A MelanieM Review: Trial by Fire by BA Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Trial By FireOne Aussie. One Texan. One baby. One hell of a fight.

When his sister and her husband are killed in an accident, Aussie cattle station owner Lachlan McCoughney rushes to Texas to rescue their infant daughter, Chloe. He expects to find his niece living in squalor with the Sheffields, a rodeo family.

Instead, Lachlan finds Holden Sheffield, a salt-of-the-earth cowboy running a huge business operation. They want to explore their mutual attraction despite the many problems thrown their way, and together, they must find a way to give Chloe a new family and find a love that spans thousands of acres and two continents.

Once again, BA Tortuga has nailed it with this emotional, funny, heartbreaking romance featuring an itty bitty Texas cowboy and a Aussie cattle station owner. No one, I repeat, no one, does that tiny powerful cowboy like Tortuga.  They exist in rodeos across the nation and in ranches throughout the United States.  Tough as rawhide, tiny as they come and packing a punch that will level you.

And this author gets them at a cellular level.

That’s Holden Sheffield, whose just lost his beloved twin brother, Landon, and wife, Addie, who Holden adored, in a plane crash, leaving him the sole guardian, of their daughter.  Holden, and his entire family are devastated, in pain and in shock, when the Aussie appears demanding to see his niece and more.  You can imagine how that would play out.  But to the author’s credit, she doesn’t go to the places we would expect but takes those scenes to unexpected avenues of calmness and evenhandedness first.  I loved that.  Holden was a perfect explosion of unanticipated character traits…yet the whole of him made perfect sense.  Loved that man!

Lachlan McCoughney is more of a well defined brand, but that works here too.  In fact that may be needed for the drama within the story.  His is the yin to Holden’s yang, the two types of men, the two types of stations/ranch operations and yet on the outside so dissimilar,on the inside, so very much alike where it counts.  If only Lachlan will be brave enough to see and act on it.  I loved and understood Lachlan too because the basis for his actions is also love of family and land.  Something that BA Tortuga also understands deeply and is able to easily  translate into her stories.

Backing up the main characters for their fight for the child are the parents and ranch hands, all of whom are beautifully defined and realistic in their own right.  This book could extend into multiple stories in a heartbeat with all the characters involved.

Grab this story right up and hold on tight.  You will read through it quickly and then want to go through it again to see what you missed.  Its sexy, heartwarming, and one for the comfort chair.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  So cute, ok baby, adorable.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Expected publication: March 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634769822
Edition Language English

 

 

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Spell Bound (The Warlock Brothers of Havenbridge #1) by Jacob Z. Flores

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Spell Bound coverMason Blackmoor just can’t compete with his brothers, much less his father. They represent the epitome of black magic, strong, dark, and wicked, and though Mason tries to live up to his respected lineage, most of the spells he casts go awry. To make matters worse, his active power has yet to kick in. While his brothers wield lightning and harness the cold, Mason sits on the sidelines, waiting for the moment when he can finally enter the magical game.

When a dead body is discovered on the football field of his high school, Mason meets Drake Carpenter, the new kid in town. Drake’s confident demeanor and quick wit rub Mason the wrong way. Drake is far too self-assured for someone without an ounce of magical blood in his body, and Mason aims to teach him a lesson—like turn him into a roach. And if he’s lucky, maybe this time Mason won’t be the one turned into an insect.

Not surprisingly, the dislike is mutual, and Drake does nothing to dispel Mason’s suspicion that the sexy boy with a southern drawl is somehow connected to the murder.

If only Mason didn’t find himself inexplicably spellbound whenever they are together, they might actually find out what danger hides in the shadows.

This was a very nice start to a new young adult series by Jacob Flores. It’s a world where wizards, warlocks, and witches work together to keep peace among their covens and keep humans from finding out about them.

Eighteen-year-old Mason Blackmoor just can’t get the hang of his magic. Youngest son of the leader of the Blackmoor warlock coven, he’s yet to come into his powers, and because of that, he bears the brunt of his brothers’ humor and scorn. His family has traditionally been very strong in black magic, and his brothers’ abilities to manipulate the elements to work with lightning and icy cold, as well as his father’s ability to work with earth and stone, leave him feeling very inadequate when he can’t even summon a simple spell.

But once Mason meets the new kid at school, Drake Carpenter, things seem to change for the better. In fact, one of his first magic spells occurs when he saves Drake’s life at a construction site. It takes Drake a while to come around to accepting, and then liking Mason, however. Drake is living with his aunt due to the recent deaths of his parents, and although he’s usually cocky and confident, he’s also sad and emotional when he’s reminded of his loss. The more time Mason spends with him, the more he wants to help Drake and the more he falls in love with the young man who just might be his soulmate—spellbound with him for life.

Mason assumes that Drake is a shifter due to his crazy fast ability to run and jump and never seem to be stopped by objects that would definitely stop most humans. Plus, there was a time when Drake seemed to disappear, and the next time Mason looked, there was a cat in the exact place where he last saw Drake. Complicating their budding relationship, however, is a dark magical presence in town. It may be a shadow weaver or something worse, and when murders start to pile up around them, and tragedy strikes again in Drake’s life, Mason vows to keep him safe at all costs.

There’s plenty of excitement in this story as the author builds a world in which those who practice magic are hidden from humans but definitely walk among us. The romance between the young men is sweet but there are also a few explicit sex scenes, so this is not totally vanilla. I enjoyed living in this world for a few days and getting to know the main and secondary characters. I suspect that there may be romance in Mason’s brothers’ future while they are all fighting the being from the dark side who is disrupting the peace and has vowed to capture Mason for a yet to be revealed reason.

This book can certainly be read as a standalone, but there is more to come, and if you get hooked on this one, you won’t want to stop with just one. I recommend this story to those who enjoy the world of magic, young adult fiction, and a sweet romance mixed with their murder and mayhem.
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Cover art is a portrait of Mason as drawn by the very talented Paul Richmond. It’s a beautiful depiction with just a hint of darkness to symbolize Mason’s dark magic.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner PressAll Romance (ARe)Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 1st, 216 pages, also in paperback
Published May 27th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
original titleSpell Bound
ISBN139781634761246
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Warlock Brothers of H

An Aurora YA Review: Out of Order by Casey Lawrence

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Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Out of Order coverCorinna “Corey” Nguyen’s life seems perfectly average for a closeted bisexual whiz kid with her eyes on college and a budding romance with her friend Kate. Sixteen and navigating senior year with her tight-knit group of best friends through crushes, breakups, and pregnancy scares, Corey mistakenly believes that running for valedictorian and choosing the right college are the worst of her worries. That is, until prom night, when she’s left alone and in shock, hiding inside a diner restroom, the only witness to a multiple homicide.

With graduation looming, the pressure is on for Corey to identify the killer and ensure that the crime that has changed her life forever will not go unpunished.

I love mysteries, and I love books that really make you think, and this book does both in a masterful way. There are so few books that I’ve read that are pure mysteries or thrillers that are also YA books. In fact as I sat down to write this review, I thought for a good five minutes about any books similar to this one, and I could only think of one that I had read or even seen. I always love to read books like this, and this book was not only a standout simply for the subject matter, but it was just well written. From the larger scale parts of the book that involved the murder, which were fascinating, to the plots that involved Corey simply living life as a teenager, every part of the book was really interesting to read. In general it was just very exciting, and it kept me very engaged from beginning to end.

I love characters and the way they’re developed, I make no secret of it. And this book did not disappoint as far as character. Most notably, Corey was absolutely wonderfully written. She was endearing, I loved her, and I wanted to see her come out on top. She seemed like a real teenager without seeming like she was a stereotype. She was very interesting while, again, seeming very much like a real teenager who was simply put in an extraordinary situation, which is one of my favorite things to see in any form of entertainment. I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was a very fun read. It kept me engaged the entire time, and I really liked the characters and writing style.

Aaron Anderson is the cover artist. Definitely just based on seeing the cover in a store or online, I would have picked up this book because the cover is very intriguing. It makes me wonder what the book is about and is very well put together. I think that the fact that it doesn’t feature anyone’s face is actually very smart. It doesn’t assign an image to any of the characters for the reader before they read the book, but it still makes the reader interested and still does a good job of showing what the book is about.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press  –  All Romance (ARe) Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages, and in paperback
Published March 21st 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN139781634760126
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.harmonyinkpress.com
A YA Imprint of Dreamspinner Press

 

A MelanieM Review: A Counselor Among Wolves (Leader Murders #2) by Liv Olteano

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Sequel to A Tooth for a Fang
Leader Murders: Case Two

CounselorAmongWolves[A]FSFive dead leaders, their bodies arranged in a pentagram. Treason, lies, and backstabbing. A make-believe affair that turns into a real mating.

Timothy Sands is a PBI counselor, half-fey, half-elf, with a secret crush on Herman Weiss, PBI director. As a new chapter is added to the Leader Murders, it is Weiss’s responsibility to investigate what seems an impossible-to-solve case. The other problem? Weiss is suffering from rages, and his only salvation lies in Tim’s emotional-grid-balancing skills. They only have to pretend to be a couple for Tim to use his talents, and he owes Weiss a big favor. Piece of cake, right?

The fey might be involved in the Leader Murders. Someone on the Council might be their ally, and another prominent PBI figure looks more and more suspicious as they investigate. The stakes are upped when Timothy’s father, the Fey King, threatens to leave the Council destitute if they don’t hand Timothy over to him. Weiss’s brilliant solution? Mating Timothy and forcing the Council into protecting him.

There’s only one small hitch in that plan: instead of protecting one, the Council might decide to get rid of two.

A Tooth for a Fang was the first book I had read by Liv Olteano, and I loved the author’s darker take on werewolves, lycans, wolfshifters of all sorts (two different things in this series) and the supernatural in general.  As much as I love all my romantic wolf shifter love stories, reading one where the wolves have a more manipulative aspect to their character that dominates all their relationships and outlook was refreshing and new.  And the author took it further and separated out the wolf shifters or lycans from the werewolves, a divide both emotional and physical.  But it was Olteano’s focus on domestic abuse in a Mate/Mate bond that was unexpected, intriguing and powerful.

For many stories, the weres and their mates meet and the mate bond snaps into place (a broad generalization I know), and they are happy together at the end.  But what happens when one mate hates or grows to hate the other?  In a species where the need to be dominant is inherent and expected, then the possibility of mate/spousal abuse appears.  This element is a major part of the plot in Liv Olteano’s Leader Murder Mystery trilogy.  Those mates who have been abused (no matter what species they belong too, were, lycan, vampire… whathaveyou) and those that see a wrong that needs to be addressed in their society  have banded together to enact new laws to protect abused mates and enable them to “divorce” their abuser.  Not a small thing in a hide bound society that resists change.   But some of them have gone further and several murders of abusive leaders have occurred.

The first book involved a were and a human lured into a mate bond.   That pair is still on shaky ground when this story opens  But A Counselor Among Wolves has a different focus and pairing.  This time its Timothy Sands, a half elf,half fey, who works for the PBI (Paranormal Bureau of Investigations).  A loner due to his heritage, past history, and inclinations, Tim has been in love with the PBI’S Director,Herman Weiss, a Werewolf Alpha,  for 5 years, to no avail.  Weiss, as he is called, has been mated for years and last year his female mate produced the heir Weiss had been waiting for.  His mating?  Not at all happy, as everyone found out in the first story.  The difficult relationships established in the first story get even more so here.

The “revolution” is building, Tim is part of the group that is working towards Mate Bond reforms (through legal methods) and Weiss is trying to deal with new murders, his imploded relationship, his son, and his increasingly unstable personality.   The one being who might hold some of the answers Weiss requires?  That would be Tim, who wants to keep his shields and secrets intact.

Olteano’s supernatural beings are anything but superficial in their creation.  The author delivers not only each species physical characteristics, but background, natural history, cultural history and current racial and societal issues as well.  Like I said, these aren’t your cuddly sort of wolves.  Even Weiss’ toddler son is capable of  well thought out manipulations and the boy/pup demonstrates a constant defiance that shows he is challenging his father (and others) for dominance even at the youngest of ages.  His is a remarkable portrait as well.  How many  5 year olds do you know who attack their mothers, trying to force them to submit? As Olteano points out, that makes it hard to establish a maternal bond, now doesn’t it? A Counselor to Wolves (and the series to date) is just one neat twist and turn after another.  But always at its heart, are serious subject matters such as domestic abuse and violence.

Still this is a romance, of sorts, one between Tim and Weiss that struggles to coalesce at first under the stress and extraordinary circumstances. Then gets mired down in the politics and machinations of the investigation and murders.  Throw in Tim’s father, who has his own nefarious plotting underway that also involves his son, and well, this book has plenty of layers to satisfy any lover of espionage and suspense.   Plus Tim and Weiss are just plain hot together.  You will root for them, really you will.

In this story, some of the revelations help speed us along to the final story that will tie up all the investigations and plotting revealed here.  All the couples will have their moment on stage in the final story.  That’s especially important because neither of the two couples relationships and pairing are on particularly stable ground.  There are too many unknown elements still at play, and that include’s Tim’s father, the Elf King.

Now comes the waiting…how I hate that part.  I want the final story now.  This is such a terrific series.  My admiration for Liv Olteano’s writing and plot grows with each story that’s released.  I loved  lycan Travis Chandler and the former human Rick Barton who took a vacation from an abusive lover and ended up as a mate.  And I love Tim, one of a kind Tim and the dominating Alpha, Weiss and his son.  We have one more couple to come forward and then the author will tie things up.  I expect it to be messy, bloody, hot, and one heck of a wild ride towards the end.  As I said, I can’t wait.

New to this series?  Pick up A Tooth For A Fang first, then proceed to A Counselor Among Wolves.  These books need to be read in the order they were written to understand the character and plot developments that are occurring within. The author tries to fill in gaps in each story but its far too complicated for that to one in any one book.  I highly recommend them both.  Then we can wait together for the final installment to arrive.  See you there.

Cover Art by  AngstyG.  Love the cover, its dark and yes, angsty.  Works a treat for the characters and story within.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages, also in paperback
Published May 8th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN139781632169235
edition languageEnglish
seriesLeader Murders #2

The Leader Murder Case Mysteries Trilogy: