Traitor Knight by Keith W. Willis

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Traitor Knight by Keith W. Willis
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (367 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When Morgan McRobbie rescues a damsel-in-distress from a dragon, he expects she’ll swoon, murmuring “My hero!” Instead, Marissa has only loathing for the man everyone believes will betray Kilbourne. That’s fine with Morgan. A woman in his life would just complicate things.

A high-level informer threatens the kingdom’s security, and Morgan is out to stop him. Posing as a turncoat himself, he’s walking a fine line between honor and betrayal. A single misstep could result in disaster, and his mission is fraught with distractions: the pesky dragon, a pair of conniving courtiers, and the disillusioned damsel who’s certain Morgan can’t be trusted.

If Morgan’s going to save the kingdom, win the girl, and manage to stay alive, he’ll need to step up his game. Because the traitor is lurking in the shadows, and his scheme calls not just for the betrayal of Kilbourne, but also the destruction of Morgan McRobbie.

Will Marissa ever be able to trust Morgan?

Morgan is everything a good hero should be. He’s loyal, honest, smart, and brave. Despite all the good he does for Kilbourne, he has a horrible reputation. I must say that I was baffled by how the majority of people treated Morgan when it is clear to anyone who spends any length of time with him that he is completely devoted to his country and king. His situation is certainly an indication of the kind of damage rumors, even unfounded ones, can do to a reputation.

Morgan had no idea the direction his life would take when he rescued Marissa from the dragon. Morgan and Marissa have good chemistry and would definitely make a good couple, but unfortunately the terrible rumors about Morgan hang like a black cloud over any possibility of romance. After Morgan rescues Marissa, she agrees to dine with him. Morgan’s true personality shines through wonderfully, so I was very disappointed when Marissa doubts her instincts and persists in believing the worst about him. Granted, some of Morgan’s actions are very suspicious, so I can understand Marissa’s confusion. Despite the rocky beginning of their relationship, their encounters never fail to be entertaining, and I have high hopes for their future.

Just when Marissa is beginning to trust Morgan, he finds himself firmly on the wrong side of the law, and she is forced to take matters into her own hands. Her plan to reveal the true traitor is clever and well thought out, but will she be able to expose the true traitor in time to save Morgan?

I truly enjoyed Traitor Knight. Morgan and Marissa are strong characters I had the pleasure of getting to know. I recommend Traitor Knight to anyone looking for a good fantasy with just a dash of romance.

Me + You by Brenda Gayle

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Me + You by Brenda Gayle
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Teacher Lori Tait has always wanted a family, but now she’s 40, she’s pretty much decided all the good men are taken. Instead, she devotes herself to her students, particularly one little girl whose struggle with math seems inconsistent with an otherwise brilliant and artistic mind.

Mark Wilder hadn’t planned to become a father, but when a fling resulted in his daughter, Grace, he whole-heartedly embraced the role. Raised in a family of boys, what does he know about women and girls? Once he learns of Grace’s inability to comprehend basic math, he welcomes the role of tutor as a way to connect with his daughter; the opportunity to spend time with her sexy teacher is an added bonus.

When Lori cracks the mystery of Grace’s problem Mark’s world is thrown into turmoil; he’s the last person who can help his daughter. He pushes everyone away, confirming Lori’s theory about men. Grace, however, has other plans. Using her new-found understanding of math, she sets out to prove to her father and teacher that, together, they add up to the perfect match.

Lori enjoys teaching her students in the second grade, but Grace is having serious difficulties in math. Calling a meeting with Grace’s divorced parents, Lori is dismayed when Grace’s mother is adamant that math isn’t necessary for an artists’ life. Grace’s dad, Mark, however, fully appreciates how important basic addition and subtraction can be. Then Grace herself suggests to Mark that they get Lori to come over and help tutor her. Can Mark and Lori find each other while helping Grace together?

This is an interesting book. Grace is clearly a special character and an interesting child who views the world very differently. Talented in most areas but dismally behind in her math I found this a realistic and very strong plot for the whole story. I liked both Mark and Lori together. They clearly have sparks, but it’s a slow burn kind of romance, one that took its time and flourished throughout the book. I was also quite pleased that Mark’s ex-wife and Grace’s mother, Jade, wasn’t made out to be some evil witch – as is far too easy to do for such a character. Jade was definitely a “free spirit” and had some strongly non-traditional opinions, but at no point did I feel the character was hard done by. I can strongly commend the author for portraying Jade as an ex-wife, but still part of the family unit without being oppressive or negative. I found this refreshing and enjoyed it.

