Friday, July 31, 2015

Undercover With a SEAL - Cindy Dees (HRS #1857 - July 2015)

Series: Code: Warrior SEALs (Book 1)

Going undercover in a seedy New Orleans club to find her brother, Eve Hankova knows the dangers. But she isn't prepared for the blazing heat arcing between her and the customer who "buys" her for his exclusive pleasure. Like wildfire, it burns hot and out of control.

Navy SEAL Ashe Konig knows no other way to protect Eve from the Russian mob she's infiltrated at the club. But for this disillusioned loner, is it a suicide mission? As heavily armed mobsters breathe down their necks, the stubborn woman refuses to quit. Ashe doesn't know who poses the greater danger--the ruthless killers who threaten their lives or the sweet innocent who threatens his heart.

Excellent book with action and suspense that kept me turning the pages to the very end. Ashe has been ordered to take some time off by his boss, because he has been taking too many chances. So he heads for New Orleans, where he grew up but hasn't been in seven years. He finds himself wandering the French Quarter and ends up in a bar called the Who Doo VooDoo. He'd just settled into his seat when a fight broke out and steps in to help stop it. Next thing he knows he has a lap full of waitress, as Eve Hankova attempts to deliver a thank you whiskey to him. He's surprised to feel an instant connection with her, and a feeling that she needs protecting.

Eve, or Hank as she goes by, is the sister of an art dealer who has gone missing, and the Who Doo is the last place he was seen. So Hank has gone undercover as a waitress, trying to find out what has happened to him. She isn't a trusting person, but there is something about Ashe that says she can trust him. She also doesn't want to blow her cover, so she tries to avoid him for the rest of the evening.

That evening, he follows her home to make sure she gets there safely and ends up saving her from an attacker. It doesn't take him too long to find out just what she's gotten involved in, and his protective instincts are engaged. What he doesn't expect is to find Hank rapidly coming to mean a whole lot more to him. He's a loner who has never been a ladies man, but he doesn't want to let Hank out of his sight. And the more he learns about what is happening, the more worried about her he gets. I really enjoyed seeing the methods he uses to protect her.

I loved the connection between Ashe and Hank. Both are loners who don't connect easily with others. Ashe isn't a man who plays games, he says exactly what he means at all times and expects the same from her. Hank feels a bit guilty because there is some information about herself that she hasn't told him, but she was trained early that family comes first. By the time she knew she could trust him all the way, she wasn't sure how to tell him. The chemistry between them is also smoking hot, which has both of them wondering if there is any chance of a future for them. In the end, I loved the way that Ashe put his feelings for Hank out there and took a chance that she could handle who and what he was. What he told her about how she changed his life was incredibly romantic for him.

This book had me on the edge of my seat all the way through. It was obvious early on that there was much more than just illegal sex going on at the club, and whatever Hank had done was stirring up a whole lot of trouble. I loved seeing how Ashe first got his former teammate involved in helping them. I loved the banter between them, and the respect. Bastien's current job as a cop gives them the means to bring down the operation at the club, once they can get all the proof they need. As the days went on, the danger for Ashe and Hank grew stronger. It wasn't long before Ashe's boss got involved, because of the information that was turning up. When suspicious information turned up about Hank's background, Ashe began to worry that he'd been had, but his heart refused to believe it. As the danger intensified, Ashe's solo attempt to help Hank turned into a full fledged operation with the help of his team. The final confrontation was amazing with a really interesting twist involving Hank's brother. With a start like this, I can't wait to see what's next in this series.

Pursued by the Rich Rancher - Catherine Mann (HD #2379 - June 2015)

Series: Diamonds in the Rough (Book 2)

Single mom Nina Lowery has never understood the sex appeal of cowboys. Until she brings her son to a weeklong horse camp and meets the wealthy rancher in charge…

Seduction isn't part of Alex McNair's plan to earn his piece of his family's estate. Yet plans have a way of changing. Nina and her little boy hold the key to Alex's future. Breaking the promise he made to his dying grandmother is not an option…but neither is breaking Nina's heart.

Very good book. Nina is the single mother of an autistic son. Her life revolves around taking care of him. She is also a city girl who has never understood the appeal of cowboys, but her son is fascinated by all things horse and cowboy related. When she is offered the chance to take Cody to a weeklong horse camp for special needs kids she takes it. She meets Alex the first day there and begins to understand...

Alex's place in the family business is running the Hidden Gem ranch. He's a pretty quiet guy who prefers spending time with the horses rather than people. He notices Nina and Cody right away and is surprised by the immediate attraction he feels for her. He's looking forward to getting to know her better during the week she is there. That is, until his grandmother hits him with a request. Apparently Nina's late husband had acquired some shares of the McNair business, and Gran wants Alex to get them back from Nina. 

I loved the relationship that built between Alex and Nina. Nina is very cautious because she had been burned by her husband. She had thought he was charming and romantic and wonderful, until he abandoned her and their son. Alex also seems terrific, but she's not so sure about trusting him. She's quickly won over though, by the way he so easily connects with Cody. There is also the immediate and intense attraction she feels for him. She doesn't expect anything past the week she's on the ranch, and is seriously considering having a fling with him before returning to her normal life. She's surprised by how comfortable she is with him and finds herself confiding in him about some of the fears she has about Cody's future. Finding out about his secret makes her question her judgment all over again.

I really liked Alex and how he fell so quickly for Nina. He was already intrigued by her before his grandmother told him her plans. This put him in the middle of a real problem. He wants Nina for herself, but denying his grandmother's request isn't an option either. This is something that eats at him through the whole book. I loved his pursuit of Nina and how much he wanted to take care of her. He saw how devoted she was to Cody, and that his needs always came before her own. It was really sweet to see the things he did that were just for her. It didn't take him long to figure out that he wanted Nina for always, not just the week. I also loved his connection with Cody. It was wonderful to see him treat Cody like a normal kid, while still keeping his challenges in mind. Learning abut Nina's worries about Cody's future made Alex's mission from his grandmother that much harder. He knew he was going to have to tell Nina about it, but he was really afraid that it would end their relationship before it really got started. Strangely enough, it was a talk with his father, who he has many issues with, that gives him the idea of how to make it work. I loved the ending and all the thought he put into what he gave her.

I really liked seeing more of Alex's grandmother and getting to know her a little better. Her conversation with Nina was really interesting and showed just how well she knows her grandson. I also loved getting to know Alex's sister Amie a little better. It was really sweet to see how wonderful she is with Cody. I'm really looking forward to her book.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Four Nights with the Duke - Eloisa James (Avon - Apr 2015)

Series: Desperate Duchesses (Book 8)

As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him -- so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia's audacious proposal, but there's one thing he won't give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil's bargain . . . he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart -- and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can't afford to lose.

The book starts when Mia and Vander are fifteen years old. They have an odd connection because her father has been carrying on an affair with his mother, one that is no secret to anyone. Mia has also developed a crush on Vander and has written a truly awful love poem to him. Unfortunately for her, he finds it, and with his friends, makes fun of it in ways that only teenage boys can do. Overhearing what they are saying, Mia is humiliated and tells him that he's the last person she would ever consider marrying.

Flash forward thirteen years, and Mia finds herself having to eat her words. In order to retain guardianship of her orphaned nephew, she has to marry and marry soon. Her fiance stood her up on their wedding day, and she is desperate to find a husband. Enter Vander, the last man she wants, but the one she has the means to force into marriage. She succeeds in gaining his agreement, but he has conditions of his own.

I had love-hate feelings for both Vander and Mia. I really liked Mia's independence and determination to do whatever necessary to protect Charlie. She has an excellent career as a romance novelist, is smart, funny, and loving. She also has some serious self esteem issues when it comes to her appearance, seeing herself as fat, plain and unappealing to men. These feelings had been reinforced by the comments of Vander and his friends way back, and she has never really forgiven him for them. For the most part,Vander seems like a decent man. He takes care of his uncle, runs his estate well, and is dedicated to his horses rather than being out wasting time in society. He doesn't play by society's rules, being pretty plain spoken. He's also used to getting his own way, whether it is something to do with his horses or women. But when it comes to Mia, he is a bit of an ass.

When she comes to him with the marriage proposal, he is convinced that she wants the marriage because she is still in love with him. He figures he'll get even with her by denying her what he thinks she wants - his body. He's surprised when she insists she doesn't want him. and really doesn't believe her. But having made his demands plain to her, he finds himself regretting it when he discovers that he is very attracted to her. I was pretty disgusted with his attitude, and how he was constantly making lewd remarks to her, even after she told him to leave her alone. He had been determined never to marry because of his parents' actions, and seeing what "love" caused them to do. With his marriage to Mia, he refuses to allow himself the same kind of obsession he saw in his mother, but he can't stop thinking about her. What made me mad at him was that it mostly seemed to be about sex with him. Once in awhile there would be something else about her, something she said or did, that makes him realize how smart, funny, loving, etc, she is, but then it would go right back to sex. It isn't until near the end, when he nearly loses her, that he realizes that his own actions have driven her away. Then he has to figure out how to show her how he really feels.

Mia also frustrated me on a regular basis. I loved her independent spirit. She doesn't really care about society, as she has never wanted to be part of it. She's made a good life for herself writing popular books. She wasn't particularly happy about her father's affair, but her romantic nature saw how much he and Vander's mother cared for each other. When she becomes the guardian of her nephew, she will do anything she has to in order to keep him out of the hands of his uncle, even marry Vander. I really enjoyed watching her poke holes in his conceit by telling him she had no intention of asking for any of those four nights. I felt bad for the way she thought she was so unattractive, even when Vander made it obvious he was attracted to her. But what really bugged me was the way that every time Vander made advances, she would immediately forget her resolve to resist him and give in to the desire. Her brain would be telling her no, but she ignored it. I really wanted her to make him work for it. She would complain about his lack of respect for her, but she didn't seem to have any respect for herself either.

In spite of it all, they did get closer. Vander did see what a wonderful woman Mia was. He did his best to show her that he found her very desirable. He did come to love her, but he had no idea how to show her. Mia realized that she had never stopped loving Vander, but she didn't think he loved her back. His actions when her former fiance reappeared reinforced those feelings. I liked the ending and seeing how Charlie helped Vander. It was sweet to see Vander finally find a way to speak about his feelings. Charlie's uncle makes a brief reappearance, and I loved Charlie's part in vanquishing him. I loved the epilogue.

I really enjoyed two of the secondary characters. Charlie was adorable. I loved seeing the way that he and Vander connected. Charlie really needed the kind of support that Vander provided. I loved their first meeting and the way that Charlie stood up for himself. He also had a pretty good perspective on life, and I loved seeing his determination to deal with his handicap. The other one I like was Jafeer, the horse. It was so much fun to see tiny Mia do things with the horse that all those big men couldn't manage. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Snow Day - Shannon Stacey, Jennifer Greene, Barbara Dunlop (Harlequin Anthology - Jan 2014)

When a child goes missing, this perfect storm of cramped quarters and freezing temperatures brings old flames and new acquaintances closer together...but will they go separate ways once the sky clears?


HEART OF THE STORM by Shannon Stacey 

Brody Rollins is back in tiny Tucker's Point, Maine, for the first time in five years, and now he can't escape...from former neighbours, old regrets or maddening glimpses of his ex-fiancée.

Good second chance story that has Brody facing up to the mistakes he made in the past. Five years earlier he had snuck out of town one night, just leaving a note for his girlfriend. He had been unable to deal with his fears about the only future he could envision if he stayed, stuck in a dead end job as a fisherman in a town he had grown to hate. So he left, looking for a better life, and hasn't been back since.

However, he can't refuse his sister's request that he come see his newborn nephew. He plans to come into town, stay the night with his sister, then leave the next morning. He doesn't count on the ice storm that traps him there, or the power outages that have them taking refuge in the town elementary school.

Delaney was devastated when Brody left, leaving only a note, and never heard from him again. She has made a good life for herself in the town she loves, even if she hasn't found a new love. When she hears that Brody is visiting, she hopes to avoid seeing him, but as the town's emergency management person, it's her job to run the shelter.

Seeing Brody again brings back all the old hurts. She had hoped that she was over him, but quickly realizes the feelings are still there. She doesn't want his apologies, she just wants to avoid him. Brody really wants her to understand, He's persistent, and it isn't long before they are spending what time they can together. Both of them discover that the old feelings are still there, but so are the same obstacles. Delaney loves the town and its people and has no desire to leave it. I loved seeing her stand up for herself and her wishes. Brody still doesn't want to live there, plus his business is in Connecticut. I loved the heart to heart talk with his father that finally opened Brody's eyes.

There was one thing about the story that bothered me, and that was the missing child that everyone was looking for. No one ever said if she was found. They were looking, and then they weren't. Hopefully that will be resolved in one of the other stories.


SEEING RED by Jennifer Greene 

Stranded at her grandfather's seaside cottage, Whitney Carr prepares to face the blizzard alone. But unexpected help soon arrives-in the form of her secret high-school crush.

Another reunion story of high school sweethearts. Red had broken up with Whitney with no explanation the night of their high school prom. She left for college and has spent little time in Tucker's Point since then, and hasn't seen Red at all. Now she is back, at the request of her mother and sister, to find a "treasure box" in her grandparents' old home. Being an experienced Mainer, she came prepared to weather the predicted storm. What she didn't expect was a visit from local emergency crew member Red. He is equally surprised to see her.

Whitney still has some hurt feelings from their breakup long ago, but she isn't carrying a grudge. She's happy to see Red and enjoys his fleeting visits between his emergency commitments. I enjoyed seeing them get to know each other again. I liked seeing Red help her find the box she was looking for. Red has realized over the years that he made a mistake breaking up with Whitney and is now determined to let her know that he still cares, and why he did what he did. I thought it was pretty sweet that he had mimicked her grandmother in his way of remembering their past. Everything wasn't wrapped up in a neat bow, as they knew there were still decisions to make, but it ended on a happy note.

I was happy to see the problem of the missing child resolved. It was heartbreaking to see the reason she was missing. I liked the sensitivity that Whitney had to her distress and how she was able to help.


LAND'S END by Barbara Dunlop 

Tessa Ambroise is desperate to ditch the charming, infuriating hotelier circling her late aunt's century home like a vulture. But the snow piling up outside the mansion puts both their plans on hold. 

Tessa and her friend had come to Tucker's Point to go through some of the things in her late aunt's castle like home. Tessa is also recovering from ending her engagement to Colton. She can't help still thinking about him, as it is hard to forget a practically perfect man. Her problem had been that she never felt like she could live up to him.

She's surprised to see him show up in Maine. Unknown to her, he had been talking to her brother about buying the house and turn it into another one of his fancy hotels. He also acts like he wants to get back together with her.

I got a bit frustrated with Tessa, because whenever he asked why she ended their engagement, she wouldn't tell him. She kept going on about his "perfectness" without explaining to him how she felt. I was equally frustrated with Colton. Because of issues with his father, he always feels that he has to have complete control of his emotions. Though I did feel that he truly loved her, everything he did for/to/with her always seemed cold and calculated to me. When his friend Rand was finally able to make Colton see that Tessa wanted real emotion from him, I thought that the way he went about it was pretty stupid. I don't understand why he picked those emotions to show and that way to demonstrate it. If I had been Tessa I would have resisted even harder. In the end, they finally understood each other, so I guess that's okay.

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Daddy Wore Spurs - Stella Bagwell (HSE #2417 - July 2015)

Series: Men of the West (Book 32)

TAMING THE WILD COWBOY

Nothing shocks horse trainer Finn Calhoun more than learning he's the father of a four-month-old boy! And when the tall, dark, spur-jangling cowboy arrives in Stallion Canyon to meet his baby, Mariah Montgomery has her doubts about his motives. Until a DNA test is done, she insists Finn stay at her ranch -- where she can keep an eye on him.

Contrary to his image, Finn is only too happy to oblige Mariah -- and help to revitalize her own failing ranch and work with her wild mustangs. As his love for her nephew grows, their mutual passions reach new heights, too. But when Finn finally proposes, is he just looking to secure the ranch -- for himself? Or can Mariah trust that he truly wants to build a family with her and baby Harry?

Very good book. Finn is shocked to receive a phone call from the sister of a woman he had briefly known, telling him that he is the father of a baby boy. He immediately heads to California from the family ranch in Nevada to meet his baby. Mariah is baby Harry's aunt, and she's not willing to just hand the baby over to this unknown man. She insists on waiting for a DNA test for proof, and in the meantime she'll keep an eye on him.

I loved Finn. All it took was one look and, not only was he convinced Harry was his, he fell totally in love with the little boy. It was so sweet to see the way that they bonded so quickly. The same couldn't be said for Mariah. She was cautious about him, and not sure why her sister had refused to contact him about the baby. She wants to be sure that he'll be a good father before she can bring herself to give him up. I liked that they were able to talk to each other about what was happening, though there were some sparks that were putting them both on edge. 

There's a definite attraction between the two of them and both try to fight it. Finn sees nothing but complications with Mariah. He belongs on the family ranch back in Nevada, and she has her life in California. Mariah was burned once before by a man who also was with her sister. In addition to that, she always felt that she took second place in her father's and sister's lives, behind their work with horses and the ranch. She sees that same kind of attitude in Finn.

Finn and Mariah get closer as they wait for the results of the test. Finn is used to being busy and takes the time to help out on Mariah's ranch. It wasn't doing well because of neglect since her father's and Aimee's deaths, and she's planning to sell it. There are a few horses left, and Finn takes the time to work with them. He's the horse division manager on his family's ranch, and in previous books he's been arguing with his father and grandfather to get mustangs like Mariah's involved in their program, but without success. Working with her horses just reinforces his dreams. With Finn's involvement in the ranch, Mariah is reminded of all the good memories of living there. Their feelings start to grow, and they started to feel like a family, but both are wary of expressing their feelings.

I ached for Mariah when Finn finally confessed his feelings and his dreams for them. She just couldn't believe that he really wanted her for herself and that the ranch didn't play a part in it. Her fears caused her to say some horrible things to Finn. I also hurt for him because he really didn't deserve the treatment he got from her, even though his proposal hadn't been worded very well. The ending was very satisfying, as both Mariah and Finn had to look at their own hearts and decide if they were willing to fight for their futures. I especially loved seeing the kick in the pants that Mariah got that finally got her seeing the truth. I loved the epilogue and seeing Finn finally realizing his dreams.

My only complaint is with the cover. That man most definitely does not have the red hair described in the book!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Running Fire - Lindsay McKenna (HQN - May 2015)

Series: Shadow Warriors (Book 8)

He was a haven in the midst of Hell…

Temporarily assigned to the Shadow Squadron in a troubled region of Afghanistan, Chief Warrant Officer and pilot Leah Mackenzie is no stranger to conflict -- even if most of her physical and emotional scars are courtesy of her vicious ex. Still, she's got a bad feeling about picking up a team of stranded SEALs. A feeling that's all too justified once enemy fire hits their helicopter and all hell breaks loose…

SEAL Kell Ballard's goal was to get the injured pilot out of harm's way and find shelter deep in the labyrinth of caves. It's a place of dark intimacy, where Leah finds unexpected safety in a man's arms. Where prohibited attraction burns brightly. And where they'll hide until the time comes to face the enemy outside…and the enemy within their ranks.

Another fantastic Shadow Warriors book that kept me glued to the pages until I finished it. Leah is a helicopter pilot filling in for an injured pilot in the Shadow Squadron at Camp Bravo. She loves what she does, and has an excellent reputation as a pilot. The bad feeling she gets about the latest mission, to pick up a team of SEALs is realized when the chopper is hit by an RPG and goes down. Leah is the only survivor.

Kell is a SEAL sniper, assigned to the area to watch Taliban activity and look for the local leader. He witnesses the attack, but is too late to stop it. He does find Leah and gets her away before the Taliban fighters can find her. He's surprised to discover that the pilot is a woman and takes her to one of the caves that he's made into his shelter and treats her injuries. 

I loved the quick connection that Leah and Kell made. Though she was disoriented and in pain when she awoke, Kell's voice made her feel safe. His care and kindness and gentle touch is something she'd never experienced from a man. It also affects her in ways she doesn't understand. Leah is cautious around men. She'd been married for three years to a man who abused her, physically, mentally and emotionally. She's surprised by how easy it is to trust Kell, something in his eyes breaking through her barriers.

Kell had quite a few reactions to Leah. Her beauty hit him first, as he was working to treat her injuries, with a physical attraction he knows can go nowhere. She is an officer and he is enlisted, so a relationship isn't possible. After she is awake and he learns more about her, there is the respect that he he feels because of the job she does. And after she awakens from a nightmare, he discovers a feeling of protectiveness, wanting to stop the fear he sees in her eyes. Kell is surprised by the things he is starting to feel, as he'd had no intention of getting involved with another woman while he's still serving. He'd been married before and his wife couldn't handle the long separations and danger of his job. 

Because of the presence of a large number of Taliban, it isn't possible to get a chopper in to rescue Leah right away. Over the next few days as Leah heals, they slowly get to know each other. I loved Kell's sensitivity to Leah. From some things she has said, he suspects what her past holds, and he's horrified when something he says brings on a flashback. I loved seeing how an event from his own past helps him figure out what to do when he is with her. He's slowly able to show her what an incredible woman she really is. Thanks to him, Leah begins to feel more confident in herself on a personal level. Her heart and soul begin to heal, and she finds herself wanting to trust him with her body as well. Even there, his sensitivity has him waiting for her, never pushing her for more than she's ready for. 

When their location stops being secure, they have to leave the safety of the cave and head for a safer area. I loved this section of the book. The descriptions of the area they traveled through were vivid, and I could easily picture it as I read. The intensity of their attempts to avoid the growing number of Taliban kept me riveted as they got closer to their destination. I enjoyed the brief mention of Khat from Taking Fire, and the stop at the cave she used for so long. I loved the way they met up with Kell's SEAL team, and the descriptions of who they were. Once they arrive back on base, Kell and Leah have to be careful not to give away their relationship any time they meet. 

Throughout the first part of the book Leah's ex-husband was hovering in the background. Though he pretends to be anxious for her return, in reality he is planning to blame the crash on her. He is looking for a way to destroy her career. Kell and Leah are worried about what he might do and Kell enlists the help of his brother SEALs in watching out for her. We also see that Hayden's abuses have continued. When his latest victim comes out to Leah with her plans to press charges, Leah realizes that it's time for her to come forward also. She's afraid, but with Kell's support she is determined to make sure Hayden is punished. I loved seeing how the other SEALs also were behind her, and their efforts to help. Leah also has to deal with her father, a man who would easily win the award for worst father. His indifference to her and support of Hayden was just sickening. I was really waiting for him to get what was coming to him, though what he got was not what I expected. That confrontation was really intense and I loved seeing Leah stand up to him. What happened next was nerve wracking and seeing Kell and Clutch in action was amazing.

The ending was fantastic, with Leah healing physically and emotionally. I loved the way that she and Kell kept in touch while they were apart and they continued to learn about each other. Their trip to Kentucky to see his parents was sweet and his two brothers were great. It was terrific to see Leah and Kell talk about their future and what they wanted. I loved learning something new about Kell and his dreams. I was a bit surprised at Leah's choice but happy that she had the confidence to make it and know that Kell would support her in it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tempting Target - Addison Fox (HRS #1858 - July 2015)

Series: Dangerous in Dallas (Book 2)

New danger in Dallas...and what one woman wants to keep hidden

It started with a break-in. Now, after uncovering a priceless treasure hidden in the floor of her wedding catering business, Lilah Castle has a target on her back. A mastermind has made it clear that there are no limits to winning this game. As if that weren't stressful enough, cool-eyed Detective Reed Graystone refuses to stray from her side and his reasons aren't purely professional.

But when the increasing danger is linked to a dark secret from Lilah's past, only Reed will be able to protect her--from peril and from herself. All Lilah has to do is trust him...before it's too late.

Very good continuation of the series. It can be read as a stand alone, as backstory is filled in, but it is better read in order to get the full story. It's a few days after the end of the first book and the women are trying to get caught back up with their business. But none of them can forget the jewels they have and the man who will kill to get them. The book focuses on Lilah, the baker of the business.

Detective Reed Graystone has made it his mission to stay close to Lilah. As the investigator in this case, he is concerned for Lilah's safety. He's not sure that she fully understands just how much danger she is in and he is determined to keep her safe. As he learns more about her and her past, he's impressed with her strength and drawn to the sweetness underneath that strength. As he gets closer to her, I loved his comments about her being a "sugar pusher" and how addictive she is.

Lilah has avoided men ever since the end of her marriage to an abusive man. With the trouble that has come with the discovery of the jewels, she is surprised that she is so comfortable around the three men who have become part of their lives, especially Reed. Besides feeling safe when he is nearby, she is also feeling an attraction she's never felt before. But although she escaped from her marriage, the effects of her husband's abuse are still with her. Most of the time she is very confident in her new life, but now and then she gets really down on herself for what she sees as her stupidity in not seeing him for what he was.

As the investigation continues, the six of them search for the connections that set off the attacks. In the previous book, Cassidy's brother-in-law and ex-fiance had been discovered to be involved, but they suspect that there is more. Further discussion among them leads to Lilah's ex-husband. I loved seeing the way that Lilah insisted on being part of an attempt to discover if he is involved. The scene in the restaurant was fantastic, and Lilah's attitude toward him was great. The attack on Reed and Lilah later that night was nerve wracking, and they were lucky to come out of it as well as they did.

Once again there was someone pulling strings behind the scenes, and danger comes directly to Lilah. It brought back so many fears and bad memories that she could barely move, and she ended up hurting Reed because of it. I understood his feelings and hers, and I loved that they were able to talk it out. 

At this point the identity of the man behind the scenes is revealed. While I had begun to suspect, it was still something of a shock. As he makes another attempt at the rubies, the danger gets even more intense. Once again our cast is safe, but resolution is just out of reach. I am really looking forward to the next book and seeing how it all works out. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Silken Threats - Addison Fox (HRS #1837 - Feb 2015)

Series: Dangerous in Dallas (Book 1)

Everyone has secrets, and some will kill to keep them buried...

It started with a break-in. And though normally wedding dress designer Cassidy Tate could have handled it, having Tucker Buchanan's strong arms, quick wits and great dog as backup was reassuring The former army engineer turned architect was the perfect guy in an emergency--and the fact that he was willing to pick up the pieces was even more appealing.

Because it turned out it wasn't a simple robbery. Someone was after something in the shop Cassidy and her fellow bridal boutique owners shared. Now Tucker didn't want to let Cassidy out of his sight. But was that to protect her--or claim her for his own?

Cassidy owns a wedding business with her two best friends,Violet and Lilah. When Cassidy arrives at work one morning she discovers that the shop has been broken into and wrecked. Tucker and his dog Bailey are out running, and come to Cassidy's aid when she screams. As Cassidy's partners arrive, and Tucker calls on his partner, they try to figure out why her business was targeted. When their landlady and friend is attacked the same day, they discover that someone thinks there is something valuable hidden in the shop. Tucker's protective instincts kick in and he doesn't want to let Cassidy out of his sight. 

There are sparks between Tucker and Cassidy that continue to grow as they spend more time together. Tucker is a man with some tragedy in his past that makes him more sensitive to the things that have affected Cassidy. I loved his support of her as the mystery brings unhappy memories to haunt her. I also loved seeing what a big part of his life Bailey is. Any man that is so good with his dog has definitely got a good heart. Cassidy is an independent woman because she's had to be. Her family wasn't supportive of her dreams, so she's had to depend on herself before she joined up with her friends. Her sister's suicide has left her feeling guilty because they had never really gotten along and didn't reconcile before Leah's death. And the end of her engagement has her questioning her judgement of her relationships. It's something of a relief to her to be able to lean on Tucker. I loved seeing that immediate connection between them, and how it makes it easier for them to open up with each other. Though each is reluctant to believe that they could fall in love so quickly, they really can't deny the strength of their feelings.

The secondary characters of Lilah, Violet, Max, Jo and Max Senior, are all terrific. Each one is as deeply involved in this book as the main characters are. Jo and Max Senior, as the keepers of the secret, believe that they are keeping the others safe by not telling. Getting them to spill the beans isn't easy, especially as they've kept it for so long. There are some interesting vibes between these two that make me think they're more than just friends. I loved Cassidy's partners Lilah and Violet, both of whom have strong personalities of their own. Lilah seems to have some trouble in her past that have made Cassidy and Violet very protective of her, but she hasn't let it stop her from doing anything she wants. Violet is a force of her own, and that force often seems to clash with Tucker's friend Max. I suspect that the sparks that fly between them aren't all of the antagonistic variety. I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.

I loved the suspense portion of the book. The premise of the story is believable, and the author does a terrific job of setting it up. There are several secrets, and as each new piece of information is uncovered, it became even more intriguing. There are several instances where we get the point of view of the bad guys, one of whom is pulling the strings of the others. With each attack the danger increases, and our characters become more determined to find out who is behind it. The confrontation at the end solved part of the problem, but there are still questions unanswered.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Following Doctor's Orders - Caro Carson (HSE #2424 - Aug 2015)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 3)

SHE NEEDS LOVE -- STAT!

As an emergency room physician, Dr. Brooke Brown keeps her eyes on the prize: saving her patients. Flashing ambulance lights and grievous wounds are her bread and butter, not sexy men like firefighter Zach Bishop. But as one unexpected night with Zach blossoms into something more, Brooke fears that her past tragedy might stand in the way of happily-ever-after.

After his so-called "soul mate" stomped on his heart, Zach hasn't sought out real romance. But Brooke sets him on fire like no other. He's just beginning to open his mind -- and heart -- when his ex shows up with a little girl she claims is his. Zach knows that motherhood isn't on Brooke's mind…but maybe he, and a three-foot-six-inch little girl, can convince her to change it?

Very good book full of emotion with a dash of humor. Brooke is an ER doctor who is very good at her job. She is known for keeping her cool under the most stressful of situations. Something that threatens that calm is Zach Bishop, firefighter and flirt. He has all the nurses falling at his feet, but he seems intent on getting to her.

Zach is drawn to Brooke and makes a point of coming up with flirty one liners just for her. Brooke does her best to ignore him, until he does something that she feels she has to speak to him about. At that point, he gets a reaction from her that makes his day, and he asks her out. Surprising herself, Brooke actually agrees.

Zach had had his heart broken a few years earlier, so he avoids any kind of serious relationships. Brooke also avoids relationships, concentrating on her work. The loss of her four year old sister when Brooke was a child, and her mother's over the top grief, has made Brooke an expert at controlling her emotions. I ached for Brooke and the way her calmness is how she deals with the potential tragedies she sees every day, and how they remind her of how fragile life is.

Their scheduled date comes on an evening when both have had rough days. Zach is looking for some of Brooke's coolness to ground him, to stop his day replaying in his mind. Meanwhile, Brooke really needs Zach's lightheartedness to take her mind off the last emergency she'd had to deal with. Instead, they find themselves taking comfort from each other in the most physical of ways. Together they find a perfect balance and the more they are together the better it is. I loved seeing how sensitive each one was to the other's moods. Zach's support of Brooke on the anniversary of her sister's death went a long way toward helping Brooke deal with her mother's excessive grief. Brooke still has issues with worrying about Zach's safety, but he works hard to show her that he isn't at as much risk as she thinks. Their feelings for each other are growing stronger when Zach gets a surprise that could derail it all.

His ex-girlfriend shows up with a four year old girl she says is his. Through a bit of trickery, she runs off and leaves the little girl with Zach, who is afraid of doing the wrong thing. He's always been comfortable around kids, but none of those have been his. Brooke does her best to show him that he has nothing to fear, but she's having issues of her own. Little Zoe is the same age that her sister was at the time of her death. Brooke doesn't want history to repeat itself and her reactions start to put a strain on her relationship with Zach. But when danger comes, it isn't Zach who is at risk, and Brooke has to face her deepest fears. The ending was really intense and my heart was pounding until it was all over. I loved seeing her finally accept the truth of Zach's feelings.

A Reunion and a Ring - Gina Wilkins (HSE #2423 - Aug 2015)

Series: Proposals & Promises (Book 1)

Someone's sleeping in my bed

Needing to ponder a marriage proposal, play-it-safe Jenny Baer escapes to an Ozarks cabin—right into bed with a naked man! What's a recuperating Officer Gavin Locke doing in her rental amid a raging storm? He's the last thing she needs—the man she loved…and left.

Trapped with Jenny in his cabin, with no power and too many memories, Gavin knows nothing's changed. She can't accept his dangerous career, and she's about to marry a powerful politician. But when one little kiss brings him to his knees, Gavin can't deny the attraction never died. Nor can Jenny. Once the flood waters recede, Jenny will wear a ring… But from whom?

Good book. Jenny has braved a storm to get to an isolated rental cabin where she can be alone to think about her future. Exhausted when she arrives, she discovers a naked man in the bed she was about to occupy. Not just any man, but Gavin, her college sweetheart and the man she left behind. Gavin owns the cabin and is there recuperating from an injury received on the job. He's not any happier than she is to be stuck together until the storm passes. 

I liked Gavin quite a lot. Though he's not exactly thrilled to have Jenny show up, he does his best to be polite. He also discovers that the attraction between them is as strong as ever, something that he is determined to resist. It isn't easy to do when he catches glimpses of the old Jenny underneath the sophisticated surface she has now. I liked the way that he stood up for her against one of his friends when the guy was being obnoxious. I also really liked the way that he is happy with the choices he has made in his life. He's honest with her about the doubts he'd had when he was younger, and how he'd allowed people like her and others to try to change him, but eventually realized that he had to be true to himself.

Jenny irritated me through a good part of the book. First of all, to have to get away to think about the pros and cons of accepting her boyfriend's proposal tells me that she doesn't love him, otherwise there would be no doubt. She spent way too much time thinking about what her grandmother's opinions would be. Looking at her past, I hated the way that she let Gran influence her attitudes so much. Gavin had a really good point when he called her a snob. I liked the way that she loved her work, and her unhappiness at the idea of having to give it up to be with Thad should have told her something was wrong.

I loved seeing the sparks that Jenny and Gavin still had going between them. Those sparks made it impossible for Gavin to just walk away after seeing her again. Jenny also had to face the fact that her feelings for Gavin were so much stronger than what she felt for Thad. I liked seeing them get to know each other as who they are now, and the difference it makes to the way they see each other. Gavin makes a point of telling Jenny that she needs to be true to herself if she's going to be happy, no matter what her decision is about Thad. I liked the scene where Gavin is driving Jenny home and stops to help someone, giving her a small taste of what he does. I loved how that influenced something she said later at an event she attended with Thad. I really liked the ending, with the conclusion circling back to the cabin where it all started.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Cowboy's Secret Baby - Karen Rose Smith (HSE #2422 - Aug 2015)

Series: Mommy Club (Book 3)

"It takes two to make a baby... "

When an injury forces bull rider Ty Conroy home to his family ranch, he comes face-to-face with a big secret. A tiny version of himself. His son. Ty never anticipated being a daddy, but there's no denying the adorable boy. Nor the one amazing night he had with the baby's mom, Marissa Lopez. A night Ty can't forget...

."..but three to make a family. "

Moving to Ty's ranch was supposed to be just a temporary move for Marissa and the baby. Instead it's proving to be a temptation for her, and if appearances are to be believed, for Ty as well. But Marissa has to resist, for their son's sake. Because nothing--and no one--can keep a rodeo cowboy in one place. And when he leaves this time, she'll be damned if he takes her heart with him...again.

Ty has returned to Fawn Grove after an injury ends his bull riding career. He and his uncle are in the middle of turning their ranch into a guest ranch when he encounters Marissa. He hasn't forgotten the incredible night they'd had together two years earlier. When he finds out that she is the mother of a little boy, a son she hadn't told him he had, he is angry and hurt. He had never expected to be a father, but now that he is, he's determined to be the best that he can. He just has to convince Marissa.

Marissa hadn't told Ty because with his life on the road she didn't want a part time father for her son. Now that he's settling down, she can't deny him the chance to get to know his son. When he asks her to move to the ranch so that he can spend more time with Jordan, she agrees, but she's wary. The attraction between them is still strong, but she won't risk her heart on someone who could walk away.

I really liked Ty. When he finds out about Jordan he's determined to be a good father. His own father had been a rodeo cowboy, never around when Ty was growing up. After his mother left them, they went to live on his uncle's ranch, where his dad left him to go back on the road. So Ty knows what it is like and vows to be the kind of father Jordan needs. I loved seeing the way he got Marissa and Jordan to move in at the ranch and how he jumped into fatherhood. It was really sweet to see how quickly he and Jordan bonded. Spending so much time with Marissa has the attraction growing stronger, and Ty starting to think of ways to keep them on the ranch. But if she kept Jordan away from him for so long,  can he trust her not to push him away? And are his plans for the  ranch enough to give her the life she deserves?

Marissa had done what she thought was best at the time, but seeing Ty with Jordan now, she feels guilty about keeping them apart. She agrees to move to the ranch, but her attraction to him is playing havoc with her intentions. Having seen what her mother went through when her father walked out on them, Marissa was determined that she would never depend on a man for anything. But her feelings for Ty are growing stronger every day. She wants to believe that he'll be there for them, but when opportunity comes knocking on his door can she trust his choice? Or can she believe that love can make anything work?

I loved seeing the way that their relationship developed. They begin to understand each other's fears. I liked the way that Marissa worried about Ty on the trail ride, but didn't try to stop him, understanding his need to do it. I loved seeing Ty cope with Jordan's illness and how it opened his eyes to what was really important. Marissa also finally saw that Ty is different than her father, and that she can trust him with her heart.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Mighty Quinns: Devin - Kate Hoffmann (HB #856 - Aug 2015)

Series: Mighty Quinns (Book 31)

What was forbidden then...
has become irresistible now

The last thing police chief Devin Cassidy needs is for Elodie Winchester to return home and remind him of all he's been denied. But they're not teenagers now, and she's no longer a wealthy heiress. There's nothing stopping him from taking what he wants, what he's always wanted: her.

Elodie came home to deal with the Winchester mansion, the only inheritance she has left. She didn't expect to encounter a very grown-up Dev, or to want him as much as she ever did. He makes it clear that he's not going to let anything stand between them again. But in this town, name is everything. And to protect a Winchester, Dev will be forced to sacrifice his reputation...including his unexpected tie to the Quinn family.

Good reunion story with some added steam. When they were kids, Devin's mom worked for Elodie's parents as a maid. Her parents were the richest people in town, owned the mill where most people worked, as well as most of the stores in town. As teenagers, they had a secret romance, until her parents found out and sent her away to school. Not long after that, her parents went bankrupt, closing the mill and losing everyone's pension funds.

Years later, Devin is the police chief of the economically struggling town. He's fairly content with his life, watching out for the people of the town. Then Elodie returns to Winchester. Her plan is to sell the old mansion then return to her job in New York. When she and Dev see each other again, their lives are upended.

Overall, I liked Elodie. I loved the scene in the prologue, showing what a sweet kid she was and the beginning of her connection to Dev. When she returned to town, she was pretty sure she wasn't going to be welcomed with open arms, and she was right. I thought she handled peoples' attitudes with class and humor, as shown in the scene at the town picnic. Seeing Dev again reignited the old sparks, and suddenly she wasn't sure what she should do. Being with him brings back so many good memories, plus the heat between them is incredible. But she's also afraid of losing control of her life if she gets too involved with him. She has an idea for something to do with the house that could also help the town, but when she runs into problems, she won't let him help. I got really frustrated with her refusal to let him be part of her dream. I did like her determination to make it happen, and that she was finally able to let go of her fears and see that Dev wouldn't try to take control from her.

I loved Dev. He was a real sweetheart of a man. His love for the people of his town was evident in everything he did. It was terrific to see the lengths he went to in order to help the teenager Jimmy Joe. He had never forgotten Elodie, and having her back in town gave him an opportunity he wasn't gong to ignore. Now that the division of rich girl and maid's son no longer exists, he plans to pursue her. I loved the protectiveness he showed when some of the angrier victims of her father get in her face. I also understood why he was so upset when she didn't share her plans with him. I thought it was really sweet of him to want to help her make her dream come true when he found out about his inheritance. Her refusal was hard for him because of the way he cared for her, but he loved her enough to let her go for it on her own terms. I loved his "go big" moment at the end, and the scene with the trains was especially wonderful.

I also liked Dev's mother and the way she took care of Elodie and the house, even though she didn't have to. She also had a couple good "gotcha" moments with Dev, letting him know he wasn't fooling her about his feelings for Elodie. There was quite a surprise involving her and her past that makes a terrific lead in for the next book in the Quinn saga.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Born Wild - Julie Ann Walker (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Nov 2013)

Series: Black Knights Inc (Book 5)

TICK...TICK...

"Wild" Bill Reichert knows a thing or two about explosives. The ex -- Navy SEAL can practically rig a bomb blindfolded. But there's no way to diffuse the inevitable fireworks the day Eve Edens walks back into his life, asking for help...

BOOM!
Eve doesn't know what to do when the Chicago police won't believe someone is out to hurt her. The only place to turn is Black Knights Inc. -- after all, no one is better at protection than the covert special-ops team. Yet there's also no one better at getting her all turned on than Billy Reichert. She has a feeling this is one blast from the past that could backfire big time...

Very good book. The action and suspense were there from the first page and never really let up. Eve has had three "accidents" and is sure that someone is trying to kill her, but the police don't agree. After the latest one. Eve realizes she needs help, and goes to Black Knights Inc. But that also means facing ex-boyfriend "Wild Bill".

Twelve years earlier, when she was eighteen, she and Billy had been in love. But while he was away, she gave in to pressure from her father to date another man, and ended up marrying him. Realizing her mistake, she quickly divorced him, but the damage was done. Billy was heartbroken and very bitter about what he saw as her betrayal. 

Because Eve is his sister's best friend, Billy sees Eve quite often. Every time the sparks fly between them, usually expressed in snide remarks. Their past is always there, stirring up feelings that neither wants to admit are still simmering. When Eve comes to BKI for help, Billy can't deny the need he feels to protect her, but trusting her again is something he can't bring himself to do. Eve can only hope that he doesn't hate her too much to help.

I loved finally getting Billy and Eve's story. The tension between them has been building through several books, and it has reached its boiling point. Though Eve has previously come across as quiet and a bit of a doormat, in this book a different Eve emerges. She has had enough of letting people like her father boss her around and she has made several changes in her life. From defensive driving and self-defense lessons, to moving out of her father's house, she has developed a new confidence in her own abilities. It doesn't come easily to her, and there are some great scenes of her giving herself pep talks. She also tends to blame herself for all the bad things that are happening. Billy is definitely an alpha male, great at taking charge, but he is also a gentleman at heart. I loved seeing his protectiveness and caring come out, even as he was trying to resist admitting that he still loves Eve. One of the things I really enjoyed was the way he was often surprised by what she is capable of now, finally realizing that she isn't the same girl she was all those years ago. The events on the sailboat show him just how much she has changed, but letting go of those hurt feelings is harder than he thinks.

The action and suspense of the story was really good. I loved Eve's determination that someone finally believe her, and how she takes matters into her own hands. As the attacks escalate, it becomes obvious that someone is deadly serious about ending Eve's life, and the team is equally serious about finding out who and why. Putting all the pieces together isn't easy, and leads to evidence of a betrayal of the worst sort. The final confrontation comes with a twist that Eve and Billy didn't see coming, and nearly cost Billy his life. It did make him realize that life can be too uncertain to hold a grudge. The final scene of the book was great, and Eve's comment about the catheter was pretty funny.

There wasn't much involvement from most of the BKI team, except for Mac and Ace. There were a couple fun spots with Ace, especially with him telling Billy what a fool he is. There's more involvement from Mac, who has his own contentious moments with Delilah of the bikers' bar. I've liked what I've seen of her in previous books, and she really shines in this one. I hurt for her after the shootout at the bar, and was rooting for her as she got under Mac's skin. I'm really looking forward to their story in the next book.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mischief and Mistletoe - Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, et al (Zebra - Sept 2012)

Christmastime in England - a time for passionate secrets, delicious whispers, and wicked-sweet gifts by the fire. From a spirited lady who sets out to save her rakish best friend from an unsuitable engagement, to a bold spy who gets the unexpected chance to win the woman he's always loved, to a vicar's daughter who pretends to be a saucy wench, these holiday tales will make you curl up in front of the fire for a memorable season of mischief and mistletoe.

Overall,  I enjoyed all the stories. Many of them I would have liked to see as full length books, or at least novellas.

She Stoops to Wenchdom - Mary Jo Putney

Lucy is the daughter of a vicar who has been in love with one of her father's former students since she was seventeen. She hadn't seen Gregory in five years, until she encountered him at a Christmas celebration. She was heartbroken when he didn't recognize her, and dismayed when he left right after dancing with her. Gregory was surprised to see what a beauty his old friend had grown into. He is drawn to her sweetness and innocence, but after five years at war he considers himself unworthy to pursue her. He has been unable to overcome some of the things he has seen and done, and has been hiding from his memories.

I really liked Lucy. Even suffering from her heartbreak, when she hears that Gregory spends his time drinking at the local tavern she's determined to go see him and try to get a kiss from him before she moves on. So she disguises herself as a barmaid to try to get closer to him. Gregory notices the attractive new girl, and steps in when she is accosted by a couple drunks. He find himself opening up to her about his experiences in the war, and is comforted by the things she tells him, gaining a new perspective on his ordeals. I liked seeing the way he took back his life after his talk with her. He wants to see her again, but she has disappeared.

I liked the ending of the story, as he finds his barmaid in a most unlikely place. His words are sweet as he shows her just what effect she had on him. He's now ready to think about a future with her.


Miss Brockhurst's Christmas Campaign - Jo Beverley

Pen is a young woman who has been engaged three times, but has broken them off each time, unable to go through with the marriages. After seeing her childhood friend Ross for the first time in years, she finally realized she'd always loved him, and that was why she couldn't settle on anyone else. When she and her mother are invited to spend Christmas with his family, she has hopes of making her dreams come true.

She's dismayed to discover upon arrival that there is another young woman who has her sights also set on Ross. As the visit progresses, she worries about Ross selecting this other girl, who seems so very wrong for him. She's determined to show Ross just how wrong.

I enjoyed seeing the descriptions of the various Christmas traditions that were celebrated. Each one was used to illustrate the differences between the two young ladies vying for Ross's attention. It was easy to agree with Pen's assertion that Cassandra wasn't the right one. She and her mother both seemed to be much more suited for a conservative household, than one that enjoyed even the pagan Christmas traditions. 

I loved seeing all of Pen's efforts. She knew what she wanted and she had no trouble going after it. The ending was very good and I liked getting Ross's side of things. It was great to see him make sure she understood his concerns. I loved the final bit on Twelfth Night.


Intrigue and Mistletoe - Joanna Bourne

Elinor is one of several people on a coach that is stranded by a snowstorm. They take refuge in an inn with other travelers caught in the storm. Another one of those travelers is Jack, a man she had known and loved two years earlier. She felt betrayed by him when she discovered he was a spy catcher who was after her uncle. 

Jack had asked her to wait a few days so he could tell her everything, but she disappeared instead. He has been looking for her ever since, and fears that she is somehow involved in his current case. He is on the trail of a spy who has a list of English contacts. He knows the person is at the inn, but not who it is.

Jack is determined to gain Elinor's forgiveness, and she is just as determined not to give it. She had risked her heart with him before and didn't want to do it again. But as they are forced into each other's company, Elinor discovers that her feelings for Jack haven't changed. She's still wary of trusting him, but her heart knows what it wants. I enjoyed their conversations as they got to know each other again. It was also interesting to see how they worked together to figure out who the spy was. I wasn't entirely surprised by the spy's identity, but the code used was intriguing. I enjoyed the confrontation between Elinor and the spy. While being a bit dangerous for Elinor, it was also pretty amusing to see what Elinor did. Jack's reaction was great, and I loved how his protectiveness came out.


Wench in Wonderland - Patricia Rice

Damaris has been the companion to her cousin for many years. Her uncle took her in when her parents died, and made her responsible for the care of Alice. He doesn't approve of the man that Alice has fallen in love with, and has betrothed her to a young nobleman, Mack Trevelyan, who needs her dowry. As Damaris and Alice are on their way to visit her fiance, Alice informs Damaris that she is eloping with the man she loves and asks Damaris to continue the journey alone to give her a chance to get away.

Nearing the end of the trip Damaris is caught in a blizzard, which causes an accident with the coach. Damaris is knocked unconscious, and when she awakes discovers that the family of Alice's fiance believes that she is Alice. The fiance is not at home at the time to clear up the confusion and Damaris is suffering some confusion due to her injuries. By the time she realizes what has happened she doesn't know quite how to fix it.

Mack's older brother Adam is a widower who has been in charge of the estate for many years. He has three children who run wild and he has no idea how to deal with them. He has hoped that his brother's fiancee would be willing to step in and help. 

I loved seeing the way that Damaris immediately took to the children. She was able to do things with them that no one else had done. I liked her common sense methods and that she was able to explain to Adam just what he should do. The kids were a lot of fun with their sweet natures but tendency to get into scrapes. She feels badly about her deception, and when it all comes out she feels she has no choice but to leave. It took Adam a little while to find her, and then he had to convince her that he really does want her. I loved the part the kids played in convincing him to go after her.


On a Wicked Winter's Night - Nicola Cornick

Johnny is a viscount who has inherited his uncle's estate in Wales. He has fond memories of it from when he was a child, and is determined to fix it up and live there. He's involved in a carriage accident when he arrives near the town, and is taken to the local inn for the night. There he finds Lydia, the girl he had loved when he was younger. She owns and runs the local inn and takes care of her young daughter.

Lydia had been good friends with Johnny when they were young, but never saw him as anything else. Instead she fell for a man who turned out to be less than honorable. She turned Johnny down when he proposed in order to take care of her, not wanting to ruin his life. Publicly ruined, she moved to Wales and passed herself off as a widow. She never expected to see Johnny again.

Johnny was surprised to see Lydia again, and realized that his feelings for her had never gone away. He still wants her and sees he as the woman he needs. I loved the way that he tried to show her that her past makes no difference to him and confesses his feelings for her. Lydia loves him too, but doesn't want her past to create problems for him. A near tragedy shows her what she would be giving up and she has to decide if love can overcome all her fears.


Weathering the Storm - Cara Elliott

Very fun story. Sophie Thirkell, daughter of a Boston merchant, is on her way to London to make a Christmas delivery to her father's estranged family. Lord Leete, British diplomat, is on the same ship, one belonging to Sophie's father, when it is damaged in a storm. The story opens as Leete is trying to make arrangements to get himself to London in time for a critical meeting and is running into obstacles, not the least of which is Sophie. 

These two have been striking sparks off each other for awhile. They met on several occasions in Boston with explosive results. Sophie thinks Leete is a stuck up stick in the mud, and he thinks she's a hellion. Sophie isn't one who thinks much of the rules that govern a woman's behavior and takes great pleasure in flaunting them. In their current situation, they discover that they have to work together if either has a hope of getting to London on time. 

I loved their interactions as each tends to poke at each other, but underneath can't really deny that there's something immensely appealing also. I loved seeing the way they cooperated throughout the hazards of their trip. There were some pretty funny moments, especially as Leete deals with being ordered around by Sophie. I really enjoyed seeing the effect that their adventures had on him, as his diplomatic stuffiness had to give way to the needs of some quick thinking. I loved seeing him admit that his attitude in Boston hadn't been disapproval, but the inability to think when he was around her. And Sophie had simply been trying to protect her heart from rejection. The scene at the end was pretty sweet. The only thing I would have liked to see, would be her arrival in London, and the reaction of her family.


The Mistletoe Bride - Anne Gracie

Ronan needs a wife if he's going to get the money from his inheritance. His great-aunt made it a condition of her will, and he isn't happy about it. He was married before, for five terrible years, before his wife left him and later died. He doesn't want to do it again, but if he wants to make the repairs to his estate, he'll have to do it. His lawyer suggests paying a woman to marry him would work, and if he marries one who's dying, it won't matter. He feels a bit guilty about that idea, but goes along with it.

Marguerite has come back to England from India after her father's death. She would have stayed there, but the climate made her ill. Her uncle in Scotland has agreed to take her in. On the way there, she meets a woman who is very ill. Peggy confesses that she's on the way to marry a man who needs a wife but doesn't want one. She's doing it to get the money to take care of her two little girls. Along the way, the woman passes away, after extracting a promise from Meg that she will take care of her girls.

When someone arrives at the coach stop to pick her up, Meg believes it is her uncle's people. Instead, it is Ronan's, and he believes she is his bride to be. Though she tries to explain the mix up, Ronan doesn't listen and marries her anyway. Meg intends to fulfill the contract, then go find Peggy's girls and raise them herself.

Neither one expects to develop feelings for the other. I liked seeing the two of them get to know each other. It was sweet to see how easily Meg fit in and how Ronan began to wish that she would stay. When Ronan finally learns the truth, he feels betrayed, thinking Meg is like his first wife. Though he stays angry for a few days, he soon starts to realize what he will miss if Meg leaves. I loved the end as he really listens to her reasons and realizes how much he cares. I loved what he did for Meg that showed her just how he felt. The epilogue was really sweet.


A Wilder Wench - Susan King

The story begins with a young Cristina and her little brother hiding from the tax men who are looking for her father who has been smuggling whiskey. She is discovered by a teenaged boy named Ned, who doesn't expose her. Eleven years later she is living with her vicar uncle, who is entertaining the local magistrate and the new sheriff, Viscount Dunallen. She overhears them talking about transferring the prisoner that they have, once the transfer papers arrive later that night.

She is determined to get those papers, because the prisoner they have is her brother, falsely accused of smuggling. She comes up with the idea of holding up the coach with the courier and stealing the papers, delaying the transfer until she can think of something else. An unwanted distraction is the fascination she has for the handsome viscount.

Dunallen has come to the area after inheriting from his grandfather. He doesn't plan to stay long, as he has a law practice in Edinburgh. He is a quiet man, preferring his history books and his job to the social life of his peers. He likes his life as it is, and doesn't plan to succumb to the matchmaking wiles of the local mothers and aunts. But he has to admit that there is something very appealing about the vicar's niece. They seem to have much in common, with their love of history and Sir Walter Scott's writings.

Cristina's plans to stop the coach don't go quite as planned. I loved seeing her politeness as she attempts to get the courier to turn over the papers. When Dunallen comes upon her, she flees, trying to get away before he can recognize her. Naturally, he catches her, and the truth comes out. I loved the parts with the pies and the dogs, and also what the papers were that she had taken. As they talk, Dunallen realizes that Cristina is the same girl he protected all those years ago. I loved the twist at the end that involved one of his grandfather's letters and her father.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Colton Cowboy Protector -Beth Cornelison (HRS #1851 - June 2015)

Series: Coltons of Oklahoma (Book 1)

A beautiful stranger appears at the Colton ranch during a party, and Jack is none too pleased. With ties to his ex-wife, Tracy McCain claims to be on a mission to bond with his son. But this intriguing widow also has a target on her back. As the Colton family brings Tracy under its broad wing, a relentless assassin puts everyone in jeopardy. Jack's protective instincts go into overdrive…and only fuel his secret attraction to Tracy. Living closely together under Jack's roof, the heat between them starts to sizzle. In fact, the only thing stronger than Jack's heady desire for Tracy is his will to keep her safe…so that one day they can become a family.

Very good start to the new Colton series. This one centers around Jack, the oldest of the Colton children, and Tracy, his ex-wife's cousin. Tracy shows up at the Colton ranch with one goal in mind - she wants to get to know her cousin's little boy, the only family that Tracy has left. Jack isn't too happy to see her, as he is very protective of Seth and doesn't trust Tracy's motives.

Jack had loved his wife Laura, but she hated ranch life. She left him, but turned custody of Seth over to Jack, knowing that he'd have a better life there. Jack was angry at what he saw as her desertion, and refused to allow her any contact with Seth, and has told Seth very little about his mother. Now that Laura is dead, Jack feels that everything is under control. Tracy's arrival has Jack concerned about what she might tell Seth, and also that she wants more than he's willing to give. He's determined to keep an eye on her, until she proves herself.

Tracy is the widow of an abusive man. Her cousin Laura had been the one to help Tracy get away from him, but lost her life in the process when he rammed their car with his own. Tracy feels guilty about what happened, and knowing how much Laura had loved her son, is determined to get to know him and tell him about his mother. Jack's attitude is an obstacle she has to find a way to overcome.

The initial meeting between Jack and Tracy was very volatile. Jack doesn't trust her, and wants her gone. Unfortunately for him, his sister gets wind of Tracy's presence and purpose and invites her to stay at the ranch. Having her constantly underfoot brings a new problem into Jack's life - his strong attraction to her. He has avoided any kind of relationships since Laura left, unwilling to trust his heart again and risk having it broken again. As they spend time together with Seth, Jack begins to see that he can trust her with his son, but is still wary with his own emotions. Tracy had also been hit with a strong attraction to Jack, but feels too guilty about her part in Laura's death to feel that she has any right to feelings about him. I liked seeing them bond over Seth, and start to build a cautious relationship. The chemistry continues to build, but Jack still resists admitting to his growing feelings for Tracy. He nearly loses everything due to his fears, before his sister and one of his brothers makes him see what he is doing.

The suspense of the story is good and has two parts. Tracy is the victim of attempts on her life. First someone pushes her off a curb into traffic, though there's no way to prove it. Jack becomes worried about her, but his protective instincts really kick in when someone takes shots at her and his son while they are on the ranch. Tracy can't imagine who would want to hurt her, especially now that her husband is dead. The suspense increases as she and Jack, along with his cop brother Ryan, try to find out who is behind it. I enjoyed seeing Jack stand up to his brother when it came to investigating a couple suspects. What they find out shows that Tracy is in even more danger than they expected, and keeping her safe could be a real challenge. The final confrontation is intense, and had me on the edge of my seat as I waited to see how it would turn out. 

Second is a mystery that begins in this book, but is not resolved. While out riding, Jack, his sister and Tracy discover the skeleton of a baby has been dug up in the family cemetery. No one seems to know anything about it. There is also an attack made on the Colton matriarch that puts her in the hospital and it's unknown if it is related to the attacks on Tracy or if it is something else. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the following books.

This book also introduced the various members of the Colton family and touches on issues that each of them has. I have to say that, at first meeting, I really don't like the mother, who is cold and selfish. It is amazing that the younger Coltons have turned out as well as they have. I'm looking forward to getting to know each of them better in the coming books.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cowboy of Interest - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1852 - June 2015)

Series: Cowboys of Holiday Ranch (Book 2)

Determined to see ranch hand Nick Coleman jailed for her sister's murder, Adrienne Bailey introduces herself with a quick jab that leaves him black-eyed and bewildered. Still, the injured cowboy wants to prove his innocence and suggests they work together to find the real killer. Reluctantly, the grieving sister agrees.

As other credible suspects emerge, Adrienne's distrust of Nick turns to a surprising attraction. He's too handsome, and one night of passion awakens unfamiliar emotions for them both. But until they catch the killer plaguing the ranch, neither she nor Nick is safe.

At the end of the previous book, A Real Cowboy, a body and six skeletons were found under the floor of a shed that was being torn down. This made the ranch a crime scene, and each of the cowboys who worked there were persons of interest. When the body was identified as Wendy Bailey, Nick became more of a suspect because he had spent a lot of time with the young woman.

Adrienne Bailey arrived in Bitterroot convinced that Nick was the one who killed her sister. In her conversations and texts with her sister, Nick was a huge part of them. Adrienne is certain that Nick killed her in some sort of lover's quarrel. She confronts him by punching him in the eye, accusing him of murder and then walking away. Nick is stunned by her attack, and upset himself over his friend's death, follows her and tries to tell her that he's innocent. Adrienne is having none of it, certain that she's right. Nick finally convinces her that her best option is to work with him to find the real killer.

I liked Adrienne, though I got a bit frustrated with her tendency to jump to conclusions. It was obvious that she had loved her sister, though the two had had some issues. Their mother died when Adrienne was eighteen, leaving her to raise her younger sister. Adrienne had worried about Wendy's wild tendencies, causing her to be pretty strict, and creating conflict between the two. Now Adrienne is feeling guilty about those issues, and deals with it by focusing on finding the killer. Her distrust of Nick is logical to her because of what she believes, and she is reluctant to give that up, in spite of the number of people who tell her otherwise. When she is attacked by someone who is clearly not Nick, she has to finally admit that he isn't the one. That opens up a new problem, one of the attraction she feels for him.

Nick is one of twelve cowboys who came to Holiday Ranch as troubled teens. He had been abandoned by his mother when he was eight, spent years in foster homes, and was living on the streets when he taken in by Cass. His fellow cowboys are his family, but he keeps his heart well guarded. Besides wanting to clear his name, there is something about Adrienne that is starting to get to him. He feels protective of her after the attacks, and his attraction to her is growing every day. 

Their relationship is an interesting one. It had quite an interesting start, with her attack on him. Once they got past that, they connected through their desire to find the killer and also through the stories they shared about Wendy. I liked the way that Nick was able to ease some of Adrienne's guilt. They tried to fight the attraction between them, because Nick had made it clear that there was no future in it. Even after he tells her about his past, he can't allow himself to let it go. Adrienne realizes her own feelings earlier, but believes that they are unreturned. I liked that she had the courage to tell him how she felt and that she knows he has the capacity to love if he'll just take the chance. Even after he nearly loses her, Nick still resists giving in to his feelings until it's almost too late. I did like the way he came through at the end.

The progression of the mystery was really good. I liked seeing Nick and Adrienne working together. They were a good balance for each other. Adrienne especially needed someone who could rein her in on occasion. She drove me a little nuts with the way she would suddenly decide one person was guilty, and focus on that person until it was proved they were innocent, instead of trying to look at the bigger picture. Her determination helped pull Nick along, even when he thought it was better to back off a little. The attack on her at the hotel, and later on them both outside the bar, had them thinking that they were making the killer nervous with all their questions. There were several suspects that were being investigated, and following the leads kept the suspense intense. I never got a feel that one was more likely than the other, and when the final confrontation came, it had a completely unexpected twist. 

The mystery of who killed Wendy was solved, but the six skeletons are still an unsolved case. The local police chief has nothing to go on, and the arrival of the forensics doctor is adding to his stress. Not much progress is being made on the crime scene analysis. I expect more will be discovered in the next book. Meanwhile, the fate of the ranch is still up in the air as it remains a crime scene, and Cassie is anxious to get back to New York.