Monday, November 30, 2015

Her Holiday Rancher - Cathy McDavid (HAR #1571 - Nov 2015)

Series: Mustang Valley (Book 5)

A COWBOY FOR ALL SEASONS

Four generations of Dempseys have struggled to turn the Dos Estrellas ranch into a successful cattle operation. Gabe Dempsey vows to keep the dream alive, even if he has to share ownership with two half-brothers, who are virtual strangers. They are also pressuring him to sell -- which will happen over his dead body. Luckily, Reese McGraw is the trustee of his father's estate, and she's on Gabe's side. For now.

Reese is happy to support Gabe in his fight to keep the ranch -- but is her support a conflict of interest? His brothers seem to think so. Gabe and Reese's growing feelings for each other are a problem, too. But maybe it's one that will be solved by the magic of Christmas!

Good book. Gabe has been helping his father run the ranch for a long time. His father's recent death has thrown everything into turmoil. Though his father had promised to leave the ranch to him, the reading of the will shows a change. Instead, he and his two legitimate half-brothers share ownership of the ranch. Reese McGraw, daughter of his father's longtime enemy, is the will's trustee. Gabe is determined to keep the ranch. It isn't going to be easy - the ranch is deeply in debt. Plus, he has to share decision-making with his brothers and Reece. To make things even more complicated, he's attracted to Reece, which puts stress on their working relationship.

For the most part, I liked Gabe. He's a hard worker, determined to get the ranch back on solid ground. He loves his mother and is protective of her. He also has the respect of the people who work for him. However, he also has quite a chip on his shoulder when it comes to his two half brothers. He seems to resent their very existence, not just the fact that they share the ownership of the ranch. He is not blameless in the tension that exists between them, as he doesn't even try to hide it. When it comes to Reece, he knows he should keep his distance. Unfortunately for him, the attraction is just too strong. The problem comes when he has trouble separating their personal relationship and their business one, taking it as a betrayal when she doesn't always side with him. One of his driving goals is to gain the ranch for himself so that he feels he "deserves" a chance for a future with her. 

I liked Reece a lot. She's made mistakes in some of her life's choices, but has done her best to overcome them. At this time she has returned to Mustang Valley to live, after twelve years away, because her father needs her help. Working at the bank is part of the career she loves, but being made trustee for the Dempsey will is awkward. She expects that Gabe isn't going to be happy about it, and she's right. What she doesn't expect is the attraction between them and the strain it puts on their business relationship. The back and forth of their relationship was a bit frustrating to see, especially when Gabe seems to think that she should always be on "his" side, despite it being her job to look out for the best interests of the ranch. It took some work, but they finally were able to find a compromise that makes a future possible.

I liked seeing how the various characters slowly began to adjust to the reality of sharing responsibility for the ranch. Gabe eventually had to admit that his brothers weren't as useless as he'd wanted to believe. Josh and Cole began to get more invested in making their partnership work. Josh because he needed a stable home to bring his kids to once he gains custody, and Cole because he wants to support Josh. I liked seeing them start to cooperate, and the purchase of the steers seemed to be a step in the right direction. When trouble came with it, it was hard to tell if it was going to destroy the ranch completely, or if they would really start to work together. What happened was something of a surprise, but it shows great promise for the future of the ranch.

The Daring Twin - Donna Fletcher (Avon - July 2005)

Series: Twin (Book 1)

Two of a kind ...

Fiery Fiona MacElder will not marry a man she does not love. Her laird will just have to find another way to merge two powerful Highland clans. Luckily, her identical twin sister shares her outrage. So when the bold warrior Tarr of Hellewyk arrives to claim Fiona as his bride, the sisters stand united, each refusing to divulge the other's true identity.

No battlefield has offered a more daunting challenge than the one Tarr now faces: two stubborn, secretive Scottish beauties and only one who can share his marriage bed. The only solution is to take both home with him until he determines which is his rightful bride. As Fiona's desire grows for this powerful, passionate man she has sworn never to wed, Tarr wonders if the twin he aches for is truly his intended. And in the face of a sensuous deception -- and a dire threat from an unexpected enemy -- will a yearning, loving heart show the way?

Good book with a marriage arrangement that doesn't go quite as planned. Fiona and her sister Aliss are identical twins. When their cousin and laird arranges a marriage between Fiona and another laird, she is furious. She only wants to marry a man she loves and who loves her in return. Aliss is equally outraged, even though she has no plans to marry either. So they decide that they will play up their twinness and refuses to identify which twin is which.

Tarr has chosen Fiona because of her reputation. He wants a wife who is equal to him in strength and courage. He doesn't believe that love has anything to do with marriage. He's not happy over their deception and takes both of them home with him until he can discover which one is Fiona. It turns out to be a bigger challenge than Tarr expected.

The attempts that Fiona and Aliss made to keep Tarr guessing were fantastic. Even though the two women really had different personalities, they were very good at portraying each other. I loved seeing how easily they could slide from one to the other and back again. His frustration at not being able to tell the difference was obvious, especially when he developed an attraction to one of them. He thought it was Fiona, but he couldn't be sure and it made him crazy. Fiona fought her feelings for him because he was clear that his feelings don't involved love. As they got to know each other the feelings got stronger. It was really fun to see Tarr fall without realizing that's what he was doing, though the people around him could see it easily enough. 

When the twins' identities were finally revealed, Tarr still had to find a way to convince Fiona to marry him. He was still fighting the idea of love, though he began to suspect that those were indeed his feelings. I really enjoyed seeing the way they got to know each other and discovered just how compatible they were. I especially enjoyed seeing Tarr accept Fiona's abilities and include her, though sometimes under protest, in the plans he made. The attraction between them is really strong and I loved how giving in to it helped bring them closer. I wanted to shake Fiona a few times because of the way she resisted accepting the truth of his feelings once he figured them out. The way he explained things was really pretty sweet for a rough and tough warrior like him. It takes some straight talk from her sister and another to make her realize that it has been her own fears holding her back. I loved seeing them finally come together in full acceptance of their feelings and the realization that their love makes them stronger. 

There were also some secondary storylines that complicated their lives. On the journey to Tarr's home they were attacked by members of a clan with whom Tarr has an ongoing disagreement over some land. Their leader is injured and captured, then cared for by Aliss. From the very beginning Raynor is able to tell the two women apart, though he doesn't let on to Tarr. Raynor's story adds an interesting twist to the book, as they discover that he has a very personal interest in the twins. What he has to tell them explains part of their background, but opens up new questions, and shows that they are in danger, though they do not know why. Fiona is taken, and though she is rescued, there are still unanswered questions. 

There had been an attack from another enemy, one who seems to have a link to the mystery surrounding the twins. There is talk of confronting this man, but it hasn't been done by the end of the book. I expect that the second book in the duet will answer the questions that have been left hanging.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kansas City Confessions - Julie Miller (HI #1606 - Dec 2015)

Series: Precinct: Cold Case (Book 3)
           Precinct (Book 26)

Keeping secrets close…and an enemy closer…

His protection instincts on high alert, KCPD detective Trent Dixon knew something was wrong with Katie Rinaldi. The special investigator had obviously uncovered a dangerous piece of evidence while looking into a cold case. So dangerous, in fact, that the single mother's life was now in jeopardy. But as much as Trent told himself he was keeping tabs on Katie and her young son as part of his job, he couldn't ignore the very real feelings he had for her. Still, as a professional, he was bound to the badge and would give Katie all the security she deserved. And not give in to the attraction he was having trouble containing…

Very good book and conclusion to the Cold Case series of books. Katie and Trent are both members of the Cold Case unit at KCPD. They are also old friends, having known each other since they were in high school. Katie and her young son are members of a local theater group where Tyler is playing the part of Tiny Tim and Katie does the costumes. When she isn't needed she uses the time to do some of her cold case research for work.

At the beginning of the story Katie, who is a genius on the computer, has uncovered what appears to be some links between several cold cases. That night, at the theater, some strange things happen that make her feel threatened. Scared, she calls Trent, but then tells him not to worry she was actually okay. Trent, unconvinced, shows up at the theater, but Katie and Tyler are already gone. He notices some things that are suspicious, and also rescues an abandoned dog.

The next day at work Trent tries to get Katie to tell him what happened, but she insists that she was panicking over nothing. In the meantime, Katie fills in the rest of the team on what she has found. It is looking more and more like the links they have found may lead to a mob boss they have been trying to nail for a long time.

The relationship between Katie and Trent is one of friendship, by Katie's insistence. As a kid she and her mother suffered from her father's physical and mental abuse, then she saw her father murder her mother. She has always felt responsible for that happening. Then in high school she got pregnant, was kidnapped by someone who wanted to steal her baby to sell it, and lost a good friend to the same man. She and Tyler were rescued, and she has been determined to make better choices in her life ever since. She also has a hard time trusting other people, especially men. Trent's friendship has meant a lot to her and to Tyler, so she refuses to take a chance on ruining that friendship with anything else. Trent has been in love with Katie for years. He wants nothing more than to marry her and become Tyler's father, but Katie won't take a chance on them. So he takes her friendship and tries to make the best of it.

As the danger to Katie and Tyler increases, Trent's protective instincts overpower his attempts to follow Katie's rules. I loved seeing him pull them closer to him and overcome Katie's objections. I also loved the way that he gave in to his need to kiss her, and how that one kiss started changing the way Katie looked at him. She had forced herself to keep him in the "friend zone", but that kiss has really opened her eyes to the man he has become. It was fun to see how she was suddenly noticing his physical attributes and how sexy he was. Unfortunately, her fears still have her resisting what her heart really wants. I really liked how Trent's patience and persistence finally started to break down the walls around her heart. But it isn't until she thinks she'll never see him again that she can admit to herself how much she has always loved him.

I loved following Katie and the team as they worked their way through the information she uncovered. The events of the previous two books are included in this one as they are finally able to link the crimes together and to the man behind them. It was fascinating to see the connections uncovered and how each one led to another. The escalation of the threats against Katie kept the intensity high. Though it was pretty obvious who the man behind it all was, it was the people in between that kept me guessing. The final confrontation was fantastic. I especially loved how Katie kept her head and used her skills to help the team find her at the same time she kept the bad guy focused on what he had her doing. The arrival of the team came at just the right time and how it all worked out was perfect. I loved seeing the bad guy's final plan thwarted.

The last chapter was the perfect wrapup to the trilogy. As always, I loved the way characters from previous books are an integral part of the story, not just tossed in as filler. The support they always give each other, both professionally and personally, makes their relationships seem that much more real. I love some of the conversations between Trent and Max. The ending was really sweet as the whole team comes to see Tyler in the play, and Tyler gets his biggest Christmas wish.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Prince's Christmas Vow - Jennifer Faye (HR #4498 - Nov 2015)

Series: Twin Princes of Mirraccino (Book 2)

Secretly married…to a prince!

Zoe Sarris hasn't seen Crown Prince Demetrius Castanavo since their secret elopement. So she's shocked when he requests her interior design services. She's only just pieced her broken heart back together, and seeing Demetrius -- as gorgeous and guarded as ever -- threatens to shatter it all over again…

However, the shocking news that they are actually still married changes everything. Especially when Demetrius reveals he wants his princess back…preferably in time for Christmas!

Sweet story of second chances. Zoe and Demetrius had met and married more than a year ago. At the time, Demetrius was a playboy prince, interested in having fun. He had fallen hard for Zoe, who was also fun-loving, but who also had some stress going on in her life. They had eloped, marrying in secret, but when he took Zoe home with him things fell apart.

Demetrius was reprimanded for his wild ways and told that he needed to change his ways. Zoe was already panicking because he was a prince, but when she got bad news about her mother she realized that she was not the kind of woman Demetrius needed in his life. She left him with just a note saying it couldn't work. Annulment papers were sent to her, but they were never returned.

Demetrius coped by turning his life around and becoming serious and focused, trying to stay busy enough to keep Zoe out of his mind. He is currently working on a special project, turning an incredible old building into an assisted living facility. The only person he can think of that would do justice to the interiors is Zoe, so he hires her for the project. But he does have an ulterior motive. He needs to get those papers and move on with his life.

Zoe is stunned by the job offer, but desperately needs it. She is the caregiver for her mother and needs the money she will earn to get her the care she needs. All she has to do is get the job done and protect her heart at the same time. She's horrified when she finds out that not only did Demetrius not receive the papers she signed, he thinks she is planning to use their marriage for blackmail or more money.

It doesn't take much time back in each other's company for them to realize that their feelings never went away. Demetrius becomes more determined to keep Zoe in his life, but she seems equally determined to end their marriage. I loved the way that Demetrius becomes more and more convinced that there is something that is keeping them apart, and that if he can discover what it is he can win Zoe back. Zoe is determined to keep it from him, because she doesn't want to burden him with her problems, especially one that she feels would stop their marriage in its tracks. 

I loved seeing the way that Demetrius took care of Zoe, protecting her from the paparazzi that worried her so much, and giving her a place on the palace grounds to live. His pride in her artistic ability was sweet to see. I also loved his gentle persistence in getting her to tell him about her mother, even though he had already figured out part of the issue. I was a bit frustrated with Zoe not telling him, as it was pretty obvious that it wouldn't have changed his feelings for her at all. Saving her from the sleazy reporter was one more indication of how important she was to him. The ending and Demetrius's big moment were very romantic. The epilogue was a great wrapup with the two brothers.

Pleasured - Candace Camp (Pocket - Mar 2015)

Series: Secrets of the Loch (Book 2)

Damon, the earl of Mardoun, is smitten the moment he meets Meg, the village healer -- but she rejects every advance from the earl, and will have none of him, even if he is the most handsome man she’s ever laid eyes on. But when unforeseen circumstances bring them together, her conviction begins to fade…

Damon’s daughter falls gravely ill, and distraught, he turns to Meg for help. During the course of nursing his beloved daughter back to health, Meg and Damon fall madly in love, but they both know an earl must wed a noble bride. And Meg will be no man’s mistress.

Good book. Meg is the local healer, from a family of women known for their healing abilities. They have also been known for their independence, and Meg is no different. She also looks out for the local people, and is furious over the things she sees happening. 

Damon is part English, part Scot, and has inherited Duncally. He has had an estate manager running things, but has recently arrived, along with his daughter, to spend some time on his property. He is recently widowed, and is taking the time to get to know his daughter again. The first time he sees Meg he is attracted to her, but she wants nothing to do with him, something he isn't accustomed to,

I had a little trouble warming up to Damon at the beginning. From the little that he had heard about Meg, he simply assumed that she would be amenable to his attentions. His first encounter with her had him finding out just how wrong he was. He has also left his estate in the hands of his manager, without paying any real attention to the man's methods, as long as the property was showing a profit. So he had a reputation of being a cold and cruel man who had no problem with throwing people out of their homes just to make room for more sheep. When confronted by Meg, he simply told her the land was his to do with what he wanted. The only redeeming factor I saw at the beginning was his obvious love for his daughter.

The relationship between Damon and Meg was an interesting one. It started out with the attraction that they both felt, but Meg is determined to resist. There's no use getting involved with a man so far above her, and who won't be staying around. I loved how she told him off when he assumed that she would be happy to sleep with him, and Damon's utter confusion over it. They have a couple of encounters where the attraction nearly overpowers her common sense. Plus, she can't reconcile the attraction with the reputation he has for the way he treats the people. She begins to suspect that the reputation is undeserved when he stops his manager from destroying a circle of standing stones, and again when she meets his daughter Lynette. 

When they finally give in to the passion between them, it is amazing for both of them. But Damon does something that makes Meg question his opinion of her, and she reacts quite strongly, putting them at odds yet again. When Meg witnesses another act of cruelty done in Damon's name, she is devastated by the idea that she could be attracted to a man like that. When she confronts him about it, he is at first defensive, but once he finds out the details he is stunned and horrified. I loved the actions that he took then. That began his transformation from the uncaring and oblivious English lord to one who wants to do what is right. But the damage has been done to their fledgling relationship, and Damon has to accept that she wants nothing to do with him.

Meanwhile, Meg has befriended Damon's daughter, Lynette, and they get along really well. Lynette had been overprotected and treated as frail by her mother. Damon's marriage had not been a happy one, and he had stayed away a lot, but that had kept him from getting to know his daughter. With his wife's death, they now have a chance to reconnect, and Damon's attention has caused Lynette's self confidence to bloom. Lynette has also come to love the time she spends with Meg. When Lynette gets really sick, Damon is terrified he'll lose her and begs Meg for her help. I loved seeing the two of them work together to take care of Lynette, and how that put them on the road to repairing their relationship. Once the crisis is past with Lynette, there's nothing else to distract them from the attraction that still burns between them. I loved seeing Damon trying to bury the feelings that are just growing stronger. Meg was also trying to fight her feelings, and finally decides that there is nothing wrong with living her life the way she wants to. As they spend time together taking care of Lynette, those feelings just get stronger.

They've settled into a comfortable pattern when unexpected guests arrive. The sister of Damon's late wife and two of her friends show up, with Violet claiming she wanted to see Lynette. Of course, it's obvious to everyone except Damon that she's really there to try to snag him for herself. There are some very interesting encounters before Damon sees the truth and puts his foot down. But in the meantime, Meg's insecurities reappear, reminding her of the gulf between her and Damon. The question becomes one of whether Damon can convince her that their love is enough to overcome the obstacles.

There has also been a thread running through this book and the previous one about a treasure rumored to be hidden in the area, A local man had brought back gold for the Jacobite rebellion fifty years earlier, but no one knows what happened to it. In the process of Meg trying to find out more about her grandmother, she and Damon discover a clue to the whereabouts of that treasure. During a rather hair raising adventure something of real interest is found, which leads into the next and final book in the trilogy.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Four Weddings and a Fireman - Jennifer Bernard (Avon - Feb 2014)

Series: Bachelor Firemen (Book 5)

It takes a certain kind of man to stand out among the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel.

Firefighter Derek "Vader" Brown is one of a kind -- six feet of solid muscle with the heart of a born hero. It's that protective streak that has him pursuing a promotion to Captain to pay for his mother's home care. And it's why he intends to figure out why his sometime girlfriend Cherie Harper runs hot as hellfire one minute and pushes him away the next.

Cherie's got it bad. Vader sweeps her off her feet -- literally -- and their chemistry is combustible. There's just the little problem of a nightmare from her past she was desperate to escape. And then her sister Trixie arrives, causing havoc for Cherie and the male population of San Gabriel. Cherie doesn't want her past to complicate Vader's life or his career. But there's nothing like a firefighter to break through all your defenses, one smoldering kiss at a time . . .

I've been waiting to read Vader's story and it was definitely worth the wait. In previous books, Vader has been the fun loving one, a bit of a clown, and frequently up to mischief. In this book, we discover that there is more to Vader than meets the eye.

Vader and his girlfriend Cherie have an on-again, off-again relationship. Vader is in love with her and wants her to marry him. Bu every time things start to get serious between them, Cherie pulls back. She tells him she cares, but she doesn't want marriage. He's really tempted to just end the relationship entirely out of frustration, but he can't picture his life without Cherie in it. Cherie is just as much in love with Vader, but she's got trouble in her past that she doesn't want to inflict on him. When her sister Trixie unexpectedly arrives in San Gabriel, that trouble isn't far behind.

I loved Vader. He's always been a fun character, and getting to know him better just made me love him more. Though he's always been the fun guy to his fellow firemen, he has another life that none of them know about. He has been responsible for his handicapped mother since he was fourteen and his father walked out on them. He hasn't told his friends about her because he doesn't want anyone looking at him with pity, but it also means that he has no backup when he needs help. I loved his relationship with his mom. It was loving, but also real, as he had to deal with her opinion of his girlfriend, her desire to see him married, and the complications of taking care of her. Add in his crazy relationship with Cherie and the last thing he needs is more to do. Then someone suggests that he try out for a promotion to Captain and he seriously considers it. It's going to take some serious study time, plus a revamping of his reputation, but it can be done. 

I liked Cherie, too. She's strong and independent, and has made something of herself. She grew up in rural Arkansas in a family of thirteen kids, with a seriously whacko father. She and her older brother made their escape, leaving trouble behind them, but always afraid that it would catch up with them. She hasn't told anyone about her past, even Vader. She shares her house with two friends of her brother's, musicians who feel that it is their job to protect Cherie from guys like Vader. Cherie has a tendency to mother them, but she also doesn't let them really interfere in her life. When her sister arrives, Cherie's life becomes even more chaotic, as she tries to keep Trixie out of trouble too.

The relationship between Vader and Cherie is complicated, mostly because of their unwillingness to share their secrets. Vader is so afraid of being pitied that he shuts out the very people who care the most for him. Likewise, if she would just share her past with Vader, she would discover that it isn't as dire as she believes, When a fire at his house brings his worlds crashing together, Vader discovers that far from being pitied, he is admired for his dedication. I loved seeing how it is Cherie that steps in to help Vader and his mother, and how helping them ends up helping her. It was sweet to see Vader's mom helping Cherie deal with her sister. When the truth about Cherie's past finally comes out, Vader is unhappy about not being told before, but his protectiveness and love for Cherie really come to the forefront. Once all the secrets are out, Vader and Cherie can finally look at that future they want together.

As always with the Firemen books, there are places that are laugh out loud funny and others that are truly heartwarming. I loved seeing Cherie teach Vader the tango, and the resulting steam. Some of the antics that Vader and his fellow firefighters get up to are hysterical, such as the episode with the firepole at the bar. Vader and Cherie try to deal with Trixie and the trouble she gets into, with mixed results. There were times when I wondered if she was really that naive, or if she was playing them for her own reasons. The ending was really good with an interesting twist involving their brother. I loved how Vader came through for everyone when trouble showed up, showing that he's much more capable than even he believed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Christmas Cowboy Duet - Marie Ferrarella (HAR #1527 - Dec 2014)

Series: Forever, Texas (Book 12)

Forever's Country Cowboy

His heroic rescue of a stranger caught in a flash flood just changed Liam Murphy's life -- big-time. With Whitney Marlowe's help, the laid-back country-and-western singer could be a star. Only now, with the dynamic LA talent scout stranded in his Texas town, during the holidays no less, Liam has another dream: a permanent duet!

The long, lean cowboy with the soulful eyes makes the most beautiful music Whitney has ever heard. Fate brought her to Forever, and the town embraced her, inviting her to help decorate the community's Christmas tree. Though reluctant to return home, she isn't leaving without her newest discovery. It's dangerous mixing business and pleasure! Together, can she and Liam find their forever after?

Good book. Whitney is an LA talent scout on the way to Laredo to audition a band for her family's record label. She looks at a map and decides to take a shortcut that ends up being anything but. She gets caught in a sudden thunderstorm that turns into a flash flood, sweeping her car away. If it hadn't been for Liam hearing her scream, she would have drowned.

What follows is pretty funny. Whitney is LA born and bred and has absolutely zero experience with small towns and their people. The flood has deposited her car up in a tree, and she watches in disbelief as Liam and his friends try to find a way to get it down. While that is going on, he decides she needs food and warmth and they head to Joan's diner, where she gets still more shocks. Joan being who she is, Whitney doesn't know how to react to the things she says and does. To cap it all off, her car will need repairs, the parts have to be ordered because no one in Forever drives those fancy foreign cars, and there's nowhere to rent a car so she can move on. Nor is there a hotel in town, other than the one under construction. Somehow Whitney finds herself sucked into life in Forever while she waits for her car to be ready. She's under some stress because she can't make it to Laredo to audition the band, news that her brother/boss doesn't take well. He's really obnoxious but Whitney does appear to stand up to him pretty well.

There's a strong attraction between Whitney and Liam from the moment they met. Liam is pretty laid back but there's something about Whitney that gets him wound up. I loved how he tried to take care of her, even arranging for her to stay in one of the few completed rooms in the hotel. He even drove back and forth outside the room to make some noise, because the total quiet freaked out the city girl in her. I loved seeing the attraction build between them, and how the sparks flew when they kissed. But Whitney fights the attraction because Liam is a few years younger than she is. Her mother deserted the family when she ran off with a younger man, and that has left Whitney with a bit of a phobia about age differences.

Whitney is also stunned to find out that Liam is the lead singer for his own band, and that they are really good. She thinks they're even better than the band she was sent to sign. I loved seeing her enthusiasm and how she pushed her brother to listen to the video she took. Again, I found her brother to be totally obnoxious. His attitude when he deigned to show up at the saloon to listen to the band was snobby and rude. I was shocked by the proposal he made to Liam, as were he and Whitney. I loved Liam's response to Wilson, though its carryover to Whitney was a little extreme.

I loved the glimpses of both Whitney and Liam as they tried to deal with being apart. Both of them came to realize the strength of what they felt for each other. I loved Whitney's big moment at the end and the surprise she brought with her to Forever. The epilogue was really sweet, too.

The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby - Brenda Harlen (HSE #2366 - Nov 2014)

Series: Montana Mavericks: 20 Years in the Saddle (Book 5)

A BRIDE -- AND A BABY! -- UNDER HIS TREE!
RUST CREEK RAMBLINGS

Stop the presses! Can you believe there's about to be another wedding in Rust Creek Falls? Yes, local cowboy Jesse Crawford is tying the knot with Maggie Roarke, that Hollywood lawyer who's been flitting in and out of town for the past several months. Rumor has it their hasty nuptials might have something to do with Maggie's brand-new baby bump…

We're all for one big happy family, but we're a little puzzled by this pairing. Maggie and Jesse couldn't be more different if they tried -- are they really ready to saddle up for the long haul? Stay on the trail, faithful readers, and let's see if their baby-to-be can bring this new family together for the holidays -- and ever after!

Very good book about two extremely different people brought together by chemistry and its consequences. Maggie has been in and out of Rust Creek Falls for several months, working on a controversial court case. The first time Jesse saw her, he wanted to get to know her, but he hasn't been able to summon up the courage to ask her out. He's a bit shy and much more comfortable with animals than people. His latest attempt ended in a tongue-tied disaster, so he gave up, only to get another unexpected chance a few moments later. 

Maggie is tired of avoiding the unwelcome attentions of a particular cowboy, and sees Jesse as the perfect rescuer. I loved her first words to him, and the kiss she laid on him was scorching. What happens next is not unexpected. Though she lives in LA, Maggie is not averse to getting to know him a little better. Unfortunately, once she goes home, her busy career interferes with her intention to go back to Rust Creek Falls to see him again. Pretty soon even their phone calls taper off to nothing, and she's afraid that he's forgotten all about her.

Jesse hasn't forgotten a thing, but he's not going to chase after someone who obviously didn't care that much about him to start with. Years ago he'd been engaged to a city woman who ended up leaving him because he and Rust Creek Falls weren't enough for her. He's not going to risk his heart on another woman just like that.

Then a few months later, Maggie is back to deliver some stunning news. She's pregnant and the baby is his. She doesn't expect anything from him, she just felt that he deserved to know. He's shocked, but he's old fashioned enough that he feels the best thing is for them to get married and tells her so. But Maggie is an independent woman and has no desire to be "the right thing". Besides, her life and her job are in LA. Jesse isn't going to give up trying to convince her to stay in Montana. 

The first half of the book is spent with Jesse trying to get Maggie to marry him. I liked the way he tried to show her all the good things about the town. He's determined to keep her in Montana, but Maggie doesn't want to give up the job she's worked so hard for to marry a man who has said nothing about caring about her, not just the baby. Maggie likes her job, but because of her pregnancy she finds her priorities changing, and those changes aren't compatible with her work. I loved how she then makes a decision and follows through quickly.

I loved her return to Rust Creek Falls. While she's pretty sure that she has made the right decision, the changes to her life are pretty drastic. Life in Montana isn't nearly as hectic, and though she goes to work for the other lawyer in town it is a whole different way of doing things. I loved seeing her adjust to the slower lifestyle, the interest of her new town in everything she does, and how much she enjoyed having a life outside of work. She still had to deal with Jesse's determination to marry her, but even there it didn't take long before she was considering the possibility. She has accepted her feelings for him, but worries about marrying a man who doesn't feel the same way.

Jesse succeeds in convincing her to marry him, and is looking forward to all that it entails, until several people at the reception have him making comparisons between Maggie and his former fiancee. That same fiancee appears right before the wedding in an attempt to get him back, and when he turns her down, makes snide comments about Maggie being just like her. Then one of her brothers flat out tells Jesse that he's not so sure that Maggie is cut out for life in small town Montana. Even his parents have been less than welcoming to her. Now he's afraid that she won't stick it out, and in order to protect himself he starts to pull back.

I really wanted to shake him and tell him to stop comparing Maggie to Shaelyn, that he's just making both Maggie and himself miserable. The chemistry between them is still burning hot, but he is afraid to give in to it for fear of how much it will hurt when she leaves him. He does everything he can to keep distance between them, but in doing so misses seeing how quickly she is settling into life in Rust Creek Falls, He has a few instances of being the husband he should be, such as during and after the doctor's appointment and ultrasound. He's so sweet there, and adorable at the toy store, but then shuts down again. Poor Maggie is hurt and confused by his mixed signals, and her hopes for a happy marriage start to fade. It was very satisfying to see him realize what an idiot he was being and admit his fears to her. She may have been able to make him work a little harder for her forgiveness, but the ending was very satisfying.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pregnant with the Rancher's Baby - Kathie DeNosky (HD #2411 - Nov 2015)

Series: The Good, the Bad and the Texan (Book 5)

When Jessica Farrell shows up on Nate Rafferty's ranch five months pregnant with his child, he doesn't hesitate to propose. But the beautiful nurse can't believe this wealthy rancher will ever change his love 'em and leave 'em ways.

