Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi

Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit
Length: Full Length (332 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along. ​

​Comfort food served up in a book. That’s what Sweet Lake is for me.

I’ve never read anything by Christine Nolfi and this was a great introduction to her work. The writing flows well and kept me engrossed. I felt like I needed to know what would happen to Linnie and company.

I do have to admit I’m not big into chick lit and this book felt a lot like it. There is a relationship that goes on (no I won’t spoil it) and that added to the story. But there is a deep bit of comfort to the book. I knew when I started, this wouldn’t be terribly complicated and that was fine. That’s what I wanted. There are complications, don’t get me wrong. The characters I wanted to hate I did and the ones I wanted to love…well, you get the idea.

Linnie has issues–she’s supposed to save the inn, but she’s the second child and a girl at that. Her parents believe the oldest son is the one who should run the family. Don’t we all know someone like that? Someone who is put upon by circumstances they don’t control? That’s what helped me to identify with Linnie. ​Having lived in a situation where the male of the siblings was valued over me, I could see where Linnie’s anger came from. She’s trying to do what’s right in a totally wrong situation. I rooted for everything to work out for her. She deserved a happy ending.

​If you want a book that’s got lots of drama, the whole community in on the situation, small town feel and a touch of romance, then this might be the book for you. ​

Lord Logic and the Wedding Wish by Melynda Beth Skinner

Lord Logic and the Wedding Wish by Melynda Beth Skinner
Publisher: Pedestal Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (222 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Oil and Water…

Born on the same day, best friends and fiercest rivals Orion Chase and Artemis Rose are separated when they’re eight. When they come together once more as adults, nothing has changed. Still best friends, still oil and water.

When Artemis arrives on foot at his country estate, the ultra-logical, ultra-fashionable Orion Chase, the Earl of Lindenshire, is happy to welcome her–at first. Rejected by her mother’s family, Artemis, the granddaughter of an Earl, has been living as a Gypsy for the past 16 years and lives her life guided by signs and portents. But Artemis’s outlandish Gypsy ways can’t bother Orion, who hides his scientific bent with a facade of fashionability. After all, Artemis won’t be around long–or will she?

Orion’s not happy when his mother hires Artemis as her companion. And he’s even less happy when the ton mistakes Artemis for his mistress. A sham betrothal to save both of their reputations is in order–but it turns out that Orion is the only one who believes the wedding won’t happen!

This is such an adorable story. If you think the title is cute, just wait until you delve into this novel’s pages. The theme is ‘friends to lovers’ except a lot goes on between when they knew each other as kids, and when they meet as adults. Their mutual and fond background gives Miss Artemis Rose and Orion Chase a solid base to work with but their experiences in the ensuing years between kids and well- mannered adults creates a challenge to overcome. You see, Orion deals in facts, in theories he can prove with touch, observation and the use of his brain and technical tools of the time. Artemis on the other hand, has had an unconventional upbringing. The main influence in her life has been the beliefs of the Romany people and the heroine believes in signs, tea leaves and portents, basically obscure things based on conviction of her beliefs, not science. To say that this drives Orion barmy is an understatement. That dichotomy between the two protagonists is why I enjoyed this story very much.

What made this book especially delightful were the other ladies in Orion’s life; his mom, Lady Lindenshire and his really good friend, Mrs. Robertson. Between their conniving antics and belief in what Artemis believed, truly the hero didn’t stand a chance at resisting his falling in love with the heroine. Oh, he tried. Yes, indeed he tried, but the very last chapter proved to me that Orion’s path was forged many years before. Love has a way of making the impossible, possible. The most romantic part in the whole book which provided a definite ‘awww’ moment was that one scene that brought Artemis and Orion full circle to when they were kids. It left me in no doubt whatsoever that their happy ever after was guaranteed and they lived happily ever after.

The only element that hindered this story from being a higher rating was Orion himself. He resisted a bit too much, too long, and then there was Artemis for whom things just seemed to work out so perfectly. For every dip there was an immediate high, for every negative, something would happen to make the sweetest of lemonades from the profuse lemons that seem to be thrown at the heroine. Reading about the plot conflicts in this book was like eating Sour Patch Kids – it’s sour for just that little bit, then Bam! it shifts to the sweetest, yummiest flavor to enjoy. I think that’s why they are addicting, and why I couldn’t stop reading about Orion and Artemis.

Lord Logic and the Wedding Wish delivers a solid, enjoyable romance story. The heroine is quirky and adorable and the hero is a handsome geek who becomes his own man. In the end, he accepts himself for the person he is and ceased chasing a dream that was never his own. His personal growth was another of the strong elements that made this novel worth reading. For fans of historical romance that focuses on the relationship and romance, and not the bedroom, this is a recommended read.

Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer

Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (190 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Unexpected dragon shiftings have increased since the conference in China. More deaths being covered up inexplicably sends Lee Svensson to Japan to investigate from the Swedish Embassy. Why is it World Watch, Inc., a marketing company, is always on site when a shifter dies? Lee is charged to find out. When the husband of his wife’s best friend discovers an account he is managing, World Watch, Inc., is manipulating oil companies by buying up all available stocks, the two realize their paths are the same. Now that their wives have announced the impending births of dragonlings, it is imperative the men solve this riddle. An American dragoness shifter and former full blood warrior dragon will prove courage comes in all sizes.

Shape shifting dragon investigators try to determine why some dragons are shape shifting without intent. The bodies are hustled away but where and who is doing the hustling?

I love dragon stories and this was no exception, although there were several disappointments in the story. Several times some of the main characters mentioned they would “talk about it later” but never did. Also when something happened which showed dangerous intent, it seemed to take forever for any action to take place. A discovery by a servant who wanted to warn others of the danger, goes no further. Why not?

Other than the above inconsistencies, the concept of the story was great showing that even in the dragon hierarchy there is misconception, deception and the intention to harm others of their kind. Loved the little babies coming into the world and causing immediate chaos to their parents. The aftermath was a bit insipid, but on the whole this story was reasonably good.

The Trouble with Love by Cheri Champagne

The Trouble with Love by Cheri Champagne
Mason Siblings Series, Book two
Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (312 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

The heartbroken heroine…

Lady Bridget Mason is hopelessly in love with her best friend, Major Charles Bradley. Since his return from war, however, something has changed him. He has stopped returning her letters, he gives her the cut direct, and when forced to interact with her, he is rude and downright unconscionable. Her hopes for a marriage with Charles have been heartbreakingly dashed.

The troubled hero…

Major Charles Bradley is in a fix. The very same men that kidnapped his sister and her new husband a few months past have given him a warning. They are coming after Bridget. He’d done his best to keep his two identities separate, but they are determined to clash. Despite doing his utmost to push Bridget away for her protection, his love for her has been discovered by his unnervingly indomitable enemy.

Their perilous love…

Charles must face his greatest challenge; he must protect Bridget at any cost. But, will his love’s big secret and Charles’ horrid treatment of her prove the task impossible?

After reading and adoring Book one, in the Mason Sibling Series, Love’s Misadventure I eagerly awaited the release of book two, The Trouble with Love. At times, the wait was unbearable especially as the release date got closer. It is important to know that you can read book two without reading book one.

My anticipation and curiosity to read about Charles, the hero, and Bridget ,the heroine, in The Trouble with Love was astronomical. My hope and expectations were not disappointed. Once again Cheri Champagne demonstrates her ability to write an outstanding love story with intriguing suspense/mystery threaded throughout the story.

The suspense plot was riveting, exciting, and totally unpredictable. The ending left me with my mouth hanging open wondering how I never saw that as a possible outcome. I had plenty theories of my own but none of my theories came close the mark. What an excellent twist!

Let’s talk about Charles and Bridget. I loved them! Why? Charles was always putting Bridget’s safety first above his own life. If I was a swooning gal I’d have fainted several times throughout this story. Charles was brave, strong and no doubt loved Bridget. I knew I’d love Bridget from when she briefly appeared in book one. Let’s just say that Bridget has some amazing skills that you’d not expect from a heroine. Together they are steamy, entertaining and meant for each other.

Now, for anyone who has read book one, I’m happy to mention that Lane and Anna do have a couple of appearances in book two and I expect fans will really enjoy the epilogue in book two. 🙂

It’s safe to say that I highly recommend The Mason Siblings Series by Cheri Champagne. I love reading fast paced, on-the-edge-of-my-seat spicy romance stories! In fact, I read that there is going to be a book three released Spring 2017! I can hardly wait!

The Switch by Lynsay Sands

The Switch by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical, romantic comedy
Length: Full Length (362 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When they first met Lord Jeremy William Radcliffe, Charlie and her twin sister, Elizabeth, were escaping from their uncle-taking turns acting the young gentleman to avoid detection. But Charlie couldn’t help falling head over heels – and out of a window – for the handsome lord. Of course, that was only the beginning; Lord Radcliffe insisted on showing “him” and her lovely sister to London.

But how could he do that? With every touch, Radcliffe seemed unknowingly to incite indecent desires in Charlie, and his fraternal intent was certain to land her in a fine mess. Though it was a great game to play a boy, there was more fun in being female. And after one brush of his fiery lips when her guise was gone, Charlie swore to be nothing but his woman forevermore.

This is the perfect book to read when recovering from the last vestiges of the flu. Granted, the volume of pages was initially daunting but if anyone is a fan of Ms. Sands, they well and truly know just how quickly and easily her books can grab a reader’s attention and entertain all the way through. The Switch did that and more.

The idea of ladies running away from the prospect of horrible marriages isn’t a new idea. Neither is putting on a disguise in order to facilitate their escape, and that includes a lady dressing up as a man. What the author did with those historical romance tropes is another matter entirely. Ms. Sands made them her own by virtue of some hilarious twists, complications, escapades, memorable characters and hysterically funny internal dialogue from the hero.

One side effect of my flu was the unique, raspy snicker a la Muttley, the cartoon dog from the 60’s cartoons, Wacky Races. Yes, I’m dating myself. However, that sound effect was me to a T and I employed it surprisingly often during the course of the book. I couldn’t help myself. Poor Charlotte had to turn into Charlie, the male fraternal twin. Posing as a male was quite a stretch for a gently bred lady of the ton, but she sure got into the swing of things. And the scrapes she got into! ‘Charlie’ found all sorts of amazing, comedic, daring and madcap adventures awaiting her, all the while dragging a bemused and confused Lord Radcliffe into some very dicey escapades.

Actually, the confusion of Jeremy, Lord Radcliffe is a guaranteed giggle producer. The poor guy seriously thought there was something wrong with him because he’s attracted to Charlie AND Elizabeth. How can a man’s lust flip between a male and female? Why does he sometimes feel like Charlie is like a brother and other times, uncomfortably so, his body reacts like it would to a female? Talk about playing mind games! Ms. Sands employed her comedic skill with the laser focus of a chess master.

Charlie’s sister, Beth, had her own mild adventures and romance to pursue, but every now and again they crossed over with what Charlies was trying to do and that generated more laugh out loud moments for a reader to enjoy. I can’t even give a reader a hint about some of those moments because not only will it will ruin the effect but actually reveal pivotal plot points.

Readers will adore the secondary characters as they pop up, especially the puppies. How the puppies came into the Radcliffe household was dramatic but what happens afterwards is pure genius. I also found the villains to be villainous and surprising. The surprise came from not even suspecting who one of them was. I was completely shocked and because of that, thrilled. I love it when an author pulls off a Ta-Dah! moment.

