Death Benefits by Sharon Saracino

Death Benefits by Sharon Saracino
Max Logan Series Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (205 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Max Logan’s insecurities have consumed her to the point she has allowed them to skew her perceptions of people and circumstances. She has grown progressively more bitter, sarcastic, and solitary since her divorce and feels as though she has spent a lifetime getting the short end of the stick through no fault of her own; still she trudges on.

Things can always get better, right? Of course, it’s hard to cultivate optimism when she finds herself dead, the victim of a D.I.E (Death in Error) caused by an overeager Grim Reaper in Training. She brokers a deal to be sent back to Earth as a temporary substitute for the Superintendent of Spiritual Impediment.

Can a girl who can’t recognize her own problems rectify the issues of the living impaired? Or will she discover that concentrating on their issues gives her a new perspective on her own?

What do you do when you slip in the shower and wake up dead? This is what happened to Max Logan. She wakes up in the foyer of the afterlife – which looks like a dirty bus depot – and finds her life has been cut short by accident. What to do? Bargain for another chance at life.

This book is hilarious. Max feels extremely sorry for herself, divorced, unemployed and living above the garage of her father and stepmother and now she’s dead through no fault of her own. Her ex interferes with her second chance at life and her outlook changes to consider others, rather than herself. She has to temp for the supervisor of the afterlife and her challenges come thick and fast. She doesn’t even have time to get over her accident.

Max is a very innovative heroine and the book is definitely one that can’t be put down until it’s been read from beginning to end. I was chuckling all the way through. This makes it sound as if there’s no mystery or conflict in the story, but there’s plenty on each page.

To sum up the book has reflection, confusion and lots of humor with a very likeable heroine.

The Pirate’s Revenge by Sarita Leone

The Pirate’s Revenge by Sarita Leone
The Lobster Cover Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (118 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Still grieving the loss of her father, Mary Sweet finds solace strolling the seashore at Quinn Beach. There she meets a handsome stranger who seems to share her sadness. He is utterly alone in the world, and praying to assuage his grief with this change of scenery.

Revenge is a strong motivator, especially for a man who’s been mistreated his whole life. The promise of pirate’s gold colors Henry Titchell’s view–yet not so much that he can’t see the beauty in Miss Mary Sweet. But while Henry is a stranger to Lobster Cove, he has not “stumbled” upon the place as he would have Mary believe. Instead he seeks retribution rather than rest

When Mary realizes the newcomer is not who he seems, will her heart be willing to forgive his sins?

Henry has a choice to make.

Tales of pirate treasure draw Henry to the picturesque coastal town of Lobster Cove. In the beginning, the source of Henry’s sorrow isn’t clear, but it quickly becomes apparent that he has never known a kind or gentle word. When the truth of his upbringing is finally revealed, it is heartbreaking. After Henry’s tormenters meet a fiery fate, he is finally free to make his own way in the world, and Henry decides to seek out a fortune. However, the people of Lobster Cove aren’t what he expected, and Henry certainly never anticipated meeting Mary. Will he pursue the gold or Mary’s heart? I eagerly anticipated learning the answer.

The romance between Henry and Mary is sweet. They are both wounded and seek to find peace on the beach. Instead, they find each other. I enjoyed watching Mary and Henry get to know each other. Their talks on the beach are lovely, and it is clear they will make a great couple. The only obstacle to their happy ending is Henry’s inner turmoil and his belief that he is unworthy of love and kindness. Mary is smart, and she can tell he’s hiding something. Mary has never given Henry a reason to doubt her sincerity. As I read, I wondered if he’d ever find the courage to tell her the truth.

Lobster Cove is the perfect place for Henry to heal his battered soul. The people there are generally kind. There are a few suspicious folks, but nothing serious enough to put Henry in any real danger. As Henry began to realize he could build a life in Lobster Cove, I liked watching Henry’s eyes open to a new life filled with possibility.

Reading The Pirate’s Revenge was very enjoyable. I liked Henry and Mary very much and had fun following their budding romance. Fans of sweet historical romance should give this book a try.

Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer

Dragons of the Ice by C.L. Kraemer
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (190 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Unexpected dragon shiftings have increased since the conference in China. More deaths being covered up inexplicably sends Lee Svensson to Japan to investigate from the Swedish Embassy. Why is it World Watch, Inc., a marketing company, is always on site when a shifter dies? Lee is charged to find out. When the husband of his wife’s best friend discovers an account he is managing, World Watch, Inc., is manipulating oil companies by buying up all available stocks, the two realize their paths are the same. Now that their wives have announced the impending births of dragonlings, it is imperative the men solve this riddle. An American dragoness shifter and former full blood warrior dragon will prove courage comes in all sizes.

Shape shifting dragon investigators try to determine why some dragons are shape shifting without intent. The bodies are hustled away but where and who is doing the hustling?

I love dragon stories and this was no exception, although there were several disappointments in the story. Several times some of the main characters mentioned they would “talk about it later” but never did. Also when something happened which showed dangerous intent, it seemed to take forever for any action to take place. A discovery by a servant who wanted to warn others of the danger, goes no further. Why not?

Other than the above inconsistencies, the concept of the story was great showing that even in the dragon hierarchy there is misconception, deception and the intention to harm others of their kind. Loved the little babies coming into the world and causing immediate chaos to their parents. The aftermath was a bit insipid, but on the whole this story was reasonably good.

What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden

What Lies Beyond the Fence by L.C. Hayden
Publisher: Angel’s Trumpet Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

For Bronson, this was going to be an easy assignment. Find Roger and Norma, the teens that stole an important book and return it to its original owners. But when Bronson locates the book, Roger reveals the truth behind the book’s existence—a truth so shocking that Bronson is forced to help them escape.
Then Ellen, his partner’s ex, gets kidnapped and Bronson is forced to decide who he will save: Ellen or two stranded teenagers who look up at him for their survival.
Who will he choose? His decision will determine who lives—and who dies.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a Utopia?

Beyond the Fence offers the reader a unique view of life where there is no concern and no worries. When retired detective Harry Bronson is requested to help locate two missing teens and a book, the job can’t be too difficult, can it? But what Harry doesn’t know is that he is being brought into a world much different from his own. Eric’s Landing is a place, far from the normal hubbub of life and offers a respite for those who have had a tough time growing up. But there are some inconstancies that Harry notices. Being a trained detective; this new world is not all that it seems.

L.C. Hayden has a great adventuring retired detective, who lives like he is not at all retired. Rather than being fraught with declining health and other ailments, it seems as though Harry is at the top of his game and the peak of his life. From noticing subtle incongruities to physical altercations and never feeling tired-the believability of the character becomes a little lost. Though there are those who keep themselves at the peak of fitness in their golden years, Harry does not show any of the zeal of eating right, exercising or maintaining his health.

I enjoyed the unique plot that dealt with current events in a realistic manner. The presence of Stockholm Syndrome and the difficulty to break the hold is one item that is addressed in the book. I did feel that the plot was often rushed; events happened one right after another; rather than following an action-adventure cycle it felt as though the plot was rushed to completion. In this rush-perfect events seemed to line up-perfectly. Even when Harry lost his upper hand, he seems to immediately gain the advantage again.

Character dialogue often felt stilted and at times even forced. I would have liked to have seen much more description and a dive into the psychological aspect surrounding Eric’s Landing. I would also like to know more about the backgrounds of the characters involved, especially the Elders of Eric’s Landing-what would cause them to bring in an outside detective. While they had difficulty locating the missing teens, most self-contained Utopic communities will shun any outside intervention-if there is outside intervention, the one brought in from the outside will essentially have no privacy and no alone time with anyone else in the community-which is not the case in this story.

While this was a wild ride in parts, the rushed plot with some unbelievable moments and missed character development stuck me the most. This is a good read if you would like to experience a world outside everyday life.

The Girl on The Beach by Morton S. Gray

The Girl on The Beach by Morton S. Gray
Publisher: Choc Lit Limited
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (255 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

After divorcing her abusive husband, Ellie changes her surname and she and her teenage son settle in a small seaside town. Her past rushes into the present when Harry Dixon, the new headmaster, reminds her of her son’s father, a surfer she met just before her marriage. She sternly told herself this wasn’t possible as Ben Rivers had died in a surfing accident before her son’s birth.

Ellie and Harry pull backwards and forwards as she tries to make him confess his real identity, while Harry is determined to remain in character as the headmaster. Things come to a head when the past rears its ugly head and threatens to pull their lives into oblivion.

This book is a delightful contemporary romance set in a seaside town in England. The angst of teenage life shows itself in the past and present allowing the flashbacks to Ellie’s teenage years to come to the fore.

A pleasant book, not too dark, but a little bit of mystery added makes the story more intense, and there is also a touch of danger in the final pages. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (401 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”

In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Victoria was only eighteen when she became Queen. Her mother and her mother’s friend planned on running the kingdom for her and she could just look pretty. Victoria had no intention of doing that and make it plain on her Coronation Day that she would be the Queen and make the decisions. Since no one thought she’d do that, she wasn’t trained. It was a good thing she had a Prime Minister who could help her figure out the problems and gently guide her to practical solutions. She was smart and did well at making her own decisions but she was lacking on political experience. He helped with that.

This author’s words sing from the pages. It’s hard to take historical fact and make an interesting book but Ms. Goodwin has done just that. It feel like you are reading a Regency romance but it’s more impressive because it’s about the real Queen Victoria.

She has several successes in her life, but she’s not doing so well in love. She’s grown quite fond of her Prime Minister. He helps her find humor, makes meals a pleasure with her family, and goes on horse rides with her. When he learns she’s getting a little too fond of him, he tries to distance himself. He’s too old for her, but he’s fond of her, too. Sometimes you can’t have the one you love but you don’t forget them.

Her mother and her friend are trying to set her up with her cousin. She thinks he’s a lump and is not impressed. Of course, she last saw him three years ago and he’s a bit better with age. He still doesn’t hold a candle to the Prime Minister. And, being Queen, she’s the one who has to propose.

While she rules a country she loves and tries to help everyone around her, she also manages to get rid of her mother’s lover (who is against her) and she works out who and why she should marry.

This is history that is alive in the retelling. Ms. Goodwin’s words flow well, the story is well told and it’s very enjoyable to read. Victorian times weren’t boring.

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection by Various Authors

The California Gold Rush Romance Collection by Various Authors
Publisher: Barbour Books, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (448 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?

This is a collection of stories from the California Gold Rush days, all featuring very different women. All stories strongly rooted in the Christian faith.

The Price of Love by Amanda Barratt—Lorena Quinn goes to San Francisco on a bet from her magazine editor who wants stories from the gold rush. As many men were in the 1800s, he is a chauvinist. The only way he can get her to go west is to promise her an Assistant Editor’s position—but only if she comes back an accomplished writer, single, and not in love! With a hundred men for every woman, the challenge is a big one. What her boss doesn’t tell her is that he has sent a letter to a former employee who currently lives in San Francisco. Not just any employee, but handsome Caleb who he is promising the same job to IF he can woo Miss Quinn and accompany her back to the East head-over-heels in love. Headstrong, determined Lorena does not plan to fail, but neither does Caleb. Although a good story, it felt rushed, and at times, a bit awkward, especially with the surprise addition of a baby, which seemed to take the story off track. Those who enjoy reading about life’s challenges will undoubtedly find a champion in Lorena Quinn.

The Best Man in Brookside by Angela Bell—This story begins with Donovan Gallagher striking it rich in the gold-rich waters of California then heading home to reclaim his young sister from the arms of a caretaker. But just as importantly, he wants to go home and start life over again, in spite of Sophia Heyer, the woman who wrongly accused him of thievery. Both Donovan and Sophia have their own interesting life stories, so much so, in fact, that I found it hard to decide who was the bad guy/girl and who was the good? Throughout the story, I wanted to cheer for someone, but never knew whom. The addition of the carousel had me excited, but the “vision” of it all never completely came together for me, and the Gold Rush portion of the story was virtually non-existent. Overall, this was a good story, but not my favorite.

Civilizing Clementine by Dianne Christner—Ever watched the old Doris Day movie called Calamity Jane from the 1950s? As cute as this story is, it is eerily reminiscent of said movie, without all the singing and dancing. It’s about a very unladylike woman, rough and tumble, who is not about to wear a dress, yet gets transformed in a lady, clean and refined, before our eyes. And the man of her dreams? Ah, well, we’ll let you guess. This is a cute addition to the collection, but I would have enjoyed a more original idea.

The Marriage Broker and the Mortician by Anne Greene—Eve Molloy, a dance teacher at an orphanage who happens to be a former orphan herself, decides to help the “of-age” girls who are old enough and must leave the orphanage to begin their adult lives. But what is an eighteen-year-old girl supposed to do all alone in 1850? Eve sets out to find them respectable husbands, but when she herself is left near destitute after a robbery, she finds herself in quite a predicament. Rafe Riley, a mortician, comes to her rescue—sort of, anyway. This story had an interesting premise, but it never seemed to gel. Too many, “oh, yes, then this happened, and oh, that happened too,” side stories that could’ve/should’ve been part of the overall story, such as the uncle and the cousin who seemed written in as afterthoughts. This tale would have been better as a full-length novel where it might have had a chance to develop into a full-fledged story.

The Lye Water Bride by Linda Farmer Harris—Jo Bass is an important woman in Dry Diggins, California, 1849. Not because she’s beautiful or charming, though I’m not saying she isn’t, but because she works at the bank and determines the amount of money given for each gold nugget. Jo and her brother Thad run the bank, but everyone thinks Thad is her husband, which made for some interesting, and often confusing, dialog. I enjoyed reading about “cashing in the gold,” which so little is written about, but overall this story seemed disorganized and had plenty of situations that only seemed to slow down the pace. With that said, this storyline is very creative.

A Sketch of Gold by Cynthia Hickey—Rose McIlroy is a devoted nineteen-year-old daughter, whose father fears for her safety in a world of wild men clambering for gold, so he talks her into cutting her hair and dressing like a boy so that no one will know she is a girl. But when Jack Westin befriends the two, things change. Interestingly, Jack has come west to sketch the miners and their search for gold, with a plan on sending them to a newspaper back East. As soon as he can, Jack wants to start his own newspaper in gold country. Adding to this interesting character is in finding out he is a preacher, too. It doesn’t take him too long to realize Rose is a girl, whom he falls madly in love with, in spite of her protests. The characters were very real, and the unsavory men had me on edge worrying about Rose. This was a well-done story.

Love is a Puzzle by Pam Hillman—Shanyn Duvall, along with her aunt, goes west looking for her missing father, who is a cartographer with the Sierra Nevada Typographical Surveyors (shouldn’t that be Topographical, Ms. Hillman?) Shanyn has not seen her father in two years and she feels certain he has found a place for them to put down roots. Unfortunately, her father is nowhere to be found and she soon receives the dreadful news that her father is dead. This story takes on the task of a rarely told side story to this era: Obadiah Duvall, her father, was not only a mapper, but also a puzzle-maker and artist. This is a delightful story that kept me turning pages and thinking about it long after I’d finished reading. If one can turn a novella into a full-length novel with more detail given to the history, this story would be a real winner.

The Golden Cross by Jennifer Rogers Spinola—From the Canton Province of China comes this story, which truly sweeps you away into a different tale about the gold rush days. Ming and her Uncle Wang sail to America with hopes that San Francisco is full of gold, just waiting for them. Life for the Chinese was vastly different from that of others, but both cultures believed the golden nuggets meant a better way of life. Religion played a heavy role in this one, but it is an unforgettable story, which gives a glimpse of another existence during California’s Gold Rush. Perhaps the best-written story in the entire collection.

Gold Haven Heiress by Jamie Jo Wright—The least “romantic” story of this collection borders on being one of the best. Thalia Simmons lives in a ghost town, and Jack Taylor wants to know why? Gold Haven is the deserted town and it has little to offer anyone at this point, except maybe someone who just wants to be left alone. And to be free. The first page of this story hooked me. I adored poor Thalia right away. This tale could easily have been fleshed out into a full-length novel just by adding more town residents, which would have been a major hit with me. Perfect characters with a very creative storyline. Great final story to round out this collection!

The mid-1800s had a different life story for everyone, which is what makes this collection so wonderful. No two stories are alike, and each are worthy of their own telling.

A Mistletoe Christmas by Hebby Roman

A Mistletoe Christmas by Hebby Roman
Publisher: Estrella Publishing
Genre: Historical, Holiday
Length: Short Story (147 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Ginny Brown is a poor seamstress’ daughter who worships the ground Chad MacKillian walks on… from afar. For as long as she can remember, she’s been in love with the prominent rancher. Befriended by Chad’s sister, Ginny overcomes her shyness when Chad finally notices her.

Unknown to Ginny or his sister, Chad is already engaged to the neighboring rancher’s daughter, but their engagement is a business arrangement. The more time Chad spends with Ginny, the more he questions his future plans. Torn between honoring his engagement and his growing feelings for Ginny, he avoids making a decision.

When Chad’s fiancée catches him kissing Ginny beneath the mistletoe, she breaks their engagement. Chad is relieved to be free, but Ginny is humiliated and has had enough of his inconstancy. Faced with losing Ginny and fighting off outlaws bent on revenge, Chad begs Ginny to marry him. But can Chad convince Ginny he really loves her and is eager for her to be his wife?

This story was a treat to read. The main love story was between Chad and Ginny but there was a minor or side romance between Chad’s sister, Lindsay, and his ranch partner, Bart. As small as it was, it’s relevant to the whole story and needs to be mentioned.

I thought the story was nicely written and flowed smoothly. The plot was intriguing and the characters were well developed. My interest was captured immediately and never faltered throughout the story.

I prefer stories with an epilogue and when I find a story that includes a prologue as well, that’s a definite bonus. It makes me feel more connected to the characters. This story had both. Chad and Ginney’s story is a sweet romance. I was torn between Chad being honorable and a coward but that is what hooked me. Thankfully, at the end he was redeemed and they concluded with their happily ever after.

I enjoyed reading the developing “Best Friend Forever” friendship between Lindsay and Ginney. They were there for each other when they most needed each other’s support. They both were kind and generous women. Bart and Chad were quite lucky to be the recipients of their love.

There was a trace amount of suspense threaded throughout the story with Chad and Bart fighting off outlaws bent on revenge which ended in a clever twist.

One thing that stood out for me was this being the first story I’ve ever read that was set on a sheep ranch. I had no idea how hard and dirty of a job it was to shear their wool.

The title was slightly misleading. This isn’t a traditional holiday book. There was only one epic Christmas scene which changed the course of the story.

I only wish the story was stretched out to be longer because there were a few things I would have enjoyed reading more about. I can easily recommend this book for a quick, easy and entertaining read.

Nobody Knows by Susan Coryell

Nobody Knows by Susan Coryell
Overhome Trilogy, Book 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (258 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

With a successful writing career and blissful marriage, Ashby Overton is fulfilled and content at historic Overhome Estate in Southern Virginia until a stranger walks into her life. The arrival of Professor Ellis O. Grady coincides with a violent and bizarre turbulence emanating from the dark world of Overhome’s ancient spirits.

As paranormal events build into chaos, Ashby must use her sixth sense to sort out the real from the imagined in both the visible and the invisible worlds as, stirred into fury, the souls of Civil War slaves engage in a dangerous battle destined to reveal long-held secrets of the past.

What is the connection between the enigmatic professor, a slave-built chapel and a restored overseer’s cottage on Overhome Estate? Ashby struggles to find the answers before the spirits destroy her family’s heritage, and the lives of those she loves.

What are the spirits trying to tell the Overton family?

Ashby Overton is a historical romance writer who also happens to have experience when dealing with paranormal spirits. Ellis O. Grady, PhD Professor of Sociology introduced himself to the Overton family as a possible blood relative. His investigation stems from treasures and notes that belong to his distance relatives who were captured in Africa and enslaved by Burwell Overton. The Overton family, which happens to be big on their family history, takes Professor Ellis to the historical Jared Chapel. Jared Chapel served as the center of black social life and represented freedom of worship for Blacks in Overhome back in 1782. That historical site is at risk of being bought by a cold hearted developer, Sonny Slaughter. The spirits are restless and trying to get the Overton’s family attention. This is a story that offers an intriguing mystery, with a strong family unit and a community that is willing to stand together to preserve the towns historical site.

The book is well written, the character are developed and the unique plot kept my interest. It has a somewhat intriguing start but spent a lot of time introducing characters and talking about horse training. I like the diary entries because they were informative and helped narrate the story along by giving more details. The story is interesting and told with a variety of characters and events that all combine into a balanced story with the mystery being solved by the end. Strange things are happening and items are disappearing. The author did a good job of pacing the story and explaining so that it was easy for me to follow the story as it unfolds.

The book wasn’t only about family history and huntings. The author threw in a threat to Ashby’s marriage. Luke hires a young lady that seems more interested in him than in working at his veterinary practice. This plays out in the mist of the paranormal mystery and is resolved.

Even though this book is part of a series this can be read as a standalone. I was not lost and was able to complete the book without questions or confusion.

This was a satisfying read that I would recommend to the reader that enjoys a book that is a balance between mystery and paranormal.

Alone by SM Ford

Alone by SM Ford
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Holiday
Length: Full Length (303 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation.

Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the troubles that lie ahead?

Cecelia Gage is a woman with both beauty and brains who just happens to be the best housekeeper and cook in the county, maybe the whole state of Colorado, so why is her new employer firing her?

Mark Andrews is a best-selling novelist and near recluse, and he likes it that way. He needs nothing more than a seasoned housekeeper who can cook, clean, run daily errands, and most of all, stay out of his way while he writes his next novel. His only real-life attachments are to Aunt Zeena, and to his lifelong friend, suave and handsome Simon, who is an undeniable ladies man.

Upon Cecelia’s arrival at her employer’s country home, the older housekeeper instructs her on household etiquette stating clearly that her new boss does not like to be disturbed. An entire day passes before the novelist realizes he has a new housekeeper he has never personally met. He takes one look at her and says, “Tomorrow you can go back where you came from.” When Cecelia asks why, he says, “You are too young for this position.” Determined to prove her worthiness, Cecelia stays and continues working, cooking up some wonderful dishes while the writer, who never officially fires her, stays somewhat hidden. Soon enough she meets his Aunt Zeena, an odd-bird but likeable enough, and the adorable friend Simon. Both are impressed with Cecelia, and Simon grows intent on wooing her.

Although Cecelia goes on a few casual dates with likeable Simon, her heartstrings pull her toward the novelist and her boss, Mark Andrews. A friendship forms, and Mark softens, but it becomes obvious that he is ever so careful not to step on Simon’s toes.

All of the characters were strong in this story, even the bit players, which is refreshing. The descriptions were written nicely, too, and it is a well-rounded story. There were some disappointments though. First, the title “Alone” feels like it was picked out of thin air without any basis. Next, I quickly grew frustrated with the novelist being referred to only as “Mark Andrews” or “her employer.” When the initial walls starting coming down and a friendly relationship began to form, I expected to hear Cecelia use the name Mark, simple and acceptable, but rarely was his first name used without tagging it with his last name. It felt awkward and uncomfortable. Another distraction was that too much time was wasted on unimportant events. Lastly, but most importantly, I felt the prologue nearly ruined the story for me. You learn right off that Mark goes to jail accused of murder. I really wanted to find that out in the course of the story! Then halfway through the book, without any further mention of jail or murder, Cecelia spouts out that she just bought her employer a murder weapon. No mention again until the end is near.

Although this is a romance story for all to enjoy, the mystery of the eventual murder and the identity of the killer will most likely surprise you. This is a clean Christian mystery/romance that kept me reading. Do you pride yourself on being a sleuth? Try this one on for size!