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Monday, October 31, 2011

Heart of the Desert by Carol Marinelli

Heart of the Desert by Carol Marinelli
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (186 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sheikh Prince Ibrahim refuses to bow to the duty that has destroyed his family, by locking away his emotions and shunning his royal responsibility.

Georgie is just the kind of woman duty demands he should avoid—streetwise, troubled and not interested in being queen—exactly the challenge Ibrahim seeks.

Trapped among the swirling sands, in the burning heart of the desert, Georgie finally surrenders to the brooding rebel prince—yet the law of his land decrees that she can never really be his...

If a reader is looking for a solid character driven romance filled with exotic locales and bittersweet emotions that tug the heart, then Heart of the Desert can deliver that and more.

What a complicated romance Ms. Marinelli wove. Not only is there miscommunication but cultural hurdles need to be navigated, old emotional hurts need to be addressed and the past needs to be hauled out into the light in order for the truth to be revealed. The truth basically is about being so stuck in tradition and believed perceptions from others that characters can’t see any other way to be, to act or to live. It took the weakest member to show what it means to be strong – in heart, in forgiveness and in love.

Georgie is a woman growing. The author lets a reader know how far she’s come and in this tale, I was able to see the finishing touches, the final life experiences that hone the woman she’s always wanted to be and ends up becoming. It’s quite the emotional ride. I liked her spunk and her love of family. I liked watching how she learned to love herself as she was and how she refused to settle for second best. Because she demanded more for herself, she ended up bringing out the best and worst in the hero.

Ibrahim is a fighter. Sometimes I got the idea that even he didn’t know exactly what he was fighting for because he had so many demons tormenting him. At times I sensed his frustration, his yearning and his aggressive need to argue his point of view. He was bound by so many restrictions and demands, both culturally and personally. He too loved his family but it brought pain and sorrow, not joy. It wasn’t until Georgie came into his life that he had an inkling of what was missing, but even that was tainted from the demands of tradition. It was very frustrating for the hero and me alike. How in the world could he reconcile the impossible? How can he want to embrace tradition when it would cost him the very thing that would make it all worthwhile? It was a wonderful conflict and very poignant and I enjoyed how the author handled it.

Another aspect I liked in this book was the sensual build-up, the tension between two people who acknowledged the power of attraction but knew that they should not succumb to it. I enjoyed the hint that the power of the desert wasn’t just words but something more tangible and effective; something that worked with the heart and bypassed the brain. Georgie and Ibrahim were seduced by fate and ensnared by what was truly in their hearts but as yet unrecognized. It was like the desert chose what was best for its children because at times they were their own worst enemies. The author used nature to good effect.

I liked the dialogue-mostly. When Georgie’s sister acted so emotionally out of whack, I wanted to jump to Georgie’s defense. How dare she say what she did! Then again, it was another great example of people wearing blinders…only seeing the person from the past, not the person they became. It reminded me of parents and their kids – to them they’ll always be kids who need their guidance, even when they have kids and jobs and lives of their own. It’s like they never grow up in their eyes and their roles remain stagnant. Sometimes something has to happen to make them see, really see, who they are. I think that happens in this book between the sisters and even between Ibrahim and his dad.

Karim didn’t come across as being a supportive secondary character unless I attribute his constant intrusion as a means of stirring the plot. In that I guess he was successful, but I didn’t like his attitude. In fact both he and Felicity acted more as obstacles than loving family. I didn’t like them.

What I did like was the declaration of love. Now that was romantic! That was great drama, with the kind of ultimate grand gesture that would make a woman swoon and melt into a puddle of goo. That whole interaction between Ibrahim and his dad was powerful and well done. The outcome was a terrific happily ever after that made the whole journey worth it.

Heart of the Desert is complete entertainment. I really enjoyed it and was so happy with how Ibrahim and Georgie arrived at their happy ever after. It wasn’t easy because it was full of strong and heartfelt emotions that got bruised and battered along the way. What came out of the ashes was a relationship that will stand the test of time and the blast of desert winds. It was a fun read.

Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan

Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (264 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Lavender

Hugely successful bestselling author (over 95,000 copies sold through) of sensual, romantic Pride and Prejudice continuations explores unusual aspects of the Regency world, this time following Mr. Darcy's younger sister into the world of classical music.

Noble young ladies were expected to play an instrument, but societal restrictions would have chafed for Georgiana Darcy, an accomplished musician. Her tour of Europe draws the reader into the musical life of the day, and a riveting love story of a young woman learning to direct her destiny and understand her own heart.

Was Pride and Prejudice your favorite Jane Austin book? It was mine, and the story Miss Darcy Falls in Love brings readers back to that world; this time, focusing on Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. I admit, I was also drawn to this book because Georgiana is a musician, and so is the hero of the story, Sebastian, and music happens to be one of my things. It’s also set in Paris, another intriguing quality.

The writing is excellent. The author, Sharon Lathan has a gift for words. The style is clever, and musical symbolism is used at its finest. Musical motifs are blended into the brilliant threads of the story, enhancing the plot. A Regency world is well constructed.

The characters are three-dimensional and quite interesting. Georgiana and Sebastian are great, charming and all-too-human. Their relationship builds so naturally, and the chemistry between them comes alive. Readers can feel their passion. The secondary characters add dashes of wit and sparkle to the book and aid in bringing Georgiana and Sebastian closer.

Suspense is created effectively with the introduction of the impossibly seductive Baron who falls madly in love with Georgiana. He holds great appeal to her. He could very well draw her away from Sebastian. After all, he also shares a great thing in common with her: music, and he’s very attractive. She’s thunderstruck when she meets him.

Other aspects of the plot add interest. Sebastian’s father vehemently insists that Sebastian marries a woman with a title, which Georgiana does not have. Also, Sebastian is expected to come home to England and learn how to be a future earl. However, his heart dictates that he follow his passion for music. How can these things possibly be reconciled?

At any rate, Georgiana experiences a steamy, passionate night with the man who turns out to be her true love.

The love, passion, and excellence of style, as well as the writer’s superior talent with words is sure to win her new fans or satisfy old fans with this one.

Felines and Flowers by Stephanie J. Grace

Felines and Flowers by Stephanie J. Grace
Publisher: Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
Genre: Inspirational, contemporary
Length: Short Story (41 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Fennel

During high school, Warren was just Wendy’s youth pastor. All grown up and shepherding over her own flock of church kids, Wendy Miller turns to her old friend for help. Not that Warren is that old. In fact, the two have a lot more in common than Wendy would have ever thought.

After the death of his wife, Warren was sure he was finished with relationships. Wendy changes that forgone conclusion with her bright spirit and zest for life. Lining up their desires when they’re at very different points in their lives proves a challenge that might take a little divine intervention, or at least help from friends.

In this story Ms. Grace deftly addresses the issue of age differences between hero and heroine. Pastor Warren is a widower, and Wendy Miller was one of his most faithful camp counsellors eight years ago, and is now a youth pastor at another local church.

With skilful use of dialogue the author reveals her hero and heroine’s backgrounds and their impact on present events. Mix in close communities, the gentle rivalries between the two churches and the sometimes intense disapproval of some committee members of both churches when the two pastors combine to present their annual festivities due to budget cuts on one hand and lack of space on the other and you get all the ingredients of a charming story, crammed with many different tensions and conflicts. Conflicts both internal and external. Ms. Grace pairs a bubbly heroine with a serious and introspective hero several years her senior, throws several nay-sayers in their path and then takes the reader on a fluently written journey of how they resolve each and every problem.

The author’s ability to transport this reader into her settings is artlessly achieved. The writing is fluent and carries the powerful flavour of small communities and all the concealed and sometimes open agendas within. The faith of both her hero and heroine is the backbone of the story and at times is sorely tested.

This short story is an ideal read for anyone looking for a gentle story that can carry the reader into another world for a few moments.

The Last Long Journey by Linda Lattimer

The Last Long Journey by Linda Lattimer
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (112 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Geranium

For five years Karen Walker has carried her dead husband’s remains with her, never wishing to release him. She has never forgotten the love they shared or their faith in God. Every night, she would always read a chapter in the Bible to him. Now five years later, she continues to do the same, to the ashes that now reside in the urn by her bedside. She promised five years later to take the same trip they took before he died, this time he is in an Urn and her children are very concerned.

When her journey allows her to meet up with a hitchhiking stranger, Karen feels someone is guiding her to offer Ben Carrey a lift when she heads out to Arizona. While most people would ridicule her, she feels a higher power is urging her to trust this one man who could possibly change her life.

I'm sure many of us have conversations with our dearly departed, but how many of us haul them along for the ride? Karen's bought a special bag to hold the urn that contains the remains of her late husband on her upcoming road trip, giving new meaning to the phrase 'can't let go.' I had to chuckle over the hard time Karen's daughters – both grown and married – give her over the upcoming trip. I was exasperated right along with Karen when they're so concerned about her safety that that make a solid attempt to talk her out of taking the trip at all, and I heaved a sigh of relief when Karen finally pulled out of her driveway.

Karen's journey – literal and figurative – is believable and engaging, and hitchhiker Ben's secret sufficiently intriguing to keep me turning the pages – er, flipping the screens – of this book about as fast as I could manage. The conflict isn't particularly deep, but the pace is rapid, the writing tight, and the descriptions of the landscape had me wanting to call the airline to make a reservation. Both Ben and Karen are Christians, and both have a firm belief in God. No crises of faith in this book, so if that's what you're looking for, this book isn't it. If, on the other hand, you're looking to pass a few enjoyable hours, this one fits the bill to a tee, and I found myself thinking about Karen and Ben, and wondering how they're doing, long after I put the book away.

This bon-bon of a book is a quick read. If you're having a down day – or even if you're not – this little gem is sure to improve your mood.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ghost in the Machine by Barbara J. Hancock

Ghost in the Machine by Barbara J. Hancock
Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (79 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Orchid

Rule number one: Run from the Shadows. Unless one knows the secret that will save you.

A Cybershock story.

I live in a world of waifs and shadows. Live might be an overstatement. I scrounge and scramble and survive in an atmosphere made thick and gray by the ashes of the Fallen. And sometimes I dream of sunlight. My parents were taken, even though they followed all the rules. Never scavenge at night. Never talk to Shadows. Don’t fight the Sweepers. Run. Run. Run.

Now that they’ve taken my little brother, Douglas, I’ve realized I’ve only been surviving for him. I have two choices: Follow him or lie down and die. I can’t just quit after years of struggle. I wouldn’t know how if I tried. Determination is all I have left.

And then I meet him.

He claims to be a rogue who can help me find my brother. It’s got to be a lie. But I don’t run. I stop. I listen. And I make a deal with a Shadow even though I know it will mean the death of me.

Never talk to Shadows.

But no one ever told me what would happen if I kissed one.

The Soul Eater has come to Earth. With the souls gone only shadows remain. Shadows of a life from the past. The few people who avoid the Soul Eater are constantly running from the shadows and sweepers who try to drive them to their master.

Elizabeth, or Bet, returns to her squat to find her young brother Douglas has been taken by a sweeper. Desperate to rescue him before he becomes a shadow, she begins the dangerous journey to the Soul Eater’s lair. Shadows fill the night and Bet must evade them if she is to survive.
Gabriel is a shadow with a difference. He still has compassion and struggles to keep his humanitarian side. Intrigued by Bet he tries to help her.

Bet doesn’t trust Gabriel, but knows that without him she will not succeed with her rescue. Alone for so long, she feels drawn to this shadow who looks like an angel, but is he really trying to lure her into the Soul Eater’s clutches?

The Earth of this novel is dark; full of shadows, dirt and danger. Bet is older than her years due to the need to stay alive and out of the Soul Eater’s clutches. Without going into reams of description, the author made me see the desperate plight of the characters, the darkness and despair. At the heart of it all sat the alien Soul Eater. Like a spider this creature pulled in the emotions, thoughts and dreams of the people of Earth, leaving behind a shadow, a husk without substance.

Gabriel and Bet were at opposite ends of the spectrum. She is a fighter, but assumes he is merely another shadow, a bit different, but still in the thrall of the evil alien. He had to struggle to stay in control. If he failed, the Soul Eater would take him completely.

Ghost in the Machine is a well thought out book although the storyline did tend to wander some at times. I also got a bit confused about the shadows and sweepers, but tended to enjoy the inner thoughts of both characters.

If you like your fantasy set in an alternate future of darkness with a hint of redemption then Ghost in the Machine could be just what you’re looking for.

Dangerous Charade by Elizabeth Means

Dangerous Charade by Elizabeth Means
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Aloe

To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home and becomes an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.

Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea...until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.

Gabrielle was not going to let her uncle marry her to a despicable man just so they could share her fortune and use it to pay his debt. She was not!

This is a historical novel set in the era of English Regency. Women had no power; they were considered chattel. Any money or property they owned became the husband’s after marriage. The correct demeanor for a woman was quiet and shy, with a bit of simpering. She was to look pretty, dress nicely, and bear his children. No talking back, no opinions of her own, and all her activities had to be approved by the husband.

The author immediately shows you that Gabrielle was not cast from that mold. She’s feisty, opinionated, has studied various subjects, and will take guff from no man. If that doesn’t get her in enough trouble, she escapes the man who wishes to marry her and moves to the city where she joins a women’s detective agency where she will work “undercover” as nanny in a big house and her uncle and unwanted suitor won’t be able to find her. Ms. Means makes Gabrielle strong, smart and daring.

Julian is her hero and he has hired Gabrielle as a governess. He doesn’t realize she’s also a detective and is here to investigate his wife’s death. He’s an attractive strong man who finds himself drawn to Gabrielle. Her problem is that she can’t have a relationship with him and do her job.

One of my favorite parts of this story is the banter between the two. They are both determined people with strong personalities. Each time they start to get close to each other, they find the other person has lied or told a partial truth in answer to a question and they draw away.

The author turns the action fast and furious when someone tries to kill Gabrielle. By that point, you’re already on her side and anxious to find the killer yourself. I was very impressed when the killer was revealed and it was someone I had never suspected. It’s not often an author can fool me because I read a lot of murder mysteries, but Ms. Means did that. Kudos to her for a story well written!

Jax and the Corporate Giant by Judi Thoman

Jax and the Corporate Giant by Judi Thoman
Publisher: Sapphire Blue Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (33 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Jax knows she’s the joke of her late father’s prestigious company as she tries to bring down the CEO, Ben Stalk. She didn’t climb the corporate ladder only to be denied her birthright. So what if Ben is not only a brilliant business giant, he’s drop dead gorgeous. Jax isn’t looking for love….
Ben is about to close the biggest venture of his life, if only he can keep Jax from discovering his secret. For eight years he’s walked on eggshells around her, but this time, the stakes have never been higher. He can outmaneuver her, but can he control his heart?

This is a story with a surprise twist I never saw coming. I re-read the book and caught the hints I didn’t understand the first time around. I have to give Ms. Thoman credit for a very clever tale and a very cute romance.

Jax and the Corporate Giant is a book that vibrates with hope and the best traits a person can have. There are hurt feelings in the beginning but a reader will find out that it’s all a matter of interpretation. The author even injected a bit of adorable humor and clever quips which brought the heroine, Jax, to vivid life.

She’s a driven woman who hasn’t had much in the way of personal relationships because she was so focused on proving herself worthy to lead her father’s company. It was a drive that consumed her. So much so, she didn’t realize that there was something more out there, something that really could satisfy the deepest part of her. In this book, she finds out that success comes in many forms, one of which is falling in love. And the lesson she learns is that the things she thinks she wants the most, isn’t what she needs. It’s classic and Ms. Thoman made it work.

Ben was the surprise. He is much more than a corporate giant; he’s a man with a secret. What that turned out to be made my jaw drop. I didn’t realize what kind of paranormal this was initially -- I loved the title and I thought the blurb was well done and that was all I really paid attention to. I’m pretty glad I was clueless because I had the best time being shocked and wowed. I think Ben’s true person was fascinating and rated high on my ‘cool’ meter. The fact that he couldn’t resist the lure of true love made me sigh with gooey happiness. Love is powerful stuff and the fuel that makes dreams come true -- even ones as old as a few centuries.

