Review of “Touch of Smoke” – Karissa Laurel

Three years ago, Rikki Albemarle watched her best friend die at the hands of a supernatural evil. Certain she was slated to be the next victim, Rikki fled her small Smoky Mountain hometown, vowing to never come back. Plagued by nightmares and knowing she’s the only one who believes Mina’s death was no accident, Rikki returns with hopes of finding answers and holding the killer accountable.

Rikki is convinced the key to unlocking the secret of Mina’s death lies with Owen Amir, the alluring young army vet who once claimed her heart. But the deeper Rikki digs into Owen’s past, the more she’s torn between the urgings of her heart and her memories of him on the night Mina died.

After falling further into the rabbit hole, Rikki lands at the feet of an ancient and powerful evil determined to finish what it started years before. To survive, she’ll have to make a decision: believe Owen is the monster she always feared he might be or trust him enough to stay and fight for a second chance at love.

 

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

About ½ way through Touch of Smoke and my mind was teeming with questions.

How did Nina die?

What was Owen’s part in Nina’s death?

What’s up with Rikki’s nightmares?

How can Owen afford everything he’s buying?

Who’s the mystery man in the black ball cap, polo shirt and khaki shorts?

I had many more questions and I needed answers. I wanted to know more about Rikki’s life — past, present and future. And it wasn’t just Rikki’s story that I wanted to know more about. Was Owen a good guy or was he a sheep in wolf’s clothing. I pressed on to the 2nd half of Touch of Smoke, looking forward to getting some answers.

 

In the 2nd half of Touch of Smoke, I got most of my answers. Owen finally opened up and told Rikki his deep, dark secret. A secret I won’t share because it would reveal too much about the plot.

I will admit that Rikki did annoy me at times except during the battle scene. During that section, she impressed me and then I thought…. Maybe this chick is all right after all.

As for Owen: I loved him, from first introduction to the very last page. As the legendary Salt-N-Pepa would say…

 

What a man, what a man, what a man,
What a mighty good man
Gotta say it again now
What a man, what a man, what a man,
What a mighty good man
He’s a mighty mighty good man

 

Technically, Owen is more than just a man BUT to learn more you must purchase a copy and find out for yourself!

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤

 

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Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, super heroes and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s curled up with a good book.

 

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Author Showcase – Judith Sterling (Flight of the Raven)

How eager would the bridegroom be if he knew he could never bed the bride? 

Lady Emma of Ravenwood Keep is prepared to give Sir William l’Orage land, wealth, and her hand in marriage. But her virginity? Not unless he loves her. The curse that claimed her mother is clear: unless a Ravenwood heir is conceived in love, the mother will die in childbirth. Emma is determined to dodge the curse. Then William arrives, brandishing raw sensuality which dares her to explore her own.

William the Storm isn’t a man to be gainsaid. He’ll give her protection, loyalty, and as much tenderness as he can muster. But malignant memories quell the mere thought of love. To him, the curse is codswallop. He plans a seduction to breach Emma’s fears and raze her objections. What follows is a test of wills and an affirmation of the power of love.

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            Toasts abounded, and the music soared. Yet Emma’s gaze kept straying to the gold ring on her finger. ʼTwas tangible proof she was a married woman, the property of William l’Orage. Soon, in the bedchamber they would share, she’d discover exactly what that meant.

            She shuddered. Would he understand her predicament? He might laugh. He might even force her to betray her sense of self-preservation. ʼTwas his right, and she’d said the words: “to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board.” The board she could handle; bed was another matter.

            Still, there were moments during the ceremony when he seemed softer somehow. When she entered the chapel, the look in his eyes stole her breath. It implied approval, pride.

            And desire.

            For the second time in as many minutes, she shivered. She looked to the high, vaulted ceiling and twisted her wedding band.

            “Cold again?” her husband asked. The low, rich timber of his voice was seductive and becoming all too familiar.

            She dropped her hands into her lap and cast a cautious glance his way. “Not especially.”

            A pox on the man! He looked sinfully handsome today. It made him unduly appealing and far more dangerous. His eyes glittered like the dark jewels on his belt.

            She squirmed in her high-backed chair. His belt! God save me from what lies below it.

            “You’ll be warmer once we withdraw to our chamber,” he said.

            She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Oh?”

            “I told Tilda to have a fire waiting, and plenty of warm wine.”

            “Oh.”

            “Is that all you can say?”

            “What more do you require?”

            “If not words, how about a smile?”

            “I’ve smiled overmuch the past few hours. My cheeks are numb.”

            His grin was sensual by nature and mischievous by design. “Have you no enthusiasm for the coming festivities?”

            She stifled a grimace. “Festivities. Is that what you call them? If you want a festive night, you’d do better to invite jugglers and mummers to prance about the chamber.”

            His black eyes smoldered. “No, my bride. You and I will devise our own entertainment.”

            The power of speech deserted her. Yet she kept her composure during the toasts and as the people cheered the bride and groom for the last time. Then William rose to his feet.

            The dreaded moment had come. In a daze, she stood. Her eyes sought Meg, but the older woman was deep in conversation with Wulfstan and didn’t notice.

            William guided Emma away from the table and out of the boisterous, oblivious hall. Once they were beyond observation, she pulled her hand from his arm and used her veil as an excuse to occupy her hands elsewhere.

            She climbed the spiral, stone stairs as slowly as she dared, delaying the moment when the bedchamber door would close behind them. The stairwell torches were ablaze with flames that eagerly licked the shafts of wood. Behind her, William’s footsteps were as loud as thunder.

            At the top of the stairs, the large, oak door stood wide open. There was no one inside the bedchamber, not a single soul to grant her one last pardon. Tilda had turned down the bed, and it loomed in the shadows, waiting.

            On shaky legs, Emma crossed the rush-strewn floor and stood in front of the massive, arched fireplace. She studied the inferno roaring inside, refusing to look at William. Behind her, the door closed with a thud, and the bolt slid to with a scrape of finality. She heard and felt each crunching step as he came up behind her.

            “My lady,” he murmured. “My wife.”

            She couldn’t face him. “Aye,” her voice cracked. The fire looked wild, hungry.

            “Would you like some wine?” His breath warmed the side of her neck. A second later, his lips sealed the tender flesh with a kiss.

            “Wine.” She spun around. “Wine would be nice.”

            His eyes blazed hotter than the fire. He hesitated, then smiled. “Then wine you shall have.” In two strides, he moved to the table where it waited. He grabbed the pitcher and poured dark liquid into one of two silver cups. Then he offered one to her.

            Her fingers brushed his as she took the cup. She thanked him with a closed-mouth smile and took a sip of wine. The heady mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves tickled her tongue. The liquid warmed and soothed her throat.

            “Good?” he asked.

            She nodded and sipped again.

            He grinned. “Perhaps ʼtwill loosen your tongue.”

            “Perhaps.”

            His grin deepened. “Though I see it’s had no effect yet.”

            Hours of nervous tension crystalized. “I’ve better use for my tongue than to prattle the night away.”

            “Really?” He inched closer. “Would you care to demonstrate?”

 

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~~ Purchase Books 1-3 Today! ~~

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~~ MEET THE AUTHOR ~~

Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles.

Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.

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Review of “Dying for an Invitation” – Theresa Braun

~~ Under 50 pages ~~

Dacie returns to Romania where she’s ready to coax her invisible childhood playmate to reveal himself to her. Tension and passion fire up between them. Dacie’s mother spouts cautionary advice regarding the supernatural; however, Dacie shirks the warning as nonsense born from local legends. A lost letter lands in Dacie’s hands, suggesting the powers of the undead might have a grip on the family lineage. When her mother dies, so do the answers. And, Dacie needs the comfort of her unseen companion more than ever…

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I truly believe vampires are not real. But, what if they are? What if they watch us, biding their time until they make us one of them? What would you do to protect your home and your family?

Dacie grew up in Bran Village (Transylvania). There, people absolutely believed you must be careful of the strigoi (vampires). That’s why they took extreme measures to make sure the dead stay dead.

Theresa wrote about the staking of the heart, burying them face down and burning the deceased. What she added and what I never heard before was mixing their ashes with holy water and then drinking the concoction. I guess if it works and I was a believer I would say bottoms up.

She also wrote about the importance of garlic, thorns along a home’s threshold, and how easily a vampire can seduce their victim. As for Dacie, her fate was set years before she returned to Bran and came face to face with her invisible, childhood playmate.

While Dacie was attempting to figure out the past, Theresa gave us a history lesson regarding Vlad Tepes. It was a most interesting tale and proved very important to Dacie’s fate and the fate of others.

Like I said, I am not a believer in vampires BUT I have no plans to visit Romania/Transylvania just in case I’m wrong and the fanged monsters are really there waiting for me like one waited for Dacie.

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score:❤❤❤1/2 

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Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. Oh, and she likes to guest blog about writing, television shows, movies, and books, mostly in the horror genre.

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Author Showcase – Jana Aston (Best Laid Plans series)

 

Have you ever set out to have a one night stand with a sexy stranger?
No? I’m the only one?
Just kidding, I would never. 
Ever.
Not usually. 

But then I figured, why not? My entire life I’ve been good and it’s gotten me nowhere.
No job. 
No apartment. 
No boyfriend. 

