A Caryn Review: Last Call by Kate Sherwood


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One shallow, rich, university student party boy

One hot bartender with no education and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility

One bar in deep financial trouble, and a desperate (and not very bright) owner

It doesn’t sound like it will work, but put those ingredients into the blender, mix in a few of their friends and a few bad guys, and in the end it kind of does.

I didn’t like Ethan much at first.  We meet him sitting at a bar, for the third night in a row, waiting for the hottie bartender, Alex, to notice him.  Ethan is spoiled:  he’s rich, he’s cute, he’s oversexed and drinks 5 nights out of the week, and is always the pursued, never the pursuer.  He hangs out with friends who are as shallow as he is.  When Alex doesn’t notice him, Ethan basically decided screw that, I’m getting trashed.  Which did get Alex’s attention, but not in a good way.  Alex ended up taking Ethan to his apartment and putting him to bed when he passed out, and walked away.  When Ethan woke up, it was metaphorical as well as literal, and for one of the first times in his life he took a step back to look at his actions.  And decided he was a bit of an asshole.

Following Ethan’s epiphany, his first action was to apologize to Alex, but when he showed up at the bar before opening, he found a group of thugs threatening Alex and Leo – the bar owner and Alex’s best friend – over money owed to a loan shark.  Undeterred, Ethan immediately jumped in with ideas to boost the bar’s revenue, brought in his own friends, and business started picking up.  He told himself he didn’t want Alex as a hookup anymore, but he did still want him as a friend, and Ethan was nothing if not persistent.  Alex started opening up, but he was a complicated man with a lot of baggage from past abuse, and insecurity about the differences in their social standings.

I enjoyed the story, the way Ethan matured and Alex gained confidence, but the whole scenario never really seemed plausible to me.  Ethan just seemed too shallow and childish to even have an epiphany about how poorly he treated anyone, and the idea of him pursuing Alex so hard was completely unconvincing.  As his friend Josh said,

When in your life have you ever applied hard work and dedication to something?  When have you done something that didn’t come easily right from the start?

Why would a guy like that decide to get mixed up in trying to save a failing bar, when he had already seen people get beaten up for it, and wasn’t getting anything out of the guy he liked anyway?  And Alex had a little of that TSTL vibe going on – yeah, he was a loyal guy, and owed Leo a lot, but he knew what was happening was criminal, wrong, and was going to get them both into a hell of a lot of trouble, but he just sat back and let it happen.  Leo was a selfish asshole to multiple people, until he suddenly wasn’t.  Nah, I didn’t buy it.

The blurb was intriguing, but the actual storyline itself kind of fell short.  Ethan was sweet, but his constant verbal diarrhea was also annoying.  Alex was devoted, but let that override his intelligence.  Leo was just an idiot, and I kind of wanted him to get what was coming to him, and he didn’t deserve Alex’s loyalty.  Overall, the book was a bit of a mixed bag for me.

The cover model was the perfect representation of Ethan.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 258 pages
Expected publication: January 21st 2020

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015



 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…



From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.



From Stella:



Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows

Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover






Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding


Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover







Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage






Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover



TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

Review: Riding Tall (The Fall #2) by Kate Sherwood


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Riding Tall coverJoe Sutton and Scott Mackenzie are trying to adjust to the new romance in their lives and it isn’t going especially well.   Mackenzie is still trying to prove himself after years spent as his ex boyfriend’s “arm candy”.  Now  Mackenzie’s former modeling career is starting to thrive when all he had hoped for was to revive it enough to pay his bills and subsidize his new business with the church he is remodeling.

But reentering his old life as a model brings back all the high life and fast action Mackenzie was once used to.  City life, late nights, booze, drugs and pretty boys all around.  Soon Mackenzie finds that he must decide between the life he had and the life he has now.  Life with Joe on the ranch could be everything he every hoped for if only he can convince himself and Joe that it will work.

