Barefoot in the Sun by Roxanne St. Claire

Barefoot in the Sun by Roxanne St. Claire
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (398 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

When running is all you’ve ever known . . . Caught between fight and flight, Zoe Tamarin has always picked flight. Since she was rescued from a nightmare childhood by her great-aunt Pasha, they’ve been on the move, never staying in one place long enough to risk exposing their precarious past. But now that they’ve reached the sun-baked shores of Barefoot Bay, Zoe may have to stay and fight–for her aunt’s life . . . and for a love she ran from years before. Sometimes the bravest act of all is to stand still. Oliver Bradbury came to Florida to start over, as both a doctor and a father to his eight-year-old son. He never expected life to hand him a second chance with the woman he lost years ago–but one look at Zoe Tamarin and he knows he’ll do whatever it takes to prove that this time, he can be the man she needs. But when demands of family and friendship threaten to shatter their rekindled passion, Oliver must heal Zoe’s lifelong wounds with more than hot kisses . . . but will that be enough to keep her from flying off with his heart?

Sometimes the most heartwarming love stories are about couples who find one another again. Barefoot in the Sun is that sort of story and what I liked best about it was the reason for the couple not getting together in the first place. Sometimes those storylines are contrived, and without giving too much away, let’s say this one isn’t. It’s all part of a backstory that’s intriguing and has you cheering on not only Zoe, but her great aunt too.
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I found myself wanting Zoe and Oliver to find their happily ever after but at the same time wanted everything to be okay for her aunt too. However, Ms. St. Claire did a great job keeping me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen to not only the hero and heroine, but just about everyone else in this book.

The setting is also nicely portrayed and perfect for the level of sensuality of the story. I also enjoyed being introduced to the other characters who I believe will feature in another Barefoot book.

Mostly because of its suspense and the secondary story thread, it’s a quick read because you find yourself reading another chapter and then another one. The romance is hot; the setting is scorching which I think makes this a good candidate for a beach or swimming pool read this summer.

Seduction of a Highland Warrior by Sue-Ellen Welfonder


Seduction of a Highland Warrior by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

At the King’s request, chieftain Alasdair MacDonald has sworn to preserve the peace in the Glen of Many Legends. Though he’s handsome and fearless, his warrior’s heart belongs only to his beloved land—until the fair sister of his oldest enemy shatters his defenses, branding his skin with a single touch, and sealing his fate with one stolen kiss . . .

Lady Marjory Mackintosh will do anything to unite the warring clans, even seduce Alasdair MacDonald. She has loved the rugged Highlander since she first saw him and now, as temptation leads to surrender, Marjory dares to possess him, body and soul. But a dangerous new menace enters the Glen, and he will stop at nothing to strip Alasdair of his honor—and the only woman who can claim his heart.

The Highland faeries must be on the side of love for it to find its way among so much anger, so many grudges, so much greed, and need for revenge.

The lore of ancient Scotland with its ghosts, magic, and superstitions plus Ms. Welfonder’s graphic descriptions of the bleak, cold, stony peaks of far-north Scotland with winds that cry and howl, rain that chills, and mists that swirling like ghosts in motion lures the reader in for a vicarious experience with fourteenth-century Scots who are rather like mirror images of their environment—harsh, volatile, and threatening. But like the weather they can change in a moment and be as wonderful as a beautiful sun-bright day. There seems to be no in-between, all things are extreme.

Three strong women put into action their plan to secure peace for The Glen of Many Legends. Two-thirds of the plan has been successful, but Marjory Mackintosh has yet to succeed in her part of the plan. Alasdair MacDonald is a hard man to seduce, especially since he and her brother Kendrew are enemies. These two men are just one step this side of being barbarians when they are in each other’s presence.
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The smart, resourceful Marjory has outfoxed her brother up to now in his efforts to marry her off to a powerful Viking that will strengthen his clan’s ties to their Norse kin. She wants to marry for love and the chieftain of Blackshore Castle, Alasdair MacDonald, is the love of her life. She wears the MacDonald amber around her neck that came to her by way of Isobel, her sister-in-law who received them from Catriona, Alasdair’s sister. If their plan works, Marjory will wed Alasdair and the legendary amber will be back where it belongs, with the MacDonald.

Hella, that Marjory and Isobel go to see, adds a hint of magic as she interprets the dream Marjory had about her part in a Viking funeral ritual—a scary experience. Her interpretation does not ease Marjory’s mind.

Alasdair MacDonald tells himself he is not superstitious. Of course, he does feel the magic of Mist-Chaser, his sword, that is embellished with ambers and he feels the glen is TOO quiet. Moreover, he is sure it’s just the mist and fog that looks like a ghost beckoning him but he goes anyway to see if there is threatening danger approaching by sea.

After being away for months, Alasdair is determined to secure his clan’s hold on their heritage at all cost. However, another need plagues him. His all consuming desire for Marjory Mackintosh has killed his interest in all other women and makes him frustrated, unsettled, and unreasonably angry. The thought of a Viking’s hands on her makes him murderous. Besides that, the MacDonald amber around her neck seem to call him to her.

The ghosts of Drangar the Strong and Seona watch over and nudge their descendants in the right direction when possible. Their insubstantial forms thwart their efforts but they persevere. The subtle humor Drangar furnishes is, indeed, great comic relief and the lovely twist in his and Seona’s relationship late in the story is delightful.

The extreme anger that erupts so often and the harsh words spoken seem a little over done, but the secretive doings of Vikings, ghosts, as wells those of the Scots keep the story moving apace. Of course, the inner thoughts of the hero and heroine let the reader in on the emotional turmoil that comes with thwarted love.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder takes the reader away from the mundane and gives her an emotional journey that floods the senses and makes the heart pound with both hope and fear. If you have read previous books in the series, you will get to catch up with old acquaintances as they are quite active as secondary characters in Seduction of a Highland Warrior. This one kept me up late and was worth every minute.

The Chieftain by Margaret Mallory


The Chieftain by Margaret Mallory
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (395 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Connor, chieftain of the MacDonalds of Sleat, holds the fate of his people in his hands. Rival clans are plotting to take over his lands, and duty determines whom he will fight, trust . . . even marry. Seeking guidance, Connor turns to Ilysa, a young lass with the gift of foresight, who reveals an approaching danger-and a passion that burns only for him. But the warrior must make a powerful marriage alliance, and Ilysa’s bloodline is far too humble.

With her powers to heal and see evil where others cannot, beautiful Ilysa dresses plainly, speaks softly, and loves her chieftain from afar. Yet when Connor finally stokes the embers of desire that have so long burned within her, Ilysa feels bliss unlike any she’s ever known. Now as he is forced to place duty before happiness, Ilysa senses Connor is in grave peril. Can she find a way to prove she is the woman he needs by his side?

Early sixteenth-century Isle of Skye, Scotland was not a place for the faint of heart, but I slipped in quietly one night for a sojourn with the MacDonald clan’s chieftain and his tried and true cohorts. Under their protection I had a sensory-loaded experience that sent the emotions sky high. The adventures and misadventures of Chieftain Conner and the wee Ilysa who runs his household kept me turning pages until late in the night. The Chieftain is spellbinding.

Ilysa and Conner, on their way to Trotternish to set up his household and hold off the clan’s enemies, stop by to see Tearag, the old seer. She tells Ilysa to remember she has the blood of the Sea Witch of legend and was born at midnight on the full moon so she has “The Sight”. Though not as strong as Tearag’s, it gets stronger where her heart is. Also, Tearag reminds Ilysa that she’s been taught the spell of protection that will gain in strength with the faery dance on Faery Hills that is near Trotternish. Ilysa must save Conner from danger until Beltane when his true bride will choose him.
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Elysa, only nineteen and already a widow, runs a household efficiently with caring but with firm control in a ‘velvet glove’. Her mother taught her well. She also taught Ilysa to speak softly, to keep her gaze down, to draw no attention to herself, and had conditioned her pretty daughter to wear a loose sack dress and keep her hair totally covered at all times with a kerchief. With her efforts, the household seems to run with magic—then Conner in a fit of temper sends her away. Oh, My! What a mess!

Conner also listened to Tearag’s ramblings but gave little heed to them. His total focus is on securing the clan’s holdings to make them strong for generations to come. His personal desires are set aside for chieftain DUTY to his clan. One major duty is to marry to form a strong alliance with a clan well-equipped to do battle and is well financed. Love has no place in his plans. Little does he know that love cares for him and works to protect him whether he chose it or not.

Wresting Trotternish from the MacLeods and his half-uncle Black Hugh is Conner’s aim, but with a traitor and a possible assassin in the clan’s midst, danger stalks him on every side and as for finding a suitable bride that is another kettle of fish and a smelly on it is.

The plot and the many little sub-plots that are woven together with consummate skill by Margaret Mallory make The Chieftain a magnificent addition to this series. She weaves in the characters from the previous books in a captivating way that lets reader who have read the previous books catch up on what is going on in their lives, but The Chieftain definitely stands alone as Conner and Ilysa’s story—a fantastic, breathtaking tale with love scenes that sizzle, shimmer and glow with magic.

Some secondary characters that ratchet up the tension and suspense are Sorely, the old warrior who served under Conner’s father and later his brother; Lachlan, the acclaimed warrior that Ilysa sees danger and conflict in; and the ‘sour’ cook at Trotternish to mention a few. Of course, the would-be brides that invade Trotternish Castle create their own special type of tension. Black Hugh and the MacLeod press their claim to Trotternish to the limit with most unusual outcomes.

Margaret Mallory’s masterful storytelling and her exquisite writing style make the reader’s sojourn with Conner and Ilysa a memorable vicarious experience. The Chieftain is a keeper!

Trouble in Texas by Katie Lane


Trouble in Texas by Katie Lane
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Forever
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (320 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Inheriting the most notorious house of ill repute in Texas can spell trouble for a girl’s reputation . . . especially when she’s Elizabeth Murphy, Bramble’s prim and proper librarian. Yet when she discovers a buck-naked cowboy handcuffed to a four-poster bed, she forgets all about the town gossips. Elizabeth has sworn off men, but the stranger’s kisses melt her resolve faster than ice cream on a hot summer day.

Waking up in Miss Hattie’s Henhouse isn’t how Brant Cates reckoned on getting to the bottom of his great-granddaddy’s murder. The plan was to solve the centuries-old crime, then get the heck out of Dodge. But after meeting Elizabeth and discovering that the buttoned-up beauty is a sexy siren in disguise, he just can’t pull himself away.

Now Brant needs Elizabeth to finally put his past to rest, but is she willing to risk her future on Bramble’s newest bad boy?

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The title “cowboy” is bantered about rather loosely and some of the characters are stereotyped, but their actions pull the reader into the tangles of the past, troubles in the present, and plans for the future. Just about every character is on a mission of one kind or the other with few in agreement about desired outcomes.

When thirty-seven year old Elizabeth Murphy, librarian in Bramble, Texas inherits Miss Hattie’s Henhouse, a dilapidated place that was once the infamous Texas bordello, her life takes a hundred and eighty degree turn. She doesn’t intend for it to but the “hens” in the house are masters (or mistresses) of seduction in their own unique way. They do know how to manipulate! By the time Minnie, Baby, Sunshine, and even Starlet work their wiles, not only Elizabeth but also Brandston Cates, a man who feels cursed and wants answers, are seduced.

If you’ve read previous books in the series, you will recognize many of the secondary characters, but Trouble In Texas stands alone very well. It is about two people who need love so very much. How a man afraid to love because of a curse he believes in and a no-nonsense spinster get together to enjoy sizzling sex, feel a soul mate connection, and survive the meddling of the citizens of Bramble, Texas makes delightful reading.

The reader gets to enjoy both subtle and blatant humor, the unraveling of a-more-than-century old secret, and the many types of love—family, man/woman, friends. The acceptance of human flaws and foibles reveals the uniqueness of individuals and showcase a love for life. The redemption that comes is most rewarding.

Katie Lane writing style keeps the reader turning pages, ties up loose ends neatly, and satisfies with a happy-ever-after, yet leaves the reader ready to look for the next book about Brandston’s brother, Beau.