The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James


The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James
The Demon Series Part 8

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Max Jensen is brutally murdered, on September 9, 1962, Timmy Jensen’s life is changed forever.

Timmy adored Max, and his loss was something neither he, nor his parents, could overcome. Shunned and ostracized, as the brother of that murdered teen, Timmy manages to find a job with a kind man by the name of Earl Jackman. Hauling away junk from people’s attics, Timmy meets Jenny Krieger and falls in love. Only Jenny’s father won’t have it, and she is shipped off to boarding school in Europe. But not before he meets Jenny’s grandma and is given a powerful medallion, known as the Amaarand.

Told he can use it to rescue his brother Max’s soul from hell, he must now patiently wait for his opportunity. He just didn’t know he’d have to wait until 2012.

Sometimes the best way to handle a supernatural battle is to wait for the perfect time to strike.

The dialogue was well done. There were a few scenes where characters were able to guess what their conversation partner was about to say and respond to it before the other person had even had a chance to speak. This was a creative way to keep those scene moving, and I enjoyed seeing how easy it was for them to make those educated guesses.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. It took a while for the narrator to explain what Timmy’s life was like during the years after his brother was murdered. Timmy wasn’t a character I was necessarily expecting to see again, so it was interesting to see how he was brought back into the plot for the grand finale. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and I was glad to see him get more time to show the audience what he was about.

I was quite pleased with how the author wrapped everything up. The previous instalments spent a lot of time creating a complex world that involved everything from time travel to alternate timelines to the notorious behavior of demons who were capable of twisting any human action to their own dark purposes. There was a lot of material to cover because of this, and I was happy with how well it was all tied together by the end of the last scene.

This is part of a series. It should be read in order.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand should be read by any horror or science fiction fans who enjoyed the first seven parts of this tale.

His Personal Stripper by Sam Crescent


His Personal Stripper by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (58 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

The moment Jack sees her curvy figure and blonde hair, he knows he wants her. Everyone has a price, he just needs to find out what hers is.

Rachel is completely broke and been out of a job for a long time. She’s nearly homeless when Jack propositions her. Being one of the richest men in the world, he’s used to snapping his fingers and getting what he wants—Rachel knows what he wants. He wants sex, and all kinds of dirty things. How can she deny him? She’s broke. Being whatever Jack wants is the only option.

Jack wants everything. Her company, her body, her heart, her soul, but first, he’ll settle for her stripping for him. He loves watching a woman undress and all he wants is to see Rachel’s lush body revealed to him. But what happens when Jack makes it clear he wants more than just a stripper and a fuck? He wants forever—Rachel as his wife, and to put his baby inside her.

From stripping to sex, can it end in love?

His Personal Stripper was another fantastic book by Sam Crescent.

This time around the author outdid herself by going with a sizzling hot but sweet at the same time plot for the seventh entry into her Curvy Women Wanted Series. Jack knew what he wanted from the first time he saw Rachel so he wasted no time in propositioning the down on her luck curvy woman. At first, I didn’t know what to make of his character following Rachel all over town and then offering her a deal she couldn’t afford to pass up. It wasn’t long in this fast paced story that the author brought out the feelings and showed me that he was a good guy. I loved how he protected Rachel. Now, I loved Rachel from the very beginning. Life had been rough on her. She was strong but not hardened by her adversities.

Excellent writing, romance, sex and rich characters. I look forward to more Curvy Women books in the hopefully near future.

Winning The Campaign Manager by Lucy Felthouse


Winning The Campaign Manager by Lucy Felthouse
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short story (44 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Cade Avery is running for a position on his local county council. He’s extremely good at what he does and is a valuable asset to his community. The trouble is, he upsets people, says the wrong things, and rides rough-shod over other people’s plans and ideas. His assistant, Mary, eager to improve Cade’s public image, hires him a campaign manager.

Quentin Rayworth is thrilled to be working with such a formidable public figure. It’ll be a challenge, but he’s confident he can help Cade to win the election, and knows that the achievement will look impressive on his CV.

It’s soon clear that the two men are set to be an excellent team. That is, until Cade’s werewolf makes its intentions known—in Quentin, it has found its mate, and it will not rest until he has claimed him. But can Cade—and his wolf—win over the campaign manager?

