Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba

TWIST
Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Real bad boys can grow up to be real good men.

Texas Montgomery Mavericks, Book 4

Hit hard by the death of her parents, Paige Ryan needs to figure out what to do with her life. She moves to Whispering Springs, Texas, to be near her step-brother. But just as she starts to get her life on track, the last man she ever wanted to see again sends it right back off the rails.

Cash Montgomery was on the cusp of having it all. Three bull riding titles, fame, fortune and respect from his family. Until a bad bull leaves him injured, angry and searching for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. With nowhere to go, he moves into his sister-in-law’s old ranch house in Whispering Springs which he’s surprised to find already occupied.

As Cash rebuilds the dilapidated home and Paige starts out on her medical career, their old friendship begins to reemerge and sparks are ignited. Paige knows that Cash is nothing but a heartache waiting to happen. But maybe this bad boy has grown up to be a real good man?

Warning: Watch out for falling lumber, falling in holes, and falling for the wrong guy again. You can leave your hard hat on.

Texas Twist is the fourth book in the Montgomery Mavericks Series. It is a wonderful story full of emotions, heartache and passion. To put it simply, Texas Twist is another fabulous job by Cynthia D’Alba.

It’s finally time for the youngest Montgomery brother to get his happy ending. Cash is a cocky, self assured, two time championship bull rider. He thought he had everything until that one bad ride when he almost lost his life. Now, he’s feeling the damage and drowning his sorrows in whiskey. But then fate steps in with a second chance when a woman from his past shows up and helps him get back in the saddle. So to speak ….

Paige Ryan fell for Cash when she was just a teenager. She gave him her heart and her virginity only to watch him walk away afterward. He broke her heart and she’s determined to not repeat the mistake again. But, who could resist a sexy, smooth talking cowboy ?

This book really tugged at my heart. Cash was such a great character as he struggled to find himself. He’d really lost the one thing that made him who he was and now he had to look deep inside.This book had so many emotional scenes that it’s hard for me to picka favorite one. There was this one part where Cash was feeling like an outsider in the family, there were a couple where he started to realize that he had a drinking problem, and then again when he was so panic stricken at something that happened near the end and he realized that his brothers only wanted to help him. See? It had too many great scenes to choose from. Paige was absolutely the best woman to help our lost cowboy. She’s strong and has had to cope with her own loss over the years. She’s such a calming influence on the troubled Cash without even meaning to at first. Then there was the sexual chemistry that was there, and a truth that she found her way into his heart a long time ago.

The book had a great plot. The broken cowboy part really did it for me, you know. It was impossible not to instantly connect with him. I liked the characters and romance and especially the hot love scenes. I especially liked that all the Montgomerys came together in this one. As usual, the writing was excellent with a smooth flow that made it easy to read. It also had a couple of twists here and there, a bit of edgy drama, and a couple of secrets that were revealed. Aside from the romance, this one is all about family and Cash finding his true self worth. It’s about healing from a broken heart and a battered spirit. Most of all, it’s a really wonderful story.

I loved this one. It really stood out for me in every way. Finally, let me just say that while I’ve truly enjoyed them all, Texas Twist will remain my favorite.

September Mainstream Romance Book of the Month Poll

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle

VISCOUNT
The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (235 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

She has no desire for love…

As she arrives in Mayfair, Louisa Tempest is horrified when her incorrigible cat bolts from the carriage and dashes into a neighbor’s house, where she comes face-to-face with the reclusive Viscount Wakefield. But even more dismaying than his foul temper is the disarray in which she finds his home. Convinced his demeanor would improve if his household were in order, Louisa resolves to put everything to rights.

…until she meets the viscount who lives down the lane.

Much to his chagrin, Wakefield finds it impossible to keep the meddling Louisa out of his home, invading his daily life with her “improvements,” and his nights with the tempting desires she sparks inside him. Wounded in the war, he’s scorned society ever since his return . . . until Louisa opens the door to his heart and convinces him to give love a second chance.

What a delightful story!

Elizabeth Boyle takes the reader to the time in England after the Napoleonic Wars when so many men had returned crippled in body, mind, and spirit. Pierson Stratton, Viscount Wakefield is one of these men. He has hidden himself away in his dark, foreboding house feeling he has no right to a normal, happy life after so many of his comrades suffered and died.

He has intimidated his family and the servants until they leave him alone to wallow in his misery. When Louisa Tempest and her cat Hannibal (possibly the ugliest and most tenacious cat in England) invade his territory, he is furious. He bars her from his house, but it is too late to bar her from his life and thoughts. As for Hannibal, he turns a deaf ear to the viscount and makes himself at home in the viscount’s library where he found a suitable chair near the fireplace.

While Louisa holds fast to her declaration that her efforts are “Neighborly Kindness,” Viscount Wakefield thinks she is a “meddling piece of muslin, a bossy minx, a busybody handful and as annoying as the ray of sunlight that seems to find its way between the drapes into his dark bedroom in the mornings.” But, he is reluctant to rule against the changes she’s made in his household because his life is SO much better.

Louisa is in London to suffer a “coming-out” season because her twin Lavinia desperately longs for one and hopes to find a suitable husband. Louisa doesn’t want a husband. She just wants to survive the Season and go back to her quiet life in a small village.

When their dead mother’s reputation begins to be aired even after all these years, they are cut by the “good ton.” Life becomes a tangle but it gets interesting and is not without its fits and spurts of humor. Hannibal, that ugly cat, made me laugh, giggle, and smile. When Elizabeth Boyle ascribes to him the look that says, “Tell me I didn’t waste a perfectly good rat on you, did I?” as he looks at the irate viscount from the safety of Louisa’s arms, I gave a yes vote to that intrepid feline and to his mistress who has a lot of the same attitude.

The side stories of Lavinia”s adventures during the Season and the revival of a love long denied between the widow Lady Aveley and the love of her youth enhance the story.

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane bustles with happenings. The historical time is very evident as the reader sees the plight of children orphaned by the war, the working class seeking a say in government, and the lines blurring between the peerage and the rich who have worked to make their money. These things are woven into the story but do not overshadow the upbeat, “we-can-fix-it” attitude Louisa Tempest bring with her. I love a strong heroine. ENJOYED THIS ONE!

Wolf in Her Bed by N. J. Walters

Wolf in Her Bed
Wolf in Her Bed by N. J. Walters
Salvation Pack Book Two
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (247 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Foxglove

Is he Prince Charming or the Big Bad Wolf?

Salvation Pack, Book 2

Anny Conrad is a single thirty-year-old librarian—a cliché complete with two cats. Dragged out to a local bar, she’s rethinking her life plan over a few drinks when a man walks up and asks her to dance. And what a man. Tall, rugged and more than a little untamed. Before she knows it, she’s in his arms and throwing caution to the wind.

With a pack war in full, deadly swing, the last thing Armand LaForge needs right now is a woman in his life, much less a human. But one thing is certain, he’s met his mate, the one woman in the world for him.

The kindest thing to do is give her all the hot sex she wants and then leave her alone. But when the morning comes, fate isn’t done screwing with them. Anny is confronted with the fact that the myths in her library books are real…and now she’s one of them.

Warning: A night out at a club can lead to a loss of inhibitions and hot sex with a werewolf. Your life will never be the same. You’ve been warned.

Wolf in Her Bed is N. J. Walters’ next book in the Salvation pack series, set in the world so well established in the first book. This is a dangerous world, with strong and honorable heroes, and equally strong women who learn to accept that which they cannot change, and make changes where they can. The romance is just this side of scorching, and the passion rises from the page to draw the reader in to the story.

Armand LaForge is on edge after the attacks on the pack in Salvation, attacks by their old pack back in Louisiana. The only good thing to have come out of this war so far is that their alpha, Jacque LaForge, found his mate, even if Jacque’s evil father nearly killed her when he attacked.

Armand needs to find a way to relax, and decides one beer at the local roadhouse might help. Anny Conrad has gone for a birthday drink with her friend Sue, and watches as her friend dances and has a fun evening. Anny is a quiet woman, but Armand notices her in the crowded room, wondering why she looks a bit sad among all the people. When he asks her to dance, his wolf recognizes her as his mate, and Armand knows he has to walk away, rather than draw Anny into the pack wars they are fighting. Unfortunately, the pack is being watched, and as careful as Armand is, his father still gets news of his one night with Anny, and comes to teach his wayward son a lesson, almost killing Anny. Can Anny accept what she has become, and build a new life that could include Armand? Can the Salvation pack keep her safe, and stop Remy LaForge from doing any more damage? Can two scarred and lonely hearts heal each other, for a happy ever after, in spite of the danger ahead?

Anny Conrad is a quiet and sensitive woman, happy to enjoy simple things. She has a core of inner strength, however, and I like how she decides to, just once, grab what life offers her in Armand. I like that she is willing to experience all that he has to offer, even if it is only for one night. I liked that she had the courage to try and fight off Remy, and when she was dying, she had the strength to accept her wolf, and live.

Armand LaForge, cousin to the Alpha of Salvation Pack, is strong, but scarred, both inside and out. He knows, deep inside, he has to let Anny go to keep her safe, but he has one moment of weakness, one night in her arms before he says goodbye. I like Armand with his sense of honor and strength of character, and his willingness to turn away from his mate rather than see her hurt, or worse. I also like his determination to protect Anny after he learns of her attack. I liked watching as he slowly worked past her defenses, making a place in her heart and her life.

There is a lot of passion and romance here, and five deliciously hot werewolves to delight. There is also danger at every turn, from the spies from the Louisiana pack, and later from Armand’s father Remy. I enjoyed the fast pace of this one, it made me cry, sigh and there were some giggles in there as well. If hot and strong heroes, sassy and independent women and lots of searing romance are what you enjoy, this is well worth the reading. I recommend that these two books be read in order for the most enjoyment, but there is enough background to make this one stand alone.

Christmas at Twilight by Lori Wilde

TWILIGHT
Christmas at Twilight by Lori Wilde
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

It’s Christmas in Twilight, Texas. The Cookie Club is baking, the town is decorated, and Delta Force Operator “Hutch” Hutchinson has finally, reluctantly, returned home . . .

. . . only to get pepper sprayed by the delicious- looking stranger who’s taken over his house. She says her name is Jane, and she immediately sets down ground rules. Top priority: no touching. For Hutch that isn’t easy—he was wounded in action, but one part is still working very well.

Then Hutch learns the truth. Jane harbors a frightening secret—she’s really Meredith Sommers, on the run from a dangerous ex-husband and desperately in need of the safety Hutch can provide. In that moment, he vows he’d do anything in his power to protect her. And as Christmas approaches, they discover that their love can conquer the past and overcome any obstacle—but what price will they pay?

Christmas at Twilight delivers all the romance the title promises, and a heap of suspense on top of it.

The main characters were portrayed flawlessly, with both, Meredith and Hutch, carrying a lot of baggage with them, but even so, them growing fond of each other, learning to trust each other, and ultimately loving each other was written in a way that felt real and meaningful. Particularly Meredith was an inspiring individual with her strength and determination obvious in her every action. She is an inspiration for abused women everywhere. Her courage is awe-inspiring.

Hutch, too, finds himself at a crossroads at the point in life when we meet him. Without his genuine goodness and the bitter, but important life experience that he has, his life could easily turn for the worse. Instead, he makes the right choice and it leads him to love, loyalty and a new beginning. As a character, he went from a gruff, hurting ex military to an understanding, supportive and loving family man smoothly. His portrayal never once stumbled, it was very genuine.

What bothered me a bit was the overly positive portrayal of most of the side characters. The town of Twilight simply seemed too dreamy and ideal to be believable. I tripped over that quite a few times while reading, but the tight and suspenseful plot pulled me right back in. Especially towards the end, I couldn’t keep still when reading through Meredith fighting off her attacker. I kept wanting to help her kick him to kingdom come. But she managed to do that quite well on her own.

Just as the kids bring a lot of happiness and relief for Meredith and Hutch (even when he is still hurting from his war wounds), the same way they brought a lot of fresh and lovely moments to the story. Of course, that’s what kids usually do, however, capturing that in fiction requires a skillful writer. I really enjoyed their scenes.

This one will make you cry, it will make you smile. All that emotion will transfer from the page right into you as you read it, because the author wrote it splendidly.

As Good As Gold by Heidi Wessman Kneale

GOLD
As Good As Gold by Heidi Wessman Kneale
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Daywen Athalia wants love–true and lasting. Fearing a future of bitter loneliness, she seeks help from a gypsy woman. The price: a hundred pieces of gold. Daywen’s never had two shillings to rub together in her life. Where’s she going to find a hundred gold pieces?

Bel MacEuros made a career of theft from fey creatures. When the cursed gold he rightfully stole from a gnome is taken from him by Daywen, the consequences could bless or break his life.

It is not the gnome’s curse or a gypsy’s blessing but another magic, far deeper and more powerful, that will change their lives forever.

The choice:  Loneliness or rob a rich man? Daywen thinks there is no choice. Theft is the only way to go.

She robs the rich man who has entered town so she can pay the gypsy in the woods for the Enchanted Faerie. The gold is cursed but Daywen is unaware of this.

This is a lovely story, short but with everything included. Love, magic and internal questioning by Daywen and Bel MacEuros, the man the Enchanted Faerie chooses for her. Neither wishes to fall in love with the other, and their anger rises as Bel tries to retrieve his money and Daywen tries to stop him taking the Faerie.

I enjoyed the book, well written and with well rounded characters. Bel is the strong male hero, Daywen the seemingly docile young woman who is desperate enough to do anything. The gypsy is not your typical old crone, more a herbal woman who likes to help. Bel’s mother is really lovely and talks sense to her son.

I enjoyed spending an hour with this story. It caught my interest and held me right to the end. Good book.

An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham

WOMAN
An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (306 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman, some skill with a needle, and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes her tormentor, Joseph, and the dank fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to interrupt her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of the great country house, Philomena hears whispers of the mysteries and lies that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

Philomena has a secret (a shock to this reader). It overshadows her every effort and decision. Moreover, at the death of her kind, caring guardian, she becomes a target for his ne’er-do-well son. Disguised and without much planning, she runs. The train she’s on from London to Bristol wrecks. At the wreck, Philomena and Lord Thatcham’s lives become entangled with the reader immersed in it all. I felt as if I were there feeling the tensions, the suspense, the uneasiness, and the inching in of love that seems to be hopeless.

Lord Thatcham, a widower with a four-year-old son, takes his responsibilities and his position as a peer of the realm seriously. He sees and understands change as the business and trades people in the country gain wealth and power. He is not a snob like his mother, but he does feel his importance and authority.

He does not intimidate Philomena though. At one point she tells him he is bad-tempered, proud, and thinks others are beneath him. She stands toe to toe with him and speaks her mind, offer her opinions, wins the heart of the precocious four-year-old John, and gains the respect of the servants at the Thatcham estate. She and his sister Selena become friends, but the mother is another thing altogether. Her devious, underhanded ways really do rev up one’s blood pressure.

There is an undercurrent of what really happened to the late Lady Thatcham and her connection with the hated neighbor Arthur Muldron. The coincidence that involves how Muldron came to own the estate next to Thatcham House and how he knows Philomena may be a little bit of the stretch, but the story is so good and so compelling, I couldn’t stop reading until I knew all about it.

What seems like an impossible situation that brings everything to the climax leaves precious little wiggle room for Lord Thatcham and Philomena to have a chance at a happy-ever-after. There are some tense times as two antagonists conspire against Philomena in order to secure their own place in society.

Frances Evesham slips the reader into a time of rapid change in England, uses light and dark character traits, light and dark places, and love that will not be denied to create a page-turning story.

The Wedding Vow by Cara Connelly

VOW
The Wedding Vow by Cara Connelly
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (00 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

Cara Connelly’s second Save the Date novel proves that opposites do attract…

The Playboy

Sexy billionaire Adam LeCroix has a mission: hunt down the sultry spitfire he blames for his troubles, demand her help, and exact revenge while he’s at it. Maddie St. Clair will help him . . . or else.

The Prosecutor

Former prosecutor Maddie damn near nailed Adam for stealing, but the lucky bastard walked. Now, five years later, he’s back, arrogant as ever, giving her an ultimatum—work for him to collect the insurance money, or she’ll never work again.

The Problem

Maddie’s all about right and wrong. Adam’s shades of gray. So when he uncovers the hot body under her hard-ass veneer and she finds he’s a thief with a heart, can the law-and-order lawyer and the fast-and-loose felon put their prickly past behind them?

Do not be fooled by the title, The Wedding Vow is not about a wedding. This story contains a lot of hot, sizzling sex scenes, great characters, and beautiful places. During the course of this story one stray dog is saved from certain death, a hatchet is buried, two paintings are stolen, lot of Prosecco is drunk and two very stubborn people fall in love. Reading The Wedding Vow is really a great adventure.  This is the second book in the Connelly’s Save the Date series, but it can be read as a standalone.

This story moved me on so many levels. I felt all the emotions the characters felt, all their happiness and sorrow and disappointments. The way the hero and heroine’s relationship progresses is beautiful. The story starts when Adam LeCroix forces Maddie St. Clair to work for him. In a way he wants to get revenge because she almost put him in jail five years earlier. Because she pays for her sister’s education she reluctantly agrees. Soon they realize that there is a mutual attraction between them. And before long the attraction turn into passion. As they get to know one another they come to two conclusions: first that they have very similar life experiences and second that there is more to him and to her than meets the eye (or that some private investigator can dig up).

Both Adam and Maddie are wonderfully written characters. Maddie is in not a typical heroine. She is in her mid-thirties and is fighter who speaks her mind and she does not like to be bossed around.  She has some pretty ugly demons. Adam is a typical alpha, with demons of his own. But Maddie shows him that he is not always right and that he has to stop being so stubborn and that he has to let go of the past in order to enjoy future. But probably the most valuable lesson that he learns is that money can’t buy love, family and happiness. The set of secondary characters is also great; each one of them nicely complement the story.

