Saturday, February 28, 2015

Heiress Under Fire - Jennifer Morey (SRS #1578 - Sept 2009)

Series: All McQueen's Men (Book 2)

He was a sniper and a gentleman...

Though heiress Farren Gage exuded a sensuous femininity that made him ache, Elam Rhule didn't need another notch on his belt. He had to eliminate a target and prevent a terrorist attack. Besides, he couldn't fall for another delicate beauty. Farren was wrong for him. Completely wrong.

Farren hadn't traveled to Turkey to find love. She'd come to discover why some foreigner wanted the millions she'd just inherited. So getting involved with an on-the-go sniper who operated outside the law was out of the question, right? Wrong. As their mission heated up so did their desire, and it looked as though two wrongs might just make the most perfect right....

Good book, with a theme that's all too real in today's world. Farren is an electrical engineer, happy in her work, but not so happy in her personal life. She has just inherited millions of dollars from a mother who abandoned her when she was four. Now she has a foreign sounding man threatening her life if she doesn't turn three million dollars over to him. After going through her mom's things, she discovers that she was going to go to Turkey for a yacht festival, and decides to follow up and see what she can find out.

Shortly after arriving in Turkey, her yacht is hijacked. Certain she is about to die, she is rescued when Elam Rhule arrives on board and kills her attacker. Wary of him and why he was after her kidnapper, it takes a bit before Ferren tells Elam why she was targeted. Once he hears her story, he realizes there's more going on than his employer had believed. Elam works for a covert group, and was chasing after a man who was setting up terrorist cells. He's determined to keep her safe while he finds out what is happening.

There is an immediate attraction between Elam and Ferren, but both are determined to fight it. Elam had been married before, to a woman just as beautiful and delicate as Ferren. She hadn't been able to handle his life as it was, and left him. She died in an accident before Elam could even try to repair his marriage. Now he avoids relationships and sticks to strong, military types of women for his dating. Ferren has a bad record with men, realizing that she tends to jump into relationships quickly, without knowing the men very well. Thanks to her mother's abandonment, Ferren grew up in foster care, and has been searching for a family ever since. She wants to find a man who will have a normal job, love and care for her and any children they have. There's no way that a man who travels the world, ready to kill, would be the kind of man she wants.

The relationship that developed between Ferren and Elam was very interesting. Ferren can seem like a dumb blonde at times, especially when she does things that end up getting her in trouble. She talks a lot when she's nervous, and of course, Elam makes her nervous. She's attracted, but he's nothing like what she wants in a man, but she feels safe with him. I liked seeing her show her intelligent side, demonstrating to Elam that she's much more capable than he thinks. Ferren's feelings for Elam start to grow, and she wonders if perhaps he's right for her after all. I enjoyed seeing Elam as he tried to deal with Ferren. His protective side kicked in quickly, as he found out about the danger she was in. He's attracted to her, but fears getting close because of what happened with his wife. It took him awhile to see past Ferren's beauty and constant chatter to the woman beneath. I liked seeing the way he came to enjoy her chatter, and see that the stories she told had a point, even when she didn't realize it. He fought it hard, but he did fall. I loved seeing the process of him finally seeing that they belonged together, and the way he showed her how he felt. The parts that his teammates played in the whole thing were fun to see.

The suspense part of the story was very good. Arms dealers and terrorists are such a part of today's world that the events felt pretty realistic. I liked seeing the way that Ferren's and Elam's paths intersected and how they pursued the details. Ferren's second abduction and Elam's pursuit was really intense and definitely had my heart pounding until it was all over. There was a very interesting twist involving one of the players and it added an extra layer of tension to the final showdown with the bad guy. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Christmas at Twilight - Lori Wilde (Avon - Nov 2014)

Series: Twilight Texas (Book 8)

It's Christmas in Twilight, Texas. The Cookie Club is baking, the town is decorated, and Delta Force Operator "Hutch" Hutchinson has finally, reluctantly, returned home . . .

. . . only to get pepper sprayed by the delicious- looking stranger who's taken over his house. She says her name is Jane, and she immediately sets down ground rules. Top priority: no touching. For Hutch that isn't easy -- he was wounded in action, but one part is still working very well.

Then Hutch learns the truth. Jane harbors a frightening secret -- she's really Meredith Sommers, on the run from a dangerous ex-husband and desperately in need of the safety Hutch can provide. In that moment, he vows he'd do anything in his power to protect her. And as Christmas approaches, they discover that their love can conquer the past and overcome any obstacle -- but what price will they pay?

Very good book, full of love, loss, hope and fear. Hutch is unwillingly headed home to Twilight because injuries he received during the war have made it impossible to stay in the army. He left the hospital, unable to speak and bearing guilty feelings over being the only one in his group to survive the attack. He's told that his inability to speak is psychological, not physical. He arrives home to find his sister is missing and the other woman in his house sprays him with pepper spray.

Meredith panicked when she saw Hutch. It wasn't a clear view and she thought he was her ex-husband. Meredith and her son have been on the run from him for five years. She has been in Twilight for two months, sharing the house with Hutch's sister Ashley. A week before Hutch's arrival, Ashley called Meredith to tell her she was going to Mexico with the new man she met, and asked Meredith to take care of her daughter Kimmie. Meredith is afraid that something has happened to Ashley when she doesn't return her calls.

Though their initial meeting is rough, Meredith and Hutch come to an agreement. Meredith and her son will stay in order to help Hutch care for his niece. Hutch will help her give the kids as normal a Christmas as they can manage. Meredith is wary around him at first, thanks to lessons learned from her violent ex. She lays down some ground rules, which include no touching. That's a little tough for Hutch, because he's really attracted to her, but something tells him he needs to be careful. Hutch is himself still dealing with his own issues. He is frustrated by his inability to speak and wonders if he'll ever get back to normal.

I loved seeing the way that Hutch and Meredith connected so quickly. She's wary, but she quickly sees that there's a kind and gentle man behind the scars and frustration. Hutch also sees that there is something behind Meredith's wariness, but that it will take trust for her to confide in him. Once she does, Hutch is determined to protect her. The connection between them grows stronger as they work together to take care of the two children. It isn't all perfect, as Hutch has a setback that feeds her fears, but with help they overcome it. I liked seeing Hutch reconnect with his friends who are also vets, and how that sets him on the path to healing. A breakthrough on Christmas Day opens a new connection between Hutch and Meredith and things are really looking good for them.

But Meredith's past is still hanging over her, and Hutch is determined to make things right. Hutch's sister is also still missing, and their worry grows the longer she is gone. Her return and Meredith's past collide in a way that had me riveted for the last couple chapters. There are several twists during this point that had me wondering just how it was going to turn out. Meredith's strength of will really shines here, as does Hutch's. While it isn't an "all's well" ending, it is realistic and satisfying.

As always, the town of Twilight works its magic. Meredith has been made to feel welcome and a part of everything. I loved seeing how the ladies encouraged her to come to the cookie exchange, and how being there gave her more insight into who Hutch is. I also loved seeing the support that Hutch is given, as his friends are ready to help him as soon as he's ready to accept it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All for a Cowboy - Jeannie Watt (HS #1928 - June 2014)

Series: Montana Way (Book 3)

A bigger challenge than she expected!

Shae McArthur once had it all. Perfect job, perfect fiancé. And when she lost everything, it was her own fault. Now she's starting from scratch with one last project -- turning the Bryan Ranch around. If she succeeds, maybe she can pick up the pieces of her former life.

