PubRight Manuscript Services is your one-stop book preparation site: full editing services, formatting for eBook and print, and professionally designed book covers.
Diane Nelson has thirty years’ experience in technical and fiction editing and publishing across a variety of formats (print and digital). She is also an author with more than two dozen published fiction works.
As an editor she produced the well-reviewed The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood and The Scattered Proud by Gev Sweeney.
She contributes regularly to her blogs: Tails from the Front ( www.idancewithwords.com ) and A Passion for Writing (www.romancingwords.com ). She also runs a review blog dedicated to literary fiction, genre fiction and everything in between: http://sandinmyshoesreviews.wordpress.com/
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Smashwords book reviews by PubRight
- 3 Heads & a Tail
on Nov. 14, 2012
I’m a sucker for cute dog stories, starring one of my favorite breeds—a Labrador Retriever. Throw in a love angle featuring two star-crossed canines, one being pimped out by his owner’s nefarious roomie, and the other a coddled lass with eyes only for a certain handsome dude.
Glen, a six year old yellow Lab, is clearly the hero of the piece, and the author has captured the stream of consciousness that surely would describe a canine’s view on life and doggy priorities (if only we were privy to that most delightful of circumstances), including rapid changes of opinion when certain opportunities present themselves. And also some pithy thoughts on how and why his owner is failing in the relationship sweepstakes.
Glen’s owner is Ben, a bit of a daydreamer, somewhat shy and slow on the uptake. Their new roomie, Josie, is just his type. Unfortunately for Ben, their other roommate is a stunning bit of manflesh: David, the musician and ladykiller extraordinaire. And lest we forget, there’s the really, really annoying BFF, Kay (mercy, she made my teeth hurt), who brings dating potential and a skewed perspective to just about everything in life.
Kay is deliciously raunchy and manages to pull Josie out of her comfort zone and into trouble. And in the best comedy of errors fashion, Josie gets carried away, ‘in the moment’, with David which convinces Ben she’s not interested, but of course he’s wrong and since he’s turned to stone when it comes to Josie, she decides being plain old roomies will have to do. David has one idea, Ben has another, Josie has her career, Kay wants to mix it up with some locals at a pub, and Glen gets his ‘walkies’. (Whew, hope you got all that.)
Things heat up when Glen gets pimped out to the love of his life, Mimi, but he’s not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kinda guy.
There’s the great escape, a potential complication with sweet Ayla capturing Ben’s attention, and a chase scene with the humans and the media on a nationwide hunt to recover the lovesick runaways.
But all’s well that ends well.
There are some very sweet moments, some laugh-out-loud situations and the redoubtable Glen to offer a unique perspective on the proceedings. It’s cute chicklit/romcom entwined with a doggy tail, um tale, that makes this irresistible.
3 Heads & a Tail is a fast read, it’s fun and it left me with a BIG smile. 5 stars for sheer entertainment value.
- Dare the Devil
on Dec. 12, 2012
There are a surprising number of reasons to like Dare the Devil, not the least of which is a heroine (Cam) with moxy, a stuntwoman willing and able to take care of herself in a world dominated by men. The setting, near Glacier National Park is authentically portrayed, and the author must have more than a passing knowledge of ranch life, livestock and the perils of living in that part of the country. The hero (Thor) is not cut out of uniform cloth – he has some depth and failings that nearly unseat the budding romance, especially at the end (but that’s what epiphanies are for).
There’s action, of the lights/camera type, and a nice set piece at the end when the heroine takes on the bad guys, opening a jumbo-sized can of whupa** in the process.
Lots to like, and a few things I wasn’t over the moon about: there’s a staggering amount of internal wistful pining, can’t stop thinking about him/her, episodes that goes on for a rather long time. These were teaser scenes—one scene can be hot and sensual but a half dozen without resolution (constant interruptions) fail to move the plot along. There’s a virgin trope that’s not handled realistically and in truth the big tah-dah is something of an anticlimax (no pun intended).
However, once the action starts up on the mountain, then follows through with some bad guys, a neat chase, and that male epiphany, Dare the Devil’s denouement is quite satisfactory.
It’s a solid read, with a cool premise, decent action (on all counts) and worth a solid 4 stars.