Joe too is slowly drowning in family problems and uncertainties about  Mackenzie’s life as a model, their commitment to each other, and his own ability to give everyone what they need, including love and support.  With his brother Will consumed with his new fiance and his construction business, it’s not only his sisters and special needs nephew that Joe is responsible for.  He has a working ranch, with only his younger sister now to help him with the chores and animals.  Plus he has just assumed guardianship for the two girls who used to live next door, orphaned when their drunken parents set fire to their house.  Then a traumatic event adds one more to the mix.  Before Joe realizes it, he is everyones support but his own.  And Mackenzie’s.  Consumed by his responsibilies, weighed down by trying to manage all his own.  Can Joe reach out for help to Mackenzie?  Will he and Mac save not only their relationship but the family as well?

The first story in the series, The Fall, was a story I just loved from the very first word.  The characters pulled at my heart and the author’s ability to mix the gravity of real life along with it’s light-hearted joys made it one of my favorites so far this year.  So you can imagine my happiness when I saw that the sequel had been released.  With great anticipation I picked it up and settled down to see how Joe and Mackenzie had fared thus far in adjusting to their new romance and Mackenzie’s resumption of his modeling career. What I found in Riding Tall was both well written and resoundingly disheartening.

Kate Sherwood has the ability to put characters and family dynamics on the page that feel so authentic that you would swear you know these people.  And after spending an entire book with them (The Fall) I had come to feel quite fond of them all.  So perhaps if I can use this analogy of a visit to a close friends house to describe how I felt about Riding Tall, it might make it all easier to understand.

Picture that old friends of yours, complete with large family with includes siblings, children of varying ages, including several with special needs, has invited you to spend the weekend or possibly even an evening with them.  You arrive happy to see all and hopeful for a terrific evening getting reacquainted.   It starts off promisingly.  You get caught up and there are smiles all around. But as the evening wears on, the tensions between your friends appears, conversations get strained, and you start to notice how exhausted and overburdened everyone appears.  The kids start to get tired, whining and bad behavior surfaces, and the room starts to get smaller.  Soon everyone has forgotten your presence, so caught up in their own issues, stress and unhappiness.  You are  unable to help as no help is being accepted. Arguments grow from soft to loud, leaving you squirming on the sofa. Before long you find yourself edging towards the door and freedom.  At the very last minute, one of the couple stands up, reminds their partner how much they love them, and pulls it all together.  Calm and happiness is reestablished.  Now you are thrilled for them but the door still feels like the best possible choice at the moment because you feel as exhausted and stressed out by the evening as they were.

For me, that’s Riding Tall.

Sherwood’s excellence with her dialog, relationship dynamics, and characterization make everything that occurs here not only realistic but incredibly plausible.  For almost 80 percent of this story, Joe is drowning under his own guilt, martyr complex and assumed responsibilities for, well, everyone and everything.  He is exhausted, he has no time for Mackenzie when he is in town and he knows he is failing on every front but doesn’t know how to change the situation he is in.  For Mackenzie, its time to grow up and realize where his priorities lie, with his career or with Joe and the family.  So many adjustments for not only the couple but everyone around them.  I am telling you no one is happy here. And with very good reason.  Every situation each member of the family finds themselves in is one you will be able to relate to.  Teenagers with emotional problems acting out at school, a young child with autism overwhelmed by changes in his life and living quarters, people moving away and moving on.  You name it and its happening to Joe, Mackenzie, and their extended family.

The children in this series will haunt you with their issues. Particularly disheartening is the scene where a child’s damaged brain is acting as a recorder, spewing out all the vile things her abusive father had said to her and her sisters.  It’s authentic and quite shocking, especially in its impact on Joe.  Joe’s reactions to the hate-filled vicious phrases pouring out of that innocent injured child’s mouth is everything you would expect from a compassionate adult and Joe in particular. The medical issues here and the emotional and physical repercussions that come with having this child move onto the ranch are handled with sensitivity and responsibility. There will need to be constant supervision, therapists of every type, and the long term prognosis is uncertain.There are no easy band aids, no instant fixes for this large and complicated family. Just realistic scenarios where different problems and issues arise.

