The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark

The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Suspense
Length: Full Length (339 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Zac senses the connection he has with the single stranger within minutes of their meeting. She, like him, sought a place to escape. But she isn’t running anymore. He is. Ali falls into a holiday affair with a troubled young man. She would never choose a man like him if she was at home. So what will happen when the Las Vegas fantasy is over and her sunglasses tinted view of the world returns to reality? She is supposed to forget everything. It was meant to stop there…

This story revolves around Zac and Ali, two wounded souls who find themselves members of a sort-of club, The Nevada Escapists’ Club – those people who find themselves in Las Vegas trying to escape from the reality that is their life. Some people go to Las Vegas for fun, but others because they can’t face what is going on in the real world. But can two such wounded souls help each other or will they bring each other down?

Ali is a successful barrister who discovers that her perfect life is not what she thought it was and leaves England for Las Vegas to put some distance between her and her cheating husband. She’s lived through a lot before this marriage and so her reactions to discovering his unfaithfulness is certainly colored by that.

Zac has his own set of issues he’s trying to escape and, from the first time he and Ali meet, senses they have a lot in common and wants to find out more about Ali.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club starts out like a holiday romance…. boy and girl meet while on vacation…they discover a connection that takes them beyond the holiday. Yet, there are darker undercurrents that the reader discovers and twists that take it out of the romance element. Yes, there is romance, but there is so much more. Jane Lark looks into how our past influences in so many ways our present. Can we really escape being the people that our past has formed us to be.

There were some niggling editing issues that keep this book from being a full four, but that’s the editor in me. The main characters are well-drawn and their story is definitely a page turner. I was able to read the book in just a couple of nights because I was so drawn into their story and wanted to discover how they were going to overcome the issues they were facing.

Good job, Ms. Lark, on facing some tough issues face on and showing that there is hope for the abused to rise above it.

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A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell

A Murder of Principle by Susan Coryell
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (275 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

A new principal takes Harding High by storm, wreaking havoc with every executive order and every decision, tearing apart the stellar school tenet by tenet.

Teachers, other administrators, students, parents, and the community at large increasingly react to the tremors shaking Harding High as Principal Wendy Storme churns a destructive path through their traditions, values, and protocol. Everyone associated with Harding has a valid motive for murder.

Determined to save her school and friends, English department chair, Rose Lane, and her rookie sidekick, intern Penny Bright, vow to move the hurricane-force Storme out of Harding for good…except somebody beats them to it with the decisiveness of murder.

What mystery about a school wouldn’t have a mean old principal? This one fits the bill starting with Wendy Storme the new mean principal hired to replace the retiring one. Though she is not necessarily eager to be placed in the position of saving the school, Rose, the new English Dept Head, decides to take on the role and show that new incorrigible principal what’s what. It is such a breath of fresh air to see the teachers (or some of them) portrayed in a good light in this mystery. While they may have been somewhat impolitely vocal about well…you already know who I mean…the mean old Principal, Wendy Storme, they are for the most part eager for their school and their students to do well.

I am not always in favor of books that open with the scene of the crime and then step back in time to describe how we got to that point. I’m not crazy about it at all and I was already set not to like Susan Coryell’s book. But then, she caught my attention and I couldn’t let go or at least not until I was all the way to the very end. Her characters were very clear and her school life description very distinct. In truth, what I thought was going to be a book I would not enjoy turned out to be well-written and very readable.

In summary, Put this one on your TBR list and check out her other books too.

Death Al Fresco by Leslie Karst

Death Al Fresco by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 Pgs)
Rated 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

It’s up to Sally Solari to serve up a killer before their family restaurant’s reputation goes up in smoke.

It’s early autumn in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari decides an open-air painting class is the perfect way for her to learn more about Paul Gauguin, the inspiration for the restaurant she has recently inherited. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered when Sally’s dog Buster sniffs out a corpse tangled up in kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at Solaris’ until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. Witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, but his waitress swears the old man only had two beers with is meal. And then the fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing an inebriated customer to walk home alone at night.

From a long menu of suspects, including a cast of colorful characters who frequent the historic Santa Cruz fisherman’s wharf, Sally must serve up the tall order of clearing her father’s name in Death al Fresco, Leslie Karst’s third delectable Sally Solari mystery.

Another killer of a culinary cozy murder, Death Al Fresco is aptly named. Delectable dishes do take center stage, from the trendy sorts like Sesame ginger cucumber salad and Tahitian sea bass, to heartwarming faves, like absolutely anything smothered in ‘Nonni’s Sunday Gravy.

