In the Company of Wolves by Paige Tyler

In the Company of Wolves by Paige Tyler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

There’s a new gang of criminals in town and it’s organized, ruthless, and, most importantly, a pack of wolf shifters. Eric Becker and his Dallas SWAT Team are determined to rid their streets of these lowlifes, but when his fellow cops collide with the criminals in a shoot-out, he finds himself face–to-face with the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.

Incapable of shooting or arresting the alluring shifter who’s stolen his heart, Becker decides to hide her and leave the scene with the rest of his team. Now Jayna, his mystery woman, is left not only wondering why she was protected, but also what a street-savvy thief like her is going to do with a hot alpha wolf officer like him…

There’s a new meaning to the acronym, S.W.A.T. and it’s really cool. Special Wolf Alpha Team consists of good guys with paranormal talents that get the job done when regular humans can’t due to the high risk. Eric was lucky to be part of the S.W.A.T. team but not everyone is so fortunate to find a pack that protects your back. Enter Jayna, the heroine and an unlikely one at that. She doesn’t see herself as anything other than subservient to her alpha, but things are about to change and wow, does it get exciting!

The first chapter opens with an action scene that sets the tone for what comes later. Eric, who goes by the book, temporarily throws the rules away for one insane moment in time and starts a domino effect. What Eric faces later on in the book are the two most challenging and critical events of his life, and he has to succeed or someone, okay, quite a few someones, are going to die. How can a reader not get hooked with that kind of drama?

The action scenes are gritty, the suspense is knife sharp and the romance sizzles. Ms. Tyler weaves intrigue with lust, suspense with laughter and shocks with revelations. In the Company of Wolves is a busy book with lots of layers for readers to explore.

However, the author actually starts off with how Jayna’s turn came to pass in the prologue. It’s scary because she was just a kid when it happened and the violence was shocking. It’s not until the chaos of the first chapter that I found out what had happened to Jayna and I was horrified. How could she have gone from the frying pan to the fire? It’s through Eric’s determination and dogged perseverance that I found out. Eric is a man of action but even he, with all his wolfie talents, might not be enough to save the day. The ‘how’ of it is another reason why I found this book hard to put down.

When Eric and Jayne follow their mating instincts, it’s really hot stuff. Those scenes are well-written, well placed and every one of them is worth reading.

Secondary characters are key. The ones in Jayna’s group provide motivation, heart and conflict. The villains are decidedly creepy, violent and effective bad guys. Even someone who used to be good was actually bad and that made me sad. It was Jayna’s remembrances of him earlier that made it so hard to reconcile the past with the reality of the present. My favorite secondary character was Cooper. Ms. Tyler put my emotions through the wringer when she had him on stage. I think what got me the most was how she described his smile.

For romantic suspense readers, this novel has enough chases, fights, bullets, blood, drama, action, trepidation and heart stopping moments to cause an adrenaline rush. It’s riveting!

As for the happy ever after, it’s perfect because it comes with a couple of surprises. That last couple of sentences were so romantic they left me sighing. It was all worth it. In the Company of Wolves definitely gets a thumbs up from me. This is an awesome book and an easy one to recommend to other readers. It’s a standalone so a new reader can jump right in and feel welcomed. Certainly, it’s one not to miss.

Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold

Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (294 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

Though historical romance is not my usual genre, I was very interested in reading this book. We know the legend of Lady Godiva, now I got to meet the woman and see the author’s interpretation of the story behind her ride. I’m glad I did.

First off, be warned that the author’s writing style might not resonate for everyone. She uses fragments, and some choppy sentences, but I didn’t find it intrusive. I zipped through the pages, interested in the world she built. I confess that I’m not well-versed in many of the historical references or mores of the times, so can’t comment on whether they are correct, but I completely enjoyed seeing the way life was then.

Godiva is strong and loving. She comes from a family who adores her and is destroyed when her parents are killed. Yes, she’s young and a bit naïve at times, but she does what she needs to do in order to care for her people. She’s a ruler and a woman to be admired.

We readers aren’t sure whether to root for her relationship with Leofric, whom she marries from necessity, especially when we know he is the one who will eventually cause her to shame herself and ride naked through the town. Is he a good man or an evil one? Should she have married her childhood friend, Edmund, instead?

I admired the author’s story telling prowess and imagination, along with the little historical tidbits she sprinkled in here and there; the day-to-day routines, the food, the herbs. The secondary characters, too, were well drawn, which isn’t always easy to do in a book written in first person.

While, at its heart this is a romance, it’s not a typical one, and those going in expecting that might be disappointed. It’s a dramatic retelling of a historical event that includes romance, but also so much more. I enjoyed this book, and am glad I had the chance to read it.

Going the Greatest Distance by Angel Propps

Going the Greatest Distance by Angel Propps
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (42 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lisa’s workaholic personality and the stress of her job as an editor at a large publishing company drove a wedge between her and her longtime lover and ended their relationship. Just as her lover agrees to sit down and try to work things out Lisa is offered the biggest opportunity of her entire career: the chance to talk to Clair St. Sabre, a bestselling writer who shut herself away on a deserted island with a reputation for being haunted.

Lisa arrives at the island determined to talk to Clair, win her confidence, and bring a new novel back to the city with her, and all in time to make her date. But Clair has her own reasons for inviting someone out to her secluded and eerie haven, including her lover Moira, who died over a hundred years before.

It’s easy to seek out peace and quiet. It’s much more difficult to actually find it.

The romantic subplots were simply lovely. They affected the main plot without ever overshadowing it or drawing the audience’s attention away from what Lisa was trying to accomplish. The storyline came across to me as a fantasy book that had strong romantic themes, so I was glad to see that the fantasy genre was given a little more room to grow. This was a smart way to write it.

Lisa made choices in this tale that I had a hard time understanding. For example, she knowingly picked an expensive, fragile outfit on a day she was travelling to a place that was extremely rustic. I would have really liked to know why she’d do something like this when she knew ahead of time that the terrain wasn’t at all suited for this kind of clothing. She made other, similar decisions that also didn’t make sense for someone who was otherwise so intelligent. I would have preferred to know why she was written this way as these scenes didn’t seem to match what the narrator told me about her earlier.

The supernatural elements were handled nicely. I enjoyed slowly unwinding the legend of what happened on the island where Clair St. Sabre lives. There were just enough tantalizing hints of what was going on in her house to keep my interest levels high even though the narrator took a while to reveal the biggest clues. In the end, I ended up appreciating the leisurely pace. It fit the mysterious atmosphere well.

Going the Greatest Distance is a good choice for anyone who is in the mood for a ghost story.

Locked, Loaded and Lying by Sarah Andre

Locked, Loaded and Lying by Sarah Andre
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (408 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

He might be innocent.

Or he might be very, very guilty…

Olympic skier Lock Roane was on top of the world: smashing world records, collecting medals, and basking in the love of a nation and his beautiful heiress girlfriend. It all comes crashing down after Lock discovers his girlfriend had an affair – then wakes from a drunken bender to find himself covered in her blood. Disgraced and dethroned, Lock awaits his murder trial with dread, not knowing if his girlfriend died at his own hands.

Journalist Jordan Sinclair is out of options. To satisfy her blackmailer, she must get the inside scoop (and its cash reward) on Lock Roane. An attraction to the arrogant athlete was not part of the plan. Neither is trying to find out what really happened that night. Now Jordan risks everything – including her life – to help the man she’s falling for. A man who just might be a cold-blooded killer…

He only wants to prove his innocence while she’s looking for the story of a lifetime. While Lock Roane is content to hide out until the murder trial of his girlfriend Tiffany begins, Jordan Sinclair, a freelance journalist, has other ideas. She’s running out of time and in order to keep herself and her mother safe, she’s going to have to commit the ultimate betrayal. But can she do it or has Lock and Load already gotten too far under her skin?

I’m not going to lie – I really liked Lock from the beginning, even when he was being a bit of a jerk to his extremely drunk girlfriend. He has this vibe of ‘yes, I’m being a jerk, but it’s for your own good’. As you get to know him better, you come to understand, mostly through Jordan’s eyes, that the cocky, jerky exterior is his ‘Lock and Load’ persona, that of the world-famous skier. The one he needs to survive in that world. His strained relationship with his brother only enhances his softer side, the one he doesn’t want anyone to see.

Jordan I wasn’t as sure about in the beginning. She had her reasons for doing what she planned to do, but I kept expecting her to quit lying and come clean long before she did. If I were in her position, I probably would have stuck it out just as long as she did, but I still held out hope. In the end, she did the right thing, though, so she does have that going for her. Although she’s both troubled and in serious trouble, she really does care for both Lock and his brother, Leo.

Although the mystery of who really killed Tiffany was a little obvious, this isn’t the kind of book you read for the mystery. It’s the kind of book you read for the bonding, the friendship, and the budding love story. I especially enjoyed watching Lock and Leo repair their relationship that had been damaged for too many years. Well written and intense, Locked, Loaded and Lying is a story that kept me engaged until the very end.

Ryker by Cheryl Douglas


Ryker by Cheryl Douglas
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (156 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Mackenzie Steele assumed she’d be with her husband forever. He was her best friend, the father of her children. But when weeks turned into months without intimacy, she realized she was too young to feel so old. She wanted to feel desirable again, to find the woman Ryker had fallen in love with twenty years ago. And there was only one way she knew how to do that… by asking him to move out.

Ryker was blindsided when his wife told him she wanted to separate. He knew they’d hit a roughpatch, but he’d never allowed himself to imagine his life without her. Now he had no choice. Shewas happy without him, living life on her own terms, and he knew if he didn’t find a place for himself in her new life, it would be too late to save his marriage.

Certainly realistic and maybe a little close to home for those of us who’ve been married for a very long time, the conflicts in Ryker are largely internal, and based on what happens when a couple stops making an effort to keep their relationship fresh and new.

Mac realizes her marriage isn’t working, not like it was, so she decides to separate. Honestly, it was a little tough to read about, and also tough to sympathize with her. I’m a big believer that divorce is a last resort and usually reserved for things like abuse or infidelity, not for “I don’t know if I love you enough any more” or “I need to find myself.” So, Mac wasn’t my favorite person at first and she felt a little selfish, which I couldn’t really identify with. Yeah, they had problems, but a separation seemed a little extreme. She was pretty “me” focused at first, and that may appeal to some folks, and yes it was good to see her find some satisfaction out of her life again, but I still kept thinking she could have done it without sacrificing her marriage. Still, as I watched Ryker get his wake up call, it may have been required to really make him see that things needed fixing. Both she and Ryker were completely devoted to family, though, and that link helped keep them working toward a way to rebuild their relationship.

Thankfully, over time, I grew a bit more attached to Mac and enjoyed reading about her and Ryker. Sometimes the plot was a little draggy, and there honestly wasn’t a ton of conflict, but I never wanted to stop reading. I needed to make sure this couple was going to make it! There are sexy parts, which were hot but not over the top erotic. It was, I think, just the right amount of spice to add to the story, was never gratuitous and served to keep movement going forward (especially since lack of intimacy was one of the issues in their marriage).

All-in-all a solid, later in life story. Sort of refreshing, honestly, in a world full of twenty-something romance. The author has a solid grasp on the subject and I certainly enjoyed reading it. I understand there will be more stories about Ryker’s family, so I’m betting I’ll see Ryker and Mac again. It’ll be fun to see how they progress as more time passes.

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The Garden of Love by Mary Eleanor Wilson

The Garden of Love by Mary Eleanor Wilson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (149 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Widow Finola MacNamara needs a home—and a job. She’s no stranger to hard work, but faced with the dire prospect of being forced to work as a saloon girl, she finds work as a housekeeper for a Louisville banker with an ailing young son. Caring for the young lad helps her grieving heart to heal, and she even finds a secret place for the garden that will make her whole again. But has she also found love, as well?

Widower Timothy Adams has already lost his wife, now he fears losing his son, too. He’s expecting the housekeeper he’s hired to be an old widow woman, but the lovely brunette who steps off the train isn’t what he was expecting. Before long, his young son is blossoming under Finola’s loving care and his house is soon feeling like a home again. But can the upstanding town banker truly have found love with his Irish housekeeper?

Finola McNamara is recently widowed and finds herself working in a unsavory saloon as a housekeeper. This job is unsettling in her heart so when a job opportunity opens in Louisville, Kentucky she is willing to relocate and step out on faith. Timothy Adams is in need of a housekeeper and caregiver for his sick son. Though Timothy hopes for a older gray haired stout housekeeper he is in total shock when Finola approaches him at the train station. Will this young widow woman be able to handle the job?

Reading this book gave me a good, cheerful feeling. This book is absolutely adorable. I enjoyed the storyline, the writing, the wholesomeness of values and the family bond. This book was a pleasure to read and I am thankful to the author for sharing such a wonderful story.

I so loved the characters and the realness that they portrayed. I can actually picture the scenes at the dinner table taking place. My mouth watered to read the delicious meals that Finola prepared. Finola is a sweetheart that came into Timothy and Liam’s life at exactly the right time. Both Finola and Timothy are broken hearted from the lose of their mate. Their meeting is a chance for both to heal from their broken hearts. It’s admirable to read how Finola brings with her her faith and her devotion to what she believes and holds true. Finola is much more than a housekeeper. She is strong, kind hearted and talented. I enjoyed her strong spirit and whit.

Another character I enjoyed was Liam. At first he came across as spoiled and only thinking of himself, but as the book went on he became mature and often time humorous in things he said. He is wise to be a youngster. I enjoyed so much how he appreciated Finola and what she did for him and his father.

There are quite a few typos that I should mention. One typo even spelled Liam’s name wrong.

The title of the book was fitting with the story. And the explanation for the garden of love is very touching. Who knew a garden could be not only healthy but healing for a family?

The writing at times is so poetic and the word usage shows the author has a real talent for not just telling a story but she knows how to write it with extra flair.

“Spring thundered into Louisville with storms and temperatures that played up and down the thermometer like the squirrels in the trees.”

The author really took the time to compose such poetic words. May be it’s just me, but that description really gave me a visual of how the weather and daily temperatures varied during this particular time in the book.

This is a book that I highly recommend. It’s a feel good story, with characters that will leave a strong impression well after the novel is finished.

Safe Island by Trisha M Wilson

Safe Island by Trisha M Wilson
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (153 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The Free Islands have been the bane of the Koenig’s existence since the signing of the City Charter. They escaped Koenig’s power with a sneaky amendment and ever since the mayors have been obsessed with getting them back.

Nera Koenig, the newest mayor of the City, is no different. She wants the islands, and she doesn’t care who she has to kill to get them.

But not everything is within Nera’s control. The unexpected happens on the Free Islands. Lives change, preconceived notations are blown away, and plans are ripped up. Will Nera get these independent islands? Or does fate have something else in store for them?

The Koenig Family have ruled the City for centuries and by their side stood Tiger’s family, ready to serve and assist.

Unfortunately the new mayor, Nera Koenig, is slightly unhinged. Tiger, her assistant, desperately tries to steer the mayor away from her disastrous intention to return the Rogue Islands to the fold. Many have tried over the centuries, but no one has succeeded in overturning the charter which protects the Rogue Islands from the City.

The people of the islands call their land the Free Islands. They appear to be long lived and do not take kindly to outsiders trying to infiltrate their community. Tourists are okay. Settlers are not allowed.

This is a three sided story. The mayor and her assistant, one trying to get the islands, the other trying to stop her boss doing something stupid. Then there’s the military chief who keeps a wary eye on the islands and her suspicions which become more fanciful as the story progresses. Then there’s Sheriff Albus Van and Lacey. Once they were in love but Lacey had left the Free Islands to see the world and Albus had stayed behind. Forty years later Lacey had returned but what would she find on the islands?

This was an intriguing book. There is obviously an underlying story to the islands, but the people protect their land and population by not allowing the City officials to interfere. I’m still a little confused by what the secret is, but guess future books will reveal this in more depth.

For now the story of the three protagonist parties was enough to keep me hooked. I’d like to read more of this series to find out what happens next. Plus I’d like to know more about the deer. Blue or green or yellow! Funny colors for deer, which indicates something sinister is happening. Good one Ms. Wilson, more please.

The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston

The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (337 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Free-spirited Lucy Westmore isn’t yet a spinster, although she fully intends to be. Fortunately, an eccentric aunt has left her both a diary detailing the secrets to spinsterhood and a cottage in Cornwall. Unfortunately, an insufferable marquess is angling for her prize! Turning Lord Thomas Branston down flat should be easy. So why does this man who won’t take no for an answer make Lucy’s body and soul sigh yes?

Thomas knows the real value of Heathmore Cottage, and he has no intention of letting some silly Society miss get her hands on it. He’ll simply have to charm Lucy into selling. But the clever young woman he encounters, first in London, then en route to Cornwall, stands stubbornly on her own two (quite lovely) feet. And now, Thomas can think only of sweeping her off them.

How many times do we romanticize something until it has no bearing on the truth? And what happens when faced with the reality of how things really are? That’s the impetus for one of the conflicts that propels this well told romance by Ms. McQuiston.

Lucy, the heroine, is faced with obeying the edicts of her parents, and dying inside, or taking the path less traveled, one she believes a barely known aunt actually lived. She was bequeathed diaries and a cottage and as far as she’s concerned, Lucy is going to choose to live the grand life of a spinster. She thinks she is armed with all the information she needs, written in her aunt’s own hand. The heroine’s rose-colored glasses slowly get a tint adjustment from the hero, Thomas.

Thomas wasn’t what I expected in a hero. He’s rather odd, reclusive and stuffy. He thinks he prefers life as he’s living it and that includes a secret. A secret that I admit to never even coming close to guessing correctly, and because of which, makes this a truly enjoyable read. I love being surprised.

The one thing that Lucy does to Thomas is make him feel. She challenges him, she thwarts him and she beguiles him to the point that he starts imagining seductive scenarios and having intriguing thoughts about having his way with her. It scares him silly, yet, he can’t stay away. That, of course, is too bad because Lucy wants nothing whatsoever to do with him, and that is another plot conflict that was rather fun to watch unfold. How she goes from not trusting him and despising him, to craving him is quite entertaining.

I waffled back and forth about whether or not her parents truly loved her or were using her as a pawn. I think it was a little bit of both, but I’ll let other readers decide for themselves. Certainly the author provided plenty of scenes and info to support both views. Eventually, there is mini HEA of a sort regarding that plot conflict, and I found its delivery engaging. The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior is very much a character driven romance. Lucy was a bit too stubborn at times and I felt she should have given in just a bit earlier, like half a chapter’s worth, but then again, she wouldn’t be Lucy if she did cave. She’s quite the firecracker.

I liked the many humorous moments, some of the towns people, especially the orphans, and I very much enjoyed watching Lucy discover the many people in real life that she had only read about in her aunt’s diaries. That she knows their secrets when they don’t know her at all was a very clever bit of writing. I enjoyed seeing the heroine try to dig herself out of a hole when she said something about an event she should not nor could not have known. There were many pink-cheeked moments that made me smile.

Ms. McQuiston has written a charming, entertaining and clever romance that I very much enjoyed. The heroine has such an adventurous spirit that she compliments Thomas’s pragmatic and almost proper mien. The hero is Lucy’s rudder and rock, and she’s his life’s spice and dreams of adventure. Between the two of them, they make a miracle happen, and that’s about as romantic as it gets. The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior is a book that is easy for me to recommend because it made me care for both Lucy and Thomas, and that’s a good thing.

And They Lived Happily Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales Boxed Set by Maddie James, Janet Eaves, Cat Shaffer, Arlene Hittle, Jennifer Anderson, May Williams

And They Lived Happily Ever After: Modern Fairy Tales Boxed Set by Maddie James, Janet Eaves, Cat Shaffer, Arlene Hittle, Jennifer Anderson, May Williams
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (628 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet, Sensual, and Spicy (depending on the story)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

…and they lived happily ever after. A modern fairy tales boxed set.

This boxed set includes six modern fairy tales by popular and bestselling romance authors. In this set you will find:

Red: A Seduction Tale by Maddie James (Little Red Riding Hood)
Sins of the Father by Janet Eaves (Sleeping Beauty)
Dixie White and the Seven Dates by Cat Shaffer (Snow White)
Just Right by Arlene Hittle (The Three Bears)
Death Sat Beside Her by Jennifer Anderson (Little Miss Muffet)
Playing the Piper by May Williams (The Pied Piper)

And They Lived Happily Ever After has a little bit of everything!

”Playing the Piper” by May Williams (Contemporary-sensual)

Penny is a very entertaining heroine. Her inner thoughts and the things she writes in her diary never failed to bring a smile to my face. I love how good she is with her students. However, Penny is very insecure. She frequently jumps to conclusions about James and his motivations concerning her and the park she loves. I could understand her misgivings the first time around, but they seemed to straighten things out fairly quickly. Unfortunately at the very next sign of trouble, Penny is ready to believe the worst again. The situation Penny and James find themselves in is very difficult, but without trust they aren’t going to make it very far. Will Penny finally give James a chance or will she let her insecurities cloud her judgment?

Some of the secondary characters in this short story are very nasty at the beginning but undergo some dramatic changes by the end. I understood the reason for one character’s change, but some of the others changed very quickly and without much explanation. Consequently, I found those parts unrealistic.

I also think that Penny and James’ relationship progresses too quickly, especially given Penny’s inability to trust James. However, the ending was still sweet and the situation with the park is solved in an interesting and fun way.

“Just Right” by Arlene Hittle (Contemporary-sensual)

I truly felt sorry for Callie. She has fame, good looks, and money. From the outside, her life might look perfect. However, I don’t envy the price Callie has paid for fame. As I watched Callie struggle to manage her public persona versus her personal life, it was easy to see why she needed a vacation out of the spotlight.

Ty and his brothers are certainly an interesting group. They teased each other unmercifully, but they also cared for and looked out for each other. Callie was nothing like Ty expected her to be, and their first encounter with each other was anything but smooth. I could certainly sense some underlying chemistry. However, I found it very hard to get a sense of what kind of couple Callie and Ty will be. He is very jealous and possessive right from the start even though they don’t know each other very well. Most of their encounters are antagonistic despite their physical attraction. In spite of these issues, Ty is a good man who just wants to protect the woman he loves from the ugly side of the media.

I must say that I found the “happy for now” ending to be very realistic and a good solution for Callie and Ty. Callie’s schedule is very demanding and while being famous has definite drawbacks, she isn’t ready to leave the spotlight just yet. I’m not sure what the future will hold for this new couple, but I think they are on the right track.

“Red” by Maddie James (Paranormal-spicy)

“Red” was by far the most unusual story in this collection. There is a lot about Garnet’s world that I don’t understand. Even Garnet doesn’t seem to know much about it. I definitely think the magic and the history of Garnet’s family needed to be expanded in greater detail. While a bit of mystery is intriguing, Garnet was put in a position of making major, life changing decisions mere moments after learning that her family is much more than it seems. I understand that her family thought they were protecting Garnet by allowing her some time to live a normal life, but I think it is unfair to spring everything on her right before she’s called to make a monumental decision.

Garnet’s relationship with Max ignites from the moment they meet and the chemistry between them burns brighter with each turn of the page. Sex between them is nothing short of scorching. However, I do wish they had had more time to get to know each other. Unfortunately time is something neither of them seem to have. Does Garnet make the right choice, or will the night end in disappointment?

“Death Sat Beside Her” by Jennifer Anderson (Suspense-sensual)

Elysse is a sweet girl, but she is stuck conforming to her mother’s idea of what a young lady should be. Her mom strikes me as very old fashioned and controlling. I know that her mother loves her, but it was clear to me that Elysse was struggling to gain her mother’s approval and was losing her individuality in the process.

Everything changes when Liam walks into her life. The attraction between them is clear from the start. Unfortunately, Elysse has a boyfriend. As I read, I wasn’t sure how the love triangle was going to play out. I can’t give any details without ruining the story, but I will say that I found it very easy to cheer for Liam.

I enjoyed watching Elysse begin to distance herself from the carefully crafted image she’s maintained for so long. Elysse says she’s making the changes because she wants too, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Elysse was simply trying to remake herself into the kind of girl she thought Liam would like.

It was very easy for me to figure out who the murderer was. The suspense of this story came from not knowing who the next victim would be and wondering when Liam and Elysse would put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The conclusion is very satisfying, and I have no doubt that Liam and Elysse are well on their way to a happy ending.

“Sins of the Father” by Janet Eaves (Contemporary-spicy)

Aurora has led a very sheltered life thanks to her overprotective aunts. I must admit that I’m not entirely sure why Aurora’s family went to such great lengths to insulate her from the world. There is some violence in Aurora’s past, but she was too young at the time to remember anything and drastic steps were taken to conceal Aurora’s identity. Aurora certainly needed some degree of protection, but the situation with the aunts just didn’t sit right with me.

