Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Deputy's Redemption - Delores Fossen (HI #1551 - Mar 2015)

Series: Sweetwater Ranch (Book 5)

The woman fleeing a cold-blooded killer is no stranger to Deputy Colt McKinnon. Fourteen years ago, Elise Nichols was the love of his life. Now she's back in Sweetwater Springs -- to be the star witness in an upcoming murder trial that could tear the Texas lawman's family apart.

With her explosive revelations certain to rock the town, Elise didn't expect to be welcomed home with open arms. Certainly not by the cowboy with the badge who once meant everything to her. But after being run off the road and shot at, she has no choice but to trust him. Even more dangerous is the desire that's reigniting, making Elise yearn for something she may not live to see.

Very good story that had me hooked from the beginning. Elise has come back to Sweetwater Springs for two reasons. First, to renovate the ranch she inherited and start to raise cutting horses. And second, as the witness in the upcoming murder trial of Jewell McKinnon. She wasn't expecting a welcoming committee, but neither was she expecting to be run off the road and shot at.

Colt knew that Elise was back in town, but wasn't looking forward to seeing her again. They had been friends as kids and sweethearts as teens, but she couldn't wait to leave town for the city. Now she's back with evidence that could clear his mother of murder charges, but put his father in jail instead. Finding her running for her life puts him front and center to protect her.

Colt and Elise's first meeting was pretty rocky. Elise was convinced that he was the one who had been trying to kill her, and Colt was sure that Elise was setting him and his family up for trouble about the trial. It quickly became obvious that they were both wrong. Colt is determined to keep her safe while at the same time both try to resist the attraction that has flared up between them again.

I loved seeing the relationship that built between them. It started with mutual distrust, but an attraction that they couldn't deny. Both of them knew that giving in to it would be a very bad idea, but with Colt working to protect her it was only a matter of time. Once they got past the initial wariness, the heat between them continued to build. Colt knows that he shouldn't get involved with Elise because of her upcoming part in the trial, but his heart tells him that he has no choice. Elise is sure that whatever memories are locked inside her head will make it impossible for them to be together. I loved how the building trust between them made it easier for them to work together to find out who was targeting them. I also liked seeing that even Colt's family members made keeping her safe one of their priorities, even though she may be working against their father.

The suspense and action in the book were fantastic. There were multiple possibilities as to who was trying to have Elise killed and why, and each one had just as good a motive as the next. From the first attack on Elise to the final confrontation it was impossible to decide who had the better chance. There was the man who had been renting her property and his unhappiness about the way she ended his tenancy. There was also the woman and her brother who were angry at Elise because of the results of the background investigation she did on them. And there was also the fact that she was going to testify in a controversial murder trial. I really liked the way that Elise insisted on being involved in all aspects of the investigation and wouldn't just stay back where it was safe. 

I liked the fact that each book in the series can stand alone, with its individual mystery solved by the end. I also liked that each one adds to the series mystery of who is actually responsible for the death of the missing man. I loved how each book has some new bit of information come out, building on each new book. By the end of this book I had a suspect in mind for the murder and I'm looking forward to seeing if I'm right.

Sex, Lies and the CEO - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2376 - May 2015)

Series: Chicago Sons (Book 1)

After his ex writes a tell-all book, CEO Shane Colborn is battling a PR nightmare. The last thing he needs is an affair with another woman, especially one who works for him. But Darci Rivers proves impossible to resist.

Their passion is intense, but so is Darci's secret. She's out to discover a truth that could redeem her father's legacy -- and destroy Shane's company, taking him down with it. Will she do what she's come to do…and risk the once-in-a-lifetime connection she's found with her boss?

Good book. When Darci starts to go through her father's things after his death, she discovers a letter that claims his former business partner stole his designs and cut him out of the business. Now she wants to find the truth and redeem her father's reputation, and to do it she needs to get close to Shane Colborn.

Shane is in the middle of a nightmare. A former girlfriend has written a tell-all book that is full of lies and innuendos, and it's creating problems with his business. He needs to stay away from women and focus on saving his company. When he encounters Darci at one of his business parties there's something about her that he just can't resist.

Darci has a real problem when she meets Shane. Besides being incredibly attracted to him, she likes him. He's smart, he's funny, and he's got a sweet and romantic side to him. She also feels horribly guilty because of the way she's deceiving him, but she's not sure she can trust him with the truth. 

Shane is just as attracted to Darci. He likes her down to earth attitude and the way she resists his attempts to seduce her. Having been burned by a woman who was out for what she could get, it's great being with one who is so open with him.

The chemistry between them is intense and as much as she tries to resist, eventually she gives in. By the time the truth
comes out, Darci and Shane have gotten really close. Darci has gone so far as to fall for him, and the guilt is killing her. She had just decided to confess when he found out. Shane is furious and hurt by her deception. He had started thinking that she was different and that they had something real together. But once he got past his initial reaction, he did something really different - he decided to help her look.

I loved seeing where their relationship went from there. Though trust had been damaged, the feelings they had for each other were still there. There was a terrific scene where Darci was determined to help counteract the effects of his ex's book, and I loved seeing what she did. I also liked seeing how Shane kept trying to believe the best about Darci, even when his friends were against it. I thought it said a lot about his feelings for her that he wanted her to find what she was looking for. There was a rough patch at the end when things didn't look too good, but everything worked out at the end. I especially loved Darci's last ditch effort and Shane's solution.

The Sheikh's Pregnancy Proposal - Fiona Brand (HD #2374 - May 2015)

This sheikh must marry the mother of his child!

Twenty-four hours before he's to formally announce his engagement to the bride his father has chosen, Sheikh Kadin Gabriel ben Kadir gives in to a rare moment of temptation. But when one night with Sarah Duval leads to pregnancy, he vows he'll be part of mother and child's life. His plan: replace one political marriage for another. He'll wed the captivating history teacher who arouses such powerful desire and keep his heart out of the bargain.

But Sarah wants a soul mate. How can she promise forever to a man who has sworn never to be ruled by love?

Good book. Sarah is a twenty-eight year old history teacher who hasn't had good luck with men. She's had two engagements not work out. Now she has taken a good look at her life and doesn't like what she sees, so she is determined to make a change. She gives herself a makeover and heads off to the Zahir consulate for a reception. There she meets a good looking man named Gabe, who really gets her motor going. When she has car trouble later that evening, he offers to drive her home.

Gabe is the heir to the Zahir throne, and as such is expected to marry. He had been married young to his childhood sweetheart, but the marriage hadn't been a happy one. His wife had been even younger than him and hadn't been mature enough to handle the life they had to lead. She was clingy and selfish and gave him no peace. She died tragically when she ran off in a fit of temper. Since then, Gabe has sworn that he would never allow his emotions that much control over him again. He is currently being pressured to marry again, and as he really doesn't care who, he accepts suggestions from his father. The night before his engagement is due to be announced he spots Sarah from across the room and is intrigued. One thing leads to another, and they share a passion filled night together. He can make no promises to her and leaves without telling her who he is, and doesn't contact her again.

Four months later he hasn't been able to forget her. When he finds out she's pregnant he knows that he must be a part of her life. He is willing to do whatever is necessary to get her to marry him, except to give her his heart.

I really liked Sarah. She is independent and self reliant. I loved seeing her step out of her comfort zone that night and go after what she wanted - Gabe. Though she tries to tell herself that she not going to hold out for love, there is an instant connection with him and she can't help picturing a real relationship with him. When he disappears the next day, she forces herself to move on without him. When she discovers she's pregnant, she attempts to find out who he is and contact him, but is unable to do so. When he shows up unexpectedly, she is furious that it only appears to be because of the baby. She has to decide if she can marry him knowing that he doesn't love her. I really loved seeing her try to hold strong against his intentions while he tries to convince her that what they have is enough.

I liked Gabe's protectiveness, which was evident even when he was trying to stay away from her. He also couldn't get her off his mind, much to his dismay. Even so, when he found out about her pregnancy, he was quite happy for the excuse to break his engagement and plan to marry Sarah instead. It was equally amusing and frustrating to see him try to convince himself that all he felt for her was lust. I loved the way that he finally saw the truth, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing him in action as he tried to win her back.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Triple the Fun - Maureen Child (HD #2371 - May 2015)

Series: Kings of California (Book 16)
           Billionaires and Babies (Book 57)

Baby, baby…baby?! 

He's a captain of industry, a brooding billionaire and -- a daddy? When Connor King learns he has fathered triplets, he feels double-crossed. Now nothing will stand in the way of claiming his heirs, not even their alluring legal guardian, Dina Cortez.

With the babies' mother gone, Dina has vowed to protect Sage, Sam and Sadie. But who will protect Dina from her feelings for the dark and defiant Mr. King? Because once she and the children are moved into Connor's California seaside mansion, his stately bed is just a heartbeat away…

Very good story. Connor gets the surprise of his life when he discovers he is the father of triplets. He had been sperm donor for a friend, but was told that the insemination didn't take. His friend moved away and didn't tell him about the babies. The first he knew about it was after the couple had died, and the babies' aunt and guardian asked for financial help.

Connor is furious that he'd been lied to, and feels betrayed by one of the few people he trusted. As part of the King family, he has experience with people, especially women, wanting to use him or his money to get what they want. He's certain that Dina has an agenda of her own, and he'll do whatever is necessary to claim his babies.

Dina is a successful caterer whose life was turned upside down by her sister's death and becoming guardian of her niece and nephews. She had always been under the impression that their father wasn't interested in them, so Connor's appearance surprised her, as did his determination to take custody of the kids. 

There are sparks between Dina and Connor from the moment they met. Dina fights them hard because she can see herself falling for him. She doesn't trust men, especially rich ones, because she so often saw her mother constantly changing who she was to meet their expectations. She is afraid that she would do the same thing. Of course, the sparks burst into flame pretty quickly and she and Connor grow closer. As she feared, she falls in love with him, but knows that her love isn't returned.

I loved seeing Connor fall for the babies so quickly. Thanks to the multitude of children in the King family, he's not entirely inexperienced and I enjoyed seeing how he surprised Dina with his ability to take care of the kids. Because of who he is, Connor is used to getting what he wants, and he wants the kids. He pushes Dina into moving into his house with the children. 

Connor also wants Dina. Having her and the kids living with him has given him something he didn't know he was missing, and he wants to make it permanent. Once he has what he wants, he realizes that what he feels is love, but he can't overcome his fear of trusting her. When those fears cause him to act like a complete fool, he nearly loses everything. I loved the conversation with his brother Colt (Double the Trouble) as Colt reminds him of what he went through. Dina also has to let go of her fears and learn to trust as well. The ending was pretty sweet.

A Duke's Temptation - Jillian Hunter (Signet - Nov 2010)

Series: Bridal Pleasures (Book 1) Boscastle (Book 10)

Samuel Charles Aubrey St. Aldwyn, Duke of Gravenhurst, is a radical rogue and champion of unpopular causes. No one would dream that he is also the author of a bestselling series of dark historical novels, a writer accused of corrupting the morals of the public, and a master seducer who counts among his passionate fans wellborn Miss Lily Boscastle. But Lily is no stranger to disrepute.

When her engagement to another man ends in a tarnished image and public disgrace, Lily is forced to seek employment outside London -- as housekeeper for Gravenhurst himself. Her sharp wit and sensuality appeal to his wicked instincts -- and she's a perfect match for every beguiling move he makes. Yet there's more to him than Lily imagined -- a secret known to few living souls, ghosts from the past that haunt both of their futures in ways too dangerous for even the duke to have invented.

This was a really fun book to read, with a very unusual hero. Samuel is a duke with something of a wicked personal reputation, a radical political reputation, and a secret known to very few. He is the anonymous author of a series of gothic novels that have as many detractors as fans. One of his biggest fans is Lily Boscastle.

Both of them attend a literary masquerade ball, where they have a brief encounter and an instant connection. Samuel is instantly smitten by Lily's beauty and wit, and leaves the ball determined to pay court to her. But Lily's engagement to another man is due to be announced the next day, so he leaves London to return to his home in Dartmoor and continue with his writing. Being the romantic that he is, he leaves instructions for her to be watched over in case she ever needs his help.

Lily is intrigued by the man she met at the ball. He's one of the few men she's met who admits to reading novels. She gives in to the desire for a kiss from him, even though she knows she's promised to another. It's an eye opening occurrence that she does her best to forget over the next couple weeks, as plans are made for her wedding. Lily calls off her engagement shortly before the wedding when she witnesses her fiance kill a man, then attempt to cover it up. No one will believe her about what she has seen, and blames her for the scandal of her engagement's end.

Desperate to get away from London and the gossip, Lily applies for a job as a housekeeper at a remote estate. She has no idea that it is Samuel's home until she gets there. Once there she is committed to the job for at least a year. His house and his staff are unlike anything she expected and soon she's trying to find out just what is going on. 

I loved the growth of their relationship. Samuel is in love from the beginning and willing to do whatever necessary to win his fair lady. He goes a little overboard at first, trying a scenario from one of his books, but that doesn't go over very well. Lily has been burned by her love of novels, as everyone blames that love for her actions regarding her engagement, so she tries to remain practical rather than romanced. Samuel's willingness to believe her story goes a long way toward softening her attitude. Samuel guards his secret until he's sure that he can trust her with it, but then does his big reveal in novel worthy manner. Knowing his secret and hearing his intentions toward her opens her heart to him even more. I loved their interactions, from their love scenes to the conversations about his book and the trouble he is having with the end of it. 

It was interesting to see how Samuel seemed to be in a constant battle with the various parts of himself. His two main characters seemed to be differing sides of his personality and he couldn't decide which he really wanted to be. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him work out the various scenes, and loved the way his staff was so involved with him. When Lily's past makes an unwelcome appearance, everything comes together for him to save the day.

I really enjoyed the ending and seeing their fairy tale come true. It was nice to see that Lily was vindicated in the eyes of her family. I loved the epilogue and seeing the literary process still continued with just as much exuberance as before. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Mighty Quinns: Eli - Kate Hoffmann (HB #840 - Apr 2015)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 30)

An X-rated adventure of a lifetime

Love of the wilderness runs deep in Eli Montgomery. The father he never knew, mountaineer Max Quinn, shared that passion for the untamed -- and never staying in one place for long. But surviving in the wild requires experience. So when Eli learns that a TV personality is spending the next year living in his grandmother's remote cabin for a reality show, Eli is convinced the woman will need his help.


Lucy Parker is determined to adhere to the strict guidelines of this challenge: no assistance. But the second Eli Montgomery shows up in all his rugged hotness, Lucy's craving for caramel lattes is immediately replaced by a much more primal, sensual hunger. And out here, no one will know if she breaks all the rules.

Good book that follows Eli Montgomery, half brother of the New Zealand Quinns. Though he never knew his father, Eli is very much like him. He is a restless soul who loves the challenges of the wilderness. He also has a great respect for the dangers it holds. When he found out that a woman was planning to spend the next year living in his grandmother's old cabin by herself, he was worried about what could happen to her.

Lucy has set herself the challenge of living by herself like the previous owner of the cabin. She has read Trudie's journals and has sold the idea to make a television show about it. The rules are that she gets no outside assistance, other than monthly deliveries of supplies. Her intentions are tested when the first delivery is made by Eli, Trudie's grandson. Besides being incredibly good looking, he is worried about her safety, something that Lucy has never experienced before. She is the product of foster homes and has learned the hard way that she can only depend on herself. 

I loved Lucy's independence. She knows what she wants and has no trouble going after it. She may be a little overconfident in her abilities, but she has the determination to push through until she succeeds. She does see the sense in accepting Eli's advice on how to do some things, though she works very hard at keeping him from doing things for her. I really enjoyed seeing her accomplish the things she did, and have the feelings of satisfaction that came with it. 

I really liked the way that their relationship built slowly. At first Eli kept to the once a month rule, but gradually started visiting more often. I liked the way that he understood what she was trying to do and supported her efforts. All the time that they spent together gave them the opportunity to really get to know each other. Though they had started out simply enjoying their physical relationship and not wanting any commitments, Eli began to realize that he wanted more. Lucy got really used to having Eli around, and that started to make her very nervous. Because of her past, she has no idea what love is like, all she knows is that she feels like she is changing and it scares her. She feels like she is losing sight of who she is. 

When the television people cancel her project, Lucy is heartbroken at having to leave it all behind. Eli has offered to help her continue, but she's afraid that it would mean losing the heart of what she was trying to do. It isn't until she leaves it all behind that she begins to see the truth of what she feels. I loved the ending and seeing how Eli had the patience to wait for Lucy to work through her issues. I really liked how he had spent his time while waiting for her.

I also enjoyed seeing Eli come to terms with his own past. The surprise that he gets because he is a Quinn by blood also gives him the resources to give Lucy the help she needs, if he can get her to accept it. I loved the epilogue, the trip to Ireland, and the other surprise that was waiting for him there. I would have liked to see a reunion included in the epilogue.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Mighty Quinns: Ryan - Kate Hoffmann (HB #821 - Nov 2014)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 29)

Surrender is the greatest sin

For adventure guide Ryan Quinn, a week in Fiji babysitting a hen party should be a cakewalk. Only, the bride turns out to be sexy movie star Serena Hightower, and the wedding turns out to be very much in question. Ryan wants to help Serena, but he's not sure he can trust himself with her -- not when she is his every temptation personified…

Serena Hightower just needs one week in paradise to figure out what she wants. Unfortunately, what she wants is the one thing she can't have -- the rugged and charming Ryan Quinn. Serena craves Ryan's touch, the haven of his arms. But to be with him, she'll have to risk her career and her future, not to mention his. If she throws it all away for the chance at happiness, will he do the same?

Another good entry into the Quinn family saga. Ryan is headed off to Fiji for an easy job. All he needs to do is provide some easy adventures and keep the movie star bride out of trouble. This one is outside the family adventure business, which mean that the fee Ryan earns will be all his. The family business is fine, but he has dreams of his own and the money will give him a good start.

But the job turns out not to be as easy as he expected. Serena is the only one of the women interested in leaving the side of the pool, which puts him in an awkward position. He's really attracted to her, and the feeling is mutual. He won't make advances to a client, especially one who is wearing another man's ring. 

Serena has been looking forward to this week away from all the wedding hype so that she can figure out what she wants to do. She realizes that she doesn't love her fiance, and is sure that he doesn't love her, but this wedding has taken on a life of its own. Spending time with Ryan shows her that she could have so much more, if she has the courage to go after it.

I really liked Ryan's sense of honor. He has his own standards of behavior and he isn't going to compromise them. He sees the conflict that Serena is suffering from and offers her an ear to listen. When she reaches the point where she feels she has to get away, he takes her back to New Zealand with him. He'd like nothing more than for her to stay with him forever, but their lives are so different that he can't see it happening. 

I loved seeing how happy Serena was while she was staying with Ryan. She had a chance to see what a normal life could be like. She also knew that she had unfinished business that she would have to face and decisions to make if she was going to have the life she wanted. Her feelings for Ryan finally give her the courage to take control of her life, and I loved seeing her do it.

Ryan had his own demons to face, such as his feelings about his father's death and the plans to visit the site of his death on Everest. There are secrets about his father that he's been carrying for a long time. He also has to face his feelings for Serena and decide if he can handle their differences well enough to have a chance for a successful relationship. I loved the fact that he had made his decision before the meeting with the "client" from Ireland made it so much easier. I really liked their negotiations once they were together again.

I loved the epilogue, and can't wait to see if there are going to be more Quinns found, or if there might be stories of the next generation of Quinns from the earliest books. I'd also like to see Dana Quinn get her own book.

Secret Heiress, Secret Baby - Emily McKay (SD #2375 - May 2015)

Series: At Cain's Command (Book 4)

The secret heiress is back…with a little secret that changes everything

As the long-lost heiress in a notoriously scandalous family, Meg Lathem has always kept her distance. But now her daughter needs lifesaving surgery, so Meg asks for support -- either from the child's unscrupulous father, Grant Sheppard, or the dreaded Cains themselves.

Grant had an agenda when he first bedded Meg -- revenge against her birth father. But now, confronted by news that he's a daddy himself, Grant finds his feelings for Meg run deep. Can he convince Meg he's there for her this time, and protect her from the Cain legacy even as she claims it?

Excellent conclusion to the series. As seen in the previous books in the series, the three brothers had been given the task of finding their illegitimate half sister. The closest they came was in the previous book, A Bride for the Black Sheep Brother. Meg has always known about her father and brothers, but has wanted nothing to do with them. Her father had used her mother to get something he wanted and then abandoned her. Meg had also found herself pursued by Grant Sheppard, later finding out that he was a rival of the Cain family, with his own vendetta against them. After a short affair, he disappeared one night, never contacting her again.

Two years later, Meg desperately needs help and the only people she can turn to are the Cains or Grant. Her daughter, who is also Grant's daughter that she never told him about, needs surgery. She first plans to go to him, but when she sees him with a pregnant woman and a child, she assumes he is married and can't face him with news of their own child. She then goes to the Cains, who contrary to what she expected, welcome her with kindness and open arms. She doesn't want anything to do with the inheritance, just wants enough to pay for her daughter's medical needs. One of the things I liked about Meg was that she was a lot stronger than anyone gave her credit for. I loved the scene where she faced down Hollister himself.

The moment when Grant finds out about his daughter, Pearl, was quite a blow for him, literally and figuratively. He had followed Meg to her brother's house, needing to talk to her about their past relationship, and the fact that he still wanted her. Upon arrival, he is confronted by her brother, accused of abandoning Meg and her baby, then knocked unconscious by her brother's fist. Needless to say, he was quite angry about the deception, and determined to get Meg and Pearl into his life.

I loved seeing Meg stand up to Grant and make sure that he understands just what a commitment he will be making if he gets involved in their lives. I liked the way that she gave Grant the chance to get to know Pearl, even though she still worried about what was going to happen to them. She found herself falling for him once more, but unwilling to trust him with her heart again. Finding out that he still has secrets threatens what she thought they were building. She tries to explain her feelings and let him know what she needs from him, but his cynicism won't let him believe in the possibility. She wants to be able to trust him, and he thinks that it is impossible to trust anyone, especially him. 

