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Sugar & Spice by Sarah Sanders

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This one is super short, super cute and super hot. Princess Aurora has just been formally made the Crown Princess of her c...

Coyote Blues by Karen F. Williams


⭐⭐⭐⭐★

A gripping paranormal, second chances thriller, this one had us in a thrall from word go.

Riley Dawson was a foundling. She was literally found on the Appalachian trail. Adopted by a rich couple, Riley is unusual in some ways but mostly an above average student and a 'good' child. The family has a holiday home in Lenox, Massachusetts, where they spend every summer. One summer, Riley meets Fiona Bell with large blue eyes and a zest for life, and the two girls become inseparable. As they grow into their teen years, they have a deeper attraction towards each other. With the fearlessness of teens and first love, they confess their feelings and consummate their love.

And then, disaster strikes Riley. Riley was born with a tail that was surgically removed. On the night of the most fantastic day she spent with Fiona, she transforms into a coyote. She is a werecoyote (like a werewolf). 

Riley's parents witness the transformation and literally throw her out of their lives soon after. Her mother withdraws from her immediately and her father is more than happy to drop the scared teen off to a rented house in Northampton, Massachusetts where she is to atten Smith College, with instructions to not socialise with others lest her lycanthropic affliction becomes known and stricter instructions to never get in touch with them again. She is essentially cast out, though with financial support. (To their credit, the parents make Riley financially more than secure for life even when they've abandoned her).

Fast forward twenty years. Riley is a psychotherapist. She has a successful practice with Dr. Margaret Spencer (Peggy) who once her professor. Early in their acquaintanceship, Riley had confided in Peggy about her condition and found unconditional acceptance from Peggy and from Peggy's wife and brother-in-law. 

The Spencer-Dawson practice has a couple of new clients, the Barrett family -- mother and daughter, with the father already in an anger management program. Peggy asks Riley to take the mother as a client.

When her newest client walks in, Riley is shell-shocked to see her Fiona who she'd never heard from since that fateful day twenty years back.

As the two reconnect, Fiona's grim reality surfaces and continuing meeting could put both their lives in danger. Plus, despite their undeniable connection, Riley's truth could well rend them apart immediately.

Riley and Fiona are lovely women individually and quite wonderful together. Both of them have not had easy lives but never come across as weak. For the author to pull this off, especially with Fiona is especially commendable because her challenges are not of the supernatural kind. She has made some questionable choices but given her background, they are justified. In fact, Fiona is psychologically a very, very well thought out and well defined character -- her behaviour typifying that of anyone in similar circumstances.

This book has all the edge-of-seat tension of Sleeping with the Enemy. The looming spectre of Fiona's abusive husband is nerve-wrackingly omnipresent which makes you root for the couple even more. The sheer horribleness of the man ensures that none of Fiona's actions actually feel like she's cheating him.

With so much drama of the circumstances going on, we're thankful that there was no unnecessary relationship-level emotional angst added. Both the ladies had reason to feel angsty about the way the other disappeared on them, but their confessions only speak of deep love rather than accusation or betrayal. It was particularly gladdening that their feelings for each other never changed and when they re-meet they confess their feelings with the same speed and fearlessness as in their teens.

While the paranormal aspect (and the incredible support group) was nice, the romance was particularly rewarding to read. We absolutely loved the Psychology 101 parts too. 

As we mentioned at the start, this is a gripping, oh-so-good read. 

PS: We have to mention some trigger warnings because they are important drivers in the book: domestic violence; emotional, psychological, verbal and physical abuse; mentions of homophobia and self-harm and reference to homophobic characters; animal cruelty.

But these triggers are perfectly balanced and offset by unconditional platonic love and support; romantic love that meets all our ideals and then some; great chemistry between all characters and particularly between Riley and Fiona; one adorable child and a bunch of adorable animals (including dogs, kittens and turtles); great supporting and tertiary characters; lots of love, sympathy and empathy for all creatures (including earthworms in one very, very sweet scene) and above all, the extreme satisfaction of the bad guy getting what was coming to him.

⭐⭐⭐⭐★

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