Keys by Amber Kell

keys
Keys by Amber Kell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Steampunk, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (187 pages)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

My name is Octavius Septimus Stalk, but my friends call me Oss. I live in the City of Keys, a town of gears, keys, locks, and wonder. Our forefathers banished magic long ago, bolted the doors and locked everything up tight to keep people out and the town’s secrets in. Four Lock Lords control what information is left, and everyone else is left struggling to survive.

Despite what Thorne, my naïve lover, thinks, I was an orphan, but not a victim. When I walked the streets at the age of twelve, I learned fast where to steal the best food, how to use my daggers, and where to hide my would-be attackers’ bodies. No one suspected me of such violence. No one knew then or now that I have magic inside me.

Now, power hungry men intend to release the magic for their own benefit—at the expense of the rest of the city. We will stop them, even if Thorne must battle his own kin, even if I must reveal my hidden talents and the role I seem destined to play.

A mage in hiding becomes embroiled in a conspiracy of evil men who wish to release magic into a steampunk world for their own nefarious reasons.

This story is told in first person from Oss’s point of view. He’s a former street urchin and a thief who keeps his magical abilities secret because those who have it tend to vanish in the dead of night, as magic is banned and tightly locked away. Oss is now one of the city’s key keepers and also in an established relationship with Thorne, a city guard who comes from wealth and nobility (he’s related to one of the four Lock Lords!) and whose star is on the rise. The plot moves at a quick pace, so we’re mostly not bogged down, and there’s a good balance between witty dialogue, fast-packed action, tense and thrilling moments, and sensual scenes.

The characters, especially the main heroes, are three-dimensional, smart and fun. Oss is more of an anti-hero, reluctant to be cast in a heroic role to save the world, and he hasn’t told anyone how his magic allows him unlock any locks he comes into contact with. Oss’s boyfriend Thorne is more attractive, suave, and outgoing. He’s warm and kind and a bit naive but he doesn’t retreat from dangers or challenges, and he never abandons Oss which I really appreciated. Their scenes together range from warm friendship to hot and heavy. In fact, this starts out pretty sexy and sensuous, but beyond that there’s a good story to be told. The relationship conflict is pretty mild, mainly Thorne wishing for them to be a couple, and Oss doubting true love could exist in a dystopian world. But… there’s also the fact that both men harbor a big secret from one another, so the prophecy coming to pass forces them to be honest, which creates a schism they must resolve together.

Though there’s sex in this book, this is more an adventure in a steampunk and fantasy setting than a romance. The world-building is done extremely well, it’s detailed and intricate without being overrun by useless info or smothered with info dumps. The story’s background is set by a prophecy that speaks of magic being released into the City of Locks, magic and gears colliding, and our heroes end up caught in the middle of that strife. This is something of a genre mashup, so if that’s not your thing…. For myself, I thought the mix of genres–adventure, fantasy, steampunk, fairytales, and erotic romance–was intriguing and certainly unique. I will definitely be checking out the next in the series (hoping there is one to be had!). In short, the City of Keys comes to life like one of the characters, and I longed to know more, see and hear and feel more.

You get a complete story here, but this being only the opening salvo for a new series, several things are left in the air. Yet none of that hampered my enjoyment and satisfaction of reading this tale of a fascinating world and its people. I highly recommend this for everyone who likes their established couples sassy and super-sexy, their adventures thrilling and dangerous, and their fantasy world well crafted and full of delicious details and coloring outside the lines.

Secrets And High Spirits by Lou Harper

spirits
Secrets And High Spirits by Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (117 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Their love is an explosive cocktail—stirred, shaken, and served with a twist.

Secrets, Book 4

Teag and Bruce dream of opening their own bars, but that’s where the similarities end.

Teag, a popular bartender at West Hollywood’s hottest club, is willful, opinionated, and likes to take charge. He envisions his future bar as a boozy oasis for craft cocktails. Unfortunately, while he’s big on ideas, he’s short on funds.

Bruce, on the other hand, is a tower of pirate-tattooed muscle with a laid-back attitude. While he’s good with people, he’s a walking paradox—a wannabe boss with a weakness for bossy men.

Their partnership is a natural fit, but every time they meet, sparks fly as they rub each other the wrong way. Or is it the right way? In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to tell.

Between renovation pitfalls, meddling friends, and miles of police tape, Teag and Bruce struggle to keep their venture—and their budding relationship—from going up in flames. And not the good kind. More like the one on the top of a B52 shot.

