THE ORCHID THRONE

By Jeffe Kennedy
Forgotten Empires – Book 1
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ISBN-10: 1250194318
ISBN-13: 978-1250194312
ASIN: B07NCWNNKN
September 24, 2019
Fantasy Romance
The 16th Year of the Reign of Emperor Anure
Before his death, the king of Calanthe, in order to save his island kingdom from the devastating destruction by the self-proclaimed Emperor Anure, offered his ten-year-old daughter Euthalia in marriage when she became of age. Anure agreed, believing no magic existed on Calanthe. Anure assumed power over the rest of the world by destroying the kingdoms and their ancient land magic. Now sixteen years later Queen Euthalia plays a deadly game. Always watched by her courtiers and the enemies within her court, she is bound by the daily rituals and plays a political dance with the emperor to delay their marriage. His having four other wives helps.
Queen Euthalia wears the Orchid Ring which signals her rule of the kingdom of Calanthe, known as the island of flowers. Something few know is that the Orchid Ring is magical. It passes knowledge of happenings on the land and in the waters of Calanthe to Euthalia. This magic is strong, but Euthalia knows keeping her power means she must prevent any bloodshed on the land. No one can suspect she uses the ancient magic the emperor tried to wipe out. Recent nightmares of a chained wolf plague her dreams leaving her in dread of a new danger.

Upon conquering and destroying the kingdom of Oriel with his new weapon Vurgsten, a flammable rock, the emperor had sent ten-year-old Prince Conri, his sister, and his father the former king, as slaves to the volcanic mines of the island Vurgmun. Within the mines Conri’s father and sister died horrible deaths. While abusing the mine’s slaves, the guards overlooked what a powerful warrior their cruelty created.
Con knows he, as the former prince Conri, no longer exists. He seized the mines with his army of former slaves. He is now Con, the King of Slaves. His hatred for the emperor provides his sole purpose—to kill the false emperor. Like all the slaves in the Vurgmun mine, the fiery and dangerous weaponized mineral Vurgsten has damaged Con’s skin and lungs. Former Lady Sondra and the wizard Ambrose escaped captivity with him, and now help with his army. Ambrose tells Con a prophesy about the abiding ring. Con must marry its holder.

THE ORCHID THRONE is told in alternating first-person narratives between Euthalia and Conri. When Euthalia receives warning the King of Slaves is coming to Calanthe, she prepares a special greeting to capture the emperor’s enemies, save Calanthe, and keep the emperor from claiming her. While both Calanthe’s queen and the slave king are cautious, an unrelenting attraction develops between them. Themes about rituals, magic, wizards, and rebellion fill the story making it a captivating read that grows more engrossing with each chapter.

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I’VE GOT YOU BABE

By Lynnette Austin
Must Love Babies series – Book 2
Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN-10: 1492694207
ISBN-13: 978-1492694205
ASIN: B07Q1JY1FT
August 27, 2019
Contemporary Romance

October in Misty Bottoms, Georgia – the Present

The heat in his first summer in Georgia reminds Tucker Wylder of his duty as a Marine in the Middle East, and that memory always brings bad reactions. He and his brothers, Gaven and Brant, own Wylder Rides, a car and motorcycle restoration shop. Currently, they are working on restoring a ‘63 Corvette for a Hollywood executive. Tucker arrives at the garage before his brothers and starts replacing the brake lines on the Corvette. A car with engine troubles stops, and a blue-eyed woman enters the garage. While Tucker is telling her where the nearest repair shop is, she passes out. Then he hears a child crying in the woman’s car. The little girl asks who he is. When he tells her, she calls him Tut. She tells him her name is Daisy Elizabeth. Misty Bottoms is a small community and Tucker knows the woman needs help. The ambulance he calls arrives, but they can’t take Daisy, so Tucker follows the ambulance to the town’s only physician, just to make sure Daisy stays with her mother.

Elise Danvers is in a bad place. When her husband learned their baby had a congenital heart problem, he abandoned her and Daisy. After leaving, he used Elise’s credit card to excess. When she lost her library job, she learned he had run the bill up so high she lost her grandmother’s house to foreclosure. Her mom and dad had never had time for her, but she was traveling to her mother’s empty house in Savannah for a place to stay until she could get reestablished. Now she is under a doctor’s care and can’t pay the bill. When the doctor waives away her bill, Elise first encounters the generous nature of the citizens of the small community of Misty Bottoms; then Tucker lets her recuperate at his house along with her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

Tucker and Elise don’t think they will ever love anyone again. His first romance’s failure followed by his duty in the Middle East, and Elise’s experience with her ex, make them both leery of love. Yet talkative Daisy’s charm enchants Tucker. When Elise finally gets Tucker to talk of the war experience haunting him, she learns of a problem certain to keep them apart. I’VE GOT YOU BABE is a charming and heart-wrenching tale of second chances brought about by a little enchantress.

ONCE UPON A BAD BOY


By Melonie Johnson
A Sometimes in Love Novel – Book 3
Perfect 10
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN-13: 9781250193070
ISBN-10: 1250193079
ASIN: B07H7CPKSX
June 2019
Contemporary Romance

Chicago – The Present

Mercedes Goldovitz, better known as the actress Sadie Gold, has gone through hard physical training for months before she begins an upcoming role. She landed the lead character Jamie in the movie Fair is Fair, based on a best-selling novel. It could be her breakout role. Since her hiring, she has left the soap opera where she played a spoiled rich girl. As her family is very wealthy, many celebrity reporters and viewers think she only played herself and think her family influenced her getting the part. They do not know how hard Sadie worked and continues to work to advance her career, and for this part it means sticking to a very strict diet. Once a week she treats herself to a donut. Today she attends a pre-production ‘table read’ meeting where her costar Ryan, also training and dieting, tells how any mention of carbs makes him feel homicidal. Sadie tells him she has half a donut she will share with him. As they laugh together Sadie hears something not heard in eleven years: Bo Ibarra’s voice. Shocked, she learns Bo is the movie’s stunt coordinator. He was her best friend during the summers she spent with her grandmother during her childhood and teen years. Bo was her first lover. Then on their prom night date, he broke her heart, telling her with no reason or excuse, they were done. She hasn’t seen or spoken to him since.

Bo still feels his attraction to Sadie, the same thing he felt every summer when her parents dumped her off at her grandmother’s estate so they could travel the world. Later he knew it was a doomed relationship. Sadie came from a rich family. His father was the estate manager for her grandmother. He and his family lived in a home provided by his employer. Can he resurrect their friendship? Not on the job, Bo warns himself. His company’s reputation is at stake, so not if he wants to continue in this profession.

While Bo and Sadie work very hard with the rest of the movie crew developing Fair is Fair’s many difficult and sometimes dangerous scenes, their still abiding friendship moves them closer. But the past still haunts them. Why did Bo end their relationship the way he did? And Sadie has kept a secret from Bo.

Sadie’s friends from previous books in the series show up in the story. Especially prominent is Ana, her best friend since high school, who throughout the story acts as Sadie’s mentor. Bo’s and Sadie’s families also play important parts, which explains much about their different situations. Bo’s is warm and comforting, while only Sadie’s grandmother seems to care about her. The movie production scenes are interesting as are Sadie’s problems with media coverage, so the story travels some unusual paths. ONCE UPON A BAD BOY is both a heart-breaking and heart-warming story readers will enjoy.

FROM DEPRESSION TO CONTENT- MENT


By Bob Rich, Ph.D.
A Self-Therapy Guide
Loving Healing Press
ISBN-13: 978-1-61599-435-9 (paperback)
ISBN013: 978-1-61599-437-3 (e-book)
ASIN: B07PGQMP4Q
March 5, 2019
Non-Fiction

Doctor Bob Rich’s advice comes from both personal issues and professional experience. His advice does not include prescriptions for drugs. Throughout the book he gives examples from his own life and from his patients’ experiences, using alias identities. His approach is one any thoughtful person can learn and apply to their own situation. The book gives information on types of depression, where it comes from, and steps to analyze and overcome individual causes of depression and its reoccurrence. It also gives great communication examples, so ultimately helps people maintain relationships, while providing information on how to help others. Each chapter includes homework sessions, useful URLs to investigate, and books that not only back up his suggestions but information readers will also want to explore.

The book covers more than just depression. It talks about dealing with life’s obstacles that lead to depression. Chapter two lists seven requirements for a contented life: healthy eating, satisfying sleep, regular physical exercise, regular fun, creativity, social connectedness, and meaning. With determination, things everyone can achieve. Some of these I need to work on. I found the chapter on relaxation and meditation recommendations very helpful with easy to use techniques.

In the About the Author page it states Doctor Bob’s major joy in life is to be of benefit to others, and I must admit this book’s contents were of benefit to me and will help other readers. While it is a relatively short book, those who read it will want to re-read it several times and probably keep it at hand for dealing with difficult times and situations. So when I found the PDF version he gave me to review helpful, I decided to buy the Kindle version.

Doctor Bob also talks about many problems plaguing the world and humanity that can cause depression, which is on the rise. I whole-heartedly agree with these views.

Robin Lee

SIDNEY SHELDON’S THE SILENT WIDOW

By Tilly Bagshawe
A Sidney Sheldon Novel
Crooked Lane Books
ISBN: 798-1-64385-093-1
May 2019
Mystery/Thriller

The Hardcover came out in January of 2018, and Sidney Sheldon’s family gave the author permission to write under Sheldon’s name.

Brentwood, Los Angeles, California and Mexico – the Present

Psychologist Doctor Nikki Roberts listens to Lisa Flannagan, a narcissistic client she dislikes, ramble about how she is leaving her married billionaire lover but keeping the apartment he gave her along with all the expensive gifts. Nikki lost her own beloved husband a year previously and she hasn’t quite recovered, which might explain her antipathy towards Lisa. At the end of the session it is pouring rain and the Nikki offers the scantily clad Lisa her raincoat. Unknown to Nikki until later, Lisa is brutally murdered shortly after leaving the office, stabbed repeatedly until a fatal blow is delivered. Police detective partners come to interview Nikki. Mick Johnson is a gruff, overweight and bigoted detective, who believes Nikki is guilty. Detective Lou Goodman is a more polite man who finds the beautiful psychologist interesting and attractive. They return later when Trey Raymond, Nikki’s office assistant murdered in a similar manner. Nikki’s husband Doug had treated the young man like a son after getting him off drugs. The suspicion lands on Nikki.

Nikki, like the readers, will wonder what she did to have someone want her dead. After her bereavement, she only has four regular patients. Since one of them is dead, do the others have something to do with it? And what has this to do with the torture and murder of the man in the prologue or with the disappearance of a teenage Californian girl, Charlotte Clancy, working as an au pair in Mexico ten years ago? Why is Detective Johnson so biased against Nikki?

A Mexican versus Russian drug war is taking place in Los Angeles. Numerous rich and powerful characters are involved in illegal activities, one of whom targets Nikki. The two detectives operate nearly separate investigations that lead to unanticipated events. A convoluted but interesting story where many immoral characters border the line of sanity and many secrets are exposed.

Daisies and Devotion


By Josi S. Kilpack
Proper Romance, a Mayfield Family Regency – Book 2
Shadow Mountain Publishing
ISBN: 978-1629725529
May 2019
Historical Romance

London, 1822

Timothy Mayfield needs to marry a wealthy wife. His uncle Elliot Mayfield, the fifth Viscount Howardsford, currently provides Timothy an allowance. Timothy’s father married a maid from his household and then died leaving his wife and children near destitute. Timothy is a very polite and honest man, full of energy, very talkative, fun and often silly, but responsible. He finds Miss Maryann Werrington a woman he is interested in marrying. He tells her so and also tells her he would never marry a woman just for her money. He wants to have an emotional connection with anyone he marries. His intent changes when his Uncle Elliot tells him if he marries a woman he approves, he will give Timothy a London house and property that will provide enough profit to sustain the household. Suddenly Timothy feels free. He explains this to Maryann, who has become a good friend, and shows her the list he compiled of characteristics for the perfect wife for him. Maryann just doesn’t fit it.

Maryann is twenty-two, rather old for a debutante, but she has spent the last few years taking care of her mother until she died. Now she is just out of mourning and her older, married sister is acting as her chaperone in London. She thinks herself rather plain and knows most potential suitors are only interested in her inheritance, not in her; except Timothy. She enjoyed his company. He entertained her and his honesty impressed her. Now, just when she realizes she is in love with him, his circumstances have changed. He wants to remain good friends and shows her his list of characteristics for his perfect wife. She thinks it a silly effort. Timothy is deluding himself, for no woman can fulfill all the items on his list. He is also blind to Maryann’s desire. She agrees reluctantly to introduce him to some likely debutants. He will introduce some suitors to her. Soon they are both considering other suitable mates, but just when they both think they’ve found someone, things go askew.

Both Timothy and Maryann suffer from self-doubt, and both face difficulties discovering the person who will fulfill their deepest desires for a mate. The story has an interesting start, and the puzzle of Timothy and Maryann’s relationship builds to become more intricate, emotional, and anxious as the story continues. The situations are appropriate for the era, but also show that people, no matter the time, are people: very complex individuals who have their own aspirations and problems. Characters from the first volume, PROMISES AND PRIMROSES, appear in this story, and other new characters play important roles. Information related in the first volume does not impinge on a reader’s understanding of this entertaining story.

Robin Lee

WIDOWS-IN LAW by Michele W. Miller


Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN 10: 1-5385-5691-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-5385-5691-7
March 2019
Mystery

New York and Miami – The Present

Lauren is the ex-wife of New York lawyer Brian Silverman. He is making millions of dollars with his law firm partner Steve Cohen. Lauren is also a lawyer, but she practices in the New York family court system. She doesn’t make the money Brian does, so depends on his alimony checks to support herself and their daughter Emily in the expensive city. It killed her to do so, but when she could no longer control Emily and the crowd she was hanging with in high school, she let Brian take over custody of Emily. She didn’t want Emily to end up like herself. In her teens poor choices led her into some unfortunate and dangerous situations. Her parents had both been drug addicts which led Lauren into making some very bad decisions. She overcame her past and desperately wants to protect Emily. Brian owns an expensive house in a better part of the city with his second wife Jessica. It places Emily in a better school system, and Brian can control the rebellious teenager better. Brian had cheated on her with Jessica before the divorce, and it left Lauren feeling inadequate and with low self-esteem. She calls Jessica her ‘wife-in-law,’ a term she learned in family court. Then Brian’s secretary Peggy calls Lauren. Lauren learns Brian was found burned in his bed while on a trip to Miami. She flies to Miami with both Jessica and Emily, but they are too late, Brian died.

While initially Steve told the two widows-in-law everything would be all right, he soon stops taking their calls. Then he claims Brian wasn’t really a partner and they will be getting nothing from his law practice. Lauren thinks this a fabricated story. Brian was the better lawyer and had told her his share of the firm’s contingency fees was worth millions of dollars. She and Jessica work to discover the truth, and from there everything goes downhill. Jessica witnesses the murder of Brian’s friend Jordon Connors, threats are made against Lauren, demands and threats come from criminal enterprises, and Jessica and Emily are arrested. All this leads to some very dangerous situations. Why was Steve being so deceptive, and just what was Brian up to? Carl Cintron, an FBI agent, takes great interest in Brian’s case despite being told to move on since Brian is dead. He already knows he has an even greater interest in Brian’s first wife.

The viewpoint shifts from Lauren to Jessica, to Emily, to Carl, and even to Brian before his death. Everything for everyone is tied up in convoluted circumstances. The story isn’t sorted by chapters but by dates and character viewpoints. It is a gripping read about changing relationships and hidden desires and motives, criminal conduct, and overcoming almost insurmountable odds. A great read with emotional, smart and thoughtful characters caught in unfathomable positions, which makes this a Perfect 10.

Robin Lee

ALL IN by Shelley Shepard Gray


Bridgeport Social Club – Book 2
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN: 978-1438440889
February 2019
Romance Women’s Fiction

Bridgeport, Ohio – The Present

An unexpected hit in the back while hiking dropped Meredith Hunt to the ground, and whoever hit her, stole her backpack with all her vital information, car keys, telephone, and money. She didn’t see the person who struck her. A man, who calls her darling, helps her to a sitting position. Then she recognizes a young man with her rescuer. Finn, a sophomore from her friend’s classroom where she volunteers once a week, stands nearby. His father, Ace Vance, and Finn saw the mugger, but stopped to help her. Ace tells Finn to follow down the trail to see if her backpack has been discarded, and Finn does find it. They insist on taking Meredith to urgent care for her bleeding hand, cut on glass shards where she fell. While surprised at their kindness and at the giddy feelings her rescuer inspires, she doesn’t want to be a burden. She felt that often enough while growing up when she never seemed to reach her mother’s expectations or earn her respect. Her father left when she was five to never reenter her life.

Vance has taken over the care of his son from the boy’s mother Liz. Finn has become his priority. His boy needs someone to show they love him and will always be there for him, unlike how his mother treated him. A brief encounter resulted in Finn’s birth, so Ace can’t regret it, except Liz was not a very good or caring mother. He has Finn now, and a few weeks ago they moved from West Virginia to Bridgeport for a fresh start. The difficult part is that Ace is now far from his loving parents and siblings. He works as an auto mechanic working on valuable classic cars. He knows Finn has trouble in his new high school, but the coach is very interested in adding Finn to the varsity football team knowing Finn’s size and talent will help the team.

Finn has trouble relating to anyone as his mother always left him to fend for himself. Allison, a junior girl from his high school, lives next door. But in a brief encounter to look at her dog’s puppies, he realizes her family is the perfect family, and when among them, he doesn’t know how to relate, how to act, or what to say. He finds it difficult to believe anyone wants him for who he is.

The unexpected relationship between these three wonderful characters develops quickly and goes through several distressing events, which allows them to emerge as stronger individuals who want to take a chance in believing they are worth someone’s love. Their mutual support helps them develop in important ways, and they each have supportive friends who add interest to the story. Themes of loneliness, parenting, developing friendships, and finding not only love with someone else, but also self-love, create a moving, emotional story. Yet overcoming doubt and distrust is difficult. Once readers start down this story’s trail, they won’t want to stop, earning it a Perfect 10.

Robin Lee

Stuck in Manistique

By Dennis Cuesta
Celestial Eyes Press
Perfect 10
ISBN: 978-1-7324-1090-9
November 2018
General Fiction

Manistique, Michigan – The Present

Mark (last name never revealed), who lives in Chicago and is a financial advisor, learns his Aunt Vivian has died and left him her estate, a Victorian house in Manistique, Michigan, a small community in the Upper Peninsula near Lake Michigan. His aunt, Dr. Vivian Peregrine, had been a humanitarian doctor who served in the world’s troubled areas for most of her life. He can only remember meeting her once and lost touch with her years ago, but couldn’t locate her. After talking to his aunt’s lawyer in Petoskey, Michigan, he travels to the UP. The problem is he has gephyrophobia, or fear of bridges, and the five mile long Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-awe) Bridge lays between him and Manistique. Luckily, the bridge personnel are prepared for such occasions and have assistance drivers to help people across the bridge. On his first night in his aunt’s house, which he plans to sell, a woman knocks on the door and asks for a room for the night. It seems his Aunt Vivian operated a B&B.

Dr. Emily Davis was driving north, on her way to Mackinac Island to meet her mentor, another doctor who is married, for a romantic commitment. Suffering doubts, she goes to the Upper Peninsula to catch the ferry to the island, but ultimately takes U.S. Highway 2 west and away from her temptation. Near Manistique a deer leaps into car’s windshield, smashing it to bits. Repair will take at least one day and all the local hotels and motels are filled with an elderly group on a casino tour of the UP. One motel owner gives her the name of the Manistique Victorian, a local B&B.

Mark’s generosity to Emily soon expands to other unexpected guests. From that point unanticipated events continually take place. The newly acquainted characters share quippy talk and camaraderie, which leads to confidences laced with allusions. Trouble abounds. While the story is overall humorous in tone, serious matters underlie the content. The story revolves around personal loss, secrets revealing extraordinary truths, local mysticism, friendship, incipient romance, and family relationships. Yes it earns a Perfect 10, but mostly for those who enjoy quirky people and crazy, surprising events, and because I learned some interesting things about my home state.

WE, THE JURY

Cover for We the JuryBy Robert Rotstein
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-5384-4090-2
ASIN: B07CNQ2DZS
October 2018
Mystery

Sepulveda, California – The Present

WE THE JURY is told from fourteen viewpoints during a jury’s deliberation of a murder trial. Each chapter tells a viewpoint from the judge, the prosecuting attorney, the husband and paralegal of the defending attorney, the courtroom clerk, the bailiff, a blogger, or from one of the eight members of the jury. This approach is very different but riveting. The reader learns about the defendant, David Sullinger, through varying jury member’s interpretations of court testimony on how and why he murdered his wife. Also exposed are their son Dillon, age 16, and daughter Lacey, age 17, who testify for or against their father. To complicate the issue, David’s wife Amanda was his former high school teacher and the family breadwinner. David’s expensive defense lawyer, Jenna Blaylock, has presented her client as an abused spouse who defended himself. The local prosecuting attorney, Jack Cranston, is shown through these viewpoints as Blaylock’s opposite: unattractive, unfashionable, stumbling over his words, and apparently inept. The jury begins deliberations ready to acquit.

What emerges is a ‘is he guilty or innocent?’ debate, but through a very convoluted set of narratives. Each juror bases their interpretation of facts on their own thoughts and beliefs about what they saw or heard, or remembered or not, in court. The eight jurors come from different social experiences and mindsets with accompanying prejudices. They sort truth, misconception, deliberate deception, and lies based on the testimony and evidence presented to deliver the verdict. Some jurors have personal motivations behind their convictions. The jury’s diversity emerges from the epithets given: the Foreperson, the Architect, the Housewife, the Grandmother, the Student, and the Jury Consultant, all women; and the two men jurors, the Clergyman and the Express Messenger/Actor. Each viewpoint gives a very different assessment of what is happening in the deliberation process. Outside the courthouse, a very determined, quasi-journalist/blogger is presenting her own agenda about the defendant and trial.

In the meantime, a reader becomes aware of the two attorneys and their mindsets about truth, lies, and justice. The presiding judge has just lost her beloved husband and leaves the reader wondering if this has impaired her judgement. The dedicated and concerned courtroom clerk and bailiff help keep the judge in order and the process moving, but have concerns.

All of this shows how society and courtrooms blend in determining guilt or innocence. The author, who has a law degree, also plays the reader very effectively, taking them on a bumpy journey of belief/disbelief about innocence and guilt, but he also gives a complex view of how the justice system works, and how it also can be played. Few readers will foresee the very unexpected ending.

Robin Lee