Wild Irish Yenta by Joyce Sanderly


Wild Irish Yenta by Joyce Sanderly
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Do killers, stock manipulators, and kidnappers stalk the Temple? After the body of Roberto Gomez is discovered in Temple Israel’s parking lot, Patricia Weiss, nee Reilly, exchanges her suburban-mom sneakers for gumshoes to investigate the supposed hit-and-run. Inspired by her police detective dad, Patricia feels compelled to uncover who killed the hardworking custodian and why. Before she can progress with her investigation or work on problems in her difficult marriage to a busy cardiologist, and his controlling Jewish mother, she is plunged into the Temple’s troubles. Her mentor Rabbi Deborah, who has guided Patricia through her own recent conversion to Judaism, disappears after delivering a controversial sermon in support of interfaith marriage. Despite her husband’s concerns, Patricia joins forces with her buddy Brenda. Designating themselves The Yenta Patrol, they unravel the mysteries.

Not everything is as simple as it may first appear to be.

Patricia was a memorable and likeable protagonist. She was insatiably curious about the world around her, and sometimes this led her to making decisions that her cautious husband disagreed with. I appreciated the way the author shared both of their perspectives on what are and are not acceptable risks to take in life. It made sense given the cultural differences between Patricia and Michael, and it also helped me to understand her as a character better. No one is perfect, after all, but this flaw was a good way for the audience to understand where she was coming from and why she assumed the world was a much safer place than her husband did. Novels that encourage readers to pause for a moment and think about the assumptions we all make in life before going on to reveal what happens when two people have opposite reactions to the same situation are part of the reason why I have continued to review books for so many years. Reading and reviewing are excellent ways to explore the world through other perspectives.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about Patricia and her relationships with everyone around her, I struggled with the slow pacing of this book. More time was spent exploring what various members of the synagogue thought about each other than pushing the plot forward with more clues about why Roberto Gomez died or why Rabbi Deborah disappeared. This made it difficult at times for me to remain engaged with the plot since it often took quite a while for the next important twist to be revealed.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that showed the long process Patricia went through to convert to Judaism. There were classes to attend, holy texts to study, and cultural and religious traditions to start observing. What made it even more interesting to me was to see the wide range of reactions her conversion elicited from other members of her temple, from deep suspicions about her motives to total acceptance and everything in between those two possibilities. There was so much depth and emotion included in those passages that they sped up the reading process for me when they happened despite my earlier criticisms about the pacing.

Wild Irish Yenta kept me guessing.

Beyond Stonebridge by Linda Griffin


Beyond Stonebridge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this sequel to Stonebridge, it is 1959, and Rynna Wyatt’s abusive husband Jason has fallen to his death after a fight with his bookish, disabled cousin Ted Demeray. The police would like to know exactly what happened, but it’s impossible to tell the whole truth.

Jason’s death doesn’t end his relationship with them. Rynna is pregnant with his child and traumatized by his abuse. She and Ted leave Stonebridge Manor to start a new life in Brenford, where Ted teaches at the university, but Jason’s restless spirit follows and haunts Rynna’s dreams. He wants her back. He wants revenge. And he wants his son. How can Ted and Rynna oppose his claims and finally put him to rest?

The past never truly sleeps.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that highlighted the many social differences between the era this was set in and life in contemporary times. Let me give two examples of what I mean. First, men were not allowed in the delivery room at this point in history and were highly discouraged from supporting their wives earlier in the labor process either. Second, learning anything new took much longer back then than it does now that most people have a smartphone and can look up any topic in a few minutes at most. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover the rest of the societal changes over the decades and how they affected the storyline in all sorts of ways, but I was intrigued by how such things have shifted over time.

I struggled with the slow pacing of this novel. So much time was spent discussing previous events in the lives of these characters that there wasn’t much forward motion for the storyline until I was more than a hundred pages into it. The paranormal themes took an even longer period of time to appear which surprised me. As happy as I was to reconnect with the characters and as much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, these issues made me hesitant to do so.

The romance was handled nicely. I enjoyed seeing how Rynna and Ted’s relationship had blossomed since I first met them and how they both adjusted to the beginning of their life together. They were a good match who shared the same values and many of the same interests, too. I was glad to see them both finally find some happiness after all of the difficult things they’d previously endured.

This is the second book in a series that I’d strongly recommend reading in order for character and plot development reasons.

Beyond Stonebridge was a thoughtful read.

Amour In Avignon by Jennifer Ivy Walker


Amour In Avignon by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Adrift and lonely, Lily Greene travels to Provence to spend the summer with her aunt in the sunny south of France. In the vibrant city of Avignon, she meets Ludo and Auguste, two expert fencers who are also local actors performing in the upcoming Festival of Theater where they will present the classical tragedy, Cyrano de Bergerac.

When Lily joins their thespian troupe, portraying the lead female role, she discovers that real life mirrors the play they are rehearsing, for–just as Cyrano and Christian vie for Roxane– Ludo and Auguste become intense rivals for Lily.
Handsome as a Hollywood movie star, Auguste is used to women falling into his bed. But when Lily spurns his amorous advances, drawn instead to the enigmatic Ludo, jealousy drives Auguste to seek revenge.

Will tragedy strike with a cruel twist of fate? Or will love triumph with Amour in Avignon?

Lily has come to Avignon to spend a few months with her bohemian spirited Aunt Agnes. Agnes rents the small apartment above her shop to her paramour’s nephew, Ludo. A young, strong carpenter. Ludo shares the room with his blond friend, Auguste. Lily feels an instant attraction to Ludo, but Auguste is equally smitten with Lily. Can the three of them find what they really want?

I really enjoyed this short story. I felt the pace of both the plot and the romance was really well balanced – fast enough it didn’t feel like it dragged, but slow enough I loved getting to know a bit about Lily, Ludo and Auguste before their relationships tangled together. I strongly felt all three characters were both realistic and relatable and I definitely think most readers will find the appeal of them a good draw into the book. Aunt Aggie was also a delightful free spirit and a great addition to the small cast of characters giving light and vibrancy to the book as a whole.

I thought the author added a lot of wonderful charm and realism into the story that really gave the vibe of sun-drenched Avignon. There were a number of small French customs – the food, the greetings and such – and this really had me feeling like I could immerse myself in the feel of the town and setting. While I did feel the book lacked freshness with the plotline of the theatrical trope’s play mirroring the complicated relationship between Lily, Auguste and Ludo, I also did enjoy that Lily’s actions were quite modern and she stuck to her guns. While there are plenty of stories out there where plays and real life cross over, I was glad Lily made her own decisions and showed a good backbone without being bitchy or overbearing. I feel Lily’s character really should appeal to a wide range of romance readers.

With some delightfully sensual love scenes and the mirroring of a play within the book there was plenty of things going on in this story and I strongly feel it should hold readers attention from start to finish.

Readers who enjoy a sizzling romance with plenty of action, jealousy and an exotic location as the setting should find this quick read a wonderful story to greatly enjoy.

The Fog Ladies: Date with Death by Susan McCormick


The Fog Ladies: Date with Death by Susan McCormick
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

The Fog Ladies are at it again, spunky senior sleuths and an overstressed young medical resident solving murders from their elegant apartment building in San Francisco. They join a senior dating group, and romantic intrigue soon turns to murder. Graham Parselle, lady killer extraordinaire, plunges off a cliff on a Senior Singles outing. Did one of his dates pitch him over? Or is Olivia Honeycut’s new beau to blame?

Upon picking this one up, I knew I was in for a fun read. These ladies are a hoot and I loved getting to join them for this exciting mystery! I haven’t read the others, but found that I was able to follow along without trouble and got to know the ladies who formed the group of friends lovingly referred to as ‘The Fog Ladies’ fairly easier regardless, Still, if the others are as much fun as this one, I recommend reading them all, and in order to get the most enjoyment out of the series!

The Senior Singles sound like a fun place to make friends, enjoy outings and events together, and maybe even find that special one. Dating over sixty is no walk in the park, and the Fog Ladies are intrigued when one of them mentions the group. What sounds like harmless fun quickly becomes a quest to find a killer and the ladies are on the hunt!

The humor in this one made this story, and I loved meeting these ladies and getting to join in in the fun at their impromptu meetings! I loved the differing personalities and even enjoyed Sarah and Chantrelle’s special place in the story. And Boris, we can’t forget Boris!

The mystery was intriguing, and I loved unraveling it along with the Fog Ladies! While I did guess the killer before it was revealed, I admit the story kept me guessing for a while which is always a treat in a mystery! I tend to peg the killer pretty early on, so the twists and surprises in this one provided a fun puzzle to unravel.

Shattered Promises by Linda Trout


Shattered Promises by Linda Trout
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

While investigating a plane crash in rural Arkansas, FBI Agent Wade Malone is stunned to find the only woman he ever loved living close by. As a hardened criminal closes in, putting Miranda in the cross-hairs, he’s conflicted on how to protect her, yet keep his well-guarded emotions from resurfacing.

Miranda Johnson loves the life she has carved out as an artist, but she never expected to see her former lover again. Can they reconnect and move past the hurts each inflicted on the other, or will the secret she has kept from him all these years cost them everything?

After nine long years, Randi Johnson finds her life once again thrown into a tailspin! Unexpectedly finding herself face to face with the man who left her without a word nearly a decade ago is just the tip of the iceberg.

This was a quick read, and one that can likely be enjoyed in a sitting or two for most readers. The story was entertaining and grabbed my attention from the opening pages. FBI Agent Wade Malone and Miranda (Randi) Johnson were both interesting characters, and kept the story going. I enjoyed seeing them reacquaint each other after so long a separation, and seeing them both discover the truth about the past they once shared.

The story was good, and the action, suspense, and romance were all well balanced. I did feel like some of the plot points were left open, and the loose threads left me slightly frustrated while reading. The story we do get was fun, but the face that we never really learn about the plane or why and how it went down, among other related loose ends dropped my rating of this one.

The villain also felt like kind of an odd choice to me, as his character seemed to be more or less thrown in to give an otherwise quick moving steamy romance a bit more suspense and thrills along the way, the shared trauma and danger drawing the love interests closer together. While it does serve to make for a quick and exciting read, it left some to be desired as the plot overall left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.

For those who enjoy a quick read with just the right amount of romance with just a hint of spice and a thrilling suspense, this one is probably a great story. I tend to like a little more meat and a slightly more fleshed out story and more of a complex character and plot, but know many enjoy these fast reads. This one hits the spot for a read that can be enjoyed in a couple of sittings and is written in such a way that keeps the reader entertained and engaged from cover to cover!

Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette


Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Lady Amelia Pierce has a forbidden dream: riding in equestrian competitions. When she loses a family ring in the stable, her brother finds her foraging for it in the hay with Lucas Grey, a duke’s bastard son. Amelia’s outraged father sends her to London to salvage her reputation and find a suitable match.

Despite his ignoble birth and rakish reputation, Lucas is much admired for his management of Winston Equestrian Stables. He and Amelia are fascinated by each other. But the missing emerald ring and a viscount’s greed lead to disaster and imprisonment for Lucas. Will scandal and secrets keep him from Amelia forever?

The blurb on this one intrigued me, but it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized how much I was going to enjoy this one! Embracing Amelia by Elaine Violette is a lovely British regency tale that had all the swoon of a regency read, with some added twists that made this one fun and unique! Amelia isn’t your typical heroine, sure she is excited to fulfill her role in planning for the upcoming winter holiday parties, but she also has a secret. She aspires to compete at the horse jumping arena she’s so fond of!

Lucas has a reputation, one he’s quite proud of. At least, in part, but is there more to this broody bachelor than a notorious reputation that follows his every step? When he ends up in the middle of yet another scandal, and this one quite by accident he finds his life and the Lady Pierce’s suddenly become both intriguingly complicated.

Will Amelia be able to salvage her reputation and earn her father’s forgiveness in time to finish the holiday planning? And how will she ever explain the away the fact the Lucan Grey seems to find a way into her already messy life at every turn?

There’s so much I enjoyed about this one, the delightful twists and swoony romance were spot-on! This is a sweet romance that was overall clean. As for language, there were a few minor curse words and a instance or two with innuendos, mostly about past events. There is also one place where Amelia has to run away from an unwelcome advance from another character, but it is vague and dealt with quickly. This is a quick read, and once I started I couldn’t stop reading! I was pulled into their story immediately, and am so glad I got to read their story!

I loved meeting Amelia and Lucas, but also really liked her banter with her Aunt Libby, and meeting Georgette as well! The characters were wonderful and fit so well into this wintery tale! Amelia’s love for horses and Lucas’s devotion to Mr. Winston gave the story a deeper tone that also played beautifully into their story. Such a good read, I definitely recommend this one!

The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy


The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Inspirational, Holiday, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Once handsome Rafe Sullivan is left scarred, injured, and with PTSD from his Marine Corps service in Afghanistan, returning to civilian life is far from smooth, and the burn scars on his right side are extensive. Although he lives close to family, he lives a solitary life and changes jobs more often than most people change their socks. A temporary job as Santa at the mall is presented, but Rafe first rebels, then relents. His Santa gig affects his PTSD. Then he meets Sheena Dunmore. When she doesn’t run from his scars or issues, she intrigues him. An unmasking by some rowdy children is a test of his stamina and spirit. His greatest fear is fire. Will Rafe conquer the fear so he can move forward into the new life he desires?

Kindness is for everyone.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that showed how difficult the Christmas season can be for certain people. There are many reasons why someone might avoid crowds, be wary of celebrations, or not want to spend time with anyone. It made me happy to see how often the people around Rafe understood his limitations and encouraged him to do whatever he was able to do without pressuring him to do things that were too painful for him physically or emotionally. Their empathy for him was lovely and really embodied what Christmas should be all about.

There were a few plot holes in this novella that were never explained. For example, Rafe explored the idea of becoming a police officer but never fully answered the question of whether or not his PTSD and permanent leg injury would prevent him from pursuing that line of work. There was also a scene at the end involving another character being in terrible danger. It appeared to me that this person could have walked or crawled away from the threat, so I was confused by the fact that they stayed put. I wish these things had been explained better!

With that being said, I did appreciate the author’s realistic descriptions of what daily life as a civilian would be like for someone with Rafe’s extensive injuries. He struggled to do things as ordinary as go to the mall or have dinner at the homes of his relatives due to his many triggers and deep shame about his scars and missing ear. I never stopped rooting for him and hoping that he’d find a way to heal. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d like to know what this character’s life was like five or ten years after the events of this tale.

The Scarred Santa was a heartwarming read.

Rag Lady by Susie Black


Rag Lady by Susie Black
Holly Swimsuit Series, Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Holly Schlivnik dreams of being a writer, but fate has other plans. A family crisis throws her into an improbable situation and her life will never be the same. Determined to make her own luck when things don’t happen the way she plans, the irrepressible young woman takes a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling and shatters it to smithereens. The wise-cracking, irreverent transplanted Californian goes on a raucous, rollicking rollercoaster ride of hysterical adventures as a ladies’ apparel sales rep traveling in the deep South and finds herself along the way.

Change is inevitable.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored the many ways in which life can suddenly veer off into directions one never saw coming. For example, Holly’s college major had nothing at all to do with the sales position she eventually took at the company her father worked at, but she muddled through and eventually discovered all sorts of things about her new job that suited her nicely. This was one of many examples of how characters adjusted to new circumstances and found ways to thrive when nothing went the way they thought it would. They were all enriching for the plot and interesting to think about.

I struggled with the slow and sometimes uneven pacing of this book. The narrator went into plenty of detail about every twist and turn Holly faced while adjusting to her new job. This was necessary in some scenes, but in other ones it slowed the storyline down and made readers wait even longer for fresh developments than we already had waited. As much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so given my experience with it.

With that being said, I did appreciate how much effort the author put into describing such a wide variety of characters. The people Holly met were from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of them I liked immediately, while others needed some time to work their charms on me. It was interesting to see how my opinions of the latter evolved over time as I got to know them better and understand why they behaved in certain ways.

This was a prequel to the Holly Swimsuit series, but it worked perfectly well as a standalone story, too.

Rag Lady was a thought-provoking read.

Stonebridge by Linda Griffin


Stonebridge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After the death of her mother, Rynna Dalton comes to live with her imperious great-grandmother and her bookish, disabled cousin Ted at Stonebridge Manor. Almost immediately she is aware of a mysterious presence, which she believes is the spirit of her mother’s murdered cousin, Rosalind. Rynna is charmed by Rosalind’s lawyer son Jason Wyatt, who courts her, and she agrees to marry him. Meanwhile, Ted and Rynna become good friends.

But Stonebridge holds secrets that will profoundly affect her future. Why is Ted so opposed to the match? Why does Rosalind seem to warn Rynna against it? And how far will Jason go to possess Stonebridge—and the woman he professes to love?

Family is forever.

Ms. Griffin had a smooth writing style that makes reading her stories a delight. She seemed to know exactly when vivid details were required and when it was better to allow the audience to imagine certain moments for themselves. That is not an easy thing to balance, but it’s one of the reasons why I try to request as many of the books she submits to Long and Short Reviews as I possibly can. Whatever else may happen with the plot, I know that I’m always going to want to read just one more page of the polished stories she writes.

I would have liked to see more character development, especially when it came to Rynna. She had a habit of making rash decisions and not listening to the people around her who had serious concerns about her life choices. While this flaw definitely made her interesting to read about, I also wondered why she behaved that way and why she was so stubborn at the worst possible moments. If only that had been better explained, but this is a minor criticism of a tale I otherwise found enjoyable.

It was amusing to see how the author mixed the romance, mystery, and paranormal genres together. The plot weaved its way among all three of them. While more attention was paid to the first two, the third one popped up in some creative ways as well that other readers should discover for themselves so that I don’t spoil anything for them. There is definitely something to be said for blending so many different types of storytelling together, especially when they all bring out important aspects of the plot that might have otherwise not had a chance to shine.

Stonebridge was a memorable and exciting read.

The Axe by Linda Griffin


The Axe by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sweethearts Eric Leidheldt and Desiree Chauveau are spending a weekend at his uncle’s cabin when they encounter two strangers cutting wood. Eric is knocked unconscious, and Desi is viciously attacked. The following day two police officers come to their apartment to arrest Desi. Her assailants are dead, murdered with an axe, and her fingerprints are on it. She confesses—but is she really guilty? Eric is determined to stand by her, but the physical and emotional effects of the attack severely challenge their relationship.

Senseless violence must be punished…right?

The criminal investigation scenes kept my attention from the beginning. It was interesting to see how the officers gathered facts and how they kept coming back to the main characters to verify their testimonies and try to get more information out of them. What a painstaking and difficult process that was at times, and yet every bit of it was necessary if the truth were to be revealed.

I would have liked to see more time developing the mystery elements of the plot. There were some clues that never quite added up for me, especially when it came to what Desiree remembered about the axe and when she touched it. Her story shifted around so often that I wasn’t sure which version of it I should believe. There was space here to investigate the facts more deeply, and I would have gone with a higher rating if that had happened.

Ms. Griffin did a good job of showing how a violent and traumatic event affects people who experience them. I liked the way she explored the many different ways that Eric and Desiree were changed by the unprovoked attack against them. Since everything from trying to eat a raisin to explaining what they remembered about that horrible day was extremely difficult, I wondered what their healing journeys would look like and if justice would be served in the end. It was nice to have as much focus on the victims’ perspectives as there was, and this only became more important once the grimmer aspects of the attack had been revealed.

The Axe kept me guessing.