Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Navy SEAL Spy - Carol Ericson (HI #1595 - Oct 2015)

Series: Brothers in Arms: Retribution (Book 3)

Honor. Courage. Commitment.

Fresh out of the Navy, Liam McCabe has plenty to prove and the skills to back it up. His first mission is straightforward -- infiltrate and then expose criminal organization Tempest. Until he runs into Katie O'Keefe. Now he's engaged in a high-stakes game of espionage with the one woman who can blow his cover. As far as reunions go, this one is likely to go down in flames. It's a chance Liam is willing to take in order to complete his mission. Even if everything inside him wishes he could hold off on saving the world and work on giving their relationship another chance.

Very good book. Katie is using a fake name while she works at Tempest. She is looking for revenge for the death of her foster brother, Sebastian, who committed suicide while working for them. She's making good progress when, during one of her snooping sessions, she witnesses a murder. While fleeing the scene she runs into Liam, who is there on his own mission.

After leaving the Navy, Liam was recruited by the covert ops group Prospero. His mission is to infiltrate Tempest and find out what they are doing and bring them down. Encountering someone he knows is the last thing he needs, much less the woman whose heart he broke. She could blow his cover in a heartbeat.

From the moment Katie witnesses the murder, the suspense is intense. As soon as they run into each other, Katie and Liam have to decide if the other can be trusted. Because of their prior relationship the seeds of trust are already there, so it isn't hard for them to make that connection. Because he knows exactly what Tempest is capable of, Liam desperately wants Katie out of danger, but she is set on her own goals. I loved seeing the way that they worked together, each in their own specialty, but finding ways to coordinate their actions. There are several instances where the tension increases, such as when Katie is tapped for a special project for the boss, and when Liam is injected with a drug that causes him to black out and temporarily lose his memory. The intensity of the final confrontation had me holding my breath until they were safely away. And while this story had closure, there are still some loose threads that need to be dealt with. I can't wait for the next book.

I also loved the rekindling of the relationship between Katie and Liam. The feelings are still there, even after two years apart. I especially liked the fact that Liam admitted that he had been stupid to let Katie go. I really liked that they were so protective of each other also, not just Liam wanting to watch out for Katie. She was still a little wary of trusting him with her heart again, but by the end was ready to take a chance. I loved the solution that he came up with for them to be able to be together.

Texas Takedown - Barb Han (HI #1596 - Oct 2015)

Series: Mason Ridge (Book 2)

He's facing trouble as big -- and unpredictable -- as the Texas terrain

For security expert Dylan Jacobs, his little daughter is a light against the shadows of his past. But when the sexy ex-soldier locates missing Samantha Turner, the shadows return. Samantha is convinced their childhood nemesis -- the Mason Ridge Abductor -- is back. And that he's hunting her.

Amid a hail of gunfire, Dylan commits to keeping Samantha safe -- then nearly crumbles when his own child disappears. So when the villain poses a vicious ultimatum -- turn over the woman he loves or never see his beloved toddler again -- Dylan knows what he has to do. Put plan B into action.

Good book with some pretty intense action. Dylan is asked by a friend to find Samantha, a mutual friend who is missing. When he does, he discovers that Samantha has been in hiding, terrified that the Mason Ridge Abductor is after her, even though the man believed to be the Abductor is dead. When they are attacked, Dylan has to agree that something is going on.

Dylan has a lot going on in his life, the biggest of which is caring for his toddler daughter. He had only found out about her the year before, just before Maribel's mother died. He's dealing with a lot of guilt over the fact that she had believed that Dylan wouldn't want to know he was a father. Maribel has become the center of Dylan's life, and he has really taken to being a dad. He has started his own security business, which he can run mostly from home, making it possible to spend as much time as possible with Maribel.

Samantha is terrified by what is going on. Her father has been kidnapped, but not before he told her to go into hiding to protect herself. She has been told that her family and friends are in danger. When Dylan arrives, she does her best to get him to leave her, afraid of what might happen. Those fears come to pass when his daughter is kidnapped, and the kidnapper wants to trade Samantha for Maribel.

Dylan is determined to protect Samantha at the same time he works to find his daughter. He and Samantha have been friends since they were eleven, but there is something more between them now. Both try to resist, but it becomes bigger than they can contain. I loved watching the relationship develop, as both of them overcame their fears about risking their hearts. I loved Samantha's resilience as she dealt with each attack and continued to insist on being involved in every aspect. She fell hard for Dylan, but believed that he would deny anything between them in order to focus on his daughter. I enjoyed the ending as both of them accepted their feelings and that they needed to be together. The scene with Samantha's father was pretty cute.

The suspense of the story was very good. Even though I hadn't read the first book, there was more than enough backstory given that it was easy to keep up. Each attack on Dylan and Samantha helped them uncover a little more information. I wanted to smack Dylan for his one plan to go out on his own because it could have turned out so badly. They had help from various friends to get more information on their top suspects. The final confrontation was really intense, and while the immediate problem has been solved, I have a feeling that there is more to the Abductor's story than has been exposed so far.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Professional - Addison Fox (HRS #1868 - Oct 2015)

Series: Dangerous in Dallas (Book 3)

Despite her job as a wedding planner, Violet Richardson doesn't believe a happy-ever-after is in her future. And when she's kidnapped by a killer, she's surprised that rescue comes in the form of her tempting yet irritating neighbor Max Baldwin.

Trying to forget his dark past, Max never meant to take on his attractive neighbor's troubles. But now the bickering pair must outrun a thug who's determined to get his hands on mysterious jewels he thinks are in Violet's possession. And as they race for their lives through Dallas's summer heat, Max and Violet may finally open their eyes to the burning passion they share.

Excellent book. This one picks up where the second book, Tempting Target, left off. Two of the three jewels are safe, but the bad guy is still determined to get his hands on them. As she and her friends finish one of their events, Violet is kidnapped by him with the purpose of forcing her to hand over the one she has. Just when she's certain she will not survive, she is rescued by Max.

From the moment Violet was taken, Max is determined to get her back safely. As a former military man and combat engineer, he has some unique skills to bring to the problem. The way that he rescued Violet from where she was being held was attention getting and fantastic. But it takes more than that, and Violet and Max have to stay ahead of their pursuer if they want to survive. I loved Max's surprise at Violet's ability to adapt and overcome. They also discover that the intensity of their situation brings their attraction to the irresistible point. I liked the way that the two of them realized that the sparks between them hadn't been dislike at all. It was great to see how much alike they are. Max is adept at seeing past Violet's business persona to the woman beneath and the hurts that have made her who she is. He's hiding some trauma of his own, which makes it easier for him to spot in her. Violet recognizes that he has his own demons, and becomes determined to break through his walls. When she finally succeeds, it is one of the most emotional parts of the book. I loved seeing the honesty with which they treat each other, Their acceptance of each other at the end, with their quirks and hangups was fantastic.

As they rejoin their friends, the focus becomes stopping the bad guy for good. Glimpses of the action from his point of view show just how far he is willing to go to accomplish his goal. Another player enters the picture, and it is hard to tell just what his intentions are. The final confrontation with the bad guy accomplishes our characters' goals, but the questions surrounding the jewels are still there. We are left with quite a cliffhanger, and I can't wait to see how the next book goes.

The Agent's Redemption - Lisa Childs (HI #1597 - Oct 2015)

Series: Special Agents at the Altar (Book 4)

She'll do anything to expose her sister's killer -- even reunite with an ex…

After six years hunting The Bride Butcher, FBI agent Jared Bell is as determined as ever to find the ruthless murderer. So when the killer strikes again, he'll stop at nothing to bring closure to the case -- and the first victim's sister, Rebecca Drummond. Including staging an engagement to lure the madman into a trap…

It's been years since their torrid rendezvous, but as Jared's fake fiancée, Becca can no longer ignore their attraction. Or the secret she's been keeping from him. For now, she needs to focus on bringing her sister's killer to justice -- and insist on using herself as bait to do it.

Excellent conclusion to the series. Jared is the FBI agent/profiler who has been hunting the Bride Butcher serial killer for six years. When another victim is found, and there appears to be a link to the first victim, Jared pays a visit to the first victim's sister. Becca has never stopped mourning her sister, nor insisting that she knows who did it. Jared is the last person she wants to see show up at her house. Six years ago, in the middle of the tragic event, she and Jared had had a passionate encounter, but their differences kept them apart. She's had no contact with him since then, including telling him that she was pregnant. 

The attraction between Becca and Jared is just as strong now as it was before, and neither one can deny it. Jared is stunned to discover he has a son, and angry that Becca kept it a secret from him. Some of those feelings have to take a back seat to the mission of finding the killer, but it isn't easy. I liked the way that Jared accepted the truth so quickly, and loved the way he bonded so quickly with Alex. The relationship between him and Becca was a little trickier. He still cared about her, and the feelings were getting stronger, but telling her how he felt would take more courage than he had. He wasn't sure he could handle hearing that she didn't feel the same way. Becca had also cared about Jared, but because he had left without saying anything, she hadn't either.

Now that they are working together to bring the Butcher to justice, those feelings have come back to the surface. Becca feels pretty guilty that she hadn't told Jared about Alex, and making him part of their lives now makes her realize just how much they have missed. Jared needs Becca's help, but his feelings for her have added a whole new level of protectiveness to them. I loved seeing how both of them had to deal with their feelings and at the same time still keep focus on what they were trying to do. I really enjoyed seeing the way that Becca stood up to Jared when it came to trying to trap the killer. When the final confrontation was over, both of them had to face those feelings and decide whether to take the risk. I loved Jared's big moment there, and Becca's surprise.

The suspense part of the story was fantastic. The tension kept climbing, from the discovery of the new victim right through to the final confrontation. I loved seeing Jared and Becca try to discover the link between the first victim and the last one. It was interesting to see how she stuck to her belief about who the guilty person was. When she started receiving threats, Jared was even more determined to discover who it is. I loved following the investigation, and how they came up with several suspects. Each one seemed to be a good possibility and it was hard to settle on any one of them. There was a very interesting twist at the end that I never saw coming. The final confrontation was intense, and I wondered at times just how everything was going to turn out.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

His Son, Her Secret - Sarah M. Anderson (HD #2398 - Sept 2015)

Series: Beaumont Heirs (Book 4)

Their families tore them apart. Can their baby bring them back together?

For more than a year, Byron Beaumont has tried to get over Leona Harper. Not even living overseas could erase the memory of their affair…or her betrayal. Her family has been out to destroy his for decades, and despite Byron trusting her, making love to her, Leona kept her identity hidden. Now that Byron is back -- as her new employer -- he wants answers.

But what he gets is another surprise. Leona has given birth to his son. He'll do what it takes to care for his family, even if it means spending days -- and nights -- wanting the one woman he can't have…

Good book. Byron was always a little out of step with the rest of his family. He didn't want anything to do with the brewery business, he wanted to be a chef. He finally got his wish and was working at a Denver restaurant when he met Leona. They hit it off immediately, and spent a lot of time sharing their dreams for the future. Then Byron discovered that Leona was the daughter of his family's worse enemy and felt betrayed. Rather than sticking around, he left to work in Europe and has been gone for a year. His brothers called him back and asked him to build  restaurant to go with the brewery, one that he will have full control of. He has decided to hire Leona to design it - as a way to show her that he is over her, and to get answers about why she did it.

Leona had been in love with Byron and disgusted with her father. She was trying to get away from him, which is why she was working in the restaurant. Her father's actions the day she discovered she was pregnant were the last straw. But before she was even able to tell Byron about the baby, he was gone, with no contact. She knows she should have told him about the baby, but she was afraid of the Beaumont reputation with children, so she didn't. Now that he is back, she knows she has to tell him.

Though Byron is angry about it, he doesn't immediately threaten to take the baby away. I liked the way that he was determined to protect Leona and Percy. When he finds out the threats that her father has made against her, Byron decides that marriage is the best way to stop him. All he has to do is convince Leona. 

I loved seeing the relationship rekindle between them. Even though they had been apart a year, the chemistry was still strong. They also still had their dreams in common. I loved seeing how the plans for the restaurant went so smoothly. The problem that they had was one of being able to trust each other again. Byron couldn't be certain that Leona wasn't going to side with her father, and that made him hold part of himself back from her. Leona was constantly afraid that Byron would abandon her again, and this time take Percy with him. It took another run in with her father for them to actually talk to each other and share their fears. Once they had done that, they could finally look to the future.

I did feel that their confrontation with her father was left slightly unresolved. They have their intentions to stand against him, but I'd have liked to see how they do it. There's another book in the series, so maybe there will be a bit more included there.

Mistletoe Rodeo - Amanda Renee (HAR #1568 - Oct 2015)

Series: Welcome to Ramblewood (Book 6)

A CHRISTMAS AS BIG AS TEXAS!

His entire town was counting on Chase Langtry to win the championship title. Instead, the injured bull rider is slinking back to the family ranch. But how can he stay out of the spotlight with relentless reporter Nola West following him home from Vegas? His humiliating loss just can't be her next story!

Nola's attraction to the youngest son of Ramblewood's First Family is shaking her hard-won confidence. And it looks like the only scoop she'll get is covering the Mistletoe Rodeo charity event. She's never been a big fan of the holiday. Until Chase vows to show her a Christmas she'll never forget…

Very good book about two people who need to let go of their pasts in order to find the future they want. Chase had gone to the rodeo finals hoping to win the championship for his family and his town. Instead, on the second day, he got injured and was unable to continue. He's upset at the loss, feeling that he's let everyone down. In that mood, the last person he wants to see is reporter Nola West.

Nola and her cameraman, George, were assigned to get the story behind Chase's failure. Her boss wants something sensational, something that will show him she deserves the co-anchor spot that is up for grabs. Nola is determined to get the story, but Chase isn't cooperating. They finally strike a deal where Chase will talk to Nola if she spends part of the camera time on the charity rodeo his family is sponsoring.

I liked Nola. She comes across at first as somewhat ruthless in her pursuit of Chase. But we soon learn that there is more to her than that. Nola is a military brat whose family life wasn't all that great. After rebelling as a teen and getting into trouble, she joined the army herself, becoming a combat journalist. Her family left her somewhat jaded when it came to family life, and seeing the Langtry's family is an eye opening experience. The most amazing part is the attraction she feels for Chase.

Chase has some family issues of his own. As the youngest, he is the last one in the family to be competing in rodeo events. His competitions have taken him away from the ranch and riding school that they run, and he feels guilty about not pulling his weight. Winning a championship would have alleviated that somewhat. His injury is enough that he feels it's time to stop competing and look to his future. One of the things he wants is a wife and family of his own. He's surprised by the attraction he feels for Nola, but he's willing to see where it goes.

I loved seeing the two of them together. Chase is really a pretty sweet guy, and he has a wonderful time showing Nola what a small town Christmas is like. He also finds that she fits in with his family very well. I loved seeing how Nola's outlook changed the more time she spent with him. I especially liked seeing how she took to the town and used her reporter skills to help raise awareness for the charity. Chase really gets into the relationship growing between him and Nola, and sees a great future before them. But Nola has a secret that could derail that future.

I hurt for Nola and the secret she was keeping from Chase. The more she listened to him and his dreams, the more certain she was that she could never have that future with him. When she finally got the courage to tell him, he did not react well. I really wanted to grab him and shake him, because the things he said were so hurtful to her. I was glad to see that some of the members of his family were only too happy to point out his mistakes, and that he finally realized what was most important.

There was also a bit of a mystery going on that involved a land purchase the Langtry's father had made, and the allegations that someone is making about that purchase. Nola uses her reporter contacts to do some research into it, but Chase has trouble trusting that she won't use the info for a story. When a crisis forces her to use an interview with Chase's mom to publicize the allegations, Chase believes they've been betrayed. I loved seeing how Nola continues to try to help, in spite of the horrible things that Chase had accused her of. The conclusion was great, with Nola coming through for the family and Chase realizing just how wrong he was.

A Cowboy's Christmas Reunion - Sasha Summers (HAR #1566 - Oct 2015)

Series: Boones of Texas (Book 1)

A HAPPY REUNION?

Way back when, Hunter Boone thought he and Josie Stephens had something that would last forever. Then she got her ticket out of town and took off -- alone. The hurt nearly tore him apart. By the time Josie realized she'd made a mistake, Hunter had already married.

Now Josie's back in Stonewall Crossing, and while instant fire flares between them, she can't come between the now single dad and his son. As the whole town gets ready for Christmas, Josie finds it hard to avoid Hunter. No matter how much he tempts her with the promise of a future together, she has to tell herself -- for her own survival -- that relationships just aren't her thing…

Good reunion and second chance story. Josie has come back to Stonewall Crossing to help her father in the bakery while he recovers from hip surgery. She had left the town and the boy she loved behind in order to follow her dream of becoming an artist. By the time she admitted to herself that she missed Hunter and had made a mistake, he had married someone else.

Hunter had been devastated when Josie left, and had married someone else on the rebound. That marriage didn't work out, but he has an eleven year old son who means the world to him. Now that she's back, he realizes that his feelings for her never died, and he would do anything for another chance with her.

I loved Hunter's determination to show her that they can be happy together. There are a couple of big obstacles to his plans. First is the fact that Josie doesn't seem to believe that they have any chance of that future that he wants. The second is that his son appears to hate Josie with a passion. I loved seeing Hunter do everything he could to show Josie how much he still loved her, including some very romantic moments. I also liked that he wasn't going to let his kid dictate his love life. He wasn't mean about it, but he was firm that although his son was important to him, so was Josie.

Josie has some baggage that she came home with. Her career as a children's author and illustrator has stalled somewhat, and her last relationship fell apart because she couldn't commit. She believes that she is bad at relationships, and is using that to try to keep Hunter at arm's length. She also doesn't want to come between Hunter and his son, as that would make her feel even worse.

I really liked the way that Hunter's persistence seemed to be showing progress. After a rough beginning, when Josie didn't know about his divorce, things began to look better. Josie was actually considering moving back to Stonewall Crossing and seeing what might happen between them. But when Hunter's ex comes back to town, she stirs up some trouble that creates a wedge that may separate them forever.

I can safely say that I really didn't like Hunter's ex. She was selfish and careless and I hated the way that she treated and used their son. I also thought there were several places that his son needed his attitude adjusted in a big way. What he did at the end, at the instigation of his mother, was really wrong. I was glad to see that he came clean before it was too late.

I mostly liked Josie, but she had her moments when she really needed to have more faith in what she and Hunter had together. I did like that she didn't want to ruin the relationship that he and his son had, but wished that she had stood up for herself a little better.

I enjoyed the setting of Stonewall Crossing and I am looking forward to seeing more of it in future books. I also like the secondary romance between Josie's dad and Lola, It's always fun to see a "senior" romance develop.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Boss's Marriage Plans - Gina Wilkins (HSE #2434 - Oct 2015)

Series: Proposals and Promises (Book 3)

To: My assistant
From: Scott Prince
Re: Will you marry me?

Bachelor Scott Prince knows he wants a family -- so it's time to find a wife. But for a workaholic construction company owner with no time for romance, the perfect woman may just be his very loyal, very pretty assistant Tess Miller. For Scott, their engagement is a practical business deal…with a bonus.

Scott's proposal is exactly what Tess needs to prevent another holiday season alone. And then he kisses her -- and she realizes she's not as immune to her sexy boss as she thought. But this is a business deal, with no room for emotion…right? Or can Tess find a real happy-ever-after with her "Prince"?

Good friends to lovers/boss and employee story. Tess has worked for Scott for six years and has become indispensable to him. She loves her job and doesn't mind the long hours and frequent interruptions to her personal life. Her personal life isn't all that great anyway. She's got some good friends, but her romantic life just doesn't exist.

Scott is the head of his construction company and has worked hard to make it the company that it is. He's thirty seven years old and feels like it is time for a family of his own. He was engaged a few years earlier, but it hadn't worked out. His fiancee didn't like his hours, and constantly complained about his lack of romance. This time he's going to pursue it in a more practical manner. As soon as he lists out what he's looking for, he realizes that Tess is a perfect match.

Scott caught Tess at a bit of a low point. It's the holidays and she's alone again except for her older sister. Her sister is constantly trying to fix her up, and she's getting tired of it. She's tried online dating and has struck out there too. She just wants a family of her own. When Scott comes to her with his "marriage plan" she says yes. 

I loved seeing these two together. They've known each other for six years, so there aren't a lot of secrets between them. As they begin attending events as a couple instead of as boss and employee, things start to change. I loved seeing Scott begin to see Tess as a beautiful woman. Tess had always seen Scott as a sexy man, but buried any feelings because of her job. Their "just a test" first kiss hit them each harder than they expected, and the physical attraction between them grew. Though their relationship is built on friendship, and emotions such as love have never been mentioned, Tess realizes that she wants more than Scott seems willing to give. It was fun to see Scott move away from the practical without realizing it until it was almost too late. There were a couple great scenes with Scott's brothers as he sees their love for their wives but believes he doesn't need that, then later seems to envy what they have. When Tess confronts him with what she needs from him, Scott has to make a decision. I loved seeing Scott's confusion and then realization that he had loved her all along, but hadn't recognized it. I liked the ending and that Tess made him work for his happy ending.

I liked the secondary characters a lot. Tess's friends were great sounding boards for her and there when she needed them. I really enjoyed seeing them help Tess pick out her holiday dresses. I also liked seeing more of Stevie, and am looking forward to her story. I suspect that her neighbor is going to be part of it. Tess's sister was an interesting character. She drove me as nuts as she did Tess, with her attitude and her digs, but I loved that she was there when Tess really needed her. Scott's family was great. I loved the way they made Tess a part of them so easily. I also liked how Scott's brothers gave him a hard time, but were an example of what marriage should be.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Her Master Defender - Karen Anders (HRS #1869 - Oct 2015)

Series: To Protect and Serve (Book 4)

A battle-hardened Marine and a driven NCIS agent join forces to survive…

Though survival training is Master Sergeant Tristan Michaels's specialty, one of his students has been murdered. And sharing quarters with the ravishing NCIS agent sent to investigate is a challenge his expertise hasn't prepared him for. Tristan has his reasons for distrusting NCIS agents, but Amber Dalton is stirring unwelcome feelings of a different kind…

Despite the fierce attraction between them, Amber is determined not to let it distract her from the mission. But when they're captured by the killers, escape means combining forces and daring to survive freezing mountain terrain.

This was a fantastic book, loaded with passion, suspense, danger and some pretty heavy emotional obstacles. It had me hooked from the first chapter and unwilling to put it down until I finished. It begins when one of Tristan's students is found dead under suspicious circumstances. An NCIS agent is sent to investigate. Amber is the newest member of her team, and the only woman, and is driven to prove that she can do the job.

Sparks fly between Tristan and Amber from the moment they meet. Tristan has trouble trusting NCIS agents because of an incident in his past, so having Amber there stirs up some old feelings. The only place for her to stay is in his quarters, which stirs up a whole different set of feelings, putting him on edge. Amber knows she has to work with Tristan, but wonders if he is always so grouchy. The bad attitude is a sharp contrast to the good looks and sexiness that has her suffering from her own stirred up feelings. Amber isn't one  to back down and pretty quickly lets Tristan know what she expects.

Though their relationship, both professional and personal, has a rocky start, it doesn't take long for them to develop a great deal of respect for each other's abilities. Though the case starts out looking like a fairly simple accidental death, deeper digging soon shows it is much more complicated. Each clue that they uncover puts them deeper in danger. When they are taken by the killers they become the human prey of some very dangerous hunters. The only way to escape is to outwit them and Mother Nature. The descriptions of the environment and Tristan's blunt recital of the requirements to survive their ordeal are so vivid that I could almost feel the chill myself. I loved the setting of the Marine Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center. The vivid descriptions of the environment and what is taught there, made the story feel even more realistic.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. Add in the occasional viewpoint of the bad guys, and the tension crept up with every chapter. I loved the cooperation among all of those working to solve the crime. I loved how each person came up with another piece of the puzzle and the big picture began to take shape. After Amber's disappearance, I loved how her DC team came riding to the rescue. The final confrontation between Tristan and Amber and the bad guys was really intense. I loved seeing how Tristan's training had him wreaking havoc on those who thought they were so much better.

The personal relationship between Tristan and Amber was both hot and heartbreaking. There is no denying the heat of the attraction between them, but both have baggage that keeps them from believing in a happy ending for them. Tristan has a tragedy in his past that has caused him to bury all his emotions. The only thing that he allows himself to feel is his loyalty to the Marine Corps. He's reached the point where he feels that without the Corps he would have no identity at all. What he doesn't expect to have happen is for Amber to start to break down the walls behind which he has buried those feelings. I loved seeing the way that she tried to show him that his past doesn't need to define his future. Amber has her own baggage that affects the way she deals with people. She has always felt that she has to work extra hard just to be recognized. She refuses to allow herself to feel that she is second best at anything. Even in her relationship with Tristan, she doesn't want to feel that she is taking second place to his job. Both of them have to face those demons before they have any chance of having a life together. I loved Tristan's moment of enlightenment and seeing what he did with it was so romantic. The epilogue was fun, especially the going away party with her coworkers. I also loved the eye opening conversation that Amber had with her sister.

The only issues I had with the book were not with the story, but can be laid to rest at the feet of the editors and publisher. As is all too often the case, the people at Harlequin refuse to properly capitalize words like Marine and Corps. A member of the Marine Corps is a Marine, not a marine. If someone is referring to the Marine Corps, and simply says "the Corps" it is capitalized. And a Marine is NEVER referred to as a soldier. Soldiers are members of the Army. A Marine is always a Marine, and they tend to get a little testy when called soldiers. A very minor complaint, as it only happened once that I noticed, was the wrong abbreviation for Master Sergeant. The correct one is MSgt not MS. All things that a good editor, one that is willing to stand up for what is correct, would take care of.

A Wanted Man - Jennifer Morey (HRS #1864 - Sept 2015)

Series: Cold Case Detectives (Book 1)

A renegade cop seeks justice in the hot new Cold Case Detectives series...

After his daughter's brutal murder, former NYPD detective Kadin Tandy opens Wyoming's Dark Alley Investigations to bring violent criminals to justice. Romance is the last thing on the sexy PI's troubled mind. That is, until feisty ad exec Penny Darden asks for his help. Now he's investigating her estranged boyfriend's frightening link to a murder. And despite her relationship status, Penny's fierce independence and frank flirtation revive Kadin's damaged heart. But as an untraceable killer closes in on them, the more harrowing the stakes--and the closer they become. At risk are their lives...and their best shot at love...

Very good book that kept me hooked from the first page. Penny is an ad exec who has recently started dating one of her clients. While visiting his home she discovers something that could be a clue in the case of a murdered young girl. Though her client is acting strangely, she's not quite ready to go to the police, so instead she asks PI Kadin Tandy for help.

Kadin has recently opened his own PI business, after years as a NYPD detective. His daughter was kidnapped and murdered, and after he solved that murder he felt compelled to help others going through the same thing. Working for himself gives him the freedom to stretch the rules when he needs to. 

The romance between Kadin and Penny was full of obstacles, mostly related to their pasts. The physical attraction between them is hot, but both of them have issues that have them protecting their hearts. Kadin is still grieving his daughter's murder and his wife's subsequent suicide. He believes that he has had his one chance at love and has built walls around his heart to make sure of it. He doesn't expect Penny's flirtation, independence and strength to start tearing down those walls. His determination to protect her makes him realize that it's more than just physical attraction that he feels for her. 

Penny has her own baggage that keeps her from committing to any man. Raised by a single mom, she doesn't believe that marriage and children are in her future. She's independent and uses flirtation to keep control of any encounters between her and men. The more time that she spends with Kadin, the closer she wants to get to him. She sees his pain and wants to help him through it, knowing that, until he does there's no chance of anything more between them. Working with him on the cases of the missing and murdered girls also has her looking at her own family life differently. A surprise development part way through the book has her examining her priorities and plans for the future, while wondering if there's any hope of something more with Kadin. The ending isn't quick and easy with simple solutions. They have to actually talk to each other about their fears and hopes and commit to working on their issues.

The mystery in this story was a gripping one. A young girl was kidnapped and murdered and the man that Penny was dating seemed to have some connection to it. After she reported what she found to Kadin, she was followed, attacked, threatened. She works with Kadin to find out the truth, but it doesn't come easy. There are several suspects and no clear path to which one it is. I bounced around between a couple suspects before finally deciding who I thought it was. Penny is determined to help find the truth and takes some risks that put her in more danger. The final confrontation was intense and had me riveted until it was over. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next in the series.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Talk of the Town - Beth Andrews (HS #1842 - Apr 2013)

Series: In Shady Grove (Book 1)

Shady Grove -- where everyone knows your secrets

Once, Neil Pettit was the only thing Maddie Montesano wanted. She tried every trick in the book to keep him, but no luck. It took some time-and a lot of holding her head up while the town gossiped-but she's made a good life for herself and her daughter.

Now, Neil's back and is trying to be the father he never was. Maddie so doesn't need this kind of disruption. Not when the crazy attraction she's spent years ignoring still sizzles between them. The temptation to give in and have Neil again is strong. And when he offers that dream of forever she'd abandoned, well, she might give this town something new to talk about....

Very emotional second chance story. Neil and Maddie had been high school sweethearts. Neil had plans for his future that didn't include staying in Shady Grove. His dream was to play for the NHL. Maddie had a dream too - to make a family with Neil and be together forever. But when she got pregnant, it became obvious that their dreams were not compatible. Maddie stayed in Shady Grove and raised their daughter, and Neil went on to become a hockey superstar.

Now Neil is back for a visit and wants to try to reconnect with his daughter. He knows he's made mistakes and wants to find a way to fix them. But to do that, he's going to have to find a way to deal with Maddie. He understands her anger with him, but surely it's time to move past it. Maddie isn't so sure she wants to move past it. She's been glad to have Bree all to herself. Having Neil around again is bringing the old attraction back and she doesn't want to risk getting her heart broken again.

There was a lot of strong emotion flying around in this book. Whenever Neil and Maddie were in the same room, sparks would fly. Maddie has no trouble still expressing her anger over Neil's abandonment. There are times she goes overboard and takes some pretty cheap shots at him. But beneath that anger is the temptation to see what might be left of their old relationship and that scares Maddie. In spite of his past failures, I liked Neil. He wants to be a better father to Bree. In his interactions with Maddie he does a good job of keeping his temper. He doesn't deny his past mistakes, but makes it clear he wants another chance. I liked his persistence and how he finally won Maddie's cooperation.

The relationship between Bree and Neil is difficult. He's allowed his job to interfere for too long, and Bree has reached the age where she feels the lack of attention. He wants to do better but he's no longer able to relate to her. The things he tries tend to add to the strain between them instead. Bree really wants a better relationship with Neil, but she's afraid to trust that he means what he says. She's spent too long feeling like he doesn't really care for her. When a conflict arises between them, feelings that have been buried for too long are finally shared, and a bit of progress is made.

In trying to work together to do what is best for Bree, Neil and Maddie are finally forced to face their pasts. A surprising revelation from Maddie and Neil's reaction to it start a healing process between them. I liked seeing them start to rebuild their relationship. I loved seeing Neil recognize that his priorities have changed and that he now wants more out of his life. Maddie's reaction made me ache for him. At the end it was Bree who made Maddie admit what was missing in their life and gave Maddie the motivation to go after it. The ending was great.

I really enjoyed the secondary characters too. Neil's adoptive parents were great and learning more about his background with them gave me better insight into him. Maddie's brothers were great. I loved their protectiveness, but they were also typical brothers in the way that they sometimes treated her. The situation with Neil's sister Fay was heartbreaking at times. Facing her issues also made both Neil and Maddie look at their own methods of dealing with things. The best of the secondary characters was Bree. She was such a realistic character with her body issues, her sometimes melodramatic attitude, and her desire to feel like she was important to her father. I really liked seeing her progress through the book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rock-a-Bye Bride - Tracy Madison (HSE #2433 - Oct 2015)

Series: Colorado Fosters (Book 5)

A Baby Wasn't In Their Plans…

That doesn't stop Logan Daugherty from proposing four months after spending the most wonderful night of his life with Anna Rockwood. And when the mother-to-be says yes, the honor-bound Wyoming rancher is ready to fulfill his part of the bargain. So why is Logan secretly longing to make their temporary arrangement permanent?

The Steamboat Springs baker didn't expect her homecoming to leave her with a precious gift. But Anna has no illusions about romance and happy endings. Saying "I do" is for their baby's sake. All bets are off once their daughter is born. Are Anna and Logan ready to turn a marriage-in-name-only into a lifetime of love?

Very good book. On her first night back in Steamboat Springs Anna met Logan. Both were feeling a bit lonely and dealt with that loneliness in the most basic of ways. Neither expected anything else from the other, but the memory of that night lingered. So did something else. When Anna realized she was pregnant, she knew she had to tell Logan.

Logan has few memories of his father, who had been a married man when Logan was born. He is determined that no child of his will ever grow up with the same questions he'd had. So he proposes to Anna that they marry for the baby's sake, staying together for at least a year after the child is born. This will give them a chance to form a solid parenting unit. It will be a marriage in name only, with the understanding that neither has expectations of love.

Anna had lost her mother when she was a child, and her father hadn't coped well. He became a harsh and unreasonable man, making her life miserable until her aunt took her to live with her. Her experiences have left her believing that romance and happy ever afters are very rare occurrences. When Logan proposes, she can see the benefits for the welfare of their baby, so she agrees. 

I loved the way they started everything out so logically. They talked about what they expected from each other, what they didn't want, and where they saw themselves further down the road. It was fun to see how easily they were able to mesh their lives. I loved seeing how hard Logan tried to be everything that Anna needed him to be. Like most men, Anna's pregnancy induced emotions freaked him out a bit, but he really did a good job of coping. Things started to get complicated when their "hands off" intentions started to fray around the edges. Logan knew what he had promised, so when it became increasingly hard to follow the rules, he started to pull back from the friendship and closeness that had started to develop between them. This reminded Anna too much of her father, and it took her a little while to overcome old habits and confront Logan about it. I loved that conversation, especially the threat of the frying to the head. But that talk helped get back some of their ease together. By that time, Anna was also feeling the attraction. She didn't want to scare him away by making him think she wanted to change things emotionally, so she convinced herself and him that they could keep it just physical.

Of course, that doesn't last. Both of them discover that their feelings have indeed gotten involved, but neither is willing to admit it to the other. Logan is afraid of following in his father's footsteps, and not being the man that Anna needs. I loved seeing him falling deeper in love with Anna and struggling to figure out how to let her know what he needs. I loved his romantic gestures, though he didn't necessarily see them that way. His design of the baby's nursery was a prime example of just how well he understood her. Anna knew that she had fallen for Logan, but she was afraid of driving him away if he knew that she loved him. I really liked the way that she learned how to get him talking when something was bothering him.

A crisis came when his grandfather had a heart attack at the same time that Anna went into labor. Logan was so torn up about the right thing to do that he almost made the wrong decision. I loved seeing his thought processes as he struggled with his options. Once the baby was born, both Logan and Anna had to face their fears in order to get the life they both wanted. Logan especially had a lot to face, and I loved seeing him finally open himself up completely to Anna. The epilogue was especially sweet, and I loved the description of Logan's grandfather with the baby.

The story was very emotional and had me in tears in several places. There were also some pretty funny scenes, my favorite being the discussion between Gavin and Logan regarding the "rules" of Logan and Anna's marriage. It was fun to see the things that Gavin said come to pass and seeing Logan try to handle them.

The Cowboy's Valentine - Donna Alward (HAR #1535 - Feb 2015)

Series: Crooked Valley Ranch (Book 2)

HEART OF A COWBOY

Coming home is hard enough without ranch manager Quinn Solomon making Lacey Duggan feel like an unwanted guest. She's only here until she figures out what to do with her one-third ownership of Crooked Valley. But Quinn's irresistible daughter is giving Lacey ideas about being part of a family. And though they don't even like each other, Lacey's having crazier notions about the widowed single dad.

Does Lacey think she can waltz in and turn Quinn's life upside down…only to leave again? The pretty accountant knows nothing about running a ranch, yet she's making the Montana homestead feel like a home. Quinn isn't looking for love again. Until a woman who's all heart and a determined little girl help one lovestruck cowboy see the light.

Very good story. Lacey has returned to Crooked Valley Ranch to try to get her life back together. She lost her job because of budget cuts and her husband to divorce. She's part owner of the ranch, but she really doesn't want anything to do with it. She'd be just as happy if they sold it, but her older brother has married and settled there and wants to try to make a go of it. To fulfill her grandfather's terms of the will, she and both her brothers must agree and also spend time on the ranch. Ranch manager Quinn has made no secret of the fact that he thinks she is selfish in her intentions about the ranch.

Quinn is a widowed father of a four year old girl. His daughter and his job are the most important things in his life. He's still dealing with his grief and trying to make a stable home for Amber. Having Lacey around is stirring up feelings he's not ready for.

Quinn and Lacey strike sparks from each other from the beginning. Though they claim they don't like each other, it's pretty obvious that there's a strong attraction and that their antagonism is more a way to resist it. When a fire at his house has Quinn and Amber moving into the ranch house with Lacey those barriers start to crumble. First it was little Amber making Lacey feel like she was part of a family and Quinn's antagonism fading away as they got to know each other. I loved all the little things they did together. Quinn has been mourning his late wife for a long time, but he starts to get the sense that he's ready to move on. He didn't expect it to be Lacey that brought him to that point. 

Lacey had come to the ranch expecting to only stay for awhile, until she got a new job and could leave. She doesn't want to be tied to the ranch. But the longer she stays, the more comfortable she is there. She also finds ways to satisfy her need to work. But she has some deep seated issues that prevent her from seeing any way that something can come of the attraction between her and Quinn. I liked the way that they eventually sat down and discussed what was happening between them, but got a bit frustrated with Lacey's fixation on her problem. It was great to see Quinn's feelings stay strong and true even as she was trying to push him away "for his own good". I liked that he didn't push her, but tried to give her the time she needed to see the truth. I liked how her friend showed her how she was expecting trouble where there didn't need to be. There was no miracle at the end to fix everything, just an admission that it was something that they would have to deal with, but if they were together they could do it. The end was really sweet and romantic.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Husband in Wyoming - Lynette Kent (HAR #1567 - Oct 2015)

Series: Marshall Brothers (Book 2)

Cowboy Confidential

Dylan Marshall is a man of many secrets, and journalist Jess Granger is determined to uncover them all. First, why did he suddenly abandon his promising art career? And why, after a two-year hiatus, did he agree to a new exhibit of his work? Most of all, how is it that Dylan can make a city girl like Jess imagine staying at the Circle M forever?

Jess is so busy working on the handsome rancher's defenses that she doesn't realize he is quietly eroding her own. She came looking for a story that would save her job and do justice to Dylan's sculptures. But when it comes to Dylan, Jess discovers that the real story might be about finding her true home.

Good book. Jess is a reporter with a fancy art magazine who has come to Bison Creek to interview Dylan Marshall. He had been an up and coming artist of abstract sculptures when he suddenly left the art world and all but disappeared. After two years away, he has a new exhibit scheduled and Jess's bosses want to know all the whys.

Dylan isn't looking forward to the interview at all. He knows the reporter is going to be digging for things that he really doesn't want to talk about. Since it is a condition of the show, he can't avoid the interview, but he can sure try to limit what he shares. 

I liked Jess. Even though she came across as a bit snooty at the beginning, I quickly warmed up to her. Her own experiences as a foster kid made her relate really well to the teens that the Marshalls are mentoring. I liked her determination to find out more about Dylan, and her article when she wrote it was perfect. Because of her past she doesn't believe that relationships last. She also has some other things going on that make her believe that anything that happens between them has no future.

I liked seeing the relationship that grew between Jess and Dylan. Both had quite an effect on the other. Jess's city attitude undergoes quite a change as she learns more about Dylan and the man and artist he is now. She's always protected her heart and emotions, but Dylan and everyone else at the ranch are breaking down her barriers. I loved seeing the way she went from not believing in his new direction to seeing the beauty in it. She also saw more clearly than any of the others what his art meant to him. Dylan has been protecting his own heart since he came home. His family and the ranch are his refuge and the core of his strength. Since committing to doing the art show he has been stretched thin with working on his sculptures and the ranch. Jess's presence is another layer, but it is soon one that he enjoys. As he introduces her to his life on the ranch he starts to dream of more with her.

A crisis on the ranch with the teens they are mentoring also brings Dylan's conflicts to the surface. As he decides to give up his art in order concentrate on the ranch, Jess stands up for him and his art and faces down his family. I loved what she said and the way it gave him the courage to tell his family what he needs. It was great to see Dylan finally get the support that he needs. But in spite of everything that he and Jess have together, she still feels that she isn't what he needs and goes back to New York. I loved seeing the way that each of them dealt with their separation and how eventually they found their way back together. I loved seeing Jess's return to Wyoming and the decisions she had made about her life. I also loved seeing Dylan's show and the reactions to his art. A very satisfying ending to the book. I'm looking forward to reading about the other two unattached brothers.

I liked the secondary story of the ranch helping the troubled teens. Each one had a personality of their own and their individual issues. I liked the scenes with Dylan and Jess interacting with them, and how it showed another side of their own personalities. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Stranded with the Boss - Elizabeth Lane (HD #2402 - Oct 2015)

Series: Billionaires and Babies (Book 62)

A single mom -- and her twin babies! -- are snowbound with the boss. Can they melt his frozen heart?

When Tessa Randall sues CEO Dragan Markovic's company for unfair termination, he insists on hearing her side of the story. But the billionaire known as The Dragon gets more than he bargained for when he's stranded at his snowy Alaskan lodge with Tessa and her twin toddlers. Now the flame-haired beauty wants to uncover his story. How can he tell her that her children remind him of his harrowing past and all that he lost? Or that the sweet family of three is slowly melting The Dragon's frozen heart…

Good book. When Tessa's pregnancy resulted in the loss of her job, she was left with no income and no insurance. With a mountain of bills resulting from her high risk pregnancy and the certainty that her firing had been unfair at the least, Tessa felt she had no option but to sue the company. Her lawyer wants more than just a quiet settlement, she thinks the company should be made an example of, so the case will be going to trial.

Dragan has worked hard to build the company and prides himself on running a good business. He wants to know if this is a case of someone out for all she can get, or if she really was wronged. Since their lawyers won't let him talk to her directly he comes up with a plan to get her to himself for a few hours so that he can get her side of the story. He doesn't expect her to have her twin girls with her, or that a malfunction with his plane will strand them for several days at his remote Alaskan lodge. 

Overall, I liked Dragan. He really just wants a chance to get at the truth without a bunch of legal wrangling. He's a little cynical about peoples' motives, but that's not too surprising considering the world the way that it is. He does have a reputation of being cold and emotionless, and that's easy to see in his first reactions to the twins, though he certainly isn't cold when it comes to Tessa. He's attracted to her from the moment he sees her, even though he knows it would be a bad idea to act on it.

I liked Tessa also. She hasn't had an easy time of it, and all she really wants is justice. When she's offered a lift in the good looking stranger's plane, she's cautious but she needs to make it to her destination in time for the trial. She's attracted to him, but his less than pleasant attitude about her children puts her off. It isn't until partway through the flight that she recognizes her "savior" and then she's furious. She believes that he's kidnapped her to keep her away from the trial.

When the plane trouble happens, they call a truce. Tessa knows that their lives depend on his skills. Once they are safely down, they have to find a way to coexist until they are rescued. I really liked seeing the way that their close proximity slowly brought down their barriers. The attraction and passion between them was great, but even more I liked the way that they were able to share their pasts. My favorite thing was seeing Dragan become more comfortable around the children. He had been a teen growing up in Sarajevo during the war, and the things that he experienced had caused him to avoid getting close to anyone ever since. It was fun to see the way that the little girls started to melt the ice around his heart. I also liked seeing how Tessa's attitude toward him softened the more she learned about him. She still had a few instances of questioning his motives, but for the most part she really came to trust him. When one of the girls gets sick, Dragan's fear of history repeating itself is hard to see, but he handles it all well. It isn't until rescue comes and they have to part that he realizes just how big a change they have brought to his life. The question becomes if there is anything he can do to make that change permanent.

I loved the conclusion and how Dragan took what he knew about Tessa and looked into what really happened. I was not surprised by what he found out. I had my doubts about Tessa's lawyer until the very end, but what she did really redeemed her in my eyes. I loved his big moment at the end and how he convinced Tessa of his feelings. The epilogue was fantastic.

The Good Girl's Second Chance - Christine Rimmer (HSE #2431 - Oct 2015)

Series: Bravos of Justice Creek (Book 2)
           Bravo Family Ties (Book 44)

The Littlest Matchmaker Of Them All…

Quinn Bravo is a committed single dad -- emphasis on single. The millionaire bachelor is focused on his four-year-old daughter and his fitness business. So while he's intrigued by his beautiful new interior decorator, Quinn resolves to keep the chemistry at a simmer. Until one night together causes their attraction to burst into flame…

After her ex-husband betrayed her, local good girl Chloe Winchester returned to Justice Creek, determined not to risk her heart again. Still, maybe she can live out some teenage fantasies with sexy Quinn while redecorating his house. But first Chloe will have to avoid falling for one adorable little girl and the man of her dreams!

Very good book. Quinn and Chloe knew each other as kids, but Quinn was the bad boy and Chloe the good girl. They were interested in each other as teens, but expectations and reputations kept them apart. Now both have moved back to Justice Creek.

Quinn has a four year old daughter and a growing fitness business. He's not looking for a relationship right now, but he's drawn to his beautiful neighbor. Chloe came back home after divorcing her cheating and abusive husband. She has her own interior design business that is also starting to grow. She's not in any hurry to risk her heart again.

Late one night, when neither can sleep, they meet in the darkness. There is an instant attraction and connection that they see no reason to fight. Though the original plan was for one night, neither wants to give up on whatever it is they have. Though their physical relationship has a quick and hot start, that's not all they have together. I loved seeing the way that they talk together often and have shared pieces of their painful pasts with each other. 

Quinn quickly realizes that he wants Chloe in his life permanently. He proposes marriage, then gives Chloe the time she needs to be sure of what she wants. Quinn is very protective of those he cares about, and when he discovers that Chloe is having issues with her ex, he wants to help. Chloe knows that she's fallen for Quinn and wants to be with him. But it has taken time for her to get her life together after her divorce, and to find her independence. When she was younger she had allowed her mother to have a lot of negative influence on her life and she's working to overcome that. When she starts getting creepy messages from her ex, she is determined to deal with it herself.

This causes some conflict between Quinn and Chloe. He wants to protect her and care for her, and he is extremely frustrated by her refusal to allow him to help. I could understand, because he was worried about her safety. I had a great deal of respect for Quinn, because though he didn't like it, he promised Chloe to stay out of it. There's still a part of Chloe that blames herself for her problems with Ted, and that part is determined to solve her problems herself, without leaning on Quinn. I liked seeing the way that she was confident enough in Quinn to ask him to honor her wishes. She knew what she was doing bothered him, but she really felt that she wouldn't deserve Quinn if she didn't take care of it herself. The ending was intense, but both Chloe and Quinn came through with flying colors.

I really enjoyed the secondary characters also. Quinn's daughter was a real sweetheart. Quinn's love for her was obvious and I loved seeing how he could be soft and tough with her at the same time. His worries about her are one of the things that brought he and Chloe together. Chloe fell for Annabelle almost as fast as she fell for Quinn. I really liked the way they connected over the fairy dress that Annabelle wanted. I liked Quinn's friend/helper Mannie and his part in pushing Quinn and Chloe together. It wasn't very subtle, but it was effective. I also liked seeing more of Quinn's family, especially his sister Nell. The face off she had with Chloe was pretty amusing, but it really showed the love and support that the Bravo family has for each other. The only character I didn't like (besides Ted) was Chloe's mother. She was a real piece of work and I hated the way she talked to Chloe. I loved seeing Chloe stand up to her and stand her ground. She redeemed herself a little bit at the end, so I hope she continues to improve.

*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Black Canyon Conspiracy - Cindi Myers (HI #1590 - Sept 2015)

Series: Ranger Brigade (Book 4)

He'd rescued a beautiful hostage, now he needed to keep her alive

Former Special Forces soldier Marco Cruz has no time for messy emotions. But the beautiful TV reporter he saved from a hostage ordeal now faces graver danger. Someone wants Lauren Starling dead -- and the sinfully handsome Ranger wants to be the one to protect her.

Teaming up to find a killer and bring Lauren's kidnapper to justice, Marco and Lauren go on the run -- outside the law -- in a harrowing race for their lives. Before long, Marco begins to have unfamiliar feelings for Lauren -- admiration, sympathy…and a powerful lust. He knows what's going on between them is unprofessional. But also undeniable.

Excellent conclusion to the series. Lauren is the reporter who had gone missing in the first book, and who was rescued at the end of Colorado Bodyguard. She is determined to see the man responsible brought to justice, but he is rich and powerful and very good at evading consequences for his actions.

Marco is one member of the Ranger Brigade and the one who helped rescue Lauren. He has spent years burying his emotions in order to do his job, but something about Lauren has those feelings reappearing. When it becomes apparent that someone wants her dead, Marco is the one determined to protect her.

Throughout the previous books, all clues led to Richard Prentice being the mastermind behind the crime wave in the area, but hard evidence was impossible to find. Even after Lauren's rescue he was able to sway public opinion against her. His diatribes against the government in general and the Ranger Brigade in particular end up getting the task force disbanded. But being the good guys that they are, the whole crew and their ladies refuse to go down without a fight. Taking the investigation private they come up with an unorthodox plan. Lauren and Marco will beard Richard in his own home and attempt to find the proof that they need. What happens then sends Lauren and Marco out into the wilderness on their own, trying to evade capture. They stumble upon something so unexpected and frightening that they realize they are the only ones who can prevent a huge disaster. I loved their creativity and resourcefulness as, working together, they are finally able to bring an end to Richard's delusions. The entire last third of the book had me on the edge of my seat as I wondered how they would get out of one crisis after another. The final confrontation was intense and scarily realistic in today's world.

I loved the relationship that grew between Marco and Lauren. Lauren has had an especially rough time lately, and recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder is finally getting her life back on track. She is dealing with the stigma of mental illness, which makes her reluctant to believe that someone like Marco could ever be interested in her. I loved the way that Marco not only didn't look down on her, he admired her strength and her courage and made sure she knew it. He had his own insecurities, thanks to his youth in gang ridden LA and his later activities in the Special Forces. He was sure that Lauren could do much better than someone like him. I loved the ending as they confessed their feelings for each other, but also accepted the truth that their lives together would probably never be easy, but if they were together it would all be worth it.

Colorado Bodyguard - Cindi Myers (HI #1586 - Aug 2015)

Series: Ranger Brigade (Book 3)

The rugged terrain of Colorado wouldn't make their mission easy. Nor would the attraction between them.

Sophie Montgomery's sister was missing and her trail stopped dead in the Black Canyon -- which was firmly in Rand Knightbridge's jurisdiction. Part of the Ranger Brigade, he could lead Sophie on a search deep into this remote part of Colorado. Although afraid to disappoint the desperate beauty, Rand couldn't ignore her determination. But it was clear she needed protecting after shots rang out and Sophie barely escaped with her life. Now, as the job he'd reluctantly agreed to became a very personal mission, Rand knew he'd do anything to bring Sophie's sister home. Because seeing Sophie happy was the only outcome he'd allow. Or accept.

Good addition to the series. Sophie has come to Colorado to search for her sister, reporter Lauren Starling, who has been missing for more than a month. She goes to the team at the Ranger Brigade to find out what progress has been made with the search and isn't happy with what she finds out. When she states her intention to start investigating on her own, Rand steps in to try to stop her. Instead, he finds himself wanting to help her.

Sophie has found some clues that give the team some more things to look at, including their number one suspect in most of their troubles. After she drags Rand along on an interview with Richard Prentice, the two of them find themselves dodging bullets later that evening. Then Sophie's room at her hotel was broken into and her things destroyed. It's obvious that someone doesn't like what she's doing and Rand is determined to keep her safe.

Rand is attracted to Sophie, her beauty and her love and loyalty to her sister. I loved seeing how protective he became of her and how quickly he started to believe in her conviction that Lauren was still alive. I also liked seeing how sensitive he was to her fears and worked to overcome them. Sophie was also attracted to Rand, but she had a hard time believing that he was really interested in her. Even though she is older than her sister, she feels that she doesn't measure up to her in beauty and appeal. I liked seeing the growth of the feelings between them and how Rand's love gave Sophie the confidence to believe in him.

The suspense and action of the story was good and kept a good pace through the book. Each new piece of information brought them a little closer to finding out what happened to Lauren. There were also more things that linked to Richard Prentice, but never the proof that they really needed. There were several times when things got really intense, such as when Sophie sneaked into Richard Prentice's house to look for her sister and again when she and Rand were trapped in the mine. The conclusion was exciting, with one more mystery solved, but one part still hanging fire. I'm looking forward to seeing how it finishes.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Lawman Protection - Cindi Myers (HI #1578 - July 2015)

Series: Ranger Brigade (Book 2)

One lawman is determined to keep his enemies close…and an innocent woman even closer…

A killer lurked in the Colorado wilderness, and now Captain Graham Ellison had some reporter sniffing around the crime scene. And not only did Emma Wade know the victim, she never dropped an investigation once she started it. But all Graham saw was an independent streak that would get the gorgeous redhead killed. As much as he didn't like allowing a civilian access to his case, he needed to keep Emma close if he also hoped to keep her alive. And he very much did. After all, she was an innocent victim who needed his protection. Nothing more. Or so he kept telling himself.

Very good book that kept me hooked from the very beginning. Graham is the head of a task force that is investigating crime in and around Colorado park lands. When the book opens, he is unwillingly giving a press conference, at which Emma is one of the members of the press. She confronts him about a woman that has gone missing and that law enforcement doesn't seem to be making an progress in finding.

Graham detests the press because of their habit of stirring things up. He's not happy with Emma's questioning of their dedication. He makes it clear to her that they have done what they can, but that they also have other cases they are working on. Emma doesn't give up once she's started investigating a story and Graham agrees to meet with her and talk. Something that he finds immensely frustrating is that he is also very attracted to the beautiful reporter.

Emma is someone who is very independent and very driven. She doesn't let anything get in her way when she is on the trail of a story, and that includes attractive FBI agents. She finds him extremely appealing, but also very frustrating when he tries to warn her off her investigation,

Emma and Graham realize that she might be onto something when someone takes shots at them while they are out to dinner, and then arrive at her home to discover that someone has broken in and stolen her research files. Graham's protectiveness kicks in and he takes her to his house that night to keep her safe. Their mutual attraction starts making itself felt almost immediately. But that attraction doesn't lessen their conflicts over her investigation, and a story she writes brings their differences back front and center.

The attraction between Graham and Emma is fierce and impossible to resist. I loved seeing how they admitted it and accepted it. Their first time together was incredible. One of the things I liked best about them as a couple was that they accepted each other as they were. Emma is not a petite twig and has accepted and embraced the body that she has. Graham is a tall and muscular man himself and appreciates Emma's curves. Emma likes being with a man that she doesn't intimidate.

Their first encounter comes to an abrupt end when someone sets her house on fire with them still in it. At this point, both Emma and Graham are determined to find out who is behind the attacks and why, but they have some trouble agreeing on how to accomplish it. Graham worries about Emma's safety, and finds the best way to keep her safe is to keep her with him, even while doing investigations. Emma tries to maintain her independence and works some investigative angles of her own, one of which gets her kidnapped. I loved seeing how Graham and his team found her, and the rescue itself was really intense. Graham and Emma have to learn how to reconcile his protectiveness and her independence to make their relationship work.

The suspense of the story, as the task force continues to try to identify who is behind the crime wave, builds in intensity throughout the book. From the death of a pilot and the identification of his missing cargo, they discover that they may be dealing with more than drugs and trafficking. Emma's linking of the missing woman to their chief suspect may be the motivation behind the attacks on her, but finding the proof they need continues to be a problem. The culmination of this book was intense, with part of the mystery solved, but another part still unresolved. I'm looking forward to the other books and seeing how it all ends.


The Marriage Season - Linda Lael Miller (HQN - June 2015)

Series: Brides of Bliss County (Book 3)

Since Hadleigh, Melody and Bex -- the best of best friends -- entered into a marriage pact, two of them have found (and married) the men of their hearts. But Bex doesn't think she'll be as fortunate as the others. Her own first love died years ago in a faraway war, and Bex has lost hope for a happy marriage of her own. She concentrates on her business, a successful chain of fitness clubs, instead.

Then, when single father Tate Calder comes to Mustang Creek with his two sons in tow, who befriend Bex's eight-year-old nephew, she and the handsome, aloof newcomer are constantly thrown together. But is the marriage season over? Or can a man with doubts about love be the right husband for a woman who wants it all?

Loved this book. Bex is the last of their trio of friends who is unmarried. She is somewhat envious of her friends, who have found their true loves and have babies on the way. When she meets Tate, there's a definite attraction between them, but she's not sure if she's ready for more. Bex had been blissfully in love years before, but the man she loved was killed in the war. She doesn't know if she wants to risk her heart again.

Tate has moved to Mustang Creek with his two young sons, ready to start a new business and get on with his life. His marriage hadn't been a good one, and after his wife's death he's ready for a fresh start. He doesn't plan to start any new relationships in the near future, just concentrate on his kids and his business. That's before he meets Bex, and can't get her off his mind.

I really liked the way they were initially brought together by the matchmaking efforts of her two friends. Bex knows what they're doing and that she can't stop them, so she just goes with the flow. As the book starts, they are brought together again by something much different. Bex ends up caring for her nephew while her sister tries to get her life together. Josh is a great kid and loves being with his aunt any time he can. Tate plans to take his boys on a fishing trip and invites Bex and Josh along. Tate and Bex connect quickly, and their attraction deepens. 

I loved seeing Tate and Bex together. They manage some time alone, giving them a chance to share their pasts and their fears. But most of their time together includes the three boys. I loved seeing them settle in to their relationship, with all the little things that entails. It was wonderful to see how Tate's steadiness helped Bex deal with the stresses of her sister's problems. Bex returned the favor by helping Tate get through the involvement of his father and another investor in his business. There's very little conflict in the relationship, just their need to deal with their own demons before being able to move on.

I loved the way that Tate gives Bex the space and time she needs to work through things, and that once she does, Bex is fully committed. I loved the fact that both had been honest about their feelings on marriage, but wasn't surprised when those feelings began to change. Tate admits those feelings to himself first, but doesn't know what he's going to be able to do about it. I loved seeing the way got around her fear. The ending was sweet and romantic and perfect for Tate and Bex.

I loved the theme of friendship that was as present in this book as in the previous two. Hadleigh and Melody are there for Bex during her rough times, just as she was there for them. I liked that that same friendship extended to the men in their lives. Those same men didn't hesitate to step up and be there for Bex when she needed help with her sister's situation.

I also loved the small town of Mustang Creek, where everyone knows everyone else and their business. There were the caring bits, such as the conversation between Bex and the school secretary about Josh. And there were the truly funny parts, such as the comment from a teacher regarding Tate and the upcoming fishing trip: "I suggest a tranquilizer gun. For you." There was also the older lady who becomes one of Tate's investors, along with his father, and the things that took place with them. I loved the twist that involved them at the end of the book.