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Friday, October 29, 2010

Wolf Fever by Terry Spear

Wolf Fever by Terry Spear
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (399 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Fate turned nurse Carol Woods into a wolf, but she refuses to let being a lupus garou define her life. Ordered by her pack leader to find a mate and commit to shifting, there is only one gray wolf that catches Carol's interest; but Chaz McKinley makes it very clear that unless she's willing to accept what she is, he wants nothing to do with her. When a virus outbreak leaves local pack members trapped in their wolf form, will Chaz and Carol learn to trust each other before it's too late for the pack and their one chance at true love?

Who ever heard of biological warfare against werewolves actually succeeding? This is another great story from the mind of Ms. Spear sure to amaze and intrigue readers of her wonderful series; and even garner new fans.

Carol Wood isn’t a pushover. The story revolves around a young woman who had dreams and goals and finds herself now a werewolf. She doesn’t want to give anything up but being a werewolf has certainly derailed the plans she made for her life. It’s all about compromise, yet Carol won’t budge an inch. She has this ability that confounds her alpha and pack and sometimes makes her the odd one out. This talent of which she tried to exercise great control over comes at a cost and it plays into the plot quite effectively. She also has some inner pain that gets dealt with.

And isn’t it romantic that Ryan wants to help? Not that his help is wanted initially. That made for some interesting reading. I liked Carol’s character. When things get nasty, her strengths shine – she’s smart, has a clever brain process, is dedicated and goes after what she wants. She’s feminine enough to feel insecure at times when confronted with what she sees are perfect werewolf females, until Ryan has her believing what he sees in her. I found that quite romantic. She’s also woman enough to fight for her man, even when he tells her to ‘stay put’. I really liked that about her.

Ryan is the hero. On top of that, he’s a yummy Scotsman as well as an alpha. I like that he did his own thing and is his own man but still respected the local alpha. Although he’s visiting and states that he’s tying up a loose end, he’s determined to keep Carol safe and he’s not quite sure why. I really enjoyed his slow fall into love. He actually got hit with Cupid’s arrow early on but he didn’t recognize the fact and that made me smile. He’s such a guy. He’s also a great protector and he’s tenacious, all good traits.

A lot of the secondary characters are familiar to readers of previous books but for first time readers, if they jump into the series with this story, they’ll feel like they’re getting a complete picture. It stands alone just fine because this story is carried by Carol and Ryan. The intrigue started in a previous book but this one blows it right open so instead of being teased, a reader gets the whole enchilada. There is terrific suspense, action and even comedic moments to keep a reader fascinated and interested. When Carol and Ryan get together and they explore the physical aspect of their budding relationship, it’s sensual, passionate and very well written. There are some bittersweet moments among the secondary characters as well. Everyone had a job in this story for good or ill, and they’re all very well fleshed out and I believe accomplished whatever the author needed them to do. Another reason I enjoyed this book is that it gave me a sense of community which provided more shocking power to the maniacal plot.

Wolf Fever is another winner of a story that kept me on the edge with its unique master storytelling and plot. There are villains of different flavors and degrees that prevented me from guessing which way Ms. Spear was going to go. I enjoyed the brisk dialogue and the insights it gave me as I read. I liked Carol and Ryan as a couple and Ryan’s sister is a hot ticket. The quality of writing is as strong as ever and a must read for paranormal wolf fans who enjoy a romance laced with humor along with great suspense. It sure made it a hard to put down book. For me, I didn’t want to stop reading, even when it was time to go to bed. Who wants sleep when they’re in the middle of reading a story by Ms. Spear? Her writing is pure entertainment.

Tarnished Knight by Shiloh Walker

Tarnished Knight (Grimm’s Circle Book 4) by Shiloh Walker
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (124 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Holly

The mind forgets, but the body remembers. Everything.

Grimm’s Circle, Book 4

One look at Jack Wallace and Perci knows he’s going to be trouble. Even surrounded by soul stealers, he’s a one-man wrecking crew. What does he need Grimm training for? He’s already hell on earth, a warrior bent on destruction. And something…more.

He’s too strong and fast to be a mere mortal. Even covered in blood, he makes her forget she’s only here to do a job and get out. It’s twisted. Sick. She hasn’t felt this alive in three centuries.

Born with a natural talent for killing unnatural things, Jack has always known things he shouldn’t. The fact that Perci is one of them glows all over her. Giving him an unholy urge to see just how far he can push her before don’t touch me melts into touch me there.

When they come together, it isn’t careful or cautious. It’s heaven and hell, exposing all their raw and wounded places to healing heat, resurrecting memories of a destined love from the distant past. But the evil that destroyed them once before has tracked them here, threatening their second and last chance at forever. Demanding a sacrifice no one—Grimm or human—should ever be asked to make…

Luc and Perci were married…once upon a time, three hundred years ago. Until Luc’s mother went insane and tortured and killed them both, along with their unborn twins. Three hundred years later, Perci and Luc are Grimm: guardians of mortals, protecting them from the demons that would possess them. But it is time for both to move on, and not together; after all they have been divorced for three centuries.

It is time for Perci to begin to live again, and she can’t do that with Luc, because a part of her still blames him for everything, and although she loves him, it is not the kind of love he needs. When Perci meets her new assignment, sparks fly, in more ways than one. Jack Wallace knows things he shouldn’t know as a mortal. He can recognize demons, he can destroy them faster than a mortal should, and he knows about the Grimm. Most important, he makes Perci feel alive for the first time in three hundred years. Can Perci train Jack to be what she is? Now that Perci is feeling again, can she face the past and move on? Will Jack discover who, and what, he was?

Shiloh Walker has created a world where fairy tale characters are real people, just not as sweet. These folks are demon hunters, guardians of humans in this modern world. I love how Shiloh Walker finds a way to turn something so familiar into a new and different story. This one is based on a tale of a woman named Persinette, who served as the basis for the Rapunzel fairy tale. It is an intriguing story of love, betrayal, and renewal, with a hidden history between the main characters. I loved the “flashbacks”, small glimpses into the past shared by Perci and Jack so long ago.

Perci is Grimm, and she has stayed with Luc, her ex husband for over three centuries, for all the wrong reasons. She is strong, courageous and one of the best of the Grimm in a fight. But until the powers that be separate her and Luc, she is filled with pain and regret and blame for her past experiences. I loved watching her find her inner strength, and learn to live and love again.

Jack is human, but more. Tall, strong and sexy, he sets off alarms in Perci’s mind, while igniting a flame inside her, in places she thought long dead. Jack doesn’t understand why he knows things, he just does. His mother was a Grimm, until she gave up her wings, so he has always known about them, as well. I loved that his past didn’t just come rushing back all at once, but came in small peeks here and there.

The secondary characters are all here. Will, the leader they all answer to, is here, but this time there is a vulnerability not seen in him before. I like the small things that make him a more sympathetic character, especially when it concerns Mandy, from a prior book. I look forward to her story in some future book, and I hope to revisit the others from the series as they drop in to help kick demon butt. This is a great reading experience for those who still believe, in their hearts, that fairy tales can come true.

Descent Into Darkness by Laura Hogg

Descent Into Darkness by Laura Hogg
Publisher: Moongypsy Press
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (142 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Duncan Amberley has come back from war, fighting Napoleon's men on a ship. Clarissa Hale is a lovely shopkeeper with a great sense of humor. A heroic heart rests inside this insecure, intelligent beauty, and she will be called to prove it. Clarissa and her love are pitted against each other for the sake of their families and some terrible accusations. She will be in constant peril as she gathers evidence to convict Duncan's dangerous brother of a harrowing crime. Duncan's heart breaks when he discovers something about Clarissa's sister. Can their love survive the results of their investigations? They devise a dangerous plan to get to the truth, which brings them into the heart of Napoleon's camp in 1812 Russia as spies. Risking everything, they must get to the truth.

The cover alone would make me start reading Descent Into Darkness, although the title kicks off the intrigue quite nicely. It is 1811 and we find Miss Clarissa Hale, shopkeeper, trudging down the road.

The minor plights that beset Clarissa – and brother Gilbert – at the start, are just a beginning to the challenges Clarissa will face. From her first trudging steps through the bleak landscape and fog, we quickly become acquainted with her rather tough and determined approach to life. She hasn’t all the advantages – but she copes with reality uncomplainingly. Her brother calls her “a gem,” and we readers are inclined to agree.

Perhaps we're less enthusiastic during our first meeting with Captain Amberly; although he is gentlemanly we cannot care for his companions. Clarissa is too aware of his interest… and of his what might be less than honorable intentions. In her reduced circumstances, could that indeed be the best she could hope for? She has no doubt about what she requires – at least, at the first. For this book is truly a romance, and love may sway a heart, even one so steadfast and honorable as Clarissa’s. Before chapter one is complete, we readers find ourselves thoroughly entangled in her hopes dreams and doubts.

Amberly certainly is attractive and, what is more, manages to say the right things. He likes educated women (good heavens!) he speaks of music… and we wonder if Clarissa's heart will betray her. At the start, it is easy to believe her love will cause her descent into darkness…that this is all a carefully woven romance, but it is more. There is more waiting for young Clarissa; from a dangerous journey to a kidnapping, and before her is a darkness we could not have predicted. What seems a subtle romance actually involves a tangled tale of mystery and intrigues around the war. Shared sorrows unite some – but loyalties and family have a huge role to play here. The unpredictable nature of this story combines with the well-maintained tone and believable characters to keep the interest building throughout. Specifics of the war are perhaps a tad complex, but one need not know the details of the conflict to understand the challenges to various people loyalties, or how differing loyalties could tear a family apart.

The pace and setting of this historic romance seem perfect. The dialogue is different enough to hint at the year, without being extreme enough to distract. The courtesies of the day are carefully observed (or acknowledged at least, for we must admit that Clarissa is not of the upper classes.)

The shop, their ‘regulars’ and even their goods are all wonderfully appropriate and become a remarkably visible backdrop for much of the tale. The family members – even the remembered sorrows, give wonderful depth to even lesser characters.

Any fan of the historic romance will enjoy Descent in Darkness.

Game Over by Taylor Keating

Game Over by Taylor Keating
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (405 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

Video game designer River Weston is ready to sell her soul to smooth out the glitches in her latest project. When she unwittingly taps into a parallel dimension via cutting-edge technology, a Dark Lord is quick to take her up on her inadvertent offer. Trapped in the world she thought she’d created for her game, River finds herself in a very real alternate dimension that she must escape from before her soul can be used to unleash evil--upon this dimension and many others.

River’s only ally is the sexy and mysterious Chase Hawkins. A prisoner of the Dark Lord, Hawk is a man adrift—literally. His body safe at home under the watchful care of the Guardians’ scientists, his astral-traveling spirit has been enslaved by his people’s worst enemy, the Dark Lord. Clinging desperately to his sense of self, Hawk is determined to turn the tables on his captor before the connection to his body is lost. When the beautiful, achingly familiar River enters the picture, he vows he will do everything he can to save her from her bleak fate.

Drawn together with an inescapable force, Hawk and River must wrest her soul from the Dark Lord’s grasp before it’s too late.

A thrill-ride you won’t soon forget.

Game Over is one of the more involved books I’ve read in a while. Once I grabbed the book, I couldn’t put it down, for fear I’d miss something. The writing is fast paced and tight, which kept me involved with the story for the full four hundred and five pages. The characters are intriguing and there are plenty of plot twists. I must admit, I’m not a gamer, nor do I get the whole video game genre, but in this book, it worked. Yes, there were times when I had to go back and re-read to make sure I hadn’t missed something or confused myself, but it was worth it.

