The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels


The Wicked Heir: The Spare Heirs by Elizabeth Michels
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (457 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When the love of Lady Isabelle Fairlyn’s life is betrothed to her twin sister, Isabelle vows to find a suitable replacement before the end of the season. He must be a talented dancer, have a keen fashion sense, and be perfectly dashing in every way.

Fallon St. James is the farthest thing from perfectly anything. As head of the secretive Spare Heirs Society, he must stick to the shadows…even as Isabelle’s friendship pulls him reluctantly into the light. But when Isabelle gets involved with the one man who could destroy Spares, Fallon must decide between protecting his life’s work―or risking everything to save the woman whose warm smile leaves him breathless.

Isabelle Fairlyn, so naïve and yet so eager to have a marriage founded on love, makes one want to reach out and steer her away from faulty judgments she makes about men. Her maturing as she learns the outside appearance does not really show the true nature of a man makes for page-turning reading. Her innate joy and innocence come alive on the pages.

Fallon St. James, all business as he works tirelessly to save the Spare Heirs Society, sees her as a mystical beauty, innocent, a wood nymph who makes him smile; something he rarely does. How the two of them become friends is a delight to read. How they become more than friends is even better.

How Elizabeth Michels weaves in back story and the villain Reginald Gapling is masterful. Gapling’s elusiveness and threat create an edginess to the plot and a sense of unease for the well-being of Isabelle. In her naiveté, she finds him charming.

Elizabeth Michels uses all the usual trappings of early nineteenth century life in England, but with twists and unique main characters. The spare heirs, so often the misfits, become guardians of the seamier side of London while making a living in a society that often leaves spare heirs in limbo with no trade and no inheritance..

The Wicked Heir, extremely well crafted, is captivating and powerful with an elaborate plotline and intriguing characters, plus the innocence and joy for life woven into it all makes it extra special.

Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain


Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (326 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend―whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart―and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

Friends who long to be lovers, but fear crossing the line, Kate and Evan tiptoe around their feelings, but crave each other’s company.

The death of Kate’s husband, who was Evan’s best friend, leaves each of them with a heavy load; hers is a load of debts left by her unfaithful husband and Evan’s is a load of guilt. How they work through the conflicts makes attention-keeping reading.

When Nora and Declan, Kate’s children, enter the picture, with their views about life before and after their father’s death, the story gains depth. Their actions and words show so much about how children see, the often complicated, ways that adults handle things.

Kate and Evan are in the company of both their families as they find their way. The contrast in their families’ life styles and the way they see themselves reveals much about how Kate and Evan came to be the way they are – interesting reading. It is easy to see how the world has been gray to Evan most of his life.

The secondary characters, like Janet Ahearn and Mary O’Dowd, along with the back stories and how they figure into the things Kate and Evan must sort out dovetail together in intriguing ways. They even fit in with some of the underhanded ways of the antagonist, Finnian Driscoll.

I particularly enjoyed the dialogue with the nuance, humor, and understatement. The author has an amazing way of writing so the reader feels as if she is right there in the experience with the characters.

Steele and Stone by Kay Phoenix


Steele and Stone by Kay Phoenix
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (170 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Elle Thompson was raised in Denver. She paints. She hikes. She knows how to avoid cougar attacks.

The only cougars Michael Williams usually worries about are the ones that wear leopard print leggings on 5th Avenue.

But, when his acquisition firm sets its sights on Elle’s family business, his tidy life goes awry. As things unravel, so do all his preconceived notions of love and what makes a perfect partner.

Steele and Stone was a short story that can be read in a small amount of time. It captured my interest from the first page and managed to keep me turning pages until I reached the end.

Michael, the hero, wasn’t quite my type of man so I had trouble relating to him but for the heroine, he was Elle’s type of man and together they were relatable. I prefer a strong and decisive hero. I had more respect for Elle for staying focused on her priorities. Together they had to get past previous emotional hurts before their love for one another could flourish. It was a bit slow and tedious, yet still an enjoyable process that was accomplished before the book ended.

The plot wasn’t original and was quite predictable yet I still enjoyed the journey. The writing style was average. I think the characters, such as Michael’s Uncle John, could have been more developed to add a bit more substance, suspense and drama to the plot. I just felt like this book didn’t meet its full potential. However, my curiosity was able to overlook those flaws. I was like a fly drawn into the trap. I couldn’t look away. I needed to see how it was going to end. Actually, the ending was wrapped up quickly. Perhaps even a bit too quickly but at that point I was ready to move on.

I would recommend Steele and Stone to someone who is looking to pass time with a quick, easy and uncomplicated short story. This would be a great book to read on a two hour plane ride. I look at it this way – if you are starving to read a romance story then this would be a great appetizer!

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!

Love in the Golden Years by Ellynore Seybold


Love in the Golden Years by Ellynore Seybold
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (28 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Harold, a widower and a retired government worker, misses his wife and decides to take up a hobby. Courageously stepping out of his shell, he joins a scuba diving class, where he meets a vivacious widow and discovers new adventures.

Attractive and fun-loving Aletha spices up Harold’s mostly routine life with one surprise after another. Neither of them expect any obstacles to a nice relationship, but everything—from sexual malfunction to legalese to Aletha’s new career—seems to interfere.

Will they ever find married bliss?

Love in the Golden Years is an enjoyable sweet read that gives proof that a second love is possible. The story is mostly told from widower Harold’s view. Harold misses his wife of 42 years but finds his interest is sparked when he meets adventurous Aletha. Aletha is a widow and in her golden years is looking for something interesting. She takes to Harold, even though I think she is a little bit too much for him.

This is a short read, that had my attention from the beginning. I would have liked to have read a little more from Aletha’s point of view. I enjoyed reading how Aletha and her husband Norman met and their love seemed so real and actually touched my heart. I classify them as an adventurous and daring couple that won my heart. I hated to see that their 30 years of marriage ended so abruptly. Even though the introduction of their meeting was short and their marriage was mentioned briefly I enjoyed reading about their bond and closeness. I am glad that Aletha kept living and kept her adventurous side active.

Harold tells most of the story of their relationship. I get the feeling that Harold felt left out often, but he didn’t voice this to Aletha, perhaps fearing he would run her off. Harold enjoyed Aletha’s liveliness and I think this is what kept him around even though they faced conflicts.

The plot is interesting and the writing is simple and to the point. The characters are likable and I can picture them dancing and enjoying the night. Even though I am not in my golden years, the story can be relatable to someone of age because it varies from losing someone, starting a new relationship and the events that come with new beginnings.

I would recommend this pleasurable read to readers that enjoy reading about love and happy endings.

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.

Loving a Wild Stranger by Kelli A. Wilkins


Loving a Wild Stranger by Kelli A. Wilkins
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (295 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

A woman running from her past… straight into the arms of an untamed man

In a moment of desperation, Kathleen Stanton flees her pampered life in Kingston, New York and ends up stranded in a small town in the Michigan Territory. Out of money and forced to rely on her instincts, she impersonates a handsome stranger’s mail-order bride.

Committed to her deception, Kathleen calls herself Michelle and starts her new life with Luther in an isolated cabin in the wilderness. Luther can’t believe his luck when his beautiful bride arrives, but something doesn’t feel right about his new wife. Michelle has terrifying nightmares involving a man named Roger and is reluctant to talk about where she came from.

Luther’s friend, Redfeather visits and tries to convince Luther to send Michelle back east. Distrusting Michelle, he warns Luther that his bride is not what she seems. But Luther is in love with Michelle, and he is harboring a secret of his own—one that might force Michelle to reject him when she learns the truth.

Michelle falls in love with Luther and adapts to her new way of life. Together, they face off against brutal townspeople and overcome harsh living conditions. When they finally give in to their desires and agree to become a proper man and wife, a dark figure from Michelle’s past resurfaces and threatens to destroy everything.

This book took over my life. I ignored everyone and everything. Nothing was going to interrupt my time with Luther. Sigh…Luther, what a dreamy hero. I envied the heroine, Michele. This book has the potential to be made into a movie. Loving a Wild Stranger reminded me of the 1970s T.V. show, Grizzly Adams – one of my favorite childhood television shows.

Luther was very kind, gentle, sweet yet strong, dependable, honest, gorgeous and brave. Michele was very lucky it was Luther she ran into when she arrived into town. The other townsfolk were despicable. Michele often spoke out of line but was quick to apologize, therefore I was able to truly care for her otherwise I’d be cheering for Luther to listen to his father’s advice regarding Michele. The chemistry between Luther and Michele was definitely tangible.

In fact, the writing style made the entire book come to life as if I were there. The plot was really great. There was some suspense threaded throughout the book pertaining to Michele’s past that had a lot to do with me not being able to put the book down. It was clever how Ms. Wilkins incorporated many plot threads and weaved them all together. I never felt lost or confused. I appreciated how Michele’s troubled past was finally put to rest. However, I do wish that there was an epilogue that would have shed a bit more light on their happy ever after ending. I would have loved to have seen that they did indeed adapt to their new way of life. I invested my heart into reading this story and therefore I would have appreciated a more solid closure. I’m left wondering if they were indeed welcomed into the Ojibwa village by all the villagers. What ever happened to Michele’s parents? Will they know what happened to Roger? What happened to the town folk? Do they just get away with how they treated Luther? How will Luther continue to make money with the corrupt fur company? Or is money no longer a concern in the Ojibwa village? I realize all these questions are irrelevant in the big picture. They had a happy ending and that is all that matters. I just expected the ending to match the writing quality that was implemented throughout the book. Therefore I could only give it a 4 star rating.

In conclusion, I do recommend this book and will be keeping it on my keeper shelf. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the story and do think it was worth my time to read. I would love to switch places with Michele and spend the rest of my days with Luther if I could. I would recommend scheduling a camping vacation and reading Loving a Wild Stranger while relaxing by a lake!

Taking Chances by Arnold Greenberg


Taking Chances by Arnold Greenberg
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (59 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Catherine loves Martin, but is no longer in love. Two days after celebrating their thirty-fourth anniversary, she’s fascinated by the man sitting across from her in the park. He’s writing intensely in his notebook, and when their eyes meet, he stops writing. After a short conversation, he offers to walk her back to her office across the street, then invites her to have coffee after work. Captivated, she reluctantly agrees to go to his apartment where, much to her surprise, a secret year-long affair begins.

Though horrified that she has broken her marriage vows, is living a lie, and suffocating, she finds the courage to tell Martin she’s in love with another man. Breaking his heart is the hardest thing she has ever done but must take a chance and follow her own. When Martin dies, she feels responsible but painfully learns a person is responsible for one’s own happiness.

Is it a fleeting crush or something more permanent than that? Catherine is about to find out whether she’s ready to or not.

The conflict was handled perfectly. I read the whole thing in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to find out what Catherine would decide to do and how her life would play out after she began to feel the consequences of her choices. The tension rose so steadily that there was no way I was going to stop until I knew how her story ended.

There were a few things about Catherine’s affair that I would have liked to see explained better. She talked about feeling deeply conflicted about it in some scenes, but in other scenes she seemed completely at ease with her decision to cheat on her spouse. This was a little confusing to me because it didn’t match how she behaved in the rest of her life. I was fascinated by this part of her personality, though, and would have simply liked to explore it in more depth so I could have known if was a one-time decision or part of a pattern in her life.

With that being said, Catherine was a complex and interesting main character. She felt like a real person to me, flaws and all. Her love of hearty food and burning desire for a taste of the romance she’d read about in books brought a smile to my lips. There were so many times when I wished I could reach through the pages and give her some friendly advice. I remained intrigued by her even when she made choices that I wished she wouldn’t make.

Taking Chances was a thought-provoking tale that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for an honest and unique take on modern love.

Fire in Her Blood by Rachel Graves


Fire in Her Blood by Rachel Graves
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (402 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

Death witch and Detective Mallory Mors arrives at the scene of an out of control arson called by a victim who desperately wants to die. Using her powers, Mallory battles the strongest fire witch in town to help the woman cross over.

When she’s forced to work with the angry fire witch, she discovers their lives are linked in complicated ways. As all the other fire witches in the city mysteriously lose their powers, the heat is on to solve the case. Saddled with a vampire assault at the local supernatural brothel, a missing person who doesn’t want to be found, and a mess of vampire politics, Mallory struggles to put together the pieces before the city burns.

This book has all the elements of what I would call a riveting read. Despite being the second book in a series, it’s still a fully contained tale. Mallory Mors is a rookie detective in a magical world with numerous bad guys capable of burning people to a crisp, and her home life is steamy, with a head vampire beneath the sheets. Her latest story is full of fire witches and a tangled mystery of arson and death by fire, plus a bonus mystery surrounding the fire witches in her friendship circle.

As a protagonist, Mallory is spontaneous without being stupid, but she is naïve and green in her job, her powers and her beliefs, something I sense will change as the series progresses. I found the intricacies of her love life politics to be played well, most of the time, though occasionally she let a fight go too quickly, as did her partner. Their frequent time in bed, or heading towards it, vividly goes through the play by play of the event and is full of screams, primitive and primal alike. For me, this went too far and ended up sounding unrealistic, a caricature of the event. However, this may have been because I was far more interested in the mystery playing out within the book and found the romance to be a relatively boring interruption in this part of the narrative.

The mystery running through this story was what kept me hooked through the conflictless love scenes and the occasional typo. With fire after fire killing, maiming, and destroying buildings, the culprits were known but not their motives, or their location. The manhunt to find them, bouncing through many seedy establishments along the way, was riveting and gave me a wonderfully thorough introduction to the society and world Graves is building in this series. The payoff to this mystery was a little predictable and I had guessed the outcome from maybe halfway through the book, but there was a twist or two in there which made me smile.

This series is sure to appeal to people who like sex with their mysteries. Some readers may recognise it as a more mainstream version of what Laurell K Hamilton creates in her Anita Blake series. What draws me to the series above all else, are the potential conflicts to come. Mallory has embedded herself into a life with a vampire who keeps his professional life as head vampire of the city secret. Since an old friend of his has reappeared on the scene and become central to Mallory’s work, there’s much for her to learn and, I suspect, much she would not like. I’m eager to find out how those mysteries reveal themselves in later books. I imagine Mallory is in for a rough ride!

Flight of the Raven by Judith Sterling


Flight of the Raven by Judith Sterling
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (244 Pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

How eager would the bridegroom be if he knew he could never bed the bride?

Lady Emma of Ravenwood Keep is prepared to give Sir William l’Orage land, wealth, and her hand in marriage. But her virginity? Not unless he loves her. The curse that claimed her mother is clear: unless a Ravenwood heir is conceived in love, the mother will die in childbirth. Emma is determined to dodge the curse. Then William arrives, brandishing raw sensuality which dares her to explore her own.

William the Storm isn’t a man to be gainsaid. He’ll give her protection, loyalty, and as much tenderness as he can muster. But malignant memories quell the mere thought of love. To him, the curse is codswallop. He plans a seduction to breach Emma’s fears and raze her objections. What follows is a test of wills and an affirmation of the power of love.

If one is a loyal subject, she does what her king commands. But what if that command is to wed a stranger? And what if your family is cursed? And what if you are fated to die in childbirth unless your child is conceived in true love? Lady Emma has maintained Ravenswood and its inhabitants magnificently, acting not only as mistress, but healer. She’s much loved and respected. Now she’s been ordered by the king to wed Sir William L’Orage, a fierce warrior, who is being rewarded for his service. William is anxious to claim his property and his bride, and while Emma will abide by the king’s order to marry, she will make sure the marriage isn’t consummated.

Emma is one of those characters who is nearly perfect, but despite this, I still liked her, as her actions were genuine and done with the best motives. The immediate attraction that Emma and William feel for each other is going to test her resolve. I really liked William despite his wariness of love and his suspicion of everyone’s motives. He has lived a hard life, yet he treats Emma with respect. Though he’s desperate for her, he won’t force her, which is somewhat of a miracle in the 1100’s.

I’m generally not a fan of medieval stories – the primitive conditions make me shudder. This story tipped its hat to a modern day battle of the sexes, and there were a few modern expressions tossed in occasionally which seemed out of place. The medieval romance fan will appreciate the handsome and seductive knight’s attempts to woo the fair maiden, who attempts to hold on to her virginity until true love shows its face. If you enjoy a touch of the paranormal in a sexy battle of wills, and can overlook a few anachronisms, I believe you’ll savor Flight of the Raven.