Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette


Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Lady Amelia Pierce has a forbidden dream: riding in equestrian competitions. When she loses a family ring in the stable, her brother finds her foraging for it in the hay with Lucas Grey, a duke’s bastard son. Amelia’s outraged father sends her to London to salvage her reputation and find a suitable match.

Despite his ignoble birth and rakish reputation, Lucas is much admired for his management of Winston Equestrian Stables. He and Amelia are fascinated by each other. But the missing emerald ring and a viscount’s greed lead to disaster and imprisonment for Lucas. Will scandal and secrets keep him from Amelia forever?

The blurb on this one intrigued me, but it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized how much I was going to enjoy this one! Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette is a lovely British regency tale that had all the swoon of a regency read, with some added twists that made this one fun and unique! Amelia isn’t your typical heroine, sure she is excited to fulfill her role in planning for the upcoming winter holiday parties, but she also has a secret. She aspires to compete at the horse jumping arena she’s so fond of!

Lucas has a reputation, one he’s quite proud of. At least, in part, but is there more to this broody bachelor than a notorious reputation that follows his every step? When he ends up in the middle of yet another scandal, and this one quite by accident he finds his life and the Lady Pierce’s suddenly become both intriguingly complicated.

Will Amelia be able to salvage her reputation and earn her father’s forgiveness in time to finish the holiday planning? And how will she ever explain the away the fact the Lucan Grey seems to find a way into her already messy life at every turn?

There’s so much I enjoyed about this one, the delightful twists and swoony romance were spot-on! This is a sweet romance that was overall clean. As for language, there were a few minor curse words and a instance or two with innuendos, mostly about past events. There is also one place where Amelia has to run away from an unwelcome advance from another character, but it is vague and dealt with quickly. This is a quick read, and once I started I couldn’t stop reading! I was pulled into their story immediately, and am so glad I got to read their story!

I loved meeting Amelia and Lucas, but also really liked her banter with her Aunt Libby, and meeting Georgette as well! The characters were wonderful and fit so well into this wintery tale! Amelia’s love for horses and Lucas’s devotion to Mr. Winston gave the story a deeper tone that also played beautifully into their story. Such a good read, I definitely recommend this one!

Precious Burdens by Avery Sterling

Precious Burdens by Avery Sterling
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Sarafina di Ramonicci sets sail for America as the promised bride in an arranged political marriage.Taken prisoner at sea, she clashes with her captor and demands freedom, only to discover he is planning her future husband’s demise, with her as a pawn in their deadly feud. The challenge of escape tests her loyalty to family, human decency, and love.

Captain Nye Tarquin is a dangerous man. Left to die on the streets of New Orleans, he swears retribution on the man responsible. When he makes Sarafina part of his plan, he isn’t prepared for the fiery vixen aboard his ship, nor his desire to claim her as his own. When passion overtakes honor, he’s torn between his heart and his need for justice.

What fun this book was! It reminded me a bit of the old pirate romances I used to devour as a teenager…the excitement of a swashbuckling hero who would sweep his captive off her feet and offer her true love.

I fell in love with Nye right along with Serafina…and I joined her in wanting to smack him for being so stubborn about things at times. The relationship between them and their banter back and forth really made this book. I do love me a good character driven book, and this book has great characters.

There were twists and turns aplenty along with plenty of action, great secondary characters, wonderful dialogue, and did I say how much I loved the main characters?

I would love to see this as a movie, from the beginning where the drive for revenge is born to the very end– Netflix, are you listening?

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The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy


The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Inspirational, Holiday, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Once handsome Rafe Sullivan is left scarred, injured, and with PTSD from his Marine Corps service in Afghanistan, returning to civilian life is far from smooth, and the burn scars on his right side are extensive. Although he lives close to family, he lives a solitary life and changes jobs more often than most people change their socks. A temporary job as Santa at the mall is presented, but Rafe first rebels, then relents. His Santa gig affects his PTSD. Then he meets Sheena Dunmore. When she doesn’t run from his scars or issues, she intrigues him. An unmasking by some rowdy children is a test of his stamina and spirit. His greatest fear is fire. Will Rafe conquer the fear so he can move forward into the new life he desires?

Kindness is for everyone.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that showed how difficult the Christmas season can be for certain people. There are many reasons why someone might avoid crowds, be wary of celebrations, or not want to spend time with anyone. It made me happy to see how often the people around Rafe understood his limitations and encouraged him to do whatever he was able to do without pressuring him to do things that were too painful for him physically or emotionally. Their empathy for him was lovely and really embodied what Christmas should be all about.

There were a few plot holes in this novella that were never explained. For example, Rafe explored the idea of becoming a police officer but never fully answered the question of whether or not his PTSD and permanent leg injury would prevent him from pursuing that line of work. There was also a scene at the end involving another character being in terrible danger. It appeared to me that this person could have walked or crawled away from the threat, so I was confused by the fact that they stayed put. I wish these things had been explained better!

With that being said, I did appreciate the author’s realistic descriptions of what daily life as a civilian would be like for someone with Rafe’s extensive injuries. He struggled to do things as ordinary as go to the mall or have dinner at the homes of his relatives due to his many triggers and deep shame about his scars and missing ear. I never stopped rooting for him and hoping that he’d find a way to heal. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d like to know what this character’s life was like five or ten years after the events of this tale.

The Scarred Santa was a heartwarming read.

Rag Lady by Susie Black


Rag Lady by Susie Black
Holly Swimsuit Series, Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Holly Schlivnik dreams of being a writer, but fate has other plans. A family crisis throws her into an improbable situation and her life will never be the same. Determined to make her own luck when things don’t happen the way she plans, the irrepressible young woman takes a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling and shatters it to smithereens. The wise-cracking, irreverent transplanted Californian goes on a raucous, rollicking rollercoaster ride of hysterical adventures as a ladies’ apparel sales rep traveling in the deep South and finds herself along the way.

Change is inevitable.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored the many ways in which life can suddenly veer off into directions one never saw coming. For example, Holly’s college major had nothing at all to do with the sales position she eventually took at the company her father worked at, but she muddled through and eventually discovered all sorts of things about her new job that suited her nicely. This was one of many examples of how characters adjusted to new circumstances and found ways to thrive when nothing went the way they thought it would. They were all enriching for the plot and interesting to think about.

I struggled with the slow and sometimes uneven pacing of this book. The narrator went into plenty of detail about every twist and turn Holly faced while adjusting to her new job. This was necessary in some scenes, but in other ones it slowed the storyline down and made readers wait even longer for fresh developments than we already had waited. As much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so given my experience with it.

With that being said, I did appreciate how much effort the author put into describing such a wide variety of characters. The people Holly met were from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of them I liked immediately, while others needed some time to work their charms on me. It was interesting to see how my opinions of the latter evolved over time as I got to know them better and understand why they behaved in certain ways.

This was a prequel to the Holly Swimsuit series, but it worked perfectly well as a standalone story, too.

Rag Lady was a thought-provoking read.

Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker


Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king’s precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse.

Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the tournament for her hand in marriage, despite his unparalleled equestrian skills and inimitable swordsmanship.

Yet, Yuletide wishes for a wondrous winter solstice in the glorious Crystal Castle might make impossible dreams come true.

Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

Ms Walker takes us into the time of King Arthur and introduces us to friends and family of Sir Lancelot. Lancelot’s mother and two of her friends have their own wishes for the upcoming winter solstice.

Gabrielle is called home because her father, King of Finistere, has suddenly become ill and wants to see his daughter safely married before his death. Unfortunately, there are many men who would like to get their hands on the princess and her kingdom, so the king devises a plan for her to be sworn to a winner of a joust.

It is obvious from the beginning that Gabrielle and Bastien de Landuc, her champion and her protector, are meant for each other, but there are numerous things that stand in their way – Bastien’s lack of nobility, forces from without. Ms. Walker leads us through the twists and turns of bringing them together with her wonderful storytelling ability.

I thoroughly enjoyed the research that went into this book and the scattering of French phrases lends a touch of realism. There were, however, some words and phrases that, in my opinion, were overused. This could very well be because I’m an editor in my other life and may be more conscious of things like this than the normal reader, so it may be something that wouldn’t bother any other reader.

If you enjoy medieval romances, winter traditions, and a helping of passion, give this book a try.

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Stonebridge by Linda Griffin


Stonebridge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After the death of her mother, Rynna Dalton comes to live with her imperious great-grandmother and her bookish, disabled cousin Ted at Stonebridge Manor. Almost immediately she is aware of a mysterious presence, which she believes is the spirit of her mother’s murdered cousin, Rosalind. Rynna is charmed by Rosalind’s lawyer son Jason Wyatt, who courts her, and she agrees to marry him. Meanwhile, Ted and Rynna become good friends.

But Stonebridge holds secrets that will profoundly affect her future. Why is Ted so opposed to the match? Why does Rosalind seem to warn Rynna against it? And how far will Jason go to possess Stonebridge—and the woman he professes to love?

Family is forever.

Ms. Griffin had a smooth writing style that makes reading her stories a delight. She seemed to know exactly when vivid details were required and when it was better to allow the audience to imagine certain moments for themselves. That is not an easy thing to balance, but it’s one of the reasons why I try to request as many of the books she submits to Long and Short Reviews as I possibly can. Whatever else may happen with the plot, I know that I’m always going to want to read just one more page of the polished stories she writes.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially when it came to Rynna. She had a habit of making rash decisions and not listening to the people around her who had serious concerns about her life choices. While this flaw definitely made her interesting to read about, I also wondered why she behaved that way and why she was so stubborn at the worst possible moments. If only that had been better explained, but this is a minor criticism of a tale I otherwise found enjoyable.

