Mate with Me by BJ Wane

MATE
Mate with Me by BJ Wane
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, Menage, Anal Play, Spanking, Voyeurism
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Waratah

Damien LaRue has spent the better part of two hundred years trying to atone for an act he’d been driven to commit shortly after master vampiress, Isabelle Sartre ended his life in 1815. Because he can never forgive himself, he plans to ‘meet the dawn’ soon, never intending to claim his mate. However, he hadn’t counted on Abrielle Chirac’s tenacity and her utter faith in him. When a strange mark suddenly appears on her breast, Abby discovers that she is destined to become her guardian’s mate. She’s determined to use her body to break through Damien’s wall of resistance. She wants the man as much as her body craves the vampire! Unfortunately, Damien’s will is stronger than her attempts at seduction, and it isn’t until she’s attacked by rogues and Damien brings her to his home for protection that she gets the chance to finally become his in every way.

Damien isn’t the only one to have a run-in with vampire rogues. Jacob Carter has spent decades longing to find his mate, but when he finally does, it’s to rescue her from one of his own. Grace Larsen is shocked to discover an immediate sexual response to the vampire who comes to her rescue. But ignoring her body’s desires, she refuses to believe that Jacob is any different than the vampire who tormented her. However, when Jacob is critically wounded from a rogue attack, Grace is left with two choices—watch the man she has grown to care for die, or use her body, the one thing she’s withheld from him, to save him.

In time, Damien, Jacob and their fellow vampires discover that their nemesis, Isabelle, is behind the rogue attacks. But before they have any hope of permanently ending Isabelle’s existence, they must resolve the issues that keep them from completing their mating bonds.

These bonded mates will have to fight their past before they can embrace their futures.

Finding a new author is like finding buried treasure. I thought this was a amazing read, even though when I picked it I had no clue what I’d be reading, really. It didn’t have a cliff hanger nor does it seem like it will be a “series” book. Instead, the author very cleverly wove three stories into one read. They are separate stories but by the end they all mesh together to make one well developed novel. That was just one thing that pulled me in and kept me there.

I met three women in the same situation but who handle themselves differently. Abby, Grace and Cat are human women and mates to vampires. Abby is a ward who’s been around vamps most of her life and is all grown up now, Grace is somewhat naïve and a sheltered homebody and Catlin is a bar owner. The brethren are a group of male vampires who watch over the city and are destined to be mated. The way the group of men are described almost reminded me of another series. The book lost a bit of its originality with that but it was the only drawback. There was plenty to keep me reading beyond that similarity.

What awesome play with words, as sexy alpha males try to contend with their equally stubborn human mates. The wise cracking, the teasing among the characters was a good fit, almost as if I could close my eyes and see the story playing out. There was one wee twist that threw me for a second, then I completely agreed. There is a bit of danger as a old nemesis the brethren thought dead shows herself. The hot scenes were all wow, yep, I needed to fan my face. There was some hints of BDSM but not much mostly the alpha male tendencies. Oh, I just fell in love with Tasha and Micah.  The ending was surprising, but HEA. I enjoyed it and it listed as a favorite. Enjoy!

Her Ancient Hybrid by Marisa Chenery

HYBRID
Her Ancient Hybrid by Marisa Chenery
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (52 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Waratah

Brolach is old. Ancient. A hybrid, half vampire and half werewolf, he’s a true immortal who can never die. He’s lived for three thousand years, but has slept buried for two of them. It isn’t until a female comes to the hill where he sleeps does he come awake, ready to protect her, his vampire side knowing she’s his mate.

Physically threatened by her ex-boyfriend while out on a hike in the grasslands has unexpected results for Waverly. A man, muddy and covered in dirt, explodes out of the ground to rescue her. After he turns into a wolf and chases off her ex, she soon loses it when he turns his attention to her.

With the help of Waverly, Brolach adjusts to the new world he’s awakened in to. The new life he sets about making with his mate is soon threatened by one of the vampires who’d killed his family and had buried him alive.

Two thousand years is a long time to have to wait to meet your mate. It’s even longer when you’ve been buried alive.

I love new to me authors, getting a feel for their talent and how they weave a story. Ms. Chenery did a good job. I enjoyed the hybrid true immortal story line.

A very short read, this is a good one for readers who want intensity but don’t have much time to devote to long drawn out novels. I was a bit sad when this one ended but only because I kept imagining the interaction between the characters after the last page. I adored Waverly even as things progressed too fast for her; she still hung in there and was a champ. As for Brolach, I was fanning myself over him – protector, lover and a Vampire/Wolf that had been sleep for two thousand years. It made me laugh when I pictured his face as seeing a car for the first time.

I don’t know what the author has planned for future books in this series but Waverly’s brother needs his own story – what a character he is, so full of himself but loyal to his sister. Cameron the lone wolf; yep, he needs his own story.

If I could change something it would be the length, it truly needed to be a bit longer to give the characters more time to develop. Brolach is all alpha male but he could have been more likable if I could have had more time to get to know him, understand him.

Everything else meshed well. I’d give her a B+ on the sexy scenes and the premise was a win. I enjoyed the dialogue and how smoothly the pace flowed. I will be looking forward to reading more of Ms. Chenery’s work. I’d recommend this to any shifter lover. Enjoy.

Welcome to Deep Cove by Grant Reed

COVE
Welcome to Deep Cove by Grant Reed
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (287 Pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

Vellian Mysteries Book 1. Welcome to Deep Cove follows Garrett and his miniature dragon partner Merle as they attempt to make it in the real world. Garrett has finally received his P.I. papers and he and Merle must undertake a case for a notorious gangster in order to pay their bills.

At thirty-one, Garrett Willigins has finally earned his private investigator’s badge. Unfortunately, the bills haven’t stopped coming and building a solid reputation won’t happen overnight. Forced to take employment wherever they can, Garrett and his miniature dragon partner Merle, must dirty their hands any way possible to make a buck. Shoveling manure, chasing cats, and dock duty seem to be the order of the day.

Working off back rent for a notorious gangster isn’t the safest of jobs on a good day, but when the other workers start turning up dead, Garrett finds himself elbow deep in a mystery that could spell a quick end to his short P.I. career.

It is always tough to start out in a new job. Garrett Willigins finally has his private investigator’s badge, but now he has to do whatever he can to pay the rent owed to a notorious gangster. Aided by his miniature dragon partner, Merle, he ends up chasing cats, shoveling manure, and doing dock duty all to pay the bills.

This novel is a fast-paced exciting romp through a variety of adventures. There are plots within plots, with two main threads running throughout the story. Not only are there Garret and Merle’s escapades, but there is also the matter of the soldier Rowgar’s imprisonment after he has been sent on a bogus mission designed to start a war between Vellia and Ponce.

There are a lot of interesting characters including minotaurs, ogres and a robot named P.C., who serves as an all purpose servant to Garrett and Merle. P. C. talks slowly and his dialog is printed with ellipses after every word. “My. . . bleach. . . has. . . crystallised.” I found this to be rather annoying after awhile, even though I liked the character himself.

Garrett is a smart detective who manages to land himself repeatedly in dangerous situations. I enjoyed the descriptions of this world, and the maps at the beginning are very well drawn. The world feels real, and Deep Cove is certainly a challenging place to live.

The two plot threads provide different story-telling techniques. Garrett’s work as a private investigator is told rather in the vein of a hardboiled crime novel but with a lot of intentional humor. Rowgar’s story is a very suspenseful adventure thriller. The combining of these two plots is accomplished skillfully so that the reader is kept in suspense throughout with exciting twists and turns on every page.

Readers of fantasy novels and detective stories will both enjoy following the exploits of Garrett and Merle as they work to sort out the villains.

Winter’s Tale by Emma Holly

TALE

Winter’s Tale by Emma Holly
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (118 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Something sexy is afoot at Rackham’s School for Young Ladies.

Half faerie, half elf Hans Winter broke the heart of the wrong princess. Cursed to live as a statue at a school for human girls, only true love—and true bravery—can free him.

December Worth never met a rule she didn’t want to break, as the numerous institutions that expelled her can attest. Bravery she can handle. Love she’s less sure about, especially if it involves believing in fairytales.

A kiss seems like the last thing these lonely souls would share, until one night in the cemetery where Hans stands trapped, Fate brings stone and flesh together . . .

There’s something about a man cursed for unjust reasons that makes a romance reader stand up and notice. Add in a mystery, a plea in the night and delicious naughty dreams that may or may not be real and it sweetens the pot. How could I resist? Plus, the fact that the illustrious Ms. Holly has a way with sexual encounters pretty much insured that this would be an entertaining read. I was right.

The first thing the author did was introduce me to the heroine, December. Her parents have pretty much given up on her and in fact are a nonevent in her life save the money they spend in lieu of their attentions.

They came across as rather cold fish who substitute public opinion for genuine emotions or affections. It’s a sad, lonely picture that is drawn and it helped make the case that December is a woman who doesn’t trust easy and has no belief in the word ‘love’. Someone so young with a whole future in front of her should have hope, but what will inspire it?

A mystery discovered on a daring walk in the night attracts more attention to December than she ever dreamed. Her mind, her intellect and her drive to action are all engaged as the heroine realized that something wasn’t right, wasn’t normal and it demanded of her more than she thought possible of giving. It’s her character growth that I found appealing.

Hans is not an ordinary man, in any form. The author was effective in portraying the hero’s desperation, his yearning and his despair. Even better was his lusty thoughts and creative ways of interacting with December. A reader is treated to some very steamy scenes – well written and detailed.

This novella is definitely erotic due to the nature of some of December’s antics with Hans. I’ve read a couple of erotic stories about women and statues before and they came across as thinly veiled plots for the sole purpose of exploring kinky sex with statuary – sort of silly and uninspiring. Ms. Holly has taken a ho-hum idea and turned it into a polished gem that inspires the libido instead of putting it to sleep. She introduced a battery of feelings that ranged from disbelief, sadness, anger, desire, hopelessness, worry, elation and the all-important one, love. Hans isn’t a statue at all, but a man trapped. His connection to December is what sets this apart from what I’ve read before. There is a reason she does what she does. Of course she enjoys it – that’s what makes it so hot. But the purpose is deeper and more profound than merely sex and because the author can make an effective emotional connection between her characters and readers, it makes this book worth taking the time to read.

As for the overall conflict, man turned to stone notwithstanding, there are a few nasty surprises in store for both protagonists. Ms. Holly effectively diverted my attention with a red herring. I never dreamed that the bad were good, in an oddball sort of way, and the good were really insane. There are also some elements in the book with very strong resemblances to other fairy tales. I liked them then and I enjoyed how the author incorporated facets of them here. In fact, December is a smart fairy tale heroine, unlike the wishy-washy lambkins of old. This heroine is sassy, questions until she is satisfied with the answers and at times knows when to listen instead of smart-mouth. It comes in handy.

There is a good chunk of action and drama that made this story stand out from all that panting and detailed naughty hijinks. It’s the testing of their mettle in crisis that had me appreciating the main characters and because the writing was vivid, clear and tight, the whole scene progression was a real page-flipper.

I’m not a fan of dream sequences but in this tale, the author took the time to make a reader believe in their logic. It worked.

Winter’s Tale generates enough heat to make a reader melt. It’s a terrific fantasy made all the better by interesting characters that I enjoyed reading about. I got an extra thrill from a cameo appearance by a couple of people from a previous book I’d read, Move Me, written in the same world as this one. In fact, after seeing them again, I have an itch to read their story all over again. This is such a fun world that Ms. Holly has created; I can never seem to get enough. Try Winter’s Tale for a taste and see for yourself.

Hidden Crimes by Emma Holly

CRIMES

Hidden Crimes by Emma Holly
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (234 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Play, Toys
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Cats and dogs shouldn’t fall in love. Like any wolf, detective Nate Rivera knows this. He can’t help it if the tigress he’s been trading quips with at the supermarket is the most alluring woman he’s ever met—sassy too, which suits him down to his designer boots.

Evina Mohajit is aware their flirtation can’t lead to more. Still, she relishes trading banter with the hot werewolf. This hardworking single mom hasn’t felt so female since her twins’ baby daddy left to start his new family. Plus, as a station chief in Resurrection’s Fire Department, she understands the demands of a dangerous job.

Their will-they-or-won’t-they tango could go on forever if it weren’t for the mortal peril the city’s shifter children fall into. To save them, Nate and Evina must team up, a choice that ignites the sparks smoldering between them . . .

This is a book worth reading more than once. I was so thrilled with the mystery, the sense of urgency to solve the crime and the dynamic relationship building between two characters that were not supposed to fall in love, that one time was not enough. I did read it twice and I’m amazed as to how completely the world Ms. Holly created sucked me in the second time around.

I realize that Ms. Holly is known for her scenes of sexual complexity and imagination but with Hidden Crimes she proved that she can make a reader’s heart thud triple time for entirely different reasons. This novel is hard-edged, driven and it barrels through any preconceived notions that this was to be a sexy bit of fluff. The conflict is a bit harsh and horrifying to even contemplate. I can’t even guess what the author must have gone through in putting words to paper considering the young victims of the crimes. I can assure readers that she didn’t get graphic or gross, but like the great filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, less is more because I used my imagination to fill in the rest and my emotions and feelings of sadness and shock were effectively affected. One of the earliest of scenes with the hero, Nate, was truly impressive. It was how Ms. Holly described him holding what he did in his hand and how she showed it affecting him that made it one of the most profound moments in the book. It was a turning point for the hero because from that moment on he was driven to succeed at something he wasn’t entirely sure of. It was his tenacity and his unwillingness to be placated or mollified that I respected. His is a strongly written character that I found vastly appealing and sexy.

The heroine, Evina, was refreshing. She’s not just a tiger in bed; she IS a tiger, and a firefighter. I’m tickled that the author thought of putting together that kind of combination for a woman. It’s not only sexy but unique, intriguing, and totally wonderful. She is strong, capable and excellent at her job. The one extra item of her personality that makes her such an amazing heroine is her being a mother. I did not find one misstep in how her character was portrayed. Even after two readings, it holds firm and true. Evina made one awesome heroine for Nate, the wolf cop.

And that is one of the major conflicts beside the evil, totally whacked and twisted villain; cats and dogs living together don’t necessarily cause mass hysteria but what it does do is create one heck of an interesting romance. It ends up being one of the most entertaining and fun relationships I’ve read about in quite some time. I mean, they had to overcome the general consensus against interspecies romances. The fact that she’s alpha of her people and he’s a frustrated man who somehow has ended up with alpha tendencies but is only third in command causes him no end of internal angst. At this point in his life it’s really getting to him that he has to be subservient to his alpha especially when his instincts are screaming that there’s more to the initial crime than his fellow cops are willing to entertain. In fact, that is another conflict because he loves his alpha who is also his boss – they’re like family and he’s an honorary uncle to the alpha’s daughter. There are so many personality twists and turns weaving among so many characters, it’s like having an inside track on an extended family. Each encounter that Nate has with the secondary characters acts like a window into the hero – and I liked what I saw.

This wouldn’t be a story by Ms. Holly if there weren’t some incredibly hot skin on skin action and this book delivered. Oh my! When Nate and Evina take turns being both dominate and submissive, it was hot stuff; the cuffs didn’t hurt either. One of my favorite lines that Nate says to Evina is this, “Women like you in underwear like that make life worth living”. What happens after that is sweat-worthy. ::fans self:: There’s plenty more great dialogue like that sprinkled like potent sugar throughout the novel and the scenes where they get together are well placed, descriptive, effective and integral to the advancement of their relationship. They made the story better.

The final few chapters where the villain and flunkies make their move is hard hitting. Mind games, magic, betrayal, fisticuffs, and ferocious growls and snapping jaws all keep those last pages flipping speedily because the action and revelations come fast and furious. This novel has an explosive ending where the bad guys get their comeuppance, boy do they ever, and to top all that excitement off, there’s a scene where a fireman does what they do best. I was a puddle of relieved stress when he came out of that building. What a hero. Granted, he’s an imperfect hero but still, there’s room for everyone in this book.

Hidden Crimes is one of Ms. Holly’s best books to date. It has every element that I look for in a paranormal suspense romance and it included every bit of what makes this author’s books memorable, popular and looked forward to. She didn’t miss a trick when she wrote this and I’m really impressed. The ending when Nate proposes is incredibly romantic and beautiful and it made my day. Hands down, this is a must read that should not be missed by anyone who is serious about romantic suspense with an erotic edge. You can bet that this book is on my keeper shelf and if you pick up your own copy, you’ll see why. It’s that awesome.

The Billionaire Bad Boys Club by Emma Holly

CLUB

The Billionaire Bad Boys Club by Emma Holly
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (273 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, M/M, F/M/M, Ménage, Anal Play, Fetish, Toys, Spanking, Voyeurism
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Self-made billionaires Zane and Trey have been a club of two since they were eighteen. They’ve done everything together: play football, fall in love, even get smacked around by their dads. The only thing they haven’t tried is seducing the same woman.

Rebecca learned early on not to trust anyone. She raised her brothers by herself—with no adult being the wiser. Her knack for cooking kept a roof over the twins’ heads. Now she’s damned if it won’t pay their way through Harvard as well. Add in running Trey’s latest restaurant, and her plate is way too full for romance.

That’s an attitude the bad boys intend to change. Zane and Trey have set their sights on the sexy chef. When their hearts enter the equation and they both fall for her, this committed twosome faces their hardest test of all!

This is a must read if a reader is looking for a book that can turn an ordinary room into a steamy sauna. Ms. Holly has once again proved why her stories are so popular and sought after by writing a romance that satisfies both the romantic within and the naughty minx hidden deeper inside.

Trey, Zane and Rebecca are the people whose lives are irrevocably changed and forged by life events they had no control over when they were kids. The author introduces a reader at the very moment in time when choices are made that set them on the path to be the people they become.

It was made brutally clear in the first chapter that Trey and Zane made a harrowing escape by trusting each other and in doing so found the means to survive and thrive. That choice of trust blossomed and when the story opens up when they’re adults in the next chapter, I was able to see how wonderfully some things have changed, and tragically, how some things hadn’t.

Rebecca’s sad story is one of accidental genius in the face of adversity. That one tiny insignificant discovery lead to a life of hard earned successes which impressed me. When her adult story starts, I meet her just when she’s about to take the next big leap of faith as she fights to get a dream job. Unknowingly, she’s about to get more than a job, but a chance at a better life – bigger and more exciting than anything she could have dreamed.

And here is where Ms. Holly excelled. In a daring move, she used the very type of scenes that she writes so well and actually makes them show the progression of the relationship. Usually, I find too many sex scenes, no matter how well written, to be a drawback and I’m left feeling like the author was lazy in deciding to let the sex do the talking. Even though there were a few too many scenes in this book for my tastes, I cannot argue their effectiveness. In every scorching hot and tantalizing escapade, the relationship that grows between Rebecca, Trey and Zane is done best while they are having sex. The author accomplished this amazing feat by upping the ante in each encounter. Every time they got together, in whatever combination was needed at that moment, pushed the envelope and made demands on the characters’ emotions, feelings and ideas of commitment and willingness to compromise.

I was treated to some very detailed and adventurous lovemaking and pretty much every kind of combo of kink was attempted. Cars, elevators, public, private, wet or dry, bound or free, it was all there to play with and it was apparent that Ms. Holly knows how to make a person squirm, hyperventilate and come back for more. I kept flipping those pages at a furious pace – or, in my case, pushing that eReader button like a fiend.

The suspense and drama comes from the poisoned snake in the garden of love. The villain was effective and believable as a person who wants to ruin a good thing out of spite, jealousy and plain old vindictive vengeance. How this person was reigned in was pretty funny. I enjoyed the whole ‘secret agent’ feel to the scene. Zane is a classy guy.

The Billionaire Bad Boys Club was a fun, delicious and delightfully naughty adventure that was almost impossible to put down. Because of the author’s slow revealing of the heroes and heroine’s inner fears, worries, and their dreams, the characters have the ability to tap into a reader’s emotions. I fell in love with them as they fell in love with each other; although I’m pretty sure they had a lot more fun than me.

Pick up your own copy and see why Ms. Holly is the queen of complicated sexual relationships. She makes it work, makes a reader care for her characters and has us loving every kinky step along the way.
I can’t wait for the next sexy adventure.

Cake by Elise Marion

Cake by Elise Marion
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (70 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Wedding planner Taylor Vaughn specializes in magical moments. So when her best friend asks her to plan his wedding, the task should have come as simply to her as all the others. There’s only one problem……she is desperately in love with the groom.

Caleb has always been Taylor’s best friend as well as her deepest and most secret desire. Her hopes that he will someday come to love her back are dashed on the day he brings his new fiancé into their lives. While the misery of losing the man she loves to another woman looms over her, she doesn’t expect to find her head turned by the most unlikely of strangers.

Ethan Young, cake decorator, is everything a woman could want in a man: handsome, charismatic, and has a way with icing! When she finds herself feeling more than simple attraction for the sexy baker, her heart is torn in two between the man she’s always loved and the man who’s slowly stealing her heart.

This story takes the phrase, “I’ve got your back” to new levels as it follows two lifelong friends on their journey of love.

The epilogue shows what cemented their friendship. The following chapters embark upon the discovery that a different kind of love possibly awaits both friends but there’s a lot of emotional growth that needs to take place before that can happen. What used to be comforting and welcoming like an old pair of slippers no longer satisfies the people that they’ve both become but both are loathe to face the truth.

I liked the technique that the author used to highlight just how in tune both Caleb and Taylor were to each other although I didn’t recognize a lot of the actors mentioned. Its use expressed the sheer volume of past history they both shared without going into long and drawn out details that would do the job but less effectively. It was an interesting choice. That same familiarity also came with unforeseen pitfalls because although they knew each other as no one else did, there was one thing that neither of them ever thought to express or explore and because of it, the specter of the unknown caused a believable and troublesome conflict. Cake was definitely a character driven story.

This book is Taylor’s account. It’s told in her point of view and the author stayed true through the story. When she first gets the bombshell that the traditional dynamic of her relationship was about to change with Caleb, it was made clear that this was a shock. It woke her up that change was afoot and she had a very hard time dealing with it. Caleb’s decision was the first push against a long line of dominoes that knocked over one thing after another, forcing Taylor onto a new path with alternate possibilities before her. None of which she could see in a positive light, until Ethan steps into the picture.

Ethan is a great character. He’s talented, described as a man in his prime and yet, for all his perfection and cake professionalism, he’s had an unfortunate past. I have a lot of respect for a person who can raise themselves out of all that negativity and become a better man as well as a successful entrepreneur. He didn’t take the easy road and the man that Taylor meets is a man honed through adversity, perseverance and guided by the love of his grandmother. Ethan was a great choice for a hero. He’s also a man who knows what he wants and goes after it. It was absolutely delicious when he focused on Taylor.

Taylor, however, is really confused and riddled with guilt. She returns Ethan’s interest but she has to go through a rather emotional process before she’s truly comfortable with even the idea of being with him. That confusion and uncertainty had the power to do great harm and the author used it to good effect. So much so, I wasn’t sure who, if anyone, was going to get their happy ever after. Ms. Marion made it very clear to me how dangerous all these volatile emotions plaguing Taylor were. Their affect on her physically and mentally were hard to read about but that kind of catharsis usually breaks a weak person or strengthens and emboldens a strong person making them fearless in facing the truth. Taylor is the latter and a heroine I could respect.

The few times that Ethan and Taylor are together are quite steamy and hot. That man knows how to please a woman and the author made that clear, much to my satisfaction. There was just enough detail and descriptions to make me very happy on Taylor’s behalf.

Although this story was labeled as having some comedic elements, I didn’t find that. I found this story hard to read because of the intense emotions, the hurt feelings and the suspense of not knowing how anyone was going to end up happy. Yes, there were times I smiled, perhaps chuckled, but this story is a serious romance that touches the heart. I also felt that more time should have been spent with Caleb easing Kim into the relationship instead of the instant, ‘Poof! Here she is!”. Then again, the quickness of the change might have been on purpose because certainly it threw Taylor for a loop and that’s what the story was about, her dealing with it. Ultimately, there is a happily ever after, so it made all the hoopla and throwing up well worth it.

Cake is a wonderfully intense, full bodied romance that explores the nature of strong friendships. It shows that healthy and supportive relationships can have value and staying power when they grow as the people grow. Sometimes it’s not easy but well worth it because they can continue to enrich and support the growing circle of friends and share that special love amongst them all. As for Taylor, her ideas for her own wedding were definitely unique and freeing. For her, the fun is just beginning. Read Cake and see.

The Male Stripper by Opal Carew

The Male Stripper by Opal Carew
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (15 pgs)
Other: M/F/M, F/M/M, Ménage, Anal Play
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Her ultimate sexual fantasy brought to life.

While Becca’s friends fantasize about multiple men and erotic situations, Becca longs for something more down to earth-a sizzling night with the male stripper she hired for her friend’s bachelorette party.

Despite her friends’ good-natured insistence that she go for it, Becca just doesn’t know how to tell this super sexy man she wants to jump his bones.

But when he shows up at her door later that night-and with a hunky friend in tow-she decides she just can’t let this opportunity slip away.

This quickie had me longing for a long-term relationship with these characters. Becca had no idea when planning her friend’s bachelorette party it would lead to the most intense and naughty sex of her life, but I’m glad it did.

Don and Cal have all of the features of male strippers: gorgeous bodies, stunning personalities, and a full package. I could not blame Becca for wanting to take complete advantage. I envied her for getting to experience something that many woman dream of. On top of offering up some great sex these men seem to have personalities that just shined through the pages. I found myself wanting to know more about them, which is a strong feat for such a short story.

This story is about pure unadulterated lust with a side of kink, and I enjoyed every second of it. So much so that I immediately wanted to re-read the story and purchase the following story titled The Stranger. I would most certainly recommend this story to anyone who is looking for a truly erotic story.

Chasing McCree by J. C. Isabella

Chasing McCree by J. C. Isabella
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (134 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Briar Thompson had it all. The right clothes, the right friends, the right car. Being popular was all that mattered. Her parents were rich and treated like royalty throughout the community. She thought her senior year of high school was going perfectly, until the night her drink was spiked at a party by one of her so called friends.

That was the night she met Chase McCree.

Chase wanted to go back to Montana. To the ranch and the wild, wide blue sky that went on forever. He wanted nothing to do with flashy cars or spoiled rich kids. But he found himself head over boots for the quirky cheerleader who turned her back on her social status. She befriended him when no one else would.

Shunned and hurt by the people who were once her friends, Briar flees with Chase to his family ranch in Montana. There she discovers another world, and apart of herself she never knew.

The cowboy wasn’t like anyone she’d ever met. The cheerleader wasn’t like anyone he’d ever met. Apart their lives didn’t seem to make sense, but together, they were chasing forever.

Chasing McCree is a delightful and thought provoking tale about two young adults from different backgrounds finding a common dream and being willing to fight for it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the effective way Ms. Isabella showcased the difference in her characters. Chase, the hero, was awesome. Even as young as he was, just about to turn 18 years of age, he had the demeanor of a much more well-rounded and sophisticated man. It’s believable and quite refreshing and it’s all due to the fact of his upbringing. The author did a stellar job of highlighting the differences between the shallow, self-centered and callous peers in the high school against someone who shouldered responsibility from a very young age and who was grounded in what was important in life. It certainly wasn’t fast cars, using and manipulating people and snobbish cliques that demean others. False pride and fake body parts also didn’t play into what was important to Chase and the people he came from. His sense of self-worth and confidence showed early on and it was integral to the story.

The person who experiences the most growth, is Briar. It was funny how she met Chase in the beginning, but it was also rather scary. The ramifications of what could have happened to her are all too real. The author’s description of how Chase saw her was very telling and how she reacted to him once she became aware of her situation was equally so. I felt bad for her because of Ms. Isabella’s descriptions of the heroine’s family life. The dialogue and the details portrayed a very dysfunctional family. It took her meeting Chase to open her eyes to what was wrong with her life, her friends and her decisions up to that point. It takes courage to make changes. It takes a lot more to take a stand and not back down even when people that she used to trust prove they were never worthy of that trust. Watching Briar take each step towards a maturity that left her peers in the dust was wonderful reading. I enjoyed seeing a young woman emerge from the naïve girl she’d been. I also liked her sense of adventure, her willingness to try new things and her general joy in life which blossomed from Chases’s acceptance of everything about her, including her tears. It was beautiful, romantic and heartwarming.

The most fun secondary character was Briar’s grandmother. She was amusing, full of kick and vinegar, and the one person who truly understood Briar. She was integral to helping me believe in the heroine’s ability to embrace the changes that she faced. No one can stay a snob with such a wonderful bundle of energy and sass in their lives. The author had a moment of genius when she created Grandma.

The conflict comes from parental expectations and shallow and vicious peers. I loved the part when Chase told Briar that she should have used a different book. That startled a laugh out of me. Another conflict comes from merging a city girl with a country boy and finding their dreams aren’t that different. It’s what they had to do in order to make them come true that kept me flipping the pages.

For the purpose of the story, I’m sure the level of dysfunction that occurred in Briar’s family was necessary but it seemed rather extreme to me. I can’t imagine a mother and a father having that intensity of self-absorption; one perhaps, but not both. At least, I certainly hope not. In the heroine’s case, however, it cemented my feelings of concern and horror on her behalf which, I expect, was the author’s intention.

I enjoyed Chase’s family and the descriptions of ranch life. There is another external conflict that bordered on nasty and provided the right amount of suspense to stir the plot as well as giving another push towards character growth for both Chase and Briar. It was well done and kept me enthralled.

The wrap-up of the happily ever after reminded me of one of my favorite made for T.V. movies, Night of the Twisters. In that movie, the epilogue came from the voice of the main hero and gave highlights of what later happened to the characters that we saw in the movie and how things played out in their futures. I remember the winds of the zephyr and crying. I had tears in my eyes from Chasing McCree as well. The follow-up was so thorough and beautiful, I sighed when I got to the last page. It’s sweet, tender, respectful and full of hope with a wonderful future spread out before Briar and Chase. This was an awesome read and I recommend it highly.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: SciFi-Fantasy
Length: Full Length (197 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Dianthus

Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation. Betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.

Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.

For Alyrra, the idea of an arranged marriage was a dream that couldn’t be anything worse than the life that she was already living. In a home where she feared her family and was disrespected at every turn, an unknown husband couldn’t be any worse in her eyes. But when the King of Menaiya comes to her kingdom to bid for her hand in marriage in lieu of his son, things just don’t add up for her. The king is almost too kind and wants to know her as more than just someone to be bargained and traded for. Can Alyrra trust this mystery man or will he just turn out to be like everyone else in her life? When she escapes the prying eyes of everyone around to talk to the Wind, her troubles seem lighter knowing that her wind will follow her to this distant land. But tragedy strikes and Alyrra is lost in the body of someone else after a witch tricks her and her riding mate as a way to get back at the King. Will this cruel trick be a way out of everything for Alyrra or will she have to fight for everything that she wants to make the witch break the curse?

Kestrin, Prince of Menaiya, has dreamed of Alyrra since he first caught a glimpse of her from far away. Bidding for her hand when it came time for him to marry seemed like the best thing. But the woman that comes to him does not seem like the Alyrra he knew. Will Kestrin be able to figure out the mystery or has he been duped into a marriage of inconvenience? Witch craft could be the only thing that can aid Kestrin in finding the real Alyrra, and it’s up to him to decide just how hard he’s willing to fight for the girl from his memories. With the help of the King, his guards, and some amazing hostlers, Kestrin may just be able to get the girl of his dreams while defeating a wicked witch all at the same time.

While this story was a completely different genre than what I’m used to reading, and at times seemed a bit cumbersome in the otherwordliness, in the end I really enjoyed it. The growth of Alyrra was something many can relate to, but most specifically the younger generation looking for a character of substance and strength. I recommend this book to older teens due to some adult topics, i.e. murder, hangings, rape etc.  However, this books isn’t only something I’d recommend for teens; this book would be good for anyone of any age looking to get into the fantasy world of reading or simply wanting something unique and well written to read.