The Ghost of January by Mysti Parker


The Ghost of January by Mysti Parker
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (79 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Against her father’s wishes, twenty-year-old January Cooper elopes with her high school sweetheart and leaves for a fairytale honeymoon in Europe.

Two weeks later, she’s a widow, abandoned by her husband’s family and too ashamed to contact hers. She works her way across the continent, scared but determined to make it on her own.

Renowned food and travel blogger Diederik DeVries arrives in his native Amsterdam and hears rumors of a Ghost Lover who has supposedly left a trail of broken hearts all over Europe. A chance encounter with an American girl named Jan leaves him wondering if she could be this elusive legend.

Despite her fears of falling in love again, January is just as intrigued with the charming and handsome Diederik. Though he is determined to discover her true identity, she refuses to tell him anything about her past. All he wants is to break down the walls of her hidden heartache to find the real woman within. But will the ghosts of January’s past take her away from him before he ever gets that chance?

After the death of her husband on her honeymoon, January roams Europe, afraid to go home to hear her father say ‘I told you so’.

In Amsterdam she finds a job and meets Diederik who has returned to his home town for a short period. They become friends but Diederik becomes cautious when he learns she could be the Ghost Lover who slips away from lovers without any explanation.

This book may be short but it is well written and a compelling read. January’s nervousness of committing herself has taken over her life and the way the author introduced her emotions brought me into the heart of the story. Her desire to get closer to Diederik wavered with indecision and I fully sympathized with the way January swung from one decision to the opposite side.

Good book to read on a wet and windy afternoon as it took me into January’s world and fully engaged my mind.

Reluctant Reunion by Ruth J Hartman


Reluctant Reunion by Ruth J Hartman
Publisher: esKape ePress
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (63 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

Kennedy Cooper tries everything to stay away from her father’s alpaca farm. Being an actress in New York seems to do the trick. Until it doesn’t. When she fails to get enough acting parts, loses her part-time job, and breaks up with her boyfriend, she has no choice but to return. Seeing her father again is tough, but having to meet his new love interest reminds Kennedy why she’d vowed never to go home.

When Kennedy is out of a job and her boyfriend abandons her, she has nowhere else to go but home to the family alpaca ranch. Unfortunately Kennedy hates alpacas.

Settling back into the homestead is strange. Her mother’s death had been the catalyst for her moving to the city, but now she finds her father has a new woman in his life. Her dead brother’s daughter is also living at the farm and her father is unwell.

Put together all these elements and life for Kennedy is not the quiet stay she’d hoped it would be.

I liked this story, not a romance but it shows Kennedy’s feelings for her father, her home and the “other woman”. I really liked the way it unfolded. It may have been short, but it was well written and intriguing. Good book.

Heartfelt by Kay Springsteen


Heartfelt by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (205 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The story that began on a North Carolina beach with a blind marine, a divorced mother, and a child with Down syndrome continues as the young family struggles to adapt to a new addition. Now eight months pregnant, Trish worries about her baby, her daughter, and her husband. But maybe she should be more concerned with herself. Dan struggles to prove himself at work in the face of what others consider his disability. As he wrestles with his job, he is also concerned with life at home and the impending birth of his son. How will he connect with a son when he’ll never even be able to play a game of catch with him?

A truly lovely story regarding love in almost impossible circumstances. Both hero and heroine, Trish and Dan, have things in their past, and lurking under the surface in the present, which make both hesitate to take the final step into a relationship.

Dan is blind due to an explosion in Afghanistan, while Trish has a daughter with Downs Syndrome. Her daughter Bella, is gorgeous. She is the pivot around which the story revolves. A lovely young girl who is stubborn and determined, but who is loved by both her mother and Dan.

Living near the beach means life by the sea plays a big part in the story especially toward the end. Both Dan and Trish must decide what they want for the future, not what they know they should do, but what they want to do. Once this is decided they can then work out if there is a future for them together, although of course Bella has already made up her mind what she wants to happen.

A wonderful book with a warm and fuzzy story although at times it becomes a tear jerker. Great read.

The Road To Escape by Patricia Kiyono


The Road To Escape by Patricia Kiyono
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (102 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Tom Cooper left his high-pressure law practice in Indianapolis for life on an alpaca farm in the tiny northwest Indiana town of Escape. Though he continued to practice law, the farm provided a good life for him, his wife, and their five children. But when his wife died, grief consumed him. His withdrawal into himself damaged his relationship with his children, and they’ve all left. He’s resigned to taking care of the farm alone, but a disturbing medical diagnosis could change things.

Laurie Matthews left her nursing job in shame. The town of Escape has welcomed her, and she now owns the local diner. She’s attracted to the handsome widower who comes in for coffee and a hot meal but keeps her distance. Everyone she’s ever loved has died — her grandparents, her parents, her husband, and one other — one she still can’t bear to think about.

