Second Time Love by Laura M. Baird


Second Time Love by Laura M. Baird
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (39 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

After losing her husband of thirty years, Grace, at the age of fifty, thought all she’d ever feel was grief and loneliness. She certainly never thought to feel love again. After being convinced to take the trip of a lifetime, a surprise encounter with Cole has her rethinking her feelings—especially when he ignites a passion unlike anything she’s ever experienced. Will Grace allow herself another chance with this second time love?

After thirty years together Grace is devastated when her husband is killed in an accident. After a number of months recovering from the heart-wrenching loss, Grace decides to take the already paid for trip to Fiji she and her husband had planned for the end of the year. When Grace meets Colt on her holiday, can she open her heart to living – and loving – once again?

This is a lovely short story. I was particularly pleased that the author didn’t gloss over Grace and the loss of her childhood sweetheart and husband of many years. There was no doubt in my mind that Grace fully and thoroughly grieved for that loss and finally managed to come out the other side of her grief. Watching Grace embrace life again was delightful and a lovely aspect to this story which I hadn’t been expecting. I feel that readers will either love or hate Grace jumping into a new relationship with a man she met on holiday – the four months that have passed since Grace’s husband died could be either plenty of time to grieve or nowhere near enough, and I think readers will vary wildly in their opinions on that matter.

I personally found that Grace’s emotions were well written, but I was a little uncomfortable at the spiciness of Colt’s reaction to meeting Grace and particularly the speed with which they moved their physical relationship. While I was more than happy to read of Grace moving on and finding love for a second time, I think I would have been more comfortable had it been a softer, more gentle style of love that slowly blossomed into a spicy and sexy relationship. Possibly due to the shortness of the story the vast bulk of that getting to know you stage was skipped over into a paragraph or two describing “wonderful days” of Colt and Grace exploring the islands and talking at length together. While that nod to time was fine – actually reading the story meant that basically from one page to the next Colt and Grace met, admitted their desire for each other then tumbled into bed. It felt just too fast for me, personally, to really enjoy.

Readers looking for a spicy “second chance at love” style of story likely should be very happy with this – as the consummation is sensually and explicitly written. I was also impressed that although neither Grace nor Colt were young, their sexual desires were hot and heavy. Both Colt and Grace were more than willing to embrace life and love and ready to start fresh with each other. This was lovely to see.

An interesting short story that encompasses both the deep well of grief stemming from the loss of one relationship and walking through the other side to the beautiful beginning of a new relationship. This story covers a lot of ground and is certainly a spicy, sexy read.

Crave by Sam Crescent


Crave by Sam Crescent
Trojans MC 8
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (141 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

He’s craved her for a long time, and now he’s going to have her.

From the first moment Chip saw Kasey, he knew without a doubt he wanted her. He didn’t even know her name, but she was going to belong to him. Now he is ready to claim her, but one of his club brothers seems determined to claim her for himself as well.

Chip will not lose this fight. Kasey’s his, and he’s going to prove to the nurse that he’s the guy for her.

Knowing the Trojans MC through her work at the hospital, Kasey doesn’t think much of the bouquets of flowers, figuring they were a friendly gift. But when Chip asks her out on a date, she realizes it’s more. Her attraction to Chip surprises her. She’s never seen herself with a club man, but with every second she spends with him, she can’t imagine a life without him.

The Trojans MC are in danger, and the threat they face could completely kill the entire club. No one will back down, nor will they allow Duke, their Prez, to fight their battle alone. Can Kasey handle the pressure of being a Trojan’s woman? Will Chip survive to prove his love?

Crave is the eighth book in the Trojans MC series by Sam Crescent. It’s a good biker story with great characters who immediately caught my attention.

I love this biker series that always has something gritty and exciting happening in every book. Kasey is a friend of the club who finds herself being courted by two of the club members. There was a lot of self reflection, light humor, and hot sexy moments. Personally, I never thought there was any contest between Chip and Pie. Chip was so intense and take charge that man could’ve had any woman he wanted. He wanted Kasey and so the minute Pie made his move it was game over. Chip wasn’t taking any chances on losing the woman he had chosen for his Old Lady. I like a man who can take charge. Kasey only liked Pie as a friend anyway, but she did have a few doubts about the club lifestyle. A lot of other situations were happening, as well. The club was still having trouble with the Abelli mafia and Duke has finally had enough so war seemed imminent.

Sam Crescent’s writing was excellent on this fast paced story. The plot was complex and very well developed thanks to the rich back story involved in this series. The characters were amazing as usual. This book was a great addition to the Trojans MC series. Now, I cannot wait for Pie to meet his match soon.

The Storm’s Gift by A.D Ellis


The Storm’s Gift by A.D Ellis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short story (34)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Snowed in together in their college dorm, two men share a quick connection that creates enough heat to spar with the blizzard outside.

Rory Blackwell plans to rejuvenate his mind and repair his battered heart after his world is shaken by an unexpected breakup. James Austin’s freshman-year plans of improving his social life crashed and burned, leaving him feeling as alone and outcast as he did back home.

One man is hurting while the other is eager to provide comfort. One is a virgin, the other experienced with other men. Both are looking forward to Winter Break, but can they take full advantage of their situation—or will the passion ignited between them fizzle out with the storm?

Rory is looking forward to two quiet weeks over the Christmas holidays in the dorms at his University campus where he’s the RA. Still hurting from the break-up of his long-term boyfriend, Rory is eager for two weeks of solitude, junk food and binge-watching tv shows. He hadn’t planned on being snowed in, and particularly not stranded with James, who had stayed back late to complete his final exam.

This is an interesting short story written in the first person and jumping between Rory’s perspective and James’. I’m not often a fan of the first-person story-telling, but I have to admit the author did a good job here. Switching perspectives chapter by chapter also doesn’t always work for me, but being able to see inside both Rory’s head and James’ let me feel like I had a good grasp on both characters. And for me, once I’m interested and invested in the characters it’s never a hard sell for the rest of the story.

I sympathized with Rory – after his break up and wanting some down time from the craziness of University life – and I was intrigued by James, determined to finish his exams and do his best. I had one short moment of disbelief when the professor supervising James in his last exam left due to the breaking snowstorm (none of my own professors would have ever, under any circumstances, done so) but I could easily let that small slip of reality pass and enjoy the story of two men being snowbound together and I was happy that much of the rest of the story was solidly bound in realistic terms.

I greatly enjoyed how Rory and James didn’t simply realize they were alone and instantly jump into bed (nor instantly fall in love with each other). This helped sell the realism of the story to me. I found the pacing to be really good, too. For a short story I find it’s often too easy to rush ahead and lose me as a reader, or go too slow and feel slightly short-changed in the romance department. I loved the sex scenes between the two men and found it emotionally satisfying and explicitly written.

For a short, happy and easily read quick Christmas story this ticked a lot of happy boxes for me. A “happy for now” style of ending and some deliciously hot sex sealed off a great “snowed in” style of story. A solid and fun read I really enjoyed it.

Witches: Tea Party by Mark Taylor


Witches: Tea Party by Mark Taylor
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In Salem, 1692, Marie-Anne witnessed the death of her friend and confidant, Sarah Good. Charged with being a witch, Sarah goes to the gallows to protect Marie-Anne, a true witch.

Three hundred years later, Marie-Anne, under the name Mary Anson, vows to put things right.

With a new coven – Dina, Excalibur, and Lady – Mary puts in motion the steps to right what went wrong…and what followers is a chase across the country, a chase against time, pursued by monsters and darkness…

…will Mary put things right?

…or will she die trying?

It’s never too late to try to fix a past mistake.

Mary’s personality was quite well developed. She was an intelligent, cunning, and stubborn woman who definitely had her fair share of flaws. There were times when she made decisions that made me shake my head, but there was always something about her that kept me coming back for more. Her personality was so complex that she felt like a real person to me. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish in a short story, so Mr. Taylor should be commended for pulling it off.

Unfortunately, there were many loose plot ends left dangling after the final scene. While I understand that this is the first story in a series and that the author wanted to leave room to explore the conflicts again in the future, it was unsatisfactory for me as a reader to finish the last paragraph without feeling a sense of closure about the majority of the issues that Mary faced during the course of this tale. It would have been nice to see her accomplish more of her goals before she tried to move onto her next adventure.

The world building was handled beautifully, though. The narrator quickly introduced the complicated and sometimes dangerous society that witches had developed and then left it up to the audience to fill in the blanks as the plot moved forward. There was a lot of ground to cover in order to fully develop the settings and that culture. I was always comfortable with how much I was learning about Mary’s world, though, and I walked away from it feeling as if I’d really been there with her.

Witches: Tea Party should be read by anyone who would like to lose themselves in another time and place.

Not All Chocolate And Cuckoo Clocks by Rebecca Cohen


Not All Chocolate And Cuckoo Clocks by Rebecca Cohen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (132)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Neither of them wants to fall in love, but getting exactly what they don’t want might be the best thing to ever happen to them.

Mark hopes his boredom with his current job will be alleviated by a short stint in Basel, Switzerland. When he meets Steffen, who struck out on his own from an old-money family to establish an IT firm, Mark expects some fun, great sex, and a clean break when his job is done. The arrangement is perfect for Steffen, who has been content with casual after a betrayal—and has a taste for British men after attending university in the UK. But as they explore the city’s rich history and traditions, Mark begins to see Steffen as much more than a tour guide with benefits. If he isn’t careful, the trip meant to break the lull in his career might end up breaking his heart instead….

Mark landed a plush assignment for work and – better still – had been moved for three months to live in Switzerland to complete it. He could hardly believe his luck. Steffen is a Swiss IT specialist who has some fond university memories of the UK. When the two men meet through work they form an instant – and special – connection. Can Steffan show Mark just how much fun the small Switzerland town can be?

I found this to be a really fun and slow-paced, romantic story. I loved how Steffan had a dry and subtle sense of humour. I found it refreshing and just different enough that even had I not known this was set in Switzerland I’d have guessed it wasn’t a US-based story. I was also secretly pleased that the author added a lot of descriptions and history into explaining the small Swiss town under the guise of Mark being a visitor – as my own, personal, knowledge of Switzerland is depressingly small. Having Steffan guide Mark around allowed the author to impart massive detail without it feeling like an info-dump or brochure for the country made the story move much more smoothly that I was nervous about. Overall it really helped me assimilate all the new information and have a good, clear picture of the gorgeous little Swiss town.

I didn’t mind in the least that Steffan and Mark took their time getting to know each other. While I could understand that some romance readers wanting a ton of spice and plenty of erotic sex in their story might feel the pace here was a little slow, I personally was glad to get to know both the two main characters and the town (practically a character in itself, which I loved). Mark and Steffan formed a careful friendship first and this made the relationship feel a lot more realistic to me. I personally would have preferred a little more of their sexual chemistry to have shown through from their first meeting. I was delighted when Steffan very bluntly expressed his intentions and from there I thought the relationship grew at a good and realistic pace. While there was plenty of build up – almost too much, to my mind – the sex was hot and satisfying when it was consummated. Steffan and Mark both were emotionally as well as physically entwined and it made me chuckle that they both took so long to realize they were more than just a causal “few month long” fling. With a deliciously happy ending I found this story well rounded and perfectly satisfying.

While the story-line itself is nothing completely new and different, the setting and characters truly made this story memorable for me. I thoroughly enjoyed both Mark and Steffan and once the two of them had made their intentions clear the rest of the ride was glorious for me. I also truly loved the insights into Switzerland and loved the town and setting. The author has totally done justice to the location (to my mind, at least) and readers looking for a visit to another country with a lovely M/M romance on the side should definitely indulge. Recommended.

The Puzzle Box by CC Bridges


The Puzzle Box by CC Bridges
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short story (31 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Elementary school art teacher Cole Peters is expecting a lonely Christmas this year while his longtime boyfriend, James Carducci, is on deployment with the Army. However, a box from James contains puzzles that lead Cole on a scavenger hunt through the greatest moments of their relationship. Together with his best friend Liz, Cole works his way through each clue.

The final puzzle could lead Cole to a gift beyond his wildest expectations.

Cole and James had been together a long time, but with James deployed for Christmas Cole just doesn’t see the point in celebrating or getting excited about the holidays. When the first package from James arrived, Cole enjoyed the memories it brought back, but was confused. When the next package arrived, Cole realized James had organized something very special for them both to help celebrate this Christmas.

I found this to be a fun and sweet, sentimental Christmas story. I loved how Cole remembering all the special memories with James helped me as the reader to get to know James’ character as well as Coles – even though James wasn’t “on screen” too much, being deployed. This was a freshly unique manner of telling me about a character so important to Cole and showed me loads about their relationship without the need of having James be physically present – and I loved it. Even with James away for most of the book there’s a bunch of chemistry and one short but steamy sexy scene – enough, I feel, to satisfy readers wanting a bit more spice in their Christmas story, but at the same time not too much. The sensuality level was just right for me. Best of all, the romance and love between Cole and James was clear and just lovely to read, making this a deeply satisfying book on many levels.

Readers looking for a super short, quick and sentimental Christmassy read should enjoy this story. I found it to be sweet and heartwarming, the puzzle pieces giving Cole a bunch of happy and loving memories from times past with himself and James. The happy ending was lovely and satisfying. This is a great, quick read that I really enjoyed.

An Open Window by Rick R. Reed


An Open Window by Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (21 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Two men. One Christmas Eve that changes the courses of both their lives.

Henry’s homeless and only wants a warm place to sleep on the coldest night of the year. A forgotten open window in a darkened house entices Henry inside with the promise of warmth and comfort. He knows it’s bad, but he promises himself he’ll be out before the owner wakes on Christmas morning. Except he oversleeps and the homeowner, Jim, discovers a bearded stranger sawing logs under his dining room table. When the shock and the drama that ensues dies down, Henry and Jim discover that they might have found, quite unexpectedly, the Christmas miracle they’d both been longing for—love and home.

Henry needed to get out of the freezing cold, snowy night that Christmas Eve. Finding an open window into what he thought was an empty home, he climbed through – not wanting to die from exposure. Jim got an awful scare when Henry climbed in, and from that moment on both their lives changed forever.

Henry and Jim meet under what might be the most unusual circumstances that I’ve ever read before. I have to admit I kept fluctuating between disbelief – why didn’t Jim run screaming from the stranger that broke into his house? – and warmth from the compassion Jim showed Henry. Eventually I decided to stop thinking about the plot and circumstances and just roll with the story and enjoy it. I genuinely think it’s one of those situation that while completely realistic (homelessness and the seriousness of the elements connected to this) it also is virtually impossible to make it both real and romantic. So I ended up acknowledging that it was a different and interesting plot device – Henry and Jim meeting this way and Henry’s problems – but not questioning it too closely.

Taking the story in this different light made it a lot easier for me to enjoy. Henry and Jim both take time to warm up to each other, and reading about their fumbling as they learn about one another was really quite sweet. Readers looking for a very short, somewhat old fashioned Christmas story, one with heart-warming feelings and sharing of gifts and a real “Christmas spirit” type of feel will probably really enjoy this. There is no sex in this story, which I personally didn’t mind, though readers looking for a spicy romance might not be as happy with. I really liked Henry and Jim and was pleased with their happy ending. While I would have loved a little more detail on how they went from that initial meeting to their fully-fledged relationship, the very short word count definitely limited the author in what he was able to achieve so I feel this needed to be taken into consideration.

A heart-warming, old-style Christmas story about embracing what you have, making the best of your situation and always being open to receiving gifts, this is a good short story that I liked.

Lunacy’s Core by T.D. Edwards


Lunacy’s Core by T.D. Edwards
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (125 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Peony

It’s the late 1990s and Kory Diffoten is a bookworm with no friends apart from his English literature teacher, which is fine with him. Growing up the target of relentless teasing about his unstable aunt has made him reluctant to get close with others in the first place. However, once a freak accident renders his favorite teacher incapable of returning to Hushmore High School, Kory finds himself swept into an unexpected friendship with Ronda Smith, a pretty classmate in need of tutoring, and Jakil Dunston, her flippant boyfriend. The unlikely friendship soon takes an unexpected turn though, spawning troublesome rumors, complicated feelings, and ultimately, a police investigation.

Then there’s Kory’s increasing paranoia. He’s certain his recent affiliation with Ronda and Jakil has caught the attention of an eerie and potentially dangerous new teacher at their school for some reason. But getting anyone to take him seriously seems impossible, especially once people began to question his sanity. Kory can’t really blame them though, particularly upon noticing his sudden difficulty with separating truth from illusion.

Yet, Kory can only keep quiet for so long before things spiral out of control. But who’s going to believe him when he sometimes isn’t sure he can even believe himself?

T.D. Edwards delivers a refreshing story, one that destroys old tropes with her paranormal mystery, Lunacy’s Core. Though the descriptions of a book are meant to be the first hook for a reader, so many have fallen into the same generic trends that when books like this one do something different, it is instantly noteworthy. With Lunacy’s Core we have a refreshing friendship dynamic offered and the author absolutely does not fail to deliver.

Although this is a rather short book, there is a lot to love with how dynamic and impactful the characters manage to be. As a reader it takes no effort to put yourself in the shoes of our lead, Kory, whom will feel familiar to anyone who has ever struggled to fit in. While he is a compelling character all by himself, the true genius comes from Edward’s use of supporting characters. The summary promises colorful friends with Ronda and Jakil, but it is a mystery as to what role they will play. You could divide this book between the slice of life, an all too familiar high school drama, and the magical realism and still have two excellent stories. The main characters really are fantastically told and ultimately end up being the glue that holds the whole experience together.

Another draw that this book promises is a mystery with reality questioning implications. Like much of the book, the greater mystery is a slow burn, foreshadowed and hinted at initially and then later more fully expounded on. There are certainly interesting plot points to be had that will keep a reader going. For me the effort put into giving the villains motivations and obstacles of their own to overcome helped drive the narrative, but you need not take my word for it. Reading the book will show you exactly what I mean and given the length, it should not be hard to get from one hook to the next and experience the tale as the author intended.

This isn’t to say the book is entirely without flaws. For instance, our supporting main characters are supposed to be popular foils to our outcast Kory. While this is paid some lip service early on, the author does not really show this and instead you’re left wondering who, if anyone, is their friends. The story instead paints a slightly different picture of an odd ball bunch, rather than the popular kids and their genuine friendship. Another thing to be aware of is that this book is short. While length should not dissuade a reader, the fact remains the ending will come abruptly and may leave some unsatisfying loose ends. If this bugs you, fret not, there is a sequel already available and considering the accessibility of both volumes, the length becomes entirely forgivable.

If you’re looking for a refreshing take on teen friendship with a hefty dose of mystery and reality questioning paranormal, then you might find a good home here. T.D Edwards certainly demonstrates a lot of talent in writing with her first published work and I will look forward to her future ventures. Though it may not be a masterpiece, the time needed to enjoy this with an instantly compelling narrative shouldn’t in any way prevent a prospective reader from picking it up. After all, what have you got to lose? Maybe just your sanity.

A Gift Of Family by Tami Veldura


A Gift Of Family by Tami Veldura
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (32 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Scott Burke has always desired a big family, but as a divorced single dad, all he has is his young daughter, Lexi. He pours himself into raising her, half-convinced he’ll never find what he’s looking for. When Brennan Price strolls into Scott’s life, he’d better have enough patience for both Lexi and Scott if he intends to stick around.

Brennan has a huge family and a successful career, but no one to call his own. Wooing Scott and his daughter is right up his alley, though, and he steps up to the challenge to prove he’s enough for both of them. His attraction to Scott is immediate, but he recognizes a family man when he sees one and hatches a plan to win Lexi over. Her handsome father is sure to follow….

Scott had full custody of his beautiful toddler daughter, but he still longs for a large family, a solid, loving family unlike what he grew up with. When Scott met Brennan and his dog in the park one day, it finally looked like maybe he could build that family he’d always desired.

I found this to be a fun and happy short story. I thought the pacing was almost perfect – Brennan and Scott take their time to get to know each other and considering the short length of the story I felt there was an excellent balance between the chemistry and foundations being laid, then a very satisfying consummation scene. The characters – including Lexie and Jazz – were well drawn and I was quite invested in the four of them coming together as a solid family very quickly.

The sex scene was spicy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It really felt like Scott and Brennan were committing to each other and to the small family unit they were building together. While the story was set in Christmas, I wouldn’t personally classify it as a “Christmas” story since most of the focus was on the characters and the relationship they built. This didn’t bother me at all – I personally was reading for the story, so the setting wasn’t as important for me.

A well written, happy and sexy short story, I feel this was a great and satisfying read. I thoroughly enjoyed Scott and Brennan’s characters and can happily recommend this. I’ll be keeping an interested eye out for more books by this author and would definitely try them again.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James


The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James
The Demon Series Part 8

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Max Jensen is brutally murdered, on September 9, 1962, Timmy Jensen’s life is changed forever.

Timmy adored Max, and his loss was something neither he, nor his parents, could overcome. Shunned and ostracized, as the brother of that murdered teen, Timmy manages to find a job with a kind man by the name of Earl Jackman. Hauling away junk from people’s attics, Timmy meets Jenny Krieger and falls in love. Only Jenny’s father won’t have it, and she is shipped off to boarding school in Europe. But not before he meets Jenny’s grandma and is given a powerful medallion, known as the Amaarand.

Told he can use it to rescue his brother Max’s soul from hell, he must now patiently wait for his opportunity. He just didn’t know he’d have to wait until 2012.

Sometimes the best way to handle a supernatural battle is to wait for the perfect time to strike.

The dialogue was well done. There were a few scenes where characters were able to guess what their conversation partner was about to say and respond to it before the other person had even had a chance to speak. This was a creative way to keep those scene moving, and I enjoyed seeing how easy it was for them to make those educated guesses.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. It took a while for the narrator to explain what Timmy’s life was like during the years after his brother was murdered. Timmy wasn’t a character I was necessarily expecting to see again, so it was interesting to see how he was brought back into the plot for the grand finale. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and I was glad to see him get more time to show the audience what he was about.

I was quite pleased with how the author wrapped everything up. The previous instalments spent a lot of time creating a complex world that involved everything from time travel to alternate timelines to the notorious behavior of demons who were capable of twisting any human action to their own dark purposes. There was a lot of material to cover because of this, and I was happy with how well it was all tied together by the end of the last scene.

This is part of a series. It should be read in order.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand should be read by any horror or science fiction fans who enjoyed the first seven parts of this tale.