Saturday, October 31, 2015

From Paradise ... to Pregnant - Kandy Shepherd (HR #4478 - June 2015)

One night with consequences…

A week in Bali was accountant Zoe Summers's dream vacation. But when the tropical island paradise is hit by an earthquake, she's trapped -- alongside Mitch Bailey, sports star and blast from her past! High on the thrill of survival, they seek comfort in each other's arms…

It was only supposed to be one night, but Zoe soon discovers an unexpected souvenir -- she's pregnant! Now Zoe and Mitch will have to ask themselves…can one night lead to parenthood and a lifetime of love?

A sweet and heartwarming reunion story. Zoe is on vacation in Bali when she is caught in an earthquake. The last person she expects to see there is her old high school crush Mitch Bailey. Zoe is surprised that Mitch remembers her, especially now that he's a famous soccer star. But Mitch had never forgotten the girl that helped get him through his English poetry class, and often regretted the teenage jerkiness that ended their friendship. This is his chance to finally apologize and try to make things right. 

The attraction between Mitch and Zoe is strong from the moment they see each other again, but both try to resist it. Zoe has the outlook that Mitch is way out of her league, thanks to his fame and good looks. There's no way he'd be interested in anything long term, and she wants marriage with a man she loves and who loves her. Mitch is focused on his career. He's just coming off a bad injury and needs to concentrate on playing, not be distracted by a woman. When an aftershock hits, Zoe suddenly realizes that she'd never forgive herself if she passed up this chance to fulfill a dream. With the understanding that this is a "one and done", they take their night together and part ways in the morning.

Two months later, Zoe is back at work when she gets a surprise visit from Mitch. She hadn't expected to see him again, and she isn't sure if she's happy or not. She hasn't been able to forget that night, but nothing has really changed. Mitch can't either, and when the chance comes to visit Sydney again he can't pass up the chance to see her again. That meeting is a bit awkward until they find a way to relax with each other again. I loved seeing how they had the maturity to talk out the reasons for their discomfort and find a way to be easy again. 

I was a bit frustrated with Mitch at this point because he's trying to find a way to continue with Zoe without making any changes to his life. He expects her to come to Madrid to see him, but isn't willing to find a way to go see her. He's basically looking for a way to continue to have sex with her without making any commitments. I had a lot of respect for Zoe at this point, because she has the courage to stick up for her own convictions, even though it hurts to deny him.

It's at this point that Zoe discovers her pregnancy and is torn over what to do. She hasn't forgotten about Mitch's determination to remain entanglement free. She doesn't want to tell him and have him think that she is trying to trap him, or get money from him. She also can't imagine keeping him in the dark and denying him the chance to be a father to their baby. When she waffles about telling him and sends him away, Mitch suspects there's something she's not telling him. He doesn't get far before turning back to confront her.

I loved his protectiveness when he comes back to find her sick, and how he takes charge to care for her. He has a few moments of jerkiness when she finally tells him, but he recovers pretty quickly. Some of the things he says definitely play into Zoe's fears, and she's afraid to risk her own heart if he doesn't feel the same. Mitch has his own fears to face before he can accept that he can have it all if he can only find the courage to grab hold of it. The epilogue was fantastic and gave a great view of what you can do when you have the support of the one you love.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Surgeon's Christmas Baby - Marin Thomas (HAR #1572 - Nov 2015)

Series: Cowboys of the Rio Grande (Book 2)


After a tour in Afghanistan and years as a trauma surgeon, Alonso Marquez needs to get out of Albuquerque and away from his past. A trip seems like the perfect solution, but he doesn't make it far. Sparks fly when Alonso stops to help a gorgeous rancher fix her car, and just like that his road trip is cut short by one very hot night…with some very real consequences.

Hannah Buck didn't plan on starting a family that night. Her hands are already full managing the ranch and helping her troubled half brother. But Hannah sees the good in Alonso and knows he will be an incredible dad to their baby -- if only he could see it, too. Alonso has spent his life saving others. Now, with Hannah at his side, can he finally save himself?

Very good book. Hannah is a young woman who is running the family bison ranch after the death of her father. She also has custody of her sixteen year old half brother. Luke hasn't dealt well with his father's death and has been running wild, getting into trouble. She's at her wit's end, trying to keep up with the ranch and ride herd on her brother. She's on her way home from picking Luke up at the jail when she nearly runs over a hitchhiker.

Alonso is a trauma surgeon from Albuquerque. After time as an army doctor, and now working in a big city hospital, he is feeling burned out. He is tired of fixing people up just to have them go back to doing what got them hurt in the first place. He has taken a leave of absence from the hospital and is hitchhiking aimlessly around the state, trying to get himself back together. His journey is interrupted when he stops to help Hannah change her tire and is invited to stay for dinner.

I really liked Hannah. She has had a lot of responsibility dumped on her from the time she was young. She's the one who has practically raised her brother and is frustrated by the problems she is having with him. She is also trying to bring the ranch back from the brink of disaster, after her father ran it into the ground. When she meets Alonso she is attracted to him, but she is also wary. She's been hurt once, and doesn't want to risk it again. But she's also been lonely, and is seriously thinking about giving in to the attraction just once.

I ached for Alonso. From his early life trying to stay out of the gangs in his neighborhood, to the losses he has experienced as a doctor, he has a very pessimistic view of life. He has avoided any kind of relationships, always expecting that they will end and preferring to protect himself from more losses. His attraction to Hannah is unexpected, as is his reluctance to leave as planned. I loved the way that he saw so much of himself in Hannah's brother Luke, and helped Hannah find a place for him with the people who had helped him. I also loved how Alonso decided to stay at the ranch and help Hannah while Luke was away. 

The relationship between Alonso and Hannah grew pretty slowly. The physical side happened fast and burned hot, but trusting their feelings took awhile. Hannah doesn't want to fall for a man who is leaving, but his actions find their way past her walls. When she becomes pregnant she worries about how she'll manage, but refuses to doing anything to make Alonso feel like he has to stay. She sees that he has the ability to be a terrific father, but until he can believe she has to let him go. Alonso is surprised by the peace he starts to feel the longer he stays with Hannah. The constant stress of watching his work go for nothing is gone, but other fears are still with him. When he learns about her pregnancy, those fears make him want to run, but he also finds any number of reasons not to leave quite yet. I loved the unexpected opportunity that showed him the life that he could have away from the city, and the event that opened his eyes to what he would be leaving behind. Accepting Hannah's confidence in him helped him overcome those fears and believe that they could have that future together.

I also enjoyed the scenes on the ranch, as Luke got the guidance and discipline that he needed. The change in him was wonderful. Alonso's reunion with Cruz (A Cowboy's Redemption) was great, as was catching up with how things are going for Cruz and Sara. There was also a brief scene with their third friend, Vic, that was a nice lead in to his book. The mystery of who was doing the vandalism on Hannah's property was solved in a rather surprising way, as the culprit was not who I expected it to be.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Maverick's Holiday Masquerade - Caro Carson (HSE #2438 - Nov 2015)

Series: Montana Mavericks: What Happened at the Wedding (Book 5)



Greetings, merry readers! As the holidays approach in Rust Creek Falls, we are marveling at the number of couples who have been brought together by this summer's infamous wedding punch. And then there is Kristen Dalton, our town's resident actress/romantic. Since July, she has been pining over the "perfect cowboy," Ryan, whom she met at the wedding. But he left town soon after -- for good, or so we thought.

Now Ryan has returned, and folks are betting he and Kristen will be engaged before we can hang the holly. Not so fast, romantic revelers! Our out-of-town cowboy may not be exactly as advertised. Will they still meet under the mistletoe when Kristen finds out who Ryan really is?

Very good book. It begins at the summer wedding when Kristen meets Ryan. He had been in town for a brief visit with his sister, and had stopped by the wedding reception to meet up with her. He had changed into casual clothes, like so many of the other attendees and blended in with them. He and Kristen catch each others eyes, meet and begin to talk.

Kristen has just come off a bad relationship with a man who lied and cheated on her. She's decided she's done with "city slickers" and will stick with cowboys like the ones she's grown up with. The man she meets at the wedding seems to fit the bill. He admits he's not from around there, but is looking at relocating. His kisses are hot, but he's not pushy, even though she's ready to melt in his arms. He doesn't have much to say about himself, but Kristen thinks she's got him all figured out. She's got him pegged as a rodeo cowboy who's ready to settle down, and is determined to show him what Rust Creek Falls has to offer. 

Ryan is actually a high-powered entertainment lawyer from LA. It's true that he's become somewhat jaded with his life. He's tired of the women who just want what they can get from him, and the hectic, superficial life he has. The beautiful brunette is just one more positive thing in the appeal of Montana. He's not sure what it is, but being with her just feels right. He'd like to get to know her better, but he has to be back home the next day.

I loved seeing the two of them together the day of the wedding. The immediate connection was awesome. It was great to see Kristen trying to sell life in Rust Creek Falls, and how fascinated Ryan was with it all. Ryan felt so right with her that he even told her about his early life, and being abandoned by his mother. He has never told any other woman about any of it. I also liked the way that he was so into Kristen, and paid such close attention to everything she said. I really liked the way he was such a gentleman at the end of the evening. By the time it was done, he knew he wanted to spend more time with her, but getting back was going to take some doing. He meant it when he promised to come back.

After he left, neither he nor Kristen could forget each other. Ryan wanted to go back, but things kept getting in the way. Then he convinced himself that Kristen would have forgotten him by then and moved on. Meanwhile, Kristen keeps looking for him and has made up a whole life for him in her head. She gets more and more sad the longer he's away. Ryan's sister overhears her talking about Ryan and figures out who she's talking about. Ryan is stunned to hear from his sister about who he supposedly is. 

His return to Rust Creek Falls is quite eventful. He desperately wants to see Kristen again, but he's also afraid to tell her the truth about who he is. His mother's abandonment of him has part of him believing that he's unlovable and that Kristen would also walk away from him if she knew the truth. I loved their reunion and how it was so obvious that they belonged together. But I ached for Ryan as, instead of just coming out with it, he chose to reveal small pieces of the truth at a time. Every time that Kristen spoke of what she believed he felt worse. The time they spent together drew them closer together, but the truth was a sword hanging over Ryan's head. 

I loved Kristen's pride in her hometown and the way she wanted Ryan to share it with her. I was a bit frustrated with the way she created a life for Ryan without having anything to base it on. She does have a sensitive and loving heart, and it really showed when Ryan told her about his past. I loved her joy when he came back, and how she scooped him right into her life. The only thing she hadn't told him about was going to be a surprise for him, since she gave him the credit for her motivation.

I hurt for both Kristen and Ryan when the truth came out, because it got all tangled up in Ryan's fears. He said some horrible things in the middle of his own pain, hurting Kristen even more. Seeing what he went through afterwards, as he realized what he had done was great, as I felt he deserved every minute of it. He made up for it quite well with his "go big" moment at the end. It was sweet and romantic and showed just how much he had changed.

A Husband for the Holidays - Ami Weaver (HSE #2442 - Nov 2015)

Series: Made for Matrimony (Book 1)


What would the holidays be without joy and cheer? A regular Christmas for Mack Lawless. Along with the first snow come regret and confusion when his ex-wife, Darcy Kramer, returns to Holden's Crossing. Even seven years later, her abrupt decision to file for divorce burns deep. And it doesn't help that he's practically forced to bump elbows with her at a Christmas tree farm during the most festive time of year…

Why did she leave? Darcy's deeply buried secrets still hurt, just as much as seeing Mack again does. But time and distance have done nothing to help her forget about their love. Now, with the holiday spirit on her side, she can try to make amends. Can a sprig of mistletoe lead to a real forever family?

Very emotional book. Seven years ago a tragedy tore apart Mack and Darcy's marriage. Unable to explain her feelings, Darcy filed for divorce and fled to Chicago. Now she's back for a short time, to help her aunt and uncle with their Christmas tree farm, not knowing that Mack has been helping too. Seeing him again brings all the pain and guilt back, but she's committed to staying.

Mack had no idea Darcy was coming back until his brother told him he had seen her. He's tried to convince himself that he's moved on and gotten over the devastation of her leaving, but one look proves him wrong. His heart starts pushing to try again, but his head knows that she's planning to leave again. Why put himself through all that pain again?

Mack and Darcy had married because she was pregnant and Mack wanted to do the right thing. There was no doubt that he loved her and was sure that their lives together would be great. But when a terrible accident caused her to lose the baby, everything fell apart. Darcy shut him out and Mack didn't know how to reach her. She filed for divorce, left for Chicago, and hadn't been back since. Now they have to find a way to work together without hurting each other more.

The attraction between Mack and Darcy is even hotter than it was before. Put the two of them in the same room and the sparks really begin to fly. However, they still aren't able to talk about their past and what went wrong. I ached for Mack and how he's still bewildered about why she left. I also hurt for Darcy, who is carrying a tremendous amount of guilt over what happened and how she dealt with it. Their youth had contributed to their inability to actually talk to each other, and even now they both avoid having the hard conversations.

It isn't long before the attraction gets the better of them. That opens a tiny crack in the door between them, and they tentatively start getting to know the people they are now. It becomes obvious that they are falling for each other all over again, but until they can be honest about those feelings, it can only end in heartbreak. Mack is still pretty clueless until his mom says something that makes him look at their past from a different angle. Darcy also realizes that until she can make Mack understand why she had left, nothing is going to change. The satisfaction of seeing them finally face those demons and talk about them made the ending just right.

Besides her feelings for Mack and what had happened in the past, Darcy also has to deal with her feelings about what is going on with the tree farm. By staying away for so long, she lost touch with her connection to the land. Her reactions to what is going to happen reinforce the truth about her life in Chicago, and force her to decide what she really wants to do. Of course, there was really no doubt about what it was going to be, but her journey to get there was a painful one. I loved what she decided.

I also loved seeing the softer side of Mack as he worked his veterinarian magic with the various animals. There was no way that Darcy was going to be able to resist a man who treated animals the way that he did. I hope that a future book includes what happens to the two dogs that were such a big part of the book.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Bachelor Takes a Bride - Brenda Harlen (HSE #2426 - Sept 2015)

Series: Those Engaging Garretts (Book 8)

"You don't know me…but will you marry me?"

It strikes him like a lightning bolt when he lays eyes on Jordyn Garrett. Just like his grandma always says, You'll know her when you see her. Now restaurateur Marco Palermo knows he's just met his wife -- if only she'll date him!

Jordyn's heard every line…and deflected them all. She's walked through heartbreak and come out stronger, albeit lonelier. She'll never love again. But the scrumptious Italian with the melted-chocolate eyes is nothing if not persistent. And sexy. So sexy. Just her luck to find the only man in the world who wants marriage and a family. Things Jordyn can't give. But can he convince her that he's everything she's ever wanted…forever?

