Cowboys Don’t Ride Unicorns by Tara Lain


Cowboys Don’t Ride Unicorns by Tara Lain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (226 pgs)
Other: M/M, Multiple Partners, Anal Play, Voyeurism
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Cowboy Danny Boone—a name he made up one drunken night and has regretted ever since—harbors a big past and yearns for a small future. A short, bright career as a champion bull rider almost ended in his death when his homophobic father discovered Danny was gay. Now Danny longs for a plot of land he can build a ranch house on and enough money to make up for some of the education he missed.

Danny also hides a preference for beautiful femmes who like to top—a combo rarer than a unicorn. Then onto the guest ranch where Danny works drives San Francisco decorator Laurie Belmont, a young man so gorgeous he makes horses gasp, and so ballsy he almost kills Danny’s attacker.

Laurie’s trying to find his way out from under the thumb of a domineering mother, helpless father, and rich, privileged boyfriend.

But no matter the attraction, their lives are worlds apart, and cowboys don’t ride unicorns.

Everyone has their own preferences and discerning tastes, but sometimes what you want and what you can actually get are on opposite ends of the spectrum. This is Danny Boone’s quandary – does he settle for what he can get his hands on or does he keep searching for that elusive man that will trip his trigger indefinitely? Should a cowboy search for his unicorn or stick with his ever-ready pony?

Danny Boone! I was so happy when I realized this was his book. I loved the relationship he and Rand had in the first installment and seeing him more fully fleshed out made me happy. He’s a great guy – solid, hardworking, reliable – and the best hand Rand has around. But he’s also lonely and looking for something more which made me sad to read. It was good going into the story knowing he was finally going to find his happiness.

Laurie Belmont. I wanted to like Laurie so much, especially once you learn about how his family and his boyfriend treat him. You don’t find many unrepentantly authentic characters these days and I was happy to see Laurie so at ease with the man that he was. However, since he’s very femme, at times, his actions and reactions went over the top. So much so that, at several points, he felt more like a caricature or stereotype rather than an actual character. The moments when he and Danny are alone, Laurie is most like himself and he’s really fun and lovable at those times.

Cowboys Don’t Ride Unicorns brings two very unlikely characters together under even more unlikely circumstances. Generally, those ‘deep, dark secrets’ don’t work for me, but Danny’s secret is of the kind that makes sense to hide in an effort to move past it. For the most part, he has done exactly that. The author does throw you a twist by switching up the sexual preferences of Danny and Laurie, giving you a less stereotypical romance between the two men. Even with all the drama, meddling parents, and other craziness, I enjoyed seeing Kai, Rand, and the kids again as well as watching Danny find his happiness.

BEARly Resisting by Jenika Snow


BEARly Resisting by Jenika Snow
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (48 Pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Killian knew his mate was out there. Being celibate in hopes he’ll find his female hasn’t been a hardship, but he’s growing impatient.

And then he sees her. She’s human, gorgeous, and will be his. He doesn’t even know her name, but her smell is sugary and tells his possessive inner bear she’s supposed to be his in all ways.

Alice planned a weekend of relaxation, but instead, she found herself mated to a bear shifter. Alice doesn’t fight the attraction she has for Killian, not when she wants to be between the sheets with him in the worst possible way. Alice is single one day and mated to a growly bear shifter the next, but can it last forever?

I enjoyed this sizzling hot paranormal romance.

The steamy plot easily captured my interest. It had a strong heroine, a sexy alpha male, and crazy hot sex. Alice wasn’t looking for excitement but she sure didn’t run away from it either. I liked that about her. She had a naughty fantasy about having wild sex with a shifter. She was drawn to the right place at the right time and met Killian. He was a sexy bear shifter looking for his mate.These two had a wild night of hot shifter loving, scratching, biting and mating. Yes, they were true mates. This short story was a quick read. For the most part the only drama was Alice understanding that Killian meant business when he said he was keeping her as his mate.

This was a short book that seemed to fly by at a super fast pace. I liked the characters and the story. So looking forward to more books from Jenika Snow.

Exit Signs by Patrice Locke


Exit Signs by Patrice Locke
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (332 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Researcher Tracy Price is trying to find a dead writer and forget a live musician.

Rock star Jesse Elliot is sure Tracy is demented, and she believes he wouldn’t recognize the truth in a lineup of Bibles. Their only hope is to stop trying to read each other’s minds and start speaking their own.

Anyone who has ever had a crush, felt betrayed, or been forgiven will appreciate Tracy’s struggle to claim the life she never knew she wanted.

Tracy’s carefully choreographed life did not include a romance with a musician.

Tracy is content with her quiet life as a researcher. She isn’t looking for love, and certainly never would have pictured herself in a relationship with a celebrity, but somehow that’s exactly what happens. What starts as an awkward, professional relationship slowly develops into a life altering romance neither Tracy nor Jesse could have anticipated.

Tracy is a really fun character. She’s a smart, funny, good-looking woman with a successful career, although I must say her penchant for strange snack combinations alternately intrigued and repulsed my taste buds. Even though Tracy has a lot going for her, she doesn’t seem to think much of herself. All her romantic relationships have been disappointing and she doesn’t anticipate that changing. At most, she imagines she might end up with someone who is just okay. I find that rather sad. Tracy is completely unprepared for Jesse. He is unlike anyone she’s ever met, and I like the way he challenges her to set higher goals for herself.

I really wanted to like Tracy and Jesse as a couple, but they never really gelled. I truly like them both as characters, but only separately. They never seem comfortable around each other. None of Tracy’s friends think her relationship is a good idea, but Tracy keeps insisting it is the right thing for her, at least at the time. However, I don’t believe she actually feels that way. She’s always waiting for the moment to escape and she’s determined to misunderstand everything Jesse says. Jesse is prone to be self-absorbed. In fact, I had absolutely no inkling that he likes Tracy until he called her up months after they had finished working together on his project. The chemistry just wasn’t there for me.

I really enjoy Ms. Locke’s writing style. “I hate it when eyebrows take it upon themselves to enter conversations.” Tracy’s inner dialogue is hilarious and lines like this had be laughing out loud throughout the story.

Despite my issues with the characters’ chemistry, I did enjoy reading Exit Signs. Tracy and Jesse are likable characters who have a bumpy road to a strange but ultimately happy ending. Fans of contemporary romance might want to give this book a try.

Cape Zero: The Fall by Nicholas Woode-Smith


Cape Zero: The Fall by Nicholas Woode-Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (122 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When social recluse and all round introvert, Peter Swart, manages to survive an attack by an insane homeless man, he soon discovers that Cape Town is not going to remain the holiday destination that it was previously regarded.

In the wake of a failed government state of emergency, society crumbles in South Africa as a virus turns people into violent cannibals. Within a day, the already compromised military collapses. Cape Town becomes a dark zone and its residents are forgotten.

With violent mobs roaming the streets, social anxiety and doubtable sanity thrown into the mix – will Peter be able to survive the apocalypse or, worse yet, the necessity to live with other people?

No one is safe when the undead rise.

The zombies in this story were nicely written. I liked the thought Mr. Woode-Smith put into how these creatures move and behave in this universe. He added some logical developments to their mythology that made me shudder. As much as regular zombies scare me, this version of them is even more frightening. I liked the scenes describing what it would be like to accidentally stumble across one of them because of this.

Peter’s character development was confusing to me. The way he behaved suddenly and completely changed about a third of the way through the plot. The medical explanation that was hinted at in the storyline didn’t make sense. Had it actually been the reason for the dramatic change to his personality, I would have expected there to be references to it beginning in the first scene. It’s definitely not the kind of condition that anyone would be able to hide, especially in an environment as stressful and chaotic as the one he was living in.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this story was how the characters reacted to being in such a dangerous world. The fact that so many of them chose to work together to create a safe place to live made me smile. That doesn’t always happen in this genre, so I was glad to see folks working together so cooperatively this time.

There were multiple grammatical and punctuation errors. Some of the sentences were hard to understand because of how unusually they were written. It often wasn’t clear to me exactly what the author wanted his audience to get from those sentences. The storyline itself was interesting, but this book would have really benefited from another round of editing.

The characters in this tale had a refreshing amount of common sense. I appreciated the fact that they always remained cautious around the zombies and never let down their guards when they were in an unfamiliar situation or away from home. This doesn’t always happen in the horror genre, so I’m happy to meet characters who are so sensible.

Cape Zero: The Fall should be read by anyone who really likes zombie fiction.

Make a Wish by ED Parr


Make a Wish by ED Parr
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (36 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and Nick Kringle is making deliveries on the main street of the city when a car breaks down at the intersection. He rushes to help him and comes face to face with the most delicious man he’s ever seen.

Amid the seasonal crowds and inclement weather, Dylan West gets out of his stalled car and tries to push it to the side of the road. Dylan’s down on his luck, but his hero Nick believes in magic and decides to throw a little Dylan’s way.

Can wishes come true? You bet—especially if Nick Kringle has anything to do with it.

A sweet read for a chilly evening.

I’m a sucker for Christmasy stories. This one hit the spot. The writing flowed well and the characters were interesting. For a quick read, it satisfied.

Dylan’s had a rough time. He’s getting over being shot and he’s having a hard time finding a job. Like super hard time. No matter what he does, he can’t seem to get ahead. I could relate to him. I’ve had those days and what seems like week-long moments of nothing going quite right. There were times I thought he got a little too far into his depression, but if that was the author’s purpose then kudos. There were just times I thought Dylan was almost too…he wasn’t even willing to see the bright side. Then there was Nick. Talk about the opposite of Dylan. Positive and willing to help. I liked him and his can do attitude. When the two got together, things heated up. The thing was, the circumstances were a little odd, but I could go with it.

If you’re looking for a short read for the lunch hour or a quiet night, then this might be the book for you.

Half Wolf by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom


Half Wolf by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (304 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

His Secret…or Her Salvation?

When he stumbled upon a beautiful woman who’d been the victim of a vampire attack, Alpha wolf Michael Hunter faced an impossible choice. His honor dictated that he save her life. But the only way he knew to accomplish that was to make her one of his own. Now Kaitlin Davies was half Lycan and his responsibility as she underwent a dangerous transformation to full wolf.

Something within Kaitlin called to Michael’s inner wolf with an intensity he’d never felt. He wanted her. But as he witnessed the changes occurring in her body, he wasn’t sure what she was becoming. Had Michael created something that could destroy them both…or was her transformation as preordained as their passion?

Half Wolf has such a unique concept I couldn’t pass this book up. I thought for sure when I saw the title, and I read the first couple of chapters, that I knew what Kaitlin’s other ‘half’ was going to be. Wow, was I wrong! And, I was delighted with the author’s choice.

There is quite the cast of characters in this novel to support, guide, assist and complicate the growing relationship between Kaitlin and Michael. I get the sense that a few of them were from past books somewhere along the line and based upon how they’re described in this story, they must have been humdingers. I’ll be checking them out for sure. Anyway, back to this tale. At one point I felt two of the ‘visitors’ were more a distraction than a help. They acted like mavericks. Sure, one of their decisions garnered some extra help but it was how it was delivered that annoyed me. And when I envision the meaning of the word ‘pack’, I have a different picture in mind than what was delivered.

Then there are the mysterious visitors to Kaitlin. Who exactly are they? At one point I got the sense that she knew them, like really ‘knew’ them, and then, not. Then I got the impression that she was 100% something other than human, yet could come across as human and if she wasn’t human, I have to ask how in the world no tells or weirdness happened before in her life to clue her in that she was different? What was offered didn’t convince me. Especially since there was a reference to her parents, which then begs the question based upon how these people treated her, did her parents hide her because they were nicer people and didn’t want their daughter to develop a personality like those others? So many questions and too little time to explore fully the world that Thomas-Sundstrom created, that 304 pages just isn’t enough. It may sound like I had a negative reaction to all of this oddness but in actuality I want to learn more because the potential dynamics seem fascinating.

As for the villain of the piece, Kaitlin, Michael and their pack have their hands full dealing with the results of the evil guy’s dastardly machinations but he never battles the hero and heroine directly. At least not until the end, and even then it was fleeting. And, it’s not the end. Because there are two vile threads threatening their little sleepy hamlet and Half Wolf could only resolve one which must mean that there will be a second book. I’m good with that but it better get published soon because I want to read it. I hope a few of the ‘helper characters’ get to stay for that party as well.

Half Wolf left me with a lot of questions but the one thing it didn’t do was bore me. It was a fast, easy read because the concept intrigued me, the main characters were likable, the paranormal aspect had unique twists that delighted me and I enjoyed watching Kaitlin and Michael fall in love. There are a lot of positives to appreciate not the least of which are the love scenes between the hero and heroine.

I have no problem recommending Half Wolf to fellow paranormal romance readers but just be aware that it might whet your appetite for more of their story. And maybe like me, will want to continue reading about this engaging couple with their unusual paranormal challenges and their growing love. I get the strongest feeling that there is so much more left to discover and I’m vested enough in Michael and Kaitlin’s relationship, I hope to visit Clement again, soon.

Toys for Boys by KD Grace


Toys for Boys by KD Grace
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex, Toys, Spanking, Exhibitionism
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Alpha nerd Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.

The boys are away and they will play…dirty.

I knew going in this would be a hot story. I had no idea how hot and I’m glad…in a good way. Toys for Boys was a delightful and sweltering surprise. I already liked the work of KD Grace and this one is no exception. She even has written herself into the story!

Doc and Will are great together, even when they don’t want to be that way. I loved how the guys were initially polar opposites. Will has charm to boot and when he turns it on… well… Doc wasn’t the only one helpless. I liked Will from the start. The writing flowed well, even when I wasn’t sure initially why the author had written herself into the story. Trust me, it all makes sense in the end and it’s worth the reward. Now writing herself into the book (or a character called KD) could’ve been considered a show of ego, but in this book it’s not. It feels more like a diary entry or a retelling to a friend rather than something one-dimensional. I’m glad the author took the story in this direction. Well worth the effort.

Did I mention it was a hot read? I’ll never look at tree branches, rocks, or even butter exactly the same way again. I won’t spoil the story, but oh… man… It’s sinful. The only thing that marred the story for me was the few typos. One character’s name changed spelling and it confused me for a moment. With another quick pass by an editor and this story will shine brighter. It already shines, but it can be brighter.

If you want a hot story that’s sinfully hot and involves nature, then this is the book for you. Recommended.

Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet


Fire and Midnight by Sandra Renee Appet
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

He could be her best worst decision…

With a glass of wine in hand, Jane Keegan’s finger is poised to delete the account her pushy BFF created for her on “The Cowboys” escort service website. Sure, she’s lonely, but not desperate. Then an image of sky-blue eyes and warm, tanned muscles jumps off the screen. And she finds herself hitting the “Book Now” button.

After all, why not? She’s a free, divorced woman on business in San Antonio. There’s nothing to lose…except her nerve. Especially when Mr. Tall Dark And Incredibly Sexy meets her at a River Walk bar—and his only-for-you smile turns her insides into a quivering mass of second thoughts.

Ryan Zeigler is enduring one last escort assignment only as a favor before hanging up his Cowboys hat to run his own restaurant. Yet there’s something about the pretty New Yorker’s vulnerable grin and I’ve-got-baggage eyes that halts his usual dating M.O. in its tracks.

When Ryan sweetens the deal—no strings, no payment expected—Jane the good girl takes the bold step of letting her vixen out to play. But when it’s time to go home, her heart is at a crossroads. Is Ryan the real deal? Or is she letting yet another man take her heart for a ride?

Meddling best friends get their partners in crime into the most embarrassing and enjoyable situations. Copious glasses of wine, a pushy friend, and more than a bit of loneliness after her divorce, get Jane to try a Cowboy escort. Of course, she gets more than she bargained for from this unusual date and wraps up the year during the holiday season with more than one surprise!

Ryan Zeigler is hot, mature, a successful businessman, and one of the most caring, family-loving men to come across many women’s path. With his Spanish background, he offers a charming mix of San Antonio to Jane’s palette, and her activities. The chemistry between him and Jane is sparking with electricity…and self-doubt. The sex scenes leave that doubt in the dirt 99% of the time to produce consensual, empowering scenes that feel intimate and personal rather than run of the mill. This partnership is made to last and its shown through each intentional, confidence-building move that Ryan makes.

Jane, on the whole, is a woman who has seen better days in her personal life and her personal approach to life. She needs revitalising and to be shown how to enjoy life again. I love that Ryan is the man to electrify her into the woman she should be, but I hate that very often alcohol is behind her decisions. Often, she is very passive in the face of a fork in the road, and this smacks both of a lack of confidence, and of an old-fashioned approach to relationships.

Of course, family and Jane’s pesky self-doubt as the older, divorced woman, puts a spanner in the works for the couple, which they must overcome long-distance. A tricky obstacle. This was where the book was lacking for me. The magical date scenes, the beauty of place and atmosphere in the getting-to-meet-you scenes were wonderful, truly immersive. The obstacles the couple must overcome are more run of the mill – predictable – and take a long time. The book could have been a good third shorter and still covered the ground it aimed to, while making the plot much more succinct and enjoyable. For me, the book wandered too much after the first major obstacle and became more of a tick the boxes approach to traditional romance: marriage, kids, family life, working life, and the white picket fence. I suspect much of my reluctance here is due to my experiences and age. I’m not an almost thirty woman looking to settle down and I’m not looking for that traditional passive, inexperienced female and super-experienced male sex king, relationship. That’s not my ideal and doesn’t chime with my values.

For many others, Fire and Midnight will tick the boxes of their dream man and their dream life. Certainly, the locations of San Antonio and its River Walk are almost Venice-like in the beauty of the picture which is painted, and the loving relationship which is begun under its roofs. This place and lifestyle is what I fell in love with, and I’m sure many other readers will swoon at the chance to experience the lifestyle painted in the rivers, gondolas and eateries, all with splashes of Spanish charm.

Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland


Ribbons And Bows by Marteeka Karland
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (52 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Samson Redding has everything he could want — everything money can buy. But for all that, he’s alone. He’s been pursuing the lovely Jerrica in an online relationship, and he’s ready to take it to the next level, but she’s not ready.

Samson’s thought of the perfect way to change her mind. He convinces Jerrica to meet in person — at a BDSM club he knows she’ll love, once she wraps her mind around it.

It may take more than ribbons and bows to tie his woman to his side, but Samson’s up for the challenge. The rest? That’s up to Jerrica.

Samson somehow let his sister talk him into dressing up as Santa Clause for poverty-stricken children. What his sister didn’t know was her attempt – yet again – to set him up fell directly into his plans for Jerrica. Samson and Jerrica had been emailing online for a while now and Samson is more than ready to take steps to the next level. Will Jerrica be on board with that?

This is a fun, Christmassy short story. I found Samson a bit arrogant to start with – having done extensive background research on Jerrica before they’d really met and just assuming he knew what was best for her. It also rubbed me a bit wrong how Samson needed to control pretty much every aspect of the day and evening when he and Jerrica met. From manipulating the situation with his sister “meeting” Jerrica all the way through to the “coincidence” of their date at the BDSM club Samson was literally in control of pretty much every aspect. I found it a little creepy and hugely control-freakish, not really sexy or masterful as I expect it was meant to come across. Aside from this and a few other – far smaller – niggles I really enjoyed how much lead-up there was to both Jerrica’s and Samson’s characters. It was a pleasure to read a very short story where the hero and heroine didn’t just meet, fall in insta-lust and hop right into bed. Readers who enjoy a much slower pace to their steamy stories should find this one suits them well.

While there was a bit of kink shown in the BDSM club, I found it interesting that it was other people (strangers) participating and neither Samson nor Jerrica indulged. I was of two minds about the lack of strong kink in the sex with Samson and Jerrica. On the one hand Jerrica was a complete BDSM novice and had only hinted at her curiosity and interest to Samson – so a part of me understood why they only dipped their toes into the kinkier side of sex. On the other hand I feel the storyline (and the erotic-ness of the sex) could have been really strengthened by some stronger elementrs. For a BDSM story I really felt Samson and Jerrica only dabbled in the shallows of their kink – it would have been a real pleasure, and made the sexy side of the story stronger to my mind, had Samson led Jerrica deeper into the world of BDSM sexually. I feel this was a huge missed opportunity by the author and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed neither of them really went there. Jerrica and Samson weren’t straight vanilla, but considering how far – and explicit – erotic stories have come in recent years I couldn’t help but feel readers looking for a kinky, strongly sexual story might be disappointed with this.

I thought the premise of the story was excellent and I really enjoyed the author’s story-telling voice. I’d happily read more by this author and would even enjoy reading a sequel or story that explored what happened next between Jerrica and Samson. A fun short story.

Love’s Opening Night by Jeff Adams


Love’s Opening Night by Jeff Adams
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (48 pgs)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Can an onstage love story lead to a real-life romance?

Jeremy Steele is a veteran Broadway performer. For his latest role, he’s dancing alongside a man he’s fantasized about for years, TV star Ty Beaumont. Jeremy knows better than to get involved with a castmate, but when Ty has trouble learning the complicated choreography, Jeremy offers to lend a hand. When a rehearsal kiss turns into something more, Jeremy can’t help but wonder what a celebrity like Ty could ever see in a Broadway chorus boy like him. Will a relationship with his crush make it past previews, or can it become a long-running hit?

A sweet romance based in the theatre and peppered with dance.

I was on the hunt for a sweet short story with plenty of heart. This book did the trick. I knew what I was getting when I started it and wasn’t disappointed. Jeff Adams has penned a nice story of two guys who were on a collision course to meet. The writing flowed well and I couldn’t put it down until the last page.

This book focused more on the emotional aspects of the story and characters. The drama was to a minimum, but for this story, it worked. Sometimes life is filled with simpler drama. I did like the rougher moments for Jeremy and Ty. Jeremy was portrayed very realistically and I felt for him quite a few times.

If you’re looking for a feel-good short story to read over lunch that will leave you with a smile, then this is the story you’re looking for.