Darkness Rising by Lisa Carlisle

rising
Darkness Rising by Lisa Carlisle
Chateau Seduction Series
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (55 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Antoine Chevalier harbors a secret. Born a gargoyle shifter, he wants nothing more than to cultivate his art. His hard work pays off the night he completes his greatest sculpture. But the excitement of his accomplishment doesn’t last.

He’s drawn the eye of the wrong group—a coven of vampires. Antoine wakes into darkness, changed. Shattered. His dream of becoming a renowned sculptor is destroyed.

One question remains—how will he ever survive an eternity of darkness alone?

Darkness Rising is part 0.5 of the Chateau Seductions series by USA Today Bestselling author Lisa Carlisle. Readers have requested more on the dark and mysterious Antoine. In this short story, Antoine tells his tale, which continues in the series with Dark Velvet. Dark Velvet is written from Savannah’s perspective as a newcomer to an art colony who is intrigued by the proprietor.

Darkness Rising is the prequel to the Chateau Seduction Series and I have to confess I read the other three first, which is the wrong order. This book introduces Antoine and tells how he changed from one paranormal creature to another and how he dealt with his unhappiness.

Antoine passes through the years like a spirit and doesn’t interact with anyone. His loneliness drags him down for many decades until he buys the castle on the DeRoche Island and sets up his art colony. He employs Cameron, the only person to know his secret, to run the art retreat for him so he can concentrate on his own sculpting.

The other books in the series are erotica, but this one is not. It fills in the background to the series, explaining the beginnings of both Antoine and his art retreat. Worth reading especially if the reader intends to delve into the rest of the series.

The Lawman’s Christmas Proposal by Barbara White Daille

lawman
The Lawman’s Christmas Proposal by Barbara White Daille
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (216 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A husband for Christmas?

Mitch Weston’s back in Cowboy Creek, and self-proclaimed matchmaker Jed Garland has his single granddaughter Andi on his mind. Mitch is a lawman, good with the little ones and easy on the eyes. He and Andi were high school sweethearts, for heaven’s sake! Why can’t they see they’re perfect for each other?

Because Andi already lost one husband to a dangerous job, and now she’s all about playing it safe, for her sake and her children’s. Being a cop is everything to Mitch. After discovering Jed’s plan, Mitch and Andi come up with their own: they’ll pretend to get engaged and then break up due to irreconcilable differences. Jed’s got his work cut out for him—because thismatch needs a Christmas miracle!

These two are in for a whirlwind romance and I’m glad I went along for the ride. It’s a doozy.

I know when I open a book by Barbara White Daille, I’m in for a great read. This book was no different. It’s a sweet read with wonderful characters and an engaging storyline. I’m glad I got to read it.

Mitch certainly has his work cut out for him. Not only is he in law enforcement, but the woman he has his eye on isn’t wild about his job. But this guy isn’t a pushover. That’s what I liked about him. He wasn’t one to back down, especially when he knew what he wanted. It was sexy and understated.

Then there’s Andi. Oh, boy. She’s got baggage and fears–which made her very relatable–and a little… irksome. Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Have you ever had a friend who you wanted to help, but no matter what you said, she doesn’t always get the message? That’s how I felt about Andi. I could see what she wanted, what her kids needed and what would make her whole. I rooted for her because I could see a lot of my friends and myself in her.

Yes, this book has a Christmas undertone to it, but you don’t have to wait until the holidays to read it. The story carries itself well and the romance will warm up any chilly afternoon.

I’m glad I got to read this book. Recommended.

Asleep in Scottsdale by Vijaya Schartz

scottsdale
Asleep in Scottsdale by Vijaya Schartz
Publisher: Books We Love Ltd
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (62 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When Talia runs over billionaire Kyle Dormant with her bicycle in the dog park, she considers their meeting a happy accident. He believes it is destiny, but her physician’s mind rebels at such notions. Their budding romance comes to a grinding halt when Kyle won’t wake up from deep sleep… with no medical explanation. Baffled and deeply concerned, Talia digs into his recent past for a plausible cause. Instead, she uncovers dark family secrets. Convinced Kyle’s condition was induced, and someone wants him dead, she is anxious to save him, but the closer she gets to the sordid truth… and a possible cure, the greater the risk to both their lives.

Kyle swore to never trust a woman again when his fiancé jilted him at the altar, in front of his friends, family and hundreds of paparazzi. His heart broken, his faith shattered, Kyle didn’t think he would ever emotionally recover. Two years later Talia crashes into him and Kyle finally finds himself willing to try again.

This is a well paced, traditional romance novel. I really enjoyed that neither Kyle nor Talia jumped into anything the moment they laid eyes on each other. I loved how the author infused the modern story with the feel of old-fashioned romance. Kyle might have been emotionally devastated, but he wasn’t bitter or too cynical. I found his past hurt an excellent reason for Kyle and Talia to go slow – to get to know each other and really connect emotionally and showcase the romance blossoming between them. I found this refreshing and lovely to read.

I also enjoyed how Talia wasn’t some weak, whimpering female wanting (or needing) a big strong man to rescue her. I liked Talia’s character and found her a good balance between willing to let Kyle help her and open herself to him, but still more than determined to keep the rest of her life independent and on her own terms. I felt the author did a great job balancing the two in Talia and enjoyed her character greatly. I thought the plotline was interesting (though a little predictable) and it certainly helped round out the story.

A sweet, enjoyable romance novel that I can recommend for all readers.

Winter Wedding in Vegas by Janice Lynn and One Night Before Christmas by Susan Carlisle

vegas
Winter Wedding in Vegas by Janice Lynn and One Night Before Christmas by Susan Carlisle
Publisher: Mills and Boon (Harlequin)
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (382 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Winter Wedding in Vegas
Single mom Taylor Anderson loathes playboys. So when she wakes up in Vegas to find Dr. Slade Sain, the hospital’s most notorious womanizer, in her hotel room, she’s horrified. And then she spots the ring on her finger!

Marriage was never in the cards for Slade. But now he finds himself married to the most gorgeous woman he’s ever laid eyes on. And when he meets her little girl, Gracie, his heart melts just a little further. Can a Christmas miracle turn this playboy extraordinaire into the perfect family man?

One Night Before Christmas

Sports physician Dr. Melanie Hyde is used to being treated as one of the guys—but just sometimes it would be nice to be treated like a woman…

So when hotshot orthopedic doctor Dalton Reynolds flies in to Niagara Falls, his brooding good looks ignite feelings Mel never even knew existed!

Dalton’s flight leaves in a few days, and yet after their short but steamy time together Mel knows that she’s already fallen for him. Can she melt Dalton’s heart and convince him to stay…just in time for Christmas?

Every so often I want a book I can enjoy on a chilly winter afternoon. You know, something to be read by the fire. Well, this book doesn’t disappoint. It was perfect for reading when the temperature dipped and actually, reading whenever. The characters in both books are engaging and the writing flows. I’m glad I got this book–both of them,

I loved both stories in this book. First thing, where can I find a Dr. Slade of my own? Janice Lynn has written a hero that’s both sexy and sinful, but a little flawed. I could see him well and wanted to find one of my own. Not kidding. Once I started Slade and Taylor’s story, I couldn’t put it down. The writing flowed and kept my attention well. I was a little sad when it was over. Ms. Lynn, if you revisit these characters, I’m on board to read all about them.

In One Night Before Christmas, I loved that the author included football. Now, I’m more of a stickler for having the sports play a bigger role in the book, if it’s a sports romance, but not in the case of this one. Susan Carlisle had the right amount of romance, sports and medicine in the book. I loved Dalton and Melanie. I totally could see them getting together from the first moment I met them and rooted for them. Like with Janice Lynn’s book, the story flowed well and kept me hooked. I know when I open a Susan Carlisle book, I will be entertained and I certainly was with this story.

If you’re looking for a pair of stories to warm a chilly night, then this twosome might be exactly what you want.

Plaid Tidings by Mia Marlowe

plaid
Plaid Tidings by Mia Marlowe
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (264 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Christmas in the Highlands…

Not any dashing English lord’s idea of a good time. But now that Lord Alexander Mallory has won a Scottish estate in a hand of cards, he is the unlikely laird of the wild, snowy Bonniebroch. Worse yet, the ancient pile of stones comes with a betrothal. To a fiery red-headed virgin. And a curse.