Warning: Contains a whipcord-lean and whip-smart bartender who knows what he wants—and how hard he wants it—and a go-with-the-flow bar manager who secretly likes to be told how hard to give it.

Teag wants to open his own bar, but he’s on a very tight budget. Bruce has just found out the bar he works at is being sold and he’s also on the lookout for a space to open a bar of his own. When Teag and Bruce find themselves scouting out the same location, the sparks fly between them. Despite the fact they each rub the other the wrong way, Teag is determined to try and make his bar work. So he makes a proposition to Bruce – they co-own the new property and run the bar together.

This is an interesting story I found myself really drawn into. Teag and Bruce are both intrigued by each other, but they seriously butt heads initially. Watching them each lower their guard and look past the superficial surface was lovely. Each man needs what the other can give him – both romantically and professionally – but they’re both resistant to needing or relying on the other. I found it really lovely to read. The pacing is also quite good. I found it slightly slow in the beginning, but as it picks up speed I eagerly turned the pages faster and faster.

I liked how there were a few sub-plots revolving around the bar and renovation, previous lives of the location, normal hiccups in the renovation process and a strange mystery about who was trying to derail the project. I thought there was plenty to keep any reader hooked. I also liked how there was so much chemistry and tension between Teag and Bruce. There was a limited amount of sex scenes – the plot and characters were far more prominent – but the erotic scenes were mouth-wateringly hot and definitely a delight to read.

A fun, mostly lighthearted story I’d happily recommend it for M/M readers.

Cold Night Moon by Naomi Clark

Moon
Cold Night Moon by Naomi Clark
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (40 pgs)
Other: F/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

After a difficult year, Ayla Hammond wants to give her girlfriend Shannon a dream Christmas. A cozy, romantic cabin in the woods seems like the perfect way to put their troubles behind them and start the New Year right. And at first, everything is going according to Ayla’s plan…until night falls.

There’s something in the woods. And it’s after Shannon.

When a wolf goes prowling in the dark of the woods, passion looms large in the night.

Shannon and Ayla are going on a camping trip to a wooded cabin in December. The Lake District is known for its scenic beauty, but when they arrive, things go from fun to frightening as something begins to call to Shannon. Meeting a stranger, they learn he has lost someone to the lake and warns them to beware. It doesn’t take long to find out why in this short novella. A creature hungers beneath the waves and it has locked its sights on Shannon. Can Ayla save her lover from a grisly death?

This hot little book was a blast to read. Werewolves, sexy interludes between the women and a romp through the forest to battle a creature intent on claiming Shannon for her own. I loved Clark’s pacing and the interplay between the characters. It was action packed and made me want to go back and read the rest of the series. I didn’t feel lost as I have with some other books where it is obviously a continuation of a story. The author did a great job of recapping what went on before but not so it got in the way of the current story.

Great read for anyone who enjoys a bit of f/f romance with a supernatural bite.

The Coffee Prince by Tabitha Bishop

cemay
The Coffee Prince by Tabitha Bishop
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Bette had Devlin, a gorgeous, incredibly sexy boyfriend of two years, a wonderful house, and a future all planned out for the two of them. Then one beautiful Sunday morning she picked up his phone and saw naked photos and texts from the other woman.

Tomas was just supposed to be her charming but boxing scarred local coffee house barista, not the suddenly gorgeous man who swept her off her feet. The guy who’d been waiting for a long time to take her away from Dev, her ex, who wanted to keep her in bed screaming his name from dawn to dusk. Yeah, Tomas had some plans for Bette. And he had a lot of secrets.

A taste of coffee…a lifetime of sin.

Bette has a problem. Her boyfriend is a cheater but she is at loathe to accept it. A cup of coffee and her favorite dessert are hardly a substitute for her heartbreak, even with the sexy Tomas watching her with troubled eyes. When everything comes to light, Bette dumps Dev and struggles to come to terms with his betrayal. She is gutted, but this time when Tomas approaches her, she sees him a whole new light. Things aren’t always what they seem and this barista has a hidden side that will take her breath away.

Tomas can’t stand to watch the man Bette loves take advantage of her. He keeps track of her, to the point of switching locations just to be near. When he has an opportunity to come to her rescue, he does and only then does he reveal his secret.

