Scars by G.A. Bassier


Scars by G.A. Bassier
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

They say love can heal all wounds…but some scars may run too deep.

Eight months ago, while in a werewolf rage, Lily escaped her cage and killed an innocent person. Every moment since then, Lily’s guilt has grown heavier and more suffocating. Just as it threatens to engulf her, she meets a kind stranger who is struggling through his own turmoil after losing his beloved wife.

Sitting in a coffee shop with Jack, Lily smiles for the first time in eight long, dark months. She and Jack love all the same things: Star Wars, banana bread, even cheesy eighties movies. In spite of her lingering guilt, Lily starts to fall for him. Jack makes it easy. He trusts her. He worries about her. He never compares her to his lost love. Jack makes Lily want to live again–and she does the same for him.

There’s just one problem:

The innocent person Lily killed was Jack’s wife.

It’s never too late to turn things around and try again.

The premise of this novella grabbed my attention immediately, and I thought the author handled the dilemma of a werewolf falling in love with the widower of the woman she accidentally killed in a sensitive and beautiful manner. The tension between their developing relationship and Lily’s terrible secret made it impossible for me to stop reading. Of course, she would have no idea how to bring this topic up to Jack and would struggle to figure out what to do!

Given the tragedy that brought them together, it made total sense for things to develop slowly and unevenly between Jack and Lily. This was exactly what needed to happen in order for me as a reader to want them to live happily ever after, and their chemistry was perfect. What made it even more impressive was the fact that the characters evolved from meeting each other, to falling in love, to discovering the truth, to reaching the climax of this tale within such a short time period. Many authors would need a few hundred pages to reach the same conclusions, so getting it done in about forty pages instead was impressive.

I was blown away how many layers of detail and meaning the author was able to include as well. Yes, the main plotline was romantic, but the writing also included thoughtful messages about the meaning of life and how one can begin to heal from something that may feel insurmountable. This is the sort of story I’d especially recommend to readers who might not normally like the romance genre but who are willing to try the cream of the crop of it.

Scars couldn’t have been better. Bravo!

Operation Congo by William Meikle


Operation Congo by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A mission to the Congo starts badly for S-Squad and gets worse fast as they trace a team of captured WHO medics to a lost world in the interior.

The Squad are isolated, split up, and face terrors long since thought extinct.

Mokele-mbembe walks this jungle.

And he is not alone.

The S-Squad has been sent deep into the jungles of Congo, far from where even a satellite phone can call for help. A WHO team of medics have been captured and more than just the natives are restless. As usual things quickly move from bad to worse as the team is split up and the monsters start coming from all directions. Can the team and their targets return back to safety?

I absolutely love this series and I was thrilled the Scottish lads finally managed to get a ticket to somewhere warm. I also really enjoyed how a few of the squaddies had some profound growth in their character arcs and this was a true joy to read – along with the big beasties and everyone needing to steer clear of being a tasty snack for the monsters.

If you’ve read even one of the previous books (and I can’t recommend strongly enough you give them all a whirl – this is the best series) you’ll know roughly what to expect. Our team of Scottish heroes are sent into the back of beyond to rescue a group of civilians. Things are nothing like what they appeared to be at first glance and soon monsters are trying to eat everyone in sight.

With loads of bullets flying and more than a few wise cracks from our squaddies this is yet another delightful romp of a book. I was particularly impressed with both the high number (and decent quality and placement) of the quotes managed by the squaddies referencing the movie, Aliens. A few scattered quotes are normal for this series, but in this book the author really outdid himself.

If you’re looking for a complicated plotline or an intricately woven story this won’t suit what you’re after. But if you love a bunch of wise-ass soldiers being brave, fighting the monsters and rollicking along then this is definitely the book for you. I love this series and can strongly recommend them all – especially this addition.

Cryptid Bits by Jess Simms


Cryptid Bits by Jess Simms
Publisher: Last-Picked Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Cryptids. At the movies and at the bar, cryptids. In china shops and running for office, cryptids. Cryptids, cryptids everywhere.

Mythical beings need to earn a living, too!

The world building was incredible. Getting glimpses of so many different residents, notable spots, and moments in time in this neighborhood gave me a well-rounded understanding of what it would be like to visit The Fairy District if it were a real place. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d love to dive even more deeply into the many different species that call this area home and how they are being affected by human gentrification.

I would have loved to see more character development. Meeting the characters was a memorable experience, but there was never a lot of time to get to know most of them better due to how brief each section was and how many different folks there were to meet. Louise, a local mortician, was one such creature that I wish I could have had more time with as she seemed to have a fascinating life as an undertaker. This pattern was the only thing holding me back from choosing a full five-star review.

Some of this flash fiction was written in the style of online news articles or reviews of different businesses. What made these pieces even more unique were the comments included by various members of the community and visitors who had strong opinions about the event, business, or topic being discussed. I loved the originality of these sections, especially when it came to the many types of feedback that can be shared in such places. A kind commenter might be immediately followed by someone who had a harsher perspective, but the variety of it all made it feel incredibly realistic.

Cryptid Bits was delightfully creative. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Beyond Mortal Bounds – Memoir of a Ghost by Gina Easton


Beyond Mortal Bounds – Memoir of a Ghost by Gina Easton
Publisher: Touch Point Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Heather Radcliffe, a successful author, is approached by Fiona, a ghost, to write Fiona’s memoir. What follows is a tale of love, betrayal, madness and the quest for atonement. It is the story of two women—one living, one dead—and the man they both love . . . and the issue of love’s ability to endure beyond death itself.

Death is the beginning, not the end.

The dialogue was smooth and believable. Often I could tell who was speaking before I finished the sentence because of how uniquely the two main characters were written. As much as they had in common, there were important differences between them that influenced how they spoke. It takes a lot of work to pull something like this off, so I must acknowledge the effort there and share my gratitude for it. This is the sort of flourish in a story that makes reading even more enjoyable than it already is.

I was surprised by how quickly Heather believed the ghosts who approached her for help. As much as I liked her innocent and trusting personality, there were times when I wondered why she didn’t make any efforts to verify what she was told and only spent a small amount of time trying to protect herself from anything in the spirit world that might try to attach itself to her. There was one scene that described a ritual she went through after talking to spirits in order to discourage them from sticking around. This reader was fascinated by that process and wished that the protagonist had spent more time describing it as well as taking additional precautions to protect herself from spirits she was still getting to know.

Some of the most memorable moments in my opinion were the ones that explored Heather’s previous lifetimes and how they helped to explain why her personality clicked so well with certain people she met in her most recent body. Reincarnation is an interesting explanation for why this happens, especially when it is explored in fiction that shows how those individuals knew each other in previous lives and why their fates have remained so tightly entwined. This is a trope I’m always happy to discover in books, and I thought Ms. Easton made good use of it here.

Beyond Mortal Bounds: Memoir of a Ghost was satisfying.

The Succubus’s Prize by Katee Robert


The Succubus’s Prize by Katee Robert
Publisher: Trinkets and Tales LLC
Genre: Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dicentra

Belladonna was born wrong. At least that’s what her parents, religious community, and even her beloved sister believe. Walking away from the church hasn’t helped her come to terms with her purpose in life, and when her sister is diagnosed with cancer, Belladonna has nowhere to turn…until a demon offers her a deal.

After agreeing, nothing is like she expects. There’s no fiery hell to speak of. Her soul seems to still be her own. All she’s required to do is serve. When she’s auctioned off to Rusalka, a powerful and ruthless succubus, her confusion only grows. Rusalka surprises her at every turn, even refusing to allow Belladonna to bear a child that would benefit the entirety of their territory.

Rusalka has sacrificed everything for their people. There are no lengths they won’t go to as leader…but they see something of themself in Belladonna, a familiarity that tempts beyond anything they could have dreamed. They want to keep her.

But if Belladonna can’t release her shame and step into a future where she’s living for herself instead of in service to others… Things may be over even before they begin.

I will basically read any romance books that Katee Robert writes with a fantasy element at this point, so it was a no-brainer that I picked up The Succubus’s Prize (fourth book in the A Deal with a Demon series) as soon as it was released through Kindle Unlimited. While the book maintains the author’s trademark spice and romance, she also does a great job bringing deep emotional scenes into such a short story.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ll know that bargainer demon Azazel brought five human women to the demon realm to be auctioned off to each territory’s leader in the hopes of brokering peace throughout the realm. A disclaimer for those who might not have followed the series: all of the humans made their deals of sound mind, got things out of the deal, and have protections in place such that they cannot be harmed by the respective territory leader. Some of the choices were random, however things worked a little differently for Rusalka, leader of the succubi and incubi as Azazel basically said you need to pick this specific human (Belladonna). Belladonna has been traumatized in the past, and Azazel felt that the succubi powers of sensing emotions would be the best fit to help her (compared to those of the gargoyles, kraken, or dragons). Despite that advantage, the two of them have a lot to work through before they can make true headway in the relationship (and hopefully have a child to strengthen the territory in the future).

Prior to the release of the book, the author made it clear on social media that the book deals with a lot of religious trauma. Belladonna was raised to believe she was bad because she was queer, and that she was only of value if she was of use to others. Even the deal Belladonna made that brought her to the demon realm was a sacrifice in service of someone else. Rusalka and the others in the Insomnior Court worked hard to gently get Belladonna to be more comfortable in expressing what she wants and coming out of the indoctrination her family overwhelmed her with. They also gave her the space to make sure what she was saying was what she wanted, even if they were unsure about it themselves. There were definitely some uncomfortable moments, but as a reader it was a great experience to get to see Belladonna’s journey of healing and growth. Things do feel like they end a bit abruptly given the length of the book, but I loved the epilogue and I hope we get to see more of these characters in the future.

If you’re looking for a quick monster romance book you can finish in an afternoon, this would be a great choice for you. However, if you’re looking for a longer romance tale, complete with extensive worldbuilding and more in-depth character development you might be better served looking at another title on the author’s backlist instead. We got more glimpses of Azazel and their relationship with Eve, so I’m super excited for when the final installment in the series The Demon’s Queen will come out in 2025.

Fox Hounds by Lia Connor


Fox Hounds by Lia Connor
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Foxy Lady…

Reyna’s a skilled thief and the lightest-fingered pickpocket around. Several professionals would love to have her on their side, if only to be able to keep an eye on her. What they don’t know is that Reyna’s nickname isn’t just fantasy — she’s a shapeshifting fox and as clever and wily as they come. No one can catch her if she doesn’t want to be caught, and so far no one’s come close to winning her over.

Not, that is, until the hounds pick up her trail. Jonas, Si and Boone, lovers as well as skilled tricksters, have the Fox’s scent and they intend to woo her, outsmart her and win her to their team. As hounds in name as well as in shapeshifting nature, they know they’re just as good at getting the job done as Reyna is. All they have to do is catch this thief and get her not only on their side, but in their shared bed.

And they won’t give up until they get the job done.

Reyna’s got a secret weapon – she’s a shapeshifting fox who is both clever and wily in addition to being a darn good thief. No one has come close to picking up her scent until she comes across the hounds – Jonas, Si and Boone. Shapeshifting hounds, the three men are also skilled tricksters and are determined to bring Reyna into their team – no matter the cost.

I found this to be a sexy quick read. I was impressed with this slightly different take on a paranormal spicy storyline – the three hound-shifters a cohesive and long-standing team and very comfortable with their personal and working relationship. While initially I was somewhat in the dark as to why they needed Reyna and her fox abilities to join their team, I admit I found it very fun to watch the three men collectively tempt her into collaborating with them.

An enjoyable and sensual read, it was clear there was more to the plot than just a quick seduction and I was thrilled when the author followed through on that. Readers wanting a quick, sexy, paranormal story that has a few twists and turns in it should find this a lovely and refreshing change of pace. I thought this was a good story and I’m interested in reading more by this new-to-me author.

Beyond Stonebridge by Linda Griffin


Beyond Stonebridge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this sequel to Stonebridge, it is 1959, and Rynna Wyatt’s abusive husband Jason has fallen to his death after a fight with his bookish, disabled cousin Ted Demeray. The police would like to know exactly what happened, but it’s impossible to tell the whole truth.

Jason’s death doesn’t end his relationship with them. Rynna is pregnant with his child and traumatized by his abuse. She and Ted leave Stonebridge Manor to start a new life in Brenford, where Ted teaches at the university, but Jason’s restless spirit follows and haunts Rynna’s dreams. He wants her back. He wants revenge. And he wants his son. How can Ted and Rynna oppose his claims and finally put him to rest?

The past never truly sleeps.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that highlighted the many social differences between the era this was set in and life in contemporary times. Let me give two examples of what I mean. First, men were not allowed in the delivery room at this point in history and were highly discouraged from supporting their wives earlier in the labor process either. Second, learning anything new took much longer back then than it does now that most people have a smartphone and can look up any topic in a few minutes at most. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover the rest of the societal changes over the decades and how they affected the storyline in all sorts of ways, but I was intrigued by how such things have shifted over time.

I struggled with the slow pacing of this novel. So much time was spent discussing previous events in the lives of these characters that there wasn’t much forward motion for the storyline until I was more than a hundred pages into it. The paranormal themes took an even longer period of time to appear which surprised me. As happy as I was to reconnect with the characters and as much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, these issues made me hesitant to do so.

The romance was handled nicely. I enjoyed seeing how Rynna and Ted’s relationship had blossomed since I first met them and how they both adjusted to the beginning of their life together. They were a good match who shared the same values and many of the same interests, too. I was glad to see them both finally find some happiness after all of the difficult things they’d previously endured.

This is the second book in a series that I’d strongly recommend reading in order for character and plot development reasons.

Beyond Stonebridge was a thoughtful read.

The Man in the Cellar by Palle Rosenkrantz


The Man in the Cellar by Palle Rosenkrantz
Publisher: Kazabo Publishing
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Holger Nielsen just wanted a quiet London vacation when he rented 48 Cranbourne Grove. But the rental agent forgot to mention he’d be sharing his new home with a very hungry cat and . . . the man in the cellar.

When Holger Nielsen stumbles on a murder, the obvious thing to do is report it to the authorities and get on with his life. But as the crime unravels, it isn’t clear whether it’s worse to be an accessory to murder or an accessory to justice. Scrupulously authentic, The Man in the Cellar is an insider’s tour of turn-of-the-century London and Denmark. But beware. Scandinavia hasn’t always been IKEA and Legos.

Introspection is required for this tale, and it will be richly rewarded.

I enjoyed the challenge of attempting to solve the murder alongside Holger’s efforts to do the same. The author did not make this an easy task, and there were plenty of clues along the way that were either not necessarily what they seemed to be at first glance or could be interpreted differently depending on how the reader wanted to understand them. As someone who has read quite a few books from this genre, I appreciated the mental challenge of it all. This was something that required paying close attention and using one’s deduction skills. That’s exactly the sort of mystery I love to read.

The character development was strong for the protagonists and supporting characters alike. This is not an easy task to accomplish by any means, but it makes for such a rewarding experience when it happens. Many of the people described in this tale were middle-aged or senior citizens, and it was interesting to see how the various generations communicated with each other as there were certain differences in what they considered appropriate behavior along the way. Not only that, but each individual had quirks or habits that made his or her reactions to specific scenes unique. Holger, for example, seemed to be a little wary of cats and eager to send them back to humans who knew what to do with such unpredictable little creatures as quickly as possible when I first met him. Learning about how everyone’s minds worked only made me more eager to keep reading.

This is one of those cases where a slower pacing works beautifully. There is definitely something to be said for getting to know the characters, clues, and settings well before moving on to the next scene. Including letters between characters, all of whom had their own special writing styles, was a smart way to encourage readers to pause and think about what they were reading and how much of it was new information versus a confirmation of things the characters may have already figured out.

The Man in the Cellar was an excellent example of the best the mystery genre has to offer.

Raven’s Song by Angela Knight


Raven’s Song by Angela Knight
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Raven Garland is a rock star with a voice that is literally magical. She’s also got a serious problem: she’s being stalked by her ex. Ewan Bradley’s magical abilities and powerful father make him a deadly threat, forcing her to hire a seductive bodyguard with powers of his own. Nate Carter can use his Primo magic to increase his physical strength to superhuman levels — and he needs every bit of that power to keep Raven alive. Besides her nasty ex, there’s the lethal costar with anger issues and a mystical link to a bulletproof tiger.

To make matters worse, Nate is slowly falling in love with his client. The passion seems mutual, but Raven’s love affairs have a notoriously short shelf life. For all his strength, Nate doesn’t think he can take becoming her latest fling. Raven wants her handsome bodyguard as far more than a temporary lover, but how can she convince him to trust her when he knows her magical voice can make him believe whatever she wants? Nate knows in real life, the good guy doesn’t always get the girl.

Raven Garland has a voice that is literally magical. Her only problem is she’s being stalked by her ex who is a powerful talent. And with a lethal co-start and other assorted problems on her plate Raven knows she can’t handle it all on her own. So Raven has hired a magical bodyguard – Nate Carter – and he will need every ounce of his superhuman skills to keep her safe. But Nate isn’t sure there’s anything he can do to protect his heart around the seductive rock star.

I found this to be an interesting paranormal story set in a creative magical alternate reality. While I haven’t previously read any of this authors books set in this world, I found it fairly easy to understand the various magical powers and follow along with the story-telling. Personally, I found I didn’t need to read anything else previously written in this universe – I thought the author did a good job of explaining everything – but I could understand if some readers needed a moment to follow along.

I was really impressed that this erotic romance had a solid and complicated plot. I enjoyed the fact that Raven and Nate didn’t simply give in to their feelings for each other immediately and jump into bed. I also appreciated this wasn’t a case of insta-lust, the two of them having worked together for a while before when the book starts. And while sure, there’s plenty of steamy sex and chemistry between the two main characters, I didn’t feel this detracted at all from the plot or the layers to the story itself. I thought the author did a really good job of balancing this book focusing equally on the growing romance, chemistry and plot. While I did feel the pace of the story was a little slow in sections overall, I thought the whole book moved along at a good clip and I definitely feel this should retain most readers attention throughout.

Readers looking for a different, interesting and magical world style of paranormal story should find this book really fits the bill. While there are other books set in this world this can easily be picked up by itself and this is an author, I’d certainly be happy to read more from. Recommended.

Broken Hearts by Robert L J Borg


Broken Hearts by Robert L J Borg
Publisher: Luminosity Publishing LLC
Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Is a cemetery the perfect setting for love to be found? Maybe. When Damian meets Elspeth at one, he’s certain she is his long-awaited soulmate. . ., but he’s been wrong before!

Damian Marshall had always believed himself to be a bit of a ladies’ man. He loved nothing more than dating women and enjoying their company, always hoping he would meet the love of his life. However, it never seemed to be. His love affairs would be short-lived, and two which seemed successful ended in divorce, where every time the broken hearts were always his own.

Just when he thinks there is no more hope in finding that perfect woman, he meets Elspeth, in the most unlikely of locations: a cemetery.

It is she who approaches him and strikes up a conversation. She coaxes out his life story, and he is willing to recount it all. By the end of it, they find themselves drawn to each other. Has Damian finally met his true soul mate or is it just wishful thinking? Only time will tell.

Relationships aren’t easy for everyone.

Some of the most interesting scenes to me were the ones that explored how society changed over the decades. For example, earlier in Damian’s life it was quite difficult for him to let people know that plans had changed if an accident or weather event prevented him from making it to the meeting point on time. This slowly became less common as cell phones made it possible for him to call others directly in an emergency instead of finding a pay phone and leaving messages at places he thought they might also try to check in at. It’s no wonder to me that cell phones and the Internet were such revolutionary tools, and I enjoyed finding all of the other examples of progress as well.

I struggled with the large cast of characters in this book. Women entered and exited Damian’s life so regularly that I often couldn’t remember who was who. While I’m pretty sure this was done to illustrate his personality and character defects, it also made the storyline hard to follow at times because of how many different people were involved and how little time they each had to make an impression on me. This was the only thing holding me back from choosing a higher rating, and I hope to read more from Mr. Borg soon.

The romance was unique and kept my interest levels high. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in the romance genre before, so let me tip my cap to the author for coming up with something fresh. While I did figure out the twist in it early on, it was still a great deal of fun to see how Damian reacted to it once he also knew what was happening.

Broken Hearts was a breath of fresh air.