Loving a Ghost by Marisa Chenery


Loving a Ghost by Marisa Chenery
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jordana’s dream of meeting hunky romance cover model, Grady Timmins, comes to an abrupt end when he dies in a tragic car accident in her city. She’d known she would never meet him in real life, but that didn’t stop her from mourning him, anyway.

Her sorrow all-too-soon changes after Grady appears to her in ghost form, unable to leave her apartment. As love springs between them, Jordana will do anything in her power to keep him at her side.

Sometimes celebrity crushes can be more than just a fun fantasy about someone you’ll never meet.

Including so much backstory about Jordana’s life was a good decision. My first impression of her was that she was a sweet and lonely woman. It was nice to have that gut feeling about her confirmed because it made it easier to understand why she made certain decisions later on in the plot. Loneliness can drive people to make all kinds of choices that they might not otherwise be brave enough to try.

The one thing I never understood about this story was why Grady ended up being drawn into Jordana’s life after he died. They’d never even met while he was alive, so it didn’t make sense to me that he would haunt her home instead of the home of one of his friends or relatives. I otherwise enjoyed the plot quite a bit. This was a big sticking point for me, though, and it’s something that I wished would have been explained better by the author.

With that being said, the chemistry between Jordana and Grady was undeniable. They were both great conversationalists, and their banter made me eager to see what would happen once they figured out that ghosts can’t touch people or objects the same way a living person can. The anticipation of wanting to see them together but not being sure how it would be possible made it hard for me to stop reading. I simply had to know what would happen to them next.

I’d recommend Loving a Ghost to anyone who is in the mood for a sweet paranormal romance tale.

The Crow by Leslie W P Garland


The Crow by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (71 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Crow: A sad, poignant story of misunderstanding, bitterness and blame.
“Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

The difference between a hero and a villain isn’t always as clear cut as it might seem.

Small town politics can be extremely complicated. One of my favorite parts of this tale was how much effort the characters put into explaining why certain issues were so sensitive for the people who lived in the community where this all took place. It actually made me wonder for a moment if this was based on real events because of how true to life some of the scenes were. They genuinely felt like the kinds of grudges and quiet but stubborn conflicts that I’ve seen played out over many years in other rural places.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. The narrator spent the first third of the story introducing everyone and explaining how they all knew each other. While I liked having so many details, it didn’t leave quite enough room for all of the exciting things that happened once Dave started to dig deeply into his conversation with Father Patrick. I would have liked to have more time to sort through the conflicting theories about Reginald’s life after they were revealed.

Once the introductions were finished and the pace picked up, though, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Reginald’s involvement with the dam lead to a tragedy that the community talked about for many years afterwards. I was haunted by the various theories about what happened that day and whether or not he should have been blamed for the outcome. While I can’t say much else about this part of the plot without giving away spoilers, it was thought-provoking and it did help to ease my earlier frustration with not knowing what was going on.

This is part of “The Red Grouse” series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

The Crow should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a slow-burning book that pays off nicely in the end.

Operation: Seduce Me by Christina James


Operation: Seduce Me by Christina James
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (281 pgs)
Other: M/F, Toys, Spanking, Anal Sex, light bondage
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It seemed like the perfect solution to get their meddling moms off their backs. Wounded Navy SEAL Chance Wallace offers to pose as a fake boyfriend for his sexy physical therapist Brandi Wheeler’s week-long family wedding event and to help her avoid her mother’s matchmaking attempts. As a bonus, it also keeps his mother from visiting to help him recover and instead spend time with the intriguing Brandi.

It was the perfect solution…until their passion heats up as they indulge erotic fantasies on a sun-drenched island for a week of pure ecstasy. There’s nothing pretend about Chance and Brandi’s feelings for each other. When this fake relationship unexpectedly turns into something real, does love stand a chance?

Faux boyfriend to real? Was it possible?

I love Christina James’s books. She writes in a way that draws me in from the get-go and keeps me wanting to know what will happen. There’s tenderness and heart along with the heat. This book is no different. Once I started, I had to know how everything turned out.

Chance is a mess at the beginning of the book. He’s been shot and is suffering. I love how Brandi helps him get out of himself. She’s a trip, too. She’s a commitment-phobe, but she knows what she wants. I love her sense of adventure, too. I could identify with Chance’s doubts when he compares his life to hers. That made me root for him and her to get this all worked out.

The premise, a fake dating situation, isn’t new, but Ms. James put a definite hot twist on it. These two people, different, but the same, were really meant for each other. They add a twist of bdsm to the mix, but it seemed very organic. I liked it.

If you want a hot read with a wounded hero, a heroine who isn’t quite sure of herself and a happy ending, then this is the book for you.

Goldie by Erika Reed


Goldie by Erika Reed
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (82 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Goldie Locke is in love with her boss, Travis. He has always been the man of her dreams, but it’s getting harder to work for him when she really wants more. After a fire in her apartment leaves her temporarily homeless, she finds herself on her way to Travis’ cabin in the mountains, at his brothers’ insistence. She decides to use the time away to make some decisions about her future…with or without Travis.

Travis Baer had always prided himself at making his construction business a success. He is a man who goes after what he wants, but what he desires more than anything is Goldie. After being tricked into a weekend alone with his gorgeous assistant, Travis is determined to finally make Goldie his, and reveal his true feeling for her.

Could their weekend retreat be the beginning to the fairytale ending Goldie has always wanted?

This sure isn’t the fairytale I remember…it’s more.

This is my first read by Erika Reed and I’m looking for more of her books. This is a short read, but it’s packed with heat. Ms Reed has penned an interesting take on the Goldilocks story. It didn’t take me long to read this book, but I assure you, I’ll be rereading.

Goldie works for Travis. It’s a great set-up, although not all that original. Doesn’t matter. The chemistry between this woman with some body issues and this hunk of a man is off the charts. They sizzle. I couldn’t get enough of them together.

I do realize this book was part of an anthology, so that’s probably why it’s so short. I’m not complaining. I get the length limits, but on the other hand, I wish the story was a little longer because I wanted to know more about these characters. Grin. They were that fun.

If you want something hot, short and just right for lunch hour reading, then Goldie might be the one for you.

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

Escape into a supernatural world of love, revenge and redemption, where vampires are both predator and prey.

TRUE BLOOD MEETS NEVERWHERE
1960s London. Kathy is a seductive singer. But she’s also human. Light knows his passion for her is reckless but he’s enchanted. Yet such a romance is forbidden. When the two worlds collide, it could mean the end. For both species.

When Light discovers his ruthless family’s horrifying experiments, he questions whether he should be slaying or saving the humans he’s always feared. What dark revelations will Light reveal at the heart of the experiments? Will he be able to stop them in time? The consequences of failure are unimaginable. Unless Light plays the part of hero, he risks losing everything. Including the two women he loves.

A rebel, a red-haired devil and a Moon Girl battle to save the world – or tear it apart.

Blood Dragons is the explosive first instalment of the new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.

First off, I need to state that I’m not calling this a romance, despite being (somewhat) marketed as one. More, it’s an autobiographical novel written by Light, a vampire. It’s written (ala the Notebook by Nicholas Sparks) in order to remind his human love, who is aged and suffering from dementia, of their past. Much of the book doesn’t even really include Kathy.

The author has done a stellar job, though, of capturing Light’s unique voice. Given that it’s in first person and essentially being “told” to us, it’s remarkably engaging and well written. He’s a tough character to like, at least at first. He’s so angry and rough… but as we get to know where he’s from and how he became who he is now, it’s understandable and he becomes more sympathetic. I’m honestly surprised at the depth of skill shown by the author to write the book in such a fashion and make it ultimately so readable.

I did, however, truly struggle with the abundance of British slang. I’m familiar with much of the commonly used words (like “chuffed”, or the fact that in the UK what we call a trunk here in the US is the boot). However, in this book, nearly ever page is packed with slang/British words I simply didn’t understand and often times couldn’t infer their meaning from the use. It was exceptionally frustrating and pulled me out of the story constantly. It made reading the book, which should have been a joy because of the author’s talent, more of a chore than I would have liked.

Additionally, I’m a big fan of happy endings. I don’t read Mr. Sparks’ books for that reason. This book tugs deeply at the heart-strings, and really can’t possibly end well (immortal in love with a mortal is just asking for heartbreak, yes?).

However, I’m still in awe of the writing itself. Descriptive, interesting, evocative. For folks who enjoy perhaps more “literary” paranormal fiction that will challenge the brain a bit, and creates an entirely new vampire mythology, then I highly recommend it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang, and the impossible-to-be-truly-happy but understandable and ultimately, the only ending it could have in order to be satisfying, this author has writing chops.

Hot For Heather by Caitlyn Lynch


Hot For Heather by Caitlyn Lynch
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 2 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Heather is a quiet classical pianist lacking in a social (or sex) life. One day, she’s utterly shocked to find out that the hot delivery guy she accidentally flashed in the hallway is actually her brand new neighbour, Mike, a soldier recently back from deployment. And Mike’s very interested in getting to know the gorgeous girl next door who makes such beautiful music. He’s especially interested in getting know her on top of that piano. And on the piano stool. And anywhere else in her apartment she’s willing to let him…

Holy piano benches, Batman!

This story sizzled. I won’t lie. There were parts of this short story that had me squirming in my seat. The piano… I’ll never look at a baby grand ever again the same way.

There wasn’t much meat to this short story. The author got right to the point right away. I had to keep reading because I had to know how it would end. Of course it didn’t take long, but still. I had to know.

The premise of the story was hot. Sexy military man and the geeky pianist. Good combination. But there were a few quibbles. While this was erotica, some of the terminology ripped me right out of the story. I wanted to buy in, but I couldn’t… not throughout the book. I had a hard time picturing the hero and heroine together because of the nearly foot difference in their height. I had to reread to figure out some of the choreography. One example: the pianist considers herself short, but not small and wonders how the hero can pick her up, yet he tosses her around. I had a hard time picturing what was going on. The other big quibble was how fast the two characters got together. Some readers might not have a problem with the briskness with which they climbed onto the piano. Others might.

That said, the short story has lots of promise. With a little more editing for content and maybe lengthening the story out a bit more, it could really shine.

If you want an erotic short story that will singe your screen, then this might be the book for you.

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.

Her Protectors by Tamsin Baker


Her Protectors by Tamsin Baker
Peacekeepers, book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 Pages)
Other: M/F/M, Menage, Anal Sex
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

Jacky is visiting Alaska, on holiday’s with her best friend Karen. She’s just broken up with her horrible ex-boyfriend, and a trip over-seas to see some Polar bears and the beautiful wilderness that America offers, is exactly what she needs.
The last thing she expects when she arrives at a lodge that guarantees every visitor that they will see a Polar bear, is two men who believe she is their soul mate.

Ashten and Raylock get a phone call from their brothers that their mate has arrived. They rush home, assuming it was only Brad’s mate that had been found. Instead, their own red haired goddess is there to greet them on their return.

All is well with the brother shifters when Jacky submits instantly to their attraction and she seems to be falling in love with them. But they have enemies everywhere and when Jacky unknowingly steps off their land, she is taken by some rouge vampires.

Can they get her back in time? Or will the damage their nemesis does to her, turn her against them forever?

A good book and a neat take on shifters.

I underestimated this book. The “fated mates” trope isn’t new but I liked how the author presented Ashten, Raylock and Jacky’s version. It was a hot and fast love at first sight kind of story.

Jacky wanted to see polar bears. So, she came for her holiday to a lodge that promised that she would see one. However, the moment she gets there… chaos ensues.

I read a lot of paranormal and fantasy, however the beginning of Her Protectors seemed to have a little too much drama. Even so, as the pages turned the plot became more interesting. The story of the Peacekeepers and their world is truly intriguing. Since, this is the second book in the series, I could tell that I had missed some big chunk of the world that the author has woven. May need to go search out book 1 in the series to see how it all began.

The chemistry was hot. The action and the plot were well played out. This is a short read sure to heat up a cold night.

The Golden Tup by Leslie W P Garland


The Golden Tup by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (88 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Golden Tup: A dreadful tale of a young couple’s paradise being cruelly taken from them by latent evil.

“But whom sent I to judge them?”

Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their new born baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?

Small communities have long memories. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on what they’re remembering.

Gossip is everywhere. One of my favorite parts of the plot was when it showed just how eager some people are to believe anything they’re told as well as to spread it along to as many of their friends as possible. This wasn’t a topic I was at all expecting to see mentioned in a horror tale, so it was fascinating to see how the author tied together everything together. It is yet another reason why I enjoy his tales so much.

I would have liked to have a few more details about Constance and Matthew’s reaction to the evil they encountered. This was such an important part of the plot that I was a little surprised that it wasn’t given more attention. I always enjoy the challenge of figuring out what a narrator is hinting at without being directly told what’s going on, but I would have loved it even more if I’d had a few more hints to work with here.

With that being said, this is one of the scariest stories I’ve read in ages. One of the things I appreciate the most about Mr. Garland’s work is how much time he gives his characters to reveal their deepest secrets to the audience. This is the kind of horror that slowly sneaks up on a reader, and that makes it so much fun to read. I actually found myself getting more frightened after I’d finished the last scene and started thinking about that strange farm where Matthew and Constance lived again. There were so many details of their lives there that became much more alarming once I knew how those things fit together and what they meant. Sometimes there’s a good reason why old buildings have been abandoned, after all!

This book is part of the Red Grouse series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

Give The Golden Tup a try if you’re in the mood for something bone-chillingly creepy.

A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy


A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (167 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Set in the early nineteenth century, A Tapestry of Tears is about female infanticide, and the unmaking of tradition. If a woman gives birth to a female child, she must feed her the noxious sap of the akk plant. That is the tradition, parampara. Veeranwali rebels, and fights to save her offspring.
The other stories span a spectrum of emotions and also bring to life the varied culture and social spectrum of India. Woven into this collection is the past and the present, despair and hope, and the triumph of the human spirit.

Sometimes tradition is a double-edged sword.

“A Tapestry of Tears,” the story this anthology was named after, showed what happened to Veeranwali after all of her children were killed shortly after birth. Female infanticide was a longstanding tradition in the family she’d married into, and everyone seemed to be resigned to it. What I found most interesting about this character’s life was how hard she fought to keep her babies alive. The love she felt for all of them was beautiful and fierce. It made me want to know more about this amazing woman.

I’ve come to deeply appreciate Ms. Reddy’s gorgeous writing style, and I’ve seen so much growth in her work since I first began reviewing her books a few years ago. With that being said, there were a few times when I was confused by how she introduced the characters in tales like “No Other Way.” Ms. Reddy threw the reader into a family’s decision to send their matriarch to a nursing home before they moved overseas without sharing the identities of any of the characters in this drama or explaining why some of them were so conflicted about this decision. I was captivated by the conflict once I figured out that Samyukta was the elderly mother, but it took a few puzzling missteps to get to that conclusion. I wish this hadn’t been so, because I truly did enjoy listening in as her and her family worry and debate about whether this was the best option for her.

Ganga, the main character in “Only Her Daughter,” suffered one of the greatest losses a person can endure when her young daughter died suddenly. What made her life even more interesting to me was what happened after little Komal’s death. There were so many twists and turns in the plot that I couldn’t stop reading. I simply had to know what Ganga would encounter next!

I’d recommend A Tapestry of Tears to anyone who is willing to think long and hard about the difficulties and joys that the women that this author wrote about lived with every day of their lives.