Bury Me When I’m Dead – Cheryl A Head

Bury Me When I'm Dead - Cheryl A HeadCharlie Mack is a lesbian PI in Detroit, her small team are former officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and they make a tight knit group whose members compliment and challenge each other. Together they have formed and built a highly respected firm of Private Investigators.

Called to Birmingham, Alabama on the trail of a missing person, Charlie knows she is stepping into her own history, and facing new challenges. What seems like a simple case suddenly becomes deadly, with mafia style patriarchs and dark secrets that date from that cities infamous past. Charlie is right in the middle of a complex web, dealing with the history and attitudes of a different generation, while solving a crime, keeping out of trouble and trying to support her mothers failing mental health.

Ms Head has created a complex character that we are only beginning to know in what we can assume is to become a series of detective novels. Charlie and her mother are multi-demensional and a real treat, feisty, independent, interesting. Ms Head weaves this tale into Ernestine Mack’s personal history, and brings them alive in the telling. The characters at the PI firm are a delightful mix, gruff, charming, intelligent, difficult, real people with contradictions, personal battles and a genuine care for each other. The cast involved in this particular crime range from the slightly baffled victim to an array of variously guilty players, all of whom are drawn with skillful observation, as are the many bit players we meet along the way.

The pace is steady with occasional intense pressure points; we know ‘who-dunnit’, but we don’t quite know who did what to whom, and why, which keeps the interest going. The story ebbs and flows with genuine skill, giving us moments of quiet and calm, offset with intense emotions and rapid action. I particularly enjoyed how Ms Head winds the personal stories into the criminal investigation, making the players more real with their personal struggles.

The writing flows, eloquent and yet fitting to the theme, with that subtle edge of the classic PI tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to a new PI classic and look forward to finding out more about Ms Mack and her crew.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (August 2, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01HX2UB24
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Taken at the Flood – Nene Adams

Taken at the Flood – Nene AdamsMeredith is a charter boat owner who gets offered over the odds pay to ferry an attractive but secretive women to an undisclosed destination ‘south’. Sceptical but intrigued she agrees and so begins an adventure that spans 3 continents. Rue is legit but definitely a person of interest to some unsavoury characters, and her quest for a WWII treasure trove puts them both in the line of fire.

Both women are strong, independent, alpha; used to running their own show and making the difficult decisions. Between them they have an impressive set of skills, and contacts that will come in extremely handy during their adventure.

At times the action is a little far fetched and the attraction a little too blatant, but the story is a wonderful action adventure romp with a large dose of cloak and dagger, a heap of humour and a large cast of interesting characters. Nene Adams was an amazing storyteller and this is no exception, it literally carries you away.

I found this great entertainment – an interesting read and an unusual story. This was my first Nene Adams book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Slightly bemused as to why it hasn’t received any attention and its share of reviews… I would recommend it.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (April 26, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01FAYDI18
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Paradox Valley – Gerri Hill

Paradox Valley – Gerri HillWell this was different. Gerri Hill’s latest takes her supernatural series to a whole new level mixing paranormal, 1950’s scifi and a gentle romance which is definitely not the main storyline.

Dana has run home to her parents’ farm in Western Colorado to escape an extremely premature marriage proposal. When everybody feels the earth tremble they assume it’s a small earthquake, and life goes on – except they have no power, the cars wont start and even the batteries are dead.

A military helicopter is sent to investigate and goes off radar, causing the CO in charge to send in a squad of troops, and his General to send in Captain Conaway to investigate. When she meets up with Dana and her lifelong friend Butch, she quickly enlists their help, and their horses, to aid her in her mission.

So Gerri Hill sets the scene for the most ‘out there’ of her spooky paranormal series to date. The humor and the great writing remain the same. The far –fetched storyline and outcome continue in the vein of ‘Keepers of the Cave’ and ‘Weeping Walls’, but takes on a whole new level of scary movie tension.

Gerry Hill biogThe characters in this are well done. Danna, Butch and the Captain are complex and interesting, and the addition of their elderly neighbour Jean to the posse adds a lovely twist. There is a large supporting cast, all drawn with Ms Hill’s sharp observation of human nature and behaviour, however brief their appearance. There is also the most intelligent and loyal dog – definitely the hero of the whole show.

My only criticism is aimed at the classification – this book does not belong in the romance category. Yes there is a slow burn attraction and gentle romance, but it is decidedly the sub plot. The characters involved are too busy with the paranormal to have a romance. I think the classification is misleading and will upset Gerri Hill’s romance fans, who will be disappointed, and misses the chance to get to the lesbian paranormal/horror fans. Difficult within the confines of Amazons system, but true never the less.

If you like scifi/paranormal with a side order of a sweet romance and like needing the lights on when you read.. this is definitely the book for you. I enjoyed it, and will definitely read the implied sequel.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (July 26, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01J8VEQH4
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State of Grace – Sandra Moran

State of Grace - Sandra MoranBooks can affect us in a deeply personal way. One can read a romance and be entertained while another sees heartache. A sex scene can be erotic or romantic, extreme or acceptable, all depending on the mood and viewpoint of the reader. This book affected me deeply, partly I suspect, because of the circumstances of the posthumous publication, but more because of who I am and how my personality reacts to the events that unfold.