River is a conundrum. She has created a nice little overworked space for herself. She wants loved and has a secret obsession with Sever. Although she could’ve taken the path of shrinking violet when she’s thrust into her game, she doesn’t and it’s a nice change.

Chase “Hawk” Hawkins is a man with issues. He belongs to the Dark Lord and it took me a bit to figure him out but I enjoyed it. He’s strong, capable, and what I want to wake up to in the morning. He's got a connection to his body, as he's a virtual player as River is, but when he sees her, the connection is more than a passing fancy. i liked that he needed to protect her, even above his own welfare. Nice trait in a mate.

If I have any complaints with this book, it’s that its very intricate. You have to really pay attention. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for a breezy read, this one might not fit your bill. Still, I liked the book and would recommend it to those who love a good sci-fi story. I give Game Over 3.5 books.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For Mercy's Sake by Carol A. Spradling

For Mercy's Sake by Carol A. Spradling
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (292 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Widowed Anna Sinclair is stunned when life long friend Daniel Mercy asks for her hand at the funeral of her deceased husband. Destitute and expecting, she’s in no position to turn him down.

Married in secret to the woman he’s always loved, Daniel Mercy ineffectively skirts Charleston's town gossips. Glares and whispers are easy to evade, until Daniel is accused of murdering Anna’s late husband.

When Anna is kidnapped, she discovers the one secret Daniel has hidden from her.

Friction, fire, a funeral, and foreclosure force Anna Sinclair into a situation that fuels the gossip of Charleston. Ignorant of her dead husband Seth’s clandestine dealings, she has a multitude of things to come to terms with, even the possibility of being blackmailed by Seth’s dissipated co-conspirator, Alexander Glass. Daniel Mercy, her life-long friend and secret love since her childhood, is with her supporting and loving every step of the way.

Daniel Mercy is a hero to love. He is patient, loyal, honest, and takes responsibilities seriously — maybe too seriously. No one can doubt his love for Anna. His focus is always for her well-being and happiness even if it is at the expense of his own. However, his flaw of not being able to see his supposed-friend’s duplicity threatens his shipping business and the well-being of his family. His trusting nature puts much at risk.

An intriguing cast of supporting characters makes for great reading. The winsome Grandma Pen with her wisdom and humor never loses sight of the goal, but she does cause much ado at times. She is a sweetie that makes one chuckle.

Camille and Genevieve, supposed-friends of Anna, lead double lives that augment the intrigue and conflicts. They are secondary characters that play unique roles that bring twists and turns to the plot. Camille’s brother, Alexander Glass, is the major antagonist that has a cruel streak that touches everyone’s lives. His greed and horrible deeds create some intense situations. How his machinations are overcome makes heart-pounding reading.

Carol A. Spradling is a terrific storyteller. She weaves foreshadowing clues, secret dealings, mystery, and suspense in with a beautiful love story. She kept me reading in a hurry. The ways she pulls everything together to defeat the bad guys is amazing.

Thoroughly enjoyable!

Play with Fire by Cindy Davis

Play with Fire by Cindy Davis
Publisher: L & L Dreamspell
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Heat Level: sweet
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Who wants John Bloom, the owner of the local nursery, dead?

Angie Deacon has a new career, co-owner of Alton Bay, New Hampshire’s community theater. After her divorce life is good once again. Until opening night when the co-star—played by love interest Detective Colby Jarvis—shoots the star. Who substituted Jarvis’ real gun for the prop gun? And why would anyone want the star dead? In his day job he owns the local nursery.

The central concept of Play with Fire by Cindy Davis involves a murder… and events oddly start out center-stage, during the new play at the local community theater. It is one of those theaters where the locals jump in to performances: and who’d have guessed the local police Detective Jarvis would have such a gift for acting? But as it turns out, some events are all too real.

Theater owner/star and our heroine, Angie Deacon, sets out to present a fabulous show… and ends up entangled in sorting out a murder. Jarvis is involved immediately – and on so many levels! Angie’s suspicions swing from one potential killer to the next, but she’s both clever and insightful, and we never doubt she’ll be successful. This is more intrigue than suspense – there’s danger out there, but we’re confident that she’ll handle it.