A romantic relationship isn’t on the agenda for either of them, but when the diner falls on hard times, Tom steps in to help, paving the way for them both to escape the loneliness in their lives.

Tom is a widower whose health is deteriorating; Laurie runs the local diner, but her past is catching up with her.

At first I didn’t realize this was a middle age romance, but it didn’t really matter as the love was obviously beginning to bloom. Unfortunately neither party wanted to admit their feelings for fear of being rebuffed. Their past personal life makes them move slowly toward each other, but there is also a hint of nastiness in the air.

This is definitely a sweet romance, no hot love scenes, no misunderstandings. The reasons for any delay in announcing their feelings are perfectly natural and show how a normal way of life can interfere with the way love is supposed to develop.

I loved the way both hero and heroine knew what the other was hiding, but didn’t reveal their thoughts so neither was aware the other had discovered their secret. Their passion was very much of a “tiptoe around each other“ style and at times I wanted to give them both a big push and tell them to get on with things.

At the end of the story I felt it had a satisfactory conclusion and could actually have left the door open for a follow up.

Two Tutor Doves by Patricia Kiyono


Two Tutor Doves by Patricia Kiyono
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (67 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Robert Townley prides himself as an efficient and indispensible valet to Phillip, Duke of Bartlett. But when Robert is coerced into teaching the poor children at the duchess’ chapel school, he’s out of his element. Thankfully, he has assistance from some of the other servants, including the prickly Miss Brown.

Jeanne Brown is lady’s maid to the Duchess of Bartlett. She loves working with the children but can’t abide Robert’s lofty attitude toward them. She’d love to put him in his place — but she needs her job.
When the duchess decides to hold the school’s Christmas party in her home, Robert and Jeanne must put aside their differences and work together to ensure that the holiday celebration goes off without a hitch. Will they be able to endure the partnership, or will their sparks ignite something more?

Robert Townley is the valet to Phillip Peartree – Duke of Bartlett. In his profession Robert has always risen to any challenge presented to him, but his current post might be the one to topple his perfect record. Instructing a classroom of ragtag ruffians how to read and write might be beyond even his vast capabilities. Worse was the fact Robert wasn’t in this endeavor alone, Jeanne, the duchess’ lady’s maid was also there and should Robert cut the lessons short he was certain Jeanne would inform the duchess. Can Jeanne and Robert find some common ground and work together?

The characters in this story were complicated and I found them interesting. Jeanne has a very different and complicated history. The duke and duchess were more cameo’s than main characters, and both clearly very excited and happy with their impending child. An assortment of other servants of the household all were shown to work together like well-oiled cogs in a wheel. I was particularly pleased with Robert’s character. While he preferred things neat and orderly he was open to hearing the genuine thoughts from those around him and I found his mind was usually open to opinions other than his own.

I found this to be quite a thoughtful and interesting historical story. Robert is a good man, but I thought he made an exceptional, if flawed, hero. I really enjoyed the realism of Robert’s character, particularly for this historical time period. Robert genuinely wants to do his best to teach the poor and rough children he’s been told to educate, but he has pretty much zero experience with children and almost no exposure at all to young, poor and not-well-mannered kids. The students aren’t rambunctious or wild – just young children. So having Jeanne point out his failings as a teacher – no matter how kindly – really flummoxes Robert.

While certainly not a perfect man I grew to really respect him and genuinely wanted him to end up happy. Indeed, my only real criticism of the book was even until almost half way through Jeanne thought negative and mean thoughts of Robert and only paid attention to his pompousness and different views of the classes. The main reason this irritated me so much is while Robert could appreciate other people’s perspectives and tried to look at things from more than his own point of view, I felt that Jeanne just watched Robert’s actions and made judgments on it. She didn’t try and learn anything about his past, or try and view the matter from Robert’s perspective – that society expects servants to respect and show manners to their betters. It doesn’t matter that this might not be morally correct – it was what society was back in those days. And teaching the children these things were important. The children needed job, work and education, and I felt that the reality was that teaching them these notions and manners would help them progress. Jeanne’s thinking poorly of Robert for doing this made me really annoyed. Initially at least I really disliked her character for it. I was pleased when Jeanne’s history was explained and it helped me understand her intense dislike of Robert’s need for keeping a proper distance and distinguishing between the upper class and the working class. While I could understand Jeanne’s thoughts, it still struck me as a little odd – particularly for the historical setting where Robert’s views were not just normal, but expected and frequently enforced.

