Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness by E.H. James

Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness, The Demon Series Part 7 by E.H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (53 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Being the queen’s daughter doesn’t exclude you, when the fate of the world is in the balance. And when Princess Amara has the opportunity to help, she readily accepts.

Transformed into a shape-shifting time traveler, she journeys back through the centuries to the year 1522. Here she retrieves a baby boy and brings him forward to the year 1995, where he becomes Jesse Miller.

Unaware he is chosen, he comes to realize he alone must save the world. And with the help of Amara, he must travel further yet into the future, to destroy the demon infiltration and repair the damaged timeline.

But the story is far from over, and when he returns to 2233, where he lives with Amara, he discovers there is far more to experience than he can possibly imagine.

Imagine what it would be like to remember doing something that technically hasn’t happened in your timeline yet.

The time travel in this story was incredibly complex. Multiple timelines interfered with each other over and over again, so I was glad that the author spent as much time as possible showing the audience what happened in each timeline before and after they were changed yet again. This made for a pleasant reading experience, especially once the pacing picked up and Amara’s mission became even more urgent

There were so many other conflicts going on that I was a little bit surprised when a romantic twist was included as well. While I liked both of the characters who were involved in it and it is a minor criticism, the plot would have been even stronger if it had stuck to the main storyline. The characters had plenty to keep them busy as it was.

As usual, the world building was spectacular. I know I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews of this series, but I love the way all of these stories build on each other over time. There are little details in each one of them that are later expanded on. This makes it important to read everything in order, and it also makes it rewarding for longterm readers who may have wondered about a small detail early on that is only now being fully explored.

I’d recommend Of Noble Blood: Out of the Darkness, The Demon Series Part 7 to all of the fans of this world. It was one of the best instalments in it so far!

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride by Kathryn Albright

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride by Kathryn Albright
Publisher: Harlequin/Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (288 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Wedding bells in Oak Grove…

Raising her son alone, penniless Sylvia Marks has had enough of being the subject of town gossip. But when her son is seriously injured she’ll do anything to save him…even kidnap handsome Dr. Nelson Graham!

Nelson knows what he wants in a wife; she’s to be amiable, biddable and skilled in domestic chores. Gun-toting Sylvia Marks isn’t what he had in mind, but as the two are forced together he realizes she’s exactly what he needs!

I first became aware of the author, Kathryn Albright, when I reviewed “Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove”. “Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove is one book with two stories. One story is written by Lauri Robinson, “Surprise Bride for the Cowboy”. The other was written by Kathryn Albright, “Taming the Runaway Bride”. Even though it’s two books in one, they are connected by sharing the setting and characters. I still think that is the best book I’ve ever read. I still don’t understand how two authors could write a book sharing some of the characters and yet I didn’t feel like I was reading a book written by two authors. If I could be morphed or transported anywhere I’d choose to be transplanted into Oak Grove, Kansas to live among all the townsfolk. I would love to personally meet all the characters I’ve grown to love. After reading and reviewing “Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove” I reviewed “Winning the Mail-Order Bride” by Lauri Robinson which introduced Fiona Goldberg and Bret Blackwell, who made an exciting appearance in “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride”. There is one other book that I reviewed before “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride” that involved my favorite town of Oak Grove and that one is “Western Christmas Brides”. That book has three stories in it but the one that is relevant to this review is “A Bride and Baby for Christmas” by Lauri Robinson. I just can’t get enough of this Oak Grove utopia. A reader does not need to read all the other books prior to “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride” but I think I loved “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride more because I have read the other books. When I saw “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride” posted I knew I just had to read it. The fact that Lauri Robinson was the author who introduced Fiona and Bret yet they made an appearance in Kathryn Albright’s book, “The Prairie Doctor’s Bride”, made me feel again that Kathryn Albright and Lauri Robinson are in fact the same person. Yet when I Googled their names, my theory is wrong. All I can say at this point is that I will continue to read any book written by these two authors and most definitely if it is set in Oak Grove, Kansas. I know that there are still some eligible bachelors in Oak Grove. I hope they continue the Oak Grove series.

With all that being said, The Prairie Doctor’s Bride was a heartwarming novel. I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop suffering from this Oak Grove, Kansas book hangover; which is the inability to start a new book because I’m still living in the last book’s world. This novel has all the makings of a great love story.

Sylvia Marks, the heroine and the hero, Dr. Nelson Graham are an admirable couple. Together they are entertaining and emotionally exhausting in a rewarding kind of way. They are both incredibly relatable as are all the cast of characters which is one of the reasons they are unforgettable. It was nice to see Nelson find his match. He was introduced in “Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove” in the first story “Surprise Bride for the Cowboy” by Lauri Robinson. That book ended with a plot twist involving the doctor that I didn’t see coming. I remember it had me smiling like a silly goose long after I finished the book. I typically don’t read series but in case you couldn’t already tell, I am in love with this one.

When I started reading The Prairie Doctor’s Bride I was overcome with this comforting and familiar feeling. It was like going home.

I guess I’d compare the Oak Grove series to the T.V. show Little House on the Prairie in some ways but better. There were friendly and not so friendly town folk. There was Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher who ran the Oak Grove mercantile. Neither one of them were welcoming to Sylvia. They’d be an example of the not so friendly town folk. These unfriendly town members added the conflict to the story which made it interesting. Then there were mishaps that happened from living on such harsh lands. There was always something happening that made me want to turn the pages. The writing style was fabulous. The plot was fun and creative. I can’t think of any constructive criticism. This book was a pure delight.

If I could give an award out to best series it would be to this one. There is just something about it that has hit home with me. I heartily recommend all the books I’ve mentioned in this review. They are books I’ve put on my keeper shelf. Lauri Robinson and Kathryn Albright are two authors that I would consider actually collecting their books. They make me happy and feel good. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride made me feel courage and hope.

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride had the best ending. I’m going to end with that. I totally recommend spending time with this novel to all readers and to consider purchasing the other books in this series!

The Lady’s Arrangement by Colleen L. Donnelly

The Lady’s Arrangement by Colleen L. Donnelly
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Neither Rex nor Regina wants a spouse, but they do have needs.

Ranger Rex Duncan needs a false identity—just long enough to uncover a ring of Kansas ranch thieves. Answering Regina’s ad for a temporary husband, he leaves his beloved red dirt of Oklahoma to assume that disguise. But the most obstinate woman he’s ever known confounds his assignment, and with hair the red color that has always made his heart beat a little faster.

Regina Howard needs a new Mrs. in front of her name—just long enough to reclaim her deceased husband’s ranch, since Kansas law won’t allow women to own property. When Rex answers her ad for a husband who can take orders as part of a brief business arrangement, she finds this stubborn man ignores her every command. Yet a good man is far more than just a name…

I started this novel anticipating a romance between Ranger Rex Duncan and Regina Howard. The synopsis piqued my interest. It sounded like I was going to get to read an intriguing sequence of events with some sensual true love mixed in. While all my expectations weren’t exactly met, I was pleasantly satisfied with the plot thread of uncovering the ring of Kansas ranch thieves.

I believe Regina, the heroine, would describe this book as a tranquil and sophisticated piece of work that was slow to evolve with its abundance of verbiage. I think Rex, the hero, would say this book would be a great book to bring on an extra-long relaxing vacation.

Ranger Rex needed a false identity to infiltrate and uncover the villains. While Regina Howard needed a new husband’s name to reclaim her deceased husband’s ranch. I quote “Neither Rex nor Regina wants a spouse, but they do have needs.” I interpreted that incorrectly. The “needs” they needed weren’t romantic needs. In fact, this book barely qualifies as a romance for me. The writing style didn’t have the emotional conflict of a ‘cat & mouse chase’ romance between two unlikely people, instead I consider this book to be more of a mystery. The entire book was about uncovering the ring of murderous thieves and land grabbing cutthroats .

The synopsis says that Regina “is the most obstinate woman” Rex has ever known. I agree with that statement. I think Rex deserved a better leading woman to be matched with. She was from New York and the setting is in Kansas. Regina adapted to Kansas but still had that New York style class about her. Rex is a Ranger and skilled at being a rancher. Well, Regina would use these words that most people don’t use in every day speaking. Rex wouldn’t know what some of the words meant and I felt that made Rex look dumb. Then, Rex had “ranch” lingo that he used that Regina didn’t understand but it still made him look dumb. I think this might have been an attempt at humor to make me laugh, however, it made me dislike Regina for the way she belittled Rex and therefore I was unable to connect with them as a couple. This is especially true since there was little chemistry between them. There has to be more for me than “she looked good in a pair of pants” and “he was strong”. I understand that not everyone likes public displays of affection. It was obvious that Rex and Regina grew to care about each other by their actions. Sometimes, thoughtful actions speak louder than words.

Despite my disappointment in the lack of open affection in the romance department, Rex’s false identity to uncover a ring of Kansas ranch thieves was worth the read for me. Oddly enough, for some reason this book reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode. Rex would be a mix of Fred and Velma and Regina would be Daphne. There is a character that would be the unmasked villain at the end but that would be a spoiler so I can’t mention the character’s name. There are clues along the way though and it wasn’t a totally predictable plot. There were a few surprise moments which I appreciated. I grew up loving Scooby Doo so I enjoyed this book from the point of view of it being a mystery.

I do think The Lady’s Arrangement was worth my time to read because it had a nice ending. I liked how it came full circle back to how it all started. I would recommend to readers of sweet romantic suspense and mysteries to give this novel a try. I know my mother and my mother-n-law would love this book because they enjoy clean, innocent, and well written stories between two adults who grow to respect and care for one another.

The Ghost of January by Mysti Parker

The Ghost of January by Mysti Parker
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (79 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Against her father’s wishes, twenty-year-old January Cooper elopes with her high school sweetheart and leaves for a fairytale honeymoon in Europe.

Two weeks later, she’s a widow, abandoned by her husband’s family and too ashamed to contact hers. She works her way across the continent, scared but determined to make it on her own.

Renowned food and travel blogger Diederik DeVries arrives in his native Amsterdam and hears rumors of a Ghost Lover who has supposedly left a trail of broken hearts all over Europe. A chance encounter with an American girl named Jan leaves him wondering if she could be this elusive legend.

Despite her fears of falling in love again, January is just as intrigued with the charming and handsome Diederik. Though he is determined to discover her true identity, she refuses to tell him anything about her past. All he wants is to break down the walls of her hidden heartache to find the real woman within. But will the ghosts of January’s past take her away from him before he ever gets that chance?

After the death of her husband on her honeymoon, January roams Europe, afraid to go home to hear her father say ‘I told you so’.

In Amsterdam she finds a job and meets Diederik who has returned to his home town for a short period. They become friends but Diederik becomes cautious when he learns she could be the Ghost Lover who slips away from lovers without any explanation.

This book may be short but it is well written and a compelling read. January’s nervousness of committing herself has taken over her life and the way the author introduced her emotions brought me into the heart of the story. Her desire to get closer to Diederik wavered with indecision and I fully sympathized with the way January swung from one decision to the opposite side.

Good book to read on a wet and windy afternoon as it took me into January’s world and fully engaged my mind.

Western Christmas Brides by Lauri Robinson, Lynna Banning, Carol Arens

Western Christmas Brides by Lauri Robinson, Lynna Banning, Carol Arens
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (288 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Three heartwarming stories of Christmas in the Wild West.

A Bride and Baby for Christmas by Lauri Robinson

Pregnant Hannah Olsen has made a list of Oak Grove’s eligible men. A list that Teddy White sees—and he’s not on it! Time for him to act so that both their Christmas wishes can come true.

Miss Christina’s Christmas Wish by Lynna Banning

Dedicated new teacher Christina Marnell feels her heart race as she watches Ivan Panovsky chop wood for the school. She had ruled marriage out, but Christmas is a time when miracles can happen…

A Kiss from the Cowboy by Carol Arens

Kitson James and Livy York both have secrets, but can their love overcome the lies they’ve told? A Christmas kiss might help…

There are three heartwarming stories of Christmas in the Wild West in this one book. First is A Bride and Baby for Christmas by Lauri Robinson, next is Miss Christina’s Christmas Wish by Lynna Banning and last is A Kiss from the Cowboy by Carol Arens.

To say I was excited to read A Bride and Baby for Christmas by Lauri Robinson is an understatement. The reason I was eager to read this story is because the heroine, Hannah and the hero, Teddy made an appearance in the book Winning the Mail-Order Bride (Oak Grove series) by Lauri Robinson. I knew they were going to be in A Bride and Baby for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to read their story. It was well worth the wait.

This is my fourth Lauri Robinson book. I became an official fan after reading a third book of hers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, her flawless writing style is consistent in each of her books. She creates a web of relatable characters that are intertwined in a community that are unforgettable and inspirational. There is plenty of drama, conflict and sweet romance that kept me flipping the pages. Lauri Robinson books are original, genuine, and entertaining. When you finish one of Lauri’s books you walk around for hours/days thinking about the characters.

A Bride and Baby for Christmas was endearing – a perfect book to read during the holiday season to get you into the Christmas spirit. I especially loved how it immediately started with Teddy and Hannah meeting. The situation was precious. Then there’s a touch of comedy with “the list”. That plot thread was hilarious. Teddy’s sister, Abigail, stirs the pot but that is one element that made the book riveting. Abigail kept me wondering what kind of trouble she was going to cause next. I didn’t like the conflict she caused at first but I understand Abigail’s character was necessary to the entire plot of the book.

I do want to rave about the two inspirational stories that were part of A Bride and Baby for Christmas. I was touched by the story Teddy heard from his grandfather when he was ten years old. That is a message that all humans can benefit from, especially in today’s world. Then the message that Brett’s mom told Hannah one day. Both are thought-provoking and heartwarming. So far Western Christmas Brides is on my must read list.

Miss Christina’s Christmas Wish by Lynna Banning was overwhelming for me. The story was ninety two pages in length. I had to stop reading to get a pen and paper. Within twenty eight pages Lynna Banning had introduced twenty two characters. I don’t have a photographic memory and it didn’t help when she referred to one character as Stockett and later as Abraham. Only after re-reading did I figure out that Abraham Stockett was the same person. She did the same thing with Thad MacAllister. I share this information with you so that you are warned and aware to pay attention. You might want to have a paper and pen ready. Ivan, the hero, has a boss named Ike Bruhn. Later it says his boss’s name was Abraham Stockett. It is later revealed that Ivan actually has two jobs and that is why he has two bosses. I found all of this confusing. I like to relate and bond to my characters. It was impossible to do that with so many to remember.

The heroine, Christina, is the town’s new school teacher. The reader was introduced to ten of her students. In the story there is a dance. It felt like all twenty six characters were at the dance taking turns switching partners and it made my head spin. I gave up trying to remember who Vern Forester was. Actually, according to my notes she was the town dress maker. The romance between Ivan and Christina was in all reality, non-existent. Thirty five pages into the story they still hadn’t even had a real conversation and when they did, it was an argument so, as far as the “Christmas Spirit” goes, it’s not much. Christmas wasn’t mentioned until the epilogue. Needless to say I didn’t connect with this story in this anthology. However that’s not to say that someone else won’t. I suggest other readers give it a try.

Seriously, A Kiss from the Cowboy by Carol Arens gave First a Bride and a Baby for Christmas by Lauri Robinson a run for her money. Wow! I LOVED A Kiss from the Cowboy! Kit, the hero and Livy, the heroine were refreshing. A splash of fresh air. A unique plot with clever threads and fun twists that kept me flipping pages with a smile. The Christmas spirit was alive and thriving in this story. The message of love was loud and clear. If I closed my eyes I could feel myself standing next to Kit and Livy by the town Christmas tree seeing carols. This was a genuine heartwarming feel good story. An entertaining quick read that I would easily recommend to others. The side characters were well developed and enhanced the sense of community in the small town of Sweet Bank. If you’re looking for a sweet quaint enjoyable book then look no further. A Kiss from the Cowboy was delicious!

Overall, I enjoyed Western Christmas Brides. I love Cowboys and Christmas as much as I love Baileys in my coffee. Trust me, that’s a strong love affair. I know I had a hard time with Miss Christina’s Christmas Wish but that’s not to say everyone else who reads that book would. It’s my opinion that the other two stories in this book are definitely worth more than the weight of gold. I definitely recommend Western Christmas Brides to be in stockings all around the world come this Christmas.

Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan

Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (73 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When Orchid hunter Evie Bourke stumbles across a near deserted monastery deep in the Burren, she doesn’t realize that she’s the first person alive to see it. All she knows is that her life suddenly takes a strange turn and nothing will ever be the same.

Aiden Dunne’s family has been connected to Munster Abbey for generations, he is determined to find it and to find out what happened to his ancestral relative, the former Prior. What happened all those years ago and why does Aiden seem so familiar to Evie when they’ve never met?

Together they must face the Wanderer and dispatch him back to the darkness where he belongs before he destroys everything they hold dear. Can they trust each other before time runs out?

Evie Bourke is caught in a torrential rainstorm and takes shelter in a small house. There is a sense of evil in the place and Evie wakes in her own bed the next morning but can’t remember what happened the day before.

Aiden Dunne has spent years searching for the remains of a monastery where his ancestor was the abbot. As Evie’s memory slowly returns they join together to search for the reason for her memory loss and Aiden’s lost monastery.

Although short this is a cozy story. The link between the two main characters is not readily apparent and is only revealed gradually as the story progresses. The scenes of the past are very nicely handled and made me want to carry on reading to see the result of their endeavors. Nice book, well worth the read.

Battle for Love by Valerie Bowes

Battle for Love by Valerie Bowes
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (189 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

It’s not easy, being an unmarried woman in the England of 1814. But Nancy Worth will not marry where there is no love, and every man in her small Sussex village is either too old, too young, or has a face like a fish. Except for the handsome Bartholomew Boult, and he has his own reasons for pursuing her.

When, against all the odds, Nancy does find love, both her family and his are determined to put a stop to it. He is gentry, and she a farmer’s daughter. With lies and gossip flying, as well as the unexpected resumption of war, it seems everyone is trying to separate her from Will Carlton.

Even Napoleon Bonaparte.

While Napoleon lingers in Elba the Regency period is in full swing in England. Nancy Worth is not one of the aristocracy, her father is a landowner and although they are well off they are not considered to be of the same social level as the Squire and his family. Nancy finds herself with two suitors. One she loves and the other who, unknown to her, wants her for his own selfish ends.

Regency books are a joy to read, but the main characters can often be a bit silly, acting in ways that seem unnatural. This book has a heroine and hero who are quite natural in their actions and the misunderstandings that always happen in romance, are believable and had me urging them to sort out the difficulties before they were overwhelmed by family members who felt they knew best.

Even the bad guy had a ring of truth to his actions and in the end I felt quite sorry for him. I have to admit I didn’t envisage the resolution to be quite so dramatic, but it was well handled and I felt a great satisfaction when I finished the book. Good story, good characters and lovely to read.

Magic Spark by Sara Dobie Bauer, Em Shotwell, Wendy Sparrow

Magic Spark by Sara Dobie Bauer, Em Shotwell, Wendy Sparrow
Enchanted Book One

Publisher: Pen and Kink Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (215 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The first of a trio of trilogies by three amazing romance writers. These stories all have two things in common: magic and romance!

