Review: The Broken Duke

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Broken DukeThe Broken Duke (The 1797 Club Book 3) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #3
Published by Passionate Pen on September 12th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 200
Goodreads
four-stars

“Do not mistake me, Mrs. Ford, I absolutely came back here to seduce you.”

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story of a man who is angry and grief stricken after the betrayal of his friends, but soon finds a woman (or two women) who make him happy for the betrayal.

THE STORY: Graham Everly, Duke of Northfield has been adrift since one of his best friends stole Graham’s fiancee. Graham’s relationship with the 1797 Club members have been strained; Graham didn’t love his fiancee, but he feels betrayed by his best friends. Graham finally accepts an invitation to attend the theater and there he is entranced by an actress Lynda Ford. For the first time in a while, Graham’s passions are inflamed for the vibrant Lynda. What Graham doesn’t know is that Lynda lives a double life. She is actually Lady Adelaide, a society wallflower. When Lynda and Graham begin an affair, things become sticky as Adelaide begins to fall for Graham even as she is lying about herself.

OPINION: For me, this book is really about Graham. He has a complexity of character and is tormented by so many things and yet is such a good man. He feels broken by the betrayal of his friends and doesn’t know how to navigate his emotions and his relationships with his friends. When he meets Lynda, things begin to change for him. By showing Graham that love and desire can be above all, he begins to open himself up to his life again.

Lynda is a woman who has made the best of her life, accepting her mistakes and finding pleasure and joy where she can. She lives a dual life, neither woman being the whole of who Lynda/Adelaide is.

I thought that the relationship between Graham and Adelaide was sweeter than I expected. Graham always feels like a good guy even as he struggles with his demons. And while this book’s title hints at what could be a dark story, I thought that the story, while touching on the darkness, actually was not angst filled or particularly dark.

Did I buy the central premise that Graham became involved with two women and didn’t realize they were the same person? Not really, but I can suspend my disbelief on such things if the story is otherwise good.  And this one was.

WORTH MENTIONING: Apparently the next book is about the male wallflower in the group 🙂

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BROKEN DUKE is the third book in the 1797 Club series. While the romance in this book is self-contained, I think part of what makes this book is the relationship between the different heroes, as such, I think this book is so much better read as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: A Love to Remember

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Love to RememberA Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords, #7) by Bronwen Evans
Series: The Disgraced Lords #7
Published by Loveswept on August 29th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The tale of longtime lovers who have reached a turning point in their relationship, this novella is very sexy. I enjoyed the connection between Rose and Philip but was a bit annoyed with Philip’s motivations.

THE STORY: For Rose Deverill, Duchess of Roxborough, one marriage was more than enough. She never intends on marrying again and indeed she is enjoying her widowhood so much that she is known as the “Wicked Widow”. She is satisfied with her lovers and raising her young son, but her relationship with Philip Flagstaff, Earl of Cumberland, is challenging her intentions. The two have been lovers for several years and recently, Rose’s thoughts have turned toward the possibility of a future with Philip — perhaps even marriage. But Philip is also against the idea of marriage. Having gained the title after his older brother sacrificed his own life for Philip’s, Philip is wracked with guilt and intends on making sure the title eventually goes to someone more worthy than he. So he intends never to marry or have children. When threats arise toward Rose and her son, Philip has to decide what Rose means to him.

OPINION: For me, one of the highlights of this book is how Rose accepts and relishes her own sexual nature. She regrets her past only because she fears that Philips doesn’t want to marry her because of it. But she truly doesn’t regret her lovers or her past. She enjoys sex and recognizes that she is not willing to live a celibate life even if Philip cannot be part of her future. In a genre filled with wide-eyed virgins, this fully realized woman was a definite positive.

Indeed, Philip’s own response to Rose’s past was also welcome. He has some jealous moments, but doesn’t judge Rose for her past lovers. His acceptance of her on all levels is one thing that makes him special. Even if he is annoyingly guilt ridden and thus making stupid irrational decisions.

I liked that Rose and Philip are longtime lovers by the time this book really starts. This isn’t a relationship often depicted in historical romances. What the story shows is that a story can start mid-relationship and still have something to show about how their relationship progresses and changes.

