Sunday, October 30, 2016

Guarding the Soldier's Secret - Kathleen Creighton (HRS #1917 - Oct 2016)

Series: Scandals of Sierra Malone (Book 3)

A sexy soldier comes back from the dead to protect his daughter and her beautiful guardian.

Desperate to save his young daughter's life, soldier Hunt Grainger tasked war correspondent Yancy Malone with smuggling Laila to the US. Now, years later, Yancy and Laila are back in Afghanistan -- and face-to-face with the man they both thought was dead.

Hunt is desperate to reconnect with the child he barely knows and the headstrong redhead he never forgot. When Laila and Yancy are targeted by a group hell-bent on revenge, Hunt's protective instincts kick into overdrive. Their only option: hide out at Yancy's family ranch until the threat subsides. But Hunt's own secrets might lead everyone he loves into even more danger!

Good book, full of questions and emotion, along with a bit of danger. When the story opens, Yancy is a war correspondent in Afghanistan. She has had an intermittent series of encounters with a special ops soldier named Hunt. She's awakened one night when he shows up in her room, but this time he's not looking for physical comfort. He desperately needs her help to get a five year old girl out of the country. A little girl who is also his daughter and in danger from her mother's family. She agrees, expecting him to show up within a few weeks to claim the child.

Three years later, Yancy has adopted Laila as her own and has never heard from Hunt again. She believes that he is dead. She has taken Laila with her, back to Afghanistan, to give the child a chance to know her homeland while the military is still there to protect them. She doesn't think that Laila would still be in danger after all this time, until they are surrounded by men during a visit to the market. Quick thinking on Yancy's part helps them get away, as does the help of what appears to be an Afghan tribal leader. Much to her shock, it turns out to be a very much alive Hunt.

Hunt has been undercover for three years, posing as a tribal leader, working to build a coalition to stop the Taliban. He has also kept an eye on Yancy and Laila, and wasn't at all happy to see them come back to Afghanistan. He's risking a lot, coming to their aid, but he has no choice. 

The attraction is still there between Yancy and Hunt, but her priority is now to take care of Laila. She doesn't want him to get involved in their lives, then disappear again. Hunt wants them to be safe, and convinces Yancy that the only way is for them to leave the country and go someplace safe. Having recently received a letter from the grandfather she never knew, Yancy takes Laila and goes to Sam.

Yancy isn't too sure about being there, but will do whatever necessary for Laila. I loved their arrival at the ranch, and seeing them start to settle in. Sam is still quite a character, and it was pretty sweet to see him interact with Laila. Hunt is never far from Yancy's mind and she worries about his safety. He worries about theirs also, and I loved his test of the ranch security. I thought it was also pretty significant that he couldn't just leave without seeing Yancy again.

Yancy fights hard against her growing feelings for Hunt. She doesn't understand why they have changed, but she knows that nothing can come of them. Making him part of their lives when he can disappear for years at a time isn't fair to Laila or her. But when she sees a news report that he has died in a helicopter crash, she is devastated. I loved her reaction when she discovered that it was a cover for the end of his mission.

Things get more interesting when he shows up at the ranch, wanting the chance to get to know Laila and to spend time with Yancy. She is hesitant, as the reasons to keep apart haven't changed. Hunt knows he can't stay, as his job isn't just what he does, it's who he is. The thoughts of being stuck in one place brings back memories of his youth and what drove him to join the military. However, he can't deny the need that is growing in him, that cries out to be part of their lives. I did get a bit frustrated with how Yancy kept pushing him away, rather than looking for a way to make it work. Hunt also seemed unable to see an alternative. It isn't until a near tragedy occurs that both of them can look at their fears and find a way around them. I liked the solution they came up with. 

I enjoyed the scenes with Sam as he interacts with Laila. It was sweet to see his gruffness as he used it to hide his niceness. I loved how he went to the trouble of getting goats for her, but hid it behind his "demand" that she let him teach her to ride. I ached for him as he remembers all the things he did wrong with his various relationships and tries to redeem himself now. He really came through with his actions at the end. I also loved his flashbacks, as more of his own story is revealed. I can't wait to see what is next.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Silver Linings - Mary Brady (SR #1924 - May 2014)

Series: Bailey's Cove (Book 2)

Fate has reunited them…but for how long?

Life took a detour when Delainey Talbot became a mother. There's no better job but that doesn't mean she isn't excited about finally becoming a lawyer -- a dream she's this close to fulfilling. So when the partnership at Bailey's Cove's only law firm goes to Hunter Morrison, she's devastated.

Hunter and Deelee haven't seen each other since their ill-fated romance ended suddenly -- he doesn't even know about six-year-old Brianna! Deelee wants him out of her town and her job. Too bad her heart says this could be their chance at the life they were meant to have.

Good book. A little slow moving, but I enjoyed the story. Delainey is a paralegal at a local law firm. She has just gotten into law school, a dream that was put on hold six years earlier when she became a mother. The plan is for her to become a partner when her boss retires in a few years. So she is stunned when she comes in to work one day to find that her boss has stepped down and his spot given to someone else. Not just anyone, but her old boyfriend, who had left her behind when he went to law school, and who hasn't been back since.

Hunter needed a place to go, away from Chicago and the mess he'd made of his career there. He had made the mistake of getting involved with a client, one who turned to stalking when he broke things off with her, and who then disappeared, implicating him. When Shamus asked him to come to Bailey's Cove for a year, he was happy to do so. He didn't expect to run into Delainey, and to find out that she has a six year old daughter.

Their initial reunion doesn't go very well. Delainey is furious and hurt that he has taken her job. All she wants is for him to go away so that her life can get back on track. It doesn't help anything that she's still as attracted to him now as she was then. Hunter is suspicious about Delainey's daughter. She's the right age to possibly be his, but why would she have told him? And if she isn't, that means that Delainey might have been seeing someone else. It looked like it was going to be a long year if they didn't find a way to settle their differences.

I liked the way that they didn't let the situation fester for very long. Both of them are mature enough to talk through their issues and decide to resurrect their friendship. Their romance was another thing entirely. Hunter remembers just how determined he was to escape the small town and how much he loves his job in Chicago. Once the scandal dies down, he has every intention of going back. At the same time, Delainey loves Bailey's Cove. Her family is there, her friends are there, and it is exactly where she wants her daughter to grow up. But though their heads say no, their hearts and bodies seem to have other plans. I loved watching them grow close again. Delainey sees how good Hunter is with the locals and that he could easily fit in there again. And though she's always been certain that Hunter isn't Brianna's father, seeing them together has her wondering if she was wrong. If she is wrong, would Hunter want to be a father to Brianna, and maybe more? Hunter is surprised by how comfortable he is back in town, and how quickly Delainey and Brianna work their way into his heart. But he's afraid that if he stays he'll start to miss what he had and grow to resent them, so it's better if he doesn't start.

There are some pretty intense scenes, including one where his past shows up in Bailey's Cove. A scare involving her and Brianna brings out the protector in Hunter. I loved the scene in the restaurant when he handles the situation perfectly, thanks to a little advice from a friend. I ached for Delainey when Hunter went back to Chicago. It was satisfying to see him realize how much he had changed during the short time that he was in Bailey's Cove, and what he decided to do about it.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters, Brianna most of all. She was a pretty adorable six year old. I loved her reactions to all the names that her mom came up with for her. She had her moments of misbehavior, but that just made her seem more real. I also liked Delainey's sister Christina, and how she and Delainey were always there for each other. I'd like to know how her blossoming romance turns out. I also loved all the employees of the law firm. Each was an individual with their own quirks and seeing how they reacted to Hunter was also very real. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride - Victoria Alexander (Zebra - Mar 2014)

Series: Millworth Manor (Book 3)

The bride and groom cordially request the presence of . . .

The bride’s sister, Delilah, the very proper widowed Lady Hargate, and Samuel Russell, the groom’s friend, a very eligible, slightly improper bachelor at their upcoming wedding.

Lady Hargate and Mr. Russell, previously acquainted during one unforgettable night in New York City when caution -- and clothing -- were thrown to the wind will choose to pretend they have never met before.

The lady plans to avoid love and its complications at all costs.

The gentleman intends to change her mind.

Good story of opposites attracting. Delilah is a proper, though young, Victorian widow, who during a trip to New York indulges in one night of "adventure". She intends it to be a onetime thing, with no intention or expectation of seeing Sam again before she returns to England. Samuel is an American businessman who is quite taken with her, and rather miffed at the way she blows him off. However, he too doesn't expect to see her again.

Fast forward a few months and Delilah is at Millworth Manor, helping her sister Camille prepare for her wedding to Grayson Elliott (What Happens at Christmas). She is stunned to see her "adventure" walk into the room with Gray and dismayed to discover that he is one of Gray's best friends who has come for the wedding. Worried that he'll do or say something about their encounter, she waylays him and insists on secrecy. Sam, who hasn't been able to forget her, agrees, but only to keep the peace for now.

I have to say that, especially at the beginning, I didn't like Delilah at all. Except for that brief moment in New York, she came across as snobby, uptight, and occasionally just plain mean. As the book goes on, a little bit of why is revealed. Like her sisters, she was raised to do the proper and expected thing, so she married the man her mother chose for her and became the perfect wife. She even fell in love with her husband, only to find that he didn't feel the same about her, though the full details don't come out until later in the book. When Sam appears she is extremely rude to him, which made me like her even less. However, it quickly becomes obvious that she's reacting out of a sense of fear. That one night with him roused feelings in her that scared her, and now she's trying to protect her heart. She wants to marry again, but has definite ideas of what she wants, and a brash American isn't it.

On the other hand, I did like Sam. He's been burned in the past by a woman who was more interested in what he had than who he was. In spite of that, he still believes in love and marriage, and wants it for himself. He's not really happy with the way Delilah wants to hide what they had, but he's a gentleman and agrees.

I loved the development of their relationship. Delilah is determined to deny what is between them, and Sam is equally determined that she admit it. The sparks fly between them, as she continually tries to push him away and he refuses to be pushed. It was fun to see the tradition-loving Delilah and the progressive Sam butt heads over which one was right about such modern inventions as the "motorwagon" by Mr. Benz. I also liked seeing them move from adversaries to friends. Though she refuses to see it, they really do have a fair amount in common, which shows when they actually spend some time together. I loved the support that he gave her when she discovered some shocking news about her late husband. Sam wants to pursue the possibilities that he sees in front of them, but she insists that they are too different. Even after she admits to her sisters that she loves him, she still refuses to consider a life with him. I ached for Sam because he loved her so much and he couldn't get through to her. He's all set to give up on her when a blast from his past makes him realize that giving up is the wrong thing to do. The ending was pretty sweet with his "contract" and the way she had already come to her senses.

Throughout the book I also enjoyed the friendship that was there between Sam and Gray. They are good enough friends that Sam is able to ask for advice. There are some pretty amusing conversations between them, including one that takes place as the wedding gets closer and Camille is driving Gray nuts. I also liked seeing the advances in the relationship between Delilah and her sisters Camille and Beryl. There were still glimpses of the old issues, but their support for her was always there.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beauty and the Bodyguard - Lisa Childs (HRS #1908 - Aug 2016)

Series: Bachelor Bodyguards (Book 4)

Can this bachelor bodyguard save his true love from mortal danger…on her wedding day?

Bride-to-be Megan Lynch has just learned her ex, presumed dead Marine Gage Huxton, is alive after surviving enemy captivity. But before she can break up with her fiancé, gunmen storm her wedding and take hostages! Megan will do anything to stay alive -- for herself and a second chance with Gage. But there's more terror to endure before she can say yes to the dress -- and her dream groom!

What do the gunmen want? Gage works double time to unravel the mystery and save the beauty who still holds his heart. As the wedding crashers open fire, Gage puts his life on the line to protect Megan and convince her of his love.

Very intense story that takes place in less than 24 hours. Megan is in the bride's room, preparing for her wedding to Richard. She doesn't love him, but they are friends and that's good enough - she thinks. But then she remembers the way she had felt about Gage, and realizes that she can't go through with a passionless marriage. Just then, a knock at the door brings the bodyguard provided by the wedding planner, and Megan thinks she's seeing a ghost.

Gage had been an FBI agent working for her father when he fell for Megan. When she broke things off with him, he re-enlisted in the Marines to escape the pain. While in Afghanistan he was captured and tortured for six months before he was able to escape. Now he works as a bodyguard for Payne Protection. He didn't know who he was assigned to protect until he was there, and wasn't happy about it when he did. He was ready to walk out when he spotted the gunmen coming into the chapel.

From here it was a roller coaster ride of action and danger as the gunmen take hostages and try to achieve their goal. There is a lot of confusion at the beginning, as no one knows what they want and they aren't saying. Megan's father thinks it's something he's brought on as a bureau chief for the FBI. Gage worries that it's something terrorist related because of him, and Penny Payne thinks it's something from one of the security firm's cases. All the gunmen will say is that the wedding must go on. As Gage tries to protect Megan, Nikki Payne (youngest and only girl in the family) becomes a decoy, and tries to keep attention focused on her. There are a lot of twists and turns as Gage and the others try to resolve the situation. Every time they think they have a handle on the problem, something else happens to ramp up the danger. The confrontation at the chapel is intense, and they think they're home free, until the dying words of one gunman shows that it isn't over yet. By this time we have a good idea of who, what and why, but danger still stalks Megan. The final confrontation is fast and furious, but ends quite satisfactorily.

The reunion of Megan and Gage wasn't an easy one. When they had first met and fallen for each other, it was fast and they hadn't really known each other that well. Megan was rather insecure, and though she loved Gage, she found it hard to believe that he could really care for her. Therefore, she was easily influenced by a jealous coworker of Gage's and a "friend" who had his own agenda. She broke things off with Gage rather than talk to him about her fears and feelings. For his part, Gage let his pride get in the way, and when Megan broke things off, he ran instead of fighting for her. It was thoughts of her that kept him going during his captivity, but he wasn't going to admit that when he saw her again. When they were reunited, I wanted to bang their heads together. Rather than admit how glad they were to see each other again, they let pride get in the way again. But forced into each other's company, their previous attraction reignites, though each tries to resist it. Gage believes that he is no longer the man she loved and too messed up to deserve her. Megan feels guilty about the way she treated him, as she finally realizes that she'd been played. I was happy when they finally started to talk honestly, but it took nearly losing each other before they admitted their feelings. I really enjoyed the scene in the hospital room at the end.

The suspense of the story was really good, from the prologue to the very end. In the prologue we get the idea that the man in prison isn't happy about what he has found out, but there are no details. The next time we see him is in the chapel, but again, we don't know exactly who or what he is after. The addition of his female accomplice ratchets up the danger, as she doesn't seem to be quite stable. I loved seeing Nikki's involvement where she doesn't have to deal with her brothers' interference, and her abilities really shine. The more interaction between the gunmen and the good guys there is, the more questions are raised about just what they want. I began to suspect the who, but the what was a surprise until Megan's scene when locked in Penny's office. I kept wondering how they were going to resolve it while trapped in the chapel, especially with more bad guys outside to prevent them from getting help. It was exciting all the way to the last page.

I also enjoyed the secondary romance between Penny and Woodrow. I've loved her throughout the series, with the way she raised her boys and accepted their half brother too. I ached for her and the way her marriage had turned out. I liked Woodrow and his protectiveness towards his daughters. He was surprised by his attraction to Penny. I liked how he understood her issues because he had had a similar problem with his own marriage. The problems at the wedding chapel created some stress between he and Penny. The scene in the hospital room was really sweet, and I was happy for them both.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What to Do With a Duke - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - Aug 2015)

Series: Spinster House (Book 1)

Miss Isabelle Catherine Hutting would rather be lounging in the library than circling the ballroom in search of a husband any day. So when Cat hears that the town’s infamous Spinster House is open for a new resident, she jumps at the chance to put all this marriage business behind her. But first she must make arrangements with her prospective landlord, Marcus, the Duke of Hart -- the most handsome man she’s ever seen, and the only man who’s ever impressed her in the least…

With her wit, independent spirit, and not least of all her beauty, Marcus can’t help but be stirred by Cat. It’s terribly unfortunate he’s not looking to marry, given the centuries-old curse that left his family with the Spinster House to begin with. No duke shall live to see his heir’s birth. But is there a chance the curse could be broken -- in true fairy-tale fashion -- by an act of true love? The race to Happily Ever After is about to begin…

Good book. It begins with Marcus, the "Cursed Duke", nearly getting trapped by another fortune-hunting woman. He has been contemplating his life, admitting his loneliness, but also hampered by the family curse. One of his ancestors had gotten himself cursed, and as a result, every Duke of Hart since then had died before his heir was born. He had decided to put off marriage for as long as possible, but now that he's turned thirty it is getting worse. When business calls him to Love's Bridge, he's glad for the distraction, but not so much about having to return to the birthplace of the curse.

Cat is twenty-four years old and the oldest of the local vicar's ten children. She has absolutely no desire to be married, seeing it as a trap that would be the death of her dreams. Cat wants to be a writer, but finding somewhere at home with the peace and quiet necessary is impossible. When she hears that the Spinster House is available, she is determined to gain it for herself. 

From the moment they meet, the sparks fly between Marcus and Cat. Both try really hard to resist them, as marriage isn't what either has in mind, but they can't stay away from each other. Cat's family and friends do their best to push them together, not believing that life as a spinster is truly what Cat wants. Her youngest brothers, twins Michael and Thomas, are absolutely adorable with the way they took to "Dook". Cat's two friends, Anne and Jane, are also pushing her toward Marcus, though they also have ulterior motives. Each of them also wants to be the next resident of Spinster House. Cat's inner arguments with herself as she tries to convince herself that she does not want Marcus are pretty amusing. Marcus is really attracted to Cat and finds himself thinking about her constantly. He begins to yearn more and more for a family of his own, but the curse prevents him from believing it is possible. Supposedly the curse can be broken if the duke were to marry for love, but Marcus doesn't believe that love really exists. He's seen far too many matches made for profit, and even the ones that are supposedly for love fall apart. There was one surprising twist that softened that outlook just a little bit, enough to make a crack in his determination not to marry.

In the end, certain circumstances brought them back together, and they had to decide if they were willing to take the risk. I loved seeing how a certain kitty had a hand (paw?) in resolving some of the questions about the curse. I was looking forward to seeing the wedding and if the curse was broken or not, but that was left hanging. It will be interesting to see how the next two books are handled.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cold Case Recruit - Jennifer Morey (HRS #1913 - Sept 2016)

Series: Cold Case Detectives (Book 3)

Eager to make a fresh start in life, former homicide detective Brycen Cage had thought he'd left Alaska behind for good, hosting a TV crime show. But when he's recruited back home to investigate a state trooper's long-unsolved murder, Brycen never expects to be so drawn to the victim's beautiful widow. An adventurous bush pilot raising her young son alone, Drury Decoteau manages to get past Brycen's defenses -- a no-go for the lone wolf. Yet as he works closely with Drury and falls even harder for her, Brycen must also avoid a killer -- who will do anything to keep dirty secrets hidden -- and protect the love he's come to cherish.

Good book. Brycen has made a new life for himself, hosting a television crime show where he solves cold cases that have haunted him. He's surprised when the head of Dark Alley Investigations comes to Chicago to recruit him for his PI firm. He's not happy to discover that the case Kadin wants him to solve is in Alaska, a place with dark memories that he was happy to leave behind. But the case of a murdered state trooper intrigues him, and he agrees.

Drury is still mourning the death of her husband, and not satisfied with the lack of progress in the investigation. She goes to DAI with her request for help, and gains new hope that answers will be found. She has also received a couple threats, and worries that her son is in danger because of it.

From the moment they meet, there is a connection between Brycen and Drury. She is surprised by her attraction to a man who so obviously wants nothing to do with it. Brycen has avoided relationships and anything to do with family since he left Alaska years before, haunted by a death that he feels responsible for. But from the very beginning, Drury and her son Noah get past his defenses. The escalating threats against Drury bring out an unexpected protectiveness in Brycen. He also forms a bond with Noah, who is having a hard time dealing with his father's death. There were some really emotional scenes between Noah and both Brycen and Drury. Drury hadn't been looking for a new man in her life, especially one that has no intention of staying in Alaska. She is drawn to his strength, but also to the hint of vulnerability she senses in him. I loved her reaction when she found out what had happened, and what she did about it. It was pretty special to see how she stood up for him. She also melts over the way he helps Noah. The attraction between them continues to build until they can no longer resist it. But Brycen still balks at the idea of forever with someone, and Drury can't do a relationship without commitment. A conversation with Kadin gives Brycen something to really think about. I loved Brycen's big moment at the end, and Noah's willing participation.

The suspense of the story was really good and kept me turning the pages to see what was going to be revealed next. I couldn't tell at first if some of the information was related to the killing, or just part of the background. Even as connections became clear, I didn't expect the reason to be what it was. The final confrontation was really intense, and answered a lot of the questions. I loved how Brycen involved Drury from the start, and that she wasn't just a tagalong but a full participant.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Love to Call Her Own - Marilyn Pappano (Forever - Sept 2014)

Series: Tallgrass (Book 3)


It's been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she's never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn't help, and neither did the job she'd hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it's like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.

Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife's death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can't stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn't ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?

Good story of second chances and new beginnings. We saw a lot of Jessy in the previous book, A Man to Hold on To, where she is struggling to deal with death of her husband, mostly by drinking away the pain and sleeping with strange men. One of those encounters still haunts her. She got fired from her job at the bank, and knows she has to do something to pull herself out of the pit her life has become.

Dalton has been dealing with his own losses. Most notably was the death of his wife in the war. Everyone believes she died a hero, but he's haunted by the fact that she chose to die rather than come back to him. He's also still bitter about the way his twin brother had left years ago. So he copes by focusing on his ranch and avoiding people. However, he can't forget the night he spent with Jessy. The revival of feelings he'd forgotten makes him believe he's ready to start living again.

I really liked Jessy. Once she hit rock bottom, she knew she had to make changes and she was determined to do so. The first thing was to quit drinking. I loved the realism of seeing what a struggle it was for her, hour by hour and day by day. I did wish that she had confided in her margarita sisters sooner, as their support would have helped. But she has some pretty bad self-esteem issues, and she was really afraid that they would judge her. She's also embarrassed every time she sees Dalton, remembering her actions of that night. As many problems as she has, she is a really nice person with a soft heart. I loved seeing her step in to help Patricia, a new widow, when she could just as easily have looked away. She's always there when her friends need her. I also really liked seeing her get so involved with the animal shelter. It was sweet to see how she bonded with Oliver. 

I also really liked Dalton. He has a hard road dealing with his grief over Sandra, especially considering the secret he is keeping about her death. He is fully eligible to join the Tuesday Night Margarita Club as a spouse of a deceased veteran, but as a guy doesn't really feel comfortable with it. In a previous book, A Hero to Come Home To, he had connected with Dane, which helped some. Their developing friendship has begun the process of bringing him back into contact with people. 

I liked seeing Dalton and Jessy get together. Things were a little awkward at first, with the memory of that one night between them. I liked that they both owned up to their own parts in it, without blaming the other. Once they got past that initial awkwardness, they agreed that they wanted to see what might be there between them. I loved seeing them take the time to get to know each other, resisting the urge to give in to the heat that was still there. Once they did, I loved seeing the rapid progression of their feelings. Jessy began to feel that maybe she really did deserve to be happy, that she wasn't as big a screwup as she had thought. Dalton allowed himself to trust again. There are still some challenges to their relationship, including his mother's reaction and the unexpected arrival of Dalton's twin brother. I loved the ending, as Jessy stood up to her worst fears and refused to give in to them. I loved Dalton's reaction, and what he said in return.

There was also a secondary story going on with another one of the margarita sisters. Lucy dealt with her issues by eating, which created a whole new set of problems for her. She is a neighbor of Patricia's and is there to help her through the stress of dealing with her husband's death. Lucy also takes it upon herself to contact Patricia's estranged son, and guilts him into coming to Tallgrass to help his mother. Ben isn't happy about it at first, but the longer he's there, the closer he and Patricia get to mending their relationship. Lucy is interested in Ben from the beginning, which motivates her to make some changes in her life. Ben becomes more intrigued by Lucy as the days go on. I enjoyed their interactions and am looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Bodyguard's Bride-to-Be - Amelia Autin (HRS #1921 - Nov 2016)

Series: Man on a Mission (Book 9)

A pretend engagement suddenly becomes very real…and dangerous

When Tahra Edwards sees a suspicious knapsack near a school yard, she leaps into action…and saves children from a bomb. But upon awakening in a hospital, Tahra discovers she's lost her memory -- including any recollection of the handsome military captain who says he's her fiancĂ©. A charming alpha hero who seems to be hiding something…

As a high-level bodyguard, Marek Zale knows that a ruthless terrorist organization will stop at nothing to silence Tahra -- his ex-girlfriend -- permanently. To protect her, he must be by her side around the clock. And though he may not be telling her the truth about their engagement, their love for each other was always true…as is the danger threatening them both!

I have been looking forward to Marek's story since his first appearance. I knew it would be good, but this was even better than I expected. He is a captain in the Zakharian National Forces, assigned to the security of the royal family. In King's Ransom we see him as the king's bodyguard and friend, who is assigned to secretly watch out for the heroine, Juliana. In Alec's Royal Assignment, he is Angelina's superior officer. In both he is the typical Zakharian male, old fashioned (think fifty years behind the times) and protective, and a bit chauvinistic. By the end of that book he had learned some very important lessons about the capabilities of women. There was also mention of his romance with a young woman who works in the US Embassy. 

Tahra is the administrative assistant to Alec Jones at the embassy. At the beginning of the book she is on her lunch break when she notices something suspicious at the school next door. When she realizes what the knapsack left by the school fence is, she doesn't hesitate to take action. However, she doesn't escape the consequences and is badly injured in the blast. When she awakens in the hospital, she has no memory of what happened, or the events of the last eighteen months - including the man who says he is her fiance.

This is where things get a bit complicated for Marek. In order to be with Tahra at the hospital, he has claimed her as his fiancee, even though she turned him down. He has been giving her time to get past the issue that parted them in hopes that she will see that they belong together. He still loves her and will do whatever necessary to protect her. When she doesn't remember him, he allows the lie to stand, rationalizing that it is for her safety. Tahra doesn't remember anything about their relationship, but she does sense that she can trust him, so she accepts his declaration. 

This is kind of a second chance romance, as Tahra's amnesia gives them a chance to start over, and for Marek to fix the mistakes he has made. Both of them have some issues to overcome. What drove them apart was a secret that Marek had kept from her until after he had proposed. When he explained it, I completely understood his reasoning. It seemed like a rather insignificant reason for Tahra to be so upset, until I found out about her past. She had been badly hurt by a man who lied to her, and she saw it happening again. Though she can't remember their previous relationship, she does sense that there is something that Marek is holding back from her. Tahra had also been a bit timid growing up, with an overprotective sister, especially after their parents died when she was young. She had never really had to rely on herself, with Carly always there to look out for her. Now she's on her own and determined to be stronger and independent.

I loved seeing the development of the new relationship. Marek is determined to protect Tahra, but also find a way to prove his love. Tahra's need for her independence butted up against that protectiveness several times, and she had to work to get him to see her point of view. I loved the scene when she tried to leave the palace grounds and ran up against the orders she wasn't allowed to. Her confrontation with Marek, as she tried to explain her feelings, was eye opening for him. "You said I had a warrior's heart. If you truly believe that, then help me believe it too. I need to know I can stand on my own before I can stand at your side." It wasn't the first time that something she said to him rocked his world. There was also an interesting conversation on the drive from the hospital about double standards, and another one later about the meaning of "uber-alpha male". Each time, Marek found himself adjusting the way he thought of her. But he isn't the only one who changes. Thanks to the amnesia, Tahra's own way of dealing with Marek also underwent a change. She isn't so quick to judge, and is more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he does something that rubs her the wrong way. I also loved her conversation with Juliana, where she learns more about Marek and gets a better understanding of what makes him the man he is. Not everything is sunshine and roses, because Tahra still has the feeling that Marek is keeping something from her, something important. A devastating discovery, but an honest and open discussion with Marek, shows the changes in how both deal with the issue. I loved the vulnerability that Marek exhibited and the understanding that Tahra has grown into. What follows shows just how big the changes are, though there are still some surprises in store for Marek. By the time the epilogue comes around, their relationship is as strong as they could wish for.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. What struck me first was how similar it was to what is happening in the world today. From the moment of the first bomb blast, it is an intense journey to discover who and why. At the same time, there was also the viewpoint of the other side, showing that there is more to their plans than is suspected at the beginning.  I loved seeing the way that Marek's mind worked as he puzzled through the details of each attack. It was fascinating to see the progress of his deductions, from the obvious to the horrifying reality. The plan that they came up with was brilliant, thanks to the teamwork of Marek and Angelina. The final confrontation was intense, with Tahra in the thick of it. I wasn't sure if either she or Marek would come through it unscathed. To put a cap on the whole thing, I loved the "good cop, bad cop" routine that he and Angelina did to get the final proof they needed to catch the mastermind.

I loved the depth of emotion that was evident throughout the story. I could feel Tahra's fear that she wouldn't be able to save the children at the school. The king's fury over the attacks on his people leapt off the page, as it did when he heard Marek's suspicions about the real objective behind them. I felt like crying right along with Tahra after the apartment bombing. But most of all, the intensity of the love between Marek and Tahra, even through their darkest moments, was a glowing beacon of hope for their future.

I loved returning to Zakhar and getting to learn more about this fascinating country. It's easy to forget that it is fictional thanks to the vivid descriptions of places, people and customs. I can't wait to visit again - maybe to see Xavier find his own One and Only?

*copy received in exchanged for honest review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Man to Hold On To - Marilyn Pappano (Forever - Feb 2014)

Series: Tallgrass (Book 2)


Therese Matheson doesn't know if she'll ever get over losing her husband in Afghanistan. Surviving Paul's death has been hard, but raising his sullen son and his thirteen-going-on-thirty daughter alone has been even harder. All they need is a fresh start, and Tallgrass, Oklahoma, could be the perfect new beginning . . . especially when Therese meets Sergeant Keegan Logan. The sexy combat medic and single dad soon awakens a desire she'd thought long buried.

Keegan always wanted to be a father . . . someday. So when his ex-girlfriend disappears, leaving her daughter in his care, Keegan's hands are tied. He has to find the girl's father. His search leads him to Tallgrass and to a beautiful brunette widow who has no idea her husband was ever unfaithful. What begins as a friendship soon ignites into something far more and gives him the courage to be the kind of man-and father-he always dreamt he could be. But his secret still stands between them. Can Keegan reveal the truth and convince Therese they share something too special to lose-a love that can bring two families together?

Good book with a very realistic feel to it. Therese is a member of the Tuesday Night Margarita Club, also known as the Fort Murphy Widows Club. Like her friends, her husband was killed in Afghanistan, and she is left to pick up the pieces. In her case, she also has custody of his two children, a sullen eleven year old boy and a bratty thirteen year old girl. In the first book, A Hero to Come Home To, there were glimpses of what she has been going through with them. At the beginning of this book, Therese wonders if it would be better to give up custody and give the kids back to their mother or into foster care. She feels like she has failed them and her husband, and they might be better off with someone else. When the kids return from a week with their mother, her stress goes even higher.

Keegan is caught in a dilemma. His ex-girlfriend has disappeared, leaving her three year old little girl behind. Keegan is listed as little Mariah's father on her birth certificate, but he isn't. Sabrina had had an affair with a visiting army officer, and the child is his. Keegan isn't ready to be a father, especially to someone else's child, so he goes hunting for her real father. He arrives in Tallgrass, only to discover that the man is dead and his widow has no clue about Mariah's existence. He isn't sure whether he should tell her and leave Mariah with her or find something else to do with the child. But there's something about Therese that draws him in and he decides to stick around for awhile. 

Though there is attraction between them from the very beginning, the relationship between Keegan and Therese begins as friendship. Keegan is at a complete loss as to how to deal with Mariah, and Therese steps in to help him. I loved the scene when Keegan shows up at her house with a screaming Mariah and a desperate plea for help. He has kept an emotional distance from the child and that has had the expected result on their relationship. It was sweet to see Keegan grow into the role of father to Mariah. There were several really adorable scenes between the two of them. Though Keegan had briefly considered making up to Therese as a prelude to dumping Mariah on her, that idea doesn't last long.  He's far too interested in Therese herself, even though he has no interest in a relationship. Therese is surprised to find herself attracted to Keegan. It raises a bit of conflict in her since she feels slightly disloyal to her husband because of it, but she also likes feeling alive again. She's not interested in a relationship with another military man, but a fling might be enjoyable. She doesn't expect to start feeling something more for him. I liked seeing them move from friendship and mutual support to exploring what is growing between them. Their dates were pretty sweet, and the increasing heat was terrific. As they grew closer, Keegan felt guilty about keeping the truth about Mariah from Therese, but didn't know how to tell her without risking their new relationship. When she does find out, she is hurt and angry. I loved seeing how she worked through her feelings and her attitude when she did. I felt that it was realistic, without making her husband out to be scum, but not letting him completely off the hook either. I felt that the relationship between she and Keegan became stronger because of it. 

Therese's two stepchildren were really interesting. In the previous book both came across as total brats and I wanted her to toughen up on them. When they arrived back from their visit to their mother, there were some positive changes in Jacob. He seemed to be coming out of his funk a little bit, treating Therese with a little more respect. I liked seeing the little things he started to do and their effect on his relationship with Therese. Abby, on the other hand, came back with even more attitude than when she left. I really understood Therese's horror at her appearance, and loved how she dealt with it. It was great to see Therese stand up to the little tyrant. I was completely amazed at the difference in her attitude when little Mariah was around, and began to hope that maybe things would get better. As the book went on, I liked seeing the improvement in the relationships between the kids and Therese, and the hope it gave Therese that things would work out with them. The surprise arrival of the kids' mother, and what she wanted threw everything into upheaval. I ached for Jacob and was happy to see that Keegan was able to help him. Abby had mixed reactions, and I wondered how things were going to go. I also ached for Therese, who was kind of getting what she had wanted but who realized that maybe she didn't want it after all. The kids' mother was a real piece of work, and I completely enjoyed seeing Therese stand up to her. That final confrontation was very emotional. In the end, Therese realized that she was partly to blame for the tension between her and the kids, as she understood what had been driving them. I hurt for the kids as they had to deal with the truth about their mother, but was happy to see that they began to appreciate what they had in Therese.

I also enjoyed seeing more of the ladies from the club. All of them are dealing with their losses in their own ways. I liked seeing more of Carly and Dane from the first book, and how their relationship is progressing. There are also sections that dealt with several of the other women, including Jessy. She is headed down a slippery path and I am looking forward to seeing how she gets through her challenges.

*copy of the book received in exchange for honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Written in My Own Heart's Blood - Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte - June 2014)

Series: Outlander (Book 8)

1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife, his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is, and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces.

The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy . . . never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself.

The fantastic next chapter in the saga of the Frasers. At the end of An Echo in the Bone the Frasers were in the midst of the American Revolution and the MacKenzies were in modern day Scotland. Jem had been kidnapped and presumed taken into the past, though we last saw him in the tunnel at the dam. We're not sure if he's traveled or not. Roger and Brianna are naturally frantic, and Roger, along with his many times great grandfather have gone to the past to look for him.

So much happening in this book. Of course, we have our main couple, Jamie and Claire, reunited. There are, naturally, some adjustments to make, as both come to grips with Claire's marriage to John while Jamie was presumed dead. Jamie becomes reinvolved in the war, with Claire accompanying him in her medical capacity and as his wife. It was fascinating to read of the war's progress, through the occupation of Philadelphia, the Battle of Brandywine, and so on. There are many historical characters that make appearances, such as George Washington and Benedict Arnold. I loved Claire's reactions to those experiences, especially considering what she knows. I loved the minute details of what was happening, things that are generally left out of this history books, but which make events feel real. 

Roger and Buck have gone into the past looking for Jem, not knowing that he never left the present. Something went wrong in the transfer and they went back too far. It was interesting to see them interact with Jamie's father and Jenny, with Roger knowing what is yet to come. They are having no luck finding Jem, naturally, but in their search run into another time traveler. This one is quite a shock to Roger, and gives one explanation as to why they landed when they did. 

Lord John has quite a rough time of it in this book. Jamie finally reacts to John's statement regarding his marriage to Claire. Beaten and left in the woods, John ends up captured by the Americans, spends some time as a prisoner, nearly hanged as a spy, then escapes, only to pretend to be an American to save his neck yet again. We also see him dealing with some issues from his own past, when Percy makes a reappearance. John also comes to William's rescue when he ends up with some trouble of his own.

Ah, William. William is not coping well with his new found knowledge about his parentage. He is angry, but he is also confused. He doesn't quite know who he is any longer and his emotions are all over the place. There were times when I wanted to shake him, especially when he got nasty with both Jamie and John. But there are also times when I really liked him. His care for the young woman who was forced into prostitution and her little sister was wonderful. It was satisfying to see him go to Jaime when he needed specialized help. There were hints of reconciliation between the two, but it's still in the early stages.

Ian and Rachel. Ian is still working as a scout for the Continental Army and Rachel is still helping her brother with the wounded. They are still intending to marry, though there are challenges to that happening. I enjoyed getting the background on how Quaker marriages occur. I loved how Rachel is always there for Ian, ready to listen to him as he struggles with his future. Ian has changed and matured quite a bit over the last couple books, and I like who he has become even better. There was also a terrific scene with Claire, Rachel and Dottie as Claire explains to both of them what to expect after the wedding. I must say there are parts of that which had me laughing so hard I cried.

Dottie and Denzel. Denzel's work as a doctor is always interesting, especially as it pertains to his Quaker religion. His relationship with Dottie was a bit of a surprise, but I'm really enjoying it. In the previous book Dottie had come across as a bit flighty, but here she is quite focused. I have to admit that it was pretty amusing seeing her trying to be Quaker, but she loves Denny and will do whatever she has to in order to be with him.

Fergus, Marsali and the kids. They have settle in Philadelphia at this time. He has continued as a printer, and like Jamie has a tendency to get himself into trouble with some of his products. Meanwhile Marsali is left trying to keep home and hearth together.

Brianna, Jem and Mandy are dealing with problems of their own. Jem has escaped the tunnel and made it back to his mother. There are other attempts made on them all. The reason behind the attacks has been alluded to before, but is explained more in this book. This leads Brianna to make a life changing decision in order to protect them. 

Two major characters pass away during this book, creating two big holes in the lives of our characters. I cried for both and ached for those left behind. 

Jamie and Claire make the decision to return to Fraser's Ridge. I loved their arrival and seeing them settle back in. Claire had quite a surprise waiting for her, one that made me very happy for her. As she and Jamie are checking out the site for their new house, they are stunned by a call of "Hello the house!" Of course, Diana leaves it there, and we are left to wait and wonder about the story behind their arrival. I can't wait. 

The Scottish Prisoner - Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte - Dec 2011)

Series: Outlander (Book 3.7)

London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He's not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he's close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser's quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.

Like many of the Jacobites who aren't dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it -- he's sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves -- again.

Lord John Grey -- aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy -- finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in "Erse," the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmuir Prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate -- but will he agree to do it?

Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.

Very good book that takes place concurrently with Voyager, during the time that Jamie spends at Helwater. Jamie has been there for three years, working as a groom. He occasionally sees Lord John, who check up on his parolee. Relations are strained between them, thanks to something that happened in a previous book. Jamie has kept a low profile, doing his work and staying out of trouble. Then he is contacted by an Irishman he knew in France, part of Prince Charlie's inner circle. This man wants to involve Jamie in a new plan to restore Charlie to the throne. Jamie, of course, wants nothing to do with it, knowing (thanks to Claire) that no attempts succeed. Jamie sends him away, but is aware that Quinn will not give up easily.

John has been given some papers that implicate a fellow soldier in some nefarious doings. In those papers is a poem written in Erse, or Scottish Gaelic. While John knows that Jamie is capable of translating, he will not ask it of him. Instead, his brother Hal, Duke of Parloe (who is responsible for saving Jamie's life after Culloden), sends for Jamie behind John's back. His intent is to have Jamie translate, and then help with John's mission.

The poem that Jamie translates does have to do with a new attempt, and the soldier that John is investigating for corruption may be involved. John and Jamie are sent to Ireland to arrest the soldier and bring him back to London for trial. They are joined on the trip by Quinn, who John does not know, and who is playing his own games. Jamie is caught in the middle, knowing what he does about Quinn, but not wanting to get involved in it. It can't be helped, and soon he discovers that there is a link between the corrupt soldier and the plot. As always, Diana includes quite a few twists and turns in this plot, as John and Jamie work to bring the man to justice.

The attempt at a new Rising that Quinn is involved in has some spooky elements to it. What he is looking for is a cup, similar in some ways to the Holy Grail, which is said to have supernatural abilities. In the course of Jamie's investigation into the poem, he is exposed to this cup. Diana's descriptions of the cup and its effects, and its background were vivid enough that I got goosebumps right along with Jamie. I ached for Jamie, knowing that he wishes for the restoration but also knows that it won't happen. He wants to save others from their folly, but accepts that he can't.

Over the course of the trip, Jamie and John work their way slowly back to a tentative friendship. I ached for John and is unrequited feelings, but also appreciated that he accepted it and wanted to get back their previous comradeship. As John discovers the reason that Jamie wants to stay at Helwater, even though he is offered his freedom, he is surprised but accepting.

I really liked seeing the relationship between Jamie and young Willie. Though he can never acknowledge it, Jamie loves being a part of Willie's life. It was sweet to see how Willie tagged after Jamie and tried to emulate him. It was bittersweet for Jamie, who saw how some of his interactions with Willie echoed those of himself with his own father. I liked seeing the incident when Willie was lost in the fog, as it was later mentioned in either Echo in the Bone or Written in My Own Heart's Blood

There was also an interesting twist with a character named Edward Twelvetrees. The Twelvetrees family has some history with John's family. Edward was involved with the corrupt soldier, giving the Greys more reason for their dislike of him. A confrontation between Edward and John and Jamie led to a duel. After the duel a shocking revelation was made about Edward that had a profound effect on John. 

Overall, I really enjoyed seeing the beginnings of the true friendship that grew between John and Jamie. This is a relationship that plays a big part in later books. There are still some tensions between them due to their history, but they've come a long way toward overcoming it.

I also found the history behind the story to be very interesting. I hadn't known anything about later conspiracies to return a Stuart to the throne, nor about the role of the Irish. I learn something new whenever I read one of Diana's books.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Navy SEAL Seduction - Bonnie Vanak (HRS #1906 - July 2016)

Series: SOS Agency (Book 1)

A navy SEAL takes on a death-defying assignment to save the one who got away…

With the island nation of St. Marc erupting in civil war, SEAL Jarrett Adler must rescue the woman he never got over -- his alluring ex-wife, Lacey. Jarrett regrets failing her as a husband, and he hopes protecting her will offer a second chance to win her trust.

As charming and sexy as Jarrett still is, Lacey knows he won't stick around. She's found her niche in nonprofit work and longs to create a family of her own. But when death threats and bombs arrive at her door, she turns to the man who still holds her heart. Can Jarrett and Lacey navigate their way home -- and back into each other's arms?

Very good book and start to a new series, packed with emotion, political unrest, and action. Jarrett is a navy SEAL who is on leave. He went to St. Marc to visit a fellow SEAL, and also to check up on his ex-wife, Lacey. It's been five years since their divorce, but he's never gotten over her. The situation on the island has him worried about her and he's determined to get her to safety.

After her divorce from Jarrett, Lacey started a nonprofit organization that helps abused women on the island escape from their abusers and become self-sufficient. She's made a home for herself and the five year old girl she has adopted. But threats and strange occurrences have her worried.

The story started out with a confrontation between Jarrett and Lacey. He's used some trickery to separate her from her coworker and she isn't happy about it. She's even less happy about his determination to make her leave St. Marc and lets him know, in no uncertain terms, that she isn't going anywhere. An eruption of gunfire emphasizes his point, but Lacey will not budge. He goes with her back to her home, still determined to get her out.

From the moment they meet again, it's obvious that there are still strong feelings. Jarrett has never forgotten her and feels that he failed her during their marriage. Lacey wants him gone because he rouses too many painful memories for her. The painful events that led up to their divorce were made even worse by their lack of communication. Jarrett hadn't wanted to inflict the things he had seen and done on Lacey's innocence, so he kept it all inside. When she lost the baby, he didn't know how to express his own feelings of loss. On her side, Lacey was so determined to be the perfect Navy wife that she never told Jarrett how much she worried about him, and how much she hated that he was always gone. When he left again a few days after the miscarriage, she'd had enough. Five years later, both of them have gone through considerable changes. Lacey has found her confidence and finds it easier to express her feelings and her needs. Jarrett has begun to realize just how much he has lost and that duty to country isn't enough anymore. I loved seeing them start talking to each other and opening up about the way they had felt back then.

I also loved seeing that their connection became even stronger in the present. Jarrett appreciated her strength, her commitment to her people, and how deeply she loved her daughter. Lacey felt safe with Jarrett near, trusting him like she trusted no one else. She also loved the way he connected with her daughter, helping the child deal with the traumas she'd been through. Then to add the icing to the cake, their attraction was stronger than ever. They had always been good together, but now the chemistry between them opens their eyes to the fact that their love had never died. The question becomes one of whether they can get past their old hurts and have the life they dreamed of together.

The intensity of what was going on around them kept me turning the pages to the very end. It was the political unrest and his fears for her safety that brought Jarrett to St. Marc, but it was the immediate danger to her that set his instincts off. He was determined to find out who was behind the vandalism and death threats that she had been receiving. He had his suspicions, but getting the proof was proving to be more difficult. There was also the problem of finding out who had killed little Fleur's mom and who seemed to be determined to finish the job by killing the child too. There were some terrific scenes of nail-biting intensity as Jarrett's SEAL skills are the only things keeping the ones he loves alive. When the political unrest collided with the threats against Lacey, she was thrown into incredible danger. I loved seeing her remain calm and remember the things that Jarrett had taught her, keeping her alive long enough for him to find her. Following along with Jarrett's investigation, there were so many possibilities for who was behind the trouble. Every time I thought I had a handle on who it might be, something new would come to light and change everything around. I have to say that I was completely surprised by who "El Jefe" turned out to be. Even after that there was still one surprise player who showed up at the very end, finally setting Fleur free of her fears.

I loved the epilogue and seeing the decision that Jarrett made about his future. I'm looking forward to more of the series and getting to know his teammates.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Rancher's One-Week Wife - Kathie DeNosky (HD #2467 - Sept 2016)

Blake Hartwell is a sexy-as-sin rodeo champion with money to burn and a way with the ladies, but to Karly Ewing he's her soon-to-be ex! Their whirlwind affair ended with Vegas "I dos" -- but saying yes was a mistake. So Karly heads to his ranch, divorce papers in hand, only to be stranded with the man she can't resist! Will temptation lead them to happily-ever-after? Or will Blake's secrets tear them apart for good?

Good book. City girl Karly and rodeo champion Blake run into each other in Vegas. Blake's quick reflexes keep her from landing on the floor, The sparks between them fly fast and hot, and by that evening they are in bed together. By the end of the week they are in a chapel saying "I do". Blake heads home to get things ready for her arrival, as Karly goes home to Seattle to pack her things and join him. What Blake gets instead is a call from Karly saying it had been a mistake and she'd be sending him divorce papers.

Eight months later Karly shows up at the ranch to let him know that the papers had been lost in the mail so that they are still married. She has new ones for him to sign that she will hand deliver, and then it will really be over. But a strike at the airport has her stranded in Wyoming, and Blake talks her into staying on the ranch until she can fly out.

I liked Blake. He had fallen fast and hard for Karly and was heartbroken when she called things off. He's understandably wary about her arrival, not wanting to get hurt again. He soon realizes that the chemistry between them is still strong, and that something must have scared her off. He is determined to find out what it was, and show her that they can be happy together. But he's also got a secret he's been keeping from her. Far from being the ranch foreman, as he has let her believe, he's actually the owner of the ranch and quite wealthy. However, he's been burned by those more interested in what he has than who he is, so he's kept quiet.

I liked Karly too, but she frustrated me at times. She was definitely still in love with him, but her insecurities had her believing that it wouldn't last. She fears that if she quits her job and moves away from the city, she'll grow to regret it and it would ruin their marriage. She saw it happen with her parents and rather than risk it, she won't even try. I was also a little disappointed by her disparaging attitude about the ranch, but as that changed quickly, I chalked it up to city girl ignorance.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. They had a good start in that the love was there. What they needed to do was actually talk to each other about their pasts, their fears, and their dreams for the future. I really liked the way that Blake was determined to show her the beauties of the ranch. I loved her first experience riding. Blake got a lot of amusement out of her nervousness, but he was also really good at teaching her. It was also pretty funny to see him trying to get her to take advantage of the amenities of the ranch house without admitting that the house is his. Karly began to think more and more that she'd made a mistake in asking for the divorce, but she was still afraid to trust in her own feelings. Blake felt that he was finally starting to make some headway when he got her to agree to stay even longer, and even Karly was starting to see possibilities. Then Blake's brother showed up and inadvertently spilled the beans. Devastated by what she sees as Blake's lack of trust, she runs. Blake has to face up to his mistakes and decide if he's going to go after her. I loved his big moment at the end, and his determination and persistence in wanting Karly to hear what he has to say. The epilogue was really sweet. Now I'd like to see Blake's brother get his own story. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Boss's Baby Arrangement - Catherine Mann (HD #2468 - Sept 2016)

Series: Billionaires and Babies (Book 73)
           Lourdes Brothers of Key Largo (Book 1)

Widower Xander Lourdes will do anything for his toddler daughter. But in a high-profile custody battle, his millions only go so far. What he really needs is a wife, in name only. And he has just the woman in mind…if only he weren't so drawn to the beautiful redhead!

Zoologist Maureen Burke is still reeling from a painful past, but her boss's proposal comes just as her work visa is expiring. If they're not careful, the heat between her and Xander may destroy the no-strings situation they're both counting on…

Good story of a marriage of convenience and how it becomes the real thing. Xander is a widower with a toddler daughter whom he adores. He has done everything possible to spend as much time with little Rose as he can, and has a wonderful nanny for when he can't. When his in-laws start making noises about being the better choice to raise Rose he knows he has to do something. Though he still loves his late wife, getting married again will improve his chances of keeping his daughter.

Maureen is a zoologist who works at the animal refuge with Xander's brother Easton. She has been there for three years and loves her work. Unfortunately, her work visa is about to expire and she hasn't been able to get it extended. She doesn't want to go back to Ireland and the painful memories she left behind.

A dance during a fundraiser for the refuge brought a buried attraction to the surface. Maureen had always been aware of it, but Xander's grief kept her from doing anything about it. With her looming departure, she thought about making some sort of advance to him. That thought is interrupted when his daughter is taken ill and he leaves the dance floor. The next day he is subtly threatened with a custody battle by his in-laws. Aware of Maureen's issue with her work visa, and suddenly unhappy with the idea of her leaving, Xander proposes a marriage of convenience to solve both their problems.

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship. It started out as a simple matter of expedience, with the added complication of an intense attraction between them. That attraction initially fills Xander with a great deal of guilt, as he feels disloyal to his late wife. At the same time, Maureen feels guilty because of the deception. As they spend time together, planning the wedding and pretending that theirs is a love match, their feelings slowly begin to change. First comes giving in to the attraction. Xander and Maureen handle it in different ways. Xander gets a bit freaked out by the intensity of the experience, something that is different than what he felt for his wife, which adds to his guilt. Maureen is also surprised by the feelings stirred by Xander, but hers is because her ex-husband had been just the opposite. Xander's obvious pleasure with her was a new experience, and started to open her heart up to him. Second was their interactions with Xander's daughter Rose. Maureen was incredibly moved by Xander's obvious love for her, and his willingness to do whatever necessary for her happiness. Xander was amazed at how quickly Maureen and Rose connected, as shown by the meal they shared with his in-laws. As the wedding got closer, I loved seeing everything that Xander did to try to make it special for Maureen, especially as he learned more about her previous marriage. 

By the time the wedding came, both Xander and Maureen had realized that they had fallen in love, but neither had the courage to say anything to the other. Maureen believed that Xander was still in love with Terri and would never be able to give his heart to someone else. Xander simply believed that Maureen wasn't interested in being married again, though he was determined to convince her to give their marriage a chance. The unexpected arrival of Maureen's ex brings back painful memories for her. I loved seeing Maureen blast him, and the protective instincts that have Xander giving her his support while wishing for a chance to take just one swing at him. Unfortunately, it still leaves some issues to deal with. I loved seeing Xander's brother straighten him out. It was even sweeter to see Xander show some vulnerability and Maureen realize that he's just as scared as she is. I loved the ending and seeing how they are able to move forward together.

I really liked Xander's brother and can't wait to read his story.

The Cowboy Takes a Wife - Trish Milburn (HWR #1616 - Oct 2016)

Series: Blue Falls Texas (Book 9)


Retired bull rider Cole Davis was much more successful in the ring than in his relationships. Twice divorced, he's come home to work on the family ranch and build his budding art career -- and steer clear of anything serious when it comes to women. But when he overhears Devon Newberry being bullied by her pushy mother, he comes up with a plan to help the pretty shopkeeper.

Though Devon hates lying, the blue-eyed cowboy's proposal of a fake relationship is working perfectly…until her feelings become all too real. She knows Cole's heart isn't available, but she can't help hoping she can change his mind!

Good book. Cole has come home to Blue Falls after having to retire from bull riding. He has begun a new career as a sculptor, as well as working his family's ranch. He is also doing his best to avoid his mother's matchmaking efforts. He has been married twice and neither one worked out. He figures that he is bad at relationships and has no interest in trying a third time.

Devon grew up in Blue Falls and now owns a successful crafts shop. She spins and dyes her own yarn and also makes soaps. She also suffers from an overbearing mother, who is constantly pushing "eligible" men at her, at the same time that she disparages everything that Devon has done with her life. 

I fell in love with Cole when he came to Devon's rescue after hearing another example of Devon's mother harping at her about her choices. Cole jumps in, pretending that he and Devon are dating, as a way to get her off Devon's back. Devon is stunned that this man, who she crushed on in high school, would put himself out for her. He lets Devon know that maybe they can help each other out. He'll play the boyfriend for Devon's mom, if Devon will help him convince his mother that he's not interested in marrying again.

I loved the development of their relationship. They start out as friends, helping each other out, but knowing that the relationship isn't real. However, there is a definite attraction between them that they try to ignore at first. I loved seeing how spending time together brought them closer and deepened their friendship. It also fanned the flames that were growing between them. It didn't take long before they took the relationship from fake to real, but with the understanding that it was just casual. By this time, Devon knew that she was falling for Cole and wanted more, but she also knew that he was adamant about not wanting anything serious. Though she expected that she might get hurt, Devon makes the decision to take what happiness she can get with him.

I really liked seeing the changes that Cole went through. He had been burned badly by his two marriages and didn't want to risk it again, so he fought his feelings for Devon. It was fun to see how he found himself thinking about her all the time. He panicked a bit when he realized that he was falling for her. He wanted to pull back but couldn't bring himself to do it. I also loved his protectiveness toward Devon. I liked seeing him stand up for her. 

Devon also went through some pretty significant changes. Thanks to her mother's emotional abuse, Devon has some problems believing that someone like Cole would honestly be interested in her. I loved seeing her confidence grow along with Cole's attention. It was especially satisfying to see her stand up to her mother.

I loved the ending. Cole's defense of Devon and expression of his feelings were really awesome. I ached for Devon as she thought it was part of "the act" and not real, and for Cole as he thought he was being rejected. I loved Cole's big moment and the hint of vulnerability as he reiterated his feelings, and Devon's realization that her dreams were coming true.

Through most of the book I detested Devon's mother and was thrilled to see Devon stand up to her. But I also liked Devon's determination to fix their relationship. The background turned out to be pretty interesting. I liked the progress that was shown, and the realism that it was still a work in progress at the time of the epilogue.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Her Texas Ranger Hero - Rebecca Winters (HWR #1611 - Sept 2016)

Series: Lone Star Lawmen (Book 4)


Teaming up with a civilian to bring down a trafficking ring isn't Luckey Davis's usual style. But after Allyson Duncan decodes a cryptic message that gives him his first lead, Luckey realizes Ally is indispensable to his case. The Lone Star lawman also realizes he's in danger of falling for the beautiful professor.

Ally can't believe a legendary Texas Ranger needs her expertise. And as her own feelings for Luckey deepen, is she ready to commit to an uncertain and perilous future? Or has this deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas woman found her safe harbor with the honorable man she dreams of calling her own?

Really good book. Luckey has been given a case of possible human trafficking, involving young oriental women, to investigate. One of the clues is some writing that appears to be Chinese, but no one can translate it. He heads off to the university to get help from one of their professors.

Ally grew up as the daughter of a diplomat who spent many years in China, She is fluent in several of the dialects and the perfect person to help Luckey. She also has a personal interest, as the cousin of one of her best friends may have become a victim of those traffickers.

I loved the first meeting between Luckey and Ally. She was on her way out of her office and ran right into him. I loved her reaction. Ally has always been fascinated by Texas Rangers, and to run into one that was also so good looking turned her to jelly. Luckey was pretty bowled over himself. Since his divorce eight years earlier his heart had been pretty well locked up, but Ally bashed right through those walls. He was just as fascinated with her. It was fun to see him trying to figure out a way to see her again, with or without the case for a reason. As the days went by, they found any reason they could to spend time together. I loved seeing how easily Ally fit in with his Ranger friends, and the teasing he got from them about falling for her. I also loved the dinner that Luckey had with Ally and her parents. There was a lot of mutual respect and it was obvious that her parents liked him. I also loved the story her dad told about her fascination with the Rangers since she was little. The relationship was moving along quite fast, but there were some bumps along the way. Luckey is a bit wary because his ex-wife couldn't handle his work as a Ranger, but he couldn't give it up. Ally was doing fine with it until another Ranger was killed, then she started to wonder if she could deal with the danger and uncertainty. Then when Ally was caught in some danger, Luckey freaked out also. I ached for them both as they worked their way through this issue, and they wondered if a future was possible for them. I really loved the ending as Ally made her case, and the joy it brought to Luckey. The scene in the hospital was sweet, and I loved their arrival at Luckey's home. 

The mystery of the trafficking was really good too. I liked how Luckey and his brother had talked about what was happening even before Luckey ended up with the case. Then, as Ally was helping Luckey, she realized that there may also be a connection with her Chinese friend. It was really interesting to read about the various Chinese dialects, the "woman's writing", and some of the customs. I loved how Ally and Luckey worked together, and the involvement of her parents also. It was fascinating to see how the various pieces fit together. The final confrontation was definitely intense, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would turn out. I loved seeing it all come together.