Liberty by Kim Iverson Headlee

LIBERTY
Liberty by Kim Iverson Headlee
Publisher: Pendragon Cove Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (494 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

They hailed her “Liberty,” but she was free only to obey—or die.

Betrayed by her father and sold as payment of a Roman tax debt to fight in Londinium’s arena, gladiatrix-slave Rhyddes feels like a wild beast in a gilded cage. Celtic warrior blood flows in her veins, but Roman masters own her body. She clings to her vow that no man shall claim her soul, though Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, son of the Roman governor, makes her yearn for a love she believes impossible.

Groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and trapped in a politically advantageous betrothal, Aquila prefers the purity of combat on the amphitheater sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics, and the raw power and athletic grace of the flame-haired Libertas to the adoring deference of Rome’s noblewomen.

When a plot to overthrow Caesar ensnares them as pawns in the dark design, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart and the empire to which they both owe allegiance. Trusting no man and knowing the opposite of obedience is death, the only liberty offered to any slave, Rhyddes must embrace her arena name—and the love of a man willing to sacrifice everything to forge a future with her.

Liberty opens with the sorry plight of Celtic teen Rhyddes; a Celt in a land conquered by the Romans. Though her name meant freedom, she was little more than a slave: almost a slave to her own family.

Liberty immediately seizes the reader’s attention and sympathy. Rhyddes’ Father is tough and demanding- he is with all his children. Still Rhyddes demonstrates caring and courage right off the bat. She protects brother Owen to her own cost and, farmhand though she is, we also see she’s a good fighter when need arises. She establishes her value, and we readers assume that events will transpire that allow her family to see her value, as well. We can only hope…

She proves worth more to others. Suddenly, those hard days with a pitchfork in her hands will serve her well….

Meanwhile, another character is introduced, long before their actual meeting. Marcus, who one might well imagine fared better as one of the conquerors, also suffers from parental disapproval. He’s headstrong, proud and tough, but he too has to answer for every action.

Rhyddes’ survival has given her both strength and defiance. Unalike as the two might seem, they are both strong, in their own way, but when they meet, events seem to turn against them. Indeed, circumstances must keep them apart, although we cannot but keep hoping for different circumstances!

I was troubled throughout as to why our main character started off in such disfavor with her father. Although the author leaves no string untied by the end, it seemed like a long wait to get the answer. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The setting, characters and action were all interesting and well-presented.

Ms. Headlee’s straightforward writing style is not intrusive but is descriptive. The overall plot seems distant and in truth, we see this history from just one little corner of it. This is very character-driven story with sweet moments and occasional humor. Rhyddes’ connection to and sympathy for her family members is a constant. I really liked the characters. I wouldn’t say every romance fan will love this, but if you are looking for a bit of unpredictable action with your romance, you might find Liberty just perfect.

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Shadows Strike by Dianne Duvall

STRIKE
Shadows Strike by Dianne Duvall
Publisher: Zebra Books/ Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (411 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Immortal Guardians protect the innocent in secret. Sometimes the secret gets out…

U.S. law enforcement agent Heather Lane can read minds. But not the future. The dream of battle and blood that recurs every night must be a fluke, some obscure terror from her own mind. What its significance might be, she can’t guess: an attack from seven psychotic vampires at once, only separated from nightmare by an eighth very different immortal. A handsome, brave man fighting at her side, a man she misses when she wakes.

Then the dream comes true. Heather is flung into a war between predators and protectors of humanity, the man from her dreams beside her again. Except now that she’s awake, she isn’t sure she can trust Ethan, or the shadow organization he represents. The U.S. military doesn’t trust either of them. But against an onslaught of evil like the one that’s coming, it will take everything they have just to survive…

Ms. Duvall is the mistress of page flipping excitement. You have no idea how many breath stealing, heart pounding, nail biting chapters fill this latest book in her Immortal Guardian series. Shadows Strike is beyond the classic ‘must read’ recommendation. It’s so much better! Each chapter created an addiction for more, and the most wonderful part of that, is that Ms. Duvall delivered and satisfied that craving. This novel rocked!

The story starts with Heather’s premonition of her meeting Ethan. Right off the bat, the author creates an unusual way for a heroine and hero to meet. It makes an indelible impression but it’s only the beginning. The revelations, the action, the worries, the fears, the determination to survive and protect, the wonder, the beauty, the sword fights, and the camaraderie that populate most chapters simply astound a reader. All those things and more provide depth and breadth to the plot and characters that are on stage. Shadows Strike is a big book, a busy book but time ceases to have meaning when a reader is immersed is this extremely well written and awesome novel. Please give yourself plenty of time to sit and enjoy because if you’re anything like me, you won’t want to stop; you won’t be able to, it’s that remarkable.

I honestly have no negatives to convey. This book is perfect. The dialogue, the descriptions and most of all, the surprises, totally and completely worked. Not all the surprises were good, some were downright deadly. Some took the main characters completely unaware and they fought for their lives, more than once. One completely floored me and greatly affected Heather and her relationship to Ethan. I never saw it coming.

The most adorable moments came from a tiny baby. I simply adored those scenes because Adira was the bright spot that brought charm and levity in an otherwise serious story. Her little character showed that no matter how gruff, tough and deadly the immortals are, they are also capable of tenderness, affection, gentleness and love and it was proved every time they held her, or protected her. For such a wee thing, she had a strong presence.

Heather and Ethan as a couple are wonderful together. I enjoyed their dynamics, their dialogue and how they fell in love. When they finally succumb to their physical passions, it was hot, delightful and well written. I was very happy to see Ethan finally in love.

Secondary characters abound and most are from the previous books. I’m really feeling sad for Aiden. I hope he gets his happy ever after soon. He’s such a good guy, he deserves it. Then again, so does Seth. But what kind of woman would be his equal? I hope someday to find out. As it is, every single character, including Zach and Lisette, play pivotal supporting roles that help support and foster Ethan and Heather’s growing relationship.

Shadows Strike proves once again that Ms. Duvall is a masterful storyteller. Its drama and suspense kept me on edge but the romance made me melt. I can’t get enough of this world that Ms. Duvall has created. When I am reading her books, I feel like I’m right there, and it’s exactly where I want to be.

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When a Beta Roars by Eve Langlais

TBETA
When a Beta Roars by Eve Langlais
A Lion’s Pride #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (144 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

How degrading. Stuck babysitting a woman because his alpha said so. As Pride Beta, he has better things to do with his time, like washing his impressive mane, hunting down thugs for fun, and chasing tail—sometimes his own if his lion is feeling playful.

But his babysitting job takes an unexpected turn when the woman he’s assigned guard duty over turns out to be his mate.

A female threatened by an outside wolf pack.

A woman he wants to call his own.

A mate who doesn’t fall for his charm.

Usually Beta’s leave the roaring to the Pride’s alpha, but in this case given his level of frustration, he might have to make an exception. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can kiss his furry tail.
Rawr!

Since when do the words, ‘sad meow’ and ‘rawr!’ make me giggle? When I read stories by Ms. Langlais, that’s when. The author intersperses clever kitty witticisms throughout the novelette that charmed me. I enjoy that her characters are human but their other self is just as prominent and causes no end of consternation for the main protagonists and fun times for a reader. Hayder’s feline self is very impatient, but the author mated him to Arabella, a woman who tests his patience mightily. The reason why is what gives this story depth, meaning and the urge to never stop reading until the very end.

The conflict in the story is serious but the author never let it get dark or scary – it’s just enough for the hero to be a hero, and enough for the heroine to finally stand up for herself and be the woman she always was meant to be.

Hayder comes across as a bit of a laidback slacker initially but he seriously gets his act together when it counts and I was very impressed. He’s no slouch in the protection department and when he loves, it’s all out. Arabella is one lucky wolf.

Secondary characters provide a nice sense of community, occasions for humor and hilarity, and support for Hayder and Arabella when they need it most.

My favorite dilemma between the hero and heroine is her being allergic to him. Her sneezes were the perfect comic foil. I liked the uniqueness of that and laughed many times.

When a Beta Roars is a wonderful romantic comedy with a sexy, dramatic edge. It’s a perfect book to spend an afternoon with when in the mood for lighthearted entertainment with just a hint of darkness to spice up the action. Hayder and Arabella are wonderful together and I enjoyed every moment I spent with them. In a nutshell, When a Beta Roars is pure fun.

Making it Real by Synithia Williams

REAL
Making it Real by Synithia Williams
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (164 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Quince

After five years in prison, Kareem Henderson is starting his life over. Though business is good at his barbershop, his goal is to open a high-end gentlemen’s salon. But the road back is rough, and he needs connections in the society he once snubbed to make his dream a reality. He just never expected his second chance to come from the sexy female barber he hired last year.

Patrice “Neecie” Baldwin escaped the pressure of being the perfect daughter in one of North Carolina’s most prestigious families to live life on her own. When family responsibilities call her home, she fears going back will expose her to the pressures that nearly ruined her. Neecie needs a shield, and tall, handsome, bad boy Kareem seems impenetrable. So she offers him a deal: If he’ll pretend to be her fiance, she’ll introduce him to all of her well-connected relatives.

But the more time they spend together, the more the irresistible attraction between them builds. They’re from such different worlds, but can this fake relationship make the cut and become something very real?

Making it Real is a story about two people who are drawn to one another by faith. Kareem Henderson is an owner of the shop where Patrice “Neecie” Baldwin works. When her brother forces her to come back home she decided to bring Kareem with her as her fake fiancée. But soon their pretense turns into something real.

The story focuses on building a relationship between two very wounded and fragile people. Both Kareem and Patrice have to learn to trust one another, and to let go of the past. I was hooked on the story from chapter one and wanted to know how the characters will get out from the emotional mess they got themselves into.

Both characters are well developed. At first I found Kareem a bit too much alpha, i.e. dominant and possessing, but in the end he realized a few things. He earned a lesson or two and turned out just fine. Patrice is his perfect match. She does not want to be pushed around by anyone. She’s a strong and independent girl who knows how to take a stand. The conflict between Kareem and Patrice is well done and realistic and it is character driven. Also, the sex scenes are well written and very hot. Furthermore, I liked the interaction that Kareem and Patrice have with their respective families, and also I liked their families. They are complete opposite, but they both care about their members.

Still the story has a few weak points. I couldn’t understand why Kareem and Patrice choose to stay in her parent’s house when her parents obviously didn’t like him. Also, I could not quite understand how Patrice’s older brother can have a teen son when their parents are celebrating 30 years marriage anniversary.

Beside this I enjoyed reading this story. It was a fast and fun read.

His Lady Peregrine by Ruth J Hartman

TLADY
His Lady Peregrine by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (83 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Percy Radcliff has gone mad. At least that’s what his family thinks. Simply because he adores birds to distraction. If only there were someone with whom he could share his great love. Perhaps he’s found her in the woman he happened upon at the Bird Sanctuary?

Widow Georgiana Ollerton has finally met her match. In love and in admiration for everything avian. Percy, though odd, has a sensual quality Georgiana can’t quite explain but definitely wants to explore further.

The problem is Percy has once again gotten himself into a pickle. How is he to romance his lovely Georgiana when another woman believes him to be her long-lost husband? Will Percy be able to disentangle himself from the other woman before he loses Georgiana for good?

Truly, author Ruth J Hartman has demonstrated an amazing skill in creating charming, but utterly unique and original characters.

In His Lady Peregrin we discover Percy Radcliff; bird fancier, almost a would-be bird himself. Oh, the matter-of-fact way we discover Percy’s deepest wishes! Off beat, funny and yet, so appropriate to this story. Events move right along and the quality of the characters certainly contributes.

Lady Georgiana Ollerton is remarkable for her looks. Oh, she’s not a sweet engaging lass at all, for these two are quite mature adults, and yet, there it is…she resembles…well…I’ll leave it to readers to discover the Lady’s looks for themselves. She is remarkable. Percy also notes that she is “sarcastic, blunt, and demanding”; safe to say, this is not your typical ‘match made in heaven.’ Yet, though things ought to go as easily as falling out of a tree, there are complications. A certain other lady (that woman!) has her sights set on Radcliff…too. She’s something of a character herself.

I do wish the cover somehow reflected the unique qualities in this story.  It’s appropriate for the time, but not as unique as what’s contained within.

Throughout, events are unpredictable, conversation is often light and humorous, and even secondary characters contribute. Quirky, fun and fast-moving, mark this one a Must Read.

Too Hard to Handle; Black Knights, Inc.

HARD
Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker
Black Knights, Inc.
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (393 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

“The Man” is back
Dan “The Man” Currington is back in fighting form with a mission that takes him four thousand miles south of BKI headquarters, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He’s hot on the trail of a rogue CIA agent selling classified government secrets to the highest bidder, when Penni DePaul arrives on the scene. Suddenly the stakes are higher, and keeping Penni safe becomes Dan’s number one priority.

And this time she’s ready
A lot has changed since former Secret Service Agent Penni DePaul last saw Dan. Now a civilian, she’s excited about what the future might hold. But before she can grab onto that future with both hands, she has to tie up some loose ends-namely, Dan Currington, the man she just can’t forget. And a secret that’s going to change both their lives-if they can stay alive, that is.

Spicy, revealing love scenes heat the blood. Action sends the heart racing and the adrenaline pumping. Breath-holding suspense grips the reader as the bullets fly. Mystery about Penni’s original mission keeps one turning pages. And “testosterone-itis” that only the guys in Black Knights, Inc handle so well makes one’s ears sting and brings a smile or giggle at times. Too Hard to Handle holds the reader’s attention as it races along with danger lurking around every corner, but with an ending that is not to be missed. Much as I want to I’m not telling.

Penni DePaul goes from New York to Chicago to Colombia, South America to find Dan “The Man” Cunnington. They worked together a few months back in Malaysia. Before she has a chance to talk with Dan, the case Dan, Dagan Zoelner, and CIA’s Chelsea Duvall are working on heats up and Penni is pulled into the fray—big time.

Chelsea, a pint size wrecking ball that could make a garbage bag look good with her curvy body, is an intelligence expert with a drone and connections. She and Dagan Zoelner strike sparks off each other at every turn, but when it’s time to fight the enemy, they make a team with single-minded purpose.

Bad guys abound. Winterfield is the man they want, and they want him alive. George Wodehouse, a man with quite a back story, wants Winterfield dead, because that is what SPIDER wants. How the good guys out maneuver bad guys is a touch and go process that just keeps on and on. It does get scary!

If you’ve read previous Black Knight, Inc novels, you will get to catch up with characters like Becky, Ozzie, Rock, Frank Knight (Boss), and the others. If you haven’t read previous ones, this one is a super good place to get to know some compelling, dedicated characters that are clandestine movers and shakers for the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Julie Ann Walker makes G. K. Chesterton’s saying, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him” come to life in a way that engages all the reader’s senses to create a memorable story. The title still makes me smile—Julie Ann Walker does have a way with words!

Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck

TIDE
Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (228 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Time, and most of Portugal, has almost forgotten Luminosa, a small fishing community on the Alentejo coast. A cluster of white and blue cottages huddle under the cliffs overshadowed by the great manor of Herdade Albatroz whose family has ruled the village since the days of Napoleon. Far off the tourist route, nobody visits Luminosa by chance.

When a ruthless American racketeer turns up, the peaceful village’s way of life could be ruined forever. But will other visitors–Piper Pines, seeking news of her long dead Portuguese mother, and Leo Shine, bereft of a father and brother accused of terrible crimes–help or hinder his objective to drag Luminosa into the twenty-first century?

Leo and Piper are two special people. One lives in Alaska, the other in Norfolk, England. Leo had been born with a cowl covering his body and he attributed this to his ability to sense storms at sea. Piper could see colours in the sea which defined what lurked beneath the waves, good or evil, food or danger.

Curiosity concerning their missing mothers draw them to a small village of Luminosa in Portugal. Leo is mistaken for an investor in a building proposal but Piper has suspicions he is not as he seems.

Leo and Piper are strong characters and their suspicions of one another can be amusing. Their abilities help the people of Luminosa in their quest to stop the ruination of their village. I felt empathy with all the characters (except for the baddies) and found it a warm and intriguing book which I enjoyed reading. It had highs and lows which kept me engaged with the story and mystery which meant my curiosity as to the outcome was kept alive at all times.

Although only a sweet romance, the tension between Leo and Piper was definitely the main draw of the story and I eagerly continued reading to see what the outcome would be. I would definitely read another book by this author.

The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen

ROGE
The Rogue You Know by Shana Galen
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (355 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

She’s beyond his reach…
Gideon Harrow has spent his life in London’s dark underworld-and he wants out. A thief and a con, he plans one last heist to finally win his freedom. But when everything goes wrong, he finds himself at the tender mercies of one of Society’s most untouchable women-Lady Susanna Derring.

…and out of her depth.
Susanna has spent her life in London’s glittering ton, under the thumb of a domineering mother-and she wants out. When a wickedly charming rogue lands at her feet, she jumps at the chance to experience life before it’s too late. But as she descends into London’s underworld, she finds that nothing- not even Gideon-is as it seems. As excitement turns to danger, Susanna must decide what price she’s willing to pay…for the love of a reformed thief.

Susanna Derring needs freedom and wishes she could have an adventure before she has to marry some old, titled man for duty, honor, and riches… Be careful what you wish for.

She is the daughter of the Dowager Countess of Dane and feels like she is suffocating under the constant badgering of her mother. Three “must-dos” in her life are: marry well, exhibit good ton, and be beautiful, fashionable, and witty.

Gideon Harrow, one of the best thieves in the rookeries of Seven Dials in London, wants out and plans to escape with money he gets from a stolen necklace rather than give the money to his gang’s leader Beezle, who is one bad character.

How Susanna and Gideon meet and acquire a mongrel dog that Susanna names Beauty sets the stage for one hair-raising adventure that takes the reader on a vicarious journey through the filthy, smelly, dangerous streets and alleys of Seven Dials where children are sold, and where prostitutes, thieves, and killers ply their trade.

Shana Galen gives the reader action that moves at a snail’s pace at the sophisticated tea parties then ramps up to action that moves at breakneck speed as Susanna and Gideon run for their lives through the rookeries of Seven Dials.

As usual, for Ms. Galen, her colorful characters” dialogue is sprinkled with wit and understatements even in dangerous situations. The dialogue seems to bring the characters to life as it reveals their hopes, fears, and need to be loved.

She subtly shows the change of the social structure of the times, as the strangled-hold nobility once had on society gives way to a time when the working-class (and lower) marry nobility bringing about emotional upheavals.

The Rogue You Know is a page-turning, adventure, love story that assails all the senses and keeps the heart rate high. Good Reading!