Monday, April 24, 2017

The Spring at Moss Hill by Carla Neggers

Kylie Shaw has found a home and a quiet place to work as an illustrator of children's books in little Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. No one seems to know her here—and she likes it that way. She carefully guards her privacy in the refurbished nineteenth-century hat factory where she has a loft. And then California private investigator Russ Colton moves in.

Russ is in Knights Bridge to keep his client and friend, eccentric Hollywood costume designer Daphne Stewart, out of trouble. Keeping tabs on Daphne while she considers starting a small children's theater in town doesn't seem like a tough job until he runs into Kylie. Her opposition to converting part of the old hat factory into a theater is a challenge. But his bigger challenge is getting Kylie to let loose a little…like the adventurous characters she depicts in her work.

Kylie and Russ have more in common than they or anyone else would ever expect. They're both looking for a place to belong, and if they're able to let go of past mistakes and learn to trust again, they might just find what they need in Knights Bridge…and each other.

Series: Swift River Valley #6 | Publisher: Mira |Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher| Rating: 3 Cups

Challenges Read For: Blogger Shame

I’m a bit on the fence about this book. I liked it and I enjoyed being back in Knights Bridge—catching up with my favorite characters from previous books and meeting new characters that are equally charming—but this one lacked a bit of, well, everything.
While surface information was revealed about the characters, I never really felt as though I got to know either Russ or Kylie. With Russ, everything personal was about the helicopter accident his brother, mother, and father were in and the fallout from that. Very little was revealed about him, which was a pity because he had the potential to become my favorite hero from this series. It was the same with Kylie. I did learn a tad bit more about her, but nothing that really made me feel as though I knew her.
The relationship felt off. Parts of it felt genuine but most of it felt forced. It went from a few dates—or rather Russ and Kylie being thrown together by residents of Knights Bridge—to suddenly being in love. They had chemistry but that spark wasn’t really fanned and, rather than bursting into a flame, the ember just sorted of glowed. I think it had to do with the fact there was a lot of internal dialogue but very little dialogue between the two of them.
So, having read this series from the start, I’m used to the mysteries, occasionally, being a little on the light side, but in this one, it was just downright ridiculous. Given the way Kylie acted when she knew a private investigator was coming to town, I honestly was expecting this mystery/secret to the biggest one in the series and the fact that it was something so trivial just irked me.
Like the others in the series, there is a side story going on, although this one isn’t a romance. It actually has to do with Daphne Stewart , her backstory was revealed in That Night on Thistle Lane, and I have to say, I enjoyed Daphne’s story more than the romance in this one. Although along with Daphne’s story, there’s also the drama of Ruby and Chris. I know this was setting up the next book, but I really could have done without Chris and Ruby’s drama and, instead, have more of the story focus on Kylie and Russ.
I really enjoyed the descriptions in this book. Neggers truly brings the Swift River Valley to life. She makes you feel as though you’re right there in the middle of her fictional little town.
Overall, this one wasn’t my favorite of the series. While this book was a bit lacking in character, romance, and plot development I do recommend that fans of this series read this book to see what’s going on in the lives of the previous characters, especially Dylan and Olivia.

The Swift River Valley Series

The Spring at Moss Hill
Red Clover Inn

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Inspector Specter by E.J. Copperman

Just when she thought she'd seen everything... Detective Lieutenant Anita McElone is one of Harbor Haven's finest. She's also a hard-boiled ghost skeptic. So when she shows up on the doorstep of Alison Kerby's Haunted Guesthouse to ask for supernatural help in solving the murder of her former partner, it's hard to tell which woman is more flabbergasted. But McElone is dead serious, so Alison promises to help in any way she can - even asking her resident ghosts, Paul and Maxie, for help with the case. As Paul's spirit source reveals some troubling information about the deceased detective, Alison wrestles with what to tell McElone. First, though, she has to find her... because the lieutenant has suddenly disappeared.

Series: Haunted Guesthouse #6 | Publisher: Audible Studios | Narrator: Amanda Ronconi  | Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery| Source: Publisher | Ratings: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: Cruisin' Thru the Cozies Paranormal  

Since becoming a private investigator with the ability to communicate with ghosts, Alison Kerby has become used to strange people (living and dead) showing up at her door asking for help. But she’s completely baffled when Lieutenant Anita McElone, who happens not to believe in ghosts, shows up on her doorstep asking if Alison could use her special ghost abilities to look into the death of her former partner, Martin Ferry. Agreeing, Alison soon uncovers information that could mean Anita’s ex-partner was a dirty cop. As the investigation progresses and Lieutenant McElone disappears, Alison has no choice but to look into Ferry’s connection to the mob. And given that both her resident ghosts, Maxie and Paul, have their own things going on, Alison is, more or less, on her own.
This has to be one of my favorites from the series and it was so nice being back in Alison’s world.  I really enjoyed the fact McElone, who refuses to even step inside Alison’s house and refuses to believe ghosts are real, wants Alison’s help.
I really enjoyed the character growth in this one. Alison is becoming more accustomed to her ability to see ghosts as well as being an amateur private eye. She’s also more comfortable in her relationship with Josh. Maxie and Paul are growing more comfortable with the ghost forms as well.
There’s two different strands of mysteries that tie together in this one and I have to say they were both handled brilliantly. I did have my suspicions but I wasn’t completely sure what was going on until the very end. It was also nice seeing Alison more hands on in the investigation.
Amanda Ronconi, once again, does a brilliant job narrating this book.  
Overall, it was nice to see this series getting back to what I’ve loved about it. There was mystery, snark, and more than a few surprises.

  Haunted Guesthouse Series
Inspector Specter
Ghost in the Wind


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hooked by Christina Phillips

I like my sex dirty and disposable. I'm not into commitment or chicks who want more than one night. My brothers and club come first, second and last.

Until she walks into my life. Classy, rich and so out of my league it's crazy. A week together should get her out of my system, but this good girl is so bad when we're all alone and I can't get enough of her.

I don't do forever, but she's hooked me so bad I don't ever want to let her go. Except there's no way a princess can live in my world and I sure as hell won't live in hers...


Series: Viking Bastards MC #1| Publisher: Entangled Publishing | Release Date: 2/6/2017| Genre: Contemporary Romance/Erotica | Source:  Publisher| Rating: 3.5 Cups

Hot bad boy biker plus good girl hotel heiress equals a fun and sexy read.
Here’s what’s going on: When Grace’s car breaks down and she walks in to Odin’s, a biker bar, Zach thinks she’s just another good girl looking for a hot shag on the wrong side of the tracks. After a wild romp on the pool table—that prim and proper Grace thoroughly enjoyed—, Zach realizes that Grace was really was there  just to use the phone and she’s nothing like the other girls that come in to Odin’s. Determined not to let her go, he invites Grace back to his place. As one night turns into the next, they learn more about each other and Zach, king of one-night stands, realizes he’s falling for Grace and she feels the same about him. There’s only one problem, he’s from the wrong side of the tracks.
I enjoyed this one. If you’re looking for a quick, hot little opposites attract read, then this is the book for you. Although if you’re looking for a gritty, in-your-face MC (motorcycle club) read, you’re going to be disappointed. Very little of what’s going on with the Viking Bastards MC is mentioned and what is mentioned doesn’t really amount to much. Honestly, the worst thing that happens is someone gets punched, so no Sons of Anarchy here, sadly.
Still, I found Zach interesting and he does have that potentially dangerous bad boy thing going on. There’s some things he’s dealing with that he needs to work through, but I still found him to be one of my favorite heroes. Grace is a good girl who always does what’s expected of her so it was fun watching her come out of her shell and figure out who she really was. There were moments that I struggled with liking Grace. I really just wanted her to stand up to her family and fight for Zach and it annoyed me that she was okay with being in the passenger seat of her own life.
So, the relationship started off as the whole instalust thing. Or as Grace sums it up in chapter three as ‘wild monkey sex with a stranger’. Seriously, they spent the majority of the first few chapters shagging like rabbits. Although they eventually started opening up and allowing the relationship to develop into something more meaningful.
Overall, even though the MC aspect was severely lacking (the reason I gave it a 3.5), I still enjoyed Grace and Zach. Although if you are going to have an MC series, please focus some of the writing on the MC.

  What type of Bad Boys do you like?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Highland Duke by Amy Jarecki

She'll put her life on the line for him . . .

When Akira Ayres finds the brawny Scot with a musket ball in his thigh, the healer has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to save his life. Even if it means fleeing with him across the Highlands to tend to his wounds while English redcoats are closing in. Though Akira is as fierce and brave as any of her clansmen, even she's intimidated by the fearsome, brutally handsome Highlander who refuses to reveal his name.

Yet she can never learn his true identity.

Geordie knows if Akira ever discovers he's the Duke of Gordon, both her life and his will be forfeit in a heartbeat. The only way to keep the lass safe is to ensure she's by his side day and night. But the longer he's with her, the harder it becomes to think of letting her go. Despite all their differences, despite the danger-he will face death itself to make her his ...

Series: The Highland Duke #1| Publisher: Forever | Genre: Historical Romance | Source: Publisher| Rating: 3 Cups

A gypsy healer rescuing/falling in love with a Jacobite she saved from the battlefield. It has potential to be interesting.
Here’s what’s going on. When Akira finds an injured Highlander under a broom bush, she knows she must do whatever it takes to save his life. Although she hadn’t thought that would include going on the run with an army of redcoats pursuing them. And to make matters worse, her patient is refusing to reveal his true identity.
The Duke of Gordon knows if his true identity is revealed it will put both his and Akira’s neck in a noose so, to keep them both safe, he’s content to just be Geordie. Not only does being Geordie make it safer to hide from the redcoats, it makes it easier to grow closer to Akira. Although how will the healer feel when she realizes he’s a duke?
I enjoyed the premise of the story. A healer of questionable lineage falls for the Jacobite she saves from the battlefield who also happens to be a duke. Not only does it have the commoner/nobility trope, which I enjoy, it has Highlanders and not just any Highlanders but Jacobites, which I love.
For the most part, I really liked the characters. Sure, they had their what-the-heck-are-they-doing moments, but overall, I found them to be likable. Geordie is a Duke fighting against Queen Anne in hopes of restoring her half-brother James Stuart to the throne. He’s loyal to the cause but he didn’t fight under his colors in fear of losing his lands and title. He’s been a bit of a rake in the past which caused his first marriage to end in divorce. Although when he meets Akira, he realizes that she’s the only one for him and he’s willingly to do whatever he can to prove that he’s changed. Akira’s a healer but she’s also a gypsy so she has that stigma attached to her. Even though she’s agreed to aid Geordie, she’s hesitant because of events that have happened in the past, so it was interesting watching how she let herself trust him.
The romance between them was a bit slow, but I enjoyed that. They were both strangers so it was nice to watch their relationship develop and grow as they learned more about each other.
I really enjoyed Akira and Geordie and had fun watching them figure out things, although I struggled with the historical aspect of the book and, at the beginning, it kept me from getting into the book. I mean, I know that authors often use their creative license to bend things to suit their books but, given that George
‘Geordie’ Gordon, 1st Duke of Gordon, was an actual person plucked from history, I was expecting this book to remain somewhat faithful to the actual timeline of history.
Here’s what bothered me the most. The book opens during the aftermath of the battle of Hoord Moor near the town of Dunkeld on August 21, 1703. Hoord Moor is fictional, but on August 21, 1689 the battle of Dunkeld, which Geordie actually fought in, occurred. Yes, in the author’s notes at the back of the book, the author admits to warping the timeline just so the book would fit in with the timeline of this series, but to me, it just doesn’t work. Unless you’re writing alternative historical fiction, plucking out an actual person from history and placing them—and events— in a different time just doesn’t work me.
Also, the fact that she chose 1703 as time to kick up a Jacobite rebellion had me rolling my eyes. In September of 1701 James II (the deposed king) died creating a lull in the Jacobite rebellion that didn’t start up until March of 1708 when James III (also known as the Old Pretender) tried to land, unsuccessfully, on the Firth of Forth.
Even though the book was rife with historical inaccuracies, I just wanted to point out another thing that pulled me out of the book was the fact that she had Geordie, who had just went through his fictional battle, wearing a doublet and a cravat.  The doublet went out of fashion a good twenty years before the actual battle that Geordie fought in, so her Geordie wouldn’t have been wearing one either. Also, no Highland, Duke or not, would have worn a cravat into battle. In fact, during the actual battle of Dunkeld (and most of those following), most of the Highlanders went into battle naked so as not to be hindered by their clothing catching on things.
Overall, I liked Geordie and Akira and I liked watching the relationship blossom between them, but this one was a miss for me. Given the 1st Duke of Gordon fought during the birth of Jacobite rebellion, this book could had potential to be something not seen in historical romance, but the author chose to place Geordie in the eighteenth-century to fit what has become the mold for Highlander romances.  