- Strength of Will
on April 10, 2013
Once again Sessha Batto manages to rip your heart out and hand it to you on a platter still beating, this time with a Shakesperean panache: tales within tales, and an ending wrought from the very depths of despair.
It begins at the beginning, a chance encounter in current times, curiosity about a monument and the question: would you like to hear more? And so begins the story…
Set in a time of war, in a culture different from our own, yet with characters we can relate to and situations as complex as the heart itself, the author takes us on an emotional whirlwind where two men as different as night and day embark on a journey of self-discovery and a joining of spirits.
Ryuu wasn’t born into slavery but that’s where he ended up and the small choices and fickle hand of fate placed him in a favored position as teacher and scribe. Purchased by Aoshi, a warlord with radical ideas and a plan to unite the warring kingdoms, Oshiro must reconcile his attraction to the man who offers friendship in place of servitude with the expectations of the commander’s troops who see him as nothing more than a pleasure slave.
The tension that builds around the two men’s growing emotional investment in each other is palpable and cut through with the jealousies, expectations and cultural imperatives of a warrior culture that values strength above weakness.
When Aoshi elevates Ryuu to a status that many in the warlord’s orbit find disquieting, if not outright unacceptable, their relationship becomes fuel for the forces acting behind the scenes to remove Aoshi from power and to derail the reforms he has worked so hard to instill.
Politics, social pressure, self-doubts, self-sacrifice, redemption and an all-consuming passion ignite the pages of Strength of Will. It is populated with colorful and unique characters who add scope and depth to the fabric of the story without overwhelming the central tragic tale unfolding on every page.
This is homoerotic literature with the elements of a tragedy and the heart-stopping vibe of a forbidden romance. It is explicit and compelling and sometimes violent. It may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but if it’s yours, then you will appreciate this reviewer giving it 5 stars.
- Shadow Wolf
on April 10, 2013
Honor and duty rule a contemporary shadow world where legend clashes with the stark realities of bodies and souls bartered in the name of clan hegemony. In modern day Japan only the ninjas move within the secret circles of power and influence, fulfilling roles not even the Yakusa will touch.
Against this backdrop of manipulation, betrayal and conspiracy, Takahasi Yoshi willingly fulfills a horrendous mandate to submit to a perverted despot in service to a clan debt. Groomed to accept abuse as his duty and obligation, the infamous shadow wolf slowly succumbs to the brutality that marks his existence, stripping his soul of faith and trust.
Sasaki Makoto is the clan's torture master, wickedly self-contained and viciously successful at his job. He is a man least likely to extend a hand of friendship, let alone open his heart to the battered psyche of the broken man that Yoshi becomes. The question becomes: can a man of darkness penetrate the barrier of a lost soul and lead them both down the path of redemption and acceptance of who and what they are.
Shadow Wolf is a saga of faith betrayed, of love denied, all replaced with such shame and torment that self-loathing becomes the raison d’être of a man's existence. It is raw. It is cruel. It speaks of unspeakable acts, never holding back, never allowing the reader to ever once turn away because the only way to truly 'know' the man is to meet him at his breaking point.
It is heart-wrenching and outside of everything we know to be right and true. Yoshi stands for us at that point where the basest nature of man is legitimized and sanctified through the clan's indoctrination and culture of absolute loyalty and submission to authority.
Make no mistake, this epic tale of homoeroticism, politics and selfless duty will not be for everyone. It is sensual, it is brutal, it is honest. There's nothing prurient here. This is the good, the bad and the ugly set against a backdrop few of us have ever seen, in a legendary culture most of us can scarcely imagine.
Sessha Batto blends legend and mythology, sensuality and eroticism, in a startling and mesmerizing way. We sympathize, or hate, or grieve with the many characters who tread through the 'gates' along Yoshi's journey, hopeful for resolution but knowing that nothing is writ in stone and a man's freedom oft times comes at too high a price.
Abuse is ugly, what it does to the body and the mind is nothing compared to what it does to the soul. The author explores this with gut-wrenching honesty, pushing our comfort zones and redefining what it means to love and be loved when the line between pleasure and pain ceases to exist.
