Lord Fool To The Rescue

Lord Fool To The Rescue_LLMuir_13317505

YOUR GRACE, HIS GRACE, HER GRACE, WHOMEVER

4 STARS

Lord Fool is really Leland Wescott, the Duke of Stromburg. Young though he is, he is a decorated war hero, having saved many of his men from being burned to death in a building fire. Unfortunately, he did so by holding them at gunpoint so that they could not run foolishly into the conflagration to try and save mates who were already beyond help.

The military may have thought he saved a significant number of lives, but the peerage thought his actions dishonorable. Dubbed “Lord Fool” behind his back, Stromburg spends his days trying to keep his land and crop holdings from the grasping clutches of the Duke of Redmond and feeling like the fool he is called.

When Baron Ledford offers his stepdaughter, Tempest MacIntyre, up for auction as a one-night stand, Stromburg receives an invitation to bid. Infuriated at the Baron’s gall, he goes to warn Tempest of her guardian’s lies about an arranged “wedding.” Though used to the stepfather’s cruelty, the depths of this particular depravity take her aback. And now she understands why so many men are walking around her in the park, looking her over as they would a horse up for sale.

Though thankful for the warning, Tempest assures Stromburg that she has already made arrangement to escape the man’s clutches. She also assures him that, with the new developments, she will be gone before the morning and before the stepfather can turn her into damaged goods.

Well, as you can imagine, the best laid plans, etc. etc…So, for the remainder of this 70-some page short story, we witness the “gone astray” parts from the viewpoints of Tempest as she tries to flee and Stromburg as he tries to protect and save her.

L. L. Muir crafts in this Regency entry, a scenario that alternates tension and fear with bouts of tongue-in-cheek, laugh out loud, tears down the face humor. The scenes involving the auction, the attempt to flee, and the transfer of “goods” to the winner of the auction are all quite seriously plotted. And, as such, the comedy that seems to pop up out of nowhere is both a relief and a true delight.

This short story is not deemed a prequel to any of Muir’s current series. However, numerous and intriguing hooks exist that could lead to future works or even a series should Muir choose to do so.

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Lifeblood and Stone

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PARANORMAL, EROTIC AND, THANKFULLY, VERY SHORT

2 STARS

Sometimes literary brevity can be a blessing.

“Lifeblood and Stone” is Breena Wilde’s very short – as in only 15 pages – introduction to her Moth Society series. In this entry, we meet Michael Lifeblood, one of the governing partners of the law firm, Lifeblood and Stone. We also meet Amanda, who is a fast-rising attorney in Lifeblood’s firm. It is Amanda’s POV through which we experience the events that unfold.

These events take place over two scenes, one of which serves to place the characters at the law firm’s annual Halloween masquerade ball. This section is very well written and sets the stage perfectly. The other scene is for Lifeblood and Amanda’s sexual encounter, or should I say, “encounters.” And this section is written about as poorly as I have seen in some years.

In this second scene, Wilde pens four separate and different sexual interactions within a span of approximately 10 pages. And each is graphically and luridly described with gutter-level verbiage.

Now, I am no prude. I possess a few favorite expressions of my own. I also feel that erotic scenes that are well placed in a story arc can be both a delight and good transition points. But this was overkill, too much in too little space, and it came across as oily, smarmy and dirty rather than hot and steamy.

Now, before I ever started the short, I knew the genre was listed as paranormal erotica and the promotional blurb included a maturity warning. But, frankly, by the time I got to the paranormal part – and the name “Lifeblood” is a big clue here – I felt I needed to wash my brain out with soap.

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Home Improvement

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LOVE SPRINGS FROM FRIENDSHIP

3 STARS

Kim Bishop is a new widow, her husband, Bryce, having been killed in an auto accident. After the funeral, she returns alone to the historic island cottage that they had been renovating. Noticing Bryce’s toolbox on the floor,  she picks up his hammer and proceeds to decimate the plaster wall in front of her, screaming out her anguish with every blow of the hammer against the wall.

With this magnificent scene, Barbara Cool Lee begins a 24-page short story to accompany her Pajaro Bay series. And then the author skips the action forward six months.

With a tale this short, the reader cannot expect any significant level of background story or any in-depth character development. A story this short is simply a few snapshots, not the whole photo album. But those snapshots need to be clearly focused. In that regard, the second scene of the story was a staid, formulaic studio pose and the last scene was clearly blurred.

The studio pose has nothing to do with the “widow” scenario per se. It is the premise of the young, childless widow with a large insurance settlement who has no driving necessity to put food on the table, put clothes on anyone’s back, pay a mortgage or move on. Other young widows should be so lucky. So this set-up that allowed her to wallow in her grief and self-pity for 6 months soured my sympathy for her.

The blurred scenario was the last of the story where Kim and Gage Kelly get together and pledge forever to each other. Even though he was Bryce’s best friend, and Bryce has been dead for over six months, Kim has no clue Gage loves her. We do; the author lays the clues nicely. But what she doesn’t lay out is any indication whatsoever that Kim feels any spark in his presence. One minute he is a constant reminder of the loss of her husband and the next he is the man she will live with forever. The story doesn’t need any additional scenes to un-blur the lines; it only needs a few sentences interspersed within previous scenes to make the ending believable.

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My Funny Valentine

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MY HERO

5 STARS

As Valentine’s Day drew to a close, I spotted this short story offered free for the day. Having just finished a tense mystery, I thought this would be a perfect interlude, a sweet space between the murderers of the last book and the thieves of the next. I was right and so very very wrong.

Norma McIlroy and Frank Atwater are active volunteers with the USO in Tacoma, WA. It is 1943 and WWII is in full swing, with servicemen constantly moving in and out of the naval base there. Frank volunteers because he wants to support the war effort and the servicemen, coke-bottle glasses the evidence of why he cannot himself serve. Norma volunteers because she is looking to fulfill her childhood dream of finding a knight in shining armor. And the current knights all wear military uniforms instead of chain mail. She is also under emotional pressure as she is the last of her family and her social circle to remain unmarried.

As the story opens on Valentine’s Day of 1943, you think that this will follow a typical scenario – Norma gets dumped by yet another serviceman and she finally sees the treasure and the love behind those coke-bottle glasses. Oh, Norma gets dumped alright, but that is all she sees, other than her own unfilled wishes and her own pain. And the scene closes.

Then the next scene opens – three months later, in May 1943. What? Wait just a minute! That’s not how a sweet Valentine’s Day romance is supposed to go. But that’s how Judith Laik takes the story. Told in third person from Norma’s point of view, we follow Norma through several more romantic dead ends, always confiding in and leaning on her best friend, Frank. Then we see Norma experience a confusing bout of jealousy when she first sees Frank in the company of another woman. And she simply cannot understand the feelings of restlessness and despair she feels when that best friend must make repeated trips to his boyhood home, a ranch in Montana, after the critical wartime injury of his brother.

Laik spins this 60-page short story through two more Valentine’s Days and nearly two and one-half years total in time. She spins what was promoted as a short, sweet romance into a tension-building and well-written thriller as Norma, Frank and their USO troupe find themselves in post-surrender Europe, trapped behind Russian lines.

This may be a short story but the author does not skimp on detail or reality in either the climax or the closing scene. And by the end, both Norma and the reader learn a few basic truths 

Norma learns not to judge the proverbial book by its cover, that going off to war does not a knight in shining armor make. And she learns that when it comes time to save a life, her true hero wears coke-bottle glasses and cowboy boots instead of a military uniform and he wields a rope and a pistol instead of an M-1 rifle.

And the reader learns not to pre-judge a book by its promotional blurb.

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Perfect Shadow

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CAVEAT EMPTOR

4 STARS

This entry in the Night Angel series is a 50-page short story with an excerpt for another novel attached, making a total of approximately 70 pages in the purchase. The story was actually published almost 3 years after the completion of the original trilogy.

This story was promoted as the backstory of Durzo Blint, which is another way of saying “prequel.” Therefore, since I had not yet started the trilogy, I felt that reading this backstory would give me a greater appreciation of the main character as I worked through the series. I have used this technique before and have not, to this point, regretted that tactic.

At first glance it appears that this entry is told through flashbacks, but I feel the author has actually created this entry by using the story-within-a-story technique. The difference is that the author has Acaelus/Gaelan recount some of his latest adventures to another person directly instead of to the reader through an internal monologue or a third-person POV scenario. The author lets us know early on that Gaelan is lying to the man, but telling the best kind of lies, lies that have a sound basis in truth.

By the time this meeting is over, we have a good idea how Acaelus Thorne became Gaelan Starfire. We have a fair idea as to the source, scope and nature of his powers. And we know how he became the persona of Durzo Blint, the troubled assassin employed by Gwinvere Kirena, aka Momma K.

The writing in this fantasy is excellent and, by the end of the story, Gaelan’s world has a believable substance. Now, however, is the “caveat emptor.”

When I purchased this short story, back in 2011 and shortly after its release, I was quite new to the e-book phenomenon. Somehow the item slipped through the cracks and I am just now getting to sealing up those cracks. The price I paid for this story nearly 3 years ago is the same as its price today – a price I now consider far too high for the quantity of reading material available. While the quality of writing is high and a backstory is always valuable, I consider the cost-to-value derived ratio too high to recommend the purchase of this book.

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Trouble On Reserve

Trouble On Reserve_KimHarrison_16133377

 

VERY SHORT, VERY TENSE

4 STARS

This entry in the Rachel Morgan/Hollows series is a 20-page short story. The two scenes in this story take place an unspecified time after the conclusion of Ever After, the eleventh book in the series.

The author’s blurb lists this item as #10.5 in the series, before Ever After, but I do not agree. The second scene clearly references the kisses shared by Rachel and Trent, which occurred in the very last pages of Ever After. Hence, I would call this #11.5, and I feel it would be better understood if read at that point.

Because the story is so short, almost any discussion of the plot thread would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that Trent is still at odds with Rachel on how to communicate with her honestly – about her job with him and about their personal situation. However, Rachel has no qualms about calling him on it.

Most of all, Kim Harrison, in 20 short pages, shows us a new aspect of Trent’s business and legal situation. The plotline, while complete in the two scenes, is tense and unhappy. It is basically a teaser setting us up for the next full book in the series.  And the title, to me, does not correlate with the plot thread.

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Forget You

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“BECAUSE I SAY SO” IS NEVER THE RIGHT ANSWER

5 STARS

This entry in the Demon Underground series is a 31-page short story that serves as a prequel to the series. While it was chronologically written between the fourth and fifth books of the series, its action takes place approximately 5 years prior to the opening of the first book.

Since this prequel was offered free and I was just beginning the series, I chose to read it first, rather than in chronological order. After reading it, I believe that choice is going to help me appreciate the character of Shade far more in those first four books than I might have otherwise.

The prequel consists of 3 scenes, covering a time period of approximately one week. In those scenes we are introduced to Shawn, who is only 16 years old, along with his twin sister, Sharra, and their father. And in those few short pages, we witness two of the three events in his life that change Shawn into Shade and forever alter who he is into who he becomes.

Parker Blue has written this short story in a prose that is clear, crisp, dramatic and intense. It brought tears to my eyes and further enforced a tenet that I have always believed: “Because I say so” is NEVER the right answer.

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