Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey


Reel Love by Elizabeth Hartey
Publisher: Crimson Cloak
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (486 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Annie Caslo is a successful, young doctor, but when she begins rethinking the career choices she’s made, she makes a decision to find a way to stay focused and achieve her true ambitions – that is until fate steps in and she is thunderstruck by Colt Ballard. He’s six foot three inches of heart-stopping hotness, an adept, roguish soccer star and also one of her interns. But he’s a player – on and off the field – and Annie has better things to do. Still, the combustible chemistry between them is impossible to resist – Colt brings out feelings she never knew existed and Annie’s swept off her reluctant feet.

When she continues to second-guess her life choices, opportunities and obstacles begin piling up higher than the greasy Mexican food stacks she hates to admit loving. While in a state of emotional turmoil, she gets a celestial visit from a hunky, Hollywood heartthrob, lookalike, who claims to be her guardian angel. He takes her on a magical road trip to self-discovery with the help of several, dearly departed film icons.

Drawn into the excitement of a life she’s always dreamed of, this new life threatens to shatter the LIFE and love she already has—unless her quirky angel can help her find a way to have it all.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.” Annie Caslo became a doctor because that’s what her parents wanted for her, but she wanted to be an actress.  She was offered a job she could not turn down, but made the decision to only stay there a year, then follow her own dream.  Her plans are derailed when she meets Colt, and her life takes a very different plan than she envisioned.

The story is told from several points of view (including forays into Annie’s childhood).  While this helps explain what everyone is feeling (it was amusing seeing, at the beginning, Colt and Annie’s different views of the same incident in the coffee shop), it also prevented this reader from really connecting with Annie as much as I would have liked to.  I would have enjoyed being able to “feel” more of what Annie felt.  As it was, the many POV shifts never allowed me to completely immerse myself into the story.

The writing itself was clean with no grammatical issues.  Looking at it with an editor’s eye, there were areas that could have been tightened up more, but that is more of a personal issue on my part.

If you are a lover of classic movies, like I am, you will love all the references and quotes this author uses — it’s worth reading the book just for those!!  3.5 stars.

 

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Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.

Black and White by Ben Burgess Jr.
Publisher: Legacy Books LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?

This book is basically the story of two different men, Ben and Bill, in the same law firm—both in the running to become a partner and both being handed two very difficult cases to handle as a test of their abilities.

Ben is from an affluent black family and has grown up being called an “oreo” (black on the outside, but white on the inside). His girlfriend, Becky, is a white woman while his best friend, Gabby, a black woman, has her own issues, especially about Ben dating “away from his own kind.”

Bill, on the other hand, is a white man who grew up the only white child in a black neighborhood. He’s dating Ebony, a black police officer. Because of Bill’s background, he often uses slang and expressions from his neighborhood – Ben has issues with this, feeling that Bill is trying to just put on a black skin.

Black and White does an excellent job exploring prejudice and racism – it is so very much prevalent in this story. Not one person escapes it – Bill probably comes the closest to being color-blind in this respect. He is caught in a tough situation. Not only does he want to become partner so he can propose to Ebony and provide for her, his mother is desperately ill—he wants to take care of her. He is chosen to defend a white ballplayer who is accused of raping a black stripper.

The focus of the story is on the law cases and how the lawyers approach them as well as how the cases effect not only the lawyers but those close to them.

There were a couple of quibbles with this book that irritated me and kept the review from being a solid 5. The editor in me cringed every time the author turned black and white into proper adjectives, i.e. (from the blurb) ” When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations.” Also, there were a few instances in the story where the main characters had flashbacks to their lives as kids. I understand that the author wanted to show how they got to be the people they are today, but to this reader the long passages of flashback took me out of the story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but there was also an incident during Ben and Becky’s dinner with her parents and their friends that didn’t quite ring true to me… I was completely and utterly blindsided by Ben’s actions in that instance.

Apart from those few things, I really enjoyed the storyline and the way the court cases worked out. Bill was by far my favorite character in this book. He’s the one that seemed the most sincere to me. I could definitely could see this as a movie … actually given the ending, it would make a very neat series.

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The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin


The Silver Mosaic by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (442 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

March, 1933. The weak German economy is in peril. Winston Churchill wants to push it over the cliff with a boycott of German exports and take with it the new Nazi government whose brown-shirted SA thugs are terrorizing Germany’s Jews.

Working with Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Churchill enlists the help of his goddaughter, Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary, and her fiance, the lawyer and ex-Army intelligence agent Bourke Cockran. Mattie’s task is to find out how the Nazis plan to defeat the boycott. Cockran’s assignment is to recover microfilm containing sensitive commercial information on German exporters compiled by German patriots opposed to the Nazis. With it, the exporters’ competitors will be able to steal Germany’s foreign customers with comparable goods at lower prices.

The Nazis are determined to fight back. To oppose the boycott, they find two unlikely allies. One is the Jewish Authority in Palestine who is negotiating with the Nazis to sell out the boycott in exchange for the Nazis allowing German Jews to emigrate to Palestine with funds in excess of German currency controls. The negotiations are top secret and when Mattie gets too close to the truth, both the Nazis and their Jewish allies in Palestine are determined to stop her at any cost.

The second Nazi ally is FDR and the U.S. government who also oppose the boycott because of the damage it will do to American investors. When American agents learn of Cockran’s quest for the microfilm, they team up with Hitler’s black-clad SS and Jewish agents from Palestine to stop him and get the microfilm.

The deadly battle between Churchill’s agents, Mattie and Cockran, takes them from New York to London, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and Stockholm pursued by the strange bedfellows of Nazi, Jewish and American agents working together. Finally, at Mattie and Cockran’s wedding in Scotland, their enemies kidnap Cockran’s son and Churchill’s daughter and offer to trade their lives for the microfilm.

I was excited to be able to review this next volume in the Churchill Thriller series – the fifth in the series. The action takes place shortly after the adventures in the previous volume, The Berghof Betrayal (you can see our review of it here).

It was good to visit with some old friends and to meet new characters. The authors did another masterful job at blending historical figures (Churchill, Einstein, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, etc.) with fictional characters such as Mattie McGary and Bourke Cockran.

The action is non-stop, and the amount of historical research that this father/son writing team does is incredible. The books can be read in any order plot-wise, but it might help the new reader understand and perhaps keep up with all the characters if the previous books have been read.

While long and at times violent (it IS set during a pretty violent period of time, after all), the book is a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to the release of their next book in this series.

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Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani


Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Other: M/F, F/F/M, Anal sex, Multiple Partners, Masturbation
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

I’ve spent years holed up in the deepest, darkest parts of the city, fighting to keep Death and her Poochas from crossing the dead back to the living. My skill with a blade is bested only by my menace, my despair, my anguish – the strongest weapons I yield.

Then I meet Juma Landry and it all goes to hell.

She is beauty and love and sex and light, everything I am not. And she makes me want things I haven’t desired in years. But the monsters of my life, the evil lurking in the dark corners of my soul, those places craven and vile, bind me to a past I cannot shake free. As the most skilled Keeper for The Gate, nothing and no one can prevent me from excelling at a job I never wanted. I do it because it is my legacy, a fate I cannot outrun, but when Juma becomes my next assignment, each of her nine lives to be ended by my hand, I must decide: the legacy I never wanted or the love I don’t deserve.

This is an adult fantasy and while it’s not labeled as erotic, in this reviewer’s opinion it should be. Before the principles meet, both male and female lead characters in this fantasy romance have engaged in multiple episodes of sex of various types (M/F, FFM, oral, anal, etc). Even after they meet and become cognizant of the attraction between each other, their sexual activities are not limited to the other. So, it’s important that the reader be aware of this, because I would hate for someone to pick up the book and not realize how much graphic sex there was.

That being said, the storyline is very interesting. We learn about Dutch, who is a Keeper of The Gate – the gate separating life and death. It is their job to keep those people who have died from coming back, by killing Death’s Poochas. This is an incredibly dark book, and does include some descriptions of torture.

Death is not the Death we normally think of– this Death is a very sexy woman who is very hedonistic and lives only for pleasure. She allows selected dead people to return to life – aided by her Poochas.

The main conflict comes in when Dutch and Juma (one of Death’s Poochas) meet and discover themselves to be soulmates only to discover that Dutch has been assigned to kill her.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, and you see both Dutch and Juma grow and change quite a bit. Though I was a bit dismayed by the darkness here, I was very invested in these characters. I enjoyed watching their development and look forward to seeing how Dutch and Juma resolve the difficulties that surround them.

FYI, this is the first book in the series and ends on a cliffhanger.

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The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin

The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (433 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Weiland Herzfelde has absolutely reliable information that the Nazis plan a fake attempt on Hitler’s life which is to be the signal for a general massacre. The sources of his information are the SA in Dortmund and a tapped telephone conversation between Hitler and Röhm.”
The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, February 1933

Winston Churchill receives startling news from a German aristocrat in early 1933 after Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany. The aristocrat has learned of a plot to stage a fake assassination attempt on the new German leader that the Nazis will use as a pretext to declare martial law and liquidate their political opponents. Unknown to Hitler, however, his enemies within the Nazi party—the Black Front—are conspiring with renegade elements of his own SS to turn the fake assassination attempt into a real one.

Churchill tells the American newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst of the fake plot and, together, they persuade Mattie McGary, Hearst’s top photojournalist and Churchill’s adventure-seeking Scottish god- daughter, to investigate. Mattie readily agrees in large part because exposing the fake plot may help her finally shed the unfortunate reputation she has in Germany as “Hitler’s favorite foreign journalist”.

Soon after she leaves for Germany, Mattie’s fiancé, the American lawyer and former MID agent Bourke Cockran, Jr., also travels to Germany to help his publisher client, Freedom House, acquire the rights to Rear Area Pig, an expose of Hitler’s less-than-heroic wartime service. Once in Germany, both Mattie and Cockran find themselves in peril at the hands of the SS loyal to Hitler who will stop at nothing to keep Cockran from acquiring the book and Mattie from learning the truth about the fake plot.

Threats to Mattie multiply when SS agents working for the Black Front attempt to coerce her into joining the real plot to kill Hitler. When Cockran learns the Black Front intends to kill Mattie along with Hitler at his alpine retreat, the Berghof, he reluctantly seeks the help of Reichspresident Herman Göring and Kurt von Sturm, a top Göring aide who is also one of Mattie’s former lovers. The one-time rivals for Mattie’s affection quickly conclude that there is only one way to protect Mattie. They must take out the Black Front snipers before they can assassinate Hitler. And time is running out…

This is the fourth book in the Winston Churchill 1930s Thriller series, but it’s the first one I’ve read. Oftentimes that would be a bad idea, but I’m so glad I took a chance on this. Sure, I might have had a deeper understanding of the characters had I read the earlier two books, but I had absolutely no trouble following this one.

It’s a long, complicated story and is not a quick or easy read. It is, however, one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s detailed, nuanced, and beautifully written. Be aware, it’s very much true to the times and what was going on in the world. There were some pretty depraved individuals around, and the authors do not hesitate to show you what they are capable of.

A blend of historical figures and characters created for the story make this look the world in the 1930s an easy way to learn about what was going on– it’s obvious the authors did their homework. There is a wonderful addition at the back of the book where they share what parts of the story are historical fact and which are created for the story. I appreciated this completely because the two were so seamlessly woven together that I wasn’t sure which were which!

A wonderful job! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Last Gambit by Om Swami

Last Gambit by Om Swami
Publisher: Black Lotus
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (208 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance. Vasu Bhatt is fourteen years old when a mysterious old man spots him at a chess tournament and offers to coach him, on two simple but strange conditions: he would not accompany his student to tournaments, and there was to be no digging into his past. Initially resentful, Vasu begins to gradually understand his master’s mettle.

Over eight years, master and student come to love and respect each other, but the two conditions remain unbroken – until Vasu confronts and provokes the old man. Meanwhile, their hard work and strategy pay off: Vasu qualifies for the world chess championship. But can he make it all the way without his master by his side?

Inspiring, moving and mercurial, The Last Gambit is a beautiful coming of age tale in a uniquely Indian context.

I have to confess that I’m not a chess whiz. I know the names of the pieces… I even know how they move. But, that’s the extent of it. But, the good thing is, you don’t really need to know chess to get a lot out of this book (though I’m sure a chess background wouldn’t hurt and you might get a whole other level of understanding from it).

The lessons that Vasu learns at the hands of the Master go way beyond playing chess–they are definitely life-changing and life-encompassing. The Master’s wisdom, and the way he imparted it, made me think at times of the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi in Karate Kid, though the stories couldn’t be more different.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was getting to see a glimpse of Indian life. This was something new to me, and it was presented simply as a background to the story. I found the glimpse of the culture fascinating.

All in all, this is a book I found easy to read, but at the same time it’s a book I think I could dip into again from time to time– just to pick places in random to reread and see what lesson I could learn more about…and to pick up little nuggets of information to think about.

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The Nights Too Dark by MH Snowy

The Nights Too Dark by MH Snowy
The Twelve Nights of Jeremy Sunson
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Sci-fi
Length: Full (300 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Hidden inside the most unlikely person can be the most extraordinary hero …

Jeremy Sunson is surrounded by crazy. Mrs Abercrombie, upstairs, is widowed because her husband glued feathers to his arms, jumped off the building and tried to fly. His neighbour, Strykland, has gone mad since his wife died in a freak car accident—his only thread to reality the doomsday machine he’s building and his daughter … and, of course, spacemen invade Jeremy’s living room.

Every night, in glorious Technicolour, there’s a battle royal between two high-tech assassins who continually blast Jeremy’s apartment to shreds. Each man has one mission: Red wants to kill Jeremy, Bronze wants to save him!

Though his therapist insists he’s just having bad dreams—Jeremy knows better. It’s time to fight. He’s sick and tired of being sick, scared and tired! Armed with rare confidence and a baseball bat, this night, Jeremy fights like the crazy man he isn’t!

But how can he ever imagine when he’s won the battle, the war is only just beginning … over and over and over again?

The Nights Too Dark—ride a wave of laughter, fun, and sci-fi fantasy all the way to Armageddon!

This book is the first volume of The Twelve Nights of Jeremy Sunson, and includes the first three nights of his adventures and his unwanted job to save the world from Armageddon.

Jeremy is the world’s most unlikely savior of the world and at first believes he is having unusually vivid dreams. He already has anxiety issues, so in his daily visits to his therapist, he shares everything that is happening. He comes to finally realize though… it’s all true.

This book is chockfull of fun… all of the characters are wonderful, and it’s great to see Jeremy interact with them as his days are reset (end of the world meets Groundhog Day). I love his neighbors Mrs. Abercrombie, Stryckland, and Anna and how they just kind of go along with him–the whole neighborhood is full of the crazies (in a good way). Even the bad-guys who keep showing up are well-drawn, and it’s almost a pleasure to see them night after night.

Each night is short enough you could read it in one sitting– I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing the other ways Jeremy manages to save the world. I could so see this as a TV show– stay tuned … Same Jeremy time… Same Jeremy channel.

The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo


The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (310 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London.

Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix?

Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Barrister Edward Buckler, drawn despite himself to Penelope, shakes off his habitual lethargy to join the investigation.

As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London’s attention, the trio discovers that it won’t be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.

I absolutely LOVE English mysteries– movies, books, TV shows — you name it, I’m willing to give it a shot. So when thihs book became available to review, I jumped at it, and I’m so very glad I did.

With it being a debut novel, I was prepared for a few issues and, with it also being the first book in a series, there was the very good chance that it might be a little slow in places as the author introduces her characters. What a surprise when none of those expectations came to pass. The book kept me intrigued to the point where anytime I had a few minutes, I picked my reader up to read another few pages.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between them. I’m looking forward to reading more and seeing how their relationships grow in future books. One of my very favorites is Penelope’s daughter, Sarah. Children are sometimes hard to capture, but she is just adorable.

The pacing moved right along without feeling rushed, and the mystery itself was very neatly solved with true detection and “putting the puzzle together-ness” that was refreshing. Often a mystery will be solved through a series of coincidences and pure luck, and it’s not the case here. All the clues are there for the reader to see, and this reader was surprised at the culprit. Always the mark of a good mystery, in my book.

I would love to see this series wind up on BBC (are you listening?)… it’s that good.

I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series, and I can wait to jump back in the world of Chase, Wolfe, and Buckler. Kudos, Ms. Rizzolo– you are now on my auto-buy list, so I hope you have many more books in store for us.

Riverside Lane by Ginger Black


Riverside Lane by Ginger Black
Publisher: Momentum Books
Genre: Mystery
Length: Full Length (260 pages)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced.

Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death.

Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy …

Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.

I love English movies- especially mysteries – and I really enjoy the ones that give us a slice of British life along with the mystery. If you’re like me, you should give Riverside Lane a try. At first glance, you are presented with a slight mystery to tantalize the inhabitants of Riverside Lane when an American shows up as part of a house swap. It soon becomes evident, though, that there is more to this American than meets the eye, and we also are drawn into the undercurrents that are part of English village life.

Not only does the American have secrets, we soon find that every member of the village does as well. Ms. Black does a masterful job of bringing those secrets out and letting us have a glimpse of them.

It is very character driven, and we get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly about them. It’s true that you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and this is amply illustrated in this book.

Kudos to Ms. Black. This is my first time reading this author, but it definitely won’t be my last.

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A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi

A Cunning Heist by Astrid Arditi
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (320 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Sloane Harper has sworn off men—for her sanity, and her safety. But with or without men, trouble always seems to find Sloane.

When her ex’s ex-mistress comes knocking for help, Sloane does what she does best : she helps way more than she should. As she investigates London’s art scene, Sloane runs into a very handsome but very shady artist, a quirky bunch of thieves, and a cunning old flame. Perhaps Sloane should have sworn off playing private detective instead of men.

I absolutely loved this book and the characters! It’s the second in the series, but there was no trouble following the story. I am going to get the first book as well, though, just because the writing and the main characters are that appealing.

The main character, Sloane, is a fairly recent divorcee with two girls and a maid who does very little. She also had a relationship with Ethan Cunning (see what she did there?) in the last book and helped him solve a crime. He’s been MIA for a while now, though, and Sloane has decided he was just using her. Fine, she’d just concentrate on her children and get on with her life.

Then, Kate (her ex-husband’s ex-lover who was also very involved in the first story) asks for her help, and Sloane just can’t say no, which plunges her into some very madcap adventures (I’ll never be able to look at kibbeh the same way again).

The action is non-stop, the mystery is intriguing, the emotional aspects of Sloane’s life are all top-notch! Ms. Arditi, you nailed this one, and I can’t wait to go back and read the first book as well as add you to my auto-buy list.