Here and Then After by D.M. Porters

Beth has been given a second chance at life, and in the process she also has a chance at love. It might be the truest love she’s ever experienced. In this lifetime…or her last one.

What’s it About?

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Retired tax accountant, Elizabeth Edwards is devastated when she discovers her husband of 41 years, has been unfaithful most of their married life. What’s worse, she discovers this after he passes away when deep, punishing secrets are revealed. She is left to struggle with the deception and the fact that her life has been a lie. Broken, tortured and alone, Beth decides to leave her life behind and start over with what little time she had left.

With a keen eye for antiques and her love of history, Beth embarks on a journey to England that will change everything for her, even time. She visits the countryside to explore its grand manors and estates. Then, the directions to a ‘hidden gem’ are disclosed to her, and she is inexplicably drawn to this estate – Taylor Manor.

Faced with her own sudden death, Beth is given a second chance to live. This time, however, it is in the body of a beautiful young woman living her own hell 200 years in the past. In a twist of fate, the haven she is sent to is Taylor Manor, where she is to work as a maid. There she meets the brooding Lord Samuel Taylor, who has lived through his own pain and suffering. Can Beth start over and learn to live in this new and dangerous world while resisting her growing attraction to handsome Lord Taylor? Can he allow himself to love while battling his own demons? Love truly has no boundaries, not even time.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a very unique and interesting twist to your typical time travel romance. Rather than simply traveling through time (seriously, who hasn’t in this day and age?), Beth has actually died in the year 2017 from a heart attack. As she’s traveling towards the white light of the beyond, she encounters a young woman named Sarah who is also moving along that same light. Beth then proceeds to inhabit Sarah’s body back in the early 1800’s. This added an interesting dimension to the whole time travel theme in that Beth doesn’t just have to adapt to living in a new time period, but she also deals with a flood of memories from this young woman’s sad and short-lived life. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a time travel romance such as this, and I must say I loved this twist. Instead of constantly wondering whether or not Beth will be able to return to her own time, because let’s face it that ship has sailed, we get an alternate drama of her having to cope with the events and tragedies that Sarah tried to escape from through suicide. We quickly learn that this woman was abused and raped at the hands of her drunken father, and while Beth is able to hide out in the countryside estate, Taylor Manor, we all know it’s just a matter of time before this abusive father comes to find her.

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A New Life

Beth doesn’t lament too long on the fact that she’s leaving her old life behind for good. After all, she was in her 60’s at the time of her death, and suffering from obvious heart problems. She now gets to inhabit the body of a beautiful 20-year-old, and the aches and pains of old age are no more. Beyond that though, she had also just learned that her recently deceased husband of 41 years was quite the philanderer, and even had a daughter she never knew existed. After learning of this betrayal, Beth decided to finally set out and live life for herself by exploring the beautiful country estates of England. She visits a rather hidden estate known as Taylor Manor, and feels an immediate connection to the house before keeling over dead from a heart attack. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the 1800’s, and learns that to escape the clutches of Sarah’s lunatic father she will be hidden away as a housemaid in none other than Taylor Manor.

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Now, most people who find themselves in this type of situation would probably be freaking the eff out. However, you have to admire Beth’s tenacity and ability to look at this entire situation as a second chance at life. Sure, Sarah’s life was fraught with issues, but Beth still chooses to make the most of every day. The fact that she gets to spend her time in a beautiful manor house surrounded by glorious antiques is simply an added bonus! And sure, the devilishly handsome master of the house with whom she has an undeniable sexual chemistry isn’t half-bad either. However, I do feel that there was one missed opportunity here for some added fun. In her former life, Beth was a wealthy older woman who had worked a desk job as a successful accountant. Now she is suddenly a housemaid in the 1800’s doing dishes, cleaning, etc? I just wish we could have been privy to a few more scenes which focused on the difficulty of adjusting to this new life. I get that by waking up 40 years younger she probably has a bit more pep in her step, but it seems like she would have had a few issues here and there with having to put some elbow grease into her daily work.

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Life in the Manor

Of all the manors in England to end up in after traveling through time, Beth definitely lucked out being placed in Taylor Manor. The various characters of the house are such a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. From the motherly love of the head-housekeeper, to the joyous affability of the cook, and especially the rambunctious innocence of the young stable boy. As soon as Beth steps foot into this house you can’t wait to get to know them all, and just like Beth you too will be swept up into the warmth of this friendly bunch of people. And then of course we get to the master of the house, Samuel. He’s a bit of a surly fellow. Kind of closed-off and grumbly, although he has a definite soft spot for his employees.

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We learn that his parents died in a tragic carriage accident when he was just a boy. The fact he witnessed the entire ordeal adds to the overall tragedy of the event, and obviously contributed to his seemingly outward lack of empathy as an adult. But at the first sight of Beth he is obviously smitten, and also surprisingly intrigued by her adept knowledge of math and balancing his ledgers. Beth is also surprised to feel such desire for a man again. I will admit at times I was prone to a slight giggle-fest when they eventually acted upon their desires for each other. What can I say? I couldn’t help but remind myself that in essence we have a woman in her 60’s getting down and dirty with a handsome English Lord in his 20’s. Sure, her body might be young, but this woman has lived, and she brings all of her experience to the table. Let’s just say she has a few tricks up her sleeve to bring this man to his knees. Well…she gets down on hers anyway!

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The Big Reveal

Alright, so the time has come which we know is inevitable in any time travel romance. The moment when our lead character admits to her love interest the fact that she isn’t from this time. Samuel has suspected pretty much from day one that Beth was hiding something about herself, but he never dreamed in a million years what she would come to admit. Now, typically when this reveal happens, a very common response is for the opposite party to think our time traveler is crazy. I definitely get it. But here was the one aspect of this novel that I wasn’t toooooo fond of. Normally when the person thinks the time traveler is crazy, they immediately start to treat them like delicate glass, and vow to get them the help they so desperately need. Well…we don’t get that here.

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Instead, after Beth admits she’s lived a life in the future, Samuel not only declares she must be mad, but practically insists that she get the hell outta his house as soon as possible. Dude, I understand it’s a tough thing to understand, but don’t throw the poor woman out on the street! Let’s assume for a moment that he does actually believe she is legitimately insane. Beth has already admitted to him that she (or at least the woman she’s occupying) tried to commit suicide after being abused and raped at the hands of her father. Why wouldn’t Samuel just think she’s going through some kind of post-traumatic meltdown, and somehow tried to create an alternate life as a way to cope with this trauma? While he quickly comes to regret his decision to kick her out of his house, and immediately runs after her to bring her back, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at his initial reaction to her admission. I expected more from you Samuel!

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

Series: Taylor series, book 1. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!

Should you read it? I will say it does take some time for our story to build up to Beth’s eventual death and travel through time. Quite a bit of time is spent on Beth interacting with her husband’s illegitimate daughter that I’m not 100% convinced was entirely necessary. Unless of course that story line comes back into play in a future novel? Who knows! That being said, once Beth makes the jump through time I was hooked. You have the drama and intrigue of her adjusting to life in the 1800s, falling in love with Samuel, and eventually dealing with the suspense of the abusive father. I figured we’d end with a happily ever after, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see how everything connects back to the future. The novel definitely comes full circle in a delightfully clever way, and I for one am excited to see what other inventive twists and turns we might encounter in a second book.

Smut Level: For a historical romance this book will definitely have you blushing. Sure, we get the typical mentions of trembling and bursting forth into ecstasy, but there are also a few more details in there to please our modern sensibilities.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 237 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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Cocky Biker by Faleena Hopkins

For those of you looking for a definition of the word “irony” here you go: I think I published my review of this book at almost the exact same minute #cockygate started appearing on Twitter. Who knew?! This is what happens when you don’t pay attention to social media as much as you should! As you can see from my review below I did enjoy this book, but just crazy to see what was evolving on Twitter at the same moment. I’ve seen other bloggers say they’re deleting all their reviews and ratings of this series; others say reviews are sacred and to keep the honesty alive. So, I’ve decided to keep my honest review of the work itself up on my blog here.


