April 2023 Magazine

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Table of Contents 10 Susan Stoker: Heart-melting Love, Heartstopping Suspense, Done Right! 24 3 Easy Secrets To Selling Your Books: TJ Mackay Drama Queens, Adding Suspense To Your Love Life: S.L Carpenter You Want WHAT?!? Odd Publisher’s Guidelines: Paul Stansfield 35 28 When The Book Is NOT a Picture in Your Head: Sarah McEachron 31
April 2023 65 70 72 87 97 99 100 40 44 48 82 Rising Star Spotlight: Ryan Jo Summers 78 80 101 Historical: Contemporary: Paranormal Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Mystery: New Adult: Suspense/Thriller: Novella: Inspirational: Science Fiction: LGBTQ: Audiobooks: Reviews: Nailed It or Failed It? How Successful Are Your Marketing Efforts?: Tamara Cribley The Path of the Gods, Chapter 8: Julie L. York 55

Our Staff:

Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief:

TJ MacKay

Executive Editor: Katy Nielsen

Copy Editors: Julie York, Marc Joseph, Penny Baker

Special Publications Editors: Sarah McEachron, Ryan Jo Summers

Social Media:

Laura Trujillo, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Columnists:

S.L. Carpenter, Paul Stans field, Tamara Cribley, Julie L. York

Transcription: Ralph Conley

Graphics:

Elle J. Rossi, Rachel Rossano

RONE Awards Coordinator: Sarah McEachron

Technical Editor:

Gabriella Sawyer

Reviewers* Chelsea Anderson, Belinda Wilson, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick, Tricia Hill, Viola Robbins, Emerson Matthews, Sarah E. McEachron, Roslynn Ernst, Victoria Zumbrum, Austen Grace, Joan Lai, Cara Cieslak, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Annalee Stilove, Simone Dober, Leah Neale, Rika Chandra, Valerie Vicars, Stephanie Bell, Amy Rubottom, Heather Kroll, Moira Wolf

*Please note, ALL InD’tale staff are required at times to read and review books.

Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. All books and material reviewed by InD’tale have been read by the stated reviewer and are the opinions of that reader.

Happy Spring!!!

And guess what… It is RONE reader voting time again! Can you believe it? It has been an entire year since we last voted. It seems like only a couple of months have passed since I explained all the ins and outs of reader voting. And now we’re back and ready to present the highest rated books of the year to readers so they can vote and decide which of all the amazing books of 2022 are worthy to become finalists in the prestigious RONE award competition. SO… Let’s fill you in a bit before we get started!

Editor’s Note Smiles, TJ

This year, the Reader voting round begins Monday, April 10th, with two to three genres to be voted on that week. Each Monday for five weeks after, a new group of genres will be presented and voted on. Readers can vote every week in every genre or just in the genres they are most familiar with. Be aware, however, that only one vote is allowed per person. We have amended one thing this year to help that selection process. In categories with over 12 books presented, readers can vote for two books rather than just one. We know how hard it is when there are so many books that are amazing in one genre to just vote for one. This way it will make it easier for readers and a bit more fair for the authors who write in those large categories.

So authors, if you had a book published in 2022 and it received a 4.5 to 5 star rated review in InD’tale, look for the letter with instructions and dates, then let all your readers know to pop over and vote! Readers, stay tuned and keep an eye on the InD’tale and affiliate pages on all social media so you can make sure your favorite books will make the finals and maybe win the coveted RONE award!

Mackay

Paul was born and raised in New Jersey, and works as a field archaeologist. When he's not digging in the dirt, he enjoys writing, especially horror tales. He's had stories published in numerous magazines. He also has stories in three horror anthologies which are currently available--"Undead Living","Coming Back" and "Creature Stew". He enjoys tennis, craft beer, and stories told from the perspective of claustrophobic tapeworms.

Contributors

Julie is an author, editor, and momthough not always in that order. She also teaches English to adult and incarcerated students. She was was born and raised in the East Bay Area, California, graduated with a B.A. in English, minoring in Business Computers... got married and had children. Then she completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Media Design. Oh, and did she mention she is a voracious reader? Thanks to iBooks and the Kindle App, Julie has consumed thousands of eBooks and claims reading is her first love.

A reader of over 30 years, a reviewer of almost a decade, and an InD’tale magazine staff member of five years, Sarah knows books will always be part of her world. This was especially true during college when she spent more time working on a book of her own than paying attention to Stats. Sarah has lived all over the world and the U.S. as both a military brat and military spouse. Along with working part-time, she homeschools, and juggles daily life with her handsome husband and three cute kids in between chapters.

S.L. Carpenter

A lifetime Californian, Scott Carpenter lives the ordinary life of a husband and father. Humor has always played a large role in his life, and he enjoys making people smile. His stories range from the outright absurd to the deeply poignant, and his mastery of the short story format is undeniable. If asked, he'll describe himself as just another guy. His many fans will tell you that his writing paints quite a different picture.

Tamara Cribley

Tamara Cribley is a self-professed formatting junkie who believes beautiful books don't happen by chance. Having worked as a Commercial Photographer, Graphic Artist, and Art Director, Tamara’s unique skills enable her to put together classy and professional books that keep the reader focused on the story. She resides in Colorado where she gives back to her community by being an active Search and Rescue volunteer, and in her free time enjoys reading, gardening, and exploring with the dog.

Julie L. York Sarah McEachron Paul Stansfield

Heart-Melting LOVE, HeartStopping SUSPENSE DONE RIGHT!

Stoker

Susan

InD: I hear you are in the middle of a big move!

SS: Yes, we are currently living in Tennessee, where we have been for Hive years. I must be cold blooded because I don't like the heat. It can be 71 degrees in this house but I think, “It is way too hot in here!” I have the thermostat set at 68. We both decided we are not Southern state people and decided to move north, and Maine is north, so that’s where we decided to go! InD: Did you just put a pin on your map and decide to move there? Maine is beautiful, but there are 50 states. How did you decide which one to go to?

SS: Well, I have already lived in the Midwest and we wanted a house on the coast, but we are not West Coast people, so we didn't want to go to there, although those states are beautiful. In Maine, we could buy a house right along the ocean, so now we have an ocean view and a dock and a beautiful yard! We also have a guest house, and I’ve been inviting all of my friends for a writing retreat. (It is a tax write-off for them, so that helps.) My husband was in the military, so every Hive years, we start to get an itch and we're like, "Okay let's go, let's go!"

InD: A lot of people after they get out of the military say, “Okay, it has been fun, but I want to put down roots now.”

SS: I think we are still trying to Hind “our spot”. My husband retired when he was in Kentucky and I was working in Indiana. We liked it there, but then I got a job that moved us up the ladder, but it was in Texas, so he followed me to Texas. We had originally met in Texas and we both really liked it there. But then I quit my job and started to write full-time so I could live anywhere, and in Texas, I missed the mountains, so we moved to Tennessee.

After Hive years we both said, “Let's keep going north.” And now, in Maine, we have mountains nearby without actually living in the mountains, so yeah, hopefully people will come and visit us in Maine.

InD: I think it’s wonderful you guys have this wanderlust and sense of adventure to where you can say, “Okay, let's try somewhere else!”

SS: Yeah, we don't have kids, so we don't have to worry about schools, and our family isn't in one place. My husband is a volunteer HireHighter and an EMT, so he can get a job anywhere. He has already talked to the volunteer Hire department where we are moving, and they are super excited. He is going to get a job with an ambulance company and is going to work part-time.

InD: How long have you and your husband been married?

SS: We have been married 23 years, this year.

InD: Wow, that’s awesome! Okay, let’s learn a little about your early years. Where did you grow up?

SS: I mainly grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia. When I was in high school, my parents divorced and I moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, with my mother. There isn’t much there, and it’s very Hlat. Then I went to Purdue. After college, I got my Hirst job in Texas, so I moved there, where I met my husband online. He was in the army and based at Fort Hood.

InD: Your childhood was spent in Virginia though?

SS: Yep, I lived in Blacksburg through the 9th grade. It is a small, pretty college town, not a city by any stretch. It has lots of mountains and it was a great place to grow up.

InD: What were you like as a child?

SS: I was pretty outgoing. My mom put me in everything. I was a swimmer and I did ballet; I ran track, played soccer, and did gymnastics, and I did all the things kids did in the 80s. No one had fences, so we played kick-the-can games throughout the neighborhood, and at Halloween we just went out and ran from house to house for hours and came back with a pillowcase stuffed full of candy. There were no cars driving people around. If you wanted candy, you had to hoof it and get it your own damn self. [both laughing]

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InD: And yet it was safe enough that the parents didn't care.

SS: Maybe it wasn't safe enough, but we didn't have the internet, so you didn't know, you just did it.

Nowadays you hear about every little thing, but back then, we were all in our own little bubbles.

InD: Were you a big reader growing up?

SS: Absolutely. I used to go to a monthly book section where there were the Harlequin-type books at Walmart and I would buy like 15 at a time, or I would go to libraries and start at the A's and work my way through.

InD: How young were you when you started reading so much?

SS: DeHinitely when we were in Ohio. We would go to the library all the time. I have always been a Romance reader because they always have a happy ending. It doesn't matter if it's Contemporary or Suspense or Paranormal or whatever, I just want everything to turn out okay at the end.

InD: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

SS: I do. I have an older brother who lives in Virginia with his four children, and I actually had another brother, who killed himself when he was 16. I had just turned 14.

InD: Oh no. That had to have changed your entire family's life.

SS: Yeah, to say the least. But you just keep going. You don't have a choice.

InD: How did you handle that at 14 years old?

SS: It was hard. It was obviously way harder for my mom. She had a lot of guilt because she and my dad were separated. My brother was actually high on drugs when he did it, so we would like to think that he wasn't in his right mind, but it was hard. I had lots of good friends, and my mom kept things on an even keel and we muddled on. My older brother went to college the next year, and then we moved to Ohio, which helped my mom a lot. It was hard for me to move in the 10th grade, but my mom couldn’t stay in that house.

InD: Moving would have been really hard at that age.

SS: Yes, because right after something like that happens your friends are everything, and then you move, so yeah it was hard. I had swimming though, and it gave me a

steady group of friends in Ohio, which is what I needed.

InD: So was it because of swimming that it worked out okay?

SS: I think so. I am the kind of person where I am pretty even keeled, though. Even today with the book world, drama happens, but I try really hard not to stress over stuff I can’t control, and there is so much in the book world we cannot control. We cannot control Amazon. We can't control Audible, what readers do, what other people do or say etc. The only thing I control is what I do, so when the newest drama comes up, I just keep my head down and do my own thing. I think that even keeled personality helps me get through, along with the swimming.

InD: When you went to Purdue University, what did you want to be?

SS: I went to Purdue on a swimming scholarship, so college was paid for, but I had always wanted to be a teacher so I got my degree in Elementary Education. Then I got my teaching certiHicate, but I couldn't get a job. I knew a swim coach at the University of Michigan and he knew about a guy who was just hired as the women’s swim coach at Texas A&M University, and he needed an assistant.

So, the University of Michigan swim coach said, “Hey, how about Susan? She knows what she's doing.” So I got the job of assistant women’s swim coach right out of college, at the age of 22… and it paid $10,000 more than I would have gotten paid as a teacher.

InD: Wow! So how was that experience?

SS: It was great! I loved being a coach and I loved the girls. We were all kind of close in age so it was great. I learned a lot and got to travel. I bought a house in Texas and I was like, “Look at me! I'm making all this money and I bought a house, and I’m only 23 years old!”

InD: Was it at that time you met your husband?

SS: I met my husband on Hotmail ClassiHied. We used ICQ, basically a chat program, and he and I would chat back and forth for ages. I remember one day I said to my swimmers, “I met this guy online, he is in the Army, and we are going on a date – hiking in the woods”. They said, “What are you doing?!?”

InD: [both laughing] You couldn't write a better thriller than that!

SS: I know, right? They said, “You cannot go

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on a hike in the woods with a man you’ve never met!” And I was like, “But what if he's nice? We talked for hours on the phone.” [laughing] It did work out. Patrick was very nice but he’s scared of spiders, so I had to go Hirst because it was dewy and all the webs were across the trail. Then I left my wallet in his truck by accident (I swear it was).

He and I lived two hours apart so I called him and asked if my wallet was in his truck and he said yes and he would bring it to me right then. I was like, “Dude, it’s 9:00 p.m.", but he did it anyway. He would also come to the swim meets at Texas A&M and would time for the team. If there are any swimmers out there, you know that the timing is the worst job. It is boring and hot and humid. And here’s Patrick, my new boyfriend, offering to do it for us! I was like, “Oh my Gosh, he is so cute (because he had a shaved head) and he is even timing!”

InD: When did it get serious?

SS: Well, there is a caveat. The coach that hired me left and a new coach came in. Thankfully, he kept me, but we did not click as well as the other coach who I’d been working with for Hive years. So when Patrick got orders to go to Missouri to be a Drill Sergeant, we both said, “Look, are we going to do this or not?” He asked me to marry him and I said yes!

So I told the current coach after the season, I was done, then I went to Missouri and we got married. We lived in Missouri for two years, and then we lived in California for two years.

InD: Did you work when you went to Missouri?

SS: I did. I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had my Bachelor's degree but I needed a job, so I got one as a secretary on base at the education center for Webster University. It was the best thing to ever happen to me. After two years, we had to move to California, so I went to my boss and said, “There's no Webster University at Fort Irwin in California, so maybe I can start one…” and gave him a little grin and he said, “Actually, I believe they want to start one.”

So they made me the director of that campus when we moved to California. I had to hire all the teachers and recruit all of the students. I was a one woman band out there. Webster University is a Master’s

degree program mostly, especially on the bases, so I earned two Masters degrees for free. I was bored because we were in the middle of the desert and there is not a lot to do out there, so I decided to get my PhD, as well.

InD: What were you getting your degrees in?

SS: My Hirst Masters was in Human Resource Development, my second was in Security Management, because I wanted to take fun classes like Terrorism and I wanted to go to the prison and have a tour. I got my PhD in Organizational Management, and I became “Dr. Stoker”!

InD: How old were you at this point?

SS: I was 28. Then Patrick went to South Korea. He was supposed to come back to Colorado, so I was not allowed, thank you Army, to stay in California. So I moved to Colorado to wait for Patrick and got a job as registrar at a community college there. I loved that job. I worked my way up from secretary to director to registrar, who is in charge of all the records, and then Patrick learned he was not coming to Colorado and was being sent to Kentucky instead. I found a job in Indiana as a registrar at a community college there. That was where I was until Patrick retired. Then there was a job opening for a registrar at Tarleton University, a four-year college in Texas. It was a step up from a community college, so I applied and got it, so we moved back to Texas. And here is where the writing Hinally came in.

InD: Were you writing anything up until that point?

SS: I was. I would read a story and if it really resonated with me, I would go on my computer and write my own little story. But they were always just the good stuff, like the drama. It wasn't the middle sloggy stuff. I had all these little stories.

I had a desk job but when I wasn’t busy, I was typing away on my keys, writing little stories. They were not publishable because they were just little snippets. I still have all of them and they crack me up when I read

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them. During that time, I met Maya Banks. When she came to Dallas, I drove to Dallas to see her. I think that was in 2013, and I was so excited because I love her books. I bought my ticket and she signed some books and I thought it was so amazing. I have always been a reader, so I took a chance with another author I read and I emailed her and told her I loved her books but there were so many typos in them. Now, I know authors hate that, but back then what did I know? She was very gracious. She said thank you, then asked me if I would proofread for her publishing company. I was like, "YES!” Now proofreading, and I use that term lightly, because I was not proofreading, I was actually editing. It would take me like 14 hours and I would get paid like 25 bucks. I mean, it was not a good gig, but as I read these stories, I thought in the back of my head the stuff that I had in my computer was just as good, or better, than those stories that were actually being published.

I had one story that was mostly done on my computer, and so I talked to this author and she talked me into publishing it through her company. I thought that would be awesome, so I published my Hirst book, “Outback Hearts”, around March 2014 and I was so excited. It is a Contemporary and is still out there, and gets like three purchases a month.

InD: I don’t think I have read that one. SS: I doubt many have read it. It’s based on a reality TV show. Back then, there was a show called “Outback Jack” that was basically like The Bachelor or Bachelorette, but in the Australian Outback. They sent 16, high heels, do your makeup, “I don’t like to sweat” girls into the Australian Outback to compete for this guy, Outback Jack. I created my story from the question, “What if there was one normal, everyday, not-high maintenance girl in this competition?”

Anyway, what I learned from that book, and the two following books, was how authors promoted. I paid attention to the other authors on Facebook, what they were doing and how they were interacting with their readers. Do they have reader groups? How do they write their newsletters? Stuff like that, because my books were getting lost and weren’t selling.

I needed to drill down and Hind more of a niche market in that huge Contemporary genre. I had another book that was half written on my computer, so I prettied that up a little and hired an editor. It was about Navy SEALs and my husband was in the military, so he could help me. September 2014, I published “Protecting Caroline”, and it did really well. Fun fact, though, it is my only book without sex!

InD: Do you think that was your niche? Because you have a very distinct niche you’re so good at. Almost all your books are Navy SEALs, or Delta Force, or Search and Rescue… that type of man.

SS: Yes, that is my niche. I love what I write, and I have done that from the get-go.

InD: You found what you loved from the very beginning and that also happened to be a niche that needed to be ]illed. That’s like a miracle!

SS: I like good guys. Some readers love bad guys. They love the alpha-hole, but I like good guys. I am not a huge fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope because I want a couple to like each other, so in most of my stories when the hero or heroine admits that they like each other, that's it, they’re together. There are no big misunderstandings that break them apart. It is the external conHlict, whatever that may be, that gives my books the suspense.

There are times I will call my author friends and say, “I need to talk about a plot. I don't know how this is going to work,” and they will talk me through and give me some ideas. Then things will start churning in my head again. I also like a woman who can be out of her element and not be a bitch about it. She can be trying

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and not just whine and complain. And I like my guys is to be good guys, but they are not all good looking. They are not all over 6 ft. tall and have six pack abs, but they can still be heroes.

InD: A lot of your heroes are dangerous but still really good men. We like that fantasy. A part of the reason I love your books is all the con]lict is external. One gets to read a wonderful love story with outside con]lict, which is just fabulous.

SS: Yes, sometimes all the angsty misunderstandings in books drive me crazy. I am like “Are you two adults? Talk to each other! Back in Chapter 2, you could have had one conversation and the book would be over!” My characters tend to be a little older because of that. I want them to be mature enough to talk to each other and Higure their stuff out.

InD: I have noticed that your heroines are often a bit older, which is kind of nice. There was a while there where every heroine had to be in their 20s, but your heroines are usually 30s or a bit older.

SS: Yeah, I kind of run the gamut. It’s a little harder when a Hero is on active duty because they can't be 50, so some of my women are in their late 20s, but they are still more mature and act like adults. I make my women strong. Most of my SEALs and Deltas are in their mid-30s or a bit older, though.

InD: Another thing that is really refreshing is most of your heroines are not drop dead gorgeous – someone who everyone just stops and looks at when they're walking down the street. Yours are just normal, average kind of nondescript women.

SS: 100%. None of them were cheerleaders or prom queens. You know why? Most women aren’t, yet most women out there want to see themselves in a character.

Sometimes my editor is like, “What color is her hair?” I've forgotten to even say, so I have to actually think to put the basic things in because I want my readers to picture themselves in the story.

I run the gamut between 4 ft. 9 and 5 ft. 11 for the women, and they are of all ages and all weights. You said it perfectly, they're normal women. That started with Caroline in “Protecting Caroline”. She was a chemist. She was smart, but she was constantly overlooked. There is a scene in that book which strikes home with a lot of women. She's asking Wolf and his friends, “When did you Hirst meet me?” and Wolf is like, “When you sat down on the plane,” and she says, “No, you held the door open for me at the airport.” Then she asks his friend, “When did we meet?” and he’s like, “When you were walking down the aisle toward me,” and she says, “No, it was when I stepped over your feet and you said ‘excuse me’.”

That scene shows we have these encounters with people we just don't remember because most people are not a model or someone that stands out so others remember, but yet this character is one of my most beloved characters because of how strong she is. I think I got that from my childhood. You survive. You don't call yourself a victim, and you just keep going.

InD: I admire that even with as many books as you have written, each of your heroines are very unique and have very different personalities and situations.

SS: Now to be fair, I write formula Hiction, and some people will complain that all of my books are the same; in some ways that’s

correct. They meet, they fall in love, crap happens, and they work it out and get back together. That’s a Romance, but like you said, each situation and person is very different.

InD: Exactly. In the Romance genre, the story must have a happy ending, but, on the way to that, the characters must meet, get to know each other, fall in love, and go through something to solidify that relationship – all that while helping readers understand those characters and situations. That is a challenge in and of itself, and you do that so

fabulously.

SS: Thank you. I think these are my kind of fantasy stories too. I always ask myself, “What would I want”? Then I write that in my books. For instance, most of my women have girlfriends because I think that is super important for women to have girlfriends, as well as their guy. I also seem to like the kidnapping trope because a girl can be completely out of her league and scared and freaked out, but still Highting. My characters don’t have to wait for a hero to come save them. He might still come and kill the bad guy, yet she's actively trying to help herself. One of my favorite

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books for that was “Justice for Corrie”. Her character is blind. Growing up, I read a lot of books where the heroine was blind, and at the end she would have a surgery and they would “Hix” her so she could live happily ever after. But I was like, “Why can't you live happily ever after and still be blind?”

Think about if you are handicapped and the person in all your books always gets Hixed or healed, but you're never going to be Hixed… what does that say to you and your own happiness? So I had Corrie born without eyeballs, there’s no way to “Hix” that. And in

InD: One of the characters that really moved me was Blythe in “Shelter for Blythe”. She had been raised in numerous foster care homes and just had a crap life, but grew up to become a wonderful person. Then the crap really happened and she ]inds herself out on the streets with no money and nowhere to go. Oh my gosh, my heart was just tearing out of my chest and I actually cried for her! How do you get into the very heart of all those diverse characters, to the point the reader is actually experiencing it, as well?

SS: The short answer is, I don't know, but I have a great imagination and I feel I have a lot of empathy. As an example, I have watched a lot of episodes of "My 600-lb Life", so when I wrote “Justice for Erin”, where she decided to have weight loss surgery, I incorporated a lot of what the people of that show feel and say over and over. I sincerely want the people in my books to overcome whatever crap they have in their lives. That is inspiring.

the story, she was kidnapped but she saves her damn self! She got away from her kidnappers, ran through a forest, climbed a tree and hid until the boys came in and took care of the kidnappers. Then after it was all over, I had the hero close his eyes and try to walk out in the forest. He can't take more than six steps and he realizes he has no idea how she did it. And she's like, "Well, it's what I do.” I have had a lot of characters with disabilities, because again, I want my characters to be every woman. That’s why you’ll get a whole gambit of different characters and their struggles.

InD: You do that very, very well. You must have a lot of empathy because I think one of your strongest points as a writer is that you create characters we feel so much for.

SS: I want my readers to put themselves in the character’s shoes. I want them question, “What would I do?” Hopefully you would be strong enough to overcome whatever it is. The other thing is, I try to mix up the happily ever after. I’ve had some people beg me to have Caroline and Wolf have babies, and I'm like, “But they don't want kids. They’re living their happily ever after.” Some of my couples have lots of babies. Some have one. Some do foster care or adopt, some do invitro, and some just don't want children, and that's okay. I think in

so many books, getting married and having children is like the end goal, but I don't think that's true in real life. My husband and I don't have children, and there are so many couples out there in so many different situations. I want them all to be represented. InD: You say your heroines usually save themselves, but you also have heroines who don’t. In one of your most recent books, "Searching for Lilly”, when the heroine was kidnapped, she froze. Then, afterward, she was so mad at

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herself because when it came down to it, she hadn’t fought back. I think that is also something many would do. The terror might paralyze even the most capable women. That is a very realistic scenario.

SS: Exactly. A heroine isn’t always able to rescue herself. Another character, Bristol, in Searching for Bristol, was kidnapped but she had to wait for her hero to Hind her. She could literally not do anything but wait. Her strength was in not giving up until then. There are many who aren’t the damsel in distress, but they are a heroine in peril.

I think a lot about Elizabeth Smart. It is amazing what that girl survived at 14 years old. And you know what? She went on with her life, and today she's happy, married, and has a family. Not everybody who has a crappy foster child experience turns out broken. Not everyone turns to drugs. People have horrible lives all the time, and yet they overcome them. I love writing how women overcome the obstacles and the horrible things they go through, and yet still manage to come out on top and live their happily ever after.

InD: So many of your books revolve around the military, is this because of your husband?

SS: Not really. Now I will fully admit a man in uniform is a thing

with me, so it didn't hurt. [both laughing]

InD: Does your husband read your books?

SS: Not usually. He has read some because people kept asking him if he has read them and he felt guilty, but Romance is not his thing. He is a history geek and likes nonHiction books, but if I have a question, he is always Johnny on the spot.

I remember asking him once, “Honey, I’m writing a tech scene and I need a Special Forces helicopter that can hold 14 people.” because I had all of these people who had to be rescued. He said, “Okay, a MH 60,” and 10 minutes later he is still telling me how many gallons of gas it can hold, the different ranks of the people that can Hly it, and I’m like, “Dude, all I needed was MH 60.” Then my editor came back and said, “I could not Hind anything about a MH 60. I found an CH 60.” I went to my husband and said, “I think you were wrong,” and he comes back and says, "No, a CH 60 is a MH 60, modiHied for Special Forces.”

InD: Give me an example of a book that was really hard, or really easy, for you to write.

SS: “Protecting the Future” was hard because I went back and forth between the girl's point of view and the guy's POV on the mission. There were like eight girls and eight guys, and I had to keep them all straight with what they're doing and all the children… I was like, “Oh Lord, how many kids do these people have now? And how old are they now and how much time has gone by?” I was just not good at all those little details. Usually, towards the end of a series, it gets a little harder, and sometimes book one is hard because I don't know the characters yet.

“Rescuing Mary” and “Finding Joelle”, which comes out this summer, were pretty easy to

write. I think it is because I really loved the characters and they got in my head pretty easily. I just remember the writing Hlowed very fast.

InD: Why are the ones near the end of a series really hard?

SS: Because there are so many characters and I like everybody to be friends, so by the end, you have six couples come before you and you want to integrate them all, and now I have to have to remember which girls are married, which are pregnant, and how far along. Has it been like 12 months? I have no idea, because I suck at timelines. My editor will come back and say, “Susan, this girl is 10 months pregnant by now!”

InD: You have so many books, you must write awfully fast.

SS: I do. I can write a book in around 2 weeks.

InD: Wow! Do you just sit down, start writing, and don't quit until it's ]inished?

SS: I am type A, so once I start a book I am kind of driven to Hinish it. There is no dragging it out, I just want the thing done, so that helps. I am also a fast typer. I can type 90 words a minute, I can get my thoughts out a lot faster. Plus, I don't have children, so I don’t have to stop to feed kids, take them school, and all those things. InD: Honestly, that is a big thing.

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SS: Yeah. I am a morning person, so I get up, do some email stuff and then start writing while my husband is usually still sleeping. I continue writing until my brain says, “Okay, you're done,” or if I don't know what's going to come next in the story and I need to think about it. I usually try to write 5,000 words a day. Sometimes, if it is a scene that’s just Hlowing, I can do 10,000 words, but sometimes it is 2,000 words if it's at the beginning. I am a pantser, but I know how they meet and I know what the drama is, external conHlict, and who the bad guy is before I start writing. Then I just dive in and make the rest up as I go.

InD: Are there heroines where you felt you could have been that person?

SS: Yes, in “Outback Hearts”, and it is probably because that is my very Hirst book, but so much of that book is me. There is some of me in all of them. In one of my series, one of the characters loves Christmas tree cakes. Guilty. Another loves junk food; that is me. But mostly, my heroines are how I would like to act if I was in her situation. I don't know that I actually would, but it's a fantasy.

InD: I am just amazed at how you are still able to come up with so many new and different ideas!

SS: I watch a lot of Crime TV, and people in real life are way meaner than they are in my books. Sometimes people are like, “Your villains are terrible!” and I am like, “Uh, have you watched Snapped for Gosh sakes?"

InD: How many books you have written now?

SS: My latest book, “Finding Ashlyn”, was number 93.

InD: Wow! And you have only been writing since 2014… so some 90-odd books in 8 years.

SS: Some of them are novellas. I'm actually on schedule. I have nine books publishing this year and nine books next year, and then I'm going to slow down to six books a year, one every other month. There might be a novella thrown in every now and then, too. This job is tiring, especially in today's age with people feeling it is their right to state their opinion to

anybody and everybody at all times. People have just gotten nasty.

I have some great readers, don’t get me wrong, and I get really nice emails all the time. It’s the negative stuff that just gets hard and tiring. And you have to be on Tik Tok and post three videos a day and you have to be on Instagram and in reader’s group and do a newsletter. Oh, and you need to change your covers… and a hundred other things. It can get really tiring, and I think a lot of authors just get burned out, and that's why some people’s favorite authors just stop writing. I don't want to stop writing because I like what I do, but my plan is to go down to six books a year.

InD: “Down” to six books a year?

SS: I actually write ahead. All of my books that are coming out next year are written except for two, so six of my eight books are written already. They’re rough drafts and not edited, but this year's books are done, and six of the eight for next year are Hinished.

InD: Good grief!

SS: I don't think I can write to deadlines. I think some people need a deadline in order to Hinish a book. It spurs them on. I think I would just curl in a ball and die if I knew I had a book due Friday and I still had 40,000 words to go or something like that. I write a book and I put it in a folder. I have a folder for my editor that is called “In case I die”, which is kind of morbid, but it’s on a shared drive until it's time to be edited. And it makes me feel good that I can take trips or move without having to worry about anything. It gives me peace of mind, and I'm actually very proud of the fact I have never pushed a book back. Although, I don't blame other authors who have done that, because life happens.

InD: That really is an amazing accomplishment. It sounds to me that the editing process and the

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publishing process takes twice as long as the writing process for you?

SS: It does. My editor is great.

InD: How do you keep track of all of the books coming out now, when you are writing books for 2025?

SS: Sometimes I don't remember, but I have a spreadsheet and I have the dates on there when things have to go to the editor and when they are due etc. At this point, I have the ability to write the entire series at one time so I don't have to go back and forth, which is helpful.

The downside is it does limit me a little when I want to cross over in a series. I do have a series called The Game of Chance series and the last book in that series is coming out in August 2024, “The Lumberjack”, where I put all the characters from The Security series and the Mountain Mercenaires, and it has the Silverstone guys in it as well. Everybody joins in!

InD: Good grief! “The Lumberjack”, now there is a topic you haven’t covered yet!

SS: Yes. The drama is a big focus in it. There are four guys in the series that are like, “Yes, we need help, who are we calling? We’re calling everybody.” That was really fun and kind of hard to write because of all the characters. My editor hasn't looked at it yet and I hope she doesn't freak out, but it’s already written!

Here’s another little scoop, my New SEAL series is going to be set in California, and I'm going to have the new generation of SEALs work with the original Seals, so Wolf and Abe and Cookie and all those guys will be in there. They will know the new guys and they're going be training some of them because people love those characters. I Higured let's have these new guys come up and work with Wolf and let him rip them a new one. Caroline is in the background, so my readers can see Caroline again, too.

InD: This is so interesting for me! Okay... let’s

]inish with some favorites! What is your favorite color?

SS: Pink.

InD: Why?

SS: I have no idea how that really works, but I just like pink.

InD: What’s your favorite food?

SS: Is candy a food? [both laughing]

InD: No. But you obviously love candy

SS: I love candy! I love chocolate. I love tart ‘n tiny’s and jelly beans and Fun dip, and Pixie sticks, which is really just straight sugar, I love it all! But, if I have to pick “real food", it would be pasta. I love me some good pasta.

InD: Okay, dessert – but not candy?

SS: A dessert that's not candy… hmmm, pound cake. I don't like chocolate cake or chocolate cupcakes. I don't hate them, but they’re not my preference. I like vanilla cake, especially pound cake.

InD: Do you have a favorite book or movie?

SS: I have a couple of movies I watch over and over. I love "World War Z". It is a zombie movie and has Brad Pitt in it. They get into the action right away. It is one of those movies that makes sense at the end. I also love any of the “Jurassic Park” movies. And "Ever After". And I love the 2015 "Cinderella".

InD: Zombies to Cinderella… You gotta love it! Where is your favorite place to be?

SS: I love Hawaii. It is expensive, but I love it. I don't love the beach because sand is icky, but I love sitting on the balcony at the beach and looking at the beach with the waves coming in, it’s just beautiful. It is probably why I wrote a whole SEAL series based there.

InD: Do you have hobbies?

SS: My husband and I used to geocache a lot. That is where you get the coordinates from a website to where the treasure is hidden and you go Hind it. It is like hide and go seek in real life. And when you Hind it, you sign a log book, and then you put it back so the next person can Hind it.

There is a geocache in almost every rest area of this country. That’s no lie. They are everywhere. Millions of things have been hidden out there and it's great.

InD: I think that is a really cool idea. What’s the best piece of advice that you have ever been given?

SS: That is such a hard question. The best piece of advice is just don't stress over the stuff you have no control over. There are so many things other people do that you can't control, so when something happens you don’t like, just go do something you like to do. Read a book. Exercise. I don't know, just do something instead of bitching about everything on social media. Nobody cares.

InD: [laughing] Oh, no truer words. Thank you!

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DRAMA QUEENS: Adding Suspense To Your Love Life

Our daily lives are surrounded by chaos, running around looking for matching socks, chasing children or pets to get things away from them that they think are fun but shouldn’t be playing with, and basically trying to get from point “A” to point “B” on time.

Our escapes tend to be places of calm, like a long bath with candles, rubber ducks... with the cat and the kids trying to get in, meowing and banging on the bathroom door. Other times, we escape outside to the back porch during a sunset, with a hot cup of coffee or tea, taking in all the splendor of nature, only to get nervous about the bird

Many of us escape into our imaginations with a book – especially those of us who long for all kinds of exciting adventures. How about some thrilling Romantic Suspense? Travel to faraway lands with a hero dressed like James Bond – someone suave, handsome, and a badass. His skills are many, of course, everything from dismantling a bomb, winning every hand at chemin de fer, Hlying anything with wings and an engine, and swinging from cables to swoop up the heroine, saving her from an oncoming train. And yes, he always orders his martini shaken, not stirred. Maybe even taking down an international mobster and using you (because you are, of course, the heroine in all these adventures) as bait for the trap. He will, without fail, get out of all these crises unscathed, and then whisk you off to the romantic setting where it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen next... cue the sexy music... but we’ll move on because I need to keep it PG-13 for the magazine. Those scenes are a different genre of Romance.

Suspense and Romance are entangled together in books, and have been for a very long time. The duels of the Regency period, for example, whether legal or not, offer the hero a chance to bravely face death while the heroine clutches her gloved hands to her bosom and holds her breath. The Middle Ages were rife with swords, scandals, and sometimes it seems there wasn’t ever a time that didn’t have somebody Highting with pirates. You can always Hind Romantic Suspense tales that include guns, cannons, and all kinds of different weapons set during wars going back thousands of years. You can read about foreign countries and landscapes ready to be tamed, and some of them

the eyes, and impress everyone with their amazing abilities.

In more contemporary novels, we share the adventures of law enforcement ofHicers solving crimes and saving lives. We visit the havoc wreaked by natural disasters, where the heroine knows how to stop the dam from breaking but needs the strong arm of the hero to move the lever, and we suffer along with a family when someone takes the last of the strawberry ice cream without telling anyone… all serious issues that add an element of suspense to our lives when we read about them. Except for the last one – I’m still real mad about that.

Of course, I dream of the Bond girls, or the badass femme fatales who save the world in designer bikinis, but in this article, I’ll focus on the readers of books which are a little more dangerous and

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Love triangles, family feuds, generational conflicts, jealousy, and passionate disagreements abound in small-town fiction.

edgy; full of intrigue, suspense, and danger. And yes, a rugged hero.

What draws them to the suspense and romantic elements could be the danger; the knowledge that at any moment things could go from bad to worse. It’s a ticking time bomb about to explode, and it drives them to Hlip through the pages like a Tasmanian devil wondering what will happen next. Do not, under any circumstances, approach these readers at this time. They’re completely lost in the dramatic tension, and will probably bite. You have been warned. Now, even I’m intrigued by it. I have to say, I have a lot of respect for the writers of these books.

In movies and television programs, you can show everything with pyrotechnics, CGI, and movie effects, but in a book, the author needs to place someone in these dangerous situations with words alone – setting the scene, creating the intense peril, and even instilling the fears of imminent death or serious injury.

It takes real talent to bring all that to the page, and not smoke a couple of packs of cigarettes or drink three gallons of coffee while trying to maintain the intensity. (Some authors may indeed have such methods of handling this kind of writing. I cannot comment on that at this time, due to the threat of intense pain.)

There are so many different scenarios to understand and research, and then other elements have to be included as well. If it’s Romantic Suspense, you need to blend in some sexy dialog with your plot, and hopefully have it make sense. Having the hero handcuffed to the bed with a snorkel, and wearing Power Rangers underwear is difHicult to visualize unless it makes perfect sense for that particular scene in the adventure. (If anyone has a book with that scene in it, please let me know? I’d be really curious as to how it came to be...)

I tend to be repetitive about reading and escaping into a book, but the reason I believe in it so much is that I believe people need to use their imagination. It’s a gift to us that makes reality

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When The Book Is NOT a Picture in Your Head

A year or so ago, I came across a social media post about a study by Adam Zeman, a professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, concerning something called “aphantasia”, where a small percentage of the population cannot visualize anything in their minds.

The common example is an apple presented in various levels of detail, from a "1" at completely vague up to a "5" where the apple was 3D, in vivid detail. The post mentioned some people, when asked to picture an apple in their head, saw the 3D version, and others were at the other end where they could barely picture anything, with many people at different levels in between.

This post surprised me and generated quite a bit of discussion amongst family and fellow reviewers, as we realized some of us didn’t actually picture a movie in our heads when we were reading. In fact, I was one of those who leaned toward the more vague to nothing. While this inability to visualize in no way prevents a person from being creative, it does affect how the same book is enjoyed.

I Higured out really quickly as a child that I read faster than my peers and had an excellent memory for content. I can also recall the story of a book I’ve read before when presented with that book’s cover years later. However, if asked to picture the book cover of a book I just read, I get nothing. At best, it’s a fuzzy Hlash of memory, but I can’t actually picture it.

Instead, when I read, I mentally assign a voice to each character, and tend to skim long descriptions. (I’m looking at you “The Lord of the Rings”.) Thus, most audiobooks are irritating to my ears as the voice used clashes with my mental one. Further descriptions of something like rain sparks the “sound” in my head, but no image or smell or feel. My sister, on the other hand, reads the same books but is able to fully “see”, “hear”, and even “smell” the rain described in her mind. When

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discussing a book we’ve both enjoyed, I’ve often found that what we noticed and remembered from the story also differs.

For me, the conversations, the emotions conveyed, and the plot stick with me and make me want to read more, whereas my sister notices that character A was standing by the kitchen counter in a pink silk blouse and faded blue jeans, and is now talking to Character B on the living room couch while wearing yoga pants, but there was no mention of Character A moving toward Character B or changing clothes. The image in her head is disrupted by the lack of description. However, I will not notice this missing description as long as the conversation itself is smooth.

The ability to visualize based on description in books also affects whether a person will like the movie based on their favorite books. When the Hirst "Harry Potter" Hilm came out, there was a great deal of discussion about the placement of Harry’s scar. Some fans were adamant that Harry’s scar should be in the middle of his forehead, and others didn’t mind that slightly offcentered placement. To the readers who could visualize, the Hilm director’s decision was jarring to their own mental image. Whereas to those of us who can’t visualize, the only concern was that the famous scar was present.

How does this matter? Well, to some people it doesn’t at all. Some people will enjoy reading and writing no matter how much description is used. Others will need a certain level of description or the book will be dropped part-way. The only way to combat this is with a balance of description and conversation, detail, and emotion. This can be trickier with certain genres, such as Fantasy or Sci-Fi, which rely heavily on made-up beings or technology that doesn’t exist, but a solid book cover or inserted image or two can combat this. Fortunately, there are more and more ways to tell a story. Besides Hilm, webcomics are becoming

increasingly popular and provide the description in their provided art. Audiobooks, like those made by “Graphic Audio”, tell stories with added sound effects and a cast of narrators, reminiscent of old radio programs from the early to mid-1900s. Authors of all kinds and in all genres have different styles, some of which will reach those who visualize perfectly, and those of us who can’t picture a thing.

Regardless of whether you can actually see that apple in your head or not, everyone can enjoy a good book, but it doesn’t hurt to know how well you and your friends can visualize and think about what form of story will appeal to someone who hasn’t been willing to read your favorite book – until now.

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“ Some people will enjoy reading and writing no matter how much description is used. Others will need a certain level of description or the book will be dropped part-way.

Three Easy Secrets To Selling Your Book

The question of the ages for authors is what exactly sells a book? There are a multitude of answers, and all (or maybe none) of them are correct. I think there are actually two critical questions that must be asked in order to give an accurate analysis.

1: Is the potential buyer familiar with any of the author’s previous books?

2: Is this a new author to the reader?

The answer to these two simple questions makes a world of difference. What sells a book in the Hirst instance can encompass an entire volume!

The answers to the second are quite simple; the cover, the title, and the synopsis! That’s it.

If a reader has never heard of an author, the only thing they have to go by is a great cover that draws them in, and then an equally interesting title and synopsis. Those three things are the sum-total that will either make a reader click to investigate the newbie and purchase – or pass.

Think about it. As you’re scrolling through the myriad of options for books to read, what makes you stop? The Cover! Next, you read the title and the synopsis (blurb). If those things capture your attention, the author has you. If any one of those are off-

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putting, the author has lost a sale. That’s just how critically important getting that cover, title, and blurb right are to an author’s initial success. So let’s help you make each of those three amazing! First, an eye-catching cover. While most people may think this is a completely subjective thing, there are some basics that ALL covers must have in order to draw the great attention that is needed. These points are also the ones those cover designers and graphic artists who judge the RONE awards use when picking the Hinalists and winners.

1) Does a reader have a good idea what genre the book is by looking at the cover? And are there hints to what the book may be about? A book cover with a lovely Hield of Hlowers and a happy couple frolicking through them naturally invokes the assumption of Romance. A book in dark colors that shows a man with a woman who has blood dripping down her neck has a reader immediately assuming vampire. What if the real genres were switched, however? I have actually seen books with the dark cover that ended up being straight Contemporary Romance, and the frolicking couple was actually a Dark Mystery! Needless to say, neither book did well in overall sales because readers do not expect to read something completely different from what the cover conveyed.

2) Is the cover unique and different from all other covers within that genre? I can’t tell you how many times the staff at InD’tale has moaned about the “sameness” that makes it almost impossible to tell one book apart from all the others. All things go in trends, but conforming to those trends isn’t always the best marketing idea.

Yes, a Historical Romance must have the aspects of history within the cover, a Fantasy must convey an “other worldliness” for instance, but within genrespeciHic cover design constraints, it is so important we don’t succumb to just doing what everyone else is doing. That only succeeds in making a book forgettable.

3) Does the text and font Hit the title and genre, AND can one easily read it? As with the graphics, so goes the text! A Hlowery script text should never be placed on a Dark Mystery. A foggy, dripping block font will ruin a Contemporary Rom-Com – as will any title that is difHicult to read. Stylistic fonts still need to be easily discernible and readable on a thumbnail size image. And one more thing to consider, usually if using a stylized font for the title, that same font should not be used with the author’s name. Overkill is a thing. That’s it! If you can answer each of these questions with a resounding "Yes!" then you probably have a cover that a reader will stop to examine (the Hirst hurdle to purchasing). Sounds easy, but it can be a challenge. I promise, the results will pay off if each is considered and applied well.

Now, let's look at the title itself. “That’s a pretty easy one,” you may think… NOPE! Titles are extremely important because they are the gateway to access on any site and in any bookstore. Therefore, it is vitally important that your book’s title is easily found and remembered.

So before slapping that catchy title on your cover, you need to do a bit of research and use consideration in the following areas:

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1)Has the title already been used? This is HUGE because ease of purchase is key. If a reader types in your book’s title, for instance, and 20 other books with that same title pop up, that means yours must be searched for, and you have immediately lost your customer.

2) Is the title easy to spell and remember? If the spelling of a word(s) in the title is difHicult, odds are many readers will get it wrong and search engines won’t be able to pull it up. The more time a reader has to spend hunting for the correct spelling in order to Hind it, the odds of losing the sale grow tremendously.

3) Is the title cheesy instead of catchy? This is a death knell for books right off the bat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled through books on a site, or in a bookstore, and literally rolled my eyes and moved on when seeing a title. Titles like, “The Billionaire’s Beautiful Baby Mama”, for instance, will get more eye rolls than bank rolls! (Had to check and make sure that wasn’t actually a title!)

See? Titles really are more important than you think and should be taken very seriously. They ride the Hine line that brings success or failure, all within a few small words. Finally, let’s discuss that all-powerful but headacheinducing thing, the BLURB! Yep, I have yet to meet an author who doesn’t groan at the mere thought, but we all know how terribly important it is to give readers a concise yet engaging synopsis of what your book’s about.

To achieve those things, we must remember readers expect a good overview of the story that is, Hirst of all, accurate. Nothing drives readers crazy faster than to purchase a book based on a brilliant blurb, only to discover the actual story is nothing at all like it promised! Every book has points the author believes make it worth reading. Take those points and show them to their best, but do NOT embellish for interest at the expense of accuracy!

To keep the blurb concise, you must decide what main points are of most interest, and then focus on only those. Yes, there are many side-stories, tidbits, and happenings that contribute to the overall enjoyment, but those are the secret discoveries only those reading need know. When browsing for a book, readers want an interesting but brief overall look at the characters and conHlict with a reference to the world or time the story takes place (this can be referenced easily within those Hirst two). Readers don’t want a running explanation of what the entire story is about. Tell who the story is about, what they are working toward/Highting for, and where/when it takes place. In other words, grab them, give them something they need to know, and then give them a reason to Hind out more!

That’s it! A few small things is all it takes to (almost) guarantee sales. I know, easy to say… not so easy to do! But, if done well, getting that sale will happen!

You Want WHAT?!?

Odd Publisher’s Guidelines

Whether you’re old at heart like me, and go into the reference section of the library every year to check the latest edition of “The Writer’s Market”, or you’re a normal person and find sources online, an important part of the writing process is figuring out appropriate places to submit your work – which means you have to look at a magazine’s or publisher’s submission guidelines.

I’d say at least 90% of the time, the guidelines are detailed enough and Hine; everybody wins. You don’t end up submitting your Satanic erotica to “Highlights For Children”, or your vegan recipes to “Soldier of Fortune”. Occasionally though, over the many years I’ve been checking guidelines, I’ve found a few that stood out, because they were, I thought, too limiting, weird, not helpful, or simple funny. Therefore, I’d like to list some of these, and then (gently) mock them. (Bear in mind, I write mostly Horror-Dark FantasySuspense.)

Limiting

1. “No discrimination against race, age, or gender.” From a magazine that publishes Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy. I get that some magazines' readership includes children. And I can see that the magazine doesn’t want, say, Aryan skinhead manifestos, or the like. But seriously, no discrimination against

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race, gender and age? So your vampire can kill people, but she can’t deny a person employment because they’re over 60, or a werewolf?

2. Regional limitations. I can acknowledge that certain publications want to cater to their area, and maybe even solely feature authors from that area. If it’s say, Canada, okay, but I saw one magazine that only accepted authors from one California city, so why even advertise in nationally seen books like “The Writer’s Market"?

3. “Synopsis of not more than 25 words.” For novellas, novels, etc., asking this as an exercise might have merit, if it’s combined with a normal length synopsis, but just this alone? Can they really tell much about the book from this?

4. The general guidelines of Horror magazines/ publishers, sometimes listed as being “edgy”, and “terrifying” horror, who then say no to any graphic language, violence, sex, or gore. Kind of like the previous one, I understand not every story has to be “R” rated, or even “PG”, but come on! No gratuitous profanity, sex, violence, etc., seems like a reasonable request, but having absolutely none of these elements, ever, must make for some awfully watered-down Horror stories.

5. A magazine which published largely erotica said, “No ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’, or crude, or sex fantasies.” So a writer had to hit that narrow medium every time?

Weird

1. “Not looking for stories with emphasis on drugs, murder, rape, and body piercing.” One of these words is not like the others.

2. “No religion, anti-religion, or evolutionary” for a Horror and Suspense publication. Seems oddly precise—talk about not wanting to discuss a sometimes inHlammatory political issue.

3. A Sci-Fi and Horror magazine says “no porn or advert gore”. Advert? Did they mean “overt”? “Advertising” gore? Maybe it’s a typo, or if not, it’s an expression I’m not familiar with.

4. “Things that are shocking, dark, lewd, comic, or even insane are okay, as long as the Hiction is

ine, as long as their stories are spelled and punctuated correctly, are grammatically correct, have a beginning, middle, and end,

“Audience is anyone concerned with the moral iber of our country,” and the magazine will publish anything of “Relevance to the growing psychic problem in America today. Be honest and urgent.” I submitted to these folks, and they were actually cool to deal with, but to this day, I have no idea what those quoted guidelines mean.

6. “Taboos include rape, except in prison, where it’s a reality.” Rape isn’t realistic anywhere else?

Not Helpful

1. “Well plotted, memorable characters.” I know all publications are looking for these things, but is this guideline going to beneHit anyone? Doesn’t pretty much everyone think stories should be wellplotted with interesting characters?

2. “No boredom.” Similar to the last one, or worse. Maybe some will acknowledge their plotting, say, is weak, but does any writer think their story is boring? Will this discourage anyone?

3. “Send your best.” In theory, again, I see why they say this, but how many authors can overcome their biases toward their own stories?

4. “No stories that are not well written.” Same as above.

Funny

1. Stories with “Profound terror and sexual delirium.” I Hind this strangely poetic.

2. Stories which “hurt you, and hurt you to read.” Again, I like the way this sounds.

3. From a defunct magazine, “GrafHiti Off the Asylum Walls” (great name). “Send us stuff you’re afraid to show your mother, priest, and shrink.”

4. “Keep the blood and slime to a minimum.” So if your stories feature snails or “Slimer” from “Ghostbusters”, put these characters more in the background.

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5. One magazine wants stories with “blood, sex, and tentacles.” Perfect for all your S&M octopus orgy tales!

6. To defend these publishers a little, I recognize I have no experience publishing a magazine or book, and they have to slog through thousands of submissions, of varying quality, with authors who are often rude, unprofessional, and possibly sociopathic. I’m just saying, maybe in some cases they might have wanted to edit their guidelines a tad.

Now, I’d like to change the format a little, and basically make fun of more guidelines that all originated from one older edition of “The Writer’s Market”.

• “Our primary audience includes those interested in antique tool collecting… and carriage building.” That pretty much deHines a “niche”.

• “We only publish books on acupuncture and Oriental medicine by authors who can read Chinese and have a minimum of Hive years clinical experience.” Pretty demanding restrictions, especially from a Coloradobased company.

• “Children’s Brains Are Yummy”. Not a controversial cookbook printer catering to cannibals, but a Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Mystery publishing company for kids and teens. What an awesome name! I’m tempted to try to write a kid’s Sci-Fi story just to have this title on my publishing list.

• Publishes works on “public policy and Alaskana”. I’ve heard and understand the term “Americana”, but “Alaskana”? Does every state have one? Rhode Islandana, South Dakota-ana, Indianacana (Indianca?).

• “We are surrounded by wild meadows and oak forests where deer, wild turkey, and even bobcats leave their mark.” Sounds pastoral and nice, but relevance to submitters?

• Publishes “theology and pets—dogs only. (Rescue/ heroic, etc.)” So my inspiring tale of how my hermit crab strengthened my faith will have to be sent elsewhere.

• “We are interested in zen-inspired haiku and non-embellished, non-rhyming, egoless poems.” I give them props for

knowing, and stating, EXACTLY what they want.

• “Be prepared to submit Hinal manuscript on computer disk.” They don’t come more techno-phobic than me, and even I Hind this dated. Does anyone use computer disks for manuscripts anymore?

• “We do not accept literary erotica.” So downgrade the Women's Fiction part and sleaze it up before you submit.

• “Read manuscripts in March only.” From a university press. I get that a college, with its schedule, will almost certainly not read submissions all year round. But only one month? Really?

• “Lollipop Power Books.” I like this name, too. Is there a new candy-based political movement I’m unaware of? I’d sure like to think so.

• “Pagan parents are crying out for books appropriate for their Pagan kids.” I Hind this oddly moving, and amusing at the same time.

• “Send us the Hirst 25 pages. It’s impossible to judge something that begins on page 302.” So here, I’m mocking the submitters. Evidently enough folks did stuff like this to prompt these instructions.

• “We only publish Hirst time writers, so authors who have published previously should not consider us.” This might lead to rare instances of submitters antipadding their publishing lists.

• “Print sciHi-ku, horror-ku.” I wasn’t aware that these were things, and I’m intrigued. That’s 5-7-5 on the syllables, right?

I’ll wrap things up by including a list of some absurd magazine titles. (Some of these magazines and publishers are probably defunct by now, but their wonderfully ridiculous names, guidelines, and subject matter can live on in our hearts.)

Some Actual Magazine Names

1. “Miniature Donkey Talk.” Damn, my donkey is more medium-sized.

know that they don’t take articles written from “Railroad Evangelist.” Amazingly, this isn’t a metaphorical expression—it’s exactly

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4. “Bacon Busters.” I Higured this would be a militant vegetarian tract, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s an Australian hog hunter’s magazine. One of their regular features is a “Babes and Boars” pictorial.

5. “Musky Hunters Magazine.” For outdoorsmen who are against bathing, and proud of it? (Nope, it’s actually a type of Hish.)

6. “Prorodeo Sporting News.” I’m tempted to start my own anti-rodeo magazine, just to stir the pot a little.

7. “The Pastel Journal.” Advertises itself as “the only national magazine devoted to the medium of pastel.” I, for one, cannot argue this assertion.

8. “Spudman.” A potato industry periodical. Does Gloria Steinem know about this title? It’s sad that in the 21st century female potato industry workers are so ignored and marginalized.

9. “Sheep! Magazine.” A bimonthly. Love the exclamation point—nice to see such enthusiasm for their career.

10. “Pizza Today Monthly.” In this industry magazine, their guidelines mention “No Hiller or humor”. Sorry, you’re going to have to hang on to all your silly and irreverent articles about ONE FOOD ITEM until a second pizza magazine is created. (I wouldn’t hold your breath.)

If you would like to read more about Paul and his writing visit: http://paulstans;ield.blogspot.com

Rising Star Spotlight

Ryan Jo Summers

Have you always loved reading? Tell us about your ]irst memories of falling in love with a book.

Yes, I have always loved books. I don't recall what age I actually began reading, but I do recall Hirst memories of my room decorated with a long bookshelf. It was about twelve feet long, three shelves high and full of books - and a few stuffed animals. By the time I was nine or ten, I was saving my babysitting money to go down to the mall. Three times a year we made the day-long trip to the mall, and I always hit up the bookstore. I'd spend hours perusing the shelves, and leaving with at least two stuffed bags of books to hold me over until the next trip. Many of those childhood favorites have followed me into adulthood. And a strong memory of my love of books was in my middle school years. We lived in a house bordered with a big

swath of woods and a creek. I'd take a book out there, wander deep into the woods, sit upon either a sunwarmed rock or on a shady log beside the creek, listen to the forest noises, and read whatever paperback I'd happened to bring. Because I longed for my own horse, so many of those books revolved around horses and the kids who loved them. To this day, I still can't pass up a horse and their child story. Most get passed on to my horse-crazy niece nowadays. My goal in life is two fold: 1) ensure she never runs out of good horse and child reading material, and 2) ensure she gets a horse of her own one day.

When did you decide you wanted to actually write a book of your own?

I was ten years old.There was a family event that my young mind could not understand. I felt it was

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completely unfair and I was heartbroken. In an effort to give voice to my feelings, I took pen to paper and just wrote a story - partially Hiction and partially truthful recap. I drew pictures and gave it a title and stapled the whole thing together like the pages of my books on the shelves. It was only later I realized I had written a book. I had never considered myself a writer because I assumed one had to be a college professor or in the leagues of doctors and scientists to be a writer. In my teens, once I knew everyday, average people could write, I decided to try writing a full-length young adult novel. I ended up writing two; one not too bad and one so-so. From there, late teens and early twenties, it just graduated based on what I was currently reading.

Have you pursued any other careers?

Yes. My dream was to be a veterinarian. With my love of animals, it seemed the most logical career choice. Life happened and I became a veterinary technician instead. It was a fantastic career and I truly loved it. All the highs, and all the lows, the challenges and the mundane, I always felt I was doing what I should be doing. I did take a break for about ten years, and bought a pet boarding kennel and became director of a breed rescue organization. Again, I loved what I did--good days, bad days, and routine days. Later I returned to my vet tech love and eventually retired and now I own a pet sitting business.

What inspired you to write contemporary romance and inspirational stories?

What is really humorous is that I don't see myself as a romance novelist. I am not a particularly romantic person and enjoy living solo far too much to bother with falling in love--with the exception of my book boyfriends. I do love comparing the heros of my books. However, that appears to be the genre niche I have fallen into. I was merely writing the kind of stuff I was reading at the time.... I'd Hinally graduated from girl and horse adventure stories to Harlequin and Silhouette love stories.Inspirational is rooted in my

deep faith. Whenever the plotlines of the story allow, my faith bubbles up and Hilters through the minds of my characters. I must say inspirational is my favorite element to include in a story if possible.

How do you ]ind the characters and storylines that inhibit your books?

Everywhere, and I do mean quite literally everywhere. I observe my surroundings, and I am a people watcher, and I read all the time. A name on a plumber's van, a particular car at a stop light, a lost bouquet of Hlowers, and a hundred other things have all found their way into my stories. Overheard snippets of conversation - just a line or two - can create a whole scene in my mind. Songs are great fodder for ideas. A drive along the highway can offer a bevy of possibilities. I always carry a notepad and pens to record ideas and dialogue for current works in progress or upcoming projects, or just a juicy thought for my future Hiles.

What parts of writing are the most rewarding? The most challenging?

Writing is the most rewarding. I love to write. Just the creating process. The unbridled, creative, outpouring of thought and birth of characters, setting, storyline. It is utterly fulHilling and satisfying. The part that follows is the hard stuff. Editing. More Editing. Cutting, dissecting, rearranging, and analyzing. It's tedious, sometimes painful, many times frustrating, and I tend to feel it is keeping me from moving on to the next story I need to write.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time is such a precious commodity for me, I tend to guard it. My nieces hold my heart. I want to spend all available time slots with them. Watching them grow up is my life's pleasure. Since I own a pet sitting business, I have… well, business to take care of. I pet sit, and have clients, team members, schedules, payroll, and legal stuff to constantly oversee. There is always - no exaggeration - always something to deal with. I also have my own

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menageries of pets to enjoy, snuggle, and care for. From the youngest to the oldest, someone wants something all the time. I keep a Hlock of chickens. Watching the sun come up over the mountain as I toss their morning grain and listen to them cluck and crow as they dig the ground throughout the day is my mental break. I like to dig in the dirt myself, planting and tending the small gardens around my yard, and watching my Hlowers bloom. Watching the rain fall from my porch with a notebook, coffee, and a dog at my feet is another of life's pleasures. Bonus points if it's following an afternoon of gardening. I also like to paint and enjoy the process of creating the picture on canvas, or bringing the ceramic to life with details or creating the carousels with color and design. Remember the spring hobby horses most of us rode as kids? I remove the metal frame and springs and create carousels by putting the body on a base, install a pole in the center, paint the horse and embellish the saddle and bridle. Creating something from nothing or a blank slate is rewarding in and of itself.

What is on your bucket list for the future?

I am working on a script for a podcast. My brother-inlaw turned my study into a mini-recording studio and I developed a podcast skeleton. Now I am three chapters into writing the Hirst book I want to record (Not an audio book, just me reading the script of a story I wrote speciHically for this). I hope to have several chapters/episodes published before the holidays this year. I also have rewrites and series I am working on. Right now, I have to catch up on edits and a couple installments of a series I am working on now (book 1 is already out) and then catch up on other long term projects that have lingered. Basically a project clean up before I can move forward with new projects.

What is the one thing you would really like readers to know and understand about you?

Fun fact: I have not watched television since the early 2000's. 2004 was the last time I regularly watched television. I caught a few movies from 2005 to 2010. Since then, I decided I prefered to spend my time hanging out with the people I care about, the pets I love, the books I enjoy, and the nature that inspires me. I do catch a trailer off YouTube sometimes, or a 6second news bite - just enough to get the jist of what people are talking about. However, I do not miss television/movies or the like. My life is crammed full already, and I feel if I took 1 or 2 or 4 hours out to be entertained by movies or tv shows, that time could have gone to read a book or plant a garden or watch the rain or write another story.

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Nailed or Failed It?

How successful were your marketing efforts?

Just like writing, marketing isn’t a do-it-once thing, it's a process. However, more so than writing, marketing is a constantly evolving effort. It changes with technology, your audience, and sometimes, for no apparent reason at all.

Building on last month’s article, "Does the idea of marketing your book make you anxious?" let’s take stock of your current efforts:

• You’ve picked (at least) one platform where you thrive, and you have leveraged the characteristic that makes you unique.

• You know that consistency and sustainability are important, so you made a plan about when and what you were going to post.

How’d it go?

This step can be challenging, even humbling. You must be honest with yourself if you want to be effective. It’s easy to get excited and overly ambitious when you’re planning and starting a new project, but we’re all busy, and for most, being an author is only one of many hats we wear. Despite the best laid plans, sometimes it’s only in practice where we see the true possibility (or lack thereof) of our plans.

So, how’d you do?

Were you able to stick to your schedule and your content plan? Was it like pulling teeth, or do you feel positive about it? Maybe you’re almost there, but found the day or time of day weren’t ideal.

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Were you overly ambitious? Maybe you were being conservative in your plans, but you found that you’re having a great time and you want to be more active.

If things aren’t going according to plan, take a few minutes to understand why. If there were unforeseen circumstances that arose, you might give it another month or two to see if your plans were generally on target.

If you found, in practice, your plans just didn’t Hit, before adjusting, understand what prevented your success. Did you Hind that the schedule just didn’t work? Was the platform you chose more intimidating than you expected? Did you have trouble coming up with content? Maybe it was a combination of things. Instead of ditching everything, start with your biggest challenge.

Find a different day or time to post. Follow other creators for content ideas. If you Hind your platform intimidating, don’t switch right away. Remember, this is the platform where you’re most comfortable. Chances are you’re not uncomfortable with the platform, but with the idea of talking about yourself or your work. While at some point you need to get around to talking about your writing, it’s okay to start by sharing things you Hind inspiring or interesting as a writer. They can be as simple as shared memes. The important step is to start engaging as your author self.

If you rocked it and feel like you have the bandwidth to be more active, what does that look like?

Once you decide how to adjust one, maybe two pieces of your plan, work it. Give it another month, maybe two or three. Then, review.

Note, what we’ve been addressing is your efforts, and not their effects. Marketing requires that you do something, and that what you do is well-received by your target audience. While the results of your efforts are likely to affect how your strategy

evolves, we can’t effectively analyze them if they aren’t established and consistent.

How is your intended audience reacting to your current strategy? ‘Likes’ and reactions are a very basic level of interaction. We’ll take ‘em, but the goal is to get your audience to interact and engage directly with you. Comments, questions, and shares, increase the organic reach of your audience.

When someone shares your post, video, or page, you get to be in front of a whole new group of people. If your content resonates with them, you can increase your audience. The more shares you get, the wider the potential audience.

Comments and questions give you the opportunity to have a conversation with your audience. Anne Rice was one of my favorite writers to follow on Facebook. With over one million followers, she still engaged directly with her audience, inviting conversation and questions. It made readers (and authors) feel connected to her and her writing in a way that simply hearing about her didn’t.

We feel special when someone we admire interacts with us. We see it all the time on social media when a user gets recognized or mentioned by one of their idols. The bragging rights are supreme. And how cool is it to say you knew someone before they were famous—you saw their potential at the very beginning? This is your very beginning… it's your time to shine.

Are you building engagement with your efforts? If not, why do you think that is? If you’re thinking, “I’m just not that interesting,” that’s the wrong answer. Something that has become much more prevalent in recent years is creators being vulnerable, sharing their minor interactions from the day, or how something made them feel. Relatable, everyday occurrences make you approachable.

Sometimes when we overproduce things, we create a distance between ourselves and our audience. The point is, you don’t have to reach too far to Hind something relatable, and relatable is interesting. Do you have a

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WIP? How’d you do this week?

Did you run down the thesaurus rabbit hole? Was the beautiful, sunny day completely incongruous with the dark, moody murder scene you’re writing?

It might seem obvious, but sometimes we overlook the power of asking a question. We often see this tactic in click bait. That doesn’t mean the technique is bad or unsuitable. It’s effective. People like to share their opinions. Unlike click bait, the best questions are ones that encourage discussion and prolonged engagement. Remember to acknowledge your

commenters in some fashion, ideally with another comment.

As you start to expand the type of content you’re creating, what do you Hind resonates with your audience? Do they like the same thing all the time, or is there a variety of different topics or styles that people engage with regularly? Are there posts that go completely ignored? If you’re not able to see a pattern with the type of content, maybe there are some similarities with the day or time of day you post.

As you begin to see patterns emerge, start working them. Test your theory. Make minor changes

and give them time to see if they’re working. As you establish consistency and become comfortable engaging with your audience, you can begin marketing efforts. Take a class. Hire a marketing professional. Learn paid advertising. Remember, as an independent author, it’s up to you to drive sales. You can do it!

You’re invited to join the Professional Indie Publishing Roundtable. If you’d like to be part of the conversation with industry pros and other independent authors, join me for periodic virtual meetings. Be part of the conversation, ask questions, and share your experiences, challenges, and successes. Visit www.DeliberatePage.com/ Roundtable to sign up for meeting access details and information.

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How’d you do this week? Did you run down the thesaurus rabbit hole? Was the beautiful, sunny day completely incongruous with the dark, moody murder scene you’re writing?

***With Donal and the Guardian having left Yana with Kit, there are increasing numbers of “objects” growing by themselves in Yana’s hands, and no way to ask what they are. Or why. A side effect of the objects burned an Illusion down just as Ebbe and Emme were attempting to find the entrance to where the real Laws are being kept. Illusions should not be, but then, a missing Guardian should not be either.***

Ebbe strode through the rubble, attempting to ignore the wafting dust as the illusion dissipated once reality crashed down on it with each step. Placing a palm on the door, he motioned to Emme, who brought up Yana’s map of where the Laws of Progression were located. Running Hingertips around, he could not detect any seams or edges, yet the latch and coloring denoted a door. “It seems the illusion runs deeper,” he muttered.

“Or it is rebuilding,” Emme said quietly. “And how would that be possible?” Ebbe asked. Waving her hands to the dusty air around them, she said, “How wouldn’t it be possible? Look at this… this, something which should not be in the Hirst place. Why shouldn’t things continue in directions we didn’t know were allowed?”

“What makes you think this is allowed?” Ebbe held up his hand to stop her. “Never mind. This is where the Laws are; therefore someone high on the Path has allowed it. And stop grinning,” he Hinished, not looking at her smirk. Pulling his shelf forward, he tapped a rhythm with three Hingers onto the underside, revealing a newer shelf Hloating above.

“Hmm, looks as if you are learning a bit too much from Donal about how to push boundaries and be sneaky,” Emme said lightly.

“And aren’t you glad that I am, dearest,” Ebbe answered, searching through the elements, vials, and mixes. Writing a sigil in the air with his Hinger, he gave a tug, and pulled a few more items forth. He set them to the side, Hloating in the air.

“Are you at all certain any of that will actually work, even if it’s combined?” Emme asked.

Ebbe shrugged. “None have come to stop us, so it is doubtful there are alarms. The Concilium as a whole must not know about this, or that nosey, rude voice would have already been chastising us and alerted a Member. It is rather obnoxious.”

“And rude,” Emme added. “Is there anything you think will work?”

“Perhaps. But I need,” a swish of Ebbe’s hand brought forth a desk and chair, sizeable enough to Hit his frame, but small enough to hold only his shelf and other elements. Waving a seat for her into existence, he stared, willing anything to work without his knowledge, because, with all his learning on the Path, he saw no way to move forward.

The map Emme held in her hand Hlickered. “Oh dear...” *

Yana sat, staring out the window, trying to relax while eating her morning meal. Kit was showing up on their off days. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night, Yana didn’t particularly like the intrusions, but didn’t have the heart to stop her. Who else could she talk to about the unseen pains that had become her new existence?

Mentally willing the release of each muscle in her wasn’t working with Kit’s eyeballs attached to the back of her head. “Can you stop?”

“I’m worried about you,” Kit answered, Hidgeting with the food prep gadgets around her.

“Drilling a hole through my head is only going to annoy me,” Yana said, taking another bite. “It’s not like you can do anything about any of it anyway.”

Sitting down across from her, Kit began to Hidget with every item within her reach.

Flinching from an impact to her side, Yana kept eating. Kit’s eye lasered to where Yana assumed it had hit, most likely giving Kit a new and interesting glob of gory something to witness. The thudding pain of the impact wasn’t entirely gone when aching from the inside of her leg bone exploded. Yana winced slightly, recovering quickly enough to have Kit raise her eyebrows.

“It... it doesn’t hurt?” Kit asked hesitantly.

“It hurts a lot, as if someone planted an explosive inside the bone of my right leg and set it off. I can feel the shattering of the bone, the chunks and shards Hlying off... all of it.” Yana looked down at her solidly intact – but pounding – lower leg. “And yet, there it is.

opened her mouth, and closed it.

“You need to stop staring at me. That’s not going to help anything either. I...” Yana’s breath left her as punch to her abdomen forced all the air out. Clearing her throat, and breathing evenly, she took another bite.

“How?!” Kit exploded.

“How what?” Yana asked, nonplussed.

“How are you not on the ground, curled up in a ball, crying in pain... something?! Something that isn’t just... this?!” Kit waved her hand at a seemingly relaxed Yana, still seated and eating.

“What...” she paused as another breath was knocked out. “What good would that do? You’re the only Mortal

* * *
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“It hurts a lot, as if someone planted an explosive inside the bone of my right leg and set it off.”

who can see what is happening to me. I can’t even see what I’m feeling. At work, when something painful happens, what would you have me do? Run to a physician, and show what, exactly? Nothing! Because there is nothing there!” Yana held up her hand up to stop Kit’s tirade. “Don’t tell me it’s nothing, I KNOW something is happening, but I can’t see it. A physician can’t heal what cannot be seen!”

“Well... that’s true,” Kit said forlornly, realizing Yana was right. “What can anyone do about something no one can see?”

“Exactly.”

“But, how do you just... sit there? I can see what it’s doing to your body, the pieces missing, the blood... but you’re just... just... so calm.” Kit put her chin in her hands, cocking her head slightly, brow furrowed, as if

your point,” Yana said as she cleared her throat. “I’ve been hurting like this for long enough now, I’m... I’m not used to it, but I have a job to do; a life. I can’t stay curled up, so I breathe and do my best to not let anyone see when one hits.” She ended with shrug.

A zing to her skull had her bringing a Hist up, a twist, opening the palm and a shove, and... something... was pushed out into the world. Yana envisioned a wave pulsing through space, shoving stars and planets... somewhere... opening paths and portals to...

Kit was now used to her unusual hand movements, and waited for her to Hinish.

“You haven’t done anything wrong, nothing to deserve this. Stories of the Oracles mention punishments, but I don’t remember anything like this. It’s not right,” Kit pouted.

“No, it’s not, but what do you think I can do about it? The Guardian hasn’t been able to give you a good explanation. Who knows where everyone else is?” Yana said. “For now, this is it.”

A crack and thud of his body weight on his shoulder, and Donal found himself rolling down an embankment, smearing dirt thoroughly into his clothing. Pushing to sitting, he looked at what he could see and decided it wasn’t worth the effort of any attempt to be clean, not even a swipe of his hands. Standing, he realized the cracking noise had been his exit up from the ground, through a roof and some trees, and up from different ground.

“Cursed portals are going to Higure out how to kill me,” he muttered. A quick glance around and he headed to the left, his feet barely touching the memorized path.

A disheveled Guardian ghosted in next to him, keeping pace.

Slow, thudding throbs started at her elbows, traveled down toward her Hingers, before stopping midway, the thumps pulsing from inside the bones. Yana inhaled, deep and even, keeping her eyes on her food, her twisted frown the only hint she was in pain.

“Compared to some of the... attacks...” she resented saying the word out loud, giving the concept life in her world, “these are nothing...”

“But, this is like...” she paused as Yana’s mouth twisted again, “maybe hundreds. Just for this morning. If you really have Higured out a way to temper the pain, who knows how bad it was last night… or any night.”

Yana snorted with a mouthful, chuckling and hacking simultaneously. “It’s not close to that many, but I get

“How did you not go crashing up through layers of realms, yet still end up looking as bad as I do?” Donal quipped.

“What makes you believe that I did not do just that?” the Guardian asked.

“I don’t see leaves, shrubs, or dirt on you. It just looks like you went through a tempest. An especially breezy one,” Donal said with a grin. Pulling a lever from the air, he slid it up the side of a locked entry and opened the door. Looking over his shoulder. “You have to promise not to tell Ebbe about this place.”

“I will do no such thing.”

* * * *
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“You haven’t done anything wrong, nothing to deserve this. Stories of the Oracles mention punishments, but I don’t remember anything like this.

Donal turned, determined to stare down the blackeyed Guardian. This time.

“Yes, you will, or I won’t let you in, and you may not be able to Hind your brother without what’s inside.”

His stare did not waver in the slightest, but his hesitation to answer expanded the silence.

Donal hoped his inner glee at Hinally making the Guardian speechless was not radiating on his face.

“How did you know he was my brother, when few knew there were two of us to begin with?”

“That is rather simple. You’d have to be identical in abilities and appearance, or everyone would know there were two. What else makes sense, besides identical looking brothers?” Donal answered with a shrug, shadowed with a hint of smugness.

“Indeed.”

“Now, that promise?”

“I am assuming much of what’s inside has illusion to it because it is hidden from all, which is illegal, but which you have never shied from, and I also assume you have accumulated many other illegal items, some of which could get Ebbe or Emme, or both, into turmoil with the Concilium.” The Guardian spoke matter of factly, though Donal heard the question in it. “Promise?”

The Guardian pursed his lips. It was the most emotion Donal had witnessed to date. The Guardian spoke Hirmly. “I will not promise to never tell them, and depending upon what I see, the danger levels may necessitate an immediate response, but, for the moment, I will say nothing.”

“Danger, but not illegal levels?”

“It would seem that more than you delve into the illegal, as the inability to communicate with either Ebbe or Emme, or any in the Hereafter unless on that plane, and the continuously malfunctioning portals...”

“I’ll take that as a ‘Yes’, then,” Donal chuckled. Turning, he opened the doorway. What seemed to be an entry to a small room began to expand rapidly at a snap and Hlick of Hingers. The rushing of air told of continued expansion, even when the sight of it was no longer possible.

“Impressive,” the Guardian said.

“From what I’ve been able to discover, this rivals the libraries of the Stars and the Concilium combined,” Donal said with pride.

“You did all this?”

“Yes, well, no. While Spirits, this was Yana’s passion more so than mine, though I actively added to it. Since my Mortal death, I’ve taken the time to explore and add more. She put a lot in here to simply have somewhere to put it; at least I thought that was all it was. But the more I’ve gone through things, the more I’ve wondered...”

“If she knew she was the Leveler.” It was a statement from the Guardian, not a question.

“Yeah. I think she knew, and I think she hid more in here than anyone else about who she is, was, should, or is supposed to be,” Donal said, not sure how to quantify it.

“That changes much of what we assumed about her,” the Guardian mumbled.

the Path, that knowledge could be literally at her Hingertips right now,” he answered.

“But the Divide in her memories...”

“Is still there, or her body would perish. Mortal minds cannot hold the vastness of what is learned as a Spirit, however, you should know from your own Mortal time, knowledge and memories can come forward, if needed, to assist in you on your Path,” the Guardian Hinished.

“True, pieces did show up,” Donal muttered, Hingering the side of an endless bookshelf. Stepping to the other side, he kicked his foot against the Hloor twice and slapped the top of the shelves. Appearing from nowhere, a dais stood between two rows. Tapping out a sigil in the middle and pressing his thumbs on each

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“I think she hid more in here than anyone else about who she is, was, should, or is supposed to be,”

side, a soft glow pulsed, growing until it lit the entirety of the chamber.

“Most impressive.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

A raised eyebrow was Donal’s only answer. Donal touched a blue panel Hloating above the dais, and a map, in full dimension, opened. “So this is the map of this place. An AI I built updates it constantly. Let’s see here...” he muttered and began pushing, pulling, tossing entire sections to one side or the other.

“If you don’t stop to look at what you’re tossing about, how do you know what you are looking for is not in them?” the Guardian asked, genuinely confused. “Intention.”

“What?”

“Intention. The AI is programmed to know what I need, without me having to say anything. It reads my mind, my intentions. See?” Donal reached toward a previously ignored section. “It didn’t glow or turn on or change colors, so it has nothing I need in it.”

“How...”

“Before you Hinish that question, do you really want to know the answer?” Donal asked without looking up, continuing to toss.

The Guardian paused, “Perhaps not.”

“Didn’t think so.” Donal pushed and tossed, Hlicked open, pinched closed, silent and intent for several clicks. “And here it is: an exact location. But... Yana made this – recently,” Donal whispered in wonder.

Glossery of Names and Terms

Alil–AH leel (husband)

Alili–AH leelee (wife)

Ama-(Ah mah) - mom

Concilium–cohn SIL eeyum (a council of high gods/goddesses who guide others on the Path of Progression and oversee much of the running of the Hereafter)

Corrupt–the dead whose Mortal life choices and doings align them with evil and the Demons

Datter-(daa tr) - daughter

Deisos–DEE sohs (after death “paradise”)

Deisos Teacher(s)–Mortals spiritually and higher skilled than Oracles, rarer too, few known, can talk to/see Ebbe/Emme when allowed

Donal–DOH nul (male protagonist)

Ebbe–EH beh (Cycle God)

Emme–EH mee (Cycle Goddess)

Gods/Goddesses–those who were Incorrupt, then passed their various tests and trials in Deisos, allowing their ascension to godhood on the Path of Progression; god(s) is often gender neutral, as they are equals, but lazy, and the word is shorter to write/ say Ochuroma–O schu ROH mah (after death “hell”)Hereafter–the life continuation along the Path of Progression that occurs after Mortal existence endsIncorrupt–the dead whose Mortal life choices and doings align them with the gods/ goddessesGuardian–a guide, helper, from Deisos, who assists Mortals

Oracles–Mortal version of prophets, seers who can talk to/see the Incorrupt, Guardians, Void - realm of the Demons (devoid of light)

Yana–YAH nuh (female protagonist)

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Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings:

Our rating system is the standard 5 star rating system:

5 = exceptional

4 = excellent

3 = good

2 = fair

1 = poor

CNF = If the problems in a book are such that a reviewer is unable to finish it, the book will be given to another reviewer to read. If both reviewers are unable to finish the book, it will receive the rating of “CNF” or “Could Not Finish”

We also rate the "Steam" or sex factor so readers can enjoy whatever level they are most comfortable with. The criteria is as follows:

1 Steam Kettle = Nothing but kisses

2 Steam Kettles = Passionate kissing,

3 Steam Kettles = Sex but the door is closed

4 Steam Kettles = Slightly steamy sex with some description

5 Steam Kettles = Steamy sex with somewhat graphic description

Those books receiving a 4.5 or a 5 star review will also be awarded the "Crowned Heart" for excellence. This symbol will be seen beside the review in the magazine.

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teeth into. The tension between Sean and Mignonette is intense, and there is a need for them to give into their feelings and get together. They make a good team, and given the enemies they are battling, they’re going to need all the help they can get. Another great addition to the Duke’s Guard series!

The Duke’s Protector (The Duke’s Guard Series Book Two)

C.H. Admirand

Sean O’Malley has a job to do and it’s going to be a painful one. Determined to Hind out who is after Earl Lippincott and Lady Aurelia, he ends up at the Modiste and rescues the beautiful Mignonette de Chauret when the shop she works in is broken into. The only gowns missing are Lady Aurelia’s and this intrigues Sean, but not as much as the beautiful woman he had in his arms. After a Hight lands him with a potentially life changing wound, Sean decides that it might be time to consider giving love a chance and knows exactly who he wants – the beautiful dark haired woman he found in the shop. Will they get their chance at a happily ever after? Or will whoever is after the Duke ruin any chance of happiness for both of them?

This is an intriguing story and there is a deHinite whodunit element. Sean O’Malley is a fantastic character who is Irish through and through. The dialogue is spot-on, as are the descriptions of the streets and surroundings. This book has so much going for it, fans of historical romance and suspense will Hind something to sink their

Kathryn Le Veque

spend a passionate night together before circumstances rip them apart, leaving them both heartbroken.

Filled with unrelenting emotions, "WolfeAx'' is a powerful love story between a knight and a lady of the night. Time will slip away as readers become immediately engrossed in a story of forbidden love and star-crossed lovers in the medieval generation of the De Wolfe family. The well-known love at-Hirst-sight feelings are delivered with an intoxicating intensity. Betrayal and heartbreak are laced with enough palpable anguish to cause teeth grinding and teary eyes. Secondary characters are well-deHined with their own stories to tell. Although this is a slow paced tale Hilled with honorable knights and despicable politicians, it is saved from the predictable damsel-in-distress trope with an interesting twist in the storytelling. A proven master in delivering page turning romance, Ms. Le Veque doesn't disappoint with her continued foray into her vast encompassing world of the De Wolfe Pack.

Bartered to pay her father's gambling debt, a beautiful young Delaina de Courant is trained to become a highly sought after courtesan. Known as "The Ruby", one of the King's Seven Jewels; she's often sequestered from "polite" society. Having served many masters; she is presented with a chance at freedom when her latest master unexpectedly dies. Magnus de Wolfe, Commander of the King's Guard, feels compelled to assist Delaina, Hirstly because he is a knight and a gentleman, and secondly because she strongly stirs something within him he has never felt. Realizing her lot in life was forced upon her and her future is just as bleak, he offers to marry her. Magnus and Delaina manage to

55 Historical
WolfeAx - De Wolfe Pack Generations Series, Book 7

The Baronet’s Lady Biologist

Georgiana LinHield is bored with ladylike activities and would do almost anything to travel the world rather than be trapped by marriage. She is in her Hirst season of London society and dreading every moment until she gets offered to catalog items for her cousin, and paint South American butterHlies. Her initial idea of the ideal man would be someone who caved to her every whim, until she falls for Sir Giles Tavistock. She is enthralled by Pierre Alphonse at Hirst and repelled by Giles, learning initial impressions are often unreliable. Will the circumstances and timing ever align for Giles and Georgiana, or will tempers prevail in keeping them apart?

Coming of age Georgiana insists she will never be caged by marriage and would rather be a spinster, falling for the Hirst man to appear to appreciate her intellect. She takes risks and isn’t afraid to speak her mind in a time when ladies are thought to be meek and un-knowledgeable. The ups and downs of each misunderstanding and ill timing make for a roller coaster page turning romance. Giles never trusts Georgiana; at every turn he believes the worst about her making the

relationship hard to believe it has a chance at all. She never corrects him but lets him Hind out from others the truth, which seems a bit false given her character and the way she speaks the truth of her mind. In the burglary of Georgiana’s bedchamber, it seemed to warrant her reconciliation with the later attempted burglaries, but no connection was addressed and rather washed over. Very true to life characters complete with Hlaws, and the storyline is well written and a joy to uncover. The metaphor of Giles setting the butterHly free once it escaped the chrysalis ties in perfectly with Georgiana and her avoidance to conHinement.

infatuated with her kidnapper, and will do anything to help him. Julian Stratford just survived an attempt on his life and kidnaps the Duchess of Linden to make her confess that her husband tried to kill him for his title. What he didn’t count on is kidnapping the wrong sister and losing his heart to her. Julian becomes overprotective and caring about Alexandria but cannot tell her the truth for fear it would put her in danger.

“A WallHlower to Love” is the Hirst in a new series, and a great start! The author takes one on an adventure Hilled with action, mystery, deception, murder, romance, and forgiveness. The characters are well developed and the reader will love Alexandria, who is so innocent and such an enjoyable character that continues to grow throughout the story. The chemistry between Alexandria and Julian is so natural and beautiful and not rushed at all. The reader will be as heartbroken as Alexandria was when she Hinds out that Julian lied to her. He is eventually forgiven, but the reader can feel how much she is hurt by him. Marie Higgins creates this wonderful plot with a lot of twists and turns that will leave the reader guessing until the end.

A Wall]lower to Love (Love’s Addiction Book 1)

Marie Higgins

Alexandria Templeton is a shy wallHlower that lives with her ailing sister and her brother-inlaw and they want to Hind her a suitable husband. She is quiet and shy, but loves to read and write stories. When Alexandria is mistaken for her sister and gets kidnapped, her life changes in an instant and she becomes

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Historical

A Love That Heals the Heart (Men of Valor Book 4)

Laura Landon

There is little chemistry between Mariah and Jonah. The rehashing of Mariah telling Jonah she cannot give him what he wants makes those parts tedious as well as leaving the reader wondering why. One is never sure if Russell has four or Hive existing children because it varies in the story. It is fun seeing the friends from previous novels make their appearances and interact with Jonah and Mariah. An emotional story through and through, be prepared with tissues.

for. While neither Lena nor the duke completely trusts the other, and the hunt for the treasure stands between them, the attraction between them grows. Danger, however, lurks near, and soon Lena and Sterling must risk their lives. Can a duke learn to open his heart to the greatest treasure of all—the love of a spirited lady?

After being summoned by his brother Russell, Viscount Darbringth, Jonah Reynolds is returning home. He has not been home in ten years – since his father disowned him. Russell is married and has four young daughters, but it is dangerous for his wife to have more children so Russell proposes a deal to Jonah; he needs to wed and sire an heir so that the Darbringth line will stay viable. Unable to refuse Russell’s request, Jonah attends a dance and sees Mariah, a childhood friend. He decides she is deHinitely the one. When he proposes to her, she refuses him, only saying she cannot give him what he wants. He refuses to give up on her. When he sees her brother, Charles, he sees he has an opium addiction. Jonah’s specialty is curing those addicted. He convinces Charles and Mariah to travel with him to his hospital to cure Charles.

“A Love That Heals the Heart” rounds out the Men of Valor series. Ms. Landon once again brings her characters to life. The world building is incredible! Mariah is not the easiest character to like. She cries through most of the story – with good reason.

If Not for the Duke (The Duke’s Lost Treasures Book 3)

Lana Williams

Like a treasure map, “If Not for the Duke” takes readers on an exciting journey, sharing moments of touching emotions, unexpected intrigue, and captivating romance! Lena is a delight with her quiet assurance and strong sense of loyalty to her family. Sterling is stuffy in his title, yet clearly loves his sister. That both have issues of trust makes for a strong conHlict as does the hunt for the Oak Island treasure. As they navigate their feelings, Lena’s insistence that the duke’s smile and his need for just one kiss will warm the reader’s hearts. While this can be read as a standalone, readers will want to pick up the Hirst two books in the series. “If Not for the Duke” sparkles with a hunt for the perfect prize—love!

Lena Wright is the youngest of her sisters and the only one unmarried, but marriage isn’t in the cards for her. Her gift of premonition is not something people understand. Sterling Dunworth, the Duke of Renwick, has learned over the years to mistrust most people. The beauty who saved his sister doesn’t seem to want anything from him, but she is hiding something. For her part, Lena is curious about the letters Renwick’s sister possesses relating to the Oak Island treasure her father spent his life searching

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Historical

romance of James and Sarah, and this is a love story fans of historical romance will read over and over again.

An Uncharted Devotion

Amanda

Taylor

Lieutenant James Turner has just married the love of his life, mere weeks before he sails off to war with the Royal Navy. But Hive years at war has changed the Lieutenant in ways he can’t explain, and when he Hinally returns to his bride, he’s not the man she knew—though he’s still the man she loves. Haunted by the loss as a prisoner of war of his dear friend Patrick, James must Hind a way to once again assimilate himself into English society, as both a Lord and husband, but the need to rescue Patrick keeps him from becoming the man he knows his wife deserves. Now Lieutenant Turner will stop at nothing to discover Patrick’s fate, so he can lay his friend’s ghost to rest and Hind a way to be with his wife.

The Unassuming Curator Sian

She is not so enamored with Society’s bachelors who come to call upon her. Enter Aunt Millward. Every reader will want such an aunt as her! What an amazing and intuitive woman she is. Aunt Millward champions Emily and Henry and Hirmly cements herself into the Hibers of the story. The book could have used more conHlict to spice up the plot. However, the minimal conHlict is the only drawback to this otherwise charming story.

“The Unassuming Curator” boasts very believable, fully Hleshed, multi-dimensional characters and fantastic creativity. Seriously, fans of historical Hiction will absolutely want to grab this book!

Hidden Cargo

Robin Lloyd

Set in

Regency Era England

after the Hirst Napoleonic war with France, “An Uncharted Devotion” is a tale of love, loyalty, and devotion above all. Told from the point of view of both James and his wife, Sarah, this story takes the reader on an adventure through polite English society, as well as the uncharted waters of the heart. There’s danger, dinner parties, a palace ball, and even a prison break. Couple that with the agonizing will-they, won’t-they

Emily Norton travels from her family’s country estate to London for her debut into Society. Her family has high hopes she will charm the ‘ton.’ However, Emily would rather stay in her room and read books all day, especially books on unladylike topics such as science and nature. Partaking in Society’s Season is not on her list of things she might enjoy. Then a chance meeting with a gentleman digging Hlowers along a hedgerow gives her hope of surviving the stresses of London Society. He is enigmatic and charming, and best of all, he is curator at the Natural History Museum. Henry enjoys his curator position at the museum far more than he likes dealing with Society’s shallow ladies. Plus he worries his secret medical condition will scare away potential ladies. Then he meets Emily.

Who knew science, nature and museums could be so fun! Emily is infatuated by Henry the moment she spots him at the hedgerow.

Navy Lieutenant Everett Townsend has been reduced to captain of a schooner, USS Rebecca. The military ship is now a dispatch and supply vessel stationed in Key West. The peace and quiet makes Everett restless. Then he Hinds a damaged vessel with dead men who are trapped in a secret hatch – but one clings to life and tells Everett his name and where he escaped from. Everett ponders what to do about this

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Historical

secret. Yet when he is sent to Cuba to investigate the murder of an American sailor, Everett is apprehensive about the perilous trip which will also put him in close proximity to his estranged grandmother. When Everett gets there, he discovers the ugly truth about his family, who he truly is, and wrecks his second chance at romance.

A deeply emotional and poignant tale of the aftermath of the Civil War, slavery, and rebellion told exceptionally well! The vivid descriptions of life aboard a seaworthy craft, to the colorful depictions of Key West and Cuba will throw the reader into another war that will destroy many. The book does drag at times, yet it touches on tough subjects delicately. With each mystery that is thrown out, a solution doesn’t seem plausible or feasible, yet the characters manage to weather what is thrown at them. Everett, the pragmatic, reasonable hero, manages to maintain the calm reserved-ness, which he also carries with him into his relationship with Emma, so it is hard to even see the love between the two. Still, this is deHinitely an intelligently written fable that is spellbinding!

Roslynn Ernst

Duke in All But Name (The Entitled Gentlemen Book 1)

Caroline WarHield

Euphemia Selwyn is the unwanted niece of Lord Ludlow Selwyn. The townspeople of Nether Abbas delight in her poor relation status and snicker behind her back. The chin wagging Hinds a new target when Gideon Kendrick arrives at the ducal manor of Woodglen. Gideon’s younger brother, the Duke of Glenmoor, has gone missing. Rumours of the Duke’s demise have brought relatives out of the woodwork. One Felton Tavernash, in particular, squats in the ducal quarters, hoping to speed the transfer of title. But much maligned Gideon was the late Duke’s true heir, and his brother, hoping to make things right, has given Gideon legal authority over Woodglen, making him “Duke in all but name.” When her foolish social-climbing cousin, Selina, inadvertently drags Mia to Woodglen for an extended visit, Mia and Gideon conHide in one another to battle gossip and malice.

“Duke in All But Name” invokes a gothic air into the realm of Georgian romance. The Hunchback of Notre Dame meets Pride and Prejudice. Sweet compassionate Mia sees the kindness beneath the ugly

falsehoods that target Gideon’s scoliotic form, while feverish Selina pursues the pretender Felton with unabashed tenacity. Mia’s forbearance of her family’s snobbery and Gideon’s resilience to the abuse he has suffered from his father and townspeople contrast with the vicious side of human nature. They are two lights shining down a dark corridor of injustice and pain. There is much to enjoy between the suspenseful intrigue within Woodglen, the swoon-worthy attentions of Gideon towards Mia, and their eventual vindication in public opinion. Caroline WarHield warms the heart with this elegantly written tribute to authenticity and compassion!

The Regal (A Series of Worthy Young Ladies Book 6)

Kate Archer

Isabel Beaufort has been selected by the Duchess of Stanbury to be given a season. She is enraptured since her family is poverty stricken. The Duchess selects her by her bloodline – it goes all the way back to the Plantagenets. Lord Lymington, who will eventually become a Duke, is the selected suitor for Isabel. Mr. Harry Vance, who will inherit a

60
Historical

Historical

barony, has his eye on Isabel, vowing to wed her. Lord Lymington obsesses about horses, repeating the same story ad nauseam. Marriage is not on his mind until Harry mentions it, then Harry sabotages Lymington’s attempts at wooing Isabel. She does not love him, only the stability he represents. She loves Harry but feels a mister inheriting a barony is not Hinancially stable enough. She is conHlicted on whether she should listen to her heart – or her head.

“The Regal” is an uproarious tale with a dimwitted future Duke, a fearful maiden, and a headstrong future baron. This story is Hilled with hilarity as Ms. Archer is quite gifted at turning everyday situations into laughable events! Lord Lymington’s story about his horse throwing his shoe becomes repetitious, dragging the pace of the novel. Isabel is not the most likable heroine. She goes back and forth too much as to whom she should be with, always choosing the Duke for his money rather than listening to what Harry has to say. There is a plethora of secondary characters Ms. Archer cleverly works into the story, making each one memorable. The last novel in this series works great as a standalone. Readers will be wiping tears of laughter from this unbelievable story!

Saving Her Highland Traitor (Time to Love a Highlander Book Five)

Maeve Grayson

There are minimal wasted words as each sentence adds to the overall feel of this dynamic story. Readers are transported to the Scottish Highlands of the early 1720s and get a believable glimpse of life at that time. There are a couple of unexpected plot twists as well. The details feel authentic for the most part; however, it’s not clear how or why that storm transports them back in time. Other than that, this story is a joy to experience and should leave readers with a happy heart.

Mila and her adopted son, Robbie, are leading a miserable group of ‘entitled’ tourists on a Highland tour in Scotland when they stop for a lunch break. As a storm surrounds them, Mila and Robbie are swept back in time to the 1700s! Since Mila loves history and Robbie is exceptionally intelligent, they possess some essential tools that are useful in their new reality. Chieftain Teague MacDonald and a few of his clansmen Hind them shortly after they arrive, and offer them refuge at E{ irich Castle, his home. While Mila is wary and distrustful, Robbie settles in nicely and starts contributing to the clan in different little ways. Teague is intrigued by Mila and wants her for his own, but needs to proceed with caution until he knows if he can trust her. Meanwhile, people are conspiring to harm Teague, and Mila knows the sad fate of this clan and its chief from her incredible knowledge of history. The separate pieces each work well together and create a fascinating tale!

This story progresses steadily with parallel tension and pace that increase as events unfold.

King Takes Queen (Ladies of Risk Book 3)

Rachel Ann Smith

Lord Drake, Anthony MacMillian, and his best friend’s sister, Lady Minerva Marlbury, have been secretly in love with one another for as long as they can remember. However, Anthony could not give her a marriage, especially if that meant she could not have a family in the future. When the lord is threatened to be banished from English soil, though, beating the lady in a game of chess may be his only hope at not losing her forever. Minerva feels the same for Anthony, but she is a woman of her word and until she loses a game of chess, she vows to never

61

get married. Will Anthony have what it takes to beat Minerva at her own game, or will she Hind herself losing her chance to be Anthony’s bride?

This historical love story is short but sweet, with an engaging plotline and two characters that readers crave to see together in the end. The chemistry sparks Hireworks throughout the book, and readers may need to set it down for a minute to compose themselves from this ravishing novel. The protagonists are very stubborn with one another, which can get quite predictable and frustrating to read about. However, watching Minerva Hight for her independence, even during a timeline where she doesn’t get much freedom, was strikingly empowering for readers. There are some unfulHilled gaps from other characters’ stories that are probably from the books before this one in the series, which can put off readers who just picked this up as a stand-alone; but regardless it’s a satisfying short romance that wraps up the magniHicent plotline with a perfect ending.

Austen Grace

The Reluctant Baronet

Elizabeth W. Watkins

working man and not a born noble. The character of Matthew Hallett was interesting to peel back the layers and learn his story since he seems on the surface to be just a dandy. Many historical references addressed the complexity of the period, and sorting out three romantic entanglements could be difHicult at times. Such truth to the times of a budding romance facing a devastating turn due to the pressures of society instead of being able to marry solely for love.

Sir Russell Parkinson, First Baronet of Oakhurst Park, and best known for the invention of bootblack is an unlikely Baronet, as he is the son of a Scotsman and a chemist. His childhood friend, Garrett Browning, the Fifth Earl of Kersey, prods him to accept the title to change the conditions of society. Selina Clifton never imagined anyone could see past her scars from smallpox, let alone Hind her strength admirable. Selina courts Matthew Hallett to secure her future and that of the estate, Brookside Manor, for the tenant’s sake. The Hallett brothers are at the mercy of their uncle till they come of age, but he is trying to kill them off and forces the unwanted engagement. Will Russell be able to solve the puzzle of the will and be with his true love?

Selina is a force to be reckoned with and her strong character shines throughout the pages, especially when breaking up a duel between Hallett and Russell over her character. It is lovely to see her strength grow to see past her own scars and to view herself as the strong survivor Russell sees in her. Russell’s inept behavior and struggle with the formalities of society is relatable since he is a

The Sergeant and the Girl Next Door

Laura Rupper

As a teenager, Faith Penwilliger lost both her brother and father during WWII. Faith had to grow up fast in order to learn her father’s business in order to keep herself and her mother surviving. Four years later, she is a competent boss at her father’s brick company, but the ravages of war have changed her… and the main reason for those changes is arriving home. Davis Wilson spent four years Highting for his country and has lost not only his innocence, but his best friend, Patrick, and his happiness in life. The one bright light is Patrick’s

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Historical

sister, Faith. But Davis soon discovers that the little tag-along he so loved has grown up and seems to hate him. No matter how hard he tries, however, he cannot deny that Hiery woman might be the only thing that will save him.

A lovely, nostalgic romance that deals with the aftermath of war in a small town! The story’s strength lies in the beautifully penned descriptions of life in the 1940s, its music, its people and its challenges. Faith, Davis, and the other delightful characters almost jump off the page! The biggest drawback to a rousing Hive stars is in Faith’s mercurial personality. Her character is described as kind and sweet but every action where Davis is concerned is the polar opposite of that description. She comes across as terribly rude, and surprisingly immature. This makes it almost impossible for the reader to connect or even like her. Davis, however, is any romance-lovers dream! His loyalty, kindness and devotion shines throughout, and keeps the reader aching for his happy ending… which is truly wonderful, indeed!

Historical

Palm Springs King

making this tale even more enjoyable. Austin and Kenzie make a fabulous couple, and cheers for no third-act breakup! Characters from Ms. Marti’s previous books in this series, and her PaciHic Vista Ranch series make appearances which will thrill her fans, and make new readers want to go back and read each of their stories. Utterly enchanting, “Palm Springs King” is deHinitely one to add to the TBR pile!

Piper Valentine

meeting Fiona, he comes up with a plan involving a fake Hiancé e that he thinks will beneHit them both. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned when hearts are involved.

Austin Michaels, former rock star, is now the general manager of the soon to be reopened Monroe resort in Palm Springs. Learning how to run a hotel and manage all of the remodeling is very different than rocking out on a stage, but it’s the change he needs to get his life straight again. Kenzie Michaels is a well-known spa manager, recruited to get the spa at The Monroe up and running, and she couldn’t be more different from Austin, in every way. She’s organized to the point of insanity where he’s more laid back, yet sparks soon Hly between them – in all sorts of ways. Can they Hind a happy medium? Or will their differences drive them apart? This is a delightful take on the opposites attract trope, and readers will be pulled in from the get-go. Austin hides his hurt and soft heart behind a wall of cynicism, yet he still manages to make the reader want to hug him. Kenzie is a spunky and fun heroine readers will admire more after learning her back story. Watching their relationship develop is heart-warming, and one can’t help but cheer as those sparks sizzle and set the pages on Hire. Humor also plays a role,

Winter in Promise Cove (Promise Cove Book 4) Casey Dawes

Fiona Lambert is learning how to live her own life after her husband of twenty years dumped her for a younger woman. That means it is time to change the way she lives and give up the ski-trips that she loves. It also means making drastic cuts in anything that keeps her from having to give up her life in Promise Cove. Enjoying one last ski-trip before things change leads her to Kevin Dixon, a handsome rancher and father who is struggling to regain his reputation after his ex-wife and former best friend spread false rumors about his behavior. Kevin is desperate to prove he is a good man, and after

This story has many reoccurring characters from other books in the series, which makes it a bit hard to follow at times, but not impossible. The premise is one that always seems to work for romance novels, and it does well here, except that it lacks a bit of realism that most stories of this type have. Close to the end when all the secrets and tricks come out, the supporting characters are very quick to forgive and forget the lies they were told. It doesn’t wind down to forgiveness in a realistic way, rather it rushes to the end and expects the reader to forget how worried Fiona and Kevin were about the reactions of those around them. Nevertheless, it’s a sweet love story and it’s worth a read, if for nothing other than being part of the joy of unexpected love.

65
Contemporary
Claire Marti

Second Chances in Hollywood

Sarah Hendess

little while to Higure out the mystery that Josie keeps hidden despite the distasteful agendas which are told realistically and articulately. Josie, the plucky girl from Hays, Kansas, radiates a charisma and charm that makes her wonderfully endearing. The warmhearted Robert oozes a John Wayne swagger, making him not just a marvelous guy, but the true deHinition of a hero! Ms. Hendess has written a truly captivating story of old Hollywood that bubbles with originality and charm!

Roslynn Ernst

past. Caleb didn’t expect to catch feelings when he made an offer on the competition, but Fiona is unlike any woman he’s known and he wants more. But getting over what went on in his past is difHicult.

LATE 20TH CENTURY: Nurse

Josephine “Josie” Donovan is asked to check on Merrill Reynolds who is not her patient. Josie has heard many horrible things about him, yet manages to make it through unscathed. Merrill then unaccountably asks Josie to act in “Gunslingers”, his television show. Josie at Hirst doesn’t believe he could want someone with no acting experience, but he manages to convince her to at least audition. All the cast and crew treat Josie kindly. The only one that Josie can’t seem to Higure out is Robert “RJ” Coolidge, who avoids everyone and keeps to himself by reading a book. As Josie gets to know the cast, she becomes close to RJ, who ends up liking her despite his reluctance. But Josie holds a secret that will damage not only her life but everything she holds dear, including RJ. This is just a wonderful story that grabs the reader’s attention from the get-go! The small screen locations and colloquialisms ring true to the time period. Even the weighty issues are presented quite eloquently, with deft attention to detail. Yes, it takes a

A Heart Restrained (Scarred Hearts Book 3)

Jennifer Wilck

Fiona Hamilton wants a happily ever after, but she also wants her website to be a success – and this comes true thanks to the attention and hard work she puts into it. When she meets Caleb Zeno, there is sexual tension – and a lot of other tension she doesn’t need to be dealing with. She doesn’t want to sell her company to him, but when their feelings deepen, she discovers that Caleb has a hard time opening up, and no matter how hard she tries, he stays closed off due to trauma from his

There is a slight enemies to lovers feel to this story; maybe not outright enemies, but there is deHinitely some dislike which develops throughout the story. There is a lot of emotional tension as well as sexual tension which makes for an interesting mix, and readers will Hind that they’re in for an interesting ride. The dynamic between the characters is well written and the descriptions really add to the story and help it Hlow. There are some moments that slow down a little bit, but they easily pick back up. “A Heart Restrained” has a lot going for it and it’ll be good to see where the series goes from here. Those who haven’t read the previous books will be intrigued, and go back and take a look!

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Contemporary

Just Can’t Fall for the Enemy (A Four Seasons Park Sweet Romantic Comedy)

Sasha Hart

moment they meet, and readers will enjoy Sophie’s exploits to be sure Tanner doesn’t enjoy being in Huckleberry Creek. Along with an enchanting story of blossoming love are the beautiful descriptions of trees, Hlowers and waterfalls. The two characters are driven by their views of life—she hides to avoid problems; he stays on the move to outrun his problems. For readers, it’s a fun romp.

Leah Neale

together, even after their twelve magical hours?

Nature is just what Sophie loves, it’s her vocation. She is at home in the national forest that is Hilled with wildlife and botany she loves. When she Hinds out the handsome man who Hlirted with her after a failed Hirst date has a travel channel on YouTube, she’s determined to get him out of town as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, he’s so well known that fans Hlock around him, often damaging the beautiful small town featured in an episode. Sophie’s boss, however, knowing how well she knows the town and the forest puts her in charge of the visitor’s tour. Add to that the upcoming anniversary of her parent’s deaths, and she’s scrambling to keep life on an even keel.

The books in this series are sweet romantic comedies, and readers who enjoy Hallmark movies will love this one. Sophie becomes memorable in the Hirst scene, which features her Hirst date with a man her grandmother wanted her to date. Tanner is a witness to her colossal takedown and, despite her protests, pays for her dinner. There’s magic from the

Twelve Hours in Manhattan

Maan Gabriel

This complex love story gracefully dives into the world of two lonely souls awakened from a deep sleep of heavy burdens. Somehow, the entire plot also revives readers with an exhilarating read of deep thoughts. However, the book is hard to get into: the conversations are confusing to keep up with, and there are messy mixed signals which become exhausting to read about. The slow burn is engaging and intriguing, but sometimes there’s too much Hluff Hilling in the blanks of their romance. The characters are individually interesting, and Bianca is relatable, but the plot is cliché and predictable. The romantic connection is Hlourishing, though, and it’s powerfully understood and felt by readers. However, the plot is somewhat rushed, and one may struggle to keep up with the fast pace. This novel does still hit the right spot for those looking to read about a complex romantic connection.

Austen Grace

When her life starts falling apart, Bianca Maria Curtis meets a handsome man in a Manhattan bar. The man, Eric, happens to be the famous Korean drama celebrity, Park Hyun Min. He’s in the city for a short time to escape his fame, and the two somehow come together and embark on an adventure through the streets of New York – in only twelve hours. After spontaneous trips to places like the Empire State building, Bianca and Eric get to know one another, immersing themselves in the chemistry Hlowing between them. Nonetheless, the night must end eventually, and they must go back to their lives. But will Bianca and Eric keep Highting from opposite sides of the world to be

Doc Showmance

Zoe Forward

An emergency Vet clinic in San Diego with a reality TV show

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Contemporary

Hilming is where Amber gives her all. She is Hinalizing her residency and does not enjoy the cameras on her all the time, but the money is worth the hassle. Her surgery successes and knowledge has gained her high praise and popularity. She is the main income provider in her household of foster siblings, all of whom are in school and working to become professionals in their respected Hields. They are a very tight bunch and when one of Amber’s brothers slips back into gambling debt she is hopeful that the new reality TV vet the show brings in is her ace in the hole for a raise. Can she survive her – HOT – vet school nemesis?

Two talented veterinarians reunite in “Doc Showmance”. The enemies to lovers is a common trope but has a reality TV twist in this modern day romance. The protagonists draw readers in with their past history which may dictate their future. They are polar opposites in the way they were raised and yet see eye to eye when it comes to animals and loyalty and being good and kind people. The family drama from both sides plays into decisions they now make as independent adults. The rich snobs are played out on point. When sudden changes occur and take characters in different directions, readers may predict how the story concludes. Overall, a quick and witty relationship book, which includes appearances from loyal pets who steal the show.

Hyphenated Relations

Daniel

Family dynamics always make for good Hiction. Sam’s life in interrupted by a surprise visit from her former father-in-law’s invitation to his engagement party. He and Sam were united by the tragedy of her husband and his wife being killed in a car accident. Though Sam reluctantly attended the party, what she found was family who raised dysfunction to a new level. Harold was to be husband number Hive. The other four had died, and Marcie had a child with three of them, and adopted the fourth’s daughter. The four children lived separate lives, connected only by their mother. An only child, Sam is intrigued by their relationships with one another. During the process, Sam becomes close to Marcie. When the discontented children unite to stop the wedding, Sam steps in as a mediator.

Readers will no doubt recognize members of their own families in this story as it carries many truths. Reclusive since her husband’s death, Sam is shocked by Harold’s invitation. Gregarious and outgoing, Harold’s boisterous behavior tended to put Sam on edge, and she typically avoided him. Suspicious that Marcie is a

black widow, Sam agrees to meet the family. As her relationship with Marcie grows, however, Sam Hinds herself changing in unexpected ways, including her feelings for Harold. Bumping heads with the dysfunctional siblings educates her in family dynamics. Dominating the story line is grief, and its various effects on everyone. This book illustrates how some people change and some just stagnate. Readers may Hind the psychological impact for them as strong as it is for the characters.

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name calling will have the reader laughing out loud. The author has created some complex characters that each have their own story. Although there is chemistry between Ari and Abella, the reader may not feel a strong connection or bond between them, but will still enjoy the tale.

Cursed by a Vampire (Immortal Heart of San Francisco Book 7)

Susan Griscom

Ari is the adopted human son of the DeMarco vampires since he was rescued by them as a kid. As a human, he manages their club and handles errands. Ari has always felt inferior to the vampires and has asked them to turn him into one which they have refused. Ari meets Abella, who also is human, and whose grandfather is human. A half-witch cursed her and her father when she was younger, and Abella has learned to live with the curse. Everything changes for Ari and Abella when they meet for the Hirst time.

“Cursed by a Vampire” is Book 7 in the Immortal Hearts of San Francisco series, and can be read as a standalone, however, one should read the series in order to know about the background of the other vampires that live with Ari. Susan Griscom has created a unique storyline that shows vampires in a new and different light, and how truly human they still are. The reader will love watching the interaction between Ari and the vampires. He is their son and is treated as a part of their family. When Abella and Ari meet, they clash and sparks Hly between them. The clashing and

Song of Lorelei

Desiree

Captain Killian Quinn is out on the Dawn Chaser, with a nervous crew preparing to enter the man eating siren’s territory. The humans have a deal with the sirens – to feed them tinned meat while Hinding a cure to a virus that makes the merfolk crave human Hlesh.

Killian’s Hiancé e, Lorelei, is desperate to help in the study. She too is a siren and only a few trusted people know, and keeping it a secret is getting harder day by day. But Hinding a cure comes at a price. Lorelei watches a fellow mermaid living in captivity undergoing a series of tests, and with her health declining, she learns that the lab has no intention of setting her free. How can Lorelei make this right? After all, she is the one who persuaded her to volunteer.

A unique paranormal story that starts off with a horror scene, and quickly unravels into a thriller with a heist thrown in! Lorelei is tormented by her guilt, and of proving her worth which is relatable to any woman in a man’s world. The characters are well developed, with some intriguing plot lines that could be taken further. The bond and romance between Killian and Lorelei are well established, but are still fragile as they continue to learn about each other, which pulls the reader in further. It is an exciting story from start to Hinish, with some fun and steamy scenes to break up the tension. It can be easily read as a standalone as there is enough backstory to keep the reader’s interest piqued, and has the potential for the storyline to continue.

Wild Azure Waves - Rockin' Fairy Tales, Book 3

Rainn "Rai" Cloud, a talented singer, performs an ocean ceremony spreading the ashes of his family and ex-girlfriend, Tani, into the waters when a rogue wave causes Tani's urn to shatter and release her spirit; as well as

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Paranormal

plunging him into the churning ocean. Rai is rescued from drowning by a mysterious woman with an enchanting voice. Tani's spirit is captured by a sorceress demanding she spy on her daughter, Azure in order to return from death and to Rai's arms. After hearing her perform with her sisters, The Mermaids, Rai and Azure meet, instantly click, and start a secret romance. Hoping to use Rai's feelings for Azure to ensure he sells his record company to her, Sulaa uses her dark powers to manipulate everyone. The two songbirds pray their new love will be strong enough to get them through an evil sea witch's machinations and other magical mayhem.

Submerging readers into a fantastical world, "Wild Azure Waves'' is a hippie dippy love story swimming with music,

mysticism, and magic. Readers may enjoy the point-of-view plot of three characters Hilled with an unrelenting desire to have their heart's mate. Singing with angst and lore, the story's pace treads water in a few spots while some parts of the story swim swiftly. Enchanting imagery of island beaches and underwater landscapes provide readers with a sense of wonder. Secondary characters are peripheral Hillers hardly needed in the storyline and upstaged by a pet fox. Villains deliver with evil schemes and diabolical characteristics that readers will hear their sinister chuckle every time they are on the page. Leslie O'Sullivan's whimsical fantasy tale is an interesting take on sorrow, second chances, and soulmates.

Paranormal

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Rewrites of the Heart

Terry Newman

Romance author, JJ Spritely, wakes up one morning, surprised to Hind two main characters from one of her books have literally come out of the pages. The characters, Blake Teesdale and Alex Zurich, are determined to Hind their way back into their “home,” but to do that, they must help JJ with her own personal love life. Determined to Hind JJ's one true love, the duo set off to Hind her match, who just happens to be a history professor by the name of Kennedy King Cooper. JJ has met this handsome man before, and ironically wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Blake and Alex want nothing more than to be back in their book, and they will stop at nothing to have JJ fall in love and get a life of her own.

“Rewrites of the Heart” is a funny, quirky story following a string of easy-to-love characters. The plot, while interesting, could have been executed a little better. The character development is questionable, especially regarding JJ. She seems to be a wholesome character initially, but toward the end of the book, her actions don’t seem to Hit her personality anymore. However,

Blake and Alex are always up to something, and their antics will make readers laugh out loud. More interactions between JJ and her characters would have made for a more enjoyable story. The relationship between JJ and Kennedy is a little rushed as well. The development of their feelings for each other could have been explored more deeply. All in all, “Rewrites of the Heart” is an enjoyable story for readers who like books about books with some romance and paranormal elements sprinkled in.

high-proHile murder shatters the veneer of safety in Godmother’s carefully cultivated fairy queendom. Godmother Hinds a convenient scapegoat in Sophia’s best friend, River, and uses her magical hold on Seven to keep Sophia from revealing the truth. Either Sophia and Seven Hind the real killer, or Godmother will tear the unlucky lovers apart!

Magic, romance, and danger!

Lucky Us (His Dark Charms Book 2)

Genevieve Jack

Pixie single mom Sophia Larkspur has returned to the fae haven of Devashire and rekindled her old Hlame with handsome Seven Delaney. Seven is one of the wealthiest leprechauns, and the most powerful fae in Devashire, aside from Godmother. A relationship between a pixie and a leprechaun would elicit frowns across the fae class divide. If their daughter, Arden’s parentage was revealed, that divide would explode like a glitter bomb! Before Sophia and Seven can ease Arden into leprechaun society, a

Genevieve Jack reafHirms her mastery over creative fantasy by delivering a thoughtful, multifaceted forbidden love thriller. Devashire exists as a segregated colony within the United States, dependent on theme park tourism as its sole industry, which lends humor and levity to its superHicial image. But dig deeper into its maHia-like regime and the caste system of species hierarchy, and we see corruption, prejudice, and subjugation. Light and dark are blended perfectly. Sophia shines as a loyal friend, a protective mother, and a determined sleuth. Seven distinguishes himself as a thoughtful lover and a calculating adversary. The two of them make an incendiary team that will inHlame readers. Together with their daughter, the new Delaney family promises to topple the paradigm in Devashire. His Dark Charms redeHines leprechaun romance as complex and sexy!

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Grave Reaping Hermit (Grave Reaper Series)

Everlyn C. Thompson

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

heading straight to her own grave?

Theo is a widowed author who has moved to a remote cabin alone after spending Hive years and nearly all her money trying to Hind out why her husband disappeared. After a night drinking at the bar with a friend, she wakes up at home without knowing how she got there. Theo soon Hinds herself meeting several new individuals who turn her life upside down and leaves behind even bigger mysteries than what happened to her husband. Oscar Aldridge is a paranormal investigator who believes Theo’s husband, Will, is in the area, and that Theo’s safety is at risk. His overbearing attempts to keep her safe lead him to bump heads with Farranen, a light fae, who is connected to Theo after she survives an attack in the woods by another fae. With Theo’s safety and life on the line, she Hinds herself pulled between the life she planned, and the world she has found herself thrust into. A world that has far more secrets than she ever expected, including vampires, light fae, dark fae and shifters. Can Theo survive all the changes coming for her? Or is she

This book is full of tension of all kinds, and is a great Hirst entry for a series. The main character is surround by men who all want something from her, and she isn’t quite sure how to help any of them – especially since she isn’t even sure how to help herself. This book sweeps the reader and the main character away on a journey into a world she hadn’t even known existed. The book wraps up with an open-ended feeling that makes the reader desperate for more, and keeps oneu guessing where things will end up. One thing is for sure, no matter what is in store for the characters in this book, it is going to be an adventure!

Nico has Hinally achieved his dream of owning his own restaurant, and now he is hoping to Hind true love as well. He puts his trust in the matchmaking services of Brooke, but both Hind themselves Highting their own attraction for each other. Despite the chemistry between the two, nothing comes easy, especially because Brooke is caught up in a centuries-old familial curse about love.

This book is part of an already established series but makes it easy for a new reader to drop right in to the story and get hooked. Brooke and Nico heat up the pages while Highting a history of bad relationships – and an actual curse. Despite the odds stacked against them, true love is Brooke’s business, and it’s time to Hight for what she wants. The author tells an engaging story of love being enough, even when you think the odds will always be against you. A tribute to taking a chance and Hinding out your dreams can come true!

Valerie Vicars

After Midnight (Ravens Hollow Coven Book 4)

Brooke Howe is a matchmaker, astrologer, and witch. She uses her knowledge of the stars and her magic to help others Hind their true love. What Brooke can’t seem to do is Hind true love for herself. Brooke’s newest challenge comes in the form of Nico Papadopolous.

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keeping the reader entertained until the end. For fans of supernatural whodunits with a little spice, this is a story readers won’t want to miss!

Foul is Fair (Something Wicked, Book #1)

Elisse Hay

Aurora “Rory” Gold is a witch with a troubled past, working with the East Melbourne Coven as a caretaker to monitor supernatural beings in her area for the government. After the trauma of her last job as a Retrieval OfHicer, and the death of her childhood friend, Rory is hoping for a nice, boing desk job that will keep her out of danger. However, when she’s assigned to look into a local lycan pack, she Hinds herself falling for their alpha and getting caught up in a conspiracy that’s closer to home than she knows.

Fraught with danger, sarcastic humor, and steamy romance, this novel has it all! “Foul is Fair” is the Hirst in the “Something Wicked” series, and holds promise for many more entertaining stories to come. Aurora is a strong, independent female, who is unafraid to challenge the male status quo, while still allowing herself to be vulnerable and loved by the sexy alpha, Beo. This novel takes the reader on a harrowing adventure, mixing paranormal romance with a good old murder mystery. The writing is witty and engaging,

The Crossing (Arlan’s Pledge Book 1) Jenn Lees

The destined warrior and clan chief of Dá l Gaedhle, Arlan, decides he wants an alternative option to being a leader – only it seems Arlan got more than he asked for. Two completely opposite worlds collide when Arlan jumps into a literal new time and discovers Rhiannon, a librarian who feels completely out of place in the normal world. With more in common than the two expected, Arlan and Rhiannon soon discover that even if they’re unHitting in their own worlds, they somehow Hit together just perfectly… though the clan chief must learn just how hard it is to choose between love and his people. The question is whether Arlan will return to his home world, or stay with the woman he’s been waiting his entire life for?

Everything about this novel is captivating, from the worldbuilding all the way to the enticingly romantic love story that readers feel is unfolding directly in front of them. This book will hook one in from the beginning, and remain enchanting with its connection to the fantasy world and a relatable crossover to the real world. The storyline does take readers quickly through the plot, making it a little difHicult to immerse and catch up in the middle. However, once a reader is in, they’re stuck in this book like a sweet bowl of honey. The character depth, the sweet romance, and the magniHicent plot are just the overall umbrella points to why this is a wonderful read. This novel makes readers want to hold on to the world and clutch every page until the end, simply because it’s that good.

Fangsters: A Novel Jo-Ann Carson

Rebel Black is an incredibly smart witch with a Ph.D. in Education. Unfortunately, after a messy breakup and a toxic relationship, she Hinds herself back home in Mystic Keep with her sisters. It isn’t the ideal situation, especially

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

with the town being a safe haven of sorts for the supernatural, but she takes the leap anyway. Shortly after her arrival, she is tracked down by Alessandro and blackmailed into starting a Vampire Academy for his sires. With a short timeline to work with, Rebel struggles to accept her new commitment, especially with news of several murdered witches. When a vampire offers to align with her, she must decide if she can really trust him or if she will have better luck trying to survive this alone. The vast variety of personalities and behaviors represented in the characters is phenomenal. Each character embodies their assigned persona incredibly well and it makes for a joyful read as they interact with each other. Their character development shows the perfect amount of reluctance and submission that one would expect from a vampire as well. The comic relief intertwined amongst the drama and worry that Rebel faces is what makes this a much lighter read than one would expect from the typical supernatural fantasy. Everything, from Rebel’s thoughts and dialogue to her journal entries, adds to the humor. While “Fangsters” deHinitely has its own tone and twist, the plot does sometimes feels like a melting pot of every supernatural fantasy on the market rather than its own story. Despite this, the read is enjoyable and light-hearted.

Beauty and The Blade (The Talented Book 1)

they are even enemies at all. The twists and turns come fast and furious in this rapid paced novel. The character development is great as their perspectives are challenged and they learn more about each other. The supporting characters are funny, charming, and also serve to help Contessa and Nathaniel in their growth and development. Filled with intrigue and skilled Highting, this fantasy is sure to have hearts pumping and blood racing. The next in this series can’t come soon enough!

HISTORICAL: Contessa is marrying the man who murdered her mother. Nathaniel Woodrow is known as The Beast, and is also the man Contessa knows is a murderer and an outlaw. She enters the union with the sole purpose of Hinding evidence to prove his crimes and bring down The Beast and his crime ring once and for all. But as she begins to get to know him, she begins to learn that things aren’t always as they Hirst appear, and everything she believes may not be the truth. Her father is the Chief of the Royal Police and will not allow her to fall victim to The Beast’s tricks, nor does he trust her to take him down from the inside. Justice and revenge are the reasons for the wedding, but the result may be love and allegiance – if they can work together to uncover the truth.

Contessa is a strong, intelligent heroine with a quick wit and sharp mind. Nathaniel and Contessa seem to have no spark at Hirst, just a mutual dislike. But as they spend time together, their chemistry begins to draw these two enemies ever closer until they are questioning whether

Thaddeus of Beewicke (The College of Sorcerers Book 1)

Magic thrives in the Westlands, as an ancient and unassuming sorcerer crosses an underdeveloped countryside, collecting new talent for an austere centre of enchanted learning known as The Collegium. Silvestrus’ three young recruits are Thaddeus, an unworldly beekeeping rustic; Anders, a pampered scholar; and Rolland, an urban street thief. The fourteen-year-old novices are as green as sorcerers come, but faraway in the eastern Empire of Cin, a rising power is wary of a

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prophecy proclaiming that one, or all, of to these boys will bring down the reign of a new imperial crown. As the small party of four, along with their clever talking mule Asullus and rescue dog Bellis, slowly make their way towards their goal, they are shadowed by assassination attempts from Cin. Will Silvestrus’ new apprentices reach their destination to fulHill their purposes?

“Thaddeus of Beewicke” sets the stage for an expansive fantasy with endearing characters who bond during travel. The titular character and his comrades encounter numerous diversions during their journey: a counterpart group of female sorcerers, a terminally ill love interest, a drunken interlude with a fairy queen, a lupine matriarch who exacts vengeance on her enemy, and a phantom legion; all appear as disconnected plot points of yet unclear signiHicance. Silvestrus’ penchant for elaborate verbiage and the magniloquent third person narrative create a dense reading experience for the expositional introduction, which encompasses the better part of the book. Fabulous adventures are ambitiously detailed, but without the full picture, it all feels discombobulated. Be forewarned that this investment leads into a series and has a soft conclusion. Readers who adore words, and can’t get enough of them, will be delighted!

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Star Tangled Murder

Nancy J. Cohen

are twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes every step of the way. Dalton and Marla have such an interesting relationship that is entertaining to read as they work together to solve the mysteries that keep revealing themselves. Nancy J. Cohen does an incredible job creating a dynamic storyline, with constant suspense, purposeful dialogue, and a beautiful ending.

dog near the property. What’s going on at the abandoned sanatorium?

Marla Vail and her husband

Dalton plan to spend the day at a living history village in Florida, where they plan to see the reenactment of the Seminole battle. However, their fun Fourth of July weekend Hilled with play violence turns ugly when the town Marshall is discovered dead— bludgeoned with a tomahawk to the head. Dalton, a soon-to-retire detective, Hinds himself submersed in the investigation, while Marla aids her husband, Hiltering out information and digging through lies and evidence to track down the culprit. As they get closer to uncovering the truth, will they risk their own lives getting in the way of a murderer?

“Star Tangled Murder” is the perfect mashup of history and mystery. Every detail that unfolds works alongside the living history village, where every piece of evidence is compared to its purpose in history. The way the historical information is presented in the novel is done with entertainment in mind and never once feels forced or textbook. In fact, it only adds to the interesting concept of the village and the overarching plot. The story starts with a bang, but the plot does not die there. There

Voices in the Sanitorium

Amy Lynn Walsh

HISTORICAL: Daideo, Katherine’s father, dies of an unexpected heart attack. Katherine’s husband, Collin, travels for work, so she feels alone and isolated. After her dad passed, she wanted a change. Collin found a job with less travel, so they moved their four children to Pennsylvania from Manhattan before their eldest daughter, Aislyn’s, senior year of high school. Aislyn’s anger at the move, losing close friends, and feeling betrayed get directed towards her mom. Aislyn gets a job at a local cafe and Hinds a diary in an antique shop belonging to a sanatorium patient, Bridget, and Katherine hears a man’s voice, terrifying her as she walks her

Amy Lynn Walsh expertly combines the history of an abandoned, deteriorating sanatorium in Scranton, PA, with a relatable Hictional family. Vivid descriptions of the West Mountain area provide the perfect setting for this mystery. The sanitorium’s history dates to when tuberculosis patients had little hope. The exploration of the sanitorium itself uncovers a secret garden of wild Lily of the Valley, the description so detailed the scent is almost emitted to the reader. The three-dimensional characters add texture to the mystery with twists and turns. Snippets from the diary, shared by Aislyn on her blog, allow for comments by her New York friends. Her Intercontinental Chronicler A-1 provides a window into Aislyn’s deHiant mindset. In many ways, she feels a kinship with Bridget as a patient. Historical Hiction fans will appreciate the detailed research and the journey to an unexpected conclusion.

78 Mystery

A Brush With Death (The Hands of Fate, Book 1)

PARANORMAL/HISTORICAL: England 1888 is where the lovely Isabel Hirst encounters her mystery man. She more feels his presence than sees him, until she catches a glimpse of a handsome man in the mirror and hears his voice. Isabel is ill with a chronic debilitating disease that will soon take her from her father. Her mother was also plagued with the illness and passed away as a result when Isabel was a very young girl. Now, hearing and seeing things, Isabel is questioning her own mind. Over time, his visits become more frequent and more brazen as he shares his true feelings for her. Can she deter him and keep him at bay, or will she depend on him when a murderer, Jack the Ripper, is lurking and hunting young ladies?

Ms. Blake has penned a murder mystery with a paranormal twist. The protagonists are well developed as a curious young woman and a mysterious man (stranger) that captures her heart. The tug of war between these two is somewhat overdone and the lasting contradiction of behavior may wear on readers. The love that the male Higure has carried for years is portrayed genuinely. The arc of the story is eloquently written and plot twists makes for a surprise ending. The historical nature and era of this story feels accurate to the time, place, and culture. This is a creative take on life after death and possibly another validation that humans and/or souls cannot dictate who they fall in love with. This is book one is a series and stands alone.

Mystery

New Adult

There are many emotions and triggers in this book and readers should read those prior to reading. Ms. Savage has a steady arc and enough drama to keep readers glued until the end. A story of perfect strangers who have experienced their fair share of pain and heartache, Hind each other, and understand each other like no one ever has. Sex, drugs, rock and roll and God all play a major role in “Cruzan.”

gorgeous, and is known as the campus’ local MMA Highting star –and a player when it comes to the ladies. He’s her project ‘subject’, and she’s been ordered to reveal his secrets, no matter who it hurts in the process. When chemistry sparks between them, things get dicey. Will her conscience win out, or will her secrets destroy a fresh friendship and crush earned trust?

Fringe (aka Susie) decides to accompany her friend Mackie to a concert on Friday night. She’s not been out and about in quite some time. Her agoraphobia has kept her lying low on her family farm. Playing guitar has been her only form of therapy. Her friend Mackie has been there for her and helped her put the pieces together of a traumatic upbringing. Mackie has shown romantic interest but Fringe has always been true and loyal to her but only as a friend. While front row at the concert Fringe catches the eye of the lead singer, who also happens to be Mackie’s next-door neighbor. When Mackie pulls strings to get backstage after the concert, she introduces Fringe to Cruz. A whirlwind romance ensues along with many deceptions. A plan is set in action; can Amber survive yet another traumatic experience?

“Cruzan” is a love at Hirst sight drama! The meeting of the handsome rock star and the quiet fan kicks off the story of two battered souls who Hind solace in each other. The quickness of the relationship may not seem realistic to readers. The band’s stardom and the connection of friends and neighbors pulls in many supporting characters.

*Trigger warning – includes scenes/mentions of drug and alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse, LGBT relationships, abortion, gambling addiction, and the foster system*

Shadows

“Shadows” is an engaging plot bursting with compassion and strength while hiding many secrets. The protagonists share their college in common, and some difHicult life situations. The encounter in which they meet leading to the gym trainings is a great springboard for their relationship development, leading to sizzling chemistry. The supporting characters display loyalty and security. Isabella is driven and motivated to her success, even though she seems somewhat immature in certain circumstances. Shadows has had a hard life, and readers may appreciate more back story of his upbringing and family dynamics, also more about his sister who he leans on often. Here’s hoping “Shadows” is the Hirst of more to come from the gang at the gym, and the crew who work at Secrets. A great read to curl up with!

Isabella is the only family member to ever attend college. Her scholarship is the only way she’s made it this far. She’s set to graduate in few months, and her mentor and professor, a notorious investigative reporter whom she’s known for years gives her a Hinal assignment that is outrageous, and her entire grade hinges on it. If she doesn’t deliver, she risks not graduating. Shadows is the mysterious man on campus. He’s

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Cruzan Storm Savage

HISTORICAL: Draumaborgin –

The City of Dreams illustrates the sad irony of its transformation to a bleak, gritty, barely operating city enduring the power struggles and legacy curse of their own doing. Thomas Meade, hunter, assassin, and father, does his job as a human weapon when dispatched by the Patent Master to eliminate inventors who Hile patents to destabilize the pitiful urban order, and this latest device is so powerful that bodies are piling up. The plot mushrooms into an evolving story of a city with a foundation of grimness covered with foul air, populated with low-class bars that reek of urine and alcohol, and the horriHic stench of unwashed bodies Highting to exist. Will Meade be able to Hind the creator of the device and Higure out who’s killing people before it’s too late?

“The Device Hunter” is an expertly crafted tale that operates like a game of Gin Rummy. Ms. Dodge deals an initial hand, and readers continue to select cards from each chapter while racing to the end. Readers will despise this mercenary, though he is an interesting character. No one possesses a heart of Hlint like

Meade, until one realizes that it is his armor for survival, causing reader’s to realize their compassion for him. Fans of speculative, dystopian Hiction will appreciate the vivid worldbuilding and expressive dialogue that opens all the senses. The short, rapid-Hire chapters are perfectly balanced to allow the reader to digest the dregs before delving into each subsequent stage. This compelling story will demand the reader continue to the unexpected, yet perfect, conclusion. A distinctively creative story!

Simone Dober

able to keep her loved ones safe and get the distance from her family that she craves? Or will she be brought back into the fold and lose everything she has built?

Ellis Summers has a knack for writing suspense. There is an array of interesting characters, and the way they’re written makes them feel real. There are some aspects that needed a little more description but ultimately don’t take away from the thrill that this book has throughout. Readers will Hind themselves rooting for Amazing to get her happy ever after, and for the story to work out in her favor. This is a good addition to the Grant series, and if this is the Hirst book being read, it’ll entice readers to go back and check out the Hirst two books. A title that deHinitely deserves to be added to the to-be-read list, and one that will keep readers entertained as spring slowly creeps in. Download this now, for a thrilling ride from beginning to end!

Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Granted (The Grant Series Book 3)

Ellis Summers

Amazing Grant has an interesting family history, one that she tries to keep her distance from. Engaged and running her own business, she wants to focus on getting on with her life without –any involvement from her family. Sadly, the family has other ideas, and Amazing Hinds herself in Paris and worried about the safety of her Hiancé . She is facing a Hight from all sides, and a book she has kept hidden for years becomes the center of the story. Will she be

Lost Girls of Kato

Quinn Avery

Sterling Pruitt is a 32-year-old woman who seems to be having strange dreams about a young girl

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The Device Hunter Elaine Dodge

she never met. Once she moves from Los Angeles to a small city in Minnesota called Kato, she soon realizes moving to this small town was no coincidence. When she moves into a Hixer upper, she is introduced to Theo who is interesting to her, even though he is older than her. As soon as Sterling and Theo meet, they have this connection that Sterling can’t seem to place. However, when Sterling moves to Kato, her dreams seem to intensify, leading her into an adventure she was least expecting.

“Lost Girls of Kato” is written from two people’s points of view – a young girl and an older woman. Quinn Avery connects the book together by diving into two stories, showing the readers each side of how the person’s life ties together with the other. The young girls back story, shows the readers the purpose of Sterling. Without the young girl, there would be no Sterling. Sterling is the main purpose of the young girl in reason because she helps the police piece together a cold case which helps people of Kato move on. The author gives the readers a sense of hope with this story. In this action and supernatural adventure, the reader is shown a different side of life; a life that if one believes – can help give a person a second chance at a life they always wanted… A life that in the past, may have been taken too early from them.

Suspense/Thriller

military suspense romance, and it’ll be amazing to see where the series goes from here. DeHinitely a hit with this one, and most certainly should be added to the TBR list this spring. Be warned, it’ll be difHicult not to Hinish it in one sitting and there may be a late night involved. Exciting, exhilarating, and entertaining the entire way through!

Hidden Comrade (Project Morpheus Book 2)

Jillian David

Reagan McNeill is as far from a damsel in distress as they come, which Pele Tuitama Hinds out the hard way when he has to go undercover at a children’s camp in order to protect her. Even his enhanced abilities won’t stand him in much stead when Reagan sets her mind to something. But the woman drives him insane and when she’s near, he can’t seem to think straight. Someone is determined to get their revenge and will stop at nothing to get to the McNeill family, which includes Reagan. Will Pele be able to get his mind on the mission and protect the woman he has growing feelings for? Or is it doomed to end in death and ultimate destruction?

Jillian David has added another installment to the Morpheus series, and it doesn’t disappoint! Readers who haven’t read the Hirst book will be going back to read it once they’ve sunk their teeth into this one. The premise is unique and the descriptions really make the story come alive and play like a movie in the mind. The heat between Pele and Reagan is searing, and the suspense is edge of the seat stuff. “Hidden Comrade” ticks all the boxes for a

The Daunting Greystoke (The Brothers Greystoke #1)

HISTORICAL: After dealing with her abusive grandfather for so long, Serena Hinally decides to follow through with her plans to run away. As she makes her way through a storm, she stumbles upon a stable where she stops with her horse for the night. Little does she know the stable belongs to Nathanial Greystoke, the heir to Greystoke Manor. Nathanial has decided to return to his longabandoned ancestral home in an attempt to revive the dilapidated place. Upon Hinding Serena in his horse stables, Nathanial’s life is turned upside down as he and Serena face all the turmoil that is heading toward them.

“The Daunting Greystoke” is an

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historical romance that follows two characters as they develop their relationship and learn about their very unexpectedly similar pasts. Both were raised in tumultuous environments and have shared experiences which causes them to grow closer each day. The descriptions are very atmospheric, and readers will be captivated by the world Ms. Wyatt creates. However, the prose is long-winded, with very repetitive dialogue. The Hirst half of the book describes the characters meeting, and tension begins to build as they learn more and more about each other, but the pace doesn’t start to pick up until the last quarter of the book. Some readers may Hind it difHicult to get through. The character development was done very well, but the book itself is way too long for the actual plot. There are also some grammatical errors throughout the book. However, the love story between Nathanial and Serena is sure to be enjoyed by readers who love angsty, slow-burn romances.

wealthy German businessman to locate his daughter and have her returned home. 8 shows undeniable conHidence (born the eighth child, never renamed legally, and is a highly educated man) which takes him far with the bootleggers, gangsters, and unsavory characters of the times. His best friend, Pearl, is a successful black businessman who always has his back while on his investigative adventures. Often his cases intersect, and create more work to Hind the answers. Velma, the daughter of the businessman, is living her best, most wild life. Can 8 locate her, keep her safe, and keep them all out of the sights of a gangster’s crosshairs?

“Velma Gone Awry” is an entertaining read which includes many famous names we know from the roaring 1920s. The mixture of iconic authors, musicians, mobsters, and a certain baseball player all play signiHicant roles in this story. The Hlawless writing style along with a plot that Hlows at a steady pace is a page Hlipper. The subplots that are built into the book as a whole are well balanced. Although many of the characters named throughout the story may or may not have comingled in actuality is hard to say. Mr. Cost has captured them in a way that realistically reHlects what we may have learned or read about this iconic era. For the living, “life goes on…” which Mr. Cost creatively brings the past into the present while representing diversity.

Velma Gone Awry

Matt Cost

8 Ballo is a private investigator in Brooklyn, New York during the roaring 1920s. He’s hired by a

Daphne Marlow has moved to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to escape her well-planned life. She’s pleased to have established a holistic healing practice and being able to help the people of Lost Sierra. One of her established patients is a Vietnam veteran who has become her friend. He’s always on time and ready… until the day he doesn’t show up. When her calls go unanswered, Daphne goes to his cabin. He’s not there, but his wallet and other personal items are. When she begins to ask questions around town, she Hinds no one else is concerned about his absence. The more questions she asks, the more walls she hits. While Daphne searches without success, there’s the growing danger of a nearby wildHire. Still, she can’t give up. This story is crafted like a beautifully woven tapestry. The suspense is slow in building and will keep one hooked until the end. Daphne is a trust-fund baby who’s tired of the wealth and abundance that has surrounded her, her whole life. She’s out to

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prove she can have a selfsustaining life and help people in rural areas learn about nutrition and natural resources for healing. When her friend goes missing, readers will embrace her cause as Hiercely as Daphne does. Her true spirit shines through as her search becomes more desperate each day. Readers will feel her tension and her growing fear as she meets various people in a town full of secrets and lies that dog Daphne’s path. What she thinks is Mayberry turns out to be a hive of deception… and readers will tag along on this nail-biting adventure!

Leah Neale

Suspense/Thriller

Bull” Gambino who is determined to get payback on Sean. It becomes a race against time and everyone is a suspect, even the writers in residence. Is one of them being paid by Gambino to get revenge on Sean? Will Sean and Emma Hinally get their happy ever after, or will they be torn apart?

Impervious (A Sean McPherson Novel, Book Three)

Laurie Buchannan

Sean McPherson and Emma Benton are getting ready for their big day. Someone is determined that Sean and Emma don’t get their dream of happiness together. When an explosion causes a death and numerous injuries, Sean is determined to Higure out who did it. Calling on his previous experience as a police ofHicer, he’s determined to bring those responsible to justice. All suspicions go to Georgio “The

DeHinitely the high octane offering of the Sean McPherson series! Readers will be holding their breath until the last page in the hopes that the hero makes it and gets the happy ever after with Emma. “The Bull” is a force to be reckoned with, and he’s written with great characterization. His viciousness leaps off the page. For fans of suspense and action, this is the perfect tale! Book three has another fascinating cast of characters who may or may not be up to no good. Starting off with this book in the series will have the added effect of having to go back and read the other books in the series, but there is enough information to gauge what is going on. Another gem of a book from Laurie Buchanan!

Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

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Three French Hens (The Twelve Days of Christmas, Book 10)

HISTORICAL: At Almack’s, Sophia Fitzroy announces to her sister Caroline she wants a scandalous romance! Caroline admonishes her youngest sister. As her sister leaves, a handsome young man, Orlando Dunbar comes up to her side proclaiming he is available for a scandalous romance. Sophia refuses him at once, but he will not let the subject go. The next day, her sister Arabella reveals Orlando is the famous rake, Viscount Orlando Dunbar, who always keeps three French Hens, or mistresses. Sophia is appalled! After that, everywhere Sophia goes, Orlando is there; ready to escort her through the serpentine or ride horses on Rotten Row. She Hinds herself drawn to him despite his reputation. Orlando says he wants her for his own. Should she believe him, or is he only teasing?

“Three French Hens” showcases the sixth and youngest Fitzroy daughter. Orlando is written as a dashing gallant who evolves as a person and learns he only needs one person in his life to love. Sophia is a fun heroine with many quirks. She begins as a naı̈ve lass but blooms the more time she

spends in Orlando’s company. They are both easy to love with their playful back and forth banter. There is very little world building in this piece which is disappointing. While there is a plethora of characters in this story, they are two dimensional, adding very little to this tale. The ending is also quite abrupt. The description of Orlando’s mesmerizing eyes is incredible. The teasing is an amusing touch that keeps this tale real and the reader engaged throughout the story. A captivating romance that is sure to please till the very end.

MacDougall, and has an asthmalike illness that causes him to shy away from physical efforts. Thus, he develops his mind and excels at games requiring logic or brainpower. His brother, Keir, has a gambling and whoring problem and keeps losing costly valuables. Keir locked Aileana in a dark barn when she was just a child because she was already a skilled archer, and that threatened him. He cheats to win, which causes trouble. Sometimes he uses things that he doesn’t ‘own’ as collateral for his bets…

Seeker: A Scottish Medieval Enemies to Lovers Romance

HISTORICAL/PARANORMAL: In Scotland in 1322, Aileana Montgomerie is connected to the power of the earth through her bare feet. She is a skilled archer at a time when women’s skills are downplayed to placate the egos of the men around them. Aileana’s mother is a healer, and uses a magical mortar and pestle to grind her herbs; this tool binds each of the stories together within this series. Brodie MacDougall is the second son of Laird

The tension builds steadily throughout this story. There seems to be a bit of evil that is ever-present from the start to the denouement. This author helps readers get to know and understand the conHlicts and tensions in each of the main characters. This allows readers to see the evil in Keir and his cronies, as well as the goodness in Aileana and Brodie. The evocative feel of this story makes it seem as if the paranormal element is accepted during this time in history, when people lived much more connected to the land. The story Hlows well, and the pace is consistent throughout. The mortar and pestle angle adds a unique angle to the paranormal part of this story.

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and relationships between the characters would be much more believable if they had been developed more, giving the reader time to invest in what is otherwise a compelling story.

Luke Blackmon’s Rose

SCI-FI: For Literary Professor, Rose Lyn Spencer, the idea of 1930s musician, Luke Blackmon, being cloned and brought into present day is an interest that borders on obsession. When she discovers the man she felt so connected to in print has, in fact, been staying with one of her students, she Hinds herself headover-heels in love and caught up in a conspiracy led by the agency that cloned Luke Blackmon in the Hirst place. Rose must navigate the challenges of a whirlwind romance while helping Luke learn to navigate the twenty-Hirst century.

A sweet tale of romance and danger, “Luke Blackmon’s Rose” is a stand-alone novella that touches on love, race, and the dangers of letting scientists and corporations play God. The story follows Rose’s journey as she meets the cloned Luke Blackmon, falls in love, and tries to free them both from the unnamed company that made him. While the themes of this story pull at the heartstrings, the story itself rushes through the big emotions, leaving the reader unsatisHied as the conHlicts tie themselves up in a nice little bow without much of a Hight. The plot

Six Geese a Laying (The Twelve Days of Christmas Book 6)

HISTORICAL: Maria Fitzroy is the youngest of her four sisters, and the least gregarious of them. She often Hinds it difHicult to Hind her tongue and shies away from social situations with many people. Yet on one snowy night, she meets the most handsome man that makes her dream of so much more. Walter Atherton is a stranger to the neighborhood with an interest in the Fitzroys. This young lady is charmed by his attention, but Walter shares very little of himself, and her father has banned him from their house. As if those issues are not enough, the newspaper is printing malicious gossip about Maria’s mother, the kindest woman Maria has ever known. Nonetheless, Maria risks all to experience the love of a lifetime, only to have it come crashing down around her. Can

Maria and Walter Hind a way through the heartache to share the love they have found?

“Six Geese a Laying” is a Christmas tale Hilled with sweet desires and guilty secrets wrapped up in love! Maria is shy and feels out of step with her elder, more conHident sisters. She falls hard for Walter after one meeting, her naivete and innocence on full display. Walter has secrets and because the readers are not privy to them or his thoughts, he appears to be using Maria. That makes it difHicult to get behind the romance and invest in this couple. Even so there is a strong sense of family that spills from the pages. Betrayal and redemption are powerful themes at play. This is another enticing addition in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” series that promises heartwarming romance!

Embers (Coven Daughters Origins Book 1)

Kat Turner

PARANORMAL: Megan O’Neil likes to chase rockstars. However, that isn’t the only thing she likes to chase. Megan is also a ghost hunter which keeps her busy

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enough to not be interested in any type of relationship. That is, until she meets Thom James, the rockstar. When Megan gets Hired from her professor job, she concentrates fully on her side engagement, hunting ghosts. While she still has her latest latenight hookup on her mind, she encounters an evil spirit where she then, Hinds a magical book of witchcraft that connects her with a terrifying prophecy. Now not only does Megan have to keep the prophecy from coming to existence, but she also must decipher her feelings towards Thom, whether they are real or if he just came back for one thing.

In this adult paranormal romance, Kat Turner sends chills down your spine. The author keeps the readers interests not only by having a demon-like character being the antagonist, but she adds a little Hlare with the intense relationship between Megan and Thom to keep the Hires burning with each turn of the page. The supernatural reader gets a little bit of everything with this read, but not too much to be overwhelmed with just the ghost hunting aspect of the story. This is not a story meant to read in the dark! “Embers” gives the readers a bewitching feel that something is about to go awry with not giving too much detail away making the reader wanting to turn the page to see what happens next.

Selkie: An Enemies to Lovers Viking Romance

Sydney Winward

PARANORMAL: Mayla Brior is a selkie who has the magical power to shed her seal skin, so she can walk amongst the humans on land. Klaus Lovik’s bride has been stolen from him on his wedding day by his enemy: chieftain. He will do anything to Hind his bride, even capture a selkie for a bartering gift. Once Klaus has his selkie, he quickly see’s there is something special about this one selkie. They soon bond with each other, making Klaus realize his recent mutual agreement was not meant for him. However, with Klaus’s growing feelings for the selkie, he isn’t sure if he could go down that path being they were both from different worlds and the selkie would want to be returned to her own world. In this fast-paced read, Sydney Winward ties two worlds together – a fantasy world full of selkie’s and a human world. The selkie-world is full of magic as “Sydney Winward” shows the readers when the selkie sheds her skin and walks amongst the humans on land. The author gives a different perspective of fantasy instead of using mermaids to

shed their skin, she uses seals. We have Klaus who captures a selkie and bonds with her in a way he has never bonded with anyone else. It’s almost magical how one comes across the other one. It’s like an adult spin on the “Little Mermaid”. It gives adult readers hope in a second chance at love. Maybe your Hirst choice wasn’t the one, but this read shows adults that there is a second chance at Hinding their one true love.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree (The Twelve Days of Christmas Book 12)

HISTORICAL: This story takes place in and around Bath, England, during 1819. Isabella Fitzroy and a coachman head to Bath from her family’s home, Chalcroft, for a visit with her cousins, but she really desires some alone time. Most of her family members are married, and she isn’t. There seems to be a general air of pity for her among her family, as they are certain she will remain a spinster. After a short visit with her relatives, she wanders the streets of Bath

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where she encounters a man who leers at her. Next, he dispatches a thief by breaking his nose. Finally, that night, she discovers this same man–Guy Partridge–sitting on her window sill! Nevertheless, they talk late into the night, and then she sees him at a dinner party the following evening… If readers can set aside their concerns about the dangers this young woman faces, this novella moves at a good pace. Readers will wonder where her sense of self-preservation is though, as what would surely alarm most people to the point of screaming does not phase Isabella. Anyone with a daughter should be cringing by now and wondering how Guy learns which room is hers in a house large enough to host multiple families during Christmas… and the fact Isabella becomes intimate with him after knowing him for two days seems incongruent with the expected behavior of the early 1800s. Nevertheless, the story Hlows well and the tension keeps readers engaged. This is the Hinal story in this series that features 12 cousins from three related families, so readers of the previous books will want to know how the series concludes.

Desert Destiny (The Wolves of Twin Moon Ranch Book 7)

romance, suspense, and fated mates that never misses a beat! Andie is independent and strong, with just the right amount of vulnerability. Roy’s retreat into his wolf form for so many years creates a hero Hinding his way back into the world and into readers’ hearts. Memorable secondary characters do more than populate scenes. This is a story that wrenches out emotions of guilt, loneliness, and powerlessness and transforms them into the triumph of trust, friendship, and love. “Desert Destiny” will have readers panting for the next entry!

PARANORMAL: On duty, OfHicer Andie Hale spends her days keeping the peace, while off duty she Hinds peace in the beauty of northern Arizona. Lately, she’s had the company of a wild wolf who seems to touch something deep inside her. Roy doesn’t know what draws him to the house and the woman, but he can’t seem to stay away. It doesn’t help that he has been in wolf form for so long that he isn’t sure he remembers how to be human. But when danger arrives practically on Andie’s doorstep, Roy doesn’t have a choice. Andie doesn’t know what to make of the mysterious stranger and her police instincts tell her to be wary. Except the more she watches him, the more she is certain he is a good man, a man who attracts her as no man ever has. As Andie and Roy give in to their passion, someone is determined to bring death and destruction. Is it a Skinwalker or something else? Destiny brought them together, but will they have an ever after?

“Desert Destiny” captivates from the Hirst page with an emotionally-charged tale of

HISTORICAL/PARANORMAL:

Zahra Corbyn, history professor and sea archeologist, has a virulent dislike of treasure hunters. Jack Alexander, treasure hunter, has been on a personal crusade to Hind the infamous sunken Sea Wraith. The two meet one moonlit night after a brutish lothario pushes Zahra into the ocean when she rejects his unwanted advances. Jack rescues her from drowning and Hinds

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Sea Hunter - Mortar and Pestle, Book 4

himself distracted by his attraction to the prickly professor. Zahra, though thankful for her rescue, isn't grateful to Hind out Jack's a treasure hunter. As fate would have it, they must work together to locate and salvage the Sea Wraith. As their feelings grow stronger, danger rushes towards them. Will the curse of the sunken vessel drop anchor on their romance, or will they rescue themselves to sail away on high seas of love?

"Sea Hunter" is a fast and furious romance with a splash of magic! Readers will enjoy the story of two seafaring adventurers hunting for their heart's desire. Romantic chemistry is kept calmly Hloating in a low-tide pool. This tale plunges right into thrilling action from the Hirst page, and continues diving into danger as well as deep desires. Readers will feel the spray of ocean mists as they join the crew of underwater archeologists searching for artifacts and treasure. The despicable bad guys understand their assignment in predictable, despicable fashion, but readers will enjoy them just as whale…teeheehee well. Author

D. V. Stone manages to reel in readers hook, line, and sinker with this action-packed romance, a puff of magic, and great storytelling.

