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Fab Fantasy Fiction

Focuses on all things romance - contemporary, historical, paranormal, and romantic suspense. Reviews, interviews, guest posts, spotlights, giveaways. Fun weekly features!

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Sandpiper Island
Donna Kauffman
Dangerously Hot
Lynn Raye Harris

Melting Into You (Due South Book 2)

Melting Into You (Due South Book 2) - Tracey Alvarez Tracey Alvarez's Melting Into You is a gripping and moving romance

How delightful to travel back (virtually) to New Zealand’s Stewart Island via Tracey Alvarez’s new entry in her Due South series, Melting Into You. I found the description of this wild island's winter most refreshing as I swelter here in 90+F degree days. Once again, Alvarez has written about real-to-life characters who are facing major issues in their lives.

Ben, the swinging bachelor whose longest commitment was measured in just a few months (and that to guarantee an assistant for his tourist shark dives), is faced with the result of a long ago one night fling. A nine-year-old daughter he never knew existed till she was literally dropped on his doorstep by her self-involved mum. As someone who took on the mantle of family protector and provider when his father died, Ben has never wanted to be responsible for anyone else again. But he can’t dodge paternity forever.

Contrast him with his sister’s best friend and roommate, Kezia, who’s a widowed mum of a precocious daughter whose leukemia (now in remission) was almost fatal. She’s the new island school teacher and although there’s a very mutual attraction at work between the two of them it remains unacknowledged as their lives are just too different. Add Jade (Ben’s daughter) and Zoe (Kezia’s) desire for a family to the mix and Ben and Kezia may need to reassess their lives and give that attraction a whirl.

In Alvarez’s first Due South book, In Too Deep, I had enjoyed the character of Ben, even though he seemed like consummate player who had a proverbial unending buffet of tourist lovelies to choose from. But there was something truly solid about this bad boy and when he rescued Kezie from a very uncomfortable situation, I could seem him as a white knight (perhaps with slightly tarnished armor). However, faced with his daughter it seems that any gentleness has been lost and he only becomes human again when his hormones are activated by Kezia. With Jade staying with him for two weeks, he (with Kezia’s guidance) finds a way to connect with this child that seemingly no one wants.

Along the way there’s quite a bit of almost consummations between Ben and Kezia, but if she’s looking for a real relationship is he capable of offering one. The dynamics change once again, when the absent mum calls on the day she’s scheduled to arrive to say she’s decided Ben should keep Jade - permanently - as she’s off to be married to a banker who doesn’t want encumbrances.

Thus Jade and Ben and Zoe and Kezie little by little become a family. Shared meals, excursions (the Manliest Man contest is a must-read in and of itself), playdates, and celebrations all coalesce into the sense of a possible idealic, picture perfect family. But as this is Tracey Alvarez, fairy tale endings are not the name of the game. She makes the Ben and Kezie (and the reader) work for a happily-ever-after and throws in plenty of plot twists and turns along the way.

If you’re looking for a romance that has a bite of reality, Alvarez is the author for you. I have to admit to wanting to shake both Kezie and Ben many times in the story, but that just goes to show how involved I was while reading Melting Into You.

Once again, I highly recommend that you travel with Tracey Alvarez Due South to Stewart Island and Melting Into You.

Four and a half stars

(I received an eARC from the author for use in this review.)

Sun-Kissed

Sun-Kissed - Laura Florand A sinfully rich, decadent, and addictive mature love story.

I usually mark the day I receive a new Laura Florand book in my Kindle with a delectable piece of chocolate or a rich cup of hot cocoa. When I received Sun-Kissed, the most recent book in Florand’s sinfully tempting and passionate Amour et Chocolat series, I didn’t bother with any extras. I simply clicked on the cover and began immersing myself in her sinfully rich, decadent prose that is so addictive.. It definitely had been too long since I last visited her passionate and arrogant French chefs, chocolatiers, and patisseries, the Corey sisters, and all other significant others.

However, unlike the rest of the series (except for Snow-Kissed (novella) that provides a bracketing story to Sun-Kissed), the location of this story is not Paris or Provence, but the Hamptons. Yes, the setting is the marriage of Mack Corey’s daughter, Jaime, to her bad boy chocolatier, Dominique Richard (see: The Chocolate Touch ) at Mack's summer cottage. All of France's top chefs seems to have been transported to the Hamptons by billionaire Corey’s private jet. Don't worry that it's not set in France, there is definitely enough gallic swaggering going on to satisfy the most diehard of Florand’s Francophile audience.

However, this is a very different story as it is centered on Cade (The Chocolate Thief) and Jaime Corey’s father, Mack, and his morning partner for beach walking, Anne Winters. It’s clear that for quite some time Mack has had a “thing” for Anne, but has never gone beyond the clearly delineated lines of friendship that she offers. However following her absence in his life during her six-month stint in prison for insider trading and the empty nest of his heart, now that both his daughters are married, it seems that perhaps this situation will change.

