Sunday, May 31, 2015

All I Want Is You - Toni Blake (Avon - June 2014)

Series: Coral Cove (Book 1)

Sometimes you have to create your own destiny . . .

Christy Knight grew up in Destiny, Ohio, but lately she feels that her future lies elsewhere. Her parents are gone and the beautiful jewelry she creates doesn't pay the bills. Maybe it's time for Christy to grow up and find a guy who's smart, sexy, and solvent. Her rugged handyman neighbor fits the first two categories, but he's all wrong for her. If only he didn't have such captivating blue eyes.

Wary of trusting others, Jack DuVall hasn't been entirely honest with Christy. He's not really a handyman. He's not really broke. And sharing the long drive to visit her beloved grandpa isn't just about gallantry -- he finds gorgeous, feisty Christy completely irresistible.

When secrets are exposed, Jack and Christy struggle to find their way back to one another, but the quirky seaside town of Coral Cove could prove the perfect place to find a red-hot destiny of their own.

Good start to the new series. Christy is a sweet young woman, but things have not gone well for her lately. Her parents were killed in a house fire, leaving Christy alone except for her grandfather, who lives in an assisted living center in Florida. There had also been no insurance money, so Christy had to leave college and find a way to make a living. Not easy back home in Destiny, so she moves to the city where she is barely making ends meet. When she finds out her grandfather faces having to leave the center because of money issues, she knows she has to do something. Her roommate convinces her that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, and that's what she needs to do.

It's a solution that doesn't sit well with Christy, but she's out of ideas and she's desperate. The lead up to her first "rich guy" date is a comedy of errors, involving running late, locked doors, and clothing issues. Her inability to get into her apartment sends her to her neighbor, Jack, whom she begs to kick down her door so she can get in. While the date fizzles, her meeting with her neighbor sizzles. He's hot, he's nice, and parts of her really sit up and take notice. But he's a handyman, and therefore can't be part of her plan.

Jack is rather amused by his neighbor, who at first seems to be a bit of a mess. He can't believe what she wants him to do, but goes along with it. Then he offers his help to repair the damage, and witnesses the non-start of her special date. He hears all about her problem with her grandfather and what her solution is. Jack is really attracted to her, but he has some issues that tell him to keep his distance. He has a bit of a white knight complex and that tends to get him involved with people that end up using him. The worst of it was when he fell in love and married, only to find out that his wife was more interested in what he could give her than in who he was. Because Jack is more than just a handyman. By day he owns his own online investment counseling company, and in his spare time he renovates and sells houses. He is quite wealthy. But he has discovered that it is hard to tell these days if a woman he is dating is really interested in him. So he doesn't tell Christy everything about himself, leaving her to believe he's just a poor as she is.

It's at this point that a friendship starts to build between Christy and Jack. He offers to make some repairs to her place and they spend time together just talking. He witnesses the disasters of some of her later dates. He knows he should stay away from her because of his issues and her needs, but he just can't help himself. And when she decides to make a trip to Florida to see her grandfather, Jack's protective instincts kick in and he offers to go along for the ride. Christy is hesitant at first because of the way he makes her feel, but gives in with little persuasion. It doesn't take too long for Christy to realize that her original plan was a terrible idea. It had never felt right and the more she's around Jack the more she realizes money is the wrong thing to base a relationship on. But having told Jack her plans, she can't figure out how to tell him she's changed her mind.

I loved seeing them together in Coral Cove. Christy's past has made her a bit low on the self confidence side. She makes beautiful jewelry, but is afraid to try selling it for fear it won't do well. Jack gives her the encouragement she needs to try, and his confidence in her gives her the courage to really look at the possibilities. Because he wasn't always rich, he remembers what it's like to be nervous about going after your dreams. Jack also introduces her to the fun of simple things, like beach shows, quirky hotels and unusual restaurants. The time she spends with him has her falling in love with him a little more each day.

As Jack gets to know Christy, he realizes that she isn't really a gold-digger, she's just trying to take care of her grandfather. The attraction he feels for her gets stronger, but he also begins to like the person she is. I loved the way he called her Alice. He starts to fall for her sweetness. He had logical reasons for hiding the truth from her at the beginning, but now it's starting to eat at him. The guilt has a tendency to have him pull back just as they start to get closer, frustrating both of them. He knows he has to tell her the truth but isn't sure how she's going to react.

I understood his reasons for not telling her at first, but not really any excuse for not coming clean sooner. He held onto his secrets a little too long, and when he confessed Christy was hurt and angry. She felt he had betrayed her trust in him. At this point I felt that both of them needed to let go a little. I felt that Jack was a bit arrogant in thinking she should get over her anger quickly. The depth of her hurt and anger seemed to surprise him. But I also felt that Christy shouldn't have held on to her anger quite so long. After all, it was her actions that had made him reluctant to tell the truth to start with. I did like the way that it made Christy determined to solve her problems herself and the solution she came up with. I also loved how, with her grandfather's help, Jack was finally able to make amends with Christy and they got the future they wanted. The epilogue was great.

I loved the setting of Coral Cove. The previous series of Destiny, Ohio, was terrific and this looks to be just as good. The secondary characters are all great. I loved Christy's grandfather, and his own look into his past loves and mistakes made a great parallel to Christy and Jack. It had a nice twist at the end also. I really enjoyed meeting some of the other people, too. Reece and his iguana pet were interesting, and I'd love to see more of him. I'm also intrigued by Fletcher, the tightrope walker, and his story. I'd love to know more about him.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Seduced by the CEO - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2382 - June 2015)

Series: Chicago Sons (Book 2)

Born on the wrong side of the bed, Riley Ellis is done playing second fiddle to his half brother -- the legitimate heir. Determined to make his own company a success, Riley needs leverage and Kalissa Smith is it. Only he knows Kalissa is the long-lost identical twin to his rival's beloved wife. What a scandal their union could cause…

By the time Kalissa learns the truth, Riley's passion is the real deal. But can he convince her she isn't a mere pawn in his seduction scheme?

Good book where revenge gets overtaken by passion. Riley is the illegitimate half-brother to Shane Colburn of Sex, Lies and the CEO. His father never acknowledged him, and Riley grew up resenting the fact that Shane seemed to have it all. As an adult, he went into the same business as Shane, and has made a point of competing with him. One day he sees a woman who is the spitting image of Shane's wife and believes it is Darci and that she is attempting to spy on him.

Kalissa is a landscaper who has recently started her own business. One day her partner sees a picture of the new Mrs. Colburn and comments on the resemblance. Kalissa doesn't take it seriously until she is confronted by an angry Riley. Once she has convinced him of who she is, both become aware of the attraction that has flared between them. Riley later contacts her and hires her to landscape his home.

Riley considers the possibility of using Kalissa's resemblance to Darci as a weapon against Shane, but quickly discovers that he's far more interested in Kalissa herself. He really likes her blunt speech and innate honesty. He refrains from telling her who he is and his connection to her sister. He knows he's going to have to tell her the truth, but is afraid of what will happen when he does.

When Kalissa and Riley begin dating, she realizes her resemblance to Darci could create problems for the other woman. I loved the initial meeting between the two women, and Kalissa's determination to make sure Darci realizes that she isn't after anything financial. I loved watching them get to know each other. There are some interesting twists that come about, that will complicate Kalissa's relationship with Riley.

Kalissa is falling fast and hard for Riley. She likes the way he isn't intimidated by her attitude. They have a lot of fun together. And when they give in to their attraction the passion is incredible. Just when things are looking really good for them, the truth comes out. Kalissa feels betrayed and is heartbroken that Riley was only with her to get to Shane. She doesn't want to listen to anything he has to say and has lost all trust in him. 

I loved the fact that Riley doesn't give up. He knows he screwed up and is willing to do anything to get back in Kalissa's good graces. There are some really fun parts as he does some pretty wild things to get her to listen to him. Kalissa still has feelings for him, but trusting him again is something that is really difficult. I liked seeing them work their way back to each other. I really liked the event that showed Kalissa the truth of Riley's feelings.

I have to say that in this book Shane did not come across very well. I got very frustrated with the way he rode roughshod over Kalissa's wishes regarding Riley. I know he was trying to protect her, but she's a grown woman. It was also interesting to see the interactions between him and Riley. Things got really intense the day that Riley showed up at Shane's home to see Kalissa. That confrontation had some unexpected revelations and was the beginning of something neither had foreseen. 

The final resolution of both Kalissa and Riley's relationship and the one between Riley and Shane was very well done. I'd love to see them a couple years down the line and see how they are doing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

No Strings Attached - Susan Andersen (HQN - Aug 2014)

Series: Razor Bay (Book 3)

Some mistakes are worth repeating…

Tasha Riordan's one night with Luc Bradshaw was the best of her life. The following two -- when he left her to be thrown into a Bahamian jail on bogus charges -- were her worst. Now, seven years later, the undercover DEA agent is back. Invading her town. Her restaurant. Her fantasies. She can't trust a man who lied to her. Yet neither can she trust herself -- not when their chemistry burns even hotter than before.

Learning he has two half-brothers shocks Luc. Discovering they live in the same town as Tasha -- that's a different kind of thrill. Their mutual lust is still off the charts, but he can't get her to listen to his side of what happened on that long-ago night. Good thing he's got powers of persuasion that go deeper than words. Because nothing has ever felt this right….

Very good second chance story with some fun moments. It starts with a hot vacation fling between Tasha and "Diego". Things are looking great when he's called away by his boss, after asking her to stay a few extra days. Right after he leaves, his room is raided by the Bahamian police and she's tossed in jail for two days on drug charges. She's convinced she was set up by a drug dealer.

Seven years later, she finds "Diego" visiting her best friend's fiance, claiming to be his half-brother Luc Bradshaw. She is still furious with him over the jail thing, and now believes he's trying something fishy with her friends. It takes a lot of effort for Luc to prove who he really is, and that he was on an undercover assignment when he met her. He's been mad at her too, believing she had broken her promise to stay, since she was gone when his boss went to help her leave the island. When he finds out what happened to her, he's furious and determined to get to the truth.

As angry as she is, it's obvious that the attraction between Tasha and Luc is as strong as it was before. Neither one has forgotten those days when they felt like they had truly connected. Luc is determined to show Tasha that they can still have something good together, but every time she looks at him she remembers those horrible nights in jail. She's really pretty hard on him, but it isn't too long before Luc's intention to regain her trust starts to soften her up.

There were moments when I loved Tasha, and others when I really wanted to smack her. I loved her independence, her strength of will, and her loyalty to her friends. I loved seeing her on the scene at her pizzeria. She has great relationships with her employees - there was a terrific part at the beginning where she stood up for one of her teenage employees against one of the snobby set. However, she spent far too long holding what happened against Luc, especially once he explained. But once she finally accepted it, things really started to pick up.

I really liked Luc. I loved seeing him get to know his brothers. It was a bit heartbreaking to see his insecurity over whether he fit in with them. I also liked that he really was an honorable guy.  He had tried to do the right thing back in the Bahamas, his mistake was in trusting his boss. He hadn't forgotten Tasha at all, and often wondered about her. He was floored when he saw her again, and really confused about her anger until he heard why. I loved the way that he refused to give up on getting her to forgive him and seeing if they could still have something together.

I loved seeing the relationship grow between Tasha and Luc. At first they tried to keep it purely physical, because Luc would be going back to his undercover work and Tasha didn't want to risk her heart. But Luc soon finds that the idea of not going back to undercover work is growing in appeal. All he needs to do is convince Tasha to take a chance on him. Tasha has to face up to her own fears before she can allow herself to take what Luc is offering. While her confrontation with Luc was hard, I liked the way she was able to be honest with herself and admit the truth of the things he said. Once she did that, then she had to decide if she was ready to take the risk.

I also enjoyed the secondary story of Jeremy and Peyton, Tasha's two teenage employees. I loved Jeremy's determination to overcome the issues that had put him in the group home. He had his pride, but he was also willing to accept the help offered by Tasha and her friends. I really enjoyed seeing the part he played in the story. I wasn't sure about Peyton at first. She initially came across as one of the snobby crowd, but showed what she was really made of early on. Her attitude was actually a cover when she was nervous, and I loved seeing it start to fade as she made a place for herself at the pizzeria. The romance that developed between the two of them was pretty sweet, but not without its problems. I really liked seeing the way they dealt with those problems and how it made them stronger. I'd like to see them again in a later book.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Rebel and the Heiress - Michelle Douglas (HR #4435 - Aug 2014)

Series: Wild Ones (Book 2)

From rebel -- to knight in shining armor…?

Losing her family fortune, it's time for once-privileged Nell Smythe-Whittaker to make it on her own…with a little help from delicious bad boy Rick Bradford!

Rick hasn't seen Nell since childhood, but with a family mystery to solve Rick needs Nell as much as she needs him. Yet with a past as checkered as his, can Rick ever be good enough for this beautiful heiress? It's something he's willing to prove….

Wonderful, sweet story. Nell is in a rough place. The family fortune is gone and she is trying to make a go of her cupcake business. She has just moved into the house that her grandmother left her and it is in pretty bad shape. She has plans for the house, but currently no way to make them happen. She has also been tasked with delivering a letter to Rick from a former employee of hers.

Rick hasn't seen Nell in fifteen years. They had a very brief friendship that was stopped by her parents because they didn't feel it was suitable. Nell was from a wealthy family and Rick grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, the son of a prostitute and an unknown man. Rick recently got out of prison where he did time for someone else's crime. As a result, he's rather cynical and doesn't trust easily.

The contents of the letter reveal Rick's father's name, and sends him on a search for a previously unknown sibling. The clues are cryptic and take the joint efforts of Rick and Nell to figure them out. In exchange for her help, Rick offers to make the repairs to her house. The idea of having a sibling both terrifies and appeals to Rick, but he is wary of exposing himself to rejection.

I loved the relationship that grew between Rick and Nell. Rick expects the worst from everyone because of his past reputation as a bad boy and people's attitudes about his time in jail. He spends a lot of time expecting Nell to turn on him before she finally convinces him that she trusts him and believes in him. Nell grew up either ignored or put down by her parents and made to feel useless. She is now determined to make a success of her life without depending on other people to rescue her. Sometimes that independence makes her push Rick away because she's afraid of looking weak. I loved watching the way that his confidence in her and her abilities made her better able to rescue herself from trouble caused by her father. There are some twists to Rick and who he is that make the relationship between them even more interesting.

There's an immediate attraction between Nell and Rick, but both try to resist it. Rick's issues with his past make him feel that he's not good enough for her. He also keeps his relationships short and light, and knows that Nell is not the fling type. Nell is attracted to Rick in a big way, but also knows that she could easily fall for him. That would be a ticket to heartbreak because he's already said that he will be leaving town soon. I loved seeing the way that they really got to know and understand each other. I really liked seeing Nell point out to Rick that he was running away from something that could be very good. I loved the ending and seeing how everything worked out for them.

A Fortune for the Outlaw's Daughter - Lauri Robinson (HH #1231 - May 2015)

More precious than gold…

Cole "Lucky" DuMont is off to forge his future in the Alaskan hills. Standing in his way? A dark-haired beauty in need of rescue.

