Gangs of Galis by Nicholas Woode-Smith


Gangs of Galis by Nicholas Woode-Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (23 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Galis City, crime-ridden capital of Zona Nox, was formed in the desperation of war. For mafia boss, Danny Marzio, this desperation is opportunity. Where the rest of the city sees grit and dirt, he sees glitz and red lights.

For Danny, crime is a business. Violence is just a part of the job. But when one of his men is assassinated, Danny realises that Galis cannot stay like this forever.

In the flames of a perpetual gang war and the shadows of conspiracy, Danny Marzio sees an opportunity. He doesn’t want to be an emperor, but to ensure the survival of his business – he is willing to do whatever is necessary.

Gangs of Galis is a thrilling crime sci-fi prequel to Fall of Zona Nox.

Sometimes law and order comes from the last place you’d expect it to.

The descriptions were vivid. I especially liked how Mr. Woode-Smith showed the audience what was going on in the very first scene when Danny discovered the body of one of his men, Michel. Despite the fact that the main character was looking at a bloody murder scene, there was something eye-catching about the way the author described Michel’s last pose. It was the perfect sendoff to a character who sounded like someone Danny had depended on for a long time.

The plot needed more development. I had so much trouble following the storyline the first time I read it that I had to read it again in order to understand what was going on. There wasn’t enough time spent explaining how everyone knew each other or why Danny was trying to unite all of the various gangs that ran Galis City. I felt like I got bits and pieces of the puzzle instead of the whole thing, and that made it hard to understand even though I was fascinated by the premise.

One of my favorite parts of this tale were the futuristic curse words the characters used. They were creative but also easy to figure out once I paid attention to how the characters used them. While they didn’t sound anything like modern curse words, they served the exact same functions in conversations. This made it easy to understand what the characters were talking about even without any kind of translation going on.

If you like gritty science fiction, give Gangs of Galis a try.

Max and Rosie by Arnold Greenberg


Max and Rosie by Arnold Greenberg
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (49 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Max has been in love with his wife Rosie ever since she sat next to him in their Chaucer class nearly forty years ago. Now she is dying of Alzheimer’s. He devotes himself to taking care of her, bringing her tea and toast each afternoon, going to the park to feed the ducks, and reminiscing.

When he can no longer care for her alone, he hires Robin as Rosie’s live-in nurse. As time passes his attraction to Robin grows. They share meals, movies, and confidences while Rosie fades further away. He dreams of kissing Robin and telling her how he feels—but wonders could she ever feel the same about him. When Rosie dies, Max dreads the day Robin will move out. What will he do without her vibrant ways, her sweet smile? What will he do without her?

Some people say age is just a number. Does this rule also apply to falling in love with an adult who is much younger than you?

Max was such a likeable guy. His devotion to his wife was plain to see, especially as he adjusted to how quickly Rosie was losing all of her memories. Watching him grieve the loss of their relationship as she forget who he was and all of the happy years they’d had together made me blink back tears. I wanted more than anything for him to somehow find a happy ending for himself.

There were pacing issues when it came to the development of the relationship between Robin and Max. Nothing happened between them for a long time, so I was surprised by how quickly things started moving once they began to explore the possibility of becoming more than friends. This didn’t seem like something either one of these characters would do because of how thoughtful and methodical they were in the rest of their lives. I would have really liked to have more hints about their shifting feelings earlier on so that the later development of their relationship wasn’t so sudden.

I liked the fact that the main characters in this tale all had well-rounded backstories. Knowing how Max and Rosie had spent the last thirty-seven years together was just as important as hearing about Robin’s childhood and learning why she decided to become a nurse. I felt like I got to know all three of them incredibly well because of how much time the author spent tying their pasts to the lives they were currently living.

Max and Rosie should be read by anyone who is in the mood for something bittersweet.

Petals by Reina M. Williams


Petals by Reina M. Williams
A Rancho Valle short story
Publisher: Rickrack Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (65 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Visit a small town with a heart as gold as the California hills! Settle in a cozy seat and enjoy these sweet, Austen-inspired stories of pride and prejudice, persuasion, and matchmaking in this modern “country village.”

Bennet Ray is home. She loves her grandma, their toy shop, and their cobbled-together family in the small Sonoma County town of Rancho Valle. But restless wanderer Bennet is afraid she can’t settle down, or be open to the love she wants. When her former high school nemesis Ryan Stone threatens her family’s business, and her feelings, can she face her past and find and way to remain in Rancho Valle?