Yes, this is a grown-up romance written in Florand’s signature lyrical and sensual style. For whomever may doubt this, yes, 50-year-olds (and older) can definitely have a romantic life and can have very hot sexual encounters. Although their respective children may be slightly embarrassed at the evident heat that Mack and Anne produce in one of the most steamy dance scenes ever written, their significant others are able to help them see their parents as people deserving of passion. But it is when Anne spies upon them and hears herself described as “hot” by Cade's husband Sylvain, the acknowledged hot French chocolatier 20 years her junior, that she reconsiders her own concept of herself and her sexuality.

May I say that I was always fascinated by empire builder Mack, whose mass-produced Corey chocolate might seem like a joke to his son-in-laws, but who’s clear affection for his daughters - and ultimately his respect for their life choices - evolved over several books. Yes, he's a billionaire and a super alpha male, master of the universe, but there was always something about him that was intriguing. I wasn’t so sure about Anne, who at first glance seemed like a frozen Martha Stewart, not the most sympathetic of heroines to envision. But Florand creates a three-dimensional figure that on the surface is pure perfection, but hidden carefully inside is a woman afraid to trust.

This book takes place over the course of about a week, from start to finish. But there is no sense of time being truncated. I savored each turn of the page, highlighted by the witty and sometimes sarcastic dialogue between Anne and Mack as well as their inner musings, the humorous interactions among the French contingent (the description of what occurs with the bridal vehicle is laugh-out-loud hilarious), and the sensitivity of Florand in expressing the harsh hands dealt by fate - the three miscarriages that almost destroyed the marriage of Anne’s son as well as the tragedy that Jaime lived through.

In Sun-Kissed: A Novel, Laura Florand offers readers a highly literate romance, with prose that almost becomes poetry at times. But make no mistake, Sun-Kissed is hot and Mack Corey could definitely give his French son-in-laws some lessons in passion, while Anne’s careful and cool elegance hides a flame that burns freely, once kindled, with Mack.

While it is definitely an integral part of the series, this novel easily could be a stand-alone read. Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand is definitely a five-star, must-read romance that celebrates love of all ages.

(I received a copy of Sun-Kissed from the author for use in this review.)

All a Man Is

All a Man Is - Janice Kay Johnson Family dynamics and romance are highlighted in the fabulous entry to Janice Kay Johnson's The Mysteries of Angel Butte series!

With a new chief of police brought in from outside Angel Butte to help clean up the corruption, Janice Kay Johnson adds a new hero to the her The Mysteries of Angel Butte series.

In Alec Raynor, Johnson creates a hero that I think every reader would swoon for in All a Man Is, the third book in the series. Not to disappoint the ladies of Angel Butte, but it seems like he only has eyes for Julia, his brother’s widow, who moves into the adjoining condo with her two children.

Their story, how they grow to trust one another, how the children are effected by the move, was center stage in this All a Man Is. While there is definitely mystery and suspense in All a Man Is, it’s really the family dynamics that made the pages fly in my Kindle. Johnson’s sensitivity to her characters shone in this entry.

Everywhere She Goes

Everywhere She Goes - Janice Kay Johnson Sparks fly between the mayor and his city planner in this 2nd book of Janice Kay Johnson's The Mysteries of Angel Butte series

Cait McAllister (sister of Police Captain Colin) intrigued me on her appearance in Bringing Maddie Home. Featured in this second book of The Mysteries of Angel Butte series, Everywhere She Goes, Cait is a strong heroine who is more than a match for the commanding and unconventional mayor of Angel Butte, Noah Chandler.

Johnson has devised a mystery in this book that engrossed this reader, who also more than enjoyed the sparks between Cait and Noah as well as the troubled sibling relationship, heightened by the animosity between Colin and Noah.

* I received an eARC of this book courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley

Bringing Maddie Home

Bringing Maddie Home - Janice Kay Johnson Engrossing read and addictive introduction to Janice Kay Johnson's fabulous Mysteries of Angel Butte series!

This fall I began I picked up Janice Kay Johnson’s Bringing Maddie Home and couldn’t put it down. I became engrossed in this story of a teenager gone missing, a police detective who never gives up, and a woman who has a frightening history she can’t remember.

This first book in Johnson’s The Mysteries of Angel Butte series set the bar high for the rest of the stories, but book by book she has met that challenge and exceeded it. One of the reasons I find this series so fascinating is Johnson's ability to portray her characters so vividly and so distinctly. These books were my introduction to the Harlequin SuperRomance line, for which Johnson is a regular and beloved contributor - and they've definitely sold me on it.

