Smile and Walk Away by Danielle Riedel

Smile and Walk Away by Danielle Riedel
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (222 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Detective Duran thinks he’s searching for a missing woman. He soon finds out he’s pursuing the last remaining evidence of a CIA cover up. The police are looking for Velma Bloom, a young woman who has gone missing. All that’s left of her is her car parked in front of a house containing two dead Russian men. Velma is a twenty-five year old woman who loves her life of booze, sex, and cigarettes. But this sassy, over-educated waitress has a secret—a strange ability she’s never been able to understand. Answers come unexpectedly and from an unexpected source. Armed with her new knowledge, she sees her way to forging a new future. She only has one obstacle—making sure she stays alive. Now she has vanished, and rookie detective Jackson Duran is trying to find her. She hasn’t left many traces, and everything Duran discovers about her only complicates his search. What he does learn leads him to some sinister truths he never thought he’d know, and would rather not know.

In the blink of an eye or the breaking of a glass, your life can change into something you never dreamed it could be.

This was a fun book to read. This is a story full of intrigue, spies, every day folks, people with super skills, love interests, a little humor, rebellion and even a bit of naughtiness.

I enjoyed the characters that Reidel created in this book. There weren’t too many and I think that is why she was able to develop them in depth. Oddly enough, she made you like them all. That, as you can imagine, leaves you wondering all along which one will turn out to be the bad guy…or girl. The only aspect of this book that could make it difficult to read is the switching back and forth between characters and times in their lives. Sometimes that turns me off in a book but somehow the author seemed to keep this story moving smoothly. I think her skill in not adding too many characters and developing them so well helped the reader to keep everything straight. Not an easy thing for an author to do.

The main character, Velma Bloom was my favorite. She’s a redhead and wants to create her own way in life and that, in and of itself, made for a story interesting enough to keep me reading. As in the title…I smiled but I sure didn’t walk away from this book.

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase

A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (396 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Not all dukes are created equal. Most are upstanding members of Society. And then there’s the trio known as Their Dis-Graces.

Hugh Philemon Ancaster, seventh Duke of Ripley, will never win prizes for virtue. But even he draws the line at running off with his best friend’s bride. All he’s trying to do is recapture the slightly inebriated Lady Olympia Hightower and return her to her intended bridegroom.

For reasons that elude her, bookish, bespectacled Olympia is supposed to marry a gorgeous rake of a duke. The ton is flabbergasted. Her family’s ecstatic. And Olympia? She’s climbing out of a window, bent on a getaway. But tall, dark, and exasperating Ripley is hot on her trail, determined to bring her back to his friend. For once, the world-famous hellion is trying to do the honorable thing.

So why does Olympia have to make it so deliciously difficult for him . . . ?

Get ready for a novel that ends as adorable as the beginning is rascally. I know this book is a romance but the tone, pace, dialogue and descriptions all inspired joy, smiles, happy anticipation and delighted laughter. This has to be one of the most upbeat romances I’ve read in a long time. It’s fun with a capital F.

Usually the groom is the no show at a wedding but in A Duke in Shining Armor it’s the heroine who does the fleeing and her madcap dash for freedom is witnessed and then abetted by the hero, the Duke of Ripley. Of course, he’s just there to make sure she’s safe until she changes her mind and goes back to his best friend to get married. He’s sure she’s going to change her mind, isn’t she? Okay, not this time but she will, right? What follows is a charming and hilarious adventure as Lady Olympia runs from what she knows she should do, what she always does because she’s so proper, and ends up learning more about herself in a few days than she’s ever learned in all the years before. It’s shocking! It’s eye-opening and I never knew what pickle she’d get into next. Olympia is a riot.

Ripley, though his aunt calls him Hugh, was a thoroughly wonderful hero. Seeing him slowly discovering the wonder that is Olympia has high entertainment value and I was charmed. At first he was noble, then tempted; he fights the temptation and then comes the ‘kiss’. It’s at that point he opened the Pandora’s Box called Lady Olympia Hightower and the book turned sensual, seductive and very romantic. A Duke in Shining Armor shifted into high gear and became a novel I could not put down. I can’t even begin to tell you all the things the poor hero had to deal with in trying to keep up with the heroine.

The only thing that made me roll my eyes is Ashmont. He really needs a wakeup call and a boot in his derrière because he was so weak! He and Blackwood were secondary characters and Ripley’s best buds, but Ashmont is the one who created the impetus for the entire conflict. Of course, he is the perfect character to get his story next because Ashmont’s uncle thinks a lady like Olympia is perfect for him. I almost (pinches fingers) feel sorry for the guy when Ms. Chase pairs him with a lady who’s more than a match for him. That is one book I DON’T want to miss!! In any event, he and Blackwood set off on the adventure of ‘retrieving his bride’. Here’s the thing, he came across as … still a boy. By the time this novel wraps up, I got the sense that Ashmont is finally getting a clue.

I adored how the author had Ripley and Olympia play. The hero is imaginative and full of fun and he helps the heroine see she’s capable of being spontaneous and silly and the sky wouldn’t fall. I enjoyed his yearning for her but beating himself up because he shouldn’t. I mean, he IS the best friend of the intended groom. That was a great conflict and I liked how Ms. Chase handled it.

There is so much I want to say, I’m having a hard time trying to rein myself in. A Duke in Shining Armor is refreshing, amusing, well written and a lot more labels I could tack on. I think the happy ever after ending is perfect. It’s just a great read and I loudly say, Don’t Miss This Book!

Mrs. Claus by Rhonda Parrish, editor

Mrs. Claus by Rhonda Parrish, editor
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (214 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When you think of Mrs. Claus, do you imagine a quiet North Pole homebody who finds complete fulfillment in baking cookies, petting reindeer and crafting toys alongside elves? How about a magic-wielding ice goddess, or a tough-as-nails Valkyrie? Or maybe an ancient fae of dubious intentions, or a well-meaning witch? Could Mrs. Claus be a cigar-smoking Latina, or a crash-landed alien? Within these pages Mrs. Claus is a hero, a villain, a mother, a spacefarer, a monster hunter, and more. The only thing she decidedly is not, is a sidekick.

It’s Mrs. Claus’ turn to shine and she is stepping out of Santa’s shadow and into the spotlight in these fourteen spectacular stories that make her the star! Featuring original short stories by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, C.B. Calsing, DJ Tyrer, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Kristen Lee, Randi Perrin, Michael Leonberger, Andrew Wilson, Ross Van Dusen, MLD Curelas, Maren Matthias, Anne Luebke, Jeff Kuykendall, and Hayley Stone.

Santa might have demanded the lion’s share of the attention in the old myths about the North Pole, but that’s all about to change for good reason!

In “The Asylum Musicale,” Lizzie, a patient at an asylum, quickly began to wonder where Yessica Klaus, the newest patient there, had come from and why she seemed to be capable of things that no one else could do. The foreshadowing in the early scenes was excellent. I especially liked Lizzie’s descriptions of her life before she was committed and how she responded to Yessica when she began to feel threatened by her. She was a complex person who seemed to believe several contradictory things at once, so it was a lot of fun to weigh the various things she told the audience against each other and come up with my own theories about what was going on before the big reveal at the end.

All of the stories in this collection were creative, diverse, and well written. I never would have guessed that Mrs. Claus could be interpreted in so many different ways or that she could be frightening in one plot and sympathetic in the next. “You’d Better Watch Out” was the only tale that I thought could have used a little more plot development. While I loved the idea of Nick and Fianna Claus adopting a house full of children, I would liked to see a little more time spent on explaining why Fianna ended up with such an unusual part-time job and how she and her husband decided to take in so many kids. With a little more development, this instalment easily would have been my favourite part of the entire book.

“Good Morning” followed Nick and Eve on the one day of the year when they awoke from their slumber and used powerful magic to help Nick deliver presents to every home on Earth. By far the best part of the storyline were the references to who these characters were before they became Santa and Mrs. Claus. One of the things I’ve always found most thought provoking about this couple was how little attention anyone ever paid to why these beings gave away presents or how they ended up together. This story had the most inventive take on their backstories by far, and I deeply enjoyed reading it.

I’d heartily recommend Mrs. Claus to anyone who loves modern spins on traditional fairy tales.

Prince of Secrets by Lucy Monroe

Prince of Secrets by Lucy Monroe
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

100% Determined

100% Devastating!

Prince Demyan Zaretsky does whatever it takes to protect his country. So seducing Chanel Tanner will be easy. And marriage? An unfortunate side effect of duty. She unwittingly holds the economic stability of Volyarus in her hands…and he must secure it.

With his royal identity and intent disguised, Demyan sets about a ruthless seduction designed to make Chanel lose her mind with ecstasy. But when he discovers she is a virgin, he uncovers something in himself—a conscience. Now his plan takes a shocking turn—one this dark-hearted prince had never anticipated!

I’m in love with a book. Whenever I read a romance by Ms. Monroe I know that my heart is going to be touched, my emotions tugged and my happy buttons pushed. Prince of Secrets did not disappoint. There’s a way this author writes her characters that makes me smile and feel good.

Basically, Demyan, the hero, makes himself into the perfect man for the heroine, Chanel, in order to fulfill an edict from his king. What the hero never expects is to end up exposing himself, his true self that he never lets anyone see, in the process. The fall of a ruthless shark is delicious. I enjoyed watching him fall.

Chanel was a treat. I really mean that. There are three episodes where the author could have written her reactions in such a way as to make me agitated, cringe and experience stress all in the pursuit of ‘conflict and angst’. What Ms. Monroe did was give me a heroine who was smart, really smart. She observed, she listened to what was said and unsaid and as a scientist, knew how to formulate a theory and extrapolate a conclusion. I liked that she could apply it to people, not just science. That ability provided one of the most emotionally satisfying and powerful scenes when she confronts the king. I felt so … impressed and relieved! I also believe that it showed the strength of her love – it was as close to unconditional as a woman can get about a man with issues and secrets. She’s not a pushover and she’s not as inept as her parents always made her feel. In fact, the revelation about their true relationship is a heart-tugger as well. I liked Chanel.

One of my favorite parts is when Chanel revealed why she studied a certain language. I grinned from ear to ear when she laid that one on Demyan. One of the hottest scenes was in the theater box. The heroine was such a minx! And the reaction of the hero? Everything I could have wished.

When I read a novel written by Ms. Monroe, I always come away feeling like I’ve been treated to a high caliber romance. I certainly did in this book. I’m satisfied with the happy ever after delivery, the epilogue and the feeling of real love between the hero and heroine. Prince of Secrets has it all. If a reader is looking for a book that inspires optimism, joy and enjoys a bit of sass, this is a must read novel.

The Right Fit by Daphne Dubois

The Right Fit by Daphne Dubois
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (247)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

When Maxine Nicholls discovers her fiancé is cheating, she turns to fast food and nighttime soap operas, but her sister has a plan—unbridled rebound sex with a stranger.

As one of Toronto’s hottest players, Antony Laurent tallies scores on and off the ice, but when the chiseled defense man hits a slump, rumors of a trade to the minor league send him to ambush a managers meeting at a posh club.

That night a chance encounter ends up as an unforgettable evening of passion. But Maxine and Antony are about to discover a game of casual hook ups can lead to something neither one of them thought they deserved—the right fit.

At the end of the book there is “a word about the author…”. I must quote it for you because I believe it would have been beneficial if I had read it in the beginning of the book. “Daphne Dubois writes steamy contemporary romance and loves putting her characters in awkward situations. She believes the right book at the right time can make all the difference.” I must say that the author was an over achiever. This book is anything but your average romance book. The characters, plot, and setting were all unique, contemporary, steamy and awkward, yet, heartwarming. It all makes for an entertaining read.

The heroine, Maxine, is relatable and I connected with her. However, I felt like she was an endorsement for plus size woman. It’s wonderful that our society is finally embracing body diversity and we’re seeing a greater acceptance of girls in different sizes. I applauded Sports Illustrated when they featured a plus size model on its cover. Name brands and magazines are finally paying attention and we’re seeing less body shaming in society. Therefore, I had trouble with Maxine constantly struggling with her self-image. I would have liked a stronger leading character. Yet, I understand the need for the focus to be on her weight concern because it was significant to the plot. There was a moral to this story; The Right Fit was more than just the size of the clothes.

Our significant others can be “The Right Fit” – which leads me to the hero, Antony Laurent. I don’t have any complaints about him. He was divine and I wish he was mine. Antony’s first language was French so he struggled to speak English; that was entertaining and romantic at the same time. I loved that Antony was a hockey player for the Toronto hockey team. I grew up around hockey and met my husband at a hockey game. I had no issue considering Antony to be my book boyfriend. He was drawn to Maxine and accepted her for who she was inside and out. She was very lucky to have that chance encounter with him. Together they were “The Right Fit” and full of chemistry.

There were other significant characters that were relevant to the plot such as Maxine’s twin sisters, Crosby and Rose. Maxine also had a brother named Westley. Westley had a best friend since elementary school named Stuart. The most special character that was heartwarming was Carmine. The character that caused conflict was Antony’s brother, Marc. Together they made for a memorable cast of characters.

My attention was caught starting with page one. The author’s writing style kept my attention all the way until the end as I continuously turned the pages at a steady, moderate pace. I enjoyed the quirky awkward moments since they made me snicker from the imagined embarrassment that I’d feel if I was in that situation. I can’t say the plot was predictable. There were plenty of emotional provoking threads that were unexpected.

Here is the point where I get perplexed about my review because near the end of the book I got perturbed. Without giving any spoilers there is an unexpected and unnecessary scene that as far as I’m concerned was pandering to make yet another social statement. Prior to this scene I was satisfied with how the story was progressing. The scene was not relevant or necessary to the romance between Maxine or Antony. The entire scene was rushed, illogical and superfluous. The scene could be cut out of the book and no one would miss it because it had no relevancy to the plot. I felt the author did the story a disservice by adding that m/m kiss – literally seconds before the monumental moment where the leading man and leading woman realize they are destined to live their happily ever after. I have no issues with gays, lesbians, transgender or whatever but I would have liked to have been warned that there was some m/m in this story. It’s not my style to read those kinds of books, even if it’s one scene. This scene happened with 10 pages of the story left! I didn’t see it coming. If I was in the audience I really don’t think I would have been cheering and applauding.

This was a worthy read despite the irrelevant scene. I was entertained and would recommend this book with a warning about the m/m scene.

Fortunately there was an epilogue which helped erase the shocking scene from my mind though not completely, hence the difficulty of writing this review. Luckily this story had many great scenes such as when Maxine, who is an esthetician, loved to name the colors of her nail polish. I thought that was clever and unique how the author connected the name of the polish to the current scene at hand. I wanted some of her nail polish that she described. I loved the humorous sexy banter between Maxine and Antony. I appreciated the dedication at the beginning of the book. It says “This book is dedicated to every woman who has ever gone bathing suit shopping—you’re beautiful and worthy. Own it.” This was definitely the moral of the story. A great message for all women.

Addicted To Her by Sam Crescent

Addicted To Her by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (85 pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

From the moment Alfie Brown saw Sophia Cross, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was meant for him. She is perfect, beautiful, and he wants to own, to possess every single one of her curves. All he has to do is make sure they meet, and then he can get her to fall in love with him. Simple enough, and he is a man who always gets what he wants.

Sophia just can’t make a decision that could affect the rest of her life. All people want her to do is pick a subject, pick a career, and then live with it for the next fifty years—but the next fifty years is a long time.

Still, when her friend begs her to go for an interview at Brown Enterprise, Sophia can’t say no. Though it is the worst interview of her life, she gets the job, much to her surprise. And her boss, Alfie, is unlike any man she has ever known. His skills draw her out, and she comes alive. She can’t say no to him. He surrounds her, makes her feel things that she really didn’t think she could.

But how will she feel when she discovers the truth of how he planned everything, from their meeting to her job?

Alfie is unapologetic in his possessiveness of Sophia. While they might not be dating – indeed, she isn’t even aware that he’s addicted to watching her – Alfie knows beyond a doubt this woman belongs body and soul to him. He just needs to show that to her. After a year of protecting her from afar Alfie is finally ready to make his move. Can he convince Sophia that he’s everything she needs?

I had to laugh in a number of places throughout this story. The warning about Alfie being slightly stalkerish is a truthful one – he’s put his nose into her medical records, hacked her home computer, made a deal with her boss to get her a better raise, Alfie is absolutely an all-or-nothing kind of guy. But I have to be honest, while he’s definitely “overbearing alpha hero” in abundance, I personally found the manner with which his character was written was light-hearted and almost tongue-in-cheek. Would I want a guy in my life doing almost any of these things? Hell no. Do I think someone who truly is a stalker or this much of a control-freak is a good thing? Definitely not. I can see for many people this wouldn’t be a joke – and readers should absolutely keep this in mind before purchasing the book. But I personally felt it was written really well – light and not in a controlling/abusive or horrible way – and the author made it abundantly clear beneath this veneer Alfie truly did love Sophie and want only the best for her. This is what shone through for me and along with the lighthearted – almost humorous – method of portraying it, made it quite palatable for me.

When they finally meet, Alfie knows he needs to move slowly. I enjoyed watching Alfie and Sophie’s characters interact and follow along as things moved both according to Alfie’s plan – and not according to his plans too. I felt the best part was the slow burn building between them. Particularly since Sophie had no idea just how thoroughly Alfie already knew her, I would have found it too unrealistic had she simply taken one look into his eyes and dropped her pants – Sophie just isn’t that sort of character. But watching them get closer – watching Alfie having to wait and maneuver delicately – was fun and helped show me just how well these two could finally work together as a romantic couple.

The fact it was a slow-burn and not a crazy, red-hot insta-love really helped sell the relationship – and thus the whole story – to me. I really liked this and feel it was exceptionally well handled by the author. The sex was hot and steamy and sure to appeal to readers who like their sex explicit and just a very little bit dirty. Alfie has lusted after Sophie for so long when they finally manage to consummate their relationship he can’t hold himself back any longer.

Readers should pay strong attention to the stalkerish/controlling hero warning but I’m personally pleased I gave this story a shot. I found it to be a fun, loving and interesting story that because of the characters read as quite fresh and different to me. I enjoyed Alfie and Sophia’s characters and was thrilled to see Alfie finally get his woman.

Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.

Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.
Publisher: Legacy Books LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?

This book is basically the story of two different men, Ben and Bill, in the same law firm—both in the running to become a partner and both being handed two very difficult cases to handle as a test of their abilities.

Ben is from an affluent black family and has grown up being called an “oreo” (black on the outside, but white on the inside). His girlfriend, Becky, is a white woman while his best friend, Gabby, a black woman, has her own issues, especially about Ben dating “away from his own kind.”

Bill, on the other hand, is a white man who grew up the only white child in a black neighborhood. He’s dating Ebony, a black police officer. Because of Bill’s background, he often uses slang and expressions from his neighborhood – Ben has issues with this, feeling that Bill is trying to just put on a black skin.

Black and White does an excellent job exploring prejudice and racism – it is so very much prevalent in this story. Not one person escapes it – Bill probably comes the closest to being color-blind in this respect. He is caught in a tough situation. Not only does he want to become partner so he can propose to Ebony and provide for her, his mother is desperately ill—he wants to take care of her. He is chosen to defend a white ballplayer who is accused of raping a black stripper.

The focus of the story is on the law cases and how the lawyers approach them as well as how the cases effect not only the lawyers but those close to them.

There were a couple of quibbles with this book that irritated me and kept the review from being a solid 5. The editor in me cringed every time the author turned black and white into proper adjectives, i.e. (from the blurb) ” When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations.” Also, there were a few instances in the story where the main characters had flashbacks to their lives as kids. I understand that the author wanted to show how they got to be the people they are today, but to this reader the long passages of flashback took me out of the story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but there was also an incident during Ben and Becky’s dinner with her parents and their friends that didn’t quite ring true to me… I was completely and utterly blindsided by Ben’s actions in that instance.

Apart from those few things, I really enjoyed the storyline and the way the court cases worked out. Bill was by far my favorite character in this book. He’s the one that seemed the most sincere to me. I could definitely could see this as a movie … actually given the ending, it would make a very neat series.

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Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone

Lullaby for My Sister by Nancy Barone
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full length (310 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Peony

When Valentina and Lucy Mancino’s mother died, and their father turned to alcohol to cope, Valentina quickly understood it was up to her to run the household and take care of her little sister. But Valentina was only nine years old. And when their new step-mother moved in, along with her two sons, Val also knew things were about to change for the worse.

Fifteen years later, while Lucy is flailing in life, Val is running a successful career, but she’s also hiding a terrible secret. She soon discovers that her former home is suppressing secrets of its own—many unspeakable truths are dying to be told.

Heartache and hope will keep you turning the pages of Nancy Barone’s Lullaby for My Little Sister. What can only be described as an emotional ride, kept me hooked from start to finish with a plot that extends in the past and present both full of realistic joy and anguish. Nancy is an author with a lot of experience in the romance genre, but with this book tries something new, telling a mystery full of themes of family, love and trauma. The initial promise of a book about the connections between two sisters share goes well beyond this and explores many themes that feel very real and visceral to keep you reading till the end.

Lullaby for My Little Sister is a tear jerker right from the get go. You’re faced with the loss of family, but the well of grief doesn’t end there. Rather than gloss over or focus on one tragedy as the focal point, this story weaves itself around the cascade of other problems one loss can bring. The book is almost entirely internal, but there are actions associated with the emotions, even though most of it is musing from the part of the lead. Perhaps more external narrative could have given the book a better pacing, because it is quite slow to start, but the narrative style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just prepared for a slow burn.

This book has a very strong family element and a cultural aspect of Italians living in the US. Anyone who’s read a book from this cultural viewpoint may find it familiar, even if it isn’t a culture like their own. The pains taken by the author to incorporate the family culture into the book is extremely helpful in creating a sense of immersion and filling in some of the blanks for how the characters interact with each other. Unfortunately, the other side to the cultural portion of the book is the stereotypes that go along with it. There were many parts where I just felt like I was reading something from a mob story, even if the mafia have no part of the book.

Another neat thing this book does is how the acts the characters are engaging in become allegorical for the story at large. The act of cleaning becomes one of cleaning one’s life and these themes remain constant through the book. By telling the story literally but also figuratively at the same time, the author manages to tell the story in more than one way. This aspect of the writing is very hard to explain but it worked very well and I rather enjoyed it. Perhaps this could be described as one of the strongest hooks the book has.

There are some triggers that you as a reader should be aware of before starting this book. Themes of sexual assault and loss of parents do come up and while I won’t spoil how or for whom, I will say that they become unavoidable in the story at large. If these are the sorts of things that you might struggle with then be aware they’re there. Additionally, child abuse comes up in this book and like the other themes, cannot be skipped. While these themes are treated with the weight and magnitude they deserve, for some they may hit a little too close to home.

Despite all the strong emotional storylines and clever figurative moments this story has, there is one thing that harmed the immersion if just a little. Nothing in this story was particularly out of the realm of reason, but the sheer volume of misunderstandings and shocker twists that occur started to at times feel like a soap opera. There really isn’t anything wrong with soap operas, they are hugely popular and for a good reason, but not every reader is going to find that to their taste. Personally, though not a consumer of soap operas, these instances in the story were little more than a small stumbling block I could easily get over and move beyond. It would be a shame to skip this story over something like that, but at the same time it is good to know it’s there.

Perhaps not everyone should read this book, those that have certain triggers from their own past trauma might want to take a pass and anyone who really isn’t interested in high drama may likewise find this too dense. For me personally this book was one of the most emotional investments I’ve undertaken in a while and it was hard not to appreciate all of the aspects of family, love and overcoming issues that come up in the story. For anyone looking for a book that expertly mixes the good and the bad should probably pick this book up as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed.

Scarred Mate by Maggie Mundy

Scarred Mate by Maggie Mundy
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Fern

A drug lord wants Rosie dead. Making friends with a werewolf may be the only way to stay alive…

Rosie had everything. A job as a cop, a lover, and a great future. That was six months ago. Now she has a scarred face, no job, and has lived through betrayal. Her only choice is to head for the hills when a drug lord comes after her. If not, others could get hurt.

Connor doesn’t fit in with his wolf pack and his scars mean he has never found a mate. Rosie could be that mate or she could be the death of him.

Six months ago Rosie had been enjoying her life – a good job as a cop, a lover and a bright-looking future. Now, about to leave her apartment and go into hiding, the only good thing in Rosie’s life was the orgasms she had while she slept and dreamed of her imaginary lover, a stud who was scarred same as her. When Rosie escapes to a small log-cabin in the middle of nowhere, she never expected to meet six-foot tall handsome stud Connor, who has scars – and secrets – of his own.

I found this to be an interesting and slightly different take on the usual “man meets woman in a cabin in the middle of the woods” style of story. I admit I was expecting quite the cliché and was delightfully surprised. Rosie might have her own baggage and problems, but is determined (and not in a pig-headed manner either) to rely on herself to fix them. Connor carries his scars (internal and external) but doesn’t wallow in pity or act over-aggressive to compensate for them. Indeed, considering their genuine problems, I was impressed with how well-adjusted both Rosie and Connor were. It helped me really relax and enjoy their story and quite early on I was thoroughly invested in them both together as a couple and individually as characters too. That made reading this story both a delight and a pleasure.

I loved how despite being determined to solve her own problems, Rosie was mature and sensible enough to know when to ask for help. I loved how Connor knew that despite them being mates that imprinting himself on Rosie before they got to know each other wouldn’t go down well – and I was even more impressed how while he acknowledged these things his wolf-self couldn’t help but imprint on her anyway. I found it just so refreshing that Connor and Rosie both were just so sensible and realistic – it let me enjoy the plot and paranormal world the author had built without wanting to roll my eyes or disconnect my brain and “just roll with it”. My only real complaint was I noticed quite a few typo’s throughout the story and felt the editing could have been a bit tighter (“bate” instead of “bait”, “branched” instead of “branch”, “t-towel” instead of “tea-towel” and few more on top of that).

Readers looking for an interesting and somewhat different style of werewolf romance will likely be pleased with this short story. The sex is steamy, the characters complex and fresh and the pacing goes along at a good clip. I found this to be a fun and well-written tale.

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (412 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.

Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.

Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own . . . until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.

But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy. . .

What’s a famous man to do when he’s famous for things that never happened? For things that paint him as a public personality when he’s so much the reverse? Adding in the complications from a heroine who wants absolutely no part of a man so much in the public eye that he seems shameless creates quite the conundrum. Such is the contrary, fun and complicated romance between Alaric and Willa.

This novel is definitely character driven because it’s a push/pull between what the heroine expects a future husband should be and a hero who wants to be what she needs but is stymied by something that he truly can’t control. It’s like Lord Wilde is a rock star of the Regency period. Woman steal the bricks from his home, they want to tour where he supposedly trod as a child – they are obsessive and frenzied romantic fans of a man who is a larger than life hero. Because of all that unwanted attention Alaric has become a man wary of a woman’s intentions, until he meets the most unusual and fascinating Willa. I enjoyed when they met but I really liked how he slowly realized that she wasn’t a sycophant. In fact the heroine is the complete opposite and she kept him at arm’s length. Well, she tried to but eventually she spends enough time with the hero to see the man underneath the fame. The reason why she has that time to explore and delve into the man named Alaric is what endeared me to their romance – I was charmed, entertained and thoroughly invested in seeing them come together and fall in love.

The weird twist comes from the dynamics of both heroine and hero having alternate personalities. Ms. James found a unique technique to explore a romance between two people that seemed so different but are in truth very much alike. Sure, they fight it and that’s half the fun but how everything gets resolved is cheeky and adorable.

Just in case a reader thinks it’s all seduction, light hearted problems and fluffy prose, the author does include a villain to spice things up. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this person was not only going to be a problem, I even guessed quite correctly the method of diabolical intent and delivery. Even knowing that didn’t detract from my enjoyment because it’s always the presentation that can make or break a scene and I’m glad to report that Ms. James employed a clever and impressive solution.

As for secondary characters, there is quite a few that made an impact, not only in Alaric and Willa’s romance but as couples themselves. Parth and Roland stand out the clearest. Roland for his bad clothing taste, and Parth for his sour grapes personality towards the heroine’s cohort in crime made both of them kind of comical yet the author did hint at serious depths so there is definitely more to learn in future books. I am certainly looking forward to the discovery. But my absolute favorite characters were Sweetpea and Hannibal. What a fascinating pair and definitely assets to the heroine and hero.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t wax poetic about Alaric and Willa finally succumbing to that wonderful buildup of repressed passion they both inspired in each other. Those were well written, inventive, and quite enjoyable. Just make sure to have something cool to drink for a few of the scenes – they were a lot hotter than I expected causing me to blink a few times. Whoa.

All in all, Wilde in Love is a historical romance treat. The antics that surround the fandom of Lord Wilde, the adventurer, made me snort and snicker quite a few times. I think the final scene was done with flair, style and was greatly amusing. I believe that fans of Ms. James will be quite pleased in meeting Alaric and Willa. They were a fun couple and I’m glad I met them. I can’t wait to see whose story gets told next. I hope it’s as good as Wilde in Love.