This book was as sinful as a salted caramel mocha. Salty and sweet, with sexy interludes to keep you turning the pages. Tabitha Bishop’s first novella is a good read and I look forward to more work from this author. I won’t give away the secret to the book but it’s worth the time to find out and at a novella length, it’s a perfect read to go with that break time cup of caffeinated awesome.

One thing I did notice was the author stopped just shy of the bedroom door when I wanted to sneak a little more than a peek into the more sensual side of this tale. More sexy time, Ms. Bishop. We want to you to make us crunch ice after our coffee. *grin*

This was a sexy and fun read and I can’t wait for the next book. Bring on the coffee and the chocolate and if you happen to find a barista as hot as Tomas, I say keep him.

By Invitation Only by Allie Quinn

onl
By Invitation Only by Allie Quinn
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pages)
Other: M/F, mild BDSM, voyeurism, exhibitionism
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

When Alex accepts an invitation to the Midnight Castle sex club, she is promised pure pleasure. A mysterious, masked lover by the name of Raven makes good on that promise, showing her she belongs in the world of kinky sex with ropes and blindfolds. Night after night, he introduces her to more pleasure. Not only does he make her come with his wonderful hands, he manages to reach in and grasp her heart. He teaches her she can let go of her inhibitions and let her desires guide her.

By day a lost puppy dog with a stutter, James works digging up information for Alex at her law firm. At night, he’s Raven, and he’s terrified Alex will reject him when she learns his true identity. When a threat from Alex’s past comes knocking at her door, James has to reveal his true identity in order to save the woman who holds his heart.

He invited her for a night of pleasure but if he had his way it would be the first night of forever.

A mask provides not only an opportunity to become someone else but it’s a shot of courage to take a chance at someone who might otherwise seem unattainable.

Alexandria is a lawyer. In the courtroom, she’s in charge and takes on a lot of stress to see that justice is served. Outside the courtroom, she wants to let go. Really let go. The coveted invitation to Midnight Castle from an admirer couldn’t have come at a better time. There were several things that I picked up on right away that made this scenario a little more realistic. First off, she had some history with a “kinky” sex partner so, she wasn’t accepting the invite with no clue as to what she wanted or expected. Secondly, she didn’t just sign the contract without asking a question or two. With her being a lawyer, that wouldn’t have been true to character.

The story moves back and forth in the first person POV. It wasn’t quite as smooth a transition at times as it could have been but it wasn’t a show stopper, either. The premise was interesting enough that I really wanted to see if they had more than sexual chemistry after the masks came off.

There wasn’t any doubt that they fit well together in the club and since I knew going in exactly who “Raven” was it was also oddly sweet, if kinky sex in a sex club can be called sweet. It was also hot. The author does a really nice job of putting this reader right into the room and up close to all the action going on, lots and lots of interesting action.

While the sex is good, I was happy to notice that there was more to this short story. More to the characters. Alex has a history that’s brought up, most often in her own comparison with her present, but it was James’ back story and scars that rounded this story out to a satisfying conclusion. They both sought peace with their pasts and ultimately found that and more.

Something else that had me curious was to see if James would intentionally reveal himself or accidentally give himself away at the office. There were so many possibilities and directions that the author could have taken it. I won’t say which scenario is correct but the way it works out didn’t disappoint.

Ms. Quinn packed a lot of story into this novella. Almost too much it seemed at times but it was still overall truly enjoyable. I will definitely be searching out other books by this author and readers who enjoy some intrigue and a healthy dose of heat, should give this one a try as well.

The Biker’s Dom by Sean Michael

dom
The Biker’s Dom by Sean Michael
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (77 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Trig isn’t looking for something special when he comes to the Gay Riders’ Carnival this year, but it just might have come looking for him.

It’s Trig’s fourth year at the Gay Riders’ Carnival and this year he’s not sure if he’s looking for more than a few nights of camping, checking out the booths and listening to the music. He’s been dumped a lot in the last year and is looking more to lick his wounds and just relax.

It’s the first time at the Carnival for Tarzan and he doesn’t know exactly what to expect. When he lays eyes on Trig, though, he knows what he wants. Trig claims he’s not a bottom, but he’s tripping all of Tarzan’s instincts.

Can these two men find a middle ground, or will their attraction last only as long as the Carnival itself?

This was Trig’s fourth year at the “Gay Riders” carnival. He was pleased to be meeting friends there, but Trig couldn’t help but feel slightly down. He’d gone through a number of sub’s in the last year and it was starting to wear on Trig. When he met Tarzan, Trig’s breath was stolen away by the chemistry between them. They only had four days together, but Trig couldn’t help himself. And four days was more than enough to turn both their worlds upside down.

This is a steamy hot read. I loved Trig and Tarzan coming together. Both strong, bold men. Trig doesn’t bottom – but at each turn Tarzan gave him room and options, and Trig just couldn’t seem to help himself. I love a hot story of what happens when two alpha men come together and the intensity in this story was enough to set the pages on fire. While the backdrop of the Bikers carnival is there, the real story revolves completely around Trig and Tarzan – and their growing relationship.

The carnival itself – as well as Trig’s friends, Whip and Nicky – make this book technically a sequel to “The Biker’s Pup”, but I feel this book can easily be read on its own. The small amount of backstory needed is clearly and briefly included very well into the story and I’d have happily read this story without the previous one.

A steamy hot, explicit and delicious story – I can strongly recommend this tale for fans of Sean Michael and M/M readers who enjoy complicated characters and smoking hot erotic romance. I loved it.

The Naughty List by multiple authors

list
The Naughty List by multiple authors
Publisher: Red Moon Romance
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (201 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Fetish
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Six holiday romances, from sexy to sweet, prove that love is better on the Naughty List.

A Christmas Maggie by Tiffany Reisz
All Daniel wanted for Christmas was to spoil his new girlfriend, Anya, make love under the tree, and ignore all his old heartaches. But the ghosts of Christmas past aren’t so easily forgotten especially when Maggie, his late wife, shows up to remind him why the past should stay in the past and why his Christmases-future could be the best of his life if he can finally let himself live and love in this Christmas present. (A Christmas Maggie is the final story in the Daniel trio [from the Original Sinners series] beginning with The Gift and followed by Daniel Part Two.)

Christmassy by Alexa Piper
When taotien Valerion and witchling Cora get together sparks fly. But on the way to visit Cora’s family for Christmas, they encounter a supernatural predator that will not only test their individual powers and abilities, but also their connection to one another.

My Midnight Cowboy by Pumpkin Spice
If chocolate is the way to a man’s heart, then pastry chef Lucy Baker has the recipe for success. But will her culinary skills melt the most hard-hearted bachelor in Wyoming? A chance encounter on a New Year’s Eve flight leaves two strangers to discover unbound pleasure and a hunger for sexual discovery.

In the Doghouse by Elizabeth Black
Nicky and Angela had just begun to add a little kink to their lives when, caught up in the influence of his dudebros he forgot their anniversary and broke Angela’s heart. Angela wants Nicky’s strong arms around her again, but first she wants him to fight for her. Can one night, a paddle and some restraints bridge the gap between them?

Winter’s Daughter by Doug Blakeslee
A child of the Fae—bound to winter and a promise given to her chosen mate. She must claim him before time runs out and all she loves in the world falls to ruin. A child of mortals—forgotten and discarded by the world, then torn from the most amazing woman he’s ever met. Trapped in the sort of fae-tale that rarely ends in happily ever after, are they strong enough to defy the odds and find love?

Stealing Time by Wendy Sparrow
As Father Time’s son, Zeit must sacrifice a mortal’s lifetime to the Fates each New Year’s Eve. Last year—inexplicably, really—he made an 11:59 substitution. The Fates are pissed and they’re after his mortal Hannah. With the year ending, he ought to figure out why he’d saved her—and why he keeps doing it. Following an unlucky year, Hannah needs a week’s holiday in a lodge to unwind. What she gets is near-death experiences and a sexy immortal who can’t avoid kissing her, but might have to kill her. After all, even Zeit can’t hold back time indefinitely.

This naughty list has something to please every reader.

Anthologies are sometimes a tough read when you have to consider each story, good or bad, into your overall rating for the collection.

Okay. So every writer has a voice and every voice will not be for everyone. That said, I found some of the stories in this anthology more polished than others. In A Christmas Maggie, Tiffany Reisz tells a tale very much to the tune of A Christmas Carol where a Dom learns to appreciate the sub in his life. The ghost of his now deceased wife shows him things that he isn’t prepared for but it is an awakening. The sexy scenes in this one curled my toes in typical Tiffany Reisz style and I couldn’t get enough. Awesome story with a couple of tear jerking moments.

Christmassy was harder to read. I felt like I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and was quickly annoyed by the feeling I had missed something. Like in the middle of a series when you just don’t know what the heck is going on. I stopped reading mid-way when I couldn’t find anything to keep me in the story.

My Midnight Cowboy was stunning and I think my favorite story from the anthology. Pumpkin Spice is a new author for me-partly because of the name. It put me off a bit. But no more. I’m hooked. Her style was absolutely electrifying and I am going to get every book she has. The sensual nature of her sex scenes, the buildup of emotion. Holy wow. Fan girl swoon. Loved it and want more. I hope this book gets released as a series because it would rock the house.

In the Doghouse was an odd story with twerking snowmen and a suddenly dominant next door neighbor. I have to admit it left me a little disjointed. When Nicky stops paying attention to his girl, she retaliates-but it just doesn’t seem believable. Her reaction was odd and even with the cool Domme scenes I could not get into this story.

Winter’s Daughter was another strange plotbunny. This one centers around a boy and a girl in a ski lodge. The girl is apparently a fairy from another dimension who is battling her sisters for the right to be happy. In this case it involves a random guy at a ski lodge, a key card (mysteriously she had one) and a lot of extracurricular activities. Nothing seemed to fit here. Not the sudden key card from a woman from another dimension to the back and forth between the characters. There was sex but it left me wanting more.

Stealing Time was a great story. It grabbed my attention at the start and didn’t let go. The sexy tension between the reaper and the girl he is supposed to kill put me on pins and needles. Excellent holiday story that would do well as a longer novel or series of novellas. Great premise and I couldn’t help but want to know more about what happens to these wonderful characters.

Overall, the anthology was a 4/5 for me due to the mixed quality of the stories. Such strong presences by Reisz, Spice and Sparrow made it worth the read and will no doubt have me coming back for more from these authors.
If you want a fun holiday mix, give these stories a try.

Into the Sunrise by Becky Black

sunset
Into the Sunrise by Becky Black
Publisher: Loose ID LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (121 pgs)
Other: F/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

On the day her son leaves home, Lorna Friern makes a long-planned escape from her loveless marriage. With one suitcase, her laptop, and a box full of books, she leaves L.A. to drive to a new life in a house she’s inherited in Long Island. On the same day, after Northern Californian wildfires burn down the motel where she lives and the bar where she works, Zoe Bradshaw decides to move on again. Her destination, Las Vegas. Maybe. Or home to her family. Maybe.

The two women meet on the road and when Zoe’s old junker of a car finally gives up the ghost, she accepts the offer to travel with Lorna for a while. perhaps all the way to New York. Lorna wasn’t looking for romance so soon after leaving her marriage, but chance put Zoe in her way and Lorna doesn’t want to leave her behind. Sharing a car and motel room beds, the two women learn each other’s histories and secrets. Only at the end of the journey will they know if they’ve escaped the past, as it makes its last grabs at both of them.

Into the Sunrise was a quick well written read that to me showed two strangers that met at the opportune time in each others lives. After their meeting they threw caution to the wind and took a risk to leave their life behind and start anew. What reader hasn’t thought about packing their belongs and seeing where the road leads them?

The writing was easy to follow, nothing really complex about the story. If you are a reader that likes a story that is pretty simple and straight forward, this perhaps may be a story that you will enjoy. One thing I like is a book without a lot of characters and this was a book that fit that bill. Zoe Bradshaw worked as a bartender until wild fires displaced her motel and job. And you have Lorna, who recently left her husband of 18 years. However, the characters lacked true compassion, especially Lorna. She left her husband but the way she told him and her son Dominic was just really weird and heartless. If was odd she wouldn’t talk to them but made an effort to check her emails, text and social media at every road stop, and still her heart remained cold with each reply, if she replied to them at all.

Zoe was on the road to track her run away love. She tracked her down but then the plot fell flat. It left me with a question of… so, what was the point?  The sex was not as hot as I’d expected and hoped for. The plot lacked real conflict. I would have liked to have read about some adventure since they were traveling across county. Maybe some twist or surprise element that may have roughed the smoothness. I am all for a happy ending and everyone finding love, but stir in some spice along the way to make the ending that much better…give the character some trials and tribulations to endure.