Even that happy go lucky, goofy goldendoodle, Griffin, that I adored, changes into a sober working service dog by the end of the story.  It is an unrelenting parade of family problems, romance miscommunications and arguments when they are communicating.  No real love scenes, as even the characters acknowledge, because they don’t have the time, the kids are always around, their schedules don’t mesh, and they are exhausted.  Bad stuff upon bad stuff is piled on until the characters are buried in a quagmire of too many responsibilities, guilt, and resources.  For 80 percent of the story.

Had the author been able to inject even some moments of levity, a realistic scene of hopefulness and temporary cheer, into the proceedings, than it all would have become so much more palatable. Instead we almost reach the end before Mackenzie makes a choice and makes a loving and practical plan.  I did so love the ending.  It made complete sense, pulled most of the story threads together in a satisfying resolution.  It is still a HFN, other characters essential to the family have large problems looming ahead.  The special needs children remain just that, children who come with their own sets of challenges and joys.  The same holds for the traumatized sisters that used to live next door but are now Joe’s responsibility as well.  Oh, and Mackenzie’s dysfunctional family makes an appearance too.

I start inching towards the door again just remembering it all.

I foresee more stories in the series and, yes, I will read all those as well.  You don’t give up on those you care for after a particularly stressful and strained visit.  You just hope the next is a bit better for all.  That is the expectations I will carry with me as I await the next installment.  You might find you feel differently about this story than I do.  Maybe your threshold for complicated family dynamics is higher than mine.  Either way, the decision is yours to make.  I will be sticking with the series and its marvelous author.  Tell me what you think

Cover artist is Leah Kaye Suttle.  Again I found the cover to be a little to generic.  Mackenzie doesn’t even like horses or ride.

Books in The Fall  series include:

The Fall
Riding Tall (The Fall #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published February 3rd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published February 2nd 2014)
ISBN 1627984100 (ISBN13: 9781627984102)
edition language English
series The Fall #2

January 2014 Summary of Books Reviewed


Winter trees longs

The new years has started with an explosion of wonderful books and new authors for me.  SE Jakes and two of her marvelous series dropped into my hands and heart so I will be passing those recommendations on to you.  SA McAuley released a new contemporary fiction novel, Treadmarks and Trademarks, the start of a new series.  Ditto Susan Laine with her Sparks & Drops.  LA Witt inspired with her gender shifter novel Static, a must read for all.  Shira Anthony’s Symphony In Blue brought her Blue Notes characters together for a series holiday story, perfect reading for all lovers of romance and music.  Horror, fantasy and comedy are all represented here as well as a great non fiction tale by Joel Derfner, Lawfully Wedded Husband:How My Gay Marriage Will Save The American Family, a must read.

So many great books, see what stories you have missed, and make a list.  And don’t forget to check out the best book covers of the month at the end.
S series
C contemporary
SF-science fiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding
5 Star Rating:

Catch A Ghost by SE Jakes C, S
Long Time Gone by SE Jakes C, S
Static by LA Witt, SF
Symphony In Blue by Shira Anthony, C, S
The Engineered Throne by Megan Derr, F
The Fall by Kate Sherwood C. S

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne, (4.5 stars) C, holiday
Dirty Deeds by SE Jakes (4.75 stars) C, S
Home for the Hollandaise by BA Tortuga,Julia Talbot *4.5 stars) C
Horsing Around by Torquere Authors, (4.5 stars) A, C
In Discretion by Reesa Herberth (4.5 stars), SF
Lawfully Wedded Husband by Joel Derfner (4.75 stars) N
Refined Instincts by SJ Frost, (4 stars) SP, S
Serenading Stanley by John Inman (4.5 stars), C
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine (4.5 stars), P, S
Texas Christmas by R.J. Scott (4.75 stars), C, S
The Dreamer by M. King (4 stars), HR
The Lightning Moon by Sylvia A. Winters (4.75 stars) SP
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley (4.5 stars) C, S

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Ashland by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars) SP, S
The Actor and the Thief by Edward Kendrick (3.75 stars) C, S
Tor by Lynn Lorenz (3.5 stars), SP, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Dime Novel by Dale Chase (2.75 stars) H

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:  None


Best Book Covers of January 2014

This month includes just an overall gold star to LC Chase whose great covers include the Hell or High Water series and Dirty Deeds.

