Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thirty Days to Win His Wife - Andrea Laurence (HD #2356 - Feb 2015)

Series: Brides and Belles (Book 2)

Even with a baby on the way, Amelia's holding out for the perfect husband. Tyler has thirty days to prove he's the one.

Best friends Tyler Dixon and Amelia Kennedy eloped to Vegas on a whim. But before they can deal with their quickie divorce, she confesses: she's pregnant. Now there's no way Tyler will agree to go their separate ways. He wants them to stay married, raise their child together, share a house -- and a bed.

Yet Amelia has always dreamed of a perfect marriage…and she doesn't think this self-made millionaire is lifetime material despite their friendship. She's given him just one month to prove her wrong…

Good friends to lovers story. Amelia and Tyler have been best friends since high school. In a lighthearted pact they promised that if neither was married by their tenth reunion they would marry each other. Fast forward ten years to that reunion and, fueled by a little too much tequila they follow through on that promise. They also had a passionate wedding night, but in the light of day decided that they were better off as friends.

Tyler has a job that keeps him traveling, so it's several weeks before he gets to Nashville to talk to Amelia about their divorce. Amelia is ready for him, but there's a little kink in the plan - she's pregnant. She's still fine with the divorce, but Tyler isn't. He wants to do the whole family thing with her and their baby.

This is where things get complicated. Tyler doesn't want to be a part time father. He feels that he and Amelia can stay married and raise their child together. It doesn't matter that they aren't "in love", they are friends, which is better. Tyler was in love once before and it ended badly, so he isn't going to risk his heart again. Amelia doesn't agree. She has been planning her wedding since she was five and has been waiting for the perfect groom. She and Tyler may be friends but she sure doesn't see him stepping into that role. She wants a marriage like the one her grandparents have, based on true love. So she challenges Tyler to make her fall in love with him in just one month.

I liked Tyler. He really wanted them to be a family and was willing to do whatever he could to make it happen. Having been friends with Amelia for so long, he knows her really well, so he knows what buttons to push. He listens to her requirements and actually tries to fulfill them. One bad thing he does is tries to hold back his feelings to protect his heart. He doesn't see that the way Amelia has always been so important to him is an indication of his true feelings. I loved seeing him trying to do things that would make her happy. It was especially nice to see him help her with the food prep for one of the weddings.

I got a bit frustrated with Amelia. She had this unrealistic view of the perfect marriage and the perfect groom. I wanted to shake her and tell her to grow up. She also had a real aversion to accepting overt signs of caring from any man. Her father is the overprotective type that didn't encourage any kind of independence, and that makes it hard for her to accept that kind of help from any man. She sees it as taking over rather than caring. It takes awhile for her to see the difference in the way that Tyler treats her. When she lays down the rules for him, she forgets that he would see it as a challenge. She isn't sure what to make of all the things he does.

As the days of the challenge go by, I loved seeing them get closer. Their friendship was still there, but the attraction added another level to it. But both of them were so busy protecting themselves that they couldn't see the love that was already there. The scenes at the house, then at the hospital were heartbreaking and I cried for both of them. I loved the talk that Amelia had with her grandmother and Tyler's sudden appearance. The ending was sweet and I loved the epilogue. I can't wait for the rest of the series.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Winter Bride - Anne Gracie (Berkley - Apr 2014)

Series: Chance Sisters (Book 2)

Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway -- and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun.

When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him -- as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride.

Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

I loved this book just as much as I did the first book The Autumn Bride. I was a little worried about Freddy being the hero in this one, as he seemed to be more comic relief than anything else in the first book. But it turned out that there was a lot more to Freddy than was first apparent. 

Freddy is a determined bachelor. He has been enjoying the life of a rake, able to do as he wants and answering to no one. His mother is determined to see him married, and as a result he has a deep dislike, almost fear, of what he calls muffins - young ladies who are determined to trap him in marriage. When his best friend Max (The Autumn Bride) leaves on his honeymoon, he asks Freddy to look after his aunt and the other three girls while he's away. Freddy is horrified, but reluctantly agrees. Daisy and Jane are no problem, but Damaris is something else entirely.

Damaris is just as determined as Freddy never to marry. She grew up in China as the daughter of a missionary. It had not been a good life, as her father was a self-righteous prig who only got worse after her mother died when Damaris was twelve. When her father was murdered, Damaris made her own way to England, enduring hardships that caused decision not to marry. She has a fear of being left penniless again, and has found a job painting china in order to earn some money for herself. Freddy is appalled when he finds her walking in a poor part of town and because of his promise to Max, insists on escorting her when she refuses to quit her job.

When his mother's efforts to marry him off become unbearable, Freddy comes up with the idea of a fake engagement. As he can't ask just anybody, he goes to Damaris with his proposition, knowing that she won't hold him to it. She is reluctant at first, but he manages to convince her with the promise of a cottage of her own when they are done. Though he starts out thinking mainly of himself, spending time with Damaris soon has him thinking more about her than he thought he would. He begins to think that marriage to her wouldn't be a bad thing at all, though admitting his feelings to himself is something he resists.

Freddy and Damaris are perfect for each other. Though he gives the impression of being a carefree fribble, his charm and humor hide an excellent mind and a kind heart. It also hides a soul riddled with pain over his brother's death when they were children, and the hurtful way his parents still treat him because of it. When Freddy takes Damaris to his home, she begins to see the real Freddy. Damaris is hiding her own pain and secrets, ones that are keeping her from her dream of a man that would love her and take care of her. As she gets to know him, she falls in love, but believes that he would turn from her if he knew the truth about her.

The trip to Freddy's home brought out so much emotion in both of them. Damaris was appalled at the way his parents treated Freddy, especially once she knew what had happened. I loved seeing her stand up to them and try to make them see how terribly they have been treating them. The effect is has on Freddy just makes him care more for her. He gets his chance to show his feelings when they get stranded in a flood. Damaris can't imagine going forward with their engagement without telling him the truth about her. Freddy's reaction is just what she needs, and she starts to believe that there is a chance that her dreams could come true after all. I loved his patience and his determination to win his prize.

There was a lot of humor in this story, from Freddy's efforts to avoid "muffins" and his encounter with Damaris's coworkers, to Lady Bea's tendency to do exactly what she wants to get her way. I loved Freddy's efforts to get his business partner Flynn properly dressed for his plans to marry a society woman, and their boxing match later that day. The scene toward the end when Abby and Damaris go chasing after Max and Freddy was both fun and emotional.

There were also moments that had me reaching for the tissues, such as Damaris's telling of what happened on the voyage to England, and the awesome way that Freddy showed her that it was her strength that he found so much more important. Damaris's fears when Freddy went tearing off to London were intense, but his reasons were so romantic. The final chapter with the reappearance of Freddy's parents was wonderful.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Falling for Max - Shannon Stacey (Carina Press - Aug 2014)

Series: Kowalski (Book 9)

Max Crawford has reached the point in life where he's starting to think about settling down. Unfortunately, he's always been a little awkward when it comes to social interactions, and working from home doesn't help. He spends so much time alone, painting beautiful, historically accurate model trains that half of Whitford has begun to joke that he may be a serial killer. Not exactly prime husband material.

Tori Burns has found happiness in Maine, thanks in large part to her shifts at the Trailside Diner. She likes the work, and she loves the local gossip. When shy, geeky Max Crawford becomes a regular, she's intrigued. When she finds out he's in the market for a wife, she's fascinated...and determined to help.

