Avoiding Alpha by Aileen Erin

ALPHA
Avoiding Alpha by Aileen Erin
Publisher: Ink Monster, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (148 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Seventeen-year-old Tessa McCaide has come a long way since her abrupt entrance into the world of werewolves, but she still has just as far to go before she’s comfortable with turning full wolf. In the meantime, she’s avoiding the topic of shifting to four legs any way she can. Thankfully her mate, Dastien Laurent, is quite the distraction.

When she finds her best friend, Meredith, getting sick in the bathroom, Tessa knows something’s majorly wrong. Meredith was cursed years ago, and the dark magic kept her wolf dormant—only now the wolf is awake, and that same spell is killing her.

Tessa has no intention of sitting around while Meredith wastes away. Even if it means playing with magic she doesn’t understand, she’ll do anything to save Meredith’s life. Including bargaining with the local coven of witches and its crazed leader, whose only goal is getting Tessa to join the witchy ranks.

Can Tessa save her friend without losing herself?

Some characters are created so well that they take on a life of their own in your mind. Reading about them seems seamless and easy because the author is at one with her craft. That’s how I feel after following another adventure with Tessa in Avoiding Alpha.

I can’t remember reading a first person point of view that seemed so natural. I’m not sure if it’s because the dialogue flows so well, the action and descriptions keep the plot moving or what but it’s extremely effective. The story is Tessa’s and after reading this second book, I going to say with assurance that this is not a standalone read. It most definitely picks up where the first one, Becoming Alpha leaves off, if a few days later. The transitions that Tessa goes through as she learns the ways of her wolf are fascinating and it’s like being on a roller coaster. Some days are good and some days are bad, really really bad. In this segment, Tessa is watching her best friend die and there doesn’t seem to be a cure. After reading the first book, I know that the heroine is stubborn, feisty, testy and is willing to go the extra mile to accomplish the impossible. That tendency to go where angels fear to tread is the heroine’s major personality flaw, and her strength.

In this installment, the villain is exposed. Yes, there was a villain in the first book but this one showcases a taint that more than probably touched Becoming Alpha and set up house in Avoiding Alpha. Battle lines are starting to be drawn and it’s muddled as to who is on which side. I’m thinking the setup is key for future stories. The author is painting a very intricate picture with depth, fascination and an overall story arc. It’s gripping.

I can see Tessa and Dastien’s relationship grow in this book. It’s getting stronger; they’re starting to work on the kinks that come with her being turned and falling in love in such a fast manner and they’re learning to trust. Although, like I mentioned before, Tessa has this impulsive streak and it causes some significant stress for the hero. Trust is hard to balance with a headstrong alpha female, but Tessa is learning; they both are.

If a reader is anything like me, at one point in the story I jumped to conclusions. I expected, based on how the story was being told, that I knew what Tessa was going to do and it was going to be a cliché. Wow, was I wrong. I’m thrilled to be wrong. What Ms. Erin had her heroine choose to do was a perfect balance. I had this feeling of dread and it was all for naught. Tessa might be young in age, but she’s got what it takes to take a stand and defend her friends, herself and her new family. Sometimes her thought process is older, wiser than I expect but I firmly believe that it stems from her life before becoming wolf and it’s believable. Her actions certainly earn her the title of heroine.

Avoiding Alpha has so much going for it. The secondary characters, the dialogue, the hints of intrigue and the drama of racing against time to save a friend and the meeting of family members on their home turf all come together to create an intense, entertaining and wonderful reading experience. Even though there is an overall story arc and romance weaving throughout this book, and the first in the series, each one so far has its own complete suspenseful conflict and resolution for a reader to enjoy. This series is shaping up to be an amazing adventure and if the next book is as good as this one, I’m going to put this author on my auto-buy list. Ms. Erin is a new favorite author.

The Perfect Storm – The Blake Boys by Rhonda Laurel

STORM
The Perfect Storm – The Blake Boys by Rhonda Laurel
Publisher: Etopia Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (154 pgs)
Heat level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Sometimes you have to tear everything down and start over…

Private security specialist Samantha Jane Carson gets the surprise of her life when she arrives at Blake Enterprises for the annual security audit. Instead of her usual contact, she’s greeted by the company president himself, the sexy and elusive J.J. Blake. It’s her job to know everything about the Blake family, and J.J.’s recent divorce is the talk of the town. Women are lined up to become the next Mrs. Blake, and who wouldn’t want to be? J.J.’s gorgeous, rich, and has stormy green eyes that hold women captive.

J.J. Blake is making some major changes in his life. Freshly divorced from ex-wife Eden, he’s building a new house, coming to terms with the injury that ended his NFL career, and is ready to start fresh—without romance complicating things. His friends and family encourage him to get back into the dating pool, but he’d rather not be sucked into those rough waters again. Work is the obvious diversion, and he opts to handle the security audit himself for some good old-fashioned guy/tech work. But when Sam Carson walks into his office, J.J.’s brought up short. The “Sam” he was expecting turns out to be Samantha—beautiful, smart, and a tough-as-nails ex-cop in a polished, professional package. And she’s just the kind of woman who could drag him under…

You find love when you least expect it.

The only part of the title that fits this book is the perfect part. There was definitely not a storm in the forecast. The Perfect Storm was an enjoyable read that left me with a happy feeling.

Sometimes a reader wants to read a book that will take them to a happy place. No mystery to solve, no suspense leading the reader to a degree of anxiety; just a satisfying read with a happy ending.

The character were likable and it was enjoyable to read their story. Recently divorced J.J. Blake has plans to carry on with his life, but as a man that many women seek of course he has several dates lined up. Those dates don’t go quite to his liking but that doesn’t bother J.J. because his eyes have found the woman that he is looking for. J.J. is running the family business and it’s time for the company’s security audit. This will be J.J.’s first time handling the company’s audit, but he didn’t expect “Sam” to be an attractive Samantha Jane Carson. Sam has an impressive resume but it doesn’t equip her to handle the likes of Mr. J.J. Blake.

I enjoyed how the author took her time building the chemistry between Sam and J.J. As a reader it made the book so much enjoyable to not rush this stage of the relationship. Their connection is believable and even more romantic with the slow heighten to the sex part. Their sex was no wham-bam thank-you ma’am, but more along the lines of gathering all the ingredients to a recipe and the finished product is something enjoyable for all.

The way Sam describes J.J. a reader can’t help but adore the attraction between the two, and encourage their relationship. Two broken people deserve to find happiness in life. There was something about the time spent between Sam and J.J. getting to know each other personally, more than a physical attraction that made this book stand out to me.

The Blakes could be a model family of perfection. The members of the family, and there are a lot of them, are talented, rich, funny and most importantly they all get along. It is so charming to read about a family that supports each other, that encourage each other, and they get along and don’t purposely cause harm to each other. But of course nothing can be all the way perfect. J.J.’s ex-wife tries to bring about drama.

The plot was one I enjoyed. The author’s writing is a smooth style that is easy to read. There were a few typos, however they didn’t disrupt the flow of the story.

This is a book that I would highly recommend to readers that enjoy happy endings for characters deserving to find their way to love.

Sweet Jazz by Ursula Renee

 

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Sweet Jazz by Ursula Renee
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press Inc
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

The Big House’s “Coloreds Only” policy makes the club popular with Harlem residents. The same policy makes it harder for the owners to find and retain musicians. After four weeks of listening to saxophonists with bigger dreams than talent, the owners are ready to hire the first person who walks in and plays “one good note.” Their words come back to haunt them when Randy Jones auditions.

Many of the employees are not thrilled when Randy breaks the color barrier. He does find an ally in Cass, the club’s sassy singer, who goes out of her way to welcome him. Offstage, Cass Porter looks like a teenager, but when she sings she’s all woman. Inside, she’s been hurt badly and has determined never to love again.

As their relationship develops, life at the club for Randy becomes complicated when he has to fight both Cass’s fear of opening her heart and those who want to keep them apart.

