Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele


Spirit of the Crow by M. Carolyn Steele
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full Length (338 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In 1836 John McGregor, a Scottish and Seminole half breed, kills a white man in Florida. The crime is worse when the man turns out to be an Army sergeant. Self-defense is no excuse. McGregor is angry––angry with God, the Maker and Taker of Breath, angry with the red man as well as the white. Among the Indians, this rage earns him the name, One-Who-Gives-No-Chance.

The hardened outcast hides among hundreds of Creek Indians being forcibly removed to Indian Territory. No-Chance ignores the human misery until a scream awakens a hidden memory. He risks exposure of his secret and intercedes for an injured woman in labor. The birth of the infant begins the redemption of John McGregor as he seeks to escape past demons and, despite the hardships, make a place for himself in Indian Territory.

John McGregor is half Scotch and half Seminole Indian. He looks mostly Indian but his blue eyes give him away. He got in a fight with a white man in Florida and killed him. It was self-defense but he’s a half breed and the white man was an Army sergeant. They’re after him. He joins Indians that are being taken to a different reservation and keeps his head down.

This book is factually accurate and covers a very painful time in the history of the US. The Indians were driven from the land they grew up in. They were promised goods and meat by the Army but it never came to be. Ms. Steele bases her story on the Indians themselves and while it’s a sad tale, it’s told well and makes you think of all their suffering.

Things start to go wrong when he notices a young pregnant woman who can barely walk. He tries to give her aid but when she falls, the soldiers are ready to whip her to get her to move again. He stops that and it takes the Indian Scout to save him from trouble. They leave the woman behind and assign John (No Chance) to get her up with the group later. Her husband remains behind also. The woman goes into labor, the men have no idea what to do, and while the baby lives, the mother dies. They bury her and join the Indians again.

Despite all the hardships and loss of hope, No Chance doesn’t give up. Trying to hide among the Indians is not so easy to do. They won’t give him away but they won’t stop the soldiers either.

The story reads well and keeps your interest. As you get into the spirit of the Indians, you can relate to their fear of the white man. No Chance has visits from his dead father. He needs his guidance. It’s all believable as you read it. No Chance ends up with a chance at the end of the book.

If you’re familiar with Indian history, this is a visit to the past with memorable characters. If you’re not, this story will be enlightening. Give it a try; it’s an excellent read.

Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster


Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A plain countess…

Tainted by illegitimacy, plain Sarah Martin has no illusions of a grand marriage. So when the Earl of Langford makes her a proposal that will take her one step closer to finding her half sister, she can’t refuse!

Sebastian’s dreams of romance died with his late wife’s affair, so now he needs a convenient wife to act as governess for his silent daughter. Yet Sarah continues to surprise and challenge him, and soon Sebastian can’t deny the joy his new bride could bring to his life—and into his bed!

France, in the time when the guillotine ruled…the reality seems a harsh world for the nobility, and for Earls like Sebastien Hastings. He’s caught in a terrible, but secret, predicament.

Sarah Martin’s life is more a matter of dreams and hopes than reality. She dreams of London, of fashion and, as she says herself, she is not ‘of hysterical disposition.’ She acts on what she believes, which can cause her to plop into the most unlikely of places. The earl finds himself telling her that he finds her peculiar…which seems to delight this odd gal! He certainly needs some help…and she certainly needs direction…but marriage?

Married for His Convenience (which seems like it should be entirely predictable, given the title) is entirely unpredictable and a delight to read, besides.

Clever conversations and unpredictable situations make this novel a bit of a standout and fun to read. The characters keep us reading: the earl is unexpectedly compassionate, and Miss Martin’s take on life is quite unexpected in every way. In fact her life and actions are not always entirely believable, but this is a small matter in what is largely a great read.

Descriptions, especially of the English countryside, are just-right; never overdone or intrusive: “His mount stopped at its summit and he found himself looking into a picturesque valley, interrupted by a silver stream threading through its base…” One can almost see the valley.

Intriguing yet heartfelt, Married for His Convenience is also quirky and fun. Do put it right on top of your reading list.

The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels


The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (457 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When the love of Lady Isabelle Fairlyn’s life is betrothed to her twin sister, Isabelle vows to find a suitable replacement before the end of the season. He must be a talented dancer, have a keen fashion sense, and be perfectly dashing in every way.

Fallon St. James is the farthest thing from perfectly anything. As head of the secretive Spare Heirs Society, he must stick to the shadows…even as Isabelle’s friendship pulls him reluctantly into the light. But when Isabelle gets involved with the one man who could destroy Spares, Fallon must decide between protecting his life’s work―or risking everything to save the woman whose warm smile leaves him breathless.

Isabelle Fairlyn, so naïve and yet so eager to have a marriage founded on love, makes one want to reach out and steer her away from faulty judgments she makes about men. Her maturing as she learns the outside appearance does not really show the true nature of a man makes for page-turning reading. Her innate joy and innocence come alive on the pages.

Fallon St. James, all business as he works tirelessly to save the Spare Heirs Society, sees her as a mystical beauty, innocent, a wood nymph who makes him smile; something he rarely does. How the two of them become friends is a delight to read. How they become more than friends is even better.

How Elizabeth Michels weaves in back story and the villain Reginald Gapling is masterful. Gapling’s elusiveness and threat create an edginess to the plot and a sense of unease for the well-being of Isabelle. In her naiveté, she finds him charming.

Elizabeth Michels uses all the usual trappings of early nineteenth century life in England, but with twists and unique main characters. The spare heirs, so often the misfits, become guardians of the seamier side of London while making a living in a society that often leaves spare heirs in limbo with no trade and no inheritance..

The Wicked Heir, extremely well crafted, is captivating and powerful with an elaborate plotline and intriguing characters, plus the innocence and joy for life woven into it all makes it extra special.

Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain


Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (326 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend―whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart―and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

Friends who long to be lovers, but fear crossing the line, Kate and Evan tiptoe around their feelings, but crave each other’s company.

The death of Kate’s husband, who was Evan’s best friend, leaves each of them with a heavy load; hers is a load of debts left by her unfaithful husband and Evan’s is a load of guilt. How they work through the conflicts makes attention-keeping reading.

When Nora and Declan, Kate’s children, enter the picture, with their views about life before and after their father’s death, the story gains depth. Their actions and words show so much about how children see, the often complicated, ways that adults handle things.

Kate and Evan are in the company of both their families as they find their way. The contrast in their families’ life styles and the way they see themselves reveals much about how Kate and Evan came to be the way they are – interesting reading. It is easy to see how the world has been gray to Evan most of his life.

The secondary characters, like Janet Ahearn and Mary O’Dowd, along with the back stories and how they figure into the things Kate and Evan must sort out dovetail together in intriguing ways. They even fit in with some of the underhanded ways of the antagonist, Finnian Driscoll.

I particularly enjoyed the dialogue with the nuance, humor, and understatement. The author has an amazing way of writing so the reader feels as if she is right there in the experience with the characters.

Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott


Abbey’s Tale by Katherine McDermott
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (202 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

An immigrant from Ireland, Jeremy McKetcheon took the place of a wealthy New Englander drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War. Jeremy, terribly scarred by a shell that set fire to his tent, is now a reclusive lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Maine. He is haunted by flashbacks of the war, and never expects to find love, understanding, or acceptance.

Beautiful but blind from birth, Abigail Morrison sees the world through the intricate carvings her father brings back from Lighthouse Island when he takes supplies there. She wonders about the artistic carver and why he hides from the world. But when the opportunity arises for her to visit the island, she and her father are tossed overboard in a raging storm. Having seen their distress from the lighthouse, Jeremy attempts a rescue in the frigid waters, and all their lives are changed forever.

Abbey’s Tale was a sweet, endearing love story between Jeremy and Abbey. Jeremy, whose face was scarred while fighting in the Civil War, and Abbey who was born blind, were given a chance at love. While together they learned about inner beauty. They both helped each other to overcome their insecurities. Jeremy felt his face was repulsive and would rather be a recluse. Abbey worried no one would fall in love with a blind woman because they’d think she was a burden. From the moment Jeremy and Abbey met their lives changed for the better. If you add an amazing dog named Bailey, meddling relatives, crashing ships, and a criminal who threatens, robs and lies, then you have a recipe for a 5 star book. Oh! Let’s not forget Jeremy’s Irish accent, it was completely irresistible.

In a world that is full of judgmental people it was nice to read how Jeremy and Abbey showed the community what true love is. The plot thread with the criminal added an interesting twist with a bit of suspense throughout the story. I’d like to point out the plot thread when Abbey’s aunt and uncle meddled in Jeremy and Abbey’s relationship. It was well intended meddling and as a parent I understood, but I understood how Abbey felt as a child. As a wife I understood how Jeremy felt. I was all emotionally mixed up but then realized that is what family is about. It all worked out for the good. It’s a perfect example and lesson of why the young should respect and listen to their elders.

This was a well written story that progressed nicely and held my interest from the beginning to the end. I’m glad I chose Abbey’s Tale to read by the pool on my weekend. It was a wonderful, heartwarming love story. There was so much more to this tale that you just have to read it for yourself.

It definitely was a quality read that I’d recommend to others, especially to a reading club because there are thought provoking discussion questions at the end. I could see this book being turned into a movie in the theaters with a young Mel Gibson playing the hero and Julia Roberts playing Abbey. I’d love to see the lighthouse scenery that Katherine McDermott described come to life. I do think this novel would make a beautiful historical romance movie. Abbey’s Tale is a must read!

The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz


The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Time Travel)
Length: Full Length (380 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

She has nothing to live for in the present, but finds there’s something worth dying for in the past…

From Tiffany Reisz, the international bestselling storyteller behind The Bourbon Thief and The Original Sinners series, comes an enthralling new novel about a woman swept away by the tides who awakens to find herself in 1921, reunited with the husband she’s been mourning for four years. Fans of Kate Morton and Diana Gabaldon will fall in love with the mystery, romance and beauty of an isolated South Carolina lighthouse, where a power greater than love works its magic.

Love comes in peculiar ways, but if we’re willing to embrace it we’ll win.

Tiffany Reisz has a way with words. I can’t lie. The author is a true story teller. As soon as I read the blurb, I wanted to devour this book. Who doesn’t like a time travelling romance? Who doesn’t want a happy ending?

I’m glad to say I got what I wanted from this book. The characters are interesting and the landscape fascinating. The descriptions of the lighthouse and what Faye sees are breathtaking.

But…as much as I liked the book, there were a few quibbles. The writing is good, no doubt, but I put the book down a handful of times and getting back into it was difficult. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good book. It was. But it had a hard time occasionally holding my interest. I also had a bit of a time with the jumps in time back and forth to 1921. I had to go back and reread to make sure I knew what was going on. Still, it was good.

I liked Faye, the heroine, too. She’s been through hell and come back. I didn’t always agree with her decisions, but hey, that’s fine. She’s a very twenty-first century woman and seeing her with a very twentieth century man–Carrick, was good. The thing was, I had a hard time connecting with her. I kept expecting more from her. But that doesn’t mean she was a bad character or it was an unsatisfactory read. Far from it. The author deviated from what I thought would happen and that’s fantastic. I’d rather be surprised and I was. Carrick was my favorite character. Strong, quiet and very Irish, I could practically see him whenever he was on the page. He’s the best part of the book for me.

If you’re looking for a book that spans time frames, that’s written eloquently and is not the norm, then this might be the book for you.

Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon


Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (194 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

With the Tasty Tomato Tournament just days away, the small town of Martha’s Point is all abuzz. This is the first year without a sure winner, and the competition is fierce to gain the judges’ approval, even before the tournament starts.

But when Ivy finds one of those judges dead in a shed across the street, things go from bad to worse. All she wanted was seven glorious, kid-free days of messing around with her husband. Instead, she’s going to be tracking down a killer, staying out of the way of a pickle-obsessed farmer, and dodging the new cop who seems out for her blood.

The Tasty Tomato Tournament is just a few days away and Ivy is very glad. Someone is destroying other contestant’s tomatoes and her husband has brought all his in the house in pots. He’s also brought in his gnomes. He says those make his tomatoes grow well. Maybe so, but they aren’t going to be in her house…

While she’s helping carry them back outside, her next door neighbor calls to her. She thinks she’s her husband and wants him to help her. When Ivy says he’s in the shower, she takes Ivy over to show her the problem. What she didn’t mention was that the problem was a dead body.

This is a cozy mystery that flows well, has plenty of action, romance between Ivy and her husband who are trying to vacation since their children are away for a week, cliques of town folk, tomato judges and more. The dead man was a tomato judge. It seems he got stung by wasps but there were no wasps around. He wasn’t all that stellar of a judge either. Then there’s the pickle man who’s handing out flyers and trying to get support for his festival.

With lots of suspects and bad behavior all around, you can’t guess who the killer is ahead of time. The rookie cop would like to blame in on Ivy and her husband. They spend a lot of time fending him off during their investigation. It makes for some amusing reading and a few laughs.

This was an overall good read and Ivy now has her own private investigator license. Life is going to get even more exciting in the future!

Steele and Stone by Kay Phoenix


Steele and Stone by Kay Phoenix
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (170 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Elle Thompson was raised in Denver. She paints. She hikes. She knows how to avoid cougar attacks.

The only cougars Michael Williams usually worries about are the ones that wear leopard print leggings on 5th Avenue.

But, when his acquisition firm sets its sights on Elle’s family business, his tidy life goes awry. As things unravel, so do all his preconceived notions of love and what makes a perfect partner.

Steele and Stone was a short story that can be read in a small amount of time. It captured my interest from the first page and managed to keep me turning pages until I reached the end.

Michael, the hero, wasn’t quite my type of man so I had trouble relating to him but for the heroine, he was Elle’s type of man and together they were relatable. I prefer a strong and decisive hero. I had more respect for Elle for staying focused on her priorities. Together they had to get past previous emotional hurts before their love for one another could flourish. It was a bit slow and tedious, yet still an enjoyable process that was accomplished before the book ended.

The plot wasn’t original and was quite predictable yet I still enjoyed the journey. The writing style was average. I think the characters, such as Michael’s Uncle John, could have been more developed to add a bit more substance, suspense and drama to the plot. I just felt like this book didn’t meet its full potential. However, my curiosity was able to overlook those flaws. I was like a fly drawn into the trap. I couldn’t look away. I needed to see how it was going to end. Actually, the ending was wrapped up quickly. Perhaps even a bit too quickly but at that point I was ready to move on.

I would recommend Steele and Stone to someone who is looking to pass time with a quick, easy and uncomplicated short story. This would be a great book to read on a two hour plane ride. I look at it this way – if you are starving to read a romance story then this would be a great appetizer!

The Recipient by Audrey J. Cole

The Recipient by Audrey J. Cole
Publisher: Gum Tree Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (301 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

A year after serial killer Michael Rhodes is executed and allowed to donate part of his brain as an organ transplant, Sergeant Wade McKinnon gets called to a murder scene that shares uncanny similarities to those of the late Michael Rhodes. Other similar killings happen around Seattle, and Wade seems to be the only person still alive who knows enough about Michael Rhodes’s murders to be able to replicate them. When evidence found at one of the crime scenes points to Wade as the killer, he races to find the real culprit before it’s too late to clear his own name.

Elle is overjoyed when her husband, Brian, gets a second chance at life when he receives a partial brain transplant after suffering a debilitating stroke at the age of thirty-seven. Their lives seem to return to normal, but Elle notices a disturbing change in Brian’s behavior. When Elle learns that her husband’s brain cell transplant came from Michael Rhodes, she fears that Brian now has the mind of a serial killer.

A psychological thriller — my favorite kind of story — with a twist.

The Recipient follows a couple of folks… one is Wade, a cop and a recovering alcoholic who, six years prior had arrested the person called the Seattle Slasher, who was subsequently put to death by the state. However, new murders start to occur, with details known only to those closest to the case and this puts Wade under the microscope. People in his own department begin to think he could be committing copy cat murders.

The other main character is Elle. Her husband receives an experimental brain cell transplant, which restores his former health after a stroke, but he starts behaving oddly and out of character. When Elle finds out the cells came from the Seattle Slasher, she wonders if personality characteristics can also be transferred with those cells.

I love that Wade is not perfect. He has problems and doubts. His best friend and partner was killed during the apprehension of the Seattle Slasher, and he’s never completely recovered from that. He’s been sober just over a year now, and is doing his best to stay that way, but the new murders test that resolve. Elle loves her husband, or at least loves the man he was. She grows to be afraid of this new man, and eventually she works with Wade in trying to discover just exactly what is going on. Wade needs to prove his innocence, and she wants to discover just exactly what is happening to her husband. Both of these characters really tugged at my heart. They’re good people; earnest, kind, caring. And stuck in a set of circumstances neither could have ever imagined.

I’m not a fan of infidelity, and have to admit I was worried originally as I read it, that this book might stray into that territory. It doesn’t, really, though both characters do grow to have some feelings for one another. This is, first and foremost, a mystery and a well written one at that. The story and the characters drive this book forward, and made me want to keep reading. It’s smoothly written, and the only time I had any issues with the writing was the use of “alright” instead of “all right”. It’s actually used quite a bit, especially near the end, and it’s one of my language pet peeves (blame an exuberant junior high teacher). Also, the way the ending panned out had a frequently used technique that I’m just not a fan of in mysteries (I can’t be more specific without spoilers — and I promise, you do NOT want this story spoiled for you). Those were the main reasons, both based on things that are personal to me and may not bother you, that this story didn’t get the full five stars.

I really liked Wade and Elle. I noted on the cover of this book that it’s “An Emerald City Thriller” and I’m hoping this means we’ll see more of these two in the future. I’d sure like to see how they move forward after all the trauma of this book.

I highly recommend The Recipient to fans of the genre and look forward to reading more from this talented author.

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Sins of the Father by Winter Austin


Sins of the Father by Winter Austin
Publisher: Crimson Romance/Adams Media
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (191 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Newly pinned deputy Jolie Murdoch’s first big job as a McIntire County deputy is to locate a missing girl. What Jolie doesn’t expect is to stumble upon a corpse—the girl’s father—with a prime suspect still hanging around. But why would local bartender Xavier Hartmann go off the deep end and bludgeon a man to death?

A former marine, Xavier is barely coping with a traumatic brain injury, and he has no memory of what happened at the crime scene. He came to Eider to confront his past, not get embroiled in a murder as the number one suspect. To make matters worse, as the mystery deepens, Xavier finds himself drawn to the reluctant deputy.

As Jolie fights against mounting pressure to get to the truth, she realizes there’s more to Xavier than meets the eye. But someone is lingering on the fringes, determined to put a stop to her investigation and Xavier’s freedom. Will Jolie do her sworn duty or buck the status quo to give her and Xavier’s newfound passion a chance?

OMG, I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight. I need to sign up for another self-defense class since it’s been a few years. I own a gun but now I want a concealed-to-carry permit. If only my husband was a former marine like Xavier, the hero in this book. It’s amazing how I can get so wrapped up in a book and feel like everyone I know is a suspect.

Seriously, this was a great book! More suspense/mystery than romance but there was so much going on that there wasn’t much time for romance. Jolie, the heroine, had a lot on her plate as the newly pinned deputy. The moments Jolie and Xavier had together were spent on trying to prove his innocence. However, the couple of kisses they shared were breathtaking. I’d like me some Xavier kisses. 🙂

I had no idea that this was book three in a series until I had finished reading it. You don’t need to read the previous books however I am interested in doing so. Based on the well written plot in this story which blew my mind away, I’d like to read the other two. I loved the well-developed characters in Sins of the Father so much that I would like to get to know them a bit more by reading the two previous books. I enjoy reading strong leading heroines who stand up to their leading men. I think Winter Austin will have to be added my list of “favorite authors”.

I definitely recommend this book if you like suspense/mystery romance. It should keep you on the edge of your seat rapidly flipping pages like it did for me. The mystery kept me guessing until the very end and then everything is nicely wrapped up with no loose threads. While there isn’t an epilogue one wasn’t needed; Jolie and Xavier made their “decisive decision”. 🙂