Sally is a chef, a restaurant owner, and …an accidental discoverer of an untimely death. She not only recognizes the victim, but worries about the victim’s connection to her Dad’s restaurant. She’s got enough on her plate, what with her own head chef to deal with, and Eric, who she assures herself is not a love interest, and trying to make every situation, dish and advertisement she runs into ‘politically correct.’

Still, Sally is a sleuth at heart and tackles the mystery without hesitation. Its exactly what we readers expect – with a fun twist, here and there. The political-correctness thing can get a bit tedious, but given the gorgeous setting and strong, unique characters, this really is a solid mystery. The mild (and less predictable) romantic elements add a little something too.

Fans of the genre will enjoy this, and it comes with a bonus: a small batch of recipes from the storyline wrap up the book.

Flirting with Fairies by Peg Pierson

Flirting with Fairies by Peg Pierson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (233 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Literary agent, Nicole McConnelly is in trouble. Her career’s in the toilet, her bank account overdrawn, and she’s a wanted, fugitive fairy, from the Realm of Imagination, with a price on her head and a ruthless bounty hunter, who happens to be Satan’s brother, on her heels.

Lonely young writer, Kaleb Whalen, lives in a rundown apartment with his pet cockroach and dreams of becoming a best-selling author. But after a run-in with a Boston city bus, he may have lost any chance of a future at all.

When both agent, and author, magically appear center-page in Kaleb’s jungle adventure novel, Nicole finds herself faced with something more terrifying than her long-time nemesis…the possibility of something she has artfully avoided for three centuries. True Love.

This is the other side of the printed word where books come alive in the Realm of Imagination. The combination of author and agent are dumped into the Realm where they meet the author’s characters. The consequences are hilarious and bring the story to life with a jungle man complete with ape, a cannibal and of course the ditzy heroine.

I loved how the author didn’t stop at the characters’ written lives, Ms Pierson also brought in other characters such as a vampire, bounty hunter and a dead sister. When mixed together this made for a book reminiscent of a comic strip but with more depth.

All the characters are larger than life and intertwine with each other to great effect. Just when it seems things have worked out well for everyone, another event happened to stir the plot up again. Good book but not if you want something deep and meaningful; this one is for laughing and enjoying.

Jayden’s Innocence by Sue Perkins

Jayden’s Innocence by Sue Perkins
Publisher: Caishel Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short story (77 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Life is hard when Jayden is released from prison.

No one wants to employ him and his family want nothing to do with an ex-con. He retreats to a quiet village with no amenities to hide from the world.

Jayden decides the only option is to clear his name. He did not embezzle the money from his employers but knows all prisoners swear they are innocent.

Will anyone believe him?

Sophie lives in the same village and is willing to help him prove his innocence plus she has the skills to do the investigation.

Their quest draws them closer but danger follows every move they make.

Will their search make things worse for Jayden or will they clear his name?

Newly released from jail, Jayden is trying to figure out how to go on with his life. Wrongly convicted for fraud he couldn’t revert back to his old job in finance. With his family refusing to acknowledge him and no one from the local village willing to take a chance and hire him, Jayden quickly starts to lose all hope. Knowing he needed to clear his name to start his life again, Jayden is determined to prove his innocence.

I enjoyed this sweet story – it had the feel of an old-style romance novel. I was a little intrigued by how stand-off-ish the local villagers were. Initially I was quite skeptical – since I know in a small town the comings and goings of other residents is usually frightfully important and talked about endlessly – but it was the reluctant attraction that Jayden felt towards a pretty neighbor, Sophie, that sold me on this story. At first Sophie’s character seemed quite simple to me – a pretty, nice and sweet local village girl. But just like the other residents of the village neither Sophie – nor any of them – are exactly what they seem at first.

With an interesting plot and a few subtle mysteries that unravel at a deliciously slow pace I found this to be a fun and character-driven sweet mystery/romance. Between the plot of who framed Jayden and sent him to jail for embezzling money that he never touched, to what exactly is going on in that strange little village I slowly found myself getting more and more thoroughly invested in both the small town and particularly the characters of Sophie, Jayden and Jayden’s elderly neighbor, Geoffrey. While the story isn’t precisely realistic (Sophie’s occupation and the other villagers’ secret were a little too coincidental/serendipitous for my liking), I did find both the plot and characters to be excellently written and I personally really enjoyed the slower pace of the story as a whole. The romance unfolds slowly and I thought it was very sweet – just a few kisses right near the end of the story – and honestly the mystery and characters were what captured my attention, the extremely light romance was just a bonus, not a main factor of the story to my mind.

Readers wanting a light and well-written mystery with strong characterisation and just a hint of romance should find this as satisfying as I did.

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full length (416 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

They built a life on lies

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

The suspense starts from the first page and continues onward. A mystery intro with a warning, a body being found and then Sutton Montclair has left her husband Ethan a note that she needs time away and don’t look for her. Why did Sutton leave? Will Ethan be able to find her? Who is the sinister voice?

The opening quote “Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds” takes on a whole new meaning by the time you finish this book and reflect back on the events. When you get to the end of the book the pieces will come together. It appears that Sutton and Ethan have a strange and strained relationship. There are secrets that should have been revealed before marriage. The chapters alternate from events that are happening now to past events. The plot has many twist and turns with a lot going on. I feel as if the book was so long. I think the beginning half of Ethan’s story was too long while the second part of the book was quick and to the point.

The main character was Sutton; her friends, her past, her family – all about her. There was little mentioned about Ethan but his voice gave him weight in the story. I ended up liking Ethan. He wasn’t perfect and was man enough to admit his wrongs even though he had reason to dispute or not claim his misdoing. Things aren’t always what they appear. At first I thought Sutton and Ethan had a weird relationship of secrets and arguments but as the story is told I knew that Ethan loved Sutton and that he wanted a family with her. Sutton was naive and too open to sharing information. This fault proved to be a part of the breakdown in their marriage.

I figured out who the antagonist was early on in the story but there was more to solve in the puzzle. The ending was not predictable. The book is excellently written, and the plot is well planned and staged out. A sinister plot of revenge and planning to get back at those that have been wronged. Each chapter delivers more clues to bring the reader closer to solving the mystery.

I enjoyed the police women Officer Holly Graham and Inspector Amelie Badeau. They were fair and both were interested in the facts and not going by what was implied. They both worked off of the clues and logic. Officer Graham was up for promotion but instead of calling the case closed she continued to work the case to solve it.

My book club members enjoyed the book and so did I. This is highly recommended for those who enjoy suspense with lots of twist and turns.

Next of Kin by James Tucker

Next of Kin by James Tucker
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full length (337 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A New Year’s Eve celebration begins with the pop of a champagne cork—and ends with the bone-chilling screams of a killer’s victims. Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family at their upstate New York compound. But from the moment he evades death, Ben’s life is in constant danger. Can NYPD detective Buddy Lock keep the boy safe from a killer intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan?

When two more massacres decimate the Brookses’ ranks, Buddy’s hunt narrows. But his challenges grow as power, money, and secret crimes from the family’s past stand in the way. With Ben more and more at risk, Buddy steps closer to the edge, forcing a relentless killer to become more brazen, brutal, and cunning. Saving the boy will put all of Buddy’s skills to the test…and risk the lives of everyone he loves.

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed from page one to the end. Very well written, a plot that is full of suspense and an unpredictable ending.

Ten-year-old Ben Brook is the lone survivor of the brutal murder of his wealthy family and New York Police Department Detective Buddy Lock is the one that is called to duty to protect Ben from a killer who is intent on wiping out the entire Brook clan. As long as the killer is still on the loose more massacres of the Brook’s family are happening and Ben and those around him are in danger.

I enjoyed the bond that Ben developed with Mei, Buddy’s girlfriend, but I felt that their bond developed way to quick. Buddy wasn’t around Ben that much but Ben quickly developed a fondness and need for Buddy. Ben is stated to be ten years old but by his actions his age seemed to be younger.

I like the formatting of short chapters. The author providing the character’s back story did help with the development of the characters and also helps develop a connection for the reader. The author didn’t delve into too much detail but gave enough insight.

The suspense starts from the first page and continues onward. For me the ending was not predictable. The book is excellently written, and the plot is well planned and staged out. The book kept my interest; the murders kept happening and Ben’s life was constantly in danger. Each chapter delivered an intense page turner bringing the reader closer to solving the mystery. This is an action oriented plot that did have a few instances that seemed unrealistic but still gave the story conflict to keep the level of suspense going.

I enjoyed how the author tied in the story with the Holocaust survivors and victims. Reading this brought something extra to the story and gave it realness by making it seem the events could actually be true.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Love’s Dangerous Challenge by Ellynore Seybold

Love’s Dangerous Challenge by Ellynore Seybold
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (238 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

During the Reign of Terror in France in the late 1700s, the common people amused themselves by watching the heads of the nobility roll, severed by the guillotine. When Eduard Saulnier falls in love with Countess Annise de Brisson in 1793, he fears that, as a commoner, he will never be allowed to court her. But Annise is staying with her aunt because her parents have been sized by the revolutionaries and condemned to die by the guillotine. Eduard approaches the old lady for permission to court Annise, knowing his chances are slim. However, he is totally unprepared for the old countess’s answer—yes, he may court and marry Annise, after he gets her parents out of prison…any way he can.

Every once in a while, love at first sight happens, but would a man risk his life to prove this? Eduard does. The setting is Revolutionary France, and the dangers are high and everywhere. Luckily, Eduard is a commoner, but he falls for a young aristocratic woman. Since her parents were carted off to prison and scheduled for a probable execution, Eduard has to go to Annise’s great aunt to ask for Annise’s hand in marriage. When the aunt says he can have her blessing if Eduard can get Annise’s parents out of prison, he’s afraid, but luckily for us readers, he takes up this challenge.

What follows is an adventure driven by suspense. Eduard recruits some interesting friends with controversial jobs, such as the executioner. He is a nice young man and likeable from the start. Annise is also likeable as are her family members and Eduard’s friends and family. The author has done a good job at filling out the characters. They are kind-hearted, and their honorable actions are driven by their personal faith, giving them all integrity.

As a reader with a degree in French, I found the world building of this time and place to be exciting and accurate. The challenge given to Eduard was a perfect set-up for suspense. The test was also easy to believe because it required that Eduard have help, and he realized he needed it.

The tone to this story is sweet. The characters have gratitude for what they have, and the love is an innocent young love. There are many tender kisses.

Some questions came up for me as a reader though. Sometimes things happened too easily. For example, why did Annise’s relatives accept Eduard, a stranger, without a remark? Why did another aristocrat, Lukas, accept Eduard’s surprising secret and take it the way he did? Everybody seemed to just accept and be happy upon hearing revelations, and without doubts. Perhaps the tension could have been higher.

This is a pleasant read though, and I’m glad I read it. It was a breath of fresh air reading about people with integrity doing things for good reasons.

Another Kind of Hero by Lynn Hesse

Another Kind of Hero by Lynn Hesse
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (114 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

At forty Helen Kendall is divorced, full-figured, and big-haired. She enjoys working at the Pick’n Pay and running the show until sleazy David Hoffman becomes the assistant manager. Helen’s plan to get David fired includes her older sister’s help. Mavis says, “No,” because the last fiasco infuriated her husband and tarnished her reputation at church. Mavis resists until her best friend, Wanda, communicates from the beyond concerned about her godson’s push-animal parties and a drug-related murder.

Unbeknownst to the Kendall sisters, undercover DEA Agent Dewey Blackmon is investigating the drug pipeline running through Forsyth off I-75. Dewey suspects David is laundering drug money through the Pick’n Pay.

These two events converge when a casket of money and drugs at the Pick’n Pay storeroom makes the body count rise. The loyalty and love between family, friends, and partners in small-town America is threatened when two strangers carrying guns come to Forsyth…

An interesting book, some told from the point of view of the dear departed (now a ghost) and other interesting characters of the human type. I had a difficult time getting started in this book. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out which character was which. A new name would come up and I caught myself thinking “well, now, who is this? “

As I read on, the book seemed to move a little better, the ghost added a little humor and the plot became clearer. It may be that the plot was not clear until the characters became better developed and I began to identify with Helen and Wanda and the ghostly Mavis, the love interest Dewey, and many others. Those are of course the names of some of the good guys. Who remembers the names of the bad guys? Although, there were some true villains in this story. The other possibility of my feeling of confusion at first may be because this book is full of subplots. There were many crimes being committed by different crooks, everyone trying to cheat the other guy. That being said, what started out slowly may be the very type of book many people like to read.

Once the story sort of fell into alignment and I had the characters sorted, it piqued my interest and began to flow well. It became a book I was anxious to finish reading to discover who won. Lynn Hesse has another book and both of these have good reviews. I would suggest checking both books out.

March Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks

Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (320 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy


Gwennore is an Elf able to track down the cause of a certain illness and heal it―a valuable asset to her people. But when she is thrust into the realm of the dragons, she discovers a haunted place of power, passion, and magic―one that is plagued by an ancient curse. When she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, Gwen knows she’s entered a whole new world of trouble. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon. So why does making a deal with the devil feel so good?

Silas has no way of saving the royal family he’s served for years. But when a beautiful, innocent elf comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to desire in a way he’s never felt before. But how can he trust a sworn enemy. . .and how can he live without her, in Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks.