June 2023 Magazine

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Table of Contents 10 T.A. White: Rich & layered Science Fiction & Fantasy Romance that leaves readers breathless! 23 Is It Real? S.L. Carpenter 38 Audiobooks: An Explosion of Sound, PT. 2 Maria V. Snyder In Search of a Book Hangover: Sarah McEachron The Agony of Reviews! Becky Flade 28 33
June 2023 Historical: Contemporary: Paranormal: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy: Young Adult: New Adult: Novella: Suspense/Thriller: Inspirational: Science Fiction: Mystery: LGBTQ+ Audiobooks: Other: 56 66 73 Reviews: 42 46 53 99 101 When Everything Changes, Find the Right Information: Tamara Cribley RONE Awards Finalists! 75 78 Path of the Gods: Finale! Julie L. York 79 81 83 86 89 92 97

Our Staff:

Publisher: Editor-in-Chief

TJ MacKay

Executive Editor:

Katy Nielsen

Copy Editors: Julie York, Marc Joseph

Special Publications Editors: Sarah McEachron, Ryan Jo Summers

Social Media:

Laura Trujillo, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick


S.L. Carpenter,Tamara Cribley, Julie L. York


Ralph Conley


Elle J. Rossi, Rachel Rossano

RONE Awards Coordinator: Sarah McEachron

Technical Editors: Gabriella Sawyer


Chelsea Anderson, Belinda Wilson, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick, Tricia Hill, Viola Robbins, Emerson Matthews, Sarah E. McEachron, Roslynn Ernst, Carey Sullivan, Victoria Zumbrum, Austen Grace, Tonya MatheniaJoan Lai, Cara Cieslak, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Piper Valentine, Ruth Lynn Ritter, Valerie Vicars, Leah Neale, Stephanie Bell, Rika Chandra, Amy Rubottom, Simone Dover, Nicole Harlow

*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.

Editor’s Note

vastly - and quickly - changing landscape, but we haven't actually done an overhaul. Sadly, the newest technical systems have now outdated us and are no longer compatible with what we have. Unfortunately, we can’t continue using and running on the old system while upgrading to a completely new system!

That means we have had to pause submissions and further publication while we finagle, update, innovate, and improve your experience with the magazine we all have grown to love and depend on.

In the meantime, the RONE awards competition will continue as the finalists are announced (in this issue!) and the judges will be receiving their books to read soon!

Many of you who have visited the InD’tale website (where ALL our content can be read!) may have noticed a never-before-seen disclaimer - specifically on our Review Submissions page - that states we are not accepting submissions at this time because of system maintenance. This month celebrates our 12th year of publishing (Woohoo!) and yet we have never changed the basic system that runs everything around here. Yes, there have been minor updates over the years, and we have done our best to keep abreast of the

So… We ask for your patience for the next couple of months. We absolutely adore every single one of you, and NEVER take your support - and patience - for granted! Please keep checking in, however. No changes take forever!

Smiles, TJ Mackay

Becky Flade

A city girl, born and bred, author, Becky Flade tends to set her stories in and around southeast Pennsylvania, or at least has a character or two from the area. She wrote her first book in kindergarten and even then, her style leaned toward suspense. In addition to being a mother and grandmother, she works as a legal professional when she’s not writing, reading, or dancing. And Becky’s proud to tell people she’s making her own dreams come true…one happily ever after at a time.


Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder started her career as a meteorologist, only to find herself writing her New York Times Bestselling Study Series, which in turn gave way to many more chart-topping book series and a number of hobbies and experiences in the name of research, from glass blowing to fencing to Karate to travel. This remarkable author has visited all 7 continents and 71 countries so far! On top of other hobbies such as volleyball, photography, reading, and cello, she is writing several amazing series from fantasy to sci-fi

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

Julie L. York S.L. Carpenter

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

A 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.

Sarah McEachron

T.A. White

Rich and layered Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance that leaves readers breathless!

Don’t be surprised if the name, T.A. White, is not on everyone’s tongue. To those who don’t read sci-Ii or fantasy, T.A.’s quiet, unassuming presence belies the incredible drive and talent hidden just underneath. Anyone who loves a great futuristic or slightly fantastical story, however, is deIinitely familiar with her deftly written, expertly nuanced, and unapologetically addictive stories! Each come with just enough romance to keep the heart sighing - all while gripping readers and bringing them back for more. In person, T.A. is just as straightforward and honest as her characters, with a hint of humor and a taste for the off-beat. She has led an extremely interesting life, which leaves her as nuanced as her books, and just as interesting as her characters! Read on and you’ll agree.

InD: Before we get started, when an author says yes to an interview, I always try to read as many books as possible... I had already read every single book you have written! I don't think I have ever had that happen before.

TAW: I didn’t realize there was so many of them until my sister bragged about me to someone and told them I’d written 20 books. I said that couldn’t be right. We ended up counting them up, and sure enough, it really was close to 20.

InD: Me owning that number says how much I love your books! Let’s get to know you a bit better. You were raised in a military family, right?

TAW: I was. Both my mom and dad were in the Marines when they met and married in Okinawa, Japan. We traveled around a lot in my childhood. I was born in Tacoma, WA, before my dad got stationed in Okinawa again. From there we went to North Carolina before returning to Okinawa for a Iinal time. When my dad was about to get out of the military, he and my mom moved us back to Ohio. I was probably 12 and in the 6th grade when that happened.

InD: What was that like growing up in Japan?

TAW: We lived on a military base so we still had that American inIluence, but my parents wanted us to get as much cultural experience as we could, so they would take us off base and we would tour museums and explore the country. It was a unique experience that I don’t think a lot of people get to take advantage of. It's a shame because living in another country and experiencing a different culture gives you a different

perspective on everything we have here. I love it here in America, but I also loved it in Okinawa. It was one of my favorite places to live.

InD: What was one of the biggest differences you remember that you liked or didn't like?

TAW: Well, for one thing, it was warm. Okinawa is a tropical island so we spent a lot of our time at the beach or by a pool. I didn't really understand what snow was until we moved back here. We got to experience the food there as well. It opened me up to other cuisines whereas maybe I would not have been so adventurous on the culinary side if I had tried it at an older age.

We visited a lot of the festivals, like the cherry blossom festival, every year. We got to watch the Eisa drummers perform several times, which was always amazing. InD: As a child with parents in the military, did you enjoy the experience of moving a lot? What was your outlook on that?

TAW: No. I remember when we moved back to Okinawa I was very upset with my parents, and my mom looked at me and said, “One of these days, you will thank me for this experience.” Sure enough, when we got back, I realized how blessed we were. It was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. The learning opportunities were amazing.

InD: When you came back at 12 years old, was it a big culture shock?

TAW: It was. When we moved back, my grandparents actually picked us up and drove us back to their house, which was like two hours away. My dad looked at us


and said, “Right now, we’re driving faster and traveling farther than we ever did in Okinawa.” That blew my mind. It took a long time to fully comprehend how spread out things were here. School was different too. In Okinawa, I went to school on a military base. I was in 6th grade which there was considered part of elementary school, but here it was middle school. I had to go from class to class during the periods. I remember being so scared because I had never done that before. I was suddenly thrown into switching classes. It was like being in high school, which I wasn’t prepared for.

We had what was called “informal" learning in Columbus, which none of us had ever heard about before. It wasn’t the way they taught in my last school so that was a little bit tough, but the teachers were great. They were very accepting and the kids were very welcoming so there was a plus side to it too. I got to be the new kid who’d lived in a different country and whose parent was also a Marine.

InD: You would have to be good at making new friends because you were moving all the time.

TAW: I am terrible at making friends! Making friends when you live on a military base is much easier. Usually, those living on base all have kids. The neighbors to my left and right both had kids my age, so you just became friends with whomever was on your block.

But when you come back to the States, the kids are not all located in one place. The street we moved to didn’t have a single kid my age. I was used to roaming the neighborhood with my buddies and going to the playground and doing all those things. But here, the only friends were the ones you made in school. I was a super awkward kid who preferred the company of books. I didn't know what to do to make friends. Luckily a couple of kids in my class adopted me and showed me the ropes, but for a couple of months, it was pretty lonely.

InD: Have you always loved to read?

TAW: I’d like to say yes, but the truth is I actually had trouble learning to read. I was born in September which meant I started school early. My brain just didn’t develop as fast as my peers’. My dad would sit with me every night with Ilashcards and he’d ask me what each word was. Every time I’d answer, “I don’t

know”, Then he would go back to the beginning and I still wouldn’t know. Part of the problem was that I just wasn’t interested. I’ve always been kind of hard-headed, and if I didn’t want to learn, my brain put up a block and refused to take in information. I was also a very active child who wanted to be outside all the time. I didn't want to concentrate. That all changed when I was in the 3rd grade for the second time in Okinawa. My parents had held me back when they realized I was having trouble. The school had this reading day where you came to school for half a day and all you did was read, then you went home and the teachers had a work day for themselves.

I took a Nancy Drew book with me because my dad had bought it thinking I would like it. He’d really enjoyed The Hardy Boys and thought it might get me interested. I read the Iirst chapter of that book, and by the time they released us, I went home and asked my parents to help me read it. After that, I kind of never stopped.

InD: You said you were in the 3rd grade at that time?

TAW: Yes, but that wasn’t the beginning of my writing career oddly enough. I started trying to write stories in the 1st grade. I couldn't write well so I’d ask the older kids to write the stories down for me while I dictated them. Everybody would always lose interest long before I did, and I would get upset. I remember one time, in the 1st or 2nd grade, there was a ghost story I wanted to tell. This older girl—she was probably only a year or two older, but at that time she seemed way older than me—knew how to write and said she’d be my partner.

We spent the rest of the day at camp writing my story down. The next day she wanted to go play with the other kids and didn’t want to be my writing partner anymore. That day, it just happened to be my turn to pass out the cookies, and I passed them to everybody but her. She complained to the teachers, and they told me no matter how upset I was, I had to give her a cookie – so I did… by throwing it at her head. I admit I was a bit of a brat, but at the time I felt like my world was falling because my writing partner had deserted me and I’d never get to tell my great story. Sadly, I was not allowed to pass out cookies after that.


InD: That is such a wonderful story! You had such passion for storytelling at a young age.

TAW: I come from a storytelling family. My dad’s family and my mom's father always liked to tell tall tales at the dinner table. One of my dad’s mottos was actually “Never let the truth interfere with a good story.” Maybe that’s why I gravitated to Iiction. They’re the kind of people who would tell these random and long stories. Then they’d get to the punchline and everyone would always chuckle. I always wanted to do that. Even as a very small child, I’d wait until the other kids had deserted the table and I’d just sit and listen to their stories. My grandmother used to say I had an old soul because of it.

InD: Did you incorporate any of these stories into your writing?

TAW: Some of them. Not so much the ones from when I was a kid, but more from later in my life. For instance, my sister used to drag me on this backpacking trip every year. One of the years we had to camp where there was high bear activity. Late at night, we heard rustling and someone started yelling “bear!" Everyone came out of their tents, waving their arms to try to scare this bear off.

We still don't know if there was actually a bear, but I have that experience earmarked in my head for future use! I could use it in a type of adventure story where people are panicking about a creature they're not certain exists, then they Iind out they were panicking over nothing.

I tend to take experiences and Iilter them. My Broken Land series is actually based on a story a fellow service member in Afghanistan had told me about a patrol he’d gone on. They were supposed to visit a village at daybreak. The plan was to camp on top of a mountain nearby and then walk down later, but when they got to the top of the mountain, they realized they were on the wrong mountain! It made me think, “Wow, what would it have been like before we had maps? Or what if there was a reason our maps couldn’t work? How would someone like that navigate the world?”

InD: That was really interesting! You take everyday stories and turn them into amazing tales! It's just the coolest thing. Even so young and through high

school, you always wanted to tell stories. When did you decide to write those stories yourself?

TAW: I’ve wanted to be a writer since the day my mom and dad came to an open house at school. My mom read something I had written, and at the end of it, she looked at me and said, “It looks like we’re going to have a writer in the family.”

I latched on to that. I’d never put into words what I wanted until that moment. It felt very right, and I felt like it was a purpose for my life. I kind of deIined myself by thinking everything I experienced was in preparation for becoming a story teller.

InD: That is amazing. Since that childhood revelation, have you always written your stories down?

TAW: I was always great at starting stories, but not so much at Iinishing them. I remember—probably in the 5th grade—I wrote a story with a friend about a woman who could talk to dogs. Unfortunately, while we were still writing it, my friend’s parents rotated back to the States. We tried to send the little journal we were writing in back and forth, but in those days, it was done through snail mail. Our intrepidness didn't last more than a couple of months.

I didn’t actually Iinish my Iirst story until my senior year of high school. We had to write a senior thesis, and it had to have a written component. It only had to be ten pages, but I had the brainstorm of “Why not write an entire book?” So I did, and it was terrible. I think it took my dad Iive months to get through the whole thing. When he Iinished, he told me he thought the beginning was extremely slow, but that he saw a lot of potential.

I had a couple more false starts after that. It wasn’t until I was in Afghanistan that I Iinally wrote my second book, which would go on to be my Iirst published book. It was one of those situations where you’re locked on a FOB, what’s called a Forward Operating Base, where there’s a very small area where you can be active in.

You go to work, then you come back to your tiny room where you have hours to just sit and think. You’re a hostage to the entertainment you can Iind through your computer. But there are only so many books you can read and TV shows you can watch before you need something else.


So I thought, why not write a book? Only this time, instead of throwing it in a bin afterwards, have it edited and publish it. That’s how I wrote the Iirst half of “Dragon Ridden”. After that, I came home and Iinished it before eventually publishing it.

InD: That's perfect! What prompted you to become a soldier yourself?

TAW: Well, my parents were Marines, my grandfather was in the Navy, my dad's brothers were in different services, and my sister had joined Army ROTC.

InD: So it's kind of like a family business?

TAW: Yes, it is, but I’d also graduated in 2008 when the housing market crashed. I had a lot of trouble Iinding a job. My mom came to me and said, “You're either joining the military or you're getting a job. If you join the military, there's a chance you can do public affairs. You’ll get a lot of experiences that you can use in your books later. I don’t care which of those you pick, but you have to do something.” So I joined the Army.

InD: How old were you at that time?

TAW: I was 23.

InD: Before that, you had various jobs?

TAW: Yes. My Iirst ofIicial job was at the Columbus Zoo. I did that through high school and college. I was a resident assistant, and I worked at a swimming pool. When I got out of college I worked as a camp counselor, but I was struggling to Iind my way, and my mom knew that the military had really helped her. I’m not very assertive and she thought the military would give me the tools I needed to navigate life. It would also help me mature.

I hate to say it, but she was right. It was probably the best decision I could have made. The military doesn't accept excuses. For instance, if you get sunburned, it’s your fault for not putting on sunscreen. They don't accept that you failed something. They make you take a look at yourself and see why you failed, so next time you’ll do better. That kind of applies to everything in writing, as well. You may not be the greatest writer, so how can you make yourself better? They teach you that when you are faced with a seemingly insurmountable task, you break it into smaller pieces. You complete each one and get to the Iinish line that way. Or in my world—to the end of the book you’re writing. You may not be as successful as you wanted, so what can you do to become more successful? You read the reviews. The critiques always kind of sting, but you can learn something from the bad along with the good. The military helped teach me all that.

InD: What did you major in college?

TAW: I went into Journalism because I saw it as basically telling a story, but I had forgotten I am not a people person. As a result, I was terrible at Iinding subjects to interview. That was very intimidating for me. The military was great for that. In

public affairs you write a lot of press releases which require you to interview soldiers. They were obliged to talk to me because I was also a soldier, and I was there under orders.

InD: When you were over there and started to write, what inspired you to say, “I’m going to write about dragons”?

TAW: I had the "PathIinder/ Broken Land" idea, but I didn't know how to start it. The world I wanted to create felt too complicated for a Iirst book. As a result, I started writing a scene based on a dream I had. The premise was that I was stuck somewhere. Time had passed and the world had changed, so I wrote that scene… then immediately in the next scene. I had this odd idea that pirates were essential to the story. From there I also added dragons, and many more bits and bobs until I got to a Iinished product.

My fans always asked if I planned everything out in that book, and I'm like, “No. I started at one place, and then the story went in a really weird direction, so I kind of mashed it all together.”

InD: How did it do once you Tinished and published it?

TAW: It’s safe to say that it failed on every level. I sold less than 100 books my Iirst year. It did terrible.


I gave away more e-book copies than I sold, but by then, I was already halfway through writing "PathIinder’s Way". Unfortunately, I got stuck with that book and I couldn't Iigure out how to Iinish it. In the end, I walked away from writing entirely. Writing takes a lot of time. You have to sacriIice time spent with friends and family, and I wasn’t making any money, so I took a break for about a year. This was shortly before I met my soon-to-be husband. Right around the time I started dating him, I decided to rethink what I was doing and see if I could modify some things to make the story work. I liked the world and the characters I had created, so I went back to the beginning and re-worked it. I was just starting to edit it when I met him, and I had to balance spending time with this new boyfriend and working out my dream of writing. I was meeting him three or four days a week and spending the majority of the weekends working on “PathIinder’s Way”.

InD: Were you still in the military at that time?

TAW: No, I was out.

InD: Where were you working at that time then?

TAW: I was working in marketing for a sort of credit bureau. I took the job so I could eat, but writing was my passion. I published “PathIinder’s Way” right when I had just taken a promotion I thought was going to be great. Sadly, it ended up being something I totally had not expected and involved no writing at all. I knew it was a mistake.

By that time, “PathIinder’s Way” had come out, but the book kind of sank into the ether. I remember being in Denver for a work thing and checking my dashboard to see how many books had sold—it showed I had seven sales. At the time I was super excited because that was the most I’d had outside of a release week. "Dragon Ridden" still hadn’t done anything (and this is important, I promise). The next day I got four more sales. Fast forward a couple of days, and there were 20 sales in a single day. I’m like, “That's amazing!” Then I noticed that “Dragon Ridden” was beginning to sell. People would read “PathIinder’s Way” and they liked it so much they would go buy "Dragon Ridden". I’d abandoned that series, but requests for a second book were starting to roll in.

I couldn’t say no. As a result, I ended up writing another book in the Dragon Ridden series. And because I am a glutton for punishment, I started a third series—my Aileen Travers series. That started doing well too. So all of a sudden, I had fans for all three series, and they were all like, “You can't abandon my series!”.

That’s how I ended up writing three series concurrently. In retrospect, it was a horrible idea.

InD: Which you are still doing!

TAW: I know. [sighing as both laugh]

InD: I have read all three of them and I am one of the worst for, “When's the next one coming out?”

TAW: The thing is, once I start something I want to Iinish it, and I want to Iinish it to my speciIications, so even though I had all three series out, the Broken Land was my best selling series. A smart person would have abandoned the other two, but I couldn't do that because I was still attached to them. I felt I had to do them justice.

I’m currently whittling down the number of series I’m writing. It has taken quite a while to get here because I keep getting ideas for new stories in those worlds that I want to explore. Every time I think I’m ready to say goodbye to those characters, they draw me in with the possibility of a new adventure.

InD: I think one of your biggest gifts is your characters, and readers get attached to the characters. I can see how that put you in a big can of worms because you have fabulous characters in all three series, and readers want to know what happens next, so you end up having to juggle them.

TAW: Right. Even when you reach the end of a book, you can still have questions about the characters inside the book. There are spin-off series I would love to do. Sometimes a side character that doesn’t have a lot of screen time will do something that intrigues me. I’ll sit back and think, “I really want to know more about this person. What’s going through her mind and what’s her history? Where does her journey lead?” That happens with all of my books. I’ll get to the end of the series and think, “This other person had nothing to do in 90% of the series, but they’re really interesting to me. I want to see where they're going.” InD: You did that in the Broken Land series. Eva was a very interesting character, but had very little page space.

TAW: Yes, she came out of nowhere. Her character wasn’t planned at all. She just walked onto the page and I was like, “Oh you’re an interesting person. Who are you? What are you about?” Caden was someone I found very intriguing as well, but he was underutilized. When I started writing Eva's story after

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I Iinished Shea and Fallon’s, I realized those two make sense together.

With Shea and Fallon, I had resolved their story but made the world so big there were so many other adventures in that world that could be explored. I’ve always thought that every character has their own story to tell. For instance, Shea is a pathIinder who gets disconnected from her people and picked up by this barbarian horde. She ends up falling in love with the warlord. Events unfold from her perspective, but if you told that same story of Fallon conquering the Lowlands from anyone else's perspective, it would be a totally different story. It’s why I wanted to tell Eva's story—because it was something only she could tell. InD: And it works perfectly. Like you say, it’s the same world but from a different perspective, and it's really incredibly interesting. So you have got the Broken Land and Dragon Ridden that are Fantasy, then Aileen Travers, which is kind of a Mystery.

TAW: Yes, it's kind of a Mystery Vampire Thriller. I refuse to close that series, even though it will never be my bestseller. There’s a lot of fun in that series. I grew up loving Urban Fantasy, so I think that’s part of it. InD: And then the mega-seller, The Firebird series! I want to talk about that because for so many years, Sci-Fi just kind of had its own little niche and its own little following of people, and I wasn't one of them because it can be very technical, but your Firebird Chronicles! Somehow, you made that genre more human, more relatable. What do you think made that book and series just explode?

TAW: A lot of people think that Sci-Fi is exclusively techno babble. They expect hardcore Sci-Fi or something really highbrow. Honestly, I’ve read those books too and enjoy them, but when I write or read a book, the thing I identify most with are the characters. The thing Firebird does really well is that it focuses on the characters and less on the science behind everything.

It’s kind of like a cell phone. I know it works but I don't know exactly how. You just trust the readers to follow

you and that they don't need you to break everything down to the minutest detail. I think that’s part of it. People really relate to the characters, especially that of Kira and Graydon. Their connection is part of why people keep reading—that and Kira’s relationships with the other characters in that world as well. The fact that you have aliens running around is secondary. It’s interesting, but what you really focus on is the fact Kira thought she was human—granted, a genetically modiIied one—but still human. Then she realizes she’s actually an alien.

Her story as an outsider, someone returning to her people for the Iirst time and having to Iind her place, is extremely relatable. That’s what most readers want— a character they can follow and root for.

As to why the series works so well, I’m not really sure. It just does.

InD: Yes, it took off like wildTire! I also contemplated why, and think it’s like you say; it’s character, not science driven, which brings in mainstream readers. On top of that, we all are interested in what is out there in space; it’s just that most of the Science Fiction community are more technical than what many of us like.

TAW: Yes. My favorite author growing up was Anne McCaffrey. She wrote “The Dragon Riders of Pern” and a couple of other series. I think that's where I learned that from. You have to focus on the people and the relationships between them. Everything else is Ilavoring. She also showed me that you can blend genres. Dragons are High Fantasy but they can be in space books. You can have these really magical types of things, as long as you have a technical reason for them being there.

InD: I am impressed and amazed at the creativity of all the things you come up with. How do you imagine all of this stuff?

TAW: With Firebird, I started dreaming that book before we moved to Okinawa. I remember writing the Iirst two chapters, but the characters were very different then than they are now.

I also pull from the world around me. Many of the monsters I create are actually based on earth life forms. There are some really weird things in our oceans!

A lot of times I think, “That's kind of cool. Maybe I can incorporate that somewhere,” then I’ll just put something weird on the paper and Iine tune it later. That’s actually about half of what I do—throw something on paper. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

InD: So did “Rules of Redemption” do well right from the start? Or did it take a while?

TAW: Yes, it did well. I wrote that concurrently with the last Broken Lands book. My husband and I were heading for our honeymoon when I sent it to my beta

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readers. I asked them, “Please don't tell anybody about this book because I'm not sure I'm going to release it anytime soon.”

At that point, I was way inside my head and I kind of hated the book. I was questioning myself, wondering if it was any good or just plain awful. In the end, I knew I needed to give it to somebody else to get their opinion.

I sent it off the day before we left to go on our honeymoon. When we landed and got to the resort, I had a message from one of them saying, “Please, publish this now! Please write the next book now. I will do anything you want. If you write the next book now, I’ll even send you food for a year!”

I asked her, “Did you have any edits?” and she said, “No. Please just give me the next book! It is perfect as is.”

The rest weren’t as quick to respond, but when they did, they said they also loved it. The book wasn’t like anything that they’d read before.

InD: I agree with your beta readers. When you Tinish “Rules of Redemption” you want the next one immediately! It wasn’t left with a clifThanger either; the story is just that good.

TAW: Yes, I’ll resolve the overall plot, but I’ll put a little hook in the end. You’re satisIied, but there’s always that one piece of information that's going to drive you crazy until the next book.

InD: That's exactly right. I have always felt that is the best way of ending a book within a series. You need to resolve things so we're happy when we close the

book, but we really want to know what happens next. That is when a book is perfectly done. TAW: I think that’s the big reason why people like that series so much. Things are resolved—for now—but there’s always that hook at the end that still needs answering. They hate it, but they love it. It brings them back. InD: I think we just connect enough with the characters that we really want to know what happens next. I mean, you can take two stinking years to write the next book. I think that is really rotten of you.

TAW: It used to be only a year or less. I think between the “Age of Deception” and “Threshold of Annihilation” it was only eight months, and people were still saying, “It's been over a year.” I was like, “No, I’m tracking it. It’s only been eight months.”

The longer I’ve been writing, the pickier I get with it. “Rules of Redemption” was written in four months, and that was mainly on the weekends. Now, it takes me six to eight months to write a book in that series because they're really long, and they’re complicated to write. There’s so much thinking that goes into them.

I know the delay is kind of mean, and I wish I could really focus on that series. I think after the latest Aileen Travers book, that’s what I'll be doing.

But at the same time, I think giving people a cool down period actually helps to keep them invested. It gives them time to think and reread and get super focused. By the time the next book comes, they

devour it and the process starts again.

InD: Or you forget about it because it’s been two years since you read the last one. I was so excited when the last installment Tinally published, but when I began reading, I was like, “Wait a minute, I don't remember what was happening!” So I guess I did go back and reread… [both laughing] Do you have books that are harder or easier to write than others?

TAW: The Aileen Travers series is the easiest to write because it's based in the real world. It’s set in Columbus, Ohio. I live in the city, which means I can use the landmarks and the history I'm already familiar with. My other series are all Fantasy or Sci-Fi, and the settings are all places that only exist in my head. So not only do I have to Iigure out where my characters are going and why, but I also have to construct an entire setting and culture from scratch. I put a lot of thought into the cultures I create so when people read, they don't just get the surface level, they will sense that there's something deeper beneath it. Some series are easier than others. Firebird is really hard because of the complicated situations I put my characters into and having to Iigure out their motivation in a creative way to get what I want

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while satisfying the reader and also leaving them surprised. That takes a lot of brain power.

InD: I can absolutely understand that. Are there any characters you personally can really relate to?

TAW: I usually relate to most of the characters because I spend a lot of time in their heads. My characters all have parts of my personality. Shea isn't so good with her words and relies more on actions. There was a time in my life where I didn't feel the need to explain myself to the people around me, and I had problems because of it.

Aileen is a combat vet who returns from Afghanistan and gets bitten by a vampire and becomes a vampire herself. She comes across as very angry in the Iirst book. I didn't notice that until people started commenting in their reviews. Then I realized there's a reason why she’s so angry. It’s because when I came back from Afghanistan, I was a little bit rough around the edges and a little bit angry for no reason.

InD: Why were you angry?

TAW: It's a product of the stress, I think. In Afghanistan, we were getting rockets launched at our base every couple of days. My FOB was actually known as Rocket City because of how often it happened. When you live with that 24/7, 365 days a year, your nerves are going to be a little bit strained and a lot of peoples’ stress responses are anger. I wasn’t always angry, but I was quicker to anger. I was more impatient. I used the f-word a lot. You have to reacclimatize and that’s pretty normal, but it took me a while to recognize the behavior in myself. Aileen actually helped me do that.

InD: That is really, really interesting. Do you still enjoy the process of writing?

TAW: It depends on the day. There are days when my Iingers Ily over the keys and I think, “This is the best job in the world!” And then, some days I'm like, “Why did I pick this career?” With what I do, I sometimes feel like I'm pushing the boulder up a hill. Sometimes that hill is really scenic. Sometimes that hill is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. It’s a lovehate relationship.

InD: I think every other author needs to hear that! Somebody who's very successful has “those” days too. Does your husband read any

of your books?

TAW: He hasn’t read a single book. Two of those books are even dedicated to him! A lot of people comment about that, but I'm actually kind of relieved. Reading is so personal. I know I hate when people try to pressure me into reading a genre or book that doesn’t Iit my interests. What usually is a joy becomes torture. There are a lot of ways to support someone that don’t involve reading the actual book. When we Iirst moved in together, I remember him coming home and I was just lying on the couch because I'd had a bad writing day and there weren’t any words on the paper. I was in a really bad mood because of it.

He left on an errand. When he came back, he brought me Diet Coke (my favorite), chocolate, and Ilowers. When he handed them to me, he said, “You'll get it tomorrow. You always do.” That meant more to me than if he’d read every book I’d ever written. He helps me in so many other important ways. Every time I have an IT issue and I'm about to tear out my hair, he comes in, calms me down, and Iixes it. He's my rock, and the reason I'm able to focus on writing.

At the end of the day, I’m kind of glad he doesn't read them actually. Otherwise, he’d totally think I'm a crazy person. He’d be like, “You really think like this?” [both laughing]

InD: Tell us the story of how you two met…

TAW: It’s a funny story. We’ve actually lived within a couple of miles of each other for a good portion of our lives. In high school, we lived one block from each other. A single street between us separated the school district. As a result, he went to a different school, and we never met. After we went to college, I went into the military and he went to Indiana. He came back at the same time I got out of the military and we both bought places on the same road.

We were two miles from each other, but again, we never met. We both signed up for this online dating thing and he sent me a message that said, “I'm eating sushi while watching Star Trek “Into Darkness”.” I had put both of those things as my favorites in my proIile. When I realized he liked those things too, I thought,

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“This is the guy I want to date!” I had never had a date where I instantly connected with another person like him.

We talked for an hour and we were just supposed to get drinks. After that he was kind of like, “I would love to get another date with you because I think this went well.” I was like, “Absolutely!” And we just kept going from there.

InD: That is so awesome!

TAW: He is totally my opposite, though. He is a much more practical thinker and I am much more creative. We work well together. He's more of a realist, where I am more whimsical. He is very necessary to my process.

InD: I love to do favorites because it's so much fun and you can learn so much about a person. So… your favorite food that’s not a dessert?

TAW: Hmmm, I have so many favorites. I love tacos but I also love sushi, so tacos and sushi.

InD: What is your favorite dessert?

TAW: Black raspberry ice cream from Graeter’s, or the Brown butter Almond Brittle from Jeni’s. Both are really good.

InD: Okay, your favorite color?

TAW: Green or blue.

InD: Why?

TAW: Well, for the longest time I liked green because I thought it went well with my red hair, then I decided I really liked blue because I just like the color, so now I just like both of them. The rooms in my house are either blue or green.

InD: What is your favorite time of day?

TAW: Probably evening, around dinner time… or maybe lunch. I am very food motivated. [both laughing]

InD: Do you have a favorite place to be?

TAW: Home. I really like being home. I like going places, but my husband will tell you when we go on vacation for three days or more, on our way back I’ll spend the entire journey going, “I can't wait to be home. I can't wait to see my cat. I can't wait to sleep in

my own bed and be with my own things!” I just like home.

InD: Do you have a favorite book or movie?

TAW: I don't really have favorite books, but I do have favorite authors. Ilona Andrews is one of my favorites. She actually gave me a big boost when the Iirst Firebird had just come out. She reviewed "PathIinder’s Way" on her blog and contacted me afterwards. That made the books blow up even further. I had been doing well beforehand, but I started to do really well after she mentioned me. They say don't meet your heroes, but I’ve had a great experience. She's my hero, and she's pretty awesome.

InD: It is awesome to meet your heroes when they live up to your expectations, and she does.

TAW: I love the fact that she uses her blog to give exposure to other authors who may not be as big as her, and she does it with all of the genres. I have found several really great authors through her.

InD: What is the best piece of advice, personal or professional, you have ever been given?

TAW: I would simply say don't give up. Sometimes that ‘fake it till you make it’ actually works. For the longest time, I told people that I was going to be a published author and I was going to do this full time, and I was going to be the next JK Rowling.

Now, I’m not the next JK Rowling and I don't want to be, but I have accomplished my dream. I only did it because I haven’t given up. Perseverance can carry you through where talent may not. I don't consider myself a very talented person, but I do consider myself a very stubborn one. You would understand if you saw where I started with my writing. I am not a natural writer. It has taken a lot to get me here, but I'm here because I refused to quit. I’ve learned something from every set back. Just keep going!

InD: I think that is wonderful and I think everybody needs to hear it.


In Search of a Book Hangover

If a couple is making out in public, most people will generally ignore them. Other than the occasional taunt of “Get a room!”, this kind of PDA is overlooked and generally uninteresting. On the Ilip side, when a couple Iights, onlookers either scatter from outright violence or pull out their cameras to video the argument. The difference between these scenarios is simple.

In the Iirst situation, the couple kissing is of no interest to the audience, provided they keep to themselves. The audience feels no investment in the outcome. However, in the second scenario, the couple is suddenly interesting. The argument reveals details about the couple. He did what? She cheated with whom? They have a kid? He did not just say that! Oooo, she did not just say that! By the time the couple either dukes it out or kisses and makes up, the audience is invested in what happens next!

As Judge Judy and Jerry Springer can attest, it’s the drama between people that keeps viewers coming back. The same is true in reading.

Regardless of whether a book is an Action Adventure or an Erotic Romance, readers need more to the relationships than the physical or they lose interest and forget them. No book becomes a classic just by having great sex scenes. In fact, most of the stories we consider truly great classics ignore the actual sex act, other than by innuendo or as an aside. And the ones that are famous Erotic classics, such as “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and “Lolita” use sex as a

Regardless of whether a book is an Action Adventure or an Erotic Romance, readers need more to the relationships than the physical or they lose interest and forget them.

tool to progress other plot points, and not as the only point.

By the same token, a book full of action with no character development is equally unlikely to attract the reader’s attention. As a child, my father often enjoyed what he called “Shoot 'em up” movies. Good guys and bad guys would have massive gun Iights, insane car chases, both of which utilized a lot of pyrotechnics. The “Fast and the Furious” Iilms are prime examples. However, in a book, where the explosions and gun Iights are less exciting without the soundtrack and balls of Iire, the lack of interesting characters means a lack of book sales. Rather successful “Shoot 'em ups”, such as the Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan, or Jason Bourne books and Iilms, keep readers

coming back because the main characters' story is interesting Iirst, and a great Iighter second.

What does this mean? In simple terms, it means readers want more than Iireworks, sweeping music, explosions, and steamy sex. They want the drama! And there is nothing more dramatic than characters with depth in background, personality, and growth. Book clubs dissect character’s personalities, looks, actions, and choices. They don’t typically dissect the mechanics of the sex scenes, or how often something blows up!

The perfect example of "story driven" is Greek Mythology. The tales of the Greek Gods are riddled with both sex and action, but they capture the imagination because the Greek Gods and the humans they played with have incredibly strong personalities and characters. They are emotional, manipulative, strong, brave, selIish, and passionate. Readers will support or condemn them; they have favorites and write fan factions about them.

One of the most popular versions of Greek Mythology, being told presently, is a webcomic called “Lore Olympus” that puts a modern spin on the Hades and Persephone tale. The myths portrayed in this comic are not particularly new, but the way the artist/author portrays these old tales with both beautiful art and relatable characters draws in millions of readers with only a small percentage of the story focusing on either sex or violence. They are present, and they move the plot at times,


but the story isn’t focused on those things, but rather the actual, emotional relationship between Hades and Persephone, and secondarily, about Hades and his family/co-workers and Persephone and her family/friends .

As a reader and reviewer, the difference between a "This was a fun book." to "I can’t believe I Iinished this book.” to “This book was amazing! I will never forget it!” is how interesting the characters are. Is this character so vivid and believable they could be real? Do I care what happens to these characters enough to think about it long after I turn the last page? Am I invested in the side characters enough to want a book about them as well? And perhaps another additional spin-off series about the next generation after that?

If a book answers these questions more to the positive, then it will build a fan base and readers will be raving about it. And the more readers talk, the more likely a book is to become not only highly rated and discussed, but also remembered and the author returned to. For a book, the greatest blow is to blend in with other books of the same genre, to be undistinguishable and forgettable.

As a reader seeking a book hangover, the number one way to Iind it is to read a book with a vivid story and believable characters, so that not only do we reread the book, but we pre-order everything else the author writes. While such books can be hard to Iind, the reviews can at least point in the right direction, and from there, a new favorite book is just one click away!

Audiobooks: An Explosion of Sound

Part 2

In Part 1 of this series of articles, we established that audiobooks are a viable source of income for authors. In this second part, we’re going to take an indepth look at hybrid audiobook production companies.

These companies help authors Iind narrators. They provide a platform for communication between authors and narrators and will sell the Iinished product to various audiobook distributors. ACX, Findaway Voices, Scribe, and Lantern Audiobooks (formerly ListenUp) are some of the companies offering this service. This article will provide information on using both ACX and Findaway Voices to produce your audiobook.

ACX is Audible/Amazon’s audiobook production company. According to their website, “ACX is a marketplace where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other Rights Holders can connect with

narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other producers capable of producing a Iinished audiobook.” Findaway Voices has a similar goal. From their website, “We help new and established authors reach a global audiobook market fast, and our distribution network opens up a healthy, WIDE sales ecosystem with great alternatives to exclusivity.” Going wide is the term for having your audiobooks available for sale on over 40 retail markets. Findaway Voices also has partnerships with Draft2Digital, Spotify, and Chirp Books.

Both companies need you to set up an author account, which is free. Once Iinished, you add your title. In order to work with ACX, your title must be listed for

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sale or available for pre-orders on Amazon as an eBook or print. This is not necessary for Findaway Voices. However, Findaway Voices won’t be able to distribute your title on Amazon/Audible until there is a matching eBook or print edition.


ACX is very diligent in ensuring authors have the right to produce an audiobook and are the Rights Holders. For example, for my Archives of the Invisible Sword series, I sold my Australian audio rights to Harlequin Australia, but retained them for the rest of the world. When I began the process of getting the Iirst book, "The Eyes of Tamburah" listed, they sent me an email requesting proof that I held the rights. I had to scan the appropriate pages of my contract and send them to ACX before I could move forward. And yes, I had to do it for the next two books in the series as well. Annoying, but also gratifying that they are committed to protecting my rights.

When you enter your title, ACX will display a number of books and you click on yours. Hopefully it’ll be available. When I entered my book, "The City of Zirdai", it came up with my cover, but was unavailable.

Seems another person/company AKA pirate had claimed the title. In that case, you need to contact ACX support and be prepared to be patient. It took them three weeks to Iinally take down the illegal listing.

The next step is to create a title proIile. With ACX in involves entering a synopsis of the book, copyright info, genre, and whether or not you want auditions. If you already have a narrator/producer lined up, then you can go directly to offering that narrator/producer the job. If there is a certain narrator you’d love to do your book, you can send them an offer.

Side note from ACX: “On ACX, you (the author) will contract with one producer. The producer may also be the narrator. However, on occasions, a producer will hire a narrator or multiple narrators on their own to submit auditions. Either way, you work with one entity on ACX to create a retail-ready audiobook.”

On ACX, if you are looking for narrators, you can input details on the narrator’s voice, for example, gender, age, accents, and vocal style, like snarky, raspy, or warm. There’s also a spot for additional information. According to ACX, in order to attract attention for your title, “Creating a robust, speciIic, and accurate Title

ProIile is important. A book description that’s highly descriptive and compelling helps producers get excited about working on your project. Overall, we have two pieces of advice: the more vivid details, the better. Get potential producers engrossed in the subject matter, the plot, and the characters. Include an idea of your marketing plan and sales history in the Title ProIile. A studio professional wants to be part of winning project, so show them strong sales potential.”

Also include any other selling points (like Iirst in a series), any awards you’ve won, Best Seller status (ranked #10 in YA Romantic Fantasy), reviews, and social media reach in that additional information area. At this stage, you’ll also need to upload a 1-3 page audition script, where you can add more information and details about the characters.

You might ask why sales and Best Seller information are important. There are two reasons—one is because many narrators are hoping for projects that will get them good publicity and will build a following for them. The other is that both ACX and Findaway Voices offer a royalty share option with the narrator. With royalty share, the narrator agrees to cover a portion or all of the cost of the

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production in exchange for a share of the royalties. In that case, narrators are betting on sales of the audiobook exceeding their expenses.

On ACX, once you've completed the title proIile, you wait for auditions, or for the narrator you requested to agree to work with you. Listening to the auditions is lots of fun. When you’re deciding on a narrator, you might want to listen to other books they’ve done to get an idea of their vocal range. Then you send an offer to the narrator you’ve chosen.

ACX has a number of options for royalty payments. If you decide to go exclusively with ACX, meaning you don’t sell your audiobook on any other platform, then you will receive 40% of the money earned from the sale of your audiobook. If you don’t want to be exclusive to ACX, then you will receive 25%.

Considering Amazon/Audible has a 63.4% market share of audiobooks sold, going exclusive might be viable for you. Also, you can switch after 90 days to nonexclusive. If you have negotiated a “royalty share” with your narrator, then each of you will receive 20%.

Findaway Voices

Findaway Voices offers three choices when you add a title. With the Iirst, you have the option of creating an audiobook independently using their Marketplace. The second one is selecting a managed production, and the third is to upload an existing audiobook. Since this article is about hybrid productions, the focus will be on the second option—managed productions.

After you choose the managed production option on Findaway Voices, a casting director will provide you with a list of narrators they think will be ideal for your audiobook. You can listen to the audio samples from each of these narrators and decide on a few to request an audition.

Once you’ve selected a narrator, Findaway Voices encourages you to Iill out their Production Notes. It’s a Word document that is, “an important step to getting the performance you’re expecting. We’ve created a template to help guide the process, including places to note speciIic character traits, accents, and a pronunciation guide.” This

document is sent to your narrator before they start recording. Authors can also opt out of various retailers. For example, if you want to list your audiobook for sale on Amazon/Audible using the non-exclusive option, you can still distribute it to the other retailers through Findaway Voices. Listing your audiobook on both sites might be more time consuming with setting up the accounts, however, you will earn more money. Consider that Findaway Voices is giving you 80% of the royalties earned, while if you list directly with ACX, you will be getting 100% of the royalties earned from them. Also, if you produce your audiobook on ACX and then upload it to Findaway Voices, they will pay you 75% of the royalties, instead of 80%.

With the royalty share negotiation, the author agrees to pay 50% of the production costs, and the narrator will receive 20% of the royalties earned. Since Findaway Voices pays authors 80% of the royalties from all the retail sources, sharing royalties means the author will receive 60%. However, authors can stop the royalty share at any time by


“buying out” the narrator. The buy-out costs double the original payment to the narrator. For example, if you paid $1,000 in production costs, then the buy-out price would be $2,000.


Both ACX and Findaway Voices require narrators to upload the Iirst 15 minutes of the audiobook for the author to review before they continue. This is an important step as it gives you the chance to request changes. Once you approve the sample, the entire book is recorded. When the narrator is Iinished recording and the sound engineer has cleaned up the burps, stomach gurgles, and other unwanted noises, the book is uploaded chapter by chapter. The author must listen to the entire audiobook and approve it. If there are mispronunciations or small mistakes, they can be corrected at this stage, but you can’t decide to change anything major, like a main character’s accent. After you’ve approved the audiobook, it’s time to pay. Findaway Voices only takes online credit card payments. ACX doesn’t take payment. Instead, the contract you signed with your narrator will detail how payment should be received. For example, my narrator for my Archives of the Invisible Sword series, Gabra Zackman, is a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and her payment must go to SAGAFTRA. I send them the check, and they deduct their fees before forwarding the rest to her.

Once the payment is complete, the audiobook is now yours. The next step is to list it for sale. The

audiobook will go through a review process on both sites before being available for purchase. Both ACX and Findaway Voices distribute and sell audiobooks. ACX only distributes to Amazon, Audible, and Apple (formerly iTunes), while Findaway Voices distributes to more than 40 retail and library partners. Also, ACX won’t allow authors to set the prices of their audiobooks. They have a calculation for the price based on the length of the audiobook. Findaway Voices allows you to not only set the price, but to put your title on sale to promote it through Chirp Books, which is a part of BookBub, and they send out daily email newsletters with a list of discounted audiobooks.

As you can see, there are many steps to producing an audiobook, and it all takes time. Findaway Voices estimates the entire process from start to sale can be “as fast as” 6-8 weeks. ACX says 3-8 weeks, depending on the length of the book and the narrator’s schedule. If you requested a certain narrator, you may have to wait for an opening in their schedule. Popular narrators can be booked for months. If you have a release date for your book, I suggest you start the audiobook process at least three months prior. For those new to audiobooks, using a hybrid production company is a great way to get your feet wet. They have the expertise and resources to help guide you in this strange new land of sound.


The Agony of Reviews!

I was going to write a personal review for Nora Robert’s latest book, because it was the last new book I'd read. But, for some reason, it felt beyond arrogant to assume to write and then publish a review of this book, as though my opinion means anything.


The literary reviews I’ve written previously have been requested of me, and that, my friends, is quite different than writing an unsolicited review of someone else’s hard work on my own.

An author myself, I look for new reviews regularly. I beg for them. I chew on my nails in anticipation of getting one… And when I do, I analyze every word. Even a positive one can send me into Iits, but a negative one can send me spinning. But, surely Nora Roberts wouldn’t lose any sleep over what I thought. Seriously? Who am I?

I can see it now. I publish a lackluster review online, and Nora Roberts promptly signs into her social media accounts, crying on the virtual shoulders of her author support group. “She just didn’t get what I was trying to impart. Should I respond? Should I explain that what she thinks was missing the editor had me remove? Does she even read that genre? How could she be so mean?”

And Nora’s friends sympathize, [nod], they’ve been there. “That BITCH!” “You’re a better writer than that.” “Don’t engage, Nora.” “You’re ofIicially an author now!” “I loved your book, honey.”

Please realize that Nora Roberts FB author group consists of similarly talented and successful authors like Tami Hoag, Maya Banks, Julie Garwood, Debbie Macomber, Jasinda Wilder, and Linda Lael Miller. Then Nora would get angry. “Yeah, screw Becky Flade!” [I would die a thousand deaths if Nora Roberts ever thought those words. Of course, being on her radar would be the ultimate feather in my cap.] She’d start calling me Princess Pinhead… and then the entire group would start calling me Princess Pinhead.

They’d avoid me on social media, not sending me their awesome books to read. It would get abbreviated to PP – which sounds way too much like going #1, which some smart-ass, probably from Philly, would run with, I’m sure. They’d reassure each other every time someone got a crap-ass review by posting funny/ clever pictures online ridiculing Princess Pinhead. It’s not worth it. I can’t take that kind of rejection over a silly, unsolicited personal review. Don’t hate me, Nora. I’m not a Pinhead. I love your books.

Clearly, I was having a bit of fun above, but it raises some legitimate concerns regarding reviews. First things Iirst.

Books are like Hawaiian pizza: Not everyone is going to love it.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Art is subjective, and therefore, so are reviews. A negative review is not an attack on the book, its author, or its fans. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

What is a review? One reader’s opinion... which should be accepted with grace and respect, regardless of your own opinion, whether the author is famous like Nora Roberts, or, you know, me.

Reviews are important, more so for Indie, small-house, and mid-level authors. The good, the bad, the ugly... the more the merrier, as most online retailers focus on quantity when determining which books to push to their vast readerships. Reviews are subjective. What one reader considers a three-star read, another might consider a Iive-star, or one-star. The most important thing to consider when writing a review is being both honest and respectful. Whether you loved it or hated


it, an author worked hard on it. And we’re an insecure bunch, just ask Princess Pinhead. This bears true for the super successful authors, as well. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and so on have fans almost as passionate as Philadelphia Eagles fans [coughalmostcough]. They will defend their favorites to the death if needs be. In recent years, reviews have become somewhat of a battleIield in the book community, as fandoms have been pitted against fandoms. I think a great many readers have shied away from leaving reviews because of it. That’s heartbreaking.

An honest and respectful personal review of a book, whether the author is a household name or a debut Indie, is never a bad idea – even if you didn’t like the book.

And if you see a negative review of a book you loved, well, just keep it moving. They’re not devaluing the story in your eyes, so why take it personally? You love what you love. I’ll love what I love. We don’t need to agree.

Reviews can be helpful. In fact, if you didn’t like the book, tell us what you didn’t like. That helps other readers choose, just as much, if not more, as telling what you did. I read a popular book by a big name, with an equally large fandom. It was well-written, welledited, professionally formatted and packaged. I didn’t like it. Just wasn’t for me. And that’s what I said in my literary review.

I did not attack the author, the book, or its fans. I’ve read other books by that same author I very much enjoyed, but I didn’t feel the need to leave a glowing review on the one I didn’t. No one will stop me from buying and reading another book by that author just because I expressed a negative opinion.

Not everyone likes Hawaiian pizza, but those who do are going to keep eating it. No skin off my pepperoni deep dish. But then again, [glances around surreptitiously] who cares what I think? I didn’t like the Fifty Shades series [gasp] and loved Nikki Sex’s Abuse trilogy. My opinion neither broke nor made either woman’s careers – because, as I’ve said, it’s just my opinion. What’s important is that I shared it. Maybe

Not everyone likes Hawaiian pizza, but those who do are going to keep eating it. No skin off my pepperoni deep dish.

another reader will see it and make an informed choice about the next book purchase. In this Iinancial climate, I’m picky about what I spend my hard-earned money on. I’m assuming it’s the same for you. Honest, respectful personal reviews detailing both likes and dislikes help me, and you, spend money in an informed and ultimately rewarding fashion. It also helps authors, like me, develop a fandom who appreciate the hard work and countless hours we put into our books. Another boon? I love books, reading them (regardless of format), talking about them, hoarding them, smelling them, um, I digress, my point? Knowing that someone, somewhere, is reading a book I also read, connects me to them, regardless of what either of us thought of the book. And that’s almost, almost as exciting as having someone read one of my books.

We’re all entitled to our opinions. Be honest. Treat others with respect. Keep reading, keep reviewing, and Hawaiian pizza, in my humble opinion, is gross.

Is It Real?

A Look at Arti>icial


(AI) in Publishing and Cover Art


Browsing the newest books lined up on the shelves of my local bookstore always makes me happy. There are only so many books in print these days, and to be displayed there is an honor.

Being both an author and a cover artist, I’ll look at books for a variety of reasons. Recognizing print books by some of the authors I know is exciting, and even though a lot are new to me, it’s every bit as fun to see. As for the art, I look at all the beautiful covers being done nowadays.

Our world of words and pictures has been going through some amazing changes lately. The cover colors are vibrant, the stories and characters are all perfect, and everything looks so Ilawless. Part of that might well be because one of the newest changes in style involves AI art. What is AI art?

digital tools and a computer for paints and canvas.

Don’t get me wrong, the artists that create these software programs are very talented, but as amazing as it is, there are always some who will take shortcuts. For example, they may take an existing photo or piece of art and run it through a program, altering it just enough to make it their own. This is not a good thing.

I really love the characters and things that AI can do, and today we see it everywhere. It’s all over the internet which can be challenging because it’s getting harder to differentiate between a real person or a computer generated one. It would make things interesting, trying to describe your new girlfriend to your parents only to Iind out she wasn’t real. That could cause a lot of awkward situations when you announce your engagement...

I’m not anticipating global disaster, but in reality, it’s a scary thing for creative people to deal with. The threat of a computer creating something you would have done a year ago is a little disturbing, to say the least.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the term, ArtiIicial Intelligence art includes any, particularly images and music compositions, created through the use of artiIicial intelligence (AI) software and programs, for example, text-toimage internet programs, and musical generators. It can be confused with digital art but shouldn’t be, since digital art is created by a human, substituting

Then there’s the matter of kids having AI software do their homework. I kind of wish I had it in high school because I hated writing papers or breakdowns on classic books, not to mention those essays about how I felt about ethics in college. Now, the Sex Studies course, however, would have been a cool experiment with AI – asking it to describe the human sexual elements in literature and movies. When I think of all that research I had to do... probably explains why I did well in that college class.

That’s for another article.

I have been reading quite a lot about the AI advances, and it’s creepy to realize they can write a romance novel of 50,000 words in about Iive

I’m not anticipating global disaster, but in reality, it’s a scary thing for creative people to deal with.

minutes, with perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A user simply tells the program the plot of a romance about a cowboy, a well-to-do female seamstress, and their ranch in Texas then... POOF… instant story.

Still not sure if the computers will have a good sense of humor though. I’m not sure they understand the amusing results of over-indulging in Mexican food, or the classic banana peel slip up. Then there are the quirks in the English language that make people laugh. Can AI write comedy at all without that touch of humanity?

I did enjoy a lot of Science Fiction as a kid, and it really made me imagine so much. I look at what’s happening now and think, “Those nerds I adored must have been time travelers.” So many things they wrote about that sounded impossibly crazy back then are coming true. Now I’m getting depressed. Looks like I’ll be replaced by a machine someday in the not too distant future, and it might be the same machine that will be able to write a perfect story, design a perfect cover for the book, then promote and send it to the masses… Probably get a movie deal, shoot the movie without any real actors, directors, or producers complaining about cost cuts.

It will be released over the summer and make millions, and the machine will be programmed to write 12 more novels with the same deal. It’s possible, of course, that people will get jealous and sue for copyright infringement and stealing the plot of the story they wrote back in 1987. After the dust settles, everyone will be rich and miserable because of the experience. And all of this will take only 45 minutes with AI because it’s so fast.

I’m exaggerating a lot, but there is no question that the world is moving so fast, we all need to take a breath and catch up.

As I wonder about the whole artiIicial intelligence topic, I have been asked by some people what my personal thoughts are as an author and artist. My answer is I do see some differences I feel readers may pick up on.

When it comes to cover art, that’s an easy one. The eyes. For me, it’s always the eyes. Although I like watching Pixar movies and looking at the computergenerated art, all you have to do is look into the eyes to see there is no soul. No soul, no life. It may sound corny, but that’s what I see and what I believe.

The AI writing question might well have the same issues. It will be able to crank out books faster and easier than any author, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but readers are accustomed to picking up on the mannerisms, quirks, and Ilaws in the characters they’re engaging with.

People are nuanced beings, and more often than not, a mess of emotions. We are never really sure what we want and say the dumbest things. (Trust me; I say some really crazy stuff.) Life isn’t clean or simple, and when we write stories, we automatically include those small differences, and yes, our characters make mistakes.

I’m not sure if AI-written books can reproduce things like that, because they aren’t real people. They are whatever they are told to be. In other words, they’re only as good as the person who created them. And if that person isn’t a writer?

As a footnote though, when they become able to think independently and act on human emotions, that’s going to be a whole new ballgame which may not be as far off as we might think. It might be time to summon the Terminator, or Neo, or even Deckard... to make sure everything isn’t lost in time like “tears in the rain...”


When Everything Changes, Find the Right Information

Navigating the Ever-changing Self-Publishing Space

There have been some major changes in the Indie Publishing space over the last few months. In May, IngramSpark announced FREE title setup and changes. Draft2Digital and Smashwords merged in March. Along with these major changes, and continuously emerging and evolving self-publishing platforms, many minor changes regularly take place. It begs the question: How does an author Iind accurate, timely, and relevant information?

While Google or author groups are often an early stop on the fact Iinding journey, wrong or inaccurate information from these resources can be misleading and/or costly. Because self-publishing supports so many different goals, practices, and journeys, businesses and platforms regularly adapt to industry and customer demands and limitations.

That means the information that was accurate two months ago may no longer be so.

Misinformation might be benign, but it can also have a Iinancial impact. Something as simple as copyright registration, which is $45 if completed through the U.S. Copyright ofIice, might be several hundred dollars if using a 3rd party. A vanity press masquerading as a traditional publisher might cost an author thousands of dollars for substandard quality or unfulIilled promises. Hiring an inexperienced designer who doesn’t know the industry and provides work that does not satisfy platform requirements can cost time and money. Missing a pre-order deadline on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) can remove your ability to set up


preorders for future books, or get you banned from the platform altogether.

While the ‘Zon may not be as supportive of authors as other platforms, it is still the largest online bookseller. Being banned can have signiIicant implications for revenue, especially for authors who are still Iinding their audiences and a way to connect with them directly.

While friends and colleagues can have valuable information and experience to impart, if it’s dated or their goals do not align with yours, it may not be helpful.

That’s where writing and author organizations shine, speciIically, those focused on the Independent Publishing industry. It is the business of these organizations to support authors in professional publishing. Most have both free and paid resources with the latest information on industry changes and trends. While there are many organizations which provide information and resources like these, there is a handful that I regularly rely upon.

Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)

IBPA’s roots stretch all the way back to 1983. In 2008, they became the organization we now know. “IBPA's mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success.”

In my experience, they fulIill that promise time and again. Not only does IBPA keep up with and report on industry changes, they also drive change. For example, they have created a criterion by which to vet hybrid publishers. In an industry where so many authors are scammed or mislead by vanity presses, this resource gives authors the information needed to make informed decisions about how to spend their money. In addition to the information they directly supply, they also have a list of regional partner organizations that support Independent authors.

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

A global organization, ALLi launched in 2012 and has been fostering excellence and ethics in self-publishing ever since. There is a wealth of timely and relevant information to be found on their blog, free to visitors. There are added beneIits and resources available to paid members, at a variety of different levels. One of the unique resources available through ALLi is their directory of Partners—individuals and organizations that provide services to authors. Unlike many organizations, ALLi’s partners go through an “assessment process to ensure that the service's approach, customer service, and pricing complies with ALLi's code of standards.”

This gives authors conIidence that the providers they do business with are reputable and knowledgeable.

NonTiction Authors Association

Founded in 2010, the NonIiction Authors Association Iilled a gap for aspiring non-Iiction writers. While not speciIically supporting Independent authors, they provide a wealth of information and resources in the space. With their annual conference and courses found exclusively online, they are accessible to nearly anyone seeking accurate and timely information. To further the professional standards of service providers, they have also created certiIications for Marketing, Publicity, and Publishing professionals, giving authors the conIidence that the services they provide are professional and compatible with industry standards and expectations.

Writer Beware®

Another resource that deserves mention is the Writer Beware® Blog. Founded in 1998 and sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA®), the blog addresses “the problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers.” Their mission “is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry.” As a writer exploring options,


be sure to check in with Writer Beware® to be sure the organizations or services you’re considering haven’t been red-Ilagged as ‘scammy’ or fraudulent. And Iinally, check-in with the publishing platforms themselves: KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu, BookBaby, Draft2Digital, AppleBooks, Barnes and Noble, etc. While customer service isn’t always a priority, and some platforms are better than others, they are all invested in the success of authors. Most don’t get paid unless you do. They have a vast library of resources including templates, speciIications, and best practices.

They’re also going to be the direct resource for changes that affect their customers. If you have a question about distribution, fees, terms of service, or anything speciIically related to a platform, go directly to that platform. FAQ’s, Help, and Support Pages, and where available, email, chat, and phone support will give you the speciIic information you need to be successful on their platforms.

Asking peers for information can be quick and easy, but not always accurate. When your success depends upon timely, accurate, and appropriate information, be intentional about where you seek answers to your questions. And when possible, especially for the things that have a Iinancial impact, seek conIirmation by appropriate resources to ensure that your time and money are wellinvested.

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


***With Yana and her anger forming a ball of elements, she summons Ebbe and Emme’s star, telling him to hide them, with Donal and the Guardian are standing next to them. Still in a hallway, feet away from where their map says The Laws are, Ebbe and Emme have no idea all that Yana has been up to.***

Lead-weighted arms drooping toward the ground, Yana’s anger spiked. Glancing at Kit, a standing version of being curled up in a ball, Yana pulled her arms and hands closer, condensing the moon weight’s worth of energy into a smaller area. And smaller. And smaller. Gritting her teeth against the load and pain, “Get down!” she said through a clenched jaw.

While still manipulating, her mind raced through the memories of pain and attacks from the last several moon cycles. “I. Have. Had. Enough! Of. This!” she yelled, clapping her hands together, then throwing her arms wide. The blood racing through her head from a release of pressure blocked most of Kit’s screams. In the wake of the power, neither saw Donal and the Guardian disappear into the explosions and whirlwinds.

As the ground beneath them evaporated, Ebbe grabbed for Emme – but missed.

Twirling uncontrollably through swirling blacks, Ebbe could hear her screaming for him, but he could not see her. Extensions of light whipped toward him, recognizing Olbok’s arms, he reached out and caught hold. Knowing their star would never abandon them, he found Emme, folded himself around her, and hoped the star was more in control of their fall than it seemed.

Hitting hard, Ilat on his back, he pulled Emme tighter to him, refusing to let go, knowing the force of the landing would have them bouncing. Colliding into other bodies was not expected, causing Emme to tumble out of his arms. A Ilash streaked past him, and he knew Olbok was slowing her, keeping her safe.

Hitting a... something... face Iirst, other impacts shoved him further into the unforgiving surface. A wheezing groan told him Donal was one impact, and the immediate illumination of the area told him the other impact was the Guardian. Pushing back from the wall, rolling Donal over, Ebbe looked for Emme. Shaky and disheveled, but standing, she stared up through a star size tear in the plane.

Standing, though his legs were not cooperating fully, he followed her astonished gaze and saw... “Olbok, are you... sideways?”

“I think he’s more inside out,” Donal said, hobbling to Ebbe’s side.

“I do not feel well.” The star’s deep intonation was a near whisper.

Pulling her element shelf out, Emme frowned. “I... everything’s missing!”

Donal, Ebbe, and the Guardian pulled theirs forward, Iinding the same.

“What in cold ochu did she do?” Donal muttered, trying several different sigils and signs to bring something, anything, forward. He couldn’t even pull a food knife, let alone a sword.