When Randy Jones stepped into The Big House, a jazz club in Harlem, to audition for an opening for a saxophone player he is not only breaking color barriers he catches the eye of sassy songstress Cass Porter. Will their hot performances trickle off stage and start to form a more serious relationship that they may not be ready to handle?

Sweet Jazz is a slow romance that took time to evolve the relationship between Cass and Randy. The plot is a refreshing read and also well written. It was nice to read about a couple actually taking their time to go out dancing, talking and discussing issues from their past, mainly growing and building a connection. I thought the book to be stretched out quite a bit with 400 pages of the same equable tone. It just didn’t have any real action for me to have kept the story going on and on. I am trying not to sound contradicting, yes I enjoyed the story but some parts could have been eliminated or shorten.

I like how Cass and Randy took up for each other. I get the feeling Cass could relate to Randy, being they both have been discriminated against; that could be a reason they were drawn to each other. Cass found Randy as someone she could trust to talk to and open up about her past. Randy as well was able to talk with ease to Cass about how he came about playing the saxophone. Each had a story to tell and in some sort of way grew from their past. Well Cass’s growth needed some work and hopefully with patience Randy will be the man to show her what real love can feel like.

The author tells the story in such detail, and depth a reader can’t help but picture the characters in motion, the unlikeable characters as well as the likable. The story is one of hope, determination and passion for the love of song, music and finding love when it’s least expected. I am sure Randy could have given up, packed up his sax and moved on, but he found something worth staying for and very well something worth standing up for…that speaks volumes.

Sweet Jazz is just as the title states. It is a sweet romantic story that like jazz, has propulsive rhythms played out in harmonic freedom. If you enjoy the laid back sounds of smooth jazz, this is a melodic story that you would want to add to your reading list.

Clockwork Pirate by Lyn Gala

IRATE
Clockwork Pirate by Lyn Gala
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Steampunk, Historical, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (308 pages)
Other: M/M, Frottage
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

Alex hid his unnatural attraction to men for many years. That changes when the pirate Beche takes Alex after capturing his ship. At first Alex believes his fate is death and the only question a matter of how he might die. However, the longer he is on the ship, the more he realizes that Beche hates the world because it is unfair in ways Alex never understood. As Alex begins to respect this strong, independent man, Alex’s dormant desires begin to reassert themselves.

Beche hates the titled classes and their government enforcers. They might have outlawed slavery on paper, but they never came to the islands to free him or his family. Since his skin is black, society has little respect for him. Beche expects no more of this latest captive, but soon Beche begins to realize that Alex is a naïve and beautiful man who values family and struggles with his own place in society. That poses an even larger problem because Beche does not want to send Alex back to a world that will mistreat him, but he has no place for a lord on a ship full of pirates.

A young lordling on a trading voyage gets captured by pirates and learns that sometimes pirates can be more dangerous and yet more honorable than the so-called civilized nobility.

This is a captivating tale. It took me in directions I hadn’t anticipated. If you’re looking for a simple sex romp between a nobleman and a pirate, you’re looking in the wrong place. If you want a fascinating steampunk pirate story that challenges the way you think, then you’ve struck gold.

First of all, there’s the characterization. Alex has a curious duality about him, shy and quiet one moment, strong and opinionated the next. His father did horrible things to him when he learned of Alex’s homosexual tendencies, and the doctors involved told him terrible outright lies. As a result, he has no idea how to deal with his mixed feelings about Beche, the leader of the pirates. For him, learning about his true self and evolving his relationship with Beche are inextricably linked. Alex learns more about bravery in a short period of time than most men do in their entire lives.

Beche, on the other hand, is a former slave who endured heinous brutalities at the hands of his… shall we say, master. I’ll let you figure out another word for that evil man. With the help of other slaves and a guard, he freed himself. But for a black man with scars on his face he wasn’t exactly swamped with alternative lifestyle choices or employment. What’s most intriguing about him are his beliefs concerning Alex, whom he sees as a gentler soul than is natural for a man. In essence, Beche thinks Alex has the soul of a woman in a man’s body, which is how he explains his own attraction to the defiant lordling. Heady stuff.

