Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford


Caves in the Rain by Bob Bickford
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (259 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Mike Latta can’t forgive himself for the death of his daughter. It was a freak accident, but fathers should protect little girls from the bad things that can hurt them. He didn’t, and a descent into divorce and the bottle has gotten rid of every happy ending he ever hoped for.

A year of solitude on an island in northern Hollow Lake, away from the booze and the reminders of grief, may be the last chance he has. There’s more than peace and quiet on the lake though, because the ghosts of a long-ago murder haunt Echo Island. If Mike can’t figure out what the ghosts want from him, it may cost another little girl her life.

This story begins with a young boy setting his mother’s bed on fire and killing her. It’s easy to tell this read has a wicked character in it. He’s a bit like a chameleon and doesn’t show his true colors often.

A recently divorced male comes to town ready to settle on an abandoned island. His daughter died and it tore his marriage apart. His wife gave him the island and he plans to try to get himself together there. The only problem is that the island has ghosts. And the ghosts follow him…

Murder surfaces several times in this story. If you have a man who has no guilt, no conscience and a volatile temper that’s a very bad combination.

Mike tries to avoid the ghosts. He doesn’t recognize them as such when he first sees them but when he gets accused of acting wildly and talking to himself by his pickup, he realizes nobody else sees them. They pester him. And one day he finally understands why.

The story moves right along and has lots of action. The killer is someone easy to hate. He also has lived in the community long enough everyone believes his side of the story. That makes it hard when a ghost has told you how they got that way. Who believes in ghosts? And how do you solve a ten year old murder?

The ending was a bit abrupt and seemed a bit false but sometimes life is strange. Nobody that evil should have survived so long…

A Kiss In The Dark by Shelby Morgen


A Kiss In The Dark by Shelby Morgen
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal play, Spanking (very light)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Stranded. Nothing to warm her but the heat of his body. A stranger, holding her in the dark. She wanted things she had no right to even imagine. Ever since she’d taken The Purity Test on line the questions have been nagging her.
Have you ever had sex on the first date?

Had sex with someone whose name you did not know?

Had sex with someone whose face you never saw?

Had sex with someone where there was an age difference of more than 20 years?

No. Not her. She hadn’t done anything. Ever. Until the storm of the century dropped her in the arms of a stranger. Now she can’t get him out of her mind…

One dark and rainy night Jen had been completely daring. She’d thrown caution to the wind and allowed herself to be seduced by a complete stranger – no names, no exchange of details, no glimpses of his face and absolutely no regrets. Tom has been a widower for quite some time, so when Jen takes his hand in the dark he’s more than happy to follow her lead. Can they both find something they’re desperately looking for?

I found this to be a fun and romantic short story. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot-thread of the Purity Test running through the story and also enjoyed the slight differences to Tom’s character (being both an actor and quite a bit older than the standard hero I read about). I was a little disappointed in that I personally felt there were a few other plot aspects that were skimmed over a little bit – such as Tom getting back into his acting after a period of grieving for his dead wife. Admittedly this is a very short story and I can completely appreciate how the author probably didn’t have the time or word-count to go into depth on every little thing. I was actually exceptionally pleased with how Jen reacted to Tom’s career – but I couldn’t help but feel it was written as almost an afterthought, being just a few paragraphs right at the very end of the story.

I loved the characters in this story though. Both Jen and Tom felt realistic to me – with normal problems, worries and relatable lives. I found myself very quickly attached to them both and invested in their getting together and rooting for them to build a lasting relationship. As a happy, sexy and quick read this story really did cover almost everything I could want. The sex was hot and explicit without being over-the-top or unbelievable. I really enjoyed this and will happily look for more books by this author.

At Last in Laguna by Claire Marti


At Last in Laguna by Claire Marti
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (160 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Alyssa Morgan has secretly been in love with her older brother Nick’s best friend, Brandt Dempsey, since she was an awkward, lonely teenager. When she catches the bouquet at Nick’s wedding, she throws caution to the wind and propositions Brandt to a two-week fling. He’s tried to ignore how Alyssa has blossomed into a strong, talented, gorgeous woman because as his best friend’s baby sister, she’s off limits.

After they share a mind-blowing kiss, Brandt struggles to fight their undeniable chemistry. His tragic childhood scarred him, but he pushes it deep inside, only allowing the world to see a wealthy, carefree entrepreneur. Forced to work together on Brandt’s latest charitable venture, Brandt and Alyssa’s passion cannot be denied. Alyssa knows he’s the one. Can she convince him they belong together?

Readers are intrigued right from the very start of At Last in Laguna. We cannot help but wonder exactly what has gone on before…and where on earth could this relationship be going?

The mention about how to find a ‘happily ever after?’ seems insane: Alyssa and Brandt don’t seem to be heading to any such ending. They can barely be in the same room together.

Brandt…oh she is so bitter about Brandt!

This is a twist on love-at-first-sight: More like, love at first kiss. Or would it be second? And can it be love? There is rejection, unrequited emotion, the desperate empty feeling of non-passion; who cannot relate? We cannot guess where this fast-paced and emotional start will bring these two. At Last in Laguna is entirely unpredictable.

I didn’t care for the changes in point-of-view, not because they weren’t well-written, but because it left no air of mystery on either side. Seeing both sides did not add to the plot, although I can’t say (for sure) that it detracted, either.

The powerful physical scenes would be enough to drum up fans regardless of the rest of the storyline; yet this is also well done, with influential secondary characters and a meaningful backdrop. There are a number of ups and downs, revealing more and more about each of our main characters; Brandt and Alyssa.

Powerful characters and an unusual conundrum plus plenty of hot action make this a top choice read for any romance fan.

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Peck Of Pickles by Lena Austin


Peck Of Pickles by Lena Austin
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (28 pgs)
Other: M/M/M, Ménage, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Linc Halberg needed to get his cucumbers preserved using the county extension office facilities. The agent Pol Backstrom and the new scientist Marc O’Neil have had their eye on Linc and his farm for some time. Suddenly, there’s more going on in the back room than making a peck of pickles, and Linc’s in a pickle of a different kind. Summer in their tiny town may never be the same.

In the tiny farming township of Epping, Linc has had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year – enough that he’s actually booked the County Extension office and hired the preservation room for a day. He needs to pickle a peck of his cucumbers and the small setup in his home just won’t cut it this time. Pol, the distractingly handsome county worker is being visited by a new Doctor doing research in the small town. Linc can tell Marc and Pol are cooking something up, but he’s not quite sure what it is.

I found this to be a really fun short story. I loved the old-school, country town feel of it and found it to be quite realistic. Linc is pretty cautious – knowing that in the small town being gay is not necessarily a good thing or welcome from the few other residents. His reticence in saying anything, even when Pol and Marc lay out quite a few clues was completely understandable to my mind. The three men, however, are smoking hot once they finally get all on the same page and I really loved watching them all come together.

For such a short story quite a large amount of the story is the lead-up to the romance and introduction to the characters. I actually didn’t mind this as it really helped set the scene for me and it gave me a really good feel for all three men before they jumped to the sexy action – but I could understand if some other readers might feel the sexy-action part of the story got a bit of a short shrift because of this lead-up. The plot itself was fairly brief, but I found it quite interesting and while short – intelligent and logical.

All in all, I felt this was a really great short story and one that was deeply satisfying to read.

Trouble My Bones by L. Joseph Shosty


Trouble My Bones by L. Joseph Shosty
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (115 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In a magical land where demons walk and assassination is exalted as a moral enterprise, Elihu the Poisoner must defend a gentle innkeeper from a gang of cutthroats with only tradition and etiquette as weapons.

On Planet Whiskey, a train rockets towards the northern pole. Onboard, five men play a game of poker, but this is only the beginning of a breathtaking journey into a world of corrupt businessmen, hapless ice harvesters, and the wise, world-weary men in the middle, torn between doing what is right and playing along with an immoral system to get a bigger piece of the post-Earth dream.

A couple of cowboys running a herd to Fort Smith, Arkansas pause in the untraveled wilds to offer tribute to a mysterious creature, and in doing so anger malevolent forces which lurk there.
Trouble My Bones…

A dazzling masterpiece of storytelling, this collection contains ten of L. Joseph Shosty’s best stories. Here, you’ll find pulpy adventure yarns and quieter, more introspective pieces alike, all with Shosty’s unique blend of humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Just because a place looks quiet and ordinary doesn’t mean it won’t surprise you if given the chance.

The main character in “An Incident in Cain’s Mark” travelled to a small town in order to settle the estate of his uncle. Cain’s Mark was no ordinary town, though, and he soon realized that something dangerous happened there after dark every night. The narrator spent a generous amount of time setting the scene before anything out of the ordinary began to occur, so I felt like I’d gotten to know him and the strange community he was visiting well. Knowing that something was terribly wrong there without having any clue what it might be only made me more curious to read more.

One of the few tales in this collection that needed more development was “Crippled Sucker.” The plot followed a group of people playing a high-stakes game of poker while they discussed business deals on an alien planet. I found it difficult to keep track of all of the characters, especially once they started talking about other characters who weren’t in the room. It would have been nice to have more clues about who was who and how they all knew each other. With that being said, the storyline itself was well done and I did enjoy it overall.

“Zombie Love Song” showed what happened after humans found themselves in a long, bloody war with zomboes, which is the name the characters in this universe gave to zombies. The narrator was someone who had trouble adjusting to ordinary life after seeing and participating in so much violence. One of the things I liked the most about his storytelling was how blasé he was about things that would terrify the average person. I didn’t have to be told he’d been permanently changed by his experience. Little details like this were more than enough to show his devastation, and that made his tale impossible to put down.

Trouble My Bones was a solid collection of imaginative science fiction stories. I’d strongly recommend it to everyone who is a fan of this genre.

Justice for Violet by Maia Dylan


Justice for Violet by Maia Dylan
Retribution, Book 1
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (113 Pages)
Other Content: M/F/M, M/F, Menage, Anal Play/Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

There’s a war being fought on the streets of Chicago between an organized crime syndicate and a feline shifter pride resolute to stop them. Mason and Jacob Williams are Leopard shifters in the Black Ridge pride, fighting to protect the city they call home and avenge the loss of two of their own.

The shifters are sent to look for a woman their Alpha believes can help them. Thinking she’s in danger, they rush in to rescue her only to discover that Violet Riccitelli is not a woman in need of any assistance. While she’s kicking the ass of three potential attackers, they recognize her as their mate, the one they must protect above all else.

Violet is known to the people of Chicago as someone they can rely on to help when things get bad. But Violet sees herself as a woman out for justice against the man who took everything from her twelve years ago.

Can Mason and Jacob convince their mate that a future with them is worth risking everything, or will Violet’s need to see justice served end their chance before it’s begun?

I was smiling by the end of the first chapter because of Violet.

Wow…. It has been a long time since I have read a novel where the female character was self sufficient in and out of violent situations. I will try not to go into much detail but the first chapter started with Violet beating the daylights of some gangsters and having fun doing it. 😀 I am all for female characters like this, but this was not the only reason for me falling in love with these characters. Mason and Jacob were understanding and patient with her. That, for me, was rare since in some of these shifter books, the passion and the chemistry outweighs everything else.

From the get go, I realized she is a tough woman with a past. She holds grudges easily and harbors a lot of guilt. I wasn’t sure if the bond between Mason, Violet & Jacob would be permanent. Will Violet trust her mates and let them in or push them aside?

Mason and Jacob highlight the importance of mates in various parts of the book quite often. So much so that I was kind of annoyed by the repetition. As the story progressed, I was able ot look beyond this quibble. I should mention there is a lot of violence in this book. Be prepared. For me, though, book was worth it. I could not put it down.

Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton


Little Girl Gone by Margaret Fenton
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (254 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Claire Conover is back in the sequel to Little Lamb Lost. She has taken a 13-year-old girl into custody after she is found sleeping behind a grocery store. The girl’s murdered mother is found at a construction site owned by a family friend, then the girl disappears. Her mother worked in an illegal gambling industry in Birmingham. Things only get more complicated from there. Is it possible the girl pulled the trigger? She doesn’t have a lot of street smarts, so where could she have run? Claire has to find the answers, and the girl, fast.

She works for the county child welfare division. It’s the beginning of a new school year and she knows her workload will pick up. Teachers see a lot more than they should on the line. They report injuries and she must intercede and get the child help. She gets a phone call about a young girl found sleeping in a box outside. The girl won’t tell them anything…

The first thing Claire does is try to get the girl to talk. All she gets is a name. She is lucky that the home she wants to place her in has an opening. This lady is sincere and helps the children get off to better start in life. The only problem is that as soon as she’s been fed and cleaned up, the girl skips. Then they find out her mother is dead. Did the girl kill her?

The social worker keeps trying to trace her. She meets a lot of volatile people, visits homes she wouldn’t want to live in, finds abuse in other places, and she keeps closing in on the girl. However, will she get there before the killer does?

This is a hard look at family dynamics and expectations. Children experiment, children rebel and children defy. Not all parents react the same way. Some hurt their children in their frustration. That’s inexcusable but it happens. You can tell the author has worked in social work because she’s very honest and believable as you read the story. It flows well and she keeps your mind going trying to figure out what happened before the end.

Free To Run by BA Tortuga


Free To Run by BA Tortuga
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (53 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When forest ranger Gil gets the call that a rabid wolf is roaming his territory, he figures it’s just another stray coyote. Instead, he finds Rafe, a skinny, worn wolf shifter who also happens to be Gil’s lost mate. Gil thought Rafe was dead, killed by hunters years ago, so finding Rafe alive, if not well, comes as quite a shock.

Rafe never thought he would escape the compound where the crazy bastards who were trying to reform shifters held him. With a little luck and a lot of help, he’s made his way back to Gil, who he never forgot, no matter what those men did to him. The problem is, he’s not sure Gil knows what to do with a beat up former lover.

Gil and Rafe have to work together to recapture what was lost, and maybe find something new.

Gil can hardly believe it when a “rabid wolf” was called in to him. He’d been expecting to find some poor coyote, lost and alone, not Rafe, his mate whom Gil had thought long-killed by a hunter. Clearly starved and half-dead, Gil has no idea what has happened to Rafe, but now he’s found his mate again, Gil is determined to make it right.

This is a very sweet, slightly sad story that I really enjoyed. Definitely full of hurt/comfort style of plotline I instantly fell in love with Rafe – almost broken but still strong and firm in his own way. My heart broke for how Rafe had needed to build certain aspects of himself up and hide others, but it was delightful to watch him and Gil reconnect and be able to enjoy their love once more.

This is the second story in this particular series that I’ve read and I’m deeply curious about one of the secondary characters, Abby, and the crazy cult that she is trying to rescue the captives from. It’s clear her story-arc is kind of the glue keeping all the other stories held together and I’m quite curious what happens next in the arc. I was very pleased, though, that Rafe and Gil’s storyline is complete and so there’s no real need to read the series in order – though I expect the small snippets of Abby and the weird cult torturing these poor wolves would make more sense when the books are read in sequence.

I enjoyed how Rafe and Gil’s storyline wasn’t simply recovering from his release – but also how some of the plot focused on their relationship and working out some of their problems. This made it feel far more realistic to me and not simply a “kidnap and release” story but one of their relationship as a whole. I found the sex both hot and also remarkably sweet – the love they shared was deep and strong and I really fell in love with these two characters.

A wonderful, romantic and sweet story that I greatly enjoyed.

Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith


Hear Me Roar by Joy Smith
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (273 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Jan Simmons never expected trouble to move into her quiet Charming Way cul-de-sac. Nor did she expect her husband Jeff’s weakness for fast money to drag their once happy family into danger.

When her husband turns to crime, Jan, a people-pleaser with little self-worth, must release the death grip she has on her failing marriage for the sake of her children and draw on her inner strength.

As Jan fights to free her family from a web of lies and deceit she also battles to save herself.

Life can give us the unexpected, but when your husband turns to living a life breaking the law what does a wife do? Jan Simmons has a lot she is dealing with. It’s hard when her husband Jeff, the breadwinner of the household, lost his job and has to take a lesser paying job. I am not sure if the loss of his job ignited this change for the worst in Jeff, but this is the path he is traveling…a bickering, cheating drunk. Jeff is a character that I found very unlikeable. His priorities never seemed to be on his family and as the story goes on he gets caught up in a web of a mess and loses all sight of being a family man.

I enjoyed the author’s style of writing, but the story starts out slow. There wasn’t anything exciting about the life of a stay-at-home mom tending to kids, baking and conversations with other stay-at-home moms.The lack-luster husband who shows signs of a second life helped give the story something to look forward to. It’s a predictable story that was drawn out too long.

The new neighbor to Charming Way, Frank Carlucci (Digiorno) brought interest to the storyline but left me wondering why did he only have one card game at his house and why did he let Jeff accrue such a debt which in turn set the stage for Jeff to veer down his path of lawlessness.

Even though the story told of mafia behavior with drug dealing and kidnapping there wasn’t really any action. The story tells of a kidnapping but doesn’t show the events. I would have liked to have read the action. There were more details shared on the mom’s day than there were on the action details that must have taken place during the kidnapping and the trouble Jeff was involved in.

Jan didn’t start out as a strong woman but she eventually saw she had to provide for her family and protect their lives from the life her husband started to bring home. I like that Jan is a survivor and a fighter. She always kept her children’s best interest in mind. Maybe her growth and strength is the reason behind the title. Jan evolves from a housewife to finding her footing to being a business owner and mom of two.

The story is well written. It shows the courage of a woman taking charge of her life and the livelihood of her family. If you enjoy reading stories of women and their growth into a strong lioness be sure not to miss Hear Me Roar.

Like Statues by S. Rose


Like Statues by S. Rose
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (14 pages)
Other: F/F, Fetish
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Like most girls, I have a secret or two. One of those secrets just happens to be a fixation with statues.

My tendencies go largely unnoticed, until one night when Valerie, my boss, catches me alone with a company-owned statue.

Confessions ensue, and sparks fly.

Almost nobody can keep a secret forever, especially when it’s about their deepest desires.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale was its descriptions of what it’s like to live in a small town and not fit into the culture there. The author did a wonderful job of showing how lonely that experience can be, especially for people who think they’ll never meet anyone in their rural community who is sympathetic. Understanding this was an important part of understanding why Melanie, the main character, decided to hide her statue fetish so well from everyone she worked with. I was glad that so much attention was paid to this part of the plot because of this.

The chemistry between Melanie and Valerie never felt right to me. While they shared similar sexual tastes, they didn’t have much else in common. As much as I wanted to root for them to end up together, it would have been nice to have a few more reasons to hope for that kind of ending. There simply wasn’t enough information about what kind of people they were and why they’d be good for each other for me to make up my mind about that.

The dialogue was nicely written. There were times when it made me giggle in a good way because of how dramatic Melanie could be when things weren’t exactly going her way. This definitely wasn’t something I was expecting to find in an erotic tale, but it was a nice addition to the storyline. I also enjoyed seeing how things between her and Valerie played out once Valerie realized what was happening in the sculpture garden.

I’d recommend Like Statues to anyone who is in the mood for a short, steamy read.