New Reviews

I’m still playing catch-up with my requests, but here are the latest:

Under Romance:

Blueberry Swirl Waltz – a 5 Sparkler 1950s sweet romance

Bella Cigna – Only 3 Sparklers for this interesting romance

Unconventional Beginnings – 3 Sparklers for this introduction to the Black Swan series

Prey for Love – 4 Sparklers for this LGBTQ romance.

Under Fantasy:

Curse of the Blacknoc Witch – 3 Sparklers for this YA fantasy.

Guest Author: Alice Renaud

Music for a Merman, a Sea of Love novel

Cover Music for a MermanBlurb

Rob Regor knew that humans were trouble. All the shape shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands knew it. And human women were double trouble… especially when they were lying on the road in front of a digger.

Rob has a mission. Go to the mainland. Work as a policeman. Spy on humans. Report back to his father, the head of the Regor Merman Clan. It should be easy. Until he has to arrest Charlie. Rob can’t fight his attraction to the sexy eco-warrior, and it puts him on one hell of a collision course with his family and his Clan. Will he break the rules – or break her heart, and his?

Love ‘em and leave ‘em, that was Charlie’s motto. It had served her well until now. But Rob is different… Can she open up her heart to Rob – when a secret buried in her past surfaces and changes her completely?


Charlie chewed on the Welsh cake and swallowed. They were her favourite treat, but her mouth refused to register the buttery taste or the crumbly, raisin-studded texture. She finished it and stuffed the empty bag in her pocket. There’d be more Welsh cakes, more swims in the sea, more gorgeous summer days. More guys like Rob.

She wouldn’t listen to the insistent voice that told her she’d never meet another man like him.

She slipped on a patch of seaweed and threw out a hand to regain her balance. It hit a boulder covered in barnacles, and the rough surface scratched her palm. She welcomed the discomfort. It proved that she wasn’t dreaming. Instead of waking her up, the walk to the cove had increased the air of unreality that permeated the twilight. The damn song was still going round in her head. At times she even thought that she could almost grasp its meaning. It sounded a little like the old language of the Morvann Islands, but without any human words.

In fact, it didn’t sound like anything a human would produce.

She looked up at the rocks towering over her head and tapped the granite surface. This was real. So was the sky above, painted peach and cherry-red by the sunset. No, she was fine. Just a little overwrought and tired. Nothing a swim couldn’t cure. She’d be fine.

She’d be fine if it killed her.

The haunting song grew louder the closer she got to the sea. Now it seemed to be outside her head, rising from the peaceful water below to weave its magic around her. The meaning shimmered, just beyond the edge of her comprehension. It was like trying to read words reflected in a mirror. If she could only break the surface of the glass, enter the other side, she’d understand it fully.

But in some obscure way, she knew that the melody spoke of love.

Buy Links


Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” is out now and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green” will be released later this year. Alice has also written a short story, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” included in the BVS “Mystic Desire” anthology, out now. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!

 Social Media Links:







Amazon page:

Find out how to make Welsh cakes, Charlie’s favorite treat!

Welsh cakes imageWelsh cakes are traditional griddle cakes from Wales, my mother’s homeland and the country where my book Music for a Merman is set. My grandmother used to make them and we’d scoff them hot and buttery, straight from the oven! I still love them. They’re easy to make and perfect for baking with children.

Ingredients: 225g plain flour, 85g caster sugar, ½ tsp mixed spice, ½ tsp baking powder, 50g butter cut into small pieces, 50g lard, cut into small pieces, plus extra for frying, 50g currants (raisins), 1 egg, beaten, a splash of milk.

Tip the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Then, with your fingers, rub in the butter and lard until crumbly. Mix in the currants. Work the egg into the mixture until you have soft dough, adding a splash of milk if it seems a little dry – it should be the same consistency as shortcrust pastry.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of your little finger. Cut out rounds using a 6cm cutter, re-rolling any trimmings. Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan with lard, and place over a medium heat. Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 mins each side, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through. Delicious served warm with butter and jam, or simply sprinkled with caster sugar. Cakes will stay fresh in a tin for 1 week.

Recipe from Good Food magazine,  BBC website

New Reviews

I am in the midst of packing for a move so reviews may be few and far between–or like this, a bunch posted all at once when I have the time. If you want a review done, keep checking the “You want a Review” page to see when I’ll be open again, but figure not much before the end of August so I can get moved and settled in the new place. Thanks!

All of the following are under the “Romance” page. Great summer reads!

A Bid for Romance by Meredith Bond – 4 sparklers for this sweet historical.

A Trick of Mirrors by Meredith Bond – ditto

Cat Therapy by Kathy Bosman – Sorry, but only 2 sparklers for this sweet contemporary

The Story Between Us by Darlene Deluca – 5 Sparklers for this sweet romance

Two Truths and a Lie by Daryl Devore – 4 Sparklers for this fun takeoff on Robin Hood and Maid Marian

Always in my Mind by Andrea Downing – 4 Sparklers for this Vietnam War era romance

Rainbow Sprinkles by D.V. Stone – 5 sparklers for this sweet contemporary romance

Rock House Grill by D. V. Stone – 4 sparklers for this contemporary romance

The Wonder of You by Laurie Kellogg – 3 Sparklers for this 1970s era romance

An Affair of Hearts by Meredith Bond – 4 sparklers for this 1807 Historical romance

Love, Art, and Other Obstacles by Sadira Stone – 4 Sparklers for this contemporary romance (hot)


Guest Author: Kathleen Marple Kalb

BLURB:  Come back to Gilded Age New York with Ella Shane, an opera singer who’s part Beverly Sills, part Anne of Green Gables, and part Errol Flynn – but entirely herself! In her debut, Ella, an Irish-Jewish Lower East Side orphan made good, is singing Romeo when her Juliet dies onstage after drinking real poison. She thinks it’s a tragic mistake until the girl’s cousin, a genuine British Duke, comes to New York to find out what really happened. Right away, the Duke insults Ella — so she makes him fence with her. Despite the rocky beginning, Ella, her cousin Tommy, a former boxing champ and “confirmed bachelor,” and the colorful cast of characters get drawn into the case. Soon, Ella and the Duke find they have an undeniable and quite possibly unresolvable attraction. No spoiler (just tease!) it all culminates in a catwalk duel with the killer – with Ella handling swordplay while the Duke waits in the wings.


In their first meeting, the Duke comes to Ella’s rehearsal studio to ask about his late cousin…saying he wants to know what she was doing with “theatre people.”

I offered a cool response as my sympathy for the Duke of Something died an early death. “Theatre people?”

“She was a gently-brought-up young lady who did not belong in that world.”

Well, aren’t you the precious one. I took a breath, and tried to tamp down my Irish temper.  I explain – if not excuse – my next action as an effort to do something other than slap the judgmental scowl off his face. I grabbed Tommy’s foil. “How’s your fencing?”


“My practice time is limited, and we theatre people have to stay sharp to earn our keep. I’ll talk to you while we spar.”

Gilbert Saint Aubyn’s stern face softened a bit. “All right.”

He took off his immaculately tailored coat and suit jacket, with a black armband still on the sleeve, no doubt for poor Violette or whatever her name really was. I had no compunction about taking a good look at him, and was not disappointed with what I saw. I may be a proper maiden lady, but I do appreciate the well-assembled male form, especially in a nicely fitted gray waistcoat, neat white shirt and dark trousers. I tossed him the foil, and he dropped it.

“Good thing we’re fencing and not playing baseball,” I observed, carefully not snickering, in case it were a feint.

Saint Aubyn, who would have now been the late lamented himself if this were an actual duel, gave me a wry, and rather appealing, shrug. “I have not been on the field of honor in a while.”

BIO:  Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone, and a keyboard. She’s currently a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS New York, capping a career she began as a teenage DJ in Brookville, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up through newsrooms in Pittsburgh, Vermont and Connecticut, developing her skills and a deep and abiding distaste for snowstorms. While she wrote her first historical novel at age sixteen, fiction was firmly in the past until her son went to kindergarten and she decided to try again. She, her husband, the Professor, and their son the Imp live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat. 



Instagram: @kathleenmarplekalb

From Kensington:



Guest Author: Amber Polo

What if Cleopatra faked her death and escaped on a pirate ship? While her sister sailed for The Pharaoh and the Librarian coverWales with the most valuable ancient books from her Library of Alexandria? And they both landed in an imagined new world filled with crypto-creatures and historical humans?
Trekking the desert of 1st century New Mexico, Cleo from the Yucatan and Alex from Nova Scotia, they’d need bravery and help from friends and lovers to evade inner demons and determined villains across an uncharted wilderness.


