Goodreads Monday: Druid’s Moon by Deniz Bevan

Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press

Date of Publication: September 20th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

Beauty to his Beast…

Lyne Vanlith, an archaeologist who seeks a logical explanation to any mystery, discovers an ancient Druidic curse on her first dig. When the signs foretold by the curse descend on her, Lyne can’t find a reasonable interpretation.

And that’s even before a Beast rescues her from a monstrous sea-creature. She drops a grateful kiss on the snout of the Beast, who transforms into a man, Frederick Cunnick, Baron of Lansladron. Lyne is meant to be Beauty to his Beast—and break the curse forever.

Now both spell keeper and monster are targeting Lyne. She must take up her legendary role, to defeat the curse and save Frederick—and herself. Instead of logic, for the first time, Lyne must trust her heart


“The Curse of the Octopus,” Lyne read, translating the Middle English script.

druid’s moon by deniz bevan

I didn’t pay attention when I read the blurb for Druid’s Moon. I skimmed it and accepted the book because it was a fantasy romance. But then I started reading and realized that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When that lightbulb flashed over my head, I did get excited. I have read many fairytale retellings, but I haven’t read one about Beauty and the Beast. So, I settled back and let myself be taken away by a tale as old as time.

Druid’s Moon, as I mentioned above, is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Lyne is an archaeologist who is excavating a cave on the shores of England. On her first day, she finds and sets loose a Druidic curse. She also discovers a giant Beast who lurks in the coast and wooded areas, preying upon sheep and campers for his Mistress. But it is who the Beast is that shocks her. Determined to break the curse, Lyne must battle an unseen horror that lurks beneath the ocean as well as a Druidess, who is determined to keep the Beast as is. Will Lyne win? Will the curse be broken for good? Or will Lyne fail?

Druid’s Moon is a medium-paced book with a flowing plotline. There were some areas where the book did lag a little, but it didn’t affect my reading.

I thought that Lyne was an interesting character to read. Her character growth throughout the book was excellent. She went from a sheltered woman who relied on logic to explain things to a woman who wasn’t as sheltered and understood that there was mystery, magic, and reasoning. I loved watching her gradual acceptance that she was Beauty. But once she accepted who and what she was, she was all in.

I didn’t connect as much to Frederick as I did to Lyne. He came across as too nice (if that is such a thing) when he was in human form. He also came across as resigned to going back to being the Beast. He didn’t even try to fight when the Druidess recaptured him. But he did show Lyne where the counterspell was, so, in his way, he did fight back.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I haven’t read a retelling about that particular fairy tale, so I was pretty excited about it. I will say that it was an exciting and imaginative retelling. I would have never expected a werewolf/Druid spin on fairytales. It did make it more interesting to read.

The fantasy angle of the book was well written. I wish that the author had gotten more in-depth about who Octopus/The Mistress was. The brief glimpses that the author gave weren’t enough for me!! The same goes for the Druidess and her spell. The author presented the background, but nothing gave me anything. I wanted meat. I wanted a reason more than what was provided. Instead, I had to settle for something that made me wish for more.

The romance angle also left me wanting more. It started as a semi-triangle that morphed into Instalove. I am not a fan of Instalove (even with this particular fairytale), and I felt that the romance did seem forced at times.

The end of Druid’s Moon was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped everything up. I was pleased with what happened. But I felt that some plotlines were left hanging. I was also not a fan of the epilogue.

I would recommend Druid’s Moon to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and mild sexual situations.

Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the aftermath of her husband’s life-altering mistake, Tiana Williams grapples with lingering resentment while working full-time and raising their toddler. But when Jay becomes a person of interest in the kidnapping of ten-year-old Zoe Miller, Tiana is torn between trusting her husband and believing the growing pile of evidence. After she gets dragged further into the mystery and discovers her connection to the missing girl, the shaky ground beneath her crumbles.

With the odds stacked against him, Jay does everything in his power to prove his innocence. Racing against the clock, he must uncover the truth about Zoe’s kidnapping before he loses everything he loves—including his freedom.

During a sweltering heat wave and a raging California wildfire, Tiana and Jay will stop at nothing to find Zoe, even if it means tearing apart their marriage and risking their own lives in the process.


First Line:

A familiar ache gripped Tiana’s chest.

Last Place Seen by Alessandra Harris

When I read Last Place Seen’s blurb, I knew I needed to read it. A mystery/thriller/suspense set in California during a heat wave and with a wildfire going on? Sign me up to read it. I am glad I did because I couldn’t put this book down.

The Last Place Seen had a fascinating plotline. It starts with a 10-year-old girl getting kidnapped at a local Walmart. The missing child investigation focuses on Jay, who happened to be there at the same time the girl went missing. Jay, desperate to prove his innocence, scrambles to find evidence to show he didn’t kidnap her. The book then zooms in on the life of Tiana and Jay, a married couple going through hard times.

On the other hand, Tiana has her world blown when long-held secrets are exposed, and her marriage to Jay crumbles. Will the girl be found? Will Jay be able to hold onto his family and his freedom? And will Tiana make the right choice?

The Last Place Seen had a fast plotline that alternated between Jay and Tiana. The author didn’t slow down for a second during the book. I loved it!!

There were several twists in the plotline that I did see coming. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading or lessen any anxiety I felt while reading.

I liked Jay a lot. He was a convicted felon struggling to find work, which made him feel awful. He did help out around the house and watched Marcus (Tiana and his son) while Tiana worked. He had his issues (some major ones that were detailed in the book). I got mad on his behalf quite often while reading. The author touched a nerve with me when Jay was taken in for questioning. I got angry and then felt sadness because you know that this same scenario plays out in police departments around the United States. I was rooting for Jay the entire book, and I felt he got his comeuppance at the end.

I liked Tiana, but she annoyed me. I get that she was still low-key upset with Jay over his incarceration. But I wouldn’t say I liked seeing her being petty about it. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that she immediately ran to Devon once things started to blow up (Jay being brought in for questioning, the two huge bombshells dropped on her). Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate that she didn’t believe Jay when he said he was innocent. All because of what Devon was saying (which, by the way, I saw right through). There were other instances where she annoyed me too. Like at the rally, when she saw her father and was loud about what she found out (not the time or the place). But, towards the end, I felt she got served a piece of humble pie. She got to feel what Jay went through when he was arrested, and she was forced to interact with her dad/her dad’s mistress.

The suspense angle of Last Place Seen kept me reading. I was wondering when everything would come together. I also wondered if/when Zoe (the missing girl) would be found. The author did a fantastic job with that.

As I mentioned above, I did figure out most of the mystery angles reasonably early in the book. A couple of them were just good guesses on my end, and I was surprised when I was right. Still, figuring them out early didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading the book.

The thriller angle of the book was great. Like the suspense angle, it kept me glued to the book.

The end of Last Place Seen was one of the best I have ever read. Not only did the author keep me guessing if Jay would ever find the evidence to exonerate himself, but I wondered if Tiana would figure out what was going on. She eventually did but not before being served a piece of humble pie (as I stated above). The last chapter was very bittersweet but showed Tiana’s growth as a character.

I would recommend Last Place Seen to anyone over 21. There is violence and language but no sexual situations.

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts by Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Sylvia Nay, Katie Klein, Michael di Gesu, Templeton Moss, S.E. White, Denise Covey, and Sammi Spizziri

Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Anthology

Purchase Links: Amazon | Alibris | Indigo | Kobo | Apple Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

The sweetness of first love…

Could a fiercely independent cop’s heart be stolen by the guy who makes her favorite doughnuts? Will a maid who used deceit to snare a mail-order husband get a dose of her own medicine? Can her handsome neighbor rescue a modern-day “princess” from a tenacious ex-boyfriend? Can two strangers in a rideshare be honest enough to fall in love for real? Can you remember your first love? How about your second? Third? Fourth?

Featuring the talents of Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Michael Di Gesu, Sylvia Ney, Katie Klein, Kim Elliott, Templeton Moss, S.E. White, Denise Covey, and Sammi Spizziri. Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will touch your heart and rekindle lost feelings. Prepare to return to that first love…


First Line:

“You ever been in love, McAllister?”

The Art of Making Doughnuts by Linda Budzinski/First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts Anthology

I normally do not review anthologies. Because they are made up of short stories, I find them hard to review. But, there are exceptions, and First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts falls under that category.

The tricky thing about writing reviews of anthologies is that I need to be able to keep track of what short story I am reviewing. Sometimes the stories blur together for me, and I can’t tell them apart. But, in First Love (I am shortening the title for this review), the stories were different enough to keep my attention. They also did not blur together (because they were different). This alone made this anthology very pleasurable to read.

All of these authors are new to me authors. Based on what I have read in this book, I am looking forward to reading more works by them!!

Now, onto the review of the stories. I am going to do the reviews a little differently than usual. I hope you like them. Before I get into the reviews, I want to add that all of these stories are clean. There is no sex in any of them. There is kissing, but that’s the extent of it.


The Art of Making Doughnuts:

What I liked:

  1. I enjoyed the back and forth between Gina (aka Mac) and Pete (aka Gus). The sparks were immediate, even if Mac didn’t want them.
  2. I loved that Mac played hard to get. She made Pete work for that first date.
  3. I loved how nerdy both Mac and Pete were. Mac was a history/jigsaw nerd, and Pete was a history nerd. It was awesome to read.

What I didn’t like:

  1. Pete hiding who he was. Not a great way to start a relationship.
  2. Mac after she found out who Pete was. He did try to apologize, and she was like, “NFW
  3. How Pete explained why he hid his identity. I was like,Nope; you need to apologize, boyfriend” (which he did)

My Heart Approves

What I Liked:

  1. I liked that Addy took the time to get to know the servants and understood how hard it was for them to get ready for a party at the last notice.
  2. How friendly everyone was to Addy. They made her feel at home.
  3. John’s declaration of love (and his observations) at the end of the book.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. Addy pretending to be someone she wasn’t. I got why she did it, but I wondered how long it would last (and the answer to that…not very long).
  2. Addy resorting to becoming a mail-order bride. I know it was a thing in the 1860s, but I can’t imagine marrying a man unseen.
  3. Instalove. I know it was common for the era, but I don’t like Instalove. It just doesn’t ring true to me.

How to Save a Princess

What I Liked:

  1. I liked that Laurette was thirsting over her next-door neighbor, Harrison. The scenarios she ran through in her head at the beginning of the book were pretty funny.
  2. How she dealt with her ex, Josh. She was firm, and she didn’t cave (even though he was embarrassing her)
  3. How Harrison saved her. He was amazing, and I loved that he was quick thinking (the whole improv conversation had me in stitches).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Josh. He was one of the most annoying short story characters that I have read in a while.
  2. How Laurette initially dealt with Josh at the beginning of the story (including the story of their break-up)
  3. How Laurette didn’t take Harrison’s cues and almost ruined his rescue of her. I was internally beating my head off a wall and saying, “Laurette, you idiot, LISTEN to him.

My First Loves

What I Liked:

  1. The memories that Audrey and her boyfriend were remembering. They were so similar yet so different.
  2. It made me laugh and think about my relationship.
  3. Audrey having to sit through her boyfriend’s very poor memories of different girls at various points in his dating history.

What I Disliked:

  1. Audrey had to sit through her boyfriend’s memories and then correct him. I know I would have been a little peeved if that was me (considering all the other girls were her)
  2. Audrey having to tell her boyfriend nicely to be quiet at various points in the story. That irritated me.
  3. That was told in 2nd person. I just don’t like that writing style.

The Real Thing

What I Liked:

  1. Lola’s optimism about meeting Maxon for the first time.
  2. Jessalyn. She was the MVP of this story.
  3. Nando and his instant connection with Lola.

What I Disliked:

  1. Lola thinking that she had to hide who she was from Maxon.
  2. The Uber driver. The dude almost killed Nando and Lola during the ride to O’Hare Airport.
  3. Maxon. Uggh, he was so self-centered; it wasn’t even funny. I’m glad that Lola realized that.

Paper Faces

What I Liked:

  1. I haven’t read anything about the early 1900s (before the Wall Street Crash). So it was interesting to read what people were like back then.
  2. Helen’s loyalty to her family and friends….even when pressured to give up secrets.
  3. Helen working in what people at that time considered a man’s job (journalist).

What I Disliked:

  1. George pressuring Helen to find dirt on James and then throwing a fit when she refused to turn it over.
  2. James’s initial treatment of Helen at the beginning of the story. He was kind of a d-bag.
  3. How Helen’s cousin reacted when she heard what Helen found out. Back then, that was a big deal, but still. Grrr.

Oliver’s Girl

What I Liked

  1. Oliver’s relationship with his great-granddaughter. It was sweet to read.
  2. Oliver’s story about his first love with Francesca. It was adorable.
  3. The end. Oh my heart, I loved it

What I Disliked:

  1. Nothing. This story was one of the sweetest ones in the book.

Clyde and Coalesce

  1. Lizzie and Jane’s friendship. They were truly best friends, and I loved how they were always there for each other.
  2. The chemistry between Lizzie and Fitz. It was hot, hot, HOT!!
  3. The song at the end. I loved it!!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The band manager. He was a sourpuss who fed Charlie lies about Jane.
  2. How Charlie blew Jane off.
  3. Fitz and Lizzie’s confrontation. It needed to be done, but still, I didn’t like it.

Marmalade Sunset

What I Liked:

  1. Cora. She made the entire story.
  2. That it took place on the Greek Islands.
  3. The HEA.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The immediate backstory (Cora and Damon losing almost everyone they loved to COVID)
  2. Damon for the first half of the book. I get why he acted the way he did but still.
  3. What the author made me feel at the restaurant. I was ready to think one thing, and bam, a twist.

The Castle of Ohno

What I Liked:

  1. That Hippolyta took a chance. It is explained fairly early in the story but tied to the ending, so I can’t explain.
  2. Konrad. The author didn’t hide why he acted the way he did. Instead, it was explained (and it will be part of what I didn’t like). He was very damaged, and Hippolyta knew that.
  3. The ending.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Hippolyta’s backstory. I didn’t understand why she said she needed to escape. But the author did explain why at one point during the book.
  2. Konrad’s backstory. I was in tears reading it. A child with a deformity (he has a lobster hand…can’t remember what it is called) and who was sent to live alone. He lived with servants until he was 14/15 (might be younger), and then they took off. No wonder he acted the way he did!!
  3. The people of the village. They treated both Hippolyta and Konrad poorly. I didn’t like it.

I would recommend First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, mild language, and no sex.

The Diseased (Paige Hanson: Book 1) by S. M. Thomas

Publisher: A.R. Hurne Publishing

Date of publication: September 2nd, 2022

Genre: Dystopia, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Series: Paige Hanson

The Diseased—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Where is your husband?

Since waking up from the accident Dr Paige Hanson has been asked that question over and over. By the hospital staff, by her mother in law and by Government officials.

As she struggles to grasp the wisps of memory returning to her Paige learns that there’s more at stake than Leo’s whereabouts.

Turning towards the teachings of the one person she swore never to become she begins to realise that some questions are best left unanswered.


First Line:

“We were drowning. That’s the last thing I remember.”

The Diseased by S.M. Thomas

I like books that keep me guessing what will happen as I read. I also like books that do not fit into what you think a specific genre would be like (if that makes sense). But, most of all, I like books that suck me in, don’t let me go, and make me want more after the ending. Those reasons are precisely what The Diseased did to me as I read it.

The Diseased is the first book in the Paige Hanson series. And what a first book it was!! Seeing that it is the first book, I won’t tell you if you need to read the series first or if it is a standalone.

The Diseased is the story of Dr. Paige Hanson and the mystery of what happened to her husband the night their car drove into a lake. Paige has very fuzzy recollections of what happened and almost none of what led to the accident. Paige, a brilliant scientist, is released from the hospital only to be kept under surveillance at all times. What happened that night? What are Paige’s secrets? Paige realizes she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, but her secrets could kill her.

Paige was a highly complex character which, in my eyes, meant she was complicated to get to know and like. There were several different sides of Paige that were gradually introduced. They were: Paige the scientist; Paige the mother; Paige the wife; Paige the daughter-in-law; Paige the friend; and Paige the daughter/child. The author did a fantastic job of building up each side of Paige and then merging them towards the end of the book. At first, I wasn’t her biggest fan, but the author was able to change my mind about her during the book.

What surprised me the most about this book is that it doesn’t take place on Earth. Nope, the entire story takes place on a planet called Earth 2. There was a disaster on Earth 1, and a lottery was set up to select people to travel to Earth 2. Paige’s mother was one of those who had won the lottery. Nothing else was mentioned about the original Earth, except that it was burning. I figured everyone else died. The new planet was very similar to Earth 1, except there were already intelligent, human-like creatures who occupied it. Those creatures kindly allowed the settlers to build settlements. But, humans doing what they do best and started abusing the original lifeforms, which struck back. When the book begins (about 50 or so years after touching down), there is an uneasy peace. This information was told by Paige, remembering what her mother-in-law and mother had told her about her journey from Earth 1.

I wasn’t surprised by how the ruling government was. The original leaders of Earth 2 decided they didn’t want what happened on Earth 1 to happen again. They decided to remove the settlers’ customs and fundamental rights to make a more cohesive and obedient population. I was terrified and fascinated as I read this book.

I wish the author had gone more into Earth 2’s original occupants. All I knew was that they were human-like, could procreate with humans, and were pissed about what the settlers were doing. There was mention of an influential family with which Paige’s mother was involved, but that was it. Hopefully, in the next book, the author will explain more.

The mystery angle of The Diseased was well written. The author had a stranglehold on where Leo was and why they ended up in the lake. Her remembering those events was terrific and shed so much light on everything!!

The suspense and thriller angles of the book were just as well written. The author kept me in suspense about various plotlines (main and sub) that were going on throughout the book.

The storyline with Regina, Paige, and Franklin was very intense. As a mother, I could see both sides of the coin. I could see why Regina was pushing Paige to remember, and I could also see why Paige was protective of Franklin. Of course, a massive twist in that storyline took me by surprise. It made me rethink Regina (I was not too fond of her actions over most of the book).

The storyline with Paige, Leo, and the mystery of what happened that night was one of the most amazing ones I have read. The author kept me guessing about what happened to Leo and why Paige was driving. She let little details trickle down, gave slight hints, and got everything under wraps. So, when the author revealed everything, I was surprised.

The storyline with the pandemic and Paige hit a little too close to home for me. I did like seeing Paige’s process to develop a vaccine, but at the same time, I kept flashing back to quarantine.

The storyline with Paige and her mother was raw and difficult to read. It was tough to read because of Paige’s emotions. I could see how torn she was between wanting to have a relationship with her mother and, at the same time, she wanted to denounce her. I liked seeing her eventual realization that maybe her mother was on to something and waiting for her mother to do something at the trial.

The end of The Diseased was interesting. I was a little miffed that it ended on a cliffhanger, but it did its job!! I say that because of where Paige ended up and what she did after talking to her friends. I need to read book two and see where Paige goes next.

I would recommend The Diseased to anyone over 21. There are no overtly sexual scenes. But there is violence and language. There are scenes where a baby drowns, a man gets hanged, and another man is forced to denounce his sexuality.

Crosshairs by Felicity Ribero

Publisher: Brushfinch Publishing

Date of publication: August 15th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

They were from two different worlds.

Like two trains never crossing paths, they would have gone on without any shred of their lives coinciding. Until a late-night encounter brings them crashing into each other’s lives.

Cole, a small-time New York gun trafficker who has been unlucky for the better part of his life knows better than to dream of a better life. Jaded, exhausted and down on his luck, he struggles to deal with the reality of his choices.

Amidst dodging the keen attention of the authorities, and evading the sly notice of his crafty companions, he certainly has no patience to indulge a spoilt busy-body reporter with peas for brain and a hankering for danger. He thinks she’s crazy and wants nothing to do with her even if her smile takes his breath away and her presence soothes his wounds.

Samantha, on the other hand, is not letting go. She is a shark who has smelt blood and is honing in for the kill or the caresses.

But one thing is certain; Cole is a puzzle she is determined to unravel.
As the web of dark schemes and mysterious ploys thicken around them, passion flares to life, and so do other threats. These two are utterly defenseless against the attacks or the kisses.

Will they survive the imminent explosion that draws ever nearer or will these two finally get a chance to go after their fairytale romance?


First Line:

Oh no. Not today! I glance at my gold watch for the umpteenth time. 9:41 a.m.

Crosshairs by Felicity Ribero

When I read the blurb for Crosshairs, the blurb caught my interest. I was interested in how a romance between a small-time reporter and an arms dealer would turn out. I wasn’t disappointed. This book took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Crosshairs had an exciting plotline. Samantha is a reporter trying to get her big break. But her boss (and the other reporters) are holding her back and forcing her to do fashion articles. So, when she notices a black van being loaded by two shady individuals late at night, she starts investigating. Cole is an arms dealer who is tired of everything and wants a better life. But he knows that a person like him could never have a better life, so he keeps doing the one thing he knows, trafficking guns. A dirty ATF agent approaches Cole and pushes him between a rock and a hard place. Cole and Samantha’s paths cross when Samantha tracks Cole to his apartment and then to a bar. She convinces Cole to let her do an expose and expose the ATF agent. But what she (or Cole) was expecting was their instant attraction. Soon, it becomes a race against time when they discover the ATF agent’s true agenda. Can they stop him? Or will they become pawns in a much bigger game?

I am going to put up a trigger warning. I usually don’t do these, but I think there are some aspects of this book that warrants it. The triggers are parental death, drugs, prostitution, and child abuse (physical and emotional). So, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Crosshairs had dual POVs. The chapters would flip between Samantha and Cole. The author did a great job of keeping the flow of the book constant throughout the POV changes. Another huge thing was that I didn’t get lost at any point in the book, even when the insane stuff started. Sometimes, I have difficulty following dual POVs, and I can get lost. So this was a huge thing for me.

I liked Samatha. She was stubborn as heck, and she was determined to get a story that would get her on the front page. She followed her instincts when she saw the black van and Cole loading boxes into it. She investigated and followed the clues to Cole’s apartment and then the bar. I loved how she automatically believed Cole and used her skills to dig up dirt on that agent. She was just amazing throughout the book.

I loved Cole. His backstory was sadder than Samantha’s, and the author didn’t hold anything back. His mother ran a brothel out of their house, and his father was a small-time crime lord. After his mother’s overdose, his father and his father’s clients abused him. Fast forward to the present day, he was dealing with the aftershocks of his childhood and his own decisions. From the minute he met Samantha, he was all about protecting her. But, at the same time, he realized that he couldn’t hold her back, and he let her do her investigating.

There is Instalove in Crosshairs. I am not a fan of Instalove, and when I encounter it in a book, I eye-rolled…hard. Usually, Instalove takes away from the book for me. But, in this book, there was so much going on that it didn’t. Did it annoy me? Yes, but it didn’t take away from the plotlines.

Cole and Samantha’s chemistry (sexual and otherwise) was off the charts. They had a spark from the first time they saw each other, and the author kept building it up until it exploded. That explosion led to one of the hottest sex scenes I have read to date!!

