The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke


The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

Marriage isn’t ever easy, but it’s worth all the ups and downs along the way. At least, that’s what Jacks had always believed. However, when two police officers arrive on her doorstep to tell her her husband has died in a place he never should have been, she begins to question everything she once knew. What do you do when your world is turned on its ear? Do you curl into a ball and ignore it or do you dig until you find the answers you need?

Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales is my kind of woman. Despite the fact that her in-laws don’t much like her, she carries on with her marriage. Although she does try to thaw her mother-in-law’s icy demeanor, she doesn’t become obsessed with it either. Her relationship with her sister is the best though, and Beth’s love and support are amazing.

Nick Ford is every woman’s dream. Smart, handsome and a firefighter to boot. Despite losing his fiancée to another man and then – eventually – to death, he perseveres. I was wary of his idea to trek all the way to Hawaii to find out the truth of what happened to Dylan and James, but once they were there, I was fully on board. It didn’t surprise me to find Nick and Jacks drawn to one another after their mutual tragedy, but I wasn’t sure I liked it a whole lot either.

You learn a lot more about Dylan Matthews, the woman James Morales is seeing on the side, than you do about James, but that’s okay, too. I think seeing Dylan’s side of the whole story helps you understand exactly why she did what she did. Not that it makes her infidelity right, but it does make it more plausible. I wish we could have gotten a chapter or two from James’ point of view, if only to help the reader reconcile the things that Jacks wouldn’t ever know.

The Good Widow hooked me from the blurb. I didn’t even have to crack the book to know that I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong. I had the hardest time putting this book down because my need to know the truth was so strong. Then, the authors threw a twist in there that maybe I should have seen coming but, like that big truck late at night, it completely blindsided me. I felt a lot of kinship and sympathy for Jacks, although I’ve never been in her situation before. By the end, I was also firmly on Dylan’s side because, as her story unfolds, you get to know the real girl behind the face of the mistress. Engaging, intense, and full of surprises, The Good Widow was an excellent read.

A Match Made in Texas by Margaret Brownley


A Match Made in Texas by Margaret Brownley
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (369 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Welcome to Two-Time Texas:
Where tempers burn hot
Love runs deep
And a single woman can change the course of history:
There’s a new sheriff in town.

Amanda Lockwood gets more than she bargained for when she’s elected Two-Time Texas’s first female sheriff. Anxious to prove herself, she sets out to stop crime in its tracks—taking down wanted man Rick Barrett in the process. But there’s something special about the charming outlaw. Common sense says he must be guilty…but her heart keeps telling her otherwise.

So what’s a sheriff to do? Gather an all-female posse and ride to save the day.

Things sure don’t look good for Rick. If he doesn’t convince the pretty sheriff to let him go, he’ll soon be pushing up daisies. But his plan to woo her to his side backfires when he’s the one who falls head over heels. Now he must choose between freedom or saving the woman he loves…and the clock is ticking.

Who knew A Match Made in Texas could be such sweet, clean, madcap fun?

She’s a young, independent woman. She’s fighting for women’s right to vote and has been in jail a few times. She’s not interested in marrying. She’s also her parent’s despair…

She’s traveling back home on the stage and the driver is running the team like a demon. She cusses him out, he throws her and her baggage off the stage and leaves her in the middle of nowhere. This is not a good start at getting back home. When a cowboy pulls up in his wagon and offers her a ride, she’s not sure she trusts him. However, there’s no other way to town because she can’t pull her hope chest all that way. She says yes.

This was a very cute story with danger, robberies, a house burning down and a sudden interest on Amanda’s part with this particular cowboy. She decides to forget him but she can’t. It gets even worse when she says she’ll run for Sheriff to further support women’s rights. The men protest but they can’t stop her. It’s even worse when she gets the most votes.

The story moves well, the snappy conversation between Amanda and Rick will make you laugh, and her deputy is a joke but she does her best. Rick even tells the men that she hit what she was aiming at chest level. He didn’t mention it was her hope chest.

When Rick gets thrown in jail for murder, it really makes her worry. How can she prove he didn’t do it without witnesses? Luckily she has a woman posse (which all the men are mad about) who can help her. There’s no way not to enjoy a book where the Sheriff can’t shoot straight, her deputy wants to shoot everyone, and her posse runs around in carriages. Enough silly stuff happens to make it a fun read and it ends well. This was a very enjoyable read.

Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell


Two Heads Are Deader Than One by Elena Hartwell
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Private Investigator Eddie Shoes is enjoying a rare period of calm. She’s less lonely now that Chava, her card-counting mom from Vegas, is sharing her home. She also has a new companion, Franklin, a giant dog of curious ancestry.
Hoping for a lucrative new case, Eddie instead finds herself taking on a less promising client: her best friend from her childhood in Spokane. Dakota has turned up in Bellingham in jail, where she is being held on a weapons charge. Eddie reluctantly agrees not only to lend her friend money for bail but to also investigate who is stalking her. Soon after Dakota is freed, she disappears again, leaving Eddie to answer to the local cops, including her ex-boyfriend Chance Parker. Has Dakota been kidnapped? If not, why did she jump bail? What are Eddie’s business cards doing on the bodies of two murder victims?

The key to these mysteries lies in Dakota and Eddie’s shared history, which ended when Eddie left home after high school. As a person of interest in both murder cases, Eddie is forced to go in search of the truth, digging into the past and facing her own demons.

She wasn’t going to answer the phone but then she heard a voice from her past…

This is the second book in the Eddie Shoe mystery series. Book one was a good read and this one is also. The stories move quickly, there’s always danger, moments that make you laugh, and you worry about Eddie. She’s a good PI but she’s not real careful about her own safety. The author has her sticking her nose out a little further than necessary but it sure makes for a fun read.

The woman calling her was her best friend in high school. She’s in jail in her town and wants some help with bail money. Dakota manages to make her feel guilty so she goes down and gets her out. But then Dakota goes to ground and she can’t find her. She’s also not answering her cellphone. When she starts to check out her story, nothing she’s told her is true. Even worse, when she opens the door across the hall where it said they had tarot card readings but ran a prostitution ring, she finds a dead man.

The cops have a dead body and lots of blood in another part of the room. But the dead man didn’t bleed. Whose blood was it?

Eddie keeps digging. She even goes back to Spokane to search out old haunts where she and Dakota hung out. There are still secrets in Spokane and when she finds out the truth, she’ll be free from the guilt of an accident at the end of high school that took someone’s life.

It takes the whole story until the clues start going together. It’s a well thought out mystery, you meet more characters from Eddie’s life and her boyfriend is still around. Maybe in the next book they’ll get back together again. Watch for the third book. Eddie isn’t done snooping yet.

Man on the Run by Carl Weber


Man on the Run by Carl Weber
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

It was the night before his wedding, fifteen years ago, that the nightmare began for Jay Crawford–locked up for a crime he never committed. Now, he’s escaped prison and wants nothing more than to clear his name and protect his family. To get justice, he’ll need the help of the three best friends who have always had his back–Wil, Kyle and Allan. But a man on the run requires absolute trust…and Jay may just be setting himself up for the ultimate betrayal.

Jay Crawford has been locked up for ten years for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s recently escaped prison. Will he be able to clear his name as well as prevent the threat bring carried out of something bad happening to one of his children?

This book had me laughing out loud at the facial expressions and verbal conversations that took place. I could actually see the scenes in my mind as I was reading. The scene at the restaurant with Jay dressed as a lady are hilarious. The characters are from previous books by the author. Kyle Richmond is very close with Jay, and then there is Wil and Allen. Their friendship is tested during this book. At the start of the book the men didn’t seem as close but as the story unfolds and events lead to different circumstance and their brotherhood bond gets stronger.

There is suspense, sex and plenty of drama that made this a page-turner for me.

Of course it seems a little unrealistic, a man breaking out of prison and on the run needing his friends to help him for such a long period of time. What I found strange was the author didn’t give any details of how he broke out of prison. Jay Crawford broke out of prison to save his son who he thought was being threaten, but also to clear his name of being convicted of rape. Because of the title, I thought the majority of the plot would be Jay working to prove his innocence but the book consisted of each of the character’s home and work life in addition to their relationship with Jay.

As with the prior novels by the author, it is written in a good writing style, with an entertaining plot. And even though the plot itself was serious, it included humor. I enjoyed the connection between the guys. It went way beyond friendship and more along the lines of a deep brotherhood. The men exemplified true friendship by standing up, believing in and in this case risking their freedom to associate with a friend on the run from the U.S. Marshals. The bond between these four men seems to test the strength of their marriage vows. All that seems good and sturdy turns out to collapse under pressure.

The book has a surprise ending so I can’t really say there is closure. The book is open ended in leaving the story open for continuation. I would definitely make the next book a priority to read, if it is in fact a continuation.

I would recommend to readers that enjoy a fast pace read that has twists and a unpredictable ending.

Bandit by Fiona Roarke


Bandit by Fiona Roarke
Publisher: Nickel Road Publishing
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (178 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Miles Turner, a handler and operative with The Organization, a private security firm, is used to always being the man with the plan, the guy in control of everything around him. He can’t imagine any situation that would get the better of him — until he meets Sophie.
Traveling sales rep Sophie Rayburn has been burned by love before, but she’s determined not to spend Christmas Eve alone. When she spots sexy Miles at a run-down bar in a Podunk New Mexico bar, she decides he’d make the perfect gift to herself. Why shouldn’t she indulge them both with a little holiday cheer between the sheets?
Sensual sparks fly as soon as they come together, like they were made for each other, in bed and out. A kidnapping scheme, a drug scam and a dangerous mole don’t stand a chance.
Sweet, sexy Sophie is enough to make even a good man lose total control. And Miles is not good.
He’s all bad boy.

I started this book on a Saturday morning and finished it that night. It was challenging to read this book with so many chores on my “To- do” list. I’d read as much as I could before the dryer beeped. I never folded my laundry so fast! That was how my day went. My chores were done lightning fast so that I could read a few more chapters. I actually enjoyed my chores thinking about the story. The hero, Miles Turner, and the heroine, Sophie Rayburn, put a bounce in my step and a smile on my face. My husband asked me why I was in such a good mood. I replied because I’m in the middle of reading a really good book.

Honestly, “good book” doesn’t do Bandit justice. It was an excellent book! It was really difficult to put down. The suspense/mystery was riveting, and the relationship between Miles and Sophia was fast, full of passion and completely satisfying. Miles was the sexy operative that worked for a private security firm that I’d love to be rescued by. Sophia was sweet, brave and was a bit of a “TMI” (too much information) sharing kind of lady but Miles wasn’t put off by her honesty at all, which made me love them all the more.

The plot had a good mix of predictable and unpredictable story lines which kept me guessing. The pace was fast and only one of the reasons that made Bandit hard to put down. The writing style was smooth and easy to read. Fiona Roarke sure knows how to write! I felt like I could smell the smoking gun or feel the heat of the hot metal beneath my jaw. I was easily transported into the scene as it evolved – especially the love scenes. Oh boy, the love scenes; Miles was in my dreams that Saturday night! 🙂

I would most definitely recommend this book! Those who know me also know that I love books with a happily ever after and an epilogue. Epilogues to me are like a gift for delaying the end. I absolutely loved this book!

The Bucktown Babies by Janine R. Pestel


The Bucktown Babies by Janine R. Pestel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (124 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Johann Gunter, a former priest, whose sister has been taken by a demon, travels to a small farming community where there is an alarming outbreak of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Knowing this is the work of a demon, he prepares to fight the monster and, hopefully, save the town. Before he can finish his investigation, however, he finds out his cover has been blown, and an unlikely person steps up as an ally. “The Bucktown Babies” is the first book in the Father Gunter Demon Hunter series.

Sometimes the innocent suffer more than anyone else.

Johann had an sad and interesting backstory. I appreciated the fact that the narrator waited quite a while to share it with the audience. Not knowing what it was that originally drew this character into such an unusual line of work kept me curious in the beginning. Finding it out eventually was also important, though, and I’m glad that the author made sure her readers had a strong understanding of this part of his past.

This story spent a lot of time telling me what was happening instead of showing it to me. The premise was incredibly interesting, but I had a hard time getting into the plot because there weren’t enough details to draw me into the scenes. Even what should have been the most exciting sections were described so vaguely that I had trouble picturing what was happening in them and what it would be like to be standing next to Johann at those exact moments.

Why would a demon decide to prey only on babies? This question haunted me as I read. The nice thing about this part of the plot is that it was so open to interpretation. There were passages early on that supported just about all of the theories I came up with to explain why this might be so. This made me eager to push on and find out which one of them might be correct.

There were some things I didn’t understand at all about the demon. For example, Johann’s plan for getting rid of this creature was much simpler than I thought it would be based on how distressed he was at the news of the demonic infestation in the opening scene. Other scenes shared the same kind of information about the demon. It seemed contradictory to me at times, so I would have really liked to see more time spent explaining why the main character was distressed about this case.

The science fiction and mystery elements of the plot were balanced wonderfully. It actually took me a while to figure out how to classify this tale because of what a good job it did at mixing these genres together seamlessly. The mystery tag won out in the end, but only barely. This is the sort of thing that can appeal to more than one audience due to how much care it took in making sure that the storyline included the best from both of the genres it was playing around with.

I’d recommend The Bucktown Babies equally to fans of both of these genres.

April Fiction Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Highland Hope by Madelyn Hill


Highland Hope by Madelyn Hill
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (241 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

“Remember, lasses. Through Hope, Faith, and Honor, ye can rule,” were the last words Lady Hope MacAlister’s father spoke before dying. Those very words direct her every action and thought. Sword fighting and leading the men of her clan was second nature to Hope and she has little time for herself or any thoughts of love. Until Aidan MacKerry is captured spying on the clan.

She is beautiful, strong, and quick to pull a sword. But when he kisses her, all thoughts of the lairdship Aidan MacKerry seeks flee his mind. When the enemy continues to undermine Hope, Aidan is determined to aid her—only he didn’t think he’d lose his heart to the Laird of Wild Thistle Keep. When the enemy reveals Aidan’s secret, he must fight for his right to be laird and prove, despite their differences, he loves Hope.

The enemy refuses to back down and continues to threaten not only Hope, but the security of the entire clan. Only together will they be able to save the clan and save their love.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Her Dangerous Mistake by Erin M. Leaf


Her Dangerous Mistake by Erin M. Leaf
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (138 pgs)
Other: M/F, Masturbation
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Moira is on the run—her apartment has been trashed, her bank account hacked, and someone is stalking her. Only one man is dangerous enough to keep her safe … that is, if she can convince him to help her. Neil Deven used to be her father’s best friend until betrayal turned him violent. Neil disappeared, and finding him might be the biggest mistake of her life, but Moira won’t survive alone.

Neil remembers Moira as a sweet little girl caught in the middle of her father’s criminal life. The gorgeous woman who shows up at his door is anything but a child, but he’s already got problems. Dragon shifters are a dying race with no way to change form, yet Neil’s powers keep growing. And Moira stirs long lost instincts—he can’t deny her need. He must protect the woman who will be his mate, or die trying.

It’s hard to find a good dragon romance that doesn’t fall into a cliché but I’m sure glad I took a chance on Her Dangerous Mistake. I really liked the little bit of world building Ms. Leaf tucked into a contemporary timeline. In the course of the novelette I discovered where the dragons came from, what they used to be capable of and what had been lost. As with any hierarchy, there’s politics, dirty dealings, power plays and twisted agendas. All of those played well with the plot conflict.

The book opens with the heroine running for her life. She’s heading for someone who she instinctually believes will save her, someone from her past. The initial hook is solid and gripping. The author doesn’t waste any time in getting the hero and heroine together and then having them continue to run from the bad guys. Except for a few spots, the book keeps up the fast pace because the bad guys never stop hunting for Moira. Neil does his darndest to protect her but he messes up here and there leading to more trials and tribulations to overcome.

At one point I was rather miffed with Moira, until I saw what she wrote on the note. Her noble intentions propelled the conflict onto a new path that provided some unique revelations that shocked both the protagonists and antagonists alike whereas it thoroughly delighted me. Ha! That’d show that arrogant Council member – or so I thought. Imagine my surprise at what he actually had the audacity to say and do. He really didn’t know Neil too well and that blindness and refusal to relinquish his imagined hold on him came at a very interesting cost. Neil is his own man/dragon and no one, man or woman is going to harm what is his. Oh yes, I really liked how the hero was written – strong, loyal, fierce, passionate and honorable, and with those cool glowing eyes. I’d love to see that for real.