Consequently, it is very easy to understand Aurora’s powerful urge to break away. I do think she made some very poor decisions in the process. She is very trusting of Philip, a man she knows nothing about, and she puts herself in an extremely vulnerable position. Fortunately, Philip is a very nice guy, and I enjoyed watching Aurora and Philip relax in each other’s company.

As the story progressed, and the truth of Aurora’s past is revealed, Ms. Eaves did a good job of building the suspense. When Aurora finally learns about her parents and who Philip is, I couldn’t wait to find out what their next step would be. Unfortunately, the story ended at this point. I must admit to being disappointed as I had hoped for a more satisfying conclusion.

“Dixie White and the Seven Dates” by Cat Shaffer (Contemporary-Sweet)

Dorothea’s story is easily my favorite from this anthology. She had my sympathy from page one when she learns some ugly things about her boyfriend. Rather than wallow in self pity, Dorothea decides to take control of her life for the first time. As I read, I had the pleasure of watching Dorothea blossom into a vibrant, caring young woman I’d be proud to call a friend. It took courage for Dorothea to walk away from everything she’s ever known. Fortunately, Dorothea discovers a wonderful small town in Kentucky that nurtures her new found desire to grown and change.

Ms. Shaffer did an excellent job creating the charming small town of Cardington, Kentucky, and most of the people who lived there were just as lovely, especially Lou and Len. Without their support and encouragement, Dorothea’s quest for independence would have been much more difficult.

The blind dates Dorothea goes on are entertaining. However, the men she met seemed more like caricatures rather than real people. Some of the dates were better than others, but I wasn’t surprised that Dorothea didn’t really click with any of them.

Rick is definitely a great guy. He and Dorothea are very comfortable around each other, and they have the beginnings of great chemistry. Their slow dance is particularly memorable. I have no doubt that they will grow into a wonderful couple.

I enjoyed reading And They Lived Happily Ever After. Each story is different with a unique take on various classic fairy tales. I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

Notch In Your Belt by Kayla Bain-Vrba

Notch In Your Belt by Kayla Bain-Vrba
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (47 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Wyatt’s first album launched him into country music stardom, a shocking success of gay-country. But now he has to record his second album, and all efforts are coming up blank. His manager finally runs out of patience and sends him inspiration: Bryce, who played keys on Wyatt’s tour, and the man that Wyatt is secretly in love with.

Bryce has been in love with Wyatt for a long time, but everyone knows he’s a notorious player, there and gone again as soon as he’s gotten what he wants. Then Wyatt unexpectedly admits his feelings, and Bryce thinks maybe he’s been wrong this whole. But when he wakes up the next morning, Wyatt is gone.

Wyatt has been struggling. Day after day he goes to the studio, but accomplishes nothing. His album wasn’t even close to finished. There were a few great songs – maybe even hits – but he’s been struck by writers block and has no inspiration. He needed an optimistic song, something besides the usual lost my dog/truck/woman. Gay country music might be a niche, but he desperately wanted to fill the void. But that meant writing something amazing, and Wyatt is coming up dry. And then Bryce walked back into his life and things finally begin to turn around.

This is a fun short story, one that I really enjoyed. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the small turns in the plot, ones I didn’t find at all clichés but rather refreshingly different. I also strongly sympathized with Wyatt. He wanted to avoid the usual route most country artists take, and is determined to make something meaningful and still his own. Bryce is the perfect counterpart for him. Bryce is happy to push Wyatt out of his comfort zone and get him thinking along different lines. I think it’s exactly what both men need and was thrilled at how great they came together.

There’s a very sensual M/M love scene. I found it smoking hot, but not outrageous or offensive. I also enjoyed the build up to it – Wyatt and Bryce didn’t just hop into bed with each other. Plenty of ground work is laid out beforehand. I was a little disappointed with Bryce and Wyatt’s reactions after the sensual scene – that alone was the only part of the story I felt clichéd and a let-down, but I did find the resolution satisfying and the happy ending is always a bonus in my eyes.

A strong M/M short story that I’d recommend to other readers.