Review: Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

Jack Absolute by C.C. HumphreysFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Jack Absolute, #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: May 7, 2013 (U.S. edition)
Number of pages: 276 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

The year is 1777. As the war for American independence rages across the sea, London is swept off its feet by Jack Absolute, the dashing rogue in Richard Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals. That is, until the real Jack Absolute, former captain of the 16th Light Dragoons, returns after years abroad to discover this slander of his reputation.

Before he can even protest, he is embroiled in a duel over an alluring actress of questionable repute, and his only escape is the one he most dreads: to be pressed again into the King’s service—this time, as a spy for the British in the Revolutionary War.

My Thoughts:

Jack Absolute’s character is written in a way intended to make the reader think of an 18th century James Bond. One of the later Bonds, at the point where he’d begun to get a bit tired of the game and developed some self-reflection.

I certainly got some of that. Jack is a member of that very old profession, he is a spy for the English crown during the American Rebellion. He’s been a spy before, and he is pretty much dragooned into doing it again, in spite of his stated views that us Americans do have some justifications for our actions.

Playbill for The Rivals by Sheridan 1887If you’ve ever seen Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, you’ve already met Captain Jack Absolute, and it’s quite possible that you have seen the play. It’s famous for the character who gave us the word “malapropism”. That’s right, Mrs. Malaprop supposedly guards the virtue of the heroine in this classic romantic comedy/farce.

Jack Absolute is the romantic hero of the play. In the book, Sheridan the playwright is one of Jack’s friends. He made a hit out of trivializing and romanticizing a real incident in Jack’s life.

Jack’s own life is not a romance, not that he hasn’t played the part of lovesick fool on more than one occasion. As a spy, he’s played whatever role suited the occasion best in order to fulfill his mission.

This mission is in big trouble from the start. General John Burgoyne has been led to believe that there are thousands of Loyalists ready to take up arms against the Rebels as soon as he gives the word. And that equal numbers of Native Allies are eager to march with the British Army for the usual inducements.

As history tells us, those assumptions were wrong. Jack didn’t have the advantage of history, but what he did have was several years of experience living in America, including living with the Mohawk. He knew those beliefs couldn’t be right.

Jack had a secondary mission; find the spy within the British command staff, codenamed Diogenes. He thought he was looking for a military officer, not the woman he loved.

Verdict: I did think of James Bond, but mostly I thought of Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey.

The incredibly, marvelously immersive work of historical fiction that is Jack Absolute kept me flipping pages long past bedtime. The author does a fantastic job capturing the sights and sounds of Colonial America, and of 18th century life. I felt I was there and didn’t want to leave.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John
Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull, 1822

The depth of the portrait of life in the British military at this time period was reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John Grey series. Same period, similar perspective and eventually, place. Also, Jack Absolute and Jamie Fraser (Outlander) both knew, and fought with, General Simon Fraser of Balnain. Jack and Jamie (read Echo in the Bone if you’re curious) were both at the Battle of Saratoga, on opposite sides.

As an American, it is always interesting to read about the Revolution from the perspective of British. The histories written by the victors glorify the Revolution. The British called it a Rebellion. Perspective is everything.

I got swept away by this book, and not just because I found the period details enthralling, although I did. Jack was one of those characters who kept getting more and more fascinating as the book went on, because he was just so complex. He thought about what he was doing, he didn’t just obey orders. He was tired of the spy game and thought about what it meant, but he was good at his job. His relationship with the Mohawk people, and especially his blood brother Até, is not just a true brotherhood, but is also used as a way to explore the British and American relationship with the Native peoples and the devastation that is inevitably coming.


I give  Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys 5 arrow-tipped stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Dual Review: Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey

Format read: ebook copy provided by the author for review
Release Date: 12 March 2013
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Number of pages: 113 pages
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s WebsiteAmazon, Samhain, B&NRead an excerpt


She needs an escape…and he’s exactly what she had in mind.

College senior Ellen Price spends every spare minute studying to get into medical school. Until spring break yawns before her, as empty as her wallet.

With no money to hit the beach, she fills her empty to-do list with a plan: for just one week, she will become the kind of take-no-prisoners woman she secretly wishes to be, starting with the hot guy at the bar. It’s a no-risk situation: at the end of break, he’ll head back to his campus, and she’ll go back to hers. No muss, no fuss.

At first, Josh Markley isn’t sure what to think when the quiet, intense beauty from his pre-med classes approaches him for a night of casual sex. Even more mystifying, she doesn’t seem to return his recognition. But if she wants to play “strangers in a bar”, he’s game.

Their passionate night is a welcome respite from life’s stress, but afterward, Josh realizes he wants more—from himself, from life, from Ellen. Except she still thinks he’s a one-off she’ll never see again. Confessing the truth now—before she figures it out on her own—could shatter the fragile beginnings of just what the doctor ordered. A forever love.

Warning: Contains mistaken identities, a sometimes-glasses-wearing hottie, deep questions about figuring out what you want from life, and a red-hot college romance.

Our Thoughts:

Stella: Take What You Want was my first story by Jeanette Grey but definitely not the last! Her storytelling sucked me in and I gobbled it up in no time, closing my ereader with a happy and contented sigh. 🙂

Marlene: Take What You Want is a sex-into-love story. This is a trope that may be more difficult to pull off in real life than it is in fiction. YMMV. Or it’s difficult to pull it off in fiction and make the switch seem reasonable. The characters in this story manage to do that.

But what made this story work for me was the way that Ellen decided not to sit around and mope when her friends took their expensive Spring Break to the Bahamas, but instead that she tried to take a “vacation from herself”. Her inner dialog showed how difficult it was for her to step outside her comfort zone, but she still did it. She tried to become a new person for just a little while.

Then her emotions got engaged, and she wanted something real. And for that, she had to be the real Ellen and not new Ellen.

Stella: I concur, Ellen despite having such an ordinary name was anything but boring. I loved how such a serious and relatable young woman created this alter ego to live out her fantasies and experience things she only read/dreamed of. I found that exactly because she was such a girl next door she was a heroine the reader could identify with and feel as if her story could have happened to anyone. It was also moving to see that besides being a serious, dedicated and ambitious pre-med student there was an insecure, vulnerable side to Ellen.

Marlene: Even though Ellen was the one who was supposedly pretending to be someone else, Josh was also pretending quite a bit too, and not just because he was going along with Ellen. The first night, he was perfectly willing to go along with her just to get laid, and why not? She was the one who picked him up, after all.

But he knew who she was all along, and pretended that he didn’t. Why she didn’t recognize him says something about how much she kept her nose to the grindstone, or how big those lecture classes were. Or both.

The real issue for Josh was that he was pretending in most of the rest of his life. His father had big plans for him, plans that Josh knew he wasn’t going to fulfill. Josh had his own dreams, and hadn’t worked up the courage to disappoint his father.

Stella: Well actually, if I remember correctly, Josh was convinced that Ellen knew/recognized him, but pretended not to know him for some roleplay. But yes, both Ellen and Josh were pretending to be someone else and both had some major things on their minds regarding their future. But it was interesting to see how they were exact opposites to each other in the sense that Josh was more confident and sure in his own feelings for Ellen and their relationship, he had to take decisions regarding his studies and future career; while Ellen was sure about her career and completely clueless and vulnerable about her private life and her relationship with Josh.

I loved Josh. *sighs* He was lovely and wonderful. A guy, who despite being described as sexy and handsome, what you remember about him is how tender and warm-hearted and funny he is. I loved how he was the “girl” in the relationship, that is how he was the one who wanted much more than a meaningless fling right from the start.

And wanting more wasn’t just about wanting her body. He wanted the seductress in the high heels and short skirts, all right, the one that oozed sex and confidence. But he wanted the girl in the plain sweaters with the loose waves that fell over her face, too. The one that hid in the last row of the lecture hall but who always knew the answers. The one that dissected a pig all by herself, looking kissable even in a rubber apron and goggles and gloves. He wanted her to want more than a fuck from him. He wanted her to remember him. To know him.

And I absolutely have to comment about the sexual attraction, chemistry between Ellen and Josh: it was off the charts! Their love scenes were incredibly hot, sexy and tender, emotional at the same time. You’ll need a fan with this story! 😉

Marlene: So, in addition to the smoking hot love story, a love story where the guy is trying not to let the girl know he’s in love with her until she’s ready for it to be love, we also have a story of two people on the verge of adulthood who need to figure out who they really are, and not just who they are pretending to be.


Marlene: I loved this one. The story just plain worked for me. Ellen deciding to try being someone else, screwing up her courage, and thinking that no one would know if she completely embarrassed herself. Josh finally being noticed by the girl of his dreams, waking up in the morning and knowing that one night wasn’t enough. Then trying to figure out how to get her to that same realization, because she’s so not there. At the same time, they both have all those end-of-college decisions weighing on both of them.

And their chemistry practically set my iPad on fire from the very first page.

I give Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey 5 fiery stars!

Stella: I completely agree with Marlene, I LOVED Take What You Want and Jeanette Grey became a must read author for me. Not only was Take What You Want a thought-provoking and emotional journey of self- and love discovery for the characters, it was a sensual, sexy and addictive story I couldn’t put down until the very end. At the beginning I was reluctant to read Take What You Want fearing that due to the characters being in college it would be hard to relate to their problems, but take it from me, that concern was for naught. Thanks to Jeanette Grey’s gripping writing I felt invested in Ellen and Josh’s life and relationship and those two are characters as well as their story is one I will long remember.

And oh boy was their story sizzling! *fans herself* 😉

So yes, I also give Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey 5 scorching stars and urge you all to pick it up! 😀

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Keir by Pippa Jay

keir-2Format read: ebook provided by the author
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Release Date: July 7, 2012
Number of pages: 266 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption? For Keirlan de Corizi–the legendary ‘Blue Demon’ of Adalucien–death seems the only escape from a world where his discolored skin marks him as an oddity and condemns him to life as a pariah. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise: Tarquin Secker, a young woman who can travel the stars with a wave of her hand. But Quin has secrets of her own. She’s spent eternity searching through space and time with a strange band of companions at her back. Defying her friends’ counsel, Quin risks her apparent immortality to save Keir. She offers him sanctuary and a new life on her home world, Lyagnius. When Keir mistakenly unleashes his dormant alien powers and earns instant exile from Quin’s home world, will she risk everything to stand by him again? WARNING: Contains sweet romance, some violence and plenty of adventure.

My Thoughts:

Keir is an absolutely stunning work of science fiction romance. when I say stunning I mean that in the best possible sense of the word. When I finished I just sat staring for several minutes, because I couldn’t quite pull myself away from the story’s spell.

Tarquin Secker comes to Adalucien pursuing the legend of the “Blue Demon”. In the bowels of the royal prison, she finds an emaciated young man on the brink of death, with tattoos and rags covering his blue skin.

Keirlan de Corizi is not the demon she came for. But Quin wouldn’t leave any sentient being in those inhumane conditions. So she blows up the prison just like she planned. Except it’s not quite like she planned. The prison very nearly crushes her to death.

Instead of her rescuing Keir, he saves her life. Then she saves his. And then, of course, things get seriously messy.

Keir is not exactly the “Blue Demon” she was looking for. But he’s not exactly not, either. Which isn’t to say that his entire planet doesn’t firmly believe that he IS the legendary Blue Demon. Who really did exist. Who has to have existed, because she’s Keir’s direct ancestor.

She was also the person who destroyed Quin’s homeworld and Quin has been searching for her ever since. Because in the process, she accidentally gave Quin a whole lot of interesting and dangerous powers. And sent her best friend wandering among the many worlds.

Quin is on a quest to find the original Demon, the Sentiac. At first, she saves Keir because he needs saving. Because she feels a kinship. His ancestry gives him a touch of the same power that she has.

But as he heals from all the damage that has been done to him, she discovers that Keir may be what she has been waiting for all the long centuries that she has been on her search. He may be a companion for the long years she has ahead.

If he can heal from everything that has happened to him. If he can learn to control the power that he now knows he has. If, most important of all, they can learn to trust each other with their many (and in Quin’s case, many times many) secrets.

Verdict: Keir was one of the winners of the SFR Galaxy Awards for 2012. (Full disclosure, I was one of the judges) The question among the other judges wasn’t whether Keir was going to get an award, the question was who would get to give it one. This was a favorite, but I hadn’t read it.

Now I know why everyone loved it so much.

The opening absolutely grabs the reader by the throat. Keir is in chains and you can feel the dungeon closing in around him. Quin sudden drop into his grey world is a jolt to him and the reader. Her disappointment that he isn’t who she expected and her complete unwillingness to let him die pull you into her point of view.

Their relationship builds slowly and realistically. Keir has no idea what it’s like to love and be loved. He is literally his world’s pariah. He can’t imagine that anyone could ever love him. Quin has loved and lost profondly in ways that are beyond Keir’s experience. She is three centuries old, and he is barely twenty. Not just May and December, but April and Methuselah, no matter that Quin appears to be in her late twenties.