I also really enjoyed how the plot was quite thoughtful and deep. Without going into spoilers, I found the link between Grace’s math problems and some of Mark’s personal concerns really well thought out and clearly not just some throw-away plot device to bring Mark and Lori together. With vibrant characters, a very, very strong plot and some steamy, raunchy sex thrown in for good measure this ticks a lot of boxes and I feel should have a lot of readers really enthralled. I was delighted by each progression and eagerly turning the pages myself. With a romantic, satisfying ending I really enjoyed this book and will happily re-read it a number of times to come. Recommended.

Twelfth Night Queen’s Deception by Rita Bay

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Twelfth Night Queen’s Deception by Rita Bay
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (71 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Amelia Fontaine was betrothed to her cousin, Percy Westbury, while she was still in leading strings. When Percy and his family arrive for a long holiday visit, Amelia is dismayed by the prospect of the impending arranged marriage. With his estate in shambles, Percy flaunts his plans to use Fontaine Hall’s wealth to benefit his family’s fortunes. When Percy demands that Amelia end her friendship with her neighbor, Edward Thornton, will she choose to follow tradition or pursue happiness?

Edward Thornton, the Earl of Bridgwater, couldn’t remember a time he didn’t love Amelia. He didn’t believe her grandmother would insist on the arranged marriage, until the entire Westbury clan invites themselves to Fontaine Hall. When Edward discovers Percy’s secret life and his sinister plans for Amelia, he embarks on a campaign to rescue her. Will the Twelfth Night Queen help him save his beloved from her cruel fate?

Amelia Fontaine and Edward Thornton, Earl Bridgewater, live on neighboring properties and were both orphaned when they were children and were raised by their grandmothers. Before her parents died, they betrothed Amelia to Percy Westbury and now her grandmother feels obliged to keep to the betrothal.

I think this book is extremely well written and good reading. I sat down to see what it was like and didn’t get up again until I’d finished it. Wonderful story with oodles of intrigue and conflict. One grandmother can see no way out of the dilemma of Amelia’s betrothal while the other feels it best to end the engagement so her grandson can court the woman he loves. Percy has his own ideas on the future and this brings about the conflict.

One thing I would say is the title tends to give away the end of the story. Not completely, but maybe the last word could be left out of the title.

Often when I read a Regency romance I feel I want to shout at the hero and heroine to stop being so stupid and talk to one another. Not this time. The pair did talk, the heroine was not afraid to speak her mind both to the hero and her fiancé, not that it did her much good, but she did have her say. The author has written a really good book, short but sharp and engaging.

Wild Man’s Curse by Susannah Sandlin

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Wild Man’s Curse by Susannah Sandlin
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

The bones said death was comin’, and the bones never lied.

While on an early morning patrol in the swamps of Whiskey Bayou, Louisiana wildlife agent Gentry Broussard spots a man leaving the home of voodoo priestess Eva Savoie—a man who bears a startling resemblance to his brother, whom Gentry thought he had killed during a drug raid three years earlier. Shaken, the agent enters Eva’s cabin and makes a bloody discovery: the old woman has been brutally murdered.

With no jurisdiction over the case, he’s forced to leave the investigation to the local sheriff, until Eva’s beautiful heir, Celestine, receives a series of gruesome threats. As Gentry’s involvement deepens and more victims turn up, can he untangle the secrets behind Eva’s murder and protect Celestine from the same fate? Or will an old family curse finally have its way?

The strength of this novel, which I greatly enjoyed, was in its amazing descriptions. Vivid pictures were painted of the setting, the characters and more. I felt the humidity of the swamps, and I feel as if I’d know the characters if I saw them on the street. Everyone was clearly painted, three dimensional and unique, even those who didn’t spend a lot of time on the pages. Between these descriptions and the characters, I was absolutely intrigued.

The story was interesting, if a bit far-fetched. I enjoyed the look into the various habits and superstitions shared by many on the bayou and how they were shown without prejudice. They just were. I wasn’t as curious about the mystery, to be honest, as I was by the journey the characters were on. Ceelie and Gentry were both wounded and alone and it was fascinating watching them learn about each other and how to be together. I really felt the romance was believable and worth the read.

This was my first book by this author, and I enjoyed her voice and way of writing so much, I’d love to read more.

Only Yours by Nancy Fraser

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Only Yours by Nancy Fraser
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (72 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Quince

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, 1966 and everyone expects Rebecca Winston to marry her high school/college sweetheart, Garrett Langley. According to Rebecca’s mother, it’s what a proper young lady should do.

The problem is, the flame’s gone out on their romance. They’re still best of friends, but only friends. When Garrett’s father has a heart attack, his older brother Wyatt (an L.A. attorney) returns home for the first time in years. The attraction between Rebecca and Wyatt is immediate.

Can Rebecca expect her family and, especially, Garrett to understand that her desires have changed and turned toward Wyatt?

Can Wyatt get past the feeling that he’s poaching his younger brother’s girl?

Rebecca Winston is a good and proper lady. As a good and proper lady she is expected, by everybody, to marry her sweetheart doctor boyfriend, Garrett. Rebecca is feeling like she and Garrett are acting more like good friends than a couple that should be married. She is well aware that they are growing apart, but what she can do now, when everyone expects her to be with Garret? Garrett’s father’s heart attack changes everything, because suddenly Garrett’s older brother, Wyatt, shows up. It was an attraction at a first sight between Rebecca and Wyatt and now they have to find a way to break this news to the family.

Only Yours is a short but interesting story. From the very beginning of the story it was obvious that something was off between Rebecca and Garrett and they are so wrong together. On the other hand the situation in which Wyatt and Rebecca ended up was not a pleasant one. They feel attraction, they want to explore it, but they are not sure how people around them will react. The solutions put in the story works well, they are neither forced nor naïve.

Due to its length I read this story pretty quickly, and I enjoyed it very much. Fast paced, sweet and interesting. I recommend it.

One Kiss by Misty Simon

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One Kiss by Misty Simon
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Valentine’s Day)
Length: Short Story (63 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The last place Lorena Weber wants to be on Valentine’s Day is a singles party thrown by her newlywed best friend. But how can she say no? She’ll give it an hour—two, tops—and then she’s heading back to her normal life. But she didn’t plan on seeing the one man who had turned her world on its side New Year’s Eve with one kiss that opened doors she had firmly locked.

Caleb Manning got coerced into attending this ridiculous party by a co-worker. He’ll stay for an hour at most and then he’ll head home. That was the plan until he recognized Lorena across the room and had to see if that kiss was only New Year’s Eve magic or something more.

Lorena loves her newly married best friend dearly, but not even that friendship can convince her to stay at a singles-only Valentine’s day party for more than an hour. Two at most. While looking for the fastest and least offensive means to exit the party, Lorena bumps into Caleb, the handsome stranger with whom she shared a New Years Eve kiss. Could Lorena and Caleb really get a second chance at something great?

I found this to be a fun, lighthearted romance. While I shuddered at the idea of a singles-only hook up Valentine’s day party, it was just clichéd enough to be fun – Pin the cloud on the Cupid! – and an excellent setup for the story. I enjoyed how the chapters alternated between Lorena and Caleb’s point of view – so I could get a good handle on both characters and see things from their eyes. I also enjoyed how there was no rushing – no jumping into anything the moment their eyes met and they recognized each other. The slow fall was delicious and made the happy ending even more sweet for me.

Readers who prefer the bedroom door closed might need to skip just a few pages. While the (one and only) sex scene is consummated with the door open, it is not particularly descriptive and certainly not to my mind explicit or in a manner to make a girl blush. Readers who enjoy steamy kisses and passionate clinches shouldn’t mind the fact that Lorena and Caleb do move a step further without purple prose or strange euphemisms. I really enjoyed how tasteful I found the scene and was deeply satisfied to have consummation without anything too explicit pointed out for me. It was also a natural next step for both Lorena and Caleb, so I felt it suited the situation perfectly.

A fun, modern story with a good deal of laugh-out-loud funny moments. I found this a sweet and endearing story and one I greatly enjoyed. Recommended.

Sweetie Pie by Willa Blair

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Sweetie Pie by Willa Blair
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Makenna Stewart flees Scotland for the Big Island of Hawaii intent on making real a cherished dream—-a bakery of her own. Hard work and long hours leave Makenna craving some fun in her life. Her best customer, Greek-god sexy surfer Tom may be just what she needs, but she suspects there’’s more to him than board shorts and a devastating smile.

Retired professional surfer and real-estate multi-millionaire Tom Bensford is there when she opens every morning, but he’’s not craving her magical Morning Glory muffins. Fascinated by the dark-haired, blue-eyed wahine with the creamy Celtic skin and devastating Scottish accent, he’’s never met a woman like her. Too bad he’’s about to destroy her dreams.

To him, it’’s just business. To her, it’’s the kind of betrayal she fled Scotland to escape. Can the island magic in Makenna’s heritage save her dream and their romance, or will his secret tear them apart?

