Make a Wish by ED Parr


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

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

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

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

A sweet read for a chilly evening.

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

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

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

Half Wolf by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom


Half Wolf by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (304 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

His Secret…or Her Salvation?

When he stumbled upon a beautiful woman who’d been the victim of a vampire attack, Alpha wolf Michael Hunter faced an impossible choice. His honor dictated that he save her life. But the only way he knew to accomplish that was to make her one of his own. Now Kaitlin Davies was half Lycan and his responsibility as she underwent a dangerous transformation to full wolf.

Something within Kaitlin called to Michael’s inner wolf with an intensity he’d never felt. He wanted her. But as he witnessed the changes occurring in her body, he wasn’t sure what she was becoming. Had Michael created something that could destroy them both…or was her transformation as preordained as their passion?

Half Wolf has such a unique concept I couldn’t pass this book up. I thought for sure when I saw the title, and I read the first couple of chapters, that I knew what Kaitlin’s other ‘half’ was going to be. Wow, was I wrong! And, I was delighted with the author’s choice.

There is quite the cast of characters in this novel to support, guide, assist and complicate the growing relationship between Kaitlin and Michael. I get the sense that a few of them were from past books somewhere along the line and based upon how they’re described in this story, they must have been humdingers. I’ll be checking them out for sure. Anyway, back to this tale. At one point I felt two of the ‘visitors’ were more a distraction than a help. They acted like mavericks. Sure, one of their decisions garnered some extra help but it was how it was delivered that annoyed me. And when I envision the meaning of the word ‘pack’, I have a different picture in mind than what was delivered.

Then there are the mysterious visitors to Kaitlin. Who exactly are they? At one point I got the sense that she knew them, like really ‘knew’ them, and then, not. Then I got the impression that she was 100% something other than human, yet could come across as human and if she wasn’t human, I have to ask how in the world no tells or weirdness happened before in her life to clue her in that she was different? What was offered didn’t convince me. Especially since there was a reference to her parents, which then begs the question based upon how these people treated her, did her parents hide her because they were nicer people and didn’t want their daughter to develop a personality like those others? So many questions and too little time to explore fully the world that Thomas-Sundstrom created, that 304 pages just isn’t enough. It may sound like I had a negative reaction to all of this oddness but in actuality I want to learn more because the potential dynamics seem fascinating.

As for the villain of the piece, Kaitlin, Michael and their pack have their hands full dealing with the results of the evil guy’s dastardly machinations but he never battles the hero and heroine directly. At least not until the end, and even then it was fleeting. And, it’s not the end. Because there are two vile threads threatening their little sleepy hamlet and Half Wolf could only resolve one which must mean that there will be a second book. I’m good with that but it better get published soon because I want to read it. I hope a few of the ‘helper characters’ get to stay for that party as well.

Half Wolf left me with a lot of questions but the one thing it didn’t do was bore me. It was a fast, easy read because the concept intrigued me, the main characters were likable, the paranormal aspect had unique twists that delighted me and I enjoyed watching Kaitlin and Michael fall in love. There are a lot of positives to appreciate not the least of which are the love scenes between the hero and heroine.

I have no problem recommending Half Wolf to fellow paranormal romance readers but just be aware that it might whet your appetite for more of their story. And maybe like me, will want to continue reading about this engaging couple with their unusual paranormal challenges and their growing love. I get the strongest feeling that there is so much more left to discover and I’m vested enough in Michael and Kaitlin’s relationship, I hope to visit Clement again, soon.

Toys for Boys by KD Grace


Toys for Boys by KD Grace
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Toys, Spanking, Exhibitionism
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Alpha nerd Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.

The boys are away and they will play…dirty.

I knew going in this would be a hot story. I had no idea how hot and I’m glad…in a good way. Toys for Boys was a delightful and sweltering surprise. I already liked the work of KD Grace and this one is no exception. She even has written herself into the story!

Doc and Will are great together, even when they don’t want to be that way. I loved how the guys were initially polar opposites. Will has charm to boot and when he turns it on… well… Doc wasn’t the only one helpless. I liked Will from the start. The writing flowed well, even when I wasn’t sure initially why the author had written herself into the story. Trust me, it all makes sense in the end and it’s worth the reward. Now writing herself into the book (or a character called KD) could’ve been considered a show of ego, but in this book it’s not. It feels more like a diary entry or a retelling to a friend rather than something one-dimensional. I’m glad the author took the story in this direction. Well worth the effort.

Did I mention it was a hot read? I’ll never look at tree branches, rocks, or even butter exactly the same way again. I won’t spoil the story, but oh… man… It’s sinful. The only thing that marred the story for me was the few typos. One character’s name changed spelling and it confused me for a moment. With another quick pass by an editor and this story will shine brighter. It already shines, but it can be brighter.

If you want a hot story that’s sinfully hot and involves nature, then this is the book for you. Recommended.

Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland


Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (52 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Samson Redding has everything he could want — everything money can buy. But for all that, he’s alone. He’s been pursuing the lovely Jerrica in an online relationship, and he’s ready to take it to the next level, but she’s not ready.

Samson’s thought of the perfect way to change her mind. He convinces Jerrica to meet in person — at a BDSM club he knows she’ll love, once she wraps her mind around it.

It may take more than ribbons and bows to tie his woman to his side, but Samson’s up for the challenge. The rest? That’s up to Jerrica.

Samson somehow let his sister talk him into dressing up as Santa Clause for poverty-stricken children. What his sister didn’t know was her attempt – yet again – to set him up fell directly into his plans for Jerrica. Samson and Jerrica had been emailing online for a while now and Samson is more than ready to take steps to the next level. Will Jerrica be on board with that?

This is a fun, Christmassy short story. I found Samson a bit arrogant to start with – having done extensive background research on Jerrica before they’d really met and just assuming he knew what was best for her. It also rubbed me a bit wrong how Samson needed to control pretty much every aspect of the day and evening when he and Jerrica met. From manipulating the situation with his sister “meeting” Jerrica all the way through to the “coincidence” of their date at the BDSM club Samson was literally in control of pretty much every aspect. I found it a little creepy and hugely control-freakish, not really sexy or masterful as I expect it was meant to come across. Aside from this and a few other – far smaller – niggles I really enjoyed how much lead-up there was to both Jerrica’s and Samson’s characters. It was a pleasure to read a very short story where the hero and heroine didn’t just meet, fall in insta-lust and hop right into bed. Readers who enjoy a much slower pace to their steamy stories should find this one suits them well.

While there was a bit of kink shown in the BDSM club, I found it interesting that it was other people (strangers) participating and neither Samson nor Jerrica indulged. I was of two minds about the lack of strong kink in the sex with Samson and Jerrica. On the one hand Jerrica was a complete BDSM novice and had only hinted at her curiosity and interest to Samson – so a part of me understood why they only dipped their toes into the kinkier side of sex. On the other hand I feel the storyline (and the erotic-ness of the sex) could have been really strengthened by some stronger elementrs. For a BDSM story I really felt Samson and Jerrica only dabbled in the shallows of their kink – it would have been a real pleasure, and made the sexy side of the story stronger to my mind, had Samson led Jerrica deeper into the world of BDSM sexually. I feel this was a huge missed opportunity by the author and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed neither of them really went there. Jerrica and Samson weren’t straight vanilla, but considering how far – and explicit – erotic stories have come in recent years I couldn’t help but feel readers looking for a kinky, strongly sexual story might be disappointed with this.

I thought the premise of the story was excellent and I really enjoyed the author’s story-telling voice. I’d happily read more by this author and would even enjoy reading a sequel or story that explored what happened next between Jerrica and Samson. A fun short story.

Love’s Opening Night by Jeff Adams


Love’s Opening Night by Jeff Adams
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Can an onstage love story lead to a real-life romance?

Jeremy Steele is a veteran Broadway performer. For his latest role, he’s dancing alongside a man he’s fantasized about for years, TV star Ty Beaumont. Jeremy knows better than to get involved with a castmate, but when Ty has trouble learning the complicated choreography, Jeremy offers to lend a hand. When a rehearsal kiss turns into something more, Jeremy can’t help but wonder what a celebrity like Ty could ever see in a Broadway chorus boy like him. Will a relationship with his crush make it past previews, or can it become a long-running hit?

A sweet romance based in the theatre and peppered with dance.

I was on the hunt for a sweet short story with plenty of heart. This book did the trick. I knew what I was getting when I started it and wasn’t disappointed. Jeff Adams has penned a nice story of two guys who were on a collision course to meet. The writing flowed well and I couldn’t put it down until the last page.

This book focused more on the emotional aspects of the story and characters. The drama was to a minimum, but for this story, it worked. Sometimes life is filled with simpler drama. I did like the rougher moments for Jeremy and Ty. Jeremy was portrayed very realistically and I felt for him quite a few times.

If you’re looking for a feel-good short story to read over lunch that will leave you with a smile, then this is the story you’re looking for.

The Bucktown Babies by Janine R. Pestel


The Bucktown Babies by Janine R. Pestel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (124 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Johann Gunter, a former priest, whose sister has been taken by a demon, travels to a small farming community where there is an alarming outbreak of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Knowing this is the work of a demon, he prepares to fight the monster and, hopefully, save the town. Before he can finish his investigation, however, he finds out his cover has been blown, and an unlikely person steps up as an ally. “The Bucktown Babies” is the first book in the Father Gunter Demon Hunter series.

Sometimes the innocent suffer more than anyone else.

Johann had an sad and interesting backstory. I appreciated the fact that the narrator waited quite a while to share it with the audience. Not knowing what it was that originally drew this character into such an unusual line of work kept me curious in the beginning. Finding it out eventually was also important, though, and I’m glad that the author made sure her readers had a strong understanding of this part of his past.

This story spent a lot of time telling me what was happening instead of showing it to me. The premise was incredibly interesting, but I had a hard time getting into the plot because there weren’t enough details to draw me into the scenes. Even what should have been the most exciting sections were described so vaguely that I had trouble picturing what was happening in them and what it would be like to be standing next to Johann at those exact moments.

Why would a demon decide to prey only on babies? This question haunted me as I read. The nice thing about this part of the plot is that it was so open to interpretation. There were passages early on that supported just about all of the theories I came up with to explain why this might be so. This made me eager to push on and find out which one of them might be correct.

There were some things I didn’t understand at all about the demon. For example, Johann’s plan for getting rid of this creature was much simpler than I thought it would be based on how distressed he was at the news of the demonic infestation in the opening scene. Other scenes shared the same kind of information about the demon. It seemed contradictory to me at times, so I would have really liked to see more time spent explaining why the main character was distressed about this case.

The science fiction and mystery elements of the plot were balanced wonderfully. It actually took me a while to figure out how to classify this tale because of what a good job it did at mixing these genres together seamlessly. The mystery tag won out in the end, but only barely. This is the sort of thing that can appeal to more than one audience due to how much care it took in making sure that the storyline included the best from both of the genres it was playing around with.

I’d recommend The Bucktown Babies equally to fans of both of these genres.

Candy Caned by Kiernan Kelly


Candy Caned by Kiernan Kelly
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

For Elves, life at the North Pole is busy but satisfying. Daniel is no exception. He finds great pride in his work as a toy train painter. As the holidays approach, however, the pressures of doing his job push him to the edge. When Santa adds to Daniel’s already overburdened workload by ordering him to plan the annual Workshop Holiday Party, Daniel feels a panic attack coming on and turns to his partner Stephen for help.

Stephen, a Dom who knows Daniel better than anyone else, understands exactly what Daniel needs. In Stephen’s playroom, he blisters Daniel’s ass and balms his soul with the help of a bright, cheery, holiday candy cane.

Now better able to deal with the pressures of the holidays, Daniel plans a party to end all parties for all the Elves at the Workshop. One in which every Elf, including Santa, will be able to get off and let off a little sexy steam.

Christmas time is crazy for the elves, and Daniel hated the hectic stress of it all. His mood only fell further when Santa put him in charge of the annual holiday bash. When Daniel’s lover, Stephen, discovers how stressed Daniel is, he knows exactly the cure to help relieve Daniel’s tension. A good session in their playroom together and they can both enjoy a very Merry Christmas.

This sizzling short story is delightful. I loved both the steamy kink between Stephen and Daniel, but also really enjoyed how well the Dom clearly knew his lover. The familiarity, chemistry and connection between Stephen and Daniel meant I didn’t mind at all when they got intimate very quickly into the story – it was clear they were in a committed and loving relationship, and this made their kinky sex even more delightful to me. I also really enjoyed how the sex – hot as it was – wasn’t the only aspect to the story. I thought it excellent how the author hadn’t just added Daniel organizing the Christmas party as a token or throw-away plot. This got properly followed-through on and I thought it was a hoot. While completely unlike any other North Pole party I’ve heard or read about – the author managed to convince me it was not only suitable, but a heck of a lot of fun to boot.

Definitely not for the faint of heart, get a delicious cocktail or glass of bubbly, turn off your phone, sit back and enjoy this naughty tale. With something that I feel will appeal to everyone this is a fun, frantic and deliciously wicked Christmas story.

My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane


My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane
Slip in Time Series

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alice Hanstrom prefers books to people, facts over feelings, and in her world, “adventure” is just a word in the dictionary. That is until the night she braves shadowed hallways of the Cowboy and Western Museum in pursuit of a long​-lost diary. Her search of an antique covered wagon halts abruptly when the museum slips Alice back in time.

Thomas Bristol is an experienced wagon master. On a daily basis he deals with cholera, exhausted oxen, and river rapids on the treacherous journey to Oregon Territory. But he’s completely flummoxed when a mysterious woman appears in Big Blue River.

On the trail, Alice and Thomas strive to balance his love of roaming adventure and her desire for predictable orderliness. As the wagon train reaches Independence Rock, the sparks between them catch fire. But can such different people become equal partners in love…and can their love survive the slip in time?

Alice, is an academic who is studying for her PhD. Her research takes place in the Cowboy and Western Museum and concerns the American west, in particular the wagon trains that travelled west in the mid-1800s. When an accident causes a slip through time, Alice finds a new life in a wagon train. She also finds Thomas Bristol who becomes the love of her life.

I loved this book. Alice’s thoughts on what was happening around her and her thoughts on her research coming to life were fascinating. Her interpretation of the Fourth of July celebrations were quite unique, considering the year she was from and the year she was now living in. One thing I found strange was that no one questioned where she’d come from. You’d think the wagon master or the family she travelled with would at least ask, but I don’t remember that at all.

All through the story, and the heated love scenes, the question hovered – would she return to her own time and if she did would that be the end of any love between her and Thomas? I won’t spoil the story by revealing the ending, but I will say it’s a unique and clever way of finishing the tale.

Save Jake Venice by Asher Oswald


Save Jake Venice by Asher Oswald
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (41 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

When I heard Jake Venice had taken his life, I felt like I died with him. Suffocated by the fluff and fakeness of the plastic faces at his funeral, all I wanted to do was join him…wherever he was now.

I woke up the next morning with one last chance. Somehow, I was put ten days back, and I had one shot to try and save Jake. I drove across the country to find him, but when I did…How do you convince someone to hold on who’s already let go? How do you bring light to someone committed to the darkness? I have ten days to try.

A complicated topic tackled in a short story.

I’m a sucker for short stories and even more of one for tortured heroes. This short story certainly delivered on the tortured front. My heart bled for Jake.

I commend the author on tackling a difficult topic. There are some people who look at the world through the lens of depression and can’t see a way out. There are others who need order and logic, but can’t comprehend emotion. That’s Jake. The author wrote him in a fashion that made me both love and hate him. I didn’t like how combative and sharp-tongued he could be, but I’ve known people like Jake, so in that sense he was realistic. As for the other hero, I appreciated his desire to stick with his mission.

That said, this wasn’t the kind of book I might have picked up otherwise. There were rough edges to the characters and the ending wasn’t what I expected. If you’re looking for something fluffy and light, then this might not be the short story you’re wanting. But if you want something a little coarser, then this is the kind of story you’ve probably wanted for quite a while.

First Hunt by Ima Erthwitch


First Hunt by Ima Erthwitch
Publisher: Wild Ozark, LLC
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (91 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

The whole world went a little sideways after the global collapse. Aside from the general mayhem caused when TEOTWAWKI finally struck, there were other unexpected problems. The fabric of the universe ripped and portals to other dimensions sprang from the rifts. Treya signs on to be a bounty hunter with ARSA and has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. In a world where criminals are hunted three times each, bad karma builds fast. Sooner or later, the hunters become the hunted.

Set in the upper Buffalo River wilderness area in northwest Arkansas. Martial law is in effect and the government has secrets. Perhaps it is the knowledge gained by the ARSA team that leads to their demise more than the karma. Luckily, Treya’s mentor has outside connections to a rebel stronghold guarding a portal deep in the hollers of the Ozarks. Together they might all be able to escape the system.

Set in a near future, the existence that Americans currently enjoy is about to change.

After the collapse of the United States and the military law and NATO takeover, Treya watches, helpless as solders take her parents away. She is given a special card and told she should apply for a job with the government as a bounty hunter, but why would she want to work for the same government that took her parents? When her life falls apart more than it had, Treya has to make a choice to either work for the government or starve. In this decision, Treya learns much more about what she holds inside than she has ever imagined.

The character development and between Treya and her mentor is an ongoing process, one which will leave the reader speechless at times. Initially, the gruff individual seems to care for nothing but getting the job done, even to the effect of failing to actually teach Treya as they go along. Yet, after several events, the reader begins to see a completely different side of both characters.

The events that the author describes and the reality that the characters live in is not too far from what could be. The shift from a life of choices to one of regulated military guard is one that is often feared and discussed. The reader will not only be able to understand where the author is coming from, but also understand the decisions that each of the characters make.

I really like the flow of the story. While the story sets up for follow-up sequels, the reader is not left with a bad taste in their mouth from an abrupt ending. In fact, the ending almost has a smooth transition into wanting to continue the journey without feeling forced or compelled.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of First Hunt! This is a Science Fiction story that is not too far out from what could truly be!