Dec/Jan Magazine 2022-23

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Table of Contents 10 Lynette Noni: Fantastic Stories of Danger That Delight! 33 Beta Readers, How to Be a Great One: Kevin G. Chapman 28 Whimsical Identity Theft: Paul Stansfield 23 I Want To Be A Freelance Writer… But How? Courtney Rosenfield 38 Rising Star Spotlight: April Holthaus
Dec/Jan 2022-23 Historical: Contemporary: Paranormal: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy: Suspense/Thriller: Young Adult: Inspirational: Science Fiction: Time Travel: Mystery: Audiobooks LGBTQ: Novella: Other: 70 85 93 104 113 118 119 Reviews: 43 56 63 Alexa Aston: From Historical to Contemporary, Love Always Prevails! 120 122 47 To Edit or Not: At What Cost? Tamara Cribley 120 The Path of The Gods, Chapter 5 Julie L. York 129 130 130 126

Staff:

RONE Awards Coordinator: Sarah McEacheron

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, Shailyn Rogers, Piper Valentine, Austen Grace, Joan Lai, Cara Cieslak, N.E. Kelley, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Annalee Stilove, Ruth Lynn Ritter, Simone Dober, Leah Neale, Ricka Chandra

*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.

Our
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

Editor’s Note

this time of year. With all the hustle and bustle, it is fun to have something to read in quick snaps of time. And, InD’tale also enlightens us, educates us, and gives us all kinds of ideas for book gift giving and cozy evening reading! I have already picked some really interesting looking books from the myriad of professional reviews we have this month!

Having the double issue also allows our staff to take a break and enjoy the season without dreaded deadlines over Christmas and New Years. So, we ALL thank you for your support and interest in the holiday issue and enjoying it throughout the season.

Whether you are racing around to all the parties, or relaxing by the fire, we are happy to introduce you to some of our very favorite people, topics, and books. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

It’s the HOLIDAYS!!!! And, I’m not sure whether that exclamation is from excitement or stress! Probably from stress up until now, and excitement once this magazine is in your hands! As many of you know, this issue is the giant holiday double issue, so it takes twice the work, twice the reading, and twice the effort from the entire InD’tale crew to make sure it is just what you want to enjoy the holidays with. Personally, I love magazines

Smiles, TJ Mackay

Kevin G. Chapman is an attorney specializing in labor and employment law, and an independently published author. His Mike Stoneman Thriller series includes Lethal Voyage, Winner of the Kindle Book Award, and Fatal Infraction, the #1 Police Procedural of the year (Chanticleer Book Review CLUE Award). Kevin just released a new stand-alone romantic thriller called Dead Winner, which Kirkus reviews calls “An entertaining and gripping crime drama” and “a surprising and tantalizing murder mystery.”www.KevinGChapman.com.

Contributors

Paul Stansfield

New Jersey born and raised, Paul Stansfield spent decades as a field archaeologist for his day job. Surprisingly, even though he professionally disturbed hundreds of graves, he has yet to suffer a haunting or zombie attack. He’s had over 20 stories published by magazines, including such publications as Bibliophilos, Morbid Curiosity, The Literary Hatchet, and Horror Bites. He has stories available in 10 anthologies, and the newly released “Death’s Garden Revisited”. He’s an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Julie L. York

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.

S.L. Carpenter

A lifetime Californian, Scott Carpenter lives the ordinary life of a husband and father, with the addition of three dogs and a couple of cats. 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.

Lynette Noni

Immigrant’s Tale of The

Fantastic Stories of Danger & Delight

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Every once in a while I read a book and think, “Wow!.. just… wow” and immediately have to find out more about the author. That is how I discovered Lynette Noni. Her Prison Healer series and other books hit both myself and the world by storm, and once I met her, I realized why so many say so much good about her. First, she is just so much fun to talk to!! Warm, friendly, and completely downto-earth, this Aussie not only has the accent but the kindness that makes everyone around her comfortable. Within minutes of the introduction, we were laughing and chatting like old friends. Yet, within that sweet personality lies an incredible gift of storytelling that is both deep and insightful, leaving readers aching for more every time!

InD: It’s wonderful to be able to talk to you!

Conversations between Australia and the U.S. are always challenging. Where did you grow up?

LN: I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Australia. The nearest “town” had a pub and a railway for silos and wheat, but little else. There were only a handful of people who lived there, and it was about a 10-minute drive from our farm. My school was 20-30 minutes away, and the closest city was Dubbo—which is where I was born— was about a 2.5-hour drive away, so we were pretty isolated.

InD: How did you get your food out there?

LN: The school had a convenience store nearby and we didn’t need to buy milk, eggs, or other readily available farm foods, but every two weeks my parents would drive into the city to shop. I have early memories of loving grocery days because we would all drive into Dubbo together and come out with big trolleys full of food. It was the only time my dad would buy ice cream tins. That was a treat for us because we always ran out of nice stuff by the end of two weeks.

InD: What was that like growing up in the middle of nowhere?

LN: When I look back, I think there was a different vibe around country folk than there is about city folk.

We moved to the coast when I was seven, which is where I still live. Here it’s a casual, chilled way of life, but there's a lot more happening than on the farm. I do really value the time I lived in the country, though, because it was slower and I learned how to just be a kid.

I have an older brother, so we had each other, and while there were other farms nearby, they were still far enough away that it wasn’t like we could just walk next door to see our friends. Unless our families were close, we mostly only saw the other farm kids socially when we all got together at Christmas. We would have big Christmas parties and Santa would arrive on the Rire truck. It was very community spirited and a really beautiful way to grow up. Obviously, life got faster once we left the farm, but I’m really grateful for that time I had. It grounded me at an early age.

InD: What made your family leave the farm and move away?

LN: My mum was a teacher and my dad was a farmer. He got chronic fatigue syndrome that was really quite debilitating, and he hurt his back. There was also a lot of drought and physical factors and environmental factors, along with a number of other things, that made them decide it just wasn’t working, even though

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my dad had been a farmer his entire life. So it was not a snap decision by any means. Once a year, we would go to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for a holiday, and my parents loved going there. It had an old, relaxed kind of feeling. That’s where they decided to move us.

InD: I have never heard that term, "Sunshine Coast".

LN: Have you heard of the "Gold Coast"? That’s where they make a lot of the movies here in Australia; it’s about 2 hours south of me. Brisbane city is in between both the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, which means the Sunny Coast is an hour north of the city, and has a population of around 300,000.

InD: That is really interesting! Not being from Australia, there are obviously areas I am not familiar with. We tend to know the outback and Sydney, but all the other areas, maybe not so much. What is the weather like there?

LN: It’s gorgeous. The springtime here is glorious temperature-wise. We do have cool winters and we freeze our backsides off if it gets into single digits Celsius (around 40°F) but we’re sort of in the tropics, so we’re used to warm, hot summer days, easily above 30°C (over 100°). It’s a nice place to live. We don't get snow where I live and it’s rare to get snow anywhere near me, which is the only thing that makes me sad, since I love snow!

InD: I read somewhere you said you were big reader and I would imagine so living on a farm, but where did you get the books?

LN: My mum encouraged me to read because she was a teacher. She always brought books home and I would also get books from the school library. I didn't really have a favorite genre. I would also make up stories with my brother because we spent so much time together. We would get our teddy bears and go off on adventures together and tell these huge stories and entertain each other.

InD: Did your mom teach in the school that was half an hour away, or was she a teacher by trade who lived on a farm?

LN: She did some teaching in that school but it was rare, mostly relief work. She had more permanent work in a different school that was in another town.

InD: Did you take a bus school or did your dad drive you?

LN: We took a small white bus that would make the circuit. It would take forever to get to school! We only lived 20-ish minutes from school, but when the bus picked us up, we would go further away to get the other farm kids. It wasn’t like you were going around the block to pick up students, but going around the country.

InD: Was it traumatic for you, at all, when you moved away?

LN: I was an easy-going, happygo-lucky child, but I remember being worried about leaving the

farm and moving to another state. I actually had to skip an entire schooling grade if I wanted to stay with my age group, so I jumped straight over grade 2. That meant I started in grade 3 when we moved to Queensland, but it ended up being Rine since I didn’t really miss much, and if there were any problems, I had a teacher-mum who could help me.

I transitioned well enough because I make friends pretty easily. But I also remember being sad about leaving my friends on the farm, which is the only huge emotion I can think of now. I had two really close friends out there and it was hard saying goodbye to them and others because we were such a tight-knit community. But my dad still had family there, so we used to go back and visit. I would see my friends then and catch up, but that was only until about the age of 10, after which my dad’s family left and we stopped going back. I was settled on the coast by then, though.

InD: Did you live on the Sunshine Coast up until the time you went to college?

LN: Yes, I did.

InD: What was high school like for you?

LN: It was interesting. Up until grade 7, everyone went to the same primary school, then

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everyone split up and went to different high schools. My closest friends all went to different schools, so that was difRicult. I remember struggling for a while to Rind my place. My high school seemed massive—it had about 1,500 students across Rive grades. There was a time when I didn't have any friends because I could see they were going down a different, more troubled path than the one I wanted to go down, so, there were a few months where I was alone, but eventually I found a good group of friends. I believe I was a good student, again I think because I had a mum for teacher. I was also obsessed with horses and I had my own horse from fourteen onwards, so I would be off training and competing, which meant my world was away from school. (Though I was careful to keep my grades up so I could keep working with horses!)

InD: Were there other things you liked, or was that it?

LN: Horses were all-consuming for me, at that age. I would get up at the crack of dawn and train for an hour and then go to school, then train again after school. At night, I would be passing out after doing homework. As soon as I was old enough to be legally allowed to get a job, I did that to help pay for

my horse bills. I also had an active social life, Rirst with all my pony club friends, and then with my high school friends. Thinking back now, I was so busy that don't know how I kept my sanity, but it taught me so much about selfdiscipline that I brought into my adulthood.

InD: What job did you have?

LN: When I was a kid, you had to be 14 and 9 months before you could get a job, so as soon as I hit that age, I was looking for any job to help pay for my horse. I ended up working at a fast-food franchise called Uncle Tony’s Kebabs, making toasted sandwiches and such. I was there a couple of years, and on the side I supplemented that with giving horse riding lessons.

InD: Did you keep reading through all of this?

LN: I did read, as long as it had a horse on the cover! As a funny side note, when I lived on the farm, I was terriRied of horses, or any big animal. I saw my grandmother being charged by a bull once, and that left me scared of anything with four legs that was bigger than I was. Then, when I was around 12, one of my good friends took horse riding lessons and convinced me to go along. I just fell in love with it, so from 12 to 14 I took lessons. Then at 14, my parents Rinally caved and bought me a horse. During that whole time I read anything and everything about horses, Riction and non-Riction, including heavy veterinarian

science textbooks that were way above my age level. But otherwise, any non-horsey reading was mostly schoolbooks.

Having to read English assignment type stuff took the enjoyment out of reading for me because I hated the English classes! But when I was in my early teens, a friend bribed me into reading "Harry Potter" by offering to give me a music CD that I really wanted, and I ended up loving it. That series led me to the Chronicles of Narnia, and from there, I fell in love with fantasy in general.

InD: After you graduated high school and went to college, what did you want to be?

LN: I had no idea. None. I was one of those people who had no idea when it came time to choose, so I took a bunch of different classes. I took philosophy, journalism, academic writing, psychology, sociology, I even took Spanish and French, at the same time... that lasted about three weeks. I would have loved to have learned either of them, but not at the same time! I just kept trying to Rigure out where my place was. I really enjoyed journalism and writing, but I didn’t like the politics inherent in it. Then I leaned towards psychology and philosophy and the human experience, and through that I kind of decided on a Rield dealing with people, and I thought about counseling, and shifted my degree to Human Behavior. I stayed on that path until I graduated uni, and while I don’t work in that area

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now, I do use what I learned to help shape the characters in my books.

InD: You said you hated English in high school, but when you were in college you liked journalism because you like the writing… so did you start to like English?

LN: Being completely honest? If I had to go into an English class now, I would probably despise it.

InD: Why?

LN: I think it is because I had English teachers who hated life and their subjects and had no passion at all for it. It was like, “Here’s the course material, read it and do an assignment on it.” To this day, I cannot read the classics. I can’t stand Shakespeare. As a writer, I feel like I missed a vital part of life by despising these things. But it’s like a trauma response in me.

“To Kill a Mockingbird”, for example: if someone was to hold it out to me, I would actually recoil—and I hate that because it is such an amazingly incredible book. But I think because there was so much pressure from an assignment level, it took all the joy out of reading it. I don't like to be forced to read something I don't want to read.

But I've always enjoyed the writing. My mum still has some of my writings from school and I was very creative. I love telling stories and putting words on paper, I just never made the connection with putting the stories on paper that I came up with in my head. InD: After you graduated from university, what did you do?

LN: That is kind of where my writing story begins. I took a year off because I was planning to travel, and I sort of did. I planned on backpacking around Europe and going on an adventure, So, I went and landed in

London… and everything just went wrong from the minute I stepped off the plane. I was in the hospital on the Rirst day in London.

InD: Why were you in the hospital?

LN: I had a deep tissue massage before I hopped on the plane, and after that 25-hour Rlight, I had huge bruises appear on my legs, but I had not made the connection that it was from the massage and everyone was like, “You have blood clots and you need to go to the hospital right away.” So I went to the hospital and after 10 hours or so of testing and waiting, I was released once we Rigured out what it all was. Then, as I was traveling some more, I got a virus and was really sick. I was also on a tight budget, so I was staying in dorm rooms with 6-12 strangers and wasn't getting much sleep, so I had trouble getting better. I Rinally decided I should go back to Australia to heal for a bit before returning again, but then the Icelandic volcano erupted and the ash cloud halted all air trafRic for over a week, which backed up all the cancelled Rlights, so I couldn't leave since the planes were grounded and then delayed thereafter. It took almost four weeks before I was able to get a ticket back home, and then it took me another three months to recover from whatever that virus was.

It was during that time when I started to write. This was in the post "Twilight" era, and I found the publishing landscape had latched on to the idea of Young Adult Riction. I was reading and absorbing all of these books and because I was reading so many of them, I was Rinding myself frustrated because they all had elements I wanted, but those elements were split across different books. I was thinking, “Why can’t all these elements be in one book?”

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And then a light bulb went off and I thought, “Why not write the book I want to read?” So I sat down and made of list of all the things I wanted in a book. InD: What were some of the things that you wanted in one book?

LN: One of the main things was I wanted friends who were closer than family—the “found family” trope as it’s now known. And something that frustrated me at the time was how I kept reading books with insta-love and love triangles, so I wanted none of that. Instead, I wanted a proper romance that was slow and genuine. You know, become friends Rirst and then get closer. Another thing that frustrated me was that I grew up around a lot of boys who were my close friends and I felt it was okay to have just male friends without it ever going anywhere, but I found that every time I read a Young Adult book where the female main character and the male main character were friends, they would end up having some kind of romantic relationship, or they would break up because one of them fell in love with someone else, or they had so many angsty moments with annoying subplots full of unnecessary drama. I remember

thinking, “Why can't we have healthy male-female friendships without anything romantic ever happening between them?” So I really wanted something like that.

I also wanted dragons and magic and immortal-type beings. And I wanted a villain who wasn’t so clearly a villain, someone who was charming or handsome, someone you would like.

InD: A villain you could understand why people would follow him.

LN: Exactly. So I wrote all of those things down, then I just started writing a story just for me. That become my Rirst book "Akarnae". The title came to me from a girl I worked with of the same name, different spelling, since the word just sounded so magical.

I had no idea what I was doing when I Rirst started writing. I even lost 60,000 words of an 80,000word manuscript when my computer crashed, and I remember thinking I was clearly not meant to write a book. But the story stayed in my head, and because I had already begun writing it, I couldn’t help wondering what was going to happen next. I was deRinitely not plotting at that stage because I had no idea what I was doing, but it bugged me so much that I had to Rind out how it would end, so, I sat back down and started writing it again. I didn’t let anyone know about it because it was just for me. It wasn’t meant to be a series and the Rirst book does have a satisfying ending, but I wanted to know what might happen next, so I kept writing. By the end of the second book, I had a problem because it ended with a clifRhanger and it was really quite a nasty one. I remember I Rinished it the night I had friends coming over for dinner, and just before they arrived, I typed “The end”— and then burst into tears because I had so many emotions and no

one to talk to about what had happened to the characters. That was when I decided I needed to try and get published, if only so other people might get to “meet” these Rictional people who had left such a mark on me.

I was absolutely terriRied of my decision because I knew nothing about publishing. That was when the dream began building inside of me. One thing I have always been good at is research, so I researched how to get published. And that’s how it all began!

InD: So basically, you published only because you wanted to be able to talk about your characters with other people?!

LN: Yes. I know it sounds nuts. InD: I think that is wonderful. What an awesome way of starting to write books.

LN: Even to this day, I still look at my books as if I’m not the author, but as if I’m a fan. I just love the characters so much, they become real and separate to me, as if I didn’t create them. That’s also why I love to get out and meet readers now, because I can talk to them about these books and characters.

InD: What happened when you decided to publish?

LN: Once I decided to publish, it took about three years and hundreds of rejections before

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anything happened. One of the decisions I had to make was whether I wanted to self-publish or go down the traditional path. I didn’t have any faith in my own writing ability, given I’d never set out to get published and had only been writing for myself. I realized I needed someone to help me who knew the industry and believed my books were good enough to be on bookshelves. So I started looking for a traditional publisher.

I have so much respect for authors who decide to selfpublish because that path is not easy. I have selfpublishing and hybrid friends, and I love getting together with them and learning their publishing stories and discussing the pros and cons of everything. But back then, I knew the best decision for me was to try for the traditional path.

In Australia, it was a weird, difRicult time back then because agents were only accepting authors who were published, and publishers were only accepting submissions from authors who had agents, so it felt like an impossible spiral of how to break in if you weren't already published. But I was dedicated, so no matter how many rejections I got, I knew it would only take one for it to all be worth it. And I did get some helpful feedback with some of the rejections. Largely, I was being told, “This book is really wonderful, but Young Adult Fantasy is not a thing right now”—which was true at the time, because they wanted Paranormal, Contemporary, and even some Sci-Fi, but Fantasy was a no. I realized the timing just wasn't right.

One day, I was walking through the book section of a department store and a shiny book cover caught my attention. (I’m a book cover snob. If I see a shiny cover, I don't care what it is, I get it.) It was a book by a brand-new Australian publisher and they were accepting unsolicited manuscripts, so you didn't have to have an agent to submit to them.

I remember thinking, “This will be my last-ditch effort. I’ll submit this, then put the book in a drawer until Young Adult Fantasy comes back.”

A month later, I got an email saying they would be in touch. I didn't get excited because I had heard that from publishers and agents before, so I thought that was it. But, seven months later (!) I got another email from them saying they would like to publish my book.

I remember thinking it must be a scam, that someone had hacked into my email for a joke.

About a month later, though, I was on a plane to meet them and sign a contract! So, that is how it all came together.

InD: Was that your Nirst book, ”Akarnae”?

LN: Yes. That was in 2014, and I had the Rirst two books written. Then, in 2015, I had some down time and wrote the Rirst book in my Whisper series. With that, I was able to get an agent.

InD: Did “Akarnae” and The Medoran Chronicles series do well?

LN: Now, it’s a #1 bestselling series, but back when it Rirst came out? No, not at all. And I have say that with the biggest smile, which is ridiculous, because the journey has not been and overnight success! The Rirst year I only sold about 500 copies, total, so it was a very slow start, but I had amazing publishers who really believed in me. They sent me all over Australia to a lot of events, and since I’m a friendly, chatty person, I made a lot of industry friends and met a lot of new readers who I got to talk to about the characters. The second book came out in 2016, and the third book in 2017, and for those three years the sales remained very, very low. Any other publisher would have given up on me, without question.

InD: So, I'm thinking it was slowly building?

LN: Oh yeah, it was slowly building, but then there was a gradual shift—more people were learning about the series by word of mouth from friends and family members, booksellers were hand-selling the books, and schools were suddenly buying copies in bulk as part of the curriculum. That started to change my thinking on English classes! [Both laughing] I Rigured they must be getting better and starting to have fun in class now.

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InD: Then you wrote “Whisper”, which is a totally different genre and series. I don’t even know how to categorize that book! It is exceptionally good but it is kind of a Fantasy, Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Thriller….?

LN: I can't help you there! I don't know either, because it is kind of a Fantasy, Dystopian but the deRinition of Dystopian is kind of the future. It is Science Fiction, but I feel weird calling it that, as well, because when I think of that, I think of aliens and outer space.

InD: I do too! Those two books have a bit of everything, but I couldn’t put them down. They really are stories that, once you start reading, you just cannot put them down, you have to see what is going to happen. But they just don’t pigeonhole, at all.

LN: Honestly, I will change the genre depending on who I’m talking to. It is like a Mystery Thriller with medical science… Often I will say it’s Magical Realism and then they don't ask questions because they don't know what that means.

InD: It’s a fabulous duo everybody should read. But then, you hit on the book of all books,“The Prison Healer”. That one went crazy everywhere! The backstory is incredible and the idea behind it is just fabulous. There is a huge difference in “The Prison Healer” and the Medoran Chronicles series, though. With the Medoran Chronicles, you can easily tell it is a YA book written for YA readers. But "Prison Healer"is more adult just with a younger protagonist. But this story is so much more involved. Was it intentional to make the two series so different?

LN: That is a great question. I think when I write characters, I try to get into their minds, and the difference with these two series is in the way the characters grew up. Kiva (“The Prison Healer”) has been locked in a death prison for 10 years and she had to mature really fast. She learned to survive by blocking herself off from the world, suppressing her emotions, and not trusting anyone. She has all of this boiling up inside her, and so much stuff you Rind out over the course of the series. So there was already going to be a lot more maturity to her. Still, by the second book, she has to make some annoying mistakes because she’s still young. That one was challenging for me to write because she makes some frustrating decisions that were needed as a realistic part of her character development, but all that then leads to the third book starting in a dark place, mentally and physically.

Conversely, in the Medoran Chronicles, Alex is a normal, contemporary 16-year-old girl who has been transported from her everyday world into a fantasy world. It was easy to capture her voice because she's experiencing and embracing that wonder, just like we

would. Then we follow her as her journey unfolds, which was not nearly as difRicult to write—at least in the early books before things get much more complicated for her.

InD: It is interesting. In choosing a young girl who grew up inside of a prison, you knew both her and the story would have to be darker and something completely different than previous books. You have stepped up and have been able to do that incredibly well.

LN: Thank you.

InD: As you mention, in “The Prison Healer”, Kiva is a girl who has had to mature and grow up so early in so many ways because she has seen so much horror. She is kind of stunted emotionally and has never experienced love, loyalty and those types of things before. Was that series hard for you to write?

LN: It was. But for all of those reasons, it did come out really fast. Each of the books in that series came out within months of each other, so I was writing the books in a fast, concentrated period of time. That was really, really difRicult because I had a lot of personal issues at that time, as well. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and then my grandmother died, so it made it hard to even write those books. I was in an especially dark, difRicult place when I wrote “The Blood Traitor” (the third book in the Prison Healer trilogy) and you can tell that in the beginning pages and even in the dedication. I remember thinking, “I can’t stay in this place with Kiva because I will end up destroying myself.” It took so much from me to write it that you’d think I would hate it, but it’s actually so precious to me because of everything I had to overcome in order to create it. It will probably be one of the dearest books I have ever written.

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InD: I can understand that and it should be one of your favorites because it really does have that emotional depth and quality that few books are able to obtain. You deserve every kudos for that. Did everyone go nuts for that series when it Nirst came out?

LN: They did compared to the early days of my other books. One beneRit of all three books in “The Prison Healer” trilogy coming out so close together was that people could read them without having to wait long for the next release, especially since the Rirst two books end on horriRic clifRhangers.

InD: From what I’ve heard, it’s harder to translate everything from the Australian markets to the States. Why is that?

LN: There’s no magical answer to this, but I know a lot of Australian authors who are resigned to not being offered a U.S. rights deal since it can be quite difRicult to cross the pond, so to speak - at least with traditional publishing - in getting international authors to signing events and festivals. Publishers are hesitant to make that happen unless they have a pretty sure thing, because there are a lot of costs involved in travel etc. for book tours, and those costs skyrocket when you’re factoring in international airfares and accommodation. It’s a shame, since tours really do help get books circulating, and us Aussies might as well be on the moon for how far away we feel from it all, sometimes! For me personally, much of my success has come from the early days, when I was able to get out and meet people and make connections with booksellers. But the other side of it is that traditional publishers have their own strategies and will pick and choose the books they think will sell well, and they’ll put their powerful might behind those books, making them lead titles while leaving others to sort of fade into midlist territory. It all depends so much on the market—and the People Who Make Decisions About These Things.

In that respect, independent authors have a great advantage.

InD: That would be a plus for indie publishing, because I do know some very successful Australian authors who are doing very well in the American market. Are there any genres you would really like to write in, but haven't?

LN: My heart really does call for Fantasy, but at the moment I am juggling two different books, one is a YA Contemporary, which is something I haven't really written before. I’ve also been reading a lot of Romance books because I like the comfort of knowing there will be a happily ever after, but I don't know how I would go about writing a Romance.

InD: Does your family read your books?

LN: Yes, they do. My mum reads them all, and because of her teaching background she has a really good eye for Rinding mistakes, even after they have been edited and proofread by entire teams of people! She is the last line of defense for my books and she loves them. She wouldn’t go into a bookstore to speciRically purchase YA or a Fantasy book, but I think my books have all the genres in them that she enjoys.

I was at her house when she Rinished reading “The Prison Healer” and she said, “This is phenomenal.” You have to take your own mother's praise with a grain of salt, but it was really nice that she loved it. Still, she enjoys some of my books more than others.

InD: That is only natural because we all have books we like more than others.

LN: Exactly, and it never offends me. I Rind it interesting that she most enjoyed “The Gilded Cage” out of all the Prison Healer books. But then again, it’s dedicated to her, so maybe that inRluenced her, ha.

InD: What about your brother or your dad?

LN: My brother has a creative writing degree and he was writing a book back when I started, so he has always been an avid reader and Fantasy has been his thing. He has read most of my books. He has two very young children, so I don't think he has had a chance to read the last couple of books yet.

My dad doesn’t actually read books in general, but he’s read all of my books and I think that's really sweet. I’m always so aware of what I put in my books, knowing that my family reads them. It is kind of like having your grandmother sitting on your shoulder as you're writing.

InD: I have always wondered about that, when an author says their family reads their books and they write really steamy stuff! [both laughing]

LN: What is also weird is, I caught up with a few friends recently and they told me they can hear my voice as they’re reading. I think that’s weird.

InD: That would be odd! But, I can understand, because that happens sometimes when I read

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friends' books, as well. Okay, so what is on your bucket list?

LN: I would like to travel more. I’d like to Rinish the European trip I never Rinished. I’ve always wanted to do an Alaskan cruise, and I kind of want to go to Antarctica... but I'm not exactly sure why. So, traveling is probably the top my bucket list, wherever it is.

InD: Favorites: What is your favorite food, that is not a desert?

LN: Anything Italian! I will say pizza, but if you want a speciRic pizza, it would be Hawaiian.

InD: What is your favorite dessert?

LN: Anything with chocolate, literally anything with chocolate.

InD: What is your favorite color?

LN: If I really had to choose, it would be blue.

InD: Why?

LN: It’s difRicult to say because it depends on my mood and also what I'm seeing around me. Red is an angry or passionate color. Yellow will never be my favorite, but it’s nice and warm and reminds me of sunshine.

Green is relaxing and tranquil. Pink always makes me happy, especially a bright pink, but it can also be a little bit obnoxious. Aren't you glad that you asked this question? [both laughing]

But blue reminds me of water and I live near water and it’s relaxing and calming, and the different shades of blue mean different things. You have a sky-blue and the deep water blue and blue looks nice to wear on everyone. It feels like a color that suits me with all its different variations.

InD: That is actually a really good answer and it makes sense. What is your favorite time of day?

LN: I do like nighttime, especially for work purposes. I get my best work done when the rest of the world is asleep (at least on my side of the world). But now, I’m globally published, so that changed. I have to be an allday person now, but I will always prefer the evening hours.

InD: Where is your favorite place to be?

LN: I will say the beach, but I’m also a homebody. I love being at home. I like my things and my space and to be on a retreat from the rest of the world. I’m an introvert by nature but an extrovert when I’m around people. I have a lot energy and give energy, but I also like to retreat and sort of recharge in my safe place. That is either at home or at the beach. I live about three minutes from the beach and I like to walk on it to clear my head.

InD: I always tell people that I am a high functioning introvert. I love to visit and I love people but need alone time everyday, as well.

LN: I love that! That is very much me.

InD: If you could do anything other than write, what would your favorite thing to do be?

LN: Obviously, it would be reading, but that’s a given. If it’s day time, I love walking on the beach. It’s just so healing in every physical and mental way. If it’s night, I love looking at the stars, because it feels like it reshapes my perspective and reminds me how incredibly small I am in the vastness of life, and that whatever troubles me is really nothing in the grand scheme of everything.

InD: Okay, last question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Personally or professionally, or both.

LN: Personally, it would probably be from a doctor I had. I can be pretty hard on myself; I think a lot of people probably are, and we can beat ourselves up over why we can’t handle something. But a doctor once asked me, “How would you talk to a child about this? Would you scold them? Would you berate them or be angry with them for not being able to handle it? No, you would show patience and recognize you need to be gentle and have compassion towards them. Do that for yourself. Treat yourself as you would a child.” It was a beautiful moment. I had to ask myself, “Why do I treat myself so horribly? Why would I not be gentler with myself, like I would be gentle to a child or to a friend? I would be there for them and comfort them, so I need to do that for myself, too."

I think self-criticism and insecurity is something we all deal with at times, so my doctor’s advice is something we could all beneRit from listening to. But it’s not easy. I still struggle with it, but I try to remember to talk to myself as I would a child, whenever life takes twists and turns that I Rind challenging.

InD: I have never heard that, but I think that is wonderful. Thank you so much!

21

Whimsical Identity Theft

Now that this “life spoiler” notiRication, so to speak, is out of the way, let’s talk about Santa Claus, and the belief in him.

Growing up, I don’t think I was either unusually fantasy-prone, nor extremely skeptical about supernatural or imaginary things, but when it came to holiday Rigures, I was a one-character person. I can’t recall ever believing the Easter Bunny was a real and literal entity—a giant, super-intelligent rabbit always seemed far-fetched, even when I was a preschooler. Also out was the Tooth Fairy—I didn’t think that fairies existed in general, so why one obsessed with collecting body parts? (I do remember my father possibly affecting or conRirming this by promptly paying me after a baby tooth fell out, so there’s that.)

But Santa, who appeared human, seemed reasonable, so I did believe in him. My parents dealt with some of the details surrounding this belief in some intelligent ways. All the many, many guys we saw dressed up as Santa on commercials, on television programs, or collecting charitable contributions on street corners were explained as being Santa’s helpers, and not the actual man himself. My home didn’t have a chimney, but that was okay, according to my folks. St. Nick had a skeleton key that could open any door in the world, so everything was Rine.

Because many people in my family had signiRicant allergies, we used an artiRicial Christmas tree, but no matter, we were told, Santa knew our reasons and accepted the faux Rir. Finally, and arguably most importantly, Mom and Dad said that while

23
WARNING—to any young children reading this, stop immediately! Major adult stuff coming up.

In 2019, House Method surveyed 4,500 families across the U.S., and they found the average reported age of learning the truth about Santa was 8.4 years old.

Santa obviously gave us gifts, he didn’t give all of them. Parents, siblings, grandparents, etc., all did too, so it was important to tell them what we wanted to receive as well.

So, everything went well. Christmases came and went, with me none the wiser, happy in my ignorance, but then things started to change. As I aged, I began to get an inkling of just how big the Earth is, and how many billions of people live on it. How could one guy possibly visit every single house in the country, never mind the whole world, in a single night? And, why were there no other reindeer that could Rly, or other, non-gift manufacturing elves? As well as countless other logical problems with the overall story.

However, the key bit of evidence was right in front of me. I had inscribed books from previous Christmases on hand, some from my parents, and some others from Santa. It was clear to even an eight-year-old that the handwriting was identical for both. I confronted my mother with this evidence, and she admitted to the whole well-meaning, celebratory ruse.

As it turns out, my story is fairly typical. In 2019, House Method surveyed 4,500 families across the U.S., and they found the average reported age of learning the truth about Santa was 8.4 years old. There were some discrepancies state to state, such as, Oregon kids averaged 7 years old, while those in Mississippi averaged 10.

A professor at the U.K. University of Exeter, Chris Boyle, asked the same question, but broadened the scope to a worldwide audience. The 1,200 responses he received also had an average age of 8. He also learned some other relevant statistics:

33% of respondents reported being upset upon learning the truth

15% felt betrayed by their parents

33% said they behaved better out of fear of Santa’s wrath, while 47% Rigured he wouldn’t Rind out, and continued being naughty

34% of adults wished they still believed 65% claimed that they played along and pretended to believe for a while as kids, even after they discovered the truth.

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(I wonder how many of this latter 65% pretended just as a cynical ploy to get more, or better presents!)

I looked up about how some other people learned the truth. Obviously, many, or most, heard from an older sibling, or friend, or from thoughtless adults spilling the beans, but other ways were kind of funny, or alternately, disturbing. One person reported catching their parents in the act of consuming the food and drinks left out for Santa. (Which could have been them stealing from Santa, and not evidence that they were Santa, but I guess the parents thought the truth was better than being considered to be grubby thieves.)

Furthermore, the traditional snacks left out for Santa are cookies and milk, but I heard about other households that set out tastier, more adult fare, up to, and including, beer. Which, for modern kids, with more emphasis on the dangers of drunk driving, should set off alarm bells, since surely inebriated Rlying would be much worse!

Another person found out when their tipsy father dropped some presents while arranging them under the tree, and the noise was enough to wake them up. One kid was ruthlessly clever—they made out a list of gifts only for Santa, and made sure that they didn’t reveal any of these to anyone else. This list was then mailed off to Santa, in Lapland. (In some areas, that’s Santa’s alleged home, and not the North Pole.) When

the gifts never arrived on Christmas, they knew what was up.

Then there’s the one Rive-year-old who was terriRied when they woke up and saw a strange man in their room. (Evidently the family tradition was to leave at least one gift in the kid’s bedrooms.) So, once again, the father apparently made a judgement call that, learning Santa was him at a young age was better than thinking a burglar or murderer had broken in! Of course, the winner for most disturbing way to learn is the Rictional character Kate’s story in the 1984 Yuletide classic movie, “Gremlins”. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a doozy!

I wonder if younger generations might use my method and take it up a notch. Perhaps, inspired by forensics movie and television programs like “CSI”, are there any kids who dust for Ringerprints, then compare them to Mom and Dad’s, or try to get DNA samples and send them to a lab? Part of me wants to think so!

Whatever you believe, and no matter how you acquired or lost said beliefs, have a safe and fun winter holiday season.

25

Beta Readers

How to Be A Great One

Let’s start by deRining the term: A Beta reader is a volunteer who reads a draft of a book or story. Maybe not the very Rirst drafts, but at a point in the writing process where there is still room for change. A Beta reader can be a friend or relative of the author, but people who know authors personally are seldom the best Beta readers.

The best start out as avid readers of a speciRic author's genre, who have no personal stake in the book and who can give brutally honest feedback. Other authors can be great Beta readers, but anyone who is a reader can provide wonderful feedback. However, to be clear, Beta readers are not proofreaders or copy editors. A Beta reader is not there to Rind typos or correct grammar, word usage, or otherwise serve as a copy editor.

They are reading an early or mid-way version of a story for the purpose of telling what’s wrong with it and making suggestions for how to improve it. The

readers look at a manuscript several months before it's sent to an editor [or, if you don’t have a professional editor (you should)], then several months before the "Rinal" manuscript is sent to someone to proofread and copy-edit the text.

The point of Beta readers is to give ideas about what is needed to make it better.

How do you become a Beta reader? Ask. Seriously.

Send an email to an author whose writing you enjoy and say, “I’m a fan of your books and I’d love to volunteer to be a Beta reader for a future novel.” After your author recovers from the shock of getting a volunteer without any effort, s/he may shower you with gratitude and put you on their Beta reader list. It may be a while before the next novel is ready, so feel free to volunteer for more than one author. You can always decline the invitation later, if you’re too busy.

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If you want to or have offered to be a Beta reader, how do you Dind out what the author wants?

How to be a great Beta reader

What authors want from Beta readers is honest, unvarnished, brutal, and detailed criticism. In particular, we want big-picture feedback about the overall story, the characters, the plot holes, the tone, the pacing, and whether you are satisRied by the ending.

A Beta reader who says “I loved it!” is useless, except to stroke the author’s ego. (That's not nothing, perhaps, but not really what we need from a Beta reader.) No story is ever perfect after the Rirst draft, or the second draft, or... let’s face it, it’s never perfect, but the object is to make it better as you go through revisions. The point of Beta readers is to root out where the story needs change, additions, subtractions, and rethinking.

As a Beta reader, you can tell the author the things they can’t easily see because they are too close to it.

Here are a few things for Beta readers to keep in mind:

DON’T volunteer if you can’t do the job and meet the deadline. An author should tell you when they want your comments back. Four-to-six weeks is a good time frame, but sometimes an author might need a quicker turn around. If you know you can’t make that deadline, then don’t volunteer. Politely explain and say you still want to be on the Beta reader list for future books.

If you do accept the assignment but Rind that you can’t complete it, tell your author right away. Don’t ghost your author and leave them hanging when the deadline comes and they are not sure whether your feedback is still coming. If you can’t do it, just say so.

If you only Rinish half the book and have to stop, go ahead and send in the feedback you have and tell your author it’s based on reading through page X. The feedback will still be valuable, so don’t squander your effort.

DON’T correct the copy. You are not a copy editor, you are a Beta reader. They are not the same. Do not point out missing commas or quote marks. Don’t Rix tense problems or spelling or formatting. Don’t suggest alternate words or point out where the same word was used multiple times in the same paragraph. That’s

not what a Beta reader does, and your author does not want you to spend valuable time and energy on things that will be Rixed by editors and proofreaders three drafts from now.

Focus on the big picture issues. See the forest, not the twigs. (Note: Question your author about what they really want from you, so you don’t waste your time. If you want to volunteer to be a proofreader after the text is “Rinal”, by all means, volunteer for that assignment, but understand what you’re doing with this draft.)

That being said, if there is something huge, like missing words or phrases, seemingly incomplete thoughts or sentences, point it out, but don't correct it because you don't know what they meant to have there. It could be an accidental deletion, or an area the author forgot to go back to and Rix.

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DON’T be afraid that you will offend your author. Don’t pull your punches. Don’t try to be nice. In the immortal words of Rictional Broadway theatrical director Roger Debris, “Be brutal, be brutal! Because lord knows they (the critics) will be.” When you are being nice, you are being useless. Your author needs your honest opinions, not your pity.

If your author can’t take honest criticism, they would not be asking for it. If you think the whole story needs to be re-structured, or the ending is awful and needs to be totally changed, say so.

DO ask questions as part of your feedback. “Was I supposed to remember where the secret box was from chapter three?” “What happened to the doctor from chapter seven?” “When did Harry get that gun?”

If a question pops into your mind while reading, there are two possibilities: either the author was hoping you would have that question because it was done on purpose (in which case, you have conRirmed the author’s success), or (more likely) you are helpfully Rlagging a problem area. Other readers are likely to have the same question.

By asking questions, the author now can make sure the story provides an answer, or rewrite the earlier text to Rill in the information so future readers won’t have the question. A simple question written in the margin (or in the notes of the document) can be as valuable as a page of commentary.

DO make observations about characters. One of the hardest things for an author to see in their own story is how the writing Rleshes out a character, or fails to. The author knows the character, knows what makes them tick, knows their fears and desires, and knows

where they came from and where they are going. One characteristic of great writing is when the author successfully conveys all that knowledge about the character to the reader, while still telling an interesting story.

It is easy for an author to either leave something out or put in contradictory information, which leaves a reader confused about the character’s motivations or intentions (or even what color their eyes are). If you have questions about the characters and their relationships, point them out.

“Why didn’t Susan tell her sister where the magic sword was?” “I thought John was in love with Tracy, but then when she died, he didn’t seem to have any emotional reaction.” “Chris tore his right bicep muscle in that football game and hasn’t had a chance to have surgery yet, so how could he hang from that tree with one arm while Riring a riRle, unless he was Riring with his left hand?”

These kinds of observations are pure gold.

DO point out plot holes. Like character Rlaws, it’s hard sometimes for an author to see where there is a gap in the story’s logic, because the author knows where it’s going. The author knows the killer chose the poison because the hero always dipped his French fries in honey mustard, but how did the killer know that?

The cops show up at the location where the kidnapper is holding his hostage just as the sun is setting, but the tip came from the informant who had just Rinished breakfast... what took the cops so long to get there?

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If there’s some leap of logic (or faith) that gets you from point A to point B and you’re not sure how that happened in the story, put a big Rlag on it. And if you spot something that’s impossible (as opposed to merely improbable), make sure your author knows about it. Even if it’s just something you’re confused about, speak up. You’re not the only reader who will be confused.

If you have some expertise about a subject and the author gets it wrong in the story, let them know how to Rix it. I’m a lawyer, so when an author writes a courtroom scene where the key witness Rinishes their testimony and then the judge dismisses them with the court’s thanks–before any crossexamination–I scream.

Point out the Rlaw and save your author the embarrassment.

DO give feedback about pacing. Tell us when there are long stretches of the story where you are bored, or waiting for something to happen. Let us know where the story is going too slowly, and where you need a break from all the action. Tell us if there is some text, or a whole chapter, that doesn’t add much to the story and could be cut entirely.

Readers hate it when a story

starts to drag. And though authors hate to cut scenes they spent time lovingly writing, if you don’t say something, you’ll miss a chance to improve the book.

DO write down your thoughts and notes immediately. Don’t wait for The End to start writing. Put comments into the text. Write your notes in ALL CAPS at the end of the paragraph, on a separate sheet of paper or in an email or on your tablet, anywhere that’s good for you. We want all your thoughts. Don’t worry about organizing them carefully (although that would be nice) or writing them in brilliant prose. Spill your guts! Tell us everything.

DO give an overall impression at the end. In addition to all the above, when you have Rinished the story and had some time to think

about it, give us your honest overall impressions. What did you love? What bothered you? Were you happy with the ending? Was there something missing that you wanted to see? Would you give the overall book 4+ stars? If not, why not?

And, Rinally...

DO tell us how to improve the story. Authors don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. If you see something that you think would greatly improve the story, TELL US!! We might not accept your suggestion, but it is useful information no matter what.

You think Tony should have hidden rather than confronting the killer in chapter 10. You think it would have been better if there were more (or fewer) casualties in the big Right scene. You think Kelly should not have died so soon.

Whatever it is, give it up now, while there’s still time. That’s the point of a Beta read.

Lastly, make sure you send in your comments by the deadline and conRirm with the author they were received. Every once in a while, emails get lost or inadvertently deleted. Your author should acknowledge that they got your notes, but if they don’t, reach out again to make sure.

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Rising Star Spotlight

April Holthaus

Have you always been a reader?

When I was young, I wasn’t much of a reader. My parents divorced when I was Rive and my dad, who had won full custody, moved us around quite a bit. Between kindergarten and high school, I ended up going to ten different schools, and we often moved during the middle of the school year. Most of the time when I entered a new school, they were either reteaching something I had already learned or ended up being so far ahead that it made it very difRicult for me to pass classes. This highly affected my reading level and comprehension. In high school, I never enjoyed the required readings, so I often skimmed through the books looking for the main idea just so I could write some sort of book report which were never any good and I was lucky enough to get a C in English. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I decided to read my Rirst book in a genre I thought I would enjoy…Historical Romance. I always had a passion for knights and damsels in distress. My aunt had a box full of Harlequin romances that were collecting dust in her

basement, so I picked out all the books that were based in medieval times. The Rirst book I read was called the Bride’s Portion by Susan Paul. It took me a long time to Rinish it because I was a slow reader, but it was the Rirst book I had ever read where I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. I could “see” what was happening in the story. It was very descriptive and beautifully written. After reading that book, I fell in love with reading. When did you decide you wanted to write a novel? What was that journey like?

In 2011, I discovered Kindle. It was the best thing because I was able to read any book from anywhere. Since I had a love for Historical Romance, I was introduced to some of my new favorite authors such as Suzan Tisdale and Eliza Knight. It was interesting to Rind out that they were self-published authors. At the time I knew nothing about publishing, and even less about self-publishing. I began following these authors and a few others on social media and read their stories of success and how they got started.

At the time, I had a story idea in my head but never thought I would publish a book. For fun, however, I decided to give it a try. I had a few close friends read my story and several of them really enjoyed it. I began searching for an editor that wasn’t going to charge me a ton of money since I had nothing to invest. Then in September 2013, I published my Rirst book “The Honor of a Highlander”. In all honesty, I never thought I would sell more than 10 copies in its lifetime and Rigured it would maybe get a 3-star review at best.

I gifted my book for free to several authors I had befriended on social media to share with their readers as a giveaway and to get my name out there. By October, my book reached the Top 100 Best Selling books in the Scottish Historical Romance category. I was Rloored! Then reviews started coming in. My Rirst ever review, I remember was Rive stars from a complete stranger. Now, 9 years later, 77% of my reviews for that debut novel has a star rating of 4+ stars. For my Rirst book, I am very proud of that. Since then, I have gone on to publish a total of 9 novels and co-wrote 3 others. I have learned so much about the writing business and have become a better writer. I have won a few awards and nominations and am very much looking forward to branching out into other historical genres.

What made you choose Scottish, Western and Regency as the genres of your choice?

Most of the romances I have read center around the historic battles between England and Scotland. What I enjoy about the Scottish Highlanders is that they are often depicted as the “perfect hero”. They Right for honor, their family and clans and for love. Even though they can be arrogant and stubborn, I Rind it fun to pair them with woman who are just as sassy and stubborn themselves. The heroines of my stories have a common theme: strength. I empower my heroines to overcome all odds. Even though my heroines may start out appearing as damsels in distress, a reader will soon discover that deep down they are fearless and unstoppable.

This year is the Rirst year I have decided to branch out into other historical genre eras with my upcoming American Western Romance, “Four Aces: the 1880s

Deadwood Diaries”, that will be published in January 2023. It is a romance/mystery with lots of twists and turns. The story idea pretty much came to me overnight. It is a story about second chances in life and love and features my newest hero, U.S. Marshal Jameson "Jake" Reid. My plan for this series is to follow Jake on different adventures. This coming year, I am also writing a Regency era romance for the Rirst time as well. The series is called Rebel Hearts. Book one, “Kilts and Roses” is currently on pre-order for May 2023. With this series, I really wanted to expand my knowledge and education with the events of that era. One thing I love most about writing is the research that goes into my books. I try to be as detailed as I can and as historically accurate as possible. I want each one of my books to really reRlect what life was like back then. I think spending the time to really build the world and create the setting helps bring them to life for the readers. Do you have a preference between those three as to which is easiest or hardest to write?

For me, I would say the easiest one for me to write is the Scottish Historical Romance genre but only because of the years I have spent researching the era and the history. I think I will forever write in the Scottish Historical Genre because that is where my heart is.

The hardest genre for me will be the Regency era. I do not have a lot of education about the history of that era, and I refuse to write unless it is as accurate as possible. I like to keep a high standard when writing any historic book, and I would like for my readers to have those same high expectations when they read a book from me. I want my readers to not only enjoy the story but also to learn from it.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

The best part of writing for me is when readers reach out to me to tell me that they enjoyed my story. I have always said that if at least one reader likes my book that is motivation enough to keep going. There was a time a couple years ago where I had taken a break from writing. I had just got divorced and had some Rinancial struggles. I was working three jobs while

34

raising my son. I became very depressed and bitter which you can imagine makes writing romances a little hard. After missing from the writing world for any given amount of time, trying to step back into it is a challenge. It took me 3 years to publish,” Heart of the Highlands: The Raven”. It was encouraging to me to Rind out that many of my loyal readers were still there cheering me on. The love and support from readers, has meant more to me than I can explain. They were there for me when no one else was, so I write for them.

What is your least favorite?

My least favorite thing about writing is my difRiculty to “quiet the internal editor”. Whenever I write, I Rind myself going back to the same pages over and over and adding in more detail or changing a word to make it better. I end up spending more time on the same chapter and scene than just writing. It makes the writing process a lot slower.

I also do not write starting at Chapter 1 to “The End”. I write my stories in scenes, which are completely scattered throughout my manuscript forcing me to go back and Rill in the gaps and the transitions showing how the characters get from one scene to the next. It’s kind of messy, but I like writing all of the exciting scenes Rirst. Especially when something comes to mind, and I don’t want to forget it.

Is writing your full-time profession or do you have a "Day Job”? If so, tell us about that!

My day job is most certainly not my dream job by any means. For the past twenty years, I have worked in the mailing and commercial printing industry as an Account Manager.

How does writing Nit into the rest of your life?

I consider myself a closet writer. In my personal life, I don’t talk about it very often with people or draw much attention to myself. I’ve never been the “look at me” type. Most people I work with have no idea I write books and I am not friends with them on social media. I think it’s easier for me to open up a little more online than it is in person. I’m pretty shy at

Rirst, and if you are familiar with the quote, “I write better than I talk”, that’s written about me!

When not creating adventures, what adventures would YOU like to take?

I would love to travel more. I have always wanted to visit Ireland and England ever since I was young. My 2nd great grandparents were from Ireland and came to America around the late 1880s. Before my maternal grandmother passed away in 2005, she gave me a little of our family history that I could date back to my 5th great grandfather who was an Iroquois Indian named Chief White Eagle. Since I was so obsessed with history, I continued researching my family tree. After exhausting every document and resource I could Rind over the years, I have been able to date my entire family tree back to the 900s in England and have found over 700 direct bloodline relatives. As most of my family and DNA comes from England and Ireland, I have always wanted to explore the region where my history started.

What is your favorite thing to do when not working?

I love being a mom. My son is 8 years old, and I am starting to experience all of his Rirsts with him. Our Rirst baseball game. Our Rirst hockey practices. Our Rirst experience of third grade. I am loving every minute of it. My son is a very outgoing ball of energy. He is extremely athletic, very smart, and unbelievably funny. Living in Minnesota, hockey is unofRicially our state sport. Little did I know how involved you had to be with hockey! But I love it.

What would you most like readers to know?

Writing is enjoyable, but it’s a lot of hard work. There are a lot of ups and down with writing, so if you read a book that you enjoy, please consider leaving a review. Sometimes, it only takes a kind word to lift someone’s day.

As my gift to you, for a limited time, this holiday season, I have lowered all of my book prices to only $.99 each. I hope you Rind one you enjoy. Happy reading and happy holidays!

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I Want To Be A Freelance Writer… But How?

More and more people are opting to join the freelance market while studying or shortly after graduating. Freelancing is an excellent way to supplement your income, and if you discover a genuine interest in your field, it can even turn into a fulfilling career.

If you have a knack for grammar and writing, becoming a freelance writer could be your path forward. Writing is an in-demand skill, as all types of businesses need professionals to create blog articles, landing pages, whitepapers, and other content. And if you build a reliable client base, you can forge a steady income without sacriRicing Rlexibility.

As with any Rield, becoming a freelance writer requires understanding the industry and ensuring your skills are sharp. You’ll also need to think like a business person as you market your brand and network with other companies and professionals. Below, is the process of building a freelance writing career in more detail and some simple tips for success!

What Does Freelance Writing Entail?

Freelance writing is essentially what it sounds like: people pay you for writing things. But there are a few nuances to consider to truly understand the ins and outs of freelance writing.

The truth is, it is a vast and diverse Rield. Some writers submit a single article each month for a small blog while others hammer out 30,000 words for one or more agencies. And the topics are all over the map, both Riction, non-Riction, research based, and opinion.

Print media is still a thing, but online writing provides the most opportunities these days. With that said, you may be able to get paid for writing non-Riction for publications (and even Riction). But the most common freelance writing Rield is by far business writing, with

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As with any industry, freelance writing comes with benefits and drawbacks. For example, it provides you with a flexible schedule, workload, and location because you ultimately control each of these factors.

academic/research not far behind. Business entails submitting regular blog articles, landing pages, and product descriptions that help companies grow their customer base and sell products or services. So, article writing and copy writing can be necessary skills to have.

What Are the Pros and Cons?

As with any industry, freelance writing comes with beneRits and drawbacks. For example, it provides you with a Rlexible schedule, workload, and location, because you ultimately control each of these factors. You can also make money learning new things and come across various networking opportunities. Moreover, as long as you have the skills, you don’t need any credentials to forge a successful career. One disadvantage of becoming a freelance writer is that it’s difRicult to bring in a consistent income because clients and projects come and go. Also, you’re in charge of managing yourself, which can be challenging if you’re not naturally a self-starter. And, writing about the same topics day in and day out becomes boring for some writers.

Further, if you run into difRicult clients, you may experience problems with getting paid. Having enforceable contracts are a must, regardless of how few words need to be written.

Starting a Career in Freelance Writing

So, if you’re still interested in launching a freelance writing career, consider these practical tips for starting strong.

Study Online Writing

As discussed, online business writing offers the most opportunities for freelance writers. Even if you plan to explore other Rields, you’ll want to learn everything you can about writing for the web.

Essentially, you’ll need to develop the habit of writing concisely with short sentences and paragraphs. You’ll also need to keep your content straightforward, use subheadings to divide sections, and learn how to employ SEO tactics, like keywords and links.

Launch a Blog

Every writer needs a top-notch portfolio that showcases their best work. The problem is you can’t really make one when you’re just getting started and

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looking for your Rirst clients. That’s where launching your own blog comes in.

Not only will you have writing samples to provide to potential clients, but it will help you learn how to use WordPress and other web platforms. It also shows that you are committed enough to devote time and energy to your craft.

There is no one right way, no one right platform, to write a blog. If you have a personal website already, add a Blog page and begin. If you do not have a personal website, there are several site makers, like WordPress and Wix, which have free options.

Try to keep to only a few topics. If you are not sure what you want to write about, pick things that interest you, or that you know a lot about. The purpose of the blog is not only to show off your writing style, skills, and voice, but to Rind and perfect them.

What and how you write, and what you sound like, won't be what's wanted or needed by everyone. Find your niche by practicing on your blog.

You can always delete what doesn't work.

Meet Other Writers

It’s easy to think of other writers as your rivals, but cultivating a network of like-minded professionals is an excellent way to receive advice about the industry and jump on existing projects. Be sure to offer any expertise you have to others, but wait until you’ve developed healthy relationships before you begin asking for people to help you Rind work.

Be sure, however, that who you search out, join, or network with are writing in the area(s) you are interested in, and writing about on your blog. While it may be fun and enjoyable to talk to writers in general, and you can deRinitely learn from anyone successful at freelance writing, if they do not write on the topics you want write on, they won't have the contacts you need to Rind jobs you are interested in doing.

Build a Network

Don’t hesitate to use everyone in your network to Rind your Rirst client. Your network should include friends, family members, acquaintances, former colleagues, mentors, and any organizations you belong to. Proactively meet people in the industry by attending networking events and writing conferences, and be open to conversations with other professionals anytime you’re in public.

Use Job Boards

Job boards are perhaps the best resources for landing your Rirst clients. But you must know how to use them correctly and which ones to use, otherwise, you can waste a lot of time with nothing to show for it. Larger cities and urban areas often have local listings, while there are always the online powerhouses to use.

Look for job boards that are well-maintained and scam-free, and sign up for several different ones, including those that cater to general and niche needs. Indeed and FlexJobs are two of the largest that seem to have many writing related jobs listed, and both are reputable and reliable. Indeed does not check the jobs, anyone can post anything, so still, be careful. FlexJobs

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actually checks out every employer and every listing to make sure it's legitimate. Both have free and paid options for job seekers.

Keep Your Legal and Financial Affairs in Order

Technically, writing is a creative Rield, but you must have a mind for business to build a fulRilling and lucrative career. Be sure to keep all of your legal and Rinancial affairs organized so you don’t get behind and face penalties and other problems. You have to keep your business money separate from your personal money. A corporation is not necessary, but an LLC or Sole Proprietorship may not be a bad idea. Come tax time, if all your money and bank accounts are mixed with personal and business, keeping things straight can be very hard, and cost a lot by way of needing someone to straighten everything out for you. It's best to be proactive, ask a tax expert Rirst. Or ask a few. Free consultations can be very enlightening. You may need to obtain a tax ID number from the IRS to identify your company, track your payroll (you pay yourself if you have an LLC or Corp), income, expenses, etc. You’ll also need to send regular invoices to ensure you get paid on time. Many invoice generators on the market allow you to easily customize pre-made templates with photos, logos, text, and other elements.

Develop a Portfolio

As you start getting clients, create an online portfolio of your best work. Keep your portfolio up to date, and use a top-notch website builder to ensure it’s attractive, easy to use, and efRicient. This can be done on the site you set up for your blog by adding a page to it. Put your Portfolio on your Home page, or right next to it. You want to make your best work as easy to Rind as possible.

Wrapping Up

Freelance writing is an excellent Rield to explore if you’re currently studying or have recently graduated, or have been writing for years and want a change of career, or extra income. If you have the necessary skills and you enjoy the process of writing for others, you can quickly begin supplementing your income or building a full-time career.

Keep the information and advice above in mind as you start preparing to Rind your Rirst client. And remember to learn something new each day so you can stay positioned to establish your reputation in the industry.

Another One Bites The Dust

It’s that time again. You know, the holidays and the end of the year. 2022 is almost in the rear-view mirror, and 2023 has opened the door and is staring at us, ready to have us enter. Just, WOW, how time has Rlown. It’s almost time for my wife to buy all the Christmas gifts she wants me to give her. Right now, we’re all doing mostly the same thing, looking back on the year and asking ourselves questions about what happened over the last 12 months. Every year, I realize I should do more of the things I want to do, not just aim for Rinishing up the daily activities I need to do.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, because so many people I know are all probably thinking the same thing right now... there’s not much time left in the year. As we go through all the upcoming holidays, we try to cram everything we

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Go ahead and sing it. You know you want to. In fact, you sang it even before reading this sentence, didn't you?

wanted to do this year into the last two months. (Tough to do when you realize bungee jumping is almost impossible when you live somewhere that already has Rive feet of snow on the ground.)

I have a long list of television series to catch up on: recommendations, things I see in my social media feeds, or intriguing clips I catch while I’m scrolling through NetRlix for an hour or so, trying to pick out something to watch—which I’m guaranteed to fall asleep in the middle of.

If I had the time, I’d have a big bag of Doritos and some Rlavored water on a table beside me, and then I’d veg out and binge watch all those series for a week, at least. That would be fun, but seriously... who has the time for an indulgence like that?

Besides, when it comes to binge watching, we also have a long list of movies to stream. You know, the ones we didn’t want to spend 50 bucks or more to see in a theater, and then forgot about because every week another 10 new movies popped up on our notiRications list. At least half of them looked interesting. The streaming list grows again!

Now that it’s nearly December, the wife warned—excuse me, I mean mentioned—the Hallmark Christmas Movie marathons are beginning to appear. Looks like I’ll be needing to make myself scarce.

Funny thing about those movies. I can pick out the plot, who’s going to hook up with who and the bad person right away. I’m thinking of having a contest with my friends, where the one who nails the characters and what happens to them the quickest, wins... something. Probably cookies. They are so thick with cheesy plots and cringe-worthy dialogue, but we watch them anyway, just to make absolutely sure the movie isn’t going to surprise us and have the hero eaten by a great white shark in the middle of a winter snowstorm. (I think I'd actually watch that one.) But overall, those Christmas movies are like my addiction to cookies. I can’t just have one. I want the whole package.

Now I’m hungry, craving cookies again, and wondering how hard it is to write a script for a movie that involves a pretty girl leaving her executive job, coming home to her family’s seaside cottage, and falling in love with a Risherman, who gets eaten in the middle of a savage winter storm. Or she goes home to the mountains, and Bigfoot kills her local sheriff love interest.

But then again, I think I’ll shelve those ideas for a bit, because a true Christmas movie has to have a happy ending. We can all use something happy, especially where winter brings dark days and cold nights.

It’s nuts to see all the different movies and specials that pop up. Some are really

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awesome, while others make you happy you didn’t spend any money on them. Too bad you can’t get a “time” refund on the hour and a half you just wasted.

Then, most of us have the dreaded “To Be Read” pile of books. (I realize many people read digital versions, so please just humor me here, eBook readers, your pile is still a "To Be Read", but instead of overwhelming your home's bookshelves, they're saved as space hogging memory on your device.) All year we collect books from our favorite writers. The next in a series maybe, or a new adventure from a new author. It can get overwhelming when you look through the 40 different titles of books and realize, “How am I supposed to Rind the time to read all these?”

As I ramble on about all this, I am actually getting to the point.

The end of a year is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, we made it through the good and the bad times. We had our share of crazy and then some. We lost some people in our lives, and often look back wishing we could have done more.

The Rlip side is, we have a new year drawing ever closer. We can make new goals and look forward to what might lie ahead, with optimism. The unknown is out there and all of our ideas and dreams are still waiting for us to capture them.

I’m sorry if I sound like a bad greeting card or something, but I like being positive whenever I can. I want to do so much. So, for the upcoming year I am setting some realistic goals. And I hope to accomplish things as 2022 draws to a close and we move into 2023.

Losing weight is one thing on my list I probably share with more than a few of you, but because it’s the holidays, I wouldn’t want to be rude and not have second helpings of my favorite foods and desserts. Seriously. That is a

given, as far as I’m concerned. But, I do believe that we all should look at the things we’d like to do and haven’t done, up to now. There are still a few weeks left for the important people in our lives who deserve more of our time, however, don’t forget to give yourself some time. Time for relaxing, time for reRlection, and of course some time for reading.

Enjoy this unique period of festivities and good will.

(And make sure you have plenty of your favorite snacks ready for those Christmas Romance movies.)

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Alexa Aston: From historical To Contemporary;, Love Always Prevails!

InD: Have you always lived in Texas?

AA: Yes, I was born in Dallas and I have lived there or a suburb near there all my life, with the exception of the four years that I went to Baylor University (which is about 100 miles south of Dallas). Even my husband is from Dallas. We were even born in the same hospital just 11 months apart!

InD: Wow! What is it like growing up there?

AA: Actually, a little hard because I was growing up during the time of the Kennedy assassination, and when you said “Dallas”, there was a dark cloud that seemed to appear over your head. I remember the Rirst time I traveled to New Mexico and then to Oklahoma and Colorado, by the time that I got to Colorado, I learned not to say I was from Dallas, I would just say, “I’m from Texas”. It was the kind of thing where people blamed all the citizens of Dallas for JFK’s death. I didn’t see a change until the TV show “Dallas" came out. Then all of a sudden, everybody was hopping on board and wanted to talk about JR. My husband and I went to England at the time that JR shot someone on the show and left it as a clifRhanger. We felt like minor celebrities in London! Even on our Jack the Ripper tour when we were sitting at the pub, people would say, “So you're really from Texas, do you know about JR?” It was almost as if they thought he was a real person. But I still love Dallas. I love the Dallas Cowboys and I have known all the players and their numbers since the time I was in the Rirst grade. I even named our daughter after a Dallas cowboy. Her name is Meredith, after the quarterback Don Meredith.

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InD: I read that you were a sports fan! Are there other sports that you follow?

AA: When you're from Texas, football is king, but I am also a huge basketball fan. Both the men and women's basketball teams have won the national championship, and I watch almost every Baylor basketball game whether it is men or women even today. And we go to homecoming every year. I love my sports!

InD: Are there others that you tune into? Or are Baylor and the Dallas Cowboys just the ones you follow?

AA: Those are the ones I follow the most. My husband worked in sports for 30 years. He use to work for the Dallas Mavericks, then he switched over to a cable company that eventually became Fox Sports Southwest. So we had the opportunity to go to so many games and sports banquets. But, of course, when he retired most of that went away. So we are mostly TV fans now.

That is how Texas is. You are just raised to be a sports fan. My dad was an only child and I was the oldest in our family. I was a girl and he didn't know what to do with me so he taught me all about sports. Then my husband and I only had one daughter and she is a sportsaholic now, as well. When she went to college, her parameters were to go out of state for a different experience but somewhere where they had a great football team. So she went to OU, and in her four years there they never lost a home game. They went to Bowl games and championships and she met her husband there so it turned out well. And now we have two grandchildren, a boy and a girl. They are the loves of my life! Although I don’t use their names, I do brag and include them in my social media. The newsletters I send out with something about my grandkids in gets more response than any other thing I send!

InD: Being an author is very different than working in most corporate businesses. As an author you need to really connect with the reader as a person before they will commit to loyally purchasing your books.

AA: That is exactly right. I try to be as open as possible on social media, yet keep some things

private. I post about the books I am reading or the movies I see or TV shows that we are binge watching. Sometimes I post funny memes, especially historical things. I’ve learned that personal connection is very important. I know one of my very dear long time readers went through chemotherapy treatment a couple of years ago and reread several of my series during that time. She contacted me during her treatments and said, “You don't know me from Adam but we are Facebook friends. I’m going through chemotherapy and when I go into the treatments, I open your books and they get me through it.” So now we text every day. She is very dear to me and always sends me a good morning text. I am so grateful that this gift I feel I have from God can, in some way, make readers happy. I was a reader before I was a writer, obviously, and I remember all of those times that books got me through difRiculties in life. The things I learned from books and the adventures I had, the places that I saw and the heroes I fell for. I did all of that through books. To think now that the shoe is on the other foot and I am bringing pleasure and happiness to other reader’s lives it is just incredible. InD:Some people say it is such a waste of time to read romance and Niction books. But I have learned so much about so many topics through those stories that I never would have explored otherwise. A Nictional story often imparts more knowledge and lessons than just reading a text book could ever do.

AA: Exactly. I was a history teacher before I started my writing career, and that was how I taught history. I didn't try to bore students by memorizing dates or dry facts. I told them that history is the story of ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. It was the way they reacted to those circumstances that created our history. Now, when I write and do research, I can sprinkle that research in my books. When a reader picks up my books they are getting a romance and character interaction, but they are also getting historical facts that can actually teach them about the era. I have a series coming up next year that is called “Suddenly a Duke”. I had so much fun researching for

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these books because each of the women featured have an occupation. I have heroines who are a dog trainer, a dressmaker, an artist, a musician\composer, and a Bow Street Runner. I researched all of those topics from that time and try to bring in true tidbits to the story so my readers learn a little bit about what it was like in the Regency era to be in each of those occupations while also still getting a wonderful romance.

InD: I absolutely love that! It is one of the wonderful gifts we get when we read. So you were a history teacher; how long did you teach?

AA: I taught for 30 years and was a consultant for two years.

InD: What age group did you teach?

AA: Mostly high school juniors. I taught US history and advanced placement US history for college course credits.

InD: What made you decide to write books?

AA: I think I was born a writer coming out of the womb. Before I knew what letters and words were, I would always gather up my dolls and stuffed animals and was always acting out stories and making up things and so I was a storyteller before I could read. In the neighborhood we would play board games like Monopoly or Operation. A lot of the times, though, we would play games that I made up. I would create characters for all of my friends and we would act out the stories. I was always scribbling short stories

growing up. When I graduated from college, I thought I would teach by day and write by night. But the reality of teaching is you get to school at 7a.m., get home by Rive if you are lucky, throw in a load of laundry, Rix dinner, grade 9000 papers, then there are parents to call and lessons to plan. And, by that time, you are exhausted. But there was always a burning desire to write. I always felt I had stories to tell and I needed to share these with people. So, near the end of my teaching career, and after talking with some friends who felt the same, I formed a critique group and started writing. After I retired from teaching, they asked me to come back to consult full-time but not being a big risk taker, I thought, “If I don't write my stories now I will never have time”. So I turned down that job and dedicated myself to writing, and I am so grateful. I loved teaching, but now with the second chapter of my life, writing is everything. I can't believe the happiness that writing brings me. It took that leap of faith to believe in myself and my stories. And, don’t get me wrong. I work at this seven days a week, whether it’s actual writing or the plotting or researching and the tweaking and marketing. Even with all of that work, writing romance is fun!

InD: What was the Nirst genre that you published in?

AA: It was medieval. I have always been attracted to the medieval and Western eras. Those were two periods I enjoyed teaching and reading about. I tried publishing a couple of indie books and I could do it, but it takes a lot of work to Rind the editors, the cover artists, and doing all of your ads, etc. I felt like I was writing good stories but I was a hamster on a wheel and I couldn’t get it to go anywhere. At that time, Kathryn LeVeque was the queen of medieval romance, so I emailed her out of the blue and said, “I respect you tremendously and I read your stuff, do you have any advice for me?” She emailed me back within 15 minutes and I almost had a heart attack! I was afraid to open the email but I Rinally did, and we ended up trading about 12 more emails that day. She said, “Give me your website and send me a book.” At the end of all of our exchanges she said, “You have talent”. That was when I learned she had decided to open her own publishing house, Dragonblade Publishing, and was

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looking to sign a couple of writers that were in the position I was in. I feel very blessed to have signed with Dragonblade. I have over 70 books now and I have an eight book series written that is coming out next year, so I am closing in on the magic 100! Having the support of Dragonblade was a huge boost for me.

InD: That is wonderful that you have done so well! You had a kindred spirit with Kathryn because she was writing medieval at that time.

AA: Exactly. I don't read a lot of romance now, although that sounds terrible coming from the mouth of a romance writer, but I don't want to be inRluenced by other writers. Especially the great ones. I want the ideas to be my own and the stories that I tell, I want to tell my way. I still read, but I mostly read thrillersthen I come back and write my romances. Doing that keeps me fresh.

InD: What is your process when beginning a new book?

AA: I start with the name and, don't laugh, but sometimes it has taken me up to three days to hit on the right name for my hero and heroine. I go to all kinds of research and baby name sites, and when I have the names of my couple, everything springs from there. I use to plot more than I do nowadays, but over the years, I have narrowed it down to six or so points I must hit in every book. I am a huge walker and my creativity is spurred by movement, so then I will get out, pound the pavement and start thinking things through. I have my phone in my hand and I dictate character sketches or actual chapters or ideas for future books as I walk. When I get home, I transcribe the notes from my phone, so a lot of the times by midmorning I have already written a chapter - of course I have to clean it up and tweak it - but that has helped me write faster and cleaner and better.

InD: Wow! I love the fact that every book comes from just a name. It makes sense, though; everyone attaches emotions and personalities to names. We all get a mental picture depending on if we like or dislike a name. I have never heard an author say they write their books by taking a name and expanding, though!

AA: For me, character’s names have to Rit together, as well, so a story always springs from that.

InD: Have there been some characters that are really hard to write?

AA: Not in the overall arc, but sometimes at a particular place in the book that will happen. I did one book called "To Save a Love”, it was from my Soldiers and Soulmates Series. It was about a couple who ran away when they were 17 years old and the dads chased them and caught up to them, then separated them. The hero is sent to the Napoleonic wars and the heroine is placed in an asylum. I did a lot of research on asylums of that time and they are the nastiest places in the world! I tried to write true to that period but I had to temper some of the things I wrote because it would have been hard for people to read, especially since she was in there for a decade. The hero was told that she was dead, but after the war, he discovered she was alive and he had to rescue her and treat her with kid gloves, hoping his love could save her. That plot in the book was very difRicult to write. Still, I have never changed a name or direction that a character is going because of things like that.

InD: What characters were such a joy to write?

AA: Okay this is not a fair question! But, I would say probably my Dukes of Distinction series or my Dukes Done Wrong series because those had a lot of fun guys in them. I have a tendency to write series that are not necessarily about the family but about friends who become a family. So in Dukes Done Wrong, for example, Rive boys are accused of doing some pretty heinous acts. But all Rive boys are innocent. Yet they were sent away to a special boarding school for boys who have problems and they wind up in the same dorm together and eventually become a family of Rive because they were never allowed to go home. They were a lot of fun to write because I knew all of them from the time they were seven years old. I brought them through the years

of University until they went their own ways but eventually come back as dukes. So it was really cool to take kids who had nothing except each other and follow them as they became some of the highest ranking people of the land. They remain such good friends and each girl they marry is brought into the fold and treated like a sister by the others. So that was a very fun series to write.

InD: Recently you started writing contemporaries, do you have a favorite time period to write in?

AA: I lean more toward Regency as far as historical go. It is a time that I Rind fascinating, probably because of all of the written and unwritten societal rules. I like the Rish out of water stories that you can tell in the Regency era because of all the strict conventions that they had. But I have also found I really enjoy writing contemporary stories, as well. I will write a contemporary series and by the end, I’m itching to get back to Regency. I feel my historical are fresher because I leave to play in another world for a while. It is like going to a new sandbox with new toys and doing something different, when you go back to your favorite sandbox you appreciate it more.

InD: What is the experience between writing contemporary as opposed to writing historical like?

AA: I don't know if there is that big a difference because I am still telling the story of people who fall in love and all the emotions around that. Those things really don’t change, no matter the era.

InD: Are there things that are harder to write in contemporary than historical?

AA: No, it is like food. I love fruits and desserts but I also love meat. If you put just about any food in front of me, I’ll have a feast. It is the same way with writing. It really is as I told you when I taught students that history is ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. A romance is a romance, it really doesn't matter what the time frame. Readers want to see vulnerability and see the couples brought together, add a bit of conRlict, then they want that happily ever after. It is just set in different times.

InD: What are the moral themes that run through all of your series?

AA: I think family is the main theme. A family can be what you were born into, but it can also be what you create for yourself.

InD: Are there any heroes or heroines that you have Ninished writing and think, “They are a lot like me”?

AA: I think as a writer I put a little of myself in every hero or heroine, whether it is good or bad or pieces I wish I could Rix. Sometimes little bits and pieces are from people

that I have met but I have not done it intentionally. I do try to create fresh people.

InD: Does your family read your books?

AA: My husband has read some. My daughter teaches and has two kids so she has no time to read anything. My 87-year-old dad reads everything! He is a guy who has a romantic heart. He and my mother were married 65 years when she passed away. He is the kind of guy that I have to send a list of holiday Christmas and Hallmark movies to so he won't miss them. So he absolutely adores everything I write. I have learned to wait until the whole series has been published, then take them to him so he can read them all in order. If I give them to him one at a time, he loses the thread because he is 87. I took him a new series last week and he is now on the third book and that is all he wants to talk about. I go over once a week to visit him or take him out to lunch and he is so full of the characters that he is chattering away. It is really touching because he wanted to be a writer, but when he was growing up, writing was not a practical occupation so he ended up being a director of human resources. I feel

like he is really proud because I inherited a little bit of his talent as far as writing goes. That means a lot to me. When he Rinishes a book, we talk about the plot and the characters and what he thought of it.

InD: I think that is just fabulous!

AA: I encourage him to write because he is always talking about different ideas that he has, but he says he’s too old. I am like, “Dad, you are never too old to start. Look at me. I didn't publish a book until I was in my Rifties and now I am past 60. I’ll be publishing 13 books next year alone! Pretty soon I will be going over that magic triple digit hundred mark, so you need to do it Dad!”

InD: I think that is absolutely wonderful. I noticed other than loving books you love watching movies, do you have any favorite ones?

AA: I am a huge movie fan. I used to go to the movies once or twice a week before the pandemic. Now my husband and I enjoy eating popcorn on our sofa and sipping wine while we stream movies together. I also love binging my favorite tv series like, “The Crown” and “Ted Lasso”. I liked The Game of Thrones series and I am a huge fan of Survivor. I know some people say it is the same thing over every year but I appreciate watching the interaction between the people and seeing them strategize and guessing how

things will play out - so I do enjoy my movies and TV. InD: Okay, Bucket list. What would you still like to do or accomplish in life?

AA: I do want to make it to that one hundred book published mark. It’s a big deal for me to go over that threshold. To me it is like you have arrived!

Personally, I'm ready to get back to traveling. We were doing that before the pandemic. My last big trip before the pandemic was to Scandinavia. I went to Norway, Sweden and Denmark with my best friend.

InD: We went there this past May! So what did you think?

AA: It is drop-dead gorgeous! The people are lovely. The food is wonderful. I felt so welcomed there. You felt like you were in a foreign country because there are things that are different, but overall, the reception was just wonderful and some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever experienced. I would love to go back. We are actually going to the UK this coming April. Any time I plan a trip, I write down everything I want to do. I put the places down and start grouping those that are close together and picking days until I am ready to put the puzzle pieces together. I am so eager to get back to traveling.

InD: Honestly I can't agree with you more. I love to travel and have done quite a lot, but hands-down Norway is the most beautiful placed I have ever been. And I have been to a lot of

beautiful places. But it is just stunning.

AA: And it is really nice because so many people there speak perfect English. It was easy to get around and talk to the locals.

InD: So let's Nind out a few of your favorites. What is your favorite food?

AA: Any kind of seafood. I could eat seafood every single day at every meal. I love it.

InD: Dessert?

AA: Ice cream, especially butter pecan ice cream.

InD: What’s your favorite color?

AA: I love red. When I was growing up, my favorite color was always blue. But when I was pregnant it changed. I just fell in love with all the different shades of red, you know how the color bleeds into all those beautiful purples and violets, so anything in that family.

InD: What is your favorite time of day?

AA: Morning, absolutely. I love waking up with a new day ahead of you. It is fresh and untouched at that point and you can make it anything you want.

InD: Do you have a favorite book?

AA: My favorite book is "To Kill a Mockingbird”. I still read it once a year, for some reason it just

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speaks to me. The descriptions and the character development are lovely. And I think it is one of the few movies that truly capture everything from the book.

InD: Do you have a favorite place in the world to be?

AA: Maui. I love the pristine beaches and the shades of the water in Maui. It is the place of my soul. I would love to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in the bay there. It would give my daughter the excuse go to Hawaii. Take Mom to Hawaii for one Rinal time. [both laughing]

InD: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given - personally and/or professionally?

AA: Professionally it would be to write every day. I have learned that you really need to keep your head in the game and if you take too long of a break, you lose the Rlow and the feeling and the impact. So make yourself write every single day. That does not mean the writing has to be good every time. But just enough to feed your soul. Personally I would say it’s the advice my dad gave me many years ago. Take time to be thankful for things every single day. Sometimes it can be the big things. Like my husband and my marriage and having this house that I live in - and sometimes it can be the simple things like seeing butterRlies or that wonderful peaceful walk or the ice cream cone I got to eat. I do close every day remembering the things I am thankful for.

InD: That is absolutely wonderful. And we are very thankful for you!

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***Ebbe and Emme’s realizations that all is not well in the Hereafter are almost as concerning as Yana’s apparent lack of interest in what is happening to her. Though she understands the teachings and concepts that are being mentioned, not being able to see or hear anything going on around her is not helping her belief. The pain is real, but will Kit’s insistence of who she can see and talk to be enough?***

Kit hung back, unsure what to do, as Donal and a literal army followed Yana into the building, walking through the walls. Glancing down at her very unappetizing green goop she hadn’t Rinished, it made her a bit queasy simply looking at it. With a sigh, she headed toward the doors, dropping it into the nearest cycle bin.

“Kit?”

She froze, mid-step. She hadn’t noticed Ebbe and Emme were still lingering, right next to her.

Emme slide in front of her. “Dear child, do make your eyes smaller than plates. You are the only one who can see me, and right now, it is noticeable that you are staring at nothing, with fear written all over your visage,” she said lightly, trying not to scare her more than she was.

