I love books that inspire me, ignite my imagination and light a fire in my heart. I have read a lot of books that fit that bill this year and have miraculously narrowed down a list of my TOP 10 BOOKS of 2019!

Each of these incredible books took me on a journey of discovery that was teeming with emotions or bursting with action (and apparently a lot of them also included dashing captains…there could be a theme here).

And, because I didn’t make one last year, I added my TOP 5 BOOKS of 2018 as a bonus!

1 This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max GladstonePublished by  Gallery / Saga Press (July 16 2019)

Available in Audio narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

Check out my full review here 

This book is a poignant and lyrical masterpiece of an enemies to lovers romance set in the throes of a brutal and seemingly endless time war.

What it’s about 

 In the ashes of a dying world, Red finds a letter marked “Burn before reading. Signed, Blue.”
So begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents in a war that stretches through the vast reaches of time and space.

Red belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. Their pasts are bloody and their futures mutually exclusive. They have nothing in common—save that they’re the best, and they’re alone.

Now what began as a battlefield boast grows into a dangerous game, one both Red and Blue are determined to win. Because winning’s what you do in war. Isn’t it?

Why I love it 

Phew, the sensuality is STRONG with this one. The language throughout the book is just so incredibly seductive and poetic. It is entirely immersive and completely enveloped me in its intensely rich imagery. There of course are the elements of the time war which are complex, intriguing and add a visceral juxtaposition to the love story, but those letters… I am entirely enthralled by them; the coding, the mediums, their expression of emotion. This book wrecked me in the best way.

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2 Beggar’s Flip by Benny Lawrence 

Beggars Flip by Benny Lawrence book reviewPublished by Mindancer Press/Bedazzled Ink Publishing (July 14 2019)

Available in Audio No

Check out our full review here

This book is the epic swashbuckling sequel to Shell Game. It is an action filled, dark, piratic romance with loads of comedy thrown in to boot. 

What it’s about 

A sequel to Shell Game, Darren–socially awkward, exiled noblewoman turned pirate queen–and Lynn sorta kinda Darren’s slave girl, sorta kinda Darren’s life coach, and altogether the bossiest backseat helmsman that ever set foot on a pirate ship are at it . . . again.
Darren receives a message delivered by her dying brother pleading for her to warn their father about a traitor. Meaning Darren has to return home to Torasan Isle, and to the father who keeps sending assassins after her. Lynn thinks it’s crazy, insane, and obviously certain death for Darren, and is not overly happy about the idea. As usual, Lynn is right and chaos ensues.

Why I love it 

To be fair, this book had me at lesbian pirates. I loved Shell Game so hard and was so excited to see a sequel come out. The characters are so perfectly flawed and the relationship dynamic between Lynn and the dashing pirate captain, Darren is entirely my jam. The plot is compelling and OMG the humour! How Lawrence manages to perfectly mesh such dark themes with such rib-aching hilarity is a miracle.

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 3 The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite 

The Lady's Guide To Celestial Mechanics by Olivia WaitePublished by  Avon Impulse (June 25 2019)

Audiobook In Production

Check out our full review here  

This book is a historical, rich girl/poor girl, age gap romance that delves into the values of art and science and how they complement one another. It is a beautiful examination of the struggles of two women trying to navigate these male dominated worlds and the solace they find in one another.

What it’s about 

As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

Why I love it 

This book is a little out of my wheelhouse, so I was very surprised how much I loved it. I found the story to be breathtakingly romantic and surprisingly spicy at times. I adored the historical setting and challenges of the era that the characters faced. But for me, the best part of this book is how both art and science are interwoven throughout the narrative and how the values of each are depicted as complimentary and not adversative.

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4 Tales From Ardulum by JS Fields

Tales from Ardulum by JS FieldsPublished by NineStar Press (June 10 2019)

Available in Audio No

Check out my full review here   

This science fiction book is an exciting compilation of stories centered around the rag tag crew from the Ardulum trilogy. Action, adventure and love in many forms abound in this heartwarming addition to the series.

What it’s about 

One year after saving the Neek homeworld and redefining the people’s religion, the crew of the Scarlet Lucidity returns to the Charted Systems for a much-needed break. For Nicholas and Yorden, the Systems will always be home, but for Emn and Atalant, too many memories compound with Emn’s strange new illness to provide much relaxation.
TALES FROM ARDULUM continues the journey of Atalant, Emn, Yorden, Nicholas, and Salice as they try to define their place in a galaxy that no longer needs them while battling the artifacts of Ardulan colonization. Other stories include Yorden’s acquisition of the Mercy’s Pledge (and his grudge against the galaxy), Atalant’s exile from her homeworld, Ekimet and Savath’s romance, and many others.

Why I love it 

I LOVE the Ardulum trilogy. The characterization, the science and the world building are incredible. So, I was very excited to see there was another book about my favourite found family coming out. I was NOT disappointed. This book is a wonderful compilation of tales that mostly focus on the crew’s backstories. Some are amusing, some are heartwarming, and some hit me smack dab in the feels!

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5 Raven, Sand and Sun by Nita Round 

Raven Sand and Sun by Nita RoundPublished by Silver Dragon Books by Rc (Feb. 13 2019)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out my full review here  

This is the second book in the Touch of Truth series and is a dystopian, fantasy, paranormal and steampunk mashup that features one of the more interesting relationship dynamics I have come across.

What it’s about 

Lucinda, Ascara, and the Captain have survived several almost fatal encounters with various agents of Sh’Na. Now they must face the Mistress of the Night herself in the pyramid from Lucinda’s dreams and cut short the beast’s reign of terror. Captain Stoner, however, has met this Queen of the Desert before, and although the companions are together, she fears the three of them will not be enough to withstand Sh’Na’s evil.

Their journey is not a simple one and their trials start in the city of Port Ruth. Here the Captain must face her own past, fraught with its own perils, before they can enter the desert. Once outside the city, they travel into the inhospitable lands of sand and sun where they must face Sh’Na in a battle for more than their own lives. Failure means the end of everything. Success will bring the three to a new truth, and a new path will be revealed.

Why I love it 

The worldbuilding is phenomenal and so well described. Whether soaring among the clouds in the airship Verity, crossing the scorching sands of the desert or jostling through the crowded streets of Port Ruth, the setting is so vivid it is practically tangible. The plot is laden with mysticism and intrigue and the characters are fabulous, especially the dashing Captain Stoner. To top it all off, the relationship between the three women is a unique and intriguing dynamic.

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6 The Sovereign of Psiere by K. Aten  

The Sovereign Of Psiere by K AtenPublished by  Regal Crest Enterprises (May 31 2019)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out our full review here

This is the first book in the Mystery of the Makers series and is an action filled, science fiction, fantasy, enemies to lovers, mystery novel that will keep your heart pumping and your mind churning.

What it’s about 

Psiere is a world of intrigue where old ideology meets new. The Makers built massive pyramids on each continent and filled them with encrypted texts and advanced technology. The two suns, Archeos and Illeos shine down on a mostly undiscovered planet with a psionic race of people living on land, and violent sea people below the water. The Queen seeks to make the world a better place for all Psierians but her daughter, Royal Sovereign Connate Olivienne Dracore, seeks only to solve the Divine Mystery.

The connate makes her living as a historical adventurist and wants the answer to two important questions. Who were the Makers and where did they go? Because she is the heir, Olivienne travels with a security force and resents it every moment. Every one of her captains has either quit or been injured trying to keep up with the risk-taking woman. That’s where Commander Castellan Tosh comes in. Capable, confident, and oh-so-dashing, she is forced to switch career corps to take charge of Olivienne’s team. Sparks fly from the moment they meet and things only get hotter as they chase down the clues to the greatest mystery of all time

Why I love it 

This book brought out my inner Indiana Jones/Lara Croft in a BIG way! It is another great example of exciting worldbuilding that really transports you to another place. There is a boatload of adventure and mysteries abound! And who doesn’t love unravelling mysteries? The main characters have great chemistry. Commander Tosh is dashing and dreamy and Connate Olivienne Dracore is an adventurer after my own heart. This story is an exciting ride to say the least.

