Color of Danger by Ruth J. Hartman

COLOR
Color of Danger by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (137 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When Patience Sullyard finds a mysterious note tied to a pigeon’s leg, her commissioned panorama at a falconry flies the coop. Instead of painting in hues of brown and beige, her focus shifts to saving a troubled stranger.

Walter Bexley craves adventure from his boring life. Insinuating himself into Patience’s problem by accompanying her to the falconry might be just the answer.

Will the risk they take be worth the exhilaration, or will Patience and Walter discover the threat is too dangerous?

Patience, the youngest of the Sullyard sisters, is trying to convince her sisters she is now grown up. Her brothers-in-law’s younger relative is quite willing to help her show her sisters she is no longer a baby, but Patience believes Walter is a rake as he is always teasing her.

As talented as her sisters, Patience goes to a falconry to paint a panorama of the birds for their owner. Walter, considered a relative, is her escort. The closeness of several days alone together brings about more than friendship.

I have read the previous two books of this trilogy and found them captivating. This one was equally so, but I felt the title to be a little misleading. There was a little danger, but nothing like the intense scenes of the previous novels. The danger scene could have been a little longer and more intense as it was over far too quickly, and the explanation behind the reason for the situation fell a little flat. A few amusing incidents interspersed with edgy conversations and scenes held the story together and kept me reading.

A good book with bright characters who got me on their side as I wanted them to win their heart’s desire.

Color of Deception by Ruth J Hartman

dECEPTION
Color of Deception by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When artist Kitty Sullyard draws a strange symbol in her toy panorama, she doesn’t expect it to be life threatening. Tossed into a situation she never asked for, she learns the hard way who not to trust.

After Kitty mysteriously disappears, Nathaniel Bexley has only a single clue with which to find her. It’s something only he would know. Will he be able to decipher the secret message she’s hidden in a drawing, or will Kitty be doomed to the hands of her kidnappers?

The Sullyard sisters are talented artists. The eldest, Kitty, is commissioned to paint a panorama for a sporting magazine but the owner’s son and his nephew are her real interest. Stratford Bexley, the son, is a rake who fascinates Kitty. Nathaniel, the nephew, also appears to be a rake but there is something about him that draws on Kitty’s deeper feelings.

In regency times society requires a chaperone for young ladies at all times. The Sullyard’s great aunt fits the position, but only in body. In reality the elderly lady goes off into a corner to either read or sleep, giving Kitty plenty of leeway to dally with the Bexley men.

This book is really entertaining. It provides the propriety of the time with a little bit of spice and danger in the mix. Kitty often finds herself in awkward circumstances when she hasn’t thought things through properly, or in some cases thought too much about the need to earn money and not upset Stratford’s father.

When the seamier side of the age interrupts her dalliance with the Bexley men, it is up to her sisters to save her.

This is the beginning of an entrancing series and I really enjoyed the twisting of Kitty’s feelings from one man to the other.

Murder in the Aisles by Olivia Hill

mURDER
Murder in the Aisles by Olivia Hill
A Felicia Mystery Book 1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (191 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Murderous intent is no match for killer intellect accessorized with stiletto heels.

A Felicia Swift Mystery, Book 1

If there’s one thing Felicia Swift likes more than sex, it’s books. But her dream job at the Library of Congress takes a macabre turn when she finds a linguistics specialist lying dead between his least favorite subjects: Anthropology and Astrophysics.

Worse, the utterly sexy detective seems to have his eyes on Felicia’s curves more than the evidence, which she is convinced points at the wrong man. And she plans to convince him of just that—right after he buys her an apple martini.

Mark Rizzo plans to wrap up this investigation as quickly as possible. Until he realizes the witness isn’t some dumpy, wizened librarian, but a researcher with endless legs, bottomless intellect, and a bulldog determination to complicate this open-and-shut case all to hell.

As Felicia and Rizzo dig closer to the truth, the real culprit gets jittery enough to try something desperate. Leaving Felicia to wonder if their investigation will lead them down the aisle of no return.

This book’s heroine was nothing like I expected. Felicia is not the usual type of librarian and I loved that. Who is she? She’s a fashionista who not only loves books but also loves sex. Her meeting with the sexy detective was funny because she’s not what she seems. It’s deliciously good.

Felicia has been working long enough with her colleagues in the library to know that there was no way that a linguistics specialist would have been found dead in that section of the library. Literally dead. She could have just let the detectives do their work and uncover the truth but she knew that the detectives would need her expertise. But of course they wouldn’t actually ask, right? An alpha male like Mark asking Felicia for help? That does not happen that easily. So, she did exactly what she needed to do–she started investigating and uncovering the mystery. That led to a lot of ‘accidents’ that could have almost either killed or significantly maimed her.

This was a wonderful story that captured my attention when I saw the title. The story was good but the mystery element of it was a little too stretched. By that I mean, it was almost glossed over. There’s more focus on Felicia and Detective Rizzo’s chemistry. Plenty of that and the hot action to back it up. The romance became the backdrop or background until halfway through. This is a good romantic mystery read and a good beginning to a new series. It’s like a cozy mystery with an extra shot of sizzle.

Passion Bites by Mary Hughes

BITES
Passion Bites by Mary Hughes
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (287 Pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

“A broken vampire and a driven doctor, seized by a passion neither can afford.”

“Biting Love,” Book 9

Dr. Alexis Byornsson has her hands full in the ER when her patient s uncle blows into the exam room. Stitching up a five-year-old s cut is hard enough without a blond god distracting her all to hell.

To say she s furious is putting it mildly not that anyone would notice. Not with the legendary control that s earned her the nickname Dr. Frozen .

Luke Steel never knew a woman chastising him could be so sexy. But for the first time in three hundred years, passion stirs in his gut along with panic. Since his wife was taken before his eyes in a brutal attack, he s sworn he d never feel that powerless again.

Almost before either Luke or Alexis realize what s happening, they re sharing a blazing kiss that shatters her logical armor and unleashes his wholly unwanted mating instinct. And spurs a closer-than-skin enemy to put into motion a devastating plan for revenge.

“Warning: This book contains a hot doctor and a hotter vampire messing up sterile surfaces. The usual rogue shenanigans, but this time covering deeper motives. Hang on to your stethoscopes at what s revealed!””

If ever I was in need of a book with a paranormal theme, this was it. Thank you, Mary Hughes.

This is the 9th Book in this series, but let me tell you it did not at all feel like I was reading the 9th book. I completely forgot this was the 9th book.

This is a paranormal with bits and pieces of mystery and suspense in it. I’m glad. I liked the mix. There was a broken vampire, a doctor with a ‘Dr. Frozen’ reputation, and passion. Those are not the only interesting things in this book. There was so much more! There are multiple plots in this story and I loved that. It kept me on my toes and never let me get bored. Yes, it also made me want to know more and more about them and the author delivered all the answers. The climax was ‘epic’ and very momentous. I’m glad I got to read this book.

Luke and Alexis together is a passionate combo. Alexis changes when she meets Luke. No more Dr. Frozen–she’s now ‘Hot Doctor’ and she’s a brilliant doctor who is also known for having a cold demeanor towards others. Luke is a broken, but a very dangerous vampire. Their first meeting made me smile. When she realizes that he is her neighbor, all bets are off. But Alexis isn’t the only one with a chance to change. Luke does, too. It was not easy for him to let go of his carefully buried heart. He did not want to get hurt, but no one can change the future or know what will happen. Ms. Hughes showed me second chances do happen.

For readers who are not just satisfied with a simple paranormal romance, this is the perfect story for you. It has action, sizzling hot romance and vampires. I got tons more than I expected an it was great. Recommended.

Return to Willow Creek by Roberta C.M.Decaprio

wILLOW
Return to Willow Creek by Roberta C.M.Decaprio
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (344 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Broken-hearted after losing the only woman he ever loved to another man, Reverend Joshua Holmes returns to England. But after thirty years, he is summoned to Willow Creek, Arizona. His rival has died, and his deathbed request is for Josh to marry Amanda and keep her safe from harm. But he fears she will not accept his steadfast love.

Fearing for her life, Amanda Gregory, or Golden Lady to the Apaches amongst whom she has lived, is forced to flee the white agents infiltrating the reservation. Amanda seeks refuge until Joshua arrives from England. Once she sees him again, her heart reawakens, and she believes true love could happen a second time around. But just as she becomes Joshua’s wife, she worries she will again be made a widow by the enemies from her past.

Arizona in 1895; a marriage that might have met with disapproval by some, a question of loyalty, of love and commitment after death, and the impact of a a long-ago love all lie at the heart of this novel.

Amanda Gregory, widow of an Apache chief, is part of a family that includes her ‘sister’ Rising Sun, and son Gabriel, as well as the larger community around them on the reservation. Mutual respect is shown, but there is no denying that they, as a whole are victims; especially the women.

The violence is mostly delicately handled but a part of the life; as well as a motivation for Amanda to reach for help into her past.

Far away is a man who loved her long ago…and might yet. Josh Holmes is the sort that any reader will love: steadfast, believable and sure.  However, things between them cannot progress as we might hope. There is Amanda’s loyalty, and the disapproval of some, including her son. From the first page, we are never able to predict quite how this will turn out.

Indulging in the over-dramatic, at times, lack of credibility interrupts what is otherwise an engaging tale. The background is well done and it is beautifully written and quite heartfelt.

Although this is book 5 of a series, it is a whole story unto itself: one can read it as a stand-alone.

Return to Willow Creek delivers exactly what you’d expect. I do think fans of the time period will enjoy this romance.

Reason to Wed by Heather Boyd

WED
Reason to Wed by Heather Boyd
The Distinguished Rogues Book 7
Publisher: Nocht Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (162 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Richard Hill, the Earl of Windermere, might desperately require a wife and heir, but thoughts of duty fly from his mind when he rescues Esme, Lady Heathcote, from the embarrassment of a failed affair. They usually never agree about anything. He’s never even kissed the vexing widow. But when the opportunity arises to whisk her away for a no-strings-attached rendezvous, Richard can’t imagine a better way to spend a moonlit evening.

Esme has never lacked for admirers, but having Lord Windermere’s company goes a long way to ease the pain of losing her suddenly betrothed lover. And when Windermere suggests an affair, Esme is intrigued by the blazing-hot connection even while knowing their relationship has no future beyond his house party.

But as with any temptation, it’s a bargain they’ll soon regret.

No strings attached may be what they were thinking but those “best laid plans” often run amoke when emotions and mother nature gets involved.

Marriage of convenience. It’s been done many times. The difference I was looking for was how the characters behaved before the “reason to wed” as compared to after. Was there heat? Did they have chemistry? Was I looking forward to seeing how it would all play out? I was delighted in how the author answered these questions.

First off, I really liked the scene where Richard takes Esme to his room the first time. What happened wasn’t what I expected at all but I appreciate it. Since I haven’t read the other books in this series, yet, I can only assume that some of the history they allude to could have played out in a previous book. It might be interesting to start at the beginning and find out.

Secondly, they do have a certain version of adversarial heat. They haven’t always been friendly with one another but they aren’t strangers, either. There’s an automatic maturity to their relationship that put them on totally separate footing than if they had just met and knew nothing about each other. The author doesn’t have to waste precious space dealing with them learning about the past before they can move on to the present or future. It was a good call.

The Windemere family has a very interesting history, or maybe tradition is a better word for it, when it comes to the men of the house taking a bride. Knowing that the story eventually comes around to the “reason to wed”, I wondered when/if that tradition would come in to play. Richard states that he wants the tradition to die with his generation but he and Esme have some obstacles to overcome so, maybe or maybe not. Still, the particulars required of that “tradition”, I think Richard was correct in thinking that his ancestors had to be a little loony. When it did happen, it cracked me up.

Reason To Wed was a fun read. I am dying to know what happens to Harriett and Avery and Jillian and Mr. Hammond. So many interesting side characters with stories to tell. Readers who enjoy a spicy historical should truly give this one a try.

Alpha Wolf Need Not Apply by Terry Spear

ALPHA
Alpha Wolf Need Not Apply by Terry Spear
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (313 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Wolf shifter and park ranger Eric Silver is committed to his job policing spectacular San Isabel National Forest, and he’s hot on the scent of some mysterious wolves who are up to no good. When Eric’s investigation leads him to cross paths with forester Pepper Grayling, he’s fascinated to learn this she-wolf is her pack’s leader — strong, independent, and definitely not looking for a mate.

With unknown dangers on the prowl, Pepper is tempted to give in to her attraction to Eric and align her pack with his. But Pepper’s been pursued by many alpha males–all out to take over her pack and gain her hard-won territory–and Eric is a born leader. How does Eric earn the trust of a she-wolf who’s been betrayed so often in the past?

For a change, an alpha female wolf is calling the shots and the male has to dance to her tune. I liked the switch up and enjoyed meeting Pepper and her pack. Eric, the hero, I’ve met in past books but he was always on the periphery. He’s center stage this time and yet for all his yumminess and alphaness, he’s walking on eggshells around Pepper and that was fun to watch. How does a man who likes to take charge, who thinks he’s right and steamrolls over others with his ideas, (because they’re usually great, so he says), temper his natural inclination? His dilemma intrigues his alpha and pack to no end, and the resulting story is amusing.

The beginning of the book introduces Eric as a man of action, integrity and honor. All good qualities to find in a hero but they are useless when a woman won’t trust those qualities even though she values them. Pepper’s experience with male alpha wolves has been a bit warped. A reader will see through examples shared in the novel just how skewed and twisted her exposure has been. They have formed her, hardened her and fed her determination to not only not mate an alpha wolf, but to not mate at all ever again. How is Eric going to get around that hurdle? By just being himself, which is pretty awesome as I’m sure he’d agree.

The internal conflict comes from Pepper and her extreme distrust and reluctance to even consider allowing Eric to pursue her. But she’s charmed despite herself, so I enjoyed watching her get seduced. The only drawback is the repetitive nature of her resistance to not wanting to be mated to an alpha. The author made that abundantly crystal clear early on; the constant reminders wore thin after a while and made me want to yell, “I get it! I get it!”. Eventually, she stops resisting because Eric is irresistible. The external conflict comes from the kind of alpha male that she abhors and he’s as stubborn, wily and ambitious as any criminal who wants what others have. The depth of his determination stems from something that happened in Pepper’s past and it was a surprise to find out how it played into the drama and suspense of the plot.

The author took some time to explore Pepper and Eric’s jobs and responsibilities, and gave me some idea of each of their personalities, character and quirks. It fleshed them out enough for readers to feel connected and interested in what happens to them. I know it did that for me.

One thing that happens, and what romance readers enjoy, is when the main characters succumb to the physical passion that drives them. All scenes were well written, steamy and effective.

Alpha Wolf Need Not Apply is fun, steamy, interesting and a page turner of a novel. I did enjoy myself. I liked the happy ever after ending and I thought it was romantic. Pepper and Eric went through a lot to get there but the journey was worth it. I’m pretty sure fans of the series will enjoy this story and since it’s a standalone read, there’s plenty for new readers to enjoy too.

Some Women by Emily Liebert

WOMEN
Some Women by Emily Liebert
Publisher: New American Library
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (294 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

An engrossing and thought provoking novel that examines the intricacies of marriage, friendship, and the power of unexpected connections…

Annabel Ford has everything under control, devoting her time to her twin five-year-old boys and to keeping her household running seamlessly. So when her husband of a decade announces that he’s leaving her, without warning, she’s blindsided. And suddenly her world begins to unravel.

Single mother Piper Whitley has always done her best to balance it all—raising her daughter Fern by herself and advancing her career as a crime reporter. Only now that she’s finally met the man of her dreams, Fern’s absentee father arrives on the scene and throws everything into a tailspin.

Married to the heir of a thriving media conglomerate, Mackenzie Mead has many reasons to count her blessings. But with an imperious mother-in-law—who’s also her boss—and a husband with whom she can no longer seem to connect, something has to give.

On the surface, these three women may not have much in common. Yet when their lives are thrust together and unlikely friendships are formed—at a time when they all need someone to lean on—Annabel, Piper, and Mackenzie band together to help each navigate their new realities.

Realistic and filled with flawed, believable characters, Some Women was both incredibly difficult and a complete joy to read.

We follow the eventually intersecting lives of three women going through tumultuous times in their lives. Annabel’s husband very suddenly walks out and wants a divorce, single mom, Piper has just had her boyfriend move in with her and her (suddenly sullen) daughter and Mackenzie is struggling to find her place in life.

All the characters, from the main ones to secondary, are exceptionally drawn. They’re all unique and real. I really liked that everyone had flaws. I started out really not particularly liking Annabel, for example…she was so over-the-top driven and it was no wonder her husband decided to walk. He was a little bit of a jerk, too, but I could see both sides and understand them. And there were times I wanted to slap Piper’s daughter, Fern, but as time went on I understood where she was coming from.

Sometimes the actions the women took were laugh out loud funny and others just made me sigh and roll my eyes. Certain small things I found a little difficult to believe (for example, Annabel has twin boys and one has a peanut allergy, yet the other one “lives on” PB&J sandwiches … I have friends who have children with nut allergies and they don’t allow peanut butter anywhere near their homes since their kid could, yanno, die from it). but those things were minor and didn’t detract from my enjoyment once I’d scratched my head and moved on.

All-in-all a thoroughly enjoyable novel filled with drama, angst and a decent amount of humor as well as both HEA and HFN endings for the women. Those readers who enjoy women’s fiction would be well served to pick this one up. Recommended.

Wild Things by Jennifer Ashley

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Wild Things by Jennifer Ashley
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (151 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Wolf Shifter Mason McNaughton is tired of the crazy feral living in his house, endangering him, his brothers, and his sweet auntie Cora. Ferals are Shifters who’ve reverted to the wild stage, forgetting all about the joys of pizza and satellite TV. Not to mention, Mason is sick of waking up to the feral’s rampages in the bedroom next to his. The feral has been given sanctuary, so Mason can’t throw him out—the only thing to do is to find a way to cure him.

The problem is, Shifter healers—elusive, Goddess-touched Shifters who have the healing gift—are few and far between. Mason volunteers to go in search of one, and is sent to a psychic in New Orleans who might have an idea of where to start looking.

Mason doesn’t believe in psychics, but Jasmine, the psychic in question, seems to at least put on a good show. Jasmine believes in Shifters all right, but she vowed after her Shifter boyfriend dumped her to never have anything to do with them again.

The easiest way to get rid of the growly Lupine, Mason, is to help him, but Jasmine never dreams what that help will drag her into.

Wow, talk about an exciting opening paragraph! I think this is one of the fastest hooks for a story and conflict ever! There is no doubt that the situation is serious, dire and the clock is ticking. Can Mason save Aleck? Will he find the healer in time? What is Mason going to have to go through to find the healer? While the hero is off trying to save the day, who else is Aleck going to threaten, or even, worse, kill? After an opening chapter like this in Wild Things, there is no way anyone can just put this book down and walk away, especially not me.

The promise of the first chapter is realized all through the book. It kept my interest; it was exciting, twisty and seductive. There were definite moments of fun which often came from Mason and Jazz’s (short for Jasmine) interactions between themselves and other secondary characters – that includes all the dialogue and descriptions of their reactions. It was a very busy book.

When they finally find the healer, Zander, the scene that affected me the most is when he came face to face with Olaf. That held me emotionally suspended over a sharp point of a figurative needle. I had no idea which way it was going to go and I was quite fearful.

The novel is a great read with a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is the romance that grows between Mason and Jazz as they do their dangdest to find the elusive healer that so many have pinned their hopes on to save a man thought lost to not only them but his mate who carries his child. I like the dynamics between Mason and Jazz and thought they were a well matched couple.

Wild Things is a stellar addition to the series. It can be read alone or out of order of the series, which is what I did. I missed the last few but I never felt like I lost out while reading this tale. I knew Aleck was in a bad way from a few books ago, and I’m thrilled I was able to see the story arc come to a kind of conclusion in this book. I chose wisely. And I liked meeting Jazz – she’s good for Mason. This book is an easy recommend to paranormal romance fans and definitely for fans of the series. Don’t’ miss it!

The Jade Lioness by Christina Courtenay

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The Jade Lioness by Christina Courtenay
Book Three in the Kumashiro series
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision

Temperance’s trip to Japan isn’t at all what she expected.

Temperance had hoped that her trip to Japan would be a beautiful adventure. However, once Temperance realizes she will not be allowed to travel around the country; her excitement quickly turns to boredom. Consequently, she decides to do a bit of exploring on her own and meets Kazuo. Their first meeting leaves her wanting more, and once again she dares to escape the confines of the small island she’s living on. Unfortunately, this mistake proves to be very costly, and Temperance’s life is changed forever. I must say that while this is book three in a series, it can certainly stand on its own.

Temperance is a very easy character to like. She’s definitely naïve at the start of the story, but she is kind, caring, and always willing to help others. Her inner strength is put to the test more than once in this book, and I had the pleasure of watching Temperance grow into a great character.

Temperance and Kazuo make a very good couple. They are attracted to each other from the moment they meet, and I must admit that their connection is formed a little fast for my taste. Despite this issue, Temperance and Kazuo’s relationship still feels genuine. However, the restrictions on foreigners make the idea of a happy ending for the couple seem truly impossible. Ms. Courtenay did an excellent job of building suspense gradually. As this romance progressed, the couple moved from one precarious situation to another, and I wasn’t entirely sure that Temperance and Kazuo would find a way to be together without fear until the very end.

Temperance and Kazuo face separate dilemmas throughout the story. As they try to avoid being caught by various enemies, they try to tackle one problem at a time. However, the solution to both Temperance and Kazuo’s problems are found in the same place, and Temperance plays a key role in restoring Kazuo’s family honor. It was not exactly the solution I expected, but it was certainly satisfying.

The Jade Lioness is a very enjoyable book. Temperance is a sweet character, and I liked cheering for her and Kazuo against all odds. I recommend this tale to anyone looking for a different historical romance.