It was amusing to see how the author mixed the romance, mystery, and paranormal genres together. The plot weaved its way among all three of them. While more attention was paid to the first two, the third one popped up in some creative ways as well that other readers should discover for themselves so that I don’t spoil anything for them. There is definitely something to be said for blending so many different types of storytelling together, especially when they all bring out important aspects of the plot that might have otherwise not had a chance to shine.

Stonebridge was a memorable and exciting read.

The Axe by Linda Griffin


The Axe by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sweethearts Eric Leidheldt and Desiree Chauveau are spending a weekend at his uncle’s cabin when they encounter two strangers cutting wood. Eric is knocked unconscious, and Desi is viciously attacked. The following day two police officers come to their apartment to arrest Desi. Her assailants are dead, murdered with an axe, and her fingerprints are on it. She confesses—but is she really guilty? Eric is determined to stand by her, but the physical and emotional effects of the attack severely challenge their relationship.

Senseless violence must be punished…right?

The criminal investigation scenes kept my attention from the beginning. It was interesting to see how the officers gathered facts and how they kept coming back to the main characters to verify their testimonies and try to get more information out of them. What a painstaking and difficult process that was at times, and yet every bit of it was necessary if the truth were to be revealed.

I would have liked to see more time developing the mystery elements of the plot. There were some clues that never quite added up for me, especially when it came to what Desiree remembered about the axe and when she touched it. Her story shifted around so often that I wasn’t sure which version of it I should believe. There was space here to investigate the facts more deeply, and I would have gone with a higher rating if that had happened.

Ms. Griffin did a good job of showing how a violent and traumatic event affects people who experience them. I liked the way she explored the many different ways that Eric and Desiree were changed by the unprovoked attack against them. Since everything from trying to eat a raisin to explaining what they remembered about that horrible day was extremely difficult, I wondered what their healing journeys would look like and if justice would be served in the end. It was nice to have as much focus on the victims’ perspectives as there was, and this only became more important once the grimmer aspects of the attack had been revealed.

The Axe kept me guessing.

A Pride of Brothers: Dylan by Peggy Jaeger


A Pride of Brothers: Dylan by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Cyber-security specialist Dylan Keane is working undercover to suss out a corporate thief. When he zeroes in on Harper Vale, he thinks he’s found his mole.

Harper has a reputation as a coding savant and an introvert. Dylan’s interest is flattering, but after she’s implicated in the theft of the company’s protected software, she doubts everything he’s told her.

When a series of potentially deadly accidents occur involving Harper, Dylan wonders if she is being set up to take the fall. One thing is certain: the more time they spend together, the more Dylan realizes he’s the one who’s falling—for Harper.

I have been waiting for this book to come out and it was definitely worth the wait. I cancelled a boating trip so I could stay home to read this new book in the Pride of Brothers series. The series is about four brothers who open an investigative company named Brother’s Inc. This particular story is about Dylan.

Dylan has two older and one younger brother. One of the older brothers, Rick, isn’t a biological brother but he’s so much of a brother in every other way, that sharing the same DNA doesn’t matter. I first read Aiden’s story which was book two and I had every intention of reading the first story which was about the brother named Rick. I’m ashamed to admit that I still have not read book one. After reading the third book about Dylan I am more determined to read book one. However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’m curious why I can’t find a book for Josh. Josh is the older brother and the founder of the private investigative firm. He happens to be married to a lady named Kandy, who is a famous chef. All I know is that they met when Josh was hired to protect her. Their romance could be mentioned in book one but since I haven’t read it, I don’t know. I read book two a long time ago that I don’t remember Josh or Kandy in book two. I guess one day I’ll have to sit down and read all three books. Each one can be read as a standalone. Yet, I enjoyed how the characters in book two are brought back in book three.

I’m assuming Dylan’s story is the final book in the series since Josh is married. This makes me sad because I feel like the series just started. Unless the author just writes a book for Josh and in it all the other brothers must be single. I’m probably overthinking this, but I just want to read more about these characters since I’ve grown to love them so much.

I enjoyed Dylan’s story because it was unpredictable, often suspenseful and the romance made me feel gooey. The author’s descriptions throughout the story bring the characters, settings and feelings come to life. I could visualize Dylan’s smile, his physically fit body, his apartment, the car chase, the food they were cooking. Heck, I could smell and taste the food that was prepared. The author’s writing style really makes me want to read the entire book in one sitting. Which I did.

The heroine, Harper, was a character wrapped up multiple times and Dylan had the patience to unwrap her layer by layer. Harper was a diamond in the rough. She just needed someone like Dylan to come along and make her sparkle. Let’s just say that when they were together the chemistry between them was dazzling. I could sense how much they really cared about one another in a heartwarming way.

Okay, I just did a thing. After re-reading my review I realized how invested in these characters I am, so I just went on Amazon and bought the first book in the series. It will arrive by July twenty which just happens to be my twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. If that isn’t enough testimony that others should read this book and the others in this series, then I don’t know what else is.

If you are looking for a wowza book that will leave you feeling a book glow at the end, then I’d recommend Pride of Brothers: Dylan and the others in the series.

Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes


Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive but find unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?

This can be read as a standalone and is the second book in The White Rune Series.

I read the synopsis and thought that it sounded like a good book to read. I started reading it and was transported into the story right away. The story begins with the hero, Vann, having a PTSD nightmare. My father-in-law is a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from PTSD therefore I’m familiar with the hero’s struggles. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Vann or any veteran to adjust to the civilian world with a missing limb from a war casualty. Vann is written as a sweet character that doesn’t feel worthy of finding his happily ever after. Vann actually hides his prosthesis for fear of being judged as an incomplete person.

There is a sentence in the story that shows up a few times that really resonated with me, “If you can’t find a reason to live, then find a reason not to die.” It’s a very powerful statement. Vann is a character that more than deserves to find peace, love and joy.

The heroine, Nakina, certainly didn’t bring solace into Vann’s life when they met. Nakina brought the suspense/mystery elements. Nakina was very lucky that Vann was in town that particular day for them to have that chance encounter. She couldn’t have asked for a better person to run into when Vann approached her. A unique characteristic pertaining to Nakina is her ability to feel and see things. She’s a psychic learning to fine tune her gift. I was intrigued by the rune stone.

Nakina and Vann’s romance journey kept me on the edge of my seat as they both pursued refuge in each other as they ran for their lives from hired killers. I felt their love story evolved at a sensual pace that was heartwarming and uplifting. Nakina and Vann filled each other’s void spots making them complete each other.

I did experience a hiccup that pulled me away from the story. There is a moment where it appears the danger was resolved. I kept thinking that was impossible. I was waiting for the shoe to drop. When I only had a few more pages left I started to relax thinking, well, I guess that was the end of the danger. I felt an anti-climax. Without giving spoilers, let’s just say that the shoe did drop. For me I felt the timing was off. The next page is titled two weeks later and then we have another titled two weeks later that concludes with an epilogue. I should have had a book glow since I love epilogues. Somehow the reality of the situation versus the ending, it didn’t jive with the rest of the story.

Overall, I did enjoy this romance book. I especially loved Vann’s dog, Champion. There is a scene involving Champion that pulled at my heartstrings. As a dog owner I was very concerned during this part of the book. Fortunately this plot thread was written well. I felt the cast of characters were well developed and relatable. I got to know Vann’s neighbors and Nakina’s sister. Everyone played an important role in the narrative.

In conclusion, Jagged Feathers was entertaining. I think we all could benefit from opening our eyes and seeing nature’s natural beauty and feeling the healing of nature when we learn to rest such as Vann and Nakina did. This story brings about solace and hope.

Back in Time with Jelly Beans by Michelle Godard-Richer


Back in Time with Jelly Beans by Michelle Godard-Richer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Fueled by curiosity, and her dream of becoming a big-time journalist, Bella Thomas digs deep into the history of her small town. Mayflower thrived until the local Jelly Bean factory burned to the ground in 1927, killing handsome founder, Henry Hinchcliffe, and devastating the economy.

In a twist of fate, instead of Bella finding the past, she’s snatched out of the present and transported to the factory a year before the fire. There she is rescued by the sweet and swoon-worthy Henry.

Bella can’t stop herself from falling for him even though he’s destined to marry another and suffer a tragic fate. Without any regard for her own happiness, Bella is determined to prevent the fire and save Henry. Even if he can never be hers.

Love always finds a way.

The romantic storyline was a sweet and gentle one. The chemistry between Bella and Henry was perfect. Their personalities fit together nicely, and I appreciated the way they slowly moved closer together while continuing to check in on each other to make sure they were both on the same page. I couldn’t think of a better match for either of them, and I eagerly kept reading to find out what might happen to them next.

Time travel wasn’t well explained in this universe. I never quite figured out how it worked and why some characters could do it while others could not. It would have been helpful to know more about this topic, and I would have happily gone for a full five-star rating if the author had fleshed this out a little more.

I adored the kindness in this novella. Time travel can be risky, especially for characters like Bella who suddenly end up almost a century in the past without much knowledge of the social conventions of the 1920s or any appropriate clothing for it. I worried a little about her at first and was delighted to see how welcoming the people she met back then were. They immediately accepted her and did everything they could to make her feel at home. This was such a heartwarming way to transition Bella and the audience to life back then.

Back in Time with Jelly Beans was beautifully romantic.