3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kim Fielding, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Phoenix by Kim Fielding

Title: Phoenix

Author: Kim Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages

At a Glance: A poignant and ultimately uplifting story of second chances and renewed courage to experience love.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: First a soldier and then a diplomat, Juberi now spends his solitary days on a single ambition: trying to resurrect the phoenix, which has been extinct for centuries. He’s not pleased when he is obligated to attend a public ceremony in memory of an elderly friend and former colleague. But at the ceremony, Juberi meets the friend’s beguiling son, Desen. Despite being from a markedly different culture, Desen has much to offer. But after decades of denying his own desires, Juberi fears there is no alchemy that will reopen him to love.

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Review: I have to say I am a big fan of Kim Fielding’s writing – regardless of whether it’s fantasy, contemporary, historical, dystopian, short story, novel, or novella. I am always surprised by something, and happy that I decided to spend my time with her words, and this story is no exception.

Juberi is a retired diplomat and former soldier who now spends his days in his home lab trying to reanimate a phoenix. He pretty much keeps to himself and his house staff, and doesn’t have much of a social life. But he is required to attend a ceremony honoring a former colleague from his diplomat days, so he begrudgingly goes. After the ceremony, he meets Desen, the son of the former colleague. He is intrigued by Desen but also a little apprehensive because of the cultural differences.

Desen has heard much about Juberi from his deceased father, and flatters Juberi with his remembrances. He asks to see Juberi privately after the ceremony and although he’s still a little nervous, Juberi agrees. Desen is interested in a more private audience with Juberi to ask him a favor, so invites him to his residence. While he feels he can’t do what Desen asks of him, all of this sets Juberi to remembering his time in Desen’s land. He feels he is too old and too set in his ways to be of any use to Desen, or anyone else, really. But that doesn’t mean that he might not still be convinced.

I so enjoyed the interplay between Desen and Juberi. Their conversations and interactions were sweet and filled with longing and desire. It seems that maybe this meeting was destined after all. I also enjoyed Juberi’s relationship with Saura, his longtime servant. She truly has Juberi’s best interest at heart and takes good care of him.

I recommend this story for those who enjoy a short hot and sweet story about mature characters getting a second chance at finding something good.

 

 

 

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3.5 Stars, Clare London, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Dancing Days by Clare London

Title: Dancing Days

Author: Clare London

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 60 Pages

At a Glance: A lovely short story with characters who have made mistakes but are both older, and hopefully wiser, the second time around.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: The day Glen Carson loses his wallet is the day that changes his life. The wallet is returned by Aston Walsh, a man he hasn’t seen for twenty years. He and Aston had a passionate and intense romance when they were in their late twenties, and Glen thought their love would last forever. But his dreams were horribly shattered by a shocking confession from Aston, and they parted for good—or so Glen assumed. Now, two decades later, they’ve lived many years apart, created new histories, and built successful lives. Yet the spark between them is still there. Aston wants a second chance with Glen, but Glen is more cautious this time around. He has to decide if Aston’s regret is genuine, and if surrendering his heart to Aston again is worth the risk.

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Review: Glen is content with his life. He’s got a job at the local DIY shop he enjoys and is good at. He’s got a productive vegetable garden and a large, loving family. Sure, he still sometimes gets a twinge and misses Jack, his Kiwi ex-boyfriend, but he’s in for a real surprise when he forgets his wallet at the hairdresser’s, and it’s returned by none other than his closeted ex-lover from twenty years ago.

Aston and Glen, as it turns out, had an affair years before – while Aston was married and already the father of two – and the breakup had left Glen heartbroken. He’s also a doctor, who has returned home from London to clear up his mother’s estate, and he’s taken a local job for the time being. He’s finally gotten divorced, and his children are grown and on their own. He’s in need of a friend, and he convinces Glen to spend time with him – dinner, movies, plays.

Things seem to be going fine…until they aren’t. Aston doesn’t mean to hurt Glen, but he still doesn’t understand the impact of their first relationship and what their breakup did to Glen and his sense of self. With Glen’s well-meaning family, and some well-placed declarations, hopefully Aston and Glen will make the right decisions this time around.

I love stories about second chances – especially when the characters are of a “certain age” – not unlike many of us in the real world. Such is the case with this little gem from Clare London. While it’s disappointing to be somewhat invisible after certain milestone birthdays, maybe there are second chances out there for some of us. ;)

 

 

 

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Nora Roth, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Aiding and Abetting by Nora Roth

Title: Aiding and Abetting (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Nora Roth

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 59 Pages

At a Glance: A well written, exciting and tension filled mystery.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: When cynical forty-three-year-old police officer Evan Andrews finds his home broken into, he quickly learns there’s more to Beau Toliver than meets the eye. Injured and afraid, Beau mistrusts Evan and the police every bit as much as Evan mistrusts Beau. As affection slowly grows between them, Evan discovers the real threat might come from the colleagues he’s considered friends for over two decades. When the truth comes out, Evan races to save Beau’s life at the risk of his own. His actions could mean the end of his career, but he might finally realize there are more important things in life.

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Review: Aiding and Abetting is a really well written, exciting and tension filled mystery from Nora Roth. I would definitely have liked a longer version, but it was still good. Evan and Beau develop into really great characters. Love conquers all, no matter what age you are!

Evan Andrews is a forty-three year old police officer, living in the solitude of the woods and nature, away from the city. He arrives home one night to find Beau Toliver in his home, bleeding from a severe stab wound. Evan knows of Beau, as he has seen him being hauled into the police station by Mike Holt, on charges that just don’t add up.

Beau Toliver stood before Evan, scared and bleeding from his arm. Someone meant to do serious harm to Beau, but why? With Beau’s refusal to go to the ER, Evan takes on the task of sewing him up. Evan wants answers: “Why didn’t you go to the police?” is one of them. Beau tells Evan he doesn’t trust the police, he only trust Evan because he didn’t treat him the way the others did, but he still refuses to tell Evan why he doesn’t trust the police.

Evan is caught in a dilemma. Beau is only twenty-two and has been in trouble before, so he’s not sure if Beau can be trusted. But, he decides to try and earn Beau’s trust and learn the secret that he’s keeping. As they start to cohabitate with each other, Beau has an interest in Evan, and Evan tries to fight his interest in Beau, but he fails.

There’s humor as well in this suspenseful tale, and we find out how to not eat a muffin. I loved all the baking they do!

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2 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Tia Fielding

Review: Up to Boil by Tia Fielding

Title: Up to Boil (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Tia Fielding

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 36 Pages

At a Glance: Up to Boil doesn’t live up to Tia Fielding’s usual standards.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: When plumber and builder Jordan Novotny goes to take a look at the home of the town’s openly gay, recently dumped librarian, he doesn’t expect to find anything other than a falling-apart old house and a water heater in need of repair.

Instead, he finds an older man in need of some TLC and a new circle of friends after his ex tossed him aside for a newer model. Stephen might be attracted to Jordan, but he thinks the young man is exactly that—too young. It takes Jordan’s family interfering and a bit of a mishap to make them see that it’s never too late to find a new love, and that age is just a number. All that matters is compatibility and the courage to take a chance.

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Review: I just do not know where to begin on this one. Tia Fielding has written some wonderful novels. I have really enjoyed her work, but this short story, Up To Boil, was so out of character for this writer I am just dumbfounded.

The story is built on the May/December trope; in other words, one fairly older man falling for a much younger one. In this case the town librarian, Stephen, is fifty-one, and the town plumber, Jordon, is twenty-two…I think. I mean, the age twenty-two was mentioned and then it disappeared. In fact, this entire nuance to the story seemed to be hit on and then tossed quickly aside, as did most of the highlights of their courtship. And that is the key issue I have with this story. We were told what happened in a pseudo outline fashion, with very little detail, and then expected to swallow that these two fell in love.

Let me give you a quick synopsis. Stephen lost his partner of many years to a younger man, so how funny is it that when the bisexual/possibly gay plumber Jordan Novotny comes to fix his pipes, both men are instantly attracted to one another? The very thing that Stephen hates his former partner for doing, he, in turn, does. As Jordon comes to terms with his attraction to the much older man, Jordon’s family begins this strange courtship of their own—inviting Stephen over for meals, fixing up his house for just the cost of supplies, etc. In fact, Jordon’s parents seem to have no issue with the fact that their twenty-two year old son is attracted to a man their age; actually, they seem to encourage it. That left me a little nonplussed.

From there the story goes at lightning speed, showing us snippets of Stephen and Jordon’s interactions. Next to none of these moments were done in real time; rather, they were mentioned as having had occurred, and we were to take it on faith that the guys were falling in love. I cannot express to you how disappointing this was. The lack of chemistry, of action, and of intimacy leaves the reader with little more than a retelling of events in fast forward speed.

