Firelit Magic by Wendi Zwaduk

MAGIC
Firelit Magic by Wendi Zwaduk
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (74 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

Fire-red magic and white-hot nights make up the best witch’s brew…

Young witch Cian is coming into her own—and her magic. She’s happy rescuing the black cats that society doesn’t want, but she’s lonely. A sexy man to warm her nights would be perfect. Too bad the man in question isn’t interested—or is he?

Officer Tommy Barnes noticed red-haired beauty Cian the first time he stepped into her store, but a witch and a cop shouldn’t mix—should they? And what’s with her seemingly sinister interest in black cats? He can’t deny his attraction to her, so while his sixth sense says she’s harmless, a little investigative work between the sheets never hurt…

Can Tommy withstand the red-hot fire or will this witch get the best of him?

After her partner at Miss Scarlett’s Potions finds true love, witch Cian Roston wonders if she will ever find someone of her own to love. When black cats start disappearing, the police come to call, in the person of Tommy Barnes. After deciding that Cian is innocent of things she has been accused of, Tommy discovers he is attracted to Cian. Both Cian and Tommy have been hurt before, so they decide to take things slowly. When it becomes clear someone is targeting Cian and trying to run her out of town, Tommy decides to do what he can to keep her safe. As things heat up between Cian and Tommy, so does the campaign to ruin Cian’s reputation. Can Tommy find out who is behind the cult that has targeted Cian before someone gets hurt? Can Cian accept the love that Tommy offers her? Can two wounded souls find happiness and healing in each other’s arms for a forever love?

Firelit Magic is Wendi Zwaduk’s second visit to this world of romance and magic she has so skillfully crafted. It is a world where witches are part of the world at large, and mostly accepted by society. The characters are well defined and very likable, and the world is one I would like to continue to visit. I like the interplay between the lead characters, and like that the secondary characters are people I’ve met before and also liked.

Cian Roston is a witch. She is strong and independent, and caring and sensitive to all living things. She rescues black cats, because she believes they have gotten a ‘bad rap’ over the years. She watched as her best friend found her soul mate, and wants to find one of her own. I like that she was not intimidated by those who want to cast her in a bad light, and like her spunky attitude in protecting her charges. I enjoyed watching as she tried not to fall for Tommy, and was happy to see her decide to take a chance on him.

Tommy Barnes is strong, honest and determined. He likes being a cop, and is determined to get to the bottom of what is happening with Cian. After all, just because she is a witch doesn’t mean she is stealing or killing the black cats as she is accused of doing. Even though he is attracted to her, he still doesn’t believe a witch and a cop should be together. I liked that Tommy was open minded enough to decide to ask for a date with Cian, to get to know her better. I enjoyed watching as Tommy discovered that there was much more to Cian than just being a witch, and that he was willing to give a relationship a try after all. His surprise at her powers was such fun to watch.

There is a dark side to this story, as the leader of the cult tries to incriminate Cian in order to force her to leave town. And the surprise of who that leader was, is something I will not reveal here; if you want to know who was behind much of the evil doing and treachery, I recommend you read this one. The chemistry between Cian and Tommy builds exponentially, and I enjoyed Tommy’s shock when Cian actually glows during their romantic and hot interludes. This is for those who like their romances magical and hot, and be sure to keep tissues and ice water nearby.

Sail to the Moon by Lynne Connolly

MOON
Sail to the Moon by Lynne Connolly
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (139 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Zinnia

With a wild appearance as untamed as his personality, Zazz is the perfect front man for Murder City Ravens. When the tour takes him home to Manchester, England, he finds his father in trouble and a social worker desperately trying to help.

Laura is nothing like the proper, older social worker Zazz assumed he’d been communicating with via email for months. She’s young and sexy. One look at her and he’s lost. One night in her arms and he knows this is more than a road romance. But Laura has a life she loves and won’t give it up for a rock star.

Zazz’s father needs Laura’s care, so how could Zazz even consider taking her away?

