The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga


The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (70 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A tragedy will echo through history and force the world into chaos once again…

Eons ago, a betrayal rocked the heavens. Grief overwhelmed the mother of creation, driving her to madness when the god-king banished Caelemon to the underworld. Leading to the sundering of the world which would come to be known as the Breaking. Only a tiny village, located at the edge of the world survived the breaking, and for hundreds of years it remained forgotten. The villagers now pray to the mother seeking her mercy and protection, but she’s as cold and merciless as the black stone statue which she was carved out of. Her supplicants haven’t realized it yet, but they are about to. In the worst possible way.
*****
The Streets of Nottingham by the talented author Auckly Simwinga is a page-turning work of spellbinding fantasy and myth, a magical and fascinating first-person tale narrated by an adventurous and mysterious character only identified by his first name, Adam. It is a story that fans of fantasy will enjoy reading, because Adam goes on a quest that everyone thinks is impossible. There are gods and goddesses, wraiths, and creatures called demauglers, which are sort of like werewolves, but with bones showing here and there, as if they were zombie werewolves with attitudes.
*****
While The Streets of Nottingham by Auckly Simwinga is a work of fiction that deals with tragic topics, it is also filled with joyous moments and hope, and readers will find themselves rooting for Adam, hoping that he succeeds in his noble quest. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend that you check out The Streets of Nottingham today!

Sometimes the most important wisdom in the entire world can be found in scrolls so old that no one remembers precisely when they were written.

One of the things this tale excelled at was exploring the difference between the heroic myths that a society gradually creates about their gods or god-like figures and what those individuals may have really been like in the past. Even the most well-meaning society can create legends about their heroes that give distorted messages about what that person or entity stood for, and this effect only becomes stronger over long periods of time.

I found it difficult to follow the plot because of how little time the narrator spent explaining what was happening in it. This world’s physics, geography, and history were completely different from our own. The limited information that was provided about it was helpful, but I would have loved to have many more details about how it all worked so that I could better imagine what was happening when everything began to fall apart.

The ending was nicely written. It fit the themes that had been explored earlier on in the storyline, and it also gave the characters the closure they needed to move onto the next chapter of their lives. I liked the fact that it left plenty of room for a sequel while also working just as well if this is the only glimpse of this universe that is ever written. It isn’t easy to strike that balance, but Mr. Simwinga did well in this area.

The Streets of Nottingham should be read by anyone who likes the high fantasy genre.

Her Monster by Sam Crescent


Her Monster by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (108 Pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Caleb Carson is not a good man. All of his life he’s trained to be part of the family business. The Carsons kill, they hurt, and do whatever is necessary to stay in charge. Still, when he’s handed an eighteen-year-old girl as payment for a debt, he’s pissed. He takes the girl and keeps her protected. In return, he kills her father, as he doesn’t like loose ends.

Faith doesn’t get attached to anyone or anything, and she knew it was only a matter of time before her father’s gambling affected her. Now she belongs to Caleb, but … he’s different. She knows he’s a monster, but Caleb intrigues her. When she’s in his arms, it’s unlike anything she’s ever felt.

Caleb doesn’t do love, and he never will. Faith deserves so much better, but he can’t let her go. Why not have something for himself for a change?

Will Caleb keep Faith and learn to fall in love? Can Faith bring herself to love the man who owns her?

This book was absolutely fantastic!

Once again Sam Crescent has worked her magic and written an amazing story for Caleb and Faith. I loved watching these two cynical people fall in love. Neither one of them believed in love so it was that much sweeter to watch them slowly take the fall. Caleb was one of those dark heroes that Sam Crescent does so well, while Faith was a quite a surprise in her straight forwardness and strength. She was one of the curvy women that I’ve come to expect from this author but that was as about as alike as it went. I think she was one of Sam Crescent’s stronger heroines.

Her Monster was a short story but it was very well developed. It was a fast paced story so I read it straight through from start to finish in one evening. I loved the main couple, Caleb and Faith, and how Sam Crescent let me catch up with Beast and Hope from Her Beast, and also how much Dewayne seems to be growing up a little bit. I assume that his book will be next and can’t wait to read it.

