Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley

GOOD
Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Two radio show hosts. One show. Who will come out on top?

In a moment of restlessness, Tate Grayson sold his multimillion-dollar company and spun his love of sports into a radio talk show. Life, and love, is too short to take seriously—a fact he enjoys rubbing in uptight radio host Noelle Butler’s face.

After the death of her parents, a tragedy she blamed on herself, Noelle vowed to live a controlled, focused life. Now a psychologist, she channels her need for connection into her radio show. But when the arrogant sportscaster next door tells listeners men shouldn’t get married, she’s all too happy to yank the silver spoon out of his overprivileged mouth.

Their heated on-air arguments are a hit, but when the station director forces them to do a joint show for two weeks, Tate and Noelle object. They can’t stand each other, despite the attraction sizzling beneath every interaction. But if they can’t pull the struggling radio station back from the brink, they’ll lose their jobs. Or worse, their hearts.

I love stories where there’s a lot of tension and animosity between the main characters, tension that slowly grows into something different, something more. Tell Me Something Good has a nice amount of competitiveness and conflicts between Noelle and Tate, and each scene makes it clearer that the tension is the result of their mutual attraction and their fear to admit it. All this made the chemistry between Noelle and Tate sizzling.

Not that the stubborn Noelle would ever admit it. I found her an intriguing character with a lot of depth and emotional richness. Perhaps Tate was a bit more stereotypical than her, but he was still convincing in his role as the hero of the novel. Their slow realization of what they felt for each other was tantalizing and well paced. However, there was a slump in pace in the second half of the novel where there’s a long scene where Tate pampers Noelle. While it showed his feelings for her, I felt it was a bit overdone and went on for too long.

What was really great about Tell Me Something Good was the dialogue – very appropriate for a story with radio talk show hosts as the main characters. The verbal sparring between Noelle and Tate was very passionate and hot and it testified to the tension between them.

If you’re looking for a story with juicy dialogue and a heated conflict between the characters, this one’s for you. You’ll grow to love the emotionally scarred protagonists, laugh at their bickering and melt as they grow to love each other. This novel has something good to tell you.

Pillow Talk by Ruth J. Hartman

PILLOW
Pillow Talk by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What happens when a tooth fairy falls in love with her dentist?

The dental community may never be the same.

***

Trixie Trident has a secret. Everyone knows she creates one-of-a-kind jewelry during the day. It’s what she does on her night job no one would ever guess. She’s a tooth fairy. Not the tooth fairy, just one of many. It would take her whole life just to combat the many misconceptions people have about TFs. Like how nobody wears tutus or uses a wand. Or stands three inches high. Nope, Trixie looks just like any other woman in her mid-twenties. And she’d tell people all of that stuff. If she was allowed to. But she’d sworn a sacred tooth fairy oath that she’d never tell a soul. And she hadn’t. Except for her best friend, who would never breathe a word to anyone.

Gray Keebler meets Trixie when she comes to his dental office as a new patient. He’s had lots of single women patients before, but not one has ever sparked his interest like Trixie. What is it about her that’s so unique? He can’t quite figure it out but he’s determined to try, even when she turns him down for a second date. Trixie is attracted to Gray like she’s never been to any man before. He’s what she always dreamed of in a man. And they even have the subject of teeth in common. But a relationship with the gorgeous dentist can never be. How could it when she’s a tooth fairy? Not only can’t she tell him, but he’d never believe her anyway.

Some secrets are easy to keep. Others require a lot more effort. Can you guess which kind Trixie is dealing with?

Trixie’s awkwardness was endearing. It worked well with everything else that was revealed about her character, and it also made her relatable. It was especially entertaining to see how her flaws affected her attempts to flirt or even to socialize in a large group. Having special powers doesn’t guarantee that everything else in your life will fall into place after all!

There is a secondary character in this tale who consistently acts in a seriously unprofessional manner. At times it was difficult for me to suspend my disbelief and climb all the way into the plot due to the some of the stunts that she pulls. They were just too over the top for someone in her position, especially given how the other characters respond to what she tries to do. It would have been helpful if more time had been spent explaining what was going on in this subplot.

The chemistry between Trixie and Gray took a little while to show up, but once it did it was undeniable. Their personalities and quirks are so similar that it some ways it was as if they’d known each other for years instead of only a few weeks. Sometimes there’s something to be said for pursuing someone who acts and thinks a lot like you do.

I’d recommend Pillow Talk to anyone in the mood for something lighthearted and fairly short.

A Seal’s Fantasy by Tawny Weber

FANTASY
A Seal’s Fantasy by Tawny Weber
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thornapple

Subject: Navy SEAL Lieutenant Dominic Castillo

Mission: Protect—not seduce!—his sexy target

Dominic Castillo loves his SEAL team like brothers—except one, who made sure Castillo was left behind during the latest mission. But when his rival is kidnapped by a vicious drug lord, Castillo receives a black ops mission of his own: protect his rival’s sister. And any mistakes will either result in her death…or his.

Lara Banks clearly has no interest in being protected by a military man, especially an acquaintance of her estranged brother. So why is she doing her best to drive him crazy with pure temptation? Lara insists on having her naughty way with him—over and over—but is fulfilling their fantasies worth the price?

If this book had a play list The Doors “I Love You, Won’t you Tell Me Your Name” would have to be at the top. That’s how perfect the chemistry was between Dominic and Lara. They locked eyes and that’s all it took. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Dominic is on an assignment to protect Lara from being used as a method of retaliation due to the assignment her brother Phillip in involved in as the team leader of the SEALS unit Dominic is a part of .

Dominic can’t stand Phillip and he blames him for having to sit out of their current assignment. He is still fuming over the way things turned out when he comes face to face with his ultimate fantasy, a dancer… who also happens to be the target and Phillip’s estranged sister, which is the ultimate irony.

I have read a few other books in this series and this one is the best so far. This is certainly a super steamy romance but it also has a lot of depth. I found myself swallowing back a lump in my throat once. When men see that you have a problem, many times instead of listening and letting you just talk it out and get it off your chest, they feel compelled to fix the problems for you . It’s really sweet, but sometimes we don’t want them to fix things for us. Dominic wanted to see a broken family come together but, he also had some doubts about Lara he needed to put to rest. So, I could see this playing out in real life and that made the story more emotional. A wonderful story of true love, adults growing up emotionally, compromising, and accepting life’s curve balls, building bridges , family bonds , and of course true love. Well done!

Jessamine’s Folly by S.G. Roger

FOLLY
Jessamine’s Folly by S.G. Roger
Publisher: Idunn Court Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Length: Short Story (102 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After her estate is entailed away, Jessamine Foster has no choice but to live with relatives who detest her. When her aunt gives her an ultimatum to leave, Jessamine accepts a position as companion to Lord Kirkendale’s sister—even though she’s been warned her predecessors can’t seem to resist the earl’s exceptional good looks. Can Jessamine manage to hold onto her job without losing her heart?

To honor a promise made to his dying father, Lord Kirkendale agrees to an arranged marriage to a woman he cannot love. Although he is resigned to a life without sentiment, the arrival of his sister’s new companion awakens a slumbering passion. Can he find a way to secure his own happiness without sacrificing his family’s honor, or will his broken promise result in the ruination of the person he loves most?

Sometimes your fate can change in the span of a few heartbeats.

As soon as I read the opening scene, I couldn’t wait to learn what would happen next. A funeral definitely isn’t a typical setting for a young adult novel. It was a good choice for this one, though, as it made me eager to find out what was going on. My first impressions of the characters who attended it were as accurate as they were entertaining.

The title of this book was confusing to me. There were plenty of follies to go around in the plot, but none of them belonged to Jessamine. She was no more responsible for her parents’ death than she was for her reduced station in life afterwards. I never did understand what the author was getting at with this particular title and would have liked to know more about why it was chosen.

Jessamine’s temper problems made me like her even more than I might have otherwise. She came across as an incredibly proper woman for the time and place in which she lived. It was nice to see how she behaved when she wasn’t on her best behavior, though, because it made her so relatable. Sometimes a flaw can seem so large that it’s impossible to imagine what life would be without it. This part of her personality was written well.

It would have been helpful to have more character development in this tale. Everyone other than Jessamine tended to be portrayed in two-dimensional ways. The other characters were either written as good and kind or selfish and cruel. There was little room on either side for the complex emotions, behaviors, or motivations that I would have preferred to see.

Amelie, the young woman that Jessamine is hired to chaperone, was a highlight of this story for me. Her sharp sense of humor made me smile more than once. I especially enjoyed the scenes that involved Jessamine’s conversations with her. Their friendship was as warm as it was genuine.

I’d recommend Jessamine’s Folly to anyone in the mood for something romantic and historical.

Her Mad Hatter by by Maria Hall

HATTER
Her Mad Hatter by by Maria Hall
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (129 pgs)
Heat level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Waratah

Alice is all grown up. Running the Mad Hatter’s Cupcakery and Tea Shoppe is a delicious job, until fate–and a fairy godmother with a weakness for bad boys–throws her a curveball. Now, Alice is the newest resident of Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter fuels her fantasies and thrills her body with his dark touch.

The Mad Hatter may have a voice and a body made for sex, but he takes no lovers. Ever. But a determined fairy godmother has forced Alice into Wonderland–and his arms. Now, as desire and madness converge, the Hatter must decide if he will fight the fairy godmother’s mating–or fight for Alice.

So sad… a young girl who was thought of as crazy because she called for the Mad Hatter and he came to her, if only in a dream. As she grew up, she turned out so very different than what was expected of her.

How exciting! I’d tell potential readers to close their eyes and take a walk in the magical world that Ms Hall created here, but then they wouldn’t be able to read this fantastic storybook retelling of a classic. So I’ll say this; open your mind and travel with Alice to her wonderland, and feel what she does: the excitement, the amazement, even the unbelievable. I found this story so intriguing and emotional. Reading Alice in Wonderland as a child, I never thought of the Hatter as really being mad or sad, but in Her Mad Hatter I could almost feel his sadness and loneliness ooze off the pages.

Hatter, such a soulful, older-than-time man, has been through so much as he’s waited for “The One” that will keep him sane. However, as Alice makes her way to him does the Hatter even care anymore? Is he washing his hands of the whole mate thing and resigned to his fate?

Oh my goodness, there’s this one character, the fairy G Danika, I loved her!! She was so much fun, simply wonderful and I loved her personality. I can’t wait to see how she handles her other “Bad boys”.

This delightful book is the first one in the series. It’s just the right length and the story moved along well without ever getting boring. It gives me a whole new look on old but dear fairy tale. The author had me witnessing some sadness, heartache, passion and eventually, a lot of love. I’d recommend this to anyone that loves fairy tales.

Whatever, Forever by Lael R. Neill

FOREVER
Whatever, Forever by Lael R. Neill
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (42 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Audrey Taylor and her older sister Kelsey splurge on a two-week vacation at an upscale dude ranch in central Washington State. While Kelsey unabashedly pursues her goal of finding a rich boyfriend and goes clubbing, gambling, and drinking with a self-proclaimed movie producer, Audrey enjoys a flirtation with the handyman.

Dave is a down-to-earth maintenance man who knows how to do almost anything that needs to be done on the ranch. He invites Audrey to accompany him for an afternoon of riding fence and shows her the best scenery, he encourages her to go river rafting and to join a skywatch party. Finally, at the height of the Perseid meteor showers, they share a midnight tryst. But not everything is as it seems, and both sisters are in for a surprise.

Things are not what they seem at The Wedding Ring ranch, and Kelsey and Audrey are about to discover that.

I loved the idea of Dave’s hidden identity and how Audrey fell for him without knowing he’s actually the owner of the ranch and many other properties and companies. It gave their love a feeling of genuineness and innocence. The premise of the story has a lot of potential, and so do the characters, particularly Dave and Audrey, but I felt like they weren’t given a chance with the length of the story being so short.

I wished for a longer story which would allow for a more in-depth characterization and more detailed background of the characters. As it was, we got a few bits of information about Audrey and Dave, but other characters, like Kelsey, were virtually an unknown. This made the characterization very black and white, with no space in the text for some interesting nuances. The development of the romance between Audrey and Dave could also have been more detailed and gradual, and consequently stronger. Maybe it was the rushed development of the story, but on occasion the narration felt immature, particularly in Kelsey’s scenes.

While the interactions between Dave and Audrey flowed smoothly, the scene where they made love felt awkward – the too detailed descriptions kept getting in the way. Even in the rest of the narration, some word choices were surprising and they kept distracting me. Just one example: riposted instead of said.  The author has serious potential, though, and I look forward to trying more of her stories as her writing matures.

Whatever, Forever is a quick read about how important it is to love someone for the right reasons.

Dark Witch by Nora Roberts

WITCH
Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.

Ireland.

County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and Iona Sheehan has made it happen. All she has ever wanted to do is go to Ireland and find her roots… and learn more about the witch that she is. What she isn’t prepared for, however, is the dark force lying in wait for the return of the three. Can she and her two newfound cousins defeat this ancient evil and bring peace to their family?

Iona Sheehan is quite a character. Exuberant, young, and eager, she makes me laugh out loud throughout the book. Her love of horses and family is very endearing and sweet. I loved the way she embraced her heritage – lurking evil force or not – and dove in head first in order to be ready in time to face off with Cabhan with her cousins.

Boyle McGrath is the embodiment of all I’ve ever expected an Irishman to be. He’s surly, he’s stubborn, and he’s one hundred and ten percent lovable. His gruff reluctance to give in to his emotions is adorable and amusing because we know that Iona will find a way to worm her way into his heart, right? Once she does, they become the closest thing to a perfect couple. They don’t always agree or get along, but they find a way to stick it out in the end.

In addition to the main couple, you are treated to an entertaining cast of characters. Branna and Conner, Iona’s cousins, are like night and day, and yet so much alike sometimes that it’s scary. Maera and Fin, co-workers of Iona’s and friends of the cousins, only add humor, friendship, and love to the mix. I’d love to sit in on a night with this group, whether in Branna’s home or at the local pub, either way you know you’d be in for a night you wouldn’t forget.

Set in picturesque Ireland, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting, the story takes off from the very first page, whisking you off on adventure and into a romance you can’t help but root for. With its rich storytelling, loveable characters, and intense plot, I had a hard time putting this one down. For my first Nora Roberts novel, it was a giant win.

Captured by the Sheikh by Kate Hewitt

CAPTURED
Captured by the Sheikh by Kate Hewitt
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (192 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lisianthus

“I took your bride. I’ll take your throne. Because both are mine by right.”

Banishment and shame has turned Sheikh Khalil al Bakir into a man determined to reclaim the crown of Kadar from his rival. Khalil’s campaign begins by kidnapping his enemy’s bride-to-be. She’s a means to an end, so why is he so inflamed at the thought of her in anyone’s bed but his own?

Queen Elena Karras of Thallia was prepared for a cold, mutually convenient marriage. Instead she is carried off into the sands, where the virgin queen soon discovers an unexpected desire for her sinfully sexy captor that leaves her craving more….

Queen Elena needs to marry quickly to save her monarchy, she doesn’t expect to be kidnapped by Sheikh Khalil al Bakir, who needs to stop her marriage so he can reclaim his rightful throne.

I was very amused by how easily Khalil kidnapped her, and then tricks her in to thinking he lives a very primitive existence. I enjoyed that Elena does attempt to escape and doesn’t just roll over and give up. It’s only because they’re in the middle of the desert that she doesn’t escape. Elena easily falls for the kindness Khalil shows her and after they get lost in the desert things get even more complicated.

I enjoyed Khalil. He’s a gruff alpha male and while he feels a bit bad that he’s ruined Elena’s plans, he goes out of his way to get her to realize that she doesn’t need a consort in order to rule her country. I love that he went out his way to build up her self-confidence.

These two together were very sexy, and the chemistry is off the charts. The author does a great job of bringing the desert nomad life alive on the page. I found myself imagining the heat and the sand.

This story had everything I’ve come to love in Sheikh stories, a brooding male, a strong but innocent female, and an exotic backdrop for it all. I highly recommend this for fans of Sheikh love stories.

Risking It All by Lucy Oliver

ALL
Risking It All by Lucy Oliver
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (56 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Beneath bomb-filled skies, Head Radio Operator Lynne Cecil takes the safety of her RAF pilots seriously. They’re England’s last defense against the Luftwaffe. But too many pilots die on her watch. The top brass harass her for answers, but her team is giving their all.

