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!

The Vessel by Nancy Fraser


The Vessel by Nancy Fraser
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (85 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Major Liam McGregor is a career soldier. Chosen by the leader of the United Republic to transport a government protectee to safety, Liam takes on a task that has cost his predecessors their very lives.

Alora of Delawon is an alien princess who holds the key to the survival of mankind. With the women of the United Republic left barren by previous chemical warfare, Alora’s ability to bear humanoid children makes her the government’s most valuable commodity.

Together, Liam and Alora make the trek from the government’s safe house back toward the current capitol, fighting off raiders, survivalists, and an unexpected attraction to one another.

Will their desires put them in danger? Or, will their being together become more important than the mission?

Sometimes danger is the best aphrodisiac.

The chemistry between Liam and Alora was sizzling hot. Watching them take plenty of time to get to know each other before anything sexual happened between them only made me more interested in following their journey. I actually read this whole story in one sitting because I was so eager to see what would happen between these characters next and if the spark between them would ignite into something that would last longer than one night.

There was one part of the plot that I would have liked to see more time spent on. Liam went from being a soldier who followed every order he was given in the beginning to someone who was much more willing to break the rules by the end. While it was interesting to see this transformation, I was a little confused by why he changed so much. It would have been nice for him to have a conversation with himself or someone else about why he was suddenly so willing to disobey direct orders.

The dialogue was witty and fabulous. There were many parts of human society that Alora didn’t understand, from how sex worked to what words people used to describe certain things. I giggled every single time she misunderstood something, and I laughed even harder when Liam would get embarrassed and finally sputter out the right answer for her.

The Vessel is a must-read for fans of erotica and science fiction alike. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

An Enchanting Liftoff by A.J. Marcus


An Enchanting Liftoff by A.J. Marcus
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (56 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The sky’s the limit….

It’s wealthy advertising executive Rusty Donovan’s first time at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. When he scores a ride on a hot-air balloon in rainbow colors, he’s as captivated with the balloon’s pilot, Chad Holmes, as he is with the breathtaking experience. Rusty learns Chad’s business is struggling to the point where he might have to close it down.

Fortunately, Rusty has some ideas about promoting Chad’s Santa Fe based tour company, and he also has some ideas about what he’d like to do with Chad. As they work together and get to know one another, the future—both for the business and for them as a couple—looks as bright as the brilliant New Mexico sky.

Rusty is a big-wig advertising executive. He and his best friend and photographer, Tyler are heading to the Balloon festival to get some amazing promotional pictures. While there, Rusty meets Chad – a seriously hunky Balloon owner. Can these two men find the perfect lift off together?

This is a fun and short story that I found wonderful, lighthearted and deliciously romantic. I loved watching Rusty and Chad get to know each other and start their lovely relationship. Even though the two men come from pretty different worlds, they clicked together immediately and had good chemistry. I found their romance believable and enjoyed watching them come together.

I also enjoyed the strong cast of secondary characters. Tyler was fun loving and a bit of a scamp, and even Rosie and Chad’s other helpers all seemed to make the story feel more well-rounded to me, not just thrown in casually to pad out the list of people populating the story. I felt each character had a proper purpose and helped highlight Chad and Rusty’s growing relationship.

While the sex was well written and spicy, I didn’t feel it pushed the envelope too much and it wasn’t as prominent as it often is in erotic romance stories these days. I actually enjoyed the fact the story seemed to focus more on the characters and the relationship growing between Chad and Rusty and didn’t miss that the sex didn’t have as much zing as you can often find. Other readers might not feel the same, but to me I enjoyed the stronger focus being on the men and their characters. This would be a good story for readers who don’t mind M/M storylines and aren’t looking for too much spicy sex with their romance.

A fun, light and happy short story that I feel lots of people will enjoy.

Seven Minutes by Grace Kilian Delaney


Seven Minutes by Grace Kilian Delaney
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Cross-Dressing
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Can love be found in seven minutes?

Heavy metal singer Stone Manson never acknowledged his attraction to men. But when he meets sexy cross-dresser Devon at a party and spends Seven Minutes in Heaven with him, he can’t deny his reaction. His confusion leads him to mess up—big time—with Devon, but after some soul-searching, Stone decides to do whatever it takes to show Devon he’s worth the risk.

Devon’s got a thing for hot, tattooed rock stars—just not the sexually conflicted and closeted ones. Stone’s persistence has Devon warming up to the idea of the singer in his bed, and maybe even in his life, until a threat emerges from Devon’s past. Now it’s Devon’s turn to trust Stone or both their lives could be in jeopardy.

These two seem totally opposite, but it’s so good.

This book was a first for me. I’ve never read a romance involving a cross-dressing character. I’m glad I rectified that. This story was sweet, cute and had some harder edges. There’s a burly rock star involved. It can’t be smooth all over. The writing flowed well and I read the book over the course of my lunch hour. Great quick read. I had to know what would happen between Devon and Stone.

Now, while this is a short story, there’s a lot going on. Devon is more than he seems. Sure, he loves to wear dresses and spike heels, but he’s also a dedicated mechanic. He’s not perfect, but that’s what I liked about it. I wish the story was longer because I enjoyed watching the romance unfold between him and Stone. Oh and Stone. He’s a tough nut to crack. He doesn’t think he’s attracted to guys, but there’s something about Devon. I loved his protective streak and his decision to open up. His growth through the story was great. Oh, and the sex scenes were off the charts. Very hot.

If you want a story that’s got heart, passion and something more, then this might be the book for you.

Loving Liam by Nikka Michaels


Loving Liam by Nikka Michaels
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (27 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The first rule of housemates: never date a roommate.

Grad student Amelia Baker shouldn’t have a crush on her roommate, Liam. Ever since the car accident years ago left her wheelchair bound, her family has treated her differently. But Liam makes her laugh and want something more than just friends.

When a snow day turns into one of the busiest at the coffee shop leaving Amelia short-handed at work, Liam lends a hand. When her best friend drops the bombshell that he’s been offered a job four hours away in Seattle, Amelia doesn’t know what to do. If she tells Liam how she feels, she might lose his friendship. Will Amelia and Liam become more than just friends, or will she be left out in the cold?

Could you turn your best friend into your boyfriend?

I absolutely loved Amelia. She was such a funny and relatable main character. Her dorky side made me laugh almost as much as I did when she was hilariously honest about what she really thought about the people in her life. I also appreciated the fact that she was so comfortable in her own skin. All of her various identities were part of who she was, of course, but they weren’t the focus of the story which I found refreshing.

It was a little surprising to me to see how quickly the romantic part of the plot moved along. Based on what the blurb had mentioned about it, I was expecting it to be drawn out for longer than it was. It would have been nice to either have some more conflict in this part of the storyline or have a better explanation for why it unfolded the way it did.

With that being said, this was a minor criticism and I definitely still rooted for Amelia and Liam to end up to together. They knew each other so well that they could have almost had an entire conversation based on body language and facial expressions alone. I really like it when characters have this kind of close and loving relationship before they begin think about each other in a romantic sense.

Loving Liam was one of the most romantic tales I’ve read in ages. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for something charming.

Runaway Rock Star by CJ Anthony


Runaway Rock Star by CJ Anthony
States of Love
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (87 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Masturbation
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Just hours before Brandon Harris is supposed to head home to Cincinnati for a Labor Day family picnic, his boss at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame forces him into giving a private tour to bratty British pop-rock star Lucas Black. Before he knows it, he finds himself swept up in a whirlwind road trip through Ohio with Lucas riding shotgun.

Lucas grabs hold of this wild opportunity to run away—even for a few precious days—from the gilded cage that is his carefully managed life. He’s just looking for a little fun and freedom as a normal person. From roller coasters to a college football game, Brandon begins to see the real Lucas Black buried under the famous persona. But by the time he and Lucas discover their mutual attraction, they only have one night left before both of them have to go back to their real lives. The fun is over…unless Lucas can run away for real this time and keep their adventure going.

He just wants a weekend on his own…while he travels through Ohio?

I’ve lived in Ohio all my life and while I know it’s exciting, I never thought about the state through the eyes of someone who’s never been here. It’s actually more interesting than I’d ever thought.

CJ Anthony does a great job at writing a road trip through Ohio. I felt like I was right there with Lucas and Brandon through the trip. I also liked how the author allowed Lucas to grow. This isn’t a long story, but both Brandon and Lucas certainly change. I felt a connection to Brandon and rooted for him to finally get what he wanted. The plot raced along well, with emotions as the driving force. The sex scenes came along after a slow burn and were a great payoff. The story is short, but it’s worth the read.

If you’re looking for a book that’s equal parts Ohio’s greatest hits and sexy rock star with nerdy-ish business guy, then this might be the book for you.

Epic Love by JJ King


Epic Love by JJ King
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Zoey Matthews’ life is finally back on track after years of pretending to be the perfect suburban wife. She’s doing what she wants now, and has returned to her alma mater to complete a Masters in English literature. Despite trying, she doesn’t quite fit in with her classmates, which is why she’s so excited when her friend Rachel, a professor in the department, introduces her to some of her co-workers.

Dr. Sebastian Lane makes Zoey’s knees go weak the moment she sees him. After years of being lonely, she’s finally found someone who makes her body come to life, so when the sparks fly, she follows where they lead.

Will they lead her on a mysterious adventure or straight into his waiting arms?

Zoey is doing her Masters in English in an attempt to reclaim herself after a hard divorce. Trying to fit in with the somewhat younger crowd, Zoey attends one of the mixers and finds herself chatting to Dr Sebastian Lane. Their chemistry is instant and soon they find themselves heading off to find a quiet spot to get intimately acquainted with each other.

This is a very short story that I found quite interesting. I was a little disappointed that it was so obviously set up as “the first book in a series”. Zoey’s best friend Rachel and another professor – Dr Drake Evans – were very prominently featured throughout the whole story. I feel fairly sure that Rachel and Drake will be the couple hooking up in the subsequent book. I really felt that this took some of the spotlight away from Sebastian (Bash) and Zoey. In such a very short book I wanted as much time as possible focused on Zoey and Bash, their connection, their getting to know each other and the scorching sex and chemistry on display between them. At a number of points through this very short story I couldn’t help but feel the extra scenes didn’t add anything meaningful to Zoey and Bash’s relationship. Things like how much time in the beginning was focused (pages worth of words) on Zoey feeling down about her divorce, Zoey telling the reader how isolated she felt in her Master’s degree, or even a long-standing argument between Rachel and another professor. Had all these things been edited right back to the bare minimum – or cut out entirely – this could have been literal pages where I got to see more of Zoey and Bash beginning their relationship and getting to know each other.

Also, readers who like stand-alone stories might find the ending to this story a little frustrating. While the relationship aspect between Zoey and Bash gets a happy conclusion there is a lot of plot left hanging and the party Zoey/Bash and Rachel/Drake are at still hasn’t finished by the end. This is close to a cliff-hanger ending to my mind, and this story is clearly set up to lead the reader directly into moving on to the following story in the series. Often I dislike this as a reader – when I purchase a book I want the whole book, not just “part one” or a story that seems to stop half way through the plot. I could understand if this frustrates some other readers, too.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characters. Zoey is extremely relatable and I was hooked on the concept of the university mixer party from the beginning. The insta-attraction between herself and Bash was lovely to read and their chemistry all but sizzled off the page. As I mentioned earlier I would have really enjoyed seeing more of the two of them together, particular as there was only one fairly brief sex scene – for such explosive chemistry I felt a little short-changed in the erotic-romance department. As the first book in a series I really hope that the Zoey/Bash relationship continues – as well as what I expect will be the following Rachel/Drake relationship. I really feel like there’s a lot more story to tell with this and would be interested in learning more.

A good, short read with interesting characters and a great set-up.

Y’all Tied Up by Crymsyn Hart


Y’all Tied Up by Crymsyn Hart
Yule Tied
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (37 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, BDSM, Toys
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Clive and Aniston must escape before Krampus can feed them to the cannibal gingerbread men!

Aniston awakens to find an intruder in his house kneeling in front of his Christmas tree. Expecting a white beard and a jolly laugh, Aniston is shocked to find this is not Santa. Aniston is kidnapped and whisked away into a world of giants where Krampus is the master of the house.

Clive rescues Aniston and together they survive among cannibal gingerbread men, oversized nutcrackers, and tin soldiers roaming the house and guarding over Krampus’ sack. Aniston can’t help but be drawn to Clive and finds comfort in his arms. They only know of one way to get home. They must escape or spend Christmas a long way from home.

He’ll need all of his wits to survive this crisis…but there’s a silver tinsel lining.

I’ve never read the work of Crymsyn Hart and if these two characters are any indication of the caliber of her other stories, I’m in. Aniston and Clive are interesting characters. I’ve never read anything involving Krampus either, so this was a good twist for me. I love the theme running through this book that you can’t just give up. Keep going because things will work out. It was great. The story flowed well and while it was short, I didn’t stop until I got to the end. I had to know how things would work out.

Now this is short. I knew that going in, but I wished there were a little more about Aniston and Clive. Why? Because I liked them. I wanted more of their story. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s good. If they happen to show up again in a post Christmas story, that’d be awesome.

If you want a book that’s sprinkled with danger, action and some serious heat, then this is the book for you.

From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy


From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit by Sandra Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (60 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

To the moon and back, here are ten tales with a twist. The unlikely characters have one thing in common–they’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. As the old saying goes, you have to watch out for the quiet ones.

From a quirky inventor, humored by his neighbors, to two old men out to dinner, to a more-than-meets the eye beverage maker, the stories will take you into the minds of the overlooked and unseen. Ignore them at your own risk.

Sometimes good things come in small packages.

“The Chicken Pot Pie Fiasco” followed a family throughout the day as they cooked and otherwise prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Chicken pot pie was their traditional main course for it, but this year they had trouble finding the right ingredients for it. I can’t say much else about the plot without giving away spoilers, but this was a funny and heartwarming tale that made me grin. Figuring out the mystery element of the plot was almost as much fun as seeing what happened once the pie was ready and everyone gathered around the table to eat it.

While I liked every story, there were a few that had too many characters in them. “From Hay to Eternity” was one of them. It was about guy named Darren who was giving a Halloween hay ride to a teenage girl named Tiffany as well as some other visitors to the farm. There were so many other characters included in the plot that I had trouble keeping track of all of them. It would have been nice to focus on Darren and Tiffany instead, especially once I realized what was really going on during the hayride and why Darren kept mentioning the conflicts that some of his family members were having about what they wanted to do with the farm in the future.

Bert and Sol went out for a fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant in “The Perfect Bite.” Not only were the descriptions of their food mouthwatering, they made me even more curious to find out what the twist was in this tale. The hints were deliciously subtle. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about these characters and their dining experience. This was my favorite tale from the entire collection because of how much it made me look forward to finding out what was really going on here.

If you’re in the market for short, snappy mysteries that are full of unexpected plot twists, look no further than From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deceit.

Beyond The Grill by Tracey Michael


Beyond The Grill by Tracey Michael
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (96 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Justin Walker is used to being the hookup but never the boyfriend, and that’s okay. Justin has goals—he might sling burgers by night and work on his car by day, but he has plans to go to school and make a life for himself. He also has a few friends and loving parents.

What more could a guy ask for?

Hot, muscular, manly Shane Steel is a walking wet dream. Justin fantasizes about having Shane as more than a casual acquaintance, and one night he works up the courage to flirt with Shane. To his surprise—and terror—Shane is interested. Very interested.

As they bond over their love of cars and drag racing, Justin begins to believe he can be more to Shane than a side guy. Too bad Shane’s manipulative and dangerous ex is dead set against letting that happen.

Justin and Shane have been casual friends for a while, but it’s only as they slowly get to know each other they realize just how much they have in common – especially when it comes to cars. Justin is wary, he’s screwed up too many friendships by falling in lust and scaring his friends away, but Shane doesn’t seem concerned. Indeed, when Shane offers the use of his garage to help teach Justin more about cars, the two men get even closer, and soon Justin is willing to push the boundaries of their friendship even further.

This is an interesting and multi-layered story. While initially the relationship between Justin and Shane is straight-forward, there come to be a few complications that I felt really deepen the complexity of the plot. Some readers mightn’t enjoy the nefarious lengths Shane’s high school friend Lukas stoop to (drugs and borderline non-consent) but I was pleased that while these lines were flirted with, nothing truly devastating actually occurs. This isn’t a light-hearted, fluffy or sweet style of erotic romance story though and so readers who are looking for something easy and cheery might not want to try this.

I really enjoyed though how the shared love of cars and mechanics kept up as a strong theme throughout the story. Often once the plot deepens and the personal relationships get complicated sometimes shared interests can fall by the wayside in these sorts of stories, but Justin’s car and the stereo system Shane and Justin put in along with their mechanics are a strong thread throughout the story and I really appreciated this. I also liked how Lukas was a deep (albeit nasty) character. He wasn’t just some cardboard cut-out – or the “token bad guy”, he was complicated and wonderfully hateful. These things really filled out the story and kept me interested in each and every page.

A blokey and wonderfully emotional story with a lovely happy ending, this M/M should tick plenty of boxes for readers who like their stories spicy and their plots convoluted.