In Pursuit of Paradise by Kate Randle

In Pursuit of Paradise by Kate Randle
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rate: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Ship captain Nicholas Becket knows he needs to change his playboy ways. And when he discovers beautiful divorcee Lily Kingston at a job fair for his cruise line, he thinks he has found someone who can reform him. Lily is looking for a change of her own but she isn’t prepared for Nick and all of his baggage. Not to mention her own scars from the recent past. Although she is fiercely attracted to the handsome and dashing millionaire, an unexpected event threatens to tear them apart forever. Can this pair of lost souls overcome the stormy waters of life’s ups and downs in order to find their true paradise?

I’ve been waiting my whole adult life to read a romance book whose setting was on a cruise ship. Finally, I found one and it was amazingly accurate. The writing style was excellent. I could visualize the ship and it felt like I was there. It’s been six months since my last cruise and now I want to go on another one to find my own man just like the hero, Nicholas Becket. I refuse to accept that a man like the character Nicholas Becket doesn’t exist somewhere and I need him to come take me away.

Nicholas Becket is a blonde haired, blue eyed, physically fit, humble millionaire. He also just happens to be the ship’s captain. I love a man in uniform and Nicholas Becket was described as a fine looking gentleman. Did I mention he was the captain of a cruise ship?

Lily was looking for a change in her life and she deserved some happiness after what she’s gone through. I really liked Lily and I liked her more when she was with Nicholas. They brought out the good in each other. I respected that she was a hard worker and not interested in Nicholas’s money or what he could do for her. Lily had pride and self-respect, qualities I admire in a heroine. I was envious of all her good fortune. Perhaps she could have been a bit more hard to get but let’s be real, we’re talking about Nicholas. It’s easy to judge someone when we’re not in their shoes. I let that quality flaw in Lilly slide since we’re talking about my ideal book boyfriend.

Honestly, the plot was fairly predictable but I didn’t care. I thoroughly enjoyed the blossoming romance between Lily and Nicholas. I genuinely was concerned when the unexpected event happened that almost tore them apart. You’ll have to read for yourself to find out what that event was and how they found their way to their happily ever after.

I definitely have no qualms about recommending this book. It’s a perfect, quick read – all the better if you’re going on a cruise.

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.

But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows―including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks―she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows—and herself—from sinister forces.

A rolling fog, an isolated creepy property and a heroine who’s headed there to take over as director of an artist’s and writer’s retreat. I haven’t read a gothic novel in what seems like forever, and I can’t remember ever reading one set in contemporary times so I’m glad I got to enjoy this one.

I’ll make a confession here…I like gothic novels and I haven’t found one I couldn’t finish but I’ll give credit to this one for making not just like but love the story.

The opening had all the great things that makes me enjoy the genre. The flashback to the past and what seems to be a very creepy little girl. The fog so thick you can’t see where you’re heading and house, or in this case, a previous TB sanatorium, and the heroine’s feeling that something bad is about to happen.

As with all good gothics, this one is told from a first person narration. You sort of feel sorry for Eleanor as she seems to take on more than she can handle when the previous director is found dead in her bed. While I did guess one of the big reveals that happens at the end, I found myself reading faster and turning the pages. I know there’s no set number of pages for chapters but Ms. Webb seems to have found the key to keeping them at just the right amount for what’s happening in the scene. I read the last part of the book in one sitting and was determined to read to the end no matter the time. Yes, that’s the sign of a great story.

The story gets creepier as it progresses and you find yourself throwing all sorts of theories out there as to what’s going on and if it’s going to end well. I’ll just say it does, but hang on to your hats for the finale.

If you, like me, miss the gothic of yesteryear definitely pick up a copy of this one.

Beware the Fury by Lena Austin

Beware the Fury by Lena Austin
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (56 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Detective Bach didn’t like getting thrown off the case of the Feather Boa Killer just because he’d begun to suspect it was personal between him and the killer. Turns out he was right — the killer follows him to Los Regalos and picks up his murderous spree there.
Bach likes it even less when his new partner at Los Regalos is a lady detective with a really bad temper, snakes in her hair, bat wings, and an infallible nose for murder. Oh, yeah, and Cissy’s got a mushy heart for animals — lots of animals. And she’s a triplet. And a goddess — really! His head hurts.

Cissy’s real name is Tisiphone the Fury, and she’s been trying to find her own individuality since she and her sisters decided to live on different continents. What’s a Fury supposed to do except become a murder detective at Los Regalos? Now her contract is near an end and she’s weighing her options. That is, until Detective Bastian Bach walks into her precinct and dumps the case of a serial killer on Cissy’s desk. Her nose tells her more. Bach’s right. It’s personal.

And it’s about to get really personal.

Oh, wow! Not only was this short story different, but it’s really cool! I know this is supposed to be an erotic story and it is, with all the usual kinky fun stuff, but there’s something about Beware the Fury that made it a pure pleasure to read. I think it was the author’s storytelling voice. I liked her style.

The tale opens up with a crime scene, so that was gripping right there. Then there is a moment when the hero has to break it to his brother that he has to cancel their ‘brother time’ because he has to leave town immediately, so there’s a wonderful family element. It showed me that whatever case Bastian was working on was messing up his life and the one fun thing he had to look forward to – spending time with family. I felt connected to the hero’s pain, and, his frustration.

Then I got to meet Cissy. She is not at all what I expected. In fact, I enjoyed all the aspects about the heroine. I know she’s supposed to be a dominatrix but the tale didn’t really focus on the lifestyle. The clothing is there, and some hints and references show up but this story was more focused on the sex and shenanigans between Cissy and Bastian. I was very satisfied on how everything was handled.

Cissy is not a normal heroine. She has a few issues but those issues sure come in handy when faced with the villain in the final showdown. In fact, that conflict resolution was intense, amazing, face paced and well written. But what happens at the very end of the confrontation totally threw me. No way did I expect to happen what ended up happening. I totally understood Cissy’s point of view and I credit Ms. Austin’s writing skills with making me sniffle along with the heroine. I was thoroughly vested in her pain and wanting her to experience true happiness.

The villain in the piece is truly shocking. Because this is a paranormal romance, I had a lot of ideas of whom or what it could be. None of them came close to the truth. Whoa!

Beware the Fury is a surprisingly powerful gem for a short story. Both Bastian and Cissy’s characters were developed enough to engage my emotions, feelings and interest. I had so much fun reading about all the paranormal beings being treated like everyday citizens when they most certainly are not. I enjoyed the dialogue, descriptions and the overall reading experience. Could there have been more development? Sure, probably – but I don’t care. I liked what I read, I had a great time, I’m happy skippy about the HEA and that’s enough for me.

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral by L.M. Pampuro

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral by L.M. Pampuro
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (450 pgs)
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Giuseppe Vittorio Vaffanculo, a.k.a. Neddy, is an idiot. Not a bad person, he just holds himself in high praise. Neddy is the perfect target for Rayleigh O’Connor, member of the underworld organization The Shadow and soon to be Ms. Neddy number five. As part of the Vaffanculo-Cuzzuto clan, Neddy is the perfect mark Rayleigh needs to avenge the death of a comrade by killing Victor Cuzzuto.

All Victor Cuzzuto wants to do is finally retire to the beach, spend time with his family, and hand over the reins of his Federal Investigation branch office to his protégée.

Uncle Neddy’s Funeral opens into obvious intrigue… where, exactly “Neddy’ is becomes apparent pretty quick, but why…well that is the story.

It’s a family affair from the get-go, and Italian! Oh yes, from gnocchi to the classic big family, Uncle Neddy is part of a stereotypical big-city Italian family, with the all the connections and expectations one imagines. Faithfully reported on by sister Gia, we readers get a good look at ‘relations’ and family history. Yet, pinning down information on the ‘real Neddy’ – not to mention other family members, is hard to achieve. Everyone has a different view…often of each other. There are complaints and lies, and lies about liars, and we readers must wonder what is actually heartfelt.

Wondering what was going on kept me reading.

Clever writing spins out an intrigue that seems a backward one and not at all lacking in humor. Although it’s an odd journey, it is all ‘La Familia.” Who married (or marries) who is all important, as is the families’ opinion. Even more important is the motive for the marriage, and this upcoming Bad Decision might be more about retribution than love.

Fresh and original–okay, perhaps ‘fresh’ given the opening description, is not the best word choice…ahem–unpredictable and zippy, or perhaps it would be better to say ‘downright unusual.’ Uncle Nedddy’s Funeral is not so much just for mystery fans as for those wanting a reading adventure. Expect the unexpected and do add it to your Must Read List.

Riverside Lane by Ginger Black

Riverside Lane by Ginger Black
Publisher: Momentum Books
Genre: Mystery
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced.

Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death.

Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy …

Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.

I love English movies- especially mysteries – and I really enjoy the ones that give us a slice of British life along with the mystery. If you’re like me, you should give Riverside Lane a try. At first glance, you are presented with a slight mystery to tantalize the inhabitants of Riverside Lane when an American shows up as part of a house swap. It soon becomes evident, though, that there is more to this American than meets the eye, and we also are drawn into the undercurrents that are part of English village life.

Not only does the American have secrets, we soon find that every member of the village does as well. Ms. Black does a masterful job of bringing those secrets out and letting us have a glimpse of them.

It is very character driven, and we get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about them. It’s true that you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and this is amply illustrated in this book.

Kudos to Ms. Black. This is my first time reading this author, but it definitely won’t be my last.

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Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith

Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith
Publisher: Magical Wand Imprint
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

It’s August in Alaska, and geology professor Jack Oswald prepares for the new school year. But when hundreds of huge holes mysteriously appear overnight in the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle, Jack receives an unexpected phone call. An oil company exec hires Jack to investigate, and he picks his climatologist wife and two of their graduate students as his team. Uncharacteristically, Jack also lets Aileen O’Shannon, a bewitchingly beautiful young photojournalist, talk him into coming along as their photographer. When they arrive in the remote oil town of Deadhorse, the exec and a biologist to protect them from wild animals join the team. Their task: to assess the risk of more holes opening under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the wells and pipelines that feed it. But they discover a far worse danger lurks below. When it emerges, it threatens to shatter Jack’s unshakable faith in science. And destroy us all…

There are some things that science still can’t explain.

One of my favorite parts of this story was how intelligently the characters behaved in a crisis. Every single one of them kept their cool and made rational decisions regardless of how surprised and horrified they were by what was going on around them. They worked together as a team, too, to figure out what to do next. These aren’t things that happen all that regularly in this genre, so it makes me pretty happy when I do see them.

The pacing was the only thing holding this book back from a much higher rating. Roughly the first 50 pages were spent introducing everyone and setting up the scene. It took even longer for the characters to finally realize that something was seriously wrong on their expedition. As beautiful as the writing itself was, I found myself growing restless as I waited for the horror, paranormal, and science fictions elements of the plot to reveal themselves.

Mr. Firesmith has an eye for detail. His descriptions of the tundra were deliciously spooky even before the characters or the audience had any idea what was happening in that remote corner of the world. I also liked seeing how much attention he paid to what his characters looked like and how their personalities would affect how they reacted to something frightening happening. That made it easy for me to grow attached to them before the plot picked up speed.

Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath should be read by anyone who enjoys slow-burning horror.

Christmas 911 by Lori Leger

Christmas 911 by Lori Leger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night. Several months later, the Texas native is en route to a family gathering early on Christmas Eve when an emergency shopping trip lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. As circumstances deteriorate, she receives a shred of hope in the faceless presence of the 911 dispatcher she only “knows” by the soothing sound of his voice.

Luke Oliver is counting down to the end of his dispatch shift, anxious to begin his chillaxing tropical vacation. When a frantic caller asks for him, he has no idea it’s the faceless Cori he’s assisted on two prior occasions. He remains with her throughout the crisis, becoming her calming influence throughout the storm.

But will Luke be able to walk away when the time comes, or will this single 911 call change his life forever?

“911…What’s your emergency?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I just read a smoking hot romance book and I think I’m on fire.” I’m totally, burning for the hero, Luke Oliver. Joking aside, I’ve had to call 911 a few times in my life and I’ve never had an operator that sounded sexy. My life is so unfair. LOL!

I almost didn’t pick this book to read when I read the synopsis and it stated, “Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night.” It just didn’t make sense to me but after I read the story it totally makes sense. In fact, it’s the beginning of an ingenious plot. I’m not sure how realistic it is but anything is possible, I found Christmas 911 to be one hundred percent entertaining.

As I reflected on the heroine, Cori, I experienced many emotions. There are many thoughts I’d like to share but I can’t without spoiling the numerous plot twists. It’s safe to say that I was happy for Cori, sad for her, scared for her, worried for her and even laughed with her. She was by far one of the most relatable heroines that I’ve read in a long time.

Luke was calm, stable and had unwavering strength when necessary. He was very sensitive and attentive to Cori’s needs which I found endearing. If I was going through a crisis I’d like to have Luke by my side. I also enjoyed Luke and Cori’s relationship because together they were quick-witted and quite funny. It was easy to see where Luke and Cori got their sense of humor. Both of their families were comical.

The synopsis tells you that Cori stops for a last minute shopping trip on Christmas Eve that lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. That single event was a pivotal moment that had me on the edge of my seat. It was a riveting storyline that added suspense throughout the plot.

There are a few things I’d like to mention that earned my respect towards the author. I loved how she addressed the importance of family, camaraderie among police officers/military and the support of breast feeding. I especially respected the argument in the elevator regarding the “education person.”

I can’t say this book was predictable. I did not see that ending coming at all. Wow! I’m feeling frustrated that I can’t speak about it. It was a Wow! ending. A fishing enthusiast will love it way more than I did. 🙂

This was a very good book. I’m glad that I was the one that got to review it. This book would make a great Christmas present for my friends. I definitely recommend this book for those looking for a unique heartwarming love story and/or a reader that believes in true love and that anything is possible.

Joy by C.S. Poe

Joy by C.S. Poe
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Down on his luck is Gideon Joy’s default state. He doesn’t know why he expected anything different on his cross-country trip, but not surprisingly, the hits keep coming—literally this time. Gideon strikes a moose with his car in New Hampshire, not only totaling his own vehicle, but damaging one belonging to local construction worker Silas Bright. He has no choice but to stay in Lancaster and take a job that’ll pay for the repairs. And in a town so small, Gideon’s always running into Silas. What starts as annoyance between them soon blooms into something much more romantic. But when Gideon’s notorious bad luck rears its head yet again, how many disastrous dates will Silas be willing to weather before realizing Gideon’s not worth it?

Despite Gideon’s desire to remain in the quaint community that has accepted him as one of their own, past fears of inadequacy threaten the very joy he left Los Angeles to discover. If he’s to find a happily ever after with Silas, Gideon must learn that sometimes it’s okay to not be the best. And true happiness might be waiting in a small town nestled among the great White Mountains.

After crashing his car when a moose jumped out unexpectedly at him, Gideon Joy was pretty sure he was the most unlucky of men. Thankfully, fellow dinted-car-goer, Silas, turned out to be a decent guy and gave Gideon a lift to the nearest “town”. Needing to stay and earn some money for Silas’ repairs, Gideon is about to find that his life had taken on a complete turn-around.

This is a fun short story told in the first-person perspective from Gideon. While it’s clear that Silas is to be our hero’s hero and love interest, reading everything purely from Gideon’s perspective meant it took a little while for me to really thoroughly warm up to Silas. Silas is the strong, silent, mountain-man style of character and so not being able to see his perspective – while keeping me guessing and eagerly turning pages – did mean the romance unraveled a little more slowly than I’m used to in an erotic romance. Also, while I appreciated Gideon’s humorous inner thoughts, it made this feel more like a lighthearted romantic comedy – rather than the erotic M/M I was expecting to read. While I loved the voice and tone of the story, it took me a chapter or two to change my preconceived expectations on the story itself, relax and really start to laugh and enjoy the story for what it was.

