Blue Star Boy by Gavin Atlas

Blue Star Boy by Gavin Atlas
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LBGTQ
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Jerry’s goal is to fulfill as many sexual fantasies as he can before he starts graduate school in the fall. The next fantasy on his list is topping a surfer, and with the help of the internet, he’s discovered a submissive young man on the Texas coast who is famous for giving up his incredible rump on the beach at sunset.

But when he meets Adriano, Jerry is stunned, and not just by the surfer’s beautiful body. The combination of Adriano’s sweet essence and natural sex appeal have Jerry wanting much more than a one-night stand.

Two hot men, one chance meeting and a hot time to ensue?

I didn’t know what I’d get when I picked up this book. Sweet romance? There is some in there. These two men are trying to find something in this crazy world, so yes, that part is sweet. Something saucy? There’s that, too. There is certainly spice. This is a short story, but there’s a lot in it and it’s fun.

Adriano has been embarrassed by his ex and his name placed online as a Blue Star Boy–there for someone’s good time. He’s not interested, until Jerry comes along. Jerry just wants a one-nighter. Then he meets Adriano. I liked the pairing and the pacing of this story. It’s good. I’ll read more by this author.

If you’re looking for a quick romance that will satisfy for a lunchtime read, then this is the one for you.

A Christmas Wish for Love by Mariah Lynne

A Christmas Wish for Love by Mariah Lynne
Publisher: World Castle Publishing
Genre: Romance, Holiday, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Have you ever had a holiday cookie that came with a set of instructions? You’re about to.

In this sweet, heart-warming holiday romance, a precocious twelve-year-old named Luci, short for Lucia, never met her mom because she died giving birth. Her dad, a Florida Gulf Coast Island veterinarian, loved his late wife so much that he does not date or look at any other woman even though women are attracted to him. He still wears his wedding ring and, every Saturday night, shares a box of her mom’s memories, hoping to keep her alive in Luci’s heart.

Luci’s elderly Swedish next-door neighbor Meta loves Luci like an adopted granddaughter. When Luci’s dad gets called in for an emergency on her birthday which happens to be Saint Lucia’s Day, Luci and her dog Chester visit Meta.

Meta gives Luci a surprise birthday gift as she leaves to take home and open later with her dad. Then the holiday magic begins.

A CHRISTMAS WISH FOR LOVE is an enchanting and inspiring story you will want to share with others!

Anything is possible during Christmas time.

This was a unique spin on the romance genre. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance novel written from the perspective of a child whose father is falling in love before. Kids don’t always understand these things the same way adults do, so I smiled when Luci explained what was happening and occasionally gave creative reasons for why the grownups in her life were behaving the way that they did.

There were some inconsistent details in this story that I found confusing. For example, Luci was described as a twelve-year-old girl in some scenes and a thirteen-year-old girl in others. Her character was written in a way that either one could have easily been true, but I did wish that the narrator had been clearer about her age. Her mother’s name was also spelled in two different ways later on in the plot. Another round of editing would have fixed these things and made it possible for me to choose a higher rating.

I loved the strong, caring community that these characters lived in. Being a single parent isn’t easy, especially after such tragic circumstances that surrounded Luci’s birth, but Kyle was lucky enough to have plenty of friends and neighbors around who could help him give his child everything she needed other than a mother figure. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that showed how everyone stepped up to give this little family extra love and attention. They brought a tear to my eye because of how sweet they were.

A Christmas Wish for Love was a gentle holiday romance.

*Wilde Love by Jennifer Ryan

Wilde Love by Jennifer Ryan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager, Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Welcome to the Dark Horse Dive Bar, where the Wildes throw one hell of a party and love could be a barstool away!

When Lyric Wilde’s not whipping up the best food in town at the Dark Horse Dive Bar, she’s making a name for herself as a rising singer-songwriter. And if any of her online followers cross the line from friendly to fanatical, well, Lyric figures it goes with the territory—and she can take care of herself. But there’s one fan she wants to get to know better—a silent, sexy biker named Viper. A man who makes her think mine every time she looks at him. But who exactly is “Viper?”

Undercover FBI special agent Mason Gunn has been hiding in plain sight and alone for far too long. And while he fantasizes about a peaceful life with beautiful Lyric by his side, he knows that until his mission—to take down a murder-for-hire network—is accomplished, his dark world is no place for her. But when frightening encounters and threatening text messages from a stalker bent on keeping Lyric all to himself and his most wanted criminal target his sultry songbird, he will stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves…

I enjoyed reading this small town story filled with suspense, intrigue and romance. I also enjoyed all the entertaining characters included in the story. I thought the two main characters, Lyric and Viper were good together and they shared a lot of chemistry.

Lyric and Viper meet under unusual circumstances and slowly fall in love.

There are people who try to interfere in their lives, but in the end, good overcomes evil.

Viper is rough on the outside but inside he is caring and loving. When Lyric meets Viper, she sees something in him that others don’t and she instinctively knows she can trust him. The way Viper treats Lyric melted my heart and I loved that he is willing to do anything to keep her safe.

When Lyric’s simple life is turned upside down, she learns the only one she can depend on is Viper. Viper and Lyric are good together and good for each other, but there are so many things going on around them and so much they have to get through, before they can be together. I was rooting for them the entire time and hoping everything would work out for them.

I enjoyed reading this story.

A Pride of Brothers: Dylan by Peggy Jaeger

A Pride of Brothers: Dylan by Peggy Jaeger
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Cyber-security specialist Dylan Keane is working undercover to suss out a corporate thief. When he zeroes in on Harper Vale, he thinks he’s found his mole.

Harper has a reputation as a coding savant and an introvert. Dylan’s interest is flattering, but after she’s implicated in the theft of the company’s protected software, she doubts everything he’s told her.

When a series of potentially deadly accidents occur involving Harper, Dylan wonders if she is being set up to take the fall. One thing is certain: the more time they spend together, the more Dylan realizes he’s the one who’s falling—for Harper.

I have been waiting for this book to come out and it was definitely worth the wait. I cancelled a boating trip so I could stay home to read this new book in the Pride of Brothers series. The series is about four brothers who open an investigative company named Brother’s Inc. This particular story is about Dylan.

Dylan has two older and one younger brother. One of the older brothers, Rick, isn’t a biological brother but he’s so much of a brother in every other way, that sharing the same DNA doesn’t matter. I first read Aiden’s story which was book two and I had every intention of reading the first story which was about the brother named Rick. I’m ashamed to admit that I still have not read book one. After reading the third book about Dylan I am more determined to read book one. However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’m curious why I can’t find a book for Josh. Josh is the older brother and the founder of the private investigative firm. He happens to be married to a lady named Kandy, who is a famous chef. All I know is that they met when Josh was hired to protect her. Their romance could be mentioned in book one but since I haven’t read it, I don’t know. I read book two a long time ago that I don’t remember Josh or Kandy in book two. I guess one day I’ll have to sit down and read all three books. Each one can be read as a standalone. Yet, I enjoyed how the characters in book two are brought back in book three.

I’m assuming Dylan’s story is the final book in the series since Josh is married. This makes me sad because I feel like the series just started. Unless the author just writes a book for Josh and in it all the other brothers must be single. I’m probably overthinking this, but I just want to read more about these characters since I’ve grown to love them so much.

I enjoyed Dylan’s story because it was unpredictable, often suspenseful and the romance made me feel gooey. The author’s descriptions throughout the story bring the characters, settings and feelings come to life. I could visualize Dylan’s smile, his physically fit body, his apartment, the car chase, the food they were cooking. Heck, I could smell and taste the food that was prepared. The author’s writing style really makes me want to read the entire book in one sitting. Which I did.

The heroine, Harper, was a character wrapped up multiple times and Dylan had the patience to unwrap her layer by layer. Harper was a diamond in the rough. She just needed someone like Dylan to come along and make her sparkle. Let’s just say that when they were together the chemistry between them was dazzling. I could sense how much they really cared about one another in a heartwarming way.

Okay, I just did a thing. After re-reading my review I realized how invested in these characters I am, so I just went on Amazon and bought the first book in the series. It will arrive by July twenty which just happens to be my twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. If that isn’t enough testimony that others should read this book and the others in this series, then I don’t know what else is.

If you are looking for a wowza book that will leave you feeling a book glow at the end, then I’d recommend Pride of Brothers: Dylan and the others in the series.

