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

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

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 guess I expected better. This book was riddled with typos and grammatical errors that distracted me 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

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

 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

'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.