Loving a Ghost by Marisa Chenery


Loving a Ghost by Marisa Chenery
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jordana’s dream of meeting hunky romance cover model, Grady Timmins, comes to an abrupt end when he dies in a tragic car accident in her city. She’d known she would never meet him in real life, but that didn’t stop her from mourning him, anyway.

Her sorrow all-too-soon changes after Grady appears to her in ghost form, unable to leave her apartment. As love springs between them, Jordana will do anything in her power to keep him at her side.

Sometimes celebrity crushes can be more than just a fun fantasy about someone you’ll never meet.

Including so much backstory about Jordana’s life was a good decision. My first impression of her was that she was a sweet and lonely woman. It was nice to have that gut feeling about her confirmed because it made it easier to understand why she made certain decisions later on in the plot. Loneliness can drive people to make all kinds of choices that they might not otherwise be brave enough to try.

The one thing I never understood about this story was why Grady ended up being drawn into Jordana’s life after he died. They’d never even met while he was alive, so it didn’t make sense to me that he would haunt her home instead of the home of one of his friends or relatives. I otherwise enjoyed the plot quite a bit. This was a big sticking point for me, though, and it’s something that I wished would have been explained better by the author.

With that being said, the chemistry between Jordana and Grady was undeniable. They were both great conversationalists, and their banter made me eager to see what would happen once they figured out that ghosts can’t touch people or objects the same way a living person can. The anticipation of wanting to see them together but not being sure how it would be possible made it hard for me to stop reading. I simply had to know what would happen to them next.

I’d recommend Loving a Ghost to anyone who is in the mood for a sweet paranormal romance tale.

The Crow by Leslie W P Garland


The Crow by Leslie W P Garland
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Short Story (71 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Crow: A sad, poignant story of misunderstanding, bitterness and blame.
“Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.”

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

The difference between a hero and a villain isn’t always as clear cut as it might seem.

Small town politics can be extremely complicated. One of my favorite parts of this tale was how much effort the characters put into explaining why certain issues were so sensitive for the people who lived in the community where this all took place. It actually made me wonder for a moment if this was based on real events because of how true to life some of the scenes were. They genuinely felt like the kinds of grudges and quiet but stubborn conflicts that I’ve seen played out over many years in other rural places.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. The narrator spent the first third of the story introducing everyone and explaining how they all knew each other. While I liked having so many details, it didn’t leave quite enough room for all of the exciting things that happened once Dave started to dig deeply into his conversation with Father Patrick. I would have liked to have more time to sort through the conflicting theories about Reginald’s life after they were revealed.

Once the introductions were finished and the pace picked up, though, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Reginald’s involvement with the dam lead to a tragedy that the community talked about for many years afterwards. I was haunted by the various theories about what happened that day and whether or not he should have been blamed for the outcome. While I can’t say much else about this part of the plot without giving away spoilers, it was thought-provoking and it did help to ease my earlier frustration with not knowing what was going on.

This is part of “The Red Grouse” series, but it can be read on its own or out of order.

The Crow should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a slow-burning book that pays off nicely in the end.

Gift Of A Lifetime by Ana Raine


Gift Of A Lifetime by Ana Raine
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday (Christmas)
Length: Short Story (35 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/M, Anal Play, Toys
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ryo’s job at the Crooked Paintbrush is a way to make some money doing what he loves while meeting new people. But when Logan walks into Ryo’s painting class, he realizes there are some things that can only be described as fate.

More than just a handsome face, Logan proves to be exactly the kind of Master Ryo has been waiting for. The kind of man who will test his limits while providing some much needed love and safety.

Ryo hosts painting classes for singles looking for like-minded people. Even though he’s looking for a Master of his own, he generally enjoys the classes and watching other people find happiness. Logan was the most handsome man Ryo had ever met, and when Logan asks him out for dinner, Ryo feels like all his Christmas’ have come at once. Can Logan be everything he needs?

I enjoyed this hot and sexy short story. I found Ryo and Logan to be super hot together, and both liking exactly the same thing – kinky sex. I didn’t mind that Ryo and Logan got quite intimate fairly quickly after meeting – in such a short story they needed to move fast – but I really enjoyed how the author let them actually talk and get to know each other a little bit first. I was a little uncertain why neither Ryo nor Logan had met someone into kink earlier – the author made it seem like they both wanted something very deep and dark and unheard of with other men, and I just didn’t find that too believable. While they certainly both enjoyed BDSM and playing with toys, I didn’t find their kink outrageous or particularly dark. So I never really bought into the fact neither man had met someone previously who could give them what they wanted. This small bit of unrealistic plotting didn’t lesson my enjoyment of the story, however.

I enjoyed both men’s characters – Ryo was an eager and curious submissive, Logan a strong and caring Dominant. While I liked how compatible the two men were, I did find it a little unusual toward the end, reading some of the play-talk between Ryo and Logan. Personally, I prefer it when a Master builds his pet up and strengthens them. While I liked Logan’s tenderness and attachment to Ryo, Ryo seemed to need someone to use him and take over completely, and while it was very well written and is sure to appeal to many readers, I discovered it just isn’t really my thing. The care and love between the two men though is a wonderful thing to watch as is their hot, spicy sex.

For slightly kinky, very short Christmas story this was a good read and one I enjoyed.

The Kaiser Account by Louise Blaydon


The Kaiser Account by Louise Blaydon
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Recent Historical (1960s)
Length: Short Story (28 pgs)
Other: M/M, Masturbation
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The life of an ad man in 1960s New York is all about risk-taking, but not until Evan Jones meets the man from Kaiser, Mark O’Brien, does he fully understand what that means…

It’s 1965. Evan Jones is an account manager for a major advertising company in New York City, engaged to the boss’s daughter in a halfhearted sort of way, gradually making his way up into the highest ranks of the company, and into the boss’s favor. The Kaiser Motors account is one they’ve been angling at for years, and Evan has absolutely no intention of letting it slip through his fingers.

But the man from Kaiser, Mark O’Brien, is not what Evan is used to dealing with and, moreover, is someone who hits him right where it hurts—in the long-repressed part of him that prefers men and is ashamed to admit it. When it comes to O’Brien, ‘going to any length’ has a whole new meaning, because O’Brien wants Evan—and worse still, Evan wants him back. O’Brien, in the space of a night, shows him something more than the staid life is possible. Can Evan take the risk and close the deal?

A closeted man and one he can’t quite figure out. Things can only get better, right?

Things certainly get better. I loved this book. I did. I liked the build-up between Evan and Mark. It was like watching a dance. The tension ratcheted up with each page. Ms Blaydon wrote well and I wanted to know what would happen next. I raced through this story.

Evan is very closeted and thinks he wants one thing, but when Mark shows up…he’s confused. I liked that things weren’t so perfectly mapped out. I had an idea the two would get together, but the how was intriguing. I’m glad I got to read the book.

My one quibble really isn’t much. I wish the book were longer. I liked the play between Mark and Evan and wanted to see where things would go. They’re great characters and I hope the author continues their story. I’ll happily read it.

If you want a book with heat and intrigue, but will work when you don’t have a lot of time to read, then you’ll want to pick up this book.

Hidden Bloodlines by Karen Van Den Heuvel


Hidden Bloodlines by Karen Van Den Heuvel
J. C. Classified Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (296 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Gutsy Colorado attorney Victoria Bailey has just successfully prosecuted a serial killer—or has she? Betrayed by her college sweetheart, she’s vowed to remain single and dependent on no one but herself. All goes according to plan until her best friend’s wedding rehearsal. A missing groom, a murdered trial assistant, and an unexpected encounter with two men from her past bring her well-controlled life crashing down.

Highly decorated, retired Navy SEAL Christian Van der Kruis has seen much death and is ready to experience a new life. Now part of a global special ops organization, he attends a wedding, never expecting to be brought face-to-face with death and the only woman he ever loved…Victoria.

Victoria, a successful lawyer, is unease about a case she won. Had she prosecuted the right man? She is determined to put business aside when she arrives at the legendary hotel and chapel where she is to be bridesmaid for her friend, Elizabeth. How her case and the wedding party get all mixed up together creates some nail-biting reading.

With all the evil doings going on, getting a wedding worked in seems almost impossible. However Karen Van Den Heuvel weaves together, old grudges held since the settling of Eutis Park, Colorado, a wedding party where the groom goes missing, a haunted hotel and its ties to a building in Denver that Elizabeth bought; the revisiting of an old love gone awry, the blooming of a new love; demonopathy, exorcism, and more. She keeps the reader on edge with strange noises, rooms with secret doors, old hidden tunnels occupied by evil doers, a possessed little boy, a strange acting new law partner, and a freak storm in March.

Victoria’s encounter with David, the man who, without warning, dumped her to become a priest brings back old memories and hurts that shaped her life the past few years. However when she encounters his brother Christian, an ex-Navy SEAL, who now has a search and rescue business, she sees and responds to him differently than she did in college. This is, indeed, a ray of sunshine in a dark, stormy story.

While I felt like I’d come in at the middle of a movie, I was glued to the story, reading like mad so as not to miss important information. I’m not sure I ever got all the characters straight. However, the story is so compelling, I just had to keep reading to see how all things worked out.

Karen Van Den Heuvel has a unique writing style. She does a masterful job of tying up loose ends and finally slips in more than one happy-ever-after that I always love to see.

Losing It In The Closet by Michelle Graham


Losing It In The Closet by Michelle Graham
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (35 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Zach Hughes isn’t homosexual. He’s got a string of sexual conquests to prove it. The problem is he’s still attracted to men. He finally decides that the only way to get it out of his system is by having sex with a man, just once, and then he can move on. He turns to online hook-up site Losing It to find him a discreet gentleman to help him out.

A teacher at a Catholic school, Colin Montgomery has to be careful to hide his sexual orientation. Random meet-ups far from home are the only way he gets a date. And of course a relationship is out of the question.

From the moment Colin and Zach meet, sparks fly, and the two find they can’t get enough of each other, agreeing to meet again and again. But when they’re spotted out together by one of Colin’s students, their lives are turned upside down, and they’re forced to decide what’s most important—their love or public perception?

Zach was pretty certain that he wasn’t gay. He was sincerely hoping that if he finally caved – gave in to the homosexual urges he couldn’t get out of his head, that he could do the deed and then move on, live a normal, straight life. So he applies to “Losing It”, a matching system designed to hook you up with a no-strings partner and give you a special encounter. Colin is no novice to sex, but with a Catholic family and a job as a school teacher he’s in the closet. Deep in the closet. Can Zach and Colin risk it all and Lose It together?

I found this to be a fun and lighthearted, sexy short story. I thoroughly enjoyed both Zach and Colin’s characters, finding them interesting and quite different from the normal “boy meets boy” style gay characters. I honestly can’t recall the last time I read an erotic M/M romance where both main characters were in the closet, so that alone made this a very interesting read to me. Additionally, Zach wasn’t even certain that he was gay, genuinely enjoying being sexually with women (though nothing active in the story). Zach seemed to clearly think at least initially that he was mostly straight and he was merely curious about men, not actually bisexual.

I was a little disappointed at how unrealistic some of the ending was, I felt the solution to Colin’s troubles was a little too easy in wrapping things up. The chemistry between Colin and Zach, though, was great and I loved the pace of their relationship and the slow, steady manner they both fell in love and committed properly to each other.

Readers looking for a slightly different style of M/M romance, with lots of sex and good, strong chemistry should enjoy this short story.

Handcuffed by H.C. Brown​


​​Handcuffed by H.C. Brown​​​
Cops ‘n’ Floggers Book 1
​Publisher: Luminosity Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story​ (50 pages)
Other: M/M, Bondage, BDSM, Spanking (Flogging), Masturbation, Voyeurism
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Bad boys, bad boys.

Rent boy, Maverick Slone, Ricky to his friends, finds himself in big trouble with an unsatisfied client in the back alley of Leathers BDSM Club. Little does he know the Nordic god stepping in to save him, is an undercover vice cop.

When Detective Tyler Speed offers him the chance to leave the streets behind, it sounds too good to be true, especially when the man making the offer is the Dom of his very naughty dreams.

Reader Advisory: This Erotic Gay Romance series contains scenes of BDSM and hot sexy undercover vice cops out to find their perfect subs.

Cops, heat and a rent boy with an attitude…what can go wrong?

I love the work of HC Brown, so when I saw this book, I had to snap it up. I’m glad I did. I wanted to catch up with the characters from the Cops and Floggers series – I read book 2 first. Now, reading these out of order isn’t a bad thing. The characters stand alone well and I loved it.

I had to know what would happen next because the characters intrigued me. Tyler wants to save world, one rent boy at a time. He’s strong, tough and endearing. I liked him right away. Then there’s Maverick. He’s a piece of work–which the author wrote him well, I have to say. I could see him and could hear him talk. He was that vivid. His attitude was a trip.

The one quibble I had with the book was the alternating points of view. When the story was told from Tyler’s POV, the story took place in third person. But when Maverick was telling his side, it was all in first person. While that might not be a problem from some readers, I had a hard time with it.

Still, I’m glad I read this book and can’t wait for the next one!! If you want a book that sizzles, then this might be the one for you.

A Heart Made for Love by Linda Tillis


A Heart Made for Love by Linda Tillis
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (302 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In rural Florida, 1903, Mae Hinton cares for her father and younger brothers, trying to fill her deceased mother’s shoes. Her life is shattered and her faith tested when her innocence is stolen by roving miscreants. Left unconscious, unable to identify her attackers, she pledges to help other victimized women. She pursues an education and learns to deal with bigoted ministers, well-to-do hypocrites, and men with higher regard for their livestock than their women.

Edward Finch is nearly done with medical studies in England when he comes home for the holidays. Love flourishes, and Mae seems close to achieving her dreams of both true love and a haven for victims, once she can explain to him why she carries a pistol. Then her new-found happiness is upset by a murder as one of her attackers returns. She may settle this herself…or she may find that vengeance truly belongs to God.

The foreshadowing and the spiritual connection the Hintons have with the dead Ruth Hinton make A Heart Made for Love intriguing. While living, Ruth taught her children to be responsible to family and to love the Lord. After her death, her spirit communes with the children and with Garth, who’d been a loving husband.

When trouble comes and innocent Mae Hinton “pays for the sins of others’ as Dr. Walters, her long-time friend and mentor, says, the Hintons rally together, do what has to be done, and stay strong with the help of Ruth’s spirit.

Mae’s horrific experience sets the whole family on a new course in life, with Dr. Walters help. The doctor’s nephew, Dr. Edward Finch, and Mae fall in love. While this love story adds a special emotion, it is not the major part of the novel. As the story moves along, a lot of characters get involved.

The page-turning part of the story begins when Mae inherits a vast estate where she, with the help of her family, begins her home for abused women and children.

The heir, Langford Hardwick, who had expected to inherit it all and still could have it all under a given condition, becomes an antagonist on a mission. The journey the reader is taken on with Hardwick; add a very different layer to the story with a lot of new characters and some horrible events.

The past and the present get intertwined as good and evil engage in battle.

How Linda Tillis ties up loose ends and creates a happy-ever-after for so many of the characters is captivating. A story that starts with such a shocking event that ends with such promise for so many realizing their dreams coming true, leaves one feeling life, with work and the right attitude, even bad things can be used to bring about good things.

Dominating The Doctor by Laura Jardine


Dominating The Doctor by Laura Jardine
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (34 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Rick Sommers is back in town for his cousin’s wedding, and he has one goal for the weekend: to take Dr. Tiffany Albert to bed. The thought of her has been driving him absolutely mad since he saw her at a wedding last year.

Of course Tiffany easily succumbs to Rick’s charms. She’s had a crush on him since middle school, and now he’s finally noticed her. Some hot sex in his hotel room is a dream come true…although what she really wants is to submit to him.

When she accidentally reveals her deepest desires, she doesn’t expect him to agree. Or for their night together to be even better than her fantasies.

But is one night enough?

Rick had made the tough decision to break up with his most recent ex because he couldn’t turn down the potential for discovering what could really lie between himself and Dr Tiffany Albert. Even though Rick and Tiffany had gone to school together, it hadn’t been till he’d come home for a friend’s wedding that Tiffany had knocked him out with how well she’d grown up. And she’d been on his mind pretty much ever since. Tiffany had never fully got over her schoolgirl crush on Rick, and so when he offers to do every wicked thing she’s ever daydreamed about, she’d not strong enough to deny either of them.

I found this to be a fun, slightly kinky short story. I was pleased that Rick and Tiffany initially came together simply because they’d both been in lust with each other for so long, but then when they were both in bed together they could open up and admit what they truly wanted from each other. While I admit Rick’s dirty talk was titillating, I could potentially understand that it could be misconstrued or considered a bit too strong (and unromantic) for two people who haven’t really known each other since high school. I personally feel there’s a bit of a fine art to talking dirty – walking a very fine line between using slurs in an affectionate manner – and a part of me wasn’t quite certain that there was enough affection behind Rick’s words to make the rude things be warm and meant with love. This was possibly because of how fast Rick and Tiffany came together and became intimate, but it could also be just the writing style and I wasn’t feeling all that I should. The chemistry between Tiffany and Rick, however, was very well done I thought and I could certainly get on board with how eager they were for each other.

I found the sex was really hot and well written. A part of me feel that the few secondary characters that were introduced weren’t really explored very deeply and so they didn’t feel as strong or important as I would have liked. I couldn’t fault the author though for making most of the focus on Rick and Tiffany and their story. Even though their relationship started very quickly their chemistry sizzled and was completely believable to me. Readers looking for an in-depth, well rounded tale might find this a bit too focused on the sex, and while I enjoyed the kink it wasn’t anything too outrageous or envelope-pushing, so some readers might find it a little tame for their tastes.

With great chemistry and plenty of sex, I found this to be a fun, short story with a bit of kink and plenty of good times.

Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi


Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit
Length: Full Length (332 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along. ​

​Comfort food served up in a book. That’s what Sweet Lake is for me.

I’ve never read anything by Christine Nolfi and this was a great introduction to her work. The writing flows well and kept me engrossed. I felt like I needed to know what would happen to Linnie and company.

I do have to admit I’m not big into chick lit and this book felt a lot like it. There is a relationship that goes on (no I won’t spoil it) and that added to the story. But there is a deep bit of comfort to the book. I knew when I started, this wouldn’t be terribly complicated and that was fine. That’s what I wanted. There are complications, don’t get me wrong. The characters I wanted to hate I did and the ones I wanted to love…well, you get the idea.

Linnie has issues–she’s supposed to save the inn, but she’s the second child and a girl at that. Her parents believe the oldest son is the one who should run the family. Don’t we all know someone like that? Someone who is put upon by circumstances they don’t control? That’s what helped me to identify with Linnie. ​Having lived in a situation where the male of the siblings was valued over me, I could see where Linnie’s anger came from. She’s trying to do what’s right in a totally wrong situation. I rooted for everything to work out for her. She deserved a happy ending.

​If you want a book that’s got lots of drama, the whole community in on the situation, small town feel and a touch of romance, then this might be the book for you. ​