Tonya Mathenia

The Lady in the Moneylender’s Parlour (Allen Abbey Romances Book 2)

Rosanne E. Lortz

being after a war. So, readers expecting a fun, humorous story won’t Hind it here. Though it would have been nice to have a bit more backstory for some of the characters, the tale manages to feel full and complete. William, despite his missing hand, manages to be a decent guy even with his shortcomings. The sensible, smart Margaret is way too good for William, so having them together feels like something of a stretch. Still, the book manages to be engaging and captivating, making for an interesting read!

HISTORICAL: Captain William Allen is back from the war and has lost not only his left hand and nearly everything else. William is starving, so he decides to go to the moneylenders. William meets Miss Margaret Blackburn there, and she also needs money. William can’t help asking Margaret what she was doing there. She tells him she needs to borrow money in order to publish her book yet fears there isn’t enough time, since her mother plans to leave London, taking Margaret with her. Desparate, Margaret asks William if he will pretend to be her suitor which would induce her mother to keep her in London. William agrees to the plan and unwittingly falls for Margaret. However, the road to true love has many obstacles and William will lose Margaret unless he can avoid his past.

This is a moving historical novella with an appealing story! Despite some moroseness and horrendous depictions of soldiers who lose limbs, readers are shown the survivors’ will to live. The book is deHinitely not a lighthearted Regency, especially

Deathbringer and Desire (Eternal Alliances)

URBAN FANTASY: Queen Belle has suffered at the hands of her father, but no more as she prepares his body for his funeral. She is to take the throne in his place with her new husband, King Alex, to rule the nation of vampires, witches, and humans. The Hirst of their duties as King and Queen is attending the funeral with all their subjects. She is summoned in the midst of it, as a theft of dangerous supplies from the Apothecary has been reported. Soon after, there is an attempt on their lives. Belle

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believes there is a plot to kill her husband and she will do anything to stop this from happening, including learning to defend herself. But her paranoia does not abate, and soon she starts to question everyone, including her own sanity. Will she be able to keep Alex safe?

This dark and mysterious thriller will keep the reader on their toes! The plot is complex, and is the prequel to ”HellHire and Honey”, giving the background to the war between vampires and witches. The tension between the species is still evident, regardless of the union in marriage and the reader is taken on this journey through Belle’s eyes to question if her fears are real or if they are hallucinations. And as such, there is less Hleshing out of other pivotal characters, and it is focused on her state of mind. Is Belle’s father reaching out from the dead? Has his abuse found a new medium? Who is his co-conspirator? It is a little too long and complex for a novella, however, it is action packed with many twists and turns to keep the story moving at a good pace that will keep the reader wanting more.

Four Calling Birds (The Twelve Days of Christmas Book 9)

HISTORICAL: Lucy Fitzroy has four sisters, two of whom are married, and now her sister, Esther, is asking strange questions about kissing! Lucy cannot understand this nonsense. Percy is her best friend and partner in crime, who needs more? Four calling birds may have been the nickname given to her and three of her sisters by Percy, but it has turned into a unique call, just for the two of them. Now Percy is acting strange as well, and she’s Hinding it hard to understand what he’s trying to tell her. Added to this, Lucy is noticing things about Percy she hasn’t before, and her heart keeps racing every time he’s near. It’s close to Christmas and Lucy just wants to make sense of it all.

A sweet and easy read, this novella will make the reader smile. Lucy and Percy’s story bears a slight resemblance to Jo and Laurie from Little Women, as they are childhood friends whose love has grown over time. The warmth and love within Lucy’s family is also palpable, and the characters are well rounded. Lucy does come across a little

immature, but that is par for the course as she struggles to unravel her feelings. The contrast of Lucy’s exuberance and Percy’s steadfast personality strikes a good balance for the couple. There is a secondary love story between Esther and a Duke, which is just touched upon, which leaves the reader curious to read more about their romantic development. This is a charming and delightful read, and not just for the holidays!

A Happy Christmas Ceilidh: The Shrouded Isle

YOUNG ADULT/FANTASY: Becca is a widow and an American. Her boyfriend, Greg, is Scottish and a Keeper, who has a duty to protect people from the fae. Their Hirst Christmas together starts off with mischief when Greg is introduced to the American Elf on the Shelf tradition. Soon the Elf is being moved by someone other than the adults, and a snowman is also involved in some magic. Becca and Greg are each determined to give one another the perfect gift for Christmas. In order to afford the perfect gift, each must sacriHice their most treasured possession. With some magic and

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help from Becca’s daughters, they may end up with a happy Christmas after all.

A twist on “The Gift of the Magi”, Becca and Greg each sacriHice what they treasure to get the perfect gift for one another, but by giving up what they treasure, they are unexpectedly set to make the gifts they are getting worthless. This magical fantasy twist on a classic is Hilled with unexpected characters and bits of fairy fun. The real heroes in this story are Becca’s two daughters, Jessie and Tate. At times the story feels disjointed and not a cohesive tale. There is a lot going on with the elf moving and a snowman that keeps having mysterious footprints surrounding it. Not all of the pieces of the story Hit together, and a retelling of the classic or a fantasy novel Hilled with magic would work but the merging of the two feels awkward at times. The characters are easy to like and the relationships feel real and satisfying. A fun sacriHicing tale of family love.

Two Turtle Doves (Twelve Days of Christmas Book 11)

HISTORICAL: Joy Fitzroy is sick of people pitying her lack of marriage prospects. It’s not like she can wave a magic wand and make a husband appear, but it seems that the fates have other plans when they bring Gilbert Kitteridge and his daughters to her. It’s hard to miss the heat between them, and Joy is determined not to give in to the man who has wicked thoughts in his mind. Gilbert yearns to know more of Joy, and he fully intends to use every ounce of charm to eventually feel her writhing under him. But she’s not as easy to charm as he Hirst thought, and the widower soon Hinds himself aching for the beautiful Miss Fitzroy and the feel of her body against his.

Emily Murdoch has brought another great historical romance to readers with unforgettable characters all wrapped up in a neat bow with a plot that keeps the pages turning. This is a story of a single dad who has lost his wife and Hinds himself attracted to another woman. There is a lot of sexual tension between the characters, coupled with Joy playing hard to get, and it makes

for a fun read. The historical aspects are as always spot on and the dialogue accurate for the time.

“Two Turtle Doves” is another awesome addition to the Twelve Days of Christmas series, and for those who haven’t read the others in the series, take a look! These are standalone stories, and each of them has their own uniqueness in their own way.

Into the Lyon of Fire: The Lyon's Den Connected World Abigail Bridges

HISTORICAL: Matthew Rydell, newly invested Duke of Embleton resents the title. His mother, Phillida, desperately wants him to wed and produce an heir, which is his duty to the dukedom. His idea of duty is returning to Paris to continue serving under General Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. His brother, Mark, suggests Matthew meet with Mrs. Dove-Lyon. Sarah Ainsworth, Dowager Countess of Crewood, is gambling at the Lyon’s Den. She has thus far been able to win enough to pay the loan she owes Mrs. Dove-Lyon. She realizes the loan can be called at any time, dismayed to Hind today is the day. She does not want to wed again

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because her last husband was cruel, throwing her into a Hireplace, which scarred her face –and more. She is called into a meeting with Mrs. Dove-Lyon to learn she must pay the remainder of the loan, or wed the Duke of Embleton.

“Into the Lyon of Fire” is a complex story joining two damaged people in a beautiful romance of trust and blooming love. Matthew Rydell and Sarah Ainsworth are admirable characters who go through insurmountable trials to arrive where they are. While this is a tightly written story, it has several loose ends. News from the magistrate is mentioned, but the details are never presented. What becomes of the villain, the new Count of Crewood, is never revealed. The story seems to fall apart at the ending, as it’s rushed and abrupt. World building in this account is believable, and it engages the reader from the beginning. Secondary characters are delightful! Nevertheless, another entertaining tale in the Lyon’s Den Connected World!

Five Golden Rings: A Regency Historical Romance Holiday Tale (Book 8)

HISTORICAL: Esther Fitzroy, the peacemaker between her sisters, deHlects another confrontation and resumes reading her book. Even Caroline’s gossip regarding the Duke of Kendal doesn’t pique her interest until Caroline’s husband, Stuart, enters the sitting room with that very man. Jack Kendal sets sights on her like a man notching a bow aiming for a bullseye when he sits beside her and asks about her book. But based on Caroline’s comments, Esther decides Kendal is after her sizable dowry. As a member of Society, she knows the rules of etiquette and decency, but he

opens a window to her grownup feelings. Jack lavishes attention on Esther with walks and long conversations. Still concerned his attentions are directed at her money rather than her, Esther decides to pursue him to capture his heart.

Ms. Murdoch develops interesting and relatable characters, each with unique personalities, in this fast-paced holiday romance. The dialogue is snappy and styled in the Regency era. The descriptions of the sisters entertaining and planning for the holidays create the ideal atmosphere. The London marketplace also provides the foundation for the glitter, bustle, sounds, and smells a reader will thoroughly enjoy. The story is hugely anachronistic in the romantic aspects, however, which throws readers out of the story genre. For instance, in that era, a gentleman would never dare take liberties with an innocent young lady under the table at dinner the Hirst time he dines with her family, nor would he then passionately make-out with her later in the same evening right under their noses! Still, Historical Romance readers must consider an evening with this entertaining novella, perhaps sipping a glass of wine, during any season!

95
Novella

Sleigh Bell Serenade: A Sweet Winter Romance (Winter Wishes Book 2)

Shanna

Bowen Jensen is a hard-working rancher and entrepreneur. Keeping his ranch going and his business, Sleigh Bell Tours, running takes up most of his time. Between working and raising his teenage sister, he has no time left for a personal life. But when Juniper Haynes, a successful real estate agent from the closest big city comes into his life in a chance meeting, he suddenly Hinds a desire to make time. Juniper lives in the big city where her life, clients, and friends are. She enjoys visiting her sister’s small town, but she has to be in the city and doesn’t see that changing. Can these two from very different worlds Hind a way to make their lives work together, or will they even be willing to try?

Bowen and Juniper have an instant chemistry that builds throughout the book. Bowen is a caring yet strong hero. Even though he seems to have life Higured out and few Hlaws, he is still relatable, and his character learns and grows as he begins to listen and be willing to compromise – and put his heart on the line. Juniper is driven and hardworking, but her life is very

shallow. She lives life in the big city with friends who are cutting and cruel. Once she gets to know Bowen and his sister, Sassy, she learns what is really valuable in life. The plot is very predictable with no surprises, yet is Hilled with charm and opposites attract chemistry. This sweet, classic, romantic read goes straight for the heart.

Shanna HatHield’s “The Christmas Kiss” is a sweet romance set in 1909. Gracy Randall enters the story and sets the pace nicely with good momentum. Gracy almost borders on too perfect, and readers may wonder how she’s remained single for so long since, especially in this era, when young women married young. Cord is well-written as a good father, which begs the question, how can he be attracted so quickly to a woman who berated his son? However, Cord’s consideration of his late wife gives the strong cowboy the soft touch Gracy’s character needs. As the story evolves, believability stirs emotions in the right places, making “The Christmas Kiss” a heartwarming read.

Moira Wolf

HISTORICAL: Gracy Randall arrives home after 6 years of being away. To her surprise, her parents have not only moved out of the family ranch, but they have also sold it! Gracy’s dismay overwhelms her good nature, leaving the new owner, Cord, and his son, bewildered by her rude behavior. Gracy realizes the errors of her ways and quickly apologizes, knowing she was raised better. Determined to keep busy now that she is back home, Gracy cannot settle on work that suits her. Eventually, Cord helps her out, and as fate would have it, becomes her friend. Time allows Gracy to grow more comfortable around Cord, not realizing that by helping him, he may be the answer to her prayers.

Guiding the Grouch

Shanna HatHield

A chance meeting in a Summer Creek diner turns billionaire Gabe Gatlin into Dani Latham’s Christmas project, but it might just be the present they both need for the holidays. When the over the top holiday schedule his sister makes up crosses his desk at the same time as a Hile on a little known property in Summer Creek, Gabe only needs a nudge to

97 Inspirational
The Christmas Kiss

run away for the holidays, but his grouchy ways are quickly challenged by the small town with a great deal of Christmas spirit, and by the waitress that has made a home there. Single mom Dani is grateful for the increase in tourists, even one as dismayed by Christmas as Gabe, as they add to providing her son with a stable life. Helping Gabe Hind his own Christmas spirit should be a bit of fun – until he eventually leaves, but she didn’t count on losing her heart in the process.

The epitome of a Christmas Hallmark special in novel form, “Guiding the Grouch” has everything fans of this genre could want. Gabe is handsome, rich, and in need of something more in life. Dani is cheerful, hardworking, and ready to meet Gabe, even if she doesn’t know it. The way Gabe settles into life in Summer Creek, befriending the locals, falling for Dani and her son, and more, all tugs at the reader’s heartstrings and pulls them along for the ride. With minor conHlict mostly tied into his lie of omission, this story is just the right kind of sweet and light to Hill that need for a holiday romance without being too complicated. In plain words, perfect for Hallmark fans.

98
Inspirational

The New Empire Alison McBain

Science Fiction

don’t delay in downloading this one to the e-reader. It is a wild ride, and one that will linger in the mind for a long while after putting it down!

HISTORICAL: Jiangxi Hinds himself in a difHicult situation when his father, the Emperor, dies and his brother sells him as a slave. When he reaches his destination of Wacharon, he meets the man who now owns him, Onas. He has a lot to learn and it is a shock to his system going from being an Emperor’s son, to a slave. He decides that he’s going to free as many as he can, and this in turn puts his own life in danger – as well as those around him. The question is, will Jiangxi succeed in freeing his fellow countrymen from their shackles, or will they be forced to remain enslaved until their dying day?

To say this is a rollercoaster of a book is an understatement. The book takes history and turns it on its head, but does so beautifully and it is crystal clear that Alison McBain is not only a talented writer, but also has a great imagination when it comes to building an alternate world with aspects of history thrown in. There are so many fascinating aspects to this book that it is difHicult to list each and every one, but intriguing, fascinating and emotional are only some of the words that can be used to describe this novel. For fans of science Hiction and historical,

The Near Distant

Brett Armstrong, Erin Howard, C. Kevin Thompson

ANTHOLOGY: “The Near Distant” is a collection of three novellas that explore life on other worlds through the eyes of three humans from Earth. “By Far and Away” by Brett Armstrong: Tyler journeys to Zan, a planet where he is introduced to his life mate KayliZan. He must decide if life with her is worth sacriHicing his humanity. “Under the Stars” by Erin Howard: Everly is taken from Earth to the Kingdom of Lux. There she is entered into a competition to save their world from the darkness. “The Eye of the Beholder” by C. Kevin Thompson tells the tale of scientist Ned. He relies on science to guide his decisions and shuns human interaction. Soon he Hinds himself thrust into a battle of good and evil in a world that is far from home.

“The Near Distant” features three strong stories from three talented authors exploring fascinating

depths of what it means to be human. “By Far and Away” touches on predestined love and the lengths one will go to for it. Tyler, the hero, is thrown into a whole new world to be with his future life mate Kayli-Zan. His confusion is relatable, as are many of his decisions. This is a slow burn story that comes to an exciting end. “Under the Stars” starts with action and mystery. Everly is pulled into a strange world and must compete for a home that is not her own. There are some surprising twists and turns that culminate in a satisfying end. “The Eye of the Beholder” is a tale that takes readers on a spiritual and intellectual journey. Through Ned, readers will Hind the answer to the question: why does anyone believe what they do? As a whole, this is an insightful collection with unique ideas. All three stories are well written, though not extraordinary, and the collection is sure to be enjoyed by lovers of science-Hiction.

Pulstar I - The Swan Barely Remembers

Giancarlo Roversi Could Not Finish

This book was given to two separate reviewers and neither could determine a cohesive and understandable storyline enough to give it an honest review.

99

A Draught of Ash and Wine (Midnight Guardians #2)

Kristin Jacques

PARANORMAL: Johnathan Newman is no longer human. Learning how to navigate his new life and abilities as a hellhound is proving to be very difHicult for him, and on top of that, he is accompanied by a Vampire named Vic who he happens to be falling madly in love with. It doesn’t seem like life could get any more complicated –that is until the Society goes on the hunt for the pair. In danger of being caught by the Society, Johnathan and Vic seek sanctuary in a place known as the Estate. Temporarily safe, the duo is given the opportunity to explore their relationship with each other, and Johnathan attempts to explore his new abilities, but they know that they can’t stay hidden forever, and soon the Society will Hind them.

“A Draught of Ash and Wine” is the second book in the series by Ms. Jacques, and it is recommended to read the Hirst book, “A Bargain of Blood and Gold”, before diving into this one. There is a lot of action throughout this book, and very steamy romance scenes. The character development appears to be done well for the second book in a series. The relationship between the two main characters deepens and their personalities develop much more throughout the story. There are several grammatical errors throughout the book that make it a slower read than it probably should have been. However, the plot of the story is well developed and enjoyable. “A Draught of Ash and Wine” is deHinitely for readers who enjoy action-packed monster romance stories!

100
LGBTQ+

Moral Code

Lois and Ross Melbourne

and how much information it should access. There are a few slower moments, but overall it is an engaging book that will keep readers hooked!]

SCI-FI: Dr. Kiera Stetson is doing an experiment with children and AI robots when the area is hit with an earthquake. Trapped in the rubble, she is certain they are all going to die until her personal AI discovers an unknown network —a network that leads to everyone being saved. Curious, Kiera asks just enough questions to get involved with Roy Brandt’s nanite technology. After he proposes a work partnership with her, she’s thrilled with the prospect their work could help humanity. That is, until she realizes she’s been duped and must put an end to a dangerous plot.

From the beginning, “Moral Code” will grip readers! It starts with action as Kiera is trapped in what should be a deadly earthquake. The authors do a wonderful job of capturing the intensity of the situation while also touching on the emotions of the characters. This continues throughout the novel. Despite a unique premise involving technology that is complex, the authors do a fantastic job of making it easy for everyone to understand. “The Moral Code” raises a lot of interesting questions about the ways technology should be used

Ms. Pace’s performance in “Moral Code” is well done. Her reading speed matches the events taking place in the book, helping readers feel the moments strongly. While she doesn’t do a variety of voices for the different characters, she does change her tone as needed to keep them separated. Her female characterizations are much stronger and diverse than those of the male ones. Sometimes this creates a little confusion, but it doesn’t happen often. Overall it is a good production! This is a great story for lovers of technological thrillers and suspense!

Greyne early in the story. The next time they meet, he is tricked into an engagement with Juliana’s sister. Nevertheless, on a routine trip to visit a neighboring keep, Edouard Hinds Lady Juliana unconscious and soaked, and unknowingly takes her back into danger. Edouard becomes a shackled prisoner while Juliana heals from her wounds and amnesia. They get help when they need it most, but it is clear from the start that they are facing many challenging situations. This story proceeds steadily until the end, when the pace increases quite a bit. While this story can stand alone, it is related to the prior story in this series through the evil machinations of two major characters. The tension is taut throughout, and listeners will not want to stop this story once started. The events that unfold are believable, even though the story is set in medieval times. The plot feels original because of all the detail that the author provides, even if the trope is not uncommon.

A Knight’s Persuasion (Knight’s Series, Book 4)

James Gillies does a phenomenal job narrating this tale! When the listener forgets that a man is voicing a female character and just accepts the voice as is, then listeners know that a high-quality narrator is at work. His voice is smooth and pleasant, yet so many emotions are evident in his performance. The perfect narrator for this audiobook!

HISTORICAL: Edouard de Lanceau is the son and heir of Lord Geoffrey de Lanceau, of Sherstowe Keep in Modenshire, England. It is 1213, and Edouard lives with honor, and is not afraid to face difHicult things – even when lying would be easier. This gets him in trouble with Lady Juliana de

101 Audiobooks

Coup de Grâce

Paul L. Centeno

SCI-FI: The world is dying. Machines and industry are taking over and polluting the land. The ways of the old gods and nature are dying off too with this dramatic change. Kaimo, an optometrist who doubles as a miner to get by, has never known another life despite often dreaming for one. A chance encounter with rebels trying to shift the direction of the world sends him on a dangerous quest that will thrust him into the

middle of one of the greatest political games of all time. In his hands lies the fate of the world. Mr. Centeno creates a lush and wild world in “Coup de Grâ ce”! Readers dive right into rich world building as they are introduced to Kaimo. The author makes it easy to visualize this unique setting, and does so in a believable way. The beginning is a tad bit slow as all of the necessary pieces are moved into place, and then the plot starts on quite the adventure. Diving into this tale full of twists and turns, readers will have a hard time telling what will happen next. There are plenty of crazy, unique characters and creatures. Steampunk is a complicated world to set up, and Mr. Centeno accomplishes it with ease! There is a perfect blend of action, humor, and drama! It’s also a blend of several genres: science Hiction, fantasy, and suspense!

Rob Jones gives a strong performance. His connection to Kaimo makes it easy for readers to relate to the character. The pacing is spot on, making the

slower parts move at a better speed, and adding urgency to the high tension moments. His voice work for the other characters is distinct, each having their own personality showcased, making it easy to tell who is speaking. This audiobook is perfect for lovers of epic, character-driven stories!

102
Audiobooks

Articles inside

Science Fiction

7min
pages 99-103

Novella

7min
pages 94-99

Novella

7min
pages 90-93

Suspense/Thriller

8min
pages 85-89

Suspense/Thriller

4min
pages 83-85

New Adult

5min
pages 80-83

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

4min
pages 76-79

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
page 75

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
page 74

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
page 73

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
pages 72-73

Contemporary

5min
pages 68-71

Historical

12min
pages 61-67

Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings:

12min
pages 54-60

Nailed or Failed It?

15min
pages 44-53

Ryan Jo Summers

6min
pages 40-43

You Want WHAT?!?

6min
pages 35-39

Three Easy Secrets To Selling Your Book

5min
pages 31-34

When The Book Is NOT a Picture in Your Head

3min
pages 28-30

DRAMA QUEENS: Adding Suspense To Your Love Life

3min
pages 24-27

Stoker

29min
pages 10-23

Contributors

1min
page 9

Editor’s Note Smiles, TJ

1min
pages 8-9

Our Staff:

1min
pages 7-8
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