Alex will have his hands full honoring the first, seducing the second and breaking the third…all by Twelfth Night.

If you like ghosts, quests, impossible curses and a Scottish romance then pull up a comfy chair and settle in with Plaid Tidings because a fun read is heading your way. Alexander Mallory is a hero who must face the impossible and Lucinda is the heroine who must help him, but she has secrets of her own. How a man who refused to allow himself to love comes to terms with falling in love for the first time while battling a waiting evil is the stuff great stories are made of. Ms. Marlowe does not disappoint – she does her plot justice. It’s great entertainment.

I liked watching Alexander initially fight his Scottish heritage. It was really clever of the author to show a reader how the hero slowly but surely, in bits and pieces of dialogue and habits, turned his back on his English side to eventually embrace the man he really is, the man he was meant to be. It was endearing and fascinating to watch unfold. The charm of Scotland lives within Alexander Mallory.

It was only at one part that the plot had a predictable progression. The villain’s scene moved awfully fast so it felt like a bandage being ripped off to let all the icky stuff get out so the clean, healed skin could be revealed. It was nasty; the description of the final demise reminded me of some classic horror films so that was cool. However, if a reader is looking for some seriously dark drama they won’t find it here. Plaid Tidings is first and foremost a romance and the bad guy was the foil that was used to give the right amount of tension and adrenaline without undermining the true focus. It sure did showcase Lucinda’s fortitude and pluckiness. She’s an unusual heroine and it was fun to get to see her in action.

Alexander’s seduction of Lucinda is quite entertaining and well written. Readers should find plenty to enjoy between the pages. There’s no doubt that the hero and heroine are quite compatible. I enjoyed watching the heroine discover just how effective a woman can be in seducing her own husband to get her way. What a clever minx.

There are quite a few surprises and other types of action interspersed throughout the novel and it definitely kept my interest all the way through. I heartily recommend readers giving Plaid Tidings a try. It’s filled with quirky charm and a delightful romance that worked because Alexander and Lucinda were so fun together. I’m glad I read this book and got to meet them.

Deadly Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Alliance
Deadly Alliance by Kathleen Rowland
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (117 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Finbar Donahue, former Army Ranger, walked on the wild side in Iraq, but now he lives in the shadows. After his evasive partner, Les, was shot in a random drive-by, Finn discovers cash is siphoned monthly. He fights to keep his investment company afloat. When the late partner’s girlfriend, Amy Kintyre, applies for his bookkeeping job, Finn suspects she knows about his company drain and hires her.

Amy needs a nine-to-five with free evenings and weekends to get her fashion design business back on track. She unearths Les’ s secret bank account and alerts Finn. Freezing of the money laundering account sets off havoc within an Irish gang. Amy witnesses a gang fight between a brutal ISIS fundraising organization and the Irish. Desperate to escape a stalker’s crosshairs, she seeks refuge with Finn. As danger heats up, sparks fly hotter.

Les is alive. After cheating the Irish mob, he became their target. Mistaken identity took the life of his disabled twin brother. Now Les makes another deal—trading Amy and stolen drugs for their forgiveness. Stakes are high as Finn tracks assassins across the San Bernardino Mountains. If he gets her back, can he trust her?

Amy is trying to start fresh, but it’s a struggle. Working hard on her deadline in the evenings, she is desperate to land a regular nine-to-five job to help pay the bills and keep her afloat until her own business gets started. If that means working for Finbar Donahue – her ex-boyfriend’s old partner and ex-Army Ranger – then so be it. Finn is determined to work out who is embezzling money from him, and while he sincerely hopes it’s not Amy, he has questions about the timing of her application for a job. He knows her ex-boyfriend was shady. Could it be Amy wasn’t some duped innocent but actually in on it too?

This is a well-paced, action packed story that I greatly enjoyed. I found the plot complex and well layered – and while I guessed a few aspects there were still a number of surprises that delighted me and I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed sifting through everyone’s actions and motivations to try and find the “bad guys”. With so many strong secondary characters and the author’s suspenseful plotting I found this a highly interesting, convoluted story that I truly enjoyed.

I was a little disappointed that there were a few editing errors (an internal dialogue sentence highlighted blue, a sentence split into two paragraphs, etc) and these jarred me from the story and my enjoyment, but they were small things and could be easily rectified with another careful going-over. I really enjoyed the suspense and tension in the story, found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. I feel mystery and thriller readers should thoroughly enjoy this story as much as I have.

The romance between Amy and Finn is also thick with chemistry and sizzling tension. While there is sexual intimacy in the book and more than a few steamy kisses – everything of an erotic nature happens “off camera”. I feel the author has done an amazing job of making the relationship between Amy and Finn passionate enough that spicy readers will enjoy it, but also subtle enough that more traditional readers won’t feel as if too much has been exposed.

Overall I found this a deeply complex, thoroughly interesting and entertaining read.

January Non-Erotic Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Protecting Kate by Amy J Hawthorn

KATE
Protecting Kate by Amy J. Hawthorn
Dark Horse Inc. Book 1
Publisher: Indie Publishers
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (234 Pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Trent Dawson, horse trainer and former soldier, smells trouble at a simple charity auction. His good intentions get the better of him and he bids a small fortune on a damsel in distress. It turns out there’s far more than meets the eye to the former Ms. Kentucky and their chemistry is off the charts.

The only thing standing between Kate MacDonald and her worst nightmare is Trent Dawson and the men of Dark Horse Inc.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy

COMES
When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy
Publisher: Zebra Books
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (244 pgs)
Heat Rating: Hot
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

It’s been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she’s survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a vampire she both desires and fears.

For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago. Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death.

A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and evil – and a desperate race to save their love…

I’ve just discovered another world that is so amazing and intricate that it’s created a new addiction. Ms. Ivy’s When Darkness Comes delivers a hard to resist hook, a premise that is unique and fascinating and characters that come alive between the pages. I’m a happy reader.

The basic gist is the age old battle between good and evil. In this case, vampires and all sorts of paranormal folk are just variations of demons. I’m not into reading about demons per se, but Ms. Ivy has a clever twist that makes them not as one would expect. Like the heroine found out, demons can be beautiful and harmless as much as they can be harbingers of the end of the world. Sometimes humans can be just as bad, if not worse, than the worst demon. The heroine sure found out about that, too.

The very first chapter was intriguing. I met Abby, a sort of klutzy, sweet but very responsible woman who has had to struggle to survive. She’s got this great gig going on that is finally paying the bills. One day she breaks a priceless vase and she thought that was the absolutely most horrifying thing that could happen to her. Call it the calm before the storm. What happens after neatly and efficiently captured my interest, imagination and garnered desperation to read every page, chapter and scene where Abby and Dante try to not only stay alive but save the world from overambitious zealots. This book is a page flipper.

In between all the suspense and drama, Ms. Ivy has Abby and Dante falling in love. It’s rocky, passionate and hot. They are wonderful together and their chemistry is off the charts.

Secondary characters are not only important, they are vital. Every single one plays a role and they contributed to the feel of the community, the friendships and the sense of being players on a very large stage. A lot goes on in this book but it’s the hints of what is to come that tease the mind and senses.

When Darkness Comes is a must read. It’s on my keeper shelf and it’s a book that I can’t wait to read again. It’s infused me with the need to know more about Viper and just what kind of woman will be his downfall so I’m already primed to read the next adventure. I found this novel to be as gripping, exciting and fun as anything I’ve read in a long time. Not only that but I checked into the next book and was astounded to find out that there are a lot of books in the series. My bank account is going to scream but if they are as astounding and solidly well written as When Darkness Comes then it’s going to be money well spent. This book has made me an instant fan. I really, really count myself fortunate that I discovered this series especially because, with so many already written, I don’t have to wait. How awesome is that?!?

Beauty and Cruelty by Meredith Katz

BEAUTY
Beauty and Cruelty by Meredith Katz
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (218 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Cruelty, once an evil fairy and now working in fast food, comes home one day to find the lazy, drooling King of Cats on her doorstep. Worse, he comes bearing news Cruelty would be happier not hearing: Sleeping Beauty has gotten tired of lying around and is trying to save the world Cruelty left long ago.

Any respectable Archetype knows it’s a waste of time; their chances of survival are much better if they can hide in the human world. But since nobody sent her an invitation to the world-saving, she’s practically obligated to interfere.