I truly can go on and on about what I liked about this novel, which is everything, but I hope I gave you some teasing tidbits to whet your appetite so you might check out this story. There’s lots of romance, great dialogue and humor. The pace is fast but the character development is complete. When the time comes for Charlie to discover the joys of being a woman in Jeremy’s arms, it’s sensual, sexy and delightful. Every single thing in The Switch worked for me. This is a keeper, a winner and a book to cherish and re-read when life seems a bit overwhelming. It’s a cure for the blues, and a smile in the making. I highly recommend reading The Switch and I hope it will grace your keeper shelf too.

The Mermaid and the Murders by Rachel Graves

The Mermaid and the Murders by Rachel Graves
The Monster Beach Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (275 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Teenage mermaid Danika DelMar loves high school more than anything in the ocean. She fights with her mother about joining their pod, but she fights her hormones even more. No matter what her body says, she’s not ready to kill someone with sex. Things get harder when Danika falls for a new boy at school. He claims to be a sea creature like she is, but she isn’t sure she can trust him or herself.

When a dead body shows up at Danika’s reef she risks giving away her secret to make sure the police find the victim. It doesn’t stop the bodies from coming. Soon she’s lost her friend and the first boy she ever loved. Danika is sure a sea creature is involved, and she’s the only one who can help. As her friends become targets, Danika races to find the killer.

Is the ocean safe for anyone?

Danika leads a difficult life. While she loves high school and learning, she’s terrified that others will discover that she’s a mermaid. Danika is part of the popular crowd at school, but her relationship with her friends is confusing and dysfunctional at best. Danika thinks that remaining part of the crowd is the best way to hide her secret, but she is clearly miserable. I felt that she would have been better off finding friends she could actually trust. However, I will say that by the end of the story, I saw many positive changes in Danika’s relationship with her friends.

Danika should feel at home in the ocean, but she doesn’t quite fit in there either. She’s been resistant to learning about life as a mermaid for as long as she can remember. Her pod’s casual disregard for human life frightens Danika even as her hormones and curiosity drive her to learn more about the mermaid way of life. When the bodies of a few humans and a mermaid appear in the ocean next to her reef, Danika knows she has to find the culprit before she becomes the next victim.

Danika’s relationship with Sam is definitely a bright spot in this mystery. The attraction between them is apparent from the start, and I could tell they would be a cute couple. However, I think they fall in love and move into a serious physical relationship too quickly. Also, Sam tells Danika that he is a salt golem almost immediately after meeting her. I’m not sure why he chose to reveal his secret so soon and would have liked some insight into his thought process. Could he somehow sense that Danika was different too, or was he just tired of hiding?

One of the things that drew me to this book was that it was about mermaids. I know a little bit about them, but not much, so my curiosity was piqued. I found the beginning of the story a little frustrating because very little is explained about mermaid life and how things work. In fact, Danika doesn’t seem to know much either, which I find a bit unrealistic. I know that Danika relishes her life on land, but I would think that for her own survival she’d want to know more about what she is.

Overall, I liked The Mermaid and the Murders. I enjoyed learning about mermaids and the mystery surrounding the murders was wrapped up in a satisfying way. I recommend this tale to anyone looking for a romance filled with unique creatures.

Reining in the Billionaire by Dani Wade

Reining in the Billionaire by Dani Wade
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (217 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

An instant billionaire wants revenge…and more!

Mason Harrington grew up as a rough-and-tumble stable boy. But a shocking inheritance enables him and his brothers to return to their hometown and settle some scores. First on the agenda: take over the elite horse farm belonging to the woman who once broke Mason’s heart when her daddy said he wasn’t good enough.

Despite Mason’s motives, EvaMarie Hyatt has no choice but to stay on at the ranch and work for him. Soon it becomes clear Mason wants more than revenge. Even more surprising: EvaMarie’s willingness to succumb. But will new misunderstandings derail their renewed passion, or will this second chance lead to forever?

He’s hot, rich and looking for revenge…until she walks in the door.

I haven’t read anything else by Dani Wade and this was a great introduction to her work. The writing flowed well and drew me right in. I cared about the characters and wanted to know more.

This is a fairly simplistic storyline. Mason has inherited a bunch of money and is back home to buy the ranch belonging to the woman he once had to let go. He’s a complex man with demons, but he’s determined. I liked him and rooted for him to get what he wanted–the horses and the girl. I liked how he wasn’t sure he wanted her to begin with. That twinge of “will they, won’t they” was good. Then there’s EvaMarie. She’s more than I thought and I’m glad. I had sort of a picture of her in my mind and as I kept going through the story, she grew. I loved how she came into her own.

If you want a story that’s hot, but sweet and has horses, then this might be the book for you. It’s light reading, but sure to satisfy!

What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden

What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden
Publisher: Angel’s Trumpet Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

For Bronson, this was going to be an easy assignment. Find Roger and Norma, the teens that stole an important book and return it to its original owners. But when Bronson locates the book, Roger reveals the truth behind the book’s existence—a truth so shocking that Bronson is forced to help them escape.
Then Ellen, his partner’s ex, gets kidnapped and Bronson is forced to decide who he will save: Ellen or two stranded teenagers who look up at him for their survival.
Who will he choose? His decision will determine who lives—and who dies.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a Utopia?

Beyond the Fence offers the reader a unique view of life where there is no concern and no worries. When retired detective Harry Bronson is requested to help locate two missing teens and a book, the job can’t be too difficult, can it? But what Harry doesn’t know is that he is being brought into a world much different from his own. Eric’s Landing is a place, far from the normal hubbub of life and offers a respite for those who have had a tough time growing up. But there are some inconstancies that Harry notices. Being a trained detective; this new world is not all that it seems.

L.C. Hayden has a great adventuring retired detective, who lives like he is not at all retired. Rather than being fraught with declining health and other ailments, it seems as though Harry is at the top of his game and the peak of his life. From noticing subtle incongruities to physical altercations and never feeling tired-the believability of the character becomes a little lost. Though there are those who keep themselves at the peak of fitness in their golden years, Harry does not show any of the zeal of eating right, exercising or maintaining his health.

I enjoyed the unique plot that dealt with current events in a realistic manner. The presence of Stockholm Syndrome and the difficulty to break the hold is one item that is addressed in the book. I did feel that the plot was often rushed; events happened one right after another; rather than following an action-adventure cycle it felt as though the plot was rushed to completion. In this rush-perfect events seemed to line up-perfectly. Even when Harry lost his upper hand, he seems to immediately gain the advantage again.

Character dialogue often felt stilted and at times even forced. I would have liked to have seen much more description and a dive into the psychological aspect surrounding Eric’s Landing. I would also like to know more about the backgrounds of the characters involved, especially the Elders of Eric’s Landing-what would cause them to bring in an outside detective. While they had difficulty locating the missing teens, most self-contained Utopic communities will shun any outside intervention-if there is outside intervention, the one brought in from the outside will essentially have no privacy and no alone time with anyone else in the community-which is not the case in this story.

While this was a wild ride in parts, the rushed plot with some unbelievable moments and missed character development stuck me the most. This is a good read if you would like to experience a world outside everyday life.

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (297 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father’s life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage…until he discovers she’s vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

Talk about a meaty piece of world building! Ms. Sparks has embarked on a new series and if it means to go on as it’s started, then this should be an adventure that fans are going to gobble up. There’s mystical prophecy, power plays, subterfuge, shape changers, ghosts, secrets and noble deeds. There’s an intricate plot of intrigue and deception and the heroine, Luciana is the focal point. She was innocent and ignorant of so many things about the world outside the Isle of Moon where she’s lived all her life. She’s known nothing else except her sisters. One clandestine visit from a surprise visitor leads the heroine onto a path she never imagined, and for readers, the adventure begins.

Ms. Sparks was meticulous about setting the stage for not just this book, but for all the novels to come. She did it in such a way that captured my interest and kept it. Secondary characters are slowly introduced and each one propelled the plot forward, contributed to the conflict or assisted in the eventual blossoming romance between Luciana and Leo. I enjoyed watching them fall in love; not the easiest thing to do amidst such mistrust and evil portents dogging their steps. Thank goodness for Leo’s stalwart friends, friends like Brody. I really liked him and he provided comic relief every now and again. But Brody isn’t a jester – he’s brave, courageous and loyal and has a lot of hero potential.

There’s a very clever evil dude that made quite an impression. He’s diabolical, wily and I bet he’s going to be a reoccurring pain in the neck for future heroes and heroines in the series. He’s unlike any villain I’ve seen so kudos to Ms. Sparks for introducing a convincing adversary.

What makes Leo such a fascinating hero is his…talent. It’s a very scary and powerful ability that has the power to kill everyone. That kind of puts a kink into any romantic plans he has or would ever have. How in the world did the author come up with such a surprising and effective work-around I can’t even begin to imagine. But it works, it’s amazing and it made perfect sense within the world that Ms. Sparks has created.

There is suspense, drama, action and even some humor. Of course, when Leo and Luciana finally stumble upon a way to love each other physically, the romance zooms off the charts into the stratosphere of pure satisfaction. Those scenes simultaneously made me smile (lightening rod) and swoon (romance and joy). They were SO good together!

There is absolutely no doubt that How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is going to knock readers’ socks off. It has that wonderful storytelling voice that Ms. Sparks is known for, plus characters that are engaging, well rounded and vivid. I am an ecstatically happy reader and I’m looking forward to going wherever the author is going to take me next.

Passing Shadows by Anna Butler

Passing Shadows by Anna Butler
Publisher: Glass Hat Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Li Liang has found a berth to suit her: chief pilot and first officer of the all-female crew of an old space freighter, the Sappho. Then one ordinary, unremarkable morning, Liang retunes the Sappho’s communications systems just in time to catch the breathless, terrible accounts from Mars of the total destruction of Earth.

Earth’s a cinder. The unknown alien race that destroyed it has left Mars, too, in flames and is ravening outward from the solar system, devouring every human colony on the way.

Liang’s one of the few survivors, racing ahead of the Devourers, rescuing as many frightened, shocked people as she can. Will Liang and the pitiful remnants of humanity find a new haven, somewhere to start again? Or will she, too, echo the dreadful last message coming out of their dead home?

They’re coming. Oh God, they’re coming.

What happens when everything you know is obliterated?

Passing Shadows is a dark take on humanity’s future. Set in the distant future, Li Liang is the chief pilot and first officer of an older space freighter. Enjoying life and the exploration (or more transport of cargo through space) is what Liang focuses on. Then one day, a transmission from the Mars colony details the destruction of Earth. The final transmission from Mars is now that the unknown faceless destroyer is coming directly to Mars next. Events simply spiral from there, without even knowing who is destroying humanity, the crew of the Sappho begin working to transport those living in colonies near their position to safety.

Passing Shadows does more than set the stage and leave the reader hanging. Anna Butler brings the reader into the life of Li Liang. The reader experiences firsthand how the destruction of humanity’s home world pushes emotions to the brink. Crew members work in order to ignore thoughts and memories. The crew buries themselves in working to save what is left of humanity but never truly know what is lurking out there.

Anna Butler uses the fear of the unknown to draw the reader more deeply into the dark abyss of fear. Never knowing where the enemy is or who the enemy is becomes paramount to the tension. One close encounter leave Liang questioning the lives of those left behind and the reader is left to question just how far away the other ship was.

Passing Shadows is a psychological take on the survival after the destruction of Earth. The toll of setting up another home planet and the fear that tomorrow it may all be gone again. Anna Butler does a fantastic job at closing the story. Where some readers may yearn for more, the true questions of humanity are firmly answered.

The writing style was strong, although from time to time it was hard to tell just how long time had passed. Editing was crisp and dialogue was engaging. There were parts where the story read similar to a diary and some readers may get lost in the jump back to current time from the reminiscing of Liang.

In all, this was a fantastic story that looked at the side of humanity after a faceless enemy destroys what we have identified as home. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Passing Shadows if you want a glimpse inside the darker side of humanity’s future!