So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks


So I Married a Sorcerer by Kerrelyn Sparks
Embraced Series, #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (496 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Love at Stake series comes a novel of the Embraced—an epic tale of two star-crossed lovers destined for doom—or desire…

Growing up on the Isle of Moon, Brigitta knew that she was born with the magical powers of the Embraced—even if she did not know how to wield them. But she has finally learned the truth: Brigitta is the lost princess of the kingdom of Tourin. She was sent into hiding as an infant to escape the wrath of her half-brother, the king. And now he knows just where to find her. . .

Rupert is a notorious pirate and sorcerer. He’s spent most of his life plotting revenge on the evil king—and Rupert believes that Brigitta could be the key to finally destroying his enemy. But what begins as a kidnapping of the innocent beauty escalates into something deeper, and more passionate, than either captor or captive could have imagined. Rupert soon vows to protect Brigitta against the king—but will they survive long enough to find their happily-ever-after. . .or does fate have something else in store?

Well blow me down! That phrase is not exclusive to pirates. Not at all, in fact it’s a delightful twist in this series. With anyone who is Embraced in this world that Ms. Sparks has created, they find that they are endowed with unique powers, or curses depending on what side of the planet they live on. I know that Superman had a small talent for it but he had nothing on the hero of So I Married a Sorcerer. Rupert has a few tricks up his sleeve that Superman would envy.

The opening act of this hefty novel doesn’t give a reader a slow build up. One moment Brigitta is safe with her sisters as they go to visit their other sister who is about to have a baby and bam! The next thing I know, the heroine is kidnapped, and the adventure begins.

I wanted to give this tale a perfect rating like the first book but one tiny area held me back – I guessed what was going to happen! Granted, I probably couldn’t have done it without my reading the first book, but now that I know what the carry-over villain is capable of, I am seeking clues, hints and diabolical surprises. Yes, the heroine and hero were certainly bamboozled by the plans of the slippery criminal so they were surprised, but not me. The only other character that caught on earlier was Brody.

I like Brody. Brody is a fun character and his role and personality grows in this novel. I hope he gets a happy ever after some day. But I digress. Even though I figured out what was going to happen, I did get a short burst of shock when the choice of doppelganger was revealed. The one thing that really made me go, ‘Oooooh!’ was when Rupert had to seek out the final object to win the contest. It’s who they met that got the thinking gears whirring. And, sure enough, that tickling thread was pounced on later and created the absolute perfect hook for the next installment in the Embraced series. That’s going to be so COOL!

Rupert isn’t the only person who finds something important in this novel. No, Brigitta finds something too and it’s bittersweet. I can’t say what it is, but man, I wish something could be done to … fix or help that which was found. It broke my heart!

As for plot conflict, it’s a doozey, it’s effective and it’s encompasses a wide scale – sort of like the movies made by Cecil B. DeMille, the filmmaker. Okay so there were some areas that seemed to be too – perfect. I mean what were the odds that not one person, even the vile, ‘beady-eyed’ Hilda, noticed or suspected that Brigitta wasn’t as compliant, alone or as dumb as she lead them to believe? It worked for the story, and don’t get me wrong, I liked the outcome so I don’t want to rock the boat, but I did think that it was a bit too easy. Then again, if the suspense and stress were any more intense and sharp, I probably would have needed some chocolate therapy to recover. As it is, a glass of lemon/iced tea with lots and lots of ice was needed for when Brigitta and Rupert succumbed to their passions. As always, well written and fun to read.

Oh! I almost forgot! I really liked the full circle story arc! Yes, that was rather romantic and special and I adored the fact that Rupert, no matter how much time had passed, really didn’t shake that promise. He has such honor and integrity; he certainly wore the title of Hero well.

I didn’t talk much about Brigitta’s Embraced gift because I thought Rupert’s was way more impressive. True, hers played into the plot conflict rather well, but the hero’s talent rang my chimes. Can you tell?

On the whole, So I Married a Sorcerer is a magical follow-up to an amazing new world that is just beginning to unfold. Ms. Sparks has created a rich, vibrant, imaginative and adventurous series in which the possibilities are astounding. I can’t wait to find out what new Embraced gifts will be revealed and how they’ll be used. The one thing that seems to be clear is, the author’s heroes and heroines are reshaping their world for the better, and the villains are fighting it every inch of the way. So I Married a Sorcerer is how great storytelling is supposed to be – epic, grand, exciting and full of fiendish plots. Love wins as it should and the happy ever after left me smiling. Now, how long do I have to wait for the next book? Too long.

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes


The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER…
The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse–a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he’ll take on any challenge–even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn’t the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she’s fighting battles of her own. For her, he’ll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

The Trouble with Dukes is like reading a verbal dance. The dialogue is oh, so proper while at the same time conveying all manner of nefarious or sensual intents. Even the villain attacks using proper peerage etiquette. Ms. Burrowes has a deft hand when it comes to writing in this period.

The story is mainly told through three points of view: Hamish, the hero, Megan, the heroine, and Sir Fletcher, the villain. Hamish may not be eloquent in his speech when conversing, but his dialogue in his head flows smoothly. Megan turns out to be a woman who knows her own mind and goes after her prey with single-minded purpose – the hero never stands a chance. As for Fletcher – he has the potential to be redeemed based upon his little sister, but alas, there are circumstances that dictate his course of action. Once I found out the actual facts of the matter, his comeuppance is a foregone conclusion but the way it is delivered is grin-worthy. It inspires a mental ‘fist bump’ of ‘high-five’ and it’s worth reading.

Megan’s family are prominent secondary characters that play significant roles in helping to unraveling the plot and pave the way towards the great conclusion. Their personalities are large and entertaining but Ms. Burrowes kept them in line so Hamish and Megan’s romance remains the focal point.

An interesting twist is who seduces whom. The ensuing sensual hijinks are a delight to read. It also inspires a few chuckles and snickers.

The novel is very well written and entertaining but it may give some readers a feeling of cotton-head in the beginning. What I mean is, the ‘proper’ method of speech between Megan’s cousins sounds contrary to the subject matter yet they have no problems deciphering the issues and making plans to route the villain. I had a very hard time processing the dialogue in the first half of the book as I’m used to very plain speech. Once my brain “re-wired”, I found my reading rhythm and quite enjoyed the story from then on. It won’t surprise me if the book gets higher ratings from other readers, especially if they are accustomed to the Regency style of speech that is employed in this novel. Ms. Burrowes has a solid and well-earned reputation as a storyteller and it’s evident in The Trouble with Dukes.

On the whole, I’m glad I read this novel. I was entertained and charmed by the romance between Hamish and Megan. The final wrap-up leading to their happily ever after is hilarious while at the same time, serious. Want to know the best part about the ending? It’s romantic. Very romantic. It’s exactly what this romance reader seeks and I couldn’t be happier.

How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn


How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (375 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

She’s trying to follow the rules…

When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a copy of How to Marry a Marquis in her employer’s library, she’s convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she’s become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs—and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?

…But he’s making his own

James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager, and his primary suspect is his aunt’s companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find a husband… by practicing her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides that there is only one rule worth following—that Elizabeth marry her marquis.

The pen is mightier than the sword. However, in this novel a book is mightier because there’s a whole host of words and those words wreak havoc on the life of one Elizabeth Hotchkiss, heroine.

Elizabeth is a wonderful person but she doesn’t have a lot of joy in her life. What she does have is responsibilities, and they are impressively written. A reader comes to understand the scope of her dedication and sacrifice due to the author’s excellent attention to detail, dialogue and the ability to touch my heart.

I can see why Lady Danbury eventually chooses to do what she did. I suspected, but I never quite felt sure of it until it was confirmed. I’m actually glad Ms. Quinn took that route – it made the dragon of a woman into someone I could admire and respect. As with historicals, half of the conflict comes from never baldly stating things like we do now. You had to have finesse back then to plan, manipulate and scheme while continuing to talk like a lady with none the wiser. Unlike Mr. Twain who said, “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”, dialogue back then was full of almost right words. It’s not a wonder then how things got resolved despite the verbal dance.

I liked James. I had a bit of sympathy for him. True, his lament is the same heard used by many handsome, rich and titled men in romance books – “they want me for my money and title, not for the man I am.” That trope is used here to good effect. Alas, the heroine’s reaction when finding out is typical, but the setting was not. The reveal was not. It really was quite comical, although the heroine and hero surely didn’t find it so. But Blake did and it turns out that his character, though secondary, made an impact on me. I’ll have to check Ms. Quinn’s back list to find out if there’s a story of him being bitten by the love bug too.

When Elizabeth and James finally succumbed to incendiary passion, after simmering so long, it was a long time coming. I was very gratified to see that they are perfect for each other which is a credit to Ms. Quinn’s writing.

The happy ever after is as charming and cute as the story began but very satisfying indeed. How to Marry a Marquis is an easy book to recommend because it’s good, solid entertainment. It left me feeling happy and glad to have read the novel. What a fun read!

Dark Blood by Christine Feehan


Dark Blood by Christine Feehan
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (496 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Zev Hunter was an elite warrior, a dark-blood dealer of death to Lycans who preyed on mankind. But he begins to question his past when he awakens in the sacred cave of warriors—and is soothed back to consciousness by the sensuously familiar voice of the woman who has haunted his fantasies for centuries: Branislava, member of the Dragonseeker clan.

Now, with a blood-sworn vow of honor, mercy and endurance, and under the influence of a siren as bewitching as Branislava, Zev begins to wonder what his purpose is, what it means for the future of the Carpathians and what it is about his rebirth that he has to fear…

If fans enjoy reading about those sexy Carpathians then they’re in luck because there are a LOT of them between the pages of Dark Blood. The reason that they’re all there becomes apparent as the plot conflict unfolds. It’s ambitious, large and deadly.

This is a refreshing read. I don’t mean that it’s light and airy, far from it. The last few books of the series were heavy on the sex and light on plot. Not so in Dark Blood. The threat is large, ominous and dark. Fighting is to be expected in Ms. Feehan’s novels because those vampires are evil guys. However, the typical antagonists are missing in this book. Instead the terror and horror stem from mage issues and the Carpathians are in for the fight of their lives.

The fight scenes are numerous, graphic, intense and well written. The sense of foreboding oozes off the pages and readers know something eye-popping is going to happen. They will not be disappointed.

Speaking of the final ginormous plot confrontation – I was exhausted after reading it. The hits kept coming and coming and coming. Here’s the thing. With all the non-stop action and the pummeling and damage that was inflicted upon the hero, heroine and their allies, it got to the point where I thought, “Where is this stamina coming from? With so much blood loss, how are they able to fight in peak condition? Is this even realistic?” There is no doubt that this is a paranormal story and the laws of physics and reality are suspended, but a little balance would have been nice. Despite those pesky questions, the writing was really good. Ms. Feehan’s imagination is diabolical, inventive and diverse, and she kept the action riveting.

My absolute favorite part was the gathering in the meadow. That was where I smiled the most during the whole novel. I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the rest – the suspense was quite potent.

For readers who enjoy the steamy, physical and passionate side of things, the author provides plenty of opportunities to appreciate how explosive Zev and Branislava are together.

Dark Blood is a hefty novel of substance. I am very pleased that there was more plot development, intrigue, suspense and thrills than in her most recent stories. This novel was a lot of fun for me because I got to see the strengths of those Carpathian men and women in action. It was nice to be reminded that they are lethal, alpha and amazing. And, when a Carpathian male meets the other half of his soul, a reader is treated to a wonderful romance. I wouldn’t say this is a standalone read, mostly because so many previous heroes and heroines from earlier books step up to the plate to stand and fight alongside of Zev and Branislava. The impact of seeing them again is more powerful for readers who have ‘known’ them. A new reader would only see a list of names and would have no cause for connection. This is a book for the fans, and it’s great.

Master of Seduction by Angela Knight


Master of Seduction by Angela Knight
Merlin’s Legacy 1
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (101 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

All her life, Rachel Kent has dreamed of becoming one of the immortal Magekind witches who protect humanity from itself. But first she must prove herself to the handsome vampire whose job is to decide whether she’ll become a danger to those she’s supposed to save.

Nathaniel Allard is a Court Seducer who has been sent to trigger Rachel’s witchy transformation by making love to her three times. The problem is, gaining such incredible powers may drive Rachel insane, forcing Nathaniel to kill her. Otherwise she may kill him – and anyone else who gets in her way.

Nate tells Rachel he’ll only agree to complete her transformation if she proves she can be trusted with the powers she’ll gain. But as he tests her – and makes love to her with every test she passes — mutual lust turns to love.

But is love enough to save Rachel’s sanity?

This novelette isn’t a love fest just for the main characters; it’s also about fans of Ms. Knight who have greatly missed visiting her famous Mageverse where the concept was original, sensual, fascinating and exciting. The Mageverse is back and Rachel and Nathan explore one of the roles of one of its residents. The title of this book isn’t just clever but exact. Anyone who has read the series from the beginning knows what is in store and it’s a hot one!

There is a nod to one of the earlier story arcs and I liked how Ms. Knight seamlessly wove it into the plot. Rachel has to go through a trial and she’s scared out of mind because she can so easily envision the worst. In the beginning I’m pretty sure Nathan felt the same way but as the story unfolds something happens to change his mind. I am not saying what but it’s exciting, gripping and I couldn’t put the book down.

Erotic romance readers are in for a treat as Ms. Knight knows her way around when it comes to writing sexy stuff. There’s a lot to enjoy throughout Master of Seduction so make sure something cold is by your side while reading.

Although the plot isn’t deep and there are no true villains to fight against, the dynamics between Rachel and Nathan are what hold this story together. I liked their bantering relationsip, their humor and their dialogue. It’s about life changes, the challenges to facing them head on and embracing the possibilities. Readers will have no problem in identifying the struggle Nathan faces – torn between what he knew his duty to be and what he was feeling. Can he trust it? Readers find out in a satisfying way.

I remember the richness and intricate plot development of the older Mageverse stories so this book is like dipping our toes back into Ms. Knight’s world. It’s a condensed taste of what made the others so sexy, seductive and fascinating. A taste is not enough and I hope to see more of what Ms. Knight does best – tells a story that flows, engages and titillates, with heroes and heroines who put the magic in romance.

Master of Seduction is a welcome little gem with a happy ever after as sexy, romantic and satisfying as one could wish. I might be biased because the Mageverse was one of my favorite series, so I had certain expectations. Well met, Ms. Knight.

Assassin Next Door by Eve Langlais


Assassin Next Door by Eve Langlais
Bad Boy Inc., #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A killer with a white picket fence.

Suburbia, a great place for a man with secrets to hide–while investing in some solid real estate. The biggest drawback?

Neighbors.

In this case, a neighbor with sexy curves and a bright smile. Good thing she’s not his type. Single moms with annoying exes are on the do-not-date list.

Stay away.

Calvin wants to; it’s just not happening. He can’t help but find himself drawn to the chaos next door. And when danger threatens his suburban lifestyle, this assassin doesn’t hesitate to act.

Killing people is easy. Domestication, on the other hand, terrifies him.

Talk about romancing the gray area where the good guys are bad guys being good by being bad. This is a very interesting concept that Ms. Langlais is exploring in this first novel of her new series and I had a ball reading it. Some authors have a challenging time world-building in the first book of a series while telling a romance story and introducing a bunch of characters that are important or will become important in future books all at the same time. Not so for Ms. Langlais. This was one of the smoothest reveal and entry into a series I’ve read in a while. It felt so natural.

It’s told in third person POV from both Lily’s and Calvin’s perspectives. The author efficiently used the right descriptions of emotions, action, and environments to engage a reader. I could understand Lily’s terror and feelings of being trapped. Calvin is a different story as he’s a man without much feeling, or, at least he wasn’t until he clapped eyes on Lily’s daughter, Zoe. I think her innocence, her instant trust, her smiling nature and bubbly personality simply bowled Calvin over. In a word, Zoe is adorable, and the hero found her impossible to resist. He tried being gruff, grouchy and tough and he said things that initially convinced Lily that was not a nice neighbor, but a reader sees it from his POV – it’s bluster and smoke. I enjoyed watching the hero’s initial discomfort morph into a protective zeal.

Lily’s external conflict comes in the form of her ex-husband, Brock. The conflict for Calvin is mostly internal until Lily’s conflict twists and turns to bisect the hero’s external conflict and they’re both drawn into a situation that is bigger than either of them realize, until it was almost too late. There’s where the suspense and mystery come in to play. The action stems from all the daring-do that Calvin’s role demands of him. At first his involvement is duty, and then it becomes personal. That gradual switch made for some very intense reading.

My frown comes from the heroine doing something stupid, twice. Yes, the author made her own up to it because being in Lily’s head, so to speak, I could understand her choices. They were rash and necessary to stirring the plot pot but still stupid. My very big grin came from the author throwing in little digs and references to another series the author is famous for. I admit to giggling out loud in a very unladylike fashion because I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about.

The interesting thing about Calvin is his line of work – his view on what he does for a living, how he does it and why. It’s the how that is freaky. The author almost makes it causal, la-ti-da and normal when it’s anything but. After what Lily has gone through, her character is ripe for accepting a man like Calvin. The author alludes to it enough times to make that clear.

When Lily and Calvin get more than ‘neighborly’, it’s detailed, hot and sexy. There is no doubt that they are physically compatible.

The final conflict is a doozy. It has drama, suspense, action and the body count keeps going up. With the satisfactory resolving of the immediate mystery in Assassin Next Door Ms. Langlais left one little plot thread dangling which I believe is, or will be, the background story arc. One thing is for sure, the author has effectively garnered my commitment to reading the next book in the series. This is getting good.

Assassin Next Door is full of exciting chills and thrills, grins and gasps and is a delight through and through. This romantic suspense book is an easy recommend because it kept me guessing, entertained and engaged. I enjoyed watching Lily and Calvin come together as an unconventional couple and how the author handled having a young child in the mix. It’s a well written adventure and I can’t wait to visit the folks at Bad Boy Inc. to see what they get up to next.

Blackwolf’s Redemption by Sandra Marton


Blackwolf’s Redemption by Sandra Marton
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (184 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Jesse Blackwolf–uncompromising, determined and an undeniable success. He has no desire to deal with the outspoken bundle of femininity he’s found trespassing on his land!When Sienna Cummings awakes to find herself pressed against a muscled chest, she’s shocked and stunned! Where is she? Who is this man who holds her so possessively with passion glinting in his eyes? It’s more than confusion that makes Sienna’s heart beat faster–she suspects his untamed wildness hides something that maybe only she can set free….

This is the first time travel that goes back in time but during a time when I was still a kid. I don’t know if my heart can take the realization that I could conceivably be considered an historical figure, you know, like an antique? When this book was written, it was a contemporary, so it seems I discovered this little gem a few years too late. So, I’m not sure how this book classifies as a genre but there is a mystical element that sends the heroine back in time and I enjoyed it.

The hero is a combination of an ancient warrior and a present day type of warrior – and his reaction to Sienna is very much like the time travels that take place in much earlier societies, when men rule and women obeyed. Jesse is a guy who is straddling the period of time when men’s John Wayne/ Rhett Butler personas were not frowned upon, yet at the same time accepting, slowly, that women can be as confident, accomplished and knowledgeable as a man and acknowledged as such. It was very interesting to see Sienna butt heads with other women in the story that perpetuated the ‘traditional’ view of women. To Jesse, the challenge that Sienna presented was refreshing, stimulating and I believe that her perspective on her own view of history helped her deal with Jesse as she found him – tormented, resigned and a lot resentful. I would say that it’s Jesse’s character that grows, changes, heals and takes an interest in life again. I loved the way the author described the hero – sexy, very alpha and … sexy. Can you tell I really liked the hero?

As this is a romance, of course the goal is to get them together, and they do, delightfully so, however, at times it was a bit too fast. I think it’s because Jesse is an old fashioned take charge kind of guy. He wants to kiss the heroine? He kisses her. He wants to drag her out of a building? Sienna gives him a piece of her mind but it makes no difference. The visuals in that chapter reminded me SO much of those scenes with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man., that all I could do was grin. For a reader who likes men who act like men, with honor, strength, respect and a lusty, strong libido with sexy muscles to back it up, then Blackwolf’s Redemption is titillating and fun.

I liked the ending especially since the author included Jesse’s buddy. That point was a major plus. I enjoyed the technique Ms. Marton used to facilitate the happy ever after and I thought the hero very clever to grab the mail before he makes his fateful decision. Overall, Blackwolf’s Redemption is the perfect read for a quick romantic escape and I’m glad I read it.

Beware the Fury by Lena Austin


Beware the Fury by Lena Austin
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (56 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Detective Bach didn’t like getting thrown off the case of the Feather Boa Killer just because he’d begun to suspect it was personal between him and the killer. Turns out he was right — the killer follows him to Los Regalos and picks up his murderous spree there.
Bach likes it even less when his new partner at Los Regalos is a lady detective with a really bad temper, snakes in her hair, bat wings, and an infallible nose for murder. Oh, yeah, and Cissy’s got a mushy heart for animals — lots of animals. And she’s a triplet. And a goddess — really! His head hurts.

Cissy’s real name is Tisiphone the Fury, and she’s been trying to find her own individuality since she and her sisters decided to live on different continents. What’s a Fury supposed to do except become a murder detective at Los Regalos? Now her contract is near an end and she’s weighing her options. That is, until Detective Bastian Bach walks into her precinct and dumps the case of a serial killer on Cissy’s desk. Her nose tells her more. Bach’s right. It’s personal.

And it’s about to get really personal.

Oh, wow! Not only was this short story different, but it’s really cool! I know this is supposed to be an erotic story and it is, with all the usual kinky fun stuff, but there’s something about Beware the Fury that made it a pure pleasure to read. I think it was the author’s storytelling voice. I liked her style.

The tale opens up with a crime scene, so that was gripping right there. Then there is a moment when the hero has to break it to his brother that he has to cancel their ‘brother time’ because he has to leave town immediately, so there’s a wonderful family element. It showed me that whatever case Bastian was working on was messing up his life and the one fun thing he had to look forward to – spending time with family. I felt connected to the hero’s pain, and, his frustration.

Then I got to meet Cissy. She is not at all what I expected. In fact, I enjoyed all the aspects about the heroine. I know she’s supposed to be a dominatrix but the tale didn’t really focus on the lifestyle. The clothing is there, and some hints and references show up but this story was more focused on the sex and shenanigans between Cissy and Bastian. I was very satisfied on how everything was handled.

Cissy is not a normal heroine. She has a few issues but those issues sure come in handy when faced with the villain in the final showdown. In fact, that conflict resolution was intense, amazing, face paced and well written. But what happens at the very end of the confrontation totally threw me. No way did I expect to happen what ended up happening. I totally understood Cissy’s point of view and I credit Ms. Austin’s writing skills with making me sniffle along with the heroine. I was thoroughly vested in her pain and wanting her to experience true happiness.

The villain in the piece is truly shocking. Because this is a paranormal romance, I had a lot of ideas of whom or what it could be. None of them came close to the truth. Whoa!

Beware the Fury is a surprisingly powerful gem for a short story. Both Bastian and Cissy’s characters were developed enough to engage my emotions, feelings and interest. I had so much fun reading about all the paranormal beings being treated like everyday citizens when they most certainly are not. I enjoyed the dialogue, descriptions and the overall reading experience. Could there have been more development? Sure, probably – but I don’t care. I liked what I read, I had a great time, I’m happy skippy about the HEA and that’s enough for me.

Cardboard Hero by Shelby Morgen


Cardboard Hero by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Victoria Townsen’s falling in love with her hero. Ewan MacKenzie is a dangerous man. He’s in control of almost every situation — except the woman who haunts his fantasies.

He’s perfect. The embodiment of every fantasy Tory’s ever written. There’s only one slight problem. Tory’s always written sweet romances. Her publisher wants something spicier. Tory’s just discovered her perfect lover’s not anatomically correct! That’s a problem she should be able to solve. With a little help.

Then there’s Evan. Her modern day hero. Her protector. How can Tory possibly expect him to understand she’s already in love — with the hero in the cover art he posed for more than a decade ago?

Are you in the mood for something different? Do you enjoy books about authors in a pickle? This tale covers this subject plus more. I have followed a bunch of authors over the years and many of them have ‘guest posts’ by their characters and interviews. They speak of them as though they were real. This novella explores one such author and her obsession with her creation. It’s so thorough that it seems the author in the novel can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction. In fact, I’d swear she was lost to the fiction.

For erotic romance readers this story is chock full of moments of exploration, seduction and fulfillment. Whether it’s real or not is the question. One thing is for sure, Ms. Morgan was quite inventive and definitely thorough with any scene she created.

I found the format to be a bit daunting. I’m not much into scenes full of fantasy because I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s filler. However, since this story is based on an author’s writing experience and her inadvertent isolation within her own mind, it makes sense.

Things got a ton more interesting when Evan, the real flesh and blood hero showed up. At first there was a blending but eventually Tory stepped out of her head. It was then that she found reality a LOT more interesting, sensually fulfilling and surprising. She also found it a bit harder to win over the hero because he was his own man, he had feelings and he knew what he wanted – a woman who saw him for the man he is.

How the author had the two finally meet, reconcile and fulfill the happy-ever-after that I had been waiting for was ingenious, rather hilarious and totally satisfactory.

Cardboard Hero is unique, interesting and a quick read. The book that Tory was writing seems to be a real book because after the initial story, there is the start of the book the heroine wrote in Cardboard Hero, which is kind of weird because I know what Tory, the character author, was going through when she wrote it, but I know it’s really Ms. Morgen who wrote it. That sounds confusing doesn’t it? Yet, that is the epitome of what I mean about this story being unique. It’s up to each individual reader to decide if this format rings their bell. It had its moments that I really liked and I enjoyed the humor so I’d say Cardboard Hero is a successful read.

To Catch a Vampire by B.J. McCall


To Catch a Vampire by B.J. McCall
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (93 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Agent Archer Dane is after a vampire. Having been one himself, he understands the creature he hunts. Teaming up with a local cop after the same culprit seems like a good idea. She’s blonde, beautiful and the perfect bait. All he has to do is scent the trap.

Detective Valen Wynn doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but something weird is going down in her town. Blonde women found naked with bite marks on their necks have her baffled and the town on edge. Valen needs help catching the criminal, and joining forces with a handsome fed presents an irresistible solution. After all, there’s no such things as vampires. Right?

I am impressed with Ms. McCall’s version of vampirism and the very suspenseful tale woven amongst all the sexy times in To Catch a Vampire. I am a happy reader.

Truly, I appreciated the fact that the author chose to set the stage first. The crime was detailed enough to give me insight as to both its seriousness, and the level of dedication and disciplined focus that the heroine, Detective Valen Wynn, brings to the case. She took her duty seriously and that comes into play later on.

Archer is the mystery. Even though this story is told in the third person point of view from both their perspectives, there were things I didn’t learn until he revealed it in dialogue to Valen. The hero’s history is fascinating and the fact that what has helped him isn’t 100% a done deal also intrigued me. The organization and Doc, whoever they are, sound quite intriguing. It seems Archer is a work in progress and while he can, he fights the good fight. In this novella, his past comes to haunt him and he has to face it head on. Unfortunately, Valen is dragged into it and she becomes a pawn. I really liked how Archer tried to balance his growing love for her with his directive – bring in the villain or kill him.

Valen and Archer make a good team. I was so worried at one part because I thought she was going to go all ‘Rambo’ and go it alone. Too many books take that tack and I was thrilled that the author had instead the heroine playing it smart. She still was true to her profession, to protect and serve, but as any good cop knows, backup can sometimes be the key to survival in a sticky situation. You can’t get any stickier than facing a vampire that doesn’t want to give up on their ‘fun’.

I was even impressed with how the author wove the bed-action into the plot. It actually served a dual purpose and was essential for the plans Archer had. He just never expected it to become more than just a job. He was risking his heart and that made the final confrontation all the more potent, powerful and gripping. It wasn’t just sex. It was that intense emotional level that gave more clout to this story and made To Catch a Vampire more than just a typical erotic romance. The book has substance and that’s why I enjoyed reading it so much.

I heartily recommend To Catch a Vampire to fellow romantic erotic suspense readers. Ms. McCall managed to balance the thrill of solving a case with the excitement of sexual attraction, creating a novella worth reading. I had fun.