“When Demigods Court Death” by Wendy Sparrow:
As the demigod of fertility, Aster Slone has a thriving doctor’s practice. In fact, the incidence of triplets has made it too thriving. He needs more time with his neighbor the demigoddess of death to dampen his powers. Chandra Linton being gorgeous and sweet makes his task less of a hardship. Hitting the zenith of heretofore-unknown powers without enough exposure to her match is killing Chandra. Accepting all that her crazy, but hot neighbor says is her destiny…well, it muddles her convictions, but her real concern is: does Aster want Chandra because she’s the woman he desires or because she’s Death?

“These Roots Run Deep” by Em Shotwell:
Spitfire, New Orleans weather girl, Cheyanne Murphey has everything, and that is exactly how she likes it. When she discovers evidence of her fiancé’s philandering, she refuses to let her perfectly cultivated image fall to pieces. Cheyanne has worked too hard, dragging herself up from the trailer park into New Orleans’ society, to give in without a fight…even if that means trading a year of her life in exchange for a love incantation from her ancestor’s spell book.
A skyclad, moonlit dance, a mysterious potion, and magic gone awry leave Cheyanne with a very peculiar life lesson: love can take on many forms, so be careful what you wish for.

“Destiny’s Dark Light” by Sara Dobie Bauer:
In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

This book is contains three books written by different authors.

When Demigods Court Death by Wendy Sparrow

Chandra always feels down and can’t understand why others always feel ill or afraid when around her. Her neighbor moves in and his balcony explodes with greenery, she immediately feels a lifting of her spirits.
Chandra and Aster are opposites. I became very engrossed when their story unfolded in a most intriguing way. Their personalities came across very well, allowing me to enjoy the story and at the same time wonder how they would resolve their difficulties.

These Roots Run Deep by Em Shotwell

Another unusual story. What to do when you’re a witch and the love of your life cheats on you? Set in New Orleans, the three witch sisters have taken over from their recently deceased grandmother, but when Cheyanne discovers her fiancé Brett is cheating, she talks her two siblings into casting a spell to make sure Brett remains with her. It’s a case of be careful what you wish for. Good story.

Destiny’s Dark Light – Part One by Sara Dobie Bauer

A family of witches where the youngest one has yet to come into her powers. When Cyan finds her soul mate her powers are supposed to evolve, but all is not as it seems. Her soul mate is with someone else. A catastrophe muddles the waters even further.

I loved this story, unusual plot with humor and tragedy. I was bit put out when I found the end finished with the words “to be continued”. Now I have to wait until the author writes the next bit. Good story and well worth reading.

Despite being by three different authors, this book enthralled me and I eagerly went from story to story. Excellent read.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (204 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

Society beauty Sylvia Stafford is far too pragmatic to pine. When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, she finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.

Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.

A week together in the isolated Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

Imagine the heartbreak of falling in love, believing your love is returned, and then….nothing. That’s the tragic story that’s told in THE LOST LETTER. Though it’s not an uncommon trope, the telling of this particular tale is done in an emotional and poignant manner.

Three years ago, Colonel Sebastian Conrad was on leave and convinced by a friend to attend a musical event. Though Sebastian is the second son of an earl, his life has revolved around being a soldier, and not with social events. Yet, a beautiful young lady with an angelic voice captures his attention. Sylvia Stafford is a popular young lady, the daughter of a baronet, who is expected to make a good marriage. She surprisingly finds herself very attracted to the somewhat stern, quiet soldier who holds no appeal to the other young ladies. Over the next two weeks, Sebastian and Sylvia meet not-so-accidentally in the park, and spend time together at every event. It’s clear to both that they’re in love. Yet, on the night before he’s shipped off to India, Sebastian lacks the courage to propose, fearing he’ll be refused. They share some tender moments and kisses, and then Sebastian is gone. Neither of them receives any correspondence from the other, and each one believes they were played for a fool.

Time passes, and Sylvia suffers a reversal of fortune. Her father gambles everything away, and commits suicide, leaving Sylvia an outcast from society with no means of support. She seeks employment, and finds a family in trade willing to hire her. I’m happy that this family was very kind to her, and the daughters she teaches are lovely children. Eventually Sylvia settles into her new life, accepting that this will be her future, and convincing herself that her love for Sebastian has died. I admire Sylvia’s willingness to forge her own path, rather than become an unpaid servant for a distant relative.

Meanwhile, things have changed drastically for Sebastian as well. He was severely injured in India, and now has a badly scarred face, as well as being blind in one eye. Upon returning home, he learns that his father and older brother have died, leaving him as the new Earl of Radcliffe, something he never wanted. He retreats to his country estate, wanting only to be left alone, but his younger sister, Julia, won’t oblige. Initially, I found the flighty and overly dramatic Julia somewhat annoying, but I realized that her heart was in the right place, though her methods were questionable. She somehow finds the details of Sebastian’s failed love affair, tracks Sylvia down, and convinces her to come to Pershing Hall as her guest, to “save” Sebastian from doing something drastic.

Though Sylvia doesn’t want to tear her heart open again, she’s kind enough to want to help Sebastian if she possibly can. Sebastian, however, is furious at his sister’s machinations, and believes that the impoverished Sylvia is now coming around because he has a title and a fortune to go with it. This story is not that long, but it packs an emotional punch. I liked both characters very much – Sylvia became strong without becoming hard, and she still retained her dignity and sense of self-worth. Though many of the things Sebastian said were deliberately cruel, he was badly injured and feeling used. His true character became evident as the truth of what happened finally is revealed. It seems that there actually WERE at least a hundred letters written, and both Sylvia and Sebastian were the victims of someone else’s schemes. I love the moment when Sebastian finally has Sylvia’s first letter in his hand, and reads the words that expressed her deep love and longing. THE LOST LETTER is a lovely, touching, and beautifully written story, which I’m sure will be enjoyed by anyone who favors emotion, romance, and a second chance at love.

Love on Longboat Key by Meg West

Love on Longboat Key by Meg West
The Keys to His Heart, Book 1
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (143 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Julie Joseph dreads spending Christmas in Florida with her cranky elderly parents. Yet that changes when she arrives at Sun Tower and meets the eligible bachelor whose equally quarrelsome parents have just moved into the penthouse. Thomas Briggs IV is hardly the type Julie has dated in the past: he’s tall, handsome, and out-of-this-world wealthy. He’s also the son of the CEO of Pilgrim Mutual Insurance, where Julie works as a copywriter.

Julie has just a few days to date Thomas before they both have to return to the ice and snow blanketing the Northeast. But there’s one big problem: Julie’s rival for Thomas’s attention happens to be her gorgeous, but mean-spirited boss at Pilgrim Mutual. Can Julie overcome the odds and beat out Amanda Ford to win Thomas’s heart?

Love on Longboat Key, the first in a trilogy of contemporary romance novels set on the barrier islands off Sarasota, is a sweet holiday tale about finding love on the beach.

Julie works for an insurance company in Connecticut but is in Florida to spend Christmas with her parents who live in a block of flats for the elderly.  Thomas works for the same insurance company in Connecticut and is in Florida to spend Christmas with his parents in the same block of flats. They have not met before their holidays.

The two come together and find discover they have mutual employers, in fact Julie’s immediate boss is Thomas’s ex fiancé. They take time out together to get away from the demands of their parents and enjoy the Florida sunshine instead of the Connecticut snow storms.

This is a sweet romantic story where two like souls from very different backgrounds come together and help one another with their family and work problems. Add to this the ex fiancé who expects Julie to work over Christmas and is also a little bit jealous about Julie’s friendship with Thomas, and we have a story with a green-eyed monster making it interesting.

I loved both main characters and Julie’s parents added humorous light relief. The conflicts in their relationship were addressed in a very sensible way, none of this did he – didn’t he? Will she – won’t she? If they were confused, they asked. This could have made it a bit insipid but it didn’t. The story was entertaining and sweet and came a a very satisfying end. I enjoyed it immensely.