I liked the casual quips/jazzy dialogue “Who’d a thunk it” and the like. Ms. Davis’ characters really come to life through their own voices. Even minor characters make some grand entrances: “He wore a long coat and a fedora like the one Bogie wore in Casablanca. His face was obscured beneath the tipped-down brim of the hat. An actor. Had to be. Come to audition for something.”

Everything about this work plays up the drama. Every incident drives toward some unpredictable event; even the search for the unknown pet, that seemed so minor and simple at the start, becomes suspenseful. Every incident sends us scurrying along some renewed and unpredictable path. Friendships, betrayals and emotional challenges confront the whole cast of characters – some of whom are indeed actors, even while they are all actually something else. To uncover the motive in this case, Angie has the upper hand in knowing most of the people quite well; but it's sorting out some events of the past that will show her that not everyone is the person they seem to be.

The romantic part of this is a little atypical, but definitely an important, and a subtly developed part of the overall.

Play with Fire is one of those stories that is so beautifully written you forget you are reading it; you must know what happens. It's engaging and intriguing, the characters seem real, and the backdrop, Alton Bay New Hampshire, is simply perfect. I’d like to sit at the real Shipley’s and read this again, and listen for the MV Mt. Washington’s horns sound in the distance.

Kudos to Cindy Davis - can’t wait for the next one.

Undertow by Moira Rogers

Undertow (Building Sanctuary Book Two) by Moira Rogers
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (87 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Holly

Being needed isn’t half as desirable as being wanted.

Building Sanctuary, Book 2

Victor left behind a life of crime to focus on a new vision—helping his alpha build an island sanctuary for werewolves. Harsh experiences prepared him for the hardships involved, except when it comes to dealing with the young female refugees of the brutal Boston pack—especially Simone, who rouses his inner wolf like no other. A woman he must resist, or risk becoming just the latest man to make demands on her.

Born to wealth and privilege, Simone lost everything when she fell for the seductive whispers of the textile heir who turned her. Once adrift, now she is fired by a new sense of purpose—the chance to broker peace between werewolves and European wizards. Yet even as Europe beckons, her instincts—the same ones that led to trouble before—keep drawing her back to Victor.

During a sailing trip to the mainland for supplies, Victor finds it impossible to hold himself aloof from the warm, engaging Simone. And when a winter storm traps them together during a full moon, she breaks through his walls so easily and completely, the question is no longer how he’ll stay away, but how he’ll let her go.

Staying silent can build walls not easily torn down. This is especially true when the two people involved want the same thing, but don’t realize it.

Simone believes that Victor hates her, because he turns away from her. What she doesn’t know is that Victor wants her with everything in him, but doesn’t think he is deserving of her, and believes she loves James, the wizard. It is when they spend time together that the walls finally come down, and they are able to share their inner feelings. When a sudden storm strands them together on a small island, what blooms between them is more than lust; it is a true and lasting love that is more than either could have expected. Will their love survive being rescued? Can these two keep the lines of communication so necessary to them open? Will they accept the roles so necessary for the success of the Sanctuary being established?

Moira Rogers has always captivated the reading audience with the richly detailed worlds created in her books about Sanctuary. This book carries on in the tradition so well established. The setting of the Great Depression, when times were hard, has been shown in marvelous detail. The effects that the time had on wolves as well as humans is well detailed and not glossed over. Times were tough, and this gives the reader a sense of being there, with all the hardships and deprivations inherent in the time. But it also showcases the strengths of those determined to survive, no matter what.

Simone is my favorite character for this series. She is strong, but gentle, helping all of the girls “turned” by the evil and twisted Edwin from book one of this series. She feels guilty for not protecting them, but does what she can to help them survive. I loved watching her discover herself and her strengths while she was learning how to bring Victor out of his shell. And I cheered when she was finally able to take what she wanted from life and accept that she was not to blame.

