CAROLINA HOME by Virginia Kantra


Stunning.  Truly stunning.  I can’t put it down.  No, really.  I’ve finished it days after it hit the shelves but the book is still on my dining room table where I can (and do) grab it whenever I have a few moments to spend, allowing me to immerse myself in the lush world of the Carolina islands.   But let me backtrack for a moment. 

Dare Island is the home of Matt Fletcher, single parent and first son of the Fletcher family, a fixture in the Dare Island fishing community.  His son, Josh, happens to be in the class of Alison Carter, child of privilege and new teacher on Dare Island.  They meet and suddenly, just like that song, Matt’s “Hot For Teacher.”  Alison, to this reader’s delight, returns Matt’s interest.

But there’s more to CAROLINA HOME than simply boy-gets-girl.  The story is a landscape of exquisite beauty that is a healthy family.  Three generations live and work together with little or no conflict and with full knowledge of the love they share.  Little Taylor arrives, causing waves, sure, but at no time is the child ever made to feel anything but loved—at least not in this reader’s interpretation.  And Alison is brought into the fold with equal care, compassion, and warmth.

Pain travels through CAROLINA HOME, as it does in all lives but that only makes the beauty and majesty of the Fletcher family all the more wondrous.  The Fletchers will make it.  How could they not?  They have each other.  I sobbed my joy and wonderment

I was truly annoyed that book two wasn’t available yet, although I knew that it wouldn’t be possible since this one, book one, had just hit the shelves.  However, that’s how committed I was (am) to his story.  I can’t wait to read more of the Fletcher family.  More more more!!

Highly, Highly recommended. 

Well done, Virginia Kantra.  Well done, indeed.

Five Mystique Moons
Class Three Sensuality

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner


DARK LIGHT by Jayne Castle


“Welcome back to my other world, Harmony.” Every time I read those words I must muffle my squeak of delight.  Harmony, a world full of Guilds, Ghost Hunters, and Dust Bunnies, is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon.  I know that I’ll have a good time on Harmony, the occasional dead body notwithstanding.  Or perhaps that is because of the dead bodies?

This time through we meet the new Guild Boss of Crystal City, a man called Fontana—like Cher, just one name—and intrepid investigative reporter, Sierra McIntyre.  What starts out as a story about missing homeless people on the streets quickly steamrolls into a problem of Guild-like proportions. Then there’s the Mighty King himself, Elvis, to stir up the story as only a dust bunny can.

He rocked.  Literally.

DARK LIGHT is fantastic, a rollercoaster ride of laughs and danger as only Jayne Castle can write, but what really touched me—and touched me deeply—was the subtext that I read within the story.  How shabbily the “guild” cruelly treated its wounded, “washed up” warriors and how incensed that fact made the heroine, Sierra.  I felt that topic was a critique of how we, our society, ministers to our veterans home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Too often they come home from battle, shattered in mind and body, and can find no help from the government they sacrificed themselves for.  Too often they too are damaged, despairing, and without homes.

Sierra did not stand for such abusive practices to the damaged and homeless hunters in her world and we shouldn't allow for that to happen in our world.  As such, I staunchly support for their help and support of our veterans.  (Feel free to think about what you can do for them, if you will.)

DARK LIGHT is a lovely romp within Harmony’s sociopolitical culture.  It is also a fantastic example of Jayne Castle’s (AKA Jayne Ann Krentz) skill as a story teller of sci-fi-Rom “cozies”.

It is also a fine, thought-provoking discussion about the treatment of our men and women in uniform once their usefulness in the battlefield is concluded.  The current policies are  something that we all should bring to the table and make needed, necessary changes.

I thank them all for their service.

Five Mystique Moons
Class Three Sensuality

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner


If You Hear Her (The Ash Trilogy #1) by Shiloh Walker

If You Hear Herx-inset-community

This was a hell of a ride. Dark and edgy wrapped in a heated romance that sizzles on the page. Shiloh Walker has earned a permanent spot on my do not touch shelf. This book worked for me on many levels but the thing that really sold it was the building relationship between the leads Lena and Ezra. Both have serious challenges to overcome if they want to get there happily ever after. Ezra broke my heart and Lena was a realistic blend of independent and vulnerable. Together they have instant heat but it builds in a rich and believable way.

The villain is creepy. Dark, dangerous and completely insane. The secondary characters were rich and well developed. They stand on their own and help move the story forward. On the whole the story unfolded at a fast pace as more and more of the pieces of the puzzle were revealed. I would recommend this book to everyone. 

My only nitpick was this is definitely part of a trilogy. Most of the story lines were resolved but not all. After finishing book 1 at 2 am I had to go online and buy books 2 and 3. This is a great read.


Sarabeth Gentili, Co-owner Mystique Books


HEART OF STEEL by Meljean Brook

Captain Corsair, steel-hearted leader of the airship Lady Corsair, has met her match.  Or has she?

When we last saw Archimedes Fox, he was back-stroking though a Viennese canal in a quest to avoid deadly and dangerous zombies.  Why?  Well, he'd done the unforgivable.  He'd come aboard the Lady Corsair and waved a gun around, trying to commandeer the ship and crew.  Dork.  And with a pistol full of wet powder too!  Well, what's a captain to do but toss the moron overboard?  So, Yasmeen did, and set off to friendlier ports...well, friendlier ports for folks like Yasmeen.  Pirates.  Privateers.  Yeah, those folks.  Imagine her surprise when later a very much alive Archimedes Fox takes her prisoner.  Fur is ready to fly then, to be sure!

And fly it does.  HEART OF STEEL is a hot ride down the Steampunk universe of Brook's recent creation.  Haven't been there?  You're missing out!  In this story, however, we are introduced to Yasmeen's unique genetics, and how they matter to the rulership of The Hoard.  Awe-some!!!  Seat of your pants stuff!  From an assassination attempt, during salvage operations in zombie infested ruins, to a coup in the Middle East, Meljean Brook doesn't let up.  I couldn't put it down!

One grump, however, from me--and it doesn't take away from the strength of the book.  Yasmeen is quite the femdom, no matter how hard author Brook tries to soften her up.  She's a ball-buster and Archimedes is the Beta Male, content to back her up.  Not my favorite flavor, but none the less a delicious read!  

Don't miss out in The Iron Seas books!  You'll regret it!

Five Mystique Moons
Class Three Sensuality

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner

LAWS JUSTICE by Lora Leigh

Lawe has found his mate.  The only problem is that Diane isn’t willing to be relegated to the backyard planting posies.  She’s a warrior—in fact, her code name is The Huntress.  Did Lawe really think she would be open to the idea of retirement?  Not with her beloved niece in danger.  No effin way, dude, good sex or not.  And my God the sex is good.

Lora Leigh’s latest Breed story fires an all marks.  It’s a satisfying read albeit a bit predictable…but who can complain really?  Since it’s—what?—15th in the series?  Still, she manages to keep the mystery interesting.  To be honest, I thought she’d ended the series with Jonas’s story.  I mean, the boogieman had been tamed, yes?  But no, Leigh fires a volley into the minds of her audience with the appearance of one tiny and precious tyke:  Amber Wyatt, who at the delicate age of three months had been abducted by Evil Incarnate and injected with a chemical cocktail invented by Brandenberg Industries.  (AKA:  Evil and Greedy Pharmacy Giant.)  All this has happened before LAW’S JUSTICE begins, leaving the reader to begin in the middle of a desperate effort to save the tiny tyke’s life…which might possibly be in danger.  

Awesome!  But of course I have some nits to pick.  After all, picking nits is what I do, right?  First, let me say that I’m a rabid fan.  I’ve got all of her breed books on my shelf, even the ones from her other publisher.  However, this adding of an ‘e’ to a noun and creating a name is getting more than a bit cheesy.  “Lawe”, and “Storme,” and “Scheme”…ok, scheme isn’t really in the same category as the other examples, but who the heck names their kid “scheme”?  No amount of inner dialogue kept the cheese from that, but we’re talking about Law’s book here.  I mean, Lawe’s book.  Well, you get my point.

Another issue is one that disturbs me deeply.  Someone, somewhere, has forgotten to budget for a line editor.  Since the arrival of Jonas’s book, Leigh’s Breed books have carried more than the occasional editing error.  Copy and Paste errors (both words are still in book), continuity errors (something but Jonas’s claws in the chair.  You read it and tell me if I’m wrong), sentences that last an entire paragraph (or a paragraph that is only one, long, ongoing sentence) and the duplication of words in paragraphs (OK, we get that there’s a hunger.  We GET it, already.)

That being said, I loved the book and of course I’ll buy the next one as soon as it hits the stands, but I will say that not bothering to spend money on a line editor is a pretty shabby way to treat your loyal audience and—this is to you, Berkley—a pretty shabby way to treat a New York Times bestseller.

