Theirs to Cherish by Shayla Black

Theirs to Cherish by Shayla Black
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length; Full Length (400 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Menage, BDSM, Spanking
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The perfect place for a woman on the run to disappear…

Accused of a horrific murder she didn’t commit, former heiress Callie Ward has been a fugitive since she was sixteen—until she found the perfect hideout, Club Dominion. The only problem is she’s fallen for the club’s Master, Mitchell Thorpe, who keeps her at arm’s length. Little does she know that his reasons for not getting involved have everything to do with his wounded heart…and his consuming desire for her.

To live out her wildest fantasies…

Enter Sean Kirkpatrick, a Dom who’s recently come to Dominion and taken a pointed interest in Callie. Hoping to make Thorpe jealous, she submits to Sean one shuddering sigh at a time. It isn’t long before she realizes she’s falling for him too. But the tender lover who’s slowly seducing her body and earning her trust isn’t who he claims…

And to fall in love.

When emotions collide and truths are exposed, Sean is willing to risk all to keep Callie from slipping through his fingers. But he’s not the only man looking to stake a claim. Now Callie is torn between Sean and Thorpe, and though she’s unsure whom she can trust, she’ll have to surrender her body and soul to both—if she wants to elude a killer…

Crime, death and a lot of hot sex! Have I got your attention? Then you should read Theirs to Cherish.

This isn’t my first foray into the world of Shayla Black. I’ve read her other works, but not in this series. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment with this book. It sizzles with sexual tension and the writing crackles. I needed to know what would happen next.

Like I said, I haven’t read the others in this series, but I didn’t think that was a problem. The characters were described well enough and the story solid enough for me to keep up. That said, there were moments I skimmed through pages, needing more action. The story isn’t boring, but the pacing could’ve been ramped up a bit.

So who are the players? Thorpe is the head Dom of Club Domination. He’s a tough guy and isn’t terribly easy to understand. I got that he was uber alpha, but there were moments I wished he’d have cracked a bit. He’s got a back story I won’t divulge and it’s heady. It’s hardened him. I liked that he was crusted over, but I had a very hard time liking him. He came across, as the heroine says, like a caveman.

Then there’s Sean. He’s the Dom Callie ends up with at the end of the previous book. He’s multi-dimensional, but also hard to love. I wanted to like him earlier on and I’m glad I kept reading to find out his secrets. The one thing that drove me crazy about him and Thorpe was the drive. I liked that they had to learn to get along, but the conversation was stilted in spots and didn’t seem terribly masculine. Do guys really talk about their emotions that much?

Callie is a conundrum, too. She’s not just a bratty sub – and she’s very bratty – she’s also a on the run heiress. I get this is fiction and she’s going to be a tad larger than life, but I had a hard time connecting with her. Many times I thought she would zig and instead she zagged. Her dialogue comes across bubbly at times and whiny at others. I really wanted to like her and root for her, but I ended up putting the book down more often than not.

Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike this book. There were hot scenes throughout. The sex sizzles and you’ll want something cold by the time the book is over and the mystery itself was strong.

If you want a menage story with a BDSM twist and mystery to boot, then this might be the book for you.

Captivated by Stacy Deanne

Captivated by Stacy Deanne
Publisher: Sugar and Spice Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (126 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

When she first lays eyes on Mya Riley’s slashed up body, Baltimore Detective Lisa Swanson is certain that the Sandman, a ruthless serial killer from her past has reemerged. Lisa dives headfirst into the case with her partner Dee, and lovesick Winston Lewis, a detective who grows more captivated with Lisa by the day.

The Sandman wreaks bloodthirsty havoc throughout the city, and this time he is determined to make Lisa his victim.

Armed with intense hatred for the Sandman and a stifling fear of who might end up dead next, Lisa struggles to solve the case by the book. But when the Sandman switches up his plan and goes after her lover Jake…Lisa ignores all the rules.

It appears a twisted serial killer has once again taken the city of Baltimore by surprise. Woman are being hunted and once again Baltimore Detectives Lisa Swanson and Dee Quarter are called on the case. The evidence and method of the murders seem very familiar to Lisa. She believes it’s the work of the Sandman. Captivated is Book 2 in the Bruised series.

Five years prior Lisa worked with well known Detective Adam Mann. Adam has since retired, but with the killer back on the loose Lisa is in frequent contact with retired detective Adam. Adam Mann was once captivated by the serial killer, so much so the obsession with the case cost him his family. I feel the author did a good job in displaying emotions regarding Lisa because to me Lisa’s belief about the Sandman’s return was very believable. Other officers doubted her theory but she stuck with her instinct.