As I said, this is male-male erotica, it is intense, it is sensual. And it is brilliant.
on April 10, 2013
Geisha gives us insight into the complexities of loyalty and execution of duty that permeates the clan structure of Japanese society, blending modern day and ancient mythology. Yoshi--later known to us as the legendary shadow wolf of the Takahasi clan--has been bound in service to the Shuhan of Mochizuki. To fulfill his mandate he is sent away for geisha training, a humiliation compounded by having the Shuhan's personal guard monitor his every waking and sleeping hour.
What transpires is not exactly what his trainers, or even Yoshi, expected. This short fiction nicely adds to the background story and is a good lead-in to the amazing epic that is the Shadow Wolf saga.
- Lost Melody
on May 24, 2013
Review of Lost Melody by Dolores Maroney
Mel Harper wants to reinvent herself, hoping that a new job as a reporter for a small time paper in a neighborly Texas town will be enough to keep inquisitive eyes away from her and the past that still haunts her dreams.
Hank Travis is the creative force and drummer for BlackWing, back home in that same Texas town, making preparations for cutting a Ravenswood cover CD.
Mel has a rule: no involvement with musicians, period—a mantra hammered into her by her mother ever since the day her father died in a plane crash on his way to celebrate her tenth birthday. And as children do, that young girl carries the burden of guilt knowing that the father she adored would not have died but for his determination to be with her on that special day.
Hank has a rule: no involvement with reporters, ever. He spends half his year in the spotlight, hounded by paparazzi and Hank sees them as worse than out-of-control fans or stalkers.
When Mel shows up on Hank’s door for an interview with Henry Travis, who turns out to be Hank’s dad, that little mix-up has consequences that neither Mel nor Hank can ignore. The attraction is immediate and compelling. But as these things go, the road to true love isn’t just pot-holed, it’s cratered and lined with razor blades.
Hank is convinced Mel’s the one for him (even after he finds out who she really is), the woman who will be his hearth and home, giving him the kids and the stability he so desperately needs in his insane creative world. So he issues a challenge, agreeing to give her the interview of the decade, if she’ll devote a month to the assignment. Hank is certain he can bring Mel around to his way of thinking.
Were it that easy…
There’s the matter of a song and reminders that Ravenswood was her father’s creative legacy and bitter memories hammered into her by a mother with an agenda that only unfolds slowly as the young woman comes to grips with her own legacy, her untapped talent and her confused feelings about a modern music legend.
The central love story has many hills and valleys, not much runs smoothly for Mel and Hank and there are more reasons for them to be apart than to be together, especially for Mel who has far more baggage to handle than Hank.
The point of view toggles between both characters and the author does a credible job giving each one a unique voice. For me, I had issues with Mel—in that, get over yourself girl, wake up and smell the platinum record way. Mel insists on finding herself at the expense of Hank’s feelings. I had a vibe of self-serving reticence that removed a few ticks on the sympathetic character ledger.
Hank, on the other hand, was spot on with how he felt and the way he dug in and kept promises (mostly, again there’s that song thing but most readers will be in a forgiving mood, I certainly was). What I especially liked with this character was the journey he took: looking at who he was, what he loved, what he needed to do with his life, and the kinds of sacrifices he was finally prepared to make to have what mattered most.
Mel … not so much. Yes, she makes sacrifices on her own convoluted emotional journey but they seemed, to this reader, less authentic.
Oh alright, I liked Hank way better, sue me.
The details about the music industry, recording sessions in particular, seemed quite authentic and added tremendously to the story. The author is an excellent storyteller, adept at keeping to the core romance genre framework. I found quite a few content errors (typos, missing/extra words) so this could use another hard edit to bring it up to specs. I’d also pare down Mel’s emotional journey because it became a little repetitious. That might go a long way to bringing her character up to more ‘sympathetic/likable’ standards (your mileage may vary).
For those reasons, I’m giving it four stars. That makes this a solid romance read.
- That Morning After from the Phoenix Series
on May 30, 2013
That Morning After is a cautionary tale, one of a woman whose entire life has been subject to the vagaries of fate: a dysfunctional family, an abusive marriage, self-esteem more noted by its absence, and a deep, abiding sense of loneliness even when the main character, Vickie, decides to take a modicum of control over her life.
The problem with taking control is that the choices one makes are often crucial. Without the background, or that all too important matter of self-esteem and positive experiences, history can and does repeat itself.
Vickie takes a chance on online dating services and finds a measure of self-actualization in the mild banter and flirting. It also leads to some obsessive-compulsive behaviors and unrealistic expectations. And it leads directly to a predator, though not the kind one would normally expect under such circumstances.
Vicky is skillfully manipulated into believing her ‘suitor’ might have amorous feelings for her, and even though her trust-meter is clanging off the wall, she does the unthinkable: she agrees to a meeting.
And not just lunch and a quick escape to a cab if it all goes south. Instead she meets the elusive suitor at his villa, and… as they say, things don’t go as planned.
What emerges is a new Vickie, some might say ‘improved’, but then that’s really a matter of perspective. What it does is set her on a whole new path and ‘that morning after’ is really just ‘that morning before’.
Criticisms: the narrative was heavily laden with Vicky’s POV, in a stream of consciousness that really called out for narrative interludes to relieve the unrelenting strains of woe-is-me (and yes, she had plenty of reasons for that ‘woe’) that resembled a ‘list’ rather than a compelling story. There were some ‘editing challenges’ (typos, missing words, odd tense changes).
That being said, there’s enough here to hold the reader’s attention, and certainly enough to garner sympathy for Vicky (and avoid the death knell of the ‘too dumb to live’ heroine).
The story ends at the beginning, and if you read the book, you will understand why.
This is a nice effort and has promise for the next installment. 4 stars
- Free Agent
on June 02, 2013
Wow! Just plain wow! Roz Lee hits one out of the ballpark in this D/s novella that puts the sizz in sizzle. Todd's the dom with fulfillment issues. He's happy, but only when he's on the baseball field, otherwise, there's a lot missing in his life. He just doesn't know yet what that might be.
Brooke runs her own baking business. She's a sub but not an especially experienced one. Todd and Brooke come to each other's attention in a club, Brooke goes a little brazen hussy, breaking unspoken rules and, as they say, the rest is history.
Todd will leave in six months for greener pastures but after exploring and probing his and Brooke's ability to trust, he might have to come up with Plan B.
The D/s scenes are extremely well-depicted and *very* sensual.
Roz Lee has become my auto-buy sports-themed romance writer, for good reason. Five unreserved stars for excellent writing.
- Nevada Highlander
on Dec. 11, 2013
Larger than life characters, a harsh and unforgiving landscape, volatile emotions and an attraction that can’t be denied? Welcome to Eastern Nevada and the invasion by one lusty Scotsman intent on an adventure: Rory Drummond of Clan Drummond, the laird of the castle by heritage. It’s a responsibility the big man has not exactly embraced. Rory signs up for a big game hunt with Long Trails, what he’s hunting for might not be readily apparent, even to Laird Drummond.
Assigned to watch over this relative of a prominent Parliamentarian is Alex Dominguès, a Nevada state trooper, native to the area where Long Trails operates … it’s one of several reasons for him being selected off a list of candidates. Alex has concerns about those reasons, but he’s a cop with an assignment, one he takes very seriously.
When Alex picks up Rory at the airport, the attraction is … explosive. And it doesn’t take long for the very lusty (okay, used that word already but boy howdy it fits Rory to a tee) Scot to convince the shy, reclusive cop that being ‘hunt buddies’ can come with far more interesting benefits than simply watching each other’s backs.
Nevada Highlander is a character study, an awakening for one man who has yet to come to grips with his memories and his own sensuality, and a maturation for another whose life has been episodic and reactive in the pursuit of pleasure and unrepentant self-gratification. In short, each man is poised to learn a life lesson and each man will need to come to terms with how they want and need to live their lives. That means decisions, not easy ones, and at each step we feel their pain and the inner conflicts that have led them to that place and time.
There’s adventure: the hunt, a bit of peril, the endless dance around avoiding true emotions, and tip-toeing at the edges of respectability and expectations. The sense of place is strong, described with love and respect. The characters are as different as their cultures, but their needs, their emotions run a parallel course.
Laugh, cry, sigh with pleasure. Nevada Highlander delivers a one-two punch to the heart. Read it, then turn around and read it again … I did.
Oh, and those interested in joining Team Rory? The line forms behind … me.