Victor has been many things in his life; a scoundrel, a killer and a criminal. He believes that his past makes him unworthy of a woman like Simone, and yet, he wants her more than life itself. I loved watching him grow and open up to become the man he was meant to be, the mate he was destined to become.

I loved the slow buildup of emotion between these two, and the very explosive union once they came together. This is a story that exposes the inner secrets of two people meant to be together, and the searing passion that finally lays all of their fears and ghosts to rest, freeing them to live and love together. This is a riveting story, and a fantastic addition to the Sanctuary world as a whole.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wolf Island by Cher Gorman

Wolf Island by Cher Gorman
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
Pages: Full Length (240 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Magnolia

When ultra-conservative schoolteacher Abigail Chapel learns that her sister Miranda has disappeared while hunting ghosts on mysterious Wolf Island, she takes a leave of absence to continue the investigation in person.

Devlin Morgan, the reclusive owner of Morgan’s Keep, coolly turns away her inquiries, and the villagers, who respect Devlin, refuse to cooperate, as well. Worse still is her own unwanted attraction to him. Especially once she begins to suspect he’s involved with her sister’s disappearance and the mysterious “Chiming Ghost.”

In order to solve the mystery of her missing sister, she’ll also have to probe Devlin’s dark past, discover the truth about the “ghost.” and decide whether to trust the passion in her heart or play it safe and return to England. Whatever happens, she’ll never be the same when she leaves Wolf Island.

Wolf Island had me from the first page. I truly expected another run-of-the-mill werewolf story, and was pleasantly surprised to find a wonderfully romantic story full of suspense and mystery. As a reviewer, I feel it is my duty to be honest and fair in my reviews, because, let's face it, reviews are supposed to be for the readers who spend their hard earned money on books. For me to give an author a Best Book rating is nearly unheard of, but Wolf Island deserves to be a top pick.

Ms. Gorman is a wonderful writer who paints a scene as well as if she was using oils instead of a keyboard. The story flows from one scene to the next seamlessly, and the intrigue is built layer by layer until the reader is on the edge of their seat just waiting to read what happens next. The sex scenes are wonderfully written, without the graphic nature of erotic romance, so they read not only as titillation but romantic interludes that are believable. The lead characters are realistic. The hero is masculine, gorgeous, strong, but also vulnerable, determined and likable. The heroine is pleasant, determined and feminine. The attraction between the two is instant and hot, filled with angst due to the circumstances, yet the chemistry is evident and cannot be denied. And the happily ever after is just as sweet as every romance fan expects.

Rarely do I read a book that stays with me after I've finished the final page but Wolf Island is one I will remember and re-read one late, stormy night when the wind is howling, strange noises echo through the darkened house, and lightning punctuates the suspense. Read Wolf Island by Cher Gorman, I bet you will love it as much as I do.

Cinderella & The CEO by Maureen Child

Cinderella & The CEO by Maureen Child
Publisher: Harlequin
genre: Contemporary, holiday
Length: Full Length (184 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by: Xeranthemum

Scrooge had moved in next door and Ivy Holloway was at his mercy. Billionaire Tanner King wanted her year-round Christmas-tree farm shut down so he could have his peace and quiet. He had enough money and power to do it, too. Leaving Ivy with only one option—tame the savage beast.

Tanner had found little tranquillity thanks to his annoying neighbor. And then he found himself saddled with a gorgeous housekeeper he couldn't keep his mind—or hands—off. Trouble was, these two women were the same person…leaving the CEO wondering if he could really love his enemy.

Start off the holiday season with redeeming Scrooge by giving him a dog and a song in his heart.

Tanner is a man who needs saving and he’s surrounded by elements that seem like a conspiracy to do exactly that. He lives next to a tree farm but it’s not just any old tree farm and it is driving him barmy. Tanner is a controlled character, an isolationist who rationalizes it by saying he needs to focus on his work and he can’t have any distractions. None, nada, zip. As a romance reader I knew a cry for help when I read one and he’s shouting loud and clear. I liked how the author led a reader to gradually get to know him and to recognize the hurt child inside the man. How can a reader remain unmoved by that?

