Thursday, March 31, 2016

Secret Child, Royal Scandal - Cat Schield (HD #2442 - Apr 2016)

Series: Sherdana Royals (Book 3)

The prince must produce an heir. Little does he know, he already has…

Christian Alessandro lives life in the fast lane. But royal duty calls, and the bachelor prince must settle down and sire the future king of Sherdana. That's when a chance encounter with former flame Noelle Dubone yields a bombshell discovery: Christian's already a father! Marrying Noelle will make his boy the legitimate heir. It's a rocky reunion. The determined dressmaker refuses to fall in love -- or in bed! -- with Christian again, even as old, intense feelings return with a vengeance. But what the prince wants, the prince gets…

Very good conclusion to the series. In the first two books, Royal Heirs Required and A Royal Baby Surprise, the first two of the triplet princes find love, but leave the royal succession in doubt. That leaves Christian to find a bride and marry to provide an heir. As the youngest of the three, Christian has enjoyed his bachelor status and isn't too happy about ending it.

Enter Noelle, the woman he never forgot. Five years earlier they had been friends and lovers, until he broke it off. He has great memories of being able to talk to her about anything, plus the passion had been off the charts. He's determined to see her again, talk to her and get her help, and then see if they can pick up where they left off. When he arrives unannounced at her house, he finds a little boy that looks just like him!

Five years earlier, Noelle had been a young fashion designer, deeply in love with Christian. Though she knew nothing could come of it, that didn't stop her from dreaming. This made it especially heartbreaking when he suddenly ended their affair, making it clear she needed to move on. So when she discovered she was pregnant, she didn't tell him, and raised Marc on her own. Now that he knows the truth, she won't keep him from getting to know his son, but she refuses to cave in to his demands.

At the beginning, I thought that Christian was pretty selfish. Suddenly finding out that he already has a son means he doesn't have to go through the hassle of finding and courting a bride. All he has to do is marry Noelle and he's all set. An additional benefit would be having her back in his bed. I loved his stunned reaction when she doesn't just agree. Though it may be kind of mean of me, I also liked that he had to work at it to connect with Marc. I felt a little bit sorry for him, but he's had things too easy. It got better as I got to know him, and discovered why he had broken things off with Noelle, but his focus was still on his desires.

Noelle is determined to protect her son and herself. She's not too happy about the pressure that would be put on Marc as heir to the throne and would rather keep him out of it. And with the attraction that still burns between her and Christian, she feels it would be far too easy to fall in love with him again.

As Christian and Noelle spent time together, he finally started to realize just what his feelings for her were. Then he had to find a way to convince her of the truth. There was also an added complication of a change in her design business, which gave Christian the opportunity for some immersion time with Marc. I loved their time in New York and what it did to open their eyes to what they had together. The ending was really sweet and romantic as both of them let go of their fears.

There was also an interesting twist involving Gabriel and Olivia that may take some of the pressure off Christian and Noelle. I would like to see them appear in a later book to see what happens with them. Perhaps there will be a book for their sister?

A Bargain with the Boss - Barbara Dunlop (HD #2440 - Apr 2016)

Series: Chicago Sons (Book 3)

With her boss, it's all work and all pleasure!

For years, Tuck Tucker has played the role of carefree billionaire. Yet when his brother goes MIA, Tuck takes over the family empire. He knows what he has to do -- and who he needs. Getting his brother's dedicated assistant to help, however, is tricky. Amber Bowen is smart, sexy and determined to keep his brother's whereabouts a secret. But everyone has a weakness, and Tuck won't lose a fortune…or an opportunity with Amber. He's found the perfect way to tempt her into making a bargain with the boss.

Good book. Tuck has been the playboy billionaire for years, leaving running the family business to his older brother and father. Then his brother disappeared and his father had a heart attack, leaving him the only one to take over. Feeling completely unqualified, Tuck knows that if he's going to succeed he's going to need the help of his brother's assistant.

Amber has watched Tuck skate by, doing the least amount of work possible. She doesn't know if he has it in him to do the job, but she owes it to her boss to try. She does know that Dixon desperately needed to get away, and she refuses to give up his location, which means she has to cooperate with Tuck.

I really liked Tuck. He had wanted to be involved in the business, but both his brother and his father had refused to give him any real responsibility, so he quit trying. By the time it was up to him, he had no confidence in his ability to keep the company out of trouble. But once he got Amber to start helping him, things started to get a little better. I loved seeing his confidence start to grow, especially when he was able to handle several crises at the New York trade show. I especially liked seeing him start to like what he was doing.

It took me a little while to warm up to Amber. She was just as guilty as everyone else of thinking that Tuck is incompetent. Even after he started handling things well, she kept waiting for something to go wrong. I loved her sense of surprise when she realized that he was actually doing a good job, and she started to see that everyone had underestimated him. It was really satisfying at the end to see her stand up for him. I also liked seeing her softer side come out when she was taking care of her sister.

From the moment they started working together, the attraction between them was strong. Amber is determined to resist, because workplace affairs never end well and she likes her job. She is also afraid of falling in love with him, knowing that they are too different to make it work. Tuck wants her, but is smart enough not to force the issue. However, he does take every opportunity to let her know just how interested he is. I loved his fascination with her shoes. Tuck has avoided any kind of serious commitments, and started out just wanting an affair. But the more time they spent together, the more Amber filled a gap he didn't know he had. In the end, both of them had to find a way to overcome their fears if they wanted to give their love a chance.

I also really enjoyed the premise of Tuck being thrown into the deep end on running the business, while trying to find his brother and drag him back. I understood Dixon's need to get away, and had fun seeing Amber protect his privacy. I was as frustrated with Dixon and his father as Tuck was because of their attitudes toward Tuck. I loved seeing Tuck get into running the business and coming at it with a different viewpoint, and how his changes impacted the business. It was fun to see Tuck stand up to Dixon over the changes he made, and Dixon encourage Tuck to fight for Amber. I hope that Dixon will get his chance for his own happy ending.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Lori Wilde (Avon - Nov 2015)

Series: Twilight Texas (Book 9)

Christmas in Twilight, Texas, is all merriment and mistletoe. The Cookie Club is whipping up their most festive sweets, the townspeople are scrambling to get their holiday shopping done, and Joe -- a hometown guy with a restless heart -- is dreaming about the woman he wants to kiss most . . .

. . . And who happens to be staying at his sister's place over the holidays, while Joe's sister is away. But Joe isn't quite sure he wants to be a living Christmas present to runaway law student Gabi Preston.

Joe thinks the sassy sweetheart he nicknames "Trouble" won't inconvenience anything but his healthy sex drive. But when he discovers the reasons Gabi escaped from her life, he aches to give her everything she's never had. As the magic of the season draws them together, the gift of love is the only one worth giving…

Good book with a sweet romance and characters with real world problems. Gabi is running away from her old life by switching homes with an online friend. After years of living up to her parents' expectations, she has realized that she isn't happy, so she quits law school and comes to Twilight to find out who she really is. There she meets Joe, her friend's brother, a good looking guy who she is immediately attracted to.

Joe is the family rolling stone. Diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, even now he finds himself unable to settle down for long. When his beloved grandfather has a stroke, Joe comes home to run the Christmas tree farm while his grandfather recovers. The work is physical, which helps him stay focused, and the bonus is being with family for the holidays. He's surprised to find Gabi staying in his sister's place, and can't stop thinking about her.

I liked Gabi a lot. She starts out as something of a lost soul and ends up a determined woman who knows exactly what she wants. When Gabi was six years old she lost her beloved older brother to cancer on Christmas Day. She and Derrick had often talked of all the things they would do at Christmas time when he was better. She blamed herself for his death (the reason why was heartbreaking) and set about trying to fill his place in her parents' lives. When she finally realized how unhappy she was, she came to Twilight to experience a real Christmas and decide what she wants to do. I loved seeing her throw herself into all the Christmas activities and how happy they made her. Because she had spent so much of her time growing up concentrating on her studies, she hasn't done much socially. The effect Joe has on her is instant and intense, but she's not sure if she should do anything about it. She's only there for three weeks and doesn't want to distract herself from her goals. But what a distraction! 

Joe was a real sweetheart of a guy. He's well aware of his personal challenges, and believes that because of them he will never settle down. He tried once and it didn't end well. But as evidence of what a good guy he is, he is still on good (though frustrated) terms with his ex-wife and contributes to the care of her daughter. I loved how he was the one who stepped up to take care of the Christmas tree farm because of how much it means to him. He's also a real charmer and has no trouble using it. He's attracted to Gabi, but sees her as the settling down type, which makes getting involved with her a bad idea. However, there is something about her that he can't stay away from.

I loved the development of their relationship. Joe helps her get settled in Katie's place (a yurt!) and unsuccessfully tries to stay away from her. I loved seeing him dive  into helping her experience everything that Christmas in Twilight has to offer. What he doesn't expect is the way that Gabi helps to calm the restlessness that he always feels. As she helps him deal with issues involving his ex and her daughter, he starts to wonder what it would be like to settle with Gabi at his side. I also liked the way that he made Gabi see her own worth as a person instead of just the one who keeps everyone else going. I loved seeing Gabi learn so much about herself with Joe's help. She also helps him with his own issues dealing with his ex-wife, and shows him that he's not the screw-up that he thinks he is. She worries that the feelings she has for Joe aren't real. I really liked the way that Joe gives her the space she needs at the end to figure things out. The ending was really sweet and romantic.

As always, one of the best things about the Twilight series is the emphasis on love and family. Joe's family is well aware of his issues, but is always there for him. I loved his grandfather's story of his own restless past and the parallels to Joe's life. I loved what Joe did when he learned the story of Gabi's life, and the effect it had on her relationship with her parents.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

His Secretary's Surprise Fiance - Joanne Rock (HD #2436 - Mar 2016)

Series: Bayou Billionaires (Book 2)

Her boss wants her in his office -- and as his bride!

Adelaide Thibodeaux grew up with Dempsey Reynaud, and she's worked for him for years. But when the billionaire football coach springs a surprise engagement to keep her from resigning, it's a low blow. Just as she's ready to strike out on her own, she's stuck in a fake relationship with her boss, biding her time…

But soon Adelaide faces a second blow: she's actually falling for the man! Can a relationship founded on a lie become the real deal? Or will they fumble before the end zone -- and stay in the friend zone?

Good friends to lovers story. Dempsey and Addy have known each other since they were kids growing up in a poor part of New Orleans. Dempsey protected Addy from bullies and she helped him deal with the results of an addicted mother. Then when he was thirteen, his billionaire biological father found him and took him to live with his family. Though Dempsey tried to keep in touch with Addy, it was difficult, until he became an adult. Then he offered her a job as his assistant until she was ready to branch out on her own.

As the illegitimate brother, Dempsey has always felt that he had to work extra hard to earn his place in the family. After years working his way up, he is now the head coach of his family's pro football team. A big part of his success he attributes to the work Addy has done for him. So when she announces that she is quitting and finally going on to pursue her own dreams, he panics. He can't convince her to stay until the end of the season, so he announces their "engagement" during a press conference - without her consent. Unless she wants to create a scandal, she's stuck for the near future. 

Addy has long had a dream of using her art degree and ability to create a line of sports accessories for women. She has been working on her business plan and is ready to go for it. She has been telling Dempsey her plans for weeks, but he has been completely ignoring her. She stunned when he once again ignores her and instead uses a fake engagement to keep her tied to him. Because she has spent her life trying to make him happy, she agrees to go along for a short time, but insists that she will end it in one month.

Addy has always had feelings for Dempsey, but knows nothing will come of them. Dempsey, on the other hand is pretty clueless. He dates empty headed women for short periods, with definite requirements of what he will and will not allow. While they had a great friendship when they were younger, after separating he became driven to succeed. Even after he hired Addy, his focus was on business and he didn't really treat her as the friend she was. Her plans to leave make him realize how much he depends on her, but he doesn't see how much deeper his feelings really are.

The development of the romance was interesting. Dempsey's reasons for his actions were totally selfish. It was fun to see him suddenly realize that Addy is a beautiful woman and that he is attracted to her. Still in his "all about me" mode, he decides that his next step is to get her into his bed. I thought that Addy had a lot more going for her. She has worked hard to get where she is, refusing to even consider letting Dempsey give her what she needs to start her business. She's always wanted him, but seeing the way he treats his women, prefers to keep their friendship intact. I loved seeing her call him out on his selfishness and how he slowly begins to see things from her point of view. The attraction between them is strong, and Addy has to decide if she wants to take what she can get from their fake relationship, knowing that she's likely to have her heart broken in the end. Meanwhile, Dempsey discovers that Addy is far different than the women that he's usually with, and he doesn't quite know how to deal with the way that makes him feel. By the time he figures it out, he's nearly destroyed their friendship. It was pretty sweet to see him find and embrace his inner romantic, as he tries to convince her to stay with him. I loved the ending and seeing him finally open his heart to her.

I liked seeing more of the other brothers also. They have a good, respectful relationship with each other, even if it isn't the touchy-feely sort. I liked seeing the changes in the oldest brother, Gervaise, since he fell in love in the first book, His Pregnant Princess Bride. Thanks to those changes, he is able to give Dempsey some much needed advice, though not without some good brotherly ridicule. I also liked their concern for their grandfather and his increasing memory problems.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The SEAL's Secret Heirs - Kat Cantrell (HD #2432 - Mar 2016)

Series: Texas Cattleman's Club: Lies and Lullabies (Book 5)

A SEAL comes home to twins…and faces off with an old flame!

Returning to Royal, Texas, is an emotional minefield for Navy SEAL Kyle Wade. He never felt suited to his rich family's ranching life. But is he suited for fatherhood? He's about to find out -- because he's now the guardian to twins. Not only that -- his high school sweetheart is the babies' caseworker!

Grace Haines wants what's best for Kyle's kids -- even if that means standing in his way. But their chemistry is as explosive as it was years ago, and it might just be time to give this military man a second chance…

In a previous book, Nanny Makes Three, Kyle's brother Liam ends up taking care of Kyle's newborn twin daughters. Kyle is a SEAL, out of the country, and hasn't been back to Royal in ten years. He and Liam have rarely spoken in all that time. Now Kyle is back, stunned to find himself a father, but determined to do it right. 

Kyle has received a medical discharge from the SEALs because of a career ending injury. Without the life that meant so much to him, he goes back to Royal and the ranch he is part owner of, but never felt part of. His arrival isn't exactly greeted warmly by Liam (a fist to the jaw), who informs him of his fatherhood. Kyle is shocked, but as soon as he sees the girls he is determined that he will be their father. He just has to convince his brother, and the girls' social worker, that he's up to the job. Problem is, that caseworker is his high school girlfriend, and they didn't exactly part on the best of terms.

Grace is surprised to see the guy who broke her heart back in Royal. Based on the past, she's not really inclined to believe that he is capable of being everything the girls need. She really needs to find a way to keep her personal feelings separate, but it's hard when she's never really gotten over him. 

I loved Kyle. He was facing his past when he returned to the ranch and the life he had never wanted, and wasn't sure what the future held for him. His shock at discovering he was a father was understandable, but as soon as he saw the girls he was a goner. He was immediately determined to do whatever was necessary and that included working on the ranch. I loved the way that he dove right in to it, even though his experience was limited. His confrontation with the ranch manager showed that he wasn't going to stand back for anyone. He also has to face his feelings for Grace, especially since they seem to have returned with a vengeance. Kyle's biggest issue is that he doesn't express his feelings at all and never had. This had been the catalyst for their breakup years ago, and he still hasn't learned to do so. 

I really liked Grace too. She has become an independent woman with a job she likes and is good at. Her biggest problem is that she has never really been able to move on from her relationship with Kyle. No other man has been able to measure up to her memories of him. Having him back in town brings the feelings back, but she can't trust that he isn't going to take off again. 

I loved seeing Kyle take to fatherhood. He really was wonderful with the girls. Grace's frequent appearances to check up on him gave them both the chance to see that the heat between them was still there. Their relationship started to grow until the truth about the event that sent him running to join the SEALs came out. I have to say that I was really disappointed in both Grace and Liam over that episode, and I didn't blame Kyle for his anger over it, then and now. Both he and Grace had to admit to their mistakes before they could move on. I liked Kyle's conversation with Liam and how his problem is pointed out to him. A health crisis for one of the twins had everyone coming together and Kyle realizing that Royal is where he's meant to be. I loved his big moment at the end, which was sweet and romantic and just what Grace needed.

Also briefly mentioned in the book was the ongoing question of who is buying up land around Royal and why. 

Scene of the Crime: Who Killed Shelly Sinclair? - Carla Cassidy (HI #1617 - Feb 2016)

Series: Scene of the Crime (Book 12)

Sheriff Olivia Bradford has a corrupt police department to clean up and an unsolved murder case to crack. But her new employee, Daniel Carson, isn't some subordinate she can brush off. Unbeknownst to him, he fathered her young daughter five years ago. Now she needs him to get close enough to solve Shelly Sinclair's untimely death without letting him get too close to learn her secret.

Daniel never forgot Olivia or the sizzling night of passion they shared. But with a killer targeting her, he must keep his elusive boss alive if he's ever going to learn the truth…

Excellent conclusion to the mystery begun in Scene of the Crime: Killer Cove and continued in Scene of the Crime: The Deputy's Proof. In this book, Sheriff Olivia Bradford has been brought in to investigate and clean up the sheriff's department after the previous sheriff's arrest for corruption. There is also an unsolved murder case that was mishandled by that sheriff. But what has her really off balance is the presence of Deputy Daniel Carson, a man she had shared a passionate night with five years earlier and who is the father of her daughter, though he doesn't know it.

Daniel is surprised when the interim sheriff turns out to be the woman he hasn't been able to forget in five years. He's happy to see her again, and to discover that the heat between them is just as strong as it was back then. But they work together, which means a relationship, even short term, is not a good idea. Besides that, Daniel has always avoided anything that smacks of commitment, and Olivia no longer seems the type for a fling. Then, with the reopening of the Shelly Sinclair murder case, Olivia becomes a target and Daniel's protective instincts kick in.

From the moment they saw each other again, the attraction between them was intense. Olivia was wary because she didn't want Daniel to discover that he was her daughter Lily's father. She remembered him saying that he had no interest in marriage or children. But when he assigns himself as her protector after the first attack on her, keeping him separate from her family isn't possible. She still doesn't reveal the truth, even though Daniel and Lily connect right away. Seeing them together just pulls her even closer to him. Daniel has never wanted marriage and children for himself, after being caught between his parents during their bitter divorce. But being around Olivia, Lily and Olivia's mother Rose, he begins to realize how lonely his life has been. I loved seeing how much fun Lily and her "Deputy" had together.

I loved the development of the relationship between Olivia and Daniel. Because they are also working the murder case together, they spend a lot of time in each other's company. This gives them a chance to get to know each other in more depth than in their short previous encounter. Olivia tries hard to keep a professional relationship only, but that doesn't last too long. Though she gives in to the heat between them, she still tries to protect her heart by attempting to push him away afterwards. I loved how Daniel's simple protectiveness so quickly became more, though he resisted admitting it to himself. One of the things I liked best is that they were able to talk about what happened and address any awkwardness so that it didn't affect their working together. But in order to have the life each has started to envision, both of them are going to have to face their pasts. The final face off with the bad guy forces them to do just that.

The suspense of the reopening of the Sinclair murder case was fantastic. From the first threat against Olivia to the final confrontation, I could not put the book down. They basically had to start the investigation from scratch because of the problems with the initial one. Though we already know that one of the suspects, Bo, is innocent of the crime, there were enough other possibilities to keep me guessing. Each one has motive and opportunity, so the true culprit isn't known until the end. It ends with an interesting twist, and a person I had suspected earlier, then took off the list. It was an exciting conclusion and had me on the edge of my seat until it was over.

The epilogue was a nice wrap up with all three couples, plus Lily and Rose. I loved seeing what they are doing now that the mystery is solved. Lily was especially adorable and I loved seeing her participation in the toasts.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Texan's Baby - Barb Han (HI #1633 - Apr 2016)

Series: Mason Ridge (Book 4)

A Texas bodyguard never thought he'd see Melanie Dixon again -- or learn he was the father of her little boy…

A shotgun blast shatters the night and Dawson Hill foils a ruthless stalker. Now the fearless bodyguard is committed to protecting Melanie Dixon -- the alluring woman who left him two years ago without a word. Not only is he surprised she's back in Mason Ridge, Dawson is doubly stunned to learn they have a son.

Now the three of them are on the run, and Dawson is determined to protect the baby boy he never knew he could love so much. With his passion for Melanie reigniting like Texas wildfire even as he struggles to forgive her deception, a madman closes in. A madman who threatens the family Dawson never dreamed would be within reach.

Good conclusion to the series. When Dawson spots a prowler at the house across the street he foils a stalker after his old friend Melanie. He also discovers that he's the father of an eighteen month old son. Now he's determined to protect them both while getting to know his son.

Dawson had never planned to have children. His little sister died of a devastating disease when she was five, and he didn't want to chance passing the gene on to another child. He has walled off his heart from wanting a family of his own, but Mason crashes right through them. I loved seeing him take to being a dad so quickly. He is understandably angry at Melanie for not telling him. But underneath the anger is the attraction for her that he hasn't been able to forget. 

Melanie kept Mason a secret to protect Dawson from the possible devastation of losing someone else to the disease. She knew of his feelings about having children of his own and thought she was doing the right thing. This had been reinforced by Dawson's mother when she found out. But seeing Dawson with his son makes her rethink her actions and wondering how to make things right. She also couldn't deny that her feelings for Dawson were as strong as ever.

I really liked seeing these two find their way to each other. Having been neighbors growing up, they'd always been friends. When Dawson's sister died, Melanie was the one there for him as he came to terms with it. She never pushed him to talk, she was just there. Melanie was the one person he could be himself with because he felt that she understood without judging. As they are thrown together in their attempt to avoid the man after Melanie, Dawson begins to open himself up to the idea of having the family he had been denying himself. Trouble comes with the unexpected appearance of Dawson's mother and the exposure of what drove Melanie away. Both of them have to face their fears before they have a shot at a life together and nearly losing their lives is the catalyst that does it.

The suspense of the story was good. At the end of Texas Hunt one bad guy is caught and at the beginning of this one he has squealed on his partner. In this one, it turns out that Melanie's stalker is Sprigs, the partner and the man who'd had a crush on Melanie when they were in school. Dawson is determined to do everything possible to protect Melanie and Mason, as law enforcement works to find Sprigs before he can get to Melanie. There are several close calls before the final confrontation, which happens after a really disturbing find. That confrontation was very intense with a couple times I wasn't sure how they were going to get out of it alive. The resolution was very satisfying.

The epilogue was a very nice wrap up to all four stories, with good news for Dawson and Melanie.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Wedding Takedown - Geri Krotow (HRS #1890 - Mar 2016)

Series: Silver Valley PD (Book 2)

Florist Kayla Paruso has been hired to decorate the mayor's daughter's wedding, but when she witnesses the murder of the mayor's top aide, rumors of corruption -- even a cult connection -- swirl through the town. Could the mayor really be involved? Luckily the SVPD offers Kayla the very best protection: Detective Rio Ortego. Who just happens to be the last guy Kayla dated. With the wedding fast approaching, Kayla's the perfect person to pry into the mayor's dangerous secrets, but Rio won't hear of it. And as their old attraction reignites, Rio's cop instincts clash with his need to safeguard the woman he's falling in love with all over again…

Good second chance romance with some pretty great suspense added in. In the first book of the series, Her Christmas Protector, Kayla was a friend of Zora's and Rio one of the SVPD detectives working on the case of the Female Preacher Killer. In that book, a cult has begun to infiltrate the town, creating problems on many fronts. At the beginning of this one, Kayla has been hired to do the flowers for the wedding of the new mayor's daughter. If she does a good job, it will be great for her business. Things get off to a rocky start when she's an unseen witness to the murder of the mayor's assistant, bringing Rio back to her side.

Kayla and Rio had dated for about three weeks back before Christmas, before she discovered just what his job was. Besides being a detective, he also occasionally does some undercover work. Kayla considered the omission one form of deception, a hot button for her. Then he got assigned as the investigating officer when her brother was accused of misconduct as fire chief, and had to break off their relationship because of it. The connection between them is still strong, though Kayla tries to keep him at a distance. Rio, on the other hand, wants another chance.

I loved the way their relationship began to take off. From the minute that he found out that Kayla had witnessed the murder, Rio's protective instincts kicked into high gear. He really wanted to keep her safe, but she was also in the best position to help with the investigation. I liked how he respected her intelligence and ability but couldn't resist keeping her close. It was fun to see him let her know frequently just how much he still wants her while still trying to give her the space she wanted. At the same time, Kayla realized that her feelings for Rio hadn't changed. As she got more involved in the investigation, she started to realize that her fears, while not unfounded, were worse than they needed to be. The chemistry between them was still as hot as before, and I liked the way that it helped pull them together. In the end, love wins out, but not without some boneheaded moves on Rio's part. I loved the advice he got from his boss that put him back on the right path.

The suspense of the book was really good. From the moment Kayla heard the shots until the murderer was revealed, I was hooked. There are multiple suspects, with each one having their own possible motivation. The mayor and his cronies seem to have a lot to hide, especially when it comes to how he got his job. His wife seems to be wound pretty tight, and her attitude toward Kayla makes you wonder just what she knows. The mayor's daughter is a real bitch, and seems to have her own agenda. Add in the apparent influence of the cult on what had previously been a great place to live, and the police department is dealing with a whole lot of stuff. I loved seeing Kayla get recruited into the group that lends assistance to the department when needed, and how that brought she and Rio closer. The final confrontation with the murderer was intense and answered some questions, but there are still many more left hanging. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Colton's Surprise Heir - Addison Fox (HRS #1884 - Feb 2016)

Series: Coltons of Texas (Book 2)

A brooding cowboy tracks the stalker after his true love--and unborn child

With an imprisoned serial killer for a father, rancher Ethan Colton never planned on continuing the tainted family name. But six months after a night of passion with a woman from his past, Ethan discovers he's about to be a dad. Beautiful, independent Lizzie Conner turns up at his Texas ranch expecting nothing but protection from the guarded cowboy. A stalker is fast on her trail, leaving creepy gifts and notes threatening her and the baby. Now all that matters to Ethan is keeping his unexpected family safe--and out of a killer's clutches.

Very good book that kept me hooked until the very end. Ethan and Lizzie had known each other as teenagers, when Lizzie was in the same foster home as Ethan's youngest sister Josie. Lizzy had had a crush on Ethan, and when she met him again years later she discovered the feelings were still there. A passionate night together left her pregnant with his baby, and not sure whether to tell him.

Ethan's father was convicted of murdering Ethan's mother and also being a serial killer. Ethan was the one who found their mother's body and his testimony helped convict his father. He is still haunted by the memories and swore long ago that he would never pass his tainted blood on to another. He's stunned to find out that Lizzy is pregnant, but determined to do his best to be a father to his child.

Lizzy came to Ethan because she has been receiving creepy notes and gifts since her pregnancy became public. When the stalker broke into her house twice, she had enough and fled to Ethan. He is determined to keep her and the baby safe, but also try to keep an emotional distance from her.

I loved the development of their relationship. Because they have known each other for so long they are familiar with each other's pasts. Lizzy doesn't judge Ethan by what his father did, she knows the man he really is. Ethan has tried his best to put his past behind him and devotes his time to his ranch. His love of animals shows that the ability to care is there if he will just open himself up to it. Lizzie has also made a good life for herself and is determined to take care of her baby. The trouble that Lizzie is in brings out Ethan's protectiveness. Having her in his home makes him realize how empty his life has been, but he is wary of making a commitment. One of the things I liked best about the book is that Ethan and Lizzy talk to each other about their pasts and their fears. It isn't easy, but she gets him to open up to her about his father. Even when they argue they are able to admit when they are wrong and apologize. I loved seeing them grow closer as they adjust to the idea of being parents. There are some good conversations between them about the baby. It takes almost losing her for Ethan to realize that she is more important than his fears.

There are three suspense stories woven throughout the book. The first is who is stalking Lizzy. Someone is leaving creepy notes and gifts about the baby, and Lizzy is scared. She goes to Ethan for protection and for help in figuring out who it is. I had a feeling about the stalker, part of which was correct but part of it was a surprise. The final confrontation was intense, but the danger was dealt with quickly by Ethan.

The second is the story of the alphabet killer, which started in the first book and looks like it will continue through the series. It looks like a copycat, who is imitating the methods used by the Coltons' father twenty years earlier. With several of the family members in law enforcement, they are all determined to find out who it is. In this book we actually see one of the murders committed and who does it, but the motivation is still unknown. The killer is also still on the loose.

The third is what is going on with the Coltons' father. He has been in prison for twenty years for killing his wife and others. He is now dying and wants to see each of his children before he dies. To make it happen, he promises to give each one a clue about what he did with their mother's body. The Coltons are a close family in spite of having been separated into foster care when he went to prison. Each of them deals with their past in their own way, and most are not happy about their father's demand. I love how they are there for each other, even when they argue. In this book it is Ethan's turn to confront his feelings and his father.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Royal Spy's Redemption - Addison Fox (HRS #1893 - Apr 2016)

Series: Dangerous in Dallas (Book 4)

All is Dangerous in Dallas -- with crime, mystery and passion!

Possessing priceless rubies gifted to the British royal family, MI5 agent Knox St. Germain stumbles into Gabby Sanchez's store, bleeding from a gunshot wound. The stunning caterer has seen the danger to friends who discovered the jewels, but now she faces an even greater threat -- the lethally sexy agent with a hidden motive!

Both hiding troubled pasts and feeling wary of relationships, fiery Gabby and roguish Knox develop a powerful attraction as they go on the run. Their adversary: someone who'll murder -- and worse -- to get the rubies. And when the killer does, Knox must choose between saving the gems and his gem of a woman!

The fourth and final book in the series is a fantastic read. At the end of the previous book, The Professional, the bad guy had been caught and the jewels were about to be returned to the British operative who had come to claim them. But something went wrong and in the melee the operative and the jewels disappeared.

When Knox showed up at the end of the previous book, nobody was quite sure about his intentions. He had a definite air of danger about him (think James Bond), but also had the apparent authority to take custody of the gems and return them to England. This book begins immediately following the confrontation at the park, as Knox appears at Gabby's catering shop, barely conscious from a gunshot wound. She immediately takes him in and treats his wound, unknowingly placing herself in danger. The interaction between the two of them was fantastic, as Knox tries to play down his injury and Gabby overrules him. The bad guy isn't far behind, and in a tense standoff he ends up with the jewels, and Knox determined to get them back. But just having them isn't enough, he has to eliminate Gabby and Knox because they know who he is.

Because helping him has put her in danger, Knox is determined to protect Gabby, and to do that they have to stay together. This is something of a challenge for Knox, who is extremely attracted to her. It was her beauty that first got his attention, but it was her intelligence and determination that hooked him. Gabby is a woman from a large Hispanic family, who has five older brothers. She is accustomed to dealing with stubborn men, and Knox is no exception. She is equally, if not more stubborn, as demonstrated by the way she stood up to her family to start and build her catering business. She is just as attracted to Knox.

I loved seeing the development of their relationship. Knox has avoided getting close to anyone as actions in his past have him convinced that he does not deserve a family of his own. That doesn't stop him from being somewhat envious of Gabby's large and close family, or drifting into daydreams of having Gabby in his life permanently. Gabby has not found anyone that can compete with her business for her attention, not for lack of trying by her family. Knox has roused feelings in her that she has never felt before, but she can't see anything coming of it. One of the things I loved about their interactions was how sensitive they are to each other. Gabby sees the shadows in Knox's eyes, and lets him know that she's there when he's ready to talk to her. And when he does, she doesn't judge, and he doesn't know how to deal with that kind of caring. On Gabby's side, the biggest thing that draws her to him is that he actually listens to her, unlike her family. I also enjoyed seeing just how much Gabby confuses Knox with her insistence on helping him. There were quite a few times that had me grinning at the way she outsmarts or outtalks him.

The bad guy, who we learn early on is Knox's boss at MI5, isn't going to give up, and they have to go on the run to avoid him. The man is tenacious and they barely escape with their lives. With the help of Gabby's friends from the previous books, she and Knox come up with a plan to go to London and draw him out. I really enjoyed seeing Gabby overcome each objection Knox had to her involvement. The action kept intensifying as they arrived in London and were attacked again almost immediately. Because of his boss's stellar reputation, and the corruption that lay beneath it, there are only a few people that Knox feels he can trust. The final confrontation was really intense, with some nerve wracking moments. I loved how it all went down, and Knox's surprise at the backup he got.

The epilogue was a pretty sweet wrap up, with the group together in London. Knox's big moment was romantic and sweet. I especially loved the way he included her family.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Texas Hunt - Barb Han (HI #1627 - Mar 2016)

Series: Mason Ridge (Book 3)

She had a secret that could rock her hometown -- and unleash a killer

When Ryan Hunt receives a dead-of-night call for help from his childhood friend Lisa Moore, he knows the emergency is real. After barely surviving a brutal attack, Ryan is the only person Lisa trusts. Convinced the assault wasn't random, he realizes she is hiding a dark and potentially deadly secret.

Ryan can't ignore Lisa's silence any more than he can resist the Texas heat between them. He risks his life -- and heart -- to protect her. But if he can't get Lisa to confide in him, the secret could bring the town of Mason Ridge to its knees. And destroy the only woman he has ever loved.

Good book with a friends to lovers romance and good suspense. Ryan and Lisa have been friends since they were kids. There has also been a pull of attraction that both have ignored. When Lisa experiences a brutal attack, she calls Ryan, the only man she feels she can trust.

Lisa knows why she was attacked. She is keeping a secret that the other party doesn't want revealed and who is determined to make sure it never is. She is worried about the safety of her sister and infant nephew, especially after their father's death under suspicious circumstances. She has spent years being independent and depending on no one but herself, so leaning on Ryan isn't easy for her. She is also worried that telling him her secret will change the way he looks at her.

Ryan also has trust issues. His mother deserted him and his brother when they were young, leaving them with an abusive father. As a result, he has no intention of ever having a family of his own. His protective instincts kick in when Lisa asks for his help. It takes him a bit to get her to open up to him, but when she does he is horrified by what happened to her. 

I loved seeing the relationship develop between them. Because they have been friends for so long, they already know each other pretty well. I liked the way that Ryan believed her immediately when she told him what had happened. It was wonderful to see how sensitive and patient he was with her fears. Lisa also knew Ryan well, and knew the effect that his mother's abandonment had on him. With the recent loss of her father, she tries to make Ryan see the importance of family. She is also as protective of him as he is of her, and worries that she has brought danger to him. I enjoyed seeing the attraction build between them and then give in to it. The depth of the connection surprises them, and has them both thinking about the future. There's a bit of conflict when Lisa does something behind his back, but it is resolved pretty quickly.

The action and suspense of the story is good. Lisa kept the secret of her assault for a long time because of who did it and her fear of his retaliation if she told. His father is also in trouble with the law, and he is desperate to make sure nothing else can damage the reputation of the family. The attacks on Lisa escalate, and Ryan is determined to protect her and bring the bad guy to justice. I liked how characters from previous books were also involved in this one, and how they supported each other. There is also ongoing action from the previous books, and a possible link to what is happening in this one. The final confrontation is intense, and I loved how Lisa fought back. There are a couple interesting twists in the story, and questions that are still unanswered. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Single Kiss - Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca - Jan 2015)

Series: Sweetest Kisses (Book 1)

A single kiss can change everything...

In the first novel of the Sweetest Kisses series, Hannah Stark has set her sights on corporate law to assure her a career of paperwork, predictability, and conservative suits. Contracts, finance, and the art of the deal sing to her, while the mess and misery of the courtroom do not. But her daughter needs to eat, so when Hannah is offered a temporary position in a small town firm's domestic relations department, she reluctantly accepts.

Trent Knightley is mightily drawn to his newest associate, though Hannah is as protective of her privacy as she is competent. When their friendship and attraction heat up, Hannah's secrets put her heart and Trent's hopes in double jeopardy.

Grace Burrowes's first foray into contemporary romance and it was fantastic. Terrific characters, intense emotions, and a  really sweet romance made this an impossible to put down book. Hannah is a single mother and recent law school graduate. After working several temporary jobs, she has interviewed for a job in the corporate law department of the Knightley brothers' law firm. There's just one catch - they need her to work six months in the shorthanded family law department first.  That is absolutely the last place she wants to be, but she'll tough it out for the short term. Trent is intrigued by his new associate. She is beautiful, but also very cool and private. She has made it clear that she's not happy about working family law, but he's quickly impressed by her attention to detail.

I loved Trent. He is first and foremost a gentleman, and very protective of the people who work for him. There are several instances over the first few days where he makes it plain to Hannah that he is not just her boss but a friend also.  He is also overwhelmed with work right now, so he pairs Hannah with another lawyer in the department to learn the ropes. He is unaware that this other lawyer has been playing fast and loose with the rules, but Hannah experiences it firsthand. I loved Trent's reaction when he found out, but that also put Hannah by herself handling cases in court the next week.

I also loved Hannah. She is a strong woman who has been through a lot in her life so far. She grew up in the foster care system which is why she feels so strongly about family law. She experienced the worst of it from a foster child's perspective. She also has a seven year old daughter who she is very protective of. She has secrets from her past and guards her privacy zealously in order to protect herself and Grace.  Though she hates working family law, she is very good at it, and there are some fantastic scenes of the cases she deals with.

The development of the relationship between Trent and Hannah is wonderful. Trent was hurt in the past and has believed that he is past any possibility of a new relationship. There is a vulnerable side of him that shows, as he worries that he is going to do something wrong with the things he starts to feel about Hannah. He also senses that she has secrets, and is sensitive enough not to badger her about them, but makes himself available for her to confide in when she's ready. He also has a gentle, but insistent way of getting her to do what he wants when he tries to take care of her. There are some really wonderful scenes of him showing his confidence in her courtroom skills, and the effect that confidence has on her. Hannah has never experienced a loving relationship of any kind, and Trent's treatment of her quickly starts to crumble the walls she has built around her heart. She is so used to depending only on herself that she doesn't quite know how to handle Trent's insistence on helping her, but she finds herself wanting to lean on him. For someone who feels that her people skills are somewhat lacking, I thought that she did pretty well with Trent. I loved the way that she would touch him, straighten his tie in an almost, but not quite motherly way.  It was terrific to see her open her heart to Trent and start to trust him with her past. However, there are still some issues that pop up at the end that make her wonder if a future with Trent is possible. I loved the lengths that he went to in order to make their happy ending become real.

Throughout the story is a thread dealing with the lawyer that Hannah worked with at the beginning. His actions and deceptions had gotten him fired, which he blames on Hannah. He is determined to get revenge, and several times during the book we get his point of view. The things he does are really terrible and cause Hannah's worst fears to be realized. I loved the way that Trent and his brothers were there for Hannah and Grace and helped them through the crisis. The scene in the courtroom was wonderful, especially the testimony by Grace's friend Henry.

The two little girls in the story were adorable. Merle is Trent's daughter and Grace belongs to Hannah. The two girls are in the same class at school and become friends well before their parents do. Each girl is very protective and caring of their parent, and it was really sweet to see how strong those relationships are. They are also typical little girls with the imaginations to go with it. I loved their imaginary unicorns.

The secondary characters were all wonderful. Trent's two brothers were so realistic. I loved the way they all teased each other, but were also there to support each other when needed. It was really sweet to see the two brothers with their niece, and the way she had them wrapped around their fingers. Mac and James each have their own law specialty within their firm and I loved seeing how each is portrayed within that specialty. There is also a side story involving two judges who are friends of the Knightley brothers. I loved seeing the advice they are given. There is also a surprise twist involving these two judges and Hannah, which makes an especially satisfying ending to the book.

I also enjoyed the lawyer/family court setting. The realism of the cases shown was heartbreaking at times. I could really understand Hannah's stress over what she had to do, considering her history. I could also see Trent's happiness in doing his best to get his clients what they needed.

Last Chance Hero - Hope Ramsay (Forever - July 2015)

Series: Last Chance (Book 9)

Ross Gardiner has had his fill of difficult relationships. Returning to Last Chance after a rough divorce, the town's handsome new fire chief just wants safety and stability-a tall order given his dangerous job and the way he has the attention of all the single women in town. All "except "Sabina Grey, the girl who stole his heart when they were teenagers.

Sabina knows a lot about playing it safe. Always the good girl, she's now responsible for her antiques store and caring for her sister. But having Ross in town brings back the memory of one carefree summer night when she threw caution to the wind-and almost destroyed her family. Now that they are both older and wiser, will the spark still be there, even though they've both been burned?

Ross returned to last chance after his divorce and began a new life as the town fire chief. He was drawn to his high school crush, Sabina, but she seemed uninterested in him, so he moved on. Instead, he started going out with her younger sister Lucy, who was much different than his ex-wife. Ross is wary of committing again, so his slow moving relationship with Lucy is fine with him.

Lucy has some serious control issues, dating from a fire in which she was badly scarred. She's enjoying her relationship with Ross, but she has a long checklist of requirements that must be met before they can get married. All of that goes out the window when local matchmaker Miriam Randall shows up at the store that she and her sister Sabina own.

Sabina is alone at the store when Miriam arrives and tells her that before she finds the love that is meant for her she has to get her sister settled. Her mother overhears this, and goes into matchmaking overdrive, facing down Ross and Lucy and telling them it's time to get moving so that Sabina can finally move on. Neither is up to withstanding Hurricane Henrietta, and soon find themselves looking at a rapidly approaching wedding.

Sabina has made it her mission in life to take care of Lucy ever since the fire that injured her so badly. Sabina feels guilty about what happened to Lucy, since she had been told to watch her sister that night while their parents were out. Instead, she left her thirteen year old sister home alone and snuck out to meet friends. Since that time, she has put her own life on hold to watch over her sister. She doesn't want Lucy and Ross guilted into rushing into marriage. She also has the deep, dark secret of the crush she had on Ross when they were in school, a crush that is still there.

I don't normally care for love triangle stories, but this was much more than that.  Ross is the last chance fire chief who is dealing with an arson fire that appears to be eco-terrorism. This has brought the ATF and the FBI to town, creating even more complications in his life.  Also returning to town is a man Sabina knew as an eighth grader, one who she treated badly. He has made good and come back to help his uncle, the developer who was the target of the arson.  He shows a great deal of interest in Sabina, and pursues her. She initially accepts his advances as an apology for her treatment of him, and as a way to get past her feelings for Ross.

The wedding plans aren't going smoothly, as Lucy reacts badly to the loss of control of her decisions.  Ross is doing his best, but coming up short in her opinion. In her efforts to help Ross and Lucy get married, Sabina finds herself in close quarters with Ross on several occasions. Their deeply buried feelings start to come closer to the surface and they end up in several awkward situations.

It's very obvious that Ross belongs with Sabina, not Lucy, but he is too honorable to break things off with Lucy. Meanwhile, Lucy discovers that it is much easier to spend time with one of the ATF agents than with Ross. Misunderstandings and interference from various well-meaning townspeople nearly bring a disastrous wedding day, before that confusion is straightened out.

There is also the ongoing mystery of the arson. The first fire is followed by a second one, one that injures Ross. Small town politics and ambitious federal agents put both Ross and Lucy in the crosshairs of the investigation. I loved seeing the support they both got from the people who know and care for them. The arson investigation ended up being more convoluted than anyone expected. The final confrontation was really intense, with a bad guy I suspected all along, though there was an unexpected revelation during that confrontation.

For the most part I liked Ross and Sabina. I did want to shake her a few times and tell her that she was going way overboard on the guilt about her sister. I loved seeing how perfect she was for Ross, and how much they had in common. She was wonderful with Ross's dog, and their work together on the house he bought was great. She fought her feelings for him because of his relationship with her sister, even though at heart she knew they weren't right for each other. Ross was a really sweet Southern guy. He'd been burned once before, so he's been fine with taking his relationship with Lucy slow. He treats her well, and has gone along with all her demands for their relationship, to the point you had to wonder if he had a backbone around her. I was glad to see it show up when he was given the dog and he stood up to her demands to get rid of it. Sparky was adorable and ended up saving ross's life. His slow realization that he was engaged to the wrong sister was hard for him to face. I loved those moments when their true feelings got the best of them. Uncomplicating their relationship at the end was interesting, and I loved seeing it happen.

For most of the book I really didn't like Lucy. I thought she was a spoiled brat who took advantage of her parents and Sabina. Her premarriage requirements should have been a clue to both her and ross that  their relationship wasn't meant to be. I did like her interactions with the federal agent, some of which were pretty amusing. She did finally redeem herself at the end.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Last Chance Family - Hope Ramsay (Forever - Nov 2014)

Series: Last Chance (Book 8)

Mike Taggart has always been willing to take a gamble. But these stakes are just way too high - there's no way he's prepared to become a legal guardian to his five-year-old niece. His only option is to head from Las Vegas to Last Chance to sort things out as quickly as possible. Problem is, he arrives to find an inconsolable little girl, her sick cat, and a gorgeous veterinarian he can't get out of his mind.

Charlene Polk has two talents: healing sick critters and falling in love with the wrong men. Mike has trouble written all over him, but she can't leave him in the lurch. And the more time she spends with the sexy high roller, the more she sees that this ready-made family is the best stroke of luck they've ever had . . .

Very good story of redemption and second chances. Mike is a professional gambler in Las Vegas when he finds out that his younger sister has died, leaving him as guardian of his five year old niece, Rainbow. He feels completely unqualified for the job, so tracks down the half-brother he hasn't seen since he was five, and is now a preacher in Last Chance. He feels that Tim would be a better father figure, so he picks up his niece and her cat and heads to Last Chance.

Unfortunately for him, his niece, already traumatized by her mother's death, isn't taking to him very well, nor is her cat. As soon as they arrive in Last Chance he looks up a vet for the cat, and meets Charlene. He's floored by her beauty, but not too happy with her judgmental attitude about the way he's taking care of Rainbow. Then his half-brother, Tim, isn't sure he believes what Mike is telling him. All Mike wants to do is find someone more suitable than he is to raise Rainbow and get back to his life.

But the town of Last Chance isn't going to make it that easy for him. Tim needs time to verify what Mike has told him, so he convinces Mike to stay in town for a couple weeks. He even finds an apartment for them, which just happens to be next door to Charlene's. Mike figures that Tim is going to need a mother for Rainbow and has fixated on Charlene as the perfect candidate, a fixation that seems to be confirmed by the town matchmaker.

I really liked Mike. Even though he seems to be trying to dump Rainbow off on his brother, it's because he doesn't believe that he is a fit guardian for her. He carries a lot of guilt over what he sees as his failure to protect Rainbow's mother, his little sister, when she was younger. It was pretty amusing to see his efforts at pushing Tim and Charlene together, especially considering his own attraction to her. I also loved seeing how sweet he really was with little Rainbow. He didn't think he would be a good father, but he was doing everything right with her (except for the cat). 

I also liked Charlene. She was a bit judgmental at first, but once she got past that hurdle, she was wonderful. She, too, has some guilt dogging her from mistakes made when she was younger. She has had terrible luck in picking men, starting with her college boyfriend, who left her pregnant when her father offered to buy him off. Her biggest guilty feelings stem from that pregnancy and the pressure from her parents that she succumbed to. However, that same experience has made her much more empathetic with Rainbow, and I loved the way that she connected with the little girl. She's also very attracted to Mike, but sees him as just as disastrous a choice as the other men. 

I loved seeing the relationship develop between them. At first it was just as friends, as Charlene did her best to help Mike through various crises. But the more time they spent together, the more the attraction grew. Mike desperately tried to resist, as he was shoving her toward his brother, but it became harder for him to picture them together. I loved the way that things came to a head at the bachelor auction, though Mike was still resisting the obvious. It took some straight talk from the family lawyer and Tim for Mike to finally see the truth. I loved his big moment at the end, in the rain, cat and all.

As always, the small town of Last Chance plays a big role in the romance. Being from Las Vegas, Mike has no experience with the way that small town people are so deeply involved in each other's lives, and it takes him awhile to get used to it. I loved how everyone had an opinion on his plan to match Tim and Charlene. I also loved support he got during the trouble at the lake, including Sheriff Rhodes and his actions. The bachelor auction was a riot, with some interesting things resulting from it. But best of all was the way they all pulled together at the end.

Every small town has to have their bad apples, and in this case it was Charlene's parents. It's hard to believe two such terrible people could have produced someone like Charlene. I loved seeing her get stronger about standing up to them, especially that last scene at the hospital.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bodyguard Daddy - Lisa Childs (HRS #1886 - Feb 2016)

Series: Bachelor Bodyguards (Book 2)

The Bachelor Bodyguards of Payne Protection Agency are back--and this time, it's personal

Walking away from then-fiancee Amber Talsma was one of the hardest things sexy bodyguard Milek Kozminski ever had to do. But it was nothing compared to the shock of hearing she'd been killed in a car accident alongside the son Milek knew, deep down, was his.

Amber will do anything to keep her child safe. Which was why she had to fake their deaths--to evade the assailant who murdered her boss, then came after her. But now someone has found them. And when Milek learns the truth, he'll stop at nothing to protect his son...and the woman he never stopped loving.

Very good book, with excellent suspense from the beginning and a terrific second chance romance. At the end of the previous book, His Christmas Assignment, Milek learned that the ex-fiancee he thought was dead is actually alive and in hiding, along with their son. When he learns that they are in danger again, nothing will stop him from protecting them.

Milek and his brothers had been raised and trained by their father to follow in his footsteps as thieves, before he was caught and imprisoned. All of the boys had been hell-raisers and had gotten into plenty of trouble. But when their stepfather tried to assault their little sister, Milek and Garek had gone a little too far in protecting her and ended up going to prison for manslaughter. After getting out, Milek had gone to work for another criminal, working undercover, before going to work for Payne Protection as a bodyguard. Amber had been the best thing to happen to him, but he feared that his reputation would ruin her chances for advancement, so he broke off their engagement. He also denied that her son was his.

Amber had been heartbroken by Milek's abandonment, but went on with her life, raising their son by herself. Then her boss was murdered and she was attacked, so she took her son and went into hiding. When another attack happened she knew they'd been found and would have to run, but this time Milek found her before she could go. She can't avoid his determination to protect them.

I ached for both Milek and Amber, as neither had stopped loving the other. But Milek was so sure that he was bad for Amber and her future that he refused to believe that they could have a future together. Something else that hadn't changed was the attraction they had for each other, which burned as hot as ever. It was that passion that made Amber sure that Milek still cared, even if he refused to say so, and she was determined to find out why he had pushed her away. I loved the way that she tried to convince him that he was wrong to believe what others had said about him. I also loved seeing Milek fall under the spell of his little boy, and what a great dad he turned out to be.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. From the very beginning Milek and Nick Rus were determined to discover who was behind the attacks on Amber. The confrontations with the hit man were intense, but also puzzling, as he could have easily succeeded in killing her. There was also tension between Milek and Nick, because Nick was suspicious of both Milek and Amber. As the attacks continued and escalated, the other members of Payne Protection also got involved. It was interesting to see the dynamics among all the people, between suspicions, family tensions, and secrets being kept. Just when it looked like the danger was over, an unexpected twist showed that it wasn't. Milek really showed what he was made of as he saved Amber and Michael.

"I Do" ... Take Two - Merline Lovelace (HSE #2461 - Mar 2016)

Series: Three Coins in the Fountain (Book 1)


A Roman reunion isn't on Kate Westbrook's itinerary when she arrives in Italy. After all, she's flying solo on the vacation she'd hoped to share with her soon-to-be-ex. But when Kate tosses a coin into the Trevi Fountain, her deepest wish -- a second chance with her gorgeous pilot husband -- might come true…

Travis knows his dangerous missions broke up his marriage, but he's determined to win back his wife. How can Kate resist the magic and moonlight of Venice, followed by a passionate interlude in a sun-drenched Tuscan villa? Now, instead of dodging missiles, Travis faces a far more daunting challenge: proving to the woman he adores that their love is as enduring as the Eternal City itself.

I loved this book. Kate and her husband have planned their ideal Italian getaway for years. But between her career and his, and their frequent separations, it never happened. And all those separations have seen them grow apart. So Kate has filed for divorce and come to Italy with her two best friends. She never expected Travis to show up, determined to win her back.

I loved the honest look at what frequent deployments can do to a military marriage. Kate and Travis loved each other, there was no doubt about that. But with so much time apart, they felt that they didn't know each other. There was also a bit of trouble instigated by someone else that drove Kate's decision to end their marriage.

I really liked both Kate and Travis. They are each strong, intelligent and determined. When Travis shows up, wanting them to take this chance to see if their marriage can be saved, Kate isn't sure she wants to risk her heart being broken all over again. But she can't deny that she still loves him. I loved Travis's determination. He isn't going to let them go down without fighting for their marriage. 

It was really sweet to see the effort that Travis put into making their time together as perfect as he could. With the help of his two friends, he was able to provide some really romantic settings for his courtship. I also liked the way that he owned up to the mistakes he had made in the past and that he needed to make some changes. I also loved the pride he had in her achievements. Kate is a bit of a control freak, but I loved seeing her let go enough to give Travis the chance that he asked for. She has always been very proud of what he does, but the stress of their separations and of not knowing whether he's safe has become too much. 

The passion is still there between them and that gives them a starting point. I loved seeing them getting to know each other again and share the beauty around them. It was great to see how they were able to talk honestly to each other about what had been happening. I wasn't terribly surprised about Travis's solution to their issues. The biggest hurdle was Kate facing her guilty feelings over her part in that decision. A bit of danger at the end cemented their feelings for each other.

I loved the big parts that Kate's and Travis's friends played in the book. Kate and her friends, Dawn and Callie, had known each other for many years. They have always been there to support Kate when she needed it. I loved their reactions to Travis's arrival and plans, and how they made no secret of their feelings. It was pretty sweet to see how Travis respected those feelings and had done his best to make their time in Italy good even though he was taking Kate away from them. Travis's friends were of shorter acquaintance, but just as important to him. I loved hearing about why Carlo feels so indebted to Travis. Carlo is quite the Italian playboy and it was fun to see him around Dawn and Callie. Brian also has a big part in Travis's life, and we hear all about his plans. I also loved the way that Brian is such a great dad to his son Tommy. Tommy was a great addition to the book and I loved his mischievous ways. I'm expecting to see all these folks in the rest of the series. I think I've got one couple figured out (Brian and Dawn) but I'm not so sure whether it will be Callie and Carlo or Callie and Joe.

I also loved the Italian setting. The descriptions of the sights were so good that I could picture them, As it was a place that Kate and Travis had wanted to visit for so long, I loved seeing it through their eyes and seeing the effect it had on them and their love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reunited with the Rebel Billionaire - Catherine Mann (HD #2441 - Apr 2016)

Series: Bayou Billionaires (Book 3)

Is it a real reunion, or one for the cameras?

Football star Henri Reynaud won't let his career go down without a fight. If the only way to win is to reconcile with his estranged wife, he'll do what it takes. But spending time with Fiona Harper-Reynaud isn't just some ruse. The sultry beauty belongs in his bed.

Fiona doesn't know where her sexy husband's public act ends and his real feelings begin. Can she afford to fall a second time for the man every female wants? One thing is undeniable -- their attraction has never flared hotter!

Okay book, which is something I never expected to say about a Catherine Mann book, but in this case I spent most of the book wanting to shake Fiona. Henri and Fiona met and married quickly. Their chemistry had been explosive, and when she got pregnant they married immediately. Unfortunately, she lost the baby, and they spent the next several years trying to get pregnant. In the course of fertility testing, they discovered that she carried the gene for both breast and ovarian cancer, diseases that her mother, grandmother and aunt died of. She made the decision to have preventative surgery, but ever since then she's been pulling away from Henri.

Henri doesn't know what is going on with the woman he loves. The distraction of his marital problems is messing with success on the football field and he wants to get both of them back on track. It seems that no matter what he does, Fiona keeps pushing him away and telling him that their marriage is over. Wanting more time to win her back, he uses the need to keep their troubles out of the press as a way to delay the final split.

I like Henri most of the time. He had a few issues that kept him from being great, the biggest being the fallout from his mother's abandonment of him and his brothers and his father's infidelities. This has made him wary of being "all in" in a relationship. This keeps him from telling Fiona the true depth of his feelings, though he certainly shows her often enough. I liked the way that he never blamed her for their inability to have kids, and he supported her throughout her medical issues. He treated her gently while she was recovering, and gave her the space she wanted. His frustration with her is obvious and reasonable, as she won't explain why she wants to end their marriage. 

I can't say that I hated Fiona, but I had trouble liking her too. She has a wonderful husband who wants to be there for her and all she does is push him away. She admits to herself that she loves him, but she doesn't believe that he really loves her, that he is only there because he feels obligated because of her health. She watched her father suffer through her mother's illness and death, and his devastation afterwards, and doesn't want to put Henri through that if she ends up with cancer after all. So she is determined to end their marriage and free him to find someone else. I got so mad at her because she was pushing him away because of what might happen, instead of celebrating what they have now. She told herself that she was protecting him from later misery.

The attraction between them was still strong. I could understand Fiona's worries about her body for awhile, but not after Henri made it plain that he wanted her just as she is. It made me mad when she would give in to the desire between them, but still insist that their marriage had to end. It was really sweet to see how Henri tried romancing her. Their "tourist day" in their hometown of New Orleans was terrific and showed just how much was still between them. Henri doesn't want to lose her, but he begins to lose hope that their marriage can be saved. I really wanted to lock them in a room and tell them to just TALK to each other.

I loved the support they both got from his family. Though his brothers can sometimes be a pain, they try to help him with his problem. I also liked the way that their ladies tried to help Fiona. It was hard to believe that with all the love that was there, Henri and Fiona kept her medical problems secret, cutting off the support they could have had all along. It was great to see that their love started to break through Fiona's wall, but it was a letter from one of the charity fundraiser attendees that finally opened Fiona's eyes. I loved her big moment, and hope the next book gives us a glimpse of a happier future for them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Living on the Edge - Susan Mallery (SIM #1383 - Sept 2005)


With his taut muscles and powerful gaze, bodyguard Tanner Keane was Madison Hilliard's only source of safety. Hired to rescue her, he kept her safe from a corrupt ex-husband who wanted her dead. So after days in close proximity -- fear and desire escalating -- who would save them from their wildest fantasies?

Tanner liked his women easy, and Madison was a fighter. And as her presence brightened his house, he began to want her around all the time. For a man who was tough to the world, Tanner let the tender protector in him guide his actions. Yes, he would save her again. But of course, he was the one who was really in danger....

Really good book. Tanner and his security firm are hired to rescue Madison from those that have kidnapped her. Tanner just wants to get her out, return her to her family, and move on. To him, she's just another useless rich woman. That all changes once the rescue happens. Madison was actually kidnapped by her ex-husband, who needs the ransom money for his own nefarious purposes. She knows he was behind it, and that if she is sent back she will end up dead. However, convincing the cynical Tanner isn't easy.

I really liked Madison a lot. She freely admits that she used to be the spoiled and useless rich girl that Tanner accuses her of being. However, her marriage opened her eyes and she made the conscious decision to make changes in her life. She also had an uphill battle with her father and husband, both of whom believed that she was weak and likely to suffer the same mental illness as her mother. She was much stronger than even she believed, and I loved seeing her stand up for herself against Tanner's prejudices.

Tanner was a bit harder to like at the beginning. His refusal to look beyond his own beliefs about Madison was really irritating. Even when she told him the truth about her kidnapping he didn't want to believe her. He earned some points back when he checked out some of what she told him and found out she was telling the truth, so he promised to protect her until he was certain of everything. 

I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between them. The sparks were there from the beginning, though they were antagonistic at the start. I loved seeing Madison push back against Tanner's attitude instead of just taking it. In spite of his attitude toward her, she felt safe with him. Tanner was fighting his own attraction to her, which caused him to overreact to something he found on her computer. What he did then was wrong on so many levels, and I really liked that she told him so when she recovered. He did redeem himself when he admitted that he was wrong, and his attitude toward her started to changed at that point. His protectiveness became personal rather than professional, and that scared him. When everything was over, he told her that her feelings were because of the danger they had been in, not for real. That if she still felt that way in six months, they'd talk. It was hilarious to see the way that she didn't sit back and take that, but kept trying to reach him. The ending was great as he finally faced his fears. I loved their big moment at the end.

The suspense of the story was great, with Tanner and Madison working together to bring down her ex-husband Christopher. What he was doing was definitely scary, as it had a touch of realism to it. I will admit to some frustration with Madison toward the end, as Christopher pulled some really underhanded tricks to get what he wanted. Unfortunately, he knew Madison well enough to know what buttons to push, which caused her to do something really stupid. Of course, Tanner comes through to save her yet again.

I absolutely loved one of the secondary characters in the book. Tanner's friend and coworker, Angel, is the team sniper. He also seems to be the second in command, and is Madison's point of contact at the end when she's trying to get to Tanner. I loved the friendship they built and Angel's part in bringing them back together. Angel gets his very own story in When We Met, a Fool's Gold book that takes place years later.