Book Reviews, magic, Paranormal, Romance

Paranormal Romance Review: Magick and Moonlight (Marie Lavender)

If you liked Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, one-click Magick & Moonlight by Marie Lavender. Both Jessie and Ethan are hiding in small-town Oregon from something in the past. Can they resolve their mutual reservations about magick and learn to live – and love – again?

Small businesswoman Jessie was taught the ways of Wicca by her beloved late grandmother. While privately practicing the rituals of her faith in the forest, she is interrupted by a strange man. Is he worth the risk of her heart, her career and her life?

Ethan is a former cop laying low in a secluded cabin while seeking new direction in his life. Romance is the furthest thing from his mind when he chances upon a woman in the woods. Is their love real or is he simply spellbound?

View the Magick & Moonlight trailer: Click here.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

“A spell?”  His eyes flew to the black cauldron.  He remembered the strange chanting he’d heard before.  “You’re practicing witchcraft?  That’s a new one.”

“Wicca, actually, is a religion based on the elements of nature.  It’s a way to harmonize with our environment.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes.”

Unnerved again by her naked body as well as her suggestion, he shrugged out of his barn coat and approached her.  He draped it around her shoulders and buttoned it over her, aware that he might as well be caressing her, he was so close to her.  He realized that his coat was touching her luscious, naked body, her most secret spots.  The thought made him clench his fists.  “Can I give you a ride back home?  My truck is nearby.”

A long silence fell.  Her gaze on his, it seemed to take her awhile to decide if she could trust him.  “All right.” She dropped the knife she held.

Inwardly relieved, he sighed.  “We need to put the

fire out,” he pointed out.

He took a stick and nudged the cauldron enough so that it spilled its contents onto the fire.  A puff of smoke filled the air, causing them both to cough at the whiff of herbs and something else that smelled burnt.  He began to doubt if she was really a witch after all.  It was likely she was dabbling in the arts because she was bored.  When she gasped, he turned, alarmed.  “What is it?”

She pointed to the mess he’d created with the broth and the campfire.  “I wouldn’t have done that if I were you.”

“Oh?  Why not?”

She opened her mouth as if to explain, then suddenly closed it.  “Never mind.”

“Fine, then.  Let’s get out of here.”  With a hand against the small of her back, he nudged her gently toward the path he’d taken to find her campfire.  “So, how long have you been dabbling in—”

“In what?  Magick?”

He wondered if her contrariness was borne out of the urge to make him more uncomfortable about the subject than he already was.  “Yes.”

“All of my life.”

He raised his eyebrows.  This woman was getting more interesting by the moment.  And for all he knew, she might be crazy.  “I see.”

“I doubt it.”

Not only was she sexy as hell, she was feisty.  He fought down the response of his libido to that deadly combination.  Perhaps she was a witch.  She would be nearly impossible to forget now that he’d met her.  “Maybe you could tell me your name?”

“You can call me Jessie.”

He grinned.  At least now he could put a name with a face.  Or a body.  “Well, nice to meet you, Jessie.  I’m Ethan Hamilton.”

“Good to meet you too.  What are you doing out here though?”

“I have a cabin not too far from here.  I was by the shore when I saw the light from the campfire.”

“Oh.  Sorry for disturbing your peace.”

“Believe me.  It was no bother.”  At least not if he didn’t want to sleep tonight.  His body was as hard as a rock, clenched in anticipation of what he could share with this woman if she let him.  And that wasn’t likely, considering her reception of him.  “We’ll reach the truck soon, I promise.  You’ll be home in no time.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”  He cleared his throat.  “Is there a reason I found you naked out there?  I mean, you lost your clothes somehow, right?”

The secret smile she gave him made his throat feel dry.  “Do you want me to lie?”

“Of course not.”

“The ritual was best practiced in the nude.  Skyclad rituals are very common, you know.  The Goddess tells us, ‘You shall be free from all slavery, and as a sign that you be truly free, you shall be naked in your rights.’”

He lifted a brow.  “Even if that were the case, you didn’t walk there naked, did you?”

“Didn’t I?”

Maybe she was crazy after all.

“I didn’t walk at all.”

He thought she might be saying that she was transported by magic.  Yep, she was batty as hell.  He was so not touching that one.  He cleared his throat again.

A sharp cry startled him and instinctively, he reached forward and grabbed her when she started to fall. Unfortunately, she ended up right in his arms.

Or maybe it was fortunate after all.  With her luscious lips so close, he could almost taste her.  And her scent…dear God, she was intoxicating, like a mixture of night air and jasmine.  “You all right?” he managed.

She nodded.  “My foot caught on a rock, I think.”

“Is it bleeding?”

“My foot or the rock?”  Her cheek dimpled.

He laughed.  “Your foot, of course.”

“No, I don’t think so.  It’s all right.”

“Good.”  He realized his mistake immediately.  Some strange instinct caused him to keep her close.  Stepping back would be a crime and she was seductive.  Knowing she was naked underneath his coat didn’t help anything.  She was way too accessible.  Heedless of the costs, he plunged a hand into the soft waves of her dark hair and lowered his mouth to hers.

She tasted like wine, potent and sweet.  He explored her mouth slowly, allowing her the chance to pull away or slap him.  He knew he’d deserve it.  He’d never stolen a kiss before, and he couldn’t think why he’d done it now.  But, she tasted delicious.  And her body felt so good against his.  He groaned and drew her closer.  When she moaned in return, he kissed her deeply and moved a hand down her back.  His hands wanted to roam further, but he held himself in check.  If he was a real gentleman, he’d pull away now.  Reluctantly, he did.

He drew back and tried to get his libido back under control.  “Ah…sorry.  I wasn’t thinking.”  He swept a hand through his hair.

He thought she looked just as shaken.  But she smiled a little.  “It’s okay.  No harm done, right?”

This is my first read of Magick & Moonlight. It’s the third book I’ve read by Marie Lavender, the others being Second Chance Heart and Blue Vision, which I also enjoyed. Lavender takes a hapless couple in a rural setting, stirs in some well-researched and rich details and sprinkles them with her gifts for romance, storytelling and language. The result is a delicious love story that will leave you satisfied, yet coming back for more of Marie Lavender’s works.

Buy Magick & Moonlight by Marie Lavender at Amazon or Solstice:

Universal Amazon:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00IRKN5P2

myBook.to/MagickMoon

Publisher:  http://solsticepublishing.com/magick-moonlight/

Reviewer Bio

Belinda Y. Hughes is an author, blogger, editor, proofreader, reviewer and unit study developer. Her vegetarian cookbook, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, and lesbian romance, Blues in the Night, are available on Amazon. Her latest project, Unit Study: DERELICT by LJ Cohen, is available at Apple (iBooks), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Inktera and Kobo.

DISCLOSURE: I paid for this book out of my own pocket.

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Book Reviews, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Romance

BOOK REVIEW: Not Without Risk (Sarah Grimm)

Not Without Risk

Not Without Risk by Sarah Grimm is an edgy suspense thriller and sizzling romance. Featuring classic cars, police procedure and the outrageous twists and turns of the devious criminal mind, the chemistry between a sexy single detective and his prime suspect brings it all together. If you love cops, murder mystery and romance, you’ll be proud to own this book and read it again and again.

Paige had been a good Boston girl, obeying her parents right up until she balked at law school. Instead, she became a photographer and fell in love with a cop. Just days before the high-end client appointment that will set her career soaring, Paige gets a mysterious call that turns her world upside down – again. Not just because the caller ends up dead, not just because her own life turns out to be in danger from an elusive, game-playing madman, but also because the investigating detective is the cop of her dreams and she doesn’t date cops anymore after her fiance’s death.