Makenna loves her new bakery – Sweetie Pie. Having left Scotland – and her idea-stealing ex boyfriend – behind, Makenna was determined to make her gluten free bakery a success in Hawaii where her mother’s family lived. A few weeks in and Makenna is loving it, and thoroughly enjoying her first local repeat customer, Tom. Tom is deeply intrigued by Makenna, and loves that she has no clue about his past and zero knowledge – or interest – in his money. Wanting to get to know her better he offers to teach her to surf. It’s just the opening they both need to get to know each other far, far better.

I loved the pacing in this story, slow but not dragging, moving forward while still taking its time. Makenna and Tom both have their past issues, but together they blossom and finally can heal and learn to trust again. I loved the spicy sex scenes – descriptive and hot while still tender and loving. While explicit, I didn’t find anything in it to be envelope pushing or outrageous. I also found the placement of the scene – when Makenna and Tom truly began to trust each other and open themselves up – to be perfect. It helped the sex not just be for sex’s sake, but to acknowledge both the characters were truly becoming serious about each other.

I found myself having mixed feelings about the conflict in the plot. While I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly different twist – it didn’t feel too clichéd to me – I was disappointed that Makenna had such double standards. I thoroughly understood her upset and anger toward Tom, but felt the fact she’d kept him in the dark about her past made her anger somewhat unjustified. Tom didn’t know about her past, didn’t know about her hurt and pain, and so without that knowledge how could he know or understand how strongly her reaction to a similar “betrayal” could be? The fact the conflict made me really sit back and think about the situation, mull it over and tease it all out in my mind showed how excellently it was written – and how invested in the characters I had become. In that sense, the writing and story was fantastic. It didn’t quell the spurt of disappointment I had in Makenna as a character though, and while I happily moved on when she did, it did leave a slightly unhappy flavor in my mouth.

Overall though I really enjoyed the story. I loved seeing Makenna and Tom get together, I loved the fact the plot really made me think and got me so hooked and invested. I loved the writing style and will happily search out more of this authors work.

A fun short story that packed quite a punch. Recommended.

I’m Sure by Beverly Breton

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I’m Sure by Beverly Breton
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (48 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Quince

During the day, Megan surrounds herself with water lilies and goldfish in the ponds she creates. At night, memories of her lying ex-boyfriend make her wonder if she can ever again trust a man.
Jason embraces his career as paramedic firefighter, even though past experience declares his profession a greedy mistress. During quiet nights at the station, he wonders if this bachelor existence is all he’ll ever know.
Then Jason meets Megan in an unexpectedly amusing encounter, and sparks fly, chased by flashes of anger when Jason, battling a raging apartment fire, stands up Megan on their first date. Is St. Valentine powerful enough to bring these two strong-willed people together?

Megan Donovan’s ex-boyfriend lied, cheated on her and broke her heart in the process, so she is very reluctant to have another relationship. That is…until she meets Jason D’Annucci. Jason D’Annucci happens to be a firefighter. He comes to her at a plant nursery looking for a hose. Jason finds Megan attractive as well as different from girls he has dated, and she thinks he is sweet. The connection between them is instant and they decide to go on a date and see where this will take them. Unfortunately, their first time is a bit unlucky, but will Megan give Jason another chance?

I’m Sure is a short story told from alternating first-person POV. It is sweet and it actually ends before it begins. The story revolves around Megan’s insecurity about starting a new relationship after her previous one ended up bad. So readers will not get Jason and Megan’s HEA, but just a Happy for Now.

I enjoyed this charming and sweet short novella. It made me laugh and it made me feel good. This is a great story for all of you who are looking for a quick and easy read.

Be Mine by April Hollingworth

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Be Mine by April Hollingworth
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Comedy
Length: Short Story (57 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Beth has always loved Mark. He was the boy of her dreams even though she was nothing more than his little sister’s best friend. Now he’s back from the military and looking at her differently. Though that could be the plate of lasagna she dropped in his lap.

A series of mishaps gives Mark opportunity to spend time with her. He is sure that he is the man for her but experience has taught Beth not all men can be trusted. Can he convince her that he wants her to be his for Valentine’s Day and ever after?

Beth hadn’t seen Mark in years, but when she does he’s definitely all grown up and quite a stunning man. Caught off guard, she accidently drops a plate of lasagna in his lap, and things only spiral out of control from there. Mark doesn’t instantly recognize Beth – she’s all grown up herself – but having hot food dropped on his pants, and then Beth trying to wipe it all up most certainly caught his attention. Mark is instantly smitten, but wooing Beth is not an easy road to take. Can he convince her to be his?

I found this to be a fun, lighthearted romance novel, almost a comedy. Klutzy mishaps and plenty of laughter are filled in this great short story, but I really appreciated how there was still a decent sized plot and interesting characters. Beth has her secrets, and not an easy past she’s working on overcoming and Mark also has plenty of surprises. I loved how the characters were interesting and vibrant. Readers who enjoy laughing as much as sighing happily at their romance should find this as good a read as I did.

There are plenty of heated glances and a couple of steamy kisses. This is definitely a sweet romance though, with everything occurring behind firmly closed doors. Coupled with the plot and strongly humorous story-telling I feel this should appeal to a very wide range of readers of all ages and interests.

A fun, happy story that I greatly enjoyed. I will definitely be looking for more of Ms. Hollingworth’s work.

Finding Mr. Right Now by Meg Benjamin

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Finding Mr. Right Now by Meg Benjamin
Salt Box Trilogy Book 2
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (277 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Reality can be hotter than fiction.

The Salt Box Trilogy, Book 1

Monica McKellar, associate producer of Finding Mr. Right, is desperate. One of the show’s bachelors has bailed one week before shooting starts. She not only needs a replacement ASAP, he has to get the temperamental bachelorette’s stamp of approval.

Fortunately there’s a hot guy right under her nose who’s a perfect fit. Unfortunately, he pushes all her hot buttons. Until the show’s over, her hands—and every other part of her body—are tied.

When Paul Dewitt signed on to write for the reality show, “Bachelor #10” wasn’t supposed to be in his job description. He fully expects to be cut early on, which will free him to focus on the real object of his attraction. Monica.

Instead, he’s a finalist, and they’re all packed in an SUV climbing the Continental Divide, headed for Salt Box, Colorado. Where stampeding horses, vindictive tabloid editors, and one capricious bachelorette’s waffling over suitors may conspire to end Paul and Monica’s romance before it even starts.

Warning: Contains hot sex on the sly, cold nights, creaking wicker couches, and a gypsy wagon that gives a whole new appreciation for the pioneers.

Do your job, don’t make the bachelorette cry and don’t accidentally steal one of the bachelors for yourself. Piece of cake!

As far as plots go, this one was fun and clever. Most everybody has seen the reality bachelor/bachelorette shows and knows how very little reality there truly is…in most cases. Finding Mr. Right Now keeps true to the stereotype but there was more. There was some real romance and characters that made me care about how the story would end.

One of the aspects of this book that really drew me was how realistic it felt. I could totally picture the behind the scenes production of a show like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette being very much like this. I found it interesting that the chosen Bachelorette for Mr. Right wasn’t a typical mean Hollywood Diva. Instead, Ronnie is the epitome of America’s Sweetheart when I met her. I wondered if that was the real her or if she was more of an actress than anyone knew. Only time would tell. Even if she’s not an actress, she’s definitely more observant than she’s given credit for. One of the elements I was looking for was to see how her story would turn out or if it would continue on in the next book.

The real heroine of this story is Monica, associate producer of the reality show. That is not a job for the faint-hearted. Essentially her job is to “deal with it”, whatever and whomever “it” was in any given issue. I liked her. She was, for lack of a better word, real in an industry that excels in proliferating make-believe. She’s also not nearly as jaded as she could be from working in Hollywood.

I liked Paul as well. He was only doing his job when he gets roped into being on the show as opposed to being behind the scenes pulling strings for the show as a writer. That’s a cutthroat industry so the way he gets forced into accepting the position of bachelor #10 was totally believable. The sparks flying between him and Monica were just as obvious. I wondered which direction the author would take it. If the bachelorette, Ronnie, would be a serious contender for his attention or if the focus would be on how he and Monica would develop a relationship around the show. Also, there’s that reporter, Cathe, they have a history and she seemed like trouble the first time I met her.

This trilogy is centered around the town of Salt Box, Colorado. It’s barely a speed bump in the road but the town has some interesting characters and also has an interesting affect on the tourist passing through. Nothing magical in the sense of paranormal. More like a chance to enjoy the slower pace, relax and consider life’s opportunities. Freedom, cleansing and the chances of new beginnings are the words that come to mind.

Altogether, this was a good read. I actually chose the second book in the series, Love in the Morning, to read/review but felt like I needed to see how closely the two were tied together so, I chose to read this one first. I’m glad I did.