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Don’t miss our Interview with Scott Nova, MR. BTS 2014 on page 69!

on the cover

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Author and Actor Tara Cardinal is taking on new roles as a producer, director, actress and writer.

contents May/June 2014



23 Chic Trends in Romance

Scott Nova



55 The Hot Hunks of History RICHARD THE LIONHEARTED

77 The Heat Diva


101 The Scrying Eye



149 Forever Young


163 BTS Goes Hollywood



32 CD Mitchell 35 Nana Prah 41 D. Bryant Simmons 62 Sabrina Jeffries 67 Julie LeMense 83 Melissa Keir 87 Sierra Cartwright 90 Kate Douglas 93 Charity Parkerson 116 Brian Mooreland 129 Myra Nour 135 R.A. McCandless 139 Judith Legar 145 C.A. Szarek 155 Jan Milusich 158 Kimber Leigh Wheaton 168 Dianne Duvall 170 Shayne Leighton

stories & serials

73 97

by Myra Nour


From the Desk of

Myra Nour BTS CEO

Spring is in full bloom and BTS has created many new promo opportunities to match the freshness heralded by Spring. BTS Goes Hollywood: BTS kicks off our new section BTS Goes Hollywood this issue with actor, producer and writer Tara Cardinal. Cover Sales: Our newest big promotion is the Cover Sales. Authors, have you ever wanted to be on the cover of a magazine? Now you can have the chance. Click here for details. Features in the BTSemag: We now have 2 new styles & pricing for features, along with the established 2 page ($100) feature. Pay only $50 for a 1-page Sneak Peak or $75 for a 1-page Author Interview. Benefits to Bloggers: BTS loves bloggers. Without their promotional help, our numbers wouldn’t be nearly as good for the magazine. To say thanks, we have several ways bloggers can earn benefits by working with us. Click here for details. Publisher & Author Brochures: Publishers and authors can read or download the PDF of our separate brochures. In it, they will find all our pricing and detail information about our promotions, learn how we do our extensive promotions, and how we achieve the readership numbers, as well as social media reach. Click to read: Publisher Brochure or Author Brochure Triberr: BTS now has Triberr, and we are over 700,000 reach in contacts. Please join us as Tribemates. bts New Columnists: BTS welcomes Alex Bardy as our newest columnist. Alex will be sharing some of his favorites in the S/F & Fantasy genre. Look for his brilliant British wit in the S/F & Fantasy area of the magazine.

BTS Book Reviews Book & Trailer Showcase

Executive Coordinator Myra Nour Executive Designer Dawn Seewer Promotions Director Babs Hightower Production Assistant/ Designer Cyrene Olson Designer Mike Milliken Editor Sheri Kraft Associate Editor Kellyann Zuzulo Review Coordinator Annette Stone Author Liaison Leslie Ferdinand Yahoo Promotions/ Ad Coordinator Simon Nour Scheduler/ Promotions Assistant Christy Wilhelm Hollywood Interviewer: Danita Minnis

REVIEWERS: Annette Stone, Tim Davis, Drue DePompeiHoffman, Francine Alli, Leslie Ferdinand, Lynda K. Frazier, Marie Haney, Niina Cord, Rachel Flash, Rhonda Dennis, Stephanie Phillips, Susan Frances, Michele Biring-Pani, Sally Manson, Krissy Malott, Shelly Schulz, Priyanka U. Patel, Nila Bi, Shan McKinney, Shelly Hammond, Beckey White, Iris Montalvo Pross, Patricia Costa Melo, Gypsie Holley, Anita Rivers, Cassandra G., Dave Franklin, Savannah Mae, Abbie Foxton, Nicky Peacock, Michelle Willms, Dianne Solberg, Julie L Canfield, Michele Page, Tobyann Aparisi, Adeshr Rampat, Danielle S., Babs Hightower, Taunya Wells, Crystal Guidroz, Ioana Giju, Christina Torretta, Udita Banerjee, Namrata Parakh, Colleen Cook, Joss Landry, Jake Trauberman, Michele Boylan, Steve Liddick, Karen Fainges, Emma Mullins, Geri, Nancy Levine, Janice Ross, C. S. Johnson, Dm. L. Carter, SharaLee Podolecki, Brenda Lang, Elaine White, SharaLee Topnik, Kristy Nowinsky, Christie Mitchum, Jorja Davis, Tim Lasiuta, Sasha Hibbs, Diana Silva, Stacie Carrier, Sheryl, Arushi Raj, Brittany Hale, Lisa Klaes, Nazia Siddiqua, Tanya Johnson, Shana Festa, Julie Whiteley, Danielle Stone, Negar Arvanaghi, Elizabeth Holley, Dana Rettig, Nathifa Swan COLUMNISTS: Alex Bardy, Sandra Bunino, Christy English, Kelly Hudson, Nikki McCarver, Nicole Morgan, Kellyann Zuzulo No material in this magazine can be used or copied without BTS or the author’s permission. © Copyright 2014. BTSeMag, BTS Book Reviews, All Rights Reserved. By submitting material to BTS Book Reviews or its affiliates, authors certify they own the rights to all published information.

May/June 2014 | 9

May/June 2014 | 10

| Industry Insider |

Publisher Spotlight Looking for some fantastic reads? Check out the wonderful books these publishers have waiting for you!

May/June 2014 | 11

| Industry Insider |


2014 Conventions RT Booklovers Convention May 13-18. 2014 New Orleans

Indie Romance Convention September 11-14, 2014 Nashville, TN

Santa Barbara Writers Conference June 7-12, 2014 Santa Barbara, CA

Southern California Writers’ Conference Sept. 19-21, 2014 Newport Beach, Calif.

Southeastern Writers Workshop June 13-17, 2014 St. Simons Island, Georgia Workshop.html

Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers’ Conference Sept. 25-27, 2014 St. Augustine, Florida

RomCon® 2014 June 20-22, 2014 Denver, CO

RomantiCon® 2014 October 9-12, 2014 Canton, Ohio

Romance Novel Convention July 9-13, 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada Romance Writers of America 34th Annual Conference July 23–26, 2014 San Antonio, TX Writer’s Digest Conference August 1-3, 2014 New York City, NY


COVER feature

Author and Actor Tara Cardinal is taking on new roles as a producer, director, actress and writer, and finding out new ways on making the world a better, happier place. Join BTS as we chat with this inspiring and multi-talented woman.

TARA CARDINAL May/June 2014 | 13

| Cover Author |

Meet Tara Originally from a tourist town in Canada, Cardinal was shuffled around until she ended up in foster care. At age 12, she co-founded a peer counseling organization dedicated to assisting children suffering from sexual abuse. By 16, she struck on her own, traveling to the United States to live the American dream and working 3 jobs to make ends meet. At 19, misdiagnosed with cancer and only holding a seventh-grade education, she turned her life around, went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology on full scholarship. A natural leader, she was unanimously elected president of the theater club and held that position until she graduated. It was then she knew the movie business was the only place for her. Still in school and working a full time corporate job, she booked the female lead in the Warner Brother’s movie “Delivery.” Soon, other offers arrived. While juggling a budding film career, university and a full-time job, she honed her improv skills at the Florida Renaissance Festival, where she performed her first year as a man because the festival director wouldn’t let her sword fight as a woman! Inspired by industry greats like Stan Lee, George Lucas, Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone, Cardinal combined her skills to create a film of her own. “Legend of the Red Reaper,” based on Cardinal’s childhood struggle, became a strong project with a message about female empowerment. Seasoned pros and aspiring actors alike flocked to her side, and the project took on a life of its own, blossoming into a feature film, a novel and comic book spin offs. Cardinal became one of the first women to write, produce and direct and star in fantasy action franchise. She also did all her swordplay. She continues to accept empowering roles in

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| Tara Cardinal |

movies of all genres. In her spare time, she gathers her celebrity friends for charity events benefiting children, animals and disaster victims. She is an actress, director, martial artist, sword master and a humanitarian. Ms. Cardinal currently resides in a hobbit house in Hollywood, California, where she continues to create inspiring stories, advance her training in martial arts, take on new roles as producer, director, actress and writer, and find out new ways to make the world a better, happier place.

An Interview with Tara Cardinal by Danita Minnis

Tara, at a very young age, you persevered over major adversity in your life and now have a nonprofit counseling program for children. Please share the wellspring of inspiration which gives you the courage and drive to pay it forward by helping others. What fills your well? When times were tough as a kid, I always knew I had a reason, a purpose. I didn’t know what that was until recently. Now I know I’m here to use my experiences to make the world a better place, and I don’t mind going through some rough patches if I can be an example, and maybe even an inspiration, for people in similar circumstances. That’s all I need to fill my well. That was the main reason I decided to go into film making. I knew I could reach so many more people through media than I could one on one. My goal isn’t to preach, or tell anyone anything, just show people that self-respect is ok, no matter what you’ve endured. Most of the Red Reaper story is drawn from my own life and my own feelings during rough patches. I’m still working on the courage to come forward and be more specific than that, but those who’ve experienced what I have will see themselves in the writing and the film. And those are the people I made Red Reaper for.

As an actress who is also a writer, what are the challenges you face in your writing process? I feel a little silly calling myself a writer because I don’t feel like I’ve really written anything. I either daydream about the characters or write about things that really happened. I guess I’m more of a documenter of the imagination than a writer. As I mentioned before, I base a lot of stories on real events. I put a magical spin on them and tell them from the perspective a child. Bad people become “demons,” lost loves become “princes,” my inner battles become wars with swords and martial arts. As an actress it’s much easier to perform something I’ve documented (cough—written!) because I’ve already seen it, or in some cases, lived it. Scenes that are based on my real life experiences are much easier to perform because all I have to do is remember what I felt when they happened. The acting takes care of itself. Not only did you star in the 2013 fantasy film The Legend of Red Reaper, but you were also the writer, producer, and director. How did you juggle those creative hats, and did you ever get in your own way? I had two choices—assume the hats or admit defeat. The team previously assembled wasn’t up for the challenge, and many of them dropped off, never to be heard from again. As they fell by the wayside during production, I attempted to replace them with other competent parties. But the franchise is so complex, it was easier for me to just take care of it myself rather than bring a muggle up to speed. When the movie spawned a book, then a comic book, and possibly a roleplaying game, it was like a big puzzle to me: the characters, their arcs, the timeline of the universe—all of that. In the beginning, I had a huge team. Just a few months in, I was the only “producer.” So I promoted all of my department heads to producer level, and they handled the extra responsibilities beautifully— but none of them had any producer experience. Many of them had never worked on a film before; their experience was in theater, theme parks, or May/June 2014 | 15

| Cover Author | Renaissance festivals! The blessing in disguise was that the director (me) never went against the writer (me), and the producer never made us do anything contrary to the story because that was me too! When compromises had to be made (which happened daily), I could make them swiftly with minimal losses because I knew the story, the actors, the franchise, and the budget six ways to Sunday! I never had to waste time in meetings; I just made the best decisions, and we all moved forward as a unit.

want to be the example of someone who came from nothing, grew up in foster care, didn’t finish high school (but went on to university anyway), pitched my story to the studios, was turned down by them all, and then made the movie anyway. I didn’t wait for anyone’s permission to live my dream. I got my own combat training, and I did (most of) my own stunts. I choreographed some fights. I self-financed (most of) the movie with money I earned working as a secretary, a medical study, and losing fights as a professional wrestler.

Other unexpected perks • No one could go over my head if they didn’t like my decision • I could house the writer, director, producer, and star in the same room for no additional cost! • No one could accuse me of sleeping my way into the role • There were never any creative differences between the decision makers I say all this tongue in cheek, of course, but there’s always this gossip that any really great female acting role was won on the casting couch. Trolls will be trolls. You have played various characters on screen and stage, in this world and others, and are comfortable existing in different periods of history. In what era would you prefer to live, if given the choice? I’d like to live in the Red Reaper Universe, but only if I could be a Reaper! I don’t think I’d want to be the Red Reaper anymore, but one of the other Reapers. Maybe Freya—a total bad ass with a perfect body, natural blonde hair, and a gorgeous, sweet, and loving boyfriend. My character got none of those things. I can’t elaborate on that without giving the story away. During the creative process, actors and writers often think in terms of a legacy. What do you want to be remembered for? I’d like to be remembered as one of the first women to write, produce, and direct a superhero franchise. I’d like to be the example of both smart and athletic. We tell girls they can be anything. I 16 |

What’s next for Tara Cardinal? I’m attached to either star or produce several movies this year, all of which excite me for different reasons! I’m producing Agoraphobia written and directed by Ms. Lou Simon, who just took Best Horror Film at Berline Film festival—a huge honor! Lou is a

| Tara Cardinal | very talented writer and director and has very strong creative vision. I think Agoraphobia is going to be a great movie! I’ve just been cast in The Martial Arts Kid with Don the Dragon and Cynthia Rothrock. I’ve worked with Don before, and I’m very much inspired by Cynthia, whom I’ve been wanting to work with for years now. I’m in talks to star in Sorority of the Damned, a film that reminds me very much of Evil Dead but with sorority sisters. I’m working on novel two of the Red Reaper series, currently titled Of Girl and God, and the script for the Red Reaper movie sequel. I’m still training in martial arts and finally getting out to socialize now that I’ve finished both Red Reaper and Scarlet Samurai (my other franchise project).

Don’t miss the BTS review of The Legend of the Red Reaper in this month’s BTS Goes Hollywood!

Several projects I worked on last year are releasing soon. Wrath of the Crows, an Italian (but English language) psychological thriller releases June 17! It just won Best Film at Horrorhound Weekend, which is a good festival to win. Spreading Darkness, another thriller with a huge cast (Eric Roberts, Dominique Swain, John Savage), should be completed this year. I’m just about finished with my second franchise, Scarlet Samurai, (which has nothing to do with Red Reaper—but features many of the same cast!). Scarlet is a modern-day fairy tale about a mystical being that keeps the balance of good and evil in the universe. The first movie is the origin story of how this particular entity came to be: The Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation. It’s very Eastern in its telling. I’m looking for new investors to come on board with the Red Reaper and Scarlet Samurai franchises. You know, typical Hollywood stuff. :) Danita is a singer, writer, lover of romance, mystery, mayhem, the fantastic and the fey. She is the author of The Cardiff Novels, a series about one family’s trials with vengeful demons, a legacy of ghosts and mysterious blood jewels. She is currently working on the third novel in the series, which introduces the Cardiffs’ connection to ancient vampires. Danita is a member of Romance Writers of America. She is a lover of chocolate, a good, scary movie, kittens and pups - especially Siberian Huskies. One more hour with her laptop and she’s living the dream.

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| Cover Author |

Sneak Peek SWORD SISTERS A Red Reaper Novel by Tara Cardinal & Alex Bledsoe PROLOGUE

Cast aside by her mother, tormented (literally) by her father, feared by humans and despised by most of her own kind, Aella is determined not to care. Not to care what they think, not to care if they like her, not to care about anything or anyone. Just so long as no one tries to touch her or imprison her again, Aella couldn’t care less. Until...he pulled an arrow from Aella’s back and kissed her cheek. Until...she carried Aella home and stood between her and a giant spider. And a rioting mob. Until...they came to Aella looking for help. Aella, daughter of demon and witch, must find herself and forge her own route to a destiny she doesn’t want to believe and others simply don’t want. At first a heroine in name alone, Aella discovers she has the strength and the heart to control her demonic lineage and truly wear the title--hero. She also finds something even more valuable: friendship. Amelia, her Sword Sister, isn’t just worth dying for. She’s worth living for.

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The origin of the Demons remains a mystery; even they don’t seem to know. But one day, over a millennium ago, they found their way from their world to ours. That began the Thousand Year War. Unknown to the Demons, they actually created the race that would defeat them: the Reapers. The first of them were hybrids, half demon, half human, born of mortal women raped by Demons. They lived far longer than humans, and could battle the Demons on their own terms. Demon rage fueled by a treacherous human heart is a lethal combination, and these halfbreeds were a vicious and terrible race, destroying humans and Demons with equal ferocity. Tormented and dominated by their Demon fathers, they tortured humans because they did not know right from wrong. They were brutal, unpredictable and chaotic. Their cruelty was legendary and humans learned to hate and fear the Reapers. Humanity fought back, and was all but decimated by the power and rage of these savage and terrifying beasts. Like their Demon fathers they destroyed villages, enslaved the commoners, and raped the women, impregnating them and leaving them to die in childbirth. But those women gave birth to something entirely different. These hybrid creatures were now only one quarter demon. Human mothers died in childbirth whether their rapists were Demons or Reapers—but these were the first Reapers plagued by guilt over the deaths of their human mothers. All over the world something magical happened. Humans came to call it “The Awakening.” Reapers—the younger, more human ones— banded together in a great army, unified by their tremendous need to protect humanity from the unrelenting cruelty of demon kind. These new Reapers became the deadliest warriors our world has ever known. It was the human soul that gave these heroes their

| Tara Cardinal | advantage in battle. And eventually, they won. The half-breed Reapers were destroyed, the Demons were driven back into the darkness, and an era of peace began. The watered down bloodline yielded surprising changes. These new Reapers were very strong, but weakened with age, a trait not found in their halfblood ancestors. Their lives were shorter. And many of them were barren. Many years passed, and the Awakened Reapers served their human brothers as a warrior class, working tirelessly to repair the damage done by the chaotic half-breed Reapers. Relations were strained between the new Reapers and the surviving humans. Adonis, the leader of the Reapers, began courting the chief oracle of the humans, Diah—a beautiful and powerful “Teller Witch.” Relations improved, and the villages began to rebuild and vie for power, while Reapers kept the peace. Then the unthinkable happened. The Demon leader, Ganesh, kidnapped and raped Diah on her wedding night to Adonis. From this horrible union came Aella, another of the dreaded half-breeds, born with flaming red hair and the fury that goes with it. Although human women died giving birth to Reapers, Diah survived, kept alive by a swallow of Ganesh’s magical blood. Ashamed, she let everyone believe she was dead, especially Adonis, whom she still loved. When Aella was just five in human years, Diah sold her daughter to Ganesh for a bottle of his own blood, which the Teller Witch used to increase her powers and stay alive. Aella was raised among the Demons, but not as one of them: she was tormented as only Demons can torment a child, in ways best left to the imagination, and grew to young womanhood as a victim, nursing fantasies of revenge. In the great final battle of the Thousand Year War, Aella was rescued; brought back to Ilan, chief country of the humans. She lived among the Reapers, but remained isolated, separate from them even in the castle they shared. As the only true half-breed in the castle, and perhaps the world, her Demon nature terrified them, and her relative youth meant she lacked control and maturity. The Teller Witch, before her apparent demise, prophesied that a Reaper with flaming red hair would not only be born, but would become the last of the Reapers, with the strength of ten Demons and the

heart and soul of a human. She would be the last hope of humankind. Was this Aella? No one knew. Many thought not. But the Reapers tolerated her presence, and tried to teach her to control her Demon nature, and waited for a further sign that this was, indeed, her destiny… CHAPTER ONE The arrow in my back had found its way through my ribs and into my lungs. So it was understandable when the boy nudged me with his foot and said, “Hey. Little girl? Little girl?” I should’ve been angry that I’d been discovered, but instead I fixated on his words. Little girl? I thought in outrage. Sure, I wasn’t very tall, and I was sprawled flat on the forest floor between two protruding table-sized rocks, so I guess it was a fair mistake to make. But I was definitely no child. I’m twelve, you ass. Then he asked, “Are you dead?” I wanted to say, That’s a stupid question because how can I answer it yes, but the arrow hurt so bad, and I’d lost so much blood, that I only managed to raise my head and wheeze at him. His dog promptly licked me in the face, then sniffed at my bloody clothes. I tried to twist away, so the dog wouldn’t lap up my blood. That could be a disaster beyond reckoning! “Oh, boy,” he said, and his voice shook. Great, he’s squeamish. I could only see him from the knees down: he wore soft brown boots, the kind with flexible soles so you wouldn’t make noise while hunting. He dropped a bow and arrow beside these boots and said, “Wow, I’m really sorry. I didn’t know anyone was around. Oh, boy, am I in trouble.” Now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine retailers.

May/June 2014 | 19

ARC 2014 NOLA August 14-17 New Orleans, LA Are you ready for an awesome fun time? 3 days for authors and readers to interact face-to-face and have a great time!

A.L. Jackson & Heather Graham KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

• Badges • Swag Goody • Programs • Thursday Meet up Social • Breakfast • Lunch with Keynote Speaker and • Daily Raffles • Evening Event *Available Sponsorship for all these great items and more!

See full schedule of events here!

ACCOMMODATIONS Marriott New Orleans $125.00 Reservations can be made here.


A.L. Jackson

Heather Graham

ATTENDING AUTHORS: Shannan Albright Zoey Derrick Kris Austen Radcliffe Seraphina Donavan ML Guida Sylvia McDaniel Donna Michaels JT Schutz DN Simmons Barb Han Tonya Kappes BTSeMag will be providing all press coverage for this event! We hope to see you there!

Full Details at

Reader - $225.00 Includes: Friday & Saturday Events, Panels, Book Signing, Intimate Chats and Evening activities. You are also eligible to participate in all raffles, games & door prizes! You will receive a free swag bag full of goodies provided by your favorite authors and publishers upon arrival. Additional Sponsored events may be added. Author /Industry Professional - $250.00 You will enjoy everything the Readers receive as well as the opportunity to join panels and intimate chats. Exhibitor / New author Table $ 225.00 You will be in the center of the action with 1/2 of a 6 foot table to display your items. If you are registering as an author you do not need this option. This is for authors who want to offer their swag and books to the readers all weekend OR if you have items to sell.

For more information or to register, click here!

Contemporary | Romance | Mainstream | Literary Fiction



Featured Authors,

REVIEWS and more

BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

May/June 2014 | 21

trends reading trends in romance

Chic Trends in Romance Sandra Bunino

A Night atofLady Romance Jane’s Salon I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a romance fiction reading at one of Lady Jane’s satellite salons in Silver Spring, Maryland. If you haven’t heard of Lady Jane’s Salon®, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Founded in February 2009 by romance authors Hope Tarr, Leanna Renee Hieber, Maya Rodale, and book blogger Ron Hogan, Lady Jane’s Salon® is New York City’s first— and only—monthly romance fiction reading series. Lady Jane’s has since opened eight other salons in the United States. It’s the perfect evening to spend with your romance book loving friends. Admission is $5 or one gently-used romance novel (I love that!), and the net proceeds go to charity. As I sipped my delightfully creamy non-fat latte, I listened, oooh’d, laughed, and happily sighed to readings from these talented authors . . .

May/June 2014 | 23

| Chic Trends in Romance | Anne Barton’s regency, Once She Was Tempted, which centered on a risqué portrait, tempted me to check out her series.

Once She Was Tempted Anne Barton (Honeycote Novel, #2, Forever available now) A portrait of a lady . . . or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose the instant he meets herthough she’s wearing considerably more clothing. In person, the demure debutante is even more irresistible . . . In desperate need of money for her sick mother, Daphne Honeycote had posed for two scandalous portraits. Now she must hide her secret to save the Honeycote family name. Ben’s possession of one painting makes him an insufferable thorn in her side-and yet he may be her best chance at finding the canvas’s companion. As she becomes drawn to the darktempered earl, can Daphne risk laying bare the secrets of her heart? Robin Covington treated the audience with a taste of her newest release, Sex and the Single Vamp. This is Robin’s first foray into paranormal territory, and from the sound of the passage, I believe she has a winner!

Sex & The Single Vamp Robin Covington (Entangled Publishing—available now) Cici Trent, vampire and media darling, spends her days finding true love for humans and supernaturals (the “Others”) at her dating agency. But someone is trying to sabotage her business and she needs help. Unfortunately, the best man for the job is the one who broke her stillbeating heart two hundred fifty-four years ago. Deacon is a patient vampire. He’s only loved one woman in over three hundred years—Cici—and she chose another. So when she shows up in his office asking for help, he finally has the chance to lay that demon to rest. He’ll help her, but for a price—a night in his bed. Adrenaline, mischief, and a little late-night B&E light the passion that even a couple of lifetimes couldn’t put out. But Deacon has a secret and when Cici is suddenly mortal, his deception might be the only way restore her immortality. Can love bridge the gap between a heartbeat and forever? 24 |

| Sandra Bunino | Carlene Love Flores read a sexy scene from Sin’s Haven, Book 3 of her Sin Pointe Novel series. I love this series inspired by Carlene’s love of her favorite band, Depeche Mode.

Sin’s Haven Carlene Love Flores (Sin Pointe, #3, Evernight Publishing— available now)

When Sin Pointe webmaster, Benjamin Wright, is publicly humiliated on his birthday, he knows he’s never gonna be able to show his face around the guys again. But an angelic hostess who lets him sleep it off at the club seems surprisingly eager to help him out. Is his luck changing or does she just feel sorry for him? Hazel Temple, bagel mistress by day and club hostess by night, feels horrible for inadvertently playing a part in Ben’s embarrassment and vows to make it up to him—by telling him they had a sizzling hot one-night stand. Still recovering from losing her fiancé to suicide, she worries about Ben when he discovers her lie. Is she bound to hurt the men she cares about? A Sin Pointe camping trip provides Hazel her chance to get Ben’s groove back. Will her webmaster be the one to rock her world? If Kimberly Kincaid’s book releases to audio, she should narrate the story! Kimberly’s a natural storyteller. If you love small-town romances, be sure to check out Turn Up the Heat.

Turn Up The Heat Kimberly Kincaid (Pine Mountain, #1, Zebra Books— available now) “It’s not you.” There are only so many times a girl can hear those words before she believes that it is, in fact, very much her. Unexpectedly jilted by her locally famous boyfriend and haunted by a boss who makes Attila the Hun look like a lap dog, Bellamy Blake does what any self-respecting girl in her shoes would do. She rounds up her two best girlfriends and makes plans to get the hell out of Dodge . . . But Bellamy’s escape plan takes a nose dive on the side of rural route 164 when her transmission self-destructs, leaving her in the middle of a cell phone dead zone with nothing but her wits. Oh, and Shane Griffin, the hottest mechanic who’s ever checked under her hood. Yet this small-town man isn’t all he seems. Can Shane and Bellamy

prove that sometimes the most unlikely ingredients make the

May/June 2014 | 25

| Chic Trends in Romance | most deliciously sexy mix? When asked why she chose to open a salon in the DC area, Lady Jane’s Salon Silver Spring’s coordinator, Miguelina Perez, replied, “I felt that the Greater Washington Area had its own community of gifted and talented published Romance writers. My goal is to connect these authors with their readership. It is my hope to have readers come and meet their favorite authors or discover new ones.” Thanks, Lina and Lady Janes! You certainly made my evening special.

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Sandra Bunino began a love of romance stories while penning a creative writing assignment in high school. The story ended with the heroine receiving a longstemmed red rose in her locker on Valentine’s Day. Since then, all of her stories feature the hero presenting the heroine with roses. Sandra is constantly searching for different ways to achieve a heart-pumping, stomach-flipping, breath-catching reaction from her readers.


contemporary | romance | mainstream

What a Sicilian Husband Wants Michelle Smart Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

good guy. It had a lot of tension and suspense a lot of / would they/ or won’t they, I hate you/no you don’t/oh yes I do complex moments and a touch of humor. It’s definitely one you’ll enjoy. Pick up a copy. You won’t be disappointed. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

On his terms only! After moving countries, cutting all ties and giving birth to her baby alone, Grace Holden is desperately hiding from her past. But just when she thinks she might have broken free it catches up with her – in the form of her millionaire Sicilian husband! Grace has sworn that her daughter won’t grow up amongst the dark power and money of his family…but no one walks away from Luca Mastrangelo. Now, back within his reach, Grace is surprised to see new depths to the man she married – and each crack in his armour makes it harder to fight the desire still blazing between them. Review: A Sicilian husband is bound to get, whatever the cost maybe. Grace leaves her husband under a preconceived notion of betrayal. She walks away with absolutely nothing and starts a new life. Especially when she finds out that she’s having a child. She hides from Luca successfully until he manages to locate her and shows up at her place unannounced. There’s a confrontation and Grace shoots him unintentionally and at the same time he learns about the child. He threatens her that if she doesn’t come with him he’ll take the child and she’ll never see them again. If she doesn’t become the perfect Sicilian wife, she’s free to leave, but she’ll never see her child again. Ok, definitely become a Michelle Smart fan. Complex characters that were very likeable, capable and willing to do what they must to survive. Between Luca and Grace, each felt the other had betrayed them and it was a real interesting to see if they’d be willing to forgive one another and get back together. Grace, you like from the beginning. Luca, you gradually warmed up to. He came across as a charming demanding thug who’d take what he wanted no matter the consequence. But he turned out to be a rather

The Red-Hot Chili Cook Off Carolyn Brown Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

In small-town Cadillac, Texas, Carlene Lovelle and her cousins’ fancy panty business, Bless My Bloomers, is booming. But irony strikes when Carlene discovers another woman’s silk bikini underwear in her husband’s briefcase. Lenny Joe hasn’t just crossed the line, he’s left it in his dust, so Carlene’s taking her revenge to the kitchen… For ten years, Lenny Joe’s team has dominated Cadillac’s Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off. But with Carlene’s Bless My Bloomers team now in the ring, it’s anyone’s game—and when there’s pride and food involved, things are bound to get messy. Review: After discovering that her husband was cheating on her, Carlene seeks revenge. She moves out, and with the help of her very creative and supportive friends and family, she enters in the town’s chili cook-off contest. From here, the hilarity ensues. This hilarious story of a woman scorned is entertaining, fun, warm and heart-felt. Carlene and her unique supporting cast of characters are simply unforgettable. From start to finish, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll fall in love with Cadillac, Texas, and all that it has to offer. | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

May/June 2014 | 27


contemporary | romance | mainstream

God’s Naked Will

Gingerbread Wishes

Selected as a “Top 10 fall New Book Release” by theyoungfolks. com, God’s Naked Will and other Sacrilege is an absorbing debut collection of stories, bold, risky, and entertaining--at turns erotic and hysterical, and anchored in blue-collar life in the south. Within these pages faith collides with schizophrenia and demon possession, incest and deformity, devoted virgins and hired studs, masturbation and voyeurism, cock-fights and executions, ministers and deacons.

All Tora’s known is Dorado, Texas and as soon as the familyrun bakery sells, she’s headed for life outside the city limits. When widower Jordan Dawson shows interest, she suddenly wonders about getting better acquainted. In town to open a sporting goods store, Jordan wants to provide his daughter with life in a close-knit community. When the friendly baker sparks his interest, he campaigns to keep her in town. Will Tora give him a chance?

C.D. Mitchell Contemporary Heat Rating: 4

Review: Whether we live in East or West or whether we are theist or atheist, religion is an undeniable part of our lives. We may not believe, we may not practice, but it’s always there in the backdrop. C.D. Mitchell’s God’s Naked Will and other Sacrilege presents religion intertwined with our conscience, our actions and our reactions in the collection of short stories set in Delbert, Arkansas. Sacrilege is defined as violation of a sacred object or person. It’s transgression against religion, holy place, etc. The characters in the stories are “Good, God fearing Folks” who believe in Christ and rapture, in hell and damnation but when push comes to shove and the mask of “propriety” is removed, the depth of a person’s morality and principles are on display. The stories are neither completely exclusive nor completely inclusive. In ‘Execution’ we again meet Delilah and Mooney of ‘God’s Naked Will’ and are informed of Clovis’ aunt’s fate (‘Clovis Clementine’). Even though the story deals with taboo topics, there is nothing revolting in the writing. The characters and the plot itself are a banquet of perversions, hypocrisy and bloodlust which as a society we condemn. The detachment with which the stories are presented illustrates that even when we don’t like to talk about these subjects or act as if these things do not happen or we are pure and innocent, we all know that like religion the sins are a part of our life.

Linda Carroll-Bradd Small Town Romance Heat Rating: 2

Review: Sweet, adorable and charming, Jordan and Tora’s romance will capture your heart. Looking for a fresh start, neither one of them expect to find comfort and a new beginning in each other. It’s a clean, refreshing love between two people and the little girl that helps bring them together. A very well-written short story and an enchanting little town to serve as the perfect backdrop to a happilyever-after. It is the kind of love story you don’t want to miss! | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

| Reviewer: Arushi Raj | May/June 2014 | 29


contemporary | romance | mainstream

Being Prince Charming

Finding Home

You’re no Prince Charming. Gunny has given up everything, including the Marine Corps, for a second chance with the woman he loves. Madam Eve has given him one night to prove to his ex-wife Lissa he’s all she ever wanted. Fail, and she’ll marry another man in the morning.

When life handed Dixie Rae Carrington lemons, she made lemonade. When life handed Sam Ryan lemons, he ran. Good thing for him he’s run head long into love with Dixie, the one woman who can teach him how sweet lemons can be. Now he just has to hope she doesn’t find out what’s really brought him into her life.

D L Jackson Military Romance Heat Rating: 4

Review: This short story about two high school sweethearts, Lissa and August, who find themselves apart after years of marriage and are given the shot at a second chance, is full of heartache, passion, forgiveness and love. It’s a beautiful story of how the struggles of marriage can be solved when two people put aside their pride and prove that no matter the obstacle, true love conquers all. It is a very well written, deeply emotional story that will leave you wanting so much more. | Reviewer: Marie Haney |

Barbara Raffin Humorous Romance Heat Rating: 3

Review: A sweet and charming and quick read you’ll enjoy. You’ll like Sam and Dixie and have a chuckle when they first meet. You’ll also like Ben, Dixie’s adorable son, who actually likes the “Wizard of Oz”. Ben is Sam’s dead cousin Mickey’s son. Mickey was married to Dixie against his father’s wishes and he was in effect disowned because of it. And when Mickey died, his dad Stuart Carrington, has tried everything he could legally to take Ben away from her, because he thought she was nothing more than an uncaring gold digger of a mom, who’d waste away his son’s fortune and they would never have had a happy life because of it. He even tried to use Sam to some extent, until Dixie found out about it. But despite it all, Sam and Dixie made a really good couple. Some of the villains that showed up got what they deserved and others, believe it or not, actually managed to get forgiveness. (And that took a lot of work).The other supporting characters were a treat, especially the twins, who had supplied a few hilarious moments and then meeting the rest of Dixie’s family at the end, was nice. Especially if you’ve read Roman’s story in Taming Tess: Book 1 of the St John Sibling Series, getting introduced to the rest of the brood was a nice treat. Pick up a copy, you’ll like it. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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contemporary | romance | mainstream

Adventures in Amethyst Series Karen Wiesner Romance Novella Collection Heat Rating: 2

Amethyst, Wisconsin is a small, peaceful town on a pristine lake with an active tourist season in summer. When the air turns chill, the town is transformed into a ghost town with only a handful of lifers who stay. Populated with colorful characters, Amethyst is bursting with mystery, romance, and jealousy. Come and visit a place where anything is possible all-year-round. Adventures in Amethyst Series is a compilation of all four novellas in the series including “A Rose for Romeo” (Book 1) and “Revenge in Amethyst” (Book 2), “Reckless Rose” (Book 3), and “Christmas in Amethyst” (Book 4) Review: A series of short stories, I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a delightful stroll through a country town with characters loosely linked together through the different tales. Each story was delightful, romantic and complete even if they were short. I felt I knew the town and characters completely by the end of the first story and fell deeper into their lives as the thread continued through the others. By the last story, I meshed into the story and almost a citizen of Amethyst myself. Wiesner has a true gift and it shines through in these stories just as well as it does in her novels. | Reviewer: Karen Fainges |

May/June 2014 | 31

feature author interview

C.D. Mitchell


You have quite a varied resume. What led you to writing?

C.D. Mitchell is the author of two books, Alligator Stew and God’s Naked Will. He has worked as a prosecuting and defense attorney, owned a construction business, a BBQ stand, and worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Memphis. He was 45-5 with 38 knockouts as a professional boxer. He has also taught creative writing at universities and conferences across the south.

title could apply to every story in the collection depending upon the permutation of definitions chosen.

Current project?

A novel that continues the story lines of characters that appeared in “God’s Naked Will” and the second collection, “Alligator Stew”. It will involve running drugs, guns and illegals up the Mississippi River by barge, the cooking of meth, and any other debauchery I can think of.

Outside of writing, which career did you enjoy most and why?

I loved jury trials while practicing law, but I didn’t enjoy practicing law. I loved working for the railroad, which was difficult but a wild experience. Building allowed me to create lasting monuments. But teaching is the most incredible job in the world!

I wrote my first story when I was ten years old. My mother saw genius in it no matter how bad it was and encouraged my efforts, so I believed had a natural talent. I know better now, but her encouragement left me with a desire to be the best writer in every class I took in high school and then on in to undergraduate classes. At the University of Arkansas I heard about writing programs and the MFA for the first time, but I was determined to be an attorney. Later, after my years as a lawyer had ended, I found myself at a point where I had no wives, my children were grown, no mortgage or car payments, so I went back to school and began pursuing this dream

I love the titles to your books. How did you choose them?

In “God’s Naked Will,” there’s a scene in the title story where the preacher, after having sex with the prostitute named Delilah, has fallen naked by the side of the bed and is crying in conviction for his sin. He hears God’s voice speak and tell him to correct his sin, he must marry this woman. After he proposes, he’s sitting in a chair and thinks to himself: “God’s will sat on the floor in front of him—naked.” Hence “God’s Naked Will.” For Alligator Stew, the protagonist in the story has been transplanting alligators from the Louisiana swamps to the Hatchie Coon Bottoms in Arkansas. When confronted by the sheriff about the gators, Freddie exclaims “Alligator stew. I brought the gators back for alligator stew.” Later, after his daughter has killed her boyfriend in self-defense, Freddie stuffs the body in a hollow log in the Blue Hole, knowing the gators will eat what is left. Freddie had created a stew, but for the gators this time.

Tell us a little about your title.

“God’s Naked Will” in essence represents the attempt by the characters of the stories to learn and follow God’s will in their lives. I went to the Oxford English Dictionary and wrote down the many meanings of all three words and discovered the 32 |

“Alligator Stew” is a novel in stories. The stories reveal the collective actions of a fictional town in northeast Arkansas faced with the historical event of an apocalyptic earthquake prediction for December 3rd, 1990, by Iben Browning.


contemporary | romance | mainstream

Taming Tess Barbara Raffin Romance Heat Rating: 3

When architect Tess Abbot’s house catches on fire during renovation, she blames building contractor Roman St. John for the blaze. A man of his word, Roman honors a boast Tess had goaded him into making, that if the job wasn’t done on time she could move into his house. As bad an idea as moving in with a hot, marriage-minded man is, the career-minded, never-going-to-marry Tess stubbornly holds him to his word. But escalating sexual tension and close quarters confound her determination to keep her hands off the one man who could reduce her to the “June Cleaver” status her father has planned for her. While Tess adds the spark to Roman’s life, Roman tames Tess with the magic words. “Don’t need me. Want me” in this modern day Taming of the Shrew story. Review: It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and it had a lot of laughs. At first, Tess and Roman like one another initially when they corresponded by emails, text and phone. Then they couldn’t stand one another when they started working together. Roman thought she was a harpy, but Tess didn’t think much of him either. But once they really got to know one another they eventually managed to get along quite nicely. A nice, enjoyable read you’ll like. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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author interview & sneak peek

Nana Prah

MIDWIFE TO DESTINY Nana Prah was born in Ghana, West Africa, raised in the US and currently resides in Ghana where she loves her job as a writer and nurse educator. She has been writing since she can remember (in her journal) and has been an avid reader of romance novels since the eighth grade. She has finally been able to utilize the years and years of inadvertent research into writing her own romance novels where love always conquers all.

What inspired you to write Midwife to Destiny? I wanted to join the AFRO Romance Writing Competition a couple of years ago, but didn’t have a romance set in Africa, which was one of the requirements. The idea of a lost love popped into my mind and all of a sudden I had my heroine in South Africa falling in love with a doctor. Ora couldn’t be with Jason because she’d already promised to marry a man she respected, but didn’t love. From there my imagination brought them back to Ghana. I won third place in the competition. (I hear clapping, right?) Do you have a favorite character in the book? If so, what about him/her makes them your favorite? I should say the heroine, Ora. She is a wonderful person, kind, compassionate, hard working, and very intelligent, but with a few issues to contend with. But I’d be lying if I said she was my favorite. Jason, the hero is. I love him so much that I want to conjure him out of the book and marry him. How could I not favor a gorgeous man who moves to a new country to make things work with the woman he loves?

What is your favorite romantic getaway? I don’t think I’ve ever had one. Let’s pretend I have (or I will in the near future). I’ve never been to Italy, but there’s something about the country that I absolutely love. My guess is the food and handsome men. Tell us about a day in your writing life. I work full time as a nurse educator, teaching students how to be great nurses. When I come home, I exercise and then hit the computer to clear out all of my social media ‘work.’ By the time eight o’clock rolls around, I’m ready to start writing, which, depending on my muse, can last for ten minutes to three hours. What are you currently working on? The edits for book two in the Destiny Series. It’s the story of Ora’s sassy cousin, Esi, and Jason’s arrogant womanizing best friend, Adam. These two cracked me up in the first book and continue to do so in the second. I’m looking forward to having it published so the world can laugh with me.

May/June 2014 | 35

| Midwife to Destiny by Nana Prah |

Ghanaian nurse Aurora ‘Ora’ Aikins never expected to find the love of her life while on vacation in South Africa. Engaged to another and believing that love has no place in her life, she returns to Ghana, and puts duty and honor first. Three years later, Dr. Jason Lartey still can’t get Ora out of his mind or his heart. After learning she never married, he takes a risk and moves to Ghana hoping to rekindle what they started. His sudden appearance in Ora’s Emergency Department sends sparks flying all over again. They’re in the same country, working in the same hospital, and together but distance creeps between them. Can they make their destined love one for the ages?

Ora focused on putting one foot in front of the other as if she were a one-year-old learning how to walk. After turning the corner and seeing the back of his head, she froze. She would know that head anywhere. He’d grown his hair out a little, but his adorable, Will Smith ears gave him away. Initiating the process of pivoting and sprinting out of the ED unnoticed sprang to mind when he turned around and his gaze caught hers. The air became charged with tension and 36 |

neither of them moved. Her heart threatened to pop out of her chest with the force of each beat. The nurses stood between them, looking back and forth as if they watched a tennis match. They didn’t bother to hide their expressions of curiosity. They’d never seen Ora behave in such a manner. Not cool as a cucumber super nurse. Like herself, they kept looking at the new doctor just because of his tall, broad-shouldered, gorgeous stature. The past three years had matured him, adding a few lines around his eyes and the new feature of a goatee with a moustache changed his countenance a little. But otherwise, the same man she’d met three years ago, at least in the physical sense, stood before her. After an eternity, Ora snapped back to attention. “Akwaaba, Dr. Lartey. Welcome to the ward.” Madam Professional stuck out her hand for a handshake. Her words seemed to drag him out of his own stupor. “Uh….” She had rendered the man speechless. Ora’s gracious nature—that’s what she blamed it on, anyway—took pity on him and she touched his shoulder. The contact sent sensual awareness through her and she recoiled her hand. “Hello, Aurora. Please forgive me. It’s just that I’m a little surprised to see you.” “Not as much as I am,” she muttered, attempting to squash both the joy bubbling up inside of her at seeing him again or the overwhelming sadness of what she’d been missing for so long. “Pardon me?” he asked. “I didn’t expect to see you here. It’s a surprise to me, too.” She tried to smile, but it came out contorted, as if she’d been able to have a painful, rocky bowel movement after being constipated for seven days.


contemporary | romance | mainstream

Summertime Dream

Kaleidoscope Series

For these summer lovers the fireworks have just begun. A surprise inheritance, dark family secrets, and the sweet lure of writer Margie Olsson challenge business consultant Christopher Gordon to seize the dream missing from his hectic life—love. Helping unravel his grandmother’s mysterious past offers Margie a welcome taste of adventure, but when unexpected love ignites, can her small town dreams work with his big city life?

Kaleidoscope Office Building provides employment to nine hot, young singles—all about to make a love connection. Working 9 to 5 has never been so complicated… or so much fun! Kaleidoscope Series is a compilation of all seven novellas in the series including “Perfect Cadence” (Book 1), “In Cahoots With Cupid” (Book 2), “Behind Amethyst Eyes” (Book 3), “Jordana’s Chair” (Book 4), “Paper Tiger” (Book 5), “Cabin Fever” (Book 6), and “The Longest Night” (Book 7)

Babette James Romance Heat Rating: 3

Review: Ms. James definitely has a talent for description. I felt like I was really part of the small town of Falk’s Bend. I could clearly see everything in my mind’s eye. The main character, Margie, is a writer herself. It was cool to have a story unfold within a story. The writing process itself was also interesting to me. I absolutely LOVED that Margie was the aggressor in the relationship that develops between her and Christopher. She didn’t wait around for him to make the first move. What is so surprising is that she does this in the face of her family coddling her after a recent injury, which I will not reveal. Suffice it to say, she has a great attitude and doesn’t let it get her down. Christopher keeps thinking she is too young for him, which got annoying after a bit. The main plot involves the two of them fixing up a home that Christopher has inherited, a la The Money Pit. There is a mystery surrounding the life of Christopher’s grandmother, whom he realizes he knew little about. Perfect, as Margie is an aspiring mystery writer.

Karen Wiesner Romance Novella Collection Heat Rating: 2

Review: This contemporary romance anthology contains the first seven books in the Kaleidoscope series which features the business that is run and operated by Angela Lewis. All the stories are six chapters long except one which is a just a little longer. All the stories deal with women’s issues that range from lovers with commitment issues, domestic violence, absentee fathers, self-image and so on. Each novella focuses on a different character in different circumstances. Some of the stories have very well developed characters and the issues have more depth while some have a lighter tone. This is a box set that would appeal to chick lit and contemporary romance readers as a whole. There are some romantic suspense elements as well. Overall, I give this one 3 stars. | Reviewer: Julie Whiteley |

| Reviewer: Negar Arvanaghi |

May/June 2014 | 37


sneak peek

D. Bryant Simmons

HOW TO KNOCK A BRAVEBIRD FROM HER PERCH Naive and blinded by grief, Belinda “Pecan” Morrow agrees to marry the up-and-coming boxing sensation, Ricky Morrow. Her first daughter arrives within a year of the marriage and suddenly Pecan finds herself on the receiving end of Ricky’s violent temper. Scared for her life, she hunkers down in this marriage of convenience as the babies and fists keep coming. Will the abuse ever stop? Will Pecan and her girls live happily ever after? How to Knock a Bravebird From Her Perch is poignant and hard-hitting. You will be touched by Pecan’s courage and resilience. If you love dynamic female leads and succinct yet poetic storytelling, this novel is for you.

The wind came and blew through town like never before on the day I was born. It was May 17,1952, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. When the nurse came around to tell my daddy I was here he whooped and hollered so loud everybody thought he was crazy. Hell, it took five nurses to convince him that it was okay to touch me. I wasn’t real tiny like some babies, but he was a big man with big old hands. That’s what I remember most about my daddy, his hands. Working man’s hands. Big and ashy with blisters and dead skin. He was always apologizing for them, but me, I loved them. Now from what I was told about the hospital, it was cold and it seemed like folks were screaming but they’d probably say it was me. My daddy said the doctor ain’t even have to hit me, that I came out screaming just like he was. Only difference was he stopped after a while. He said that when they took me home I was still screaming and folks would come by and say, “Ooo what y’all doing to that child to make her scream like that?” He’d smile and say I was just gearing up to start singing, that I was practicing. Then he’d laugh in that way that put folks in the mind of a big friendly grizzly bear. Kind of laugh that made them at least wanna smile. That was my daddy. He had a voice like nails on sandpaper—scratchy and real deep. And he loved pecan pie almost as much as he loved me. That’s how I got my name. My mama leaned toward Belinda so that’s what’s on the papers but growing up most folks called me Pecan. Because they say it was real obvious how much he loved me and I loved him. I don’t remember what my mama looked like, but folks say I look like her. Most-

ly on account of my shade of brown. Not too dark and not too light. Right in the middle. And my figure was like that too. Not too big and not too small. Not too tall and not short neither. I figured that’s what they meant saying I looked like her. But my daddy used to say it was my eyes. He said they were the most beautiful eyes he ever saw. My mama’s eyes...Was really the only thing he ever said about her. That she had real pretty eyes. The kind that bat at a man and make him do crazy things. Folks used to say that I had that power over him too. That I could just bat my eyes and make him do what I wanted. Course I never saw it like that. Never saw fit to even test it out. Anyway, folks meant it as a good thing—saying I looked like my mama but it used to make me mad. What I wanna look like her for? She ain’t do nothing. My daddy was the one did everything for me. Braided my hair. Taught me things. When I was seven I’d figured some of it out by just listening when the grown folks talked. Most women were naturally giving people but my mama was only good at giving the men folks a good time. Being a wife and mother just wasn’t her cup of tea. Broke my daddy’s heart so bad he couldn’t even say her name. So, I tried real hard not to bring it up but every so often I’d ask my daddy where my mama was and a few days later I’d get a letter from either New Orleans or Mobile. That’s how I learned that Hattiesburg was right between New Orleans and Mobile. And she’d say how much fun she was having and how much she loved me. Never that she was coming home or that she missed me. Only that I shouldn’t worry and that I was loved. Eventually I started to wonder why my mama’s handwriting and my daddy’s handwriting looked so much alike. He worked for a lumber company, knocking down trees, but what he really did was fix things. Folks came from far and wide to have my daddy fix something of theirs. He never charged May/June 2014 | 41

| How to Knock a Bravebird from her Perch by D. Bryant Simmons |

for it, just did it because he said it needed doing. When I was eight, we were sitting on the porch, watching folks go by and he explained it to me. He said, “Folks gotta get to work, they gotta eat, they gotta have them some clean clothes; that’s why I do what I do. You gonna see. When you get to be a lady you gonna find a way to be useful too.” I nodded like I understood because I ain’t wanna disappoint him, but I ain’t have one clue what he was talking about. Me, useful? I couldn’t see past being a kid. Then when I got to be a teenager, talk turned from useful to proper. Not from my daddy, but from other folks in the neighborhood, folks at church. They were all worried about me because I was raised by a man. Worried I wouldn’t make a proper wife to somebody. One of the deacons’ wives took me aside one day and explained that ladies wore stockings. She said I was pretty enough, but if I wanted to find somebody to love me, I’d have to make myself look like a lady. Stockings and hairpins and pressing daddy just watched all nervous like from the hallway while I burned each one of my ears time and time again. But in the end everybody wanted to put they hands in my hair. “Well look at you, girl!” They said. “Got some nice hair now, huh? Just gotta make sure you know how to cook and you gonna snatch up a man real quick!” They were never satisfied. My daddy finally had to tell them, “Stop picking on her. She gonna be just fine.” I wasn’t much in the kitchen. I could bake pretty good but real food was a different story. Didn’t worry me too much because my daddy’s stew and barbecue broke records. Him and his apron that said so. He called it his truth-telling apron because it said that he was working up some magic right there on the fabric. I’d watch him throw stuff together that ain’t have no business being near each other and folks would suck it all down, and then look around for some more. I was pretty good in school, though. Got good marks, was liked by most everybody. I was a good girl, folks said. All the way up until my last year... A couple of us girls were standing around drinking soda pops when the bus from Biloxi pulled into town and sent dust flying every which way. A gritty storm cloud, swirling around me in my plaid dress that wasn’t anything really special. The driver screeched to a stop and folks started to unload. This big guy strolled down the steps, pausing once his feet hit the dirt so he could look around at what was waiting for him. He was full of muscles, with a face like Smokey Robinson’s, wearing a clean white shirt that was only buttoned up halfway so we could see what God had blessed him with. He tilted his hat down over his face to block out the sun. He’d gotten off the bus with a bunch of other folks but I don’t remember them. “Morning,” he said, tipping his hat toward us. “It ain’t morning. It’s almost two o’clock.” LeAnn pointed to the clock over the general store and hurried after him. 42 |

“Where you from?” “Biloxi.” He looked back over his shoulder, watching us giggling behind them. “What’s so funny?” “Ignore them.” LeAnn dismissed us with a wave. She was real friendly, like a welcome wagon for all the guys come through our town. We were her friends so that’s what we called it. Friendly. Other folks called it something else. “So... how long you in town for?” “Don’t know.” He looked her up and down, a grin just dying to get out. Men folk was always grinning at LeAnn. But then he did something that shocked all of us. He looked away from LeAnn and right at me. My heart just plain old stopped right there in the street. I couldn’t stop smiling even though I knew I looked a fool. That was the beginning of me and Ricky.

D. Bryant Simmons was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She has earned a B.A. in Sociology and M.Ed. in Elementary Education. She is a mother, entrepreneur, and advocate for women’s rights.

stories short reads


Story based on a real event, but with author’s paranormal twist. The old man and his dog walked slowly along the road’s edge; the man was being watchful of strangers who might drive too close to them. He waved at neighbors passing by as he stolidly traversed the quarter mile home. Most days he walked it without much pain in his knees and few complaints, for he was glad he was still able to manage his walk every day. But lately, his arthritis had been flaring up more, making his daily trek painful.

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| Bill’s General Store |

The roadside didn’t add any allure to his walk; at best, it was boring, at worse, plain ugly. Weeds overgrew the field that stretched from Bob’s house to the general store. Many years ago, his neighbor, Thurman, had a fine garden but had let nature take its course when he got too old to till and plant his own fields. A sprinkling of green sprouts struggled to survive among the hardy weeds, which had quickly taken over.Not even one scraggly pine tree grew along his walking route. One had to head toward Petit Jean to see the picturesque landscape. Farms with rolling hills and cows gracing their emerald carpet drew travelers’ eyes along the fifteen miles to the mountains. At least Bob’s house was surrounded by groups of thickly limbed pines, giving him welcome shade and keeping his cooling bill down. Once he reached the “Centerville” sign, he started counting his steps. Bob knew it was exactly one hundred to his front door. He counted on those days his legs gave him the most problems. “You know, Red,” he addressed his black-andtan hound after they’d both made it to the porch, “it’s been near ’bout a month that my knees have been paining me so.” The dog’s head never lifted from his paws; his eyes drooped heavily. He filled a jar with water, drank half, and then set the rest next to his chair. “Yessir,” he rocked backward until the back rested against the house. “Been about a month since Bill’s new store opened up for business.” Bob took out a chew of tobacco and stuck it in one cheek. “What do you think about that, dog?” He chuckled at Red’s closed eyes. “You’re about as interested as the rest of ’em round here.” Bob shook his head then shot a stream of dark brown juice off the side of the porch. “I guess I’m the only one who misses the old store.” Laying his head against the hard back, he sighed. “Guess folks were ready for something newfangled. Me,” he pointed to his bony chest, “I prefer the old to the new.” The old dog groaned in his sleep, feet moving softly against the weathered boards. “Spec you’re dreaming about the deer hunts we use to go on.” Bob smiled fondly at the hound. “I don’t dream much anymore, not since Emily passed on.” His eyes took on a softer look as silence reigned in the hot shadows for a brief spell. “The only pleasure I used to get after Emily 44 |

passed was walking to Bill’s General Store every day for my Co-Cola. Got to talk with my friends and get the exercise young Doc Taylor recommended.” He spit another aromatic stream over the porch rail. “Emily would’ve tanned my hide if I’d chewed while she was alive.” His eyes narrowed, and then he fished in his toothless mouth, bringing forth the brown wad. Bob took a sip of water and rinsed out his mouth then ran his tongue along his smooth gums. He loved that “free” feeling. He only used his dentures when he ate or his daughter and grandchildren visited. Most of the time, they sat in a water glass beside his bed. He never could cotton to those things, and they never fit right either. Bob threw the tobacco over the rail; it landed between the thick rosebushes growing there. He just couldn’t keep chewing while thinking about his dear Em. She might be looking down from heaven, a frown of worry creasing her brow.

Bob glanced toward the roses. “Shouldn’t have thrown it in there with her flowers.” He took a deep breath; the roses always gave him a pleasant reminder of his dear wife. “I’ll fetch it out later,” he mumbled. Laying his head back, Bob let sleep overtake him as it had earlier with his hound. The next morning the heat was already shimmering off the pavement, giving Bob a hint of how miserable his walk back would be if he stayed at the store too long. His cane tapped against the shiny tile as he entered through the fancy new screen door. Not even one hole or rip. No character. Bob greeted his cronies, who were already gathered at the counter, filling young Doyle’s ears with old stories. It never failed to give him pause when he saw Doyle, who looked so much like his father—the same thinning blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and slender build. Sometimes Bob thought he was seeing a ghost. Bill had passed away several years before, his son taking over the running of the business. He missed

| Myra Nour |

ol’ Bill, who had always been there, ever since a very young Bob had started coming in to purchase handfuls of candy and gum for a penny. Bill had been a young man, but even then you could see the humor flashing in his eyes as he exchanged some whopper with a customer. That was one area where the fortyish Doyle was a pale gray carbon copy of his dad—he didn’t have the natural born talent for storytelling. There certainly was a hole where Bill had once stood. He had been very popular. People would drive for miles just to hear his stories. Bill would swap tales of coon hunting and dogfights. Even gardening tips were discussed. Bill was a good listener as well, and many unbelievable whoppers were born in the old premises. Folks showed their appreciation for their local storyteller. They’d bring Bill and his family gifts of garden vegetables or a fresh kill if the hunter had one too many coons or maybe an extra rabbit. The biggest token was a forty-eight-pound catfish a fellow fisherman left one morning. Course, it was an old yellow mud cat, mostly a huge ugly head and not fit for eating. But, the cement slab in front of the store made a grand place to display his catch. Bill’s General Store was full of exaggerated fish stories for weeks afterward. Bob smiled to himself. “You must be feeling spry this morning,” Joe said. “No,” Bob grimaced as he picked up his daily CoCola. “Legs are screaming already; was just thinking about old Bill.” “Here’s to Bill,” Larry held up his grape soda. They all toasted the prior owner with upheld soda bottles. Bob always thought it odd that such a vigorous man as Larry was so partial to the sweet grape drink. It just didn’t seem a man’s drink. Larry had been a huge bear of a man in his youth and still raised the eyebrows of newcomers. He was six foot five inches, but his heavily muscled body had slowly turned to fat. The combination of his large stomach and long snowwhite hair and beard made him a target for young children, especially near Christmas. Grumbling all the while, Larry had been talked into playing Santa many a time. Bob’s attention snapped back to the discussion as Joe spoke. “I miss the old Co-Cola machine.” He ignored the fact as everyone else did that the soda machine held several other drinks besides Co-Cola.

They shook their head in agreement and Bob thought, I miss everything. “Yeah. I loved dipping my hand into the ice,” Larry said sadly. “That new machine’s electric,” he added with a snort of disapproval. “Looks the same,” Joe interrupted, “like a freezer. But it just ain’t the same. You know what I mean?” “I know,” Bob nodded. “There’s something about a Co-Cola being stuck down in freezing ice—just tastes better.” The others nodded in understanding. He laughed. “Remember when Bill had to drive clear over to the icehouse in Russellville and pick up those twenty-fivepound blocks of ice?” Bob watched as they grinned in fond remembrance. “Got his whole family and any volunteers loitering around to help chip it up,” Joe laughed. “I spent many a day putting ice in the Co-Cola machine and bagging ice.” “Well, you liked your chipped ice as well as anyone else.” Larry said. “Didn’t hurt to help Bill out.” Bob eyed Joe, thinking that a stranger pair of friends one couldn’t find in the whole county. Joe was only a few inches shy of Larry’s height, but whereas Larry was hefty, Joe was scrawny. Bob couldn’t spot one place on Joe’s body that could count as fat. Many times he’d seen Joe rubbing his baldpate while throwing envious glances at Larry’s thick hair. When not hanging around the store, they’d be fishing together. And both seemed to like the same style of clothing—favoring overalls and heavy work boots: “brogans,” the old folks called them. No Mutt and Jeff those two, but still an odd mixture. He watched the customers come and go for a while. Bessie Johnson brought part of her brood in, four stairsteps, the other three still in school. Several tourists stopped for gas. Of course, they had to come in and see the little country store, leaving with candy, sodas, and pointed directions to Petit Jean. He got tired of jockeying for space every time a new customer entered. There wasn’t much room near the front entrance like there May/June 2014 | 45

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had been with the old store. And there certainly weren’t three chairs anymore, open invitations for the old men to sit around and jaw a while. His walk home was a scorcher by the time he left. Folks drove by, waving as they passed, knowing that he insisted on completing this daily walk no matter the weather. Of course, he never went out on heavy rainy days. Bob wouldn’t have minded a ride home today though; he felt wearier than he ever remembered. At first he thought it was the heat sapping his strength, but then Bob had to admit it was probably his sadness over the loss of his lifelong friends, Bill and the old store. It was funny how quirky fate could be sometimes. Just like it’d been him who smoked for so many years, but it’d been Emily who died of cancer—his Em, who never took a puff and tried to eat proper. He’d thrown away his cigarettes and taken up chewing tobacco after Emily passed. Then, there was the store. It’d been sitting on those same foundations for over seventy years, year after year, unchanging as the summer heat. Then during one of those sudden Arkansas thunderstorms last year, everyone gathered at the store watched the sickening yellow sky for the telltale black twister. Sure enough, one appeared, snaking across the ground with swift flicks of its immense tail. Fortunately, they all had time to run for safety before the tornado picked up the old store and flew away with it. Unfortunately, there was nothing left but the foundation and a few bent canned goods rattling around atop the cement. Folks were used to tornadoes, but they’d still been surprised when one hit so close to home. He was glad Bill hadn’t been around to see the destruction of his town institution; it would have killed him for sure. The raw foundation sat for months like an eyesore, reminding folks of the tornado’s destructive power and their loss. People didn’t much like driving fourteen miles to the nearest town for groceries either. And there sure weren’t any more quick trips in for a drink, loaf of bread, or candy. Bill’s family didn’t know if they wanted to rebuild, but the townspeople kept asking when they were going to open a new store. The idea finally stuck because Doyle and his mother borrowed money from a bank and rebuilt it. The next morning Bob didn’t feel much like 46 |

taking his stroll to the store. His legs were all right, he just didn’t feel comfortable in that “new storesmelling” aluminum building. Its low ten-foot ceilings and large glass front were unfamiliar and unwelcome. Still, habit won over feelings and he went, arriving in a grumpy mood. Looking around in surprise, Bob’s mood lightened considerably. Several sturdy crates stood on end next to the right of the door, just as similar ones had for years. A church pew took up the area on the left side. Joe sat in the center of the pew, grinning up at Bob as he approached. “Ain’t it grand!” He patted the heavy church bench. “Even better than that ol’ park bench.” “How? Where?” “Reverend Brown dropped it off early this morning. Was the only one left from the sell of their old pews, ’cause it’s broke.” He scooted over, exposing a long crack down the length. Joe laughed. “Reverend said we might as well warm one of the pews.” Bob smiled and waved at the crates. “Where’d they come from?” “That feller that delivers fruit left them. Said he remembered how us ‘boys’ enjoyed sitting on them.” “Looks a little bit more like ‘home,’ don’t it?” Bob’s step was livelier as he went in to get his Co-Cola. He couldn’t help but notice the handmade bonnets that hung in the front window. Bob had always admired the quality of the hats made by the women of the Ozarks. They occasionally made the trip down the mountains to drop off their handiwork and go shopping in the biggest town around—Russellville. The carefully stitched work was reminiscent of old prairie bonnets worn by pioneer women. He pointed at the bonnets. “I thought they all got swallowed by the twister?” “I guess they brought mom some more,” Doyle said thoughtfully. “I’m glad. They give the place a certain charm.” It’d take more than a few bonnets, crates, and an old pew to give this place charm. But it was a start. The next day he whistled as he walked toward the store. Even old Red had a bounce in his step. The crates and bench did help the storefront appear more presentable. Bob noticed that the windows seemed dustier than the previous days, helping the illusion of yesteryear’s look. Must have been a lot of tourists passing by to stir up such a coating of dirt. Joe and Larry were grinning like possums when he got inside, and he saw that their sodas dripped

| Myra Nour |

with condensation. “New machine broke,” Larry cackled as he took a long draw from his bottle. “We got ice again,” he waved his drink toward the machine. Bob withdrew his Co-Cola, his hand drenched in chillingly cold water and clinging ice flakes. His first swig was delightfully refreshing, and he couldn’t stop the “ahh” that escaped him. Larry and Joe held up their sodas in a silent toast of agreement. “Funny thing,” Doyle spoke softly. “New machine like that breaking so quickly.” “Gonna get it fixed soon?” Bob asked quietly. “Don’t know,” Doyle dusted the counter vigorously. “Can’t find anybody round these parts to fix it; looks like I’m going to have to send it to Little Rock.” “Why don’t you leave it for a spell,” Bob suggested. “Won’t be good to be without a Co-Cola machine during the summertime; besides, ice does a right good job of keeping the sodas cool.” Joe and Larry added their vocal support. Young Doyle nodded, and Bob felt a great relief sink through him.

The next day was Sunday, and the family opened the store at 1:00 p.m. It was the only time Bob didn’t go for his morning walk; it was too hot by the afternoon. Come Monday he was raring to go, anxious to see if any more “improvements” had been made. He was not disappointed. Yet, he was pleasantly surprised by the three chairs that were placed inside the front entrance as the previous ones had been. They looked exactly like the three that had gone up the tornado’s funnel. Bob was slightly disgruntled because Joe sat in his

favorite one: the chair with the curving handles that fit your arms just so. He sat in the only empty one, asking, “Where’d these come from?” Joe and Larry shrugged, and then Doyle stopped stocking the shelves and answered for them. “I think mom brought them over. There’s lots of stuff in that old storage shed out back.” “Funny how they look like the old ones,” Larry said. “I think it’s great.” Bob happily patted the chair’s wooden side. He was sipping on his Co-Cola when Doyle started telling them about a coon hunt he’d gone on last week. Bob listened with only half an ear, his mind puzzling over the changes in the store. He gauged the distance to the front entrance, looking back and forth between it and where the chairs were placed. I guess Doyle did some rearranging, for there’s surely more room now. Either that or the building’s grown a few feet longer. Bob snuffed to himself in disbelief. Better not say that aloud; the others would think he was “teched” in the head. Still, he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was strange about the whole business. Course, he didn’t mind a bit, and he’d never open his mouth to complain. Bob leaned back, starting in surprise as he noticed the deep shadows overhead. His brow creased deeply. Was the ceiling higher than it was yesterday? The old one had been a good sixteen-feet deep. Bob searched the dusky darkness above with his weak eyes. He could swear the ceiling looked at least twelve- to fourteen-feet high now. Loud, abrupt laughter drew his shocked eyes back to his companions. Bob closed them for a second, calming himself and clearing his eyes of any strangeness. He felt befuddled and couldn’t stand up to their questioning. For a brief second, he wondered if he was catching “Allshimer” as ex-president Reagan had. “Bob, you asleep over there?” Larry slapped his knee, still chuckling merrily. “Did May/June 2014 | 47

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you hear the end of Doyle’s story?” he added. “It’s almost as good as one of his daddy’s.” “Sorry, I was daydreaming.” “Tell that part again,” Joe said to Doyle. “Well, like I said; me and Jim had gone coon hunting at night. Jim’s dog treed a coon, but he couldn’t get a good bead on it. Was too high up. So, he tied his rifle over his shoulder and shimmied up that tree.” Joe started laughing. “Go on, tell ’em what happened then.” “Jim got up near the top of that big pine, and we could see his flashlight trying to pick out the coon . . . and then we heard a loud holler. The tree commenced to shaking with Jim hollering something we couldn’t understand while some animal screamed.” Doyle stopped, a coughing laugh overcoming him. “Then what happened,” Bob urged, truly interested now. “Jim came down so fast you’d think he flew. He was shaking, his eyes as huge as saucers.” Doyle mimicked a scared expression, but his smiling mouth spoiled the effect. “Then Jim says, ‘It weren’t no coon, was a bobcat! He was snarling and hissing right in my face! I almost lost my grip on that branch!’” Doyle imitated Jim’s high-pitched voice exactly. They all had a good laugh at the second telling, Bob’s first. On his way home, he thought about the changes in the store and the way young Doyle seemed to be getting better at storytelling. Maybe the old store was having an influence on them somehow? Bob shook his head as soon as the thought appeared. He didn’t want to end up in a nursing home or loony bin for the rest of his life. Better not think such strange thoughts, you might speak them aloud, he warned himself. The next morning he arrived at the store earlier than normal, both excited and perturbed by his thoughts the previous day. Before he stepped through the door, there was an itch that had to be scratched. A tingly tickle ran up his back— something wasn’t right. He examined the storefront. The pew and crates were still there, the window looking crusty and older. Then it struck him. There was a zigzag row of bricks along the bottom of the aluminum storefront. Red brick! Brick that looked like it’d seen its share of wind, sun, and rain. “You’re thinking crazy thoughts again, old man,” 48 |

Bob spoke aloud. Shaking his head, he ignored this new discovery and entered the store. But his mind refused to let go; he told himself that Doyle must have decided to slap on a few layers of brick. Maybe he was trying to recapture the “flavor” of the old store. Now Bob smiled to himself, satisfied he’d hit on the answer. But as he took his Co-Cola and sat in the chair that resembled his old favorite, he wondered at himself. What was stopping him from simply asking Doyle? His friends showed up and spent a few minutes going over yesterday’s coon story with Doyle. Joe took out a chew of tobacco after he’d finished his soda, and Larry took a pinch of snuff. Bob was puzzled. They knew as well as he did that Doyle had barred spitting in the new store; no spittoons provided like in the old store. He guessed Doyle didn’t want to mess up his shiny tiles. And Bob couldn’t blame him, those two and other users around town didn’t have the best aim. He saw that Joe and Larry were working up large mouthfuls of brown spit. Bob wondered which one would dash for the door first. A metallic “ding” drew his attention. Larry had leaned over, his chair shifting as he moved. He lifted up a spittoon, the one that his chair leg had bumped. He spit with a proper aim, all his juice hitting the center of the container. A good thing too, Bob thought, otherwise Larry would’ve had a mess to clean outta his beard. Joe had withdrawn another spittoon from beneath his chair but his aim was sloppy as usual. Liquid tobacco dripped down to his chin. He swiped at it with the stained handkerchief he withdrew from his pocket, a big brown, toothy grin plastered on his face. Bob had always envied Joe’s full set of real teeth. Right now, his only thought was if he looked as disgusting when he chewed. No, that wasn’t his only thought. Bob felt a shiver run through his thin frame. Those spittoons were the same type as the old ones had been. They were a darkened brass, their sides dented from much use. He glanced up at Doyle, who went on about his business of wiping down the meat slicer, paying no never mind to the two old codgers spitting on his premises. What was going on? When had Doyle decided to let customers chew and dip again? He did not remember any of this going on yesterday. Thoughts of strokes and brain disease came to him again.

| Myra Nour |

Suddenly, he wanted to leave; he’d run down that road if he could. But his legs felt numb. So Bob sat and listened to the stories flying between his friends. By the time Joe and Larry ran out of wind, it was heading toward noon. Larry turned to him in surprise, as if just noticing him. “Bob, you still here.” “Of course, he’s still here,” Joe hit Larry lightly on the arm and turned to Bob. “Why don’t you let me give you a ride? It’s too hot for you to walk home.” Bob nodded his head wearily, feeling old, wrung out. Seeing the concern on the three men’s faces, he tried to put on a good front, smiling and joking about his legs. Red jumped in the truck bed immediately, a happy dog grin showing his approval, his wet tongue hanging out. The ride in Joe’s old truck only took a minute, but it seemed endless. His friend’s conversation went by in a haze, forgotten before it even registered. The rest of Bob’s day was filled with confusing images, his night with restless sleep. The next morning he thought about staying in bed a while, but his neighbor’s rooster had already crowed. His body was ready to get up, not ready to break with tradition because of his mental state. Bob’s senses became alert, sharp, as soon as he stepped onto his porch. The air had a crystal clear edge to it, the kind that sometimes swept down from the mountains, cooling things down and sweetening the atmosphere. Bob took several deep breaths, feeling an aliveness run through his body that was unexpected and pleasant. Calling Red, he started on his morning walk. He looked up at the sky frequently, noting the deep azure that would lighten with the sun’s brighter rays. Streaks of fluffy clouds drifted slowly overhead, blown by the same gentle wind that refreshed Bob’s face and body. As lovely as the sky looked, his eyes were drawn more frequently to the tall weeds and their sparkling draperies. Spiderwebs glistened with dewdrops of diamonds, transforming the bare roadside into a garden of mystical wonder. A white mist floated eerily between the stalks, adding to the otherworldly aspect of the plain weed-choked field. He’d seen the same mist-draped sight many a morn; yet, it was funny how you could forget that such beauty existed around you, taking it for granted until something shakes you up, causes you to reopen

your eyes with a childlike wonder. Bob whistled a little ditty, swinging his cane more than using it to aid his step. His legs felt just fine. His hound barked enthusiastically at a rabbit watching them from a nearby patch of clover. Red was too old to go chasing after it but found joy, it seemed, in letting the rabbit know he was around. Bob felt the same joy, the simple joy of being alive on such a fine morning. He arrived at Bill’s General Store with a new attitude. Or maybe, he thought, he’d kept all the good feelings and thrown out the bad ones. He didn’t care whether the “changes” were real or imagined; he would accept them at face value and not question the wherefores.

He looked at the exterior with pleasure. The gaps in the brick had filled, an even line of them advancing upward, reaching just below the window. Bob glanced up at the aluminum roof; it hadn’t changed, and he figured it might not. The old roof had been tin, a close relative to the new aluminum. The first thing he noticed inside was the new cash register, or old one, he thought. It was large, made of brass, with scrollwork along the top. Doyle grinned and patted the register. “You don’t even have to ask—I brought it in from the storage shed.” Joe interrupted excitedly, “The electric one quit working! Ain’t that something?” Bob nodded absentmindedly. “That register looks familiar.” “It should,” Doyle folded his arms, examining it with a critical eye. “Dad used it out here for years before he got the ‘newer’ one that we lost in the tornado.” May/June 2014 | 49

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“How come he ever changed it?” Bob asked. “That one’s a lot prettier.” “Pretty!” Joe cackled and slapped one hand on his knee. “Shut up,” Larry said, pushing him slightly. “Don’t you know those things are worth a fortune in antique shops?” Doyle waited quietly for their exchange to end before answering. “A few keys stick,” he shrugged. “Guess that’s why Dad put it in storage.” He cocked his head and said, “Better listen to Larry.” His eyes twinkled. “He’s a man of the world.” All eyes turned to Larry, who tucked his hands under his immense belly, putting on his “wise” look. Larry had been in the military when he was young and got to see a lot of different states. He was full of all kinds of interesting information. The mood got even jollier when Jim walked in. His coon story recirculated, told by himself this time. Bob was glad for the distraction provided for the others; it gave him a chance to examine his surroundings unobserved. He looked around slowly. The shelves appeared the same, running down the length of both walls and several down the center, making four aisles total. They were crammed with canned and dried goods and even a small section supplying medicinal items for a variety of ailments. The Co-Cola machine was filled with chipped ice. Its lifeline, the electric cord, lay coiled uselessly beside it. The spittoons were in place beneath his friends’ chairs. His eyes stopped at the screen door, opening slightly at seeing a large rip that ran down the center. It had been covered with duct tape to keep the flies from invading. The pioneer bonnets hung in the window, brightening it with their multicolored mixtures. Only one was missing, purchased yesterday by a happy tourist. Bob glanced at the three chairs. His left hand unconsciously rubbed the area underneath the curved handle, and he gripped the wood as his fingers felt the familiar initials. Letting out his breath slowly, he ran his fingers along the carving again. No mistake, they were his, carved with his penknife when he was eight while young Bill had been bringing stock from the back and packing the shelves. That knife was a gift from his pa on his eighth birthday, given to him the same day he decided to set his seal on the chair. Seemed like his fingers 50 |

were itching to carve his name somewhere and try out his new knife. He’d thought the chair was the perfect choice, no one would ever know, and they hadn’t for a long time. It eventually was discovered and Pa had given him a whopping even though Bill didn’t seem to mind. His fingers ran along the worn carving in a slow rhythm. Now, those initials were ghosting him, reminding him of the past, aching to live again. Bob continued his survey, his eyes drawn to an anomaly on the back wall. Something looked different but it was too far away to tell what. He got up, mumbled that he needed a can of beans to prevent any questions, and went directly to the pressed board wall.

Slowly, not believing his eyes, Bob touched the strip of ancient beaded boards that sat in the center of one of the panels. It looked as if the old boards had been covered by the new pressed panel, looked as if they were pushing from beneath. But he knew that couldn’t be so. All the old boards had been sucked up by the twister, never to be seen again. Even as Bob examined the exposed strip, a barely noticeable crackling sound heralded a further crumbling away of the new board paneling. It curled and flaked, falling slowly toward the shelf below . . . then just disappeared. Bob reached his trembling hand and placed it against the old boards. They felt warm, welcoming. “Welcome home,” he whispered and rubbed the golden boards gently then turned back toward the front. His eyes glistening, he took a few steps then stopped suddenly. He’d stepped on something gritty and familiar. Bob looked down. The flooring reflected the same process as the wall; the old floorboards pushed up between the waxed tiles even as he watched. Strewn across the surface of the gray weathered planks was the sawdust he’d stepped on. Bob shook his head in wonder. The old store was recreating itself all right, even down to the sawdust used to clean the board flooring. Bob walked around the old boards carefully, not wishing to disturb their progress. He smiled and

| Myra Nour |

whispered, “I’m glad you’re back,” to them as he passed by. “Hey, Bob, what’d ya do with your beans?” Joe laughed as he rejoined them. “Decided to eat a TV dinner tonight.” He beamed. He could tell by their expressions they wondered why he was so all fired happy about a cold dinner warmed up in the microwave. “I better be going.” Jim took a step then stopped and scratched his head. “Dang, you ol’ boys almost made me forget my beer. Can’t go fishing without my drink.” “Jim, if you tangle with any more cats, best be a catfish.” Larry laughed good-naturedly. Doyle rang up Jim’s purchase, rubbing his neck, a puzzled frown crossing his face. “What’s wrong?” Joe asked. “Strangest thing. These keys are working pretty good now.” “Maybe the old register just needed a rest,” Larry grinned. Bob listened to his friends laughter and watched further antics enacted as townsfolk came and went. They were a good bunch. He sank into the chair, feeling a peace settle over him. One he hadn’t felt since before Emily had died. He loved his friends . . . loved this old store. It had a character all its own. Now that he thought about it, he’d been in mourning for the loss of the general store. It was a piece of history, his history and those of his loved ones. It was as though the lifeblood of the town flowed through these premises. Friendships, stories, jokes, and even tragedies found their way into these walls. A fishy smell floated to Bob’s nose; he turned his head instinctively towards the back where the minnow tank had once sat. Those dusky shadows didn’t give up their secrets, but the smell seemed to be getting stronger. He closed his eyes, opening up his other senses wider. A small noise had gradually been gaining volume at the edge of his awareness, not really noticeable before with the laughter and talk near him cutting into it. Crickets! He heard their sweet “chirping” increase until it seemed to wrap around him, making him think of sitting on his porch in the evening. He enjoyed listening to their love songs. Well, the bait shop’s back in business. Bob didn’t know if what he sensed going on around him was real or not, didn’t know if it was his

imagination or if he was losing his mind. He just didn’t care. He watched as the ghosts of yesteryear came to life around him; the tiles popping up everywhere now as the cracked gray planks took over. The pressed board along the side wall peeled off at a fierce pace, pushed in tiny explosive pops by the old oak boards. As if zeroing in on his feelings, Larry said, “It sure was a beautiful morning, wasn’t it?” “Yes,” Bob answered softly. “And it’s going to be a mighty fine day.”

Myra Nour grew up reading s/f, fantasy, and romance, so she was really thrilled when these elements were combined in Futuristic Romances. She enjoys writing within all these elements, whether the hero is a handsome man from another planet or a tiny fairy from another dimension. Myra’s background is in counseling, and she likes using her knowledge to create believable characters. She also enjoys lively dialogue and, of course, using her imagination to create other worlds with lots of action/adventure as well as romance. She uses her handsome husband as inspiration for her heroes—he is a body builder, a soldier, and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Visit Myra at

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Historical | Western | Period Fiction

once UPON a TIME


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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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Very few kings were considered hot during their own lifetimes, but King Richard I of England was one of the few, the proud, and the studly during the romantic Middle Ages. His life was one of legend... a man who became Duke of Aquitaine in his own right as a teenager; he fought his father in battle to defend his mother’s honor. We don’t know exactly what Richard looked like . . . there was no color photography back then, of course, but clerks writing at the time described him as over six feet tall with blue eyes and the red hair of his Norman and Viking forebears. He fought in tournaments, but he preferred battle to anything else on earth.

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| The Hot Hunks of History |

A man of honor in a world without, Richard composed poetry and songs in both Provencal and the langue d’oc, the language of Aquitaine. Even after his father debauched his virgin betrothed, the Princess Alais of France, Richard kept her under his protection for years. When asked why he refused to return her to her brother, King Philip Auguste of France, Richard’s one-time friend turned deadly enemy, Richard reportedly said, “I would not give a dog into that man’s keeping, much less a defenseless woman.” For a piece of Alais and Richard’s story, read my historical novel The Queen’s Pawn. Richard fought valiantly against General Saladin in the Third Crusade but was unable to bring the city of Jerusalem back under Christian control. He and Saladin made a treaty that allowed pilgrims to visit the city, ending the war. Ever the man of honor, Richard did not allow himself to visit Jerusalem, as he had not managed to win it outright. For serious devotees of King Richard, read Sharon Kay Penman’s Lionheart.

Christy English is happiest when she is dreaming. Her dreams have taken her to the royal court of Henry II in The Queen’s Pawn, to medieval Paris in To Be Queen, and now to Regency England in Much Ado About Jack, Love on a Midsummer Night, and How to Tame a Wilfull Wife, where she loves to watch her characters find true love, often in spite of themselves. Please visit her on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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reviews historical | western

Meet the Earl at Midnight Gina Conkle Historical Romance Heat Rating: 3

The Enigma Earl. The Lord Phantom. That’s what the gossip pages call Lord Sandford, a mysterious nobleman who doesn’t show his face in London Society. With a reputation like that, it’s no wonder that Lydia Montgomery is horrified to be dragged from bed and packed off to live with him to save her mother from penury. While Lydia has received all of the training a lady should endure, she’s decidedly un-ladylike. She despises her corset and isn’t interested in marriage; in fact, she would prefer to remain single so that she can spend her time improving her art. But if she wants a chance at happiness, she’ll have to set aside her fear of Lord Sandford and discover the man hiding behind the beast. Review: Lydia goes to a meeting under the assumption that she’s only going to help her step-brother out of a jam. Little did she realize that there was a sinister plot in the making. Turns out her step-brother and step-father were thieves and in order to keep her mom from going to prison for their crimes, she’d have to marry and produce an heir for the Earl in question. To think she was a little ticked would be an understatement. Even the step-father knew when to shut up and stay out of the way, so he wouldn’t lose a body part. Lydia really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter apparently. Lord Sanford the Earl in question actually made a good match for Lydia, all things considering and once she got over the shock of her family’s thievery and the part she must play so her mother doesn’t end up in jail. It had a lot of charm with very likeable characters. Lydia had a lot of spunk and handled what-ever situation that came her way with dignity. Lord Sandford turned out to be a good man. Lydia and Lord Sandford actually made a good match and you rooted for them to stay together. Definitely a good read

you’ll enjoy, so pick it up if you get the chance. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

Noble Intentions Katie MacAlister Historical Romance Heat Rating: 3

When Noble Britton’s first wife dies, he tries everything to clear his name, including marrying a quiet, honest woman with no history of scandal or ill reputation. As soon as he meets Gillian Leigh, he knows she’ll do quite nicely. But Noble has a lot to learn about his unconventional bride. Gillian is a bit…accident prone. Now, with unfortunate incidents occurring all around him, and a banged-up head, black eye, and broken nose to boot, he realizes that this feisty girl has stolen his heart…and healed his soul. Review: Gillian meets Lord novel Britton aka “ the Black Earl” at a ball. Gillian, has a knack for getting into mischief and mayhem whenever she’s not looking for trouble and she learns about the “Black Earl” from her cousin Charlotte who fills her in about his somewhat scandalous past. He’s intrigued by her, even though she has a knack for saying anything that pops into her mouth and head. She turned out to be quite a handful for Nobel and all he really wanted was a nice quiet unassuming lady, who was nothing like his first wife. She turned out to be very good for his son that he’d had by his first wife. Gillian learns about Nick, after she and Nobel are married and he introduces them. Both Father and son were somewhat shocked, but pleasantly surprised by Gillian’s initial reaction to Nick. It was a treat with likeable characters and an unlikely heroine and hero and their cast of loveable quirky supporting characters that includes triplets who work for Nobel in different capacities, May/June 2014 | 57

reviews historical | western

Crouch the butler, and the resident ghost who makes an appearance only when they feel, it’s warranted. They were a hoot! Definitely a fun read you’ll enjoy. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

Noble Destiny

Katie MacAlister Historical Romance Heat Rating: 4

Lady Charlotte Collins returns to England as a poor widow. She’s eager to take her place in the ton, but is quickly shunned by all. There is only one way to redeem her good standing: find a groom with wealth, a title, and good looks. Alasdair McGregor possesses all these fine attributes, but he cruelly refuses to be the answer to Charlotte’s problems. So what is she to do but take extreme measures? She’ll make him fall in love with her by any means necessary, even a gun. Can this determined lady capture his heart, or will she misfire? Review: If you enjoyed Nobel Intentions, you’ll enjoy Nobel Destiny. This time it’s Charlotte’s story. You met her in Nobel Intentions when she tried to help her cousin Gillian land a good husband, and she succeeded in that endeavor. Now it’s Charlotte’s turn. Charlotte’s journey was definitely not one that went by the traditional root, since against the advice of everyone and being black balled by society, she’d run off with an aristocratic from Italy, only to end up broke and “heartbroken” when he died and his family basically tossed her on the street with nothing. They didn’t like her, but then the feeling was mutual. So with no place to go, she hightails it to her cousin’s place and practically tries to keep her locked in the study when she finds out she’s leaving to go on a trip abroad. That was hysterical. When she met Dare, some were definitely opposed to the match, but they made quite a good couple who belonged together. The supporting characters were a treat to. You’ll definitely enjoy it. So pick up a copy, you won’t be disappointed. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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reviews historical | western

Secrets of a Viscount Rose Gordon Historical Romance Heat Rating: 3

One summer night, Sebastian Gentry, Lord Belgrave hauled the wrong young lady to Gretna Green. When her identity is exposed, the only obvious solution is to get an annulment. Only, just like his elopement plans, things didn’t go as planned and while she has reason to believe they are no longer married, he knows better. Wanting to make things right for her, he offers to help her find a husband… Isabelle Knight has just been given an unexpected fortune and is in the midst of doing what she never believed she’d have to do: spend a Season on the Marriage Mart. Finding no one who seems to catch her fancy--or even seems bearable to tolerate until death do them part--her entire world is sent spinning with the sudden appearance of none other than her former husband. Isabelle is in no position to refuse his offer to help her find a husband and reluctantly agrees, but what neither counts on is her future husband just might be the one she’s still secretly married to. Review: In short: An absolute delightful, cannot be put down read! This sadly, is just about 150 pages. In those pages there was quite a bit of drama mostly because two people just do not understand each other! As the two, Sebastian and Belle look to find Belle a suitor, because my goodness the gal is in her twenties and is soon to be a spinster, they find out more and more about each other, but that doesn’t mean they actual start to LIKE each other. Full of spunk. The characters are outrageous and fun. I found myself totally in love with Sebastian and could not wait for him to take control of the situation. And Belle was just as much fun and stubborn to a fault! I just knew that through all the drama and Belle trying to find the right

suitor, even though she secretly kept thinking dangerous thoughts of Sebastian, that the characters just fit each other. What’s funny is that although nearly everyone else sees it, they do not! I would love to see more about the other characters in this! I’m a huge fan now and cannot wait to pick up more of Rose Gordon’s books! | Reviewer: Christina Torretta |

The Unexpected Duchess Valerie Bowman Historical Romance Heat Rating: 3

IN THIS BATTLE OF WITS Lady Lucy Upton’s tongue may be too sharp to attract suitors but her heart is good and when her painfully shy friend Cassandra needs help she devises a brilliant scheme to help her discourage an unwanted suitor, the Duke of Claringdon. Lucy will hide behind the hedgerow and tell Cass just what to say to discourage the Duke of Claringdon…but it turns out that he’s made of sterner stuff than either of them anticipated. And Lucy is shocked to discover that tangling with the tenacious man is the most fun she’s had in ages. KISSES ARE THE BEST WEAPON Lord Derek Hunt made a promise to his dying friend to marry the demure Cassandra, and for a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet after the horrors of war, she’ll make the perfect bride. If only the impudent Miss Upton will let him court the girl! Doing battle is the last thing on his mind, but bantering with Lucy behind the bushes is too tempting to resist. And the spoils of this war just may be true love… May/June 2014 | 59

reviews historical | western

Review: The Unexpected Duchess (Playful Brides#1) by Valerie Bowman was fantastic. She incorporated the theme of Cyrano de Bergerac and “Much Ado About Nothing”. I’m disappointed that this was my first time reading Valerie Bowman. She is absolutely amazing! I was so engaged and invested in Lady Lucy Upton and Lord Derek Hunt. I loved Lady Lucy. She is my kind of heroine! She is confident, protective and fearless! She is determined to protect her dear friend Cassandra from Lord Derek after he decides to court her. Lord Derek is equally fantastic. Although much of society is frightened of Lady Lucy and her sharp tongue, Lord Derek is not. He is more than willing to stand up to her and show her that he will not back down once he sets his mind on something. Even if that something is her dear friend. What neither Lord Derek nor Lady Lucy expect is to fall in love. They are perfectly suited even though they both drive each other crazy. I loved everything about this story. It was incredibly well written. The characters were so entertaining and funny. I found myself laughing very often throughout the story. I loved the secondary characters as well and am looking forward to the next book in the series! This is a fun and romantic historical romance that does not disappoint! | Reviewer: Diana Silva |

The Princess of Sparta Aria Cunningham Historical Romance Heat Rating: 4

Review: The Princess of Sparta by Aria Cunningham is a historical fiction romance novel that portrays the story of Helen of Sparta, the young princess whose love and passion for Paris, a prince from Troy, would start a war. Helen at the age of sixteen chose to marry Menelaus, the man whose brother Agamemnon married her twin sister, Clytemnestra. Years later in Mycenae, after years of abuse from both Menelaus and Agamemnon, Helen meets Paris who has come as an Ambassador from Troy hoping to forge peace. A fire between the two is ignited that neither can resist nor ignore. Cunningham has written an engaging, romantic, harrowing story of forbidden love. Helen and Paris both believe themselves cursed. A vision of Paris in his youth predicted he would bring fire to burn Troy. While Helen felt she was the victim of her own beauty, afraid of the wants of men. Regardless of these things, the attraction between the two was obvious the moment they laid eyes on each other but the risk was just as palpable. The Princess of Sparta was a very enjoyable novel with well-developed characters, and a familiar but entrancing plot. I found myself drawn into and rooting for this love between Paris and Helen even though I knew what would come of it. Full of lustful suspense, a surprising amount of action and a great reimagining of history, I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone interested in a new look at Helen of Sparta. | Reviewer: Stacie Carrier |

How to Handle a Cowboy Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, was once a girl. In The Princess of Sparta, Aria Cunningham presents the coming-of-age of a character often portrayed as a mere pawn in the wars of men and expertly reinterprets the “herstory” behind Helen’s legendary tale. Sprinkled with tunic-tearing passion, Cunningham paints this popular story with an exquisite brush and reinvents one of the greatest love stories ever told.

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Joanne Kennedy Western Romance Heat Rating: 3

Sidelined by a career-ending injury, rodeo cowboy Ridge Cooper is desperate to find an outlet for the energy he devoted to his sport. He decides to teach rodeo skills to the kids at the Phoenix House, a local group home for foster

reviews historical | western

children. Here he falls for a big-city girl who just might make him the perfect wife… Inner-city social worker Sierra Dunn has been exiled to a last-chance home for foster kids in a remote Wyoming town for blowing the whistle on her boss. Her only goal is to prove herself and move back to the city, but the town’s rodeo hero is going after her heart.

presence is a reminder of their painful past. Fearless, she dives in, losing her heart to the ranch, to the community, and to an unexpected summer fling. But when dangers from her past catch up to her, they may cost her everyone and everything she has come to love.

Review: Being wrangled into volunteering by his brother, Ridge finds himself teaching five energetic rowdy boys, who are in the foster care system, some rodeo skills with a city gal… This was funny in some sections but each of the character had some type of troubled and trying pasts that is where the book didn’t click with me in some aspects. Emotional and trying good book that was overall an interesting read that had a few unexpected and many expected storyline of what was going to happen next. There are two other brothers and it seems that is what is going to be written in the next book, maybe... In addition, this reminded me of another story that I read last year, Kidnapped Cowboy, in some aspects.

Review: Rustler’s Heart (The Kinnison Legacy) by Amanda McIntyre was a great read! I have never read Amanda McIntyre and was not sure what to expect! I was pleasantly surprised! I thought that the writing was engaging. I loved that the story picked up from the very beginning. Although I did not read the previous book in “The Kinnison Legacy” series I was not lost, this is a stand- alone novel. I also enjoyed the hero and heroine. They were easy to relate to and sympathize with. The family dynamic was also a great addition to the “romance”. Liberty Belle begins the story very lost. She is at a huge crossroads in her life. She has just packed up her things and moved to be closer to her “new” family. I thought that the author was authentic in the family tensions and the hesitations that would arise when a new family member is introduced. Rein is very protective of his “brothers” he is distrusting of Liberty and her true intentions. I really liked this about Rein. He showed his strong loyalty to Wyatt and Dalton. Liberty and Rein have great chemistry. They are constantly at odds and always getting a rise out of one another. I liked to see how both characters evolved. Liberty not only had to become a costumed to her new family but to living a country life as opposed to her city life. I’m hooked on the Kinnison family!

| Reviewer: Beckey White |

Rustler’s Heart Amanda McIntyre Western Romance Heat Rating: 3

| Reviewer: Diana Silva | Orphaned by tragedy, Rein Mackenzie was taken in by his benevolent uncle at the Kinnison ranch alongside two others abandoned at a young age. Now, he and his ‘brothers’ carry on Jed Kinnison’s dream of making the ranch a haven for those who need hope. But when a woman arrives claiming to be related to the Kinnisons, she brings danger—not only to his heart, but to those he calls family. Liberty’s presence is a surprise to the family she’s never met, and while she yearns to belong, she knows her May/June 2014 | 61

feature author interview

Sabrina Jeffries

HOW THE SCOUNDREL SEDUCES Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling author of 37 novels and 9 works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions—jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 7 million books in print in 18 different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fiction.

Tell us about your pen names: Deborah Martin, Deborah Nicholas, and Sabrina Jeffries. How did you come up with them? Deborah Martin is my maiden name. Deborah Nicholas is my name plus my son’s name. Sabrina Jeffries came about when Avon first bought my newer, more humorous historicals, and they wanted to distinguish them from my earlier ones. I’d just seen the movie Sabrina, and I loved it, so I chose that one and an Englishsounding surname picked from the phonebook. Your heroines are strong-willed and resilient. Are any of them based on real women? All of them! But no one specific, although some heroines have more of me than others (Minerva, for example). My mother is a very strong woman, and I have read about so many others through history—Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth Inchbald, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen ... it’s a long list. Do you have favorite characters from your books? If so, what makes them your favorite? That’s like asking a mother to choose a favorite child! I like different ones for different reasons. I love Minerva’s wit, Isa’s creativity and love of family, Regina’s determination, Celia’s skill at shooting, Hetty’s ability to manipulate, and there are many more. Where did you come up with the idea for Will and Jane’s Excellent Adventure? My agent gave me a Jane Austen action figure for Christmas. The next Christmas, my husband bought me a Shakespeare figure, but he was more of a caricature. And he was short. When I put the two figures next to each other, I flashed on 62 |

how they would interact if they were characters, and that was it! Will and Jane were born. Please tell us about your current release? My latest, When the Rogue Returns, the second book of my Duke’s Men series, covers an area little discussed in historical romances—the creation of good-quality fake diamonds, which began in the 18th century with Georg Friedrich Strass, who essentially “discovered” the rhinestone. My heroine, Isabella Cale, is a jeweler who’s so good at creating fake diamonds that she gets herself and her new spouse, Victor Cale (cousin to the duke in What the Duke Desires) embroiled in a plot to steal royal diamonds. Ten years later, after that plot separates her from her husband, they get a second chance at love. What is your next book and when will it be available? My next release is the third book in the Duke’s Men series, How the Scoundrel Seduces (Pocket paperback, September 2014). It’s about Lady Zoe Olivier who’s trying to learn the truth about who her parents really are before she finds herself married to her family’s choice for her—an American cousin. She turns to Tristan Bonnaud of Manton’s Investigations, and they’re soon visiting Romany camps and encountering family secrets. He’s a rogue, she’s fascinated by that, and during their search the inevitable happens—he seduces her and they fall in love.

reviews historical | western

Mischief by Moonlight

To Charm a Naughty Countess

Emily Greenwood dazzles readers with witty regency repartee and lively period slang reminiscent of Georgette Heyer. With a gypsy love potion on hand and an enchanted earl with secret desires, Greenwood’s third installment in the Regency Mischief series, Mischief by Moonlight, promise readers triple the trouble for a pair already prone to mischief… Miss Josie Cardworthy is engaged to the perfect man— but he’s away on duty, and Josie’s only consolation has been the company of his best friend, Colin Pearce, the Earl of Ivorwood. Realizing that her marriage will make her sister Eliza a spinster, Josie contrives to set up Eliza with Colin by way of a love potion. But the plan brings Colin’s deeply hidden feelings for Josie to light—feelings that she herself can no longer deny. Though a change in fortune gives them a chance for a future, the mix-up is bound to make trouble for a pair already prone to mischief...

CAN A RECLUSIVE DUKE… Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause–after first refusing his suit. WIN LONDON’S MOST POWERFUL COUNTESS? Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Stratton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael–her counterpart in an old scandal–returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of society, Caroline realizes that she’s lost her heart . But if she gives herself to the only man she’s ever loved, she’ll lose the hard-won independence she prizes above all.

Emily Greenwood Regency Romance Heat Rating: 4

Review: A quick delightful read you’ll enjoy. It has a little bit of everything. Humor, mischief, magic and a couple who were meant to be, even tho one was engaged to another, but when the opportunity came and she managed to become free, she and Collin, close friends that they were became quite the couple. Even though Josie originally wanted Collin to be her sister’s boyfriend and then maybe husband, so her sister Edwina would be alone and she’d have somebody for herself. Collin did look out for the sister, for a bit, but that was only to distract him from Josie and all the new feelings she was conjuring up because he was beginning to fall for her. Definite a fun read and lessons learned by all, because of a gypsy and her potion that had the desired effect, but not towards the intended party, but the results were hilarious. If you get a chance, pick up a copy, you’ll definitely enjoy it. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

Theresa Romain Historical Romance Heat Rating: 4

Review: When his steward tells him of his dire financial situation, you feel Michael’s pain. Michael, Duke of Wyverne has no money, no heir and eventually no dukedom, unless he a situation presents itself so he can get some much needed cash. That was going to be a challenge. Especially since A) There was a scandalous scandal surrounding him a few years back and  B) Most of the London ton thought him Mad. Not odd. Just plain Mad! C) He’ll do whatever he needs to, to ensure his dukedom survives, no matter the cost. Enter Caroline Graves a widow who happened to have been involved with him during the scandal. She›d gotten married after the scandal and she was now widowed and she really wasn›t sure if she wanted to be married again. But Caroline, Countess of Stratton, didn›t count on falling in love with Michael and the same could be said for Michael. They made a good couple and a very likeable one and sanders was a very efficient steward for Michael.  As for Mrs. Applewood›s brief appearance was slightly annoying, but it was also charmingly funny. May/June 2014 | 63

reviews historical | western

So, to see Caroline and Michael›s journey to a happily ever after, was a real treat. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

The Perfect Duke Dawn Ireland Historical Romance Heat Rating: 3

Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, the Duke of Kendal sets himself apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guiltdriven attempt to become a perfect duke. Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important. Cara believes in Fairy Tales, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Can she show him, without losing her heart, that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder? Review: There’s a mystery and a lie. The mystery concerned the disappearance of an Earl’s daughter and his belief till the day he died that she was still alive. Her re-appearance in society came in the guise of a governess for the niece of her actual fiancé, Garrett. Garrett was the duke who only recently learned of his fiancé miraculous reappearance, who was actually living under a false name and actually had no idea she was actually the daughter of an Earl. If her father was still alive he’d be so very happy. He actually went to his grave saying she was still alive. Her brother might not be so happy at her reappearance. That might throw a wretched wrench in his plans. And he can’t have that! Garrett want’s to carry out his obligations and he really did have the best intentions in mind. Even though Clara has no idea that she is a daughter of an Earl, she is truly likeable and a strong capable heroine, who knows how to work hard for what she wants. Charming story with likeable and quirky characters and you’ll like the household staff and the niece as well. Pick up a copy, you’ll really like it. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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reviews historical | western

Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman Wareeze Woodson Historical Suspense Heat Rating: 3

Recently widowed Lady Laningham flees Landings to escape her sister-in-law’s rule, and to keep Lord Adron from taking full charge of her son. A killer is stalking her while a jewel thief steals the family jewels. Can she convince the guardian to trust her, or will his blind stubbornness send her straight into the path of the murder? Will he relent in time to save her from following her husband into the grave?

Review: A tale of love, treachery, and doubt. Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman presents reality-based male and female conflicts in a Victorian setting. Not the usual “man understands woman in everything that she thinks and does”, this novel portrays the man as he (Adron) is, torn between loyalty to family, society, and his feelings, and having an extremely difficult time trusting the woman (Laurel). This novel’s multi-layered plot includes a conflict between in-laws, a mysterious crazy person, and missing jewelries. All of these highlight the wonderful concept of a mother’s love for her son, and how such love can withstand even the harshest of lords and sharp-tongue ladies. Moreover, it also shows how forgiving and accepting love is. This story has a happily ever after ending. | Reviewer: Francine Alli |

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reviews historical | western

Fearless Heart

Gail Cauble Gurley Historical Heat Rating: 1

A young family is trapped in the slums of New York during the Great Depression. They struggle to survive, depending on their faith and love as a mysterious benefactor searches relentlessly for them. They are cast on an adventure that will forever change their lives as well as who they are. Review: Fearless Heart by Gail Cauble Gurley is a fiction novel depicting the Great Depression. Robert Blair is a young man with a wife and child. He lost his job and home when the stock market crashed and now goes to the docks daily looking for work. He is approached one day, after being informed jobs will no longer be offered near him, by an older woman named Molly Fulton with an unbelievable job opportunity. She embraces Robert and his family and shows them unbelievable amounts of kindness during a time of great struggle and sadness. Gurley created a novel full of faith, love, kindness and strength during one of the darkest parts of American History. The Blair family represented much of America at that time, struggling to make ends meet, without much hope for the days ahead. But they loved each other and let their faith in God see them through their hardships. Molly Fulton assumed the role of a fairy Godmother, blessing the family in ways they never imagined. This novel was well written and uplifting. It focused on overcoming the hardships and finding strength in those around you that love and care for you. I found fault in the lack of detail regarding the Great Depression. Providing information regarding the history of the Great Depression would have added depth to the novel. Regardless of its faults I enjoyed this novel and reading about a story where love and faith are the true champions. | Reviewer: Stacie Carrier |

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We Are Anything... We are anything but finite Or alone! After all the petals of proof Are here in our hearts, Are they not? And however deflated We might sometimes be, Either by our own frailties Or the cruelty of others, - Inviolate At the core of our being, The very prism Of sanctity and self remains. And latent there, The quick silvered opportunity Of redemption, To become enchanted again. Sublime moments refracted, Even if only for seconds, Caught forever in your soul.

- Scott Hastie


sneak peek

Julie LeMense

ONCE UPON A WAGER When Lord Alec Carstairs returns from the Peninsular Wars, hailed as a hero in the midst of the London Season, only Annabelle Layton knows the sort of man he really is. They’d been friends once, before a passionate kiss changed everything. But if she’d secretly loved him, those feelings had died one bright summer morning, when a reckless wager left her broken and bloodied, and he abandoned her. Hardly the actions of a hero. But Alec has never forgotten her. There is more to that long ago than Annabelle knows, and shocking lies have distorted the past. Can he uncover its painful truths, and still keep his distance from the stunning beauty? Can he deny his forbidden desire, even as it flares hotter than ever?

Annabelle returned to the party just as the first course was served, hopefully with no one the wiser. No one besides Alec, at least. She sensed him watching her at every opportunity, but whether to keep her safe or avoid her path, she didn’t know. Course after course was served to the throng of seated guests. There were soups, sweetmeats, and baked fowl; meats, terrines, and savory tarts; sugar-glazed fruits and desserts—all presented by white-gloved servers moving with almost orchestral precision. It was perfect. If only Alec would ask her to dance, the evening’s earlier trials could be overlooked, but he hadn’t asked. She despaired that he ever would. Gareth’s friends from school, however, were gratifyingly kind, paying her ridiculous compliments. Handsome Benjamin Alden recited such effusive poetry she’d laughed out loud in response. Gareth’s new friends from London, however, were less appealing, their regard inappropriate. As she escaped two of them with the excuse she was needed elsewhere, a voice rang out. “Belle!” She turned to see her brother weaving his way toward her, the lecherous Mr. Digby close behind. Surely there were more appealing friends to be had in London? Of late, though, Gareth was more impressed by flash than substance, and Digby was the perfect characterization of that. Drawing up beside her, Gareth planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek, a sure sign of advancing inebriation. “Annabelle, you must meet Damien Digby, one of my very oldest and dearest friends.”

She knew full well he was neither. Digby’s eyes fixed on her décolletage as he made his bow. “Miss Layton, I’ve been anxious to make your acquaintance. Will you stand up with me for the next dance?” She’d rather have all of her teeth pulled out. However, as one of the hostesses for this evening, it would be rude to decline. Not that Digby was willing to wait for an answer. He’d reached his arm out to clasp her elbow, his gloved hand clammy with sweat. She shuddered as he strengthened his hold, pulling her toward the dancers near the orchestra. He was a scoundrel, and richly deserved a kick with some force behind it. Thankfully, though, her evening slippers were spared the bother when a voice behind them said, “I believe the dance is mine.” So Alec would dance with her, but only when she needed rescuing. With a triumphant smile at Digby, who’d suddenly dropped his hand, she turned. “Thank you, Lord Carstairs. You’ve saved me from making a scene.” She took his extended arm, and together they moved past the disgruntled Digby toward the center of the room. A Scottish reel was starting up. As they bowed and withdrew, hands held high to spin in a circle around the dancers to their left and right, there was no place in the world she’d rather be. Long ago, Alec had taught her the steps to this very reel. He had a natural, effortless grace, and as they followed the intricate pattern of the dance, he smiled at her, the tension between them forgotten. When a lock of his hair fell forward over his brow— the merest hint of disorder and vulnerability—she felt her breath catch. The evening was suddenly sparkling and full of promise. But then the dance was over, as quickly and as unexpectedly as it had begun. “Annabelle, will you walk with me?” She’d walk with him all the way to France if he asked. “Of course, Alec.” She rested her hand in the crook May/June 2014 | 67

| Once Upon A Wager by Julie LeMense |

of his arm as he led her toward the double doors open at the edge of the room, their curtains fluttering in the breezy evening air. With a quick movement, they were outside on the patio, and when the first strains of music for a quadrille began, the other couples out in the moonlight rushed in to take part, leaving them—at least for a few moments—alone. “I saw him approach you,” Alec said once they’d reached the edge of the patio, away from the noise and light of the doorways. “You must be careful around Digby.” “He only asked for a dance. There can be little harm in that.” “Digby wants more than a dance. You must trust me on it.” “At least he wants something to do with me,” she said, her voice sharp with frustration. “I’ve wanted to ask about your trip here, and what you thought of the dinner. How things are with your father. How long you will stay in Nuneaton. But you no longer tell me anything, not even in a letter, and tonight, you’ve avoided me at nearly every opportunity.” Guilt flashed across his handsome face. “You’ve been hounded by men all evening, Annabelle. I didn’t wish to expose you to further gossip.” He was not telling the truth. “So I’m being gossiped about?” she said flippantly, to hide her hurt. “I rather like the idea of that.” “You are the talk of the party, Annabelle. Although perhaps that’s not a surprise.” “Other than that incident in the garden, I’ve been on my best behavior,” she insisted. “I’ve been remarkably restrained.” “Yes, you have,” he said with the ghost of a smile. “Maybe that’s why people are talking.” “Well, if you’ve heard them, what are they saying? Don’t keep me in suspense.” “I suppose it depends on whether you are speaking with the ladies or the gentlemen.” “Has Mrs. Balleymood been spreading lies again? I did not trip Thomas at last month’s races on the town green. He fell when I sped past.” “I don’t doubt it,” he replied, sounding in that moment like the old Alec, his voice warm with affection. “But no. The ladies merely want to know the name of your modiste. That dress has caused quite a stir.” “It is pretty, isn’t it?” she said, twirling in a circle to show off every aspect, only to find that when she faced him again, his gaze had darkened. “Do the men like it, too?” she asked, trying to fill the sudden silence. “That is rather a leading question, Annabelle. But just this once, I will humor your vanity. Yes, they think that both you and the dress are beautiful.” She was used to such compliments, of course, but not from him. Of late, he was far better at masking his thoughts than at sharing them. “What about you, Alec?” she asked. 68 |

“Do you think I’m beautiful?” “I think we are old friends, so the kind of notice that the others are paying you would be inappropriate.” She took a deep breath, knowing full well that she’d regret her next words. “What if I wanted to attract your notice?” “Annabelle, you shouldn’t say such things,” he said, all traces of humor gone. “A man will get the wrong impression of your motives.” “I’m not looking for a lecture on propriety,” she said. “You know I always say more than I should. I was just wondering ... what you think of me.” He looked down at her in the moonlight, his mouth a grim line. In the ballroom, the next set of music was nearing its end, while her question hung in the air. As the moments stretched on, she wished she had the courage to walk away, rather than wait here, desperate for his answer. But then finally, he spoke. “I think you are impossibly beautiful.”

Julie LeMense has been a romance addict since her first deliciously bad Barbara Cartland novel. When she’s not reading anything by Julie Anne Long and Meredith Duran, she’s writing books in her haunted house in Pennsylvania, where ghosts from the Gilded Age try to fight their way into her stories.

Say Hello to

Scott Nova 2014 Mr. BTS

An Interview with our 2014 Mr. BTS: Interviewed by Myra Nour I am curious how you went from being a firefighter to a romance novel model? Well, the two are intermingled, and the modeling came because of going to the fire academy. I used to be incredibly skinny. An almost unhealthy type of skinny. I ate a lot of food but not the right kind of food. In 2008 I discovered that I wanted to be a firefighter. I could never understand why I wasn’t happy with a cushy job behind a desk in the IT world. I was blessed with that mindframe that I’ll run into a burning building or dangerous situation while others run away. I was also blessed with a strong back and a

Photo Credit: Shawn from Regal Rebel Photography

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| MR. BTS |

set of shoulders, and it never felt right to waste it. So

I went into firefighting academy, and with all the heavy lifting while there, I started to grow and put on muscle. I learned that the powerlifting type of bodybuilding was the key to me finally putting muscle on. I also changed my diet by educating myself, and the modeling had always been something I was interested in, but now I had the tools to make it happen. The Romance Industry lends itself to someone like me who has a family because I don’t have to travel a ton of time to make it happen. The power of the Internet, and social media and the blessing of great photographer(s) has helped me out tremendously. You mentioned to me your new project is The Bad Boy of Romance. Please tell our readers about this. The Bad Boy of Romance. I’ll be getting this off the ground at this year’s RT-NOLA, and it’s just going for a different approach. It’s a different way to get attention for my style of modeling for my covers. So many of the guys go for the wholesome, gentlemen approach. I’m here to show that it’s not always the case. There’s a trade-off; if you want a protector and someone that will give his last breath in defending that love of his life, then that ability doesn’t come easy or without compromise. That compromise is typically having to deal with an alpha-male. An alpha doesn’t play nice with ALL folks around him typically and doesn’t mind taking his own path to get where he needs to go. But an alpha is never a bully and never hurts for the fun of it. But we Photography - Regal Rebel Photography are intelligent, and we Editing - Noelle Pierce of Selestiele Designs are logical thinking. We ask the rough questions and we question authority for the sake of being authoritative. With that mind-set, Bad Boy of Romance was born.

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What are your goals in your personal life and modeling for the next five years? Personal life—I’m hoping that soon I’ll be employed fulltime at a firehouse, I’ll be married to an amazing woman, and I will still be enjoying and cherishing every second that I’m a father to my handsome little man. Modeling—I hope to be one of the biggest names in the cover model industry, and also I hope to make a big splash in the fitness scene very soon. Are you married or have a relationship? If so, what was it that drew you to this special person? If not, what would you look for in a woman? I will be married within the year, and I was drawn to Lesley by her passion for anything she does. She is also my biggest fan of the modeling and that helps so much and is so important. She also supports my life as a firefighter 100 percent and that is no easy thing to find. It’s as hard, if not harder, on the spouse of a firefighter . . . and I plan on using my last breath to always come home safe to her. She and I train together, we eat/cook together, and we compete in the bodybuilding world together. It’s part of us now and isn’t taken lightly. She’s smart and funny and we know what the other is thinking. What would you like to share with our readers and your fans? Most of my longtime fans know much about me, well that which I allow to be put into interviews, :) but I just want the fans/readers to know that this is why I keep going to the gym and figuring out what themed shoots I need, etc. Of course the extra money is nice, and the fact that my face is distributed internationally on the covers of all these wonderful authors is an awesome feeling. But I’m also striving for more. But, no matter how busy I may seem at a

| Scott Nova |

convention or at a bodybuilding competition, I am never too busy for taking a photo with my fans or simply talking and seeing what everyone else is up to. Thank you to so many folks that have helped me get to this level. I’ve had the blessings of working with so many wonderful photographers and designers. I’d like to thank them here, and in no particular order: Fan the Flame Photography Fotoimages by Ken Luis Rafael Regal Rebel Photography Chris Lee—Forever Xpressions Photography

Kim Killion/Killion Group—Hot Damn Designs Noelle Pierce—Selestiele Designs Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart!

Scott is available for custom photo shoots, cover/trailers shoots, book promotion launches and other related events. To find out more about Scott, please visit

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| MR. BTS |

photo courtesy of Ellora’s Cave

2014 MR. BTS Contest Winners!

Hottest Body – Axl

Best Face – James

Remember Ellora’s Caveman Axl from our July 2013 issue? You can meet him at RomantiCon October 9-12 2014. He’ll save a dance for you

Favorite Cover – Jason Cover by Samhain Publishing

for Twist of Fate 74 |

Erotics of all genres, shapes and sizes

see BEHIND closed DOORS


Featured Authors,

REVIEWS and more

BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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trends reading trends in erotic

The Heat Diva by Nikki McCarver

Not Your Ordinary Heartthrob Heroes have always been the heart of all romance novels . . . even if the hero is wearing leather pants and carrying a whip or happens to turn into a wolf. They may differ in looks, profession, or breed, but all have certain characteristics that not only make your blood pressure go up, but make your panties want to drop as well. I have gathered together some enticing examples that will have you squirming in your seat and tracking down the one in charge of satisfying you after you’re done reading! I have some non-typical yummies lined up that, at first glance, you might skip over. Here we go, ladies, my picks for hot and heavy alpha studs who are just waiting for you to turn the page:

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| The Heat Diva |

Heat Level: The Magician Bedding the Wrong Brother by Virna DePaul Indie (Dalton Brothers, #1, Indie Book—available now) Now now . . . this is not your usual stereotype, but this is all about going outside the box. Now this little story had major potential at becoming four flames because we are dealing with hot male twins, but the author stuck to the twosome sexiness, and I’m not complaining. The sex scenes in this book will ultimately light not only your night, but your imagination as well.

The Old Flame Naughty Vegas Nights by Tawny Weber (Indie—available now) So Natasha finds herself at a lingerie convention in Las Vegas. After a slew of disappointing attempts to be wild that end up disastrous flings, she has given up the hope that one day she can have wild unrestrained sex with someone other than Drew. And guess who shows up? The one man who can bring out her wildness, both in bed and out of it. What happens in Vegas. . . . should be able to happen anywhere if you’re trying to copy this action.

Heat Level: The Scientist Provoked by Rebecca Zanetti (Dark Protectors, #5, Kensington Books—available now) Think you that geeks can’t be sexy? Wrong! Kane Kayrs is not only my favorite brother in this series, but he is also the sexiest. Scientists have to have extreme focus and be able to center the whole world around one problem until the solution comes to fruition. Now imagine that focus applied to the bedroom . . . and you have one hot man that can pull many all-nighters . . . LOL.

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| Nikki McCarver |

The Demon Wicked Waves by Sharon Kay (Solsti Prophecy, #2, Indie Book) I know what you’re thinking . . . what about Larissa? Keep that thought process as you flip through this enticingly hot and shackled romance. Kai is our droolworthy yummy that is completely tortured and hard-core. When the Lash Demon falls, it hits hard . . . and out come the toys.

Heat Level: The Veterinarian Turn and Burn by Lorelei James (Blacktop Cowboys, #5, NAL Trade—available now) So you think male vets can’t be sexy? Even a cowboy one? Well, I am here to tell you . . . this one is rockin’! Hotter than your ultimate bad-boy fantasy, this cowboy vet knocks them all out of the way when it comes to claiming the woman he falls for. Eat your heart out, rock star billionaire bad boys! Well, my sex kittens, these are all my hunky hero picks. I hope you give my unusual hotties a try! Until next time . . . Stay Naughty.

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and erotica has brought my favorite pasttime to a whole new level. After the birth of my daughter, I started learning about blogging and all the wonderful ways to share my passion for reading and dived right in. I created my own blog to share my love of paranormal, historical, dark, and erotic books. I have had the opportunity to work with many great authors and look forward to working with many more. Come Closer and look me up at:

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reviews erotic

Dark Refuge

Licorice Whips

Emeline needs Gabe Cheval’s help. But Em’s troubles are much worse than the human trafficking ring she’s uncovered—there’s a terrible darkness in her soul that Em can’t fight. Gabe offers all he has, but is his light and love enough to save the woman he desires for all time?

”Sweet” Hawkes is a BDSM dominant who has lost his smile. Although he loves the candy store called Decadent Treats that he coowns with his brother, Masaun, he’s lost the passion he had for making treats for his customers. After releasing his last submissive, Sweet decides to dive in head first into business and forget about love and disciplining. He wants to open up a second Decadent Treats and a store that would sell quality BDSM toys and apparel. Sweet never expects to find an obstacle outside his door. Nikla Dearwood has made it her mission to picket outside of the Decadent Treats store to warn customers about eating too much sugar. Although as a Pilates and yoga instructor, it would seem as though her protests have to do with leading a healthy lifestyle, Nikla has other motives. Besides this protest, she wants to open up her own exercise studio in downtown Virginia Beach. Nikla isn’t scared away from her picketing mission when a tall and sexy man from Decadent Treats tries to get her to stop. When she finds that same guy checking out an open storefront in downtown Virginia Beach that she also wants, she’s now interested in him.

Kate Douglas Paranormal Erotic Heat Rating: 5

Review: The Spirit Wild world continues to grow and so does the intense plot Kate creates in her fantastic stories. Kate Douglas manages to thrill you, entice you and leave you in wonder. Kate’s books would make the best movies with a hero and heroine that have minds and hearts and sexual tension that keep a reader loving both and a fresh unique plot that will keep every reader coming back for more! Gabe and Emy are reunited and are twice as fine, you won’t believe what happens next. I really enjoyed the suspenseful mystery Kate included in the plot additional to all of the steamy romance and delicious passion within but don’t be fooled there is no fluff to be found on this dark and dangerous journey. If you haven’t had a chance to partake in Kate’s wondrous Spirit Wild series, now is the time and it has never been this good. What I wouldn’t give to live a day inside Kate’s mind! She is a magnificent creator and a very talented writer. I can’t wait to read more! | Reviewer: Krystal Malott |

Bridget Midway Contemporary I/R BDSM erotic Heat Rating: 5

Review: Sweet Hawkes and Nikla Dearwood made a very interesting couple. He owns a candy store with his brother and also has a slight interest in the BDSM world (ok.. a little more than slight!). Nikla knows nothing about that world. He’s also looking to expand his business and they clash when she protests outside the store and also when he discovers she’s vying for the same business spot he wants. They eventually come up with a plan that kind of works for the time being. They made a good couple who

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reviews erotic

complimented one another, really well once the obstacles were removed and out of the way. You rooted for them to make it and even though he was in the BDSM world, she didn’t freak out, once she was introduced into that particular world. Sweet’s brother and his girlfriend were good and supportive and so were their employees who at first didn’t take too kindly to the lone protestor, protesting outside the store. But eventually they all managed to get along. If you like assertive Alpha Males who like candy and a few other decadent things, you’ll like this story. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

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sneak peek

Melissa Keir

CHALKBOARD ROMANCE Lauren Walsh, a divorcee and elementary teacher, wanted to feel sexy again, after her ex tossed her aside for a younger woman. Her teaching partner and best friend encouraged her to sign up for The Playhouse--a renowned dating agency. Mac Thomas remained trapped in a marriage to a money grubbing socialite. Forced to stay away from his young son, Mac lost the ability to trust. After the death of his wife, he returned to care for his son but his sister wants more for him. She sets him up with The Playhouse. Passion ignites but Mac’s a parent of one of Lauren’s students. A teacher and a parent dating could cost Lauren her job and her chance at happiness. Will Mac be able to convince the school and Lauren, that love is the most important thing?

Melanie danced around the desk with the news. She looked like one of her students who waited too long to visit the bathroom. Suffice to say, she loved the crazy bitch even when she got on her last nerve or forgot to filter her thoughts. Not even when she failed to escape the lash of her stinging retorts. “Whoohoo. Chicago. Now tell me the details on your mystery man. Hopefully he’s tall, dark and handsome with a large package he knows how to use.” Melanie laughed. “Hey, you’re blushing. What’s the deal?

I thought you wanted to get laid or at least go have some fun.” Trust Melanie to reduce this romantic date into getting laid. “I do, but I’m not hoping for someone who is rocking in the sack. I’m not looking for a guy who has sex with every girl he meets. I know I signed up for this perfect date but what I really want is someone who will remind me of how special I am. James ruined my selfconfidence when he hooked up with that younger bimbo at the office—The New Mrs. James Fulton. I feel old, frumpy, unwanted. I need to remember how to love myself again.” “You don’t see yourself the way others see you. You have a natural beauty I wish I had. Your complexion has a peach glow and the perfect smattering of freckles. Your brown hair always falls in soft waves. Life isn’t fair, God gave you a small waist with sexy long legs.” “Yea, okay.” A pout formed on Melanie’s face as she looked at her. “What?” “James really did do a number on your selfesteem,” she chided. “I’m May/June 2014 | 83

| Chalkboard Romance by Melissa Keir |

sure the guy Master Draikoh picked out will remind you exactly how desirable you are.” “Well, I won’t be able to go unless I get some work done here. I hate to leave a mess or have no lessons for when I come back. So, you’d better let me get working or else it’ll be your fault I miss this opportunity,” Lauren said with a smile. “I wouldn’t want to be the reason behind your bitchy attitude if you don’t get your night of passion,” Melanie sang out as she headed for the door. “Hey, something just occurred to me,” she said, turning back around. “You are so wrong if you’re thinking about going on this date in your school clothes and granny panties, we’re going to have to hit the Sexy Night store before you leave.” Lauren groaned mournfully, plopping her head in her hands. Melanie had a penchant for tight dresses and expensive shoes, both not her style. Could she even afford to shop with Melanie? The woman’s budget made her own look like a pauper’s. Mentally, she ran through her closet, dismissing all of her options right away. “Okay,” she grudgingly muttered, and frowned at the smirk on Mel’s face. “Granny panties and paisley teacher dresses are so not sexy. You’re right. But, shopping with you will be torture.”

As a writer, Melissa likes to keep current on topics of interest in the world of writing. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America and EPIC. Melissa is always interested in improving her writing through classes and seminars. She also believes in helping other authors and features authors and their books on her blog. Melissa doesn’t believe in down time. She’s always keeping busy. Melissa is a wife and mother, an elementary school teacher, a book reviewer, an editor for a publishing company as well as an author. Her home blends two families and is a lot like the Brady Bunch, without Alice- a large grocery bill, tons of dirty dishes and a mound of laundry. She loves to write stories that feature “happy endings” and is often found plotting her next story. Melissa loves hearing from readers! http://www.twitter/melissa_keir

reviews erotic

King of Dublin

Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry M/M Erotic Heat Rating: 5

Twenty years after a deadly pandemic ravaged the world, Darragh Fergus Anluan and the people of his village have carved out a hard but simple life in the Irish countryside. But with winter comes sickness, and Darragh must travel to Dublin in search of medicine. What he finds there is a ruined city ruled by a madman, where scavenging is punishable by death . . . or conscription. Ciaran Daly came to Ireland with aid and optimism, but instead was enslaved by the so-called King of Dublin. After months of abuse from the king and his men, he has no reason to believe this newcomer will be any different. Except Ciaran finds himself increasingly drawn to Darragh, whose brutish looks mask how sweet and gentle he really is. The tenderness Darragh feels for the king’s treasured pet is treason, but it’s hardly the only betrayal brewing in this rotten kingdom. Rebellions and rival gangs threaten the king’s power, but not nearly as much as Darragh and Ciaran—whose only hope for freedom is the fall of the king. Review: Well, well, well... we have here a very curious book. Dystopian to a point but more post-apocalyptic with a hard edge of romance/erotica. I was hoping to get more into the pandemic (I am a fan of zombies) but this book went a completely different and unexpected way. Although it was clashed with my first ideas it was still an extremely well written and interesting story. The funny thing about this is that it is full on sexual, but it does have a plot. It’s not just about the guys and them getting their rocks off, although don’t let me lead you astray, there is a lot of that in here! Lisa and Heidi did not pull the covers over either, this is full on, in your face, grab a drink of water, is it hot in here type of erotica!

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I also totally loved the characters. Darragh seems like a country bumpkin but he’s extremely sweet and he is intelligent but the fact that people misjudge him by his quiet demeanor and his size gives him an edge. And then Ciaran! I loved him from the first page. He just wants to help and winds up getting into bad situations because of his heart. Actually, both guys do! In short: SEXY in a world where you think that would be behind everyone! Loved it! There are some sensitive themes in this... abuse, rape, torture. | Reviewer: Christina Torretta |


sneak peek

Sierra Cartwright CRAVE

She still craved him… The sight of a collar in her boyfriend’s drawer had stunned Sarah. Panicking, she fled. But no other man has ever been his equal. Two years ago, the woman he’d hoped to collar and marry disappeared. So Reece McRae is stunned to find his former girlfriend on her knees, behaving as the submissive he’d always wanted. Is it too late? He should refuse her, but an undeniable sexual attraction consumes him. Sarah had been under Reece’s spell from the moment she met him. When she found a steel collar in his drawer, she panicked. The idea of a lifetime of his relentless demands, sensual and otherwise, had suffocated her. In the years they’ve been apart, she hasn’t met his equal. Now convinced one last night will vanquish his memory, she sets out to seduce him. The Reece she returns to is even more determined to have his way. Is she now strong enough, brave enough, to surrender to his love?

She remained in position, gaze cast down, and he couldn’t deny the attraction he still felt. To her credit, she’d learnt a few things in the two years since he’d seen her. During their time together, he’d repeatedly told her how he wanted to be greeted. Submissively…as a woman waiting for her Master’s pleasure. She’d always struggled with his request. She had no patience. So she’d either sneak a glance at him, giggle, talk incessantly or shift nervously. But tonight she maintained the perfect position. Her forehead was pressed to the floor, and her long brown hair—kissed with sunshine-blonde highlights—had been swept to one side, leaving her nape exposed. Everything about her radiated vulnerability. Tonight she was behaving like the woman he’d always wanted her to be. A frisson of jealousy gnawed at his spine. Who the hell had taught her the things she’d refused to learn from him? Though he let the minutes drag, she didn’t speak or fidget. Only her shortened breaths betrayed her nerves. Truthfully, his silence wasn’t a test for her. He was buying time, figuring out how to react, searching for places to file away his thoughts and reactions. Elation.

Devastation. Curiosity. It would be stupid to open old wounds. But a greater, unhealed part wanted to know why the hell she’d left. What had scared her so bad that she hadn’t been able to turn to him? “Kneel up.” His command was familiar. Her response was not. Her movements were sensual, graceful as she unfolded her body then used abdominal strength to lift herself from the floor. She positioned her knees wider than she’d ever been able to. With a gentle shrug, she pulled back her shoulders before linking her hands behind her head. As if she’d done it a thousand times, she shook her head. Her hair fell back from her face, and she met his gaze. There was no shock etched between her eyebrows. Instead, her green eyes were open wide with trust. She swallowed deeply and said nothing. For a minute, he forgot how to breathe. Big, strong corporate strategist that he was, accustomed to negotiations so tense they made front page news, had just had his brains scrambled by a woman a bit under five-feet tall. She continued to look at him without blinking, seeming to offer Reece a glimpse of her soul. He scoffed at the ridiculous thought. The man who’d been fanciful enough to believe that kind of romantic crap no longer existed. And the woman in front of him was the reason why. “You knew I’d be at this party.” “Yes.” “Did you put Julien up to it? Or did he put you up to it?” “It’s my fault. I begged, cajoled, pleaded. Blame me.” “What the hell do you want, Sarah?” She faltered then, looking down at the ground before glancing back at him. But when she spoke, her words had a confidence that had been missing in the past. “To connect. Talk. Explain. Apologize.” May/June 2014 | 87

| Crave by Sierra Cartwright |

Silence hung. Then after a quick breath, she rushed on. “To scene.” “Why?” “I’m hoping one night together will help me get over you.” He’d been expecting something else. Something more profound. As it was, he rocked back on his heels. “I need to convince myself that what we had wasn’t as good as I remember.” Reece searched her face, looking for…what? The truth? A hidden agenda? An answer to the dozens of unresolved questions? “I’m hoping you’ll indulge me with a beating, Sir.” Her courtesy was new, too. In all the time they’d been together, she’d called him Mr McRae at work and Reece at home. Even in a scene, she’d been unable to force herself to address him as Sir. It wasn’t until after she’d left that he had realized they hadn’t been as close to his image of the perfect union as he would have liked. “I’ve never found anyone like you, Sir.” “You’ve been looking?” The sense of betrayal that had simmered for years churned to a low boil. He now knew better than to stay near any woman who ignited that kind of emotion in him. “Not consciously. No.” “But?” he prompted. “I’ve compared everyone else to you. How could I not?” She hesitated, as if reluctant to say more. “I’ve never connected with anyone like I did with you. No one compares with you. I’m…frustrated, I guess.” “If nothing else, I owe you an explanation,” she said, her voice strong as well as melodious and mysterious. She took a deep breath. “And I need to apologize.” “Save your breath. I won’t accept it.” Not now. Sarah winced. He turned and strode toward the door instead of succumbing to temptation and sweeping her into his arms. “Sir?” He paused but didn’t look back at her. “I deserve your anger. Your hostility. But I was hoping for more than your indifference. You know that’s the thing I fear the most. The way you’re capable of cutting people off, emotionally and physically.” She was right about that. “I don’t give second chances,” he reminded her. But indifference toward her? When she was so utterly beautiful and had yanked out a part of his heart when she’d run? Not likely. But had that been part of the problem? The fact he’d always been so available to her. Besotted, had been the horrifying word Julien had used. “We shared something special.” Undeterred, she persisted, “Surely you’ve wanted to beat some sense into me? Punish me, maybe, for the way I left?” 88 |

“I imagined it,” he conceded. “But that was a long time ago. Don’t fool yourself that I even think of you anymore.” She took a shaky breath before saying, “I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness, so I won’t ask for it. But I’m begging you to show some mercy. Let me atone.” Her plea sliced through his defenses. Despite his best intentions, he faced her. Damn. What the hell was it about sexual attraction? He wanted to pretend it didn’t exist, but it was there, raw, primal, pulsing. This woman could make him do anything. He reminded himself she’d given him, them, no chance at success or a future. Part of him hated her for that, her cowardice, for not being the woman he’d wanted. “Reece… Sir…” “Nice manners,” he said. “Thank you, Sir.” “If you’re still in this room in sixty seconds, you’ll get everything you’re asking for.” The woman at his feet wore no makeup, hid behind no artifice. “I’m not running.” “This time.” Her head snapped back to indicate his direct hit. But then, even more forcefully, she repeated, “I’m not running.” “You should.” “I’m sure you’re right.” His beautiful, stubborn former lover remained in place. “I don’t know whether to applaud your bravery or condemn your stupidity,” he said. “Perhaps both, Sir.” She attempted a smile that fell flat. “Internally I’m doing both right now.” He remembered hearing the same mixture of anticipation and nerves in her voice the first night he’d tied her hands to his headboard. He’d treated her as if she were the most delicate, precious thing, and to him, she had been.

Born in Manchester, England and raised in the US, Sierra Cartwright is the international bestselling author of more than twenty erotic romances. Cartwright has been interviewed by USA Today, and she did a segment for the Orlando Fox affiliate with Chase Cain. With This Collar reached #1 on the Amazon bestseller chart in February 2013.

Totally Bound - Sierra Cartwirght

reviews erotic

Adventurous Me

A Week in Milan

Trish’s husband decides to divorce her because she’s “boring.” A drunken stumble during her attempt to drink her sorrow away lands her an invitation to a club where she’s exposed to things she didn’t know existed. And when she finds herself paired for two weeks with a handsome Dominant from the club whose dislike for her is obvious, she finds out that sometimes adventure can be a dangerousm, even deadly, thing.

Getting what she wants isn’t going to be easy… Designer department store owner Giovanni Monastero thought moving to LA would help him forget the nightmare of his childhood. Until he visits Milan during Fashion Week with one of their designers he doesn’t realize how much his past still haunts him. Fashion designer Amanda Hart has been chewed up and spat out by her son’s father. The only dating she does now is in her dreams. None of the guys she fantasizes about can hurt her. When the star of those fantasies offers her the career chance of a lifetime “no” isn’t an option even though it means spending a week in close contact with him. With one dream coming true, will Amanda have the courage to go after another?

Deanndra Hall Erotic Romance Heat Rating: 5

Review: Trish finds herself entering in a world she never thought she would find herself. Even more surprising, she discovers that she rather enjoys the D/s lifestyle. After her training with Dave, she agrees to attend the pairing event… where dominants & submissives get paired together at random to “work” with each other for two weeks. She agrees and ends up getting paired with Clint, the quiet-serious faced and unable to read dominant. I was afraid of these two being paired for Trish’s sake…there’s something about the quiet ones. As the pair become sexually acquainted with each other, Trish still can’t shake the feeling that he hates her. This couple will have you giggling, gasping, and orgasm-ing until the end! The play/sex between Trish & Clint will arouse you more than Fifty Shades could ever dream. Their bondage story is anything but vanilla! Be prepared to fall stiletto heels in love!! :D | Reviewed by Danielle Stone |

Aimee Duffy Erotic Heat Rating: 4

Review: This read was an interesting one. It fit right in to what I would normally read in a short story. It had everything in there that you could need to make it a decent read. The characters were sexy and interesting, which is something you expect from a book like this. The story line itself amused me at times. However at some points I almost felt as if certain parts should have been made longer and more developed. Sometimes I fear that emotions have not been given enough time to develop. I wish it had been a little longer yet it wasn’t badly written and was quite an enjoyable read. This is definitely a book I would pick up again and read over and over as it was that enjoyable. I look forward to reading more books written by this author. Brilliantly written. | Reviewer: Nila Bi |

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feature sneak peek

Kate Douglas

DARK REFUGE Gabriel Cheval has watched his packmates find love, but he wonders if there will ever be a woman for him, one who is his perfect match. He doesn’t expect to find her in Emeline Isobelle Cheval. They share a last name, and though they’re not related, Gabe still treated little “EmyIzzy” as a bratty kid sister. Now Emeline is all grown up, and she needs Gabe’s help. But Em’s troubles are even darker and deeper than the human trafficking ring she’s uncovered. There’s a terrible darkness in her soul, and a horror inside that Em can’t fight. Gabe offers all he has—but is his light and love enough to save the woman he’s grown to love?

He was so beautiful she couldn’t find the words. Even though she’d been describing him in her dreams for years. Imagining just this scenario, leading Gabe to her bedroom, knowing they were going to have sex, that he would think she was really beautiful, that he’d profess his undying love for her. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. Yeah, he thought she was hot, but he was a guy. Anything with two legs and a crotch was hot to a Chanku male. She wanted Gabe to be special, but she had the terrible feeling she was getting herself in way too deep with a very nice guy who just wanted to fuck whatever woman was handy. “That’s not fair, Em. And it’s not true.” He tugged her hand, pulled her to a stop outside her bedroom door and then held her in place with both hands on her shoulders. “Huh?” “You’re broadcasting. I don’t think you want me to know what you’re thinking, but I’m glad you gave up those thoughts. I don’t want to fuck whoever or whatever’s available. I really want to make love with you. You, Em. Not just anyone with two legs and a crotch.” “Oh, Goddess.” She covered her face with both hands and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Heat and cold shot through her; embarrassment heated her face while absolute horror chilled her from the inside out. “I am so sorry, Gabe. I didn’t...” “I know you didn’t, but I’m glad you did.” He choked off a bitter sounding laugh. “I was 90 |

thinking you were giving me a pity fuck.” “What? Good Goddess, Gabe. How could you possibly think that?” Flustered, she raised her head and glared at him. “Em, you’re gorgeous. You’re smart. You travel all over the world with your job, speak way too many different languages, handle an important part of the company. You protect our workers all over the world though your oversight. I’m a marketing geek. I do most of my work from my office. I’m thirty years old and I’ve never had a serious relationship. I have no idea where my life is going. And then here you are. The little girl who used to drive me nuts is all grown up, and damn did she grow up good. C’mon. If you’ll still have me, I want to find out a little more about Emeline Isobelle.”

Kate Douglas’s first erotic romance, Lionheart, was published in 2001. She’s since written numerous romances for multiple publishers, including her acclaimed Wolf Tales series which launched Kensington Publishing’s erotic Aphrodisia imprint. Currently, she self-publishes her Spirit Wild series, a Wolf Tales spin-off, while writing sexy contemporaries for St. Martin’s Press.

reviews erotic

Blood Hostage

Symphony of Light and Winter

When vampire hunter Hal captures vampire Monique, she becomes his reluctant ally to rescue two young people, his cousin and her favorite donor, held prisoner by a rogue vampire. But Monique is entering the peak of her heat cycle and must mate tonight. Can a mere mortal satisfy her? Unexpected passion overwhelms them, and by the time their rescue mission ends, they have become entangled in a net of intimacy neither one wanted.

One woman. Seven men. All bound by one man’s undying devotion. Fundraiser Linden Hill has a knack for reading people. She always knows which conversations will put a prospect at ease, which drink will loosen a patron’s lips—or his wallet, and how cleavage will make a donor sweeten the deal. She’s even foreseen her dateless weekends four hundred and sixtyfour times in a row. But ten years after watching life drain from her former mentor’s and first love’s eyes, her skills for divining the predictable are lost. When Cyril returns, he’s still gorgeous, but this time he’s beyond human, far less dead, and pissed. His lack of memory drives him to desperate acts, and his turbulent re-acquaintance with Linden pulls her into his war with a creature hell-bent on his destruction. His group of six supernatural men share a tantalizing secret, but despite the hunger, it’s love that leads her to sacrifice everything to save him…

Margaret L. Carter Paranormal Erotic Heat Rating: 5

Review: What can I say about this book? In all honesty it took me a while to read it as I just couldn’t get into to. The beginning was interesting enough but I soon lost interest. It just couldn’t seem to keep my attention, which is sad to say as I quite liked the concept, but just wasn’t written in a manner that would appeal to me. I have a very specific taste for writing style when it comes to books and this didn’t seem to fit the bill. None the less I quite enjoyed the read by the time I finished. As I have already mentioned, I quite liked the concept, and I am sure this concept would appeal to a lot of vampire fans. We all love a good vampire tale don’t we? No matter how it’s written. Overall I enjoyed it, but could have enjoyed it much more. | Reviewer: Nila Bi |

Renea Mason Paranormal Erotic Heat Rating: 5

Review: Linden Hill found love and comfort as a teen in Cyril. Then she watched him die, fell into a coma for 7 months and was told that he nothing but a delusion. Ten years later at a fundraising event he walked back into her life. And though he had no memory of the time they shared, every emotion she had for him came rushing back. In Symphony of Light and Winter by Renea Mason, a paranormal romance novel, we discover the truth behind the night Cyril died, the unrelenting bond between the two and the destiny that they share. I was very intrigued by this novel and the story of Linden Hill and Cyril, the mysterious man she fell in love with. I enjoyed discovering the history and exploring the story behind Cyril and how his relationship with Linden came to be. Mason produced a well written novel full of wit and romance that moved well and held moments of suspense and pure sexual tension. The pace set with May/June 2014 | 91

reviews erotic

constant unfolding of new information regarding the duo wasn’t overwhelming but exciting with passion obvious from the start. There was an aspect of the relationship between Cyril and Linden that I saw as a huge flaw and took away from the integrity and passion of the novel: the selfish nature of one completely belittled the emotions of the other. That aspect of their relationship negatively affected the way I perceived both characters and impacted my opinion of the novel. | Reviewer: Stacie Carrier |

Public Affairs Cassandra Carr Contemporary Heat Rating: 3

Nate O’Halloran is a PR superstar, an expert in crisis management for his imageconscious celebrity clients. When his college roommate, now a hospital director in Buffalo, calls to beg for his help-- a cancer researcher on staff has disappeared with millions of dollars’ worth of government research funds-- Nate agrees to help right away, though this situation is pretty small potatoes for him. Val Chase, the hospital’s PR director, is none too thrilled when Nate shows up; does it mean her boss doesn’t trust her to handle this mess herself? Against her better judgment, Val decides she and Nate have to work together to save the hospital’s reputation, though the explosive attraction they feel is making any actual “work” difficult... Review: Public relations director Val Chase is a nononsense businesswoman. From the beginning, the reader learns that she must do damage control when the press catches wind of Dr. Godlowski, a researcher at the hospital where she works, who has allegedly stolen money from the treasury and then taken flight. Val’s boss hires PR expert Nate O’Halloran who has an entirely different approach to handling the calamity than she does. The conflicts between Val’s approach and Nate’s way of handling the situation makes them irritable, so when the two plunge into a romantic affair emotions are tense but not compatible. The investigation takes a backseat to the public relations angle which divulges into the various ways a PR department handles bad publicity. There are real-life scenarios in the story but little romanticism. The characters have a superficial feel and lack personable traits which would enable audiences to connect to them. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

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sneak peek

Charity Parkerson UNSURPASSED Aubree is infatuated with two men, Max and Ryan. The two former Marines have been her close friends ever since she made her first misguided attempt at joining their kickboxing classes. When the pair invites her to join them at a weekend party thrown by Drew, a famous MMA champion, she has no idea what they have in mind. After spending one hot ménage night with the pair, Aubree learns the men’s intentions are not all about her. Feeling betrayed, Aubree turns to Drew who is also tugging at her heart. She must choose between the two men who have been the center of her fantasies, and the one man who could make all her dreams come true. Inside Scoop: This sexy tale includes a ménage and male/male encounters that may leave you wishing for an alpha male fighter of your own. A Romantica contemporary erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave Publishing

Aubree had more fun in the few hours she spent with Drew than she could remember having in years. He teased without mercy and gave her his full attention. At times, he left her breathless with laughter. The next minute, he simply stole away the oxygen from the room with his hot glances. By the time he walked her to her room, she was wondering why she’d spent so many months lusting after two men she could never have. Leaning against the cool wood of the hotel room door, she met his stare trying hard not to smile like an idiot. “This was fun.” Drew’s eyes flashed. “If you ask nicely, I’ll let you take me to bed.” She shook her head at his antics. “What if I’m not feeling especially nice?” Drew brushed his hand over her hip. “You’re right. You did feel naughty,” he agreed. Holding her stare, he bent closer, giving her time to protest his advance. The door opened at Aubree’s back. If she hadn’t hit the solid wall of Max’s chest, she might have ended up sprawled across the floor. Tilting back her head, she took note of the angry expression on Max’s face before switching her gaze back to Drew. His eyes danced with humor as he mouthed, “Denied,” and Aubree slapped her hand over her mouth to smother her giggles. “Have a nice night, Drew.” Drew ignored Max’s snarling words. “May I see you again?”

“I’d like that,” she answered without hesitation. Max growled. At the sound, Drew flashed him a cocky grin before giving her a wicked version of it and turning away. As soon as he moved out of the doorway, Max slammed it closed, focusing his ire on her. She’d never seen him truly angry before now. She laughed nervously. “Are you drunk?” “No,” she answered, incredulous. “I’ve had two glasses of champagne all night.” “Your face is flushed.” Aubree shrugged. “I’m happy. I had a good time.” Max prowled toward her. The hard set of his jaw caused a flutter of desire to run through her. “Did you forget who you came here with?” Unable to think of a single retort, she shrugged again. “I’m young and single. Why shouldn’t I enjoy myself?” Max’s eyes flashed dangerously. His tone had a bite to it when he spoke. “You are not single.”

Charity Parkerson is an award winning and multi-published author with Ellora’s Cave Publishing. Born with no filter from her brain to her mouth, she decided to take this odd quirk and insert it in her characters. *2013 Readers’ Favorite Award Winner *2013 Reviewers’ Choice Award Winner *ARRA Finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance *Five-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath May/June 2014 | 93

reviews erotic

Trial Of Love Christina OW Erotic Heat Rating: 5

“seduction”. The writing too was average. The story is set in 1800s and at times the vocabulary and conversation style were in-sync with the time frame but many times modern tones dominated which spoiled the narration. | Reviewer: Arushi Raj |

After her mother’s death, Melanie’s life in America is full of heartache. Still, she has never allowed herself to despair. She was responsible for the care of her beloved father. Then he remarried a woman to wicked to be considered a mother to Melanie or her two sisters. After years of abuse, the stepmother sells Melanie off—to work in a brothel, and about to be sold to the highest bidder. Through a series of fortuitous events, Melanie falls into the care of Christopher, Earl of Ashworth, who has family issues of his own. The solution to his problems—and redemption for Melanie—wind together toward destiny. Review: A poor damsel in distress sold by her stepmother to a brothel, a rich handsome Earl and the rest is cliché. They both were raised by unfit parents, they are both gorgeous and it’s lust at first sight followed by love. There is a twist where the oh-so-loving Earl who is ohso-possessive and have a will-break-your-skull attitude questions his wife’s love and loyalty and throws her as a piece of garbage but he realizes his mistake, asks for forgiveness, there is a steamy scene and they are back together. There is a very flimsy line between Alpha male and a Jerk. As in many cases, the protagonist was an impulsive, hedonistic, very rich and very handsome man with serious anger management issues. Though he frequents brothels and had slept with almost all the ladies, he cannot tolerate if his love interest even talks to someone. He cruelly labels his past conquests as whores, title hunters and look down on their “discretions”. He is in love with an innocent girl who is very much younger than him and a virgin. Even when he is asking for forgiveness, he is forceful and when faced with rejection he restores to blackmail and almost rape-y

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| Nicole Morgan |

continuing stories

Nicole Morgan

I tapped my fingers on the keyboard, but no words appeared on the screen. My focus wasn’t worth a damn and hadn’t been for several days. In fact, I’d been doing a heck of a lot more day dreaming than actual working all week long. It had been a week since I had the meeting with Kimberly and her mystery man. He said it may take a few days to hear from him, but when I woke up at seven this morning, I was more anxious than ever.

May/June 2014 | 97

| Sex & the Single Woman |

My week with Jack had been uneventful. We had shared a few dinners and talked on the phone frequently, but after our vacation, his work seemed to take over his daily life. Not that I minded much. No matter how strong my feelings for him were, I still had that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach which told me to be wary. The time apart had been a blessing in disguise. If there was one thing I’d learned in these past months with Jack, it was that not only was he charming, but it would appear that I had absolutely zero restraint when it came to the man. Aside from his good looks, Jack Dennison knew all the right buttons to press in order to get me from cold and disinterested to hot and ready in mere seconds. Everything about him was incredible: his kiss, the way his hands would roam my body, firmly yet oh so gentle at the same time. He was an expert in the way he seduced me. Even if I wanted to turn away his advances, I knew I wouldn’t be able to. He had a silver tongue and a natural skill with me and, most likely, all women. My phone rang, interrupting me from my wandering thoughts. I glanced at the caller ID display, hoping it wasn’t another check-in call from Jack. My eyes widened when I saw it was Kimberly. Since she’d referred me to the mystery man who was checking on Jack, I couldn’t help but hope that my wait was over. “Hello?” “Hey, girl. How you holding up? Have you heard anything back yet?” “No. I was hoping that was why you were calling.” “Sorry, hon. He won’t call me. He’s doing this as a favor for me, sure. But, this is your business and personal life. When he is ready he will come straight to you.” I sighed with disappointment. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just taking so long. Shouldn’t I have heard something by now?” “He’s very thorough, hon. I’m sure you’ll hear something as soon as he’s finished digging.” “I guess. I’m going crazy. So much has happened, and I can’t help but feel like there is a big piece to this puzzle that I’m missing.”

98 |

“I know, sweetie. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you hear something soon. Look, I gotta get back to work. I’ll check in later tonight, okay? Kisses.” Kimberly hung up. I blew out a breath of frustration and set the phone back on its base. I had never been a very patient person, but I seemed to have even less lately. Figuring a cup of tea might help soothe my nerves, I walked to the kitchen. I no sooner pulled a mug from my cabinet when my phone rang again. I raced across the room and answered it. “Hello?” “It’s me.” “Hi . . .” I hesitated, still not knowing what his name was. “I did some digging into your friend, Jack Dennison.” “Okay. Why do I have the feeling I should be sitting down for this?” “No. There’s no time for that. I need you to get out of there.” “What? Why?” “There’s no time for questions. Just take what you can and leave. Don’t call anyone. Don’t send any messages. Just get the hell out of there and fast.” My heart began beating erratically and fear struck me to my very soul. “I don’t understand . . .” “Just do it.” I had been about to ask him why again when a bright light filled the room. I looked around, glancing at each and every window trying to find where it was coming from, but it seemed to be coming from above. I looked up to the ceiling and saw a bright spotlight shining down in my eyes, which almost blinded me. “What the hell?” I muttered under my breath. “What? What is it?” “There’s this light and . . .” I hesitated once I heard a loud beeping sound start to fill the room. “Hello?” he asked. “Are you still there?” “Something’s going on here? I don’t understand.” “You don’t need to understand it. Just go!” He urged me once again. “But why?” I shouted into the phone as the beeping became louder. “It’s time to go now . . . Go . . . Just go.” I had wanted to ask him why and demand answers as to what the hell was happening, but when

| Nicole Morgan |

I looked down at my hand, the telephone was no longer there. All I saw was my hand. And it was covered in blood. “Hello? Miss? Can you hear me?” I tilted my head up to the ceiling when I heard the strange man’s voice. The light got brighter, so bright that I had to shield my eyes from it. When I opened them again, everything had changed. I was no longer in my living room but lying down in the back of what looked like an ambulance. A man leaned over me, shining a penlight in my eyes as he spoke to me. The sound of beeping suddenly made sense when I looked over at a small screen, which showed the squiggly lines of my heartbeat. “There you are. You gave us a scare there. You’ve been out for thirty minutes.” “I . . . don’t understand.” “It’s okay. Just take it easy. We’re on the way to the hospital now. You’ve gotta be the luckiest woman I know. The witnesses said that car didn’t even slow down.” “Car? I was in an accident?” “Yes, ma’am, you were.” “Wait . . . what is today’s date?” “Thursday, December 7, 2013. Why?” My mouth hung open in disbelief. How could that be? Just minutes ago it was March. How did I lose three months?

Nicole Morgan is an author of erotic romance novels, which more often than not, have a suspenseful back story. While she’s written everything from contemporary to paranormal, her leading men will more than likely be wearing a uniform of some kind. From military to police officers, she has a love for writing about those who protect and serve. From her very first novel (which turned into a fourbook series) about Navy SEALs to her more recent releases, you will be sure to find a few twists and turns you were not expecting. She is a proud member of the wonderful group of gals known as Four Seduced Muses and is honored to be a part of Romance Books 4 Us Gold Authors. Find out more about Nicole and her books by visiting her website, blog, Google+ Page, Twitter, Facebook and her Yahoo Group, Nicole’s Think Tank.

May/June 2014 | 99

These BTS staff members help authors with editing, publicity and as an author assistant.

Mystery | Suspense | Thriller | Horrror



Featured Authors,

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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

May/June 2014 | 101


reading trends in mystery & more

The Scrying Eye Kelly Hudson

Of Futures, of Pasts, of Cults, of Blood, of Darkness, and of Mercedes! It is time once again, dear denizens of the dead, those who seek wisdom in the pulpy pages of stories both great and small! It is time for the Scrying Eye to open, to speak to your minds, to reveal what was, what is, and what will be. See as it twirls and swirls! Gaze as its pupil swells, opening bright horizons! Gape as it burns with furious universal energies! Do your dare stare into the Eye?

May/June 2014 | 103

| The Scrying Eye |

Science Fiction/Fantasy The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (Crown Publishing— available May 20, 2014) is the debut novel by the up-andcoming Byrne and set in a future that is both recognizable and vastly different from our own time. Meena wakes to find snakebites on her chest and knows that someone is trying to kill her. She must leave India to return to her birth home of Ethiopia, and the best way to get there is to traverse The Trail, an energyharvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea. In the meantime, a young girl in Africa named Miriama is forced to flee her home and seek refuge with a traveling band of misfits led by the enigmatic Yemaya. What will happen when the paths of these two women eventually cross, and what is the significance of this meeting? Read on, and you will find out! The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker (Blue Door— available now) is a fairy tale set in the past and features two new and unique characters. Chava is a golem, a creature made from clay by virtue of dark energies. Her master dies at sea, and she is unmoored and set adrift until arrival at the New York City harbor circa 1899. Achmad is a djinni, a mystical being made of fire, trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard before accidentally being released by a tinsmith in Lower Manhattan. Eventually, the two meet and face a threat so dangerous, so unimaginable, that the reader will gasp with fear. This is an excellent novel by a newer writer and well recommended for those that like their fantasy leavened with a few of fairy tale elements.

Mystery/Crime Fatale: Deluxe Edition Volume 1 Hardcover by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image Comics—available now!) features the mysterious woman named Fatale and her adventures from 1950s San Francisco to 1970s LA. Fatale is cursed, haunted, and pursued in San Francisco by crooked cops who are hiding their own deeper evils as well as burnt-out actors and ex-cult members in LA. All of the suspense and mystery revolve around a supposed satanic snuff film, and Fatale must navigate these treacherous waters to find the real truth behind what is going on. Pulpy, full of noir and darkness, with a good touch of the supernatural, Fatale is a graphic novel worth drooling over. 104 |

| Kelly Hudson | Brubaker is an outstanding writer, and Phillips creates art that is both moody and evocative. This is a good chance to catch up on this riveting series as well as get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creative process of these two artists. A Measure of Blood by Kathleen George (Pittsburgh Richard Christie, #7, MysteriousPress. com/Open Road—available now) follows homicide detective Richard Christie who has a particularly bloody and confusing case to solve. All that is left of Maggie Brown is a bloodstain on the floor of her home and her surviving son, Matt, who is too scared to remember anything about what happened. Maggie’s friends try to keep Matt out of Child Services as Christie looks into the mystery of just what happened and who was responsible. Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows is Nadal, the perpetrator of said events, a man convinced that Matt is his son. And Nadal will do anything to get his son back . . . Filled with suspense and genuine twists and turns, A Measure of Blood will measure up to your desires for reading a swift, engaging story. Pick it up today!do, check out the other titles in this series that has been ongoing since the 1970s, all recently reprinted and easy to find. You don’t have to read them in order, but you do have to read them if you consider yourself a fan of crime fiction.

Horror! Reaping the Dark by Gary McMahon (DarkFuse, available May 20, 2014) is another ripping yarn by the talented McMahon. This novella features a getaway driver, a drug raid gone wrong, a violent criminal out for revenge, a secret order of occultists, and something brought forth from the darkest corners of a nightmare. How do these events intertwine, and even more importantly, who will survive this hellish night, can only be answered by reading this story. But be warned! McMahon always delivers, and he never holds back a punch.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner, available June 3, 2014) features another enthralling tale of suspense and horror by the Master himself. A stolen Mercedes plows into a line of people waiting at a job fair. A number of people are killed, and several others wounded as the killer flees the scene, uncaught. The murderer, Brady Hartfield, loved the thrill of the kill, and he’s dead set to do it again. Only this time, he wants to do it bigger, to the tune of thousands dead. Can retired cop Bill Hodges and his pals stop Brady in time? Watch as King digs deep into the mind of an insane killer! Shiver with suspense and horror as the clock races, and time begins to run out on Bill and his companions!

And that will do it for this time in the sitting room, dear deviants! The Scrying Eye closes, and with it, we must bid you adieu for now. Once more, you have been given a sacred assignment and several

tantalizing tomes to peruse. Go forth, purchase, and read! And don’t forget to leave a review on any of the many websites that sell these books to help promote your favorite author’s work! Go! Hasten to the wind!

Kelly M Hudson is the author of two horror novels and dozens of short stories, including a piece in the recent D.O.A. II collection by Blood Bound Books. You can find links to all of his works by visiting if you dare!

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reviews mystery | suspense | horror

Hell for Leather

The Crime of the Century

Only the most urgent crisis could force Delilah Fairchild to abandon her beloved biker bar and ask the surly Bryan “Mac” McMillan for help. What the ex-FBI agent has against her is a mystery...but when the bullets start to fly, Mac is her only chance for finding her uncle alive. Mac knows that beautiful women can’t be trusted, but he has to put his natural wariness of Delilah aside to help her. With the clock ticking, Mac and Delilah find themselves holding on to each other in the wildest adventure of their lives.

The residents of Rolling Hills, a hamlet in southeastern Ohio, were horrified when the dismembered bodies of two missing teens were pulled from the local river. Multiply suspects surfaced, but only one was railroaded, Richard Allan Lloyd, a known nudist and hothead. What began as an evening stroll turned into what found only in horror films, and dubbed ‘the crime of the century’. 18 year old Babette, a voluptuous beauty contestant and horsewoman, and her 19 year old boyfriend Shane Shoemaker, a jealous and possessive unemployed printer, were last seen crossing a trestle bridge. Within fourteen days, their mutilated torsos and severed heads and limbs were unearthed, suggesting satanic cult activity. With an investigation smeared with contradicting statements, and a botched crime scene, investigators built a flimsy case against Richard Lloyd. The three-week trial was based on police corruption and ineptitude, fairytale theories, and forensic mishandling. This heinous crime shattered the sense of security for Rolling Hills, destroyed two families, and forever scarred the town. This story is a detailed account of finding justice for Babette and Shane, and of one man’s perseverance to gain his freedom from death row.

Julie Ann Walker Romantic Suspense Heat Rating: 3

Review: Bryan “Mac” McMillan, Delilah Fairchild and Dagan Zoelner come together, when Delilah asks them for help in locating her missing uncle. They’d known each other for a while and Delilah knew that Mac and Zoelner worked undercover trying to bring down the bad guys. It was funny, when it started to look like she was about to burst into tears, and Zoelner puts his arm around her in order to console her and Mac, even though he has no claim on her what so ever, yanks her away from Zoelner. Mind you they were a little drunk at the time, but jealousy, wasn’t even supposed to be on the radar and that had Mac wondering why he’d done it. Anyway, they help her try and locate her uncle. They protect her too when it’s discovered the terrorist involved that was responsible for her uncle’s disappearance would use her as leverage to get what they want. It was a good story, great characters and Mac and Delilah made a real good, (will they, or won’t they/ he likes me, he hates me, oh will he make up his mind already!) couple. Especially, when she manages to be in control and get through to him. Delilah loved Mac regardless, and he tried to resist but he loved her to. The supporting cast was great and they deserve a story of their own. If you get a chance to check it out, you’ll really like it. | Reviewer: Cassandra Graham |

JoAnne Myers True Crime Heat Rating: 2

Review: Written in third-person omniscient, the narrator tells the story of two missing teens, their murder and the effect it has on their small town. The facts of the case are presented like a true crime novel, The Crime of the Century, had me wondering multiple times if this was a real case that the author was writing about. If there had been multimedia aspects added to the book it would have increased the experience of reading this novel. With believable antics, ranging from police corruption, unconventional parenting, unreliable witnesses, satanic rituals, love triangles, hypnosis, forensic profiling, and this novel doesn’t lack in believability. The crime occurs in the 80’s, without the popular DNA evidence, police have to rely May/June 2014 | 107

reviews mystery | suspense | horror

on circumstantial evidence to solve this horrific crime and bring those responsible. The possible errors in previous methods of crime solving are brought to the attention of the reader, as a town is ripped apart by the disappearance of the teens. Although I would have liked the novel to switch from a detected narration of the facts to a story where I could connect with the characters, it was consistent throughout the whole book. Well written and researched, The Crime of the Century is an engrossing fictional true crime novel. | Reviewer: Brittany Hale |

Tainted Waters Maggie Thom Thriller Heat Rating: 3

He didn’t commit suicide but who’s going to believe her... Since Sam and Keegan are the only ones questioning the deaths, they find themselves working together to seek the truth. Are people being murdered? Who would benefit from their deaths? Why would there be barricades and armed guards at the north end of the lake? To stay alive, Sam and Keegan must find the answers and convince others, before more people are killed... including them. Review: After being abruptly fired as a reporter for the Tennison Post, Sam Overton sets out to find herself at her family lake house. Instead, she finds is herself in danger and must figure out why in order to stay alive. The many characters and multiple story lines made this difficult to get into and even harder to continue to read. The sentence structures, word [mis]usage, and hard to follow dialogue screams the need for a professional edit. I brutally forced myself to muddle through the first ten chapters. Then, it took off. All of a sudden, I could not put this down and had to know what happens next. As the main character crouched in bushes while trying to see what is going on without being caught, I found myself saying, “This is like a Nancy Drew book, but for adults.” That is quite a compliment since Carolyn Keene is my all-time favorite author. This is undoubtedly suspenseful, action-packed and finally a true mystery within the genre. One short sex scene puts this squarely in New Adult.  A great edit and this would have been 5 stars. Stick with this one. I highly recommend this for adult readers. | Reviewer: Michele Biring-Pani |

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A Matter of Trust MJ Flournoy Romantic Suspense Heat Rating: 4

Jolie Wyngate is a teacher with a secret, Mac Carlson is an ex-Navy SEAL on a mission. When a cunning kidnapper draws them into a web of deceit, Jolie and Mac must learn to trust and work together to save a kidnapped child. Then the kidnapper sets his sites on Jolie and Mac must rely on her psychic skills to save them both.

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Review: Jolie Wyngate is about to begin a much needed, well-earned vacation when Mac Carlson kidnaps her, unraveling a much more sinister plan then either dreamed of for the summer. Although a paranormal romantic suspense featuring a psychic, this is not the usual telepath tale. Fantastically different and action-packed, this book had me at “Hello!” The changing point of views actually advanced the plot and didn’t feel like the author trying on new skins for fun. There was strange insta-lust and the sometimes confusing dialogue proved the need for another polishing. However, once sucked into this world, I was not coming out until the very last word. And what a rare and perfect ending it was. I loved this “Maniac” of a story. Due to its graphic nature, I recommend this for adults only. | Reviewer: Michele Biring-Pani |

reviews mystery | suspense | horror

Fault Tree

Michaela Thompson Thriller Heat Rating: 1

HELLO, IT’S YOUR PAST CALLING… “Placing blame” thinks Marina Robinson, “is my life’s work. And why?” There’s a lot in her past to account for—nightmares and terrors, crimes and betrayals that happened half a world away, ten years go. Now she’s an engineer with a great job. She’s a failure analyst, an investigator who figures out what causes accidents, and she’s working on her most fascinating case--the fatal crash of a roller coaster--when suddenly the phone rings. And her world tilts… The elusive, unidentified caller can be only one person—Catherine, her beloved younger sister who supposedly died in a fire ten years ago. Once again—for the moment abandoning her case--Marina is inexorably drawn back to India, the country that seduced her so long ago in so many ways, where something unspeakable happened to a child, and where she herself participated in misdeeds so shocking she can’t forgive herself. She starts by tracking Catherine’s lost lover, Nagarajan, the irresistibly charismatic guru under whose spell Catherine fell those many years ago, a man so dangerous, so full of hubris he took his name from Indian snake gods, and who at times seemed more serpent than human. But who is also reportedly dead—a suicide in a jail cell. Thus begins an odyssey of fear and danger--far from dead, Nagarajan seems to be everywhere, and so do his disciples (at least those who haven’t gone mad from guilt). Nowhere, it seems, is Marina safe, nor is anyone who knows anything about the young victim of Nagarajan’s atrocities. Wherever she turns, the path seems strewn with fresh bodies. Just when the jig seems up, Marina calls on her skills as a failure analyst and Thompson pulls off a surprise ending that will leave you gasping.

Review: Marina’s sister, Catherine, moved to India believing in Nagarajan, an Indian man claiming to be an Ancient Indian snake-god in human form. She died in the fire set at Nagarajan’s ashram, after he was arrested for murdering a young boy in a human sacrifice ritual. It’s been ten years since the fire and Marina has received two letters and a mysterious phone call from India. Marina leaves her life and job behind to return to India to find the truth. Does the fault lie with Marina’s inability to rescue Catherine from Nagarajan or could Catherine still be alive in India? The Fault Tree by Michaela Thompson is a well written fictional novel that journeys from California to India in Marina’s search for the truth. The letters she has received has opened up old wounds. The guilt Marina feels is consuming her. She wants to find where the fault truly lies in what happened in India. The reader becomes invested in finding out the truth as well with each turn of events. Marina, who was both well developed and intriguing, leads the reader on a voyage of discovery. I enjoyed this novel. There was enough suspense to keep the pace steady and enough new information to keep me intrigued throughout. Though well-developed, the story would have benefited from more detail and background into relationships Marina developed after her sister’s death. That information would have made certain situations more believable and answered lingering questions I had regarding her life. | Reviewer: Stacie Carrier |

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The Sheikh’s Crowning Gemma Juliana Romantic Suspense Heat Rating: 3

When Princess Yasmine’s husband was assassinated she vowed to never again love a man with a dangerous life. Recuperating from his stay in Burindi’s dungeon, the last thing Rick Green needs is to fall for Sula, a mysterious and enchanting harem dancer. What can a foreign undercover agent offer a princess who has it all? Rick’s bloodline conceals a royal lineage. Will Yasmine take a chance on him when being king is the ultimate danger?

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Review: A love story bordered by political overtones and social unrest set in Arabia, The Sheikh’s Crowning brings together a chivalrous FBI agent, Rick Green, and a domesticated Arabian princess, Yasmine of Zahira. The romance is spurred by inflamed hormones contrasting the story which touches on the theme of East vs. West. The heart of the plot involves a smuggling ring headed by the leader of Burindi who is enmeshed in the sex slave racket. Rick intends to expose the illicit trafficking after his sister Olympia is taken hostage in Burindi. Adnan, a commanding personality of the opposing nation Zahira, has established a special task force to assist Rick. The struggle between eastern traditions and western values is a recurring theme as the story takes shape but negligible in enlightening the reader particularly when Rick inherits the royal throne of Burindi. It involves a magical amulet and his mysterious ancestry. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

feature sneak peek

Brian Moreland

THE DEVIL’S WOODS Fear wears many skins. Deep within the Canadian wilderness, people have been disappearing for over a century. There is a place the locals call “the Devil’s Woods”, but to speak of it will only bring the devil to your door. It is a place so evil that even animals avoid it. When their father’s expedition team goes missing, Kyle Elkheart and his brother and sister return to the abandoned Cree Indian reservation where they were born. Kyle can see ghosts that haunt the woods surrounding the village—and they seem to be trying to warn him. The search for their father will lead Kyle and his siblings to the dark heart of the legendary forest, where their mission will quickly become a fight for survival.

British Columbia, Canada Five days after the tragedy, Jon Elkheart returned to the forbidden forest. With a vengeful glare, he challenged the looming wall of aspen, spruce and vine-choked pines that guarded this unsacred land. The only entrance was a trail that disappeared into a black hole inside the junglethick brush. The darkness within Macâya Forest was an impenetrable void, a shadow world of shape-shifters, and yet its mysteries beckoned him. There are places in the world where lost spirits never rest, Elkheart thought with a coppery taste in his mouth. And man is considered prey. Standing by a swamp at the edge of the rainforest, he peered through the scope of his assault rifle, searching the woods for sudden movement. He listened for the slightest snap of a twig or brush of a leaf. The June morning was still and windless, as if all of nature sensed what he was about to do. You should turn back. You can’t do this on your own. The scholarly part of Elkheart understood this logic. As an archaeologist, he had always put his research first, above all else. Until this last mission went haywire. Now the guilt and anger pumping through his veins would not let him rest. You have to go back in there, spoke a voice not ruled by logic. You have to find Amy. Elkheart looked up at the sun creeping over the mountains. Clouds drifted across the valley, as if shielding the forest from the approaching light. Soon only the tips of the branches pierced the white smoke. 116 |

Stretching out his arm, he turned a video camera toward his face. “My name is Jon Elkheart. I am a professor from the University of British Columbia. I am also one of the last surviving members of the Lake Akwâkopiy Cree band. Most of my people abandoned this reservation years ago. Those who stayed behind have suffered nightmarish visions from a forest that has haunted our reservation for more than a century. A week ago I led a documentary film crew and four mercenaries into Macâya Forest.” A heaviness burdened Elkheart’s chest as he remembered that tragic night. The screams and gunshots echoed in his mind and guilt twisted his guts. “Most of my crew was slaughtered by something that attacked us from the woods. My assistant, Amy Hanson, was taken alive. I’m going back into Macâya Forest to search for her.”

Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist , The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, and The Devil’s Woods. His next book, The Vagrants, will release in June 2014. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel.

reviews mystery | suspense | horror

A Killing in Oil


Bone has the assignment of his life though he doesn’t know it. It looks simple—a sexy young insurance executive, Sundae, asks him for an opinion on the death of oil executive Paul Crosby, with whom she’d had an affair. She prefers “suicide.” Bone says it’ll be what it is. Lives depend on Bone’s decision, including his. Bonnie Mae, Paul’s mother, needs money to complete a well. Investors and creditors threaten her. Paul’s lifestyle doesn’t help. He’s never met a woman he didn’t want to bed, married or otherwise. Troubling is a missing box of explosive string shot used in drilling wells, a terrorist weapon in the wrong hands. Did the thief kill Paul? And, there’s Preacher Abraham, Bikers for God Church, trying to con Bonnie Mae out of money she doesn’t have. Bone is put to the test as he scrambles for the answers.

London is silent. What once was a lively city is now a murderous grave, enclosed in smoke and ash. The cause of the destruction is unknown. Left haunted and terrified, survivor Tom confronts the mutilated streets fighting to uncover the truth. Could he be the last hope to restore normality?

Robert G. Rogers Mystery

Review: A Killing in Oil is a perfect book if you like slow and steady. The laid back country life is all through this book, in its pacing, characters and setting. Well described, the home scenes are rural and relaxed, contrasted with the bustle and smells of the oil fields themselves. Although I quite liked the main character, Bishop, I found that, being in the first person, I had a few moments where I was broken out of the story by the realisation that I was male. I hadn’t had this happen to me before reading other first person narratives that were male, but maybe, he was just that bit more blokey. A pleasant read if not an overly action packed one. | Reviewer: Karen Fainges |

T. J. Blake Horror Suspense

Review: Endurance is a novel about a man Tom, who is taking his longtime girlfriend out with the intent of proposing to her. Just as he is about to pop the question the world falls apart and chaos ensues. Tom struggles to survive, while trying to figure out what happened, and why. Endurance would work as an action movie, where there are a lot of explosions, fight scenes and never ending twists. As a book, it just doesn’t hit the mark. There was a lot of action but not enough character development, or use of the five senses. I wasn’t really able to connect with what was happening; I didn’t feel a part of the story. I didn’t feel, or smell what the characters were experiencing. I felt disconnect from the narrative; I just wasn’t experiencing the novel. Show the reader what is happening, don’t tell them. If Endurance was a movie, then the actors would show the emotions visually, and the audience would visually see the chaos happening; but the tale is being read, not watched. The visual picture wasn’t created; I wasn’t able to imagine what was happening. There was way too much action without a breath for connections to be made. Endurance is a barebones-outline of a novel or a series of novels. It just missed the mark for me. | Reviewer: Brittany Hale |

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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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Ali B and the Forty Spaceships Alex Bardy

Gods, Martians, and Cigar-chomping Monkeys, Oh My “Alleys are the most frequent type of ROAD in a CITY or TOWN. They are always narrow and dark and squishy, and they frequently dead-end. You will escape along them when pursued and also be AMBUSHED there. See also REFUSE and SQUALOR.” —The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones

At the tail end of 2013, we were fortunate to have the World Fantasy Convention over here in the UK— we don’t have that many conventions in these ’ere parts, and thus each one tends to be a pretty special occasion, especially if I can attend, me being a domesticated family man an’ all that.

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| Ali B and the Forty Spaceships |

Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s the same in the US, but invariably most authors and artists you meet at these Cons are also fellow fans and readers, and this seems particularly true in what I loosely term, “the fantasy/SF genre,” and by that, I’m encompassing a whole gamut of titles covering science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics/graphic novels, steampunk, historical fantasy, faerie tale myths, etc. ’Tis fair to say that the majority of attendees are also practicing and/or would-be writers (like myself), and although many are looking for that elusive opportunity to “make a sale” we are all, at heart, a lovely bunch of people, frankly. Conventions are also extremely handy places for picking up free books, chatting to authors, and drinking a lot of alcohol, and combinations thereof, so I was lucky enough to nab a few ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) while I was there, and of course, a wee bit of gossip, or is that gospel . . . At time of writing, Joanne M. Harris’s The Gospel of Loki (Gollancz) is due for release on 13 Feb 2014 across both sides of the pond and is dubbed “the first adult epic fantasy novel from bestselling author, Joanne Harris”—in truth it’s more of a brilliant selection of Viking/Norse myths as told from Loki’s point of view, and the trickster god has unflattering opinions about everything and everyone, especially his fellow gods and goddesses. He’s also hilarious, and the author’s tone throughout is both easygoing and conversational. I absolutely loved reading this and chuckled throughout, so am pretty sure it’ll prove a sensational hit upon its release. Now for those not already aware, last January saw the release of Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell (Solaris), a marvellous tale about “an uplifted primate who uses obnoxiousness to hide his loneliness” (straight from the author’s mouth, that, btw)—to clarify, it concerns a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey who happens to be an ace Spitfire pilot from an alternative 1944 in which German ninjas parachuting into the UK are considered target practice. Oh, there are also nuclear-powered zeppelins, electronic souls, and the British monarchy on the run. Go figure. I wasn’t the only one who liked this, given that it’s also been nominated for a couple of 2013 awards already (more about these next time). The sequel, Hive Monkey (Solaris—available now), finds our beloved monkey returning, this time in a struggle against homicidal cavemen, time-hopping terrorists, and an extremely dangerous hive mind. Don’t go figure, just go buy it . . . like, today, and enjoy some happy-happy times while you’re about it. Another huge hit (and freebie) at the Brighton World Fantasy Convention was Jen Williams’s The Copper Promise (Headline), also due for release on 13 Feb 2014. This is a classic fantasy adventure reminiscent of bygone days, but 122 |

| Alex Bardy |

with a refreshing twist of style and substance, and has already been garnering great praise and some talk of award nomination. Jennifer herself has been blogging for a number of years (www.sennydreadful. and in that time built an impressive army of fans who adore her writing, among them a slew of fellow fantasy writers, so this is definitely one to seek out if you like your fantasy suitably fantastic. One of my personal highlights of 2013 was an obscure selection of short books from Den Patrick, the so-called War Fighting Manuals (published by Gollancz and widely available now), and covering Orcs, Elves, and Dwarves. This is a delightful illustrated collection of easily digestible source material for any budding author. The author has given you all the tools you need including history, maps, mythology and plenty of amusing, cringe-worthy footnotes from noted (fictional) Anthropologist Royal, Sebastian Venghaus. Treat yourself if you can, ’cos these are real little gems, in handy novella-size packaging, and each features an extended battle report from all sides of the conflict. Finally, I recently had cause to revisit a classic Ray Bradbury novel, The Martian Chronicles (available almost everywhere). Published a few years before Fahrenheit 451 and many other classic Bradbury works, it’s an excellent example of a man learning his craft and—significantly for me—shows the author in his purest form. As avant-garde and brilliant as The Martian Chronicles may have been back in its day, there are numerous forays into classic “telling not showing” territory, and on more than a few occasions, Bradbury also descends into bloated, wildly overwritten prose—now I know they were paid by the word back then, but both of these are considered poor writing habits nowadays, so I do wonder if Bradbury would have been frowned upon had he submitted to a modern market. How times change, eh?

Alex Bardy lives in a very dark place, below a small dank stairwell, beneath a dark step, under a speck of dirt, tucked away in a cold, dark emptiness, somewhere on the fringes of the charming, historical city of York, in the North Yorkshire area of the UK. He also writes as DenizenOfTheUniverse under his Twitter moniker: @mangozoid. He is a contributor, reviewer, and word-lender to the British Fantasy Society (BFS—, and an active member on the board of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA—, mainly responsible for the design/layout of their publications, coupled with an occasional foray into writing/interviewing.

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reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Jaguar Hunt

The Amber Chronicles

Two deadly predators... As a feline Enforcer, Tammy Anderson has one objective: locate the missing jaguar and return it to the States. She doesn’t have time for distractions, and she definitely doesn’t have time for sexy shifters with more muscles than sense. One hot mission... Everyone and their brother has warned JAG agent David Patterson that Tammy is Ms. Hands-Off...which only makes him more determined to get very hands-on. But things heat up in the steamy jungles of Belize and their simple mission gets a whole lot more complicated. Now it’s going to take everything David’s got to protect the gorgeous she-cat who somehow managed to claw her way past his defenses...and into his heart.

Emme, a witch, must find love to rule the world called Amber. She desires a crown prince but is thwarted by their refusal so she sends them into an amber orb where they each find their love, Frustrated and loving a crown prince who cannot wed her since he has no siblings to rule the world. She enters the orb instead of him. Can she be freed from Amber?

Terry Spear Paranormal Romance Heat Rating: 4

Review: Terry Spear’s latest in her Jaguar Series is another great hit! I can never get enough of Ms. Spear’s shifters. The interaction between Tammy and David will have you laughing, sighing and growling in frustration. As they search for a missing jaguar David is doing his best to win Tammy over and Tammy is doing her best to lose David, literally. If you have not had the opportunity to read one of Terry Spear’s books now is the time to get started, she will draw you into her world and what better place to be then the jungles of Belize and with some hot, kick butt shifters. I know I will be one reader anxiously awaiting the next book. | Reviewer: Annette Stone |

Janet Lane Walters Fantasy Romance Heat Rating:3

Review: The Amber Chronicles by Janet Lane Walters was absolutely enchanting. The main character, Emme, who plays a dual role of heroine and villain, is a powerful witch looking for love in all the wrong ways. This sets the stage for the reader to watch Emme grow and learn from her mistakes. This novel was the best kind of fairytale and the extra treat was cast from Emme, who when refused by each prince, sent him into an alternate realm where the reader learned his fate, adding to the already delicious storyline. Over the course of 400 years, Emme casts a spell in anger and out of rejection, that every 100 years, she would awaken and the next prince would have his chance to end the spell woven by Emme’s heartache. However, love is not gained in a day and not at first sight, or so Emme learns. It’s easy for the reader to initially dislike Emme. She is, after all, a witch who curses a long line of princes. But as the story continues, the reader grows to empathize with Emme, and you wish that at some point she will be loved in return. Towards the end of the story, Emme falls victim of her own spell and through her atonement, finally finds love the right way. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Amber Chronicles and would highly recommend it to any reader who loves a great enchanting fairytale. | Reviewer Shasha Hibbs |

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reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Gailene’s Vow: Original Blood Stuart Land Paranormal Vampire Heat Rating: 4

Gailene’s Vow is the delicious, but tormenting tale of two women as they become vampires. Gailene must rise from devastation, rage, and vengeance in 1790s rural England, leaving her human family to become a powerful vampire matriarch in fledgling America. Two centuries later, college coed, Zondra, discovers she’s the leader of her grandmother’s empire when she begins turning, though never bitten. Gailene’s story reveals the tragic destiny, but poignant love both women have for Jeremiah. Review: What an interesting tale! Imaginative and poignant. It starts immediately on page one with vampires attacking one of the main characters, Zondra, and it just made me curious because she had no clue why they were chasing her. I loved the writing and how Stuart Land is able to give small clues to draw the reader further into the story, but not clues that give the story away. I had no idea from moment to moment what was going to happen, especially since two stories are taking place and one is through visions of the past! I did really enjoy this take on vampires, although, I do prefer the eat your heart out type, I love how different artists can come up with these ideas that just make the reader all the more curious. We do see in the beginning of the story when Fenton mistakenly drinks too much of Gailene’s blood that these vampires can be like the vampires of our nightmares, which just made me all the more curious! The characters were quite well formed and I could feel myself sliding into the story so easily. The only downside I have is after the initial attack on Zondra the story gets a little slow, but fortunately there is enough to keep my curiosity going and although slow, never did I actually feel the need to put the book down. There is a bit of romance but it isn’t overworked and is just a shadow to all of the

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twists and wonderful plots in this! Fabulous read and awesome take on modern vamps! | Reviewer Christina Torretta |


sneak peek

Myra Nour

HEART OF THE DRAGON Can Eric, a tough, handsome Green Beret from Earth, convince Kasha, the stubborn warrior princess of Volarn, that he loves her? Not before they experience adventure in the haunted wastelands, discover a baby dragon, and explore the hot, sensual side of their relationship. Travel back to Volarn for more magical romance and new adventure with King Rhamus’s sister, Kasha, and Olga’s brother, Eric. If you loved Love’s Captive, be enchanted with Volarn Chronicles Book Two. Find out what sad secret makes Kasha run from love. Follow the characters’ fox and hound game of love, as each pushes the other to their limits, climaxing in a dramatic rescue that changes everything. Be warned, this book is filled with humor and love that knows no bounds. And an adorable, goofy dragon that will win your heart, so that you will be asking “How do I adopt a dragon of my own!”.

Puff acted his old self, ate until his sides bulged, and sprang around her clumsily several times. He didn’t even seem to notice his injured limb and she wondered if it had healed completely. Her question was answered when Dr. Melat showed up, removing the bandage to expose a faint pink scar. The doctor hung around a while, playing with Puff, remarking on his amazing healing abilities. Finally he said his farewells. She’d been thinking the whole time, and her thoughts were wild she knew, probably impossible, but she couldn’t shake them. She stoked Puff’s snout. “Feeling okay, aren’t you boy?” He stared into her eyes, giving her that happy dragon look of his. Then just as quickly his golden gaze shifted, became cloudy. He bleated softly, putting a lilt on the end of his note, one which was his signature call for Eric. She watched in disbelief as a large drop leaked from one eye and rolled down his long nose. She caught it in her open palm, stared at the rainbow-hued dragon tear, a thing whispered to be sacred. Kasha laid her head against his nose, knew her own eyes shimmered with heldin sorrow. She caressed his jaw with the one hand, cupping the gem-like wetness in her other, and rubbed her head gently against his feathers. “Please don’t cry Puff,

I can’t take it if you do,” she whispered. She dared to glance up. His eyes glimmered in the suns’ rays, but no more tears fell. “Can you read my thoughts? Am I crazy?” She didn’t know what to do with the dragon tear. It was a thing not to be thrown away. The basami licked the side of her cheek and she realized he had flicked up a tear of her own. Inspired, Kasha opened her palm and sucked the huge drop into her mouth. It tasted like a tear, slightly salty, perhaps with a tinge of flower flavoring. “Will this give me power?” She felt silly after asking that question, especially when Puff cocked his head mischievously at her. He bleated several more times, that special call for the Earthman. “Are you trying to tell me something? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Kasha watched in amazement as he spread his wings to their full length, beat them gently, refolded them, then lowered his body into the position he assumed when Eric mounted him. Puff looked at her, blinked several times, and then bleated again. As plainly as if he had spoken, he was agreeing with her thoughts--that they should go get Eric. “What are you doing?” His voice startled her. Kasha jumped in reaction and turned to face him almost guiltily. “You weren’t planning on riding Puff?” Disbelief flushed over his features. Her jaw clenched. It was hard enough for her to make this decision, now he was here questioning it. “It is not any of your business,” she snapped. “By the sacred crystal, I’ll make it my business.” He slapped a hard hand on top of hers where it rested on the leather straps along the basami’s side. His eyes went to her packs and swung back to her in astonishment. “You’re not going on a joy ride. Goreth, May/June 2014 | 129

| Heart of the Dragon by Myra Nour |

you’re going after Eric!” “When did you learn to read minds,” she quipped saucily, feeding Puff some blossoms. He grabbed her arms, forced her to face him. “You can’t do this Kasha. It’s too dangerous.” She sighed. “When did that ever stop me, or you?” “But this is different.” “Yes, you’re right, it is. I’m going to rescue the man I love.” “Jahum.” Jarvic eased down onto a nearby stump, as if his legs had given out on him. “What? No more trying to talk me out of it?” She chuckled. “How can I argue against love?” His eyes were sad and knowing as he stared at her. “Then don’t, give me your support instead,” Kasha said quietly. “How?” “Wish me well.” She cracked a wide smile this time, one meant to reassure. Jarvic stood slowly, examined her face, as if trying to gauge her determination. “Goreth go with you.” He enveloped her within his brawny arms, squeezed her hard. “You’re hoping Puff will turn the odds in your favor,” he spoke softly, as if he were talking to one of the twins. She could only nod. That choking feeling was back. It hit her that this could be the last time she saw her dear cousin. “You know, he’s not the only man I’ve ever loved?” He picked up her hand, placed a gentle courtly kiss to its back. “I know, but there’s only been one woman who’s stolen my heart.” Puff bellowed his Eric call, thankfully interrupting their somewhat silly, very sentimental banter. She stroked the basami’s snout. “You ready to go boy?” He responded with a low-pitched bleat. “Eric rescued you, maybe it’s time for you to return the favor,” she spoke softly, as if she were alone. Spinning around quickly, she started toward a far field, one infrequently visited on rest day. The basami followed of course, as well as Jarvic. She stopped in the center, giving Puff a few more strokes, more to get her nerve up then soothe him. A sudden wetness covered her body as Puff sneezed. “Umm, if you’d like to take a quick shower, I’ll stay with him,” Jarvic observed, held-in laughter quirking his lips. She shook her head. “No, maybe I should be blessed before parting on this journey.” He glanced from her to the basami. “I think you’re right.” Kasha spent a few minutes getting settled on the basami’s back, then with an anxious-laden voice commanded him to go. Those magnificent wings unfolded, beat several times, then Puff ran a few clumsy steps and lifted into the air with effortless ease. She squeezed her eyes shut and grasped the reins with sweaty palms, finally cracking her lids for a quick peek around. 130 |

They were already above the gigantic trees, which loomed near the field. As she peered fearfully below, Kasha saw that Puff circled the practice area. Taking a grip on herself as well as the leather, she pulled to the left, directing him toward the enemies’ territory. She was terrified. But, gradually factors in the environment pierced her numbing fear. The suns descent told her they’d been riding for hours, and Puff’s rumbling stomach told her they needed to stop for refueling of their bodies. Refusing to look down, Kasha looked ahead, spotted a break in the immense forest, and guided the dragon toward it. They circled a large meadow laden with crespassno bushes. Puff pulled against the reins, clearly indicating his anxiousness to land. Ignoring his insistent behavior, she made him fly the circumference of the area, until she was satisfied no enemy lurked nearby. At least none that she could spot from above. Kasha directed him toward one end of the field, jumping off immediately after landing. She kept one hand on her sword and a watchful eye on the forests’ edge as Puff began devouring flower blossoms. She didn’t dare eat, even though her own stomach had begun protesting loudly, until the basami burped in a satisfied explosion of sound. “Stand watch for me, boy.” She hesitated delving into her pack until she met the basami’s bright eyes. They were serious, as if he understood her. He turned, his long neck swaying from side to side as he surveyed the meadow. She paused, her hand grasping a sandwich as she watched Puff’s careful surveillance. Did he truly understand her? Had the tear she’d ingested given them a connection, a method to transmit information? She surely hoped so. There would be much need to communicate if they were to succeed in this mission. Myra Nour grew up reading s/f, fantasy, and romance, so she was really thrilled when these elements were combined in Futuristic Romances. She enjoys writing within all these elements, whether the hero is a handsome man from another planet, or a tiny fairy from another dimension. Myra’s background is in counseling, and she likes using her knowledge to create believable characters. She also enjoys lively dialogue and, of course, using her imagination to create other worlds with lots of action/adventure, as well as romance. She uses her handsome husband as inspiration for her heroes - he is a body builder, a soldier, and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

2-in-1 Supernatural Romance Novellas Karen Wiesner Supernatural Romance Heat Rating: 2

The Amethyst Star - They live in a time when humans have become an endangered species... Thirty years ago, the men and women of Earth went off to fight in an intergalactic war. In the time since, carnivores have flourished and slaughtered most of the human race. Answering Earth’s call for help to avoid extinction, Hunters have ultra-strength, speed and instincts, allowing them to destroy the carnivores. Human women have become invaluable prizes in their roles as Procreators. Pair-bonding is rare and families no longer exist. Lady Sher of the Amethyst Star is mankind’s last hope for survival though her heart’s desire can never be fulfilled...especially not with the hunter Randolf. On Randolf’s home world, a vision of the rare star of amethyst was revealed along with the prophecy that if he loses this star, the hunter will become the hunted for all time. Will destiny and desire prove impossible goals? 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. Review: 2-in-1 Supernatural Romance Novellas by Karen Wiesner includes two masterfully written novellas The Amethyst Star and Creatures of the Night. The Amethyst Star centers around a futuristic world where the fate of the human race dangles by a thin thread, and the complacency of a single young woman, Sher, who is able to bare children. Society is determined by science; loving family homes,and deep friendships no longer exist; replaced with cold, and lonliness. Sher, as a Queen (one who supplies eggs) is treated as royalty. She longs for companionship as she chooses to live outside the safety of the City of Hope with the Hunters, an alien race whose sole

purpose is to protect the humans from the Carnivores, an unusually blood and flesh hungry race. The Patrollers are a wolflike race who as their name suggests patrol, bringing word to the scientists. Unlike the Hunters they are a race of worker bees who work together as a colony. Sher, intrigued by the Hunters, Randolf in particular is drawn to their way of life; family and friendships are much a part of their success. The feelings between them swell with their forbidden love. The fable like quality of this tale suggests society can be ignorant and life can’t flourish without love. Creatures of the Night is a novella about an artist Susanna Heath, who falls for Nicholai a man of many mysteries. She is a loner who paints by night as sleep doesn’t come to her then. They meet in her studio early one evening and a love affair devoid of actual physical contact and words emerges. She feels his warmth and closeness, but yet wakes alone. Nicholai floats in and out of her life. As the plot thickens they become married, where they move to his home in Romania, shared with his family. It isn’t long before Susanna realizes things are not as they may seem. She must stay within the gates as werewolves prowl on the other side, wanting and calling for her, and secrets linger. Karen Wiesner has a keen ability to craft her words into rich page turning chapters that flow with ease. Her characters are guilded with depth and personality while each setting is full bodied leaving the reader with a well rounded story. Phrases such as,”Darkness fell in a shroud across his path, and yet he could scent the tiger Carnivore,” leave a visual trail upon the reader’s imagination. As each plot congeals and twists the endings are an unexpected delight. Karen’s talent makes each novella is an enticing, and alluring read. 2-in-1 Supernatural Romance Novellas is a treat. | Reviewer: Lisa Klaes |

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reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Enchanting the Beast Kathryne Kennedy Fantasy Romance Heat Rating: 3

Werewolf Sir Nicodemus Wulfson is haunted by memories of murder—and ghosts. Determined to solve at least one of his problems, he heads to London to find a ghost-hunter. He never expected to find the love of his life in the form of spiritualist Lady Philomena Radcliff, nor did he expect her to take up his offer to leave London and venture out to his haunted castle. But now that he has her, he’s determined never to let her go.

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Review: Enchanting the Beast is a fantasy romance novel about a ghost hunter, Philomena who is hired by a werewolf Nicodemus to rid his brother of the ghosts that are haunting their home. I really loved this book; set roughly around the Victorian era, Kathryne Kennedy has created a world wholly her own. It felt more like a medieval fantasy world that does not cross into the Steampunk realm; there are however elements of the Victorian Era in the book like the fashion, etiquette, and historical figures from the Victorian Era. I have only read book three from this series, so my view of this world could only be relevant to book three. I don’t know if the other books in the series follow different characters, or if they follow the same characters featured in Enchanting the Beast. This world is full of magic, a magical hierarchy, secret relics, murder, mystery, love, jealousy, and unlikely friendships. The characters are engaging, colorful, and quite entertaining. I look forward to reading other books by Kennedy, especially in her Relics of Merlin Series, which Enchanting the Beast is, book three of. If you’re looking for a fantasy romance to loose yourself in then you should grab your favorite beverage, a comfy chair and a copy of Kennedy’s Enchanting the Beast. | Reviewer: Brittany Hale |


sneak peek

R.A. McCandless

TEARS OF HEAVEN In the past, the children of angels and humans, the Nephilim, proved themselves too strong, too ambitious, and too cunning for their own good. They became warlords, conquerors and emperors, causing war and strife until the Throne stepped in and forced them to submit to Its will, or die. Now, Del, one of the last Nephilim, unwillingly works for the Throne, obeying the commands of the angel Ahadiel. With her partner, Marrin, she helps to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons. At the same time, she keeps herself in the Throne’s good graces. Whenever a rogue demon breaks free from Hell, Del and Marrin work together to banish it.

“Throne be damned,” the rogue hissed. The fight was not going well. Del should have brought Marrin. Ahadiel had told her to bring Marrin, but that only made certain that she wouldn’t. Del gasped as the rogue landed a solid punch into her stomach and ribs. The air whooshed from her lungs. He followed with a stab of his fingers into her right arm. Cold-filled pain suffused her shoulder and caused it to spasm painfully. She spun away, awkwardly. Her right arm felt like it had been shattered, pulverized into pudding, useless as gelatin. The cold-forged iron spike she’d been holding dropped from useless fingers and clattered to the floor. The rogue looked at her with brutal menace in his eyes and flame licking around the lids. It would have been a good trick. If only it was a trick. The flames were all too real. Fortunately, Del didn’t suffer from the same fears that mortals contended with. A rogue divinity hissing heresy and spouting fire, literal fire, around his eyes would have left a mortal quivering in terror until the Last Judgment. She’d seen it happen. “Leave now, little half-breed,” the rogue said. His voice had a sibilance that surrounded her, whispering in both of her ears intimately. “Leave, and I will not kill you. Stay, and I will make your pain a torture. I will see you last for days upon days, and I promise you abuses you could not dream.” Del said nothing. People think they want to meet an angel, but they really don’t. The awful truth is that meeting an angel is the scariest, most life-altering moment of any mortal’s

short existence. Angels have always had their voices raised in songs of praise and their wings dipped in rivers of blood. When the Throne needs a mortal slain, or an army felled, an angel is sent. When a city or nation needs to be leveled, and the ground sown with salt for a thousand years, an angel is the destroyer. Flood, fire, famine, disease, pestilence and death are conjured through an angel. Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare embodied. Rogues were an order of magnitude worse. An angel was a messenger of destruction, operating under orders from the Throne. Rogues had no direction, no channel for their power. They sought only dominion through the most direct means possible. “Go, little girl,” the rogue gestured with his right arm, the one where she’d managed to drive a spike through his wrist. It would have been stupid to engage the rogue, or really any opponent, in conversation. Witty banter was for the movies. Errol Flynn and John Wayne could while away the hours as they faced a bad guy and spouted catchy one-liners. In the really real world, Del knew better than to take time out of her busy schedule. She still held a second cold-forged iron spike in her left hand. She wanted to drop it and reach for her last SIG Sauer .45 behind her back. Most melee weapons against a rogue were nearly useless. Unless it was the right weapon. She shifted her grip, stepped into the rogue with speed no mortal could, and stabbed with enough power to lift the rogue off its feet. Rogues might be strong, but the laws of physics were stronger. The foot-long spike punched into the rogue’s left shoulder and only her fist on the weapon stopped it. The Host takes care of their own. Even if they have to hire it done. When the rogue landed, he immediately lashed out with inhuman May/June 2014 | 135

| Tears of Heaven by R.A. McCandless |

strength, and this time Del was thrown off her feet. She held onto the spike caught in the rogue’s arm, and her own shoulder jerked painfully. Not for the first time, she wished she was even the lowest form of immortal. A mere angel could shrug off the pain that now threatened to overwhelm her. One of the higher choirs, a Principality or even a Grigori ... Pain washed over her vision and bright red sparks danced in front of her eyes. When she thought her shoulder would come clear of its socket, the rogue gave ground. It wasn’t much, and even in her current state, Del wasn’t certain it would be enough, but it would have to do. She clumsily seated her feet on the ground, uncertain of the positioning, gripped the spike firmly, and threw all her weight backward. She thought that she would bend in half before the rogue was thrown. His body slammed hard enough into the floor that ceramic tiles popped and shattered, cutting around them like shrapnel. She didn’t waste the time she’d gained. Del dropped her knee down hard on the rogue’s chest and caved it in. The rogue’s eyes went from slightly stunned to pain-filled and angry. The Host may not have mastered, or had even an understanding, of most emotions, but anger, righteous or otherwise, was right up their alley. Her right arm hung useless, but since her left was dominant, it didn’t matter. She jerked the cold-forged iron spike free of the rogue’s shoulder and slid forward on his chest, so that his head rested between her knees, while the balance of her weight rested on his shoulders and immobilized his arms. Her more than powerful thighs clamped down on his jaws and seized his head. In any other context she would have thought they were doing a porn scene. In this context, she almost wished she were doing a porn scene. It would have been less painful, except to her dignity. There were things even Del wouldn’t do for money. His arms flailed, powerful but useless. He tried to claw at her, to gash huge bloody rends in her legs. All he could manage was to tear the floor with ear-shrieking scratches. Now, desperation entered the mix in his eyes. Desperation was something only a few divinities truly understood. About one in three knew it intimately, and every one of them was a rogue. “Omnia glorium Solii,” she spoke the words as she brought the cold-forged iron spike up above her head. She couldn’t help but say them. They were automatic, a natural force, like gravity. All for the glory of the Throne. She brought the spike down, hard and fast, slamming it between her knees. It went into the rogue’s right eye, destroying the chakram, out through the back of his skull, through the ceramic floor and stopped two inches into the concrete. The rogue’s head was pinned to the house’s foundation. 136 |

Whoa, Del thought, and shuddered from the force she’d exerted. “It is finished,” she intoned aloud, the words flowed out of her without conscious effort. Power flowed out from the rogue’s body into the air and the earth, and partly into her. Power, like a strong wind danced all around her, grabbing at her clothing and her hair. She rolled off the rogue, and pushed herself away awkwardly with her feet, until her back met a wall. Then she stared, cradled her injured right arm, and gasped for breath. There was no lightning show or gaping black hole in the floor with the cries of the damned reaching out of Hell itself. Those, Marrin often observed, were only mortal theatrics, a way to visually comprehend the inconceivable. Mortals always had a tough time with intangible concepts. Lust was often mistaken for love; visual beauty was equated with internal worth, and wealth with wisdom. Death was a skeleton wearing a robe and carrying a scythe. What did a skeleton need with clothes? The release of power abated. An almost peaceful silence, in a strange contrast to the titanic fight, replaced it. She glanced at the room, which might have been a kitchen. Holes the size and shape of flying bodies could be seen in almost every wall of the abandoned house. Del was amazed the building, condemned for some time now, still stood after the beating she and the rogue had dished out to each other. Perhaps, it was a testament to the builder who might have believed or hoped his work would stand and serve forever. The Fallen proved that nothing does. R.A. McCandless has been a writer both professionally and creatively for nearly two decades. He was born under a wandering star that led him to a degree in Communication and English with a focus on creative writing. He is the author of the urban fantasy “Tears of Heaven”, short stories “Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke” in the “Nine Heroes” anthology, and “He Who Tells the Tale” and the historic fiction novel “The Second Cut” (due 2014). He continues to research and write historical and genre fiction, battle sprinklers, and play with his three boys.

reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Shadow Lord

Tony-Paul de Vissage Paranormal Heat Rating: 4

Men call them vampires. They call themselves aventurieri. For generations, they hide in the mists of the Carpathians away from their human foes. When their Prince’s assassin is murdered, his son demands revenge. Marek Strigoi’s quest for justice will take him to the Hellfire clubs of Vienna and the boudoir of a Parisian Marquise.

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When both the hunter and the hunted are vampires, not even Hell will stand in the way! Review: I actually passed this book up a couple of times and now I regret it. The characters were well rounded, the emotions real, and though the plot twist was telegraphed a little early for me, I still wanted to know how it would happen right to the end. I am definitely looking forward to the next book of the series. The vampire mythos is slightly changed but the changes make sense and the internal logic is strong. I quite enjoyed the reasoning behind it and the juxtaposition of the hidebound traditionalists versus those out in the world. If the series develops this, it will make the read well worth it. | Reviewer: Karen Fainges |


sneak peek

Judith Leger

DRAGON WISH A vision, a wish, and a journey plagued by evil. Cold, desolate cliffs and a white dragon’s blue gaze captures Seren Jordan in a terrifying vision. A universe away, Paladin Fulcan--prince, captain, and sorcery-shadowed seed of dragonkind--struggles to overcome his grief during the long journey to where he must bury his wife and son. Seeing a shooting star, he violates the most sacred law of the dragonseed: he makes a wish. A dragonseed’s wish can open the gates between realities, can alter fate. But has fate itself decreed this wish? For the throne-less dragonseed’s destiny is entwined with that of a mortal mate; their son is fated to be the One True Dragon King to rule over all the dragons. But not all dragons are content to accept one rule, and the rebels quietly gather allies to prevent the birth of Seren’s baby.

Birds appeared on the outer edges of her vision. She shifted her gaze. She watched the wings moving, brilliant white down and bluish gray up. Their feathers along with their shapes reminded her of the herons she often saw in the bayous and marshes around New Orleans. She smiled. The reminder brought wonderful memories of growing up in the Crescent City. Every summer her parents would take her to beach on

Pontchartrain Lake. Water, sand, and sun had covered her from head to toe. She’d loved the summer months with picnics in the park. They’d feed the pigeons in Jackson Square. Then when she’d grown and had her child, she’d done the same for her. She smiled at the memories. Soft footsteps approached her from behind. The touch of a warm palm on her neck soothed her. A second later, the cushion dipped from the person sitting. Paladin’s deep voice warmed her more than the sunlight. “You’re awake. You must be much better if you can smile.” “What kind of birds are those? They look similar to ones on Earth,” she asked, not ready to face him. Silence answered her for May/June 2014 | 139

| Dragon Wish by Judith Leger |

several moments. When he leaned above her, he cast a shadow over her shoulder and chest. “They are not birds. Those are dracs, fledgling dragons. They are from my clan’s namesake.” Surprised, she shifted closer to the window, studying the flying beasts. Small, with slender bodies, the creatures showed little to no resemblance to the beast from her vision. “Those are the dragons?” She glanced at him. What she saw melted away her surprise. Golden strands lay against the high cast of his cheeks. Seren reached up and glided a finger tip across his bottom lip. His smooth, almost silky lips parted. She lowered her hand, returning her gaze to the window. She struggled to keep her desire under control. Need pounded between her legs. When she spoke, she kept her tone even. “I don’t like the way you make me feel.” “In what manner do you speak?” “Heat, lust…passion.” “Is that so terrible?” His voice had deepened. She sighed. “For me, yes. I don’t want to feel those emotions. I wanted the vision to end. Desiring you doesn’t fit into the picture.” “Desire is not bad.” He brushed the back of his hand over her cheek.

“This was a delightful paranormal romance with some fantasy thrown in the mix for good measure... I hope there are plans for a sequel because I’d love to know what happens next... Paranormal romance and dragon fans should enjoy this story...” 5, Wild About Bones, Bitten by Paranormal Romance

For all my life, I’ve daydreamed. Hero meets heroine, falls in love, and lives happily ever after. The problems that occur in their relationship are over come, melding their hearts together. My writing tries to capture their essences. If you love romance with magic, fantasy and memorable characters then you and I have a lot in common. May/June 2014 | 140

reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Rowena’s Key

AJ Nuest Fantasy Romance Heat Rating: 3

The key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart… Antiques restorer, Rowena Lindstrom, finds herself the owner of an ancestral armoire containing a hidden key and a magic mirror leading to another realm. But the handsome warrior prince waiting on the other side is truly the final straw. This must be an elaborate joke, right? As she struggles to discover the truth, Rowena learns Prince Caedmon Austiere needs the key to save his kingdom. In the end, she cannot deny him anything. Including her heart. Review: Rowena’s Key is a time travel romance that delves into legends, magic, and the demise of a parallel universe unless the heroine, Rowena Analiese Lindstrom, can channel the magic inside a gold key she finds in an antique armoire to save the hero, Prince Caedmon Austiere’s kingdom. The author keeps the story moving and introduces secondary characters who draw out the emotional range of the hero and heroine, which aids in making them human to the reader. The audience is required to visualize scenes as there’s a magic mirror which acts like a veil dividing Caedmon’s medieval-type realm from Rowena’s 21st century world. The descriptions of the visuals can be confusing because the apparitions have a surreal imprint. Regardless, the story accomplishes a fairytale ideal that feeds the reader’s imagination with chivalric deeds, poetic expressions, witty dialogue, and a leap of faith that concludes in a cliffhanger. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

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reviews sci fi | fantasy | paranormal

Matrix Crystal Hunters Janice Seagraves Science Fiction Romance Heat Rating: 3

Vach Namaste of the powerful Clan Namaste, a native of the planet, Zenevieva, has desire the lovely Earth woman, Maya Gladstone, since she stepped off the spaceship on that astonishing day a year ago. He’s hounded her every step since. As Hymeneal Night approaches, he makes plans to take her as his bride… willing or not. Review: Fusing drama, adventure, and romance, Matrix Crystal Hunters is the story of a treasure hunt. Geologist, Maya Gladstone, is earnest in her efforts to find the matrix crystals, which the ancients are believed to have used to exert their power over humans. She’ll remind audiences of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft, a feisty treasure hunter. Vach Namaste is from Earth and is drawn to Maya. He assists her on her mission. Their romance is based on a mutual liking but nothing stronger as the characters don’t develop a deeper bond emotionally. Their love story has the strength of champagne drenched in soda pop. Sci-fi/fantasy elements are sprinkled sporadically throughout the story but most of the narration is fraught with descriptions of an earthly disposition. The tale reads like a writing exercise that a high school student would compose. It has the charm of an uncomplicated romance in the backdrop of an adventurous treasure hunt. | Reviewer: Susan Frances |

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sneak peek

C.A. Szarek

THE TARTAN MP3 PLAYER She never believed in magic… Claire McGowan, Scotophile and historical romance novel addict, finally saves up enough to visit Scotland. She gets sucked back to the seventeenth century while running on the beach. He knows with certainty magic exists... The Fae have taken his brother. Duncan MacLeod finds a bonnie naked and confused lass. He’s convinced Claire arrived in 1672 through the Faery Stones—a magical portal he’s been scouring the lands for over the past six months. Duncan promises to help Claire get home, even though his desire to have her wars with his vow. Torn between familiarity of the present and what she wants in the past, can Claire help Duncan find his brother and get back to the future?

“I’m going with you.” A week had past and neither of them was closer to what they wanted. Home for Claire and Alex for Duncan. She still couldn’t remember anything before ‘waking up’ on the beach of Skye. Or how she’d got to his time. Even though he was convinced she’d travelled through the Faery Stones. And Duncan was supposed to leave in the morning to continue his quest for them. He laughed long and hard. “A lass on a pirate ship. Sorry, but it’s not a pleasure cruise. I’ve told ye what I seek. We’ll figure out another way ye can help.” “Right.” Claire took a deep breath. “Your purpose is my purpose. You want to find your brother, and I want to get home.” But did she? Claire was already fond of this huge Highlander.

More than fond? Her heart stuttered, but she ignored it. Duncan had been nothing but kind and honorable with her, even if his whole clan— his whole family—assumed she was sleeping with him. Sleeping yes—as in his bed. Every night. Sex? Not so much. God, I wish. Duncan said nothing, but he stared at her like he always did. Claire took a step toward him, closing the distance between them in his office—ledger room—he’d called it. “We’ve talked about this. You need my help, and I want to help. Besides, maybe I can sense something, or something will jog my memory. And I can figure out how I got to that beach. It’s worth a shot.” His massive chest rose and fell as he let out an audible breath. Claire was holding hers. Duncan was her familiar in this very foreign land of the past since she’d been here. She couldn’t imagine being left in the castle while he was gone for possibly months. She adored his sister, liked his father all right, and of course little Angus, but… the thought of Duncan leaving her churned her stomach. Historical romance novels hadn’t covered just how difficult life in this time was. Hard work, and boring with no TV, movies, not even her damn MP3 player. What was worse, she couldn’t read or speak Gaelic or Latin, so the books here were out, too. No automation. Everything May/June 2014 | 145

| The Tartan MP3 Player by C.A. Szarek |

was manual labor, even cooking and laundry. Being a guest, she wasn’t expected to help Janet and the female staff with the castle day-to-day, but she didn’t want to sit around and be useless. So Claire had been scrubbing floors on all fours, using a washboard to clean clothing and bed linens. Even smacking the dust out of tapestries. She was a decent cook, so the previous night she’d helped in the kitchens, preparing a stew the men had seemed to enjoy, but she’d drawn the line at killing, even if she’d cooked and eaten the meat. The archaic defined roles of the sexes were irritating but not a surprise. On the other hand, the simplicity of life here appealed. And smiles meant the same. Love was the same. Duncan’s people were kind and had welcomed her. Not even questioned her presence at Dunvegan, or in his rooms…in his bed. “I see yer wisdom there.” He crossed his arms. “I don’ like it. My men…are ruffians.” His thick brogue, leaving off the t whenever he said ‘don’t’ still made her heart beat harder. The man was pure sex. Claire took two more steps. She could feel the heat coming off his body. “You’ll protect me.” She wanted to inch even closer. If he reached for her, she could be in his arms in seconds. A tremor shot down her spine. “Will I now?” One corner of his mouth shot up. Amusement wrapped Duncan’s words and Claire’s heartbeat kicked up another notch. “Aye.” She winked as she said his word. Duncan smiled, and her stomach fluttered. “How’s that?” He bent his head low. She gasped. His lips hovered over hers. Please, God. Let it happen finally. Please kiss me. “Because you’re going to tell them I’m yours.” Duncan growled—honest to God growled. Then his mouth crashed down on hers. Claire moaned and moved into his chest as well as into his kiss. He forced his tongue into her mouth, but she had no intention of fighting him. She slanted her lips under his and kissed him back as Duncan wrapped his arms around her. She’d not bothered with a chemise that morning,

and the stupid wool of her skirt made her thighs itch as it brushed her skin. His massive hands cupping her ass and lifting her scattered Claire’s thoughts and she whimpered into Duncan’s mouth. He slammed his pelvis into hers and she melted, pushing right back. God, she wanted him. Burned for him. Sleeping in his bed, but not in his arms just left her with blue balls, especially the two nights he’d held her instead of avoiding contact. Was it finally going to happen? The Highlanders in her damn books never had as much control as Duncan MacLeod. Unless he didn’t want her—scratch that. An erection was pressing into her stomach. Claire rocked into him, kissing him harder and squeezing her arms around his neck. “Jesu, lass.” Duncan yanked away from her mouth, resting his forehead against hers. His hard chest pushed into her breasts as he panted. His high cheekbones were flushed with color. “Duncan, I want you.”

Bestselling, awarding winning author of romantic suspense and fantasy romance, C.A. is from Ohio, but got to Texas as soon as she could. She’s married and has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. She works with kids when she’s not writing.

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BTS REVIEW RATINGS: 5 Stars awesome book, read it now! 4 Stars a must read 3 Stars really good read 2 Stars this was OK 1 Star hard to finish, flawed

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reading trends in young adult

Forever Young Kellyann Zuzulo

Keep Your Pants On Sex and Love in YA Fiction “Keep your pants on!” It’s the one piece of advice from father to son that seems universal. From mother to daughter, there’s a similar adage: “Keep your legs together!” Simple. Direct. Parental guidance typically advocates restraint wrapped in a package of self-respect. Teens may listen, but they usually follow their hearts . . . and other parts. Often, they’ll turn to books to fill in the bits that mom and dad may be too shy to share or reluctant to reveal. The most successful YA books seem to recognize that kids want answers, but they don’t want it too graphic.

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| Forever Young |

Stephenie Meyer created a riveting romance with her Twilight series that generated lust and longing without nudity (until after marriage). With her Divergent series, Veronica Roth converged characters in fully-clothed clutches in a way that in no way diminished the passion. (Though there are a few scenes where Tobias takes off his shirt.) But these books do not indicate a YA rule for how to depict sex. There is no rule, just as there is no rule on how to tell kids about the birds and the bees. The main tenet for YA fiction is that it is not adult fiction. It’s like Dear Old Dad admonishes, show some self-control. If graphic nudity or, heaven forbid, BDSM is included, the book enters an entirely different realm. The best way for authors and readers to understand love in YA is to read around. The number one book on the Goodreads list “Young Adult Fiction with Sex” is Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. According to its description on Amazon, the book provides “A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of starcrossed lovers.” In a nutshell, it’s Romeo and Juliet with sex. Teens sneaking off to make out is not shocking. That fact alone should tell parents that there’s really nothing new being told about what happens between two young lovers. It’s in the telling. The reviews of Perfect Chemistry, many of them seemingly written by teens, gush that the book is “Awesome, Fabulous, spectacular, amazing, over the top, magnificent, splendid.” For most readers, the attraction was the “hot” hero, Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes. He’s a bad boy with depth and smoldering gazes. What postpubescent heart wouldn’t pound with longing? The love scenes between Alex and Brittany are described by one reviewer as a “romance hotter than any exothermic reaction.” Let’s be clear: Perfect Chemistry is acknowledged as being appropriate for grades 10 and up. That’s a reading age of fifteen or sixteen years old. Young adult is not new adult. There exists an invisible barrier between the two genres, like a sheet between bodies. Pull the

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sheet away, and the draft can be startling. The amount of sex and love in YA fiction tends to vary as much as individual parental approach to sharing the facts of life. An author has no obligation to be genteel. A story unfolds the way the author wants it to. Meanwhile, teens want to experience the world for themselves. They’re going to hear about what books tell how much such-and-such from other friends. The oldest social network in the world is wordof-mouth and that’s how kids hear about what books they’re going to read next. One of the newer social networks is Goodreads lists. Another list on which Perfect Chemistry appears in first place is a list compiled by the DC Public Library in Washington, DC. The list has 434 books on it and thousands of reviews. Author Elkeles is doing something right because her other books in the Perfect Chemistry series are also on the “YA Fiction with Sex” list; Rules of Attraction at second and Chain Reaction at fourth. And her first in the series has nearly 110,000 ratings on Goodreads. What’s so informative about YA lists and how they spread is that it’s literary gossip, but they’re backed up by real data. Teens are still reading. Yes, the books may have gotten more risqué, but they also offer options for teens to learn about sex. Some teens don’t want to hear anything from their parents. But they want to understand the mechanics of what is going on with their bodies and how they personally fit in to an inevitable aspect of human biology. YA fiction is one way that teens today can understand the many ways that they might experience love. Young adults are not reading these books to learn something they can run out and apply. They’re looking for validation, for understanding. As with anything, the information runs the range of innocent to racy. And, yes, parents should probably be aware of what their teens are reading . . . not to censor them necessarily, but to understand what level of information is working for them. In her article for Book Riot, “Sex in YA

| Kellyann Zuzulo |

Fiction or ‘Fifty Shades for Kids,’” Kelly Jensen writes that “They allow teens into stories that they might be experiencing themselves and stories they have no idea about but should be attuned to.” Reading is not experiencing. But reading is learning. And where love and sex are concerned, young adults will continue to explore the books that speak to them. And if the adults are smart, they’ll read them, too.

Kellyann Zuzulo is an editor and author. She doesn’t mind some swearing, as long as it’s not coming out of her kids’ mouths. Her novel, The Genie Ignites, was a finalist in the 2013 Abalone Awards, which recognizes “Outstanding Ethno-Cultural Romance.” The Genie Smolders is the second book in that series and was published in July 2013. Her novels, as well as her 101 Nights serial, are published by Boroughs Publishing Group. An anthology to which she contributed was selected by Joyfully Reviewed as one of the best of 2011. Kellyann is a member of International Thriller Writers, Backspace Writers Group, and Romance Writers of America. She lives on the East Coast with her husband, three children, and two terriers. Visit her at

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reviews young adult | new adult

Shadow Fire

This Side of Salvation

Ashlyn ~ Chosen to retrieve the Goddess Statue stolen from her town Zane ~ Hired to protect Ashlyn Delistaire ~ Malicious sorcerer As Ashlyn and Zane race to stay one step ahead of the evil lurking in the shadows, their passions are ignited and their bond strengthens. But will they find the relic before Delistaire? Or has their entire quest been orchestrated from the beginning by a madman in pursuit of ultimate power?

Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meetssomeone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels. Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation. But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined….

Kimber Leigh Wheaton YA Fantasy Romance Heat Rating: 2

Review: Shadow Fire has something for everyone: suspense, love, action, adventure…all woven together perfectly making this debut novel a winner! The story builds off Ashlyn, our young heroine, who unfortunately is dealt the fate of becoming the next Chosen. The Chosen’s mission is to take back a relic that would equate to the salvation of the Chosen’s village. The issue: all other Chosen before Ashlyn have met horrific deaths in their doomed quest. No pressure there. But Ashlyn is determined, strong, and handles the impossible task with great emotional strength. The story heats up when the reader is introduced to mercenary, Zane. The budding romance between the two was to-die-for! The other supporting characters were planned out well and played vital roles of their own. Zane was a favorite. His character was a joy to discover. Shadow Fire had plenty helpings of magic as well making this gem of a novel a fast paced page turner! Simply exhilarating! | Reviewer Sasha Hibbs |

Jeri Smith-Ready Yong Adult Heat Rating: 1

Review: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready is a great story of a young teen and his family struggling with the death of his brother. But when his parents start acting strange and his dad starts quoting scripture and they believe the end is near and force David to give up everything he loves he becomes a typical teen and rebels. What happens next makes him think maybe his parents were right all along or is it all a trick. This story is not in any way a religious story it is about David and his family and what they go through, it is about a young man coming to terms with lose and learning to make decisions for himself while saving his family. Ms. Ready draws you in and takes you for a ride on the emotional rollercoaster with David. Amazing story telling and I am not one to normally read a YA book but Jeri Smith-Ready has made me a fan of work and I will continue to read every story she creates. | Reviewer: Annette Stone | May/June 2014 | 153

reviews young adult | new adult


me!” Falling in love with an alien might be off-putting to some, but he was portrayed as human enough for me. All in all, a well-written action-adventure filled with excellent, believable characters. Suitable for all ages and better than the first two in this series, this is one novel deserving of all 5 stars and one I highly recommend.

“Saving him meant saving her colony…” Lyra Bryan has been saving people her whole life from a chick in the ventilation pipes to her mentally ill brother when his mind drifts back to Old Earth. She meets her match when she finds a gorgeous alien man aboard the arachnid ship. Captured after a failed attempt to save his people, his spirit is broken, craving only vengeance. To save her colony, Lyra must save his body and soul. Lyra’s lifemate, Tauren, is jealous of her obsession with the alien man and will do anything in his power to break them apart. While they travel to the arachnid’s home world to defeat the mother brain once and for all, they must set aside their differences and work as a team. But, can Tauren be trusted?

| Reviewer: Michele Biring-Pani |

Aubrie Dionne YA Science Fiction Heat Rating: 1

Review: After defeating the arachnids, other aliens were recovered and placed under observation. The gorgeous alien Lyra saved has quite a tale to tell, one which places all of Paradise 21 (Earthlings new home world) in danger once again. I read books one and two of this series but only vaguely recall Lyra. Switching to her point of view was refreshing. This is how all books in a series ought to be written. World-building in this young adult sci-fi novel detailed not only a completely different lifestyle but a new way of thinking, echoing dystopian novels. Yet while Earth is also destroyed in this story, the universe now is new, fresh, and hopeful. Phrases like “sucked like a black hole”, “galloping comets”, and “thank the Guide” reminded me of Battlestar Galactica. Full of creepy spider-like beings reminiscent of Aliens, this saving-the-world business gave me goosebumps and had my attention from the start. The romance was spot on for young adults and captured well. True to teen crushes, almost nothing ever really happens, yet it is all-or-nothing, with permanent high stakes. You know the kind of swooning: the silly one where a friendly glance means “He’s going to marry

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sneak peek

Jan Milusich

MARYLOU Q’S DRAGON DILEMMA Having a secret as big as Josephine, Marylou Q’s invisible guardian dragon, isn’t easy in a town as small as Earleville. On the last half-day before summer vacation Josephine tells Marylou about a prophecy foretold at Marylou’s birth that has been set in motion. Josephine must leave to see that it doesn’t come to pass. The prophecy has been kept a secret from Marylou and her twin sister Tessa for ten years and must stay a secret for two more days—until the eve of the new moon, Marylou and Tessa’s birthday. What will the prophecy reveal? How will Marylou and Tessa affect the outcome of what was foretold? What other changes come about on Marylou and Tessa’s birthday? Surprises await the twins, but Marylou wasn’t given her middle name, Question, for nothing, journey with her as secrets multiply, danger mounts and Marylou’s dilemma grows.

Tessa and I stare at each other. “What do you mean coming of age?” asks Tessa, her eyes flicker nervously from Momma’s to mine. “What changes?” Tell us we want to know.” “All in due time,” says Momma, the brusque tone of her voice, ending the conversation. The night darkens. There’s not a glimpse of the sun’s reflection off the moon, nor a streetlamp’s glow, everything is eerily silent. DONG...DONG The grandfather clock sounds and the air bristles with energy. Flowing ribbons of electrons dance above our heads. Pinpoints of heat prickle the length of my body. Stretching out my arms, I twist and turn them. My skin feels as if its stretching, growing. Tessa’s crying. I reach out, and a leathery blue wing extends toward her. Rows and rows of sapphire scales grow one on top of the other layering my chest, arms and legs. I am the blue dragon, I saw in the mirror at Mrs. Trecotten’s. Tessa’s a kaleidoscope of colors. Shades of pink, orange, yellow, green and blue swim before my eyes melding into a vast black. Tessa’s

jaw widens, her head takes on a dragonish shape. Rows of sharp pointed teeth line her open mouth. “I don’t want to be a dragon,” she cries. Her body shudders with sobs. “There’s nothing that will change who you are,” says Momma, touching her shoulder. Tessa shirks Momma’s touch. “But who am I?” Tessa shrieks. “You never told me I’d be anything but a girl, a human.” Momma’s eyes narrow. She sweeps her hand before Tessa, as if to wipe away her anger. “Sylvie and I have a lot to tell you, so put your lips together and let your ears hear your history.” Momma gazes at us with care. “Our family came from Cappodocia: that much I have already told you. It is a land where the wind whispers to the fairies and rocks rise like spines on the back of a giant dragon. It is the one peaceful place in which dragons can live hidden from outside curiosity. It was our family’s home for centuries, until the Garuda’s attack upon your father. The Garuda’s vow of vengeance forced us to leave. I left for both of you-- for your safety.” Momma’s eyes narrow. She sweeps her hand before Tessa as if to wipe away her anger. Momma’s steely eyed gaze leaves Tessa silent and sullen. Momma leans against the doorjamb gathering her strength to speak again, but before she does Sylvie touches her hand, and takes up where Momma left off. “Your momma fled Cappodocia on the same day that my mother and I fled. Now, Sylvie reaches out to Tessa, but again Tessa pulls May/June 2014 | 155

| Marylou Q’s Dragon Dilemma by Jan Milusich |

away. Momma takes a seat beside Tessa. “Our family has always had a long line of twins who’ve shared their life’s work. One is always a true dragon, and one a shape shifter.” “You and Josephine are twins like Tessa and me?” I ask. Momma nods. “Why didn’t you tell us? I ask. “The less you knew the safer you were,” says Momma rubbing her forehead. The far off call of a hawk grabs her attention. She stares out of Tessa’s bedroom window into the pitch black of the night. “Quickly,” says Momma. “Seek your human side; we must know which of you is to be the shape-shifter, and which the true dragon.” Momma’s look sends a chill of fear into my heart. “There’s not much time.” “How?” asks Tessa. “Through your thoughts,” says Momma. I concentrate. Am I to be human or stay dragon? A strange feeling passes over me. I feel squished and stretched, icy and sweaty all at once. Tessa and I lock eyes. Is she feeling it too? I’m trembling so much that my knees buckle under me. Momma reaches out catching me. I fall against her. My hide has changed back to skin, my wings into arms. I lean into Momma’s comforting hug and look to Tessa. The glowering face of a black dragon stares back at me. Drop, splash, drop, splash--Tessa’s dragon tears splash against the hard wood floor. She takes a deep breath, and wails louder than any creature I’ve ever heard. She stops to blow her nose. The tissue she was using flashes and burns. Her fiery blast shoots across the room. Momma, Sylvie, and I duck under the licks of the hot flames as they shoot through the window screen. “How come she can change back into a human?” says Tessa, sniffling. Sparks jump from her nostrils. Momma snuffs them out. “Tessa, you can only be who you are.” “What about who I want to be? RAWK The Rukh’s shriek scatters our thoughts. Through Tessa’s bedroom window we spy the long, wide wings of the bird-man slicing through the night. “Shape-shift back, Marylou—Now!” says Momma. The pressure, swirling colors, fever, and then chill of the change dizzy my senses. I stretch my wings as

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a dragon. RAWK The Rukh is getting closer. “Hurry, we must fly,” says Sylvie racing across the hall to wake Piper. She carries her through the hallway and out of the screen door. RAWK! The Ruhk’s shrieking call is louder. He’s closer still. “No!” I’ll fall!” Piper’s awake now—there’s no mistaking that. “I can’t fly!” she says stamping her foot. I don’t hear what Sylvie says, either with my ears or my thoughts, but I see her point at me and then up at the sky. Piper gawks at. She looks as if she’s in shock. Sylvie kneels and Piper raises her leg scooting onto her back. She straddles Sylvie with her legs and clasps her hands around Sylvie’s neck. Sylvie dashes forward leaping into the air. The darkness of the new moon makes it hard for me to follow her flight. I stretch and fold my wings feeling the rush of a breeze filling them. What will it be like to fly?

Jan Milusich lives in the village of Port Jefferson, on Long Island where she enjoys creating fantasy and fantastic characters.

reviews young adult | new adult

Order of the Seers

Cerece Rennie Murphy YA Paranormal Heat Rating: 1

What would you do if you held infinite power in the palm of your hand? Order of the Seers poses this question within a story that fuses action, mystery, romance, and adventure in a science fiction novel that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Order of the Seers begins with the journey of Liam and Lilith Knight, a brother and sister who are hunted by The Guild, a ruthless world organization that seeks to capture and exploit Lilith’s unique ability as a Seer to envision the future. Soon after they are forced to leave their home, Lilith and Liam discover that she is not alone. Other Seers like Lilith are routinely kidnapped and enslaved by the Guild for the purpose of consolidating wealth and power around the world. But from within the organization, Marcus Akida, a captured Seer with powerful visioning capabilities, quietly plots his daring escape with the help of a beautiful and tortured Seer named Alessandra. When the escaped Seers are drawn to the same remote commune in Iowa as Liam and Lilith, they each find a place where they can rebuild their lives and rediscover their passion for life and love. As the Guild’s efforts to find them intensifies, the Seers ban together with outlaws from the commune to fight back against the organization that threatens their lives – setting off a chain of events that will unleash the full power of the Seers and change everything we know about the true potential that lies dormant in each of us. See the Power Within

future. The Guild will stop at nothing whether murder, kidnapping, or drugging to attain every seer on the planet. Lillie is a seer and Liam will do anything to protect her. This novel is as simple as it is complex. It is a genetic marker that allows the Guild to find each seer exposing them to nothing short of slavery. The seers when working in tandam, a Quorum, are able to view a larger picture of the future. As the plot plows forward carrying the reader along, more and more secrets of the seers’ powers are exposed as well as the true motives of the Guild. Each sentence in Order of the Seers is a nugget of pleasure for the reader. Cerece narrative vividly displays each character giving them quality, personality and dimension; allowing the reader to feel their fears, love, loathing, and rage. Each of her words are like an artist’s pencil sketching an image of each character. The intricate plot flows easily, jumping from one character to another in a logical pattern providing enough clues to keep the reader on cue and begging for more, displays the remarkable ability of the author. Order of the Seers is anything but boring, one of the most captivating, suspense grabbing novels available today. | Reviewer: Lisa Klaes |

Review: Order of the Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy is in one word, outstanding. This novel deserves a stellar five star rating. Preteen Lillie and her older brother Liam are forced to run when they come home to a child’s worst nightmare, from that point on their lives are never the same. The Guild is a vile group that seeks out seers in order to exploit their powers; the ability to see into the

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feature sneak peek

Kimber Leigh Wheaton SHADOW FIRE

Ashlyn – a free-spirited teenager whose peaceful life is shattered when the village elders honor her with a perilous quest to recover a stolen relic. Zane – a jaded mercenary, torn by his undeniable desire for Ashlyn and the dark secret that could make her hate him forever. Delistaire – a malevolent sorcerer driven by an insatiable lust for power. All three are bound together by an ancient relic supposedly infused with the power of a Goddess. As Ashlyn and Zane race to stay one step ahead of the evil lurking in the shadows, their passions are ignited and their bond strengthens. But will they find the relic before Delistaire? Or has their entire quest been orchestrated from the beginning by a madman in pursuit of ultimate power?

Every step I take is one step closer to death. Hiking through the dense underbrush, I try to calm my frayed nerves and control the fear threatening to overwhelm me. Twigs and tendrils of ivy grab at my ankles as I continue to forge ahead, forcing me to wrench away from their skeletal grip. The sunlight is fading, signaling the end of another day, but this is no ordinary day. A loud crack pierces the air. I freeze in my tracks, my breath catching in my throat. Whipping my head around, I try to locate the source of the sound. My heart pounds in my chest, the erratic rhythm painful. These woods are full of predators, some animal, some monster, but the worst… human. Taking a deep breath, I listen to the surrounding woods: birds chirp, insects hum, and small animals scurry about as if they have no care in the world. Lungs burning, I force myself to continue walking. I didn’t collapse three weeks ago when this whole fiasco started, and I won’t give in now. My family needs me to be strong. The trees become sparser as I approach the edge of the forest. My shoulders slump when I pass the tree house we used to play in so many years ago. Any other day when I’m this close to home after a long day of hunting, I’d smile, breathe a sigh of relief, and perhaps look forward to dinner. Today there will be no raucous family meal, no solace in entering the peaceful village,

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and nothing to smile about. The villagers will be awaiting my return, skulking in the shadows, desperate to catch a glimpse of the walking dead girl. I’ve dealt with the whispers and pointing for three weeks with my head held high, my anxiety hidden behind a mask of indifference. I don’t want them to see me like this, trembling in fear, broken. They’ve taken everything I am, every hope, every dream I’ve had for the future and smashed them to pieces with little hope of salvation. The townsfolk of Verdane decided my fate and they chose death. The elders told me being Chosen is an honor. Either they are ignorant or apathetic. Every five years for the last twenty, a teenage girl has been chosen by the town, via secret ballot, to undertake this dangerous quest, never to return. Perhaps if the elders had to forfeit their lives instead they wouldn’t be so quick to label it an honor, they’d call it what it is… a sacrifice.

Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a YA author addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she must choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) She’s married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and four cats.

reviews young adult | new adult

Order of the Seers: The Red Order Cerece Rennie Murphy YA Paranormal Heat Rating: 3

The Quest to Control the Power of the Seers Continues… After successfully destroying the Guild’s Purification Center in Chicago, The Lost Seers, led by Joel Akida and Lilli Knight, embark upon a world-wide mission to save their kind from the tyranny of the Guild and unveil their greatest weapon – The Restoration Project. Developed in secret, The Restoration Project has the potential to awaken the supernatural ability within every man, woman, and child on earth and bring down the very foundation of the Guild’s power and authority. But the Guild has other plans. Driven by the necessity for control, Crane Le Dieu creates The Red Order, a new league of clairvoyants whose sole purpose is to hunt down and annihilate the Lost Seers. Without the Guild’s mindcontrolling drugs, The Red Order is able to develop its gifts far beyond the capacity to see the future, honing their skills to become the ultimate threat against the Lost Seers. But the question remains – will the power of The Red Order be enough to defeat them? The Red Order continues the epic battle for freedom which began in Order of the Seers, revealing the secret motives behind an organization that exists to exploit and a renegade movement that seeks to usher in the next phase in human evolution. What are you capable of? Review: The Red Order by Cerece Rennie Murphy is every bit if not better than the first book in the series, if that’s possible. Action and suspense seep through every crack in this clever well written sequel. The renegade group of seers/non-seers that disbanded in Order of the Seers are back fighting the good fight, literally, as a dark threatening entity stalks them. The introduction of this evil brings another dimension to the series. It is the aftermath of the first book that truly lays groundwork for this heart thumping “I’m super glued to the book” sequel.

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Edge of the seat wielding suspense and action pack this novel from cover to cover. When one battle has been fought the heroes and heroines are onto another. The Guild is still present and meaner than ever with their desire to seek out the seers for their own benefits, lying and manipulation is part of their game. Lillie, Liam, and their friends have other ideas and pursue their destiny of exposing The Guild and bringing as many new seers into their fold as possible. The entire world is hanging in the balance as videos go viral; Marshall Law is put into effect, and the evil beast creature wages war. Cerece Rennie Murphy lacks no talent in her writing ability. She creates images in the readers’ mind of each character as well as every detail of the spirited fight scenes. There is more information given about the seers’ powers and evolution of their abilities. New characters are introduced while others are rethinking their alliances, and morals. This novel is truly a good versus evil battle. An absolute must read! | Reviewer: Lisa Klaes |

reviews young adult | new adult

Bad Girl School Julie Smith YA Paranormal Heat Rating: 1

EVER WONDER WHY THE WORLD DIDN’T END IN 2012? YOU CAN THANK REENO DIMOND, TEENAGE BURGLAR Budding-psychic Reeno is the most accomplished teenage burglar in California, but one tiny screw-up and poof!—she’s sentenced to Bad Girl School. And that isn’t even her worst problem. Her sister Haley’s dying of an illness no one can diagnose, and now Reeno can’t even help. But wait, maybe she can! The school psychics have found each other and formed their own club. With the help of the Ozone Rangers, Reeno finds out Haley’s disease is the result of an ancient Mayan curse. And A.B., the group’s cuddly but sinister non-faculty adviser, claims he knows how to break it. All Reeno has to do is time-travel to an ancient Mayan city and steal a little item A.B. needs to save the world. Since she’s an ace thief, he has complete confidence she can execute the task before the outraged Mayans can chop off her head and use it for a soccer ball. (FORMERLY TITLED CURSEBUSTERS)

That aside, Bad Girl School was entertaining, especially the snarky cat, A.B. I truly enjoyed his dialogue and character. The ultimate concept is that A.B. guides Reeno in traveling back in time to an ancient Mayan civilization in order to steal an artifact that ties in with her sister’s current disease. I appreciated the willingness Reeno displayed throughout the novel to save her sister. Overall, Bad Girl School did not lack in action and clever wit, and was overall an enjoyable read. | Reviewer: Sasha Hibbs |

Review: Bad Girl School has an interesting concept, but missed the mark a bit. The main character, Reeno, is a career teenage thief. In the opening pages, Reeno gets “busted” by the police and sent to St. Joan, aka Bad Girl School. The justification behind Reeno’s stealing addiction is that her older sister, Haley, is dying from a mysterious disease. Where the concept of Reeno stealing became lost on me is their mother gave up her job as a physician in order to stay home and provide care to Haley. I think Reeno being forced to steal in order to provide for her family would have been a moral debate left for another day, but that her mother was a physician, and Reeno’s father couldn’t financially step up to the plate, felt far reaching. Also, Reeno states that she had at one point stole an expensive lotion because her mom wouldn’t buy it for her. That wasn’t a medical necessity. May/June 2014 | 161

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Claire Gillian

The Legend of the Red Reaper

When’s the last time you saw a movie with a tortured kick-ass heroine? I think the most noteworthy movies of late to feature those types of heroines have been young adult dystopian tales—The Hunger Games and Divergent. SpiderMan, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have all been the traditional male-dominated superhero flicks with female supporting characters. It’s been a while since we had a Ripley from Alien or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, until titian-haired Aella, aka the Red Reaper, in a medieval, fantasy world.

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| The Legend of the Red Reaper |

they rescue Aella and raise her to be a warrior. However, as foretold, the humans are ready for self-rule and to take care of themselves, thus ending the need for Reapers. The demonic traits that make them ferociously effective in times of danger make them fearsome during times of peace. Aella is especially volatile because of her years of captivity and her sworn vow to one day

For a thousand years, the Reapers guarded mankind from the demons that wait in the dark. Now, at the beginning of a new age, the Reapers are betrayed and slaughtered. Only one Reaper remains - Red, and she’s out to exact revenge.

Aella’s story begins with a prophecy and a horrific vision by her mother, a seer. The prophecy foretells of a human finally ascending the throne and ruling his own kind. Reapers, the half-breed offspring of demon rapes, are the sworn protectors of humans. Aella is a Reaper, the last of her kind, but she has a dark and violent past. Her mother sold her to her biological father for a fountain of youth potion. For forty years, Ganesh held his daughter in captivity, where we learn from her flashbacks and voice-over memories that she was abused. When the Reapers finally banish the demons, 166 |

exact vengeance against Ganesh and his kind. Aella has a softer side, however, and we see a secret love affair between her and the crown prince, Eris. Aella knows they have no future. The prince can never wed a Reaper and is being pressured by his father to choose a human bride. As one of Aella’s kind says, “Love is not for us. Our life is serving and protecting—no more, no less.” The film shows us multiple layers of Aella’s agonizing search for belonging and empowerment— the almost feral fighter seeking to both tame and channel her anger; the heartbroken woman who must watch as her lover chooses a human bride; and the Reaper who is coming into previously unknown but terrifying powers inherited from her mother. Set all these internal conflicts against a backdrop of civil war aided and abetted by the demons who have returned, including Daddy Ganesh who has a join-me-or-die plan for his daughter. Overall, I found Legend of the Red Reaper to have an interesting plot line with creative Florida shoot locations in Castillo de San Marcos, the Sugar Mills Ruins, and The Holy Land Experience, and it’s accompanied by a bold soundtrack. Tara

Cardinal gives a solid performance in the lead role of Aella. She is also the film’s writer, director, and producer. Legend of the Red Reaper possesses elements that will appeal to both male and female audiences with action, romance, and even a few comic moments. I particularly enjoyed the scene where the crown prince sends an eye-rolling proxy to woo Aella with a poem. Violence and love scenes

are subdued or offscreen, making Legend of the Red Reaper suitable for older children. I would especially recommend it for teenaged girls.

Claire Gillian, author of The P.U.R.E., is a number-crunching executive by day and a computer warrior by night. She also writes naughtier fiction as Lila Shaw. No matter which name she uses, Claire is happiest penning romance drenched in humor with a dash of intrigue and a pinch of spice. -

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feature an interview

Dianne Duvall

NIGHT UNBOUND Dianne Duvall is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Immortal Guardians series. Her books have twice been nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Vampire Romance and have all been deemed Top Picks by Romantic Times, the Romance Reviews, and/or Night Owl Reviews.

Interviewed by Myra Nour What books have you had turned into “mini movies”? I’ve made trailers and scenes for Phantom Shadows, Immortal Guardians Book 3, and Darkness Rises, Immortal Guardians Book 4. What was involved in getting them made into these neat mini treats? Since the trailers and scenes are basically short independent films, I went through all of the steps independent filmmakers do. Fortunately, I work in the local independent film industry when I’m not writing, so I already had contacts and knew what was entailed. I began by issuing a casting call through all of the online channels afforded those in the film business. I then scheduled and held auditions. Once I selected the actors I thought would best suit the roles, I worked with an award-winning independent filmmaker/director on creating short scripts for the shoot. All footage was shot in one day. Because these were independent films, I needed not just a cast, but also all of those whose work is so crucial behind the scenes: director, director of photography, and a production and lighting crew. I also needed props, for which—I admit—it was fun to shop. Production for the Phantom Shadows trailers proved to be particularly challenging. Local meteorologists predicted a 10% chance of rain that day. We ended up getting a downpour. The director, actors, and crew, however, were phenomenal and worked right through it without complaint. And I think the rain ended up adding great atmosphere to the movies. Once production wrapped on each project, it was time to edit the movies. Editing is usually my favorite job in filmmaking. (I work preproduction, production, and post-production.) It can be very timeconsuming, though, and writing deadlines loomed. So I turned over editing the trailers and scenes to a very talented film editor I’ve worked 168 |

with in the past. He knew what I was looking for and transformed the hours of footage into brief, eye-catching trailers and short scenes. I added a few special effects—one of the vampire’s eyes glowing, for instance. Then it was on to the film scorer, who has won awards for his work both in film and in the classical realm. The end results are what you can see on my website and Youtube. What kind of response have you had from fans about the mini movies? The response has been all that I had hoped it would be. Very positive. Very enthusiastic. Very rewarding. I’ve even been approached by other authors who want to know what was involved in the production of them. As someone who works in the indie film industry, I always knew I wanted to make “film trailers” for my books and create visual excerpts of some of the scenes within them, so I’m thrilled both by the results and by readers’ responses. Please share with our readers what book you are currently working on? I just finished going over copyedits and proofs for Night Unbound, the fifth book in my Immortal Guardians series. It will be released on September 2, 2014, and revolves around Lisette, a two-century old immortal who has long labored beneath the guilt of accidentally transforming her brothers, and Zach, a dark and mysterious winged figure who has incurred the wrath of the Immortal Guardians’ powerful leader. As

danger stalks the Immortal Guardians, Lisette and Zach will risk everything—and I do mean everything—for love. I also have begun writing Book 6 in the series, as well as a novella that will be featured in an anthology similar to Predatory. Both books will be released in 2015.

Immortal Guardians: Darkness Rises, Video Excerpt 1

Immortal Guardians: Darkness Rises, Video Excerpt 2

For centuries, Lisette d’Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can’t bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians’ command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches for—and a man she knows has been declared a traitor. Zach is an exile, a loner. He won’t defend himself against false accusation or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he’ll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of supervamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust? Dianne’s Youtube Channel

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Shayne Leighton Shayne Leighton is as multi-faceted as a jewel with each point of light glinting on a different passion. On one turn she was the ambitious high school student who wrote and then starred in the dark fairytale The Incubus. On another turn, the seasoned actress co-starred alongside scream queen Tara Cardinal in The Legend of Red Reaper, a fantasy filled with witches, demons, war and romance. Interviewed by Danita Minnis

Shayne, your new song Remember: The Anti-Bullying anthem holds such a positive message for kids around the world. It sounds like a cause that is very special to you. Tell us how you became involved in this inspirational mission.

Also of Shayne’s passion is writing. She has penned the bestselling young adult series Of Light and Darkness. There are more of her yummy vampires to come as she will soon release the third book in this series. Signed to Spectra Music Group, Shayne reveals another facet of her passions as a budding recording artist. Her song, Remember: The AntiBullying Anthem is a balm for the soul and speaks to the unfortunate battle many children face on school campuses and on social media.

Remember is (going to be) a really fantastic, and inspirational thing that I cannot wait to unleash upon the world. It was kismet that I joined Brenda As Shayne’s world turns, there is no Obrien’s fantastic musical telling where her light will shine next project. I am currently in the but one thing is certain; we could use development and production a few more jewels like her. of my debut EP, to be released with Spectra Music Group and Spectra Records. While recording the first track at Power Station Studios, I was introduced to OBrien—famed songwriter of Two Kings, performed by Pam Tillis and Kris Thomas from The Voice. Apart from my label project, I began working with Brenda on her vision, helping her to establish her presence online and the building of her websites. It was after a few months, that she presented her idea about writing an anthem directed to rally people against bullying, which I think is such a current and absolutely important topic to keep at the forefront of 170 |

our national conversation. We began writing the song Remember with songwriter, Steve Argy. We would meet once a week at my home for jam sessions to pre-record the demo. (I live in a high-rise, so I’m sure my neighbors LOVED that…not!) It is and was an absolute labor of love that is turning out to be something that is really sensational and heartfelt. Bullying is an issue that hits close to home for me, so doing my part to raise awareness, along with such a fabulous team of people, has been enlightening and totally fulfilling. I love opportunities that allow me to make a difference, while doing what I love to do. We have been filming the music video, and recording the main vocal tracks. The project has really turned into an amazing collaboration between myself, Kris Thomas and Karina Iglesias from season four of The Voice, famed vocalist, Wendy Moten, and talented up andcomers, Nick Obrien and Linzy Rose. The song and video will be released VERY soon on www.RememberSong. com We also release behind the scenes photos and videos every week, which people can find by visiting the project’s facebook page, theremembersong It really will be quite the anthem. My husband and I will be flying to Memphis at the end of the month (March) with Brenda to complete work on the song and video.

In high school you wrote, co-directed and starred in your first feature film, the paranormal romance The Incubus. Does love hold an otherworldly quality for you? I really have always been such a hopeless romantic, so yes, love has always had an otherworldly quality in my mind. I truly believe it is a form of magic on earth, so I love to depict it that way in my novels and films. The Incubus was a fantastic experience, because it taught me so many life lessons and introduced so many fascinating people into my life. That project was also a labor of love, definitely a learning-curve, and a life-changing experience. The story definitely harbors that high school romance angst that we all experience in our teen years, and so seeing that project come to fruition in such a big way was a lot of fun! And, it is actually because of that film, that I am married to the love of my life today! Your best-selling young adult vampire series Of Light and Darkness, published with Decadent Publishing, takes us into the stylish world of Prague. In the first two books, The Vampire’s Daughter and The Vampire’s Reflection, fans enjoy your true-to-legend vampires. What’s next in this series? I always say that the Of Light and Darkness series is like my “Sistine Chapel” of writing, just because, even in my short career, it is my most favorite thing I have ever written. These characters have become family, and this setting is definitely a second home, to me. I get so nostalgic whenever I visit or see photos of Prague, because I feel like I’ve been there so many times. The Vampire’s Daughter and The Vampire’s Reflection were so much fun to write, because both of these installments allowed me to bring back that classic, blood-lusty vampire, all while building a strange, new world that some readers have likened to Alice In Wonderland. It is not just a simple “vampire story”. I am so excited about the release of the third installment in the series, The Vampire’s Hourglass, because it ushers readers from that strange world that they have become familiar with in the previous two stories, and introduces them to a whole, new atmosphere of the “underworld”. I don’t want to give May/June 2014 | 171

anything away, but I am really excited to introduce a whole new cast of colorful characters that I think readers will really love to hate, and brings about a lot of new action and friction to the overall arch of the series. We are working fervently on edits now, so the release date will be very soon. We are also releasing a companion novel that is parallel with the series. In the first book, Charlotte, my only human character, refers a lot to a text book she carries with her called The Anatomy of Vampires: Volume One, so I actually decided to pen that book and release it. Essentially, it is a fictional non-fiction book that explains the rules of this magical world to better immerse the reader and brings about even more of an understanding, I feel. There will be seven installments in this series, and I have plans for other companion titles, and a spin-off, so Of Light and Darkness will hopefully “live on” for quite a while…just like my vampires. You play Tara Cardinal’s sister in her fantasy

novel Sword Sisters. Does the actress in you ever interact with the characters in your books to help complete a scene? Yes. To clarify, I played Tara’s sister in the film adaptation of the feature project that started it all, Legend of the Red Reaper, to which Sword Sisters is a prequel. That was loads of fun because it is such a different world than the one I am used to living in. 172 |

Whereas Of Light and Darkness is more of a twisted, Gothic fairytale that I can liken to Anne Rice meets the fantasy worlds of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle), Red Reaper is more of that medieval sword and sorcery genre that everyone loves and has people flocking to Renaissance festivals for. Two different types of magic. Two intricate, detailed, awesome stories that has readers and fans coming back for more. To answer your question, I always play out scenes that I’m writing in my head as though I were watching them on a movie screen. I appreciate stories that are cinematic and evocative, so I think the best writing must be felt with the heart. As an actress, author and recording artist you are a triple threat in the entertainment industry. With a long career ahead of you, what is the one thing you haven’t done yet that you are excited to accomplish? I love all that I do equally. It is hard to choose just one facet of my career that I enjoy more than the other. It is impossible when people tell me to focus on just one thing. I think my next goal is just to simply accomplish national or global awareness with any of these things. I’ve had my small successes, but I am not stopping until every rock is unturned. Instead of exploring a new talent in something I have not done yet, I would like to master what I already do know how to do, and to do it to the best of my ability. I would perhaps love to reach a New York Times or USA Today bestseller statues, get that gold record, or see one of my films in theaters all over the country. For now, I’ll just keep plugging away, and keep learning all that I can. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be interviewed and read by new eyes. As an independent artist, I appreciate it more than you know!

Visit Shayne’s Website Visit Shayne on Facebook Connect with Shayne on Twitter

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