“She who?” Ebbe asked.

“Yana, wait... Yana!” Donal screamed, running toward the breach. Terror coursed through him. If they were all this helpless, Yana was defenseless from the Demons and Corrupt. Without their elements and abilities...

The Guardian pulled Donal to the ground, pinning him face down. “If we have no shelves, no elements, no weapons, then we have no portals!” he shouted.

“Explain to us how running headlong into spacetime will aid her, and not simply vaporize you!”

Going limp so he would be released, Donal slowly stood and couldn’t help himself, “That’s the most emotion from you I’ve ever seen.” He bent backward, avoiding the angry swipe. “Wow, two in one day!”

“Enough, Donal, though you are right,” Ebbe said, placing a calming hand on the Guardian’s shoulder. “Now, explain about Yana.”

Taking a deep breath while glaring at Donal, the Guardian spoke evenly. “While at her place, she became… upset.”

“That’s not even close,” Donal said. “She’s had it with the pain, the not hearing, having to rely on a near “What?!” Ebbe and Emme said together.

“How did she know about him?” Emme said, recovering her senses Iirst.

“She didn’t,” Donal said with a shrug. “She didn’t believe us when we told her she’d summoned a star, a sentient one at that. I saw it on her face. Then… it changed.”

“What changed?” Ebbe asked.

“Her face. As if... knowledge hit.” Donal paused, trying to Iind the words. “It’s like... when we’re struggling through a problem, we walk away to clear our minds, and then the answer simply... hits. That look. I don’t know what she actually knows, but she knew

* * * *
“She didn’t believe us when we told her she’d summoned a star, a sentient one at that.”

precisely what to do and just,” he held his hands up, kneading and manipulating the emptiness, “she just did it.”

Looking around at the scorched devastation, Ebbe pondered the meaning. The still glowing embers were a variety of colors, some from ancient space. Walking to what seemed to be the middle area, he turned in a circle, slowly taking it all in.

Emme was stroking one of Olbok’s limp arms, using his own internal elements in an attempt to Ilip him outside in, make him whole. Donal was picking through the embers, trying to capture rogue elements and use them to build a portal. The Guardian was staring… at a Iixed point of absolutely nothing. Looking up then down through the plane, a sight-gift

“Then it needed to be destroyed,” Donal Iinished, saying what Ebbe would not.

* * * *

“I still don’t hear anything. Like at all. From anyone. It’s been days,” Kit said, staring out as Yana drove them home. Moons ago, after the Iirst attack, they’d learned their domiciles were not far apart, and since the pain and needing an interpreter had become a necessity, Yana had taken to driving Kit.

With a sigh, Yana said, “At this point, I wouldn’t really care. I was Iine without all this happening to me, but your healing abilities are just not enough. Using Mortal tomes to remedy Demon and Corrupt attacks aren’t exactly why they were written. It’s not as if either of us has access to the libraries in the Hereafter. I just want the pain to end,” she whispered, Ilinching as a bolt of pain shot down her leg. She rubbed her eyes to stay awake long enough to get home, just around the bend.

Walking in the door and tossing her items without looking, Yana knew Kit was following. She’d taken to crashing in her living area.

Two days.

Of pain. Attacks. Complete silence.

Several zings had hit, and she had followed every idea that had come to her. Though, she didn’t know precisely what she was doing, she simply kept the thought, idea, and intention at the forefront, held her hands out and then threw whatever it was that grew there once it felt... done.

Nothing any different from what she’d been doing for several moon cycles, almost a full rotation at this point. Get attacked, get a zing, get an idea, pull it apart, expand it, hold the hands out, and toss. Rinse. Repeat.

given only to Cycle Gods, he sucked a breath in.

“Hereafter,” he whispered.

“What?” Emme asked.

“We are in the Hereafter, or what’s left of it,” Ebbe said, pointing out markings, buildings, domes, passages...

“Yana did all this?” Emme asked.

“Yes. And we need to talk to her immediately. As far as I understand it, the Leveler is not capable of devastation, destruction, or death for the sheer pleasure of it. The nearly unlimited power given is for a purpose, and if this is what is left of the plane of the Hereafter,” Ebbe trailed off.

Seeing Kit sitting dejectedly made her feel bad. “If the pain had stopped, the silence wouldn’t bother me at all,” Yana said. Holding up her hand to stop the Ilood of words, she continued, “I have a life I can barely get through because of all this Leveler thing. I thought that huge ball would be it. Done. But it’s not. Not if I am still getting hurt,” she paused as yet another zing showed up.

Rolling her Iingers together, imagining wadding up a small piece of cloth into a ball, she pulled her arm from one side to the other, like drawing a line.

“Here, hold onto this,” Yana said, refusing to look at the empty space. She could feel something there, but couldn’t see it. Yet another irritation.

“At this point, I wouldn’t really care. I was fine without all this happening to me, but your healing abilities are just not enough.”

Kit eyed the glowing moonlight colored strands weaving themselves through Yana’s hand. Not seeing Demons or Corrupt, she stood up and plucked them from her.

The cacophony rattling her being almost made her drop them, so she wrapped them around her Iist.

“Stop it!” she yelled at nothing. Placing her hands on the sides of her head, she shook it. Looking at Yana through teary eyes, she muttered, “I have them. They want to know how you did that.”

Yana shrugged. “The same as I always do, I just think it, and it happens.”

Kit tilted her head, concentration covering her face. She nodded several times before speaking. “You destroyed the Hereafter, and everyone’s element shelves and weapons disappeared,” she began.

“I did what?” Yana shouted, worry for her Progression because of destroying the entire Hereafter had never entered her thoughts.

“Wait, wait, they said it has to be a good thing...”

“How so?!”

“Stop talking, I’m trying to listen,” Kit snapped. At Yana’s glare, she continued softly, “Sorry, but they’re all yelling at me, too. Like, I think everyone who’s still alive in the Hereafter is yelling. I’m trying to listen to Ebbe or Emme or the Guardian only, and it’s really hard.” Taking a deep breath, she said, “Ebbe is going to shut everyone else out. They need your help. First, though, can you please put the star right side in... what?” she paused. “Oh, whatever you did turned Olbok inside out. Ew.”

* * * *

The now healed Olbok picked them up and placed them in the midst of what used to be the Concilium Chambers. The rubble was too scorched to be certain.

“Kit, ask Yana to map the Laws and the other Guardian, and toss it to me,” Ebbe asked. An orb exploded, then sat, bobbling up and down placidly, a hand span from his face. Gently tapping on it, they frantically dug through the debris at Ebbe’s feet.

“Oh, my,” Emme whispered in reverence. Carefully, she lifted the pulsing light, glowing in purity and authority. Cradling it in her hands, she whispered, “All the Laws, in their pure form. This is nothing like what was shown.”

Rising from behind the shattered dais, half of the gods and goddesses of the Concilium formed a semi-circle around them. Scowling, they pulled forward hidden and forbidden elements and began combining them which would create certain death and inIinite

suffering, pulling the Void into the body it would be aimed at.

Angling sideways into a warrior’s stance, Ebbe held his hand down to his side, and visualized the weapon and elements needed to offset what he could see them making. Failing to hide his shock, he hefted the blade. From behind him, a whoop of glee, followed by a low, malicious chuckle told him Donal had discovered the same thing.

Yana had been right all this time.

The elements listened to thoughts and intentions. It was all that mattered.

Willing battle gear onto his body, Ebbe thundered, “You have perverted the Laws of Progression! You

it, they frantically dug through the debris at Ebbe’s feet.”

Hereafter with evil, used that which you forbade to all others!” Lifting the weapon high, he thrust it down, stabbing deep into the ground near his feet, which shattered, cracking like frozen water.

Leaning against the hilt nonchalantly, he said, “I’d like you to meet Yana. My child, the Leveler of Prophecy.”

A new divide inside spacetime rose from the crack, lightning from shattered planes sparking the torn edges. In the vastness of the Void, a luminescent being Iloated.

Sidling up to Ebbe, Donal whispered, “Does she see any of this?”

“Not really,” Ebbe whispered back. “Kit described what was happening – the Concilium, the forbidden

“An orb exploded, then sat, bobbling up and down…Gently tapping on

coming to light, and what you see her as now is what she has envisioned.”

Frightened, the remaining Concilium threw all they had at Yana’s Iloating form. It passed through, making no marks. Emme was violently mouthing instructions to Kit, throwing ball after ball of intentional elements, knowing full well that everything thrown had passed through her lighted form, but had hit Yana. Hard.

Losing their bravado, the gods and goddesses melted from beings of light, the Highers on the Path, the Elders, and reformed into pure evil, visages and forms more twisted than Demons.

* * * *

Writhing on the Iloor, tears streaming, Yana heard Kit talking but couldn’t listen. Whatever had been thrown

* * * *

The Concilium, all dark gods and Demons gathered elements from planes and times Ebbe had never heard of, spaces that shouldn’t have existed. Yana’s form was Ilickering. A horriIied Emme pulled forward a life size holo of the damage done to her, throwing healing at her, physically holding her pieces together with her Iingers.

Donal and the Guardian stood on either side of him, blocking Emme from view, weapons drawn, balls of deadly elements dancing around their hands. “Yana, NOW!” Ebbe yelled, hoping she was well enough for Kit to get through. Or her “zings”, which he now understood to be the element of Absolute Truth, talking to their Queen, the Leveler.

Lightning Ilashed, and another body rolled across the ground, jumping up to face off against the Concilium. His tousled and bruised appearance and fragmented clothing could not hide the illumination emanating from his being.

“Looks like I showed up for the fun part,” he quipped. “Cold ochu on a pole, could you be any more identical?” Donal asked in wonder. Dirt and rags aside, he could see no difference between the Guardians.

Before anyone could answer, tendrils whipped from Yana’s still Ilickering form, curled around the dark gods and Demons, rendering them to dust, then yanked the Ilakes into the Void. With a sweep of her arm, Yana’s form gave permission for the elements of the Void to feast.

* * * *

exploded, her intestines yanked from her. She curled into a ball on her side, furiously trying to slow her breathing, swallow the agony. The hated zing hit, she took two deep inhales, let each out. Unable to unclench her Iist from the pain, she willed to her a looped rope, and tugged.

Letting that go, she felt Kit rolling her over. Now on her back, breathing shallow through lungs that were closing, listening to Kit’s description of what was happening, she brought the ropes back. Many of them. Tied them to beings on the other end, and yanked. Lightheaded from lack of air, sparks and darkness Iilled her vision.

Groaning herself awake, Yana refused move. A calming, gentle touch of Iingers stroked through her hair. Hoping it never went away, she cracked an eye open. Not expecting to see Kit sitting on the far side of the room, she had the energy to only raise her eyebrows.

“I guess that’s as good as it gets,” Kit said with a grin. “You’ve been out for a rise and a half. “Donal is stroking your hair. Weird that you can’t see him still, but at least you can feel him. He’s got a huge smile. They say to tell you we won. You pulled all the evil ones into the Void, letting the dark elements eat them. Seriously, you mean, really eat them?” Kit shuddered. “Ugh, and you also found and pulled the other Guardian to them, just in time too. He was almost fed to the Void himself. Yuck, really, that’s kind of messed up,” Kit said. “The map you gave them, they’re using to rebuild everything in the Hereafter, the way it’s

“Groaning herself awake, Yana refused move. A calming, gentle touch of fingers stroked through her hair.”

supposed to be, with conscientious thought and intention, paired with knowledge and where one is on the Path. They have the Laws now too.”

Reaching up, hoping to feel a hand, but, nothing again, Yana relaxed as the Iingers massaged deeper, but still gently. “Something is better than nothing,” she whispered. Being pain free, and feeling an Incorrupt’s tender touch was worlds above where she’d been. Feeling a form climb onto the bed and curling around her, arms tight yet soft, Yana drifted to a painless sleep.

Glancing over his shoulder at Ebbe, Emme, and both Guardians, Donal said, “You can all leave now, I’ve got her.”

Glossary 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

Holo–(Hahl) oh–as in hologram

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

Olbok (Ohl bohk) – a sentient being, a star, belonging to Ebbe and Emme 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)


2023 RONE AwardS Finalists!

Historical: Steamy

Saving Her Highland Traitor by Maeve Greyson

The Impoverished Dowry by Emily EK Murdoch

On Prevailing Winds by Elizabeth St. Michel Duke in All but Name by Caroline WarIield

Discreet Destruction by K.J. Jackson


Forging Forgiveness by C.B. Clark

Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer

Shattered Promises by Linda Trout

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach

Elemental Fire by E.G. Manetti

Second Star to the Left – Reimagined Fairy Tales Book 1 by Megan Van Dyke

City of Ruin (Witch Walker Book 2) by Charissa Weaks



Earl of Brecken (Wicked Earls' Club) by Aubrey Wynne, Narrator: Harry Frost

The Wylder Rose (The Wylder West) by Jane Lewis, Narrator: Dawson McBride

A Knight's Reward (Knight's Series, Book 2) by Catherine Kean, Narrator: James Gillies

Suspense/Thriller: Steamy

Saddled Hearts (The White Rune Series Book 3) by Jan Sikes

Tough Justice (K-9 Special Ops, Book 1) by Tee O'Fallon

Whiskey Storm (Whiskey Falls Book 3) by Taryn Rivers

Contemporary: Steamy

Somewhere In Between by Natalie Parker

Bound to Burn by Paula Dombrowiak

Sasha’s Secret Santa by Peggy Jaeger

Broody Devil by Melissa Ivers

Paranormal: Long

Lucky Me by Genevieve Jack

Dark Wine at the Grave by Jenna Barwin

Heartquake by Terry Newman

Fire Magic and Ice Cream by Lauren Connolly

Contemporary: Sweet

It Started with a Glance by Meg Easton

A Summer to Cherish by Josie Riviera

Christmas Island by Mary Shotwwell

Paranormal: Short

Beer & Broomsticks by T.M. Cromer

Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke

The Haunting of Wilton June by Peggy Jaeger

Novella (3 finalists)

A Vampire’s Midlife Crisis by Valerie Twombly

A Scot to Have and to Hold by Maeve Greyson

Tempted: A Vampire MaIia Paranormal Romance by Rebecca Rivard


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.


Fleur de Lis (The Gents Book 3)

together and leaves the reader sighing in contentment. Although the dance is given a bit of drama with spies, former lovers, and spiteful relatives stirring the plot, the conclusion is evident from the beginning. And while this story can be read alone, it does bring in characters from the previous two books and is best enjoyed in order. For those who have read the previous books, the inclusion of all the Gents brings additional enjoyment and hints of delightful things to come! Truly, a charming romantic read for lovers of Regency romance!

meets Millie Stevens, daughter of an American diplomat, who helped modify his documents for a chance at service in the Royal Navy. The brief encounter between a well-bred Austrian gentleman and a British-American lady remained Iirmly entrenched in their memories, impacting their lives in unforeseen ways.

Thirteen years ago, an invitation to play an unknown sport, introduced Henri Fortier to a circle of friends that became family, away from his home country of France. Now his choice to remain in England is straining his familial relationships and leaving his income insufIicient. A house party with his family, and friends, the Gents, might help resolve issues except the guest list is changed last minute. One of the additional guests is none other than Nicolette Beaulieu, the woman who broke his heart. Nicolette agreed to travel to England with her family but not for the house party. After recovering from a near disastrous engagement, her place in Marquis De Lafayette’s secret network has given her room to thrive, and she’s determined to carry out her latest mission. Both Henri and Nicolette have secrets but when they reunite, feelings stir, threats loom, and opportunities might be within reach.

A slow burn romance set just between the American and French Revolutions, “Fleur De Lis” matches a pair of French aristocrats and leads them in a slow dance that pairs them neatly

Codes of Courage

“Codes of Courage” is a realistic historical Iiction that delves into the love of family and children from the British, American, Austrian, and German perspectives. Of particular interest, the written correspondence between characters over months and years share the thoughts and feelings of the main characters. Stellar character development by Ms. Sowards suits the vivid scenes of war in and out of battles woven with the problematic choices often made in an unchangeable instant. Karl, an honorable young man, made unforgettable decisions resulting in a stunning impact on his German enemies. Options in war, relationships, and honor are neither easy nor perfect. Fans of historical Iiction will enjoy the realism depicted from the facts of war and sit alongside during these memorable times until the intertwined yet unexpected conclusion.

War in Europe and Britain brought out the best and worst in people, depending on their penchant for forgiveness versus revenge. Ms. Sowards uses the foundation of World War II to create a tapestry of interwoven events of friends, family, loss, and love. Austrian-born Karl (Ecker) Lang escaped his family’s estate, Falcon Point in Austria, as Nazis invaded and his father died getting betrayed. Before his eighteenth birthday, he and two sisters and their Nanny Iled, vowing to meet in England. He

56 Historical

A Lady’s Promise


Isabella DeVries prefers spending time on her engineering designs than looking for a husband, but after four seasons, she has no choice. When a dear friend offers a marriage of convenience, she hesitates, until she learns he is dying. Preston Baxter owes Isabella’s father and is determined to see Isabella gain independence. He is also determined to keep his inheritance out of the hands of his younger half-brother unless he sees changes in his behavior. Prince Baxter has lived a life of privilege and resents his brother’s penny-pinching ways, but he knows he must dance to his brother’s tune to see his inheritance. If it means charming the woman his brother has chosen to marry, he’ll do so. Except Isabella is compassionate, genuine, and far more interesting than any of the socialites Prince usually meets. As Isabella strives to bridge the chasm between the two brothers, Prince discovers a new purpose and understanding in life, but is it a lesson learned too late?

“A Lady’s Promise” expertly weaves an emotional drama of heartache and love that will linger on long after the story ends! Isabella delights as a heroine in

1895 New York, with her unladylike interest in engineering and her desire to make the lives of those around her more comfortable. Prince lives up to his name in that he believes he deserves the elegancies of life. His growth over the course of the story is gradual but believable. It’s this transformation, along with Preston’s illness, that dominate the story, yet it’s Isabella and her belief in love that lights the way. “A Lady’s Promise” touches readers’ hearts with a message that love transcends all!

Captivated By His Countess (Rebel Lords of London Book 7)

covert agent, Gabby’s husband, the Earl of Huntley, to investigate! But Lord Huntley, unaware of his wife’s philanthropy, wishes to shield her from the suspicious eyes of Crown and country, while Lady Huntley knows nothing about her husband’s undercover work. Will the secrets they keep from one another doom Lord and Lady Huntley’s fragile marriage?

“Captivated By His Countess” showcases both the plight and the strengths of the “gentler sex” in Regency London. Gabby and Rebecca are steadfast in their support of raped and battered women, even as they discover that many have been abused by socalled gentlemen from within their own social circle. At times, Gabby’s actions, while compassionate, are reckless and naı̈ve. She repeatedly rebuffs her husband’s concern for her wellbeing and puts herself in harm’s way. Fortunately, the handsome earl dotes on his rebellious countess, and her efforts are rewarded with success and a near scrape with disaster. This delightful and passionate love story would be even better if not for confusing plot gaps (supposedly due to overlaps in this book series) and some glaring editing issues and misused words that contribute to reader frustration. Still, a fun distraction from everyday life.

Lady Gabriella and Lady Rebecca are best friends who had their coming out together seven years ago. Now married to an earl and a duke respectively, the two of them are pursuing their passion to provide a safe haven to unfortunate women of the lower classes who have suffered at the hands of “their betters”. A number of these unfortunates have disappeared from the theatre district in Drury Lane, and none less than the Prime Minister of England himself has set his best


Chiara's Choice


A sweeping historical romance, Italian Iire meets British composure and produces sparks of attraction so powerful, neither Chiara Madero, the daughter of an Italian baron, or Mr. Abraham Jamison, a second born gentleman can resist them. At least not for long. Her enchanting appearance and Iire usually get Chiara what she wants, but Abraham is certain his lack of direction, title, or wealth preclude him from Chiara’s attention. Except their mutual wit stirs a rapport that soon turns to friendship, and promises something more. Chiara wants to choose her husband for herself. Abraham wants to be worthy of her. Together they might both get what they want. If only they can defy her families’ plans and make the choice themselves.

A heartfelt romance, “Chiara’s Choice” takes a typical regency romance plot and centers the focus on Chiara. While the story follows the steps of both Chiara and Abraham, it is Chiara to decides to pursue Abraham and who instigates their battel of wits, putting Abraham into the position of reacting to her interest. The interplay between them is delightful and realistic. The supporting characters further add

to the drama of the main characters’ courtship but without taking away the focus. While the ending is predictable and the story isn’t exactly new, fans of Iiery and independent female leads and kind and witty heroes will Iind this book to be a delightful and steady read with plenty of clean and innocent interactions plus a happy conclusion to soothe a stressed reader.

the lives of the many soldiers in Vietnam or will she be too late to save the ones she loves?

