Monday, January 26, 2015

He's So Fine

In He's So Fine (Lucky Harbor #11) by Jill Shalvis, Cole is a dependable, honest man who runs a charter boat company with his friends in Lucky Harbor.  He doesn't trust easily though, and past hurts have stopped him from getting close to a woman for a long time...until Olivia...

Olivia is finally living the life she wants to live in Lucky Harbor.  She's trying to leave her past behind her, and who she says she is now is who she is now...just not who she was.  She keeps herself closed off and a little remote, hiding a past she wants nothing to do with but that won't stay in the past.  When she 'saves' Cole from drowning, he's no longer the man she ogles out of her window...but a man who makes her tingle and want more.  But Olivia has convinced herself she can't have more, even as Cole finds himself drawn to her and wanting her in a way he hasn't wanted anyone.

As their relationship builds, both of their pasts throw up road blocks in different ways.  Cole is starting to trust and believe in love again, but will Olivia's secrets threaten what they could have together?  Can they both find a way to make peace with the past?

It was so much fun to be back in Lucky Harbor in He's So Fine!  I love that place, and Jill does a fantastic job of taking me there!  I love all the quirky characters on the side lines, and it was great to see them again.  While I think He's So Fine can be read as a stand alone, I'd recommend reading the whole series to get a true feel for Lucky Harbor.

The main characters in He's So Fine pulled me in, making me want to know their secrets and where they'll go from here.  I really liked them both, and even though keeping secrets is not good, Jill let me get to know the characters well enough to understand how their pasts have brought them to where they are today.  As usual Jill's characters have a magnetic chemistry and connection that is entertaining, sweet, and palpable.  I liked how she worked in the family dynamics as well as friendship dynamics in He's So Fine, it made the people even more believable.

With fun characters that are easy to like, well paced and smooth writing, I'd recommend He's So Fine to any contemporary romance reader!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making Magic

In Making Magic (Books of The Kindling #3) by Donna June Cooper, magic and music flow together...

Jake is the Sheriff of Patton Springs, currently on leave after being shot.  While on leave, he's finally finding the courage to follow his own heart, his own dreams.  Music is what he is.  Music and Magic.

Thea is back in Patton Springs, on Woodruff Mountain, for the wedding of her brother.  She's a lawyer who's been working for her father's pharmaceutical company...but circumstances and family dynamics have allowed her only a few secret trips back to Woodruff Mountain over the last few years.  Now that she's done what she set out to do at her father's company, she is heading into the future unsure of where she's going.  She knows she will not stay at Woodruff Mountain.  The weight of guilt and a feeling of responsibility for tragedies make Thea believe it's safer for her to be gone.  Thea has abilities she doesn't talk about, that scare her.

She doesn't count on the chemistry that simmers just below the surface when she meets back up with her child hood friend Jake...But trouble has followed Thea, and her secrets need to be revealed.  Thea discovers reality and what she's imagined all these years are quite different.  As Thea and Jake become closer than friends, to put trouble behind them, they are all going to have to work together...Thea, Jake, and Thea's family.  Will it be enough to ease Thea's anxiety about staying on Woodruff Mountain?  Or will she leave the mountain, her family, and Jake again without finding out if they can make magical music together?

Making Magic is another entrancing read in the Books of The Kindling series.  As the books go on and the plot evolves, I got a better understanding of what The Kindling is.  I love the legendry that Donna uses in this series, it has a strong impact on the plot of every book and Making Magic is no exception.

Thea and Jake are both strong main characters who I felt like I got to know really well.  I liked how Donna used their backgrounds so that I could understand them, and I liked how she used this to develop them into who they are today.  Music is a common theme through out Making Magic and this is one thing that really held Thea and Jake together.  I loved how Donna used music...I could hear Thea's flute I'm sure!  It was very interesting all the different instruments that Jake talked about too...Donna obviously knows what she's talking about.  And of course Woodruff Mountain makes its own music - I loved the descriptions of the mountain, the woods and the music.  I could smell it, see it, and feel it.

Told in dual POV, this really got me hooked on the story and the characters because I felt like I was able to understand them both even when they couldn't understand each other.

There is a lot going on in Making Magic...mystery and suspense that all revolve around Woodruff mountain.  Donna manages to throw in the unexpected and catch me off guard at times, and her clear, well paced writing kept things from getting confusing.  There are a lot of secondary characters, some of whom we see carried over from the other books in this series, along with some who are very unique to this story.  I would recommend reading the other two books in this series if you haven't already to get a solid background on the general theme of this series.

A great mix of romance, suspense and paranormal that is still believable, I'd recommend this to any reader who likes those genres.

4/5 stars :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Making Magic

Making Magic

by Donna June Cooper

Series: Books of the Kindling, #3

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Cover Designer: Kanaxa

Genre: Contemporary Romance with a touch of Magic

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Books of the Kindling, Book 3

Sticks and stones may threaten bones, but her words can conquer both body and soul.

During his law enforcement career, Sheriff Jake Moser has been called to Woodruff Mountain a few times to deal with some rather weird situations. Now, recovering from a bullet wound that should have killed him and fending off his mother’s ravings about the evil that lurks on the mountain, he’s making alternate career plans.

Just as those plans begin to take shape, someone starts kidnapping newborn babies, then returning them unharmed. To make things even more interesting, an irritating adversary from his past has returned to bedevil him in a whole new, delightful way.

After her erratic psychic gift forced her to abandon her home and a promising musical career, Thea Woodruff has spent years trying, unsuccessfully, to atone for the death of Becca Moser, Jake’s sister. Once she has mourned those she’s lost and apologized to those she’s failed, she intends to flee her mountain once again.

Jake would rather she stay to compose a new tune—with him. But their complicated harmony reveals a guilty secret that threatens not only their future, but their lives…

Warning: A temperamental flute-player returns to torment an old flame, but he has other ideas, and the music they make together is combustible—and magical.

Thea caught movement at the edge of her vision and braced herself for another automobile groupie, but it was only a dirty mop head lying on the ground next to the wall. In her exhausted state, she must've imagined it. She opened the door and put her bags on the console. Before she put the coffee in the drink holder, she took a long sip of the scalding brew. It wasn't too bad, but it made her eyes water. She blinked when she saw the mop head move again. Probably a rat or raccoon under there.

Then the mop head lifted its ears and gazed at her with big dark eyes.

She gasped and spilled yet more coffee on her blouse.

A dog.

A horribly-matted, filthy gray dog that might've once been white pushed up on skinny legs and backed against the wall, watching her with suspicion. Then she saw the battered aluminum pan and cracked bowl full of water beside it. Someone was feeding the poor thing, but not really taking ownership.

A stray. Like her.

She almost took a step towards the pitiful creature, but what would she do with a dog?

Thea hadn't thought much beyond getting home for the wedding, except that she couldn't stay. Grace had a husband now, a baby on the way and probably planned to fill the house up with children. Daniel was moving into the old Taggart place with his new bride. And she needed to follow her plan to go off and teach music somewhere. There was no room for the prodigal daughter on the mountain, much less a grimy, smelly dog. She looked down at herself and smiled. They were a matched set, weren't they?

The dirty mop blinked at her as she sipped her coffee.

"What's your name, pooch?" she asked.

The head cocked sideways and one eye disappeared behind its unkempt hair. The other eye glared at her as the dog tried to sink back into the wall.

She thought of the interstate and the busy highway only yards away and shuddered. The poor thing had probably been left behind by some traveling family or a trucker. At least someone here was feeding it. She wondered how long it had been here, waiting for its owner to return. Her heart clenched. Swallowing hard, she shut the car door, walking back into the truck stop.

The woman who had waited on her before looked up and smiled. "Back for a refill, hon?"

"No, ma'am." Her voice felt rusty, as if she hadn't used it in a long time. "I was wondering about the dog out in the parking lot."

The woman frowned. "Poor thing. Someone dumped her here a couple of months back."

Months would feel like years to a little one like that. Years waiting for someone to take you home. Years waiting to go home. Thea felt tears threatening at the symmetry.

"No one came for it? No one here wants to take it home?"

"Hey, we tried. She won't come and no one can catch her. Sly little thing. We figure she's holding out for her real owner."

"How do you know it's female?"

The woman, whose nametag said "Jenny", leaned over conspiratorially. "The way she pees, but we might be wrong. The boys do that sometimes too."

Thea mulled it over. Surely Grace had room for another dog. Or maybe Daniel would take her. Someone would.

She reached for her wallet and pulled out one of her cards. "Do you have a pen?" Carefully scratching out her business number, she wrote her cell number on the card in its place and handed it over.  "If her owner comes back, you call me."

Jenny looked at the card and gave her an assessing look.  She could imagine how she appeared to the woman—pencil thin skirt, stained silk blouse and expensive heels.

"Oh, hon. You ain't gonna catch her."

Thea smiled. I just gave a powerful multinational the one finger salute. I can save an abandoned dog. "Watch me. I'll have an order of bacon to go, please."

Jenny shook her head, but went back to the kitchen and brought back a napkin wrapped around several pieces of bacon. "On the house. If you can catch Bailey, I'll give you a hamburger for her lunch. And one for yours as well."

"Bailey? After Baileyton?"

The woman nodded.  "Works for a girl or a boy, I say."

The name fit. Taking the bacon, she walked back out front with Jenny close on her heels only to find Bailey gone.

"She's probably out raiding the garbage. She hides out back there under the skips sometimes. But you'll never be able to get to her."

Thea handed Jenny her coffee. "If I do, I want another hot cup to go instead of that second burger. I'm a vegetarian."

The woman laughed and followed her, carrying the coffee. "This I gotta see."

Sure enough, they spotted the walking mop sniffing around one of the garbage skips at the back of the building, far enough back to make it impossible to reach her.

Thea got as close to the skip as she could get without going under it, then squatted down, or rather tried to. She finally gave up, hiked up her skirt and knelt on the dirty pavement.

"Here, Bailey girl!" She leaned in under the skip and held out a piece of bacon. "Come on, baby girl," she cooed.

The dog crouched in the shadows, her ears back and her tail tucked under, growling.

It was a good thing Thea's nose was stopped up. What little she could smell was bad enough.

"What's goin' on back here?" came a man's voice. Thea jumped, whacking her head on the side of the skip.

"This lady's trying to get Bailey," Jenny said.

"Like that's gonna happen. You're the one with that red Beemer from Pennsylvania, ain't ya?"

Thea looked over her shoulder at a man in a white apron who had leaned down to grin at her. He said every single syllable of Penn-syl-va-ni-a, as if it were an unpronounceable contagious disease. And his eyes spent far too much time lingering on her rear end, which was sticking up in the air at the moment.

She felt her temper start to rise. She hated it when people, especially men, tried to tell her what she could and couldn't do.

"Damn it, Bailey," she hissed. But those big eyes looked terrified and the dog had cringed even closer to the pavement.

Crap. "Bailey, come here," she said quietly, but the voice rang off the metal of the skip.

Bailey immediately crawled forward, right onto her lap. Thea slid sideways and heard her skirt rip at the kick pleat as she turned to sit beside the garbage skip with the filthy dog in her arms.

"Well I'll be," Jenny exclaimed, clapping her hands.

The man seemed to be reassessing his opinion of Thea. "Shit. You some kinda dog whisperer or somethin'?"

Thea smiled. "Or something." She looked at Jenny. "Now, how about that hamburger for my friend here?" She broke off little pieces of bacon and fed them to Bailey.

"Oh you bet, honey. And I'll get you some wipes for your hands and—" Jenny looked Thea over and sniffed, "—for your hands." She ran back into the restaurant.

"Hell, I'd say both you and the dog need to use the showers, but we don't let no dogs in there," the man said. "You need me to help you up, honey?"

Thea smirked at him and put Bailey down at her feet. "Stay." Bailey waited, motionless, as Thea stood then reached down to scoop her back up.

"That's weird," the man said. "Spooky, even."

Thea was tempted to make him do something embarrassing, to get back at him for the shower comment, but her head was already aching. Besides, she did need a shower. She bit her lip and marched past him around the side of the building with Bailey in her arms.

Lovely. Now she had an audience. They seemed to be the regulars, truckers mostly and some staff, standing outside the doors watching as she carried the dog to her car. One of the waitresses started clapping. Then the rest joined in, until even the grumpy cook cheered the little dog's rescue.

Smiling at them, Thea lifted Bailey's paw to wave goodbye to them and opened the car door to slide in, dog and all.  She shut it firmly and quickly pushed the button to start the car, struggled to fasten her seat belt under the dog and wondered if she should fasten it over the dog instead. She knew next to nothing about dogs.

Jenny came running out with a sack and a cup, grinning.  When Thea rolled down the window, she leaned in. "Here you go. Fresh coffee, a nice hamburger for Bailey and some hashbrowns for you. There's utensils and hand wipes. Don't take this the wrong way, but I think what both of you'll need is a long hot soak. And you need some meat on your bones if you're going to keep up with this 'un." She cautiously stroked Bailey's ears and Thea noticed a glint in her eyes. Jenny was probably the person who'd been feeding the poor thing. "She'd never let me touch her."

Thea tensed when Bailey turned and licked her cheek. She could not get attached to a dog she had just met. "Do you want to keep her?" she asked.

"Oh, my. No! My Larry would have my hide. I already have four at home. One more and I end up in the pound. No, I think our Bailey's real owner finally showed up." She sniffed. "You come back and visit us, baby doll," she said to Bailey. "I want to see you all cleaned up and pretty."

"Cleaned up, we can do. Not so sure about pretty," Thea said, unable to picture Bailey as anything but a mop.

"Here." Jenny pulled the white towel off her shoulder and handed it to Thea. "Make her a place over there next to you. You don't wanna drive with her in your lap like that."

Thea braced her flute case against the passenger door and pushed the junk on the passenger seat around to make a nest.  She curled the towel in the seat and sat Bailey on it.

Bailey immediately walked back across and lay on Thea's lap again.

Jenny gave Bailey's head one more stroke. "Definitely found her real owner."

Thea's smiled. "Thanks, Jenny. You were a good foster mom."

Jenny nodded and backed away, wiping at her eyes, then waved as Thea drove out of the parking lot.

Book 3: Making Magic

Book 1: More Than Magic

Book 2: Mostly Magic

When she’s not being dragged down the sidewalk by her Jack Russell (if you know Jacks, you understand), Donna June Cooper is belly dancing (shiny!), reading (three books at once), writing (of course!) or complaining about the heat (no matter the temperature). A child of the Appalachians who was transplanted to Texas by her Italian husband, Donna returns to her mountain roots as often as possible, and takes her readers with her in her Books of the Kindling.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mostly Magic

In Mostly Magic (Books of The Kindling #2) by Donna June Cooper, I lost myself in magic, legends, fear, and the earth.  Donna really pulled me in and kept me enchanted all through out Mostly Magic.

Dr. Daniel Woodruff is a beekeeper, an expert on bees.  He dreams...but not like other people.  His dreams are terrifying and they predict future events.  His most recent dreams are no longer just happening when he's asleep, but awake also...and they leave him lost for a little while.  The recent ones also have him convinced he can never allow a woman to get close to him.  Ever.  In Italy for a conference, he is ready to head home to Woodruff Mountain sooner rather than later.  

Mel is also in Italy.  A freelance journalist, she is following a strong lead that goes no where.  She is a strong supporter of environmental issues, so when she finds out Daniel is also in Italy, she is determined to interview him about an issue and company that is doing something that could have disastrous results.  Daniel wants no part of an interview with anyone...he has enough going on right now.  But he ends up needing help, and Mel is the one to give it.  As they chase his dreams, which he keeps secret, Mel also has secrets...and the issue they end up working together to out suddenly becomes very dangerous for them.