After the death of her Grandpa and her Grandma’s stroke, Bennet decided it was past time to move back home and help her Grandma run the toy store. Even though her heart yearned to continue her music and travels, Bennet couldn’t turn her back on her the woman who raised her in a loving home. To help welcome her back, Bennet’s Grandma invites a number of the locals around for dinner, people Bennet grew up with and a few of her childhood friends – including Ryan. Can this be their second chance together?

This is a very sweet short story. I was a little surprised at some of the tension and conflict that was initially between Ryan and Bennet. While Ryan wasn’t exactly a prince charming, I didn’t feel as if he was quite the rude villain that Bennet initially made him out to be. Ryan seemed to me to be one of those men who doesn’t always understand how blunt his comments come across as – which while certainly not comfortable, is nothing too disastrous in my mind. What surprised me was that Bennet slanted a number of things Ryan said to her as if he were criticizing her and putting her down. Because of this I really didn’t understand why he appealed to her at all. In the beginning I felt like Bennet was a little over-sensitive and biased when it came to Ryan.

I was extremely pleased when this stopped still fairly early on in the story. It was quite a relief when Bennet began to see Ryan as he truly was – not the best communicator, but not rude or mean either. From here their romance blossomed wonderfully and by half way through the story I was feeling quite comfortable and invested in both Ryan and Bennet.

Readers who like small-town stories should really enjoy this. There is a strong cast of a number of secondary characters and plenty of that lovely small town/old fashioned feel to this story. Add in that it’s exceedingly sweet – one small, non-descriptive kiss at the very end to seal the happy ending – and I feel this is a good story for readers of all ages. This is the sort of story I would happily recommend to my mum or grandma, or even a teenage reader.

With great characters, an interesting plot revolving around Bennet coming home after quite a few years away and the beginning of a beautiful romance between Bennet and Ryan, I feel this is a good book with a number of things to appeal to a wide range of readers.

The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower by M. S. Spencer


The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower by M. S. Spencer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (325 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In both the best and worst first day at work ever, docent Claire Wilding meets the man of her dreams, but her carefully rehearsed guided tour of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial falls apart when she discovers a dead body. Together with Detective Ernest Angle, she’s drawn into a dark world of black ops and Italian renegade masons, of secret cabals and hidden treasure. Also cloaked in mystery is her new love Gideon Bliss. A George Washington expert, he haunts the Memorial, his manner evasive. What is his secret? Claire fears she’ll fall in love with him only to learn he’s a thief or even a murderer.

Juggling eccentric mothers and an increasingly smitten Ernest, our heroine must find answers in a complex web of intrigue, including which black ops agent to trust, whether our first president strayed, and if she and Gideon will ever be together.

Is Gideon just a George Washington enthusiast, or is he tangled in a web of lies and murder?

When Claire accepted a job working as a docent at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, she never could have imagined how complicated her life was about to become. Finding a murder victim in the tower is just the beginning of a mystery filled with spies, thieves, and vandals. As Claire tries to solve the mystery, Gideon sweeps Claire off her feet, but can she trust him? Is his appearance at the tower on the day of the murder merely a coincidence?

Claire’s first day of work couldn’t possibly have gone worse. As if a murder wasn’t bad enough, Claire’s life is further complicated by the attentions of two very different men, Gideon Bliss and Detective Ernest Angle. Claire is instantly attracted to Gideon, and their relationship becomes physical at lightning speed, but Claire can’t shake the feeling that he’s hiding something. I must admit I had serious doubts about Gideon and his motivations as well. Consequently, I could never get comfortable with their relationship. I didn’t feel as though they really clicked as a couple even after the truth was revealed. They didn’t seem to spend much time together, and for a good chunk of the story, Claire was pretty sure Gideon was up to something. This doesn’t strike me as a very solid foundation for a good relationship.

I truly felt sorry for Detective Angle. He is clearly smitten with Claire, and she does not feel the same way. Claire doesn’t set out to hurt him, but once she realizes he has feelings for her, she does nothing to dissuade his attentions. Instead, she uses his attraction in order to get inside information on the progress of the case. I found this rather off putting. I think Claire is better than that, and Detective Angle doesn’t deserve to be led on in such a way.

There are several mysteries intertwined within the pages of this book, and while they were intriguing, I must admit I also found them to be unnecessarily complicated as well. Keeping the various threads of the mysteries straight is quite a task, and while the ending felt a bit forced to me, it was still satisfying.

Overall, The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower is a good book. The pacing is quick and the mystery is interesting. I recommend this tale to anyone looking for a steamy, romantic suspense.

Claw And Ollie by Angelique Voisen


Claw And Ollie by Angelique Voisen
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Can a broken cat find redemption?

Tabby shifter Ollie can charm his way into any safe and into the pants of any eligible bachelor…once upon a time. Now Ollie’s merely a shadow of his former self, terrified of facing the outside world. Ollie craves seclusion, until his heart starts longing for a mate to make him whole again.

One glimpse is all it takes for jaguar shifter Claw to know Ollie’s the one man he’s been searching for his entire life. Knowing Ollie needs time to heal, Claw’s kept his distance. When an enemy from Ollie’s past resurfaces, it’s up to Claw to get his hands dirty. Claw doesn’t mind, as long as he gets his reward in the end. Ollie will become his, no matter what happens.

Ollie was an ex-thief and had made plenty of mistakes in the past. Having more than paid for them, he’d hidden himself away, determined not to be involved with anyone or anything ever again. Only his brother, Orange, had kept in touch, trying to not let Ollie lose touch entirely with the outside world. Eventually Orange brings Claw around to Ollie’s apartment, determined that together, Ollie might finally try to reconnect with his life again if Claw is by his side to keep Ollie out of trouble. Can the two shifters come to some kind of arrangement?

I found this to be an interesting short story. I really enjoyed the depth and complexity of Ollie’s character. There was plenty of back-story to him which I found a little difficult to follow at times, which I presume would have been far clearer had I read the previous stories. That said, I could understand enough to follow along, I was just left with questions. Ollie had been captured and tortured while performing his last job (I didn’t really ever understand why – or how that connected to Ollie’s brother, Orange) and was rescued by Orange, Orange’s mate, Mal and their friend Claw. This understandably had left Ollie with emotional and physical scars and plenty of baggage. Watching Ollie try to deal with that, and learn how to move forward again, was interesting and an excellent set-up for this book.

I found Ollie’s character to be interesting, layered and complicated, which I loved. Also because of this I could similarly appreciate Claw being a fairly simple character in contrast. I was pleased Claw tried to walk a balance between being genuinely sympathetic of Ollie’s situation and difficulties, without walking on eggshells or pandering to (a very understandable) well of self-pity. I think the author did a really good job of helping Claw negotiate between these two things and I ended up really liking and respecting Claw and feeling like he was exactly what Ollie needed to come out of his shell and start living life again. I couldn’t help but feel, though, that Ollie made some stupid decisions – going out alone at night to the enemy territory after having multiple death threats – I really felt Ollie should have known better than to act so stupidly – especially considering he’d already been kidnapped and tortured in the not too distance past.

I also found a number of grammatical/editing errors that jarred me somewhat from the flow of the narrative and this certainly lessened some of my enjoyment of the story. But I have to say that the characters were interesting and kept my attention, and most importantly I continued to want to know what happened next. A little over half way through I had to just disconnect my brain, suspend disbelief and simply go with the story, and as a bodyguard-slash-paranormal-mate style story this really was mostly enjoyable.

Readers who are sticklers against “too stupid to live” sort of moves and find even small editing errors ruin a book for them might want to give this a miss, but I genuinely feel readers who just want something fun, sexy and full of alpha-hero-shifter type characters can probably find a lot to like with this sexy paranormal story.

One Night in Minneapolis by Margie Church


One Night in Minneapolis by Margie Church
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (42 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Marine Major Skylar Landis doesn’t resemble the demure Catholic high school girl Vince Andersen once knew. They’d dated briefly until she’d patch things up with his nemesis, Ethan Standfeld. After school, she joined the Marines and they’d lost touch.

Their ten year class year reunion in Minneapolis brings Skylar face-to-face with Vince, awakening her memories of the past. She asks him to plan a hot, no-strings-attached hook-up to sustain her sexual fantasies while her intelligence unit is deployed to the Middle East. As their adventure unfolds, and he gives her exactly what she needs, Skylar wonders whether she can forget the man who put her desires first and asked for nothing in return.

This is an erotic little nugget that presents to a reader the start of something wonderful. Its basis is two people coming together for a high school reunion and getting the chance to do something they’d never really had a chance to do when they were in school – not only be with each other but to explore all that that might entail. At this stage in their lives, it’s not for dating as immature kids but coming together as adults with adult needs, expectations and fantasies.

Although the very beginning starts of slow with more telling than showing, it’s not long before the author finds her stride and the interest, spice and character dynamics take hold to provide a very entertaining read.

For fans of erotic romance, all their hot buttons should be satisfied because Ms. Church knows how to blast open the bedroom door so wide that all the sexy and passionate details are there for readers to enjoy. The word ‘shy’ isn’t in Vince or Skylar’s vocabulary.

What I enjoyed was seeing hints and references that this 24 hour marathon of uninhibited sex isn’t as shallow as the beginning led me to believe. The two have a history and it provides a good base to start with. I liked how Vince treated Skylar – his sense of humor, his willingness to try whatever she wanted and his caring for her. Yes, he has a hard time keeping his emotional distance as the hours go on, because that’s what the heroine wanted, but his slipping up here and there is what makes this little story work. I saw that Skylar wasn’t immune no matter how much she wanted to be. Through the course of all their sheet gymnastics, the interaction at the reunion and the visit to Vince’s home, Skylar is faced with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Vince is worth taking a chance on. I got the impression that a little seed of wonder and hope might have been planted. It’s how the author chose to wrap up One Night in Minneapolis that made reading this short story worth it. The ending left me feeling happy, optimistic and assured that a romance is born. Because of that, this is an easy recommend of One Night in Minneapolis to other erotic romance readers.

The Enemy’s Daughter by Sam Crescent


The Enemy’s Daughter by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (115 Pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Alaric Patterson is a powerful man, but he has just lost the most important deal of his life to his long term rival. Alaric is tired of fighting, so he comes up with a plan. His enemy has a daughter, a very plain woman. Alaric is going to find her, make her fall in love with him, and then he’s going to break her.

Bella Reed works at a veterinary practice, and when an older man brings in a cute pup, she does whatever she can to help. Still, she’s a little taken aback when that same man wants to take her out on a date.

Before long she has accepted a date, and then another, and another. Little by little, Alaric gets to know the woman he intended to hurt, and he can’t do it. He’s falling in love with her, and Bella is falling for him.

But—he has lied to her. She doesn’t know his real name or the truth, and there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s stuck.

The moment Bella discovers the truth, she is heartbroken. The first man she truly loved has betrayed her. It takes an unlikely source to show her that sometimes love is about second chances, about forgiving, and about never living a moment filled with regret.

This book was another great page turner from Sam Crescent. I loved that this one had loads of hot sex, but at the same time it was simply an old fashioned romantic love story. That gets to me every single time. Sam Crescent had captured my interest from the first page until the last.

Alaric Patterson was a powerful man who couldn’t stand losing a deal to a business rival. He hatched a revenge plan to seduce the man’s daughter and then break her heart. He didn’t count on falling in love and then seeking his lover’s forgiveness but that was exactly what happened. Now, I loved both of these characters even though Alaric started out as a cold hearted player. Bella followed the usual playbook for this author. To use her own words she was chunky, but Bella was happy with herself. She was sweet, funny, and actually had some attitude. She didn’t let Alaric get away with anything. On Alaric’s behalf he hated lying to her almost immediately. He was just afraid to tell her about his deception and then Bella inevitably figured it out anyway.

Sam Crescent definitely knows how to write an emotional story and make it sizzling hot as an extra bonus. This book was a fantastic short romance that I was able to read in one sitting. It was fast paced and well written. It even introduced Alaric’s partner who was having some woman troubles of his own, so he’s probably getting his own book. I’m always happy to get more books from this amazing author.

The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou


The Congressman’s Wife by Charlene Keel and Arie Pavlou
Publisher: Red Sky Presents
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (277 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

All Eden Bancroft has ever been to her high-profile politician husband is a trophy wife, born and bred for the part. She believes she has no choice but to play it—until she meets a talented chef and restaurant heir who shows her the real meaning of love.

The more her husband uses and belittles her, the more deeply Eden falls for Kaleb. Even with Mitchell’s congressional campaign in full swing, the lovers manage to find brief stolen moments together. When her husband is wounded by a bullet from an angry lobbyist, Eden must stay by his side. What she learns can set her free, if she has the courage to take a stand.

This is a well-written story that revolves around Eden Bancroft and Kaleb Stravos and their relationship. Throw in a bit of suspense surrounding her husband and his campaign and the story was interesting enough to hold this reader’s attention.

However, the beginning of the book I had issues with and it took me a while to warm up to Kaleb. I have an issue with the whole falling in love at one glance trope to start with, and Kaleb’s actions at the beginning of the story came across, to me, as a bit stalkerish. I didn’t care for him at all. However, I have to admit that he grew on me. And, he can cook… I was hungry through most of the book because of the amazing foods he would cook. I do wish the authors had spent more time developing their relationship, though. That is my main problem with the book.

Eden—I loved her and, although I am definitely not a fan of the whole infidelity storyline, if there ever were a case where it was okay, this is it. Her reaction to Kaleb was a bit more believable. She admittedly had an attraction to him, but it took her more than one glance to fall in love.

One of the best parts of the book was the election shenanigans. I’m a fan of the TV show Scandal and, at times, I was reminded of that, albeit on a milder note. It was interesting to see how all that played out.

I could see this as a movie—there were some really neat locations. If you don’t have an issue with love at first sight, you will probably really enjoy this book. There are some neat things going on and the writing is good.

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Orion’s Way by DC Juris


Orion’s Way by DC Juris
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (45 pgs)
Other: M/M, BDSM, Spanking, Anal Sex
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Orion is a vampire with a tragic past. After running away from abusive parents at the tender age of sixteen, he was turned by a ruthless elder vampire and forced to torture and sexually abuse human feeders and submissive vampires. Though that’s all behind him now, he still lives in the shadow of what he was, and it’s cost him the loyalty of Xavier, the human feeder he loves. Malagan is Orion’s closest friend–the vampire who saved him from brutality all those years ago. Malagan knows the dominant side of Orion–the side Xavier needs–is still there, lurking below the surface. But if Orion’s going to find his way back to who he ought to be, he’ll need help. And Malagan is just the man for the job.

Angsty vampires? Sign me up.

I like the work of DC Juris. I have for a while. I know I’ll get hot characters who can’t wait to get together and will probably have lots of sex before the story is through. This short story was no different. Well, no. It was different, but it worked. The writing was good and I read this in one sitting, so it was a great way to spend the lunch hour.

That said, I had a few quibbles. There were a couple of spelling errors that bugged me (form versus from, for example), but once I got to the next sentence, it wasn’t as much of a problem. Another one was the story itself. Malagan and Orion are solid characters and I suspect there are more stories in this world. If there are, then reading those would definitely be a good thing. I wasn’t lost, but I kept thinking I’d missed a few things along the way. This is a very short read and while one character is pining for one character, the interaction is with another. Now, its HAWT interaction. I loved Malagan. Strong, tough, but he knows what he’s doing. Solid. Orion was plenty angsty and was good for the story. But this felt like a taste test instead of a fully fleshed story. I hope there’s another story in this world, because that door is certainly left open.

Still, it’s a hot read and anyone who likes a short, meaty BDSM story won’t be disappointed. Grab a copy and see for yourself.

His Dirty Girl by Winter Sloane


His Dirty Girl by Winter Sloane
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (43 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Rob: We see each other on the eight o’clock train from Mondays to Fridays. Rush hour means there’s no room to maneuver or breathe. I first touch her by accident, not expecting her to lean towards me. No other woman has ever driven me insane with lust. A taste isn’t enough. I want more—her name for a start and eventually her heart.

Maddie: No names. We don’t even utter a single word. All we need is the language of pants and gritted teeth. We’re two lonely souls on the daily grind, strangers who meet at the crossroads. I tell myself I’ll stop eventually, but I keep coming back. He wants more, says he’s ready to give his name. I think I know where this is heading, but I’m certain this is one train wreck waiting to happen.

Three weeks ago Rob started doing his morning commute on the train. In the fourth carriage is a gorgeous woman, one whose name he still doesn’t know, but who manages to start his day on a serious high note. Grinding against each other in the packed rush-hour carriage, the two of them manage a number of intimate encounters with no one around them the wiser. But finally Rob decides he wants more, and when Maddie tells him her name, they can finally uncover what might really be between them both.

I found this to be an interesting short story. I liked how Rob and Maddie met on the train together – giving a definite zing to their morning commute to work. I also appreciated how their very public setting gave them both time to get to know each other a little before they indulged in the hot sex and chemistry blazing between them. I enjoyed getting to know both Rob and Maddie a little before seeing them try and take their relationship further.

While I found Rob and Maddie meeting and playing on the morning train refreshingly different, the other two main plotlines of Rob’s crazy ex-wife and Maddie’s harassing boss were a little clichéd. Thankfully both were minor plotlines and didn’t detract at all from the blossoming romance between Maddie and Rob. I felt the pacing of the relationship between Maddie and Rob was realistic and I enjoyed it, ending certainly with an air of positivity. Apart from slight exhibitionist tendencies, there wasn’t really any kink to their sex – so readers thinking there might be edgier sex might be a little disappointed. I felt that the overall romantic nature of their sexy relationship made up for the lack of “dirtiness” that’s alluded to in the title.

A fun and very sexy story, I enjoyed reading about Rob and Maddie finding each other and coming together.