Finally the story ended abruptly, and at 66% on my kindle. This means that roughly 34% of the document was given over to Ms. Fielding’s past novels. To be frank, I felt cheated. Surely more time could have been dedicated to evolving this story? All in all, Up To Boil was not the story I have come to expect from this author. I know how exciting Tia Fielding’s stories can be, but this was not up to her normal standard.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Felicitas Ivey, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Dances and Cookies by Felicitas Ivey

Title: Dances and Cookies (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Felicitas Ivey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 54 Pages

At a Glance: The story offers much more than suggested by the blurb.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: After living hard in the big city, Paavo settles down in the country with a bakery and his cat. He tutors the local college students, and life is good. Chinese exchange student Xue needs a little more help than some, and Paavo motivates Xue with the promise of a dance if he passes his lit class. Xue is smart and funny, and Paavo wouldn’t mind getting to know him better, even with the age difference. But he doesn’t know if Xue is interested or even gay.

Maybe the dance they’re both looking forward to will make the feelings between them clear.

Dividers

Review: This story was a cute, short piece for Dreamspinner’s Daily Dose. It involved a bakery/coffee house (which had me reaching for a cup and craving sweets at midnight when I read this), an energetic exchange student, and a well-intentioned former stockbroker (at least I think that’s what his job was).

Paavo is the owner of a bakery in a college town, and he tutors students. He falls for the energetic and different Xue after tutoring him, but he doesn’t want to take advantage of his position as tutor until Xue makes a move on him. I loved that about Paavo. And when a former colleague of his shows up wanting him back—even though Paavo never belonged to him in the first place—Xue asserts his control over the situation.

I loved that there was relatively no drama in this book. It was short, and though Ivey could have added a ton of angst with misunderstanding, she doesn’t. Thankfully. Sometimes you want a book that will appease your sweet tooth, just like a good cookie and a sweet cup of coffee. Dances and Cookies does that.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jessica Payseur, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Review: Kithric’s Mountain by Jessica Payseur

Small Gems

Title: Kithric’s Mountain (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Jessica Payseur

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 30 Pages

At a Glance: A daily dose with a lot of bittersweet emotions.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Kithric, an aging dragon tamer, leads a solitary life atop his mountain, until the day he accidentally traps a dragon that is more than he seems. Expecting to be killed for capturing a dragon shifter, Kithric instead finds himself spared and left to deal with his continued solitude.
He finds he can’t be rid of Ylfrin the dragon shifter that easily, though, and as Ylfrin continues to return, bit by bit Kithric begins to fall for him and starts to value using what life he has left to the fullest. But before he and Ylfrin can explore their feelings, they must first confront dangers and corrupt forces encroaching from outside Kithric’s Mountain.

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Review: Sometimes you just need a quick read for the day. Maybe you don’t have much time, but you want something to whet your appetite until you can sit down and enjoy a full novel. Kithric’s Mountain is one such story, and while it sounded great to me, I was surprised by how much heart there is in this story.

Part of the “Never Too Late” collection from Dreamspinner Press, the story focuses on one older man, and one younger. Kithric is an older dragon tamer living alone after his business partner dies at the claws of a dragon. Now Kithric is just biding his time until the same happens to him. In face he welcomes it. He’s tired of living but doesn’t want to do it himself, and if he gets a little careless in his dragon trapping, so be it.

Ylfrin is a handsome dragon shifter Kithric ensnares one day. At first outraged, when he discovers Kithric would welcome death, he lets him go. But Kithric keeps trapping dragons despite being told not to.

What follows is a short, bittersweet story. Not all is as it appears with Ylfrin, and the twist to the “Never Too Late” theme was surprising. I was won over by these two men, and my heart ached for them. I wanted to know more about what would come next in their lives together, because yes, this is a happy(ish) ending. The one issue I did have was that the resolution was pretty fast. There’s a threat to Kithric, Ylfrin rushes in and has already solved the problem, and bam. End of threat.

If you like fantasy and are thinking about checking out one of the 2015 Daily Dose titles, I highly recommend this one for the unique take on the theme.

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3 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Dreamspinner Press, Katya Harris, Reviewed by Jules, Short Story

Review: A Life Without by Katya Harris

Title: A Life Without (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Katya Harris

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 47 Pages

At a Glance: Overall, A Life Without is a good read.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: After decades of wondering and worrying over his submissive tendencies, fortysomething Todd decides to explore his fantasies. His first step is to join a BDSM club, and it’s there that he meets Malik, a young and beautiful Dominant who is very interested in introducing Todd to this world. In fact, Malik is interested in everything about Todd, which is startling to the older man given the differences in their ages. Malik helps Todd explore his submissiveness, but after an unpleasant meeting with Todd’s ex-boyfriend, he also encourages him to confront his demons so he will no longer live his life in shame.

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Review: A Life Without tells the story of Todd, a forty-something year old man who is at a crossroads in his life when we are introduced to him. After suffering a nasty breakup with his boyfriend of six years, Todd has decided to finally seek out the one thing that he has been lacking, the one thing that might make him truly happy…someone who will appreciate and understand his need to submit.