Except they can’t keep their hands off each other and when they’re not heating up the sheets they’re connecting on a deeper level. But their way of life must change if they are to have a shot at forever.

British Rock Star meets Regular Jane and has loads of naughty sex. I bet those words captured your attention and while Sail to the Moon has these elements it also has so much more.

Zazz is very similar to the typical rock star. He is arrogant, gorgeous, super in the bedroom and has the voice of an angel. However in Sail to the Moon, Zazz also has issues with his father. Issue that are actually realistic and go beyond the stereotypical abuse a lot of NA authors use to make their characters emotional zombies. What sets this rock star apart from the many others I’ve read is his language. I feel in love with the verbiage Zazz used in this story that showed the author had actually done her music research. While Zazz hadn’t earned his levels, he was articulate, thoughtful and intelligent. When he acted like a complete jackass to Laura early on in the story, he was genuine in his apology and worked to get back in her good graces.

While Zazz certainly stole the show, Laura was a respectable character. She was bright, regularly attractive and displayed real emotion. Even though there was an instant connection between her and Zazz, it was believable. My intelligence wasn’t insulted.

They story is told from both Zazz and Laura’s viewpoints. It was well done. I understood the anger, loneliness and pain both characters experienced as their relationship progressed and parental issues worsened. In many stories hardships push the characters apart, in Sail to the Moon, it was refreshing to see hardships bringing couples closer-as that does happen in real life.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this story and give it 3 stars. The British dialogue was overly thick at times but there was enough hot sex, emotional connections and good dialogue for this reviewer to over look it. I also would have liked a more concrete ending. While it wasn’t a cliffhanger, it left me wanting to know Zazz and Laura’s future.

Haleigh’s Ink by Jennifer Kacey

INK
Haleigh’s Ink by Jennifer Kacey
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (144 pages)
Other: M/F, M/M, M/M/F, M/F/M, BDSM, Spanking, Exhibitionism, Menage
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Ink.

A word that means different things to many people. Pictures and words that might stand as a reminder of love, loss, rebellion or camaraderie. For Haleigh Grace, it means freedom.

Walking through the doors of the tattoo parlor Inkfluence marks the start of taking her life back. Making it what she wanted it to be. No one is going to tell her she couldn’t. Not ever again.

Little did she know that behind those doors stood Kyle Muse. He was her best friend, but he’d walked away years ago without a backward glance. The one man she fantasized would someday be her knight in shining armor, the one she saved herself for.

But he has a knight of his own. Tall, dark and dangerously sexy Scott Preston. The owner of the very shop Haleigh has an appointment with at midnight.

Feelings long buried rise to the surface and the three find themselves bound by more than just ink.

Haleigh Grace has been through a lot but is ready to move her life forward and become who she always wanted to be. One sexy tattoo artist, who also happens to be her childhood best friend and crush, along with his broody talented Dom and partner will help guide her down the path to rediscovering her inner beauty and strength.

There’s a theme in this book about butterflies that aptly represents Haleigh’s journey from who her parents want her to be and who she wants to be. Ms. Kacey does a really nice job of showing Haleigh’s growth from the beginning to the vixen with a stronger will at the end. She has good motivation for going into Inkfluence in the first place and why she wants to alter certain parts of her body.

Scott and Kyle were a good combination for each other and as Haleigh’s heroes. Scott is a Dom with a penchant for the darker side of BDSM. Haleigh comes to realize she’s a bit of a pain slut and that works well with Scott’s love of playing a little rough. Even so, it was interesting to see that this alpha was completely confident in his position.

I liked Kyle. He grew of with Haleigh in an influential family who, like Haleigh’s parents, made plans for him and didn’t appreciate it when he went a different direction. Finding Haleigh after so many years gives him the courage to come out of cocoon right along with Haleigh.

For me, for this story to be a home run I think it needed a little more connection to Haleigh and Kyle’s past together. The author does give some details and some memories discussed but I didn’t feel a connection with their past. I think if there could have been a flashback to see how they had chemistry back then, even though they didn’t act on it, I could buy all the instant sparks and nervousness when they see each other again. Scott and Haleigh have a pretty heated moment on her first visit to the shop. As far as hot scenes go, it was smoking! But it also seemed out of character for Haleigh at that point in her metamorphosis. I think it could have been a little more believable if it had happened on her second visit. There are things that happen in that scene that do move the story forward so maybe that’s why the author wrote it that way.

This author shows a lot of potential. Readers who enjoy M/M/F groupings will find plenty to get overheated about with this little novella. This story leans more toward the SM side of BDSM and that was different for me but also good. I’ll be watching for more books by this author. Readers looking for new authors to follow should check her out as well.

Dear Stranger by Suzanna Medeiros

DEAR
Dear Stranger by Suzanna Medeiros
Publisher: Totally Bound
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (50 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

At a masked ball, where no one is what they seem, a jaded rake is surprised by his reaction to the one woman he should not pursue.

During a masked ball, Sophie Crandle’s mask gives her the courage she needs to follow the man she expects to propose to her into the gardens, where she brazenly asks him for the one thing that will tell her if she can accept him—a kiss. And what a kiss it is! Her elation turns to horror, however, when she realises she is kissing the wrong man. The man who has awakened her desire is not the man who is courting her, but his brother, the Earl of Dearbourne. A notorious rake, he is more likely to ruin Sophie than provide her with the social acceptance she needs.

Richard Hearst, the Earl of Dearbourne, receives the shock of his life when he discovers the beautiful woman falling apart in his arms thinks she is kissing someone else. He is determined to claim her for himself…even if the man she is meant for is his brother.

A compact, complete story that touched my heart and steamed up my ereader!

Dear Stranger was a sweet romance with a heroine, Sophie Crandall, who was determined to both follow her heart and to do what is right. At first, it seems this will be an easy task, as she discovers she is very much attracted to the man she plans to marry when she kisses him in a dark garden one night. Only as it turns out, the man she kissed is not who she believed and all her best laid plans go awry.

I loved following Sophie as she struggled with difficult decisions. She has an aunt who is utterly unsympathetic, and an almost fiancé, Henry, who isn’t really any more interested in her than she is in him. But duty is duty, and they both try to do the right thing.

However, Henry’s brother Richard is equally determined to lead Sophie astray. This isn’t such a difficult task as Sophie is desperately attracted to him, and they embark on a secret affair.

Ms. Medeiros makes this quite believable, despite the stifling traditions of the times, as Sophie is not entirely respectable and Richard certainly isn’t. The sex scenes are well written, detailed and certainly get the blood flowing – woo hoo! – but don’t expect much beyond the vanilla. If you’re looking for kink, you won’t find it here, but if you want an adorable couple, who fall sweetly in love and manage to really heat up the sheets while they do and if you enjoy a hard fought happy ending, then Dear Stranger is a good choice. Despite its few pages, it’s a very complete story with heat and heart.

Summer Wine by Jess Dee

WINE
Summer Wine by Jess Dee
Tastes of Seduction Book 1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pages)
Other: M/M/F, Menage, anal play/intercouse
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Two men, one woman, and a romantic vineyard. Summer’s never been this hot…

Tastes of Seduction, Book 1

Angus Lowe feels like he’s just stepped onto the set of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous. He’s checking out a luxurious boutique hotel and winery, lured by the possibility of landscaping the gardens. And he’s crazy mad about the woman giving him the tour.

Problem is, Lily Hemington is way out of his league. Not only does she live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, she is also crazy mad about the owner of the hotel, Blake Seymour.

Issues get cloudier—or could that be steamier?—when Angus meets Blake. It’s clear Blake has deep feelings for Lily, but it’s also obvious he can’t take his eyes off Angus. While Angus doesn’t find this at all unpleasant, he’s painfully aware Lily and Blake are perfect for each other, and that he doesn’t belong in their perfect world.

Now it’s up to Lily and Blake to convince Angus the only world that counts is the one they all create together.

Love, like a good wine, comes in so many varieties and flavors. Some are bold, while others are subtle. Some tasters may prefer one over the other and some like a little bit of both. Angus, Lily and Blake’s story is like a lovely sampling of wine and when combined the whole effect was heady and delicious.

Angus is a blue collar man, used to working long days with his hands literally in the dirt. He’s an uber talented landscaper who’s more comfortable with a cold beer than an aromatic wine bouquet. Until he meets Lily. Angus is such a sweetheart, I couldn’t help but fall in love with him right along with Lily and Blake. He’s honest and real. The way Ms. Dee describes him from both Lily and Blake’s POV made him just as mouth watering to me and he was to them.

Lily is everything that is bright, sparkly and sweet about the wine she loves. She comes from money but it isn’t who she is. She’s talented and very perceptive which goes a long way towards moving what might have only ever been a duo into a solid chance as a trio. She’s spunky and very passionate.

Blake is the third piece of this triangle. He’s crazy wealthy but like Lily, the money doesn’t define him. He’s long denied his love for Lily and I liked the author’s explanation for why. The scenes with him and Angus are supremely hot as I know, from experience, that Jess Dee can write. She doesn’t disappoint.

This is a short story. It’s perfect for an erotic fix and like a nice glass of wine, it’s just enough. I’d love to have seen the time just before the story begins to watch the tension really build between Angus and Lily; going back to when they first met. But, it didn’t ruin the story for me for not having read that part. Ms. Dee does a great job of sprinkling in the tension with touch and tastes samples.

I read it in a single sitting and look forward to the next installment. I hope she keeps with the MMF theme in the next one as well. If you’re short on time but want a satisfying taste of something that’s hot, sweet and savory at the same time, check out Summer Wine.

The Claiming by Sam Crescent

CLAIMING
The Claiming by Sam Crescent
The Pack Claims a Mate 1
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (31 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M/M/M/M/M Ménage, Forced Seduction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The laws of the moon state each alpha must pick a mate before the age of thirty-five. If no mate has been chosen for the alpha and his pack then the beast takes control for eternity.

Tom has one year to find a woman, claim her, and bind her to his pack. His brothers do not believe in the curse but he does. Time is literally running out. With each passing moon he feels the control of his wolf growing stronger. He needs to find the woman destined for his pack.

Kitty Evans has been dealt a bad hand. After her mother died swallowing up what little money she had, Kitty has been living from place to place, never settling down.

After one brief encounter, Kitty is bound to men who could be her salvation. Can she really give herself to six men?

Suspend your logic and engage your senses with some fantasy and this story can be interesting. Certainly it can be titillating because what woman wouldn’t want to be worshiped by six adoring men? It’s not exactly easy when the heart is involved.

This is a short shot story about a courtship. It’s unique because there are no flowers or sweet words to pave the way. Tom is the alpha and his human half is going to disappear forever if he doesn’t get things right. I found the brothers’ dilemma interesting and the author was able to convey the almost panicked frame of mind of the alpha. And, typical man that he is, he wasn’t going to let the heroine get away. Tom needs a woman’s calming influence because what he did would have had me cuffing him aside the head for his bone headedness. But, he got the job done.

Kitty’s emotions are clear enough. She’s been dealing with the lemons life has thrown her. Now she can forget about making the lemonade and go right for the steak, caviar and chocolate ice cream because life is about to get very sweet and exciting. All she needs to do is accept this change in her fortune. And she does. It’s her reaction that has me suspending my logic and believability. I had to if I wanted to enjoy this little snippet into the beginning of a very convoluted courtship. There is no way a normal red-blooded American woman would tolerate being manhandled the way she was only to allow being manhandled later for much better and spicier reasons. I understand the constraints put upon an author when it comes to writing a short piece but I really didn’t believe anyone would or could turn around and accept the situation as fast as Kitty does. Saying she’s afraid didn’t make me believe it, there wasn’t enough there to convince me.

Even so, the sensual promise is there. The sexy undercurrents are potent and the small amount of emotional drama allowed did make the story enjoyable and it does make me glad that Kitty is willing to give things a whirl, eventually. The editing is clean, the dialogue flowed well and each personality stood out as an individual.

The Claiming is the stuff of erotic fantasies. As this is the first book in the series, I expect the next ones will be even more sexy and exciting because the courtship is done and fun can now begin. This tale teased this reader’s curiosity, which if that was its intent, did it well.

Winter Craving by Marisa Chenery

CRAVING
Winter Craving by Marisa Chenery
Canyon Creek Wolves Book Two
Publisher: Forever More Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (54 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

Mate branded and in need of finding his mate, Cyrus had no clue the woman lost in a winter storm he’d volunteered to look for would be his one and only. He’d planned to go wolf and use her scent to locate her, but one sniff and his body came to life, declaring her as his mate. Now he must find her before the snow claims her and she’s lost to him.

Shyla knew she’d messed up after becoming hopelessly lost in the storm raging around her. Though waking up naked in the arms of her hunky rescuer as he tried to warm her up, suddenly turned her bad luck into good. Craving more than his body heat, she can’t help acting on the feelings he stirs inside her.

As a wolf shifter, Cyrus only has so long to claim Shyla as his or lose the human half of himself. As their new relationship spirals out of control, he may yet face the ultimate price.

Having read Wild Craving, the first book in this Canyon Creek Wolves series, I was eager to read this one too. It didn’t disappoint me in any way, and in fact, I liked it even more than the first story.

The opening pulled me in immediately. A woman lost in the snow in the Montana Wilderness and Cyrus, brother number two of the Canyon Creek Wolves, offering to go look for her. He’s a likeable character and in a way, came across as a lot more vulnerable than his older sibling in book one.

I was hoping to see more of the other brothers in this book and Ms. Chenery didn’t disappoint. They show up and get involved in their usual antics which adds to some comic relief.

Just like the first book, there’s sexual tension and a build up to the first sex scene. Shyla is also a likeable character but you know things aren’t going to go smoothly once she finds out that the hunk she’s fallen big time for, is a wolf shape shifter.

The dark moment, was just that and like Cyrus’ dad suggests that he go after his mate, I found myself willing Cyrus to do just that. I won’t give away the ending, although I can assure you it’s a happy one.

Now I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the series.

If you like wolf shape shifter stories and don’t have time for a full length novel, I think you’ll enjoy this series.

Daring Miss December by Maggie Wells

DECEMBER
Daring Miss December by Maggie Wells
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (76 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It’s never too late to learn the truth about love…if you dare.

Straight-laced hospital administrator Oliver Watkins has the heart of a rebel.

Coming of age in the freewheeling seventies meant that Oliver’s rebellion manifested itself in always doing precisely what he was expected to do.

With his wife gone and his daughter grown, the survival of St. Blaise Regional Medical Center has become his main focus in life. That is, until the results of a routine blood test give him the nudge he needs to indulge in forbidden fruit.

Dietician Anne Silverstein has enjoyed a smorgasbord of experiences, but none shaped her life more dramatically than finding a lump in her breast at the ripe old age of twenty-six. In the years since she triumphed over death, Anne has learned to embrace life by taking each new day as it comes.

When Ollie Watkins, stumbles into her office looking for more than a few tips on lowering his cholesterol, throwing caution to the wind is a no-brainer for free-spirited Anne. But the home remedies Anne and Oliver cook up together leave them both ravenous for more. Suddenly one finds one day at a time is not enough and the other fears it’s way too much.

Dr. Oliver Watkins can’t stop glancing at his watch, wishing away the hours until 2pm arrives. For it’s after two that Anne Silverstein – the small hospital’s part time dietician – starts work. Oliver had worked up the courage to consult with Anne, but decades of being a straight-arrow, and a perfect, pristine gentleman just like his late wife desired him to be couldn’t come crumbling down all at once. Oliver had a battery of tests run and discovered his cholesterol was slightly above the average. Using this thin excuse, he sets himself purposely in Anne’s path, hoping to get to know her better and start a relationship with her. Even though they are carrying hurts from the past, the sizzling attraction can’t be denied, and all too soon Anne wonders just how two such different people can build a future together.