The main storyline in Crosshairs was the dirty ATF agent and how he targeted Cole and Samantha’s investigation. That agent gave me chills when reading his scenes. I didn’t understand why he had targeted Cole until the book’s end. That was when he let drop a couple of bombs that took my breath away.

Samantha’s reporting (and her use of spyware) was truly amazing. The dirt she was able to dig up on that agent was amazing. I liked that she did have a friend who was an ace hacker. That friend was able to fill in the blanks that Samantha’s investigating couldn’t uncover. It did put a huge target on her back, but that was something she was willing to do to help Cole.

I loved the ending of Crosshairs. The author threw in a couple of twists that hurt my heart because of what was implicated. After those twists, the author did wrap up Cole and Samantha’s storyline in a way that I loved. I loved that everyone nasty in the book got what was coming for them. But more importantly, I loved that Cole and Samantha got their HEA.

I would recommend Crosshairs to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex scenes, violence, and language. There are also scenes of remembering child abuse and a remembered drug overdose.

Once and Always (Blackhawk Security: Book 6) by Margaret Watson

Publisher: Dragonfly Press

Date of publication: August 2nd, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Series: Blackhawk Security

With One Breath—Book 1 (review here)

Once Removed—Book 2 (review here)

Once Burned—Book 3 (review here)

Fool Me Once—Book 4 (review here)

Just This Once—Book 5 (review here)

Once and Always—Book 6

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Zoe was still in high school when she saw her father shot dead by a classmate obsessed with her, and then still a kid, witnessed the killer’s sentencing. A horrible tragedy, but now, thirteen years later, she’s thoroughly rebooted her life.

She’s the CEO of her own cyber security company, a celebrity in her field, and a speaker in high demand.

She’s just the kind of strong, self-reliant woman who can take care of herself in any situation.

Except the one she’s in.

She’s got a stalker.

And she already knows he’s a killer.

Given her background, Zoe knows instantly that she needs protection and she knows how to get it—her sister Mel’s the owner of Blackhawk Security.

But trust Mel to send Spence Flynn, the one agent Zoe can’t be alone with, but not because they don’t get along. It’s because attraction sizzles between the two of them like runaway electricity. And because they both know the last thing a body guard should do is get into a relationship with his principal.

It’s unethical and dangerous.

But how are they supposed to fight this thing? Spoiler: Good intentions suffer a knockout in the first round. And then, to the delight of the reader, the earth moves in the most delicious way.

Meanwhile, Zoe’s stalker is still sending her charms from a bracelet he stole from her thirteen years ago, the scariest being a heart he’s had engraved with both their names. Unnerving enough– and then he starts dropping off lunch for her, tailing her in a white Subaru, and trying to break into her condo.

Spence has his hands full in more than one way. And Zoe has a public appearance coming up. The perfect time for a stalker to strike.


First Line:

His heart racing, Ethan Davies slowed his steps as he neared Zoe’s locker.

Once and Always by Margaret Watson

If you have been following my blog long enough, I have a few authors I review regularly. Margaret Watson is one of them. I am a big fan of her books, and I always accept the invitation to review them when it comes to my email. When the invite for Once and Always appeared in my inbox, it was a no-brainer that I would accept.

Once and Always had an exciting plotline. At 18, Zoe witnessed her father killed by an obsessed classmate, and then she had to go through a trial. Thirteen years later, she has moved on with her life until she starts receiving packages. Those packages contain charms from a bracelet she lost around the time her father was killed, and only one person could have it—Ethan, her former stalker who killed her father. Contacting her sister, who owns Blackhawk Security, she is assigned a bodyguard until Ethan is caught. But when she sees who it is, she is slightly concerned. Zoe has been thirsting after Spence since he helped Nico the year before. The feelings are mutual, but Spence is there for a job: to protect Zoe from Ethan until he is caught. Will that happen? And will Zoe and Spence give in to their mutual attraction?

Once and Always is book 6 in the Blackhawk Security series. Once and Always can be read as a stand-alone book. But I suggest reading the first five books before picking this one up. That way, you know who the secondary characters are that are mentioned in Once and Always.

I will put a trigger warning on this review. The author did take great care to show sympathy and understanding for Ethan and made several references to mental illness reform (mainly about the facility he was held at for five years) and knowledge. There are mentions of attempted kidnapping. There are also talks about Ethan’s mental illness, and the author does show how he spiraled back into his delusions after his mother died. But, if these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.


I did not expect to find sympathy for Ethan. The villains in most books are pure evil. But Ethan, well, he was different. The things he did to Zoe were terrible; there is no question about that, but knowing that he suffered a relapse after his mother’s death did soften my stance on him. The scenes in the cabin only cemented my opinion of him. I also liked that Zoe and Spence understood that after the fact. Their actions at the end of the book (which was discussed after the cabin) were proof of that.

I liked Zoe. She was a strong, opinionated, outspoken woman who knew her worth. Being a tech company CEO in an industry with few women shaped her. What also shaped her was what happened to her as a teenager. How could it not? I loved reading her scenes because she was always on point. She wasn’t afraid to share her feelings, even if she knew that the other person didn’t return them (the scene with Ron comes to mind, and a scene with Spence towards the end of the book).

I liked Spence, but I wanted to smack him at various times during the book. He was great at his job and would do anything to keep Zoe safe. But he wasn’t too good with personal skills or sharing his feelings. I did agree with him that they (him and Zoe) needed space, but I didn’t agree with how he phrased it. Also, I didn’t particularly appreciate how he treated Zoe after the scenes at the cabin. I talked out loud to the book and said, “Dude, you seriously didn’t say that to her!!” Spence had a lot of baggage he needed to lose, and I was afraid he would miss that ship with Zoe.

The secondary characters did make the book. These secondary characters flushed the book out and made the plotline more interesting to read.

