Saturday, May 21, 2016

Brody - Emma Lang (Brava - July 2012)

Series: Circle Eight (Book 2)

A year after their family was brutally torn apart, the Graham siblings begin to put their lives back together at their ranch in East Texas. With their parents gone, their bonds will truly be tested.  .  .

Olivia Graham has worked hard to take care of her younger brothers and sisters at the Circle Eight Ranch. But their family circle was broken when their young brother Benjy disappeared. She can't shake the feeling that he must be out there, somewhere. Brody Armstrong, a handsome but rough-around-the-edges Texas Ranger, has been working on their case for months, and now he has a promising lead. As Liv follows him across the rugged Texas landscape and into Mexico, she'll begin to find the answers she needs--as Brody finds a passion he didn't know he wanted.  .  .

Good book, as much adventure story as romance. The Graham family is still mourning the deaths of their parents and the kidnapping of their youngest sibling, five year old Benjy. Olivia has taken charge of caring for the family, becoming extremely bossy and hardheaded. When Texas Ranger Brody Armstrong, who has been investigating the kidnapping, arrives with news for her brother Matt, he's dismayed that Matt is away from home. He doesn't have time to wait for his return, and gives in to Olivia's insistence that he tell her what is happening, expecting her to inform Matt when he returns. Instead, he finds Olivia insisting on accompanying him.

Brody is a loner who doesn't take on anyone as a partner, least of all a feisty, argumentative female. The events of his past have left him with his emotions buried deep behind walls, content to live his life constantly on the move. He's been attracted to Olivia since he met her, but doing anything about it would be a very bad idea. Olivia had a crush on him when they first met, but as months have passed with no progress in finding her brother, she buried that crush under anger at his apparent indifference to her pain.

I loved their immediate clash when she insisted on going along, and he was equally insistent that she wasn't. He thought he hadn't gotten through to her when he left alone, only to find that she had followed him. It turned out to be a good thing she had when she saved him from two attackers, without losing her head or going into hysterics. He is unwillingly impressed by her, and agrees to let her come along for part of the journey, planning to leave her behind at some point. But Olivia is wise to his plans, and offers him several supremely logical and practical benefits to her presence.

I also found it pretty amusing that each of them had the same effect on the other - neither could think straight when in close proximity. Brody especially found himself agreeing to all kinds of things when his mind was distracted by the way his body reacted to her. The chemistry between them was amazing. Olivia was no inexperienced virgin, and had no trouble making it clear to Brody that she wanted him. He tried to do the right thing at first, especially because of his friendship with her oldest brother, but he was no match for her determination. After their first time together, they had a really hard time keeping their hands off each other. I admit that I found it a little disturbing that they would give in to their desires in the middle of times when their safety was most at risk.

It was interesting to see how their relationship developed. Not only did they have their smoking hot attraction, they also had a pretty good respect for each other's abilities. They were also far more alike than either suspected at the beginning, and as they spent time together those similarities drew them closer together. Because Olivia had been hurt by another man, it takes her awhile to trust Brody and what she is beginning to feel for him. For his part, Brody had never experienced love of any kind, and didn't recognize what he felt for her. He was constantly trying to fight it, certain that there was no way to keep her in his life as a Ranger. Once he finally recognized what he felt, it scared him spitless and sent him running, until he realized what he was doing. At that point it was almost too late, as she was in extreme danger. Olivia had recognized her feelings earlier and had the courage to admit them, but was devastated by his lack of response. I loved the vulnerability that Brody showed when he finally opened up to her. The ending was really sweet as Brody finally found what he hadn't even known he was searching for.

The adventure part of the book was great. From the moment that Brody and Olivia set off together, it was one dangerous situation after another. When they were able to stop arguing long enough to work together, things went well. Unfortunately for them, their own individual issues kept putting them in danger. Unused to working with anyone, Brody isn't accustomed to sharing his plans with anyone. Leaving Olivia in the dark causes her to take things into her own hands, usually putting them into more danger. Olivia isn't known for her patience, and she has a tendency to rush in without considering possible consequences. Tracking down Roderigo gets them a little closer to finding Benjy, but puts them in far more danger than they expected. He is bad news, but his mother and sister end up being even worse. The final confrontation was intense, one that kept me riveted until I knew how it was going to work out.

I liked the theme of the importance of family. It is Brody's lack of family that has made him the man that he is, and also pinpoints his vulnerable side. Though he doesn't realize it at first, he is envious of Olivia's closeness with hers. Olivia may have her moments of frustration with hers, but she knows that they are there when she needs them. I loved her brothers' determination to help Brody with her rescue, even as they hold him responsible for her trouble in the first place. Once the shooting was done, I liked their acceptance of him as part of the family. The youngest Graham girl was really sweet, especially at the end. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series.

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