Where Would You Be Now? by Carrie Vaughn

Where Would You Be Now? by Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (35 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world as they know it is ending, a new world is taking its place. Among the doctors and nurses of a clinic-turned-fortress, Kath is coming of age in this new world, and helping define it. But that doesn’t make letting go of the old any easier. “Where Would You Be Now?” is a prequel to the novel Bannerless, a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award.

How long would you survive in a world where even the most basic medical care is hard to come by?

Even the healthiest person can quickly run into serious trouble if they develop health problems in a place where medical professionals and proper treatments are scarce at best. Some of my favorite scenes showed what happens to characters under these circumstances. From what I understand, this book is the prequel to a series that will explore this universe in much greater depth. I was impressed by what I’ve seen so far, and I’m looking forward to digging more deeply into how this world works and why some characters worked so hard to provide medical treatment to perfect strangers despite not having enough supplies for themselves.

The world building was weak. While I wouldn’t expect a narrator to go into a lot of detail about how and why modern society has collapsed in a tale of this length, it would have been nice to at least have a brief description of what happened and why the characters no longer have any hope of getting help from the outside world. It was confusing to me to read about them running low on everything from food to medical supplies without knowing why they were in such a serious predicament or how long it had been going on.

Kath was an incredibly strong and compassionate woman. She ran towards the kinds of emergencies that most people would run away from, and she did it knowing that her safety was never guaranteed in those situations in any way. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. While she lived in a dangerous world, she never allowed the uncertainty of her life to stop her from helping everyone she possibly could.

I’d recommend Where Would You Be Now? to anyone who loves post-apocalyptic stories.

Home Again by Angelique Voisen

Home Again by Angelique Voisen
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (66 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Zack: Ten years ago, I killed a man for the boy I love. Each week since then, he’s sent me letters, telling me the story of his life. He’s visited me every month in prison and with each passing year, I wonder when he’ll wake up and realize I’m not worth his time.

Seth: A decade ago, Zack took the fall to save my life. I’ve been waiting for him ever since. Zack’s the one for me, even if the stubborn man thinks I deserve better. I’ll do everything in my power to convince Zack that my life and my heart always belonged to him.

Zack and Seth had been in school together, forming a friendship in their senior year by sharing the pain of them each being abused. In a fury after another attack, Zack kills Seth’s stepfather and is sent to jail for his sins. Years later, Zack is finally released and Seth is still waiting for him. But Zack is no longer the same young man that he was. Can he and Seth still find some way to be together?

This is an emotional and gritty short story. I loved the first half of the story in particular, explaining how Seth and Zack got into this situation and their individual preparations to be reunited. It had a hard, but still hopeful, feel to me and I was so impressed that Seth and Zack never gave up on each other even though they were torn apart before they could ever really come together.

Readers looking for a deeply complex plot or a story with twists and turns might find this story a little light. There isn’t really much plot apart from Zack and Seth building their new life together and working hard to both move on from the past but still remember how far they’ve come together. I enjoyed the strongly emotional connection the two men had and have to admit the steamy sex between them convinced me that the two have a solid foundation. But I certainly found this a character-driven story where their relationship is the plot (and conflict) and this might not suit all readers’ tastes.

With just a hint of darkness – jail is expected to change and alter anyone’s character – and certainly a gritty and emotional feel this is a good short story. Heavy on characterization but a little light on plot I’m not sure it will be everyone’s cup of tea but I did enjoy it and found it a strong, short read.

Forbidden Song by Brooklyn Ann

Forbidden Song by Brooklyn Ann
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (236 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After having one of the worst experiences a young teenager could endure at the hands of cruel musicians, Christine Mayne’s rock star brother Quinn tried to lock her away from the world. She had to fight to live her life, go to college, get her master’s and enter her PhD program. Now, she’s determined to complete her research on group dynamics by touring with Bleeding Vengeance, even it means deceiving her brother and lying to the band’s fabulous lead singer, Cliff Tracey.

Cliff Tracey hates being manipulated, lied to and deceived. He’d know, having gone through a string of exes who had done just that. When he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit, and a beautiful babe to boot, imagine his surprise – and disappointment – when he learns she played him so she can tour with his band to complete her PhD. When he finds out why, he knows he’s in double trouble because Quinn Mayne will kill anyone who touches his sister, and Cliff Tracey has all sorts of plans for Christine Mayne that involves more than either of them ever expected.

This is the fifth book in the series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. I’ve not read the earlier books, but never felt lost or confused. And, after this, I’m going to be picking up Brooklyn Ann’s earlier books.

I’m not a huge metal lover either, so don’t let that hold you back. This isn’t a book about metal music so much as it is about people. It was interesting getting a glimpse into the music scene itself and, if you like getting to know characters in a book, I think you’ll like this one. Because the author does a wonderful job in letting you feel what the characters are feeling.

Christine is smart and believes in going after what she wants…and what she wants right now is a way to break away from her brother’s overprotectiveness and work on the research for her dissertation. This really conflicts with her other want… Cliff.

Cliff is the womanizer of the band.. unabashed and unashamed. In fact, another character called him “slutty.” But when he’s around Christine and really gets to know her, he finds that other women in his bed does not appeal to him as much.

The romance between the two is slow moving, which adds to the pleasure for me. It grows as they get to know each other … which is something I love. Not a huge fan of the “love at first sight” trope. But this is a sweet and tender growth between two people who have been looking for something.

The other characters are just as well drawn as Christine and Cliff, but it is very much their story. Kudos, Brooklyn Ann…you’ve won yourself a fan.

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Her Bodyguard by Sam Crescent

Her Bodyguard by Sam Crescent
Curvy Women Wanted #8

Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short story (56 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Lucas Evans is a personal bodyguard, and he’s been called in when a world-famous pop star was stabbed on live television. No one knows who did it, and it’s up to him to protect the beautiful young woman. He’s a professional, but when it comes to Kate Swanson, all he wants to be is unprofessional.

Kate had been receiving death threats long before she was attacked, but Kate doesn’t have a clue who’d want to hurt her. The only person she feels safe with is Lucas. He’ll protect her, but it’s not just safety that he makes her feel. The attraction between them is undeniable. Kate has never allowed a person into her heart or her bed. She’s seen how ugly breakups go, and she doesn’t want that. But Lucas is different, and Kate craves his touch more than she does performing on stage. He gives her a chance to be herself, and there’s a freedom with being with him that she’s not had since she rose to stardom.

With the threat looming over her head, is there any way that Lucas can forget that he’s her bodyguard, and finally give her what she’s been craving? Can Lucas bring himself to love the starlet? Can he protect her from someone who is intent on hurting her?

Kate Swanson is a singer with a stalker on her tail and Lucas Evans is the bodyguard who is going to protect his employer with everything he has. Only one complication: Lucas finds the luscious pop star at the center of his growing desire and when the stakes get high, so does the heat between them.

Curvy and full of life, Kate wants to sing and please her fans. When a stalker corners her and she is wounded, she takes the much needed step of hiring a bodyguard. Lucas Evans is everything she could want. The older man is attentive, seeing to her safety and even holds her at night when the terrors become more than she can bear. But when their mutual attraction sparks into something deeper, she might lose more than her heart.

The tension between the two characters is a driving force of the story, as is the mystery of who could be stalking Kate. As the flame burns brighter between the two characters, so does the risk to her well-being.

Overall I enjoyed the quick read, but wanted to have more character depth with Kate. The interplay between the older man and younger woman was scintillating as was the threat of unknown violence with Lucas as her protector. The book was a fun, adventurous spin on my e-reader that fans of American Idol and The Voice will particularly enjoy.

Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan

Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full length (240 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

With their reality TV series, Antiques Sleuths, Brandy Borne and her quaintly kooky mother, Vivian, have a real hit on their hands. But another “hit” enters the picture, after a rival bidder becomes a one-woman show at their televised auctions—and it’s the estranged wife of Brandy’s police-chief beau, Tony! Soon the fine art of murder colors the scene, fitting Brandy for an ornately elaborate frame.

But when you’re inside a frame, it’s difficult to make out the picture. That’s why Brandy’s mom—her daughter now wearing basic jailhouse orange—must sort through a rogue’s gallery of suspects including a too-friendly farmer’s wife, a ratings-happy TV producer, a questionable husband-and-wife auctioneer team, and even the chief of police himself.

Brandy and Vivian race to determine how an empty antique frame can hold a deadly portrait, a picture worth a thousand dangerous words. Aided only by Sushi, their loyal shih tzu, and police dog Rocky, the wacky mother-and-daughter sleuthing team must learn the killer’s identity before they become the subjects of another masterpiece of murder.

Sarcasm absolutely at its best

I know the proper terminology for a review is not “it’s just as fun as can be” but that’s really and truly the first thought that comes to mind. This book is full of humor plus a few tips on finding good buys on authentic antiques. A slightly off-center, well okay, a crazy mother and her somewhat depressed daughter deal in antiques and murder. This whole series is set in a small town called Serenity along the Mississippi River. The town is a wonderful place to go antiquing as there are two or three great stores and our stars, Brandy and Vivian, continue filming their reality show, Antique Sleuths.

This series is mostly pseudo-written or narrated by the daughter Brandy but Vivian, her mother, is now and then allowed to add a chapter. None of this is confusing. In fact, the play and dialog between mother and daughter make this really work. Amongst all of the fun, there are still plenty of twists and turns. The descriptive writing is done well as is the character development.

Painting a picture in words is an important skill for an author no matter what genre might be his or her forte. Throughout this series, the author has drawn not just a map in the front of her book but also has crafted a complete snapshot. You begin to see the delightful characters, the small town, and even the day to day workings of the community. It’s as if you’ve lived there. What that creates is a reader like me who never wants to miss a book in the series.

This is Book 11 of the series called “A Trash and Treasures Mystery”. This reviewer happens to know another book will be out in April 2018 because I can’t wait to read it.

Keeping Her Forever by Winter Sloane

Keeping Her Forever by Winter Sloane
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (70 pages)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play, Spanking
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

The first time Jax saw Lia, barefoot and bloody, he knew she would be his to keep and protect.

Most of the world doesn’t consider Jax a good man. An ex-con who’s spent ten years behind bars, Jax has trouble adapting to normal society. He chose to drive big trucks for a living to avoid human interaction. When an injured and curvy beauty runs in the middle of the road, begging for his help, Jax knows he doesn’t need Lia’s kind of trouble but he lets her in his truck anyway.

Eager to leave her small town to see the world, Lia’s made the mistake of trusting one dangerous man who turned out to be a monster. Now she has no choice but to trust a muscled, scarred and inked stranger—but Jax isn’t what she expected. Encased beneath a rock-hard body is an unexpectedly protective and fierce heart. If Lia isn’t careful, she might just wind up begging him to keep her.

Opposites attract.

Lia is a shy woman with curves all over while Jax is a hit first, ask questions later kind of guy. Lia trusted a man that gave her the attention and time as well as had the ability to get her out of town. However, when she ends up on the wrong end of the stick, and encounters the bad side of humanity her mom always tells her of to be aware of, she runs.

She meets Jax when she tries, and succeeds, in getting away from her abuser.

Lia and Jax were two very different people but the things that bound them together were their attraction and chemistry. This was a dark romance. The attraction Jax had towards Lia morphed into a sense of ownership that for some may be a little too much. However, their relationship had soft sides that more than made up for that. There were instances where it felt as if she was trying to convince herself that Jax had a good side instead of actually believing that.

The plot was a simple one, however, I do think that a little bit more backstory would have enhanced and made connecting with Jax easier.

Keeping Her Forever is a short erotic romance but one that allows a reader to follow in the footsteps of these incredible characters: a hero and heroine who found love that healed their wounds one bit at a time. I recommend this book.

Bred By The Bushmen by Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino

Bred By The Bushmen by Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (116 pgs)
Other: M/F/M, Menage, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

After nearly ending her own life, Opal books a soul-searching Alaskan wilderness tour. She’s used to loneliness and rejection, but needs to learn how to love herself. When things go horribly wrong on the tour, she finds herself cold, alone, and facing certain death.

Caleb and Damon have the perfect life. They live off the grid, far from society and its destructive influences. But it doesn’t take long for the White brothers to realize what’s missing. They need a woman, and crave a family of their own. When their dog leads them to a lost hiker in the woods, they swear she was dropped straight from heaven.

It will take a lot of hard convincing for the bushmen to prove life at their cabin is better than what Opal left behind in the city. And they won’t take no for an answer. They plan on keeping Opal, loving her, and filling her with their baby. ​

Caleb and Damon are brothers who live together in a small cabin way out in the woods. Happy without the trappings of civilization or the craziness of other people they have a quiet but comfortable life. The only thing missing is a woman – but the brothers are looking for a very specific type of woman. Someone who is willing to live permanently with them off the grid, someone willing to be shared by the two men, someone who can love them both and the life they live. Someone who they can adore and cherish. Lost, alone and questioning her entire existence, Opal is close to reaching rock bottom. When she meets the two brothers can she finally find everything that her life has been missing?

I found this to be a fun and sexy story. I was surprised but pleased that Caleb and Damon approached a relationship with Opal from pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum. Damon was ready to jump right in, all but picturing babies with Opal when they had barely exchanged even six words. Yet Caleb was far more reticent. He was worried about Damon getting his heart broken, about the realities of trying to forge a relationship with a modern woman when for all intents and purposes the two brothers lived a very different, alternative lifestyle. In this respect I felt myself understanding and sympathizing strongly with Caleb. His character could have easily become a negative or bitter man, but that wasn’t the case and I felt his character was far stronger because of it. While I enjoyed both men’s personalities I was particularly connected to Caleb.

I also really enjoyed Opal’s character. A larger woman she is quite young (twenty two), innocent and in many ways – emotionally in particular – a young character. I found Opal to be full of self-doubt and somewhat malleable which usually annoys me in a heroine. While I didn’t connect as well with her as I could have I certainly found myself rooting for her and I enjoyed her quirks and foibles. She wasn’t a silly character or an annoying heroine which I was grateful for. The pacing of the story was lovely – between Damon wanting to rush right in and Caleb determined to slow things down and let them unfold in their own time I felt the story did a great job of balancing between too fast and too slow. It helped a lot that Opal was injured and so the brothers couldn’t simply jump her bones the moment they allowed her into the cabin and their life.

The sex was hot and I found it to be sensual but not over the top. There was a small but interesting plot in the middle of the story that while I found it a little superficial it did round out the story nicely and keep it from being merely all about the threesome relationship and sex. In most ways I feel this book really delivered – with interesting and layered characters and some smoking hot threesome sex it was a great read and one I’d happily recommend to friends.

First Crush, Last Love by Elizabeth McKenna

First Crush, Last Love by Elizabeth McKenna
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (314 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Back in high school, Lee Archer had the power to make Jessie Baxter’s cheeks flush and her heart race. But the popular athlete never wanted to be more than just friends. Ten years later, after a failed marriage and with her journalism career on shaky ground, Jessie’s come home for her high school reunion–and Lee still has the power to make her knees weak and her pulse pound.

Lee’s teenage years were filled with more trauma and drama than anyone guessed. Though his damaged past has helped make him a successful police detective, it’s hurt every relationship he’s tried. But seeing the grown-up, stunning Jessie might just change his commitment-phobic mind.

Jessie’s psycho ex-husband had her convinced no one would ever love her, but Lee is ready to step out of the friend zone and into her heart. Can she learn to trust again before she loses her chance to turn her first crush into her last love?

Elizabeth McKenna’s novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the joy of finding true love at last.

He was her First Crush and they were each other’s Last Love.

Jessie and Lee are both characters who are realistic and down to earth. The plot engaged me and I was invested in the characters and their story.

The book started in their teenage years and showed the crush, as well as the love they have for each other as ‘just friends’. Their romance or relationship does not start right away as much as I would have wanted it to. They part ways after graduation.

For me the hardest part to read was the story afterwards. Not because I did not like it but because Jessie’s relationship with her ex was not all sunshine. Ten years after high school, both Jessie and Lee came out of these times with a whole lot of pain, lessons and friends, but they matured as well. The author did a great job in engaging me with her characters.

The plot was not an overly complicated one, but it’s one that flowed smoothly to the end.

I have to mention the best friends of these two. I have questions about them and their own relationship. They sound so great together, I want to know if they ended up together!?

First Crush, Last Love transported me back to my teenage years! It was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me and is an easy recommend to other readers.

In Deep by Stacy Gold

In Deep by Stacy Gold
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Sophie Tremore is trying to build a career in the male-dominated world of Ski Patrol. Hard to do when her new boss is her smokin’ hot ex-lover. She hasn’t forgotten how he made her body tingle and her heart pound, although he’s making it a lot easier by treating her like she’s incompetent—when he’s not ignoring her existence altogether.

Emerald Mountain Ski Patrol Director Max Demford has been doing his best to avoid working with his feisty former flame, given his judgment is clouded by those eight mind-blowing weeks two years ago. Ski patrol is dangerous enough, and no way could he handle another person he cares about getting hurt on the mountain.

Forced to work together, their simmering attraction becomes difficult to ignore. When Sophie gets caught in a slide, an adrenaline-filled day could turn into a spectacular night they will never forget—one that could risk both their careers.

Max is Sophie’s boss and determined to protect her, keep her safe. Their brief fling – a whole eight weeks together – might be long ago and before they started working together, but Max couldn’t admit he still had feelings for Sophie and he certainly can’t admit that he’s restricting her job to try and keep her safe. Sophie is determined to prove she’s just as good as the men on their team and doesn’t care how hard she has to push to prove it. Will she and Max get in too deep together – and can they get themselves back safely when they do?

This is a fun read. I enjoyed the set-up – of wintery cold and snow patrol out on the mountains. I was a little disappointed that Sophie initially came across as a bit of a cliché – narrow minded in her assumptions on Max and her stubbornness in proving herself “worthy”. It annoyed me that she just instantly thought Max was a misogynist and thought poorly of all women, that Sophie couldn’t broaden her mind to think that maybe Max was as affected by her as she was him. Also, Max had a decent point that she was the newbie on the job and he wanted her to have a good amount of experience with the safer areas of their work before doing the more dangerous aspects.

While not the whole truth – I still thought Max’s point was completely understandable and logical. Sophie initially came across to me as reckless, headstrong and stubborn to a silly degree. I was relieved and pleased when my feelings toward her mellowed as the story moved on. I was also really pleased when Max unwound a little and finally explained the full story to Sophie. It helped ease much of the miscommunications between them and I really felt from that point onwards the story progressed really well. I was also glad that the emotional connections between Max and Sophie deepened and the chemistry sizzled between them both. This made the reading so much more pleasurable for me and I eagerly continued to turn each page.

The sex between Max and Sophie was hotly written and quite graphic, but there was nothing kinky or envelope pushing between them. I feel readers who prefer the bedroom door “closed” won’t enjoy the single love-making scene, but readers who don’t mind a bit of spice should find this fairly standard and certainly not offensive or extreme. There was plenty of chemistry and sizzle between Sophie and Max and while their Happily Ever After was a little backwards and just a bit clichéd to my mind, it gave me a definite warm and fuzzy feeling and helped me finish the story with a big smile.

A fun and lovely story that I enjoyed.

Seize the Day by Curtis Bunn

Seize the Day by Curtis Bunn
Publisher: Strebor Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (289 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

When a terminally ill man is at a crossroads, one choice will make him feel more alive than ever.

Calvin Jones has finally gotten his life on the right course. At forty-five, he has escaped a toxic long-term relationship with the mother of his only child, and he loves his job as a high school English teacher in Washington, DC. Life is good. But then life turns horribly bad. A routine checkup reveals a cancerous spot on his pancreas. The oncologist offers him chemotherapy in the hope that it will extend his life, but Calvin declines…and decides to live the best he can while he can.

Seize the Day is more than the story of Calvin Jones’s decision to pass on cancer treatment. It is the inspiring story of a man choosing not to wait on death and, instead, to live out his life with courage, hope, and resilience. What happens next is extraordinary.

“I keep living because I could be dying.” Calvin Jones wasn’t a bad guy. In fact he is a wonderful father, a committed high school English teacher and a great friend. After receiving a horrible diagnosis of stomach cancer, 45 year old Calvin seems to see life differently. After being given a short life sentence how should a person act? Would they give up, shut out the world and blame everyone for their medical condition? No not Calvin. He decides to live the best life he can. He starts to see life differently and do things he normally wouldn’t do. I like that this story is told from a man’s point of view and to see that he has feelings and he is not afraid to show emotions. It is obvious that Calvin is hurting but he still wants to make a positive impact on those that he meet.

This is a touching read where I found myself stopping several times to soak in the words of wisdom, pondering the feelings and emotions that Calvin must have been feeling.

Calvin is so transparent in his feelings. He admits the confusion that he had at a young age for the woman that he loved. He appreciated those that brought subtle influences into his life and he in turn tried to be of servitude to others. The balance between Calvin’s hurt and dealing with his hurt was so heart warming. I enjoyed that the book gives life lessons. Life is a daily gift and this book is an example to everyone on living life with meaning and substance. We shouldn’t hold on to grudges, that family is important and with life being so short we shouldn’t stay where we aren’t wanted. Everyday that we have is a day of strength of not giving up. Calvin is a strong character that took his diagnosis and held on to hope and didn’t allow his cancer to turn him into a bitter person but more so made him more open and loving.

At first I was confused by the ending but as I gave it more thought I appreciated how the author decided to give Calvin closure. From reading the book we know the outcome for Calvin so the book didn’t really have to spell out his ending. I took it as him in his element of happiness and being around those whose life he has touched. This is highly recommended especially for those who are having a hard time seeing the brighter side during life’s storms.