I’ve gotta give a standing ovation to these two. They use every available surface to make the most of their coupling. They always seem to end up in a sweaty mess after a multitude of orgasms. You may also question the cleanliness of the next hotel room you stay in considering all the positions they get in!

What’s it About?

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I want her and she won’t even tell me her name.
The Ciphers, we’re the Robin Hoods of MCs.
Our latest mission is the most dangerous we’ve faced.
I thought we’d get in, get nasty, and get out.
I didn’t expect to meet a woman as wild as a feral animal.
Normal women bore the f*ck out of me.
I need this one. Crave her.
Hell, I even have the patience to make her trust me.
I’m a Cocker. We always get what we want.
This can’t be the one time I won’t.

LUNA:
Sunshine? Only a cocky man like him would call me something so ironic.
I try to pretend I don’t dampen under his smirk.
That I don’t want to climb on the back of his bike.
Forget alllllllll my problems for a night.
But I’m here for a reason, and he isn’t it.
I have to run from sexy and smooth-talking Jett Cocker.
The only thing worse…would be never having met him.

First Impressions

Man this book has you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails in anticipation with every possible twist and turn! You never quite know where the story is headed or what’s gonna happen. Just when you think the high action break-in to free women trapped in a sex trafficking house will be the high point…BAM! Here’s a coma hospital stay to keep you on your toes. And all within the first 1/4 or so of the book! Definitely not a boring read, and I found myself surprised a time or two with the direction of how the story plays out.

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When we look beyond the plot we see that the characters in this book are everything you could ever want. Luna is a bad-ass, living a life focused on revenge. There’s the constant wonder and worry of what she’ll have to live for should she ever succeed in avenging the death of her mother. Enter our bad-boy biker! Jett of course is a cocky son of a gun, but just like his brother from book one, it’s a cockiness that adds to his smoldering sexiness rather than making you hate him. I also enjoyed getting to know the other members of the motorcycle club, who are brothers to Jett when his own are so far away on the other side of the country.

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A Cipher Biker with Determination

I’ll admit that I’m not always a fan of motorcycle club focused tales, but this was definitely an exception to the rule. While Jett has a tough exterior as a member of the Ciphers motorcycle club, we see that he and the other club members are dedicated to doing the good that the police can’t always get to. They believe in doing what’s right, even when it seems impossible. Vigilante justice at its best! Like Robin Hood…or Batman. They dress in dark leather and have some amazing roaring metal rides under them, but there’s just no need for a utility belt or bat signal. And of course, in spite of their hard-ass outer appearance, it’s evident they are all a close-knit family who care deeply for each other. What’s not to love here?

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In spite of Jett’s cocky manner, he’s also the one who is most sure about the connection between him and Luna. She is fearful, and her first instinct is to run away from what she feels for this stranger. Normally this feature can be frustrating as hell in a romance, but Luna’s distrust of men is completely understandable based on her past. She grew up trapped in a house where her mom and numerous other women were trafficked for sex. Used and abused, her mother died when Luna was just a girl. She had to run away and learn to survive on her own so she didn’t end up with the same sad fate. Luna knows there’s something important linking her to Jett, but she’s not sure she can give her all to him. Initially she only wants to see him as a way to get some sexual satisfaction, but it doesn’t take long to realize that he makes her feel alive in a way she’s never felt before. He teaches her to ride. To find her freedom. But Jett starts to wonder if he’s teaching her to live, or providing her with the means to run away from him forever.

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A Sequel Unlike the Rest

This is one of those few moments where I think I may have enjoyed book two in the series more than the first! However, there’s a few clarifying points to make with this statement. First, the two are completely unique and distinct from each other. I think it signifies that as a whole I’m probably gonna really like this series, as each novel has a different focus. The first is definitely more light-hearted and comedic. This one has the drama, the action, the suspense. It has a darker side to it which completely sets it apart from the first. We still have the continuing cockiness of the Cocker brothers, and the importance they place on family, but it never felt like we were seeing the same story on repeat. Each book has its merits, and you might have to decide if you’re more in the mood for a romantic comedy or suspense, but either way you’ll probably be pleased! While I’m still early on in being introduced to the Cocker brothers, I have a feeling that it’ll be hard to get tired of the series. We’ve already seen a romance between roommates, and now a biker romance. Looking ahead we have a cowboy, a soldier, a politician, a rock star, and so much more!

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Series: Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, book 2. At the end of each book we get an introduction to the brother who will be featured in the following book. In the last one we saw biker Jett help out his brother Jake. In this we see the cowboy Cocker, Jaxson, host Jett on his ranch. Yeehaw for book 3!

Should you read it? This book pulled me in from the opening scene, and didn’t let me go until our final scene closes. It’s full of suspense, revenge, flirtatious back and forth, family drama, and true love. Not to mention lots and lots of sweaty sex. I’m talking dripping with sweat here. Consider yourself warned that at times Jett has some rather…ungentlemanly ways of referring to Luna when she does something to piss him off. His words can definitely make you cringe at times. Overall though we have a story that manages to mesh together a dramatically interesting plot with an intriguing romance.

Smut Level: I’d say on average these two would go at it for about four or five rounds in a row when doing the dirty. They’d be laying down, standing up, rolling every which way and in essence getting a great work out.

Get it on Amazon:Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Hop Hop Publications. 336 Pages.

Christmas on the Beach by Tori L. Wilson

Well I’ll be a son of a gun! We have a male lead with the name Erik, ending in a ‘k’. Just like my brother! It’s such a rarity to find an Erik that doesn’t end in a ‘c’. Oh boy, and now I’m thinking of my brother in reference to the male lead of a romance novel. Great, can’t wait to see how long it takes me to separate that concept!

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Aria spends her days living in a small one bedroom apartment on Jekyll Island with her adorable cat, Salem. Every day, she lives out her dream creating new paintings and selling them to customers online. Despite all of this, however, she still feels as though she is missing something. One crisp December morning, she meets a man on the beach by chance. Erik, a handsome Korean man, is visiting the island for Christmas. Will their love blossom regardless of the freezing weather or will tragedy grip Erik’s heart in its icy clutches?

First Impressions

Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s May, why the hell am I featuring a romance novel set during Christmas?! I can’t even use the whole excuse of it being Christmas in July, or something silly like that. Well, what can I say? This is what happens when you host a romance novel blog, and you get severely behind on reading through your author review requests! Only 26 more to get through and I’ll be officially caught up. Which means…yeah I’ll probably never get caught up, and next thing you know I”ll be reviewing a book set around Halloween in June. Anywho, let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of this little novella, shall we?

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First things first, “little novella” is about as accurate as a description as we can have here, seeing as this tale is just 49 pages in length. That miiiiiight just be a record of the shortest story I’ve ever featured. Although we are dealing with a short novella, this story incorporates quite a lot of heavy subject matter involving the feeling of loneliness which can surround the holidays. Aria is experiencing Christmas alone in her beach house, and we are reminded that during winter the beach can be a cold and foreboding place. For Erik, it’s an extremely sad and solitary family Christmas vacation by the beach seeing as the rest of his family isn’t actually present. His parents both met an untimely death the week before during a home invasion gone wrong, and the rest of his family is all back in Korea for the funeral. Man, I feel like I need a shot of tequila to make it through this one! Despite the sad premise, these two lonely souls are able to come together to find a moment of happiness, and maybe even love during the holidays.

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Finding Love on the Beach

This novel starts off very strong! I always get worried when we have a romance set in such a limited number of pages, as it usually feels like our lead couple comes together way too quickly for my liking. However, when it came to this tale of woe, you really are rooting for Erik and Aria to come together so that they can provide comfort for each other during such a difficult time. The setting of the beach also provided some very interesting symbolism towards the beginning, as we open on the cold gray of the ocean which surrounds our characters during their lonely holiday, but as their time together progresses they are able to rediscover the beauty of the island. They also spend a delectable amount of time together drinking hot chocolate, and cuddling under blankets on the couch whilst watching Christmas movies. Honestly, I see nothing wrong with this.

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Tapering Off at the End

Unfortunately, there is one crucial scene in this novella which wasn’t my favorite, and it surrounds the discussion we all knew was coming: Erik’s inevitable return to Korea. Erik admits the day after he and Aria first have sex that he’ll be headed home within 24 hours. In my humble opinion, Aria gets a bit overly emotional when he reveals this little detail. She accuses him of just using her for sex, and proceeds to kick him out of her apartment. And he just leaves. Mkay, a few issues here. First of all. The dude’s parents were just murdered! He’s heading home to be with his family. Give the guy a break!

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Now, to be fair, Aria quickly realizes her mistaken overreaction later that evening, but my goodness in the moment it just made me cringe. And then there’s Erik. When Aria told him to leave, he just put his head down in sadness and left. Again, to be fair, I can’t really blame the guy. He’s got other more worrisome things on his mind right now than to argue with a woman he just met two days ago who is upset he has to go home to grieve with his family. I just wish that he would have fought just a bit more for their relationship. Yes, they came together very quickly, but if he had stayed back to try and make any kind of argument for why she shouldn’t throw him out in the cold, I think I would have warmed to this relationship even more.

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

Series: Part of the Snowman Anthology.

Should you read it? I just love that we have a male lead who can make bibimbap. I’ll take him for myself if you don’t mind! Would have preferred a Korean male for the cover art, but what can ya do? This novella has a strong start, but as the story goes on there is quite a lot left unexplored. For example, we never really learn why Aria was alone for Christmas, seeing as she mentions her parents and sister at multiple points throughout the story. Also, even though I was rooting for these two to get together, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of their emotional connection was based on true love, and how much was because Aria happened to be there to comfort Erik at a difficult time in his life. Will this be a forever romance? I’m not 100% sure as of right now, but I would absolutely love to get a follow-up to this tale. I’d definitely read it, no question.

Smut Level: We don’t really have any explicit detail when it comes to the sex scenes in this one. There’s several kisses, waking up the morning after tangled together in the sheets, and even the discussion of whether or not to take a shower together. Nice!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. Books to Go Now. 49 Pages.

I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre

Looks like the nice twin has a little bit of naughty to her after all!

What’s it About?

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Sophie Sullivan, a librarian in San Francisco, was five years old when she fell head over heels in love with Jake McCann. Twenty years later, she’s convinced the notorious bad boy still sees her as the “nice” Sullivan twin. That is, when he bothers to look at her at all. But when they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it’s long past time to do whatever it takes to make him see her for who she truly is…the woman who will love him forever.

Jake has always been a magnet for women, especially since his Irish pubs made him extremely wealthy. But the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend’s off-limits younger sister…he can’t risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret. Only, when Sophie appears on his doorstep as Jake’s every fantasy come to life—smart, beautiful, and shockingly sexy—he doesn’t have a prayer of taking his eyes, or his hands, off her. And he can’t stop craving more of her sweet smiles and sinful kisses. Because even though Jake knows loving Sophie isn’t the right thing to do…how can he possibly resist?

First Impressions

We finally get to see a novel featuring one of the female Sullivan siblings! Needless to say it’s interesting to see how different the approach is to the story line. First off, overprotective brother overload. There are 6 Sullivan brothers who all want to protect her from the world, and only see her as the nice librarian. On top of this we also get the protective mode from her twin sister, nicknamed “naughty”. Well, Sophie is ready to take things into her own hands and go after what she’s wanted for years.

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And what should happen when she finally takes a chance by going after what she wants and exploring her sexuality? Accidental pregnancy! With twins no less! I kind of see now how inconvenient it can be to be a Sullivan female. Despite the overprotective siblings and apparent repercussions of having sex as a Sullivan woman, I did enjoy this book. The dynamic between Jake and Sophie was interesting to behold. They have both loved each other for years, and while she’s the one to make the first move by pursuing him, he’s eventually the one pursuing her to take a chance by spending the rest of her life with him.

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Duty or Desire?

The main discussion point of this book surrounds the relationship between Jake and Sophie in that upon learning of her pregnancy he wants to marry her immediately. Although this is something Sophie has always dreamed of, she refuses to say “yes”, thinking that he’s simply feeling honor bound to wed her after knocking her up. What she doesn’t know is that Jake has desired this union for years, and now that it’s within his grasp he wants to move at the speed of light. Jake asks that she give him just one week to prove they are meant to be together. He now must prove to her that he’s not just fulfilling his duty to marry her because she’s pregnant, and also that their connection isn’t just physical. I mean…sure it doesn’t hurt to explore all the ways they are physically compatible, does it? Both Sophie and Jake are willing to add that feature to the mix. Using their hands, tongues and…other extremities.

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Took Ya Long Enough

Considering Sophie and Jake have both desired each other for years, it also begs the question why they never acted upon their feelings before now. And this is where I think the novel was a bit lacking. First, there’s the family element. Jake was brought into the family years beforehand as almost the 9th Sullivan child considering his own abusive home life. When Jake’s best friend, Zach (who also happens to be Sophie’s older brother), discovers their relationship he is immediately pissed and a fight ensues. Here is something I never understand in romance novels!! If this is your best friend, wouldn’t you sort of be happy that he could become a brother in a truer form through marriage? It’s in this fight that we realize it’s not just that Sophie’s family thinks Jake isn’t good enough for her, it’s that nobody is good enough for her. And I can’t help but roll my eyes at that. Look, you know this is a good guy, he’d treat her well, take care of their children, and you’ve already known him for years. Do you really need to enter into a bout of fisticuffs?

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The secondary reason a relationship was never pursued was much more intriguing in that it actually relates to the interests and abilities of our 2 main characters, which always seems like such a minor component to most romances. You see, Sophie is a librarian; her whole world revolves around books, and she has the tendency to trip over the stacks of novels strewn about her apartment. Something I can relate to. Jake though? He has a profound difficulty with reading which has plagued him for years. If he focuses hard enough he can string words together, but it’s a struggle which he is afraid to admit to Sophie he suffers with. Surely when she finds out he “can’t read” she’ll see him as an idiot and break things off for good, right? Well, when he powers through What to Expect When You’re Expecting in one night, and eventually admits his impediment with Sophie, she realizes just how far he’s willing to go to prove he loves her. Sigh!

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Series: San Francisco Sullivans, book 4. A definite improvement from the last few, though kind of unfortunate to see all the unexpected mishaps which can befall a Sullivan female in love.

Should you read it? An intriguing love story about two people who finally get what they’ve always wanted, even if it was an unexpected pregnancy which brought them together. One aspect I didn’t really care for was this idea of proving to Sophie in a week that they are destined for each other. Like, what’s the rush here people? Also the idea of keeping the relationship a secret from the family. We’re all adults here, they’re just gonna have to deal with it!

Smut Level: Gotta love those pregnancy hormones making everything more sensitive, right?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Oak Press, LLC. 176 Pages.

 

Larken by Suzanne G. Rogers

The miracle orphan finds love. After years of being alone it’s so nice to see that something has finally gone right.
What’s it About?
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The sole survivor of a train accident, young Larken Burke is dubbed the Miracle Orphan. Four years later, however, her life is far from fortunate. Because of her emotional and physical scars, she believes she’s un-marriageable. With little hope for the future, she agrees to wed a gentleman she’s never met. Unfortunately, his aloof manner proves difficult to take.

Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?

First Impressions 
I have read many a mail order bride romance novel, and honestly after about two or three they get kind of repetitive. However I must say this one was quite unique in that we aren’t dealing with a young woman who gets sent out West to fall in love with a lonely cowboy. Instead this novel is set in the Regency period of jolly ole England. Larken has been brought into the family of Brandon King to act as a sort of governess for his ward. The fact that he places an ad in a newspaper in order to find such a woman to marry and become his wife, sight unseen, makes this romance a bit different than your typical Lord falling in love with a governess tale.
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Why would a woman as young and beautiful as Larken agree to enter into such a bizarre arrangement? Easy, she has no choice. Her parents died years before in a tragic train accident in which Larken was the sole survivor, making her the “miracle orphan”. She was eventually adopted by a cold, unloving family. Larken is now of age to be married off, and her stepfather takes the first offer he finds. This novel definitely draws you in with its sad beginning, but eventually we see a beautiful romance develop, not to mention the importance placed on family. Just when it seems that everything is going wrong for Larken, she eventually finds a happily ever after she never thought was possible. 
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The New Wife and the Ward 
Hands down my favorite aspect of this novel is the fact that it didn’t really start off as a romance. Instead we see the focus placed more on Larken developing a relationship with Myles, Brandon’s young Ward. He too is an orphan, and is afraid to suddenly be in a new home surrounded by people he doesn’t know. This is where Larken is able to offer her own personal perspective, and connect with Myles when it seems no one else can. She too has been left alone in the world, and is just looking for someone she can talk to. Neither will find this in the cold-mannered Brandon King. He practically ignored Larken at their wedding, refusing to look or speak with her. Hell, they didn’t even consummate the damn thing. Needless to say her opinion of him was quite negative at the outset.
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As for his relationship with Myles, we aren’t given too much information at the beginning. We just know that Brandon knew Myles’ mother, and felt obligated to pick up the young lad over in America before returning back with him to his estate in the English countryside. Brandon said only a handful of words to the young orphan on the return journey, and therefore Myles also doesn’t have the best opinion of his new caretaker. He is also wary of Larken in the beginning, insistent that she would never be able to replace his mother. But this is where Larken admits she has no such objective. She is just looking for a friend. This is also where we get to see Larken’s rather carefree and whimsical nature. She had to invent imaginary friends in order to survive the harsh realities of being orphaned in such a tragic manner. She has no hesitancy whatsoever in introducing these silly characters with their own personalities to Myles.
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Eventually their laughter draws the attention of the brusque Brandon King. While both are understandably wary of letting him into their tight-knit circle in the beginning, they eventually are able to open up with each other and become a family. All of them have lost loved ones, and while they understand the others could never replace those that they’ve lost, they are able to overcome the tragedies of their pasts the more time they spend together. All of this takes place within the first half or so of the novel, so you can see why it was definitely my favorite part. Once this ragtag bunch of characters find happiness with each other, things start to get a bit…interesting.
A Brother’s Death and a Kidnapping
While there were definitely some interesting plot twists towards the end of the novel that I did not see coming, I must admit that the second half wasn’t as enjoyable as what came before it. I did find one particular plot twist revolving the death of Brandon’s brother, Theo, rather interesting. Brandon blames himself for his brother’s tragic death years before, and we see that it actually relates to Myles’ mother. His brother’s death not only impacted his surly manner, but also his outlook on life and love.
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Both Larken and Myles are able to help Brandon overcome the tragedy of his brother’s death, but with this certain plot twist in the second half it sort of throws everything we thought we knew for a loop. While certain aspects of this twist weren’t necessarily my favorite, or particularly realistic, I really did enjoy that it connects back to how our novel began with the terrible train accident involving Larken and her parents. It was neat to see that almost every aspect of the novel introduced in the beginning comes back full circle by the end. Even the most seemingly erroneous of details actually had a purpose, and nothing is left unresolved.
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However, while the twist involving Brandon’s brother may not have been my absolute favorite, the dramatic plot point that was saved for the very end of the novel was by far my least favorite aspect of the book. It was just too over-the-top, and actually involves Larken being kidnapped by an unhappy group of theater actors dressed as pirates. So…yeah. It was too theatrical for my taste, and took away a sense of realism to the story which had been so strong up to that point. Both the pain and love which all of these characters felt was something that we could all understand. And then suddenly we have this group of outsiders dressed as pirates to throw a wrench in the whole thing. I definitely understand the need for drama, but let’s tone things down just a smidge. 
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Series: Graceling Hall, book 1. Overall I really did enjoy the characters and the story presented in this novel. I will definitely be continuing on with book 2.
Should you read it? This is a short, quick read. It highlights the importance of family, and to keep trudging on when life seems to be at its lowest point. You never know, there might just be a break in the clouds up ahead. The ending was definitely a bit too over-the-top, but I loved the familial dynamic between Brandon, Myles and Larken, not to mention the developing romance between our male and female lead.
Smut Level: Two short kisses, and an implied love scene at the very end. Clean read, no graphic details, and very sweet. Not the steamiest of historical romances. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Idunn Court Publishing. 176 Pages.

Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold by Demelza Carlton

A tale as old as time. With a few updates here and there of course!!

What’s it About? 33627778

Once upon a time…The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance. Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

First Impressions

My initial first impression for this novel? Gorgeous cover, and yaaaaay short chapters! After about 1/4 of the way in though? Cover is still gorgeous, but shit, more short chapters. I discovered I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to chapter length. Sometimes short chapters are the perfect break for when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, or pasta to boil. Not to mention a great way to kill time during commercial breaks. The fact that before tackling this book I had just come off a novel where the chapters were crazy long, well I was just in Heaven. However, it really didn’t take long for the frustration to start seeping in. In all seriousness, I would say the average length of time it took to finish reading a chapter in this book was just under 2 minutes. While this was an excellent way to introduce our characters and provide a brief back-story to our enchanted curse, it became a clear problem in later chapters where key scenes were rushed. This made the book itself feel almost stunted since you had so many short chapters at work which could flip-flop so easily between story lines, as well as switch point of views between our Beast and Beauty.

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An Enchanting Beauty

Personally I just love adaptations of classic fairy tales. It’s so fun to see which elements the author will keep the same, and how they’ll bring their own unique twist to the story. For this version, perhaps the biggest change involves our beauty. Her actual name is Zuleika; a far cry from Belle, and she’s not just the peasant daughter of a poor inventor. Oh no. She’s the enchantress who sets the curse upon our beastly prince. Gotta say, I totally loved this twist! From the classic tale the enchantress feature was always a bit of a mystery, and her motivations were kind of muddled. But in this we see how Zuleika is threatened by an evil king to put a curse on an object intended for his sworn enemy. Enter mirror.

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To save her life and that of her family, Zuleika puts a curse on the mirror not knowing it will eventually end up in the hands of our prince. Upon using it for the first time he transforms into the Beast, while the servants and citizens of his kingdom become invisible. A unique change to a dancing clock and candlestick! When Zuleika magically appears in Prince Vardan’s kingdom after an accident he finds her indescribably beautiful, and because she refuses to reveal her true identity he resorts to calling her Lady Belle. And of course, it wouldn’t be Beauty and Beast without a ball featuring our beautiful enchantress in a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.

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A Kind-Hearted Beast

Although I really enjoyed some of the variations to our classic tale, there were some I wasn’t a huge fan of, or at least had trouble understanding. When Zuleika first curses the mirror, she says that whoever uses it will transform into whatever they truly are on the inside. Therefore, when our prince first uses it he becomes this hairy beast with tusks. Not exactly the picture of a guy you’d wanna introduce to the folks. But here’s the strange part. When Zuleika arrives in the prince’s kingdom and speaks with his subjects, they all say how he’s always been a kind-hearted and just ruler. Soooo shouldn’t he have like, turned into a puppy or something?

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In all the descriptions of his character, he was never revealed to be cruel, vain, or beast-like in any way. So why the beast form?! In my opinion, it was the one main flaw to the story. The other thing I found hard to believe was it took soooooo long before Zuleika realized she was the enchantress who cast the spell over the prince and his city. It just seemed strange that she wouldn’t have even been able to sense her own power within the magic blanketing the city. Hell, at one point she does sense it, but just brushes it aside. Come on now, you have all that magic, listen to it once in a while!

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Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, book 1. Zuleika seems like the key that will unlock all the other novels in this series. During her travels throughout the novel we overhear her encounters with magical slippers, and even a trouble-making witch she banished to a lamp in a hidden cave. Sounds a tad familiar, no?

Should you read it? A fun and fantastical retelling of a beauty who falls for a beast. Spotting all the classic elements within the new changes was like a fun scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, I think the short chapter format of the novel impeded the depth of the writing, and made the story seem stunted. Overall an interesting start to the series, but there’s some definite room for improvement going forward.

Smut Level: Only at the very end of the novel do we get one beautiful love scene. It didn’t hurt that some witches had previously cast a spell on the prince’s…saber…to always please his woman in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE! Lost Plot Press. 248 Pages.