Nate tempts her into a monthlong trial run, and soon they're spending long days -- and steamy nights -- living in close quarters. But can he give Jessie the love she's truly looking for? The clock is ticking…

Very good book. Jessie and Nate have had an on-again, off-again relationship for more than two years. The last time that Nate broke things off, Jessie told him she was done and not to come back. Four and a half months later she shows up at his ranch to tell him she's pregnant, but doesn't expect anything from him.

Nate is one of six foster brothers who spent their teen years on the Last Chance Ranch - their only option other than juvenile detention after getting into serious trouble. He has avoided getting serious about anyone because he is afraid of turning out like his worthless father. But no matter how many times he ran from Jessie and his growing feelings for her, he always came back to her. When he finds out she's pregnant, he proposes, determined to do everything he can to take care of her and the baby. He's surprised when she turns him down, but talks her into staying at his ranch for a month so that he can convince her.

Jessie is wary of staying so close to Nate. She appreciates his desire to do the right thing and be there for the baby, but she has to protect her heart. She won't marry for anything less than love, and Nate's track record doesn't give her any confidence that he has the staying power she needs. But she can't deny him his chance to be involved, so she gives in.

Nate was pretty sweet in his attempts to convince her while keeping his promise not to pressure her. It wasn't easy for him to deny himself the closeness he wanted. I loved seeing him read everything he could find so he could try to understand what she was going through. His reaction at the ultrasound was priceless, as the truth about becoming a father hit him hard. Nate and the unicorn toy at the baby store was such a sweet scene. His feelings for Jessie continue to grow, though admitting it is still a problem. He knows he has to tell her about his past, but is deeply afraid that once she knows the truth she will leave him.

The time she spent with Nate was hard for Jessie. It was so hard because she wanted him, and being close was making her ache for him. She was afraid that if she let herself believe in a future together, he would leave again and her heart would never recover. She could see how hard he was trying, and some of the things he did made her love him even more. How much she cared was really brought home to her when she saw him compete in the rodeo and feared for his safety.

But it was a health crisis involving Jessie that made Nate realize that he couldn't lose her. I loved seeing him gather up his courage to tell her everything, in spite of his fear. Of course, he hadn't had the confidence in Jessie that he should have had, and he's blown away by her reaction. In return, his reaction to Jessie's tale about her parents is perfect. He deals with them awesomely. Seeing Nate finally believe that he's capable of being a husband and father was the perfect ending to the book.

One of the great things about the book was the frequent appearances of Nate's foster brothers. I love the relationships they have, with the fun and teasing, but also the immediate support when it's needed. I loved the reaction he got from Jaron when Nate told him the baby was a girl. It made me laugh and think of other men I know who have had the same reaction. It was also very emotional to see the way they all showed up at the hospital to support Nate while Jessie had surgery. The scene where they are all betting on Jaron's downfall was a great lead in to the next book.

A CEO in Her Stocking - Elizabeth Bevarly (HD #2412 - Nov 2015)

Series: Accidental Heirs (Book 2)

With the reading of a will, single mother Clara Easton's life is upended! Turns out the carefree beach bum who fathered her son was really Park Avenue gold, and he's left his fortune to little Hank. Now she's spending the holidays in dazzling New York City with the man's family, including his sexy twin brother. But Grant Dunbarton is not like the fun-loving charmer who swept Clara off her feet. No way should she fall for a workaholic who knows nothing of comfort and joy. So why can't she tell him goodbye?

Good book. Clara is a single mother who owns her own bakery and works hard to give her son the best life she can. She's stunned to get a visit from a lawyer who informs her that her son's father, a man she hasn't seen in four years, has died. And instead of being the beach bum she thought he was, he was a member of a very wealthy family, and her son has inherited his father's millions. Now she and Hank have been invited to New York to meet his family.

Clara is very nervous and not sure what to expect. She never knew her parents, and was raised in the foster care system. The Dunbarton's lifestyle is completely outside her comfort zone. It doesn't help that her son's uncle, while being her ex's twin in looks is totally different in personality. Her first impression is that he is a cold, ruthless workaholic who has no idea how to relate to her and her son.

I liked Clara a lot. She's a bit of a workaholic herself, but she works very hard to give Hank all the love and attention she never received herself. She's not sure what to expect from Grant and his mother, and is very afraid that they might try to take Hank away from her. As she gets to know Grant, she sees that there is more to him than she expected.

Grant took over running the family business even though his brother had been the older of the two. When their father died when they were kids, Brent went from planning to run the business when they grew up to becoming more irresponsible and child-like. Grant felt a great responsibility to the family legacy and gave up his own dreams to run it. He never plans to have a wife and family of his own, feeling that he is married to the business instead.

I loved seeing their relationship develop. It didn't take long for Clara to see that, in spite of his claims, Grant really wasn't happy with his life. I liked all the little things that she said and did to try to bring some happiness back into his life. She fought against the attraction she felt to him, knowing that nothing could come of it. It was pretty sweet to see the influence that Clara and Hank had on Grant, as he slowly began to see that his life was pretty empty. It was fun to see him loosen up as he talked to Clara about the fish in his aquarium, and lay on his back looking at the stars painted on the dining room ceiling. I ached for them both when Clara and Hank went back to Georgia, believing that the other didn't care the same way.

The ending was really romantic. While I wasn't entirely surprised by what Grant did, there were parts of his actions that were unexpected. I was especially surprised by what his mother did. The epilogue was really great.

I really liked Grant's mother. I had been afraid that she was going to be the type to steal Hank away, or cold and snobby to Clara. She did seem to go a little overboard with some of the things she did, but I loved the way that she embraced both Hank and Clara. There were times when she seemed like a big kid herself.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not Just a Cowboy - Caro Carson (HSE #2356 - Sept 2014)

Series: Texas Rescue (Book 1)

A HURRICANE BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER

Heiress Patricia Cargill was out to prove she was more than just a big bank account. Running Texas Rescue and Relief gives her the greatest satisfaction she could imagine. Until she meets volunteer Luke Waterson. He's a little younger, a little brasher and a lot more dangerous than anyone she's dated. He could be everything she needs.

A STORM OF EMOTIONS COULD TEAR THEM APART

An unexpected change of fortune, however, has Patricia discovering Luke is more than just a nomadic cowboy. Falling for a millionaire rancher was not in her plans, especially one who keeps secrets. But committing to a man who sees her as a desirable woman, not dollar signs, could be worth making an exception to her rule….

Very good book with excellent romance, interesting setting, and two characters who do some growing. Patricia has spent most of her adult life trying to keep her father from spending them into the poorhouse. Unfortunately, her hands are also tied when it comes to accessing her own funds, until she bends to her father's demands and finds a "suitable" husband. The one she had in mind fell in love with someone else, so she is back to square one.

Patricia is looking for a man she can easily deal with, who won't bring drama into her life. She wants nothing to do with love or passion, seeing only the trouble caused by her father's multiple wives and countless mistresses. Before she can start looking for another candidate, Texas Rescue is called up to help deal with the aftermath of a hurricane. Working with them gives her a chance to use her organizational skills and satisfy her need to do something good.

Luke is a rancher who likes what he does, but often feels trapped by his responsibilities. He became a volunteer firefighter to bring some adventure into his life. Helping out with the hurricane relief gives him that chance to do something different for a little while.

Their first encounter is when Luke busts into her headquarters tent, dragging a coworker who collapsed in the heat. I liked the way that she and Luke connected, even though she tried really hard to suppress her reaction. It was fun to see the way Luke was trying to hard to get a reaction from her. Luke starts out looking at Patricia as something of a challenge, but quickly comes to see her as much more.

I loved the way that he saw how she takes care of everyone else, but that no one appears to be looking out for her. It was sweet to see him try to take care of her. Patricia didn't quite know what to do about Luke. She likes his attentions, but she knows there's no future in it. As the week went on, I loved seeing Luke wear her down a little bit, to where she wasn't panicking to be seen in his company. I loved watching them grow closer. Luke really wants to continue seeing her, and see where their relationship might lead. While he had suspected that Patricia came from money, he didn't know who she really was until they'd been together for several days. Though he was a little bit of a jerk to her when he did, that didn't last long. What I really liked was the way that she opened up to him about what her life had been like and what she is still dealing with. 

I liked seeing the way that, thanks to his influence, she changed from holding herself apart from everyone to growing more relaxed. She was still intense with her work, but when she was off she was able to have a little fun with him. I also liked how she started to care about what happened with him, worrying when his engine company was called out. The closer she got to him, the harder it was for her to face what she needed to do. I wanted to shake her when she walked away from Luke, even after he told her how he felt. I loved the way he tried to show her what it was costing her.

I loved the ending and seeing a whole different Patricia. Her solution was absolutely perfect and her big moment with Luke was terrific. I'd love to catch up with them in later books and see how they are doing.

I also enjoyed the background of the disaster relief. It was really interesting to see some of the things that go on behind the scenes, from arranging drug supplies and coordinating schedules to finding equipment that the medical personnel need. I really loved seeing the way that Patricia dealt with some of the personalities. It really makes me appreciate what the real life people do.

Tails of Love - Lori Foster and others (Berkley - June 2009)

Ten all-new stories that celebrate our animal friends, by bestselling and award-winning authors.

From Seeing Eye dogs to the cat who cuddles in your lap, animals are there for us in more ways than we can count. Helping us get through the day with a wag of the tail and a tilt of the head, they let us know that someone is on our side-no matter what. They also have an amazing ability to break down barriers between people; bringing families and loved ones closer, and giving strangers an excuse to strike up a conversation. In "Tails of Love," each writer draws from her own unique perspective on our loyal friends--exploring the many mysterious ways they bring love into our lives.

Featuring stories from "New York Times "bestselling authors Lori Foster and Stella Cameron, and Ann Christopher, Kate Angell, Marcia James, Dianne Castell, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder.

A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM "TAILS OF LOVE "GOES TO THE ANIMAL ADOPTION FOUNDATION OF OHIO"


Man's Best Friend by Lori Foster
Series: SBC Fighter (Book 8)

Erin has known Gary since she was six years old and he was her brother's best friend. She's been in love with him almost as long, but since he became an SBC fighter she has felt that he's beyond her reach. When she's leaving work late one night, in pouring rain, she trips over a small puppy. Unfortunately, her car battery is also dead and her brother unavailable by phone. Her only other real choice is to call Gary for help, but her phone dies just as she reaches him. I loved the way that he came charging to the rescue.

Gary has had it bad for Erin for years. When she was younger, he avoided her for obvious reasons, but lately she's been avoiding him. He's grateful for this chance with her, and plans to make the most of it. I loved seeing the way he countered all of her objections as he brought her and the puppy to his house.

It was sweet to see the way they came together to take care of the puppy. Thanks to him, Gary had a chance to tell Erin how he felt, and Erin to see that he was, at heart, the same man she'd always known. The ending was hot and sweet.





A Knotty Tail by Stella Cameron

Cute story about a woman who adopts two dogs and a man with a cat. Rose and Simon had lived near each other for six months, but both seemed unable to gather the courage to approach the other. Rose is a nurse who, though she'd never had a pet before, adopted the dogs for company. She's a bit unsure of how to treat them. Simon is a bit of a loner, a cartoonist who keeps to himself.

Dickens and Madeline are the two dogs, and Clawdia is the cat. Most of the story is told from their viewpoint. I felt bad for the two dogs and the reason they were up for adoption. The conversations between the two were cute, as Madeline tries to instruct Dickens on proper behavior for getting adopted and kept. Clawdia was the personification of a cat - independent, selfish and snooty, but she had the redeeming factor of wanting Simon to be happy.

I loved seeing her scheme to bring the two humans together. I also enjoyed that the dogs didn't just go along, but put their own spin on the process. The interactions among the animals are pretty funny, especially their opinions of each other's intelligence and motives. I liked the way they got Simon over to Rose's house, and how the humans took it from there.





Norah's Arc by Kate Angell

Adorable story of how a pygmy goat brought a zookeeper and construction man together. Norah owns a petting zoo of miniature animals, one of which is a pygmy goat named Houdini. As indicated by his name, he is an expert at getting out of his pen. Currently, his favorite thing to do is visit the construction site next door, wreaking havoc as he does so.

The story starts as Mike confronts Norah about the goat currently bouncing around on the hood of his Corvette. Norah explains how the escape happened, and why the goat is on the car, and suddenly Mike finds himself providing a load of boulders for the goat pen to keep him occupied.

A bout with rain, mud and the goat, have both Mike and Norah wet, and the attraction between them really starting to sizzle. I loved Houdini's assistance in getting them past their first kiss. He seems intent of finding ways to get Mike and Norah together, though his methods don't do much for Mike's peace of mind. 

When Houdini goes missing again, and no one can find him, Norah goes to Mike for help searching. I loved his kindness and patience during the search, and how much he helped when they finally found him. But what really sealed my liking for Mike was what he did for Norah and Houdini the next day. I loved seeing how Mike came to care about Norah and her animals.





The Pursuit of Happiness by Dianne Castell

A rather strange story. Jane is a good Savannah girl with a family full of unique personalities. Her boyfriend, Rex, is a veterinarian. The story opens with them in bed, doing what comes naturally. When finished, Rex is trying to get up the nerve to talk to her about their future. He has a problem that he needs her help to fix, but they get interrupted by a call from her mom before he can tell her.

The issue for her is that she is the one who is stuck solving the problems created by her family. One of the things she loves about Rex is that he is so normal. When he comes to see her, he finally explains the problem. He is a werewolf, cast under a spell years ago, The spell can be broken by true love (of course) and he has the instructions on how to do it. Jane freaks out, believing he is just as nuts as her family members, and refuses to have anything else to do with him.

I really liked Rex a lot. Yes, he has that problem, but he's an all around nice guy. He loves Jane and isn't put off by her crazy relatives. Jane was kind of a doormat with her family. I got a little frustrated with her confrontation with her mom over the car. She needs to be able to put her foot down and make them responsible for their own actions. If the car ends up being a problem, mom has to deal with it herself.

However, I did enjoy mom's reaction to the news about Rex and how she gave Jane some advice to think about. What Jane did then was fairly predictable, but there was a bit of fun on the way to do it. The ending was fun.





Atticus Saves Lisa by Ann Christopher

Cruz and Lisa had known each other for a long time. Cruz is her younger brother's best friend. There's definitely something between them, but Lisa has been fighting it. Her brother Keenan is in a wheelchair, victim of a drunk driving accident. She feels guilty because she was driving and feels that she should have been able to avoid the drunk driver. She has spent the last two years devoting all her time and energy to Keenan, and convincing herself that she doesn't deserve anything more in her life.

At the time of the story, she, Cruz and Keenan are celebrating Keenan's return to the workforce and independence. He has an assistance animal, a little monkey named Atticus, who helps with the things Keenan can't do. 

Cruz decides it's time to make Lisa aware of his feelings. She fights it hard, afraid to be happy. I liked the way that Cruz tells Keenan of his intentions, and how he tries to get Lisa to face her fears. It takes some straight talk from Keenan to make Lisa see that she's allowed to be happy. Because he has Atticus he doesn't need her to take care of him any longer, freeing her to live her life. She then went to Cruz and admitted her love.

This was okay, but there wasn't much to it.





Rescue Me by Marcia James

Sweet story. Adam is a former football player who now owns a restaurant. One day he finds a small dog in the alley behind it. When he's not sure what to do with it, someone suggests he take it to the Rescue Me shelter a few blocks away. When he arrives there, he's stunned to find that it is run by his former college girlfriend, a woman he has never forgotten.

Adam admits to himself that he'd been a selfish, arrogant jerk when he left to take up his football career. Now that he's seen Claire again, he wants a second chance with her, and the little dog gives him the perfect excuse. It was really sweet to see the way that Adam bonded with the little dog, and kept going back to visit. It also gave him the way to see Claire every day. It was fun to see him "court" her by bringing gifts for the shelter. I also loved seeing the way he showed interest in her work.

Claire hadn't forgotten Adam either. The anger she still felt for him disappeared quickly as she saw the way he treated the dog. She was surprised by the way that he kept coming back, and didn't want to believe that it was because of her. She was wary of getting hurt again. I loved the scene with her coworker as it got pointed out to her that everyone could see how much Adam cared.

I loved the ending, as Adam got up the courage to ask her out. His nervousness was adorable. The scene in the restaurant was sweet and romantic. 





Lord Hairy by Donna MacMeans

The only historical in the collection, this story was fun, with something of a Cinderella theme and a most unusual fairy godmother. The story starts with Hannah in the kitchen sneaking a snack, when she is spotted by her stepmother. Her stepmother isn't a very nice person and has nothing good to say to or about Hannah. However, she is determined that Hannah snag the attention of newly arrived in the area Lord Ashton. To punish Hannah for her snacking, she sends her off to deliver the food to a poor family.

While walking through the woods, Hannah is accosted by a huge black dog who steals the food that Hannah has. She can see that he's hungry and appears to have been in the woods for quite awhile. She can't just leave him, so she takes him home with her. Frustrated by her stepmother's harping on Lord Ashton, she names the dog "Lord Hairy Ashton". Her stepmother isn't happy to see the dog with Hannah and when she refuses to return the pooch to the woods, banishes both the dog and Hannah to the stables. She also denies Hannah the opportunity to attend the dance at Lord Ashton's the next night.

I loved how the servants refused to have that happen and arranged for Hannah to make it to the dance after all. Just as Hannah is enjoying a visit with her friends, mayhem breaks out as the dog, who had been left at the stables, comes bounding into the ballroom looking for Hannah. What follows is a very amusing encounter between Hannah and the dog's owner who is, naturally, Lord Ashton. They appear to connect very quickly over the dog. The ending is very good and has a very funny twist.





Danny's Dog by Sarah McCarty

A story that's sad, but also full of hope. It opens with Kathy helping with an animal rescue. One of them is a black lab that is so covered in sores that she doesn't know how he's still alive. When the shelter manager plans to put the dog in the terminal category, Kathy refuses to accept it and is determined to save the dog. There's something in his eyes that speaks to her. He makes her think of the dog she and her soon to be ex-husband were going to get their son.

The only way to take care of him is to find the dog a foster home, as she can't keep him in her apartment. And the only place she can think to take him is to her old house, but facing Walt is something she doesn't want to do. They had split six months earlier after their grief over their son's death tore them apart. Neither one had known how to express or share their grief.

I liked Walt. We learn a little about his background and why he had trouble sharing his grief. When Kathy left him, he finally got the help he needed to deal with it. This helps him face Kathy and let her know that he hasn't given up on them. 

When she ends up in the hospital because of a fall, a nurse there sees the love that Walt still has for Kathy. She points Kathy in the direction of the help she needs, and soon Kathy is ready to face Walt again. 

The day that Kathy goes to see Walt would have been their son's first birthday. What happens between them is emotional, sweet and shows great promise that they can move forward together, along with Danny's dog.





Scaredy Cat by Patricia Sargeant

Cute story with a beat up alley cat playing Cupid. Thomas is a cat that Kendra had found badly injured and took to the vet before adopting him as her own. The problem she has is that her boyfriend Harvey really doesn't like Tom - and the feeling is mutual. The story opens with Tom doing his best to keep Kendra from going out with Harvey and succeeding brilliantly. He also notices when another man comes to the rescue when Harvey leaves Kendra stuck on a ladder. I loved seeing his thoughts as he followed Paul to see where he lived and decided to try to bring them together.

The next day brings Harvey back to see Kendra, this time with a definite goal in mind. He wants to see Tom gone so that he has Kendra's attention again, but the way he goes about it is doomed to failure. I got a real chuckle out of seeing the way that Tom manipulated Harvey, though he certainly didn't expect the reaction he got. I loved seeing Kendra treat Harvey just as he deserved.

Once Tom knew where Paul lived he wanted to find a way to bring him and Kendra together, but he met with a difficult obstacle. That block has been claimed by the trio of cats that had attacked him the first time. He is wary of running into them again. But his motivation is strong, and he makes the attempt. I really loved the way that he overcame his fears and did what he had to do, even though he was attacked again. But it's what he did then that showed his real determination.

Circumstances like that are what bring out the true nature in people, and that it what it did for Paul. I loved seeing the way that he immediately stepped in to help Tom and how he supported Kendra while he did it. It was sweet to see the effect it had on Kendra, even as she was worried about making another mistake. The scene in the back room at the vet's was adorable, and I loved Tom's satisfaction with the results of his actions.





A Man, A Woman, and Haggis by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Cute story about a man and a woman brought together by the ghosts of their grandparents and a dog named Haggis. Jilly had come to Scotland to fulfill her grandmother's last wishes - to take the locket given to her by a Scotsman who had broken her heart and bury it on his grave. While having lunch at a nearby inn, she sees a highlander and his dog who encourage her to try the haggis to eat. As soon as it is served to her, the food is snatched from her plate by a dog also bearing the name of Haggis. His owner is an incredibly handsome man, who apologizes and offers her a tour of the loch on his boat.

Jilly knows she should say no, but she's intrigued by the man and agrees. When she tries to chicken out, she sees the highlander and his dog again, and it becomes clear they are ghosts. Succumbing to their obvious wishes, she goes on the trip and finds herself drawn to the man, but hesitant to get involved because of her family history.

Kieran is drawn to Jilly, but there's also something about her that is eerily familiar. When he figures out what it is, he's not happy to see that she's the granddaughter of the woman who broke his grandfather's heart. Some ghostly interference makes him realize that there is more to the story. 

I loved seeing him convince her of the truth. It was sweet to see them figure out what really happened and use it to settle the truth. I loved seeing them resolve to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

A White Wedding Christmas - Andrea Laurence (HD #2416 - Dec 2015)

Series: Brides and Belles (Book 4)

Reunited at a Christmas wedding…

I do -- two words wedding planner Natalie Sharpe will never utter. The cynic in her doesn't believe in love…but the woman in her believes in lust! When a last-minute Christmas wedding reunites her with the bride's hunky brother -- Natalie's teenage crush and star of all her fantasies -- Natalie wants a second chance for their first time…

But Colin Russell isn't a teen anymore. He's all man. And his every touch has her thinking about the F word -- forever. Working with him on the wedding is more temptation than she can take. Will one long, hot kiss lead this reluctant bride down her own wedding aisle?