There is a definite attraction between them, but Daniel is still determined nothing can ever come of it.  When Mel ends up taking refuge at Woodruff Mountain with him it gets harder and harder to resist the pull between them.  Daniel still dreams though, and he is scared, not trusting himself, and not sure what he can do about the dreams he's having.  His sister Grace (from book one) does her best to help Daniel accept his 'gift', and find out how it can work for him.  Daniel still fears the future though, and any future with Mel is on shaky ground until he can be comfortable with his gift and what it means.  As Daniel is working through this there is still danger lurking, creeping closer to him and Mel.  When secrets finally are revealed, can they help each other and be safe again, together?  Or is it too late?

Donna really wowed me with Mostly Magic!  I loved it.  It was fast paced, engaging, and I couldn't put it down.  She pulled me in with the characters and the different things going on in their lives, had my heart racing at times and hoping at times.  I loved both Mel and Daniel.  Mel is so fun, smart, and light a bright sun beam lighting up not only Daniel's life but the pages of Mostly Magic.  She is a determined woman, but at the same time she is a journalist who also respect boundaries, and I loved that about her.  She did have her secrets too, and I felt that she handled everything well given the circumstances...knowing what to do and when.  Daniel is scared and exhausted.  I really felt for him and what he was going through, he was so confused at times.  I really liked how Donna incorporated his dreams into the plot line, so at times at first I was sure it was really happening.  I liked how she did this because this is how Daniel is experiencing things, so she gave us a great look at Daniel's perspective this way.  Together I felt that Mel and Daniel could be great, if he can only come to terms with everything and open himself up, take the chance.  All the little 'coincidences' looked like fate to me.

I loved the different setting Donna wrote about in Mostly Magic, from Italy back to Woodruff Mountain.  This made Mostly Magic stand strongly on it's own and kept things lively.  I would recommend reading More Than Magic first, but my feeling is that if you read Mostly Magic alone you would sink in easily to this world.

Donna gives realistic descriptions of people, places, and events.  The supernatural aspect of Mostly Magic is a plausible one, because you just never know!  All of this combined with the great flow, suspense and danger made Mostly Magic a 5 star read for me that I'd recommend to any romance reader who likes a good mix of paranormal and suspense.

5/5 stars!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More Than Magic

In More Than Magic (Books of the Kindling #1) by Donna June Cooper, Grace inherited more than Woodruff mountain and a herbal business from her grandfather.  She also inherited magic...magic she doesn't necessarily want, magic that scares her and leaves her uncertain.  Her last message from her grandfather also haunts her...there is something wrong with the mountain only she can fix.  A physician now living on Woodruff Mountain running the herbal business and renting cottages on her property, Grace shuts the business side of her life down when events she's not sure she knows the reason for start occurring.  Kept company by her dog and a young child, Jamie, she babysits, Grace is running low on energy and life, filled with unanswered questions.

DEA agent Nick arrives unexpectedly on her property as a writer recovering from illness looking to heal and write.  He is not who he says he is, but for him magic has a whole other meaning - meth on the streets of Atlanta that he is sure is coming from Woodruff Mountain.  Always trusting his gut instincts, as soon as he meets Grace he knows something is not quite right...but what?  She's his prime suspect, but his gut is screaming no.  With his body and mind falling for her, the pull between them is almost magical.  But with each having their own hidden agendas and danger of all kinds in the mountains surrounding them, can they make it through all of it to see what they can have together?

More Than Magic is a thrilling first book in the Books of Kindling series.  At times frightening and at times so romantic, Donna easily pulled me right into Grace and Nick's story.  I really liked both of these main characters.  Both of them are driven, determined to do the right thing.  I liked how they spent time getting to know one another, even if Nick's initial reasons were mixed.  I felt this gave me really good insight into the characters and their lives, which made me like their story even more.  I really liked the dual POV's that took us into their minds.  Jamie, the child, is a strong secondary character who was so easy to picture.

Donna paces More Than Magic well, with a great mix of magic, uncertainty, healing, and the power of nature.  I enjoyed how she blended all of these elements together with a romantic suspense that had me on pins and needles at times!  She writes with great knowledge of her subject, and makes her characters believable.  Even the paranormal aspect is one of those things you think just might be possible, which is an element of paranormal romances that I love.  Her description of Woodruff Mountain is so detailed I could feel it, see the stars, the fog and the forest.

With action, danger, and romance, I'd recommend More Than Magic to romantic suspense readers who like some paranormal woven keep it magic.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mostly Magic!

Mostly Magic

by Donna June Cooper

Series: Books of the Kindling, #2
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Cover Designer: Kanaxa

Genre: Contemporary Romance with a touch of Magic

Release Date: June 3, 2014

Books of the Kindling, Book 2

One terrifying premonition brings them together. Another will threaten their future.

Do dreams come true? Dr. Daniel Woodruff hopes they don't, because his dreams predict a devastating future for him, for those he loves—and for the planet.

His latest premonition, which blows a huge crater in his eroding sanity, holds a singular horror—the loss of a wife and unborn child. Yet another reason he can let no one into his chaotic life, least of all a perky, persistent investigative reporter he finds simultaneously frustrating and fascinating.

Mel Noblett leaves no stone unturned in her one-woman crusade to save the environment. When a whistleblower in Italy proves too frightened to talk, Mel turns to a fall-back lead, an extremely eccentric, beekeeping professor who might just make the trip worthwhile.

Despite their instant attraction, Mel is relieved when Daniel keeps her at arm’s length. After all, she has a secret of her own—one that makes her preternaturally good at her job. And, when Daniel’s terrifying visions prove cannily accurate and begin to revolve around Mel—it is a gift that could put her life in danger.

Warning: Reluctant seer of a bleak future meets petite force of nature who lights up the heart of his darkness. Where there’s smoke, there could be an unpredictable blaze of passion, but the rewards are oh, so sweet…

Mel’s fingers flew as she folded the green origami paper and counted the children in the crowd. She needed two more frogs, in case they were all brave enough to approach Missy Twist for a souvenir.

“And at last, the handsome prince deigned to kiss the rather homely-looking frog,” Cornelius Twist pronounced, not quite putting his lips on the very real, and very bored, amphibian in the bottom of the man-size cabinet. He then shut the doors with a dramatic flourish and turned the cabinet all the way around.

“What do you think happened to the frog?” her dad asked the audience.

A number of voices clamored for his attention, most of them children shouting that the frog turned into a beautiful princess of course, but one little girl insisted, rather loudly and as the other voices died down, that it turned into a prince.

Cornelius waggled his eyebrows at the crowd. “Not in this state, my lovely lady!” he quipped, and the adults in the crowd laughed. “No, this frog turned into a beautiful princess.” He swung open the door of the cabinet, and Heather emerged, looking rather like a bedraggled Snow White in her tattered red and gold outfit trimmed with bells and beads.

Perched on her head, which was already adorned with feathers and ribbons, was a rather lopsided and well-worn tiara with a few glass jewels missing.

Heather extended her hand regally, and he bowed to her as he helped her to the stage.

Mel laughed and clapped from her perch next to the stage, widening her eyes in excitement at the children in the crowd and then pointing to herself and nodding proudly, miming placing the tiara on her head as if she could be a princess too. It was all part of the show.

Heather’s outfit had been modeled after Mel’s, only where Mel’s was blue and silver to match her coloring, Heather’s dramatic black hair and pale skin had demanded the red and gold.

Heather hadn't taken up the stage name that Mel had used—Missy Twist, daughter of Cornelius Twist. Mel’s dad had told Mel with a smirk that the name Heather used instead, Feather Head, suited her perfectly. But she was petite, flexible, coordinated and wonderful with the kids.

A little girl wandered up the aisle to where Mel sat on the steps leading to the stage, and Mel took one of the green origami frogs and hopped it toward her. It landed in the grass at the tot’s feet, and she scooped it up and carried it to her father, who was already en route to retrieve the brave explorer.

As the little girl waved goodbye, Mel hunched her shoulders and wiggled her fingers under her chin in her trademark “Missy” wave and was startled by a sudden emotional surge from somewhere in the audience.


Oh, it was much more than that. Amusement. Relief. Excitement. Pleasure. The zing of arousal, and the first tentative stirrings of love. Someone out there was falling in love right this minute, and once she recovered from the initial rush, Mel let the emotions seep into her. What a wonderful feeling: that first swell of realization, when you look into someone’s eyes and suddenly know.

She looked up and saw a familiar pair of chocolate-brown eyes.

Daniel stood at the rear of the audience, leaning against a support post with his arms folded, watching the show—smiling with that beautiful, warm grin of his.

When he realized she’d spotted him, he held up a gloved hand.

Something tingled through her and curled up in her middle, bubbling happily. He’d followed her. All the way down here.

A warm flush heated her cheeks. Surely that surge of emotion couldn't have come from him. The audience was packed after all. But he had followed her.

She scooped up her basket of origami frogs and flounced up the stairs, dashing over to Heather, who was still showing off for the kids, and grabbing the tiara off her head. Heather shrieked in dismay as Mel jammed it on her own head, stuck out her tongue, twirled and dashed backstage with Heather trailing feathers in pursuit.

“What’s up?” Heather asked without missing a beat. They had done that routine before, but it had been a while.

“Are you doing ‘Assistant’s Revenge’ for the closing?”

Heather nodded, looking over to where the cabinet for that illusion stood.

“I’m going to join you guys for this one, the way we did it a couple of years ago, remember?” Mel placed a black velvet cape on a hook next to the stage entrance.

Heather nodded.

“I have a friend in the audience I want to surprise. Can you hand out the frogs and tell Dad…tell him my prince just showed up?”

Heather blinked, then smiled. “Sure, hon. You don’t know how much I appreciate you rushing down here in case I couldn't make it. I am so sorry for the trouble.”

Mel waved her off. “Actually, I think you did me a favor.” He followed me!

Her dad didn't seem surprised when she pushed the appliance onto the stage for the final illusion, the ratty tiara still on her head and a mischievous expression on her face. The audience loved it as he went through the long, exaggerated routine of persuading her to stop showing off and climb into the device, then chaining her in and putting her head and arms into a wooden stock.

The story involved how he was locking her, his innocent but rather rebellious daughter, away to keep her safe. She gave him a hard time about the whole thing, pointing out that other fathers didn’t lock up their daughters, especially princesses, to which he responded that other fathers turned their daughters into frogs every night, especially the ones who went about stealing tiaras.

Usually the assistant and magician changed places as the magician pulled a curtain all the way around the device, but this time, as her dad pulled the curtain, she slipped out past Heather, who took over pulling the curtain as her dad took her place in the device. It was all accomplished so smoothly that the curtain kept moving the entire time they changed positions. The audience was surprised when Heather appeared pulling the curtain, and her father appeared chained and padlocked in the device.

Mel threw on the hooded black velvet cape and sprinted out, then walked sedately among the passersby in the lane to the rear of the audience, so no one would notice her.

“Who did this to me?” her dad yelled, rattling the chains and making the padlocks jump in the stocks.

“Not I, oh wonderful Master Cornelius,” Heather said sweetly, waving the skeleton key in front of her where Master Cornelius couldn't see it but the audience could. They laughed and snickered in reaction. “I would never lock you up and throw away the key. Even though you have folded me into a tiny box, and stabbed me with swords, and cut me in half, and—” as the list grew longer, Heather began to lose the sweet tone in her voice and sound like an angry harridan, “—stretched me, and twisted me. But maybe I should have.”

Mel stepped behind Daniel and pulled off her cape, tossing it over his shoulder as the laughter died down.

“Hold this for me, please, sir?” she said as he spun around.

“How do you do that?” he asked, laughing.

“Mostly magic,” she whispered, wiggling her fingers under her chin and stepping out from behind him.

Book 2: Mostly Magic

Book 1: More Than Magic

Pre-Order Book 3: Making Magic

When she’s not being dragged down the sidewalk by her Jack Russell (if you know Jacks, you understand), Donna June Cooper is belly dancing (shiny!), reading (three books at once), writing (of course!) or complaining about the heat (no matter the temperature). A child of the Appalachians who was transplanted to Texas by her Italian husband, Donna returns to her mountain roots as often as possible, and takes her readers with her in her Books of the Kindling.

Her Big Sky Cowboy

In Her Big Sky Cowboy (The Wildflower Ranch #3) by Alissa Callen, Trinity is a speech therapist living exactly where she wants to live in Marietta, Montana.  This summer she's running a children's summer school.  Single, but still searching for Mr. Right, Trinity is close to resigning herself to never finding that one man for her.

Zane has too many hurts, too much emotional baggage to let himself become attached to another woman.  He will not trust again only to be left again.  He has not had an easy life with his tyrant of a father, and is determined to give his son Finn a much better childhood than he had.  Thrust into Zane's life unexpectedly, Finn is a sweet little boy who has suffered too and is still recovering.  Zane will do anything for Finn, even if it means opening his home to Trinity who can help Finn.

Against all odds, Trinity finds a way through Zane's walls, and they both care very much.  Caring and admitting it are two different things though, and now that Trinity has found her way in, will Zane let her stay there?  Or will he push away the best woman he's ever known? 

Although Her Big Sky Cowboy is part of The Wildflower Ranch series by Alissa Callen, it can definitely be read as a stand alone.  Alissa gives us a couple of strong main characters who each have their own issues.  Zane's have ruled his life though, and it's hard to change a life long learning pattern.  I loved Trinity, how open she was, how caring and loving she was, and how she didn't push Zane for any more than he could give.  She just seemed to know him even before she knew him.  I really liked how Alissa worked in family dynamics in Her Big Sky Cowboy, she made Her Big Sky Cowboy into so much more than a romance with a very thought provoking plot.  I think Alissa did a fantastic job of bringing all the pieces of the plot together, smoothly and in a way that made you see the maturity of the characters and love them even more.

I liked the sub plot within Her Big Sky Country, I felt this really helped develop the plot and show case the characters.  Sometimes there were places where I would have liked to know more, but this had more to do with some secondary characters and did not take away from the main plot at all.  

It was fun being back in Marietta, seeing in passing places we've seen in other books, but as I said earlier, Her Big Sky Cowboy can definitely be read as a stand alone.  I'd recommend Her Big Sky Cowboy to any contemporary romance reader who likes small town romance with a western flair and great dynamics!

4/5 stars

Monday, January 12, 2015

Watch Me

In Watch Me (Dark Obsession #1) by Cynthia Eden, Gwen's father just wants to keep his daughter safe.  He wants to protect her to the point of smothering and overprotecting though, and it's something Gwen wants no part of.  When her father finds out someone is watching Gwen, stalking her, he'll do what ever he has to do to keep his daughter safe.

Chance has started his own security company, having worked hard to get to where he is today.  When his former boss approaches him about protecting his daughter, Chance can't say no.  She's the one woman he's never been able to forget or get over.  This is his chance to have his second chance with Gwen and to keep her safe.  Chance will do whatever he has to do to keep Gwen safe...even if it means not being completely honest with her.

Gwen has her own suspicions and they involve her ex boyfriend.  One who would never be the one because all she could think about was Chance.  Now Chance is suddenly back in her life and he's just as irresistible as ever.  The magnetic pull between them has only gotten stronger.  As Gwen and Chance become close again, so does danger.  Can Chance keep Gwen safe and have a second chance with her?  Or will the dishonesty and danger prove to great a force?

Watch Me is a very fast paced romantic suspense where the sizzle between the main characters burns up the pages.  It was very easy to become absorbed in Cynthia's writing as danger lurked.  I really liked the plot twists she threw into Watch Me, ones I did not see coming at all!  This kept me hooked, wanting to see what happened and find out who.

The main characters, Gwen and Chance, have been together in the past, so the speed of their relationship was not unexpected or unbelievable.  However, I just could not get a good, detailed feel for these two characters.  Right from the start of Watch Me I felt like I had missed something somewhere, and it took me a while to feel like I'd caught up with what was going on with them, and what had happened with them.  I feel like I would have liked to know so much more about the background of Chance and Gwen to understand them in the present.

I did like the way relationships were explored, especially the one between Gwen and her father.  It is a complicated one, and as Watch Me progresses, it is easier to understand why it is this way.

I will read Cynthia's next book in this series, and would recommend Watch Me to romantic suspense readers who like to be kept guessing!

3.5/5 stars

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Montana Darling

In Montana Darling (Big Sky Mavericks #3) by Debra Salomen, Mia is remaking her life, starting over in her hometown of Marietta, Montana.  Mia has survived breast cancer and a divorce, and is determinedly moving forward.  She has plans for the parcel of land she got in her divorce settlement...a new home, a new start.  For now she is living in her parent's home with her two children.  But an unexpected turn of events is about to create havoc for her plans.

After suffering a horrendous loss, Ryker, a professional photographer, is trying to find his way.  Back to nature and camping on the land he owns with his brother in Marietta helps.  Until he finds out it might not be his land after all when Mac shows up to toss his off her land.

Two injured people struggling to move forward, neither expecting to find an attraction...but sometimes fate works in mysterious way.  Ryker sees beauty in Mia she can's see anymore, while Mia helps his heart heal.  Will they finally be able to move on from the past?

Montana Darling is filled with emotions, serious issues and family dynamics.  Debra writes about all of them well and in a realistic way.  Ryker and Mia are both strong characters with lots going for them, if only they could see that.  Mia has been through more than any woman should have to, and she struggles to be happy and to accept her new self.  Ryker had his own heart break, and unlike Mia, had no family to support him and hold him up.  I really liked how Debra brought these two together, and how without even realizing it Mia and Ryker were supporting each other.  Understandably Mia is still bitter and unhappy, and how she moved through this in Montana Darling made me feel so hopeful for her.  I liked how Ryker was, his character and how he was with Mia just drew me to him.

It was fun being back in small town Marietta, Montana, seeing characters we've seen before.  Debra writes small town romance so well!  I do think that Montana Darling can be read as a stand alone, but the whole series is worth reading!  I'd recommend Montana Darling to any romance reader looking for a well written, easy flowing romance that explores many emotions as the characters struggle to redefine themselves.

4/5 stars

Find Montana Darling on Amazon

Thursday, January 8, 2015

More Than Magic release time!!

More Than Magic

by Donna June Cooper

Series: Books of the Kindling, #1
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Cover Designer: Kanaxa

Genre: Contemporary Romance with a touch of Magic

Release Date: February 4, 2014

A malignant secret could turn her mountain sanctuary into their tomb.

DEA agent Nick McKenzie is sure magic exists—a dangerous drug called Smoky Mountain Magic that’s wreaking havoc on the streets of Atlanta. He’s also sure that locating and eliminating the source could mean his death.

When he arrives undercover on Woodruff Mountain, the beautiful owner’s anxious attempts to scare him off tell him something’s afoot, and it’s not her secret patch of a rare, ancient species of ginseng.

As her dream of seeking medicinal plants in the Amazon fades into the distance, Grace Woodruff struggles to come to terms with an inherited magical gift she didn't want, and searches desperately for the meaning behind her late grandfather’s final, cryptic message.

The last thing she needs underfoot is a handsome, enigmatic writer recovering from a recent illness. Until an accidental touch unleashes a stunning mystical force and Grace senses the wrath of a malicious blight at the heart of the mountain. Now she must choose between her need to hide her gift from the world…and her desire to save Nick’s life.

Warning: This book contains a fiery redhead whose magic cannot be contained and a handsome DEA agent whose final case might give him a second chance at life.

“So—Granny Lily?” he asked again.

Grace took a deep breath. “Granny Lily was a healer—an Appalachian Granny Woman. A witch.”

“Witch?” he paused a moment, digesting the word. “You’re kidding, right?”

Grace shook her head and started walking away from the cemetery and back into the meadow. “Granny Witches weren't witches in the sense we think of today. They were the midwives and healers of the community. For folks isolated up in these mountains with no medical care, they were the doctors.”

Nick followed behind, taking a quick sip of his champagne. “Witch doctor?”

She grinned at him. “Well, yes. In the sense that a witch doctor is the healer in their community. The shaman. The expert in herbal medicine.”

“Witch doctor,” he repeated.

“It’s a tradition that’s passed down in families. In this case from mother to daughter to granddaughter. One woman per generation,” Grace went on. “Some claim it goes back to ancient times.”

Nick stopped. “So, are you—”

She faced him. “What?”

“A witch?”

Nick watched Grace smile and hold out her glass. “Hang on to this for me.”

Nick stared at it for a moment, wondering why she didn't just answer “no”. Then he took it carefully, holding the bottle under his arm.

Shaking out the blanket, Grace laid it on the grass and knelt down, holding her hands up for her glass and the bottle, which he handed over.

“Sit,” she said smiling up at him. “Pretend it’s a picnic.”

As if on cue, Pooka ran to see what they were up to. When he realized no food was involved, he resumed scouting the edges of the meadow.

Nick paused, wondering if he should make a dash for his SUV and get off this mountain while he still could. But something made him sit.

“So,” he took a deep breath, as if he was about to set foot on some strange new world he didn't understand. “Witch?”

She twisted sideways, managing to sit gracefully on the blanket without spilling a drop of champagne. He was beginning to wonder if she had faked being tipsy.

“Remember, I said not in the ‘double, double toil and trouble’ kind of way.”

“So, no cauldrons or eye-of-newt things going on?”

“Well, actually, the old cauldron you see in the front yard of a lot of Southern homes used to mean there was a Granny Witch in the house, but—”

“Don’t you have one of those in your garden? Full of flowers?”

She smiled. “You noticed! Yes. Like that. But no evil spells or hexes.”

“So you are a witch?”

“Well, no. I was talking about Granny Lily. I’m—” She stopped, suddenly thoughtful.

“So, you’re not a witch?”

“You know, I’m not sure.”

Nick frowned and drained the rest of his champagne, holding out his glass. She poured it full and sat the bottle on the ground beside the blanket.

“I would think you would notice something like that,” he said. Of course she’s a witch McKenzie, she’s had you under her spell since she met you.

“Look, I probably shouldn't have used that word. People don’t know about the Granny Witch tradition at all, and they automatically think black cats and broomsticks and pointy hats. It was mostly about herbal medicine and midwifery.”

“Can you deliver a baby?” he asked.

“Well, certainly.”

“And you practice herbal medicine.”


“Sounds like you’re qualified. Maybe over qualified.”

“It’s not that simple. Some of them did divination and water dowsing. It’s a tradition requiring training and practice. The Granny Witch passes down all her lore to her designated successor and teaches her everything she knows.”

Grace looked off toward the cemetery and he followed her gaze. The headstones were just distant shapes in the moonlight.

“So your mother— No, that’s your father’s side of the family.”

“Exactly. And anyway, the tradition stopped with Granny Lily. She quit practicing and didn't pass it on to any other female relative.”

“But you said she’s been wandering into your dreams. Does she wander anywhere else?” He looked around them at the silvered meadow and the dark trees, but nothing seemed menacing—just the opposite.

“No. Only in my rather intense dreams. And I’m honestly not sure what she’s trying to tell me.”

He tried to figure out where she was going with all this. Maybe it was the wine. “Well, it sounds like it might be a good thing for your bottom line. You could get additional business these days just by saying you were the descendant of a shaman or medicine woman. I wouldn’t use the word ‘witch’ though, even if they don’t burn them anymore.”

“Why did you say that?” she asked in a sharp tone. In the moonlight, her eyes shimmered green and her pale face was almost translucent, surrounded by flyaway tendrils of dark red. She might be a witch, but she was the most captivating witch he had ever seen.

“What? What did I say?”

“About burning?”

“Well, they used to— Didn't they? I mean—”

“That was in a completely different culture. Here the Granny Witch was essential in the community. The people of these mountains were nothing like that. Granny Lily was burned accidentally.”

“She was— What?”

Grace picked up the bottle and poured her glass full, then downed it without ceremony and was about to pour another.

“Whoa. Slow down there.” He took the bottle and her glass gently and set them both in the grass. “Now, what’s this about burning? Your granny was burned?”

Grace let out a long breath. “Great-great-great. And yes. Accidentally. In a fire.”

“She wasn't killed though. The headstone said—”

“No. Badly burned. Disfigured. She lived a long life.”

“A very long life, if I read the stone right.” He connected some dots and took a guess. “This was the fire that started that feud you were talking about, with your neighbors.”

“Yes. But it was an accident. A bunch of Taggarts and other people were gathered outside the cabin and things got out of hand. One of the Taggarts threw a rock at my Grandpa Zach. It broke a window, and knocked over an oil lamp onto Granny Lily’s dress.”

“An oil lamp.”

“It was terrible. It didn't destroy the cabin, but she was horribly burned. Everyone thought she wouldn't make it, but she recovered. Only, after that, she was rarely seen by anyone outside of the family. And when she was, she was covered head to toe, even wearing gloves on the hottest summer days. We have a family portrait with her in it, but only half of her face is showing.”

“That is tragic. What started the rock throwing?”

“A misunderstanding.”


“A patient.”

“Someone died?”

“No. Someone lived.”

Book 1: More Than Magic

Book 2: Mostly Magic

Pre-Order Book 3: Making Magic

When she’s not being dragged down the sidewalk by her Jack Russell (if you know Jacks, you understand), Donna June Cooper is belly dancing (shiny!), reading (three books at once), writing (of course!) or complaining about the heat (no matter the temperature). A child of the Appalachians who was transplanted to Texas by her Italian husband, Donna returns to her mountain roots as often as possible, and takes her readers with her in her Books of the Kindling.