At first the plot moves slowly as Alex gets used to his new life on board the pirate ship. In fact, the majority of this book is filled with dialogue and long conversations about the nature of human beings, sexuality, sexual identity, ethics, morality, honor, law, truth, lies—everything under the sun. It raises a simple tale of a lordling and a pirate meeting into an almost social narrative, giving this tale great depth and this alternate steampunk historical world context and foundation. Sure, at times the words these people used seemed too civilized and educated to fit their roles and lives in those times. There was even the word “online” embedded there once, but it was a minor oversight.

As far as the sex goes, this rates mainly as sweet romance rather than full on erotic. There’s only a couple of sex scenes, and there’s no anal sex or penetration whatsoever. For such a long story I admit I was expecting the sensual content to be greater. Most of the tale is full of action and adventure when Beche is caught by soldiers, taken to a fort, and has to be rescued with the collaboration and help of the pirates and Alex’s warrior-like sister, Philla, and his inventor sister, Aster. The other main side characters, Fabrice and Manuel, offer true insight into hard men who’ve lived through horrors but still retained their humanity by forming a bond as brothers and maintaining a dry sense of humor about the world.

All in all, this story has a lot of offer. The steampunk element isn’t as overpowering as it might, focusing on steam tech inventions more than the subculture of it, but in my opinion this is still a steampunk story with airships and Tesla gaslights. While I would have personally wished for more sensuality in Beche and Alex’s relationship, it was the slow-building of their trust and respect for one another that made the book so strong. While this tale finishes with a somewhat open-ended conclusion, I can foresee a happy future ahead for our heroes. I recommend this to all lovers of intricate slow-built stories with great depth, plenty of delicious, multilayered dialogue, and lots of action.

The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes

DUKES
The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Noah Winters, Earl of Anselm, spent months sorting and courting the year’s crop of debutantes in search of an ideal bride. When the sweet, biddable young thing he selected accepts another’s proposal, Noah decides to court her companion instead.

Thea Collins, though, is anything but biddable. She has learned the hard way that men are not to be trusted, especially the handsome ones. When she reluctantly accepts, Noah rushes Thea to the altar before she can reveal her deepest secret. Can she finally move on from her past, or will it come back to haunt her?

Noah Winters, the Duke of Anselm, needs a wife. It’s time to fulfill his ducal duty and produce the required heir. Being the sensible gentleman that he is, he prepares a list of candidates, then culls the list down to one, and proceeds to court her.

After a few weeks, Noah learns that his potential bride is about to become engaged to a mere baron. Rather than being heartbroken, Noah is just annoyed at the time he’s wasted. Her companion, Araminthea (Thea) Collins should fill the bill nicely. She’s an earl’s daughter, sensible, attractive, and surely will jump at the chance to be a duchess. NOT!

Thea is content with her life as a paid companion. While she must give serious consideration to the duke’s proposal, she can’t see any great advantage in accepting. That is, until the duke agrees to let Thea’s younger sister live with them, and be launched into society. This proves too much of an inducement, so Thea accepts. But, still, there is something she needs to tell Noah before the marriage, a secret that he has to know. Fate seems to be plotting against her, and Thea can’t find an opportunity to talk to Noah alone. Before she knows it, she is married, and she’s facing her new husband on their wedding night. The circumstances that Thea wanted Noah to know about before the wedding are now revealed, and Noah feels betrayed. He makes the decision that they will have to wait for any sexual intimacy, and he will decide whether to put Thea aside or stay married.