Cade is not impressed when his friend hires him a campaign manager. Cade knew he’d never win any popularity contests, but he also knew he was excellent at his job and genuinely the best candidate for the job. Cade just hadn’t realised how much of a popularity contest running for election was, and he reluctantly had to admit that Quentin was the manager best suited to helping him win this election.

I thought this was an interesting short story. I was a little nervous that the pace of the story would feel a bit too fast, but the author did a good job in my opinion of explaining the speed with which Quentin and Cade got together due to Cade’s wolf-shifter. Cade’s wolf wants who it wants and nothing would get in his way – it made the very sudden and firm decision that Cade wanted Quentin and no one else and made it seem understandable. I was a little disappointed though that the paranormal aspect of the story did feel rushed to me. With the short length of the story I sympathize that there really wasn’t too much room for the author to take her time with world-building or long explanations on how Cade “knew” Quentin was his mate and nor was there a huge amount of time for Cade and Quentin to really get to know each other. It just came across to me a little muddled and unrealistic. Quentin’s reaction to Cade’s coming on to him just felt like too much of an about face – in the space of one scene Quentin changed from being excited and really wanting the job to being uncertain, uncomfortable and wanting to resign. As someone whose job was PR and image meant everything he clearly hadn’t thought how lasting less than a day in a new (and outwardly appearing very important) job would have been disastrous to Quentin’s career reputation. A lot of this side of the story just didn’t seem to have been properly thought through – the characters acting on impulse, not logic.

I also would have really loved the whole werewolf thing to have been explored deeper too. Again the short page count really hampered this, but just the speed and seeming ease that Quentin accepted that Cade was a werewolf, was destined to be mated with him and agreeing they should date – it all happened in the space of two scenes. While exciting and sexy, I felt after reading it a little like I’d been running – hard to catch my breath and I needed to reread it all to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. The pace was just a little too fast for my personal preferences.

That said, the chemistry between Cade and Quentin was amazing. The two men clearly lusted deeply after each other and even though Cade was being ridden hard by his wolf, I had no problems at all believing the two men would form a solid and lasting relationship. A part of me would have enjoyed knowing how the campaign turned out (did Cade end up getting elected? Did Quentin and Cade blitz the media and win in a landslide of votes, having turned public opinion in their direction?). I completely understand the campaign itself was not the main focus of the story – Cade and Quentin were, and rightly so – but I did feel that final question of how the campaign turned out felt a bit like unfinished business to me.

With interesting characters and some deliciously steamy sex, this is a great M/M with a large bite of paranormal that is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. A few small bumps in the pacing had me wishing for more, but overall this is a great short story and I feel sure many people will eagerly devour it in one sitting.

Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey


Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey
Publisher: Crimson Cloak
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (486 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Annie Caslo is a successful, young doctor, but when she begins rethinking the career choices she’s made, she makes a decision to find a way to stay focused and achieve her true ambitions – that is until fate steps in and she is thunderstruck by Colt Ballard. He’s six foot three inches of heart-stopping hotness, an adept, roguish soccer star and also one of her interns. But he’s a player – on and off the field – and Annie has better things to do. Still, the combustible chemistry between them is impossible to resist – Colt brings out feelings she never knew existed and Annie’s swept off her reluctant feet.

When she continues to second-guess her life choices, opportunities and obstacles begin piling up higher than the greasy Mexican food stacks she hates to admit loving. While in a state of emotional turmoil, she gets a celestial visit from a hunky, Hollywood heartthrob, lookalike, who claims to be her guardian angel. He takes her on a magical road trip to self-discovery with the help of several, dearly departed film icons.

Drawn into the excitement of a life she’s always dreamed of, this new life threatens to shatter the LIFE and love she already has—unless her quirky angel can help her find a way to have it all.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.” Annie Caslo became a doctor because that’s what her parents wanted for her, but she wanted to be an actress.  She was offered a job she could not turn down, but made the decision to only stay there a year, then follow her own dream.  Her plans are derailed when she meets Colt, and her life takes a very different plan than she envisioned.

The story is told from several points of view (including forays into Annie’s childhood).  While this helps explain what everyone is feeling (it was amusing seeing, at the beginning, Colt and Annie’s different views of the same incident in the coffee shop), it also prevented this reader from really connecting with Annie as much as I would have liked to.  I would have enjoyed being able to “feel” more of what Annie felt.  As it was, the many POV shifts never allowed me to completely immerse myself into the story.

The writing itself was clean with no grammatical issues.  Looking at it with an editor’s eye, there were areas that could have been tightened up more, but that is more of a personal issue on my part.

If you are a lover of classic movies, like I am, you will love all the references and quotes this author uses — it’s worth reading the book just for those!!  3.5 stars.

 

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No One Until Her by Lynn Burke


No One Until Her by Lynn Burke
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/F, BDSM, Spanking, Toys, M/F/M interaction, Multiple Partners
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Kaden Quinn has life by the balls and enjoys his side job as a Dom in a downtown Boston BDSM club. What he doesn’t want—or need—is a pseudo-sub trying to shred the veil that protects his painful past.

When untamed Livi Risso’s insatiable need to get to the bottom of a story leads her to an exclusive kink club, her curiosity ignites upon meeting a restrained Dom who refuses to touch her.

Kaden feigns disinterest while scening, but that doesn’t stop Livi from experiencing intimacy like she’s never imagined. When one misstep leaves Kaden shaken, will Livi be the one to break down his wall against love?

This book is seriously hot. Kaden isn’t a perfect hero. He’s got issues and I admired him for how he’d gotten through them. Livi is a good match for him. Their chemistry is off the charts and fun to read about.

There were a few typos and a couple of extra quotation marks, which was bothersome, but didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story. I liked that Kaden was flawed and trying to overcome his issues. That endeared him to me. I wish there would’ve been a few more flaws to Livi, though. She’s a tough as nails reporter, but she seemed almost too perfect. Still, I liked the story.

If you’re looking for a story involving a pain sub, then this might be the one you’re wanting. It’s hot, sweet, and will singe the screen.

S.A.R.A.H. by P.C. Ryan


S.A.R.A.H. by P.C. Ryan
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (24 pages)
Other: M/F, M/F/F, Anal Play, Menage
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Robert Vincent is a thirty-eight year old loner who is awkward with women. In fact, he’s never been laid. But the year is 2040 and automaton technology is reaching a new height.

Desperate, Robert orders the latest model, a companion named S.A.R.A.H. (Sexually Active Robot Artificial Human). He expects at least an exciting substitute, an escape from the endless chain of disappointments in his real life.

What he finds instead, when he opens the crate, is far more than he could ever have imagined.

Could you fall in love with a robot if you knew they were a machine from the beginning?

I liked the fact that Robert’s motivation for wanting to buy a robot were so clearly explained in the opening scene. The loneliness he felt was a serious problem, and he’d clearly spent a lot of time trying to fix that issue in any way he could. I was curious to see if Sarah would give him the companionship he desired so much.

There were many character development issues. It was especially noticeable with the two female characters. While I understood why Sarah would be programmed to agree with everything her owner wanted to do, I found it odd that the other female character behaved the same way since she was human. It would have been helpful to understand what their motivations were and what they actually wanted out of life. I never understood who they were as individuals, and that made it hard for me to empathize with them.

The science fiction elements of the book were fascinating. Early on, the main character explained that robots were so advanced in the 2040s that they could do anything a human being could do other than give birth. I was fascinated by the idea of a machine who looked and behaved exactly like the average person, and I couldn’t wait to find out more.

Robert didn’t face any conflict in this story. I was expecting him to meet resistance at some point during his adventures in order for him to have something to encourage him to be persistent. The fact that it didn’t happen made it harder for me to stay interested in what was happening to him because he seemed to get what he wanted immediately without ever having to negotiate or struggle for it.

One of the other things I appreciated about the main character was how interested he was in giving pleasure to Sarah as well as receiving it from her. Despite the issues with her character development, Robert was clearly determined to make sure she had a good time with him no matter what they were doing.

S.A.R.A.H. should be read by anyone who has ever dreamed about what it would be like to have all of their wishes come true.

Hot Water (Heart and Endurance, 3) by J.S. Marlo


Hot Water (Heart and Endurance, 3) by J.S. Marlo
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (198 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Can Agent Sullivan repress his feelings for the woman he secretly loves and use her as bait to catch a serial killer?

Nineteen-year-old varsity swimmer Maxime Tremblay is leery of the string of fatal accidents involving female athletes, but after she thwarts an attack, she can no longer ignore the connection between the victims.

Special Agent Ross Sullivan investigates the deadly events on campus only to discover they are not accidents, the athletes are not targeted at random, and the killer is only warming up.

To protect his only witness, he goes undercover as Maxime’s boyfriend, but as pretense and reality begin to blur, Sullivan faces the dilemma of putting her in harm’s way to stop the killings.

This is my second J.S. Marlo book yet my first book in the Heart and Endurance series. Even though this happens to be the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

I enjoy reading contemporary novels that are relevant to me in some manner. The last ten years my sons have swum competitively, therefore I was excited to read a story about a heroine who was a varsity competitive swimmer in college. Maxime Tremblay was a brave, caring and sweet yet fiery red-headed nineteen year-old woman.
The hero, Special Agent Ross Sullivan, was competent, confident, safe and of course, handsome. He was also slightly older than Maxime. This age difference between Ross and Maxime was an internal conflict between the characters. As a mother of an almost nineteen year old I personally felt the internal conflict but from a parental perspective. Trust me when I tell you that it took an exemplary writing style to enable me to connect with this couple and their budding romance considering my ideal age expectations of a hero and heroine. I honestly struggled a tiny bit with Ross’s nicknames for Maxime. They made me feel he was a father figure at times more than a boyfriend. However they were appropriate in the context.

Maxime was very mature and responsible for her age. It was amazing how she balanced all her obligations while her life was in danger. The suspense/mystery plot made for a rapid paced page turner. It was unpredictable and the twists were clever. I’m not sure how realistic it all was but I was definitely entertained.

Over all I was pleased to read Hot Water. The ending was nicely wrapped up giving me complete closure which resulted in a satisfying sigh. I agreed with Maxime’s father when he gave Ross and Maxime his blessings. This was a clean romance with just enough chemistry that made it a heartwarming love story with well-developed characters that will linger in my mind for days to come. I wish them all the best as they go on in their life journey.

The Last Gift by Chrissy Munder


The Last Gift by Chrissy Munder
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (48 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

College student Nick Reed works late shift at a convenience store and dreams of graduation, a job he can be proud of, and finding the man of his dreams.

But the man of his dreams is about to find him.

A change in his lab hours forces Nick to swap shifts with a coworker. But no one prepared Nick for Mr. 5:25—Aaron Hampton—a beefy blond who’s Nick’s perfect guy, but professionally and socially out of Nick’s reach. Soon Aaron becomes the highlight of Nick’s workday, and when the overly focused lawyer needs Nick’s help with holiday gifts, Nick is eager to spend time with Aaron.

They become friends, share book recommendations, and are surprised to find themselves at the same charity run. But is that all? When Aaron learns Nick is heading back to his old shift, will he find the courage to ask for one last, very special gift?

Nick knows he is in a rut. With a huge study load at college, crazy shifts at the local convenience store he had no time for anything else in his life. Struggling to find his new routine after changing shifts at work, Nick can’t deny that the dead-sexy, cheery Aaron – Mr 5.25am – who comes in each morning for coffee is quickly becoming the highlight of his day. When Aaron arrives frantic one morning and pleads for Nick’s help, the besotted man is helpless to resist.

I found this to be a fun and interesting short story. I really loved the pacing, finding it perfect for the length of the story. Nick and Aaron move seamlessly from that whole casual “see you daily” type routine into a “crisis occurs so change from acquaintances to friends” then deepens into more of a proper relationship. Despite the short length of the story Nick and Aaron’s evolving relationship didn’t feel rushed or forced to me, neither did I need to suspend disbelief too hard – as one of the critical meetings that helped deepen their relationship was a chance meeting at a large fun-run which seemed completely reasonable and not at all like some random plot device to further the story.

I could understand if Nick’s dry self-depreciation might not be every readers cup of tea. Personally I felt the Nick had a very realistic perspective on his own situation (being broke, an overworked student and only at the very beginning of his “adult” life) but at times I did wonder if the dryness of his self-analysis flirted just a little too close to low self esteem and him putting himself down. While this aspect of the story didn’t bother me exactly, it occurred frequently enough – especially in the first half of the story – that it rang a warning bell in my head and made me stop and think, analyze his behavior and really wonder if he put himself down a little too much. I admit that I decided I was being too picky and over-thinking it a little, but this isn’t a “normal” thing for me to wonder in an M/M romance.

I found this to be a delicious and slow-moving romance short story. Readers should be aware that there’s no sex – but there’s a ton of chemistry and a very Happy For Now style of ending that I found satisfying. Readers looking for a hot or explicit story might be disappointed, but I felt the sparkling chemistry and slow-build of the relationship between Nick and Aaron well worth the read. I thought this was a fun and interesting story which I greatly enjoyed.

Security (Spaceport 1) by Shelby Morgen


Security (Spaceport 1) by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (38 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A dark corner of a seedy bar on the edge of nowhere. A woman who’s seen too much. A man who moves through the shadows with the grace of a cat.

She’s on his tail, and he’s determined to find out why. Once he might have been flattered to have her checking out his ass. Now he knows women are dangerous. And far, far too expensive.

But Commander Kala Decoltéir always gets her man, and she wants the space pirate they call Dancer — no matter who — or what — he is. This time, Dancer has no escape.

All Kala was looking for was one night of pleasure to help her unwind from her stressful life. Only time would tell if that’s what she’d receive or how she’d feel the next morning.

The world building was well done. I especially liked reading about the slang terms Ms. Morgen had developed for this universe. The fact that she expected the audience to pay attention and figure out the definitions of them for ourselves only made me more curious to figure them out. They also fleshed out this character’s world in all kinds of subtle but worthwhile ways.

I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters. It was confusing to read about them because there were more of them than I’d normally expect to find in a short story and because most of them weren’t described with a lot of detail. This was something that was most noticeable when it came to Kala talking about the people she knew through her job.

Kala and Dancer had great chemistry. I totally understood why things moved so quickly between them because of how intense their attraction was towards each other. They were clearly a great match inside of the bedroom, and that made me wonder if they’d be good for each other outside of the bedroom in the longterm as well. This was a question I had to know the answer to, so I didn’t stop reading until I’d figured out what would happen to them next.

I’d recommend Security (Spaceport 1) to anyone who is in the mood for something short and steamy.

Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 by E.H. James


Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 by E.H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

On a September night, in 1962, five-year-old Nicholas Starke finds himself alone on a street in Fairfield.

Confused and frightened, he is rescued by a kind couple. When that same couple adopts him, he is able to move on with his life…Only the people in the town of Fairfield won’t let him. And when met with angry and frightened stares, wherever he goes, his parents decide it best to move. But where can you go, when strange happenings follow your every move?

Will Nicholas hold on to what is left of his innocence, or will his brother’s influence be his downfall?

Nobody chooses the circumstances of their birth or what kind of childhood they had, but everyone always has a choice when it comes to how they behave.

The world building in this series keeps getting better the further along in it I go. It was very good in Beyond The Red Door four year ago, and it’s only gotten better since then. There were a few scenes in the beginning that are only now starting to pay off fully for the characters. I’ve enjoyed seeing how the author has developed this universe so far, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

I would have liked to see more character development for Nicholas Starke. He had a lot of exciting, frightening, and unexpected things happen to him in his life, but I didn’t see many examples of him changing as a result of these experiences. It was also difficult at times to get a feel for his personality. Other than him having a tendency to be cautious, I was never quite sure what other words could be used to describe him.

The creative plots twists are one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy this author’s stories so much. Nicholas: Lost Innocence was just as full of surprises as I expected it to be, especially once the main character grew up and began to explore who he really was and where he came from. I was so interested in finding out where those moments would all lead to that I couldn’t stop reading.

This tale is the sixth in a series. I’d recommend reading the first five before moving onto this one due to how much backstory was covered in them.

Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 should be read by anyone who enjoyed the first five installments of the The Demon Series.