Review: LOVE’S TETHERED HEART by C.L. Etta

51br1r9nfdlLOVE’S TETHERED HEART By C.L. Etta

GLBT Contemporary Romance / Released Jan 2, 2017 by Dreamspinner

 

BOOK BLURB: Two years ago Mico and his partner suffered a savage gay bashing that left Mico a quadriplegic—and ended his dreams of traveling the world as an archaeologist. Abandoned by the man he loved, he lives in isolation, tethered to his bed by the machines keeping him alive, with only his caretakers and immediate family as companions.

Assigned to interview Mico and uncover the story behind his assault and his refusal to identify his attackers, journalist Danny is unprepared for his reaction to the fragile enigmatic man. Mico is afraid to let Danny into his life, and Danny is unsure how to change his mind. Mico is also keeping secrets, and he isn’t the only one. Danny is determined to protect Mico, and he’s determined to show Mico that their feelings for each other can thrive amidst the mechanics of Mico’s existence.

The premise of this book really intrigued me: A romance that included a paraplegic. A real challenge and C.L. Etta handled it beautifully.

With an air of mystery and a sigh of romance, this book held so many page-turning elements. The characters were multidimensional with an excellent balance between backstory and the present.

I grew so close to these characters that the day after finishing the book I had the urge to give Danny and Mico a call to see how they were doing.

C.L. Etta didn’t just write a book, she told a damn good story. Thank you for the journey.

Mystery Reviews

I’m rambling through one of my favorite periods: the Nineteenth Century, a time of great innovation and invention… and mystery.

511ESI5P5hL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_In Death Comes to London, by Catherine Lloyd (Kensington, 2014, $24.99), it’s 1817, the Corsican Monster is safely stowed away on is remote Atlantic Island, and Major Robert Kurland is looking forward to a quiet country life on his newly-acquired manor. His neighbor, Miss Lucy Harrington, is heading to London with her sister Anna, to enjoy the London Season and possibly snare a husband. The two of them collide at Almacks, the ultra-exclusive club where young ladies may be presented to possible mates, just as a vicious dowager collapses. Poison, not apoplexy, is the cause, and soon Major Kurland and Miss Harrington are engaged in a search for an elusive poisoner with a taste for medical research and a cabinet of curiosities. Miss Harrington and Major Kurland made a good team, as they uncover not only the present plot, but solve a twenty-year-old mystery as well.

51Xim5HoeeL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_A Virtuous Death, by Christine Trent, (Kensington, 2014, $25.00) takes her heroine, undertaker Violet Harper, back to Buckingham Palace, at the bidding of Queen Victoria. Still mourning the death of her husband, Prince Albert, the queen is dependent on her chief servant, the Scotsman John Brown, whose talents apparently include contacting the dead. When one of the Dear Departed sends a warning message, the Queen insists that only Violet can find the answer to the mystery. Violet discovers more secrets in the royal family than she wishes to know: the youngest princesses are chafing at their mother’s strictures, while her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, is being called as a witness in a messy divorce case. What has any of this to do with the deaths of young women associated with the struggles for Women’s Rights? Is there a threat to the Queen herself? Violet’s courage is matched by her discretion, and the Queen is pleased with the results. An Author’s Note explains some of the details of the Royal Household, and adds information about some of the historical characters mentioned in this book.

51KBII7MR0L._AA160_A real-life sleuth takes the stage in Raymond Buckland’s second outing for theater manager Bram Stoker in Dead for a Spell (Berkley, 2014, $15). London’s theatrical world is buzzing with the news that the American actor, Edwin Booth, is planning to join England’s major star, Henry Irving, at the Lyceum Theater, sharing the stage and roles in a new production of Othello. As if that’s not distraction enough, one of the young ladies of the company turns up dead, murdered in an occult ritual. Has someone resurrected the old Hellfire Club? Or is this connected somehow to the visiting Americans? A pair of criminal brothers, a tarot reader, and a dealer in weird potions all play a part in a scheme whose motive is as twisted as its originator. As before, a look at an aspect of Victorian society rarely seen, through the eyes of one whose interest in the occult and the dramatic would soon produce one of the great works of fiction.

61mhXvOZ8jL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Alyssa Maxwell visits American royalty in Murder at Marble House (Kensington, 2014, $15.00), the second of her Gilded Newport mystery series. Emma Cross, a distant relation of the wealthy Vanderbilt clan, is called to the side of her cousin Consuelo, who is being pressured to marry the Duke of Marlborough by her formidable mother, Alva. Alva is behind this marriage, which will crown her place in New York Society, regardless of Consuelo’s feeling for the duke. She’s even called in a fortune-teller to convince her reluctant daughter that the marriage was Meant To Be! But the woman is found dead, strangled with her own scarf, and Consuelo has vanished! Has the heiress been kidnapped, or has she simply eloped with her true love, playboy Winthrop Rutherfurd? Emma searches Newport’s high and low ends of Society, and discovers plenty of material for blackmail, including a family secret that leads to murder, An Afterword explains what happened to Consuelo and her mis-matched Duke.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings for the Feb/Mar 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.

Sherwood-Fabre HP

Review: CHOOSING CARTER by cj petterson

51RUQWKhTFL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_CHOOSING CARTER by  cj petterson

Crimson Romance Action Thriller

Choosing Carter is another winner for cj petterson. Bryn McKay, the protagonist, is frequently thrown into the role of savior for her rabblerousing brother who finds it impossible to make a good decision. When they get into an argument while the drunken Robbie is driving, they crash into a ravine. The crash sends Robbie to prison and Bryn to the hospital. Twelve months later, Bryn is visited by an FBI agent that tells her Robbie has converted to radical Islam while in prison. Making matters worse, he has escaped with an Islamic prisoner considered armed and dangerous. Robbie calls Bryn to let her know that he has escaped and is seeking revenge on the people who sent him to jail, including her.

For the past year, Bryn has enjoyed life in her isolated cabin in the Colorado hills. She manages her freelance writing business from the adjoining bunkhouse. Interacting with the FBI, police, and terrorists do not appear anywhere on her list of things to desire. She has created a peaceful existence in her mountain earie and now wants to develop a more personal relationship with the elusive Carter Danielson, a muscular, tall hunk of gorgeous, not deal with her out-of-control brother. Bryn continues to drop hints in Carter’s direction about taking their relationship further; hints which Carter adroitly ignores. But she notices that he doesn’t stay away for long between visits. A birthday canoe trip sends Carter and Bryn into a nest of vipers; terrorists that seek to destroy Americans.

Petterson’s brings to life a believable story of potential middle-America terrorism. Filled with thrills from the fear-washed first page truck ride of Bryn and Robbie through the betrayals of friends, Choosing Carter demands the reader turn the next page.

REVIEW PROVIDED BY MAHALA CHURCH FOR HER COLUMN BAREFOOT BOOK REVIEWS IN THE SEPT 2015 ISSUE OF THE BOOK BREEZE.

Review: HER SOLDIER’S TOUCH by J.M. Stewart

Her Soldier's TouchHER SOLDIER’S TOUCH by J.M. Stewart

Crimson Romance (March 16, 2015) Genre: Second Chance Contemporary Romance

HER SOLDIER’S TOUCH is a thoughtfully written story of second chances, learning to trust and forgive, and finding a silver lining. Colten Taylor is in for a surprise when he returns to Phoenix to bury his brother and finds he has a five- year-old son. Rachel Madison, the woman he walked out on, wants their son to have both parents, but she isn’t ready to trust Colten.

Colten and Rachel have so much in common—they both carry around demons from their awful childhoods and they both want to rise above their pasts and be good parents. Rachel believes she can only rely on herself and Colten thinks he’s not fit to be a dad. Only their desire to do the right thing for their son keeps them trying. The sensual love scenes are thoughtfully handled and help to ratchet up the emotional attachment of Rachel and Colten.

Stewart delves into some uncomfortable issues in this second chance romance. She’s not afraid to tackle some of the challenges of our time—single parenting, drug addiction, spousal abuse and child abuse. A sign of a successful story is one that evokes emotion in the reader, and Stewart managed to pull me through a whole range of feelings from frustrated to frightened to satisfied.

I recommend HER SOLDIER’S TOUCH to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful contemporary romance.

This review was provided by Jackie McMurray for her column Jackie’s Jargon for the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: KINDRED SPIRITS by Alicia Dyal

Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Alicia Dyal

Dreamspinner Press (April 2015) 49 pages / GLBT Romance

This novella has two appealing main characters, one of them a chunky, hardworking bear of a small-town bar owner, the other (the narrator), a sophisticated city bartender with a controlling mother and a load of guilt. These two meet in spring when Mike, the bar owner, is in Chicago on a business trip and happens to drop into the bar where Casey works. There’s instant chemistry, but on his way to Mike’s hotel room after work, Casey gets the devastating news of his brother Brandon’s sudden death and rushes off without calling Mike to let him know.

Fast forward to autumn: Casey is living in the wreck of a house Brandon wanted to rehab, trying to work off his guilt at not spending enough time with his brother when he had the chance. Ms. Dyal captures the painful emotions of loss very well, and Casey’s obsessive guilt is very convincing. His desperation at running out of money and the need for a job are completely believable, and – since this is a romance – I can accept that the bar Mike owns happens to be in the small town where Brandon lived. (They had to get back together somehow, after all.) I can see that Mike has a similar situation with guilt and obligation because he’s lost his dad and has had to take over the family business. Clearly, the story is about two men helping each other break free of old baggage. And the sex, when it finally happens – the building anticipation is very well-done – is steamy and affectionate.

But … The story feels rushed from the point that they reunite. There are improbabilities all along, starting with the idea that a man of 23 would answer a call from his mother on his way to a romantic encounter with the first guy who’s had such a strong effect on him. Since he was already in the lobby of Mike’s hotel, it made no sense that he would not even leave a message at the desk before taking off to deal with his brother’s death. (He tells Mike later that he had no way to reach him, which was a bald-faced lie and I was surprised Mike didn’t call him on it.) We never do find out what happened to Brandon, except that it involved a hardware store and an accident. A critical episode like that needed just a little more explanation.

The situation with Brandon’s house doesn’t make sense, either. The author states the Brandon put in enormous amounts of time on the place, but when Casey gets there it has only a microwave and intermittent plumbing, and even though he has poured his life savings into the place, when the story picks up again it doesn’t sound as though his time and money have fixed anything at all, His mother, who is a doctor, doesn’t seem to recognize that Casey is suffering from depression and probably needs an intervention. Instead, she cuts off support.

Then Casey goes to look for a job, and reunites with Mike … and the storyline goes south. Casey apologizes for standing Mike up, they click perfectly, all difficulties fall aside, tough problems resolve themselves instantly, a big stubborn bear who has been resisting good advice from people he trusts suddenly turns compliant when someone he barely knows says the same thing—and a rep from the notoriously difficult music industry hands over the keys to the magic pumpkin because Mike doesn’t want to do the touring that music promotion requires. It’s too much, too fast, too easy, and I felt shortchanged because the characterization was really good and I wanted a story with more substance.

I’d like to give this more paws, and if the author had taken the time to flesh out the potential of this scenario, I think it would have been a much better read. Five stars for sensuality, and for portraying a plus-size gentleman as sexy and attractive, but the pacing just does not work for me. For a reader who only wants to get to the clinch, okay, but I do wish Alicia Dyal had given this storyline time to develop more fully. Just as I was getting to know the characters and really wanted to see them tackle Brandon’s wreck of a house and the difficulties of juggling a music career and a bar and really getting to know each other, they have some lovely hot sex, pack up Billy Bass—and that’s all, folks.

Good characters, excellent scene-setting, but I think this author could have done better.

This review was provided by Ace Katzenbooks for the May 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.

Review: LOVE LEAST EXPECTED

e Least ExpectedLove Least Expected (Anthology) Featuring Nine Authors

Publisher: Valerie Twombly (Feb. 3, 2015)

Love Least Expected is an eclectic collection of nine short romances with stories ranging from sweet to spicy. This collection is a great way to sample the distinct writing voices of nine authors and a variety of romance subgenres. Every story offers a place to find love unexpectedly—from a garden in India to the circus to a psychiatric hospital and everywhere in between.

There are two historical romance selections—Under the Mango Tree by Meredith Bond and Rolf’s Quest by Aubrey Wynne. Under the Mango Tree is a coming of age story set in 18th century India. Her story explores the differences in dating rituals between two cultures. Contrast that to Rolf’s Quest, an Arthurian tale of securing your heart’s desire without the benefit of magic.

The two Southern romances, Roses are Wrong, Violets Taboo by Kris Calvert and The Trouble With Never by Isabella Harper, are both glimpses into longer versions of the stories. Calvert manages to make feeding one another seafood a sexy encounter while Harper writes a very sensual scene at a barn dance.

Love’s Not Viral by Nessie Strange, Taking The Plunge by Kishan Paul, and Keep Calm And Eat Chocolate by Michaela Miles represent contemporary romance. In Love’s Not Viral, Strange concocted a scenario where a woman is held captive in her own home by a Hollywood star. The reader is willing to suspend belief long enough to buy into the plotline and watch the budding romance between the heroine and the Hollywood star’s brother. Taking the Plunge deals with addiction and guilt and protecting one’s heart. This story will also be continued in a future release. Miles sets her story in one of the most unusual places for a romance—a psychiatric facility. The hero and heroine both have to change in order to let go of their past lives.

The only fantasy selection, Alphabetical Disorder by Katie Stephens, takes place at the circus. It’s fanciful, fun, and downright imaginative.

ValerieTwombly offers up Fall into Darkness, a paranormal story to be continued later in 2015. The story centers on an angel who is stripped of his wings and sent back to earth to find his humanity. Twombly engages the reader with her expert world building and just right pacing.