Caprice by Linda Palmer


Caprice by Linda Palmer
Psy Squad #9
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

LilyAn Kerry, librarian at the prestigious Rutledge Institute for psychics, couldn’t be happier. Not only does she get to work with amazing young people at the school, she gets to do it in a castle in the wilds of Wyoming. LilyAn’s Jackson apartment is miles away from Texas where her bossy dad and three older brothers live. At twenty-four, she’s independent and loving it, the reason she avoids long-term boyfriends who might make demands or get serious.

Etan Trahan, a tough-as-nails Special Agent for the World Security League, believes he will know when he first lays eyes on the one woman meant to be his. This romantic notion infuriates the sensible grandmother who raised him. She wants Etan to settle down with any of the eligible young women she magically produces every time he visits. Is it any wonder he chooses to stay with friends when he’s recouping from wounds received during his latest mission?

LilyAn and Etan meet at a charity carnival the WSL sponsors every year to kick off Aspen Days, an autumn festival. LilyAn’s job this year is to dress as a gypsy and tell children their fortunes. It’s quite a shock when a man the size of Etan enters her tent and asks to hear his. Etan is flirty and funny. She instantly responds to him but is sure it will all be okay. He’s only in town to recover from an explosion that wrecked his body. He will move on as soon as he is better.

But Caprice, the mysterious voice in LilyAn’s head that nudges her impulsivity, seems to have a plan of her own this time. It begins with two deadly gunshots and the valiant instincts of a true hero. Can it possibly end in true love?

Psychics don’t get days off.

I thought the dialogue was well done. Each character had their own unique voice that I was quickly able to figure out. Their conversations with each other flowed naturally as well. Sometimes it felt as though I were overhearing friends talk about their days because of how well everything fit together. That’s always a nice thing to find in a book!

The romantic storyline seemed rushed to me. It was never clear to this reader why the characters involved in it had decided so quickly that they were romantically interested in each other. Even having excellent chemistry doesn’t mean two people are actually a good match for a long term relationship, after all. There were so many details that could have been filled in here to explain their reactions to each other and show why they should be together.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that developed LilyAn’s relationships with her friends as well as Etan’s humorous relationship with his Nonna. You can learn so much about someone by taking note of the platonic connections in their life. Luckily, there were plenty of opportunities to do just that in this novella. Both of these characters were lucky enough to have loved ones who would do anything for them. It was delightful to see the strength of those bonds.

This is the ninth instalment in a series. It can be read out of order or as a standalone work.

Anyone who likes mixing fantasy and romance should give Caprice a try.

Love Me a Little by Avery Easton


Love Me a Little by Avery Easton
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Heartbroken, Evie O’Hara is trying to move on after her world was changed by a tragic accident. She seeks comfort in her favorite showtunes, sung by her one-time Broadway crush. Although fiercely protective of his privacy, stage and screen star Ethan Carter is lonely. Happy enough with his career and his dog, he still feels an emptiness in his life.

When her best friend gifts her with a weekend trip to New York to see Ethan perform, Evie is thrilled when he singles her out of the crowd. For the first time in over a year, she feels almost…happy. And while inviting a fan backstage, even a pretty one, isn’t what Ethan would normally do, something tells him that Evie is different.

They spend an idyllic, passionate weekend together, forging a deep connection. Neither is ready to say goodbye forever. The odds seem against them as they battle Ethan’s enthusiastic, often intrusive, fans, the hundreds of miles between them, and Evie’s fear of risking her heart again. But if the magic of that first wonderful weekend can endure, theirs could be a love that hits the right note–a love that lasts forever.

If a reader is looking for a tender, poignant yet charming and engaging romance story, then definitely give this book consideration. The pace flows well, the story is easy to read, and there is an excellent balance of dialogue and storytelling. Love Me a Little is told through two points of view, Evie’s and Ethan’s.

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Ethan is a surprise. He’s presented as a rich, talented, good looking singer who seems to have the Midas Touch – he’s successful with anything he does. The author makes it clear that he works hard to get where he is, but he is also at a pivotal moment in his life. Fame has its downsides and what he needs is balance. But where can he find it, and what will it look like? The most endearing and cute thing about him is his puppy. The author shared just enough for me to get the impression that Ethan really adores his furry buddy.

Ms. Easton’s writing is able to capture the nuances of emotion and paints them with words so readers get the feeling they’re experiencing them too. The breathless anticipation, the yearning and the joys of discovering they are more than physically compatible – it’s off the charts fantastic. Yes, the bedroom door is open but it’s not described like a reader is standing over them, giving a narration of details. No, I found just enough to be happy they had such wonderful satisfying sparks between them. I was happy that they were happy.

The conflict is basic. Can she get beyond her loss and grab the promise of a future filled with love? Can Ethan trust that their budding relationship is strong enough to trust her with his secrets? That what he feels is real and could it survive long distances and separation? Do they each feel for each other what they think they feel for the other? Such basic, human questions that if answered correctly can lead to a happiness only found in movies.

I should give warning – there are tears. Not mine though. No. The characters experience a catharsis or two and with emotions that passionate and deep, tears are a release and part of the healing.

I didn’t get all the movie lines in the book but I totally got the Horatio Alger reference. It was quite clever of the author; being able to weave quotes throughout the dialogue as part of the dialogue. It was fun.

The story wraps up with not only an HEA for Evie but for Danny too. I am enchanted with how upbeat, positive, romantic and tender this novel is and heartily recommend this book to anyone looking for a well told, feel-good romance.

Dream Job? by Linda Palmer


Dream Job? by Linda Palmer
Psy Squad #8
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (105 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

RJ Banks, 20, is psychic. Her gifts are her dreams, which are riddled with cryptic hints about the location of the world’s most wanted criminals. This isn’t an accident. RJ, who believes that dreams are just our brains working through recent half thoughts, images, and impressions, deliberately immerses herself in details about these real-life villains in hopes her psychic brain will give her answers the World Security League needs.

Her methods actually work, the reason she was able to help WSL agents find a dangerous cult leader on the run. Now she is trying to find a high-profile politician from Georgia who is also a murderer. Up until now, her dreams have come in threes with a trio of hints in each. While the dreams generally change in locale, theme, and intensity, the hints in each are the same…sort of. A river in one could be an ocean or pond in another. RJ keeps a dream journal to help her figure out the common denominators, in this example water. But the challenge doesn’t end there. Is her assigned villain in a swimming pool? In a bathtub? Or watering his lawn?
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The work is challenging, but she loves it…until she dreams about herself in a plane that crashes. Although tempted to blow off the dream, she fears it has something to do with plane tickets she just bought so she can fly to Florida for her parents’ anniversary. Nate, her supervisor suggests driving might be smarter. He also recommends that she hire a bodyguard to go with her and even gives her a name: Wyck Hardy. Wyck isn’t a full-time professional, but does have experience in personal protection. In spite of the fact that he thinks psychics are psycho, RJ hires him. Maybe this trip with be an eye opener for him. Or will it be an eye opener for her?

Love doesn’t always show up when you expect it to. For that matter, neither do mysteries!

There was some fabulous chemistry between RJ and Wyck that played out in a beautifully slow fashion. Their banter was on point and they seemed just aware enough of the sparks flying between them for me to wonder when one of them might finally act on it. I appreciated the fact that things moved so slowly between them, too. That was perfect for their personalities even though I was eager to see if they make as good of a match for each other as I thought they might.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the mystery elements of the storyline. They were an important part of why RJ’s road trip unfolded the way that it did, and things felt a little unbalanced to me when it came to how much time was spent on this when compared to the paranormal and romantic plots.

The dialogue was smooth and felt natural to me. Each time I read the passages that included a lot of conversations between RJ and the various folks in her life, it felt like I was listening to two people talk instead. These sections couldn’t have been written better. They were a joy to experience.

This novella is the eighth in a series, and it works well as a standalone piece. I’d only read one of the previous installments and had no problem catching up with what had happened since then.

Dream Job? should be read by fans of the romance, paranormal, and mystery genres alike.

Eating Bugs by Mary Patterson Thornburg


Eating Bugs by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Kimi’s new job looks perfect–on paper. Great salary, private quarters in the Governor’s mansion, lots of time off, and what amounts to a month’s vacation to start with so she can get a feel for the planet and its people. As social secretary and translator for the Governor’s wife, she’ll be able to put her gift for diplomacy and her talent for languages to good use.

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Adjusting to a new culture always comes with a few surprises.

The world building in this story couldn’t have been better. I adored the way the narrator dropped me straight into her adjustment period in a new job on a planet she was still figuring out. While there were plenty of names and alien terms to learn in the beginning, the author did a perfect job of explaining who or what they all were while at the same time weaving together a picture of what this place was like and gently nudging the plot forward.

My only minor criticism has to do with how quickly the ending wrapped up. It would have been helpful to have a little more time to piece together what was going on with the bug festival. The clues were all there. I simply wished there had been a more thorough explanation of how they fit together and why everything shook out the way it did. With that being said, this was still something I enjoyed reading quite a bit.

Kimi was such an interesting character. I felt like I got to know him well over the course of the plot despite the fact that I wasn’t even sure which pronoun to use when I first met him. It was well worth the effort I needed to put forth in order to find all of the small hints about his personality that lead to big reveals about what role he would serve in the way this tale played out.

I’d heartily recommend Eating Bugs to anyone who has ever encountered something new that simultaneously fascinated and horrified them.

The Flip by Linda Palmer


The Flip by Linda Palmer
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full Length (219 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Dryas

Emily Storey has just flipped her entire life: new town, new apartment, new roomie, new job. She has also gone blonde and lost some weight. What Emily hasn’t managed to do is kick other people’s random thoughts out of her head. That’s no easy feat for a psychic, especially one who has spent the last three years training to enhance her abilities, not suppress them.

Emily soon volunteers to feed the homeless one night a week, hoping she can help change other people’s lives, too. But her good intentions are annihilated when Detective Bastian Rossi, a cop who speaks at her orientation meeting, warns them all against giving rides, loaning phones, or offering shelter to the street people they’re feeding. Homelessness, he tells them, is a chronic problem that no single person can solve. All they’re supposed to do is hand out sandwiches.

In spite of all that, Emily’s first night on the street with her assigned partner goes very well until she begins intercepting random thoughts of the people they’re feeding. She quickly learns that some of them aren’t that needy while others have family willing to help out. But it’s the scattered thoughts of a mystery male presence that bother her most– “…blonde passing out sandwiches …thinks she’s saving lives…maybe I’ll do her next…” Is she the “blonde” and if so, what, exactly, is this creep planning to do to her?

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Emily ‘Jai’ Story had decided to flip her life around. After she left a job at the World Security League due to a new supervisor that she could not stand she moves to a new place, Oklahoma City. Her job was more eccentric then most, she was a recruiter for psychics to join the World Security League. Now she became an Emergency Room Triage Nurse at Mercy Hospital, moved into a new apartment that she shares with a woman, Sam, who she had met at work, and she changed her looks. The most important thing that she was trying to avoid was using her psychic gifts.

She meets Detective Sebastian Rossi at a meeting for volunteers of the Feed the Street Initiative. He was the cop who was giving the volunteers rules to follow to remain safe and seemed to be drawn to her on first sight. Both her her roommate want to help the homeless as much as possible with food and water. During her first day of handing out sandwiches to the homeless with her partner Cory on their assigned area on Homestead Street. What she didn’t expect was how pag hard it would be not to become overwhelmed with the thoughts of the homeless. This shows how much compassion she feels for the less fortunate by still helping every week. Her psychic gifts start to come back to her with a vengeance.

On the second trip she ‘hears’ a voice that sounded like he hates women, although she cannot be sure if it means anything. When she learns later that there is a serial killer on the loose and he seems to be going after women of the streets she realized that she may have heard the killer.

Sebastian always seem to be where Emily is just to make sure that she is all right. It was sweet watching him worm himself into her heart one step at a time. He makes sure that she is safe as possible by driving her home when he can and giving her his jeep to drive wherever she needs to go. She tries to let him know that she doesn’t need it as she has learned self-defense, but when she sees how worried and stressed he is, she gives in.

The love they experience helps them both cope with the stress and horror of the killer. They support each other and one of my favorite scenes is when Sebastion comes to her apartment exhausted and drained. There had been another murder and he needed the comfort she could provide.

Their relationship is kept on the sweet side, with gentle kisses and cuddling. She also had to struggle with what she wanted with her life when the case is solved: should she go back to her former job and leave him behind or stay in Oklahoma City and see what happened with their relationship.

This was a sweet, exciting book I completely enjoyed reading.

Have Mercy by Lisa James


Have Mercy by Lisa James
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (189 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Lavender

Sean’s whirlwind courtship so dazzled blues singer Rivie that she married him two weeks after they met. They had three months of bliss, before her ugly memories caught up with her. Finally her unspeakable secret has driven them apart.

After six months of separation, he still wants her back, so he offers her a bargain. If, after six months of trying to make their marriage succeed, she still wants to leave, he promises he will let her go. She hesitantly agrees, knowing that she can never tell him the truth about her past, because it will make him hate her.

Sean is determined to convince Rivie that she can trust him to love her, no matter what. She is just as determined to keep her secret. Only one of them will succeed, but their love for each other could mean they will both win in the end.

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Rivie is a complex character, and the author has done a great job at making Rivie’s inner torment real. She has layers of tender feelings and a secretive past. She is so sad, readers will deeply sympathize with how injured she is, and her secret creates great suspense.

Sean is an interesting character as well, her opposite, and he has strong feelings for her. He is a bit assertive with his feelings, but she really enjoys it and finds comfort in his arms. Rivie and Sean marry fast, after a whirlwind romance. They are happy, but Rivie’s past interferes, and she leaves him.

The suspense deepens. Just what about her past is tearing her up so badly and causes her to leave a man she has fallen in love with?

Rivie’s musical partner, Rand, has his own secrets. He makes a good counterpoint to her. The wise brother figure, his interaction with the couple makes for some interesting situations.

Sean wants to make things work and asks for six months, but Rivie is really messed up inside. Readers are likely to root for him. He can only win if Rivie finds some personal healing, so his win would mean hers, as well. At times, there are possibilities of confusion for the reader, but nothing too distracting.

This is a real page turner, an emotional story filled with painful love, and an injured woman’s journey to peace and happiness. The author has done well with capturing this journey.

Beating Heart by Linda Palmer


Beating Heart by Linda Palmer
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (108 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Dani Donovan got a new heart, she also got something else–psychic abilities. Knowing things she shouldn’t know has taken some getting used to, the reason she hasn’t told her parents. They’d definitely flip out or, worse, take her to another doctor. The head kind this time.

Wanting to know more about her gifts, Dani decides to answer a World Security League call for psychics to help in the capture of the world’s most wanted criminals. She heads to a Birmingham hotel so her new abilities can be tested. There she meets another psychic, Ren Mallett, who bursts into her mind while she’s trying to read his. Their connection is so incredible that the WSL agents testing them promise to recommend that they work together.

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To make her parents happy, Dani finishes her current semester of college before heading to Rutledge. Ren, on the other hand, starts there immediately. When their mental conversations become less frequent and finally stop altogether, she chalks it up to whatever training and work he’s been assigned. They’ll talk face-to-face when she finally gets to The Rutledge Institute, herself. But when she gets there, Ren is nowhere to be found. She finds out that he’s working undercover and seems to have lost contact not just with her, but with everyone.

Being a psychic isn’t always as easy as it might seem.

The physical descriptions of the characters were right on point. I appreciated how much effort the narrator spent describing what everyone looked like. Each character had such a unique style and physical appearance that I figured out how to tell them all apart very quickly. This is something I always appreciate when I jump into a new series.

I would have liked to see more time spent on character development, especially when it came to Dani. The number of characters was perfect for a short story of this length, but I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them well even if they were a protagonist. Their personalities weren’t described in a lot of detail, and they didn’t seem to grow or change much as a result of all of the unusual things they experienced.

Ms. Palmer did a great job balancing out the fantasy and romantic elements of the plot. It would be tricky for me to decide which of these labels to use first, and that’s a good problem to have with tales that are written in more than one genre. I always enjoy it when authors are willing to blend things together like this. Not only can it make the final product appeal to a much wider audience, it’s fun to see what tropes from each genre they decide to use and how they mix it all together.

This book is the fifth in a series, but it can be read on its own or out of order. I hadn’t read any of the previous instalments, and I had no trouble jumping into this world right away.

I’d recommend Beating Heart to fans of the fantasy and romance genres alike.

Living Proof by Michelle L Levigne


Living Proof by Michelle L Levigne
The Neighborlee Ohio Series Book 8
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (271 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

With their adopted parents out of town researching their next book, her brothers, Harry and Pete, are staying with Lanie. Christmas is approaching, and that means shopping–which she hates. Even worse, Charlie and Rainbow have missed their last check-in call. While that has happened before, this time Lanie is starting to get worried.

Then the newspaper where she works gets a new owner, and Lanie gets shifted from the school sports beat to the lovelorn column. Despite all she does at her snarky best to get fired from the column, Lanie just can’t win. Even worse, her new boss is a fan and wants to be friends.

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Someone is out to get her, and as Lanie and her friends put the clues together, the mystery and the attempts to harm her just get more intense. She is living proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

Lanie and her brothers are worried when her parents disappear in the Bermuda Triangle. They also have troubles of their own. Lanie has a new boss at the newspaper who angers her by putting her in charge of the Agony Aunt’s column and taking away her sports column. On top of that someone seems to be trying to kill her.

Luckily her family live in Neighborlee where the weird is the norm and the community rallies round to take care of their own.

Did I mention Lanie is in a wheelchair? This doesn’t stop her doing exactly what she wants, and anyone who knows her tends to ignore her disability. People who don’t have an annoying habit of treating her like an imbecile. Lanie is a very strong character and her life tends to revolve around family and friends. Friends like Felicity who can fry any electronics if she loses her temper near them.

Magic, fantasy and the mystery of who is trying to kill her all weave together to make this another fabulous Neighborlee book.

These books always entrance me and, as usual, I read this one in one day. I can’t seem to put them down once I start reading them.

Vivia, Waking by Mary Patterson Thornburg


Vivia, Waking by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

For almost thirteen years, Vivia has been a child. Now, suddenly, she’s a woman. That’s startling enough, but she’s pretty sure she can learn to handle it. She’s not so confident, though, about other things. She’s begun to know what people are feeling. She can change what they’re feeling. She can make things happen—make water boil, make the wind around the campfire slacken—just by willing them to happen. All this is unsettling, but even scarier is the fact that she’s been careless with her new-found powers. Her older brother knows what she can do, what she’s becoming. Witchery, he calls it, and he also knows what will cure her. Now Vivia has a choice to make, and she’d better make it fast.

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Vivia was a brave and mature character who seemed much older than her chronological age. Some of this was due to the people and situations she was exposed to while growing up on the road, but it also seemed to be part of her natural personality. When I first began reading, I wondered if this was supposed to be written for a young adult audience. Based on Vivia’s personality and all of the unseemly things she was exposed to during her family’s travels, though, I soon realized that this was definitely meant for adult readers.

There were pacing issues. After the characters were introduced, it took a while for the plot to develop the amount of conflict in it that I was hoping to see. While I still enjoyed the storyline itself quite a bit, the slow beginning surprised me. I had to encourage myself to keep reading until it picked up and I figured out what the choice was that Vivia was going to have to make.

One of my favorite pieces of this tale had to do with all of the cultural differences that exist between our modern world and the rural, medieval-like one that Vivia lived in. Everything from the medical treatments that were available to people in that area to how they dealt with dangerous troublemakers was nothing at all like life in the twenty-first century. I genuinely felt as though I were visiting a society that was completely different from my own. That’s exactly what I want to find when I read stuff set long ago and somewhere far away.

Vivia, Waking should be read by anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.

Solemn Vows​ by Ginny McBlain


Solemn Vows​ by Ginny McBlain
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational
Length: Full length (246 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Meredith agreed to marry Quinn McAllister if he would promise that theirs would be a childless marriage. They were made for each other, having come from similar unstable backgrounds and pulled themselves up by their own ambition and determination.

Five days after their wedding, Quinn learns that his best friend, his “brother” from Boys Town, is dead, leaving his three young children orphaned. Years ago Quinn promised to care for the children if anything happened. Now he is faced with keeping his vow. But what about his promise to his wife, that theirs would be a childless marriage?
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Meredith has a secret, one she fears could doom her marriage if she ever reveals it. The choice is hers: her secret or her marriage? She must take the orphans into her home, despite her conviction that she will be a terrible mother to them.

Love may not be enough to save their marriage when one promise must be broken if another is kept.

Solemn Vows shows how life goes on after three young children lose their parents in an accident. Newly married Quinn and his wife Meredith uphold Quinn’s promise to look after the children and this at times is humorous, not exactly funny, but lighthearted.

I loved how the children wormed themselves into Meredith’s heart. She hadn’t wanted children and this instant family came as a shock to her. The two adults struggle through bad and good times which puts a strain on their first year of marriage.

Throughout the book Quinn often refers to Meredith as Marigold. This is puzzling. I could only think of two reasons for this. Either the author changed the name, but didn’t catch all of the changes needed, or this was the pet name for Meredith. If the latter then I felt some explanation should be given as to why Quinn used this name. The use of Marigold irritated me every time it came up and spoil​ed​ an otherwise good book.

A good premise with a lot of thought gone into how both adults and children would react. Gives a cosy feeling when reading about the instant family.