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Friday, August 31, 2007

Review: Dame Amethyst Treasures

Dame Amethyst Treasures - an anthology of four novellas
by Karen Wiesner

Includes the following novellas:

“The Amethyst Angel”

Elena Lopez's father has decided to play matchmaker with his long-time friend and neighbor, Marta Delgado, when Marta's nephew comes to town. Elena has a secret, though: She's always loved Marta's own son Pablo.

“A Home for Christmas”

Craig Stevens is determined to tell Christie of his feelings for her once and for all. But how does a painfully shy man reveal his heart without voicing the words that could lead to rejection? Craig has given himself just a couple days to convince Christie he can be the man of her dreams. Now it's a countdown to a Christmas wedding or bust!

“The Amethyst Star”

They live in a time when humans have become an endangered species...

Greatly outnumbered by the male sex, women have become earth's most valuable prizes in their roles as Procreators. Their eggs are harvested-in an attempt to "grow" a human race comparable to the days before their near extinction-and fertilized by only the strongest males of the species. Pair-bonding is rare. Families no longer exist since children are gestated in labs and then raised in sex-specific institutions. Lady Sher of the Amethyst Star, a Queen and Procreator, is mankind's last hope for survival.

“Creatures of the Night”

Loner and night-owl painter Susanna Heath has just married her exotic-foreigner husband. Nicholai Rostislav disappears all day, coming to her only at night. Now she finds out that he’s a bloodsucking vampire. And you thought your marriage had problems.
The stories in this anthology all share some common threads. Many explore the risks of love and rejection. Personal doubt is a key factor in these stories, which range from the simple and simply charming to the far more deep and complex paranormal.

These tales open with the heart wrenching "The Amethyst Angel." We meet the Lopez family, a family united in dedication to a cause. We are delighted immediately with the quick dialogue, and infected with hope, rather than touched by despair. Risk here is more than an affair of the heart. Love and compassion drive this tale. We sense - and understand - the love the main characters feel for the sick children they care for. The family's effort is more than a setting here, and involves the reader deeply even before we get an idea of the love story involved.

In "A Home for Christmas," we meet a shy and charming man, as well as the love of his life. His self-doubt makes him less than open about his feelings, but his affection comes through in his kindness and support. In this everyday sort of adventure, the strength that comes through faith is also explored. The story itself is nicely Christmas-y, and music, especially the favorite Christmas carols, is a connecting theme.

"The Amethyst Star" is futuristic in setting and departs from the sweet and rather dear themes of the first two. The opening is dark: humans are not hunters, but hunted. However, hope builds as we grow closer to understanding the mind and motivations of Randolph, the main character. The details of the royal setting, the home of Lady Sher, are a delight to read. The world Wiesner creates is very original, and has great depth and detail.

"Creatures of the Night," delves into the paranormal realm, but is somewhat realistically contemporary in setting. The first person account lends this story a certain immediacy, and allows the reader to closely identify with the main character, Susannah. We also become confused along with the main character, doubting what is real and what is merely her imagination. Delightfully, the heroine - even while discovering her own uniqueness, shares some of the self-doubts of the main characters in the opening three stories. This quirky tale is a fun read.

These stories, heartwarming as they are, would make excellent night-stand material.


Reviewed by Snapdragon

Short Story: Life In the Details

Life in the Details
by Marianne Arkins

I hated Mr. Hepworth's art class. I'd only taken it because my dorm-mate Sheila wanted a chance to hit on the teacher's assistant -- some hot guy named Todd -- and she offered to pay for me to go with her. I needed the credits, but… ugh. Give me good old biology or calculus anytime. Ironically, after only a few days, she lost interest in Todd and moved on to the guy seated next to her.

After four weeks of sitting through lectures and creating pieces in various mediums, I'd made a game of it. I took the assignments and then twisted and squeezed them until they were barely recognizable. Because of the drama class I took so Sheila could meet the star of the last production, I kept a straight face with each increasingly absurd presentation.

Today we were required to show a sculpture to Mr. Hepworth. This one piece was worth thirty percent of our grade. After a great deal of thought, I took my bathroom plunger, spray painted it gold, blue and violet and then hot glued on a pair of tiny angels wings.

Thanks to my surname of Zarbo, I was last to make my presentation. The room was empty except for the teacher and Todd. I strolled up to the professor's desk, past piles of clay and what looked like paper-mache aliens until I stood before him. After waiting a dramatic beat or two, I reached into my canvas bag and whipped out the piece.

"I call it 'Life in the Details'." My voice was soft and reverent.

I set it down gently and dusted off an imaginary bit of dust from the rubber at the bottom. Todd stood just behind Mr. Hepworth, and his gaze was locked on my sculpture, his face utterly blank. I understood why Sheila oh-so-briefly had the hots for him. He really was cute. But, he was an art major and therefore so not my type. His gaze moved away from the object d'art to my face, and I'm sure I read laughing disbelief in those burnt umber eyes. His lips may even have twitched, but I couldn't be sure since I was trying to gauge the professor's reaction. Had I gone too far this time?

Mr. Hepworth pushed back his chair and stood, hand on his chin. After a moment, he circled around his desk, closely observing my sculpture from every angle. Then he flopped back into his chair and pounded one fist on the desk. "Yes!" His exclamation echoed throughout the room. "Why can't the other dolts see that there is more to art than clay and canvas?"

Todd snorted, but covered it up with a sudden hacking cough.

"My thoughts exactly," I agreed. "You need to reach for it, here." I thumped my chest. "Not here." I poked the side of my head.

"Clarice," he said, wiping a solitary tear from his eye. "You. You are my star." He shook his head. "Leave. I need time alone with this gift you've offered me."

I turned and sauntered to the door, a huge grin on my face. Did it again. Ha. Before I could step into the hallway, I was stopped by a hand on my elbow.

It was Todd. Todd who hadn't given the time of day to Sheila since the beginning. My wonderful friend was currently dating the guy who modeled nude for us the week before. Ah, her fickle heart. Perhaps I would design a sculpture to represent it, made from coat hangers, feathers and duct tape.

"Yes?" I fought back the triumphant smile and put on my game face. After all, the guy was the teacher's assistant. I wasn't about to get busted now.

"Have coffee with me?" There was an odd glint in his eye… could it be merriment?

"What? Why?" I couldn't tamp down the suspicion I felt. Why him? Why now?

"C'mon, take the plunge." Yup, he was definitely amused. He propelled me through the door and down the hall before he finally chuckled out loud.

"The plunge?" I looked at him with new eyes. He wasn't just another handsome face. He had a warped sense of humor, too. No wonder he'd never hit on Sheila. She had one layer, and it wasn't very deep.


"Coffee, yes, as long as there are no discussions involving art." I slung my now empty canvas bag over one shoulder. "I do have a couple of very important, personal questions before we go anywhere together."

He looked a bit worried, but I gave him points for courage when he replied, "Shoot."

"How do you take your coffee?"

A surprised grin filled his face. "Sweet and light."

"Whipped cream on your latte?"

"Is there any other way?"

"Not in my book." I slipped an arm through his and let him lead the way down the hall. You see, life really is in the details.

About the Author: Marianne has five short stories published with The Wild Rose Press, and is contracted for three more. Originally from California, she currently lives in the frozen north of New Hampshire, and uses comedy to get her through the obscenely long winter. Visit her at her website or blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Review: Her Perfect Man

Her Perfect Man
by Jena Galifany

Anna Scott could see snippets of the future, what was going to happen before it happened. She was young, too young to know how to use this gift to her advantage. In fact, sometimes the dark visions frightened her. She planned out her life, and knew that she would have everything she wanted. She could see it. Unfortunately, she couldn't clearly see the perfect man she knew she should marry, or the years of unhappiness she would have to endure before her dreams came true.

Colin Marsec would do anything to be close to Miss Anna. As they grew up together, he tried to make her see beyond her dreams, to see him as the man who loved her as more than just a surrogate sister. Once she chose Chase Trent over him, his reckless living trapped him into an unwanted marriage with a woman who would ruin his life.

Chase Trent breezed into Southampton fresh from America, presenting himself as the perfect man. Good looks, charm and money blinded the saucy girl who was five years his junior. Chase was used to having the best and, on the surface this little sample of English tart would look good on his arm. To top it off, she thought he was perfect. On their wedding day, Chase proved to his bride that he was the furthest thing from the man Anna expected him to be.

After years with an unfaithful, abusive husband, Anna learned the value of revenge, and that it was simple when she saw what was coming.

In Her Perfect Man, author Jena Galifany does a nice job of dropping the reader right into early twentieth century British society. Anna is a likable if confused young woman exploring her place in society; Chase is the tempting “bad boy” American rogue who’s easy to both love and hate; and Colin is the dark, handsome best friend who stands by for so long that you’re rooting for him from page one. I enjoyed the variety of minor characters in this story as well, from the servants to Chase’s business associates.

The plot is certainly rife with conflict, which keeps the reader’s attention as Anna struggles with the duties of a wife and her own true desires. Her mysterious “visions” provide a nice touch of suspense; I would have liked to see more of them.

Aside from somewhat uneven pacing, this is a sweet historical with an unexpected (but happy!) ending.


Reviewed by Dandelion.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Review: Model in Flight

Model in Flight
by Ann Patrick

He’s a search and rescue helicopter pilot, she’s a high-fashion model. He thinks she’s a stuck-up woman who won’t give him the time of day. She’s sure he’s the hell-raiser her parents always warned her of. Against her better judgment, she is tempted by this man…very tempted. He feels the temptation too, and more. Then the helicopter goes down, crashing their world around them in a struggle for survival.
Whew! This book steams with attraction between the main characters. There is a connection between Willow and Taj that is irresistible and undeniable. Throughout this story, the couple is faced with opposition that keeps them apart and builds the tension and desire.

Willow cannot understand her attraction to Taj. He is the type of man her parents would never approve of and, after the humiliation he puts her through, she is shocked by his bold advances. Despite her determination to reject him, she is drawn to him by a force more powerful than her fears. Taj is determined to fight his desire for the model and sets out to prove she is like every other spoiled rich girl.

But many surprises are in store, surprises that draw the two closer together and begin to tear down the walls between them.

This is a powerful story of love, attraction and the struggle between expectations and following one’s heart. I loved watching Willow try to fight the bond between her and Taj. The heartbreak is so real and compelling that you feel their sorrows and aching right to your toes. Taj’s fierce assault on Willow’s senses is moving, passionate and bold. It stirs your heart and leaves you hoping, dreaming and, at times, slightly bothered.

The ending to this story was both genuine and satisfying. Not all of the conflict was resolved and wrapped up in a nice, neat package. It gives a sense of reality to the story and doesn’t trivialize the struggles and sacrifices of the characters.

Ann Patrick doesn’t just write a story, she opens the door to an adventure, with characters that will capture your heart and imagination. This is one journey I would encourage readers to take.

Reviewed by Lily.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Fiery Secret by Diane Craver

A Fiery Secret by Diane Craver
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Books
Review by Lily

While investigative reporter Catherine Steel looks for Mr. Right, she tries to learn if someone murdered the janitor from her old high school.

Catherine Steel is an investigative reporter for a newspaper in Ohio. To supplement her income so that she can buy clothes and gifts for her small godchild, she writes fluff pieces for women’s magazines. Two recent articles are: “What To Wear to Get Noticed” and “Catherine’s Ten Simple Dating Rules.”

When Jake Michaels fills a sports editor’s spot on the paper, Catherine wonders if he is man enough to fulfill her fantasy. And does she want him to be the one? After all, he broke her heart ten years ago in high school when he failed to show up for their prom date. And now that he’s back in town, he wants to date her. Catherine refuses to go out with him but he keeps asking. Should she give Jake another chance?

When it appears the high school janitor, Max, was murdered, Catherine is determined to learn the truth about his death. Catherine’s list of suspects for Max’s death include: the school secretary with her intense dislike of Max, the charismatic mayor, the mayor’s unbalanced girlfriend, the angry school principal, and a strange math teacher.

This story begins with a fun, flirty bang and keeps a light-hearted energy throughout the pages. The mystery is woven in amidst life, love and much laughter. The story does not concentrate its focus on the who-dunnit, but shows you many sides and aspects of the main character’s life.

Catherine Steel is an investigative reporter who does some fluff pieces on the side for extra money. Catherine is handed information that leads back to an old case and, as she begins digging into the past and uncovering secrets, it soon begins to look like murder. While struggling to uncover the truth, she is also faced with the advances of an old flame.

I enjoyed the tension and attraction between Catherine and Jake. Having been spurned in love before, by Jake no less, Catherine is determined to make a second chance difficult for him and she is bold and shameless in her flirting. It was refreshing to read a story where the main character was confident and smart, comfortable in her body and at peace with herself and her life. Catherine is looking for love, but not desperate for it. She is determined to live her life to the fullest.

As I read this book I couldn’t help laughing at the similarities between Catherine and a good friend of mine. It had me smiling at her matter-of-fact ways, bold speech and never-fail pick-up line! At first I found the conclusion to the mystery to be abrupt and felt it was out of sync with the rest of the story. However, as I continued to reflect on it, I realized that Diane Craver had written it completely in keeping with the antagonist’s character.

A Fiery Secret is written in a first person narrative and had me feeling like Catherine was sitting across my living room, telling me her story. It is sure to leave its readers feeling as if they’ve just finished a conversation with a good friend.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Review: Irish Destiny

Irish Destiny
by Donna Dalton

1871 Irish South Boston comes to life in this engaging story of love and revenge. Guilt-ridden, Irish barrister, Ian O'Farrell, wants to regain his honor and his father's respect - two things stolen from Ian when he failed to protect his younger brother from treachery. To do that, he sets aside his goal of fighting for Irish interests in the courts of London and travels to Boston to find the man responsible for his brother's death. There, he meets Brianna Cavanaugh, and suddenly a chance for a fulfilling future jeopardizes his mission and the redemption of his father's favor.

Brianna Cavanaugh arrived in America, nursing heartache after the brutal slaying of her fiance. Now in Boston, a town leagues away from the violence and anguish she left behind in London, she only wants to put the past behind her. Then, Ian O'Farrell walks into the church soup kitchen, turning her peaceful life upside down as she fights to hold her emotions in check or risk being burned again by love.

Irish Destiny is a tale filled with rollicking intrigue, political plots, and a fiery romance. Taking place in 1870s South Boston, Brianna Cavanaugh and Ian O’Farrell come from different worlds and different destinies, but soon their fates become intertwined through Ian’s mission of revenge. Ian has come to Boston to rid the world of Rory Lynch, who’s one step away from becoming Brianna’s fiancé. As Brianna tries to save Rory from Ian’s clutches, her world turns upside down, and she learns that everything she believed initially is not what it appears.

Ms. Dalton steeps her story in charming historical detail – Durgin Park, the Fenian movement, and parish politics all make appearances throughout the book. She’s clearly done her research and her great affection for the Irish culture and community is evident.

In fact, this affection can be over the top at times, especially in her use of language and exclamations. She occasionally veers into stereotypes and clichés, but we can forgive her this for her strong portrayal of the two main characters.

Both Brianna and Ian are headstrong and principled. Their arguments steam with lust and wit, and you can feel the sexual tension throughout. This is a spicy tale, and there is a great deal of passionate internal dialogue from both characters. Ms. Dalton also reveals her characters in bits and pieces, pulling the reader in with each new tidbit.

Another delightful character is Jamie Donovan, a street urchin who manages to save the day on more than one occasion. Jamie’s tale is interwoven with that of Ian and Brianna, and he provides both lighter diversion and some lovely tenderness to the darker story line.

This book provides a nice journey into a forgotten time and place. It contains both strong characters and an involving plot, and it is drawn richly enough to hold the reader’s interest and let her wander the streets of long ago Boston.


Reviewed by Sunflower.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Review: Night Without Stars

Night Without Stars
by Judith Otto

When Matt Smith asks his super efficient PA to care for his twins while he’s in bed with chickenpox, little does he know she can’t even boil an egg. Very soon, he discovers competent career girl does not equal capable homemaker. He has a feeling he might live to regret his decision.

When Jilly Tremayne’s father ran off with his secretary, she vowed never to become “the other woman.” Now she’s in Matt’s home, in danger of becoming just that. Matt is committed to Claire, the mother of his children. So why isn’t she there for him?

And how can Jilly let Matt down when he’s ill? Or is he?

Not only is she battling her desire to jump into his bed, another battle rages with the twins. They want her out of the house. And far away from their daddy.

Then she steals a kiss…

Ever read a romance story based on the scenario of a boss and his secretary? Here’s another one but with some delightful and unique touches not the least of which are healthy amounts of hilarious humor. There’s this one scene that caught me so much by surprise that if I hadn’t swallowed my coffee, I would have shared it with my PC screen. *grin*

This story concentrates on Matt and Jilly. Matt’s the boss who’s suddenly noticing Jilly and Jilly is his PA, who has always noticed him, but fights against becoming a cliché. Their working relationship is delightful, colored with witty repartee which leaves your own eyes sparkling with humor.

Jilly has strength of character which she has to draw upon as she makes some serious decisions about what she’s willing to do and how far she’ll go in her quest for her boss to notice her. Even after admitting to herself that she does want his attention, she’s still torn. Does she choose between acting on it or walk the higher ground? Ms. Otto could easily have had Jilly do many things other than what she chose. Because of what she did write, it made this a better story readers can relate to as Jilly’s faced with a moral dilemma that is all too common in this day and age. I have to say, Jilly is a very classy lady and I applauded her decision.

As for Matt? He notices her all right. I never knew a hot water bottle could be used as a tool to pursue love. Clever and devious, he too has some choices to make that show us that he makes a wonderful yet very human hero. For a change, this story doesn’t hyper focus on the strong and bold alpha corporate persona but the man behind it. What is a businessman like when he gets home to hearth and family?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Matt’s adorable twins, Sam and Honora. Did I say adorable? Maybe not all the time. They put Jilly through her paces and then some. It was fun to watch how an efficient and put together PA turns into a kitchen disaster just by dealing with two active and opinionated five-year-olds. Even the toilet proved giggle-worthy.

All in all, Night Without Stars is a sweet read for readers who are looking for a passionate romance balanced with fun, family and a couple of appliance malfunctions.


Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review: Bounty On The Rebel's Heart

Bounty On The Rebel's Heart: Book 3 in the Incognito Series
by Karen Wiesner

Rebel Porter is a man on the edge. His wife was killed to silence evidence he uncovered on a dangerously corrupt man of power. Now Reb is in hiding, and he’s as afraid to lose someone else to the bounty on his head as to lose his heart to another woman.

Corrupt head of Network operations, Giles Jameson has gone MIA. As a boy, he’d been brought in with the choice: join or die. Giles joined, vowing secretly to bring down the Network. Working with an organized crime ring, Giles had killed a senator. The son of that senator was Rebel Porter, who grew up to be an investigative reporter who spent his life searching for Giles and the covert organization he believed he headed. When Reb disclosed his findings on public radio, Giles covered up the breach and silenced Reb by arranging to have his wife killed. Now 16 years later, Giles has begun his life-long mission to destroy the Network for good.

Network operative Natalie Francis goes undercover, posing as Reb’s former lover—investigative journalist Adrienna Kelly—to find Reb and his evidence against Giles Jameson and the Network. Together they uncover a conspiracy that could upset the wrong people and silence both of them for good. And, when Natalie realizes she’s fallen for the man she’d been protecting, she considers the impossible—escaping the Network.
This next foray into The Network took me completely by surprise. I wonder if Karen is a master chess player as Angelo says the upper echelon of The Network is? Just when I think I know what to expect in tone and style, Karen pulls a lemur out of her magician's hat.

Once again, the reader goes undercover with an operative in an attempt to flush out that sick whacko gone rogue, Jameson. We briefly met the enthusiastic Natalie Francis in the previous book and I was surprised that she was the choice for heroine in this book. I didn't think she'd be ready. Natalie sure didn't think she was ready for an operation usually slotted for the upper level operatives. But she, like the readers, trust the seemingly omniscient leaders, Shannon and Angelo, of whom we don't see much of this go-round. And yes, they're right again. Natalie is perfect for this op.

I liked Natalie. She was more approachable than the other operatives we've met but no less effective in doing her duty for The Network. I enjoyed the fact that she wasn't conflicted to extremes for the love she felt for Rebel as the story progressed. True, The Networks rules, no emotional entanglements what-so-ever, still dog her thoughts and her actions but Natalie doesn't let it stifle her. At one point, I thought she was pretty darned courageous in the choice she eventually makes.

I also liked Reb, our very complex and engaging hero. He's not as emotionally crippled as Raven was in the last book because Rebel had the knowledge of the "why" of things. However, he has been compromised in other ways. If you read the previous book, Until Dealth Do Us Part, there was a foreshadowing that Rebel had been "conditioned" by Jameson. All kinds of thoughts zinged through my mind at that point, but in no way could I have envisioned what Karen's devious mind could have concocted for poor Reb.

The dynamic between Reb and Natalie was unique. I have read too many romance stories where a strong woman - whether it be in skill, intelligence or physical ability - intimidates the man and he responds by being an arrogant Neanderthal. Rebel's reaction is quite refreshing and believable, eventually becoming an asset.

I have to mention that this book's title is ingenious in its play on Rebel Porter's name. It's not too often that a title can wrap in multiple meanings which only become apparent and appreciated once you've read the book. Cool.

What I have come to expect in reading the Incognito series continues in this story; heart pumping action, intrigue, shock and awe, passion and elation. The elation comes from this story having the closest thing to an HEA that can be established in The Network's parameters. I felt pretty darned happy with the relationship resolution between Natalie and Reb and I think you will too.

The shock and awe portion? Oh you'll just have to read this book. My mouth dropped to the floor when I got to chapter 51. There's no way I'm going to give spoilers about this ... it has to be read to be believed. And I'm still not sure if I can believe it yet. I can almost envision Karen rubbing her hands in wicked glee after coming up with this twist. She's a very devious author.

That said, I'm more than ready for the next adventure.


Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Friday, August 24, 2007

Review: The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July
by Cami Checketts

When eight parade floats explode during the annual Fourth of July celebrations, Agent Chris Harmer must find who planted the bombs before the terrorists strike again.

His troubles aren't isolated to terrorism. Chris falls in love with the FBI's feisty psychiatrist, Alexis Osborne. She won't commit to someone who doesn't share her religious values, and Chris has no desire to convert.

What started out as a simple day, a regular Fourth of July, exploded into bits as terrorists used parades across the county to attack the United States. The Al-Qaeda fanaticism and Christian beliefs were a major theme of this book. Each were injected with fervor and devotion, leaving the reader with a realistic fear and an overwhelming sense of truth prevailing.

Rachel Osborne was affected by the bombings and, although she was only a Psychiatrist for the FBI, she volunteered to help where she could. She drew strength from her Christian beliefs and prayer.

Chris Harmer thought he left his Christian beliefs behind when his parents were killed five years earlier on a trip to Jerusalem. Since then he has let his anger guide him and shelter him from a belief system he had grown up with. When the bombing happened, he too, tried to help as much as he could. But, his main thoughts were for finding those who had directed the bombings. With his Partner Dylan, he pursues every lead. Not knowing that he may be closer to an answer than he ever expected.

Alexis and Chris have just found each other, will their attraction survive a difference in beliefs? As they work to get to know each other, they must also learn how to trust, not only each other, but their faith. But, when Dylan and his families, not to mention Alexis’ lives are threatened will it drive Chris further away from God, or return to his loving grace.

Fourth of July is a strong look at those within the Government who work to find the threats to our country and our lives. The overall theme of Christianity is strong, as well as a look at a sweet romance blooming between the main characters. A supporting cast of characters and looks into their intimate lives provides the reader at a look into lives that aren’t perfect, but that are filled with love, from each other and God.


Reviewed by Brandy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Review: Pi and the Fabulosa (Slightly Married) Twenty-Four Hour Man

Pi and the Fabulosa (Slightly Married) Twenty-Four Hour Man
By Dana Mentink

Pi Steely's life is a circus. Literally. As business manager for the Steely Family Circus, sensible Pi steers her madcap troupe through the perils of life on a daily basis. Things progress from muddled to madness when her soul mate accidentally turns up married and a body is discovered on circus grounds.

Aided and abetted by a zany young man with a tarantula tattooed on his forehead, and her pet chicken, Rhonda Sue, the smart and sassy Pi must fight the odds to save her circus family, reunite with Reuben, the slightly married love of her life, and manage to mollify an international cast of flamboyant, one-of-a-kind characters, one of whom could be a murderer. It's going to take a brilliant performance and a whole lot of heavenly intervention to keep the show on the road.

We’ve all heard the expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, I admit that I judged this book on title alone. One glance at the title and I knew I had to read it! I needed to find out the story between the pages.

I flipped to chapter one and read, “God lives at the circus.” And burst out laughing. I love it when a book has a great first line followed by a captivating paragraph. This book does not disappoint. It goes on to lift the mystical veil that shrouds the enchanted, magical world of the circus. It hands you a back stage pass and gives you an in-depth, up-close-and-personal, behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the performers.

I loved this story with its unusual setting, plot and cast of characters. Each character was unique and Dana Mentink wrote them with a consistency that is refreshing and believable.

This story is packed with action, emotion and humor. It had me laughing, holding my breath and aching with the characters as they struggled to solve the mysterious events while protecting the unity of their “family.” Mentink has crafted a tale that takes the reader on a journey where jealousy, deceit, murder, lust, love, danger and mystery crowd the pages. And that’s all behind the scenes.

Pi learns patience, trust and forgiveness when she is betrayed by a friend and left with a broken heart. She’s thrown into the spotlight when she discovers a body in the surf and finds herself questioning the people who have been her family since the death of her mother. She’s keeping a secret from the police, but will it come back to haunt her?

This cast of quirky characters will draw you into their lives and stay with you long after the last page is read. This story is unique in its setting surrounding the circus and its mysteries. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a fresh read that is guaranteed to make you laugh and keeps you guessing until the very end.


Reviewed by Lily.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Review: Love Songs

Love Songs
by MG Braden

When Cameron Trent, a former high school all-star, comes home to deal with his father's death, he finds a much sweeter deal. Madison Hughes, the Cupcake Queen, hates Valentine's Day and thinks love songs are a joke. Will Cam change her mind?

I thoroughly enjoyed this story about a baker who hates love songs, but longs to find a love of her own. Her past has jaded her and she doubts her prince will come. I liked Maddy, with her wit and spunk. She’s the shy kid who has come into her own, developing confidence and character. But her life is one of control and she has to learn to let go. That’s when she finds a love song all her own.

I found the hero, Cameron, to be absolutely charming. He brings a strong male presence to the pages and I enjoyed his show of maturity in taking over his father’s business. He took the unexpected circumstances and made the most of them. In a world full of selfishness, it was nice to read a story where the hero put something ahead of his own desires, while still remaining true to himself.

MG Braden has a writing style that is captivating and bold without being trashy. This is another fine work by Braden that will leave you feeling satisfied. Love songs is a sweet, contemporary short story that will enchant and delight its readers from start to finish.


Reviewed by Lily.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Review: Finally Home

Finally Home
by Ceri Hebert

Despite their chilly past, Torie Barron and Alex Carmichael's identical goals drive them in a headlong collision over a horse farm they both covet until a family tragedy puts an end to Torie's dreams. As her life is swept down an unexpected and rocky path, she turns to the man who has been so infuriating yet intriguing. The same man who stomped her heart into the ground when they were teens. Will Alex be her savior, or the one who stands in the way of all she's ever wanted?
Available in print or ebook formats.
Ceri Hebert has crafted a novel that literally took my breath away. The characters are full of life. I was cheering for Alex and Torey every step of the way and when their romance would take a step back, I hurt for them. By the time the book was over the rollercoaster ride they were on had me dizzy... and the final pages had me in tears. The male and female antagonist? I hated them and I found myself hoping they would get together at the end. They definitely deserved each other.

The setting... I could almost smell the hay in the stable. Ceri's descriptions are rich and riveting. I began the book one morning, had to leave it to go to work, and started it again as soon as I got home. It's not often I find a book so riveting I start and finish it in the same day, especially as busy as I've been.

Kudos to Ceri Hebert for a wonderful read and I'm anxiously looking forward to her next book. I give this outing by Ms. Hebert a definite five book rating.

Reviewed by Rose.

New Review Ratings System

Please remember: All reviews are solely based on the reviewer's opinion.

1 Book — At this time, we at LASR do not post these reviews. If the book was boring, badly edited, poorly written, had little or no plot, stilted dialogue, and/or unsympathetic characters, we will decline the review.

2 Books —Not wonderful, but tolerable. Not a wall-banger, but nothing you would re-read. This is a book you would borrow from the library -- not buy -- and never check out again.

3 Books — Good. Somewhat enjoyable. You made it through and didn't consider it a waste of time or money. You might recommend it to a friend, but it wouldn't go on your keeper shelf.

4 Books — Very Good. You're glad you were the one who got to review the book. You would probably buy it and would definitely recommend it to your friends. You liked the characters and the plot. The writing style was good and the editing clean.

5 Books — Great! You would definitely buy this book. You would definitely recommend it to your friends. You really loved the characters and the plot and would consider looking for this authors back list or making her an autobuy. The writing and editing were superb.

A LASR Best Book - For a book or story that is truly exceptional. You think about it when you're not reading it. You wonder what happens to the characters when you finish. You would absolutely buy everything else this author had to offer. The highest praise - and reserved for only a few.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Review: The Nettle Bracelet

Reviewed by Lianne.

The Nettle Bracelet
by Catherine Kean

Lady Emmeline Deschartres refuses to marry the crusading knight—a complete stranger—to whom she’s betrothed, vowing she’ll only marry for love. When she runs away to a nearby stream to think of a way to break her betrothal, she finds a handsome rogue who is also engaged to a stranger. By fashioning her a bracelet from a stinging nettle, he demonstrates that arranged marriages can lead to binding love, after all. Wise words from the man she later discovers is her husband-to-be.

13 Pages - Sweet
Lady Emmaline has been betrayed, so she feels, by her own father. He is forcing her to marry the knight, Lord Davenwood, whom she has not met. In a fit of temper, she rides off without an escort and meets a handsome stranger in the woods.

At first, I admit, I thought this was going to be a groaner. You know, the typical pouting heroine who has to be conquered by the powerful, patient hero. But from the first paragraph I could see the writing was polished and interesting and I realized the author knew exactly what she was doing. The story was cute, and because it was meant to be short, it didn’t go into all of that "didn’t need it stuff" which made the conclusion refreshingly nice. A quick, fun read suitable for women of any age.

Review: The Wedding Adventure

Reviewed by Guest Reviewer, Dru Ann.

The Wedding Adventure
by Melissa McClone

And then there was two...

For nearly two weeks they were trapped together on a tropical island, forced to endure Survivor-like challenges in order to win a grand prize. But for the normally business-minded Cade Armstrong Waters, the toughest part became resisting his pampered-princess-turned-worthy-teammate, Cynthia Sterling. Cynthia's grit and determination, not to mention her golden locks and shining eyes, made Cade ache to hold her as they shared close quarters in a makeshift tent. But although his hardened heart had slowly begun to heal in her presence, Cade had no desire to surrender his bachelor status. Which only proved that walking away could be his biggest challenge of all!
The Wedding Adventure is a contemporary story about two people who are on an adventure of self-discovery.

Being raised by parents who loved each other too much at the risk of alienating their daughter, Cynthia longs to be a loving spouse with children who will receive love from both parents and financial security, with that being the number one criteria. She’s looking for a rich husband.

Having seen what money can do to the dynamics of a family and pining for a lost love, Cade Armstrong Waters decides to chuck the family wealth and settles into a philanthropic life helping the less fortunate. He’s looking for money to save his foundation.

After winning an adventure on a deserted island, he assumes she’s a pampered, spoiled socialite, who won’t get her nails dirty. However, he realizes that they have to become a team in order to survive the game. During the course of these activities, they both learned that there’s more to each other than what they see. Once the barriers were broken down, did respect and love for one another shine.

I enjoyed this story because it showed that once you re-discover yourself, the door to romance opens.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Review: Words

Reviewed by: Alice Teh

by Terry Odell

Two people in love don't need words to communicate, do they? How important is uttering them aloud?

(6 pages) - sensual
This is an intriguing story by Terry Odell. It is told from the perspective of both the husband and the wife —- a pair of newlyweds. It is amazing to see what can be done in just six pages. Ms Odell is indeed a skillful storyteller.

“His.” The story begins with the husband, an artisan skillful with woodworking. He is quietly observing his lovely wife applying makeup and getting ready to go to work. Thoughts run through his head and he is full of love for her.

“Hers.” In the same scene, the wife, a corporate high flyer, is aware that her husband is watching her. She admires him and loves the way he showers her with love, just like how he knows when she needs a massage or wants to be held. Oh, how she loves this man who is standing there watching her.

A moment later both hearts joined and souls merged. Such a tender, precious moment. How can mere words ever convey what they feel for each other? This story shows that genuine love needs few words.

Words is beautifully crafted and sensuously sweet. I am most certain this will not be the last time I will read Ms. Odell's work.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Review: Healer of the Heart

Healer of the Heart by Linda Mooney

On a small parallel world, much like medieval Earth, a woman with extraordinary healing powers and a man who would be the next ruler of his country are thrown together to save their lands from warring nations and to solve the mystery of two brutal deaths within their own fortress, despite the danger to their own lives. Through it all, they find a love that defies all odds, breaks all traditions, and becomes the symbol of hope for the future of their world.

Several countries are at war. Two of these countries, Bothe and Skandia, have come to an uneasy alliance. For protection against the other warring nations, Skandia has allowed one of their rare Healers to take residence in the fortress of the Dost of Bothe, the leader of that country. But the other countries, jealous of this alliance, have put a plan in action to kill the Dost of Bothe and his immediate family, and to claim Skandia’s Healers for their own. To everyone’s horror, the Healer is murdered by accident, and the Dost sends for another to take his place.

Querl, the nephew of the Dost, will become the next leader of his country when the present Dost steps down. Little did he know that when the new Healer is sent to Bothe, he would fall inexorable in love with the painfully beautiful woman known as Mareesa. Even less is he aware of the dark and evil secret which forced her to flee her home country, and the fate that awaits her should she dare to return.
Despite my expectation that this was a historical romance, and not a fantasy, this story's quality of the prose drew me in from the beginning. The plot was engaging, and the two main characters likeable: A strong hero with a heroine equally strong, yet without being the now cliched overbearing feminist of many romances these days. I might have been even more drawn to the characters if there had been less POV head-hopping. But that might be a personal preference.

This story had a little of everything...adventure, romance, and at times, even a touch of humor. The political agenda could have been a little toned down, but it wasn’t distracting and, over all, this was a very pleasant read.

My fourteen year-old daughter is into fantasy right now and, if not for the sexual content, this would have been a perfect book to purchase for her. That said, even though the sex scenes were explicit, there weren’t many of them, and cursing was minimal. If you like this genre, you’ll enjoy Healer of the Heart.


Reviewed by Violet.

Review: Waiting For The Rain

By reviewer Jen S. Haines.

Waiting For the Rain
by M. Jean Pike

Abandoned by her husband after receiving a fatal medical diagnosis, twenty-eight-year-old Willow Mackenzie is determined to realize her unfulfilled dreams. On a jaunt to a lonely quarry called Baker's Gully in the hope of photographing an eagle, she discovers an abandoned cottage and its reclusive owner, Darby Sullivan. Captivated by the rose-covered dwelling, and intrigued by its stern, sexy owner, Willow knows instinctively that she is meant to spend the rest of her life in Baker's Gully.

A man of secrets, Darby is content with his hermit-like existence, but troubled by the deadly illness he senses within her, he agrees to rent Willow the cottage, knowing it is the one place on earth that can heal her. But saving Willow 's life may cost Darby his own.
I dare any lover of strong heroines not to fall in love with Willow Mackenzie and her assortment of strange and colorful friends. Willow is in a terrible position at the outset of her story – diagnosed with brain cancer and abandoned by her husband, she is looking for ways to make the last months of her life satisfying and full. Her determination to find adventure in her everyday existence leads her to rent an abandoned, rose-covered cottage on an isolated stretch of road.

Tended at first by her best friend Sid, Sid’s roommate Chance, and other assorted “city folk,” Willow soon discovers the pleasures of her new country existence and begins to be intrigued by her odd, but sexy neighbor, Darby Sullivan.

As we learn more about both Darby and Willow, we realize before they do that each has some terrible secrets that must be shared in order for them to learn to love each other. Some of these secrets may hold salvation for Willow but tragedy for Darby, and we end up hoping against hope that together they will rise above their obstacles.

The paranormal edge to this tale is gentle and subtle. This is no typical vampire or otherworldly romance; the touches are intriguing and original.

The twists and turns will leave the reader involved from beginning to end, and the two main characters are delightfully impossible to pin down – they unfold delicately throughout the story.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review: Lady Irina

By reviewer Alice Teh.

Lady Irina
by Josh Lockwood

Irina Petrova, a member of Czarist Russia's royal family, is stuck in Southeast Alaska, and wants to return to the extravagance of the court. Until her father imprisons the one man that captures her heart.

Nathan Hawkins was making a career for himself as a ships’ captain and owner. A foray into Alaska to trade for furs would be the perfect money making expedition. Being captured by the Russians was the least of his worries when he fell in love with Lady Irina.

Can he overcome the difference in their social classes to feel worthy of her? Will she go against the edicts of the Czar to be with him?
This wonderful and exciting story is set in 1820 in New Archangel, Alaska. Mr Lockwood has indeed done a great job pulling emotional strings, and I teared up several times throughout. It is easy to feel the love between Lady Irina, member of a royal family and Nathan Hawkings, a commoner.

One of the things that touched me most was the author's portrayal of friendship and loyalty. You will see this in the relationship of Irina with her handmaid, Tanya. who would do anything -- and I do mean anything -- for her mistress. Tanya was given to Irina as a playmate when she was ten and as they grew up together, quickly becoming inseparable. When it is time for Irina to have a handmaid, Tanya offered to fill the position. This ability to inspire loyalty is evident in Nathan’s situation as well. He has a crew that would die for him, if they have to. These secondary characters all play an instrumental part in the development of the story.

There are suspenseful moments: Irina plotting the escape of Nathan and his men (without the knowledge of Nathan), when they were out in the roaring stormy sea, and there is a near death moment. Mr Lockwood skillfully weaves all of these together to form a beautiful and convincing story.

I am definitely looking forward to more of his work. I strongly suggest you read this exciting novel. You will not regret it.

An interesting note about the author: Josh Lockwood is a retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer and that probably explains his prowess in penning an utterly believable story of seamen. I admit to be amazed at the fantastic job he has done with his first novel, Lady Irina. I don’t know about you, but I have not come across many guys who would read romance (most of them whom I knew shudder at the very mention of that genre). Not only does this author have a favourite romance author and read all her books, he even writes his very own. How neat is that?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Review: One Night In Boston

By guest reviewer: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

One Night In Boston
by Allie Boniface

Can anything really change in 24 hours? Can everything?

Maggie Doyle is about to lose her home, her business, and her last grip on sanity unless she comes up with fifteen thousand dollars to pay off the bank. Her only option? Forget the pain of one life-altering night, find the stepbrother she hasn’t spoken to in years and ask him for help.

Everything in Jack Major’s life is going according to plan. He’s rich, powerful, and about to marry Boston’s most successful attorney. There’s just one problem: he can’t seem to forget his first love, the one who left him in college after a whirlwind trip to Vegas with a secret she couldn’t trust him to keep.

When Maggie and Jack meet up at a high-profile charity ball, past collides with present and the sparks fly. But is it too late for a first love to ignite again? And if Maggie reveals the reason she left Jack all those years ago, will he be able to forgive her?

A single night in Boston takes Maggie and Jack from the glittering lights of the ballroom to the windswept city streets and back through the years to relive old memories. Will morning light bring new hope for their future together? Or are some secrets too deep to ever truly overcome?
One Night in Boston drops the reader right in at the deep end; the countdown to foreclosure, the pounding emotions, the desperate effort to find some plan to cope. Maggie Doyle is at once a character readers can identify with and a person one is forced to admire for her coping skills. Boniface has a delicate touch, her flashbacks are smooth, clarify the tale, but do not slow the pace. Her word choice and comparisons are lovely, when, for example, she tells us about a relationship from the past: "how she missed the two of them together, that rhythm of a relationship, a simple waltz of days..."

The dilemma of Maggie's life drives the story forward, the sweetness of a loving relationship seems a distant backdrop- remembered, regretted, no longer possible. Emotions zoom between panic and that haunting, never-eased sadness and on to... but that would be telling. Maggie is not the only character thoroughly explored, and her dilemma is soon a secondary concern to the main intrigue of this work. This very contemporary romance is both engaging and interesting.

Although not generally mentioned in a review, I have to mention the exceptional design of the cover jacket of this book. Kudos to this book jacket designer - it has a lot of appeal, lends an idea of the story setting, and even somehow captures the mood. This work is very well done, overall.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Review: The Spirit of Christmas

By guest reviewer Brandy Jones

The Spirit of Christmas
by Cindy K. Green

Smart, yet stubborn, Kathryn wants more than anything to be a serious reporter, even to the detriment of her personal life. Her best friend, easygoing coworker Nick, realizes she has lost her Christmas spirit, and he is determined to help her find it again. And maybe in the process, she'll find him too. After the pair is assigned to work together on a story covering the toy drive for the downtown children's home, Kathryn begins to receive anonymous gifts from a Secret Santa. But will any of this really make a difference in Kathryn? And what happens when she begins to fall for her Secret Santa, making Nick jealous?
Kathryn Graham was a Grinch-ess, until her Secret Santa decided to teach her about the Spirit of Christmas. Each day, from Twelve days until Christmas, her Secret Santa decided to leave her trinkets designed to show Kathryn that Christmas was a magic holiday filled with joy, love and selfishness.

Nicholas “Nick” Pringle has loved Kathryn as for a long while and was dismayed by her attitude toward Christmas. His Secret Santa scheme was devised to bring a little joy and happiness to the woman he loved and to heal her heart, broken by a Christmas betrayal decades ago.

Kathryn is intrigued by this “Secret Santa” and his gifts, which seem to see into her soul. But, Nick seems to be growing increasingly distant as her fascination with the gift giver increases. Will Kathryn discover that her Secret Santa is closer than she first thought, or will his importance fade as she is forced to admit her true feelings for Nick, to herself.

The Spirit of Christmas is a sweet, holiday enthused look at self-discovery, the miracle of the Christmas season to heal wounds of the heart, and how true love may not have a smooth course. As with most holiday stories, the gift given is the happy ending for two people who deserve it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Review: Runners Moon: Jebarel

Reviewed by: Brandy Jones

Runners Moon: Jebarel
by Linda Mooney

He was one of thirty-one aliens who had landed on this remote world and dispersed among the populace, unidentifiable because of their shape-shifting abilities.

Jebaral had hoped for a life. A chance to be free after escaping years of slavery and cruelty. But when he met Hannah Pitt, there was no way he could turn away from her or from the feelings she evoked in him. But neither could he accept her offer of a future filled with laughter and promise. After all, she was human; he was nothing remotely human.

Worse, the Arra were out looking for their lost cargo and they wouldn't stop until every body was accounted for. Could he risk loving this woman? Would she even accept him for what he truly was?

Little did he realize that all his choices would soon be taken away.
When Hannah met Jeb she was dying inside from hopelessness. The man she lived with used her as a human punching bag and treated her with disregard and evil intent. But, a part of Hannah still lived for the days when Jeb came into the diner where she worked. He treated her with kindness and respect. Her heart, the one nearly destroyed by another’s cruelty, ached for this gentle man.

What would Hannah do if she knew the man she dreamed about and already loved was not of this world? Jeb often wondered if there could be any future for them. He had escaped utter cruelty and slavery to this world, one of different tastes, textures, sights and smells. But, his heart, so like Hannah’s, beat faster in her presence.

Hannah and Jeb may be of different species, but their love knows no bounds and their desire for each other is a fire that can not be doused. Each will have to face inner fears that their love for each other will last. But the Arra that Jeb and a few others of his kind escaped from are still searching for their slaves and will let nothing stand in their way. Hannah’s abusive ex is also catching up to them. Will their love survive? Or will they perish without the future they both dream of?

Runners Moon: Jebarel is a fantastic look at the healing power of love and the hope of a future together by two people who may be of different species, but love with all their hearts.

This story is wonderful. The author truly draws the reader in to the lives of the characters. I, for one, can’t wait to read Book 2!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Review: Until Death Do Us Part

Reviewed By: Michele Oberlander

Until Death Do Us Part: Book 2 of the Incognito Series
By Karen Wiesner

Network operatives Kirsten Ulrick and Ash Barnett have sacrificed their personal identities to live in the shadows and uphold justice for all—no matter the cost.

Captain Shannon McKee has restored order to the Network, a covert government agency. However, corrupt former Head of Operations, Giles Jameson is MIA, intent on destroying the reporters who uncovered his corruption. Operatives Kirsten Ulrick and Ash Barnett go undercover to protect Raven Harris and her husband from their seemingly invisible enemy.

When Raven and Casey Harris lost their child to a supposed accident, they lost their marriage as well. Raven and Casey live together as guilt-ridden strangers, afraid to love and trust each other again...and just as afraid to let go of the bond they once shared. When Raven’s life is threatened because of evidence she and her partner uncovered on a dangerously corrupt man of power, and old, unhealed wounds are pierced again, Raven and Casey must renew their vows or let go forever...dead or alive.

Ash and Kirsten accept that they can’t protect the Harris’ without becoming involved in their lives, but seeing the couples’ pain reflects their own private torment. For them, there is no life and no love, only duty.

Book One of the Incognito series introduced The Network, a covert crime fighting organization.

Until Death Do Us Part takes the reader further into the world that Karen's clever mind has constructed to thrill and chill us.

As I read this story, I felt at times as if I was in a world that combined Mission Impossible, The X-Files and 24; it kept me on the edge.

I appreciated the breakdown of The Network hierarchy in the beginning.
It put things in perspective; that this is a huge undertaking with the potential for some incredible storytelling in the future, of which this book is a part.

It opens with action and it keeps you riveted as you meet Shannon, the top dog in the agency who's in the middle of an attack on her life. By the time I finished reading this story, I had the intense desire to demand that Karen have Shannon fall flat on her face in love. If this is in anyway a set up or foreshadowing for the future, good. I am ready and committed to seeing this great lady get slapped with the reality that is love.

Angelo is a carry over from Book One and a strong and compelling character. In this installment, the reader gets a glimpse into his painful past and you start to connect with him as more than just the hard hitting third in command. He has humane elements that have not been programmed out of him and I appreciated the many nuances that Karen gives him. Yet with the attack on Shannon and its repercussions, will he remain truly an ally to the other operatives or will he become a foe -following the company doctrine?

Finally, I can talk about Kirsten, the heroine and focus of this story as well as Ash, the hero, Kirsten's hero. I have to remind you that The Network frowns on any relationships, on love or focus on anything other than the mission, duty and The Network. For Kirsten and Ash to fall in love, which they do, is dangerous and doomed to be unrequited. Or is it?

Until Death Do Us Part is a roller coaster of a ride taking the reader from critical conflict scenes to hair-twisting scenarios and onto moments of passionate love that leave the reader aching for more, never mind the main characters.

The major conflict that drives this story is the defection of the number two honcho and his nefarious and devious plans to destroy The Network from within.

Kirsten has a horrible past with the creep, Giles Jameson ( #2), that might give the reader shudders - so beware. Fortunately, Ash is such a wonderful support for Kirsten when the truth comes to light.

As much as I can rave about this story, I have to say that the HEA is unconventional. It's there, but Karen wisely has kept it within the reality and confines of The Network. It may frustrate the reader but... think about it. How must Kirsten and Ash feel? How intense must the feelings be of love and passion,repressed emotions, yet filled with the hope that there is more? That there CAN be more? I'd say quite a bit. Enough to keep me reading and wanting more too. I can't wait until the next book!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Review: Angel of Trevi

By guest reviewer: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Angel of Trevi by Elizabeth Owen

J.T. Cavanaugh thought he was losing his mind. He hadn’t wanted to believe the figure appearing before him was real. He’d wanted her to be a dream, a figment of his overworked imagination. If she’d been merely a dream, he could take stronger sleeping pills or pinch himself each time he saw her or, by sheer strength of will, banish her from his waking and sleeping life…banish her from his mind.

Available in print and eBook formats.

This contemporary romance is haunting and heart wrenching. It explores love and the cultivation of love, as well as loss and forgiveness from an unusual perspective.

The main character, J.T. Cavanaugh keenly feels the loss of his wife though it happened two years earlier. The desperation of his pain makes him question his own sanity when he recognizes this same wife appearing to him. Yet, far from seeking help, he is at first, grateful for what seems a comforting hallucination. But, is she an hallucination? It is startling to discover that this is a ghost with a goal... but more would be telling.

Forget-me-nots and unspent wishes offer us a certain aura at the opening of this tale, a mood that ripples out, gently, in coming chapters. Old friendships are renewed, hopes explored, there is a slow rediscovery, even, of a self that seemed lost. All serve as counterpoint to the terrible loss and Cavanaugh's efforts to cope with both his own emotions and his "hallucination's" directions. And no, he doesn't just go as directed, but struggles to come to grips with what he feels he should do, as well. Some of the demands are hard - not only for him, but for the people he must confront, and finally, comfort.

Cavanaugh experiences isolation, a very realistic emotion that many who grieve feel. His senses often seem heightened because of this. "Crystals woven into the overhead chandelier shed rainbow prisms of light across the plush red carpet..." The main character might simply see a room, but Owen allows him to see a room with such detailed physical descriptions they are not only strong mood-enhancers but beautiful, luxurious descriptions that are a delight to read. Certain details, like the attention to specific flowers, for example, become something of a unifying theme throughout. We start with forget-me-nots, note Autumn Crocus', and move on to others.

Although the depth of sadness in this tale is heart wrenching, it contrasts well with the potential for joy. This extraordinarily well-plotted storyline and believable characters take us on an unusual and emotional journey. Angel of Trevi is a strong and evocative romance.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Review: Out of Sight

By guest reviewer Nancy A. Lindley-Gauthier

Out Of Sight
by Terry Odell

Sometimes being invisible is a good thing. Or is it? Alone with a captivating colleague, Sandra deals with the reality of her marriage--and herself.

(11 pages) - sweet
This is a short contemporary story many people will identify with immediately. Routine events in life can often pose unexpected -- or expected but no less challenging -- dilemmas. In just this way, a simple business trip for our main character Sandra offers her a demanding choice. One hot day in Albequerque comes with all the trimmings, from chocolates to lit candles.

The author explores how expectations from other people can be as hard to determine as our expectations for ourselves, and pulls off this exploration without becoming preachy or dull. In fact, although the mood is all-romance, there is the hint of tension throughout -- a suspense that keeps the reader's attention right to the very last line.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Review: Purple Heart

By guest reviewer Shauna Sturge

Purple Heart
by Elaine Cantrell

Jenna West has no idea what she might have done to her new tenant Mike Hightower. He's surly and hateful every single time they meet, and he looks at her as though he despises her.

He does despise her. She's from the Middle East, and people like her killed his friend Ramirez when the army sent them to Iraq.

Will the power of love work its magic to soften Mike's bitter hatred, or will he ignore his growing attraction for his pretty landlady?

(101 pages) Sweet
I found this story to be quite unique. A soldier back from Iraq, living in hatred of the people he fought, is forced to live next door to a Middle Eastern woman and child.

Mike sees Jenna as his enemy and blames her for the death of his best friend and comrade. At the same time, he is helplessly drawn to her sweet spirit and can’t deny the attraction he feels.

I enjoyed the inner struggle Mike went through as he learned to let go of his prejudice and see people for the individuals they are. This was a different type of love story and I enjoyed the diverse issues it dealt with. Hatred, racism, prejudice. These aren’t easy issues to address and Ms. Cantrell attacked them head on. She didn’t shy away from the feelings that can invade a person who allows prejudice to rule in their hearts.

There were many funny, light hearted moments in the story as well which gave a reprieve from the deeper issues. This is one story that is sure to surprise and entertain its readers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Review: One Night to Cherish

By guest reviewer Shauna Sturge

One Knight to Cherish
by Catherine Kean

Lady Roselyn Descharme thought her beloved Lucian died on crusade. But one night, he returns and spirits her away. He says he knows who kidnapped her blind sister?and why. Is he the rogue responsible for her sister's abduction, or can Roselyn trust this scarred knight to whom she once promised her body and heart?

22 Pages Sweet
This historical tale is set in England in the late 1100s. It takes you on a journey where you feel the fear of abduction, the grief of loss, the pain of betrayal and the enduring power of love.

Roselyn is determined to find the men responsible for her sister’s abduction. What she doesn’t anticipate is her own abduction and how that one event would reveal betrayal and pain as well as joy and a love rediscovered.

This story packed a lot of themes and adventure into a small amount of time. It kept me reading and I liked that the betrayer was quickly revealed and the story brought to a wonderful ending. It was a story of honor, courage and love. I thoroughly believe anyone who likes stories of the knight-in-shining-armor variety would enjoy this read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Review: A Night of NovelTea

By guest reviewer Nancy A. Lindley-Gauthier

A Night of NovelTea
By Cindy K. Green

Juliet Truesdale believes life is passing her by as she runs her parents bookstore/tea shop until the day a handsome, mysterious stranger enters the shop, steals her heart and turns her life upside down, throwing her into a mix of dangerous yet comical situations she never could have contemplated.

(26 pages) Sweet
This is a clever and quick-paced short romance. The opening introduces a contemporary and very believable bookstore operator, named Juliet, who is in turmoil over her career choice and what her future ought to be.

The abrupt appearance of just the distinguished sort of gentleman that this bookstore Juliet dreams of seems hopeful- right up until he behaves just as we dream the handsome admirer will! This is more alarming than hopeful for Juliet, whose emotions run between fear to hope to challenging herself to tackle the mystery of this man who reads Jane Austen. This is a reader's story - references to authors and indeed some noted characters are nice touches for this bookstore-based and deceptive story.

Events are unexpected, characters unpredictable in this fun and speedy tale. The author brings us from hope to despair to terror, almost within the space of one sentence. Green makes us believe that a 'normal everyday woman Can rise to the occasion and behave like a pro...' facing adversaries with the best of them. Empathy for the main character's dilemma is paramount throughout. Questions like, can you judge a person's character by their literary interests? intersect with the challenging puzzle of just what is going on.

"A Night of NovelTea" is a unusual romance and a deceptively believable read, bounding, as it does, from farce to to fun.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Review: Brides and Bouquets

By guest reviewer Shauna Sturge

Brides and Bouquets; an Anthology 2007

Something Old, Something New
By Laura Hamby

What’s a gal who’s been jilted at the altar to do? Feel sorry for herself? Or reach for her cake? When Liza Dearborne meets bakery owner Marcus Sutton, he obviously has what it takes to make her bread rise. Will Liza let go of something old to attain something new?

Something Borrowed
By Deb Kinnard

“Eagle” Scott Delaney is a young woman’s dream. With everything to offer, he fears he’s incapable of falling in love. “Turtle” Leah Tillman has felt inferior to her lovely, accomplished sister all her life. Thrown together as attendants to her sister’s wedding, this mismatched pair borrow something--God’s grace to seek happiness together.

Something Blue
By Lyndell King

Pastor Nathan awaits his version of Gideon’s fleece before asking his childhood love, Petra, to marry him. But a self-righteous businessman, savior of their village, asks her first. It’ll take an ugly town fountain, an irate Irishman and homicidal high heels to prove God really does work in mysterious ways.

Something Old, Something New – Laura Hamby

I found this story to be an exciting, adventurous ride. It’s a contemporary story and teaches that sometimes the greatest blessings are the most unexpected.

In this story, Liza has been jilted one week before her wedding. She’s faced with the task of canceling the wedding and reception plans and finds that she feels more relief than sorrow. While canceling the caterer, Liza meets Marcus. His wildness and spontaneity spark an interest that can’t be denied and Liza learns that the most important decisions are made with your heart.

I loved this quick paced, unpredictable story. The characters were fun and such a contrast to each other. It was truly a story of opposites attract. I would recommend this story to anyone who wants a quick, fun read that will be sure to put a smile on their face.

Something Borrowed – by Deb Kinnard

This is a wonderful, contemporary story that shows the power of love, the depth of love and the purity of love.

Leah has always believed that she was second best to her sister. Her whole life she has felt like a wallflower, unconvinced of her beauty and worth. Enter Scott. He falls head-over-heels in love with Leah, but is unable to convince her that they could share a life together.

I found this story powerful and moving. My heart didn’t stop thumping until the very end. It kept me on the edge, hurting and loving along with the characters. I think the struggle that Leah has in seeing her self-worth is one that many people can relate to. The power of Scott’s love for her was moving and demonstrative of the love and value that God places on each of us. Although there were times when I wanted to shake Leah, I felt the story didn’t drag out the problems too long and I loved the leap of faith she took in releasing her fears.

This is a wonderful, moving, quick read that is sure to show its readers the freedom in surrender.

Something Blue – Lyndell King

Wow! This short story is full of love and longing so strong and deep you actually feel it. Lyndell King has crafted a story full of phrases and words that bring the small fishing town and its characters to life. They will walk off the pages and into your heart.

Petra finds herself faced with a decision that could potentially save the economy of her beloved town. As she struggles with the demands of her new fiancé, her long-time friend and pastor, Nathan, despairs of losing her to another for the sake of the town and its people. This is a wonderful story about sacrifice and learning to listen to one’s heart. It’s about risk, forgiveness and that God’s blessings are most often found by letting go of our plans.

This story will grab you and take you along for the ride. The beautiful imagery and powerful sentence structure will have you feeling the sand and the wind, and seeing the beautiful sunset. These characters are real, flawed and wonderful. The dialogue is quick, witty and intense and will have you falling in love with the characters and the town.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Review: Wind Follower

By guest reviewer Alice Teh

Wind Follower
by Carole McDonnell

Although it is not entirely to her liking, grief-stricken Satha, a dark-skinned woman from a poor Theseni clan weds young Loic, the wealthy Doreni son of the king's First Captain. Loic, graced with ability to see into the hearts and minds of others, begins to help Satha overcome her sorrows. Despite coming from different tribes, they begin to forge a life together. But when Satha's own compassion is used against her and a treacherous enemy contrives to dishonor her in Loic's absence, Loic's love turns to anger and disgust.

Embittered, Loic must still avenge his honor and Satha's and he sets out on a journey that brings despair as well as spiritual discovery. Battling him are the Arkhai, the spirits of the land who know his quest will lead him toward the God whom they have usurped. After his departure, Satha is kidnapped, sold into slavery and learns, first hand, how cruel the pioneering Angleni tribe can be. Both face great hardship, danger and anguish apart, but with the Creator's aid there remains hope they will be reunited and heal the love the world has torn asunder.

Wind Follower had me hooked from the first page and I found it hard to stop reading. It is very different from the stories I normally read, but nonetheless, interesting.

Loic is the 18-year old son of Taer, the headman of the Pagatsu clan, the noblest of Doreni clans. He is handsome and physically desirable, but has an illness known as the “falling sickness” or epilepsy. One day in the market, Loic and his father bumped into the wife of an old friend and her daughter, Satha. Satha is beautiful and dark-skinned as all the people in her tribe, the Thesenis, are. Loic immediately falls in love with her – a love at first sight. Very quickly, he marries the 24-year old Satha. Even though in the beginning it is an arranged marriage, Satha slowly opens up to Loic and develops a love for her husband.

The plot thickens when the pregnant Satha is violated by their enemy during the absence of her husband, resulting in the loss of their first child. Loic goes out on a journey to seek revenge. This is the beginning of his spiritual discovery and enlightenment. While Loic is gone, their enemy plots more evil and Satha is kidnapped and sold into slavery. There, she experiences for herself the cruelty of the Angleni clan.

Wind Follower is a page-turner right from the beginning. It is a story of love, despair, compassion, revenge, spiritual battle, healing, enlightenment and reunion. As I read on, I noticed familiar passages that mirror the Bible. For example: “Vengeance is mine, Loicuyo, therefore let me repay it. […] Those shadow gods are invaders who come only to kill, steal and destroy. But I have given you and all who believe the words of the Lost Book power over all those serpents. Go and tell this too-good-to-be-believed news to all you meet.”

Did Loic and Satha find reunion in their marriage? Did the people of the three tribes: the Doreni, the Theseni and the Ibeni find faith in the Creator? You'll have to read this story to find out. I totally enjoyed Wind Follower and I am sure you will appreciate it too.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Review: Fire Goddess

By guest reviewer: Michele Oberlander

by Crystal Inman

Every woman is a Goddess. Some simply don’t realize it yet. That’s when a Guardian arrives. She guides and protects. But most of all…she comes to set a woman’s inner goddess free. Because in a mortal’s strength is a Guardian’s salvation.

Kelly Marshall is a soap opera actress. But she’s not any soap star; she’s the Queen of the soap stars. And her producer has a brilliant idea for upcoming sweeps. A storyline to beat all others. A fairy tale come true.

Sloan Davenport agrees to help his brother-in-law build sets for a soap opera against his better judgment. But it’s a lot more than he expects or wants. It’s a world that he loathes on sight.

Wilda is Kelly’s Guardian. She must succeed in her task for herself and her sisters. But mostly for the two mortals who don’t realize their importance to each other until it’s almost too late.

Fire Goddess has all the best elements of romance; a strong and capable hero, a feisty, yet funny and warm heroine, an intense courtship with nail-biting obstacles and best of all, laugh out loud moments woven around many key parts of the story making this a joy to read. This book has endeared itself onto my "keeper" shelves with that same gentle and sometimes saucy humor.

The reader is first introduced to the four Guardians, sisters who must succeed in helping each of their own choice of mortal find love and happiness. Wilda is first and she chooses Kelly.

Kelly is an extremely hard-edged and convincing soap opera star whose acting persona hides the very real and vulnerable woman underneath. I really liked Kelly--the person--once the author gave me a chance to. It's her depths that engage the reader. Kelly has loving parents and in turn has great love for them, which generates a positive light to the story. Ms. Inman has written about a very healthy and beautiful relationship which tugged my heartstrings and made me feel good.

On the other hand, Kelly has a fiery temper and it is put to good comedic use. At one point, I had a wonderful fit of giggles that even as I type this has me smiling hugely. A bit of the humor is at Sloan's expense.

Sloan is the set designer for the soap opera who is handy with more than just his hammer and hands. He also has a brilliant brain, but that doesn't stop him from being bemused and flummoxed by misinterpretations about Kelly. He's our favorite tall and handsome hero with the added bonus of having a sense of humor, sense of justice and an adoration of pie. I enjoyed reading as he went from total disinterest and annoyance, to seeing our heroine as the person she is, and falling in love with her.

The dialogue was witty, fast paced, moved the plot along smoothly and gave us a solid feel for our character's personalities, quirks and charms.

When Kelly and Sloan finally get together in the romantic sense, you are more than ready because their courtship isn't a smooth or easy one. Yet I found it progressed in a logical manner without tripping over the angst baggage you find in many other stories.

The ultimate conflict is one we've seen used before, but Ms. Inman has put her own clever and nefarious twist on it. I enjoyed the mild paranormal push that dances throughout the story and I also appreciated how Kelly finds the strength within herself to survive and doesn't have to completely rely on Sloan's saving the day.

All in all, Fire Goddess is a wonderful, heartwarming romance and reading it can enhance even your most perfect day.