Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Review Tour & Giveaway: Kissing Kin (Trans-Pecos, #1) by Karen Hulene Bartell

A Trans-Pecos Book
Karen Hulene Bartell

Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Publication Date: March 13, 2024
Page count: 296 pages



Maeve Jackson is starting over after a broken engagement—and mustering out of the Army. No job and no prospects, she spins out on black ice and totals her car.

When struggling vintner Luke Kaylor stops to help, they discover they’re distantly related. On a shoestring budget to convert his vineyard into a winery, he makes her a deal: prune grapevines in exchange for room and board.

But forgotten diaries and a haunted cabin kickstart a five-generational mystery with ancestors that have bones to pick. As carnal urges propel them into each other’s arms, they wonder: Is their attraction physical…or metaphysical?


Grandma’s bedtime stories echoed through my mind as I sped west on I-10. At an early age, family history had merged with myth until the name Fort Lincoln was as legendary as Avalon or Middle Earth.
But when the snow-covered peaks loomed closer, their reality was undeniable. Maybe her stories weren’t tall tales… 

And what about her proverbs? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I winced. No job and no prospects. Mustering out after a five-year Army stint, I had to ask myself: What next? Where next? 

Cody slipped into my thoughts, but I dismissed him, refusing to romanticize our breakup. 

A troop of cavalry soldiers galloped toward me from the nineteenth century, but a second glance proved the images were metal cutouts--two-dimensional illusions that resembled an officer and guide leading two columns of cavalrymen. 

The silhouettes evoked tales of my great-great-grandfather, Ben Williams. Beginning his military career as a scout, he’d been field promoted during combat, then commissioned as 
Second Lieutenant at Fort Lincoln. 

I smiled, proud of our similar career paths. Maybe Grandma’s stories influenced me more than I realized. 

Leaving the Interstate, I turned south. Road signs noted towns that sounded familiar from family stories but seemed as mythical as Camelot or Tintagel Castle. 

Closer now, the mountains’ features came into view. No longer mere outlines on the horizon, each craggy palisade and butte towered over the highway. 

Fluffy hoarfrost transformed the landscape into an icy spectacle, with flaky, crystal shards overlaying each leaf and every blade of grass. A frozen fairyland! Just the way Grandma described it. Inspired by the raw beauty, I straightened my shoulders. Maybe I’m viewing my discharge the wrong way. Instead of adrift, maybe I’m free…


5 stars!

A great romance with a unique plot and paranormal elements. 

Kissing Kin is the first book in author Karen Hulene Bartell's new Trans-Pecos series, and readers who like paranormal elements in their contemporary romances are certain to enjoy it. With two genuinely nice main characters and a backdrop of far West Texas, the story was a sweet, lovely, spooky, and fun reading experience. 

The story unfolds from two viewpoints, Maeve's and Lucas's, and in multiple timelines as well. However, with the author's excellent storytelling, readers will have no trouble keeping everything and everyone straight. Another extra that I enjoyed was that the main FEMALE character is a military veteran. Maeve Jackson has just separated from the service after five years of deployments around the globe. She's undecided about her plans for her next stage of life, having planned to return home to her grandmother after separation. However, her grandmother passes away immediately, preceding Maeve's mustering out. It was made ever sadder for Maeve as she had not been able to see her grandmother for quite a while due to her deployment in Afghanistan. I liked her decision to detour to Fort Lincoln and visit the locations for so many of the stories her grandmother had told her about her family when she was a child, and of course, that led to her meeting Lucas. 

Lucas Kaylor is a very nice and helpful guy, and he quickly realizes he'd like a more intimate relationship with Maeve should her thoughts turn in that direction. I liked how he treated her like she was the most fascinating and beautiful woman he had ever met. Both experience an immediate attraction to the other on top of discovering a familial connection; their chemistry is great. Bea Perkins hovering around the fringes, being catty, and causing trouble added the perfect touch of conflict to the story. At the same time, the occasional odd occurrences and small unexplained happenings at the beginning of the story were just the start of a mounting paranormal vibe. Eventually, the spookiness develops into a full-blown paranormal presence. Or does it? 

One of my favorite things about the plot is that the couple explores and visits locations in the far western region of the state, including Big Bend National Park and other well-known natural landmarks. The descriptions of the late winter landscape and the sudden blizzard were vivid, creating clear visions of the remote and expansive beauty found there. The detailed descriptions of the meals the main characters share, including Lucas's wines, were tempting, and it was fun to see that the author included recipes at the end of the book for a couple of the more intriguing dishes mentioned. 

I recommend KISSING KIN to readers who enjoy contemporary romances with a paranormal twist, stories featuring female military veterans, and West Texas settings. 


Author of the Trans-Pecos and Sacred Emblem series, Karen is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life, who writes multicultural, offbeat love stories. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved often, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Texas Piney Woods with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog. Contact Karen at info@KarenHuleneBartell.com. 


The author will award a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you so much for reviewing KISSING KIN today.

Rita Wray said...

I liked the excerpt.

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Marcy, I hope you DO read Kissing Kin - and that you enjoy it! Please let me know your thoughts!

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Thanks, Rita!

Karen Hulene Bartell said...

Thank you for your interview, Guatemala Paula!

Sherry said...

Sounds like a good book.