Hot Water (Heart and Endurance, 3) by J.S. Marlo


Hot Water (Heart and Endurance, 3) by J.S. Marlo
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (198 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Can Agent Sullivan repress his feelings for the woman he secretly loves and use her as bait to catch a serial killer?

Nineteen-year-old varsity swimmer Maxime Tremblay is leery of the string of fatal accidents involving female athletes, but after she thwarts an attack, she can no longer ignore the connection between the victims.

Special Agent Ross Sullivan investigates the deadly events on campus only to discover they are not accidents, the athletes are not targeted at random, and the killer is only warming up.

To protect his only witness, he goes undercover as Maxime’s boyfriend, but as pretense and reality begin to blur, Sullivan faces the dilemma of putting her in harm’s way to stop the killings.

This is my second J.S. Marlo book yet my first book in the Heart and Endurance series. Even though this happens to be the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

I enjoy reading contemporary novels that are relevant to me in some manner. The last ten years my sons have swum competitively, therefore I was excited to read a story about a heroine who was a varsity competitive swimmer in college. Maxime Tremblay was a brave, caring and sweet yet fiery red-headed nineteen year-old woman.
The hero, Special Agent Ross Sullivan, was competent, confident, safe and of course, handsome. He was also slightly older than Maxime. This age difference between Ross and Maxime was an internal conflict between the characters. As a mother of an almost nineteen year old I personally felt the internal conflict but from a parental perspective. Trust me when I tell you that it took an exemplary writing style to enable me to connect with this couple and their budding romance considering my ideal age expectations of a hero and heroine. I honestly struggled a tiny bit with Ross’s nicknames for Maxime. They made me feel he was a father figure at times more than a boyfriend. However they were appropriate in the context.

Maxime was very mature and responsible for her age. It was amazing how she balanced all her obligations while her life was in danger. The suspense/mystery plot made for a rapid paced page turner. It was unpredictable and the twists were clever. I’m not sure how realistic it all was but I was definitely entertained.

Over all I was pleased to read Hot Water. The ending was nicely wrapped up giving me complete closure which resulted in a satisfying sigh. I agreed with Maxime’s father when he gave Ross and Maxime his blessings. This was a clean romance with just enough chemistry that made it a heartwarming love story with well-developed characters that will linger in my mind for days to come. I wish them all the best as they go on in their life journey.

Girl at Christmas by Rhoda Baxter


Girl at Christmas by Rhoda Baxter
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (93 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Tammy is normally at her happiest at Christmas when she has the flat to decorate and those perfect days between Christmas and New Year to relax. But when her long term partner dumps her, with no real explanation, her Christmas looks very bleak.

Lawrence usually spends Christmas watching DVDs and catching up on his paperwork. At thirty one, he’s already stuck in a rut.

When Lawrence has a sudden heart attack, it is Tammy who comes to his rescue. It turns out a happy Christmas can be made from the most unexpected ingredients.

Girl At Christmas is a novella in the award nominated Smart Girls series. If you like authors like Lindsey Kelk, Sarah Morgan or Milly Johnson, it’s perfect for you. Grab a copy and get into the Christmas spirit today.

This book’s title doesn’t even hint at the sublime and sweet romance between its pages. I applaud Ms. Baxter’s presentation of two people finding each other just at the right time when both are ready to discover and accept love and a new future. Girl at Christmas is a character driven romance about two very likeable people that seem so real, they easily could be someone I’d be proud to know.

The novella focused on Tammy and Lawrence. She’s been hurt emotionally and he’s in danger physically – two very convincing reasons to care for this couple. Honestly, I’m having a hard time putting what I want to say in words. It’s not because I don’t believe this is a well written book – it is! Ms. Baxter has a way of making the heroine and hero’s path to love so sweet, and compelling and honest that I just wanted to hug them both. The author paid attention to the little things that people do to show interest, to show they care and because both of the main characters were a little shy, they were super adorable. I actually felt HAPPY to know them. I can’t remember actually being happy while I watched a romance unfold – interested, fascinated, and entertained,sure, but not happy in the way Girl at Christmas made me.

I liked how the author painted her characters to be slightly geeky; it was part of their charm. I also liked the three main supporting casts of Walter, Olivia and Suzie. Their friendship and camaraderie enhanced the novella and contributed significant emotional touchstones. The one character that caused a lot of the angst is Tammy’s ex, Jeff. I concur with Suzie’s opinion of him. I’m glad that Tammy finally found clarity where that bozo is concerned.

The one thing that stood out to me was Tammy’s recollection of Jeff’s opinions about things she liked, and that includes celebrating Christmas. The joy she experiences when she’s with people who see it the way she does is incalculable. The ending is more a happy for now because it’s a beginning of something beautiful. As to what makes me believe that Tammy and Lawrence’s strengthening love and HEA is inevitable stems from their conversations towards the end. But don’t take my word for it – try reading Girl at Christmasfor yourself and see why I feel so positive about Tammy and Lawrence’s love and future.

Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton


Magic in her Eyes by Donna Dalton
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full length (310 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Meredith Talbot has a secret. In fact, she has nine secrets – her own and those of the eight orphans at Seaton House, a home for children. Each of them has a special talent that if exposed would get them labeled as witches. It is her responsibility to protect the children and their secrets and keep them safe from persecution. Marauding Indians force them into a nearby fort where their safety is threatened by fanatical townspeople and a captivating army officer who try to unmask the children’s extraordinary abilities.

Lieutenant Preston Booth has one goal – to serve and protect his country. The military is the only life he has ever known. It’s the only life he wants. When a child is abducted and Preston goes after the culprit, Meredith has a vision of what will happen to him.

Does she risk everything by exposing her gift? Or keep her secret and risk losing him forever?

Meredith has visions. She can’t control them and she needs to be next to a deep rooted tree to bring them to life, but she can see the future. When she tells her parents her stepbrother is going to be killed by their bull, no one believes her. When it comes true, her father bans her from the house. She has nowhere to go. She finally travels cross country to her aunt’s orphanage. She can help run that.

All the children in orphanage have special powers, so they spend time inside learning to control them and they are sworn to silence about such things when in public. All is going well until the Indian threat comes close to them and they must join the others in the fort.

This story is set during the time Indians were being relocated to reservations. The author describes life at that time and the hardships everyone faced. If hiding abilities isn’t hard enough, they have to eat at the mess hall. While there, one woman gets in Meredith’s face and tells her she can’t be friends with the lady she invited to sit with them. One of the girls tells the woman secrets from her past and they suddenly called witches!

There’s danger, lots of action, Meredith finds herself falling in love with a soldier, and the ending is exciting. The story flows well and it’s a joy to read. When a boy goes missing towards the end of the story, you find yourself worrying about him just as much as Meredith. It’s also fun to watch the soldier who didn’t like children come under their spell. This was a very good read.

Camino Island by John Grisham


Camino Island by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (304 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.
Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.

But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.

Steal the F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts? The heck you say… But maybe it can be done.

I’ve mentioned I’m a sucker for a Grisham book. I usually race through the books and can’t wait to see what happens next. This book was no exception. The more I read Grisham, the more I get mildly irritated with the occasional head-hopping, but I’ve learned to deal with it.

Mercer is a struggling author. She hit the semi-big time once and can’t produce another work. It happens. Ask most authors and they’re struggling. She was a believable character. I didn’t agree with all of her decisions, but she had to make them, not me. She gets in over her head and needs a way out…oh and a chance to write. I could identify with her desire.

Then there are the missing manuscripts. Holy moly. Imagine stealing the F Scott Fitzgerald original manuscripts… I can’t. But it happened. I can’t begin to fathom these being taken, then the school opting to pay the thieves blows my mind. I wonder if that really happens. Seems like it wouldn’t, but I don’t know. If they want the priceless piece back that much…it could happen.

Although I liked the book, some of the characterizations were odd. The women writing romance…they felt a tad stereotyped and that done badly. That said, I could see them. The woman who wrote the vampire books… gee wonder who the reference was? Haha. But again, the author made her seem ditzy and almost unrealistic. I don’t know if the romance crowd is that voracious for ‘garbage’ as it was called, but I can see the glut of ‘books’ that maybe aren’t quite ready for publication being rushed through because someone believes they can and will make a buck from them.

That said, the mystery wasn’t as tough to figure out as I’d hoped. Still, I raced through this book and wanted to know what would happen to Mercer. I liked reading about her grandmother, Tessa, and wanted to see how things would shake out on Camino Island.

If you’re looking for a book with intrigue, excitement, mystery and authors, then this might be the book for you.

A Deep Thing by A.K. Smith


A Deep Thing by A.K. Smith
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (375 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

What was her husband hiding in the jungles of Mexico?

Rocked by her husband’s tragic death, Kendall Jackson strives to put her life back together. But Ryder, her nineteen-year-old stepson, is bitter and wants nothing to do with her. And she can’t keep the grief at bay. Sometimes, it’s so strong, she wonders if life is worth living.

A call from a cave diver in Mexico gives her hope of mending the relationship with her stepson. Before his death, her husband arranged a diving expedition as a birthday gift for his son. Kendall persuades Ryder to honor his father’s last wish.

From the campus of Western Maryland College to the woods of Camp David and the caves of the Yucatán, Kendall and Ryder take a journey to discover what her husband worked so hard to hide, and to protect his treasured secrets from falling into the wrong hands. The choices they make will decide their fate and the future of others. Will they risk everything for the truth?

Does Kendall really want to know the truth?

When her husband, Tim, died, Kendall lost the love of her life. Nearly two years later, just as she’s ready to move on, Kendall stumbles onto information that brings to light Tim’s secret life. As Kendall digs deeper into the past, she discovers a conspiracy much larger than she could have imagined. With people of questionable integrity pressing her for information, is there anyone she can trust?

Kendall is a likable character. She’s strong and vulnerable at the same time. Her longing for Tim and her simultaneous need to move on is intense. My heart ached for her as she tried to balance her budding desire for a new man with the deep love she still felt for her dead husband. She is always a swirling mix of emotions, and that made her feel very realistic.

This story is compelling, but not something I raced through. The suspense of this tale comes from not knowing who to trust. As I read, I was always trying to puzzle out the motivations of each character. Even characters that seemed infallible proved to be weak at times. I was never quite sure who was truly trustworthy.

I never really warmed up to Ryder, Kendall’s step-son. Like Kendall, his emotions have been chaotic since Tim’s death. I can certainly understand that, but Ryder makes it hard to like him. Kendall is very patient and kind to him, but he treats her very harshly. I will say that I saw glimmers of hope in him, but never felt a solid change in him. I want to believe that he will be a better man from now one, but I’m just not sure.

The ending is surprising and mostly satisfying. I think the conclusion is in part open to interpretation, specifically the epilogue concerning Ryder. I can’t say much without spoiling the story, but I will say that the reason I’m not completely sure of the ending go back to my misgivings regarding Ryder and his character. I don’t think I would have any doubts about Ryder’s actions and motivations if I were more certain of his character.

I enjoyed reading A Deep Thing. The characters are interesting, and the plot is compelling. Readers looking for a good suspense should give A Deep Thing a try.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham


The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (352 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right? Well, yes and no . . .

Pull up a stool, grab a cold one, and get ready to spend some time at The Rooster Bar.

Law, lies and excitement…what’s not to love?

I’m a nut for Grisham’s work. I devour it. When I saw this book had come out, I had to nab it. I’m glad I did.

This was a one-sitting book – meaning I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. I thought about the characters after the book was done and wanted more. I can’t say I agree with their actions, but I understood to a degree why they did it. Mark, Todd and Zola are interesting characters. They’re typical students who got caught up in the desire to better themselves and over-borrowed money to do so at the college level. I know how being eyeball deep in student loan debt can feel. But they weren’t just in debt. They’d been had by the for-profit school they attended. Ouch.

My favorite character had to be Gordy, though. The guy had issues coming out his ears, but he had a big heart and was smarter than the other students. I can’t give too many details, but I cried over him. I did.

There were parts of the story that irritated me. I won’t lie. But there were parts that made me smile. I can’t imagine doing what Mark and Todd did, but it’s fiction. I can overlook it.

If you want a book that will make you think, rivet you to your seat and is good escapism, then this is the book for you.

Chatel’s Vision: A Cheetah Princess Story by Glenn McCorkhill and Joan Conning Afman


Chatel’s Vision: A Cheetah Princess Story by Glenn McCorkhill and Joan Conning Afman
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (191 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When a stranger shows up at the door of her parent’s rundown farm, Chatel hopes her dreams have come true. But he seems consumed with a desire for wealth and power, and shows little interest in her.

However, his arrival will sweep her up into an epic adventure across Futurah, with her loyal pet cheetah at her side. She will encounter a king and queen on a desperate quest, accompanied by their own cheetah and a handsome young man who hopes to make her dreams a reality.

The young man who shows up at Chatel’s door isn’t exactly the prince she’s always dreamed of.

Chatel desperately wants to be rescued from the dull life she leads on her family’s farm. When a rich young man shows up, she hopes her fantasies are about to come true. Unfortunately, the man isn’t who he seems. Chatel and Teekay, her pet cheetah, sense something isn’t right and it isn’t long before Chatel finds herself caught up in a royal struggle for power, one that could cost Chatel her life.

I really like the premise of Chatel’s Vision. The world the authors have created is vivid, realistic, and easy to imagine. However, I don’t feel that I got to know any of the characters very well. The story is told from several characters’ viewpoints. The transitions are smooth and never confusing, but the characters are not as rounded as they could have been. Most of the characters, except the villain of course, are likable, but they never truly came to life in my mind.

Chatel is a sweet, brave young woman, and I was pleased when she met a young man worthy of her affections. However, their romance is rushed, and they become serious extremely fast without knowing much about each other. I just feel that it was wrapped up much too quickly. Despite my issues with the human characters, I absolutely love the cheetahs, Kiboli and Teekay. In fact, they are my favorite characters. I found myself laughing at their antics and holding my breath when they were in danger. Kiboli and Teekay’s families are lucky to have such loyal friends watching over them.

Chatel’s Vision is an enjoyable read. It is part of a series, but I believe it stands on its own very well. Mr. McCorkhill and Ms. Afman have provided enough background information that I never felt lost. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, fun book.

Laked by J L Wilson


Laked by J L Wilson
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (214 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Vivian DuLac, shop owner of Curiosity’s Curios and Collectibles, has come into possession of an old sword that Arthur (“Able”) Leroy wants. But that’s not all that Able wants. He wants Vivian and her connections to her ex-husband, CEO of a large software company.

Able follows Vivian to northern Minnesota where her ex-husband is meeting to discuss a merger with another company. It’s the one that Able used to own and the one taken from him by his scheming stepsister, Faye Morgan.

When Faye dies under unusual circumstances, everyone associated with her comes under suspicion, including Vivian and Able. On a storm-shrouded night, Vivian finds out if she can trust Able. And they both find out if an ancient sword is worth Vivian’s life.

If you ever watched the TV show Matlock or the TV show Murder, She Wrote and enjoyed them, then that gives you an idea if you will enjoy this book or not. I loved those television shows and therefore enjoyed reading this book. The synopsis sounded intriguing to me and I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s not very often I read a book that the hero and heroine were “older”. It did put a different perspective on things but in a good way. They were mature, established and still young enough to have some romantic chemistry.

Vivian DuLac, the heroine, was a strong, independent, successful business owner. She was past the age of worrying what other people think of her. She said what she thought regardless of the outcome and was still well liked and respected by others. She could protect herself from danger when needed. Vivian was intelligent but a bit gullible and easily trusted others. I found Vivian’s characteristics easy to relate to.

Able, the hero, was complex and I can’t say much about him because he’s a huge part of the suspense/mystery plot. He has secrets and motives that made the book worth reading. He was strong, handsome and kind. He possessed the qualities of a heroic leader.

As a couple, their relationship worked considering the intricate plot. Between the sword, the history of the sword, the merging of the companies, the mysterious death of the character, Faye, there was a lot of depth to this story. Vivian and Able have individual past histories that are intertwined in this swirly plot. It was all fascinating how the writer master planned this elaborate story and still incorporated a budding romance between the lead characters. I particularly got a hoot over their love scene. That was the most unique love scene I’ve ever read.

There are several side characters but I didn’t get lost or confused. They each had a relevant existence to the evolving story line. Together they created a well gelled cast of characters. I enjoyed reading the setting as it was described at a lake. I’ve been to Lake Winnipesaukee once and we rode in a boat all over that lake. With that personal experience I was able to vividly imagine the setting in my mind.

The writing style was creative, unique and polished. I already mentioned how the lead characters were “older” as in old enough to be in their menopausal stage of life. I haven’t googled J L Wilson therefore I have no idea how old the author is. Yet, I feel like I definitely heard the author’s unique voice when Vivian spoke. Vivian spoke of a woman of her age. The love scene alone vindicates a unique writing style. The specifics in the story made it tangible and believable, such as the footprints in the snow. The details added to the quality and made for a concrete plot. The piece written about the sword was another example of a creative writing style, especially near the end. Very dramatic!

The pace consistently flowed at a moderate speed thanks to the combination of mood and emotional provoking plot threads. As these elements were implemented throughout in the dialogue, setting and action, it made the suspense/mystery riveting. I was on the edge of my seat wondering where this point was going to go. With several suspects and narrative twists I found this story unpredictable.

Whenever my father would eat something that he really liked he’d say, “You know what this taste like?” I’d say “What?” and he’d say “It tastes like MORE”. He’d say “more” all drawn out while laughing. I fell for it every time.

This book was like that joke. I wanted more. It had an abrupt ending without an epilogue. I’m sitting here still in a state of surprise. I point this out for the future reader to brace themselves for the unexpected brusque ending. With that being said it’s important to point out that there are no loose threads or a cliff hanger. I wanted to rave that this was the best book ever but I can’t with that unanticipated ending. I flipped the pages looking for more. I needed more assurance. I was not left with a confident happily ever after. It was there but not rock solid like the rest of the book.

In conclusion, I’d recommend this book but I’d tell my friends that they’ll have to add their own addendum to the ending. However, if you like a wham, bam, thank you mam swift kind of ending then there’s a strong chance you’ll absolutely LOVE this book. It definitely was an entertaining read.

A Miracle for the Baby Doctor by Meredith Webber


A Miracle for the Baby Doctor by Meredith Webber
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (268 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Conceived in paradise…

When beautiful embryologist Fran Hawthorne is offered the opportunity to work on a Pacific island for a month, she seizes the chance to escape the humiliation of her ex-husband’s betrayal.

But Fran isn’t prepared for Steve Ransome, the handsome doctor heading the clinic. After years of struggling to conceive with her ex, Fran is tempted to give in to the pure passion that burns between them. Only their “temporary” fling results in her carrying the child she thought she’d never have…

Webber’s A Miracle for the Baby Doctor takes us immediately to a wonderful ,exotic location, as well as to the squeaky-clean hospital corridors we expect in a medical romance. There is something light-hearted about Steve and Fran’s connection. Right off the bat, Steve’s humor is welcome, especially as the story begins at a rather dark spot in Fran’s life. Even with the everyday (who uses the shower first) there is that hint of risque. The interaction between the two main characters will make every reader smile, again and again. As lovely as the setting is, and as easy and fun the relationship seems like it could be, Fran has to worry that her inability to conceive might not allow her to move forward. We readers are rooting for both of them, right from the start.

A Miracle for the Baby Doctor is a feel-good read, with fresh and rewarding characters. I might wish for some lesser level of predictability, but it is overall satisfying.

Stolen Kisses with Her Boss by Susan Carlisle


Stolen Kisses with Her Boss by Susan Carlisle
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

After hours…

To medical transcriber Cynthia Markum, Dr. Sean Donovan is just a voice—a deliciously sexy one—in her earpiece…until he asks to meet in person. She’s nervous and excited, but it’s crazy to have feelings for a man she’s never laid eyes on, right? Besides, he’s her employer!

Stunning Cynthia couldn’t be further from the woman Sean imagined her to be, and their attraction is mutual and instantaneous. Neither are ready for a relationship, but from the moment their lips meet there’s just no going back…

Carlisle’s Stolen Kisses with Her Boss brings with it a level of complexity that seems to go hand-in-hand with main character Cynthia’s life. At work, she maintains a high-level of professionalism, although she does have some, er, less than strictly professional thoughts about her boss. The mutual attraction takes us a big step away from ‘simply professional’ relationship, although Cynthia’s other responsibilities keep her focused. The passionate attraction between the two absolutely sizzles – and will keep readers completely engaged.

All was not entirely fast-paced however. Backstory is often fed to us through one character or another’s reflections, significantly distancing readers. New chapters often open with two or three paragraphs that are no more than that sort of ‘telling.’ The author did give us a super hospital setting with realistic situations. The passion between the two is great and all the elements of a medical-romance are there.