Four Mystique Moons
Class Four Sensuality

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner

ELEANOR AND MICK by I.G. Frederick

Divorcee Eleanore comes to know her hot hot hot neighbor Mick in a whole new light.  This collection of scenes between the two was an interesting read.  First off: yes, I liked it.  Second: yes, I have a few nits to pick.

EDITED - I had to edit this because I sent out a question and it was answered.  Yes, the story was written for a specific market that was not romance; and yes, there was a forceful reason for its brevity.  In short: contracted word count.  As such, I am thus judging this story, or the snippets of stories that have come together as a book, on the basis of its creation.  (To do otherwise would be similar to judging a basset hound badly for not being as fast as a greyhound.  Does that make sense?)

Anyway, due to the constraints of limited word count, the story snippets are brief and not as fully fleshed as I would have liked to read.  However, that doesn't make them incorrect or flawed.  It takes a deft hand to keep a short story moving even during such shortness.  I.G. Frederick keeps the ball rolling and the interaction hot, hot, hot!  Give it a go.  Not every book needs to be read at leisure.  Some, can be as entertaining as an afternoon quickie!

ELEANOR AND MICK is a lovely, light and fun read.  It's as frothy and lighthearted as some of those fancy coffee drinks down at the local bistro.  Good for the immediate enjoyment but don't expect a lot of weight to it.

Four Mystique Moons
Class Five Sexuality (Raging Carnality)

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner

WITHIN THE FLAMES by Marjorie M. Liu

Ok, well the past two years have been problematic, not just for m but also for many of us, yes?  But we're back on track, or so I hope, and we'll take a look at the latest Dirk & Steele novel.  This one is about fan favorite Eddie.  (Yeah, I like him too, so Yippee Skippie!!)

Still recovering from the chemical attack that nearly took his life, Eddie remains holed up at Dirk & Steel's San Francisco a glass box.  (Glass.  Inflammable.  See the point?)  However, Fate--the cruel witch that she is--has other plans for him and out the door he goes.  His assignment?  Locate the missing daughter of a murdered dragon shapeshifter and his wife.  Only Lyssa isn't a little girl any more.  She's lovely, troubled, and extremely dangerous to anything flammable.

Did I mention someone being a cruel witch?  Well this book contains more than simply Fate as the cruel witch.  In fact, it offers up many cruel witches...and a pedophile to be chomped.  (I'm all for that, by God!)  It also offers up a wonderful story of love's healing power.  Too many of us carry the damage of the past into our current lives.  For Eddie and Lyssa, they find their way out of that darkness to a healthy and happy future that many can only dream of.

I do have one discussion point to address, although I wouldn't call it a nit to pick.  What's with the author's habit of doing ill things to her heroines' right arm?  Lyssa's has issues and also, the heroine in The Fire King is missing her right arm from an "accident".  I'm all for the bravery of offering up a heroine who is physically not perfect--a mighty huzzah to Liu for doing so--but is she left handed perhaps?  Is that why damage/issues appear on some character's right hands?  Inquiring minds cogitate this topic.

Anyway, WITHIN THE FLAMES is a lovely story.  Eddie and Lyssa's struggle to live, not just to exist, will resonate in many hearts, especially those who have lived though a tragic event.  (Note to the author:  I'm still waiting for Koni's story though.  *koffkoff*)

Four Mystique Moons
Class Three Sensuality

Brenda Thatcher ~ Co-Owner

LOCHS AND LASSES by Cynthia Breeding

An enjoyable read. 

I'm a huge fan of Cynthia Breeding so it grieved me to not give this book a higher rating.  However, I do feel it earned this due to the following issues:

The romance was not believable.  In each story, the H/h feel into the "OMG, I am in LOVE" far too quickly.  Yes, LOCHS AND LASSES is a collection of short stories but there is a way to ensure the emotional connection between primary characters grows naturally.  Author Breeding is close in a few of the stories but is also off the mark in a few others.  Nurturing the growth of the emotional connection between charactes within a short story's page length is no easy task, granted.  Then there's the attempts to not be hackneyed.  I"m glad to say the Breeding never fell into that trap.

Here is my big nit, and this is just mine.  Surely others will disagree with me and I'm all for that.  However, reviewers do get to pick nits, which is why we're equally loved and loathed.  The Scottish accent in these stories was waaaaay over done.  He're my spin on it:

I have my own Highlander--well, he has me.  He can "dinna fash yerself" or "I dinna ken" with the best of them.  However, as most bilingual/multilingual people do, they speak the language of whom they're conversing with.  My Highlander speaks American English when speaking with me.  Equally, when he speaks with his family he speaks Gaelic.  When he's speaking with his British buddies, he speaks Brit.  Yes, there is a difference.  Very occassionally he clouds the two accents/linguistal stresses.  Example:  he said "haggis" and I heard "august."  Much hilarity that day,  but he strives to address his speech for the ear he's bending.  

Equally, we don't hear a word that that our mind has already translated.  Our minds simply translate and our understanding flows.  (When folks hear 'dirk' they translate it to 'knife, held in the fist" or something like that.)  Thus, the Scots/English dialogue wouldn't be so drastically full of idiomatic Scottish.  Sure, the occassional one to flavor the story would be nice, but that's it.  Well, except for the Time Travel story.  There the struggles between modern English and Medieval Scottish could have been explored--perhaps with a humorous twist, but I digress.

Anyway, that's my nit.  However, please do give LOCHS AND LASSES a try!  Author Cynthia Breeding obviously loves Highlanders.  (Who could blame her?)  If you're a fan of the time as well, LOCHS AND LASSES would very well be a lovely, pool-side summer read.

Three Mystique Moons.  (Enjoyable)
Class Three sensuality. (Standard Romance)

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner Mystique Books

LOVE HURTS by I.G. Frederick

Cover for 'Love Hurts'

LOVE HURTS is a collection of erotic short stories by well-respected erotica author I.G. Frederick.  Please note, I did not say "romantica" author.  In erotic stories, the experience is the key not any Happily Ever After.  That's not to say HEAs won't happen, just that such is not the focus of the stories.  And is that not how life goes?  It happens when we're busy doing Other Things.  Busy with life, one turns around and stumble into love...or at least the possibility of it.

LOVE HURTS is ripe with possibilities and also with experiences.  While I am not wired for FemDom--I'm more into MaleDom as demonstrated with my personal preference for her last story--taking a walk through the mind of a man submitting to a female is something that every woman of courage should do.  Why?  It just might be valuable information at some point in one's life.  (I'd liken it to learning how to change a car's oil but I'm not sure that's a valuable comparison.)

Anyway, through the pen of author Frederick, we are introduced into some aspects that BDSMers might call "edge play."  This includes: knife play, buggery by the unknown, and a tiny bit of bathroom play.  We also experience what it's like to be whipped...and to whip.  How many of us girls have dreamed of having a hunky dude at our beck and call?  Clean our house?  Make our dinner?  Wash the car without prompting?  A fantasy indeed.  For those of us who are wired for male domination, a lovely experience called "The Auction" is available. 

LOVE HURTS may not be to everyone's taste but it is a spectacular example of the genre.  FemDom is out there and out there to stay.  Like every other genre it will have its stars.  I forsee that I.G. Frederick's star is on the rise.

Five Mystique Moons(Outstanding)
Class Five sensuality.  (Raging Carnality)

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner Mystique Books

BLOOD AND STEEL by Angela Knight

BLOOD AND STEEL is a short story that grabs the reader by the throat and ruthlessly drags them along as it hurtles toward the end. This is my first read of Angela Knight and I was not dissappointed.  The skillful pacing alone in would have me looking for more.  Luckily, there was a great story compressed in less than 100 pages.

Elyn Castel spent years as a slave to a sociopathic vampire.  When Our Hero shows up, she is forced to deal with the pain and trauma of her old life. Under a less skillful writer this evolution of the heroine would have killed the pacing and bogged down the narrative. However, author Knight doesn't miss a beat.  Every scene allows the heroine to grow alongside notching up the pace of the killer action. 

Hero Blade drives story at breakneck speed.  He is racing from his painful past and on a collision course with Elyn in a believable and meaningful manner.  Blade is a wonderful dark sexy character who is badly broken and needs the heroine just as much as she needs him. The result is a sizzling romance that jumps off the page.

The villains in BLOOD AND STEEL were creepy but in a good way!  I found them to be disturbing and downright scary, which enhanced the story.  Too often in stories once villian is killed then everything goes back to normal.  Not with this book!  I won't say more because I don't want to give away the story, but what a ride!

My only nitpick was that there was so much story jammed into so few pages.  I wanted more! And that is the mark of a spectacular read. 

Four Mystique Moons(Excellent)
Class Three sensuality.  (Standard Romance)

Sarah Gentili, Co-Owner Mystique Books