Thursday, December 29, 2016

Landon - Delores Fossen (HI #1671 - Nov 2016)

Series: Lawmen of Silver Creek Ranch (Book 9)

After returning home to investigate a brutal murder, Detective Landon Ryland is shocked to learn the body was discovered in the home of Tessa Sinclair, a woman he once knew intimately. Seeing Tessa again is like a jolt to his heart. Too bad the beautiful brunette has no idea who she is -- or why she's cradling a newborn. With evidence pointing toward Tessa and the baby being next on the killer's hit list, Landon refuses to leave their safety in anyone else's hands. Or admit that losing them would permanently destroy the future he secretly envisioned.

An exciting return to Silver Creek. Landon has given up his job in the city police department to return home to Silver Creek and become part of the sheriff's department there. He wants to help find out who murdered one of his cousins, leaving a note on the body that "this one's for you, Landon". A prime suspect is Tessa Sinclair, in whose house the body was found, and who is currently missing. Not something he wants to hear about a woman he had gotten very close to.

Leaving Emmet's funeral, Landon discovers an abandoned barn on fire, and Tessa's unconscious body inside. He barely gets her out in time, only to find that she is also holding a newborn baby. Stunned to see her and a baby, Landon has questions for her that Tessa is unable to answer.

When Tessa regains consciousness she has no idea who she is, where she is, or what has happened to her. After a trip to the hospital, a blow to the head and a body full of drugs explains how, but not why. Her memory begins to return, but there are holes in it.

From here begins a wild ride of a story.  Someone shoots at Landon and Tessa before they even leave the hospital, and again at the sheriff's office. As Tessa remembers more, she tells Landon that she had been looking for proof that her boss was involved in something crooked. There's a federal agent she's been working with who she isn't sure is on the up-and-up.  She is also caring for the infant daughter of a friend, who is running from an abusive ex. For his part, Landon has the murder of his cousin, which appears to be tied to him. And the belief that one of his former arrests, now out on parole, is responsible for it. The question becomes, are the two cases linked somehow?

It seems that Landon and Tessa can barely catch a break. Attacks on them come fast and furious as they try to find out who is trying to kill her. And what does baby Samantha have to do with any of it? There are multiple persons of interest, leading to great confusion over just what is going on. There is Joel, Tessa's former boss, who may be guilty of anything from drug trafficking to murder. There is Quincy, the felon that Landon locked up, who is now free on parole. He was injured in a prison fight and is confined to a wheelchair, but that hasn't improved his attitude any. Then Ward, who is supposed to be one of the good guys, but seems awfully intent on putting the blame on Tessa. And who is Courtney, and who is really little Samantha's father? The final confrontation was intense, with enough twists and turns to make me dizzy. I wasn't sure from one minute to the next who was really responsible, though I did have my suspicions.

Throughout it all, the attraction they felt before continues to grow. Landon isn't happy about it because he's not so sure she can be trusted, at least at first. He's also too intent on his investigation to want a relationship. Tessa knows she can trust him (at least after the drugs have worn off) but believes that she is putting him in danger.  I loved seeing them try to protect each other as things blew up around them, and their feelings grow in spite of the danger. Tessa admits to her feelings first, but it's Landon's realization, and his cousins' reactions and comments that I liked most. I loved the ending.

I loved seeing all the Rylands together as they worked to solve the case. It seemed like old times, right down to Mason's grumpiness and Grayson's leadership. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Secret Child and the Cowboy CEO - Janice Maynard (SD #2040 - Sept 2010)

With a disposition as untamed as the Wyoming landscape, Trent Sinclair was not known as the forgiving sort. He had certainly never forgiven Bryn Matthews and her lies. The CEO had turned his back on her, though not without another thought, when she'd claimed his brother had gotten her pregnant.

But now Trent's brother was gone and Bryn had returned…with a child he could not deny was pure Sinclair. Nor could he ignore the passion that had always coursed between them. Had the time finally come for Trent to take what he had always wanted -- family and honor be damned?

Good book about family secrets and second chances. Bryn had been raised on the Sinclair ranch, where her parents worked, and taken in by them when her parents were killed. When she was eighteen, she became pregnant with the youngest son's baby, but no one believed her. Sent away to another relative, she went on with her life and taking care of her son. When the patriarch of the family has a heart attack, he invites Bryn back to the ranch, wanting to mend fences with her. She only goes in order to see that her son is acknowledged as a Sinclair.

Trent had been furious at her lies six years earlier, and is in no mood to see her back on the ranch trying to worm her way back in. He doesn't trust her motives and is determined to keep a close eye on her.  He didn't expect to feel the same attraction that he had before.

Bryn had had a crush on Trent while she was growing up. He was a few years older and though attracted to her was far more interested in his own life and plans for his future. He wasn't particularly kind or sensitive when he turned down her invitation to her senior prom, and she ended up turning to his youngest brother Jesse. Their relationship was short lived, ending when she got pregnant and he denied any chance that it was his. Being back on the ranch raises both good and bad memories, including her feelings for Trent. She fights the attraction, wanting nothing to do with someone who doesn't trust her.

The sparks flew between them from the moment Bryn arrived. The attraction boiled below, while on the surface they tried to be civil. Neither wanted to cause more distress for Trent's father, Mac, while he recovered, but it was a real struggle. The family is in shock over Jesse's death by drug overdose, with none of his brothers believing it. Trent is struggling especially hard with the knowledge, and it only gets worse as he delves into the business side of the ranch and finds more evidence. Meanwhile, Bryn also makes a disturbing discovery involving Jesse, one that could further destroy his family's view of him.

The development of their relationship was pretty fast, thanks in part to having known each other for so long. The biggest obstacle between them was the truth about Bryn's son. I liked seeing Bryn hold her ground and not cave in to Trent's attitude. I felt badly for him as more of the truth about Jesse came to the surface and he had to deal with his feelings. I really felt that Mac had done his family no favors by keeping quiet about Jesse's problems. But that was nothing compared to the other secret he'd been keeping, one that left Trent reeling. When Bryn's son gets sick, I loved seeing how Trent and Mac rallied behind her, even believing what they had.  I loved their reaction when they brought young Allen to the ranch.  It helped Trent realize his feelings, but he remained a bit clueless on how to handle them. It was rather satisfying to see that Bryn didn't just fall into his arms, and that he had to work at it a bit to get the future they both wanted.

Mixed Messages - Linda Lael Miller (SD #568 - May 1990)


Carly Barnett was determined to show the world she was not just another beauty queen pageant bimbo. Journalism was her lifelong dream, and she was determined to make it come true--despite top reporter Mark Holbrook's disdain. The infuriatingly sexy man had a Pulitzer Prize while Carly had an advice column. And he never let her forget it!

At first, Mark had looked down his nose at Carly. After all, her "talent" had been twirling a pair of flaming batons! Still, one glimpse of her big blue eyes made Mark decide to give her the break she asked for. Soon he was head over heels and determined to teach Carly a thing or two about the business--of love.

This one was okay, but not one of my favorites. Carly is a former beauty pageant winner (scholarship opportunity?) but is trying to move past that image. She graduated from college with a degree in journalism, anxious to make her dream come true. Hired to work at a Portland newspaper, on the way to Portland from Kansas she happens to meet their top reporter. Though sexy as can be, his rather condescending attitude toward her grates on her nerves.

I have to admit that, like Carly, Mark's attitude bugged me. There was more to her than her pageant activities and he knew it very quickly, but frequently brought them up. He was definitely attracted to her and had no problem with letting her know it. I also felt as if Carly was a bit naive, and that he took advantage of that. Within a few days he had overwhelmed her reservations and they started a hot and heavy affair. There were quite a few times when he seemed determined to be in control of her and her reactions, even when she tried to put him off. It wasn't quite a case of force or intimidation, but at times it felt close. There were also times that I really liked him, such as when he encouraged her to go after a story she was interested in. I really liked his devotion to his son.

The development of their relationship was really fast, and seemed to be based mainly on their physical intimacy. Carly was pretty open about what she wants from life. I liked seeing her attempts to stand up against his attitudes, even though I thought she gave in more than she should. I liked seeing her try to get Mark to open up more with her. She got a pretty good idea of what some of his issues were when she found the play that he wrote, though he didn't have the reaction she had hoped for. That play creates some trouble between them when she takes him at his word about it. In the time they spend together, Mark seems to be ready to push things along really quickly. But a crisis involving his son and ex-wife, on top of a misunderstanding about his play, drives them apart.

I ached for Carly's unhappiness, and cheered for her determination not to let it wreck her life. I loved the description of the raft trip she reported on, and how she toughed things out. She discovered a twist to her life plan part way through the trip, but took it right in stride. I also loved the new friend she made, and the opportunity she was offered because of it.

I felt a little bit sorry for Mark because he was so miserable, but he brought it on himself. He finally admitted his feelings and that he needed her, but convincing her wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. It was nice to see that he had to work a little for her forgiveness. I enjoyed the glimpse of their lives a year later, and especially loved the ending.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Snowbound with the Bodyguard - Carla Cassidy (SRS #1521 - July 2008)

Series Wild West Bodyguards (Book 6)

Her shelter from the storm

She'd been stranded by a snowstorm with nowhere to turn. But when all seemed lost, mom-on-the-run Janette Black saw the sign for Wild West Protective Services--and found Dalton West.

The loner of the West clan had no time for love and family. But protecting was in Dalton's blood--and he knew when a woman carried secrets. He would take Janette and her baby into his home to wait out the storm, and bar the door from any danger. And when Janette's demons tracked her down, Dalton would take on hell itself to keep her safe from harm.

Good book. Janette is a waitress at a small café in a small town. She hasn't had an easy life, abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandmother. She quit school to take care of her grandmother when she became ill, but was determined to get her GED.  At the beginning of the book, Janette is working her job at the café when the local sheriff comes in. He shows an inordinate amount of interest in the fact that she has a five month old son, terrifying Janette with his questions. There's definitely a feeling that there is history of some kind between them.

The next thing we see is that Janette has taken her son Sammy and is at the bus station in a town thirty miles away. She is determined to get as far away from the sheriff as she can. Unfortunately, the weather is working against her and the bus isn't running. Alone, with little money, she's not sure what to do until she sees a light shining through the snow. The building is West Protective Services and she remembers an article in the paper about how they helped someone. Taking a chance, she enters and asks for help.

Dalton has been working in the office almost exclusively for several months. After a bodyguard job that became more, and then ended, he's been avoiding getting involved with any other people. When Janette shows up, needing a place to stay for the night, and claiming she needs protection, he is reluctant to get involved. But something about her won't let him turn his back either.

Both Janette and Dalton are wary of each other and their circumstances. He suspects that what she tells him isn't the whole truth, but he'll take care of her for the few hours he needs to. When the storm turns out to be worse than expected, they are stuck with each other's company. Thanks to a nightmare, Janette opens up a little more about her problems, but still doesn't tell the whole truth until forced to do so by the arrival of the sheriff asking questions.

I liked the way that Dalton listened to what Janette had to tell him and didn't judge her. It was wonderful to see that, not only did he believe her, he was determined to keep her safe. Though he has insisted on being a loner for awhile, suddenly having Janette and Sammy around opens his eyes to how lonely his life has become. I loved seeing Sammy wiggle his way into Dalton's heart. I also liked the way that Dalton was so impressed by Janette's strength of will.

I liked Janette's devotion to her grandmother and her son. I was a bit worried about her at one point when she wanted to keep running as I thought she was stronger than that. She battled with herself as she tried to decide what to do, and I loved seeing the right thing come out on top.

The relationship between them developed really fast. I loved Dalton's reaction to what happened to her, and how gentle he was with her after he found out. The scene between them when he lets her be in charge was great. He's still intent on keeping her at a distance emotionally because he doesn't want to repeat the pain of his last relationship. Janette falls for him too, but believes that he wouldn't want something permanent with someone like her. I liked when he finally realized the truth and opened up completely to her.

The suspense of the story was really good. Sheriff Sinclair was an especially nasty kind of guy. His sense that he could do anything he wanted and get away with it made him really obnoxious. I liked seeing Dalton go up against him, and the vast difference in their attitudes. It was nervewracking to see how Sinclair used his office to pursue her, and how he even got Dalton's brother involved. The final confrontation was very intense, with me wondering how close it was going to be before Janette would be safe. The epilogue was a nice wrap up.

Glory, Glory - Linda Lael Miller (SD #607 - Dec 1990)


Eight years ago, Glory Parsons had said goodbye to her first love, Jesse Bainbridge. She'd been forced to flee her hometown--and leave behind the man who'd stolen her heart. But he would never know about the heartbreaking price she'd paid--or about the child born of their fiery union...the child she so desperately longed to find.

Jesse had once wanted Glory with all the passion in his soul. She'd been his whole world--until she walked out on him and their dreams without a backward glance. Now she was back with shocking news that would change his life forever. Could he trust the only woman who'd betrayed him--the only woman he could ever love?

Oldie but goodie, and highly emotional. Glory is returning to Pearl River for the first time since her brother's funeral eight years earlier. She'd been forced to leave, breaking her heart and her boyfriend's, but given no choice. She's back for a brief visit, to see her mother married, then moving on from a new heartbreak. But there's one thing she wants to find out before she leaves - what happened to the baby girl she had and gave up for adoption.