Molding Max into every woman's dream turns out to be much easier than expected. But has Tori's plan worked a little too well? As she turns his comfortable life all sorts of upside down, she'll have to find a way to show just how she's fallen for him...the real him.

Really fun conclusion to the Kowalski series. I have been waiting for Max's story and it did not disappoint me at all. He has been an intriguing character from the beginning, with the mystery of what he does for a living and why he has a security system for his basement. He doesn't really socialize, except for having "the guys" over on Sundays to watch sports on his big screen television. But after seven years of living in Whitford, he realizes that he's a bit lonely and that maybe it's time to do something about it. The problem is, he's not sure what. He's okay talking to guys about sports, but talking to women is really hard. So he heads to the local diner, just to test the waters.

Tori has settled in to Whitford quite nicely. She has her graphic arts business she runs from home, and her part time hours at the diner for fun. She loves talking to people and hearing all about what is happening around town. She's intrigued by Max when he starts coming into the diner. He may be shy and geeky, but he's also pretty sexy. And when she witnesses his awkward attempt to talk to a woman there, she takes pity on him. He's in the market for a relationship that could lead to marriage, and that's the last thing she wants, but she's more than willing to dispense aid and advice.  I really liked the way that she didn't try to change who he was, just to help him get more comfortable around other people.

I just loved Max. He has a tendency to take things that are said pretty literally, and he is sometimes painfully honest. He's quite happy to accept Tori's help with her "practice dates" and flash cards and her willingness to work with who he is. He's a nice guy at heart who tries very hard not to do anything that would cause someone else pain. I loved seeing him take all of Tori's advice and actually apply it successfully on the couple of dates he went on. But a funny thing happened on his way to dating success - he started to fall for the teacher.

I loved the way that Tori saw past Max's awkwardness to the nice guy that he is. She can see that he's going to need a special kind of woman who can deal with both his intensity and his shyness. Tori doesn't see herself as being that woman, because he is looking for a wife and she refuses to consider marrying. Her parents divorced after twenty-five years of marriage and have turned into nasty people who have no trouble putting her in the middle of their battles. She has a fear of falling in love with a man and then turning around and becoming like her mother, so she won't allow herself the chance.

Because Tori is helping Max with his dating issues, they start out by becoming friends. Max is comfortable with Tori and has no trouble talking to her. Some of their conversations are pretty funny, when he takes something that she says literally and then has to adjust his thinking to get what she meant. Tori enjoys teasing him, but she's never mean about it. It was fun to see their relationship develop without either of them being aware that that's what was happening. Everyone else could see what was happening before they did. Though Tori panics when Max finally tells her how he feels, he has the patience to understand and wait for her. The ending was sweet and perfect for the two of them.

I loved seeing the interest that everyone had in getting to know Max and helping him along the way. No one had really believed the serial killer thing, but everyone was interested in knowing more about him. The more he became part of the community, the easier he found it to talk to people. I enjoyed seeing Rose give him advice and even tease him a little about the serial killer rep. Even Josh got into the act when Max and Tori were having their problems.

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms - Cindy Woodsmall (Waterbrook Press - Feb 2012)

Series: Apple Ridge (Book 3)

Annie Martin loves the Plain ways of her Old Order Mennonite people, like those revered by her beloved grandfather. Retreating from a contentious relationship with her mother, Annie goes to live with her Daadi Moses in Apple Ridge.

But as spring moves into Pennsylvania and Annie spends time amongst the cherry trees with the handsome Aden Zook, she wishes she could forget how deeply the lines between the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite are drawn.

Can Annie and Aden find a place for their love to bloom in the midst of the brewing storm?

Good story of family, friendship, faith and love. Annie is the oldest of the kids in her family. She has a rocky relationship with her mother, thanks to their different outlooks on behavior. After one argument too many, Annie's mother sends her to stay with her grandfather in Pennsylvania. Annie loves her grandfather Moses and they have always gotten along well. While staying with Moses, Annie goes to help the Amish Zook family in their diner.

Aden is the cook at the diner while his handicapped brother works as server and his parents help out when they can. Aden is a handsome young man, and a very shy one. He stutters which makes it difficult for him to talk to other people, especially girls. His twin brother Roman is more outgoing, but is confined to a wheelchair, thanks to an accident several years earlier. Aden and Roman help each other, with Aden providing the muscle needed to help care for Roman, and Roman doing the talking for both of them.

With Annie spending more time at the diner, she and Aden get to know each other much better. Annie sees past the stutter to the sensitive and artistic young man that he is. Aden admires Annie's cheerfulness and the way she can talk to anyone she meets. Their friendship begins to deepen into something much stronger, but they can't see any future in it. Their individual faiths of Amish and Mennonite forbid a relationship between them and both are deeply committed to their beliefs. Even their families have pointed out the impossibility and continuing to spend time together threatens more than just their faith.

I felt really bad for Aden and Annie. In spite of the similarities between their religions, the differences are enough to keep them apart. It doesn't help that Annie's grandfather is especially against it, and as a partner in the Zook's diner can ruin the business if he pulls out. Aden's family also makes it clear that they don't approve. But neither Aden nor Annie want to give up what they have found together. I liked seeing them try to explain their feelings to various family members in an attempt to gain their support. I didn't know how they were going to make things work, but they did.

Aden's brother Roman is also a strong presence in the book. His accident and subsequent disability have made him rather bitter and also somewhat self-centered. He's not happy about Aden's interest in Annie, and it's not just because of the religious differences. He sees Aden as pulling away from him to spend time with Annie and doesn't want to lose his caretaker. He does a couple things that are pretty mean to try to split Aden and Annie apart. While he was away for a few days helping another family member he became reacquainted with a girl he would have pursued before his accident. She tends to call him on his attitude which is something he needs but doesn't necessarily appreciate. She does start to have an effect on him, and I hope to see more of them in a later book.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Secrets of a Scoundrel - Gaelen Foley (Avon - June 2014)

Series: Inferno Club (Book 7)

Nick, Lord Forrester, has a reputation that is legendary -- both as a lethal warrior and a wicked lover. But when his rule-breaking ways land him in a Scottish dungeon, he's left there to rot, until a mysterious lady visits his cell and offers him a way out.

All he must do is risk his neck on the mission she proposes -- and obey her every command. One look at the luscious beauty has Nick ready to promise her anything, but he must resist his desire, or she could send him straight back to prison.

Virginia, Lady Burke, is well aware that the powerful ex-spy will try to take command of their quest, but it's her job to keep him under control. Yet how can she keep this untameable scoundrel under her thumb when all she really wants is to unleash the smoldering passion between them?

Fantastic conclusion to the Inferno Club series. At the end of the last book (My Notorious Gentleman) Nick was brought back to the Order and placed in their prison for his crimes. Six months into his sentence he is approached by a woman who offers him a chance to redeem himself. All he has to do is obey orders. Anxious to get out of his cell, he agrees to her proposal.

Virginia is the daughter of Virgil, the man who had trained the men of the Inferno Club. She is on a mission to find some missing girls and needs Nick's special talents. There is also something else driving her need, something that she's reluctant to tell him until it's almost too late.

I loved Virginia. She is a strong and determined woman. All her life she had wanted her father's attention, but she had to share him with the boys he was training. She tried really hard to get him to allow her to train with them, but he always refused. As a girl she managed to sneak off a few times and observe their training, and developed a crush on the young Nick. When she needed help, she knew exactly who she wanted, even if she had to get him out of prison to do it. 

Nick is fantastic also. There were some questions about his character in previous books, but all is explained here. After years of working for the Order, Nick had had enough and wanted out, something that just doesn't happen. He made some questionable choices, but things worked out at the end. Now he just sees himself as a screwup, and looks forward to this chance to redeem himself. 

I really enjoyed their initial meeting and interactions. Virginia first sees him in his cell, where he is exercising with his shirt off. There are sparks between them from the beginning. I loved the descriptions of how Nick is feeling in the first couple days out of prison, especially his feelings of being somewhat overwhelmed. I liked Virginia's treatment of him, and how she seemed to sense what he needed. I loved his reaction to finding out who she is, and the impact it had on his feelings. It was fun to see the conflict between what he wanted to do with her and what he knew he should do. I enjoyed the development of their romance. Both are strong willed and have to learn to work together and especially to trust each other. As they do, Nick begins to regain some of his self respect. The attraction between them is strong and continues to grow throughout the story. I also liked the way that the respect they had for each other's abilities added to their relationship.

An important addition to the story is Virginia's son Phillip. He is fifteen (almost sixteen!) and sees himself as nearly grown. He didn't make the greatest first impression, as he was quite disrespectful to his mother. It soon becomes clear that he's fighting against Virginia's overprotective attitude. He is fascinated by everything he has heard about the Order and really wants to be part of it. He is intrigued by Nick and his reputation, which makes him even more determined. He ends up popping up several times, and gets part of his wish as he helps Nick with his mission. He also learns a couple valuable lessons which was good to see.

The action of the story, with the search for the missing girls and Virgil's journal, was well done. Each step built on the last and the intensity built throughout. Virginia's tendency for action before thinking landed her in some deep trouble that Nick had to rescue her from. The final confrontation was quite intense, with both Virginia and Phillip getting to fulfill some of their deepest wishes, and Nick feeling whole once again.

The epilogue was terrific, with all of Virgil's "boys" coming together. I loved seeing Nick's complete acceptance back with them. Their reactions to Virginia and Phillip were especially fun to read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Bride's Tangled Vows - Dani Wade (HD #2322 - Aug 2014)

Series: Mill Town Millionaires (Book 1)

The Term Limit Bride

Wealthy art dealer Aiden Blackstone has successfully avoided two things: returning to the hometown that haunts him, and taking a wife. Now thanks to his controlling grandfather's machinations he's reluctantly ended up doing both. But Christina Reece quickly proves she's no mere platonic bride of convenience.

The only way she can make this marriage outlive their one-year agreement is if she can make her sexy husband open his heart and forget the demons of the past…before it's too late. Because there's an enemy on the horizon, threatening to take away all they hold dear, including their newfound passion.

Very good book with a lot going on. Aiden hasn't been back to his hometown in ten years. He swore that he wouldn't go back while his grandfather was still alive. Through lies and trickery the old man got him there anyway and has used threats against Aiden's mother to keep him there. Not only is Aiden being forced to stay and take over the family mill, he also has to marry. He can't allow his mother to pay the price, so he reluctantly agrees, and accepts Christina's offer to be his wife.

Christina looks at Aiden's mother as the mother she never had herself. Her parents were self-centered people who treated her as an accessory rather than their child. Lily had always had a kind word or a hug to spare for Christina. When she was offered a chance to become Lily's nurse after Lily became paralyzed in a car accident, she couldn't say no. Marrying Aiden was just one more way for her to care for Lily.

Aiden has never wanted to marry and have a family of his own, and has promised Christina to keep his hands to himself. He finds that increasingly hard to do as he finds himself incredibly attracted to her. Though initially suspicious of her motives in agreeing to marry him, he soon realizes that she has an incredible capacity for nurturing and caring for others. Though he fights it hard, he finds he likes having some of that caring focused on him, and starts thinking about making the marriage permanent. But he's afraid that he may have ruined it all with his temper and his attitude.

Christina has always cared about Aiden, even when they were kids. She was quite happy to offer herself as Aiden's wife and was willing to do whatever he needed her to do. While she knew she was attracted to him, when she discovered the attraction was mutual, she looked at it as an opportunity to help him. She could see that his memories of his life at Blackstone Manor were tearing him up, and thought if she could help him get past them they might have a chance for a future together.

I found it interesting that both of them looked at the car accident that Lily had been in and blamed themselves. Both had been carrying a tremendous burden of guilt over it, something that had affected their entire lives since the accident. I loved seeing how, by absolving the other of their guilt, they were able to give up their own. When an attack nearly kills Christina, Aiden has to face just how much he loves her and figure out how to tell her how he really feels.

Another part of the story is that of the mill itself. Aiden doesn't want the responsibility of it and never had, but when forced to it he gives it all his attention. It is partly Christina's influence that makes him see the mill's importance to the whole town. I loved seeing him face down the man who is trying to buy it to destroy it. There are suspicions that he is using underhanded tactics to force a sale of the mill, but proof is hard to come by. As it wasn't resolved by the end of this book, I expect that it will be an ongoing theme through all three books.

Family is also an important theme. We see James's efforts to manipulate those around him into doing what he thinks is best for the family legacy. There is also Christina's longing for a family of her own, and the way she looks at the people of Blackstone Manor as her family. I liked seeing the obvious love and respect Aiden and his brothers have for each other, and that they support each other. There is also the love they have for their comatose mother. I have a feeling that even that is going to play a part in the following books.

The Homecoming Queen Gets Her Man - Shirley Jump (HSE #2379 - Jan 2015)

Series: Barlow Brothers (Book 1)

Welcome Home, Meri Prescott!

Roll out the red carpet -- Meri's back in town! But how could the jean-clad beauty fishing for crawdads be Stone Gap's every-blond-hair-in-place princess? It seems the former Miss North Carolina has had it with pageants and perfection. Meri's home to care for her ailing grandpa and realize her dream of becoming a photographer. If she could just ignore her treacherous heart when she gets her first gander at her gorgeous, all-grown-up first love…

Meri was sweet fifteen when Jack Barlow gave her her first kiss -- only to break up with her a year later and ship out to war. The soldier who comes home has changed, just like Meri. Doesn't Jack know two can heal better than one? That it's what is inside that counts? And Meri's got so much to give to that special Barlow man.

Lovely story about going home to heal. Meri walked away from the pageants she hated and started a new life as a photographer in New York City. Now she has come home to North Carolina to help take care of her sick grandfather. She's also trying to recover from an attack that left her scarred and afraid to pick up her camera again. The last thing she expects is to run into her old boyfriend Jack.

Jack is out of the army and back home also. He's spent a year trying to hide from his memories. He's drifting a bit, working in his father's garage and doing handyman things for Meri's grandfather. Seeing Meri again reminds him of everything he's lost. She was the girl he loved, but pushed away before he left for the army. Now he can't forget his feelings of guilt over the death of his best friend and Meri's cousin.

Both Meri and Jack are suffering from PTSD. Meri ran from the city and her memories of what happened, but every time she picks up her camera she sees her attacker. She is hoping that being back home will give her the motivation she needs to take back her life. It isn't easy when she has to stand up to her pushy, stage mother, Southern belle mama, who pushed into all those pageants, and is still trying to run her life. Jack blames himself for Eli's death and has frequent flashbacks to when it happened. He hasn't been able to talk about it with anyone, and is certain that everyone else will blame him too.