Her Monster was a bit hit with this happy reader. I look forward to whatever Sam Crescent comes up with next.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark


The Nevada Escapists’ Club by Jane Lark
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Suspense
Length: Full Length (339 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Zac senses the connection he has with the single stranger within minutes of their meeting. She, like him, sought a place to escape. But she isn’t running anymore. He is. Ali falls into a holiday affair with a troubled young man. She would never choose a man like him if she was at home. So what will happen when the Las Vegas fantasy is over and her sunglasses tinted view of the world returns to reality? She is supposed to forget everything. It was meant to stop there…

This story revolves around Zac and Ali, two wounded souls who find themselves members of a sort-of club, The Nevada Escapists’ Club – those people who find themselves in Las Vegas trying to escape from the reality that is their life. Some people go to Las Vegas for fun, but others because they can’t face what is going on in the real world. But can two such wounded souls help each other or will they bring each other down?

Ali is a successful barrister who discovers that her perfect life is not what she thought it was and leaves England for Las Vegas to put some distance between her and her cheating husband. She’s lived through a lot before this marriage and so her reactions to discovering his unfaithfulness is certainly colored by that.

Zac has his own set of issues he’s trying to escape and, from the first time he and Ali meet, senses they have a lot in common and wants to find out more about Ali.

The Nevada Escapists’ Club starts out like a holiday romance…. boy and girl meet while on vacation…they discover a connection that takes them beyond the holiday. Yet, there are darker undercurrents that the reader discovers and twists that take it out of the romance element. Yes, there is romance, but there is so much more. Jane Lark looks into how our past influences in so many ways our present. Can we really escape being the people that our past has formed us to be.

There were some niggling editing issues that keep this book from being a full four, but that’s the editor in me. The main characters are well-drawn and their story is definitely a page turner. I was able to read the book in just a couple of nights because I was so drawn into their story and wanted to discover how they were going to overcome the issues they were facing.

Good job, Ms. Lark, on facing some tough issues face on and showing that there is hope for the abused to rise above it.

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Woman Of His Dreams by Sam Crescent


Woman Of His Dreams by Sam Crescent
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (41 Pages)
Other: M/F, Anal Play, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Tulip

Reese and Julia have never liked each other. From the moment they met, they clashed. She thinks he’s a man-whore, and he believes she’s an entitled bitch with her head always stuck in a book. One night, one argument, too many drinks, and those views change. Instead of being annoyed by her, Reese just wants to fuck her—and one time is never enough.

After just passing high school, and failing college, Julia is trying to pass classes at night courses, but she’s failing that, too. Coming from a family of high achievers, she hasn’t found her place in the world. But one night with Reese and her ordered world comes to a halt.

Their “sex dates” turn into something more as they share themselves and what they care about, and Reese comes to realize that Julia is the woman of his dreams. He’s willing to fight to take her as his own, but can she trust him with her heart and not just her body?

I really enjoyed this short book.

The only thing that could’ve made this book better was if it was longer. As usual, Sam Crescent almost set the pages on fire with this steamy not quite enemies to lovers romance. Reese and Julia were charming characters who had some misunderstandings to overcome in their relationship. They were more afraid to love than anything so it took a while to trust each other with their real feelings.

Sam Crescent delivered a sweet romance that flew by way too soon for this satisfied reader. I adored Reese and Julia. Their slow burn romance was wonderfully described to pull me into the story. I was more than happy at their happy ever after ending. I am already looking forward to the next Curvy Women Wanted book.

Capturing Clint by Laura M. Baird


Capturing Clint by Laura M. Baird
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (47 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Clint let Chrissy, the adorable nerd, slip through his fingers while in college.

Ten years later, after a chance encounter, Chrissy will use her sexy confidence to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Clint is more than interested but doesn’t feel worthy, and it’ll be up to Chrissy to show him how good they can be together.

Clint’s best friend, Beth, had introduced him to Chrissy. Clint was in his last term before graduating, and he was determined to focus on his studies, but he just couldn’t manage to get Chrissy out of his head. Clint and Chrissy were thinking that things were really going somewhere when Chrissy had to leave suddenly due to a family illness. It’s years later when they finally cross paths again. Will past hurts keep them separate? Or can they finally build something beautiful together?

I found this to be an interesting and fun short story. I really liked both Clint and Chrissy’s characters – particularly Chrissy’s timidness and book-ish manner. I found it refreshing that Chrissy managed to be both a modern woman, but not overly bold or brazen. I wasn’t keen on the abruptness of the two paragraph explanation that Chrissy suddenly went home due to her mother being ill. It made the “college” section of Chrissy and Clint getting to know each other and the jump forward ten years in time to them actually starting a relationship quite jarring and I thought it derailed the smoothness of the story somewhat.

