His Saxon Slave by Danielle Fonda

Published by Allure Books ASIN: B0022NGDMW

His Saxon SlaveLord Bonar De Sky known as the Black Boar by his legion of warriors lays siege to the Saxon stronghold of Garth. The Saxon wench, Kiana, is captured helping Welsh bowmen escape off the cliffs. Bonar’s second in command wants her whipped as the enemy. But Bonar impetuously decides to keep her as his slave.

Kiana is forced to Bonar’s tent, stripped naked and bound against escaping. Now she is the fierce Norman warrior’s slave. When Bonar breaks the siege, he returns to his tent wild-eyed with the blood lust of victory, and he is intent on taking his Saxon slave beneath him. “Berserkers” Kiana’s people call warriors like Bonar and she fears that the strong Norman lord will take her heart and soul as no man has done before. 
But when the liege-heir, Sinnot, demands Kiana as his spoils of war it takes Bonar’s strength to hold his beautiful Saxon slave. This story is a rich Medieval tale, where a slave is a slave, and warriors can be rough, yet still, darkly handsome barbarians.
This story fascinated me a long time ago, and it took me a while to get up the courage to purchase it, but I am pleased I did.
The sex is prolific, and eventually fades away to the storyline, which the best part.
Bonar is a dark character, master of all, but gentle in heart.  He is quite taken with his young beautiful hostage, but wants her for himself, not as spoils of war.
Kiana doesn’t want the dirty barbarian to touch her, but when he does, he does amazing things to her body that she doesn’t understand.  Her loyalties to her own people falter when she realises that Bonar could protect her, and uses her own people to do so.
When he is confronted and asked to hand her over as part of the spoils of war, he is reluctant to do so, wanting only to have her all to himself, but because she is still a virgin, he has to hand her over, but Bonar’s right hand man has other plans.
The story was intriguing and I couldn’t put the story down until I had finished it.  A wonderful compelling and easy read.

Taming the Bad Boy by Cherie Le Clare

Published by Cherie Books, 2011 – ISBN 978-0-9876602-9-9

taming the bad boyUsing drastic measures to take what he wants backfires on Luke Knight when he meets solo foster mum, Katie Ryan. Both suspicious of one another’s motives, yet equally determined to protect five year old Emily, they must support one another and learn to co-operate to keep the little girl safe. But, when Emily goes missing, their relationship is tested to its limits. 

And discovering the truth turns out to be the biggest test of all.

Luke has an axe to grind, and Katie is the one that is going to suffer for it.  Luke returns to Wellington in search of his ex-girlfriend and their daughter, only to discover that his ex is dead, and his daughter is now living with Katie, his ex’s flatmate.

But someone is plotting against both of them in an attempt to get to Emily, but who is it.  Luke suspects it is Katie, driving a wedge between their fledgling romance.  But when the chips are down, new information comes to light that throws everyone a curve ball.

I liked the two main characters.  Luke is a tough, no nonsense, hard-working man, who wants to be part of his daughters life.  But Lisa, his ex – seems determined, even from beyond the grave, to prevent him from being with his daughter, telling everyone that would listen that Emily’s father is a good for nothing loser.  In a way, she was right.

Katie was thrown into motherhood unexpectedly, and seems to have handled it well.

There were some questions that seemed to go unanswered though, and even the ending seemed a little rush, but if you enjoy NZ romances, you will like this story.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Entice Me – The Caldwell Sisters Series

A trilogy of romantic novellas set in exotic locations, featuring the Caldwell sisters – Jane, Margo and Allison – on their quest to fulfill their mothers last wish for them to find their long lost father.

After their mothers will reveals that their father – Zack Caldwell, missing, presumed dead, for twenty years – is actually alive, Jane takes a trip to the jungles of Guatemala, where she finds herself sorely unprepared for the task that lies ahead.

Lucky for her, she encounters the handsome and mysterious Harrison DeNeuve who helps her find her missing father, as well as love.

This was a nice lead in to the trilogy. Jane is a head strong character who is hugely out of place in the jungle. She quickly finds her match in Harrison, and the story moves forward from there. Due to the small word count, you do need to suspend disbelief at how rapidly the feelings form, but I think that’s something lovers of romance can easily do.

The second novella, Thrill Me, is my favourite of the three – I really liked Margo, and her slightly younger love interest, Adrian. They seemed like the best match up, and it was the most exciting read in all ways. It lived up to it’s name, as both characters were thrilled, sexually, and found themselves caught in a life threatening situation.

The first two books take a similar format with the sisters travelling, finding their love interests, and the man who could be their father, and finally reading a letter from their mother, allowing them to move past their own hang ups and commit to a relationship. These letters are beautifully written and I’ll confess, made me a little misty eyed.

I think, because of the nature of these books, that I can’t consider it a spoiler to say that the real Zach Caldwell isn’t discovered until the third book in the series. By the time I got there I hoped that there would be a very good reason for the man to abandon his family – the third book finally cleared up the mystery.

This one took a different format from the first two, which surprised me a little. Allison is the youngest of the sisters, and had read her letter before the events of the third book take place. She leaves the safety of her ranch to venture to Afghanistan in search of her missing father, and the older PI, Robert Rivera, can’t help but follow her to keep her safe.

I felt like this novella was a gentler love story than the two before hand, fitting for Allison’s nature. A lot of the action happened away from Allison, with the two love interests actually being apart for a fair amount of the story line.

Ultimately, she returns home with her father in tow and the mystery is revealed. I was quite satisfied with the way it was all tied up.

Over all these are very easy, quick to read stories. The locations are described really well, and the atmosphere of each situation was nicely captured. If you’re looking for a run romance series, then you might want to check this out.

We’ll have a quick interview with the author, Lucianne Rivers, here on the 19th – make sure you check back in then! And if you are interested in checking these books out, the first is currently only .99c at Amazon.

Black Silk by Jan Gordon

Published by Jan Gordon(first published 2009)

ISBN13 2940000698679

Vic has two loves in her life, her cat, Mister, and reading books from her bookstore. Her future looked set, until one night when she’s saved from probable danger by a mysterious stranger. Cole has moved around a lot during his life, never finding a true home, until he buys an old house, and fate steps in to change his future. A light romance with a paranormal twist.

This is more of a novella than a full blown novel, but I enjoyed the story.  It was easy to read and I liked the characters of Vic and Cole, they worked well together for the betterment of the story.  Vic is a lonely spinster, living in her dead parents house and working in a shop once owned by her mother.  Her prospects of finding love in the small town are slim.  Cole is mysterious and intriguing and very much taken with Vic when he first meets her at a service station where she has witnessed a stick up.

What wasn’t satisfactory was the way that the storyline involving the stick up – the man starts to hound Vic because she made a statement to the police and identified him.  The ending of that felt flat and kind of rushed.

This could have easily been a novel, there were lots of areas in which you could develop this story further, but I still enjoyed it none the less, a bit of light reading on a Saturday afternoon.

Break Out – Nina Croft

Irreverent. Irresponsible. Insatiable. Who says immortals can’t have any fun? 

The year is 3048, Earth is no longer habitable, and man has fled to the stars where they’ve discovered the secret of immortality—Meridian. Unfortunately, the radioactive mineral is exorbitantly expensive and only available to a select few. A new class comprised of the super rich and immortal soon evolves. The Collective, as they’re called, rule the universe. 

Two-thousand-year-old Ricardo Sanchez, vampire and rogue pilot of the space cruiser, El Cazador, can’t resist two things: gorgeous women and impossible jobs. When beautiful Skylar Rossaria approaches him to break a prisoner out of the Collective’s maximum security prison on Trakis One, Rico jumps at the chance. Being hunted by the Collective has never been so dangerous–or so fun!

I picked up this novella not long after I finished reading Ward Against Death, as the publisher had a special on it. I find it hard to resist specials and was interested to see what else Entangled were offering.

I did my ‘vampire’ thing back in my teens, and have pretty much avoided anything with a vampire in it for much of the last decade, luckily for me, this is not like any other vampire book I’ve read! I mean, for starters, it’s set way in the future and he’s in space!

The novella kicks off in an excellent place – Rico is on the run and you wonder what he’s gotten himself into. I instantly felt hooked, as I was curious about the situation, and enjoyed the action. In fact, the whole book is pretty action packed, though not all of that action is the shoot ’em up kind, some of it happens in the bedroom 😉

The female lead is played by Skylar, a beautiful, intriguing woman who Rico can’t resist. She is shrouded in mystery and throughout the story the reader knows that something is off, but it’s never fully revealed. I really appreciated this, as the lies seemed like they could contain elements of truth, and Rico has his suspicions, but none of them are fully verbalized until the big reveal near the end when it all comes together.

The secondary characters were interesting as well, it’s a hodge-podge crew, some of whom have their own secrets. I’m very curious to see how the next book plays out. I really enjoyed the world that Croft has built here, and would love to learn more about things like the Collective, and the church in future books. There is a lot of gold there, and it would be a shame not to give us more of that.

This novella packs a punch, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would! I think I am becoming a fan of ‘romance’ in space, in particular where there is actually a solid story line in the pilots seat. It was a really fun read, and I breezed through it in no time. I enjoyed it so much, that I will definitely be checking out the next book in the series – thankfully, the wait isn’t too long as I see it’s due out in October.

If you like romance, action and books set in space, then this is a fun read that I would recommend checking out.

Photographs & Phantoms

This novella is labeled ‘1.5’ in the Gaslight Chronicles – coming between the first full length novel, and the second. I haven’t read either of these but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book.

Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
Released by: Carina Press

As a member of the Order of the Round Table, Kendall Lake is overqualified to be investigating strange phenomena at a seaside photography studio. But since the photographer is related to the Order’s most powerful sorcerer, Kendall reluctantly boards a dirigible to Brighton. 

Amy Deland is haunted by a shadow that appears in some of her recent portraits. In each case, the subject died within days of the sitting. Does she have her grandmother’s gift of foresight, or has she somehow caused the deaths? 

As Kendall and Amy search for answers, their investigation draws them together in a most improper way—but it seems the evil presence in the studio is determined to keep them apart…

I picked this up from the Amazon Free Bestselling list, and I think it’s the first time I have read a .5 book, though I am seeing more of them around. In principle I think they are a great idea – introducing new readers to the world of a series before they invest in a longer work, and also filling readers desire for more while they wait for the next in the series to be released.

I’m quite fond of steampunk, so it was a no brainer that I was going to pick this one up. The cover was quite interesting, and so was the premise. I don’t believe I’ve read any books released by Carina Press before, so it was also a good introduction to the novels they publish.

The world is quite different from most of the other steampunk books: the steam aspect was in the background, there was less action and guns and other stuff. Instead there were a lot of allusions to paranormal stuff going on which I really enjoyed. It was an interesting world, once which I’d be interested to see more of. The story focuses primarily on the two lead characters and the phantoms in the photographs, and leaving everything else very much in the background.

I enjoyed both of the lead characters. Amy is a strong independent woman who has set about creating a living for herself, without the need of a man to care for her. This, in fact, is part of the reason she encounters this mysterious phantom in her photographs, and with the help of Kendall, they solve the mystery fairly quickly.

It’s a very quick read, but an enjoyable one. It’s not the kind of thing that will stick with you long after, but it is fairly well written and hints at a much larger would, and let’s the reader know what to expect from the author. I will most probably check out the other titles in this series at some point, as I’d love to see what she does with the setting and elements in play.

Interview – Christopher Ruz

Yesterday I posted my review of Ruz’s brand new collection of short stories. Today we follow up with an interview with the man himself!

Here is a bit about Chris, in case you haven’t checked out his website. Blatantly stolen from his ‘about’ page’:

I’ve been writing for the past six years and studying industrial design for the past four, graduating in 2010 from RMIT with a BA Design (Industrial Design) (Hons). I’m now developing my design portfolio while also working on a number of fiction projects, both largeand small. If you’re interested in publishing anything you see here, please drop me a line.

I’ve had short stories previously published by fiction blogs such as Weaponizer and Labyrinth Inhabitant’s Magazine. I also have shorts to be published in upcoming issues of Birdville Magazine and Vehicle Magazine. My short story Long Way Home won the first Ergofiction Search Term Challenge. I’ve also been rejected by lots of very famous people, which must count for something.

Now, on with the questions!

What made you decide to put together and publish a collection of short stories yourself?

The problem with writing shorts is that there are fewer and fewer outlets willing to take a punt on unpublished authors these days. Short fiction mags rely on stories by big names to pull in sales, and the web-zines are inundated with so many email submissions that it can take up to and above 9 months for a reply. As a result, my short stories were languishing. I put them up on my blog for free and got great responses but absolutely nothing in the way of commercial interest, and the Kindle store seemed like a fantastic way to reach out to a wider audience. I would have made the book free on Amazon, but I wanted to experiment with how the site works as a sales platform, because I have plans to release a few novels on there in the future. Thus, the idea of the 99c collection was born.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of your short stories online, at various venues. How did you go about deciding which stories to include in this particular collection?

I would have made the collection far larger, but a few folk I was chatting to on reddit.com recommended I keep the wordcount for the collection under 30,000, so the book could be considered for inclusion in the Kindle Singles program. So, I started with my two fan-favourite stories, They Trade in Eyes and The Ant Tower, and then looked through my collection for others to fill the gaps. Two of my personal favourite stories, Black Rain and What You Bring Back, were too similar in tone, so I tossed a coin and chose Black Rain. The rest were chosen to roughly balance out the ratios of fantasy to scifi to paranormal weirdness.

From the reviews you’ve had so far, it would seem like a clear favourite of readers is ‘They Trade In Eyes’ (I think it would be my favourite as well!)—do you have a favourite?

I love all the stories in Past the Borders – the stories I don’t adore or that don’t resonate with readers, I throw in the bin. But my absolute fave is The Ant Tower, for a number of reasons: the first is the central image of the tower itself, which came to me in a dream one night and never let go. Second is the dynamic between Parkin and the Magician, which evolved through a series of accidents – I never originally intended for the two to fall in love. At one point in the story I wrote, “Parkin felt a burning in his gut, in his groin,” or something to that effect. It was just supposed to be indicative of his fear at the time, but when I re-read that part later I realised, damn, Parkin loves this guy. And that flipped the entire story on its head. Third, is that there was so much history and conflict implied around the edges of the story that I couldn’t get it out of my head, even after the fifth re-write. It sat and mouldered for two years, until finally I realised what the aftermath of The Ant Tower would be, and how grand and sweeping a story it would provide. Hence my current project, the Century of Sand trilogy.

Having done this once, is it an experience you’d be keen to repeat? Or do you think you’ll be focusing more on your longer works now?

I’ll definitely be repeating the process soon. I almost have a second collection of great shorts compiled, which will go up in the coming months, as well as a scifi novel of mine called Alpha Slip that aaaaalmost made it into publishers hands. All will be priced at 99c. There’ll be more collections to follow, in time. Short stories are in my blood.

I really enjoyed the novella ‘The Ant Hill’, I believe that’s a story that comes into play in your novel ‘Century of Sand’ –are you looking to self-publish that title as well? If so, when do you think we’ll be able to get our grubby little hands on it?

Century of Sand is, I think, the first novel of mine that has a solid chance of print publication. So I’ll be shopping it around to publishers for at least six to nine months when its done – if they don’t want it, up on the Kindle store it goes! I’ll have the entire trilogy drafted by about September, and the first book edited into final-draft shape by the end of 2011.

Finally, if you had to choose a friend based solely on five movies, what would those movies be? (Yes, I know it’s not writing related, but I’m always interested to know which movies people think best represent the traits/similarities they would appreciate in a friend).

Tough question. Most of the movies I love don’t make for good friends. For example, be wary of anyone that loves Fight Club or Requiem for a Dream. Monty Python and the Holy Grail would have to be #1. Second… maybe Children of Men. It implies imagination, patience and empathy. Memento is third, I think it takes a keen, analytical mind to appreciate that one. And finally… Born to Fight and Terminator 2. Because I need friends who appreciate the fine art of things being blown up and people being kicked in the face.

Thank you SO much for joining us here today, Chris, and for answering my questions. Best of luck with your current short story collection, and all future works. I for one am looking forward to reading your novels when they are released, whatever the format.