A Stella Review: When Will I Be Loved (Crescent Bay Chronicles #2) by Julie Lynn Hayes

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fairy tales can come true…

when will I be loved coverMiller Fenwick wants the kind of happy ending his best friend got, with the hunky werewolf of his dreams. Trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be a Prince Charming on the horizon, and casual encounters don’t cut it anymore. Now that Alexx and Raoul are engaged, Miller is becoming resigned to being the bridesmaid, never the bride. But a chance encounter with a sexy stranger at Charisma has his hopes soaring, and his heart is wide open to possibilities.

Holt Wynne is the head of Helios, the largest vampire organization in the country. He’s a very influential and wealthy man, with a deep-seated hatred of werewolves. His running into Miller at Charisma isn’t entirely accidental. He’d meant to wait, but his emotions got the better of him, and he couldn’t stay away. And now see what he’s done…

Wait until Miller finds out he’s sort of just gotten married to the sexy vampire who hates the people who are Miller’s best friends. Sparks are gonna fly—and not just in the bedroom. One thing for sure—life in Crescent Bay is never dull!

When Will I Be Loved is the second book in the Crescent Bay Chronicles series by Julie Lynn Hayes. I liked the first one so much, so as soon as I saw this one was out , I got my hands and eyes on it. Here we meet Miller, Alexx’s best friend (When Will I See You Again), tired of meaningless nightstands and of being alone. He’s looking for someone serious in his life but the perfect guy he’s spent one night with, has vanished the morning after. Miller works as a receptionist at the Crescent Bay Chronicles, the newspaper just bought by Holt Wynne, the head of Helios, the largest vampire clan in the country.
Holt saw his mate, or eternal love as vampires say, at the Lupercalia Ball, and soon started changing his life, moving to Crescent Bay and buying the newspaper Miller works at.

“I saw you and I knew,” Holt whispered in a husky voice.
“Knew what?”
“That you were mine,” Holt said simply.[…]
“What does that even mean?” He gave Holt a confused look.
His legs felt as if they were ready to give out on him, and he didn’t put up an argument when Holt gently seated him back on the sofa.
“It means, my love, that you and I… That we…” […]“I know you’re probably familiar with the concept of soul mates. With us, it is that, but more so. And it’s a rare occurrence. To find another person who is as much you as you are, even if he or she appears to be very different. It’s about two hearts becoming one, two souls finding one another and reuniting. We call it eternal love. And you are mine. I knew it the moment I saw you at the Ball. And I knew I had to come back for you.”

Their first meeting was hot and explosive, maybe the “I love you” after seeing each other only two times was a little too much but I love stories about destined mate so it was okay. Miller was good to Holt, too strict and not used to having some fun. I liked how Holt showed his weakness and he wasn’t ashamed of his feelings. He seriously suffered in the past and I was happy for him for finally have found his mate. He fell apart on Miller more than once, very human for a vampire.

I appreciated seeing more of Alexx and Raul, they had a huge role to play in this book, but don’t worry, it can be read as a standalone. The book is sickening sweet (and I loved every single sugary moment) but there are a few childish behaviors that forced me to give it not more than four stars.

I can admit I preferred the first one, it was more engaging to me and less predictable in some parts, even if it’s hard to compare the two stories, they are totally different. Nonetheless When Will I Be Loved was perfect for the Miller story, he deserved this kind of lover and HEA. Now I’m really curious to know if there will be a third book in this series.

Cover art by Trace Edward Zaber. The cover shows a specific scenes in the story. I like it a lot, especially in the use of colors.

Sales Links:  Amber Quill Press  |  All Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 363 pages
Published June 7th 2015 by Amber Quill Press
ISBN 9781681750378
Edition Language English

Crescent Bay Chronicles series
When Will I See You Again #1
When Will I Be Loved #2

SALE LINKS

ARE https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-whenwillibeloved-1838226-340.html
AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/When-Will-See-You-Again-ebook/dp/B00IA6Q77Q
AMBER QUILL PRESS http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2200-When-Will-I-Be-Loved.aspx

A Stella Review: When Will I See You Again (Crescent Bay Chronicles #1) by Julie Lynn Hayes

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

When Will I See You Again coverRaoul Marchand is the crown prince of Charisma, the infamous night club in Crescent Bay, renowned for its supernatural clientele. He has the pick of any and all men, but he cares for none. He uses them and throws them away again, and has done so for some twenty years, in the aftermath of a tragedy that robbed him of what he loved most in the world.

Alexx Jameson is an idealistic would-be reporter with the Crescent Bay Chronicle. Presented with an opportunity to write a story on the Marchands, he eagerly grasps the chance to be a real reporter. His friend, Chronicle receptionist Miller Fenwick, suggests they go to Charisma to do a little research. Alexx isn’t sure that’s such a great idea. After all, he’s still under age, being only twenty. No problem, Miller can fix that! Added bonus, there’s a full moon tonight.

When Alexx first encounters Raoul, it isn’t exactly in the way he dreamed of, and he’s sure he made a terrible first impression. But Fate throws them together under unforeseen circumstances, and the attraction between them can’t be denied.

Can Raoul let go of the past long enough to find his future with Alexx, or is he doomed to repeat past mistakes?

When Will I See You Again by Julie Lynn Hayes is one of what I call “feel good” books, the kind of book, when I finish reading, I feel so satisfied. This book has everything I like to read, lovely characters, hot steamy sex, good plot and great HEA, plus a welcome (to me) amount of sugar. It hit one of my softer spot, the sweetness. That’s exactly why I enjoy Julie Lynn Hayes’s work so far so much. She can write stories that stay in my mind and my heart for so long. The one between the innocent, mouthy Alexx and rough Raul is unforgettable and the attraction is strong and compelling. There’s a little supernatural aspect that bring our heroes together that make this book almost a second chance at love story and it just add a special touch to their love.

I read this book a couple of times and every time I like it more, every time it was hard to put down. I can say it’s my favorite by the author.

It’s not just a simple paranormal story between a wolf shifter and a human. Of course it’s romantic, sexy and real in the unrealistic world it is set in, real in the romantic love between MCs and the power of friendships. Moreover there’s a mystery to solve that will affect their lives greatly.

So if you enjoy a book with a well developed plot as well as a good romantic story with some paranormal throw in it, When Will I See You Again is exactly what you are looking for. It’s well written and there is a sequel I begged for, called When Will I Be Loved, beautiful too.

Cover art by Trace Edward Zaber. I love this cover, the solitude I can feel coming from the lonely wolf will be rewarded at the end.

Sales Links:  Amber Quill Press |  All Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here

Book Details:
Published February 6th 2013 by Amber Quill Press, LLC
Kindle Edition, 292 pages
ASIN B00IA6Q77Q
Edition Language English

Crescent Bay Chronicles series
When Will I See You Again #1
When Will I Be Loved #2

Review: Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Coliseum Square coverMark Madison is running away from his past as fast as he can.  Leaving behind him death and the threat of incarceration, Mark finds himself in New Orleans, circa 1886.  It is the start of a new life under a new name.  Mark has arrived to take the job of tutor to the son of a local wealthy widower, Royal Du Cote.  But the situation Mark finds himself in is anything but normal.

The boy, Luc, is mute and frightened of his father.  He hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother two years ago.  And his father, Royal Du Cote?  Handsome, wealthy,seemingly haunted by his wife’s death while giving Mark looks that make him shake with desire.  Mark comes to care for Luc and promises himself that he will find a way to free Luc of his terrors so he can speak once more.  But what part does Royal play in Luc’s affliction?  Could Royal be part of the problem? The house and household is full of secrets and Mark needs to find the keys.  But will the truth free all involved or will Mark and Royal see the demise of all their hopes and dreams once and for all.

The words New Orleans and Lynn Lorenz go together like chocolate and caramel, a perfect blend.  It is clear from her stories, located in that fabled city, that she loves and understands the peculiar nature of the place and its magnetic pull on people world wide.  Say the name New Orleans and it immediately conjures up romance, and lust , sultry nights full of indolence and the pervasive aroma of the lake itself.  A place where all races and backgrounds combine, independent of laws and sometimes morality.  I love the way she writes about New Orleans, her love and knowledge clearly showing in all her descriptions. That is equally true whether we are taking about the present or New Orleans of 1886, the time of Coliseum Square.

Here is Mark pulling into the New Orleans harbor on one of  the river’s paddleboat:

The boat veered toward the levee, as another string of port buildings appeared just past the Place d’Arms, the old square. The paddlewheel slowed, the slapping of the boards against the water became fewer and then it stopped.

We floated. Silent.

We all held our breaths as the great boat edged closer. On the wharf, men ran back and forth, shadows darting in and out of the gaslights. The steam engines bellowed, the paddle started again, this time in the opposite direction, and the boat shifted closer to the dock.

Below us, on the bottom level, our own men rushed, gathering and untying huge ropes, shouting commands and aye-ayes.

“Hold on!” one of them shouted.

I grabbed for the railing and braced myself. The boat shivered, halted, and with a final shift, hit the wharf, jerking us all nearly off our feet. A few of the ladies screamed, the children hooted, the men remained stoic, as if they did this every day of their lives.

Above us, another blast from the horn, signaled our arrival.

I leaned over the edge and watched the men below toss the ropes across the narrow gap to the men on the dock, watched them tie us off, backs and arms and leg muscles straining as they wrapped the ropes around huge mooring posts, securing the paddle wheeler to the dock.

The wheel stopped. We had arrived.

You can almost feel the boat “shiver” as it floats into place against the pier and the excitement of the people on board.  From there, she takes Mark through the streets on horse drawn carriages, smells of the water and manure rising up to mix in the already heady aroma of the city.  Lynn Lorenz clearly has also done her homework as her descriptions bring the New Orleans of old vividly to life before our eyes.

The streets’ names, set in blue-and-white tiles on the corners, were of the muses–Erato, Melpomene, Terpsichore–but when we reached Euterpe, we turned the corner and headed away from the river. A few blocks down, a modest park appeared, green lawn and stately oak trees, and we turned the corner.

“Where’s the house?” I asked.

“On the other side of the park.”

Straining to see across the expanse, through the trees and manicured shrubbery, to the collection of houses on the far side, I could only wonder which would be my new home. Each looked grander than the next, each stately, with black iron fences standing guard, lush plantings, and brick walkways.

The author beautifully draws the reader into the wealthy neighborhood and deposits us at the front door.  Up until then the book is magic itself. Then the door opens and the best and the most problematic aspects of Coliseum Square are revealed.

Lorenz has always rendered her characters in loving yet realistic detail.  They always have depth as well as a certain charm to them.  In Coliseum Square, we have not only two adults to engage our affections but a young traumatized child as well.  I adored and absolutely related to the young boy in this story.  Lynn Lorenz  makes this mute, emotionally scarred five year old so compelling, so vulnerable that his problems and recovery command most of our feelings and regard.  In addition, the author portrays the tenuous, growing relationship between Luc and Mark in authentic and revealing scenes that capture our heart each time these two appear in the story.   I think I loved this section of the book most of all.  It feels real, and it is certainly moving.

Mark Madison and Royal De Cote are believable characters too.  Mark especially as a young man fleeing the consequences of his sexuality, and hoping to find sanctuary and perhaps even a home in New Orleans.  His fears as well as his youth translate well here.  Considering the fact that you could be jailed if not hung for being a sodomite in the 1880’s, then Mark’s fear for his safety and tendency to flee at the first sign of discord is understandable. Royal De Cote is probably less realistic in my eyes.  But then, a wealthy man of stature in New Orleans could and most likely did behave as they wished as long as appearances were kept up. Lorenz made his anguish over his son’s behavior and situation worthy of our compassion and understanding. So, where’s the problem?

That would be the romance factor.  In a relatively short amount of time, these two men gaze longingly at each other, fall into bed and love. And they do this without really talking to each other or physically spending time with each other except at dinner.  True, two handsome gay men under the same roof during that time period might have taken advantage of the situation.  That I can see, especially if one is older and more experienced.  Put that together with proximity, and yes, I can see the instant attraction leading to a sexual encounter.  But instant love and family?  That is a much harder sell and I am not sure that Lynn Lorenz accomplished it here.  I think that had the story been extended past the 84 pages and the time the men had together lengthened into a reasonable amount of time, then I think I could have bought into their gothic romance more readily than I did.

That aside, I still loved so many aspects of this story that it almost  garnered a 4 star rating, from the historical descriptions that vividly brought 1886 New Orleans to life to the traumatized little boy who captured my affections.  For those elements alone, I recommend this story to you.

Cover Art © 2013 Trace Edward Zaber unfortunately makes use of a model who has been used to excess.  He has been on so many covers that Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos featured him in her Misadventures in Stock Photography.  With New Orleans as a backdrop, surely the design could have been more pertinent in detail.

Book Details:

ebook, 84 pages
Published July 21st 2013 by Amber Allure
ISBN13 9781611244571
edition language English
other editions

Review: Collusion (Diversion #2) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Collusion coverRichmond “Lucky” Lucklighter, former drug dealer, is dead.  In his place, Simon “Lucky” Harrison lives on and continues to work for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, along with his romantic/agency  partner,  former Marine Bo Schollenberger.  As Lucky recovered from his injuries, Bo has been working on finishing up the case without him and their schedules have left them with little time to spend with each other.  And Lucky wrestles with the idea of having an actual relationship with a man he sees as so much better than himself.

Bo Schollenberger is still fighting his own demons, that of an abusive father, PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan, and continuing his recovery from prescription drug addiction.  That addiction landed him working for  the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, same as Lucky and as a pharmacist, it is one Bo has to confront daily in his job as an undercover narcotics agent.  Bo realizes that having Lucky as his partner in love as well as work complicates his life and makes it better at the same time. Now if only Lucky will realize that.

Then on their next case together, a situation arises that may jeopardize everything they have worked so hard to achieve. A prescription drug shortage places the patients at Rosario Children’s Cancer Center in danger, not just from the unavailability of life saving drugs but from the substitution of medications produced at less than legal companies.  And Bo’s need to protect and assist those children places his job in trouble and pits him against his lover and his company.  Lucky sees Bo getting in too deep to see who the villains really are, maybe even the doctors themselves.  In a situation where the young victims get to even the hardest agent of them all, Lucky himself, what won’t Lucky do to save them all?

I thought that Diversion was going to be a hard story to beat but Collusion (Diversion #2) handles the job of sequel with astounding power and depth.  I just loved it.  Collusion takes up where Diversion left off.  Simon “Lucky” Harrison has left the hospital, his former self, Richmond “Lucky”  Lucklighter now safely dead and buried.  While he has recuperated at his desk at the Southeastern Natcotics Bureau, his on and off again romantic/agent partner, Bo has been dealing with the aftermath of their original investigation.  Then a heartbreaking case of extreme urgency, that of a drug shortage at Rosario Children’s Cancer Center, gives them an investigation that will see them both undercover once more.

I cannot complement Eden Winters enough for the outstanding job she accomplished with Collusion.  First, there is the heartbreaking story line, that of children with cancer desperately in need of the drugs that may either save them or at least delay the progress of the disease that’s killing them.  Their plight is brought home by one patient, Stephanie Owens, a small child who manages to capture Lucky’s heart the moment they meet.  Winters gives us a portrait of a child with cancer without any saccharine overload.  Then the author proceeds with a steely outlook to demonstrate just how little the patients actually matter to those that use the life-giving drugs the children need as just another commodity to manipulate for the greatest monetary gain.  Without lecturing or creating an information dump, Winters brings us into the gray world of pharmaceutical companies, the intermediaries that handle the transactions, through the shipment and warehousing to those that distribute the needed drugs through avenues as diverse as drugstores and Craigslist.  Never boring, this information and insight into this industry will make you cry out for even more regulation to stop the abuse that is recounted within Diversion and Collusion.  Contemptible is far too soft a word for the events that occur daily in this industry where some people put monetary gain above those in need of life saving medication and Eden Winters brings that home with an emotional blow to the heart.

And then we have Lucky and Bo, two such remarkable characters that they have been stuck in my head talking to me over the past couple of days.  Complicated people, with all their human flaws and strengths revealing themselves over the course of these two stories, I loved watching them and their relationship grow as once more an undercover operation brings out the best and worst in them both.  Told once again from Lucky’s pov, we get to watch as Lucky struggles to acknowledge just how much Bo has come to mean to him, and equally how much it would hurt to lose him.  Given Lucky’s past history, to bring himself to trust another with his love (if he can bring himself to call it that) is a huge step forward, not one he is sure he can make.  Bo’s character is as equally alive and a perfect match for the hard-nosed, former criminal. Bo’s background is one of parental abuse, PTSD and prescription addiction and yet Bo is still able to see the best in those around him. A wonderful contrast to Lucky’s belief that all are guilty until proven innocent.  And as I said before, watching these two dance around each other, the word “relationship” never touching their lips, is a true joy. The author clearly demonstrates her understanding of the intricacies of relationships in her portraits of Bo and Lucky’s slow climb to love and romance.  Eden Winters gives her creations such perfect crisp, snappy dialog that it enhances their personalities and gives the reader better understanding into Bo and Lucky’s characters.  Do I love these two?  Why yes, I do, in every way possible.

And then there is the resolution to the undercover investigation that is so satisfying and beautifully resolved that I had to read it twice.  It made sense in that it seemed to be accurately feasible in the manner in which it was accomplished.  I think you will find yourself grinning just as I did.  I don’t know if Eden Winters has more planned for Lucky and Bo, but I hope so.  There is still plenty of growth to be had within their relationship and I would think that the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau will never lack for cases to investigate and solve.  Here’s hopeing that there is a Diversion #3 on the horizon for all of us to enjoy.

Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber is full of elements pertinent to the story but lacking somehow, due in part to the blue toned cover.

Book Details:

Collusion (Diversion #2)

Novel, 275 pages, Amber Allure Press, LLC

Buy Link at Amber Allure Press: Collusion by Eden Winters

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the situations:

Diversion (Diversion #1)

Collusion (Diversion #2)

Review: Diversion by Eden Winters

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Diversion coverRichmond “Lucky” Lucklighter’s luck ran out when he was caught up in a multi million dollar scheme to illegally buy, sell, and control the pharmaceutical drug market run by his criminal boyfriend.  In return for his testimony against his former boyfriend and drug dealing partner, Lucky would receive a reduced sentence and jail time.  Lucky agreed  for more than one reason and found himself in jail for ten years, a marked man because of his betrayal and testimony.  But two years into his sentence, the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control came calling with a proposition.  Come work for them teaching their agents all they need to know about his end of the business and assist on drug details or spend the remaining eight years in jail.  The decision for Lucky was an easy one.  Lucky wanted out and if that meant he had to play along with the narcs, so be it.

Now just two months shy of being completely free of his bargain and gaining his life back, Lucky must complete one last assignment and train a rookie in the bargain.  Lucky is not prepared for the rookie that shows up to start the investigation with him.  Former Marine Bo Schollenberger is tall, gorgeous, and gay.  Bo is the complete opposite of his cynical, hard-nosed partner or so Lucky thinks.  But Bo suffers from PTSD from his time on tour, and found his dream of being a pharmacist shattered when he got caught up in an prescription addiction. Bo’s out? The same one Lucky chose and he is Lucky’s replacement.  Now Lucky must contend with training a man he is increasingly coming to care for in a job he won’t admit he enjoys and secretly dreading his return to a freedom with no job in sight and no one to care for him.

When their current investigation turns into a much larger operation than anyone expected, including their bosses, Lucky and Bo go deeper undercover to catch the criminals and smash the operation.  Dangers are everywhere waiting to expose their cover, including easy access to the very drugs that pulled Bo under.  But  Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter is on top of his game and everyone had better watch out, including his own bosses because Lucky is going to do things his way and get what he wants.  Now if only he can admit to himself who and what that is…..

I love nothing better than a cynical, smart mouthed bad boy and “Lucky” Lucklighter fits the bill.  How I loved him from the first introduction as he scopes out his latest target and steals a semi full of prescription drugs.   A bantam of a man, his past history has contributed the arrogant, smug criminal  facade he projects to all around him.  But Lucky is far more complex than he appears.  I cannot give enough credit to Eden Winters for this remarkable character.  He exudes life and a certain swashbuckling criminality but the more we get to know him, we see who he  has become underneath, no matter how much Lucky refuses to admit his change of heart to himself.  Lucky is brash, outrageous, and a compulsive over planner.  I would have been so disappointed if Winters had paired him up with the typical lawman or something equally common.  I should not have worried because Winters then gives us  Bo Schollenberger, haunted vet who still manages an outlook on life surprisingly open hearted given his back history.  His complexities tie in beautifully with Lucky’s and it is one of the greatest pleasures of this book watching the two men dance around each other, testing each person’s strengths and weaknesses to their ultimate undoing because they are so well matched.

Another measure of the terrific writing found in Diversion is that I was never sure how the ending would turn out.  Winters kept me guessing the entire time because as the story is told from Lucky’s pov, he is not sure himself how it is all going to end.  So as the investigation ramps up, so does the reader’s anticipation and anxiety over how it will all fall out, if Lucky will take his freedom and walk away and what will happen to  Bo?

Another surprising pleasure is the storyline and the subject of the large pharmaceutical companies and prescription drugs.  I had no idea how the drugs were handled past their expiration dates, the necessary warehousing, and even the shortages which are used to raise the drug prices and control the markets.  It is clear that Winters has done her homework and then some.  But it never comes across as a info dump but effortlessly folded into the story. Eden Winters picked a fascinating and topical subject and than ran with it as the main focus of  the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control investigations and agent expertise.  Unusual topic meets unusual main characters and the final mixture is captivating and addicting and hard to put down.

I was thrilled to see that Diversion has a sequel, Collusion.  That will be next on my reading list.  Look for that review to be out shortly.  In the meantime, go grab this book up and prepare to meet two of the most addictive characters (in more ways than one) in a contemporary romance.  You will love them.  To quote Justin Wilson, I guarantee!

Cover art by Trace Edward Zaber, perfect for the story within.