February 2023 Magazine

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Table of Contents 10 Lexi Ryan: Writing Love Stories That Linger Long! 21 Rising Star Spotlight: Quinn Avery 37 The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Writing Conferences: Randy Overbeck 28 I Like The Movie, But The Book’s Better… Or Is It? Paul Stansfield Beta Readers, Pt. 2 How Authors Can Maximize Their Value Kevin G. Chapman 32 4
February 2023 Historical: Contemporary: Paranormal: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy: Novella: Anthology: Young Adult: New Adult: Suspense/Thriller: Mystery: Science Fiction: Inspirational: LGBTQ+ Audiobooks: 59 Reviews: 41 45 49 The Three Rs: S.L. Carpenter 53 Right Cover, Wrong Book: When Print-on-Demand Sucks Tamara Cribley InD’Introduces: C.F. Francis The Path of The Gods, Chapter 6 Julie L. York 73 77 85 89 92 93 93 95 99 100 101 103 107 5

Our Staff:

Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief: TJ MacKay

Executive Editor: Katy Nielsen

Copy Editors: Julie York, Marc Joseph, Penny Baker

Special Publications Editors: Sarah McEachron, Ryan Jo Summers

Social Media:

Laura Trujillo, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Columnists:

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

Transcription: Ralph Conley

Graphics:

Elle J. Rossi, Rachel Rossano

RONE Awards Coordinator: Sarah 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, Austen Grace, Joan Lai, Cara

Cieslak, N.E. Kelley, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Annalee Stilove, Simone Dober, Leah Neale, Rika Chandra, Valerie Vikars, Stephanie Bell, Amy Rubottom, Heather Kroll

*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.

Editors Note

In the words of Gandalf the White, and so it begins… and no, we don’t mean yet another year, which we wish all of you the best for, of course. We mean so begins another RONE season here at InD’tale. And because our own Katy Nielsen oversees this HUGE job, I’ll let her explain!

hit them in the feels and made them laugh and cry and smile. And authors, we want that for you! We want your readers to vote for your books, for the stories they loved, to get your work recognized for the wonderfulness that it is. Here is where you can help us because this is where we hit a snag. Many of you wonderful authors get your work submitted through your publisher or a PA, and here’s where we seem to hit a bit of a problem at times. Sometimes, due to technical difSiculties, life, and delightful cyber glitches (gotta love technology, right?), and even busy publishing houses, the emails and communications about this busy season – including very important dates for you – are often delayed in reaching you, through no one person’s fault.

If you are an author whose work is usually submitted through someone other than your wonderful self, and you know you have a book that is eligible for RONE voting this year, please consider emailing our Executive Editor/Review Coordinator, Katy, at katyn@indtale.com, with your direct email address so we can keep you more connected with this process. (Don’t worry, your publisher or PA will still get the emails as well, but being able to reach you directly can oftentimes make things for us here at InD’tale much easier.) The more informed you are, and the more you’re able to involve your readers personally, the more successful your book will be.

“Though the highly anticipated Reader Voting season doesn’t begin for all of you until April/May, the season for us at the magazine starts at the beginning of the year! At this moment in time, all of the titles we reviewed last year that received the coveted Crowned Heart/Elite Review from our reviewers are being collected and tabulated in a massive spreadsheet so we can start the nitty-gritty date checking, to determine eligibility. This is a long and involved process that gets checked and double checked before the Sinal spreadsheet is put together. Then comes the migraine-inducing fun part… sorting into categories! This is not as easy as it may seem, as some of our categories have monstrous numbers, hence the need to divide, and divide again, until we have more manageable sub-genres. Then we create a voting schedule with which categories will be voted on during which weeks – and this is where you – both readers and authors –can really get involved. During this "voting season” (April through June) the new memberships to our website absolutely skyrockets; (it’s a great time to advertise with us, just FYI) we’re talking hundreds of new subscribers per day, because authors, it’s your readers signing up to make sure they can vote for your books, the stories you slaved and stressed and cried over, and that they loved so much. Those stories that made an impact. Those stories that

Welcome to the 2023 RONE season, folks! Let’s make it a good one!”

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Smiles, TJ Mackay

Kevin G. Chapman

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 standalone 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

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.

Dr. Randy Overbeck is an awardwinning educator, author, and speaker. As an educator, he served children in roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His novels have earned national awards including the Gold Award from Literary Titan, Thriller of the Year from Readers Favorite, Silver Award for Mystery of the Year from ReaderViews, and Crown of Excellence from InD’tale Magazine. Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group and serving as a mentor to emerging writers.

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 “Death’s Garden Revisited”. He’s an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

S.L. Carpenter

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

Tamara Cribley

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

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Lexi Ryan

Writing Love Stories That Linger Long! 10

Lexi Ryan is the perfect example of the very best of a midwestern girl! From the very minute I met her, she had me all wrapped up in warm, homey friendliness with best of the best friend vibes until I truly felt we had known each other forever, rather than just for a day. She is candid yet kind, open yet considerate, and honest yet compassionate, and her books display that in every word and phrase. They are often emotional and deep - sometimes even leaning to the dark and hard subjects - but always real, with a satisfying and sigh-worthy ending. See? I just loved her! And I think you will, as well. Just read on and you’ll discover exactly what I’m speaking of and what makes her such a beloved author to so many thousands all over the world.

InD: You are a hard person to get to know online! You don’t share too much, so this is going to be a lot of fun. I’m just going to ask random questions! I would love to hear about your childhood Birst.

LR: I actually live in the town where I was born, Terre Haute, Indiana. I am the youngest of seven kids, so I come from a really big family. I have four older brothers and two older sisters.

InD: Was that a good thing?

LR: As a child, it was a great thing. I loved having so many siblings, but as a mother, I was never interested in doing it myself. I was never going to sign on for all that, which is funny because my dad is the oldest of nine, so apparently he always knew he wanted to have a lot of kids. I always knew that for me, there was no way. I have two, and that is perfect.

InD: What was that like growing up in Terre Haute? And what were you like as a kid?

LR: My childhood was a lot different than my children’s. Aside from all the siblings, it was just a different time. My mom stayed home until I went to kindergarten, and we were a one car household. My dad took the car to work, so we were stuck at home. As a child, I spent a lot of time playing outside, and with my four brothers playing Dungeons and Dragons. We lived out in the country and there were seven of us, so we didn't really get to be involved in extracurricular activities. There was no budget for that.

If I wanted something, my dad would say, “Save your pennies.” That was his answer to everything. For example, if I said, “One day I want to have a nice car”, he would say, "Save your pennies”, or “Daddy, look at that wedding dress! Could I have a pretty wedding dress someday?” “Save your pennies.” That was his answer to everything.

My kids, on the other hand, have the opportunities to do whatever they want. My daughter, from the age of six, was in gymnastics, until it got to be three practices a week, three hours a practice, and she decided she didn’t want that much. They enjoy being at home. They want the childhood I had, except I didn't have all the computers and technology until I was in high school.

InD: With that many brothers and sisters, were you teased a lot?

LR: Maybe by my sister, Debbie, who is two years older than me. We were really close friends, but also fought viciously.

InD: Are you close to them now?

LR: Yes, but not geographically. I have brothers from Seattle to Virginia, literally all over the country. I have one sister who still lives here, and I am still here in town, but otherwise we are spread out. We all still try to keep in touch. We really value what we have as a family, or at least I think we do. When I was growing up, I always thought we were special because there

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were so many of us, and I think that has never changed. I still think it is just really special.

InD: What were you like as a child?

LR: I think I was a born storyteller, to myself at Sirst. Before I discovered books, I would steal my brother’s Matchbox cars and make up little stories. I can remember taking my mom's Dolly Parton tape and singing along, and I would make up stories to go with the songs. They made sense, so it was like a musical. I thought everyone did that.

I am sure my love of stories was because our parents read to us all the time. I remember reading a Ramona book and loving it. I thought, “So, this is what it's like to love to read!” I always enjoyed the idea of being a writer; it was storytelling in my own little way. Then I discovered Romance novels!

InD: Okay, how did you get into Romance novels?

LR: My mom gave me my Sirst Romance novel. She handed me “A Knight in Shining Armor” by Jude Devereaux the summer before 7th grade, and said, “You are probably old enough to read this now,” and so I did, and I thought it was amazing! I immediately decided I wanted to write books that make people feel the way that book made me feel.

I devoured everything they had in my library by her, and anyone on the shelves around her. When people talk about "Old Guard" Romance, I think of Jude Devereaux and Judith McNaught. Those books felt like I was traveling through the past and present. The big, juicy single-titles were all Historical at that time, so I read lots of Historical because there weren’t a lot of authors writing Contemporary Romance.

InD: I absolutely agree there were not a lot of Contemporary authors back then.

LR: My library had category Romance, but they were usually just small paperbacks on little turnstile racks.

InD: I remember those! The little Harlequin-type books.

LR: Yes! I have always been an author-driven reader, though, so I wanted to Sind the authors I loved and then read everything they wrote. I would read the categories to Sind an author I really liked, then I would go back and maybe Sind more, but it was hard because category Romance is in the business of selling you a certain kind of story and heat level,

because they are in the business of building a brand, not a speciSic author. But once I found Romance in the 7th grade, I became a die-hard reader. I even loved to re-read books. I was never involved with sports, never had a ton of friends, and I was socially awkward, so it was not like I did not read before. Because I was a smart kid in school and had to read for book reports and stuff, I was just never really into it until I discovered Romance, and then reading was all I wanted to do.

InD: I can understand that, with so many brothers and sisters, you don't really need to go look for other friends when you have them built in at home.

LR: Yes, but I am still a bit socially awkward. It is kind of who I am. I discovered books can save you, and they can save you over and over again and give you somewhere amazing to go when you feel you are stuck. I remember walking through the library, terriSied I would read all of the books and there would not be any left. That, to me, would be the worst possible thing.

InD: What were you like as a teenager?

LR: By the time I started high school, my siblings had started moving out, going to college, and doing their own thing, so I could start to be more involved in things. I was in the marching band, so I was a band geek, and that was one of the pivotal moments in my life.

The Sirst was when my parents divorced when I was in the 4th grade. That was super important and it was the best thing to ever happen to my family. Sorry you all, but when it is needed, it is needed, and it was needed, so that was a good thing.

The second pivotal moment in my life was discovering Romance, and the third was joining the marching band. I played the Slute. I was not very good, but I suddenly had this built in community and friend group, and for the Sirst time in my life I was active and busy. Apparently I thrive on being busy, and that was the Sirst time I Sigured that out. My teenage life was AP classes and marching band.

My husband and I went to all of the same schools from elementary to middle school and then to high school. He was a year ahead of me, but we did not

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actually meet until I graduated from high school. I always laugh when he talks about people from high school and asks if I remember so-and-so. I am like, “If they were not in AP or honors classes or in band, I didn’t know them and I did not care.” That was my world. It kept me busy and it kept me happy.

InD: Did you ever write through those years?

LR: Oh, yes. In middle school, I wrote teenage soap operas we would pass around the classroom. My friends would ask me to write them into the stories and make characters based on them.

InD: So in the 7th grade, the lights turned on because you love to read Romance, and you started writing stories down at that time?

LR: Yes, but I didn't actually Sinish anything for a long time. When I applied to college, I was going to be an English major. My mom asked me what I would do with that, and I said, “I am going to be a writer,” and then my mom said, “Where do you get a job as a writer?”

We grew up in the 90s, when things were booming and we were all told to go to college and get a Liberal Arts degree, then we could sell our skills and be great. So just wanting to be a writer was enough for me. I started at a small liberal arts school, but I hated it. It just wasn’t a good Sit for me, so I left after a year and came home. Then I went to Indiana State.

I was really happy as an English major, but I decided I wanted to minor in Women's Studies instead of Creative Writing. I don't know why. Then I decided I needed to get a master’s degree so I could at least get a job teaching at the local community college, so I immediately went into graduate school and got my Master’s degree while doing an assistantship, where they dropped me right into teaching their freshman classes.

Talk about immersion, I learned to teach really fast! I really did love the classroom and teaching, though. I just hated grading.

InD: How long did you teach?

LR: I did it all through my Masters, which was two years, and then I taught for another eight years after that. I did a few years as an Adjunct, and then I was a faculty member at a local community college. It was a great job, and I was really grateful to have it.

InD: Were you able to write while you were teaching?

LR: I was writing. I Sinished my Sirst book in 2005, just after Sinishing grad school, and even though I give myself a hard time for taking so long to write that Sirst book because I kept changing it, it became a Golden Heart Sinalist. Then, in 2008, this small digital press published a short story of mine. But even then, my writing was only bringing in a couple hundred dollars a book.

InD: What was the name of that Birst book?

LR: The name has changed over the years, but its current rendition is “Accidental Sex Goddess”. In its original version, it did not win. It was a Romantic Comedy, and at that time, everybody kept saying, “This is so nice, but nobody is buying anything that isn’t vampires.” So with the digital press, I kept working on the Contemporary Romance that I love, but decided to write some super sexy Paranormal to make some money on the side. Unfortunately, I had a full-time job and didn’t really have time to write both.

InD: Did you like doing Paranormal?

LR: I liked it, but at the time, I really thought I was a Romantic Comedy author. I’m able to laugh about that now because I see this same confusion with a lot of new authors, as well. Are you really a Romantic Comedy author or an author who just likes to put comedy in your books? Don't mistake one for the other. I do love to include humor in my books, but I am not a Romantic Comedy author.

InD: How did you Binally Bind your niche?

LR: Well, I could not afford to leave my job to write full-time, and I still wanted to spend time with my family, so I decided it was New York or bust. Harlequin Blaze had been sitting on "Text Appeal" for two years. You cannot have multiple submissions with them, so I was stuck following up until I got that rejection. In fact, I had stacks of rejections I kept when I Sirst started submitting, and at the time I just thought I was on my way, this was the road to success—almost

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everybody knows Stephen King’s story with collecting the rejection letters—so I originally just thought this is how you do it. But after a while, I felt like I had knocked on, and tried to bang down every door, to be turned away over and over and over again. I had written multiple books and multiple manuscripts, so I just sat down in my car and cried. I had a full-time job, my daughter was nine months old at the time, and my son was almost 5, and I felt like I was taking all of this time away from my family chasing this dream, that anyone in their right mind would tell you wasn't going to happen. I decided I needed to let it go, but I did not know how. I did not know who I was, if I was not a writer.

I am a mom, I am a wife, and at that point I was also a teacher, but in my heart I am a writer, and I didn’t know how to let that go. I cried, not because I was rejected, but because I felt like the right thing for me to do for my family was to just be done and walk away. They deserved to have me 100% and not chasing this thing that was not really there for me.

But I am nothing if not persistent, so before I even got out of the car, I thought, “I have friends who are traditionally published who are unhappy with what they are getting out of that deal, and are having incredible success with Indie publishing. If they can do it and feel like Indie is a valid way to get the books into the readers' hands, then I can do it too.”

InD: The reason I am so pro indie is because of all the incredible, amazing writers who would give anything to get their foot in the door, but just need that outlet, so it is really inspiring for me to hear your story.

LR: If you think about it, I was desperate for the traditional publishers to give me a chance to write for them so I could write three books a year and maybe make 20 grand. I have written three or four books a year on my own since 2013, and I haven’t had anything short of a six-Sigure year since.

I don't want it to sound like I’m bragging; I am just saying a writer doesn’t have to be on their knees asking traditional for the

opportunity to work their butt off just so they can write and make barely a living wage. For me, three books a year is a full-time job. I'm not saying they didn't have valid reasons for their rejections, but from where I stood, I was at a crossroads where I felt like I could not keep doing this. I could not keep hitting my head against the wall.

I am not one of those stories where I just threw up a book and had immediate success, at all. The book was “Text Appeal”. I know I did a lot of things wrong, but I sent it to a copy editor and had it formatted, got a cover, and published it. I knew I had to sell a certain number of copies to break even, and it actually took me a few months just to get there. Then it kind of trickled to nothing, so I was like, what do I do now? So I wrote a short story I totally cannibalized and put it up for free, with the Sirst three chapters of "Text Appeal" in the back of it, hoping people would buy it once they read the short. Of course, that gets you real bad reviews on your short story, but at the time, I had a plan and a goal, and I knew I wanted to be a series-driven author.

I had a couple of other books under the bed I wanted to rework, but I wanted to do a series and hoped that within Sive books, I would be able to write full-time. That was my goal. It did not go the way I thought it would, but by February of 2013, I hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and by May I resigned from my day job. So I was by no means a shot out of the gate. I remember getting my Sirst review from someone I did not know on Goodreads, and I just remember staring at it on my computer and thinking, “This is happening!” I just always believed.

InD: This is so inspiring! I love that in your heart of hearts you

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knew this is who you are, and you did not give up on that. You kept pursuing your dream until it was realized! So you discovered that you like doing Contemporary.

LR: Yes, but “Text Appeal” is kind of old school because it straddled the line between sexy and a little Erotic Romance, because it is kind of between the two, so we weren’t sure where it Sit. I had one of the books under my bed that traditional had said "No" to, that I had been trying to Sigure out what to do with. I loved the core of the story and thought I could rewrite it and make it work.

So I rewrote it, put it in Sirst person, and took out all of the secondary characters and subplots (most of those became later books), reworked it all, then published it in 2013. That book, “Unbreak Me”, became my Sirst real breakout novel. It sounds weird because I hit the New York Times with something else, but this book had staying power. It gave me the chance to tell a story that really mattered to me. It is set in a small town, and I ended up writing several mini-series within that same small town.

InD: You write some really steamy sex scenes in your books, is that easy for you to do?

LR: Sexual tension and kissing, and sometimes foreplay I Sind easy, but the sex scenes themselves I Sind difSicult to write. You want it to be unique to the couple and speak to who they are as a couple, and sometimes that is challenging. But I love writing sexual tension and I love writing Sirst kiss scenes.

InD: I think the industry, as a whole, is swinging back to the emphasis on the growing sexual tension rather than immediate sex, and lots of it. I love reading sexual tension and that build up.

LR: I read across the board, but if I say a book is sexy, what I'm really referring to is the sexual tension. For instance, Kristan Higgins never has on-page sex scenes. She just does not write them, but she does have really, really good sexual tension.

InD: I totally agree, and that is what grabs the emotions. You do that very well in your books. It’s like you said, there are only so many different ways to make the mechanics of it interesting. It is really the emotion and the build-up that grabs the reader.

LR: Yes, because you want to see what their journey has been like, but when it comes to doing the deed, it is difSicult because it should

never be something you could interchange the character's name and have it Sit in another book. InD: I totally agree with that. So you established yourself with these amazing books in Contemporary Romance, and then you decide to go into YA Fantasy. How did that happen?

LR: In 2018, I was having a little crisis of faith in my life. It started with me reading all the Fantasy I could, so I could just escape when the world was too much.

InD: Aw, Fantasy, my default genre! So who did you read?

LR: It started with Sarah Maas.

InD: With me too… it all starts there. [both laughing]

LR: I read her books, then I read the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, which I could not put down. I remember sitting at a book signing in Orlando that was a bit slow, and I had my Kindle on the table so I could read. My husband, who was sitting next to me, said, “Put your book away, you are at a signing,” and I said, “If there is any place I can be in the world where people are going to understand that I can't put my book down, this is it.”

Then after the signing we went to Disney World, and I am in line reading on my phone because I could not stop reading! I ended up reading everything by Holly Black, and everyone else I could get my hands on.

InD: So you picked Fantasy because you decided you needed to get away, but how did you get into YA?

LR: I picked Fantasy because I wanted to kill some bad guys, and I picked YA because I liked

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the way they were marketing YA Romantic Fantasy more than they were marketing Adult Romantic Fantasy. It is changing now, but I took a good hard look at the market and at the readers I wanted, and the best direct line to my readers was to write mature YA.

InD: I was wondering, because I originally found you because of your YA Fantasy books, then I saw you had all of these wonderful Contemporaries. I remember thinking the age of your characters is younger, but the books read like an adult book.

LR: I am writing something dark enough that somebody needs a Slashlight.

InD: Why?

LR: My protagonist was held captive by a terrible king, this is years later and she has issues. I enjoy it, but there are moments I wonder if it is too dark. My editor tells me just do it and I will pull you back if I need to.

InD: I have always wondered if it was hard to pull yourself out after writing the dark stuff. How do you just get up from your desk and go make dinner for your kids? How does that work?

LR: I do not have any trouble getting out, because I just turn it off. This is "this" world, and that is "that" world. I actually have more trouble getting into that mindset because I like my characters to make good choices, so it’s hard to really get in there with all the dark and let them make bad choices. But I don't want to just give lip service to the hard stuff.

InD: Is it hard to write for hours staying in that?

LR: Not usually, but honestly, I don't sit at the keyboard for hours on end unless I am on a deadline. I am more of a "think about it for hours with my notebook Sirst" kind of writer. My wrists are too old to sit for too many hours at the keyboard, so I have developed strategies to avoid that. There is lots of thinking and note taking, and sometimes dictating, so the actual typing time is condensed.

InD: Tell us your love story!

LR: I love that question! As I mentioned, my husband, Brian, and I went to all of the same schools, but we did not actually meet until after high school. He is a year older than me. I had just graduated from high school, and one of my very good friends was dating his best friend. She introduced us, but I did not want to be “that” girl who goes away to college with a boyfriend.

They had rented this house with the deal that they could have really cheap rent if they Sixed up the attic into two bedrooms, making four bedrooms total in the house. So my husband, who is now a carpenter, was dry walling, and I would be over there hanging out. He would come down with his carpenter belt on, all sweaty, and I started thinking, “Hmmm, maybe.” [both laughing] Now he thinks that it was gross because he was covered in drywall dust, but a tool belt works for some people! So I told him, “If you just want to date for the summer…”

Famous last words! We dated for the summer, and I tried to break up with him before going to college, and that lasted maybe three days when I realized that was just a terrible mistake.

InD: Did you call him up and say you made a mistake?

LR: Remember, this was a long time ago, I did not even have a cell phone, and when I wanted to call home I had to pay for it because it was long-distance (even though it was only 30 minutes away) and I wanted to talk to him in person. He is such a sweet, quiet guy. On occasions he has his moments, but he usually doesn’t say a lot.

The Sirst weekend I was going to be back in town, he had a Boy Scout thing (he was always involved in Scouting. He is an Eagle Scout, and is still involved because my son is a Scout) so I had to wait until the following weekend. When I came home again, I went down to the basement where he lived with his friends and just hugged him. Then I said, “I want my boyfriend back," and he said, “I would really like that.” so that was that! Later, we were on the couch and he

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stared at me and I asked, “What?” and he said, “I'm afraid I am going to wake up.” I have probably used that line in my books 14 times by now because I just thought it was so wonderful.

InD: You have got the most wonderful love story! It is better than a book. When you Birst broke up with him, was he upset?

LR: From the beginning, he knew we were just going to be dating for the summer, so we were both kind of upset the night we said goodbye. We had both said "I love you" at that point, and we were really into each other. It sucked, but I thought that was what I needed to do.

InD: And 23 years later, you’re still together! That is wonderful! Has he read your books?

LR: He has read the YA Fantasy because that is what he likes to read, and he read the Sirst book I published, but Contemporary Romance is not his cup of tea, he reads Fantasy.

InD: Have your kids read your books?

LR: My daughter has read “These Hollow Vows”. I honestly didn't think she would, but she Sinished it and that surprised me. My son is allowed to read them if he wants, but he doesn’t want to, yet. InD: What do you like to do in your downtime, when you are not writing or reading?

LR: My daughter and I like to listen to crime podcasts together. There is a crime podcast that is based out of Indianapolis that is called “Crime Junkies” that tries to highlight lesser known crimes and minorities, and we love them. It is such a funny thing for a little girl to be into, but she is. I

also love to lift weights. I like to be strong, that’s my thing.

InD: How did you learn how to “love” lifting weights?

LR: Honestly, I have always been a big girl, and because of that, working out is hard—it is hard to do burpees when there is a lot of you. I don't know how that is fun for anyone. One of my natural advantages of being a little bigger than others at the gym is that I can lift more weight, so I think I just naturally gravitated towards lifting because it was fun to be better at something. Once you gravitate towards it, you do more of it, and then you get better at it, so you like it more.

InD: I guess I have just never found anything I'm better at. LR: I would make everyone lift weights if I could, but I am sure there are people who would make everybody run or do burpees if they could.

InD: Probably! We always do favorites at the end of interviews because they tell us so much about you. So… what is your favorite food?

LR: That is hard… buffalo chicken. It’s hard because I am a mood eater, so from day to day it could be different because it depends on my mood. Even buffalo chicken

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is more about the sauce than the chicken because I love sauce!

InD: Your favorite dessert?

LR: Chocolate and/or peanut butter ice cream, in any fashion.

InD: What is your favorite color?

LR: Red to wear. Purple for everything else.

InD: Why?

LR: Red, because I look good in it, and purple, because I have just always loved it. Ever since high school I have been obsessed with purple. I let it go for a while and went with red, but I have circled back to purple.

InD: What is your favorite time of day?

LR: Early, early morning. I like to get up before for anyone else. It is quiet and peaceful and has so much potential.

InD: Where is your favorite place to be?

LR: The beach.

InD: And you live in Indiana…. [both laughing]

LR: I know. I just need to be near water. It doesn't have to be the ocean; I am happy with Lake Michigan.

InD: Where is your favorite place to travel to?

LR: I have only been once, but I love Nice, France. I like France in general, but I just fell in love with Nice.

InD: Do you have an overall favorite book?

LR: “Love and Other Words” by Christina Lauren. It is so good!

InD: Do you have a favorite movie?

LR: That one is a bit harder, but probably “Ten Things I Hate about You”.

InD: Alright, very last question, what is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

LR: Right after grad school, we were moving. I was about to defend my thesis, and I was looking for a job. I was telling one of the guys on my thesis committee all of these things and how I was so stressed. He said, “Well, you know how to climb a mountain? You take one step, then you take one breath. One step, one breath.” I share that advice with people so often. It is literal advice when people are climbing a mountain because it is very easy when you get ahead of yourself, to get oxygen deprived. You have to make sure you are taking a breath. I don't know that much about climbing mountains, but apparently that is true. I am refocusing on that at this stage of my life. My word for 2023 is “peace” because that is truly the thing I want most, so I am going to focus on that advice I was given back in 2005. Take a step; take a breath. There is no sense in stressing and hyperventilating; that is not going to get you anywhere.

InD: Is it okay if we let our readers know you are also taking care of a parent with dementia right now, along with your family and kids?

LR: Yes. We all have different seasons in life, but for me, this is an extra busy season, so I’m going to take my own advice! One step, one breath. At the time my professor gave me that advice, I was ready to roll my eyes because I thought he was going with the cliché of “One step at a time”, but he didn’t. He changed it, and it became much more meaningful.

InD: That is what makes it very beautiful. It really adds so much more to it.

LR: When my son was an infant, the advice was, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I found that advice so frustrating because I was so exhausted. He would only nap for 25 minutes, so by the time I would get into bed and fall asleep, he was waking up again. Then when I went into my pediatrician’s ofSice, she said, “You need sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it's only Sive minutes.” The reason that advice was so much better was because I needed her to acknowledge it wasn't much, and it may not be enough, and I may still feel exhausted, but even if it was a few minutes, it would help.

InD: That is a perfect example of taking a cliché and tweaking it to really make it meaningful. And it is the very best advice. Thank you so much!

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“I Like the Movie, But The Book Was Better”… Or Is It?

When people talk about movies made from books, it seems like they always claim that the book was so much better. For good reason, the books usually are.

Part of this stems from the practical limitations of movies, chieSly, they typically have to cut signiSicant parts of the story so they're not three or four hours long.

Of course, books often have us in the character's heads, which is often difSicult to do in movies, short of using narration, which is frequently awkward and doesn't really work well. Alas, in many cases, the movie creators deserve to be faulted, since they've changed the story to please Sickle preview audiences, or they've watered down controversial issues so it

can still get a PG-13 rating, and thus more customers, in the form of children. However, every so often, the reverse is true, and since we are in that time of year when days are short, and books and movies are a favorite pastime, I'd like to discuss some of these examples. Bear in mind, these are only my opinions, many readers will disagree with some (or maybe all) of them.

There are spoilers for both the movies and the books, so probably don't read these if you still want to read/watch the example in question. All these examples are for books written separately, and before, the movie.

Stansfield
By: Paul
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Novelizations, written using the movie script, don't count.

1) "Misery"

Novel written by Stephen King in 1987, movie made in 1990. This is an example of a book that was very good, but its movie was simply more effective; a picture being worth a thousand words, as the expression goes. Nothing wrong with what King wrote, it was just more compelling to see it on the screen.

Kathy Bates owned this role, and it was refreshing that the Academy got it right and gave her the Best Actress Oscar. Although he's mostly known for his comedies, director Rob Reiner really did a great job here. The comic relief of the local sheriff and his wife was also a nice tension breaker, and not, if memory serves, in the book.

2)

Any James Bond story

Books written by Ian Fleming in the 1950's and 60's, movies made in 1962 to present. I'm maybe cheating a little here, as I’ve only read "Dr. No", "The Man with the Golden Gun", and “Thunderball". I'm partially relying on the opinions of my father for the other novels, but anyway, the movies have certainly had their ups and downs, but overall, they're much more entertaining than the books. Fleming should get credit for creating a great character, and drafting many of the plots, but his writing didn't impress me. His Bond seemed too grim, and the stories more dull, somehow. Granted, the movies were often unrealistic,

sometimes absurd and cartoony, but sometimes this makes for more enjoyable viewing. Fleming's racial views (often expressed in the Bond books) were messed up too, and unsettling.

3) "Fight Club"

Novel written by Chuck Palahnuik in 1996, movie made in 1999. I didn't expect to enjoy this movie. Initially, I heard only about the Sight club itself and thought it would be kind of a mindless action Slick. However, to my pleasant surprise, I found the movie to be wickedly funny, and the split personality plot line was very interesting, and disturbing.

Like "Misery", and many of the examples here, the book wasn't bad. It just didn't seem to have much more that the movie didn't also cover.

4) "Cape Fear"

Novel written by John D. MacDonald in 1957 (with the original title of "The Executioners"), movies made in 1962 and 1991. I'm referring to the '91 remake directed by Martin Scorsese. The book, and the '62 movie version, were decent, but were more run-of-the-mill revenge stories. Max Cady gets out of prison and goes after the man (and his family) who stopped him and testiSied against him in his rape case.

The '91 remake is much darker, and the characters more ambiguous. In the remake, Cady has a legitimate complaint; Sam Bowden was his lawyer, and he unethically buried a

Art hur Con
“ 22
Ian Fleming should get credit for creating a great character, and drafting many of the plots, but… His Bond seemed too grim, and the stories more dull, somehow. Granted, the movies were often unrealistic, sometimes absurd and cartoony, but sometimes this makes for more

Sile that could have helped Cady avoid prison. Unlike the book and the earlier movie version, Bowden and his family are a mess. He has a verging-oninappropriate relationship with a female colleague, his marriage is extremely shaky (largely due to his previous inSidelity), and his daughter is in summer school for being caught smoking pot.

DeNiro's Cady is much more dangerous, too, smart, articulate, even charming at times. Yet, at the same time, he's violent, vicious, and psychopathic, with an almost slasher movie villain's near supernatural ability to track people and withstand injury. So, to sum up, it was more sophisticated, nuanced, and yes, more disturbing.

(To be fair, the time period when the book and Sirst movie were made were probably factors in their being less intense and nasty.)

5)

"Requiem for a Dream"

Novel written by Hubert Selby, Jr., in 1978, the movie was made in 2000. I think it's Selby's writing style that causes this opinion. Stream-of-consciousness type writing can be hard to read when you're not always sure what's really happening, what's being said, and what is just a character's thoughts.

His story was compelling, but I didn't care for the way he wrote it. Plus, the movie was so riveting,

shot in such an innovative way, had great acting (nice to see Ellen Burstyn again). All of it was painful and horriSically depressing. It's not a fun movie; it's more a harrowing endurance. Yet, still deSinitely worth watching.

6) "Goodfellas"

Book written by Nicholas Pileggi in 1985 (titled "Wiseguy"), based on Henry Hill's account, with the movie being made in 1990. This is a NonSiction book, so we can't fault the author for plot choices. But, the written account wasn't nearly as entertaining. Scorsese's movie was top notch, up there with the Sirst two "Godfather" movies and "The Sopranos" as the best mob adaptations. The Silm eliminated some of the slightly tedious detail, and concentrated on the more interesting storylines.

7)

"Jaws"

Novel written by Peter Benchley in 1974, the movie was made in 1975. One of my frequent criticisms is that movies often minimize or eliminate controversial characters or situations to become family friendly. Here is an example of a time when doing this was better.

The characters in Benchley's book are pretty repellent. Ellen Brody is unhappy and has an affair with Hooper. Martin is much less sympathetic, and there's a weird subplot where the mayor is in debt to the maSia.

Despite all of this, the book is still decent reading, but the movie is much more enjoyable, even if Mythbusters proved the movie ending is impossible—that can be overlooked considering the rest of the Silm is so spectacular.

8)

"Naked Lunch"

Novel written by William Burroughs in 1959, the movie being made in 1991. Burroughs used to write out a manuscript, cut it up with scissors, and rearrange the pieces to make a new story. I can only assume he did this for "Naked Lunch", because the book was absolutely unreadable. The words were English, but they were strung together in a way that was incomprehensible.

Meanwhile, the movie had its moments. Bizarre and disgusting images abound (like the lusty, lobster/insectoid shape changing typewriter and the reptile-like Mugwumps with their phallic-like horns that dripped psychotropic

Arth ur Con an Doyl e adm itte
23
Arthur Conan Doyle admitted that he based his famous detective Sherlock Holmes on

drugs), and the plot is weird and dreamlike, but it passes the time in an interesting way.

9) "The Thing"

Short story written in 1938 by John W. Campbell, Jr. (as "Who Goes There?"), with movie versions in 1951 and 1982. Kind of a "Cape Fear" situation once more. The short story is good, the '51 Silm is okay, but the '82 movie is great.

The 50's version doesn't follow the story's plot when it comes to the Thing's attributes, excusable, given the special effects limitations of the time, but it certainly makes for a less frightening tale. A tough, regenerating vegetable man/ giant doesn't compare to a creature which replicates other life forms, so you don't know who your friends are!

Most of the short story's elements are in the movie, but seeing it on the screen is much more powerful. A lot of this is due to the brilliant special effects by Rob Bottin. Seeing the Thing absorb people and dogs, change into other hideous mishmashes of creatures is disturbing, gross, and terrifying.

10) "Trainspotting"

Novel written by Irvine Welsh in 1993, with the movie in 1996. Like with "Requiem for a Dream", Welsh uses that hard to enjoy stream-ofconsciousness type writing style. Nevertheless, it still was a good read, if difSicult at times. I liked the movie better because it was more linear. Also, the Silm streamlined the story nicely, dropping a lot of the extraneous subplots, and boiling it down to the basic framework. Both book and Silm were delightfully dark and disturbing.

11)

"The French Connection"

Written in 1969 by Robin Moore, with the movie being made in 1971. This is another NonSiction book where the truth is found to be more boring than the Siction. Overall, the book's story was interesting, but the writing was tedious. The movie was anything but tedious. Fast paced, great acting (Gene Hackman and Roy Schneider especially), and one of the best car chase scenes ever, if you're into that sort of thing.

12) "Soylent Green"

Novel written by Harry Harrison in 1966, and the movie done in

1973. The movie only follows the basic setup of the book, and then does its own glorious thing. It makes the story even darker, with its sexism, expensive apartments that come with live in female concubines, called 'furniture', euthanasia centers (perhaps justiSiable in the horribly poor, starving, overcrowded America they portray, but still disturbing), and, of course, the movie's secret - the cannibalism.

The book is a decent read, but it's almost another story, and in this case, over-the-top and maybe even absurd wins, especially for those of us who have a soft spot for Charlton Heston’s 60's and 70's Sci-Fi fare, like "Planet of the Apes" and even "The Omega Man".

13) "L.A. ConSidential"

Novel written by James Ellroy in 1990, and the movie was made in 1997. As with "Trainspotting", sometimes a shorter, simpler story is more effective. The book is good, but extremely dense and complicated, and was sometimes difSicult to get through. Ellroy's "telegraphic" prose style isn't my favorite.

The movie concentrated on fewer characters and the more basic plot, to its credit. Also, the direction and acting were excellent, which is always a beneSit.

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I want to stress that in many cases, having both a Silm and a book about the same story is beneSicial. A novel can really Slesh out the characters, with more background information about them, along with their motivations and inner emotions, for example.

But seeing these same characters and events on the big screen, in a dramatic visual and audio way, can really help a reader visualize the worlds, the action, and the overall conSlicts which make a story hit home more effectively.

When both formats are done well, it can be a wonderful, symbiotic relationship. And when they’re not, then we have something to complain about with our friends, which can be fun and entertaining, too!

The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Writing Conferences

In every author interview I’ve given, one question invariably comes up: “What suggestions do you have for new and aspiring writers?”

I could offer speciSic and concrete recommendations, like write every day or commit to 1000’s of words daily, I choose to go a different route. My Sirst suggestion is always the same: Attend a writers’ conference.

There are so many beneSits to this experience. I’ve never been able to lay them out in any author interview. So, for new and aspiring authors, as well as other writing colleagues, here are seven important lessons I’ve learned at writing conferences.

1. We are alone, together.

Almost every author I’ve known talks about the solitary nature of writing, just the writer and the computer. Each writer may have a different setting for their work—their ofSice, a favorite café , a cubicle in the library—but each one talks about having to create and invent and write alone. It is a solitary, and often lonely, experience. That isolation can make a writer feel it is he or she against the world.

But attending a writers’ conference helps authors see their plight is not unique. Their anxieties and fears of failure and ridicule are shared by others, both new

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and experienced. When a writer, especially a new writer, participates in a writers’ conference, he or she discovers they are part of a literary community, a welcoming and supportive community, so they can be alone together.

2. Every author has rejections, even the great ones.

Rejection is an integral part of the life of a writer:

Your work is not what we’re looking for. Your manuscript does not Sit our agency. We don’t know how we would market your work.

Abstractly, every writer knows rejections are simply a part of growing as a writer, but who are we kidding? Rejections hurt. They can be debilitating, even cause a writer to question whether they can do this.

Another thing you learn at writing conferences is that rejections are part

and parcel of all writers’ experiences, even famous, best-selling authors. Of course, this may not come as news to most aspiring writers, but to attend a writing conference and hear authors like Stephanie Evanovich or Ken Follett or William Kent Krueger or John Grisham share their personal stories of rejection and disappointment is a different experience. It makes the whole rejection thing visceral and real. Also, new writers can latch on to that.

If famous, well-known authors went through these rejections and came out the other side, then why can’t I?

3. The Importance of Networking

One major beneSit of participating in a writers’ conference is tapping into the network(s) of writers and professionals attending. Aspiring writers can connect with other more experienced authors in their genres who are happy to share some of the pitfalls and struggles they’ve encountered. New writers can gain new followers and others interested in their work. They may even connect with other writers willing and interested in reading and critiquing their work and giving feedback. At conferences, they can also gain access to marketing professionals and be able to tap their expertise and experience. I have attended several different writing conferences, and at every one, members of the literary community share resources and ideas freely.

4. Most famous, best-selling authors are real, friendly, and approachable.

I’ve been fortunate to meet and learn from quite a number of famous, best-selling authors. Names such as Anne Perry, C J Box, William Kent Krueger, Hank Phillipi Ryan, Andrew Gross, Stephanie Evanovich, and Ken Follett, come to mind.

As I’ve had a chance to talk with each of these literary luminaries, I’ve been surprised at just how human and approachable they have been. To a person, I have found them ready to answer my personal questions and are willing to help, if they can.

I can still remember how thrilled I was when Ken Follett took time to ask me about my writing decisions in setting my Haunted Shores Mysteries in the late 90’s—tales I was crafting when I met him. I can still recall my conversation with Anne Perry about her suggestions for writing Historical Siction. I remember being blown away when both Hank Phillipi Ryan and William Kent Krueger agreed to write blurbs for the Sirst book in my series—and all I did was ask.

Writing conferences such Killer Nashville, Sleuthfest, Love is Murder, and Midwest Writers Workshop are the only way an emerging writer like me, from a small town in Ohio, would ever have had a chance to meet and learn from such literary greats, both in large conference sessions and small in-person conversations.

5. It’s okay to be weird.

Let’s face it, if you consider yourself a writer—someone who shuts him or herself up in a room for hours and invents characters,

29

stories, and settings out of thin air—then one time or another, you’ve felt weird. You’d rather spend time with these characters you’ve created than with real Slesh-and-blood people. Come on. That’s a little weird. When you tell people you’re a writer, you often get that look right before they say something like, “Oh, really. That’s interesting.”

One thing you quickly discover at a writing conference is that you are not alone in your weirdness. In fact, at any writing conference, you will be surrounded by hundreds of people who are just as weird as you, maybe even more so. Most are nice and friendly and helpful, though some will not be. But very quickly, probably by the end of the Sirst day, you will learn there are plenty of weird people in the literary community, and you’re one of them. And that’s okay. Weird is the new cool, at least for writers.

I’ve beneSited almost as much from the criticism as from any kudos.

Of course, I don’t always agree with the criticism— that’s my prerogative—but even then, this critical feedback helps me see my words in a different light, and sometimes gives me an idea of where I could take my story that I wouldn’t have thought of before.

7. Nothing takes the place of persistence.

Striving to create the next Great American novel, or the next Dystopian Sci-Fi, to capture readers’ attention, or the next big Romance everyone is talking about, requires writers to travel a long and winding road—to borrow a phrase from the Beatles. Along this road, writers will encounter road blocks, delays, construction, detours, and enough frustration to make the weak-kneed want to collapse. (Forgive the mixed metaphor.) People tell writers they’ll never make it. Editors turn down manuscripts. Agents won’t return emails.

Writers, especially new writers, have to believe in themselves, be willing to continue to work on their craft—often in the midst of staunch criticism—and put in the long hours and days and weeks and months, and even years, it takes to make their work as good as possible. In other words, they have to be persistent.

6. Critiques of your work are helpful—even if you don’t like what you hear.

Most writers’ conferences offer avenues for writers to receive critiques and feedback on WIP (work in progress). The ability to receive honest, impartial feedback on WIPs, usually for a small cost, from agents, publishers, and experienced writers is one more great beneSit of attending a writing conference. Of course, we writers don’t always like what we hear, but even those comments can help us grow as authors.

I have utilized these services at conferences several times, with mixed results; mixed in the sense that sometimes my WIP was well received, and other times my work was soundly criticized. Even though I always want to hear my writing is incredible—“This is the next great American novel!”—I have to admit

At writing conferences, new writers will Sind colleagues who are at all stages of this journey. They will be able to learn from long-published authors what they did to accomplish this, and how long their journey took. With other emerging writers, they can discuss how they can keep their focus in the face of a hundred distractions and detours. They will be inspired by other authors’ long, hard-fought efforts to persevere.

New writers can gain all this - and so much more at writing conferences.

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Beta Readers, Part 2: How Authors Can Maximize Their Value

Authors understand (or should) the incredible value of good Beta readers. Getting early feedback on your characters, plot, and pacing can make any novel or story better. But how can an author maximize the value of your volunteer Beta readers? What can authors do to create great Beta readers?

My fellow authors, all the previous month's information will help your Beta readers do a great job for you, without you having to do any more work. If they do it, then you’re lucky and should shower them with swag and praise, but not every Beta reader will read that article, and not every Beta reader will take the time and effort to give you perfect feedback. So, what can you do to help them and make the process as productive and helpful as possible? Let’s count off a few:

Develop a long list of readers. Easier said than done, of course, but try to cultivate as many Beta readers as you can. Don’t rely on three or four. If half of them fail to give you comments, or give you unhelpful comments, you have to either start over or go without. If you have 12 Beta readers, you need good comments from only half of them to be in good shape. You probably don’t want to send out Beta reader drafts to 40 people, since processing all the comments would drive you insane, but a dozen is a good number.