I felt for Thea, as we learn later that she was truly a victim. She’s a kind person, who took her job seriously and didn’t bemoan her fate. I do think she should have insisted on finding a moment alone with Noah before their marriage, but can’t we all relate to putting off an uncomfortable situation? After the marriage, she did her best to be the kind of duchess Noah needed, while she waited to see what her fate would be. Noah describes himself as not a nice person, but I have to disagree. While he did make a few cutting remarks at first, he came around to treating Thea as his wife, giving her every courtesy. Soon, the two are growing closer, and coming to like each other very much. They begin touching each other, even sleeping together, but not sexually. Before the issue of the marriage is resolved, it turns out that Noah has a secret of his own, something major that he should have told Thea before the wedding. As Thea steps up, and takes this in stride, my admiration for her only grew.

Finally, they come together as husband and wife. Their amazing chemistry draws them closer together, not only in the bedroom, but in all facets of their life. As it looks like their happy ever after is assured, the past intrudes, and it hits close to home. Noah and Thea are going to have to be strong and remain united in facing new threats and past demons. Grace Burrowes excels in her character development, and her ability to turn the ordinary into something intimate and special. Sharing a cup of tea, or a meal becomes so much more. One scene in particular had the tears flowing. This book is warm, touching, emotional, sexy, and had me staying up reading into the wee hours. Most highly recommended

Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin

ALPHA
Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin
Publisher: Ink Monster, LLC
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (276 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn’t easy for a girl with visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind.

But Tessa doesn’t realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into one of “them” and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Alibe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her newfound canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

Team Jacob, move on over. There’s a better werewolf in town, Dastien, and he’s an alpha with a capital A. Tessa is the heroine who makes a lot of sense and I enjoyed watching her come to grips with the new crazy that has become her life.

The best thing I liked about Tessa is her personality. She’s always been an outsider because of her gifts and she’s been shunned, bullied and ignored. There’s a saying, “that which doesn’t kills us, makes us stronger” and it’s appropriate for Tessa. I totally understood her character. When a kid has to deal with bullies, and survives, there can be a strength that is born, a maturity that is beyond their chronological age because they survived adversity. They end up being able to handle the trash that life throws at them much better than their peers who have had it easy or were the “popular” crowd. When things don’t go their way, prima donnas lose their cool but survivors, like Tessa, shine and can handle crisis much better. That’s how I saw the heroine. Her tough life prepared her for not only the wild adversity and craziness of the world she was thrust into, but in the middle of all that insane change, she found her stride, friends and her first boyfriend. Good things can and do happen, but for Tessa, well, there’s a huge price to pay. She’s not the only one who pays it either.

For the first book in the series, it does a wonderful job of setting the stage, introducing the main characters and antagonists and the emotional hoops Tessa is going to face. The story is told in first person point of view which usually bugs me. Not this time. It’s perfect for the story and the author never slipped once. I loved the author’s voice, Tessa’s attitude, and the descriptions throughout the story were spot on. Once the heroine got bit and all the weird stuff started happening – the revelations, the action, the twists and turns she has to navigate as she is introduced to a new school and new classmates, the snide and jealous girls and the snarky comments – I could not stop reading. It was like a compulsion; I had to turn the pages, keep reading, find out what happens next, and what happened after that. It’s a very busy, action filled book mixed with realistic dialogue, secrets, intrigue and tension from the simmering violence. And through it all, I liked Tessa’s character more and more.

Dastien, he’s a different matter. I liked him and the author’s description of him was yummy. But he sure came across as a waffle – he couldn’t make up his mind. Thank goodness the author had him explaining why he was that way. The reason made me like him all the more. I liked when he growled and when he calmed Tessa down. He has a lot of wonderful characteristics that appealed to me.

As for kissing, well, there certainly was some and it briefly got a bit steamy–they are wolves after all. But that was as far as it went. I’d call it sweet, but with a hint of hot sauce.

The small core group of friends that Tessa gathers around her throughout the course of the story were awesome and a great supporting cast I liked them all. As for the bad guys, if I wasn’t supposed to like them, the author made sure I didn’t – but there is a twist at the end. Another reason why I liked Tessa so much.

Becoming Alpha is awesome. It’s way better than the book with the sparkly vampire guy and this heroine is spunky, extremely likable and has a good head on her shoulders. What’s even better, this is a series with a couple more books already out and a brand new one coming out later this year. I’m going to be budgeting to buy all of them. And, if they all are written as good as this one? Wow, am I going to be in for a treat. I can’t wait!!!

The Cowboy’s Little Surprise by Barbara White Daille

SURPRISE
The Cowboy’s Little Surprise by Barbara White Daille
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (218 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

THE LONG WAY HOME

A guy like Cole Slater is hard to forget. Tina Sanchez should know—for years since high school she’s tried to bury the pain of Cole’s cruel betrayal. But it’s impossible to ignore the man she sees reflected in her young son’s eyes now that Cole is back in her life—and about to meet the child he never knew he had.

Returning home to New Mexico, Cole is determined to put his playboy reputation to rest. Especially now that he knows there’s a little boy looking up to him. And seeing Tina again reignites all the feelings Cole ran from as a teen. Despite his fear that he can’t be the man Tina deserves, he’s determined to try. For his son’s sake—and his own.

Teenage actions and decisions follow fiddle-footed cowboy Cole Slater and homebody Tina Sanchez into adulthood.

Cole returns to Cowboy Creek in New Mexico, a place he’d run from. The back story of why he ran and why he was, as he put it, “such a jackass” in his teens certainly helps the reader see why Tina is skittish when it comes to trusting Cole.

Tina’s back story that connects her with her Abuela and Jedediah Garland, the owner of the Hitching Post Hotel, reaches right into and squeezes the reader’s heart. Tina’s self-esteem is fragile and she guards it well. The very presence of Cole, the love of her life, tries her resolve to the limit.

One of the best parts of the story is little Robbie and the way he sees the world. How he influences the actions of adults is delightful.

The secondary characters like Tina’s cousins Andi and Jane; Cole’s sister Layne and her little son Scott add facets to the story that augment the concept of coping and overcoming heartbreaks. Also, Tina’s Abuela and Jedediah, even though getting on in years, still guard secrets well and manipulate with expert skill, yet with a love that is undeniable.

The Cowboy’s Little Surprise entertains while it makes a strong statement about not letting the past control the future. Redemption and happiness can be realized.

Barbara White Daille’s smooth writing style eases the reader away from the mundane, then into the lives of the characters and a quagmire of emotions.

Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann

BITE
Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (366 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.

Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

I’ve been waiting for Rafe’s story and I was not disappointed. This book was fun!

I liked Cassandra immensely. I enjoyed her determination, spunk and sass. I got a kick out of her refusal to be cowed and her fascination about vampires, once she’s accepted that they’re real, and everything else that may or may not come along from the knowing. If anything thwarted her, she didn’t let it block her for long. Her uniqueness is what drew me but her personality kept me. I can see why she drove Rafe, the hero, nuts.

In the previous books, Rafe was very gruff, standoffish, opinionated and a man of few words. I wasn’t sure how in the world Ms. Ann was going to present him as a believable hero, but she did it. He never let his disability slow him down but it did affect his emotions and how he approached things in his life, like his romantic entanglements. The author garnered sympathy and interest from me for her hero and it all worked out.

I think the only thing that rang a sour note in the book was Rafe’s cluelessness about the villain. It’s mentioned he was suspicious, but he was So observant and sneaky and effective in the preceding book. His strength of character seemed a bit diluted in this one. Then again, he wasn’t in love, or fighting falling in love, in the other story either. Perhaps that explains it?

This is the third book in the series and as is true for the second, it’s true for Bite at First Sight – this is a standalone read. It’s easy to enjoy even if this tale is being read out of sequence. The author kept the story focused on Rafe and Cassandra, so a reader shouldn’t get lost. Some references are made to other characters from past books but they don’t play any significant roles except token appearances after all is said and done. However, there is a very believable and solid hook presented in this novel that truly has me wondering. I’m thinking they’ll be a good match based on their first meeting but how is the author going to navigate the emotional landmines laid down in this book for the next? I can’t wait to find out.

I enjoyed it when Cassandra and Rafe finally do get to explore the physical sides of their natures. It was especially entertaining when the heroine figured out what the fuss was all about. Her enthusiasm is delightful and very much appreciated by the hero.

Of course, there is suspense and drama injected into the romance by a very twisted, jealous and unprincipled vampire. Just when I thought the villain was going to get away with his plot, the author pleased me with her course of action. I’m glad everything turned out okay for the doctors. The scenes were tremendously well written and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Bite at First Sight is a great addition to the series and is a story easy to recommend to other paranormal romance fans. This novel is fun, addictive and wickedly entertaining. I couldn’t ask for a better happy ever after for Cassandra and Rafe – it was perfect for their characters and positions in life – or unlife. Ms. Ann certainly has a fan in me.

High and Mighty by S.S. Skye

 

HIGH
High and Mighty by S.S. Skye
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (69 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet, F/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Lynley has been stuck in a tower for over a month, and each day is worse than the one before. She doesn’t know why she’s there, or who’s responsible for it, but the very moment her feet touch the ground there is going to be hell to pay.

This genre would be much smaller and less well known if it wasn’t so full of damsels in distress. The question is, what happens to damsels who don’t see any possible way that they’ll ever be rescued?

Lynley’s self-sufficiency impressed me. There’s only so many ways to pass the time while being trapped in a tower that offers no chance of escape, but she seemed to have figured out all of the possibilities on her own. Seeing how she reacted to such an unusual situation made me an instant fan of hers. She was by far the most interesting character in the entire plot.

The plot spent a great deal of time jumping from one character’s perspective to another. While I enjoyed listening in on their private thoughts, including so many narrators made it hard for me to get to know any of them particularly well. It would have been helpful to limit this number to only one or two speakers given that this is a short story instead of something full-length.

I read the whole thing in one sitting. The strong pacing made it impossible for me to put it away until I’d learned why Lynley had been locked in the tower and who put her there. Figuring out the answers to these questions was a lot of fun, especially since the plot didn’t give away any hints about it in the beginning. In this case, that was a smart decision.

High and Mighty gave a modern twist to one of my favorite fairy tales. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes these kinds of retellings.

Rocky Point Road by Joseph Allen

 

ROAD
Rocky Point Road by Joseph Allen
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (158 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When his ex-wife drowns in a hot tub in California, Denis Rosa sets out to bury her and sell the house. He confronts her philandering history and her fixation on young chicano boys, and is the victim of a vicious attempted murder without ever knowing why. The house on the cliffside on Rocky Point Road holds a ghost, a hidden treasure of some kind, and decades of memories for the Rosa family. When Detective Sue Mason is assigned to the case, her son and his soon-to-be husband and two dogs move into the house with Denis to protect him from further attacks. Is it drug-related? The wife was alcoholic and smoked grass, but nothing hard. Denis confronts his ghosts as he finds himself attracted to Sue. The key to the plot is found when Denis slides off the edge of the cliff.

Every death leaves behind unanswered questions and unfinished work, but some deaths have more of these than do others.

Denis’ character development was strong. His strengths and weaknesses were woven seamlessly into the plot. Seeing how they affected everything that was going on was interesting. I really enjoy stories that are so sensitive to how the main character reacts to what is happening to him or her. It makes reading them even more enjoyable than it might have been otherwise.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the other characters in this book as well. While I wouldn’t expect everyone to be as three-dimensional as the protagonist, I did have some trouble figuring out their personalities. Their speaking styles tended to blend in together with one another. This was especially noticeable with Detective Sue Mason given how much time Denis spent going over the case with her. The background information I was given about her wasn’t quite enough for me to form a mental image of what she was like.

The question of what really happened to Denis’ wife wasn’t at all easy to answer. Many of the clues he uncovered could have been interpreted in more than one way, and some of them needed serious thought before I could interpret them at all. I appreciated needing to spend so much time on it as I have a strong preference for mysteries that require the reader to pay close attention to small details in order to solve it. One definitely needs to do that for this story.

Rocky Point Road is a good choice for anyone in the mood for a challenge.