I enjoyed the romance angle of Once and Always. There was a bit of Insta Love, but it was easy to overlook. It was an easy romance to read, and I liked knowing (well, for the most part) how Zoe and Spence would end up.

The sexual tension between Zoe and Spence was immediate from the beginning. It didn’t take long for them to end up in bed. The author raised the pressure by just having them look at each other. I loved it. I was a little meh about Zoe being a screamer during sex. She made Spence’s ears ring the first time she climaxed and every time after that. All I could think was, “What was her downstairs neighbors thinking” and “I hope the apartment is soundproof”….lol.

The mystery angle of Once and Always was also well written. It wasn’t too much of a mystery about who was sending the charms and why. The mystery, to me, was if Ethan would grab Zoe and when. The author gave several false leads, and I was kept on edge, wondering if it would happen.

The suspense angle was intertwined with the mystery angle. The author did a great job of keeping guessing at when (and if) Ethan was going to capture Zoe. I also was kept on edge by Spence and his decisions.

The end of Once and Always did bring tears to my eyes. While I was sad about how it ended, I loved how Zoe and Spence brought awareness to mental illness. I loved how the author wrapped up Zoe and Spence’s storyline. I am not sure who will be featured in book 7 (if there is a book 7), but if I had to guess, it would be Mel and her business partner. Either way, I am looking forward to it.

I would recommend Once and Always to anyone over 21. There are graphic sex, language, and violence. There are also the trigger warnings that I posted above.

This Time Next Summer by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

Publisher: Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

In his semi-autobiographical novel, This Time Next Summer, Mikheyev weaves a tender tale about love and loss, one that is distinctly personal and yet universally human.

She was beautifully broken. And his everything.

Hurt and scarred by every man in her life, Jasmine had vowed to never love again. Then she meets Avgust, and her broken heart resumes beating.

A romantic idealist who measures love by his poetry output, Avgust had given up on finding that elusive once-in-a-lifetime kind of love he’d always dreamed of. But the moment he spies Jasmine in a coffee shop, he knows unequivocally that she is his Her—the woman who will change his life.

It was the perfect love story.

Until the secrets and betrayals of the past threaten to break them apart.

Will their love be strong enough to save Jasmine from her past, and Avgust from his future?


First Line

A few hours later, when the two of them were back in the car, he held her hand and pressed it to his lips.

This Time Next Summer by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

When I started reading This Time Next Summer, I thought it would be a cut-and-dry romance. You know the plotline:

  • Boy meets girl.
  • Falls in love, the girl breaks up with the boy.
  • They get back together and have their HEA.

Also, sprinkle in lots of sex, and boom, perfect romance novel. This book is not a cut-and-dry romance, and there is no HEA. Instead, this book focuses on two damaged people (one mentally and one physically), and their on/off-again romance. I was a little bleh about this book and will explain why later on in the review.

This Time Next Summer did have an interesting plotline. Avgust is a nurse and a want to be poet who has recently relocated to Seattle from Georgia. Jasmin is a Texas transplant who is in Seattle working on her degree. They meet when Avgust happens to go into a coffee shop that Jasmin is in, and the story takes off from there. But both Avgust and Jasmin are damaged. Avgust has a disease that has taken a toll on his heart. Jasmin is mentally impaired from her past (father and fiance left her). Can Avgust help heal Jasmin? Will Jasmin allow herself to be healed? And will Avgust heed his doctor’s advice about his heart?

I liked Avgust, but I found him too angsty in certain parts of the book. He was utterly obsessed with Jasmin and sometimes came across as stalkerish. He also rushed the relationship in my eyes, and his blind love of Jasmin was a little off-putting. I also didn’t understand why he didn’t tell Jasmin about his health issues upfront.

I wouldn’t say I liked Jasmin. She played games with Avgust’s head. “I want to be with you, but I don’t” got old. I did like that she was upfront with Avgust about how damaged she was, but at the same time, I eye-rolled at her inner monologue. Even her roommate thought she was ridiculous with the back and forth with Avgust.

The romance angle of the book didn’t do it for me. Like I mentioned above, I did think that Avgust came across as stalkerish in certain scenes. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked that Avgust immediately saw Jasmin and loved her. I usually don’t mind love at first sight tropes, but this one pushed my buttons. Mainly because of how Jasmin acted with Avgust during their on-again/off-again relationship.

There are sex scenes in this book, but only one is explicit. The explicit scene was when Avgust fingered Jasmin in the car and kept talking about how wet she was. Again, I was bleh about it.

The end of This Time Next Summer was heartbreaking. There is a twist in the plot that I didn’t see coming. It broke my heart and also made me livid with Jasmin. The scenes at the end of the book, at the fair, were sad, but my sadness was a little tempered. I can’t explain why (spoilers), but I did like how it came full circle. It was just the person it came full circle with that I wasn’t happy about.

I would recommend This Time Next Summer to anyone over 21. There are sexual situations, language, and mild violence.

The Killings Begin (Spectrum Series: Book 1) by Bradley Pay

Publisher: Bradley Pay

Date of Publication: June 25th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Romance, General Fiction

Series: Spectrum Series

The Killings Begin—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | IndieBound | Better World Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

Immerse yourself in complex romance and suspenseful serial-killer psychology that bend and break all expectations. Weaving together two innovative plots and completely unforgettable characters, The Killings Begin stands out as one of the last century’s most creative takes on storytelling. Don’t miss this thrilling debut to the Spectrum Series!

Gia Delgado flips her life upside down when she escapes from her arranged marriage and moves to Madrid. Finally, she can live the life she wants… if only it were that easy. When she realizes the lifestyle she craves is just out of reach, she enters into a contract with three complicated men. In exchange for an apartment and stipend, she’ll pretend to be their “no strings” wife, whether they want to display her in public or lead her to the bedroom. There are vital rules, though: They are all bound to secrecy, and no one is allowed to fall in love.

If you think you know what comes next, excuse me… you’re wrong.

Gia doesn’t know it yet, but someone sinister is destined to tear her life to shreds. From the outside, Tracey Lauch looks like the adopted son of a perfect high-society family. Who wouldn’t trust him? He works in the justice system, sits on his family’s art museum board, and even establishes a foster home to keep siblings together. These appearances mean nothing. As he tries to cope with his abandonment trauma, a reconnection to his past triggers him, and he loses control with deadly consequences. Now a serial killer, Tracey panics. Fleeing to Europe, he hopes that a change of venue will quell his murderous desires. Can he heal his past, or will his anger and pain enslave him forever?

Dive into an unpredictable world of secrets, murder, and psychological thrills unlike any other.

The Killings Begin was previously published as Murder in Zaporozhye.


First Line:

Tracey watched the family gathered under the canopy of new leaves and flowers on the red maple trees.

The Killings Begin by Bradley Pay

When I got the publisher’s request to review The Killings Begin, I was immediately interested. The blurb called to me. But, I almost didn’t accept the invite to review because I was going on vacation and didn’t believe that I could get to the book in a timely fashion. But something kept calling me (the publisher kept emailing me for an answer), and I decided to review. I am glad I did because this book was a fantastic read.

The Killings Begin had dual plotlines. One plotline follows Gia as she flees an arranged marriage and enters into an unconventional relationship with three men in Madrid, Spain. The other follows Tracey, a respected judge in Raleigh, as he struggles to keep his serial killer lifestyle separate from his “normal” lifestyle. Gia and Tracey’s worlds collide when they meet on a Spectrum cruise. What happens on that cruise will forever shape Gia and Tracey’s life.

What I liked the most about this book was that the authors didn’t hide anything. Right from the beginning, I knew Tracey was a serial killer and that Gia lived an alternative lifestyle (polyamorous). Instead, the author focused on Gia and Tracey as individuals, which I enjoyed. I learned about their motives (or, in Tracey’s case, triggers) for their choices and how those choices affected them.

I liked Gia. She had a great outlook on life, and she cherished her friendships. My only issue is that she didn’t end her contract with Sal sooner. I understood why she didn’t do it (loving an addict is hard), but in the end, she was forced to. I also loved how supportive she was of her friends. Overall, she was a lovely person.

I thought Tracey was a fascinating character and wished the authors dedicated more book time to him. I was fascinated by how he turned into a serial killer and his reasons. That scene with his mother explained everything. He was remorseful and horrified at what he was doing, and escaping to Europe was supposed to be a reset for him. I knew that it wouldn’t be and was eager to see when he would get triggered into killing. What I wasn’t expecting was who it was.

For 90% of the book, I wondered when Tracey and Gia’s storylines would meet up. When they did, it was a little anti-climatic for me. That is my only major complaint about the book.

The thriller angle of the book was well written. The authors did a good job keeping me guessing at what was going to happen next with both Gia and Tracey.

The end of The Killings Begin was interesting. The authors did wrap up most of the storylines (giving happy endings to Raul and Joseph) but left the other storylines open. But, there was also a teaser with Tracey’s frame of mind at the very end that I couldn’t help but think about after I finished the book. That has made me very curious and excited to read book 2!!

I would recommend The Killings Begin to anyone over 21. There is sex, language, and violence.

I Let You Fall by Sara Downing

Publisher: Quilla Books

Date of publication: June 20th, 2022

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Alibris | IndieBound

Goodreads Synopsis:

On a summer night in London, art teacher Eve Chapman finds herself in a hospital emergency room. She watches surgeons desperately operate on a young woman with a terrible head injury. But when the bandages are removed, Eve is horrified to find her own body on the operating table.

Trapped in a coma, Eve struggles to cope with the fact that no matter how hard she tries, her family and friends cannot see or hear her. But then she meets Luca Diaz, a handsome and comatose lawyer who can see her. He takes Eve under his wing and teaches her how to use her new abilities to help the living.

As the weeks pass, Eve struggles to find a way back to her body and to Nathan, the man she loves. But the more time she spends with Luca, the more she wonders if her old life is worth going back to at all.


First Line:

It’s joyful weather, a day for looking up rather than down, for seeing the blue of the sky, latticed with vapour trails, not the grime of the dusty pavements.

I Let You Fall by Sara Downing

I Let You Fall is one book that grabs you by your heartstrings and continuously yanks them throughout the book. I wasn’t expecting this book to have that kind of hold over me. I haven’t been this affected by a book in a while.

I Let You Fall has an interesting plotline. Eve finds herself in a hospital OR, watching a surgeon operating on a young woman with a horrible head injury. Wondering why she is there and why no one is talking to her, Eve follows the young woman to a room, where she makes a horrifying discovery. That young woman is her, and she is in a coma. Distraught, Eve doesn’t know how to cope until she meets a man who sees her and talks to her. That man is Luca and is also in a coma after being attacked by an ex-client. Luca explains to Eve that she can help people and teaches her how to use them. They also grow close, and Eve starts developing feelings for Luca, even though she has a boyfriend. Eve desperately wants to go back to her body and wake up. That is compounded when she loses Luca. Will Eve wake up? And more importantly, will she find Luca when she does?

I loved Eve in this book. I thought she dealt with the shock of seeing herself in a coma pretty well. If that had been me, I would have been freaking out, curled up on the floor crying. My only complaint was that she either refused or didn’t see how much of an idiot Nathan was (I will get to him in a bit). I loved how she embraced her abilities and pushed herself when testing them out. She made me cry a little bit when she comforted her family and friends who came to visit. But, what she did towards the end of the book made me love her.

I can’t say enough about Luca. He was there for Eve when she needed him. But he also gave her space to accept her new reality and adjust to it. He was her rock; later in the book, after Nathan did what he did. Also, I liked how the author connected him to several events before Eve’s accident. I was a little shocked when his storyline took the turn it did, but I expected it.

Let’s talk about Nathan (set to the tune of We Don’t Talk About Bruno). He was despicable. At first, I thought it was because of Eve’s accident, but when he started asking about how bad Eve’s scar would be, I started to dislike him. My dislike was cemented when he brought his side piece to Eve’s hospital room. My mouth dropped open, and I was like, “Oh hell no, he didn’t do that.” I was glad the author took him out of the storyline shortly afterward. He was just too much.

A secondary storyline starts right after Eve’s accident involving Ron, Susan, and their sons: George and Will. The storyline is sad, George is in kidney failure, and the stress affects everyone. I wondered how the author would connect their storyline to Eve’s. But, when she did, it was something that broke my heart and made me happy at the same time (two separate things happened).

The secondary characters also made the book. The nurses, the surgeons, Eve’s parents, and friends each left an impression on me.

I liked the author’s angle with Luca and Eve having abilities. It made the book more interesting to read. The author did start Eve off little (helping a woman with a husband who was dying) and worked up to the bigger events.

The romance angle was very subtle. I liked that the author chose to do that. Mainly because Luca and Eve were in comas and never met while awake but also because there was so much else going on. I felt that if the romance were more in your face, it would have taken away from everything else in the book.

The end of I Let You Fall was a tear-jerker. I loved how the author ended the book. I can’t get into it because of spoilers, but the ending was perfect (chef’s kiss). I couldn’t have asked for anything better than what happened.

I would recommend I Let You Fall to anyone over 16. There is mild language, some violence with some mild gore, and no sexual situations (even though Eve and Luca kiss a couple of times).

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

Publisher:

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A whisper of someone like her being born has been discussed for aeons by the gods. The question is, who is she, and where is she?
Meara lives an ordinary life with her eccentric grandmother and three siblings in a small Georgian house in Dublin. On her eighteenth birthday, her little sister is kidnapped by an incredibly powerful man, and her entire world turns upside down.
Long hidden family secrets tumble out, and supernatural beings suddenly surround her. However, she thinks she is a side character, the hero’s friend, and the heroine’s sister. After all, her nature is more girl-next-door than a tortured soul with ninja fighting skills.
Her only desire is to get her sister back and keep her safe but to do so; she must battle dangerous beings and reign in her treacherous heart which has begun to beat for her family’s sworn enemy, a gorgeous demigod.


First Line:

The weather department said that the sudden startospheric warming event that caused the easterly winds to rush over and blanket Ireland in snow and ice was rare.

Meara: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance by Anya Wylde

When I was younger, I was very much into researching myths/fables/different Gods and Goddesses of the world. I was also fascinated with learning about the other mythological creatures/entities worldwide. So, when I realized that the author used a variety of gods/goddesses/mythical creatures/entities, I was intrigued. But this book is so much more than that, and once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.

Meara had an interesting plotline. Meara is a girl who lives with her two older brothers, grandmother, and six-year-old sister in Ireland. Meara’s life is quiet and somewhat dull until the day of her 18th birthday. She has an accident while ice skating and, during her birthday party, her best friend tries to kill her sister. She finds out that she is from a long line of magical immortal beings, that her sister is part of a prophecy, and that prophecy has put a big target on her head. Everything comes to a head when a gorgeous demigod, Kamraan, kidnaps her sister. Determined to get her back, Meara is sucked into Kamraan’s world. Can Meara get her sister back and go back to the life she knew? Or will she become a pawn in a war that she didn’t know about and wanted no part of?

I loved Meara because of how real she felt to me. In every situation she was in, I could see myself (if I was 18, which was ages ago) doing the same thing. She wanted only to see the best in people, even when they proved otherwise. I felt that some of the people in the book did take advantage of her and her giving nature. I also thought that what Kamraan put her through for 90% of the book was awful, but I will discuss that later in the book. I loved when she finally found her backbone, but I did feel that the author could have done it earlier.

Kamraan was a colossal jerk for 95% of the book. I understood why at the beginning. There was a war, and Meara and Bree (her sister) were the enemies. But I didn’t appreciate his attitude and cruelty in the middle and towards the end of the book. At that point, he knew what was happening (Meara did not). He did try to justify his behavior during a pivotal scene at the end of the book, but still. Other than that, I liked him just fine. He was a devoted brother/son and did everything in his power (which was infinite) to keep Meara and Bree safe.

The secondary characters added extra depth to an already great storyline. I was disappointed with how a couple of them turned out (talk about a surprise), but it back up Meara/Kamraan’s storyline perfectly.

The romance angle of Meara was a slow burn. It was so slow that I wondered if Kamraan even had feelings for Meara. The romance did speed up once they were on the island, and it was full force by the end. There are no sexual situations, but the author laid on the sexual tension thick. I almost wished there was a sex scene so that tension would go down.

The fantasy angle of Meara was excellent. I loved how the author introduced Meara and her family’s powers and how she explained the different dimensions. Meara’s eyes fascinated me because they didn’t have an actual color and acted like a mood ring. White=fear, red=anger, green=jealousy; the list could go on.

As mentioned above, I loved that the author used the book’s different deities/mythological creatures and beings. It made for an enjoyable read for me (since I knew most of them were). It also reinforced that the gods/goddesses were inbred…lol. Meara carried the blood from everyone in her (including demons), and it was fun to watch her learn and interact with them.

Meara also showcased that family can be messy and complicated. Meara’s parents abandoned them when she was 12-13 years old. That left Meara to raise Bree (her brothers and grandmother were never around). It also left Meara with so much anger and bitterness towards her parents. I didn’t blame her for erupting on them the way she did; they deserved it.

The end of Meara was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped up the various storylines that were throughout the book and how she introduced new characters. She also introduced a new storyline (hopefully) that involves Meara, Kamraan, and their child. I will go out on a limb and say that there will be a book two because of how book 1 ended. I hope so!!

I would recommend Meara to anyone over 13. There is violence, mild language, and no sexual scenes (kissing scenes with Meara and Kamraan/Violet and Kamraan).