Todd joins a BDSM group, and is very fortunate when the manager introduces him to a young Dom named Malik on his first night at the club. I liked Malik and I liked that Todd wasn’t hung up on the ten year age difference. We find out later in the story that Todd’s ex is seven years older than him, so obviously age isn’t a big factor for Todd when considering a relationship. It was also interesting, and refreshing, that even though Malik was the younger one of the two, he was the one helping to guide Todd. I have found I really enjoy the dynamic of a younger Dom in BDSM books where there is an age gap.

I also enjoy books that explore the theme of seeking one’s happiness and trying to live your truth. And, for the most part, Katya Harris does a nice job with that aspect of the story for Todd. I love how brave he is – and that Malik acknowledges that fact – for finally going after what he desires. Todd does have a bit of shame to overcome before he can truly embrace his sexual needs, but I wish the author had come up with a better way for him to work through it. The encounter with the ex-boyfriend didn’t feel entirely natural to me, and she started to push the envelope a bit with some declarations of feelings, making the climax of the story come off as somewhat forced.

The very end of the book was cute, and though it’s tough to get too invested in the characters in a story of this length, I did like Todd and Malik together. Overall A Life Without is a good read, and a worthy addition to the 2015 Daily Dose Anthology.

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4 Stars, Andrew Grey, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Path Not Taken by Andrew Grey

Title: Path Not Taken (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 57 Pages

At a Glance: Path not Taken is a well written story about the gift of a second chance.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: On the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia, Trent runs into Brit, his first love and the first man to break his heart. They’ve both been through a lot in the years since they parted ways, and as they talk, the old connection tenuously strengthens. Trent finally works up the nerve to call Brit, and their rekindled friendship slowly grows into the possibility for more. But both men are shadowed by their pasts as they explore the path they didn’t take the first time. If they can move beyond loss and painful memories, they might find their road leads to a second chance at happiness.

Dividers

Review: Trent made the trip from Lancaster to Philadelphia by train once a week. He’s a lawyer; bankruptcy and divorce is his expertise, and was with his lover, John, for twelve years…until John died of a heart defect. Trent hasn’t been with anyone in two years, but on one particular early morning commute, while the train is still dark, he notices a light glowing across the aisle, and can’t believe the face he sees, a face from his past.

Brit did his time in the Navy, got out, and is now a senior software developer. He’s made some mistakes in his life: He was in a relationship that went sour after eight years, and has been divorced for three. The only good in his life is his daughter Mary, who is in college. When he looks across the aisle at Trent, he asks, “Do I know you?” Trent tells him to think back some twenty years ago, to their college years. And Brit remembers.

The two men meet on the train again and talk more about what has happened in their lives. Brit and Trent had known each other from the third grade, became best friends, and as they grew up Trent wasn’t afraid to admit who he was, or what he felt for Brit. But, Brit broke Trent’s heart and cut all ties with him because he was afraid to admit what was true. Now, however, they have a second chance and both seem set to take that for the gift it is. That doesn’t mean things will be easy, though, as they face some obstacles along the way to their happy ending.

Andrew Grey’s Path not Taken is a well-written story about how life can send us on different paths but, ultimately, how those paths can also take us back to the beginning, with the hope for a better outcome the second time around.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Rob Rosen, Short Story

Review: Twenty-Five Years by Rob Rosen

Title: Twenty-Five Years (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Rob Rosen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 19 Pages

At a Glance: Check out this delightful romp. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Sometimes letting go of an obsession leads to something better instead.

A twenty-five-year high school reunion is Conrad’s chance to finally come face-to-face with his unrequited love, Todd. Instead, he discovers he himself was an unrequited love for Gary, his friend from the chess club. When the two return to their old gym locker room, long-lost friends at last become found loves. As for Todd, well, let’s just say that karma can be quite the bitch.

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Review: If you have never had the pleasure of reading author Rob Rosen before, this short story, Twenty-Five Years, would be a most delightful way to introduce yourself to his writing. Humorous, smart and risqué, this author does tongue-in-cheek like no other.

A high school crush is not an easy thing to let go of, particularly when the person you were hungering after seemed to disappear after graduation. For Conrad, this dilemma was magnified due to the fact that he had just one memory of mutual masturbation in the high school locker room to feed his twenty-five year old crush on the class president, Todd Smith. Now a class reunion looms and Todd will be there—will Conrad get a second chance?

Sweet, short and very funny, Twenty-Five Years hits us all where we live. Who didn’t have a crush on the most popular boy or girl in school? And who doesn’t remember to this day that one moment our said fixation spoke to us—or looked at us—or breathed in our direction? Mr. Rosen cleverly takes us back to a time we all remember and wraps it up in humor and a happy ending. No, Conrad does not get his crush on—he gets way better! Check out this delightful romp. It’s guaranteed to make you smile!

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2 Stars, Alexa Silver, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: LifeFlight by Alexa Silver

Title: LifeFlight (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Alexa Silver

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 34 Pages

At a Glance: A daily dose with promise, but too many ideas packed into too short a space.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: When winged paranormal Dante is injured in a demon attack, he faces certain death unless he can reach a healing spring just off the Pacific coast. With his strength waning and the demon poison infesting his system, the spring is his only hope. He never expects to find salvation in the arms of the property’s caretaker, a much younger man. Bren is fascinated by the beautiful winged man who arrives at his family’s sanctuary. He’s determined to save Dante’s life, but he’ll have to find a way to help Dante heal without infecting himself with the demonic poison, and time is running out.

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Review: I was really excited to read this story because the blurb sounded fantastic. A bit of Urban Fantasy with winged creatures? Yes, please. There’s something about wings that gets me. And while the idea is great, it’s just too much for a short story, and it felt incredibly rushed from nearly the beginning.

The author builds an interesting world where a variety of creatures coexist with humans. Alexa Silver even connects the attacks of 9/11 into the story, which made it even more intriguing. The human world wasn’t the only world that lost people in the aftermath.

Bren is the son of the caretakers of a hot spring that heals paranormal creatures. He is in charge while his parents are away, even though he shouldn’t have the job to begin with. There’s an interesting bit of backstory in there involving his recklessly amorous twin brother and a witch. When Dante ends up at the springs after a demon attack, Bren is immediately drawn to him. And by immediately, I mean in a matter of minutes they are moving insanely fast. There is no real build up in their relationship, and then suddenly they’re mates, and Bren is part paranormal and… what?

It moved so fast my head spun.

I was also confused by the paranormal creatures mentioned in this story. I wanted to know more about them, but there’s little explanation. Again, I know it’s meant to be short, but it’s just too much of a new world in a thirty-four page story. Were this expanded about two hundred pages and over a longer period of time, I would be thrilled. But, as it stands, it just didn’t make the cut for me.

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Kay Walker, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Steampunk

Review: Jack Wolf by Kay Walker

Title: Jack Wolf (A Daily Dose Story)

Author: Kay Walker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages

At a Glance: Steampunk and shifters collide in this fun daily dose story.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Henry Dalton is sent across the country by train to the western town of Woolridge in order to investigate the werewolf problem they’re having during the monthly moon cycle. The townsfolk are not forthcoming with information, making it difficult for Henry to solve the case.

Even more distracting is Jack, a handsome older lycanthrope. Known for his rebellious youth, Jack has settled down into life and routine in Woolridge, working as the local blacksmith. He assures Henry he’s no longer trying to stir up trouble, that those days are long gone. Henry must attempt to ignore the spark between them, the indication of their potential to become mates, which is rare because Henry is human. Henry remains professional and focuses on his job, but each meeting with Jack adds to the draw, and Henry isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to resist.

Dividers

Review: I’ve honestly never read a story before this with steampunk and shifters, so this was a treat. Granted, the steampunk is light, and I supposed some could argue that it’s not steampunk, but I’m going to call it that; there’s interesting, advanced inventions, steam-powered machines, and copper. So there.

In this America, shifters and humans live alongside each other relatively peacefully. That isn’t to say they haven’t had a past. There were problems with the government and lycanthropes before, but they have since settled differences and made new laws to protect everyone. Henry was previously mated to a werewolf who died in the fight with the government after he was shoved into a sort of werewolf mate ghetto. Jack is the older man who led the rebellion and also lost a mate in the fighting. When they meet, the sparks fly, just about literally, and they are attracted to each other. But it takes time for them to get together since Henry has a job to do that he cannot compromise.

I liked that they took their time getting together. The ending did feel a little rushed, and I would have liked a little more, but overall, it was a good pace for the characters and the story. There are a few things left out, such as what happened to the sheriff, but since it wasn’t integral to the relationship building, I suppose it can be overlooked.

I think this is one Daily Dose story worth a look, if you’re into steampunk or shifters.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Richard May, Short Story

Review: Because of Roses by Richard May

Title: Because of Roses (A Daily Dose 2015 Story)

Author: Richard May

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 26 Pages

At a Glance: This is my first read by Richard May, and I have to say it was a very good story, well put together.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: After the death of his longtime partner, American attorney Dan Evans is reassigned to his firm’s London office. It’s a change his life sorely needs. While admiring roses in a small village in the Cotswolds, Dan meets Martin Saint John. Martin, still fit and attractive at seventy, has also lost his partner, and now spends his time growing roses, meeting friends in the pub, and going to church on Sundays, content with his quiet life. Roses and tea progress to spending weekends together exploring the countryside, but the differences between Dan and Martin go beyond the fifteen year age gap. If they can open their hearts and accept love—instead of accepting its absence—they might find a second chance at happiness. All because of roses.

Dividers

Review: Daniel Evans has worked in the New York Office of Patents for nearly forty years, but when he is offered a position in London, he takes it without hesitation. After three months of living in one of the firm’s temporary apartments, Daniel finds a permanent place to live.

Daniel and Bob, his partner of twenty-seven years, had planned to live in a small town once they were retired, but those plans changed when Bob passed away almost two years before, and now Daniel is making this move alone. His real estate agent has found him a cottage in the village of Little Helms. It’s close enough to the commuter line to London, but he has his doubts about the cottage: the front yard needs work, and his six-feet-two-inch height isn’t really compatible with the low doorways. But, he fell in love with the kitchen.

As he and the real estate agent leave to discuss the purchase of the cottage, Daniel hears a snipping sound and notices a man across the way clipping roses. As Daniel calls “hello,” the man turns around and waves. Martin Sinjin lives in the cottage across from Daniel’s, a man who is, by Daniel’s estimation, somewhere in his seventies. Martin is a special man. He puts a lot of time and love into caring for his roses, and he and Daniel have something in common—Martin also lost his partner Tom to cancer.

Martin offers a wonderful friendship to Daniel; they go furniture shopping together, go out to dinner, Daniel cooks for Martin. Martin even offers to pick Daniel up at the commuter station. He is just there for Daniel at every turn. Daniel would like more with Martin, but is a friendship all he’ll ever have?

Because of Roses is a nurturing story. Just as Martin took care of his roses, he took the same care with Daniel, and sometimes things just need time and attention to make them blossom. I liked the fact that age was not a factor in Daniel and Martin’s relationship, and the message that love can happen at any time in our lives. This is my first read by Richard May, and I have to say it was a very good story, well put together.

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3.5 Stars, CM Corett, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jules

Review: Bindings and Books by CM Corett

Title: Bindings and Books (A Daily Dose 2015 Story)

Author: CM Corett

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 71 Pages

At a Glance: This one was a bit hit and miss, but there was definitely some promise here.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: James Connell is adamant—he’s not getting involved. The forty-two-year-old bookstore owner’s life is governed by respectability, order, and a dash of OCD—just the way he likes it. There is absolutely no place in his life for a way-too-young, sexy, carefree guy like Ash. What would people think?

Ash Bradley-Mills is determined—he wants James. Traveling the world testing snowboards and sports equipment has been great fun for Ash, but he’s ready for something more. He wants an adrenaline rush of a different kind, and tall, dark, handsome, and older James fits the criteria perfectly. Now all Ash needs to do is break through James’s defenses and lifelong fear of judgment. Easy! He’s got the perfect plan to push James out of his comfort zone and into his arms.

Dividers

Review: Bindings and Books is a cute little novella about a sexy bookstore owner in his mid-forties, and the equally sexy and spunky younger man who falls for him. James, our bookstore owner, is dead set against having anything to do with Ash, the hunk he meets out on the slopes, but Ash immediately feels a spark with James, and refuses to back down.

There were a few things I really liked, James being the main one. He came across as such a real, interesting character. I loved the OCD element – I totally dig atypical characters, or characters with quirks. I’m also a big fan of romances with a more significant age difference, so this anthology is a gold mine for those who love that trope. I also liked what CM Corett did with the story behind James’s reticence. Sure, there was the cliché of ‘I’m worried what people will think’, but what held the most weight for him was a much more unique reason.

The story started out strong, but there were a couple of things I didn’t like as well – the main one, unfortunately, being a major plot point. I can’t give away what happens, but, sadly, I definitely didn’t love the direction the author decided to go. It didn’t completely ruin the story for me…but it was a pretty big downer.

So, this one was a bit hit and miss, but there was definitely some promise here. Still an enjoyable short read. The hilarious opening scene on the ski slopes is worth checking it out all on its own!

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4 Stars, Amy Rae Durreson, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Lord Heliodor’s Retirement by Amy Rae Durreson

Title: Lord Heliodor’s Retirement (A Daily Dose 2015 Story)

Author: Amy Rae Durreson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 52 Pages

At a Glance: A sweet and sentimental story of second chances for two men approaching their golden years.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Unlikely hero Lord Adem Heliodor saved his queen’s life during the Screaming, a magical attack on his city, but his broken nerves have forced him into an unwanted early retirement to his country estate. Adem thinks his life is over, but retirement holds some surprises. First, there’s his new librarian, who turns out to be not just the first love he thought was dead, but also someone surprisingly knowledgeable about political intrigue. Then there’s the assassin in the orchard and the discovery that the Screaming was just the first attack on the city.

Dividers

Review: Amy Rae Durreson is one of “those” authors for me, those few authors we all have on our auto-read lists whose books we’ll pick up without even bothering to read the blurb. I first discovered her in 2013 when she wrote a short novel for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s free reading event, “Don’t Read in the Closet”. That story is called The Lodestar of Ys, and if you’re a member of the group, and someone who happens to love High Fantasy, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to read this book.

But, before I get too far off track, this is how Ms. Durreson’s contribution to the 2015 Daily Dose anthology ended up on my Kindle, and why I will continue to read her work, sight unseen.

Lord Heliodor’s Retirement is a sentimental story with bittersweet undertones. In a departure from the usual M/M fare, Adem Heliodor is not an oversexed twenty-something man, but a fifty-six year old servant of the crown who has been forced into retirement because, in his service to the queen, he has suffered a terrible blow that not only left him with post-traumatic stress but also unable to control his emotional outbursts.

When the queen was attacked by a magical curse called the Screaming, Lord Heliodor may have saved Her Majesty but in having done so, has suffered the consequences of his bravery. Involuntarily retired to his familial country estate, Adem is feeling unsure of himself and rather resentful of his unemployable status. But, it’s his arrival at Worldham that will set him on a new course and on a path to healing the psychological damage he’s suffered.

In a resurrection worthy of Lazarus, Corun Larkspur has returned from the dead. Or, at least he was reported dead during the war that separated him and Adem some thirty-plus years ago. Corun has now secured himself a place as the librarian at Worldham, cataloguing and organizing the rather impressive collection of books in the estate’s library, and though their initial meeting is less than auspicious, things do take a turn for the better for Adem and Cory. And here is where I must say that while the fact Cory is now a librarian might have been enough to make me love him immediately, Durreson makes him all the more loveable in his tenacity and patience, and obvious loving and generous nature toward Adem.

While decades have passed and both men have changed, neither having spent those thirty years stagnating in the muck of loss and regret, but neither having found a love like the first love they shared either, this story’s sentimentality is firmly rooted in lost time and opportunity and second chances—those years unable to be regained but the feelings still buried close enough to the surface to give a man hope that a new beginning may be possible.

The connection between Adem and Cory is rebuilt rather quickly, which is a necessity dictated by the length requirements for this anthology, and while I felt at least half as many more pages would have served to better flesh-out both the characters and their relationship with each other, their charm and the obvious attraction that still lingered each for the other was both evident and believable.

In a climax where the danger of magic returns once again to threaten queen and country, Adem has the opportunity to become not only his own hero in this story but Cory’s as well, which goes a long way toward his ability to overcome the psychological scars he’s carried for so long. Again, while the ending was satisfying and sweet and romantic, I felt things were resolved rather handily, but those niggles aside, Lord Heliodor’s Retirement is a lovely novella that shows us the truest and strongest magic is, yes, love.

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4 Stars, Brooke Edwards, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Short Story

Review: Mens Rea by Brooke Edwards

Title: Mens Rea (A Daily Dose 2015 Story)

Author: Brooke Edwards

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 25 Pages

At a Glance: Brooke Edwards has written a good May/December romance filled with courtroom drama and relationship tension.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: James Carter is forty-five and has been a police officer most of his life. He married young, lost her young, and his life revolved around his work and his son. Young is a recurring theme in his life, he thinks, when he meets the considerably younger AUSA Derek Moore on a case and finds himself ruled by the whims of his heart.

The road to love between a hotshot lawyer and a veteran cop was never going to be smooth, not in the real world, but there are criminals, misunderstandings, and a lack of communication standing in their way too. Both are so stubborn and convinced their interest is one-sided that it takes a murder case, exhaustion, and an adjournment for them to get their act together. They move fast after that, but they both know there’s no guarantee for tomorrow.

Dividers

Review: Chief James Carter has taken notice of Derek Moore, Assistant US Attorney. He has watched Derek in the court room, seen him at his precinct. And has met Derek over and over again…but only in his mind. The second time, he actually meets Derek is at the precinct, working on a case with Daniel Callahan, James’s partner. The third time, James responds to a 911 call and finds Derek has been beaten up. James asks Derek if he knows who attacked him, and he hints at someone he’d sent to prison. But then Ben, Derek’s future brother-in-law, speaks up and says he can give a description of the men, and that James could probably get the names from Daniel Callahan. When James calls Daniel and explains what’s going on, he can hear the concern in Daniel’s voice for Derek, and within just a few days, both men who’d attacked Derek are arrested, one by James and one by Daniel.

Brooke Edwards has written a very good May/December romance filled with courtroom drama and relationship tension. Though James spends a lot of time hoping his feelings for Derek will fade away—because he’s seen how Derek and Daniel react to each other—it’s not likely when a murder case lands in James’s lap, and he’s forced to spend long hours with Daniel and Derek, piecing together clues. All that time together, however, eventually leads to a single moment of eye contact between James and Derek, a moment where neither man seems willing or able to look away, and it opens up the door for so much more.

James and Derek are really good together, and I absolutely wanted more when Mens Rea ended. There are enough characters in this novellette for there to be another longer story, or even a series.

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Nico Jaye, Reviewed by Karen

Review: Where There’s Smoke by Nico Jaye

Title: Where There’s Smoke (A story from the 2015 Daily Dose package “Never Too Late.”

Author: Nico Jaye

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 58 Pages

At a Glance: A cute story that need just a bit more.

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb: If he can make room in his life and his heart, an isolated medieval history professor might find a real life knight in shining armor.

A terrible breakup in his early thirties left David shying away from relationships. For years he’s been content with his solitary life, finding fulfillment in his career, books, television show marathons, and his cat’s companionship. When David meets his neighbor Zach, he can’t tell if Zach is just being friendly or if the handsome fireman might actually be interested in him. The more time they spend together, though, the more David questions his resolution to remain single. If Zach can extinguish the flames left by David’s past, David might finally break away from his structured life and take a chance on love.

Dividers

Review: Where There’s Smoke was, all in all, a cute story.

David was all set to live his life alone and then, all of sudden, Zach is there coming to his rescue, and the walls start crumbling. Zach is the nice guy next door who shows David with his actions that he wants to be around. They were both very nice and sweet together.

I loved Mrs. Pettifer, she had me chuckling with her meddling, but I just felt that there was something missing, and I didn’t find myself connecting with the characters. Where There’s Smoke is a quick read, and if I’d had more, if it had been a little more fleshed out, I could see myself really having enjoyed the story. Unfortunately, though, it just fell a little flat for me.

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5 Stars, Anthology, C.S. Poe, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Short Story

Review: Love Has No Expiration by C.S. Poe

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Title: Love Has No Expiration (A Story in the Daily Dose 2015 Package “Never too Late”)

Author: C.S. Poe

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 29 Pages

At a Glance: The perfect amuse-bouche for love… and a great little appetizer for the heart.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: There’s more to life than work, and love has no expiration, even for those approaching their forty-fifth birthday.

Daniel Richards is a private chef in New York City who has committed over a decade to his skills and passion. He has carved out a name for himself in the industry and has bookings for parties and dinners months in advance. Now that he’s in his midforties, however, he’s come to the realization that he’s lonely and desperate for companionship. Two days before Valentine’s Day, he meets Keith Maxwell at a farmer’s market and can’t keep the much younger man out of his thoughts. Keith is eager and willing to take a chance with someone older, but Daniel’s reluctance stops Keith’s every attempt. Worried his career will suffer if he dedicates time to a serious romance, or that Keith won’t be satisfied with someone so much older, Daniel nearly thwarts his own attempts at finding happiness.

Dividers

Review: Smart, sexy, successful, Daniel is a personal chef in New York and too busy to realize he is lonely. Love Has No Expiration begins a few days before Valentine’s Day, with Daniel shopping for vegetables from the sidewalk stalls where he meets Keith. A few corny vegetable puns later, and some asparagus, and Daniel’s life will never be the same again.

This is a story about happiness and how we will never be completely whole unless we stop and make time for love. Daniel is busy, Keith is busy with 2 jobs and school, but together they make a team that makes the busy worth it. Daniel is 14 years older than Keith, but as he realizes, “I took the bunch of asparagus out of the produce bag, staring at them and feeling a sickening combination of guilt and sudden determination. Romance didn’t have an expiration date. It didn’t go bad once your twenties were behind you, not even four years after your fortieth birthday.”

Love Has No Expiration is a fantastic short story. We get a slice of these men’s lives when they meet and first fall in love, and it leaves you feeling satisfied with the story just how it is told. It is the perfect amuse-bouche for love… and a great little appetizer for the heart.

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