Cop by Her Side

Cop by Her Side - Janice Kay Johnson Could not put this book down! A most compelling read and addition to Janice Kay Johnson's fabulous The Mysteries of Angel Butte!

I'm so happy that Johnson decided that there were more stories to tell in The Mysteries of Angel Butte than the trilogy she originally intended. Book four, Cop by Her Side, focuses on one of the supporting characters that I wanted to know more about, Angel Butte Police Lieutenant Jane Vahalik. She's played a role in most of the investigations, from the discover of a backpack in the first book to being the first responder in a hostage situation in the third, Jane is someone who definitely jumps off the page. In the stories, it was evident that there had been some kind of relationship gone wrong between Jane and Sheriff Department's Sergeant Clay Renner, a former Army Ranger, but the details weren't known.

In Cop by Her Side we learn about what happened between Jane and Clay when they're thrown together during the abduction of her niece from Jane's sisters almost fatal car accident. At first glance a working relationship between them seems impossible as Clay appears to be an unrepentant chauvinist, while Jane not only holds higher rank than he does, but she's also someone who doesn't fade into the background. Soon it becomes apparent that Jane and Clay both carry scars from their parental upbringing that could derail any close relationships. However if they can overcome them, perhaps they might have a chance together. This story is fascinating on many levels and the interrelationships of the characters make this a most compelling read.

I've awarded this book five stars because from the very first page, I could not put it down and actually read (no could say devoured it) in just a few hours. I'm really looking forward to the fifth and final installment in this addictive series, This Good Man (publish date: Sept 1, 2014).

In the Mood for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel

In the Mood for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel - Beth Ciotta Review: Five stars for Beth Ciotta’s In the Mood for Love, the new addictive, joyful, sensual, and calorie-free Cupcake Lovers novel

There are certain authors that I treasure like gold. When their books are released, I do a happy dance, because I know that their words will sparkle with a lightness and sincerity, even when they deal with difficult topics. One author who embodies this is Beth Ciotta. The inhabitants of Sugar Creek, Vermont, where her Cupcake Lovers novels are based, have become some of my BBFFs (for those in the know, that’s best book friends forever). So it was with great pleasure that I found myself purchasing the fourth book in that series, In the Mood for Love when it was released last week.

Today, I cracked the first page of In the Mood for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel by Beth Ciotta in my Kindle and didn’t stop reading till the entire story was told. No breaks, no discussion. All tech in the house was disabled (well, there was an electrical storm going on as well). I just curled up and read for a little over three hours, becoming totally enamored of the story of the protagonists, Harper and Sam. (You may recall their unexpected and steamy hookups from the previous book, Anything But Love).

At the opening of In the Mood for Love, it’s apparent that widower Sam is still trying to find the woman who’ll be the second Mrs. Right for him, but it seems that all candidates should echo the calm personality of his late wife. However he’s not having much luck. It couldn’t be because he misses Harper, right? Where is she anyway? It seems like this B- and C-list Hollywood publicist pulled up stakes in Sugar Creek and headed back to LA. But we discover she’s actually back, however laying low, very low - under the radar low - in her semi-haunted, restored farmhouse.

When she and Sam reencounter one another, actually when he rushes to her aid after receiving a desperate text, it quickly becomes apparent that it wasn’t just the thought of his deceased wife that kept him from moving on. He and Harper together generate enough electricity to power not only the farmhouse, but Sugar Creek. But is it only the physical side of things or could actual emotions be involved?

In my opinion, every woman should meet a man like Sam McCloud. Former military, furniture designer, craftsman, devoted husband, now single father of two - just someone who radiates kindness as well as hot sexuality. Yes, this is one man that no woman would want to say goodbye to. Why would you when Harper describes him favorably to Dylan McDermott, who she sees interviewed on a morning talk show. Yep, Sam is that hot!

I fell more than a little in love with both of Harper and Sam when Sam shows Harper his children’s rooms, including in the passage below Harper's experience of seeing the painting he's created for his daughter. Is it possible that under the brittle celebrity focused publicist exterior that Harper may be disguising the heart of a romantic? Does Sam see this or just the hot babe who started his engine again? Well, Ciotta explains it much better in this passage, one of my favorites:

Just now, surrounded by castles and tiaras, Harper wanted something in between, something romantic. Instead of Rambo, she wanted a knight in shining armor. Her vision clouded and she swore she saw Sam in full body armor. Richard Gere as Sir Lancelot. No. Clive Owen as King Arthur. Wait. Worse. Sam McCloud as Harper Day’s champion. (p. 135)

Wow, Dylan McDermott, Richard Gere, and Clive Owen! Anyone else want to hop in the car to travel to Sugar Creek and hang out in Moose-a-lotta, the happening coffee shop run by Chloe and Daisy?

