It’s Been You by Rina Gray

It’s Been You by Rina Gray
Publisher: Crimson Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (230 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Marketing manager Tiana Holliday just landed her dream job at an award-winning agency in New York City. There’s just one problem: cocky playboy Nathaniel Lawson, her old grad school nemesis, is her new officemate.

As the firm’s rising star, Nathan never had to compete for prime clients until all-work and no-play Tiana strutted into his workspace. When an opportunity arises to manage a lucrative sports car account and nab a big promotion, he challenges her to a wager: Loser does the winner’s bidding for one month. But their friendly little competition suddenly threatens to erupt into an all-out battle of desire.

As they straddle the line between love and war, they just might discover that challenging each other outside the boardroom is even more satisfying than advertised.

Tiana Holliday is a strong career-minded woman, but when in competition with her college nemesis, Nathaniel Lawson, it makes the work day a lot more exciting. Both are seeking to gain a promotion at work. Tiana and Nathaniel pose a challenge outside of work which opens up an opportunity that both may not be ready for.

This is a quick enjoyable read that I thought was sweet. I enjoyed Nathaniel’s creativity and the outings he planned. I liked both Tiana and Nathaniel. They were both dominating in the work force but both well rounded in having a life outside of work having friends and family. The storyline is cute in how they build a relationship but don’t really seem aware of it. It’s a sweet boy likes girl story but for some reason he doesn’t reveal his true feelings. I also like the relationship that Nathaniel has with his father and his father’s wife. The book includes vivid supporting characters as well.

The writing is easy to follow. I like how the author incorporated Tiana in this second book, but a reader doesn’t necessarily have to read the books in order. The author is obviously a lover of Games of Thrones because it is mentioned several times through out the book. The relationship between Tiana and Nathaniel was refreshing to read. It shows that a book doesn’t have to include a lot of drama but still can offer a satisfying read. Its a good example of a relationship that could be authentic because it includes the troubles, self-doubt and miscommunication and misunderstandings that often accompanies relationships.

This book would be a recommendation for readers that enjoy watching the sparks of a relationship grow but also offers a happy ending.

Her Dangerous Mistake by Erin M. Leaf

Her Dangerous Mistake by Erin M. Leaf
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (138 pgs)
Other: M/F, Masturbation
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Moira is on the run—her apartment has been trashed, her bank account hacked, and someone is stalking her. Only one man is dangerous enough to keep her safe … that is, if she can convince him to help her. Neil Deven used to be her father’s best friend until betrayal turned him violent. Neil disappeared, and finding him might be the biggest mistake of her life, but Moira won’t survive alone.

Neil remembers Moira as a sweet little girl caught in the middle of her father’s criminal life. The gorgeous woman who shows up at his door is anything but a child, but he’s already got problems. Dragon shifters are a dying race with no way to change form, yet Neil’s powers keep growing. And Moira stirs long lost instincts—he can’t deny her need. He must protect the woman who will be his mate, or die trying.

It’s hard to find a good dragon romance that doesn’t fall into a cliché but I’m sure glad I took a chance on Her Dangerous Mistake. I really liked the little bit of world building Ms. Leaf tucked into a contemporary timeline. In the course of the novelette I discovered where the dragons came from, what they used to be capable of and what had been lost. As with any hierarchy, there’s politics, dirty dealings, power plays and twisted agendas. All of those played well with the plot conflict.

The book opens with the heroine running for her life. She’s heading for someone who she instinctually believes will save her, someone from her past. The initial hook is solid and gripping. The author doesn’t waste any time in getting the hero and heroine together and then having them continue to run from the bad guys. Except for a few spots, the book keeps up the fast pace because the bad guys never stop hunting for Moira. Neil does his darndest to protect her but he messes up here and there leading to more trials and tribulations to overcome.

At one point I was rather miffed with Moira, until I saw what she wrote on the note. Her noble intentions propelled the conflict onto a new path that provided some unique revelations that shocked both the protagonists and antagonists alike whereas it thoroughly delighted me. Ha! That’d show that arrogant Council member – or so I thought. Imagine my surprise at what he actually had the audacity to say and do. He really didn’t know Neil too well and that blindness and refusal to relinquish his imagined hold on him came at a very interesting cost. Neil is his own man/dragon and no one, man or woman is going to harm what is his. Oh yes, I really liked how the hero was written – strong, loyal, fierce, passionate and honorable, and with those cool glowing eyes. I’d love to see that for real.

