The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper

The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper
Fairview Chronicles, book 9
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Aaron has come to Fairview to find his ex’s teenage sister, who went missing in the city. As a witch both rich and powerful, Aaron follows a trail that leads him to a bar frequented by supernaturals and to a bartender who attracts Aaron’s attention — and not just because the bartender is keeping something from Aaron. When Aaron runs out of leads, he follows the mysterious and pretty bartender, and the next thing Aaron knows, he’s foiling an attempted abduction.

Ilya has built a quiet life in Fairview mixing drinks and flying under the radar. He is a banshee, and the psychic ability and mild telepathy that comes with that makes Ilya a sought-after commodity. That carefully constructed life Ilya built for himself breaks into a thousand pieces when a handsome witch starts asking questions and becomes Ilya’s rescuer mere hours after they meet.

The witch, Aaron, vows to protect Ilya and to keep his secret. Now Ilya has to decide whether he will give Aaron his trust and risk a lonely but safe life as a night bartender in a wintry city in which people disappear only to then turn up murdered.

Two men who probably shouldn’t mix are just what the doctor ordered.

I love a good Alexa Piper story and this one delivered. The characters are quirky, the story hot and the chemistry off the charts. I devoured this story in one sitting and couldn’t wait to get to the rest in this series. The pacing was great and though this is book 9, I didn’t feel lost by not reading the others.

I liked the way the tension and action carried the story. Yes, there is heat between Aaron and Ilya, but they have a job to do, too. It was fun to read about them getting together and their exploits.

If you want a good story for a lazy afternoon or one guaranteed to heat up the night, then this is the one you’re looking for. Recommended.

Wolf Heart by Dorian Flynn

Wolf Heart by Dorian Flynn
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ, Paranormal
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

It’s been years since Elias has seen his childhood rival and friend Julian. The last time they were together, Elias kissed him, sending Julian running away. And by morning, he was gone. Since then, Elias has kept his secret close to his chest, hoping Julian would do the same.

But Julian is back now, and simultaneously a string of mysterious animal attacks have struck the town, rousing superstitions about a Beast that swept through before Elias was even born. A Beast that was only stopped by Elias’s grandmother.

Elias may have been keeping his own secret, but as he and Julian reconnect, what secrets will he discover about Julian’s family…or his own?

Two men, one love and a lot of secrets!

I picked this book up because the premise caught my attention. These two men long for each other, but there’s a problem. Elias thinks they can’t be together. There are a lot of reasons, and they unfold slowly in this story.

I liked the character of Elias. He’s sweet and unsure, but in a good way. This story is told from his point of view and can be a tad stilted at times, but the reader is in Elias’s head the whole time, so in a way it makes sense.

Something that stuck with me and wasn’t my cuppa was the pacing. This story is full of tension, but in spots it drags. I put it down a few times and had a hard time coming back. I’m glad I finished it, but it was a bit of a chore at times. I had a few questions that never got answered and I would’ve liked to have seen things from Julian’s point of view, but all in all, it worked.

Still, I liked the characters, and I loved the women in the family. They’re strong and positive forces, which was good in this story.

If you’re looking for something a little offbeat and something different, then this might be the story for you.

Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen

Death is a Many-Splendored Thing by David Neilsen
Publisher: Neilsen Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The world would be a lot better off if all the dead people would stop pretending they weren’t dead.

My name is Zachariah Thornwood, but everyone, even my parents, calls me Zack. A few months ago I was a normal fourteen year old kid obsessed with movies and baseball and girls. Not necessarily in that order. And now?

Now I live life with the knowledge that there are a ton of dead people running around thumbing their noses at the whole idea of the Circle of Life. They could be anyone: the postman, the Mayor, the kid bagging your groceries, or the weather woman on TV. They seem perfectly normal, act perfectly normal, live perfectly normal lives, but are, in fact, perfectly dead…

Not everything in this world is what it immediately appears to be.

Zach was an interesting and memorable main character who genuinely felt like a moody teenage boy. I’m saying that affectionally as I liked him quite a bit even when he was a little grumpy with the adults in his life who dared to ask him questions or wished to know where he was going late at night. These moments are a normal part of growing up for many teens, though, and I’m glad they were included so naturally here. He was a brave kid who enjoyed taking risks. Both of these traits served him well during his adventure.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning and the middle of the storyline. I found myself wishing for more conflict or plot twists during them. As much fun as it was to see Zach try to navigate normal activities like going to school after he learned how many dead people there were out there who were pretending to still be alive, this didn’t quite give me enough substance to work with. I think there was room for more development here, and I would have gone with a higher rating if it had been included.

Mr. Neilsen did a good job with the world building. He explained exactly what he needed to about this world in order for it to make sense for me as a reader, and the framework he set up made me yearn for more. For example, I’d love to know how the dead handle things like doctor’s appointments or going through airport security due to the many physiological differences between them and the living that can quickly become apparent with a body scan, x-ray, blood draw, or any other close attention paid to the topic. As this appears to be the beginning of a new series, I was glad to see how much space he left himself for the future as well. It will be exciting to see where he goes next.

I’d recommend Death is a Many-Splendored Thing to anyone who is in the mood for adventurous young adult fiction.

Heavenfield by LJ Ross

Heavenfield by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The hunter becomes the hunted…

When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects.

Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody wants Ryan’s name to be next on the coroner’s list and to survive he must unmask the devil who walks among them – before it is too late.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the devil looks just like everybody else…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit from LJ Ross, set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

When newly suspended DCI Ryan is found crouched over a recently murdered man, he is arrested, and things look dire. Ryan knows he must fight to clear his name, but the murdered man is an extremely close friend of Anna – Ryan’s girlfriend – and despite the fact he currently is suspended and not in a position to officially investigate Ryan can’t help himself. He needs answers and Ryan believes he is willing to face the consequences of getting them – and justice.

This is the third book in the DCI Ryan series by LJ Ross and while I enjoyed it, I have to be honest that I am starting to get tired of the shadowy sect “The Circle” that simmers below the surface of these first three books. While I feel the occult/pagan rituals and ties of the sect are interesting and they certainly add colour and flavour to the storyline, I personally feel I am ready to move on from this particular plot/sub-plot and I was hoping for a new, unconnected murder mystery. That said, I am hopeful the author may have wrapped things up enough in this book to move on to fresher ground for the next book in the series, so for now I’m willing to stick with it as the characters and writing are really quite good.

Readers may find that they need to start back at book 1 (Holy Island) and read at least these first three books in order. While there is plenty of explanation as to how DCI Ryan finds himself in his current predicament there is quite a bit of backstory around The Circle, the first murder victim and the connection to Anna that really needs the fuller explanation of the previous two books for the reader to fully grasp all the nuances of what’s going on. I have to admit had I picked up this book and simply read it by itself there are a number of factors and subtle connections that might have skipped my attention even with a very careful read of the story. I do feel these three books really need to be read together and in order for the fullest enjoyment to be reached.

I did greatly enjoy the authors writing style and feel the murder and mystery itself was very well handled, as well as some commendable tension of conflict surrounding DCI Ryan himself and his suspension from the police force. That was all very well written, and I found myself quickly sucked into the story as a whole. There is a small but solid group of main/secondary characters with Anna and the small police unit, and with a number of members of The Circle to add flair and tension there is a lot to commend to this book.

Readers who like a fair dollop of paranormal/cult like activity in with their British murder mysteries should find that this is a solid read and a good author to keep note of.

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands

Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands
Book 34: An Argeneau Novel
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The Argeneaus are back! Filled with love, passion, and adventure, New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands returns with another sexy romance about everyone’s favorite immortals.

Stephanie McGill was attacked and turned when she was just a teenager. Worse, her abilities are unlike any other immortal. Now 13 years later, with the help of her adopted Argeneau family, Steph has carved out a new – if not lonely – life for herself. Until a new neighbor arrives…

Thorne is also one-of-a-kind. The result of a genetic experiment, he’s not an immortal, but he’s not mortal either. He’s looking for a place to hide, to get some peace and quiet so he can figure things out, and Stephanie’s sanctuary is perfect. In fact, Stephanie is perfect. For the first time, Thorne is free to be himself and he’s falling for her.

But if they’re going to have a future together, they’ll first need to deal with their past…because the mad scientist who created Thorne is now after Stephanie.

I’ve been following this series for years and just when I think it might be running out of steam, Ms. Sands throws her fans a delightful, heart-pounding twist. Anyone who doesn’t know the story about the evil scientist named Dressler, and only bases their opinion on the cover, as delightful as it is, are in for a shock. There are no angels in this novel. There’s definitely evil though, and that’s the villain – the most twisted, immoral and cold scientist who makes Dr. Frankenstein seem like a nice guy. The drama, suspense, narrow escapes and dastardly doings are the plot movers and shakers in the novel, but Immortal Rising is foremost an awesome romance story between a couple that are as mismatched as can be.

Stephanie is an author and the stories she writes aren’t fiction, but they are so fantastical, everyone thinks they are. Pure genius. The heroine has a talent that is overwhelming – she hears people’s thoughts – everyone’s within a couple of miles of her location. Trying to stay sane with all that bombardment is a challenge which is why she lives out in the boonies. No one knows how bad it is because she keeps the worst of it all to herself. Readers get the full picture, and it makes her character one easy to feel sympathy for. She’s got the cutest pets and her relationship with them is charming and provide joy and happiness when things are tough for her. Stephanie has a sister whom she loves very much but things are not quite as smooth between them as her sister thinks. So much emotional angst eventually has to come out and get purged, which makes for some intense reading. Family dynamics can sometimes be sticky, but they can be hilarious and funny too.

Believe it or not, Thorne’s mom is a hoot. Thorne is the hero and he’s, well, I don’t know if I want to say. I mean, if a reader is delving into this book without having read the others, and I think it can be enjoyed that way, I don’t want to spoil what makes the hero so unique, challenging and thrilling. I looked at the blurb on the back cover, so I can say that Thorne is the result of genetic engineering by that madman, Dr. Dressler. When a reader gets to the part when Thorne and Stephanie discuss the possible DNAs that were used, it’s kind of funny at times but it’s also really, really cool. I can’t imagine the research Ms. Sands had to go through to discover the most obscure and fascinating traits she wanted her hero to have. Blew my mind.

As I mentioned earlier, family is an important factor not just in this book, but in the series as a whole. It’s one of reasons I have been hooked on this series for as long as I have. Once again Ms. Sands torments Lucian by making him talk. It was hysterical! Mr. Taciturn and grumpy actually has some moments that remind me why I like him so much, and why he’s one of the characters I respect the most. Still, it’s great when he’s teased, or when he is forced to come out of his shell. There are other family members that help out Stephanie and Thorne on their way to their happy ever after – no one ever has to go it alone in this story – someone is always there to have their back – if they get there in time. *grin*

Stephanie’s awe and delight in seeing Thorne in all his wonder was a thrilling scene. The descriptions of Thorne, and the heroine’s reactions were often funny, endearing and windows into the progression of the love growing between them. As with all the stories in the series, there comes the time when shared dreams and shared sensation overwhelm the two, proving that they are indeed perfect for each other. And though it’s sexy, it’s funny too, readers who look forward to those scenes won’t be disappointed. As for my opinion, Immortal Rising is heavy on plot, story, action and romance, and not overdone in the bedroom department. It’s just enough to give readers a well-rounded and perfect story.

I could go on and one because this large novel has so much written within its pages to keep a reader on their toes, entertained, thrilled and engaged. In fact, the action starts in the prologue, foreshadowing the confrontation that the heroine and hero eventually have to face. This book was awesome, fast-paced, exciting and all around awesome. I’m extremely happy for Thorne, that he finally gets to be truly happy, and Stephanie finds the peace and freedom she’s wished for, for over a decade. They are absolutely perfect for each other and I’m a happy, satisfied and thrilled reader who enthusiastically recommends this latest Argeneau novel to all Ms. Sands fans and lovers of paranormal romances. I am proud to add Immortal Rising to my keeper shelf.

Arcane Island by Angela Knight

Arcane Island by Angela Knight
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Dave Frost died in combat five years ago, but his soul survives, magically bonded to the body of his partner — a six-hundred pound tiger. Dave can conjure a human manifestation, but nobody treats him as a man anymore. Especially not women. Until he meets Ariel — his costar — while shooting a reality TV competition in the Bahamas. The show’s producers have assigned him to the beautiful witch for an onscreen showmance.

Ariel Piper’s talent is strong enough to turn the competition in their favor. Unfortunately, she also has a condition that makes using her magic agonizing. When they discover Dave’s touch kills the pain, he’s driven to help.

Their showmance soon becomes the real thing, though Dave fears she’ll dump him when the show wraps. Can Ariel convince this heroic, wounded man to trust her love — before the show comes to a lethal climax that’s not in the script?

A new world to me from a favourite author.

Angela Knight is a known author to me. I love her worlds that are always so clear and descriptive, making it easy to understand ‘the rules’. This world though was a new one to me. It is the third book in the series but is billed as a standalone. I have read it as such but am now left with a need to read the first two books in the series!

This story is based in a world where magic exists. There are witches, familiars, and Ferals. These are humans who bond with an animal, drawing on their strength. Dave is paired with Smiley when one of his teammates loses control. Dave dies of a broken neck but Smiley is not prepared to let him go. Instead, Dave’s spirit/soul/whatever you want to call it shares Smiley’s body. It usually happens the other way around as the animals don’t live as long as humans usually. This way isn’t unknown but it is rare, which leads to misunderstandings and ill-conceived notions.

Set on an island where a reality TV show is being filmed, you meet the team Dave and Ariel are on together, getting an in-depth understanding of his teammates and why they are competing. The bond between Dave and Ariel is real but Dave won’t put his weight behind it, fearing it is only short-term. Ariel has her hands full with trying to convince him her feelings won’t change and also keeping herself and her teammates alive.

This is another fantastic read by this author and one I have no hesitation in recommending.

Wolf Meets His Fate by N.J. Walters

Wolf Meets His Fate by N.J. Walters
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Orphaned at birth, Jesse is raised in the Louisiana swamp by powerful witch Lottie Broussard. Hated by her father and shunned by the pack that should be hers, she is forced to run for her life after Lottie’s death.

Searching for his life’s purpose, Aaron LaForge has left his pack and is living on a farm in West Virginia.

When their paths cross in a local bar, he sees it as fate. At first, he only wants to help but quickly realizes she’s his mate. Jesse isn’t ready or willing to trust anyone—let alone a male wolf. But Aaron is as stubborn as he is convincing. As their relationship heats up, the dangers around them mount. Can their love survive their fight to stay alive?

There’s no denying the Mate-Bond!

Jesse is on the run – not only from her father who wants to kill her but also from a group of human hunters. She has lived with a witch for the past twenty-five years, but now the witch is dead and Jesse must survive on her own. She has been on the run for a few months when she meets Aaron, who has bought Bailey’s farm and is living there to find himself. Well, the himself he was looking for was actually Jesse.

As with most paranormal books, the insta-love/mate-bond is there, for Aaron at least. Jesse has a (momentary) harder time accepting it, simply because she doesn’t trust easily! Aaron has to pull back his protective instincts once he realizes that Jesse is an independent wolf who is used to taking care of her own problems. Somehow, they manage to meet in the middle and get their HEA but not without plenty of action and drama as her father and the hunters get closer.

For a while, it did feel as though Aaron is the one doing all the chasing and changing. I knew by that point that Jesse hadn’t had it easy, but it takes two to make a relationship work. She did catch up eventually, after leaning heavily on her martyr complex, so it was all good in the end, but I felt as though I’d worked for it!

A great addition to the series and I’m happy to have read Aaron’s story and also see a small follow-up into Nicholas and Bailey. Recommended by me.

Wolf Claims His Pack by N.J. Walters

Wolf Claims His Pack by N.J. Walters
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Half-breed wolf and blacksmith, Bailey Smith’s life is complicated. She’s alpha of a small pack consisting of her teenage brother and three other kids. Her grandfather—a pure-blood wolf—wants her and her brother dead. And now a confrontation with two human males has brought Child Protective Services to her door. If that wasn’t enough, she’s caught the attention of an unknown, sexy-as-hell, male wolf.

Nicholas LaForge has found his mate and purpose. Being a full-blooded wolf is a strike against him, but she marries him to protect her kids. He’ll use whatever sneaky methods necessary—including sex—to convince her they belong together. First, he has to deal with the threats to his new pack. That’s the easy part. Winning her love and trust might be impossible.

Even an Alpha’s shoulders can bow under constant pressure!

And that is what Bailey Smith has been under – constant pressure. Not only is her grandfather trying to kill her and her brother, but she’s also collected three other ‘strays’ who have had hard lives. She lives under the radar, constantly watching her back. It will take a strong wolf to prove to her that he is the real deal. And maybe Nicholas is just the wolf to do it.

All of the characters were well-rounded and had their own quirks and foibles, which just made me like them even more. I really want to learn more about Henry! You feel the tension throughout all the writing, the feeling of something is going to happen, you just don’t know when. This made it a great read that kept me turning the pages.

A great addition to the series and one I’m glad to have read. I have no hesitation in recommending it to all Paranormal Romance fans.

Divine Vintage by Sandra L. Young

Divine Vintage by Sandra L. Young
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Tess Burton is always up for an adventure. She’s risked her inheritance to open Divine Vintage, a clothing boutique. While modeling an elegant gown from an Edwardian era trousseau, her mind is opened to a century-old murder. Visions–seen through the eyes of the murdered bride–dispute local lore that claims the bridegroom committed the crime. Trey Dunmore doesn’t share Tess’ enthusiasm for mind-blowing visions, yet the appeal to clear his family’s tainted legacy compels him to join her in exploring the past. Aided by the dead woman’s clothing and diary, Tess and Trey discover that pursuing love in 1913 was just as thorny as modern day. As the list of murder suspects grows, the couple fears past emotions are influencing, and may ultimately derail, their own blossoming intimacy.

It’s never too late to make amends.

The lush descriptions of modern and historical Michigan City, Indiana made me feel like I was truly there. Some of the best scenes were the ones that described the buildings that existed in both eras, how they were furnished, and who lived in them. Those moments were vividly written and filled with fascinating details about what people did and did not value in a home or business in the early 1910s as well as the early 2010s. It was fun for me as a reader to compare and contrast them. Some things never change, but other social expectations about the places we live and work in most definitely have!

I would have preferred to see a bit more time spent on the character development, especially when it came to Tess and Trey. Their histories and the way their personalities interacted with each other were some of the most integral pieces to understanding their connection to the past. While I can’t go into a lot of detail about this without sharing spoilers, I would have gone with a full five-star rating if this had been developed more thoroughly. The basic gist of it was all there. It simply needed to be expanded upon.

One of the things I liked the most about this novel was how well all of the storylines flowed together. Ms. Young did an excellent job of weaving the paranormal, mystery, dramatic, and romantic elements of the plot into scenes that pushed all of them forward seamlessly. I often have a quiet preference for a particular subplot when so many genres are mixed together, but in this case, I genuinely enjoyed all of them equally. Each one was necessary for the entire story to be told, and it was delightful to see how much effort the author put into making sure that everything was tied together neatly.

Divine Vintage was a sweetly sentimental read.

To Court A Queen by H. L. Burke

To Court A Queen by H. L. Burke
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Devin doesn’t want to get married, but he wants to be a frog even less.

Knight errant Devin takes a shortcut through the woods, only to be captured by fairy forces. The fairy queen has run out of breathing males to fight for her hand, and Devin, while not ideal fairy stock, is breathing—for now.

Telling a vain fairy queen you’d rather not be her one true love is a ticket to life on a lilypad, so the knight agrees to face three challenges to win Queen Agalea’s hand. When a clever servant girl offers to help him navigate the trials in order to stop the constant bloodshed of the courtship ritual, Devin jumps at the chance.

Cat-Elf Sevaine’s only goal in life is to stop Agalea from killing off every male she gets her hands on. When cocky but quick-on-his-feet Devin stumbles into her world, she may finally have a champion who can beat Agalea’s cruel games—if she can resist falling in love with him herself.

With Sevaine’s help, Devin balances “flirting” with his “beloved” and overcoming tasks specifically designed to kill him. But even if he defeats Agalea’s challenges, will happily ever after be possible if he’s fallen for his new partner in survival?

To Court a Queen is a quick read and I loved the original take on Fae and Faeries in this fun story!

I read this one in only a couple sittings and found it to be quite an enjoyable read and a humorous romance! A sweet and lighthearted read, I loved reading the adventures (and misadventures!) of Devin the Knight as he finds himself in quite the conundrum! He finds himself promised to be married to a Fae Queen!

Not at all the ‘short-cut’ he had planned, but it leads into this delightful story and one I found myself actually laughing aloud at more than once! Cute and endearing, I’m glad I got the chance to read this one! I look forward to reading more of H. L. Burke’s stories soon!