Winston Lewis is newly transferred to the Baltimore precinct. Winston is captivated by Lisa and working hard to get her attention. Unfortunately for him Lisa and Jake Jenson are six months into their relationship, which started in the first book in the Bruised series. I enjoyed how the author has such strong and committed characters. I like how Jake noticed something was wrong with Lisa and they came together and discussed it. Jake is wheelchair bound, and admits he lives through the adventures that Lisa face in her day job being a detective. This is so refreshing to have a man strong enough to admit this, and also be able to support Lisa in a positive way. Jake showed his emotions and expressed his feelings, and admitted that he still battles with old hurts but he continues moving on and living through them.

I also enjoyed the alpha male friction between Jake and Winston. Each man is strong in a level sense and not playing dirty to win Lisa over. Each man has a winning spirit and I found it hard to figure out which man to root for.

I enjoyed this book. The mystery of solving the serial murder cases along with the mixture of who will capture Lisa’s heart made for a pleasant read. The author told a complete story, and wasn’t too wordy nor too descriptive. It’s a winner for me to get a satisfying read without having to read three hundred pages of blah-blah that has nothing to do with the plot.

This author has a new fan! I highly recommend that you add this series to your reading list.

Death by Didgeridoo: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman

Death by Didgeridoo: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

Guns and knives aren’t the only objects that can be used to kill someone. Sometimes death shows up in the least likely scenarios. All that is left now is for Jamie to attempt to figure out who did it and why this individual resorted to using a didgeridoo.

Jamie is an intelligent, likeable narrator whose unique point of view as the cousin of the accused adds a poignant twist to this tale. Her quirks are slowly revealed as the plot progresses and they add depth to her character. It was especially intriguing to see how the parts of her personality that were the opposite of what I’d expect to see from a lawyer come into play as the plot thickens.

Pacing issues and multiple, off-topic segues about food were the main reasons why I gave this novella three stars. The story starts off with a strong opening scene only to be hijacked by background information that appears to be irrelevant to current events. Other sections waver between attempting to solve the murder and discussing topics that are much more cheerful than I would expect to find mixed in with an otherwise dark premise.

I was completely unfamiliar with this series when I started reading, but it was easy to get caught up on what Jamie’s life was like before this mystery began. She has a sharp eye for detail and seems to really enjoy her work. This can definitely be read as a stand-alone book, although I am curious to see how Jamie might change as an individual on future adventures based on everything she experienced during the course of this one.

Death by Didgeridoo is a good choice for anyone is in the mood for a lighthearted murder mystery. I would particularly recommend this book as a stepping stone into the genre for new readers who aren’t interested in the grittier aspects of crime-solving.

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed the day she met her first fairy.

When Alice’s father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon–an uncle she’s never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it’s hard to resist. Especially if you’re a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

When Alice’s father went down in a shipwreck, she had no idea how she was going to get along. Then she finds out she is being sent to a relative she never heard of before. Any home is better than none, she guesses. I bet if Alice knew what she was getting into she would have run away, though.

This book is the start of a new series.  This is Mr. Wexler’s first children’s book. I read a lot of middle grade/young adult fiction and was impressed with his talent for writing an interesting tale with a lot of action, danger, magic, and fantastic creatures. He melds this all together for a very enticing read and he uses the world of books for his common ground. It’s a very nice job and a very enjoyable story, with a bit of fright here and there.

Alice is impressed by the large library her Uncle has and is disappointed to hear that it’s not available to her unless she is accompanied by an adult. What’s worse than lots of new books that you can’t even read because you need company to go the library? Worse is sneaking in at night and almost losing your life…

Alice doesn’t know she’s a reader and can go inside the book. Books act as prisons for some creatures and if you happen to fall into the book, you must either conquer them or kill them. She doesn’t want to kill anyone, even if they scare her to death. She realizes they don’t have the same compunction, so she has to use her brain to try to overcome them.

The fun part for me was that once she has gotten them to submit to her, she can draw on their strength. She’ll need it for future expeditions and confrontations!

I found this one a fun read and it even has a dragon in it. No one is quite what they seem except Alice. She’s going to have a real challenge keeping up and being safe trying to live her with her Uncle. I’m already ready to read the next series of events in her life. She’s not boring.

Town Haunts by Cathy Spencer

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Town Haunts by Cathy Spencer
Publisher: Comely Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (252 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Cemetery caretaker Sherman Mason is horrified to hear his dead wife calling to him from her grave. He asks newcomer Tiernay Rae, a gorgeous witch and proprietor of the Healing Hands store, to hold a séance to find out what’s troubling his wife’s ghost. Tiernay needs a coven to focus her powers, however, so her roguish brother, Greg, suggests that Anna Nolan and her two friends help ‒ “the maiden, the mother, and the crone” as he calls them. But with Halloween fast approaching and the séance unleashing a malicious evil in the small town of Crane, can Tiernay stop it before someone gets hurt, or even killed?

When dark things haunt the streets just before Halloween, will Anna be able to solve the mystery of what lurks in the shadows?

Anna and her gang of sleuths are back in action in the second in the Anna Nolan series. When Sherman, the local cemetery caretaker hears what he believes is his wife calling to him from beyond the grave, he is convinced something isn’t right about his wife’s death. Enlisting the aid of Tierney, a New Age healer and witch that has just arrived in town, he requests a séance. Anna and the girls aren’t so convinced. There is something fishy about Greg, Tierney’s brother and the re-emergence of Henry, a man with an axe to grind isn’t helping matters. When one of the ladies is found attacked outside of her apartment, the plot thickens.

Introducing the book with Sherman in the cemetery was a good lead in, followed by Anna and her motley crew. The diner and small town feel of the place is very cozy indeed. Enter newcomer Tierney and her overly suave brother and tensions get a little high. Who is this witch? Can she help Sherman or is she all show and no substance? When an impromptu coven is devised from the town ladies, things begin to get a little strange. This was probably the point where I started getting a little frustrated by the book. Initially, there were a few editorial issues that could have been resolved, but as the play on witches unfolded, my interest waned. Usually I love a good story about witches, the paranormal and ghost hunting. In this case, the insta-coven kind of took me by surprise. Who is this woman to come out of nowhere and pronounce a group of unknown women as a coven? Building a group like that takes a while.

As I read, the mystery was lukewarm. It flowed evenly, but my suspension of disbelief had already been tested. Anna was a character that I wanted to connect to, but there was nothing about the group that made me really care about where the story was going or why. Getting more into Anna’s character or maybe even Tierney’s would have been interesting. I wanted to know more about the town, the emotions playing across the characters and especially a deeper connection to Anna.

The series has a lot of potential. Mysteries are a fun way to pass the time and if given the chance I would most likely give this author another try. There is nothing like spending an afternoon with a relaxing light novel to erase the real world. This story had that element and I see good things coming from Ms. Spencer.

For a spooky read that will get you in the mood for some fall weather and a maybe a séance or two give this book a try.

Savage Deception by RT Wolfe

Cover_Savage Deception

Savage Deception by RT Wolfe
Publisher: ePublishing Works!
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure
Length: Full (254 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Busy juggling loan sharks and Amber Alerts, Detective Nickie Savage makes time when the FBI seeks her expertise with a child trafficking ring. But when Nickie discovers that the men running the ring are the same ones who abducted her as a young teen, the case gets personal.

Risking her badge, Nickie goes rogue. Luckily, she has Duncan Reed, along with his wire tapping and surveillance expertise. But Duncan also wants to take their relationship to the next level.

Now, Nickie must choose: break her own rules and risk her heart or forge ahead alone.

In a word… Awesome!

Savage Deception was a fantastic romantic suspense that kept me turning pages. While it’s technically the start of a new series, it directly follows another book in a previous series. When I first started reading Savage Deception, I hadn’t read that other book, and have to admit to being pretty confused. I don’t think it stands alone well … though I might have gotten things sorted over time, if I wasn’t already a big fan of the author, I might not have kept reading.

What I did do is read that other book and once that was cleared up, it was full speed ahead! Now I was fully engaged and loving every word. The plot here was tightly created with plenty of twists I wasn’t expecting. The heroine, Nickie, is put through the wringer here with her past bumping into the present and she finds out some things that nearly break her.

Don’t worry… she has Duncan. And he’s the most awesome boyfriend ever. I really do love the man and wouldn’t hesitate to steal him away from her if I could. He’s not perfect, thankfully, but his flaws make him that much more wonderful. I really love their relationship, and it developed well here. It’s sweet and romantic, hot and sexy, and really very realistic. They have their ups and downs, but thankfully they know they can trust each other and that makes everything work.

The secondary characters here were just as great as ever. Duncan’s family is so much fun. I really love them all and am glad to be able to keep up with what they’re doing. Nickie has a surrogate family, since her biological one is worse than useless. Her captain, her foster mom … they’re really what give her a solid foundation.

My confusion at the start, along with a few editing errors (the first I remember seeing in Ms. Wolfe’s books — these were wrong words or typos) are all that kept this from being rated higher. I really did enjoy the story once I got my head wrapped around it. It was everything romantic suspense should be: exciting, interesting, well plotted, romantic and had a solid, satisfying wrap up.

I’m sold on this new series and excited to continue on with Nickie Savage, at least as long as I get the whole crew of characters along with her!

A Taste of Gold by Deryn Pittar

A Taste of Gold by Deryn Pittar
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (95 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Psychic twins with special talents meet two thieves, two Taniwha, and one pretty reporter as they experience the adventure of a lifetime…

On a prospecting holiday, brothers Jason and Levi discover an ancient supernatural creature, a Taniwha named Otanewainuku, who gives them ‘humming stones’ in exchange for their silence about its treasure. They also cross paths with two thieves. Their supernatural abilities to find hidden gems and precious metals help them find the stolen goods and turn them in to the police—twice. But when they meet reporter Abby Hennessy, her story on their good deed attracts the wrong kind of attention.

When the thieves capture Jason to use his talents, Levi has to rely on their psychic link to guide the police while not revealing their powers. Abby wants to help, and she and Levi search for the thieves, not knowing that Jason is going to use the ‘humming stones’ to call on another Taniwha for help…

Road trips are supposed to provide a sense of adventure without actually exposing the people on them to any real harm. Unfortunately Jason and Levi’s trip isn’t exactly following that rule.

As interesting as all of the human characters are, by far my favourite character was Otanewainuku. I’d never heard any legends about the Taniwha before, and it was fascinating to imagine what it would be to meet one of them in person. They are a unique species that fit in well with the rest of the science fiction and paranormal elements of this book.

While Jason and Levi’s paranormal abilities are clearly described early on in their adventures, I would have liked to learn more about the origins of them. The handful of hints about where these powers might have come from are intriguing, but the story would have flowed more smoothly had the author taken the time to explain such an important part of their identities.

The well-paced, exciting plot made it hard for me to put this novella down. It has the kind of worldbuilding I’d expect from a full-length novel, but each chapter was so engrossing that I finished it within a few days. The plot-based narrative introduces background information as needed, and while there were times when I wished certain details were revealed a little sooner I soon learned to appreciate how the author brings up the most important facts in such a fast-paced story.

A Taste of Gold is rollicking adventure that is begging for a sequel. While I don’t know if the author is planning to revisit these characters, I highly recommend getting to know them in the meantime. This is a fun, short tale that this reader had a great time zipping through.

Dash of Peril by Lori Foster

Dash of peril
Dash of Peril by Lori Foster
Publisher: Harlequin Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Action/Adventure Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (318 pgs)
Heat level: Hot
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Xeranthemum

To bring down a sleazy abduction ring, Lieutenant Margaret “Margo” Peterson has set herself up as bait. But recruiting Dashiel Riske as her unofficial partner is a whole other kind of danger. Dash is six feet four inches of laid-back masculine charm, a man who loves life—and women—to the limit. Until Margo is threatened, and he reveals a dark side that may just match her own….

Beneath Margo’s tough facade is a slow-burning sexiness that drives Dash crazy. The only way to finish this case is to work together side by side…skin to skin. And as their mission takes a lethal turn, he’ll have to prove he’s all the man she needs—in all the ways that matter….

Get out the fire extinguisher, this story is scorching! It’s one long, slow seduction that builds and builds until it explodes in scenes of out of control passion. Margo and Dash’s convoluted romance is woven in amongst a very suspenseful and dramatic plot that pits their fledging trust and love against a dastardly scheme. Many times it was almost impossible for me to step away from the book – so much happens in each chapter, I was hooked.

Ms. Foster presented two dynamic characters to work her magic with. Margo is the hard-edged, take-no-prisoners heroine who is a police lieutenant who doesn’t know how to relax, and Dash, the hero, who seems like relaxing is all he does. It’s amazing how deceiving the surface of a person can be. The author wasted no time in sharing the sparks between the two protagonists and truly, the first two chapters are a doozy. In them, the author sealed my interest and invested me 100% in caring for her hero and heroine because the action starts almost immediately and danger flavors the drama to a startling degree. There wasn’t any skipped paragraphs or glossing over any scenes – everything is pertinent, intense and fascinating. A must read.

The sensual tease is extreme. Dash’s plan is to love Margo into loving him. It sounds impossible until I saw his plan in action. Wow, does that man know his way around a woman’s body. And his words! His intent! Never mind his delivery – the hero isn’t so laid back and fickle as everyone seems to believe. He proves it without a doubt in Dash of Peril. Not only that, but having a brother who is also a police officer has given him an edge when it comes to crisis and he proves his mettle many times throughout the novel. Maybe he was a bit too good to be true, but I didn’t care. It was all part of telling a great story that entertains and believe me, I was highly entertained.

Margo’s character is the one that has the most to gain, lose, learn and grow. Dash was her sounding board and her catalyst for change. She certainly enjoyed the process and the author took great pains to make a reader understand just how much of a challenge it was for her to adjust, open up and believe in someone. At times it was painful and many times it was beautiful. It was also very sexy.

This tale is also an emotional roller coaster due to subject matter. The mystery is finding out who is committing the crimes, the drama comes from the bad guys targeting Margo and the suspense comes from hoping no one dies but never really being sure if anyone is going to come to the rescue in time and if any of the villains were going to get away. The topic of the crime is disturbing as I’m sure it was meant to be. I didn’t like it at all but that is why it was so important for the good guys to win – vile things like that should be stopped.

Although there was an intense external plot conflict, the internal one for Margo was rather sad. She comes from a very cold, dysfunctional family so it makes sense that her opening up to Dash would be such a leap of faith. The hardest part was towards the end, when she really believed the worst. That broke my heart.

I’m going to reiterate how intensely sexual this book is. Dash is commanding and Margo slowly learns to accept that being submissive does not equate with being weak. Not at all. Ms. Foster practically singed off my eyebrows with some of the scenes, so get ready.

Secondary characters are extremely important in the telling of this novel. Many I remember reading about when they were the stars of their own books so it was an absolute thrill to see them in action again, but rest assured this is completely a standalone book. If anything, reading about Logan or Rowdy only made me want to read their stories again. There is a reason they are on my keeper shelf.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the kitty. It’s a great touch, and it provided a wonderful ‘awwww!’ factor. I loved reading how the cat reacted in many scenes. It was very telling and important and the best was how Dash interacted with Margo’s pet. So sweet – how could I not love Dash as a hero?

I know I’m leaving a ton out because this was a very busy book. There are so many other aspects of the book worth sharing but I think it’s best to just read, enjoy and be surprised. I had a blast reading Dash of Peril and I highly recommend it to all readers of sexy romantic suspense. It’s a sure winner and, the crime element notwithstanding, a very fun book indeed.

The Untreed Detectives by J. Alan Hartman

The Untreed Detectives by J. Alan Hartman
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Historical, Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (118 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sleuth…private investigator…detective. Many names for the same job, but the role itself comes in all shapes and sizes.

Presenting a variety of detectives, culled from the various novels both published and distributed by Untreed Reads. Whether it’s a gritty clown or a children’s book author, a pig or an investigator of crimes in the nursery rhyme universe, you’ll discover a wide variety of short mysteries here from both best-selling authors and fresh voices.

This anthology contains the first new Amanda Pepper mystery in nearly a decade from award-winning mystery author Gillian Roberts, as well as original stories from Kara L. Barney, Amber Rochelle Gillet, Janet Majerus, Lesley A. Diehl, Neil Plakcy, Kaye George, Whit Howland, Albert Tucher, Herschel Cozine, Rodolfo Peña and Wade J. McMahan.

Not every mystery begins or ends with a murder. From playful to serious, this collection showcases the wide range of puzzles that a good sleuth can tackle.

In the introduction J. Alan Hartman describes this anthology as a “tasty set of appetizers.” As someone who was only familiar with about half of these authors I was intrigued by his description and couldn’t wait to try the rest of them. The one-paragraph character introductions before each short story are incredibly helpful. They explain personality quirks and provide very basic background sketches without giving away spoilers. I would have been confused by a many tales without this type of aid, and I’m very glad that it was included.

I’d heard of the Amanda Pepper series before, but “Faint Heart” was my first introduction to this universe. Halloween is an easy time of year to conceal one’s identity, but when an elderly woman dies suddenly Amanda wishes that the prime suspect wasn’t dressed in a gorilla suit so he or she would be easier to identify. The concept tickled my funny bone from the very first scene, and I was surprised to be just as intrigued by the secondary characters as I was with the primary ones.

Certain tales were hard to settle into even with the character introductions. In “Breathing Under Water,” Jessica Schroeder meets an incredibly talented storyteller while temporarily taking over a friend’s writing workshop. The first few paragraphs of this piece are mesmerizing, but when Jessica discovers the writer’s dark secret I found myself wishing I knew more about both of them. I knew almost nothing about Jessica’s personality in particular and had a hard time gauging what she was thinking as she attempts to help her new student.

This pattern repeated itself several other times. As I was reading I briefly wondered if I would have enjoyed those adventures more had I already been familiar with the quirks of the protagonists ahead of time. There weren’t any pacing issues and the mysteries themselves were compelling, I simply had trouble getting to know the characters as individuals.

“Angus Wants a Peanut” was by far my favorite short story in this book. Paula and Mixeti’s newest client, Ryan, recently learned that his old, sick parrot has been sent to the Farm. He’d do anything to get his bird back and hopes that all of the allowance and birthday money he’s saved up will be enough to get someone to help. I was immediately intrigued by the dilemma Mixeti and Paula face as they decide whether to take this kid on as a client, and the ending was just as novel as the original concept.

It was a little difficult to pick the right labels this collection because so many of the authors dabble with other genres. Every one of them is a mystery of some sort, though, and when they do wander into other genres it is only for a short period of time.

The Untreed Detectives is an intriguing introduction to a dozen mystery writers. The variety of topics and writing styles gives this book something that will appeal to many different types of readers. It’s a good choice for anyone in the mood to discover a new favorite author.

The Last Straw by Nia Simone

The Last Straw by Nia Simone
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (55 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ally Tobin left New York after one too many bad dates, determined to rebuild a stable life and career as a private investigator in Silicon Valley. But when the man she knew as one name walks into her office with another, will her curiosity once again lead her to risk her heart?

The last thing Special Agent Jared Green needs is “security risk” stamped on the resume of his latest undercover identity. Especially by the woman his job forced him to leave in New York without any explanation.

She may threaten his cover, but it’s his heart on the line.

He’s good at playing a part. She’s good at catching a fake. Can they trust enough to give love another chance?

Ally Tobin can hardly believe it when she sees the photo attached to a resume on a job application she’s reviewing. The man is undeniably her ex-lover, but the name and fictitious history to go with him is puzzling to say the least. When Jared secretively scrawls a note asking if she can meet him for dinner, she agrees – against her better judgment. Jared Green regrets leaving Ally in the lurch like he did, but working undercover is difficult and dangerous. Now he’s been offered a second chance, and he doesn’t plan to make the same mistakes again.

I found it really refreshing how the author hasn’t just let her hero get off the hook with his bad behavior. This is not a story where a quick grin, a few sexy moves and a simple “I’m sorry” win the heroine’s heart back over again. Ally makes Jared work for his atonement and the deeply emotional writing really won me over. Usually I’m not so keen on heroes who wear their hearts on their sleeve and over-talk everything, like a woman is wont to do. But I also realized Ally and Jared’s situation wasn’t something that the usual male uncommunicative response (or the other common “I’ll seduce her till she can’t think straight” approach) would work. Ally and Jared had some genuine issues, baggage that needed talking and a rebuilding of trust to right things between them, and I feel the author gave the reader that in spades.

Amongst the romantic relationship, there’s also a secondary plotline of someone stealing intellectual data from the company. I was a little disappointed how most of the work Jared did hunting down the thief was done off-camera. Indeed, I was surprised when mid-way through the book Ally asked if Jared was making any progress, and he simply said they’d found him and named the person responsible. None of the work, searching or detective side of this plot was really shown to the reader and I found it made this secondary plot seem very weak – as if it had just been thrown in as a reason for Jared to be present at the company and reconnect with Ally.

If you’re looking for a strongly emotional romance with a smoking hot love scene that leaves little to the imagination this is an excellent book to try. While there is a plot around the stealing of intellectual property, I found the main focus to be on the rebuilding of trust and connection between Ally and Jared, and the establishment of their relationship after Jared has left Ally high and dry. Filled with emotion and chemistry, I really enjoyed this novella.