InDiscretion_500x750Mindscape_500x750Sparks & Drops cover

Tread Marks and Trademarks cover

Static coverCatch a Ghost cover


In Discretion by Reesa Herberth, Artist Simone’
Mindscape by Tal Valante, Artist LC Chase, who is having an incredible year
Sparks & Drops by Susan Laine, Artist Brooke Albrecht
Static by LA Witt, Artist LC Chase.  A Stunner with it’s Shifting Gender Person
Tread Marks & Trademarks by S.A. McAuley, Wilde City Press, no artist credited

Review: The Fall (The Fall #1) by Kate Sherwood


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Fall coverAfter his boyfriend dumps him for a younger man, Scott Mackenzie must figure out the mess his life has become.  A part-time model, Mackenzie had allowed  his ex to completely take over his life.  Mackenzie lived in Nathan’s house and off Nathan’s income as Nathan’s disapproval of his profession saw Mackenzie’s modeling assignments dropping away until he was barely accepting job offers.  Now the reality of his dependency is hitting Mackenzie hard as he tries to determine what to do next.  He had purchased an old church to use for gay weddings on a whim and now that looks like his only avenue both as a home and new job.  But Mackenzie is a gay fish out of water in a small town in rural Ontario.  Both he and the church need a lot of fixing up and he doesn’t know where to start.

Joe Sutton is a rancher and on occasion when his twin needs help with his business, he is also a part time contractor.  When his parents died, Joe and his twin brother did whatever was necessary to keep their family together on the land that had been a Sutton ranch for generations.  In fact, Joe’s life now consisted of running the ranch and managing his large and sometimes unruly family, leaving little time for a relationship, something already made difficult by the fact that Joe is gay in a small town.

When Mackenzie contracts the Sutton twins for help restoring the church, the initial meeting between the only two out gay men around doesn’t go well.  Joe isn’t looking for a relationship and Mackenzie is put off by the monosyllabic impression Joe makes.  But a small connection is made, one that grows larger by the day.  When Mackenzie’s past arrives to threaten their burgeoning relationship, Joe and Mackenzie must decide just how much they will sacrifice to stay together.

Have you ever read a story where you immediately fell in love with the characters and plot even if you can’t exactly pinpoint why? The Fall by Kate Sherwood is that story for me.  I love these men and I loved their story.  Everything about Mackenzie and Joe spoke to me.  I felt connected to them by their idiosyncrasies and their personalities.  I loved Joe’s family and Mackenzie’s dog, Griffin.  I loved the town of Falls Creek, the church Mackenzie bought to refurbish and even the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  How’s that for a lot of love?  But that also makes for a very short review so I had to take a closer look to see if I could figure out my case of instant love for The Fall.

It turns out that I did not have to dig very deep for reasons to love this book.    Starting with Kate Sherwood’s characters,  everyone that Sherwood created for this story (with the exception of Nick) just captivated me.  I found Mackenzie immediately endearing from the moment he murmurs to himself “no one puts Baby in the corner”, referring to himself.  One reference and I was his.  Mackenzie is someone who has a ton of growing up to do.  He gradually let his ex take over his life until he was basically a kept man and Nathan his sugar daddy.  At the moment we meet him, he is needy, spoiled by city life and a rich life style. This man is totally unmoored in every aspect of his life.  This is our first introduction to Mackenzie:

“IT’S NOT like I was expecting an adorable little café. I knew that even Starbucks might be pushing it.” Mackenzie tried to loosen his grip on his cell phone before saying, “But Kristen, there’s not even a Tim Hortons! There’s a donut shop. It’s called The Donut Shop. It sells donuts. No pastries, no soup, no sandwiches. Just donuts. And coffee.” In the interest of full disclosure, he added, “And bagels. I don’t know what’s with the bagels. But there isn’t even a drive-through!”

Mackenzie has just arrived in town and already he is panicking. And he hasn’t even set foot in the church he owns to see how much work is needed just to make it safe.  But even as adrift emotionally as Mackenzie is, we know he is worth sticking around to see what happens next.  Gradually Mackenzie starts to grow up, accepting responsibility for his life and  deciding to take charge of his future.  Sherwood throws this character down an uneven path, making him stumble and fall.  But as we watch Mackenzie pick himself up, often with verve and self depreciation, our connection to this character deepens with each new page.

The character of Joe Sutton starts off as the antithesis of Scott MacKenzie.  Whereas Mackenzie has not had enough responsibility in his life, Joe has almost had too much, eschewing a social life for family and his ranch.  Joe has become so reserved in demeanor that Mackenzie’s ebullience and vivacity puts him off, leading him to make assumptions about Mackenzie from his mannerisms and conversation. The thing is Joe is only partly wrong.  There are many layers to Joe Sutton, and they are pealed back one by one as Joe and Mackenzie begin a casual sexual relationship that turns into an emotional commitment.  Gradually we see the humor, the love of family and the land.  Kate Sherwood’s portrait of Joe Sutton will win you over just as completely as Mackenzie’s.

All the characters are well done here, whether you like them or not.  They are grounded in their human frailties , their complexities feel both real and recognizable.  Of special note is Joe’s nephew with whom he has a father/son relationship.  Five year old Austin is a special needs child, although the reason for that is never mentioned.  Austin’s behavior (autism it seems to me) is well researched and authentic.  And Joe’s relationship with Austin and the manner in which he interacts with his nephew brought more depth and warmth to a story I was already in love with.  Add in the rest of the Sutton siblings and the dogs Griffin and Red, each characters in their own right, and you have a story brimming with people and pets not easily forgotten.

Sherwood’s dialog is especially noteworthy.  It almost sparkles as it exits Mackenzie’s mouth, frothy, excitable, and very vulnerable.  Joe’s dialog too is perfect for his character.  It’s slow, thoughtful, and grounded.  It all works.  The plot comes to a happy resolution but leaves enough story threads hanging to carryover into another book.  The Fall is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read the next installment.  These characters and their town has me hooked.  Consider The Fall highly recommended.

Cover art by Leah Kaye Suttle.  I liked the cover but wish it had included more elements specific to the story such as the church. As it is it feels almost too generic.

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published December 16th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 15th 2013)
original title The Fall
ISBN 1627983902 (ISBN13: 9781627983907)
edition language English
series The Fall #1

Brrrrr…..its cold Outside and the Week Ahead in Reviews


DSCN4168Our region has seen single digit temperatures, ice, snow and flash freezing.  OK, it is January, a winter month, but still this is far too cold for this area and I think we are in shock.  I have kept the bird feeders full, as they are emptying them almost within an hour of being filled.  Same goes for the suet cakes hanging in the trees.

My yard is full of evidence of nightly visitors, deer tracks, fox tracks, raccoon and opossum. That is the opossum track to the left, notice the tail drag in the middle.  Their ears and tails are naked, getting frostbitten on nights like these. They crisscross and circle in search of food and shelter from the bruising cold winds and frigid Arctic air.   I always loved tracking in the woods after it has snowed.  So many stories are written on the glistening surface just waiting for someone to read them.

It snowed considerably the first year I worked as a Park Naturalist in Rock Creek.  And my first journey into the woods was amazing.  I remember walking  deep into the hickory oak forest and finding a small pile of Red Shouldered Hawk feathers on the ground, the snow spotted with blood.  As I looked around I noticed another grouping of feathers about 12 feet away, and then another.  And here and there the wing prints of a large bird, one who had landed with its prey, plucked for a while before taking off again with its heavy load.  Further and further I tracked until I finally found my culprit.  A great horned owl’s nest, high in a dead white oak tree, the base of which was strewn with owl pellets and fresh feathers.  I stood in awe of such a majestic and efficient predator.  A silent killer whose wings were capable of carrying a meal almost its own size, a shark of the skies where everything was considered fair game, including other owls.  I stood there for a while until throughly chilled, picked up a feather and owl pellet and headed back to the nature center, memorizing my path as I went.  I knew I would return there to check for owlets in another month or so and to see what other prey the Great Horned Owl had found.  This adventure cemented  my love for raptors and owls in particular.