I found State of Grace a challenging read. I guess I knew that whatever Sandra wrote could take us in any direction, she was never going to have been a formulaic writer, or one constrained by a genre. This novel proves quite how wide her imagination ranged.

It is an intense read; moving, dramatic, a psychological thriller worthy of King. We laughed at Sandra’s DPAB PDA’s. I’m not laughing now. Full of nostalgia, dripping with suspense, you literally don’t know until the last page which way this story will end.

Sandra Moran biogLike the subject matter, the writing style is also completely different to her previous novels. Less polished, more real, perhaps, with a raw edge. One could assume that was because it was her first book, written years before “Letters Never Sent”, but knowing she had edited it before her untimely passing, and wanted it to be published how she had originally written it, we know this was the voice she wanted us to hear. I think she wanted it to sound young, almost immature, because that is the voice of the protagonist.

It is hard to talk about this story without giving any spoilers, suffice it to say book shows how good a writer Sandra Moran was, and how amazing her oeuvre would have become. The detailed and concentrated exploration of a young woman’s mind reveals both the penetration of an imaginative intellect and the skill of an exemplary writer, pulling us in and keeping us pinned to the page as the story unfolds

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (July 18, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01I8S39GM
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Vellmar the Blade – Fletcher DeLancey

Vellmar the Blade - Fletcher DeLanceyFletcher DeLancey’s Alsea series is wonderful. Brilliant world building, well -done scifi, excellent stories and absolutely top class characters who have already become our friends.

Vellmar the Blade tells the story of Lead Guard Vellmar’s first Alsean ‘Olympics’ through the narration of a children’s bedtime story. It continues the world building by giving us more insight into Alsean society, while deepening and extending our knowledge of one of the secondary players.

DeLancey’s cast is wide and yet she manages to give them all depth, from the children listening to the protagonists visiting brother. Her writing engages us with the people, makes them real, and thus involves us in their lives. All our MC’s appear, however briefly, and we see another slice of their history and personal interactions, again adding depth to our sense of familiarity.

Fletcher DeLancey bioIn the end this is actually a parable for the children; how losing can be more noble than winning, while for us its an insight into the past, and the future, of the Lancer of Alsea.

For me these books rank up there with McCaffrey’s Pern, and I hope they will build into just such a substantial series.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 139 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (August 3, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01IPEY08K
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Bunny Finds a Friend – Hazel Yeats

Bunny Finds a Friend – Hazel YeatsThis is a fun and enjoyable read. A trad romance where the angst is nothing more than pushing the wrong buttons, but the impact still has a dramatic and suspenseful outcome.

Our MC, Cara, is aided, abetted and driven nuts by her overbearing sisters and sister-in-law. All very 30 something and reminiscent of a European , slightly more mumsy, Sex in the City; here 4 very different women sit in cafes and take road trips. There is a lot of humor in the telling and a lot of love in the foursome. To some degree their complex lives needed filling out, but in this story they are definitely supporting cast.

The romance is amusing, their foibles and fears recognizable, as are the histories that have created them. This isn’t a “young love” story, these are women with established lives, however immature Cara’s life choices might be. In fact in some ways the arc of Cara’s development from a flibbertigibbet to a grown-up is stronger than the romance, while Jude’s personal issues are somewhat glossed over. There is a developing relationship, and a sizzling “fade to black” attraction, a significant amount of the novel is not, directly, about the courtship.

The story is written in the third person with a lot of retrospective description. Sections were passed over which was a shame, especially Cara’s relationship with Jude’s five year old, Zoe. I would assume English is not Ms Yeats first language, and there were times when the use of commas and choice of words did drop me out of the story to a degree.

Having said all that I enjoyed it, I think Ms Yeats has done a good job with this first novel and if anything I would urge her to be more ambitious, give more reign to the lovely humor, the well drawn familial relationships and her charming descriptions – fill in that supporting cast. I will certainly be looking for her future novels and look forward to watching her develop.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (January 20, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01A7026X6
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Oblique – Adrian J. Smith

Oblique - AJ SmithMy first novel by this author, and an interesting read.

Classic Trad Romance, well written, with a ‘different’ story, so it kept my interest. The characters are well drawn, the plot well worked and AJ’s writing style makes for a very enjoyable read… with the added bonus of an excellent erotic imagination.

Kara and Tiny have histories that make any new relationship a balancing act and a compromise. Kara is particularly shut off and scared to risk.. her pregnancy and her history conspiring to make her feel extremely vulnerable. Despite her mixed feelings and mixed messages, the pair have a highly charged sex life which makes this romance border on erotica at times.

There’s a twist in the tale that becomes obvious to the reader relatively early, adds the drama to the plot and is well done. Personally not my cup of tea, something I find alien, but that is purely a subjective reaction to the curve-ball AJ throws us.

Overall a good read by a genuinely good writer.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Supposed Crimes (August 1, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01GK31XCE
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Tales From Sea Glass Inn – Karis Walsh

Tales From Sea Glass Inn – Karis WalshFour short romances which follow on and intertwine with the Original “Sea Glass Inn” and the lives of those who live in the small tourist village. An oil spill threatens to destroy the beautiful beach, the wildlife and the livelihood of the community. In the aftermath a collection of women are pulled together, some new, some already known, and in each short a romance unfolds.

Karis Walsh has an appealing and easy writing style that always makes her stories a pleasant read and a keen eye for human frailties that captures the interest. Here she pulls out the quirks of each woman and shows us who they are and what they struggle with in swift brush strokes.

The romances are necessarily fast, but despite that Ms Walsh gives us enough character development and angst to capture the imagination. Jenny and Helen need to overcome the patterns their upbringings have created. Ari and Jocelyn need to open up and let Karis Walsh biogsomebody in. Heather and Aspen are opposites, one driven and over ambitious, the other too scared to put herself out there, between them they make a perfect balance. Tam and Maggie must overcome the control they feel is essential, and the fears that caused their isolation. Throughout Pam and Mel, the Sea Glass Inn, and Cannon Beech pull them all together and give them a common context.

A thoroughly enjoyable read from a very good author, and a charming follow up to a definite favorite. The collection of stories stand alone, but if you enjoyed “Sea Glass Inn” there is an added bonus of seeing a snapshot from Pam and Mel’s ongoing lives together. A lovely summer read.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (12 July 2016)
  • ASIN: B01H2VLZKI
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Finding Hekate – Kellie Doherty

Finding Hekate - Kellie DohertyMia Foley has had a life of the run since her family was murdered by the Acedians and their leader captured and branded her. She has gone from ship to ship, crew to crew, always escaping at the last moment at any cost.

But Mia’s current crew are different, they have crept inside her heart and she doesn’t quite know how. Her slow burn attraction to Cassidy, the small time trader Mia is transporting, isn’t helping Mia’s decision to run again. But then she also knows Cassidy would be safer if she did.

The world building is good, the story complex and interesting, and there is a tension throughout. Being part of a duology there are loose ends and an only partially resolved ending, but Ms Doherty definitely gives us enough good to make us want to read the next instalment.

A very good first novel and I look forward to part II.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Desert Palm Press (7 April 2016)
  • ASIN: B01DZJYEX6
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Captain of Industry – Karin Kallmaker

Captain of industry - Karin KallmakerTwo women, one already a successful tech millionaire, the other a successful model, add instant attraction and great chemistry and we have a classic whirlwind romance. On the surface “Captain of industry” is an excellent, well written story in the traditional genre, but underneath it is a much deeper commentary on the cost of success, and the price of being out.

Suzanne is a new tech millionaire, living it up in NYC as a minor celebrity and enjoying all the benefits of being young, attractive and rich. Having sold her start-up to AOL, she is the current whizz kid, self made, successful and going places – with everybody wanting a slice of her success. For her being out is not an issue, she just ‘is’ and there is no thought of any cost or consequence.

Jennifer is a successful model, just reaching the level where she feels confident to turn down work and stonewall men who think they can maul her. But her heart is set on being an actress, and she spends every spare moment working on her skills, her resume and her contacts. For her being out is not an option. She knows without a doubt that coming out will kill her career before it starts. And for her that drive to succeed is stronger than her dreams of happy ever after.

When Jennifer literally falls into Suzanne’s arms their attraction is instant, and their interactions both amusing and playful. Despite the brevity of their various encounters across the years their deep connection is obvious. But while Suzanne believes they can enjoy each other, grow and develop their relationship, see where it goes, Jennifer runs scared from anything which might damage her career. And the lies the rub, because Suzanne cannot understand, will not recognise, the cost of being out, and Jennifer will not risk it.

Karin kallmaker bioWhat we see unfold is a woman hardening her heart, pushing others away, becoming the Hollywood bitch, all for her career. Kallmaker deepens the romance into a feminist commentary on the choices women have had to make to get what they want. At the same time we have a story of personal growth; Suzanne must recognise her money cannot buy everything, Jennifer needs to gain success on her own terms, and the maturity to stand up and be counted.

Extremely well written in classic Kallmaker style, with a great supporting cast of friends and colleagues and a fascinating exploration on the social scene these women inhabit, this one is a joy to read. The humour balances the seriousness of the underlying message and the success and growth of both women puts the heartache into the perspective of a grown up wider world. And Lego? Who thought Lego could become zen?

It’s a delight to have Karin Kallmaker back at the writer’s block after her quiet years, however valuable she was as a publisher. I look forward to many more of her interesting characters, thoughtful subplots and wonderful writing.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (July 25, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01I2D6N2K
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