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

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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.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, and Anna Bennett

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: September 28th, 2021

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Anthology

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher


Goodreads Synopsis:

In GREAT SCOT by Suzanne Enoch, Jane Bansil knows she will never have a fairy-tale life. But even at three-and-thirty and well past marriageable age, though, she has to admit that the architect the MacTaggerts have hired could turn even a confirmed spinster’s head.

In CHRISTMAS AT DEWBERRY HOLLOW by Amelia Grey, Isabelle Reed has no plans to ever fall in love. Certainly not with Gate, a man who doesn’t live in Dewberry Hollow. She will fulfill her duty and help him keep his promise to have his ill grandfather back in London in time for Christmas dinner. The last thing Isabelle wants is for Gate to take her heart with him when he goes.

In MY MISTLETOE BEAU by Anna Bennett, Miss Eva Tiding is determined to cheer her widowed father with the perfect Christmas gift. Even if it means breaking into the home of the rakish earl who swindled Papa out of his pocket watch and pretending to date the earl for the Christmas season.


First Lines:

Great Scot:

Jane Basil threw the heavy blankets over her head and burrowed deeper beneath the covers.

great scott by suzanne enoch

Christmas at Dewberry Hollow

Who wanted a curmudgeon staying at their inn during Christmastide? Not Isabelle Reed.

Christmas at Dewberry hollow by Amelia grey

My Mistletoe Beau

Miss Eva Tiding’s hands were surprisingly steady, considering she was on the doorstep of London’s most disreputable rogue.

my mistletoe beau by anna bennett

I usually do not review anthologies. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do), but I find it hard to review each story. So, I surprised myself when I downloaded Kissing Under the Mistletoe. I decided to review because, honestly, I figured it was time to step outside my comfort zone (review-wise).

I enjoyed reading Kissing Under the Mistletoe. Each story was well written, with characters that left an impression on me. Plus, they were all Regency romances, which you all know that I love.

Great Scot made me smile. I had read the Wild Wicked Highlanders series, and the MacTaggert boys (and girl) had left me wanting to know what happened to them after the series ended. With this novella, I got that. I was thrilled that Jane could get her HEA with Brennan (even though it was Instalove). But what interested me more was the dynamics between Jane and the rest of the MacTaggert women. Because of Jane’s role in Amelia-Rose and Niall’s romance, I understood why she was hesitant to become close to Lady MacTaggert and the other women. But, as the saying says, it takes a village (this time all the MacTaggert women), and that village drew Jane out of her shell. In return, her blossoming caught Brennan’s eye, and that turned into a delightful romance.

Christmas at Dewberry Inn was another one that made me smile. I will admit, I was not too fond of Isabelle at first. She was rude to Gate right from the beginning. But, she grew on me, and when it was explained why she acted the way she did, I felt terrible for her. Again, this is another Instalove situation, but it was adorable how they fell in love. It was just a feel-good romance from the beginning to the end.

My Mistletoe Beau had me laughing right from the beginning. All Eva wanted to do was get her Papa’s watch from Jack’s possession. See, Jack hates her father and wants to hurt him any way he can. If that means winning his watch (which was given to him by Eva’s mother), then he’ll do it. But Eva isn’t one to play fair. She suggests a wager of her own: She pretends to be his fiancee, and she will get the watch by the end of the charade. Of course, you all know how this goes, and they both fail when they fall for each other. This wasn’t quite an Instalove story, but it was a great enemy-to-lovers romance.

The book itself was a quick read. Each story was only about 8-10 chapters long. Perfect length for an anthology!!

The sex scenes in each story were hot with significant buildup. I will admit that My Mistletoe Beau was exceptional in that department. Eva and Jack’s chemistry and sexual attraction were through the roof. And when they had sex, it was incredible!!


I would recommend Kissing Under the Mistletoe for anyone over the age of 21. There is mild language, mild violence, and sex/sexual situations.

Death Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories by Stephen Bentley, Greg Alldredge, Kelly Artieri, L. Lee Kane, Michael Spinelli, Robbie Cheadle, Kay Castaneda, Justin Bauer, Aly Locatelli @StephenBentley8 @Shalini_G26

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4 Stars

Publisher: Hendry Publishing

Date of publication: July 7th, 2019

Genre: horror, anthology

Where you can find Death Among Us: Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

Who knew death could be so eclectic? Relish this mesmerizing murder mystery mash-up of short stories.

The stories include the 2019 SIA Award-Winning Murder Mystery Short Story ‘The Rose Slayer.’

Murder and mystery have been the staple of literature and films for years. This anthology of short stories will thrill and entertain you. Some will also make you laugh out loud. Others will stop and make you think.

Think of this murder mystery short story anthology as a book version of appetizers or starters, hors d’oeuvre, meze, or antipasti. It can be read as fillers between books or, as is the case in some countries, as a bookish meze – in its own right.

These stories come from an international cast of authors; some with bestselling books, others are emerging or new talents. Their roots, cultures, and life experiences are as diverse as their writing styles.

But one thing binds them together: they know how to tell a story.

There’s murder mystery styles and locations to suit all tastes: detective fiction, serial killers, scifi, histfic, LA, England, The Great Lakes, Las Vegas, the Nevada desert and more in an exquisite exposition of the art of short story telling.

The ten authors who have contributed to the anthology are:

Stephen Bentley
Greg Alldredge
Kelly Artieri
Robbie Cheadle
Michael Spinelli
L. Lee Kane
Kay Castaneda
Aly Locatelli
Justin Bauer
& ‘G’ Posthumously

Each author introduces his or her stories and the theme that lies behind them.By the time you finish the book, you will agree the result is a mesmerizing murder mystery mash-up.

Get it now.


First Line (from The Rose Slayer by Stephen Bentley):

Six murders.

Death Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories by various authors

My Review:

I usually do not review anthologies. I find it hard to review a book that is made up of short stories. But I like reading them. Whenever I get the request to review an anthology, I have an internal tug of war. 9 out of 10 times, I decline. But in this case, because I like murder mysteries, I accepted. I am glad that I did because this book had some fantastic stories.

I thought it was appropriate that I read Death Among Us a couple of nights before Halloween. I was enthralled with the stories. I loved that I got a thrill when reading them.

Usually, in my other reviews, I give details on what I liked about the plotlines and the characters. But because this is an anthology, I can’t do that. But I will do something a little different. I will give you what I liked about each group of stories.

The Rose Slayer, Eleanor Rigby, Diva:

I enjoy reading these short stories. What I loved is that they were interconnected. I didn’t get that at first. It took me rereading the end of The Rose Slayer and the beginning of Eleanor Rigby to understand that. I loved it!!!

Hello World, Goodbye World:

AI has always freaked me out. Reading these two books got me even more freaked out about them. They were well written, and the author was able to suck me into the stories.

First Comes Lightning, Bad Bones, Red Solo Cup,,That’s What Best Friends Do:

I didn’t like these stories as much as the first five stories. But they were still good. Again, the author was able to interconnect each story. The connections were subtle, but they were there.

Justice is Never Served, An Eye For an Eye, The Murder of the Monk:

This group of stories all takes place in England. What I enjoyed about these is that they were based on actual events. The author, who is new to horror, was able to take these events and add her spin to them. Again, there was a subtle connection with the three stories, which I enjoyed.

No Man’s Land and Monitaur:

These were different stories by the same author. The first story, No Man’s Land, creeped me out. I got the chills reading it. Monitaur, though, terrified me. Mainly because I have had run-ins with a baby monitor making weird noises.

A Deadly Lady and Stop Me If You Can:

Another set of stories that chilled me. I agreed with the main character in this set of stories. Men who beat their wives/girlfriends and men (and women) who traffic people need to be taken care of. What gave me chills was how she did it and what the cop said at the end of the last story.

Something About the Gift of Beauty, Unknown, The Thoughts of Emily Morales in Old Age:

These were interesting stories. I liked that the three stories centered around one main character at different stages of her life.

The Neighbors:

I liked this story. The characters were relatable (even if one of them was unlikable). What happened was interesting.

Sales Meeting, Canceled:

I liked these stories. Talk about getting payback…lol. All I could think after I read the stories was that they deserved it.

White Rose of Rapture and Next:

Both were well-written books. The first story did freak me out. I have a fear of dentists, and well, this story didn’t do anything to erase my fear. The second story amused me (as weird as that sounds). The last line made me giggle.


I would give Death Among Us an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Death Among Us. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Dead Girls Don’t Love by Sarah Hans

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4 Stars

Publisher: Dragon’s Roost Press

Date of publication: May 28th, 2018

Genre: Horror

Where you can find Dead Girls Don’t Love: Amazon | Barnes, and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads): 

Do you enjoy creepy stories about people who don’t quite fit in? Dead Girls Don’t Love is a collection of poignant tales for the outsider in all of us. For a domestic violence victim, there is no life after death–but could there be revenge? Can a woman returning to her life after 40 years with the fae remember how to be human? When two Buddhist monks travel to China to spread the dharma, will they survive the unspeakable horror they find instead? What really happened when the Big Bad Wolf ate the lonely grandmother living in the woods? Will the love between two zombified women help them break the spell that binds them in eternal servitude? And, perhaps most importantly, can an Elder God find true love? These and many more fascinating questions will be answered on the pages within if you dare to read them. But be warned: the strange and horrifying realities contained in Dead Girls Don’t Love may haunt you long after you close the back cover.

My review:

While I like to read anthologies, I don’t review them. I find them hard to review because they are short stories. But, when the author approached me with a request to review Dead Girls Don’t Love, I had to review it. Because of the blurb. The blurb made me want to read this book and share it with everyone. The other reason why I accepted is that I like sharing books by indie authors. They should be showcased on blogs as much as the mainstream authors. All it takes is one person to give that author a chance.

I am glad that I decided to read Dead Girls Don’t Love. The range of the stories in this book was amazing. There was a bit of everything. You want a story about the Fae? You got it. You want a story about what happened after the grandmother was eaten by The Big Bad Wolf? You got it. You want a zombie love story (which was my favorite story)? You got it.

I am not going to get into each individual story in this book. If I did that than this review would be super long and you would lose interest after the first blurb. Like I mentioned above, these stories are varied. There is a connecting thread of horror in each of them. In some stories, it takes a bit longer for the horror element to show up but it is worth the read.

There was also a small romance theme that ran through a few of the stories. The tree, the Elder God, and the zombie women were the three main ones that I remember. What I enjoyed, even more than the romance was that the author had two of those romances be LGBTQIA themed. Rarely I read a horror book where one or both of the characters in the story are gay or lesbian. It was refreshing and I loved it!!

The horror angle in each of these stories was different. Some were in your face (the Fae) and others were subtle (the story of the monks on the ship). But they all got you in the end. The one that freaked me out the most was the one with the wandering monks. I got chills reading that story. Even more so because one of the monk’s questions about his past wasn’t answered. I was left wondering about him.

To wrap up this review, go pick up this book. It is 230 pages but it is a fast read. It is wonderfully written and I was creeped out by some of the stories.

I will not be doing a like/dislike section for this book.

I gave Dead Girls Don’t Love a 4-star review. I enjoyed reading this book. The stories were chilling to read.

I gave Dead Girls Don’t Love an Adult rating. There is sex. There is violence. There is language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Dead Girls Don’t Love. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me to read and review Dead Girl’s Don’t Love.

All opinions stated in this review of Dead Girl’s Don’t Love are mine.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Strange Circumstances by Marshall J Stephens, Weston Kincaide, David Chrisley

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4 Stars

Publisher: Kincaide Publishing

Date of publication: January 29th, 2012

Genre: Fantasy

Where you can find Strange Circumstances: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

The future’s a gamble. Few people know what they really want, and those that reach it often find that it isn’t what they expected. Strange Circumstances is an anthology of stories exploring the predictability of fate and destiny… or rather their unpredictability. In the twelve twisted tales and fifteen flash-fiction pieces, Strange Circumstances explores the boundaries of our universe to see what lurks in the unknown, hidden within the mysteries of science, magic, extraterrestrials, religion and the paranormal. Amid celebrities who hit their peak and vanish, a tree that grows up from the floor of a moving train car, unspeakable conspiracy, monstrous espionage, and wicked sorcery, there is something within these pages for anyone who enjoys dark tales and twists of every sort.

My review:

I normally don’t review anthologies. I feel that it isn’t fair to the authors when I can’t do an in-depth review of their stories. So I stopped reviewing them. I didn’t stop reading them because, personally, I love them. I love the different writing styles displayed by different authors. When Weston asked me to review Strange Circumstances, I accepted. I have enjoyed reading this other books and figured that this one would be the same for me. Which it was.

I am going to keep this review short and sweet. This was a great book. The short stories were intriguing and in some cases, scary. The flash fiction at the end of the book was something I have never read before. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them but they were great. Just a snippet of a story. Enough to get my imagination going. Loved it!!!

I am not going to do a What I Liked/What I Disliked about Strange Circumstances.

I gave Strange Circumstances a 4-star rating. The short stories were well written. The flash fiction was something new and I l enjoyed reading them.

I would give Strange Circumstances an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is some mild language. There is some mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Strange Circumstances. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.

I would like to thank Weston Kincaide for allowing me to read and review Strange Circumstances.

All opinions stated in this review of Strange Circumstances are mine.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

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