That said, I ended up kind of thinking about the book in two different parts “college time” and “grown up” life. While I wish the segue between the two had been a bit smoother and better-described, the two parts themselves were great. I found this to mostly be a character-driven storyline/plot, as in the attraction, then beginning of the relationship between Clint and Chrissy is the driving force of what the story is about. I enjoyed the secondary characters – Beth and Zac – and found them to be both interesting and multi-layered, not simply there to add the requisite “friend” to the storyline. Indeed, a part of me hopes there might be a story revolved around Beth some time in the future as there was a slight hint at her new career and “grown up” life that could prove interesting.

With a lovely happy ending and a really good, warm feeling I loved the wrap up to this story too. The sex – while hot, wasn’t envelope-pushing or extreme. I feel most romance readers who like a bit of spice in their story should find this book overall really good and happy. As a quick read it’s a great one for picking up when you don’t have a lot of time and I’d happily try more works by this author.

Food of the Gods by Em Dehaney


Food of the Gods by Em Dehaney
Publisher: Brave Boy Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (133 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A perfect corpse floats forever in a watery grave.
A gang member takes a terrifying trip to the seaside.
A deserted cross-channel ferry that serves only the finest Slovakian wines.
Gods and monsters.
Mermaids and witches.
Blood and magic.
Love and death.
From the dark and decadent mind of Em Dehaney come eight tales of seafoam secrets and sweet treats.
Nothing is quite what it seems, but everything is delicious.
This is Food Of The Gods.

First impressions don’t always tell the whole story.

Framing “Here Be Monsters” as a conversation between a child and their grandmother about what Earth was like before the monsters arrived and began destroying everything was the perfect way to introduce such a grim future for humanity. Children can understand much more than adults sometimes give them credit for, and the main character of this story was no exception to that rule. They understood the drastic events that nearly caused humans to go extinct incredibly well even if they had no idea what a rainbow was or that people used to be able to grow food in places called gardens. I enjoyed figuring out what daily life must have been like for these characters as I read their conversation and slowly pieced together what must have happened in their not-so-distant past.

“Bellarmine” told the tale of an abusive marriage from the perspectives of Nathaniel and his wife and victim, Elizabeth. They lived at a time in history when there was no social support for women in this situation, so Elizabeth had to figure out how to handle her husband’s violent attacks on her own. As intrigued by I was by her predicament and the clever plot twists, the character development wasn’t strong enough for me to get to know either of them well at all. Nathaniel’s personality was particularly one-dimensional. I strongly disliked him due to all of the awful things he did to his wife, and I certainly wouldn’t expect that to change no matter what his backstory might have been. With that being said, it would have been helpful to have more details about why he behaved so horribly. This was something I noticed play out in a few other stories in this collection as well. While I adored Ms. Dehaney’s writing style overall, the character development issues did lead to me giving her book a lower rating than I would have otherwise chosen.

Mikey’s life changed forever on the day he found a baby shark in “The Mermaid’s Purse.” His childhood was full of neglect and abuse, so I was curious to see how he’d keep such an exotic pet alive despite the fact that he didn’t even have enough food or other necessities for himself. It was truly satisfying to see how hard he worked to keep him and new little friend going no matter what was going on around them. The ending was perfect. It tied together all of the loose ends of the plot nicely, and it also left me wondering what would happen to Mikey next.

Food of the Gods should be read by anyone who is in the mood for deeply creative science fiction.

At First Bite by Caitlin Ricci


At First Bite by Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: eXstasy Books
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (37 pgs)
Other: M/M, Masturbation
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

On his way home from work, Castor, a werewolf, is grabbed by a group of young vampires. Thinking quickly, he tells the vampires that he will only submit to their elder first, which means that they can’t bite him until that elder gives them permission. But Alexi isn’t interested in sharing his new wolf with anyone, and after they realize that they’re mates everything starts going to hell.

Not what I expected and it’s a good thing.

I like the work of Caitlin Ricci. Her books are always interesting and pack a punch. This book was no exception. Instead of the usual, vampires using humans, the vampires run the show. They can bite whom them want, but don’t always kill. I liked how Alexi wasn’t out for vengeance or anything. He was rather reluctant. He’s a solid vampire, don’t get me wrong, but he’s still got a human side. I wish I could’ve been able to see him more, but I did like him.

Castor took a little time to get to know. I liked him because he didn’t back down, but he was so tense. I didn’t get right away why he was tense, but once I did, it made perfect sense.