She didn't expect Jesse to be the first person she saw when she arrived back in town, or the sparks that flew between them. Likewise, Jesse was stunned to see Glory, and not happy to see the woman who had broken his heart. A heated confrontation ends in a scorching kiss that shows them both that the past is still alive and well.

Then Glory makes the startling discovery that her baby girl had been adopted by Jesse's older brother and his wife. They were recently killed in an airplane crash, leaving Liza in Jesse's custody. Glory is convinced that Jesse was in on his grandfather's scheme the whole time, while Jesse is stunned to discover that he isn't just Liza's uncle, he's also her father. Glory decides then and there that she isn't going to leave Pearl River again, she'll get a job locally and get to know her daughter. Jesse is equally determined at the time to keep them apart.

This begins an emotional roller coaster of a story. I spent the last third of the book in almost constant tears, aching for Glory, who wants to get to know her daughter. I was also equally mad at and aching for Jesse. I loved watching Glory get to know Liza, being excruciatingly careful not to give away the truth, while desperately wanting to do so. The two of them bonded quickly, aided by Jesse's cousin Ilene. I loved the part where Glory was helping Liza with an angel costume. She is so happy just spending time with Liza, but is also determined not to give up hope of eventually telling her the truth. I got a bit frustrated with her when she started to cave in to the pressure to leave Liza alone.

 Jesse is torn between allowing Glory to spend time with Liza and wanting her gone from Pearl River entirely. He has moments of being so understanding, like when he brought Glory the pictures of Liza from when she was small. He also has his moments of being a real butt-head, such as when he told Glory she needed to stay away for awhile. Jesse tells himself he is protecting Liza from being hurt by a woman he doesn't trust to stick around, but he is also protecting his own heart. Jesse was so inconsistent with his behavior toward Glory that I really wanted to grab him and shake him. And knowing his grandfather as well as he does, it bugged me that he had listened to and believed what the old man had told him ten years earlier. I loved what happened when he discovered the truth and how he admitted his idiocy. His big moment at the end was good, and I especially loved Glory's response.

Liza was a big part of the story of course, and I really liked that she played an active part. She's smart and sweet and her relationship with Jesse is already good, so she doesn't have any trouble accepting that he's her father too. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her get to know Glory and figure out the truth there.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Trace Evidence - Carla Cassidy (SIM #1261 - Dec 2003)

Series Cherokee Corners (Book 3)


But the only man who could keep proudly independent Tamara Greystone safe was brooding crime scene investigator Clay James, who insisted she do things his way if she wanted to see tomorrow. Terrified by a crazed stalker, the Native American teacher had no choice but to move in with her stubborn, sexy protector. But who would come to her heart's rescue? Because living with this man, touching him, kissing him, was the last thing she needed. And the very thing she wanted.

Good book. In the previous books of the series, Clay's mother has gone missing and he and his sisters are determined to find her. By this book, she has been gone several months. While putting in as much time as possible on that investigation, Clay also has other cases to deal with. The latest is a call to the local high school, where summer school teacher Tamara's classroom has been viciously vandalized. 

Tamara is an artist and teacher who has been teaching a class on Cherokee legends. She arrives at school one day to discover that her room has been trashed. Both she and Clay believe that it is a disgruntled student and that there's not too much to worry about. Clay just wants to catch whoever it is so he can get back to his mother's case. But when a dead animal is left on her doorstep, and then her house is also vandalized, he can't deny that the danger is increasing.

Complicating matters is the attraction that burns between Tamara and Clay. Neither of them is very happy about it. Tamara returned to Cherokee Corners after time spent in New York City. There she got involved with a man who wreaked havoc with her sense of self, especially her self-worth as a Native American. After coming home, she swore she would not get involved with another man who was not Native and did not fully appreciate his heritage. Clay has turned his back on his heritage, wanting nothing to do with any of it. This makes both of them realize that a relationship between them isn't wise.

I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. The attraction can't be denied, and no matter how they try, they continue to be drawn to each other. Clay is pretty closed off emotionally, especially suffering from some guilt over an argument with his mother before she disappeared. He is determined to keep messy emotions out of his life, preferring the logic of the science he works with. But the more time he spends with Tamara, the more he finds that she brings a sense of peace to his life. He's terribly confused by it, which makes him even grumpier.

Tamara is just as drawn to him, which doesn't make her any happier. She knows that he has turned his back on his heritage, something she doesn't understand, and has sworn to stay away from. But there is something about him that speaks to her own soul and she can't stop wanting to help him. I really liked the way that she was there for him when the stress of his job got to him. She sees that there is more to him than he wants to admit, but doesn't push him about it, until she can no longer deny her feelings for him. I ached for them both when he pushes her away. It's a discussion from an unexpected source that opens Clay's eyes to why he's become as he is, and that he can change it if he wants to. I liked the ending, as it showed a realistic desire to change and grow without making it look easy.

The mysteries in the book were really well done. There were three of them. Central to this book is who is tormenting Tamara and why. I found the use of the legend fascinating, and how the attacker was using it. It was definitely scary and intense, with the final confrontation a truly frightening experience. I loved Clay's protectiveness, and also Tamara's self-reliance as she has a big part in her own rescue. Also occurring through the books is a case of a serial killer, who kills men and leaves them naked in places around town. Whoever is doing it leaves no clue behind for the CSI team to use. At the end of this book, three men have died, and the killer is still at large. The third mystery is that of Clay's missing mother. Clay is doubly frustrated because of the lack of evidence there also. Until one tiny piece is discovered. I loved seeing how Tamara makes a connection that Clay, as a man, hadn't picked up on. I have to say that I wasn't surprised by who the kidnapper was, and ached for Clay's feelings of betrayal. I really enjoyed how all three were interwoven through the book. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stone Cold Texas Ranger - Nicole Helm (HI #1687 - Jan 2017)

A Texas Ranger puts it all on the line for a woman who has everything to lose

Texas Ranger Vaughn Cooper doesn't need or appreciate the "help" of some frivolous civilian on his case. Yet even this seasoned lawman can't argue that Natalie Torres is on her game. She might even unlock the answers he needs to crack this kidnapping…if the bad guys don't erase Natalie first.

With her home burned to the ground, Natalie has no choice but to hide out with Vaughn in a remote cabin. Spending time with the stone-cold officer should keep her mind strictly on the case. But there's an unseen fire burning deep within Vaughn, and it's making Natalie wonder just where the true danger might lie.

Good book. Natalie is a hypnotist who has been working with the Rangers for several years. Vaughn is a Ranger who doesn't believe in hypnotism and thinks that it is a con of some sort. When Natalie is tasked with hypnotizing a suspect in the Rangers' latest case of drugs and trafficking, she breaks the rules by asking some questions herself. Vaughn is furious because she may have wrecked his case, Natalie is angry because he stopped her before she got the answers she was looking for,

Natalie's sister Gabby has been missing for eight years and she's certain that she's still alive somewhere. To hear that someone named "The Stallion" "keeps the girls" gives her hope that had been beginning to fade. When her house is torched that same night, and the suspect she hypnotized is found dead on the property, Vaughn knows she has to be kept safe, and he's the only one who can do it.

Vaughn has devoted his adult life to the work he does. His depth of commitment caused his marriage to collapse, and since then he has been in work-only mode. He keeps his emotions under control at all times. He's not at all happy about the way that Natalie gets under his skin and threatens that control.

It was interesting to see their relationship develop and go from extreme antagonism to love. There had always been a physical awareness between them that both tried to ignore. Vaughn's attitude toward her caused her to think of him as "Ranger Jerk", and Vaughn just plain doesn't trust her. Thrown together to keep her safe, both Natalie and Vaughn have to find a way to get along. I loved seeing how surprised Vaughn was that she didn't fall apart under the stress of the danger they were in. Natalie was equally surprised to see that Vaughn wasn't as emotionless as he appeared. It was fun to see her poke at him and see how he reacted. Both of them have issues holding them back from believing a relationship is possible. Natalie's last one ended because her ex couldn't handle her obsession with finding her sister. She fears getting involved with someone else who wouldn't understand. Vaughn's ex-wife accused him of putting his job before their marriage, accusing him of being unable to find any balance. He doesn't believe that there is anyone out there who could live with his dedication to his work. This causes him to push her away even as he wants to pull her closer. It was fun to see his awkwardness at the end as he tried to be romantic. 

The mystery of who was after Natalie and why was pretty good. The level of danger she was in steadily increased, keeping up the tension throughout the book. The clashes between Natalie and Vaughn were pretty rough until they figured out that they were working toward the same solution. The final confrontation was a little anti-climactic after all the buildup, but still satisfying. I definitely got the feeling that there was something going on between Nat's sister and the undercover agent, so I hope there is going to be a story for them.