All Things by Amber Belldene

All Things (A Reverend Alma Lee Mystery Book 1)

Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: A priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar…

If something is unjust in San Francisco’s Mission District, the Reverend Alma Lee will face it down. She leads her vibrant church of St. Giles’ with compassion and sass. Her busy days involve match-making, meddling, and saving the city’s beloved lesbian landmark, The Carlos Club. Alma meets the intriguing Rabbi Naomi Cohen there, and she’s smitten.

Death comes to the church’s door…

When the proprietor of The Carlos Club turns up dead on the steps of St. Giles’, Naomi’s brother is the number one suspect. She needs help exonerating him, and Alma’s knowledge of the neighborhood makes her the perfect priest to solve the case. If only Alma’s ex-boyfriend, homicide detective Cesar Garza will accept her help. She still feels the pull of their old connection, but she’s convinced the sexy-smart rabbi is her perfect mate. . . Too bad Naomi is playing by different rules.

Can Alma solve the case before the murderer silences her forever?

The Review

I have to admit, the tagline is what initially grabbed my attention. “A priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar…” Like, what? Rewind that and let me hear that again. Yes, that did say a priest and a rabbi walk into a lesbian bar. I’m a fan of cozy mysteries, and having a splash of a LGBTQ friendly priest piqued my interest. I needed know if if Alma was going to turn out life Father Brown (I binged the show on Netflix and find Father Brown and his clique particularly invigorating).

Alma is her own brand of priest. She’s bisexual, nosy, vegan, honest and has a crush on a lady rabbi.The story opens up at the closing of a local lesbian bar called The Carlos Club that hadn’t evolved with the community and the owner wasn’t business savvy.  Once the owner turns up dead (what’s sad is I can’t remember her name) on the church doorstep, Alma has to act. Her friend has been murdered and crawled to her church as she died.

The police focus in on the new property owner, the brother to Naomi, the rabbi that Alma is crushing on. And here comes the drama. The cop in charge? Alma’s ex-boyfriend Cesar Garza. It’s obvious he hasn’t gotten over Alma and harbors some hard feelings for her. He wants her to stay out of the investigation and safe. Someone had attempted to poison her, and that should be enough to keep her away. But it’s not.

She can’t Naomi’s brother take the fall. Not when he’s innocent. So she figures out how to use her community knowledge to find the evidence she needs to find the real killer. What was really neat about this was I was debating between two people being the murderer but I was wrong. I liked that I was wrong because most of these cozy mysteries I have it figured out pretty quickly.

The romance aspect of this was not a major plot point in this. Anything other than a kiss between Alma and Naomi ended up in a fade to black type of scene. It was fitting for the type of novel this was. There’s still a part of me that really wanted more though. Like let the Reverend get some hot lady love and don’t let her go back to Cesar like what was hinted at. Keep Reverend Alma with the ladies!

I’ll totally read more in this series though. I liked her sassy self.

Get Your Copy Here!

Hers to Protect by Nicole Disney

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Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: Kaia Sorano is a police officer in the dangerous and gang dominated streets of Chicago. She thinks she’s prepared for anything, but when she responds to a bloody domestic violence call, only to find her high school sweetheart is the victim, she knows she has to find a way to help.

When Adrienne Contreras’s mother moved her to the south side of Chicago at seventeen, she quickly saw her safe life and idealistic love with Kaia replaced with poverty, crime, and violence. Now twenty-seven, Adrienne is dating Gianna, a high-ranking member of a brutal gang. She has the streets figured out, but the first rule is to never talk to cops, even one she used to be in love with.

As their attraction grows into love, Adrienne and Kaia struggle to see past the changes in each other and escape Gianna and the gang, who have threatened both their lives.

The Review

Hers to Protect is a hard book for me to review. There are two sides to every story and seeing it told from a cops point of view and then from a gang member’s point of view was something I hadn’t seen done before. I liked that we were getting to see Kaia, Adrienne, Gianna and Anna’s story unfold but there was such a disconnect between the two main characters, it was hard to read.

I love a cop story, the violence, the gore, the gritty gang life? None of that bothered me. It was a part of this story and if it had been left out, I don’t think it would have worked at all. But if you’ve ever been a friend with a cop, if you’ve ever had cops in your family, the things Kaia did for ‘love’ they wouldn’t have done. There’s a set of values, morals and care that cops have. Kaia abandoned all of that. Does it happen in real life? Oh, no doubt that it does. But how easily she drifted over the line from lawful to unlawful because of Adrienne, it made me angry. Sure in the end Adrienne realized that not all cops were corrupt but the whole thing irked me.

Due to the above, I found their rekindled romance unbelievable. I read some pretty crazy things, like men getting pregnant crazy, but this left a bad taste in my mouth. Sure they were teenagers in love, separated by parents and tragedy but it didn’t feel real. Like maybe more internal thought? More talk between the two? I don’t know. They were missing something vital for me.

Do I think that was the over all attention and to grab your attention to make you think? I do. Disney wanted us to see the allure of gang life, how far they would go for each other and how that influenced even those not initiated into the gang yet. She showed up that cops are both good and bad. That anyone can be tempted for the right reasons.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of her romance scenes. It was super fun reading about dancing tongues every time they kissed. It was a bit of an instant replay every time they got together.  (I’m sorry, that sounds really bitchy and it could be the fact I had a procedure done on my neck this morning) But seriously, give us a little more variety.

Do I believe that Nicole Disney will become an amazing author? Oh yes. She has skill and can craft a scene well but there were bits and pieces that tricked a nerve for me. Maybe this one wasn’t my cup of tea and perhaps it’ll be yours.

Purchase Here

Into the Mystic Volume Three

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summaries: There are nine lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories contained in this volume of short stories.

It Started Before Noon – All stories must begin somewhere.

Heart’s Thaw – A frozen heart is no match for ignited passions.

Fire and Brine – Of all the bars in all the world, Alice had to wander into Cassandra’s. Are either of them ready for what comes next?

Dance with Me – Can a werewolf and a vampire put aside their differences to catch a thief in the Windy City?

My Cup of O Pos – Not every visit to the ER has to be stressful.

Home – A stray, an alpha, and a question: Where does she belong?

Swoon – Falling in love is tough when you’re a cursed pirate.

The Hunt – A first bite is never easy for a teenage vampire.

By Candlelight – A girl and her ghost await a funeral.

 

The Review(s)

Not having previously read the last two volumes of the Into the Mystic collections, I wasn’t expecting what I actually got. The cover had me thinking, like time travel, witches, Scottish highlands but that’s not what I got. Now I can say each of these stories were great in their own ways. Some of the authors are now on my list to watch for future work or previous publications.

I have come to realize that there are going to be stories I absolutely love and need an entire novel written about the characters, and then one or two that I’m not fond of. It’s just personal preference. If you’re looking for erotica, that’s not what you’re going to get in this collection. There’s one story, Fire and Brine by Lis Valentine would be the one that went more in that direction. The rest have a gentle, kind romance about them.

It Stated Before Noon by Ava Kelly is probably one of the three stories I wish there was more of. That’s how much I loved it. The concept wasn’t one that I had seen before. A muse planting and cultivating inspiration (comedies, tragedies, dramas, but never romances) tickled me. A romantic and a scientist working together, learning about life and falling in love? I was smiling the entire time.

Home by K. Parr hit my weak spot. I love a good werewolf story, and then you’ve got a little bit of an age difference. Yeah, buddy. A young bitten wolf is trying to figure her way out in the world and she ends up in the backyard of an alpha who makes her feels whole. And that ending *sigh* it was perfect.

Swoon by Artemis Savery was completely unexpected. Sirens, they aren’t my thing. But a lesbian siren who is morally conflicted with taking the voice of a woman she loves? It was beautiful, crushing and hopefully all at the same time.

The Hunt by M. Hollis and By Candlelight by Ziggy Schultz were YA stories. The Hunt had a vampire youth going on her first hunt and I squealed with how adorable she was. By Candlelight, it was a bit darker but the thing is it’s what anyone would hope for when they pass. The communication between the ghosts and the ending left me feeling warm.

Fire and Brine by Lis Valentine, is a steamy quick read.

My Cup of Pos by L.J. Hamlin, the title is a little unfortunate until you actually read the story and understand what it means. I think it was intriguing to see a disabled vampire and an explanation of the disability was extremely important because you don’t get that very often in books.

Dance With Me by Michelle Frost was okay. I think it would have made an excellent full-length novel. A PI werewolf with a vampire client. The two don’t mix or do they?

Overall, this is a great collection of stories. I would definitely recommend checking into these collections to find new authors to read because that’s exactly how I’ve been finding a bunch of my new TBR list.

It can be purchased Here!