, but now The Master is on his way back…

After an altercation with Vincent, Julian leaves the ton as captain of Le Frai de Démon, trading his wares in foreign parts. Two years pass, two years of Vincent abstaining from sex and mourning the loss of his love.
Once a month, men gather in Devil’s Spawn, Julian’s club, and though Vincent doesn’t partake in sexual contact, he visits the club as a way to bring Julian closer despite his absence.

One night, Vincent’s life is turned upside down with the return of Julian. Though his heart tells him to open up and allow Julian in, his pride rears its stubborn head. Will Julian be able to break down the barriers? And will Vincent find out why Julian is really called The Master?

Sometimes a second chance is scarier than the first. Vincent has been waiting two long years for the love of his life to return from the sea. All that time Vincent has stayed true to Julian, even though he knows Julian has been with other men. However, nothing can dampen their feelings for each other – not time, distance, or other men. When Julian’s ship docks in the town once again, Vincent is torn between clinging to his hurt and wanting whatever he can get from Julian.

Vincent: Part One is the first in a five part series of short stories. I was pretty sure I’d read this years ago and when I saw it re-released with TEB, I wanted to read it again. Mostly I remembered it being smoking hot and I’m happy to say it certainly is! The story is just an introduction and rather short at that but it manages rather skillfully to give background on the two main characters while offering quite a bit of tension, both sexual and emotional, within the short pages. Vincent is an excellent narrator and almost immediately I could get into his head and feel his emotions. He feels surprisingly three-dimensional given the restraints of the short story. Yet I felt for the character, his hurt, and his love. I wanted to see the two men together and was drawn into their love affair, something that rarely happens for me in a short story.

Additionally the story is incredibly hot. The chemistry between Vincent and Julian leaps off the page from the moment they’re together and continues to build and build, far beyond the obvious climax. The BDSM nature of the story is definitely a component – Julian is called the master after all – but it’s subtle in this first book. I expect it’ll play a more prominent role in the series but the first book is extremely mild. Just a few hits with a crop and some ass play with a wooden phallus. But it does set up the dynamic between the two men. I am intrigued to see where the series go but I especially appreciated that Vincent is not a doormat. He’s a strong willed man that loves Julian whole heartedly but makes Julian work for his forgiveness, master or no.

I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this on even a second reading. It’s clever and articulate and manages to offer a compelling emotional relationship alongside a combustible sexual one and all within the space of thirty pages or so. I’ve read full novels that don’t manage to do that so for that alone I’d recommend this short. And it’s free right now! But beyond those arguments, I found this short historical story to be engaging, wholly entertaining and smoking hot. It’s only a small time investment and hopefully readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

Noble Intentions by Katie MacAlister

NOBLE
Noble Intentions by Katie MacAlister
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (391 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Noble Britton suffered greatly at the hands of his first wife, and he refuses to fall into the same trap again. This time he intends to marry a quiet, biddable woman who will not draw attention to herself or cause scandal. Gillian Leigh’s honest manner and spontaneous laughter attract him immediately. It matters little that she is accident-prone; he can provide the structure necessary to guide her.

But unconventional to the tips of her half-American toes, his new bride turns the tables on him, wreaking havoc on his orderly life. Perpetually one step behind his beguiling spouse, Noble suffers a banged-up head, a black eye, and a broken nose before he realizes Gillian has healed his soul and proven that their union is no heedless tumble, but the swoon of true love.

For anyone who isn’t aware of the amazing gift of hilarity that Ms. MacAlister possesses, they are in for an absolute treat when they read this latest madcap adventure in love and romance. The nearest comparison I can come up with is paring Lucille Ball with the 3 Stooges. The predicaments the heroine gets into and the things she says had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. Noble Intentions gets a best book rating simply because I couldn’t wipe off the goofy grin that wielded itself to my face by the time I came to the end of chapter two and stayed there practically until the end.

Noble, the hero, is all sorts of twisted up emotionally. He doesn’t trust women, with good cause, is protective of his young son, with equally just cause, and he doesn’t give a flying flip as to what the ton thinks of him because of what happened to him in his previous marriage. He’s a traumatized hero that just begs to be healed and loved. Not that he wants that. Not at all. He wants a wife that will be the antithesis of his vile first wife. What he gets is Gillian – and his life will never be the same.

Gillian gets into the silliest of pickles. She’s sort of scatterbrained, impulsive and embodies a healthy amount of joie de vivre. She’s enthusiastic and loyal once she decides that someone is family or that she loves them. No scheme, plan or endeavor is left untried, no matter how crazy it might be, if she feels it’s going to save or help someone. She’s part innocent yet saucy at the same time and she has the most amazing background to draw from. She’s a heroine I would love to call friend because I guarantee, life would never be boring or staid with a woman like Gillian around.

The absolute hardest part about writing this review is not giving spoilers. It pains me that I can’t share the scenes that had me doubled over with laughter. If I had to recount them, I’d run out of fingers and toes, there are just that many. Rest assured however, that they aren’t written in to be funny in and of themselves. Each plan that goes astray actually provides clues to a mystery and garners the heroine all the helpers she needs to solve the case. The secondary characters that populate the novel are as unique and fascinating as the heroine. The butler is a pirate, but not. Gillian’s cousin is demure, but not. Noble’s friends are interesting on two different levels – but only after reading the book will that make any sense.

Let me see if I can give any hints. The dogs made me giggle, Gillian’s innocence about broken men made me snort and snicker and out right laugh, the blue hand reminded me of Ms. Ball’s antics on T.V., the ladybugs totally cracked me up, Noble’s adventures with vases and broken noses, although should be serious and cause for concern, actually made me guffaw, chortle and again, laugh out loud, and enterprising literature bought off of a street vender provided many moments of giggles for me and crossed eyes for Noble.

As for dialogue, Ms. MacAlister was truly inspired. Sometimes it was like watching tennis or ping pong. Some scenes had it fast paced with a couple of characters going at it about two different conversations at the same time and somehow, it worked. Then there was Gillian learning some naughty cant from the streets and her applying it in unexpected ways. Cue another grin. Oh my gosh, the testicles! I almost fell to the floor when that conversation occurred. Where does the author come UP with that? It was pure genius.

Another endearing and charming habit of Gillian’s was how she referred to Noble in her internal dialogue. Lord of this or that – the titles themselves were moments of intense levity. Cue more grinning.

This novel wouldn’t have worked so well if there wasn’t the dark side to overcome, the hero and heroine to save and a child healed. No matter how many moments of fun this book has, there was a mystery to solve and it was a rather gruesome one. Little hints were sprinkled throughout and it was the dialogue that clued me in. When the villain was finally revealed, I wasn’t too surprised. What did shock me was the level of nutso this person achieved. I was totally grossed out as to what Nick, Noble’s young son, had to endure but at the same time, there was no better woman on the planet to love him enough to heal than Gillian. She truly was a beam of sunshine that brightened all their lives.

When I labeled this book as historical, I did not add paranormal. It’s not really a part of the book but towards the mid part, Gillian met someone. He gave her cryptic advice and he was sort of nice to her. He ultimately had a reason for being so but I didn’t find out why until the end. It’s only in reference to him that I would mention a paranormal element. It surprised me but after thinking about it, it made sense. This author loves to have fun with her characters. Why not throw in a clever twist?

Noble Intentions is many things: a cure for a bad day, a fun read, a terrific romance. It’s a novel with heart that doesn’t take itself so seriously. Yes, the ton has its rules and strictures, and certain behaviors are frowned upon. But this story refused to be dictated by them. It was about two people, unique and quirky, who find love in their own way and gradually the ton accepted them. Why? Because no one, not even stodgy, snooty peerage can resist the thrill and romance of a passionate true love. This book gets a hearty recommend from me and an assurance that this book is going on my keeper shelf. I simply love it when a madcap plan comes together. Don’t you?

Wolf at the Door by N. J. Walters

WOLF
Wolf at the Door by N. J. Walters
Salvation Pack Book One
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (243 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

When this wolf comes knocking, there’s no turning him away.
Salvation Pack, Book 1

When Gwendolyn Jones inherits a Tennessee cabin from a great aunt she never knew, she quits her job and follows her dream to write full time. Meeting a stranger in a local cemetery isn’t a risk she normally takes, but she needs the information on his flash drive for an article she’s writing on werewolves. Later that night, when two honest-to-God werewolves come knocking on her cabin door, they’re definitely not Photoshopped.