Seriously, Ciotta has a true gift of how to convey who her characters are until they practically take physical form in front of you. The gentle evolution of perpetually-in-motion, uber-connected, non-relationship driven Harper and gentle, quiet, patient, and strong Sam is just beautiful to read. Once you add in all the subplots (Adam & Peppy, Daisy & Vince) as well as childbirth, a cyber-stalker, and just loads of humor - well you have a book that I dare anyone to put down.

While I would highly recommend reading ALL the Cupcake Lovers novels in sequence, In the Mood for Love could definitely be read as a stand-alone story. Yes, you might have questions about who these people are, but this story is fairly self-contained. But I’ll guarantee you that once that final page is turned, you’ll be looking for the rest of the series to devour. Yes, Beth Ciotta’s The Cupcake Lovers are as addictive as their namesake baked goods. Readers truly connect with Ciotta and you’ll find some cupcake recipes that they’ve submitted at the conclusion of each novel. Speaking of which, I think I’ll be trying out Mary Stella’s Key Lime Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Frosting. Don’t those sound delicious?

So I urge you, if you want to read a book that is heartwarming and sensual, hilarious and moving, and really well written, pick up In the Mood for Love today. I’m awarding it five stars (or five cupcakes) and hoping that there will be more tales emanating from Sugar Creek soon.

Extreme Measures

Extreme Measures - Elisabeth Naughton Extreme Measures is a perfect beach read!

Romantic suspense is my “go-to” genre that I tend to seek out when I want to escape. I love the pulse-pounding, adrenaline-spiking stories that cause my Kindle to sometimes overheat as the pages fly by. That’s why I was so happy to see that one of my favorite multi-genre authors, Elisabeth Naughton (Stolen, Eternal Guardians, Against All Odds series), was releasing the first novel in a new romantic suspense series, Aegis Security. There have been been several teaser novellas published previously that introduced us to members of the Aegis Security team (see: Acapulco Heat in Bodyguards In Bed, First Exposure, and Sinful Surrender), so to say that I’ve been anticipating the publication of the first full length story, Extreme Measures, is an understatement.

Naughton is a master hand at mixing hot sex scenes with stories of suspense and Extreme Measures is a good representation of this. From the beginning pages when we’re introduced to Zane Archer, an Aegis operative, and Eve Wolfe, his former CIA lover, you know that these two will be steaming up the pages. But first they have to overcome some mutual distrust, the kidnapping of Eve’s sister, traitors within the CIA, and the anger of Aegis Security founder Jake Ryder at Zane's desertion.

I have to say I enjoyed the story, but to be honest it wasn’t my absolutely favorite book by Naughton. Of the four Aegis Security stories to date, the strongest heroine title certainly belongs to Eve. In fact, it’s the need to release the inner woman that seems to be key to this relationship progressing from Eve, the consummate CIA operative, to Eve, operative and woman. In contrast, alpha hero Zane is more in tune with his touch-feely side, though driven for quite a bit of the book by his desire to revenge himself on Eve for her perceived betrayal.

I’m definitely looking forward to future books in the series and am hoping some may focus on Eve’s sister, Olivia, Aegis operative Landon Miller, Jake Ryder, and Jake’s assistant Marley Addison. It definitely seems like they’ll have stories to be told.

Extreme Measures is a great summer read. Really a perfect virtual pulse-pounding getaway to enjoy while spending an afternoon at the pool or the beach. I’d advise you to pick up the previous stories in the series to read first as not only are they fun, but some of their characters are mentioned in this story (and I’m sure future ones as well).

So if you’re looking for a great beach read, pick up Extreme Measures, a four star thriller.

(I received an eARC of Extreme Measures for review from the publisher through NetGalley.)

Batter Up

Batter Up - Robyn Neeley A magical, enchanting, and HOT small town romance

How could I resist a book that combines a magical cake batter that a town swears is the basis for 100% successful matchmaking with a bakery owner who is part witch and stirs the batter to life. Mix in a slightly cynical and pretty-much burnt out newspaperman looking for a scoop, and stir together with a wonderful and crazy lakefront small town in Upstate New York, where they hold an annual summer fling benefit auction for women to bid on their hunks of choice (and guarantee themselves a steamy summer fling). Yes, this is a recipe for a truly magical and enchanting four and a half star romance that has enough heat to slightly scorch my eReader!

If you hadn't already guessed, I’m describing Robyn Neeley’s newest book, Batter Up, and you can pre-order it now to make sure that it’s added to your bookshelf in time for August beach reads (publication date: 1 August 2014).

A really fun, light read, Neeley’s imaginative story also contains characters that you’ll love (and some that you’ll love to hate). I found myself laughing-out-loud several times, but also found myself tearing up just a bit as Emma and Jason opened up to one another. Their respective back stories are compelling.

