A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Secrets & Silk: A Holiday to Remember by Nicole Dennis


Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

(Part of the “A Holiday to Remember 2017 Series”) 

Conscientious and detailed to a fault, David Appleton refuses to leave for the office Christmas party until he finds the error in a report submitted by Marc, one of the workers in his department. Aside from the fact that this guy constantly tries to undermine David, the bottom line is that David won’t allow anything with his department’s signature on it to go out incorrect.  Get the picture?  David is pretty darn straight-laced.  He’s also a nice guy, a gay man who has never had a partner, and a man with a secret underwear fetish that he doesn’t want exposed.  He actually came close to being outed for his sexy pants when CJ, a coworker, happened to see him in the locker room after his workout one day, but so far, CJ seems to be keeping his lip zipped.

After finding the error and having a confrontation with Marc, David heads to Santa’s secret gift exchange.  Marc and his buddies slip a gift into the exchange that’s intended to embarrass David, but CJ, this year’s Santa, spots it and knows it’s not really for David since CJ is the one who drew David’s name.  The clearing up of the confusion over the gifts and over that day in the gym and a consequence for Marc lead to a satisfactory conclusion for this light holiday romance. 

This story had a promising plot bunny, but unfortunately, the execution was poor.  The author is a new author to me, and I’m not sure how experienced, but very definitely her writing style, the transitions from scene to scene, and the missed opportunities for humor or further dialogue were quite below average.  So two stars for the fact that the overall story was okay and an extra half because it’s Christmas, and I don’t like being an Ebenezer who shoots down an author’s efforts at holiday romance. 


Cover art by Freddy MacKay features a handsome guy in a plaid vest and dark slacks superimposed over a gift box with tissue paper in disarray.  This would be David after opening his gift from CJ.   Very nice representation of the story.

Sales Links:  Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 40 pages
Expected publication: December 13th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC

A MelanieM Review: McShayne’s Dragon (McShayne’s Bloodline Book 1) by Nicole Dennis


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Betrayed, Morric McShayne, a bloodline elemental witch, wakes during a lightning storm, bound to a post—the latest sacrifice to appease a dragon. He swears to survive as the last McShayne and there is no dragon until a powerful claw plucks him away from the precipice.

With every equinox, the dragon’s keeper, Xavier, pushes back the loneliness. The keeper holds a secret until magic flares. This sacrifice is different.

They battle desire and duty. When a single kiss changes everything, can the Fae help them answer more secrets and a legend’s promise? Do they fight against Fate’s choice

I can’t resist a dragon story of any sort so both the title and the cover drew me to Nicole Dennis’ story, McShayne’s Dragon, the first in a new series.  A short story, one easily blown through, I thought Dennis did a good job with laying in some nice world building elements here along with an interesting storyline.

The idea and character of Morric McShayne, the elemental witch and his “family” territory is an intriguing one as well as frustrating.  We get just enough neat details and scenes that make this character and then ones that proceed to wash those away.  He’s smart, intelligent and wary.  He distrusts the villagers and their awful “sacrifices” yet he falls prey to them easily?  It made no sense.   I even liked Xavier although there’s no real “secret” to him.  Its blatantly obvious what Xavier is.  And their first scenes together again held real promise, full of fire, obstacles, and tension.

But the author only gave herself 63 pages so everything collapses quickly.  It has to in order for the story to go forward, more characters to be introduced and more groundwork laid for the next story.  All of which is such a shame.  There is a terrific story here along with characters that deserve to be fleshed out but we get the barest of outlines instead.  Maybe the next story will be different.  I will certainly be reading that one with higher hopes.

Cover art is terrific.  Its an important scene from the story. Its dramatic and well done.  Love it.

Sales Links  MlrBooks |Amazon.com

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 63 pages
Published May 26th 2017 by MLR Press

A VVivacious Review: Connections Matter (Loving the Rainbow #3) by Nicole Dennis

Rating : 3.75 Stars out of 5
connections-matterJulian is fed up with his job, especially his supervisor who seems to save up all his nasty especially for Julian. When things get to be too much to bear he quits. But quitting his job opens a whole new can of uncertainty as he finds himself at a loss for future prospects.
Meanwhile Julian’s boyfriend Emmett proposes a road trip to meet Riley and Conor, a couple in Virginia who Emmett wants to interview for his online zine. But as it happens meeting Riley and Conor is just the thing to set Emmett and Julian on the right track, and give Julian an idea of what he wants to do with his future.
I liked this story. Prior to starting this story I was unaware that this story was a follow up story to the previously published stories “Stranded” and “Whatever It Takes” by the author featuring “Julian & Emmett” and “Riley & Conor” respectively. I haven’t read these stories but I can assure you that that did not lessen my enjoyment of this story. In fact having read this story makes me even more enthusiastic about reading these ‘prequels’ so as to get to spend more time with these characters.
My only problem with this story were the awkward phrases and typos that turn up at pivotal points, not that there were many of these but they seemed to appear at engrossing moments in the story and disturbed the flow of the story for me. But thankfully these typos disappeared towards the ending.
I loved the characters in this story. Julian is the quiet, introspective guy who carries the weight of the world and finds himself at a loss after having quit his job while Emmett is full of energy, the kind of guy who is super fun to be around and who is always on the go. I loved these two together because they seemed to balance out each other perfectly and also because we got to see them grow as a couple. I loved how both of them were so supportive of the other, especially after Julian quits his job, I loved how Emmett was non-judgemental and completely supportive of Julian despite not having to be in that position often with Julian.
If I had to choose I would say this story is essentially Emmett and Julian’s but that in no way diminishes the role that Riley and Conor play in this story. In a way Riley & Conor represented the balance Emmett & Julian hoped to achieve. I loved Riley & Conor, they were an amazing couple.
This was a feel good slice of life fiction about a couple trying to navigate their life. I loved the story and I loved the contrasts drawn between the two couples and I loved the love these two amazing couples shared.
Cover Art by Scarlet Tie Designs. I didn’t quite like the choice of red on blue but otherwise the cover is okay.
Sales Links
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 112 pages
Published October 2016 by MLR Press
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Gavin & Morgan (Storming Love: Blizzard #5) by Nicole Dennis


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Gavin and Morgan coverDrained from forecasting both hurricanes and twisters, Gavin Larson, a meteorologist, accepts a request to become the head forecaster for a Philadelphia television station. He goes for a trial time during winter. A calm, quiet winter where he can recharge. Until he discovers a series of potential events ready to clash.

Taking over his family’s position, Morgan Rylee Whittaker III feels the pressure to follow their lofty attitude, he can’t stay hidden in the executive suites. He jumps into the chaos. Bumping into the meteorologist, Morgan feels a thump of arousal, but listens when Gavin locates a dangerous blizzard heading up the coast.

Together, they protect and prepare Philadelphia from the incoming nor’easter. They dance around the steady beat of attraction brewing between them as the storm rages.

Gavin & Morgan by Nicole Dennis brings up the end (for me) of MLR’s Storming Love: Blizzard collection and it’s fitting that it goes out with a romance between a meteorologist and the owner of a tv station during the blizzard of the century.  Gavin Larson is an intense, “owned by his job” man.  His passion is the weather but that passion has taken him into jobs such as hurricane and then tornado forecasting that has left him burned out.  The offer of a job at a station in Philadelphia holds out the promise of less meteorological drama and some much needed down time.  After all, says his old college friend that hires him, nothing huge ever happens weather wise in Philly.  Of course, Mother Nature and a Polar Vortex have other ideas.

Also trying out a new position is Morgan Rylee Whittaker III, stepping into the manager shoes at his family media company.  When he meets Gavin, its due to the fact that Gavin sees unstable and dangerous fronts forming and wants to start alerting the community around him that a huge  snow storm is headed their way.  It doesn’t help that newcomer Gavin is the only meteorologist with this forecast or that the “on camera” old school weatherman refuses to use Gavin’s forecasts.  It’s a clash of  old established ways of doing business against the new “youngsters” at the station, even if one happens to be the son of the owner.

It’s a great storyline and one I enjoyed immensely.  Dennis makes her characters and their passions for their jobs believable and grounded in authenticity of the forecasts heard nightly on the weather forecasts.  The weather patterns and the buildup, from equipment to the various fronts forming to build the “storm of the century” felt plausible and real.  The same goes for the attraction building at the same time between the men during this stressful time.    I liked that this is no instant love sort of story, more instant attraction and respect that might grow into something larger and deeper down the line.

In fact, Gavin and Morgan could easily have been written as a much larger story.  The men and their backgrounds were not only complicated and interesting but the present position that each found themselves in could have been made more layered by adding the background that was only hinted at.  I wanted to know more about Gavin’s past stressful jobs and the life style that brought him to Philadelphia.  Same goes for Morgan and his strained relationship with his father.

The clash of personalities of the station was also well done as was the “wear and tear” of a 24 to 48 hour non-stop working situation during a “storm of a lifetime” broadcast.  That aspect of the story was fleshed out beautifully and felt as real as any other element here.

What hurt the story?  The editing and incorrect word choices not caught by either the author or editor.  At one point in the story, Gavin is said to be ” the finest meteorologist and one of the most facetious  researchers” in the country.  Uh, no.  Facetious would be if he  “treated serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor” or was flippant about his job.  That is the opposite of Gavin. Further along, poor Gavin got the brunt of even more malapropisms when it talks about his calm “facade” when I suppose the author meant demeanor or mien.  Façade which is actually the spelling Dennis used means ” outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality”, definitely not what the author intended.  I think Dennis wanted to get across that Gavin had a strong, calm presence in front of the camera in face of this dangerous storm.  But that’s not what she said. Oh, for a Funk and Wagnalls.  These inappropriate word choices had pulled me straight out of the story because I was so dumbfounded that the errors had not been caught before publication.   There’s more but I think I made the point needed.  Poor editing hurts a story, it stops the flow of the narrative and makes the reader start concentrating on structural elements rather than the plot.  This should have rated a 4 star or higher rating.  But the inaccuracies and inconsistent editing pulled it down.

I liked this story, and thought the major elements were well crafted.  Perhaps I’m too picky and the things that bothered me about the story aren’t as important to you.  Pick it up and decide for yourself.  For me, its spring and I’m looking forward to flowers, and higher temperatures while putting the snow, Polar Vortexes, and all things similar away for another season.  If you find yourself missing the cold, and snow and ice of the past months, pick up any of the six stories that form the Storming Love: Blizzard collection.  There you will find a story sure to bring those months and romance alive once more.

Cover art by Kris Jacen.  A simple cover that serves to brand the series as a collection.

Sales Links:  MLR Press          All Romance (ARe)       Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 81 pages
Published February 22nd 2015 by ManLove Romance Press
edition languageEnglish
seriesStorming Love: Blizzard

Stories in the Storming Love: Blizzard Collection are: