"Tequila Rose Virginity Blues: Contemporary Romance Short Story" by Wendy Jayne


Tequila Rose may have met the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, she wakes up suffering from alcoholic amnesia and doesn’t remember anything about the night before. Tall, dark, and Jack may be the cure her jaded heart desperately needs, but Tequila’s wary as friends warn her that Jack hangs out with the local drug dealer. Thrust together at a Speed Dating event, their chemistry sizzles, but is Jack after a different kind of fix?

I applaud the gorgeous cover. Unique character Tequila Rose - named after the drink that sparked her conception had me covering my mouth to squelch laughter. I read this short story while next to my sleeping husband. It proved difficult not to disturb him. Wendy Jane's voice and style came across clear and relatable. 'Tequila Rose Virginity Blues' packs plenty of entertainment in only 54 pages with enough background painted to create depth of character and romantic tension to keep you reading. I will look for more works by this talented author.

"Trafficking" by Bill Ward


Trafficking is big business and those involved show no remorse, have no mercy, only a deadly intent to protect their income.
Afina is a young Romanian girl with high expectations when she arrives in Brighton but she has been tricked and there is no job, only a life as a sex slave. 
Facing a desperate future, Afina tries to escape and a young female police officer, who comes to her aid, is stabbed. 
Powell’s life has been torn apart for the second time and he is determined to find the man responsible for his daughter’s death. 

Action, violence and sex abound in this taut thriller about one of today’s worst crimes.

I will start by saying the book's cover enticed me to read the description, which in turn moved me to purchase the book. Trafficking wasn't exactly what I'd expected; it started slowly. Afina's mistakes and how she ended up in her circumstances were handed off as a matter of fact, and it would have infused excitement to see these things play out instead of being told they happened. Powell's back story proved compelling. When his daughter died, and he went in search of Afina to protect her, his motives were good, but it felt like he just happened upon her. How could he locate her and infiltrate her life when the police had no idea who or where she was? Traumatizing violence and sex demonstrated some of the horrors of being trafficked and the sick fetishes of men who paid to spend time with the women. In the beginning, when Afina tried to escape, I was rooting for her. I liked her spunk. Her decision to return knocked me off kilter. I couldn't believe she wouldn't tell her mother what happened, to take her sister somewhere safe, and then report to a police officer. I found parts of the book comical, for such a dismal scenario - such as how Powell dealt with Victor. Overall, an entertaining story.


"Valentine's Day Virgin" by Penny Wylder


I've never had a good Valentine's Day.
And when I think this year could be different, I accidentally destroy a display of overpriced chocolates at the mall. Fortunately, a wonderful woman pays for all the damage I caused.
But her kindness isn't free.
She wants me to go on a date with her brother.
All I have to do is attend a fancy party with a man I've never met before. Then we do meet, and I know I'll never be able to forget him. He's powerful, stacked, and his smirk tells me he's eager to get his hands on me.
I think we can keep things professional...
Then he finds out I'm a virgin.
Now he's more beast than man, lusting to show me what he can do that all my other exes were too afraid to try. He calls them weak, and himself lucky.
Could this Valentine's Day be the first one I enjoy?
Or will his secret ruin more than just the holiday?

I guess I expected better. This book was riddled with typos and grammatical errors that distracted from reading. Unbelievable characters, awkward sexual innuendo, and corny, predictable 'romance' did not move me to feel anything between the main characters. Disappointed in my first time reading Penny Wylder's books.

"The Merchant's Pearl" by Amie O'Brien


He was born to rule an empire. But she's the one who rules his heart…
Stripped of her Christian name and freedom, Leila tries to evade the lustful gaze of her masters. Even in a sprawling Turkish palace, there’s no room to hide from the handsome Prince Emre. On her dreaded first night as the prince’s concubine, instead of his bed, Leila receives a gift more precious than all the riches in the Ottoman Empire. If only she could trust the heir to keep his promise…
Prince Emre is torn between his duty to the splintering empire and his growing feelings for the stubborn daughter of a Christian missionary. Tradition forbids him from abandoning his harem, but Leila’s heart demands his undivided love. When religious and societal forces threaten to tear them apart, Leila and Emre must summon the courage to follow their impossible destiny. 

The Merchant’s Pearl is the thought-provoking first installment in a series of historical romance novels. If you like slow-burn romance, flesh-and-blood characters, and unconventional settings, then you’ll love Amie O'Brien’s opulent tale.

I was excited about the premise of this book. As the story began, I was intrigued by Leila's background. I would have welcomed a deeper understanding of how she lost her Christian name and found herself sold into slavery. I would have liked to have seen that element play out. I enjoyed the initial connection between Leila and Suri and thought she'd play a further role in the book. The supporting characters of Aster and Dariya and their interactions with Leila made conflicting and sometimes comical moments - some of the best parts of the book. I didn't like Prince Emre. The idea that he saved Leila by owning her seemed a nice gesture in the beginning. However, the relationship between the two of them felt cold, and while the description mentions slow-burn, I didn't feel it. Their encounters included many long, detailed conversations about history. Those conversations and all their information distanced me from the story. Most of all; Emre's claim that he must follow tradition - the reason he couldn't abandon the harem or give his love to Leila only - was debunked, for me, the moment he offered Leila the opportunity to be unlike the other girls. 

THE MERCHANT'S PEARL was a well-edited, informative book that I couldn't fall in love with as a romance.


"Boot Camp Bride" by Lizzie Lamb


Take an up-for-anything reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back! Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a boot camp for brides in order to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova. At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancĂ©, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Columbia. He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership - and fake engagement - will be terminated, too. Soon Charlee has more questions than answers. What's the real reason behind Ffinch's interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Columbia? In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger ... As the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from Rafa without a backward glance.

 Charlee Montague aspired to outgrow her lowly status at a gossip magazine and become a full fledged serious reporter. The owner's daughter is her best friend and gets her into a book award party. She's excited until she realizes she'll be staff, carrying drinks and food to the real guests. When the party ends and she feels baited into giving her opinion about photographs from the award winning author, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch, and she finds herself playing cat and mouse with the author himself. Fearing she'll lose her job, instead she is totally shocked to find she's being given an opportunity to redeem herself by pairing up with Finch. The couple's personalities spark and the attraction is real. Charlee is spunky and has a nose for a scoop, so she's determined to figure out what Ffinch isn't telling her about this seemingly simple assignment to take photos of a supermodel at a boot camp for brides. Their fake engagement led to some comical moments, and the chemistry between them made good romance. The mystery/crime angle was interesting as well. An entertaining romantic comedy. 


'Emma's Christmas' by Lynette Marie


This Christmas, past will meet present in the clash of wills of one estranged couple.

Dr. Jonathan Kirkpatrick, following the demands of his conscious, set out to join the Confederate forces in the War Between the States, leaving his childhood sweetheart behind.

Emma could not forgive his betrayal, and so in an act of defiance she chose to wed another.

As the years passed, each would travel down separate avenues in the pursuit of completion, only to find the way blocked by tragedy, until that fateful day when their paths would cross once again at an extended Christmas party.

The final ending to their love story would be orchestrated during this gathering, but will it leave them with a happily ever after?

'Emma's Christmas: A heartwarming story of love and redemption' brought a range of emotions, but the title sums it up. A holiday tale, it warmed my heart that two childhood friends turned sweethearts separated by war received a chance to rectify their relationship. Emma's poor and impetuous choices brought much pain and heartache to this couple. With help from family and fate, they are allowed to come together and decide if they can heal their friendship. I liked the historical setting and descriptions. Characters held my attention, and I believed in them. The author did a good job hinting at intimacy without graphic details. The plot and pace pleased me, and I thoroughly enjoyed Lynette Marie's story.

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