Justin was the job. For thirteen years, he’d busted butt and stayed focused to earn his shield and make it home alive every night. Only to lose focus after a tough day on the job and not make it home. Six months later, his first case on his first day back turns out to be his undoing. Not just because he came back too soon and is still wracked with pain that’s exacerbated by job stress, not just because time is running out to solve the case and he can’t do it after reading through the file thirty times, but because his prime suspect is a devastating Boston beauty well versed in investigation tactics who could take his career and his life down with her.

Not Without Risk is the third book by Sarah Grimm that I’ve read and I can hardly wait for more. It’s evident from the start that Grimm has done her homework on police procedurals, classic cars and criminal behavior. And she weaves it all together so beautifully with her distinctive style, letting the romantic tension build between the MCs while the detectives and suspect/victim investigate in the aftermath of the worst kind of murder – a fallen fellow officer. If you bleed blue, get this book and tell all your friends, male and female. It’d be a great gift for anyone on the force and romance lovers alike. Enjoy the free excerpt.

Excerpt

“Sergeant Simmons, I don’t know if Justin has mentioned anything to you about my break-in last night?”

“He did and call me Allan.”

His attention appeared hung up on her face. Suddenly self-conscious, the urge to hide behind her sunglasses flared to life. She’d done her best to camouflage her bruising under a few layers of makeup. Had believed she’d done a credible job. His distraction made her wonder if she shouldn’t have just left it alone.

“Okay. Well, Allan, last night there seemed to be some question about whether or not someone had been in my home. This morning, I received proof.”

“What kind of proof?” Justin ran his hand through his hair and then shoved it into his front pocket in a move she was beginning to understand indicated his level of tension.

Briskly, she unzipped her laptop case. Without glancing at them, she passed the photos she’d printed just that morning to Justin. His steady stream of expletives, spoken under his breath, brought the tiny hairs on her arms to attention.

“Where’d you get these, Paige?”

“When I checked my e-mail this morning, I found them.”

Justin fell silent, a muscle flexing in his jaw as he flipped through the photographs one by one, studying each one individually before passing them to Allan.

“Look at the way the body’s positioned,” Allan said as he studied the first picture.

“Body?” Paige couldn’t stop the shiver that passed through her. “That’s not just any body.”

“It’s you,” Justin growled.

“Yes. You have to stop this guy.” The irony of this latest threat hadn’t escaped her. The fact that this man had used photographs against her—a photographer. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“The message is clear,” Allan began, taking the remaining photos from Justin and shuffling through them. “He took the time to manipulate her, but left her unharmed.”

“Is it? I’m not certain I’m getting it. If he wants me dead why—” Shock slammed through her system as his words registered. “Wait a minute. What do you mean by manipulated?”

“Did you eat or drink anything out of the ordinary last night?”

“No. No, of course not. Why?”

The expression that settled onto Justin’s face had Paige stepping back. Tension pulsed off of him in waves. His hand fisted against his thigh.

“Why?”

Allan looked up from the photographs in his hands. “These pictures are similar—”

“Frighteningly similar.”

“Yes,” Allan agreed. “To the shots we have from the St. John homicide.”

“Leroy.” Nausea rolled in her stomach as she saw him again, stomach down, sheet tangled around his legs.

It hadn’t registered. Not when she opened her email and discovered them, or later as she’d developed them. She hadn’t realized just what about those photographs froze her heart with fear. The thought that someone had been in her home, standing over her bed for God knew how long before she came awake was terrifying enough. But now…

The images shifted in and out of focus—images of her, deep asleep, face buried into her pillow, sheet riding low on her hips. Shock snapped across her nerve endings.

“N-no.” Her gaze swung between the two men. “The similarities don’t mean anything.” They couldn’t mean anything. This put a whole new spin on things. One she couldn’t accept. “I did not sleep through some…” What was the word she wanted? “Person positioning me like the body of one of his victims. That’s just how I sleep.”

Justin and Allan’s swift exchange of looks spoke as loudly as their silence.

“I’ve always been a stomach sleeper. The rest is just coincidence.”

“I believe this goes a step beyond coincidence.”

Buy Not Without Risk at Amazon.

Read my reviews and excerpts of Sarah Grimm‘s

Black Phoenix rock star romance series:

After Midnight and Midnight Heat.

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

Disclosure: I am a member of Sarah Grimm’s Street Team. I paid for my copy of this book out of my own pocket. Opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews, Football, Romance, Sports

BOOK REVIEW: To Win Her Love (Mackenzie Crowne)

ToWinHerLove_750

 

If you love football, chocolate chip cookies and Meg Ryan movies, you’ll adore To Win Her Love by Mackenzie Crowne. I never thought I’d like a sports romance novel, but this one stole my heart with its absolutely magnificent storytelling. Crowne’s three generations of characters play the games of professional football and love from every angle with exceptional skills and strategy. Are the X’s and O’s players on a board or kisses and hugs? Which team will you root for?

For twelve years, sports blogger Gracie Gable has been denying herself her heart’s deepest desire, a family of her own. Now it’s been handed to her on a silver platter, along with a farm and the sexy football star of her fantasies – and the chance to finally meet her father. But can she play a dead man’s crazy game to win or lose it all?

One day Manhattan Marauders’ Outlaw Tight End Jake Malone is endangering his career in a war of words with the Gridiron Girl and her minions. The next, he’s forced into a custody battle with the tall, leggy blonde for two little girls he never even knew existed. Can he keep his head in the game and save his career while sharing a roof with a violet-eyed temptress with her own playbook?

This is the first book of Mackenzie Crowne’s that I’ve read. Her writing style stands out as unique, inspiring and easy to read. If you’re thinking of trying your hand at romance writing, this book is a fine example to learn from. If you read to relax, escape or get in the mood, To Win Her Love will warmly embrace you, exercise your heart and leave you refreshed, energized and happy. I say get it – along with some chocolate chip cookies and Kleenex.

Excerpt

Like pure, walking sin, Jake Malone closed the distance in a deceptively lazy saunter. Gracie Gable fought the nearly overwhelming urge to take off running. Clenching her jaw, she lifted her chin. Without knowing her true identity, the various press publications flooding her blog’s inbox with requests for interviews had been stymied in their attempts to track her down physically. How the hell had Jake?

And oh, God, why now?

A horrified groan rumbled deep in her chest. Having no idea what was in Pete’s will, she couldn’t afford to do anything to jeopardize her guardianship of the girls—like going toe-to-toe with the Manhattan Marauders’ Outlaw Tight End right here on her brother-in-law’s front lawn. She shot a worried glance down the historic farmhouse’s long driveway, relieved to find it empty. With a little luck, Pete’s attorney would be delayed long enough for her to deal with the famous all-pro’s justified, but still overblown ego. She’d promise him anything—apologize profusely for insulting his integrity, offer him a bribe, whatever would get rid of him before Anthony Spinoza arrived.

Six foot five, with a fallen angel’s face and the body of a god, Jake continued to approach. Gravel crunched beneath the heels of his boots, marking his long-legged swagger, as his thigh muscles flexed and stretched under faded blue jeans. A worn and battered leather bomber jacket rode his yard-wide shoulders. His trademark black Stetson and snakeskin boots completed the image of the Outlaw who held his own against opposing defensive lines and cast him in countless feminine fantasies. Hers included. She’d enjoyed more than her share of secret imaginings concerning the Marauders’ number one tight end.

Though his nasty insults during their disastrous exchange on her blog the other day should’ve dealt a death blow to her foolish infatuation, the two-dimensional image she’d admired on her TV screen couldn’t have prepared her for the flesh and bone temptation that was Jake Malone. Dismay crowded panic as every double X chromosome in her body quivered with giddy, XXX delight.

The X girls danced with anticipation, and the erratic thump of her heart increased with every fall of his size fifteen feet. Down, girls. He may look like every woman’s deepest sexual fantasy, but those boots are more likely to stomp us into the ground than end up under our bed.

 

Buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Win-Her-Love-Players-ebook/dp/B00PEOIZ4K/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-win-her-love-mackenzie-crowne/1120723911?ean=9781616507374

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/to-win-her-love/id959374205?mt=11

 

About the Reviewer 

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana author of Blues in the NightLiving Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write in a variety of genres. Follow Belinda on AmazonGoodreads and Twitter.

DISCLOSURE: I am a member of Mackenzie Crowne’s Street Team. I received an advance review copy (ARC) of To Win Her Love for the purpose of doing this review. Opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews, Romance

BOOK REVIEW: The Replacement Bridesmaid (Laurie Ralston)

Simply taking her best friend’s place at a European wedding carries enormous consequences for Jill Owens. Now her husband and daughter think she’s lost her mind and Jill’s not so sure herself. One week she’s throwing dinner parties for her husband’s law partners, the next she’s running away from home and toward her best friend’s favorite cousin, who happens to be both a hottie and a married man himself.

Besides her new Irish lover, only one man on earth supports Jill unconditionally – her son. He knows all about the secret life of super-successful Arizona attorney Scott Owens’ bored and lonely housewife. Ryan can be counted on to drop whatever he’s doing and meet his mom for margaritas, take her out for birthday dinners or pick her up from the airport. Scott’s been pretty much MIA for the last 15 years, skipping Jill’s birthdays in favor of out of town depositions, but making it home every time for those law partner dinner parties, where he berates Jill for the slightest infraction of dessert selection.

EXCERPT

Jill felt elated. It was crazy, she told herself, but she was going to go to Ireland for this wedding. She just had to figure out how to swing it.

As she saw it, she had three options. She could tell Scott about the trip and ask his permission to go. She could tell him that she was going and not solicit any permission. Or she could just go.

The first option was probably the best option if she wanted to stay married. Bit did she want to stay married? She had not asked herself that question, not seriously anyway. There were plenty of times when she wanted to flee out the door and never look back. However, she had never really considered doing it. What would she do? How would she do it? She never got past those questions and to the one about her marriage to Scott. Mostly, it had seemed impossible, particularly when the kids were younger and still in the house. Even until today, it had seemed impossible.

She stood up and went into the family room. The room was one of her favorites, where she and the kids had spent many hours watching television, playing games, working on class projects, and hanging out. She had her best conversations with them in this room. There was a large screen television on one wall, with two large comfortable and unstylish couches facing it. A dark wooden bookcase ran the length of one of the walls. Scott had built it when they had first moved into the house when the twins were small.

She rummaged around on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, finding her wedding album. Sitting on one of the couches, she opened the album to the first page, which was an 8×10 print of them running back up the aisle at the church right after being declared husband and wife. They were laughing, her head thrown back and her short veil trailing in the air behind her.

When her college roommate Mary begged Jill to take her place at her cousin’s wedding in Ireland, Jill thought there was no way she could do it. After the wedding, while waiting for her return flight to be called, Jill reads Mary’s prepaid plane ticket stub, and her life begins to take off in an entirely new direction. Mary’s handsome cousin Coyle picking her up at the airport is already a more than friendly face.

I’ve read this book at least a dozen times in the two years I’ve owned it. Each time through, I find fresh inspiration for more honest decision-making in my life: choosing what’s right for me, not necessarily what others think I should do. If you’re at a crossroads of change in your life or just want a truly great romance novel to read on the beach or in hospital, this is The One. I highly recommend The Replacement Bridesmaid by Laurie Ralston.

BUY & FOLLOW LINKS

Buy The Replacement Bridesmaid at Amazon.

Follow Laurie Ralston at Amazon and Twitter.

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. She recently submitted a paranormal scifi short story to HDWP Books for consideration in their New Myths Theme-Thology. Her current projects include LGBT erotica and poetry. Belinda enjoys beading, reading, writing, cooking and hiking in the woods with her old dog.

Follow Belinda on Facebook and Twitter.

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