*Top Reads of 2017*

Well I’ve done it! I’ve finally put together a list of my top reads of 2017. I read some fantastic books last year and it was certainly no easy task selecting my top reads. I intended to stick to a ‘Top Ten’ but it was just far too difficult! Here’s the list (16 in total), in no particular order. It contains a mix of genres:  romantic suspense (sometimes dark); erotica; thrillers, historical romance; erotic romance; sci-fi; post-apocalyptic; drama; black comedy;horror and humour. What they all have in common is a compulsive plot with characters whose story I became totally invested in. 

The Found: A Crow City Novel, by Cole McCadeDark and Deliciously Twisted… the contract killer Priest and Willow his captive, a tale which examines dark and disturbing themes including non consent, violence and sexual assault. …one of the darkest novels that I have read … Both the hero and the heroine are broken before they meet and their coming together is pyschologically intense and explosive… Priest is a dark and tortured anti-hero and throughout the read I was unsure if he could ever redeem himself as he is so damaged. Willow’s fate certainly hung in the balance and the read kept me guessing until the finale.

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Dirty Ugly Toy, by K Webster  ~ A Down and Dirty Dark Read. Brax, a wealthy billionaire, has a twisted side – taking girls from the street and transforming them into his ‘toy’ for 6 months before disposing of them… his modus operandi … it is brutal. … when Brax ‘rescues’ Jessica … it soon becomes apparent that she is like no other. She is not just the dirty, drug addicted whore she first appears to be… she also stands up to her tormentor, playing Brax at his own game. I was glued to my Kindle to see if Brax would break his addiction to his ‘toys’ or if Jessica would meet the same fate as the others…

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A Different Kind of Cosplay, by Lucy Felthouse ~ Role Playing Smutfest with a Superhero Twist! … If you have ever wondered what it would be like to get up close and personal with your fave superheroes then here’s your chance to find out in this fast and furious erotic read! Reese is certainly one lucky girl when Zach her estate agent partner, who is not usually an Avengers fan, takes her and her libido completely by surprise, when he proceeds to ravish her in a series of deliciously kinky and lust filled role playing scenes, the likes neither of them has ever encountered before…

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Payback: Viking Bastards MC #2, by Christina Phillips ~ Revenge is sweet… I just love novels with revenge as a theme, especially when combined with a sizzling plot. To Amelia it sounds easy – get a job working the bar in Odin’s, gain the owner Gage’s trust, find evidence of the illegal activities the Viking Bastards MC are involved in and then ensure the authorities know. She can then walk away knowing that payback is hers. Landing the job was easy but once she meets Gage, the owner, all bets are off with the rest of the plan. Not only is he smokin’ hot, but he will not take no for an answer and will break all his rules to have her…  The truth is a major deal for them both and it will take a strong relationship to survive. I enjoyed both their verbal and physical sparring and the scorching lovemaking scenes are down and very dirty.

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Reckless: Planet Alpha #15, by Lily Harlem ~ Sizzling Sci-Fi Ménage! … standalone erotic sci-fi romance… Aurora Zenitha… fleeing Earth to save her life and two hot blooded Alphans who are hell bent on making her theirs, even if she is an illegal alien…scorching scenes of ménage, voyeurism, self-pleasure and more… stowing away on an alien ship bound for Planet Alpha is not a safe option, especially when she is travelling with false papers and she has already attracted the attention of the ship’s captain…  The stakes are high and the sex is off the Richter scale… Aurora is the lucky recipient of some alien loving from Captain Ciro and Luc! Be sure to have plenty of iced drinks on hand as the read hits the spot again and again.

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The Passage of Desire: French Summer Prequel, by Laurette Long ~ Compelling and Flawlessly written…Juliet, Alexandra’s childhood friend invites her and her daughter Caroline to stay with her in her family home… Alexandra, whose husband is away on business, is going through a low point in her life but soon begins to bloom again and … begins to heal herself. The setting for the story, the wild and untamed Yorkshire moors, where emotions become freed and passions can often come to a head, is a metaphor for the tale itself… It touches on all which makes us human; the different stages of life; family dynamics; intimate relationships and unexpected desire. The book is … written, with insight and sensitivity as the events, which will have life-changing repercussions for some, unfold.

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Zenka, by Alison BrodieSheer brilliance … and a guarenteed pick me up… I just loved the pairing of the mild mannered and gentle nurse Nicholas and the fiery and unpredictable Zenka, the Hungarian pole dancer and friend of the gangster Jack. The novel contains madcap and side-splitting antics galore, contrasting starkly with a host of gory and violent scenes. The plot explores the very worst of the human condition – greed, deceit, violence and the abuse of trust, and also the very best – love , friendship , honour and loyalty. This dichotomy plays out in a deliciously devilish exposé that sweeps the reader and characters along into a vortex of black comedy and emotionally charged scenes.

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The Silver Wolf: A James Ryler Thriller, by Rob Sinclair ~ … high octane revenge thriller… revenge is the name of the game in this rip-roaring spy thriller… Ryker, a man tormented by his wife Lisa’s disappearance…his determination to make those who hurt her pay the ultimate price. Ryker’s quest for vengeance takes him from Mexico, to London and beyond as he becomes embroiled in a tangled web of illicit criminal activity and the covert work of government operatives, including his old colleagues at the Joint Intelligence Agency… all roads lead to the elusive Silver Wolf who appears to have not only played a pivotal role in Ryker’s recent past but the JIA’s current problems…There are scenes of blood and gore aplenty and a number of plot twists, including one major one which I did not see coming…

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Blair: Dark Romance, by Anita Grey ~Totally Amazing Dark Psychological Read…. an original plot line and in Blaire and Charlie the author has created a truly awesome couple – their relationship is complex and intense and the scenes between them range from deliciously dark to sweet. Blaire is one of the most kick-ass and lethal females I have come across of late yet she is so vulnerable. I wept for her as the plot unfolded and little by little we leared about her history… I ADORED Charlie – just what is his game? What hold does he have over Maskim? Can Charlie protect Blaire or is he just exploiting her too? Will Blaire overcome Maskim’s conditioning or is it too ingrained in her psyche? … I was fascinated with the psychology of the relationships in his book…

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A Scarlet Woman (The Fitzgeralds of Dublin #1), by Lorna PeelBewitching Victorian Romance… the lives of a fallen woman and an idealistic young doctor become unexpectedly intertwined after they meet in the most inauspicious of settings, a brothel. Their ensuing relationship challenges both their own future and society’s mores… I became totally immersed in Isobel and Will’s lives. Although at times it brought a tear to my eye, the book also contains some humorous scenes. A predominently sweet romance, it has some frank sex scenes (and) explores the double standards between men and women… (and) the differences between the lives of domestic servants and those ‘above stairs.’ I enjoyed how the author explored these themes and also how she delved into the underbelly of Dublin and the sexual preledictions common amongst all classes.

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Commodity, by Shay SavageBrutal and love affirming romantic suspense set in a post-apocalyptic world… only a few women have survived and as such have become little more than a commodity used in the worst possible way by those who covet power and influence. Prior to the apocalypse Hannah… was en route to give evidence in a major people trafficking trial… She had been assigned her own protector, Falk, a bodyguard… even though circumstances have changed and the world is no longer what it was, he is going to protect this woman come hell or high water… how far he will go to protect her and why becomes evident as the story unfolds… Their romance is far from instantaneous. Both characters have complex back stories … there are some horrific scenes of violence in the book (some of it sexual) and a number of twists in the tale, including one huge curveball – Shay Savage style!

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Death and Beauty, by Samantha McLeodSeductive and Spellbinding…beautifully written erotic novella which presents the reader with a highly original twist on one of my favourite tropes – Beauty and the Beast, this time delving deep into Norse mythology. Baldr the Beautiful awakes to find himself in the realm of the dead and is desperate to return to his life… He sets out to petition the terrifying half-skeletal Queen Hel with this in mind. However, the queen is not so easily persuaded and sets him the task of teaching her something new about the living word before she will grant him his wish… I  loved the verbal sparing and the growing sexual tension between them as Baldr strives to meet Queen Hel’s task… he has no knowledge to impart that she cannot already know about he embarks on the one thing that may just work – the seduction of Hel, which has unforeseen consequences for them both…

