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Better Than Chocolate!

Today I have a little treat for you–a guest review from my sister, Sandy Smith! This is her first so, please be kind.

New York Times  bestselling author Sheila Roberts’s upcoming book BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE  goes on sale on October 1st!

Few women know romance, and chocolate, like Sheila and with BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE, she’s concocted a story (sprinkled with a few chocolate recipes!) that have you dreaming of  everything from milk to dark.

Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations, ever since Great-Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks as if they’re about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank—and that would be a disaster, not only for the family but for the town of  Icicle Falls, Washington. Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, is determined to save it and comes up with the idea to  host a chocolate festival! But fate seems to be conspiring  against Samantha, and her mother’s attempts to help aren’t helping. To make matters worse, the future of the company is in the hands of her  archenemy, bank manager Blake Preston. Samantha is pretty sure Blake couldn’t care less about Sweet Dreams, but he’s determined to prove to  her that there’s something even better  than chocolate.

Sandy’s Thoughts:

I fell in love with Icicle Falls.  It is a place I would love to visit, mostly for the townspeople who know how to stick together.  Growing up in small town Arkansas, it’s something I can relate to.  The main character had many admirable qualities, especially her never-quit attitude.  The multiple dreams in the story were a little different. Overall, I would describe it as a sweet story, played out much like a Lifetime movie.

 

For more On Sheila, check out her PAGES HERE

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The Real Werewives of Vampire County – Anthology

The Real Werewives of Vampire County – Anthology
* I received a copy of this book from Kensington in exchange for an honest review*

“Where Darkness Lives” by Alexandra Ivy – No one’s more surprised than Sophia when she’s struck by an unfamiliar maternal urge to move near her daughters. But instead of being greeted by a welcome committee, she’s targeted by kidnappers…and saddled with a gorgeous bodyguard on a mission to protect – and seduce…

Sophia is an alpha female that is used to taking care of herself. She is the owner of a local bar and has recently bought a house to be close to her daughters. When her life is threatened, alpha werewolf Luc steps in as a bodyguard to find out who is trying to hurt her.

Sophia is a strong character that knows what she wants but is willing to accept help when she needs it. She hasn’t had an easy life and has a hard time trusting people, Luc is no different. She is devastated when she finds out his secret. Luc has avoided relationships and finding his mate but there is something about Sophia that calls to him.

Overall this was a strong story in this anthology. The ending was a surprise that I enjoyed. I would definitely pick up other books by this author.

“Murder on Mysteria Lane” by Angie Fox – When a werewolf trophy wife is found dead in Vampire County, Heather McPhee goes undercover to investigate. Heather’s never been a mascara-and-manicures sort of girl, but she’s willing to learn. Especially with sexy vampire detective Lucien Mead posing as her husband…

Heather McPhee is the pack investigator and her expertise is needed in suburbia to help solve the murder of a werewolf. She has a unique ability that with a touch, people have to tell the truth. Lucien hopes to use her talent to help solve the murder while convincing Heather to give him a chance. Sunny’s murder turns out to be more complicated than they ever imagined.

I loved seeing Heather when she first showed up in suburbia, she was too funny. She obviously didn’t fit in with their fancy ways and needed help to blend in. Throughout the story we see her transformation not only physically but mentally as well.

Although this was a short story, it definitely didn’t lack on the drama, intrigue and adventure. It kept me guessing until the very end. I love Angie’s books and this was no exception.

“What’s Yours is Mine” by Jess Haines – Still Waters is like many other exclusive gated communities – except that it’s home to one of the largest werewolf packs in the state. But Tiffany Winters isn’t frightened of her big, bad new neighbours. In fact, she intends to take her place among the pack…

The pack is looking to expand their pack and their new neighbor Tiffany looks like she will be the perfect addition.  They just have to convince their leader to sign off on it.  Tiffany isn’t what she seems and Vera is the only one that sees through her.  Can Tiffany persuade the other’s that she is perfect for the pack?

The women of the Diamond Fangs are smart women that have it all, beautiful houses, sexy husbands and all the money they could possibly want.  Their pack numbers have decreased and they are always looking for the perfect candidate that is willing to sign the Notice of Mutual Consent.

Tiffany is their new neighbor and she seems to fit right in with the women but there is something about her that isn’t right.  Tiffany was a fun character; she has a history with weres that she is trying to hide from the women.  She isn’t proud of the things she did in the name of love and wants to change her life.  She is smart and conniving and knows how to get what she wants, I loved that about her.   The ending was fabulous.

“Werewolves in Chic Clothing” by Tami Dane – Ever since Christine Price moved in with her fiance, Jonathan, and his twelve-year-old son, she’s worked hard to fit in with a cadre of local women whose lives seem picture-perfect. Except no one in Jon’s upscale neighbourhood is quite who they appear to be. Least of all Jon…

Christine has left her life to move in with her finance Jonathan.  He has given her everything she could possible want, including her own studio in the basement.  Strange things begin happening around the house and the neighbors try and convince Christine that there was more to the death of Jonathan’s first wife than meets the eye.

Christine doesn’t know what to make out of the neighbors.  They start showing up before she gets moved in good and they all want to be her friends.  They suspect that Jonathan’s first wife was murdered and try to convince her to investigate it.  Things are not what they seem and there is more to the story than even they realize.

After things start happening to Christine she begins to question her decision to move in with Jonathan.   In the end though she trusts her instincts and everything comes out.

Overall this was a great set of short stories that blend well with each other.  I would definitely read other books by these authors and give The Real Werewives of Vampire County 4 Flaming Hearts.  

Boots and Chaps (Ugly Stick Saloon #1) by Myla Jackson

Boots and Chaps (Ugly Stick Saloon #1) by Myla Jackson
* I purchased a copy of this book for my personal library*

She gave up stripping to go legit…until three Kiowa cowboys bring on the down-and-dirty.

Jackson Gray Wolf is turning thirty, and what does he have to show for it? A ranch. No wife, no kids, no dates. He’s had his eye on the pretty owner of the Ugly Stick Saloon, but their one accidental encounter was interrupted before he could get her out of her take-me-now red cowboy boots.

Audrey Anderson isn’t in the market for a man. Been there, done that, has the scars to prove it. She retired her pole-dancing boots after purchasing the Ugly Stick Saloon, and now manages a stable of strippers. When she winds up one stripper short for a private party, she’s forced to slip on a mask and into the role of the mysterious Kiki.

Jackson didn’t want the birthday bash his twin brothers are throwing him, but his vow to ignore the rented stripper goes awry when she shows him exactly how far she’s willing to go—for all three of them.

Audrey can’t forget the sizzling heat between her and one sexy Kiowa in particular. Jackson. Trouble is, she’s not sure if he wants the bold, brassy Kiki, or if he’s ready for the wounded woman underneath.

Warning: This title contains hot scenes with multiple partners, with a little BDSM on the side. Caution—it could melt your e-reader!

Audrey is the tough as nails owner of the The Ugly Stick Saloon.  She hung up her dancing chaps when she moved to Temptation and bought the bar.  Now thanks to Charli, both she and her chaps are coming out of retirement.  After her long dry spell, she never expected to find someone willing to fulfill all her needs.

Jackson’s birthday is coming up and his brothers are determined to give him a night he won’t forget.  While at The Ugly Stick Saloon, they book a stripper for a private party on their ranch.  Little did they realize that the stripper they booked for Jackson’s birthday was Audrey?

I couldn’t wait to read this story because it goes hand in hand with the Dirty Tricks series.  We saw Audrey and Jackson dancing around each other and then they were a couple, all told from Charli’s perspective.  I loved finally seeing how their story unfolded and they ended up together in this book.

Audrey and Jackson are perfect together.  They are both strong individuals that have worked hard to get where they are in life.  Both of them had personal issues they needed to work out plus neither one had time for dating or anything else.  With a little help from Charli and his brothers, the two of them finally connected.

Kiki’s strip tease with the boys was sexy as hell.  It was obvious that the sexy Kiowa Indians enjoyed their play time as much as she did.  Jackson had to convince Audrey that he was series and was willing to give her whatever she needed.  Although he wasn’t crazy about sharing her, he was extremely turned on watching her with his brothers.  He was supportive of her needs and didn’t think they were wrong or dirty.  Hell, he even danced naked in front of a bar full of women for her, if that’s not love I don’t know what it is.

The main characters are interesting and compelling, while being perfect for one another.  The secondary characters added additional depth to the book; I was surprised to see that there was more to Mark and Luke than party boys.  It was nice to see characters from the Dirty Tricks series in this book too, a nice tie in to the series.

I loved this book and can’t wait to read the next installment in the Ugly Stick Saloon series.  I give Boots and Chaps 4 Flaming Hearts. 

Naked Angel (Club Burlesque #3) by Logan Belle

Naked Angel (Club Burlesque #3)by Logan Belle
* I received a copy of this book from Kensington in exchange for an honest review*

It’s the biggest night of Mallory Dale’s life. She’s unveiling her sexy new burlesque club, The Painted Lady, and her boyfriend has a thrilling surprise for her. An injury forced ballerina Nadia Grant to hang up her toe shoes, so now she’s perfecting the art of the striptease and whipping the crowd at The Painted Lady into a frenzy.  Meanwhile, the club’s financial benefactor is endangering his marriage – and the business – when he begins a sizzling affair with a young costume designer. Just when they’re so close to having it all, will the stars of The Painted Lady lose everything?

Its opening night at The Painted Lady and the night is full of surprises for Mallory.  After her performance, she is surprised when her boyfriend Alec proposes to her in front of the crowd.  The night is going perfectly until Nadia loses it on stage.  A packed house, friends and a proposal, what better way to start their new adventure together?

Things quickly go downhill for the gang when their benefactor loses his money over a female.  They not only stand losing the club but they have also lost the fabulous costumer to Violet Offender.  Mallory knows that the only way to save their club is to win the Vegas Burlesque completion.  With Nadia and Maxes help they have the perfect costumes and routines for the show.

Due to an injury Nadia has had to quit performing ballet.  She and Mallory have been sharing rehearsal space for a while and Mallory offers her a chance to perform at The Painted Lady she decides to give it a try.  She continues to struggle with her performances while Max feels like she is degrading herself when she performs.   In the end she finds a compromise they can both live with.

This was a fabulous conclusion to the Club Burlesque trilogy.  It pulled me in just as quickly as Fallen Angel did and I didn’t want to put the book down.

It was packed full of emotion and I loved the fact that it wasn’t just about Alec and Mallory.  We got to visit with some old favorites and we got to learn more about new ones.  I’m glad that Violet Offender was in this book but not a primary focus, I like her but a little bit can go a long way with her.

Both Mallory and Nadia are going through several personal struggles with their relationships.  Their men want them to quit dancing on stage but for different reasons.  Mallory loves performing on stage and is thrilled to be running the club, she isn’t sure if she wants to quit dancing when she and Alec get married.  Nadia can no longer perform ballet and it is killing her.  She has so much creative energy and no outlet for it until Mallory offers her the chance to perform at the club.  Even that doesn’t fulfill her like ballet did.

There are so many side stories all connected together that the author risks it being too much; in this case it just works.  Each individual storyline has such an impact on the overall story that you would be missing something without them.  Each person has ties with several other characters that it is obvious that we would be lost without them.

The story is well written and pulls you in from the beginning.  It gives us a glimpse into the world of Burlesque, which intrigues me greatly.  The characters are interesting and have complex relationships with one another and the ending was fabulous.

I love this series and highly recommend that it be read in order, however these books can be read as a stand alone.  I enjoyed this series so much that I bought a copy of Blue Angel to read.  I give Naked Angel 4½ Flaming Hearts. 

Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs (Lakeshore Chronicles #9)

Book Description:

Sonnet Romano’s life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There’s nothing more a woman wants – except maybe a baby brother? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold – the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend – and heads home to Avalon. Once her mom is out of danger, Sonnet intends to pick up her life where she left off. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake – award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. So Sonnet embarks on a summer of laughter and tears, of old dreams and new possibilities, and of finding the home of her heart. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Return to Willow Lake plumbs the deepest corners of the human heart, exploring the bonds of family, the perils and rewards of love, and the true meaning of home.

 

Review:

This book just happens to be number nine in Ms. Wiggs’s Lakeshore Chronicles, and it also happens to be the first of her books that I have read.  I found it very easy to follow along, and did not feel like I needed to read the first eight before proceeding with this one.

This was a hard book for me to get through.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great read.  It just hit really close to home.  I don’t want to throw any spoilers out there, but I will say that Sonnet’s mom is diagnosed with cancer.  The reason I am telling you this is because I for one, am tired of reading books that have a storyline of someone with cancer.

There were lots of ways that the storyline seemed almost like real life happening on these pages.  When Sonnet learned who would be there for her, and who wouldn’t.  The feelings were real.

It took a while to get to the happily ever after, but it was written in a way that kept me wanting to hang out with these characters a little longer.  Then on the other hand, I wanted to finish it to see what happened.  I am hoping to find time to go back and read the other eight books in this series.

 

The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands

The Lady is a Vamp by Lynsay Sands
*A review copy of this book was received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*

One late night leads to . . .

Kidnapped! When Jeanne Louise Argeneau left work, she never thought she’d end up tied down by a good-looking mortal. More attracted than annoyed, she quickly realizes there is more to her abductor than meets the eye.

One desperate act leads to . . .

Love? Paul Jones has need of a vampire, and only Jeanne Louise will do. He just has to convince this beauty of a Vamp to help him . . . never imagining that he would fall in love. But with the immortal world’s answer to law enforcement hunting them, their time together is running out . . . and Paul and Jeanne Louise will need to risk everything to spend an eternity together.

Paul’s daughter is sick and he will do whatever it takes to save her, even kidnap an immortal.  Jeanne Louise has been dreaming of the day she would find her life mate, she just never expected him to also be her kidnapper.

In the beginning Jeanie may have been a prisoner but everything changed as soon as she realized Paul might be her life mate.  He was a good looking man and she was excited that she couldn’t read him; she only hoped the rest of the signs were there too.

Enforcers send this trio on the road and Jeanie does everything she can to make sure that Livy’s headaches are kept at bay, even if it causes her pain.  She helps the little girl eat so she can gain some of her strength back.  The sun seems to be helping her spirits as much as anything else.

Jeanie loves both Livy and Paul.  She would do anything for either one, except turn Livy.  She has only one turn and she’s hoping to use it on Paul, if he agrees to be her life mate.  Her hopes and dreams are within her grasp until and unfortunate accident changes everything.

This book takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride from start to finish.  There is such a strong emotional connection between not only Paul and Jeanie but also Livy and Jeanie.  It makes it that much harder to watch some of the events unfold.  You want them to have their happily ever after but they have so much to work through before they get to that point.

Paul and Jeanie want to work things out but they are different; Paul is mortal and Jeanie is immortal.  Paul just wants to feel like a man and Jeanie makes it hard by not letting him do anything for himself.  She is afraid that something is going to happen and she will lose him so she tends to be overprotective and over reacts to incidents.  There really is no happy medium for them as long as Paul remains human.

I love Lynsay Sands, she is one of my favorite paranormal authors and I have been reading this series from the beginning.  Her books are always such fun to read and have me laughing out loud.  This is the first one in the series that had me just about in tears.  I connected so strongly for with the characters and felt they were going through right alongside them.  When Jeanie had to make that split second decision, I kept thinking someone was going to step up to the plate.  In the end, I never expected things to happen the way they did.

Overall, I think The Lady is a Vamp is my favorite book in the Argeneau series.  I give this book 4½ Flaming Hearts. 

Fool’s Gold (All Summer Long and A Fool’s Gold Christmas) Reviews

Susan Malllery has been a best selling author for years. However, her latest series, Fool’s Gold, has captured this heart of this true romantic. I confess to not finding the series until books 4, 5 and 6 ( Only Mine, Only Yours, and Only His.) Since each book can stand alone, I jumped into the series with both feet and have been a loyal Fool’s Gold devotee since. Yes, there are reoccurring characters, but each story features a different hero/heroine. What remains the same book after book is the town. You can’t talk about this series without realizing that Fool’s Gold is as much a character in the book as Mayor Marsha.

The fictional town of Fool’s Gold is located in California. It’s a small town full of people who know everything about everybody and like them anyway. There are no shopping malls, or Walmart, or Sears or Home Depot where the townspeople shop. No. Everyone seems to do business with the small business owner who is probably located on the town square. The townsfolk know everyone else. Women play the strong leadership roles within the community (seems there was a man shortage for a while!) Neighbors help neighbors. Houses get decorated for every holiday on the calendar. There is a festival of some kind every weekend (or at least it seems that way.) Finding a real Fool’s Gold would be hard in the real world, I believe and that makes me sad. This is the town so many of us remember growing up in but now the small town community is gone. Mallery has done a wonderful job making me believe in Fool’s Gold and making me want to live there.

Now on to the latest two books in the series:

ALL SUMMER LONG brings together Charlie Dixon, a muscular, tough, firewoman, with underwear model and movie butt double Clay Stryker. Talk about opposites.

 

Charlie is tough—physically and mentally—because she thinks she has to be. When her biological clock alarm begins ringing, she realizes that she has some issues from her past that must be dealt with before she can raise a mentally healthy child (i.e. not pass on her own fears and phobias to her child.)

 

Clay is a pretty face…or at least that’s what everybody sees but he wants more. He’s retired from his butt double work (that’s a young man’s game, says the 30 y/o hero!). He hold a college degree and has some ideas of what he’d like to do next. One is moving to Fool’s Gold to be near his family (mother and two brothers, heroes of books 7 (Summer Days) and 8 (Summer Nights).) The next is starting a vacation business based in Fool’s Gold, if he can get the town council (all women) to stop looking at his butt and take him serious. And third, he wants to join the volunteer fire department.

Clay has the assets necessary to help Charlie get past her traumatic history. Charlie has the connections, not to mention does the training for, the volunteer firemen recruits. Tit for tat, so to speak. A simple trade of favors that of course finds each of them falling for the other.

I have to also mention Charlie’s mother, Dominique Guerin. Maybe one of the most selfish, self-centered, egotistical characters I’ve read in a while. I figure some readers will complain that Mallery went over the top with Dominique but no. I’ve know women like Dominique. Mallery does a brilliant job getting into the character’s head, into her thoughts… really understanding how women like Dominique think. Kudos. That fact that Dominique’s daughter, Charlie, is nothing like her galls Dominique. Where Dominique is petite, Charlie is tall and muscular. Where Dominique is very feminine in appearance, Charlie prefers pants, boots and chopped hair. There has been a mother-daughter split for all of Charlie’s life, something else that has to be dealt with before Charlie can really take solid hold of her mothering reins.

A very good book.

 

A FOOL’S GOLD CHRISTMAS has another mother-daughter estrangement storyline, but this time is May Stryker (mother of Clay in the previous book and his brothers from books 7 and 8) and Evie Stryker.

 

Evie is a half-sibling to the Stryker men, conceived during a one-night stand during the time May was reeling from the death of her husband. I admit that the way Evie was ignored by May (and many times by her brothers) while she was growing up broke my heart. She suffered true psychological and mental neglect. May and the boys were a strong foursome and Evie was on the outside looking in. Broke my heart. Evie leaves home at 17 for school and basically never returns. The brothers do a lousy job staying in contact. Her own mother neglects her year after year. At first, it was the depression and guilt of the one-night stand. Later it’s the guilt at the realization of what she did to her own daughter. These two have a mountain of emotional baggage to climb over in this book.

Dante Jefferson is the business partner of Rafe Stryker (Evie’s half-brother). When Rafe falls in love and moves to Fool’s Gold, he drags Dante along, supposedly only for a short transition period. Dante has no family. His mother died when Dante was fifteen. (He has quite the backstory!) He gives his heart to no woman. He’s a player. He knows it and he makes sure the women he’s with knows it too. After a clogging class in the dance studio over his office, he heads upstairs to give the dance instructor a piece of his mind, only to discover it’s partner’s sister, Evie.

This is a Christmas based story with all the touchy-feely goodness you would expect of a story based in Fool’s Gold.

This book TOTALLY ROCKED. The repartee between Evie and Dante is simply delicious. Mallery hits every note with this one. While I’ve loved all the Fool’s Gold books, this one left me crying, smiling, and not ready for it to be over. IMHO, this is the best one yet. Don’t miss it.

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