The author’s description of the perfect kiss was well done and imbued the scene with a sensual and romantic mien that pleased me. In fact, this whole short story was a treat. It’s not a mind bender or a deep drama; Jax and the Corporate Giant is entertainment that satisfies the romantic inside with a sweet touch of optimism and cheek. Based on how the story ended, there are more happy ever afters to come for Ben’s buddies. I just can’t make up my mind who I’d like to read about next. All those guys sounded pretty yummy.

I enjoyed Jax and Ben’s story and I think romance readers short on time will find the book just the right size for a short shot of happy any time they need it. The book reads well and fast and it leaves a warm feeling after all is said and done. Try it and see.

Borealis: That Syncing Feeling by Michelle Levigne

Borealis: That Syncing Feeling by Michelle Levigne
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (57 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Foxglove

On the other side of a space anomaly, Rover Pilot Nureen Keala came face-to-face with her childhood hero. Problem: Creed died fifty years ago in a devastating space battle. Telepathically linked with a shapeshifting creature named Tessur, Nureen had to get her scout craft repaired and get off the Borealis, but she wasn't sure who she could trust. Certainly not this Tedrin Creed look-alike, and maybe not even Tessur. Forget the TPP.

Tedrin Creed had been stuck on the Borealis five years, after falling through the space anomaly during a massive battle. He doubted Nureen's claim to be a Rover -- the uniform and technology were totally wrong. Problem: she sure reminded him of his best friend, "Killer" Keala. Bigger problem: the anomaly was closing, time was running out, and he had to convince someone he didn't quite trust to escape with him now -- or never.

That Syncing Feeling is a sweet and delightful love story, filled with adventure and humor, and unusual creatures.

In orbit around Sestus-3 sits an aging space station under the control of the Trans Planetary Protectorate. The Borealis is slowly falling apart as the TPP funnels its massive resources into the border wars and keeping the outlaying systems in line. The Borealis is a hive of villainy where anything -- or anyone -- can be bought or sold if the price is right. This is one tale of the people on both sides of the law, the beings who inhabit the Borealis.

As the youngest chief pilot for the Galactic Fleet, Nureen Keala is well aware of her responsibilities to the fleet. As a Rover, she has a special affinity for her ships, and needs down time occasionally, taking off in her small ship, the Slipstream. On one such trip, she encounters a vortex similar to the one Creed vanished through, with a small ship calling for help trapped there. As Nureen tries to help, she is pulled into the vortex along with the creature she rescued, a shape morphing being named Tessur.

When they exit in the alternate universe of the vortex, she realizes she is lost. Greeted by beings in a language she doesn’t recognize, she allows Tessur to aid her. When she is taken aboard the aging space station for interrogation, the first face she sees is one though long dead, Tedrin Creed. But he looks no older than the holo vids from home, so she believes he’s an imposter. Creed sees his old friend in this lovely young woman, but believes she is a trap from the TPP to trick him. Can these two come to terms with who they are? Can Nureen uncover the truth about this Tedrin Creed and keep her heart intact? Can they make it back to their own dimension and still find a life together?

Michelle Levigne has added to the Borealis family with a romantic story of finding love where you least expect it, and with the most unlikely couple. I found this to be a fun filled and action packed adventure, with tongue in cheek humor, sweet first love and lots of danger along the way.

Nureen Keala is smart, courageous and a bit of a dreamer. She is following in her grandfather’s footsteps, and trying not to disappoint those in command of the Fleet. She grew up with tales of Commodore Tedrin Creed, the hero who saved the day fifty years ago, then vanished into a vortex in mid battle. All new pilots studied his tactics, but Nureen also had a major teenage crush on him. As her grandfather’s best friend, Creed was often discussed at her home. I loved Nureen, with her daring attitude and her sassy remarks. I liked that she didn’t instantly believe Creed was the real deal, but made him prove his identity.

Tedrin Creed is strong and smart, and has waited five years for the chance to find a way off the Borealis and back home. What he doesn’t know is that five years on Borealis equals fifty years on the other side of the vortex, and that this is what has caused Nureen’s suspicious nature to reject his identity. Once he learns the truth, he understands and plans accordingly. I like Creed’s determination and his tenacity, and the way he finally was able to come to terms with his feelings for his best friend’s granddaughter.

The secondary characters in this are few but interesting. Tessur is a morphing shape changer, able to become anything that is even remotely organic, and this talent saves the day more than once in this adventure. My favorite comic relief was the addition of three TPP scientists assigned to keep watch over Tedrin Creed, Drs. Moek, Kerli and Lairy. They were clueless as to Creed’s intentions, and his ability to trick them was priceless.

There is a bit of adventure and danger as the trio of Nureen, Tedrin and Tessur make their escape from Borealis, and I was on the edge of my seat through most of the story. Do they make it back to their dimension and find a life together? You’ll just have to read That Syncing Feeling to find out.

Desired by Nicola Cornick

Desired by Nicola Cornick
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (378 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Tess Darent’s world is unravelling. Danger threatens her stepchildren and she is about to be unmasked as a radical political cartoonist and thrown into gaol. The only thing that can save her is a respectable marriage. But when it comes to tying the knot Tess requires a very special husband – one who has neither the desire nor the ability to consummate their marriage.

Owen Purchase, Viscount Rothbury cannot resist Tess when she asks for the protection of his name. But he has no intention of making a marriage in name only. Will the handsome sea captain be able to persuade the notorious widow to give her heart as well as her reputation into his safekeeping?

Featherbrained, “shallow as a puddle” are misconceptions that Lady Tess Darent cultivates about herself. Three times a widow, Tess is totally disillusioned about the institution of marriage. Her radical reform work, philanthropy, and her intelligence are secret to all except a few, but her “believed” amoral behavior, her extravagance, and her beauty fascinate and keep the Ton furnished with lots of gossip material. No one knows the fear that haunts her nights and controls so many of her actions.

Tess is a strong heroine who does what must be done to take care of those she loves and defenseless women and children who have been wronged at the whims of men. She is a secret crusader sailing under the false colors of a rule-breaking social butterfly that has no concern for her reputation.

Owen Purchase, Viscount of Rothbury, a friend of Tess’s brothers-in-law, is also a favorite subject for the Ton. American-born, an adventurer, and explorer, Owen inherited a title and all the Rothbury holdings in England. Now he tries to steer his way through English Society while working for the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth. His beloved ship “Sea Witch” sits idle in port. He misses his old way of life on the open seas, but he soon finds intrigue enough as he pursues and is pursued by the inscrutable beauty, Lady Tess Durant.

Nicola Cornick weaves a bevy of secondary characters into the story as Owen and Tess come to terms with the horrors and misdeeds of the past in order to meet new threats and challenges that press in and could get them hanged. If you have read other novels by Ms. Cornick, you will get to catch up with some characters you will recognize, like Tess’s sisters, Joanna and Merryn and their husbands Alex and Garrick; Garrick half-brother, Tom Bradshaw and his wife Emma; and her brother Justin Brooke.

The sub-plots and back story add layers of cruel machination and unconscionable misdeeds as well as some efforts made to atone for past sins. The antagonists range from corrupt politicians to warped and perverted peerage. They raise the stakes in conflicts to help create some pulse-pounding scene as Tess comes closer and closer to being trapped. Of course, the despicable artist Melton sets off one of the major turning points that reveals a new facet of the incredible Tess—lots of excitement.

Desired is chock full of delightful and revealing dialogue, subtle humor, and bit-by-bit falling in love scenes that carry the reader along on a tantalizing and sometime scary journey toward a happy-ever-after for the hero and heroine. The unexpected twists and turns keeps one turning pages. A wonderfully entertaining read.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Pirate and the Professor by Michelle Levigne

The Pirate and the Professor by Michelle Levigne
Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (51 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Aloe

As civilization crumbles, Kiryn realizes the only way to protect her planet from pirates is to become one. She takes up the mantle of her father, a reformed pirate who saved his homeworld.

As captain of the legendary pirate ship, Nova Vendetta, she makes her homeworld a haven for the downtrodden. Then the scholarly representative of a neglected colony comes as a peace envoy and makes her think of more than just surviving. When the two of them are shot down in the badlands of her planet, they become partners to survive, then friends, then maybe something more.

Kiryn trusts no one except her crew and with good reason. Her parents were shot out of the sky while on an ambassador mission. They trusted and now they are dead…

Ms. Levigne does an excellent job of creating a fantasy world that has harsh and unrelenting weather and is full of dangerous animals and plants. She adds enough description to make it seem real. That makes the story much more realistic, even if it is a fantasy.

Kiryn blockades her planet to keep it safe. No one passes the blockade without her approval, which is very hard to get. When a ship arrives with another ambassador on it, she has her doubts about his authenticity and his purpose. However, he has a sharp mind and can bring her a new prospective; she wants someone to talk over strategies with.

The author makes her female character tough and her personality strong. I like that a lot. Darrak is brainy and good looking, but has no real physical strength. He gets his nickname “The Professor” from all the books he reads (I can relate to that!).

It’s fun to watch the two characters dance around each other. She’s not sure she should trust him. He’s attracted to her and hopes for more than a working relationship. And while they are still deciding how to act, their shuttle gets shot down and they end up in a river. She can’t swim; he can. And it’s his book knowledge that keeps them warm and fed while they try to get back to the station.

The story has a nice flow, the author adds plenty of action and danger to it, and the two main characters complement each other well. I really enjoyed reading this one. Why don’t you go take a romp in space and have fun meeting Kiryn and Darrak? If you enjoy fantasy novellas, this is a good one.

Embracing the Lemonade Life by Sandra Sookoo

Embracing the Lemonade Life by Sandra Sookoo
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (63 Pages)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Fennel

Clara Tildon, a cancer survivor, has no time for defeatism. She’s opened up the Cute as a Button B & B in Bridgewater, Indiana, and along with her guinea pig, is embracing the lemonade lifestyle. Everything is perfect, except for the nagging sensation that she would still like to fall in love.

Jake Yates has returned to Bridgewater, the town he grew up in, for his friend’s wedding and he’s not happy about it. The people of Bridgewater can keep their small town life, it’s in his past and that’s where he intends it to stay. Even loneliness can’t make him reconsider his decisions.

A chance meeting. A fleeting kiss. Suddenly two polar opposites get a unique chance at love. But can Clara give up living in the moment long enough to see Jake as an opportunity she needs to plan for? Can Jake alter his well-laid plans to fit Clara in his life? Or will they both let love get away?

In this month of Cancer Awareness, Sandra Sookoo’s Embracing the Lemonade Life, encompasses the subject with skill and compassion. Her heroine, Clara, is in remission when Jake comes into her life and kicks the jacks from beneath her ‘live for the moment’ philosophy.

The owner of the small-town bed-and-breakfast, Clara fled from the city to a place where she’d find community support and friendship, and it’s not long before Jake discovers she’s treasured by the locals. The same locals and environment he fled when he left school and found success in the city.

This author uses Jake’s ignorance of Clara’s illness to inform her readers of the profound effects of living with cancer. Information readers may ‘know’ about from general information. By using Jake’s point of view and creating such a powerful empathy for her heroine, Ms Sookoo's skillful presentation of the medical information and its impact on a patient and their loved ones influenced this reader.

Clara and Jake have their faults and their fears. The secondary characters, tiny though their on-stage appearances are, have a definite impact on them both, influencing their actions and assumptions.

Ms. Sookoo’s fluent writing style entices. Her gift to create intense emotions and visual settings drew this reader in to such an extent that returning to reality at the end of the story was mind-jerking. And yet around the serious message the author offers many laugh-aloud moments.

Her depiction of Jake’s journey from disillusionment to sharing Clara’s belief in ‘living for the moment’ is handled with great compassion.

For Clara, Ms Sookoo teaches her to accept help from those who love and care for her instead of assuming they are acting out of sympathy.

In Embracing The Lemonade Life the author takes a hard-hitting subject and weaves a tender tale of love, hope, and joy that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.