Christmas 911 by Lori Leger

Christmas 911 by Lori Leger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (270 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night. Several months later, the Texas native is en route to a family gathering early on Christmas Eve when an emergency shopping trip lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. As circumstances deteriorate, she receives a shred of hope in the faceless presence of the 911 dispatcher she only “knows” by the soothing sound of his voice.

Luke Oliver is counting down to the end of his dispatch shift, anxious to begin his chillaxing tropical vacation. When a frantic caller asks for him, he has no idea it’s the faceless Cori he’s assisted on two prior occasions. He remains with her throughout the crisis, becoming her calming influence throughout the storm.

But will Luke be able to walk away when the time comes, or will this single 911 call change his life forever?

“911…What’s your emergency?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I just read a smoking hot romance book and I think I’m on fire.” I’m totally, burning for the hero, Luke Oliver. Joking aside, I’ve had to call 911 a few times in my life and I’ve never had an operator that sounded sexy. My life is so unfair. LOL!

I almost didn’t pick this book to read when I read the synopsis and it stated, “Corinne Ritter’s life changes drastically after she loses her husband twice in the same night.” It just didn’t make sense to me but after I read the story it totally makes sense. In fact, it’s the beginning of an ingenious plot. I’m not sure how realistic it is but anything is possible, I found Christmas 911 to be one hundred percent entertaining.

As I reflected on the heroine, Cori, I experienced many emotions. There are many thoughts I’d like to share but I can’t without spoiling the numerous plot twists. It’s safe to say that I was happy for Cori, sad for her, scared for her, worried for her and even laughed with her. She was by far one of the most relatable heroines that I’ve read in a long time.

Luke was calm, stable and had unwavering strength when necessary. He was very sensitive and attentive to Cori’s needs which I found endearing. If I was going through a crisis I’d like to have Luke by my side. I also enjoyed Luke and Cori’s relationship because together they were quick-witted and quite funny. It was easy to see where Luke and Cori got their sense of humor. Both of their families were comical.

The synopsis tells you that Cori stops for a last minute shopping trip on Christmas Eve that lands her in the middle of a robbery turned hostage situation. That single event was a pivotal moment that had me on the edge of my seat. It was a riveting storyline that added suspense throughout the plot.

There are a few things I’d like to mention that earned my respect towards the author. I loved how she addressed the importance of family, camaraderie among police officers/military and the support of breast feeding. I especially respected the argument in the elevator regarding the “education person.”

I can’t say this book was predictable. I did not see that ending coming at all. Wow! I’m feeling frustrated that I can’t speak about it. It was a Wow! ending. A fishing enthusiast will love it way more than I did. 🙂

This was a very good book. I’m glad that I was the one that got to review it. This book would make a great Christmas present for my friends. I definitely recommend this book for those looking for a unique heartwarming love story and/or a reader that believes in true love and that anything is possible.

A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger

A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (138 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind.

Tim Santini believes he’s finally found the woman for him, but Gia will take some convincing she’s that girl. A misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something he’s not.

Can a kiss stolen under the Christmas lights persuade her to spend the rest of her life with him?

When I started reading A Kiss under the Christmas Lights, the first thing that hit me immediately was the writing style. It is important to stress that if you are like me and dislike books that are written in first person point of view, please give this book a chance like I did. I admit that when I started reading the first page I was like, “Oh, no!”, and was about to decline the chance to read it. But, with the first Italian lesson on page two? I was drawn so completely into the story I forgot I was reading a first person point of view. That itself is a testimony to the writing style. I have to give praise where praise is due. I was shocked that I enjoyed the entire book considering my pet peeve over first person romance books. Well done Peggy Jaeger! I enjoyed how Ms. Jaeger incorporated Italian lessons throughout the story. I’m not Italian but I have friends that are and the author hit the nail on the head with how she described this Italian family in the book.

As for the plot, again I was thrown for a loop. Maybe I should have mentioned the plot first in the initial paragraph. I don’t know which I’m more excited about, the writing style or the plot. It was clever and original. The misunderstanding that is mentioned in the synopsis was so effective, I simply could not put the book down. It was worth every minute I spent reading. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a quick read and I just might read it a second time because I wasn’t fully prepared for what I was about to experience. It was unpredictable and yet I’m surprised I didn’t figure it out sooner than I did. Regardless, when I did figure it out, the revelation was priceless – absolutely the best misunderstanding one could invent. I’m dying to blurt it out but that wouldn’t be fun or fair to future readers.

The heroine, Gia, and the hero, Tim, are perfect for each other. They are an example of fate. They were destined to meet each other and fall in love. I loved where and how they met and I enjoyed how their story evolved especially that misunderstanding. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. The ending was so sweet my teeth ached. I was left feeling a happy book glow.

If it isn’t obvious by what I’ve already written then you’re missing the point. This is a must read, especially if you’re Italian and even if you’re not. I hope you’ll laugh as much as I did. I absolutely would be proud to recommend this book. I have learned a valuable lesson for the future. I won’t be so negative about books written in first person POV. A Kiss under the Christmas Lights was a sheer delight!

From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy

From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (60 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

To the moon and back, here are ten tales with a twist. The unlikely characters have one thing in common–they’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. As the old saying goes, you have to watch out for the quiet ones.

From a quirky inventor, humored by his neighbors, to two old men out to dinner, to a more-than-meets the eye beverage maker, the stories will take you into the minds of the overlooked and unseen. Ignore them at your own risk.

Sometimes good things come in small packages.

“The Chicken Pot Pie Fiasco” followed a family throughout the day as they cooked and otherwise prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Chicken pot pie was their traditional main course for it, but this year they had trouble finding the right ingredients for it. I can’t say much else about the plot without giving away spoilers, but this was a funny and heartwarming tale that made me grin. Figuring out the mystery element of the plot was almost as much fun as seeing what happened once the pie was ready and everyone gathered around the table to eat it.

While I liked every story, there were a few that had too many characters in them. “From Hay to Eternity” was one of them. It was about guy named Darren who was giving a Halloween hay ride to a teenage girl named Tiffany as well as some other visitors to the farm. There were so many other characters included in the plot that I had trouble keeping track of all of them. It would have been nice to focus on Darren and Tiffany instead, especially once I realized what was really going on during the hayride and why Darren kept mentioning the conflicts that some of his family members were having about what they wanted to do with the farm in the future.

Bert and Sol went out for a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant in “The Perfect Bite.” Not only were the descriptions of their food mouthwatering, they made me even more curious to find out what the twist was in this tale. The hints were deliciously subtle. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about these characters and their dining experience. This was my favorite tale from the entire collection because of how much it made me look forward to finding out what was really going on here.

If you’re in the market for short, snappy mysteries that are full of unexpected plot twists, look no further than From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit.

The Gingerbread Skirmish by Robin Weaver

The Gingerbread Skirmish by Robin Weaver
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (104 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A freak snowstorm represents financial ruin for Kaley McIntire. She can’t transport a special order of gingerbread. No delivery means no payment; no payment means Kaley can’t make the rent on her in-the-red coffee shop.

Abandoned in the middle of nowhere, the same snowstorm represents frostbite for Tanner Clayton. Instead of showing appreciation when Kaley rescues him during a blizzard, he fixates on getting home to his violets. Not understanding his plants are part of a NASA experiment, Kaley assumes he’s gay, and Tanner doesn’t correct her mistake.

Stuck in her cabin for three days, chemistry heats up the mountain home, but can love possibly grow from a friendship built on a lie?

Tanner had been dumped. In the frigid cold, pre-Christmas snow and practically in the middle of nowhere, Tanner found himself walking for miles trying to find some civilization. Half a mile away near her cabin, Kaley spots Tanner. Undecided as to whether he’s a potential serial killer or just a genuine guy caught in the snowstorm, she ends up Googling him and finding out the man is a botanist. Convinced he’s gay, she allows him to seek shelter from the storm in the cabin with her. Only Tanner isn’t gay. And Kaley might be in over her head.

I found this Christmassy tale to be equal parts funny and sweet. I loved the author’s voice and even found the family-friendly Christmas-speak humorous (reindeer-hell, son of St. Nick etc). While the plot itself isn’t anything new – boy and girl find themselves stranded and snowed in at Christmas time – I thoroughly enjoyed how the author managed to keep the story completely modern. Internet connectivity and the dreaded cell-phone dead zones played a strong part of the plot and made it so I can’t believe anyone would take this as anything except a modern story. I was a little disappointed at just how antagonistic Kaley came across in the beginning. Far from being the hospitable host, she made it very clear how eager she was to get rid of Tanner, calling him names and degrading his genuine stress about his plants (he’s a botanist, so it didn’t seem at all outrageous to me as a reader that his concern over his research and plants was genuine and heartfelt) and generally being quite rude to my opinion. Her attitude really made it hard for me to feel any chemistry or spark between them, and her distaste of Tanner made their eventual romance quite hard for me to believe initially.

I was very pleased that the romance built slowly between Tanner and Kaley. After such a quick meeting and particularly after Kaley was so antagonistic initially, the saving grace for me was that the author really stretched out the shift from annoyance and defensiveness to romance and lust. This helped the whole evolution of their relationship feel much more realistic to me, and making their slow fall into love believable really helped me warm up to Kaley’s character and begin to enjoy the story. As I relaxed into their romance it became a delight to watch these two become intimate and fall in love. While I don’t feel that the sex is “erotic” or explicit, it’s not behind closed doors either. I feel this will be a lovely spicy read for those who like a bit of heat with their romance, but not the outrageous descriptiveness of modern erotica. There is also a lot of romance, a slower pace as the relationship between Tanner and Kaley builds and plenty of talking which I feel firmly places this story in the “spicy romance” category.

Even though this book is part of a series I had no problems keeping up with everything. The plot really does mostly revolve around Tanner and Kaley so the fact I didn’t know anything about some of the other citizens of the small town or know about their traditions didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the story. While I’m sure the story would be more fulfilling for readers who have read the rest of the series, I found it good enough to read as a stand alone.

A fun and enjoyable Christmas story.

I Wish For Your Kiss by Cynthia Moore

I Wish For Your Kiss by Cynthia Moore
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Holiday
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Justin Wexley, Marquess of Rockton has decided he doesn’t want to be married. He has come to this conclusion after many uncomfortable experiences with young women who were thrust upon him by their domineering mothers as possible candidates for the position of his future wife and Marchioness. He is tired of discussing the weather with these silly, nitwitted girls. He is perfectly happy taking care of his large estate with the knowledge that one day his cousin, a smart and diligent young man, will one day inherit his title and property.

Miss Catherine Simms arrives at her friend’s home in the country to celebrate Christmas with her and her family. She discovers that the Marquess of Rockton has also been included in the invitation. Catherine has heard the rumors about Lord Rockton’s aversion to marriage. She finds him to be intelligent as well as handsome and greatly enjoys the time spent with him. Regrettably, they part under less than ideal circumstances on Christmas day.

Fate works its magic and the two of them meet again two years later. Can Justin and Catherine forget about their less than ideal experiences from the past and begin to make lovely, happy moments together in the present?

Justin Wexley – the Marquess of Rockton – was spending the Christmas holidays with his friend from Eton – Edward Teague, the Earl of Norton. Justin was surprised at how another guest – Miss Catherine Simms, a childhood friend of the Earl’s wife – somehow managed to flummox him. Finding the vibrant and engaging young woman constantly on his mind, Justin is uncertain if his previously held notions on remaining unmarried might have been a little precipitous. Can Justin and Catherine both get their fondest wish for Christmas?

This is a very different and oddly interesting Regency romance story. Far from the usual tales of ballrooms and dalliances, discreet affairs or sneaking around the corridors at a house party, I really enjoyed how both Justin and Catherine came to Edward and Mary’s home to celebrate Christmas quietly with their respective friends. Also refreshingly I loved how neither Edward nor Mary tried to set up Catherine and Justin. In many respects I found this a really different, fresh perspective on a Regency story.

I enjoyed how Catherine was quite knowledgeable on many topics – architecture and farming, as well as general court and ton style gossip – but didn’t appear overly bookish or like a know-it-all. I have to admit that although the author gave an exceptional explanation as to why Catherine was so knowledgeable about farming practices, it still felt a little unrealistic to me. Women – even avid readers who were single children and close to their parents – were kept strictly kept away from the “men’s business” of things like agriculture and farming. Also, far more selfishly, while it was lovely to see Catherine talk so knowingly on such a variety of subjects, the number of pages talking about farming and such did grow old for me quite quickly. I enjoyed seeing Catherine charm Justin in such a novel way, and it absolutely proved how strong their connection was and gave a really good basis for them emotional connection and a strong basis for their chemistry, but it struck me as just a little far-fetched.

I greatly enjoyed all four main characters. I liked how there were layers to them and how all the usual traps of a Regency Romance weren’t really present here. I felt this was a fresh take on a Regency Christmas story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also enjoyed how the conflict, while not completely original, nevertheless didn’t feel stilted to me and wasn’t the dreaded “we had a miscommunication and parted angry” style of play that’s massively overused to my mind. Perfectly sweet, there are a few chaste kisses, but I found all other romance is kept inside the interactions between the characters and in the chemistry that builds slowly but wonderfully between Catherine and Justin.

A sweet and wonderful Regency Christmas short story, I found this a lovely tale with great characters and tons of plot. A brilliant story.

Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick

Spell Caster by Leah Hamrick
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Three paranormal short stories. One sweet, one dark, one fun. Which one will be your favorite?

Love Caster: There is nothing greater than pure, sweet love, and that’s something Anna Bowden knows all about. While trying to get the courage to kiss her boyfriend Killian, she has to deal with her overbearing dad, who will stop at nothing to tear them apart.

In the Darkness: After Anna Bowden witnesses someone—or something—lurking in her backyard, it starts a chain of frightening events that leads to a gruesome discovery.

First Holiday: Featuring the characters from Frost On My Pillow—be prepared for a sweet, fun, wild ride. While Ethan gives Lyla—who has never celebrated Christmas before— the task of finding out the true meaning of the holiday, he surreptitiously tries to tell her how he really feels, but before that can occur, a lot of decorating and snowball fights has to happen!

Three stories can be better than one!

Spell Caster is a collection of three paranormal short stories. The first two stories focus on Anna and Killian and the special powers they possess. The two stories are interesting in that they look at the world from the eyes of youth with special powers. Anna has the genealogy of witchcraft which is shunned by her parents, so she must hide her own powers from all of those around her. Strange things and strange interactions do occur and there is often little that she can do about it.

The third story involves paranormal aspects, but is much heavier on the beliefs and customs of those who walk the world without special powers. This story has two completely different characters who are at two completely different points in their lives than Anna and Killian. Though this story is very engaging it felt very out of place after reading the first two stories.

I did enjoy the characters from the first two stories, I feel that the two stories taken as one longer-continuous story would have the greatest benefit. Although the third story was enjoyable, I feel that I was left out in the cold. The character development from the first two stories greatly surpassed the character development in the third story. The backstory and history of the characters and the involvement of the supportive characters in the first two stories led to a more dynamic and involving tone. The title of the book is even slipped into the first story and is played on in the second story. Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of minor instances in the third story, it seems almost completely separate.

Some of the dialog felt forced and did not flow smoothly. Some of the storyline in all three stories felt rushed and I feel that much detail had been left out, which in turn hurt the overall flow of the stories. I feel that one longer more involved and continuous story would have benefitted the overall theme and focus that the author is working to convey. I do appreciate and support the direction that the author has positioned the book as a whole, but I feel that a stronger and more involved story line would have done these characters more justice.

If you are in the mood for three fun stories that will challenge how you look at the world around you, I recommend picking up a copy of Spell Caster!

And the Day Came by Phyllis H Moore

And the Day Came by Phyllis H Moore
Publisher: Del Corazon LLC
Genre: Historical, Holiday
Length: Full Length (219 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Hints of a secret about her father surface when Doris Marie Linney’s mother dies when Doris is twelve. The only girl in a family of five boys, Doris has always longed for a sister. From an early age she has been comforted by her mother’s brothers, the Johnsons, and their extended family. Gatherings at the Lamar bay house always included Doris. She had her cousins, Ida Ross and Bernice to keep her company. However, she was aware of her Danish Johnson heritage and knew nothing of the Linneys.

Doris’s search for her parents’ identities delivers a family saga beginning in the 1700’s, but always leading back to the same breezy slope facing the Aransas Bay. Uncle Jamie’s bay house, set among the bent oaks on the Lamar Peninsula is where she can watch approaching storms and say goodbye to her brothers. It’s also where she can eavesdrop and discover the worries of her uncles.

In this work of historical fiction, Doris reveals the circumstances of the death of her father as told by the sons who witnessed it, but for some reason her uncles seemed to believe he deserved his dramatic demise.

“When they would consent to tell us the story, we’d sit in silence, staring around at each other as if it was a sacred time. I guess it was. It was the death of our father, witnessed by his sons. In a way, they wrote on our memories with their words. We watched their faces when they retold the story and knew they showed our father’s death a reverence because they had been there to witness it and lived to tell it. Doris wished her uncles could show her father the same respect. She wanted him to be the man Ernest and Harry revered.”

Will Doris’s search for the truth about her father confirm her ideals, or will the revelation of a secret lead to more mysteries? Meet the characters driving this saga, Doris Marie Linney, Uncle Bernard and Jamie, Anna Mae, and her lovable brother, Teddy. And what about the Farleys? Who are they and why the mystery with the uncles? The people define the story and they have always been capable of changing their futures.

This is the story of Doris Marie Linnley and her family. It begins just after Heart, mother of Doris and her many brothers, dies while giving birth to the next final addition to the family, a half sibling to the others who goes to heaven with his mother. Doris is then sent away to school and the book carries on through her teenage and adult years.

Unfortunately it moves from past to present with hints at the future then back to the past. Many of the scenes were out of phase with the previous chapters and to be told something would happen in the future made me want to skip the rest of the book and find the future bit. As I was going to review this book I did not do this, but persevered and found the individual scenes were good, although I did find it difficult when the point of view head hopped from Doris to her children. It wasn’t until I got to the end I realised what the main theme was, but this had slipped past me with all the other things going on.

The story could be great but I was left wondering what happened to several members of the family and who were some of the others. They had nicknames, but it wasn’t evident what name belonged to who.

This could be an extremely good book if it moved through the years instead of going from one decade to another.

The scenery and description was extremely well done, especially the parade of nuns. Parts were very enjoyable and the theme was good.

If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford

If We Had No Winter by D.L. Pitchford
Publisher: Straight on till Morningside Prints
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (245 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

Can a father who turned his back on a child want her when she’s an adult?
College freshman Billie Dixon has always found solace in calculations and her secret drawings, hiding from the more difficult parts of life—her mother’s alcoholism, her inability to connect, and of course, her estranged father. That is, until she arrives at Bradford College in Vermont, where the Math Department Head is her father.

After a semester of avoiding him, her father insists she join him for the winter holidays to rekindle their relationship, and Billie is at a loss. While she tries to uphold the status quo, her father refuses to be pushed to the sidelines and forgotten. Just as she realizes she doesn’t want to lose him, her meek and shy father kicks her out of his home during an argument. Can Billie swallow her pride and make amends with her father or will she lose him forever?

If We Had No Winter is a gritty coming-of-age tale about loss, love, and learning to try again.

College is a time of exploration and learning about one’s self and the world; Billie Dixon is about to meet these challenges head on.

Billie struggles with her shattered family life and with her first year college classes at Bradford College, where her estranged father is the head of the Math Department-which happens to be the major that Billie is interested in. The good news is that Jimmy, Billie’s best friend from school, is in the dorm room across the hall from her. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Billie can’t stand his roommate Xander. Billie is focused on academics and lets out her frustration in the form of artwork, but this becomes problematic when a student Billie begins to tutor has a romantic interest in her. Still, there is the issue of her difficult relationship with her father.

If We Had No Winter is a strong story that looks at the home we leave when we go to college, the life we want to make, and then what happens when everything comes crashing down. Billie is a relatable character that has her own passions, concerns, challenges to social acceptance and from time to time, even severe difficulty connecting socially with those around her. The first person perspective is fantastic to give the reader a glimpse inside the head of a girl that on the outside has everything figured out-but on the inside is struggling to keep it together.

The character dialogue flows smoothly and Billie’s social awkwardness is understandable. The actions from main characters to supporting characters is relatable for the reader and the plot is deep. The focus does not always rest on relationships or family ties, but the author blends everything together to make it “real life” and believable.

Near the end of the story, a dramatic turn occurs which is completely unexpected. This turn ties everything together and we see a side of Billie that is both unexpected and deeply real. The reader is then tasked with wondering “what would I have done?” as Billie’s actions play out.

Be sure not to miss If We Had No Winter-this deep story will be sure to make a personal connection that you will not easily forget!

Make a Wish by ED Parr

Make a Wish by ED Parr
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (36 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and Nick Kringle is making deliveries on the main street of the city when a car breaks down at the intersection. He rushes to help him and comes face to face with the most delicious man he’s ever seen.

Amid the seasonal crowds and inclement weather, Dylan West gets out of his stalled car and tries to push it to the side of the road. Dylan’s down on his luck, but his hero Nick believes in magic and decides to throw a little Dylan’s way.

Can wishes come true? You bet—especially if Nick Kringle has anything to do with it.

A sweet read for a chilly evening.

I’m a sucker for Christmasy stories. This one hit the spot. The writing flowed well and the characters were interesting. For a quick read, it satisfied.

Dylan’s had a rough time. He’s getting over being shot and he’s having a hard time finding a job. Like super hard time. No matter what he does, he can’t seem to get ahead. I could relate to him. I’ve had those days and what seems like week-long moments of nothing going quite right. There were times I thought he got a little too far into his depression, but if that was the author’s purpose then kudos. There were just times I thought Dylan was almost too…he wasn’t even willing to see the bright side. Then there was Nick. Talk about the opposite of Dylan. Positive and willing to help. I liked him and his can do attitude. When the two got together, things heated up. The thing was, the circumstances were a little odd, but I could go with it.

If you’re looking for a short read for the lunch hour or a quiet night, then this might be the book for you.

Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet

Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

He could be her best worst decision…

With a glass of wine in hand, Jane Keegan’s finger is poised to delete the account her pushy BFF created for her on “The Cowboys” escort service website. Sure, she’s lonely, but not desperate. Then an image of sky-blue eyes and warm, tanned muscles jumps off the screen. And she finds herself hitting the “Book Now” button.

After all, why not? She’s a free, divorced woman on business in San Antonio. There’s nothing to lose…except her nerve. Especially when Mr. Tall Dark And Incredibly Sexy meets her at a River Walk bar—and his only-for-you smile turns her insides into a quivering mass of second thoughts.

Ryan Zeigler is enduring one last escort assignment only as a favor before hanging up his Cowboys hat to run his own restaurant. Yet there’s something about the pretty New Yorker’s vulnerable grin and I’ve-got-baggage eyes that halts his usual dating M.O. in its tracks.

When Ryan sweetens the deal—no strings, no payment expected—Jane the good girl takes the bold step of letting her vixen out to play. But when it’s time to go home, her heart is at a crossroads. Is Ryan the real deal? Or is she letting yet another man take her heart for a ride?

Meddling best friends get their partners in crime into the most embarrassing and enjoyable situations. Copious glasses of wine, a pushy friend, and more than a bit of loneliness after her divorce, get Jane to try a Cowboy escort. Of course, she gets more than she bargained for from this unusual date and wraps up the year during the holiday season with more than one surprise!

Ryan Zeigler is hot, mature, a successful businessman, and one of the most caring, family-loving men to come across many women’s path. With his Spanish background, he offers a charming mix of San Antonio to Jane’s palette, and her activities. The chemistry between him and Jane is sparking with electricity…and self-doubt. The sex scenes leave that doubt in the dirt 99% of the time to produce consensual, empowering scenes that feel intimate and personal rather than run of the mill. This partnership is made to last and its shown through each intentional, confidence-building move that Ryan makes.

Jane, on the whole, is a woman who has seen better days in her personal life and her personal approach to life. She needs revitalising and to be shown how to enjoy life again. I love that Ryan is the man to electrify her into the woman she should be, but I hate that very often alcohol is behind her decisions. Often, she is very passive in the face of a fork in the road, and this smacks both of a lack of confidence, and of an old-fashioned approach to relationships.

Of course, family and Jane’s pesky self-doubt as the older, divorced woman, puts a spanner in the works for the couple, which they must overcome long-distance. A tricky obstacle. This was where the book was lacking for me. The magical date scenes, the beauty of place and atmosphere in the getting-to-meet-you scenes were wonderful, truly immersive. The obstacles the couple must overcome are more run of the mill – predictable – and take a long time. The book could have been a good third shorter and still covered the ground it aimed to, while making the plot much more succinct and enjoyable. For me, the book wandered too much after the first major obstacle and became more of a tick the boxes approach to traditional romance: marriage, kids, family life, working life, and the white picket fence. I suspect much of my reluctance here is due to my experiences and age. I’m not an almost thirty woman looking to settle down and I’m not looking for that traditional passive, inexperienced female and super-experienced male sex king, relationship. That’s not my ideal and doesn’t chime with my values.

For many others, Fire and Midnight will tick the boxes of their dream man and their dream life. Certainly, the locations of San Antonio and its River Walk are almost Venice-like in the beauty of the picture which is painted, and the loving relationship which is begun under its roofs. This place and lifestyle is what I fell in love with, and I’m sure many other readers will swoon at the chance to experience the lifestyle painted in the rivers, gondolas and eateries, all with splashes of Spanish charm.