The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde


The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: Full Length (362 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family.

I’ve never read a Catherine Ryan Hyde book I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and this one was no exception.

What I like most about this author’s stories is she lets you connect with the characters from page one, you feel for them, you cheer them on, and the lead character, Aiden, made me feel that way. The other characters are just as well created but it’s Aiden that you feel yourself empathizing with the most as he struggles with his new found ‘gift’, that of feeling others pain. Well, not just humans but animals too which isn’t a good thing for a man who’s a cattle rancher.

This story is a page turner and not just because of its plot but it you feel the essential emotional pull that makes you want to read more and read on to see how Aiden’s new life evolves. Another interesting character in this story is Milo, the young son of Aiden’s new love interest. Milo’s got his own issues, his own pain from the past and it’s all brought out beautifully when he and Aiden start to interact and gradually begin the healing process.

The dialogue is wonderful and the pacing spot on for a book of this length. I don’t think I’ve ever read any book by Ms. Hyde that hasn’t left me a bit teary eyed. You might not have experienced the same thing as the characters, but you, like Aiden in this story, can feel what they’re going through which for me is the trademark of a book that lives on in your heart.

This is a story I highly recommend for your winter reading list.

Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan


Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full length (331 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Tabitha Brewer wakes up one morning to find her husband gone, leaving her no way to support herself and their two children, never mind their upscale Philadelphia lifestyle. She’d confess her situation to her friends—if it wasn’t for those dreadful words of warning in his goodbye note: “I’ll tell them what you did.”

Instead, she does her best to keep up appearances, even as months pass and she can barely put food on the table—much less replace a light bulb. While she looks for a job, she lives in fear that someone will see her stuffing toilet paper into her handbag or pinching basil from a neighbor’s window box.

Soon, blindsided by catastrophe, surprised by romance, and stunned by the kindness of a stranger, Tabitha realizes she can’t keep her secrets forever. Sooner or later, someone is bound to figure out that her life is far from perfect.

I’ll start by saying I really enjoyed this book. I liked Tabitha, the main character, from the beginning, and who wouldn’t? She’s now a single mom to two children because her husband’s suddenly disappeared, leaving her with a once lavish lifestyle and no way to pay for it. She can’t ask for help or let anyone know about her predicament because he’s left a note that concludes with a threat about telling people what she did. But what exactly did she do? Tabitha like many of us feels she’s done one too many things and feels the guilt.

The story pulled me in immediately and I liked the way the author made Tabitha a sympathetic character by opening with Tabitha taking things for them to eat but keeping tabs on what she’d need to pay back once she got a job.

It’s a believable story and I think that’s what made it work, well at least for me. The dialogue is natural sounding and the pacing spot on for an enjoyable read.

I also enjoyed the bigger question the story asks and that is can anyone be truly perfect and do the little imperfections in our lives really prevent us from being perfect?

If you like women’s fiction with some believable characters and interesting conflict, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker


Working Fire by Emily Bleeker
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (308 pgs)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again.

Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie.

If there’s one type of plot I love, it’s one about people keeping secrets. Not just keeping them, but a plotline involving the prospect of them coming to light, throwing a family into total dysfunction and putting them in danger.

That’s what drew me to Working Fire. The main character Ellie, now a paramedic, and back in the town she grew up in, is called to a crime scene where it’s her sister Amelia who’s been shot during what looks to be a home invasion.

The story goes back and forth between present day and five weeks before the incident and told from both Ellie and Amelia’s point of view. As the plot progresses the time span gets shorter until both coincide. At first I didn’t like the approach but toward the end of the book I realized it did add to the suspense.

I loved the plotline and the pacing was spot on but what I felt could have been a great book was somewhat spoiled by lots of information dumping by both Ellie and Amelia and dialogue that did somewhat similar things. I felt I would have enjoyed it more had the author relayed the information about their past more slowly.

However, if you’re looking for a fast paced read, and like me, love the secrets from the past plotline, this will be your type of book.

A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst


A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard–and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally’s back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin–set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

In a stew of suspects and restaurateurs, trouble boils over in the second in Leslie Karst’s tasty and tantalizing Sally Solari mystery series, A Measure of Murder.

I grew up reading cozy mysteries and jump at any chance to read one. A Measure of Murder has everything that’s fun to read about in this genre. It’s peppered with characters, any of which could have committed the crime, an easy to like sleuth, and clues that have you guessing about which one should I follow and which one’s a red herring.

This was a new to me author but I knew this is the second book in the Sally Solari mystery series which is centered around cooking and restaurants. And who doesn’t enjoy a good culinary mystery? This one also focuses on music, classical music to be exact. When a tenor falls to his death and no, it wasn’t by accident, it sets in motion a determined lead character to find out who did it and why.

This is a fast paced story with enjoyable characters and has me wanting to go and seek out the first book to learn more about sleuth Sally Solari. I don’t think you need to read the first one before this installment because I had no trouble figuring how who she was or what she did for a living.

If you like quick paced mysteries with some humor thrown in, and of course a recipe or two, then this might be one to add to your end of summer reading.

Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale


Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (327 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

This story is the sequel to Everything We Keep and I’m glad the author chose to write Aimee and James’ story from his perspective because I’d been fascinated to know what really happened to him.

All is answered in this book. James is now Carlos, a widower with two boys and living in Mexico. As the story unfolds…it’s told in both the present and past as we learn what happened and how he ended up in a fugue state.

Aimee is now married with a child and I thought perhaps the story would focus on their reconnecting but instead it takes different course and the suspense deepens when his brother is released from prison. He was the catalyst for the drama surrounding James’ disappearance and in this book; he’s trouble with a capital T.

I thought this had more of a page turning quality to it than the first one and found myself reading more as I got farther into the book. It’s got a ticking clock quality to it and I found the characters really compelling

I obviously won’t give away the ending but let’s just say these two books have turned me into a die-hard fan of Ms. Lonsdale.

I strongly suggested reading the books in order to appreciate the sweeping and suspenseful story line.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale


Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

Do we truly know the person we’re in love with?

That’s a question that springs to your mind as you delve deeper into the plot of this book.

I loved the opening to this story. No backstory but straight into the main character Aimee’s nightmare. A wedding that turns into a funeral for James whose body was washed up on shore.

The opening had me thinking that maybe this was going to be about love lost, its heartache and maybe Aimee would find love again but I quickly realized this wasn’t all romance and that’s what made the book so enjoyable.

There’s a strong suspense thread in this story and that’s what had me turning the pages. I loved the character of Aimee. From the opening you’re on her side as she tries to not only get on with her life, but put the pieces of James disappearance together.

The pacing is just about perfect and I now have the follow up sequel to read and review and I’m looking forward to it.

If you like a book that makes you think about the people in your own life and love a good suspense, I highly recommend this go on your to read list.

Hunger by Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, A.C. Arthur


Hunger by Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas, A.C. Arthur
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (532 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In The Alpha’s Mate, villains aren’t supposed to rescue damsels, and pack alphas are known to have complete control of their wolf. But when Fabian saves a certain lady from drowning, everything he knows gets tossed away and only one thing becomes clear: she’s his mate—and someone wants to kill her. Hell no. Protecting her, though, is only part of his problem. He also has to convince her she belongs to him. In her words, “Hell no.”

When she flees, little does she realize this wolf loves to chase. And when he catches the woman he wants? She’ll become the Alpha’s Mate.

Previously published in the 2-in-1 e-original Claimed by the Mate Volume 3 and in print for the first time!

In Dangerous Passions, finding a mate shouldn’t be all that difficult for a sexy werewolf on the prowl. Modern women want romance and seduction, and Feral Passions Resort has served that purpose for providing both for the men of the Trinity Alps pack. Only two are still unmated—alpha leader Traker Jakes and his lieutenant Evan Dark—but danger stalks the women they’ve chosen. Danger that threatens everyone in the pack at Feral Passions.

In Bound to the Wolf, Marena Panos is an attorney with a dark secret that follows her into the mountains and into the bed of a Phelan Sava, a lycan whose strength and shared penchant for pleasure/pain will eventually own her body and soul.

Who could say no to the opportunity to read a book by Eve Langlais? Not me. I’ll admit up front that she’s one of my favorite authors in the paranormal genre. I always enjoy her stories and the one contained in Hunger (called The Alpha’s Mate), was no exception.

What did I love about this one? It had Ms. Langlais trademark writing style stamped on it. An opening that scene that pulls you in. A heroine that you find yourself cheering on from the first sentence. And let’s not forget humor and a sexy hero.

The story starts with an attempted murder and an heroic rescue by a sexy wolf named Fabian and after that it’s one sexy ride as he realizes this is his true mate and that some bad guys want her dead.

I won’t give away the outcome but let’s just say I think you’ll like it.

The next book in this anthology was Dangerous Passions by a new to me author, Kate Douglas. Once again who doesn’t love a sexy werewolf who happens to be on the prowl? And of course, there’s a resort called Feral Passions where wolves in the pack can find their mates. You’d think it would be smooth sailing but Ms. Douglas provided an air of suspense and danger in this sexy tale. If you like a plot dripping with sexual tension while feeling the mystery then this one’s for you.

The final book is Bound to the Wolf by A.C Arthur who was also a new to me author. I immediately loved her heroine (Marena), because who doesn’t enjoy a lead character with a secret? The hero is a super sexy, a lycan who loves pleasure and pain and is determined to possess Marena, secret and all.

These were three fun and sexy reads, and if wolf shifters are your thing then I highly recommend Hunger for your summer reading pleasure.

The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb


The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.

But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows―including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks―she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows—and herself—from sinister forces.

A rolling fog, an isolated creepy property and a heroine who’s headed there to take over as director of an artist’s and writer’s retreat. I haven’t read a gothic novel in what seems like forever, and I can’t remember ever reading one set in contemporary times so I’m glad I got to enjoy this one.

I’ll make a confession here…I like gothic novels and I haven’t found one I couldn’t finish but I’ll give credit to this one for making not just like but love the story.

The opening had all the great things that makes me enjoy the genre. The flashback to the past and what seems to be a very creepy little girl. The fog so thick you can’t see where you’re heading and house, or in this case, a previous TB sanatorium, and the heroine’s feeling that something bad is about to happen.

As with all good gothics, this one is told from a first person narration. You sort of feel sorry for Eleanor as she seems to take on more than she can handle when the previous director is found dead in her bed. While I did guess one of the big reveals that happens at the end, I found myself reading faster and turning the pages. I know there’s no set number of pages for chapters but Ms. Webb seems to have found the key to keeping them at just the right amount for what’s happening in the scene. I read the last part of the book in one sitting and was determined to read to the end no matter the time. Yes, that’s the sign of a great story.

The story gets creepier as it progresses and you find yourself throwing all sorts of theories out there as to what’s going on and if it’s going to end well. I’ll just say it does, but hang on to your hats for the finale.

If you, like me, miss the gothic of yesteryear definitely pick up a copy of this one.

Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson


Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson
Publisher: Revell
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.
The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?

A One-Click that was totally worth the risk.

The story starts with Marie who is down to her last few dollars and needs to buy a ferry ticket to go to Prince Edward Island. While waiting she meets, an older man, Jack who just so happens to be in need of someone to help him pick colors for an inn he’s just purchased. While at the inn Marie meets with a few of the local residents, Aretha and Caden and things seem to be going okay for her until Jack’s nephew, Seth enters the picture and things begin to get rocky.

I loved all the characters in this book. They came across as lifelike and loveable and I found myself cheering each of them. What I enjoyed the most was the speed at which the author revealed why Marie was running so far from home. Nothing was dumped too soon into the story which I felt added to its appeal. Seth too has his own demons to bear and as they slowly begin to trust one another you find yourself wanting to read more at each sitting.

There’s a second romance weaved into this story which was also enjoyable and that’s the one between Aretha and Jack. The conflict was believable and just when you thought they’d turned a corner there was something else that got in the way and made you want to read on.

I can’t remember ever reading a book set on Prince Edward Island but Ms. Johnson did such a good job describing it, I think I’d like to see it for myself. If you like sweet romances with lovable characters, a realistic plot and an island setting, then I’d definitely check this one out.

Submerged by Dani Pettrey


Submerged by Dani Pettrey
Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Inspirational
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a small town. She’s returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn’t appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he’s not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

Dani Pettrey is a new to me author and I stumbled upon this book while browsing the free books you can read with your Amazon Prime membership and the tag “romantic suspense” drew me in. I’m happy to say, so did the book. The opening was riveting. There’s nothing like a plane crash to get your pulse racing and force you to turn the pages.

It’s set in small town Alaska and the two main characters, Bailey and Cole seemed to jump off the page as real life characters. Baily is determined not to return to Alaska but when her aunt is one of the victims of the plane crash she has no alternative.

Cole is a deep sea diving expert and has a soft spot in his heart for Bailey who at first comes across as someone with both a broken heart and spirit but I liked the way the author handled the character development. By the end of the story, Bailey was someone who was stronger and it was great to see her evolve and find peace with her past.

The action is literally non-stop, some strange things begin to happen to Bailey and the deep sea diving scenes to recover evidence from the crash, really puts you on the edge of your seat.

This is an enjoyable romantic suspense that will have you guessing until the very end and has made me want to check out more books by this author.