The only small downside is that the story is a bit too long. And because of that the pace is uneven. So in the middle, the pace of the story lost some momentum, and starts to drag a bit. Fortunately, very soon it speeds back up.

I recommend you read The Wedding Vow if you like a kick-ass heroine, alpha males, great and highly emotional stories, seeing a hero and heroine slowly fall in love, interesting love scenes and stray dogs.

Frostbitten by Heather Beck

BITTEN
Frostbitten by Heather Beck
Publisher: Enchanted Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (296 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Great beauty hides dark secrets…

Seventeen-year-old Anastasia Lockhart has never led an easy life, but when she starts getting into serious trouble, she’s sent to live with her grandparents in Cedar Falls. The small, picturesque town hasn’t changed since she visited four years ago, with one exception – the presence of a handsome, mysterious boy named Frost. Despite warnings from her grandparents and friends to stay away from Frost, Anastasia can’t deny their attraction, and the more time they spend together, the deeper in love they fall. Unfortunately, Frost has a secret that is beyond Anastasia’s wildest imagination, and she soon finds herself in the midst of a supernatural legend that has haunted Cedar Falls for years.

Can Anastasia and Frost’s love really overcome anything, or are their fates much darker?

They say that moving to a new town can give you a fresh start in life. If only Anastasia knew what to do with hers.

The worldbuilding in this story was strong. Cedar Falls is so insular that it can be incredibly difficult for outsiders to feel welcomed there. The idea of a small town being suspicious of new people and resistant to change is a stereotype, of course, but Ms. Beck fleshed out why this particular community behaves this way so well that I never felt like anyone was being pigeonholed. The reasons provide so much fodder for plot development that Cedar Falls felt like a real place to me.

I was initially interested in Anastasia’s tale because the hints about her past were so tantalizing. Serious trouble could mean just about anything, and I couldn’t wait to figure out what it was she did that damaged her mother’s trust so completely. It was disappointing to discover what it was she did due to how little she seemed to have learned from it. There was minimal character development for anyone in this tale.

Bigotry comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a blatantly obvious act of hostility, but it can also be communicated in incredibly subtle ways. I enjoyed this book’s exploration of what it’s like to live in a community that rejects people who stand out in some way from the crowd. The anxiety and fear that this experience can create was reproduced incredibly accurately within the characters who are dealing with it.

Frostbitten introduced me to a world that I wish I could visit again. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a fun, paranormal romance.

The Stone of Kings by Shea McIntosh Ford

KINGS
The Stone of Kings by Shea McIntosh Ford
Publisher: Astraea Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (242 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Twelve year old Ardan is hopelessly distracted because he wants to meet a real faerie. But when he gets his hands on a mysterious red book loaded with faerie spells and accidentally sends himself three hundred years into Ireland’s future, he soon learns that there are more important things on which to focus his attention. Throw in some immortal druids, fun storytelling, a touch of forbidden romance, along with the music and antics of the legendary Irish harper, Turlough O’Carolan, and you’ll become swept up in a very real Irish mythological adventure.

The problem with magical objects is that they don’t always do what’s expected of them.

I’d never heard of Turlough O’Carolan before, so it was a little bit of a surprise when I realized that this character actually represents a real person instead of a mythical or legendary one. His backstory is clearly explained early on in this tale for which I was grateful. I would have never caught the reference otherwise, and it only took a few pages to catch me up on the most important details of his life.

The plot regularly jumps between two story lines that are set a few hundred years apart from one another. The transitions between these settings were sometimes abrupt. At times I had trouble settling into what was happening next because my focus had been pulled away from the characters in the distant past (or future) at such a tense time in their journey.

It was fascinating to see how Ardan reacts to being thrown so far into the future. He is mesmerized by many things that I take for granted in my everyday life, from the Internet to painkillers. The author did a great job at focusing this reader’s attention on just how strange our world would be to someone deeply unfamiliar with it

At times the romantic subplot clashed with everything else that was going on. It’s not typically something I expect to find in books written for this age group anyway, but the particulars of this specific relationship were extra puzzling for me. I never would have thought that the characters involved in it would have found one another attractive given all of the differences between them.

Faeries have always fascinated me. Knowing that they play such an integral part in this story was one of the reasons why I was so interested in reading it. While I already knew almost all of the superstitions about them that were mentioned in the plot, it was fun to see how the Irish culture’s ideas about them differ from the legends of other lands.

I’d recommend The Stone of Kings to middle grade and adult readers alike. This is the kind of fantasy story that I’d expect to appeal to a wide age range. It’s something I’d suggest to anyone who doesn’t typically read children’s fiction.