I enjoyed this book even though Philip’s determination to reject happiness annoyed me for quite a while in this book.

WORTH MENTIONING: Which looked to be an ending to the series is not. There are more Disgraced Lords books coming.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A LOVE TO REMEMBER is the seventh book in the Disgraced Lords series. This novella can be read on its own. I have read some, but not all of the previous books in the series, and while this book does have references to other characters, the romance is self-contained (but fans of the series will get some treats).

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-half-stars

Review: Once a Rebel

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Once a RebelOnce a Rebel (Rogues Redeemed #2) by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Rogues Redeemed #2
Published by Zebra on August 29th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Childhood friends who become lovers, this story takes place in an under-represented time period which makes the events interesting. The story is a slow burn and the romance develops more slowly than I would like.

THE STORY: Callista Brooke is in the middle of the burning of Washington in the War of 1812. Widowed from the man her father forced her to marry, Callista is now raising her husband’s illegitimate children. In danger, a man rides up to save her. Lord George Gordon Audley has taken the job of bringing Callista back to England. What Gordon didn’t know is that Callista is his childhood friend. Callista is shocked by the appearance of her friend Richard who she believed died after being transported for “kidnapping” her. What had actually happened was the Richard had attempted to rescue Callista from her forced marriage, but the two had been caught by their fathers. Now Richard and Callista must make their way to safety during a war.

OPINION:  I enjoyed the relationship between the hero and heroine here, but the actual ending seemed a bit wanting for me. This is a story of two people who are friends, are apart for almost half their lives and then find one another again. For Richard and Callista, there isn’t a “wow, my friend is now a hottie that I want and love” moment. That was not only okay for me but felt natural. The two begin a relationship based on respect and friendship as they navigate the dangers that surround them both from the war and also the personal problems. But I really wanted something to click with them sooner than it did and something more passionate and exciting to happen between them personally.  Instead, this is a “we gradually realize that we must be in love” story.

I was a bit disappointed by this, because I liked there characters. They both have had difficult lives since they parted, but have made themselves survivors. This is an opportunity for them to finally find something joyous with one another.

I especially liked the time and place of this book as it begins because not many romances are set in America during the War of 1812. This book gives a glimpse into a different time period. The characters also manage to move back to more familiar England and a whole new set of issues arise.

Although the action in the last portion of the book happens really quickly, I ended up loving the relationship between Richard and Callista at that point. The two have found some joy and peace with one another and the drama is the catalyst that brings them finally to the realization that they truly love one another. (But the relationship never seems like a deeply passionate one).

WORTH MENTIONING: One thing that bothered me about this story is how Callista’s step-children are so important to her but they characters are jettisoned part way through the book. I felt the story should have committed to them or excised them completely.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONCE A REBEL is the second book in the Rogues Redeemed series. While there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone without missing anything at all.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

three-stars

Review: The Duchess Deal

Review: The Duchess DealThe Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Published by Avon Impulse on August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Enjoyable and very, very funny historical.  A book that rifts on Beauty and the Beast with a heroine who doesn’t take any gruff from the hero but instead challenges him out of his moody self-absorption.

THE STORY:  Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter ruined and come to London as a seamstress comes to the home of the Duke of Ashbury to get payment for a wedding dress she created for his cancelled betrothal.  Ash returned from war horribly scarred, but he decides that Emma meets all his requirements for a wife.  Ash has some requirements for their marriage of convenience.  He will bed her every night until she conceives, with no kissing, and then she will leave and raise their child in the country.  Emma, however, is determined to bring Ash back into the world and has her own demands — which begin with nightly dinner and conversation.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this book because Emma refused to allow Ash to wallow in his pity party. From the beginning, she sees herself as an equal and pulls him into relationship.  While having her own fears and past pain, she almost immediately sees Ash as someone of worth. I admire a woman who has her own internal scars but lives her life with purpose and without complaint.  And she is an optimist with hope who teases her husband with silly nicknames and her refusal to just leave him alone.

Ash is a man with horrible scars, but his deepest scars are emotional.  Born and raised in his privileged position as rich and handsome, he doesn’t quite know how to function in a world where people look at his face and are horrified.  Instead of trying to change people’s minds, he has instead embraced the worst of his fears to cope.  Better that he call himself a monster, be a monster, act like a monster.  That way he can avoid the pain of rejection.

I thought the story was well done.  Many would rate this book higher. The reason I gave it a very good 4 is that I think that the humor at times deflected the serious notes in the story.  I think I just prefer a darker more serious story.  I like humorous stories and I really liked this one, but I sometimes felt that the story could have gone deeper than it really wanted to.  That being said, I thought this book was very enjoyable and recommend it especially for those who like humorous historicals.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Emma meets three “original” women who might just be the heroines of future stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE DUCHESS DEAL is the first book in the Girl Meets Duke series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Heiresses

Review: Gentlemen Prefer HeiressesGentlemen Prefer Heiresses (Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, #4.5) by Lorraine Heath
Series: Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James #4.5
Published by Avon Impulse on August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 112
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A lovely gem of a coda to the amazing Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series.  Gina and Andrew are such a fun and sweet couple that I smiled and sighed through the whole story.

THE STORY:  Miss Virginia “Gina” Hammersley was supposed to be the sister making an advantageous marriage this season.  But her scandalous older sister and the Marquess of Rexton fell in love.  Now with her sister making a proper marriage, Gina knows that her own options have expanded as well.  Lord Andrew Mabry, the younger brother of Rexton, intends never to marry.  As the “spare”, Andrew knows that he doesn’t have the title that Gina wants. Yet neither his determination to remain a bachelor nor Gina’s expectations can keep Andrew from wanting to be with the woman he cannot take his eyes off.

OPINION:  This story was so well done that I truly forgot that it was a novella.  By focusing intensely on the characters and their relationship, the novella felt complete and satisfying.

Andrew is the second son who hasn’t found a purpose in his life. It is always a challenge for an author to write the story of a child born of a happy marriage (which is one reason we don’t see as many books about the children of prior characters).  The best characters are often found in torment from their lives.  Andrew had a happy childhood, but Heath does a good job of giving him his own pain that has made him more convinced to stay unmarried.  A man who has an example of the wonderful marriage of his parents can only be determined to stay unmarried if he fears inside that he will never be able to duplicate that effort.  I loved his character which is fun and sweet (even though he sees himself as rakish).  He is immensely likeable and this book shows him finding who he really can be.

Gina is a woman who has an American’s brashness and desires to be her own person.  When she recognizes that she wants Andrew, she is determined to take every opportunity open to her for adventure and happiness.  I love that she is unconventional and yet has her limits. I also really admire a woman who is willing to suffer for love, is willing to put happiness over reputation and I liked her strength and joy in life.

I just loved the relationship between Gina and Andrew.  Sweet and sexy and fun.

I’m a big sucker for these types of stories where we get to see more of characters from prior books.  I love having a few moments more with characters that I already fell in love with and I admit that I have a hard time letting go of their stories.  There are glimpses throughout this story which just made me happy.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  GENTLEMEN PREFER HEIRESSES is book 4.5 of the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series (which itself is a spin-off of the Scoundrels of St. James series).  This book is a closer for book 4 of that series, AN AFFAIR WITH A NOTORIOUS HEIRESS.  I recommend reading that book first because this one flows directly from that book — although the story itself is separate.  It is not necessary to read any of the prior books in the series to read this one, but with all the connecting characters, this book just works better as part of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a review or write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Forget Me Not

Review: Forget Me NotForget Me Not (Blackbird Series Novella) by Em Shotwell
Series: Blackbird Series #.5
Published by City Owl Press on August 8th 2017
Genres: Historical, Paranormal
Pages: 203
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Sweet and sad and ultimately bringing a happy ending.  This is a small town, Vietnam era historical with a touch of magic.  I thought it was well done and apart from any series, this is a sweet read.

THE STORY:  Evelyn Cadeau is being set up by her family matchmaker with Rex Somersby. Evelyn has no interest in her match and already has someone picked out for herself — against her family’s wishes.  Their arranged date, however, goes differently than Evelyn expected and moves her in a different direction.  Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War this novel has magic and young adult love and small town romance along with historical drama.

OPINION:  Oh, how incredibly sweet and sad (but ultimately happy) this story is.  I loved Rex from the moment he appeared in the story.  Young and unsure and such a sweet gentleman.  Evelyn is determined to not like him from the start, but Rex wins her over.  He is a young man who is taken with Evelyn from the moment he sees her and the story goes in a different way than Evelyn expects when they go on their date.

Evelyn is stubborn and her youth shows in her determination that she is right.  I was the most frustrated with her in the beginning, but she comes to her senses eventually (smile).  I also really liked how the magic in the story was quietly woven into the story.

Their story felt sweet and organic and I enjoyed it very much.  The story does take a serious turn and uses the sweetness in the beginning of the story to good effect.  Although there is some magic involved in this story, it still says a lot about the era.  The painful middle of the story pays off in a wonderful way by the end.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The Blackbird series takes place among people who are Gifted.  Evelyn, for example, brings life and vitality and Rex never forgets what he sees.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  FORGET ME NOT is a prequel novella to BLACKBIRD SUMMER.  It is about the grandmother of the heroine in BLACKBIRD SUMMER.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via the author in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a review or write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: The Lady’s Guard

Review: The Lady’s GuardThe Lady's Guard (Sinful Brides, #3) by Christi Caldwell
Series: Sinful Brides #3
Published by Montlake on July 25th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 322
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This story of a duke’s daughter and a man of the streets of St. Giles was sweet and a good story and I liked it very much.

THE STORY:  Lady Diana Verney’s life has turned upside down with her duchess mother committed to Bedlam for trying to murder Diana’s half siblings and Diana’s own social ruin. When Diana feels that someone is stalking her, her father does not take her seriously so instead, Diana turns to her half-brother who owns the Hell and Sin Club in St. Giles.  In response, Niall Marksman is asked by Diana’s brother to help protect her.  Niall feels he belongs in the darkness of St. Giles and resents having to protect a pampered Duke’s daughter.

OPINION:  This was a very enjoyable cross-class story.  The woman who has been rejected by her own peers because of her mother matches up with the low born gutter born thief and murderer.

While the topic here is dark, the actual story is taken at a much lighter level.  (Myself I prefer the darker, seedier tales, but this story is pretty good as well.)

Diana is a strong young woman who is trying to make her own way after finding out her mother has committed horrible crimes.  Diana’s estrangement from society and her fears of following in her mother’s madness have propelled Diana into creating a new future for herself. I like Diana as a character because she is woman who does the right thing even when society frowns upon her actions. I also had a great deal of sadness for how isolated Diana is.  The connection that builds between her and Niall was especially sweet in that context.

Niall is a man who is haunted by his past, but the story doesn’t really dwell on those details.  He is man who feels the corruption from the streets and doesn’t want to open himself up to any possibility of happiness because he has not truly dealt with his guilt of his past.  Although Niall has more depth than some of the previous characters in this series, I still think the story could have gone deeper into the characters and the situation.

At times I found the story heartbreaking and lovely, but there was something about it that kept me from being transparently in love with the characters.  I always felt like there was a distance between myself and the characters.  Some quality about them that was too separate and unknowable.

Therefore, this was a book that I really enjoyed as a story, but it lacked the transcendence of the best romance novels.

WORTH MENTIONING:  There are significant appearances by characters from the other books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LADY’S GUARD is the third book in the Sinful Brides series.  While this couple is a standalone story, there is an overarching story that continues from book to book and this series is better read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Scandalous Vow

Review: A Scandalous VowA Scandalous Vow by Ava Stone
Series: Scandalous Series #7
Published by Ava Stone on July 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book because these characters were so mature in their relationship which was based on intelligence and genuine liking for one another. While the two have a stormy past, their relationship was an intelligent pairing of people who talk to one another.

THE STORY:  Marcus Gray, Marquess of Haversham, has been in love with Lady Caroline Staveley for years.  For most of those years, however, she was married.  Now a widow, Caroline spends her time raising her children.  When Marcus discovers that Caroline has become the focus of an inquiry by the Home Office to find a code book being deciphered by her deceased husband, Marcus springs into action to find the book and protect Caroline. His search, however, brings Marcus into repeated contact with Caroline as the two discover the passion that is allowed for the first time.  At the same time danger surrounds the couple as various interests search for the code book.