The two character didn’t seem to be compatible at first. I liked how they had to work themselves out. The ending was a tad abrupt and I would’ve liked more–but that’s because I enjoyed the story. I wanted to see them flesh out the relationship. What made them change their mind?

There isn’t a ton of sex in this novella, so if you’re looking for a stepping stone into paranormal or vampire romance, this might be the one to start with. If you’re looking for a quick book for a lunch hour read, then this is the one you want.

Lady Be Good by Amber Brock


Lady Be Good by Amber Brock
Published by Crown Publishing
Genre: Recent Historical
Length: Full Length (279 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Set in the 1950s, Lady Be Good is Amber Brock’s mesmerizing return, sweeping readers into the world of the mischievous, status-obsessed daughter of a hotel magnate and the electric nightlife of three iconic cities: New York, Miami, and Havana.

Kitty Tessler is the winsome and clever only child of self-made hotel and nightclub tycoon Nicolas Tessler. Kitty may not have the same pedigree as the tennis club set she admires, but she still sees herself as every inch the socialite–spending her days perfecting her “look” and her nights charming all the blue-blooded boys who frequent her father’s clubs. It seems like the fun will never end until Kitty’s father issues a terrible ultimatum: she may no longer date the idle rich. Instead, Kitty must marry Andre, her father’s second-in-command, and take her place as the First Lady of his hotel empire. Kitty is forced to come up with a wily and elaborate plan to protect her own lofty ideas for the future, as well as to save her best friend, Henrietta Bancroft, from a doomed engagement: Kitty will steal Henrietta’s fiance, a fabulously wealthy but terribly unkind man from a powerful family–thereby delivering the one-two punch of securing her now-fragile place on the social ladder and keeping her friend from a miserable marriage.

Then Kitty meets Max, a member of a band visiting New York from her father’s Miami club, and her plans take a turn. Smitten, but still eager to convince her father of her commitment to Andre, Kitty and Hen follow Max, Andre, and the rest of the band back down to Miami–and later to Cuba. As Kitty spends more time with Max, she begins waking up to the beauty–and the injustice–of the world beyond her small, privileged corner of Manhattan. And when her well-intended yet manipulative efforts backfire, Kitty is forced to reconsider her choices and her future before she loses everyone she loves.

Well written and engaging, this book is not to be missed.

Ms. Brock’s book flows from the first page. I read it in one sitting. I had to know what would happen next to Kitty. I liked the variety of situations she dealt with and how she made her way through them. She’s certainly an interesting character. In some ways, the book almost seems impossible – one person could have all these experiences in one lifetime. The thing is, this takes place in the 50s in the music industry, albeit in the nightclub side of that industry.

I liked Kitty’s forthright approach to life and love. She has ideas and knows what she wants to do with them. She’s almost a tad too pushy, even when she means well, though. Like she knows what’s best for everyone else, even if it doesn’t seem like it might be best and she’s pushing her ideas off on her friends.

Still, I liked her pluck and determination. I liked how she grew through the story.

If you’re looking for a book that’s a little different from the norm, then this might be the one you’ve been looking for.

Partners In Love by Rebecca Brochu


Partners In Love by Rebecca Brochu
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short story (31 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When an unplanned and unwanted remodel of his apartment leaves Detective Dylan Vancarr homeless, the natural thing for him to do is turn up on the doorstep of his best friend and partner, Tyler Wilky.

An arrangement meant to last only for a night quickly turns into a surprisingly comfortable new life for the both of them.

While living with Tyler and realizing just how easily their lives mesh, Dylan quickly begins to realize that he may have found a partner for more than just the job.

He may have found a partner in love.

When Dylan’s apartment is wrecked who else could he possibly crash with except his colleague and partner, Tyler? Can they each take this chance to act on the simmering attraction boiling between them and build a relationship together outside of their work?

I found this to be a funny and rather macho M/M romance. Written in the first-person perspective I would have personally preferred to get to know Tyler’s character a little better, but can understand how difficult this task would have been for the author given the very short page-count. I was also left a little puzzled by the manner in which Dylan and Tyler’s relationship grew. For two men whom I found to both be rather macho to have almost the entire relationship seem to almost accidently flourish it just felt odd to me. Neither man made overt moves and while a part of me absolutely loved this incredibly different and fresh tactic in an M/M romance, a larger part of my brain just couldn’t find it at all believable. Two macho, alpha men and neither made the first move? Neither wanted to rock the boat or stake a claim? Neither man even hinted at the deeper undercurrents in their relationship? It just didn’t jibe with anything remotely logical or believable to my mind.

That said, I truly enjoyed this book. I laughed a lot, I really liked both men’s characters and felt attached and invested in their relationship – I just struggled to find the growth of their relationship realistic. Once I disconnected my brain and simply sat back and enjoyed the ride though, I really did find myself enjoying the story far more. The story seems to be told very tongue-in-cheek and while completely from Dylan’s perspective (and I really did miss hearing at least a little from Tyler’s) the jovial, macho story really was a fun ride to be a part of.

With just the one short – but very steamy – sex scene readers looking for a hard-core, sex-laden M/M might not find this the right story for them. But readers who relish the build up and chemistry between their heroes should find this a great, short read.

Betting on Kincade by Devon McKay


Betting on Kincade by Devon McKay
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (228 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Everyone Cassie Wilcox loved is gone. And now, thanks to her drunken stepfather, her house and family business will be taken from her, too, unless she can find a way to buy back the ranch from the new owner. With less than two months to come up with money she doesn’t have, her options are running out, and apparently, her common sense as she rents out rooms to an eclectic group of strangers.

Returning home for Dalton Kincade is bittersweet. Not a damn thing has changed. Two years on the rodeo circuit weren’t able to shake free the memory of the feisty redhead who’d broken his heart into a thousand pieces. Nor the sting of her parting words…Never trust a Kincade.

Winning her beloved ranch in a drunken bet is the last thing he expected to happen, but at least he saved it for her. Now, he has to figure out how to break that news to a woman who never wants to see him again. Renting a room in the house he now owns might be a risk, but it’s nothing compared to betting his heart on winning back the love of his life.

This is purely a feel good book that is quick and easy to read. I have read a huge amount of contemporary western romance stories so I recognized a lot of familiar tropes; some I liked, some were just okay. There was one scene that I can safely say was unique and I know beyond of a shadow of a doubt that I’d never read this in a story before because I’d sure remember that particular scene. Despite relying on a lot well-worn storytelling techniques, I can classify this novel as an entertaining read that was worth my time.

Dalton Kincade is the hero in this romance and he carried the momentum for me in this story. He had his reasons for leaving the heroine, Cassie Wilcox, to join the rodeo for two years. Cassie should have understood. Yes, she suffered a broken heart when he left but under the circumstances, she should have had a less selfish perspective, especially after two years. It obviously hurt him to leave too.

Cassie’s stubbornness and pride was borderline annoying. For that reason I had a hard time connecting with her “woe is me, I must save the ranch all by myself” attitude. It was a broken record to hear Cassie constantly talk about how she can make more money to save the ranch. I’d say that Cassie was the most presumptuous character I’ve ever read. Some of her solutions to make money were surreal and unrealistic. All I know is that Dalton had way too much patience and clearly loved her more than she loved him. Although their past love was well established, the chemistry in the present was lacking. There were some good moments when Cassie let down her walls and showed some vulnerability. I wished there were more scenes like that. It would have helped.

Cassie viewed Dalton as bossy, stubborn and a man who will always try to step in and save her. I didn’t view Dalton as bossy and stubborn at all. I actually viewed the heroine as ungrateful that she didn’t appreciate his stepping in to help her. What’s wrong with a man who loves you wanting to protect and help you? I’m not saying Dalton was perfect but I sure liked him more.

Some upbeat and positive elements were when Cassie and Dalton kept making wagers back and forth between themselves. That added a bit of humor into the story and helped me to connect to them as a couple. They did have some sizzling scenes but that only reinforced my impression that Dalton was too good for Cassie.

Some characters were more developed than others. Cassie’s stepfather, Gary Evans, was definitely a loser, a dirt bag, and a pathetic piece of life. He added suspense and drama to the story because he was the main conflict throughout the book. How his character was handled at the end didn’t exactly work for me. One of my pet peeves is not having all the plot threads tied up. I need absolute, complete closure. There must be justice. I don’t want to speculate in my head that everything worked out. I love happy endings with a pretty bow. There at least could have been an epilogue. If it weren’t for Dalton, then this entire book would have been infuriating to me.

Betting on Kincade was a good read. It was mostly enjoyable. I made it through and didn’t consider it a waste of my time, because time and time again Dalton drew me back into the story and kept my interest. I know not all romance books can be smooth sailing. Reading this book was like being in a car with a manual transmission whose driver didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. You’re just glad to be out of the house and going for a ride. You just have to hang on even when you hit the potholes because spending time with Dalton Kincade is SO worth the risk.