The book has an element of two stories combined into one. The first part is Keir’s rescue and training, and the first mission to find the original “Blue Demon”. It’s Keir’s discovery of who he really is and where and what he came from. His search for identity.

The second part is Quin’s mission to train Keir to use his power, because he is a danger to everyone around him. This mission takes the form of exile from Quin’s homebase. While visiting one of Quin’s old friends, she runs headlong into one of her old enemies. And it’s there that her relationship with Keir finally flowers.

Be prepared for the ending. It will absolutely blow you away!


I give  Keir by Pippa Jay 5 glorious stars! 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Tin Cat by Misa Buckley

tin catFormat Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 108 pages
Release Date: March 4, 2013
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

A year after the accident that put her in a wheelchair, Amber Gerald has more or less gotten used to living with her impairment. It doesn’t make a difference to running a comic book store anyway, and the customers have been the best support group she could have wished for.

When she rescues an abandoned cat, Amber has no idea that she’s interfering in the mad scheme of a time travelling bank robber. Or that the man that walks into her store dressed like Blade is about to become her bodyguard.

Between being an unwitting owner of an android cat and falling for a cybernetic bounty hunter, Amber finds her life a whole new level of weird as science fiction becomes a very real factual threat.

My Thoughts:

The author had me at “android cat”. Not “android’s cat” although Star Trek TNG did that one very, very well, but “android cat”. Being a cat, it’s no more, or less, obedient than the purely flesh and blood kind. But that’s not the end of the story.

Amber Gerald’s adoption of “Cat” brings a whole new level of weird into her life. And considering that Amber owns a comic book store, weird is pretty much her stock-in-trade.

Her adoption of the stray cat brings a stray man into her life. and that’s something that hasn’t happened in over a year. Not since the auto accident that put her in a wheelchair.

But this Blade-wannabe who shows up at her shop says he’s a time traveler. And so’s the cat. Even better, or worse, he proves it to her. He shows her where his flesh meets his cybernetic implants. Hunter Gray is a bounty hunter with a built-in Kevlar vest, and a few other modifications.

What he isn’t is put off by Amber’s physical handicaps. He’s merely curious. No one in the future has any handicaps like Amber’s. Medical science has advanced past that point. Gray feels no pity, only intrigue, and interest. Good old-fashioned sexual interest. That’s not a reaction Amber’s seen from a man, let alone a gorgeous one, since the accident. Too many people, not just handsome men, see the chair and not her.

Amber is the strongest woman Gray has ever met. She accepted his story. She accepted his modifications. She’s even accepting his need to guard her from the time-traveling bank robber he’s pursuing.

All because she adopted that tin cat.

It’s just too bad that whatever relationship they are building will end when Gray catches the villain. Because whatever they are building…it really is something special.

Verdict: Tin Cat is surprisingly good in any number of ways. You expect it to be an ugly duckling story. Meaning that Amber the handicapped ugly duckling gets turned into a beautiful swan by having her handicaps miraculously healed by future tech.

Let me reassure you now, Misa Buckley was much smarter than that. Or Amber was. Amber has come to terms with where her home is, and who her friends are. The ugly duckling in this story is Hunter Gray.

He’s the one who gets redeemed by the power of true love, but not until after he does a few of the usual idiotic male actions first.

He lies about why he’s chasing the bad guy. Not that the bad guy isn’t truly evil, but there is some reason for his actions.

Gray is being punished, and he’s not exactly forthcoming about why. Which doesn’t mean he’s not still a good guy. He’s just typically afraid that he’ll lose the best thing that ever happened to him if he’s upfront about all of his many flaws.

Amber is hesitant about falling in love with anyone, let alone entering into a relationship with a definite expiration date.

Amber’s handicaps are handled with a lot of sensitivity, but are not glossed over or made less in any way. She’s brave but not Pollyanna.

And the cat both gets them in horrible trouble, and saves them in the end.

If you like science fiction romance at ALL, read this.

I give Tin Cat by Misa Buckley 5 proudly costumed stars!


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

ARC Review: Along Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox

Along Came Trouble book coverFormat Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 350 pages
Release Date: March 11, 2013
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Series: Camelot #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Ruthie Knox’s Camelot series continues in this sizzling eBook original novel, featuring two headstrong souls who bump heads—and bodies—as temptation and lust bring nothing but delicious trouble.

An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.

Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?

My Thoughts:

I love a good bodyguard romance. And Ruthie Knox’ Along Came Trouble does fit into that category, even though the main characters spend a good chunk of the book denying that Caleb Clark really is Ellen’s bodyguard.

But if the role fits…(and does it ever!)

It also fits Ruthie Knox’ own pattern of one character who needs to forgive themselves (in this case Ellen) and one character being way too good for their own good (in this case the yummy almost-bodyguard, Caleb) 

How to Misbehave book coverFor more Ruthie Knox yummyness, take a look at the first Camelot story, How to Misbehave (reviewed here at BLI) or my personal fave, About Last Night, reviewed at BLI and at Reading Reality.

The secondary plot involving Ellen’s brother Jamie, the Justin Timberlake-alike singing sensation and the pregnant girl he loves and left (he’s not the one who got her pregnant) just adds to fun and games, but also provides the reason for bodyguard to be involved in the first place.

Jamie is the hotttest star that ever came out of Camelot, Ohio. His on again/off again relationship with Carly has brought the paparazzi out in packs. Carly lives next door to his sister Ellen.

Jamie’s people hire a local security firm to manage the chaos that ensues. Enter Caleb, head of security for that local firm.

Caleb starts out just wanting to make sure both women are safe. He knows that somewhere in the pack of photographers is someone who will do something really wrong, like break into one of their houses to steal something juicy. Or even just to get a sneak-attack type interview or picture.

What he doesn’t count on is seeing Ellen attack a trespassing photographer with a glass of iced tea. It turns him on. He goes over to back her play. For a few precious minutes, they are on the same side.

Caleb doesn’t know about Ellen’s serious problems with boundary issues. All she sees is a man who wants to change the house that is her sanctuary. No matter what his reasons, he’s an invader. She’s sure Caleb just wants to manage her.

She’s been down that road with her ex-husband. Ellen feels like she can’t depend on anyone, because the last man she depended on turned out to be an alcoholic and an emotional abuser. It took her a long time to find her own self-worth.

Now she can’t give an inch. Not even when it seems reasonable.

Verdict:  There are two stories, and they both absolutely rock! Ellen has so much angst about her former marriage, that she can’t quite manage to pull down the walls. And she’s spent her whole life being Jamie Callahan’s sister, taking care of his career, she doesn’t even know how to put herself first. Or even a good second. Then there’s Caleb, he quit the MPs to come home and help his folks out, but he gets nothing but resentment and back-handed undermining of his efforts.

Falling for each other wasn’t in either of their plans. It also makes the whole situation more combustible, when Jamie Callahan comes home to un-screw up his own love life. Except he can’t help but bring the paparazzi with him. Spectacularly.

All the reader can do is hang on for the absolutely glorious ride.

I give Along Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox 5 spangled stars!


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: A Galactic Holiday by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail and Sasha Summers

galactic holidayFormat Read:ebook provided by the authors
Number of Pages: 247 pages
Release Date: December 3, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Science Fiction Romance, Holiday Romance
Formats Available: ebook, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Anna Hackett’s Website | Stacy Gail’s Website | Sasha Summers’ Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Do androids dream of electric sugar plums?

A detective who refuses to modify her body teams up with her cyborg rival to track down a burglar who is putting toys into homes. A solitary ice miner finds love and friendship while stranded on the surface of Galileo. And two hardheaded negotiators put their differences aside to evade an assassin and save their planets. Enjoy these visions of Christmases yet to come with three science-fiction novellas from Carina Press.

Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:

How the Glitch Saved Christmas, by Stacy Gail
Galileo’s Holiday, by Sasha Summers
Winter Fusion, by Anna Hackett

My Thoughts:

A Galactic Holiday is one of Carina Press’ annual holiday trifecta collections, along with Red Hot Holiday (reviewed at Reading Reality) and Romancing the Holiday (reviewed here at BLI). Maybe I should have called them holiday confections, because they’re usually pretty yummy overall.

But the annual sci-fi collection (last year’s was the all-steampunk A Clockwork Christmas and yeah, I reviewed it too.) always has a slightly more heavy lifting to take care of than the contemporary anthologies. Because each story has to build its sci-fi world, justify its winter solstice holiday and tell its romance in the length of a novella. That’s a LOT of scaffolding to build and sometimes one element or another doesn’t quite hold up.

Let’s take a look at what we have for this year’s out of this world holiday collection!

how the glitch saved christmasHow the Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail was my favorite story in the collection. It not only embodied the spirit of Christmas in a hearwarming way, it also made the most sense as a science fiction story that extended the world we know. And the romance was both hot and sweet.
First of all, I dare anyone not to be reminded of Steven Spielberg’s movie A.I. by the end of this story. And, I double-dare you not to get a little misty-eyed. But that’s at the end. Returning to the beginning.
Chicago, although it is an utterly marvelous city, gets damnably cold in the winter. And it is entirely possible that it was named the Windy City, at least in part, for the windbags in city government, and not just the wind off Lake Michigan. Which, by the way, is brutal in the winter. The weather prediction of “cooler by the Lake” also applies in the winter, and it isn’t near as nice as it is is August.
In the background to the story, it’s pretty clear that the inventor of body modification should have made them work better in sub-zero temperatures. He also should have figured out that just because it was illegal to force someone to accept body-mods, that didn’t mean that someone couldn’t be pressured beyond all reason to accept them. And yes, I could easily see it happening.
Reina Vallette was a damn good cop. A fine detective. She just refused to accept body modification. She’d been dependent on machines once, when she was hospitalized under life-threatening conditions, and she couldn’t bear it psychologically. Also, her thought processes were too quirky to work any way except from her “gut”. (Gibbs on NCIS comes to mind). So the CPD made her the poster girl for insubordination.
Edison Wicke, on the other hand, is the golden boy. He’s a walking toaster, in Reina’s eyes. But still a damn fine detective. (Also a damn fine looking man!) So when someone breaks into an apartment in the Projects and delivers presents, Edison requests Reina as his partner.
He had his eye on her when his eyes were just human, and now, he wants her even more. She’s unique.
Better still, their styles complement each other. He’s data driven, and she’s pure instinct. New school plus old school.
But it takes a glitch in the system to show them that underneath their differences, they are both the same people they were before he got body mods, and before the system started busting her down the ladder.
They’re the best detectives that CPD has. And they’re the best for each other. But can they save the little glitch that brought them together?
I give How the Glitch Saved Christmas 5 frozen stars with the sun glinting off them for sparkle.
winter fusionWinter Fusion by Anna Hackett comes in a close second for me in this collection. The thing about science fiction short stories, at least for me, is that there is so little time for the world-building, the author needs to have something familiar to use as a short cut.
Ms. Hackett tells a Prime Directive-type story, with a merchant empire Federation instead of the slightly more militaristic one we’re used to. And the traders Savan Bardan and Brinn Fjord are part of the very recent dropping of the embargo on high-tech goods between Bardan’s Trade Guild and Fjord’s more primitive ice planet of Perma. Her father died of a disease that was eradicated on Guild worlds, but membership came one year too late to save his life.
Bardan’s decision was the one that kept Perma out of the Guild. Because high-tech too soon leads to very bad decisions. Sort of like lottery winners on spending sprees, only with planetary-wide ecological disaster-type consequences. All Bjorn knows is that her father is dead and that it’s Bardan’s fault.
Now he’s back on Perma, because the ice miners have found an unsynthesizable high-yielding energy resource that his planet needs. And Brinn is the Perman trader he has to negotiate with to get it.
However, someone is willing to kill both of them to make sure that Rendar doesn’t get the energy crystals.
While they are running and fighting together for their lives, Savan Bardan and Brinn Fjord are forced to strip off the masks they wear in public. They have to rely on each other to survive.
Bardan learns the personal cost of his decision to keep Perma out of the guild. The reason behind Brinn’s bitter rivalry. And Brinn learns the reason behind Savan’s judgment–the last time he gave a planet early admission, they ruined their world.
And the reason there’s always been such heat in their negotiations? Just another way to conceal how they’ve really felt about each other all along.
But first they have to survive whoever is stalking them. In the middle of a Perman winter. Without gear or shelter.
Winter Fusion is a very good take on the “enemies into lovers” trope. Very, very good. With a slice of “poor little rich boy” thrown into the mix.
I give Winter Fusion 4 dark stars.
galileos holidayGalileo’s Holiday by Sasha Summers was a cute story, but it was also the shortest story in the collection and I kept wishing there were more of it! I just didn’t have enough of the world-building to quite get the reasoning behind the hero’s actions, but the love story and the settlement definitely worked.
Riley is a tugger. A lone ice miner with a tiny, one-woman ship, like her mother and her grandmother before her. Raiders destroy her ship, lucky for her while she’s planetside mining ice. Even luckier for her, a mysterious man leads her to a settlement.
That mysterious man, Leo, introduces her into the life of Galileo, just before their winter Holiday, and what a life it is! Riley has lost both her home and her livelihood in one fell swoop, but the settlers take her in and make her welcome.
Her ability to fix every bit of electronics tech they have doesn’t hurt her cause one little bit. Especially since their security grid is about to go down. That grid keeps the cryptids out. (Yes, I did say cryptids.) Big ugly carnivorous bug-eyed monsters.
The settlers can use her skills, but it’s Leo who fascinates her. In a jumble of new experiences (eating real food, wearing cloth instead of space gear) Riley’s never felt anything like what she feels for Leo. And it seems to be mutual. But she knows it can’t be permanent. He’ll go back to his ship as soon as the snow clears, and she’ll have to find a new place for herself.
Until the Raiders come to take Leo, and steal the cargo of medicines he’s been hiding. Leo sacrifices himself to save her. Then the Raiders want to take her. And Riley has to decide what sacrifice she’s willing to make.
As I said, the story of Riley’s discovery of a life outside her tugger, and the life of the settlement, worked. The parts that drove me a bit nutty were the lack of background about the raiders and the outside galaxy. There were hints of a bigger picture that I wanted, that would have made Leo’s reason for being with the settlers make more sense, that I just didn’t have. I want the rest of this story!
I give Galileo’s Holiday 3 1/2 icy stars.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Dual Review: Entangled – a spooky and healthy anthology

Format read: ebook
Release Date: 7 September 2011
Number of pages: 434 pages
Publisher: Authors4theCure
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Only $2.99 at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, SmashwordsRead an excerpt


Ghosts, vampires, demons, and more! Entangled includes ten suspense-filled paranormal short stories from authors Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, Edie Ramer, Lori Brighton, Michelle Diener, Misty Evans, Nancy Haddock, Liz Kreger, Dale Mayer, and Michelle Miles, plus a Seven Deadly Sins novella by Allison Brennan.

Stacia Kane contributed the foreword. Formatting and cover art were also donated to the project by Lori Devoti and Laura Morrigan.

All proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Stories include:

HALLOWEEN FROST by USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep (author of the Mythos Academy, Elemental Assassin, and Bigtime series) — It’s Halloween at Mythos Academy, but Gwen Frost and her friends are in for more tricks than treats when they run into a mythological monster intent on killing them.

THE FAT CAT by Edie Ramer (author of Cattitude, Galaxy Girls) — In a battle for the souls of seven women, a wizard has the god of war on his side; all the witch has is a fat, black cat.

MEDIUM RARE by Nancy Haddock (author of the Oldest City Vampire trilogy) —What’s spooking the spirits of St. Augustine? As the witching hour of Halloween approaches, ghost seer Colleen Cotton must team with a by-the-book paranormal investigator to locate the one ghost who can save the city’s specters. If she fails, her own great grandfather’s spirit may be lost forever.

SWEET DEMON by Misty Evans (author of the Witches Anonymous series) —When Chicago’s vampire king insists Kali Sweet join his empire, the vengeance demon must rely on her ex – the half-human, half-chaos demon who left her at the altar three hundred years ago – in order to escape the vamp’s clutches.

SIAN’S SOLUTION by Dale Meyer (author of the Psychic Visions series) — When a vampire discovers the human man she loves has been captured and hung in a blood farm, she goes against her own kind and risks everything to save him.

A BIT OF BITE by Cynthia Eden (author of NEVER CRY WOLF and ANGEL OF DARKNESS) — A killer is stalking the streets of Crossroads, Mississippi, and it’s up to Sheriff Ava Dushaine to stop him. But when suspicion falls on werewolf alpha Julian Kasey—Ava’s ex-lover and the man who still haunts her dreams—Ava knows that she’ll either have to prove his innocence…or watch the whole town go up in flames.

SINFULLY SWEET by Michelle Miles (author of the Coffee House series) — When Chloe bakes a little magic into her pastries, she attracts the attention of Edward, the sexy half-demon, half-witch, who’s come to warn her those who murdered her sister are now after her.

A NIGHT OF FOREVER by Lori Brighton (author of A Night of Secrets and To Seduce an Earl) — Who is Aidan Callaghan? Mary Ellen James is intent on uncovering the truth about the mysterious man, but as she soon finds out, some things are best left buried in the past.

FEEL THE MAGIC by Liz Kreger (author of the Part of Tomorrow series) — Jenna Carmichael’s magical attempt to rectify Jessica Manfield’s birth identity takes an unexpected turn when the past comes back to haunt her.

BREAKING OUT by Michelle Diener (author of the Tudor-set historical suspense novel In A Treacherous Court) — Imprisoned in a secret facility, powerful telekinetic Kelli Barrack and two other ‘special’ inmates grab a chance to escape, only to confront their worst nightmares on the outside.

GHOSTLY JUSTICE, an all-new Seven Deadly Sins novella by New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan (author of the Seven Deadly Sins series) — Demon hunters Moira O’Donnell and Rafe Cooper are dragged into the dangerous world of nocturnal predators to find “Ghostly Justice” for a virgin sacrificed to an ancient blood demon.

Our Thoughts:

Stella: When I asked for Halloween read recommendations Marlene was quick to name the Entangled anthology,  and when we started discussing it we thought why not make a special Halloween related dual review of it? Since it has more than 10 stories we thought reviewing the whole anthology would be way too long, so we decided for each of us to pick 2 stories and give you our thoughts on them.

Stella: I think it isn’t a big surprise to those who know me (and have heard my constant praise of Jennifer Estep’s series ;-)) that the story I was most excited about was Halloween Frost by Jennifer Estep, which is considered Book #1.5 in her Mythos Academy series, which I love! Truth be told I have already read this novella last year when the Entangled anthology was released but I enjoyed it so much I didn’t mind in the least having to re-read it for this review. And I’m happy to say that it was just as much fun as it was the first time around!

Halloween Frost takes place after the first book in Jennifer Estep’s YA urban fantasy series, Touch of Frost: Gwen our heroine is already used to life at Mythos Academy and she has made friends with Daphne, a cute and stylish Valkyrie and is crushing big time on Logan a strong and sexy Spartan. Those who haven’t read the first book won’t feel lost because Jennifer Estep includes enough background history references and explanations to give you an idea on who’s who (which could seem a bit repetitive for already established fans of the series).

This short novella tells the story of how Gwen and her friends spent Halloween at Mythos Academy: everyone, teachers and students alike dressed up (except Gwen), the whole town around the school was decorated in full spookiness and the kids went around collecting not just mouthwatering-ly delicious treats but also jewellery and armour!

Can I just say how much I LOVE Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series? It is fun, exciting and exceptionally thrilling! It has everything: nail-biting action and fast paced fight scenes, a sexy heartthrob hero and a quirky and so lovable heroine. Halloween Frost packed even more spookiness and sinister athmosphere than the usual stories in the series due to the festive setting. Thanks to Jennifer Estep’s vivid and colourful descriptions of Mythos Academy I can easily picture the gothic gargoyles and stone sphinxes guarding the gates.

Carved jack-o‘lanterns lined all the cobblestone streets, the lit candles inside them flickering and making their grins seem particularly sinister in the darkening shadows. Thick, silvery webs complete with fat, rubber spiders swooped from one doorway to the next, while ghosts, ghouls, and other classic monsters could be seen in the storefront windows, arms outstretched like they wanted to break through the glass and grab the students strolling by.

Another aspect I love about Jennifer Estep’s books is that she never fails to mention delicious treats that make my mouth water, and being a hobby baker I appreciate that 😀

[…] went from shop to shop, loading up our pumpkins with everything from gourmet pretzels to delicious brownies to candy apples bigger than my fist. I had a serious sweet tooth and quickly filled up my pumpkin, even though we hadn‘t gone through half the stores yet. I popped a piece of dark chocolate fudge topped with vanilla-raspberry syrup into my mouth and sighed as the rich flavors exploded on my tongue. Yum.

Verdict: Halloween Frost is a great addition to the Mythos Academy series and the perfect Halloween read. Let me just say that Gwen and her friends get some first hand spooky action this Halloween 😉 Read Halloween Frost while munching on some yummy candies!

I give Halloween Frost 4.5 spooky stars!


Marlene: The thing about story/novella collections is that there are usually a couple of “meh” stories in the bunch. So when Stella and I decided we would each pick two (and only two) stories to feature, it seemed like a brilliant solution. Not so! This collection doesn’t have a “meh” story in the bunch.

My first pick was always going to be Edie Raymer’s The Fat Cat. This starts out as a kitty adoption tale. A witch goes into her local shelter to adopt a kitten. Bad move, or so it seems. Instead of leaving with an adorable little kitten, she leaves with a virtually unadoptable fat black tomcat, who is past middle-age into the bargain. Samson not only hears her thoughts, he can speak to her mind. Mostly to ask for food. And quote Casablanca.

Samson becomes her best friend. He’s way better company than her ex. But kitty old age is catching up way too fast, and Tory doesn’t want to lose him, so she tries a spell. One that will make Samson young and virile again, instead of old and very farty. (Yes, I meant farty. Also arthritic) She tries her spell the night before Halloween. It doesn’t seem to work and Tory is heartbroken

On Halloween she confronts the evil warlock who has captured the body, and imprisoned the soul, of her younger sister, along with several other women. He is powerful, and very, very smug. Also a handsome bastard. The only protection that Tory has is poor Samson, still in the body of an old cat. Guess what happens?

Verdict: This story has so many fun elements. The transformation of both the cat and the warlock. The redemption of the young women. Saving the old cat and discovering that he’s her best friend. The lovely (well sometimes lovely) idea of knowing what our pets think. All worked into a terrific story of friendship, redemption, witchcraft and Halloween. With a happy ending!

I give The Fat Cat 5 claw-tipped stars!


Stella: The second story I selected was A Bit of Bite by Cynthia Eden. I have followed Cynthia Eden’s blog and saw her new releases and was always curious and intrigued to read them for some time now, so now I thought the time has finally come for me to discover her writing through this novella of hers, and I enjoyed it a lot!

A Bit of Bite is a sexy and thrilling parabormal romance with a seriously possessive and protective alpha werewolf (yum!) and a kickass detective heroine.

A twig snapped a few feet away from her. Ava didn‘t jump and spin toward the sound, but her right hand did rise slowly to curl around the butt of her gun. The problem with all the supernaturals was that they could just move too fast—
“Easy.” His deep, dark voice washed over her and, just like that, werewolf alpha Julian Kasey stood in front of her. The light, woodsy scent that marked his kind clung to him as he towered over her.

Mmm, can you seriously tell me you just didn’t shiver while reading that one word sentence of his?

The chemistry and passion between these two is sizzling and scorching, the perfect story to make you tingle with a bit of thrill!

No one was ever gonna take Ava Dushaine from him. No one. His mouth crashed down onto hers. He should have been easier. Should have used some gentleness, but werewolves didn‘t exactly know much about tenderness. The only things he knew…she‘d taught him. Her lips were parted, and his tongue pushed inside her mouth. He tasted her, and her kiss was better than he remembered. No dream to haunt him, she was real now.

The world-building was interesting and layered, the supernatural sections and societal hierarchy, fractions were different than usual. A Bit of Bite made me suspect there is a series where Cynthia Eden gives more depth to it, and I’ll definitely look for it because I very much enjoyed her in-depth and detailed writing style.

Verdict: A Bit of Bite was a great steamy and exciting read. If it were a bit longer, a bit more detailed it could have been a five star story. As it is, it was a delicious novella and I’ll have to check out Cynthia Eden’s full length stories now that I have gotten a small taste of her writing. A Bit of Bite is a pulsing romance with paranormal setting and a big and delicious alpha hero!

I give A Bit of Bite 4 sexy stars!


Marlene: I also loved Cynthia Eden’s A Bit of Bite, but I let Stella have that one. I was feeling generous. The second story I want to highlight is Lori Brighton’s A Night of Forever. The story takes place in the same world as her novel A Night of Secrets, but I’ll confess that I didn’t know that when I read it and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment one little bit. Of course, now that I do know, A Night of Secretsis going on my TBR list. 

But about A Night of Forever…it starts out as if it were a typical Regency, or close enough, even though it’s set in a later period. Mary Ellen plans to marry someone rich and titled, not because she’s necessarily that mercenary, but because she craves the security that money and status can bring. However, she finds herself fascinated by a man who appears to have neither. Aidan Callaghan seems to be merely her brother-in-law’s houseguest. He is a complete enigma, quiet and withdrawn for the most part, but always watching her. He fascinates her. And she fascinates him.

What Mary Ellen doesn’t know is that her brother-in-law is a vampire. And so is his friend Aidan, who is trying his damndest not to use the powers of fascination and enthrallment that he has at his command. Because he could simply make Mary Ellen come to him, but then it wouldn’t be real. He wants the contented life that his friend Grayson has found, a life, and love with a woman who knows what he is and loves him anyway.

So he watches Mary Ellen from the shadows, and knows that she is as sincerely interested in him as he is in her. But at the Halloween revels on Gray’s estate, Mary Ellen leaves the safety of the house and is captured by thugs. When he comes to her rescue, Aidan is captured as well. In order to escape, he has to reveal what he is to save them. Will his willingness to fight for her provide Mary Ellen with a better kind of security than the money and status she said she wanted?

Verdict: This one had the kind of shivery gothic creepiness that all the best Halloween stories do. At first, you’re not sure where the danger is going to come from, and then you’re not sure if Mary Ellen will choose safety over love. A Night of Forever tells a terrific tale of the slow build, both to knowledge and to love.

I give A Night of Forever 4.5 fanged stars.


Stella: And yes, as you can see despite us vowing to review only 2 stories (I even asked Marlene to prevent me from becoming greedy and giving in to temptation), when I turned the last page of A Bit of Bite there were the first few lines of Michelle Miles’ story and being the baking fan that I am I couldn’t stop myself from reading it. See for yourself and tell me if you could have resisted it:

At four in the morning, Chloe O‘Shea unlocked the door to Sugar Mamma‘s Bakery and flipped on the interior lights. She turned on the ovens, gathered her ingredients and started baking for the day. With a giant yawn that nearly split her head in two, she started her scones, a customer favorite. Then the muffins—blueberry, banana nut, poppy seed, bran. Once she had the morning cravings in the glass case ready to go, she started on the afternoon favorites. Cupcakes, cookies, mini-tarts and other delectable goodies.

So there you go, here is my bonus review 😉

To be honest I haven’t even heard of Michelle Miles before, so this novella was a complete blank canvas for me, I had no expectations at all, and yet she managed to blow me away.

Our heroine Chloe is a witch on the run, she has been hiding in the human world and spending her days as a baker, but she can’t help herself from pouring some of her magic into her creations:

Perhaps it was a mistake putting her small bits of magic into her cupcakes, her cookies, her scones and her muffins. Her customers loved her baked goods and why not? She poured Happiness into every batch. And lust into her red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing.

and so the bad guys she has been hiding from get a flare of where she is. Her savior is Edward a sex on stick mysterious man Chloe can’t help but lust after (and trust me the reader won’t be able to help herself either!). Together they try to combat the evil forces and stay alive.

Verdict: Sinfully Sweet was a deliciously steamy story with great world-building, fantastic writing style, a likable heroine and a hunk of a hero. Now that I’ve discovered Michelle Miles’ writing first hand I’ll go and hunt down her other novels, because I just want more delicious stories!

I give Sinfully Sweet 4.5 delectable stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer

Format Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 322 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2012
Publisher: Zoe Archer
Genre: Historical Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

The Lady Olivia Xavier, the cowboy who came to her rescue out of the foggy London dusk could have stepped straight from one of her favorite dime novels. But when she was thrown into his arms, his solid chest and strong embrace assured her he was very real indeed. She needed a helping hand to save her late husband’s brewery from an ambitions rival, and even though she couldn’t understand half of the American’s curious expressions, something in his gentle touch told Olivia she could trust this stranger from the untamed west.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Lady X’s Cowboy begins with the lady in question reading a dime novel about the wild American west. Those novels are Olivia Xavier’s means of escape, not so much from the running of her late husband’s brewery, but from the supposedly high-minded, and certainly high-handed, opinions of the so-called right-thinking people who are just certain that they know what’s best for her.

After all, women aren’t intended to be managing businesses in 19th century London. Her late husband may have left her the business, but she’s supposed to have found someone else to run it for her, or sold it. Olivia should not be running it herself. Ladies don’t run businesses. Not even ladies whose husband’s titles are only a couple of generations old.

But Olivia not only runs Greywell’s, she’s damned good at it. And she enjoys the responsibility. She can’t go back to being just an ornament at society parties, or just a do-gooder at charities. She knows those things are empty.

So when George Pryce starts threatening her business, she tries to get the law to help her. But George’s family is old money, and no one will help her.

Until one night she steps out of Greywell’s, and into one of her dime novels. There, on the London streets, the hard men who threaten her get beaten down by a real, honest-to-goodness, Western cowboy. Complete with Stetson.

Will Coffin, born and raised in the West, simply couldn’t let a bunch of scoundrels rough up a woman. Any woman. Let alone a lady. And Olivia Xavier is a lady to Will, whether she has a title or not.

They need each other. Olivia needs Will, not just to keep Pryce’s men at bay, but to organize her own workers against the men of privilege. Will needs Olivia to help him on his quest. He came to London in search of his roots, and she can help him find them.

But the more time they spend together, the more they realize that they just need each other, as partners. As someone who sees them as they really are, and not as what society preconceives them to be.

But when Will finds out who his parents came from, it seems that society’s dictates just might rule the day after all.

Verdict: What made Lady X’s Cowboy so much fun was that the story worked on two levels. First, it is a terrific historic romance. Olivia and Will make a great couple, partly because they are so unexpected. They shouldn’t work, even before Will finds out where his parents’ came from. But they do. They grow towards a partnership. Some of that is because Olivia is unconventional; her widowhood allows her to break free of many of the strictures usually placed around women. And Will expects a woman to be more than London society allows because of his background. There are no parlors on the frontier. Everyone has to pull their own weight.

But their relationship develops gradually, out of their friendship and business partnership. It’s fun to watch and based on mutual respect and admiration and very, very hot.

The other aspect was that every assumption that everyone has about everything turns out to be wrong. From the very beginning, Olivia thinks certain things about Will because of the dime-novels she reads, and they’re all wrong. Society thinks certain things about her that are all wrong. Everyone’s expectations of everybody get stood on their head, over and over.

I am very happy to give Lady X’s Cowboy 5 bright shiny stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Devil’s Match by Victoria Vane

Format read: e-ARC provided by publisher
Release Date: 24 August 2012
Series: Book #4 in the Devil DeVere series
Number of pages: 132 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon


Once burned twice shy… but when old flames come together…passion reignites…

When burned once… Arriving in London as her goddaughter’s chaperone, Baroness Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley wants to avoid her erstwhile lover at all costs. Once nearly consumed by passion, four years has reduced the former inferno to bitterness and ashes.

By an old flame… A world-weary master of seduction, Ludovic “The Devil” DeVere is bored with his chosen life of debauchery. When Diana’s charge disappears, she is forced to seek help from the devil’s lair, and their mutual desire reignites with undeniable ferocity.

Fire is best fought with fire… While DeVere is hell-bent to have her back for keeps, Diana is equally determined to bring him to his knees…by acquiring some sensual secrets of her own.

My Thoughts: Everything has been leading up to this. Which might be both good and bad. It’s possible to read A Wild Night’s Bride, The Virgin Huntress and The Devil You Know on their own and enjoy them as much as I did Bride and Devil, or didn’t in the case of Huntress, but The Devil’s Match is the culmination of the story begun in the other three books. You need to have read at least The Devil You Know (or, one could say you need to already know how Diana knows the Devil) in order for The Devil’s Match to have the resonance it should.

The “match” in the title of The Devil’s Match could just as easily mean a matchstick for lighting fires as a mate. And, come to think of it, one brand of matches in the early 1800’s was known as “lucifers”, yet another name for the devil. Entirely too appropriate, because the unfinished business between DeVere and Diana makes them set each other off like, well, tinder and matches.

The Devil’s Match picks up right where The Devil You Know ends. Diana stalks into DeVere’s house in the middle of a orgy, Really, an orgy! Full of righteous indignation because DeVere’s brother Hew has kidnapped her goddaughter Vesta (see The Virgin Huntress). There are half-naked women everywhere, and DeVere himself is in the middle of getting serviced while this conversation is taking place! Diana’s speech, and her maintenance of outward composure, is astonishing.

It’s too bad for Diana that DeVere has all too clear an idea of what’s going through her head, and that’s she wrong about who kidnapped whom between Hew and Vesta, admittedly with DeVere’s connivance.

But just like Diana’s assumptions about Vesta’s supposed kidnapping, very little about that scene is exactly what it appears to be. And that’s what made the resolution of this four book long story so interesting (not that the erotic scenes weren’t steamy!) DeVere starts out as merely a sybarite and a rake. A consummate puppet-master out for his own amusement. As the layers peel back, DeVere turns out to be the prisoner of his own fears, too worried about making the same mistakes his parents did to trust his own heart. Or even to trust that he has one.

Verdict: I dove straight from The Devil You Know to The Devil’s Match. I had to find out exactly how the Devil got his due! Once I finally found out how DeVere and Diana end up in the positions (hah!) they are in at the beginning of the series, I couldn’t wait to find out how they got out of the mess.

The Devil’s Match isn’t as frothy as A Wild Night’s Bride, but it’s even more delightful in some ways. Watching the rake not only admit that love just might be possible, but actually reform, is a far better ending for him than anything the reader might have expected when he first sauntered onto the pages of A Wild Night’s Bride. Bravo!

I gladly give The Devil’s Match 5 fiery stars.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

Format Read: ebook provided by the author
Number of Pages: 290 pages
Release Date: February 12, 2012
Genre: Time-travel romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info:Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

The description does not do this one justice. When I finished (at 2 in the morning!) I lay there and stared at the ceiling for a long, long time. The Mine is one of those stories that will stick with you. It was just about perfect.

Time travel stories are supposed to be messy, as a recent column by Charlie Jane Anders in io9 put it, and the messiness of the time-travel is the crux of the dilemma for Joel Stein. Not the mechanism, that’s as improbable as time-travel usually is (a six planet alignment and a cave in an abandoned mine–think of the Stargate SG-1 episode “1969″ for a not-dissimilar concept). The way the time-travel occurs is not the point. It’s what time-traveler Joel Stein does afterwards that lodges deep in the reader’s heart.

Because he doesn’t go back that far. From Memorial Day in the year 2000, Joel goes back a mere 59 years. But those years are crucial. He arrives at the beginning of the United States’ last summer of innocence, The summer before December 7, 1941, before Pearl Harbor. And he is the only one who knows the future.

One last golden summer before the war that is already raging in Europe and Asia engulfs the U.S.

There are no cell phones, no credit cards, no computers. Joel is broke. He has skills, but no identification. The Great Depression has not lost its hold on the country. He has no home, no job, no friends.

His family is in Seattle. The grandmother that he remembers is a young woman in 1941. Seattle is still home. He does what other down on their luck young men did during the Depression. He hopped a freight train from that abandoned mine in Montana to the west coast.

Trying to get a night’s sleep on a bench outside a bar in Seattle, dead tired, looking and feeling like a bum, he saves a guy from getting beaten up over a gambling debt. That guy turns out to be his grandmother’s first fiance–the one that Joel knows, absolutely knows, will be killed in the war that is to come.

But Tom Carter doesn’t know a thing. All he knows is that this down on his luck guy rescued him from three bruisers. He takes Joel home with him, gives him a place to stay. His dad gives him a job. Joel makes a life. Becomes part of Tom’s circle of friends. Lives life to the fullest in that last golden summer.

And falls irrevocably, irretrievably in love with a woman, even though she’s engaged to someone else. Even though he can’t tell her the truth about himself. And manages to win her heart.

The summer turns to Fall. October turns to November. Just before Thanksgiving, He worries about what he’s going to do on December 8th. Every able-bodied man is going to volunteer for the Armed Services, and he’s not registered for the draft. What if he takes a bullet meant for someone else? What if he saves someone who shouldn’t be saved? How much of the future has he already changed?

Then he sees an article in the paper that the same alignment of planets that brought him to the past is going to happen again. On December 8, 1941. He has to try to go back. He’s afraid he’ll change too much if he marches off to war.

But he’s leaving his heart behind.

Verdict: This is beautiful, simply beautiful. The story is absolutely heartbreaking in Joel’s immersion into life in 1941, because he (and the reader) know how fragile it all is, and how soon everything is going to go smash. He feels the poignancy of it and conveys it so well. He’s happy and is aware of how precious and fleeting it is. At the same time he’s selfish enough to pursue Grace Vandenburg just because he wants her, and not thinking about the consequences (he is only 22 after all!).

When Joel comes back, he has changed, and the world hasn’t, and he feels something a lot like survivor’s guilt. Was it real or did he dream it? His loss and his loneliness, his need for validation were so well-done, I wanted to cry.  And the ending, well, that was just the one I hoped for.

I gladly give The Mine 5 brightly shining stars properly aligned for time-travel.

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