I’m owed a little fun, aren’t I? A reward for being good.
Sure, a new pair of shoes would be more appropriate, but Mr. Sexy Stranger is more appealing. And when he speaks—in that British accent—it’s a done deal. Every American woman has a hot British guy fantasy. Well, most do. I haven’t taken a poll or anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s a fact. 

Except… 
You know that saying about best-laid plans? 
Good, because I don’t either, but I assume they go awry.
Like my one night stand…

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Mistakes were made, okay?

The moment I laid eyes on Kyle Kingston I knew he was a mistake. A satisfying, toe curling, hair pulling, best night of my life mistake, but a mistake all the same. I didn’t yet know his name, or who he was, but I knew he was a bad idea. 

I take comfort in that, because it means my instincts are still good. Too late, but it’s something. 



Because, FYI, I’m pregnant

… and did I mention my baby daddy is both heir to a retail empire and impossible to get ahold of?

I do what any girl would. I break into his Grandfather’s retirement gala by telling the prissy gatekeeper Kyle’s my fiancé. It was a halfway decent plan at the time, trust me. 

But it blows up in my face, disastrously so. You see, Kyle Kingston is all about representing the family values his family’s retail empire was founded on. At least in public. In private- well I’ll tell you about that later. 

He proposes – a marriage of convenience. 

Convenient for everyone but me, because while I’m falling in love with my convenient husband, he’s keeping a billion-dollar secret. From me.

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Jana Aston likes cats, big coffee cups and books about billionaires who deflower virgins. She wrote her debut novel while fielding customer service calls about electrical bills, and she’s ever grateful for the fictional gynecologist in Wrong that readers embraced so much she was able to make working in her pajamas a reality. Jana’s novels have appeared on the NYT, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, some multiple times. She likes multiples. 


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Review of “The Night House” – J. C. McKenzie

What would you pay for your freedom?

Caught by a powerful lord from the alternate realm of Arkavia, Taya’s offered the chance to avenge the dead, save her home world, and win her freedom.

Her days of stealing supplies and surviving among the remnants of Earth are over, but can she afford the price of Lord Thane’s deal?

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Thane clenched his jaw, took two giant steps forward and bent to catch her by the middle. When he straightened, he threw her over his shoulder. His gauntlet armoured fingers dug into her thighs. His swords’ hilts stared back at her, tempting and teasing. Her fingers itched to wrap around the smooth leather and yank one from its sheath.

If you’re going down, go down fighting, her dad’s life motto played in her memory.

If only her hands weren’t bound. Instead, she flopped uselessly as Thane strode toward the gate. His shoulder dug into her stomach and her face smacked against the cold metal back plate of his black armour. She had a perfect view of his ass. Fitting, since he acted like one.

What did she expect? Preferential treatment for a captive? How was she any different than any of the other slaves brought through this portal?

Thane walked unhindered through the thick air. The blue haze cleared. The buzzing stopped.

She wasn’t dead.

Thane pulled her down from his shoulder and set her on her feet in the snow in front of him. Over his shoulder, the other men walked through the gate leading the horses.

Cool air brushed her skin. The winter breeze contained exotic scents of Arkavia, smelling of pine, but different, more floral.

Thane watched her expectantly.

“I may have overreacted.”

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

In The Night House, death surrounded Taya for much of the story. At the start of this book, Taya lost her friends to a magical blue wave. This blue wave turned many people to ash and made all electronics useless. It was almost the perfect weapon against our civilization.

Taya, now she wielded a weapon that I thought was absolutely brilliant. She stumbled upon two swords that had flashes of blue and white light, which travelled in bolts of lightning from the pommel to tip of blade. Not just anyone could harness its power but Taya could. Whether she was swinging a sword, staff, or knife, Taya impressed me with her fighting skills and her quick thinking. She wasn’t a woman anyone should underestimate.

Thane, from the House of Jericho, was a multi-layered character: fierce, loyal, a great leader and loving. He was likable and so were the soldiers that followed his commands.

I think it’s worth noting, J. C. McKenzie wrote tremendous battle scenes and in these scenes we were able to see the camaraderie between the soldiers. We saw teammates become family, foes became friends, and unbreakable bonds form between many key characters. 

Through J. C. McKenzie’s gift of storytelling, readers will fall in love with Taya and Thane as they defy all odds and making their coupling work. Together, they are unstoppable.

 

I highly recommend reading this book. 

 

 

Heart Rating System:

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

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View More: http://photos.pass.us/headshot2J.C. McKenzie is a book-loving, gumboot-wearing, unapologetic science geek. She’s the author of the Carus Series, an urban fantasy five-book saga published by the Wild Rose Press. Born and raised on the West Coast, J. C. sets the majority of her books in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance with sassy heroines and brutish, alpha-type men.

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