OPINION:  I loved this book because of the heart involved.  The torch that Marcus has carried for Caroline feels like it has been a force for good.  It has made him a better person as he knows that he can never have Caroline but has concentrated on being her friend.  (As an aside, the two have a somewhat rocky history when Marcus kissed her once, but not having read most of the prior books in the series, I only am reviewing what I read in this book).

Caroline is a mature woman who has been married for half her life.  The mother of three, she had a very good marriage (what a relief from the “horrible first husband” stories that are so common).  I loved watching her balance her personal desires and her need to be a good parent to her children.  With four children between them, the kids are not just props but an important part of the relationship between Marcus and Caroline.

Marcus is a man with a dangerous past that costs him his relationships with those he loves. I really felt that Caroline freed Marcus from a past that trapped him from truly being the good man he is.  Always pretending to be worse than he is, having to deny those he loves. My heart hurt for him. His willingness to do anything for Caroline and his insistence to her daughter that he will not lie to Caroline was mature and I ended up liking him so much.

While this book has some action with spies and danger and thieves, what I loved most about this book was its quiet mature heart that is the love shared between Marcus and Caroline.  This book really made me buy the rest of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I’m now waiting impatiently for Rachel and the Covent Guard!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SCANDALOUS VOW is the seventh book in the Scandalous Series.  There are many appearances by characters from the series and while this book is understandable without knowing about the prior books, it was difficult for me to sort out everyone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC from the author in order to write a review.  I was not required to write a review or a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Tempest

Review: Beautiful TempestBeautiful Tempest (Malory-Anderson Family, #12) by Johanna Lindsey
Series: Malory Family #12
Published by Gallery Books on July 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I completely satisfying book that I approached with trepidation.  I love, love, love the book about Jack’s father and I feared that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  Instead, this book went in a different direction than I expected, but I loved these characters and their adventurous romance.

THE STORY:  Jacqueline Malory is the darling daughter of James Malory.  When Jack returns from escaping her kidnapper, James and his family are determined to take care of their enemy and sail for the West Indies to confront an old enemy.  Jack is angry that her father has left her in London while he confronts the man that kidnapped her. When a mysterious man approaches her at a masquerade ball, she is intrigued but realizes that he might actually be her kidnapper.  Instead of capturing him, Jack once again ends up in his clutches at sea.  But this time, things are different between them.

OPINION:  This is a book that I approached with trepidation.  GENTLE ROGUE (the story of Jack’s parents) is my all time favorite romance book.  Whenever an author extends the story of characters there is always the possibility of a letdown.  My concerns: Will Jack’s book be as compelling as her parents? How will the characters of James and George be presented? Will this book diminish my enjoyment of the original?  I’m glad to report that I was completely satisfied by this book.  As good as James and George’s book? No, but this book is filled with adventure and strong active characters — including Jack who seizes her own destiny.

Johanna has been writing for a long time (and I’ve been reading her for most of that time!).  Her books began in the time of bodice rippers and I found this book to be an interesting flip of many of those books.  Scenario:  heroine kidnapped and taken on the high seas as part of revenge against her father, hero is attracted to her and she is reluctantly attracted to him. The book also contains threats of rape, adventure and exotic locations.  In a prior book, the heroine would be a woman to which the action happens.  But those heroines of the past are not Jack Malory.

Jack is a woman who takes the reigns of her sexuality. She is determined, and takes all the autonomy that her brother does.  While she has a different sensibility, she refuses to be shamed or deterred by her male family members.  Ultimately, she navigates respect and care for her father and brother with her own self-determination. I really liked her own sense of self and her active nature.  Even as the times and protective nature of her male relatives dictate that she should be submissive, she (and the women of her family) are strong and independent.

Lindsey knows these characters so well and it was a joy to get an update on Malory family which contains a very colorful collection of characters that has engaged me since I was a teenager.  These characters are larger than life. While the story doesn’t have emphasis on historical accuracy and detail, I have always enjoyed how Lindsey places her iconic characters in the tapestry of history without becoming overly engaged in that history.  (There are other authors who are masters of weaving their characters into time, but that is clearly not Lindsey’s goal).

The hero Damon is an interesting contrast to Jack.  He has murky motivations but as things become clearer, I loved him more — and so did Jack!  I thought he was an interesting match for Jack. Sweeter in many ways — although he is definitely not a beta hero.  I love these shipboard romances and this one has some twists that kept me reading quickly to find out how things were resolved.

I loved this book and think that anyone who follows the Malory series will be especially pleased with this entry.  Probably my third or fourth favorite in the series overall…which says a lot considering how much I love this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book brings up characters that are candidates for future books in the series.  One can hope!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST is the twelfth book in the Malory Family series.  The book is a standalone, but is connected with its immediate predecessor STORMY PERSUASION and, of course, the heroine Jack is the daughter of James Malory from GENTLE ROGUE.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Sight Unseen

Review: Sight UnseenSight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry, J.A. Rock
Published by Open Ink Press on June 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 386
Goodreads
four-stars

SIGHT UNSEEN is an anthology of five stories written by different authors.  Three months after the publication, the authors will be revealed.

LOST THAT FEELING:  Alma is being held in prison where she is told she is a thief and a murderer.  Having cast a spell on herself, Alma has lost her memories from the last seven  years.  When she is rescued by a man named Driss, he tells her he is a friend and that she is actually a hero helping to overthrow an oppressive leader. Alma, however, doesn’t know who to trust and also who she really is.  This story was a disappointment to me.  I really loved the setup and the relationship between Alma and Driss seemed to have much promise, but instead of focusing on the relationship, the story spends too much time on the reasons that Alma’s spell went wrong. I wish there was more relationship development.  Rating: 2 stars.

CLEAR VIEW OF YOU:  Kate was raised by her mother as a future witch, but Kate was a disappointment to her mother. As she grew, Kate realized that her mother was actually running a cult and that magic is fake.  Fleeing to the “real world” Kate finances her education by acting as a psychic.  When her new client, North, has a special request for Kate, she wonders if this is an offer of a lifetime or one too good to be true.  I really liked this story.  My complaint was that it was too short.  I would love to read more stories in this world with these characters.  For such a short story, there is a lot of development in the story with both discovery of self and also dramatic plot developments.  Fun and intriguing.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

FREE:  Brad White is in love with Wren Masters.  The complication is that Brad works for a criminal motorcycle club and Wren is the club’s president’s daughter.  When Wren discovers the truth about the club, she works with Brad to discover the truth about what is going on with her father’s club.  The truth may, however, threaten any future for Brad and Wren.  This story was uneven and parts of it were unsatisfying, but I loved Brad and his devotion to Wren even when she doesn’t respond to him.  There was something fresh and intriguing about the story even if it didn’t feel polished.  I wanted to know more about the future of these two.  Rating: 4 stars.

CHARIOT OF DESIRE:  CJ Crespo has always been interested in her bandmate Donny Times. After years of self-destructive behavior (it was the 1970s after all), Donny has joined a cultish religion which imposes a morality that threatens to tear the band and Donny and CJ apart.  This is more a vignette than a fully reconciled story.  I was unhappy because while the story tells something about these characters, it felt unfinished and I was left asking what would actually happen between these characters.  Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE HEART IS A UNIVERSE:  On the planet of Pax Cora a young woman is slated to be the sacrifice in order to save her planet.  Vitalis, however, has moved from acceptance of her fate to the decision to flee and save herself.  Her desperation leads her to accept an invitation to a courtship summit where she meets the heroic and handsome prince Eleian of Terra.  Immediately upon their meeting the stranger Eleian proposes marriage. What is unclear is what are Eleian’s motives in wanting to marry a woman who will die in sixteen days if she doesn’t escape.  Absolutely wonderful.  My favorite story in the anthology.  While all the threads didn’t come together for me in the end, I thought the journey and the relationship between these characters was compelling.  I couldn’t put it down and kept turning pages wanting to know what the secrets between these characters were, how the two would resolve the dilemmas facing them and just wanting to know what the end would be.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars