Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Evening Stars - Susan Mallery (Mira - Feb 2014)

Series: Blackberry Island (Book 3)

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More "Mom" than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school -- and her first love -- so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn't exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina's life has suddenly become…complicated.

Nina unexpectedly finds herself juggling two men -- her high school sweetheart and a younger maverick pilot who also wants to claim her heart. But as fun as all this romance is, Nina has real life to deal with. Averil doesn't seem to want the great guy she's married to, and doesn't seem to be making headway writing her first book; their mom is living life just as recklessly as she always has; and Nina's starting to realize that the control she once had is slipping out of her fingers. Her hopes of getting off the island seem to be stretching further away…until her mother makes a discovery that could change everything forever.

But before Nina and Averil can reach for the stars, they have to decide what they want. Will Averil stay? Will Nina leave? And what about the men who claim to love them? Does love heal, or will finding their happy ending mean giving up all they've ever wanted?

Good story revolving around two women and the changes that come to their lives. Nina is almost thirty years old and has lived on Blackberry Island most of her life. She has spent most of her time, since she was twelve, taking care of her flaky mother and younger sister. Averil is now married and Nina's mom also has someone special in her life, but Nina is still stuck where she is. She isn't happy, but she isn't miserable either. Then some things happen that really shake up her life.

Nina's high school boyfriend comes back to the island to help with his dad's medical practice. It's been ten years since their breakup and she's pretty sure the old feelings are dead. She opens her door one day to find Kyle, the older brother (but still younger than her) of a girl she used to babysit. He had a crush on her then, and is now interested in pursuing a more adult relationship with her. Averil shows up, needing a break from her life, and the chance to actually try writing the book she keeps talking about. And mom is there, avoiding anything she doesn't want to deal with, leaving it all up to Nina to take care of.

The relationships between Nina, Averil and their mother were very complicated. Bonnie (mother) had Nina when she was just a teenager, and Averil a few years later. Bonnie never really took to mothering, leaving the responsibility to her mother, who died when Nina was twelve. Nina took control of making sure things got done, and ended up being more mother than sister to Averil. Nina had her own dreams of going to medical school, but couldn't leave her family, so she gave them up and became a nurse instead. Continuing to take care of everyone, she put Averil through school. When Averil comes home for an extended visit, there's strain between them. Averil whines and complains that Nina is bossy, but Averil doesn't take responsibility for any of her actions. Nina snipes at Averil about how she has left such a perfect life, and what is wrong with her, etc. Bonnie flits through the days, creating problems that Nina then has to fix, but getting mad at Nina for doing it. 

The relationships that Nina had with the two men were also complicated. Kyle showed up and his intensity was pretty flattering to Nina. He's a few years younger, very good looking, and she is actually attracted to him. He's not going to be in the area long, and Nina figures that he's looking for a fling to pass the time. They definitely have some chemistry going on, but that really seems to be it. When he's not off flying, he comes to Nina, takes her to dinner and then to bed. There isn't much in the way of conversation, and what there is seems to be mostly centered around his flying. Dylan's reappearance is a bit more stressful at the beginning. Nina remembers what they had together, and how heartbroken she was when they split. Dylan is friendly, and once they get past dealing with their history together, their old friendships resurfaces. Dylan is there for her when she faces a couple family issues, and when she comes down with the flu he really steps up. What she didn't expect from him were some hot kisses that bring her old feelings roaring back to the surface. She isn't sure what her feelings really are for the two of them, but she's going to have to decide.

Nina's sister Averil has her own problems that she's trying to deal with. She's very much in love with her husband, likes her job writing for a magazine, and has the urge to write a book. They are also thinking about starting a family, but that has Averil suddenly starting to panic about her life. An argument with her husband has her headed home, but that has problems of its own. I thought Averil was pretty immature. She never really accepted responsibility for any of her actions. When she first arrived I thought she was pretty selfish, expecting Nina to take care of her. She also had quite an attitude problem with almost anything Nina would say to her. She did start to change pretty quickly. I liked seeing her get involved in the antique store, and how the things she did there started her looking at her life differently. 

When an unexpected treasure is found it forces all of the women to look at their lives and the choices they've made in the past. I especially liked seeing Nina take her courage in hand and go after her dreams. I really enjoyed the visitor she got at the end and the result of that visit.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Lawman's Justice - Delores Fossen (HI #1581 - Aug 2015)

Series: Sweetwater Ranch (Book 8)

The tip that sends FBI Special Agent Seth Calder to an abandoned warehouse in search of exonerating evidence brings him face-to-face with a familiar adversary. Thorn-in-his-side journalist Shelby Braddock is on her own search for the truth about a decades-old crime. Until they stumble on a crime scene...and end up fighting for their lives. Now, their only hope of survival is to work together. But something even more dangerous is drawing Seth closer to the gorgeous brunette. As he gives in to a passion so strong it can erase the sins of the past, he must evade a relentless killer...and confront a shocking revelation no one could have predicted.

Excellent conclusion to the series. FBI Agent Seth Calder and investigative reporter Shelby Braddock both received phone calls telling them that there was evidence on a case each of them was working on in an abandoned warehouse. What they find is a crime scene, one that has been set up specifically to lure them in. Tazered and kidnapped, they have to work together to escape, and that isn't the end of the trouble.

Seth has been searching for evidence that will clear his stepmother of charges of murder. He's certain she's innocent, and thinks the evidence is out there that will prove it. His stance isn't popular with a lot of people, including Shelby, daughter of the man Jewell is accused of killing. She has been just as vehement in her assertions of Jewell's guilt, until recently. A post on her blog brought up a question that casts some doubt on Jewell's guilt. Suddenly she's the focus of multiple attempts to kill her.

Though turning her protection over to someone else makes the most sense, Seth finds himself unwilling to do so. The sparks of antagonism that have previously been flying between them have turned into sparks of a different kind. I loved seeing Seth get protective of Shelby, even though he was fighting the attraction he felt for her. He kept trying to tell himself it was just part of his job, but it kept getting harder to convince himself. Shelby felt the same heat of attraction, and fought it just as hard, but couldn't help admitting that he was the only one she felt safe with. Shelby's strength of will comes through often, as there are so many times that it seems she can't take any more, but rallies to pursue the next lead. She also has a few lighter moments, such as when she teases him about running out of "clean FBI clothes" after their latest run in with their attackers. I loved seeing the changing family dynamics as Seth and Shelby got closer, continuing the blurring of the old animosities that have occurred in previous books. I loved the scene at the hospital between Seth and Shelby. Seth was pretty funny with his fumbling around, but sweet too. I loved Shelby's reaction.

The suspense and action in this story was non-stop. Whoever was after Shelby was not going to give up easily. As in the previous books, there were multiple suspects, each of whom had ample motive and opportunity. About two-thirds of the way through the book there was a twist that threw everything into confusion. It was interesting to see the effect that had on everyone's suspicions. The final showdown was intense and had me wondering just who all was going to survive to the end of the book. I liked how everything got wrapped up.

Surrendering to the Sheriff - Delores Fossen (HI #1575 - July 2015)

Series: Sweetwater Ranch (Book 7)

"Drop the gun, Sheriff."

Discovering Kendall O'Neal being held at gunpoint at his ranch isn't the homecoming sheriff Aiden Braddock expects. And now Kendall's captors are demanding he destroy evidence in an upcoming trial in exchange for the Texas attorney's life...

And the life of their unborn baby.

Three months ago, Aiden and Kendall gave in to their long-simmering attraction. Now, with a child on the way, the stakes have shot sky-high. But even after he pulls off a daring rescue, Kendall isn't safe. Before long, they find temporary haven in each other's arms--which could be even more dangerous than facing down a killer.

Good book that started with a rush and kept up the tension until the end. Aiden arrives home from work to find attorney Kendall O'Neal in his house, along with two gunmen holding her hostage. In exchange for her life, they want Aiden to destroy evidence in a murder case. Aiden isn't inclined to cooperate until he discovers that Kendall is pregnant with his baby. He knows he has to find a way out of the situation and keep Kendall safe. Even after a hair raising escape, Kendall isn't safe, and Aiden is determined to protect her.

Aiden and Kendall have known each other most of their lives. They were friends as children, until Aiden's father was murdered, presumably by Kendall's half sister. This started years of bad blood between the two families, but didn't diminish the attraction between them when they became adults. Three months earlier they gave in to that attraction, even though they knew it was a mistake. Now Kendall is pregnant and someone is trying to use that information to affect the upcoming murder trial.

The sparks between Kendall and Aiden are fierce, but both try to fight it. Aiden is stunned by the news of Kendall's pregnancy, but is determined to be a part of the baby's life. First he has to find and stop whoever is trying to harm her. He doesn't really trust anyone else to protect her as well as he can, which means keeping her with him. All that togetherness has their attraction getting even more intense. Kendall hadn't planned to tell Aiden about the baby, not wanting the tensions between the families to affect the child. Once he finds out, she's surprised by his determination to be involved. But before they can even think about that issue, they have to figure out who is behind the attacks.

I liked seeing how they got closer as they worked on discovering the attacker. Each has their own beliefs about who the murderer really is, which frequently puts them at cross purposes. Thanks to the attacks, and the reactions of their families to the news, Kendall and Aiden find themselves leaning on each other. It isn't too long before they realize that what they feel is more than just physical, and that their love is more important than anything else. 

The mystery behind the attacks is one that wasn't easy to figure out. There were multiple suspects, each one having the motivation to influence how the trial goes. The attacks were intense and kept me wondering what was going to happen next, and when were they finally going to get a break in the case. Throughout the series, emotions have run hot on whether or not Jewell killed Whitt. With each book, more information comes to light, but the conclusion isn't clear yet. I'm really looking forward to the final book and getting the truth.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Outlaw Hunter - Carol Arens (HH #1211 - Dec 2014)

An outlaw's wife…

With her home burned down, her outlaw husband believed dead and five children entrusted to her care, Melody Dawson must leave the ashes of her past behind to start afresh…

And an outlaw hunter…

Atoning for a youthful mistake, US marshal Reeve Prentis has made tracking down criminals his life's work. His dangerous job has always demanded a solitary existence, yet escorting Melody across the Wild West has Reeve longing for change, and a family of his own!

Good book. As a naive young girl, Melody fell for a man with a handsome face and smooth talk. He talked her into eloping with him, and only when it was too late did she discover that he was actually a member of a notorious outlaw family. The next several years were difficult as she suffered through abuse from him and the others. Now her husband has been reported to be dead, the outlaw ranch has been raided by US marshals, and the buildings burned. Melody is on her own with her two young sons and three other children. One of the marshals offers to escort her and the children back to her parents' home.

Reeve has been a marshal for many years. He considers it his duty and penance to track down criminals and capture them. As an eighteen year old boy he had made a mistake that resulted in his father's death and his mother being crippled. His work helps him support his mother and sisters and makes him feel like he's making a difference. The job is dangerous and he doesn't plan to have a family of his own.

As Reeve escorts Melody and her children back to her home town, a friendship develops between them. Melody is wary at first, her experiences with men making it difficult for her to trust. Reeve's kindness to her and the children quickly shows her that he's one of the good guys. Besides that kindness she can see that he is driven by something, and with gentle persuasion gets him to share his past with her. She has her own fears that she shares with him, and takes hope from his confidence that everything will turn out alright. As they travel, Reeve sees Melody change from the skittish victim to a young woman with hope for a better future. He's surprised by the attraction he feels for her, and his desire to get to know her better.

I loved seeing how the friendship they had turned into something more. Reeve found himself feeling very protective of Melody and the kids once they reached Cottonwood Grove. He knew he should just drop them off and continue on his way, but he couldn't bring himself to abandon them. It was sweet to see how he cared for the children and being around them made him realize what he was missing. He started to wonder if it was possible to make a change in his life. But he had spent so long looking at what he does as the only way to make amends that he wasn't sure if it was possible for him to change. Melody's feelings for Reeve were also changing, but she wasn't sure if she could trust them. She was afraid that it was only gratitude, or even the same sort of attraction that had gotten her into trouble before. I liked seeing that they agreed to take the time to make sure it was real before moving forward.

Things were really looking good for them, but there were forces at work to tear them apart. Melody has a problem with her father's new wife and her determination to keep Melody and her father apart. Melody is equally determined to get her father free from the woman's influence. Reeve still has some outlaws he's obligated to track down, and then he finds out that his mother and sisters are in trouble. This keeps him away from Melody for an extended period. I loved seeing him with his family, and how they try to show him that he deserves to be happy too. I wasn't surprised by the solution that he came up with to solve their problem, and loved seeing how it worked out. Meanwhile, I enjoyed seeing Melody settle in to her new life and start to regain her old confidence. She never really lost faith in the feelings she and Reeve shared, though she worried about his extended absence.

I loved their reunion and the happiness that radiated from them both. But Melody's past comes roaring back and throws their plans into disarray. I loved seeing that, instead of sending her into a cowering state of fear, it brought out a new strength in her. I really liked how she had just about rescued herself before Reeve found her. I also liked the ingenuity of the boy Joe, and his efforts to protect Melody's sons. The ending was quite satisfying, and I liked Reeve's compromise on the work he loves and having the family life he craves.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Alec's Royal Assignment - Amelia Autin (HRS #1862 - Aug 2015)

Series: Man on a Mission (Book 5)

Bodyguard to the queen of Zakhar, lieutenant Angelina Mateja is unwilling to risk her reputation or her job for US special agent Alec Jones--no matter how sexy and irresistible he is. Alec's been recruited by the king to root out a human trafficking ring--not get up close and personal with a stunning woman who practically radiates "touch me and die." But after sharing a mind-blowing kiss, Alec can't deny the fire simmering beneath Angel's cool exterior. As the danger--and their attraction--intensifies, Angel is forced to choose between the job of her dreams, and the man who is starting to occupy her heart...

Fantastic book with a seriously awesome heroine. Angelina is bodyguard to the queen, a position she has fought long and hard for. From the time she was a little girl she wanted more than just to be a wife and mother. She studied hard, earned a law degree, and when the new king opened the Zakharian Defense Forces to women she immediately joined. Though things have gotten better for women, Angelina still feels that Zakharian attitudes are still fifty years behind modern times. 

Alec, who was one of Princess Mara's bodyguards in MacKinnon's Royal Mission, ran into some trouble on his last assignment. Expecting a reprimand and a less than desirable posting, instead he is assigned to become the regional security officer at the embassy in Zakhar. It is believed that the princess asked her brother, the king, to intercede on his behalf. When he arrives in Zakhar, he discovers that, while that may be the public story, in truth he has been selected by the king himself for another reason. There is a human trafficking ring operating between Zakhar and the States, and someone at the embassy is suspected of being involved. Alec's task is to help shut it down.

Alec and Angelina meet the first day that he arrives in the country and sparks immediately fly between them. I loved their encounter the next morning, when they meet while running. They spend a little time as they run getting to know each other. When Alec asks her if she worries about running alone as she does, her reply is priceless and surprising. I liked the respect that began to build between them from that point. A moment later they are locked in a mind-blowing kiss that shakes them both up.

I loved Angelina. She was strong willed and determined woman who worked hard to get where she was. Honor and duty are everything to her and she tries hard to avoid anything that would cast doubt on her ability to d her job. There are multiple scenes that show what she is up against, such as feeling she has to wait until the male security team members have spoken before she does. It is also evident in the way she is treated after the incident at the cathedral. She doesn't like it, but accepts it as the way things are. She gets a boost in confidence (and I gained even more respect for King Andre) when the king himself praises her actions and commends her in front of her male counterparts. I also liked the way he privately praised her actions and gave her advice on dealing with the effects of those actions. His praise and Alec's confidence in her also gave her the courage to ask to help with an interrogation. It was incredibly satisfying to her (and to me as a reader) to see her succeed where all the men had failed. There was one brief scene with the heads of the king's security detail that was kind of unresolved, and I would love to be a fly on the wall when they get the news that happens at the end of the book.

Alec is also fantastic. I loved his immediate connection with Angelina and his acceptance of who she is. It was great to see his reactions to the things that she feared would upset him, such as her throwing him at the beginning, and then her offer to drive on the trip to the cathedral. While he has great respect for her abilities, he can also see her vulnerability. As much as he wants to flaunt their relationship, he understands her need to keep it private. I loved the sensitivity that came through when he saw how the events at the cathedral affected her. It was also great to see that same sensitivity cause him to stand up for her when she won't do it herself.

I loved seeing the relationship grow between them. Alec has finally found a woman that understands him and who he is. He begins to dream of a future with her and is happier than he's ever been. Angelina has also started to believe in the possibility of a future with Alec. But when his investigation ends, Alec suddenly realizes that there are some obstacles to those dreams. His personal code of honor and duty have him unable to give up what he does, but asking Angelina to give up everything she has worked for is something he won't do. But instead of talking to her about it, he makes the decision to end things. I ached for him and wanted to smack him at the same time, because he was so miserable and had brought it on himself. Angelina had to take a good look at her own issues and make some decisions about her own future. I loved seeing how she worked through them, and how it brought her to a greater understanding of the kind of man Alec is. The resolution of the problem and how it came about was terrific. Once again the king showed just how great a man he is.

The suspense of the story was great and kept the tension going throughout. There were two main threads - the human trafficking that Alec was dealing with and the attack at the cathedral that Angelina was involved in. The intensity of action at the cathedral had me holding my breath until it was resolved. The investigation of who was behind it (though the reader already knows) was complicated and I really enjoyed seeing Angelina's participation. The information she uncovered linked it to Alec's investigation, and that's when things got really interesting. Angelina had another link to his investigation, and I loved seeing them work together on that. It seemed that they were just one step ahead of the bad guys until they got to the end of the search. That conclusion was incredibly emotional and I'm really looking forward to the continuation of that storyline.

*copy received in exchanged for honest review.

Cassidy Harte and the Comeback Kid - RaeAnne Thayne (SIM #1144 - Apr 2002)

Series: Outlaw Hartes (Book 3)


Ten years ago, Cassidy Harte had stood at the altar waiting for Zach Slater. And when he didn't show up -- and was said to have disappeared with her brother's flirtatious wife -- she did the only thing she could do. Held her head up high. Helped raise her motherless niece. And swore never to get involved with a man again.

And then back into her life walked Zach -- with an "I'm sorry" on his lips, an explanation she refused to hear, and the vow that he would make her his once again. And this was one vow he was determined to keep....

Good second chance story. Ten years earlier the man that Cassidy had loved with all of her eighteen year old heart disappeared without a word a week before their wedding. He was seen leaving town with her brother's wild wife. Devastated, and feeling guilty that her man had destroyed her brother's life too, she devoted herself to caring for Matt's infant daughter and making a home for her two brothers. Now both of them have moved on with their lives, and her niece has a new mother and sister.

Cassidy feels a bit lost and without a real purpose, so she takes a job as the cook at a local guest ranch. She enjoys the work and the variety and meeting new people, even though she's never found anyone else she's willing to risk her heart on. She loves her elderly employer, and is sad but understanding when the woman sells the ranch to an unknown wealthy Denver businessman. She is stunned when the new owner arrives and it turns out to be Zach.

There were several reasons the Zach had left ten years ago, and none of them were because he didn't love Cassidy. In fact, one of the reasons he left was because he loved her too much to saddle her with a penniless drifter. Leaving hurt, but he thought he was doing the right thing. Over the next ten years he became a very successful man, but there was always something missing. Now he's returned to Salt River with the goal of winning her back.

It's not going to be as easy as he had hoped. Their initial meeting shows Zach just how bitter she is. She's the one who had to deal with the gossip and the pity. To make it worse, this is the first he's heard about Matt's wife leaving with him. He wants to explain, but first he has to get Cassidy to listen to him. Cassidy doesn't want to hear his excuses. The past is in the past and she wants it to stay there. But her heart isn't quite so ready to write off what they used to have together.

I really enjoyed Zach's persistence in trying to get back together with Cassidy. He knows he had gone about things the wrong way back then, and he's trying to show her that he's changed. There are some really sweet moments when his romantic side comes out and they are able to remember the good times. There are also a couple times when jealousy overrules his common sense and sets his cause back a little. His biggest issue is trying to prove that he didn't leave with Melanie, and that is turning out to be harder than expected. I also liked the way that Zach never tried to convince Cassidy that he didn't deserve her anger. He knows he does, and he takes all of her verbal blows without argument.

Cassidy's distrust of Zach was completely understandable. His return has brought back all the memories of everything she went through after he left. It has also brought back the attraction and the feelings she thought had died long ago. She had a real war going on within herself as to whether or not she wanted to take a chance on him again. I liked seeing her begin to see that the boy she loved was still there in the man. The extra maturity also enables her to stand up to her brothers when she makes the decision to give Zach another chance.

Not everything goes smoothly, because there was another reason that Zach had left town so abruptly. Older and wiser now, he realizes that he never believed that Cassidy would have stood by him, and that was one of the reasons he ran. When that past comes roaring back, it puts a strain on their new relationship, and Zach's pride gets in the way of him accepting her support. The person behind part of that past is not happy that Zach is back. As it turns out, he's played a bigger part in Zach's troubles than even Zach knows. The identity of the person isn't really a surprise, but there's a twist to his actions that I hadn't seen coming. The final confrontation was very good, and it was satisfying to see some people having to face up to how wrong they were.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Valentine Two-Step - RaeAnne Thayne (SIM #1133 - Feb 2002)

Series: Outlaw Hartes (Book 1)

Certainly he had been bewitched by women before, but for rancher -- and single father -- Matt Harte, this was the last straw! Because of his daughter's shenanigans, he'd gotten roped into planning the annual Valentine's Day dance. And his partner in crime? Why, beautiful big-city vet -- and recent Salt River transplant -- Ellie Webster. Who he couldn't take his eyes off. And not for lack of trying...

Ellie knew that Matt Harte didn't want her in his town, let alone on the intimate dance committee of two. But this was for her daughter's sake. It wasn't like she wanted to spend all that one-on-one time with the rugged rancher, imagining what it would be like to be his partner -- for real....

Very good "Parent Trap" type of story. Dylan Webster and Lucy Harte are fourth grade girls who have become best friends since Dylan and her mother moved to town. They are such good friends that they've decided that the next step is to become sisters. But to do that, they're going to have to find a way to get their parents together. So without their knowledge, Ellie and Matt get volunteered to co-chair the annual Valentine's Day school fundraiser.

To say they aren't pleased is an understatement. Matt is really busy as a rancher, and not much of a fan of Valentine's Day since his divorce. And to be paired with the big city vet from California, with the woo-woo vet techniques? No thanks - even if he can't keep his eyes off her. But Lucy has been a different kid since Dylan became her friend, one who smiles and laughs more and isn't so shy. When Lucy reminds him that it's also a way for them to spend time together, he can't tell her no. 

Ellie isn't too thrilled either. Matt's made no secret of the fact that he doesn't think much of her as a vet, even though she's never treated one of his animals. His attitude is mirrored by other ranchers, making it hard for her to get her practice up and running. She hopes that working on this committee will help ease her way into the community. 

I loved seeing Matt and Ellie get tossed together. The two girls are pretty good at creating opportunities, and Matt and Ellie start to soften a bit toward each other. When one of Matt's horses has a problem while Ellie is there, he agrees to let her look at the animal. After normal techniques don't help, he allows Ellie to break out her acupuncture needles and is stunned by the effect. Impressed by her passion for her work, he asks her to become the vet for his horses. Ellie is happy to have Matt's business as her practice hasn't been going so well. It isn't long before some of the other ranchers are following suit. 

Between committee meetings, vet visits and their girls, Matt and Ellie find themselves spending a fair amount of time together. There's an attraction that keeps building between them, but both try to resist. Matt was burned in love by his ex-wife, a city girl who never settled into ranch life. She made his life miserable before running off, and he isn't too keen on opening himself up to another woman, especially one from the city. But there's something about Ellie that has her finding her way into his heart. Ellie works even harder at resisting Matt. She has worked a long time to develop the independence and ability to take care of herself. Long ago she saw her mother fall apart when her husband left her. She watched her mother spiral downward in her attempts to find a man to take care of her and swore she would never let that happen to her. Then, after she ended up in foster care, every time she would start to care for someone she'd lose them. Now she won't depend on anyone but herself.

Things start to get really complicated, as Ellie receives threats from someone who doesn't want her there. Matt wants to protect her, but Ellie is still afraid to lean on anyone. Their attraction is growing, as are the feelings underlying the attraction. As the threats and troubles for Ellie increase, Matt is torn between wanting to protect her and believing some of the things that happen are her fault. He says some really terrible things to her, which reminds her of why she doesn't get involved. When a new threat hits way too close to her personally, Matt tries to be there for her, finally recognizing his feelings for what they are, but it's Ellie's fears that have her pushing him further away. She has to be able to overcome them before she can have a chance at the life she would really like to have. Her fears and what they were doing to her and her relationship with Matt were really emotional to read about. Having her finally see it and want to do something about it was very satisfying.

The mystery of who had it in for Ellie really wasn't too hard to figure out. I was a bit surprised they hadn't suspected earlier. Each thing that happened was pretty creepy, but the last was definitely the worst. As scary as it was for Ellie, I loved seeing how everyone supported her. The resolution of it was especially well done.

My Fair Fortune - Nancy Robards Thompson (HSE #2402 - May 2015)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country (Book 5)


In the business world, Brodie Fortune Hayes is known as a man of no mercy. The all-work, no-play PR consultant is sure he'll have no trouble correcting the image problems plaguing the Cowboy Country theme park. There's just one complication: the green-eyed beauty sitting behind the boss's desk who makes his pulse race like a roller coaster!

Caitlyn Moore never imagined working side by side with Brodie after sharing a most out-of-character night of passion with him a few months before! And now, thanks to her dad's absence-by-illness, she's his boss? Brodie's bottom-line mentality is as infuriating as his blue bedroom eyes are intoxicating -- but Cait is convinced that there's a heart lurking beneath his designer armor. Perhaps she can prove to him that love is the greatest Fortune of all…

Very good book. Cait is the daughter of Alden Moore, the owner of the new Cowboy Country theme park. That theme park isn't popular with the people of Horseback Hollow, especially the Fortune family. When her parents are invited to the big quadruple wedding in February, Cait attends in their place. There she meets "Brodie the Brit", who she is immediately attracted to. Though they only exchange first names, they have an intense encounter, and part ways, never expecting to see each other again.

Fast forward a few months. Cait's father has had a heart attack and she is filling in for him during the final push to the park opening. She has had trouble with getting her father to see what she is capable of, and she looks at this as a chance to show him. There are some major problems and some doubt as to whether it will open on time. Cait is determined that it will, but it isn't going well. Her father tells her that he has hired a consultant to whip things into shape. She's not happy, but she doesn't really have a choice. When the consultant turns out to be her wedding fling, she's horrified, but she's going to have to find a way to work with him.

Brodie Fortune Hayes is known for his hard nosed, bottom line attitude. He's stunned to find the woman he hasn't been able to forget sitting in the boss's place at his new job. He knows what needs to be done to get things moving and he can't let himself get distracted by Cait. 

There were some serious sparks between them from the beginning. Their encounter at the wedding was seriously hot, but both were behaving out of character. Now they have to find a way to work together, which isn't going to be easy. Besides the attraction, which is as strong as it was before, both have entirely different leadership styles. Even though she's more used to working with animals than people, Cait looks for the best in people and believes they will live up to those expectations. Brodie tends to get his way using threats and intimidation. I loved seeing Cait stand up to Brodie when he would get all high handed. I liked seeing how Cait's influence started to change the way Brodie did things. 

They also got closer emotionally, though this was a much more volatile thing. Brodie has things in his past that have made him reluctant to give in to any emotion. This has given him the reputation of being heartless, but Cait can see that he simply protects that heart. She starts to feel she's making some progress with him when things start to go bad at Cowboy Country. Once again their differing styles create conflict between them, and Brodie pulls back, feeling that he's let emotions interfere with doing business. When disaster strikes, Brodie realizes the mistakes he's made, and has to find a way to make things right. I loved seeing him find his way back to Cait and his family. His actions at the end were great. I especially liked the way that he made sure her father knew that none of it was Cait's fault. This went a long way toward settling the issues that Cait had with her father.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Taming of Delaney Fortune - Michelle Major (HSE #2395 - Apr 2015)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country (Book 4)


He's been in Horseback Hollow for only a couple of months, but sexy Cisco Mendoza has already made quite an impression! Little does anyone know his real reason for being here -- a top secret deal that could shake the foundations of the small Texas town…and one important family…

When Delaney Fortune Jones agrees to help Cisco win some hearts and minds, suddenly the tables turn -- and the permanent playboy finds himself pining for the innocent cowgirl and her heart of gold. As business veers dangerously close to pleasure, Mr. Mendoza better hang on to his hat -- the pint-size Delaney might just teach him a lesson in the art of falling in love…Fortune-style!

Cisco played a big part in his brother's book, Mendoza's Secret Fortune, and I expected that when it was his turn, his smooth and charming ways would not help him. It was quite satisfying to see him struggle just as much as his brother had. Cisco came to Horseback Hollow to visit his father, who had moved there, and stayed because he saw a way to make some money. The new Cowboy Country theme park has opened up some interesting possibilities, One in particular requires him to get the support of the Fortune family, which he has become related to by the marriage of his sister. Unfortunately for him, the Fortunes are outspoken opponents of the park. What he needs is someone who can help him convince them.

Delaney Fortune Jones is the youngest of the family. Now that five of her six siblings are married or taken, she's feeling a little lost. She wants what they have, but in a town as small as hers the choices are pretty slim. She knows that she wants someone like her, who likes her town and the ranching way of life. Cisco is not that person, but there's something about him that she just can't resist. When he tells her he may need her help with a project he's working on, she's more than happy to assist, even though he hasn't told her what it is.

I loved seeing the relationship between Cisco and Delaney develop. Cisco is quite the ladies man and is used to them pretty much falling at his feet. Delaney may be young and somewhat inexperienced with men, but she has no trouble standing up to his charm. Yes, she's attracted to him, but that doesn't mean she has to give in. I loved seeing Cisco's reactions when she pretty much laughs in his face as he attempts to charm her. He thinks he'll have a better chance to get her help if he tries to learn more about what true cowboy life is like, and gets Delaney to put him to work on the ranch. I loved seeing him try to fit in to her way of life and come to a whole new appreciation for what she does. There are some wonderful scenes of a truly romantic side of Cisco coming out. But the closer they get, the guiltier he feels about not yet having told her of his plans. Delaney finds herself falling for Cisco, even though she knows he doesn't plan to stay. When she discovers the truth, she is devastated by what she sees as his betrayal. I loved seeing everything Cisco had to go through to make things right for Delaney. I loved how he ended up getting advice from his brother. He did a good job of groveling and I was happy with the way it turned out.

I really liked what I saw as the maturing of Cisco. He had started out being interested in the deal he was working on because of what it would do for his bottom line. At the beginning he had some doubts about the project, but was willing to do what he had to in order to make it happen. The more he got to know Delaney, the rest of the Fortunes, and the community, the more he realized that the developer's vision was not going to work. I liked seeing how he tried to make them see the truth, as he got to know the community and their way of life. It was interesting to see the problems that were cropping up and how they were being dealt with. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mendoza's Secret Fortune - Marie Ferrarella (HSE #2389 - Mar 2015)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: Cowboy Country (Book 3)


The Fortunes are not the only hotties in Texas; their longtime friends the Mendozas are legendary for their good looks and ardent hearts. Tall and dark with soulful eyes, Matteo Mendoza is a pilot whose charms have too often been eclipsed by his more outgoing brother, Cisco. Now, Matteo has set his sights on cantina hostess Rachel Robinson. Brother, look out!

After several years on a self-imposed "romance diet," Rachel finds Matteo to be a treat she just can't resist. But she's already been through her own family heartbreak -- the last thing she wants is to come between the Mendozas! Can she learn that following her heart might lead to the greatest fortune of all?

Really good book with some complicated family dynamics. Rachel grew up in Austin, in a family with money. Five years earlier she had discovered something that her father was hiding, and that made her feel her life was a lie. Rather than confronting him, she left home and hasn't been back since. She has settled in Horseback Hollow, where she is the hostess at the local cantina and has just secured an internship with the Hollow branch of the Fortune Foundation. She encounters Matteo, Cisco, and their father Orlando at the cantina one night, and is attracted to Matteo.

Orlando is trying to convince his sons to settle in Horseback Hollow, where he has recently put down his own roots. Cisco is considering it, having set up his real estate investment business there. Matteo is on the fence, as he misses the more vibrant city life of Miami. One look at Rachel, however, has him reconsidering. But before he can say anything, his flashy older brother asks her out first. All their lives Matteo and Cisco have been in competition for one thing or another, and Cisco is usually the one who comes out on top. 

The two brothers are quite different. Cisco is charming, outgoing, and very much a ladies man. Matteo is quieter, and tends to think things through before acting. When the two brothers first see Rachel, she makes an impression on both. Matteo's reaction was pretty funny, as he gets so distracted by her that he can't even remember what he ordered to eat. Cisco sees his brother's interest, takes advantage of Matteo's distraction and gets his request for a date in first, capping off a lunch where Cisco was constantly needling Matteo about anything and everything. Then he has the nerve to tell Matteo he only did it to motivate him to go after Rachel himself. Matteo is rightfully angry at his brother, but at this point isn't sure what to do next.

Though Rachel goes through with her date with Cisco, there is nothing that makes her want to go out with him again. She had really been hoping that Matteo would ask her out. The next day she is talking to Matteo when Cisco calls her to ask her out again. This encounter was much better, and I loved seeing what Matteo did to secure her company for the evening. I loved what he did for their date, and it was obvious that Rachel did too. A few more encounters through her work at the Foundation and some more dates, and things are looking really good for them. Then Cisco tags along on a delivery to the Foundation, and starts in with his old tricks of trying to charm Rachel, and also making assorted digs about Matteo. These start to play into Matteo's insecurities and suddenly he's doubting himself and their relationship. At this point I was furious at Cisco and ready for Matteo to beat the snot out of him. Whether he was doing it to supposedly help Matteo or not, once he knew they were going out he should have laid off the snarky comments and interference.

Rachel was confused by Matteo's withdrawal, and had no idea what to do about it. Luckily, Matteo was smart enough to go see her and apologize for being an idiot, though he did get off to a rocky start doing it. Their making up kisses got a little out of hand, and during the night he panicked over the intensity of his feelings and sneaked away. Rachel was hurt and angry, feeling that maybe she had just been the prize in their competition after all. Having had enough family drama of her own, she's ready to write him off, until a conversation with her boss and Matteo's cousin, Wendy Mendoza, makes her willing to give him another chance. She has her own insecurities, thanks to her past, that affect her willingness to believe in her own appeal.

I really enjoyed seeing him try to explain himself, and Rachel not giving in too easily. The only thing left to deal with is the secret that Rachel has been holding back. I really liked Matteo's patience in waiting for her to be ready to share it with him. I also liked the way that he was there for her when that secret finally got to be too much for her. It is certainly a whopper of one, and the epilogue didn't really do anything to further its resolution. I suspect that we won't see much more about it until next year's series. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yield to the Highlander - Terri Brisbin (HH #1185 - May 2014)

Series: MacLerie Clan (Book 9)


Fearsome warrior Aidan MacLerie may be brave and unquestionably loyal to his family and clan, but his heart remains restless. Until he meets stunning Catriona MacKenzie. She's a married woman, so he can never truly possess her, yet he seeks her surrender -- one kiss at a time….

When the husband from her loveless marriage falls on the battlefield, Cat is left destitute, with her reputation in tatters. Aidan is the only man with the power to protect her now. All Cat has to do is yield to this powerful highlander.

Very good book that kept me hooked all the way to the end. Aidan is heir to the laird, young, handsome and an excellent warrior. He is also well known for his pursuit of the ladies and when he sees Catriona, he immediately wants her. She's married, but he isn't going to let that stop him. 

Cat hasn't had an easy life. She was married first to a cruel and abusive man who beat her so badly she lost the baby she carried and was told she'd not be able to have more children. When her husband died, her equally awful father, calling her useless, tried to sell her as a whore. When she fought back, a passing soldier came to her rescue and bought her, marrying her himself. Grateful, Cat does what she can to make his life more pleasant. They may not love each other, but she is loyal to him, which is why she is horrified by Aidan's pursuit of her. She makes it clear to him that she will not give in to him, though she cannot deny that she is attracted to him.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to make any difference to Aidan. He makes arrangements for her husband to be away so that he has more opportunity to pursue her. By the time he finally understands that she is serious about her refusal, it is too late. People have noticed his attentions, and his reputation is such that all assume that she has been unfaithful. When her husband dies while he is away, Cat is left with nothing, evicted from her home and shunned by everyone. 

It's at this point where Aidan starts to redeem himself. He realizes that it is is fault that Cat is in such dire straits. The only way he can protect her is to set her up as his mistress, providing her with a place to live and the means to support herself. He also feels guilty about his actions and reasons for sending her husband away. I liked the fact that, though she must be looked on as his mistress for her protection, he isn't going to force a relationship on her. He makes it clear that if anything is going to happen between them, it will be by her choice.

At the same time all of this is going on, Aidan's father has told him that it is time for him to marry. And that means finding a woman of good birth, dowry, and connections that will be good for the clan. Aidan knows that this is the way it must be, but it doesn't make him happy. He still plans to keep Cat, even after he marries.

Aidan and Cat begin to build a relationship. She has admitted her attraction to him, but her past experiences have not been pleasant ones. I liked Aidan's patience and gentleness as he exposed her to the pleasure that could be had. They slowly begin to get to know each other, but underneath it all is the knowledge that this is all they can ever have. For awhile, Cat believes that it will be enough for her, but soon realizes that she has fallen in love with him. She also knows that she could never be happy as the mistress of a married man. Though it will break her heart to do so, she knows she will have to leave once he has married. When it comes to her attention that he had purposely sent her husband away in order to seduce her, she feels betrayed. That scene had me in tears as she dealt with that blow, realizing more than ever that she has no place in his life. There's something else that adds to her need to get away, and there's only one person that can help her do it.

Aidan is horrified as it finally hits him what he has done. He tries to explain to her, but she wants nothing to do with him. His father sends him off for a few days, and when he comes back, Cat is gone. His father refuses to tell him where she has gone, and insists that it is time for Aidan to select a bride. In spite of the fact that Aidan's father loves his wife, he appears to have absolutely no sympathy for Aidan's misery. I loved seeing Aidan realize just how much he cares for Cat, and his efforts to find her were great. I loved the scene where Aidan finally told his parents who he was going to marry. The resulting furor was intense but my respect for Aidan went through the roof. 

Aidan continued to mature as he faced the difficult task of finding Cat and then convincing her of his love. She had her own moments of facing up to her mistakes and wishing for a chance to make things right. I wondered how things were going to get resolved, and then Aidan's mother got involved. I had to laugh at her methods because they were certainly effective, even on a hard headed man like her husband. I loved seeing husband and son fall to her superior strategy. I enjoyed the ending as it touched on events from the two previous books.

I've only read three of the most recent books, but will add the others in the series to my wish list of books for the future. I especially want to read the story of Aidan's parents.

The Instant Family Man - Shirley Jump (HSE #2410 - June 2015)

Series: Barlow Brothers (Book 2)


Up till now, Luke Barlow's biggest dilemma was deciding which debutante to take to which Stone Gap social. Until Peyton Reynolds appeared on his doorstep with a four-year-old blonde moppet and a birth certificate spelling out Luke's name in black and white. And it's time for the South's sexiest bachelor to step up and be the daddy his little girl needs!

Peyton had sworn she'd keep her cool around her onetime crush, but when Luke begins bonding with little Maddy, Peyton realizes she's in danger of losing her heart to the small-town heartbreaker. Perhaps this Barlow brother might be inspired to change his footloose ways and become the man Peyton can depend on…for a lifetime!

Excellent book about two people who are very different and the little girl who brings them together. Peyton was always the responsible one in her family. Her mother had been an alcoholic, incapable of caring for her two daughters. Her older sister had been just as irresponsible. So growing up, it was always Peyton who made sure things got done. And when her sister got pregnant and told her that the father didn't want anything to do with her or the baby, Peyton is the one who took care of Susannah and Maddy. Then her sister was killed in a car crash, leaving Peyton the only one to care for Maddy. Determined that the little girl's father finally take some of the responsibility, Peyton heads back to her home town to confront him.

Luke is the middle one of the three Barlow brothers and the carefree one. He likes to party and has never met a woman he didn't like. When Peyton shows up at his door and tells him it's time fr him to step up, he's stunned. He had no idea that his old girlfriend had his baby. He's not quite sure what to do with the news, but one look at Maddy and he knows he can't turn his back on her. However, he's not sure he has what it takes to be a daddy.

I loved these two characters. Peyton is pretty uptight, running her and Maddy's life with rules and schedules to go along with the bone deep love she has for the little girl. She doesn't like to let anything throw her off her plans. She has learned to depend only on herself. Letting go, even a little, to allow Luke into Maddy's life is really hard for her. Add to that is the reigniting of her girlhood crush on him, and her life seems to be coming unraveled. Luke seems to have spent his life avoiding the necessity of growing up. He's only just started admitting to himself that his lifestyle is getting old when he finds out he's a father. I loved seeing him try to get past his fears and do the right thing for Maddy. 

I got a bit frustrated with Peyton's rather rigid behavior through most of the book. I finally understood why she did it, but it was still kind of hard to watch. I liked the way that Luke's more laid back attitude balanced her out. I loved seeing how he was able to reach past Maddy's pain and make her smile and laugh. It was also fun to see him work on getting Peyton to relax her rules and just enjoy life. There were some really heartwarming scenes of Luke learning too become a father. There were also some heart wrenching moments when both Peyton and Luke doubted their own abilities. I loved seeing them both realize that they were stronger together. The last scene at Maddy's birthday party was really sweet.

I liked the secondary story with Luke and his friend Jeremiah. I really enjoyed seeing the influence that Peyton had on Luke's feelings about what had happened. His solution on how to help his friend showed his new maturity.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Heart of Christmas - Brenda Novak (Mira - Nov 2014)

Series: Whiskey Creek (Book 7)

Just call her Christmas Eve…

Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn't have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that's what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining.

Eve's worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There's no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband -- until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve's definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve's happily ever after -- just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she's counting on the best Christmas of her life!

Good book. I liked seeing Eve finally get her story. Eve runs Little Mary's B&B. She's at the local bar celebrating her birthday and feeling sorry for herself. She wants what her friends have - a family of her own, but so far she hasn't found the right man. She wakes up the next morning with a handsome stranger in her bed, and only vague memories of the night. What she can remember is pretty impressive, but she's horrified by her uncharacteristic behavior. Rex is in town trying to keep his past from catching up with him. His night with Eve was amazing, but he should move on. Unfortunately for his peace of mind, he can't seem to pull himself away. 

I liked Eve better in this book than I have in previous ones. In those, she frequently seemed judgmental about the decisions her friends were making, or the people they were falling for. In this book, her attitude becomes a little clearer, as she is one to worry about her friends and wants what is best for them. With her sudden attraction to Rex she begins to understand them a little better. There's something about Rex that has her wanting to get closer to him, but at the same time there is a lot of mystery surrounding him. As she gets to know him, she sees a good man who is trying to get past the mistakes he's made. All she has to do is convince him that he's worth loving.

I really liked Rex. He had a family tragedy as a teen that he continues to blame himself for. The guilt he felt then led him to make some poor choices, choices that kept building until he ended up in prison. He's been out for eight years and has made a good life for himself, but the past won't leave him be. The gang that he belonged to as a safety precaution in prison doesn't like that he has left them behind. They are determined to find him and kill him. This has added to Rex's determination to keep an emotional distance from everyone. When he found out that they had tracked him down once again, he hit the road for awhile, ending up in Whiskey Creek. His encounter with Eve filled a need in him he hadn't realized he had. He tries to keep her at a distance, but finds himself unable to resist going back to her time and again. He wants to be able to stay with her, but his fears for her safety have him convinced it's not possible.

It was great to see the various people from previous books and see how things are going for them. There's a reference in this book to something that happened in an earlier book that I still don't agree with. I'm waiting for that decision to come back and cause problems. However, I loved the support that Eve had from her friends. They are all protective of her, and while some go a bit far in their actions, they all want what is best for her. In the end, it was wonderful to see how they banded together to make it possible for Eve and Rex to be together. The solution was pretty clever. I liked the epilogue and seeing Rex take the first steps into a new future.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sheltered - HelenKay Dimon (HI #1577 - July 2015)

Series: Corcoran Team: Bulletproof Bachelors (Book 2)

She'd always preferred handling things on her own. Until a sexy undercover agent stepped in to protect her.

Strong and silent Holt Kingston has one mission: to infiltrate a dangerous cult with more firepower than faith. But when the compound's ruthless leader has a gorgeous former member in his sights, single-minded Holt won't rest until the mesmerizing Lindsey Pike is safe.

After living undercover for years helping others flee, Lindsey isn't used to someone else calling the shots. Not even someone as capable and captivating as Holt. But now someone knows she's back--and wants her captured. Maybe even killed. As the cult slowly closes in on them, Lindsey can no longer hide how much Holt's protection soothes her peace of mind. And heals her wounded heart.

Very good book that started with a rush and kept my attention throughout. Lindsey was kidnapped by her father as a child and raised in the commune in Justice, but managed to escape when she was a teenager. She changed her name, and as an adult has come back to help others escape. She has done her best to keep her activities hidden.

Holt is also undercover, but with a very different mission. He has to infiltrate the cult and see just what they are up to. It appears to be weapons trafficking, but he needs the proof. When he hears two cult members talking about kidnapping Lindsey and taking her to the leader, he knows he has to do something fast.

When he burst into Lindsey's house he only had a few minutes to convince her to play along. She's resistant until the other guys show up, but once they're gone she wants answers. This was pretty interesting to see, because Holt never breaks cover, but he tells her the truth almost immediately. It takes some effort, but he does convince her, and none too soon. People start turning up dead, and it looks like she's being set up to take the blame.

I really liked seeing Holt and Lindsey together. Lindsey is a strong and determined woman and she's not about to sit back and take orders, not matter how good Holt is at what he does. I liked the way she pushed back at him. Holt is used to being in charge and not having his orders questioned. On top of everything else, the attraction between them is intense. Holt fights his feelings hard, believing that commitment is not for him. Lindsey also fights her feelings at first, but the way he protects her gives her a sense of peace she's never had. One of the things I enjoyed was the way the two of them understood each other's fears and were able to calm them. By the time the end came, Lindsey knew how she felt, but wasn't going to ask him to stay. Holt was still fighting, until his partners Shane and Cam straightened him out (a really fun conversation!). His return to Lindsey and confession of his feelings was awkward and adorable.

The suspense of the story was really good too. From the time Holt appears at Lindsey's to the very end, there is always something going on. Some of it is physical danger and some comes from the bad guys' efforts to set Lindsey up. The final confrontation at the end is really intense and comes with a surprising twist. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cornered - HelenKay Dimon (HI #1571 - June 2015)

Series: Corcoran Team: Bulletproof Bachelors (Book 1)

It was an assignment he was more than prepared for -- until an innocent beauty got caught in the cross fire

Undercover agent Cameron Roth's hot on the trail of a drug-running crime cartel. The last thing he needs is to involve an innocent woman in the cross fire. But when he leaps into Julia White's home for safety, she becomes part of the tangled web Cam's trying so desperately to unravel. Smooth, solid Cam's the consummate professional. But gorgeous, feisty Julia transforms the high-stakes assignment into something far more than business as usual. Now that the villains have her in their sights, Cam's got to not only solve the case -- but also protect the only woman who's ever found the way into his heart.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous Corcoran Team books, and this one was just as good. It was action packed from the first page. Cameron and his two team members are on the island to find and question a witness to the drug runners working there. Unfortunately, with the probability of a corrupt police department, they are on their own. 

Julia is in the middle of dealing with her late father's property when she hears gunshots. As she rushes to get indoors she is overtaken by Cam, and suddenly becomes part of the action. Though she doesn't trust easily, something tells her that Cam is okay. He saves her from the people who are after him. He wants to get her off the island and to safety, but she feels safer with him. She also uses her knowledge of the island and its people to convince him to keep her around.

Cam isn't sure he's doing the right thing, but he's never had a woman get under his skin so fast. He's impressed with her ability to remain calm under the most stressful of circumstances. The biggest problem he has with it is the chemistry between them that is creating one big distraction.

I really loved seeing these two together. Both have trust issues, Julia because of her life with her drunk of a father, and Cam because of having grown up in the foster system. The intensity of their situation has them getting closer very quickly. It was a lot of fun to see Cam try to talk her into going someplace safe, and Julia having none of it. Even the couple times he tried to sneak off were unsuccessful. Because of their own issues, each was more understanding of where the other's attitude was coming from. Neither was looking for any kind of relationship either, but it quickly became clear that something was happening between them. It was fun to see Julia as she showed Cam that she wasn't pushing for anything more than he was willing to give, making it easier for him to actually consider what it was he really wanted. When everything went down at the end, I liked the way that Cam was so worried about Julia and what her reaction would be. I liked the fact that they didn't rush too fast into a permanent relationship, but were planning a slower growth to what they had. I loved seeing how his two teammates gave him a bit of a hard time about what was happening, but were also supportive. The last chapter with those two was especially amusing. I'm really looking forward to their stories.

The suspense part of the story was really good. The action began on the first page and never really let up. It seemed as though Cam and Julia were barely one step ahead of the bad guys at any time. One of the leaders was identified early on, and seeing the action from his viewpoint sometimes had me wondering how he was still alive. He had a habit of underestimating just what Cam was capable of doing. There were also several instances when I wondered just how Cam and Julia were going to get out of the particular situation they were in. The person who was running the whole operation took me a little longer to figure out, but not by too much. I really enjoyed seeing Cam and Julia outwit him, especially at the end, when his ego really had him making some boneheaded decisions. 

Make Me Lose Control - Christie Ridgway (HQN - Jan 2015)

Series: Cabin Fever (Book 2)

As live-in tutor to a headstrong teen, Shay Walker has her hands full -- and the girl's absentee father doesn't help matters, either. All Shay wants is to let loose and indulge in a birthday fling with the hottest stranger who's ever caught her eye. But her one-night stand turns out to be Jace Jennings, her student's long-distance dad…and now he's taking up residence -- at his lakeside estate and in Shay's most secret fantasies.

Jace isn't exactly a family man, but he's determined to do his best by his daughter -- and the first step is forgetting how hot he is for her teacher. But close proximity and their heated connection keeps Shay at the forefront of his mind -- even as it's obvious she holds her heart in check. So does Jace. Until they both realize that losing control just might mean finding forever.

Very good book. It opens with Shay trying to celebrate her birthday, though her plans with a friend get stopped by a wildfire in the area. Instead, she finds herself quite attracted to another refugee from the fire and takes the opportunity for a one night fling with him, never expecting to see him again. Instead, he turns out to be the father of the teen she has been caring for over the summer. Awkward!

Jace is surprised to find the woman who has been occupying his mind living in his house. The chemistry that was there the night before is still burning hot and he tries to make things easier on himself by firing Shay. She calls him on it, and retains her job, but the pull between them is a major distraction for both of them.

Jace is there because he suddenly has custody of his fifteen year old daughter London. He hasn't seen her since she was five because her mother kept them apart. Now his ex-wife is dead and Jace has to find a way to connect with his daughter. He has zero confidence in his ability to be a good father, as his own was a cold, distant man. He wants to do what is best for her, and believes that to be getting her into a good boarding school and not taking the risk of screwing up her life. He has a great deal of trouble believing Shay's assertions that he will do fine if he'll just give himself the chance. I really hurt for him, because he wanted to be a father for London, he was just afraid to take the chance. It was fun to see him build a relationship with her. He has good instincts, even though he doesn't believe it, and I loved seeing those come out.

Jace has to depend on Shay to help him get to know London. His attraction to her is intense and he often has trouble thinking of anything but her when she's around. Thanks to his childhood and then the disaster that was his marriage, Jace believes that any kind of long term relationship is impossible for him. He doesn't think he's capable of love. He's confused about what is developing between him and Shay. The hot physical attraction he gets, but he discovers that he's thinking about more than sex when he's around her. Once he realizes that what he feels is love, he has to decide if he can open himself up to the risks.

Shay is the youngest of the Walker siblings and has always felt like an outsider in her own family. She is the product of an affair that her mom had while married and that has caused Shay to feel that she doesn't really belong. It doesn't matter that her siblings have never felt that way. She loves her family and will do anything for them. But she also protects her heart, fearful of losing those she may come to care for. In previous jobs she has always been able to maintain an emotional distance, but something about London has worked its way into her heart. She's horrified by Jace's plans to send London to school. I loved watching her try to help the two of them connect. In the meantime, her own relationship with Jace is changing. She tried to keep it just physical, but instead she fell hard for him. She also has to decide if she can open herself up to taking a chance with him.

I loved London. She has the fifteen year old attitudes, along with an amazing intelligence and a huge store of self reliance. Her life with her mom hadn't been easy. Mom was quite self centered and tended to go off on her own plans, leaving London in the care of the housekeeper. Along with never seeing her dad, it leaves her feeling unloved. At the beginning of the book she has a tough shell that she uses to hide her vulnerability. A crush on a boy, the steady caring by Shay, and her dad's arrival start a slow transformation. She's cautious and prickly around Jace at the beginning, but she really wants to believe he's there to stay. His plans create a crisis between them, but I loved seeing the way that they ended up working it out. 

In the end, all three had to allow themselves to trust their own feelings and those of the others. I loved seeing that happen and the epilogue was fantastic.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Carrying a King's Child - Katherine Garbera (HD #2378 - June 2015)

Series: Dynasties: The Montoros (Book 2)

Tapped to become king of his family's ancestral homeland, hotshot Miami businessman Rafe Montoro needs a break from the pressure. A night with Key West bartender Emily Fielding is just the ticket -- until weeks later, when she shows up pregnant!

Emily wants her child to know its father, though as an "unsuitable commoner," she doesn't want to block Rafe's ascent to the throne. Still, there's that unrelenting chemistry between them that won't be denied. Will Rafe have to choose between love and country after all?

Very good book. When Rafe found out that his family is being asked to resume the throne of their homeland he is put under a lot of pressure. Needing to get away for awhile, he heads to Key West, where he has a smoking hot weekend with Emily. Both are aware that's all they'll have, until Emily discovers she's pregnant.

The daughter of a single mother herself, Emily is determined that her child will know who its father is. She doesn't expect anything from Rafe, she just wants him to be aware. She has her own life and dreams and is quite used to taking care of herself.

Rafe is still reeling from the news that he's expected to give up his business and become king of a country he's never been to before. There are expectations about his behavior and his future, and a great deal of pressure from his family and others. He's not so sure that he's up to the challenge, or even that he wants it. When Emily shows up and tells him about the baby, it's one more thing that he has to make a decision about. 

I loved seeing the relationship that built between Rafe and Emily. Emily knows that there is no way she can be a permanent part of Rafe's life, but they will be connected through their child forever. She's surprised when Rafe insists on getting to know her better. The chemistry between them is as hot as ever, and she's afraid that she's losing her heart to him. She's not surprised by his offer of marriage, but she's certain that it isn't truly the right thing to do. She would never be the right person to be a queen, and she doesn't want to stand in his way of being king. Rafe wants Emily and his baby in his life, and marriage is the best way to do that. He also knows that Emily isn't going to be easy to convince to take that step. I liked how well he understood her, and how he used his knowledge to try to court her. I really liked seeing how protective he was, especially when he realized that she wasn't used to anyone taking care of her.

Rafe had a lot going on as he tried to sort everything out. I was really hoping that his family would be more supportive, but they really frustrated me. His father, since he couldn't be king himself, seemed to be intent on living it through Rafe. I didn't like the way he treated Emily when he met her. Gabe seemed to be the most understanding of his dilemma, but had an agenda of his own. Rafe's sister Bella was the nicest to Emily, and the most supportive of the idea of Rafe marrying Emily. The one that really bugged me was his cousin Juan Carlos. He was constantly nagging Rafe about the things he should be doing and telling him that he wasn't doing things right. I thought he was really obnoxious, and that maybe it was jealousy that had him being such a jerk. Rafe really hated that his life seemed destined to be run by committee.

When things finally came to a head, both Rafe and Emily had to face up to their fears and feelings. There were some things said that hurt, but in the long run brought them back together. The scene in the boardroom with his family and the "committee" made my heart ache for Rafe, but also made me want to cheer for what he did. I loved the ending and look forward to seeing what the future holds for them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Minding Her Boss's Business - Janice Maynard (HD #2372 - May 2015)

Series: Dynasties: The Montoros (Book 1)

Can a boss on a royal mission mix business with pleasure?

Diplomat Alex Ramon's Miami mission is on the rocks. Convincing the exiled Montoros to give up their American life and return to Alma's throne has become personal. Not only is his trusted aide Maria Ferro flirting with a potential prince, but Alex is actually jealous! So jealous, he might sabotage his goals so he can take Maria to his bed…a prize more tempting than any commission from the crown.

But Alex doesn't know that Maria has a longtime crush of her own -- and it isn't on the playboy prince…

Very good book, intense on a couple levels. First is the mission to convince the Montoros family to return to Alma as its royal family. Second is the relationship that develops between Alex and Maria. Both are full of emotional turmoil.

Alex and his delegation have been working for weeks to draft the documents that would convince the family that their place is in Alma. One member of the delegation is Maria, who used to work for him before she got promoted to another department. When they worked together they had an excellent working relationship, even a friendship of sorts. Being thrown together as much as they have on this trip, the attraction that simmered between them before has begun to boil over. Both try to resist because mixing business with pleasure is never a good idea.

It was interesting to see this relationship develop. Maria and Alex had known each other for a long time, and unknown to Alex she had had a crush on him for just as long. But besides the problem of having a relationship with your boss, Maria's upbringing was far different than his. Maria never knew her father and her mother had had to work multiple jobs to support them. She has worked hard to get where she is, but she has no illusions about the differences between her and Alex. Alex had also been aware of Maria as more than a coworker, but has been able to keep himself under control. That is, until one of the Montoro princes seems to be paying an inordinate amount of attention to her. Suddenly he finds himself unexpectedly and almost uncontrollably jealous. 

When the attraction between them gets to the point where they can no longer resist, each of them seems to have a different outlook on it. Maria is of the opinion that it can only last while they are in Miami. Their country's old fashioned attitudes make it impossible for her to believe they can have anything once they are home. Alex is far more open minded and interested in pursuing more. But things get complicated when Alex misreads the growing friendship between Maria and Gabriel and says some very hurtful things to her. Maria is devastated by what he says, because she had fallen in love with him. I loved her response and her actions in the days afterward. She had tremendous inner strength and I loved seeing her stand up to him. It was especially great as Alex soon realized that he was in love with her and it was jealousy that had made him act so stupidly. I enjoyed watching him try to figure out how he was going to win her back. I liked the ending and seeing that Maria isn't too quick to give in to him.

The other part of the story is the mission to convince the Montoros family to return to Alma to rule. It isn't an easy decision and a good portion of the book is devoted to the task. I liked getting to know each of the members of the family and seeing their reactions to the request. They are very happy with their lives in America and not sure they want to leave it behind. I am really looking forward to their stories.