Penny Gothic: A Romance of Fictitious Proportions by Shelley White


Penny Gothic: A Romance of Fictitious Proportions by Shelley White
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Gypsy magic gone awry. A dubious family legacy.

When Penelope Darling’s grandmother dies, Penny inherits much more than a used bookstore. With only clues from a stack of letters left by her great grandmothers, Penny must find her destined true love… in a book.

Penny needs to convince her hero he’s not an actual book character, while avoiding the book’s determined villain. But convincing her knight in shining armor might not be enough to make a happily ever after.

She also must decide if she’s ready to fall in line with the family legacy, or go with the equally tempting (and totally non fictional) guy next door, and forget the man fated to be hers.

Love operates on its own timetable.

Elizabeth’s snarky personality was a hoot. Her aversion to romance, at least in this specific chapter of her life while she still had so many other goals to accomplish, made it amusing to see how she reacted to the idea that her one true love had already been selected for her without her input. The snide comments she occasionally made about what was expected of her were softened out nicely by her devotion to her grandmother and her best friend. I adored the fact that she had already created a happy, successful life for herself before any hint of romance was so much as whispered in her vicinity. She was the sort of character I’d love to go out to dinner with.

I certainly wouldn’t expect every conflict to be resolved in the first book of a new series, but I would have preferred to see a few more loose ends tied up in the final scene. It ended so quickly that I found myself scrolling through to the final page to ensure there wasn’t another chapter hidden somewhere. The way that last scene was written didn’t feel quite complete to me, although I’m still curious to see what happens next.

One of my favorite things about this story was how respectful it was of its characters. They didn’t always obey the common tropes or plot twists of the romance genre, but they were trusted to wander off into storylines that one doesn’t see in romances too often. This writing style kept my interest levels high from the first scene to the last one. I was never quite sure what the characters might do next or how they’d reinterpret their roles to better suit their personalities.

Penny Gothic: A Romance of Fictitious Proportions is one of those rare books that I’d be equally happy to recommend to diehard fans of this genre, folks who read it occasionally, and even people who may generally not be interested in romantic fiction at all. It worked on so many different levels, and it kept a smile on my face the whole time.

Moonlight Becomes You by Robert Herold


Moonlight Becomes You by Robert Herold
An Eidola Project Novel, Book 2
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Eidola Project travels to Petersburg, Virginia, to investigate a series of murders in the Black community—rumored to be caused by a werewolf. Once there, danger comes from all quarters. Not only do they face threats from the supernatural, the KKK objects to the team’s activities, and the group is falling apart. Can they overcome their human frailties to defeat the evil that surrounds them?

Monsters can lurk anywhere.

Honestly, the werewolf was what originally nudged me to request this book, and I was pleased with how much time the author took to explore what would happen if a town was terrorized by such a creature. Werewolves don’t seem to be a common antagonist in the modern fantasy I usually read, so it was refreshing to revisit the tropes and legends about them here. The narrator assumed the audience already knew the basics about what this creature was and how it worked, but they did provide enough information to help readers who were less familiar with them get caught up on what to expect.

I struggled with the slow pacing of this tale, especially after the first few chapters when all of the introductions had taken place and the characters began diving into their newest case. There was plenty of material here for the author to work with, from a large cast of characters to a mystery that threatened to kill many innocent people if it wasn’t quickly unraveled. I simply found myself wishing that everything had moved forward faster.

Some of the most interesting portions of the storyline were the ones that discussed the prejudice faced by the characters who were African American, women, or African American women. Everyone who fell into these groups were deeply aware of the limitations society placed on them because of their identities, and they had to be cautious about where they went and how they behaved because of it. I appreciated the attention the author paid to these topics as it made the setting feel much more realistic for these characters given when and where they lived. It also made their accomplishments even more meaningful once they figured out ways to reach their goals within the confines of what they were allowed to do in that era.

This is the second installment of a series. I’d recommend reading it in order due to the character and plot development from The Eidola Project that affected this sequel so much. There were also dozens of characters to keep track of, so already knowing some of them from the previous book will make it much easier for readers to dive into this one.

Moonlight Becomes You was a satisfying read.

Salted Caramel Bliss With a Wedding Kiss by Cherie Colyer


Salted Caramel Bliss With a Wedding Kiss by Cherie Colyer
One Scoop or Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Roman Briggs has built a life for himself in Siren’s Cove. He restored the Sugar Cones Ice Cream Parlor and turned it into a popular stop along the boardwalk. He has everything he needs until a certain blue-eyed woman wanders back into his life.

