A Kiss is a Kiss is a Kiss by Destiny Moon

TKISS
A Kiss is a Kiss is a Kiss by Destiny Moon
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

On Pride morning, bookish and reserved Rachel musters the courage to talk to her barista crush, only to discover she’s not alone in her desires.

Where does an introverted bookish dyke hang out on Pride morning? Her local LGBTQ bookstore, of course. While helping to put together the store’s annual float for the parade, Rachel reveals that she has a crush on the barista at the coffee shop next door.

The bookstore gang encourages Rachel to step out of her comfort zone and talk to the barista, even though Rachel is convinced she must have a boyfriend. Much to her surprise, the girl flirts with her and even shows up at the bookstore on her coffee break, where she introduces herself as Mavis. In spite of her shyness, Rachel lays bare that she has had a crush on Mavis for some time and Mavis—to everyone’s surprise—wants to know what Rachel is doing after the parade.

Beside herself with disbelief, Rachel skips through the parade. She is so unsure of herself and the new connection with Mavis and she’s convinced that Mavis is straight. When Mavis confesses she has never been with a woman, Rachel must face her worst fear—that she was right. But it doesn’t take long for Mavis to convince Rachel that she’s up for a new experience.

Rachel doesn’t want to be an experiment and she has a hard time trusting that Mavis wants more than just a bit of fun on Pride. Can she take the leap of faith so necessary in taking their connection to the next level?

Eventually somebody has to make the first move. Will Rachel regret being the one to do it?

The dialogue made me grin. It was written so realistically that at times I felt as though I was eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation instead of reading a book. I especially liked how smoothly Ms. Moon transitioned from the characters having a conversation to describing the settings they were in or what they were planning to do next. These sections were very nicely done.

It would have been helpful to have more details about Rachel’s personality. The way it was described in the beginning of this story didn’t always match up with how she behaved. I would have liked to know why this difference existed and whether or not Rachel realized it was there. She was a very appealing character to me. It was simply difficult to understand why she made certain decisions that seemed to conflict with her temperament.

Rachel and Mavis had an incredible amount of chemistry that didn’t waste any time showing up in the storyline. It was fun to see the first sparks fly between them so quickly! I really liked seeing how they interacted because of how well they got along with each other. They seemed to have a lot in common, too, which only made me root for them to end up together even more.

A Kiss is a Kiss is a Kiss is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for something sexy and romantic.

The Charlemagne Connection by R. M. Cartmel

TCONNECTIOn
The Charlemagne Connection by R. M. Cartmel
Publisher: Crime Scene Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

The second in the Commander Truchaud series finds the diffident policeman unravelling yet another mystery in the little Burgundy village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. A young German tourist seems to have gone missing. But what at first appears quite a straightforward affair soon turns dark when a decomposing body is found in the woods.

Another episode of murder, mayhem, violence and villany in the orderly vineyards of Burgundy.

In this very satisfying sequel to The Richebourg Affair,  R.M Cartmel again brings main character Commander Truchard to his home town of Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Logical, likeable Truchard is an old-style detective. He gathers facts, searches, interviews; and best of all, reveals his process along the way.

It starts with a missing tourist; hardly a dark or sinister case. Truchard might find the case petty–along with some other minor crimes–but things ratchet up rather rapidly. In the midst of investigation, he also must cope with pressing family matters, and a very legitimate concern about his ‘real’ job back in Paris. various things seem to conspire to hinder investigation, from language issues to the intrusion of his personal life. Still, he approaches untangling the crime with tenacity.

The mystery is at once unpredictable and believable. It was, however, the very revealing details about Truchard himself, and his family, that really piqued my interest.

The village and vineyards provide a charming and familiar backdrop. The discussion and knowledge of winemaking, the patience, dedication and importance of it, both to those in the profession and those just in the area. Wine; making, understanding, enjoying/quality seems to unite the various inhabitants of the village. Characters, from the young constable to an array of others all are well developed, and Lenoir is even amusing.

R.M Cartmel, and more importantly, his detective, Truchard, have stepped firmly into the ranks of Hercule Poirot, Richard Jury and Roderick Allyn. Mystery fans absolutely must read…and if you aren’t a mystery fan, Cartmel might well convince you. He is a skilled writer and this latest is easily the match of his first. I for one cannot wait for the next.

Shadows of Doubt by Mell Corcoran

TDOUBT
Shadows of Doubt by Mell Corcoran
Publisher: Mill City Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (427 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Humans sit comfortably at the summit of the food chain; rarely does any other animal get the advantage. But other people? Now there’s something to fear. In Mell Corcoran’s thrilling crime novel debut, Shadows of Doubt, women are being hunted, tortured, killed and their assailant leaves the same clue on each of them but it has no scientific explanation. Detective Lou Donovan must figure out this killer’s signature because he’s escalating and no one knows where he will strike next.

When the first victim appears in Shadows of Doubt, neither Lou nor her partner wants the case but it’s dropped in their laps. As soon as they make some progress, however, the case is taken from them and the explanation is weak at best. Lou won’t let go and tries to work below the radar but she’s foiled at every turn. It’s as if someone is watching her and knows her every move.

Shadows of Doubt is an exciting ride. It has everything a good crime book needs: a fiery detective with a blood hound’s sense, dark figures with dark pasts, twists, turns, and action. And then there’s the tall, gorgeous man. Lou and this mysterious stranger keep crossing paths and his presence disarms her. What she doesn’t know is that her effect on him is the same and therein lies the rub. If he can’t think straight, Lou will die.

How can I sum up Shadows of Doubt? Actually, I don’t think I can. When I read the synopsis I thought it was going to be a paranormal story but then as I began reading it, I guessed I’d been wrong but then…

Well, I won’t give away the plot because that would ruin it for you. Let me just say if you like your mysteries, especially police procedurals, on the gritty side then you’ll love this book. Half way through there is a great surprise and can I just say, if you do like paranormal books, then you’ll probably enjoy the reveal that I didn’t see coming.

I liked the main character Lou, she’s tough, sometimes funny and has that I’m not giving up attitude. The other characters were all fun too, especially Caroline who she teams up with.

One thing I really liked about this story was as you asked more questions while you were reading, more doors opened to the possibility that things might not be as they appeared. It’s certainly a page turner and don’t be put off by the 427 pages. During the second half of the book when you uncover something juicy, you’ll find yourself racing through the book.

The setting was also perfect for the book, almost like another layer on a well baked cake. This is the first in the series featuring Lou, I have another one to read and review, and I’m looking forward to seeing where her next adventures take her.

For fans of gritty mysteries with a healthy dose of the paranormal, I think this might be a good pick for you.

Mashing by Sean Michael

TMASHING
Mashing by Sean Michael
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Life is good for Toby and Damon—maybe too good. What happens when someone seems intent on destroying their happiness?

Toby and Damon are growing closer every day, with Toby recovering from the shot to his shoulder and Damon trying to keep him from pushing too hard too fast. Things are good between them.

They’re even better in the bedroom, where Toby is learning all sorts of new things and Damon is happily pushing his limits.

They’ve almost forgotten that someone doesn’t seem as happy with their closeness as they are, when Toby walks into his studio to find it trashed and his little apartment ransacked. Are the authorities going to be able to apprehend the culprit before Toby decides the best course of action is to remove himself from the equation?

Toby is recovering from a shot shoulder. As an artist, a sculptor, the thought he mightn’t be able to work had driven him crazy. So he’s rushed back to his art, pushing himself hard but is really pleased to find he’d not lost the edge of his talent. Toby is desperately in love with Damon and grateful for the man’s presence, Damon keeps him from pushing himself too hard. But the threat from an unknown hater is weighing on them both. Can they work through this bump in their lives?

This is the third book in the Beer and Clay series, and while I feel it can be read as a stand alone book, I definitely think readers will get more out of it if they’ve read the first two stories first (“Malting” is book 1, and “Milling” is book 2). This book had a lot more detail about Damon’s friend Pete, and Pete’s lover, Christian. I was really excited about this, as we were somewhat introduced to Christian in Milling and it’s clear the man has quite the background and story to tell. There’s also quite a bit more mystery in this book than the previous two. Toby and Damon’s “stalker” is a far more prominent plot point and I really enjoyed seeing this aspect of their story come more into the foreground.

I felt this book had something for everyone – a really solid, sexy hot M/M relationship, good friends and strong secondary characters coming into their own, and a mystery plot really blossoming and coming into fruition. While not all the plots were wrapped up neatly – clearly there is at least another story in the series – I felt there was definite progression in the overall story arc and I enjoyed the strong steps forward both Toby and Damon (and Peter and Christian) made.

This is a hot, sexy read with a fair bit of kink and a well-established, loving couple as the main protagonists. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next installment. Recommended.

When a Beta Roars by Eve Langlais

TBETA
When a Beta Roars by Eve Langlais
A Lion’s Pride #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (144 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

How degrading. Stuck babysitting a woman because his alpha said so. As Pride Beta, he has better things to do with his time, like washing his impressive mane, hunting down thugs for fun, and chasing tail—sometimes his own if his lion is feeling playful.

But his babysitting job takes an unexpected turn when the woman he’s assigned guard duty over turns out to be his mate.

A female threatened by an outside wolf pack.

A woman he wants to call his own.

A mate who doesn’t fall for his charm.

Usually Beta’s leave the roaring to the Pride’s alpha, but in this case given his level of frustration, he might have to make an exception. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can kiss his furry tail.
Rawr!

Since when do the words, ‘sad meow’ and ‘rawr!’ make me giggle? When I read stories by Ms. Langlais, that’s when. The author intersperses clever kitty witticisms throughout the novelette that charmed me. I enjoy that her characters are human but their other self is just as prominent and causes no end of consternation for the main protagonists and fun times for a reader. Hayder’s feline self is very impatient, but the author mated him to Arabella, a woman who tests his patience mightily. The reason why is what gives this story depth, meaning and the urge to never stop reading until the very end.

The conflict in the story is serious but the author never let it get dark or scary – it’s just enough for the hero to be a hero, and enough for the heroine to finally stand up for herself and be the woman she always was meant to be.

Hayder comes across as a bit of a laidback slacker initially but he seriously gets his act together when it counts and I was very impressed. He’s no slouch in the protection department and when he loves, it’s all out. Arabella is one lucky wolf.

Secondary characters provide a nice sense of community, occasions for humor and hilarity, and support for Hayder and Arabella when they need it most.

My favorite dilemma between the hero and heroine is her being allergic to him. Her sneezes were the perfect comic foil. I liked the uniqueness of that and laughed many times.

When a Beta Roars is a wonderful romantic comedy with a sexy, dramatic edge. It’s a perfect book to spend an afternoon with when in the mood for lighthearted entertainment with just a hint of darkness to spice up the action. Hayder and Arabella are wonderful together and I enjoyed every moment I spent with them. In a nutshell, When a Beta Roars is pure fun.

Making it Real by Synithia Williams

REAL
Making it Real by Synithia Williams
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (164 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

After five years in prison, Kareem Henderson is starting his life over. Though business is good at his barbershop, his goal is to open a high-end gentlemen’s salon. But the road back is rough, and he needs connections in the society he once snubbed to make his dream a reality. He just never expected his second chance to come from the sexy female barber he hired last year.

Patrice “Neecie” Baldwin escaped the pressure of being the perfect daughter in one of North Carolina’s most prestigious families to live life on her own. When family responsibilities call her home, she fears going back will expose her to the pressures that nearly ruined her. Neecie needs a shield, and tall, handsome, bad boy Kareem seems impenetrable. So she offers him a deal: If he’ll pretend to be her fiance, she’ll introduce him to all of her well-connected relatives.

But the more time they spend together, the more the irresistible attraction between them builds. They’re from such different worlds, but can this fake relationship make the cut and become something very real?

Making it Real is a story about two people who are drawn to one another by faith. Kareem Henderson is an owner of the shop where Patrice “Neecie” Baldwin works. When her brother forces her to come back home she decided to bring Kareem with her as her fake fiancée. But soon their pretense turns into something real.

The story focuses on building a relationship between two very wounded and fragile people. Both Kareem and Patrice have to learn to trust one another, and to let go of the past. I was hooked on the story from chapter one and wanted to know how the characters will get out from the emotional mess they got themselves into.

Both characters are well developed. At first I found Kareem a bit too much alpha, i.e. dominant and possessing, but in the end he realized a few things. He earned a lesson or two and turned out just fine. Patrice is his perfect match. She does not want to be pushed around by anyone. She’s a strong and independent girl who knows how to take a stand. The conflict between Kareem and Patrice is well done and realistic and it is character driven. Also, the sex scenes are well written and very hot. Furthermore, I liked the interaction that Kareem and Patrice have with their respective families, and also I liked their families. They are complete opposite, but they both care about their members.

Still the story has a few weak points. I couldn’t understand why Kareem and Patrice choose to stay in her parent’s house when her parents obviously didn’t like him. Also, I could not quite understand how Patrice’s older brother can have a teen son when their parents are celebrating 30 years marriage anniversary.

Beside this I enjoyed reading this story. It was a fast and fun read.