I do hope that there might be another “bachelors of Buttermilk Falls” story in the works for readers. Perhaps one about Emma’s cousin Abby and Jason’s best friend Brandon (yes, there’s a bit of bromance going on here). And I’d love to know more about Emma’s father. But if not, treasure this book for what it is. Perfect escape reading for the summer or any season you choose.

If you’re looking for a fun and moving summer read that’s not too sweet, pick up Batter Up by Robyn Neeley.

(I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley for use in this review.)

The Love Charm Series

The Love Charm Series - Carly Carson If you’re looking for a touch of magic with your romance, there is a fun set of four novellas by Carly Carson that you should check out: The Love Charm Series: Love Charms for Carlotta, Brenna, Ashley, Dakota.

This is a perfect read for a summer day at the beach, lazing on a lounge by a lake, or beating the heat with the AC.

Each story focuses on one of four BFFs - Carlotta, Brenna, Ashley, and Dakota - who find their true love through the use of a magical silver bean, a spray of perfume, and the light of the moon over a body of water. Once their wish is made, their fated love (aka a hunky alpha hero) soon arrives.

Each of the four novellas in this bundle is a pretty quick and fun read, featuring interesting characters and a bit of steamy romance too.

(I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley for use in this review.)

Taken

Taken - Lora Leigh Review: Taken is a must-have for all fans of Lora Leigh’s Tempting Navy SEALS & Elite Ops series

In my overview/review of Lora Leigh’s various and sometimes intertwined HOT romantic suspense series - Nauti Boys & Girls, Tempting SEALS, Elite Ops, The Callahans - I noted that I was really looking forward to the release this summer of Taken, a compilation of short stories that are integral to the understanding of several of her series. Well, I received a copy for review from her publisher, and, may I say, this collection has made this series reader very happy.

I don’t think I’m unique that I really like reading a series in order. Sure, I’ll pick up a book, read and fall in love with it, and then go back and read the prior books in the relevant series. But that’s not my first choice. No, I love reading series in order from the very beginning.

Leigh is a master of the short story/novella that is integral in propelling a series along. That’s why when I read her, I make sure that the various anthologies or single title novellas are in my collection. That means I’m double checking titles and reading order with FictionDB and Goodreads, not an onerous task, but imagine that with one book you wouldn't have to do that any longer for two of her series - Tempting Navy SEALS and Elite Ops. Yes, that’s right. If you’ve been missing a short story, or two, or three, it’s here. Yes, it’s in Taken and doesn’t that make your reader heart dance!

From “Reno’s Chance,” the story that sets the stage for Leigh’s Tempting Navy SEALS, to “Cooper’s Fall” and “Sheila’s Passion” that are the first titles of an affiliated series entitled, Wounded Warriors, this collection has it all. Yes, all the sexy, suspenseful stories that you were searching for are here - in this one book. The only fault I can find is that short story, “Hannah’s Luck,” (published in Men of Danger) is not included in this collection. I’m not sure why, as I don’t think I’m the only one who ever wondered what happened to the sheriff from Wild Card (Elite Ops 1).

So, if you’re a fan of Lora Leigh and don’t already have all the relevant short stories for her Elite Ops and Tempting Navy SEALS series, this is a must-have addition to your library!

Don't forget to mark your calendar for the August 24 release date of Ultimate Sins, the fourth book in Leigh's The Callahans series. Until then, you can pick up Sins in the Night: The Prologue and First Chapter to Ultimate Sins for $0.99 beginning 22 July.

Decadent: Big Sky Pie #4

Decadent: Big Sky Pie #4 - Adrianne Lee A decadent, delicious, and sexy must-read!

I’ve had a reader crush on hunky former cherry farmer now go-to Kalispell contractor, Wade Reynolds for a while. We saw Andrea and he date a bit in Delightful, but that wasn't enough of Wade. I was so happy to see that book four, Decadent, features his story.

Who will tweak this self-effacing and shy, yes, shy guy’s interest? Will it be the sultry and obvious mother of his daughter’s best friend who makes the crock pot into an item of courting? Or will it be Roxy, the former chef-owner of a hot Seattle restaurant, who lost that and much more in her divorce from her Seattle Seahawks hubby, who developed a taste for cheerleaders during their marriage?

Roxy arrives into her hometown of Kalispell during a Montana snow storm. She’s driving a spanking brand new Cadillac Escalade that she’s essentially holding hostage until she receives a check for her half of community property. It seems that cheerleaders weren’t the only things to interest her ex. He also was benched for steroid use and all his accounts frozen till the investigation is complete. Who does she encounter on an otherwise deserted road, but Wade as they slip, slide, and miraculously come within inches of crashing into each other. You have to read this book if only for this scene and the cat and the hat. That’s all I’m going to say. Really. Read. This. Book.

Wade and Roxy are two opposite personality types who have very different life experiences. With the death of his wife from cancer years earlier, introvert Wade essentially focused all his attention on his daughter and his business - and tried to avoid friend’s good-natured matchmaking. Now, he wants to find someone to call his own. Extrovert Roxy, on the other hand, is still bitter and burned from her divorce, the loss of her restaurant, and her inner confidence. What she’s looking for is a fabulous cowboy to hook-up with for fun and also to restore her self-belief in her own sexual attraction.

Once again, Adrianne Lee’s witty dialogue sparks laugh-out-loud moments. I’ll never go on a house tour again without thinking of what happened with Wade and Roxy and the realtor and teacher. Classic.

However, its the exploration of a relationship and its inner and outer dynamics that keeps me reading Lee’s stories. She is incredibly sensitive to adding the nuances that allow a reader to flesh out the characters in their own mind.

I do hope that there will be more Big Sky Pie stories in the future as I don’t want to lose track of these characters that have become true book friends. Plus I want an update on Wade and the Cat and the Hat!

Adrianne Lee’s Decadent proves that true love can be found when you least expect it.

Four-and-a-half stars

Delightful

Delightful - Adrianne Lee A fun, sexy, and tasty read that will delight you!

When I think comfort food for my sweet tooth, my inner touchstone turns to pie … the physicality of rolling the dough, the aroma of the pie baking that fills the house, and the first taste of a warm slice along with a little ice cream. Melt in your mouth delicious and true down home comfort.

Just as actual pie is my comfort food, Adrianne Lee’s Big Sky Pie series set in Kalispell, Montana, offers down home wisdom, bad boy (and girl) antics, humor, and some HOT love scenes. If you haven’t yet read these books, because initially they were only available electronically, you’re in luck. The first three of Lee’s Big Sky Pie books are now available in paperback! I’ve already taken a look at the first two books (Delectable and Delicious) and am giving books three and four a look here, because I want to experience that comfort read for the soul that Lee delivers so well.

If you’re familiar with the series, like me, you probably wish that there was a Big Sky Pie bakeshop on your Main Street too. But we can all read ourselves virtually to Kalispell and find out what’s been happening with friends and family of Big Sky Pie.

In book three, Delightful, pie shop manager Andrea, who has been the feisty spark to guarantee the success of Big Sky Pie, takes the central role. Now a divorcee/widow, she has less than fond memories of her ex-husband, a rodeo cowboy who tended to lasso a few too many fillies while still married to her.

Now a single mom who’s busy raising two boys under ten, Andrea’s come to realize that perhaps instead of lusting after every bad boy she encounters, she should be looking for a Mr. Right. Someone to be a father for her kids. Even if he doesn’t light her fire, she’s tired of letting her girl parts make all her decisions. It’s time to put her boys and their welfare first.

That’s what Andrea thinks until Ice walks in. Yes, reality television producer/director Ice Erickksen is the ultimate one-night-of-sin bad boy who puts her motor into drive, but she’s gotten tired of that trip.

Ice is tired of all the Hollywood shenanigans he’s been dealing with since he was a kid - and something about Andrea, Big Sky Pie, and Kalispell just seems a bit different to this jaded Hollywood insider.

The first part of the book focused on Ice’s team filming secretly in Big Sky Pie - or rather trying to be secretive about the project - was just hilarious. Several passages had me chuckling to myself then laughing out loud. For those of you who flip pages till you get to the sex, oops I mean, love scenes, don't worry. They're there too. The initial scenes between Ice and Andrea are hot. Really HOT. The two of them together are just combustible and the detail of her boots, priceless. (You have to read it, sorry. No spoilers here!)

But it was this description that made my mouth water. Yes, seduction by a slice of pie:

“Andrea spied Molly’s caramel apple pie, cut herself a slice, heated it in the microwave, and lifted a forkful to her mouth. The crust flaked against her tongue, and the sweet apple and spices dissolved like honey, the taste sensation as delightful a pleasure as great sex. As she continued eating, every bite had her mind tumbling, trying to make sense of her life. . .” (p. 69)

Now, don’t you want to run to your kitchen and find that pie on the counter, cut yourself a slice, and heat it up to have that same pleasure experience! (I keep flashing in my mind to the classic Meg Ryan scene in Sleepless in Seattle when I read it.) And for any of you who bake, Lee includes a recipe for this exact pie at the end of the book. FABulous!

That all said it is really the emotional quotient that keeps me reading these Big Sky Pie books. Lee knows how to just hunker in and pull at the reader’s heartstrings. Delightful is a fun, sexy, and tasty read that will delight you.

Four-and-a-half-stars

Picture This

Picture This - Jayne Denker Looking for a book filled with humor, romance, and small town fun - Picture This!

Jayne Denker’s second novel based in the small, quaint Catskills town of Marsden, Picture This, will be released next week (17 July 2014). If you haven’t already read Denker’s Down on Love, the novel that introduces Marsden and it’s inhabitants, then I’d suggest you might want to take a look at it now. But don’t feel you have to as Picture This is a really self-contained story. However, there is so much laugh-out-loud humor in Down on Love that I don’t think you’ll want to miss it.

Celia Marshall, the almost girlfriend of Carey in Down on Love, is now a celeb photographer’s assistant in the Big Apple. She’s living her dream, right? Well, perhaps, but it does seem like a better life and career for her than the graphic design job she held in Marsden. Certainly being imposed upon (really blackmailed into) posing with Hollywood comedic heartthrob Niall Crenshaw for a whiskey ad wouldn’t seem onerous duty, but Celia likes to stay in the background and the spotlight is definitely on front-and-center with Niall.

But love (or lust) knows no boundaries and there is apparently a very special zing between Niall and Celia. Even with his B-movie costar hanging on his side, Niall only has eyes for this Marsden girl. Niall will have a hard time to convince country girl Celia that he can be serious in light of the glam party atmosphere that surrounds him though. During his three-hour drive upstate into the Catskills with Celia with a game of truth, they begin to discover a bit more about each other.

When Niall says he’s staying in Marsden to help out with a project, I wasn’t sure how this story would evolve. Seriously, the residents of Marsden were so wacky in Down on Love that with their nosiness they drove the heroine back to Boston. But Denker never does as expected and this story allowed the residents of Marsden to evolve quite a bit. Certainly they’re still quite quirky, but seem ever so slightly less frenetic.

Reading Jayne Denker’s books is pure pleasure and Picture This is my new favorite. She really provides readers with characters that are not only compelling and interesting, but who struggle through many issues we all have to face (aging relatives, career choices, living life or existing).

At first I expected Niall to be all surface Hollywood overlaying just enough sincerity to make the book interesting. Instead, he became, for me, the center grounding point of the story. I love his initial impression of Marsden as he walks down the Main Street for the first time on a Sunday morning:

“…Niall had to admit to himself it was nearly impossible to dislike Marsden, despite the lack of a Starbucks on every corner. Celia wasn’t kidding when she described the place as quaint. It was so quaint it verged on twee. He’d never experienced twee before, but now he felt like he was up to his neck in it. He wandered down the old-fashioned Main Street expecting the cast of The Music Man to come high-stepping down the sidewalks….Plenty of trees, with wood-and-iron benches nearby, offered shade from the summer sun. Simply adorable storefronts, including an old-fashioned hardware store, antiques stores, gift shops, and restaurants, alongside art galleries and high-end boutiques completed the look.”

Marsden definitely seems a little enchanted as it begins to charm this Hollywood star. I laughed uproariously as he noted he couldn’t sleep because of the quiet (no car alarms, horns, sirens) and then because of the noise of the crickets. A true city visitor experiencing the country for the first time (yes, I have heard these complaints before)!

As Denker notes in an endnote, Marsden is a creation of her imagination, though aspects of it are drawn from several small towns in the Catskill region. For me that is an added bonus as I feel quite at home (being a Catskill Mountain girl myself).

Most of all, Picture This is a beautifully written love story between two disparate people, love for family members and friends, and for a community of people who care. Given it’s the hero is a Hollywood star, it’s not a surprise that at many points in the story I was imagining it on screen - casting and recasting various actors in the roles. In Picture This, Denker’s wonderful sense of humor echoes the best of Nora Ephron, so perhaps it wouldn’t be a giant leap to see this story transition to film.

Picture This is a book that I will recommend to all my friends and family, without reservation. Definitely a five-star read.

Kiss of Wrath

Kiss of Wrath - Sandra Hill Let’s go ‘a-Viking’ with Sandra Hill! Kiss of Wrath is a summer must-read!

I’m not sure why I hadn’t read Sandra Hill’s Viking series before, but the past week I caught up with her books (the Viking II and Cajun series) as well as her vampire angels in Deadly Angels. I’m glad I saved Deadly Angels for last as in the second and third books in this series (Kiss of Surrender & Kiss of Temptation), Hill takes readers back to her SEALS in Coranado from Viking II and Tante Lulu and the LeDeux's from Cajun's respectively.

I really enjoy reading these three series as Hill marries the stories with quite a bit of humor. I was laughing out loud more times than I could count, but along with the humor is a sensitivity and such caring that some characters just find their way into your heart. It can’t be easy to juggle so many characters and story lines from book to book, but Hill does so with ease.

While her Viking II series finds time traveling Vikings (of male and/or female persuasion) paired with Navy SEALS and/or WEALS (the feminine SEAL teams), her Cajun series follows the loves of the LeDeux’s, the fantabulous Tante Lulu, and some assorted friends. I have to admit that when I finished the Viking II series I was disappointed that some of the SEAL teams' stories (Cage’s, Sly’s, Geek, etc.) weren’t yet told - thankfully we catch up with them again in Kiss of Surrender and do hope that we’ll see them return soon!