Seer and witch Peyton Woods isn’t sure why her latest visions feature a man and boy she’s never met. Determined to find out, she casts a spell that leads her to a small beach town in Maine and, to her utter surprise, the man who broke her heart eight years earlier.

Peyton’s left with one question. Why didn’t her magic show her him?

Some ex-boyfriends were never meant to be forgotten.

Peyton and Roman had good chemistry. They were the sort of people who would be immediately drawn to each other when they entered the same room. I’ll leave it up to other readers to figure out why this might be the base, but I do enjoy reading romances about folks who have such a strong and immediate pull towards each other. It was a great deal of fun to see how they reacted to that bond and whether or not their chemistry was enough to keep them together.

I would have liked to see more character development in this tale. It was a little tricky for me to figure out what the characters’ personalities were like because the narrator didn’t spend as much time on that topic as I hoped she would. Not being able to quickly describe their personalities also made it hard to pick up on how the main characters grew and changed as a result of their adventures.

The unpredictable and sometimes fickle nature of magic in this universe amused me. Casting a spell for one’s own benefit came with the risk of it backfiring spectacularly, so Peyton always had to weigh her words and her actions carefully when using magic that might help her in some way. I was also fascinated by how much prep work needed to go into gathering supplies for spell work. Some of them lost their power quickly which also made it more important to think ahead before casting anything.

Salted Caramel Bliss With a Wedding Kiss was a fun summer read.

Wylder Bride by Amey Zeigler


Wylder Bride by Amey Zeigler
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hibiscus

Maisie Brinley rejected every bachelor in the Boston elite put forth by her social-climbing mother. Then Mother issues an ultimatum to marry a family friend—but he’s twice Maisie’s age. After corresponding with a stranger whose letters connect with her heart, Maisie crosses the continent for his love. When they meet, will he live up to her expectations, or will her escape be in vain?

Living in Wylder, Wyoming Territory—where men outnumber women ten to one—gunsmith Cyrus Haddock hides his disfigured face to avoid romantic rejection. Out of pity, he helps a friend woo a woman through letter writing. But his success backfires when Cyrus falls in love with the Easterner’s words. When they meet, will Cyrus hide his feelings or confess his love?

Normally it is a book’s blurb that will help me to decide whether or not to read it. Wylder Bride was no different. When the blurb mentions Wyoming, I always think cowboy or rancher. The blurb also describes Cyrus as having a disfigured face, which turns out to be different than I imagined.

The heroine said, ” I want a real man—one with gumption, grit, and passion.” While we all have a different idea as to what traits are in a real man, this declaration makes Maisie relatable, and I hoped she’d find what she was looking for.

All of the historical romance books I have read took place in England. All of the western romance books were contemporary. This is the first historical romance book I have read that took place in America and it didn’t disappoint me.

I did wish for an epilogue in this book, as many historical romances have. The reader is left to make their own conclusion. I loved these characters so much; I just wanted a little more and to see how their lives had panned out. However, even without an epilogue, this story was a great read.

Everything else I want to share about Wylder Bride leads to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. I really enjoyed reading this story and I highly recommend it.

Double Dipped by Terry Korth Fischer


Double Dipped by Terry Korth Fischer
One Scoop or Two)
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Accepting second best is good for her career, but first-grade teacher, Retta Curt, delays signing up for the disappointment. Given two weeks to reconsider her contract, she retreats to Gram’s cottage on Moon Lake, the last place she felt contentment. But the cottage is derelict; Cousin Julie, distant; childhood beaux, Dean, bitter; and Sweet Picks, the family ice cream stand, in danger of folding. Magruder, a surly newcomer, is buying and then neglecting properties until nothing remains of the idyllic lakeside community she remembers. When vandals target Sweet Picks, Retta’s dreams to recapture her happy childhood collapse, and the return to Moon Lake becomes a decision worse than accepting her teaching contract. Star-crossed, can she save the family business and rediscover happiness, or is Retta destined for a second-best future?

Ice cream is more than a sweet treat. Sometimes it’s the key to reinventing yourself!

The mystery elements of the storyline were well done. I especially enjoyed seeing how small-town politics complicated Retta’s attempts to figure out who was vandalizing local businesses in Moon Lake. Knowing everyone in town makes cases like these even trickier to solve due to the risk of damaging long-standing friendships or irritating the loved ones of the accused. The author did a great job of showing how complicated this stuff can be and why one must move carefully in communities like these.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the romantic subplot. The chemistry between Retta and Dean was promising at first. I smiled as they reminisced about their childhoods and flirted a bit. It would have been helpful to see the tension between them continue to build later on in the plot. While I’m not the sort of reader who needs to see everything wrapped up neatly, there was room here to be clearer about what might happen to them next.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the quiet, peaceful summers that so many characters enjoyed at Moon Lake. It was the sort of community where children could play outside all day without any grownup interference and where neighbors looked out for one another. The wholesomeness of it all was lovely and made for a perfect setting for the more serious elements of the plot that were revealed later on.

This is part of the One Scoop or Two series. It can be read as a standalone work.

Double Dipped was a lighthearted summer read.

Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck


Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck
Scarred Hearts, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his hearing problem to clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system shows one of Ted’s employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

I had actually read book one in this series but it was a long time ago and I forgot. I’m forgetting a lot of things lately but I do recall clearly that I loved book one. Well, I just have to tell you that I loved book two as much as the first one if not more! I started Unlock My Heart and didn’t stop until I finished it.

In the section “A word about the author”…and I quote “Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong, and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with a happily ever after.” That statement is the perfect description of the type of books that I prefer to read and it’s accurate for Unlock My Heart. I couldn’t have said it any better.

Abby, the heroine, is definitely smart since she attains a job at the best IT security firm in the country. She’s determined to be financially independent and to make her parents proud.

The story starts with the hero, Ted. Right away his vulnerability is revealed in a way that I was curious to learn more about. Ted is definitely smart, handsome and available.

Ted actually owns the IT security firm that Abby is employed at. It’s pretty much love at first sight but filled with complications from the get-go. There is one plot twist after another making it impossible for me to stop reading. Obviously the first conflict is the fact that Ted was Abby’s boss. I could feel the chemistry between them that they professionally couldn’t act on. Let’s just say that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to reach the “barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers.”

There are other characters in the plot line who are relevant to the success of this book such as Ted’s business partners. Ted’s college friends, Simon and Alexander, formed CAST to invest their money and use their wealth to help others.

The first book in the series was about Ted’s partner, Simon. I was thrilled that Simon made an appearance in book two. I hope Alexander and Caleb are considered as future heroes in this series. I want more and I don’t want to wait.

Jennifer Wilck has been on my “trusted favorite author” list for a while now. The Scarred Heart series is awesome. Unlock My Heart is going on my ‘Keeper’s shelf’ next to the first book, A Reckless Heart”. I hope other readers will love this book as much as I did.

Divine Vintage by Sandra L. Young


Divine Vintage by Sandra L. Young
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Tess Burton is always up for an adventure. She’s risked her inheritance to open Divine Vintage, a clothing boutique. While modeling an elegant gown from an Edwardian era trousseau, her mind is opened to a century-old murder. Visions–seen through the eyes of the murdered bride–dispute local lore that claims the bridegroom committed the crime. Trey Dunmore doesn’t share Tess’ enthusiasm for mind-blowing visions, yet the appeal to clear his family’s tainted legacy compels him to join her in exploring the past. Aided by the dead woman’s clothing and diary, Tess and Trey discover that pursuing love in 1913 was just as thorny as modern day. As the list of murder suspects grows, the couple fears past emotions are influencing, and may ultimately derail, their own blossoming intimacy.

It’s never too late to make amends.

The lush descriptions of modern and historical Michigan City, Indiana made me feel like I was truly there. Some of the best scenes were the ones that described the buildings that existed in both eras, how they were furnished, and who lived in them. Those moments were vividly written and filled with fascinating details about what people did and did not value in a home or business in the early 1910s as well as the early 2010s. It was fun for me as a reader to compare and contrast them. Some things never change, but other social expectations about the places we live and work in most definitely have!

I would have preferred to see a bit more time spent on the character development, especially when it came to Tess and Trey. Their histories and the way their personalities interacted with each other were some of the most integral pieces to understanding their connection to the past. While I can’t go into a lot of detail about this without sharing spoilers, I would have gone with a full five-star rating if this had been developed more thoroughly. The basic gist of it was all there. It simply needed to be expanded upon.

One of the things I liked the most about this novel was how well all of the storylines flowed together. Ms. Young did an excellent job of weaving the paranormal, mystery, dramatic, and romantic elements of the plot into scenes that pushed all of them forward seamlessly. I often have a quiet preference for a particular subplot when so many genres are mixed together, but in this case, I genuinely enjoyed all of them equally. Each one was necessary for the entire story to be told, and it was delightful to see how much effort the author put into making sure that everything was tied together neatly.

Divine Vintage was a sweetly sentimental read.

Love and Lavender Ice Cream by Sara Freeze


Love and Lavender Ice Cream by Sara Freeze
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A sudden summer storm drives Miss Sophia Selkirk into a confectioner’s shop filled with the delicious scents of ice cream and candies. Just as she settled in with her glass dish of delectable ice cream, a shadow falls over the table: the fiancé she jilted without explanation two weeks before has appeared. Can she trust him enough to reveal the secret that sent her fleeing from the only man she has ever loved?

Simon Warren’s entire life was jolted the night before their wedding when Sophia sent a brief note informing him she could not marry him. Now, he has tracked her down to this small confectioner’s shop, where over two dishes of ice cream, they will grapple with a secret scandal from the past and discover whether their love can overcome all obstacles.

Ice cream can’t fix everything, but it might be a good place to start.

Great chemistry is crucial for the romance genre. Luckily, Simon and Sophia had plenty of it! It was delightful to see how many different methods the author came up with for showing why these two people deserved to end up together. Ms. Freeze gave the audience plenty of information to work with, and she trusted us readers to put some of the pieces together for ourselves. It’s always neat when that happens.

I would have liked to see more character development. Of course, one can’t generally expect as much of that in a short story as in something that has a few hundred pages to work with, but I did find myself wishing for more detailed explanations of why both of these characters behaved the way they did. This was especially noticeable when it came to their discussions of how their pasts might impact the happy life they’d one dreamed of sharing together. Do note that this was a minor criticism of a tale I otherwise thought was nicely done.

The dialogue made me chuckle. I adored the fact that Sophia and Simon were both such witty and quick-thinking characters. Honestly, they could have discussed what to add to their grocery list or how quickly the price of tea was rising and still kept my interest. That was how much I enjoyed reading their banter! They were quite well matched for each other.

This is part of the One Scoop or Two series. It can be read as a standalone work.

Love and Lavender Ice Cream was a sweet treat.

A Pride of Brothers: Aiden by Peggy Jaeger


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

Lexi Buckley wants answers about her younger sister’s death. The police have labeled it a suicide, but Lexi doesn’t believe it. Stymied in her investigation, she doesn’t know where to turn next. After a chance encounter with a private investigator, she thinks her prayers have been answered.

Aiden Keane has never been an answer to a prayer before, but he agrees to help Lexi. A quirky combo of brains and beauty, the pixie blonde makes him feel things no professional ever should for a client.

When their investigation puts Lexi’s life in jeopardy, her safety becomes his number one priority. The hard part is not falling for her.

I loved Pride of Brothers: Aiden so much that I’m going to have to find and read book one, A Pride of Brothers: Rick. Why? Because a higher power beyond my control is demanding me to find and read the first book, at least that is what I tell my husband. Ha, ha. I love Ms. Jaeger’s books. She’s on my favorite authors list.

I can’t believe my good fortune to be sucked into another great series quite so fast! The hero in this book is Aiden Keane. *sigh* Just thinking about him gives me goosebumps. Lexi Buckley, the heroine, was one lucky woman to have a “chance encounter” with Aiden. I believe he really was the answer to her prayers in more ways than one. I loved how Aiden “has never been an answer to a prayer before” but he agrees to help Lexi. That statement alone makes me smile. Aiden is the complete package. He’s a private investigator for goodness’ sake! I know I’d like his help in keeping me safe and, shall I say, ‘warm’.

Lexi was a hoot! I loved her. She had this hilarious unique characteristic that’s endearing. You’ll have to read the story to find out what I’m talking about. It’s an instrumental characteristic throughout the book and it made me laugh out loud numerous times. Aiden found it irresistible. Together Lexi and Aiden had me not only laughing, but on the edge of my seat as they investigated her younger sister’s death.

I haven’t read a romance/mystery/suspense/thriller in a very long time. I was on a historical romance binge for a while. I forgot what it was like to hyperventilate over a suspenseful scene. There are more plot twists in this story than I can shake a stick at. I loved every second. I consider the plot to be original, creative and riveting.

I originally rated this book as a 5 but the more I type, the more I realize that I can’t stop talking about it which gravitated me towards rating this as a Best Book. I mean, I didn’t even mention the dog yet. Aiden has a dog. Ya’ll, it’s not just a dog. You need to read the story. If the dog doesn’t win you over then surely Aiden and Lexi will.

Did I mention that Aiden owns his own investigating company with his brothers? Oh, his brothers sound delicious. Aiden’s brother, Rick, is the hero and that’s the reason why I have to read the first book in this series. I met him in this story, and I would love to know how/why he decided to no longer be a bachelor. I don’t know if there are more books coming in the series but I do know that if there are, then I’ll be reading them.

According to the author’s website, the author writes “about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.” That really resonated with me. I appreciate Ms. Jaeger’s style of writing and that is why she’s on my “favorite authors list”.

If you at all like suspense/romance/mystery thrillers with strong, gorgeous heroes and smart, stunning heroines that will take you somewhere without actually going anywhere, then pick up this book.

Sworn to Fly by Maria Imbalzano


Sworn to Fly by Maria Imbalzano
(Sworn Sisters Series) Book 3 of 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Risk-averse ER nurse, Alyssa Beckman, is about to lose her job because of yet another bad decision. In order to put her life back on track, she books a week at a rustic mountain resort to ponder her next steps and rejuvenate. But when she arrives, she learns she’s enrolled in boot camp, an adventure program far out of her comfort zone.

While there, she meets Gabriel Sutton, a world-travelling high-fashion photographer who is in danger of losing his clients as well as his status if he doesn’t start following the rules. While hiking, kayak racing, and participating in team challenges, sparks fly between Alyssa and Gabe as they encourage each other to take different life paths. But will those paths lead them farther apart or bring them closer together?

I had zero inclination that this book was part of a series until I started the review and discovered that it’s actually book three of the Sworn Sisters Series. That demonstrates to me that Sworn to Fly can clearly be read as a standalone. I have never read a book by the author, Maria Imbalzano but I can assure you that I’ll be looking for more of her books in the future. Specifically, I’ll be purchasing the first two in this series without a doubt. I chose this book because the synopsis captured my interest. Now that I have finished the story, I am pleased that the synopsis was only a highlight to spark my interest. I compare the synopsis to the top and bottom bread of a sandwich. The story is whatever your absolute favorite sandwich filling would be.

I usually conclude my reviews with a recommendation to read the book or put it on a keeper’s shelf etc. I’m actually compelled to make such a statement at this point, Sworn to Fly is a must read. It is my greatest pleasure to claim this romance book as a LASR Best Book.

The heroine, Alyssa Beckman was easily someone I could know in reality which made it extremely easy for me to relate to her. Alyssa was more than just a character in a book. It felt as if she could be my neighbor, co-worker, sister, or in this situation, my best friend. Alyssa has three best friends that I’d like to get to know better. Apparently, they each had their own story previously in the Sworn Sisters Series. If their story is anything as good as Alyssa’s story then I simply must read them.

The hero, Gabriel Sutton is the meat of the sandwich. That just made me laugh out loud. If he’s the meat, then Alyssa is all the other fixings and condiments. Together they complete each other and the sandwich. That’s actually an awesome analogy for them and all the other characters are the chips, cookie and drink. The entire story is a combo meal. I can keep going with this analogy when I think of the series as a restaurant. I want to go back and get two more combo meals, which are the first two books, and I hope they will be just as delicious.

Gabriel and Alyssa are funny, overly dramatic and have amazing chemistry. I enjoyed reading their time together in the rustic mountain resort. Together as a couple they took my breath away. I’d really love to see this book made into a movie and I’m not talking about a Hallmark movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I actually love my Christmas Hallmark movies. I’m saying that I think there is enough material to turn this into an award-winning movie in the theaters.

The writing in this story was vivid, engaging and entertaining. I was able to visualize what I was reading while feeling what the characters were feeling as if I was at the scene. The synopsis intrigued me, the first page captured me and the best part is that there was even an epilogue.

This romance story was not a drive through fast food restaurant where the meal is finished in ten minutes and wrappers tossed into a trash can. This was a sit-down fancy lunch diner, where I took my time to eat and a waitress served me. Every bite was delicious, leaving me with a satisfied belly. I hope this review encourages other readers to give it a try. It’s a great book to sink your teeth into.