Moira has not had an easy life. Her father was a first class immoral criminal who made her growing up miserable. The poor heroine has a hard time trusting people and when she tries, sometimes it bites her in the you-know-where. A few things I liked about her were her determination, her intelligence and how she reacted to Neil. She was a good match for him. Even when she had no idea who or why someone wanted to kill her, she never broke.

There are quite a few steamy explicit, door-wide-open-let’s-get-on-the-bed-too kinds of detailed scenes that should appeal to erotic romance readers. What makes Her Dangerous Mistake so appealing is the plot conflict and the romance. The suspense, action and drama are so solid that the sex is just a spicy sweet topping that enhances the mix. The two of them are hot stuff, literally and figuratively.

As far as the happy ever after, there’s a wonderfully detailed epilogue that tied up their romance with complete happiness. Their future is going to be filled with a lot of challenges – the writing assured me of that – but together Neil and Moira have a bright future and the ending was as romantic and life affirming as I could wish.

Her Dangerous Mistake was a fantastic dragon shifter romance with a lot of action, spice and loving to make a reader happy and satisfied. I’m so very glad I read this story.

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear. Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator. Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined. Book 5 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder.

Eve is thinking seriously of becoming a private investigator. She knows of one close to her office who would train her. She knows she’s busy with her consignment shop and the RV they use as a second shop, but she still has spare time and intense curiosity. Would it be too much?

This story is a mix about past and present, death long ago and death currently. With two Indian tribes in the area, future development is beginning in their little town but one is excited about it. It gets even worse when some bones show up at the construction site. The work is shut down until the bones are analyzed. Then the bones go missing, the construction man who found them is dead, and a watch that has been missing for years is missing again. Were the bones part of an Indian burial site? If not, who was it?

The pace moves well, there’s more than one mystery, and it all comes out by end of the story. I enjoyed Eve’s family, her lover and his family, and the mob man she’s friends with. Those close to her know she’ll do what she decides to do but they try to talk her out of it.

The romance in this story is soothing and poor Eve needs that in her life. Especially since someone is trying to kill her now because of her snooping.

This writer’s style is easy to read, she closes up any gaps in the story line and she’s made me want to read another in this series. Eve and Sammy are a joy to read about.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma
Publisher: Kozmatic Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories of people exploring strange places and situations, from a newly-discovered civilization of six-foot-tall talking slugs to being haunted by a man in a dark chocolate suit. Whether waking up in a prison camp or navigating a city full of copies of themselves, the characters in these stories are bent on understanding their world, even if that understanding also means the end of the world they thought they knew.

If you like the strange side of science fiction, keep reading.

The main character in “Stammlager 76” lived in a prison camp and was gradually forgetting everything about the life he’d lead before being imprisoned there. There were so few details about what was going on in that camp that I had to read this twice before I understood what was going on. Once I figured it out, though, I really appreciated how much Mr. Kozma left up to his audience’s imagination. This is the sort of thing that works really well with his writing style because of how many different ways the ending can be interpreted.

“The Man in the Dark Chocolate Suit” was about a man who was trying to keep the man in the dark chocolate suit from haunting him. I absolutely loved the beginning of this story. Trying to figure out how I should interpret the identity of the strange man who was haunting the main character was just as much fun as attempting to guess how their conflict would end. With that being said, I really needed more hints here. None of the theories I came up with about what was going on were confirmed or denied. It would have been nice to have them narrowed down somewhat.

In “We of the Future are the Ghosts of the Past,” a man watched himself die over and over again. He then realized that the entire city was filled with copies of himself who were all experiencing the same event simultaneously. What I liked the most about this one was how calmly the protagonist explained an incredibly bizarre and dream-like situation. I didn’t want his saga to end. All of my most important questions were answered, but I was still fascinated by what this kind of experience would be like.

Not every vacation is necessarily an ideal one. The most interesting thing about “A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs” for me was how unexcited Roger was at the prospect of visiting a faraway land full of large, intelligent slugs. His vacation only fascinated me more as time went on because of how many contradictions there were between what the advertisements for Slugland promised and what the actual destination was like. The beginning and middle were full of questions that the ending only partially answered. I would have liked to see a little more time spent on explaining how everything tied together. I’m still not entirely sure that my theory about Roger’s fate is the correct one.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories should be savored. There is a lot of meaning to be sucked out of these tales if you take your time with them.

The Tattered Bride by Peri Elizabeth Scott

The Tattered Bride by Peri Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (97 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Victoria Sparrow’s childhood traumas are deep-seated. Her father still rejects her as not being worthy, and her romantic relationships flounder as a result—until Logan Doherty. He gives her reason to believe in goodness and true love, and she commits her heart and soul to him.

No longer prey to her damaged, young self, Victoria eagerly looks forward to their upcoming marriage—until she meets Logan at the altar. He informs her the wedding is off before their assembled friends and family, and will not tell her why.

Cast back into the nightmare of rejection, a devastated Victoria undertakes the momentous task of putting her life back together, her trust broken, her worst fears realized.

Meanwhile, Logan is working equally hard to deal with the secretive events that led to that cruel rejection, and then he plans to make it up to his tattered bride…if she will forgive him.

The Tattered Bride, a short attention-grabbing and attention-keeping story, has the heart racing at breakneck speed in the prologue: then has it breaking in chapter One.

Victoria Sparrow had her self-worth shattered to smithereens by her father’s action and words years ago and has never recovered, not even with therapy, ofwith the love of her family and friends. Not even a successful career has filled the void inside her. She’d built a tall, strong wall around her heart for protection, but Logan Doherty found a way in. She loved him with a forever love, but an outside force creates a wreck of it all.

Logan Doherty worships her, but for the greater good, he betrays her trust and breaks his heart as well as hers. Determined to set things right, he puts a plan in motion to defeat the antagonist who caused the misery. However, Victoria shuts him out completely and seeks solace in her work. Both are miserable and hurting.

The secondary characters are in and out of the story in short spurts, but are people who give love and support, yet are unable to fix Victoria’s inner problem regardless of how much they want to help her realize how worthy she is of love.

Peri Elizabeth Scott does an amazing job of pulling the reader into Victoria’s inner conflict. She also writes love scenes that heat up the pages and keeps tension high enough to make this short read a real page-turner.

Sweet Southern Trouble by Michele Summers

Sweet Southern Trouble by Michele Summers
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (387 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

An ambitious Southern belle
Marabelle Fairchild knows she’s a gal who can get things done. Feeling unappreciated at the exclusive private school where she’s a kindergarten aide and varsity tennis coach, Marabelle determines to score with the next big fundraiser. What she doesn’t expect? A smokin’ hot football coach to throw her off her game…

A reclusive NFL bachelor…
NFL coach Nick Frasier is Raleigh’s most eligible bachelor, but he wants to focus on his career…not his playboy status. He doesn’t need a smart-mouthed, pint-sized kindergarten teacher pestering him. So he cuts Marabelle a deal—in exchange for Nick sponsoring a bachelor auction starring him and his gorgeous celebrity pals, Marabelle will pose as his fiancée to ward off unwanted advances.

What could possibly go wrong?

Marabelle Fairchild has a smile as innocent as a cherub, but is as tenacious as a turtle that won’t turn loose until it thunders. She wants, needs, Coach Nick Frasier and his ball players to participate in a bachelor’s auction to benefit Trinity Academy. Her independence, pride, and sense of self worth are at stake.

Handsome, wealthy Nick Frasier wants and needs tiny, feisty, tactless, atrocious-dressing Marabelle for his own personal reasons.

Sweet Southern Trouble is one of the best love stories I’ve read in a while. It blooms with captivating characters, humor that is both subtle and blatant, and the hated antagonist named self-doubt nipping at Marabelle relentlessly. Of course, other human antagonists sneak in and make one bristle at their devious ways—page-turning reading.

Michele Summers does an outstanding job. The high quality of her writing is a joy to read. Her unique, humorous expressions that enliven the story and create wonderful mental images add a delightful, extra dimension to the story: such as Marabelle separating her usual clothes from her classy clothes so they won’t breed, made me giggle, as did the mention of gathering celebrates for an auction is like herding cats.

The love scenes are of the WOW quality. They are not overdone or done too often, just enough to add the perfect spice to the unique relationship Nick and Marabelle share.

Marabelle thinks with her heart not her head and warns herself often that she is living in a fairy tale on borrowed time. While Nick thinks with a different part of his anatomy, but there is also a part of him that realizes Marabelle is his sanctuary. Life is different since the multifaceted Marabelle took on the job of his fiancée.


Dark Matter by Elsa Jade

Dark Matter by Elsa Jade
Big Sky Alien Mail Order Brides #3 ~ Intergalactic Dating Agency
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (141 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Dating and mating are the irrational pursuits of mortal races while the rare vrykoly species watches dispassionately from afar. But after his captain and first officer find love with the extraordinary females of Earth, this vrykoly is forced to wonder if he was—dare he say it?—wrong. Piloting the deathly cold and vast distances of space is why he was meant to exist, all he’s ever known, and even his dreams have always been black and still. Can anyone ever love a soul-sucking space vampire?

The third and final finding their bride story is on Earth for only a little bit of time. Outer space calls and the adventure begins when the heroine accepts the invite to climb aboard a spaceship to map a solar system.

Most of Dark Matter takes place between Del and Ivan once they leave Earth for what is expected to be a quiet, scientific exploration of Sin’s (the hero of Alpha Star) new solar system that his grandmother gave him. It’s the perfect opportunity for Del to have the adventure of a lifetime by getting a chance to go into space and she thinks it’s going to be a piece of cake. Well, after she gets used to the blackness of space, being on a ship, a panic attack, eating a very strange food product and the realization that she’s got the hots for Ivan, the hero. Oops.

From the previous two books in the trilogy I got the impression that Ivan was a risky member of the team because he ‘ate’ people; based on something Honey alluded to in the first book. It was related to a reader that he was dangerous, cold and unfeeling. Well, along the way Del finds out that yes, Ivan is dangerous, he is cold but there’s a reason for that and he doesn’t stay unfeeling for long. And the reason he’s been dark and mesmerizing is because of the type of being he is. Honestly, I never saw that coming. I was impressed. Anyway, being in proximity to Del is stimulating something in Ivan’s psyche – perplexing elements of a past genetic history thought long gone. The poor hero was very confused but unwilling to stop exploring what Del is doing to him. He’s discovering that there’s something intriguing about male/female physical relations after all. It’s at that point a reader is assured that the relationship between Del and Ivan was making significant progress. This romance story sure has a different kind of courtship in store for readers.

The drawbacks for me in this novella were that the villain called Blackworm wasn’t a successfully developed plot conflict – sure he’s been a threat since the second book but I never got to meet the scoundrel; that even in this third book in the trilogy it was never resolved as to WHO the traitor was on Sin’s ship, Sinner’s Prayer that was left dangling in the first book, Alpha Star; and the biggest thing was, I was confused about Ivan himself. The descriptions of his species and his references to cold, the elements that consist of his very existence and his matrix and relationship to the universe, and the threat to his continued survival all left me perplexed and baffled. They were certainly unique and fascinating, but I couldn’t follow it enough to decide if it had the capacity to be super sexy, profound or I simply could not grasp the sci-fi aspect of it all. I did like his innocence with the subject of sex and how quickly he caught on, but once again the use of science fiction words for things threw me. How do I pronounce ‘exciton’ anyway?

One thing that the author excelled at was in describing the crash landing, the landscape of the alien environment, and my favorite, the eel. That was a strong and amazing bit of creativity. Even the idea and description of the space lily pads was cool. The one thing Ms. Jade has in spades is a great imagination and I did enjoy most of it.

On the whole, Dark Matter was a good read. Yes, it was a challenge at times but the dynamics and dialogue between Ivan and Del were what kept me flipping the pages. I did enjoy reading about the challenges they both faced as they tried to survive in a very unforgiving landscape. I totally enjoyed Ivan’s enthusiasm once he figured out that sex in action was a lot more fun than he thought, and I thought Del and Ivan were good together. So, as far as the romance goes in Dark Matter, it worked and I totally enjoyed the happy ever after at the end. For Ivan and Del, it was a perfect ending to a very unusual courtship.

Harper’s Place by Sheryl Winters

Harper’s Place by Sheryl Winters
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men.

Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.

Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.

When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?

This book may be short, but it’s a lovely romance story with a touch of humor. Harper wants to take over the family burger business but her brother has talked her father into closing the place instead. An old high school friend Patrick comes into the burger joint and encourages her to follow her dream. All too soon he returns to his regiment overseas, but leaves behind the promise that he will be free of the forces in a few months.

I loved how this story did not force romance onto the reader. The main story was about Harper fighting for the right to have her own business despite her family’s opposition. Patrick believes in her and provides the support she needs, not only regarding the business but also on a personal level. Even from a distance Patrick shows his love and this makes for a very soft, sweet, but touching romance.

I like the way he often surprises her and drags her back when she’s ready to give up. Great story with lots of human interest and love.

A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala

A Piece of My Heart by Sharon Sala
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (280 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

She’s never had a home
Growing up in a troubled foster home, Mercy Dane knew she could never rely on anyone but herself. She’s used to giving her all to people who don’t give her a second glance, so when she races to Blessings, Georgia, to save the life of an accident victim, she’s flabbergasted when the grateful town opens its arms to her. She never dreamed she’d ever find family or friends–or a man who looks at her as if she hung the stars.

Until she finds peace in his arms
Police Chief Lon Pittman is getting restless living in sleepy little Blessings. But the day Mercy Dane roars into his life on the back of a motorcycle, practically daring him to pull her over, he’s lost. There’s something about Mercy’s tough-yet-vulnerable spirit that calls to Lon, and he will do anything in his power to make her realize that home isn’t just where the heart is–home is where their heart is.

“I don’t know how to belong to anyone.” Mercy Dane aged out of the foster care system with no memory of family. She’d learned how to survive in the system and she learned how to survive and thrive in the rough part of Savannah.

She is a Harley-riding, kind-hearted, warrior-spirited twenty-six-year-old who can take care of herself. She works hard and copes with life on her own terms. But at nineteen, when her apartment was broken into and robbed, she was almost defeated. A new, kind, and caring neighbor offered her sanctuary and more. She left before he woke, but she knew she’d left a piece of her heart with him.

How he comes back into the story made my heart happy.

The very name of the town Mercy races to hoping to save a life on Christmas Day foreshadows good things to come in her life. Blessings, a small town not too far from Savannah, has good and not-so-good people who set Mercy’s life on a new course. This makes super good reading.

Sharon Sala works magic with words as she brings characters to life on the pages of A Piece of My Heart. They bring Mercy to a place in life she never dreamed of being. Hope Talbot, the woman she gave blood to; Lon Pittman, the sheriff of Blessings; Ruby, the owner of Curl Up and Dye beauty salon, and Duke, Hope’s foot-in-mouth, old bachelor brother-in-law, are characters not to be missed. Of course there are a few antagonists that are dealt with in first class order (loved how they were all handled). Lots of others play significant parts as the plot unfolds, but the ones mentioned are the one that bring in humor, unconditional love, and shepherd Mercy into a world that promises and gives her people to belong to and with. Of course, that happy-ever-after that I’m always looking forward to, even when it seems impossible, does happen..

Excellent Reading!

Red Shift by Elsa Jade

Red Shift by Elsa Jade
Big Sky Alien Mail Order Brides #2 ~ Intergalactic Dating Agency
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (137 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Banishing his own needs, he followed his prince into battle and—more terrifying yet—into courtship but got lost in the backwater wilds of Earth. Now this space-faring drakling dragon-shifter has forgotten everything, including his name, his beast, and the freedom of space. But even espresso-induced amnesia can’t erase the relentless urge to mate growing stronger with every night under the pale light of this one solitary moon. Who will help him find his ship…and himself?

If anyone read the first book Alpha Star they would have met Honey. I liked him then but I absolutely adored him in Red Shift. He was the perfect hero. I know I liked Sin in the first book but Honey has him beat by a mile in the second. It’s when Honey revealed himself in all his glory to Tisha that I found out just how special and delightful his character really was. Tisha is a lucky heroine.

There is quite a bit more action in this novella for a reader to enjoy than the last one. Turns out those mercenaries from the first book weren’t a one-off. Oh no, there are more devious and dire shenanigans going on that escalates the plot conflict to incendiary proportions in Red Shift. It’s all good. It’s effective and I enjoyed every moment.

Sin and Zoe from Alpha Star do appear in this book too but they are strictly supporting cast members for Honey and Tisha. Their presence also provides a bit of continuity to what is a trilogy of spacemen looking for brides on Earth. They don’t have it easy and the romance between Tisha and Honey proves it.

What I found completely hilarious is what Ms. Jade does with coffee in the story. What a fun and novel twist! Not only did it cause me to giggle, later on it provided the opportunity for a very yummy scene or two between Tisha and Honey. It entertained me no end.

The personal conflicts caused by what is happening to Honey and his determination to woo and win Tisha coupled with some serious action chasing down the bad guys, rescuing damsels in distress, space ships battling, and saving the world as they know it made Red Shift a gem of a read.

I hate to say it but this sequel is even better than the original story. I have a serious crush on Honey and I’m so glad he and Tisha ended up with a wonderful and romantic happy ever after. Red Shift is a definite recommended read.