Charlotte’s War

J. Lawrence Graham

In this historical Iiction it is difIicult to tell where history and Iiction separate. The characters leap from the pages, and reading their stories the reader feels drawn into them as if they are a documentary about the various wars rather than Iictional characters in a story. The imagery of the war scenes, the fragility of the human spirit, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her loved ones all shine through Charlotte’s life story as well as her own Iight for women’s rights. Charlotte’s interwoven history also makes a reader think hard about how conIlicts could be solved differently were women like the characters of the San people in charge. Truly a masterpiece with seamless integration of Iiction and historical events from WWII through Vietnam along with the messy relationships and politics of the time.

Dr. Charlotte Fletcher Shipwright is at war with the powers that make war. She has experienced the horror of war several times. First with her brother, then her husband, her boyfriend, and now her Iirstborn son has been drafted. Charlotte’s life has been adventurous and placed her in the perfect position to Iight to save her son and others from the perils of war, if only she can persuade her connections to listen. Early life in China placed her with Ho Chi Minh’s daughter, her studies at Radcliffe and Harvard gave her the contacts in the state department including John F Kennedy and Henry Kissinger, but will her power be enough to save


The Archaeologist and The Spinster (Fernley Family A Regency-era Romance Book 3)

Angela Johnson

historical romance and have an interest in ancient Egypt will eat this book up! If this is the Iirst book in the series for readers, there will most deIinitely be a stampede of people going back to read the Iirst two books in the series. A great read and one that should be enjoyed outside in the sun or under a blanket as the sun goes down.

Lady Adelia Winthrop wants nothing more than to return to England with her father and hope that she can Iind a husband. However, her father is determined to stay in Egypt, and unfortunately there are no prospects for her hand. However, that all changes when Phineas Fernley shows up. Despite his unkempt appearance, Adelia is intrigued. Sadly it seems there story is not meant to be when they go in separate directions. Then Adelia makes a ‘sort of’ wish to an Egyptian goddess—she doesn’t want to be a spinster for the rest of her life. It is her last hope. Phineas on the other hand is trying to concentrate on his work, but he cannot stop thinking about Adelia. What stands out is how well written this book is. The descriptions of the Egyptian landscape are beautiful and will have readers feeling the sand between their toes. Phineas and Adelia are made for one another, but it takes a while for them to realize it. Angela Johnson has done her research into Egypt and the history and mythology surrounding it. Fans who enjoy

Letters of Fire and Sword

In the early thirteen hundreds, Scotland is rife with war, locked in a brutal battle with England. After Robert the Bruce is crowned King of Scotland, English King Edward I takes vengeance by ravaging the Scottish countryside and capturing six members of Robert the Bruce’s court. Among the captured is Lady Erca MacNeill, who refuses to denounce her loyalty to Bruce and Scotland for eight long years, losing everything she’s ever known in the process. Her Iirst love, Sir Alexander MacMillan, one of Bruce’s loyal soldiers, will stop at nothing to rescue Erca and the other women. Together, he and Robert the Bruce Iight to save Scotland and reunite with their loved ones.

This harrowing historical novel dives deep into the brutal history of the bloody feud between England and Scotland, taking the reader on a dangerous adventure of vengeance, love, and loyalty. It’s clear the author has a deep love of history, and her passion and dedication shines as the events of the past come to life on the page. However, the timeline bounces back and forth between past and present, Erca and Alexander, which slows the pacing of the narrative and makes the plot hard to follow, and the Ilowery, repetitive language is distracting, pulling the reader from the story. Still, the events of this novel are hard to resist, and lovers of historical Iiction will Iind themselves wrapped up in Ms. Wiley’s heroic, historical tale. For lovers of Scottish history and knights in shining armor, this story will hit the spot.

Picking up The Gauntlet

Elizabeth Rose

Lady Raven has a twin brother, Lord Rook. They live in England at Blake Castle. It is 1374 and Lady Raven is independent and strong. She excels with a bow and arrow and with swordplay after years of training with her twin. She is also


unmarried and getting older. Her father, Lord Corbett Blake, has been patient, but has decided to take action by holding a tournament. The winner will get Lady Raven as his bride for a prize. Raven is angry, and it’s compounded when she learns that she is to be guarded by the local blacksmith for the weeks preceding the tournament. Jonathan Armstrong is an armorer, swordsmith, and blacksmith. He often repairs armor and such for the nobility nearby, so he knows them, but isn’t one of them. His family has been in this business for years and is well-respected. He doesn’t want to guard Raven yet is unable to say no to Lord Corbett.

This book is an interesting take on life and attitudes of the 1300’s. This author blends contemporary attitudes about female empowerment into a time when that stance might not have been readily accepted. By the end of chapter 11, readers have been told over 40 times that Jonathan is a ‘commoner’ and that ‘commoners’ and royals do not mix! Both of these protagonists behave differently than expected at times throughout this story, which adds interest and tension to the overall story arc. The pacing is solid, and the story is somewhat believable, even with the inIlux of modern thought. Regardless, they Iind a way to a happy ending despite the many challenges they face.

Carey Sullivan

Christmas Forevermore (A Christmas Romance Collection)

Sally Britton, Sarah M. Eden, Ashtyn Newbold, Karen Thornell

These star-crossed lovers can never catch a break!

ANTHOLOGY: “A Family Christmas” - Cyril Grant and sister Elizabeth have not spent time with relatives in years. Elizabeth Iinds it easy to Iit in with female relatives Iinding many commonalities. Cyril feels like an outsider. Jane is his grandmother’s paid companion. She strikes up a friendship with Cyril. Soon it seems like even more, but will his grandparents approve?

“Christmas Forevermore” - Minna is content being “on the shelf.” Mrs. Jackman sets a goal to have Minna engaged during the week before Christmas. She has three “suitable” men chosen from whom Minna is to choose. Minna’s friend, Rupert, Iinds he has growing feelings for his longtime friend and has a problem with Mrs. Jackman’s scheme.

“Christmas at CranIield” - Hannah has been in love with Samuel forever. When her family spends Christmas with him, she discovers he is engaged and is shattered. When they next meet, Hannah is being courted by Lord Redditch.

“A Thrill of Hope” - Isabel is spending Christmas with her aunt at her father’s insistence. She’s waiting for her carriage to arrive, and to her surprise, Mr. Collingham’s handsome son is to deliver her to her destination. Robert is a childhood friend who was fun and friendly. When did he grow so aloof? He soon melts and sees how wonderful Isabel is, to his father’s matchmaking delight! Altogether, this anthology is a delightful read which will put anyone in the Christmas spirit no matter the time of the year. These enchantingly crafted stories easily engage the reader, pulling them in, making them feel the bitterness of the cold of winter. The characters are captivating and intriguing, and each story doesn’t reveal all until the end. Each story has a slow spot which drags but then picks up the pace to an exciting fervor. The settings are incredible. Readers can see the sun sparkling off the new snow. A must-read at the Christmastide!


A Beginner’s Guide to Scandal (Tales from Honeysuckle Street)


Best friends and partners in crime, young Iris Abberton and Hamish Dalton get into everything together. A carriage accident changes that; crippling Hamish’s father, the Earl, and killing his brother and mother. Hamish and his father repair to the country so Hamish can be schooled in the responsibilities of an Earl. Iris is heartbroken because she loves Hamish. Twelve years later, Hamish returns to Iind a bride. Hamish is in love with Iris, but his focus is on creating a scandal to darken the family name, just to spite his father. Iris’ father is the head of Abberton and Co. Unknown to the board, his memory is failing, so Iris has been running the company in his stead. She does not have time for Hamish; she does not want to be hurt by him when he marries. But sometimes best friends make the best of brides…

“A Beginner’s Guide to Scandal” is a delightful romp through the intertwined lives of Iris and Hamish. Hard as nails on the outside, Iris has a soft inside with needs she reveals only to Hamish. Hamish is not a strong hero. He really is not sure what he wants,

he just obeys his father. He does have one independent thought –to blacken the Dalton name, but it has a horrible unwanted consequence. Though the story drags at times, testing the reader’s patience, Ms. Fleur skillfully weaves a story with many townspeople and makes them all distinct and easy enough to keep track of. Several of the ancillary characters are three dimensional, and they really help to support the story. A beautiful tale where love triumphs over all!

wish to send her far away to live with her father’s sister. Her mother in particular is resentful towards her and is willing to marry her off to any older, offputting man she can Iind. She wants Jonathan for Julia, but he has other plans that include Hannah.

Love Unseen Rachel Kelley Stones

“Love Unseen” is marvelously crafted with astounding characters thoughtfully treating a handicap as merely a condition with which Hannah must live and not as a burden on anyone. Mrs. Hadley is the villain in this tale, and she stirs up many emotions in the reader. The world building is incredible, and one feels as though they are lost with Hannah as she tries to Iind her way back to the house. There are many characters in this novel, and they all have some degree of depth, from the little children to whom Hannah tells stories to the lowlyest of servants. Ms. Stones has a gift for making each character quite memorable. A masterpiece of the highest standards, “Love Unseen” is an incredible saga readers will remember for all time.

Jonathan Carter asks Hannah Hadley to dance. She kindly turns him down. Jonathan is incensed, and Hannah wonders if she should have revealed to him her unseen handicap. Later, Mrs. Hadley tries to steer the very handsome and newly wealthy Jonathan towards her younger daughter, Julia. Hannah rubs him the wrong way every time they meet, but for some reason, she’s the one he’s attracted to. The Carter family, especially his sister, Bella, love Hannah and wish to include her in their family plans. Her family Iinds her to be an embarrassment and a burden and


An Uncharted Devotion

Amanda Taylor

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

certain things clearer. ConIlict is not as organic as possible, with misunderstandings usually at fault. Communication between Cassi and Tom could be poor to non-existent at times, creating further problems. Aside from those issues, Cassi is pleasant and sweet, and Tom is a fast thinker, able to wiggle out of any trouble with charm and wit. Together, they make great unwitting alliances. A fun read to spend an afternoon with!

Lieutenant James Turner has just married the love of his life, mere weeks before he sails off to war with the Royal Navy. But Iive years at war has changed the Lieutenant in ways he can’t explain, and when he Iinally returns to his bride, he’s not the man she knew—though he’s still the man she loves.

Haunted by the loss as a prisoner of war of his dear friend Patrick, James must Iind a way to once again assimilate himself into English society, as both a Lord and husband, but the need to rescue Patrick keeps him from becoming the man he knows his wife deserves. Now Lieutenant Turner will stop at nothing to discover Patrick’s fate, so he can lay his friend’s ghost to rest and Iind a way to be with his wife.

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

An Unwitting Alliance (Matchmaking Mamas book 2)

London 1821. Cassandra Vail attends Lady Kellen’s ball in the hopes of winning a husband before her parents carry through with their intention of matching her to a wealthy bachelor. She prefers to select her own husband. Lord Tom Harwood is a proud member of London’s Rebels, and he dances with a pretty woman to save his friend from unwanted attention. Too late, he realizes he danced with—and embarrassed— the wrong woman. Soon Cassandra and Tom learn they have been matched by their parents—except the only thing they can agree on is that neither one wants to get betrothed.

“An Unwitting Alliance” opens with a particularly strong beginning, quickly cementing the characters Iirmly in the reader’s hearts. This second book in the Matchmaking Mamas series can be read as a standalone, however, reading book one Iirst will make

What Dreams May Come

Lucy Hayes has had enough from her unwanted suitor, Jonathan Granger. With constant pursuits to make her his wife – despite her obvious disinterest, Lucy realizes the best way to avoid his incessant pursuit is to leave his estate and Iind a new position as a governess with younger children. However, when a particularly bad rainstorm moves in, all her plans change in the blink of an eye when a stranger, Mr. Calloway, offers a proposition to save her from the unwanted attention of Mr. Granger. However, when Mr. Calloway falls ill, she follows him to his home to help care for him –his family assuming she is his


betrothed. Lucy must decide if she should hide the truth from his family, but when his older brother, Simon, enters the picture, a new struggle emerges.

“What Dreams May Come” is an absolutely delightful read! The romance is very much alive with so much chemistry between Simon and Lucy that it could be felt seeping from the pages. The warm welcome of Mr. Calloway’s family warms the heart and creates so much tension and uncertainty for Lucy. At times, Lucy’s constant indecision is challenging and annoying; however, that is a minor inconvenience that can’t compare to the beautiful romance, chemistry, and suspense that this story contains. The ending is full of emotion and just enough chaos to add to the heightened sense. There are many pleasant surprises throughout this tale that makes it an unputdownable read from start to Iinish!

A Waltz with Traitors


Filip Sedlak is a Czech soldier who never wanted to go to war. He defected to the Russians, and has spent much of the war Iinding others to Iight so he can have an independent Czechoslovakia. Nadia Linskaya has known a life of privilege. But just as her family has decided to Ilee in the wake of the Tsar’s death, she Iinds herself alone and on the run from Bolshevik agents. In a split-second decision, Nadia and Filip Iind themselves married for her protection. As they journey together, they each begin to hope for a marriage that is true. But as the war continues and their marriage becomes truer, they face many obstacles that will either tear them apart or make their

marriage stronger than they ever could have hoped.

**Trigger warning: though not graphic, this novel contains rape and abuse**

The historical details make this story come to life, and although A.L. Sowards has shown creativity in many areas, the story stays true to what may have happened during this time. Filip and Nadia, although from completely different backgrounds, have an instant spark. Nadia shows great growth as she learns to live, to work, and to survive in this rough battleIield. Filip himself develops great patience and a capacity for love as he helps Nadia to learn how to live away from the luxury she grew up in. Through epic scenes of battle this love story is woven, capturing the reader’s heart. Fans of historical novels and romance novels alike will enjoy this wartime love story.



Casanova Cowboy (The Montana Men Series Book 2)

Jamie Schulz

builds to the angst and turmoil which builds within the plot. The Iirst chapter may overwhelm some readers as it introduces eleven characters by name and refers to two others. Since this is book two in a series, reading the Iirst book may help aid in placing the characters. This is a common trope as opposites attract and friends to lovers, however the hero and heroine are endearing and will draw readers in from the start.

Izabel Silva is new to a small Montana town where one of her best friends from college has settled down and just married. She hopes she will be welcome here since Ileeing her previous life and job in Seattle. Her marketing experience made others jealous, and they took advantage of her. Izabel is looking for a fresh start, and hopes this is the place. While attending the wedding of one his best friends, Zackary MacEntier catches a glimpse of a beautiful lady with green eyes There is something that draws Zack to her, and although he has a bit of a reputation as a playboy in the past, he hopes that there may be new possibilities around. When trouble arises, both Zack and Izabel Iind themselves in the crosshairs of someone out to destroy their new relationship.

“Casanova Cowboy” exposes readers to country living in Montana, and a steamy romance between two opposites. The main characters in this book are both very strong willed and skilled in very different career paths. The secondary cast of friends for both Zack and Izabel are presented as very supportive. The portrayal of prejudices is well written and

Letter Late Than Never (Green Valley Heroes Book 3)

Lauren Connolly

changed after Gwen left school early one day and someone else asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Could it be fate is giving them a second chance after all these years? Gwen and Sebastian are both Iighting against internal demons that keep them doubting themselves, but maybe it’s time to let someone else help them Iight. Don’t let that this is book three of a series (written by different authors) stop one from jumping right in! The only thing it will do is send readers searching for the rest of the series. The setting for this series is funny, friendly, and well developed, and the reader is welcomed in like they are part of the family. Gwen and Sebastian are both haunted by their pasts and that is making their futures scary, but they are surrounded by people who want them to be happy. The unique way this story is carried along by a series of letters and postcards is fun and entertaining. When Gwen and Sebastian Iinally come together, the story burns the words right off the pages and has the reader rooting for their future. A great read!

Gwen Elsmere is doing her daily main delivery route when she Iinds one of her customers in need of medical attention. When emergency services arrive to tend to the injured Agnes, Gwen Iinds herself face to face with the man she has been crushing on since grade school. Sebastian Kirkwood has recently returned home to Green Valley after stress and the end of a relationship started to affect his health. Sebastian and Gwen used to be friends in high school and both harbored secret crushes on the other. Unfortunately, the path of their relationship was drastically


Angels Around Us (Heaven’s Torment #1)

Victoria Liiv

supporting characters are well developed, and each hold strong positions as supporters or adversaries. The trauma of the plane crash, near drowning, an unwanted pregnancy, a hostile coworker with and obsession, and an inexcusable relationship with a professional therapist could all be major triggers for some readers. Readers may hope for more from Adrian’s perspective as the ending leaves some thoughts up in the air. Even though the subject matter is complex and painful, the story and location it all occurs in is beautifully detailed.

sisters' wedding rehearsal dinner, and the sparks continue to ignite a passion they cannot ignore. Lake and Adrian embark on a reverseage gap love affair, Iilled with steamy sex and fun! Their only way to happily ever after will be if Lake is willing to confront and overcome her past demons and heartbreak.

Amber was on the plane from NYC to Amsterdam that suddenly plummeted into the freezing ocean. She survived, although many did not. Now she’s slowly moving forward with severe PTSD and vivid, haunting dreams nightly. Her mom had suggested therapy, which she hopes and prays will aid in her recovery.

Adrian Alfons is the therapist assigned to Amber. His family was also affected by the plane crash. He’s handsome, caring, and all Amber can think about after her Iirst session. A major conIlict she knows, but her Monday morning sessions are what get her through the rest of the slow moving weeks working at a design Iirm. Adrian keeps their visits at a professional distance, however, when in trouble, Amber has no one else to turn to that she trusts, so Adrian, time and again, is her savior. Will they be able to keep it above board, or will heartbreak be inevitable?

“Angels Around Us” is a complex story with many emotional and traumatic experiences well played out. Ms. Liiv portrays the protagonists thoughtfully in this book, and draws readers in to the literal deep end. The strong

Beautiful Lies

Paula Dombrowiak

Lake Kennedy, 43, works hard to further her career in Iinance, to ensure her daughter, Noelle, 17, is happy, and to guard her heart from another disastrous relationship. Adrian Corbin, 31, works hard and plays hard, and knows he wants the sexy woman who walks into the bar while he and his band are playing. Arizona's monsoon season has nothing on the stormy, heated sexual liaison the two share without exchanging names or numbers. However, their onenight stand is rendered moot when they are introduced at their

"Beautiful Lies" is a scintillatingly sensual story of a single night's hook-up Iilled with hot, passionate adventure turning into something unexpected. Readers are taken on a wonderfully emotional rollercoaster ride perpetuating some MILF and cougar stereotypes. However, Lake and Adrian produce enough white-Iire chemistry to bring forth thunder and lightning, and keep the pages burning! Oops! Pages turning! Their families and friends are kept on a need-to-know until everyone knows all. The obstacles and insecurities inherent in their affair provide the angst, and romance readers will salivate over from one chapter to the next. Well-known for her rocky rock star entanglements Iilled with discordant tunes turning into harmonious ballads of love, sex, and music, author Paula Dombrowiak does not disappoint her fans with this tale of "Beautiful Lies" becoming a beautiful truth to sing about!



Just Add Mischief (An Everly Falls Novel, Book 2)

Heather B. Moore

friendship is helped along by Ian’s very friendly dog. Duke’s barks usually warn that he’s happy to see whoever is visiting. When the past interferes with the present, the newly formed duo work together to solve the issues that arise in both their lives. Though the story is somewhat predictable, there is an edge of suspense added to it that heightens the romance. All you need is love and a little mischief.

Leah Neale

Sable has sworn off workplace romances because they never work out – but can this relationship be the exception to the rule?

Getting away from it all seems logical to Brandy Kane after ending her engagement. Her mother is furious that Brandy is moving to a remote cabin. It’s a compromise because Brandy wanted to move out of town. She just wants a place to be alone. Ian Hudson, her unexpected neighbor, is not happy with the new situation either. Reclusive and intensely private, he moved to the woods himself for the solitude, his only disturbance occasional hikers. Now, that has changed. Still, it’s not Brandy who brings problems, it’s her nosey, noisy family. Two lonely people seeking escape from the pain of heartache cannot avoid helping each other. They fall into an easy camaraderie until danger lurks in the woods surrounding their homes.

The second book in this series, “Just Add Mischief” doesn’t disappoint, and it stands well alone. It’s the perfect companion for a cozy day of reading. The story brings readers into the lives of two people betrayed by broken engagements and friendships. Everly Falls is an idyllic setting to escape town gossips and kindle a new romance that begins with a reluctant friendship. Their

Sable (Always a BridesmaidBook 12)

Peggy Jaeger

One can never really go wrong reading a Peggy Jaeger story, and this one is no exception. No matter what genre or sub-genre Ms. Jaeger writes, she manages to knock it out of the park. The steam content in this tale is low, yet one doesn’t miss the steamy scenes because the sparks she includes and the emotions she evokes have the reader pulled so deeply into the tale that it’s not missed. Both Sable and Kristopher are wonderfully developed characters, and readers will feel for both of them as they try to face their pasts and forge a future together. Their relationship progresses realistically and believably, and readers will be rooting for them to succeed. Sable’s family provides some great humorous moments, and Kristopher’s military friends add extra depth. A perfect tale to curl up with in the evening!

Piper Valentine

Sable has been a bridesmaid more times than she can count, and now she’s the only single girl left, something her interfering family just doesn’t understand. Sable is a dedicated pediatrician whose crazy hours get in the way of Iinding her perfect guy… until her shift in the ER brings her face to face with Kristopher Lee, the PA assigned to work with her. Kristopher is a retired military guy who needed a change in his life, so becoming a PA fed into his need to help people. When he meets Sable, sparks Ily, but he wonders if his wounded heart is ready to Iinally take a chance on another woman. The problem?

Miranda Nights

Gail Ward Olmsted

Miranda Quinn is the perfect example of rising above


challenges. Two years ago her life completely imploded, and she lost almost everything. But now she is married to the love of her life, has a very successful podcast, loyal friends, and a fabulous home. Her world seems perfect… until it all suddenly unravels. First her beloved friend’s son is arrested for sexual assault, then a family member lands in the hospital and Iinally a crazy caller is suddenly evolving into a scary stalker - one that is destroying her career and threatening her life! As things become more and more dangerous, Miranda knows only that she will Iight with everything she has to keep those she loves and the life she deserves.

With witty banter and warmth, this fast-paced ride of a read keeps one laughing as the tension builds and the pressure increases! The characters are delightfully nuanced and real, with challenges that are believable and, at times, heart-wrenching. Miranda and Eric are both characters that quickly endear themselves to any reader and their relationship is something to sigh for! The plot does inundate the reader with multiple main plot lines rather than one with secondary threads added, until a reader isn’t sure where the over-all focus of the storyline is supposed to be. Also, the stalker aspect holds to the hugely overused religious fanatic cliché that lacks creativity. Even so, the writing style is truly delightful and the characters are so enjoyable that the reading experience is all kinds of fun, right through the last page turned!

Ready or Knot: A Sweet Small Town Romance (Heart Valley Romance Book 3)

Jennifer McMurrain

Cole Patterson knows he has to plan his sister’s wedding, whether he wants to or not. She told him months ago, but he was sure it would be easier to handle after the holidays. Now Valentine’s Day is two weeks away, and the event planner has said no to his pleas for help. Fiona Williams knows she can’t possibly take on the wedding because she’s also planning the town’s Valentine’s Dance, which happens the day before. With much begging from Cindy, Cole’s famous sister, however, Fiona is convinced to help Cole. Soon they notice their own spark of romance. Their lovelight is dimmed by their mutual dislike for Cindy’s Iiancé , who denies wanting any part of the planning, but swoops in and makes changes without apology. This book pulls readers in from the beginning with a bull-riding cowboy browsing uncomfortably in a Iloral, feminine wedding planner’s ofIice. Cole and Fiona both have tragic love stories in their past. Working together on his sister’s wedding plans seems to cement the fact that they should avoid falling in love again

—an aim difIicult to go for when constantly discussing a wedding. Readers will enjoy the bit of suspense with this romance that builds slowly as questions continue to arise about Cindy’s Iiancé . The author does a good job of giving the romance an edge with this bit of mystery. There’s a bit of humor too, like when the author speaks of a love that “shoots glitter and farts rainbows.” Lovers of romance will adore this story.

Leah Neale

Just A Fling

Katherine Grace

Dawn is proving her worth with a local New York City law Iirm. Until her bar exam results are in, she’s got to keep up the long hours and grueling requests. When a new client is visiting the ofIice, she’s totally Iloored while realizing one individual present is her ‘summer Iling’ from last year while she was in England for a summer internship. Dawn truly thought Callan Marlowe could be her ‘one’ – until he wasn’t.

Callan owns a successful solar company, and unbeknownst to Dawn, has a past that still haunts him, which has led him to build walls that no one can tear down.



Can they work together on this newest project? Is there conIlict with their work and personal relationship? One more question… do you believe in fate?

Oh emmm GEE! Ms. Grace has an amazing multilayered drama that peels back one layer at a time. This debut book has so many feels that readers will surely be swept into the romance and pains that come with it. The protagonists are both committed and successful in their careers, and have a hearty past that surfaces a year later –this being the springboard to rekindling their relationship that fate – and maybe a few supporting cast – have brought together. The details of England drop readers right in the thick of it. Traveling back in the past to explain parts of the book were creatively developed. The tragedy of loss that Callen endured is truly heart felt, his progress through healing will bring on the tears. Ms. Grace crafted a treat, and readers should be on the lookout for what works come next from her!

Dirty Devil (Nashville Devils Book 4)

Melissa Ivers

brought to life on the pages is a true artistic talent, along with the snarky and fun bantering text messages. The dangerous proposition that toys with their hearts and minds will take readers through the ups and downs of life and love. This is book 4 in a series and it stands alone well, but with the alpha hockey team players in the mix, readers should start at the beginning and read them all! Delicious, delightful, and fun!

Avery Remington is a single mom with an infant son. The father chose to walk away and told her to “take care of it”. The sperm donor is a hockey player, and Avery has sworn off all hockey players forever! That is until Foster Craig rescues the damsel in distress. Avery’s car breaks down, and Foster is the only one to answer her plea. Her brother is usually her go-to, but he’s not answering her call. Foster is more than willing to help out ‘Baby Remington’. He knows he shouldn’t be attracted to his team mates sister – but he is. When he uses her to deter another ‘puck bunny’ and kisses her, a fake relationship plan is formulated. Hopefully this aids in Foster’s likability factor and keeps him from being traded to another team, but neither of them counted on pesky feelings to develop.

Ms. Ivers has penned this super steamy, super funny, sports romance that checks all the boxes! “Dirty Devil” is appropriately titled and will draw readers in from the Iirst scene. The protagonists are a balanced match and have a believable relationship from fake to not fake. The way many inward thoughts are

Home is Where Your Heart Is


Ellie Starling is shy; she is in her Iinal semester of medical school. During the wedding of a friend in Alabama during Christmas, Ellie reconnects with ‘Mack’ Macauley. He is an ex- Army medic and former boyfriend, and they are both Iinishing medical school together. Unfortunately, they drifted apart nearly a year earlier because Mack had some traumas to process from his time in the military and from his unhealthy relationship with his family. Ellie lost interest because she felt Mack was using her and had never taken the time to get to know her. After spending all those months apart, they have both grown up.



Mack wants to try dating Ellie again, but she is withholding judgement until she understands Mack’s growth and handling of his traumas. While this book has promise, the execution of the details drags it down somewhat. For example, readers hear repetitive conversations play out in each protagonists’ head: When one asks, “Are we dating?” the other one muses, “I wonder if we’re dating….” At times, the pace is steady, and at other times it drags. The result is that it takes longer than expected to read this story because of the uneven tension and the short supply of actions to propel the story forward. On a positive note, both of these protagonists are likable, with a core of inner strength and conIidence to believe in their own inherent worth as people. They have strong friendships with others, and their family dynamics are much healthier than they used to be, leaving the reader with a strong sense of joy and hope for this couple.

Carey Sullivan

Overruling Judgment

Liz Ellyn

Could Not Finish

This book has received a DNF as it violates our steam content guidelines for mé nage and bondage.

Jennifer Shepherd

For Whom the Fury Rolls (Syn City Shifters Book 2)

Luna Joya

Kiva’s love. The reader can truly feel his pain and heartache when he lost his mate. Kiva is a very strong character but struggled with not remembering her past. The paranormal story gives you romance, suspense, action, and intrigue. “For Whom the Fury Rolls” is Book 2 in the Syn City series, and although it can be read as a standalone, the reader should read the books in order to have a full picture of Syn City and how it operates. Sizzling, steamy and delightful!

can’t help but notice the strong energy that is pouring from him. Enlisting his help may be the only way to save her sister, but at what cost?

Stone is a Kodiak bear shifter who found his mate, Kiva. They married and have built a life together. Then one night, Kiva is murdered right in front of Stone. He is devastated and begs for her life with another mysterious paranormal being. She saves Kiva and brings her back to life with a curse that will forbid her from remembering me or remembering us, and can only be broken by true love’s kiss. 2 years later, Stone Iinds her in Syn City as the mortal daughter of the mythological furies. Kiva has no memory of her past, how she died, or who Stone is, but he cannot let her go without a Iight.

“For Whom the Fury Rolls” is a paranormal shifter romance that leaves the reader believing in soulmates and the power of true love, and the lengths the characters will go to, to Iind it again. The reader will be drawn into the captivating story and kept hooked from beginning to end. Luna Joya has created this unique world in Syn City with very fun and likeable characters that will make readers laugh and cry. Stone is a great hero, who is so dedicated and determined to win

Healing Kiss

Amanda Uhl

Readers will absolutely love this story of Lillian and Tristan as they navigate getting to know each other and the roadblocks they face on their journey trying to save Hannah. “Healing Kiss” is a very well-paced paranormal book with great character development and spice. The story is atmospheric, and while there are not a lot of plot twists to be found within it, readers will have a hard time putting this one down. Ms. Uhl does an amazing job pulling the reader into the story and building a deep connection with each character. Readers will not be able to get enough of the relationship between Lillian and Tristan. With every page being so engaging, this book is one that can be read from cover to cover in one sitting!

SUSPENSE: Lillian Milano changes her appearance – and even her name to protect herself and her family from a company known as Kinetica. This company is trying to track her down in order to use her special healing abilities for their sick and twisted experiments. Lillian has been on the run for a while, but when her sister, Hannah, becomes gravely ill, Lillian must reintroduce herself into her family’s lives to save her sister. Lillian’s healing abilities are used by channeling energy from another person, and when she stumbles across Tristan King, a wealthy tech genius, she

Demon hunter, Jinx McGee, was recently killed, sort of, in an unearthly battle where seven Master Demons escaped from

73 Paranormal
Hell Bent (Jinx McGee Book 2) D. B. Sieders


Hell. Her teammates, many of whom are demon refugees, saved her by gifting her pieces of their own demon essences. Now Jinx uniquely embodies the power of three realms: human, demon, and celestial (from her deadbeat dad.) Team leader, Trinity, keeps trying to bench Jinx until she gets back into full Iighting form, but mischief Iinds Jinx anyway. She and her team face off against Master Demon, Belphegor, who has found a way to steal soul energy from innocent humans and lesser demons to create a weapon that can free her demon boss, Belial. Jinx wants to end this war. To do this, she’ll need to make amends with her childhood best friend and ex-lover, Demoriel, recently revealed as the son of Belial himself!

“Hell Bent” is a paranormal enthusiast’s delight! Jinx has an adorable, stubborn, tough-girl wit. She’s driven to succeed and loves looking for loopholes in Trinity’s dictums so that she can stay in the game. Jinx also wants to hold onto her grudge against Demoriel for hiding his heritage from her, but melts like butter on a hot chicken platter when he gifts her a tiny black IlufIball. The IlufIball turns out to be a demon kitty with wings, who Jinx names Sully, for Sulphur McGee. Sully not only doubles as an emotional support kitty and bodyguard –she steals every single scene! The entire cast of this action driven adventure is so bursting with charm that readers will want to catch up on the Iirst book and impatiently anticipate the next!

Ghosts of New England: Last Light Point

Nancy Fraser, Lisa A. Olech, Kathryn Hills, Peggy Jaeger

PARANORMAL: There is a legend at Last Light Point: Don’t look at the Gibbet, or pay the price. “The Pirate’s Promise”, by Lisa A. Olech: Everly Crowe and pirate John Beckett have found love in dangerous waters. Captain Bartholowmew Jacques holds a note over Everly’s family business, The Crowe’s Nest, and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her and John apart. “Smoke and Mirrors”, by Kathryn Hills: Morgan Blackwell runs The Crowe’s Nest, and uses every cent he earns wisely. The ghosts of the tavern unmask his servant, Will, to actually be a woman named Willow. Do the ghosts mean them harm or good?

“For the Love of Grace”, by Nancy Fraser: After Grace O’Hearn’s father is murdered, she becomes the owner of The Crowe’s Nest tavern. FBI agent Max Stewart is sent there to investigate police corruption and gets more than he bargained for. “A Promise FulIilled” by Peggy Jaeger: Daisy Morgan has just won the lottery! She decides to put her money to use by investing in the historical Crowe’s Nest Tavern. Keegan Warren is a writer wanting to do a

story on the tavern. In doing so, he uncovers some family ghosts. Four love stories, each sweeping, sensual, and satisfying from start to Iinish! All four stories are set in the same town over different time periods. “The Pirate’s Promise” is a detailed historical romance about Everly and John that brings readers back in time instantly. “Smoke and Mirrors” is picturesque in its descriptions, beautifully and poetically written. Willow and Morgan have a solid romance full of chemistry. This story is incredibly steamy! “For the Love of Grace” is full of action and adventure, taking readers on a wild ride with Grace and Max through the 40’s in this mystery/ romance. “A Promise FulIilled” takes readers on a character driven journey. Daisy and Keegan are strong, relatable, and easy to cheer for. As a collection, the tales can be read separately. The way they all intertwine in the small details makes this anthology a fun read with Easter eggs to spot! Overall, this is a great read for lovers of paranormal romance and also historical settings!


Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

The Solitary Rose


Henry Dawson has struggled with money since the death of his father, but his Iinancial troubles are solved by an invitation to marry an heiress who has turned down many suitors. Henry feels he must marry Emma Ainsworth to save his family. Emma, however, is against the marriage for several reasons. Having suffered from smallpox, she feels tainted with scars and the consequences of being an empath makes her not want to marry. However, when Henry comes to the estate and ends up with a major injury, Emma is forced to care for the man as he is conIined to his bed. The empath uses this to her advantage though, trying to convince Henry to help her with her sexual doubts without intentions to marry him. But will this result in a love match for the two? Or will both be ruined and heartbroken as a result?

Like a well-wrapped gift, the author presents a unique combination of urban fantasy and the Victorian era which will have readers on their toes reading this stubborn romance full of pushing limits. The introduction of magical shields and sorcerers is sudden, which gives readers whiplash for

the lack of worldbuilding and no expansion on what type of magic this world has; however, the chemistry between the protagonists burns bright from the start of the novel, attracting the readers instantly. Emma and Henry’s stubbornness and the opposites-attract trope keep things spicy, but some scenes are quite unrealistic for the Victorian era, especially how much private time Emma and Henry spend together. Nonetheless, the novel is unique, well-written, and does a good job of keeping the storyline short and entertaining.

trouble with a clan of Ogres seeking to rectify an old issue with Rose’s family. However, the Ogres are far from their only concern as more and more come to light. Rose struggles as she searches for freedom, but will it ever come?

E.E. Hornburg creates a beautiful, mythical fantasy in Eral Forest that is an intriguing take on a wellloved classic. Rose is written with a Iierce attitude and passion for her home, with a best friend and love interest adding to the mix. The chemistry that Cal and Rose share is heart-warming, and the slow burn as they begin to realize this will keep readers hooked. The side characters are delightful and add to the intense mix of fantasy throughout the forest. It is also a unique touch to be able to see the story from the villain's perspective as everything begins to unfold.

“The Forest’s Keeper” is a delightful read that will twist everything readers know about the beloved classics!

The Forest’s Keeper

E.E. Hornburg

Rose wants nothing more than to stand side by side with her best friend, Cal, wielding a sword. Her sister, Eira, was cursed and is unable to reign as she should because of the former queen, Amelia, a green-scaled sorceress. Rose is determined more than ever to track the sorceress down and right all the wrongs she’s done, especially after a wolf shape-shifter informs Rose of all the trouble brewing in the Eral Forest. As Cal and Rose set off on their quest to track down Amelia and save the forest, they run into

Bound in Blood: A Mythos Novel

NEW ADULT: For the past year, Tristan Gallagher has been cursed. With a dragon dad and a kitsune


Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

mom, Tristan can normally shapeshift at will, but now he is trapped in human form by day and forced to transform into a sea otter at night. Martin Carpenter had aimed the curse at Tristan’s adopted older brother, Aran, a thousands-year-old immortal whose vitality is linked to the sea. But even Aran’s considerable skill cannot reverse the witch’s curse. The old man may be more powerful than he appears. Tristan is still resentful that Aran walked away from the family sixteen years ago. Regardless of his reasons for leaving, Aran has returned to protect Tristan and vows to help him undo the curse, even if it will cost Aran his immortal life and soul.

“Bound in Blood” is mythical fantasy with a touch of depravity. It is not an easy read. The plotline is littered with unexplained references between the major characters, some of them remaining a mystery to the very end. Tristan’s new girlfriend, Susannah, is petulant and abrasive. Tristan’s parents seem perpetually detached, leaving one to wonder why he holds Aran, who clearly has his own issues, solely responsible for his loneliness. When Tristan, Aran, and Susannah team up to solve Tristan’s problem, their actions are often disorganized and counter-productive, such as going on an inland hike without enough water or into the underground tunnels without Iire. With inscrutable characters, inconsistent decisions, and underdeveloped background, the author’s thoughts are difIicult to follow. Further editing to remove errors and clarify how past events affect the present, could transform this into a smoother read.

On the day Eliza Carroll mourns the death of her grandmother, she is also informed her parents have secured a husband for her. Devastated, Eliza Iinds solace in the gardens. But upon trying to befriend a lovely rabbit, she inadvertently falls into a hole that lands her in another world! There, she discovers the rabbit is actually a handsome man named Finn, who is tasked to take her to the Red Court where she will be crowned the next “Alice” - the savior of Wonderland. As bizarre as it sounds, Eliza realizes she is not dreaming and the dangers are all too real. With the knights of the White Court chasing them, Eliza must determine how to save a world, keep her head, and Iind her heart - all before everything falls apart.

In this creative retelling, Ms. Van Dyke has brought new life and a lovely bit of romance to the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland, revitalizing and reimagining the story in a whole new way. While all the characters are obvious, each has been transformed into living, breathing people which gives the story a bit of realism readers can grasp onto. While we follow Eliza and Finn, we also are

treated to a creative take on the events that keep Wonderland alive in her Iight to return home. While the set-up, characters, and overall story are not new, the twists on each trope and character are fun and inventive enough that the reader stays engaged and enjoying the ride! It is a story Iilled with action, adventure - all wrapped up in a romance that is deliciously delightful!

The Alice Curse Megan Van Dyke Ruth Lynn Ritter

Young Adult

What We Hide

M.L. Stoughton

Veronica Campbell has pushed her father’s Iinal limits. As a result of her troubled ways since her mother’s death, she’s sent to the boarding school, Evergreen, to Iix her behavior. At Evergreen, Ronnie Iinds consolation in the charming Will Tucker; however, this only lands her in more trouble as she ends up Iighting with a powerful mean girl clique at the school. When the mean girls use a Ouija board to call upon Veronica’s mother, a dead soul comes through from the other side. Ronnie must do what she can to make up for her mother’s death, which she feels is her own fault. However, this ghostly being might not actually be her mother, but another angry soul.

Suspense, ghosts, high school drama and a tinge of romance make for a thrilling read that will keep one Ilipping the pages in fearful haste toward the satisfying conclusion. The plot is so full of twists, it will shock readers to their core. The sudden shift from teenage turmoil to paranormal suspense could’ve used a smoother transition, but the suspense makes the book much more interesting. After the paranormal theme is revealed, readers will be on the edge of

their seats while they try to solve the puzzle. A bit more of the romance between Ronnie and Will would’ve been better, since it feels a bit dry just before the climax. The character development for the main character, however, is perfect. The other characters’ development is lacking throughout the novel. Regardless, readers will not want to put down this novel as they’re carried through this intense world of mystery solving.

dragon from his dreams saves him. This encounter opens the door to more questions, and leaves Eric searching for more answers.

“Dragon Surf” is a quick and fun YA novel that is a joy to read. Right from the beginning, D.G Driver and Jenni Bautista Richard grab the reader's attention with Eric and his family’s dynamic. His attitude Iits perfectly in line with what would be expected from a teenage boy, especially one who struggles to connect with his mother and his cultural heritage. However, as the dreams begin to come to life and he starts to connect with his mother towards the end of the novel, it lifts a weight off Eric’s shoulders and readers can feel this as well. All the teenage angst and resentment that blinded him before is lifted, and he is able to fully appreciate not only his culture, but his parents. “Dragon Surf” is such a unique and wonderful YA read!

Dragon Surf

D.G. Driver with Jenni Bautista


URBAN FANTASY: Eric Long lives the life of a Chinese American teenage boy, struggling to accept his heritage and clinging to the All-American life. He focuses on his goals to become a champion surfer like his father before him, and is reluctant to show any interest in his mother’s knack for Chinese artistry. However, when Eric starts to have vivid dreams depicting a dragon, much like those in his mother’s artwork, he begins to question where they came from and why. As he questions his ancestry and those before him, he Iinds himself in a near death experience when the

The Blood of Faeries (The Allison Lee Chronicles Book 2)

Dan Rice

Everyone knows the monster girl, Allison Lee. With protestors camped out on her front lawn


each day and a tight security detail, Allison’s life has been nowhere near normal since she was exposed as a shape-shifting monster. She would like to forget the skaag part of her being. But she can’t because the skaag that long slept inside of her is now hungry to be loose. She can keep the skaag part of herself in check, most of the time. Despite wanting to go back to her life of photography and friends, she Iinds her life going ever further from that normal time as her friend and onetime boyfriend goes missing. Allison and her friends must work together to Iind Hajia and risk their own lives in the process.

This is the second book in the series, and while it can be read alone it is much more confusing without the backstory provided by the Iirst book. Dan Rice does a great job of describing this fantasy world and its monsters, immersing you in a world full of dragons, skaags, magic, and faeries. The dialogue in the book can get tedious and is sometimes even annoying in the repetition of words and phrases. The use of heroin as a way to do magic is not fully explained, and the world accepting magic with drug use is somewhat perplexing. The Iight scenes are well done and invigorating. This fantasy is Iilled with plot twists and turns at

Champion of Her Heart (Buena Hills Book 2)

Allison Gygi

While Mitchell “Mitch” Skaggs is playing beach volleyball for fun with some friends, he is noticed by Coach Tom Buchanan. Tom offers Mitch the chance of a lifetime to play professional beach volleyball. Mitch is apprehensive about this idea, especially since he

already loves his job as an athletic trainer. As he is talking about being approached to play volleyball at his workplace, McKenzie “Zee” Bowman, a shy, dedicated gymnast who also trains there, slowly talks him into it. Mitch has a huge crush on McKenzie, who secretly likes him too. As Mitch gets McKenzie to slowly open up, McKenzie doesn’t know if she should even trust him, especially when there are many obstacles in the way. Busy schedules and even McKenzie’s own mother could destroy the budding relationship between them.

What a beautifully told contemporary sports romance that is a completely engaging tale! The passion of both athletes is well-researched and wonderfully told, deIinitely putting readers in an Olympic spirit! Sure, most readers may want to start at the beginning of the series just to get the scope of all the minor

regular intervals. The clifIhanger at the end will ensure that readers come back when he releases book three.

Young Adult New Adult

characters’ relationships, but it isn’t really necessary to do so to understand what is going on. Yes, the love story is a slow burn, but when Mitch and Zee actually do get together it makes it’s that much more satisfying. Mitch the handsome volleyballer is just the perfect optimistic extroverted hero to balance McKenzie’s quiet, introverted ways. Ms. Gygi fantastically portrays how difIicult it is to have love between a volleyball player and a gymnast. Their story simply rings true!


Back in Time with Jelly Beans (Jelly Beans and Spring Things)

Michelle Godard-Richer

but fall in love with – Bella especially, who is willing to sacriIice everything to stop the Iire and save the man she loves. The reader will enjoy the slow romance that develops between Bella and Henry, which does not feel rushed or fake. The author describes the past, the clothes of the characters, and their personalities very well. “Back in Time with Jelly Beans” is Book 1 in the Jelly Beans and Spring Things series, and it will have the reader looking forward to the next book in the series! Sweet and delicious, just like the named treat.

stand. Sheena doesn’t seem put off by his scars, his fears, or worried about his lack of direction. With support from family and Sheena, Rafe might just learn to live again, but he has to make it through this job as Santa Iirst.

TIME TRAVEL: Bella Thomas is home from school visiting her parents in MayIlower. Her dream is to become a big-time journalist, and she’s helped at the local town’s newspaper. While home, she decides to investigate the history of the Iire that burned down the Jelly Bean factory in 1927. The Iire killed the founder, Henry Hinchcliffe, and devasted the economy. She wants to understand how it happened and why it affected the economy. She Iinds herself breaking into the burnt down factory, where a jelly bean transports Bella back in time to a year before the Iire. She comes face to face with the handsome Henry Hinchcliffe, who comes to her rescue. Will she be able to stop the Iire from ever happening and not fall in love with the handsome Henry, who can never be hers?

“Back in Time with Jelly Beans” is a sweet romantic time travel romance that leaves the reader wanting more. Michelle GodardRicher has created a cozy time traveling story with believable characters that one can not help

The Scarred Santa

A sweet holiday story that hits the reader in the feels! “The Scarred Santa” Rafe Sullivan is hurt, lost, and drifting. Sheena is calm, loving, and conIident. The story follows Rafe’s progress as he recovers his conIidence, lets go of his fears, and allows himself to love again. There are moments of fun and sweetness, and a couple scenes that will make the reader want to cry. The emotions are vivid and the story is beautifully woven together. Additionally, the Christmas setting is well used without taking the focus from Rafe’s recovery. The only major downside is the short length prevents greater depth on Sheena’s side. Still, readers looking for a bit of sweetness, inspiration, romance, and the triumph of overcoming major trials should order this novella right away!

INSPIRATIONAL: Rafe Sullivan retired from the Marine Corps, scarred, injured, and with PTSD from his last tour in Afghanistan. Once a handsome and social man, he now lives a solitary life, hiding even from the love and attention of his family. He changes jobs often and Iinds little purpose in life. Then his brother Iinds him a temporary job playing Santa Claus at the mall. At the same time, he learns the lovely Sheena Dunmore works across from the Santa

81 Novella


Sing Me A Soap Opera

Susan Jean Ricci

CONTEMPORARY: Kendal Harper is a fantasy author whose publisher has challenged her to write a romance story about a workplace romance by experiencing it herself. Kendal is resistant to the idea; after all, she is still recovering from the loss of her husband, Cam, a man she fell in love with when she interviewed him. Unfortunately for Kendal, her publisher is dead-set that this is what Kendal should do, and is willing to offer a large Iinancial reward for the project. Despite her misgivings, Kendal goes ahead with the experiment and Iinds herself applying for jobs so she can start Iinding someone to begin a workplace romance with. Kendal soon Iinds that while there may be many choices of men to start a romance with, none quite live up to the man she lost. Determined, she keeps trying until Iinally things start to take a much deeper turn in the relationship department. When this story begins, the reader is likely to feel just as hesitant about where it's going as the main character is feeling. The book begins with a prologue that essentially tells the reader how the book is going to end, and is confusing in that it tells you the end before you even know the beginning. The characters have potential, but the storylines feel disingenuous to this reader. How can someone root for a character to have a life-changing love story when the reader knows the main character is being deceptive? Kendal and the man she will fall in love with have so much character potential, but it's lost to the story. A little polishing and reorganizing will help this tale shine.


Crossing a Fine Line (The McKay Series Book 5)

W.L. Brooks

box of tissues, and the romance is a gorgeous love/hate relationship between the protagonists, and is done whilst maintaining the grittiness of a good thriller. One or two moments are questionable, but be patient as the plots are revealed in clear stages that amp up the suspense. This is Book 5 of the McKay Series, but can be read as a standalone. It is a page turner that will get one’s heart racing and leave readers wanting more! *Contains some subjects that may serve as triggers for some readers.*

themselves safe – they Ilee. Surprisingly, Jessica runs into her Iirst love, Jon Kent, who is a retired FBI agent back in town. Follow Jessica and Bryce, as they try to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from David’s wrath.

Fletcher McKay hates Noah Reed, and the feeling is mutual as they stare across each other through the one way glass of the interrogation room. A man is dead, and the only clear suspect is Fletcher, and Reed knows it. Being Sheriff of Blue Creek, he either has to arrest her or keep her in protective custody. Fletcher has been shot, tortured, and is now being framed for her captor’s murder. As the plot thickens, and her family and those close to her are threatened, Fletcher and Reed have to Iind a way to work together, as Reed tries to keep the independent and stubborn Fletcher safe while solving the murder. Is there a Iine line between love and hate?

Be ready for a thrilling dive deep into the drama surrounding the residents of Blue Creek and the McKay family. W.L Brooks provides a delicately woven plot line which is fast paced, exciting, and with some very steamy encounters which require a reread. The characters of the McKay family and friends are engaging from the start, and the reader will be glued to the pages as the mystery unravels. There are scenes of anguish that require a

Fatal Witness (The Fatal Series #2)

Michelle Godard-Richer

“Fatal Witness” is a fast-paced, action-packed story that can easily be read in one sitting. Readers will be on the edge of their seats with this suspenseful tale! Ms. Godard-Richer is an amazing storyteller and develops her characters in a way that will cause readers to fall in love with them. While “Fatal Witness” is the second in the series it can be read as a standalone, as it follows an entirely different storyline. There is so much suspense in this story that readers won’t even realize they’ve come near the end of the book. It is deIinitely a page-turner, and with some romance thrown in, this thriller is one readers won’t want to miss!

Jessica’s life seems to be getting back on track after the passing of her husband and raising her son, Bryce, on her own. That is until one night when Jessica is having trouble sleeping and she decides to open her bedroom window to get some air, and she witnesses something horriIic. Her neighbor, David, appears to be loading what looks like a body into the back of his truck. After Jessica reports this to the police, David will stop at nothing to eliminate his only witness. Jessica and her son do the only thing they can to keep

Sienna Ricci is determined to steal antiques from Jonathan Woodward. While she is good at what she does and is good when it

Gullible Rosemary Kubli


comes to seduction and hiding in plain sight, she Iinds herself in an interesting situation because Jonathan is not all that he seems. As she works her way towards her goal, the passion between them becomes too much to resist, and her cover of Marie Lacroix is in danger of being revealed. If she is caught, she risks losing more than the money that the prize can bring. Can Sienna keep her head in the game long enough to get the job done? Or has she bitten off more than she can chew when it comes to her charming and irresistible target? Only time will tell.

“Gullible” has two awesome characters who have their own secrets. This is a wild ride, with the plot moving briskly as Sienna works towards her goal and Jonathan risks losing a fair few of his antiques. Throughout the book there is a thrilling aspect which makes it a real page turner. Some aspects could move a little quicker but to be honest, they don’t take away from the overall story, and readers will love the interaction between Sienna and Jonathan. For fans of suspense and thrillers, whether to read this story is a no brainer. Rosemary Kubli has done a great job bringing the plot and characters to life. Without a

doubt, this is a great book with great character development and an interesting concept.

spirit, saving victims of the vortex on the beach for eighty years, and Gloryanna must work together to uncover who is trying to kill Gloryanna and what secrets they are trying to keep buried in the sea.

Shifting Sands

Gloryanna GrifIin is a Marine Biology student in pursuit of a scholarship so she can Iinish her degree and pursue her dream of saving the ocean. But when she goes on a dive with her mentor and her ex-boyfriend, who is vying for the same scholarship, everything suddenly goes wrong. Gloryanna is swept into a vortex when her tank suddenly runs out of air. Jonathan Dawson was murdered years ago on the beach where she ends up. Together, Jonathan who has been stuck as a

Filled with unexpected twists and turns, this unique tale will keep readers guessing in this hard to put down novel. Kathi Peterson has woven an historical romance with a modern romance in a terriIic blend. Jonathan’s experience in the modern world lends humor as he encounters inventions he has never seen before. The character development is great as Gloryanna learns to trust Jonathan and builds conIidence in herself. The supporting characters lend balance, with Gloryanna’s mom showing skepticism and support all at the same time. Jonathan’s dog Max is the perfect sidekick for the couple, with his supernatural gifts helping them escape precarious situations. Gloryanna and Jonathan have a terriIic chemistry that builds as their relationship deepens – despite their inability to touch one another physically. Fans of mystery and romance alike won’t want to miss this expertly crafted tale!

Kathi Oram Peterson

Grow, Damn It! The Feeding and Nurturing of Life

Cheryl Oreglia

never picks on anyone for their short-comings yet still knows how to Iind gratiIication and hilarity within herself, even with the sorrowful things that can and do happen, which in truth is the beauty of the narrative. Readers will not only relate to each milestone but relate to Cheryl herself too. Ms. Oreglia could be considered a wonderful life coach who should be teaching all her sage advice to others!

Roslynn Ernst

Holiday. Widowed, his whole world revolves around his young outgoing daughter, Gabi. Gabi forms an almost instant bond with Rena. However, a trouser-wearing, pistol- shooting, mine-blasting woman isn’t the sort of mother he wants for Gabi.

Cheryl Oreglia is a mother, wife, teacher, and secret book blogger. In a series of short essays, blogs, and tales, she pens a true account of her own life. With family and friends who help her get through many daily trials, Cheryl is able to weather everything life sends her way. From love to loss, then back again, each part of Cheryl’s life is told simply yet poignantly with a lot of heartfelt feelings and truth, which is evidenced by the beautiful pictures and sayings interspersed throughout. At times readers will laugh and at others cry as each story is told. As Cheryl goes through each steppingstone, from youth to old age, she writes each morsel with astute observations, funny happenstances, and witticisms that make this thing called life not a bad thing at all.

What a deeply thought-provoking novel Iilled with one woman’s lifetime journey. Yes, the story reads as a self-help cautionary anecdote yet somehow manages nevertheless not to be preachy. This book makes the tough parts of life much more manageable while not taking everything so seriously, even when that seems like an impossibility. Ms. Oreglia

Love on Target (Pink Pistols Sisterhood series, book 2)

Shanna HatIield

Shanna HatIield scores another winner with this story! As part of the Pink Pistols Sisterhood series, “Love on Target” is creative and well-written. The characters are well-developed. Gabi Jo will steal reader’s hearts, and Rena will feel like a sister to root for. The short plot did lack a lot of conIlict, and setting details seemed sparse, but the characters, including secondary characters, shine through. Rena and Josh make a great couple, and it is refreshing to watch them cross their hurdles with love, patience, and faith in God. Sometimes the very people we think we don’t need or want might turn out to be the ones we can’t do without. Rena’s new beginning becomes a captivating tale of loss and family in this Christian Iiction that readers won’t want to miss!

HISTORICAL:1894—Rena Burke leaves her home in Texas and rides her old mule to her cousin’s place in Holiday, Oregon. Theo had written, thinking she could get a job working with him in the mine. Rena isn’t the average woman of the times. A tragedy left her scarred physically and emotionally, and she refuses to wear skirts as expected. Instead, she wears men’s trousers and isn’t afraid of doing a man’s work. Damaged as she is, Rena doubts she will ever attract a suiter, so she prepares for life as a maid and provides for herself. She is independent and strong. Josh Gatlin is a saddle maker in

86 Inspirational

A Cocky Catch

look to the future. Without even kissing, the love and tension between Surrey and Croft burns. Their relationship has depth as well as a constant magnetic attraction. The supporting cast of children, neighbors, friends, and exes all add value and levity to the story. The mysterious danger is done well but isn’t completely needed. This is a clean romance readers won’t want to miss.

Rockies seems like a good place to return, lick her wounds, Iigure out her options, help her parents, give her son some stability, and avoid her former boyfriend, Caleb Black. Not a problem, right?

NEW ADULT: Surrey is gorgeous but she is also cursed. Every guy she dates Iinds his true love just when she thinks they are headed for forever. As a student at BYU, it is hard to avoid dating, but after her most recent heartbreak she is determined to wait a bit before jumping back into the dating pool. Croft is a cocky self-assured YouTube prankster. When he embarrasses Surrey in a prank and later ends up in class with her, he decides they should be dating. Croft will stop at nothing to convince Surrey to date him. As Surrey becomes certain that the way to get rid of Croft is to date him ensuring he will meet his dream girl, a more sinister plot is also at work. Surrey’s in danger of more than a broken heart.

Surrey and Croft have great chemistry together. Surrey has good character development as she learns what kind of guy is truly right for her and that she’s been pursuing relationships that were never right in the Iirst place. As Surrey comes into her own, learning to embrace her personality, she becomes who she is meant to be. Croft plays a pivotal role in this and grows as he learns to let go of the past and

Resisting the Rancher: A Second Chance Cowboy Romance (Black Rock Ranch Book 2)

Jen Peters

Readers who love clean, wholesome, ranch-based, secondchance, Christian threads stories interwoven with deep conIlicts, real characters, and realistic situations… snatch up this series! Book two can be read as a standalone, but Caleb’s personal angst might be better understood after reading them in order. Caleb and Jo are easy to get behind, and both must make huge decisions –separately and together. The independent choices are hard enough to make, the latter ones are almost impossible! Both Iind themselves dealing with real issues of aging parents and family concerns. Both wonder if the choices they made after high school were the right ones. The repetition of their worries, conIlicts, and assumptions tended to bog the story down sometimes and descriptive details were scant. Otherwise, this conIlictdriven, realistic novel is a gem!

Jo Manning and Caleb Black were high-school sweethearts, then Jo left for a promising singing career and Caleb buried his heart. They both found independent successes; her, dreams of stardom, and him as a successful horse trainer at the family ranch… until Caleb realizes there is a giant hole in his heart where Jo used to be. Jo buckles under the combined stresses of an endless tour schedule, producing pressures, and her trusted manager runs off with her money. Her parent’s ranch next to the Black’s spread in the Colorado


Falling for the Rancher (Black Rock Ranch #3)


Cassie Phillips, an elementary school teacher, has always felt like she doesn’t quite Iit in with her friends and family. She spends a lot of her time training her rescue horse, Chance, and focusing on her work. But when the boarding stable that Chance is kept in unexpectedly burns to the ground, Chance is placed at a ranch run by the handsome Micah Black. As a divorced father to a nonverbal child, Micah has had his fair share of trauma. He is very hesitant to open his heart to anyone, until he is introduced to Cassie. The immediate attraction between the two is undeniable, and Micah, being the religious man that he is, continuously prays to God to show him how to handle their newfound relationship. Cassie is drawn to him, but they are so different in many ways, including their religious beliefs. Will they be able to build a relationship, or should they take different paths in life?

"Falling for the Rancher” is an emotionally moving story about two people who couldn’t be more different from each other, meeting each other by happenstance. Learning about the history of Micah Black will have readers falling in love with him. While his history is very detailed, readers will Iind that the other characters aren’t explained as in depth as he is, and it would be nice to learn more about Cassie to better understand her history, personality, and her reasoning behind her actions. Nonetheless, Ms. Peters does a great job of incorporating the religious aspects into the story, and keeps things very wholesome.

Christian romance readers, as well as fans of swoonworthy cowboys, will absolutely adore this.


Demon Rising (The Magic Wakes Book 3)

Charity Bradford

Science Fiction

and the two Orekians, Da’rehl and Madhi, all have secrets they are holding back from the others. Some of these secrets are wellmeaning and driven by fear, but they collectively hamper communication and burden the crew with lack of transparency. Dragon ancestors that meddle but withhold vital information, and magic that doesn’t always work as expected, add layers of obscurity to a slow-paced narrative that favors the contemplative and patient reader. The promised confrontation between Landry and Korigorath drives momentum throughout this book, but is postponed until the next one.

Married mages Landry and Talia Sutton led an exploratory team to Planet Orek to recover an artefact and narrowly escaped with two refugees in tow. Now they are returning home to Planet Sendek, while team member, Craig Gibbs, keeps busy with decoding the ancient artefact in hopes that it can explain how their home planet can harmonize the coexistence of magic and technology. The Suttons are unaware that Craig has plans to hand Talia over to the enemy when they get back to Sendek, and Talia is too fearful of losing Landry to acknowledge that her prophetic visions and her dragon guardian may help prepare her for what is to come. While they were away, a powerful fallen dragon named Korigorath has released demons into their world, and Sendek is amid a planetary crisis!

“Demon Rising” blends science

Iiction with magic and fantasy. It ambitiously continues a tale of conquest and a supernatural battle initiated in previous books. However, it is a transitional volume as much of it takes place while travelling in between Orek and Sendek. While on their spaceship, Landry, Talia, Craig,

Salvation 1: Exodus

Kate L. Mary

they left earth? Who could have thought that leaving a dying planet was going to be the easiest part of the journey?

Kate L. Mary has written an awesome science Iiction book that fans of the genre will love! Taking on a story where earth is destroyed is no easy task, yet it has been handled beautifully. Although the world building could have been a better, the work that has gone into creating this story speaks volumes and as the Iirst book in the series, to say readers will be chomping at the bit for the second installment is an understatement. It can’t come soon enough and if this is the Iirst book one reads from this author, there will be those who can’t resist reading her other books. Don’t miss out on this amazing story that gives even the best sci-Ii shows a run for their money! Great writing, excellent character development and all that goes in between. Readers, settle in for the ride of a lifetime!

Tessa has come to terms with the fact that she will die when the world is destroyed. Her last salvation comes in the form of Ty who puts everything on the line to get her onto the last ship leaving earth and going into the galaxy. What was meant to be their second chance becomes a Iight for their lives when everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Will Tessa and Ty be able to get the survivors of Salvation-1 to safety? Or were their fates sealed before

The End of Never (Chronicles of Ithical Book 2)


Sabine Harper returns to Ithical to Iind the rare ore cerecite. While it can be used for healing and


Science Fiction

increasing energy, it can also be used for evil, and that’s what Sabine believes is going on. In her hunt to Iind the cerecite, another situation arises that requires her attention. When an incident leads Sabine to believe that someone might be trying to destroy Ithical, it is a race against time to Iigure out who is behind everything that has been going on. They have to Iigure out who is trying to destroy the shield generators before Ithical is gone. Will Sabine and her friends be able to Iigure out who is responsible and save Ithical? Or are they doomed to fail and watch Ithical be destroyed?

Tamara Grantham has written an enjoyable second novel to her Chronicles of Ithical series and has built a fascinating world that readers can escape to for a few hours. There is an interesting array of characters and an interesting whodunnit which holds on until the end. There are a lot of nice aspects to the worldbuilding and a great plot that moves at an even pace. It would be a good idea to go back to the Iirst book in the series to learn a little more about what’s going on. It’ll be great to see where it goes from here. But those who have read book one will enjoy this next instalment. “The End of Never” is one to download to the e-reader this spring season.

Glacial Heat (Fantasy Resorts Book 3)

Lizzy Gayle

When Rosi Sanchez wins an all-expenses-paid dream vacation to the Glacial Palace Resort in the Arctic, she expects to have the expedition of a lifetime. What she doesn’t plan for is the intense attraction she feels toward the resort’s handsome poster-boy, Austin Cooper. She also doesn’t expect how the mysteries the Arctic holds in its depths pull her in. Meeting Rosi is

not what Austin Cooper planned for the resort’s grand opening, but the chemistry between him and Rosi is undeniable. When strange things start happening at the resort, putting the guests in danger, Austin and Rosi Iind themselves thrust together, and they take it upon themselves to uncover the secrets of the Glacial Palace Resort. But Austin has a deadly secret of his own that might just unravel the bond he’s formed with Rosi and destroy the one chance they both have to Iind real love.

This sci-Ii romance keeps the reader on their toes from start to Iinish. Set in the twenty-second century, the Arctic resort setting is the perfect blend of modern times and advanced technology. The story is told from both Rosi and Austin’s points of view, and the steamy chemistry between the two characters is enough to satisfy any romance reader’s needs.

“Glacial Heat” dives into the mysteries of the unknown with a mythological twist toward the Inuit cultures, while still maintaining all the elements of a enthralling modern romance. For lovers of sci-Ii, mythology, and hot romance, this novel is sure to be hit!


The Clockwork City - Lady Georgia Brunel Mysteries, Book One

Shelley Adina

thrilling amount of action! The two Ladies Brunel prove to be an alarmingly resourceful duo who are unafraid to step outside their comfort zone to solve a crime they feel indebted to see to its conclusion. With the help of some amazingly well-written and well connected secondary characters, their sleuthing skills are put to the test. Readers will delight in their thrilling adventures and narrow escapes. Ms. Adina manages to release the kraken and submerge readers into the murky depths of murder and mayhem found in the canals of a decadently reimagined Venice, Italy, abound with political maneuvers, courtly manners, and a dash of mystical assistance.

STEAMPUNK: Widowed Lady

Georgia Brunel and her Aunt-inlaw Millicent embark upon a much deserved holiday to Venice, Italy. Their plan is to take in the sights, see some exhibitions, and possibly try their hand at painting some of the beautiful scenery. After meeting Sir Francis Thorne and his lovely young daughter, Cora, at an exhibit, Georgia Iinds herself receiving unwanted attention from Sir Francis during a TBT ball, held by Venetian royalty. She and Aunt Millie escape the ball to return to their villa, only to discover his body on their stairs the next morning. Unhappy with how they are treated by the polizia, they decide to take matters into their own hands to discover the truth. Taking young Cora under their wings and using their connections, the two ladies Iind themselves delving into the mechanical machinations of a maniacal madman, hell-bent on making himself king by any means necessary.

"The Clockwork City" delivers a suspenseful steampunk mystery with a tick of romance. It rings with charm and provides a

Under Pressure: From the CaseTiles of Detective "Mal" Malone (The Detective Malone Mystery Series

Book 3)

Jen Flanagan

able to act soon, but their one ace in the hole, an illegally planted bug in the conference room of underground criminals is running out of battery life. To complicated things, Mal is given a side case tracking suspicious activity at a nursing home and another investigating a mysterious customer at a pet store. Just when things are getting rougher, Dessi ups his game of cat and mouse. With so much going on, and the stakes getting higher, Mal and friends are going to need a lot of coffee and a lucky break to beat him at his own game for good!

The third installment in this mystery series, “Under Pressure” concludes the three-part mystery around Dessi and his crime. Though the side cases are started and completed within this book, readers may want to start with book one to fully understand all the characters, their stories and just how they ended up connected to Mal. Mal herself is an interesting blend of independence, determination, and a little doubt. Her relationship with Rhodes is realistic and yet full of sparks. Her friendships are admirable, and the interplay between Mal and some of the local gangsters is delightfully convoluted. Overall, fans of mysteries with geeky references, solid characters, an interesting mystery, and levels of depth to their characters should deIinitely give this book a look!

Mal and her team are determined to put the gangster Dessi in jail once and for all, but after a string of dead ends, they are running out of leads. With Rhodes on her side, and both old and new friends to rely on, Mal is sure they will be


A Sour Note


Maeve Cleary left her youthful home of Hampton to attend college in New York and pursue her dream job. Ten years later, she returns to home with a battered heart and worries about rebukes from her mom, Jules. Jules owns The Music Box, which becomes the foundation of the relationship shift between mother and daughter. Maeve and her childhood friend, Paige, reconnect at the Happy Bean run by Finn, Maeve’s high school sweetheart. Finn reminds Maeve of their once close relationship igniting the embers. When Paige and Maeve discover a body in the dumpster, the police get summoned. Trixie Bell, the victim, had a love-hate relationship with many people in Hampton. Everyone is hiding secrets, and Maeve decides to uncover the murderer. Could Maeve’s bold moves be her undoing or help her to rekindle a lost love?

Readers of cozy mysteries will enjoy Iinding their life reIlected in Hampton as the original story delivers a unique whodunit not to be missed! Ms. Piscitello creatively releases the distinctive characters’ personalities with small precision moves designed to pique the reader’s interest. The storyline is

simple, viable, and intricate as Maeve the sleuth reveals her desire to protect her friends and Iind the truth, with clues taking readers down various twisted paths to reveal multiple suspects with possible motives. The smalltown gossip mill is active and sometimes accurate as Maeve renews friendships and recalls personalities unchanged in ten years. The fast-paced storyline and realistic dialogue make this mystery fun, prompting readers to turn the pages faster to the surprising end!

something to do with it. With seemingly no concrete clues to set them on the right path to solving this mystery, tensions run high throughout the department. There are more questions than answers, and no matter how good Benoit, Dayne, and all of her ofIicers are, can they solve the convoluted crime before it’s too late?

Straight for the Kill (Benoit and Dayne Mystery, Book 3)

Winter Austin

While trying to recuperate from an emergency appendectomy, Sheriff Elizabeth Benoit is beyond dismayed when one of her deputies, Lila Dayne, Iinds a murdered girl in the woods… everything about the case seeming identical to an unsolved case from 25 years ago – when the sheriff’s best friend was killed. Elizabeth refuses to stay out of the case once she learns of the similarities. When people from the community begin to disappear without a trace, she can’t help but wonder if the corrupt ex-sheriff she’s been trying to nail has

As book three in this series, readers may feel somewhat out of their depth and a little confused when it comes to the obvious carryover threads for many of the characters, as this tale seemingly picks up very soon (if not immediately) after the last one ends. For this reason, reading the series in order would be greatly beneIicial. As for the murder mystery this case focuses on, hold onto your hats, folks, because it’s a doozy! Readers will Iind themselves on the edge of their seats waiting to Iind out what’s going to happen next. The mystery is well done with a thoroughly satisfying ending. Kudos to Ms. Austin for writing such a gripping whodunit tale with the perfect amount of adrenaline-fueled tension!

Piper Valentine


Here I Go Again (The Detective Malone Mystery Series Book 2)

Jen Flanagan

together and what happened, but starting at book two doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the novel. Readers will enjoy going on a journey with Mal and her motley crew. A good mystery that holds off until the end for the big reveal. For those who enjoy mysteries, this is one they’ll be able to get their teeth into. DeIinitely a good read to pass the time with this spring.

thoughts of his own working alongside Ashley.

Detective “Mal” Malone thought she had everything under control, but sufIice it to say that her life takes somewhat of an interesting turn. With a new employee taking over her ofIice and a wannabe detective thrown into the mix, it does not make for a convenient or calm work space. When an old Ilame walks back into her life while she has a case of stolen jewelry to solve, Mal Iinds herself in an interesting and busy situation. Everything is at stake as they make their way through the case and the real question isn’t who stole the jewels, but who will survive this case? Has Mal bitten off more than she can chew?

There is a fun cast of characters in “Here I Go Again” and the title really speaks volumes for how poor Mal is feeling as she tries to get used to the new work situation she Iinds herself in. Though the plot generally moves at an even pace, in some spots it slows down almost to a grinding halt—but push through those because the story does improve. It might be worth going back to the Iirst book in the series to see how the characters came to be

Lost in the Dark (Camden Point Romantic Suspense book 3)

Gail Chianese

Ashley Medearis – a cop – is trying to come back to her old self after being shot in the Iield. However, Ashley soon realizes that it might not be that easy to be normal again because there is someone stalking her. And this just isn’t anyone; it’s someone who is dead. With her newfound ability to see and talk to the dead, and her sabbatical bringing her to a small town in Camden Point, she Iinds herself in the middle of a missing person’s case. But she isn’t working alone. While Ashley has her hands full with the missing person’s case, she is forced to work alongside her old Ilame—Nate who seems to have

In this steamy paranormal romance, Gail Ghianese brings two old Ilames together by unusual circumstances. With the spiciness of the two characters, “Lost in the Dark” is an adult read showing how two different people can come together while not really knowing the other person. The attraction between Ashley and Nate is felt through each savory word the author writes showing her cleverness to connect the reader with the characters of the story. Not only does the author connect the readers to the characters within her story by her Ilavorful descriptions of their emotions, but pulls the readers in by explaining both sides to the story which gives a better view of what is happening with the other characters – not just the main ones. With this thorough explanation of each side of the story, this book can be read as a stand-alone. A haunting page turner, the story turns in the direction where the reader least expects, keeping one glued to the page!


Island Heat - The Carolina Series, Book 2

Debby Grahl

Suzanna Shay wins a mystery themed cruise from her bookstore job where she meets Austen Kincaid, a Iledgling suspense writer. Their mutual love of

mystery books and an instant attraction promises to make their Iive day voyage a fun and exciting adventure. Unfortunately for Austen, he Iinds himself in the crosshairs of the man-eating Haley Henderson, an accomplished writer and wife of Brad Henderson, owner of H&H Publishing. Suzanna and Austen continue their romance once they hit land. However, lies and scandal soon rock their world and cause a rift in their budding relationship. Will they be able to sail through the stormy seas of betrayal and get back together? Will their sleuthing minds help them solve a real murder that might actually put Suzanna in mortal danger?

Swimming with mystery, suspense, and romance, "Island Heat" is a steamy tale perfect for reading while cruising the ocean

blue or lounging by the pool sipping cabernet! Readers will be immediately engrossed in the plot within a plot story. Suzanna and Austen are relatable characters with white-hot chemistry and inquisitive minds. The ensemble cast of secondary characters are superbly written as they play their part to keep readers guessing whodunit. Haley Henderson plays her part so well, readers will truly hate her entitled and lecherous ways. The island and shipboard locales are described so well, readers will be ready to purchase a ticket for a visit or a cruise of their own. Ms. Grahl's second installment in her Carolina Series delivers a perfect storm of mysterious mayhem, sultry sexiness, and hints of humor that guarantees readers won't be disappointed!


Her Dangerous Journey Home (No Man is Her Mater Book 3)

Lee Swanson

of nail-biting plot twists and adventures galore that will keep readers on the edge of their seats! This is the Iinal book in the No Man is Her Master series, but really reads like a debut novel. Sure, there is a little bit of confusion at times about what is going on, yet it doesn’t really detract from the story. Of course, just to get the background of the main protagonist, Christina, it might help to start out from the beginning. Christina keeps many secrets, including her true nature and, despite her posing as a male, is still easily relatable. Lee Swanson has penned a beautiful, visually stunning novel that will leave readers breathless!

Roslynn Ernst

the Las Vegas pack on one side and vampires on the other, they’ll be lucky to make it back to Montana by the full moon. Haley Fern is alpha of her Montana pack and gave Diego permission to go. Meanwhile, her mother shows up earlier than expected and her human boyfriend, Leland, is acting strange. Leland has a lot on his plate, including bad news from his old job. With Halloween approaching and a full moon, there’s plenty happening to keep everyone on their toes.

HISTORICAL: A year ago, Christina Kohl was a simple girl and a wealthy merchant’s daughter. Then pirates destroyed Christina, and uprooted her entire life, so the girl has ceased to exist. To the rest of the world, Christina is Sir Frederick Kohl, her missing brother, whom marauders have cruelly taken from her too. Christina trains daily with her faithful friend and mentor, Kurt Ziesolf, even being knighted by King Edward. Then Christina is ordered to escort Lady Cecily Baldewyne, whom she also secretly loves, to the protection of Westminster Palace. Christina realizes that the deep affection she holds for Cecily must be abandoned because Cecily is betrothed to another. After Christina does so, she is determined to Iigure out what happened to her father and brother, even though the journey is quite perilous and could cost Christina her life.

This LGBTQ book is a wonderful, seaworthy tale that is undeniably spellbinding! This detailed, action-packed story is chockfull

Night is for Hunting (Moonrise Book 2)

Jules Kelley

“Night is for Hunting” entertains with a blend of humor, drama, and suspense! Diego steals the show with his mouthy bravado combined with vulnerability. The characters are well drawn and distinct. Haley deals with insecurity over her leadership as pack leader, while Leland and Val must face their past and its impact on the present. With two main storylines and every chapter in a new point of view, it takes time to become invested in the story events. The worldbuilding is interesting but needs more explanation. The Las Vegas story is fast paced and continuously raises the stakes. The Montana story seems focused on the characters’ internal struggles. “Night is for Hunting” offers a paranormal tale Iilled with memorable characters in a world of intriguing possibilities!

PARANORMAL: Diego Sanchez is adjusting to life as a werewolf. Now he is driving his vampire friend, Val, to Las Vegas, the city of Diego’s birth and home to his family. Val is determined to right a wrong, which means an audience with the highest vampire authority. As he and Diego track down their quarry, the attraction between them grows. But with


stories intertwined in this story as well, and they are beautifully written. The world building is realistic and raises a lot of questions about the future of the world, questions that will resonate with readers long past “the end”.


YOUNG ADULT/ SCI-FI: Evalee has known the day she was going to die since the day she was born. The date is even tattooed onto her body. She’s been planning her departure party for weeks, wanting it to be just right. When the moment Iinally arrives, Evalee Iinds herself quite the opposite of dead. The Directorate doesn’t want this nasty secret getting out. Her sister, Gracelyn, seems to know something is up. She uses her being a model citizen as the perfect cover for her digging behind the scenes at the Directorate ofIice. In doing so, she learns that everything is not quite as it seems. Evalee narrowly escapes Directorate conIines thanks to a group of rebels, Evalee is thrown into a world she never knew existed – one that goes against everything she’s ever been taught, and one that gives her a chance to actually have a purpose in life.

Unique and immersive, “Departures” pulls readers in and doesn’t let go until the Iinal page. Evalee is a compelling heroine who instantly gains sympathy as she is thrown into a world of corruption. Gracelyn acts as a secondary narrator whose perspective helps Iill in some of the gaps from the life Evalee left behind. There are two romantic

Ms. Yetter gives a strong performance! Her emotional connection to both the perspectives in the novel is strong. It is easy to get lost in her voice and listen for hours. She keeps the pacing on point so that even the slower, more detailed portions remain interesting. The action scenes are enhanced! Her ability to create character differentiation with a slight change in tone is fantastic! Every so often, Evalee and Gracelyn sound similar, but the confusion is only present for a few seconds.

This is a great tale for lovers of YA and dystopian adventures!

with a dead rattlesnake, and a spinner with the numbers two, four, and six on it. All of them are the trademark of a serial killer known as “Hollywood” who likes to kill his victims with the contents of the jar in the number of days the spinner points to. Homicide detective Nicole Stone is the Iirst on the case. She takes Danika’s best friend, Fallon, to safety, and the two of them must put their heads together to Iind Danika before time runs out. There is a game afoot, because Hollywood intends to kill Detective Stone too. The number on the spinner is how many days she has left to stay alive as well.

“Stone’s Throw” is a clever mystery with a devious killer that will give readers chills! Fast paced, full of action and twists, this book will keep readers invested in the drama unfolding! There are a few moments where details are glossed over and explained a bit more than they should be, rather than painted in a way where the reader can imagine them. The plot is a typical mystery/suspense line, but has enough unique elements to keep it fresh! Overall, this is a very entertaining tale, great for a dark night in!

Stone’s Throw


Hollywood starlet, Danika, is taken captive in the middle of the night from her best friend’s home. The only clues left behind are a jar

“Stone’s Throw” has several actors involved in the production. They do well bringing the story to life. The lead narrator reads a bit slowly and in a slightly over dramatic fashion. The female cast members do an amazing job bringing their characters to life! Their emotional connection to their respective characters is clear and really helps keep readers hooked. In the background are a number of music tracks and sound effects. All of this makes it hard to get fully absorbed into the production because it is a bit distracting. Voice acting and

99 Audiobooks

characterization are very well done, though!

A great story for lovers of thrillers and suspense!

Chelsea Andersen

vengeance on his father for the rejection he’s had to face his entire life. Upon taking Lady Claire captive on the road, Tye has a plan to lure the man who refused to acknowledge him out into the open. What he doesn’t expect is to be captivated by this woman. Unfortunately for him, she hates his guts.

little slow however, but once the book picks up speed, it barrels forward and keeps readers hooked!

A Knight's Seduction (Knight’s #5)

Catherine Kean


Sevalliere has her whole future planned. She knows who she will marry, and the life she will build in their home together. All of those plans are shattered when her beloved is murdered while trying to prevent a prison break— murdered by none other than Tye, the bastard son of Lord Geoffery de Lanceau. Tye wants to get

“A Knight’s Seduction” is an enemies to lovers romance that hits all the right notes! The story begins with action and emotional drama, bringing the reader in. Claire is a strong woman in a time where women are undervalued. She’s clever and holds to her ideals. Tye is a classic rogue with a heart of gold! He’ll make readers swoon. Their chemistry is instant, and the build in their romantic tension is well paced until its satisfying release. Every so often, Tye’s mother, Veronique, is the lead POV, and her perspective adds a delicious layer of malice. The book keeps true to the historical time period. The setting is painted vividly, and the relationship dynamics of the period are well preserved. Some of the plot turns are familiar to fans of the genre, but they are done in an entertaining fashion all the same. A few moments do feel a

Mr. Gillies is a talented narrator who expertly brings the book to life. He helps set the pace for the novel and keeps slower parts moving. His accents are great, and it’s clear he’s connected to the characters he is portraying. Each has their own distinct sound, making it easy to tell everyone apart.

This is a great listen for lovers of historical romance!

Chelsea Andersen


Hepburn’s Necklace

Jan Moran

WOMEN'S LITERATURE: A 1950s movie starlet, Ruby Raines is very young to be in Italy alone. At seventeen, Ruby is rubbing elbows with Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and a handsome young man named Niccolo. On the

set of her Iirst movie, Roman Holiday, Ruby discovers the two parts of her destiny. One blooms, while the other is lost. Decades later, Ruby’s grand-niece, Ariana has had enough of her Hollywood boss, her callous Iiancé , and her life in general. Unfortunately, she comes to these conclusions all at once while standing at the altar. If there’s one thing Ariana has inherited from the women in her family, it’s a very poor sense of timing. When Aunt Ruby decides to buy a villa in the Lake Como region of Italy, three generations of women are thrown into the wreckage of their poorly timed decisions. Will Italy offer them all a second chance?

Fans of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Letters to Juliet” will love this atmospheric, multigenerational tale of second chance romances. “Hepburn’s Necklace”

is a sweeping story that switches seamlessly between 1952 and 2010. Captivating family drama plays out against an alternating backdrop of glamorous silver screen Hollywood and stunningly depicted Italian landscapes. Some readers may Iind the plethora of description slows the pacing, but others may savor the leisurely story-telling style. Jan Moran has created a charming heroine in Ruby Raines, and a delightful cast of secondary characters. The twists and revelations towards the end are well worth the wait.

“Hepburn’s Necklace” is a thrilling tale with delicious settings, and characters that will live on in the readers’ hearts.