The land where fairy tales exist is dying. Will Cruelty be able to save it?

Cruelty might have technically been a villain, but that couldn’t stop me from adoring her. Her personality was so well developed that I was able to predict how she’d react to virtually anything by the time I’d reached the midway point in the storyline, and I get so excited when that happens in a book. All of her choices made perfect sense as well given what I’d learned about who Cruelty was as an individual. Did I occasionally wince at the thought of certain decisions she made? Yes, but I never would have expected anything different from this character. Her tendency to be callous sometimes was as much a part of her personality as her intelligence or her uncanny ability to blend into her surroundings.

I will admit that it did take me some time to immerse myself in what was happening in the plot. The pacing was slower than normal in the beginning due to all of the information the main character needed to share with her audience about who she was, where she came from, and why she’d decided to emigrate to our universe. Sharing all of these details with the reader was necessary in order to understand what happened in later scenes, though, so I was grateful to have such a complete picture of everything up front. Once the pacing sped up, I was so glad I had stuck with it!

Ms. Katz’s whimsical writing style was not only a ton of fun to read, it was a perfect match for this story as well. The whole novel was full of quotable sentences that made me giggle. I wish I could fill every paragraph of this review with the humorous things the characters said and thought along the way, but I will restrict myself to only mentioning the one that amused me the most: “There was really no point in taking your anger out on cats. They were entirely resistant to curses, and they wouldn’t feel guilt if they didn’t deserve your rage.” The fact that every single chapter had several sentences like this one that I simply had to highlight and remember for later has made me an instant fan of this writer. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Beauty and Cruelty was a fairy tale for the twenty-first century. I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves this genre as much as I do.

Her Captain by Taryn Kincaid

CAPTAIN
Her Captain by Taryn Kincaid
Publisher: Fated Desires Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (81 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Is love in the signs for a Capricorn former SEAL and the impulsive Aries out to capture his heart?

Capricorn Slate Claybourne, an ex-Seal and former sniper who has seen and done things in country that no man should endure, returns to his bucolic hometown on Pieberry Island, desperate for the mundane, everyday routines he once wanted to escape.

A broken, soul-dead man unable to be around people, his body still a lethal weapon when his night terrors wake him from sleep, Slate’s failed to keep the promise he made to the commander who died in his arms: to look after the older man’s baby girl.

But animated Aries Holly Harper is not the pigtailed tot Slate expected her to be, when she lands on the island to take over the decrepit Pieberry House, determined to turn it into an inn for summer tourists, and even more determined to yank Slate back into the land of the living.

First she crashes into him at the island’s holiday Winter Festival, dumping a towering stack of pies at his feet, then she drags him off to a fortune teller against his better judgment. Except for the sizzling attraction smoldering between them, they’re incompatible in every way.

But when a furious December nor’easter traps them together at Pieberry House, will Slate and Holly overcome their pasts and discover they are two halves of a whole?

She has an affinity for broken things, but it’s going to take more than industrial strength glue to put him back together.

I love a good hometown hero story and can’t pass up the chance to read a happily ever after for one of our bravest. Slate being a sniper immediately put me in mind of Chris Kyle. His story is so fantastic and tragic at the same time, I was happy to read, even as fiction, a story where the good guy gets the girl and the ever after.

The author is very descriptive in the opening with a small glimpse of what Slate has to deal with as his tour is coming to a close. The premise of the story isn’t new but it’s effective in drawing interest. It’s a small town, or island, story and the descriptions Ms. Kincaid gave, didn’t just put me on the island, I felt like a native.

I liked Holly Harper immediately and it wasn’t just because she’s a Monty Python fan, though that helped. She’s had loss and is still grieving for her father but she also recognizes the pain Slate has bottled up and she doesn’t run away. That made her honorable in my eyes. The chemistry between them is good and I love how tenacious Holly is when Slate is determined to deny his feelings.

There’s a lot of humor in Ms. Kincaid’s writing as well. The subject matter is serious but she doesn’t let the reader get all bogged down in the negative feels and quite frankly once Slate meets Holly, she (Holly) does her best to not let him waller, either. She’s good for him.

This short story has the right amount of heart and heat. It’s the perfect for a chilly winter night when a reader is looking for something to warm their heart and satisfy their need for a hot love story.