Young Lady Ariana, the daughter of an earl, is willful and headstrong. Betrothed to an elderly baron, she accepts it as the fate of a highborn woman. But, when she loses her family in an attack upon the earl’s castle, she must flee for her life. As her destination, she choses the estate of the Baron Frederick, her betrothed, but must rely upon the assistance of the irreverent, but dashing Jeremy, a common stable hand.
During their journey together, the two learn about each other and themselves, and develop a relationship that threatens both.
Ariana’s Pride by Margaret Lake is the first book in a trilogy that is part historical thriller, part medieval romance, with a fascinating cast of characters and, for someone like me, who knows little about England during medieval times, credible sounding.
I give it four stars.
Although she comes from a family of cops, in 1942, the only police job open to Regan O’Reilly, or any other woman, is a desk job. So, instead, she becomes a private investigator. As a PI with her own agency, she’s pretty much free to live life on her own terms, until she meets an insurance adjudicator, Mark Harris, a widower with a young son, Patrick, both of whom stir feelings in Regan that she’d rather not have to deal with.
Regan O’Reilly: Private Investigator by Margaret Lake is an interesting novella, although, it’s a bit misnamed. Written in the noir mystery style of the 1940s, it’s an intriguing story, but, it’s a romance story, not really a mystery. Interesting characters, and relatively fast-paced action, it follows Regan as she strives to reconcile her work with her growing feelings for Mark and Patrick, ending on a somewhat unsettled note as she prepares to go off on a hazardous undercover assignment just as she’s about to come to terms with the growing personal relationship.
I’m still unsure about this series, but curious to see what’s next for the heroine. I’ll give this one a provisional four stars.
After his wife died, Sam Phillips gave up on love. He’s content to live alone in Peakview, Colorado with his dog, Marshall, and run his hardware store and law practice. Then, he meets Vickie Dalton, a widow, come to Peakview for her son’s wedding, and sparks fly. Can two people in the twilight years of their lives find true love? Read Jill Haymaker’s Colorado Winter Moon and find out.
Sam and Vickie go through a storm of changes in their lives as they draw closer together, separated by the eight-hour drive between their homes in Colorado and Wyoming, and Vickie’s obligations to her family. For fans of romance novels, this is a book that is different. No bodice-ripping love connection, but two people of mature years who find that love is not bound by a calendar.
The sixth book in the series, it will open your heart to new possibilities, and convert you into a fan of the genre.
I give it five stars.
Alice Lenore is a popular romance writer, but she’s unable to deal with the real thing. She hires a housekeeper to help out around her house, but when it turns out to be Luka Oxendine, a hunk of a man, who also happens to be a bear shape shifter, her life is turned upside down and inside out.
Adored by the Alpha Bear by K.T. Stryker is a paranormal romance mystery comedy farce, and if you think that’s a mouthful, you have to read the story. Alice is adorable as a slightly klutzy, dysfunctional protagonist, while Luka is conflicted in his role as alpha male who finds himself in love with the apparently (but not really) weak heroine. The rest of the characters are not quite as fully developed, and their fates are left undetermined for the most part, but the story’s worth reading for Alice and Lukas’s parts.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.
World War II is devastating Romania, and the Jews and Roma are being targeted for extermination by the government, allied with the Nazis. Tsura, a young gypsy girl, finds herself forced to accept marriage to Mihai, a Nazi collaborator, in order to save her family, and her lover, Andrei, a Jew. As the war rages, and Tsura adapts to her sham marriage, she learns that Mihai has been leading a secret life in an effort to atone for his father’s sins.
Tsura by Heather Anastasiu is a tale of war and love, set against the backdrop of wartime Romania, allied with the Germans as a protective shield against the Russians who covet Romanian territory. This compelling story explores the actions and feelings of people caught in a seemingly no-win situation, a small nation caught between two equally undesirable situations, fighting to survive. The growth of the characters, as they come to terms with their situations, is profound. The author has done a fantastic job of showing the potentially devastating effect of war on human relationships, and the way that different people respond to desperate circumstances.
This novel ends on something of a cliffhanger, but in this instance, the author can be forgiven, for the cliffhanger ends one chapter in the main characters’ lives and sets the stage for even more chilling events to come.
I give it four stars.
Lorna Tymchuk, a PR Strategist, has a secret, one that she must keep from her fiancé Mitch Morgan, an undercover cop, for fear that he might have to arrest h er. When a neighbor and friend is murdered, Lorna is framed for it, and Mitch learns that the murder and his insurance fraud investigation are linked, they must come to grips with their feelings for each other.
The Tables Have Turned by Lori Power is a powerful romantic mystery, with a strong, independent female principal character arrayed against a powerful male character, and neither Lorna nor Mitch are prepared to take prisoners in their quest for justice and truth. Well plotted with a diverse cast of characters, and a deft job at foreshadowing and dropping clues that wary readers will pick up—at least, some of them. There are a few surprises awaiting, though, in this story that I prefer to categorize as a mystery. I mainly just skip the romance parts—just kidding. This author knows her stuff, and she makes even those move the story along rather than just being bodice-ripping diversions.
I received an advance review copy of this book, and I recommend it for romance and mystery fans.
I give her four stars for this one.
Lenny Kasminsky is a young Marine serving in England during WWII. His mind and heart, however, are with his only love, Natasha, waiting for him in New York. Lenny is recruited by the high command to write a series of bogus love letters designed to mislead the Nazis as to the actual site of the Allied invasion of Germany. When Natasha comes to London to be with him, he has to write the letters to another woman in order to maintain their credibility. After he’s injured in an explosion, and Natasha is tending him, she discovers one of the letters, setting their relationship back—but, only temporarily.
Dancing with Air by Uvi Poznansky is the fourth volume in her Still Life with Memories series, which tells the story of love in war through the various eyes of a unique family. This war romance, however, can be read as a stand-alone book, a story that deals with the vagaries of personal relationships in time of war and beyond as Lenny tells his story up to the present day, when he has to face an even greater challenge; his Natasha is slowly losing her memory and touch with reality, forcing him to remember his life and all the opportunities he missed.
A heart-warming story that moves from interpersonal relationships and traumas to the horror and uncertainty of war in a seamless manner. This is not your typical romance novel.
I give it four stars.
In New Orleans, a city filled with vampires, it’s not easy being a faery. Especially when their very existence drains your life force and their touch causes terrible pain. Willow Rhoswen, owner of the Fated Cupcakes bakery, is also a part time vampire hunter, because of her ability to detect vampires. Four years after her twin brother’s murder, Willow’s life is threatened by the presence of a particularly vicious vampire who seems focused on her. Her Aunt Maude, director of operations for the bureau responsible for controlling vampires, assigns her a new partner, her former lover, David. He’s turned into a vampire and signed on as a double agent to help find the vampires who are breaking the rules and threatening order in the city, but Willow’s not sure she trust him, and she certainly can’t stand to touch him any longer.
Forced to work closely with him, she does touch him, and to everyone’s surprise, she converts him into a ‘day walker.’ This skill puts her in even greater danger, forcing her to call upon her brother’s best friend, Talisen, a fae with healing powers. The three of them form a shaky alliance as more and more truth of David’s death and Willow’s ‘special’ abilities come to light.
Influential Magic by Deanna Chase is a paranormal romance thriller that paints the Crescent City in a whole new light. In Chase’s world, nothing is black and white, just ominous shades of gray, with danger lurking behind every corner. The author has created a universe of characters that are quintessentially human even in their decidedly unhuman personas. This story has more twists and turns than an Alpine trail, and the ending is stunning. My only complaint is the way the relationship between Willow and David is left kind of unresolved, but in the end, everyone seems to get just what they deserve. You don’t have to be a fan of either romance or paranormal stories to enjoy this book. It has a little something for everyone, and is a highly entertaining read.
I give it four stars.
Anthropologist Kasey Wyatt signs on to help bestselling novelist Jordan Taylor do a book about the Plains Indians. Easy-going, spontaneous Kasey finds the highly structured environment of the Taylor household stifling. Jordan appears to have a tight lid on his emotions, his niece and ward is a shy, lonely girl, and Jordan’s mother is a harridan who dislikes Kasey at first sight. Introducing the volatile Kasey into this staid, dysfunctional mix, though, creates reverberations that have a profound impact on the Taylor household.
Tonight and Always by bestselling novelist Nora Roberts is a short but compelling story that follows the year-long collaboration between Kasey and Jordan, that switches back and forth between the two of them as point of view characters—strangely and sometimes confusingly, in the same chapter at times. Not what one would expect from a writer of Roberts caliber. That, however, is probably the only negative thing I have to say about this story of love between polar opposites, a relationship that has three strikes against it before it even gets started. Nothing about the characters at the outset says ‘romance,’ yet somehow Roberts makes it work, which shows the writer she was to become.
This is one of the author’s early stories, written before she’d really honed her craft, so I am willing to forgive some of the amateurish stylisms, such as head hopping and two-plus dimensional characters.
I received this book as a gift. I’m a Nora Roberts fan, but I can only give this one three stars.
FBI Special Agent Assefa Berber is on the trail of a serial killer, one possessing preternatural powers from an age long past. When he enters the life of psychology professor, Sanura Williams, both of their lives are forever changed. They are immediately drawn to each other, but that relationship is threatened by predatory killers with great power who threaten the entire human race.
Of Fear and Faith by N. D. Jones is a tense paranormal thriller that makes The X Files seem like ‘Sesame Street.’ From the modern streets of the U.S. to places where people still believe in the old gods, the two protagonists fight to stay alive while they track a killer who has no mercy. This is a book that will chill you down to the bone, with characters who are easy to identify with even when they are acting bigger than life.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.
In Lights of Love by C.S. Lane two worlds collide with cosmic results. Tessra El De LeRay is consumed with curiosity about the lights beyond the border of her magically protected home. When she’s caught after venturing outside, and using magic beyond the border, she is banished. Sent outside with no memories of her real past, and no magic, she encounters Payton Bennett, a combat veteran plagued by demons of his wartime experiences. At first, neither remembers that they’ve encountered each other before, but there is unmistakable chemistry between them. Into this mix is thrown the Shadow, a hired assassin, sent to eliminate certain targets for reasons he is not told.
A strange story; part fantasy, part science fiction, with a healthy dose of romance thrown, the author takes you on a roller coaster ride through a world that is so real you’ll be able to feel the heat and smell the body odors. An amazing combination of thriller and romance, this has to be put into the category of multi-genre—and, extremely well-done at that.
A great first novel that I happily give five stars.
Tabitha Vohn’s Tomorrow is a Long Time is a moving story about the power of love. Eileen ‘Lee’ Langley has been smitten, obsessed even, with actor Cal Morrison since seeing him in a movie when she was five years old. The problem, though, is that Cal is three decades older than she is.
An accomplished music composer and performer, at a concert in Europe, Lee encounters Cal, and discovers that their attraction is mutual. From this point in the book, it delves into the realm of science fiction, as they learn that a German scientist has developed a method of implanting memories of one person into another after putting both into a dream state, and during the process create alternate realities for both. Cal convinces Lee to join him in the experiment, and they embark on a dream journey that changes not just their lives, but the lives of those around them.
This is an intriguing book, with a theme that is profound in its implications, and with characters that are compelling in their depth. In places, the author does employ some wording that is a bit complex, forcing the reader to stop and ponder the meaning, but in the end it’s a worthwhile journey as it explores the deeper meaning of time.
I give Vohn four stars for an interesting story.
Former rodeo champion Cade Tyler, sidelined by an injury and devastated over the loss of his wife in an accident, thinks that life has thrown him all the curves it can. Then, life throws stubborn, sassy, sexy reporter Lacy Dalton in his path. Cade doesn’t like reporters, and he doesn’t like stubborn. Unfortunately, he’s not so sure about the sexy part, and thus the sparks fly.
For her part, Lacy finds herself drawn to the morose cowboy, but the more she learns the more dangerous life gets for her. For someone’s out to destroy Cade and Lacy becomes another weapon they can use to do that.
Capturing the Cowboy’s Heart by Lindsey Brookes is an action-romance story that will appeal to even readers, even those who don’t normally read the romance genre. This is not your usual bodice-ripping, heavy-breathing frothy concoction that characterizes the run of the mill romance. Sure, there are the obligatory romantic scenes, and there is definitely a lot of heavy breathing, but there’s also some finely crafted action, and enough suspense to edge this book into fringes of the mystery genre.
Brookes could, if she keeps this up, entice me to read more romance novels. I give it four stars.
All Parnell Stillman wants to do is fly, and get his freight hauling airline out of hock. The last thing on his mind is hooking up with a woman—he got his fill of that with his ex-wife. Rebecca Hollis has also had her troubles in the love department. She now works for a home for children, and has been tasked with getting five orphans from Idaho to San Francisco to be adopted—hopefully.
The problem they both face is that they’re thrown together, since Parnell has been hired to fly them, and they hate each other on sight. When bad weather forces the plane down in the wilderness, and they’re forced to get along in order to survive, both their lives change in ways neither could have foreseen.
Jackie Weger’s The Reluctant Hero is something of an adventure/romance, with as much emphasis on the former as the latter. An eclectic cast of characters and a compelling setting keeps the reader’s interest as they struggle to survive against the unrelenting wilderness and deadly weather. Even if you’re not a fan of romance fiction, you’ll like this book. I give Weger four stars for this one.
Cody Wilde made a promise to his dying father—he would always avoid trouble—a difficult promise to keep in a rural Texas town where he’s bullied by the sheriff’s son. Cassie Strong found it hard to understand why people always picked on Cody, who had only shown her sweetness and kindness. In fact, she was the only person to see the nice side of him. When tragedy strikes her life, Cody is there for her, and their friendship becomes something more.
As they enter adulthood, Cody tries to avoid becoming too attached to Cassie, but can’t continue to deny his feelings. When his childhood enemy reenters their lives, he resolves to keep Cassie safe, but when Cassie is raped, Cody is faced with a problem—he can protect Cassie only by violating the oath he made to his father.
The three Strong & Wilde series by L. A. Castillo follows Cody and Cassie from their teen years until the crisis of adulthood that forces them to make some life-changing decisions. Strong action, stronger emotions, and a harsh, demanding setting makes this a blistering read that is part romance, part thriller, and all fascinating. Strong characters facing mountainous challenges will keep you flipping pages, gnashing your teeth, and sitting on the edge of your seat.
I received a free copy of this three-book set in exchange for my review. I give it four stars.
As a young girl, Skye Cree was brutally assaulted by Ronny Wayne Whitfield. But, Skye is a survivor, and with her Nez Perce spirit guide, the wolf Kiya, she is, as a young women, determined to use her ability to protect others. Traumatized by the childhood incident, Skye avoids intimate contact with men until she saves Josh Anders, CEO of a game company, from muggers, and sparks fly between them. For the first time in her adult life, Skye is in love. But that love is threatened when she learns that Whitfield is out of jail, and young girls are going missing.
The Bones of Others by Vickie McKeehan tells the story of Skye and Josh as they vow to track Whitfield down and bring him to justice. As they peer deeper into the missing person cases, though, they discover that it’s more than just a single predator attacking young women, they find an international trafficking operation involving dozens. McKennan does a fantastic job of keeping a reader guessing until the end—will Skye and Josh prevail, or will they too become victims? Though this story contains elements of the supernatural, it is told as a mystery thriller, complete with enough action to appeal to the most rabid fight junkie. At the same time, the author handles Skye’s awakening feelings for Josh with astonishing tenderness.
Once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to put it down. I look forward to further adventures of these two extremely likeable characters.
I give McKeehan four stars for this one.
You’d think a kid who grew up in a funeral home, and who had a graveyard as a playground, would be strange, and in Molly Maddison’s case, you’d be right. A young adult, now, Molly has a close friend, Jewels, who coincidentally happens to be dead, and she is constantly importuned by the recently and not so recently departed for her help. That’s right; Molly can see, feel, and interact with the dead. Even worse, she can really get physical with them, as she does with Levi, an enigmatic, sometimes dangerous ghost who is obsessed with her.
Then, Damon Night enters Molly’s life. The professor in a class she’s taking to get her certification as a child behavior therapist, he is in Jewel’s words, a hottie, and Molly is drawn to him. But Damon is not what he seems. Nor, for that matter, is Molly. When her father dies, and she has to go home for the reading of the will, Molly learns the secret that he’d kept from her for her whole life, and oh what a secret it is.
Crypt Keeper by K.A. Young is the first in a series about Molly Maddison, a Crypt Keeper by birth, who happens to be in love with Death—not just the concept, but the actual grim reaping entity. Young writes with a wry wit, and a deft hand as she describes dead-undead/mortal-immortal encounters, magical moments, both eerie and erotic, and Molly’s journey of discovery. This is a hard book to classify. It’s funny, it’s scary, it has elements of the paranormal, and it has romance. It’s a quick read, and an enjoyable one, so let’s ditch the thoughts of classifying it into a particular genre and start reading.
I give Young four stars for this book.
Sophy Prescott, living with her mother in a small English village, is the village bastard. When her mother dies, her ‘father,’ Lord William Rushford of Fairchild, has her relocated to his home in Cordell Hall, where he finds it hard to relate to her as a daughter.
Fairchild by Jaima Fixsen tells Sophy’s story as she struggles to find love and a place to belong, in a society that puts a premium on pedigree rather than true character.
The author does an excellent job of describing English society of the era, and the characters of all classes that inhabited it. While in some respects a romance, Fairchild is also a bit of historical fiction, with its descriptions of English society. Fixsen has created, in Sophy, a character the reader can easily identify with and root for.. I give it four stars.
“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.” Sara Grey is a girl with a secret. Haunted by the murder of her father, and determined to find his killer, she takes risks that the ordinary 17-yeaar-old would shrink from. For instance, she goes out on a limb to help a Boggie couple—Boggies being beings that are not exactly human—with the help of a troll named Remy. That’s right, Sara consorts with nonhuman creatures from what most would think was a fantasy world.
When she becomes the target of a vengeful vampire, she discovers that her friends are more than she thought, and even more, that, along with her strange ‘healing’ gift, she has other secrets that even she had not been aware of.
Karen Lynch’s Relentless is a paranormal mystery, thriller, romance—well, it’s kind of hard to really pigeonhole, other than, it’s a really entertaining book. Once you start reading it, I promise you, you won’t put it down until you’re done.
Four of five stars to Lynch for this one.
The Settler by Orit Arfa is billed as a historical Middle Eastern romance, but it’s much more than that. It’s the story of how one woman, Sara Dakar, a resident of the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, deals with life after she and her fellow settlers are expelled and the settlement destroyed. Even more, it’s a story of modern Israel, and the question of whether it’s a democratic country or a nascent religious dictatorship.
Arfa takes us through the broad sweep of Middle Eastern politics vis a vis Israel, and a down and dirty tour through present day Israel as it copes with the contradictions and inconsistencies in a society that has seen more than its share of death and sadness as its people seek love and fun.
This is not a weekend read, unless you have a long holiday weekend with no other distractions. It’s hard to put down, but it’s also doubtful that you can get through it in one sitting; it’s just too intense.
Regardless of where you stand on the Arab-Israeli issue or the problem of Israeli settlements, you will enjoy reading this book. In fact, if you want to understand the dilemma that’s the Israeli problem better, I recommend this be one of the texts that you consult. Four stars to Arfa for an interesting read.