Jack and Meri are frequently thrown together as they help Meri's grandfather. It soon becomes obvious that their old feelings are still going strong. Jack has no trouble seeing past the scar on Meri's face to the woman she is beneath the beauty. He's there for her when she opens up about what happened to her and her fears about what it has done to her, and is able to show her how strong she really is. He loves her but fears her reaction if he tells her about Eli's death, so he tries to stay away from her. Meri was hurt when Jack broke off their relationship way back when, but seeing him again shows her that the feelings are still there. She notices the way that Jack pulls back every time they seem to get closer and aches for the pain she sees in his eyes. Can their love overcome their fears?

I loved the depth of the emotions that each of the characters shows. Meri's fears about never getting her photography back are deep. Her hurt at the way her mother treats her, and her wish for her mother to see Meri for who she really is. I loved that she was able to express those feelings to her mother, and was really surprised at what happened because of it. Jack's pain was especially emotional. He was so haunted by his guilt and his memories that he hadn't ever allowed himself to grieve. The meeting between him and Meri by the treehouse was incredibly moving. The ending was simply terrific.

Romancing the Rancher - Stacy Connelly (HSE #2381 - Jan 2015)

Series: Pirelli Brothers (Book 4)

To Kiss a Cowboy

Former rodeo star Jarrett Deeks knows about saving horses, but city women like Theresa Pirelli have always been out of his league. Yet her kiss rocks him harder than any bull he's ever ridden. In her, he sees himself: a little bruised, a lot lonely. She's his for only a few weeks, except unlike his horses, he can't let her go once she's healed. But how can he convince her to stay?

Theresa is used to taking care of patients… not being one! When an accident jeopardizes her career, she needs a break from worrying about her uncertain future and interfering family. A few weeks at Jarrett's rustic California horse ranch seem like just the ticket to get back on her feet. Until she's completely swept off them by one sexy cowboy.

Sweet but also very emotional story. Theresa has come to Jarrett's ranch after suffering from a life changing injury back home in St. Louis. Thanks to a car accident, she no longer has the ability to do her job as an ER nurse, and has no idea what she can do now. Her family is hovering, pushing her to accept a desk job, something she would hate. And her fiance has broken off their engagement, blaming her for the accident that also injured his daughter, and saying things that are extremely cruel. She hopes that the peace and quiet of the ranch will help her see more clearly. She doesn't expect to be helped by a sexy cowboy who seems to know just what she's going through.

Jarrett had gone through his own career ending injury the year before, thanks to a bullriding accident. He had even considered continuing riding, even with the risk of permanent injury, before seeing that he could have a new life running a ranch for rescue horses. He doesn't understand why a city woman like Theresa would want to stay in a bare bones cabin until he meets her. He sees the same pain in her eyes that he's seen in his and in those of the horses he rescues. 

Both Jarrett and Theresa have problems trusting. Theresa doesn't trust men or her instincts about them, thanks to her ex-fiance. She's attracted to Jarrett and knows he's attracted to her, but she doesn't want to risk her heart again. Jarrett simply pushes people away, not trusting that they really care. His parents' divorced when he was a kid and there were things done on both sides that made him see other people as manipulative.

I liked seeing Jarrett help Theresa by putting her to work with the horses. He saw a lot of similarities between them. He also tried to help her see that there are always options. Though it was hard for him to share his emotions, he found himself telling her things he doesn't usually tell anyone else. Theresa felt closer to Jarrett than she had felt to anyone since the accident. She had trouble seeing past the downside of her injuries until she learned what had happened to Jarrett and saw what he had done since then.  As the two of them got closer, they dreamed of what it would be like to have a future together, but neither one would risk rejection by confessing their feelings. Jarrett especially needed to learn to let people get close to him. I loved the ending and how the two of them finally came together.

Jarrett also has trouble accepting help from anyone, especially his family.  He always feels that help comes with strings attached and he doesn't want that, he'd rather do things on his own. His half sister arrives for a visit, and he tries to keep his distance, but Theresa gets involved. Because she has a large and loving family, she wants Jarrett to mend fences with his own. I enjoyed seeing her bond with his sister and how the two of them worked to get Jarrett to reconcile with his mother. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Finding His Lone Star Love - Amy Woods (HSE #2382 - Jan 2015)

Series: Peach Leaf Texas (Book 2)

You have a daughter…

Those words from a long-ago fling changed restaurateur Sam Haynes's life forever. But when he finds his child in Peach Leaf, Texas, Sam gets more than he bargained for. Headstrong Shiloh and her beautiful aunt, Lucy Monroe, are a package deal -- one that Sam is more than happy to accept.

Observatory manager Lucy doesn't believe in out-of-this-world romances. The only star in her life is her handicapped niece, Shiloh. So, when mysterious Sam shows up in Peach Leaf, Texas, Lucy is on guard. The last thing she needs is a man in her life. But her heart melts as Sam bonds with Shiloh, making her wonder if the stars might align for her very own happily-ever-after…

Good story. Sam was stunned to hear from a college one night stand that she had given birth to his daughter. He is determined to find her and be part of her life. He finds her living with her aunt and has to decide the best way to proceed. Lucy has devoted her life to her niece and the observatory. She doesn't know why Sam is in Peach Leaf, but he's come to her rescue with the observatory and he and Shiloh have bonded, so she'll accept his presence for now.

Sam doesn't want to tell them who he is until he's gotten a chance to know them. As he arrives in the middle of a crisis at the observatory's restaurant, it's the perfect way for him to slip into their lives. Meeting Shiloh blows him away. He feels an immediate connection with Shiloh and wants to do everything he can for her. He's attracted to Lucy right away, but tries to resist as it would only complicate things further. He's drawn to the passion she has for her work and the passion he sees under the surface in the woman. He soon realizes that he's falling for her, and that revealing his connection to Shiloh could jeopardize the relationship growing between them.

Lucy is more comfortable amid the stars than around men. She's had a couple of relationships that haven't worked out and has decided that men are something she doesn't need in her life. Her life is full enough with her work and her niece. She's wary of Sam when he first arrives, feeling that it's too good to be true when he's exactly what she needs at the cafe and he takes to Shiloh. She's attracted to him, but worries about what would happen if she gives in to it. The temptation grows as she begins to trust him and open up to him about her past and fears and dreams. Discovering his deception makes her doubt herself again when it comes to relationships.

I really liked Sam's determination to be part of Shiloh's life. He shows an amazing amount of sensitivity to her and her emotions. I also liked the way that he loved Lucy just the way she was, even when he didn't understand what she was talking about. I really liked that he was determined to fight for her love. Lucy's wariness was understandable, but it really worked against her with Sam. I did like the way she was able to see the truth of her feelings at the end, and gathered the courage to talk about them. Though they declared their love early in their relationship, I loved the way the epilogue showed that they took the time to really get to know each other.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Zachary Black: Duke of Debauchery - Carole Mortimer (HH #1204 - Oct 2014)

Series: Dangerous Dukes (Book 1)

LONDON'S MOST DISSOLUTE BACHELOR

No one knows how to sin quite like Zachary Black, Duke of Hawksmere. So when he finds a mysterious veiled woman hiding in his carriage, there's only one thing to do…carry her to his bedchamber and find out what she wants!