“Sorry,” Kit mumbled.

“Don’t apologize for what is difRicult to control. It has been some time, but I do remember my Mortal years,

and how hard it was for me to hide anything from anyone,” Emme said.

“You, you were Mortal?” Kit stammered. “Wait, duh, yeah, I know, you were. The Path starts way back, goes to here, and then to where you both are. And being perfect gods, of course you’d remember this time,” she rambled.

“Not all in the Hereafter choose to remember,” Ebbe said.

“Really?” she asked in amazement. “Why not?” She slapped a hand over her mouth.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said, “what you asked is reasonable, given the information I stated. I do not punish Mortals for asking me rational questions.” He hesitated for the briefest moments. “As you are a part of this, though an unaccounted part, I will answer what you ask, on one condition.”

“What?”

“All that I say to you, you must tell Yana, whether or not she wants to hear it, and whether or not she chooses to believe it,” he said. “She cannot hear anyone in the Hereafter, though she was slated to have that gift. She cannot see anyone either...”

“Something else she should have had?” Kit asked before he could Rinish.

He paused, and stared directly at her. “I said you could ask questions, I said nothing about interrupting me.” His slight Rlinch as Emme slugged his arm had him softening his tone. “In the future, please do allow me to Rinish my words, fair enough?”

He continued at Kit’s frantic nod, ignoring her saucered eyes. “Yes, she was supposed to be able to see, when necessary. And I Rind that with all that’s occurred, her lack of sight and hearing is an acute loss. You will have to act as her eyes, ears, and interpreter, repeating all so she is not left unknowing.”

“Now, I do believe your midday time is over, you need to return before you get into trouble,” Emme said, turning Kit by the shoulders and aiming her overwhelmed mind and body toward the doors.

Watching as Kit woodenly walked away, Emme commented, “If she breaks, we are all doomed to live out the worst scripts given in any history or writings.” She pushed her hair back, lifting it off her shoulders, then running her Ringers across the front of her head. “In all the studying we did about the Leveler, all the knowing of any of us Cycle God Pairs... not once do I remember reading or hearing the possibility of such a handcuffed and bound mortal as being the one,” “Neither do I, but it does not matter much at the moment, does it?” Ebbe responded, Rlicking his wrist

and calling up a portal. “It is what it is, and though it’s our Cycle and our children and lineage, it seems we are supremely unprepared.”

“That is an understatement,” Emme retorted, walking into the portal ahead of him. “With the elements not functioning properly, portals landing everyone in the wrong place, shelves and weapons being taken for no cause,” she looked back, worry coloring her instead of anger, “I wonder if we are not being undermined or subverted.”

With that unsettling thought as his last on the Mortal realm, Ebbe followed her through, hoping that the Library would yield some answers.

he said.

* * * *

Trying to do her job, while ignoring Kit’s walk-by’s every ten clicks or so, was increasingly impossible. It didn’t help that Kit’s head and eyes never left Yana’s head while she passed the doorway. Not that she could see Kit. She could feel her.

Close to slamming the door shut in Kit’s face, or yelling at her, Yana swallowed her anger so she wouldn’t snap at the person on the other end of the ringing tele.

“Hey, Ama, it looks like I won’t be able to come home after all,” her datter, Cyndi said.

Suppressing a sigh of relief, Yana answered her. “Why not?”

“All that I say to you, you must tell Yana, whether or not she wants to hear it, and whether or not she chooses to believe it,”

“My job shifted my hours, and because I am the newest, I can’t really put up a Right about it,” she explained. “I wanted some time off, and to be able to be home and relax.”

“Plenty of time to do that when I work, and the entire place would be yours during the day,” Yana said with a grin. “Any idea when you may be able to do the trip home?”

“Not really, but I’m hoping that something will line up with your free time during the high season. Maybe I can get you out of the house and to the water this time,” Cyndi teased.

About to answer, Yana sucked in a breath from an impact to her mid-section. Knowing nothing was in out and punched her. The pounding in her ears was drowning out her daughter’s voice, and the edges of her vision was greying.

“Ama?”

Taking a slow, deep breath to avoid any pain coming through her words, she answered, “Yeah. I’m here. Hit my toe on the desk.” She silently cursed the slight quaver when she spoke. “Ouch. Well, take care of it, maybe take your ugly clogs off and check it out,” Cyndi said, concern in her tone.

“I will, call soon,” Yana said. Putting the tele down she doubled over, arms wrapped tightly around herself.

Carefully placing her hand to just where her bonecage and ribs ended, she felt yet another... lump... forming, moving. Pushing harder on the area, she found she could move it slightly. Wanting to get it away from the bones, so they wouldn’t break, she manipulated it, aiming down and toward the middle. Instead of getting better, her movements seemed to... irritate it.

Growing and becoming heavier by the breath, she felt the weight pulling her to the ground.

Refusing to go down, she forced herself to stay sitting upright in her chair, holding the sides of her desk, Ringers taloned around the edges. Willing herself to remain conscious, she unclasped a hand, sliding it toward the tele, and hit Kit’s digits.

Before Kit could say anything, Yana bit out between clenched teeth, “Here. Now.” Knowing she had to come from the other side of the building, Yana decided to bite her lip, take a few deep breaths, and stand up. Going to sit in her vehicle sounded like the best idea. That way she could cry out, or scream, and no one would hear it.

Grabbing her bag, Yana carefully dabbed under her eyes, trying to rid the tears without smearing anything, or making her eyes red enough to be noticed. Grasping the handle, taking one last deep breath, she opened the door and headed out. Looking slightly down, so no one witnessed the agony that must be written across her face, Yana walked stifRly, but noticed it was taking longer to get to the doors than normal.

The presence and heat on her side, instead of seeing or hearing, let her know that Kit was walking in step with her. Not quite suppressing a pain laced smirk while envisioning Kit’s near panicked face as they walked, she focused on placing her feet Rirmly on the ground. Every step caused needles to explode from the mass.

Finally at the vehicle, she collapsed in, with Kit slamming the door behind her and scrambling around to the other side. Yana tipped to her side, curling up in the front. Kit clambered into the back. Leaning over the seat, Kit said frantically, “The Guardian let me know that they’re on their way.”

“Who is on their way?” Yana bit out.

“Um, I’m not sure. It didn’t specify, but I’d assume that one guy will be back, the tall one,” Kit. “I don’t want to presume that Ebbe or Emme will always be around. The planet is pretty big, and there are a lot of us on it, not including the Corrupt, Incorrupt, Demons...” she

Refusing to go down, she forced herself to stay sitting, upright in her chair, holding the sides of her desk, fingers taloned around the edges.

rambled, then paused. “They have a lot to keep track of and take care of.”

“Technically, child, the Guardian is a he,” Ebbe’s voice said from the side and behind her.

Kit watched in fear as the vehicle, no, the entire lot disappeared and turned into a vast room, stuffed bottom to top with machines... moving machines. Floating around were balls, well, some were balls, some changed shape, some were see through and some were solid. She shook her head, struggling tremendously to Rind the words to explain to Yana what she was seeing.

A still curled up Yana could barely make sense of what Kit was trying to explain, but that something she knew to never ignore, zinged in her head. Shaking her head, she whispered, “No, that’s not right.”

“What?” Ebbe, Kit, and Emme, who had just walked from a portal asked in unison.

Taking some shallow breaths before one long, deep one, Yana repeated. “What was said about the Guardian, it’s not right.”

Caught off guard, and anger rising at the gall of a Mortal to correct him, Ebbe bit out, “Which part, that he is a he? I assure you, he is most deRinitely a he.”

She shook her head again. Taking another deep breath, ribs hurting from the heavy mass still moving and shooting needles, she said, “That there’s only one Guardian. There’s not. There are two. Or there are supposed to be two.”

“Wait a click, and back up a bit,” Emme said, rolling her wrist to have Ebbe Rill her in on what she had missed before she walked in. Apparently, not much. Staring directly at Yana, knowing she couldn’t see her, she asked, “How do you know this?”

“Wait, what?” Kit squeaked, forgetting to let Yana know what had been said. “You mean she’s right?” At Emme’s nod, Kit repeated the information before continuing, “Then why did Ebbe say he, that’s just one, if there’s more than one?”

Yana answered, “Because one of them... disappeared. Or something like that. He didn’t get lost, he just,” wafting her hands up, “poof.”

“How do you know this?” Ebbe asked, taking a seat next to the table Yana was currently curled up on. Waiting for Kit to talk was excruciatingly time consuming.

Biting short a cry as she shrugged, she took several quick breaths before slowing down, pushing the pain with it. Or hoping to. “I don’t know how I know, I just

know. And I know I’m right.” She paused, raising a hand to a particular spot on the back of her head, she said, “This right here. I know it here. And it’s never wrong.” Shaking from the pain, she managed a shrug again.

“By the way, while we’ve been talking, there are other... beings, and those Rloaty, globby things... they’ve been, well, working on you, I guess,” Kit interjected. She knew there was more that needed to be said, but she didn’t want Yana to believe nothing was being done to heal her.

“The Rloaty, globby things, as you call them, are artiRical intelligences, elemental ones,” Emme said indulgently. Seeing Kit’s next question written all over her face, she continued. “We are slightly more

are not limited to machines, but can resemble us, be like our forms, or be those globs. Elemental ones can change shape to align with their programming and directions, as well as best utilize the elements given to them to complete their tasks.”

“Wow,” was all Kit could say. Even through her suffering, Yana had to agree with that.

“Now, back to the issue at hand, information about the Guardians is not known outside our small Leadership Group, those who help Cycle God Pairs, like Ebbe and I, run the Cycle, assisting everyone on the Path,” Emme explained. She knew she was coming close to divulging secrets Mortals should not know, but

Kit watched in fear as the vehicle, no, the entire lot disappear and turn into a vast room, stuffed bottom to top with machines... moving machines.

glancing at Yana’s... mass... only the Leveler would be able to withstand such evil-doing in a Mortal form. Seeing her agony stung, but conRirmed what she and Ebbe knew and had been trying to get the Concilium to understand.

“On the Path, being in charge of a Cycle is not necessary to ascend, it’s one of the options. However, all have to be a part of a Leadership Group in some way, to learn enough,” Emme paused, intending to continue, but...

“That’s not true,” Yana wheezed. The mass had been beating against her bone-cage and spine, taking her breath away.

“Which part?” Ebbe bit out again. Tired of losing to the mass within Yana, he waved his shelf into being,

“The part that’s not true, actually, parts. More than one thing isn’t right,” Yana said, breathing evenly. “A lot of people, beings, whatever, know about your lack of two Guardians... is that always normal? Two?” After Kit said yes, Yana continued, “well, that isn’t something we’re taught. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since the Guardian is always in the background anyway, quietly poking at us for good and bad behavior.” She paused. “Not only do a lot of beings know one is missing, but no, not every god or goddess has to be a part of... leaders? Whatever you called it, no, they don’t.”

“Yes, they do,” Ebbe said, ire gaining again, “according to the Laws...”

“Which aren’t laws, but rules upon rules, rules upon laws, sometimes, but often are made up out of nothing,” Yana said with a shrug, not being able to see Ebbe and Emme stumble to some stools.

Shutting down the vocal communication between their plane and the Mortals, Emme called for their star, and for Donal. Mortals liked to talk about ground shaking, but that saying was not anywhere in the vicinity of the devastating knowledge Yana seemed to possess. Sending their star and Donal on a mission to try and, once again, locate the other Guardian, Emme leaned over Yana, “Do you know where the Laws are kept?”

Ebbe stared in shock. With a wave of her hand, Emme said, “What? If she doesn’t know, no harm done.”

“No, how should I know?” Yana countered. Ebbe picked up, “You know things you shouldn’t, feel pain, but not like you should, why not that?” He paused. “For us, we have a shelf and use our hands and words to command the elements, try that.”

through her skin, swirled the elements together, and with a word, sent them racing into the reddish brown ooze. He noted that Kit hid her eyes from the Rlash of power and light, but Yana did not react to any of it.

“Whatever you just did, took about a hundred or so weights off my chest,” Yana said, taking a long deep breath.

With a raised eyebrow, Ebbe asked, “You felt nothing of that?”

She shook her head, after Kit translated. “The more that occurs, the more she is becoming the Leveler,” Emme whispered, making sure Kit did not hear. Ebbe nodded in agreement, sending more whirling elements into Yana.

“I don’t have a shelf, but sure, I’ll wave my hand,” Yana said sarcastically. “This is ridiculous. I feel better, I need to go back to work”. She shrugged, waved a hand, thought about a library, or vault, or something a law would be kept in, and Rlicked her Ringers. “Are we good now? I need to go back to work.”

Exiting the vehicle made the room disappear from Kit’s sight. Kit sat watching the reactions of a stunned Ebbe and Emme, who were staring at a blinking dot, located behind multiple layers of security, artiRicial elemental levels, and drenched in hidden codes that should have rendered it invisible. And was not the location they had always been told.

The Laws were in the wrong chamber.

Mortals liked to talk about ground shaking, but that saying was not anywhere in the vicinity of the devastating knowledge Yana seemed to possess.

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”)

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, DeisosTeacher(s)–Mortals spiritually and higher skilled than Oracles, rarer too, few known, can talk to/see Ebbe/Emme when allowed Yana–YAH nuh (female protagonist)

To Edit or Not: At What Cost?

I have the pleasure of collaborating with a community of talented professionals serving independent authors. From editors to cover artists, legal advisors, and even indexers, they are committed to helping independent authors publish professional-quality books. For the most part, the clients I serve are focused on professional publication.

There are exceptions. Some authors publish a personal project or have a unique end goal in mind. For those seeking professionalism, there are many roles to Rill, and they each require resources: money, time, or knowledge.

I participate in several forums for self-publishing authors, and a common topic is editing. Like most steps in the self-publishing process, hiring and working with editors can be confusing, and the information available... conRlicting.

I am not an editor, but I have worked with over 150 authors and dozens of editors throughout my career in Indie publishing. I’d like to share some of my observations and the best practices I have learned from some very well-respected colleagues.

Bad reviews can kill a book’s sales, not to mention how it might feel to the author. There are many reasons why you might receive a bad review. Receiving them for things that are within your control is the most frustrating. Editing is within your control.

For me, when I read reviews, there are things I take seriously and things I dismiss. “I didn’t like the mushy stuff, I don’t read romance”, might be a valid review, but if the book is Romance and that’s what I’m looking for, I’ll probably ignore it.

On the other hand, “I really wanted to love this one, but I couldn’t follow which fella the main character was

63

pursuing” carries more weight. It sounds like the storyline isn’t welldeveloped. And, “There were typos everywhere” is a big red Rlag.

Traditional publishers have teams of editors who will review a book several times over before publication, but even with an entire team, you’re likely to Rind an error or two in the published book. How, as an independent author, do you achieve the same level of editing without the same resources?

There are several types of editing, not including alpha and beta readers, indexers, sensitivity readers, and fact-checkers, to name a few. The Rirst thing to notate about editors, not all editors offer all types of editing services. The three primary types of editing that professional editors offer are: Developmental Editing,

Line Editing, and Proofreading. Each of these considers your writing in a different light, and one doesn’t replace another, though you may Rind some ambiguity in how different editors deRine their services.

The Editorial Freelancers Association has an incredible wealth of information about industry standards, including what you can expect to see with different types of editing, as well as rate ranges for these services. I also recommend checking out their ‘Hiring Basics’ and ‘New Author Guide’. Most editors charge by the word, so having 2-3 passes of a 100K word manuscript can add up, even if the rates are on the low end. When budget is a consideration, you’ll need to decide where to allocate your funds.

The argument for using professional editors is compelling. There is no substitute for realworld experience. An avid reader might be able to point out continuity issues and typos, but they’re rarely equipped with the arsenal of tools that professional editors often leverage, not to mention the learned experience and tips shared among colleagues.

A good editor will respect and maintain your unique voice. They will check for consistency and comprehension. They may use a variety of editing tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid. They may run macros in Microsoft Word to check for tense or the consistent use of names and proper nouns. Editors will use their previous experience to inform them about common misuses or errors.

They may check for plagiarism, which, even when unintended, could have signiRicant consequences. You can expect to receive honest and candid feedback that will help enhance your writing. And, because it doesn’t come from someone who has a personal relationship with you, constructive criticism can be much easier to receive.

There’s also a different level of accountability when using paid services. For those who make their living serving independent authors, their livelihood depends on happy clients who refer their services. An unhappy client can have a far-reaching impact when authors are displeased. Client reviews carry weight for service providers, too.

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So, how does one decide which editing services they need and how much to allocate to them? In my experience, developmental editing can be the costliest, but most valuable, service. These are the skills that are least likely to be replaceable with free or low-cost alternatives. Meticulous beta and ARC readers may be able to Rill the roles of line editing and proofreading, but it takes experience to be an excellent developmental editor.

Whether you use free or paid providers for these services, it’s a good practice to have more than one person do a Rinal readthrough, and it’s best to use people who haven’t read the manuscript previously. It’s much easier to read past minor mistakes when you already know what it should say.

Using a read-aloud tool can be very helpful in Rinding minor typos and missing or duplicate words. Changing your font to a very different style can also highlight minor errors. Seeing your manuscript in a different format causes you to reexamine the words on the page. Think about how different the same route that you drive every day looks when you’re a passenger. The same is true for seeing your manuscript with a different view.

The bottom line for many independent authors is cost. How

much are you willing to spend on editing services? How much should you spend? As with most decisions you make in selfpublishing, review your personal goals. Your book might be a personal project intended for close family and friends. Or it might be a step toward your goal of becoming a full-time writer.

If your goals are personal, and not Rinancial or business based, you may not need to make the same investment, though as my father likes to say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Consider the time and effort you have put into writing your book. How much have you invested in cover art and formatting—even if those investments are your time?

If you don’t invest in editing and proofreading, will it compromise the success of your book? Can you overcome poor reviews if you decide to wait until the next edition to address editing? Will your readers be compelled to read your next book in the series? Will the money you have already invested be recoverable if sales don’t meet your expectations? Sometimes, the investment is worth making, even if you need to take some time to increase your budget.

What can you expect to pay for professional editing? Prices range depending on the speciRic services, an editor’s experience

and availability, and even the current condition of your manuscript, among other things. There are many variables. See the Editorial Freelancers Associate (EFA) price guides as a place to start. It will give you a baseline as you begin your research.

If you’re not sure where to Rind an editor, the EFA also has a directory you can use. Personal recommendations can be invaluable. Ask your peers and published authors you know for recommendations, especially if you’ve read their edited writing and Rind the quality meets your expectations. Ask what your peers liked about their editor, as well as any areas that left room for improvement.

When considering an editor, ask about their experience, in general, and with your speciRic

65

topic or genre. If they’re not in the same country, or your book is based in a different country, be sure that they have a solid grasp of the appropriate language. Punctuation isn’t the same internationally. Spelling and grammar can also vary regionally. Consider working styles. Is it compatible with yours? How do you like to communicate? Do you expect your editor to review the work more than once? Do you prefer that they hand off their recommendations or would you like a more collaborative process? How long will editing take? Does it Rit within your timeline? Are you comfortable with the systems and processes that

they use? Do you feel like they have heard your speciRic needs or concerns?

If everything sounds like a match, begin with a sample edit. Any reputable editor will offer free or low-cost sample edits before asking you to commit to the full scope of work. This is your opportunity to review an editor’s work and to be sure it’s compatible with your needs and expectations. If you’re unsure, get samples from another editor or two, but remember that you’re not comparing apples to apples. Editing styles vary, and your job is to Rind the one that best suits you and your writing.

Build an editing team that helps you be your very best writer. Make the necessary investments to make your work exceptional.

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 on the second Sunday of each month for a virtual meeting. 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.

Guide

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Our rating
the
star rating
5 = exceptional 4 = excellent 3 = good 2 = fair 1 = poor CNF =
We
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
Heart" for excellence.
symbol will be seen
the
magazine.
to Our Reviews and Ratings:
system is
standard 5
system:
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”
also rate the "Steam" or sex factor so readers can enjoy whatever level they are most comfortable with.
"Crowned
This
beside
review in the

‘Ascent’ is the story of a young woman’s emotional growth over a number of years,beginning at the age of fourteen when she is given to an invading Northern leader, who promptly leaves his child bride to sack and ruin elsewhere. After years of waiting, Poppa and her Norse husband, HroRl, Rinally settle into their union and she gives birth to two children. Their return to Poppa’s homeland, however, results in HroRl striking a deal with the King of the Franks for land, which includes converting to Christianity and setting Poppa aside for another woman. Can Poppa overcome yet another setback in her already hard life?

‘Ascent’ by Cathie Dunn is an extremely well-written retelling of Normandy history and the violence surrounding the time period, as well as the daily hardships all women faced. The author’s command of the historical facts makes this story even more compelling, and Poppa’s plight even more

heartbreaking. Watching Poppa overcome all she must go through is the highlight of the story. This is especially evident when she takes it upon herself to track down her pillaging husband in order to begin their life together. The change from Pagan rituals, such as the hand-fasting of Poppa to HroRl, and the slow transition to Christianity are well done and very authentic. When Poppa is faced with one Rinal test of her resolve, she’s left to rely on the strength she’s earned over the years to help her succeed. The action scenes were well done, if not a little understated compared to some Viking tales. Still, an excellent portrayal of the time period and highly recommended for those who enjoy action with their historical Riction.

Get Your Duke On (Anthology)

Kathryn LeVeque, Chasity Bowlin, Alexa Aston, Maggi Anderson, Meara Platt, Mary Lancaster, Caroline Lee, Elizabeth Johns, Cerise Deland, Bianca Blythe, Nadine Millard, Amy Jarecki, SoRie Darling, Merry Farmer

length Regency eraromances

Rilled with more dukes than any one Ton can handle. Each story takes a differenttwist on marrying off a Duke, either by choice, convenience, or circumstance. The settings move from ballroom, to countryside, and even a gambling den. This anthology is deRinitely a smorgasbord of tropes. These fourteen authors share the spotlight quite well together, each bringing something different to the table.

The stories in this anthology vary in both style and quality. Overall, they are exactly what a fan of the era expects in a Regency romance. Plots varied from the usual reluctant duke who really doesn’t want to marry, to the friends-tolovers trope, to the obviously unsuitable match, with a good number of new plot ideas thrown in for variety. The authors tackled a few sensitive subjects such as abusive family relationships, agegaps, and situations of impropriety in the strict Regency fashion. And, as varied as the stories are, so is the level of intimacy; some stories are deRinitely steamier than others. For those readers who enjoy a large cast, there are some very likeable supporting characters as well. There are, admittedly, a few surprises thrown in for good measure. The most intriguing twist though was the reference to modern day songs in the titles and plots of the individual stories. This unique approach gives each of these stories a certain comedic charm. The quality of the writing varied by author, with one or two lacking in substantial plot. Yet, all stories provide an entertaining and well-informed look at the era.

‘Get Your Duke On’ is a collection of fourteen short story/novella

If you’re a fan of Regency romance, with a twist of comedy, you’ll enjoy this collection. Given the sheer size of the anthology, it will have you reading for a while N.E. Kelley

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Historical
Ascent (House of Normandy, Book 1)

scenes leave a desire for more and were not as fulRilling as they could have been. More development would have made this story come to life. Still it is a rollicking romance novel Rilled with Right scenes, strong knights, and strong women!

Warwick Herringthorpe, known as War, is a royal knight just given command of Bamburgh Castle. War is hurt in a battle against the Scots and saved by a Scotswoman. On his death bed. the only father War has ever known confesses War’s true lineage just before War goes to visit William de Wolfe, known as the Wolf of the border. When War arrives at the Wolfs castle, he Rinds his angel Scotswoman, Annaleigh, also in residence. War and Annaleigh have an instant attraction, but can a Scot and a royal knight have a future? And how will the truth of War’s father complicate the budding romance.

War is a complex and honorable character. Annaleigh is a sweet but strong heroine. War and Annaleigh have instant chemistry, but the complexities of their family relationships add a hurdle that makes their longing for one another more intense. This is the 16th book in a series but is easily read as a stand-alone. The Right scenes are gruesome and graphic. Much of the plot was predictable and felt very familiar. Yet, some of the plot left more questions than it answered. Once Annaleigh and War are together, the steamy

The Eve of Love: A Hearts Through History New Year Anthology

Elf Ahearn, Eliza Carter, Kathy Crouch, Heather Hallman, Cynthia Anne Hurt, Joan Sister, Claudine Lamar, Julia Masters, Annie R. McEwen, Zia WestRield

soulmates and a happy ever after. There is adventure, intrigue and excitement throughout which ties this anthology up in a neat little bow.

Each author in this anthology puts their heart and soul on the page and it shows. There is so much variety as each story brings to life a dynamic collection of characters. Fans of historical romance will be clambering over one another to download this gem in the winter season—the perfect collection to enjoy on a cold winter night. A good deal of diversity resides within the settings and countries where the stories take place, and it is clear to see the research which has gone into not only the places, but the times in which the stories are set. What also makes this anthology a true gem is the attention to detail brought into each story. The descriptions really grab readers and pull them smack dab into the middle of the story, refusing to relinquish their grip until the Rinal sentence. From tender moments to some very steamy ones, there is so much for those who like a bit of everything. It can deRinitely be said thatthis is a book that can be enjoyed again and again.

From Tudor England to Tokyo and then the US Civil War Era’ “The Eve of Love” brings together a group of short stories. Follow through the stories of the descendants of the Rirst story and see howthey navigate the world and Rind a love that makes one’s heart Rlutter. Sexy and seriously loveable

heroes and the heroines, they want to give their minds, bodies, and souls. Katherine and William kick off the journey, and their love is projected throughout their family as they themselves embark on the journey to Rind their

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Battle Wolfe (De Wolfe Pack Book 16) Kathryn Le
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The Contrary Debutante (The De Petras Saga Book 3)

tension would be an understatement. The chemistry between Emily and Robert is electric beyond measure and when it Rinally erupts, there are more than Rireworks. Another fantastic addition to the De Petras Saga and one that will be enjoyed by many.

succumb to their allure, Grant for Lyla and Malcolm for Abby.

Emerald De Petras wants nothing to do with high society. The way people act is sickening to her, and she refuses to be the subject of their rumors. She and her mother come to an agreement that she will attend a set number of balls in the Season, and then she’s free. No longer will she be forced to marry and can live her life how she wishes. Roberts Ainsworth, Marquis of Swindmore has just gone through a divorce and when he sees Emerald, he is immediately attracted. Emerald is vexed at the growing feelings she has for Robert and can see the end of the Season in sight. But tongues will wag, and the question is, will they be able to Right their attraction? Will it all come to nothing?

“The Contrary Debutante” is a classic tale of opposites who attract and come together in a Riery and passionate display. Emily is a heroine who is determined to live her life in peace, and many readers will be able to relate to her. However, things don’t go to plan. There are so many good points about this book. The plot moves at an even pace but also has elements that make it a page turner. To say this book has sexual

Capturing Her Highland Keeper (Time to Love a Highlander Book 4)

Lyla Smythe Rled to Edinburgh after her divorce. Her twin, Abby Cornwalt, has been staying with her. The two hardly get along, except for their shared love of stargazing. A midnight trek to Arthur’s Seat viewpoint takes an inexplicable turn when they are suddenly transported from 2019 to 1650. Lyla and Abby encounter Chieftain Grant Reddoch and his War Chief Malcolm Cransie. The Highlander and his right hand were on a secret mission to reclaim a relic of the Chieftain’s famous uncle, James Graham, the Great Montrose, when they came upon the anachronistic pair. The women speak a strange form of English and could be spies. Grant and Malcolm take them back to Eadar Keep as prisoners, but soon

“Capturing Her Highland Keeper” pairs a spirited modern woman with a proud and lonely 17 th century Scottish lord. It doesn’t take long for Lyla to grasp her impossible situation or fall for her handsome captor. It does take a long time for her to learn to guard her futuristic vernacular, or failing that, to come clean about her time travel. When she Rinally does so, her worst fears are realized when Grant reacts with extreme fear and prejudice. Thus, both the heroine’s and hero’s actions cause frustration and disappointment. Grant may have been in the dark for the most part, but Lyla is armed by her foreknowledge and intuition. Her “sixth sense” as she calls it, is so palpable that it makes her rub her neck repeatedly, much to Grant’s bafRlement. Such details add curiosity to a steamy Highland romance capitalizing on Time discordance.

Belle is a widow of Rive years who has been whiling away her time in the country, yet craving company

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Christmas in Crimson Sandra Sookoo
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and excitement. When she comes upon a stranger hiding in her barn, instant attraction Rlares between her and the stranger she Rinds. Hawke, masquerading as an out-of-work laborer, is on Belle’s land in search of looted treasure under orders from the Home OfRice. He is drawn to Belle, which is dangerous as she is intelligent, and mission? Belle has powerful feelings for Hawke, but she has already lost one love. Will she overcome her fear of loss and embrace this attraction to Rind happiness again?

“Christmas in Crimson" gets off to a great start, jumping into romance and intrigue, which will immediately capture the reader’s attention. The chance encounter and instant attraction are a bit jarring, but that initial stumble fades as the story progresses. The author ably draws out each of the character’s personalities and insecurities as readers follow the pair, watching as they grow and interact with each other. The story is Rilled mystery, danger, and the allure of something special developing between Hawke and Belle. Readers will feel compelled to read on to the tale’s inevitable conclusion, with a few surprises along the way. Some modern language does creep in, which is a little out of place for this period, but the premise is fun and provides a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Rika Chandra

Tales of Timeless Romance (A Dragonblade Historical Romance Anthology)

Fil Reid, Cara Hogarth, Gemma Sydney, Donna Maloy, Stephanie Patterson, Peri Maxwell

Northrup's opinion of her Impressionist painting. Will the two Rind common ground and love as well?

A Poetic Season by Peri Maxwell: Lady Evelyn Beckett chaperones her friend, which throws her into the company of Rory, the Earl of Althorne. Considered on the shelf, Evie Rinds that when it comes to love, it's never too late!

So Arthur Was Born by Fil Reid: The attraction between Eigr and Uthyr is impossible to resist, but the consequences will reverberate throughout history!

To Kiss an Outlaw by Cara Hogarth: Lady Marion, daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, races to warn Robin Hood of danger, but it will take ingenuity to prove Robin's innocence and Rind their happily ever after!

The Heart of Sherwood by Gemma Sydney: Fearing for her sister's future, Lady Marian creates a bold plan to enlist Robin Hood's help and capture his heart!

The Captain's Last Quest by Donna Maloy: Held captive by her father, Letty Waire will do anything to save herself, including marry a naval Captain, Nicholas Monton, who is willing to scale a castle tower to rescue her!

The Art of Love by Stephanie Patterson: Leandra Hughes is an artist to her soul and determined to correct art critic Harding

"Tales of Timeless Love" offers romance that spans from medieval to Victorian times. In "So Arthur Was Born" both main characters are married. Moreover, the POV alternates in present tense. Readers may Rind it difRicult to connect with the characters and their story. "To Kiss an Outlaw" and "The Heart of Sherwood" are delightful spins on the Robin Hood legend. It's unfortunate they appear in the same anthology one after another as it dilutes the impact of each. "The Captain's Last Quest" is an entertaining Regency take on the Rapunzel fairytale. Victorian era "The Art of Love" paints an emotional picture of family loyalty that will touch hearts. "A Poetic Season" captivates with a romance between two lonely hearts! Overall, a delightful and charming collection of novellas. Tricia Hill

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The Viscount Without Virtue

Maximilian has spent his life trying to meet his father’s expectations. As a last ditch effort, he agrees to go undercover and expose the dangerous practices the Preston family of NorthRield are encouraging. Everything from hiring malcontents and freed slaves to promoting social justice practices that would ruin the English empire. Once there, however, Max is hard pressed to uncover the corruption and discontent that must be buried. His purpose is made even more difRicult when he discovers the dowdy woman that helps with the carpentry work is actually the beautiful eldest Preston daughter, Ellen, and she is just as enamored with him! Once she discovers his true purpose, however, will she continue their liaison or will they destroy one another with the truth that must be told?

In a world Rilled with light, historical romance, this story not only intrigues and titillates but engages and educates! The writing is lovely and thoughtprovoking as the characters grapple with the societal problems of the era. In fact, this would be an enthusiastic Rive star read, if the romance aspect would

have stayed true to that time, as well. Instead, however, it reads as a steamy contemporary couched in regency clothing. Ellen’s behavior is especially suspect. Not only in her actions but her choice of words and phrases, which are more 21st century good time girl than slightly knowledgeable 19th century lady. It Rlings any cognizant reader out of the narrative repeatedly and Rlows over into her actions in other areas, as well. Still, it’s a dynamic story - and if one can overlook the perplexing and prevalent anachronisms, an enlightening and enjoyable read!

A Lady Never Surrenders

takes her home. Before getting there, he proposes a wager. He won’t tell her cousin about where she was or that she plays the stock market if she will allow him to court her. It will be a marriage of convenience. She is torn, but agrees. She’s been in love with Wolf for years. Can he ever love her?

“A Lady Never Surrenders” is a lovely tale about broken people who Rind out that love can conquer all. The main characters, Tiffany and Wolf, are strong and outgoing with a lot of depth and backstory. Several stories are taking place during this tale, and numerous mysteries are afoot. Secondary characters have little depth but are introduced for the next books in the series. When Tiffany arrives at her uncle’s she is Rifteen, but six years later, the novel puts her at twenty-three, so the math does not add up. Wolf is a marquess, which would make Tiffany a marchioness, not a countess as is mentioned various times in the story. An overall satisfying novel, this second story in the series gets us warmed up for more. Wolf and Tiffany’s tale is truly inspirational!

Tiffany Deveraux is Rifteen when her parents are robbed and killed in their carriage. With nowhere else to turn, she moves in with her uncle and meets the mysterious Slade Ware, Marquess of Wolfarth, known to all as Wolf. At the age of twenty-three, Tiffany is caught by Wolf at Capel Court, The London Stock exchange. She is wearing widow’s weeds but has the veil up when she’s talking to her stockjobber, Mr. Sprat. Wolf is appalled at her presence and

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Brownen Evans
Historical

Elizabeth Johns

Maria Lloyd loves her best friend, Captain Phillip Everleigh. When Maria’s brother is publicly accused of being a traitor, Maria and her parents have no choice but to leave London. Luckily, Maria is invited to Paris by friends and leaves with them. When Maria arrives in Paris, she slowly adjusts to her life there. Maria meets Colonel Strickland, with whom she ends up going on many outings, and even entertains the notion of marrying him. Maria notices that Phillip is in Paris too, where he courts a beautiful princess and quickly becomes betrothed to her. Though Maria really doesn’t trust the princess, she still attempts to support Phillip and his plan to marry the woman. Phillip attempts to remain levelheaded, but he falls hopelessly for the noblewoman. Maria must Rind a way to save Phillip before it’s too late.

people’s motives fully explained, this heightens the puzzle. At times, the story drags a bit, but it is very appealing anyhow. Maria is just a fantastic heroine, despite her plain appearance. She looks out for everyone that she loves, even if they don’t listen to her, and wants what is best for them. Phillip, the handsome hero, is so indecisive that it is exasperating when he talks excessively about Maria, especially since he never Rigures out his feelings until the end. This book by Ms. Elizabeth Johns is an engaging historical romantic suspense that readers will truly relish!

“Lord of the Knight” entices readers with each nail-biting mystery! Many plot twists complicate the romance too. Even though some situations aren’t fully expanded on nor are

Scotland’s Melody Katie Stewart Stone

unknown carriage and Rinds herself face to face with Cameron Findlay and his sister. Sympathetic to Melody’s plight, the siblings agree to take her on as a servant. But adjusting to this change in circumstances is challenging for Melody and her draw to Cam is difRicult to ignore even as fate’s wheel continues to turn.

A sweet historical romance, “Scotland’s Melody” spins fate and love together in an adorable way. Although it’s blatant from the beginning who Cam is to Melody and how unsuccessful she is at defying her father’s plans, somehow readers will be unable to put down this book. Melody’s growth is so obvious and the way she tries to balance logic with her feelings and matures is delightful. Further the way she and Cam fall for one another is both natural and enjoyable giving it a bit of depth. Readers who enjoy quick reads, guaranteed happy endings, and forgiveness, without major conRlict or drama will Rind plenty of steady romance in this book!

Melody Foster has lacked for nothing except the ability to choose her own spouse. When her father declares she’ll marry a Scottish lord she’s never met in six months Melody deRies him and cuts ties with her family to marry the man she loves. Unfortunately, without her dowry her supposed love, Richard turns on her. Desperate to escape the plans and clutches of her former Riancé , she climbs into an

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Lord of the Knight (Gentlemen of Knights Book 7)
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Debauchery and the Earl (Gentlemen of Pleasure Book 4)

Josephine’s sister is pregnant, and she says that the Earl of Calton is the father. This pregnancy could ruin her sister and the family name. Everyone knows the Earl of Calton likes to sleep around, but has never committed to a relationship. Josephine sets out to force him to acknowledge he is the father of her sister’s babywhich he denies. It turns out Josephine’s sister lied to her, and with Calton’s help, they set out to Rind the real father. What Josephine and Calton did not count on is falling in love.

“Debauchery and the Earl” is sweet historical romance that the reader will love. The story line is very enjoyable, and readers will enjoy both the main characters. Josephine is a tough and caring heroine who wants to protect her sister and her family. The reader will enjoy the humor and constant bickering between Calton and Josephine as they try to Rigure out who the father is. The author, Mary Lancaster, has done a great job of portraying the sexual chemistry between Josephine and Calton. There are some suspenseful moments, but readers may feel that there should be

more action. The pacing also drags in some places, and a bit more character background would also be a nice addition.

There are some suspenseful moments in this standalone, which are enjoyable. Overall, a nice addition to the Gentlemen of Pleasure series, which will carry readers away for a couple of hours.

An Autumn Kiss (Timeless Victorian Collection #7) Laura Rollins, Annette Lyon, Lisa H. Catmull

of their lives seems impossible, or is it? Finally, in “A Railway Through the Roses”, Mr. Adrian Everard is desperate to keep his father’s factory open, but he lacks funds and the railway he needs to build requires cutting through his best friend’s garden. Lady Anne Baxter knows what Adrian wants and why, but even if he won’t ever look at her as more than a rich friend, she certainly won’t give him away to just anyone!

The latest Timeless Victorian Collection anthology includes

“The Plucky Miss Ruth” in which Miss Ruth Hughes decides her life is stuck in a time loop and only by helping her cousin reunite with her soulmate - with the aid of the handsome Lord Lambert - can the loop end. In “Mr. Dowling’s Remedy”, an heiress is sent to an asylum by her stepfather. At the same time, Crandall Dowling, a medical student, is also sent to the asylum when he develops uncontrollable and shocking ticks. Leaving the asylum and regaining control

A marvelous collection of stories, each novella has a complete story with interesting characters with the most vivid being the second story, “Mr. Dowling’s Remedy” which melds romance with hints of the horrors of being consigned to an asylum in such a dramatic way that the reader will be on edge to discover how the problems are resolved. The emotions in all three stories tug on the heartstrings but also have moments of humor, particularly in “The Plucky Miss Ruth”. While none of the stories have time to develop much depth, each brings the characters together in the kind of relationships that speaks to happily ever afters. Readers looking for uncommon romantic beginnings and lives outside the ballrooms of the Victorian era will Rind this collection to be a worthwhile treat!

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Lucinda North applied for a job as a teacher at a girl’s school and upon arrival Rinds the staff in an uproar and herself thrust promptly into the role of an impersonator. The Princess Louisa of Aachen-Dü ren has gone missing after the death of her brother, and her father the king is so eager to see her crowned as heir, he has arranged with the princess’ cousin, the Queen of England, to perform the ceremony in London. Without the missing princess, chaos will ensue, but for Lucinda North, the danger from both assassination attempts and lying about her identity to Queen Charlotte and all of Regency society is almost nothing in the face of lying to Anthony, Earl of MelRield, and the man who is supposed to be training the princess to conduct herself properly. Finding the missing princess is critical, but it will take everything Anthony has to also save the woman who is quickly entering his heart as well.

A surprising foray into royal identities and intrigue, this book

has both the attention grabber of a start and an intense, readers know it’s coming, but can’t stop reading cliff hanger of an ending! Not only is this book the Rirst of the trilogy, but also an evident act one to a tale that demands a short intermission until the next book releases, as this book sets so many plot threads into motion while still engaging the readers in Lucinda and Anthony’s romance as well. The combination of noble and interesting lead characters, spy craft, assassination attempts, political intrigue and romance builds to something potentially amazing for the reader, but only a closer look will tell.

Barrett Falconner Graves, Duke of Hargrieve, is known as the Mad Duke, accused of killing his father and older twin brothers when he was a lad. He too was injured that day, with no memory of what happened. He is annoyed when his aunt appears on his doorstep with two half grown sons, a young daughter, Meredith, and her governess. Barrett cannot take his eyes off the beautiful governess,

Minerva. Later he notices his cousin Peter has designs on Minerva and is conniving to have his way with her. Minerva is frightened of the boy. Willis, the older boy, helps Peter with his quest, while Aunt Charlotte encourages the behavior. Soon Barrett Rinds he cannot get his mind off Minerva. She constantly thinks of him too, but because she is the illegitimate daughter of a gentleman, she believes she is not suitable for him. Barrett has no plans to wed, but Minerva could change his mind…

The Prologue introduces us to the mystery of the story, and the reader gets a front seat view of the killings, which is heart wrenching. The characters are all bigger than life with personalities to match. Charlotte and her boys are pure evil and conniving, doing things to beneRit only themselves, while Barrett, Minerva, and Meredith are the diametric opposite. It is hard to keep Minerva and Meredith straight because their names are so similar. It is difRicult to believe that Willis and Peter could change so much from their diabolical ways with a just push from Barrett. Plenty of twists in this story keep readers invested in the tale, from the original murder, to kidnapping, and Rinally true love.

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In Lieu of a Princess (The Royals & Rebels #1) Meredith Bond The
Duke’s MagniNicent Obsession (The Hellion Club Book 6)
Chasity Bowlin
Historical

he is trying to be his own rebellious solution. Parts of this story are unbelievable for the time period. Mary Grace has dreams which lead her to go into the forest at night and search for supernatural beings. Rather than add to the plot these forays tend to be hard to digest. A fun fanciful read that will entertain fans of Robin Hood.

Meriden Park

Mary Grace was rescued as a girl in India and was raised by the Wellings in Calcutta. This half Indian half English girl has been raised as an English lady but knows her place in society as a lesser. Not a servant but not a lady, Mary Grace is caught in between two worlds belonging to none. When Mary Grace meets Robert Markham she is immediately intrigued by him and by the goings on in Sherwood Forest that borders her new home. As she explores the forest with Robert she begins to learn of Robin Hood and that this Sherwood Forest seems to have a Robin Hood of its own and a villain of its own too. Mary Grace isn’t sure who she can trust or where she belongs, but she knows she must be careful if she doesn’t want to end up one of the victims found in the forest.

This Robin Hood tale is a twist on the original with Robert a fan of the novels and a believer that Robin Hood did exist. Robert has his own band of forest men who are helping him. Mary Grace has instant chemistry with Robert and is inexplicably drawn to him. But with what she witnesses she doesn’t know if he is part of the problem in Sherwood Forest or if

On Prevailing Winds

unbidden, a stranger shows up one evening. Sophia and Robert’s lives are turned upside down, never to be the same…

A spectacularly written piece, Ms. St. Michel writes a realistic view of the reconstruction occurring after World War II. Vibrant, emotional characters with life changing secrets take the lead and guide the reader through both atrocious and idyllic times. There are several unexpected twists that come out of nowhere and shock the characters – and readers alike. An epic novel, “On Prevailing Winds” seizes the emotions of the reader, leaving them in tears at the most poignant scenes. The secrets Sophia harbors are damaging enough to destroy each of them and their growing relationship. Sophia’s life is an allegory paralleling the destruction and restoration of Germany following the war. A haunting story, it will stay with its readers long after the last page has been turned.

Sophia is a Prussian princess, and the only survivor of her family. She keeps her identity secret for fear she too, may be shot - even though the war is over. She marries a Nazi at the beginning of the war, leaving her destitute when he is killed in a train bombing the next day. She does not love him, just thinks his last name would give her protection during the war. Now she works for Colonel Robert Pratt, an American. She quickly becomes enamored with the handsome colonel who has secrets of his own. They begin a torrid love affair that they try to keep hidden, but everyone knows. Sophia eventually goes home with Robert to America where she is a tutor to his young siblings. All is well until,

Desperate Hope

Much of this story occurs in New York during the Revolutionary War. Gavin Cullane is close friends with Alden Carter, who protects

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Julie Daines
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Gavin from injury during an explosion, but suffers a traumatic injury in doing so. Alden is married to Tansy, and has told Gavin many stories about her strength and courage during their time together. After Alden succumbs to his injuries on a British prison barge, Gavin does what he needs to do to escape the ship and to honor a promise made to Alden to ‘Right back’ before he died. He ends up meeting Tansy, her infant son, and other members of her extended family, who are doing what they can to help Washington’s troops beat the British. This puts him in an awkward position, as he is the colonial liaison and reports to the British.

This story transports readers back to the Revolutionary War, and evokes the fear, danger and secrecy surrounding those who were Righting for their very survival. This is a tightly- woven, complex tale that pulls readers in from the start. Ms. Furlong sets the mood well, and readers can visualize the cat-and-mouse gamesmanship between the colonists Righting for freedom and survival, and the British soldiers trying to thwart those dreams. The protagonists and the major characters are portrayed vividly. Their motivations are cleverly deRined; however, the shift is decidedly abrupt when Tansy and Gavin switch from being enemies to lovers. Other than that, the story Rlows well, and the tension stays taut. There are some close calls and some tightly-paced scenes, which leads to a satisfying conclusion for most of these characters, with one notable exception…

A Kiss from the Marquess (The Duke’s Lost Treasures Book 2)

Lana Williams

Simon Webb, the Marquess of Vanbridge, is a bit of a recluse who employs quirky household servants who add a lot of personality to this story. Simon creates multiple exhibits for the Museum of Antiquities, hires a director, and then basically washes his hands of it. Norah Wright and her two sisters, Ella and Lena, were raised on Oak Island in Nova Scotia with their parents. Sadly, both parents are now deceased. Her father recently died in a freak accident after a quarrel with Norah. Having nowhere else to go, they travel to London in the mid-1870s to live with their estranged grandfather, the Duke of Rothwood. He is a crotchety old man who is slowly warming up to his granddaughters. He disowned their mother when she married David Wright, and she died before repairing their relationship. To ease her guilt for the circumstances of her father’s death, Norah wants to see her father’s treasure-hunting journey portrayed in a creative exhibit in Simon’s museum, and he agrees to this; unfortunately, the museum is experiencing a spate of exhibit thefts.

A signiRicant part of this book details the investigation into the missing exhibit pieces with minimal progress catching the culprit. Meanwhile, the protagonists are getting to know each other, so the investigation serves to facilitate this purpose. When the reason behind the thefts is revealed, it seems somewhat petty. Nevertheless, readers understand the motivational forces behind the main characters as the story progresses, while the peripheral characters stay fairly shallow. The story is entertaining. The pace is engaging and includes a moderate amount of tension. The dialogue is delightful--especially when Simon’s staff is featured!

Adam (Diamonds of the First Water Book 3)

Sydney Jane Baily

When Lord Adam Diamond sees a beautiful lady drop a package, he returns it to her. Years later, Mrs. Alice Malcolm is a governess for the Beasley girls where she teaches them music and languages. One day, Alice is playing her violin, and she believes no one can really hear her. Adam goes to Lord Beasley’s home, overhearing

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some beautiful music, and thinks it’s Lord Beasley’s daughter playing. When Adam approaches Alice and talks with her, he realizes that the girl who is playing the violin is the same girl who dropped a package. Lady Beasley tells him that Alice is the governess. Adam has immediately fallen for Alice and would do anything to make her his. But Alice holds a secret about who she really is, and if Adam Rinds out, it will destroy his trust in her.

An interesting historical romance by Ms. Sydney Bailey! Unfortunately, the story is burdensome in places, causing the writing to be jarring even though it isn’t a long novel. The plot and some situations do not seem historically realistic, though it is a riveting story anyhow. Fortunately, the characters are cleverly written, which does help offset the tediousness of the plot. Adam, the handsome hero, moves rather too quickly from wanting Alice to be his mistress to wanting her for his wife, which feels a little unbelievable, and makes one skeptical of his motivations towards her. When Alice, the sensibly smartheroine, attempts to reason with Adam, he never seems to listen. Instead, he listens his physical urges to have her, which does get annoying. Still, the book manages to be captivating and charming to readers anyway.

Roslynn Ernst

Naughty or Nice Anthology: A Holiday Regency Anthology

Bree Wolf, Sydney Jane Baily, Tracy Sumner, Fenna Edgewood, Charlie Lane, Jennifer Monroe, Meredith Bond

luck and is teetering on bankruptcy. He wishes to wed Agnes, but has nothing to give her. Trouble follows Prudence. At the house party she meets Alexander, the brother of the prince of Aachen-Duren. He sees her at her worst.

A dazzlingly different array of Christmas tales guaranteed to put one into the Christmas spirit!

Edie becomes ensnared in her plan to Rind Addie a suitable Riancé . Jasper promises his dying father he would wed within the year. Is Edie for him? Lord Geoffrey Diamond has eyes for Lady Caroline. The obstacle? Their parents have been feuding since before their birth! Heiress Francine Shaw Rlees her native America leaving scandal behind. She must Rind a titled man to wed. Viscount Remington Rinds himself in need of a governess for his ward. Francine steps into the position. The Dower Countess Colworth expects to be criticized and accused of murder. She gets nothing but sympathy and love, especially from Ashley, who works in the stables. A forbidden love blooms! Lady Pippa is caught kissing the steward, Bram, by Grandmama, and Pippa is banished from Scotland. Grandmama comes to England for the holidays bringing Bram with her. She will bring one of them back with her. Which shall it be?

Mr. Phillip Rutley has only bad

Though each story is diverse, many of them touch on the subject of forbidden love for the times. Each story is cleverly crafted to bring a strong hero and heroine to life in a believable world setting. The descriptions are divine and make one really empathize with the characters through their trials and tribulations. Because of the short length of the stories, little time is spent on the secondary characters in several of the tales so they tend to be one dimensional. Some stories dragged in parts, but then picked up their pace before the end. A beautiful piece for escapism into the Christmas season, or any season of the year!

Belinda

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It Started With a Glance (Love Started Book 3)

Meg Easton

the way they help guide both Elle and Declan through their romance. A nudge here, a nudge there, and pretty soon the fellow who thought he’d never get caught is smitten. And, the woman who’d sworn off celebrity romances has a change of heart. The main characters’ ability to conRide in one another is a wonderful show of trust, and a growing and strong relationship. If one enjoys clean and wholesome romance with an appropriate dose of humor, ‘It Started With a Glance’ is deRinitely one for you!

Elle Markle is the daughter of a rock star who grew up in the limelight, and with the understanding that celebrities weren’t always to be trusted. For that reason, she’s vowed to never become involved with one. Declan Davenport is an unusual celebrity with nearly as many issues from his past as Elle has from hers. And he’s also reluctant to give away his heart. When Elle is assigned to do a day-in-the-life expose, she realizes ignoring the handsome Declan may prove to be difRicult, but she’s willing to try.

‘It Started With a Glance’ by Meg Easton is a sweet, lightly inspirational romance dealing with the challenges of two individuals who are no strangers to the limelight. However, the author has thrown in an interesting twist to the story. Declan isn’t your ordinary celebrity. He’s a scientist, a man of unusual knowledge, who just also happens to be knock-down, drop dead gorgeous; a fact that makes him all that much harder to resist. The supporting characters in this story also lend a nice touch with

Hot Set (Behind the Scenes Book 1)

Gillian is an absolutely phenomenal golfer, and is also passionate about writing. Her single novel hasn’t made enough to pay the bills; she writes descriptions for a clothing company for that. Her current boyfriend, who has kept their two-year relationship under wraps, is now pushed onto the latest clothing model during a golf tournament his company is hosting. Look no further for a reason to leave. Gilly’s current golf foursome includes Bobby, from a

TV show currently Rilming episodes in Ireland, and is looking for a writer/assistant. Once she nurses back Bobby (after a rouge golf swing he takes her ball to his head) she gets invited to go work with the hottest leading Viking show.

Ms. O’Sullivan has created a lovely tribute to Ireland with “Hot Set”. The descriptors of the scenery, golf, and writing for a very popular show are portrayed well with interesting facts and folklore sprinkled in. Her characters are laugh out loud funny, and also very endearing. The very hasty romance is well deRined, however still feels rushed. The constant churning that Gilly does about her ex is mentioned more than necessary. The ‘workplace’ romance is always a sticky wicket and this is no different, with lasting consequences for all. A fun way to visit Ireland and see local sites while holding on for the wild rides on the opposite side of the car and road. Overall, a beautifully written escape for those who wanderlust and yearn for a happily ever after.

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Contemporary

Snickerdoodle Surprise

‘Snickerdoodle Surprise’ is the story of three sisters who give up everything in their forme lives to take over the inn they’ve inherited from their beloved aunt Sophie. Together, Charly, Emmeline, and Rae Lynn must learn to navigate the business of running the Lilac Queen Bed and Breakfast. They must also learn their way around the handsome handyman, Jake, who comes part and parcel with the property. When land developers come knocking on the door, the sisters are tempted to sell. However, knowing how much their aunt loved the property, they decide to try and make a go of it, with Jake’s help of course.

‘Snickerdoodle Surprise’ is just that, a wonderfully surprising clean holiday romance that warms the heart and reminds the reader of the importance of family. Each of the three female characters has distinct personalities. Mix in children and a host of animals, and you have the perfect recipe for chaos. Add to that, Snickerdoodle cookies, and you get a story that’s hard to resist. Jake is an extremely likeable hero, with a great personality, and an uncanny ability to navigate this disruption in his life. Rather than

dealing with one owner, he’s now faced with three, all of whom speak to him in a different way. Which sister will Rinally capture his heart? While it became somewhat obvious fairly early in the story which sister would win his heart, the chase between the three made the story all the more entertaining. For fans of familycentered stories, with a wonderful touch of romance, you’ll deRinitely want to read this latest installment in the Christmas Cookie series.

N.E. Kelley

A Season to Give: A Seasons of Northridge Christmas Novella

Rebecca HeRlin

Prince Adrian Henri Alexandre Xavier Duvernay is a prince without a kingdom. His father divorced his wife and abdicated the throne to wed his personal secretary, a divorcee. Oh the scandal of it all! An archaic law decreed his children illegitimate, so Prince Adrian is no longer the heir apparent. He is making a life for himself in America, and his best friend Jacques has followed him. A beautiful American woman

works as Adrian’s personal secretary. All is well until Adrian Rinds himself falling for Sophie Jordan. Fighting his feelings, he does not want a repeat of his father’s scandal. Sophie enjoys working for the prince, but she has been in love with him since the beginning. She too hides her feelings, and they enjoy a professional relationship. That is until right before Christmas, when the staff is gone and they are snowed in together in his home…

“A Season to Give” is a charmingly fun escapade. Prince Adrian and Sophie are strong characters with solid drives for perfection. Jacques is the conscience of Adrian and the voice of reason throughout the story, without being intrusive. Very reminiscent of the Meghan Markle story, this tale is cliché d. The backgrounds of the characters while interesting are repeated often, taking much time out of the storyline. Ms. HeRlin is particularly skilled at bringing her village to life by describing the attendees at the open house. There are so many, but they are all quite different and memorable. Christmas spirit abounds throughout this account making the reader long for the season ahead of time. A wonderful story sure to brighten the holidays of any reader, young and old alike.

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Sage’s life has taken a drastic turn, forcing her to audition as a dancer at a gentlemen’s club. Sage’s sister is battling cancer once again, and Sage is surprise when she learns the only man who can get her sister into the drug trial is none other than her new boss. Ryker is inexplicably drawn to Sage, so when she asks for his help with the trial, he decides to use it to his own advantage. With Sage using a fake name and hiding from someone who would do her and her sister harm, how can her growing feelings for Ryker ever go anywhere? And

when Ryker Rinds out Sage has been lying to him about who she really is, can he Rind it in his heart to forgive her, and give their relationship a chance?

Readers will be surprised at the sheer depth to the characters and their backstories that Ms. Caldwell has curated! Details of the dancing scenes are fabulous and will have readers transported to the stage. This is truly a tale of going to any lengths to take care of your loved ones. Ryker comes across as a cold, cynical monster, but as one gets to know him, readers will learn he is far more than that. The

underlying mystery tailing Sage will have readers on tenterhooks, and of course, when the truth comes out, Ringers will be crossed that Ryker will see the bigger picture and do the right thing. Completely surprising, absorbing, and delightful, “Strip” will have readers glued to the pages with their emotions laid bare as two damaged people try to Rind their happy ending.

Christmas at Tall Pines Darlene Deluca

feelings he thought he’d left behind a decade ago. Past and present are colliding as the blizzard rages on, but some Christmas magic might be all they need to give romance a second chance.

A famous author and a Hollywood heartthrob reuniting years later during a blizzard provides plenty of fuel for a holiday romance. Throw in some unresolved high school drama and the conRlict could have easily skyrocketed, particularly over some of the Rlimsy plot threads concerning the characters’ loss of contact, and later a few of the holes in the conclusion. Instead, Melanie chooses forgiveness and second chances, and Tyler is given opportunities to grow and pursue Melanie. Still, the development of their relationship is steady and sweet, and the shift from surviving their problems to handling them slowly entices the reader to turn the page. Readers who are looking for a light holiday romance will Rind this one delightful and deserving of a second look!

Melanie Beck chooses to spend Christmas at Tall Pines Lodge in the mountains of Utah, which offers holiday festivities, music, and other traditional activities. Grieving the loss of her parents, Melanie hopes Tall Pines will provide the Christmas atmosphere she misses. Unfortunately, her trip is disrupted twice, Rirst by the arrival of her high school crush turned Hollywood star, and then by a blizzard that strands them both there. Tyler Shaw has retreated to Tall Pines to access the local ski slopes and take a much-needed break from Rilming and paparazzi. His plans are immediately upset when he runs into Melanie again, and realizes his old friend ignites some

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Strip: A Bargain with the Boss Romance Elisabeth Caldwell
Contemporary

What We Never Say: Bold Journeys Book One

Kyle Dillon thought he had put the past behind him. But when his girlfriend discovers information about his past, he is forced to relive trauma he’d rather leave buried. Rebecca loves Kyle, and for the Rirst time in a long time, she feels as though she is doing something worthwhile in writing her blog - a blog that she writes under an alias due to its delicate nature. But when an enemy from Kyle’s past comes back to haunt them both, they Rind themselves facing the music in every way possible. Will they be able to get through everything and make their relationship work? Or will the troubles separate them and force them to start over again?

The Rirst thing to mention is that this book deals with the subject of sexual abuse against men. Paulette Stout has handled this delicate subject in an amazing way. Clearly she has done her research, and the actions and thoughts of the characters will really put readers in the middle of the story and realize the trauma that Kyle has gone through. The relationship between Rebecca and Kyle is fantastic, even though they face their troubles and there are many hiccups, they handle it well. There is a villain that is absolutely

hateful, diabolical, and there is just a need for her to get what she deserves. With an engaging plot and the tackling of a very sensitive subject with Rinesse and great writing, “What We Never Say” is a great start to the Bold Journeys series.

Secret of the Sonnets Samantha Hastings

the ton, “Secrets of the Sonnets” is just the thing. The story will appeal to lovers of Shakespeare as well, since the bard’s work is sprinkled liberally throughout the story. Miranda’s family is also very non-traditional and provide a wonderful secondary storyline. The scholarly discussions between Miranda and her father over the works of Shakespeare are as entertaining as the slow-burn romance between the two main characters. When Miranda and Lord Robert agree to work together to review the ancestral papers belonging to the Hamilton family, they have no idea of the mystery that awaits them, or that their very search will put them in danger from forces also interested in the works. This is a well-crafted Regency period drama made even better by the history and littleknown facts it uncovers. Highly recommended.

Miranda Hatch is no ordinary Regency heroine. She’s in her midtwenties and would likely be considered a spinster. However, marriage was never as important to her as her education. Fortunately, she has parents who encourage her pursuit of knowledge, rather than dissuade her from it. Lord Hamilton, although titled, is penniless and drowning in inherited debt that will likely cost him his family home. When Miranda and Robert meet, there is an immediate, although subdued, attraction which will grow over time and circumstance. As they are pulled into an adventure, they must rely on one another to navigate the secrets that lie within the Hamilton family papers.

For readers who love Regency romance, yet are looking for something different than the prerequisite balls and affairs of

Tricked in October (Pineridge Book 2)

Starla DeKruyf

Kelsey O’Henry’s annual Halloween costume party is just around the corner, but it’s the Rirst year she’s hosting it since her husband’s passing. Kelsey’s already got enough on her plate on top of running the bar,

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including caring for three children, watching over her alcoholic mother, and making sure she keeps up with paying the bills. However, now she’s also got to deal with the feelings she’s developing for her best friend, Davis Vance. Vance, a star on the TV show “Renovation Dudes” with his twin brother, is tired of the fame, but sees an opportunity to save Kelsey’s bar and has to take it. However, could that just be his hidden feelings doing the talking? What will happen when the tension continues to build until Halloween?

All readers are going to want to save a few hours to Rinish this addicting holiday novel that has everyone’s two favorite H’s: Halloween and hotness; this read will deRinitely live “rent free” in readers’ heads for weeks. The protagonist is a strong-willed, independent mother; but she does become too much to empathize with due to her constant stubbornness. Davis, though, is the perfect man, and not one reader will Rinish this tale without an ounce of swoon for him. Unfortunately, readers didn’t quite get enough of Davis since the plot feels too fast and rushed. The story still acts as a quick little holiday read for those looking for some sexy Halloween moments, but it feels too unrealistic to see Kelsey fall in love so soon after her husband’s death. Overall, this book still does a beautiful job of presenting a sweet, friends-tolovers romance.

Cause for Elimination

Emily Conners’ whole world Rlips upside down when she Rinds her boss in a stall with her head smashed in. Emily had already been through enough after her life-altering horse- riding accident, and now she must deal with the trauma of this too. When a detective, Justin Butler, comes to the scene to investigate the death, he gets wrapped up in the chemistry with Emily and the enemy-Rilled equestrian world faster than he expected. However, for Emily, this means Justin may get twisted into the secrets of her world, and for Justin, this means a big distraction standing in the way of his stressful investigation.

Combine a spooky mystery with a boatload of lust, and readers have themselves this phenomenally descriptive story, which is full of plot twists, built-up tension, and gripping scenes that will drive them to never let this novel go. This tale has everything one could want: a unique plot with horse riding, hot tension between protagonists, and a creepy, dramatic murder investigation. The equestrian plot is tricky to comprehend right away because some of the terms are launched onto the reader with explanations that are too brief. However, the author makes up for it by granting

the reader depth into the individual lives as protagonists instead of rushing the romance. Readers get to watch the lovers really fall in love in a genuine way; a magical reading experience granted through the exciting slowburn relationship. The character development and transition of the plot are also something the author takes slow and extends perfectly throughout the novel. Beware: if readers pick this book, they’ll never want to put it down!

Stranger Than Fan Fiction (Unlucky in Love #1)

Piper Sheldon

Kate Dubois is a fan-Riction writer and she is speciRically fond of the Teraformative world, which was an old television series featuring her crush, Charles. Charles on the other hand has struggled with sobriety and identity issues since his childhood show ended. In his downhill spiral, he comes across a series of fan-Riction that take him into the unwritten future of Teraformative. After reaching out to the author, Kate, they begin corresponding nearly every day for two years. However, she has yet to learn his true identity. Will he ever Rind the courage to tell

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her? If he does, will she still love him for who he is?

Piper Sheldon created a beautiful connection between Kate and Charles based solely on their email exchanges. Few novels are able to capture raw emotion and world building under normal circumstances, but the way this story is told through emails makes everything come to life in a personal way. It is a nice addition to include the unsent emails as well, which act as the characters’ inner dialogue and allow readers a greater connection with each character. It is particularly difRicult to read about Kate and Charle’s/Pete’s relationship as her bright light, full of desire and passion for life and her writing becomes dulled by Pete’s narcissism. There is so much pain and force behind every smile she shares with Pete, but her world was light every time she read an email from RC. It tells an important message about Rinding someone who lets them be themself. “Stranger Than Fan Fiction” is a sweet, light-hearted read that will bring on some smiles and laughter.

Willow Zayde meets Jett Foxx on a country road in southern PA. He’s pushing a Harley that is out of gas, and she’s riding a horse from her aunt’s horse farm, Zayde Arabians. She helps him out and to thank her, he offers her a kiss. Neither expects to ever see the other one again; however, things work out differently, only Willow is heartbroken when it happens. It turns out that while her dreams of training a National Champion horse are dying, Jett’s dreams are coming to life. Fortunately, Willow has an amazing rapport with the horses, and Jett has deRinitely noticed.

This story is engaging and interesting. However, it needs the services of content and copy editors. One protagonist is a 29year-old male, yet the cover shows what looks to be a middle-school student with a baby face and a pre-teen chest. Additionally, there are things that just do not Rlow well or make sense. For instance, the protagonists are gazing at the farmland all around them (implying daylight), when they opt to race to the bottom of the hill and call the horses back to the barn. The horses arrive a minute later, yet it’s suddenly pitch dark.

Also, a shooting crime happens within the story, and in less than a month, the perpetrator has been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced. The timing seems unrealistic. Willow suspects her aunt has a new beau - spelled bow. Readers notice these types of inconsistencies as it pulls one out of the story. In spite of these issues, the protagonists are both likable characters who bring out the best in each other, and who face challenges with maturity, wisdom, and skill beyond their years and cover photo.

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Heart of Dreams Susan Zoe Bella
Contemporary

the bone with added depth to the story and characters. The quick relationship may not wash with all, however what lacks in time it makes up for with personalities and creativity. The Holiday theme cookie competition is a fun tradition that ties the gift of a holiday story in a nice bow!

Meringue SnowNlake Magic

Swept up in haste, Wynter must relocate under all the rules of the witness protection program. She’s sent to a tiny Colorado town which has a welcoming crew of elderly ladies, who are quick to show with all their best treats. Wynter takes a tumble in the slick snow, the local deputy Sheriff, Blaze, happens along to aid the damsel in distress. Blaze also owns the local pizza restaurant and is the town’s leading bachelor. Blaze is drawn to Wynter and knows there is more than meets the eye, and he’s determined to uncover what she’s attempting to hide from him. When trouble looms for the small town and all its residents, Blaze and his crew get to work quickly to secure those in danger.

“Meringue SnowRlake Magic” is beautifully written novella with many creative characters. The new girl in town gains much attention when all she wants is anonymity. The town’s most eligible bachelor-turned hero is quite alluring, and readers will totally cheer on the newly developing relationship. All though this entire story feels very rushed, each component of the plot is touched on. However, readers may enjoy more meat on

Afterworld: Road to Redemption (Hell’s Angel #1)

just stop Kate from saving the world.

A brilliant paranormal romance that will suck the reader in and compel them to never stop Rlipping the pages. The apocalyptic world that is built in this story is written beautifully and allows the reader to fully immerse themselves. Both Kate and Jax are perfectly written and show growth throughout the story. The way in which the romance and storyline itself plays out is both fantastic and swoon worthy. There are some instances where the characters forget about something that they shouldn’t have, but otherwise this story is pure gold. Please be advised that this book contains several possible triggers such as animal death, animals in distress, mentions of rape, and heavily religious themes. Readers should see the author's full list of triggers before reading. This apocalyptic story is one that will be remembered for years.

The world has fallen to a Rlood of sorrow, pain, and loss created by the four horsemen as they turn Earth into Hell’s front lawn. Their ultimate goal is to Rind the person who can birth the devil. Jax was cruelly groomed from birth to be a vessel for the second horseman, War. But Jax has other plans, breaking the ritual does stop War from walking free, but binds him to Jax’s soul. When Kate and her German Shepherd, Hank, stumble into a death trap, an unexpected angel steps in and saves her before giving her unique powers and a heavenly weapon. Jax needs that weapon to cut himself free of War, but sparks and feelings quickly Rly as he and Kate Right and discover their destiny together. But those feelings might

How To Date A Fury

Luna Joya

All Dottie wants is a night on the town, to have some fun and let loose. Sadly it doesn’t quite work out like that. First of all

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she sees her ex who disappeared on her a decade previously, then she’s murdered. But thanks to her ex, she is brought back as a fury. Chase loves Dottie, and he can’t live in a world without her in it. He makes a blood oath to bring her back, but coming back isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Chase claims she’s his fated mate, and she has to Rind the individual who killed her and take part in a roller derby tournament. Sounds simple? Yeah right. Will Dottie be able to bring all the pieces together as well as the pieces of her heart that was broken by Chase all those years ago? There is a lot riding on the roller derby fate who is trying her best. Dottie is a fantastic character who has a journey where she comes into her own. Immediately, she wants nothing to do with Chase after what he did, but things change and he is the one who helps her. romance and mystery, there is a little for everyone. Chase is one sexy as sin lion shifter who wants to win back the heart of the woman he loves. Set in Syn City which is a pretty Ritting name, there are angels and devils all around. “How To Date A Fury” is a great read and one that fans of the genre will love. An awesome start to the series.

Ericksen (Gen-Heirs: The Guardians of Sziveria Book 5)

What if marriage were merely a contract and love a separate issue? A heartbroken father has lost his family. His wife and son are murdered, and his sixteenyear-old daughter is missing. Local law enforcement has bungled the investigation and lost the gathered evidence. Henry Castien turns to his former proté gé , Vayden Dossett, to Rind out who did this to him and recover Cia. Tribunii Melody Ericksen is the Haven City Enforcement Services agent assigned to the case. Although she knows that her department has mishandled the situation, she is earnest about recovering Cia Castien and needs to work with Vayden to do it. But Melody and Vayden have a history. Matched by a matchmaker, Melody turned Vayden down when she realized that his gen-common genetics were beneath her Gen-Heir lineage.

Ericksen tells a tale of love and compassion that overcomes prejudice and ambition. Set in a future that is eight hundred years post-Cataclysm, humans have been sorted into a genetic caste system that awards higher rank,

wealth, and prestige to those with special genetic skills, the GenHeirs. Only Gen-Heirs can rise to positions of power to become Guardians. The crime that brings Melody and Vayden together for a “second chance” takes a backseat to dynamics of their relationship, as Melody comes to admire Vayden’s investigativeupbringing has not only been extremely prejudiced, but abusive. In a twist of expectations, Vayden demonstrates abilities far beyond his gen-common status and Melody’s genetic talent may not be what her social-climbing parents have claimed. A vision of future humans that’s a combination of acerbic, thoughtful, and heartwarming!

Destiny’s Rogue (Blood Rogue #3)

Samira Anai Se-Bat, Sam for short, is a queen among vampires in the middle of a war. Using a poison called Nirvana that accelerates the aging process of vampires and pushes them closer to turning rogue, Sam’s brother, Antu, plans to destroy the world. Racked with memories of her and Antu’s past love affair, Sam has vowed to stop him no matter what, even if it

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means giving up her own life. Sam has given up on the hope of Rinding love for herself; however, when she has no choice but to change Cord, the scientist who made the poison and who reminds her so much of someone who she cared for, into a vampire she Rinds her heart in a battle with her sense of duty.

“Destiny’s Rogue” gives the legend of vampires a new twist in an action packed adventure. The characters in this book all have trauma built into their welldeveloped pasts which adds depth in a unique way, and there are moments when Cord’s caring nature sweeps readers off their feet. However, the deep and often cryptic language used throughout the book causes a lot of confusion that often leaves the reader to wonder what a scene or section was actually saying. There are also a few places when the characters lose this tone for a line and sound like completely different people. Please note that incest is hinted at in this story, which may be triggering for some readers. With more time spent in making the language less mysterious, this action packed adventure will surely soar.

Joanna Morgan

Levi is a Rire elemental on an important mission, protecting humanity by Rinding and draining the sleeping elemental’s power before the agents of chaos use them to destroy countless lives. Nothing can make him lose focus or control over his element, that is until the beautiful Brooke draws him in like no other. Now his element is burning out of control, and only the mysterious woman’s touch can cool him. With success being her top goal, Brooke has never put love high on her list of priorities. But, on the day her hard work Rinally pays off, a man unlike any she has ever met makes her feel things she’s never thought possible. When Brooke and Levi learn that she is a sleeper water elemental with a massive target on her back, they will have to Right to protect each other while navigating their new bond.

This sizzling paranormal romance is sure to ignite the senses and leave readers breathless. At Rirst glance, Levi is a tough guy, concerned about nothing but his mission. However, as he explores his feelings for Brooke, that hard exterior cracks open to reveal one of the sweetest heroes readers

can imagine. The way Brooke transforms into a Rierce heroine is also well done. While this story has a lot of action, there are a lot of heartwarming moments that pour the emotions the characters have for each other right off the page. The formatting and typo errors can be a bit off-putting and cause some confusion, but the depth of the world building is magniRicent. With a little more editing this book will truly burn its way to perfection.

The Color of Betrayal (The Psychic Colors #2)

Jolene is a memory surgeon which means she has the amazing ability to see people’s memories, as well remove them, or transfer them to another person. She is also a recovering alcoholic who just so happens to be part of a government agency that helps take down drug cartels. Enter Cass, a very handsome man who just wants to work together with Jolene and have a platonic relationship with her. Relatively quickly, however, they are unable to keep their growing feelings inside any

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Burn (Elemental Warriors #1) Hollie Smurthwaite

longer. Once they act upon those feelings, Jolene’s mission is thrown off course. Cass and Jolene are now in great danger and must keep each other safe. Will they be able to sacriRice the tasks at hand to protect each other?

“The Color of Betrayal” is a very spicy paranormal romance that readers will want to sink their teeth into. Although this is the second book in The Psychic Colors series, it can be read as a standalone, as the main characters change in each book. The shorter chapters in this book make it a very fast page-turner. The story’s concept is very intriguing and unique. The book also has very well-deRined characters, gorgeously written scenes and dramatic writing that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Jolene and Cass are very strong and resilient characters and their feelings for each other are beautifully written. A very gripping and enthralling read from cover to cover, “The Color of Betrayal” is one readers won’t want to miss

Jennifer Shepherd

Seraphina Addington can see the dead. What’s more disturbing? The dead are starting to see her! Amid WWII’s London bombings, Seraphina leaves the city to seek refuge at All Hallows, the country estate of family friend, General John Lewis. Leaving the war-torn capital is meant to remove Seraphina from the multitude of spirits now wandering London, but she doesn’t Rind the peace she seeks in the remote idyllic locale. Not one, but two ghosts haunt All Hallows. They are as challenging as they are unavoidable. Her new protector, United States Air Force Captain Ross Stewart, who is stationed in nearby Burley Mansion, tries to help Seraphina, but his easy-going Rlirtations attract the censure of Burley townsfolk

“The Ghosts of Lewis Manor” is a gateway through time and otherworldly dimensions, evoking equal measures of longing, unease, and foreboding. Seraphina’s journey starts with frustrated anticipation when the All Hallows caretakers fail to meet her arrival in town, and she is unceremoniously deposited a fair hike from the manor. Relief and interest are sparked at Captain Stewart’s timely appearance to

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escort her the remainder of the way in the rapidly falling dusk of the dark woods surrounding All Hallows. Dread and tension seeps in as Seraphina encounters the spectres of her new home, and she learns that young women, just like herself, have either disappeared or been killed in a mystery that spans over two decades. Helping the ghosts of Lewis Manor fulRill their Rinal purposes may take more than kindness, and failure could cost Seraphina her own life! Ideal for those who enjoy a slow-paced historical mystery with reRlections on the afterlife.

Killian Quinn is the captain of the Rish boat, Dawn Chaser, who receives a distress call from a sailing ship in a storm. When the captain and his crew arrive, the ship is destroyed, and the only survivor is Lorelei Roth, a woman who has hypothermia. There are no other survivors or bodies found. When Lorelei and Killian meet for the Rirst time, the attraction is instant between them. As they get to know one another, Lorelei is plagued with

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The Ghosts of Lewis Manor Marcia Maidana Called to the Deep (Haven Cove Book 1) Desiree M Niccoli

survivor’s guilt and strange dreams that have her sleepwalking into the ocean. What really happened to that sailing ship and who is she really?

“Called to the Deep” is a different twist on the mermaid tail with some added romance. The reader will be drawn into the story from the very Rirst page as one tries to Rigure out the mystery about what happened on that sailing ship, Osprey, and why Lorelei Roth survived. The author has created a wonderful story in a small-town setting with well written and unique characters. The reader will love how the characters communicate with one another and stand up for one another, although one may not feel the connection and attraction between them as strongly as hoped. One will love learning Lorelei’s story as she discovers who she really is, and her struggles to control herself and remain human. This is an excellent start to a new series, but beware of the clifRhanger ending that will leave readers wanting more.

Genevieve Jack

story, even when they Rind themselves in some very dangerous situations. The mystery component that Ms. Jack throws into the plot mixed with the slow burn second chance romance makes for a very richly written story. The pacing is fantastic and will leave readers wanting more. “Lucky Me” is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy realm of storytelling. With subtle hints of Sophia and Seven’s story continuing, hopefully this won’t be the last readers see of them.

Sophia Larkspur left her home in Devashire 16 years ago. She lives in the United States as an undocumented Fae among the humans until she is captured by the Fairy Immigration and Rehabilitation Enforcement Agency. With the help of her daughter, she is rescued, and they are forced to return to the home she left behind so many years ago, only now they will be living in the portion of the realm that humas are allowed to visit known as DragonRly Hollow. And unfortunately, Sophia’s rescue does not come without a price. She is forced to help Seven, her exboyfriend and leprechaun billionaire, with a murder investigation. Follow this unlikely pair as they navigate their very awkward relationship while also trying to catch a killer.

“Lucky Me” is packed full of exquisite world building that readers will absolutely love. The Fae live on a magical reservation away from humans, and there are several different variations of Fae discussed throughout the book. Sophia and Seven have wonderfully witty banter and good chemistry throughout the

Caged Fury (Goldenlach Ridge Shifters Book 2)

J.E. McDonald

Sabrina Covin and her sister, Brooke, were caged in a plane, but she managed to get free, and so did her sister. She was able to get a parachute and put it on her sister, and push Brooke out of the plane. She was unable to get away and was recaptured and put back in her cage. Her captors put on a collar that causes pain to control her. Walker is an ex- military ofRicer and searching for someone. He gets caught trying to help Sabrina and is now in a cage being tortured. When Sabrina helps him escape, he realizes she is his fated mate.

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“Caged Fury” is a fast-paced and entertaining paranormal romance that will leave the reader wanting more. The story will draw the reader in and keep one on the edge of one’s seat as the author leaves the reader guessing what will happen next. J.E. McDonald has created a very believable story with complex characters that are very strong - but broken. There is constant action, suspense, violence and Righting scenes throughout the story. The chemistry between Sabrina and Walker is very strong, and the love scenes between them are sizzling and very emotional. Their lovemaking and connection steams up the pages! “Caged Fury” can be read as a stand-alone, but the reader really should read the Rirst book in the series since this tale continues where the Rirst book left off. If one is a fan of paranormal romance, this story is deRinitely worth reading!

Taylor and Julian fought feverishly to leave behind the world of evil and moved to Peru where they look forward to raising their

twins. However, after their daughter vanishes in the middle of the night, they are forced to come face to face with the world they left behind. In order to rescue their daughter from the occult group who they suspect are planning her sacriRice, Taylor learns to accept her roots and build her ability as a witch. Despite her lack of practice, she knows it’s a road she must travel if she hopes to have any chance at saving her daughter. Will Taylor lose herself in the magic as she Rights to save her daughter? Can Julian and Taylor work together one more time to overcome evil, or will they be too late?

Each page of “Song of Virgo” is Rilled with twists and turns full of mind-boggling conspiracy theories, occultism, and magic that will shake readers to their core. Kat Turner creates an intense storyline that follows the battle between good and evil, with vivid imagery that evokes fear and repulsion of the world behind the conspiracies. Readers will ache alongside Julian and Taylor as they yearn for their daughter and sacriRice their own lives to ensure her safe return to Peru. As their journey unfolds, they are exposed to the harsh realities of magic and all the possible repercussions that could surface, which puts a strain on their relationship. Yet, the love that radiates from these characters is powerful and evident. Overall, “Song of Virgo” is the epitome of a war between good and evil, fought with the love of a selRless mother and father.

Nicholas Grey is an architect and the CEO of the family Rirm. He needs to land a prestigious project to save the company. Bethany Clarke is a Rirst-year intern at the same architectural Rirm, determined to put her career Rirst. At a convention in Las Vegas, Nick persuades Beth into a pretend engagement to mask his reputation and win a major contract. They wake up the next day married to each other, and Nick has to persuade Beth again to maintain the ruse or lose the contract, and his position as CEO. Step in fairy godmother Faye to save the day by acting as their publicist to help them along. During the course, they start to develop real feelings. But outside forces are trying to keep them apart.

A sweet romance which has an intriguing and dramatic start. Yet, it jumps through several storylines and timelines making it difRicult for the reader to follow. The story starts from Beth’s point of view, only to be re-wound and repeated from Nick’s. It is then Rlung into a backstory of the fairy godmother which has no correlation to the story. Is it a contemporary romance? Is it a

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Song of Virgo (Coven Daughters #3) Kat Turner Sadie Wilson Designed by Destiny Maya Tyler
Paranormal

fairytale? What is the relevance of the fairy godmother and her backstory? There is little progression or depth to the characters, and their situation and feelings are unconvincing. There are several antagonists which throw the story into further disarray. It would work better if the focus was on one clear storyline, letting the characters develop and the story follow a natural and enjoyable path to its conclusion.

More Than Wolf (More than Human – Book 2)

overcome her fears and learn to control her gift?

‘More Than Wolf’ by author Heather Ashbury is an exciting, neatly written story of Elle, a young woman coming into her own as a lycanthrope. While Elle’s story began in the Rirst book in this series, ‘More Than Wolf’ does stand on its own with the heroine’s background being Riltered in slowly. Her romantic relationship with William, a man of extraordinary patience, is heartwarming. However, her feelings for him will be tested. The story also includes a secondary heroine, Esadora, and her struggle to overcome the sinister voices in her head that cause her to make rash decisions, such as testing her abilities on the wrong person/dragon. She relies on hers and Elle’s mutual friends for support, which brings the story full circle and sets up what will likely be the next book in the series. For those readers who love fantasy with very realistic horror touches, you will no doubt Rind this book to your liking.

N.E. Kelley

‘More Than Wolf’ is a multicharacter fantasy that picks up where the Rirst book in the series left off. Under the tutelage of William, her lover, she is learning to accept her trueself. When William offers to take her to meet with others of her kind, Elle is faced with a decision. Can she accept becoming part of the Clan even if it means giving up the man she loves? The book also tells the story of Esadora, and her challenges with her ability to take over the body of another. Driven to near madness and suffering with depression, can she

HISTORICAL: Constantine the Great has ignored Lucius and his legion for 30 years. Now he is ordering Lucius along with Rome’s new allies, the Sarmatian and Marpesia, the chieftain across the border to stop the vampires driving the Visigoths to Rome’s borders. After Lucius’ mission is completed, the emperor no longer needs him and he is not to return to Rome. If he crosses the border, he will be killed. Marpesia, the beautiful chieftain of the Sarmatian is a very tough leader and her people follow her. Lucius and Marpesia are outnumbered but they must survive the winter and complete their mission.

“Fall of the Centurio Immortalis” is a historical fantasy romance Rilled with action, survival, friendship, and love. The vampires are different from how one sees them. It was a nice change to see a completely different take on vampire stories. There is a lot of action and suspense throughout the story, as

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Fall of the Centurio Immortalis: A Luke Irontree Historical Fantasy Romance (Luke Irontree & The Last Vampire War)

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the reader waits to see if they will be attacked and by whom. The reader will love the characters, Marpesia and Lucius, who are strong and compassionate warriors who Right with a passion for their people. One will love watching the slow courtship between them as they fall in love. Lucius is a complex character, who has lived a long time and fought a lot of battles and is afraid to fall in love again because one day he may lose them. A delightfully different vampire tale!

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

On Pocalypse every avatar has a Lifebook. Each Lifebook contains the avatar’s soul and the story of their life. Lifebook’s also are the place where Lifebonds are signed. Control someone’s Lifebook and you control that avatar. Because of this, each avatar safeguards their Lifebook. But the government and the velo bosses are in a struggle for control and power, and because of this, society on Pocalypse is crumbling. Each avatar knows they can maintain their safety if they can maintain the safety of their Lifebook. Sanya doesn’t know where her Lifebook is, and even more disturbing, she doesn’t know if she has one at all. An avatar without a Lifebook is of great interest to all the people struggling for power, so Sanya must evade the government and all the velo gangs as she seeks to Rind her story - if it is written anywhere at all.

Zach Larson has crafted a complex world. As Pocalypse comes to life, new characters and concepts are introduced. There are so many new words and ideas that sometimes it seems like it’s the second book in the series, and more backstory is necessary to understand what is happening. Sanya’s character development is great as she meets avatars and learns whether or not they can be trusted. So much is packed into this fantasy that it really could be two to three separate books, which creates some confusion at times. Fans of fantasy that are ready to have their imaginations stretched and are willing to spend the time Riguring out what is going on will truly enjoy this unique fantasy world of Pocalypse, and will end the book anxious for the next installment of the series.

that they are pulled into this curse as they are pulled from their beds as soon as they fall asleep each night. And so, King Eldarlan tries to offer entertainment and food, and make it as pleasant as he can, without involving himself in the gatherings. Kate’s brother has become a king,and hours after she becomes a princess, she goes to bed only to awaken in a strange kingdom in the middle of a party in her worn robe and bare feet. When Kate retreats to the hedge maze she meets the King and sparks Rly immediately. Within a week they Rind themselves in a marriage of convenience to save Kate from an arranged marriage, and to save the King from the curse.

A fun fantasy romance full of sparks and chemistry. There are many supporting characters who add to the intrigue and romance. Although this is the third in the series, it is easily read as a standalone. The story is a predictable, quick, light romance. Emrys and Kate have sparks from the beginning but start as friends. Their friendship quickly blossoms into love as they learn to trust and rely on one another. Their strong friendship makes their love story that much stronger as they never doubt each other. The character development of Kate was great as she learns how to be a queen. Emrys’ character could have had more development going from the frosty king to a devoted husband. A quick romantic read fantasy fans will love to get swept away in.

The King of Eldarlan, Emrys, is cursed. The curse causes him to have to host human princesses at a nightly soiree. But it is not the princesses fault he is cursed, and

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Pages (Book One in the Lifebook Library) Zach Larson Cara Cieslak The Elf King’s SacriNice (Elves of Eldarlan Book 3) Elisa Rae

City of Ruin (Witch Walker Book 2) Charissa Weaks

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

captivates the reader with passionate witches, tortured sorcerers, and conniving gods. The menace of the Gods is so real that the heroes struggle to stave off destruction. Raina and Alexus burn with strength and determination by day and smoulder under the blankets at night. They are supported by friends and warriors who exhibit true grit. Characters are so alive that they leap off the page! The fast pace, witty repartee, and memorable cast should propel City of Ruin to the top of every Romantasy lover’s To Read list. The shocking ending will have readers yearning for more.

Raina Bloodgood has seen the darkness. With the destruction of her village of Silver Hollow, Raina is now an integral part of the power struggle between Gods and princes. After the Prince of the East kidnapped the Frost King, Raina and Alexus Thibeault Rlee south with a small band of warriors to rescue their friend. The Prince intends to use the Frost King to weaken Fia Drumera, keeper of the City of Ruin, and resurrect his master, Thamaos, God of the Eastern Territories. Raina is revealed as a witch and seer of great potential and Alexus, The Witch Collector and her new lover, will do everything in his power to train and protect her. But with the reappearance of Raina’s spurned childhood sweetheart, Alexus’ ancient ex-heartmate, and not one but two Gods angling for rebirth, the danger and drama is palpable. Richly drawn and beautifully written, not a single word is wasted in this incredible fantasy. Magic perfuses the pages, enhancing the sparkling narrative, as RireRlies to a moonlit Tiressian night. Charissa Weaks has created an alluring mythology that

Becca Shaw, an American widow, has settled with her teenage daughters into her new home on a remote Scottish Island. The island is home to a reclusive set of islanders who have ties to the fae. While Becca and her older daughter study spells, mysterious and malicious pranks take place in the village. Suspicion turns to Becca. Her boyfriend, Greg Gillie, who is charged with protecting

the island from fae escaping the Hill and wreaking havoc on humans, can’t detect fae involvement. As Becca tries to track the source of the pranks, her dead husband's family arrive with endless demands that push Becca to her limits. Can Becca bring peace back to the isle or will evil win this round?

"Bagpipes and Basil" creates a lighthearted fantasy world that captures the reader's imagination with a mix of witches, shifters, goblins, selkies, and more! The story is told in Rirst person. Becca is an extremely likable young widow, raising two teenage daughters, and navigating a world whose rules are very different from those of Texas. Her daughters characters are well developed with distinct personalities but keeping track of all their friends is challenging. Although the visit from her husband's family adds comic relief, their self-centeredness becomes wearing. Greg and Becca’s relationship is in its early stages. As there are few moments for them to truly be alone, their budding romance is often overshadowed by other events. The climax sets up conRlict for a future installment that points to more mischief afoot to plague the shrouded isle. 'Bagpipes and Basil' sprinkles pixie dust magic that will have readers smiling from start to Rinish!

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Bagpipes and Basil (The Shrouded Isle Book 2) Zoe Tasha

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

slowly begins to Rlesh out as the story progresses. And, since this seems to be the Rirst in a series, they should continue to develop more dimension as time goes on. As the action increases and the intensity grows from one world to the next, readers will Rind it impossible to leave, it is that hard to put down and very well worth the read!

Sin Marston can see through glamour. That is a rare talent for a human living among the multitude of “hidden” beings who visit earth. It has afforded her a job that is both exciting and interesting. That is, until catching a simple thief in an art gallery results in a much deeper problem and lands her right in the middle of dangerous paranormal politics! Radzik Cray has lived for centuries working to build his power base and wealth among the humans. So, upon seeing Sin, he is interested in an enjoyable dalliance with the intriguing woman. But as he learns more about her, he realizes there are forces at hand that may be capable of destroying all he—and everyone he works for—holds dear. But how to uncover the rats without annihilating the worlds?

In a world full of paranormal books, this story stands out! It is tightly and intelligently written while still imbuing all the steam, action and excitement any paranormal or fantasy reader yearns for! There are twists, turns and surprises galore that keep a reader turning the pages and biting their nails. The character depth is a bit shallow at Rirst but

Born the illegitimate daughter of a notorious dark witch and a light witch father, Medea de Bar grows up Righting the equally strong dark and light powers within her. Once her mother is dead, however, Medea Rinds herself queen but with no one to love and nothing to do. So, in a reckless decision, Medea steals a dragon and goes for a ride. Unfortunately, unable to control the dragon, she is pulled through a magical portal and lands in a completely unknown world. Rhys Blackseed is the king’s favored knight but even he cannot control the attraction he feels for the unknown witch that suddenly appears! However, her dark powers are quickly growing and threaten to destroy all the good

within her. And no one knows how to counteract it, especially Medea, herself!

This is a story that holds everything a fantasy fan desires— a beautiful witch, a handsome knight, intense action, and Rinally, a happily ever after! The overall plot is an intriguing one that readers will Rind engaging. It’s in the actual execution of that plot where the struggles exist. The writing style is very basic, using simple sentences and words throughout - such as when a very powerful God gets angry, he shouts, “This is one of the worst offenses ever!” The romance aspect is also incredibly sudden. They have known each other for less than a day when Media states her love. And both act more like children than adults - especially Media, who regularly stomps, pouts and throws tantrums. If more time were spent developing more complex characters and storyline, this truly would be an addictive and exciting fantasy offering.

The Flaws of Gravity

Who do you believe when you don’t know who to believe? That’s the quandary Jude Rinds herself in

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when she wakes up from a coma. The fairies are everywhere, some good, and many bad. Jude is half fairy, thanks to her human mother. Now all she wants is a frozen drink, a chaise lounge, and a beach. Before she can get that, however, she needs to save the world from the powerful fairy, Aubrie, who wants to rule it. When she awakes from a threemonth coma, the Consilium has been overthrown and the good and bad fairies are battling. Jude just wishes they’d wear white and black hats for identiRication. From one misadventure to the other, Jude moves around Canada searching for the two items Aubrie needs and hangs on to the one thing she must remember— fairies lie.

“The Flaws of Gravity” is not only an entertaining read; it’s an education about the various types of fairies that exist. And none of them are Tinkerbell. As Jude moves from one misadventure to another, she encounters all kinds of good and bad fairy folk. In the midst of helping her former lover, Daniel, Rind the two items before Aubrie, she spends a lot time in battle. There’s never a dull moment in Jude’s world and never a time when she feels she’s aligned with the right people. Caye has done an amazing job of creating all this havoc going on around humans in the Canadian cities. Thanks to glamour and other fairy tools, it’s pretty interesting to see how that happens.

Becoming Crone (The Crone Wars Book 1) Lydia M. Hawke

frightening despite little descriptions of them. The imaginative world-building is stunning and very easy to visualize! Claire Emerson, the sixty-year-old protagonist, does act immature at times, especially in her infatuation with Lucan. Still, the author manages to pull off an older heroine convincingly. How Claire became a crone and her history with witchcraft could use more explanation, though this really didn’t detract much from the story. Claire is easy to like and relate to. The book holds the reader engaged in the tale and never lets up until the very end!

While celebrating her sixtieth birthday, Claire Emerson is given a pendant by her grandson. After the party, Claire can’t Rigure out what is going on with herself. Claire notices more menopausal symptoms than ever before. When she sees a hidden message in the newspaper, her curiosity is triggered, so she follows the message leading her to a hidden cottage in the woods which she learns is also her home. Claire is tasked with saving her world, so she is accompanied by a gargoyleKeven, who is her trainer and Lucan, a handsome wolf-shifter, as her protector. Claire resists training of any kind, resisting the very notion that she even has powers—because magick shouldn’t exist. Claire learns that she is a crone with powers and yearns for her old ordinary life despite the dangers it causes. This extraordinarily diverse paranormal fantasy by Ms. Lydia Hawke is marvelously written and quite unique! The action-packed story moves along quickly, never slowing down, bringing all sorts of paranormal creatures together seamlessly! The malevolent characters are horrifyingly

The Ugly Stepsister

Megan Van Dyke

Once, Anna was deemed the wicked stepsister of Cinderella. In truth, she was the victim of Cinderella’s cruel bullying. When the guards came for her, her sister and mother, Anna was the only one who got away. Her sister and mother are forced to work in a factory as punishment for their supposed “cruelty” to queen, Cinderella. Seeing the injustice of this, Anna decides to break them out. By disguising herself as a

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man named Ansel, she Rinds the perfect way to get in and out undetected—until she meets Will. A former huntsman for the royal family, Will has been cast out by Cinderella for daring to question her authority. When the king and prince are found murdered, Will Rlees the palace to look for answers. Upon meeting Ansel, Will is drawn to the strange young man. Together, they concoct a plan for revenge. But Ansel’s secret identity could ruin the whole thing.

Ms. Van Dyke has created a magically mysterious retelling of an old classic, and it turns the fairytale upside down! Unique and fast paced, “The Ugly Stepsister” takes the tale of “Cinderella” and shifts it to the perspective of stepsister Anna. Her chemistry with Will is instant and strong. Some readers might not like the instant love trope, but Ms. Van Dyke does it well. The world she’s created is vivid and intense, instantly getting readers lost within it! A few elements are repeated throughout and that can stall the progression some. Overall, it’s a quick and fun read, full of magic and intrigue, as well as gripping characters! This is a great read for lovers of romance and twisted fairytales!

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

consulted advisors, but Selene still feels the punishment is too harsh. Her relationships with the castle staff provide support and love. However, her love for Con is woven into the tapestry as she seeks to right a wrong she thinks was done because of her. The supporting characters provide support and love for Selene in her journey. Though the curse is the theme, the love story triumphs. Absolutely delightful!

Selene, the king’s swan herder, enjoyed growing up with the six princes before their beloved mother died. Now, the king is busy and the princes have become her tormentors. Though she has kept her bruises and hurt feelings from the king, others in the king’s service have noticed and beg her to tell him. Conway, the new pig herder, Rinds the silver- haired beauty enticing and worth courting. When the eldest prince accuses Selene of mistreatment, the king doesn’t believe him, and the truth of the princes’ cruelty to her is revealed. Despite Selene’s protests, the princes are cursed to be swans, with only Rifteen minutes a day as humans. Conway helps Selene through her grief and her efforts to aid the princes in their quest.

This is a beautifully crafted story that keeps readers engaged and entertained! Selene loves her swans and her life in Melthkoir and was very happy until she became the target of bullying. When Conway comes to the castle, he becomes her protector, to no avail. As a result of their behavior, the princes are cursed, yet Selene is distraught. The king

HISTORICL: Set in ancient Britannia, “Skull’s Vengeance” centers around Catrin, now a battle-hardened warrior and burgeoning sorceress. After her stint as a gladiator, Catrin has set out to take revenge against her half-brother, King Marrock. Marrock has been using the power of deceased family members’ souls to increase his own power—and one of his goals is to bring about the death of Catrin. Catrin needs allies to gain the power she needs for her revenge. Unfortunately, many of the allies are former allies, and she doesn’t always know who to

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

trust. Her secret marriage with Marcellus comes into play as well. She has decisions to make: will she stay in her homeland and Right for her right to rule, or will love win out and lure her to return to Rome?

For a fourth book in a series, Ms. Tanner does a wonderful job of Rilling in details in her exposition without becoming overwhelming. Unfortunately, despite this fact, this book is a challenging one to pick up mid-series. Many plot points depend on knowledge of previous events and details of character development may be missed by new readers. Despite this fact, Catrin in particular is an incredibly relatable and strong female protagonist. Her emotions and reactions are well-crafted. Ms. Tanner’s world building is superb. Her descriptions truly bring the settings and characters to life in cinematographic detail. “Skull’s Vengeance” weaves together magical elements and historical elements seamlessly. For lovers of political intrigue and historical settings, Linnea Tanner’s visceral epic fantasy series is certain to keep readers satisRied.

Sasha is a shy librarian, who is in love with her choirmaster Nash Swann. When Swann selects Sasha for his A Capella group for a Christmas concert, they Rind out that their voices harmonize perfectly. But Swann has a secret; he has noticed Sasha and has been searching for her all his life —the woman who will be his true match, with very speciRic qualities. Swann disappears after one night of passion, abandoning Sasha and the choir. She is left wondering and questioning her choices. Unbeknownst to her, Sasha must pass the Rinal test before she can become his queen. Will she make the right choice?

“The Teacher” has a whimsical, fairytale holiday feel, with a potential for a slow burn to build up to the Rinale. Yet the reader is left confused with the fast-paced romance and intimate scenes, some of which may make readers feel uncomfortable. This is followed by Sasha’s abandonment at whiplash speed. But it is Sasha who has to pass several tests to prove she is his one true love. He seduces her, then wipes her memory only to turn up again at her doorstep pretending he knows nothing, till she passes the next test. And then seduces her

again only to disappear on her without an explanation. Seems she has to pass yet another test… all without her having the slightest knowledge of it. There is a mere dusting of the supernatural, but the reader is not made aware of this until the very end. The story could use expanding on the mystical and working on the character traits of the hero to prove his worth instead.

Unearthly Magik (Black Cauldron Detective Agency Book 1) Matilda Reyes

Ava Ramos is a Gray Mage who specializes in elemental earth magic. Together with her best friends, Nadia and Lucas, she runs the Black Cauldron Detective Agency in Manhattan. Things become dangerous when Ava’s former boss, the commander of the Archmage’s forces, gives them an assignment they can’t refuse. Recover the Lauret Grimoire. This stolen book of magik contains powerful secrets that must not fall into the wrong hands. The job comes with help: the mysterious and talented Mage who has been stalking Ava is assigned to work with them. Mr. Tall, Blonde, and

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The Teacher Susan Zoe Bella

Hot, as Ava nicknamed him, before she learned that his name was Max Torres, annoys and aggravates her; or maybe the heat between them is something else entirely?

The early detective work is easygoing, as Ava Rinds herself caught between her handsome new Mage coworker and an adoringly Rlirtatious Shifter informant. Salty, meet sweet! Ava is an intriguing blend of opposites. Scary, but vulnerable; snarky, but insecure; deadly, but ethical. Her witty sarcasm keeps the reader entertained. However, as Ava and Max try to unravel which baddies have auctioned, bid, and restolen the Lauret on its convoluted journey, enemies thwart their efforts and deliver more than one savage beating. There are many connections to keep track. Some, like Ava’s apothecary and an enemy underworld boss, share the same name. Typos and long stretches of untranslated Spanish make an already frenetic plotline even more difRicult to comprehend. The resolution is abrupt, tragic, and leaves the original theft a mystery. This promising magikal world of the BCDA could be a fun series starter with further editing.

Fantasy

Whiskey Storm (Whiskey Falls Book 3) Taryn Rivers

Cartel raise the stakes of urgency, and certainly keep the plot moving at quick pace. This is book 3 in this series and it stands alone well; however, reading the others as well will afford readers even more enjoyment! Authors like Ms. Rivers take chances, and many will appreciate her creativity. Add her to your one-click list - and this series too! “Whiskey Storm” does not disappoint. A well-deserved 5 stars!

Mercy West is a legend in “The Underground” secret society who aids women and children in Rleeing when their lives are in danger and they need new identities and to start over in new places to keep them alive. Now Mercy Rinds herself in the place of many she has helped over the past two decades. When she lands in Whiskey Falls, with her aunt, cousin, and great niece, many are leery of their intentions. Griff Daniels is the retired Sheriff in town, and nothing goes by unnoticed in his county. His ties to a motorcycle club and law enforcement keeps him in the loop, if and when things go sideways. Now Mercy has his heart doing a double take and he makes it his job to protect her. Cartel threats are looming, and they are all targets.

An action-packed tale with loveable, relatable characters and emotions that grab the readers’ heartstrings from the get-go! The hero and heroine are of more mature ages, and each has emotional scars that keep them Righting their attraction. The shifting POV of these two allows readers a better understanding of who they are. The baby and the

Cosmic Trap (A Clay Wolfe/ Port-Essex Mystery #4) Matt Cost

being reported missing. Assassins are also suddenly tracking down Clay and Baylee as they continue to investigate, but why? Are they digging too deep?

“Cosmic Trap” is an engaging mystery with a very creative plotline. This story is packed full of action, adventure, and mayhem! While this book is the fourth in the Clay Wolfe/Port- Essex Mystery series, it can be read as a stand-alone, and readers will have no difRiculty reading it as such. There are quite a few characters to follow throughout the story, so readers may have a difRicult time keeping track of them all. They are also not very relatable characters, which leads to a lack of interest in what happens to them. However, “Cosmic Trap” does have a very interesting and unexpected plot twist. Readers who love mystery with science Riction, a little bit of romance, and witty banter are sure to enjoy this story.

There have been some unexplained aerial phenomena, or UAP, in Port Essex, Maine. Clay Wolfe and Baylee Barker, agents in a government task force, work together to try to uncover the truth behind the recent UAP sightings. On top of that, a local woman, Alice Smith, has gone missing and they are on the hunt to Rind out what has happened to her. Alice’s husband believes she is having an affair and could have simply run off with another man. But is her disappearance just an affair, or is it related to the UAP sightings? Not only has Alice gone off the map, but one by one, every witness of the UAPs is slowly

Honor And Duty (Federal K-9 Book 6)

Kade Sampson got an unexpected call from his brother Josh who’s a bank manager in New Jersey. Josh is the numbers guy in the family, much like their father. Kade on the

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other hand went into law enforcement. Both brothers are West Point Graduates, always rivals and competitive. Josh’s sudden request has Kade curious. While heading up the elevator, Kade literally runs into a very beautiful woman. Once on the elevator, it stalls out between Rloors, and he and Laia have uninterrupted opportunity to get to know one another and learn they have much in common. Much to Kade’s disappointment, he learns that Laia is soon to be his sister in law. When Laia calls years later asking for help, Kade and his K-9, Smoke, jump in to protect her and his niece from Cartel chaos.

Ms. O’Fallon has created a fast paced, action Rilled story where one bad decision has a ripple effect and changes the course for many! The family dynamic has an interesting twist and the untold feelings, buried for years, is an endearing theme for “Honor and Duty”. The secrets that are revealed makes for high stakes drama and requires strength and much forgiveness. When Kade, a Homeland Security ofRicer, walks a thin line between breaking the law, he earns his hero cape to take on the role as protector. The supporting characters from Kade’s past all acting as loyal brothers to the cause is swoon worthy, and those who appreciate the military genre will love this tale - and the entire series. This stands alone, but readers add the series to your favorites list!

Truth Truth Lie Christina Delay

straddling two timelines, readers are given tantalizing glimpses into their lives. The characters are utterly engaging, and one experiences their raw energy, thoughts, grief, anxieties, and fears as they try to untangle truth from the web of lies they’ve created around the people they love and are supposed to trust. The thread unravels the deeper the tale goes, only to be caught up again in yet another tangle. Gripping and brilliant in its execution, it will keep readers’ hearts and minds racing!

Lilly Fausse has been brutally attacked and is in a medically induced coma. Her best friend, Jane, is beside herself. Lilly’s husband, Evan, is distraught. Who would do this to her? They’ve lived a picture-perfect life, complete with a BBQ with all their friends the other night. But Jane remembers that something had rattled Lilly that day. A man from Lilly’s past had turned up on her doorstep, and she had lied to Jane about it. Jane always knew Lilly kept secrets. But with Lilly in the hospital, Evan collared as the prime suspect, Jane also being threatened, the web of deceit grows. The last thing Lilly said to Jane was to ‘take care of Evan’. How can she go to the authorities for help without putting Lilly, Evan, and herself in further danger?

A magniRicent page-turner that keeps the reader guessing from the very start, fooling them into believing they know where the story is leading, then pulling the rug from under them at the last minute. A rollercoaster ride to the very end. Told from the point of view of the two best friends, and

Revenge Never Rests

Laurie Lewis

Tallie Brown was raised by a woman with mental health problems who was not very loving or affectionate toward her. Instead, she was taught from a very young age how to track people. Now as a young woman herself, Tallie specializes in Rinding missing people. Her life is upended when she receives an Amber Alert and is the Rirst person to respond to the call. Tracking the missing person quickly takes Tallie down a dark path of discovering who her father really is, and shortly after this discovery, her father, General Cai

114

Kaswell, goes missing. On the hunt to Rind her father, Tallie Rinds herself risking her life, as well her friend's lives, as they uncover a manipulative plot that threatens the entire world.

“Revenge Never Rests” is an emotional story about a relationship that was lost and then rediscovered. Ms. Lewis does a great job capturing sentimental moments between the characters. However, the Rirst half of the book is very slow-paced and a bit difRicult to get through. The character development is insufRicient and readers may Rind it tough to connect with them. Nonetheless, the second half of the book does pick up the pace quite a lot, and makes for a very fastpaced and action-packed ending. Ms. Lewis is also very descriptive in her writing. The reader will feel as if they are a part of the scenes within the story. “Revenge Never Rests” is a thrilling book Rilled with tender moments between family and friends that will make readers misty-eyed

Suspense/Thriller

right way, making them perfect for a hopeful romance. He is wellwritten as a quiet, yet kind romantic interest. The overall Rlow and hilarious scenes with Evie and Penn may make readers wish for another story with them in the future. Rachel Mucha knocked “Bad Press” out of the park with mystery, romance, and death threats! What’s not to like?

Evie Hartley is bored. Her smalltown journalism job is going nowhere until she jumps at a chance to cover the crime beat. Evie starts poking around in hopes of quickly proving herself and getting in good with the local detectives. When that doesn’t quite work as planned, Evie attempts to wear down her best chance at a connection with the cops. Needless to say, Detective Marcus “Penn” Pennington is less than amused by her stalker behavior. Upon solving a small case, Evie earns a little trust with Penn who allows her to asks questions about a cold case, but he still keeps her at arm’s length. Penn quickly Rind himself protecting the very woman who is driving him crazy. Evie’s undying persistence draws her into danger with the nagging feeling that she is also being drawn closer to Penn.

“Bad Press” is a fun mystery! The laugh-out-loud moments of Evie’s determined personality at Rirst seem a tad pushy, however, as the story unfolds with both mysteries, what seems to be pushy pays off. Her comical way of realizing she has gone too far makes her a fantastic lead character and a lot of fun to spend time with. Penn’s personality is well-matched with Evie’s. They are different in the

Yesterday's Over (Philly Heat Series #3)

Becky Flade

Trudy Beasley is the assistant chief medical examiner who was just thrown a bag of burnt bones discovered under a Philadelphia home after a recent explosion. As a medical examiner, she is used to examining whole bodies, but the limited remains she is provided causes her to call in backup.

Forensic anthropologist Benjamin Roberts steps up to study the remains, and discovers one body belongs to a boxer, and another to an infant. Trudy becomes absorbed in the case and convinces herself they are looking at a crime scene. Both Ben and Trudy work together to investigate their Rindings while exploring their attraction to each other, but strange things start happening

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Bad Press Rachel Mucha

Suspense/Thriller

that incite fear and causes them to question their ability to continue the case.

Becky Flade has produced yet another amazing story with “Yesterday’s Over”. The suspense starts as a simple pinprick and slowly builds as more details surrounding the explosion site and remains start to unfold. With the same effect, the romance between Ben and Trudy starts slowly as a heated attraction. Throughout the entire novel, readers follow beautifully paced character development as Trudy and Ben both learn to relinquish their need for control and trust each other's area of expertise. No detail is missed as the world comes to life as if watching it on the television. One aspect that is particularly compelling is the way in which paranoia is melted into each chapter in a way that mimics how it reRlects in our personal lives. It is slowly encroaching and

almost unrecognizable at Rirst like the Rlicker of lights, until eventually it’s seen everywhere and everything becomes interwoven. Becky Flade is an impeccable author whose ability to bring characters and their world to life is displayed perfectly in “Yesterday’s Over”.

Young Adult

put a unique spin on the young adult, paranormal genre, keeping things fresh and fun! A few moments in the story slow the pace down, yet the world building and rich characters help make up for it. This is a great read for lovers of young adult magic!

Chelsea Andersen

Witch Way to Vegas (The Witches of Vegas, Book 4) Mark Rosendorf

PARANORMAL: Teenagers Isis Rivera and Zack Galloway have survived a battle of the ages against the Wiccan vampire Valeria. After returning from an alternate future, the two must come to terms with “normal” despite the scars that remain; scars that start to make Isis’ magic go wonky. While she grapples with trying to understand what’s going wrong inside of her, Zack is being tempted by a new girl who is connected with the new coven in town. As their relationship is tested, Zack and Isis discover this new coven has ulterior motives that will impact the fate of the world.

Mr. Rosendorf creates magic in “Witch Way to Vegas”! The newest installment of The Witches of Vegas series picks up where book three left off, yet begins anew! Readers will get more from the story if they’ve read the series, however it’s written in such a way that they will catch up on the adventure easily. Isis and Zack continue to grow as a leading couple. Together they navigate the PTSD of their time spent in the future, and they do so in a realistic way. There are enough twists that

My Golden Horse Caroline Akervik

give up her anger and ride, or cling to the past.

Horse lovers rejoice, for Ms. Akervik has written a delightful story of a girl overcoming her anger and fear and Rinding conRidence through her connection to a horse. A tidy stand-alone tale, the story has minimal conRlict, a light romance, and a plethora of growth. Suitable for the Hallmark channel, this story is less about the trauma Ellen and her mother went through and more about Ellen regaining conRidence. As a result, the plot focuses on the decisions both good and bad that she makes. Readers who prefer a lighthearted and simple story with a Rirm ending will Rind this book more than meets the mark!

Ellen Sanz has endured a terrible year. After her mother, Linda’s accident leaves her visually impaired and ends her career as a show jumper, Ellen and her mother Rind themselves at Linda’s parents attempting to recover from both surgeries and Linda’s subsequent downward spiral. Unfortunately, little can dampen Ellen’s anger at the world and her frustration over these events, until a sassy palomino horse named Lemon Meringue, nicknamed Tandy, trots into her life. Then a chance to work part time at the nearby horse farm introduces Ellen to a group of horse mad teens including a cute boy named Joel. Suddenly the opportunity to ride instead of just photographing her mother presents Ellen with a choice, to

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Her One in a Million (Home to Harmony #3)

Samantha Holt never expected offering some help renovating her friend’s mansion would result in a hidden treasure. The antique vases might be the solution to her

Inspirational

friends’ monetary issues and provide a chance for her family’s struggling auction business. Except the Chicago expert she calls for a second opinion makes her rethink her life at the same time. Zachary Reynolds needs to leave town with the vases as soon as possible. The set’s six-Rigure potential might be the guarantee he needs to keep his job and provide stability for his Rive-yearold daughter. Except something about the small town, his daughter’s new best friend, and the way Sam makes him feel, also makes him question his future plans. Researching the history of the pottery muddles both Sam and Zach’s plans but it might also be the spark that encourages them both to move forward.

A sweet Christian romance, “Her One in a Million” features two

adults whose futures seemingly hang on one treasure. A slow building romance, the focus of the tale mostly centers on Sam and Zach individually as they overcome personal Rlaws. Sam is insecure and fearful of change. Zach is worried about the future and anxious over his ability to raise his daughter well on his own. The relationship and character growth only begin to spark in this book and are left quite undeveloped, but readers who prefer lighter romances and almost slice-of-life scenarios will still Rind this to be a delightful little interlude in their daily lives.

Wrinkles in Spacetime (Unstable States #3)

childbirth and turn to alchemy instead. Stella is on the hunt for a lab partner to aid in creating a homunculus to achieve this. Amazingly, Isaac Newton is resurrected to assist Stella with this task. The unlikely pair team up, and Stella tries desperately not to act on her developing feelings for her new lab partner, because she knows that acting on her feelings is against the law. Can she push past her feelings to work on developing a tiny human, or will her romantic ideas get the best of her and land her in a whole heap of trouble?

Stella, a food developer, lives in the nation of Cochtonia where fertility rates are rapidly declining. The males in the nation are aiming to eliminate natural

Time

Belle Ami

Travel

“Wrinkles in Spacetime” is such a unique story, albeit a little farfetched. Ms. Haustein does a good job of telling the story between two very interesting characters. However, it leaves much to be desired. The characters are

slightly annoying. For example, Stella describes having lustful feelings for Newton, but also paints him in an unRlattering light when she talks about his appearance. There is also quite a bit of scientiRic terminology that readers may Rind difRicult to understand. The overall premise is interesting enough, but readers may Rind the execution of it to be off-putting. Nonetheless, Ms. Haustein does well with her descriptive writing and creates a very good atmosphere for this cosmic story. Readers of strange, out of this world science Riction will enjoy the unique and fascinating world that Ms. Haustein has created.

Emily Christie and her love of Pavarotti frames the girls’ weekend with a visit to the Met to enjoy the art exhibit featuring the mysterious time travel love

story and paintings by Marco Allegretto. The mystery involves time travel, eternal love, and three related images of the stages of love. At the exhibition, Emily Rinds herself unexpectedly transported to her homeland of London in the 19th century. Resilient, Emily must adapt quickly and Rind acceptance until she can discover a way home. Colin Remington, a titled member of society during the Victorian era in England, investigates a series of unsolved women’s murders when he crosses paths with Emily. She lands a job as a journalist and crafts stories to help women gain a stronger voice in society. Emily Rinds the charming Lord Remington nearly irresistible. Colin suspects Emily even as he seeks her help with his investigation.

Belle Ami sets the stage for readers to plunge into Victorian society with realistic details of the era and an eye for important works of art history. Along the journey with Emily and Colin to Rind the killer, they discover the passionate breathlessness of romance as it threatens to overcome reason. Emily misses her friends and the amenities of modern times, but is that enough reason to ignore her heart? It’s impossible not to get caught up in Emily’s plight in this exciting, suspenseful love story. The ending is satisfying, with a surprising turn of events. Waiting for the next book in this three-part series is like fantasizing about an undeniably agonizing pleasure to repeat as often as possible!

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Science Fiction
-
(Lost in Time
London Time
Book 1)

Blooming Greed (The Keystone Lake Series, Book 2)

Peggy Chambers

sister, Maggie Beck, most of all. Erin Sampson has to work to get to the crux of the problem in Keystone Lake. Adding to the tension is the rekindled romance between Maggie’s son Chris and his former girlfriend, Ryan Windler, who works with Erin on her investigation. Though the narrative drags occasionally, it’s obvious Peggy Chambers did her research about the area where the lake is. This book includes murder, suspense, and romance¸ which work together very well. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable mystery!

When Jeff Larson dies, the sheriff assumes it’s another drunk who fell off his boat and drowned. However, the locals in Keystone Lake knew Jeff, and knew the lake was as familiar to him as his home. The lake community’s population ebbs and grows in the summer months, but the permanent residents feel something bad is afoot when several properties sell at half the price they should have, and some residents simply disappear. The homeowners become so concerned they hire Tulsa attorney, Erin Sampson, to Rind out why. Erin, who grew up in the small town on the lake, discovers the buyer is the mysterious T&H Realty. Add to that an infestation of Zebra mussels in the lake and an old dam deteriorating, the anxiety in the small town reaches a peak.

Enjoy the double pleasure of an increasing mystery and an entertaining cast of characters in this second book in the Keystone Lake series. Everyone questions the death of long-time resident, Jeff Larson. No one can believe the skilled boatman and avid Risherman simply drowned. His

The Dead Won't Tell

S.K. Waters

Abigail Adams, named for the second president’s wife, is a struggling reporter after losing her chance at a Ph.D. She’s tasked with doing an article about the murder of Rosalie DuFrayne in July 1969. At the time of her death, Rosalie’s story wasn’t fully told, and her murder was never solved. A busy single mother, Abbie is doubly challenged when a college friend shows up looking for help with a TV show. Between practices, sleepovers, and a new man in her life, Abbie begins undoing the layers of life in Hunts

Landing in 1969. Nothing in the past can be uncovered without causing problems in the present. When a witness is murdered after Abbie’s interview, she realizes the dark forces in 1969 have come into the present.

This is a suspenseful story that keeps one guessing until the end! Readers of a certain age will immediately recognize the signiRicance of July 1969, when man made his Rirst step on the moon. The small college in Hunt’s Landing played a role in the moon landing and the whole town was celebrating when Rosalie DuFrayne was murdered. As usual, the path to the truth is paved with lies and subterfuge. Ms. Waters does a superb job of keeping the reader fully engaged in every part of the story, including the prejudices and judgements of the past. In 1969, the lines were drawn in Hunt’s Landing in a distinct manner. Getting to the truth involves getting to know the whole town and its secrets. Readers shouldn’t be surprised if they stay up later than usual to Rinish this tale!

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Mystery

The Flower Enigma (Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles #5)

potential human trafRicking. A quick paced story, this book is a stand-alone tale that features a wide cast of characters with little distinction between them, and a tendency to describe the setting in conversation that feels awkward. That said, the focus on a human trafRicking ring, blackmail, cyber- attacks and more set this book apart from the usual spies or murders found in mysteries and thrillers. Furthermore, the intensity is not limited just to the mystery but also to the attraction between the main hero and heroine. Overall, readers looking for a thrilling adventure with a side of heat will want to look at this book!

Trouble has arrived in Magnolia Bluff once again, but JJ and Jo have no idea just how much when they arrive at the Flower Bed & Breakfast within the Texas Hill Country for a much- needed vacation. A cyber-attack on a local podcast the moment they arrive; however, quickly turns an idyllic vacation into a crisis. But uncovering who is behind the cyber- attacks and just why Jo keeps spotting a girl in the crowds Rlashing the international help sign will take all their attention. Soon the vacationers are following the local podcasters from place to place, fending off cyber-attacks and violent thugs, and searching for proof to convince the local police chief to investigate further. Even while authorities dismiss the young couple’s suspicions, the escalated attacks only make JJ and Jo more determined to save the missing teens and stop all the attacks, for there is no room for failure.

A sizzling thriller, this story begins with romance and quickly accelerates into tension and suspense as JJ fends off cyberattacks and Jo investigates

Emory Martinez and her halfsister, Vannie, are attending a potluck event that brings together a community of dog lovers whose dogs are about to receive their certiRicates after undergoing a dog-training course by Shawn Parker. It doesn’t take long for the duo to realize that what should have been a fun day may turn out

to be anything else but fun. By the end of the day, Emory, who is a professional cupcake baker, Rinds herself having to juggle between keeping her business alive and Rinding the culprit of a heinous crime for which she was the Rirst witness. With her ex-husband having spread rumors of her being a ‘murder-magnet’, she needs more than just her good sleuthing skills to solve the mystery at hand.

The turn of events within the Rirst quarter of “Buttercream Betrayal” sets the pace for an electrifyingly enticing cozy mystery. The inclusion of Emory’s furry friends adds a unique beauty for the reader’s mind to behold, besides being the well-crafted backdrop for the potluck tale. The dark world of dog trade such as puppy milling, money laundering, greed, and all the evils therein shed some light on the necessity of ensuring that dogs are always treated in a humane manner. A great theme. This book cannot be read as a stand-alone, thus all readers who wish to get the full measure of the breadth of the lead characters might have to grab the other books in the series. Readers who are after the clues in any mystery book may not like the many detours in this one, but will deRinitely root for the furry little ones

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Mystery
Buttercream Betrayal (Cupcake Catering Mystery Series Book 5)

Mystery

Gingerbread Dead

Jessica Barker, aka Jess, is busy in her house doing research on the article she is due to publish. She works as a content creator for an online magazine that covers true crime. Something in her neighbor’s house draws her attention and she cannot seem to pull her mind off what she just witnessed. How can a man act very normal when his wife seems to be in urgent need of medical care? Is the woman ill and they have somehow learned to live with her condition? Is she a hopeless alcoholic as her husband claims? However, the aspect of the woman being a victim of domestic abuse keeps nagging at her until she decides to do real-life research for what could be a true crime happening right under her nose. Can she pull it off without appearing to be a nosy neighbor?

Nothing tugs at the heart of a reader more than the promise of an exciting escapade involving a strong-willed main character and a series of obstacles that he/she has to overcome. Author Lori L. Robinett sculpts an out-of-thisworld experience for the reader to devour when she pulls Jess from her cozy online research work and throws her into real-life investigations where she has to

develop some thick skin. She does not disappoint. Any reader with a thorough inquisitive eye would question Jess’ failure to do more research on the plants/herbs that the villain seemed to tend with every Riber of his being. Also, were it not for some information that was not thoroughly acted upon which could have added some intriguing strands to the storyline, this could have been a phenomenal crime thriller. Overall, a delightfully addictive whodunit tale!

Diane receives a call from her twin Danielle who says she’s mistaken for Diane and going to die. The call results in FBI Agent Diane Emerson conducting a frantic search to Rind her twin. Diane reviews the details of her case of missing women with similar patterns leading up to their disappearances to see if there is a Rit. The potential connection point to an online dating service. Using the various resources at her disposal leaves her worried yet hopeful. As the horror of Danielle’s situation unfolds, she discovers her former love, Agent Alex Kane, is

transferred to her unit and offers to help. When the tables turn and Diane becomes a target of the killer, Alex steps up to keep her safe. Working together to Rind an elusive criminal, feelings they thought were in their past were warming embers waiting to ignite. Until revenge gets extracted and the perpetrator succumbs to justice, the agents focus on outsmarting the criminal.

This realistic portrayal of FBI processes focuses on an elaborate social engineering scheme as the portal for the cybercrime initiated to take advantage of women in horriRic ways. The underbelly of today’s society becomes exposed through the non-stop action and adventure in a tug-of-war between good and evil. Readers will remain glued to the pages with the compelling characters of Diane and Alex. They are developed in a way to appreciate their strengths and weakness, making them relatable. Ms. Baginskie has created a captivating mystery with rapid pacing and threads that unexpectedly reveal the sad truth and a delightful conclusion.

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Dangerous Revenge Suzanne Baginskie

Audiobooks

Dead Winner

SUSPENSE/THRILLER: Rory McEntyre is a nerdy estate lawyer who likes to fall into a fantasy world of video games. He never thought he’d be a real hero, then his ex, Monica, walks through his ofRice door with the case of a $60 million winning lottery ticket and a dead husband. After being named as the most likely suspect, Monica isn’t sure where else to turn. Rory takes on the hat of private detective to help her clear her name. In doing so, they connect on a whole new level that throws Rory into the line of Rire.

“Dead Winner” is rich with mystery and intrigue! From the beginning, readers will be hooked and desperate to know whodone-it! Full of twists and turns, “Dead Winner” is hard to predict despite it following a similar pattern to most mystery and suspense novels. Rory is smart as well as strong. His chemistry with Monica simmers with heat and grows throughout the novel. The constant danger makes for constant action. From start to Rinish, the book is full throttle! While the book is part of the same universe as another series, “Dead Winner” is a standalone mystery and easy to follow.

Mr. Chapman performs his own work for the audio version, and

that adds a nice connection to the material. His characters are all distinct and easy to differentiate. In particular, his female characters are well done, along with his general narration of the book. The voice chosen for Rory feels a tad bit off, however. The overall pacing of the book is perfect. Intense moments of action are read with an urgency while the slower parts keep a solid speed that drives the story forward. As a whole, the production ampliRies the mystery and suspense! “Dead Winner” is the perfect read for lovers of mysteries with a sizzle!

They get to know each other, and Callum learns that Rose is starting a job as a saloon singer in town, and he does what he can to keep the wild men in town under control so that no harm can come to her.

This story Rlows beautifully. The pace is steady and the tension starts to build from the start. The possibility exists that her former lover might Rind her. This helps to build the tension. Nevertheless, Rose has made a positive impression upon the folks of Wylder, so when things get dicey, she Rinds help from a multitude of friends in surprising places. This adds a deeper layer of heart and warmth to the storytelling. She faces a few challenges as well, and has to come to terms with jealousy, humiliation, and fear. Nevertheless, she faces each challenge with strength and dignity.

The Wylder Rose Jane Lewis

HISTORICAL: Rose O’Brien escapes from an abusive relationship with a wealthy man in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her journey nearly ends with her almost freezing to death in a blizzard on a country road just outside of Wylder, Wyoming. Fortunately, Callum MacPhilip comes along on his way home from town, spots the nearly frozen woman and her horse, and transports them back to his ranch. He saves her life and treats her with respect and dignity, something that has been missing in Rose’s life for nearly a decade.

Dawson McBride is an incredible narrator! He moves easily between Scottish and Irish accents, between young and old characters, and between male and female character portrayals. His voice is smooth, richly nuanced, and delightful to hear. The production quality is top-notch in this audiobook, and there aren’t any noticeable mistakes or issues with the recording quality.

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Chelsea Andersen

Zy'ventum: Book Four of the Twelve Dimensions

SCI-FI: Shirakaya awakens to Rind herself alone in the hellscape of Pandemonium. At least one cycle has passed since her arrival in the strange alternate universe—a universe that is literally starting to collapse under her feet. With no light from the stars or a sun to guide her, Shirakaya must Rind her way out of this void before she is destroyed along with it— and she must do so before she and everyone she loves succumbs to the Purple Blight that has been plaguing the known universe and beyond.

Audiobooks

“Zy’ventum” is a fast paced, action packed, science Riction adventure that moves at full force from start to Rinish! Mr. Centeno has created some fantastic worlds in his universe! Lots of unique species and cultures are present throughout the novel. While the book is the fourth in the series, it is possible for new readers to jump right in. That being said, the book will make more sense after having read the other installments. All of the characters are well developed and easy to connect with—especially the main heroine Shirakaya. There are a few familiar storylines present from the science Riction genre, but Mr. Centeno writes them with an entertaining voice.

Ms. Holly has a great range in her voice that brings many characters to life. Each is distinct and vibrantly portrayed, sometimes making it seem as though there are more actors present in the production. In addition to her skills, there are a lot of sound effects added to the characters. Robots have a metallic grit added to their dialogue, and certain aliens have other unique effects. Some of the background sound

effects can be distracting from the book, and there is music to help create the mood. Overall, it is a fun and engaging listen! This is a great read for fans of science Riction and adventure!

Cast out by her family for being a lesbian and having not spoken to them in years, Madison Moore is hesitant to go back home when she is summoned home by her father. What she doesn’t expect is to be thrust into the middle of a mystery where she may get to help someone who has been wrongfully imprisoned. The bombshell is dropped by her father, who asks Madison to help the woman as his dying wish. What Madison doesn’t expect is to Rind that the answers she seeks involve her and what she has been through in the past. Will Madison be able to help the woman and Rind the real murderer? Or will she be unable to fulRill her father’s dying wish?

The Rirst thing to mention when discussing this story is the delicate issue of gender and sexuality that Brenda Stanley handles beautifully. Some readers may be triggered by the situations that arise in the story and derogatory names used, so it is best to take this into consideration before delving into the story. Madison’s is a sad story, but she has overcome so much in the past, and while she has every right to deny her father his dying wish, she takes it head on. There are an array of intriguing characters that some readers will love and others may not. Vivid descriptions and a well driven plot are more than worth mentioning. Fans of mystery will enjoy this and it is another gem to add to the e-reader and enjoy as the cold weather moves in.

LGBTQ+
The Still Small Voice Brenda Stanley

Novella

Lady Amelia Takes a Lover (Windermeres in Love Book 1) SoRie Darling

Amelia has a secret fascination with painting watercolors. Still, Amelia’s art suffers, and she realizes that there is more to art than painting bowls of fruit. When Amelia meets the Duke of Rispon, Tristan Carteret, a sculptor, it is an instant attraction even though she really can’t stand him. When Tristan discovers how gifted Amelia truly is, he has an appalling suggestion for her to paint nude models. Amelia is intrigued and asks Tristan to pose nude for her. In doing so, Amelia enters into an affair with Tristan, despite the cost to her reputation. Unfortunately, Tristan isn’t a proper gentleman and could taint any lady’s reputation, including Amelia’s.

Lady Amelia Windmere and her family escape scandal by settling in Italy. Amelia works hard to erase her family’s wrongdoing in order to get back to London.

Other

Secrets of a Summer Place (Secrets of Mustang Island Book 1)

This risqué historical novella really breaks the mold! The story moves quickly, brushing over things that really need more

explanations. The scandal which caused Amelia and her family to leave London is too vaguely described. If the book were a fulllength novel, it would have been better. The characters behavior seems modern, so most historical aRicionados will dislike the lack of propriety that neither follows. In truth, the story should have been set in modern times instead of the Regency period since mores aren’t strictly adhered to. Amelia, the quirky spinsterish heroine, despite her winsome ways, is quite indecisive and doesn’t stay true to herself until Tristan changes her. Luckily, Tristan does have some honorable qualities, even in his rakish ways. The book manages to be a pleasurably fun tale that readers will Rind satisfying!

WOMEN'S FICTION: Reeling from her husband’s inRidelity and unexpected death in the arms of his mistress, Jennifer Moss moves

back home to Mustang Island, where she grew up. There, she invests herself in restoring the family home, and getting prepared for her grown children to Rinish school and come join her. On the day her husband died, she’d received a letter from the daughter she was forced to give up twenty-Rive years ago. The daughter, Madison, wanted to meet her. Back on Mustang Island, it isn’t long before she runs into Dylan Scott, her childhood summer Rling, now divorced father of two girls, and the father of the infant daughter she gave up. Perhaps now she will learn why he never answered any of the letters she’d sent him back then. Lovers of second chance romances, take notice! This one is for you! This story balances romance and family with the choices one makes to create a

satisfying read. Jennifer and Dylan have some issues they need to work through once they reunite, including their grown children from other spouses, and the secrets left from Jennifer’s mother. Multiple problems dragged the story’s overall score down. This includes frequent repeated wording, pacing issues, sluggish dialogue, and technical accuracy. Adding more sensory descriptions of the location and characters would have Rleshed the story out better. However, this novel from a proven author shows great promise for the new series. Readers should follow this succession of Mustang Island novels to see who is keeping secrets next!

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Sylvia McDaniel Emerson Matthews