Jacque LaForge is on a mission to retrieve a flash drive before it endangers his pack. He never thought he’d find a mate, but the chemistry between him and Gwen is unmistakably off the charts. Now to convince her he’s only trying to protect her from his vengeful former pack—led by his own father.

Gwen’s first instinct to flee only gets her a smashed car and a concussion. She wakes up in a dangerous new world she never thought existed—and in the arms of the one man who stands between her and certain death.

In Wolf at the Door, N.J. Walters builds a small community of werewolves, united in their desire to escape the cruelty and archaic beliefs of their Louisiana pack.

Meeting a man at midnight in a cemetery may not have been the most intelligent thing Gwendolyn Jones ever did. But the man promised her information she could use in her paranormal romance novel; information the man believed to be fact, although Gwen herself was sure the man was just another kook with a highly developed imagination. After all, only a kook would insist that werewolves are real, right? Back home, with the information on the flash drive the man provided, Gwen is interrupted by two hot, gorgeous men, men who transform into wolves before her eyes, and kidnap her to keep the story from getting out.

Jacque LaForge and his brother Louis don’t want to harm Gwen, but they know that their father will be sending someone to kill her…soon. Jacque and Louis, along with three others, left their Louisiana home and came to Salvation, North Carolina, to escape the outmoded ideas and cruel practices of their father Pierre, and form a small but strong pack of their own. When Jacque realizes that Gwen could be his mate, he is more determined than ever to keep her safe, but there is another problem; she could also possibly be a mate to Louis, and Jacque isn’t willing to share. Can Jacque keep Gwen safe from the assassins his father sends, and convince her to stay with him as his mate? Will Gwen learn to trust Jacque and the pack, once she realizes that there is no going back to her old life? Or will Jacque’s father find a way to destroy what Jacque has worked so hard to build, even Jacque’s mate, Gwen?

I like the world Ms. Walters has created here, and the charismatic characters that inhabit this place. Ms. Walters has a way of giving each of her characters some unique characteristic that sets one apart from all the others: Jacque has the strength, Gator is the amiable one, Cole is the gentle giant and so on with each of the five men here. And Gwen is the perfect heroine, determined to stay alive long enough to get away…at least at first. I enjoyed visiting Salvation pack, and hope there will be more in the future with this small but fiercely loyal pack.

Gwendolyn Jones is smart, determined and very independent. When her world is turned upside down by the knowledge that what she always thought of as fiction, werewolves, is in fact very much her new reality. Once she realizes that she is in no danger from Jacque and his pack, she learns to accept the security they are offering, but still holds on to the hope she can one day return to her old life. I like Gwen for her sassy attitude and her determination to keep moving on when life has thrown her a curve ball. Watching as she slowly grew to first trust, then love Jacque, and to respect and trust all of his pack was a true delight.

Jacque LaForge is strong, sexy and loyal to his close friends. When he first learns what Gwen has uncovered, he is determined to get the incriminating evidence back and keep her safe from his cruel and unscrupulous former pack, lead by his father. When he realizes Gwen could be his mate, as well as possibly his brother’s, he is more determined than before to keep her safe and win not only her trust, but her love. I like Jacque, because he was always honest with Gwen, and let her come to terms with her new life at her own pace. I like his patience, and really felt his love and caring for his friends as well as his mate.

There is passion, romance and also some danger in this. I like that the characters are, at times, vulnerable; not physically but often emotionally scarred and wounded, and that they are there for each other no matter what. There is a story behind each character, and I look forward to learning more about amiable Gator, quiet and massive Cole, scarred and quiet Armand and of course, Louis, the brother who just misses getting the girl…this time. The danger that comes from Louisiana shows Jacque and his pack that they need to step up their game, and increase the protection to keep Gwen safe from harm, and I found that each turn in the road brought choices for both Gwen and Jacque to face. Ms. Walters has written a fast paced roller coaster of a story, and I could not put it down once I started. I would recommend this for shifter lovers, romance lovers and I recommend you keep tissues and ice near to hand.

Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre

Masked-Innocence
Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/F, F/F, M/M, F/M/M, Ménage, Multiple Partners, Voyeurism
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

The man was sinful. It wasn’t just the looks that made him dangerous, it was the cocky confidence that dominated every move, every touch. And the frustrating yet ecstatic fact about the whole package was that he could back it all up…

Julia Campbell never knows what to expect with win-at-all-costs Brad De Luca. And she’s starting to like it that way. She gave up safe, conventional relationships when she let the elite divorce attorney seduce her into his world. Now that he’s determined to strip her naked of every inhibition, she’s in danger of falling too deep and too fast.

But their affair begins to feel even more dangerous when a murder leaves a trail of suspicion that points straight to the mob…and Brad. Trusting a man with a bad reputation and a past full of secrets seems like a mistake. But when she’s forced to make a choice, the consequences will take her further than she could ever have imagined.

Julia and Brad’s relationship gets stripped of every inhibition. Are you ready to swing into action?

Julia Campbell is working for renowned divorce lawyer Brad De Luca. Things have gotten hot and heavy between them with some serious commitment issues fogging the mirror. Brad decides to take Julia to a swinger party to expand her horizons. With elaborate professional makeup and some serious sexual tension, the story ramps up with a lot of sizzle and pop.

Julia is pretty new to the relationship game. With only two romantic entanglements, the idea of becoming involved in the swinger lifestyle is a little bit scary. Brad assures her if she only wants to watch that is fine, but as the night progresses, the heat does too. I loved the sex scenes in the book. They were smoking hot. The one thing that did stand out to me was in the middle of the swinger party when Brad is physically involved with Julia, he is looking at a hot blond and telling her how much he wants her to be the third in their swinging adventure. Julia isn’t sure about this and as the story develops you find out that the girl is a virgin and all of a sudden she wants her first sexual encounter to be with these two strangers she meets at a party. Now, I understand the swinger lifestyle, but that seemed a little much in the suspension of disbelief department.

As the book goes on, you understand that Brad has a lot in the way of family secrets. As Julia becomes more involved with Brad there are mafia entanglements and you have a murder mystery on your hands. There are sex scenes throughout with the edge of danger woven in between the sheets. The witty back and forth between Brad and Julia is spicy, but there are points in the dialog that don’t fit or sound wrong. There is also Julia’s tendency to get mad at Brad for the strangest of reasons. She flips out when he won’t stay at her place but is okay with him in sexual situations with strangers. Go figure. The mafia part also kind of came out of nowhere for me. The story was zinging along and here is a situation where Brad offers Julia marriage to protect her from his family? What? Whoa. Again with the suspension of disbelief. Sexy yes. Swinger…okay. Mafia? Oh no.

Overall, I liked the pace of the book. The repartee was sharp and I liked the idea of the swinger scene. The saving of the virgin from the evil near-rapist was good, but lost me when the grateful young virgin sacrifices her virtue on the altar of “thank you kind sir and madam let’s have sex”. You did get to see Brad deal with his commitment issues and watch as he has some pretty tough decisions to make in regards to his family and Julia. If you like steamy sex with an edge of danger with mafia flair then you will probably enjoy this one.

For sexy spice with a swinger edge, give this book a try.

 

How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying) by Kerrelyn Sparks

VAMPIRE
How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying) by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (267 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Vampire Zoltan Czakvar is on the hunt for the truth about his father’s death. He’s been searching for a very long time—since 1241, in fact. And he is not about to give up, even when he’s attacked by a woman with striking blue eyes and a hell of a right hook!

Neona is also on the hunt. She’s looking for a mate, and she thinks muscled Zoltan will work just fine. After all, men are good for only one thing. Soon, though, she realizes there’s more to this handsome vampire than just sexual prowess. But she’s keeping a secret from Zoltan, something so big that it will rock the vampire world.

Can their newfound love survive . . . even if their passion means the destruction of her world?

Shangri-La meets the undead, the wonder begins and Zoltan gets beat up by his own version of Xena, Warrior Princess. What’s not to like?

The first chapter lured me in with a giggle. The second ensnared me with a noble quest and by the third chapter I was getting dizzy from delight. Nothing challenges a man more than a woman who thinks she can best him in seduction because he’s bound to turn the tables and in the end they both are seduced by one another. Nothing intrigues a person more than a secret and the desire to solve the mystery. It certainly worked that way for the hero, Zoltan, and it worked that way for me. Once the plot started moving, the author kept the revelations coming at a fast clip and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

The heroine, Neona, was a true warrior who could use a sword, bow and arrow and was a fierce protector of her people. What delighted me was her innocence. How could she be that way? Only by reading How to Seduce a Vampire will it make any sense. Let’s just say that Zoltan was in for a surprise.

True to Ms. Sparks’ tradition, there is a lot of humor and light hearted interplay between characters – human, non-human and animal. Some of the human/vampire to animal conversations were either funny, endearing, or played a key role in the dramatic suspense that later occurs in the story. It was a clever touch and I was greatly entertained. It also interjected a fresh spin that I truly believe will be felt in future books.

The dynamics between Neona and Zoltan were delightful. I enjoyed watching them fall in love in spite of the drama that went on around them. I liked watching the trust in each other grow and their talks about climaxes and sex gave me the giggles. The hero and heroine were so funny together.

Neona’s mother is a paradox. At first I hated her but then I learned her back story and I ended up only disliking her. By the end of the story, I’m not sure how I felt about her. How much of it was fear or zealous commitment or being the holder of power for so long? I’m not sure. She has her good points but maybe I’ll know for sure in future books. It might be worth finding out.

Once all the players are in place the action speeds up. Actually, getting all the players in place was frenetic, chaotic and dizzying. Nima might have been right about one thing – men are trouble. And Zoltan’s popping in and out, in and out, kept me wondering why that poor man wasn’t too pooped to whoop. Where’d he get all that energy? Why didn’t he get wiped out? He couldn’t have been functioning solely on the power of love, could he? I’m not sure but all that zooming around seemed just a bit over the top and was edging towards comical. Granted, the nemesis they were fighting wasn’t comical at all. That was taken seriously and created wonderful suspense and drama. So much so, I had to put the book down to take a short breather. But my overall impression was that I was reading a Marvel Comic wannabe. Not that that’s a bad thing – they’re usually full of adventure and heroes and How to Seduce a Vampire certainly is too.

I enjoyed the dialogue, was entertained by the mystery getting solved and now am left worrying about the kidnapped child. I really really hope Ms. Sparks has an HEA in the offing and whatever story it gets told in, that it doesn’t get too dark. I’m sensitive when it comes to kids. And this one is rather special.

This latest adventure in the Love at Stake series has many aspects that I’ve come to expect and enjoy after reading so many of the novels. How to Seduce a Vampire continues the tradition of a well told, entertaining read that should please fans of the series. It also presents intriguing new possibilities, problems and challenges for my favorite vampires and their loved ones. There is a returning bad guy that makes my ears steam and I hope the author gets rid of him fast. He’s bad news. The good thing about this book is that it’s also perfect for new readers. I think they’re going to be in for a good time if they choose this book for the first one.

Vessel of Heaven by Jamie Rosen

 

VESSEL
Vessel of Heaven by Jamie Rosen
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (106 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

It is a world much like our own, differing in only one small detail: no one has yet pierced the veil of Heaven. Now humans are finally ready to send a manned mission into orbit. To capture the sights, sounds and emotions of man’s first ascent, three artists have been chosen to join the crew: a poet, a painter and a musician. The three of them have to learn to overcome their own fears and their differences to become the crew that will bring a little piece of space back to earth.

When they finally do reach their destination, however, they find a place none had ever imagined. A place where women appear from clouds of insects, where one can meet one’s Muse, and where the laws of Heaven can be broken.

Any explorer would expect to come across a little danger while on his or her mission. Suddenly stumbling into Heaven, though, is another matter entirely.

I was pleased by how quickly I learned to differentiate between the voices of the main characters. Each one is an unique individual whose strengths, weaknesses, and quirks show up almost immediately. It was even more satisfying to see so much character development in such a short amount of space. I connected emotionally with every individual on the mission which isn’t something that typically happens to this reader.

Introducing what is a somewhat large cast of characters for a story this length and setting up all of the background information that is necessary in order to understand what happens later on took up the first several chapters. Everything I learned about the characters and their mission was relevant, but once or twice I wished that the preliminary information could be wrapped up just a little more quickly because I was so eager to find out what happens next.

With that being said, the imaginative twists and turns of this book kept me on my toes. Mr. Rosen has a knack for inserting surprises into his plot that this lifelong fan of speculative fiction wasn’t able to figure out ahead of time. It was especially interesting to ponder what might have influenced the darker and possibly allegorical scenes. I suspect that every reader will walk away with his or her own interpretation of those sections, but I had a wonderful time puzzling out what I think they might have meant. If this is any indication of Mr. Rosen’s writing style, I can’t wait to read more from him.

Vessel of Heaven is a must-read for anyone who loves it when science fiction and fantasy are swirled together. It’s the kind of story that improves with repetition, and I, for one, will be revisiting it again soon.

A Nightmare Come True by Sage Marlowe

TRUE
A Nightmare Come True by Sage Marlowe
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (103 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal sex, Double Penetration, Multiple Partners
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Cactus

Dreams can come true—but sometimes nightmares are very real, too.

When Michael—Mikey—Fawkes bags himself a job as a handyman for a film production company and meets his favourite actor, gay porn star Colin Meighan, he believes his dream has come true. Colin indeed appears to be a dream turned to flesh. Handsome, young and as insatiable sexually as the roles he plays suggest, he makes his way into Mikey’s bed and introduces him to unknown carnal pleasures.

A slick lover and sweet talker, Colin also finds a place in Mikey’s heart, but as Mikey lets his new lover lure him deeper and deeper into a world of decadent on- and off-screen sex, their indulgences begin to take their toll on Mikey. Curious to find out more about the strange and inexplicable effect Colin has on his sex partners, Mikey discovers that there is a terrible reason why one man alone can never be enough to satisfy Colin’s hunger and he realises that dreams can come true—but sometimes nightmares are very real, too.

Be careful what you desire, you just might get it. Mikey has been lusting over his favorite porn star Colin for years. He’s seen all of Colin’s films and is shocked when his new job is a gopher on a porn set. He’ll finally get to see Colin in action. What happens goes beyond Mikey’s wildest dreams as he not only gets to know Colin on a personal level, but they actually start dating. Just when Mikey thinks he’s gotten everything he’s always wanted, he realizes there may be a price to pay. And it’s not a matter of money.

A Nightmare Come True is book one in a new series. The blurb specifically warns that the storyline will be an on-going arc throughout all the books. I didn’t know this going into the first book but I’m not sure new readers need to be warned as the book functions very well on it’s own with a definitive happy ending and conclusion to most problems. I assume the characters and story line will be embellished in future books. For the first book, it’s a decent introduction to both Mikey and Colin and the supernatural component of what exactly Colin is. I can’t say because it’s kind of a big reveal at the end but it’s definitely integral to the whole story.

I found the story easy to read and the characters likeable but there is an awful lot of sex. Now, I love some great sex scenes so I didn’t mind really but I did want to warn readers that there tends to be more sex scenes than anything else. Mikey and Colin’s relationship develops primarily through their intense physical attraction and later through an emotional one. I do think there are a few lingering questions, such as how Mikey and Colin can stay together long term but I think these will be addressed in later books. Instead here the story sets the porn stage and backdrop that the series will no doubt revolve around rather than go into a lot of detail and complexity with any character or the plot itself.

Sometimes I found myself frustrated with the lack of emotional relationship between the men when they were too focused on having lots of sex and ignoring the consequences. I would have liked to see more of their relationship outside the bedroom. However their desire to be together is very clear and they have obvious chemistry from the beginning. As a more erotica driven story than romance, I think readers will appreciate the many hot men in various positions having lots and lots of sex. Perhaps the romance will develop in later books but I think for a first book in the series, the story is entertaining.