At no stage were the character clashes between Jeanne and Robert mean or particularly angry. I think the author did a good job of balancing their conflict while still leaving room for there to be a common meeting ground and for a light romance to flourish. Readers looking for a deep romance though – with long looks and heartfelt feelings – might not find this as satisfying. I found the story was strongly focused on the education of the children, the historical setting and the characters. The romance was definitely a side-issue and not the main focus to my mind. I didn’t mind this and found the story quite rich in details and characterization, I’m just not certain I would classify it strictly as a romance. Personally I found it to be more of a historical story with a small element of romance towards the end. Either way, I found the story interesting and the characters engrossing and complicated. A satisfying read.

The Partridge And The Peartree by Patricia Kiyono


The Partridge And The Peartree by Patricia Kiyono
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (57 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett, dreamed of a peaceful life with a suitable mate until a hunting accident left him scarred and nearly deaf. Resigned to spending the rest of his days alone, Phillip has devoted himself to rebuilding his family estate. But a chance encounter with a lovely young woman in a dusty bookstore rekindles his almost-forgotten hopes and dreams.
Lady Amelia Partridge has no time for the frivolity of the London social scene. In addition to her work with the Ladies Literary Society, she has a mission – educating poor children in the city. She also has a secret life, one she fears might drive away the young duke who has become increasingly important to her.

Phillip Peartree – Duke of Bartlett – was scouring titles in his favourite bookstore. When Lady Amelia Partridge literally bumps into him Phillip feels more than the air knocked out of him. Scarred and partially deaf, Phillip has gone to great pains to avoid the confusing and bustling society whirl. Amelia is a dedicated member of the Ladies Literary Society and thus has far more important things to focus on that finding a husband and ordering her own household.

This is an incredibly sweet historical story. While quite predictable I thoroughly enjoyed the characters – both the hero and heroine as well as a strong cast of secondary characters. I appreciated the conflict Amelia’s brother, Edward, and Edward’s fiancé especially, created. I also liked the fact Amelia had modern thoughts and a strong sense of independence, though I found that slightly unrealistic given the historical setting and the strictures placed on women – especially women of rank – back in that time period. I could let go of realism long enough though to sit back and enjoy the story.

The main conflict between Amelia and Phillip – the “secret” of his not being able to hear well – seemed a little stilted to my mind, but I have to admit it did fit in well with the older setting and stiff-upper-lip mentality of historical London. Amelia is teaching a bunch of young children how to read and write down at the local church. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story – partly because it showed me that Amelia wasn’t just willing to talk about trying to help and change the lives of those more impoverished than herself, but also that she was more than happy to get down and actually help. To lead by example. It was no surprise that this generosity of time and spirit was one of the main things that appealed to Phillip.

For a refreshingly sweet historical story – with just a simple kiss to seal the deal at the end – I found this to be an interesting and character-driven short story. I thoroughly enjoyed Phillip and Amelia as well as all the secondary characters. While the plot was not unique, I truly enjoyed it and the writing style of the author. I will certainly be searching for further stories by this author.

Three French Inns by Patricia Kiyono

inns
Three French Inns by Patricia Kiyono
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (73 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Peter Brown joined His Majesty’s Army in the fight against Napoleon, but when he was wounded, a lovely French woman tended him. She was a recent widow, and they were on opposing sides of the war, so they went their separate ways. But he never forgot his “bel ange” — his beautiful angel.

Caroline Bouchard Duval marched with her husband in Napoleon’s army, eager to leave her sleepy village and see the world. But after being widowed, she returned to her childhood home in the French Alps. When a bloody traveler enters her father’s inn, she recognizes him immediately. Could this man give her another chance to fulfill her dreams?

When in France Peter Brown goes by the name of Pierre le Brun. Born in France of a french Mother and English father, he had grown up in England and fought for that country in the Napoleonic wars.

Caroline Bouchard Duval cooked for the guests in her father’s inn which was near the castle Pierre’s grandfather had owned, but been forced to sell. The two met toward the end of the wars and then went their separate ways.

Years later, on his way to Geneva Pierre had fallen from his horse and been taken to the inn where Caroline worked. They recognised each other, but Caroline concentrated on to helping her father while Pierre had business in Geneva. His journey was delayed by the injuries he sustained in the fall from his horse. This forced him to remain in the area for a few weeks.

Caroline and Pierre are two well rounded characters who are gradually drawn to one another. Neither wants to force their attentions on the other. A well written book which kept my interest throughout the pages. As I read, it was difficult to tell what the outcome would be, so I was pleasantly surprised by the events that took place.

Although short, this book had attraction, conflict and an undercurrent of a puzzle to be solved. A sweet romance set in the rural area of France so that the after effects of the Napoleonic wars did not trouble the population of the town. Good story.

Camp Wedding by Kay Springsteen

camp
Camp Wedding by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (120 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A blind Marine, a nervous bride, and an adorable child with Down syndrome who loves them both is an equation for another tug on the heartstrings in the story behind the Heartsight nuptials. Is Trish ready for life as a military wife? Is Dan ready for the challenges of being a father to a precocious 6-year-old? How will Bella add her special brand of magic to the day?

Wedding jitters magnify every little thing that seems to be going wrong right before Trish’s wedding. She’s even more frustrated at how her husband-to-be handles those small ‘bumps in the road.’ Readers become conscious, early on, that these are two very different people. However, Springsteen does a wonderful job building our belief in their mutual and heartfelt feelings. This only makes us more impatient as even more ‘bumps’ appear. Right from the start, the characters carry this wonderful little story. Subtle humor lightens some conversations…as does the odd embarrassing predicament.

There are too-sweet moments, and abrupt changes in point-of-view disturb the flow of the story. However, these are small complaints in what is overall an engaging, heartwarming tale.

Although this is a continuation from the story ‘Heartsight,’ it is a story unto itself and reading the precursor isn’t necessary. Camp Wedding is utterly charming on its own:

Operation Christmas Hearts by Kay Springsteen

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Operation Christmas Hearts by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (268 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Ashley Torrington never cared much about Christmas before. But this year she’s having a particularly blue holiday because Marine Special Operations Team member, Nick Turner got under her skin just before he was deployed to Afghanistan. With her neighbors’ precocious daughter Bella volunteering Ashley for a special project at school, and a mysterious white-haired stranger named Estelle in town buying gifts from Ashley’s shop, not to mention the odd assortment of presents Ashley’s been receiving from an anonymous source, she shouldn’t have time to worry about her guy. But when he and his team go missing the week before Christmas, she realizes only a Christmas miracle will reunite them.

Captain Nicholas Turner never backed down from challenges—on the battlefield or in his personal life. But he’d never met a challenge like Ashley, who doesn’t want to be anyone’s “girl back home.” Now he’s on the other side of the world, wanting to be anywhere but in Afghanistan for Christmas. About to embark on one of the most dangerous missions of his life, he needs Ashley to know she’s much more than the girl he’d left behind, and he does plan to come home to her. But in the meantime, a little Christmas magic would be appreciated. Little does he know, he’s about to get his wish.

In the sleepy coastal town of Lookout Island, North Carolina, Ashley looks forward to Christmas with her friends, but her heart misses her boyfriend Nick who is overseas with the marines. Although he can’t tell her his location, she guesses it is somewhere dangerous and when he goes missing Ashley finds it hard to keep her faith in his return.

Ashley, a very independent woman, is reluctant to give her love to a man who spends his life fighting the enemy. However, her heart has other ideas.

Nick has a hard job convincing Ashley they belong together. He has very novel ways of proving his love and Ashley finds it hard not to give in, but she must resist him if she is to keep her resolve not to be a woman waiting for her man to come home.

Quite a poignant story with adventure and romance, all bound together with the Christmas festivities and celebrations. This is another wonderful book in the “Heart” series from Kay Springsteen. As well as the romance side of the story, there is also the cosy Christmas feeling as the local school packs parcels to send to the troops for Christmas. By the time I finished reading I had a feeling of satisfaction with Christmas as a family affair. Good book and well written with loveable characters and highlights to grab the attention.

The 13 of Hearts by Kay Springsteen

hearts
The 13 of Hearts by Kay Springsteen
Publisher: esKape Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (362 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Lin is a mother on the run from a painful and deadly past. She’ll do anything to protect her children. But a damaged marine with PTSD and a bad case of superstition threatens their safety when he grows close enough to uncover her secrets.

US Marine Pete “Rabbit” Kincaid only wants to go back on deployment, but after his most recent injury, he might not make it back into the fight. When he meets Lin Doyle, a young mother of two, he quickly realizes the fight has come to him.

Is his heart big enough to save them from her past?

Peter (Rabbit) Kincaid keeps crossing the path of Lin Doyle and her two children. Lin is a single mother with a past, who tries to remain a recluse. At first Rabbit helps because he feels sorry for her, but pity quickly turns to intrigue and an attraction he is unable to fight.

This is an excellent book. The conflict between the main characters is offset by the people at the homely B&B where Rabbit lives, and the decision they all make to help Lin fight her past. The characters are well crafted from moody Pete who is suffering post traumatic stress disorder to Lin’s son Nate who hides his mother’s secret but by doing this loses his childhood. There were warm moments, cold moments, frightening situations and imagined problems. I loved the way Lin and Pete unsuccessfully fought the feelings they had for each other and have to add that this was totally believable.

The author led me to believe I had guessed the hidden mystery of the book, but still kept me interested enough to keep reading. Thank goodness I did because I was wrong. I hadn’t been lead astray, just reached the wrong conclusion with the clues given.