I loved this book. The guys in books are usually the ones who are avoiding marriage, have been hurt in the past, or are just plain cynical about love and marriage. Marco is part of a big Italian family with lots of examples of happy marriages, and he wants that for himself. His grandmother has always told him that he'd know the right woman when he saw her, but he's been wondering how long he'll have to wait. He's even stopped dating because they all seem to be dead ends. Then he sees Jordyn and his grandmother's prediction comes true. He just has to find a way to get her to go out with him.

Jordyn has avoided men and relationships for three years, ever since the death of her fiance. She had her love and lost him, and isn't interested in risking that pain again. She tries to make that clear to Marco, but he won't give up.

I loved the development of this relationship. Marco knows that Jordyn is the one for him. He understands her reluctance, but he's determined to convince her. He starts out slow and easy, just by showing up where she works and talking to her. She enjoys his company and begins to miss him when he isn't there. I loved the way he got her to go out to dinner with him by telling her it wasn't a date. The whole time the attraction between them is building and there is an explosive kiss after the non-date. I loved seeing how his patience slowly broke down the walls she had around her heart. There were some terrific scenes with him easing her back into enjoying life. I also loved the way that he gave her so much encouragement about her art and the results of that encouragement. It was wonderful to see a man who has no trouble expressing his emotions, and I rooted for him to be able to break through her resistance.

Jordyn had locked her emotions away for three years. Though she admitted to be lonely, and envious of her sister's family, she resists all attempts to get her back in the dating pool. She's attracted to Marco when she first meets him, but she can tell he wants more than she's willing to give. As the attraction grows and they spend more time together, she's more than ready to get physical with him, but that's as far as she's willing to go. The closer they get the harder it is for her to deny her feelings, but the fear won't let her go. After pushing him away almost as much as she wants to hold him close, she nearly pushes once too often. I loved seeing her grab her courage and ask for help to show him that she's willing to fight for their relationship, even though she can't quite take the final step.

I loved seeing their relationship really start to move forward from there. Marco continues to support and encourage Jordyn, and just be there for her. I also loved her support of Marco and his family as they get the new restaurant ready to go. There's a not too surprising twist to her job at O'Reilly's that changes some of her plans. And when trouble hits Marco's family, she's reminded that life is short. I loved the ending and seeing them both embrace their future.

I also loved the strength of the family ties in this book. Jordyn and her sisters are close, and are there to support each other. I really enjoyed seeing the way that Tristyn added her voice to getting Jordyn to give Marco a chance. I also loved seeing Jordyn do what she can for Lauryn, who has a stinker for a husband. Marco's family is also lots of fun. I really loved his two nieces and seeing how good he was with them. His grandmother is sweet and sassy at the same time. I loved her part in helping Jordyn. I liked the teasing among them, and that they also always have each other for support.

He's So Fine - Jill Shalvis (Grand Central - Oct 2014)

Series: Lucky Harbor (Book 11)

For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It's the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she's rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she's ever laid hands on.

Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to "save" him. In fact, he'd like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He's just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole's heart, or will it be the end of Olivia's days in little Lucky Harbor?

Another fun and emotional trip to Lucky Harbor. Olivia is relatively new to Lucky Harbor, where she came to escape from her past. She runs her vintage shop and pretty much keeps to herself, though I'm not quite sure how she's managed to avoid the small town nosiness for so long. She's been pretty successful until she's out walking on the pier one morning and sees a man fall into the freezing water of the harbor. She immediately jumps in to try to save him.

First of all, Cole can't believe that he fell in the water, then he has to deal with a woman jumping in on top of him in an effort to "save" him. But once they're out of the water, he doesn't mind getting up close and personal with Olivia. There's something about her that reaches places in him that haven't seen the light in two years.

But both Olivia and Cole have gotten very good at keeping their secrets. Cole was hurt two years ago when he discovered that his fiancee was actually in love with one of his best friends and both had hidden it from him. He found out when she fell apart at his friend's funeral, and now he's not so sure that he can believe in love again. He's never told anyone what happened, but it has made him reluctant to trust. Cole also expects the best from himself and everyone around him, and isn't very forgiving of those who he feels let him down. Olivia hasn't told anyone in Lucky Harbor that she used to be a child television star. She had liked the people she worked with and was devastated when the show was cancelled, so much so that she had quite the meltdown. Now she has reinvented herself, but she is getting pressure from her family, her agent and the network to do a reunion show, but she doesn't want to risk the new life she has built for herself. But when the truth comes out, she almost loses it anyway.

I loved the way the relationship developed between Cole and Olivia. The attraction was strong and hot between them, but the connection went deeper than that. Olivia sees past the front he shows everyone else to the pain that he is hiding. She's also pretty good at showing him that life's events can't be reduced to black and white, right or wrong, and that there are reasons that people do the things that they do. Because he doesn't know who she used to be, Cole shows Olivia that the person that she has become is someone that can be loved as she is. When the truth is revealed, both Cole and Olivia have to face up to their deepest fears before they can move on. I was impressed by the way Olivia took control of her future. I loved seeing Cole finally see the truth of the way he'd been living his life. His big moment in front of the entire town was sweet and romantic and the perfect ending for the book.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It's in His Kiss - Jill Shalvis (Grand Central - Sept 2014)

Series: Lucky Harbor (Book 10)


Becca Thorpe has uprooted her life and escaped to the beach. Now's her chance to get away from city living, throw caution to the ocean winds, and live in the moment. Especially if the moment includes the deliciously sexy surfer she meets shortly after arriving in Lucky Harbor. Something about the dark intensity of Sam's eyes and the thrill she gets at his touch convinces her to stay awhile.

Boatbuilder and investment genius Sam Brody is a self-made man who knows how dangerous it can be to mix business and pleasure. But he can't resist offering Becca a job just to hear her laugh and have her near. Yet when her brother comes to town asking for help, will he tempt her back to her glamorous life in the city? Or do Sam and little Lucky Harbor have a chance to win Becca's heart?

This is the first book in the final trilogy of Lucky Harbor books, and I am going to miss the whole crew. In this book, Becca is a newcomer to Lucky Harbor. In need of a change in her life, she packed up everything and drove until she stopped in Lucky Harbor. She'd always wanted to see the Pacific Ocean, and finally doing so soothes her soul. Something that isn't so soothing, but is equally intriguing, is the sexy surfer she meets on the beach. Between the two she decides to stay in Lucky Harbor for awhile and see where it takes her.

Sam is co-owner of Lucky Harbor Charters, a business he owns with his two best friends. He's the money guy in the business, with a knack for increasing their income. The cute and sexy brunette he meets on the beach is a complication he doesn't need in his life, but he can't seem to stay away from her.

I loved Becca. She's smart and feisty and determined to get her life back. She grew up as part of a very musical family and is talented on the piano. She also suffers from terrible stage fright, and after years of fighting it in order to help her younger brother and meet parental expectations, she's had enough. She quit touring with him and took a job writing jingles for an ad agency. That went well until she lost her "muse" and now she's struggling, and hopes that a fresh start will help her. I loved her upbeat personality that has her making the best of her crappy living quarters, and her attempt at waitressing was great. She finally finds the perfect job as the office manager for Sam's company, a job that creates some trouble for the relationship that is growing between them. 

Sam is a man who keeps his emotions locked up pretty tight. His childhood was rocky with no mother and a father who was irresponsible. Sam grew up quickly, learned how to manage what money his dad did bring home, but still ended up in foster care on a regular basis. Fortunately for him, the foster mother he ended up with was wonderful, and her son became like a brother to him. But his father's easy use of "love ya" without any action to back it up gave Sam a distrust of the words, preferring to judge people by their actions. 

Sam and Becca are attracted to each other from the moment they meet. The chemistry between them is hot. Becca is ready to seize the moment with him, but Sam is a little more wary. He senses that she could get past his walls and is soon proved right. I loved the way that their relationship develops. There's a great deal of teasing between them, with his nickname of "Peeper" for her because of the way he catches her watching him, and her calling him "sexy grumpy surfer" because he is. Sam is protective of Becca (loved the spider scene!) and wants to help her get past the things that have been dragging her down. I loved the way that he sees that she hasn't had much fun in her life and is determined to bring it to her now. At the same time Becca is drawn to Sam's confidence, but also sees the neglected boy underneath. In spite of the issues she has with her own parents, she tries to help Sam deal with his own father issues. The feelings they have for each other deepen and grow, but their ways of expressing those feelings are so different that it nearly drives them apart. I loved Sam's big moment at the Summer Bash, when he comes through for Becca in so many ways. I look forward to seeing more of them in the next books.

I also loved the secondary characters. Sam's two friends and partners are terrific. They know Sam and all his foibles and love him anyway. I also liked the way they had no trouble giving him a hard time about anything from Becca to answering the phones. They are also always ready to support him, and are there when he needs help with Becca or his father or anything else. I enjoyed the stories they told from when they were all kids, and also their time on the rigs and when they started their business. It gave a good insight into what made them all the way they were. Sam's dad was an interesting guy, and though I didn't like him much at the beginning, by the end I could see that he really was trying to change. Becca's family members were harder to like. Her brother Jase was selfish and immature and made me very glad that Becca had gotten away from his life. It said a lot about her that she didn't give up on him, but she also developed the strength to stand up to him, thanks to Sam. I didn't like her parents at all. Their appearance at the end, all contrite about the way they had treated her, didn't feel real. I had the feeling that they were just playing her a different way. Her new friend and neighbor Olivia seems really nice, and I liked seeing the friendship that developed between them, something that Becca hadn't ever had before. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her in the next book.

Monday, October 26, 2015

In the Air Tonight - Stephanie Tyler (Dell - Aug 2011)

Series: Shadow Force (Book 3)

With danger closing in, all they have is each other.

Haunted by a mission he barely survived, Delta Force operative Mace Stevens still carries a soldier’s burden. Running a small bar in upstate New York, he remains a stone cold warrior who guards dangerous secrets and stays ready for anything. Anything except beautiful, vulnerable Paige Grayson, who shows up at his door, demanding answers about her heroic stepbrother’s death under his command.

Paige bears burdens, too. She’s plagued by demons unleashed by an older brother who committed mass murder before her eyes. But here in this snowy haven with Mace, she almost feels safe from the menacing promises of her insane sibling. As a nurse whose hands can read the deepest thoughts of anyone she touches, Paige knows Mace needs her as desperately as she needs him. And when a faceless killer begins unleashing fresh terror, Mace proves just how far he will go to save the woman who means everything to him.

Good book with some excellent suspense. This book starts a few months after Promises in the Dark. The Delta Force guys participated in a mission that went bad and are on temporary leave as they deal with what happened. The team was captured and tortured, and Gray was killed. Mace is staying at the bar he owns in upstate New York, along with Caleb who has lost his memory. They are taking things one day at a time while they wait for Caleb's memory to return, when Paige Grayson shows up.

Paige has had a rough life. She watched her older brother murder her friends right in front of her. She grew up to become an ER nurse and just had the husband of a patient try to kill her. The resulting media frenzy brought her past back to the present. She decides it's a good time to get away, and go ask Mace for some answers about her brother Gray's death. 

Both Mace and Paige have secrets that haunt them. Mace feels guilty about not being able to save his friend or prevent the torture that caused Caleb's amnesia. He is determined to be there for Caleb as his memories return. Events from his childhood have also caused him to keep his feelings locked away. Paige is haunted by what her brother did and the feeling that she could have done something to stop him. She has a psychic ability that allows her to read someone's feelings when she touches them, and knew that her brother was up to something, but no one would believe her.

The relationship between Mace and Paige was an interesting one. They had met several years earlier when Mace was visiting with Gray. Paige had accidentally picked up a knife that belonged to him and got a sense of him that both scared and intrigued her. Mace was attracted to her even then, but as Gray's sister, the "bro-code" made her off limits. When she shows up at the bar, the heat between them is even stronger. But Mace is very wary of letting her get that close to him. I loved the slow build up of trust between them, as they are careful that Paige's hands do not touch him until they are both ready. I loved how that was shown when it happened and the effect it had on both of them.

The suspense of the story was excellent, as trouble followed Paige to Mace's. There are a couple of grisly murders, and Paige starts getting frightening messages from her imprisoned brother. The suspense builds as Paige and the guys try to figure out who is behind the murders and if they are connected to her brother. The final confrontation was intense with one character I expected and one who was a complete surprise to me. It definitely kept me glued to the book until I was all the way through.

The secondary story involving Caleb was very good. He had also been in the previous book, and seeing what he was going through in this one was heartbreaking. He had no memories of his past, just flashes of things that made him worry that while under the influence of the torture he had been the one to injure his friends. When his girlfriend from the previous book, Vivi, shows up he tries to keep her away because of it. I loved the way that she didn't give up on him, and showed him that she had confidence in his innocence. I loved seeing how their part in helping Paige also ended up helping him. We also get to see a little bit of the other members of the team, along with a lead in to the next book.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Temptation of Dr. Colton - Karen Whiddon (HRS #1860 - Aug 2015)

Series: Coltons of Oklahoma (Book 3)

After a hit-and-run, all the frightened victim can remember is the handsome Dr. Eric Colton, who rescued her. She has no identity and no memory, other than the flash of a gunshot and a man's name. But she knows she's in grave danger.

Eric can't explain his irresistible attraction to the mystery woman who, in hours, transforms him from workaholic surgeon to vigilant bodyguard. He can't let her out of his arms, not when danger stalks her. But why? What lies hidden in her mind? Eric doesn't know what she's forgotten, but he knows people will kill to ensure she never remembers…and it's up to him to stop them.

Very good book with excellent suspense and romantic tension. Eric is on his way home from work as an ER trauma surgeon when he witnesses a hit-and-run. As he gives assistance and accompanies her back to the hospital in the ambulance, Eric is strangely drawn to her. The next day he discovers that she has no memory of who she is or what happened. What he does know is that he can't let her go until they know more about her, so he takes her back to his place.

I really liked Eric. We haven't seen much of him in the previous books. He doesn't go home to the ranch very often and his relationship with his parents seems strained. In this book we learn more about why. In spite of this, he does have an excellent relationship with his siblings, and I enjoyed their encounters. They are also very supportive of Eric when he needs them. I loved his protectiveness toward MW (mystery woman).

I liked MW also. Her amnesia has her scared, but she doesn't fall apart. She doesn't know why Eric is so determined to help her, but she feels she can trust him, so she accepts it. She's also very attracted to him, but wary because she doesn't know if she's free to be. I liked the way that she tried to maintain some independence even when she was dependent on him. She had no trouble standing up for herself when she needed to.

I loved the development of their relationship. MW is a woman with a kind and sensitive heart, which is obvious even without knowing her background. I really liked the way that she was so aware of Eric's feelings around his family and how her presence helped him deal with them. I loved seeing Eric help her work through her feelings as her memory started to return. Eric was surprised when he realized that what he was feeling for her was more than just attraction. It only added to his determination to keep her safe. Once she remembered everything, MW wanted to protect him from the trouble she was in. I liked seeing the way that they worked through everything and came out stronger in the end.

The suspense of the story was really good. It started fast with the hit-and-run, and kept the action going with the attempts on her life. As each bit of memory returned, the more the sense of danger increased. When all was revealed, the intensity really picked up. The car wreck and kidnapping kept me reading, and I was happy to see the way that MW really kept her head. I was expecting a wild ride, and have to say that the ending was a bit anticlimactic. 

There was a little more progress on the series storyline involving the attack on Eric's mother. There are indications that she knows something about what happened to her that she isn't sharing with anyone else. There are also still questions about the skeleton that was found in the first book. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Her Christmas Protector - Geri Krotow (HRS #1873 - Nov 2015)

Series: Silver Valley PD (Book 1)

A Sinister Silent Night

Two female ministers have been shot in the heart of Silver Valley, Pennsylvania. Now Zora Krasny, navy veteran turned undercover operative, is posing as a new preacher. That means her life's on the line, yet it's the only way to smoke out a psychopath. But she's not alone. She's got the best of the Silver Valley P.D. at her side -- Detective Bryce Campbell, the high school boyfriend Zora left behind when she joined the navy. Bryce must pose as her fiancé, so he can stay close and protect Zora. It's a role they're both finding way too easy to play. But with the killer's imminent Christmas countdown, Zora and Bryce can't afford any distractions.

Very good book with excellent suspense and a terrific reunion romance. After her years in the navy, Zora became a counselor and moved back to Silver Valley to open her own practice. She also has a secondary job that no one is aware of, as an undercover operative. She has avoided getting in contact with any of her old friends, especially her old boyfriend Bryce, but now she has no choice. Someone is killing female preachers and Zora's mission is to pose as one to draw him out. As a detective on the police force, Bryce will be playing the part of her fiance, to stay close to her and protect her.

I liked Zora a lot. She's a strong woman with a calling to help people. She's a bit nervous about pulling off her role, but it's working with Bryce that has her emotions all wound up. She still feels badly about the way she broke up with him all those years ago, but at the time she thought it was the right thing to do. Now she discovers that her feelings for him never really died. 

Bryce is a terrific guy. He has his own drive to help people, which is what pushed him into law enforcement. He's never forgotten Zora, and he was stunned to find her as the replacement preacher. Right away his protective feelings went from professional to personal. He knows that the only way to keep her safe is to keep his mind on the job, but that's much easier said than done.

I loved the rekindling of their relationship. The fact that they knew each other so well in the past gives them a good place to start getting to know each other as adults. I really enjoyed seeing how easy it was for them to pretend to be engaged. The biggest thing that Zora had to deal with was allowing herself to trust Bryce with the full truth about her past. Once she did that, I loved seeing how emotions that she'd been burying for years started to reemerge. Bryce's reaction to what she told him made me love him even more. His sensitivity to what she'd been through, and his admiration for what she had done were great. I also liked the way that they were determined to keep their personal feelings on hold until after the killer was caught. There were a few slips, but I loved how their dedication kept them focused.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. There was the issue of the guy who was killing the female preachers. I liked the parts where we got his point of view, so that we could see what his motivations were. While his identity was revealed to the reader early, it didn't diminish the story at all. The suspense continued to build as it got closer to when they expected him to strike. The final confrontation was intense, and kept me riveted until it was over.

There was also a secondary storyline involving the reappearance of Zora's mother and if it was connected to the release of some former cult members from prison. I completely understood Zora's reluctance to have anything to do with the woman. I hurt for her after that last scene with her mother. I also suspect that we haven't heard the last about the cult members. 

The secondary characters were also good. I liked Zora's boss Claudia, who is an amazing woman and leader. There's an interesting vibe between her and Bryce's boss, the police chief, that I suspect will play a part in a later book.  I also liked Bryce's friend Rio. I hope he gets his own story too.

Forbidden to Love the Duke - Jillian Hunter (Signet - Feb 2015)

Series: Fenwick Sisters Affairs (Book 1)

Lady Ivy Fenwick is desperate. Since her father's fatal duel, she and her sisters have sold off every valuable possession to make ends meet. With the manor stripped bare, Ivy has one last resort: Apply as governess to the Duke of Ellsworth's wards.

James should have known better than to hire the desirable lady who had fallen on hard times--and who tempts him at every turn. As her employer, he tries valiantly to remain noble and not let a kiss they shared as strangers years ago entice him. Yet the more he learns of Ivy's secrets, the more he wants her. And when another suitor proves aggressive, James is confronted with a challenge: Surrender Ivy or fight for the woman he's come to love against all odds, knowing that it takes a scoundrel to trump a scoundrel.

Good book. James and Ivy had met briefly five years earlier at the first ball she attended. James was a soldier, headed off to war the next day. They shared a kiss that neither has ever forgotten. Life intervened and they hadn't seen each other since.

Now, Ivy and her sisters live in seclusion at Fenwick Manor. The night of the ball her father was accused of cheating at cards and was killed in a duel. Since then, Ivy and her sisters have been scrimping and saving to pay off his debts. They have finally succeeded in that, but if they are going to keep their home they need some income. Ivy decides that she will find a position as a governess.

James recently returned from the war with a career ending injury. After his father's death it's up to him to fulfill his ducal duties. He's not quite ready to marry and have kids, so he decides to invite a potential mistress to his home and live  it up for a few weeks first. On his way to his estate, he passes Fenwick and decides he wants to buy it, whether the owner wants to sell or not. His encounter in the garden is pretty amusing. When he arrives at his home, he discovers his niece and nephew in residence. His brother is still at war and the children's mother has run off with her lover. He doesn't want to change his plans with his mistress, so he decides to hire a governess. His first interview is with Ivy who he recognizes and decides to hire. 

The attraction is still there, but they initially plan to ignore it, even though a shared kiss is inflammatory. Ivy needs the money and James still wants his time to play. But resistance is futile and James soon decides that Ivy would be the perfect wife for him. He just needs to woo her to his way of thinking. The chemistry between them is hot, and they discover that they can't keep their hands off each other. Another man shows up, wanting to court Ivy, which gives James more motivation to claim Ivy as quickly as he can.

The other man, Oliver, actually has more on his mind than winning Ivy. She is just the means to an end. He has heard that there is a treasure hidden at Fenwick and he wants it. Though he is pursuing Ivy, he also wonders if he'd do better to go after one of the other sisters instead. Though his reasons for being there aren't the best, he does have some redeeming qualities. There's also a surprise connection to the prospective mistress. In the end, Oliver ends up on the right side of the issues. I have a feeling he'll be playing a larger role in a future book.

I liked seeing the relationship develop between Ivy and James, though I sometimes felt that he was relying too much on the physical to win her. I enjoyed his protectiveness as the strange happenings at Fenwick Manor became more dangerous. I also liked the way Ivy took care of James when his war injury flared up. The epilogue was great and shows good promise for their future.

The mystery of the Fenwick treasure ran throughout the book. Oliver certainly created some real problems for them with his pursuit of it. I didn't feel like there was a real resolution with it, so I expect that it will show up again in later books.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Match for Marcus Cynster - Stephanie Laurens (Mira - June 2015)

Series: Cynster (Book 24)

Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be and with whom will he share it?

Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her -- even from himself. Fickle Fate, he's sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her.

Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan's reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity.

Soon, she's forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem.

Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver's side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth -- that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster.

Very good book. I love the Cynsters stories and this one lived up to my expectations. We got to know Marcus somewhat in The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. He is the twin brother of Lucilla, who is heir to their mother as the Lady of the Vale. His role growing up was to protect and assist his sister, until such time as she marries. She has done so, leaving him now with no purpose. He does know that his future lies in the area where he grew up, and that Fate knows exactly who will share his life. He just needs the patience to wait for it to be revealed.

Niniver is the only daughter of the late Laird of Carrick. Thanks to various events outlined in the previous book (but mentioned in this one, so it can be read as a stand alone) and at the beginning of this one, she ends up as the Lady of Carrick, leader of the clan and the one with the responsibility of bringing the clan back from the brink of disaster. She is determined to stay unmarried, as any husband would expect to take over as leader, and that isn't possible. But when she has to spend valuable time fending off the attentions of unwanted suitors, she knows she needs help. Her neighbor, Marcus, had once told her that if she ever needed help, to ask and she is desperate enough to do so.

Thus starts the story of two people who are perfect for each other, but need to be convinced. Marcus has been attracted to Niniver for a couple years, but believes that Fate would not be so kind as to give him what he wants so easily. In many ways, he is right. He is reluctant to agree with the method of help she suggests, sensing that there could be pitfalls for both of them. Her method of convincing him was unique, but effective. It isn't too long before Marcus realizes that Niniver is the woman meant for him, but winning her hand isn't going to be easy. Because she is the head of the clan, he knows that he must be very careful not to diminish her in the eyes of her people. He can help and support, but he can't take over. For most men of this time period that would be an impossibility, but Marcus is a Cynster. He has been raised around strong and capable women and has enough confidence in his own manhood not to be threatened by her. The fact that his own father, and now his sister's husband, are in the same position has given him the perfect examples to follow. I loved being able to see his thoughts as he worked out the best ways to show her that he was the man for her. His sensitivity to her needs was outstanding. His only drawback was his reluctance to tell her of his feelings until he was sure that she felt the same way. That almost caused a permanent rift between them, until fate once again intervened.

Niniver had known Marcus all her life and had always been fascinated by him. But he is a Cynster, and far above her in her opinion, so she had never allowed herself to think of him as anything but a neighbor and friend. After the deaths of her father and older brothers, she is stunned to find that the clan considers her to be the logical successor to leading the clan. Though she has had no training (she is a woman, after all), she makes a vow to do whatever necessary to save the clan. She's reluctant to ask Marcus's help because she knows that she could easily fall in love with him, but he's really her only choice. Once she gains his consent, they are locked into spending quite a bit of time together. Niniver realizes that she was right to be worried about her heart, as she falls and falls hard. The last thing she wants is to become an object of pity, because there's no way he could feel the same way, so she buries her feelings deep so that he won't suspect.

I loved seeing the relationship develop. They had so much in common, such as their love of the dogs they bred and the lands they lived on. One of the best things about Marcus was that he understood Niniver so well and knew what she needed from him, even if she didn't yet realize it. There were wonderful scenes of him standing behind her as she dealt with various issues, there to support her but not interfere. The scene with two different tradesmen was a perfect demonstration. The scenes where he dealt with her unwanted suitors were really fun, especially the one who came to serenade her. The more time they spent together, the more their attraction grew, until they were no longer able to fight it. Marcus hoped that it would help her see what they could have together, but Niniver believed that only a short term affair was possible. When a misunderstanding has her believing that he is bowing down to pressure from the clan to marry her, she is devastated and sends him away.

There is one suitor who refuses to be chased away. He is desperate to gain Niniver's hand and everything that goes with it, even though she makes it plain that he has no chance. The things he does put her in danger, and nearly kill both her and Marcus. The final confrontation with him was quite intense in places, and very well done. The resolution was excellent and perfect for the life that Marcus and Niniver want going forward. The epilogue was great, and makes me wonder if Sebastian will be the next cousin to fall. I can't wait to see if I'm right.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Countess and the Cowboy - Elizabeth Lane (HH #1247 - Sept 2015)

A new life in Wyoming!

Newly widowed, Eve Townsend is left with a grand title and not a penny to her name. She doesn't know what future she can build in the Wild West…but she's ready to learn, and to reunite with her family.

When she arrives in Wyoming, she discovers her beloved sister's death and sets about caring for her niece and nephew. But burly Clint Lonigan is everywhere she turns! Even though he's Eve's opposite in every way, maybe a rough-mannered cowboy is just what this genteel countess needs…

Good book with an interesting story line. Back in England Eve's husband died and left her with nothing, so she decided to go to her sister, who had married an American. After an exhausting and eventful journey, she arrived in Wyoming to discover that her sister has died. She's determined to stay and care for her niece and nephew, but things aren't quite what they seem.

Clint meets Eve on the stagecoach and is drawn to her beauty and her strength when dealing with an attack on the coach. But she is joining the household of his enemy and he isn't sure that he can trust her. He is caught in the middle of a range war, between cattle barons like her brother-in-law, Roderick, and local farmers and homesteaders. But if he can show Eve the truth of what is happening, maybe she will help them.

I liked Clint a lot. He's rough and gruff on the outside, but he's a good man where it counts. He's still mourning his wife, who was killed during an attack on his property. He doesn't expect to love again, so his attraction to Eve takes him by surprise. He's suspicious of her at the beginning, but takes a chance when he uses her to rescue a friend. He explains what is going on and asks for her help. I liked the way that he decided to trust her, and how his protectiveness started to grow along with his feelings. 

Eve was great. I loved her courage in pursuing a brand new life. I enjoyed her thoughts as she learned about her new country and became accustomed to its differences. She also has a very loving heart, and her determination to care for her sister's children put her in some uncomfortable situations. I thought she handled Roderick very well. She was surprised by her attraction to Clint, and her feelings were very different than what she had felt for her husband. She had some prejudices that she had to overcome, but she did that quickly and saw Clint for who he really was. I loved her strength and ingenuity as she helped Clint. 

Romance tended to move fast in the old west, and Clint and Eve were no exception. I think that working for a common cause helped that along. The times that they were together the chemistry burned hot between them and those scenes were great. Though he had a brief moment of doubt toward the end, I liked the faith that Clint had in Eve's trustworthiness. What happened at the end showed them how much they cared. 

The story line of the range war was interesting and gave good insight into some of the conflicts that happened during that period of history. The creep factor was definitely there in Roderick, and I felt that he definitely got what he deserved at the end. The build up to the final confrontation was really good. Eve was quite clever in some of the things she did, and her actions made a big impact on what happened. I liked the epilogue and finding out what happened to some of the other characters in the story.

The Rebel - Adrienne Giordano (HI #1598 - Oct 2015)

Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider -- at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn't want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Loved this book, the latest in the series about the Hennings family and their friends/coworkers. It begins with a Chicago detective finding a skull while walking his dog. Five years later the victim has still not been identified and the detective is looking for help. Enter Amanda, an artist and sculptress, who the detective asks to do a reconstruction from the skull. She initially refuses, but is overheard by Mrs. Hennings, David's mother. She talks him into seeing if he can convince Amanda to take on the project.

David has just moved back to Chicago after living and working in Boston for several years. He has never felt like he fit in with his family of rather intense criminal lawyers. As the oldest, he was expected to join the family firm, but that wasn't what he wanted to do. Being able to live his own life took moving far away from his family. But now he wants a chance to mend fences and connect with them again. He doesn't expect his mom to rope him into her latest project. He especially doesn't expect the instant attraction between himself and Amanda. I really enjoyed seeing how he showed his individuality, and loved the motorcycle riding, bad boy image.

Amanda is very reluctant to take on the forensic sculpture job. Her mother had done that before her death and Amanda remembers all too well the emotional trauma that it caused her. Thanks to her mother's extreme emotional highs and lows, Amanda has led a life that she works hard to keep on an even keel. She avoids anything that could wind her up, until David appears at her door. The man is seriously sexy and has a way of overcoming all her misgivings. As soon as she agrees to help, her life goes completely crazy.

Within hours of her agreement, the building where she lives and works is shut down, her bank accounts are frozen, and the plaster cast of the skull is stolen. Many of her paintings are destroyed in another attack. Throughout it all, David is at her side as they try to track down who is doing these things, and why. David is determined to protect her from whoever is causing the problems. As they try to track the clues they uncover, it becomes obvious that someone doesn't want her to finish what she started. It was really interesting to see the way it all came together. I was totally surprised by who was behind it and the reasons for their actions. I could not put it down until I finished it.

I loved seeing the relationship grow between David and Amanda. The chemistry was hot from the very beginning. I liked the way that David accepted it and wanted to pursue it. I loved the way that he saw her hesitation and understood what caused it, but he wasn't going to give up. Amanda fought her feelings hard. She didn't want to deal with the riot of emotions that being around him brought out. I loved seeing the way that they balanced each other. David brought a sense of fun and spontaneity to Amanda's life, and Amanda's calm helped to temper David's volatility. I loved how they realized that neither was perfect, that their relationship would always be a work in progress.

The family dynamics were wonderful. David was mentioned in previous books, and I always got the impression that he wanted nothing to do with them. In this book we got to see what had driven him away. I loved seeing him come home wanting to be part of the family again. The relationship he has with his mom is a good one. I loved seeing the way that she was able to get him to do exactly what she wanted him to do, and that he saw what she was doing and didn't resist. He gives a great description of his relationship to his mom when he's talking to Amanda about her. I liked that he and his brother didn't really have any problems between them and got along well. It was the relationship with his sister Penny that had the most turmoil. There were times that I wanted to smack her, because she really seemed to be doing her best to piss him off. She definitely came off as being something of a spoiled brat. David made up his mind that he wanted to fix things, but stopping the bickering was harder than he thought it would be. There were a few moments when I thought they were never going to get through it. Once again their mom steps in, and I loved seeing her lay down the law.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lone Wolf Lawman - Delores Fossen (HI #1599 - Nov 2015)

Series: Appaloosa Pass Ranch (Book 1)

A Texas Ranger must protect the daughter of a serial killer from becoming his next victim…

Breaking into the home of the woman who shared his bed three months ago isn't Weston Cade's usual MO. But the Texas Ranger is on a personal vendetta to catch a killer, and Addie Crockett is the man's biological daughter. The beautiful rancher also happens to be carrying Wes's child…

Addie can't remember her birth father, but she'll never forget the lover who took her to bed -- and then disappeared. Now she has to trust Wes with her life. And the life of their unborn baby. As desire reignites, Addie quickly discovers that with this lawman by her side, she just might escape the target on her back.

Good book with lots of action. Addie recently discovered that her biological father is a serial killer, something that has turned her life upside down. Three months earlier, right after she found out, she had a one night stand with a rodeo cowboy and is now pregnant with his baby. Then that same cowboy breaks into her house and she finds out that he's not a cowboy, he's a Texas Ranger. He's determined to catch the killer, and she's his only link. 

Wes hadn't planned to sleep with Addie that night, just get to know her a little and find out what she might know about her father. Instead, the immediate attraction that he felt for her took over and things got out of hand. He left, and didn't contact her again because he felt guilty about lying to her and had received letters threatening death if he contacted her. Now he's back because she is in danger, too. He's ready to use her as bait, until he finds out about the baby, then protection is the first thing on his mind.

Wes barely finishes his explanations before the first attack comes. From there on the action is nonstop as the killer focuses on getting rid of Addie. As she  hadn't seen her father since she was three years old and had no memory of him, she didn't know why he was after her. But after trying hypnosis to recover something from the past, it becomes obvious he is afraid of what she might remember. No one has ever seen his face, and all they have is DNA to identify him. As Addie, Wes and the others follow various clues to find out who he is, the attacks continue and intensify. There are multiple suspects and each one seems to have an equal chance of being the one. Another attacker shows up with a surprising connection to Addie, and no one is sure exactly what his motives are. There are several twists and turns before the final confrontation comes, including another law enforcement officer with a personal reason to find the killer. The final confrontation was intense, with multiple players. Some questions get answered by the end, but others are left hanging, waiting for the next books in the series.

The relationship between Wes and Addie moved fast because of the baby and the danger. Being with each other constantly gave them the chance to get to know each other and the attraction to grow into love. I liked the way that Wes was sensitive to Addie's inner turmoil and helped her cope with her feelings about it. Wes knew that he wanted to stay involved with Addie and the baby, but his true feelings didn't hit him until the end. I loved the scene in the sheriff's office when he finally accepted the truth. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in the later books.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reckonings - Cynthia Eden (HI #1593 - Oct 2015)

Series: Battling McGuire Boys (Book 4)

New town, new name…more trouble!

Dr. Jamie Myers has tried outrunning her past, but now someone is stalking her, leaving her deadly messages. Once, she'd trusted the wrong man. So how can she rely on Davis McGuire, the fiercely handsome ex-SEAL she's hired as a bodyguard? And how can she ignore the way his hands-on attention excites her?

One of McGuire Securities' best, Davis wants to protect the sexy doc 24/7 and play by the rules. But as Jamie's stalker grows bolder, Davis's desire grows stronger. Soon he's breaking all his rules -- so he can uncover Jamie's secrets in order to protect her…and discover the key to her heart.

Very good book, with plenty of action from the very beginning. Davis has been attracted to Jamie for a year, ever since she became the vet for the family ranch. He's just made his move at his sister's wedding (hilarious scene!) when their dance is interrupted. Jamie gets a call from her security company that her house has been broken into. He sees her fear and insists on going with her.

Jamie has been running from her past for a long time, but she's just started to feel safe. Dancing with Davis reminds her of everything she's missed, but also that she's been burned in the past. But when her house in broken into, she's afraid that her past has come back to haunt her. She asks for Davis's help, and gets so much more than she expects.

I loved Davis. He may be a big, bad, former SEAL, but he's also a pretty sensitive guy. He saw her wariness from the beginning and took his time, getting to know her a little first. When the trouble began he was determined to keep her safe, even though his brother Sullivan had doubts about what Jamie told them. Jamie was terrific also. She had been through so much, and came through it much stronger than she believes. She wants Davis's help, but she is also afraid that he could get hurt because of her. I really liked seeing how Davis's confidence in her helped her gain the strength of will to stand up to her stalker and stop running.

Their romance moved quickly, thanks to the danger they were in. I loved how Davis's belief in her helped Jamie to open up to him. I was a bit frustrated that she held back at first, but it was believable because of her past. Davis was a little slow to admit his feelings, but he suspected that he was in pretty deep. It was fun to see the teasing he got from his brothers, but the support was there too. Jamie took a little longer to realize the strength of her feelings, I think mostly because of the guilt she felt for bringing her trouble to him. I especially liked how Jamie told him how she felt, even in the middle of the final confrontation. 

The action and suspense in the book was great. The escalation of the stalker's actions kept me turning the pages. There were also several twists and turns that made identifying the stalker a little more difficult. I loved the involvement of Davis's brothers, and how they supported him even when they had some doubts about what was happening. The final confrontation was intense, and the stalker really creepy. There were also some really interesting things that came out about the events of Jamie's past. It was a very good ending. The epilogue was terrific, and I loved the part with Jamie's bouquet.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Her Undercover Defender - Debra Webb, Regan Black (HI #1602 - Nov 2015)

Series: Specialists: Heroes Next Door (Book 4)

She's the perfect pawn

Covert CIA specialist David Martin has his orders. Keep a terrorist cell from using Terri Barnhart as leverage to get their hands on a nearly perfected biotech weapon. Falling for her could compromise his mission and turn the dedicated nurse into a moving target.

With her brother off the radar for three months, Terri fears the worst. Having the sexy Southerner to lean on helps -- except the hospital's new staff member isn't what he seems. To survive, she'll have to trust David with her life -- trusting him with her heart is something else entirely.

Very good book. David is one of a new type of operative, one who is given a permanent undercover assignment to be on the lookout for terrorist activity. In his case, he is sent to Charleston to keep an eye on Terri, a nurse who is connected to a research doctor. They are worried that someone could use her to get to the doctor.

I really liked David. He's a nice guy, who feels a little guilty about getting to know Terri under what he feels are false pretenses. It gets worse when he realizes that he really likes her for herself, not just his mission. When the action starts to heat up, his protective instincts really kick in. I really enjoyed seeing the way that he stood up for her against the way her brother was treating her.

Terri hasn't had it easy the last few years. Her parents were killed and her brother badly injured in a car crash. She devoted most of her non-working time to helping her brother recover, and finally got him off to college a couple months earlier. But then he disappeared without a word to her, and she's worried about him. David's attention has been a great distraction, and when Trey's return seems to coincide with some strange happenings, she's very glad to have David by her side.

I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between David and Terri. It started as a simple friendship, with them getting to know each other and doing some fun things together. David had the extra motivation of his mission, but he found himself attracted to Terri also. That worried him because of the potential distraction from what he was supposed to be doing. I liked the sweet things he did for her, like the flowers he sent and walking her to her door. As the time went on, David's feelings started to deepen, causing even more conflict within him, especially if she were to find out the truth of who he is. Terri starts out looking at David as just a friend. They have fun together and she enjoys his company without the added stress of a relationship. But after a couple months things begin to change, and David makes it clear that he's ready for something more. She's a little wary, but when her brother comes back, she finds herself leaning on David more and more, as things about Trey begin to scare her. I loved seeing her feelings for him grow as he is there for her through all the danger. When it was all done, I loved how they realized that they were stronger together than apart.

The mystery/suspense part of the story was fantastic. David's part in protecting Terri at the same time he needed to stop whoever was after her boss kept the action humming right along. Trey was a character that I had mixed feelings about by the end. When he came back, I did not like the way he treated Terri. He definitely had the attitude of a spoiled brat, and one that really had no idea of what he had gotten himself involved in. I enjoyed his confrontations with David, because he so obviously came out on the short side of them. His attitude toward David seemed to be a combination of suspicion because of what Trey was involved in, and jealousy because Terri cared for him. I loved David's ability to puzzle out just what was going on, and how he thought it was going to happen. The final confrontation was really intense and I wasn't sure who was going to come out of it at the end. I still wanted to shake Trey, but he redeemed himself a little bit. I thought that Terri handled herself and the things she found out very well.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Willowleaf Lane - RaeAnne Thayne (HQN - June 2013)

Series: Hope's Crossing (Book 5)

Sometimes going back is the best way to start over

Candy shop owner Charlotte Caine knows temptation. To reboot her life, shed weight and gain perspective, she's passing up sweet enticements left and right. But willpower doesn't come so easily when hell-raiser Spencer Gregory comes back to Hope's Crossing, bringing with him memories of broken promises and teen angst. A retired pro baseball player on the mend from injury -- and a damaging scandal -- he's interested in his own brand of reinvention.

Now everything about Spencer's new-and-improved lifestyle, from his mission to build a rehab facility for injured veterans to his clear devotion to his preteen daughter, Peyton, touches Charlotte's heart. Holding on to past hurt is her only protection against falling for him -- again. But if she takes the risk, will she find in Spencer a hometown heartbreaker, or the hero she's always wanted?

Good small town reunion story. Charlotte is a lifelong resident of Hope's Crossing. She lost her mother at a young age and used food as comfort, leading her to become very overweight. Her high school years were miserable because of it, the only bright side being her crush on Spencer Gregory, the high school baseball star. Recently, she has taken control of her life, lost a lot of weight, and feels much better about herself. Then Spencer returns to town, throwing her life back into turmoil.

Spencer couldn't wait to leave Hope's Crossing when he was a teen. The son of an alcoholic mother, he spent his teen years working three jobs just to keep their lives together. When he was offered a baseball contract, he took it and never looked back. Now he is back, trying to put his life back together. His career ended with a shoulder injury, during which he got hooked on painkillers. He came through rehab stronger, but was then accused of dealing drugs and steroids to fellow teammates, lost his wife to a drug overdose, and is now the sole parent to his twelve year old daughter Peyton. With nothing left for him in the baseball world, he accepts the offer to run the new recreation center in Hope's Crossing. Peyton is angry about being taken away from her friends, and the people of Hope's Crossing aren't too sure they want Spencer running the center.

Charlotte is stunned to find out that Spencer is back in Hope's Crossing. She first met his daughter, before she knew who Peyton was, and  recognized some similarities in their lives. But she's not too sure she wants anything to do with Spencer and his problems. Plus, she can't forget the way he broke her heart as a teenager. Though she is wary around him, the old feelings are still there, and she finds herself drawn back into his life. She fights it because she can't see anything between them ending well.

Charlotte is suspicious of his intentions at the beginning. She thinks he is only back in Hope's Crossing as a way to repair his reputation, but he slowly begins to show her that he wants more. I liked the way that Spencer wants to repair his relationship with Peyton, and how hurt he is by her attitude toward him. I thought he did a really good job of keeping his patience with her. He was very glad to be able to get Charlotte to help him connect with Peyton. Spencer remembers what a good friend Charlotte had been when they were in school, but now there is something more that he starts to feel for her. I liked the way he wants to show her that he's not the same jerk he was back in school.

When Spencer first came back to town, he was still feeling a bit lost. Without baseball he isn't sure who he really is. I liked the way he started to feel more a part of things while working at the center, and things really took off for him when Peyton suggested that he find a way to work with wounded veterans. That cause really appealed to him and he felt an enthusiasm he hadn't felt in years.

I loved the rekindling of the relationship between Spencer and Charlotte. I really liked that Spencer saw the woman inside Charlotte, not just the new and hot outside. I also liked the way that Charlotte was able to look past the scandal surrounding him, remember who he had been, and realize that there was more to the story than the public knew. It was really good to see how they each brought out the best in the other. I really liked how Charlotte was there for Spencer when Peyton had a health crisis, and was able to help both of them get through it. Spencer finally realized what his feelings for Charlotte were, but she still has issues with herself and can't believe that there's any chance of a future for them together. I loved the way Spencer got help from her friends and made his case in a really sweet and romantic way.

I really liked the part that Peyton played in bringing Spencer and Charlotte together. Spencer loves his daughter, but he is somewhat lost in knowing how to deal with her. There were times that Peyton was a real brat, and I felt sorry for Spencer. Charlotte recognizes a lot of the same things in Peyton that she went through herself, so she tries to help Peyton settle in. It was pretty easy to see the problem that was building for Peyton, and when it came I liked that Spencer was determined to do whatever he needed to. Charlotte's support was just what they both needed to become the father-daughter team that they were capable of.

The ending of the story was great. The veteran's center was really coming together quickly. It was also interesting to see Spencer's former teammates come out to support him, and show how much they respect him. There was an interesting twist involving one of those teammates, which led to a very satisfying revelation.