About the author:

amber-polo-207x300Amber Polo, constantly asking “What if…?” has a hard time writing in one genre at a time. Best known for The Shapeshifters’ Library urban fantasy series which asked what if librarian dog-shifters faced book-burning werewolves, she shares her love of libraries and fascination with creatures and places, real and not-so-real in The Pharaoh and the Librarian.

Author of award-winning fantasies and Arizona romances, Amber relaxes stressed writers and readers. Her book, Relaxing the Writer offers a catalog of suggestions and simple exercises while her calming CDs help almost anyone relax and find restful sleep.

Find her at

New Reviews

I have been really busy with reviews the past few days. So here’s what’s new:

Under “Mysteries

VARNISHED WITHOUT A TRACE by Misty Simon. This won’t be out until Sept. 29, but be sure to put this fun cozy on your “to be read” pile. 5 Sparklers.

Under Nonfiction:

THE EASY BAKED DONUT COOKBOOK by Sara Mellas – 4 sparklers for this delicious cookbook

FAMILY TREE WORKBOOK by Brian Sheffey – 5 sparklers for this excellent way to organize your search for your family

THE ESSENTIAL SELF-COMPASSION WORKBOOK FOR TEENS by Katie Krimer – 5 sparklers for this how-to book on getting yourself together – and not just for teens

DAIRY-FREE MEAL PREP by Silvana Nardone – 3 sparklers for this cookbook. Some really good stuff in here, but still too dairy-centric even with substitutes

ACTUALLY, THE COMMA GOES HERE by Lucy Cripps – 4 sparklers for this good reference book on basic grammar

INNER PEACE: A Guided Meditation Journal for Beginners by Jordana Reim – 5 sparklers on this book to help you find peace and calm


Guest Author: Maria Imbalzano

TheBlueberrySwirlWaltz Cover300[144830]

Today, I welcome Maria Imbalzano who will tell us about her new book: The Blueberry Swirl Waltz.

The setting of this story is my grandmother’s ice cream and confectionery shop in Roebling, NJ in the ‘50’s and the heroine is based on my mother’s job as a ballroom dance instructor at Arthur Murrary’s.  I interviewed my mother about the shop and her dance career and those interviews are on my blog at


After a family crisis, Katie Hathaway must return home to help out in the family’s ice cream shop. She leaves behind her dream job of teaching ballroom dance to spend her summer scooping ice cream and mixing milkshakes.

Chaz Hollander, Katie’s high school crush, has also returned to town to work in his family’s business. After Katie treats him to a blueberry swirl sundae, he invites her to the town’s upcoming dance. The only problem is he has two left feet.

When Katie starts giving Chaz dance lessons, their chemistry ignites, and the postponement of her dream doesn’t seem as ominous. But financial woes and a suspicious business deal cast a shadow on their budding relationship.

MPI PHOTO IMG_0675[32263]BIO

Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.

In addition to writing fiction, Maria is on the Friends of Thomas Edison State University Foundation Committee and is still involved with Dress for Success Central Jersey, having been a founding Board member. She also serves on the finance committee for The Present Day Club. She has received the distinguished Family of Edison Award for her work with The Thomas Edison State University Foundation, the Iron Mike Professional Achievement Award from Trenton Catholic Academy and was inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame.

Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the illustrious RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award.

Visit Maria at


As his silence stretched on, her angst kicked in. Maybe he was here to break off their relationship. If they even had one.

“What’s wrong?” she rasped.

“Why would you think something’s wrong?”

Because I’ve studied you in every light imaginable. I know when you’re happy, sad, surprised, disturbed, or distracted. It’s in your eyes, your lips, your body. The flex in your jaw, the tenor of your voice.

But she didn’t say any of that. “You’re usually more talkative when you come in after work.”

Buy Links for The Blueberry Swirl Waltz


Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Apple Books


Guest Post: J. Arlene Culiner

The Turkish Affair: another look at Romantic Mystery

perf5.000x8.000.inddDon’t the words Romantic Mystery conjure up stalkers, a serial killer or two, car chases, shoot-outs, and gun-packing superheroes and heroines? Well…I must admit I prefer reality, even when it comes to romance. If I were in danger, could I really count on the sudden appearance of some gorgeous, sexy, very hot secret agent who instantly puts a villain out of commission? Of course I couldn’t. Therefore, in my books, you’ll find none of that.

What I do like describing is that first, very tentative gentleness, and those early stirrings of love. But I also enjoy transporting my readers to unusual places, and giving them unconventional heroes and heroines who refuse the roles society sets out for them.

In The Turkish Affair, My heroine, Anne, is a former American journalist who, after a scandalous affair with the wrong man, lost her job and her reputation. For the last ten years, she’s been in hiding, living in backwoods Turkey, working as a translator. My hero, Renaud Townsend is an archaeologist. He’s passionate about his work, about ancient history, about discovery, and about keeping his independence.

My inspiration for this book? Once upon a time, I also worked in Turkey as a translator, and, just like my heroine, I also lived in a small, restrictive community. The police were aggressive and corrupt, there was political unrest, and life could be frankly dangerous. I also spent much spent time on archaeological sites. And one day, I briefly caught sight of a lean and elegant man heading toward a jumble of smashed pillars. He was the inspiration for Renaud Townsend.

The Turkish Affair: Love and Danger at the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu

Priceless artifacts are disappearing from the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu in Turkey, and the site director has vanished. Called in to solve the mystery, archaeologist Renaud Townsend is hindered by both his inability to speak the language and the knowledge that the local police are corrupt. His attraction to translator Anne Pierson is immediate, although he is troubled by her refusal to talk about the past and her fear of public scandal. But when murder enters the picture, both Anne and Renaud realize that the risk of falling in love is not the only danger.


A delicious breeze tickled the air, and the little boat rocked gently. A fine line appeared between Renaud’s brows, and his blue eyes were, once again, serious. “I need your help.”

Anne stared. “My help? With what? Translating?”

“No. With something else. I have to find out who is behind the thefts at Karakuyu.”

The feeling of dread returned, but she forced herself to sound casual. “How could I possibly help you with that?”

“I don’t know.” He sighed. “I just don’t want to feel that I’m alone in this.”

What could she say to that? Tell him she was the last person he should team up with? That long ago, she’d escaped arrest by the skin of her teeth? If she did so, this splendid moment would be over. The silver-foil glimmer of romance would be tarnished forever. He’d row back to shore, drive back to Gülkale, get rid of her as quickly as possible.

“Anne?” He reached out to caress her bare arm. “Come back from wherever you are.”

“You know nothing about me,” she said jaggedly.

“Nothing,” he agreed.

She swallowed. “I could be involved in the thefts for all you know. Why ask for my help? Why choose me?”

He smiled faintly. “A good question. I suppose, quite simply, I need—or want—to trust you.”

She felt utterly miserable. Why was life always like this? Wanting someone and not being able to have them? Wanting trust, but seeing it snatched away before it came close?

Buy Links:

Amazon:          Barnes &Noble:          Apple:      Kobo:

Trailer:           Storytelling Podcast:

Author Bio:

Author Photo 5Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner (Jill Culiner) was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She normally resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.

Web sites:


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Guest Author: Julie Howard

Thank you, Vicky, for having me on your blog today. I’m very excited about my new release, Sea Salt Lavender for Aphrodite. This is a summer “beach read” kind of book, even though at this time we’re not sure whether beach vacations are a good idea. But, hey, this is a good way to bring the beach home, right?

SeaSaltLavenderforAphrodite_w14442_ibThis new release is part of a summer series my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has created with a beach theme. All the books are written by different authors in a variety of genres – from paranormal to romance to cozy mystery (like mine) – and all have the flavor of an ice cream in the title. Thus, the series name: One Scoop or Two. The books are considered novella-length, so nothing over 200 pages, and all are ebooks only.

Sea salt lavender is the flavor my main character, Rosella Rivers, creates for her ice cream business. She owns a food truck that she parks at fictional Olympus Bay’s boardwalk, a small touristy town along California’s central coast. A murder takes place near her trunk, and the plot takes off from there.

There’s a handsome detective, a smart poodle, and a cast of quirky characters. I loved writing this book and imagining myself in another place for a while – especially the beach! Read on for more about this book which releases this week.

Sea-Salt Lavender for Aphrodite

Tagline: A case of murder with sweet complications


Rosella Rivers enjoys the perfect life, loving her new ice cream food truck business featuring exotic flavors. But her beach view parking space is not so lovable when she finds an acquaintance stabbed to death in the boardwalk bathroom.

Detective Mark Pruitt knows murder is bad for small-town Olympus Bay. He must find the suspect before he strikes again. When he first sets eyes on Rosella, the only witness, he is smitten. However, there’s no time for romance when danger lurks.

Together he and the lovely ice cream maker must discover the killer before he turns his sight on Rosella.


The echo of a drip-drip-drip resonated from within. Rosella glanced around, wishing a man would pass by, someone she could send inside on her behalf. On this side of the structure, though, the beachfront was hidden from view and the building backed by sand dunes. Unless someone needed to use the facilities, they wouldn’t approach.


A distant chime from the town clock made her heart sink. Ten a.m. Opening time. She had to get back to her truck. A fresh round of anxious yips sounded. She 
scooted to the corner of the building and peeked toward 
her truck. Aphrodite stood at attention, straining at the 
leash. The dog barked twice at spotting her and renewed efforts to break free of the tether.

She returned to the doorway. “Mick, I’m just going 
to step inside since I’m a little bit worried, just to make sure you’re okay. Let me know if I shouldn’t come in.” No response sounded. “All right, coming in.”

The odor hit her first. Heavy, sweet, sickening. Then her eyes registered the scene. Mick lay face down in the middle of the tile floor, a steady stream of deep red blood winding its way toward a drain.

Buy Links:

Amazon:       iBooks:    Nook:

Julie's pixBio:

Julie Howard is the author of the best-selling Wild Crime and Spirited Quest series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. Now she edits an online anthology, Potato Soup Journal, and spends many delightful hours writing her books.

Author Links:

Website:      Facebook:      Goodreads:      Amazon:     Bookbub:       Twitter:



Guest Author: Colleen Donnelly

perf5.000x8.000.inddThank you, Vicky, for letting me share about a book that was fun to write, and from what I’ve heard others say, fun to read as well. My latest historical romance, “Letters and Lies,” follows the humorous trek of a determined near spinster who after months of being wooed and proposed to by letters, decides to lie her way west to find the homesteader who at the last minute sent a telegram that jilted her. Humiliated, infuriated, and desperate, Louise Archer manages to lie her way into lives, situations, and towns she thought merely useful or in her way, only to discover the course she fought to take and the one she fought to avoid brought her…albeit red-faced…to the place she was meant to be all along.


Louise Archer boards a westbound train in St. Louis to find the Kansas homesteader who wooed and proposed to her by correspondence, then jilted her by telegram – Don’t come, I can’t marry you. Giving a false name to hide her humiliation, her lie backfires when a marshal interferes and offers her his seat.

Marshal Everett McCloud intends to verify the woman coming to marry his homesteading friend is suitable. At the St. Louis train station, his plan detours when he offers his seat to a captivating woman whose name thankfully isn’t Louise Archer.

Everett’s plans thwart hers, until he begins to resemble the man she came west to find, and she the woman meant to marry his friend.


“He wrote and changed your plans? Why didn’t you tell me? You know I love hearing his letters.”

Everyone loved hearing his letters. Or at least they’d pretended to. I glanced at my friends, especially the one who’d first suggested I correspond with her husband’s homesteading friend in Kansas who was ready to look for a wife. She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief while she flicked the fingers of her other hand in a weak wave. I dredged my soul in search of a smile. The man she’d introduced me to truly had penned everything I’d ever wanted in a husband, months of letters which convinced Mama Jim was my open door. Letters I’d foolishly carted from family to friend to blather every word like a desperate spinster. Drat.

“He didn’t send his change of plans in a letter, Mama. He sent them in a telegram.” Don’t come, I can’t marry you. The only words I never shared.

“Well I imagine your Jim has a surprise for you and didn’t have time to send a letter before you left for Crooked Creek. How thoughtful to wire you instead.”

Thoughtful…I felt poisoned and Mama would too if she ever found out Jim had shut my open door. Which she wouldn’t, since as soon as I got out there and found him, I’d wedge it back open again.



Barnes & Noble:


FB ME (2)_editedBIO:

Born and raised in the Midwest, Colleen studied and worked in science, using that career to travel and explore other parts of the country. An avid fan of literature, both reading and writing, she loves tales involving moral dilemmas and the choices people come up against. A lover of the outdoors as well as a comfy living room, Colleen is always searching inside and out for the next good story.