Death Benefits by Sharon Saracino


Death Benefits by Sharon Saracino
Max Logan Series Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (205 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Max Logan’s insecurities have consumed her to the point she has allowed them to skew her perceptions of people and circumstances. She has grown progressively more bitter, sarcastic, and solitary since her divorce and feels as though she has spent a lifetime getting the short end of the stick through no fault of her own; still she trudges on.

Things can always get better, right? Of course, it’s hard to cultivate optimism when she finds herself dead, the victim of a D.I.E (Death in Error) caused by an overeager Grim Reaper in Training. She brokers a deal to be sent back to Earth as a temporary substitute for the Superintendent of Spiritual Impediment.

Can a girl who can’t recognize her own problems rectify the issues of the living impaired? Or will she discover that concentrating on their issues gives her a new perspective on her own?

What do you do when you slip in the shower and wake up dead? This is what happened to Max Logan. She wakes up in the foyer of the afterlife – which looks like a dirty bus depot – and finds her life has been cut short by accident. What to do? Bargain for another chance at life.

This book is hilarious. Max feels extremely sorry for herself, divorced, unemployed and living above the garage of her father and stepmother and now she’s dead through no fault of her own. Her ex interferes with her second chance at life and her outlook changes to consider others, rather than herself. She has to temp for the supervisor of the afterlife and her challenges come thick and fast. She doesn’t even have time to get over her accident.

Max is a very innovative heroine and the book is definitely one that can’t be put down until it’s been read from beginning to end. I was chuckling all the way through. This makes it sound as if there’s no mystery or conflict in the story, but there’s plenty on each page.

To sum up the book has reflection, confusion and lots of humor with a very likeable heroine.

Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer


Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (190 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Unexpected dragon shiftings have increased since the conference in China. More deaths being covered up inexplicably sends Lee Svensson to Japan to investigate from the Swedish Embassy. Why is it World Watch, Inc., a marketing company, is always on site when a shifter dies? Lee is charged to find out. When the husband of his wife’s best friend discovers an account he is managing, World Watch, Inc., is manipulating oil companies by buying up all available stocks, the two realize their paths are the same. Now that their wives have announced the impending births of dragonlings, it is imperative the men solve this riddle. An American dragoness shifter and former full blood warrior dragon will prove courage comes in all sizes.

Shape shifting dragon investigators try to determine why some dragons are shape shifting without intent. The bodies are hustled away but where and who is doing the hustling?

I love dragon stories and this was no exception, although there were several disappointments in the story. Several times some of the main characters mentioned they would “talk about it later” but never did. Also when something happened which showed dangerous intent, it seemed to take forever for any action to take place. A discovery by a servant who wanted to warn others of the danger, goes no further. Why not?

Other than the above inconsistencies, the concept of the story was great showing that even in the dragon hierarchy there is misconception, deception and the intention to harm others of their kind. Loved the little babies coming into the world and causing immediate chaos to their parents. The aftermath was a bit insipid, but on the whole this story was reasonably good.

The Girl on The Beach by Morton S. Gray


The Girl on The Beach by Morton S. Gray
Publisher: Choc Lit Limited
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (255 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

After divorcing her abusive husband, Ellie changes her surname and she and her teenage son settle in a small seaside town. Her past rushes into the present when Harry Dixon, the new headmaster, reminds her of her son’s father, a surfer she met just before her marriage. She sternly told herself this wasn’t possible as Ben Rivers had died in a surfing accident before her son’s birth.

Ellie and Harry pull backwards and forwards as she tries to make him confess his real identity, while Harry is determined to remain in character as the headmaster. Things come to a head when the past rears its ugly head and threatens to pull their lives into oblivion.

This book is a delightful contemporary romance set in a seaside town in England. The angst of teenage life shows itself in the past and present allowing the flashbacks to Ellie’s teenage years to come to the fore.

A pleasant book, not too dark, but a little bit of mystery added makes the story more intense, and there is also a touch of danger in the final pages. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The Moreva of Astoreth by Roxanne Bland


The Moreva of Astoreth by Roxanne Bland
Publisher: Blackrose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (453 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

In the service of the Goddess…

The stubborn, spoiled, favored granddaughter of the Devi goddess Astoreth, Moreva Tehi has neglected to perform her sacred duty and now she must be punished for her transgression. Temporarily banished from Temple life, she is dispatched to Mjor—a backwater village in the Syren Perritory—to assume the roles of custodian of the landing beacon as well as the spiritual leader and commander of Astoreth’s garrison stationed there. In this perilous place of wild beasts, outmoded technologies, and harsh seasonal change, a fragile peace exists between the distrustful hakoi and the hated Devi, held together by an iron-clad Protocol—whose laws, if broken, could lead to war.

She will discover an ally in the kindly village healer Hyme and a dangerous adversary in Kepten Yose, her subordinate. But the gravest threat to Tehi’s future is the Mjoran chief, the charismatic, golden-haired Laerd Teger, whose elusiveness and cool disdain the Moreva finds both infuriating and fascinating. For it is he who will impel her to break her most sacred vows and seek out the dark secrets of her gods and her world, setting them both on a course that can only lead to damnation and death.

Tehi, Morev of the Devi God Astoreth, is sent to Astoreth 69 in the Syren Perritory for blasphemy against the Gods. Her punishment would have been worse if she hadn’t been the granddaughter of Astoreth. At the back of beyond outpost, she discovers a world previously unknown to her and gets into even more trouble.

The story follows her through a settling in period, antagonism from the villagers, helping the healer, learning unpalatable truths and then the book arrives at a dramatic climax. Woven into the story is romance and deception.

An original story, well written and engaged me right from the beginning. The only problem I had with the book was the length. It could easily have been one hundred pages shorter and still been the same exciting story. Being so long it runs the risk of the reader giving up before the end.

Definitely a true science fiction tale with conflict, romance and a brilliant ending.

The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang


The Eye of Nefertiti by Maria Luisa Lang
A Pharaoh’s Cat Novel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (208 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The Eye of Nefertiti is both a stand-alone novel and a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat. The time-traveling ancient Egyptian feline with human powers returns together with his beloved Pharaoh and his close friends, the High Priest of Amun-Ra and Elena, an Egyptologist’s daughter.

The cat is quick-witted, wise-cracking narrator as well as free-spirited, ever-curious protagonist, and the story he tells is an exotic, imaginative, spell-binding tragicomedy. The cat travels from present-day New York City to England, both ancient and modern, then to ancient Egypt, where he confronts a horrible demon and experiences a sublime emotion. Once back in England, he descends into a psychological abyss so deep only the Pharaoh can save him.

The Eye of Nefertiti interweaves feline and human, past and present, natural and supernatural. It contains numerous surprises, twists and turns, intriguing characters, both human and animal, fascinating revelations about ancient Egyptian history and culture, and an ingenious application of the Tarot and an Italian opera.

An Egyptian Pharaoh’s cat is brought forward in time with the High Priest and they find a new life in New York. The High Priest finds love and the cat discovers he is able to speak and walk like a human. A tarot card reading sets them on a path to Egypt’s past, but not their own time, where they must solve the mystery surrounding Nefertiti.

The storyline for this book is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, it’s written in the first person which can be a difficult concept, and this is proven in this novel. The cat is the narrator and I felt as if I was in a history lesson at school, listening to details of what occurred, rather than listening to a captivating story. In places the book came alive and these bits I enjoyed, but on the whole I found the delivery disappointing.

On the plus side, jumping from era to era in the ancient world adds a bit of spice to the story, and the idea of a cat with human attributes is fascinating.

The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah


The Pact by Brantwijn Serrah
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (243 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Fleshlings and darklings… Rune-weavers and demons… When you walk in the land of the Reaper, who will survive?

Serenity Walker has cast runes for as long as she can remember. Her teachers call her a prodigy, and her secret studies hold the key to unlimited potential. Once an orphan left on an old woman’s doorstep, Serenity finally belongs. But when her mentor is murdered right in front of her, her hopes of a home die with him.

Her quest for vengeance leads her into a dangerous deal with a demon. Armed with its dark power and her own talent with the runes, she blazes a trail across the lands where ranchers and railroad men are kings, where the prevailing law is the law of the gun. To find the man who reshaped her past, Serenity offers up her future. She’ll face a world where weavers are hunted down to be hanged, whipped, or burned alive…but she won’t face it alone.

As Serenity’s mission takes her farther than most weavers are willing to go, she’ll have to decide who her true enemy is: the wicked men of the world, or the powerful demon inside her.

Serenity Walker is an orphan and rune caster who learns how to be a weaver of runes from Jack, the local Sheriff. When Jack gets killed she makes it her life’s work to wander the world and find the man who shot Jack and give him the most horrendous death possible. To do this she must become a member of the Black Guild of weavers and bind herself to a darkling demon.

This was an interesting book and well written. Usually a story with a lot of flashbacks can be a bit disconcerting, but the change of timing from past to present in The Pact only enhances the story. Serenity is a very strong character who has a goal in life and will pursue it no matter what. Even an attraction to another Black Guild weaver does not make her stray from her path. At times the story sent a shiver down my spine, but I had to finish reading the book.

I’m not sure whether I liked this book, but the story certainly made me want to carry on reading. It had depth and passion, not romantic passion, but the type of determination and fieriness which makes the strong, but likable character that is Serenity.

A Leap of Faith by Nell Castle


A Leap of Faith by Nell Castle
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (273 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

At her core, merchandising maven Sophia Anton is an old-fashioned girl. To start a family by age 30, she’ll do what’s needed to make sparks fly with an old friend—including a crash diet. But when Sophia meets Jackson Thomas, the handsome new minister in town, she quickly finds she’s playing with fire. Sophia’s new look is working like a charm to snag the man of her dreams, so why is it Jackson’s face she sees when she closes her eyes?

Jackson, whose troubled past has led him to adopt a life of celibacy, never expects to feel hot under the collar for a woman of his own parish. How can Jackson dream of a future with Sophia after he’s shut the door on love?

Sophia is alone in the world, except for friend Kate and her boyfriend, ballet dancer, Christopher. Kate believes Christopher is using Sophia as a crutch and has no intention of taking the relationship further, but Sophia believes deep down he loves her.

Kate ropes her friend into helping at the church, although Sophia has not attended since her parents died a few years before. Imagine her surprise when she finds the old minister has retired and the handsome young Jackson has taken his place. Jackson has a tragedy in his past and is not interested in a relationship and Sophia has Christopher, nevertheless they feel an attraction for one another.

A beautifully written book with a few twists and turns which kept me interested. Other characters keep the story moving and provide a lively backdrop to Sophia’s busy life and conflicting thoughts.

Tender, light hearted and a twist that I didn’t see coming. All these kept my interest to the end of the book. I pleaded silently with the two main characters to get their act together. Did they listen? The book needs to be read to find out the answer.

Desperately Seeking Salvage by Misty Simon

seeking
Desperately Seeking Salvage by Misty Simon
Adventures in Ghostsitting, Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (86 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Mel Hargrove, eighties enthusiast, is the protector of much more than random cars and broken washing machines. Each piece in her precious junkyard has a ghost attached to it. No one in Frysville is aware of the secret that’s just down the road from them, and she wants to keep it that way. But when she finds naked statues of aging townspeople in the main square, she must figure out if someone, or something, is missing from her junkyard and out causing havoc. With a host of ghosts behind her and her new boyfriend beside her, Mel is ready to take on almost anything. Almost being the operative word…

Mel had very few friends, but she took care of a lot of ghosts in her salvage yard. Her father spent most of his time on the road collecting salvage with ghosts attached to them. Some of the resident ghosts earned their keep by attending to matters in the community which would be difficult for a fully fleshed human to do. Others stayed for a while then passed to the other side.

Her loneliness ended when she met Becker, the local vet, and they started dating. He gradually became aware of the ghosts and Mel was relieved when it didn’t seem to make any difference to their relationship.

Their peaceful existence changed when marble statues began appearing in the center of the town and Mel is convinced it has something to do with a rogue ghost. She and Becker set out to capture the ghost and return the statues to life.

This book is warm and lighthearted with a little bit of strength and determination. I knew Mel and Becker would win as they are such strong characters. There was no way Mel was going to let a ghost terrorize the town. A bit of humor also helped the story along and I found it to be one of those books I couldn’t put down. Although only 86 pages long, it packs a lot into these pages and provided me with an excellent few hours of reading.

Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle

death
Death on Windmill Way by Carrie Doyle
Publisher: Dunemere Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (350 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The Hamptons are known for beautiful beaches, luxurious living, millionaire mansions, and now…murder!

Antonia Bingham, a renowned chef and the new owner of East Hampton’s Windmill Inn, escaped to the Hamptons to get away from a harrowing past. Yet now she finds herself in more danger than ever when she discovers the inn’s previous owners may have been victims of murder. Will her overly inquisitive personality be her downfall as she digs up secrets in her attempt to solve the crime?

In the first book of the “Hamptons Murder Mystery” series, bestselling author Carrie Doyle Karasyov (The Right Address; Wolves in Chic Clothing) brings readers behind the scenes for an exclusive glimpse of life within one of the most spectacular playgrounds of the rich and famous. Antonia’s investigation weaves through the lives of the celebrities, year-round locals and the wealthy summer residents who all call the Hamptons home in her quest to reveal a dangerous killer.

Prepare a hearty snack and snuggle in for this compelling but cozy page-turner with mouth-watering food descriptions, nail-biting scenes of suspense, a winning heroine, and a captivating cast of characters who are sure to entertain readers for years to come.

Antonia Bingham has spent months renovating the Windmill Inn in East Hampton and it had now been open for six weeks. The restaurant was doing well, and the hotel part was gradually gathering momentum. Antonia was happy, until she heard about the curse on the inn and the suspicions concerning the death of the previous owner.

A naturally curious person, Antonia sets out to find the truth behind the curse which states the innkeepers always die in suspicious circumstances. Will she be the next one to be murdered?

The story is captivating and I was never sure if the previous owners had been murdered or Antonia was merely fitting the facts to her theory. This was until suspicious things began to happen and then I tried to work out ‘who dunnit?’. There were several suspects who could have murdered the previous owner, each with a reason for wanting him dead. At times Antonia’s thoughts brought a lightheartedness to the story, especially when she becomes star struck with a local celebrity.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. A mystery/murder story with several twists and turns. By the time I reached the end I believed I’d worked out the murderer, but had to wait to see if I was right. It could have been one of several people and the plot was so convoluted the murder could have been a purely innocent death.

Three French Inns by Patricia Kiyono

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

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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