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Disenchanted, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant ~Magic and mayhem collide in riotous fairy tale romp. The premise of the novel – where the heroine very definitely does not want a HEA, despite the meddling of a host of formidable magical creatures … appealed to my sense of the perverse… I found the read to be a real tonic… Magical creatures really exist, although Ella the heroine would much rather they were not quite so fixated on controlling her life… Her efforts to resist the fate her fairy godmother and her associates have planned for her drive the plot forward and the conflict makes for some hilarious scenes as the authors expertly turned the usual HEA fairy tale tropes on their head… Ella veers from one adventure to another in her quest to avoid her prospective suitors at all costs and at the same time unravel issues from her family’s past. ..with an indomitable heroine and a series of larger than life characters, it’s a fast-paced, laugh-a-minute, feel good read, with some excellent one-liners.

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The Angel Alejandro, by Alistair Cross ~ A battle between good and evil in another modern Gothic masterpiece…blurs the lines between paranormal romance, urban fantasy and horror… When a handsome and mysterious stranger saves Madison O’Riley from a fatal fall, little does she realise that her life and that of the inhabitants of the town of Prominence will soon descend into the depths of the Twilight Zone… Madison and others start to realise that the amnesiac who calls himself Alejandro, has powers which defy comprehension… When the strange and compelling Gremory Jones and his associates arrive in town the book gets increasingly darker as Gremory’s intent becomes clear as he begins to ensnare the townspeople in his machinations. Add to the mix a psychic, a local priest, and the new chief of police, who is a recovering alcoholic, and the scene is set for a series of dastardly, dark and depraved scenes…chaos and carnage, with its inhabitants merely collateral damage in a battle between good and evil… the read also contains plenty of scenes of humour and romance giving relief from the ensuing horror.

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Alaska Wild, by Helena NewburySexy Romantic Suspense with a whole lot of sass. I LOVED this read…which pairs Kate, a dedicated FBI agent and Mason, a wanted criminal, an ex-Navy SEAL. When their paths literally collide and the plane they are in crashes in the wilderness, Kate finds that her survival depends on this man whose military record has been tainted and who is due to be court marshalled. Can she trust him to return her to the safety of civilization when his return there will lead to his capture and incarceration in prison? Is he innocent or guilty? The attraction between them sizzles off the page…Kate and Mason soon find that they are involved in a desperate fight to survive in the wilderness. Will they survive? Can Kate trust Mason?… the true danger comes from those that are hunting them, men who would prefer that they had not survived the plane crash.There are many superb and thrilling action scenes and vivid descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness. I was totally transported there by the power of the author’s writing.

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Dark Horse (Class 5 #1, by Michelle DienerSuperb…works as a standalone read… an original and suspenseful premise and plot… with strong characterisations and world building….Rose has been abducted… and has been held on an alien ship where she has been treated abominably by her over inquisitive alien captors, the Tecran… Sazo, an artificial intelligence has taken steps to prevent it happening again … most of the Tecran crew on her vessel are dead and Rose must escape the ship to survive…but is then taken by the Grih, headed by Captain Dav Jallan….Dav would like to trust this human called Rose but fears that she is not being entirely truthful about her part in the Tecran’s demise…(and risks)…putting the fate of his people and the other races in the alliance in danger? (Rose’s) safety could well be compromised if and when she is compelled to reveal what she knows. The fate of Sazo, the AI is closely linked to the couple’s future and the story develops in an unexpected way. An original read and highly recommended.

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~ BLOG TOUR PLUS ARC REVIEW & AUTHORS’ POST~*DISENCHANTED* by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

I was thrilled to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of Disenchanted, penned by the writing duo Heide Goody and Iain Grant. I invite you to put your feet up, scroll down and find out about this fun-filled book and read my review. You can also read a post compiled by the authors – another of Dr Alexander’s letters to them, which contains an insight into the research material used to create the novel. I am particularly pleased to be hosting this particular letter as it features the town of Tamworth, which I know very well. More of Dr Alexander’s letters can be found on the other blog’s in this tour. 🙂

Book Blurb

“Ella Hannaford has a small business to run, an overworked father to look after and a future stepmother who wants a perfect wedding. 
Can she avoid a girly night out with her clueless stepsister? Can she side-step lovesick suitors at every turn? Not if it’s up to that team of foul-mouthed dwarfs who want to forcibly drag her into her happily ever after.
Gingerbread cottages, dodgy European gangsters, gun-toting grannies, wisecracking wolves, stubborn fairy godmothers, ogres, beanstalks and flying carpets abound in a tale about what happens when you refuse to accept your Happy Ending.”

My Review ~ 5 Stars *****

Magic and mayhem collide in riotous fairy tale romp!

As someone who is an unabashed romance novel addict and who also loves fairy tales, I could not resist the chance to review Heide Goody’s and Iain Grant’s Disenchanted. The premise of the novel – where the heroine very definitely does not want a HEA, despite the meddling of a host of formidable magical creatures, also appealed to my sense of the perverse. Indeed, I found the read to be a real tonic and I defy anyone to read it and not crack a smile and/or stifle a gaffaw within reading the first few pages!

If you thought that fairy tales were firmly consigned to superstitions from the past and story books for children, then think again. Magical creatures really exist, although Ella the heroine would much rather they were not quite so fixated on controlling her life. Much of the action takes place in rural England (predominantly the Midlands), as Ella veers from one adventure to another in her quest to avoid her prospective suitors at all costs and at the same time unravel issues from her family’s past. I loved the fact that Ella is a 21st century woman (no simpering miss) and does not need a ANY interference, magical or otherwise, in her life thank you very much. Her efforts to resist the fate her fairy godmother and her associates have planned for her drive the plot forward and the conflict makes for some hilarious scenes as the authors expertly turned the usual HEA fairy tale tropes on their head…

This unique and humorous tale includes an evil stepmother to be, a gung-ho grandmother, unlikely prospective suitors, a fairy godmother, dwarves, a big bad wolf and more. Combined with an indomitable heroine and a series of larger than life characters, it’s a fast-paced, laugh-a-minute, feel good read, with some excellent one-liners.

It was my first experience of the authors’ work and I now have a real taste for their irreverent humour and will be reading some of their other works very soon. Thoroughly recommended to readers who enjoy a fun filled read and magical read.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note that an ARC of this book was given to me by the authors for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

The links are:

UK kindle:   UK paperback:   US kindle:   US paperback:

A Post from the Authors

Heide and Iain’s latest novel, Disenchanted, is out this month. The fairy tale fantasy comedy was written with no small assistance from Dr Epiphany Alexander of Sheffield University’s Department for Folklore and Oral History. As an insight into the research material used to create Disenchanted, we present another of Dr Alexander’s letters to the author duo.

My Dear Friends,

When last I wrote to you, I believe I was trapped  in the trunk of a Lincoln Continental in downtown Tucson, Arizona. I found time to reflect upon some of the unusual things that have happened in my  life over recent days, and I was able to draw some useful conclusions. So it was that when Pak Choi suggested that we might slip out via his homeland, I immediately agreed, as I had determined what should be our next course of action.

One should always be wary of spending too much time in Faerie, as it ages the skin terribly, so I had Pak Choi immediately open another portal back into the real world, and this one to the town of Tamworth.

As I am sure you’re aware, Tamworth was the seat of the Saxon rulers of Mercia, and it was for this reason that I needed to visit. The photograph in the domunculus I had seen in Tuscon was unmistakeably a picture of Æthelflæd. Æthelflæd was the daughter of Alfred the Great, and known as the Lady of Mercia. Pak Choi opened a convenient doorway that emerged in the river meadow in the shadow of Tamworth castle.

The castle is built at the confluence of two rivers, the Tame and the Anker, and this important junction is the subject of a local fairy tale, known as The Mermaid and the Mother. A local boy, Tom, liked to spend time by the river, although his mother warned him to be careful of mermaids. Tom was confident that he would not be tricked by the notoriously sly mermaids, and continued  to pass his days on the pleasant grassy banks. When a swan engaged him in conversation he was not afraid, and even took the swan home to meet his mother. It turned out that the swan was a mermaid, and by inviting her over the threshold of his home, Tom was now betrothed to her. Tom didn’t mind the prospect of spending the rest of his life swimming in the river with this fascinating creature, but his mother was determined to prevent the marriage so she heated up the oven, preparing to roast the swan. The cunning mermaid passed word of this to the town’s magistrate, who was naturally obliged to protect the royal bird and so threw the mother in jail, and presided over the nuptials in her absence.