Does it bother you when authors take
 historical characters out of their own timeline?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recipe Box: Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

Okay, I know some of you are thinking chocolate brownies and black beans shouldn’t even be in the same sentence let alone in the same recipe but they’ve been on my radar for a while now, I’ve just been too chicken to try them.

Then I read Someone to Love by Donna Alward (the heroine runs a healthy bakery and the hero was a bit  hesitant, to say the least, about trying one of her black bean brownies) and, once again, my curiosity was piqued. So, I decided to dust off my apron and see what I could come up with and I have to say I was rather surprised with the results.

They were so delicious. And no one knew that they were made with black beans.
FYI: if you are planning to make these, you definitely need to use a food processor rather than a mixer.

1 15 ounce can of black beans drained and rinsed
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 cup honey (or golden syrup)
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup sunflower oil (you can also use vegetable oil)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine the first eight ingredients in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour into a greased 8×8 pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.


I was really pleased with how these turned out. It was really nice to have a healthier, low sugar brownie that tastes just as flavorful as a regular brownie. The only thing that’s slightly different about these brownies is the texture. It’s not as firm as a regular brownie, but I think if I would have used ground oats (sold as Scottish Oatmeal) rather than quick oats it would have made them firmer. 

I paired these with a nice pot of Pure Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) Red from Twinings Tea. Rooibos is a redbush shrub that grown in South Africa and the tea is made from its needle-like leaves.
This tea is a favorite of mine and is perfect hot or cold. It has a sweet, nutty taste (some say it’s slightly earthy) and nice red color when brewed. It has some really nice health qualities to it. These are just a few of the reasons why I drink it.
Ø It ups your immune system due to its high content of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and zinc.
Ø It helps get rid of headaches due to the magnesium in it.
Ø It contains iron. If you’re anemic it helps your body to absorb iron. If you drink it while eating foods rich in iron, such as these brownies, the rooibos will help the iron in the food absorb into your body as well.
There is no caffeine in it, so it’s the perfect tea to help you relax.
Have you tried black bean brownies?
Do you have a healthy dessert recipe?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Captive Star by Nora Roberts

Someone had set them both up. Now, handcuffed together, bounty hunter Jack Dakota and bail jumper M. J. O'Leary were on the run from a pair of hired killers. And M. J. wasn't talking--not even when Jack found a gigantic blue diamond hidden in her purse. Everything told Jack the sexy skip he'd been hired to recover couldn't be trusted...everything, that is, but his heart. 

Series: Stars of Mithra #2 | Publisher: Brilliance Audio | Narrator: Scott Merriman  | Length: 6 hrs and 19 mins | Genre: | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 3 Cups

Challenges Read For: Reading Through Nora Roberts

I finally carved out some time to listen to Captive Star, book two in the Stars of Mithra series. It has action, insta-love, and a bit of snark thrown in for good measure.
Here’s what’s going on. Jack Dakota has been sent to collection M.J. O’Leary because he was told she jumped bail. M.J. has no clue why Jack is trying to arrest her, but she’s not going down without a fight. After figuring out someone is out to get M.J. and the massive blue diamond her friend Bailey sent to her for safekeeping, the two now find themselves looking for answers while trying to stay alive. As they uncover more information about the diamond of those who are looking for it, they also discover there’s more between them than they thought.
I was a bit on the fence about this one. While I liked both M.J. and Jack and enjoyed the fact the action was amped up in this one, it took me a while to get used to the slow Southern drawl that Scott Merriman, the narrator, decided to use for Jack and it kind of put me off the audiobook. It was kind of odd because I had enjoyed the way her narrated the first book in the series.
From the start, I liked M.J.. She’s feisty and totally gave Jack a run for his money. Jack, I struggled with and I’m not sure if it was because he came off as the head-up- his-arse type or because of the way the narrator portrayed him. Either way, it took me a while to warm up to him and then he still he had his wanker moments.
The romance was 100% insta-love, like in less than 24 hours they were head over heels for each other. Given that M.J. and Jack were great together, I would have liked to have seen the romance develop between them, but this one was super short and that’s usually what you get with the short romances.
I’m always up for action in my suspense reads and this one delivers it from the start and I really enjoyed that. The first book in the series, Hidden Star, leaned more toward the investigative side of suspense where this one was more action-fueled.
Overall, even though I struggled with the narrator’s presentation of this one, I thought it made a wonderful addition to the series. A little more was reveal about the diamonds as well as the next character and I’m eager to see how this series concludes.
Stars of Mithra Series
2- Captive Star
3- Secret Star 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Death and the Gravediggers Angel (Auction Block Mysteries #3) by Loretta Ross

When former army medic Tony Dozier is accused of killing a member of the hate group that disrupted his wife's funeral, the prosecution charges premeditated murder and the defense claims temporary insanity. Former Marine Death Bogart and auctioneer Wren Morgan think there's more to the story.

They're both led to the long-abandoned Hadleigh House, where Wren begins preparing the contents for auction but ends up searching for the story behind an antique sketchbook. As Wren uncovers the century-old tale of a World War I soldier and his angel, Death finds a set of truths that will change...or end...their lives.

Series: Auction Block Mystery #3 | Publisher: Midnight Ink | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Purchased| Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For: Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge (I used my one and only swap and switched out a travel mystery) 

 In this one, Wren is expression her concern to Death about having to walk down the same path where the dead guy was found.

“But what if they missed bits?”
He half turned to peer down at her, his right eyebrow cocked up in amusement. “Missed bits? Really!”
“It could happen.”
“No, sweetheart. I promise. It couldn’t. The police are very thorough when it comes to dead guys. They always make sure to get all the bits.”
“What if they were invisible bits?”
“Like dead guy cooties?”

She glowered at him. “You say that like it isn’t a thing.”

As soon as Amazon alerted me that a new Auction Block Mystery was coming out, I pre-ordered it. Given that, not only am I addiction to these books, the ending of the second book set up this one and I knew I was going to be in for a treat so there was no way I could wait for the review copy of the audio to come in.
Okay, so the blurb has it backwards. Here’s what’s going on. When the Keystone’s are hired to sort out the auction of the Hadleigh House, Wren’s the person they assign to catalogue the possessions. She’s already wigged out because a guy was, once again, killed on the Vengeance Trail, although the really creepy part is the dead guy was wearing a Civil War Calvary uniform that he had apparently taken off a corpse. Always one up for a little investigation, Death decides to do a bit of investigating to see what he can turn up. As he’s searching for clues about one mystery, he stumbles upon a veteran’s camp where the owner seeks Death’s assistance to clear the name of a fellow brother-in-arms. As the investigations get underway, danger and secrets lurk in the shadows.
Seriously, Wren and Death best cozy mystery couple, ever! Not only are they fun and quirky, they truly love each other and in this one, we get to see their romance continue to grow. And I love how Death sits back and lets Wren quirkiness bloom. He’s also one to match her wit.
I really enjoyed the mysteries in this one. There’s three threads: proving Tony’s innocence’s and figuring out who really murdered the member of the hate group, figuring out who the dead guy was on the Vengeance Trail and why he was wearing a Civil War uniform taken from corpse, and last but not least who was the gravedigger’s angel. They all revolve around the Hadleigh House and they all compliment the story without taking anything away from the others. Some of the mysteries I figured out early on, some had some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. All of them managed to hold my attention.
As with the previous two books, there’s humor and wit but there’s also the serious issue of soldiers returning with PTSD. I love how Ross manages to touch on important matters while keeping the plot light.
So, Ross did take a risk by adding in a group of religious nutters who have formed a hate group. I was a little iffy when I read the blurb but I thought it she handled it the right way and, for this book, they made the perfect antagonists.
Another thing I loved about this one was the secondary characters that I’ve come to love and loathe are still there. They add so much depth and fun to the story, I don’t see how it would work without them.
This was my first time reading rather than listening to a book from the Auction Block Mystery series and I enjoyed it just as much. Although, I will say, the audios last longer—I had the book read in two hours because I could not put it down.
Overall, I know I’m in for a treat when I pick up one of these books and I wasn’t disappointed. While there’s weighty issues, there’s also humor and little Easter eggs hidden in the book that’s fun to pick out. And I’m always intrigued to see what items Wren will use for weapons, we could all probably learn a thing or two from her. Also, I just had to laugh when the horse that chose Death happened to be a pale one.

Auction Block Mystery Series

#3-Death and the Gravedigger's Angel