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7 The Hound of Justice by Claire O’Dell

The Hound Of Justice by Claire O’DellPublished by  Harper Voyager (July 30, 2019)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out our full review here 

This book is the follow up to A Study in Honor and is an intense and compelling Holmes and Watson thriller, set in an alternative history/dystopian future world.

What it’s about 

Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes, introduced in the acclaimed A Study in Hour, continue their dangerous investigation into the new American Civil War with the help of fresh allies, advanced technology, and brilliant deduction in this superb reimagining of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s been two months since Dr. Janet Watson accepted an offer from Georgetown University Hospital. The training for her new high-tech arm is taking longer than expected, however, leaving her in limbo. Meanwhile, her brilliant friend and compatriot, Sara Holmes, has been placed on leave–punishment for going rogue during their previous adventure.

After an extremist faction called the Brotherhood of Redemption launched a failed assassination attempt on the president that caused mass destruction, Holmes, who is now operating in the shadows, takes on the task of investigating the Brotherhood. Holmes is making progress when she abruptly disappears.

When Watson receives a mysterious message from Holmes’s cousin Micha that indicates that Sara Holmes’ disappearance might be connected to the Brotherhood and to Adler Industries, Watson and Micha go on a high-stakes mission to reunite with Holmes once more.

Together, Watson, Holmes and Micha embark on a thrilling, action-packed journey through the deep South to clear Holmes’s name, thwart the Brotherhood’s next move, and most important, bring their nemesis to justice for the atrocities she’s committed in the New Civil War. 

Why I love it 

I grew up reading and loving Sherlock Holmes mysteries so when I heard about O’Dell’s reimagining of the Holmes/Watson narrative, with queer black women as the dynamic crime solving duo, well nothing could keep me from getting my hands on it. It’s political, exciting, mysterious and the characterization is phenomenal.

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8 Safe Passage by Rachel Ford 

Safe Passage by Rachel FordPublished by Indie Author (May 19 2019)

Audiobook Narrated by Barbara Rich

Check out my full review here

This book is an action-packed, science fiction, heist novel with space pirates and a galactic mafia. Need I say more?!

What it’s about 

Go big or go home. For privateer Captain Magdalene Landon, it’s all about going big. For Kay Ellis, it’s about getting home. Together, they’re about to architect the most daring heist in the galaxy. Kay knows too much. She knows it’s a matter of time before a Conglomerate hitman finds her. She’s desperate for safe passage back to Union space. Then Magdalene shows up, promising a way home in exchange for that information. It’s a risky bet, but Kay is out of options. So she strikes a deal: the heist of the century for her freedom. Kay is playing a dangerous game, and she knows it. She’s made herself Enemy Number One of the Conglomerate. She’s relying on privateers for her safety. It’s a fool’s game. But the worst part is, her fool’s heart is starting to warm to the enigmatic captain. And that’s a risk for which she hadn’t planned. 

Why I love it 

Space Pirates. Galactic mafia. A daring heist. This book has IT ALL! The plot was fun and exciting, the characters were engaging, and the toaster oven romance was charming. It’s fun, it has a sweet romance and a super-hot space pirate captain.… What more could I possibly want in a book?!

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9 Thorn by Anna Burke 

Thorn by Anna BurkePublished by  Bywater Books (Feb. 8 2019)

Audiobook Narrated by Annette Romano

Check out our full review here 

This book is a darker, enemies to lovers, quite literally thawing of the ice queen, retelling of the classic beauty and the beast fairytale.

What it’s about 

When a fatal mistake brings Rowan into the hands of the Huntress, she finds herself trapped in an enchantment that is every bit as alluring as it is cruel.

On a cold day deep in the heart of winter, Rowan’s father returns from an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose. The rose is followed by the Huntress, a figure out of legend. Tall, cruel, and achingly beautiful, she brings Rowan back with her to a mountain fastness populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan, who once scorned the villagers for their superstitions, now finds herself at the heart of a curse with roots as deep as the mountains, ruled by an old magic that is as insidious as the touch of the winter rose. Torn between her family loyalties, her guilty relief at escaping her betrothal to the charming but arrogant Avery Lockland, and her complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse before it destroys everything she loves. There is only one problem – if she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind. And the only thing more unbearable than endless winter is facing a lifetime of springs without the Huntress. 

Why I love it 

The writing in this book is beautiful, and the characters are wonderfully complex and deep.

But vivid imagery is what really stands out in this selection. The descriptions of the frozen landscape had me blaring Karen O’s cover of the Immigrant Song and wanting to head out snowshoeing stat!

Get It On Amazon 

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10 Remember November by Cameron Darrow

Remember November by Cameron DarrowPublished by Indie Author (March 5 2019)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out my full review here 

This is a historical novel that takes place in England just after the end of World War 1. It is a paranormal story dealing with witchcraft, a romance, and has a mystery thrown in for good measure. 

What it’s about 

Britain may have won the First World War, but the witches of ADAM lost.

Now an embarrassment, the Allied Directorate for Alternative Means is to be disbanded and its witches scattered, their lives overturned and shattered once again. Presented with a final chance to keep their budding coven together, it will take more than magic for them to succeed.

When Millie Brown’s best friend goes missing from the program, she must track her down and bring her home before she’s hunted down by a government that no longer wants anything to do with witchcraft. If that weren’t enough, if Millie fails, not only will ADAM be disbanded, but the beguiling witch Elise will be sent back to France. Fearing that as much as her own feelings for Elise, Millie will have to look within herself to find the truth of her magic and hold together that which is most important to her or lose it all.

And a young woman known only as November wakes up on Christmas morning in an empty grave with no memory of who she is or why she can do impossible things. With no memory of her past, she must struggle to find out just who she was and why it has come back to try to kill her. The sudden manifestation of a power she can’t understand and barely control makes it all the more urgent, for the sake of everyone around her as much as herself.

Why I love it 

I was completely taken surprise by this book. The concept is intriguing, and the characters are engaging, but holy WOW I just need to take a minute here and talk about the descriptive mastery that really makes this book stand out. I just love the writing so much. It is phenomenal how Darrow can bring an item to life and give it personality or take a phrase and transform it into a mood.

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But wait! It’s not over yet! I did not compile a best of list last year. So as a bonus, here are 5 of my favourite reads from 2018.

Top 5 of 2018

1a The Sting of Victory by SD Simper

The Sting of Victory by SD SimperPublished by Endless Night Publications (Sept. 14 2018)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out our full review here 

This is a dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, age gap, supernatural, thawing of the ice queen epic with action, magic and one heck of a scorching romance. 

What it’s about 

When Flowridia, a witch granted power by an unknown demon, deceives an alluring foreign diplomat, she is promoted to a position of power to conceal her falsehood. Thrust into a world of politics and murderous ambition, she has her gentle heart and her Familiar to guide her – as well as a drunk Celestial with a penchant for illusion.

Meanwhile, Lady Ayla Darkleaf, Grand Diplomat of Nox’Kartha, smiles with predatory charm and wields her blades with a dancer’s grace. Flowridia falls into a toxic love affair, one she knows will end in heartbreak. But as Ayla’s legacy as a vampiric creature unfolds, Flowridia begins to see the broken woman behind the monster.

When a foreign emperor dies at the hands of a mysterious interloper, one who seeks to collect the greatest sources of power in the realms, Flowridia’s kingdom is charged to stop him. But Flowridia’s devotion is torn between duty to her own and the woman whose claws grip her heart.

In the ensuing clash of Gods, Flowridia must choose her loyalties with care – the fates of kingdoms rest in her hands.

Why I love it 

I think I said it best in my review…Simper has created a brilliant combination of gruesomely dark fantasy and scorching romance. The protagonists are both so flawed, you are at once drawn to and repelled by them. Simper takes the idea of grey morality and writes it to perfection. This is one of my favourite books of all time let alone this year.

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1b The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum by Cynthia Ward

The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum by Cynthia WardPublished by Aqueduct Press (Sept. 20 2018)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out our full review here  

This novella is the follow up to The Adventure of the Incognita Countess and is an alternate history, science fiction, supernatural, action, gorgeously pulpy story.

What it’s about 

Lesbian vampire spies on the Western Front!

Intelligence agent Lucy Harker receives the most dangerous job in the world — keeping Winston Churchill safe in the Great War. Despite her unique abilities as Dracula’s daughter, she loses Churchill to Kaiser Wilhelm’s inhuman allies. If she’s to recover Britain’s greatest leader, Agent Harker must gain the aid of her Austrian lover, Countess Karnstein — better known as Carmilla. But the notorious vampire is keeping secrets that might doom the British Empire.

Why I love it 

The novellas in this series are just SO much fun! There are so many tropes. There is so much action. Ward somehow manages to combine dinosaurs, mole people, vampires, werewolves and, uh, Winston Churchill into one narrative and it is a heck of a campy and exhilarating ride.

Get It On Amazon 

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2 Demon in the Machine by Lise MacTague

Demon In The Machine by Lise MacTaguePublished by  Bella Books (July 13 2018)

Available in Audiobook No

Check out my full review here 

This book is a steampunk and paranormal mash up with loads of action, a bit of mystery and a scorching romance.

What it’s about 

At the height of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, steam power and magic join forces to create wonders the world has never seen. But those wonders have a dark side—one that will soon force a reckoning few could have anticipated.
Half-demon Briar is content with her structured life as an archivist, a far cry from the chaos of her background and upbringing. Briar’s simple and predictable existence is rocked when she discovers something sinister powers one of the grand, new inventions of her era.

Isabella Castel, the only daughter of Viscount Sherard, is far from the brainless socialite she pretends to be. Isabella is everything Briar is not: passionate, creative and impulsive, but with secrets to rival even Briar’s own. Two more unlikely partners should not exist, yet if the women cannot find a way to work together, they will lose far more than their reputations.

Can a half-demon and a debutante work past their secrets before all hell breaks loose?

Why I love it 

The language is exquisite, and the characters… a half human, half demon archivist and a cat burgling, gear tinkering debutant! I mean incredible right?! And they have some searing chemistry as well. Oh, and lest I forget, the many wonderful steampunk gadgets throughout the book. Exciting on so many levels.

Get It On Amazon 

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3 2 Degrees by Bev Prescott

2 degrees by Bev PrescottPublished by  Bywater Books (Sept. 11 2018)

Available in Audiobook No 

Check out my full review here

This book is an incredibly compelling and action filled, climate based, dystopian/science fiction tale set on a future Earth that is ravaged by the forces of nature and humankind alike.

What it’s about 

In the year 2092, climate change has transformed the face of Earth. Storms, disease, famine, thirst and war show no mercy on the living. Sharon Clausen, a self-reliant farmer, has a secret apple tree—a tree that keeps Sharon and her wife, Eve, fed.

The only other people who know of her secret, or so she thinks, is Dr. Ryan, a long-time confidant, and his wife, Areva. Once a month, Sharon and Eve travel from Maine to Boston to trade apples with Dr. Ryan for Eve’s leukemia treatment. Everything suddenly changes when Eve is kidnapped and the Ryan’s are murdered. Sharon learns that her best kept secrets are known and coveted by a man known as the Strelitzia—a coldly practical villain.

Sharon sets out on a harrowing journey across North America to rescue Eve. Along the way, she teams up with an Inuit refugee boy, a stray dog named Erik the Red, an eccentric former school teacher, a jujitsu master, an Argentinian opera star, and a brilliant scientist who leads an alliance of eclectic people known as the Qaunik. Together, this ragtag group battle horrific storms, an unrelenting desert, terrifying criminal gangs, feral humans, and the Strelitzia.
In the end, Sharon must face her greatest challenge—risk all that she loves for something much greater than herself.

Why I love it 

Phenomenal, yet frightening world building. This cli-fi adventure is action packed and thoroughly riveting with incredible characters. But what amazes me the most is that somehow, even with the frightening depictions of our decimated planet and the horrible acts people have carried out, Prescott still manages to fill you with feelings of hope and faith in humanity and love.

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4 Survival Instincts by May Dawney

Survival Instincts by May DawneyPublished by Ylva Publishing; 1 edition (March 6 2018)

Available in Audiobook No 

Check out our full review here

This book is a gritty dystopian/post-apocalyptic, enemies to lovers, action and adventure story.

What it’s about 

Civilization ended long before Lynn Tanner was born. Wild animals roam the streets, but mankind is still the biggest threat to a woman alone in the ruins of a world reclaimed by nature. Lynn survives by sleeping with one eye open at all times and trusting no one but her dog. When she is forced to go on a dangerous journey through the concrete jungle of New York City, Lynn does all she can to scheme her way to safety. Her guard, Dani Wilson, won’t be played that easily, however. As their lives become entwined, Lynn finds herself developing feelings for Dani and is forced to find the answer to the question that scares her most: is staying alone really the best way to survive? Fast-paced and full of adventure, Survival Instincts introduces a post-war dystopian world where the only person you can rely on is yourself…unless you fall in love. 

Why I love it 

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic novels and this book is one of my favourites of the genre. The grittiness and realistic depiction of the setting and characters had me completely glued to the pages. Oh, and Skeever (a trusted canine companion) plays a big part in my love for this book as well.

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5 This Time by SW Andersen

This Time by SW AndersenPublished by  S.W. Andersen Books (Aug. 13 2018)

Available in Audiobook No 

Check out my full review here 

This book is an across time, paranormal, opposites attract romance about the eternal power of love that transcends space and time.

What it’s about 

Some people believe love transcends time and space.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Contessa “Tess” Kenner isn’t one of them. She can explain in detail how lust and desire cause the limbic system to battle the prefrontal cortex over ethical decision making, but ask her about her aversion to relationships and she’s completely at a loss. It’s not due to lack of trying. She’s just never felt the need or the connection to put in the effort.

Free spirited artist Elena Jake, on the other hand, wants to fall in love with the woman of her dreams—quite literally. Ever since her youth, her nights have been consumed by a beautiful stranger, so much so, that no flesh and blood woman has ever been able to measure up. When the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur, she seeks guidance from her Native American roots.

Driven by strong astrological influences, the “powers that be” attempt an intervention between the two women. Their pasts and presents merge, sending Tess and Elena on an unimaginable journey, causing them both to question their sanities.

Will these two souls rediscover an epic love?
Or are they destined to forever be star-crossed lovers?

Why I love it 

This book flat out knocked the wind out of me with its deep romance, mystical elements and beautiful language. It hit the romantic in me hard. There is something so satiating in reading about the resilience and power of love to conquer all, especially when the author can convey emotion the way Andersen does in this book.

Get It On Amazon 

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Michelle Blakey on FacebookMichelle Blakey on Twitter
Reviewer at The Lesbian Review
I live in Ontario, Canada with my amazing wife and our fur child Mozzie, a rather spoiled Brittany Spaniel. If I’m not seeking out my own adventures, I am reveling in the reading of the adventures of others.