Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks


Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (320 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

TRUTH―OR DARE?

Gwennore is an Elf able to track down the cause of a certain illness and heal it―a valuable asset to her people. But when she is thrust into the realm of the dragons, she discovers a haunted place of power, passion, and magic―one that is plagued by an ancient curse. When she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko, Gwen knows she’s entered a whole new world of trouble. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon. So why does making a deal with the devil feel so good?

Silas has no way of saving the royal family he’s served for years. But when a beautiful, innocent elf comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to desire in a way he’s never felt before. But how can he trust a sworn enemy. . .and how can he live without her, in Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon by New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks.

Ooh, I love me some dragons so I had to read this newest book by Ms. Sparks. I knew to expect a wonderful romance and I was not disappointed. What I didn’t expect was to giggle so much about a dragon named Puff.

Once I met General Gorgeous, I was completely hooked. I had a riot of a time watching the interaction between Silas, Gwennore, Dimitri and Aleksi. I was happy to see Brody is in this novel as well. He plays a strong role for a secondary character and he is almost like plot glue. His services and skills were integral in the past two books in the series and he once again helps out in Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon. This time it’s Silas and Gwennore who have to figure out how the Chameleon is causing mayhem and stop him. Brody’s nose is very welcomed.

Speaking of the Chameleon, Ms. Sparks has created more mystery and questions because there’s a new revelation in this story. The villain isn’t alone and the external conflict has hints of being more diabolical than anyone knew. Fascinating stuff!

On top of that trouble, Gwennore figured out something scary about the curse that has plagued the kingdom for centuries and it’s not a simple thing. Her bravery is commendable because she still is willing to help even after what she was put through in the first couple of chapters.

As with the two previous books in the series, the heroine eventually finds out a bit of where she came from and who her parents might have been. I figured out one possibility but the second not only blew me away but stunned many of her new circle of close friends in Norveshka.

My favorite parts were when Gwennore didn’t realize Silas could hear her thoughts. Those were the funniest scenes in the novel. Another thing I enjoyed was the ribbing and jesting between Silas, Dimitri and Aleksi. The author made it clear that they were best friends and very loyal to each other. I loved seeing that level of heart, emotion and trust.

Of course all of the trials, tribulations, adventures and suspense wouldn’t be worth it if the romance wasn’t equally as wonderful and satisfying. Indeed, watching Silas and Gwennore fall in love was everything I hoped it would be; fun, sensual and spicy, and of course, romantic. I am glad that the epilogue tied up the happy ever after just the way I like it. Of course, there leaves the question as to which sister is next in finding her other half. I came to the end of the novel with the distinct opinion of who it might be. I can’t wait to find out!

Eight Simple Rules for Dating a Dragon has a great title but the book is even better. I am pretty sure that this novel is best read after the other two although if a new reader doesn’t mind a varied and busy cast they might do okay. But seriously, understanding how evil the Chameleon can be and why Brody is integral to the safety of the sisters of the Isle of Moon can only be appreciated by seeing what came before. Read them all. It’s a great experience and not to be missed. Ms. Sparks is amazing!

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full length (225 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones―one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

It’s time for Darcy to grow up, heal and find love. What’s it going to take? Quite a lot actually: a family emergency, familial expectations, a best friend’s advice, jumping to conclusions and clearing the air of what was really happening during those moments in high school when Luke seemed like such a beast to her – that’s quite the list, isn’t it?

Darcy is a self-made woman. She’s strong, ambitious and assertive and knows how to enjoy the benefits of all her hard work. She works harder than anyone around her because she doesn’t have much of a life. Why that is, is slowly revealed in the course of the heroine’s visit back home. Facing her feelings about her hometown and all the memories attached to the place ends in a present reality that is nothing like she expects. She has her highs and lows, her surprises and thrills, her mistakes and her confusing triumph. The whole novel is told through her point of view. I only got to know what was really going on in Luke’s mind when she finally gave him a chance to reveal it all. It was a huge ‘Ah-ha! moment’ for both reader and Darcy.

