February Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Pleasures of Passion: The Sinful Suitors Series by Sabrina Jeffries

The Pleasures of Passion: The Sinful Suitors Series by Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (387 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

When Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave, is forced to flee after killing a man in a duel, he expects his secret love, Brilliana Trevor, to go with him, or at the very least wait for him. To his shock, she does neither and sends him off with no promise for the future. Seven years and one pardon later, Niall returns to England disillusioned and cynical. And being blackmailed by the government into working with his former love to help catch a counterfeiter connected to her father doesn’t improve his mood any. But as his role as Brilliana’s fake fiancé brings his long-buried feelings to the surface once again, he wonders who is more dangerous—the counterfeiter or the woman rapidly stealing his heart.

Forced to marry another man after Niall was exiled, the now widowed Brilliana wants nothing to do with the reckless rogue who she believes abandoned her to a dreary, loveless life. So having to rely on him to save her father is the last thing she wants, much less trusts him with….But as their scheme strips away the lies and secrets of their shared past, can she let go of the old hurt and put her pride aside? Or will the pleasures of their renewed passion finally enable them both to rediscover love?


January Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae

Heart and Dagger by Holland Rae
The Ships in the Night Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (174 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Lady Charlotte Talbot hasn’t seen Armand Rajaram de Bourbon, her oldest childhood friend and once betrothed, since his family returned to India when she was fifteen. Since then, she has left a groom at the altar, changed her name to Catalina Sol, opened a house for unwed mothers and orphans, and captained a ship, the Liberté, crewed by the best fighters in the Spanish Main. She’s no longer the lady he left behind, not that she’d admit to wishing he’d return.

When Armand’s brother is kidnapped, he breaks his rule of never engaging with pirates. But desperation drives him to the Liberté and a life he thought he’d left far behind. He’d do anything to save Henri, but Armand never expected to find Charlotte here, and now that’s he’s found her, he doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.

Together, they must face kidnapping, pirate captains, blackmail, and themselves. The Liberté may sail thousands of miles from the shores of England, but that might not be far enough to escape the past.


Grand Opening 2 by Carl Weber

Grand Opening 2 by Carl Weber
Publisher: Urban Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

The year is 1978, the Duncan brothers and their tough-as-nails women have vanquished their rivals and taken their place as the leaders of Waycross, Georgia’s criminal enterprises. However, their rise to power has not gone unnoticed, and the family is rocked when their mother, Ms. Bettie, is kidnapped and her body is found in a swamp.

No one knows who the killers are, but instead of drawing closer, the family is split when their grief-stricken leader, LC, is offered membership in the South’s most powerful black organization, the Council. Membership has its privileges, but they do not include his brothers. LC packs up his growing family and moves to Atlanta to open his first car dealership.

Unable to deal with his mother’s death, Lou Duncan searches for her killers with the help of an unlikely ally—LC’s ex-fiancée. Her presence may cost him his relationship with his brothers, but Lou is resigned to that fact because Donna’s help is instrumental in finding Ms. Bettie’s abductors. What he will soon learn is that his search for the truth will also lead him to discover a long-buried Duncan family secret.

I love the Duncan clan!

The characters are so real and each has their own personality and brings something interesting to the story. The writing is so well crafted that each individual’s personality makes the character seem so alive it’s as if they are interacting with the reader. The oldest Lou, Levi the big guy but a gentle teddy bear, unpredictable Larry and LC the brains of the brothers…I loved them all.

The author never disappoints and always delivers a plot that is entertaining and keeps me wanting more. This title was just as good as the previous titles. Reading about the beginning of the family helps the reader to understand and get to know the characters in depth for the stories that follow. The plot and the story line is consistent. There are a few typos in the beginning but to be honest after the kidnapping I didn’t notice if there were any typos because my focus was more on the actions in the book.

The plot is interesting all the way around. The suspense of who took the Duncan’s mom and what is the deal behind The Council made this an awesome read. The Duncans are family men and brothers that stick together through it all. They are strong men that marry and have strong women by their side. I look forward to reading more about the Duncan family.

I enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend for readers that enjoy interesting suspense reads.

A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake

A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full length (464 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Cholla

After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture—and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt—the subject of her mother’s own research.

Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves.

Kate’s attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.

A woman on the run from her future runs straight into a past that she hadn’t been expecting. Kate is fleeing the loss of her mother and searching out secrets that were kept from her. However, when she meets a little boy one morning, her world is turned upside down and the secrets kept for so long are about to come unraveled.

Time is a fluid thing and A Tangled Mercy proves this as the story weaves between the past and the present. Written in chapters alternating between present day Charleston, South Carolina and the same city in 1822, a terrible and beautiful story unfolds, bringing the two timelines together. At first, I was so confused, not able to understand how any of it might connect. However, the author is a master at dropping hints and giving clues that you don’t even realize you’ve picked up until it all comes together.

I loved Kate from the very beginning. It’s hard not to like her. She’s smart, she’s sweet, and she’s completely devoted to her family. Losing her mother shakes her world to its foundations and in a way, I think it brings her to herself. Her interactions with Gabe are the sweetest and most fun parts of the story.

Tom Russell’s story is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, this half of the story isn’t anything new or surprising as our history is filled with many such sad tales. However, I hadn’t ever heard about the failed slave revolt that the historical half of this novel focuses around. For me, it was interesting to learn about it in such a first-hand sort of way.

A Tangled Mercy is an informative and enjoyable trip through Charleston, South Carolina. The author paints an amazing picture of both timelines and doesn’t shy away from the less appealing parts of the narrative. The racism and horrors of life are equally represented in both timelines, making it an evocative and haunting story.

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (405 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Can you hide a secret with the whole world watching?

When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

The title of this book pulled me in. . . I had a feeling it would be suspenseful, and this one was.

One thing I’ll warn you about straight away is that its narration can be initially jarring. It’s a mix of first person, third person, and interview transcripts. It sort of threw me off at first but the more I read on, the more I understood why the author had chosen this format for the story.

All three women in this story are interesting characters. Cecily is the one you identify with the most because it’s through her first person narration the story begins and mainly continues. Did that make me like her more? I think so and as the story unfolds you realize she’s the real victim in the story but then the author makes you wonder… is she? I won’t give away the ending but let me just say it picked up tempo and intrigue as the tale unfolded. We get a clear picture of what secrets each women is hiding and how the three lives slowly mesh together.

I thought the dialogue was natural sounding and the pacing perfect. The last third of the story really flies by as all lives and backstories begin to merge. It’s also a story that gets you thinking about what you’d do if faced in similar circumstances. Is it ever a good idea to hide things from loved ones or to run away from things we’re not happy about?

It’s a fun read and if you like suspense and secrets in your stories then this is definitely one to check out.

Black Gold by Augustine Sam

Black Gold by Augustine Sam
Publisher: Authorsuite Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (156 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

They are young and carefree and broke. But one multinational company will alter their fate…

Femi and Jessica, a lowly interracial couple with 1st Class degrees in Chemistry and Economics, land two spectacular job offers within the first week of graduation. A free trip to New York to assess the first offer transforms their bleak honeymoon into a dream.

What they don’t know is that undisclosed details of the deal will pitch them against each other and drag them to the place where dreams end and nightmares begin.

Will their fragile marriage survive the greed, the captivating allure of Black Gold, and that vile, ancient tradition that seeks to determine who should be married and to whom?

The world of oil is more than just money and politics.

Femi and his wife, Jessica, are new college graduates on their honeymoon when Femi is presented with two amazing job offers in his field of chemistry. Both positions offer him the world, but both positions come with strings attached. The downside is that both positions will try his own ethics and perception of his world.

Black Gold is an interesting take from the inside of the oil industry. The author, Augustine Sam, brings deep research and insight into the world of Black Gold. He also overlays the social and societal perceptions of the relationship between Femi and Jessica as well as the cultural background which has deep undertones within the oil negotiations.

While the story has a believable plot, backstory, and great research; I feel that there could have been much more description and stronger dialogue throughout the story. Several parts of the story felt rushed, as through the author was interested in the direction of the story, but felt that the current section of the story was not as important to the overall development. One such event is Femi’s homecoming which almost feels out of place and not central to the overall storyline.

Overall the editing was clean and the central plot was strong. While description could have been more in depth and the dialogue more interactive, the suspense and twists throughout the entire book are riveting. The politics involved and the set-ups between two powers in the oil world make the central plot more explosive and entertaining. The story was fun and an interesting take into the world which few are truly privy to.

If you are looking for an interesting read that will give you a different perspective on the oil industry; make sure you don’t miss Black Gold!

The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: Full Length (362 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family.

I’ve never read a Catherine Ryan Hyde book I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and this one was no exception.

What I like most about this author’s stories is she lets you connect with the characters from page one, you feel for them, you cheer them on, and the lead character, Aiden, made me feel that way. The other characters are just as well created but it’s Aiden that you feel yourself empathizing with the most as he struggles with his new found ‘gift’, that of feeling others pain. Well, not just humans but animals too which isn’t a good thing for a man who’s a cattle rancher.

This story is a page turner and not just because of its plot but it you feel the essential emotional pull that makes you want to read more and read on to see how Aiden’s new life evolves. Another interesting character in this story is Milo, the young son of Aiden’s new love interest. Milo’s got his own issues, his own pain from the past and it’s all brought out beautifully when he and Aiden start to interact and gradually begin the healing process.

The dialogue is wonderful and the pacing spot on for a book of this length. I don’t think I’ve ever read any book by Ms. Hyde that hasn’t left me a bit teary eyed. You might not have experienced the same thing as the characters, but you, like Aiden in this story, can feel what they’re going through which for me is the trademark of a book that lives on in your heart.

This is a story I highly recommend for your winter reading list.

Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey

Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey
Publisher: Crimson Cloak
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (486 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Annie Caslo is a successful, young doctor, but when she begins rethinking the career choices she’s made, she makes a decision to find a way to stay focused and achieve her true ambitions – that is until fate steps in and she is thunderstruck by Colt Ballard. He’s six foot three inches of heart-stopping hotness, an adept, roguish soccer star and also one of her interns. But he’s a player – on and off the field – and Annie has better things to do. Still, the combustible chemistry between them is impossible to resist – Colt brings out feelings she never knew existed and Annie’s swept off her reluctant feet.

When she continues to second-guess her life choices, opportunities and obstacles begin piling up higher than the greasy Mexican food stacks she hates to admit loving. While in a state of emotional turmoil, she gets a celestial visit from a hunky, Hollywood heartthrob, lookalike, who claims to be her guardian angel. He takes her on a magical road trip to self-discovery with the help of several, dearly departed film icons.

Drawn into the excitement of a life she’s always dreamed of, this new life threatens to shatter the LIFE and love she already has—unless her quirky angel can help her find a way to have it all.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.” Annie Caslo became a doctor because that’s what her parents wanted for her, but she wanted to be an actress.  She was offered a job she could not turn down, but made the decision to only stay there a year, then follow her own dream.  Her plans are derailed when she meets Colt, and her life takes a very different plan than she envisioned.

The story is told from several points of view (including forays into Annie’s childhood).  While this helps explain what everyone is feeling (it was amusing seeing, at the beginning, Colt and Annie’s different views of the same incident in the coffee shop), it also prevented this reader from really connecting with Annie as much as I would have liked to.  I would have enjoyed being able to “feel” more of what Annie felt.  As it was, the many POV shifts never allowed me to completely immerse myself into the story.

The writing itself was clean with no grammatical issues.  Looking at it with an editor’s eye, there were areas that could have been tightened up more, but that is more of a personal issue on my part.

If you are a lover of classic movies, like I am, you will love all the references and quotes this author uses — it’s worth reading the book just for those!!  3.5 stars.

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full length (331 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Tabitha Brewer wakes up one morning to find her husband gone, leaving her no way to support herself and their two children, never mind their upscale Philadelphia lifestyle. She’d confess her situation to her friends—if it wasn’t for those dreadful words of warning in his goodbye note: “I’ll tell them what you did.”

Instead, she does her best to keep up appearances, even as months pass and she can barely put food on the table—much less replace a light bulb. While she looks for a job, she lives in fear that someone will see her stuffing toilet paper into her handbag or pinching basil from a neighbor’s window box.

Soon, blindsided by catastrophe, surprised by romance, and stunned by the kindness of a stranger, Tabitha realizes she can’t keep her secrets forever. Sooner or later, someone is bound to figure out that her life is far from perfect.

I’ll start by saying I really enjoyed this book. I liked Tabitha, the main character, from the beginning, and who wouldn’t? She’s now a single mom to two children because her husband’s suddenly disappeared, leaving her with a once lavish lifestyle and no way to pay for it. She can’t ask for help or let anyone know about her predicament because he’s left a note that concludes with a threat about telling people what she did. But what exactly did she do? Tabitha like many of us feels she’s done one too many things and feels the guilt.

The story pulled me in immediately and I liked the way the author made Tabitha a sympathetic character by opening with Tabitha taking things for them to eat but keeping tabs on what she’d need to pay back once she got a job.

It’s a believable story and I think that’s what made it work, well at least for me. The dialogue is natural sounding and the pacing spot on for an enjoyable read.

I also enjoyed the bigger question the story asks and that is can anyone be truly perfect and do the little imperfections in our lives really prevent us from being perfect?

If you like women’s fiction with some believable characters and interesting conflict, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.

Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.
Publisher: Legacy Books LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?

This book is basically the story of two different men, Ben and Bill, in the same law firm—both in the running to become a partner and both being handed two very difficult cases to handle as a test of their abilities.

Ben is from an affluent black family and has grown up being called an “oreo” (black on the outside, but white on the inside). His girlfriend, Becky, is a white woman while his best friend, Gabby, a black woman, has her own issues, especially about Ben dating “away from his own kind.”

Bill, on the other hand, is a white man who grew up the only white child in a black neighborhood. He’s dating Ebony, a black police officer. Because of Bill’s background, he often uses slang and expressions from his neighborhood – Ben has issues with this, feeling that Bill is trying to just put on a black skin.

Black and White does an excellent job exploring prejudice and racism – it is so very much prevalent in this story. Not one person escapes it – Bill probably comes the closest to being color-blind in this respect. He is caught in a tough situation. Not only does he want to become partner so he can propose to Ebony and provide for her, his mother is desperately ill—he wants to take care of her. He is chosen to defend a white ballplayer who is accused of raping a black stripper.

The focus of the story is on the law cases and how the lawyers approach them as well as how the cases effect not only the lawyers but those close to them.

There were a couple of quibbles with this book that irritated me and kept the review from being a solid 5. The editor in me cringed every time the author turned black and white into proper adjectives, i.e. (from the blurb) ” When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations.” Also, there were a few instances in the story where the main characters had flashbacks to their lives as kids. I understand that the author wanted to show how they got to be the people they are today, but to this reader the long passages of flashback took me out of the story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but there was also an incident during Ben and Becky’s dinner with her parents and their friends that didn’t quite ring true to me… I was completely and utterly blindsided by Ben’s actions in that instance.

Apart from those few things, I really enjoyed the storyline and the way the court cases worked out. Bill was by far my favorite character in this book. He’s the one that seemed the most sincere to me. I could definitely could see this as a movie … actually given the ending, it would make a very neat series.