How do you get Beta readers? You get them by making connections with readers and by asking. Ask your social media followers, readers who reach out to you, fellow authors you know and respect, members of reading groups, etc. Find people who will give you honest feedback, but don’t make them do all the work, help them! Have proper expectations about what you want from them.

Let your Beta readers know when the manuscript will be ready. Your readers have lives of their own. Just because they volunteered to help, doesn’t mean they can drop everything on a moment’s notice and devote all their attention to your book. Let them know approximately when you think the manuscript will be ready for Beta, and try to stick to it.

If you need to push back the expected delivery time, give as much advance notice of that as you can. An email saying that you expect the Beta draft to be ready in about "X" weeks is great, it builds your Beta readers’ expectations and lets them plan for the time needed to read your book. It’s also a great time to post that same note on your social media platforms to recruit more Beta readers.

Give your Beta readers plenty of time to return their comments, but also set a deadline. You love your story and want to get it Sinished, but remember, it’s a good idea to step away from your story for a while so you can see it with fresher eyes when you go back to start revisions. It’s not a bad thing to put the draft on a shelf for a month or more while your Beta readers are preparing their feedback.

Don’t rush them. If you want good comments from many Beta readers, you need to be patient. Four-to-

six weeks is a good time frame. Make sure to set a deadline. Most people work best if there is some end point. If you make it open-ended, you’ll never be Sinished. You are doing your Beta readers a favor by giving them a Sirm “due” date, as long as there is enough time.

Don’t be afraid to send out a reminder half-way through the review period, to nudge your readers and remind them of your deadline. If they’re working on it already, no harm done. If they haven’t started yet, they may welcome the reminder. They volunteered already, so they won’t be offended. If it turns out they can’t do it and have to decline, at least you’ll know now.

Send your manuscript in Word or other editable text format. You want comments? Make it easy for your Beta readers to write them. Don’t send a .pdf or EPUB Sile and expect your Beta readers to make notes in a separate document or (gasp!) on a pad of note paper. Allowing your Beta readers to write their notes directly in your text document will make their lives easier. It will also help you work on revisions, since the notes will be located near the text that has issues.

Tell your Beta readers what you want! Feel free to use last month's information about how to be a great Beta reader and send it along with your manuscript text. (Or send the link to the article!) Let them know what you want and don’t want. Make it easy for them. And be sure to let them know that you want brutally honest comments.

And, to help even more...

Embed questions in your text if you want your Beta readers to give you speciSic feedback about speciSic

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things, in addition to whatever other helpful observations they may make on their own. Ask whether the reader is satisSied with the pacing after chapter 10. Ask whether they are sufSiciently engaged, whether they have an opinion about who killed Aunt Mae, or whether they are bored with the description of the cruise ship.

If you have concerns, ask for speciSic feedback. Embed those questions in the text of the story you send to your Beta readers, and encourage them to give you feedback right there in the document. Here’s an example from the Beta reader draft of my most recent novel, "Dead Winner", about halfway through the story. (The number “5” indicates that this is the 5th embedded Beta reader question point in the text, which helps me keep the responses organized.)

5. We’re about at the halfway point:

A. How do you feel about the pacing of the story? Is it moving along well and you’re surprised that you’re already nearly halfway through? Or is it dragging and you wish you had more information about the main plot?

B. Do you care about Rory and Monica and what will happen to them?

C. Have you had changes in your guesses about what really happened?

D. Do you think you know what really happened and how it’s going to come out at the end?

E. Is there any information you wish you had, that you’re waiting for? Or are you satisIied with the amount of information you have and you are having fun trying to Iigure it out?

Provide a feedback questionnaire at the end. Again, if you want feedback about speciSic points or issues, ask for it. Create a questionnaire to plug in at the end of the text. By doing this, you’ll get feedback on speciSic questions (along with any embedded questions) from all your Beta readers. You can then compare and contrast the feedback to get an overall view of how your readers reacted to the story. Here’s a sample from the questionnaire I put at the end:

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… If you want feedback about speciTic points or issues, ask for it.

Chapter One

Hanging threads and missing connections -- is there anything that seems like a loose end? Anything that comes up during the story that is never connected back later? Any information that you wish you had, but never got? Any logical leaps that are not properly explained?

When you get back Beta reader comments, you can create a spreadsheet with the speciSic questions you asked and the answers/feedback provided by each Beta reader. When all your feedback is logged, you will see how your readers agreed or differed in their comments. This is hugely valuable as you decide whether (and how) to rewrite or revise your story. Interact with your Beta readers. If you have a question about something one of your Beta readers wrote, reach out to them and have a chat about it. Your Beta readers will be thrilled to have a real-time discussion about something they felt strongly enough about to put into their comments. Probe them a little bit to mine additional feedback, if you think it will be helpful.

But (and this is critical), don’t argue with your Beta readers or critique their critique. Don’t be defensive. You’ll never get them to be a Beta for you again if you make them feel that their hard work was not fully appreciated and taken in the constructive spirit in which it was intended. If you want to disregard their notes, that’s up to you. You’re the author, after all. But don’t argue or complain. Take it like an author.

Thank your Beta readers. First, acknowledge receipt of their comments, and after reviewing them, follow-up with a speciSic thank-you note in which you call out particularly helpful observations or

comments. Make each Beta reader feel that they made a valuable contribution to your process (because they did!).

Call out anything you speciSically plan to revise in response to their comment (even if several readers had the same comment). Make them want to Beta read your next book by appreciating their efforts. Then, make sure to list them in the "Acknowledgements" section of your Sinal book. People love to see their name in print. (But ask Sirst, to make sure they want to have their name in your published book. Some people don’t.)

Send them a book!! Your Sinal “Thank You” to your Beta readers is to send them an autographed paperback of the Sinished book which they helped to develop. (Again, ask Sirst, since some people don’t want more paperbacks on their limited shelf space.)

Your readers will likely read the Sinal book to see how it changed from the Beta reader draft.

When they see something they helped Six, they will be very proud. They will also be very willing to post a review for you, so get them an early author copy with instructions on how to post a review. You can also send along extra swag, like bookmarks or stickers they can give out to their friends when they brag about how they were a Beta reader for your great book, and how they pointed out a Slaw in your plot that you Sixed in the Sinal version.

You just created a marketing partner and a social media stream. Nice job.

We love our Beta readers. We cultivate them and appreciate them. If we can all do better–as Beta readers and as authors–we’ll all end up with better books.

Now, that’s a happy ending.

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Rising Star Spotlight Quinn Avery

My goodness, you have an impressive portfolio of books in multiple genres yet each is under different pen ,name! Explain why you chose to go that route.

Although I’d wanted to be an author since I was 8, I didn’t start publishing until the Twilight phenomenon was in full swing. Many other indie authors were publishing young adult paranormal, so I thought I would give it a try since I’d loved the paranormal genre forever (I’m a big Charlaine Harris fan and devoured the Sookie Stackhouse series in a matter of days). Seven books in (8 counting the middle school book I wrote for my son as J.A. Naumann), my editor at the time suggested I try writing romance since that genre was blowing up after Fifty Shades. When I took his advice, I used the name Jennifer Ann rather than my full name (Jen Naumann) because my children were pretty young at the time, and their friends were beginning to read my YA books. I didn’t want to receive calls from angry parents or corrupt any young minds. After writing 21 books as Jennifer Ann, I realized my

stories were getting heavy on the suspense element. I was also a mega-fan of the Veronica Mars TV series and I was bummed they had ended it so abruptly after 3 seasons (in my world the 4th season doesn’t exist). Then one day my character, Bexley Squires, came to me, wanting to tell her stories of being a sassy yet Sierce amateur sleuth, so I decided to switch genres once again. My romance novels tended to get pretty graphic and included colorful language, so I switched pen names yet again as I wanted my new series to be PG-13. I wanted to write something my family could talk to their friends about (my sister is a doctor and her nurses would tease her about my romance books). It’s funny because I’m not really a romantic person in real life, but there always tends to be an element of romance in my stories no matter the genre. Accordingly, I usually gloss over sex scenes as Quinn Avery.

Are you happy you did?

Abso-freaking-lutely. It would’ve been far too confusing to readers if I had written everything under

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one name. Plus my writing has grown immensely since my Sirst book, and I have a very short attention span, so it’s been fun exercising my writer’s brain in different genres over the past 11 years. I feel as if I’m Sinally in the place I was always meant to be - careerwise. But no promises I won’t add another pen name… I’ve always wanted to write a horror novel! What made you choose the genres you write in (YA, Romantic Suspense, and Suspense Thriller?)

In addition to my answer above, I’ve gravitated toward the suspense, thriller, and mystery genres because I’ve been a true crime fan since Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested around my senior year of high school. I was fascinated that someone who only lived one state away could be that mentally ill (I’m proud to say my daughter inherited my fascination and recently became a probation ofSicer after earning dual degrees in psychology and criminal justice). I was also in high school when Jacob Wetterling was abducted a few hours from where I lived in Minnesota. He was only a couple of years younger than me, and it always bothered me that he just disappeared without any answers. My upcoming release, Lost Girls of Kato, kind of came to be from being shook up for so long by Jacob’s disappearance. I still can’t read about the monster they recently arrested for his murder without breaking down… especially now that I have a son and can empathize even more with Jacob’s mom, Patty. Do you have a favorite genre to write in? And why or why not?

I love writing mysteries. After Sinishing the Sirst draft, I go back and insert red herrings throughout the story. It’s a total blast… like putting together a puzzle I created.

How do you get the inspiration for your next novels?

The ideas literally come from everywhere. Sometimes pieces will come to me in a dream. Sometimes they’re inspired by a song, movie, or TV show. Someone once said to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how long you have to live?” and I was like no, it wouldn’t, then came up with the storyline for my YA dystopian novel, Shymers. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the back

of my husband’s Harley and ideas just come to me out of nowhere (that’s also the place I often tend to shake writer’s block). I wish there was a way to turn off my mind every now and then… it’s always running in full speed. I don’t get a lot of sleep.

What prompted you to begin a writing career in the Birst place?

I’ve always been a passionate reader and I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. I still have the My Little Ponies story that made me declare I wanted to be a writer,, along with massive 3-hole binders full of “fan-Siction” I wrote in high school during my obsession with John Hughes movies. But then college and raising a family got in the way, and there was a good decade in which my creativity was seriously blocked. I didn’t actually “pull the trigger” on publishing until someone very dear to me faced cancer at a young age, and I realized I needed to follow my life-long dream before it was too late. It helped that indie publishing was a thing because I’m not sure I would’ve had the patience to work with a publisher—I also don’t do well with people telling me what to do.

What are you like at home, when you aren't writing?

Depends on the day. I struggle with depression, so there are days when I resemble a sloth and merely binge NetSlix. On a good day, my husband would probably say I’m like a gnat… always doing several things at once or annoying him. He’s a farmer, so in the winter we’re together 24/7 and tend to get a little cagey. I’ve tried just about every craft—I’m currently obsessed with macrame and humorous cross-stitch designs. Our youngest two children now live on opposite sides of the country, so we’re not home as much as before. And we’re in the process of building a new house, so I’ve had to put my career on the back burner in order to assist with the physical labor involved with our side of the construction.

What is the one trait that your family or friends would say most deBines you?

They’d probably either say I’m a total ham or extremely ditzy. I think it depends who you ask. My daughter recently told me I’m sometimes funny

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without even trying. I’m not sure that’s a compliment. What is the one area of your life that you would most like to change?

I’m becoming increasingly anxious with age and constantly worry about everything and everyone I care about (it doesn’t help that my closest friend died last year in a freak accident). Sometimes it’s little things, like worrying my husband won’t enjoy his meal when I pick the restaurant. Other times it’s crippling, like when it prevents me from driving because of potentially bad weather. I don’t like taking meds as it messes with my creativity, so I’m trying to convince myself to let the less important things slide and trust that things will be okay. Accordingly, I stopped covering my grays last year so I’d stop obsessing over whether or not they were showing… it’s extremely freeing not to care about it anymore! Although it only addresses a small area from the cause of my anxieties, I recently decided my new motto is, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Turns out I know a lot of monkeys.

If you could have one personal and one professional wish, what would they be?

I’m obsessed with the production of movies/ television shows, so it would fulSill both of those wishes if one of my books became optioned for a movie or series, allowing me to follow the process upclose and personal. I would say Bexley is a strong contender, but with the current trend of serial killers, I could also see either In Her Father’s Shadow or Lost Girls of Kato becoming a major motion picture. It seems like a wild thing to dream about, but then again, I’m the same girl who once dreamed of becoming a published author.

The Three Rs

Something I read in an article recently really started to bug me, so this may be a little more serious than usual, but it’s something I find important.

Something I read in an article recently really started to bug me, so this may be a little more serious than usual, but it’s something I Sind important.

Growing up, I learned in school about the basic rules, the things we need to know and understand. The three “R”s. Those were the things teachers were Sighting to instill in my brain, even though it was already full of games, girls and... well, you know the sort of thing. Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.

These are the three basic subjects everyone was learning to get through school and on with their lives. If you wanted to go to college, you needed them.

Getting a job and excelling at all three helped you move forward.

It’s understood we all do these at different levels, but the concept is still true. Computers, spell-check – along with social media – have really tested our understanding of the English language with the LOL, LMAO, YOLO, and many other mixtures of the alphabet we use to say things in the shortest possible way.

Since this is a magazine for literature lovers, I will substitute grammar for arithmetic. For so many of us, our grammar is in dire need of help. How many times a day do you text or read something that sounds like a robot wrote it, or possibly your dog?

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What is the big thing about writing?

Writing is important for just about every aspect of our lives. Of course, there’s our entertainment and art. Writing creates worlds for your imagination to wander in, by way of books, movies, and our day-today communications. All of them are created by writing, in one way or another... the use of words to convey thoughts or ideas.

The ‘Honey-Do’ lists left to remind your hubby what to do on his day off, so he doesn’t blow it watching sports and napping, while eating nachos and leaving crumbs on the couch and spilling his beverage on the Sloor. Then he blames the dog for it, and says he forgot to do the laundry because nobody said anything, even though you know you told him six times.

Writing a note down will be your proof, and it’s unarguable proof, at that. It’ll also give you a reason to have him take you out for a nice dinner to make up for it. Wait a minute; I’m starting to understand why these lists get made now. Hmm...

You can’t even text your friends to see if they watched the latest ‘’Yellowstone” episode so that you can discuss it, without words. You shouldn’t be texting while at work, but you have to Sind out if they saw the cute new guy who wears those perfectly Sitting jeans.

Writing has preserved our history, in so many vitally important ways. There is a record of what happened, and who did what and when, that allows us to learn the truth about our past. In ‘older’ times, you actually had to use a piece of paper and a pencil/pen. Oh wow, the horror of actually having to write things down

yourself! Kids today see cursive and think it’s a different language, or stolen from a UFO.

This was one reason I wanted to write this article. I was seeing the direction things were going in schools, where everything is online or on the computer. Aren’t the kids missing out on the simple pleasure of writing a letter or keeping a diary?

Handwriting is fun, secret, and goofy (when you doodle on your notes) and sometimes, it’s even creative. It’s sadly becoming a lost art to write a love note to someone. Getting a text with all the compliments and mushy stuff is Sine, but knowing someone took the time out of their day to write something just for you, and add a spritz of perfume, gives it a special personal touch.

I know I get distracted, but I am a pure romantic at heart.

Another thing I am seeing is the slow disappearance of print books and bookstores. Reading is beginning to be less of a hobby to the younger generation, at least not in the same way as when we grew up.

I always talk about how reading forces you to imagine the characters, what they look like, seeing them in your mind as you write the dialogue. All our mediums originate with books containing the written word, descriptive art, or hieroglyphics, and calligraphy on scrolls. Even cavemen had a rudimentary start to using writing, although they had to read symbols off the walls and Sigure out why that one antelope had extra legs.

This, in turn, brought out the early critics, better known now as "reviewers". They were still trying to

Writing.
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help, but not everyone can scribble like Garf the caveman. He was a true writing artist. Sorry, I’m going off in another direction. But I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Reading a good book with a cup of coffee by the window or in your favorite chair can be very relaxing. All of you reading this magazine do it as a quick getaway, while also Sinding out about stories and writers. You’re information gathering, thanks to words and writing, picking out new adventures to take, and taking note of books you’d like to read.

The thing that set me off was hearing about how our youth are now reading less. They aren’t writing as much either, and rely on movies and television to teach them history. That’s a frightening thought, at least to me, because history isn’t ever what the latest NetSlix movie makes it out to be. Neither does spending half an hour online researching something guaranteed to produce factual information.

A philosopher once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

(Santayana)

I’d but add, “Those who are no longer interested in reading books about their past, are doomed to make the same mistakes all over again.”

There are two primary printing processes used for printing books: Offset and Digital.

Right Cover, Wrong Book

When Print-on-Demand Sucks

You uploaded your Siles, Sixed any errors, approved your proofs, ordered author copies, waited three times longer than expected, only to have your book arrive with another author’s book bound inside your book cover. Ack!

It doesn’t happen often, but often enough that you’re probably able to Sind at least one social post a day complaining about this, or a similar production problem. Print-on-Demand (POD) strikes again.

Here's the thing, POD is probably the single most important process that makes self-publishing accessible and affordable to the majority of independent authors. As a whole, it’s an incredible resource, but there are drawbacks. The key to leveraging it successfully lies in understanding the process, and knowing where and how to make concessions that will allow for the successful printing of your books.

There are two primary printing processes used for printing books: Offset and Digital.

Offset presses are used for large volumes. They use printing plates to lay down different colors of ink (usually Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black: CMYK) to create full color images and graphics. Sometimes these presses are sheet-fed, using large sheets of paper. Other times, a large, continuous roll is used and then trimmed down to large sheets. This is a labor-intensive and resource-heavy process. The additional costs associated with setting up an offset print job are distributed across the number of books produced.

In a purely hypothetical scenario, a job with $900 in setup costs for a run of 30 books is likely cost prohibitive—$900/30 = $30/book + the book cost. For a run of 3,000 books, the per unit cost is quite reasonable—$900/3,000 = $0.30/book + the book cost. Making a proSit on the former is nearly impossible, while the latter is quite achievable.

By: Tamara Cribley
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Of course, printing is not the only cost, nor is it the only factor. When contracting a large book run, you’ll also need to decide where to store those books and how to distribute them to fulSill orders. If you have the capital to invest and systems in place to address the logistical challenges, offset printing might be an excellent option. You’ll have more options and more control over the Sinal quality of your books.

Digital printing (POD) is like using your home ink jet printer, on a larger scale, and optimized for production. They are ideal for short runs (low volume). It does not rely on printing plates or large presses. As a result, it does not require the same degree of setup that offset requires. It allows printers to switch between jobs quickly and easily.

Digital printing doesn’t necessarily equate to lower quality, though in the world of POD publishing, paper quality and printing options are limited, and rapid production doesn’t lend itself to consistent quality control.

Because POD production is rapid, there are some issues that arise more frequently. For example, some, or all, of the interior pages may be incorrect, and binding and/or trimming may be catawampus, which leads us to how books are assembled.

Book pages are printed on large sheets, known as signatures. Multiple pages appear on each sheet, which are then folded, collected, bound, and Sinally, trimmed, to create your book. Depending on the printer, each signature will typically contain four to six pages, sometimes eight or 16.

On offset presses, signatures can contain as many as 32 pages. Slight shifts during binding and trimming are not uncommon. To account for these issues, printers deSine speciSications that will help ensure

that nothing important is cut off, and that those minor shifts aren’t a major focus of your readers. These are your margins and safety areas. (They are essentially the same thing, with different terms.)

The term 'margin' is found more frequently in interiors, while covers often refer to 'safety areas'. Each of these refers to the amount of space between the trim edge and the important content. Most printers deSine a minimum requirement. This is the bare minimum space they feel is needed to reliably ensure is 'safe' during the production process. You can stick to the minimum, or you can give yourself a bit of wiggle room.

Increasing margins serves two purposes. The Sirst is to give the reader’s eye a bit of white space to use to better navigate the text on a page. The second is that when you increase the white (or blank) space at the edge of a design or page, if the trimming is offset or at a bit of an angle, it’s far less obvious to the reader. Another concession with POD is material quality. Each self-publishing platform has a limited variety of stock (paper) and color options. For text-only books, the offerings meet most needs. For books with graphics, either color or greyscale, there may be some challenges. Most of the stocks offered by selfpublishing platforms are relatively light, uncoated stock. White and crè me are the two most common paper color options.

Uncoated stocks tend to soak up ink, resulting in a softer, somewhat faded appearance. Graphics printed on coated stock are sharper and more vibrant. Unfortunately, coated stocks aren’t available on the most popular POD platforms, and are available in very limited trim sizes for global distribution.

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Ink-heavy images printed on uncoated stock can bleed through to the other side of the page. Most printers set ink limits, and may Slag Siles for ink coverage limits to help mitigate this issue. That being said, the range for acceptable quality is about +/- 10%, so you might see up to a 20% difference between print runs.

While not critical for many authors, some really want extra options, like embossed covers with foil or spot UV treatments. In POD, those options are rarely available. The same is true for some binding types. The choices for covers are generally limited to one binding type, and matte or glossy cover stock.

One of the signiSicant endorsements for selfpublishing is the degree of control an author retains over their book. After the time, money, blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve invested, you expect perfection, right? In the POD world, perfection is not always achievable. Color is one factor over which we have very limited control. In the rest of the printing world, there are tools you can utilize to help ensure color accuracy and consistency. In POD, these are moving targets. Publishing platforms use printers across the country, sometimes around the world. The quality of printing can be impacted by things like temperature and humidity, the batch of paper, or a new supplier, ink quality, equipment, and operator aptitude, among other factors. Because there are so many variables, consistency and accuracy for short runs isn’t a high priority.

It is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of resources, on both the printer’s end, as well as the Sile creation end. Most home computers are not calibrated for accurate color. If you’re prooSing your cover or graphics at home, on an uncalibrated display, you’re already starting with an unknown. To produce accurate and consistent color, each piece of the process must be accounted for. In the POD world, we don’t have that option. This is where many authors and new-to-theindustry designers get frustrated. I’ve seen authors spend an incredible amount of time tweaking Siles and ordering proofs to get exactly the right colors, only to order the next run to Sind it signiSicantly different. Sometimes, I see them switch platforms to address the issue, only to Sind that the grass is not actually greener. This issue is inherent in POD. Switching platforms is not likely to resolve the issue, and certainly not over the long term.

Color is one area of self-publishing where authors need to accept that they don’t have full control, but

the reality is that readers generally don’t notice it. They have no idea what the perfect color might be, and so they take it as it is.

Now, if you’re working on a coffee table photo book or one where color accuracy and consistency is very important, POD is the wrong space for you. Review your goals and resources and Sind an alternate option that will meet your needs.

There are a handful of other frustrations you might experience with POD. The laminate used for matte covers tends to peel. The glue used for binding isn’t always reliable. Wait times to receive your author copies can vary widely, and are impacted by peak production times and supply chain resources.

With all its inherent challenges, print-on-demand publishing is still an exceptional resource. By understanding the process and its limitations, you can leverage this tool to your advantage. Even in traditional publishing, you’ll see trim errors and color shifts. Take comfort in knowing that perfection doesn’t have to be the goal. Strive for excellence. The accessibility that this platform offers to voices previously unheard, is truly 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 for periodic virtual meetings each month. Be part of the conversation, ask questions, and share your experiences, challenges, and successes. Visit www.DeliberatePage.com/Roundtable to sign up for meeting access details and information.

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C.F. Francis

You know how people joke about walking miles in the snow to get to school?

Well, every Saturday growing up, I’d walk two miles to the library in the blazing South Florida sun. As I look back on those trips, I wonder why the heat didn’t bother me, but I think I was more interested in the books I was going to discover that week.

Like many young girls, I started off reading Nancy Drew, followed by whatever mystery I could get my hands on. Classics or current, it didn’t matter. When I discovered romantic suspense, I was hooked.

My Sirst novel was written for my own enjoyment— creating characters I wanted to spend time with and would welcome back for a visit. I never seriously

planned to publish it - or anything else - until a friend read the completed manuscript and pushed me into it. So in 2016 I gave it a whack, and to my surprise, Sanctuary Island was well received. It currently has over 1,200 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 rating. So, thanks, Cathy, for the nudge.

The James Gang series is set in Southwest Florida where I currently reside. The stories revolve around a band of former Special Forces members and the kickass women they meet. I’m fortunate to know men who served in both the Special Forces and Military Intelligence. They help keep me honest.

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My second novel, Lovers Key, was a Sinalist in two national competitions for romantic suspense. Explosive Touch and Run, River, Run followed. The most recent installment, Secrets Unlocked, just released on January 24. I’m currently working on the last of this series. Where I go next, I’m not sure. I have the beginning of another series tucked away and ideas for others, so we’ll see what feels right when #6 is complete.

Personally, I’m married to a non-handyman who I try to keep away from tools of any sort. (Long story in there.) We enjoy traveling, and you might see a few of our journeys between the pages of the books. Until Hurricane Ian, shelling on Sanibel Island was a favorite pastime and plays a special part in Lovers Key. The islands are slowly coming back and hopefully, by this time next year, they’ll be welcoming visitors again.

***With the shocking revelation that the Laws were not located where they’d always been told they were, Ebbe and Emme have left to see what is going on. The vicious and brutal attack, while at work, has taken its toll on Yana, who is not as concerned as Kit is that a Guardian is missing. No one knows how Yana knows what she does, but one thing is certain... she’s not wrong.***

ShufSling in from work, Yana left a trail of clothing, her satchel and tele, and jewelry from the door to her bed. Barely remembering to turn the locks after walking in, she collapsed onto the bed and passed out.

Sitting down next to her, running his hand from her shoulder to her hand, Donal’s somber stare went unseen; his hand, unfelt. Not understanding how his hand could run along her shoulder, yet be unable to take her hand, he kept the pressure of his touch steady, rhythmic to her breathing. While willing to sit like that

for hours, she needed to eat. She required sleep after the recent days and events, but without some kind of nourishment, her body would give out.

Shaking her slightly wasn’t working, Wait a click, that’s not right. His hand had begun to sink into her shoulder. Continuing his gentle stroking, he watched intently. His hand gently glided from shoulder to elbow. Lifting his hand to shake her, he looked on in fascination and horror, as his hand disappeared into her skin.

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He opened his mouth, stopping short before calling for Emme. She and Ebbe were looking into what was happening with the Laws, and were unavailable. He couldn’t simply call just anybody. Thinking for a click or four, he tapped out a message on his time piece, and waited. Communications to anyone, nearly anywhere or anytime, were haphazard at best at the moment. He hoped that once Ebbe and Emme located the Laws, all would be back to how it should be.

Are you sure you believe it will be that easy?

He didn’t want to answer that question, so he emptied his thoughts, and continued running comforting strokes down Yana’s shoulder.

Static from an incoming portal had him jumping out of the way. Cursing under his breath at the bodily

disappeared into her shoulder. As amusing as the sight was, Yana was his alili, and no one should be in her bed but him.

Waving Donal’s annoyance off, the Guardian reminded him, “She does not know you. The Divide is still fully intact. Her memories of before, and you, are not accessible. You know this.”

“It does not make my claim to being hers, or by her side, any less valid,” Donal argued.

“For you, not for her,” the Guardian said, tilting his head toward Yana’s sleeping form. “I saw what you were doing with your hand, and how it functioned, differently. It is... most odd.”

That’s an understatement. “Do you know why it’s happening?” Donal asked.

“Not completely, though I have my suspicions, which I will keep to myself,” the Guardian said. “I know that your element shelf was tampered with in ways it should not have been. Do understand, you are not the only one this has occurred to. I know the portals and communications are in worse shape, and getting increasingly unmanageable at a truly alarming rate.”

“It would seem that the elements themselves are in an uproar,” Donal said, scrutinizing the Guardian’s response. Unfortunately, true to form, his face and posture revealed nothing. “I hate how you can do that.”

“Why? Because you have so little control?” the Guardian chuckled.

“Ha. Ha.”

Walking to the closest chair in Yana’s bedroom, the Guardian hesitated before seating himself. Staring from the chair he now occupied, to the bed where the portal had landed him, inside of, and back, he murmured, “Most odd.” Random sigils Singered into the arm of the chair bore witness his discomfort with the happenings in the Hereafter.

danger the portals were becoming, he stopped when the Guardian walked through.

“What in cold ochu?” Donal said.

Dusting himself off from... sparkly... debris?... the Guardian glanced at Donal with amusement through black eyes, shaking the... glitter?... from his golden hair. “Do you believe this to be as absurd as I do?” He paused, looking down while dusting his tanned arms off, he said more to himself than Donal. “Hmm, I don’t believe I should be merged with half the bed.”

Donal couldn’t choose between a snort of humor or a Slash of anger. The Guardian’s lower half was buried in Yana’s bed, as completely as his hand had

“It seems,” he began slowly, “that what you intend to do for, and to her, makes more of a difference than it should. Comforting touches, though unfelt by her, feel normal to you, and appear normal. However, once you tried to rouse her, to take care of her needs... waking her so she will eat... your intention changed, as did your ability to touch and sense.”

“But nothing runs on intentions, nor measures them,” Donal countered.

“That we know of,” the Guardian said softly.

“Wait. What?”

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Lifting his hand to shake her, he looked on in fascination and horror, as his hand disappeared into her skin.

“When, in any histories or learnings, inside any Prophecies or writings, has anyone ever mentioned portals not working, communication breaking, Laws being able to be broken?” the Guardian countered. Seeing cogs turning in Donal’s mind, he continued.

“From what I witnessed, it’s clear that when you intend one thing, comfort, your physical form has one set of rules, but when you intend something else, help or assistance, your form is not allowed... as if the rules have changed.” He held up his hand to stop Donal’s protest. “Yes, I know it shouldn’t be like that, but I watched you re-do your actions. Making sense or not, doesn’t change what is.”

Soft whimpers from Yana had them to her side in an eye blink. Arching her back away from something

“Ow!” Donal covered his eyes a hairs breath too late. Letting them water and not rubbing, he blinked madly as the tears rolled. As the water diminished, he gaped at what he saw.

Protruding, no, running her clean through was a hooked weapon, nearly as long as he was .Somehow, without either of them seeing, some... one?... thing?... had thrust its tip through her front until an armlength was sticking out of her back. He turned his head slightly, the warrior in him analyzing the angle of attack.

“It came through the bed, as she was on her front,” Donal mused.

“Ingenious plan. And why we didn’t see it happening?” the Guardian added. Calling up his shelf, a slight frown was Donal’s only warning before the air in the room began to quaver. Closing his eyes, the Guardian whispered, and the movement ceased. “I appear to be missing the very elements I need. Call up your shelf; let me see what you have.” As Donal’s shelf Sloated to him, the Guardian took a Sirm hold of the curved, razored tip, and began murmuring an ancient dialect Donal was only now beginning to study. Grabbing some elements from both shelves, carefully measuring particle by particle, the tip in his hand dematerialized, its elements Sloating up, swirling, and disappearing into a portal.

“Do you know where you sent that?” Donal asked, taking his shelf back and tucking it away.

The Guardian shrugged.

Donal couldn’t see, he started to reach for her.

“What are you doing?” the Guardian shouted, slapping his hand away.

“But...”

“Why would you go near that?”

Donal froze, not moving a hint toward her still contorting, and yet, still sleeping, body. “Uh, near what?” he whispered.

Shoving Donal out of the way and crawling hesitantly across the bed toward Yana’s back, the Guardian hissed, “I can’t believe...” touching something unseen an arm-span from her with his left hand, he Slicked a Singer toward Donal.

“Fine… Where do you think you sent it?” he asked. “It is supposed to go into the Void, a gift for the Demons, as I assume that is where it came from to begin with. The elements in the tip are... very old would be inaccurate, from before our histories begin is even too young.” Hesitating to reveal more, but knowing that, as Yana’s alil, the Leveler’s alil, Donal needed all the help he could get, the Guardian continued. “There is much you don’t know, and even more I do not know. There are histories, writings, information, hidden from long before this Cycle began, and no, I am not going to tell you how I know this, yet. It may be of importance at a later date, but right now, you need to understand that what we are seeing in the breakdown of elemental ties, sigils and wordings no longer working properly, is not beginning to happen now. It began long ago.”

Donal opened his mouth, and then shut it. Helping the Guardian slowly pull the staff from Yana’s still sleeping form, he mused.

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Protruding, no, running her clean through was a hooked weapon, nearly as long as he was.

“I do not understand how she cannot feel this,” the Guardian muttered, lifting the now freed staff from her, opening a portal and throwing it through, giving it a push from some of his personal favorite Sire and explosive elements, sent it to the Void.

“I think she feels it, very much, in fact,” Donal answered, moving the hair away from Yana’s face, pointing at the agony clearly etched across it. “Now, how she’s not waking up from it, that’s entirely something else, but she is feeling this.” Sitting next to her, he and the Guardian carefully poured and stuffed mixes into the open wounds, then wrapped elemental strips around her.

* * * *

Yana whimpered awake. Her insides throbbed; she couldn’t straighten her back either. Rolling over with a groan, she carefully ran her hand across her aching front, Sinding nothing but normal skin. Pushing inward slightly, she winced in pain as the throbbing increased with each probing touch. Something had happened. She had no idea what, but there was no arguing her way out of the tightness and tenderness of newly injured Slesh - or of the pain itself. She was familiar with both from her previous life as a rambunctious juvenile who loved recreations.

Sitting up slowly, she took a few shallow breaths, followed by deeper ones, and blinked the woozy from her sight. It was still dark. Pausing before standing, she had to concentrate to remember the day. Sighing in relief, she leaned her head back, trying to release the tension in her spine. It was not a workday. Rising unsteadily to her feet while holding onto the wall for support, she shufSled to the bathroom. Noticing her shades were still open, she paused to stare at the waxing moons. The zing that always hit the left back side of her head walloped her hard enough to make her vision spin.

Remembering the blue Slames no one else could see, she raised her right hand, palm up, closed her Sist, and opened it. Not that she’d expected to see something, but her heart sank a bit with a palm of nothingness... well, not nothing. There was a light tingling, and... a heavy... sphere?... in her palm.

“What?” she whispered. Not knowing what she was holding, but instinct said it was real. The zing told her to twist her wrist and toss it at the moons. So she did.

Then Sinished in the bathroom, closed the shades and went back to sleep.

Donal knew he looked ridiculous, but hearing the Guardian’s unnatural-for-him howling laughter, and seeing him fall to the Sloor had him thinking maybe he’d gone a bit too far. “What?” he asked defensively. Taking off the protective mask, he continued, “You saw what was in her hand. How are you not also covered top to bottom in layers of protection?”

Wiping his eyes but refusing to get up, the Guardian answered, “What makes you think I am not layered in protection?”

“I don’t see anything,” Donal said.

“Well, that is already an established fact,” the Guardian snickered, Sinally standing up. They were “Very funny.”

“It is not untrue.” Looking out at the moons, which had begun to explode in colors no Mortal would see, he mused, “I had not thought any Mortal capable of such advanced elemental work.”

“She’s the Leveler. Of course she’s going to have skills no one should have, not even the gods,” Donal countered.

“That may be true, and I know the Prophecies and writing better than you, but it does not explain what I just witnessed. Those were ancient elements, ones you know about but are not allowed to touch,” the Guardian said.

* * *
*
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Her insides throbbed; she couldn’t straighten her back either… she carefully ran her hand across her aching front, finding nothing but normal skin.

Look at the moons. She’s managed to untangle the Demon nests housed there for millennia

“Why do you think I covered myself in a protective suit?” Donal asked rhetorically. “I know what those were, and I’m not surprised at all that she used them. They were some of her favorites...” he clamped his mouth shut.

Head whipping to glare at Donal, the Guardian bit out, “You both were warned about breaking the Laws.”

“Yeah, and aren’t you glad we did? Look at the moons. She’s managed to untangle the Demon nests housed there for millennia, the ones you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the whole time. And she did it with half a formed, sleepy, pain-Silled thought, and a Slick of her wrist,” Donal said with a grin.

“What else did the two of you not listen to? What other Laws did you break?”

Donal snorted, “As if I’d tell you that.”

Turning back to the moons, and the explosions of the Demon nests, the Guardian murmured, “Soon, you may have no choice but to tell all.”

Glossery of Names and Terms

Alil–AH leel (husband)

Alili–AH leelee (wife)

Ama-(Ah mah) - mom

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

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

Datter-(daa tr) - daughter

Deisos–DEE sohs (after death “paradise”)

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

Donal–DOH nul (male protagonist)

Ebbe–EH beh (Cycle God)

Emme–EH mee (Cycle Goddess)

Gods/Goddesses–those who were Incorrupt, then passed their various tests and trials in Deisos, allowing their ascension to godhood on the Path of Progression; god(s) is often gender neutral, as they are equals, but lazy, and the word is shorter to write/ say

Ochuroma–O schu ROH mah (after death “hell”)Hereafter–the life continuation along the Path of Progression that occurs after Mortal existence endsIncorrupt–the dead whose Mortal life choices and doings align them with the gods/ goddessesGuardian–a guide, helper, from Deisos, who assists Mortals

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

Yana–YAH nuh (female protagonist)

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Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings:

Our rating system is the standard 5 star rating system:

5 = exceptional

4 = excellent

3 = good

2 = fair

1 = poor

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

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

1 Steam Kettle = Nothing but kisses

2 Steam Kettles = Passionate kissing,

3 Steam Kettles = Sex but the door is closed

4 Steam Kettles = Slightly steamy sex with some description

5 Steam Kettles = Steamy sex with somewhat graphic description

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

The Most Wonderful Earl of the Year

Sandra Sookoo

pair of supporting women who care more about the happiness of the main characters than what the gossips have to say. It’s always delightful to Sind characters who support the main love interests for no reason other than they want them to be happy and in love. If readers are looking for a love story that reminds one that forgiveness is a big part of love, then this is deSinitely the right book!

unwed, must choose between the gardener or Percy to marry to keep her safe. Once Briar makes her decision, the love and respect for this good man she chose grows as they combat the challenges that come before them - one being a secret the Scot is holding close to his heart.

For Sive years, Carole Hazelton has worked as a governess, desperately trying to distance herself from the scandal that rocked the ton - and her life. Alistair Forsythe has recently returned to London after a Sive year absence, and Sinds himself shocked to learn that the woman he loved and left is now working as a governess. Alistair is determined that it’s time to marry, and has set his mind on winning back the heart of the woman he never stopped loving. Should Carole give him a chance, listen to his reasons for breaking her heart, or just continue on with the new life she has built? Can Carole give her broken heart another chance at love, or did Alistair destroy any chance with her when he left her behind?

This story is full of all the hot gossip and scandalous happenings that readers have grown to expect from historical romances, while still giving the reader an enjoyable new story to dive into. The author relies on the standard scandals and gossip that seem to always happen when love and titles are involved, so there’s nothing particularly new about that aspect, but she shows us a nice

Lady Briar Weds the Scot (Blakely Manor Book 1)

Fenna Edgewood

Lady Briar, a kindhearted, polished, beautiful, and strong young woman of status, has a mind of her own – with absolutely no intention of marrying. Wren, the Scottish gardener, has caught her interest, and she asks him to escort her multiple times to visit a family that has found themselves in a difSicult time. Wren and Lady Briar Sind themselves the victims of a kidnapping, along with Percy, whom Briar refused to marry just days before. Stuck in the carriage with emotions running high, Briar, being

Readers who enjoy Victorian Romance, will have scored with this novel! Readers will enjoy the romance between Briar and Wren, and the desire they have for each other. The storyline Slows well, though sometimes seems a little confusing and incomplete. Transitions are at times abrupt. Readers may Sind the Sirst section of the story disconnected from the rest of the book. The journey to Scotland is well written, Silled with adventure, love, desire, and change. The reader will Sind Wren swoon-worthy, and Briar is strong and a fabulous Sit for Wren. As the book closes, some readers may Sind the ending somewhat unsatisfying, and turning the last page leaves one with questions that aren’t answered. Readers who enjoy this genre will enjoy disappearing into the world this author created.

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Last Stop, Wylder

Barbara Bettis

sugar will enjoy this uncomplicated plot with minor conSlict and a ton of sexual tension. The characters themselves do not necessarily grow individually as they gravitate toward one another, but the hints readers get at their backstories give a bit of depth to the main leads and touch on some historical events that are less talked about. Overall, readers looking for a lighter Western romance with a touch of history should give this book a try!

Morgan Dodd has spent years building a reputation as a gunman for hire after the war. Unfortunately, this has placed him in a few awkward positions. As time passes, he Sinds himself longing for a new life where no one knows his name. He just needs one last job to raise the money and Sinds one with a railroad agent in Wyoming -except a woman in blue on the train, and a shifty boss makes him doubt his plans. Emily Martin hopes helping her brother with his newspaper in Wylder will satisfy her need for independence, and give her a fresh start. Arriving in town, she instead Sinds herself short one brother, plus a handful of challenges instead. The mysterious gunman might be the ally she needs, but as a common enemy stirs to cause more trouble, Emily Sinds herself the target and it will take everything they both have to save the town and themselves.

A romance full of sizzling attractions, “Last Stop, Wylder” is all about the stolen moments between the sexy gunman and an independent reporter with a side of danger. Readers looking for a light meal and a hefty dose of

A Game of Hearts

Joanna Barker

change everything. Recent scandal may make Tristan and Marigold’s relationship more complicated, but it also digs up some longhidden tension and attraction as well. As the competition approaches, boundaries are tested, hearts are on the line, and the prize might just be the last thing either Marigold or Tristan ever expected.

A delightful regency romance, where archery is the name of the game, Marigold and Tristan are an unlikely pair with a great deal of possibility bogged down in years of familiarity and misunderstanding. The story is set into motion with a mix of competitive spirit and stubbornness which is turned on its head when scandal threatens Marigold’s standing in society with only Tristan able to save her, which launches the romance. Although the romance has a predictable happy ending, it is in fact their rivalry which involves some clever twists. Readers will want to know, what will happen to Marigold’s society? Can Tristan save his friend’s business? How with the pair defeat the arrogant baron? Lovers of regency romance will want to read on to Sind out!

Marigold Cartwell has trained for years to conquer her competition on the archery Sield. Her only rival is family friend, Tristan Gates. Unfortunately, her success on the Sield wins her no favor with the local baron who runs the local bowmen’s society and refuses to allow her to join. Determined to prove her naysayers wrong, Marigold decides to start a new women-only society and challenge the baron and her rival at the Lady Patroness’ Meeting, an invitation only archery competition - except a simple rivalry goes sideways when a bet, a threat, an engagement, and a rockslide

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Lula Mae (Love Train Book 4)

Charlene Raddon

Mae faces. There is plenty of action and external conSlict to engage readers. Domestic violence also plays a background role. The internal conSlict could have been stronger as there wasn’t much keeping Lula Mae and Gannon apart beyond general insecurities. Nonetheless, “Lula Mae” explodes with an exciting climax and closes with the kind of romance that leaves readers satisSied long after the story ends!

Lula Mae Rivers, muleskinner and whiz with a whip, has no trouble Sitting in a man’s world, particularly when she dresses the part. Playing the role of stowaway, though, is new. But Lula Mae is short on funds and desperate to get to Cheyenne to take her motherless niece to her grandmother. Union PaciSic detective and US Marshall Gannon Calloway is riding the train on the lookout for some train robbers. “Lou” is trouble of another kind. He doesn’t know what to make of the youth, but as the train travels West, Gannon recognizes the grit and spunk that he sees. It isn’t long before Lou’s secret is revealed, but it’s the even bigger secret she’s keeping that might derail any chance of a relationship with the handsome lawman. When her niece is kidnapped, Lula Mae and Gannon team up to Sind her. Can they rescue the little girl, or will they die trying?

"Lula Mae" is a sweet Western romance that starts with a bang and keeps readers hanging on for the ride! Lula Mae is a survivor who will do anything for her family, but her circle of trust is small. Gannon has a strong sense of justice that goes into protective mode when he realizes what Lula

Verity (Runaway Brides of the West – Book 8)

Verity Dalloway is on her way to meet her soon-to-be husband as his mail-order bride. She envisions a wonderful life Silled with home and family. After taking the rail passage west as far as Salt Lake City, she has to switch to a stagecoach for the trip to Silver City, Idaho. Roscoe Hickson is also headed to Silver City to join his brother. When the stage is attacked by robbers, the driver and most of the passengers are killed, but Roscoe and Verity must work together to survive their ordeal. Will their circumstances bring them so close that Verity changes her mind about marrying the unknown Mr. White?

“Verity” is not your typical mailorder bride book; it’s so much more! The author has created a beautifully descriptive story that makes one feel as if they’re right there seeing exactly what the heroine is seeing, and experiencing what Verity and Roscoe are going through with their dangerous ordeal. While a bit elusive at Sirst, Roscoe turns out to be the quintessential Western hero, putting Verity’s needs and safety above his own, even when it means giving her up. She, in turn, is an extremely likeable and independent heroine. And, to her credit, someone who lives up to the bargain she made to marry Thurman White. It isn’t until they meet that Verity realizes Thurman is no Roscoe, and totally unsuitable for what she hoped for in a husband. Fortunately, a simple mix-up gives Verity and Roscoe another chance. Readers who are fans of sweet, historical romance, with a bit of danger and intrigue thrown in for good measure, are going to love this book!

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Lord Archer Catches a Contessa (Windermeres in Love – Book 2)

SoSie Darling

another. While Archie’s talent as a composer is celebrated, the one area that Sirst drew him to Valentina, namely her beautiful voice, is given very little attention throughout the remainder of the story. The resolution to Valentina’s Sinancial losses is fun and interesting, and helps to move the book toward its resolution. The epilogue to the story provides a very satisfying conclusion for the characters. For lovers of steamy, Regency romps, this will be time well spent.

Valentina Hart is on a quest to recover money stolen from her family and other residents of her small town, by an unscrupulous Lord. To get close to the culprit, she pretends to be a Contessa. When Viscount Archer (Archie) stumbles upon Valentina and hears her sing, he’s immediately drawn to her beautiful voice. Being a composer himself, he connects with her through their shared love of music. Once she reveals the story of the swindled money, Archie agrees to help her turn the table and cheat the thief. As the plot unfolds, they become friends and then, predictably, they fall in love.

“Lord Archer Catches a Contessa” is a well-written Regency romance with a fun storyline. There is a look at both the predictable side of London society in both setting and era, but also a bonus of seeing the seedier side. The many, many love scenes are steamy, and eventually, become more gratuitous than a vehicle for moving the story forward in any way. Because of this, the character development suffers. It’s more about sex than an actual development of feelings for one

Earl Grafton and the Traitor (Fernley Family A Regencyera Romance Book 1)

Angela Johnson

the neighbor. She is horriSied when she learns the neighbor is none other than

Earl Grafton, the eldest of the Fernley brothers and the one person she detests above all! During her stay, Briar eliminates marrying each brother, convincing herself why they would not work as a match. Each time, Baxter, Earl Grafton is left as a choice, but he cannot be the one!

“Earl Grafton and the Traitor” is a delightful tale of extreme emotions between the main characters. Exquisitely crafted and detailed, one can see the characters and watch the scenes as they play out. Baxter’s brothers and his mother, as secondary characters, are enchanting, and each has their own story. The reader is given a peek into them throughout the story with more to be revealed in later stories. Baxter tends to be combative and yet close mouthed toward Briar, so Lady Fernley steps in to share the Fernley family lore with Briar. The friction between Baxter and Briar is as prickly as her name. Readers will be excited to know this novel is part of a series. An exhilarating romance, it keeps readers wanting more.

Suddenly orphaned at the age of twenty, Briar Kensington is called to Yorkshire, England by her kind grandfather. It is quite a change from her native Boston. Briar meets the neighbor and things go poorly. He refuses to give his name and obviously distains Americans. At this point, Briar abhors him. Mr. Kensington, her grandfather, hopes Briar will make a match with one of the seven Fernley men. Mr. Kensington is urgently needed in France for the family business, and Briar is to stay behind with

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spouse with money. Gillian and her huntress friends are strong capable heroines who must Sit into societies expectations of women and Sight with the means they are allowed. A masterfully woven tale of an impossible love match historical romance fans won’t want to miss. The second book in this series can’t come soon enough.

The Best Intentions (Book 1, The Huntresses)

Gillian Phelps has worked hard to keep her reputation intact, and her benefactress has too, ensuring she will be able to have a season with hopes of receiving a muchneeded marriage proposal. Scott Sarvol has inherited a mountain of debt from an uncle who seems to have set him up for failure. When Scott and Gillian Sind themselves at a house party together Scott ends up being the only one who can help Gillian in a moment of crisis. As they work together to save her benefactress’ ailing health, they begin to Sind a friendship and a romance that can never be. Gillian must marry someone with holdings and Scott needs a wealthy heiress.

What starts in a typical fashion with a house party turns into a wonderful story of star-crossed love. Gillian and Scott start not even as friends with neither trusting the other. But as they learn to rely on each other and develop a friendship and trust the tender beginnings of a romance are lit. Their friendship soon grows to a romance and those tender feelings become an inferno that cannot be ignored but must be banked and extinguished because they each must seek a

Tomboy of the Ton (MisBits of the Ton Book 1)

Emily Royal

reputation - at the cost of her own. Can there be a happy ending for Henrietta, or will her decisions cost her dearly?

This is the type of book to make one laugh and cry at the same time. Henrietta, as a tree climbing tomboy is relatable on every level, and her friendships are incredible. While set in the 1800’s, some of the language didn’t seem appropriate for the time period, and when Henrietta put aside all the bullying and torment from Giles to love him instead seems impossible when he barely makes any effort to gain her trust. There’s a nice twist when Henrietta and Giles break up, seeming realistic and true to real life. Henrietta saved Beatrice and Lady Thorpe at every turn, and Giles redeems himself some when he’s able to truly see her virtue, honor and courage. Overall, “Tomboy of the Ton” is an entertaining tale for readers who enjoy enemies-to-lovers tales.

Henrietta is a tomboy. She enjoys freedom, climbing trees, and antagonizing her neighbor, Giles Thorpe, an Earl. Henrietta befriends Giles’s mother, Lady Thorpe, but that becomes the downfall of her freedom. Once she is found out, she is sent to live with her aunt to prepare her for the season. She and Giles have a love-hate relationship which is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, where Giles blames her at every turn for every mishap.

Henrietta befriends Giles cousin, Beatrice, who admires her adventurous spirit; however, things get even rockier for Henrietta and Giles when Beatrice elopes. Henrietta risks it all, and steps in to save Beatrice’s

Dubious About The Duke (Second Sons of London Book 2)

Alexa Aston

A shy, but dedicated, young woman volunteers to act as an impromptu governess to two

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unruly six-year-olds on a ducal estate. Seraphina Nicholls recently returned to England from Upper Canada to rejoin her newlywed twin sister, Araminta, now the Marquess of Kingston. Minta’s husband, Percy, is one of the Second Sons of London, a tightknit group of comrades who all happened to be second-in-line to their respective peerages. His dear friend and cousin, Winston Cutler, the Duke of Woodmont, desperately needs help to look after the two by-blow sons of his late elder brother. Sera and Win warm to each other at Sirst sight. When Win turns to his friends Percy and Minta for advice regarding his difSicult wards, Sera takes charge with an alacrity that astounds her twin.

Jane Austen meets The Sound of Music! The opening drags with the manufactured ambiguity of Sera and Win being amicably matched but hampered by her own lack of self-conSidence and his insistence on seeking a traditional loveless marriage while keeping multiple mistresses for his own personal pleasures. The two children, Freddie and Charlie, inject much needed humor and fun when they are introduced midway. They are quite adorable, and one wonders if it is necessary to refer to them as by-blows and bastards quite so repeatedly. Just as Sera succeeds in winning over his nephews, Win realizes that he has changed his mind and he wants nothing less than Sera as his Duchess and only love. But is he too late to stop Sera from Sleeing in heartbroken angst? An easily likable period romance with a happy ending!

make choices that may not be the typical path for a Viking but are the perfect path for him. The chemistry between Rhiannon and Leif is palpable from the start, and each time they are thrown together the embers burn brighter and stronger. A unique romance with the perfect amount of Viking history and lore.

The Call of the Sea

Rhiannon has always loved the sea and seeks comfort from it daily. On the day she is to meet her betrothed Viking ships land on her shores and in a violent raid her home is plundered, and her father killed. She seeks refuge with her family in the royal court. Leif is a Viking and the son of the Viking chief. He is expected to participate in the raids. But when he witnesses the brutal death of Rhiannon’s father his heart is turned from that life. He seeks forgiveness and through the teachings of an Irish priest learns how he can be forgiven. When an unexpected political plot draws the Vikings into the politics of Rhiannon’s Cymry people Leif and Rhiannon are thrown together again and again. But their growing attraction can mean nothing as they come from two opposite worlds, unless they can Sind a way to make those worlds exist in harmony.

Filled with intriguing Viking adventures, this story’s twists and turns are as wild as the stormy sea. The character development is terriSic as Rhiannon is forced to take control of her life and carve a new path for herself after her father’s death and Leif learns to

The Marquess’s Stolen Bride (Dukes Gone Dirty Book 3)

Bella Moxie

Madeline has spent her life locked away in a tower. The Marquess of Hayden falls through the tower window on a drunken quest to see if the rumors are true, and Sinds the lost bastard daughter of a mad Earl. Before Hayden literally falls into her life, Madeline was the victim of abuse and an auction, arranged by Foley and Lady Ashburn, her father’s wife, where greedy men ogled and pawed at her. Hayden showers Madeline with love, care, and affection, and tries to bring her out of her secluded shell, while Foley, in league with Lady Ashburn, do everything they can to ruin Madeline’s new happiness. Will this pair have a happy

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ending? Or will the machinations of the evil duo reign supreme?

*Content Warning, contains details of abuse* Every abused woman needs a Hayden! His patience and gentleness after Madeline’s terrible lifetime of abuse at the hands of her family is heartwarming. This is a very steamy romance, and Hayden and Madeline never lack in the passion department, however, the steam takes up a bit too much of the plot. Nevertheless, the characters are well written and loveable. More plot elements could have been better explained and expanded upon to answer some lingering questions readers not familiar with the series might have. Some of the sexual language didn’t seem time period appropriate either. Still, “The Marquess’s Stolen Bride” is quite the page turner, with real to life characters that any reader would want to call ‘friends’.

Sinds The Angel’s Wings Orphanage and Foundling Home. There she stumbles upon a dying soldier. He gives her papers and a gem with instructions to only give them to Jason, a dark haired man with a scar. The father of her baby, Theodore Dunworthy, unexpectedly appears on her doorstep. She orders him out of the house, but he is working for the crown on a mission to intercept the now dead soldier and the very papers and gem Livie possesses! While awaiting the soldier’s arrival, he goes to work for the orphanage alongside Olivia rekindling his desire for her. She remains silent refusing to help, and he has no idea Livie is keeping the papers, gem, and a Sive year secret from him.

Pursuing Mr. Mattingly Sandra

A Love That Knows No Bounds

(Men

of Valor Book 2)

Laura Landon

“A Love That Knows No Bounds” is a beautiful story of how love can persevere over the years. Both the hero and heroine are strong characters who have speciSic goals. Each chapter brings action, intrigue, espionage, and mistaken identity. Secondary characters are very important in this tale, but they are never able to be Sleshed out due to the short length of this work. The plot, while enjoyable is predictable and weak. Several points are not believable, including the inability of the soldiers to recognize the traitor despite his words and actions. The interactions between Livie and Theo are quite lively giving the story its spark. An enjoyable story with more coming in the rest of the series!

After being abandoned by the father of her child and thrown from her home by her minister father; Olivia “Livie” Mathews

Lady Sophia WinterbourneStratford-Forrester is a widow twice over, and is dying, according to her doctor. She has a heart ailment, and has between a few weeks and a few months left to live. She is mostly concerned about her precocious 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has been without a father for 6 years, and how she can communicate that she may soon be an orphan. She is spending the summer at Ettesmere Park, struggling with herself about wanting to live fully, but not wanting to tax her heart. Lady Sophia soon meets a stranger who is stranded near her family’s home, when his carriage axle breaks near Berkshire County, England in 1819. Oliver Mattingly is the American Ambassador to England, and an adventurer who has never had an intimate relationship; he’s been a conSirmed bachelor, putting his career ahead of marriage. Sophia’s conSlicts are very clear; does she really live and shorten her life, or slowly die, and prolong her life?

Oliver Mattingly is drawn to Sophia and her daughter from the start, but is he getting a readymade family, or just a step-

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daughter, if Sophia dies quickly? These are all questions that are explored as these protagonists decide in which direction to go. The pace is moderate throughout the story, with a few slower sections, and the tension is mild, with a couple of exceptions. This is a thought-provoking story that grapples with what it means to live and to die, and with the quality and type of living that each person must choose for their own life. The story is part of a series, and characters from the series are featured in this story.

dominated profession, and much to the Lord’s consternation, she is exactly that... very good at her job. Even though they butt heads, he can’t deny her abilities. Still, he’s determined to get her to quit by insisting she accompany him to his family’s country home for his sister’s wedding. A misunderstanding leads to a marriage of convenience to save their reputations. It doesn’t take long for their even closer proximity to turn into more than a fake marriage.

The Champion (A Series of Worthy Young Ladies –Book 4)

Never a Proper Lady (Daughters of Desire –Book 5)

Collette Cameron

“Never a Proper Lady” is a funny, mysterious romp through the Regency era with two very likeable characters. Despite his gruff and stuffy exterior, Constantine turns into an entirely different person when he’s not under London’s microscope. There are times at the very beginning where Constantine is a bit too stuffy, so the character redemption when he’s among his family shows wonderful growth in his character. Faith turns out to be his match in a number of ways, not just a professional capacity. The author has created a very entertaining storyline that is clean and wholesome while still giving us a romantic adventure. Lovers of sweet Regency Romance are sure to love this book!

Kate Archer

Lady Arabella Berestock has a fondness for animals, and has gained a reputation as someone who is astute with caring for the injured of many species. Lord Peregrine Hadleigh, Marquess of Blackwood, and heir to the Duke of Stanbury, Sinally has what he’s always wanted - his own home in the city away from his mother who’s constantly trying to marry him off. All is right with his world until he’s dressed down by a pretty young woman over the care of his horse. From that very Sirst, contentious meeting, their course is set.

By modern standards, Lord Constantine Kellinggrave would be considered a nerd. He studies butterSlies and other species that pollinate plants and Slowers. Faith Roth is not a proper lady of the ton, but she has goals. She wants to be a scrivener, and when the opportunity to work for Lord Kellinggrave lands in her lap, she’s not even concerned that it’s because he lost a bet and had to hire her. She’s determined to do the best job possible in a male-

The fourth installment of the Worthy Young Ladies can be read as a standalone, although starting at the beginning of the series would make it easier to follow along with all the recurring characters, especially those who are part of The Society of Sponsoring Ladies. “The Champion” is a clean, wholesome romance. It’s not clear if this was intended to be inspirational as well, as there are a few mentions of God, but none really have any context. The story if Silled with humor, mostly surrounding

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Arabella and the animals. Unfortunately, she’s the only real bright spot to this story. Lord Hadleigh is lackluster, often weak, and made even more so by the way he cowers to his butler. While there are a few bright spots to the supporting characters, especially Lady Redford, far too much time is spent on the inconsequential and infuriating butlers, as opposed to developing the main characters’ relationship. If you are a fan of comedy in your Regency romances, you may enjoy this book.

loss come spiraling back. As Gaston threatens to ruin the life Sophia has created, she agrees to allow him back into her life. The catch is that he only has one month, and then he needs to leave forever.

Love Unraveled (Honorable Intentions #3)

Rose Phillips

Historical romance is a highly saturated genre, which can make them slow to read and hard to become intrigued. However, “Love Unraveled” is a pleasant surprise in that the relationship between the two love interests is practically a game. Rather than the traditional coming of age story, where a young troubled woman is courted by the perfect duke, we see an incredibly fragmented love story where both characters overcome one of the greatest evils: time. Sophia is no longer the innocent young woman falling for Gaston, and it's refreshing to see how much independence she has and how determined she is to make Gaston Sight for his place. On the other hand, Gaston built up a fantasy with Sophia over the years only to Sind out she had been married, widowed, and now courted after promising herself to him so many years ago. Rose Phillips has given readers the perfect historical romance that reads as a deviant game of jealousy between these characters.

A Forgotten Fall (A Lord for All Seasons Book 3)

Nadine Millard

Countess Sophia Tessaro was only seventeen when she planned to run away with her true love, Gaston. However, on the night they were to run away together he never showed. Sixteen years later, Sophia has become the talk of the town. She has everything she could ever want, money, friends, and suitors at her beck and call. However, when Gaston makes a surprise visit to check up on Sophia, all her memories of betrayal and

Sadie Wilson

Young Miss Francesca “Cheska” Templeworth watches Adam Fairchild, the second son of the Marquess of Heywood, hoping that he will ask her to dance. Adam has a special nickname for Francesca, Sunshine. The night before Adam leaves to Sight in the war in France, he tells Francesca she will Sind a way to help. Eight years later, an amnesic Adam returns home from the war broken, with war-plagued memories that will never leave him. Francesca has turned into a beautiful woman, yet he calls her by her sister’s name. Cheska plans to assist Adam with everything, thereby becoming injured herself. Cheska has no choice but to stay at Adam’s home to recuperate. The longer Francesca stays, the more Adam realizes he can’t live without her, if only he can convince her of it.

A truly sorrowful, historical romance that deSinitely exhibits all the emotions! Luckily, the tale doesn’t start off sad, but it increasingly becomes so. Some things aren’t explained fully, and though the story isn’t a complicated one, it might help to read the previous books

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beforehand just to understand the familial relationships. Even though PTSD is not mentioned, it is highly evident and written about eloquently. Unfortunately, Regency mores aren’t strictly adhered to, so true historical aSicionados may quibble over the book’s accuracy. Adam, the long-suffering war veteran hero, is afSlicted with a living nightmare, and it is hard to relate to him even though it’s easy to feel sympathy towards his plight. On the other hand, Francesca, the cynical but humorous heroine, manages to be quite charming. The book is a satisfying and emotionally laden tale well worth reading!

Roslynn Ernst

happily pursued multiple mistresses for years rather than marry at his mother’s request. His longstanding Thursday liaison, Catherine Tetlow, is currently his only mistress. Catherine became his mistress to earn enough to care for her siblings. She wants to be his wife, and makes an outrageous bet to force his heart. Can this determined woman win? Or will she be forced to Sind an alternative?

Rebellions Fire (Last Flame of Alba Book 1)

The Determined Mistress (The De Petras Saga Book 4)

Emily E.K. Murdoch

Micah de Petras is the only son of a wealthy family, but not the primary heir. His eldest sister, Coral, and now her daughter, hold that title. The de Petras have had the unconventional structure of an heiress in charge of the Sinancial purse strings for multiple generations. Micah left his family estate to move to separate accommodations to decide who he should or should not see. He’s

The unconventional family structure portrayed in this English high-society romance provides the perfect setting for the sibling dynamics between Micah and his sisters. The excellent character development of each family member will have readers choosing their favorites and taking sides during the reSined arguments. Micah is frustrated by a situation he cannot control and feels misunderstood. Catherine has unusual responsibilities and makes the only decisions she believes are available. Heated passion during their weekly liaisons between Micah and his mistress, Catherine, highlights a more than skin-deep connection. Ms. Murdoch serves up a spicy romance where both sides ignite with mere touches while creating a journey to their heart. Fans of historical romantic series will rip through the pages to discover the unexpected decision.

Mary Lancaster

Christian, the disgraced wife of William Lanson, is the heir to the Tirebeck estate in Scotland in 1156. She is a means to an end that Lanson disrespects for her scarred face and infertility. Lanson, a Norman knight and mercenary, takes his troops to Sight for possession of lands presented by the King of Scots. Donald and Adam MacHeth, sons of Malcolm, refuse to relinquish the land. Adam has the gift of premonition, believing Christian is the key to holding the property. En route to Sight with Donald, he takes Lanson’s wife to Tirebeck to keep her safe, and as a trade with the would-be earl. Christian believes her husband cares nothing for her well-being. Returning to her childhood home, she recalls the Sire that forced her to Slee at age three. Can Adam keep the land and Christian safe for his older brother?

Ms. Lancaster portrays memorable characters that Sit Scotland’s times, norms, and tensions during this rebellious medieval period. Readers will savor the details needed to run an estate, taste the rain, hear the battles, and run the gambit of emotions using precise

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prose. Christian’s ability to adapt to an uncertain future is relatable as her inner strength shows the struggles, choices, and results. Adam, an attractive man with a powerful enigma, is drawn to Christian to fulSill the future he foresees. Their relationship forms aa a result of the casualties of war. Historical Romance lovers will appreciate the facts woven into book one and look forward to more in the Last Flame of Alba series.

Simone Dober

children and did everything together. Both had dreams of being husband and wife - until that changed when her brother disappeared, and his death was blamed on Blaze’s mother. Rumors spread that she murdered Lillith’s brother and the whole family was witchesincluding Blaze. The rumors caused a feud between both of their families, and Lillith was not allowed to associate with Blaze anymore. Everyone fears Blaze and his family. When Lillith’s father dies, her uncle makes arrangements with Blaze to end the feud between their families by marrying one of his nieces. Blaze believes it is Lillith, not realizing she is already betrothed. He is instead betrothed to her sister.

even magic. Lillith and Blaze never lose their connection and are still so in love, hoping for their miracle. There is a surprise at the end that the reader won’t see coming. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable tale!

Haunted Hearts (Holiday Knights Book 6)

Elizabeth Rose

Lady Lillith and Lord Blaze have been in love since they were

“Haunted Hearts” is book 6 in the Holiday Knights series and is such a beautiful and romantic love story that leaves the reader wanting more. One can read the story as a stand- alone, but it would recommend to read the previous ones as well. Elizabeth Rose has created a nice plot with interesting characters, including a cat, Sam, and Ebony, the raven. The cat and raven are such fun and adds a nice touch and interest to the story. The story is about a family feud, star crossed lovers, deception, false allegations and

Historical

I’m Not Charlotte Lucas Kasey Stockton

forced to settle. Charlie fortunately Sigures out pretty early what her feelings are, however, she’s plagued by selfdoubt and insecurities tied to her art which hinder her from moving forward without a nudge. The love triangle is minimal with most of the relationship centered on Charlie and Liam, but the focus is Charlie’s development. While the ending is predictable and Liam is mainly a foil for Charlie, the story is sweet and realistic, engrossing romance fans from start to Sinish and making it worth reading!

beloved father’s footsteps and became a Slorist. He just needs to get enough money to buy back his father’s old storefront. To do that, he must win the Battle of the Blossoms, but he can’t do it without help.

Charlotte “Charlie” Lucas adores the Jane Austen books, particularly “Pride and Prejudice” however, she’s also terriSied she’ll end up with the same fate as her namesake. When an elderly neighbor and dear friend asks Charlie to attend a charity ball with her grandson, Charlie Sinds herself unable to refuse. However, one look at Liam Connell and Charlie knows he’s out of her league. Swoon-worthy, rich, and with a famous ex-girlfriend, Liam is everything Charlotte dreams of, but never expects to have. Especially with a former boyfriend asking for a second chance. Except, Liam seems ready to challenge both Charlie’s fantasies and her reality and when life and Siction begin to collide, Charlie Sinds herself deciding if she’s meant for Charlotte Lucas’s fate or not.

A modern tale that leans heavily on Austen’s characters, this book takes a side character and gives her a boost. As a result, “I’m not Charlotte Lucas” is a combination of romance, and a journey of selfdiscovery all focused on Charlie. The plot is straightforward with Charlie locked in a slump, living with her parents, working in a bank, and expecting she’ll be

He Loves Me, He Love Me Not

Any winter blues readers might have will fade away as they leaf through the pages of this blooming romance! Dax works hard to make his Slorist business a success while working even harder to keep Hollyn from knowing he cares for her. Hollyn feels like the whole world has lost its glow. She feels alienated from her family and friends and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. When Dax asks her to help him win the Battle of the Blossoms, she agrees because there’s nothing else to do. However, in the midst of arranging Slowers and creating dream weddings, Hollyn feels love budding in her own heart. Her life with Dax was over years ago. There’s no chance now, she’s sure. Humor and romance will keep one reading to the end.

After an expected marriage proposal becomes an unexpected breakup for Hollyn, she heads back to her hometown heartbroken. Back to being Hollyn, River and Dax: older sister, younger brother, and best friend. Since everybody else appears to be all grown up and living successful lives, Hollyn is left feeling very lost, not to mention betrayed, scared and jobless. Dax is thrilled to have Hollyn back in town, but he’s struggling to have the girl he’s loved all his life living with him in her brother’s bedroom. He followed in his

Contemporary
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Contemporary

My Montana Valentine (The Millers of Marietta #1)

Elsa Winckler

vibes. The matchmaking aunt is very cleverly written, and the bonds forged and friendships made are refreshing. While the Valentine Ball is the focus of the feel good small town story, it’s truly so much more, and readers will be delighted with both the tale’s tempo and its outcome. This Sirst book in the Miller series will draw readers in and make them want to learn more about the other Miller siblings. Bundle up and warm your hearts with book one!

might offer him more. Or that Dinah Tyler might just give him a reason to stay.

Small town Marrietta, Montana, is the place where the Miller siblings decide to relocate from Sacramento, California, after losing their parents in an auto accident. Vivian is a doctor and needed to leave the hospital where she was working, due to an uncomfortable situation with a superior. Her sister has always dreamed of opening a Bed & Breakfast Inn, and found a great place to do it in Marietta. Their brother, Mitch, is supportive of his sisters, and while determined to write his novel, has taken a teaching job. Aiden O’Sullivan is visiting his aunt, he twists his ankle and is whisked to the ER for care by Dr. Vivian Miller. Aiden’s aunt, ‘the matchmaker’, pushes the introduction. Aiden may have found his feel good story, and a possible date for the annual Valentine’s Ball.

“My Montana Valentine” introduces readers to the Miller siblings who all have an alluring draw in their own way. The continued commitment to each other that the three share is a comfort for their pain and loss. Starting over in a new place is not a new plot idea, however, this new beginnings story offers feel good

The Summer of Sorrow and Dance

Liz Flaherty

A mid-life romance, “The Summer of Sorrow and Dance” gives two people in need of a second chance at love and dreams a moment of connection that blossoms into more. Both Dinah and Zach have complicated backgrounds. Dinah’s relationships with her mother, sister, ex-husband and kids have all had a major impact on her tentative one with Zach, while Zach has a supportive family, but a complicated past with his ex-wife and sons. The love and potential is there, but the story provides depth to them both as they move through the summer, coming together and for one another. Overall, readers who like more mature but clean relationships should deSinitely give this book a closer look!

Sarah E Bradley

Dinah Tyler has done everything for others for so long she’s forgotten what it’s like to dream. Then summer comes and changes begin to hit. Her children aren’t coming home for the break, the diner she’s always worked at is closing, and then a property she’d dreamed about owning for years goes up for sale. Zach Applegate doesn’t know what to do after his divorce and sale of his construction business. Visiting his brother in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania seemed like a good place to pause and decide, but he doesn’t expect the small town

Heart of Dreams

Susan Zoe Bella

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

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Contemporary

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 deSinitely noticed.

This story is engaging and interesting. However, it needs the services of content and copy editors. Additionally, there are things that just do not Slow 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 beauspelled 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.

The Cursed King

reader. At a few points near the middle, the story drags slightly, but just keep reading, because it picks up quickly and becomes steamy. The reader, just like the characters, is in no way left unsatisSied because when these two Sinally get together, the match is as hot as dragon's Sire and they strengthen each other in ways neither could have imagined. The book ends spectacularly, and leaves the reader desperate for more of the author’s works!

Angelika Amon is the youngest of the quadruplet phoenixes caught up in a battle that haslasted Sive centuries; the only problem is, she can't actually shift into a phoenix. Angelika is desperate to prove she can be as much help in battle as her sisters; if nothing else, she believes being a phoenix who can'tt shift makes her expendable.

Airk Azdajah is a white dragon shifter who has been held prisoner for Sive hundred years by Pytheios, the false king responsible for the deaths of his family, as well as Angelika's. The two are drawn together, but Airk refuses to allow himself to get close to anyone. He has kept his dragon caged inside himself for Sive hundred years, and fears losing control to it and turning feral. Angelika believes that she is Airk can help each other, and in doing so be able to help save their world. Together they may Sind that strength comes from more than just power.

“The Cursed King” has all the elements one wants in a favorite paranormal tale! In the Sirst section of this book, the reader is introduced to Angelika and given enough character information about her sisters and their mates to create a connection with the

Blood and Thunder (Thunderbird Brotherhood book #2)

Wren Michaels

Everleigh’s? Or will Tag succumb to his fate, pulling Everleigh down with him?

“Blood and Thunder” is a magical, steamy romance for the ages. This story has everything the paranormal reader looks for, all the way down to shape shifters, with a hot romance thrown in the mix. The mixture of magic and romance is just enough to keep the reader wanting to turn the page. Wren Michaels has penned intense sexual scenes throughout this tale, leaving the reader - and the characters - a little hot and bothered. Tag and Everleigh’s connection from the start is strong, shown and developed well with each of their interactions. As the story grows, so do Tag and Everleigh, as they realize their pull for each other will not go away, no matter how much they try and stay away from each other. The author pulls us in with her quick wit, humor, and sarcasm, making the scenes relatable. Seeing the strong family bond Tag and his cousin share seduces the reader with each word as they anticipate the author’s next move. Thoroughly enjoyable!

Rowtag Aktoon fears the inevitable when his cousin tells him of the vision he had of his death. Once the vision has been explained, Tag’s family persuades him to seek out a witch for guidance in staying alive. However, when Tag meets the witch, Everleigh Ulric, and realizing she is his mate, the need to prevent his death is magniSied. Tag tries everything within his abilities to help keep him and Everleigh above ground, but Tag’s powers alone might not be enough. Will Tag persevere with his mission and save his life and

Paranormal
Abigail Owen
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A Vampire’s Midlife Crisis (MisBits of New Orleans Book 1)

Valerie Twombly

woman who has long fought to care for herself and her child. Her new job may be to Six up a dilapidated former plantation mansion, but Sabrina’s natural nurturing promises more - the rehabilitation of the misSit souls that are sheltered there. Devilishly sexy Christoph is smitten and turns his seductive, but protective focus, on Sabrina. Her menopausal dilemma not yet resolved; he somehow makes her hot Slashes even hotter! For readers looking for the sweetness of a caramel drizzle with their steamy, hot café latte indulgence, this sexy vampire rom-com will not disappoint!

Sabrina Davis is a Sifty-three-yearold divorcé e with an adult daughter, her own coffee and bakery shop, and hot Slashes. She thinks menopause is the greatest of her tribulations, until she awakens to discover that she has been turned into a vampire! Her daughter is cool with it, Sabrina’s hair and physique have never been better, and vampires are immortal, so why is she still suffering from those hot Slashes and panic attacks? Christoph Dracula, the King of the New Orleans coven, can “cure” her, but he demands repayment in the form of Sabrina parlaying her business acumen into renovating his new paranormal bed-andbreakfast. Said establishment, Fangri-La, is home to a retired reaper, a cute hell hound, a clumsy succubus, and an unpredictable, Sire-belching purple dragon. Imagine the fun when Sabrina inserts her own brand of sass into the mix!

One would guess by the title that “A Vampire’s Midlife Crisis” is campy and irreverent. One would be correct. Sabrina’s inner voice is sarcastic, scrappy, and yet endearingly vulnerable as a

A Kiss and a Dare

work moving along on time, Gareen realizes he has a saboteur who keeps messing with his machinery and Sinding other ways to delay work. On top of that, his Siancé e and her mother arrive unexpectedly, adding to his daily —and nightly—woes.

Though “A Kiss and a Dare” has an air of medieval times, it is nonetheless a contemporary story. Readers will Sind themselves in a world of magic and mayhem. When the enchanted frog who is Gwenlyn is given a job at the castle by Gareen’s adoptive father, Gareen must see her every day and Sight his growing desire for her, especially when his Siancé e arrives. The tension grows as the mystery unfolds about an ancient curse. Adding to that trouble is the fact that his mother-in-law-to-be has a distinct dislike for Gwenlyn, and Gareen doesn’t know why. Books that mix magic with contemporary life always add a nice spark to reading lists. With the fun addition of the ancient language of Wales and the magic of an old curse, this book provides endless entertainment. It gives a whole new meaning to kissing the frog!

All Gareen McTaggart ever wanted was a castle. His dream has Slourished as he’s worked to renovate the castle Ddraig in Wales, but his life becomes more complicated due to a frog, a dragonSly and a newt residing in the bog near the castle. After a fall, Gareen wakes to discover a frog has kissed him and is now a beautiful woman. Not much for magic, Gareen believes she is just an addled wanderer who can stay at the castle and recover.

Struggling to keep the renovation

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Paranormal

Burying the Dead (The Dead Series Book 4)

Kerry Blaisdell

actions. Then again, there isn’t time. As soon as Hyacinth tackles one problem, another rears its head. This is the fourth installment in the Dead Series, and while it can be read on its own, it probably is better to read the stories in order. There are numerous characters with various agendas that are a challenge to keep straight. Fans of urban fantasy will be excited by this fastpaced tale Silled with twists and turns that will leave readers breathless!

Hyacinth Finch might be dead, but her problems aren’t over. Her day job is helping archangel Michael sort souls and detecting stones that belong to Michael or Satan, which need to be collected before Satan can use them to escape his imprisonment in Hell. But none of that matters because her nephew has been kidnapped by a Hell Demon, and she’s desperate to get him back. She’ll do anything to save him, including making a deal with his father’s MaSia-demon family. But the deal they request will send Hyacinth on a hunt for a way into Hell and out. Meanwhile, her former lover is losing his ghostly essence and Hyacinth must Sind a way to heal him, while sorting out her feelings for a demon friend. Can Hyacinth pull it all together in time to save her nephew or will it come crashing down around them, unleashing Hell on Earth?

“Burying the Dead” is a highoctane adventure that raise the stakes from one page to the next! Hyacinth does whatever it takes to save those she loves, but she doesn’t always see beyond the moment to understand the consequences of some of her

Bloodcurse (The Bloodborn Series #5)

Sydney Windward

An illness known as The Rotting Blight has decimated the dwarven race’s numbers to a mere four hundred and twenty-two. Facing the possibility of extinction, Kirsa, daughter of the Chieftain, stops at nothing to Sind a cure, including experimenting on dozens of innocent vampires for their healing powers. However, the vampire Luca that she captures out of desperation to experiment on next turns out to be the man who steals her heart. Luca is heartbroken from losing his Sirst love to another vampire and his

parents lack of affection. Falling instantly for Kirsa, he agrees to help Sind a cure for her people knowing it could end in his death. As feelings Sly and an ugly turn threatens Kirsa’s life, the Sight to Sind a cure becomes a race against time.

This slow burn paranormal romance blends the human and paranormal world together in a refreshing way. Humans are not only well aware of the paranormal, but the different races have developed laws to help keep peace. The way in which Luca and Kirsa’s relationship builds is sweet, and Luca’s desire for Kirsa is wonderfully done. That said, the story loses ground fast as Kirsa’s character becomes almost immediately unlikeable. She knows killing more innocent vampires will not cure her people but decides to continue doing it while also putting her human friends in danger. This mixed with the way in which Luca and other vampires almost instantly forgive her and the numerous plot holes may cause readers to fall out of the story fast. With some more attention to character development and editing, this book will surely touch every slow burn romance lover's heart.

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Midnight Craving (Ravens Hollow Coven #3)

Shari Nichols

around her. While Cayden’s past makes it easy to understand why he pushes love away, it doesn’t help the reader see past his extreme rudeness that is displayed several times throughout the book. This, mixed with the editorial errors, can keep the readers from truly connecting with the story. Please be aware that this book does include themes of rape and sexual assault. With a little more attention put towards character development and edits this book will surely shine.

Annalee Stilove

Natalya was turned into a vampire by the elite Upper East Side vampire family after her life came to a violent end. While most might Sind the family who sired her to be a great new start, Natalya wants nothing to do with their plans or money and strikes out on her own to join the police force. A job that sometimes includes dealing with the brooding but alluring special agent Cayden. Cayden is a demon who fought in an ancient war that ended in the destruction of his family. Cayden Sinds Natalya’s personality irresistible, but he’s thankful the walls around his heart keep any possible relationship at bay. But when they are partnered together for a case, those walls prove no match for blossoming feelings.

A unique paranormal suspense romance that Sills the heart with healing warmth. In this world, paranormal creatures and humans are fully aware of each other and, for the most part, learn to get along. The way in which the paranormal is effortlessly interwoven into the real world is beautifully done. Natalya’s character is able to kick serious butt and maintain respect while still being nice to the people

Wicked Match (The Wicked Book Two)

Luna Joya

and the other has been an arm’s length crush she has had on Senator Donovan’s dashingly handsome sworn guard, John. Life becomes a cluster bomb when Senator Bane sends Prys to America for a publicity project, and Prys accepts a contract to match Senator Donovan’s anonymous “most eligible bachelor” grandson, and she suddenly must investigate the surprising murder of Senator Sorenson. How many tiaras can this ice princess wear?

“Wicked Match” continues the thrilling political intrigue and upheaval of Luna Joya’s Wicked series. Prys and John fall in love amidst pressure and turmoil. The plot is busy with murder, death threats, deception, bloodlinepreserving matchmaking, and a Hollywood celebrity matchmaking reality TV show that just seems to add unnecessary drama. The strain only seems to push Prys and John closer together as he insists on being her protector, and she is determined to see him liberated from the dictates of his heritage. In public, she holds all the power and control. In private, their role reversal in the bedroom unshackles their wicked chemistry. A love story that is layered, multi-dimensional, and very sexy!

In a witch world where power and magic havebeen handed down through matriarchal lines for millennia, Lady Pryscilla Bane is the heir and legacy to the powerful Senator Bane. The perfect aristocrat and daughter, Lady Prys serves as Magistrate, forensic scientist, statistician, and legacy matchmaker, to name a few of her many responsibilities. Working herself to the hilt, she leaves little room for self-care or personal relationships, save for two. One is her best friend and fellow legacy, Bren Sandinghan,

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Sound of a Wylder Silence (The Wylder West)

Marilyn

HISTORICAL/WESTERN: Ikshu

Sagebrush is an Arapaho living in the shadow of his older brother, Nartan, who is a medicine man. Exiled from their tribe, they live on a homestead off the reservation along with Nartan’s wife, Olive. Ava Wylder has come home from school in New York. She hates the city and craves silence. When she meets Ikshu at a Christmas party, she falls for him because he does not speak above a whisper. He falls for this goldenhaired beauty. He is a master craftsman at leatherwork, and he makes her gifts. They become fast friends and more until Ikshu learns Ava’s last name is Wylder, and realizes the heiress is out of his league and backs away. Ava insists on going out to Ikshu’s homestead nearly every day to woo him, determined to make him hers.

“Sound of a Wylder Silence” is a treasure trove of information about the mystic rituals Arapaho men experience as they are maturing into manhood and asking for guidance into their later years. World building is so believable one can easily imagine what Wylder and the Sagebrush homesteads look like. Ikshu’s past

is, however, brought up often, making this story feel repetitious, while the ending and epilogue feel rushed. Olive being a shapeshifter adds nothing to the story. It is odd the settlers are frightened of the Sagebrush brothers at Sirst yet embrace the relationship between Ikshu and Ava months later. Ikshu and Ava are delightful characters adding spark to this interesting story about life in the late 1800’s. Twenty-nine books in this fascinating series has something for everyone, so come take a trip to Wylder!

was old enough to be turned into a dragon shifter herself. She has been raised by her dead mate’s parents, until the Alliance comes for them as well. Now she is on a mission to save them, but she needs help. Rune’s reputation speaks volumes, and she believes he’s the only one that can help her.

The Traitor (Fire’s Edge #6)

Rune Abaddon is a rogue dragon shifter who is determined to keep innocents safe from a corrupt government system. Having a bounty out for him makes things pretty difSicult for him. He has few places to hide, and with his allies scattered around the region yet also hiding themselves, Rune must stay off the grid and make himself scarce. All of that seems to be going well for him until Hayden Reece stumbles onto his mountain. Hayden has a complicated history herself. Her fated mate was murdered - as well as her parents - before Hayden

“The Traitor” is a combination of suspense, romance, and fantasy that is thrown together to make a great story. With this being the sixth book in the series, readers may Sind it beneSicial to start with the Sirst book in order to get a better understanding of the world building and characters. There are a lot of side characters mentioned throughout the story, but there isn’t a lot of information given about them, although it is implied that there is a history between them. Regardless, this is a very fast-paced, action-packed read. The banter between the two main characters makes for some laugh out loud moments, and there are quite a few steamy scenes between the pair as well. While the ending is a little predictable, there are a few twists and turns in the plot that are very unexpected, and will deSinitely make for a rollercoaster of emotions!

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Paranormal

Requiem for a Satyr: The Cursed Satyroi, Book 6

have time to slay a dragon, and is afraid to fall for someone because Theron will kill them. Darcy isn’t looking for a relationship. She had just come from a very abusive relationship which destroyed her. Darcy has low self-esteem and does not believe in herself. When she Sinds a sexy satyr hiding in her apartment, she doesn’t believe it at Sirst, but soon realizes her roommate was telling her the truth. She isn’t thrilled at Sirst, but something draws her to Calix and they make love. Calix leaves to go on his quest, and Darcy is taken by Theron to lure him away.

Calix is one of many satyrs that has been cursed, and with nothing left to lose but longs for vengeance against Theron, who killed his best friend. He doesn’t

“Requiem for a Satyr” is an engaging paranormal romance sprinkled with mythology as well as many twists that are far from predictable. Rebekah Lewis is clearly knowledgeable about Greek mythology, and has done a

wonderful job of weaving it into a contemporary setting. The author has created very likable characters that have a sense of humor readers don’t normally see in books. The reader will love the banter between the characters, and the closeness that develops. Each character looks out for one another, and work together to overcome obstacles. This is the Sinal book in The Cursed Satyroi series, and although it can be read as a stand-alone, the other books should be read in order to have a better understanding of what is happening in this charming world. A great ending to a delightfully entertaining series!

Paranormal
Rebekah Lewis

Mortal Heart (Alice Worth World Book 1)

Lisa Edmonds

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Arkady grows within each chapter, showing a different side, a softer side, which paves way for a change in Ronan one may not have seen otherwise. In this fast paced, steamy romance, Lisa Edmonds shows both sides of the story which gives a better emotional connection to her characters for the reader, leaving them with the understanding of how Arkady and Ronan came to be, and leaving one yearning to read more from other characters. Delightful!

Stephanie Bell

they work to discover what’s happening with a new dating app. Soon they are in fear for their own lives as dark forces launch a battle.

A fallen angel, Ronan, is sent to Earth to live amongst the humans as a bounty hunter for punishment because he broke angelic laws. He is forced to live in a human body without his angelic powers while trying to live a righteous life, so in the end, he could be judged to see if he is worthy to gain his angelic form back. Ronan feels lost, useless in his newfound body, until he runs into Arkady Woodall, a private investigator who used to work for the Vampire Court. While being teamed up with Arkady in this supernatural mystery, Ronan starts to feel things he has never felt before. He soon discovers Arkady has the same pull towards him, and the only way to survive the bounty is being by each other sides, as a team.

An Urban Fantasy adventure that grows with every turn of the page, “Mortal Heart” is a compelling story, linking two characters together under inseparable circumstances. With a steamy rating of Sive out of Sive, their connection towards each other makes for one spicy adventure in this made for adults’ melodrama.

Lisa Edmonds’ character development of Ronan and

Death Swipes Right (Outside the Circle Mystery, Volume 4)

Shereen Vedam

Readers who are in the mood for a modern fairytale, look no further. Though this is the fourth book in a series, it reads well as a standalone and no doubt will send new readers looking for the beginning of the series. Imagine the fear of trying a dating app and discovering it leads to death. Set in Britain, it’s interesting to watch a wizard with electromagnetic magic deal with an aging god and the problems that beset twentySirst century technology. This is a fast-moving read that will keep one guessing. There’s also a touch of romance for Abbie with a local detective she’s getting to know. In addition, Abbie is separated from the children she adores because of Covid. Even the magical world couldn’t avoid this problem. Ancient curses, modern technology and living in a pandemic world make life in this story interesting.

MYSTERY: Abbie Grimshaw is an EMT with past deadly events dogging her steps. She hopes her friend Talin, who is an electromagnetic wizard, can help her discover who’s behind the bombing that shattered her world and took the lives of her friends. Why was she the only survivor? Before Talin can help, however, his life is altered by the murder of his beloved aunt. When Talin and Abbie are pulled in as suspects for the murder, their search takes a different turn. A new investigation brings their special circle of supernatural friends together as

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Discord (Modern Knights, Book 4)

are enough familiar elements to the supernatural genre to keep it from being too different, however there are enough twists to keep it fresh. The pacing is fast and the writing is easy to get into. This book can be read as a standalone, but there are characters from past books so readers will get the most out of this after having read those books. This is a great read for lovers of fast paced, supernatural, reads!

Quarter Mage battles continuous conSlicts, Sighting so she and her new people can survive.

Jacob Darien understands that he needs to pay the price for all of the mistakes he’s made in the past, and that’s why he is at peace about being in jail. A new avatar of chaos has been chosen, however, and this avatar is a familiar face in Jacob’s life. They’re determined to lurevJacob and his inner demon— literally—out to play. He’s determined to not repeat his sins and refuses to use his magic. How long will he be able to hold out?

Everyone is against him. The police, former allies, and a dangerous Goddess of Discord looking for his blood. And his demon, Abaddon the Destroyer of Worlds, can be awfully persuasive. Surviving might take a lot more than pure luck and quick wit.

“Discord” is a wild ride from start to Sinish! A unique world readers will love to get lost in! Mr. Bader has created a fun adventure in his latest installment of the Modern Knights series. Jacob Darien is a strong lead, likable, and funny. His banter with his inner demon, Abaddon, is especially witty and entertaining. All of the characters shine bright, from the star of the show to the smallest of supporting roles. From start to Sinish the book is full of action and intrigue. There

The Quarter Mage (The Quarter Mage Book 1)

Angelina J. Steffort

Princess Sanja Lazar is on the run after she’s forced into marriage with a tyrant and almost killed for her throne. However, the human princess is in for a rude awakening when she Sinds herself stumbling into the fairylands. To survive, Sanja ends up Sinding two powerful Mages, who willingly take her in for an extra hand around their house. Sanja decides to join them and become a Quarter Mage, so she can seek revenge on the man who stole her throne, but Sanja soon Sinds herself attracted to the grumpy Mage, Tristan Bale. As more secrets are revealed and the Mages Sind themselves deep in trouble with fairy royalty, the

Get ready to be entranced by a chaotic world of evil fairies, complex magic, and a hint of spicy romance, because this read is hypnotic from start to Sinish! Right at the beginning readers are launched into the action with the gripping hook of the plot. The book keeps this quick pace throughout, sometimes making it hard to keep up with everything. However, the descriptions are rich, and they make one feel like they’re right there in Sanja’s world. Too many details can make the book feel overly packed in places, and the author occasionally leaves confusing loose ends which are unsatisfying. Otherwise, the story always has the reader guessing, keeping one on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next conSlict to hit. Even the characters are complex and unpredictable, making the entire read fun and engaging.

The

HISTORICAL: Issylte must escape to prevent the Black Widow Queen

Joshua Bader Lady of the Mirrored Lake (The Wild Rose and The Sea Raven Book 2)
86

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

from Sinding her. She leaves Avalon with two Knights who have been accused of treason. They’re determined to prove their innocence and defeat their enemies. Things don’t quite go as planned when they arrive in Bretagne and Issylte Sinds friends in shapeshifters after she heals a wolf who has been injured. When she becomes Lady of the Mirrored Lake, she is sworn to defend the waters of the Goddess. Issylte Sinds herself having to complete a quest in order to Sind an object that is hidden within the lake. Issylte and Tristan have a Sight on their hands, and it will take all their strength to prevail.

Jennifer Ivy Walker has written another interesting story in The Wild Rose and The Sea Raven series. A fascinating read with dynamic characters that are well written and bring the story to life in a number of ways. Issylte is a likeable character whom readers will enjoy going on a journey with, making readers want to know what happens next. There may be some difSiculty with pronunciation of the names, which may slow down the Slow somewhat, but it doesn’t take too much away from the story. It would be worth reading the Sirst book in the series in order to get a better idea of what’s going on, so as to more fully understand the world and the characters as there is a lot of information given. Overall, an interesting tale that will keep readers entertained!

The Traitor (Fire’s Edge #6) Abigail Owen

Rune Abaddon is a rogue dragon shifter who is determined to keep innocents safe from a corrupt government system. Having a bounty out for him makes things pretty difSicult forhim. He has few places to hide, and with his allies scattered around the region yet also

hiding themselves, Rune must stay off the grid and make himself scarce. All of that seems to be going well for him until Hayden Reece stumbles onto his mountain. Hayden has a complicated history herself. Her fated mate was murdered - as well as her parents - before Hayden was old enough to be turned into a dragon shifter herself. She has been raised by her dead mate’s parents, until the Alliance comes for them as well. Now she is on a mission to save them, but she needs help. Rune’s reputation speaks volumes, and she believes he’s the only one that can help her.

“The Traitor” is a combination of suspense, romance, and fantasy that is thrown together to make a great story. With this being the sixth book in the series, readers may Sind it beneSicial to start with

the Sirst book in order to get a better understanding of the world building and characters. There are a lot of side characters mentioned throughout the story, but there isn’t a lot of information given about them, although it is implied that there is a history between them. Regardless, this is a very fast-paced, action-packed read. The banter between the two main characters makes for some laugh out loud moments, and there are quite a few steamy scenes between the pair as well. While the ending is a little predictable, there are a few twists and turns in the plot that are very unexpected, and will deSinitely make for a rollercoaster of emotions!

Darkest Misery (Miss Misery #4)

With an impending apocalypse foreshadowed by a prophecy, Jessica Moore has to do everything in her power to form an alliance with all the paranormal beings before it's too late. Unfortunately, each faction loses trust in each other when a member is found murdered. Jessica is left to try and put the

Jennifer Shepherd Tracey Martin
87

Tempted: A Vampire MaBia Paranormal Romance (The Vampire Syndicate)

longing and elegance. Mila loves Gabriel but has no future with him. Gabriel is torn. Obeying Syndicate rules allows him to maintain his supremacy as crown prince and protect his dhampir brothers, but could cause him to lose Mila. She’s more than a friend. She’ll always be more than a thrall. She’s his mate, his everything. Tempted is a prequel novella to the Vampire Syndicate Trilogy and is told in a retrospective voice, as if Gabriel and Mila are reminiscing about their Sirst meetings. Think of it as a very sexy, very compelling “How I Met” narrative that serves well as an appetizing amuse-bouche to novices, or a satisfying dessert for established fans.

PARNORMAL: A Dark Angel meets an angelic ingenue, and the temptation is exquisite. Gabriel Kral is heir to the powerful Kral Vampire Syndicate. When innocent Mila Vittore stumbled onto the Kral family’s Maryland estate, she didn’t understand the danger she was courting. Gabriel knew his corrupt attention could destroy Mila, but he couldn’t contain his curiosity. While Mila shares with him her dreams of owning an organic Slower farm, Gabriel poses as a businessman, postponing the truth about his background to enjoy the buoyant adoration in Mila’s gaze just a while longer. When Mila learns who he is, her doubts, and his family, come between them. Gabriel’s human side wants to set her free. His vampire side wants to lay claim. If Gabriel offers Mila his blood-bond, she will be protected for the rest of her life. As his possession. Giving up her family, friends, and dreams.

“Tempted: A Vampire MaSia Paranormal Romance” is sensuality and desire. Like a smooth dark chocolate river, the forbidden romance unfolds with

The Lyon’s Share: The Lyon's Den Connected World Cerise Deland

but promises to pay as soon as her house sells. Sidney Reddington Wolf, sixth Earl of Middlethorpe has been in love with Adriana since childhood but stood aside watching his best friend marry her. Now that Paul is dead, Sidney is determined to marry Adriana on any terms. Upon hearing she has been to Mrs. Dove-Lyon’s, he goes to the Lyon’s den and buys Adriana’s marker from the Grande dame. Now, no one else can marry his sweet ladylove.

“The Lyon’s Share” is an exquisitely written romance chronicling the lives of Adriana, Lady Benton, and Sidney Reddington Wolf, sixth Earl of Middlethorpe. Ms. Deland spends a lot of time in Adriana’s head, echoing Paul’s cruel words which keep her trapped and strapped to him. Sidney and Adriana are lovable characters despite Adriana’s character Slaws. Sidney is also Slawed, which endears him more to the reader. He has sword scars on his face, and he is exceedingly pleasant, which can cause misunderstandings later. The world building is brilliant! A captivatingly twisted plot keeps readers engaged from the very beginning of this rich tale of unrequited love which evolves into a gratifying love match. A part of the Connected World series, this novella is one that should deSinitely be read and enjoyed!

HISTORICAL: Adriana, Lady Benton, has gone to Mrs. DoveLyon to get a husband. Adriana is a widow who was happily married until her husband was crippled in the war. Then he turned bitter and turned on her. She has some odd requests of her new husband: no intimacy, several homes, and a generous allotment. Adriana owes Mrs. Dove-Lyon most of her fee,

Novella 90

A Scot to Love and Protect (Once Upon A Scot Book 3)

Laying siege to Caerlaverock Castle, Valan MacDougall and his men are expecting an easy task when it comes to subduing the widow inside. But Lady Elspet Maxwell has no intention of being taken without a Sight. It also comes as a surprise to Valan that she is breathtakingly beautiful, and he’s not allowed to lay a hand on her. However, the more time they spend together, their feelings build and they Sind themselves unable to resist a touch, a kiss and more. Valan curses himself for telling his men not to touch any of the women when all he wants to do is take Eslpet in his arms. Will they be torn apart through their differences or will they be able to get past it and Sind their happily ever after?

A classic historical romance with a strong-willed male and a Siery tempered heroine who is determined to resist his advances. Valan and Elspet are a great pairing and things don’t exactly begin easily for them. The dialogue feels accurate for the time period in which the book is set and both characters have a very sharp tongue. The love scenes are searing hot and will

have readers using their e-reader as a fan to cool off. It is a great read for the cold winter nights although it might be a good idea to forgo the hot drink because this book has a lot of heat. Maeve Greyson has here a great addition to the Once Upon A Scot series, and it will be good to see what comes next in the series.

Southwest Heat (Southwest Supernatural Society #1)

This fast-paced, suspenseful romance takes readers on a thrill ride through a delightful paranormal world. The short story starts out strong with an intriguing peek into a world where paranormals blend in with society in a way that doesn’t shove the magical aspects at readers. Addy’s character is a tough-as-nails woman who will intrigue almost everyone, and Cooper’s charm is hard to ignore. The playful banter between them clearly displays their past relationship without leaving the reader wanting more of their old love. That said, Addy’s switch from harsh reluctance to opening up is sudden and feels rushed. Due to the length of the story, there were several moments when this rushed feeling leaves readers wondering if they missed a part of the current action. With a little more time dedicated to fully exploring action scenes and building the reconnect between the characters, this book will be one readers will never forget.

PARANORMAL: Three years ago, badass Addyson, aka Addy, was sent packing by the only man to ever be gifted with her love, detective Cooper Braxton. With solid steel walls around her shattered heart, Addy traded romantic love for the love of her job as an investigator and rose in ranks quickly. Now, a new case has brought her ex, Cooper, back into her life, and revealed that he still holds the key to her heart. Cooper knows it was a huge mistake to let the woman of his dreams go. He is determined to win her back during this case, which becomes an even harder task when an unexpected enemy shows their deadly hand and kicks their investigation into high gear.

Novella
91

Anthology

trade places with her so she can Sinally be seen as someone other than the Duke’s daughter, but neither couple expects to Sind love while playing the part of someone else. In “A Season to Love”, Alice is praying for a Christmas miracle to Sind a love match before her aunt marries her to the most eligible bachelor she can Sind this next season, regardless of her feelings on the matter.

The Holly and the Ivy

Sarah M. Eden, Esther Hatch, Dana LeCheminant, & Anneka

HISTORICAL: “The Holly and the Ivy” sees a nursemaid and a gardener falling in love as they help a little boy learn to love the holidays again. In “Hiding Christmas”, Kristine and her English grandma must leave Scotland where Christmas will only bring them persecution, to celebrate their cherished holiday in England. “A Twist of Christmas” gives Graham the chance to trade places with his younger brother, Henry, at a holiday party, just as Lady Elizabeth convinces her companion, Miss Campbell, to

Each talented author brings her own unique take in this Christmas anthology. The stories are all wellcrafted, and although some are predictable, they are heartwarming and comforting in their reliability. “The Holly and the Ivy” is a sweet romance with love that needs faith to have a chance. “Hiding Christmas” is a comedic joy as Kristine and her English grandma try to travel from Scotland to England to celebrate the taboo holiday, but Granny puts a wrench in the plans with her unexpected Yule loaf, bringing delightfully fun humor to this collection. “A Twist of Christmas” feels familiar as main characters trade places at a holiday party in a charming fun-Silled plot with an unexpected twist that will leave the reader smiling, and “A Season to Love” has a Christmas miracle

bringing love to a Siery heroine in her last chance at a love match, giving the reader the warm-fuzzy feeling. A thoroughly delightful and charming collection of tales from start to Sinish!

(Dominions Book 1)

Young Adult

FANTASY: Meren, the second born twin, isn’t known to exist. Her identity has been kept secret from her birth. Her entire life she has

existed as a second to her sister, Princess Tabra. Meren knows her role in life and has accepted her fate to die in place of her sister. But she is not ready to die willingly. When she is kidnapped on the eve of the coronation while standing in for the princess, she vows to do all she can to escape and save her sister from the evil King Eidolon. But the shadow wraith who kidnapped her has his own secret identity. As their secrets start to come to light, they begin to care for each other. Meren has spent her entire life devoted to her kingdom and her sister, now the only way to save the kingdom and her sister may be to kill not only King Eidolon, but also the man she has fallen for.

Abigail Owen has carefully crafted a magical world full of color and

life. Dangerous creatures and fascinating plants transport readers into another world. With excellent detail that enhances the storyline without distracting from the plot she tells the tale. Meren and Reven have an instant chemistry. Their relationship is Silled with witty banter and Slirtations, and grows into a blazing inferno as they Sinally begin to give in to their desire for one another. Meren’s character development as she begins to exist outside of her role as a stand in for Tabra is wonderful. Reven’s development as he begins to accept his ability to love and accepts his capacity for good is outstanding. A must ready fantasy adventure!

New Adult

The Waxing Moon

Elli Morgan

heels in love with him, and decides that she wants to stay with him forever. Refusing to turn her into a vampire, Cain gives her an ultimatum - if she can defeat him in a battle, he will turn her, but if she fails, he will kill her. After he abandons her back to her human life, Lilah reaches out to several different vampires to learn their skill sets so that she can defeat Cain in battle. Can she grow in her strength enough to triumph over Cain?

PARANORMAL: Lilah Neumann is fascinated by vampires, and she has always longed to live in a world Silled with supernatural beings. When Lilah is thrust into life with a vampire very unexpectedly, she falls head over

“The Waxing Moon” is a very fast paced vampire novel that is engaging, but also lacking in character development. Cain is the main love interest in the book, but he is also absent for about half of the story. It would be interesting to have more scenes with Lilah and Cain together, because it feels like the development in their relationship

is really lacking. They fall in love pretty quickly after having just met. The author suggests that Lilah is with Cain for an extended period of time before she seeks out other vampires for training, but readers only get a glimpse of that. However, the plot itself is interesting and there are a lot of different vampire characters that are introduced. It is fascinating to learn how each vampire lives, and the environment that they surround themselves in. All of them are very unique. “The Waxing Moon” is an easy-to-read page turner with some spicy scenes thrown in. Vampire fans will absolutely adore this book.

The Liars Crown Abigail Owen
93

Play Me False (A Lucy Falls Novel)

E.R. Whyte

Suspense/Thriller

Whyte builds in the story is incredible. Each character is welldeveloped, and each has their own unique features that set them apart. And while this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone. There are a few trigger warnings in this book, and those include suicide and mention of infertility. All in all, readers who love suspenseful romance books are sure to give “Play Me False” a standing ovation!

dreams often require walking along the edge of danger.

Dr. Harriet Bee, or Harry as others call her, has suddenly discovered that her seven-year marriage has been nothing but lies. When she bumps into her husband, Mark, with his wife and children at the mall, her world as she knows it is Slipped upside down. Lucky for her, there are two men willing and ready to mend her broken heart. The only problem is that she doesn’t know which of them to choose. On top of that, Mark’s betrayal goes much further than anyone could have anticipated. His deception stems from a plot that he developed almost ten years ago. Harry is determined to learn the secrets behind Mark’s disloyalty not only to protect herself, but to protect the people she loves.

“Play Me False” will pull the reader in from the very beginning. The plot is so engaging that it is very difSicult to put this book down! The initial scene where Harry is betrayed by her husband sets off a reaction of events that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Two very handsome love interests enter the picture, making this book intriguing and spicy! The suspense that Ms.

Worlds Collide (Dream’s Edge #3)

Traci Hunter Abramson

A thrilling conclusion to the “Dream’s Edge series” Ms. Abramson masterfully weaves tension into her tale as Tyler and Amaliya balance their desire to wed with their plans with the future while Amaliya’s mother Katerina Sights to reunite with her brother with the eyes of the KGB upon them. Both stories are told in alternating form with the emotions all the characters are feeling almost skating off the page. The 1980s and Soviet era backdrop hint at very real situations that haunted defectors and their families and drives home consequences of such choices in a world where a controlling government held the lives of its citizens in their hands. On a lighter side the conSlicts driving all the characters smoothly develops into some growth while still highlighting the tender and romantic moments as well. Overall, readers who prefer suspense with a light dose of romance will want to read this winner!

Winning a gold medal in pairs Sigure skating at the 1984 Olympics should be the ultimate victory, but to Tyler and Amaliya deciding their future and telling Amaliya’s overprotective father about their engagement might the biggest challenge of their lives. Unfortunately, their success and their relationship to a Soviet Union defector attracts the attention of the KGB who are not happy to see Katerina’s daughter succeed. With Katerina’s brother and his family still trapped behind the Iron Curtain the World’s Skating competition might be the only chance to reconnect but

95

Suspense/Thriller

Hidden Courage (Home to the River Series: Book 2)

Jannette Spann

continue. The title is misleading, as the story depicts Talley as a victim throughout. There is a good level of suspense with the stalker and the Sixation of Cord’s grandfather on Talley, but we don't see her rise to the challenge. Instead, she is the damsel in distress; enter white knight to save the day. Both Talley and Cord have the potential for growth with stronger backstories. It could beneSit by focusing on the romance of the older generation, with Talley drawing her courage from Marie. Nevertheless, this is an easy read with the potential for more.

Talley Jones is a shy nursing student, hiding from a dangerous stalker. Living with her grandparents, she works at a local nursing home and avoids relationships. Talley is a dead ringer for her great-aunt Marie, who has passed away. At Marie’s funeral, she meets Cord Hatch and his grandfather, who was an old boyfriend of Marie. Cord is busy running his family farm, and is looking for a full-time carer for his grandfather, and to relieve his mother of the burden. Seeing an opportunity to use Talley’s likeness of Marie to coerce him into the facility, he befriends Talley. The couple are drawn to each other, but with Cord’s deceit and Talley’s stalker on the loose, will they Sind a way a way into each other’s hearts?

An intriguing slow burn with the quaint byplay of rural living, and the sweet friendship that develops between Talley and Cord. Their love interest is lukewarm, however, with many storylines grappling for attention, including the entrance of Cord’s old business partner which feels forced. Talley's doppelgä nger great-aunt stands out, however, and compels the reader to

Shattered Promises (Rock Ledge Book 1)

Linda Trout

idea. Agent Wade Malone is on scene of the plane crash and comes face to face with the only woman he’s ever loved. That was nine years ago—angry water under the bridge. When he’d left after high school graduation, and she didn’t wait for him, he closed his heart to her and buried his feelings deep.

“Shattered Promises” is an amazing suspenseful story with twists and turns that will keep readers glued to the pages!. This is a second chance romance of two strong protagonists, and the way it plays out is beautifully written as it portrays pains endured by both. ‘He pulled her down, and his lips met hers, he felt as if he has come home’. Welcome home! The trope is an imaginative one, and readers will enjoy the many characters that play into the mystery of a stranger poking around where he doesn’t belong. Sebastian the pet cat steals many scenes with his antics and clever personality. This is the Sirst in a series, and readers should add Ms. Trout to their favorites list to get the next in this heartwarming series.

Miranda Johnson lives alone in rural Arkansas on purpose. She goes by Randi now, and has created a name for herself as an artist. When a plane goes down near her property, her private bubble is invaded by every branch of law enforcement imaginable. Recognizing FBI agent Malone, Randi is shaken by old familiarity, but when he approaches, he’s not kind. She realizes a spark remains between them, but also knows reconnecting with him is a bad

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Suspense/Thriller

Contrarian

(Lars the Hitman Book 2)

Lucas Sterling

Lars Christopherson is a former Homeland Security Agent and a bit of an enigma. There are a lot of people who don’t know about him, and he has every intention of keeping it that way. It’s one of those “if I tell you then I have to kill you” sort of deals. He has an impressive skillset and an unblemished record. A BND intelligence agent, Frederic Ulrich is a man on a mission. Determined to redeem himself for the sins of his past, he is determined to stop a Hungarian crime ring from continuing their deadly ways. When they Sind themselves working together, Lars and Frederic must put aside their differences and make it work for the sake of national security and to save a lot of lives. It won’t be easy, but they’re determined to get the job done.

One aspect that stands out in “Contrarian” is Lucas Sterlings knowledge of policy when it comes to the United States and the political points in the book. There are so many interesting aspects to this novel, not least the excitement and nail biting suspense. There is an abundance of intrigue, mystery, and a race against time that make this a page turner. Welldeveloped characters make readers want to go on a journey with them, and there are so many twists and turns in this book that one would be wise to beware of whiplash. Most deSinitely one to add to the reading list and if this is a reader’s Sirst experience with Lars the Hitman, go back and have a look at the Sirst book in the series.

Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

A Murder, Well-Scripted

Tony Piazza

value of timeliness of revealed truths, which mystery readers will appreciate in this well-crafted story. Readers will enjoy the ease of Logan’s personality, rather than a stereotypical, overcharacterized, arrogant detective. His personal story is engaging and relatable. This engaging whodunit deserves high praise for providing a little bit of everything—a killer on the loose, movie stars, quirky characters, kidnapping, and a few dead bodies—what’s not to like?

Tom Logan, a detective for hire, Sinds himself on a Hollywood movie set when an untimely explosion reveals a dead body. It’s easy to be distracted by the famous actors surrounding him, but he immediately goes to work to solve the mystery. More is revealed as he meets with his friend, Inspector ‘Red’ Clancy of the Homicide Division. Though a kidnapped star has a seemingly odd connection to the body, Logan must follow the trail according to the partial truths he’s given. Unfortunately, Logan Sinds himself in harm's way. With his knowledge of Hollywood and the scripts they must follow, he realizes that the killer has been following a self-created script which may include Logan’s murder if he doesn’t Sigure out the plot in time.

“A Murder, Well-Scripted” is reminiscent of a classic old Hollywood murder mystery. Comments like “Welcome to the factory that creates dreams. If it doesn’t grow here, then Hollywood will supply it.” create the authentic atmosphere that makes this story alluring. Every character has traits that are believable and contribute to the overall vibe. Mr. Piazza knows the

Tainted Wine: A Steve Daniels Mystery #2

Linda Watkins

Steve Daniels is assigned to a new case that turned up overnight at a vineyard when a vintner is uncovered dead—murdered. The murder weapon is none other than a corkscrew lodged into his neck. Without any witnesses, the only suspect is that of Jessica Fauché r. She is the granddaughter of the owner of the winery and vineyard whose grandmother comes to Steve, pleading that her grand-daughter would never do such a thing after all she has lost. With his work cut out for him, Steve makes it his top priority to discover the truth about Jessica and the man that

was murdered. Will he plead for her innocence too or will he reveal the truth about who Jessica is and what she was doing the night of the vintner's untimely death?

There are some murder mysteries that present a detailed description of how the story will unfold from the beginning, but “Tainted Wine” is not one of those novels. Readers will quite literally gasp as unexpected scenes unfold and the truth is revealed bit by bit. The romance between Steve and Izzy is sprinkled in perfectly, creating a realistic personal life for our star investigator, but it never overshadows the true storyline: Hector’s murder. Each character is given the perfect backstory to play into their role. Jessica is portrayed as a suspect with enough motive to convince a jury she’s cruel, but enough innocence to make them look elsewhere - depending on how the cards sprawled out. This is what makes her trial a nervewracking and suspenseful investigation for Steve to dive into head Sirst. “Tainted Wine” is the perfect read to partner with a glass of wine and cozy blanket, the nail- biting mysteries turning readers into living room detectives!

Mystery
99

Science Fiction

KeSira’s ship is overrun by Marauders and she needs help. Thankfully, she is assisted by Blake, who rescues her and the survivors. But he has a condition for the rescue, and it’s something that KeSira could never have expected. What she cannot deny is how handsome and strong Blake is. And, regardless of what her feline guard feels, there is a growing attraction she Sinds difSicult to Sight. Together they must face an enemy who is hell bent on harming the galaxy. Will they be able to put their differences aside in order to defeat their insidious foe? Or will they Sind themselves at odds with one another and be defeated in the end?

Vijaya Schartz has created unique and memorable characters who travel throughout the galaxy battling the forces of evil in a truly epic novel. There are so many unique aspects to this book and not just the world building. The characters are well rounded, the description is on point, and the surroundings are awesome. The plot of “Angel Ship” will grip readers from the Sirst page and keep in a talonlike grip until the very last page. Readers will enjoy Blake as he is all male and has so many qualities that will appeal. KeSira is a strong female character who wants to do the best for those aboard her ship, even if this means bargaining with the handsome rescuer. Fans of science Siction will love this offering and will be drawn to read more books from this talented and capable author.

Angel Ship Vijaya Schwartz
100

Moonlight Cove: Love on the Beach Book 1

Shanna HatSield

the main protagonists, but pacing, character motivation, and technical skills show a talented author. Jamie, the young runaway, is a pivotal part of the murder and is wholesome and easy to root for. She needs more page time to fully develop. The slow burn between Brenley and Jake is sweet to witness. Readers who want an entertaining tale that is a generous amount of mystery, plenty of intrigue, and with a dash of Shanna HatSield’s famous humor will want to grab this book by a proven author!

Emerson Matthews

MYSTERY: Introverted Brenley Baker is asked by her extroverted grandmother, Mimi, to come to the family beachfront home, called Moonlight Cove, in Seaside, Oregon, for the summer. Reluctantly, Brenley agrees and arrives at the cottage while Mimi happens to be out. Almost immediately, the local policeman, Captain Jake Adams, surprises her when he looks in the window of what he assumed was an empty building. Jake was chasing a murder suspect and thought of checking the vacant cottage when he accidentally startled the lovely granddaughter of the owner. Soon he Sinds himself hoping Brenley will spend more than just the summer in Seaside. But Sirst, before he can get too involved with her, he must solve the murder of the dead undercover policeman who drifted ashore on Brenley’s Sirst night in town.

Has the winter blues already got you wishing for a sun-drenched beach vacay? With great characterization and a strong plotline, this book will have readers wanting to pack their bags for Seaside and Moonlight Cove. There could be more conSlict, both within and between

Her Homegrown Christmas Wish

Rachelle Paige Campbell

Hannah Beacon is a single mother raising her daughter, Olivia, in the very town she grew up in. The only thing Olivia truly wants is a father. When Hannah’s estranged husband, Daniel, shows up in town, everyone thinks Olivia might be getting her wish. But Daniel has only returned to divorce Hannah and set her free. Once Daniel realizes that it isn’t only his wife he would be freeing but also the daughter he never knew he had, he decides he might need to stick around and make this marriage work. After Sive

years, Daniel and Hannah don’t know each other and must reacquaint themselves. But his career is about to take off, and his Hollywood dreams might put a quick end to the family he didn’t know he had.

Hannah and Daniel both have a lot of hurt to overcome in order to trust their hearts to one another again. Despite their best intentions, neither one wants to be vulnerable. Olivia is adorable as she pulls the couple together, and shows them both how to love and how to trust. A tender Christmas romance begins to blossom as they fall in love again. It is a great story if the reader can get past the weak reasons behind the initial separation. Hannah leaving her husband while she is pregnant and never telling him is hard to believe in this Christian romance. The element of faith is woven into the story with bible study groups and many references to faith. This feel-good story is a fun holiday read brimming with wholesome humor and love.

Inspirational
101

That Dickinson Girl

Joan Koster

admiring their guts and bravery, and recognizing their immaturity. There is less said of Anna’s early years, and the demonstration of her public prowess, which is perhaps a missed opportunity. What inspired her initial interest? How did she carve a platform for herself as a woman of these times? Who were the puppeteers behind her rise and downfall? The Author's Note alludes to this, but does not weave it into the story. Regardless, it is a truly engaging read and would pique the reader’s curiosity to learn more about this trailblazer.

HISTORICAL: It was the height of the American Civil War, and eighteen-year-old Anna Dickinson is on the cusp of glory when she meets the Pennington sisters at a political rally. The sisters have fallen on hard times after the loss of their parents. Julia Pennington is forced to work at a mill to support her younger sister, Gracie, through school. After losing her job and falling out with her sister, Julia is destitute. Anna offers her a position as her companion on her oratory tour. Their friendship evolves on the journey, but their hearts are being pulled in different directions. Is love strong enough to withstand Anna's ambition of fame and fortune? Will Julia Sind the strength to stand up for herself and reconcile with her sister?

Well written, it gives a Slavor of the socio-political landscape during the Civil War, with a biographical snapshot of Anna Dickinson’s romantic relationships - although Julia is a Sictional representation in this story. The facts are wellresearched and include many historical Sigures that give it authenticity. The reader is drawn into their youthful hopes and dreams, but is soon torn between

Catering to Love (Departments of Love Book

1)

Joshua Ian

two lovers have to deal with their forbidden attraction, but an enemy, Lord Ockley, blocks the two from their potential relationship, threatening to ruin them. As Henri and Nico battle these never-ending obstacles, will they still make their way back together unscathed?

This book throws readers into a time machine, allowing them to relive the historically rich moments vicariously through the characters, and leading readers down a rabbit hole of sweet romance. There is confusion at the beginning because too many characters are introduced at once, making readers’ heads spin. But the author Sinds stability in the middle of the novel, and readers Sind themselves mesmerized by the amount of history that is shown, even from basic trips and interactions with the protagonists. This plot is very predictable, and readers may get bored with the repetitive slow-burn, love-at-Sirstsight trope. The book also has moments where characters would speak other languages like French, which was quite an interesting addition. However, there is a big lack of character development or background, which makes readers feel a loss of connection to the story. Overall, the Slow of the plot and the connection between this forbidden romance satisSies all the needs of any romance reader.

HISTORICAL: Set during the 20th century, a time of the Summer Olympics and the famous FrancoBritish Exhibition, Henri works as the head chef of the Royal Tea Room in the Hartridge & Casas department store. This French chef, Monsieur Henri Newbold, is on a mission to one day open his own restaurant. And yet, he Sinds himself distracted by a new Greek waiter, Nikolaos KavaSis, who captured his attention immediately. Not only do these

LGBTQ+ 103

The Stars in Their Eyes

rescued by Jacob and repays this kindness with cruelty, and abandons him again. He follows, and she sleeps with him —a few times— which ironically are the only times she even remembers Tess! The characters are hard to Sind likable, and a plot that is implausible yet predictable. It could beneSit from more science along with backstories to give the characters better depth. Still, the author maintains an action Silled pace to keep the reader entertained.

SCI-FI: Calay and Tess are enjoying an intimate moment in their apartment when all hell breaks loose. The apartment is destroyed, and people are being annihilated by alien crafts. On the run, Calay wakes up disoriented in the middle of a warehouse, covered in blood, and Tess is nowhere in sight. With grit and determination she escapes, and now her sole mission is to Sind the love of her life. Cast out by her parents Sive years before for coming out, Tess is all she has left, and the only one she can count on. Scrounging around the apocalyptic city for sustenance and supplies, will she have the resources and strength to Sind Tess? And in doing so, can she avoid being captured by the ‘Others’?

This Sci-Fi apocalyptic mashup keeps one on their toes! Though there are several gaps in the storyline, with less science - more Siction, it is an intriguing read. Calay runs headlong into obvious danger with questionable and implausible choices. She mistrusts and attacks Jacob, a solo survivor like herself, who is kind to her but then runs willingly toward a group of armed men who attack her. Calay is then

Rembrandt’s Station (Exiles of the Drift 2)

Christie Meierz

SCI-FI: Albert “Bertie” Rembrandt, Tolar stationmaster, keeps an eye on everything that goes on and manages to keep everyone safe. Alas, Bertie is human and a banished aristocrat who has fallen in love with Monral, but due to Tolari culture, is banned from admitting his true feelings for him. As Bertie works to keep his adopted world protected from enemies, solve a family squabble, stay mortal yet still be with Monral and Six many catastrophes, he falls ill from mysteriously being poisoned. Bertie becomes weakened from

the toxin, yet he still has work to do and wants to continue doing what he did before despite the danger to his life. When Bertie does get the chance to be with his one true love, he still doesn’t want to give up his humanity. This is truly an astounding LGBT science Siction story that is such an engaging tale! Sure, the story starts off slowly, but as it progresses, it magically transports the reader to a scarily dangerous universe. The smooth writing style and excellent world building are fully apparent, making for such captivating imagery! Unfortunately, some of the character descriptions, like how they actually function or move, are puzzling. Also, this is the second book, so some readers that like to read the series in sequence might not want to read this separately, even though the book can standalone without any problems. Bertie is just the perfect angst-ridden protagonist. Even with all of the dilemmas he must face, it isn’t hard to connect with him. Ms. Meierz writes an amazing, exhilarating, nail-biting space opera that is truly an extraordinary read!

LGBTQ+ 104

Ghostly Howls: A Paranormal Fantasy Romance

Stephanie Hansen

understands Orla but lives with her too. Orla is scared to touch anyone, including her best friend, Dave, whom she also loves.

Orla is a soul possessor and cockle shell seller who lives a very solitary, lonely existence. Her roommate, Molly, is a half banshee who not only

Molly loves Cormac, but whenever Molly gets close to her, she inexplicably pulls away. Molly keeps having visions and hearing the name Drogheda yet doesn’t know what it means. Orla and Molly’s small-town Ethel, VA, is being plagued by angry poltergeists. Orla must overcome her touch aversion in order to show how much she loves Dave, while Molly must stop Cormac from getting on a boat to help a friend. Plus, they both must stop the ghosts from invading the town without losing their loves or each other.

An extraordinary paranormal fantasy Silled with so many different elements all jam-packed

into a fast read! The story is told from dual points of view, pushing the tale along wonderfully and managing to thoroughly immerse readers in the thick of it. The town is portrayed beautifully, although it doesn’t seem like such a good idea to visit. The story, however, is complete and written with great care with each of the protagonist’s abilities explained perfectly. Nevertheless, both live in such careful isolation. The book doesn’t skimp on visual descriptions either. Hopefully, there will be more about the other characters and the town in another book. Ms. Hansen has penned such a magniSicent story that the only sad thing is that it has to end!

LGBTQ+

A Laughing Matter of Pain

Cynthia Hilston

Narrator: Brian Callanan

mistakes before he starts appreciating his life. Harry is a tortured soul who eventually Sinds his way to a decent life. The tension varies as Harry navigates life, as does the pacing. However, his conSlicts are crystal clear!

Brian Callanan does a Sine job narrating this story. His characters each have a distinctive voice and his consistency is notable. There aren’t any obvious production errors or extraneous noises in the recording. This story is welladapted as an audiobook.

his time at Auschwitz, he will reexamine what remains of his humanity and Sind the answer to one that plagues almost all people: was his life enough? Did his work make a difference? Could he have done something better?

“Primo” is an emotional and powerful experience that reminds one of the depth of the human soul and what it takes to break it. Forever haunted by his past life in the concentration camp

HISTORICAL: As this audiobook begins in the 1920’s in Cleveland, Ohio, it’s pretty clear there will be a reckoning in Harry Rechthart’s future. He is Silled with jealousy of his older brother, with hurt at being ignored and misjudged by his family, and with laughter to cover his pain. He falls in with a crowd that deSinitely doesn’t want him to be his best self. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion: it’s going to happen… It’s just not clear how bad it’s going to be. It turns out pretty terrible for Harry. However, the story has redeeming qualities, and Harry gets the chance for redemption after his reckoning. He does so admirably, for a time. Then his life is thrown into chaos again, and he traipses down the poor-choice path once again, and ignores his original family for many years. His relationship with his new family suffers, until he pulls himself up and starts making better choices again.

Harry isn’t always a very likable protagonist. He gets lost in the bottle often, and runs from pain instead of facing it. He loves his family, but makes really poor decisions regarding their future. His Sirst girlfriend, Kat, is toxic, but Harry is unable to see it. Unfortunately, he is a protagonist that has to make a lot of stupid

Primo: A Stage Play: Auschwitz through the lens of time

Ed Davidson

Narrator: Abby Craden, Jay Aaseng, Jeremy Cohen, Violinist, Mark McClain Wilson, Mark P. Robinson, and P.J. Ochlan

Auschwitz, during World War II, Primo Sinds himself reliving certain events in full on his last day of life. Mr. Davidson captures this beautifully, seamlessly interweaving Slashbacks with Primo’s present. A rollercoaster of emotions takes place over the course of this play. Each trip back in time is impactful and well chosen. Some are disturbing, reminding listeners of the horrors of the holocaust. Listeners will be left thinking about “Primo” long after it is over and will leave them questioning and reevaluating their own lives.

HISTORICAL: In 1987, famous author and holocaust survivor, Primo Levy fell down the stairs of his home and unfortunately passed away. That last day of his life is the beginning of this powerful stage play: a Sictitious reimagining of the Sinal moments of his life. Take a trip through time as Primo re-lives some of the most terrible experiences of his life. Through this voyage, particularly

All of the actors present have strong performances! Each connects with their character and the events taking place in the scene, adding to the drama and intensity of the emotions they are experiencing. The whole production is well timed, having the perfect length for the content and good pacing. There’s some light music incorporated with scene breaks that help build the atmosphere, and a few stage sound effects are used tastefully that add to the fullness of the production.

This is a great listen for lovers of history!

Audiobooks
107

Azabu Getaway (Detective Hiroshi series, Book 5)

Michael Pronko

Narrator: Peter Berkrot

satisfying and thrilling experience!

Peter Berkrot gives a strong performance. The narrative sections are his strongest. With his acting, the slower portions of the book keep moving as he commands the pacing of the tale. His portrayal of Detective Hiroshi is excellent! The male side characters are better performed than the female ones. There are a lot of accents and a lot of character changes that are performed seemingly with ease. Tone and quality of the recording are well produced. A great listen!

SUSPENSE/THRILLER: Tokyo

detective Hiroshi Shimizu Sinds himself in unfamiliar territory when one of Japan’s highest respected and ranked executives is murdered. Just as he’s making progress, another murder takes place and two girls are kidnapped in a seemingly unrelated case. The further he investigates the incident, the more he realizes that this might not be true. As he dives deeper into the hidden parts of Japan’s Sinancial world, he discovers that world is much darker than it seems and it extends beyond their borders.

Full of suspense, “Azabu Getaway” is the detective novel, mystery readers crave! A solid procedural novel that is part of the Detective Hiroshi series, readers can enjoy it as a standalone adventure.

Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is a dependable character that is easy to like. There are moments in the story where the Slow is a little slow. Mr. Pronko uses that pacing to help build the ambiance of the book. There is great attention to detail both in how Detective Hiroshi goes about his case as well as the cultures present in Japan. The story shines the most in its layers of details that teleport readers to Tokyo. Overall, it is a

This is the perfect story for a dark night, cozied up in blankets, when one is in need of amysterious adventure!

again many years later, while arguing over a stolen necklace above a Silthy bar. Both are carrying ‘scars’ from that earlier meeting. However, Leona recognizes Aldwin, but he doesn’t recognize her. And Leona is a strong and capable protagonist, as is Aldwin, but she needs to keep her identity secret. Nevertheless, the intensity of these opening scenes sets the tone for the rest of this well-thought out story.

The tension and pacing are perfect throughout this audiobook. Fair warning: this story is difSicult to pause once started. The story is intense; dangerous people abound and appear in unexpected places. The world-building descriptions are vivid and easily imagined, with villains who are truly vile, and with good characters who are wonderful people that listeners can really enjoy. The conSlicts and motivations are established early, and the protagonists don’t stray from these. Unfortunately, the villains are motivated by greed and revenge, and switch allegiances readily depending on who can provide the best reward…

A Knight's Temptation (Knight’s Series Book 3)

Catherine Kean

Narrator: James Gillies

HISTORICAL: This audiobook starts with an intense and heartwrenching prologue that pulls readers into the story unequivocally. The story begins in Moydenshire, England, in 1183, where Lady Leona Ransley and Aldwin Treynarde meet for the Sirst time as children. Something unfortunate happens that day that affects both of these protagonists for years to come. They meet

James Gillies does a marvelous job navigating the various character voices required within this audiobook. His voice is delightfully smooth and easy to listen to, while remaining true to each character he is expressing. His accents are believable and he conveys the story realistically. The sound quality is excellent on this recording, and there aren’t any unexpected noises or obvious mistakes within the recording. This audiobook is a true delight for any lover of historical and/or medieval romance!

Audiobooks
Chelsea Andersen
108

Articles inside

Science Fiction article cover image

Science Fiction

14min
pages 100-101, 103-105, 107-108
Suspense/Thriller article cover image

Suspense/Thriller

3min
pages 97, 99
Suspense/Thriller article cover image

Suspense/Thriller

2min
page 96
Suspense/Thriller article cover image

Suspense/Thriller

2min
page 95
New Adult article cover image

New Adult

1min
pages 93, 95
Young Adult article cover image

Young Adult

1min
page 93
Anthology article cover image

Anthology

1min
pages 92-93
Fantasy/Urban Fantasy article cover image

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

7min
pages 87, 89-90
Fantasy/Urban Fantasy article cover image

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
page 86
Fantasy/Urban Fantasy article cover image

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

2min
page 85
Contemporary article cover image

Contemporary

13min
pages 75, 77-79, 81-83, 85
Contemporary article cover image

Contemporary

2min
page 74
Historical article cover image

Historical

10min
pages 68-71, 73
Historical article cover image

Historical

2min
page 66
Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings: article cover image

Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings:

15min
pages 58-61, 63-65
C.F. Francis article cover image

C.F. Francis

11min
pages 49-50, 52-56
Right Cover, Wrong Book article cover image

Right Cover, Wrong Book

6min
pages 45-47
The Three Rs article cover image

The Three Rs

4min
pages 41-43, 45
Rising Star Spotlight Quinn Avery article cover image

Rising Star Spotlight Quinn Avery

5min
pages 37-39
Beta Readers, Part 2: How Authors Can Maximize Their Value article cover image

Beta Readers, Part 2: How Authors Can Maximize Their Value

7min
pages 32-35
The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Writing Conferences article cover image

The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Writing Conferences

5min
pages 28-30
“I Like the Movie, But The Book Was Better”… Or Is It? article cover image

“I Like the Movie, But The Book Was Better”… Or Is It?

7min
pages 21-25
Lexi Ryan article cover image

Lexi Ryan

24min
pages 11-13, 15-19
Contributors article cover image

Contributors

1min
page 9
Editors Note article cover image

Editors Note

2min
pages 8-9
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