2014 Summer Collection: Anthology Sweet/Sensual by Markee Anderson, Stephanie Burkhart, Gerald Costlow, Larry Hammersley, Jory Sherman

COLLECTION
2014 Summer Collection: Anthology Sweet/Sensual by Markee Anderson, Stephanie Burkhart, Gerald Costlow, Larry Hammersley, Jory Sherman
Publisher: Victory Tales Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (193 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet, sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Five complete sweet to sensual stories from five multi-talented authors in settings to make any summer occasion more special. Included are:

Meet Me In Seattle by Markee Anderson
Madysen Duke has been coerced to participate in a reality show with her teacher friends. But little does she know, her high school flame is also along for the ride, with intentions much different from hers. Even though she’s out for the money, he’s trying to thwart whatever crime is happening right before their eyes.

Arrow Through The Heart by Stephanie Burkhart
Summer vacation and the Fourth of July brings Ella to New Hampshire while participating in a tennis competition. Logan is an innkeeper’s son who bumps into Ella and invites her for an ice cream. Attraction flares and they enjoy spending time together, but each has their own plans for their life. Then disaster strikes Ella. Can a summer attraction truly become a lasting relationship?

Taking Liberty by Gerald Costlow
Liberty “Libby” Bell is a waitress at a roadside diner, trying to hide from an abusive ex-boyfriend who refuses to leave her alone. She strikes up a romance with Roger, a hunky local fireman, and seems to be getting her life back into gear. Then her ex-boyfriend tracks her down.

Will she be forced to leave Roger and run away again, or see the ex-boyfriend and risk a violent confrontation?

And if that isn’t enough to handle, suddenly there’s a serial killer in their midst.

Marcy’s Struggle by Larry Hammersley
Marcy Mason is in her final year of graduate school, pursuing a PhD in chemistry. She has brains and looks, but struggles in the romance department. She met Ross Franklin in undergraduate school when she was a senior; he was a freshman and second-string quarterback. Her problem – she was hung up on Leroy Doyle at the time.

Leroy is married and moved away, but Ross, now star quarterback, isn’t convinced she’s over Leroy. When Leroy arrives on campus to give a lecture, Marcy must make all the arrangements. After contact with Leroy, Marcy admits to what she’s known all along—she’s over Leroy and wants Ross in her life. Can she convince Ross to look past their different backgrounds and give love a chance?

The Garden by Jory Sherman
Summer brings forth fresh vegetables in the garden and with them, the ultimate fight against insects and wild critters to protect those vegetables. Harvey enjoys his garden, especially the corn – watching it grow, providing food for his beloved wife Ruth. Then, something unusual happens in the garden and his corn begins to disappear.

This collection of short stories is a good way to unwind after a long day of dealing with the real world. The sweet to sensual stories have many facets beside romance. Each story takes the reader to a different emotional place.

“Meet Me In Seattle” by Markee Anderson is much like “The Amazing Race” on TV with many characters. Most of the characters are not well developed, but the reader sees a diverse group that engages the imagination with a sense of mystery and intrigue involved. It seems what is supposed to be a game may have a darker side. The twist at the end grabs one’s attention is such a way the story takes on a whole new meaning.

“Arrow in the Heart” by Stephanie Burkhart is a sweet, straight-forward story with an antagonist that keeps the reader alert. Logan Donovan and Ella Perchekov, the hero and heroine, have very different life styles that could derail a budding romance. How these two cope with danger and their differences keep the reader’s interest.

“Taking Liberty” by Gerald Costlow stirs a mixture of emotions. Clyde Barrows, whether insane or just one of the-walking-dead after he buries his wife, keeps the reader’s senses on high alert.

Libby, the diner waitress, and Roger, the fireman, are the primary characters and their love for each other makes one’s heart feel good. But the appearance of the abusive ex boyfriend brings about some adrenaline-pumping action that keeps one turning pages.

Detective Jorgensen is rarely seen but plays a part that had this reader guessing about how he’ll deal with the information he has. This story is thought-provoking.

“Marcy’s Struggle” by Larry Hammersley takes the reader into the college world where young people struggle to establish a place for themselves in the working world that is fraught with challenges. Not the least of the challenges is sorting out emotional feelings and conflicts that arise when love slips in and demands a place in the planning.

Marcy Mason, a PhD candidate in chemistry, and Ross Franklin, the star quarterback, are miles apart in their interests and where their careers will probably take them upon graduation. Added to that jealousy, others’ expectations of them, and self-doubts keep their lives in upheaval.

The minor characters’ manipulation and influence have Ross and Marcy struggling to find common ground. How they finally deal with all the conflicts and feeling is most satisfying.

“The Garden” by Jory Sherman, though set in the present, seems almost like a wrinkle in time.

Harvey and Ruth escape the hustle and bustle of city life. They move to a ninety acre country place where Osage Indians once lived. Harvey’s has a garden that he loves. What happens in it and how he reacts creates an eerie, intriguing story.

The touch of humor, the mystery and confrontation all add up to make this story a delightful, entertaining read.

2014 Summer Collection: Anthology Sweet/Sensual, while not my usual type of reading, was attention-keeping and a nice break from the usual.

Undiscovered Angel by Sharon Saracino

ANGEL
Undiscovered Angel by Sharon Saracino
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: Full Length (262 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Empath Katrina Shepard spends most of her time alone, preferring solitude to the constant press of the pain and emotion of others. When she meets publishing tycoon Kassian McAllister at a party she finds herself intrigued. He is the first man she can’t read. Maybe she isn’t the only one with strange psychic powers. An Earthbound Angel, Kassian has spent the better part of a century hunting Jack the Ripper. His personal quest for vengeance has locked his heart and emotions behind a tightly guarded door. But Kat reawakens the emotions he thought long dead. As they grow closer they both learn truths about themselves and see a chance for love. But Jack the Ripper still roams the Earth and Kat has become the ideal target. Will Kassian finally have his revenge or will he lose yet another woman he loves?

A dark and gritty investigative tale of Jack the Ripper brings two similar souls together. With empath Katrina Shepard’s life at risk, along with Kassian McAllister personal vengeance, under the circumstances will the two end up discovering more?

The author has a nice writing flow along with a talent for telling a detailed story. The story started out with my full interest; giving me hopes that this was going to be a good story. The sexy rich Kassian is right there to save Katrina in her time of need, and thankfully he is not willing to let her go because she may still be in danger. They were perfect strangers but the author’s skills displayed an attraction that was so obvious that it could not be denied. Katrina and Kassian just seemed to fit and have a connection to one another. It’s a refreshing read to let the attraction heighten without carrying the relationship prematurely to the bedroom.

Kassian was a likable character. Throughout the book he showed he knows how to take control of many situations. I liked that Kassian has fame and money but he still has a kind heart in offering Katrina safety. I also like the true friendship between Kassian and his long time friend, Luca Fiorell. Also, it was admirable that Kassian stayed committed in getting Rapier, even with it being 100 years since his sister disappeared.

There was a slow build to the plot climax. For a story that speaks of murder, as a reader I was disappointed to only hear about the murders and not see them on the page. The majority of the story was spent on the romance and relationship part of the story. I was almost half-way through the book before the killer’s view was mentioned or any visual of murder was given in detail.

Something I found strange was that halfway through the book, in the middle of kissing mind you, Katrina reveals to Kassian who her father is. She says she found a picture of him and her mother, but she never knew who her father was, so how did she come to the conclusion that the man in the picture was her father? The family relationship of who Katrina’s father and brother is didn’t add anything to the story, in fact it boggled it down with a complex tangent that took away from a already busy plot about a killer, a blossoming romance, vengeance for a missing sister, and the witch and earthbound lifestyle.

There were interesting and unique actions mentioned like the men tattoos turning into daggers, and a cat turning into a man. There were words used that were in reference to earthbound and empath that I am not familiar with and I give thanks to the author for including a understandable definition within the storyline.

Undiscovered Angel is an entertaining read that is sure to give pleasure to those that enjoy a good paranormal romance.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

GALE
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (438 pages)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

Kristin Hannah eases the reader into THE NIGHTINGALE with a present time, gentle, loving beginning before she changes time back to World War II in France. She weaves a spellbinding story that seems so real one feels as if it is an absolutely true story of two sisters plus all the events and people that impact their lives.

World War I that changed Viann and Isabelle Rossignol’s father, also did its part in making the sisters feel unloved and abandoned. Their need to feel loved colors much of their action. Each of the girls copes in her own way with low self-esteem and that unrelenting desire for love. As the horrors of World War II move into France and settles in like an insatiable monster, the truth of Ms. Hannah’s statement that “In love we find out who we want to be, in war we find out who we are” become very real.

The impetuous Isabelle seems to “rush in where angels fear to tread,” while the older Viann sees herself as weak and unable to cope alone. Yet, both rise above their flaws to survive in the desperate time of war when deprivation is almost unbearable, racial hatred runs amok, and unspeakable atrocities occur. Trust vanishes and the German occupation forces move in, seeking to totally dominate the French people.

Viann and Isabelle, one operating underground and the other operating in plain sight, go quietly about their secret doings. At times, the reader’s senses are reeling with descriptions of atrocities in the villages and towns, but a near sensory overload comes when conditions in the concentrations camps roars to life with the remarkable descriptions Ms. Hannah writes.

However, the daily living is also beautifully revealed that makes the reader smile at the happy times and cry when the devastation comes. How the people survive as the months and years bring more and more deprivation and persecution makes one aware of both the strength and the fragility in each human being.

THE NIGHTINGALE has a multitude of characters (so many that need special recognition), along with clandestine operations that all play important roles in how the French never really give up, but held on until the Allies arrived.

The story ends back in present time with a twist that made me cry, even though it reveals a love so precious.

This is a novel I highly recommend. It is rich with descriptions like: “Roses tumbled like laughter along the ancient stone wall.” “She wanted to bottle how safe she felt in this moment, so she could drink of it later when loneliness and fear left her parched.” “The street was a living breathing dragon of humanity.” It immerses the reader in the horrors of war and how ordinary people, even with their many flaws, become extraordinary. It is beautifully written and memorable!

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen

EARLS
Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (361 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

His heart may be the last thing she ever steals . . .

Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker—and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before—a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.

Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton while his brother attempts to confirm her true identity. But Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead, Dane is drawn into her world of danger and violence, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.

This is more than a love story; it’s a story of a family’s quest to be reunited, a journey of one man from self-involvement to awareness and a triumph over the machinations of a villain. Through it all is entertainment, fascination and excitement.

Earls Just Want to Have Fun sounds like a silly romantic jaunt in Regency England. It’s actually not silly at all but filled with hard truths of life on the street. The author does a good job of depicting the harshness, the struggles and the hopelessness of the people stuck in Seven Dials. The words like snapper, dubber and tilter lent an authentic air to the tale. Stuck in that mire amongst thievery and cutthroats is the heroine, Marlowe. A reader is quite aware who she really is based on the beginning but one of the book’s plot threads is how to get her back to where she belongs and that’s no easy task.

I crack up thinking about Max’s brother, Brook. In the back of my mind I hear Max say to Brook like Hardy did to Laurel (1930s), “Well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” And what a mess it was. Max is so self-righteous and opinionated – and boring. He needs someone like Marlowe and readers are clued into that fairly quickly due to the skill of the author. Marlowe’s method of speech perplexed and discombobulated Max something fierce which created some of the most fun and amusing scenes throughout the novel.

I appreciated how Ms. Galen took the time to detail Max’s high-brow attitude in the beginning. It showed me a man I wouldn’t want to know, and through the course of trying to re-make Marlowe into Elizabeth, he changed, became a better man, a better person who finally understood what it means to be in love and to be loved. I really liked him by the time the book ended.

Marlowe a/k/a Elizabeth is a plucky, spunky survivor. She has no memory of her true history except some faded memory that seems like a dream. She is very distrusting of Max and the worst punishment he visited upon her was a bath. The one thing that stands out for me about the heroine is that she avoided being too clichéd. I’m thrilled. Usually when the bad guy threatens, the heroine turns into a stupid martyr and tries to act like she’s her own island. Not so, Marlowe. She had gumption and was actually very brave to do what she actually did do. For me that saved the story. If the author had her character do anything else I would have been greatly disappointed. Instead, I was treated to a heroine I was more than willing to read about, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Another treat was the seduction of Marlowe and its culmination. It was very sexy, sultry and had a lot of emotional impact. It complicated their relationship somewhat but that’s what made the novel more compelling and interesting.

Earls Just Want to Have Fun is a very well written tale that entertains in a big way. It’s busy, suspenseful and at times even a nail-biter, but it’s balanced perfectly with humor, fun, whimsy and strong emotions. Historical romance readers have a treat in store for them with this book. It has good triumphing over evil and a reluctant hero saving the day. It’s quite a roller coaster of a read with a completely satisfying happy ever after conclusion. The writing makes it easy to recommend the book to other romance readers. I liked it. What I liked too was the hook of getting to know Brook. He’s a man in serious need of a woman and I can’t wait for his turn. Bet it’s going to be fun!

The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio

DARK
The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Horror, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (259 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

“Santa’s not the only one coming to town…”

It has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction-and bloody hoof prints stomped in the snow.

Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes on December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, endangering his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why supposedly innocent high school students have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion-that cannot be stopped.

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake…

The holiday season has set in and so have several disappearances in Billy Schweitzer’s small town.
Billy is a young teen dealing with several growing up issues and battling depression. Reeling from the rejection of his crush, he is forced to go to class. All around him events begin to unfold as danger stalks the snow covered streets.

Billy is given an assignment for German class and with his friends uncovers an interesting being called Krampus whose tracks resemble hooves. They also correspond to tracks around some of the missing kids, including Billy’s own brother. It’s up to Billy and his love interest Maria to figure out what is really going on. Her brother is missing and time may be running out for them all. A major winter storm is approaching and the more facts Billy learns about who this monster is and what he wants from the residents of their small town, the more urgent and terrifying his task becomes.

This book hooked me from the outset. Stories of teen angst and social anxiety never fail to pull me in, but don’t be fooled–this is not a young adult novel. Billy is reeling from squashed dreams and the cold reality that things don’t always go as planned. When his brother is taken and other kids turn up missing, he begins to use the smarts given to him from his father, a very rigid but competent police chief, to piece the facts together no matter how crazy they sound.

Krampus, the demon who exemplifies the darker side of the Santa tradition has come to claim the naughty children and Billy might just be the one he is looking for after all. It will take all of his skill and cunning to beat a foe centuries old with a taste for the perverse and a talent for pain.

The facts about the Krampus legend were fascinating and the author explains how Krampus was used to keep children from misbehaving in historic times. How then, does one stop a Christmas demon? You’ll have to read this adventure to find out. The characters were good, but on occasion the dialog became a bit dry and unrealistic. The story itself was a page turner that had me opening my e-reader whenever I had the chance.

Strike Three by Joy V. Smith

THREE
Strike Three by Joy V. Smith
Publisher: WolfSinger Publications
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (153 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Can a civilization grow/move beyond the losses, mistakes and regrets caused by the unimaginable destruction of weapon designed to destroy all life–down to the smallest microbe?

Because of the “hot virus,” the devastation of WWIII is more horrible than the worse case scenario, and missiles fired in retaliation gave new meaning to Scorched Earth.

There were scattered warnings, which only a few heeded in time. No one ever imagined they would have to start from scratch–and bare dirt.

What to save–and where?

Could we start over?

How?

Can a new world grow/move beyond the losses, mistakes and regrets?

It was the end of the world as we know it, and almost no one was prepared for it.

The premise caught my attention immediately. I’d never heard of a “hot virus” before and was quite curious to see how such a thing would affect not only human society but the plants and animals that were unlucky enough to be infected with it as well. One of the things I enjoy the most about the science fiction genre is how it can introduce complex topics to its readers in the middle of an engaging storyline. This book is no exception to that rule.

This story started out with a fast-paced plot that quickly skimmed over how and why the disaster happened so that it could focus on what happened next. I was intrigued by the idea of beginning with the social and economic recovery of a society instead of just focusing on how it all fell apart. With that being said, there were some pacing issues as everything progressed. So much time was spent on describing how the characters attempted to create a viable trade route that all of the other subplots weren’t given the attention they needed.

Most post-apocalyptic fiction assumes the worst of humanity. It was refreshing to read a tale from this genre that doesn’t take that approach to what life would be like in a world without any police officers or armies to protect the vulnerable. There is definitely something to be said for imagining a more positive approach to rebuilding society.

There was a fair amount of telling instead of showing. While certain sections definitely did need to be sped up in order to pack everything into such a short novel, I would have appreciated the chance to slow down and see certain sights from the perspectives of the characters who lived through them. For example, the idea of looking at what was once a thriving community and seeing nothing but death chills me to the bone. It would have been fascinating to hear more about how scenes like this one affected the main characters emotionally.

One of the most thought-provoking questions raised in this novel had to do with making incredibly difficult decisions. With extremely limited amounts of time and resources, how does one decide how to parcel them out? There’s no possible way to save everyone. Trying to do so will only kill off far more people than would have otherwise died. Everyone’s answer to this question is unique, but what Ms. Smith had to say about it is really interesting.

I’d recommend Strike Three to anyone who likes post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Hungry Like A Wolf by Paige Tyler

WOLF
Hungry Like A Wolf by Paige Tyler
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (314 Pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistletoe

The Dallas SWAT team is hiding one helluva secret . . . they’re a pack of wolf shifters.

The team of elite sharpshooters is ultra-secretive—and also the darlings of Dallas. This doesn’t sit well with investigative journalist Mackenzie Stone. They must be hiding something . . . and she’s determined to find out what.

Keeping Mac at a distance proves impossible for SWAT team commander Gage Dixon. She’s smart, sexy, and makes him feel alive for the first time in years. But she’s getting dangerously close to the truth—and perilously close to his heart…

Do you enjoy strong alpha werewolves? If so then this book is for you. It is full of sexy shifters and packed with action. This book gives us Gage and Mackenzie’s story. Gage leads the other alphas on his team and I loved seeing how they all connected and worked together. Mackenzie is a strong female and I enjoyed seeing their relationship play out. This is a nice start to a new series by Paige Tyler and I cannot wait to see where she takes the characters and their world next.

Mackenzie is determined to break the story she knows is hiding behind the men on the Dallas SWAT team. Right from the start Mackenzie and Gage have an attraction that burns up the pages but could her snooping put Gage and his men in more danger? When Gage finds himself at a crossroads what will he do? Can he have both the one woman made for him and the safety of his pack or has that question already become null and void? I enjoyed the banter and the camaraderie between all the men. Each character is special in their own way and has so much to say. I cannot wait to see their stories play out.

Both Gage and Mackenzie must make hard and deep life changing decisions. Love and emotions war with the truth and secrets in this story. As Mackenzie and Gage try to sort through their feelings, danger lurks in the shadows. A mobster intent on revenge against Gage and his team brings more trouble to their world and pulls Mackenzie in as well. I am not a big fan of Mackenzie and the way she treated Gage and the other men after she discovers their secret. She does do right by them but the way she first handles it makes her seem cold and indifferent to the man she loves.

This is a fast paced, action packed story full of emotions. It was nice to see Gage and Mackenzie’s relationship grow from attraction to so much more. I enjoyed my first visit to this world through their story and hope that we get to see more from these men in the future.

Black, One Sugar by Jae Christopher

BLACK
Black, One Sugar by Jae Christopher
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (18 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

David has a secret, a secret he has been struggling to tell his lover, Aaron, since the very beginning of their relationship. Unfortunately, David just can’t seem to find the right time or words to share that secret.

Until one morning, when he accidentally blurts it out over their coffee. Now all David has to worry about is whether or not Aaron can handle what he’s been told.

David was happy being alone, not needing or wanting the complication of a boyfriend. But after being ambushed into a blind date, Aaron is too perfect for him to pass up on. Two months down the track and after a special evening together, David finally tells Aaron the truth — that he has lycanthropy. Aaron is understandably shocked and upset, Aaron had merely asked David how he liked his coffee, and instead found his world turned upside down.

This is an emotionally charged short story. I really enjoyed how the author brought the drama and tension together so quickly. I also liked the simile between the phobias and bigotry surrounding lycanthropy in the story’s world, and AIDS and other similar diseases in ours. I was a little disappointed how there wasn’t any graphic sex or showing of passion/displays of affection between David and Aaron. Despite the new depth to their relationship there wasn’t much in the way of physical contact between them or sexual chemistry. This gave the book more of a flavor of straight-Paranormal to me, not romantic or erotic Paranormal.

The world-building is solid and well explained without feeling like a massive info-dump. It made me interested in the author’s style of werewolves and their world. I’d certainly be interested to read more stories by Jaw Christopher. Short and emotional, this would be an excellent prologue-style story for a longer series, or an introduction into an interesting new paranormal world.

Wrongful Termination by Mike Farris

TERMINATION
Wrongful Termination by Mike Farris
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (191 Pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Bay Muckleroy is a modern-day Diogenes, looking for an honest man. His problem lies not in the object of his search, but in the venue—he is a partner in Black West & Merriam, the largest law firm in Dallas, Texas, where honest men are scarce. Bay came up through the ranks of the firm at a time when honor and integrity did not constitute character flaws. But times have changed with the influx of lawyers the firm hired laterally from other law firms. Lawyers like Tripp Malloy, who brought with him ten million dollars’ worth of legal business and a sacrifice-truth-for-wealth attitude. Infiltrating the power structure of the firm by the threat of taking their clients and moving on if challenged, Malloy and his ilk have brought a new era to the firm, one that Bay finds distasteful.

Enter Meg Kelly—a first-year associate who blows the whistle on Malloy’s chronic overbilling of clients. What she couldn’t possibly know was that something far more sinister was lurking beneath of the surface of those bloated fee statements. Something that Tripp and the firm needed to keep hidden. When she is fired for insubordination, Meg turns to Bay, her mentor, for help. Unaware of the tempest they are about to unleash, he champions her wrongful termination lawsuit against his own firm. But when they stumble onto a truth that threatens not only Tripp Malloy, but the entire law firm, they soon find themselves both in danger of being wrongfully terminated.

Meg Kelly is an associate lawyer in the firm of Black West & Merriam, the largest law firm in Dallas, Texas, and she has been assigned to work with two of the partners, Tripp Malloy and Bay Muckleroy. Her work exceeds all expectations, and her career as a lawyer is taking off. However, when she discovers that Tripp is billing for hours he never worked, she turns to Bay for guidance. The minute Tripp finds out about her investigation, he starts a smear campaign against her, resulting in her forced resignation. Bay supports her decision to sue for wrongful termination, but soon both of them realize that there is a lot more at stake than just overbilling. Bullets start flying as the action heats up.

The plot is intricate and complex. There are a lot of subplots within the story which help build the tensions. Very quickly this novel becomes one that can’t be put down. Dangers lurk around each and every corner, and the suspense becomes intense.

Bay is a sympathetic character. He is an excellent lawyer in the very best sense of the word. He has his own issues from his past, and that has made him a bit of a loner. He used to have more friends at the firm, but gradually, as the character of the lawyers working at Black West & Merriam has changed, he’s become more isolated. He is brave and willing to take chances to uncover the firm’s secrets, but he certainly gets a lot more than he’s bargaining for.

Meg’s character is also well developed and she is determined to do what is right, no matter how much mud gets slung at her. When the action heats up and she is in real danger, she still holds her ground, determined to see Tripp held accountable.

Mystery lovers are sure to enjoy Wrongful Termination. I was hooked from the opening pages and never disappointed.

Jason by Laurell K. Hamilton

JASON
Jason by Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Jove Books by The Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (123 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, M/F/F, F/F, Ménage, Multiple Partners, Voyeurism, Biting
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

“Enjoying pain with your pleasure is something you either get, or you don’t. If you get it, then you don’t really need it explained, because you know how good it feels, and if you don’t get it then no amount of talking is going to convince you it makes sense.”

But sometimes you have to explain the unexplainable, especially if the love of your life needs to understand, or she’ll leave you. Jason Schuyler is one of Anita Blake’s best friends and favorite werewolves, with benefits. J.J. is his lady love, an old flame from childhood who dances at one of the top ballet companies in New York. She’s accomplished, beautiful, and she’s crazy about him, too. Neither of them wants to be monogamous, so what could go wrong?

J.J. is enthusiastically bisexual, with an emphasis on the female side of things. She plans to keep sleeping with women, because Jason can’t meet that need, just like she can’t meet Jason’s need for rough sex and bondage. J.J. doesn’t understand why Jason isn’t content to go elsewhere for a need she can’t fulfil, so Jason asks Anita to help him explain.

Anita is having her own relationship growing pains with her only female lover ever, Jade. Jason suggests that J.J. might be able to help Anita with her girl problem, while she helps him with his kinky explanations. With some encouragement from a few other lovers in Anita’s life she reluctantly agrees, and J. J. makes plans to fly into town for an experience that none of them will ever forget.

If a reader is looking for an erotic short story to singe their eyebrows off, cause hot flashes and a few blushes, then Jason should do the trick.

I’ve been following the Anita Blake series for quite a few years. Yes, I’ve heard that a lot of early readers are uncomfortable with the turns Anita’s life has been taking when it comes to her relationships. Some felt they have become less story and more sex. I have not felt that strongly against it, probably because I do enjoy reading mild erotic romances. However, I don’t think Jason is quite as mild as I expected. Some erotic romance readers might think this is tame but since I don’t read F/F as a rule, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I don’t like F/F romance but here’s the twist. This was Anita. This was Anita facing her problems with Jade. This was Anita learning the differences between herself, Jade and Jason’s girlfriend, J.J. I found myself fascinated. I care about Anita and as such, this book had a more powerful impact for me. I actually enjoyed it because for all the sexy talk, descriptions and hot scenes with Nathan, Jason and the rest of the small crew, there was still a purpose, a goal that had to be reached and sex was the vehicle for making it happen.

Since the Anita Blake series is ongoing, I hesitate to call this a standalone read. Yet, this is focused on figuring out if Jason and J.J. could realistically make a go of their relationship. It focuses on a short span of time with a tight group of characters. It possibly could be read as a standalone if a reader is looking for a book that explores some serious multi-partner action and doesn’t demand a traditional HEA. Nothing about this series is traditional and this book is no exception. As for the conclusion, it’s as close to a happy for now as it can get because Ms. Hamilton is the queen of hooks and dangling teases. She resolves the big stuff but always leaves a reader yearning for more, in a good way. I’d say Jason fits that formula.

For avid fans of the series, this is a must add to the collection. If only because we see Jason pursuing the most ‘normal’ of all the romantic entanglements I’ve seen in this series so far, and he’s a very likable and endearing character. I’m glad that it looks like he might have found someone who sees him for the man he is and not his were-animal. It was a fun novella and will probably appeal to fans more than new readers. Then again, on its own, this is a very hot read. In any event, it’s a decent story and I’m glad I read it.