This week a Snowy Owl appeared in downtown Washington, DC.  It appeared unconcerned that it stopped all traffic, vehicle and foot, as people gazed on in amazement.  How marvelous….

Snowy Owl in DC

snowy owl in dc

snowy owl in dc 2http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/01/24/snowy-owl-joins-capital-weather-gang-at-the-washington-post/

The cold is lingering into this coming week, a perfect time for reading a book or two or three.   Here are the books I reviewed this week.

Monday, Jan. 27:                  The Dreamer by M. King

Tuesday, Jan. 28:                  The Fall by Kate Sherwood

Wed., Jan. 29:                        Long Time Gone (Hell or High Water #2) by SE Jakes

Thurs., Jan. 30:                     Refined Instincts by SJ Frost

Friday, Jan. 31:                      January 2014 Best Covers and Book Review Summary

Sat., Feb. 1:                             Bloody Love Spats by Valentina Heart

Review of More Than Chemistry by Kate Sherwood


Rating: 4.25 stars

Jack Lawson is hot, successful, on his way to being a billionaire.  His problem?  He can’t forget that he grew up poor. Jack has spent his life becoming an uber successful businessman, CEO of a multinational company and acquiring all the trappings affluence brings.  Still he is not completely happy, something is missing.

Jack meets up with Noah Mercier, an old high school acquaintance, when Noah’s company makes a presentation for his firm.  Jack invites Noah out for further discussions about the ad campaign and discovers that Noah’s sister is none other than Haley Meredith, a well known movie star.  So while Jack is drawn to Noah both emotionally and physically, he thinks acquiring a movie star will finally demonstrate to all that he has arrived.  As Jack is bisexual, he believes transferring his affections from one sibling to the other should be simple and easy to accomplish. Now if he can only convince his heart….

What a wonderful story!  When you first meet Jack Lawson it is obvious he loves his success, revels in every aspect of it, and is gorgeous to boot.  And knows it. And uses it to his advantage in both his business and personal life.  In fact there seems to be no separation of the two for him.  His apparent shallowness is off-putting until Jack becomes reacquainted with Noah Mercier, and then the basis for his driven personality becomes apparent.  And Jack becomes both vulnerable and likable.

The character of Noah Mercier is immediately appealing so it is easy to see how Jack finds himself becoming drawn to him because the reader has gotten there first.  In fact, I find that Noah is more fully fleshed out than Jack himself as far as background goes.   Noah Mercier arrives with sister, family, hobbies, and vegetarian proclivities in tow.  It takes us longer to find out that Jack’s father was unable to support them and that being poor is a self image that Jack is still trying to erase with a vengeance.  I would love to have learned more about Jack’s background that has given him such a mission that he almost misses out on what is truly important in life.  Still, the main characters here are multilayered, likable, and easy to root for.

Kate Sherwood has not held back on the secondary characters either.  Both Haley Meredith and Claire, his assistant, are terrific creations on their own, Claire especially.  I wish the author had given Claire a last name as someone of her station and personality deserve.  I could picture and hear her so clearly did Claire’s voice speak to me.  Haley’s persona shown through even though we only had a glimpse or two of her.

My only other quibble here is that I would have loved to have had more of interaction between Jack and Noah.  From the scenes between them, I certainly could understand the attraction Jack felt towards Noah, but additional dialog would have cemented it for me. In all, I loved this story.

Kate Sherwood was a new author for me but after reading this short story, I will be searching out more books from her.

Cover:  I thought the cover was just fine, but to me it really didn’t speak for the story.  Plus the dark haired model with glasses did not embody Noah for me. Does not have that “nerdy” image I associate with him.