Love & Moonshine by Aliyah Burke

Love & Moonshine by Aliyah Burke
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Going home can be the best medicine.

Country boy Colum Boyle has been home to work the family farm for a while now. He’s shocked when he’s sent to pick up his sister’s best friend for a wedding, and he realizes he’s never gotten over her.

Veterinarian Xaya Asher isn’t sure all the mental preparation in the world has her ready to face Colum again. The sparks between them are combustible and soon the flames erupt.

Do these two have what it takes to overcome the obstacles before them?

Steam, second chances and heart.

I have read other books by Aliyah Burke and I’ve never been let down. The streak continues. This book was fantastic and I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what would happen next and got emotionally involved with the characters.

I love a good redemption story and this one fit the bill. Colum never felt good enough for Xaya and he knows his limits. He also knows he’s attracted to her. He can’t keep away from her. I liked his ability to be sweet and still goof up. He’s relatable and human, which was great for the hero. Xaya loves him and always has. Now that she’s got to be in close contact with him, she sees him for who he is–the man who loves her. I loved how they gave each other a run for their money. They were perfectly matched, even if they drove each other nuts.

If you’re looking for a book that’s got lots of heart, heat and one that you won’t be able to put down, then this is the one for you.

Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer

Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Complication doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Duke Charles needs a break. He’s tired of life on the road and never having a place to settle down. He decides to head to Norville for a rest in his childhood home. Once there, he realizes his life isn’t quite so relaxed—he’s not only inherited the house, but a cat to go with it. When his friend from high school sends him on a date, he finds out how complicated life can be…in a good way.

Roy Mars likes his life as an artist. He paints, sells work and takes his cat, Raphael, for walks through Norville. He channels his emotions into his art…until he goes on a date and meets Duke. His uncomplicated life gets thrown into chaos, not least because Duke has rabid fans who insist on knowing every detail of his life.

Can Roy handle a little complication in the form of Duke, or will he quit before he finds his forever?

When social media runs your life, you sometimes have choices to make.

Duke is the drummer in a famous band who has been on tour constantly for the past 15 years. He needs some time away to get his head back on straight. Roy is famous in his own way as an artist. They get set up by the fairy godmother of Norville, James, and fall victim to insta-lust followed by insta-miscommunication.

I much preferred Duke in this story to Roy. Duke is relatable, he has his issues and has worked/is working on them. Roy seems more along the lines of ‘this is me, deal with it.’ As with book one, there were storylines that didn’t seem to go anywhere – with Ted and with the Mayor. It will be interesting to see if these are picked up in future books.

This is a low-angst book that moves at a fast pace, continuing along the lines of book one. It was a good read, but I would prefer it to be a bit more in-depth with the characters as they felt sort of wooden in places. An enjoyable read that I enjoyed and have no hesitation in recommending.

Going Home, At Your Age? A Better Late Romance by Jacqueline Diamond

Going Home, At Your Age? A Better Late Romance by Jacqueline Diamond
Sisters, Lovers & Second Chances Book 3
Publisher: K. Loren Wilson
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Her hidden past is about to explode!

Sara returns to her hometown for Christmas, to face her sisters—and the man she left behind—with a stunning secret. The baby she gave up for adoption years ago is having her own baby, and wants her to be the grandma.

Young, pregnant and feeling abandoned, Sara rebelled against everyone she knew, including the man she secretly loved. Now, about to celebrate her 50th birthday, can she finally claim the family that should have been hers, right old wrongs, and find the home she believed lost forever?

It’s never too late to fall in love.

I loved the realistic and nuanced way the narrator handled the adoption storyline. Adoption can be a complex topic even under the best circumstances. Some of the most interesting scenes to me were the ones that explored Sara’s memories of the past and the lifelong grief she felt at not being able to raise her daughter while still believing that choosing adoption was ultimately the right decision for both of them. It was also fascinating to see how Sara and Melina created their relationship once they were reunited. Of course sharing DNA with someone is part of what makes a family, but the emotional intimacy and deep bonds between a parent and child need to be slowly built up over time in cases such as these.

There were some times when I struggled to keep track of the large cast of characters even though I was already familiar with the majority of them. It would have been helpful for me as a reader to dive more deeply into the lives of a smaller number of characters instead of getting brief updates on everyone. In my opinion, there simply wasn’t enough space to show character development in most cases due to how many folks the narrator needed to reintroduce to the audience and explain what, if anything, had changed in their lives since she’d last seen them.

Just like in Don’t Be Silly! At My Age?, Ms. Diamond once again captured the essence of small-town life perfectly. Most of the characters had known each other for decades, and their shared histories popped up in all sorts of delightful ways. Sometimes old grudges resurfaced, while in other scenes they briefly remembered funny or touching moments from their youth that still affected how they interacted with each other in the present. I also appreciated the author’s willingness to explore the difficult portions of being surrounded by folks who have known each other since childhood. For example, it’s more difficult for people to reinvent themselves when they are constantly reminded of choices, they made many years ago. This is one of many reasons why I enjoy these characters so much, and I’m curious to see what might happen to them next if more is written about them.

This is the third instalment in a series. It can be read as a standalone work, but I’d wholeheartedly recommend going back and checking out the first two books if you enjoy this one and want to dig deeper into the backstory.

Going Home, At Your Age? was a heartwarming read.

Terminal Memory by Brian Drake

Terminal Memory by Brian Drake
Publisher: Wolfpack Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Three years after a daring escape from a jihadists’ camp, ex-CIA officer Mara Cole is a target once more. She’s alone, on the run, and in need of a friend.

Sam Raven is tracking Mara’s hunters for a different reason – he’s on a mission of vengeance. A man with dark secrets, bound to Mara by shared history, they join forces to fight back. Together, they play a deadly game of chess through the back alleys of London, to the bright lights of Marseille, and the desert hell of Afghanistan opium fields, risking everything as they move closer to the truth.

With each feign and attack, they find the answers they seek lie deep in Mara’s memories of captivity, torture, and betrayal – secrets to a conspiracy at the heart of the US Intelligence community, and men who will do anything to protect their power.

It’s been more than three years since Sam Raven barely escaped from his final mission with the CIA. His team all went their own way, each of them doing their best to find some measure of peace away from the crazy world they’d known for so long. When Sam is contacted by one of his old teammates and informed that two of their number had died in recent weeks and an attempt had been made on another, Sam knows he needs to discover what is really going on before he’s blindsided.

I’m usually a sucker for spy thrillers, especially with this sort of beginning – an agent who had just barely managed to get out being sucked back into the dangerous life and world they’d escaped. I found this book to be a really good example of that sort of story. The pacing was really good to my mind, a fast and steady clip but not so crazy I couldn’t take in all the details. Sam was a hard but still interesting character, and I enjoyed his character’s voice and perspective. I felt there was a little too much (for my personal tastes) in describing the various guns and weapons that were used, but I totally understand many readers, especially those crossing over from military thrillers or more blokey action orientated genres would find this extra time and descriptions to be a really good thing.

I was pleased that while the level of action and slightly heavy focus on weapons catered to one side of the readership, there was clearly plenty of characterization and an attempt at making Sam’s character relatable and interesting in an emotional way. I found this really helped me connect and respond to him and this really added to my enjoyment of the story itself. The plot was also really well thought out and I felt a lot of more mystery/suspense based readers will find this is what grabs them and keeps them turning the pages.

I really enjoyed the complexity of the plot – while in many ways it seems a re-run of many other stories, I loved how the author managed to make it feel fresh and with the characters and setting it felt interesting and gripping to me, not just another book I’d read various different combinations of many times before.

With a small cast of very interesting and layered characters as well as a gripping and interesting plot this was a really good book, and I am definitely interested in picking up the second in this series.

*Catching Quinn by Jennifer Bonds

*Catching Quinn by Jennifer Bonds
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

What’s a girl have to do to lose her virginity around here?

When I decided to ditch my V-card, I figured Greek Row was a sure thing.

I didn’t count on Cooper-the-cockblocking-jockhole-DeLaurentis or his misguided sense of bro code putting an embarrassing end to my hookup. After all, Waverly’s star wide receiver is the most notorious player on campus.

He’s arrogant. Infuriating. Sexy as hell.

Just ask him.

Worse? He’s made it his personal mission to scare off every guy who shows an interest in me. But I’m not about to be outwitted by a hypocritical baller with more ego than sense. I may be a hot mess, but I’m no pushover.

Two can play this game, and I’m playing to win.

This is a delightful story and I thought Jennifer Bonds did a wonderful job of capturing college life. I felt as though I was right there with Cooper and Quinn and I had so much fun being along for the ride.

While Cooper and Quinn attend the same college, their experiences are very different. Cooper is a star athlete on the football team and enjoys all the perks that come with that status. On the other hand, Quinn is studious, enjoys writing and isn’t into the party lifestyle. Even though Cooper and Quinn are so different from each other, they are perfect together, but they have to go through some ups and downs before everything works out.

This story is about growing up and learning to make important decisions in life that will affect the future. It is well written, I easily connected with the characters, and it held my interest from beginning to end. I enjoyed all the banter between all the characters and the dialogue was spot on. Cooper and Quinn have incredible chemistry, are great together and I enjoyed all of their interactions. This is another wonderful story by Jennifer Bonds.

Restless Dead by David J Gatward

Restless Dead by David J Gatward
Publisher: Vellum
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

His latest case has him chasing ghosts. But the murderer is flesh-and-blood hiding in the ashes…

DCI Harry Grimm is on the cusp of a stunning decision. Considering making his move to the scenic Yorkshire Dales permanent, he ends up reviewing details of a terrible car accident that killed a retired colonel’s beloved wife. But when the panicked widower calls the police claiming the deceased woman’s spirit is haunting him, the dedicated detective wades in to piece together a less implausible explanation.

With suspicions running high after a cabin on the property burns down, Grimm and his team are shocked to identify the scorched human remains that leave behind a twice-grieving family. And when he uncovers evidence the fire wasn’t simple misfortune, the no-nonsense investigator is certain the culprit is more than a ghastly ghoul…

Can he nab the phantom killer before they vanish into thin air?

DCI Harry Grimm is settling in well to life in the Dales, both the small police force he’s working with and the friendly community. When a road accident tragically kills a woman Harry and his team are drawn into the strange goings on at Black Moss House – which the community whisper tales about, believing it was – and maybe still is – haunted. With the additional stress of a herd of valuable sheep being stolen by a seemingly well-established gang there is plenty going on for Harry and his team.

I really enjoyed this book, an excellent addition to the DCI Harry Grimm series. While the book can be read by itself, I feel readers will definitely get much more out of it having read the previous books in the series. The sheep/animal rustling plot in particular had been started in previous book and the lingering sub-plot of Harry, his brother and their father has been going on in the background for a few books now. The main plot – that of the car accident and death – along with how the family cope with their grief and the strange goings on at their home can certainly be read by itself and I feel the reader can easily enough follow along with the two plots intertwining in this story, so readers shouldn’t be too put off by it being the middle book in a series.

The slower pace and the freshness of the small-town feel and close community really was a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed how the small police force all had easily differentiated characters who were well drawn. I found them engaging and easily got sucked back into this authors world.

Readers who enjoy a solid mystery with interesting characters and a small-town feel should definitely enjoy this book, though I would recommend going back to the start of the series and enjoying each of these works. Recommended.

Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard

Wild About Violet by Sara Blackard
Wild Hearts of Alaska Book 2
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Falling for my fake fiancée? Nope. Not gonna happen. I’m not about to ruin a great friendship with her over a pretend relationship.

Honestly, I had no idea the whole fake relationship front was a thing. When my biggest sponsor for my snowboarding career wanted to partner me up with my stalker teammate for a race around the world, I panicked and claimed my fiancée wouldn’t approve of me teaming up with the lunatic. Normally, I’m not big on lying, but, seriously …the psycho snuck into my hotel room during last winter’s Xtreme Games! Totally creeped me out.

My friend Violet didn’t bat an eye when I begged her to go along with the farce. She’s cool like that, willing to help out, even if it’s something ridiculous like pretending to be engaged. Probably because it gives her a break from the dating game.

You see, Violet hasn’t had the best luck with men lately. I’m betting it’s because of her silly notion that with one kiss, she’ll know if the guy is her one true love. I have no idea how she came up with that idea, but she’s determined it’s foolproof.

So, now we’re racing the globe together, doing insane stunts and puzzles, trying to win ten million dollars for my sponsor’s nonprofit. We’re having a blast, but I’ve got a major problem. I don’t think I want my fake fiancée to be fake anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m wild about Violet. But how do I convince her that her one kiss rule needs to be broken?

I thought the first book in the series was good, but this one is even better! Wild About Violet is not what I was expecting based on the blurb – it’s so much more!

Violet and Kemp are best of friends. They support each other, they have a history of enjoying sports adventures together and they think the world of each other. Their relationship is positive, wonderful and enjoyable. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s the surface view. The story delves into some fascinating issues when it comes to Violet, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Violet’s family basically welcomed Kemp into their fold because they are that kind of loving, generous and giving people, whereas Kemp’s family was rich, snobby, controlling and judgmental. Not that readers will have to slog through any scenes showing that level of dysfunction – its aftereffects on the hero’s upbringing comes into play during the telling of the story. The author felt no need to add scenes creating unnecessary angst and I have to agree; the story is much better off without it. But knowing about it was helpful. It explains some of Kemp’s choices.

Now, Violet is the most interesting heroine I’ve ever read about. Her career in search and rescue is something to be respected. Her art is as unusual as she is, and just as beautiful. But there is a personal issue she has that is something she keeps close to her vest. Even some of the people you would expect to know, don’t know about it. I’m going to switch gears, and I hope this won’t be considered a spoiler. There’s this paranormal romance series I’ve been following for many years. There’s a character named Ethan who has this paranormal ability to memorize things at a glance down to the nth degree. You want to know how many shower tiles are in your bathroom? He can tell you, all he needs to do is glance at it once and he ‘knows’. He can remember everything in all its details down to the time, the colors, smells, what was said and what multiple people wore in that memory. I am sharing all of this because I thought such a thing didn’t exist, that it was truly a ‘paranormal thing’. Guess what? There’s FACT to back up the fiction! How it truly manifests in regular people and how it can affect their lives is at once fascinating and scary/sad at the same time. Ms. Blackard took this unknown-to-me ability and humanized it and made a reader feel the rollercoaster of emotions that such an ability creates in the person who has it. I won’t give the condition a name because Violet has her own reference to it that is unique. But I felt I had to share this in the review because it’s what makes the heroine’s character stand out from most heroines I’ve read about in the past couple of years. It’s also a contributing factor in the momentum of the story. So, yeah, it’s quite effective and important.

This is a sensual, closed-door romance. Lots of kissing and yearning, and close calls. The reasons they both resist taking the next step made perfect sense and made me respect them all the more. The whole plot of the story would have been compromised if the author took the easy path and used bed scenes as fillers. Instead, the main characters had to work through their differences, worries and doubts all while trying to win a race that took them through many countries and cultures.

Speaking of the race. That’s another thing I appreciated about Ms. Blackard’s approach to storytelling. She didn’t overdo, or info dump, nor skimp on the important things. She targeted her descriptions to create the atmosphere of the locales without diverting a reader’s attention from the romance, the focus of the story. It’s a fine line to walk and this author does it with ease. There are humorous encounters with the locals. There are many times I smiled, (chickens) and a few made me glassy-eyed, and one scene of extreme suspense and worry. I really felt for both Kemp and Violet and I not only wanted them to win the race, but I wanted them to win with their romance too. It’s true what the description says about Wild About Violet, it is a rom-com, it is fun and funny and it is heartwarming. But it only works because the author is a strong wordsmith who knows what her audience wants, and she delivers.

The story is told in first person point of view, but it takes turns telling it from Kemp’s side, and then from Violet’s. For me, it worked and I had a great time reading this novel. In fact, I can’t believe how fast I read it. Thank goodness there was an epilogue. Then again, the epilogue once again set me up for impatience. I met the hero for the next book and I can’t wait. One thing’s for sure, this guy is starting from zero in the opinion department because he wasn’t a nice guy back when they were all in school together. It’ll be very interesting to see how he not only wins the heroine over, but her whole family. This is going to be good.

Wild About Violet is a romance worth reading and I highly recommend it. It’s great entertainment, an awesome way to spend an afternoon and it made me feel really happy at the end.

*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose

*Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Good cops. Bad cops. Only one will win.

After completing her tours with the Marines in Iraq, Molly Sutton knew she could take down any bad guy she met. But when a family tragedy exposes the dark side of her local police, she joined up with her former CO Burke Broussard, who left New Orleans PD to set up a private investigative service for people who couldn’t find justice elsewhere.

Gabe Hebert saw the toll that working for the NOPD took on his dad and decided instead to make a name for himself as one of the best young chefs in the French Quarter. But when his father’s death is ruled a suicide after a deliberately botched investigation by his former captain, Gabe knows his dad stumbled onto a truth that someone wants silenced.

Gabe goes to his father’s best friend, Burke, for help. Burke assigns the toughest member of his team, Molly, to the case. Molly can’t believe she’s being asked to work with the smoking hot chef whose chocolate cake is not the only thing that makes her mouth water. Sparks fly as they follow the leads Gabe’s dad left them, unraveling a web of crimes, corruption, and murder that runs all the way to the top.

New Orleans is a hotbed of intrigue in this suspenseful and delightful story. There are dirty cops, many unanswered questions and so many people dying that it’s hard to know who to trust. The two main characters, Gabe and Molly, are realistic and literally jump off the page in this wonderfully written story.

Gabe finds it impossible to believe his father has committed suicide and Gabe and Molly are brought together when he hires Molly to investigate his father’s death. Sparks immediately fly between these two from the moment they meet. Neither Gabe nor Molly has been lucky in love, until they meet. Unfortunately, they are so busy trying to solve this case they have little time for romance or getting to know each other. Gabe and Molly are running for their lives while they try to solve a crime and find the mastermind behind all the killings happening every time they turn around.

I loved everything about this story. It has suspense and romance, which is my favorite trope and Karen Rose did a wonderful job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. This story was intriguing and had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next.

Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten

Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Soon to be divorced, attorney Nora Linde is finding her way as a single mother, and even falling in love again, when she’s asked by her childhood friend Detective Thomas Andreasson to help in a disturbing investigation. Marcus Nielsen, a university student, has apparently committed suicide, but it’s what he’s left behind that’s so suspicious and damning: his research into the Coastal Rangers, an elite military group where, in 1976, a young cadet died under questionable circumstances, a sadistic sergeant went free, and a case went cold.

When two of Nielsen’s contacts are also found dead—and diaries of their tortuous training turn up missing—Thomas and Nora are certain that whatever happened three decades ago is unforgivable. And for someone who wants to keep those secrets buried—unforgettable. Now they must fight against time to expose a cover-up that hasn’t yet claimed its last victim.

Detective Thomas Andreasson is still recovering physically and emotionally from injuries that nearly killed him in his previous case. As he eases himself back into his police work, he finds himself unusually drawn to what at first glance appears to be a clear case of suicide with a young university student. It’s only as Thomas traces the young man’s interviews for a school project that Thomas finds not only long-buried secrets, but also what appears to be a second murder. Thomas calls for some research assistance from his childhood friend, lawyer Nora and together they try to understand what’s happening before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed this full length novel. While the mystery is somewhat slower paced than many modern stories, I didn’t feel like this affected the pace too much as there was a lot happening in both Nora and Thomas’s private lives that helped keep this side to the story moving at a good rate. Readers who pick this book up expecting a fast or action-orientated mystery might find that aspect to the story lacking – especially in the first third or so. But since I’ve read the previous three books in this series I greatly enjoy both Thomas and Nora’s characters and was very happy to be updated on how Thomas is recovering from his injuries and reconnecting with his ex-wife. I also was very interested to see the fall-out to Nora and her separation from her almost ex-husband. In this sense I didn’t need a break-neck paced action mystery adventure story, I was quite happy to see more character and emotional growth with the two main characters. Other readers – especially if they pick this up as a standalone – might not find this as satisfying as I did.

That said, once the murder mystery really began to pick up speed this was an exceptional police procedural style of mystery novel. There had been snippets every few chapters showing scenes from the past which helped the reader understand some of the motivation behind the killings and helping to set the scene without being too spoilerish and giving the entirety of the plot (or the identity of the victim/murderer) away, so I really thought the author did an excellent job of balancing giving enough away without ruining the surprise.

Readers who enjoy previous books in this series should definitely give this one a try. I can also happily recommend this entire series so I can recommend readers going back to the start of this series. A good, solid book with lots of character growth and an interesting mystery plot.

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Thank you for Listening took me on an emotional journey.

You have to be open to the possibilities.

I loved reading Sewanee and Nick’s story. They are two realistic, flawed and complicated characters. They are both stuck in a life they aren’t happy with after their lives moved in an unexpected direction. They are vulnerable and afraid to take a chance.

This is an intriguing story that had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next because I was never quite sure what direction it would go. It held me captive from start to finish. This story took me through many emotions: falling in love, family dysfunction and losing your dreams.

There are also some interesting and colorful secondary characters included in the story. I especially loved Sewanee’s grandmother, she was a hoot. Julie Whelan writes a beautiful and touching story.