I really feel it’s important to note that there isn’t any explicit sex at all in this story. There are a few kisses and a little hand-holding – but as I was expecting this to be an erotic romance it was fairly surprising to me that there was no sexual intimacy and nothing that I found at all explicit in the whole story. I personally don’t feel the story is lacking for this – there’s plenty of chemistry between Silas and Gideon – but readers expecting or wanting a spicy/erotic story might not find this satisfies them. That said, I loved the author’s voice and readers happy with a fun, light and humorous small-town M/M story should find this lovely. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the story, as well as the strong cast of secondary characters from the small town. This helped give the book a vibrant feeling to me and also made the whole story feel homey and warm.

A romantic and happy short story, this is a fun book with great characters and plenty of laughs.

Cardboard Hero by Shelby Morgen

Cardboard Hero by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Victoria Townsen’s falling in love with her hero. Ewan MacKenzie is a dangerous man. He’s in control of almost every situation — except the woman who haunts his fantasies.

He’s perfect. The embodiment of every fantasy Tory’s ever written. There’s only one slight problem. Tory’s always written sweet romances. Her publisher wants something spicier. Tory’s just discovered her perfect lover’s not anatomically correct! That’s a problem she should be able to solve. With a little help.

Then there’s Evan. Her modern day hero. Her protector. How can Tory possibly expect him to understand she’s already in love — with the hero in the cover art he posed for more than a decade ago?

Are you in the mood for something different? Do you enjoy books about authors in a pickle? This tale covers this subject plus more. I have followed a bunch of authors over the years and many of them have ‘guest posts’ by their characters and interviews. They speak of them as though they were real. This novella explores one such author and her obsession with her creation. It’s so thorough that it seems author in the novel can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction. In fact, I’d swear she was lost to the fiction.

For erotic romance readers this story is chock full of moments of exploration, seduction and fulfillment. Whether it’s real or not is the question. One thing is for sure, Ms. Morgan was quite inventive and definitely thorough with any scene she created.

I found the format to be a bit daunting. I’m not much into scenes full of fantasy because I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s filler. However, since this story is based on an author’s writing experience and her inadvertent isolation within her own mind, it makes sense.

Things got a ton more interesting when Evan, the real flesh and blood hero showed up. At first there was a blending but eventually Tory stepped out of her head. It was then that she found reality a LOT more interesting, sensually fulfilling and surprising. She also found it a bit harder to win over the hero because he was his own man, he had feelings and he knew what he wanted – a woman who saw him for the man he is.

How the author had the two finally meet, reconcile and fulfill the happy-ever-after that I had been waiting for was ingenious, rather hilarious and totally satisfactory.

Cardboard Hero is unique, interesting and a quick read. The book that Tory was writing seems to be a real book because after the initial story, there is the start of the book the heroine wrote in Cardboard Hero, which is kind of weird because I know what Tory, the character author, was going through when she wrote it, but I know it’s really Ms. Morgen who wrote it. That sounds confusing doesn’t it? Yet, that is the epitome of what I mean about this story being unique. It’s up to each individual reader to decide if this format rings their bell. It had its moments that I really liked and I enjoyed the humor so I’d say Cardboard Hero is a successful read.

Blood of Angels by Amber Morgan

Blood of Angels by Amber Morgan
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (39 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Thea Clayton knows her life isn’t normal. But even she wasn’t prepared for an angel to fall through her roof.

Turiel gave up his place in Heaven to experience true sensations for the first time in his immortal life. He didn’t realize that meant pain as well as pleasure.

Thea isn’t the only person who knows Turiel has fallen. The blood of angels is a precious thing. And some people will do anything to steal it.

A lonely woman, a bad storm and a fallen angel – all these things go to make a good story.

Folks in Milton thought Thea slightly strange. She lived all alone in her family’s house and a nasty storm sends her outside in time to watch a bolt of lightning crash through the roof of her bedroom.

I thought this an intriguing way for Turiel, the wingless angel to arrive. This also seems to give Thea a purpose in life. An interesting story of angels, a lonely woman and how their meeting changes life for both of them. I particularly liked the part where Thea has to fight for Turiel against those who would use him for profit.

An unusual story with emotional impact. I had no problem in wanting to read to the end.