Moira has not had an easy life. Her father was a first class immoral criminal who made her growing up miserable. The poor heroine has a hard time trusting people and when she tries, sometimes it bites her in the you-know-where. A few things I liked about her were her determination, her intelligence and how she reacted to Neil. She was a good match for him. Even when she had no idea who or why someone wanted to kill her, she never broke.

There are quite a few steamy explicit, door-wide-open-let’s-get-on-the-bed-too kinds of detailed scenes that should appeal to erotic romance readers. What makes Her Dangerous Mistake so appealing is the plot conflict and the romance. The suspense, action and drama are so solid that the sex is just a spicy sweet topping that enhances the mix. The two of them are hot stuff, literally and figuratively.

As far as the happy ever after, there’s a wonderfully detailed epilogue that tied up their romance with complete happiness. Their future is going to be filled with a lot of challenges – the writing assured me of that – but together Neil and Moira have a bright future and the ending was as romantic and life affirming as I could wish.

Her Dangerous Mistake was a fantastic dragon shifter romance with a lot of action, spice and loving to make a reader happy and satisfied. I’m so very glad I read this story.

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl


Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear. Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator. Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined. Book 5 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder.

Eve is thinking seriously of becoming a private investigator. She knows of one close to her office who would train her. She knows she’s busy with her consignment shop and the RV they use as a second shop, but she still has spare time and intense curiosity. Would it be too much?

This story is a mix about past and present, death long ago and death currently. With two Indian tribes in the area, future development is beginning in their little town but one is excited about it. It gets even worse when some bones show up at the construction site. The work is shut down until the bones are analyzed. Then the bones go missing, the construction man who found them is dead, and a watch that has been missing for years is missing again. Were the bones part of an Indian burial site? If not, who was it?

The pace moves well, there’s more than one mystery, and it all comes out by end of the story. I enjoyed Eve’s family, her lover and his family, and the mob man she’s friends with. Those close to her know she’ll do what she decides to do but they try to talk her out of it.

The romance in this story is soothing and poor Eve needs that in her life. Especially since someone is trying to kill her now because of her snooping.

This writer’s style is easy to read, she closes up any gaps in the story line and she’s made me want to read another in this series. Eve and Sammy are a joy to read about.

Watchmakers Heart by Juli D Revezzo


Watchmakers Heart by Juli D Revezzo
Publisher: Raven Queen Publications
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (127 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

For Miss Phoebe Lockswell, fashionable London tea parties and balls aren’t her style. Instead, she prefers to tinker tirelessly with a clockwork diffuser she’s built from scratch. If only she can get the invention to work on command, she might earn her way out of an arranged marriage to a repugnant member of the House of Commons.

London watchmaker Mortimer Kidd was brought up hard in the arms of an infamous London gang. Despite the respectability he strives for now, the gang leader is blackmailing him. When Mortimer sees Phoebe’s diffuser, he thinks he’s found a way to buy himself out of trouble. The brash Phoebe manages to steal his heart, however, before he can purloin her invention.

Will Mortimer’s unsavory past catch up to him before he convinces Phoebe of his devotion? Worse, once Phoebe learns the truth, will she ever trust him again?

Phoebe is the daughter of a well to do lawyer, Mort is a watchmaker. While she had engineered an animated statue to enhance love making, Mort is hiding a past that would threaten his life and friends from his childhood. If he allows Phoebe into his world it will also threaten her reputation and life.

When Phoebe’s father tries to force her into marrying the objectionable Sir Dugard, she resists and Mort comes to her aid.

This is a fascinating Victorian era love story. It travels from the affluent house of Phoebe’s family to the slums of Whitechapel. In the background is the mysterious Doggett who holds Mort’s life and future in his hands. A lot of the story is shrouded in mystery and the couple find their budding romance is fraught with problems, and even Phoebe’s best friend turns against her.

Murder, theft, blackmail all these are present at one stage or other of the story. It also shows a view of the stews of the east end of London. This is one of those books I couldn’t put down. I read it in one day as I wanted to know what happened.