I loved the concept of a nudie calendar to link together all the characters. Miss December is a firecracker. Long past her first blush of youth, Anne is a saucy, no holds barred character that just leapt off the page at me. Comfortable in her own skin, proud of her wrinkles, extra pounds of flesh and grey hair, Anne is a woman who knows herself and knows exactly what she wants. Although she’s fantasised about Oliver, he’s never given her the slightest inclination that he’s interested. So when she sees through his platonic request for a consultation things get heated very quickly. The author does an awesome job of making Oliver and Anne three dimensional characters. They’re not just cookie cut outs, or a doctor and a dietician with a few quirks thrown in. I feel like the author really spent time and effort to flesh them both out. We learn a lot about Oliver and his history, on how he became the man he is now. And the same thing is done with Anne. They’re well drawn characters with complex personalities and their own set of baggage. Yet I still found their coming together romantic, funny and hot, it was a delightful mixture of realistic and romantic fun.

I also really enjoyed how neither Anne nor Oliver are the traditional twenty or thirty something characters. It’s refreshing to read about middle-aged heroes and heroines, about how love can come a second time around to people. And while Anne might not be swinging from the chandeliers and Oliver mightn’t be going six times in a row each night – they can certainly still get hot and dirty, steamy and expressive in their sex! Both Anne and Oliver have issues from their past, and together they work them through. While there isn’t much plot outside their characters, coming together and working on their relationship, this is a heartwarming story with a healthy dose of sizzling sex.

I found the erotic scenes tastefully written, something I’d share with good friends and maybe even female relatives. There’s nothing outside the box, nothing to hide or blush over reading – though the scenes are graphic in nature. I would have enjoyed a bit more plot, but for a character-based, erotic book I felt this ticked most of the boxes for me. I’m pleased to have read a number of this series and can strongly recommend both the author and this calendar based series.

Alpha’s Claim ManLove Edition by Tyler Robins, Avril Ashton, Pelaam, Nikka Michaels, JC Holly, Lucy Felthouse, Karly Germain, Eileen Griffin, Tamsin Baker, Giselle Renarde

ALPHA
Alpha’s Claim ManLove Edition by Tyler Robins, Avril Ashton, Pelaam, Nikka Michaels, JC Holly, Lucy Felthouse, Karly Germain, Eileen Griffin, Tamsin Baker, Giselle Renarde
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Length: Full Length (232 pgs)
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Bittersweet

Strength. Power. Domination.

The shifters in our Alpha’s Claim: Manlove Edition anthology have one thing in common—they won’t take “no” for an answer. Whether they lead packs of their own, or whether they walk a solitary path, these alphas won’t let anyone stop them from claiming their men.

Lose yourself in these ten sinfully delicious love stories. After all, who could deny an Alpha’s claim?

The Alpha’s Claim Anthology from Evernight Publishing was a pleasing, yet not terribly meaningful read. Personally, I like anthology stories that offer an ending and not a to be continued ending, unfortunately, some of the stories in Alpha’s Claim ManLove Edition had open endings. One thing is certain, however, most of the alphas in this antho were hard core. The sex was sizzling, even though there are several stories that include men ejaculating in their partners faces, something of which I am not particularly fond of but does not distract from the overall value of the story.

The Becoming by Tyler Robbins: One of the best stories in the anthology. Ms. Robbins is a seasoned mm author who knows how to describe things very clearly and drew me right into the story with her characters, Josh and Braden. It was an emotionally romantic and scorching read.

Bite Harder by Avril Ashton: The second best story in this anthology. The reluctant partners and rough sex was incredibly hot. The characters were fascinating and I’m glad I’d already read the M/F edition of the anthology to find out what happened to Rory’s cousin (not a prerequisite in any way to read this story). Unfortunately, there were quite a few distracting editing mistakes throughout.

Bad Moon Rising by Pelaam: Most romance stories have an element of predictably but this story was, I’m afraid, terribly clichéd. I knew what was going to happen and almost what the characters were going to say. The ending was inconclusive and extremely unsatisfying. I found this to be a shame because Ms. Pelaam’s original pair of a bear and a lynx was unusual and very promising.

Waking up Wolf by Nikka Michaels: As an animal lover I loved the idea Ms. Michaels introduced in this story about humans not understanding that animals could talk because we don’t listen. The story was incredibly sweet even though it was placed in a sort of post-apocalyptic world full of dangers.

Laid Claim by JC Holly: Craig was one of my favorite alphas. He’s extremely direct and just plain demanding. He’s a shifter that knows what he wants and doesn’t think twice about showing you/telling you. I loved the way the characters met and came together. The sex between the characters was well described and the emotional journey they made, though short was also present. I think this might be the third best story in the antho.

Out in the Cold by Lucy Felthouse: Intriguing from the beginning, I couldn’t stop turning pages. It’s barely the beginning of the relationship but Ms. Felthouse left me deeply satisfied at the end.

His Great Dane by Karly Germain: I liked this story by Ms. Germain because of the unique shifters in it. It was a sweet story, with some extremely intense moment, some dangers and of course, some steamy scenes.

Claiming Ayden by Eileen Griffin: Very interesting back story with a fight for survival amid the desperation for Thane to claim Ayden. Very well written.

One Mate by Tamsin Baker: A nice sexy story with two lovely characters, Lucas and Jasper.

Be the Boss by Giselle Renarde: This is the strangest story in the group. Ms. Renarde describes the characters emotions and the difficulty their relationship is going through in a marvelous way. I truly felt the lead characters, Markus’s anguish. The story itself was nice and well written but it was so bizarre I’m still trying to make something out of it.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in this anthology.  It was a great introduction to some new-to-me authors and a hot way to spend a few hours.

Mistress of Merrivale by Shelley Munro

MISTRESS
Mistress of Merrivale by Shelley Munro
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (265 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

A marriage of convenience…full of inconvenient secrets.

Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.

Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.

Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.

As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…

Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?

Jocelyn and Leo’s story is riveting from beginning to end. Not only does it have an enchanting love story, but the budding relationship is surrounded with mystery, murder, complicated in-laws, and conspiracy. This story truly has something for everyone and I just could not get enough of it.

Jocelyn’s background can be considered sketchy at best, but if you pull back the layers you see a woman who is a victim of circumstance trying to do the best for herself and her mother. Jocelyn took on the role of caretaker to her ailing mother at a young age, no matter the consequences to herself. This immediately made her character endearing to me. I can say that I wanted her to have a happy ending from beginning to end, and sometimes questioned if Leo was capable of giving that to her.

Leo is a man of mystery to say the least. His deceased wife met with an untimely death leaving him the sole caretaker for their daughter, and trying to find a suitable replacement. Jocelyn seemed to be a wife of convenience for him, since she had some of the traits his previous wife lacked such as discretion and loyalty. The author wrote his character as one of mystery in many ways and I never quite knew if Leo was the hero or the enemy. I found this entertaining and definitely added depth to the story. Even in the end I found myself questioning his integrity. One thing I did not question, however was his feelings towards Jocelyn. I could immediately tell he was smitten by her, even if he did not recognize his developing feelings towards her. This made me want him to be the good hearted man he tried to appear to be, because I knew if he was, he would be the man to care for sweet (but not so innocent) Jocelyn, which she needed and deserved.

This plot had more twists and turns than a windy road in the middle of the night. I can honestly say that the author surprised me with some of the angles of the story. This kept me enthralled the entire time, and wanting to find out more and more. I am new to author Shelley Munro’s work, but I can say that after reading this story, I would love to read more.