Grant had spent his entire life hating Hollister Cain and his family for what he did to Grant's family. When he found out about the search for the missing Cain heiress, he knew that he had the perfect revenge. Thanks to family journals, he knew right where to find Meg. So he planned to seduce her and use her to get the Cain shares that he could use to destroy the company. He did not expect to start to have feelings for her and feel guilty about his plans, so he abandoned that plan and snuck away. Two years later he was stunned to find Meg with them at a Houston social event. Though he'd been away from her for so long, his hatred of the Cain family had him worried about Meg. He was afraid that they would use her and manipulate her (and yes, he saw the irony in those fears) and that she would have no way to protect herself. In his first confrontation with her, he didn't know anything about the baby, only that he still wanted her and worried about her. Finding out about Pearl had him even more determined to protect them. I loved seeing him fall under Pearl's spell, and the way he worked at becoming a father to her. His feelings for Meg also grew, but opening up to her was something he couldn't do. He knew he wanted them in his life, but his way of going about it sent Meg running instead. 

Both Meg and Grant had to face the demons of their pasts before they could have a chance to have a life together. I liked seeing how Grant found a way to show Meg how he felt and what he did to convince her. I loved the epilogue and the changes it showed, especially in Grant and his attitude toward the Cains.

A Decent Proposal - Teresa Southwick (HSE #2396 - Apr 2015)

Series: Bachelors of Blackwater Lake (Book 4)

HER KNIGHT IN A SHINING AUTO

Sydney McKnight is looking for Mr. Convenient, not Mr. Right. Her dad insists that Syd be settled…so she asks the first guy she sees to act as her boyfriend. This gorgeous stranger is magnetic, but Sydney has sacrificed her heart before. She isn't about to give it away, even to a man who revs her engine like no other!

Burke Holden is taken aback when Sydney requests he be her pretend paramour. After all, the single dad hasn't exactly been Mr. Romance since his ex left him and their son. But as he gets to know lovely Sydney, the bachelor might be willing to give love another shot. Will Sydney and Burke drive off into the sunset on their happily-ever-after…or will the past throw a wrench in their fairy-tale ending?

Very good story. Sydney is frustrated by her father's insistence that she be settled, or at least in a good relationship before he will propose to the woman he loves. She was burned in love several years earlier, and hasn't found anyone worth risking her heart over. So in order to move her father along in his relationship, she asks a stranger to pretend to be her boyfriend.

Burke is surprised by Syd's request. He's in Blackwater Lake because his company is building a new resort on the outskirts of town. He's intrigued, not just by her proposition but also by the woman herself. He wouldn't mind getting to know her better, but he's not the type to get involved. He was married once before, and it didn't end well, leaving him as a single father, and one that doesn't have much confidence in his ability to do it right.

I loved the romance between Syd and Burke. It starts out as a pretend relationship, but there is an undeniable attraction between them. Syd is cautious because her heart has already been broken once, but she can't deny her attraction to Burke. She knows a true relationship isn't possible, since he has said that he will never marry again, and he won't be staying in town for long anyway. But the more time she spends with him, the more she actually likes him. When he has to bring his eight year old son to stay with him, she discovers a whole new side to him, one that she could easily fall in love with. Burke starts out simply willing to give this intriguing woman the help she has asked for. But the attraction he feels for her is something different, and he wants to pursue it. It isn't long before he's feeling more than just attraction, but past experience has him convinced that he's not marriage material. I loved the buildup of their feelings. Both try really hard to convince themselves that their hearts are not involved, and that they can keep their relationship on the light side. Burke especially runs scared of letting himself feel more than just friendship and attraction. It takes a surprising conversation with his father for him to be able to overcome his past. I loved his big moment at the end - sweet and so emotional.

I loved Burke's son Liam. He was such a big part of who Burke was and why Burke has the issues he has. I loved seeing how their relationship changed because of Sydney's influence on Burke. The dynamics between Burke and his father were good too. He was determined to be a better father to his son than his dad had been to him. I liked seeing how his father owned up to his mistakes and wanted to help keep Burke from following in his footsteps.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Give Him the Slip - Geralyn Dawson (Signet - Oct 2006)

Series: Holy Terrors (Book 1)

She's a woman on the run.
Maddie Kincaid thought she'd left trouble behind when she settled in peaceful Brazos Bend. She started her own business. She lived the simple life. She never dreamed that helping a gentle old man would land her in the middle of murder -- her own. Now she's running for her life, right into the arms of the infamous Luke "Sin" Callahan.

He does his best work undercover.
Luke Callahan has just settled into his much-needed fishing vacation, and the last thing he needs on his line is a long-legged redhead stowaway with secrets in her heart and killers on her trail. Lucky for her, he's deadlier than the guys who are chasing her. Unfortunately for him, she's gorgeous, smart and determined to make it on her own. When the secrets start spilling and the nights heat up, Luke realizes he faces a new sort of danger--losing the woman he loves. Can he win the battle for her heart? Or will she give him the slip?

Very good story. Maddie runs a business helping senior citizens, and on one of her jobs comes across some drug related mushrooms. Fearing the consequences, she takes off, and is sent looking for help by another one of her clients. She ends up with ex-DEA agent Luke Callahan, who really wants to leave it all behind and go fishing. Much as he wants to, he can't just walk away from a woman in distress.

I liked Maddie and Luke. They have a magnetic relationship that both pulls them together and pushes them apart. Maddie is the only child of a pair of rock stars. She hated the lifestyle she grew up in, and only wanted a chance to put down roots and have a normal life. She has found that life in Brazos Bend. She has also sworn off relationships for awhile, having been burned by three separate bad ones. She is attracted to Luke immediately, but resistant about getting involved. She's also independent and sassy and doesn't just give in to Luke's directives. 

Luke is a man who is at a crossroads in his life. He and his brothers had been real hell raisers when they were younger. After an event that could have been tragic, their father threw them out to make their own ways in the world. Luke ended up becoming a DEA agent, but after the recent death of his partner, for which he blamed himself, he has quit his job. When Maddie first appears on his boat, he thinks her appearance is an attempt by his father to get him back home. Once he realizes she's really in trouble, he's willing to help to a certain point. He's really attracted to her, and wants some time with her, but her connection to his hometown is a sticking point.

Their initial meeting on the boat was funny and intense. There was a lot of mistrust on both sides that they had to work through. It was interesting to see Luke try to forget her once they dealt with the mushrooms, and how he just couldn't get her off his mind. I loved seeing him show up just in time to help her, and realize that there is more going on than just the mushrooms. His protective instincts kick in and clash with her independence, and the heat between them continues to build. As they're thrown together to keep her safe and try to get to the bottom of who is after her, they are given the chance to get to know each other better. Maddie discovers that there is a romantic and sensitive man inside the tough guy that Luke shows to the rest of the world. She tries hard not to fall for that man, but it's a losing battle. Her heart wants to believe that they have a future, but her head knows that he'll never be able to settle down with her. At the same time, Luke finds himself with feelings for Maddie that he's never had for anyone else. He can't admit to them, and when something happens to Maddie he feels it is his fault and just another reason for him to leave her alone. I loved the ending and how Maddie stood up for what she wanted. I really liked seeing her make Luke face his fear.

Luke's issues with his father are a huge part of who  he has become and his reluctance to return to Brazos Bend. As the book went on and more was revealed about their relationship, it got really complicated. I could see the issue from both sides and it's one that isn't an easy fix. Maddie is caught in the middle and tries to bring them together. 

The mystery/suspense was really good. It was interesting to see the progression of the mystery as it led past the mushrooms and into something more involved. I also liked seeing the effect Luke's involvement had on various people in Brazos Bend. I really loved the conversation between him and his high school friends and his surprise at what they had to say. As the investigation went on, the danger to Maddie increased. The final confrontation was intense, and I was surprised by who was behind the trouble. I liked having Luke's brothers involved, and look forward to reading their stories.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Groom Says Yes - Cathy Maxwell (Avon - Oct 2014)

Series: Brides of Wishmore (Book 3)

He had a noose around his neck and a price on his head . . .

Sabrina Davidson, dutiful daughter, avowed spinster, thought she'd secured a place for herself in Aberfeldy society -- until her hard-earned acceptance of her fate is challenged by the arrival of Cormac Enright, earl of Ballin, trained physician, soldier of fortune, and convicted felon.

A prim and proper miss was the last thing he needed . . .

Mac is determined to clear his name, but first he has to find the man whose testimony sentenced him to a hangman's noose. Of course, Robert Davidson is missing and protecting Mac is Davidson's daughter, the most entrancing, frustrating, beguiling, stubborn woman Mac has ever met.

And it doesn't help that he has already tasted her kisses. Or that he has found in her a passion for life and adventure to rival his own.

Mac has turned Sabrina's world inside out -- but what will happen when he leaves?

Or will the Groom Say Yes?

Good conclusion to the series. Mac Enright is in prison awaiting execution for a murder he didn't commit. When he escapes, he's determined to find the man whose false testimony convicted him. He arrives in Aberfeldy but falls ill before he can find the man he's searching for.

Sabrina is the spinster daughter of Mac's quarry. She has spent her life caring for her sick mother, then her widowed father. She's very conscious of doing the right thing, unlike her rather scandalous cousins Aileen (The Bride Says No) and Tara (The Bride Says Maybe). But they have found men to love and marry, leaving Sabrina wondering what she's missing. To make it worse, she has just discovered her father has become engaged to a rather notorious widow, leaving Sabrina to wonder what will happen to her. Searching for a quiet place to think about her future, Sabrina stumbles upon Mac, who is obviously in need of help.

Sabrina takes him home with her and nurses him back to health. The scenes of her trying to get him into the cart and then into the house were pretty funny. She has never met anyone like him before, and something about him has her thinking about everything she has missed in her life. She impulsively kisses the seemingly unconscious Mac, who in his near delirium responds and their encounter turns passionate. I found this part a bit hard to believe, as I'm not sure someone who had been that ill would be up for those kind of antics, but it still made for a good scene. 

I really liked seeing the two of them together. Once Mac is well again he is dismayed by what he did, but finding Sabrina fascinating is more than willing to see where things lead. Mac is a man who lives his life on his own terms, and while he is understanding of Sabrina's cautiousness, has no trouble encouraging her to push her boundaries. Sabrina has had a lot of things happen to her all at once and it really shakes up her world. I thought she was rather selfish at the beginning, but dealing with so many changes forces her to grow up. Her cautiousness causes some tension between them as she finds out more about her father, but is also a good balance to his focus on his quest. In the end, Sabrina has to decide between caution and love.

The mystery of the story, of Sabrina's father's involvement and why was very good. It was hard on Sabrina to see her father as something of a villain, but it didn't stop her from helping Mac once she got past the shock. It was an interesting twist to see the connection the real murderer had to the previous two books. The final confrontation was quite intense, and I loved seeing Sabrina really get into it. I felt bad for Sabrina because of the attitudes of her father and uncle at the end, but happy to see that she was able to see to her own happiness.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Trouble with Princesses - Tracy Anne Warren (Signet - Nov 2013)

Series: Princess Brides (TAW)(Book 3)

On the threshold of receiving her royal inheritance and tired of the London Marriage Mart, Ariadne has decided to defy convention and declare her independence. She will not seek a husband -- she will take a lover instead, no matter how notorious she may become.

The prince of a small European kingdom, renowned bachelor Rupert Whyte, is in London to enjoy a last bit of freedom before choosing a wife. When he learns about Ariadne’s scheme to take a lover, he decides he must prevent her from embarking on such a ruinous course.

What begins as a well-deserved reprimand quickly spins out of control when Rupert agrees to give Ariadne a few lessons in lust. But just how far will their passion go? And will their forbidden liaison lead them too far astray to turn back?

Fun book. Ariadne would like to have a husband and family, but she won't settle for just anyone. She wants a man she can love, just like her two best friends have found. Since she hasn't been lucky enough to find him, she decides it's time to do her own pursuing. But instead of a husband, she's going to look for a lover, and not worry about her reputation. The only thing stopping her is the interference she's getting from her best friend's brother, Prince Rupert.

Rupert is prince of a small kingdom and he's getting pressure to marry someone appropriate. He's come to London to visit his sister Emma (The Princess and the Peer), and enjoy some freedom before he chooses a wife. He's always considered Ariadne to be the wild one of his sister and friends and he's horrified by the scandal that would ruin her, and could also affect his sister. He's determined to stop her from doing such a reckless thing.

There have been sparks between Rupert and Ariadne since the first book, though they have been expressed in antagonism up until now. Ariadne is headstrong and independent and determined to follow the course she has set. She is also a bit naive, and believes that she can handle whatever her actions throw her way. When Rupert comes across her kissing a man, he breaks them up and lectures Ariadne about what could happen. When she refuses to listen, he demonstrates by capturing her and then kissing her senseless. He doesn't expect the kiss to affect him, but it does. Still thinking about the kiss a few days later, he offers to teach Ariadne what she wants to know, keeping things discrete between them and thereby protecting her reputation. He intends to show her the passion she wants, but retaining enough control to keep it from going too far.

I really liked the interactions between Ariadne and Rupert. He is a bit on the stuffy side and is uncomfortable with his sister's public affection for her husband. It was fun to see Ariadne tease him about that. He's also very conscious of duty and honor, so Ariadne's plans are especially bothersome to him. His sudden attraction to her is a surprise, but he feels he can use it to help her while at the same time protecting her. Ariadne is focused on her goal and doesn't see the trouble she could get into. She's been testing out possibilities by kissing various men, but hasn't been impressed by any of them. Rupert's kiss stuns her with the way it makes her feel. She's surprised by his offer to teach her what she wants to know, but can't resist him. Each "lesson" leaves her wanting more and she teases him trying to get him to give in. Rupert discovers that the control he's always had around other women isn't there when he's with Ariadne, and trying to keep to his plan is getting harder. 

Their plans for a discrete liaison go out the window when Ariadne is kidnapped by a desperate suitor and Rupert rides to the rescue. Ariadne has confidence that Rupert will save her, but that doesn't stop her from making her own attempts. This puts them in the position of having to marry because of their being alone together. Ariadne is determined that she will not force him into marrying her, or be forced into a loveless marriage herself, but Rupert is adamant. 

An emergency at home and pressure from outside drives a wedge between them, sending Ariadne running to their other friend. She believes it is best for him, even though it breaks her heart. Rupert has to look inside himself and his own feelings before he realizes that he can't live without her. I loved the ending and seeing them finally admit their love. The only thing that would have made it better would be an epilogue. I really would have liked to see how they are doing a year or so down the road.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Miracle at Colts Run Cross - Joanna Wayne (HI #1096 - Nov 2008)

Series: Four Brothers of Colts Run Cross (Book 5)

THERE WAS NO MISTAKING THE ABDUCTOR'S VOICE

Nick Ridgely prided himself on his control...but nothing prepared him for that phone call. When Nick discovered his twin boys had been kidnapped, he vowed to do whatever it took to get them back...even if that meant facing his ex-wife and the attraction he thought he buried months ago.

Having her ex-husband back in her life was not what Becky Collingsworth asked Santa for this year. Determined to remain guarded, Becky worked with Nick to find their sons. But what would she do about the onslaught of emotions she still felt for her irresistible ex?

The blurb isn't quite correct - Becky and Nick are separated, not yet divorced. Nick is a professional football player whose focus during football season is only on football, his wife and sons are way down on his priority list. During a game near Christmas, Nick is seriously injured, bringing unwanted publicity to his family. That publicity motivates a desperate ex-con to kidnap Nick and Becky's twin sons.

Becky still loves Nick, but she's tired of she and the boys taking second place to football. She's moved to the family ranch with them and is trying to move on with her life. When the boys are kidnapped she has to put her feelings aside and work with Nick to find their sons.

Forced together by circumstances, Becky and Nick have to try to get along for the sake of their search. Instinct has Becky wanting to lean on Nick for support, but experience has her reluctant to depend on him. She spends a lot of time trying to keep him at a distance, protecting her heart from having it broken again. Nick left the hospital against doctor's recommendations in order to help in the search for his sons, risking the possibility that his injuries could be permanent. He loves Becky and his sons and has trouble understanding what the problem has been with their marriage. Now, in the midst of the crisis, he finally starts to see what his focus has cost him. Becky also begins to see that her own expectations may have been unrealistic. I liked seeing them repair their relationship while dealing with the crisis. I liked the way that they worked out their future.

The whole kidnapping event put me a little in mind of the story The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry. While this kidnapper was definitely more on the nasty side than ridiculous, the two boys did not make it easy for him to pull off the kidnapping. I thoroughly enjoyed their ingenuity as they worked to escape, and also try to disable the bad guy. On the adults' side, I liked seeing how they all worked together to find the boys. The final confrontation was nerve wracking as I wondered if Nick's injuries were going to interfere with the rescue.

One Hot Forty-Five - B.J. Daniels (HI #1161 - Oct 2009)

Series: Whitehorse Montana: The Corbetts (Book 5)

APB: LOOKING FOR THE LAST CORBETT BACHELOR
A woman in trouble was like the call of a siren for any of the Corbett boys. And while Dede Chamberlain was in big trouble, she was off-limits to Lantry Corbett. But Dede was desperate and didn't have time to be levelheaded like Lantry. She needed his help and she'd get it at gunpoint if she had to.

COULD HE BE FOUND AT THE ALTAR?
With a wild Montana blizzard bearing down, they set out...only to make it as far as a deserted cabin. Cloistered away as the snow swirls outside, Dede finds the protection she needs in Lantry's strong arms. But with a killer and the law after them, Lantry will need a heapin' portion of Christmas blessings and the help of the whole Corbett clan to mete out justice in Whitehorse before it's too late.

Good story with excellent suspense and a fast moving romance. Dede had been in love with her husband Frank, until he started to change. She found out that he was mixed up in some dangerous activities. Suddenly he filed for divorce, claiming that she was crazy and having her committed to a mental hospital. Lantry Corbett was his divorce lawyer, and he succeeded in finishing off the wrecking of her life.

Dede believes that her life is in danger because of whatever Frank had been mixed up in. She was equally certain that Lantry's life was also in danger. She manages to escape the hospital in the company of another inmate, one who is definitely dangerous. Once she gets to Whitehorse, convincing Lantry isn't easy, and it takes a desperate act to get the ball rolling.

Lantry is a high-powered Texas divorce lawyer, and about as cynical about love and marriage as you can get. He's convinced that Dede is mentally unstable, especially when she kidnaps him at gunpoint. But it doesn't take too long before he realizes that the things he thought he knew about her weren't consistent with the woman he's on the run with. When a couple of attacks on him occur, he begins to think that she's not so crazy after all.

The relationship between Lantry and Dede builds very quickly. It starts as an attraction that burns hot and fast. But Lantry is wary of what he is feeling, thinking it's mostly a case of adrenaline and proximity. The more he gets to know her, the deeper becomes his conviction that she's innocent of the charges against her. He becomes very protective of her and risks a lot, personally and professionally, to help her. His mind tells him that trusting her is a very bad idea, but his heart is telling him that he needs her just as much as she needs him. Dede isn't so sure she should trust Lantry after the way he went after her during the divorce, but she couldn't live with herself if something happened to him. She doesn't expect to see that, away from the city and his law practice, he's actually a pretty nice guy. She falls hard for him, but believing that they have a chance together is going to take some work. I loved seeing the changes that Lantry went through as he fell for Dede.

The suspense of the story was very good. Dede's determination to warn Lantry has her taking a lot of risks. He is so convinced of her guilt at the beginning that it's hard to see him giving her a chance to prove herself. There were a lot of different characters and each one had their own influence on what Dede was going through. There were times I wondered just how her innocence would be proved. There was a very interesting twist to the identity of the final player that I really didn't see coming.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Texas Rebels: Egan - Linda Warren (HAR #1541 - Apr 2015)

Series: Texas Rebels (Book 1)

Heart of a Hero

Big-city art instructor Rachel Hollister isn't back home in Horseshoe, Texas, for more than a few hours before she's lost and stranded in the woods surrounding Rebel Ranch. But Rachel's bad luck takes a sudden turn for the better when a ruggedly handsome cowboy manages to save her life, not just once, but twice, in the same day.

Rancher Egan Rebel can't resist helping someone in need, even an enemy -- or the daughter of one. It was Rachel's father who unjustly sentenced Egan to prison years ago. As attracted as he is to Rachel and her bright, creative energy, Egan can't forgive the man who stole his freedom. Can Egan let go of the past, or will he turn his back on the only woman he's ever loved?

Good story. Egan is the loner of the seven Rebel brothers, thanks to some time in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He prefers the open air and cattle to time around people. Rachel hasn't been home for twelve years because of memories she has been trying to escape. On the drive from the airport she decides to take the long way home to give herself more time and ends up lost and stranded when her car breaks down.

When Egan finds Rachel he can't just leave her there, even when he finds out who she is. As they try to make their way back to his ranch, Rachel is attacked by dogs belonging to Egan's neighbor and head of a family that has had a long standing feud with the Rebels. Egan saves her from the dogs and they hole up in a cabin for the night while Egan treats Rachel's injuries. Rachel sees past the tough ex-con exterior that Egan projects and considers him her hero and more. There's a strong attraction between them, but Egan doesn't want the complications of a relationship, especially with Rachel. 

Once they are rescued, Rachel ends up unconscious in the hospital thanks to her injuries. Her father, believing Egan kidnapped Rachel in an attempt at revenge, has Egan arrested and thrown in jail. Once she regains consciousness Rachel sets the record straight. I loved the way that she stood up to her father and blamed him for jumping to conclusions.

Rachel has come back to Horseshoe in an attempt to face the memories that have haunted her. She blames herself for the death of her mother and hasn't been able to deal with the guilt. Talking to Egan has given her the courage to confess her feelings to her family. There turns out to be a lot more to the events of that day than she knew, and while her guilt is relieved there is now an additional strain with her father. Throughout it all, Egan is a source of strength for her.

The relationship between Egan and Rachel burns hot and fast. They had been attracted to each other from the start. Egan's care and protectiveness are obvious, but he considers his past too big an obstacle to overcome. When Rachel calls him on his refusal to look at the future, he takes a look at who he has become and doesn't like what he sees. His talk with her father was an eye opener for him and gave him a new perspective. Rachel also discovers that many of the things that she had believed can be viewed differently now that she's older and knows more of what was really happening. She realizes that Egan isn't the only one who has been hiding. I loved the ending and seeing Rachel help Egan face his fears and be ready for them to move forward together.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Her Perfect Proposal - Lynne Marshall (HSE #2394 - Mar 2015)

Series: Secret of Heartlandia (Book 2)

WRITING HER OWN HAPPY ENDING?

Journalist Lilly Matsuda just writes headlines; she doesn't make them. That is, until she runs afoul of Gunnar Norling while on assignment in the tiny town of Heartlandia. The handsome policeman intrigues more than Lilly's investigative senses…but she isn't going to let Gunnar's megawatt smile or smoldering good looks melt her heart.

Gunnar isn't a fan of people snooping around Heartlandia. He's been sworn to secrecy about the town's mysterious past, and he refuses to compromise that for anyone…even beautiful Lilly, who's hot on the story's trail. Besides, she's not going to stick around forever, and Gunnar refuses to let his heart get trampled on -- unless Lilly decides to put love first!

Good story of a small town with a secret and two people who have choices to make about that secret. Lilly has arrived in Heartlandia to work on the town's newspaper. She has dreams of finding a big story to break and eventually owning the paper. On  her first day in town she's caught jaywalking by Gunnar the police sergeant who warns her about following the rules. 

Gunnar and Lilly are two very interesting people. Gunnar has spent most of his life feeling as though he has to atone for the mistakes of his father, who was sent to prison when Gunnar was a boy. As a result, Gunnar tends to be pretty rigid about the difference between right and wrong. He finds it very difficult to trust people. Lilly is the only child of two very driven parents. She has always felt that she was a disappointment to her father, just because she wasn't a son, so she has done everything she can to earn his approval. He has always told her to keep her goals in sight and do whatever necessary to achieve them. 

From the moment they met, Lilly and Gunnar are attracted to each other, but it isn't an easy relationship. Gunnar is used to women pretty much falling at his feet, and Lilly's resistance to his advances confuses him. He's so cocky about his appeal that I rather enjoyed seeing Lilly shoot him down on a regular basis. Lilly is attracted to him, but she has no intention of letting him distract her from her goal of finding out what the big secret is. His persistence eventually pays off and they begin to get to know each other, but their differing outlooks create some real tension between them. Both of them have to learn to compromise a little and open their hearts to trust. I loved the way that Lilly used the tea ceremony to show Gunnar how she felt.

*copy received in exchange for honest review.

Joint Engagement - Karen Anders (HRS #1845 - Apr 2015)

Series: To Protect and Serve (Book 3)

A mystery boat drifts in the fog...with all of its passengers dead. Two investigators are called to uncover a shocking conspiracy...

CGIS investigator Kinley Cooper finds the vessel and makes a grisly discovery. This is a chance to get her career back on track. So it galls her that lethally handsome NCIS agent Beau Jerrott is made lead on the case. The earth-shaking attraction between them doesn't make things easier.

The last time Kinley got involved with a partner, it cost her dearly. And yet, despite his reputation with women, Beau's Cajun charm...and unexpected compassion...melt her resistance. Tracing a lead to the Bahamas, the pair find themselves under fire. But fighting terrorists and a drug cartel is easy compared to fighting their undeniable feelings.

Fantastic book. The suspense and danger keep building from the moment Kinley discovers the boat and its dead crew. The complexity of the investigation will give her a chance to repair her professional reputation. She isn't at all happy when experienced NCIS investigator Beau Jerrott is brought in on the case and made the lead investigator. It doesn't help her peace of mind that there is an incredible attraction between them.

Kinley stumbles on this case when she is out running one foggy morning. It is the anniversary of her father's murder by terrorists and the conditions now are just like they were on that terrible day. She suppresses those feelings as she begins her investigation. Beau had been in the area because of another matter when he is tasked to help with the investigation. It's obvious to him that Kinley isn't happy with his involvement and he's determined to win her over. 

The attraction between Kinley and Beau is instant and hot. Beau is a smooth-talking, incredibly good looking Cajun who has never had a problem with the ladies. However, he also avoids involvement like the plague. He had given his heart once and had it stomped on, so he limits himself to women who know the score. He can tell that Kinley is not that type, but there's something about her that gets past his defenses. Kinley made the mistake once of getting involved with a coworker. When a case they were working on went bad, she got the blame and he walked away. As a result, she second guesses her instincts both at work and with men in order to protect herself. The beginning of the investigation is difficult as Kinley has to overcome her anger, suppress her attraction, and try to trust Beau.

It was fun to see how Beau's usual charm and flirtatiousness don't really work on Kinley, and how it confuses him. I loved his compassion and gentleness with her that first night when she had her nightmare, though he really tried to keep an emotional distance. I really liked the way that he appreciated her abilities and though he admitted having to resist letting his "inner caveman" try to protect her, he didn't keep her from doing her job.

Kinley had been devastated by what happened with Daniel and it has caused her to be much less trusting with others. It affects her working relationship with Beau at the beginning, but his willingness to trust her hunches goes a long way toward easing the strain. She has to spend some time standing up to his caveman tendencies, but she does it successfully. His comfort during and after her nightmare touches something inside her that has been numb since her father's death. She knows that there's no way anything permanent will happen between them, but the heat between them is getting irresistible.

The romance that builds between them is one that neither really wants to admit. Both are trying to protect their hearts because of their previous relationships. As the feelings build in each one, neither can bring themselves to say anything because of their fears, and let it part them. I loved the way that each of them learned about themselves during that time, and were then able to look toward their future. I loved Beau's "go big" moment and what it was he did for Kinley.

The suspense and danger of the case just kept building the more they found out about it. The clues lead them from Virginia to the Bahamas to Cuba. There are multiple times where only quick thinking by one or both keeps them alive, and they have to depend on each other's skills to get them out of trouble. There's an interesting twist that ties the investigation to Kinley's past. The intensity of the last confrontation was incredible and I could not wait to see how it ended up.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fortune's Little Heartbreaker - Cindy Kirk (HSE #2383 - Feb 2015)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country (Book 2)

ROMANCING THE…NANNY?

Sir Oliver Fortune Hayes is new to Horseback Hollow…new to Texas…and even new to parenting. It's enough to drive a man daft -- and daft he would go, if it weren't for Ollie's new nanny, Shannon Singleton.

A cowgirl for a nanny? It's a little unorthodox, but it works. The trouble is, now Oliver can't help imagining sweet Shannon as his Valentine. She's warm and bubbly and…much too young for the likes of him. Will proper Oliver maintain his upper-crust composure? Or will the love of a good Texas woman rope him in for good?

Very good book, as another of the British branch of the Fortune family bites the romantic dust. Oliver has come to Horseback Hollow for his sister's wedding, bringing his toddler son with him. He has only just gotten custody of his son after the death of his ex-wife and is a bit frazzled. The nanny that works for him in England declined to come with him, so he needs a temporary nanny so that he can also get some work done while he's there. He is the stereotypical Brit - cool, reserved, maybe a bit uptight, but he does love his son and wants the best care possible for him.

Shannon is a local girl who has come home to stay with her parents while she looks for a new job. She left her last position when her married boss made unwanted advances to her, then threatened her if she tried to report it. Rather than fight it, she quit and is waiting to hear the results of her last interview. She first meets Oliver when he stops to ask directions, and later discovers that he is renting a house on her parents' ranch. When he asks her to step in as Ollie's nanny, she is hesitant. She is attracted to him, senses that it is returned, and doesn't want to get involved with a man who is not going to be staying around. She also doesn't want to be involved with a man she works for. One of her conditions for taking the job is that there are no inappropriate actions. What she doesn't want to admit to herself is that she's more worried about what she might do than his actions.

I loved the relationship that developed between Oliver and Shannon. Oliver's early years were spent with a father who felt emotions of any sort were bad, so Oliver has a hard time showing his, even to his son. He is definitely attracted to Shannon, but he gave his word to keep his hands off, even though that is getting harder to do. I loved seeing how protective he was of her when that one man got too aggressive with her, and how he took care of her afterwards. I think that was the beginning of when his feelings began to change. I really loved watching him loosen up a little. He even started to consider the idea of a future with her before he got spooked by the depth of his feelings and made a bit of an idiot of himself. I did like the way he redeemed himself at the end.

Shannon is a warm and loving young woman who takes to Ollie right away. It's her instant connection to him that spurs Oliver to ask her to be Ollie's nanny. She sees that Oliver loves his son, but that he doesn't seem to be able to show it, and is determined to fix it. She is also fighting her attraction to Oliver. She is the one who insisted that they have no contact, and she is beginning to regret it. As she has spent time with him, Shannon feelings for him change. She still sees no future for them, but wants to enjoy whatever she can with him. She is later hurt by the accusations he makes and his refusal to listen to her. I liked the way that even though he didn't let her explain, she didn't slink away but let him know what she thought. I loved the way that her reaction motivates her to face her past and do something about it. I liked seeing her hold out at the end until Oliver was able to give her what she really needed from him.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Lesson - Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell - Jan 2013)

Series: Stoney Ridge Seasons (Book 3)

In her wildest dreams, spunky and impulsive nineteen-year-old Mary Kate Lapp never imagined herself behind a schoolteacher's desk. A run-in (literally) with the schoolteacher compels her to act as a substitute teacher, just as her restless desire to see the world compels her to apply for a passport . . . just in case. The only thing of interest to M.K. in the sleepy Amish community of Stoney Ridge is the unexplained death of a sheep farmer that coincided with the arrival of a mysterious young man into the community. Frustrated that no one takes the crime seriously, she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, as tends to be the case for M.K., she jumps headlong into trouble.

Good conclusion to the series. In the first two books, The Keeper and The Haven, Mary Kaye (MK) is the trouble prone little sister. At the beginning of this book, she is now nineteen, but doesn't appear to have changed much. She is nearby when an apparent murder takes place, and believing herself to be something of a detective she wants to figure out who did it. She gets into trouble with the police one too many times, until it is made clear that she is to stay away. Taking her frustrations out in physical activity, she collides with the schoolteacher, causing some injury that keeps the teacher out of the classroom. MK is made the substitute teacher as a result. MK is not at all happy about it, as being cooped up in a classroom full of kids cramps her style. 

Chris Yoder and his sister Jenny have moved to Stoney Ridge, where Chris is renovating property he is due to inherit in a few months. The life they left behind in Ohio had been one that Chris is anxious to put behind him. He doesn't talk to anyone about his past as he tries to make a place for himself in the new community. He is determined to give his little sister a good life, and works hard at any job he can get. He works mostly for MK's father Amos, doing whatever is needed around the farm. His dream is to renovate the property and start a horse breeding business. Chris is very wary around others, but as time goes on he begins to relax his guard around the Lapp family.

Chris's thirteen year old sister Jenny isn't at all happy about the move. Leaving Ohio means she doesn't get to see her mother at all. Their mother is an addict who has also been in trouble for most of Jenny's life, and is currently serving time in a rehab facility. Jenny doesn't agree with Chris's demand that there be no contact with her, and so she writes to her mother in secret. This will cause some problems down the road when Jenny is torn between her mother and her brother.

There is also MK's friend Jimmy, who has been right beside MK on many of her adventures. He continues to be rather wild and irresponsible. He makes several bad decisions through the book, one of which has repercussions on more than just him.

Throughout the book, Amos's wife and former housekeeper Fern, is a stable and guiding hand to many of the characters. Her actions are not always appreciated at the time, but she has a talent for knowing just what people need.

MK irritated me through the first part of the book. I thought she was immature and thoughtless for her age.  It was interesting to see her reaction to having to take over as schoolteacher. She was definitely out of her comfort zone and I felt a little bit sorry for her as she struggled. Of course, it was also a bit fun to see her on the other side of the desk and having to deal with students who had been like her. I loved seeing how Fern guided MK by introducing her to the old lady who had once been a teacher. I enjoyed seeing how her influence helped MK see her potential, and loved seeing her grow into the job. She also jumped into that murder investigation without thinking things through and seeing the consequences of her actions put her on the road to a bit more maturity.

I enjoyed the relationship that built between MK and Chris. I thought that they were a nice balance for each other. MK's foibles seem to mostly amuse Chris, though there are a couple times it isn't so funny for him. Chris is cautious about opening up about his past, as he and MK get closer, but he finds himself wanting to do so. MK is drawn to Chris, but his reticence about his past concerns her. But there is also something about him that calms her restlessness. I loved the way that they came together during the crisis about Jenny, and how she stood with him later.

Two Souls Hollow - Paula Graves (HI #1564 - May 2015)

Series: The Gates (Book 6)

Her best protection came from an unlikely bodyguard

When secrets leak from The Gates, the hunt is on for a mole. All evidence points to Anson Daughtry, who knows their security inside and out. Only coworker Ginny Coltrane can help clear his name, but she's caught in the middle of a turf war between militants in the Smoky Mountains. More at ease behind a computer than with a gun, Anson makes for an unlikely bodyguard. But hunkering down in the Tennessee foothills, turns out Ginny's not exactly the "need to be protected" type. Still, with someone stalking their every move, Anson isn't about to let her out of his sight. Or, if he gets his way, out of his arms.

I loved this book. In the previous two books, Deception Lake and Killshadow Road, it was discovered that there was a mole in The Gates security firm. Anson is one of two people who was suspected of being the leak because of his work as the IT director. He has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation takes place. Not being the type to sit back and wait, he's doing his own investigating, which leads him to Ginny.

Ginny is the payroll person at The Gates. She also has access to a lot of information, making her a possible suspect for the leak. Anson is watching her one night as she goes to the local bar to retrieve her inebriated brother. He witnesses her being accosted by four very large men and steps in to rescue her, getting beat up in the process. Ginny is accustomed to taking care of herself, and isn't sure what to make of Anson's interference. She feels guilty about his injuries, but also grateful for his help. When additional attacks take place, Anson is determined to keep her safe.

I loved Anson and Ginny. Neither one is the stereotypical superman/superwoman security agency operative. Ginny is an office worker, trying to keep her brother out of trouble. But she is stubborn and independent and very smart and tries to keep Anson out of her troubles. Anson isn't a field agent, and hasn't been trained as one. He is a computer nerd, working his magic on the Gates' computer systems. He's in good shape, but not musclebound, so when he tries to stop her assailants he doesn't come out on top, but does manage to hold them off until help arrives. 

It quickly becomes obvious that the trouble Ginny is in has something to do with her brother. Anson is determined to keep her safe until they find out what the connection is, and also if there is a connection to the mole. There is a strong attraction between them that has them wanting to believe in each other, but both of them have some trust issues that stem from their own pasts. Those same issues have caused each of them to avoid relationships in the past, but with each other they want to believe that it's possible.

I really liked the buildup of the suspense, both from the previous books and in this one as the mystery continues. There are things that happen that make Anson and Ginny doubt each other's innocence even as their growing feelings insist that trust is possible. The emerging clues led me to bounce between a couple people as suspects, and I was glad to see that my initial suspicion turned out to be correct. The final confrontation was intense and I loved Ginny's quick thinking to help them save themselves.

As the investigation went on, I really enjoyed seeing how Quinn was always there to support his people. I also loved seeing his reactions as those same people don't always do as he wants or expects. There are a couple of pretty amusing places where his frustrations are obvious. I really hope that he ends up with his own story, with a woman that can stand up to him.