Still, as I stated before the book was a well written, easy read. I like the idea that the women were brave enough to take a chance to step away from a life that wasn’t pleasing to them to see what else life had to offer them. I think we often fear the unknown and hesitate to step out of our comfort zone, but this is a story that gives any reader a chance to live through these two women. For readers that enjoy a book that is a refreshing getaway, where they can live through the lives of the characters, this is one that I think would fit that type reader. Their chance meeting was what they each needed. It seems they drew strength from each other and their personalities together made them stronger. It’s encouraging to see the two strange women building a relationship of trust and getting to know each other.

While this story may not have been my favorite, the author has a real skill in telling a story so I would definitely give another book by this author a try.

Dark Stranger by Lisa Carlisle

Dark
Dark Stranger by Lisa Carlisle

 Chateau Seduction Series
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (100 pages)
Other: M/F, Spanking
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Wolf shifters come to Chateau seeking a missing pack member. During an altercation, Cameron Stevens, the manager of the art colony, is separated from the others. He ends up alone with Nadya, one of the female shifters.

Together, in the forests of DeRoche Island, they struggle against conflicting feelings. In addition to battling each other as well as their mistrust, they fight a powerful, inexplicable attraction to one another—one that leaves them irrevocably entwined.

They’re mates? Cameron can’t comprehend or accept such a thing is possible. They’re two different species and their worlds don’t mesh. He can’t fight the heated desire burning between them and her touch is impossible to resist. His heart and mind aren’t on the same page where she’s concerned. One thing is certain—Nadya is stamped on both.

The peace and quiet of Les Beaux Arts chateau on DeRoche Island is disturbed when a shape shifter attacks one of the residents. After dealing with the shifter, Antoine Chevalier, the owner of the castle searches for the wolf shifter’s pack.

The shifters come looking for their missing packmate and Cameron, the chateau manager, falls headlong for Nadya, the female of the group. Nadya returns his feelings but they don’t see how they can ever be together. The two groups are virtually at war, and they are needed on their own islands.

This book is the third in this series and once again Lisa Carlisle has shown how so much can be put into so few pages. The characters from the previous book appear but the story revolves around Cameron and Nadya. Emotions, confusion, hot sexy scenes are all included and it was nice to have Nadya as the shifter rather than another male paranormal.

Another good book in this series. Could there possibly be more, maybe Kelly’s story? I hope so as she makes an appearance in the other books.

Aching for Annabell by Josie Jax

annabell
Aching for Annabell by Josie Jax
Publisher: Loose ID
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Other: F/F, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Young Amish widow Annabell Kranz wants one thing for Christmas—to satisfy her secret desires before she remarries a man from her community. When she sneaks from her village and gets lost one blustery night near the quaint town of Cool Hollow, Missouri, it’s an outsider who rescues Annabell. The intriguing, beautiful furniture maker Nicole Croft awakens things in Annabell she didn’t know existed. Things she should never feel—or do.

Following a recent breakup with her girlfriend, Nicole is in no mood to bother with a half-frozen woman in Amish garb… Until she gazes into Annabell’s needy eyes, sees into her lost soul, and hears her soft pleas to undress her, warm her, make love to her.

What Annabell wants, Nicole can give. But if she does, the two will have just seven days before Annabell walks out of Nicole’s life forever…and marries an Amish man.

Not everyone can outrun their problems, but this won’t stop Annabell from making a dash for it.

The sex scenes in this tale were absolutely scorching hot. By far the biggest reason why I found them so alluring is that the chemistry between the two main characters was perfect. They were attracted to each other both emotionally and physically, so I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when they took their relationship to the next level. Seeing it all unfold the way it did only made me root harder for them to end up together.

With that being said, the dialogue could have used some more work. Neither one of the characters had a natural speaking style. Both of them said things that I couldn’t imagine anyone saying in the heat of the moment because of how stiffly and formally they talked. This kind of dialogue would have worked in a story set a hundred years in the past. It felt out of place for something that was supposed to be occurring in the present day, though. Annabell’s background definitely explained some of her formality, but there were still times when the way that she talked was distracting to me due to how she described certain activities that were going on between her and Nicole in the bedroom. I was also never quite sure why Nicole spoke as formally as she did since I assume she was raised in a mainstream family.

The subplot added an extra layer of intrigue to the storyline. I especially liked how the author wove it into so many different sections of this book. Briefly bringing this topic up several times before the conclusion made me curious to know how it would be resolved. Separating everything out like this also left plenty of room for the main plot to develop, so I was glad to see it written this way.

I’d recommend Aching for Annabell to anyone who is in the mood for something titillating.