But coming face-to-face with beautiful Lady Georgianna Lancaster -- his former fiancĂ©e -- unnerves Zachary. Maybe the best way to restore his equilibrium is to hold her captive…and turn the secrets of the past into the sins of the present!

As an agent for the Crown, Zachary is accustomed to dealing with mysterious events, but having a veiled woman show up in his carriage was unusual. She claims to have information about Napoleon that she wants to pass on. He is suspicious, since his involvement is not common knowledge, so he takes the woman to his home to question her. There he discovers that she is none other than Georgianna, the woman he had been briefly engaged to before she ran off with a man who turned out to be a French spy. This makes him reluctant to believe anything she says.

Georgianna has so many regrets she wouldn't know where to start listing them. She had believed herself in love with her brother's French tutor, and when her father promised her to a man she'd never met, gladly eloped with the one she thought she loved. Once in France, he admitted that he only used her to get out of England, then shot her and left her for dead. It took her months to be able to get back to England, to face the man she had wronged.

Zachary and Georgianna's relationship starts out in a rocky manner. Neither one actually knows anything about the other. Last year Zachary had made an offer of marriage after only seeing Georgianna at a ball. He needed a wife to keep his inheritance, and something about her appealed. He didn't think about whether she'd be given a choice, or whether she would want to be married to him. Georgianna had only been aware of Zachary by his reputation as a cold and arrogant man. She didn't want to be stuck in a loveless marriage with him. When she returned, all he could see was this woman who had been with a known French spy, who is claiming to have vital information. In spite of believing that she is likely a spy herself, Zachary is still attracted to her, and in reaction finds himself treating her far more cruelly that he normally would. Georgianna has changed a lot due to everything she's been through. All she wants is to pass on her information and disappear, believing that she has been shamed in society's eyes. She finds she is drawn to Zachary, but his treatment of her makes her angry.

It was interesting seeing the relationship develop between Zachary and Georgianna. Though he starts out mistrusting her, he can't deny that he is impressed by the strength of will he sees in her. As he learns more of what she's been through, those feelings only grow, as does his attraction to her. I liked the way he began to see the mistakes he had made a year ago and wish that he had done things differently. He also appeared to have more kindness in his personality than was evident at the beginning of the book. That kindness worked against him as his feelings grew and he believed that she could never forgive him enough to give him another chance. Georgianna's attraction to him confuses her. She can't understand how she can be attracted to a man who has treated her so badly. Once they move past their initial meeting and she gets past her anger, she begins to look at him differently. She sees the man who has worked for his country and put himself in danger. She sees the one who protected her reputation and has helped her brother. And the one who makes her heart beat faster, but who she thinks will never see past what she did to the woman who has come to love him.

I really enjoyed the ending, and seeing how both had to get past their pride and fear of rejection before they could reach the future they were meant to have. Their declarations to each other were sweet and very emotional.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Undercover Hunter - Rachel Lee (HRS #1831 - Jan 2015)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 22)

Detective Cade Bankston never had any luck with female partners. So when he's assigned to work with feisty, raven-haired DeeJay Dawkins, he isn't pleased at all. Posing as a married couple, the investigators must team up to catch a killer. That is, if they don't kill each other first.

Putting their mission first proves tricky as mutual disdain evolves into mutual desire. But distraction is not an option. The killer who seemingly vanished five years prior has returned to Conard County, Wyoming, to finish what he started. And he just set his sights on two new victims.

Good book with terrific building suspense and an interesting romantic couple. Cade and DeeJay have been sent to Conard County to help find a serial killer. They are posing as a married couple, but the "marriage" is not going smoothly. Both Cade and DeeJay have issues with the opposite sex that get in the way. They're going to have to get over it in a hurry if they're going to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Both Cade and DeeJay judged each other based on past experiences with other people. Cade had been burned by a female coworker who accused him of inappropriate behavior. It has made him very wary of working with a female partner. DeeJay has it even worse. As a former military MP, she was forced out of the service when she refused to back down on rape investigations. As a victim herself, she has had too many bad experiences with male enforcement officers and their attitudes toward women. It only takes a couple days in Conard County before they realize that they have to come to terms with each other if they're going to do their jobs.

Once they are able to clear the air between them, they are faced with another issue. Now that they are no longer sniping at each other, it becomes evident that there is a strong attraction between them. One of the things I really enjoyed was seeing that the attraction did not get in the way of their job. In many books the couples seem to get intimate at times when they are in danger and shouldn't allow themselves to be distracted. In this book, Cade and DeeJay never let the attraction get in the way of their investigation. I also liked the respect they had for each other's abilities. DeeJay was constantly surprised that Cade listened to what she had to say and didn't treat her as a second rate investigator. I liked the way that Cade was sensitive to DeeJay's moods and was able to understand when her issues would flare up. I loved the last chapter, as Cade laid everything on the line and DeeJay had to decide if she was willing to take the risk.

The suspense part of the story was really good. The bad guy is known to the reader from the beginning and we get to see the way he thinks. What he does to his victims is truly disturbing, and I was on pins and needles to see if Cade and DeeJay could find him before he got to another kid. I really enjoyed seeing the methods that were used to solve the crime. It wasn't an easy time, and their frustration was obvious when there were delays because of storms. Things got really intense as the killer geared up for his next attack and DeeJay found herself in his sights. The final confrontation was chilling and I wondered how they were going to pull it off.

As always, I loved seeing Gage, Micah, Nate and other regulars from the series. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Snowstorm Confessions - Rachel Lee (HRS #1819 - Oct 2014)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 21)

The last man that Nurse Brianna Cole expects to bring home is the one she remembers all too well -- her ex-husband Luke Masters. But when he needs to recuperate from serious injury, her Wyoming cabin becomes his refuge. Though concussed and hazy, Luke is convinced someone pushed him off the snowy mountain he was evaluating for a ski resort. And though he can't remember why, he knows Bri is next.

Snowed in with her ex, Bri is blinded by old feelings, an attraction that never died. But the closer she gets to Luke, the closer she gets to murder. Because someone is watching her…stalking her…and if he can't have her, no one can!

Good reunion story, decent suspense but not a lot of action until the end. Bri was surprised to see her ex-husband show up on her doorstep. They had married impulsively, not realizing the strain that their occupations would put on their marriage. With Luke only being around for a couple weeks at a time a few times a year, the marriage fell apart. When he came to see her, he claimed that he wanted to clear the air between them, but Bri wasn't inclined to believe what he had to say.

Luke is in town to do the site survey for a ski resort. While on the mountain with a coworker he fell off a cliff and broke an arm and a leg and had a concussion. Luke is certain he was pushed, but his coworker didn't see anything. Bri was working at the hospital the day he was brought in. The doctors would not release him unless he had someone to look after him, so she offered to let him come home with her. She barely gets him home when the area is hit with a snow and ice storm.

Trapped together, Luke and Bri can't deny that the old attraction is still there. But both agree that there is no way for them to go back, because there are too many bad memories. One thing that they can do, though, is finally talk about what went wrong. I loved seeing how both had matured and changed enough that they could talk calmly. By doing so they both realized that each of them had had a part in what went wrong. I loved seeing Bri realize that she had been handicapped by the way her parents raised her, and now that she knows she is able to open up more to Luke. At the same time, Luke admits that he had been rather selfish in his attitudes, and hadn't treated her the way she should have been. As they share their feelings, they begin to think that there may be a chance for a future after all.

The suspense part of the story consisted of a really creepy stalker. We know who he is from the beginning and part of the story is told from his point of view. He goes from being overly zealous in his helpfulness to a jealous wannabe lover to murderous by the end. The way he watched really gave me the creeps, but it was his attack at the end that ramped up the tension. I was really worried about Luke as he tried to protect Bri even though he was still injured. It certainly gave them both the motivation to make the changes necessary to be together. I loved the way that things worked out for them at the end.

Sand Castle Bay - Sherryl Woods (Mira - Apr 2013)

Series: Ocean Breeze (Book 1)

In a trade-off she's lived to regret, Emily Castle left home years ago to become an interior designer. The youngest of three sisters, Emily desperately wanted to prove herself. Success, though, came at the cost of leaving behind the man she loved.

For Boone Dorsett, losing Emily left his heart shattered, but another woman was waiting in the wings. Now a widower with a young son, Boone has a second chance with Emily when a storm brings her home. But with his former in-laws threatening a custody suit, the stakes of loving her are higher than ever.

Will fate once again separate them -- or is the time finally right for these two star-crossed lovers?

This is one of those stories that Sherryl Woods does so well, with small towns and loving but meddlesome families. When Emily and Boone were teenagers, they were in love as only teens could be. By the time they were twenty-one, Boone was ready for them to get married and settle down, but Emily had dreams she wanted to pursue first. She left home to do so, hoping that Boone would wait, but he didn't. Emily's departure left him heartbroken, but within a year he was married to another woman. Ten years later, he's a widower with a little boy, living his life as a successful restaurateur. When a hurricane brings Emily and her sisters home to help their grandmother, can they have a second chance?

There was a lot for Emily and Boone to overcome. First they had to get past the feelings of hurt and betrayal just to be friends again. Each of them had their own view of their breakup. Emily had hoped that Boone would give her the chance to chase her dream, and wait for her. She was devastated when he married someone else. Meanwhile, Boone had felt that their love wasn't important enough for her to want to stay. He saw her departure as a rejection of all that they had dreamed of. Seeing each other again made them realize that the feelings were still there, but the obstacles hadn't really changed. Emily's job is still important to her and located in California, and Boone is still tied to North Carolina. 

They also have some serious trust issues because of their past. Boone isn't sure that Emily won't just walk away again if the going gets rough. He also has to protect his son from being hurt if he gets attached to Emily and things don't work out. Added to it all is that his former in-laws, mainly his mother-in-law, have been threatening to sue for custody. He suffers from a lot of guilt because she blames him for her daughter's death, and thinks that he never really loved Jenny because of Emily. Meanwhile, Emily has trouble believing that Boone will give them a fair chance, especially since he seems to be reluctant to be with her in public.

I got frustrated with both of them at times because they were both overly sensitive. Boone seemed to be constantly expecting Emily to walk away, and didn't cut her any slack when her business had problems crop up. He tried to keep her and his son apart, then blamed her when something else would keep them apart. At the same time, Emily would feel put out because Boone was trying to keep the peace with his in-laws. She didn't understand just how big a threat it was to him. She also felt like she was making all the compromises as they tried to build a new relationship. There was one point at the end where Boone made a decision that made Emily question where they were really going and if they really had any chance at all.

I liked the way that they had real issues that they needed to deal with in order to come to their happy ending. Neither one was always in the right or always in the wrong. I was a little worried that Emily was going to be the one to make all the sacrifices, and was very pleasantly surprised by the solution that Boone came up with.

The family dynamics throughout the book were fantastic. It was their love and concern for their grandmother that brought the three girls back to Sand Castle Bay, but it wasn't without drama. Each of the girls had problems that had kept them away, but family come first. All three have their own quirks and personalities that created realistic sibling relationships. They can make each other angry, but they are still there for support when it's needed. I also loved their grandmother. She is meddlesome, feeling that anything goes when it comes to doing what she thinks is best for them. I loved seeing her have her own love interest who also tried to keep her from being too interfering. Boone's love for his son BJ was obvious, even if he sometimes was overprotective. His mother-in-law was a real pain, and there were several times when I really wanted him to blast her, but he was too nice of a guy. BJ was really adorable and I loved seeing how quickly he bonded with Emily. He wasn't too good of a kid to be believable.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Montana Vet - Ann Roth (HAR #1532 - Jan 2015)

Series: Prosperity Montana (Book 3)

WHAT SHE NEEDS

Emily Miles already has plenty on her plate. She has to care for the dogs she rescues, find staff and volunteers for her shelter, not to mention raise money to keep The Wagging Tail going. So when the new, desperately needed part-time vet starts stirring up her insides, Emily tells herself it's just gratitude she's feeling. She can't jeopardize the shelter by getting involved with Seth Pettit.

Seth has his own plateful: a teenage ward who hates him, an estranged family he's trying to mend fences with and a living to make in small-town Montana. Tough but delicate Emily needs a full-time partner, and that just can't be him. Not as a vet or a man. So why does he want to be both?

Good book. Emily desperately needs a vet for her animal shelter and Seth Pettit will do nicely. What she doesn't need is an inconvenient attraction to him. The last thing she wants is to risk losing him as a vet, thereby putting her animals and the shelter in danger. Seth doesn't have time for a relationship either. He's busy trying to get his practice set up and taking care of his ward. But staying away from her is getting harder every day.

I really liked both Emily and Seth. Emily has a passion for rescuing dogs that takes up most of her life. Someday she'd like to have a family of her own, but she's still recovering from her last relationship. She tries to convince herself that what she's feeling for Seth is simple attraction and appreciation for what he's doing to help her. But the more she sees of him and what he's trying to accomplish with his family and with Taylor, the deeper her feelings grow. She's just not sure if she can trust enough to open herself up to the possibilities. I really liked the way that she understood Taylor and tried to help her adjust to Prosperity. I also liked seeing her try to help Seth and Taylor come together as a family.

Seth has returned to Prosperity after seventeen years away. He and his siblings had lost their parents early, with Seth and his brother being sent to stay with their uncle. His uncle was abusive and Seth learned to wall off his feelings in order to survive. After his uncle's death, Seth's older brother tried to take over as the one in charge, but Seth rebelled and left home. It was only after a friend urged him to make peace with his family that Seth decided to return. He had also become the guardian of an old girlfriend's teenage daughter, and needed a stable life for her. He traded his services as a vet with Emily in exchange for her help with a website and a volunteer opportunity for Taylor. He's incredibly busy with his life and feels that he has no time for a relationship, but he can't seem to stay away from Emily. He's impressed with everything she does, and her care for the dogs seems to extend to him and to Taylor. I really felt for him with his struggle to connect with Taylor, and his attempts to make peace with his brother. It was a slow process for him to learn to express his feelings, but he survived the struggle. I loved the ending and seeing how both Seth and Emily were able to love again.

I liked Taylor also. She was pretty surly at the beginning, but as the story went on we learn why she has the attitude she has. I really ached for her and her feelings of guilt and abandonment. It was very nice to see how the love of the dogs started to change her outlook. I also enjoyed seeing that she also had typical teenage behavior. It was great to see how Seth's and Emily's influence helped her overcome her problems.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Daddy Wish - Brenda Harlen (HSE #2385 - Feb 2015)

Series: Those Engaging Garretts (Book 6)

This could be the merger of a lifetime

The holidays are over, but Allison Caldwell can't stop thinking about the kiss she shared with Nathan Garrett under the mistletoe. The dazzlingly attractive playboy she's secretly crushed on for years isn't just off-limits because he's out of her league; the heir apparent to the Garrett furniture empire is about to be crowned CFO -- and the single mother's new boss!

One night changed everything for Nathan. And now his executive assistant is strictly hands-off despite their intense physical attraction. Besides, Allison has a son, and Nathan's no family man. Then why is Nathan's head suddenly filled with fantasies of being a father? Perhaps this once-happy bachelor won't be single for long…

Very good book. Allison and Nathan shared an intense kiss at the holiday party, but Allison is determined that it won't go any further. First and foremost, he's about to become her boss and she won't risk her job for a fling with her boss. Second, Nathan is well known as a bachelor who avoids commitment. She's a single mom who isn't looking for a fling.

Neither one of them has been able to forget that kiss, and when a snowstorm strands them overnight together, they decide that one night will be enough to answer the need. They don't expect the experience to be even more unforgettable than their kiss. But Allison resists getting involved with him. She has seen that Nathan doesn't do long term relationships and she doesn't want to risk her heart again on someone that won't stay around. Nathan doesn't know why he can't stay away from Allison. She's nothing like the women he usually dates, but he can't get her off his mind. Finding out that she's a mom should have ended it right there, as he strictly avoids getting involved with women who have children. 

I really liked the way the relationship between Nathan and Allison developed. Nathan respected Allison's desire to keep it out of the workplace, so he confined his advances to after hours visits. He was persistent in his pursuit as he tried to overcome her reservations. I loved watching him get to know Allison's son Nathan and discover that he had a desire for a family after all. I loved the trip to the races and his realization of the depth of his feelings for Allison. I enjoyed the way he tried to show her by taking her to visit his parents. Allison spent a lot of time trying to resist her feelings for Nathan. His reputation fed into her fears about his feelings not lasting. She had already been through one marriage that ended because her husband's feelings for her changed, she didn't want to do it again. She also worried about her son getting hurt in the process. Nathan's treatment of her son made her want to believe that it was real, but she was wary.

It took a crisis for Allison to accept that his feelings were real. I loved Nathan's ability to stay calm, and how he stuck around even with Allison's attitude. The scene in the hospital room was sweet and young Dylan was adorable.

The Cattleman - Angi Morgan (HI #1548 - Feb 2015)

Series: West Texas Watchmen (Book 2)

West Texas Showdown

A city girl like Beth Conrad had no business on Nick Burke's Texas ranch. Even if the city girl in question was a DEA agent investigating gunrunners supposedly using Nick's land as a staging ground. One look in her eyes and he couldn't resist helping with her sure-to-fail mission…or his undeniable attraction to her. But Nick was fighting demons from his past, which left little room for romance. Beth vowed to help Nick face his PTSD, and Nick promised to pose as her fiancĂ© to help her bring down the perps. But when circumstances forced Nick to relive the traumatic shooting that had altered his life -- this time with Beth's safety in the balance -- he made it his duty to ensure the outcome would be a whole lot happier.

Very good book with action packed in from the beginning and with Beth and Nick both having issues they need to overcome.  Both of them are part of a task force formed to stop a particularly vicious group of smugglers. Beth is far outside her comfort zone. She may be a DEA agent, but she is also a city girl. Things haven't been going well for her lately and she needs a win in order to save her job. To do that she has to convince Nick to play the part of her boyfriend or fiance, and get him to teach her how to survive in this world. That isn't going to be easy, as they have been battling since the day they met - except for one night.

Nick wants to find the people responsible for his being shot the year before and who are using his land to smuggle guns. He's still haunted by nightmares of the shooting. But he's not very happy about having Beth living on his ranch while they do so. He hasn't been able to forget their one night together and he doesn't need the distraction. He especially doesn't want her bugging him about his nightmares. 

I loved seeing Nick and Beth together. They are such different types of people. Beth's city girl ways really seem to bug Nick at first and he can't understand why she's the one that was sent to do the investigation. I couldn't help but laugh at the way Beth dressed, with her designer shoes and clothes, in spite of them being so impractical. When she was finally forced to get more practical clothes for her stay on the ranch, she still had to put her own stamp on them. I loved her purple cowboy boots with the rhinestones on them. It was fun seeing them have to work together to promote the idea of their "engagement" and fight the feelings that were growing between them. Beth was determined to help him deal with what had happened to him, even though he fought her every step of the way. Their attraction to each other was intensified as he taught her to ride and she taught him self defense moves. I loved seeing the fake feelings turn real, and how they worked everything out.

The suspense of the story was great from the beginning. Nick's determination to find out who was behind his shooting had him taking chances that kept getting him into trouble. When they were taken captive early on in the book I was riveted as I waited to see if and how they were going to get away. Things got even more intense at the end when the ranch was attacked, and Nick had to overcome his demons in order to save Beth. While one of the bad guys was taken out, there are still questions about who is behind it all.






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The New Cowboy - Rebecca Winters (HAR #1530 - Jan 2015)

Series: Hitting Rocks Cowboys (Book 3)

Homecoming Cowboy

Living on her grandfather's ranch, surrounded by her loving brothers and their families, is helping Avery Bannock put her painful past behind her. But ever since Zane Lawson came home, she's been fighting her feelings for the rugged former Navy SEAL who's sworn to keep her safe -- in his arms.

After a decade undercover, Zane's ready to settle in Montana horse country. Buying the ranch next to the Bannock spread was the first step. Now he's got to convince the gun-shy archaeologist that he's the only cowboy for her. As they work together to find out who's stealing tribal artifacts from a nearby reservation, Zane will do everything in his power to win Avery's trust…and turn their budding romance into a mission possible!

Good story between two wounded souls. Avery is an archaeologist working on a local dig and living on her grandfather's ranch. Being close to family and friends has been good for her, as she recovers from her painful past. A year earlier she had met Zane Lawson, a former SEAL who is now working for the BLM. She's attracted to him, but is having trouble overcoming her past. 

After ten years as a SEAL, Zane is happy to be working law enforcement for the BLM. After a year working across the state from his ranch, he's been transferred nearby and will be able to work from his own home. This will finally give him a chance to get to know Avery better. As he is assigned to investigate the thefts of artifacts from the reservation where she works, he looks at it as a perfect opportunity.

Zane soon discovers that what he thought was simple shyness is something much more. He suffers from symptoms of PTSD himself, and recognizes them in Avery. I loved the way he talked to his own doctor and got information on how to help her. His sensitivity to her fears was wonderful, and I loved how he handled them even before she told him what had happened to her. Avery had been in love with Zane for months, but because of what happened feels that a future with him is not possible. When he tells her of his feelings, she knows she has to tell him what happened to her. She worries that it will make him look at her differently, and draw away from her. She's stunned to discover that he had already suspected and that it made no difference to his feelings.

The care with which Zane treats Avery is wonderful. He's sweet and patient and loving, which is exactly what she needs. I loved seeing how it helped Avery. It didn't suddenly make everything go away, but she does feel stronger and more in control. I also loved seeing her be able to turn around and offer the same kind of care to him.

The artifact stealing storyline was very good. I enjoyed the background information on the Crow people that was part of it. I liked the way that Zane made Avery part of the investigation, and how much he came to respect her knowledge. It was pretty obvious from the beginning who the ringleader of the bad guys was, but the investigation itself was interesting. The ending was pretty intense, especially when it was combined with Avery's fears. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Her Baby and Her Beau - Victoria Pade (HSE #2384 - Feb 2015)

Series: Camdens of Colorado (Book 7)

A KID FOR A CAMDEN?

Schoolteacher Kyla Gibson spends her days keeping kids in line, but it's not quite the same as having a family of her own. But when Kyla is named guardian to her newly orphaned infant goddaughter, she becomes an insta-mommy! Soon, though, she's in over her head -- and she's stunned when her SOS is answered by the last man she ever expected to see…

Former Marine Beau Camden is shocked to see Kyla again -- and with a baby! It's been fourteen years since their last night together, after which she went AWOL. But the time for old grievances is past, and Kyla desperately needs his magic touch with little Immy. Can the soldier and his former sweetheart heal old hurts to create a future together, Camden-style?

Wonderful reunion story. Kyla is reeling from the events of the past few days. Kyla's cousin and her husband were killed in a fire while Kyla was visiting. Kyla was able to save the baby and now faces raising that baby on her own. She facing the recovery from her own injuries, raising Immy, and dealing with the financial aspects of Immy's inheritance when she is confronted by a blast from her past.

Fourteen years earlier Kyla and Beau had been teenagers in love. He was headed off to the Naval Academy and Kyla had no idea where her parents would be taking her. When she ended up pregnant, her attempts to contact him were unsuccessful until her father visited Beau's grandfather. He came back saying that Beau had denied it all. She was devastated by what she saw as Beau's abandonment of her. Her parents took her away, and not long after she lost the baby.

Out of the Marines after thirteen years, Beau is having some trouble adjusting to civilian life. He even feels a bit of an outsider with his own family. He wants to be part of the family business, but even with that he hasn't been able to find a place where he fits. His grandmother comes to him with information she found in his grandfather's journal, showing that he had kept the news of Kyla's pregnancy from Beau. With word of Kyla's troubles, Beau is determined to visit her and see if he can help.

I loved their reunion. It was a little rocky at first, as Kyla remembers her hurt and is reluctant to believe his explanation. She is also fighting the fact that she is still attracted to him. Beau is surprised to see her with a baby, but intent on helping her. His military training has him approaching it like a military operation. When he lets himself relax a little, his old feelings for Kyla resurface. But Beau is reluctant to get involved with Kyla while his life is still so unsettled. He doesn't see how being with Kyla and Immy has begun to change him. I loved seeing how sweet and gentle he was with the baby. I also loved seeing everything he did to make things easier for Kyla.

Their romance was a slow buildup as they dealt with past hurts and current fears. Kyla had grown up with parents who were musicians and never settled anywhere. They were always chasing their dreams, leaving Kyla to be the practical one. All she wanted was a place to put down some roots and have a family of her own. Seeing Beau again brought those dreams of a family back to the surface. But as much as she wanted structure in her life, she feared that Beau's version of structure was too much for her to handle. Beau discovers that Kyla gives him the balance in his life that he needs. But he has to find a way to convince her to give them a chance. I loved the ending and how sensitive he was to her worries.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Summer is for Lovers - Jennifer McQuiston (Avon - Sept 2013)

Series: Second Sons (Book 2)

His heart is unavailable. Luckily, her interest lies in the rest of him . . .

Though she was just a girl when they first met, Caroline Tolbertson's infatuation with David Cameron remains undimmed. Now fate has brought the handsome Scotsman back to Brighton for what promises to be an unforgettable summer. Soon, Caroline will have to choose a husband, but for now she is free to indulge her curiosity in things of a passionate nature.

That is, if David will agree to teach her.

Past mistakes have convinced David he'll make a terrible husband, though he'll gladly help the unconventional Caroline find a suitor. Unfortunately, she has something more scandalous in mind. As the contenders for her hand begin to line up, her future seems assured . . . provided David can do the honorable thing and let them have her.

When a spirited young woman is determined to break Society's rules, all a gentleman can do is lend a hand . . . or more.

A really fun book. It starts, oddly enough, with a botched suicide attempt, as twenty-one year old David Cameron is distraught by the loss of the young woman he loved, a death he blames on himself. He tries to kill himself by drowning, only to realize that he doesn't really want to die. Unfortunately, he may succeed because he's also quite drunk and fighting a strong current. Twelve year old Caroline comes to his rescue, a young girl who is a phenomenal swimmer thanks to her late father. She gets him to shore, where he thanks her, admits his idiocy, and encourages her to be true to herself.

Twelve years later they meet again on that same stretch of beach, neither having forgotten the other. As a matter of fact, David has played a large part in Caroline's dreams over the years. She is still taken by the man he has become. In spite of the changes, David has no trouble recognizing Caroline. He has never forgotten being saved by her. 

Caroline suffers socially, thanks to her unfashionable height and shortage of social graces. She has also become the butt of jokes thanks to a summer visitor to Brighton. She had trusted the young man, and he betrayed that trust. Caroline has taken it upon herself to try to save her family, and to do so she needs to marry a man with money. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like she'll be able to find one because of what he said. At a dinner party that night, Caroline encounters David again, where he tries to rescue her and her sister this time. Then a late night encounter where he finds her swimming alone, brings her to his attention in other ways. 

David is impressed by her skill and the passionate woman he senses behind the proper one he encountered during the day. He finds himself drawn to her, even though she's nothing like the women who usually appeal to him. He also knows that he's not the man for her. He's sworn he'll never marry because of what had happened all those years ago. In order for him to feel like he's repaid the debt to her, he takes it upon himself to try to repair her reputation among the people of Brighton. But doing so brings her to the attention of those who had treated her so badly.

I loved the interactions between Caroline and David. She sees the pain he still carries after all these years and wants to help him move past it. If he can, maybe she can show him that he's worth having. David seems to be the only person who can see the person that she really is. He tries to show her that only someone who can see and respect who she really is would be worthy of marriage. His biggest problem in making her attractive to others is that he becomes interested in her himself. His battle with himself frustrates Caroline, as it causes him to send out mixed messages to her. I liked his mother and the care he showered on her. I also liked the way she tried to show him that his guilt was misplaced and that it was okay to move on.

An upcoming swimming competition has Caroline teaching David to swim the way she does. She would love to enter the competition herself, but  women of this time period don't swim. Meanwhile, thanks to David's efforts, she has become wildly popular. None of the men can measure up to David, but he's adamant that he isn't the man for her. The lead up to the swimming competition itself has Caroline trying to do what she thinks is best for her family rather than herself, only to find out that her mother and sister are also trying to keep the same promise to care for the family. I loved the competition itself, especially Caroline's part in it, and the effect on the people around her. The conclusion of the race itself was intense, as was its aftermath.

The secondary characters were all well done and each had a purpose within the story. Miss Baxter was my favorite, even though she was rather unlikable at the beginning. She was rather mean-spirited at times, but she redeemed herself very well at the end. Mr. Dermott was no gentleman in his actions through most of the book, though he did get better for awhile before he totally screwed up. I also liked Caroline's sister, Pen. It was pretty obvious what she had been doing during those times she was missing. I liked the way she went after what she wanted. I hope she gets her own story.