book reviews

More Great Novels by Efriends

Here are three more great novels from folks I’ve met on the Internet. I’m simply stunned by the talent:

  1. Cusp of Night–time to get your ghost on
  2. ThunderTree--guns, range wars, feisty women and obstinate cowboys–everything I want in a Western
  3. Red Eyes in the Darkness–when retirement is nothing like what you expected, except maybe in your nightmares

A note about my reviews: I only post reviews about books I liked so don’t be surprised to see lots of 4/5 and 5/5. If I don’t like the book, I won’t spend time writing about it.

Cusp of Night

by Mae Clair


In Mae Clair’s Cusp of Night (Lyrical Press 2018), Book 1 in her Hode’s Hill series, Maya Sinclair takes a job doing library research in a town she has never lived in, moving to a home managed by the town’s namesake, Hode Development. What she does know is she loves research, is drawn to the small-town nature of Hode’s Hill, and is eager to see where it all leads. It doesn’t take long to find out that the town is known more than anything for gory killings committed at the turn of the century that involved a fiend and a woman with blue skin–a spiritualist known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill. What Maya doesn’t realize until later is that the Blue Lady not only lived in the house Mae now rents but held her seances there. On the night the town holds what it calls Fiend Fest to celebrate this strange creature, the town’s patriarch, Leland Hode, is attacked and Maya is witness to the assault. Following that, she encounters strange occurrences in her new house that convince her it is haunted. She forces the young leader of Hode Development, Collin Hode, to face the haunting with her–after all, it is his house–and everything takes off from there. As she digs more into the mystery around the Blue Lady and the rumors swirling around her death, whatever happened back in the 1890s seems to transcend time and be part of the present day world around Maya and Hode’s Hill.

Sounds pretty scary? Yes, but not the typical horror story. In fact, I’d call it more of a monster story than horror as Maya faces down a creature who seems as scary as any monster her brain can conjure up and impervious to death. The events come at readers fast with a host of fascinating and multilayered characters well-positioned to people the entire series. As one of Clair’s characters says in the story:

“It’s time to get your ghost on.”

I will definitely be reading more of this series.


Sandra Cox


As much as Ben Evers, star of S. Cox’s latest Western Romance ThunderTree (2019), has a reputation as a skilled cowboy and talented shootist, he is also a drifter. He loves his freedom, his lack of emotional entanglements, and his horse in equal measure. The only two rules he abides by are Don’t get involved and respect women, the second being the more important. Which is where the trouble begins. The feisty and beautiful Kate Landon is being harassed by strangers with one obvious goal in mind. Ben happens to be riding by but can’t let them do what they’re about to do. Without a second thought, he stops them and incurs the sincere thanks of her ranch owner father who is also a former Texas Ranger. That leads to Ben staying the night and then helping out with a few problems around the ranch. When a range war begins to bubble over, his drifter attitudes are set squarely against the family he has started to care for. His ability to recognize danger and fearlessly step in makes him invaluable to Kate’s family whose warmth and love is a polar opposite to what he grew up in. Put that together with Kate’s beauty, fire, and obvious affection for him–and his for her–he starts to wonder if he can in fact walk away this time.

S. Cox, as in her earlier Westerns, excels at not just intricate plots but her essential ability to build characters readers fall in love with. Read this, see if you agree:

“Even though he was comfortable in his own skin and knew his own worth, he didn’t believe a man should be praised for doing the right thing and never knew how to respond.”

“Do you see something you like or do I have crumbs on my mouth?” 

“…a raspy quality that spoke of cigars and whiskey. A big man, he rode tall in the saddle. His weathered face held lines of hard living. He wore brown canvas pants, a blue shirt with a faded red vest and looked tough as nails.”

A good western needs strong moral characters well grounded in their beliefs, and a fire to test them. ThunderTree has that. It’s a fast moving story with horses, bad guys, good guys, ranches, guns, a dog (in this case, an eagle), and life threatening consequences, all nurtured in the romantic atmosphere of the old West. I’m very picky about my westerns. Cox writes them well.

Red Eyes in the Darkness

by D.L. Finn


In D.L. Finn’s Red Eyes in the Darkness (2019), you get a quirky twist on cozy mysteries, where the amateur detectives don’t actually detect the crime but they do solve it. Older retired couple, Will and Cass Henderson, are accused of a murder they didn’t commit. Though innocent, they can’t prove it, even to the satisfaction of their own family. What should have been their golden years becomes a cold world where their friends turn on them, where their money must go first to proving their innocence and then defending themselves from the real killer.  It is only when they become desperate that they come up with a plan to clear their good names.

I was drawn to this story because of its focus on older people who must adapt and overcome when their dreams of a comfortable pleasant retirement blow up. Their attitudes are positive despite everything to the contrary, their faith in each other unbending despite everyone else’s loss of it, and their creativity admirable. It’s a short story and as such highly recommended for those who worry about the unexpected and want to see how others handle it.


PS–If you’d like to help with my virtual book launch, please click here (it’s a Google form) to let me know which activity you would like to participate in.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, September 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

47 thoughts on “More Great Novels by Efriends

  1. Pingback: Gwen Slade Bounty Hunter–another winner for Sandra Cox | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: New Author in the Western Genre | WordDreams...

  3. I’m reading Cusp of Night – Mae Clair’s novels have a unique style that explores the impact of the extraordinary on everyday (I hesitate to use the word ‘normal’) people and the way they react. They are also informative. Great page-turner, great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Jacqui, for the read, review, and post:) I’m in fantastic company today. I loved both Mae and Sandra’s books and completely agree with your reviews! Looking forward to reading your newest release, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jacqui,

    I gave a tweet out for your book review. Unlike me, I have a lot of bloggy friends who love reading. Cusp of Night is a cool title, one that grabs my attention and I love the book jacket. Yeah, these are things to snag my attention. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It’s a pleasure to find Cusp of Night here in such great company. Thank you for the lovely review! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book.

    I’ve read Red Eyes in the Darkness and loved the eeriness of that tale–and I must catch up with Sandra’s western. She always tells a good story.

    Thank you again, Jacqui, and congrats to Sandra and Denise as well!

    Liked by 4 people

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