Murder for Liar by Verlin Darrow


Murder for Liar by Verlin Darrow
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Tom is dangerously close to discovering where his threshold is—the point of no return for his sanity. His encounter with the killer represents one more bizarre hot potato he’s forced to juggle instead of filing away neatly. It’s not one too many, but what if the next one is? And could all the coincidences that keep happening to Tom be nothing more than that? Could a young woman named Zig-Zag really be an angel? How could a dog lead Tom to one of the most important clues? The questions pile up, much as the murders do.

Want an unusual read sure to keep you guessing? Murder for Liar by Verlin Darrow could be for you. Psychotherapist Tom has eccentric patients and a murder mystery on his hands. Arundel visits Tom for counseling, but he’s not very cooperative and even makes Tom a bit uncomfortable. What’s up with this guy?

Soon other equally unique characters show up at Tom’s door. There’s a strange connection between them and something odd going on. Are these occurrences connected to the murders happening around town? Someone Tom knows, a perfectly lovely colleague, becomes a victim. Then a new friend of his becomes threatened. These characters and the questions they raise really drive the story forward.

Tom finds himself in some wild situations and begins to question his own sanity. Could he really be losing his stability, or is something sinister the cause of it all? This book does a good job making one wonder. It is hard to tell what is at the root of it all, making for an engaging mystery. For a book full of surprises with an underlying spiritual theme, why not have a look at this one?

Babe in the Woods by Jude Hopkins


Babe in the Woods by Jude Hopkins
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Poppy

It’s September 1995, the first year of the rest of Hadley Todd’s life. After living in Los Angeles, Hadley returns to her hometown in rural New York to write and be near her father. In addition to looking after him and teaching high school malcontents, Hadley hopes to channel her recent L.A. heartbreak into a play about the last moment of a woman’s innocence. But she seeks inspiration.

Enter Trey Harding, a young, handsome reporter who covers sports at the high school. Trey reminds Hadley of her L.A. ex and is the perfect spark to fire up her imagination. The fact that Trey is an aspiring rock star and she has L.A. record biz connections makes the alliance perfect. She dangles promises of music biz glory while watching his moves. But the surprising twist that transpires when the two of them go to Hollywood is not something Hadley prepared for.

This book wasn’t at all what I expected, and that’s not a bad thing.

If you’re going into this expecting a romance, stop right now. That isn’t what this book is… it’s a well written novel about a woman’s search for meaning. There’s a point where Hadley, the main character, describes the play she’s trying to write: “It’s about loss of innocence. When exactly we lose—women, that is—when we inevitably fall into disillusionment and despair. I want to know the exact moment before we lose our illusions about romantic love.”

And really, this book is basically the play, but in real life (for Hadley, anyway).

She’s surrounded by friends and family, she’s smart and interesting and ambitious. But really what matters most to the plot is how dissatisfied with life she is, and how she’s searching for something more. Hadley is 35 years old. And life isn’t what she’d expected it to be. And so, we readers follow her on a journey of self-discovery. That sounds as if the story is a bit dull, and it’s not. And I especially think women of a certain age will appreciate this story more than others.

There are decisions Hadley makes, and things she does, that make me want to give her a slap upside her head. As smart as she is, she sometimes does really stupid things, but … don’t we all? She makes strides forward along with a few back, until she really discovers the meaning of life as it pertains to her.

I won’t say I absolutely loved this book, but I did like it quite a bit. It’s nothing like I expected, or even like anything I typically read. But it was absolutely engaging and real and–even better–I really liked Hadley. I wish I could sit in on one of her writing group meetings or share a conversation over coffee. I think she’d be a really good friend.

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Reluctant Hearts by Linda Griffin


Reluctant Hearts by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Four couples, four stories: Darien Francis and Richard Li meet during a bank robbery, but she’s afraid to love again. Shane Kenniston and Beth Parker are reacquainted years after she had a crush on him, but she is a recent widow, and Shane’s life was upended by a false accusation. David Early and Kate Howard meet in the laundromat, but her life is consumed by the needs of her disabled child, and David isn’t ready for the responsibility. Realtor Frank Ellison meets Kayla Barnes at an open house, but a mistaken first impression derails any chance of romance. Can they all overcome the obstacles to love?

Love is full of surprises.

I enjoyed the slow burn romance in “No Regrets.” Darien and Richard were both so busy recovering from their experiences at the bank robbery that it made total sense for them to focus on their friendship while they healed. The more I learned about these characters, the stronger my desire became for them to live happily ever after together. Their personalities complemented each other so nicely, and I loved the way they kept checking in with each other as their relationship progressed. They were both kind and respectful people who would make a wonderful spouse.

To be perfectly honest, I was a little hesitant to read “Probation” because it featured a character who had been falsely accused of rape. The author handled this topic sensitively and fairly, though, and I soon relaxed. It was interesting to see how the community handled this accusation and what Beth’s reaction was when she realized that Shane was deeply ashamed of those rumours and hadn’t actually done anything wrong. I was also intrigued by their blossoming romance and how that might affect both of their reputations as well. If only more time had been spent developing the ending. It felt so abrupt to me after all of the time that had been spent building up to it.

The chemistry between David and Kate in “The Shape of Life” was sweet and convincing. I started rooting for them to end up together soon after I met them. They lived very different lives at first glance, but their shared values made me think they’d be a fabulous match. With that being said, I did pause when I saw how quickly Kate was willing to introduce her daughter to David. She was a cautious mother in other areas of life, so I was surprised by how quickly she trusted someone she’d recently met with her child. If only her reasons for this had been explained in greater detail.

Everyone will start off on the wrong foot with someone eventually. It’s an embarrassing but unavoidable part of life, so I was curious to see how Kayla and Frank handled it when it happened to them. I liked how earnest they both were and how much they worked on their friendship before anything romantic was stirred up between them. That was exactly what they both needed after the misunderstanding of their first meeting.

Reluctant Hearts was romantic and fun.

Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer


Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

After being widowed and surviving the wrath of a serial killer, Jessica believes her misfortunes are over. She’s reunited with her first love, Jon, and together, with her son Bryce, and a baby on the way, they’re living their happily ever after on their ranch in Montana. That is until secrets, lies, and a formidable foe from Jon’s past emerge to shake the foundation of their relationship, forcing them to flee for their lives.

A decade earlier, Jon worked undercover for the FBI. He infiltrated Hugh Jones’ Kansas City Mob, and almost destroyed his empire. Unaware of the breach in his own defenses, Hugh, obsessed with revenge, unleashes every weapon in his arsenal, targeting those Jon loves the most.

All seems to finally be going well for Jessica and Jon Kent until the head of the Kansas City Mob is set on seeking revenge for Jon’s betrayal. Will the Kent family survive this fatal hunt?

Fatal Hunt has an interesting and suspenseful plot. The characters are tender and likable, yet ferocious. Jon Kent has retired from working as an FBI agent and is very familiar to violence but yet he is a loving father, husband and farm owner. Head of the Kansas City Mob, Hugh Jones holds his title very well as he has a violent reputation but soon finds a soft spot. I like that the author showed the men’s strength, but readers also get to see their gentle side. The author definitely planted an emotional hook that remains throughout the chase.

The story is told from multiple points of view which I think was a great idea. This gives the reader the full story and helps the reader understand all sides of what is happening. In addition to being hunted by the mob boss this story has a lot going on. Secrets are revealed, a mysterious woman has helped Jessica on more than one occasion, there are twists and surprises that kept me reading. I thought the story had too much going on for one book and it would be better to spread out the side stories. Jessica was stalked by a serial killer, her son Bryce was previously kidnapped, her deceased husband is now a paranormal supernatural guardian, Jessica’s friend was murdered by her husband, and Jon is also a widow and now the family is on the run for their lives. There was just too much misfortune for such nice people to have in one novel. Even though the family had a lot going on, the relationship between Jessica and Jon was very endearing to read. The plot has an edge that gives something in addition to the romance, following Jessica and Jon along the states and Canada as they run from the army of killers chasing them.

I enjoyed the author’s way of telling the story. I can actually see myself witnessing the story firsthand because of the author’s skill with words. My favorite scene would be when the men had an encounter with Jessica’s aunt. Those men did not stand a chance against Aunt Debbie. She showed them what an old lady can do.

I enjoyed the story; it is well written, and I am glad I was able to finish until the surprising end. It didn’t reach my highly recommended list, but I would definitely recommend it to readers that enjoy an intriguing suspense that revolves around the protection of family.

Let It Simmer by Margot Johnson


Let It Simmer by Margot Johnson
Merilee Tours, Book 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A sensible, mature widow like Susan doesn’t belong on a tour bus seated next to her high school crush. Thirty years later, Phil is as charming and handsome as ever, but she doesn’t need a new partner, especially not a love-’em-and-leave-’em guy.

Happily single, Phil tags along to celebrate his matchmaking mom’s eightieth birthday. She’s embarrassingly persistent, but maybe she’s right he should, finally, settle down with the right woman.

Susan only wants a little family time with her two cousins and a scenic vacation to Northern Saskatchewan…so why does she feel like a fluttery teenage girl? Can Phil spark even more excitement than games, scenery, and wildlife?

Everyone deserves a second chance at love.

The thought of going on a tour bus vacation with dozens of strangers, some of whom seemed quite talkative and gregarious, overwhelms me a little bit as an introvert. I wasn’t expecting the author to acknowledge how someone who needs quiet time alone to recharge their social battery might respond to such an environment, so it was a thrill to see that pop up later on in the timeline. The fact that Ms. Johnson thinks to include little details like this in her work to flesh out her characters is one of the many reasons why I’m always excited to see what she’s come up with next.

Much of the conflict stemmed from miscommunications between various characters, especially the two protagonists. This was such a repetitive issue that it became distracting at times for me as a reader. It was hard to understand why they kept making assumptions about each other instead of speaking openly about their feelings and sorting out what everyone actually meant to say. I’m saying this as someone who has truly enjoyed getting to know the characters in this universe so far and would have eagerly given this story a higher rating if other reasons for conflict were included.

With that being said, I adored the slow and thoughtful trajectory of the budding romance. Susan and Phil both had logical reasons to be wary of diving back into the dating pool. When combined with the fact that they already knew each other, they both needed the chance to reflect on how they felt about each other and decide if this was something they actually wanted to pursue. It was nice to see them getting that opportunity, and I hope to hear more about their lives if any sequels are written.

This is the third instalment in the Merilee Tours series. It can easily be understood as a standalone work, but there were several fun references to the first two books included for long-term fans as well.

Let It Simmer was a heartwarming read.

In for a Penny: a Partially Paranormal Romance by Shelley White


In for a Penny: a Partially Paranormal Romance by Shelley White
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Tripp promised Penny one more book. He didn’t know it came with an unintended plot twist. In order to realign the plot toward their ultimate goal they invite their friends to come along for the ride. Tripp’s sister and Penny’s friends play supernatural roles in paranormal romance, Chase the Night.

But gypsy magic is a stubborn foe and a plot, once published, is not easily turned. Will the right hero win the girl in the end? When Penny discovers Tripp’s secrets, will she still want him? She’s in for a penny, but is she in for a pound?

Vampires, hunters, and werewolves, oh my! What’s a girl to do?

Love is full of surprises.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that showed how Penny and her friends have hit their stride now that they know what to expect when reading new books. It was rewarding to see not only how she has matured as a result of her experiences but how the people closest to her have reacted to their adventures as well. Some of the signs were subtle which made them even more meaningful once I figured them out. I am enjoying this series and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

This is my first time giving one of Penny’s tales a full five-star rating, and a big part of that has to do with how much fun it was to see the characters visit a paranormal romance. I love what Ms. White did with her lighthearted plot. It struck the perfect balance between gently making fun of some common tropes in romances between vampires and humans while also giving the characters plenty of opportunities to stretch their abilities and see what they were capable of as various magical beings. It was pure escapism, and I adored it.

I continued to be impressed by the plot twists Ms. White comes up with for Penny and her friends. For example, this time Penny was so unsatisfied with certain portions of the book she was magically transported into that she decided to try to change them. It’s rare for me to read about characters who have enough self-awareness to do that, and it made me curious to see what she’d come up with next. This is one of those things that other readers should explore for themselves in depth as I don’t want to give away the best moments in my review.

It’s a good idea to read this series in order to enjoy the character development that has happened in all three instalments so far.

In for a Penny: a Partially Paranormal Romance was everything I could have asked for and then some.

Summer People by Corinne LaBalme


Summer People by Corinne LaBalme
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Jessica Stratton’s long-cherished dream of opening her own Folk Art gallery in an idyllic Cape Cod setting finally comes true. However, her start-up is anything but smooth sailing.

Her ten-year marriage hits the rocks and, when the hunk next door to her shop – a brooding ecologist on a mission to save the planet – proves too irresistible to ignore, she’s got to relearn the rules of the dating game while working overtime to lure clients to her boutique.

Unfortunately, someone’s already far too interested in a 19th century example of advertising art in her collection and will go to any means – legal or illegal – to acquire it.

Maybe the planet isn’t the only thing that has to be saved…

After a reading hiatus, I was relieved and thrilled that the first book of the new year that I recently finished, Summer People by Corinne LaBalme, inspired me to write this review.

The synopsis stated that Jessica’s marriage was “hitting the rocks”. The reason the heroine’s marriage was falling apart was unexpected. It was an interesting plot thread that remained solid throughout the story. I was thankful the hero, Rick, lived next door to Jessica. It just so happens he was gorgeous and available.

Rick is a prime example of a true hero. He bailed Jessica out of a few humorous situations. I know I mentioned he is a hunk, but did I mention he can cook? He’s my kind of book boyfriend!

The cast of characters are well-developed and one of my favorites was Nancy, who is friends with Jessica and Rick’s landlord. I enjoyed the relationship between Jessica and Nancy because they demonstrated what it is to be a best friend.

I was delighted that my interest was captured so quickly when the story started. If you’ve ever listened to one of those self-help CDs and rolled your eyes at them, then the beginning of this book might crack you up like it did me. I was entertained from the beginning to the end and still find myself smiling as I reflect on this romance story.

There is a suspenseful plot thread referred to in the synopsis about someone who is far too interested in a piece of Jessica’s art collection. This particular person will go to any means to acquire it. This wrongdoer really knew how to raise my blood pressure.

The romance between Jessica and Rick was sweet, heartwarming and endearing. They certainly went through their share of trials and tribulations which made their happily ever after extra rewarding for me.

I haven’t any reservations in recommending this entertaining read. Summer People was a win for me. Happy Reading.

*Second Chance Christmas by Alison Packard


*Second Chance Christmas by Alison Packard
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Holiday
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Struggling actress Maddie Hart is home for the holidays in her small town and comes face-to-face with the last man she wants to see—the one she abandoned four years ago when she ran off to chase her dreams.

Police Sergeant Ben Ashford had an engagement ring in his pocket the night Maddie blindsided him. He doesn’t expect the gut punch of seeing her again or that she’d reignite feelings he’d thought long buried.

Ben’s not about to get tangled up with a woman who’ll just run again, but Maddie has never stopped thinking about him. Can she trade the bright lights of Hollywood for the twinkling Christmas lights of her hometown and a second chance at love?

I loved everything about Second Chance Christmas. It’s a wonderfully written Christmas story set in the small town of Summerwood, Oregon. The characters are likable and easy to connect with and I loved the small town feel of this story.

Maddie, a struggling actress trying to make it in L. A. returns home to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with her family. She hasn’t seen Ben in four years, since she broke up with him to pursue her dreams. Ben, a Sergeant with the Summerwood police now has never forgotten Maddie and is surprised to see her again.

I loved reading this enchanting story. The characters are believable and easy to connect with and they share a lot of chemistry. This perfect Christmas story is full of wonderful surprises.

The Peninsula by Amy Craig

The Peninsula by Amy Craig
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Hadley lost her sister to cancer. When an explosion puts her in the middle of a family squabble, Johann asks for a week of discretion to protect his brother. Torn between her research and the loneliness in his gaze, she agrees, but family dynamics upend her understanding of loyalty.

Hadley has come to a breakthrough moment in her research, but all of a sudden everyone is taking a more active interest in it. Her mentor is all for having his nephew financially back it, which Hadley’s not at all sure about. She is much more altruistic and doesn’t want to be indebted to someone who might want to monetize it. Then her mentor is killed by a mail bomb, and suddenly Hadley is questioning everything and everyone she knows – and this is when this story really takes off.

I loved the premise of this story. I liked the chemistry between Hadley and Johann. The mystery was good and keeps the reader guessing. The secondary characters added a lot to the story and give you another look at Johann and his life.

At first, Hadley drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand her reluctance at getting with the program. Even after she realized she was in danger, she was bound and determined to do it her own way. Because of her past, she had had to develop a single-focus in her life, so it was part of her, but it still made me want to shake her.

This is the first book I’ve read by Amy Craig, but I’ll be looking out for more. I really enjoyed her writing style. Great job!

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The Lady of the Mirrored Lake by Jennifer Ivy Walker


The Lady of the Mirrored Lake by Jennifer Ivy Walker
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Hunted by the Black Widow Queen, Issylte–a healer with the verdant magic of the forest–must flee Avalon with the two finest knights in the Celtic realm, both wrongly accused of treason. The trio travels to Bretagne, where Issylte heals a critically injured wolf and obtains fiercely loyal, shapeshifting allies.

In mystical Brocéliande, Issylte becomes a warrior priestess of the Tribe of Dana and otherworldly mate of the Blue Knight of Cornwall, discovering with Tristan a passion that transcends all bounds. When she becomes the Lady of the Mirrored Lake, sworn to defend the sacred waters of the Goddess, Issylte must undertake a perilous quest to discover what priceless object lies hidden in its murky depths.

As a nascent evil emerges in a fetid cave, Issylte and Tristan must face a diabolical trio that threatens their lives, their love, and their kingdoms.

Enchanted. Enflamed. Entwined. Can their passion and power prevail?

A breath-taking adventure set in a world of chivalry.

The Lady of the Mirrored Lake continues where book one left off and I absolutely recommend you read this as a series rather than a set of standalones. There is a big character list and if you don’t start at the beginning, there is a chance you will get lost.

The story moves on brilliantly, taking the reader along on a breath-taking adventure when chivalry was still a code to live by. Issylte gains more strength every time something is thrown at her. Tristan also has his own trials to contend with, but they always return to each other. I am loving the way the story is taking me to places unknown and yet still recognizable from old tales.

However, I do have to mention a couple of things. Firstly, it can get repetitive in places with repeated words and phrases. The second thing is random words are italicized, which is fine when it’s a French word, but not so good when it’s a regular word and for no apparent reason.

Anyway, if you ignore those couple of things – which really don’t have that much of an impact on the overall story – this is a great addition to the series. I can’t wait for the story to continue and have no hesitation in recommending it.