Devastated by the death of his brother, Spitfire ace Billy Jenkins accepts a secret assignment to investigate the high rate of deaths. But the person who seems at fault is his old flame, Lynne. Torn between duty and love, Billy must discover if the woman he still adores is responsible for the loss of his fellow flyers.

Lynne can’t afford the distraction of falling for a fighter pilot like Billy at this dangerous time. But every flight could be Billy’s last. Will she settle for one night of passion or risk losing him forever?

Love in the time of war is a precious thing, albeit dangerous. Both Billy and Lynne fight it because they can’t be sure they will survive and they’ve both lost so much already that they are not sure they could face more heartbreak.

The air raids and bomb-filled skies set an atmospheric background to this love story. The world is fraught with danger, and yet, for Lynne and Billy, there’s a chance they could find some peace in each other’s arms. But everything seems to be against them: Lynne’s humiliation over Billy ignoring her years ago, Billy’s doubts about how well she’s doing her job as head radio operator, their fears of heartbreak … Both characters were well-portrayed and made me want to know more about them. I wished the story were longer so that their relationship could be presented in greater detail. As it was, it felt a bit rushed, and although I wanted to, I didn’t feel the chemistry between them.

The characters and events brought the war era to life. The descriptions of the airplanes taking off to go fight the attackers, the bombings, everything added to the tension, making it even more apparent why the relationship between Lynne and Billy seemed unwise at such a time. It was easy to imagine what life was like at the time, and this was a large part of the appeal of this story. It sounded authentic and realistic.

The plotline about the traitor at the airbase felt too much like a plot device because there was little development in the storyline and it mostly served to plant the seed of doubt about Lynne in Billy. With more details and a slower build-up, it would’ve worked better, I felt.

Risking It All is a tender love story that speaks of hope and optimism. Although short, it succeeds in creating an authentic atmosphere that emphasizes the importance of recognizing when something good is coming your way and grabbing it with both hands. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes

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Bloodstone by Helen C. Johannes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (426 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Edelweiss

What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones–petrified dragon’s blood–for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man–not a fiend–hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

A man whose face can kill, a woman bound to him by a promise, and both haunted by mysterious, intimate dreams of each other. Bloodstone’s story is rich and layered, nuanced and engrossing.

The main characters are both engaging. Mirianna is instantly likable as you see the way she looks after and cares for her widowed father. She is resourceful and capable, but most of all passionate. Her choices are intuitive and her feelings strong. I respected and admired her and appreciated how smart and quick-witted she was written.

The Shadow Man is deeply layered and deeply flawed. When he is presented with ethical choices, he often genuinely considers taking the wrong path. He can be brusque and harsh, when he should be kind and gentle. He is deeply conflicted, torn between the man he used to be and what he is now. He is constantly at battle with himself, and you can feel this leaking through his scenes and encompassing his thoughts.

I loved reading these two characters respond to one another. The dreams that have haunted them for years attract them to each other as much as it scares them. Both are powerful characters with strong personalities and the results are scenes which swept me up and gripped me, and kept me eagerly waiting to see what they would do next.

However both characters are not only haunted by their dreams, they both find themselves followed by a mysterious lioness. Other things are afoot, as it’s soon made clear that not everyone is who they claim to be. The story was very well done, with some truly surprising plot twists and revelations I did not see coming, and there was more than one point in the story where my jaw was left hanging open.

The romance in the book was for the most part excellent. Though it did feel a little rushed once or twice, with the motivations and reasons behind their feelings and changing attitudes towards each other, not always being clear to me.

The opening of the book moves a little slowly, taking a significant amount of time to reach the plot described on the back of the book. However the author has a beautiful writing style and a keen eye for detail, and I was never bored or disinterested in what was happening.

Helen C. Johannes has built up a rich fantasy world, with an intriguing and unique history. I loved reading about the world, the things that inhabited it, and the way it worked. She knew exactly how much to dole out and when, in order to keep me informed but eager for more.

The ending is very satisfying, but I suspect there may be a sequel planned, and if there is I will certainly be reading it. The book works well as a breathtaking romance and as a fantasy story of heroes, magic and mystery. If you’re in the mood for either, read it!