The Color of Death by Elizabeth Lowell

The Color of Death by Elizabeth Lowell
Rarities Unlimited, Book 4
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The name Elizabeth Lowell has become synonymous with electrifying fiction that seamlessly combines suspense, intrigue, and passion. And now the phenomenal New York Times bestselling author brilliantly displays her incomparable talents in a story of treachery, greed, conspiracy, and murder that will hold the reader spellbound until the final word.

It is the opportunity of a lifetime for Kate Chandler, the chance to cut seven rare, priceless sapphires and solidify her reputation as a world-class jewel cutter. But something goes horribly, tragically wrong during what should have been a simple transfer of goods. The sapphires vanish without a trace. Missing also is the man Kate trusted to transport the gems: her half brother, Lee, who now, quite possibly, is dead. And suddenly she is on the run, pursued by federal agents who suspect her of being the criminal mastermind of a cunning bait-and-switch scheme.

Special agent Sam Groves is one of the best of the best, an essential member of the FBI’s elite crime strike force and the perfect man to lead the hunt, since he could never be scammed by a beautiful confidence woman. But something is troubling about this assignment, because someone else is chasing Kate Chandler as well.

Only Kate suspects the awful truth: She’s unwittingly stumbled into a conspiracy of deceit, betrayal, and cold-blooded murder that goes far beyond a simple jewel heist. And a chilling, threatening voice on the telephone only confirms her worst suspicions. Getting Sam Groves, the FBI agent who’s her constant shadow, to believe her is a step in the right direction — but it may be one that’s too little too late in a bloody game where terror dictates her every move and the rules are constantly changing. Because the order has already been passed down to a ruthlessly efficient assassin: Kate Chandler must not be allowed to live …

Quick, hot and mysterious.

I already knew I liked the work of Elizabeth Lowell and am looking for more of her books. When I came across this one through a recommendation, I knew I had to read it. I’m glad I did. It moved along at a great clip and kept me involved throughout. I had to know what would happen next. I learned a bit through this story, too. I had no idea cutting stones was that involved. Holy moly.

I liked the connection between Kate and Sam, even if there were times I thought it came across a bit immature. For a guy who is at the top of his game, he seemed to get distracted rather quickly by her. Still, they had chemistry and I rooted for them to work out.

I liked that this wasn’t a cut and dry mystery. There were twists and turns I didn’t see coming and that definitely helped me enjoy the book more.

If you’re looking for a hot read with a good mystery, then this might be the read for you. Check it out.

The Duchess by Bertrice Small

The Duchess by Bertrice Small
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In this lush new novel, Bertrice Small has created a moving story of consuming passion and undeniable love set against the noble splendor of Georgian England. . . .

As the daughter of the richest man in England, Allegra Morgan attracts a number of fortune hunters willing to overlook her flawed pedigree to gain her enormous wealth. Her most ardent suitor is the arrogant but impoverished Quinton Hunter, duke of Sedgwick, who has little to offer a prospective wife except his grand title. Allegra decides that if she must marry, she might as well be a duchess. So she agrees to the match with one condition: her husband must never ask for her love. She has seen the misery love can cause and has vowed to give her heart to no man–especially a dangerously alluring duke.

Quinton is dazzled by his new wife’s grace and fortitude, as well as the fierce desire that rages between them. Despite his best intentions, he finds himself falling in love with her. Then the terrors of the French Revolution hit close to home, and the two of them set off on a treacherous adventure that could cost them everything . . . including their final chance at happiness.

She’s a spitfire and he’s penniless, but he’s got a title…it shouldn’t work, but it does.

I’ve not read any other works by Bertrice Small, so this was a new one for me. I’m glad I took the recommendation and chose this book. Allegra is full of fire and Quinton is hot. I liked the pairing between them because she’s not holding punches and he’s not about to fall in love. It’s a good stab at the ‘we won’t fall in love’ trope. The writing wasn’t as flowing as I’d have liked, but once I got into the story, I was hooked.

There were a few times when I had to put this one down. There are some vivid descriptions which are fantastic – the fabrics, the furnishings…wonderful. Then there were some that were a tad odd – her thick black eyebrows. It took me out of the story. I could see the characters but would’ve liked to have left that bit to the imagination, especially since it was something he thought was so attractive. Maybe it was me looking at the story through twenty-first century eyes, but it was odd.

Still, this was a good book and one I’d recommend if you’re wanting to get into the meatier books from the romance genre. This is one to learn from in terms of descriptions, pacing and unfolding of the story. There were times I didn’t like Allegra, but I respected her. That’s huge.

If you’re looking for a story that’s meaty, sweeping and old-school, then this might be the one for you.

*Second Chance Christmas by Alison Packard

*Second Chance Christmas by Alison Packard
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Struggling actress Maddie Hart is home for the holidays in her small town and comes face-to-face with the last man she wants to see—the one she abandoned four years ago when she ran off to chase her dreams.

Police Sergeant Ben Ashford had an engagement ring in his pocket the night Maddie blindsided him. He doesn’t expect the gut punch of seeing her again or that she’d reignite feelings he’d thought long buried.

Ben’s not about to get tangled up with a woman who’ll just run again, but Maddie has never stopped thinking about him. Can she trade the bright lights of Hollywood for the twinkling Christmas lights of her hometown and a second chance at love?

I loved everything about Second Chance Christmas. It’s a wonderfully written Christmas story set in the small town of Summerwood, Oregon. The characters are likable and easy to connect with and I loved the small town feel of this story.

Maddie, a struggling actress trying to make it in L. A. returns home to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with her family. She hasn’t seen Ben in four years, since she broke up with him to pursue her dreams. Ben, a Sergeant with the Summerwood police now has never forgotten Maddie and is surprised to see her again.

I loved reading this enchanting story. The characters are believable and easy to connect with and they share a lot of chemistry. This perfect Christmas story is full of wonderful surprises.

The Peninsula by Amy Craig

The Peninsula by Amy Craig
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Hadley lost her sister to cancer. When an explosion puts her in the middle of a family squabble, Johann asks for a week of discretion to protect his brother. Torn between her research and the loneliness in his gaze, she agrees, but family dynamics upend her understanding of loyalty.

Hadley has come to a breakthrough moment in her research, but all of a sudden everyone is taking a more active interest in it. Her mentor is all for having his nephew financially back it, which Hadley’s not at all sure about. She is much more altruistic and doesn’t want to be indebted to someone who might want to monetize it. Then her mentor is killed by a mail bomb, and suddenly Hadley is questioning everything and everyone she knows – and this is when this story really takes off.

I loved the premise of this story. I liked the chemistry between Hadley and Johann. The mystery was good and keeps the reader guessing. The secondary characters added a lot to the story and give you another look at Johann and his life.

At first, Hadley drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand her reluctance at getting with the program. Even after she realized she was in danger, she was bound and determined to do it her own way. Because of her past, she had had to develop a single-focus in her life, so it was part of her, but it still made me want to shake her.

This is the first book I’ve read by Amy Craig, but I’ll be looking out for more. I really enjoyed her writing style. Great job!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Storm Warning by Alex Winters

Storm Warning by Alex Winters
Publisher: Luminosity Publishing
Genre: LGBTQ, Erotic Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The only force stronger than the approaching hurricane was their hidden desire for one another…

Beck Carlson is prepping for the approaching storm when a random voice offers to help. Beck is more than surprised. After all, he thought he was alone in the Purple Pelican condos, everyone else having evacuated in the advance of Hurricane Ellen. Instead, a handsome ginger waif, Ford Wilson, pokes his head out of his front door, limping along in a big plastic boot after a recent skateboard accident. Bruised and battered, he’s been unable to prep for the hurricane.

A native Floridian who’s seen his share of storms, Beck takes pity on the sexy skater boy, sharing his own hurricane supplies and showing him the ropes as Ford hunkers down for his first Category 3 storm. After the two part ways for the duration, Beck feels bad, returning with fresh supplies and offering to weather the storm in Ford’s condo. A nervous Ford gratefully accepts, locking them both inside for a whirlwind romance as intense as the approaching storm, and just as dangerous…

A storm? Nothing outruns a storm, except maybe love.

I’ve never read anything by Alex Winters and I’m glad I rectified that. This was a cute story with plenty of sizzle. I got right into the story and couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was right there with the characters while they dealt with the storm and the oncoming desire.

This is told from the first-person perspective, via Ford and Beck. It was nice to be in their POVs and know what they were thinking as they got to know each other. I’m not wild about first person, but in this story, it worked. They’re relatable characters–Ford being a bit of a klutz on his skateboard and green at riding out storms and Beck being the epitome of don’t-judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover. They’re book likable and fun. Plus, the steam between them is great.

I did have a few quibbles beyond this being in first person. With a little more editing, this could be a great story. There were a couple editing issues that took me out of the story but might not bother other readers.

All in all, this is a hot short story about two unlikely characters finding each other in the midst of a crazy situation and realizing they have a lot more in common than every believed. If you’re in the mood for something hot and short, then this is the book you’re looking for.

The Surprise by Treva Harte

The Surprise by Treva Harte
Soliciting a Lady, Book 4
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Holiday, Historical, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The present Earl of Northernly and his wife are waiting for Christmas and their new baby. But then the previous Earl’s wife returns with a child who may be the real heir. Can Cousin Sarah and William be in time to unravel this mystery?

Christmas time should be joyous for Kit Aldean, the new Earl of Northernly, and his wife, Emily. They will have a new child arriving for the new year. But to their surprise, they first get a Yuletide visitor — the previous Earl’s wife, who had vanished years ago. She presents them with a child who may be the real heir. Fortunately, their next visitors are Cousin Sarah and her husband, William. They’ve solved mysteries before, but can they manage this one in time?

Christmas time is the time for coming together and surprises?

This is a quick read, but if you’re a fan of Treva Harte – who isn’t? – then you need to read it. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for? This short story packs a wallop. There’s mystery, romance and holiday festivities. I loved it.

Kit and Emily are ready to be the heads of the household and can’t wait to welcome their first child. I love this kind of Christmas story because it’s full of hope. Then there’s the mystery of the wife of the former head. She’s thought to have disappeared.

I loved how this story had twists and turns which kept me on my feet. The writing plugged along well, and I couldn’t put this down. This isn’t a complicated story, but it’s one where you must pay attention. Those are my favorites. There’s heat, heart and holiday magic.

How can you go wrong? Give this story a try and check out the others in the series. I know I will be.

Dark Surrender by Morgan Welsh

Dark Surrender by Morgan Welsh
Book 1 in the Vampire’s Call Series
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Olivia Hargreaves had often fantasized about the man of her dreams. Little did she know he actually existed—and that he was a vampire.

Following a bad break-up and the need for a fresh start in her life, Olivia Hargreaves has moved from London to the US East Coast to be with her best friend. Now she has finally met the man of her dreams—literally.

Gabriel Langston, a vampire with the ability to get into the minds of humans has been entering her head and showing her the time of her life. When he turns up at the local bar she frequents, she is sure she must be losing it. Wealthy, powerful, commanding and impossibly handsome, Gabriel is different to any man she has ever known and there is no way she can resist the attraction.

And there is no way he will let her.

Dark, full of desire and wonderful.

I like a story I can, er…sink my teeth into. This is one of those stories. It’s long enough that it’s well developed, but short enough for a chilly night. The writing zipped along well, and I couldn’t get enough.

I liked Olivia because she’s every woman. She’s been through a rough time and wants things to level off. Then there are her dreams. Wooo doggie. Hot stuff. I loved when she’d see him that way. It made her relatable, in an odd way, because who hasn’t had dreams about a hot guy?

Gabriel is interesting because he’s a vampire and he’s devoted to her, but he’s also the dark, desirable package that’s rather standard in romance. It works and I like how the author used him.

If you’re looking for a hot read for a chilly night, then I suggest this one.

Mac of All Trades by Aurora Russell

Mac of All Trades by Aurora Russell
Minne-sorta Falling in Love, book 2
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

She thinks she might be losing her mind…but she knows she’s losing her heart.

Poised. Elegant. Lovely. The local press loves to write glowing stories about Lana Fitzhugh, the youngest sibling and only sister of the famous Minnesota Fitzhugh family. But Lana’s past holds secrets, pain and shame…so much that she’s unworthy of a relationship with any good man, especially her brother Fitz’s close friend Mac. Keeping her distance from him is the right thing to do, so why can’t she stop thinking about him?

Finally settling into his first new job after long months of recovery from a severe injury, when Joe ‘Mac’ MacKenzie meets Lana Fitzhugh, the former Navy pilot thinks things might finally be looking up for him. His friend’s little sister is gorgeous, kind and makes his heart and body come alive again. But after they share an explosive embrace, she pushes him away so hard he’s still reeling.

When tragedy plunges Lana into the unexpected role of guardian to a preschooler, odd coincidences begin to happen…and grow increasingly more sinister. As Lana begins to fear that she herself might be the source of the danger, Mac doesn’t hesitate to return to help her. The only thing better than the joy they discover as a makeshift family is the passion they find in each other’s arms, but the unknown menace still grows closer every day. Will they be able to move beyond the past to grab for a future together?

Two people better together.

I love a good story featuring characters that belong together. This is one of those stories. Aurora Russell always writes captivating characters and this pair was no different. I couldn’t put the book down and had to know what would happen next. I haven’t read the first book in this series, but I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything.

I liked that Lana feels human–meaning she thinks she’s got flaws. She can sometimes be a bit over the top about that, but it’s relatable. She feels her past isn’t what it could be. I liked that she was normal (as normal as can be). I also liked Mac. He’s so devoted and he’s the quintessential romance hero. He steps in when he needs to and he gives her space to do her thing. I liked their interplay together.

This was a whirlwind feeling book, with lots of stuff going on, but it’s good stuff. I won’t give away spoilers, but it’s a great ride.

If you’re looking for a hot read with a twist of suspense and a preschooler, then this is the book for you.

The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven by Jennifer Ivy Walker

The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

In this dark fairy tale adaptation of a medieval French legend, Issylte must flee the wicked queen, finding shelter with a fairy witch who teaches her the verdant magic of the forest. Fate leads her to the otherworldly realm of the Lady of the Lake and the Elves of Avalon, where she must choose between her life as a healer or fight to save her ravaged kingdom.

Tristan of Lyonesse is a Knight of the Round Table who must overcome the horrors of his past and defend his king or lose everything. When he becomes a warrior of the Tribe of Dana, a gift of Druidic magic might hold the key he seeks.
Haunted and hunted. Entwined by fate. Can their passion and power prevail?

Tristan and Iseult/Issylte has always been a favourite of mine.

When I read the blurb for this book, I knew I had to give it a go. What I got was so much more than I expected! It is a mixture of a well-known Arthurian story with Snow White, sprinkled with some Marian Zimmer Bradley feelings.

You definitely get both sides of the story with Tristan and Issylte having their own chapters. What I loved is that they have their own lives before they meet each other. In fact, part of Issylte’s life may impact the future stories, so I can’t wait to see if it does. It isn’t all sweetness and light either. The author describes the hardship of war, of those who pay the cost even if they’ve never lifted a sword. I loved the fantasy aspect with the Tribe and Avalon.

You have so much information given to you in this story and yet I was definitely left wanting more when I had finished. An excellent start to the series and I look forward to reading more. Absolutely recommended by me.

On Common Ground by Mina Jane Madeley

On Common Ground by Mina Jane Madeley
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

He’s thin-skinned and stubborn… But she won’t get kicked out without a fight!

After six years in Paris, thirty-four-year-old investment banker Adrian Hensley returns to San Francisco, engagement broken and ego wounded. His hope for some peaceful solitude is shattered when he finds a stranger subletting his home without his knowledge. The pretty brunette would be the embodiment of his sexy secretary fantasy, if it weren’t for her feisty temper and her tendency to get him worked up…in more ways than one.

Eva Duncan, a legal secretary with a knack for finance, makes a point of remaining independent. No man will ever decide her fate—not again. When Adrian comes barging into her quiet life, old childhood wounds reopen, and she won’t get kicked out of her home. At least, not without a fight. Yet, standing her ground proves to be tricky for Eva in front of a handsome, too-often-half-naked Adrian.

Between her tenacity and his arrogant façade, Eva and Adrian jump from one misunderstanding to the next, making their forced cohabitation as explosive as their attraction. How long will it take for them to learn that the “right decisions” are not always those which lead to happiness?

Two opposites who shouldn’t attract sure do!

I like enemies to lovers books and this one initially ticked the boxes for me. It’s cute, there’s a misunderstanding and the writing is good. I mean, I flew through the book. It was fun. Adrian has some serious issues and Eva is well…Eva. They shouldn’t work, but I liked when they did.

There were moments when this book fell a bit flat for me. The pacing was a tad fast and at times came across as almost hard to believe. Adrian’s anger was a tad much, too. I get that he’s been through the wringer, but I wanted to see a little more reason why he flew off the handle that much or at least grovel more afterward.

Still, it’s a cute book and the connection is certainly deep. If you’re looking for a cute book with a romantic twist, then this might be the one for you.