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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Review: Desert Guardian

Desert Guardian
by Karen Duvall

When Kelly Bancroft receives a suicide letter from her brother Jake, she knows the star-worshipping cult he belongs to is to blame. Feeling responsible for him joining the group in the first place, she travels to the California desert where the nomadic Star Mother cult has set up camp.

Cult intervention specialist Sam Reed, aka The Arrow, doesn't know what he's in for when he teams up with Kelly to rescue her brother. Too independent for her own good, Kelly makes it abundantly clear that she'd rather save Jake on her own. She realizes Sam is the expert and gives in only because her brother's life is at stake.
Deluded by their fantasy beliefs, Star Mother's followers await the starship that promises them deliverance to a spiritual utopia on another planet. The caveat? All passengers must leave their bodies behind.

Sam and Kelly dodge the cult leaders? attempts to eliminate their meddling by eliminating them altogether. Will Sam's and Kelly's growing attraction to each other help or hinder their efforts to stop Star Mother's plan from playing out? Or will they become victims of the cult's suicidal madness themselves?

Available in eBook or print
(267 pages) - sensual
This dark tale opens with the perfect setting for a novel of suspense; a moonless night, still air and utter darkness save for one distant light. The characters that step forward into immediate action are powerful and resourceful. Their own guilts, haunting memories, and personal terrors only gradually emerge. Snappy dialogue punctuates the fast action in this thriller.

This is more than a straight forward thriller, however: it is a daring psychological study into the motivations behind early cult membership, the reasons why people, especially young people, might give up control of their lives for the security of some sort of family.

This eerie reflection of some of the worst of these types of communities, comes from a haunting new perspective; dreams and desperation, belief and disbelief both populate these pages. Readers will want the trusted to be trustworthy, will want the rescuer to rescue. However, it becomes apparent that even the good guys can have dark motivation. More; there is a depth of character, personal strength and attachment uncovered even within the least trustworthy characters. Duvall carries an ability to humanize even those with the most evil intent.

Sex here is a force of alienation as much as union, a reminder of dark motivations and doubt.

Throughout, the setting enhances the storyline, without ever being intrusive. The reader receives a strong sense of isolation, distance, and of a separation or escape from society. Doubts, action, and sinister intent make this book tough to put down.

Certain items float in the periphery as you read this, like the coyote , which offers a strange parallel, the feral animal so akin to desperately lost souls . This is an intriguing read, with an unexpected complexity that only adds to the action. Duvall exhibits huge insight in this work.

Thanks to our guest reviewer: Nancy A.Lindley-Gauthier

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Review: Uncle Mike's Love

Uncle Mike's Love
by Christine Columbus

Mike felt the biggest mistake in his life was moving away from his hometown and not asking the first love of his life Patty to go with him. Now, twelve years later he's back in town to take care of his nephews and he's hoping to get a second chance with Patty.

(29 pages) Sweet

This is a charming story which focuses on one man's realization that letting what someone else might think about the woman you are in love with is a sure way to lose that love. Will he be able to win Patty back now that he's back in town?

Ms. Columbus draws an entertaining picture of Mike trying to win back Patty, but I have to say I think the two young boys steal the show as they attempt to play "matchmaker" between Mike and Patty. "Uncle Mike's Love" is a lighthearted look at love, romance, and second chances.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: A Christmas Dream

A Christmas Dream, a play
book by Janet Elaine Smith & script by Billie A Williams.

Susan Quincy has declared Christmas 'off limits'. Her three-year-old son, Jeremy, has never seen his father who died in Desert Storm before he was born. Jeremy dreams of a Christmas of happiness for his Mom -- he believes in Miracles and that they can happen, especially, at Christmas. Kevin Docketer and a certain Santa try to help Jeremy with his dream. Will it be enough?

This three-act play sets off sharing a hint of the seriousness to come, with the joy of a Christmas passed. Quite unusually for a holiday presentation, it is contemporary. The working mother whipping up cocoa from a package and microwaving popcorn gives a just-next-door feel to the events. It is quite early on that the audience realizes the depth of this tale, as the main character is a widow of Desert Storm deceased hero. Of course, it is heartwarming, with perhaps, a nod to all the Christmas cliches, but the ensuing story transcends the transparent, expected holiday tales.

Even though the setting is contemporary, the backdrops of Mall, snowstorm, and Victorian house and activities like baking cookies all enhance a strong sense of nostalgia. Props are used cleverly throughout, to support the story. Viewers will note the American flag and the reindeer, both symbols that hint at what is to come. The main theme of struggling to move forward with life against a backdrop of memory and the power Christmas adds to memory is powerful. The impact of dashed wishes and grief give this tale a most serious aspect, but the solace of shared grief is there, as well.

'A Dream is a wish your heart makes,' is quoted within the script, and indeed, this poignant tale is much like being drawn in to someone else's dream. It shares a wonderful sense of Christmas, with its strong connection to the past, but still, enjoying and even reveling in the present. The holiday itself parallels the main character's story beautifully, with her cherished memory still claiming her heart, even while the present evolves into a joyous relationship, and offers promise for the future.

This play is delightfully Christmasy and yet, a very new and definitely contemporary tale that audiences cannot fail to appreciate.

Thanks to our guest reviewer: Nancy A.Lindley-Gauthier

Monday, June 25, 2007

Review: Found

by Jenna Bayley-Burke

Arriving home after a girls night out, Eden’s realized she no longer needs to look for love. Love is right there, sleeping in her bed. But does he feel the same?
This incredibly sensual if super-short tale builds tension in every powerful line.

Even in this short format, Bayley-Burke manages to convey a strong sense of her characters. Decisions and passion seem an unlikely combination, but here, very uniquely, they work. The dialogue - and inner dialogue - is powerful. "Found" by Jenna Bayley-Burke could only be better if it were longer...

Thanks to our guest reviewer: Nancy A.Lindley-Gauthier

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Review: Thin Ice

Thin Ice
by Liana Laverentz

The last thing ER doctor Emily Jordan needs in her life is another man to let her down, and certainly not one who uses his fists in his work. She’s seen enough of the results of violence in the world, and has no use for anyone who contributes to it.

Professional hockey player Eric Cameron has never met a woman who intrigued him so much. Emily Jordan has it all…brains and beauty, a home of her own, a career she excels at, a son who adores her, and loving friends and family to help her bring it all together in way Eric has longed to be a part of his entire life. The problem is this feisty, independent woman wants nothing to do with him and has no problem letting him know it.

The memory of Emily’s healing hands despite her clear-cut opinion of him when she treats him after a post-game barroom brawl drives Eric to find the key to her wounded heart, but success would mean that Emily would have to give up all that she has—and depend on a man who’s life is anything but settled. Will Eric be able to win her heart despite her opposition to the only life he’s ever known? Or when the season ends will he move on again--alone?

Available in eBook or Print
Is Emily skating on thin ice? She sure feels like it when she meets Eric. And the ice gets thinner when Eric meets her son at a talk he gives to the elementary school. Emily's struggles with her emotions and the dichotomy of her desires culminate in a read that is a true pleasure. Ms. Laverentz takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions as Emily and Eric work out their differences and learn how much in common they truly have.

The story, while being entertaining, also brings some important issues for women onto the table. Both Eric and Emily have causes they care about and the blending of these causes into an enjoyable read is seamlessly done. The reader is educated without being preached at.

I'm looking forward to more of Liana Laverentz's work. This is available in print as well as electronically for those of you who prefer to read while holding onto something other than your computer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Review: Coffee and Love To Go

Coffee and Love To Go
by Christine Columbus

Dan is surprised to find out he is the topic of conversation on a women’s talk show about meaningful glances. For the last two weeks when he stops for his cup of coffee, he has noticed a beautiful woman with red hair and now she’s on the air asking the listeners if she should make the first move and talk to him.

(12 pages) - sweet

Why Not To Buy a Coffee Maker!
Thanks to our guest reviewer: Nancy A.Lindley-Gauthier

Christine Columbus is brewing another hit in her short romance, "Coffee and Love To Go". This tale starts off lightly enough, but with an interesting twist: While most folks suffer their attractions in private, or share them with a trusted friend, this dreamed-of romance is under the eye of a good many watchers, would-be match-makers, and nosy parkers. The many witnesses (who feel free to comment!) only add to the stress of the main couple.

From the first, the reader will become invested in the story, hoping like mad the main characters will get a handle on their nerves, and that the other person is as they have perceived them. In no time, Columbus has us ready to scream with suspense! The tension continues building throughout the story. Her dialogue rings true, as does the discomfort the main couple experiences while trying to get together under so many watchful eyes.

Many details in this story are delightful. We gain a wonderful visual portrait of the characters, although their description in no way slows the action. The gentleman's "long sleeved dark brown shirt and cream colored tie," fit fabulously with his acquired name of "Mr. Coffee." The lady's comparison to her drink of choice is smooth, and quite good fun. The idea of using descriptions in a parallel to coffee is carried off beautifully, fun but in a non-intrusive way.

This is a very contemporary tale of attraction, embarrassment, involvement, hope, disappointment and joy. That so many emotions can fit in this one small but fast-moving package is amazing!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Review: Dancing in the Moonlight

Dancing In The Moonlight
by Raeanne Thayne

Jake Dalton has finally found his place in the world. A family physician in his small hometown of Pine Gulch, Idaho, he enjoys the satisfaction of caring for people he's known all his life -- and he especially enjoys knowing he's more than just the quiet, bookish Dalton brother who never truly felt like he belonged on the ranch.

Jake's comfortable life is thrown into tumult by the not-so-triumphant return to Pine Gulch of Magdalena Cruz, battered and broken. He hid it from everyone, especially her, but Jake has always been a little in love with Maggie. He knew it wouldn't have done him any good to show his interest to her. Maggie despises everything Dalton and blames his family for her father's death. Now Maggie has suffered another terrible loss serving her country and has returned to Pine Gulch to recover.

She never expects a Dalton, of all people, to work his healing magic on both her body and her heart.
How could anyone NOT fall in love with Jake? He's truly amazing. Smart, funny, handsome, kind. Truly a perfect guy. If not for his idiot, dishonest father, he and the heroine would have been married long before.

I can't say exactly why I enjoyed this book more than so many others that end up as wall-bangers, but I did. The characters were interesting, the chemistry real, the writing was good, and the story interested me.

I admit to struggling with the heroine's issues of deciding her love life was at an end because she'd lost a leg. Of course, I haven't lived through that kind of trauma, but part of me kept thinking, "It's a leg -- your face isn't disfigured, you're not covered in burn scars." - I can understand why those type of injuries can be extremely demoralizing. Still, as I noted, since I haven't been through the trauma of any kind of severe physical injury, the motivation may be fine.

Still, Raeanne Thayne has never disappointed me in her storytelling ability. This isn't the first book of hers I've read, and it won't be the last. She's solid in her skill and she always entertains. Reading her books is never a waste of my time. "Dancing in the Moonlight" is book two in the Cowboy's of Cold Creek series (I messed up and read it first). Turns out I have the other two in my TBR pile, but didn't pay attention to the fact they're a series. Oops. Looks like "Light The Stars" is the next for me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Review: Bootlegger's Bride

Bootlegger's Bride - Legacy of the Celtic Brooch Book 4
by Marty Kindall

Buckle your seat-belt. Grace McAfee Currie is on a mission--to make up for lost time, and lost love. Hoping to escape her controlling family and rekindle a romance all at the same time, she sets in motion a chain of events that spiral out of her control. WWI veteran Aidan Palmer is jolted back into life when he reconnects with Grace, the one woman he can’t resist. In order to be together, this socialite and would-be preacher must outwit her ambitious brother, out-maneuver competing bootleggers, and drive into an uncertain sunset in an exciting new world.
At fifty-six pages, this book is the longest eBook I've read to date. Despite the trouble I have staring at the computer too long, one of the hardest things I've had to do in a long time was stop reading this in the middle and let my eyes recharge until the following day.

It was that good.

The hero, Aidan, is a well-rounded, tortured but fascinating hero and Grace is a strong woman and good match for him. Ms. Kindall's writing is smooth and interesting, full of vivid description that plops the reader smack dab into the story. I danced in a speak-easy, drove a car full of shine and attended a funeral. I was right there with Aidan and Grace.

My biggest complaint is that the story went by too quickly. There were a few places I think could have been fleshed out a little more, but I imagine there were line constraints placed on the author that kept her from doing just that.

Marty Kindall has two other releases with The Wild Rose Press. If her writing in those is as well done as in The Bootlegger's Bride, I'll be thrilled to read them both. Even better? One is a full length novel -- so I shouldn't be able to complain that it isn't long enough!

Need something else to entice you to buy this story? When you buy any of the Legacy Of The Celtic Brooch series and follow the special instructions inside the book, you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a Celtic Brooch!

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

ISO: People Who Like To Read!

I know I've asked this before but...

We've been inundated with review requests and are looking for folks who love to read as much as we do! Have you read a good romance or women's fiction book or story lately? Do you want to? We have many great short stories in e-format just waiting for a pair of eyes.

We're looking for guest reviewers and team members here at Long and Short. If you're interested in either position, please email me and let me know. Remember... it means free reading material!

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Review: Crowned: An Ordinary Girl

Crowned: An Ordinary Girl
by Natasha Oakley

The Andovarian royal family is mourning the untimely death of the king. An urgent summons orders the return of the heir – His Serene Highness Crown Prince Sebastian II ….

Just as Seb had tasted normal life, he was forced to do his duty. Accepting the crown meant losing his most precious gift – the love of an ordinary girl.

Now, years on, Marianne Chambers is visiting Andovaria. Seb has been given the second chance he’s always longed for. But can he fight tradition and crown Marianne as his very own princess?
I've had this book in my TBR pile since February and have been hesitant to read it based on my previous bad luck with the line. Turns out waiting was a mistake. I really, really enjoyed this book.

From the moment I picked it up, I didn't want to put it back down again. I can't exactly say why -- it's not suspenseful or exciting. It was actually very quiet. But the characters were incredible and the book packed a serious emotional wallop that had me hooked from the get go.

My only complaint about this story was it wasn't long enough. If not bound by the restrictions of the line for which she was writing, Ms. Oakley could have written a book twice as long and just as interesting. I'm truly impressed by her ability, and plan on checking out her back list immediately.

Thanks, Ms. Oakley. You've restored my very shaky faith in the Harlequin Romance line.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: Drama Queen

Big thanks to our guest reviewer - Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Drama Queen
by Christine Columbus

Did Mark bestow more than his mother’s dog? Will Michelle’s unexpected pet bring more than drama into her life?
Christine Columbus' rosette, "Drama Queen," starts with a charming surprise. But the first surprise is by no means the best, and intriguing elements become clear as you read along.

All grocery store managers are not "Short, pudgy balding" men, and co-workers don't always have a clue who you really are. The author offers clear visuals, and the reader feels as though they were participating in each scene. Through the main character's imagination, we uncover the real person, the person who'd like to skip out of work early and go line dancing. Never has a grocery store aisle seemed so full of possibilities, or been so appealing.

This is a wonderful tale of romance, true, but also, of simple love. The two main characters reveal love in so many ways; love for a parent, a friend, a pet. All this love is an undercurrent to this warm and genuine story. This story builds in warmth and wonder all they way through, but it is by no means merely contemplative. Throughout, the western motif brings our mind's eye to line dances, tight jeans, and black leather boots.

You'll find yourself two-stepping along with this lively read. Don't hesitate to discover the drama queen in this delightful romance, by Christine Columbus.

Review: Good Things

Good Things
by Mia King.

Deidre McIntosh became famous teaching women to live simple, and simply live -- ironic for a woman who thrives on the chaos of a television career and shares a home with her best friend, the one man she can count on, who happens to be gay.

But when her Seattle cooking-and-lifestyle show gets bumped off the air, and her best guy moves in with his boyfriend, she's left trying to figure out the next segment. She can achieve the perfect balance of ingredients in a corn fritter, but it's not so easy in her life.

Seizing on a chance encounter with an attractive stranger, Deidre accepts his offer to use his country home. She hopes to get away for a while and learn to practice what she preaches: to appreciate life without voice mail; to gain the courage to start again; and to take the first, cautious steps toward a new kind of success—and maybe even love.
Even though I had a pile of things to do, when I opened the pages of Good ThingsI was hooked. I could not stop reading this book. Dishes piled up, beds went unmade, writing did not get done. What did get done was this reader entered into a world that started in fast paced Seattle and quickly shifted to a cabin on a lake…way away from the screaming throng.

This debut novel by Mia King, which is currently in its third printing, is a delightful view of one woman's search for a new taste in life. When her world is turned upside down, Deidre retreats for a while to lick her wounds and wonder what's next. You will laugh out loud as she finds a new niche in life—one that utilizes her skills and talents in ways she could never imagine.

Mia not only brings sparkling and full-blooded main characters to life, her secondary characters are also worth knowing. You will fall in love with Kevin and want to slap Marla and wonder more about Lindsey. Good Things is, quite simply, a delightful read and, to top it off, Mia includes some of Deidre's favorite recipes.

The writing is fresh, entertaining, and filled with humor. I'm really looking forward to her next novel, The Aloha Diaries scheduled for publication in August 2008.

Try them (book and recipes)… you'll like them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Marriage For Baby by Melissa McClone

Marriage For Baby by Melissa McClone
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Books
Review by Poppy

A tiny bundle that needs them...

Jared and Kate are separated when they find themselves guardians of an orphaned baby. The one hitch is, for them both to be guardians, they have to stay married! A marriage of convenience seems the only option…to be parents of convenience!

Soon they have to pull together for the tiny baby in their care and the spark that had gone from their relationship is reignited. Can this baby help them to heal their hearts and ensure they have a marriage worth waiting for, a marriage finally for keeps?

I have a confession to make... Typically, I don't enjoy many Harlequin Romances. I read them to keep a thumb on the pulse of that particular market, but most (IMHO) aren't very good--they're very short, and tend to sacrifice something because of it: characterization or plot.

This one was an exception.

I truly enjoyed this well-written book. The characters are three-dimensional--even the baby!--and the storyline was interesting. The behavior of all the characters was believable. Ms. McClone has done a very good job with this story, and if it's representative of her work I'll happily read more.

The only thing I struggled with was this: I was madly in love with the hero from the beginning of this story. I couldn't understand why the heroine didn't simply throw herself at his feet. Jared was handsome and charming, loving and kind. Even better -- he had a wonderful family! Who wouldn't want him?

Kate, apparently.

There were a few times I wanted to grab her and shake some sense into her.

Spoiler alert: Don't worry, she finally realizes the error of her ways.

Marriage For Baby was an engaging read, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys a sweet romance.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wanted: A Few Good Reviewers

Have you read a good romance or women's fiction book or story lately? Are you bursting with the need to say something about it?

We're looking for guest reviewers and team members here at Long and Short. If you're interested in either position, please email me and let me know. I'll let you know exactly what we expect.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Review: Montana Hideaway

Montana Hideaway
by Jessica Joubert

Jonathon Tall Bull and Hayley Jansson come from two different worlds, but they have more than one thing in common. Besides teaching together at the St. Labre Mission School, they are intensely attracted to each other. When she hits a deer and slides off the road in a spring snowstorm, he carries her home to his cabin. And while Jonathon has spent his life following the true path towards happiness, Hayley has spent hers skirting the issues that lie deep within her soul. She’d driven all night just to get to him, but could she bring herself to tell him why?
A "White Rose" from The Wild Rose Press, and therefore considered inspirational, this was a nice short, sweet story by Jessica Joubert that doesn't get preachy. I enjoyed the sentiment behind both characters, who are stuck together in a cabin during a Montana snowstorm. They clearly loved each other and cared deeply for the students they taught. Though there isn't a tangible conflict between them, you still read on to see how they will come together.

My only real complaint about the story is in regards to unexpected POV shifts. It frustrated me to be deep in one characters head and then be tossed out into another. Ms. Joubert does a good job getting the reader deep into her heroine's head, and I was terribly involved with Hayley -- her feelings and thoughts -- and truly disappointed when we were shoved out of her head, then back and out again.

Still, Montana Hideaway is certainly worth your $1.50 if you're looking for a sweet love story.

Friday, June 8, 2007

In The Pipeline

Here are a few of the stories/books we hope to review in the coming days...

A Man Mom Would Love by Susan Lyons
Marriage for Baby by Melissa McClone
Drama Queen by Christine Columbus
Montana Hideaway by Jessica Joubert

Stay tuned!

Inauguration Day

This is our blog post inauguration. The mission of this blog is to read and review various romances that we read -- regardless of length. We plan on kindness but honesty, no snark but hopefully some humor.

If you have a story you'd like us to look at and review, leave a comment and we'll get back to you.