Very good book with some fun parts and some deeply emotional ones. Natalie is a wedding planner who is excellent at her job, but doesn't believe that love really exists. She has seen too many marriages fail, including those of her own parents. In her opinion it is all hormones and doesn't last. Lust is fine - indulge and move on. When she sees Colin again she would love a chance to fulfill her teenage fantasies with him.

Colin is just as attracted to her. The problem for him is that he isn't into casual flings any longer. He is looking for the woman that he can build a future with, and he can see Natalie in that role. He can't believe that she is so anti-marriage. He had been married once before, to another woman who hadn't wanted marriage, but he had convinced her. He didn't intend to do that again. 

So, though the attraction is there, they agree to be just friends as they work together to give Colin's sister the best wedding possible. The whole wedding planning was very strange. Colin was determined to give his sister Lily a dream wedding, and didn't understand why she was so uninterested in being part of the planning, leaving it all in Colin's hands. It was very interesting to see the way that he ended up just going with so many of Natalie's recommendations.

Another thing that surprises Colin about Natalie is her anti-Christmas attitude. Once he finds out why, he understands, but he's determined to change that. He bets her that she will like Christmas by his sister's wedding or he will buy her tickets for a trip to South America. I loved the way he started out slow, but began to up his game bit by bit. It was fun to see her build new and better Christmas memories thanks to Colin.

Spending as much time together as they do, their attraction soon overwhelms their vow to stick to friendship. Both of them discover that their connection is deeper than just the physical, but what they do with that knowledge is an indication of their own personalities. Colin wants to believe that now that love has entered the picture, Natalie's opinion of marriage will change. Meanwhile, Natalie is afraid of the feelings Colin has raised in her, and that like the others she has seen, won't last, leaving her heartbroken in the end. 

Colin made big plans to show Natalie how he felt, and they went quite well until that moment at the Grand Old Opry. Then he went too far, and I hurt for both him and Natalie. Natalie was too afraid to trust her feelings and his, and the only thing she could do was run. 

They still had to face each other for the rehearsal and wedding for Colin's sister. While standing in for the bride at the rehearsal, Natalie finally begins to face her fears and realize what she really wants, but getting Colin to listen is a whole different problem. When it came time for the wedding, I wasn't at all surprised by what Lily did. I loved Natalie's big moment, and how she dealt with the wedding crisis. I saw it coming, but that didn't make it any less romantic. 

I loved the epilogue and seeing where all four couples are a year later. It was an excellent wrap up to the series.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

One Week with the Best Man - Andrea Laurence (HD #2410 - Nov 2015)

Series: Brides and Belles (Book 3)

What happens when a fake wedding date gets all too real?

Pretend to be famous bachelor Julian Cooper's girlfriend? Some women might be thrilled with the request -- not Gretchen McAlister. Her job is planning weddings, not being the best man's date. But after Julian's latest celebrity breakup, "ordinary" Gretchen is the perfect PR ploy.

Julian is against the whole plan…until he meets Gretchen. Honest and beautiful -- even beneath her fancy makeover -- his new "girlfriend" makes him want something more, something real…

Fun book. The wedding planning service that Gretchen and her friends own is hosting the wedding of a music superstar. The groom's best friend, Hollywood star Julian Cooper, just broke up with his girlfriend, so his agent hires Gretchen to be Julian's "girlfriend" during the wedding events. Gretchen is wary, but the money offered will allow her to fulfill her dream of visiting Italy, so she says yes.

Gretchen is not very comfortable around men. She has spent her life feeling unattractive just because she is short and curvy instead of tall and thin. She doesn't think Julian will be at all interested in her as his date, but she goes through the planned makeover anyway. I loved the way that it gave her a new view of herself, even though she didn't think it would make her any more appealing to Julian.

The first meeting between them is a bit awkward, as Julian isn't sure it's necessary and Gretchen is sure that he won't be interested. But there's something about Gretchen that draws Julian in, and he's suddenly more than willing to give the scheme a chance. I liked how he tried to put her at ease and his insistence on "practicing" so that their relationship looks real. Julian realized how much he liked being with a woman who seemed to be unaffected by his stardom and he really started to enjoy their time together. I loved the way that he told Gretchen about how fake Hollywood women are in order to help her see that she has nothing to be afraid of.

I really liked seeing the way that Julian's attention helps Gretchen gain confidence in herself. The attraction between them is there from the beginning, though it takes a little while for her to accept that he just as attracted to her. There's a little hiccup in their growing relationship when Gretchen reveals the basis for her discomfort, but once Julian recovers he is everything she could hope for. Gretchen also has an effect on Julian. Her joy in her work is a positive influence on him, as he struggles with his need to continue filming hits and his desire to portray something with more substance. As they grow closer he opens up about the secret he has kept from the rest of the world, happy to have her support during a crisis. 

When that secret is revealed, he reacts badly. He's hurt to think that she's like all the rest and says some terrible things to her. Gretchen is devastated to think that he believes she would do such a thing. When the true culprit is revealed (and I didn't see that one coming) he realizes just how stupid he was. I liked that he knew he had some serious grovelling to do, and how he went about doing it. I did feel that Gretchen could have made him work just a little bit harder before she forgave him. Overall, the ending was very satisfying.





Reclaimed  by the Rancher by Janice Maynard 

Only the fiancé she left in the dust can help her!

To fend off a mysterious oil company's aggressive buyout offer and save her family land, Lucy Peyton can only turn to one man for help. Yes, she'd practically left Jeff Hartley at the altar, but she'd had her reasons. Such as catching the rich rancher kissing her best friend before the wedding! But now, face-to-face with Jeff on his doorstep, she realizes the chemistry between them is as strong as ever and panics.

If Lucy wants his help, she'll have it—on his terms. She'll also receive a lesson in what she missed when she ran. Because in the end, Jeff Hartley always gets what he wants…no matter how long he has to wait.

Short story/prequel to the series, found on the Harlequin website and in the back of the November Desire books. It begins with Lucy showing up at Jeff's for the first time in two years, ever since she cancelled their wedding the day before it was to happen. Jeff is stunned, and none too happy to see her, remembering what her desertion felt like. 

Lucy is desperate to keep her cousin from selling their family land to an oil company, she goes to Jeff for help. She's still hurt by the way he betrayed her, but believes that he'll be willing to do what's needed to protect the land. She doesn't think that the man she's worked so hard to forget can still attract her but he does.

Jeff can't believe that Lucy had the guts to come to him for help, but has to admit she knows which buttons to push to get him to agree. He's not going to make it easy for her, though, and lays down some conditions. He's determined to either get her out of his heart forever, or take the future they should have had from the start.

I liked the way that Lucy wanted to protect the family land. She seemed to have a realistic view of her cousin, though he insists that this time will be different. I'll be interested to see if there's any followup in future books. When she confronts Jeff about what happened at the rehearsal dinner, I could see the problem from both sides. Lucy felt betrayed that Jeff was kissing her maid of honor, and Jeff was furious that she never gave him a chance to tell her what happened. She simply reacted, without showing enough faith in him to want the truth. Jeff made his own mistakes by giving in to wounded pride and not insisting.

The heat between them when they met for dinner to discuss the deal was intense. Jeff was determined to show her what she had missed. Though his method was a bit underhanded, if she hadn't been willing I'm sure he wouldn't have done it.

The confrontation with Kristin went just the way I expected to and I didn't feel badly for her at all. I did feel for Lucy, whose feelings of betrayal were brought back to the surface, but with a different focus. The ending was good, especially with Jeff insisting on not waiting to get on with their future.