A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi

A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Sloane Harper has sworn off men—for her sanity, and her safety. But with or without men, trouble always seems to find Sloane.

When her ex’s ex-mistress comes knocking for help, Sloane does what she does best : she helps way more than she should. As she investigates London’s art scene, Sloane runs into a very handsome but very shady artist, a quirky bunch of thieves, and a cunning old flame. Perhaps Sloane should have sworn off playing private detective instead of men.

I absolutely loved this book and the characters! It’s the second in the series, but there was no trouble following the story. I am going to get the first book as well, though, just because the writing and the main characters are that appealing.

The main character, Sloane, is a fairly recent divorcee with two girls and a maid who does very little. She also had a relationship with Ethan Cunning (see what she did there?) in the last book and helped him solve a crime. He’s been MIA for a while now, though, and Sloane has decided he was just using her. Fine, she’d just concentrate on her children and get on with her life.

Then, Kate (her ex-husband’s ex-lover who was also very involved in the first story) asks for her help, and Sloane just can’t say no, which plunges her into some very madcap adventures (I’ll never be able to look at kibbeh the same way again).

The action is non-stop, the mystery is intriguing, the emotional aspects of Sloane’s life are all top-notch! Ms. Arditi, you nailed this one, and I can’t wait to go back and read the first book as well as add you to my auto-buy list.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan


Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan
Publisher: Self-Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (217 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Alstroemeria

Claire Coleman is mortified when a handsome stranger discovers her crying in a quiet country chapel—the very chapel where she was supposed to have married her high school sweetheart, and the place where she now hopes to feel her mother’s presence.

Custom builder, Sam McGinnis, has sworn off rescuing women in need. That is, until he finds a beautiful blonde sobbing her heart out in his almost-finished chapel. The woman is obviously in a world of hurt, and no way can he walk away from the heart-broken lady.

But will rescuing Claire put Sam’s own heart in jeopardy?

Going to the Chapel by Mary Jane Morgan was a very quick and easy read. Claire Coleman is your typical jilted lover who finds solace in Sam McGinnis, your typical bad boy who doesn’t want to settle down but has a heart of gold.

After Claire is dumped by her fiance’ and best friend, fate would lead her to the chapel where she would have been married, in which she meets Sam, the custom builder for the chapel. The reader can already see where this is going, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to read.

The writing is steamy, without too much conflict. The scenes are realistic but not graphic, which keeps the reader quickly flipping the pages. I also enjoyed the other characters in the book, but wished there was more interaction with them.

I wish there was more conflict between the main characters. From my understanding there were at least a couple weeks of conflict where the characters would not see each other, but that was kind of described in a quick paragraph before it was mostly forgotten and the issues were resolved without much work.

I think tension is one of the main qualities of a romance novel. It was built up really great with restriction at the beginning, but a little more follow through with the rest of the story could have added a whole layer of depth that any reader would have eaten up.

I enjoyed how quickly I read this book. I didn’t beat my brains out waiting for the main characters to notice each other, and I also LOVED the back and forth change in perspective. It is interesting to get the perspective of both characters, instead of just being in the mind of one.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a fast read that satisfies a taste for a fun romance story. It was light and heartwarming, with just a bit of sexy. A very nice combination.

An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand


An Unwilling Suspect by Jo A. Hiestand
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (155 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

McLaren’s fiancée tragically died one month ago. Trying to heal emotionally from her death, McLaren settles into a rented farmhouse in the woods near picturesque Lake Windermere, in Cumbria. But he’s barely had a chance to rest when Helen, the woman in the neighboring cottage, is killed…and is discovered near his front door.

Because McLaren had spent much of the previous day with her, and his snowy footprints lead to and from her house, he becomes the prime murder suspect in what the police label a frustrated romantic advance.

Motives for Helen’s murder are as chilling as the outdoor temperature. There’s the hands-on garage mechanic who’d like to put his hands all over her, the affluent fishing guide, and Helen’s former boyfriend who wanted to renew the relationship.

Can McLaren find the killer before the police jail him for murder?

This is the 7th book in the McLaren mystery series, and they just keep getting better and more intense. This volume begins with McLaren mourning the death of his fiancée—and his friends are worried about him. He is offered a place of refuge where he can deal with Dena’s death (and where there aren’t so many memories). What is supposed to be a quiet, restful time, however, turns out to be anything but when a neighbor he had helped gets murdered, and the clues point squarely at McLaren.

McLaren is at his best when he’s solving a problem, and here he has a doozy of one! Having once been a policeman, he knows how to deal with the locals when they come by, and he, along with his friend Jamie, sift through what they know and what they can learn in order to find out who killed Helen and who is trying to frame (and possibly kill) McLaren himself.

Ms. Hiestand does a wonderful job with the emotional and physical aspects of grief—I could feel the pain McLaren was going through. Her descriptions of the area as well are so well-drawn that I could picture myself right there.

If you’ve not tried the McLaren mysteries before, don’t hesitate to pick this one up. Even though it is part of a series, I don’t think a new reader would have any trouble getting involved in the book. 4 stars, Ms. Hiestand, and good job.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

After Burn: Big Sky Mail Order Brides by Elsa Jade


After Burn: Big Sky Mail Order Brides by Elsa Jade
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (144 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

When Vaughn Quaye’s older sister goes missing in Big Sky Country, she’s willing to risk everything to hunt down the only man who seems to know anything about the mysterious mail order bride agency that closed under suspicious circumstances. Except Vaughn is risking more than her life—she’s discovering a universe of danger and desire she never knew existed.

Dejo Jinn, sole proprietor of Jinn Data Recovery, just wants to steal—no, sorry, not steal, recover—the data left behind at the abandoned Intergalactic Dating Agency when it was forced to close after mistakenly losing some brides. He has no interest in revealing his extraterrestrialness to a clueless if distractingly curvy Earther, but after they are attacked and she sees his green blood, his secret is outed.

Now reluctant partners, he’ll have the chance to steal—sorry, recover—the valuable data and she’ll get her sister back. Assuming they don’t end up dead.

Or worse yet, end up dating.

The Intergalactic Dating Agency might be closed here in Big Sky Country, but some hearts are still dreaming of the stars.

I really like the name Dejo Jinn; it sounds exotic and mysterious. It’s apt since the hero is a species of alien that I’ve never seen in books before. The whole concept of how his kind is born and their growing stages was truly imaginative and fascinating. Dejo is also a character easy to sympathize with the more I got to know him. His life is what he made of it and that’s a character strength that the heroine, Vaughn, will eventually come to not only appreciate but love.

What surprised me is that even though we were on Earth, which aliens call ‘Dirt’ and made me snort every time, things that are familiar were not all as they seem. The author surprised me with a curve ball. What should have been ordinary was anything but. I liked that twist because that led to some serious drama and suspense that had the capacity to destroy Dejo and Vaughn’s future forever.

Even though the main characters were different species, that didn’t stop sexy shenanigans from steaming up the pages and giving readers proof that Dejo and Vaughn are more than sexually compatible. What I found very telling was what the computer said. Something tells me that they won’t be 100% alien to each other by the time they finish falling in love. I wonder if anyone else will catch that.

Vaughn’s involvement in this story is personal and I could feel her determination and desperation to find her missing sister. She has a strong personality which meshed nicely with Dejo’s.

Language and alien terminology weren’t totally awkward in this story. I think the author did a nice job of inserting odd terms so smoothly that I didn’t get stuck or distracted by them. Many times they were perfect for the scene. There were a few instances that made me pause but on the whole, it worked.

The dramatic conclusion was more than satisfying and I liked the future that seems to be opening for Vaughn and Dejo. Based on what I know now about the hero, if anyone can make things work to their advantage, it’ll be Dejo Jinn. Vaughn couldn’t be in better hands.

After Burn is a wonderful romance story with an exciting exotic touch. I’m glad I read it and enjoyed myself immensely. I wonder; will the kidnapped brides be found in the next book? I can’t wait to find out!

Temptation Trials by B. Truly

Temptation Trials (Part 1) by B. Truly
Publisher: Self
Genre: Sci-Fi (dystopian/futuristic)
Length: Full (261 pgs)
Heat: Hot
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Will You Be Tempted? Will Love Save Your Soul?

One nation under his reign.

Cardinal sins of man caused humanity to pay the price. Cali Nasser grew up in a world succeeding World War III. The aftermath forced the world dictatorship that she must now live in. A new Regime arose from the ashes. They demanded obedience and cooperation from every citizen, even in matters of the heart.

One domain … One accord … One nation. That is the moral code. In Cali’s eyes, it all revolves around a twisted plot for control.

It used to sicken Cali how people would allow the Regime to test their love through the Temptation Trials. That is, until she met Kincade. Cali’s entire point of view changes when she falls for him. She struggles with herself, debating if she should challenge the government’s law of arranged marriage.

Cali’s childhood friend, Stefani, always kept a positive perspective about their lives until she was threatened with the same dilemma, at odds over the man she loves.

Now Cali and Stefani face a desperate choice—submit to the Regime’s will, or fight for what they value most—love. Although lust, mistaken for love, could lead to damnation. Do they give up on love or sign up for the Temptation Trials, a reality TV show where every temptation is laid before them?

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Can love save their souls?

An interesting premise … sort of “The Bachelor” meets “Temptation Island” with a touch of the Hunger Games.

Set in our future, post-WWIII, there is a all-powerful leader who’s set down a number of rules in order to maintain order and control. One of these rules involves who you can marry. No one gets to marry for love anymore, but all marriages are assigned based on assumed compatibility. However, if you think you’re in love with someone, you can marry them if you make it through the Temptation Trials.

Cleanly written, the story certainly has an interesting premise. I liked our heroines (and heroes, though we don’t see them as much once the trials start — the story is told through alternating POV of two heroines) and admired their determination to do what they thought was right. But weeks in the company of other men, being forced into dating several of them and then having to choose one to spend the last part of the trials with … it’s more than most people would be able to resist. Our ladies are no exception.

I did find the story a little sparsely written … the author seemed to be in a bit of a hurry to get from place to place, and some description was lacking. Also, though there weren’t overt grammar errors or typos, there’s more to good editing than that. The story had a bit too much “telling” instead of “showing” and I don’t think a character ever “said” anything. It was blurted, screamed, announced, shouted, pointed out, etc. I have to admit it drove me a little nuts, but it may not be the same for you.

That said, though, I definitely got caught up in the characters. There are quite a few to keep track of, but their names and personalities are unique enough it’s not too hard. There is lots of sex talk and plenty of sexual action (not all intercourse) but this isn’t surprising. The idea of the trials is to show people that love isn’t true and they should fall in with the ruler’s decisions.

There is some mystery involved as well, and the story ends in a cliffhanger, so be warned. However, if you’re looking for a smoking hot, futuristic story to sink your teeth into, this one is a decent choice for you. I’d read the second one, if only to find out who ends up with who!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Bat by Leslie W P Garland


The Bat by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

With “fake news” hitting the headlines, I thought it would be nice to look at “truth” and muse on questions such as “what actually is true?” and “what is Truth?” using a fantasy story as a foil for same.

In this coming-of-age story Thomas recounts the events of a term at school when his class returned to a new beautiful class teacher, a donation of stuffed animals and birds by an eccentric benefactor which he and his friends subsequently discovered weren’t quite as dead as they looked, an exorcism in which a bell-jar which had contained a bat shattered, and then things, which up until then had been strange, turned to being sinister and frightening.

In an attempt to understand what was going on, Thomas found himself reading up on Black Magic, Satanism, the early Christian Church, and the worship of evil, but instead of assisting his understanding this made him more confused than ever. Even a conversation with his local priest failed to resolve the problems he found himself wrestling with. What was true? What was the Truth? And of course, where was the bat?

An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

The difference between good and evil isn’t always as easy to figure out as one might think.

One of the many reasons why I’m such a huge fan of Mr. Garland’s work is that it requires some effort from the reader in order to be understood. He’s the sort of writer who will give his audience a few important clues and then expect them to come to their own conclusions about what happened based on how they chose to interpret those clues. This was the perfect kind of storyline for this writing style because of how slippery people’s memories can be. Two people can remember the same moment in time in completely different ways depending on what their minds were paying attention to back then.

The character development was handled beautifully, too. At times I forgot that the narrator was remembering things that happened to him and his community decades ago because of how caught up I was in what young Thomas was experiencing and how much those events affected the way he saw the world. While I don’t know if the author would ever be interested in write a sequel about this specific character in this series, I’d sure like to read it if he does.

There was nothing gory about the horror in this tale, but that didn’t make any less frightening. I appreciated the way the fear sneaked up on me as I was reading. It wasn’t something I noticed at first, but I was pretty scared by the final scene. There is definitely something to be said for being scared by the threat of something terrible happening almost as much as I was by what actually occurred. Anticipation was one of the narrator’s biggest weapons, and he used it well.

The final reason why I gave this book a perfect score is that it wrestled with so many intriguing questions about faith, morality, grief, and what it means to be a good person without spoon-feeding any answers to the audience. I deeply enjoy philosophical discussions about these kinds of topics, and Mr. Garland gave me a lot of food for thought. I will be thinking about the various points his characters made for a long time.

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

The Bat chilled me to my core. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves though-provoking and intelligent stories.

Myth City by Anya Howard


Myth City: A Modern Retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Anya Howard
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A modern Dystopian retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Romance author Anya Howard.

After a nuclear battle, globalism has claimed power over every aspect of human life. A select group of survivors have been given refuge in the technological haven called the City. Here, every aspect of daily life is dictated by the laws of the governing Elders. One brave woman dares to risk the severest repercussions when an attractive stranger arrives from a place the Elders claim cannot possibly exist. When this man’s skills with a musical pipe are sought by the Elders, the dismal world they govern will be changed forever by the simple breaking of their word.

There’s more to life than following the rules.

The world building was handled well. I really enjoyed learning about the different roles that people could have in the City. It was such a strict society that I couldn’t stop wondering how folks managed to live in that kind of environment for a whole lifetime. The more I learned about it, the more curious I became about how it might change after Graham, the attractive stranger, came to visit. The odd way the City was set up became even more clear when I compared it to how Graham liked to live.

This story would have benefited from another round of editing. I noticed multiple typos in it, especially when it came to run-on sentences and the misuse of punctuation marks. There were also some sentences that didn’t make sense because they were either missing important words or had extra words added to them in ways that weren’t grammatically correct.

The chemistry between Apple and Graham was wonderful. I liked the fact that their relationship was given so much time to develop before anything sexual happened between them. It made a lot of sense due to the rigid culture Apple grew up in. By the time they decided to finally touch, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next or if they’d end up together for good.

Myth City: A Modern Retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin should be read by anyone who enjoys modern twists on classic fairy tales.

The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar


The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (22 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

A collection of short stories dealing with different kinds of scars we keep. They never said being human could be this hard. they never told us about the scars we would carry. they only told us that this is what it means to be alive

Have you every truly looked into the darker side of your psyche?

The Itching Scars is a collection of three short stories that examine the thoughts, actions and reality of humanity that many of us choose to ignore in our daily lives. To Court Death is the first short story that you will encounter and just like the title implies, it is a look at the courtship of death. Keep in mind that this is not the courtship of the character Death, but a courtship or love of the idea and symbolism of death. This story is primarily narrative with very little dialogue; yet the story is very clear from this vantage point. The reader obtains a fantastic view of death and the hold it has on the individual psyche.

The second story in the three story collection is called The Space Above, The Space Within. This story is told from a third person point of view and includes quite a bit more dialogue. This story takes a deep difficult look at governmental and societal controls. Votum is the main character in this story and it follows his life from the point when his father begins taking a stand against the thought control that their society enforces. The author does a fantastic job at making this world a real, believable construct and in effect, works to cause the reader to question how a society could become so focused that humanity is lost in the daily lives.

The final story is called Under The Rust. The title deceived me at first, but the story was epic. I especially loved the twist at the end, which I did not foresee coming. Under the Rust has a great amount of dialogue and interaction, this comes from a first person narrative encounter. This story is great to be set as last, because it ties the other two stories up to give a total glimpse into the human mind. Out of the three stories, this by far was my favorite.

The author has a great knack for storytelling and understands the use of the various points of view to bring about the best story. Where there was less dialogue, this was certainly cleanly replaced with important description and narration. The length of the book overall was shorter, I feel that none of the stories felt rushed or that anything was left out. I had a great time and enjoyed all three stories.

If you would like to consider looking into your own dark humanity by examining another individual’s dark thoughts and perceptions, this is definitely the book for you!

Rescued By the Captain by Laura A. Barnes


Rescued By the Captain by Laura A. Barnes
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Abandoned at sea.

When Ivy Mallory awakens; she finds herself on the ship of the man who rejected her love years earlier. While he was away working for the Crown, she embraced the London Seasons trying to forget him. Caught in the middle of a treason plot; she must help save her brother. To do so she needs to put her trust in the one man who can protect her. But can she protect her heart from loving him again?

Found at sea.

Captain Marcus Thornhill never imagined he would find a lady floating unconscious in a lifeboat out in the middle of the open sea. But it wasn’t any lady, it was Ivy. Seven years earlier he rejected her love for a life at sea. As he rescues her he gets involved in a treason plot that will bring the war to their beloved shores of England. As he unravels the plot he is unable to deny his desire for her. Is he too late in saving her and the love he has for her?

This story starts with a storm and I was quickly caught in it. Thorn, the hero, was strong, brave and sexy. Ivy was strong-willed, endearing and beautiful. Together they made the pages steamy. There was nothing about them that was unappealing.

I find it hard to believe that this is Laura A. Barnes’ first novel. Her writing style needs to be recognized. I’m not a writer so perhaps what I was drawn to was a certain, well-used technique so forgive me if it is and my ignorance, however, I’ve never read a book that was written like this. The hero would have an internal dialogue while looking into the heroine eyes and based on her mannerisms, could guess or wonder what she was thinking or feeling. It left me wondering if his assumptions were correct. Immediately the author would continue with the heroine answering his unasked questions. It gave me the feeling that the hero and heroine were so connected mind, body and soul; it was as if they could almost read each other’s minds. Another aspect I enjoyed was the incorporation of a significant poem into the love story that uses their names in a clever pun, and I can’t forget to mention the name of his ship. I applaud this book’s writing style!

The plot was masterly planned and executed with a steady and smooth pace. It was impossible to put the book down because the treason and romance plot kept evolving on each page.

While Thorn and Ivy achieved their happily ever after, I was left wondering if there will be a book two with Charles, Ivy’s brother, and Raina LeClair, a lady who had a part in the unsolved treason plot. There needs to be a book two for Charles to complete his mission! I have a couple of other questions but without spoiling Rescued By the Captain, all I can say is that there needs to be a book two so that readers can be at peace regarding Ivy’s safety. If there isn’t going to be a book two, I’ll be crushed! I need total closure!

Other than a serious craving for more, this was an excellent romance story that was very entertaining. The characters are well developed and I feel like I inherited another “book family”. I’ll be thinking about Ivy and Thorn and wishing them the best in their future!

His Highland Heart by Willa Blair


His Highland Heart by Willa Blair
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Shipwrecked in enemy territory, Euan Brodie fears the rest of his crew are at the bottom of the Moray Firth. While he searches for his crew, the youngest barely fifteen years old, he must evade Clan Ross warriors. Yet when he sees a lass about to drown in the incoming tide, he risks capture to save her.

Along with two other Munro lasses, Muireall Munro was taken by Clan Ross raiders nearly a month ago. She’s yet to be claimed as a Ross bride. Still, after two failed escape attempts, her hope is waning of ever seeing her home and the younger brother she was raising. But the stranger who pulls her from the surf will change her life forever.

If Muireall reveals who she really is, the delicious man who just saved her life will want nothing further to do with her—yet she needs him if she is ever to escape her Ross captors. If Euan reveals who he really is to the woman he saved, he risks not only his life, but his clan. Left with no choice, can they save each other while they fall in love?

I knew what it really meant when I read “We’re no’ going to make it!” on the first page – I wasn’t going to get to sleep that night until I finished the book. Right out the gate I was hooked! The hero, Euan, had immediate book boyfriend appeal. When Euan responded “Aye, we are,” I just laughed because I knew I wasn’t going to put the book down and I was mostly right. I’m very elated that I read this story.

The plot was honestly a masterpiece. It was well thought out and orchestrated. Without repeating the synopsis or spoiling anything, I can only say that as I was reading it I’d think to myself “oh, that was clever” or “nicely plotted” or “oooh, that was a nice twist”. I kept having moments of pleasure instead of thinking “why?” or “…no not that”. His Highland Heart is a satisfying endeavor. There were several moments where I was on the edge of my seat.

The chemistry between Euan and Muireall was intense and powerful at times and other times barely existed for reasons I can’t explain without spoiling the story but in the end it worked. There are other relevant characters such as Muireall’s friend, Ella, and Euan’s friend, Calum, whom I would have liked to have had a better ending than they did with a bit more happily ever after closure.

Remember when I said that I was mostly right about not being able to put the book down? That was because I actually put the book down to go to bed at midnight – without finishing the story. That’s really unusual for me especially when a book captures my interest like this one did in the beginning. The pace was like being in a NASCAR race going 200 MPH while knowing I was in first place without a care in the world. The adrenaline book glow was bright. Gosh, I can’t spoil the story by saying exactly when but there is a point closer to near the end of the book where my winning racecar ran out of gas. The pace of the book rapidly slowed down to the point of feeling like I was behind a bus stopping at every other street. I felt like yelling “for the LOVE of God, can I just get past the bus?” I finally put the book down at midnight. I had a restless sleep with all the unknowns running through my head and I was anxious to get back into the story. When I did, I was relieved that the pace eventually resumed being smooth and steady. In no way was I disappointed in the plot during this turn of events because I believed it was all relevant in the big picture.

His Highland Heart was wrapped up nicely with an epilogue which of course I just love to find at the end of a story. I strongly recommend this story for an entertaining read.