His Lady Peregrine by Ruth J Hartman

TLADY
His Lady Peregrine by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (83 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Percy Radcliff has gone mad. At least that’s what his family thinks. Simply because he adores birds to distraction. If only there were someone with whom he could share his great love. Perhaps he’s found her in the woman he happened upon at the Bird Sanctuary?

Widow Georgiana Ollerton has finally met her match. In love and in admiration for everything avian. Percy, though odd, has a sensual quality Georgiana can’t quite explain but definitely wants to explore further.

The problem is Percy has once again gotten himself into a pickle. How is he to romance his lovely Georgiana when another woman believes him to be her long-lost husband? Will Percy be able to disentangle himself from the other woman before he loses Georgiana for good?

Truly, author Ruth J Hartman has demonstrated an amazing skill in creating charming, but utterly unique and original characters.

In His Lady Peregrin we discover Percy Radcliff; bird fancier, almost a would-be bird himself. Oh, the matter-of-fact way we discover Percy’s deepest wishes! Off beat, funny and yet, so appropriate to this story. Events move right along and the quality of the characters certainly contributes.

Lady Georgiana Ollerton is remarkable for her looks. Oh, she’s not a sweet engaging lass at all, for these two are quite mature adults, and yet, there it is…she resembles…well…I’ll leave it to readers to discover the Lady’s looks for themselves. She is remarkable. Percy also notes that she is “sarcastic, blunt, and demanding”; safe to say, this is not your typical ‘match made in heaven.’ Yet, though things ought to go as easily as falling out of a tree, there are complications. A certain other lady (that woman!) has her sights set on Radcliff…too. She’s something of a character herself.

I do wish the cover somehow reflected the unique qualities in this story.  It’s appropriate for the time, but not as unique as what’s contained within.

Throughout, events are unpredictable, conversation is often light and humorous, and even secondary characters contribute. Quirky, fun and fast-moving, mark this one a Must Read.

Backwoods Justice by Chuck Walsh

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Backwoods Justice by Chuck Walsh
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (262 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

While fishing with her grandfather, Rubin Sawyer, five-year old Christina slips around the bend of Doe Creek to chase a butterfly. In a heartbeat, she is snatched away.

When Sawyer helped put an end to a series of killings on Iron Mountain a year prior, he had no idea the hornet’s nest he’d stirred, being labeled as a traitor by the locals.

When a series of killings takes place on nearby Appalachian Trail, notes left behind in blood as a cat and mouse game ensues on the whereabouts of Christina, the local sheriff turns to big city detective Thomas Jordan and local mountain guide Emma Douglas as they reunite in this sequel to Shadows on Iron Mountain.

Backwoods Justice takes evil to a new level, as the head of Rubin Sawyer is demanded in exchange for Christina’s life. Meanwhile, the assassin’s taste for killing hikers grows, a killer more cold and calloused than Burley Greer, the one who abducted and killed young women in Shadows on Iron Mountain.

Come again to Iron Mountain as Jordan and Sawyer endure the justice administered in the backwoods of East Tennessee.

Set amidst the backwoods of Tennessee, this striking novel spins a mesmerizing tale of vengeful foes, and raging passion that could lead to a murderous trail set along the mountain trails. This novel is action packed from the very beginning. The detailed description the author gives of the mountains of Tennessee were so vivid, I could picture the scenery and the action as I read along. This was a book that held my attention through out. I was so pleased as I continued to read that the author kept up the pace with the action and mystery within the storyline. I enjoyed the writing style; the author really knows how to tell a story. He painted a picture so clear of the town, the people, the lakes and woods of Iron Mountain area that after reading I feel like I’ve actually been to the area. The locals even though unfriendly I can actually picture their lifestyle, attire and attitudes from the awesome writing. Even though some of the tourist characters didn’t last long in the book, the author still gave details and gave them a life and personality.

During a family fishing outing Rubin Sawyer’s granddaughter goes missing. With a history of being the mountain outcast, Rubin is set on finding his granddaughter. The mountain people don’t take kindly to outsiders, which becomes evident when hikers are found killed and no one is willing to talk to investigators. Kidnapping and murder investigation calls for experienced police and investigators, which in turn calls for more confrontation with the locals. Having worked a prior case in the area Thomas Jordan and Emma Douglas team up to help stop the killer on the mountain. Will all the attention from the murders be enough to stop the killer or will he continue on his quest for revenge?

This is a book that I am glad that I picked to read. I enjoyed reading the storyline. I am not a hiker by any means, but reading about the satisfaction of adventure and self fulfillment displaced through the characters I may look into giving hiking a try, minus the bears of course. This book is full of action, it gives a complete story that isn’t predictable. I will be sure to check out other books by this author.

This is an adventure that is sure to please any reader who likes to read about twisted revenge that includes plenty of action.

Too Hard to Handle; Black Knights, Inc.

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Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker
Black Knights, Inc.
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (393 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

“The Man” is back
Dan “The Man” Currington is back in fighting form with a mission that takes him four thousand miles south of BKI headquarters, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He’s hot on the trail of a rogue CIA agent selling classified government secrets to the highest bidder, when Penni DePaul arrives on the scene. Suddenly the stakes are higher, and keeping Penni safe becomes Dan’s number one priority.

And this time she’s ready
A lot has changed since former Secret Service Agent Penni DePaul last saw Dan. Now a civilian, she’s excited about what the future might hold. But before she can grab onto that future with both hands, she has to tie up some loose ends-namely, Dan Currington, the man she just can’t forget. And a secret that’s going to change both their lives-if they can stay alive, that is.

Spicy, revealing love scenes heat the blood. Action sends the heart racing and the adrenaline pumping. Breath-holding suspense grips the reader as the bullets fly. Mystery about Penni’s original mission keeps one turning pages. And “testosterone-itis” that only the guys in Black Knights, Inc handle so well makes one’s ears sting and brings a smile or giggle at times. Too Hard to Handle holds the reader’s attention as it races along with danger lurking around every corner, but with an ending that is not to be missed. Much as I want to I’m not telling.

Penni DePaul goes from New York to Chicago to Colombia, South America to find Dan “The Man” Cunnington. They worked together a few months back in Malaysia. Before she has a chance to talk with Dan, the case Dan, Dagan Zoelner, and CIA’s Chelsea Duvall are working on heats up and Penni is pulled into the fray—big time.

Chelsea, a pint size wrecking ball that could make a garbage bag look good with her curvy body, is an intelligence expert with a drone and connections. She and Dagan Zoelner strike sparks off each other at every turn, but when it’s time to fight the enemy, they make a team with single-minded purpose.

Bad guys abound. Winterfield is the man they want, and they want him alive. George Wodehouse, a man with quite a back story, wants Winterfield dead, because that is what SPIDER wants. How the good guys out maneuver bad guys is a touch and go process that just keeps on and on. It does get scary!

If you’ve read previous Black Knight, Inc novels, you will get to catch up with characters like Becky, Ozzie, Rock, Frank Knight (Boss), and the others. If you haven’t read previous ones, this one is a super good place to get to know some compelling, dedicated characters that are clandestine movers and shakers for the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Julie Ann Walker makes G. K. Chesterton’s saying, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him” come to life in a way that engages all the reader’s senses to create a memorable story. The title still makes me smile—Julie Ann Walker does have a way with words!

Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck

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Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (228 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Time, and most of Portugal, has almost forgotten Luminosa, a small fishing community on the Alentejo coast. A cluster of white and blue cottages huddle under the cliffs overshadowed by the great manor of Herdade Albatroz whose family has ruled the village since the days of Napoleon. Far off the tourist route, nobody visits Luminosa by chance.

When a ruthless American racketeer turns up, the peaceful village’s way of life could be ruined forever. But will other visitors–Piper Pines, seeking news of her long dead Portuguese mother, and Leo Shine, bereft of a father and brother accused of terrible crimes–help or hinder his objective to drag Luminosa into the twenty-first century?

Leo and Piper are two special people. One lives in Alaska, the other in Norfolk, England. Leo had been born with a cowl covering his body and he attributed this to his ability to sense storms at sea. Piper could see colours in the sea which defined what lurked beneath the waves, good or evil, food or danger.

Curiosity concerning their missing mothers draw them to a small village of Luminosa in Portugal. Leo is mistaken for an investor in a building proposal but Piper has suspicions he is not as he seems.

Leo and Piper are strong characters and their suspicions of one another can be amusing. Their abilities help the people of Luminosa in their quest to stop the ruination of their village. I felt empathy with all the characters (except for the baddies) and found it a warm and intriguing book which I enjoyed reading. It had highs and lows which kept me engaged with the story and mystery which meant my curiosity as to the outcome was kept alive at all times.

Although only a sweet romance, the tension between Leo and Piper was definitely the main draw of the story and I eagerly continued reading to see what the outcome would be. I would definitely read another book by this author.