Maddie Stockwell's life has always been ruled by men. And now, to ensure her freedom, she strikes a deal with her gorgeous savior: she'll help Lucky in his quest, and find her own fortune along the way! Except when Maddie has to pose as Lucky's wife, she feels a thrill she could never have anticipated. And suddenly there's something even more tempting than gold on her mind…

Good story with the unusual setting of the Alaskan gold rush. Maddie had had a rough life so far. The daughter of an outlaw, she never had a regular home. When life got too dangerous, her father sent her to stay with a miner friend to protect her. After his death, Maddie decided it was time to take control of her life and headed to the California gold fields to make the money to set herself up with the home she always wanted. While there she was nearly captured by a man who had been chasing her for years, wanting her for his own nefarious purposes. She is rescued by Lucky DuMont, who has been instrumental in saving other girls over the years.

Lucky is on his way to Alaska to earn the money needed to save the family business in New Orleans. He'll be out of the rescuing business after he gets Maddie out of trouble. He doesn't expect to be attracted to the beautiful woman, or intrigued by her independence. When she proposes a partnership, exchanging her mining experience for his help in finding a claim, he is reluctant at first but eventually gives in. To further protect her, they pretend to be married.

I loved the relationship that built between Maddie and Lucky. Long experience has taught Maddie to be distrustful of men, but Lucky is one she comes to trust very quickly. She trusts him, but she doesn't just give in to everything he says. She's very independent and has no trouble letting him know when she doesn't agree with something. Lucky is sensitive to her needs and does a pretty good job of working with her rather than ordering her. Their partnership develops into a friendship, and that starts to grow into more. The attraction between them burns hot and they take advantage of their "married" status. Each of them starts to dream of a future together, but can't see how the other's stated dreams would mesh with their own desires.

I loved seeing Maddie's transformation from a wary victim to a woman confident in herself and her abilities. Lucky's influence showed her that there were more good people than bad. I really enjoyed seeing how her new found happiness had her reevaluating her dreams and plans. Lucky also found himself looking at his future differently, and trying to find a way to bring them together permanently.

When Maddie's past comes looking for her, Lucky's protective instincts kick in. He'll do whatever he has to in order to protect her. I also liked that Maddie is no shrinking violet when it comes to taking care of herself. The scene where she confronts the bad guy is pretty awesome. I also liked seeing how the other miners also take part in the confrontation. As the culprit gets away and both Lucky and Maddie are doing things to protect the other, they begin to realize that what they have is too special to give up. I loved seeing how they worked everything out, and the glimpse of what was to come.

I really enjoyed the gold rush setting. The bits of mining information were really interesting. I loved the characters of the various miners, especially Jack and Homer. It was fun to see how each of them interacted with Maddie and the effect each of them had on her.

Bound by Duty - Diane Gaston (HH #1229 - Apr 2015)

Series: Scandalous Summerfields (Book 1)

His scandalous bride

Tess Summerfield's life is changed forever when she's rescued from drowning by the mysterious Marc Glenville. Forced to shelter in a deserted cottage, she spends the night wrapped in his arms for warmth.

When they are discovered, the tongues of the ton start wagging, and Marc knows the only way to silence them is to marry Tess. But his duties as a spy soon tear Marc away from the marriage bed. When they're at last reunited, can they rekindle the flame born from the ashes of scandal?

Good story of two people who have vastly different views of marriage and love and how they have a meeting of their hearts. Tess and her siblings are in some difficulty in their lives. Their mother deserted them years ago when she ran off with one of her lovers, creating a scandal that is still remembered. Their father had been a bitter man and not good with money. Upon his death there is no money for dowries or anything else. Tess's older sister Lorene enters into a marriage with a much older man in exchange for security for her family.

Tess is unhappy for her sister. She believes that love is the only true basis for marriage. Her parents had not loved each other; theirs had been an arranged marriage. Tess believes that is why her mother had had so many affairs - she was looking for real love. She has sworn she will never marry for anything less than love. While staying with her new brother-in-law, Tess goes out walking and gets caught in a huge storm that has roads back to the house under water. She is wet, cold, and lost when she is found by Marc.

Marc is on his way back to London, supposedly from Scotland. In truth, he has been doing undercover work for the Crown and is just back from France. He stumbles across Tess, and being a gentleman, cannot just leave her to fend for herself. He finds a cottage for shelter and is able to get them out of the storm, but keeping them warm entails huddling together under the blankets. When they are found together the next morning, Marc knows he must do the right thing. Tess was not what he was looking for in a wife. Marc had seen what an excess of emotion could do. His own parents had married in haste and are barely civil to each other now. His best friend had been disappointed in love and had become reckless during the war and died trying to complete an impossible mission. Marc's older brother had been killed during his trip to Gretna Green with the object of his love. He sees only tragedy when love enters the picture. He planned to marry someone whom he likes, but doesn't inspire unwelcome passion.

During their time in the cottage, Marc and Tess get along quite well. They agree to disagree on their views of love. Marc is intrigued by Tess's forthright attitude, and attracted to her beauty, something that disturbs him very much. There is something about Marc that stirs Tess, but neither expect to see each other again. Tess is horrified that Marc is being forced to marry her and would refuse if she could, but she too has no choice. 

Marc and Tess begin their marriage, each expecting the worst. Marc physically wants Tess desperately, but the intensity of his emotions feeds his fears. Tess, knowing his views on love, can only see a future of unhappiness for both of them. An intensely passionate wedding night gives her hope that maybe things can be different, until he deserts her the next day, leaving her to face the rumors and whispers alone. Marc had not wanted to leave, but his work for the Crown is important and secret. And when they meet again, her suspicion and his secrecy work against them. It's not until the realities of war intrude that they realize what is truly important.

I loved the importance that both Marc and Tess placed on their families. Tess and her siblings do whatever they must to support each other. As the oldest, Lorene felt it was her place to make the sacrifice to ensure their safety, no matter what she wanted. I will be interested to read her story. Genna is still young and immature, but still shows a fair amount of spirit. Their brother Edmund was quite interesting. I loved his attitude about the girls' mother, and his efforts to bring about a reconciliation. The mother was a pretty interesting character, and I liked seeing Tess's attitude to her start to change as her own love story unfolded. 

Seeing Marc's family made it obvious why his views were what they were. I thought his mother was quite the character, and loved the way she accepted Tess. Marc's sister was really sweet, though she seemed rather silly at times. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with her. I have a suspicion about who she'll end up with and look forward to seeing if I am right.

I really enjoyed the setting of Brussels at the time of Waterloo. It was interesting to see the bits about the attitudes of the locals, and the party-like feelings of the English visitors. The glimpses of the battle and the people associated with it were fascinating, as I don't know all that much about that event in history.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pelican Point - Donna Kauffman (Kensington - Nov 2013)

Series: Bachelors of Blueberry Cove (Book 1)

Blueberry Cove, Maine, is as small-town as small towns get. More than a little quirky, it has sheltered generations of families. But there's always room for a new face.. .

Fixing things has always been Alex McFarland's greatest gift and keenest pleasure. But with her own life thoroughly broken, she's signed on to renovate the dilapidated Pelican Point lighthouse, hoping to reconnect with herself. The last thing she expects is to find herself falling in love -- with the glorious coastline, with age-old secrets and welcome-home smiles...with rugged Logan McCrae, the man she just might be able to build new hopes on.

DIY is so much better with two...

Wonderful small town romance. Alex arrives in town at the request of one of the residents, to look at restoring the local lighthouse. She is the last surviving member of her family of lighthouse restoration experts and is trying to recover from the tragic death of her father. She needs this job for the money and to see if she still has what it takes to continue the work she loves. She hits town exhausted and hungry and promptly faints in the police chief's arms.

Logan is the police chief. He has his own tragedy in his past, but has found contentment in his hometown. His roots are deep and he likes taking care of the people of his town, even though they sometimes frustrate him. Logan also owns the lighthouse and other buildings, including the house he lives in. He has been working on the house himself when his job permits. He has resisted pressure to restore the lighthouse because of the memories attached to it, He isn't happy when his uncle goes behind his back and hires Alex. 

There is an intense attraction between Logan and Alex from the beginning. I loved Alex's reaction to Logan's "sex god" voice. What they have is more than just chemistry. Each understands the other's pain and finds that pain shared is pain lessened. Though Logan resists Alex's presence at first, it isn't long before he wishes that she would stay. He knows that Alex's job takes her all over the country and world, and he is rooted in Blueberry Cove. He can't see any way that they can have a future together. Alex discovers a sense of home in Blueberry Cove that she's never had anywhere else. She's fallen just as hard for Logan, but like him, can't see a way to merge their lives. 

I loved the interactions between Logan and Alex. Some of them are really funny, some are sweet, and some are truly heartwrenching. Their romance progresses in fits and starts, as they get closer but are pulled apart by their fears. Both have to look hard at what they really want from life, and they get there with a little assistance from the antique shop owner.

I loved the various residents of the town and their quirky natures. There were some funny times and moving times with a super soaker wielding old woman. The mayor and his wife make things interesting for Logan and Alex. I loved Logan's police sergeant and her sassy attitude, and the diner owner's  tell it like it is approach to life. The flirtatious new Irishman in town is intriguing and I am really looking forward to his story.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Rake to Rescue Her - Julia Justiss (HH #1224 - Mar 2015)

Series: Ransleigh Rogues (Book 3)

He's never forgotten her. But can he forgive her?

When Alastair Ransleigh sees Diana, Duchess of Graveston, for the first time since she jilted him, he makes her a shockingly insulting offer…the chance to become his mistress. And even more shockingly, she accepts!

But the widowed duchess is nothing like the bold, passionate girl Alastair once loved. Years of suffering at the hands of a cruel husband have taken their toll. And as Alastair resolves to save Diana from the damage of the past, their chance meeting turns feelings of revenge to thoughts of rescue…

Good book, as a reunion story with a bit of suspense added for intensity. Eight years earlier Alastair and Diana had been in love and engaged, until she jilted him and married a duke instead. Devastated, hurt, confused and angry, Alastair spent the next years serving in the military. He didn't care what happened to him and as a result took on many dangerous or hopeless missions, earning himself quite a reputation.

He has returned to England to take up his life now that the war is over. His sister has invited him to visit her in Bath and is trying hard to get him to find a woman for him to marry. Because of his past, he has sworn never to give his heart again, and cloaks his mistrust of women in rakish behavior. He is stunned to encounter the newly widowed Diana and discovers that his attraction to her is as strong as ever. Determined to root her out of his system, he offers her the position of his mistress, expecting to tire of her quickly. He's shocked when she accepts.

Diana had been forced to marry her late husband because of threats he made against the people she loved. In the eight years of her marriage her husband had isolated her from everyone she knew, denied her the chance to participate in her hobbies, and then used her love for her son to take him away also. When her husband died, she took her son and fled to Bath, needing to get away from the bad memories. As soon as she saw Alastair, she knew she had to tell him why she had treated him so badly. He was skeptical of her story, and when she said she'd do anything to make it up to him, agreed to be his mistress.

Though Alastair starts out merely wanting a taste of revenge and the chance to purge Diana from his memories and heart, he begins to suspect that she had actually been brutally honest about her marriage. She is nothing like the girl he remembers and fell in love with, with her joy in life ruthlessly suppressed. Though he resists trusting her with his heart again, he can't help being moved by everything she's gone through. He becomes determined to see her return to her former self before he ends their association. And when she is threatened with charges of murder and loss of custody of her son, Alastair can no longer deny that he wants more than just a bed partner.

Diana is an incredibly strong woman who has done what she needed to protect her family and those she cared about. I loved seeing some of the things she did, fighting back in the only way she could. She has spent so long suppressing her emotions and hiding what she has gone through, that she has a great deal of trouble opening up to Alastair, even when their relationship starts to change. It isn't until her son is threatened that she can force herself to reveal all.

I loved seeing Alastair's feelings change from the need for revenge to the need to protect. It takes him awhile to realize that he had never stopped loving Diana, but once he does he goes all out to protect her. I loved seeing him confront the new duke and then go on to pursue the ammunition he needs. I loved seeing him bring in Will from The Rake to Redeem Her to help with his search. I also loved his sensitivity in knowing that, as much as he wants her, he has to give her the space to finish her recovery before he can tell her how he feels.

I loved seeing Diana slowly begin to trust that Alastair really did want to help her. She had never stopped loving him, but had had to bury her emotions very, very deep in order to survive her marriage. She tried very hard to keep her relationship with Alastair limited to only the physical, but it got harder each time they were together. She still wanted to protect him from the threats made against her and it took awhile for her to realize that he was more than able to handle them. I loved seeing her finally able to let go of her fears and start to live her life again. While it was frustrating to see her push him away at the end, why she did it made perfect sense. Seeing her finally able to accept his love at the end was wonderful.

One of the things I liked most about this story was the strong sense of family. Diana gave up everything in order to protect those she loved. She was also willing to put herself at risk in order to continue that protection. On Alastair's side, I loved his sister's protectiveness, even though it was against Diana it was for all the right reasons. It was wonderful to see how his mother supported him in his wish to protect Diana, even though she too had reservations at the beginning. Will's willingness to do whatever Alastair needed was just more evidence of how the Rogues are there for each other. Even the formerly estranged uncle had his chance to show his support. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Wife He Couldn't Forget - Yvonne Lindsay (HD #2381 - June 2015)

After an accident leaves Xander Jackson with no memory of the past several years, he doesn't realize he walked out on his marriage. And his wife, Olivia, grabs this chance to start over with the man she still desires.

Allowing Xander to believe they're still the passionate, loving couple they once were is one thing. But Olivia must also hide all evidence of the devastating loss that destroyed their relationship. It's the biggest gamble of her life…and everything depends on reclaiming Xander's heart.

Good story. Xander and Olivia have been separated for two years and are about to be divorced when Xander is involved in a car accident. When he wakes from six weeks in a coma, he has no memory of the previous six years and asks for Olivia. Stunned, she decides to take him to their home to recover and see if they can repair their marriage.

Olivia doesn't tell him that they are separated and what caused it. Instead she uses the time to try to show him that they can be happy together again. But she can't ignore the fact that she's hiding the truth from him and dreads what will happen if his memory returns. Xander is happy to be back home with Olivia, but he can't escape the feeling that something is wrong. When Xander finds about about the divorce, he feels betrayed by Olivia's lies. When he stumbles upon the evidence of their son and his death his memory returns with a vengeance. He is devastated and furious with her.

Both Olivia and Xander were responsible for the death of their marriage. Each of them had tragedy in their history, and each had learned to cope in a different way. When their son died, neither leaned on the other for the support they needed and therefore grew apart. Each had coped in a different way, but the other saw it in a negative manner and the hurt grew worse. If they want to make a go of their marriage, each of them is going to have to face their fears and learn to share their feelings.

I didn't have too much sympathy for Olivia through most of the book. I felt that she brought a lot of her trouble on herself by lying to Xander. When she confessed about their pending divorce, she should have told him about their son at the same time. That she didn't created the possibility of a huge problem later and that's what she got. She did redeem herself at the end, so I have hope that they will have their happy future. 

Xander also had his issues with sharing his feelings, thanks to his family's example when his older brother died as a child. His methods of dealing with his son's\ death had him pulling away from Olivia emotionally when she needed him there for her. Losing her a second time made him realize that things had to change, and that he couldn't do it alone.

I would have liked to see an epilogue for this story and see how things are going for them a year or two later. 

What the Prince Wants - Jules Bennett (HD #2377 - June 2015)

Series: Billionaires and Babies (Book 58)

What happens when a royal daddy falls for his child's live-in nanny?

Widowed Prince Mikos Colin Alexander wants to raise his little girl out of the spotlight. Granted a six-month leave from his royal duties, he escapes to Los Angeles, posing as a regular guy, one in need of a live-in nanny. Colin reluctantly hires Darcy Cooper, the curvy beauty who easily wins over his baby duchess. But soon the lush, love-shy American wins him over, too. Now he's torn between duty to the crown and what feels like his newfound family. But when Darcy discovers her emotionally distant boss is royalty, will all bets be off?

Good story about two people trying to protect their hearts and finding love instead. Colin (aka Prince Mikos) recently lost his wife and is still recovering from a climbing accident that he nearly didn't survive. At home in Galini the paparazzi give him no peace, so he takes a leave of absence from his royal duties and moves to Los Angeles. As his injuries are still causing him problems, he needs a live in nanny to help him care for his daughter.

Darcy needs this job badly. Her nanny agency has fallen on hard times because she trusted the wrong person. The handsome and charming man she loved and married embezzled from her business and used the money to buy gifts for his girlfriend. Not only did he ruin her business, he ended her hopes of having the money to adopt a child. She needs this job for the money to pay the last of the debts and get the business started again.

The initial meeting between Colin and Darcy did not go well. Colin expected an older woman, not a young and beautiful one. Even though his daughter takes to Darcy right away, Colin's immediate attraction to her is a distraction he feels he can't afford, so he tries to send her away. Darcy can't give up this job, so she talks him into a trial period. Darcy is just as attracted to Colin, but having been burned once, isn't willing to take a chance again.

I loved seeing the relationship build between Colin and Darcy. It starts with simple attraction that both of them try to fight. They try to keep things professional, and a friendship starts to build between them as they care for baby Iris. Darcy is truly impressed by Colin's insistence on being a hands on father, and Colin by Darcy's care for his daughter. Colin soon tires of resisting his attraction to Darcy, and wants her to give in to him, but she is not happy with the idea of a fling. Though she wants him just as much, she is determined to resist and insists that they not give in to temptation. That doesn't last long until she decides that she might as well enjoy what time they have. She knows that whatever they do will not last forever, 

I loved how what Colin considered was just a case of desire grew into love, even though he tried to resist it. He found himself thinking more about Darcy becoming a permanent part of his life. Unfortunately, he has never told her who he really is and is afraid of her reaction when she does. Those fears are well founded when she finds out before he gets a chance to tell her himself. Darcy feels betrayed by his deception, and thinks that she has just had history repeat itself. She has to look at what she has with Colin and decide if she is willing to take a chance on him. I loved the ending and Colin's big moment.

I also enjoyed catching up with Colin's brother Stefan and his wife Victoria from Behind Palace Doors. Victoria said some things to Darcy that helped her with her decision on what to do.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

King's Ransom - Amelia Autin (HRS #1854 - June 2015)

Series: Man on a Mission (Book 4)

Reunion with the king turns forbidden…and dangerous

Internationally renowned actress Juliana Richardson should be concentrating on the role of a lifetime, not on the man who broke her heart years earlier. Yet King Andre Alexei IV is no longer a young prince-in-training -- he's an undeniably sexy monarch with seduction on his mind. Juliana's heart is at risk, but after a series of deadly coincidences, it becomes clear her life is on the line, too.

Andre vows to protect the stubborn star even as she pushes him away. But as the threat to Juliana's life grows more intense, Andre must choose between saving the vulnerable beauty or letting her go forever…

Very good book. This is the story of Andre, Mara's brother from McKinnon's Royal Mission, and Julianna, her best friend from when she was a teenager. Many years earlier, when Julianna was a teenager, her father had been ambassador to Zakhar. She and Mara were best friends and tended to trail after her older brother Andre, who treated them both kindly. Julianna developed a crush on Andre that later turned to love. Andre had felt the same way, but being older knew that he had to control himself until she was old enough to be sure. The night before she left for college, she went to him, but after she left she never heard from him again, except for one very insulting and heartbreaking note. Julianna went on to become a well known actress.

She is offered the chance to play Eleonora, queen to the first King Andre of Zakhar, and really wants to do it. Theirs is a love story for the ages. But when she finds out that it will be filmed on location, in the palace itself, she is very reluctant to go. She knows that there will be no way to avoid seeing Andre again, but she's determined that she won't let him get to her this time. 

Andre is now King of Zakhar. He has never forgotten Julianna and worked hard to get her back to Zakhar. He is still in love with her, even though she had refused all contact with him when she had left years earlier. He is determined to show her how much he loves her and convince her to stay. I loved his conviction that she was the only one for him and how it had influenced his life from the time he met her.

I loved Andre and Julianna. The sparks flew between them as soon as they met again. Julianna feels it immediately but refuses to let him know it. She is trying desperately to protect her heart from being broken again. Her battle is obvious, but she doesn't want to give in, worried that if she does he will simply walk away from her again. Andre is determined to win her heart. He knows that the flames of their passion are still there, and that he could use them to seduce her. But he wants her heart, and for her to come to him by her own desire. He does have some trouble sticking to his plan, and there are a few times that his emotions overcome his common sense. His bouts of jealousy are pretty revealing. Julianna tries to keep him at a distance, but the more often they encounter each other, the more she sees of the man she loved. These things are in direct opposition to the one who broke her heart so badly and she starts to wonder which is the real Andre. I loved the scenes with the landslide, which were both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It also finished breaking down the walls around Julianna's heart. The intensity of their feelings is never in doubt, the only question being how long it will take for them to overcome their pasts.

The suspense of the story is very good. It is revealed that there is someone who has it in for Andre and this person has no problem taking out Julianna also. Andre is accustomed to the danger he faces as king, but is determined to keep Julianna safe. The intensity of the danger increases as the culprit appears to become more desperate. Each bit of information uncovered had me trying to decide who it was. The twists and turns to get to the conclusion kept me wondering for quite awhile. The final confrontation was definitely intense as was the danger to both Andre and Julianna. There is a link back to a character from previous books and I am interested to see if that is pursued in later books.

I loved the background story of Andre's ancestors. Each part of their story that was revealed had a parallel in the modern characters' lives. The filming of the movie also gave Julianna more insight into what has made Andre the man he is today. 

*copy received in exchange for honest review.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Her Highness and the Highlander - Tracy Anne Warren (Signet - Nov 2012)

Series: Princess Brides (Book 2)

While journeying home from Scotland, Princess Mercedes of Alden’s coach is set upon and her personal guard killed. Barely escaping with her life, she seeks help at a nearby inn. But with no money and looking little better than a beggar, the townsfolk think her claims of being a princess to be nothing more than a far-fetched tale. Utterly forsaken, Mercedes wonders what is to become of her.

After years of soldiering, dispossessed Laird Daniel MacKinnon is finally coming home. At an inn he is confronted by a bedraggled young woman claiming to be of royal blood. Daniel doesn’t believe her wild tale, but when she asks for his protection, he agrees to serve as her bodyguard -- in turn she promises to reward him handsomely once they reach London. But Mercedes is still being pursued by ruthless hunters whose motives remain unclear.

As the danger increases, so does the desire she and Daniel feel for each other, until the two of them must face the greatest danger of all -- falling in love.

Fun book with romance, humor and a bit of action. Mercedes is on her way to London from Scotland when her coach is attacked. Barely making her escape, Mercedes hides out in the woods until it's safe, then makes her way to an inn. Wet and bedraggled she is stunned when no one believes that she is a princess in need of assistance, and wonders what she is going to do.

Daniel is a former soldier on his way home to Skye. While stopped at an inn to get out of the weather he is surprised by the appearance of a young woman claiming royal blood and an attempt on her life. He doesn't believe her claims, but he does see that she is truly frightened, and after some soul searching agrees to help her get to London. It's a two week journey that turns out to be more dangerous than Daniel expected, to both his body and his heart.

I really enjoyed the journey as both Mercedes and Daniel learn a lot about themselves and each other. As a princess, Mercedes has never had to be at all self-sufficient. But when her coach is attacked, she has only herself to depend on. Her fear as she ran was very real, but she also had the intelligence to know that she couldn't outrun her pursuers and was able to hide. She had never had the problem of no one believing what she said, so her trouble at the inn was something she didn't know how to deal with. Her gratitude for Daniel's intervention was real as was her frustration at not being able to convince him of who she is. As they head south to London, Mercedes realizes that as a princess she has been sheltered from real life. There are some terrific scenes as she experiences new things such as gathering wood, cleaning and feeding a baby. I loved watching her grow from a slightly spoiled girl to a thoughtful and confident woman. 

Daniel is dealing with his own issues of returning home after years at war. There's not much there for him as both of his parents have died, and there isn't much of a home to go to. His family's lands had been taken after Culloden and he has little in the way of resources. He steps in to help Mercedes because as a gentleman he can't just desert her. He doesn't believe her claims, but he will get her to her friends who can help her. He doesn't anticipate all the complications that result from his decision.

I loved the romance that developed between them. Daniel was attracted to her, but realized that she was an innocent and off limits to him. In spite of his disbelief over her claims, he was still very protective of her. I loved seeing him comfort her when she had nightmares about the attack, and how he tried so hard to keep his desire under control. As they made their journey he couldn't help but admire the way that she made the best of their situation. He starts to picture her as a permanent part of his life. He also knows that she has been thoroughly compromised, and uses that to convince himself that it's only right for him to marry her. As they get closer to London, there is another attack, and he realizes that she has been telling the truth all along. Now he is feeling the differences between them and fears that she will regret their marriage. Once they get to London, he thinks his fears will be realized, and tries to do what he believes is best for her. I liked seeing him stand up to her father, even though he gave in to the arguments. I also liked that he couldn't quite give up all hope and was there for her when she needed him.

I loved Mercedes and her development from sheltered girl to amazing woman. She is drawn to Daniel from the beginning, but at first believes it is just because he rescued her. She knows she is going to need help to get to London, and I loved watching her efforts to convince him. I loved the trust she had in him from the start, and really liked the scenes where he was helping her through her nightmares. She spends a lot of time getting to know him and that knowledge creates a change in her feelings from gratitude to love. It was also fun to see her awakening attraction to him and how it changed her. She did fall back into her old ways very briefly when they got to London, hurting Daniel in the process, but she realized her mistake quickly. I loved the ending and seeing her stand up for what she wants.

The question of who was after Mercedes and why was pretty well done. I liked seeing she and Daniel escape most of the danger thanks to Daniel's instincts and lessons learned in the war. I had no clue as to who was behind it until closer to the end, and felt that it was a realistic scenario. The final confrontation was really good, as once again Mercedes doesn't wait around for rescue but makes her own escape attempt. I also loved seeing Daniel earn the respect of Mercedes's father. There was also a nice twist at the end that made their future so much easier.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Cowboy's Redemption - Marin Thomas (HAR #1551 - June 2015)

Series: Cowboys of the Rio Grande (Book 1)

A MAN WITH A PAST...

Cruz Rivera is on his last second chance. He can't afford to blow it by falling for the beautiful blonde widow who just hired him to fix up her family's New Mexico property. If he's going to get back on the rodeo circuit, Cruz needs to focus. Besides, a sweet single mom like Sara Mendez can do better than someone with Cruz's troubled history.

Sara isn't making it easy for Cruz to keep his distance. He's a man of many secrets, but Sarah sees only good in his warm brown eyes. Though Cruz knows he should move on before Sara discovers the truth about his past, he can't leave the closest thing to a home he's ever known. Cruz is the only man Sara wants--can he become the one she deserves?

Wonderful story of second chances and new beginnings. Cruz has just been released from spending twelve years in prison thanks to trying to help a friend. He has no home, no job, and little money. He's met at the gate by an old friend who gives him the things Cruz inherited from another friend who wanted Cruz to get back on the rodeo circuit. As Cruz drives toward the location of a rodeo, he stops to eat a small cantina. There he meets Sara, a single mother who needs help with repairs to the property.

Sara is a single mother and nurse who lives in Albuquerque. She lost her husband, a doctor who ran a clinic in a poor area, to gang violence. She wants her father-in-law to leave where he is and move in with her, but the property has to be fixed up before she can sell it. Cruz's arrival is timely and she hires him to help. She senses that he has secrets, but she also sees a loneliness in his eyes that matches the loneliness in her heart. 

I loved Cruz. He's a nice man that had a rough childhood and bad luck that sent him to prison. Now that he's out he's feeling a bit lost, as he has no idea what he wants to do. He had done well in the prison rodeo, but that's not really what he wants to do. Meeting Sara and her adorable daughter gives him at least a temporary purpose. He's attracted to Sara, and sees that she's attracted to him, but he feels that she can do better than him. 

I loved the relationship that grew between Cruz and Sara. Cruz needed the work that Sara offered him, but he was hesitant to stay because of his past. He hoped to finish and move on before she found out, but he found it very hard to leave. Sara and her daughter gave him a feeling of belonging he had never had before. I liked the way that Sara trusted her instincts when she hired Cruz. Even after she found out about his record she believed in him. I ached for them both as they fell in love, but things from their pasts kept them apart. I loved the way that Sara's father-in-law brought them back together, and how Cruz finally accepted that he was worth loving.

There were some heartbreaking moments in the book, such as the way Cruz was treated at the rodeos he went to. They were balanced by some really sweet ones also, like when Cruz arrived at the boys' ranch and was greeted by his old teacher. The acceptance and respect that he found at the ranch was just what he needed, and Sara's arrival was the perfect ending. I can't wait to read the next book!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Match Made in Montana - Joanna Sims (HSE #2404 - May 2015)

Series: Brands of Montana (Book 1)

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED
TO THE BIG SKY ROMANCE
OF
JOSEPHINE BRAND
AND
LOGAN WOLF
AT
THE BRAND FAMILY'S MONTANA RANCH

When Officer Logan Wolf pulls over Josephine Brand for speeding, her stunning blue eyes pierce him. The laid-back policeman is instantly drawn to the intense law student. And Jo so happens to be the maid of honor in her sister's Montana wedding to his best friend! There's nothing Logan wants more than to charm the lovely brunette and redirect her passion to him…

Josephine's hurt when her commitment-phobic boyfriend, Brice, breaks up with her before the wedding. But fate places a sexy temptation in front of her in the form of Logan. He makes her laugh more than her ex ever did. Josephine's pain begins to fade…just as Brice shows up, wanting a second chance. Can Jo trust her heart to lead her to her own happy ending on the range?

Good book. It starts out with Josephine in a rush to get to the airport to meet her sister for their flight to Montana. She's distracted because of problems with her boyfriend and not paying attention to her speed and is pulled over by Logan. She's frustrated because she's normally very law abiding, but that doesn't seem to make any difference to Logan. He's intrigued by her intensity and her beautiful blue eyes. And better yet, she's maid of honor at the same wedding where he's the best man.

Jo is hurt and confused when her boyfriend of five years breaks up with her right before her sister's wedding. She's determined not to let it ruin her trip home so she spends some time getting to know Logan. Despite her initial impression that he was an uptight enforcer of rules, she discovers he's actually pretty laid back. A comfortable friendship develops as Logan's relaxed attitude balances out her tendency to go all out in anything she does.

I really enjoyed the way their relationship developed. Logan was smitten from the very beginning and wanted a chance to show her they could be good together. He knew that she had just broken up with her boyfriend, so he was very careful not to push her into anything. I loved the way he was there for her when she was upset and how he seemed to know when she needed comfort and when she needed distraction. Jo was slower to catch on. I got a bit frustrated with her when she would compare him with Brice, and not in the best way. I couldn't believe she would dismiss the idea of dating him because he was shorter than the men she usually went out with. It took awhile for her to actually see him for who he was, but once she did things started to pick up. I was a bit worried about what would happen between them because Jo was looking at their relationship as a summer fling, and Logan was more interested in the long term. I loved their camping trip and really felt that they had finally started to move in the same direction.

Jo made me really mad when Brice showed up and she didn't immediately kick him to the curb. I was glad she saw him for what he was, but she was too darned nice to him. Logan needed to step up a bit also and make sure that she understood his feelings. I loved the twist that she added to her apology to him, and his follow up at the end of the book. I'm looking forward to reading more stories about the Brand family.

One of the things I thoroughly enjoyed was the descriptions of the area Jo and the family called home. Everything from the cave to their camping trip up to the continental divide was made so vivid that I could picture it easily.

Navy SEAL Newlywed - Elle James (HI #1570 - June 2015)

Series: Covert Cowboys Inc. (Book 6)

Here comes the bride…gun at her side

Navy SEAL "Rip" Cord Schafer is officially missing and presumed dead. It's the perfect cover until he can catch the traitors supplying Honduras terrorists with American arms. It's not a one-man operation, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine teaming up with a woman -- Covert Cowboy operative Tracie Kosart.

Posing as wealthy newlyweds, Rip soon discovers Tracie is as skilled at playing his sensual "bride" as she is at covering his six. Despite their jungle-hot attraction, Rip senses Tracie's reluctance to trust him. But when her cover is blown, Rip knows her life depends on his SEAL instincts and her love depends on his unwavering commitment as her "husband."

At the end of Navy Seal Justice Cord had just been rescued, but the bad guys behind his trouble were still on the loose. Cord is determined to find out who they are and stop them. To do that, his rescue has been kept quiet and he is thought to be dead. It is not something he can do on his own, so with the help of the Covert Cowboys organization, he will have the help and backup that he needs. He doesn't expect that help to be female operative Tracie Kosart, and being paired up with a woman is not what he had in mind. 

I loved their relationship right from the start. Cord makes his opinion known, but Tracie isn't one to back down from a challenge. It was great to see her match him every step of the way when it came to their covert activities. What they didn't expect was the attraction that made posing as newlyweds far too easy. Every time they touched the flames burned a little hotter and it got harder to resist giving in, until they decided to stop resisting. In spite of the reputation that SEALs have, Cord prefers to have emotions engaged when he's with a woman, but Tracie is insisting that it's just sex. He senses that there is something important behind her resistance. Tracie had been engaged to a fellow agent who turned out to be corrupt, and was just using her. And he was working for her boss, who was also corrupt. Their actions had resulted in her being held captive by a drug cartel until the Covert Cowboys came to her rescue. As a result, she has a great deal of trouble trusting men. Cord's caring attitude and growing respect for her abilities starts to build a trust she never thought she'd feel again. I loved seeing that trust turn into something more, and how they worked out having the future they both wanted.

The suspense and action in the story was wonderful. Cord was determined to find out who was behind the transfer of weapons to the terrorists. Each step of the way the danger increased. The confrontation with the coffee plantation owner who was also one of the terrorists gave them some of the information they needed. The raid on the terrorist camp was intense, and the evidence retrieved put them on the road to the next step. They were really close to a breakthrough when their cover was blown and Tracie ended up kidnapped. I loved her confidence and trust that Cord would find her, and also that she didn't just wait around for it to happen, but took steps to save herself. The final showdown was great, and didn't end there. I loved the takedown of the last player.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Navy SEAL Justice - Elle James (HI #1566 - May 2015)

Series: Covert Cowboys Inc. (Book 5)

FBI agent Melissa Bradley is used to cryptic assignments like this: retrieve package from PO Box and deliver to old friend. Package in hand, she's attacked by thugs -- and she's not about to trust the tall, dark and dangerous rescuer who claims he was sent to protect her. A former navy SEAL turned cowboy suddenly reinstated as a SEAL, there's clearly more to James Monahan's covert op than he'll admit. When their mutual friend goes missing, they join forces deep in the swamplands of southern Mississippi to find him. But as a dangerous band of traitors, terrorists and killers close in, survival means trusting each other -- their toughest mission yet.

Very good book, with action that kept me hooked from the beginning. Both Melissa and James got messages from their friend Cord, asking for their help. He asked Melissa to pick up a package at the post office and bring it to him at a local bar. James was asked to watch out for her because Cord suspected that she might be in danger because of it. Thanks to Cord's call, James was there to help Melissa when she was attacked by thugs. The escape was exciting, and the initial interactions between Melissa and James were pretty funny. Melissa is a tough FBI agent, well able to take care of herself, and she has no trouble telling him so. But when they discover that Cord is missing, they decide that working together is the best way to find him.

James had been a navy SEAL before he left the service to take care of his dying father. After his passing, James went to work for Covert Cowboys Inc, and had just started when he got the call from Cord. Fortunately this sort of problem is right up their alley, and his boss pulls some strings to get James reassigned to his old SEAL team, where he can investigate more easily. His inner protector wants to keep Melissa out of the investigation and safe, but realistically he knows that's not possible.

I loved the interactions between them. Both are smart and determined and quite stubborn when circumstances call for it. They were also surprised by the attraction that flared up between them. Melissa is wary of it because she had been burned in relationships before, by men who couldn't handle her being an FBI agent. Trust builds very quickly between them as they work together, and that trust opens the door to other feelings. I liked the end where they decided they wanted to get to know each other better, rather than declaring instant love. It was a pretty sweet scene in the hospital room too.

The suspense and action of the story had me riveted to the end. The questions about what had gone wrong on the mission that sent Cord looking for answers, and then his disappearance, were the basis of the story. James and Melissa made a great team as each of them used their strengths to ferret out information. The intensity of the danger kept going up as the bad guys tried to stop them. The final confrontation was pretty gripping as James, with the help of the team, raced to save Melissa. I really loved seeing that she had a big part in saving herself. Part of the mystery has been solved, but there are still questions about who is behind it all. I'm looking forward to the next book to see if they are answered.

The SEAL's Miracle Baby - Laura Marie Altom (HAR #1550 - June 2015)

Series: Cowboy SEALs (Book 1)

SHE BROKE HIS HEART
Jessie Long knew she made the right decision years ago. Grady Matthews wanted a ranch and a home full of kids, and she couldn't give him that. So she cut him loose for his own good. They went their separate ways--Grady left to join the Navy and Jessie stayed home.

Now a deadly twister has flattened their hometown, and it's brought them back together--and back to square one. The passion's still there, and the easy understanding. Even the way they care for the orphaned baby found in the aftermath just seems to fit. For Grady, that's enough. He's sure they can make a life together. But for Jessie, the secret that tore them apart is still hiding under the surface. And she can't face losing Grady a second time.

Good story of a second chance at romance. Grady has returned to Rock Bluff to help his parents rebuild their ranch after a devastating tornado flattened the town. He doesn't expect Jessie to be one of the first people he sees. Years earlier, he and Jessie had been in love and planning a future together, one with a ranch and a house full of kids. But then Jessie ended their engagement, and Grady left to join the Navy and become at SEAL.

Jessie had loved Grady and looked forward to their life together. But when she received news that ended those dreams she knew she couldn't hold him to his promise. So she ended things, but didn't tell him why. She became a teacher and stayed in their hometown. Now Grady is back and she has to face him.

I liked both Grady and Jessie. Grady is still hurt and angry at Jessie, even after all this time. For the first time since their breakup he has the opportunity to get some answers, but Jessie isn't budging on what she had told him before. One thing that hasn't changed is the attraction between them. Every time they get close the sparks fly. And when they can put the past aside, their old connection is still there. That connection is never more obvious than when they are taking care of a baby found in the tornado's wreckage. I loved seeing how taking care of the baby brought them closer together, but Jessie's secret is still lurking in the background. 

I liked the way that Grady was so determined to get them back together. Once he put his anger aside, the love that he still felt for Jessie was right there. I loved seeing the way that he worked so hard to help her with her tornado damaged classroom, and how he saw how much her students meant to her. t was sweet to see how wonderful he was with baby Angel. When he finally learned Jessie's secret, it was a blow, but his love for her was more important. He really tried to show her that truth, and her actions later were even more devastating to his heart. I didn't blame him at all for his hurt and anger and the things he said.

Jessie is a warm and loving woman but her secret has really done a number on her self worth. Both in the past and now she has trouble believing that Grady would be happy with her in the long term. I really thought that she hadn't been fair to him when she broke things off without telling him why. She never gave him the opportunity to show her that she was more important. Even after she finally tells him the truth, there's part of her that doesn't believe he'll stay. So after a huge disappointment involving the orphaned baby, rather than wait for him to walk away, she drives him away. An interesting twist to her life has her going after him to apologize and see if they can make it after all. I loved the epilogue and the Thanksgiving surprise that was the icing on their HEA cake.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Seducing the Marine - Kate Hoffmann (HB #827 - Jan 2015)

Series: Uniformly Hot (Book 50)

Subject: Marine Will MacIntyre
Current Status: Medical leave

One day a year Will MacIntyre lets himself remember the woman who left him after he enlisted. But seven years later, on the anniversary of that fateful day, Will is defusing a bomb in Afghanistan -- and it explodes.

Dr. Oliva Eklund can barely find the boy she loved inside the hard, chiseled body of the man Will is now -- a Marine who knows just how to tempt her, just how to seduce her. Olivia is well aware that Will plans to return to his unit after he recovers, but she can't resist trying to heal him. Even if it means sending him back into a war zone. And breaking them apart forever.

Good reunion story. Will and Olivia had been high school sweethearts that continued into college. But partway through, Will decided to drop out of school and join the Marines. Olivia was heartbroken - she had had the future all planned out. She couldn't see any way for their dreams to be compatible, so she broke things off with him. 

Will had always intended a career in the service and was heartbroken that Olivia couldn't support his dreams. Ever since then he has kept his emotions bottled up, knowing that they could be a deadly distraction on the job. This proves true on the seventh anniversary of their breakup when a moment of inattention has him setting off an IED. Once he's out of the hospital he's sent to his hometown for further recovery from his injuries. Will isn't handling it very well. He has nightmares, is uncomfortable in crowds or social situations, and is worried that he won't recover enough to go back to his unit. He's also worried about running into Olivia.

Olivia went on to become a doctor and has come home to practice. She has big dreams that she has started to make come true. Olivia has always regretted the way that she broke up with Will. As she got older she realized that she had been selfish and immature, both in her plans and her actions. and would like a chance to talk to Will and apologize.

Their first meeting doesn't go too well, as Will basically looks at her and runs away. The second doesn't go much better, except that Will gives in to the urge to kiss Olivia. It becomes obvious to both of them that, while their relationship may have ended long ago, something is still there. Neither thinks that there's any chance of a lasting relationship between them, but the attraction between them is hard to resist. 

The relationship that developed between them was interesting. Both insisted to themselves that they could pursue a physical relationship without getting the heart involved, that at the end each of them can continue with their lives as they were before. However, things don't work out that way and the emotions do get involved. Will realizes he had never stopped loving Olivia, but with everything he's going through he's not sure he can trust what he's feeling. There are times when he thinks getting out of the Marines is the way to go, thereby enabling him to have a future with Olivia. But just the thought of leaving the life he knows for one with so many unknown variables scares him. Olivia comes to realize that she had never stopped loving Will either, but leaving the life she has, and all the things she had planned for it is something she doesn't think she can do.

I felt for Will with everything he was going through. If he doesn't fully recover from his injuries and has to leave the Marines, he doesn't know what he will do. He doesn't feel like he fits into this world any longer. He investigates some options but it's hard for him to embrace the unknown. The only thing that really calms his fears is being with Olivia. Meanwhile, I will admit to some frustration with Olivia. She feels she's learned from past mistakes, and regrets not supporting Will's dreams back then. But when he spends some time working with the local recruiters, she goes off on him for continuing his plans to go back to his unit. It seemed like she still didn't really understand who he is and what drives him. I was glad to see how they both finally faced their fears and realized that with some compromise they could have it all.

Heir to Murder - Elle James (HRS #1847 - May 2015)

Series: Adair Affairs (Book 4)

Thanks to a DNA test, ranch hand Noah Scott discovers he's heir to a billion-dollar fortune. Now an Adair, Noah must come to grips with his true identity and the shocking murder of his real father. Then he discovers that the one woman he thought he could trust was spying on him for his siblings, and he cuts Rachel Blackstone out of his life.

But his father's killer has never been caught... With all those close to Noah targets--including Rachel--Noah needs to set a dangerous trap...using himself as ultimate bait.

Excellent conclusion to the series. Noah has been proven to be Jackson Adair, the missing half-brother to the other Adairs. He has to adjust to being brother instead of cousin, and decide just how involved he wants to be with his new family. He's feeling off-kilter since everything he had believed before has been shown to be a lie.

Noah had grown up as an only child, with his mother keeping him fairly isolated from other people. The only change had been one summer that he spent at the Adair ranch, when he met his "cousins" and "uncle" and started to feel like part of a family. As an adult, he came to live in the guesthouse on the ranch and work on the ranch itself. While there, he got to know Rachel, who came to him for riding lessons. They became good friends, with the potential for it to become more. That is until he discovered that she had been watching him for his new siblings. Hurt and angry, he felt that it was one more betrayal in his life.

Rachel had started getting to know Noah as a favor for her best friend. But it didn't take long for her to like him for himself. She felt guilty about what she had been doing, especially as their relationship started to heat up. Unfortunately, telling him got exactly the reaction she was afraid of, and his reaction broke her heart. On her way to visit her friend, someone tried to run her over with a car, leaving Rachel injured and with a concussion. 

Though Noah had been angry, knowing that Rachel is hurt brings him running. Learning about the suspicious circumstances, he insists on staying with her until her concussion has healed. She is attacked again when Noah leaves the house for a short time. At that point he insists on taking her back to the ranch, where there is better security and protection.

Though his willingness to trust Rachel has been damaged, Noah can't deny that he still has strong feelings for her. As he keeps her near him in order to protect her, those feelings continue to grow. I loved seeing them work their way back to each other as they also worked out who was behind the attacks. I loved the ending as Noah and Rachel realized that life can be unpredictable and facing it together makes them stronger. I loved the party at the end and the surprise that Rachel had for Noah.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. After Noah's identity is confirmed, suddenly the two people he has come to care about the most are victims of attacks. His real mother ends up in the hospital with smoke inhalation. The attacks on Rachel are even worse. A suspect in the attacks becomes obvious and Noah, desperate to keep Rachel safe, attempts to set a trap. It doesn't go quite as planned and Noah ends up in a dangerous situation. The final confrontation was intense as the trap closed, and the killer was finally caught. I was happy to see that my suspicions from the previous book turned out to be correct.