Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean (Avon - Jan 2016)

Series: Scandal and Scoundrel (Book 1)

Lady Sophie’s Society Splash

When Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, lands her philandering brother-in-law backside-first in a goldfish pond in front of all society, she becomes the target of very public aristocratic scorn. Her only choice is to flee London, vowing to start a new life far from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the carriage in which she stows away isn’t saving her from ruin . . . it’s filled with it.

Rogue’s Reign of Ravishment!

Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, resulting in a reputation far worse than the truth, a general sense that he’s more pretty face than proper gentleman, and an irate summons home to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the journey becomes anything but boring.

War? Or More?

He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, making opposites altogether too attractive . . .

Good book. Sophie is the youngest of the Talbot sisters and the only one who doesn't enjoy the family's scandalous reputation. Her father bought his title, having made his money in coal, but the aristocracy hasn't really accepted them. Her father is immersed in his business, her mother is determined that each of the girls marries a title. Several of the girls are involved in relationships with questionable men. The oldest married a duke, but her method of catching him was less than honorable. When Sophie stumbles across him with another woman, she is furious on behalf of her sister. She berates him loudly and shoves him into a fishpond. Unfortunately for her, it was witnessed by almost everyone attending the event and they make their disapproval of her very clear. 

In order to escape the ball, Sophie tries to get a ride in Eversley's carriage, but he denies her the assistance. So instead, she dresses as a footman and stows away on the carriage, not realizing that he isn't headed to his town home but to his father's estate in Cumbria. By the time she discovers it, it is far too late to do anything about it.

I liked Sophie. She is smart, she is sassy and she is protective of her family, even though she doesn't approve of their actions. I enjoyed seeing her take on her brother-in-law, even though she didn't consider the consequences. However, she doesn't have a good picture of herself, feeling that she is the plain sister with none of the fun that others see in her sisters. 

I had a harder time warming up to King. He is known for ruining women's reputations and seems quite proud of it. He wasn't at all helpful when Sophie asked for his assistance, and was actually quite unpleasant. King was estranged from his father over something that happened when he was younger and tends to look quite cynically at the people around him. He is aware of the Talbots' reputations and is determined that he not fall into what he sees as Sophie's attempt to trap him. I got quite frustrated with the way that he constantly insulted her, even though he claimed it wasn't intentional.

I loved their first meeting and how Sophie tried to get him to help her. Their conversation was pretty funny, as Sophie tried to get his help and King was determined to resist her attempts. It was fun to see her take matters into her own hands, and her dismay when she finally realized that it hadn't gone the way she planned. Their confrontation at the inn, when King discovered what she had done, was pretty intense. King's tunnel vision about her actions caused him to be pretty obnoxious. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that she managed her escape from him. But for all his insistence that she wasn't his problem, he couldn't leave her on her own. I loved seeing him go after her, and how he was there when she needed rescuing.

Though both insist that they don't even like each other, they are attracted. Their conversations are mostly opportunities to take verbal shots at each other, with each convinced that their opinion of the other is correct. King began to grow on me a little bit with his care of Sophie after the stage robbery. He gave in to her request for a ride to the village she grew up in, but he is still constantly suspicious. But he once again made me mad with his actions at the bakery. At first I thought he was actually trying to help her, but then his motives were revealed. He made his plan known to her with absolutely no thought to its effect on her, with his insulting opinion not even hidden behind a facade of pleasantness. I ached for Sophie, who by this time really wanted him to see her in a better light. I loved seeing her stand up to both King and his father at that first dinner, followed by her happiness when she had dinner with the servants. I felt like I was almost constantly irritated with King as he never thought before he spoke, which just kept beating down on Sophie. She was falling in love with him, and just wanted to be loved in return. I had some hope for him when he opened up with her and told her what had caused his rift with his father. But in spite of his growing feelings for her, he makes no secret of his intention never to marry.

The arrival of her family, with their stories of what had happened after Sophie left, leaves her feeling even more guilty about her actions. Her father has a plan for making it right, but it is a plan that she wants no part of. She and King are finally growing closer, and this plan would drive him away completely. What happens next just emphasizes King's blindness when it comes to Sophie. A surprising twist regarding the event that caused the rift between King and his father throws everything King had believed into turmoil and he starts to see what an idiot he has been. I liked his confession to Sophie at the end, but thought that she forgave him a little too easily. I hope to see them in later books and see if Sophie has managed to civilize him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

His Destiny Bride - Christyne Butler (HSE #2480 - June 2016)

Series: Welcome to Destiny (Book 9)

Something about the boss

That handsome masked stranger Katie Ledbetter got very, very close to after the costume party? Yeah, that would be her boss, Nolan Murphy. Super-embarrassing, but par for the course in her ill-fated quest for love. That's when she comes to a decision to give up the romance rat race and have a child on her own.

When Nolan catches wind of her quest, the sexy single dad suggests she test out if she wants to be a parent by watching his teens while he's away. Then he comes back -- and suggests she stay. Could this be the instant family Katie's been looking for? Could she be fated to be a bride for her boss after all?

Very good book. Katie is one of those people who always seems to be unlucky in love. She is recovering from her latest disaster when she attends a Halloween costume party. There she meets a sexy pirate, and after a little too much grog the attraction that flared between them becomes irresistible. The next morning they are both horrified to realize what they've done. They decide to try to forget what happened and go on as usual, but that proves to be harder than they think.

I liked Katie a lot. She is a really sweet person with so much love to give. She was abandoned by her mother when she was three and grew up in the foster care system. She craves the love of a family of her own. She has worked for the Murphy family for five years and has been in love with Nolan for almost as long. But he's her boss, and even after their slip up, she knows that there's no future with him. She makes the decision to skip looking for a man and have a baby on her own. She knows it will be hard, but is confident that she can do it. Nolan isn't so sure, being a single parent himself, and tries to talk her out of it. When he has to go out of town on business, she offers to care for his teenagers while he's gone. 

I liked Nolan too, but he did frustrate me at times. He became a single dad when his marriage didn't work out. His ex isn't much of a parent, leaving him with all the tough stuff such as discipline, dealing with teen hormones and so on. He seemed determined to emphasize the downside of being a single parent. He didn't appear to have much confidence in her ability to handle his kids while he was away, but didn't really have any other options. He was also adamant that he was done with relationships, having been burned once and not willing to risk it again. I also thought he was a bit smug about his parenting, even though he was having so many problems with Abby. I rather enjoyed seeing Katie show him up a bit when she had the care of them for two weeks.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. They had been friends for as long as she worked for the company. After their night together, both become constantly aware of each other,, and both fought it hard. It was a little easier when he was away, as they could ignore the sparks. But when Nolan returned things got a bit more complicated. Katie's apartment had become uninhabitable thanks to Nolan's daughter Abby. Katie ended up staying with Nolan and his kids after his return. This put the two of them in constant contact. It was fun to see Nolan get used to having Katie there, and how his mind kept drifting towards a relationship. This would freak him out and he'd pull back, but that wouldn't last long. I loved how his brothers could see what was happening and tried to help him, but he refused to listen. Katie could see herself getting more deeply involved and knew she was setting herself up for heartbreak, but she couldn't help it. There were several times when they unexpectedly found themselves opening up about their pasts. Then Katie gets some unexpected news that really throws her into turmoil. She's about to share that news with Nolan when he confronts her about something that happened with Abby that she hadn't told him. He doesn't handle it well and says some really awful things to Katie. A crisis makes him realize that he doesn't want to lose her, but it takes the combined efforts of his brothers to make him see just why he feels that way. I loved his big moment at the end, it was so sweet and romantic.

I loved the three teenagers. They all behave pretty realistically for their ages. Abby had made an appearance in an earlier book and didn't make a great impression. She had been pretty nasty to a new cousin, and came across as pretty spoiled and selfish. There is still some of that in this book, as she does some rather stupid things. The boys are pretty good and seem to really appreciate what Katie does for them. All of them really came through at the end, with their wonderfully thought out gifts for her.

There is also an interesting twist at the end, involving Katie and a new neighbor. I really liked him and would love to see him get his own story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Secret in Conard County - Rachel Lee (HRS #1883 - Feb 2016)

Series: Conard County: The Next Generation (Book 28)

Healing from bullet wounds and fleeing the bomber who shot her, FBI agent Erin Sanders refuses to play it safe. Driving west, she'll stay off the grid--until deputy sheriff Lance Conroe spoils her secret getaway.

Taking her to his remote Wyoming home, the hunky lawman only hopes to protect her. Just what headstrong, untrusting Erin doesn't want. But when another showdown with the bomber looms and a shocking betrayal surfaces, Erin wants Lance...badly. It's time to get over her control and intimacy issues to indulge their dangerous attraction. Because her plan to catch the killer could cost them both their lives.

Good book. Erin is recovering from wounds received from a bomber. She doesn't feel going to a safe house is a good option for her, so she hits the road, driving west from Chicago. By the time she reaches Wyoming, she realizes she's been pushing herself, and stops on the side of the road for a few moments of rest. Shortly after that deputy Lance Conroe stops to check on the stopped car. Finding out who she is and why she's on the road, Lance offers to put her up at his house to rest for a few days. Then they discover that the bomber is looking for her and Lance goes into protector mode. 

I really liked both Lance and Erin. She is a dedicated FBI agent who gives everything to her job. She is determined to heal and recover so that she can get back to finding out who the bomber is. She's also been married, a union that didn't work out, and has left her feeling that she is unable to make a relationship work. She's a direct type of person who doesn't beat around the bush when she has something to say. Lance is a deputy who used to be a big city cop. He left Denver when the stress of what he was doing reduced his enjoyment of his job. He's made a good life for himself in Conard County. His past gives him a good understanding of what Erin is going through. 

I loved the development of their relationship. From their very first meeting they are drawn to each other. I loved that first encounter and how it gave a good preview of what their relationship would be like. I really liked that Lance noticed her pain and exhaustion and how he wanted to do something about it. I loved seeing the way that Lance took care of her while she was staying with him. I especially enjoyed seeing how Erin would try to tough things out, but Lance's patience and understanding would end up winning out. As the next several days went by, they started to really get to know each other. I liked the way that Lance could read Erin so well and understand some of the things she couldn't say. I also liked seeing how that patience enabled Erin to open up about her past. The attraction between them kept growing. Neither denied it was there. I felt for Erin when she was trying to put the moves on Lance and he was worried about her motivations and if she would regret it. She also had some self-image issues thanks to the scarring from her attack. I loved Lance's reaction and how he tried to show her that he thought she was beautiful. As they got closer, their feelings grew stronger, but the truth of their jobs made them believe that nothing could come of it. Both understood that when the bomber was caught, Erin would be going back to Chicago. I loved the epilogue, as both had made certain decisions based on their feelings. I loved seeing them come together and realize that they wanted the same thing and had been pursuing it from different angles. I especially loved seeing what Erin had come up with.

I enjoyed the suspense of the story. In this book it was more mental than physical, as Erin and Lance waited quite impatiently for the bomber to arrive. After Erin began to heal and was able to think about what had happened, she began to feel that what had happened to her felt far more personal than she had originally suspected. Her belief that the bomber had someone on the inside who was helping him created some trust issues. I really enjoyed seeing how Lance and the sheriff set up their own protection detail for Erin while they waited. Erin had a couple of possible suspects for the insider, and it was interesting to see her puzzle out who it was. There were also times when we got the bomber's point of view. It was interesting to see his reactions to the "voice" that was calling the shots. The tension increased as he got closer to Erin's location, and Erin and company set up their trap. The final confrontation was quickly resolved, with both the bomber and the team member getting caught.

I really enjoyed seeing Seth and Gage as they worked with Lance to set up her protection. Their experience went a long way toward making Erin feel safe. I really liked the way that they were able to show her that they understood what she was going through and her fears. I also liked seeing Edie make an appearance. Some of her comments made an impression on Erin that helped her later when she made her decision about what she wanted to do. I can't wait to see what is next up in the series.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

APB: Baby - Julie Miller (HI #1642 - June 2016)

Series: Precinct: Bachelors in Blue (Book 1)

After a near-fatal shootout at his sister's wedding, third-generation lawman Niall Watson comes home to a baby in distress. The abandoned newborn in his neighbor's apartment sends the Kansas City PD criminologist into rescue mode once again.

Social worker Lucy McKane will do whatever it takes to protect the infant boy entrusted to her care. The tall, sexy ME next door may be clueless about her feelings for him, but Niall's the only one who can keep them safe. As a vengeful killer targets them, desire draws Lucy and Niall dangerously closer. Together, can they find justice and safeguard their newly created family?

Very good book that starts out with a bang. When his sister's wedding to Gabriel Knight (Kansas City Cover-Up) is interrupted by gunfire, medical examiner Niall Watson finds himself in the middle of trying to find out why. After all of the stress of the day, he comes home to find an abandoned baby in his neighbor's apartment. Lucy suspects that the baby belongs to her former foster daughter, and that Diana is in trouble. She's grateful for Niall's help.

I loved Niall and Lucy. Niall is part of a cop family. Rather that becoming a street cop or a detective, Niall's talents sent him in another direction. He is a medical examiner, the quiet, loner part of the family, best known for his calm and logical mind. He's much more comfortable around dead bodies than live ones. I loved his considered approach to hearing the baby, his logical steps, and then determined action. I loved seeing him take the baby, and then how his mind walked him through what to do next. Lucy's arrival on the scene throws him into a bit of turmoil. He has taken quite a bit of notice of her, being a man, but is a bit awkward around people, so has had few conversations with her.

Lucy is a social worker who is worried about the former foster daughter she hasn't seen in more than a year. A recent call from Diana gave her the feeling that the young woman is in trouble. Finding Niall at her apartment is quite a surprise, as is the reason he is there. Lucy is determined to protect little Tommy, and happily accepts Niall's help. Though he doesn't know it, she has had quite a crush on him. Lucy also has an ex-boyfriend who has become a problem for her.

I loved the development of their relationship. Niall is very drawn to Lucy and frequently confused by the effect she has on him. I really loved seeing his thoughts as he tried to make sense of what he is feeling. I loved his protectiveness toward both Lucy and Tommy. It was sweet to see Niall taking care of the baby. Lucy's crush has been going on for quite a while, and spending time with him now just deepens her feelings for him. I loved the contrast between his nerdiness and her bubbly, outgoing nature. They balanced each other very nicely. I loved the way that she could read him so well. It was really fun to see her explain his feelings to him, especially at the end.

I enjoyed seeing the closeness of the Watson family and their support for each other. All of them are there to be with their grandfather, who was shot at the wedding. I loved seeing how each brother dealt with things according to their personality. I also enjoyed seeing the way that they pulled Lucy and Tommy into their circle. It was something completely out of her experience, and I loved seeing her soak it in.

The mystery of the baby and his missing mother was really good. Diana is missing and someone is trying to get to the baby. I loved seeing Niall's methodical ways bump into Lucy's emotional defense of Diana. Things got rather intense when someone attacked Lucy in an attempt to get to the baby, while someone else is telling her to keep him away from everyone. A dead body adds to the puzzle. The final confrontation is a nail-biter, as Lucy and Niall try to protect Tommy and save Diana.

There is also a little bit about who the shooter was at the wedding. Someone appears to have a grudge against the Watsons and the attack at the wedding seems to be just the beginning. I am looking forward to the next book and seeing what else is revealed.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Texan's Royal M.D. - Merline Lovelace (HD #2357 - Feb 2015)

Series: Duchess Diaries (Book 4)

Is this a royal doc's holiday fling…or the real thing?  

Texas is the perfect place for holiday heat -- exactly what Dr. Anastazia St. Sebastian needs before making the biggest decision of her career. Enter hunky shipping billionaire Mike Brennan, who insists on buying her dinner after she saves his nephew. But one night leads to more. And even three days of fun in the sun -- and in Mike's bedroom -- aren't enough. This doc of royal descent wants to fall in love…but how can she when what Mike wants is the one thing she can never give?

Good book. Zia is on vacation with her family in Galveston over the Christmas holidays. Nearing the end of her three year residency in New York, she is faced with the need to make a decision. Should she go for a pediatric practice, or accept a very tempting offer to continue a medical research project that she is involved in. While out running on the beach one morning, trying to think through her options, she saves a little boy from drowning. His oh-so-sexy uncle wants to take her to dinner to thank her, and Zia is willing to be distracted for a little while.

I loved their meeting. Zia's protectiveness over the little boy she saved is evident in her anger over the apparent carelessness that put him in danger. That anger dissipates rapidly when she learns the truth about what happened, and then she notices Mike as a man. The zing of attraction is pretty strong, but getting involved isn't possible. Once Mike got over his fright, he was intrigued and attracted by Zia. He was determined to get to know her, and wouldn't take no for an answer. Mike really impressed me when he arrived to pick her up and didn't avoid meeting her family. I loved the surprise that Zia felt when her brother-in-law knew him, and the reevaluation it caused her to do. Even more impressive was his willingness to accept the Grand Duchess's offer of a drink - especially since I had seen that particular test in previous books.

Zia and Mike quickly connected over their dinner. Mike's obvious interest in her, and the certainty she had that this was a one-time thing, made it easy for her to share her dilemma with him. I loved how he gave it the attention it deserved, and gave her some new perspectives to consider. That connection continued after dinner, when their attraction flared and they gave in to it. Though Zia considered it a one and done, Mike was too intrigued to want to give up. I loved seeing how determined he was to see her again, and he made no secret of it to Zia. 

Zia is more cautious because she has a bit of baggage that she feels prevents her from being anything more than a fling for him. Even though she was upfront with him about it, she still believes that it is a deal breaker. She is determined to end things, and Mike is just as determined to see where it goes. I loved Mike's optimism that they could make it work.

Though he was in Texas and she was in New York, thanks to modern technology they were still able to continue their connection. I did love Mike's attempts to romance Zia, and how he slowly broke down her attempts to resist him. The final blow to that resistance was actually struck by the Duchess who has no trouble with plain speaking when it is needed. I loved the way she called Zia out for her reasons for pushing Mike away. Things should have been smooth sailing from there, but there was still trouble lurking for them.

Zia's desire to continue the research project is realized when the doctor in charges asks her to expand on the study. Encouragement from Mike and his brother-in-law have her working on a grant proposal, and contacting a consultant who helps with the raising of funds. It's obvious from the start that this consultant is going to be a problem, especially once Zia discovers a secret the man has. There's also a pretty amusing scene when Mike meets this guy, and has a typically male reaction. A problem with the proposal and Mike's investigation leads to a surprising result, and Mike's protectiveness kicks in. His intentions are good, but he makes a couple mistakes that land him in hot water with Zia. The confrontation with the consultant is intense and dangerous, and I loved seeing Zia's strength throughout the ordeal. I also loved Mike's refusal to back down when faced with the danger she was in. The various reactions to the events are great and I loved seeing how it affected each one.  Once again it is the Duchess who is the voice of reason and who points out where Zia's reactions are perhaps a little extreme. I loved Zia's big moment at the end, and how she and Mike make their relationship stronger.

I loved the various family relationships. The Duchess is amazing as always, especially with her obvious love for her family and their love of her. I liked her subtle ways of helping them through their crises. I also enjoyed the crazy fun of Mike's Irish-Mexican family. Mike's sisters are especially terrific with their protectiveness of him, and also their acceptance of Zia in his life. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Night Hawk - Lindsay McKenna (HQN - Jan 2016)

Series: Jackson Hole Wyoming (Book 10)


After losing his comrade, Sergeant Gil Hanford thought a visit to the man's widow would be the decent way to honor his late friend. But Gil found more than comfort in Kai Tiernan -- he had always secretly desired beautiful Kai, but a sudden, mutual passion helped assuage their grief…until duty reared its head, removing him from her arms, seemingly forever.

Four years later, Kai is starting over at the Triple H Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Born a rancher, she is looking for a new beginning -- but her new boss is unforgivably familiar. Kai has tried to move past the memory of what happened between her and Gil, even though she's never forgiven him for leaving her. But even as they begin their journey toward something new and oh-so-uncertain, a shadow emerges, determined to claim Kai for itself.

Excellent friends to lovers story. Gil and Kai became friends when Kai met and married Gil's best friend and fellow Delta Force operator Sam. After Sam's death, Gil would check in on Kai often. When his brother was killed in action, in his grief Gil went to Kai, who was still grieving for Sam. Their shared grief erupted in passion, and they had five intense days together. Then Gil disappeared without a word, leaving Kai devastated, angry and feeling used. 

Four years later, Kai is out of the army and looking for work as a ranch mechanic. Hired by Talon Holt (High Country Rebel), Kai is dismayed to discover that the ranch foreman is none other than Gil. Her hurt and anger return, even as she worries that she could lose this much-needed job if she expresses it. Gil had also never forgotten those days together, and carries a tremendous amount of guilt over the way it ended.

Both Kai and Gil come to the relationship with some baggage. Kai had a miserable childhood after her mother's death, with a father who considered a woman's place to be in the home. In spite of her being able to do everything her brother did, her dad never approved of her wishes. He was also a man who never showed her any affection. When Kai decided to leave the ranch and join the army, her father disowned her. While stationed in Afghanistan, she met and married Sam, a Delta Force operator. Unfortunately for her, Sam was a man who had trouble expressing his emotions, leaving her frequently feeling drained by the love she gave, but rarely having her own needs looked after. Only her friendship with Sam's best friend Gil gave her any of the emotional sustenance she needed. After Gil's apparent desertion of her, she found it difficult to trust again.

Gil had met Kai at the same time Sam did. Unknown to either of them, Gil had also fallen in love with Kai. Being an honorable man, he was very careful never to let either of them know about his feelings. After Sam's death, Gil made a point of checking on Kai whenever he could, happy just to be able to see her. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to tell her of his feelings. His grief over his brother's death sent him running to the only person he knew who might be able to help him through it. He never expected that comfort to take the route it did. Then one morning, a call back to duty came in, with Gil having to leave immediately for an undercover assignment. He wasn't permitted to tell her anything, so he just disappeared. The assignment went for two years, and when he came back he thought it was too late to do anything about it, and never tried to get in contact with her. But he had never forgotten those days together, and seeing her again brings his feelings for her back to the surface. Discovering how devastated she'd been by his actions makes his guilt even worse.

When they met again, each reacted in accordance with their personalities. Kai has never had trouble expressing her feelings and she lets Gil know exactly how she feels about seeing him again. She worries that it could cost her her job, and she insists on keeping their personal history out of the workplace. Gil is a sensitive man, in spite of his Delta Force reputation. He knows he hurt her, and is beginning to realize just how much. He promises that their history won't affect their working relationship.

I was a bit mad at Kai at the beginning that she refused to let Gil explain what had happened. If she had let him explain right away, she might have been able to let go of her anger a bit sooner. I liked the way that Gil was smart enough to know that she had to find her way past her anger at her own rate. Once they actually talked, I could see the healing begin. Both of them realized that the attraction between them was still just as strong. Kai was very wary of giving in to it again, not sure that she could trust Gil not to disappear once more. She was afraid to risk her heart again. Gil knows that what he feels for Kai is more than just attraction, but also knows that she's not ready to hear it. I loved seeing Gil's patience as he works to earn her trust again. It was great to see his patience pay off as Kai begins to open up to him. They got to know each other on a deeper level than they had before. He was also very protective of her.

Part of that protectiveness was in reaction to the attentions of Chuck Harper. Harper has been an ongoing character in previous books, suspected of drug running and human trafficking, though there has been no proof. Both Gil and Talon know of the suspicions, and take steps to protect Kai when she has to be around him. But neither of them bothered to tell her about him, so she saw only the man he chose to show her. I liked that her renewed relationship with Gil made her pull back from further contact with Harper. That pulling back caused Harper to get more intense in his pursuit, and Kai began to sense trouble. When Kai and Gil were attacked one morning on their way to the ranch, the danger they were in was intense and life threatening. I loved seeing Gil's skills as an operator make the difference. It was especially awesome to see how he used those skills to make a point later. It left a bit of a cliffhanger, as the drug and trafficking storyline continues into the next book. 

I loved seeing Kai and Gil finally get their feelings out in the open. It was pretty sweet to see Gil's vulnerability as he did so, and Kai's shock at his revelations. I liked seeing them continue to take the time to make sure that their feelings are real and lasting. The epilogue was awesome, with the added twist of a surprise involving two other characters.

I liked seeing Talon and Cat again, and catching up with how things are going on the ranch. I loved the fact that Talon makes a point of hiring veterans to work with him. The camaraderie among Talon, Gil and Cass is awesome. The fact that all three are former special forces makes their bond even stronger. It was fun to see how they would tease each other, but they could also be deadly serious when necessary. I also loved seeing Talon's combat dog Zeke again, and the introduction of a puppy into the family. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cavanaugh or Death - Marie Ferrarella (HRS #1891 - Apr 2016)

Series: Cavanaugh Justice (Book 31)

After losing two partners in the line of duty, major crimes detective Davis Gilroy isn't about to get close to his new one. Especially when that partner is an optimistic blonde beauty with killer curves. Davis will do his job, keep a close eye on detective Moira Cavanaugh and not let her get under his skin. But when someone starts disturbing old graves in local cemeteries, he and Moira work long nights to solve the macabre mystery. Suddenly Davis finds himself caring too much about the strong, sexy woman who always has his back…and is gaining on his heart.

Terrific book. I do love the Cavanaugh stories and this was no exception. It begins with Davis visiting his parents' graves at the cemetery, something he does when no one else is around. He encounters what appears to be grave robbers, and chases them from the cemetery. Moira had been running past the cemetery when one of the robbers knocked her down. Davis paused long enough to help her to her feet, then ran on. Moira, being a Cavanaugh and naturally curious, investigated the cemetery and discovered a disturbed grave. Trusting her gut when it tells her something is going on, she gains reluctant permission to investigate, and shanghais Davis for his help.

These were definitely two opposite in personality. Davis is a loner, who barely talks to anyone else. He lost his parents at a young age, was raised by a cold uncle who also stole from Davis's inheritance, then had the bad luck to lose two partners in the line of duty. He suffers from a great deal of survivor's guilt and refuses to get close to anyone else. He won't even have a partner on the police force any longer. Moira is one of seven in her family, and the youngest. She talks a lot, having learned that it's the only way to have her wishes be heard. She also has the Cavanaugh stubbornness. She is determined first that Davis will be her partner in the search for answers, and second that she will, as she puts it, bring him back to being a member of the human race.

The development of their relationship is tied up with their work on the case. They are assigned to work together, which doesn't make Davis happy and he has no trouble showing it. He is adamant in reminding Moira on a regular basis that it is a temporary condition and refuses to even refer to her as his partner. After hearing why, Moira understands, but that doesn't stop her from treating him like one. She is also determined to get to know him better. I loved their banter, as Moira does her best to wear down his resistance, and Davis fights her every step of the way. He quickly finds her getting under his skin, and even worse, noticing her as a woman also. He tries hard to bury the hints of attraction that he feels for her. 

Though she sometimes seems a bit of a steamroller, Moira is actually pretty sensitive. I loved seeing how quickly she learned to read Davis's moods and how she countered them and worked around them. Because she is a Cavanaugh and family is so important, she is determined to bring him into the family circle. As usually happens at least once in each book,  there is a Cavanugh family get together. In this case, it is a christening and after party, and Moira, having gotten to know Davis pretty well, shows up early at his place in order to keep him from escaping. He expects to be on the outside looking in, and is stunned when it doesn't happen that way.  "By the time the cake... was cut, a completely stunned and overwhelmed Davis looked at Moira in abject wonder. He had just been overrun and conquered by a small, independent country - and everyone was so nice, he couldn't find fault with them."

After the party, the attraction that has been building between them bursts into flame. Their coming together is explosive, and Davis discovers that it is becoming harder to keep his emotions in check. I loved seeing him lose himself in her and his realization that he liked it. I also enjoyed seeing the aftereffects, as their new closeness spilled over into their working relationship. Davis's feelings for her come bursting to the forefront when she is put in danger and Moira also realizes how deep hers are for him. I loved his scene at the hospital, and his big moment in the epilogue showed an unaccustomed vulnerability and sweetness that was the perfect culmination of the story.

The suspense of the story was also really good. The mystery of who was digging up graves was unusual and pretty creepy. I thought it was especially fun that it was Moira, who doesn't even do scary stories and movies, who got involved with this type of mystery. I loved her determination to follow up on her gut feeling about what was going on. Davis was skeptical at first, but eventually convinced. I thoroughly enjoyed the bits when she needed a search warrant, as it was fun to see Blake (Cavanaugh Judgment) and I loved his advice to Davis. As they continued their investigation, it was interesting to see the various pieces come together. The final confrontation was intense and not what I expected, but an excellent resolution.

Another favorite scene was after the shooting, as Moira insists on accompanying Davis in the ambulance. "I'm small. I won't breathe. I'll fit," she told him, leaving not room for argument. The paramedic, whose badge read Eric, regarded her for a moment. "Cavanugh?" he asked. Moira unconsciously squared her shoulders, bracing for a confrontation. He sighed, nodding, "It figures. They warned me about you people." Same sort of thing at the hospital, as cops, especially family members, come to give their support.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Boss and His Cowgirl - Silver James (HD #2452 - June 2016)

Series: Red Dirt Royalty (Book 3)

When the billionaire boss beckons…

Ever since she left behind her cowgirl roots to work for him, Georgie Dreyfus has had a crush on her boss, US senator Clay Barron. So the sexy speechwriter is speechless when Clay comes to her rescue on the campaign trail…and they discover a mutual chemistry that will no longer be denied.

But when their relationship faces one of the biggest veto threats of all, Georgie goes home to Oklahoma to regroup. Now the billionaire Barron must choose: continue his quest to win the White House or win back the woman who's laid claim to his heart…

Fantastic book. Georgie is Clay's speechwriter and has had a thing for Clay since she started working for his campaign back when she was in college. She has kept her feelings to herself all this time. Then, during a protest at a campaign event, Georgie gets hurt and Clay comes to her rescue. Suddenly he's looking at her differently and the sparks are flying.

I loved the development of their relationship. Clay has noticed Georgie for awhile, but buried it deep because she works for him. Because of his father's habit of having affairs with employees, Clay has been adamant about "not fishing in the office pool", but he can't stop what is happening between them. Clay doesn't do commitment, but what he feels for her is different and he is determined to pursue it. Georgie is a bit wary because of their circumstances, but being with him is a dream come true. I really liked the fact that, while Clay was determined to be discreet, he wasn't going to hide anything. If their relationship becomes public, he will own it. Because they have worked together for so long, they already know each other very well, and they become even closer. Clay is still refusing to admit the depth of his feelings to himself, but Georgie knows she is in love with him.

Then Georgie gets devastating news and is determined to protect Clay from having to deal with it. She tries to push him away. I loved that he wouldn't be pushed, and his determination to be with her was awesome. I loved their joint press conference. I'm not sure the reporters were accurately portrayed, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of the whole scene. I loved how they were both so cool under pressure. I really had high hopes for how things were going, but of course there had to be a bump in their road to happiness. When Georgie has to leave the campaign trail for awhile, Clay ends up falling short of his intentions and being an idiot. When he realizes what he's done he tries to fix it, but Georgie has had enough. I hurt for her as she faced him down, and for him as he realized what he had lost. It was great to see his brothers, Chance and Cord, as they helped him see what he had to do. The final self-realization that took place in the middle of one of his speeches was perfect, and the result was just what I expected of him. 

I loved the realism of Georgie's battle and what she was going through. Her struggle between medication and surgery was emotional, I got a bit frustrated with her refusal to involve Clay in something that was so important. Clay also had his struggles, as Georgie's problem brought back memories from his own past. He has to face those memories before he can be everything that Georgie needs him to be.

As in previous books, the Barrons' father Cyrus makes his obnoxious presence known. He is determined that Clay become president and takes several actions on his own. Clay did a pretty good job standing up to him sometimes (the office in DC) but at others seemed to just go along with him. Cyrus does not approve of Georgie's presence in Clay's life and makes several attempts to get rid of her. I loved seeing her confront him when he tried to buy her off.

I liked seeing Chase and Cord and their support of Clay and Georgie. I also enjoyed seeing their wives and the way that they embraced Georgie, especially during her problems. I'd like to know what is going on with their brother Cash, and can't wait to see him fall. I also loved Clay's Tate cousins and their parts in Clay's life. I hope to see them get stories of their own when the Barrons are done with.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tucker's Claim - Sarah McCarty (HQN - Feb 2011)

Series: Hell's Eight (Book 3)

He is everything her body craves ... and everything her faith denies

Tucker McCade has known violence his whole life: orphaned in a massacre, abused as a "half-breed" child, trained as a ruthless Texas Ranger, he's learned the hard way that might makes right. So even he is shocked when he falls for Sallie Mae Reynolds, a Quaker nurse.

Unable to resist Tucker's charm, character and chiseled body, she throws herself into their torrid affair, indulging every one of her wildest sexual fantasies. Tucker's occupation, however, is the one thing about him she can't embrace. A staunch pacifist, Sallie Mae can't understand how his strong, caressing hand can clench in fury or pull a trigger to take a life. In this lawless land, Tucker knows you have to fight to survive.

But when Sallie Mae becomes pregnant, he's willing to do whatever it takes to have his family -- including hanging up his guns. Every night they spend together exploring new heights of ecstasy binds them ever closer, slowly erasing their differences...until the day Tucker's past comes calling, precipitating an explosive showdown between her faith, his promise and the need for revenge....

Good book, with two storylines. The main one is the romance between Tucker and Sallie Mae, with some inroads into the ongoing mystery of what happened to the Hell's Eight's sister-in-law, Ari. Sallie Mae is a widowed Quaker woman, who has continued her late husband's medical work. The townspeople have no problem using her services, but they also look at her somewhat askance because of her independence. Especially since she has Tucker staying in her barn whenever he's in town. Tucker is a Texas Ranger, which gains him some respect, but he is also half-Indian, which makes him despised and distrusted by most people. 

Tucker and Sallie Mae are drawn to each other despite all logic. Sallie Mae is attracted to his hot body, his occasional charm, and the good man she sees underneath the violent surface. However, his violent lifestyle makes it hard to think of anything permanent with him. Tucker fell hard and fast for Sallie Mae, but knows that because of who and what he is, he can't have her. That doesn't stop him from wanting her, and discovering that she wants him too puts them on a collision course with trouble.

I really enjoyed the development of the relationship. It starts out with the decision to indulge in a single night together, but neither is satisfied with that. They easily slip into being together whenever possible. The passion between them is incredible, though I have to admit that some of their activities were not to my taste. Both find themselves wishing for more than just an affair. But Sallie Mae can't reconcile her beliefs and his lifestyle choices, and Tucker just doesn't believe that there is any way for them to be together.

I liked Sallie Mae but she also frustrated me. In a time period when you did not associate with anyone bearing Indian blood, she is completely without prejudice. She believes that everyone is one of God's children. I liked the way that she saw his honor, his kindness and his gentleness. But I also had a problem with the way she was so fixated on the violence. He is a Ranger, so it isn't that he has a whole lot of choice in what he does. He is very protective of those he cares about, and he will do anything to keep them safe. As they got closer, she does begin to soften her stance a little, asking him to try. I also thought she was rather naive about her own safety around the men of the town, until it was almost too late.

I really liked Tucker. He is a man with a pretty deep sense of honor, though most people don't look past his Indian blood to see it. His relationship with his family is close, as they have been there for each other since their families were killed. He has fallen hard for Sallie Mae, but because of who he is he does his best to protect her reputation. I loved seeing how tender and gentle he could be when he wanted to, but also pretty forceful when he was trying to get her to see things his way. 

When Sallie Mae ended up pregnant (not really a surprise), I loved that Tucker was immediately ready to take the next step. However, he is also well aware of the danger once it becomes known that she is pregnant with his child. I loved his determination to marry immediately and take her back to his home. It was at this point that Sallie Mae's insecurities became more visible, as she worried about finding her own place in his world.

On their way to Hell's Eight, they run into trouble related to the search for Ari, as their group is attacked. The attackers believe that Sallie Mae is either Desi or Ari and are determined to capture her. There are some intense moments as she tries to protect the others and nearly gets herself killed in the process. She learns something about her own capabilities which in turn opens her eyes more to Tucker's life. Then a crisis at Hell's Eight brings out her strengths, though not without some rather amusing confrontations with other members of the family. I loved the ending and seeing how they were figuring out the best way to make their beliefs work together.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tough Love - Lori Foster (HQN - Aug 2015)

Series: Ultimate (Book 3)

Vanity Baker loves a good, clean match, but she's not above playing a little dirty. She's wanted Stack "The Wolf" Hannigan from day one. Seems as though the best way to corral the famously commitment-phobic fighter is to insist on keeping it casual. And her plan works -- deliciously well -- until Stack's past steps out of the shadows.

Stack learned early to stay free of attachments. But with sexy, forthright Vanity, he's the one always left wanting more. Then his troublemaking family comes back into the picture, threatening everything Stack cares about -- Vanity included. Suddenly he realizes they're much more than friends with benefits. He's ready to go to the mat for her…but will it be in time to protect the woman who's tamed him for good?

Very good book. This one picks up where Holding Strong left off, at the wedding of Cannon and Yvette (No Limits). In the previous book, Vanity, who wants Stack for her own, had made him a bargain if he would attend the wedding as her date. Now it's time to follow through, and she's really hoping it will pay off.

I really liked Vanity. She's beautiful but doesn't flaunt it, she's rich but doesn't advertise it, and she's just an all-around nice person. I loved the way that she fell for Stack right off, but also knew him enough not to tell him that right away. She comes up with the idea to make her pursuit of him be casual so that she doesn't scare him off, but hopes that once they're involved he'll want more. Most of the time Vanity gives the impression of self-confidence, but deep down she has some insecurities. She has no family and has made the fighters and their friends her family, but she still worries that she isn't good enough.

Stack is terrific. On the surface he is a tough alpha fighter, a bit of a player, and avoids commitment. But underneath he is caring, sweet, and very protective of those he cares about. He avoids commitments because he has a rather crazy family that tends to drive away anyone he gets involved with. He also has some trust issues, thanks to an earlier relationship gone wrong. 

I loved the development of their relationship. They were friends first, as Vanity got to know all the fighters through her friend Yvette. But there was something more between the two of them - a heat that couldn't be denied. For Vanity, it was more than just attraction and she was determined to find a way to make him want more too. Her method of offering a night of sex for a date to the wedding was unique, but it got his attention, as did her flirting and teasing up until the date itself. As hot as they were for each other, it was fun to see all the things that conspired to delay their gratification. But once they did - whew! Those same events showed Stack a different side of Vanity, one that appealed to him like no other had. He decided he wanted more than just the one night that she promised. Because that's what she'd wanted all along, of course she went along with it. Besides the smoking chemistry between them, Stack also found Vanity becoming an even bigger part of his life. He was stunned that she took to his crazy family, bonding with his mother and sister. The more time they spend together, the more he pictures something permanent.

Not to say there aren't some bumps in the road. Because of his trust issues, Stack has some problems with jealousy over Vanity's friendships with the other fighters. In his heart he knows she's his, but he has a few instances of unreasonableness. It was fun to see the other guys give him a hard time about it. Vanity also makes a few errors. She knows that Stack has issues with people who lie, and she is afraid that her initial proposition to him will be seen that way. She also omits telling him about a few things that happen, which he considers just as bad as lying. When it all comes out, there is quite a blow up, and Stack says some pretty hard things. With her insecurities, Vanity is devastated, believing that they are through. I loved the ending, as Stack works through his anger and realizes his true feelings. He has some help from some of the guys and one of the ladies, who point out what an idiot he is. I loved his reunion with Vanity, as he gets more help from his sister, but it's Vanity's reaction that I enjoyed the most.

There was a bit of suspense dealing with the husband of Stack's sister. Phil is a good for nothing jerk, who has cheated on Tabby, is lazy, jobless and does drugs. Stack can't stand him and makes no bones about it. Someone hires some thugs to beat Stack up (like that's even possible), and the guys are determined to find out who and why. Phil also plans to con money from Vanity after he finds out she's wealthy. Worried about Stack, Vanity takes some steps of her own that backfire on her. A final confrontation reveals an interesting twist.

The secondary characters all add to the fun and depth of the story. The fighters, who are present in all the books, have a fantastic relationship. There is a lot of teasing and macho posturing, but there is no question that they are there for each other when needed. I especially loved the scene when Vanity and the other ladies pointed out that the rec center needs a ladies' locker room, and states that they will just have to use the men's locker room for now. I loved seeing them all scramble, each of their possessiveness running up against each other. Seeing Armie step in was especially amusing, especially once Merissa arrived. The inclusion of some of the newer fighters was a nice touch and perhaps an indicator for the future. I liked seeing the wives and girlfriends from earlier books, and how all of them have made Vanity part of their group. Stack's mom and sister were also loads of fun. His sister is such a drama queen, though a fun one who isn't overly annoying. It was sweet to see the way they both connected with Vanity and how much she loved them right from the start. I really enjoyed seeing Tabby go through the changes she did, thanks in big part to Vanity's example. Now I can't wait for the next book, to see Armie and Merissa finally get together.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Seductive Impostor - Janet Chapman (Pocket - Apr 2004)

Series: Puffin Harbor (Book 1)

Rachel Foster wishes Sub Rosa -- the seaside mansion she helped her father build and the scene of a terrible tragedy -- would crumble into the sea. But Keenan Oakes, Sub Rosa's new owner, is moving in and stirring up the dark secrets of the cliff-perched manor....

Now, in the heat of a sizzling attraction, can Rachel clear her family's name while risking her heart on Keenan...and on a passionate love like nothing she's ever known?

Loved this book. Rachel is a former architect who hasn't designed anything since she helped her father design and build Sub Rosa, and then her parents and the owner died in a three-way lovers' quarrel. Since then she has refused to step foot in that house, until an inheritance from her father sends her scrambling. It turns out that some gifts that he and the house's owner, Thadd, had given to her and her sister were actually valuable pieces of stolen goods. Determined to protect her family's name, Rachel decides to sneak into Sub Rosa and return all the items before the recently found heir moves in. What she doesn't know is that Keenan is already there, along with his five partners in their salvage business. Their meeting was funny, exciting, and steamy.

This book was full of Janet Chapman's trademark humor and quirky characters, as well as the suspense of finding stolen art and the real story behind it. Rachel is strong, funny and very smart. She is also protective of her younger sister, Willow, and is determined to keep any hint of scandal away from her. She gives in to Keenan's "request" that she stay at Sub Rosa while she heals from an injury and also helps him settle into the house. Rachel has her own reasons for staying in the house and watching her try to carry out her plans while dealing with Keenan was hysterical. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her win over Keenan's friends, and the scene when they found "her cat" was a riot.

Neither Keenan nor Rachel expected the immediate and overwhelming attraction that flared between them. Rachel has put all passion in her life on hold since the tragedy of her parents, and isn't happy that Keenan is bringing all those feelings back out. Keenan is completely bemused by the way she makes him feel, never having met anyone who can distract him so easily. I loved seeing the relationship develop between the two of them. Keenan is protective of those he cares for, and Rachel quickly became one of those. He is very confident in his role, and has no trouble telling Rachel exactly what to do. Rachel is equally determined and I loved seeing her stand up to him. This is something he isn't used to, and I loved its effect on him. 

"What was it about her that had gotten under his skin so quickly and so completely? It wasn't just her wildly passionate nature, or even the sexy body that passion came packaged in. No, it was all of her - her courage and intelligence and spunk. It was her willingness to stand up to him, to be right in his face and smile while she did, and her loyalty to her sister that was so strong she was willing to put herself in an impossible situation. But mostly, he thought, it was her spunk."

I loved how Rachel saw past Keenan's outer caveman/demigod to the man underneath. She saw how much he loved his daughter and the lengths he'd go to for her. She felt the tenderness and caring from him, even when she knew she frustrated him with her actions and her secrets. He was the first man she'd ever felt she could truly be herself with. I loved their interactions, which were fun and romantic and frequently steamy. But both were still keeping some secrets and when one of those secrets came out, Rachel did not react well. Both Keenan and Rachel had a bit too much stubbornness and pride and it took a threat to his daughter to bring them back together. I loved how Rachel did it - it really was perfect for them.

I really enjoyed the suspense and mystery of the missing art objects. There was more going on with it than Rachel first suspected. As she uncovered more clues, she was determined to solve the problem without involving anyone else. But Keenan had different plans, and suspected that she knew more than she was telling him. I got a bit frustrated with her at times, with her reluctance to fully trust him, and loved seeing his protectiveness in spite of it. The final confrontation at the end was intense, with a couple of surprise revelations. 

The secondary characters were all fantastic. I loved Keenan's five friends. The relationships among them were obviously long-standing and very close. They obviously loved and respected Keenan, but also had minds of their own. I loved the way that they all took to Rachel and saw just what effect she had on Keenan. I liked the way that they stood up for her. I also loved their relationship with Keenan's daughter, the "little tyrant". It was so sweet to see the way she had all those strong men wrapped around her little finger. As a character, Mikaela was a riot. Having spent all her life around adult men, she was not a typical little girl - except when she was trying to get her own way. She was a master at getting around them. I also loved Rachel's sister Willow. She is a strong character in her own right. The relationship between the sisters is very close, though Willow does occasionally get frustrated by Rachel's protectiveness. But she is there when needed. I loved the scene of the daiquiri party with the two of them, and the audience they didn't know they had. I also loved seeing Willow's attempt to save Rachel from the "assault" later that night - it had me laughing out loud as I read it. I'm looking forward to her story, especially considering her reaction to Duncan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hard Rain - B. J. Daniels (HQN - Mar 2016)

Series: Montana Hamiltons (Book 4)

Sooner or later, every family secret comes to light…

When Brody McTavish sees Harper Hamilton's runaway horse galloping across the pastures, he does what any good cowboy would do -- gives chase and rescues her. Unfortunately for him, the woman he's secretly loved for years didn't need saving, and she's just reached her limit with people treating her as hopeless. But they soon have bigger problems when they make a gruesome discovery -- human remains revealed by a recent rainstorm. Remains that will dredge up old Hamilton family mysteries…and bring about a scandal that could threaten all Harper's loved ones.

With her father running for president, every move Harper makes is under scrutiny. But despite the risks, she's determined to uncover the truth about her family's role in a long-ago murder. If she can trust him enough, Brody will be more than an ally. He could be the only thing standing between Harper and an enemy intent on keeping the past buried forever.

Fantastic book. The trials and tribulations for the Hamilton family just keep piling up. Harper has been away for most of the time since her mother's return from the dead, finishing school and doing some traveling. Now she's back on the ranch, and in an expression of her frustration over what is happening in her life she goes for a ride, galloping across the fields and screeching. What she didn't know was that Brody was nearby, and thinking that she's in trouble comes riding to her rescue. She lets him know that in no uncertain terms, but once they get past that dust-up, it becomes apparent that there is something flaring between them.

Harper has had a crush on Brody since she was nine years old, and has been waiting for the chance to do something about it. She's tired of feeling like she's invisible around him, and makes it clear that she's interested. Brody is stunned to say the least. He's been interested in Harper since she was sixteen, but she was way too young for him. Now, not only is she older, but it turns out she is just as into him. However, there is one obstacle, and that is the enmity between their two families.  It is about to get worse, when they stumble on the remains of a human body. Those remains are of Brody's cousin, Maggie, who had disappeared thirty-five years earlier, and Harper's grandfather was believed to be responsible. Both Brody and Harper are determined to uncover the truth. Harper can't believe her grandfather would murder anyone. Brody isn't so sure, but he won't let Harper put herself in danger.

I liked both Harper and Brody. Both are strong-willed and won't let anyone discourage them from doing what they think is right. Harper tends to be a little on the naive side, I think, as she puts herself into some dangerous situations. Both of them are honorable, and want the truth, no matter what it turns out to be. I also loved the development of their relationship. Because of the resistance of their families, they have to fight harder to be together. Brody's determination to maintain his relationship with her, as well as pursue the truth about Maggie's murder, puts him at odds with his father and uncle. I hurt for him, and loved the way he stood up to them. Harper gets lectures from various members of her family, but it's the one from her mother that strikes closest to home. Can she take her happiness at the expense of his relationship with his family? I did like the end and seeing how both are determined to make it work for them.

The suspense of the story was excellent. Interspersed throughout were flashbacks to Maggie, JD, his wife Grace, and Harper's parents, Buck and Sarah. Each scene brings out a bit more of the events that led up to Maggie's death. In the current time, Brody and Harper, as well as Sheriff Curry, are trying to figure out who is responsible. Unfortunately for them, the suspect list gets longer instead of shorter. Every time I thought I had it figured out, someone else would come along and look more promising. A couple of attacks on Brody and Harper showed that someone believed that they were getting too close to the truth. The final confrontation was intense, with a twist I hadn't seen coming. I liked the way that Brody and Harper were able to stay pretty calm while it was happening and work together to bring the killer down. Loved Brody's ingenuity in bringing in help.

Also running through the book is the ongoing mystery of where Sarah has been for the last twenty-two years and what has brought her back. Russell is still working on a way to prove his theory, and uncovers some new information. Buck is happy to have Sarah back, but can't help having some questions of his own. Some of the things that came out in the flashbacks add to the feeling that there is something fishy going on. Even Russell is still working to figure out where she has been, though he has a more personal reason going on. An unexpected arrival at the end adds to Sarah's distress and complicates things even more. I'm really looking forward to the next two books and finally getting the truth.

Monday, June 13, 2016

One in a Million - Jill Shalvis (Grand Central - Oct 2014)

Series: Lucky Harbor (Book 12)

As the brains behind wedding site, Callie sees it all: from the ring to the dress, the smiles ... to the tears. It's that last part that keeps her single and not looking. Getting left at the altar will do that to a girl. But when Callie returns to her old hometown, she finds that her sweet high school crush is sexier than ever. And he makes it hard to remember why she's sworn off love...

Tanner is a deep-sea diver with a wild, adrenaline-junkie past -- and now his teenage son is back in his life. How can Tanner be a role model when he's still paying for his own mistakes? It's hard enough that gorgeous Callie has appeared in town like a beautiful dream, challenging his best-laid plans to keep his heart on lockdown. Though there's something about being around her again that makes him feel like he can be the man she -- and his son -- deserve. Little Lucky Harbor holds their past; can it hold a beautiful new future?

Very good book and conclusion to the Lucky Harbor series. I am really going to miss my visits there. In this book we have Callie, who left Lucky Harbor after being left at the altar by her fiance. She has come back to check up on her grandmother Lucille (yes, the social media addict and matchmaker extraordinaire). She doesn't expect to run into Tanner, who was the boy she had a huge crush on during high school, Tanner has returned with his two best friends to start Lucky Harbor Charters. This makes it possible for him to be around to help his mom, and also spend time with his teenage son. Callie is a distraction he really doesn't need right now.

I really liked both Callie and Tanner, though each certainly frustrated me at times. Callie runs a business as a wedding planner, and between her own romantic past and some of the disasters she sees in her work, she is pretty cynical about love. As a result, she has no intention of looking for a man for herself. Seeing Tanner again sends her right back to feeling like the awkward, nerdy teenage girl she used to be, and her reaction to him is even stronger now. Tanner was quite the bad boy in school and went on to become a SEAL and then work on oil rigs before coming home. He's made some mistakes in his past and is determined to make up for them. Risking his heart is not something he wants to do again.

I loved seeing their relationship develop. I loved their first meeting at the bakery. Callie is a bit klutzy and awkward, but Tanner is intrigued enough to look past it. After a couple of bakery meetings, both of them realize that there is something building between them, but both are wary of getting involved. So they insist to each other that they will keep whatever it is casual. Of course, their heads keep saying that, but their hearts have something else in mind. I loved the push and pull between them and seeing them grow closer each time. I loved Tanner's support of Callie when she encountered her ex, and his attempts to show her how great he thinks she is. I really liked the way that Callie saw Tanner's attempts at being a better man, and tried to show him that he was succeeding. Of course, with both insisting that they were only friends, finally admitting their feelings was not an easy thing to do. I loved how Cole and Sam got their chance to pay Tanner back for his "help" with their relationships. Olivia and Becca also had their work cut out to convince Callie to take a chance, but in the end it was Lucille who had the final word. I loved Tanner's big moment in the kitchen and all the helpful suggestions he got. The epilogue was a great wrap up for the book and the series.

I also loved the various secondary characters, Lucille and Troy being the most visible in this book. Troy is Tanner's son and a real chip off the old block. I loved the way that Callie connected with him so quickly, just because he reminded her so much of his father. Troy is dealing with a selfish mother who is more interested in her needs than his, and getting to know a father who has been absent through most of his life so far. I loved how he slowly realized that Tanner was there to stay and that he was there when needed. I loved the scene in the principal's office as Tanner backed Troy up. I also really enjoyed seeing how Troy and Lucille connected and became quite an interesting duo.

Lucille has been one of my favorites throughout the series, She is nosy, feisty, and determined to see the people she loves in happy relationships. It was fun to see Callie call her out on some of her antics, especially her toast ruse to get the fire department (and those hot firefighters) to her place. I had to laugh when she talked about her relationship with Mr. W and Callie's reactions. It was always a good time to see what she was posting on social media sites and the reactions she got from it. I think I will miss her most of all.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Falling Hard - HelenKay Dimon (Avon - June 2015)

Series: Bad Boys Undercover (Book 2)

After a grueling assignment with the black ops force known as the Alliance, Weston Brown is craving downtime. Instead, he's pulled into his deadliest operation, in the one place he never wanted to see again. No-nonsense and so damn hot, Lexi Turner lied to get him to her mountain clinic in Pakistan. But the threat is terrifyingly real.

Lexi has been asking too many questions, drawing the wrong kind of attention. As soon as she lays eyes on West, she can tell he's quiet -- yet tough -- and has a rescue complex which will come in handy for going up against the world's most ruthless gunrunners.

Cut off from the rest of the Alliance, Lexi and West navigate the brutal terrain and a primal sexual attraction. Sticking around has never been West's way, but now he'll use every resource to keep Lexi by his side, safe from a killer who leaves no loose ends behind.

Good book that starts out fast and keeps the tension going. West is ready for a break between assignments and instead gets pulled into one in a place he hated. The group he belongs to gets a distress call from a contact in Pakistan, and off they go. Lexi is the daughter of the doctor running the local clinic, and while he's away has noticed some suspicious activity nearby. Following her instincts, she reports it, and soon finds herself in serious trouble.

West and his team arrive just in time to save Lexi from some very determined interrogators. Lexi quickly decides that West is just who she needs on her side to find out what is going on. Their initial meeting is both frustrating and funny. West is accustomed to people being intimidated by his size and his demeanor, and when Lexi refuses to bow completely to his dictates he is at something of a loss. Lexi is very strong-willed and has no trouble standing up for what she sees is the right action to take. It was pretty amusing to see the two of them butt heads over what to do. All of it is aggravated by an intense attraction that takes them both by surprise.

That attraction has to take a back seat because of the danger they are in. Equipment failures get them separated from the rest of the team and dependent on working together. Each of them has definite ideas and a habit of issuing orders which doesn't sit well with the other. Both of them have to learn to step back a little and learn to listen to the other. When they do they discover that both have valid points to make.

Though it only takes a few days, I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between Lexi and West. The chemistry is undeniable, and its effect on West is especially strong. Thanks to things that happened in his past, he has shut off his emotions. However, he is obviously very protective of those he cares about and will do anything necessary for his team. He believes in what he does, but it does have an effect on him. The feelings that are growing for Lexi are breaking through the walls that he has built. He believes quite strongly that the man he has become does not deserve what Lexi is offering. Lexi is stubborn, sassy and frequently fearless when she should be more cautious. Her interactions with West were great, especially as they got to know each other. She was really good at getting him to talk about things he doesn't share with anyone. She quickly came to see that there was more to him than the "killing machine" that he believed himself to be, but convincing him of that fact was a real challenge. I loved that she knew enough not to push, but it was hard to see her start to lose hope. I loved the various scenes where West's coworkers would notice and comment on what was going on, but the best was at the end when they all ganged up on him. I loved the hint of vulnerability in him at the end as he finally goes to Lexi. I also loved his support of her plans for the future, and his reaction to the job offer at the end,

The suspense was really good, with a fast start and steady build up to the conclusion. Lexi and West on the ground in Pakistan had a real challenge trying to keep ahead of those that were after them. They also didn't know who they could trust, which occasionally caused some conflict between Lexi and West. Back at Alliance headquarters, trouble comes from a prisoner who seems to know far too much about what is going on. A risky plan is developed that they hope can pull off a rescue as well as stop the bad guys. Things go from bad to worse for Lexi and West when they are captured. The intensity of the final confrontation, as all the pieces came together, had me riveted until all was resolved. It looks like there is one loose thread to continue into the next book.

Friday, June 10, 2016

An Echo in the Bone - Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte - Sept 2009)

Series: Outlander (Book 7)

Jamie Fraser is an eighteenth-century Highlander, an ex-Jacobite traitor, and a reluctant rebel in the American Revolution. His wife, Claire Randall Fraser, is a surgeon -- from the twentieth century. What she knows of the future compels him to fight. What she doesn't know may kill them both.

With one foot in America and one foot in Scotland, Jamie and Claire's adventure spans the Revolution, from sea battles to printshops, as their paths cross with historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to Benedict Arnold.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, their daughter, Brianna, and her husband experience the unfolding drama of the Revolutionary War through Claire's letters. But the letters can't warn them of the threat that's rising out of the past to overshadow their family.

Another outstanding entry in the Outlander series, covering the years 1776 to 1778, and 1978 to 1980 in modern times. Because of Claire's knowledge of the future, Jamie knows which side wins in the war. His intent is to return to Scotland to get his printing press and take up arms with a pen rather than a sword. But as is usual with this duo, things do not go smoothly. Thanks to an aborted sea voyage, Jamie, Claire and young Ian end up with the Continental army at Fort Ticonderoga and the Battle of Saratoga. The behind the scenes look at life with the army was fascinating. As the army moves south, other battles are fought and life and death are dealt with. The inclusion of actual historical figures such as Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale add depth to the events. 

Eventually Jamie, Claire and Ian make it to a ship, thanks in great part to Jamie's relationship to British general Simon Fraser. Jamie is asked to escort the general's body back to Scotland. They arrive in Scotland only to discover that big Ian is dying of consumption and have arrived in time to say their farewells. There are some extremely emotional scenes, especially between Jamie and Ian as both come to terms with Ian's mortality. I especially loved the part with Jamie's finger and his request of Ian. I also loved young Ian's reunion with his parents. He has some excellent conversations with his father, and receives some much needed advice regarding his love life. There is also a wonderful scene with Laoghaire as she and Claire face off. Eventually Claire and young Ian head back to America ahead of Jamie, as she is needed for a medical problem with Fergus's son Henri-Christian.

Arriving in Philadelphia, not only does Claire have Henri-Christian to take care of, but Lord John also begs her help for his nephew Henry. John is in Philadelphia as a diplomat, but also as young Lord William's stepfather. William, who was captured as part of the surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, is on parole in Philadelphia, marking time until he is sent back to England. Meanwhile, Lord John's niece Dottie arrives, ostensibly because she is in love with William, but actually as part of a deception cooked up between the two of them. She is actually in love with Denzell Hunter, the Quaker doctor we first met in the previous book. Meanwhile, Ian is in love with Denzell's sister Rachel, as they try to reconcile his part in the war with her Quaker beliefs.

Then word comes that the ship Jamie and Jenny were sailing on to return to America has been lost at sea. Stunned by the loss of her love, Claire moves through the days in a haze of grief. Then John brings the news that Claire is to be arrested on charges of treason. The only way to save her is for her to marry John, thereby becoming a British citizen (shades of Outlander!). Claire suddenly finds herself as stepmother to Jamie's illegitimate son, who has no idea of the truth of his paternity. Then in a confluence of events worthy of a comedic play, Jamie shows up at John's house looking for Claire, just a William arrives. One look at Jamie and the truth becomes clear even to him, and he doesn't take it well. At the same time, a British messenger comes looking for John and is followed by soldiers who had been looking for Jamie. Jamie takes John hostage and they escape the soldiers with John as his prisoner. There's a confrontation between the two as John makes a confession to Jamie, who retaliates as expected. Claire is left in Philadelphia wondering what is happening with both her husbands, and has to deal with the fallout.

Meanwhile, back in the twentieth century, Roger, Brianna and the kids have purchased Lallybroch and are living there. Mandy has had her life-saving surgery and is thriving. Roger is floundering a bit, trying to figure out what to do with his life now. Brianna has found a job working as an engineer at the local dam and is dealing with the attitudes of the men around her, especially Rob Cameron. Cameron befriends Roger, inviting him to join the local Lodge, and showing an interest in Roger's knowledge of Gaelic. But there's more to his actions than either Roger of Brianna suspects. 

Jem and Mandy, who love roaming the land around Lallybroch, are full of stories of the Nuckaleevee, and mysterious character hanging around the caves. Eventually Roger discovers that it is none other than Buckleigh MacKenzie, the man responsible for Roger's hanging back in Fiery Cross. He somehow eneded up coming through the stones and is desperate to find a way to get back to his own time. He is there when Jem turns up missing. They believe that Rob Cameron somehow found out about the stones and has kidnapped Jem in order to make him reveal the location of the Spaniard's gold. Roger and Buck head through the stones to try to find Rob and Jem. Then we see that Jem is made prisoner in one of the dam tunnels and Rob plans to hold him hostage to gain Brianna's cooperation. We are left with Jem in the tunnel, Rob threatening Brianna, and Roger and Buck gone to the past.

There are many threads woven throughout the book, making a complicated and endlessly fascinating story. I loved seeing the maturing of William as he experiences all the horrors of war. But there is still the hint of the boy who idolizes his stepfather and has vague memories of the groom who was a big part of his life. Finding out the truth of his parentage throws his whole sense of self into question. There is also young Ian's story, as he deals with the grief of the end of his marriage to Emily. His fledgling relationship with Rachel gives him a new hope, but it is tempered by the conflict of their beliefs. I really loved her pragmatic approach to life, and acceptance of her feelings for Ian. She knows there will be challenges but she accepts him for who he is. Then there is the whole Jamie, Claire and John triangle. There is no doubt of the love that is between Jamie and Claire. Their need for each other is bone deep. They are there for each other throughout their journey, battles and marches and all. Claire is fierce in her protectiveness, as is shown by her rescue of him from the battlefield scavengers. Her grief over his "death" is all encompassing, as she just goes through the motions of living, even after her marriage to John. The scene as they comfort each other is as heartbreaking as it is disturbing, and she has to deal with her feelings in the aftermath. I also enjoyed following the adventures of Roger and Brianna as they adjusted to life back in modern times. Brianna's strength of will can be good, but also can get her into trouble. I loved the link they had back to the past as they read the letters that they had found from Claire and Jamie.

I was quite frustrated by the cliffhangers of this book. Thank goodness with my second reading I can move right on to the next book and hopefully get resolution to some of them.