Ivy is Tanner’s tenacious, sunny and pesky neighbor. She is a woman who believes in the impossible becoming a reality. Her first love is the tree farm but she quickly takes on Tanner as a challenge. She starts off with one agenda but learns fast that she’s created a sticky wicket for herself. It creates a moral quandary for Ivy and she has to navigate which pain will be harder to handle. Eventually, as goes most romances that use this plot tool, it blows up in her face. The mark of her character is how she deals with it and Hairy the dog is the key.

Both characters are likable and entertaining. First Tanner pushes away then holds on; Ivy chases then backs off. It’s a relationship dance whose steps must navigate past hurts, misconceptions, betrayal and tentative hope before the light bulb pops on and love shines as clear as day. Tanner truly endeared himself to me because he messed up on so many levels. Everything he tried to do backfired but he didn’t quit. Yes he got hurt and the author made that clear to me. He was a man, as vulnerable as can be with only bad examples to fall back upon to make up for his errors; which of course compounded the problem.

When he made his last ditch effort to change and to reach out, a reader would be hard pressed not to be affected by such an earnest entreaty. His turnaround is what brings this tale to the forefront of quality romance. The whole scene that unfolds when he chases and catches Ivy warmed my heart and made me sigh in happiness. Finally the truth comes out and makes the happily ever after possible.

Secondary characters are Tanner’s best friend and Ivy’s grandfather. Both show up to prod the hero or heroine to think or act and move the plot along where the author needed it to go. Others are the tree farm workers and some of the town residents. Ms. Child used them all in an effective manner to impart a sense of close community which actually played as another key motivation in the story.

Cinderella & the CEO is a romantic entertaining read that will bring smiles and sighs to readers and fans of love’s redemptive powers. Tanner and Ivy’s relationship will touch heartstrings as the hero is brought back into the land of the living and he rediscovers the joy that the Christmas holiday is all about. The positive and optimistic emotion it brings forth isn’t for one season but for all year long and this reader enjoyed being reminded of that. I’d recommend reading this story just for the sheer fun of it.

Unbreak my Heart by Melissa Miller

Un-Break My Heart by Melissa Miller
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Length: Short Story (63 pgs)
Genre: Contemporary
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

After suffering from abuse for several years, Lizzy decides to brave Mark's wrath and leave. She starts a new life in Florida and begins to blossom under the attention of Logan, the manager of her new diner. Will Lizzy get her happy ending? Will she be able to put her past safely behind her? Or will the abusive relationship she endured for so long come back to haunt her?
Miller daringly takes on presenting an abused woman as the main character in Un-Break My Heart. Elizabeth's superficial bruises reveal her situation, with Mark. Elizabeth 'Lizzy' is desperate to get out and to stop kidding herself. She has a plan - which the author sums up for us in only a couple of paragraphs. Lizzy's extrication from a terrible situation is quick and seems surprisingly easy. It's a little unbelievable - and fails to generate much feeling in the reader.

Then Logan Anderson steps into the picture; and at last we find Lizzy experiencing some real emotion. We can sympathize with both the threat of her past and her hopes for the future. We slowly gain a real view of Lizzy - who she was, and how she intends to make a new life for herself. Dialogue is definitely the best part of this part-romance, part thriller. In spite of her past, we, as readers, are ready to cheer when she actually begins to trust Logan. Hope comes through loud and clear in the central part of this story.

It's too easy for us to forget... but the threat was and is real, and you know that there is something unexpected coming. There are a few real goosebump moments in this one! There is also that threat, and the firm reality that bad people do exist...

I liked Miller's approach, and the central part of this story. Some of it was simply told, however. From the main character to the plot itself, we stand a bit too distant from feelings and action. Too much is explained in flat narrative instead of showing us what's happening.  Still, I give it 3 books for very readable.