Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

Sometimes the most seemingly idyllic of small towns are the ones that hide the most tantalizing secrets.

What’s it About?

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This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jenna’s Journey’, do make an appearance.

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

First Impressions

Sophia isn’t the only one with a secret on this small Greek Island! There’s a lot going on in this novel, with multiple mysteries and dramatic plot points taking place over several decades. The book itself is divided into four parts, which definitely helped to keep a sense of order to how the story was told. We start off with Kat traveling back to her childhood home after the death of her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was just a little girl. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen her father or grandmother since then either, as she was sent off to live in another country with her Aunt when she was only seven. Since then she’s received no word from the rest of her family. Now that she’s back on the island, her grandmother, Sophia, is prepared to reveal the true and troubled history of why Kat was sent away so many years before. This is when we enter part 2 of the novel.

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A Blast to the Past

Little did I know that in order to figure out the events of twenty years ago, we’d actually be traveling back even further in time, going all the way back to when Sophia herself was just a teenager. This time jump definitely holds your interest, as you’re constantly wondering how the story will evolve to ultimately explain the reason why Kat was sent away. However, you also sort of have to force your way through a large chunk of the novel, as it’s a rather depressing read. Through Sophia’s eyes we see her tale of woe, forced marriage, rape, pining for a lost love, jealousy, and even murder. Quite a bit of murder actually. As if that wasn’t enough of a downer, throughout the read we’re constantly getting moments which foreshadow even more doom and gloom to come, such as “little did I know how much worse things were about to get.” At times it felt like I needed a shot of tequila before I could proceed to the next chapter!

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Back to the Future

Sophia’s memories in part 2 take up a rather significant portion of the book, and by the time we’ve made our way back up to the present in part 3, I must admit it took me a while to remember what all was going on and who the key players were. Not only have we just reviewed all of Sophia’s secrets revolving around her forced marriage, forbidden love, and the mystery of her husband’s death, but now we have a lost Church treasure, a missing boy from years ago, a dead Jane Doe, Kat’s husband and step daughter having their own problems, a kidnapping, a dead antiques smuggler, and Kat trying to deal with the new information she’s learned about her parents. Again, there’s a lot going on here!

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Bringing it All Together

On the one hand, it definitely seemed like there was too much going on. Some of these mysterious story lines held more prominence in the overall telling of the book, while others seemed to get just a little bit of attention before being quickly put to rest. I was particularly surprised to find that at the very end of the book we even get a link back to an unsolved mystery from the first book that is finally resolved. That being said, I must say it was truly commendable that the author managed to bring every single mystery full circle by the end of the book.

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No stone is left unturned, and every loose end is tied up perfectly. Quite a feat worth mentioning considering there were so many moving pieces at work here. Personally I do think the book as a whole would have benefited from removing some of the more minor side plot distractions, and instead have the drama surrounding Kat’s relationships with her mother, father and grandmother be the sole focus. It just would have pulled the story together more tightly into one cohesive thread.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Greek Island Mystery, book 2. I did enjoy this sequel better than the first novel in the series! With book one I was kind of disappointed that some elements surrounding the downfall of our main villain were left unresolved. Imagine my surprise to discover that we finally get a resolution to that plot point at the very end of this second book!

Final Impressions: While this mystery certainly kept me guessing, and managed to hold my interest throughout, it was also kind of hard to want to pick it up and read sometimes considering the subject matter. Sophia had a tough life, and it was disheartening to read about her trials and tribulations in such detail. That being said, it was nice to see that she was eventually rewarded for her hardships later in life. As far as the mystery of why Kat was sent away all those years before, it was definitely an interesting and surprising reason, but I can’t say I ever fully understood why all communication was cut off from her until now. A bit more explanation as to why Sophia in particular, as well as Kat’s father, never chose to visit her throughout the years would have been nice.

Smut Level: None really.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.25 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 331 Pages.

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Escaping Solitude by Sara Dobie Bauer

His exile has ended. Vampire Andrew is finally back in society with his shipwrecked sailor, Edmund. The temptations of New Orleans await them both!

What’s it About?

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Ancient vampire Andrew escaped his tropical island exile with his beloved human sailor, Edmund. They’ve now returned to Andrew’s home in nineteenth-century New Orleans and must navigate not only their developing relationship—and equally haunted pasts—but also a hungry coven of vampires Andrew used to call friends.

Desperate to stay by Andrew’s side forever, Edmund examines the impressive coven library in search of an Elder, the only creature capable of turning Edmund. Although missing for centuries, Andrew believes an Elder must still survive somewhere; they just have to find him.

The search is put on hold when Edmund receives word that his mother is ill in London, and the lovers set off on an oceanic journey surrounded by new friends and old enemies. When things go terribly wrong, Edmund’s fragile human life hangs in the balance, and an Elder must be found or Andrew will be alone forever.

First Impressions

At the end of book one I wondered if dry land would prove to be the salvation Andrew and Edmund thought it would be. They’re both thrilled to be on dry land and in society once again, but now they find themselves having to check their behavior when out on the town. They simply can’t be openly affectionate in public like they were on the seclusion of the island. Sure, they may have only had blood thirsty cannibals as companions on the island of exile, but apparently they didn’t discriminate.

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While Andrew and Edmund both lament not being able to show affection in public, they’re certainly able to locate a few places all over the city for them to indulge in their passions behind closed doors! I also questioned at the end of book one if Andrew’s blood lust would prove too great to handle once he’s back in the midst of society. While his hunger for blood does grow, we see that his tastes are for Edmund alone, and he can’t bring himself to feed on anyone but his sailor. The question is, will Edmund bare his neck to Andrew’s fangs, or will he run away in fear? Spoiler, he bares it allllllllll.

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Vanishing Cynicism

I’ll admit I was a partial cynic in book one, wondering if the love between Andrew and Edmund was authentic, or simply a matter of convenience at being the only two men alone on a deserted island together. Not including the cannibals of course. I’m happy to say that this book really did put aside those critical views of mine. At the start of this novel you can see that their sexual connection is obviously very strong. There are many scenes which focus on their physical desire for each other, as well as with other people at times. And yet, as the novel progresses we see their emotional link come to the forefront. Whereas they start off by taking advantage of all the sexual delights and brothels that New Orleans has to offer, it doesn’t take long before they admit to each other that they only want to spend the rest of their lives in each other’s arms.

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There were two moments in particular for me which highlighted that this sailor and vampire are actually in love. The first is when Andrew realizes how comfortable he is spending time with Edmund simply doing nothing. Do they enjoy exploring the city together and indulging in their sexual passions? Absofreakinlutely. But they’re also happy to just lounge around in their room for a few hours reading. They can be comfortable in silence with each other, and that in my opinion is a sign of true love. And then there is Andrew’s fear over Edmund’s safety. Sure, that might seem like a given, but we see this augmented even more for Andrew as they begin their search for a vampire Elder to turn Edmund into a vampire as well. Andrew is so afraid that something will happen to take Edmund away from him just when they’re on the brink of spending a lifetime together. It was such a humbling show of desperation and vulnerability in his love for Edmund, you can’t help but feel moved.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Escape Trilogy, book 2. The ending of this book? Wow, just wow!! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I can’t wait to dive into the continuation and conclusion that book 3 has in store.

Final Impression: This book was a delightful look at uncovering who Edmund and Andrew truly are when they’re off the island. At times their indulgence in all the sins that New Orleans had to offer were a bit too over the top sex heavy for me. Not something I usually say, I know. However, I did appreciate that underneath it all we could really sense the growing love and devotion these two share for each other. I also liked that we got to see more of a focus on some supplementary characters from Andrew’s vampire coven. They provide an interesting complement to our loving couple. I think I would have liked a few more moments focusing on Edmund’s research into locating an Elder, with some additional details of this unique vampire world we’re getting to know.

Smut Level: My goodness, somebody get me an ice cold hurricane punch to cool off from all this New Orleans heat! Andrew and Edmund spend a lot of time in bed together, and sometimes they even have a few guests present as well. I feel like New Orleans humidity + 4 men in one brothel room= a literal bucket of sweat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 111 Pages.

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Starting Over by Pamela Q. Fernandes

If you’re looking for a sweet fall romance that you can finish in one sitting, then this is the book for you!

What’s it About?

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Cara Wallace is stunned to find Nathan Reynolds back in Henderson County. His sudden arrival brings to the fore unresolved questions of what might have been.
How could she unwrite the past?
How could she undo the mistakes?
How could she unlove him?

Nathan Reynolds can’t understand why Cara chose to stay in this small town. How could she sacrifice her career, her future and their love for a small run-down cottage in the middle of nowheresville? Whatever her reasons, Nathan intends to find out and start over again!

First Impressions

This is a short read, at just 64 pages, which means this review here is gonna be brief, or else I’ll risk spoiling the entire sequence of events! In spite of it’s short length, I was surprised to find out how much story and emotion could be packed into this novella without it feeling rushed. We have the opportunity to really get to know our characters, as well as the tragic reasons behind their break-up years before on the cusp of going away to college. Back then, Cara gave Nathan minimal excuses as to why there was no point in continuing their relationship, but when they reconnect after all these years he is determined to figure out the real reason behind her withdrawal. The details are devastating, but beyond them all we see a second chance at love which was seemingly lost years ago. Their years apart and previous misunderstandings can’t stop their old feelings from coming back to the forefront.

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Overcoming the Past

The bulk of this novella observes Nathan and Cara finding their way back into each other’s lives, and overcoming the ghosts of their pasts. Everything comes together to end on a big note which is so freakin’ adorable (bonfire included), but I think we needed just one more scene of Cara and Nathan connecting in the present. There’s such a focus on their past, and on how Cara’s niece, Brooke, might fit into any relationship Cara chooses to explore with Nathan.

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If we push all of that aside though I think we needed one more moment of them falling back in love after so many years apart to highlight their current emotional connection. Not only could it have allowed them to fall in love with who the other person is today rather than focusing on memories of the past, but it also could have helped to compliment the big ending scene. Because we didn’t get that the end scene felt slightly rushed in regards to the progression of Cara and Nathan’s relationship, but I don’t want to give too much away! You’ll just have to pick this book up and read it for yourself 🙂

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Sweet Fall Romance. Personally I would love if this turned into a series which highlighted every season of the year. Mkay, now I definitely want to see that happen. I’d read every single one.

Final Impression: For those of you looking for a sweet, short read as you wait for trick-or-treaters to arrive, or for your turkey to finish baking, or heck if it’s just a cold, grey fall day and you don’t feel like getting out of bed until noon, this would be the perfect solution for you. It’s a beautiful look at second chances, coming home, and recognizing that the love of your life is right in front of you. I always worry that short novellas of this length will result in us receiving just a preliminary glimpse of the characters and story, but this one presents us with almost the perfect blend of character development, romance, and the importance of family.

Smut Level: A steamy kiss here or there, but overall a clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 64 Pages.

A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

Two men with a past. Will their mutual obsession with art draw them closer together, or drive a wedge between them forever?

What’s it About?

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An honorable artist: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .

A hedonistic viscount: Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process.

Sinner and saint–can both win at love? But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?

First Impression

A feature you notice from the very opening page of this book, and which the author should be commended for, is that it truly feels as though we have been transported to the Regency Era. I’m sure some of you are thinking that for a 19th century historical read, we damn well better feel like we’re in the 1800s. Well, hear me out! To write a historical romance is one thing, but to feel as though the novel was actually written in the 1800s? That’s a talent all in itself. From the syntax to the British slang, the work felt reminiscent of something written by Jane Austen or Frances Burney. While it was a noticeably admirable trait of the novel, it did also make for a slightly slower read. What can I say? It took me some time to decipher what the characters were actually trying to say. But I also couldn’t deny that my desire for a pot of tea and tray of cucumber sandwiches grew stronger with every page turned.

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Classic Beauty vs. the Unnatural

In my opinion, the true mastery of this novel lay not necessarily with the romance between Benedict and Dulcie, but instead through their discussions and debates of art. Benedict’s goal in life is to open a national art museum for the British people. All British people, regardless of class, station, or wealth. Dulcie on the other hand is one of the leading art critics of the day, with his sights set on acquiring unique pieces for his own private collection. The heated discussions which erupt between the two, as well as with their fellow high-class art peers, were so insightful and thought-provoking that you couldn’t help but feel moved to take up an opinion on the matter as well. As the novel progresses we see a shift in the conversation from who is worthy of appreciating good art to who decides what good art is in the first place. The scrutiny placed on the artistic system was riveting, as our characters understand that sometimes you have to look beyond the paint to what is hiding underneath.

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What hit me the most though was how this discussion of art and beauty could find direct symmetry in the romance between Benedict and Dulcie. The two are art connoisseurs, yet they can both appreciate the talent in an artistic piece that might not be considered classically beautiful. While some might view tangled limbs and an imperfect male specimen on a canvas as grotesque, they are both enamored with the emotion such a piece can evoke in the viewer, and therefore can’t deny that it deserves praise. Even if the majority of their contemporaries don’t agree with them.

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Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking, and look. You’re not required to write a paper. You’re not even required to like it. You *are* required to consider it. – Mona Lisa Smile

When we look at Benedict and Dulcie’s relationship, the majority of regency society would also look upon it as something grotesque and unnatural. And sadly, there are many in our own time who would see it in the same context. But what lies underneath the surface? What do you have when you push the physical component to the side. What lies beneath the paint? Simple, it’s love. Love between two consenting adults who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is love and romance is for all. While they can see the beauty in this, and a minuscule number of their contemporaries understand it, for the majority it is seen as too far removed from what society deems as “right” or “proper”. Again, the parallels between their love and the discussion of modern art was so subtly clever that I’m still thinking about it.

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Romance vs. Challenge

While I was fully entranced by the discussion of art for the masses, unfortunately there was one aspect of the novel that I’m sorry to say I had a much harder time falling in love with. And that would be Dulcie. Now, let me start off by saying that eventually he does manage to redeem himself by becoming a devoted partner and friend once again to Benedict. The problem is that it took sooooo long to happen. Throughout the novel Benedict is this adorable, wide-eyed puppy dog that I just wanted to pick up and snuggle, even though he definitely has some bark behind his bite. When it came to Dulcie though, he was like a predatory hawk. Constantly circling, searching for who he could mess with next.

Ok, ok, so a hawk might be too harsh a comparison. How about a puppet master who loved to pull the strings of others? He could tease, seduce and manipulate with the best of ’em. It was really a struggle to know whether or not his heart was ever behind his pursuit of Benedict, or if it was simply a challenge to regain Benedict’s childhood affections. Again, eventually we see Dulcie open up with Benedict, and share some of his innermost thoughts, feelings and fears. I just wish it had come a bit earlier on in the novel. Something else which I think could have helped me warm up to Dulcie earlier was if we could have received a prologue to show how the two initially connected at school all those years before. We see the moment where their interaction ends, and towards the end of the novel we realize how both of them suffered following the end of their friendship, but the missing element for me was that initial crucial moment which connected them in the first place.

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Let’s Get Physical…Or Not

Duclie’s pursuit of Benedict throughout the novel is fairly relentless. Both admit to an undeniable attraction that seems to be pulling the two of them together. For Benedict though, he doesn’t want anything to happen between them unless Dulcie is willing to offer up his mind in addition to his body. For Dulcie? He’s basically just looking for a good ole rough and tumble in the back room of a tavern. He employs all the seductive looks, touches, and smirks at his disposal to try and sway Benedict to his line of thinking. Essentially, he’s a classic playboy. What I found to be so fascinating though was what happened when the two finally did get physical.

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There’s some rubbing, some tugging, some “spending”. Anything beyond that though? Shockingly this is where Dulcie becomes more reserved! Throughout the whole novel his attitude and confidence towards getting Benedict in his hands sort of implies that he’d be the expert and dominant when it came to the physical side of their relationship. What debauchery might they get into when the seducer finally captures his prey? Who knew it would be the complete opposite with Benedict being the more experienced one?!?! It was very interesting to hear Dulcie’s rather negative opinion towards the concept of oral sex, not to mention penetration, almost as though it was beneath his high stature to engage in such uncivilized and…unsanitary behavior. I have a feeling Benedict might succeed in changing his opinion on that matter though 😉

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Penningtons, book 4. This was the first book I read in this series, and I will admit I had trouble with the links between some of the different characters. It was kind of difficult to understand the relationship and familial webs at times.

Final Impression: Overall I can’t say I was fully connected to Dulcie and Benedict as a couple. I couldn’t help but feel that Dulcie’s eventual transformation into a caring and selfless lover came a bit too late in the game for me, and if anything I wanted more for Benedict. As a social and artistic commentary though it was an enthralling read. There are arguments about classic beauty versus opening the mind to modern interpretations that will keep you thinking for a few days.

Smut Level: Any time a couple can successfully balance on a chaise longue whilst exploring each other’s bodies deserves honorable mention. While we don’t get any scenes involving penetration, we get a few decent kissing scenes, tingling spines, tightening of groins, cock-stands, and “spending” a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Bennet Books. 298 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: The Mate by Abigail Owen. Paranormal, Shifters.

Hurricane Crimes by Chrys Fey

This story of murder in the midst of a deadly hurricane certainly packs a punch. And in just 43 pages!!

What’s it About?

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After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he’s trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find. As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?

First Impressions

I started this book before leaving for work one morning, thinking it’d be a somewhat low stakes novella to start and leave without finishing. Lemme say, bad idea! I read just 10 minutes of this before walking out the door, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day long. I seriously considered whipping my Kindle out during my lunch break to finish the rest of it all up in one sitting. Unfortunately that would have left my coworker to just watch me eat and read at the same time, and may have been slightly awkward. No talking allowed!!

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I was completely shocked at how much story the author was able to pack in here in just under 50 pages. Overall it was an absolute perfect blend of romance, suspense, and mother nature trying to knock down the front door. It’s not just a story of two strangers waiting out a storm together. We have the added drama of Donovan being framed for his brother’s murder, and it becomes a fascinating tale of trust. Beth has no reason to believe this stranger when he declares his innocence, but when she sees the desperation shining through his sultry violet eyes? Who could say no to that?

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A Bathtub Fit for Two

Although it was short in length, I never felt like any part of the story was rushed, or that any key plot points were left out. Did Beth and Donovan become intimate rather quickly considering the time frame? Sure, but hell, you can’t blame ’em! It’s an intense situation, and quite possibly their last moments alive as a deadly hurricane passes over them. And seriously, the dude has violet eyes. I say go for it! The only question I have is what the hell kind of bathtub did this woman have in her house where it could not only fit two people, but they had a bit of extra room to remove their jeans for some sweet, sweet, lovin’? (Note: as someone with a ridiculously shallow and narrow tub, this is just pure jealousy).

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Beth, Donovan, and Sabrina

The key players in this little novella are Beth and Donovan. However, through the brilliant use of metaphors, Hurricane Sabrina becomes a third main character in her own right. The descriptions or her rapid approach and violent wrath can practically be characterized as poetic. My favorite scene would have to be at the beginning when Beth struggles to make it to Donovan’s car which has crashed into a tree outside her house as the hurricane ravages on. You’re transported into the moment with Beth. You can feel the wind and rain lashing upon your face, feel the gravel digging into your hands as you crawl along the ground. Feel the tightening in your stomach from fear wondering if you’ll ever make it to this man before the storm carries you both away. For all of you authors out there wondering how to craft the perfect novella, I say use this as your template. Honestly, I really don’t have any criticisms! A rarity indeed 😉

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*A copy of this novella was provided for an honest review*

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 1. I officially want to read this whole series.

Should you read it? Yes! It’s less than 50 pages, you’ve got nothing to lose. Normally with novellas I make the comment that I wish it were a full-length novel. Is that the case here? Kind of. I loved the characters, the story, the drama of the storm and our murderous side plot. A full-length novel would have just given me more to enjoy. What can I say, I’m greedy at times 🙂 However!! I can honestly say that having a full-length novel was in no way a necessity. It’s perfectly wonderful as a novella, and I didn’t feel for one second that I was missing out on anything. Who needs extra fluff when you can just get to the meat of the story? Maybe instead of having a longer version I’ll just have to give it a second read!

Smut Level: We get some sexy kisses, but no details for the act itself. Considering the short length, probably a wise decision to use every bit of limited space towards the plot rather than the naked times. Never thought I’d say that!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 43 Pages.

Being You by S.T. Heller

This novel has convinced me that if I should ever leave city-living behind for the wonders of nature, I 100% need to buy a house by a lake that has a dock. It just seems like all of life’s major discussions and problems can be resolved by the serenity of sitting on a dock next to a peaceful lake.

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What’s it About?

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After years of trials and tribulations, Keegan and Jack are finally living their happily ever after. With their daughter and sons, their parents, and their friends, they are surrounded by love. Like all couples, Keegan and Jack face everyday issues, dealing with raising their children and concentrating on their careers, while remembering to focus on one another. But what happens when outside forces disrupt their happily ever after? Over the course of years, the strength of their bond is challenged by the ever-changing lives of their loved ones and by ghosts from the past that continue to haunt them. And, each time, Keegan and Jack must determine if their love for each other and their relationship can adapt and stand the test of time.

First Impressions

Mkay, so full disclosure: I have not read the first two books in this series. And my God! It sounds like I definitely missed out on a lot!! Personally I found that reading the synopses of the first two novels was a big help to understanding the main dramatic elements from the start of the series. In addition to that, I really appreciated the fact that the author gave us a brief recap of most of the key moments from the previous novels pretty early on in this book. Every time we are introduced to a character we are provided with the back story to how they relate to the main characters, and how their relationships may have evolved over time. That being said, I must admit it was rather difficult to keep all of the complicated relationships straight at times! Also, some of the major plot lines from the previous books were mentioned so nonchalantly there were a few times where I had to pause and ask, “Wait, what happened?!” From a casual mention of brain surgery, to an ex-girlfriend lying about Jack having died in a fire, it definitely seems like I missed out on some craziness in books 1 and 2!

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An Observation on Life

While it’s difficult for me to discuss exactly how this novel compares to the previous two, I can only assume this one was pretty mellow after reading the synopses of those first books. We have no undercover investigators, nor tales of murder to contend with. Instead what we are presented with is more of an observation on life. The book is littered with minor dramatic moments that any of us could encounter in our own lives. From a child needing stitches, to the stresses of work, and even having to put down a beloved pet. At the same time we are privy to the delightful moments of life which can offset those which seem so terrible and scary. Marriages, family vacations, and hanky panky fun times when the kids are asleep 😉

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While this definitely helps us relate to our characters with the everyday joys and problems of life that we too experience, it was also a bit light in terms of an underlying plot. Keegan and Jack do encounter two significant issues which threaten to impact the happy bubble they’ve created for their family. The first controversy doesn’t really come about until the half-way point of the novel, and all in all it is resolved fairly quickly. The second problem is more of a slow build-up to an eventual climactic point of contention. Through it all we question if Keegan and Jack will be able to overcome these dramas, or if outside forces will break the strong link which binds them together. One thing’s for sure, meddling exes definitely seem like a common theme throughout this series! Ultimately we see how Jack and Keegan’s strong commitment to being open and honest with each other provides the underlying stability to their relationship. No doubt this was built upon throughout the previous two novels!

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The Extended Family

The characters in this novel were unbelievably captivating and entertaining. Jack and Keegan especially are the driving force of the story, and I think one of the main reasons I liked them so much was the fact that they were in their late 40s when the novel began. This allows them to bring a crucial amount of maturity to their discussions which can oftentimes be lacking in romance novels featuring couples in their early 20s. They aren’t quick to make assumptions, or if they are they have the ability to talk to each other! Thank goodness we finally have a couple who can communicate!!! So refreshing. The book is told from their alternating points of view, with a few chapters told by their daughter Molly, which was always a unique surprise.

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As for the other characters of the novel, they too are a delight, but holy crap are there a lot of them! Seriously, you need some kind of 3-D diagram in order to keep all these people and relationships in order. We have ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, step siblings, half-siblings, and then just the general friend group. Phew, I’m exhausted! Again, with the first mention of each character we get a snippet of their background and how they relate to our main characters from the first two novels. It was a lot of information to keep track of. I seriously think some kind of extended family tree would have been very helpful, mainly just to maintain who is actually related to whom. I remember at one point Molly mentioned how when she grew up she was gonna marry a boy named Jace, and for a moment I panicked and exclaimed aloud, “But he’s your half-brother!!!” But then…I retraced the various webs of relationships and realized, ok phew, not a blood relative. Proceed!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Dock Series, book 3. While I definitely appreciated the recaps of the events from the previous books, I almost wonder if I had read them beforehand I would find this read almost too repetitive at times. It’s always nice to have a refresher when continuing on in a series, but I could see that in some instances a reader of the whole series might think they know all this already. Personally, I would really enjoy if we get a 4th book that follows their daughter, Molly. Fingers crossed!

Should you read it? I loved the calm of the lakeside scenery, and I honestly think it helped contribute to the levelheadedness of our lead couple. Sure, they have a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part their communication skills are a thing to be admired. The novel is mainly an observation of how Keegan and Jack get on with their everyday lives, whether that includes the good, the bad, or the ugly. I do wish we had been introduced to more of a concrete story line earlier on in the book, but in the same vein it also made the book more of a refreshing lesson in how moments of happiness are bound to come after those that might seem hopeless or overwhelming.

Smut Level: Overall a fairly clean read, but it still has some spicy scenes! Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Key to success? Back rub massages in a bubble bath.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 304 Pages.

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Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

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The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

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Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

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After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

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An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

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All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

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Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

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