The only problem is the ranch's stubborn -- and captivating -- owner, Jordan Bryan. He's fighting Shae on every change. What gives? True, his scars prove Shae's not the only one starting over. Still, shouldn't he, of all people, be able to see beyond the surface? Because she thinks maybe they could be each other's perfect new beginning….

Good book, with two people who are starting over after big changes in their lives. Jordan has come back to the one place he swore he'd never step foot on again. Jordan left when he was eighteen, to join the military, because he could no longer stand to see what his stepmother was doing to his father. Not long ago, Jordan was badly injured in the war, and while he was still in the hospital his father died. Suffering from nightmares, and feeling stifled by the dead end job he had been given, Jordan decided to head back to the ranch, which he now owns.

Shae is going through an upheaval of her own. We first met her in Once a Champion, as the spoiled sister to Liv. She was accustomed to getting anything she wanted, and things being done her way. At the beginning of this book, her fiance has called off their wedding shortly before it was to take place, no longer able to put up with her Bridezilla attitude. Then, when she goes back to work, she is fired because she spent too much of her work day working on wedding plans instead of doing her job. This leaves her with no job and no way to pay the thousands of dollars she owes for the wedding that won't take place. She's stunned when she gets no sympathy from either her best friend or her brother, who both point out that she's been a selfish bitch for most of her life. Her only hope of recovery is talking her boss into giving her one more chance. All she has to do is make it possible to turn the Bryan ranch into another guest ranch for her boss. 

The problem? Her boss is the ranch owner's hated stepmother. He owns the land, but Miranda owns the lease on half the property for the next twelve years. Miranda has a long standing grudge against Jordan, and is determined to make his life on the ranch absolutely miserable, and has no problem using Shae to do it. Jordan is equally determined that he will not be driven off the land where he is hoping to start a new life. And Shae is the one caught in the middle. It doesn't help that she and Jordan have some history of their own.

I loved seeing Shae and Jordan work through their own issues by seeing how the other one has changed. She starts out blindly following Miranda's instructions, having only gotten Miranda's side of the story. Seeing the changes in Jordan has her thinking about what he must have gone through when they happened, something that never would have occurred to her before. Some of the things that Miranda is doing start to bother Shae, and she begins to see her boss through different eyes. Jordan also begins to see some changes in Shae. She doesn't seem to be quite the spoiled princess that he remembers. I loved seeing them slowly begin to get to know each other, and learn about each other's pain. Shae also learns a lot more about herself and isn't always happy about the picture she sees. I did like seeing the way that she began seeing things from Jordan's point of view, and that she really wanted him to be happy. I also enjoyed seeing the respect that Jordan started to develop for Shae. He saw the amount of work she was putting in by herself in the attempt to fix her life. He would have been happier if it weren't on his land, but he couldn't help but appreciate her efforts. Neither of them counted on the attraction that built up between them. Jordan was dealing with the scars and was certain that Shae, with her previous need for perfection, would never be interested in him. What I loved about her, was that while she was shocked by his appearance at first, it wasn't that long before she was able to look past the scars and see Jordan for who he was. I liked the way that, while she felt badly about the emotional trauma he was going through, she didn't seem to pity him. And her acceptance of his problems went a long way toward helping him heal. One of the greatest things was seeing that Jordan and Shae were able to work things out by actually talking to and listening to each other's concerns.

Miranda was a real piece of work. I could completely understand Jordan's problem with her. She had completely bamboozled his father, and because he loved his dad he couldn't bring himself to tell him what was going on. Losing his father before they were able to mend their relationship was one of the things that was so hard on Jordan. Miranda's viciousness was well hidden when anyone else was around, but one on one she was nasty. I hated seeing the way she had Shae fooled at the beginning, but loved seeing how Shae began to see the real Miranda. It was fun to see how Shae dealt with Miranda's "spy". Things were getting really bad, and I wondered if Miranda was actually going to win. I liked the way it worked out, though I would have liked to see Miranda really suffer.

The Bounty Hunter's Forbidden Desire - Jean Thomas (HRS #1842 - Mar 2015)

A desperate search through Alaska leads to danger--and undeniable passion

Bounty hunter Chase McKinley will do anything to locate his missing brother--even kidnap the man's girlfriend. But Haley Adams has no leads on her ex...other than a mysterious package that brings murder in its wake. Handcuffed to the sexy tracker, she's stunned when her outrage turns to attraction...

With only an Alaska postmark, Chase follows the trail--with Haley. He put her in danger; only he can protect her. But who'll protect him from the woman he desires and can never have? With every step, they get closer to his brother...and to a killer who sets the perfect trap--with them as bait.

Good story with a very different premise. I found the whole concept very believable, especially in today's world.  Chase's brother is missing and the only lead he has is his brother's girlfriend. Rather than just knocking on her door and asking her about Josh, he uses his bounty hunter credentials and kidnaps her instead. She's furious when she realizes what he's done, but understanding when she finds out why. Unfortunately, she hasn't heard from Josh in weeks and has no idea where he is.

When they return to her home, they discover it has been ransacked. Her neighbor later delivers a package from Josh, one that contains some mysterious seeds. After a visit to a prominent botanist and university professor to ask his opinion on the seeds, the man is found murdered. Having nothing but the postmark on the package as a clue, Chase is determined to follow up on it. For her safety, he insists on taking Haley along. 

The danger that they are in doesn't stop the attraction that has flared between them. Chase has never felt anything like it for any other woman. But he is also very conflicted about it; after all, Haley is his brother's girlfriend. He has spent most of his life watching out for his brother, and taking his girl is definitely against the rules. Haley is just as attracted to Chase, but suffers none of the qualms. She knows that what had been between her and Josh wasn't serious, but Chase is not convinced that Josh felt the same way. I loved the way that Haley understood Chase's feelings, and tried to have patience as they searched for Josh, knowing that the truth would set Chase free to return her feelings.

Arriving in Alaska, they discover that Josh was investigating a story about an international seed depository and a criminal intent on having control of those seeds for himself. I loved following along with Chase and Haley as they learned more about the depository and its purpose. The danger had followed them, and as they got closer to discovering what Josh had learned, it only got worse. The tension built in a realistic fashion and I was glued to the book until it was resolved. I admit I wanted to smack Haley for falling for the trick that was played on her, she should have listened to the soldier who was with her. It did add another layer to the danger, and also gave the reader a chance to actually meet the bad guy. I loved Chase's solution and the way it turned out. 

The only thing left at that point was to find Josh. There had been plenty of worry that he had been killed, but Chase refused to give up hope. I loved how he was found. It was fun to see how much more clearly Haley saw things, and how it took some blunt speech from Josh to open Chase's eyes. I liked the way that things turned out for all of them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Twins' Rodeo Rider - Tina Leonard (HAR #1533 - Feb 2015)

Series: Bridesmaids Creek (Book 3)


Suz Hawthorne was always a rebel. But falling for Navy SEAL Cisco Grant -- when Bridesmaids Creek legend already chose him as destined for another woman -- borders on sedition. For a small Texas town that depends on its romantic reputation, flouting local lore is disastrous. Now, Suz's renegade heart could cost her the family ranch, and the town its livelihood.

Cisco knows he and Suz are meant for each other, and the twin babies they're expecting are the only kind of magic he cares about. No one ever tried to cheat the Bridesmaids Creek charm before, but Cisco believes in doing things the old-fashioned way…his way. Can he preserve the town's fabled tradition and still win the woman he loves?

Okay book. I liked the general premise of the story. Local legend has paired Cisco up with one woman, but his heart is set on another. Suz also wants him, but going against town tradition is likely to stir up trouble, and does. They have to figure out how to have what they want without ruining the lives of others.

I mostly liked Cisco. He loves Suz and no matter what the silly local legend says, Suz is the only one he will marry. He is determined to have her, and makes it plain to Daisy (the other woman) that he's not interested. Daisy is more than a bit spoiled and headstrong, and threatens to make life miserable for others if he doesn't fall into line. One of his friends is in love with Daisy, so Cisco does his best to throw things his way, but Daisy isn't cooperating. He goes ahead and secretly marries Suz, hoping that will be the end of it.

Unfortunately, it just makes Daisy angrier, and she gets her father to help her get revenge. He has been buying up land all over town, and with Daisy's encouragement starts foreclosure proceedings on Suz's family ranch. He also ruins the businesses of others in town, and threatens to sell land to the government for a toxic waste dump. Suz feels that it is all her and Cisco's fault and tells him to leave town until things quiet down.

This is where she really made me mad. Suz was far more concerned with Daisy's feelings and what she was doing than in making her marriage to Cisco work. She sends him off, telling him not to come back until she tells him to. When she discovers she's pregnant, she doesn't tell him, feeling it's more important to keep the peace in town. Cisco just wants to take care of her and the babies and she keeps shutting him down.

Cisco had kept one secret from her, and when he finally tells her about his family background she freaks out. He doesn't have much to do with them, so feels that it shouldn't affect their lives. Suz doesn't agree. Suddenly all she can think about is that she isn't good enough for him, even though he's made it clear over and over that he loves her. He offers to help out with the ranch troubles, and she won't even accept that. 

I liked the way that everything turned out, and was happy to see Suz's attitude change, Even Daisy does some growing up and I am now looking forward to her story. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Taken by the Con - C. J. Miller (HRS #1838 - Feb 2015)

A sexy scammer is determined to steal an FBI agent's heart

Her new partner in crime-fighting makes Lucia Huntington uncomfortably hot. To catch an embezzler, the beautiful FBI agent must work with ex-con Cash Stone...although they couldn't be more different. Career-driven Lucia lives by the rules, while devilishly charming Cash gleefully bends them.

Unbeknownst to Lucia, Cash once did wrong for the right reason--his ailing son. Now he claims he's working for the FBI to go on the straight and narrow. But as the case turns dangerous with deadly attacks, Lucia questions her trust in Cash. He's reliable and protective, making her yearn for the passionate bond that's always eluded her. But is their entire relationship one big con?

Good story. Lucia and Cash have been assigned to work together to help catch an embezzler. Lucia isn't very happy about it at the beginning. She is a stickler for following the rules and Cash sees rules pretty much as guidelines that can be worked around if necessary. Both of them have reason to want this case to end well.

Lucia is from a wealthy family, one she has never felt she fit into. She has always wanted to be an FBI agent. She was recently transferred from the violent crimes department to white collar crimes and is anxious to prove herself. Working with an ex-con is not her idea of how to do it. He's a criminal and she isn't sure that she can trust him. There's also a very inconvenient attraction that has a tendency to scramble her brain when she's around him.

Cash is the son of a con man, but he never wanted that life for himself. He stayed away from it, found a good woman to marry and had a son. When that son developed a rare cancer, the only thing that might help was an experimental treatment that was very expensive. The only way that he was able to raise the money was by running a con of his own. He was successful and the treatment worked, but Cash got caught and sent to prison. He hasn't seen his son in three years and is desperate to put his life back together and regain custody of his son. When the FBI offered to parole him from prison, on the condition he help them, he accepted. He has to succeed and behave himself, or he could end up back in prison. Working with Lucia is his ticket to freedom. That she is a beautiful and sexy woman is a definite bonus.

There were sparks between Lucia and Cash from the very beginning. Lucia tried hard to bury them, dismayed by the distraction Cash posed. She also can't believe she's attracted to someone like him, so different from the men she's been around before. Getting involved with any coworker is a bad idea, but this one would be wrong on many levels. Cash is also surprised by the attraction, but he's much more open to following up on it. He senses that there's a passionate woman under the layers of rules and regulations. 

Working together allows them to combine their strengths and pretty soon they start to make headway in their investigation. A couple of attacks on them have Cash's protective instincts up in arms, and Lucia begins to see Cash as someone she can trust after all. She sees that in spite of past mistakes Cash is a honorable man, intent on doing what is right. Her fears cause her to make a couple of bad decisions regarding Cash, but she quickly sees the error of her ways and moves to correct it. Cash sees that under her surface confidence, Lucia also has vulnerabilities. He sees her need to be accepted for who she is and tries to show her that he does. I loved how her growing relationship with Cash gave her the courage to stand up to her family's attitudes. That was a great scene and I was rooting for her all the way.

The search for the embezzler and attempts to capture him have a building intensity. Cash and Lucia have to go through several layers to get to him. There's a personal link between him and Cash that adds an extra motivation to Cash's desire to catch him. The teamwork between Cash and Lucia was great, especially in their undercover work. I liked seeing how their attraction added authenticity to their roles. The final showdown was pretty intense with a couple very interesting twists to it. One of those twists I never saw coming, and I loved seeing how Lucia handled it.

The wrapup of the story was great. The scene in the FBI office was sweet between Cash and Lucia, and I loved their coworkers' reactions. The last part at Lucia's parents' house was wonderful. I loved seeing the changing relationships, and Cash's son was adorable.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wolf Haven - Lindsay McKenna (HQN - Nov 2014)

Series: Jackson Hole Wyoming (Book 9)

She's caught in her past until he shows her a future…

Some things can never be forgotten. A helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Capture. Torture. Now U.S. Navy nurse Skylar Pascal is struggling to regain control of her life after a trauma that nearly destroyed her. After losing so much, an ideal job at the Elk Horn Ranch in Wyoming offers Sky something she thought she'd never find again…hope.

Former SEAL Grayson McCoy has his own demons. But something about Elk Horn's lovely-yet-damaged new nurse breaks something loose. Compassion -- and passion. And even as Gray works with Sky to piece her confidence back together, something deeper and more tender begins to unfurl between them. Something that could bring her back to life.

But not even the haven of Elk Horn Ranch is safe from dangers. And all of Sky's healing could be undone by the acts of one malicious man….

Excellent book, full of courage and love and healing. It is also unusual in that it showcases a heroine who is suffering from PTSD. Sky was a Navy nurse who was captured and tortured for two weeks before being rescued. She spent six months in the hospital recovering from her wounds and trying to cope with her PTSD. No longer able to handle the stress of being an ER nurse, she has come to Elk Horn Ranch for another type of job. Besides being resident nurse for the dude ranch side of the business, she will also be assistant to Gray McCoy, head of the wolf rescue part of the ranch.

Gray is a former SEAL who has found his own peace in working with the animals. Besides his memories from the war, he also lost his wife when she was murdered by drug runners in South America. He's very familiar with what Sky is going through.

I loved seeing the connection that Sky and Gray had from the very beginning. Gray recognized Sky as being former military from the moment he saw her, creating their first bond. When Iris, the owner of the ranch, filled Gray in on Sky's issues, his protective instincts kicked in. He worried about making things worse for her, but having suffered from his own PTSD, he was determined to try. Sky found herself trusting Gray from the moment she met him. I loved seeing the way that he helped her settle in on the ranch, giving her the assistance she needed while not trampling on her pride.

The first night she was on the ranch, sharing the employee quarters with Gray, she suffered from one of her nightmares. Gray's immediate response and the sensitivity with which he deals with it are just what Sky needs. She had had great stores of inner strength before her capture, but the torture had destroyed her ability to cope with all the things she was feeling. Gray made her feel safe and protected. Sky had also been feeling ashamed of her reactions and emotionalism, and Gray helped her see that there is nothing wrong with what she feels. 

Over the next several weeks, being around the animals and the outdoors starts Sky on the road to healing. She and Gray rescue three wolf puppies that give her a focus for the nurturing spirit that she has been finding again. I also loved seeing her work with the autistic little boy Justin, and how her own sensitivity makes her able to reach him. 

The connection that Gray and Sky share also begins to grow in other ways. Gray has been grieving for his wife for a couple years, but meeting Sky made him realize that there was still some life left to be lived. He's drawn to her beauty, but also to the strength of the spirit he sees in her. I loved the way that he is determined to keep his feelings under control and not push her for something she's not yet ready for. On Sky's side, she was attracted to Gray early on, but feels that she is too broken for him to be interested in her that way. I loved seeing how his patience allows her to see herself for the complete woman she really is. One of my favorite things was that the relationship was built over several weeks and months, and wasn't a case of insta-love. Both of them were determined to be sure of their own feelings.

Sky was also dealing with the problems of her relationship with her father. As former military himself, he did not handle her PTSD well. In fact, he treated her very badly and I really wanted to smack him about for the things he said to her. It wasn't until she got to know Gray and listened to some of the things he had to say, that she began to think that there was more going on with him. I loved seeing how her new understanding helped them repair their relationship. I loved seeing how Gray was determined to protect her from any more hurt, and that it was his insight that made the difference. 

The suspense part of the story was actually very small. For all the buildup of the man who had triggered one of Sky's attacks, he didn't really play much of a part. There was tension that built when the attackers escaped, and I was really expecting something intense to happen because of it. But the resolution wasn't what I expected at all.

Devil's Own - Veronica Wolff (Berkley - Mar 2011)

Series: Clan MacAlpin (Book 2)

Fifteen years after he was kidnapped and sold into slavery, Aidan returns to Scotland to find the home he knew long gone. His mother, a proper education, a chance at love -- gone. All he has now are dreams of vengeance…

Only one woman could restore his tormented heart.

Aidan MacAlpin appreciates the hospitality of his brothers and sisters, but after surviving hell on earth, they feel more like strangers than kin. They could never understand his one ambition: To exact bloody revenge on the bastard who enslaved him all those years ago…

Elspeth Farquharson had already resigned herself to the life of a spinster when she’s hired to tutor dark, brooding Aidan -- a real-life hero more enticing than any from her adventure books. If only she could convince this tragic rogue that she’s not the nervous, stuttering bookworm she appears to be. But when Aidan shows her a clue to his tortured past, she’ll be thrust into a dangerous game of passion and deception that will awaken the sexy heroine within -- if it doesn't kill her first…

Good sequel to Devil's Highlander. Aidan returned to Scotland just in time to help his brother Cormac, and is now trying to cope with being back. After thirteen years away, he no longer knows his family members, and their hovering is driving him demented. All he can think about is finding and destroying the man responsible for his captivity. But in order to do that he has to be able to act the part of a man who wants to get into the slaving business - hard to do when you can't even read.

Elspeth is a young woman who has given up on finding love of her own. Instead she spends her days running the small farm where she and her father live. Her father is incompetent and spends his days drinking and thinking up ways to get rich quickly, leaving her to do all the work. Her only happiness comes from the adventure stories she loves to read. When her friend comes to her and begs Elspeth to tutor her brother Aidan, she can't resist. Aidan is much more interesting that any book hero.

I have to admit that Elspeth irritated me for most of the book. Her mind kept wandering to made up fantasies involving Aidan and herself, causing her to be easily flustered. She's really very smart, and intuitive when it comes to Aidan, but also very naive about what the world is really like. She constantly expects things to be like one of the stories she reads. I did like the way that she was determined to help Aidan learn and worked hard to make it happen. As she learned more about why he needed to learn to read, she was determined to help him, whether he wants her help or not. Her naivete has her walking into all kinds of trouble. Her heart is in the right place, but her methods are dangerous.

Aidan's quest for vengeance has him angry all the time. He is frustrated and embarrassed by his lack of education, but knows that learning is the only way to get what he wants. At first he sees Elspeth as something of a boring and colorless means to an end, but it isn't long before he sees signs of passion under the quiet facade. I loved seeing him tease her, trying to get the spirit to show. He soon discovers that her quiet intensity soothes the anger in him, making it easier for him to concentrate on what he needs to do. He tries to keep her out of his business, but finds that she's much more tenacious than he first gives her credit for. Trying to protect her just makes her more determined to be involved.

I really enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Elspeth knew what she wanted and was determined to get it, but Aidan was equally determined to resist. He feels that he is too damaged to be a suitable husband for her, and she is determined that he should see that he is a far better man than he thinks. Some of their encounters are pretty funny, and some are simply heartbreaking. And when she gets into some real trouble, Aidan is the only one who can save her.

Aidan's quest for revenge is understandable. What we learn about his life is certainly motivation for it. Without the ability to read, pursuing it is much more difficult. I liked following what he and Elspeth did, and seeing how they put together what they learned. The way it all came together was very nervewracking and I wondered if all the bad guys would get what was coming to them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

By Winter's Light - Stephanie Laurens (Mira - Nov 2014)

Series: Cynster (Book 22)

It's frosty December and six Cynster families come together at snowbound Casphairn Manor with members of their households to celebrate the season in true Cynster fashion -- and where Cynsters gather, love is never far behind.

The festive occasion brings together Daniel Crosbie, tutor to Alasdair (Lucifer) Cynster's sons, and Claire Meadows, widow and governess to Rupert (Gabriel) Cynster's daughter. Daniel and Claire have met before and the embers of an unexpected passion smolder between them.

However, Claire -- once bitten, twice shy -- believes a second marriage is not in her stars. Yet Daniel is determined. He's seen the kind of love the Cynsters share, and Claire is the lady with whom he dreams of sharing his life. Assisted by a bevy of Cynsters -- innate matchmakers every one -- Daniel strives to persuade Claire that trusting him with her hand and her heart is her right path to happiness.

Claire is increasingly drawn to Daniel and despite her misgivings, their relationship deepens. But then catastrophe strikes, and by winter's light, she learns that love -- true love -- is worth any risk, any price.

Excellent addition to the Cynster series, even though the main romance isn't between Cynsters, but two of their staff members. Daniel has long been drawn to Claire, but as a tutor whose charges are about to age out of his care, he hasn't felt in a position to support a wife. Just before Christmas, his employer asked him to stay on as his assistant in the antiquities business. This gives Daniel the impetus he needs to make his case to Claire. He's nervous because, while he believes his feelings are returned, he isn't positive.

Claire has sensed his feelings, and is not sure what to do. Her marriage was not the best, and left her not trusting men and what they say they want, nor her own feelings around them. Her mind tells her to say no to furthering their relationship, but her heart isn't listening. 

I loved seeing the relationship develop between them. They had been friends before, as all the governesses and tutors are. Their exposure to the Cynsters, and seeing the obvious love among all the couples is a great example, and Daniel especially sees it as the model for what he wants. His first attempt to speak to Claire doesn't go that well, as she is spooked by her feelings. Her uncertainty leaves the door open for Daniel to do his best to persuade her. I loved the fact that he didn't just bulldoze over her fears, but addressed them, making her look at things in a different way. I loved seeing how his love helped her overcome them and see that happiness is possible for her after all.

One of the really fun things about the book was seeing the help that Daniel had along the way. He thought that he had hidden his feelings from others very well, but Cynsters are a  remarkably observant family. I loved seeing the way that the group of teen girls, led by Louisa, made sure that both Daniel and Claire went on the green cutting expedition, and how the girls made it their mission to sneak some mistletoe into the mix. I loved seeing how they were helped along by the Dowager Duchess, and her interest in helping the couple. It was fun seeing how nervous Daniel and Claire were about telling their employers of their plans, and how stunned they were by what happened. The scene in the library was perfectly Cynster-like and I loved how it turned out.

Another main part of the book was the chance to get to know the next generation of Cynsters. The older kids, just reaching adulthood, were given the chance to show what they were made of during their Christmas Eve explorations. With it being their home turf, Lucilla and Marcus had the biggest roles to play. I especially enjoyed seeing Lucilla's actions during the crisis, and how her training as Lady-in-waiting was so critical. As with her parents' story, Scandal's Bride, the importance of the land around her is an integral part of who she is. The arrival of a neighbor to help foreshadows what looks to be in her future. I'm really looking forward to the next books in the series.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Salvation in the Sheriff's Kiss - Kelly Boyce (HH #1219 - Feb 2015)

Series: Salvation Falls (Book 2)

The man she could never forget

Back in Salvation Falls after seven years in Boston, Meredith Connolly has transformed into a sophisticated businesswoman with two goals in mind:

1. Prove her father, who died in jail, was innocent and unmask the real culprits.

2. Avoid Hunter Donovan, who broke her heart and ran her out of town.

But to achieve her first objective, Meredith will have to sacrifice her second. Because Hunter is the town's sheriff, and that means there's no escaping him -- or the way he makes her feel!

Good story. After seven years away, Meredith has decided it's time to come home. She had left town after her father was sent to prison for something he didn't do. And instead of the man she loved standing by her, he forced her to leave town, breaking her heart. The aunt she lived with in Boston has died, and when she learns her father has also died she is determined to return and prove his innocence. She'd like to do it without having to see Hunter again, but it's a small town and he's the sheriff.

Hunter has been the sheriff since the death of the previous one seven years ago. He takes protecting the people of Salvation Falls very seriously. When the previous sheriff was dying, he said something that made Hunter believe that there was more behind the trouble with Meredith's father than had been discovered during the trial. He's been haunted by that and his treatment of the woman he loved ever since.

Meredith's return stirs up a whole bunch of trouble. One of the other men involved has been captured and is awaiting trial, increasing interest in what he might know. Shortly after her return, Meredith's room is ransacked, as the bad guys search for evidence they think she has. In spite of their past, Hunter is the only one that she feels safe with. 

Just being near each other again, Hunter and Meredith realize that their feelings haven't changed. But Meredith is wary of trusting Hunter again, after the cruel way he treated her the last time. However, the more time they spend together, the more she sees of the man she loved and not the one who treated her so badly. Hunter can't hide the way he feels about her, and hopes that this time things will work out for them. But if they can't figure out who's behind the trouble, history may repeat itself.

Though their reunion started out rough, I liked the way that Hunter and Meredith were able to start talking to each other. They worked well together as they tried to figure out just what Meredith had and what it meant. Meredith had matured into an intelligent and independent woman, one who wasn't going to allow Hunter to shut her out of what was happening. Hunter had done what he had in the past to keep her safe, and he was willing to do what was necessary again. As things became more dangerous, was Hunter going to make the same decision, and would Meredith be able to forgive him if he did?

The mystery of who was behind Meredith's father's trouble was well done. One of the players really wasn't much of a surprise, nor were his motivations. I enjoyed seeing Meredith and Hunter work together, though there were also times they shut each other out. If they hadn't done so, some of the danger could have been avoided. The final confrontation was quite intense, though I would have liked a little more information about what happens to the bad guys who are still missing. I did enjoy the final chapter and seeing how Hunter and Meredith work out their differences.

Friday, February 20, 2015

You Only Love Twice - Lori Wilde (Forever - Mar 2006)

Comic-book heroine Angelina Avenger battles dastardly criminals and alien invasions. But her creator Marlie Montague's life isn't as exciting...until Marlie opens the front door and finds the business end of a pistol pointed right at her. Her plan: to channel Angelina fast! Recruiting her new next-door neighbor, who looks like a rock-hard action hero, couldn't hurt either...

The last thing Navy secret agent Joel Hunter expected on this surveillance gig was a luscious brunette bursting through his window. Now he and Marlie are blowing the doors off a full-blown conspiracy with more double agents than a Bond flick. But in between shootouts and squealing tires, the mystery that is Marlie is making Joel's heart go thump thump thump. Is she a femme fatale or an endearing bookworm? And how does she leave him both shaken and stirred?

Fun book. Marlie writes comic books for a living. She's pretty much a loner, living in her own world, until a knock on the door has her facing an assassin. She manages to escape, then goes for help to her next door neighbor. He just happens to be an ex-SEAL who is an NCIS agent assigned to watch her. Suddenly there's more at stake than just watching over her, and it's up to them to find out who wants to kill her and why.

Marlie is an interesting character. She keeps to herself and doesn't have a lot of friends. When she was a kid her Navy father was accused of treason and shot by his best friend. Since then she has trust issues. Her comic book heroine Angelina is her alter ego, someone with whom Marlie has frequent conversations. She also calls on Angelina when the situation calls for more than she thinks she is capable of herself. The conversations between the two of them are pretty funny. 

Joel left the SEALs involuntarily due to some trouble during a mission he was on with his then wife. The things that happened have had him shutting himself off from his emotions. Now he is an NCIS agent assigned to watch Marlie. What little he knows of her has him thinking that this will be a slow assignment, as she seems to lead a boring life. That all changes when she breaks into his house looking for help. Suddenly the things he hasn't been told about his assignment take on new importance. 

The relationship that grows between Joel and Marlie is one that tests both their issues. Thanks to the attacks on her, Marlie has to trust Joel to keep her safe. She's also attracted to him, but opening herself up that much is very hard for her to do. Joel is also attracted to Marlie, and finds that it's rapidly becoming more than just physical. He's fascinated with the multiple aspects of her personality, and he's fighting hard to keep his heart out of it. He also has some guilty feeling going on, because he's keeping two big secrets from her - why he was there in the first place, and the personal connection that they have. He just knows that's going to cause problems when it comes out. I loved seeing how they ended up balancing each other out, once they were able to overcome their fears.

The mystery part of the story is quite involved. The comics that Marlie writes deal with conspiracy theories, her way of dealing with the events of her childhood. When one of her comics hits a little too close to home, the man at the back of it is determined to shut her up. As she and Joel try to figure out which theory started the whole thing there are a whole bunch of people and connections that get involved. There are some pretty funny moments, including a flashmob involving bowling balls and Joel and a pair of handcuffs. The final showdown is pretty good with Marlie saving the day. There's also an interesting twist involving one of the players.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Secret Santa - Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Laura Levine, Cindy Myers (Zebra - Nov 2013)

Mister Christmas by Fern Michaels

A week before Christmas, attorney Claire O'Brien is summoned to Ireland to change her wealthy client's will--only to encounter resistance from his handsome nephew. Will Claire be forced to spend the holidays up close and personal with her irresistible Irish nemesis? 

Enjoyable story, though because of its length the events were rather rushed. Claire is a lawyer for a big firm in California. The week before Christmas she gets a call from one of her biggest clients. He says he is dying and needs her to come to Ireland immediately to make changes to his will. She suspects that he is lying, but postpones her plans to be with her family for the holiday and rushes off to Ireland. There she discovers that he is perfectly healthy, but is attempting to engineer a relationship between her and his nephew Quinn. In spite of her immediate attraction to him, she is furious and determined to leave immediately.

Though their initial meeting was a bit rocky, I enjoyed seeing Claire and Quinn together. When Claire arrived she was tired, jet lagged, and pretty pissed off about what she discovered. Quinn's behavior was a bit on the silly side, using his sense of humor to jerk her chain a bit. But he completely agrees with Claire's feelings about what has been done to them both. He goes out of his way to help Claire make it back to her family for the holidays. Spending all that time together as they return to the States, has a quick connection developing between them. They spend that time getting to know each other.

Quinn takes care of Claire, doing all kinds of things to make her trip go easier. He also gets involved in helping a young woman that she met on the plane going to Ireland, making Claire realize just how nice a guy he is. They fall for each other quite quickly.

There were some funny moments and some really sweet ones. Claire's fear of flying gets her in some trouble involving alcohol and some wardrobe issues. The whole airport scene is pretty funny. Later on, Quinn's innate kindness shows as he helps Claire make a huge difference in the young woman's life. There's also an encounter with danger that has them realizing what is important in life.

This story is connected to stories in previous holiday anthologies, making it possible to check in on those other characters and see how they are doing.

The Yellow Rose of Christmas by Marie Bostwick

Though Miss Velvet Tudmore wrote off romance years ago, rumour has it she has a secret admirer. And when her surprise suitor promises to reveal himself at the annual Christmas ball in Too Much, Texas, Velvet starts to wonder: is it ever too late to find love?

Velvet is sixty-four and has never been in any kind of relationship. She doesn't have a very high opinion of the men in her small town. She runs the local historical society and prides herself on her ability to pass on the history of their town. When a new history teacher is hired for the high school, she is smitten by the handsome and intelligent Thaddeus Delacorte.

Shortly after his arrival, she begins receiving a yellow rose a day from an unknown source. Convinced that Mr. Delacorte is her secret admirer, Velvet begins to take more interest in her appearance and makes changes that surprise everyone in town. When her admirer promises to reveal himself at the ball, Velvet has high hopes for a happy outcome.

I liked seeing the changes that Velvet made. She started out as pretty uptight, definitely the epitome of the old maid. It was amazing to see what a difference a bit of attention made to the way she saw herself. I loved seeing the new confidence she had in herself.

The Christmas Ball was excellent and I loved seeing what happened with Velvet and the yellow roses. It was all very sweet. Even better was the day after the ball and the visitor that Velvet had.

Nightmare on Elf Street by Laura Levine

Aside from the mortifying costume, how bad can a gig as a mall Santa's elf be? Jaine Austen finds out when she's teamed up with the Santa from Hell. But things go from bad to worse when he's found murdered on the job--and Jaine is a suspect. Now all she wants for Christmas is to find the real killer...

Story of Jaine as she works as a mall elf in order to get an advertising job for the same mall. One of the Santas is a sweet older man and one is a young, out of work actor with a majorly bad attitude. Scotty hates kids, flirts with the good looking moms and nannies, drinks tequila like it's water, and bad mouths everyone. So it's no real surprise when he ends up dead.

Jaine is an amateur sleuth and sets to work trying to figure out who the murderer is. She works her way through all the people who have reason to want him dead, including herself, until she stumbles on the guilty party.

This story reminded me of Stephanie Plum, but not nearly as much fun. Not sure why it was included in this anthology other than the Christmas theme, as the others are romances.

Room at the Inn by Cindy Myers

When a Rocky Mountain blizzard forces Barb and her husband to spend Christmas in a remote Colorado cabin with their fellow travelers, Barb struggles to cope - especially when her husband reveals troubling news. But sometimes a holiday shake-up is all a woman needs to discover what she's truly made of..

Good story. Not so much a romance as Barb and Jim reconnecting. On a trip to Colorado to spend Christmas with friends, they are caught in a blizzard that closes the roads. Along with several other travelers, they are taken to some fishing cabins to wait out the storm.

Barb starts out as kind of whiny. They're stuck in a cabin instead of being with their friends. All she can really think about it what she is missing. She's a bit frustrated with her husband who seems to be taking it all in stride. It gets worse when he breaks the news that he's quit his well paying job to start a business with their college dropout son. She's upset that he didn't discuss it with her first, and can't help thinking about the changes it will mean.

Barb also can't help being a bit jealous that Jim has had this dream and is now pursuing it. She doesn't have anything like that in her life. She grew up poor, determined to make a better life, which she did by marrying well. She has spent her life trying to be the perfect wife and mother, But doesn't see where anything she has done has made things better for anyone.

While stuck in the cabin, Barb finds herself making friends with the owner of the cabins, and getting to know the other travelers. Her ability to talk to people brings them together to help make a better Christmas for them all. In the process, she learns more about herself and what she really can do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Seduction of a Highland Warrior - Sue-Ellen Welfonder (Forever - Feb 2013)

Series: Highland Warriors (Book 3)

At the King's request, chieftain Alasdair MacDonald has sworn to preserve the peace in the Glen of Many Legends. Though he's handsome and fearless, his warrior's heart belongs only to his beloved land-until the fair sister of his oldest enemy shatters his defenses, branding his skin with a single touch, and sealing his fate with one stolen kiss . . .

Lady Marjory Mackintosh will do anything to unite the warring clans, even seduce Alasdair MacDonald. She has loved the rugged Highlander since she first saw him and now, as temptation leads to surrender, Marjory dares to possess him, body and soul. But a dangerous new menace enters the Glen, and he will stop at nothing to strip Alasdair of his honor-and the only woman who can claim his heart.

Good conclusion to the series. Two years earlier a truce was forced on the three clan leaders who claim the Glen of Many Legends. The sisters of the three lairds made their own pact: to secure peace through the time honored method of marriage. Two thirds of their goal have been met, as Catriona MacDonald married James Cameron, and Isobel Cameron married Kendrew Mackintosh. Marjory Mackintosh is determined to succeed by capturing Alasdair MacDonald, the man she has loved since the first time she saw him. It isn't going to be easy, as Alasdair is fighting it and there are forces working to keep them apart.

Alasdair is attracted to Marjory, but knows that pursuing her is a really bad idea. He and her brother are enemies, in spite of the truce forced on them by the king. He even went so far as to leave the Glen for a year, in an attempt to forget her. But as soon as he sees her again, the flames burn even hotter than before. He wants her, but his need to protect his clan is just as strong. I got a bit frustrated with his apparent willingness to give up love for them.

I loved Marjory. She is strong willed and determined that she will get her man. Her brother Kendrew is determined to find her a husband and is looking at various Viking suitors. He wants to strengthen ties with the Norsemen and keep Marjory away from Alasdair. But Marjory is a step ahead of him at all times, and has succeeded in secretly scuttling all of his attempts. 

Alasdair's warrior instincts have him convinced that trouble is coming to the Glen. He is suspicious that the trouble is being caused by Kendrew in an attempt to get Alasdair and his people in trouble with the king. His attempts to warn Kendrew of his suspicions don't go well and only adds to the enmity between the two men. Both of them have severe tunnel vision regarding the other, which adds to their inability to trust in the other's honor. It doesn't help that each time they meet Alasdair also manages to be found in questionable circumstances with Marjory.

I loved seeing Marjory's attempts to get where she wants to be with Alasdair. She nearly succeeds several times,but they seem to be stopped by either his honor kicking in or interruptions by other people. She really thinks she's making progress, but she isn't sure of Alasdair's feelings toward her. During one confrontation with her brother, he says some things that make her certain he doesn't care, not realizing that he's lying in order to protect her. She does eventually see the truth, but in the meantime is tempted to do some serious damage to both Kendrew and Alasdair.

I was ready to do some serious damage to Kendrew myself. He is obviously in love with Isobel and very happy in his marriage. But he spends most of the book trying to arrange a marriage for Marjory, in spite of her opposition. He is completely unwilling to give her the same chance for happiness that he has found for himself. If I were Isobel, I'd be supporting Marjory by making Kendrew's life miserable until he saw the light.

There was a good buildup of tension, both with the romance between Marjory and Alasdair, and the looming trouble with the Vikings. The dream that Marjory had gave the reason for the trouble, and each event through the story added to the question of how they were going to pull it off. By the time the confrontation came I was ready for anything. There were a couple of interesting twists to what happened and the ending was satisfying, though it wasn't anywhere as intense as I was expecting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Coming Home for Christmas - Lindsay McKenna, Delores Fossen, Geri Krotow (HQN - Nov 2014)

Christmas Angel by Lindsay McKenna 

When Navy SEAL Kyle Anderson gets a call saying Anna Campbell needs him, he doesn't think twice. On the Montana ranch where they grew up, holiday magic permeates every acre, kindling long-awaited love. But will duty trump desire? 

Kyle and Anna had grown up together on the Montana ranch where his father was foreman. They started out as friends, but grew to love each other as they got older. They talked about plans for their future together, but when Kyle was eighteen, he left the ranch for the Navy SEALs. On a visit home when he was twenty-two he proposed, but Anna turned him down, unable to face the kind of life they'd have away from the ranch. Heartbroken, Kyle left, cutting off all contact with her. Seven years later he learned that she's been critically injured in an accident, and he goes back to help her.

Seeing each other again is both amazingly easy and incredibly hard. The love they have for each other is still there but can they overcome the hurts of the past? I loved seeing the way that Kyle was so determined to help Anna recover. His feelings for her were as strong as ever, and with maturity he has begun to realize what is most important in his life. Anna had tried moving on past her feelings for Kyle, but it hadn't worked out and had only made things worse. I loved seeing them reach out to each other, sharing the changes in their lives, and wanting to make things work.

Unexpected Gift by Delores Fossen 

Tailed by a camera crew, Air Force Captain Gabe Brenner returns to Texas to deliver a Christmas message to his best friend's sister Kelly Coburn. But she's had her own delivery: beautiful baby Noel - Gabe's daughter. 

Gabe and Ross Coburn had been friends for a long time. Ross's younger sister had had a crush on Gabe for almost as long, but as Ross's little sister, Gabe had never looked at her that way. A least not until last Christmas, when shared worry over Ross and a little too much to drink had them taking comfort in each other's arms. When Kelly discovered she was pregnant she didn't tell Gabe, not wanting him to be distracted while he was in a combat zone.

Fast forward a year and Gabe has come to deliver a Christmas gift to Kelly from her brother. He's met there by a camera crew, who is there to film the event (The crew was notified by Ross, and it was never explained why). Gabe is stunned to discover that Kelly has had his baby and that he knew nothing about it.

Kelly had meant to tell him but could never quite figure out the best way to do it. Now the two of them have to decide what to do. Kelly had never thought that Gabe would be interested in being a father as he is known for being a bit of a player. She's surprised by how quickly Gabe takes to fatherhood, and his sweetness with baby Noel only deepens her love for him. 

Gabe can see no other solution than for he and Kelly to marry as soon as possible. One obstacle is that she doesn't want to leave her small town home and Gabe's Air Force duties take him all over the world. And while Kelly knows that she's in love with Gabe, she has no idea if he feels the same way, and she doesn't want to marry for anything but love. 

Ross's surprise arrival creates some stress with his reactions to what he finds. It also forces both Kelly and Gabe to face their fears and decide what they really want. I really enjoyed the Christmas presents and what each one meant to the recipients. 

Navy Joy by Geri Krotow 
Series: Whidbey Island (Book 3.5)

Chief Petty Officer Ian Cairne arrives stateside for Christmas with a four-legged friend: his late buddy's military service dog. Fortunately, the beautiful town vet Wendi Cooper is willing to take this odd couple into her home - and her heart.

Ian has arrived back on Whidbey Island, grieving the loss of his best friend. With him is Integrity, his buddy's military dog. Unfortunately, his house is uninhabitable thanks to a broken water pipe and he needs a place to live that accepts dogs. Local veterinarian Wendi has a guest cottage on her property that she's willing to rent to him for as long as he needs. Wendi is suffering herself, having recently lost her twin sister and becoming guardian to her three year old niece.

Both Ian and Wendi feel an immediate attraction, but neither feels ready for a relationship. Ian is grieving, trying to bond with the dog, and doesn't allow himself to get in too deep with women anyway. As a military guy long separations are hard on relationships and he hasn't had good luck. Wendi has had a few relationships with military guys and they haven't worked out. The last one ended when the man moved on to another woman. Now that she has Emma, she feels that she doesn't have the time necessary to make a relationship work.

I loved seeing the way that Ian and Wendi connected. First through Wendi's knowledge of dogs and the things that Ian needs for Integrity. She also recognizes Ian's grief, as she's experiencing the same thing. She can't help reaching out to him. Ian is drawn to Wendi, though he tries to resist. The warmth of the life she has created with Emma is far different than what he had as a child and it is immensely appealing. Over the next few weeks, as they are thrown together, the attraction grows stronger and the connection deeper. I loved Christmas Eve and Ian's gift was adorable.

I enjoyed all three stories. Each was a wonderful example of the kind of thing a military member faces around the holidays. I loved seeing each of the heroes find a home for his heart also.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweet Talking Man - Liz Talley (HS #1972 - Feb 2015)

Series: Home in Magnolia Bend (Book 2)

Who doesn't want a little sweet talk?

Leif Lively is the hottest thing to happen to Magnolia Bend. But single mother Abigail Orgeron figures he's another heartbreaker and does her best to ignore the steamy glances he tosses her way. When he speaks, though, her resistance crumbles! His sweet words, humor and laid-back ways captivate buttoned-up Abigail.

For once, losing control feels so good, and this no-strings arrangement is getting serious. What will she do when Leif solves the family mystery that brought him to town and decides to leave? Because she's learning that the biggest love means taking the biggest risk…

Good book, with two main characters who are outside the usual types. Abigail is forty years old, divorced and the mother of a twelve year old girl. Since her husband ran off with a younger woman five years earlier, she has become a bit on the uptight side. She dresses conservatively, is very organized, and follows all the rules. She's very conscious of her reputation as the daughter of the local preacher and as the PTA president. She's horrified when she finds her daughter, Birdie (Brigitte), spying on the new guy that moved in nearby.

Leif is an artist, tall, handsome, with blond hair that reaches his shoulders. He is also a vegan, wears unusual clothing, and the essence of a hippie. He has also broken three engagements, indicating that he has some trouble with commitments. He is the son of an artist who used to live in Magnolia Bend. She had left town, pregnant, when a local man died, afraid she'd be accused of his death. On her deathbed she confessed to Leif that his father didn't know about him and begged him to make things right. She died before telling Leif his name. So he applied for and got the job as the new art teacher at the local school, planning to search for the truth while he was there.

In spite of being complete opposites, there is a strong attraction between Abigail and Leif. He doesn't understand why he's so drawn to her, because she is nothing like the women he's usually with. He does know that he enjoys ruffling her feathers. But he's also really sensitive to her feelings. I loved the way that he showed up at her place after witnessing her ex-husband's arrival back in her life, Abigail isn't happy about her attraction to Leif at the beginning, and she can't see him wanting any kind of involvement with her. But he's sweet and funny and brings a passion and excitement to her life she hasn't felt in a long time.

I loved seeing how their no-strings relationship grew and changed. Leif has spent most of his adult life searching for something to fill the void the lack of a father has caused, a sense that he doesn't belong anywhere. Even his three fiancees have never been able to reach that part of him. But he finds himself letting Abigail get closer than anyone else ever has. He goes from wanting no strings to realizing that he's in love with her, and wanting more than the secret affair they have going on. 

I loved seeing the effect that Leif has on Abigail. She is so wrapped up in appearances at the beginning, and by the end she has finally seen that she needs to live the life that's right for her. I loved the way that his appreciation of who she is gives her the confidence to stand up for herself. The one thing that she is still fighting is the fear of risking her heart again. When Leif wants more, she backs away. An unexpected event shows her that she has the courage to go after what she wants after all.

The characters all felt very real to me, with realistic emotions and actions. Abigail's ex-husband's reappearance added another layer to her stress and also showed her changes. I loved the way that she tried to make clear to him that he had no chance with her. His selfishness and the way he tried to manipulate Abigail via Birdie was pretty bad. Birdie herself was pretty realistic as a preteen. Her attitude toward her mother was typical of many her age, but she seemed to take it to a new level. Her part in the events at the end was especially cruel to her mother. I liked what Abigail says to her, but would like to have seen more of what the consequences were.

Leif's search for his father was a big part of the book and I enjoyed how it progressed. I loved the characters who helped him, especially Hilda. Much of his insecurity could be laid at his feelings of loss, not having known his father. I liked Abigail's support of Leif and his search. I liked the ending and the realistic progression that it showed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Confessions - Cynthia Eden (HI #1545 - Feb 2015)

Series: Battling McGuire Boys (Book 1)

Desperate to prove she's being framed for murder, Scarlett Stone entrusts her reputation -- and her life -- to the man who once broke her heart. Grant McGuire, a sexy former army ranger turned detective, has never been the same since military action. But behind his cold demeanor, he still burns for Scarlett.

Taking her case is an easy but dangerous decision for Grant. Together they must race against the clock to find the real killer, who now wants them both dead. More dangerous, however, is their sudden, reignited passion. Grant will do anything for a second chance with Scarlett…while she'll do everything to keep the secret she never wants him to know…

Good book with lots of action, good second chance romance. Scarlett and Grant had been high school sweethearts. After he graduated, Grant joined the army and became a ranger. The summer Scarlett graduated, Grant was home for a visit and broke things off with her. He claimed he didn't love her, but in reality he was trying to protect her from himself. With the things he had seen and done, he wouldn't be any good for her. The last thing he told her was that he'd be there for her if she ever needed him.

Ten years later both have moved on with their lives. Grant is back home, running a security company with his brothers. They all left the military after their parents were murdered, coming home to take care of their younger sister and try to find out who killed their parents. Scarlett went to college, became a teacher, and got engaged. They haven't been in contact, though they've seen each other at a distance. One night she shows up at Grant's office, begging for his help. She's about to be arrested for her fiance's murder, and she needs him to help her prove her innocence.

There's heat between them right away, showing that the old feelings are still there. Grant is determined to earn a second chance with Scarlett, but first he has to find out who set her up. As the days go on, the attacks on Scarlett escalate and Grant becomes a target as well. As they search for the real killer, they get to know each other again, and things from their pasts come out that create new stresses between them. I found it interesting that each had kept secrets in order to protect the other. Both have to find a way to let go of the past before they can have a future.

The suspense was well done. Though Scarlett was cleared fairly early, the issue of finding out who had set her up and was still out to get her continued. I loved the introduction of Grant's brothers into the story, as each of them did their part to support the investigation. By the middle of the book I had a good idea of who the culprit was, but there was enough going on to create some doubt. The final confrontation was quite intense and I was on the edge of my seat until they were out of it. The epilogue contained an interesting twist that was the result of that confrontation and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Baby for the Doctor - Jacqueline Diamond (HAR #1499 - May 2014)

Series: Safe Harbor Medical (Book 13)


A baby is the last thing surgical nurse Anya Meeks expected from her passionate New Year's Eve fling. Growing up, Anya shouldered more than her share of responsibility, even raising her three younger siblings. She isn't ready to tackle a lifelong commitment to a child -- or to a man -- no matter how caring and attentive he seems.

A drop-dead-gorgeous doctor like Jack Ryder is used to the women of Safe Harbor Hospital vying for his attention. Too bad the only woman he wants is avoiding him. Jack longs for a family -- he'll do anything to persuade Anya not to put their baby up for adoption. But with her jaded views on relationships and family, it won't be easy. Can he convince her that their love is no accident?

Good book. Jack and Anya have worked together for several months. Jack has been interested in Anya, and a New Year's Eve kiss turned into a passionate night together. But since then, Anya has been avoiding him. Anya has discovered that she's pregnant and she's not at all happy about it. 

Anya got stuck caring for her younger triplet sisters while she was growing up. Her mom was disabled by rheumatoid arthritis, and unable to do much. With her older sister married and moved out, her father working long hours and her brothers with him, most of the responsibility fell on her. Making it worse, she never seemed to be able to do anything right in her father's eyes. Even when she finally had enough and moved to California, visits to her family were awful, as they laid guilt trips on her for avoiding her responsibilities. She feels that she isn't ready to be a mother and plans to give the baby up for adoption. Then she discovers that she must get Jack's signature also.

Jack is stunned to discover he's going to be a father and he doesn't mind at all. His childhood wasn't all that great, and he'd love to have a family of his own. His mother dumped him with his grandparents and went off to follow her dreams of saving the world. He rarely sees her and never has gotten any feelings of love from her. He is determined to convince Anya that they are meant to be together and raise their baby as a family.

I really enjoyed seeing the way Jack and Anya, with their opposing views on what was best, get closer together and find their happy ending. Anya is determined to give up the baby and furious when Jack refuses to simply sign away his rights, while Jack can't believe Anya can so easily give up their baby. He offers to take complete responsibility, but Anya doesn't believe that Jack is capable of that kind of commitment. So Jack offers to take the next two weeks and prove to her that he is. So he ends up running errands for her and cooking for her and her housemates. They also spend time together and get to know each other. The attraction that flared on New Year's Eve is still there, but Anya is still afraid to trust that she wouldn't get stuck with all the work.

One of the things I liked was the support that they gave each other when it came to the issues with their families. Jack's uncle is a bit of a jerk at times and Anya has no trouble calling him on it. And when Jack's mother comes to town, Anya is there for Jack as he faces that his mother will never be what he had hoped for. At the same time, Jack listens to Anya's complaints about her family. He sees the way that she has tried to deal with them by avoiding them, and challenges her to stand up for herself instead of running away. I loved their visit for her grandmother's birthday and the way she finally spoke of her feelings, thanks to Jack's quiet support of her. It was great to see how that visit turned out. That support of each other went a long way to making them both see what they could have together. I liked the way that Anya showed Jack that she was ready.

I loved the dynamics of the housemates and how they all interact together. The fireworks between Zora and Lucky are pretty intense and I suspect that their story is going to be very good. I'm also looking forward to seeing if something develops between Jack's uncle Rod and Karen, and to see what happens with the girls that used to be his daughters.