[Here is a picture of the mother preparing to cook the swan]

Pak Choi and I enjoyed the brief and pleasant walk up into the town, passing by the Assembly Rooms, which bears Tamworth’s unofficial coat of arms. This features a pair of mermaids, popularly supposed to be Tom and his bride.

I wanted to visit the library, where I believed there was an archive of the local newspapers. The late Mabel Swift had a popular history column in this for many years, and it was her work that I wished to review, as I had heard that she had a great deal of expertise regarding the life of Æthelflæd and I needed to find out what link there might be with Andrew Lang’s Black Fairy Book. In the library, a bespectacled assistant called Ernest offered to copy all of the relevant material for me, and suggested that I should enjoy a walk around the shady pathways between the library and St Editha’s church while I waited. Pak Choi and I enjoyed this very much, as there are lots of cheeky squirrels who seem unafraid of people and so Pak Choi was able to have a hearty gossip with them without attracting too much attention. He passed on a bawdy tale of squirrel-based derring-do which I will relate here for your amusement, as I know that your book Disenchanted touches on some rather base elements.

A squirrel called Ewan declared himself king of the nuts, by virtue of the fact that nobody else had thought to do it first. He had a throne constructed of nuts and made all of his subjects bring him nut-based tributes. He was an unpopular ruler as nobody could ever see any benefit to his reign, only the burden of supplying nuts for his insatiable appetite.

It became known that he needed so many nuts to sustain his lovemaking, as he liked to visit whatever passes for a red light district in squirrel terms (I’m afraid that Pak Choi’s excessive mirth made this point a little unclear to me). Ewan’s subjects decided that they could cure these urges with the use of a classic honey trap. They recruited a delightfully pretty girl squirrel. Pak Choi used the term hotsy totsy. I honestly don’t know where he gets it from, I think these squirrels are a bad influence. The attractive squirrel was charged with engaging the squirrel king in energetic lovemaking, but whenever he reached for a nut (as he would do throughout) she would bite him vigorously. You might think that this tale ends with Ewan’s re-education, perhaps renouncing his reign over the nuts, but you’d be wrong. It actually ends with him contracting tetanus and dying, which had Pak Choi and his bushy-tailed friends falling about and hooting with laughter.

[Here is a picture of the King of the Nuts]

There is an interesting anchor-themed sculpture near the church. It is a memorial to Colin Grazier, one the three British seaman who retrieved secret documents from a sinking German submarine in World War Two. The Enigma code books were amongst those documents, enabling those clever people over at Bletchley Park to understand the Germans’ encrypted messages. Sadly, young Colin, a local lad, drowned when the sub went down.

[here is Pak Choi’s sketch of the sculpture]

I had my own mystery to solve and codes to break and felt inspired by Colin’s example as I went back into the library to see what Ernest had found for me. The librarian had uncovered and photocopied a wealth of local history material for me.

Ernest looked at me intently and enquired if I would like to join him for a drink of locally brewed real ale, over which he could tell me some more about the local area. Lovely though the little man was, I can’t abide real ale. I dismissed his advances with brief thanks and made a sharp exit. I had much to think about. I was not in need of ale but of some quiet thinking time and a cup of Pak Choi’s soothing tea.

I post this to you in the knowledge that I have promised to meet you in Birmingham tomorrow to help celebrate the launch of your new book. I see no reason at all why I can’t get to the bottom of this mystery and then come meet with you, dear friends.

Yours,

Dr E. Alexander

Dr Epiphany Alexander’s latest book, “One Day My Prints Will Come: How Early Printers Hindered the Spread of Fairy Tales” is currently available from Sheffield Academic Press.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant’s novel, Disenchanted, is available now from Amazon.

UK kindle:   UK paperback:   US kindle:   US paperback: