Willow’s Way by Sharon Struth

Willow’s Way by Sharon Struth
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full (228 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Willow Armstrong, the once-famous “Queen of Weight Loss” and president of Pound Busters, succumbed to stress eating after her divorce. Now the scandal of getting caught on camera binging on pizza, and the internet-wide mocking of her new curves, may destroy her career. Add in a business advisor who drained her finances, and Willow is out of options—until she learns she’s inherited a house in England’s most picturesque locale, The Cotswolds.

Willow’s trip across the pond to sell the property and salvage her company soon becomes its own adventure: the house, once owned by grandparents she never met, needs major work. Plus, single dad Owen Hughes, the estate’s resident groundskeeper and owner of a local tour outfit, isn’t thrilled about the idea of leaving . . . Yet as Willow proceeds with her plans, she’s sidetracked by surprising discoveries about her family’s history–and with Owen’s help, the area’s distinctive attractions. Soon, she’s even retracing her roots—and testing her endurance—amid the region’s natural beauty. And the more she delves into the past, the more clearly she sees herself, her future, and the way home . . .

Willow’s Way is an apt title for this book – because Willow has definitely lost her way and this novel describes how she finds it again. The book opens with the fact that Willow, creator of a very successful and popular diet program, has been caught on film sneaking pizza. It sounds like a set up for a joke, but her life has become no laughing matter. She’s divorced, a trusted advisor has taken off with her company’s (and her own) money, and she’s a stress eater. Her board of directors are not happy that the face of their weight loss company has gone from a size 6 to a size 12, so the release of the video was not a good thing. As she’s weighing her options, she quite unexpectedly learns she has inherited a house in England – and makes a decision that quite literally changes her life.

I absolutely loved Willow… I can identify with her on so many levels. I love the way she took control of things. She was a fighter, it stood her in good stead. There were a lot of issues for her to deal with over the course of the book and dealt with them she did. In doing so, she learned a lot about herself and her past she never knew. She was the type of character I felt like I could sit down and have tea with.

The rest of the characters were just as richly drawn. Owen is just scrumptious and could quite easily become one of my favorite male characters. His daughter Jilly (and Henry, her dog) are just fall-in-lovable!

The setting is almost like another character in the book. I’m a not-so-hidden Anglophile anyway, and I felt like I had stepped into the pages of a Maeve Binchy book had she written English settings instead of Irish. I would have loved to live here.

There are no great conflicts in this book, but they aren’t needed. It’s a sweet look at one woman and her life and I stayed up way too late reading it! I was right there rooting for Willow all the time she was trying to find her way, and I was very sorry when the book ended.

I highly recommend this book!

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The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark


The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Suspense
Length: Full Length (339 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Zac senses the connection he has with the single stranger within minutes of their meeting. She, like him, sought a place to escape. But she isn’t running anymore. He is. Ali falls into a holiday affair with a troubled young man. She would never choose a man like him if she was at home. So what will happen when the Las Vegas fantasy is over and her sunglasses tinted view of the world returns to reality? She is supposed to forget everything. It was meant to stop there…

This story revolves around Zac and Ali, two wounded souls who find themselves members of a sort-of club, The Nevada Escapists’ Club – those people who find themselves in Las Vegas trying to escape from the reality that is their life. Some people go to Las Vegas for fun, but others because they can’t face what is going on in the real world. But can two such wounded souls help each other or will they bring each other down?

Ali is a successful barrister who discovers that her perfect life is not what she thought it was and leaves England for Las Vegas to put some distance between her and her cheating husband. She’s lived through a lot before this marriage and so her reactions to discovering his unfaithfulness is certainly colored by that.

Zac has his own set of issues he’s trying to escape and, from the first time he and Ali meet, senses they have a lot in common and wants to find out more about Ali.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club starts out like a holiday romance…. boy and girl meet while on vacation…they discover a connection that takes them beyond the holiday. Yet, there are darker undercurrents that the reader discovers and twists that take it out of the romance element. Yes, there is romance, but there is so much more. Jane Lark looks into how our past influences in so many ways our present. Can we really escape being the people that our past has formed us to be.

There were some niggling editing issues that keep this book from being a full four, but that’s the editor in me. The main characters are well-drawn and their story is definitely a page turner. I was able to read the book in just a couple of nights because I was so drawn into their story and wanted to discover how they were going to overcome the issues they were facing.

Good job, Ms. Lark, on facing some tough issues face on and showing that there is hope for the abused to rise above it.

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Can’t Stop the Music by C.D. Hersh


Can’t Stop the Music by C.D. Hersh
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (154 Pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Jammed highways, food shortages, and rainstorms can’t stop the music when hippies Rose and Dakota hear the melody of love at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. Or can it? When a jealous wannabe girlfriend and misunderstandings drive them apart, the couple loses track of one another in the massive crowd. Will they find each other again, or live lives of missed opportunities?

This is a sweet second chance love story featuring two people, Rose and Dakota, as they meet too briefly at Woodstock. They each feel a connection, but circumstances prevented them from acting on that connection.

Fast forward several years and fate has once again stepped in to throw Rosemary and Anthony together. They each realize the connection is still there, but there are now other circumstances that try to get in the way.

The first part of the book features their time at Woodstock and the author does a wonderful job making you feel as if you were there. I could almost feel the rain and the mud, smell the pot, and hear the music. It was indeed a once in a lifetime experience.

All of the characters, even the secondary ones, were very well drawn. The author did a great job at showing both side of the “free love” issue from the sixties.

This was a quick and enjoyable read–I was surprised when I got to the end of it. I literally could not put it down once I started reading it. Kudos to the author.

Forbidden Song by Brooklyn Ann

Forbidden Song by Brooklyn Ann
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (236 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After having one of the worst experiences a young teenager could endure at the hands of cruel musicians, Christine Mayne’s rock star brother Quinn tried to lock her away from the world. She had to fight to live her life, go to college, get her master’s and enter her PhD program. Now, she’s determined to complete her research on group dynamics by touring with Bleeding Vengeance, even it means deceiving her brother and lying to the band’s fabulous lead singer, Cliff Tracey.

Cliff Tracey hates being manipulated, lied to and deceived. He’d know, having gone through a string of exes who had done just that. When he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit, and a beautiful babe to boot, imagine his surprise – and disappointment – when he learns she played him so she can tour with his band to complete her PhD. When he finds out why, he knows he’s in double trouble because Quinn Mayne will kill anyone who touches his sister, and Cliff Tracey has all sorts of plans for Christine Mayne that involves more than either of them ever expected.

This is the fifth book in the series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. I’ve not read the earlier books, but never felt lost or confused. And, after this, I’m going to be picking up Brooklyn Ann’s earlier books.

I’m not a huge metal lover either, so don’t let that hold you back. This isn’t a book about metal music so much as it is about people. It was interesting getting a glimpse into the music scene itself and, if you like getting to know characters in a book, I think you’ll like this one. Because the author does a wonderful job in letting you feel what the characters are feeling.

Christine is smart and believes in going after what she wants…and what she wants right now is a way to break away from her brother’s overprotectiveness and work on the research for her dissertation. This really conflicts with her other want… Cliff.

Cliff is the womanizer of the band.. unabashed and unashamed. In fact, another character called him “slutty.” But when he’s around Christine and really gets to know her, he finds that other women in his bed does not appeal to him as much.

The romance between the two is slow moving, which adds to the pleasure for me. It grows as they get to know each other … which is something I love. Not a huge fan of the “love at first sight” trope. But this is a sweet and tender growth between two people who have been looking for something.

The other characters are just as well drawn as Christine and Cliff, but it is very much their story. Kudos, Brooklyn Ann…you’ve won yourself a fan.

Grinders Corner by Ferris Craig and Charlene Keel


Grinders Corner by Ferris Craig and Charlene Keel
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Historical (Vintage)
Length: Full (368 pgs)
Heat level: Sensual
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Grinders Corner explores the world of taxi dance halls in the 1960s in all its raw hilarity. Saucy, sassy and sexy, but not the least bit erotic, it follows the adventures of three young women trying to survive in the glitter palaces of Los Angeles.

Like lambs led to the slaughter, Uptown, a newly divorced English major with panic anxiety disorder and no job skills, Voluptua, an out of work actress, and Mouse, a former child star trying to make a comeback all struggle to make enough tickets to pay the bills. Things get complicated when Uptown falls in love with a customer who happens to be a priest.

In Grinders Corner it was a simpler time, long before gentlemen’s clubs and pole dancers, and it happened in a place where shy, lonely men could talk to women, even dance with them, with no fear of rejection—for about fifteen cents a minute.

This book is a hoot! This is not the standard rom/com… it’s a book where misfits come together and make for themselves a new reality!

I had no idea that “taxi dancers” still existed into the 60s. I thought it was exclusive to the 20s and 30s. It was interesting to get a glimpse of a different time and a different way of living.

The story is told from the point of view of Uptown; however, it is based on true events in the life of author Ferris H. Craig (Mouse, in the book).

The characters are wonderfully drawn and some of the experiences described in the book were truly “laugh out loud”-able. Uptown starts the job as a naïve woman but under the tutelage of her new friends, Mouse and Voluptua, soon gets an education like she never experienced before.

Kudos to the authors for such a fun, entertaining work!

Beautiful Evil Winter by Kelly K. Lavender


Beautiful Evil Winter by Kelly K. Lavender
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Vintage Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (243 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

After the USSR collapses, a time reminiscent of the unforgiving gun-slinging days of the frontier west, mild-mannered Ethan and fiery Sophia board a plane bound for Russia. They hope to prevail with their homespun plan to secure their son’s safe passage to America. What can go wrong? Maybe, an innocent ill fated encounter with the Mafia or maybe, being marked as a target for mob revenge. Perhaps, having to rely on a first-time adoption coordinator to complete the process and shelter them from harm. Honestly, what won’t go wrong?

Inspired by a true story, Beautiful Evil Winter triumphs as epic historical fiction about the human capacity for hope, the traumas that shape our lives and the hardships we’ll endure for love.

This book is set in the time just after the USSR collapses and describes the terrifying events that an adoptive couple goes through in order to adopt a son. They decide to go the foreign adoption route because there are more babies available and because, being an older couple, they might find it difficult to be placed with an infant in a traditional adoption.

Just a heads up, this book is written in first person present, which is a turn-off for a lot of readers, and there are several flashbacks. It was a little awkward for me to begin with, but I soon got into the swing of it. One issue I found was that there were several awkward word choices as well as historical discrepancies – the book could have used more editing.

However, even with the issues, the story itself was riveting, and I enjoyed the plot – what Sophia and Ethan had to go through to get their new son safely to the United States was chilling. It is said that opposites attract, and that was certainly the case with Sophia and Ethan. She was definitely the stronger of the pair. That said, Ethan did step up when it was necessary, which won him points from me.

Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey


Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey
Publisher: Crimson Cloak
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (486 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Annie Caslo is a successful, young doctor, but when she begins rethinking the career choices she’s made, she makes a decision to find a way to stay focused and achieve her true ambitions – that is until fate steps in and she is thunderstruck by Colt Ballard. He’s six foot three inches of heart-stopping hotness, an adept, roguish soccer star and also one of her interns. But he’s a player – on and off the field – and Annie has better things to do. Still, the combustible chemistry between them is impossible to resist – Colt brings out feelings she never knew existed and Annie’s swept off her reluctant feet.

When she continues to second-guess her life choices, opportunities and obstacles begin piling up higher than the greasy Mexican food stacks she hates to admit loving. While in a state of emotional turmoil, she gets a celestial visit from a hunky, Hollywood heartthrob, lookalike, who claims to be her guardian angel. He takes her on a magical road trip to self-discovery with the help of several, dearly departed film icons.

Drawn into the excitement of a life she’s always dreamed of, this new life threatens to shatter the LIFE and love she already has—unless her quirky angel can help her find a way to have it all.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.” Annie Caslo became a doctor because that’s what her parents wanted for her, but she wanted to be an actress.  She was offered a job she could not turn down, but made the decision to only stay there a year, then follow her own dream.  Her plans are derailed when she meets Colt, and her life takes a very different plan than she envisioned.

The story is told from several points of view (including forays into Annie’s childhood).  While this helps explain what everyone is feeling (it was amusing seeing, at the beginning, Colt and Annie’s different views of the same incident in the coffee shop), it also prevented this reader from really connecting with Annie as much as I would have liked to.  I would have enjoyed being able to “feel” more of what Annie felt.  As it was, the many POV shifts never allowed me to completely immerse myself into the story.

The writing itself was clean with no grammatical issues.  Looking at it with an editor’s eye, there were areas that could have been tightened up more, but that is more of a personal issue on my part.

If you are a lover of classic movies, like I am, you will love all the references and quotes this author uses — it’s worth reading the book just for those!!  3.5 stars.

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.

The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin


The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (442 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

March, 1933. The weak German economy is in peril. Winston Churchill wants to push it over the cliff with a boycott of German exports and take with it the new Nazi government whose brown-shirted SA thugs are terrorizing Germany’s Jews.

Working with Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Churchill enlists the help of his goddaughter, Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary, and her fiance, the lawyer and ex-Army intelligence agent Bourke Cockran. Mattie’s task is to find out how the Nazis plan to defeat the boycott. Cockran’s assignment is to recover microfilm containing sensitive commercial information on German exporters compiled by German patriots opposed to the Nazis. With it, the exporters’ competitors will be able to steal Germany’s foreign customers with comparable goods at lower prices.

The Nazis are determined to fight back. To oppose the boycott, they find two unlikely allies. One is the Jewish Authority in Palestine who is negotiating with the Nazis to sell out the boycott in exchange for the Nazis allowing German Jews to emigrate to Palestine with funds in excess of German currency controls. The negotiations are top secret and when Mattie gets too close to the truth, both the Nazis and their Jewish allies in Palestine are determined to stop her at any cost.

The second Nazi ally is FDR and the U.S. government who also oppose the boycott because of the damage it will do to American investors. When American agents learn of Cockran’s quest for the microfilm, they team up with Hitler’s black-clad SS and Jewish agents from Palestine to stop him and get the microfilm.

The deadly battle between Churchill’s agents, Mattie and Cockran, takes them from New York to London, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and Stockholm pursued by the strange bedfellows of Nazi, Jewish and American agents working together. Finally, at Mattie and Cockran’s wedding in Scotland, their enemies kidnap Cockran’s son and Churchill’s daughter and offer to trade their lives for the microfilm.

I was excited to be able to review this next volume in the Churchill Thriller series – the fifth in the series. The action takes place shortly after the adventures in the previous volume, The Berghof Betrayal (you can see our review of it here).

It was good to visit with some old friends and to meet new characters. The authors did another masterful job at blending historical figures (Churchill, Einstein, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, etc.) with fictional characters such as Mattie McGary and Bourke Cockran.

The action is non-stop, and the amount of historical research that this father/son writing team does is incredible. The books can be read in any order plot-wise, but it might help the new reader understand and perhaps keep up with all the characters if the previous books have been read.

While long and at times violent (it IS set during a pretty violent period of time, after all), the book is a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to the release of their next book in this series.

Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani


Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Other: M/F, F/F/M, Anal sex, Multiple Partners, Masturbation
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

I’ve spent years holed up in the deepest, darkest parts of the city, fighting to keep Death and her Poochas from crossing the dead back to the living. My skill with a blade is bested only by my menace, my despair, my anguish – the strongest weapons I yield.

Then I meet Juma Landry and it all goes to hell.

She is beauty and love and sex and light, everything I am not. And she makes me want things I haven’t desired in years. But the monsters of my life, the evil lurking in the dark corners of my soul, those places craven and vile, bind me to a past I cannot shake free. As the most skilled Keeper for The Gate, nothing and no one can prevent me from excelling at a job I never wanted. I do it because it is my legacy, a fate I cannot outrun, but when Juma becomes my next assignment, each of her nine lives to be ended by my hand, I must decide: the legacy I never wanted or the love I don’t deserve.

This is an adult fantasy and while it’s not labeled as erotic, in this reviewer’s opinion it should be. Before the principles meet, both male and female lead characters in this fantasy romance have engaged in multiple episodes of sex of various types (M/F, FFM, oral, anal, etc). Even after they meet and become cognizant of the attraction between each other, their sexual activities are not limited to the other. So, it’s important that the reader be aware of this, because I would hate for someone to pick up the book and not realize how much graphic sex there was.

That being said, the storyline is very interesting. We learn about Dutch, who is a Keeper of The Gate – the gate separating life and death. It is their job to keep those people who have died from coming back, by killing Death’s Poochas. This is an incredibly dark book, and does include some descriptions of torture.

Death is not the Death we normally think of– this Death is a very sexy woman who is very hedonistic and lives only for pleasure. She allows selected dead people to return to life – aided by her Poochas.

The main conflict comes in when Dutch and Juma (one of Death’s Poochas) meet and discover themselves to be soulmates only to discover that Dutch has been assigned to kill her.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, and you see both Dutch and Juma grow and change quite a bit. Though I was a bit dismayed by the darkness here, I was very invested in these characters. I enjoyed watching their development and look forward to seeing how Dutch and Juma resolve the difficulties that surround them.

FYI, this is the first book in the series and ends on a cliffhanger.