If you, like me, haven’t yet entered Sandra Hill’s world, do. It’s the perfect fun summer read filled with uber-hunky Vikings; heroines that are independent, sassy, and pretty darn brilliant; and stories that are complex yet filled with humor and a great deal of warmth. I’ll confess that I found many of the books through my library’s Overdrive collection - and what titles weren’t there were purchased via Amazon.

Once you read the Viking II and the Cajun books, then check out her Deadly Angels. I love Hill’s story of how the seven Sigurdsson brothers have been chosen to battle demon vampires - and perhaps find redemption for each of their seven deadly sins - under the oversight of that angel of angel’s, Michael.

Beginning with Vikar in his castle Transylvania, Pennsylvania (Kiss of Pride: A Deadly Angels Book), followed by the Vangel Navy SEAL Trond (Kiss of Surrender: A Deadly Angels Book, on sale for $0.99 right now), lusty Ivak whose penance is serving as a prison minister - at Louisiana’s Angola (Kiss of Temptation: A Deadly Angels Book), and most recently morose Mordr’s journey to sinful Las Vegas to save a psychologist who “inherited” her cousin’s five children (Kiss of Wrath: A Deadly Angels Book) … each of these stories offers the reader a book full of laughter, love, suspense, and yes, some faith and hope.

I have to admit that Kiss of Wrath's Mordr is one of those heroes we all like to love. Brooding, angry, yet if one looks closely you can see the hurt that caused him to close off. Who wouldn’t want to redeem this Viking? He’s paired with Miranda Hart, who once was driven only by career goals and then found herself a mother five times over when her cousin died. To see how she opened up with the love of the five children is quite moving, but even more fun to see their effect on Mordr.

When Jasper and his army of demon angels move to target sinners in Vegas (yes, a few on every corner), danger increases from just the threat of the abusive husband/father of the children, Roger. Can Mordr save them? If so, can they find love together or will Michael and the rules against Vangels engaging and loving human’s prevail? Hill keeps you on the edge of your seat as the pages in the Kindle fly by to find out the answer.

So check out Sandra Hill this summer and make sure to have some nice cool lemonade or sweet tea by your side as these books can get a little steamy (umm, Viking heroes - and Viking “S” spots, you know they’re hot!). Keep an eye out for the next installments in this series, Christmas in Transylvania: A Deadly Angels Novella (Oct 28 2014) and Sigurd's story in Vampire in Paradise: A Deadly Angels Book (Nov 25 2014) that is previewed at the end of Kiss of Wrath.

Five stars for Kiss of Wrath: A Deadly Angels Book, the newest installment to Hill’s Deadly Angel’s series. Let’s all go a-Viking now!

Nauti Enchantress

Nauti Enchantress - Lora Leigh Leigh's mixture of erotic heat, humor, romance, and suspense make Nauti Enchantress a 4-1/2 star enchanting read

With the release of her newest book in her Nauti series, Nauti Enchantress, Leigh continues to delight and entice readers with the mixture of the hot innocence of Dawg’s half sisters - the Nauti Girls. Before I began this book though, I realized it had been a long, long time since I had read the previous books in the series, so I dug them out and had a Nauti reading party! Whew, that’s some hot reading and perfect for these summer days. I love the Mackay boys and, heck, Somerset County seems so just darn delightful that I’d like to get one of those houseboats on the lake too.

If you haven’t read the Nauti series - the five plus Nauti Boys series (now available in The Nauti Boys Collection / plus Nauti and Wild) and the three book Nauti Girls books (Nauti Temptress, Nautier and Wilder, Nauti Enchantress) - this summer would be the perfect time to do so. They’re the perfect mix of alpha bad boy heroes, the kick-ass heroines who can bring these Nauti boys to their knees, and suspenseful story lines that keep you guessing till the last page is turned. Leigh’s style that mixes erotic heat and humor equally with romance makes for a fabulous read - and provides the reader with characters that become more than words on a page, really a virtual extended family.

Nauti Enchantress focuses on Lyrica Mackay, the third of Dawg’s four half sisters. Lyrica’s been crushing on Graham, her best friend’s older brother, for years and years. But she finally gives up on this major player after a steamy and sadly enlightening encounter in the winter. But a few months later he’s the one who is rushing to her rescue and, hey, he is a hottie. What is a girl to do, especially when her extended family is away. Well, pick up Nauti Enchantress and find out what happens with one hot player and one saucy and beautiful Mackay sister are locked away together for days on end…

As I was enchanted by Nauti Enchantress, I’m awarding it four and a half stars (or lightning bugs in honor of my nighttime friends).