I didn’t get a feel for Luke, the person, in this novel. I think that’s why the rating was just shy of perfect. As a story about Darcy finding happiness and love, it’s perfect. The fact that she finds it with Luke, the boy from high school, now a hunky grown-up man, whom she thought despised her, was engaging, entertaining and yet, didn’t have quite the impact I’d expect for a hero. There’s no doubt in my mind that Luke was a responsible adult with a deep capacity for commitment; look at his family. Among the things I liked about Luke was his vulnerability. He’s a character with enough emotional depth that it was easy to see why he is confused about how to go about reaching his end goal – Darcy. I’d say they’re perfect for each other because she has the same problem! It was kind of cute. What he comes up with is a diabolical little plot made possible by being in cahoots with others that love Darcy as much as he does. It is truly romantic and adorable. A little over the top, but then again, once you get to know Darcy, it’s actually perfect.

If a reader is looking for fast paced thrills and chills, this isn’t the novel. This story is more for those who enjoy romances of the heart, of second chances, of finding out that the best thing in your life is right in front of you, and that feel good moment when a wonderful epilogue wraps up the story in a nice romantic book buzz of happiness.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe has a beautiful, poignant moment that takes place during Christmas. It brought a tear to my eye because it proved without a doubt that Darcy was truly loved. That moment when she believed, truly believed, was the most powerful of all. This is a heart-warmer – a book that makes me feel emotions down to my toes. Pemberley, Ohio is a special place to be indeed.

Year One by Nora Roberts


Year One by Nora Roberts
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (419 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poppy

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed―and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magick rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river―or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

Get ready to read something unlike anything you’ve read by Nora Roberts before. I hadn’t even read the blurb before I picked up a copy of Year One and so had no preconceived notions of what I should expect. I’m really glad of that, though I will say that this book starts a trilogy that’s completely different from her previous works. It’s not romance, not really, though there are obviously relationships in the story and it’s not her typical annual trilogy following sets of people (either three or four women and men) who have some goal to reach and end up falling in love on the way.

Now that I’ve said what this book isn’t, let me tell you what it is. It’s fairly dark and depressing, and after the initial near-extinction of the human race, a battle of good and evil begins that is exceptionally reminiscent of The Stand by Stephen King. The book starts by showing us the unleashing of evil, in the form of a plague that kills more than 5 billion people. Additionally, many of the immune develop unexpected powers (they become witches or fairies or shape-shifters or other paranormal beings). There are good and bad in both the “uncanny” and those without new powers. Just like anything else, how things are used depends on the character of those who use them.

The story follows a few groups of people who ultimately merge together. We have Max and Lana, two lovers who were already somewhat aware of their powers prior to Doom (the name given to the plague), but became exponentially more powerful after. Then there is Arlys, a TV reporter who does her best to honestly and factually report about the demise of humanity and the world as we know it. Next is Jonah and Rachel, an EMT and a doctor. Each begins the trek out of the city (New York) on their own, and each set of folks pick up others on their journey.

This is not an uplifting romance, or a tale with much that is light. There are pockets of happiness, but they are few and far between. The world is ending. Violence is on the rise. The uncanny are being hunted, tortured and murdered. Evil is growing. Despite the fact that dark stories are not usually my preferred reading, I had a hard time putting this book down. I was completely invested in the characters, especially Eddie and Jonah who really grabbed me by the heartstrings. I needed to see what happened to everyone–but be prepared, just as in real life, not everyone is going to make it to the end.

There is also “the one”… the person who will apparently be the one who can save the world. I honestly found this a tad corny and struggled with the idea, but am reserving judgment until the next book which I imagine will give me a chance to be a bit more accepting. I also didn’t like the character arc Ms. Roberts gave Lana. I want to avoid spoilers, but I found her behavior at the end (a change of heart, you might say) to be a bit difficult to believe.

I’ve heard from others that they didn’t even bother to read past the first few chapters because this isn’t a typical Nora Roberts book. While I wish they’d have given the book a little more of a chance, they’re right. I recommend you pick up this book not expecting that. Instead, just be prepared to be engaged. Don’t force your own preconceived notions about what the book should be, enjoy it for what it is. I certainly did and can’t wait to read the next in the series. I, for one, am glad to see Ms. Roberts spreading her wings a bit and endeavoring to not just churn out something usual or clichéd. Despite the darkness here, she still engaged me and did the one thing I think she does best: created characters that mattered to me. Ultimately, that’s why I read books and it’s one of her strongest abilities.

Grab a copy. Read it. Then let me know what you thought.

Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon


Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (249 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor―and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy―and whether she may still be alive―is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

A really fun mystery including a chef but not one that gives you recipes!

I really enjoyed this mystery. Its main character is named Bel (short for Belfast) and she is a chef; come home to live with her parents after what to most would be called a culinary disaster. She is chief cook and bottle washer somewhat at Shamrock Manor. Shamrock Manor is their lovely old Irish home; one which has been restored to hold banquets and parties. I loved all of the cooking jokes and food preparation talk but this is not one of the trendy new mysteries that has a recipe at the end of every chapter; for that matter, it has no recipes at all.

What it does have is excellently described characters and a really good storyline. I would call this a cozy. I liked reading the interplay amongst the McGrath family, the few tussles and aggravations of living all together, with a healthy dose of genuine love mixed in. Definitely a storyline involved enough to make you think. I was surprised at the end just as we all want to be with a good mystery.

This is Book 3 and the series is called the “Bel McGrath Mysteries”. This third book can easily stand alone. I enjoyed it without ever feeling confused because of not having read the first two books. On the other hand, it did make me want to read Books 1 and 2.

The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake


The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Scandal begins with just one kiss. . .

Aurora Paxton was once the belle of the ball, the most sought-after debutante of the season―until a scandalous mistake ruined her. Shunned by her family, Rory was banished to the country to live in disgrace. Now she’s been summoned back to London by her stepmother, who is being blackmailed by the least likely person Rory can imagine: Lucas Vale, Marquess of Dashell.

Lucas is someone Rory’s known for years―a man as devastatingly handsome as he is coldly disapproving of her. What in the world could he want from her or her family? Rory intends to find out as soon as she comes face to face with her old foe. What she never expects, however, is that the icy aristocrat has a soft spot for her―and a secret plan to redeem her status. Could it be that Lucas has been in love with Rory all along. . .and has finally found a way to win her heart?

Any fan of stories that mirror the tale of Cinderella stand a good chance of being charmed and enchanted, not to mention entertained, when they dive into this very fun novel by Ms. Drake. The Scandalous Flirt has just the right amount of balance between humor, emotional engagement and intrigue as it’s woven amongst a very fine romance between to very opposite personalities. Rory, a/k/a Aurora, and Lucas, Marquess of Dashell.

There’s a bit of a mystery going on in trying to find a blackmailer and the sleuth that’s going to solve the puzzle was supposed to be only one person. Inadvertently the hero stumbles upon the case and gets involved. The complications from that pairing provide the impetus for some of the most memorable moments in the novel and provided many chapters of pure entertainment.

The author included some unique characteristics and talents for the main protagonists and I was fascinated. Some provided humor, food for thought or impressed me. Rory’s was pretty cool.

The internal conflicts of an ambitious hero and a shunned heroine are significant because they have the potential to tear them both apart. As can be expected with a solid, well-told romance, love, attitude, duty and volatile bursts of passion draw Lucas and Rory together despite the odds. I really enjoyed how the author wove their falling in love while in pursuit of the truth.

Of course, there are secondary characters that give this tale a fine flavor, Lady Milford being one, Grimshaw for another. The revelation about that man raised my eyebrows. I never saw that one coming. There are a few words out there that could aptly apply to that man, but I’ll refrain from using such language. Then, there is Rory’s sister, Celeste. I wasn’t sure what I expected but it wasn’t to end up liking her as I did. As for Rory’s step-mother – she was classically written, if you know what I mean.

A pleasant development was Luca’s dragon of a mother. I thought her a wonderful touch and I actually had fun meeting her and watching her effect on the people around her. Once again, an avid reader can guess what has a high probability of happening but the author’s clever writing provides for a pleasant and humorous surprise or two.

A reader will not be disappointed with the fairy tale ending. The mystery is solved, the internal conflicts are addressed in a delightful manner and I was treated to some very spicy romantic moments as Lucas and Rory discover they have more in common than they thought. Lust goes a long way to break down barriers and provide opportunities for shenanigans. They sure were fun to read.

This review is pretty barebones considering the vast number of choices I had to write about. There are way too many twists and turns, scenes of adventure, curiosity and the effect of other secondary characters on the hero and heroine to mention them all and do them justice.

The book’s title, The Scandalous Flirt, makes the novel sound shallow and fluffy. It’s not. There is a lot of heart, passion, depth and wonderful character development. There are crafty plots, dubious deals, preconceptions and amazing revelations. In short, this is a wonderful romance with a solid plot, interesting characters brought to life and a hero and heroine I really enjoyed getting to know. This is a wonderful romance novel to get lost in because it’s that good and I heartily recommend reading this story as soon as you can. I’m glad I did.

Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani


Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Other: M/F, F/F/M, Anal sex, Multiple Partners, Masturbation
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

I’ve spent years holed up in the deepest, darkest parts of the city, fighting to keep Death and her Poochas from crossing the dead back to the living. My skill with a blade is bested only by my menace, my despair, my anguish – the strongest weapons I yield.

Then I meet Juma Landry and it all goes to hell.

She is beauty and love and sex and light, everything I am not. And she makes me want things I haven’t desired in years. But the monsters of my life, the evil lurking in the dark corners of my soul, those places craven and vile, bind me to a past I cannot shake free. As the most skilled Keeper for The Gate, nothing and no one can prevent me from excelling at a job I never wanted. I do it because it is my legacy, a fate I cannot outrun, but when Juma becomes my next assignment, each of her nine lives to be ended by my hand, I must decide: the legacy I never wanted or the love I don’t deserve.

This is an adult fantasy and while it’s not labeled as erotic, in this reviewer’s opinion it should be. Before the principles meet, both male and female lead characters in this fantasy romance have engaged in multiple episodes of sex of various types (M/F, FFM, oral, anal, etc). Even after they meet and become cognizant of the attraction between each other, their sexual activities are not limited to the other. So, it’s important that the reader be aware of this, because I would hate for someone to pick up the book and not realize how much graphic sex there was.

That being said, the storyline is very interesting. We learn about Dutch, who is a Keeper of The Gate – the gate separating life and death. It is their job to keep those people who have died from coming back, by killing Death’s Poochas. This is an incredibly dark book, and does include some descriptions of torture.

Death is not the Death we normally think of– this Death is a very sexy woman who is very hedonistic and lives only for pleasure. She allows selected dead people to return to life – aided by her Poochas.

The main conflict comes in when Dutch and Juma (one of Death’s Poochas) meet and discover themselves to be soulmates only to discover that Dutch has been assigned to kill her.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, and you see both Dutch and Juma grow and change quite a bit. Though I was a bit dismayed by the darkness here, I was very invested in these characters. I enjoyed watching their development and look forward to seeing how Dutch and Juma resolve the difficulties that surround them.

FYI, this is the first book in the series and ends on a cliffhanger.

So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks


So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks
Embraced Series, #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (496 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Love at Stake series comes a novel of the Embraced—an epic tale of two star-crossed lovers destined for doom—or desire…

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knew that she was born with the magical powers of the Embraced—even if she did not know how to wield them. But she has finally learned the truth: Brigitta is the lost princess of the kingdom of Tourin. She was sent into hiding as an infant to escape the wrath of her half-brother, the king. And now he knows just where to find her. . .

Rupert is a notorious pirate and sorcerer. He’s spent most of his life plotting revenge on the evil king—and Rupert believes that Brigitta could be the key to finally destroying his enemy. But what begins as a kidnapping of the innocent beauty escalates into something deeper, and more passionate, than either captor or captive could have imagined. Rupert soon vows to protect Brigitta against the king—but will they survive long enough to find their happily-ever-after. . .or does fate have something else in store?

Well blow me down! That phrase is not exclusive to pirates. Not at all, in fact it’s a delightful twist in this series. With anyone who is Embraced in this world that Ms. Sparks has created, they find that they are endowed with unique powers, or curses depending on what side of the planet they live on. I know that Superman had a small talent for it but he had nothing on the hero of So I Married a Sorcerer. Rupert has a few tricks up his sleeve that Superman would envy.

The opening act of this hefty novel doesn’t give a reader a slow build up. One moment Brigitta is safe with her sisters as they go to visit their other sister who is about to have a baby and bam! The next thing I know, the heroine is kidnapped, and the adventure begins.

I wanted to give this tale a perfect rating like the first book but one tiny area held me back – I guessed what was going to happen! Granted, I probably couldn’t have done it without my reading the first book, but now that I know what the carry-over villain is capable of, I am seeking clues, hints and diabolical surprises. Yes, the heroine and hero were certainly bamboozled by the plans of the slippery criminal so they were surprised, but not me. The only other character that caught on earlier was Brody.

I like Brody. Brody is a fun character and his role and personality grows in this novel. I hope he gets a happy ever after some day. But I digress. Even though I figured out what was going to happen, I did get a short burst of shock when the choice of doppelganger was revealed. The one thing that really made me go, ‘Oooooh!’ was when Rupert had to seek out the final object to win the contest. It’s who they met that got the thinking gears whirring. And, sure enough, that tickling thread was pounced on later and created the absolute perfect hook for the next installment in the Embraced series. That’s going to be so COOL!

Rupert isn’t the only person who finds something important in this novel. No, Brigitta finds something too and it’s bittersweet. I can’t say what it is, but man, I wish something could be done to … fix or help that which was found. It broke my heart!

As for plot conflict, it’s a doozey, it’s effective and it’s encompasses a wide scale – sort of like the movies made by Cecil B. DeMille, the filmmaker. Okay so there were some areas that seemed to be too – perfect. I mean what were the odds that not one person, even the vile, ‘beady-eyed’ Hilda, noticed or suspected that Brigitta wasn’t as compliant, alone or as dumb as she lead them to believe? It worked for the story, and don’t get me wrong, I liked the outcome so I don’t want to rock the boat, but I did think that it was a bit too easy. Then again, if the suspense and stress were any more intense and sharp, I probably would have needed some chocolate therapy to recover. As it is, a glass of lemon/iced tea with lots and lots of ice was needed for when Brigitta and Rupert succumbed to their passions. As always, well written and fun to read.

Oh! I almost forgot! I really liked the full circle story arc! Yes, that was rather romantic and special and I adored the fact that Rupert, no matter how much time had passed, really didn’t shake that promise. He has such honor and integrity; he certainly wore the title of Hero well.

I didn’t talk much about Brigitta’s Embraced gift because I thought Rupert’s was way more impressive. True, hers played into the plot conflict rather well, but the hero’s talent rang my chimes. Can you tell?

On the whole, So I Married a Sorcerer is a magical follow-up to an amazing new world that is just beginning to unfold. Ms. Sparks has created a rich, vibrant, imaginative and adventurous series in which the possibilities are astounding. I can’t wait to find out what new Embraced gifts will be revealed and how they’ll be used. The one thing that seems to be clear is, the author’s heroes and heroines are reshaping their world for the better, and the villains are fighting it every inch of the way. So I Married a Sorcerer is how great storytelling is supposed to be – epic, grand, exciting and full of fiendish plots. Love wins as it should and the happy ever after left me smiling. Now, how long do I have to wait for the next book? Too long.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi


I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

Maddy Starling had it all. A beautiful house, fulfilling volunteer work, a successful husband and a beautiful daughter. She is the glue that holds her family’s world together. But when she commits suicide unexpectedly, everyone’s world is rocked to its core, leaving her family to wonder what they missed. How could they not have known she was so unhappy?

I Liked My Life is told through three alternating points of view – those of Maddy, the deceased mother who isn’t ready to let go of her family, Eve, the almost seventeen-year-old daughter, and Brady, the devoted if absent husband. Sometimes I’m wary of being in so many characters’ heads at one time, but this really works as you get a more complete view of how the family worked prior to Maddy’s suicide and the obstacles they now have to overcome.

This novel touched me in several ways. First, as the mother of two teenaged girls, I saw a lot of them in Eve. In her rebellion, her sarcasm, and her pain. I could also related to Eve’s situation as a daughter myself. I’m lucky enough to still have my mother in my life and couldn’t imagine what would have become of me if I’d lost her in my teens. I could also relate to Maddy’s view on her relationship both with her daughter and her husband. It’s such a fine balance between giving them a little leeway and letting them run all over you. Maddy seemed to have found the balance of power that worked for them all, even if she wasn’t always completely satisfied with the outcome.

I Liked My Life is a rollercoaster of emotions. There are moments that tug at your heartstrings, others that make you laugh or rage in anger. In the end, it’s a story of a life cut short and those that are left behind wondering what happened. It’s also a story about how life goes on and that through the pain, you can find happiness again.

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks


How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (297 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father’s life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage…until he discovers she’s vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

Talk about a meaty piece of world building! Ms. Sparks has embarked on a new series and if it means to go on as it’s started, then this should be an adventure that fans are going to gobble up. There’s mystical prophecy, power plays, subterfuge, shape changers, ghosts, secrets and noble deeds. There’s an intricate plot of intrigue and deception and the heroine, Luciana is the focal point. She was innocent and ignorant of so many things about the world outside the Isle of Moon where she’s lived all her life. She’s known nothing else except her sisters. One clandestine visit from a surprise visitor leads the heroine onto a path she never imagined, and for readers, the adventure begins.

Ms. Sparks was meticulous about setting the stage for not just this book, but for all the novels to come. She did it in such a way that captured my interest and kept it. Secondary characters are slowly introduced and each one propelled the plot forward, contributed to the conflict or assisted in the eventual blossoming romance between Luciana and Leo. I enjoyed watching them fall in love; not the easiest thing to do amidst such mistrust and evil portents dogging their steps. Thank goodness for Leo’s stalwart friends, friends like Brody. I really liked him and he provided comic relief every now and again. But Brody isn’t a jester – he’s brave, courageous and loyal and has a lot of hero potential.

There’s a very clever evil dude that made quite an impression. He’s diabolical, wily and I bet he’s going to be a reoccurring pain in the neck for future heroes and heroines in the series. He’s unlike any villain I’ve seen so kudos to Ms. Sparks for introducing a convincing adversary.

What makes Leo such a fascinating hero is his…talent. It’s a very scary and powerful ability that has the power to kill everyone. That kind of puts a kink into any romantic plans he has or would ever have. How in the world did the author come up with such a surprising and effective work-around I can’t even begin to imagine. But it works, it’s amazing and it made perfect sense within the world that Ms. Sparks has created.

There is suspense, drama, action and even some humor. Of course, when Leo and Luciana finally stumble upon a way to love each other physically, the romance zooms off the charts into the stratosphere of pure satisfaction. Those scenes simultaneously made me smile (lightening rod) and swoon (romance and joy). They were SO good together!

There is absolutely no doubt that How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is going to knock readers’ socks off. It has that wonderful storytelling voice that Ms. Sparks is known for, plus characters that are engaging, well rounded and vivid. I am an ecstatically happy reader and I’m looking forward to going wherever the author is going to take me next.

Stormchaser by Cherry Adair

Stormchaser by Cherry Adair
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (353 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

DESIRE RUNS DEEP

Somewhere off the coast of Greece, a king’s ransom in gold, emeralds, and silver coins lies waiting at the bottom of the sea. Finding this ancient treasure would be a dream come true for marine archeologist Calista West. But that’s not why she’s here. She didn’t climb aboard Jonah Cutter’s magnificent yacht seeking fortune or fame. She’s come for revenge—against the sexiest, most seductive, modern-day pirate she’s ever encountered…

Like his famous half brothers, Jonah is a master of salvaging ships—and driving women mad with his movie-star looks and raw animal magnetism. Tall, dark, and devastating, he manages to make Callie forget her mission. Every moment they share under the hot Mediterranean sun is an erotically-charged adventure neither can resist. But when Callie discovers what he’s really after—the lost city of Atlantis—is it too late to change the course of her heart…or go all in with the lover of her dreams?

Looking for Atlantis! Wow, so not what I expected. Stormchaser is third in a series. I wasn’t aware of this when I selected it, and I had no issue following the story, though–as always–it will likely be a richer experience if you’ve read the others.

This is my second Cherry Adair book, and she definitely has a “way” that she writes. Regardless of the storyline, attraction between the H/h is hot, erotic and immediate. Looking for a seriously sexy story? Look no further.

Jonah reminds me of any good, fictional “pirate”. Yes, he’s the captain of a ship, but I could picture him hundreds of years earlier underneath the skull and crossbones. Dark, strong, mysterious. However, he’s far to honorable for that.

Callie isn’t as honorable, and it took me some time to warm up to her. She’s on his ship on a lie, a big one, and it was tough for me to forgive her for it because I liked Jonah.

The premise of the book was interesting, too … I love the idea of potentially finding Atlantis. It’s this big mystery that lingers and makes a person wonder. Very well handled by the author.

The only hiccup I had was the lack of a true connection between Callie and Jonah. Heat? Oh yeah, in spades. Lots of sheet time here. But that little “spark” that makes a romance reader’s heart go pitty-pat? I didn’t feel it authentically.

Still, Ms. Adair’s writing is strong, descriptive and very clear and visual. I’m only just now finding her, but thankfully, she has a full backlist for me to explore. And I assuredly will.