Jazzed Up by Laura M. Baird

Jazzed Up by Laura M. Baird
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jaz Reynolds needs a new lead for his band. One note, one look is all it takes for him to know Cheryl Mathers is the one. Now to convince the sultry jazz singer to make the leap to a different genre and tour with him. When their chemistry rockets off the charts, can he convince himself this is business only? Or will he take a chance to find his own love of a lifetime?

Cheryl Mathers has always wanted music to be center stage in her life. The offer to tour with world-renowned pop-rock band, Jazzed Up, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With each day in Jaz’s presence, she falls more and more for his charm and allure. But she’s been burned by love in the past and is hesitant to risk her heart.

As the two find their rhythm and embrace their attraction, a life-altering revelation rocks their world. Will the power of promising of love be enough to bring them back into harmony?

Musicians need love, too.

There was a plot twist close to the end that I thought was handled nicely. It involved both Jaz and Cheryl’s pasts and them having more in common than they already knew they did. Ms. Baird did a good job of keeping this under wraps until it was time to reveal it. Not everything needs a lot of foreshadowing in order to be effective, and this was a good example of how to keep an audience guessing and interested about what might happen next until the final sentence.

I was surprised and confused by how quickly certain business decisions were made in this novella. The main characters were willing to make huge changes in their lives based on limited information, and most of the people around them didn’t seem concerned about how fast things were changing. It would have been helpful for me as a reader to have more information about why everyone was okay with this as it isn’t something that happens too often in real life in my experience.

With that being said, the whirlwind romance made much more sense. Sometimes two people meet and instantly click. It’s rare, but it can be truly beautiful when it happens. I also liked the way the author dove into the difference between clicking with someone and actually taking the time to figure out if there is as much compatibility with them as there seemed to be at first glance. That was a mature and sensible expansion to this theme that only made me enjoy it more.

Jazzed Up was a fluffy and uplifting romance novel.

Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes

Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive but find unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?

This can be read as a standalone and is the second book in The White Rune Series.

I read the synopsis and thought that it sounded like a good book to read. I started reading it and was transported into the story right away. The story begins with the hero, Vann, having a PTSD nightmare. My father-in-law is a Vietnam war veteran who suffers from PTSD therefore I’m familiar with the hero’s struggles. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Vann or any veteran to adjust to the civilian world with a missing limb from a war casualty. Vann is written as a sweet character that doesn’t feel worthy of finding his happily ever after. Vann actually hides his prosthesis for fear of being judged as an incomplete person.

There is a sentence in the story that shows up a few times that really resonated with me, “If you can’t find a reason to live, then find a reason not to die.” It’s a very powerful statement. Vann is a character that more than deserves to find peace, love and joy.

The heroine, Nakina, certainly didn’t bring solace into Vann’s life when they met. Nakina brought the suspense/mystery elements. Nakina was very lucky that Vann was in town that particular day for them to have that chance encounter. She couldn’t have asked for a better person to run into when Vann approached her. A unique characteristic pertaining to Nakina is her ability to feel and see things. She’s a psychic learning to fine tune her gift. I was intrigued by the rune stone.

Nakina and Vann’s romance journey kept me on the edge of my seat as they both pursued refuge in each other as they ran for their lives from hired killers. I felt their love story evolved at a sensual pace that was heartwarming and uplifting. Nakina and Vann filled each other’s void spots making them complete each other.

I did experience a hiccup that pulled me away from the story. There is a moment where it appears the danger was resolved. I kept thinking that was impossible. I was waiting for the shoe to drop. When I only had a few more pages left I started to relax thinking, well, I guess that was the end of the danger. I felt an anti-climax. Without giving spoilers, let’s just say that the shoe did drop. For me I felt the timing was off. The next page is titled two weeks later and then we have another titled two weeks later that concludes with an epilogue. I should have had a book glow since I love epilogues. Somehow the reality of the situation versus the ending, it didn’t jive with the rest of the story.

Overall, I did enjoy this romance book. I especially loved Vann’s dog, Champion. There is a scene involving Champion that pulled at my heartstrings. As a dog owner I was very concerned during this part of the book. Fortunately this plot thread was written well. I felt the cast of characters were well developed and relatable. I got to know Vann’s neighbors and Nakina’s sister. Everyone played an important role in the narrative.

In conclusion, Jagged Feathers was entertaining. I think we all could benefit from opening our eyes and seeing nature’s natural beauty and feeling the healing of nature when we learn to rest such as Vann and Nakina did. This story brings about solace and hope.

Discarded – A Canadian Historical Mystery by Nancy M Bell

Discarded – A Canadian Historical Mystery by Nancy M Bell
Publisher: BWL Publishing Inc.
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When the British arrived in Winnipeg in the 1800s it was convenient for the men to take Metis wives. They were called a la vacon du pays – according to the custom of the country. These women bore the brunt of ensuring survival in the harsh environment. Without them the British army and fur traders would not have survived the brutal winters.

However, as society evolved it became accepted that wives must be white, schooled in British ways, fashionable in the European sense and married by the Anglican church. The Metis wives and their ‘country born’ offspring were thrown out and forced to fend for themselves. The unrepentant husbands continued to live comfortably with their ‘new’ wives.

It was inevitable that some discarded wives did not accept their fate quietly and hard feelings on both sides were unavoidable. When the bodies of two discarded Metis wives, Marguerite and Marie-Anne, are found floating in the Red River, Guilliame Mousseau, sets out to get to the bottom of his sister Margueite’s murder.

Not everyone is always equal under the eyes of the law.

Racism has many faces. Some of the best scenes in my opinion were the ones that showed how deeply ingrained racism was into every facet of society in the 1800s. Even characters who were otherwise fairly sympathetic were negatively influenced by it at times. I found it refreshing that this wasn’t something coded as a problem only for the antagonists. People are complex, after all, and few of us are ever completely virtuous or evil.

This book had a large cast of characters, most of whom I would struggle to describe if someone asked me what their personalities were like. It would have been helpful to have more character development as this was something that was a barrier to me connecting with the storyline and wanting to keep reading. Had this been given space to develop, I would have happily gone with a higher rating as I was quite intrigued by the murder mystery itself.

I enjoyed the historical aspects of the plot. They worked equally well for readers who know about this chapter of Canadian history and those who know nothing about a la vacon du pays and how they were mistreated by their British husbands and the government at all. That can be a tricky balance to maintain, so it was nice to see Ms. Bell make it look so effortless. I will be curious to see where she goes with these characters next if she writes the sequel that was hinted at in the final scene.

Discarded – A Canadian Historical Mystery made me curious to read more from this author.

Double Murder at the Grand Hotel Miramare by Elena Martignoni and Michela Martignoni

Double Murder at the Grand Hotel Miramare by Elena Martignoni and Michela Martignoni
Publisher: Kazabo Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ever since his punitive transfer to Lungariva, the sleepy village has quickly become the Cabot Cove of the Italian Riviera…

This time, Deputy Assistant Chief of Police Luigi Berté has to investigate a double murder in the Grand Hotel Miramare, Lungariva’s historic luxury hotel, playground for old nobility, international business tycoons, and polo players. But one of the guests is not what they seem and Berté has to work quickly before his suspects scatter to the four corners of the earth – with deadly results.

Set in the very real Grand Hotel Miramare in the village of Santa Margherita Ligure, this novel features Luigi Berté, one of the best-known characters in modern Italian fiction.

Appearing in a dozen murder mysteries and counting, Berté, a truly unique Italian creation, is beloved for his quirky approach to solving crimes, his kibitzing conscience, and his love for good food.

Small towns aren’t always quiet, safe places to live.

One of the things I enjoyed the most while I read this was comparing the small towns I grew up in with Lungariva. On the surface, they were all sleepy, peaceful communities, but first impressions aren’t always accurate. I smiled and nodded along as I realized how complicated some of the relationships there were. Living alongside the same core group of people for years on end can add all sorts of layers to how people are connected to one another. A relative might also be an employer, and a neighbor might be a friend one year and an enemy the next. The author captured these complexities nicely, so pay close attention if you have any experience at all living in rural areas.

This book had a large cast of characters that I struggled to keep up with even though I made a list of everyone who was introduced and how they were connected to the protagonist. There were simply so many characters that most of them didn’t get much time to express things like quirky personality traits or unusual interests that would have jogged my memory when I was trying to figure out who they were. As interested as I was in the mystery itself, this did prompt me to go for a three-star rating.

The pacing was strong and steady. What made this even better was that a lot of the plot development happened through various conversations Luigi Berté had with hotel staff, guests, and other people who spent a lot of time near the deceased. This is not an easy thing to pull off, so I wanted to make note of the author’s accomplishment here. He did a good job with what can sometimes be a tricky method of revealing new information to the readers.

Double Murder at the Grand Hotel Miramare kept me guessing.

Serenade of Solitude by Asif Hossain

Serenade of Solitude by Asif Hossain
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In the idyllic coastal town of Portofino, Italy, where azure waters meet picturesque landscapes, an introverted post-teen named Firo found solace in solitude. The enchanting harmony of nature and the tranquility of his own company were all he ever desired. At the tender age of 19, Firo had become well acquainted with loneliness, drifting through life with a longing for connection he couldn’t quite fulfill. His life takes an unexpected turn as he encounters a captivating young woman named Anna on a rainy evening.

Love can sneak up on a person at any age.

The descriptions in this novella were vivid and beautiful. Sometimes reading it felt like watching a movie because of how effortless it was for me to imagine everything that was happening, from little moments like a character stepping outside into a clean, glittering world just after a rainstorm ended to scenes that changed the course of the plot forever. There clearly had been a lot of effort put into these passages, and they paid off nicely.

With that being said, I struggled with the slow storyline. So much attention was paid to describing the settings that there wasn’t as much space left over for plot development as I would have liked to see. Sometimes this made it hard for me to remain as interested in the characters as I was in the beginning.

Firo was an interesting and self-aware protagonist. I appreciated the fact that he knew what his flaws were and tried to correct them. That’s a difficult thing for anyone to do, especially someone who is nineteen years old and sometimes acts younger than his chronological age. I found myself wishing I could speed ahead in his life by a few decades to see how much insight he gained about his strengths and weaknesses when he was middle aged or even older than that. There was a lot of potential for growth with him, although I was satisfied with what the author shared at this point in this character’s life as well.

Serenade of Solitude was peaceful.

The Little Things by M. Jean Pike

The Little Things by M. Jean Pike
Publisher: White Rose Publishing, Pelican Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Inspirational
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

A decade ago, Rochelle Delany made a decision that changed her life forever.
Wanting more than just football games and potluck suppers, she boarded a bus for California and didn’t look back. But instead of a glamorous life, she became trapped in a nightmare of labor trafficking. Now, she’s made a daring escape and returns home to Ohio.

Sandy Fairbrother has a problem with trust.
Twice betrayed, he now puts his faith only in God. He’ s a single dad doing his best to grow his construction business and raise his young son. But haunted by an impulsive kiss Rochelle gave him fifteen years ago, her unexpected return has him rethinking things. He’ s been given a second chance to win her heart. And this time, he plans to succeed.

Rochelle barely remembers Sandy, but she’s drawn to his goodness. But just when she thinks she’s found peace, her past catches up with her, and she finds herself in danger of losing the only safe haven she’ s ever known.

Returning home to a small down in Ohio isn’t Rochelle’s first choice, and things quickly take a surprise turn!

I loved reading Ro and Sandy’s story! They live in a small town, giving the story that fun small-town charm, while keeping me glued to the pages with plenty of surprises! Sandy is a great character, and a wonderful father. I adored seeing him with Jace his young son, and seeing Jace with Gus! Gus is a bulldog and the bond Jace shares with him in this story is precious!

While this is a fun small town read, it does deal with the tough topics, include labor trafficking and broken families. I enjoyed seeing how the author wove these difficult yet daily issues into the story. It worked well in this one, and as Ro’s story unfolds I found myself drawn into the story more with each new twist! Author M. Jean Pike does a good job of talking about difficult issues with finesse and tact, keeping it subtle and with minimal detail will still alerting readers to the situation. I appreciated her efforts to both bring awareness to these issues while still providing readers with a clean and delightful read!

The romance was also wholesome and heartwarming in this one! It isn’t easy for either of them to trust after the bad hand life has dealt them, so seeing Sandy and Rochelle both overcome there past mistakes and betrayals, learning to work together. Their relationship is sort of a second chance romance, paired with the ‘girl-who-got-away’, so I enjoyed seeing them reunite early on the the story, and loved getting Sandy’s side of things, and especially loved seeing how he regarded his feelings for Jace when considering pursuing a relationship, wanting to be sure Jace has a good life as well. The blooming relationship in the story is a sweet one, and I enjoyed getting to meet these characters!