Series: Heroes of San Diego (Book 3)
A Christmas to remember!
Clear Springs' new schoolteacher, Gemma Starling, feels as if she's been given a fresh start. So long as no one discovers her dark secret -- she once shot a man in self-defense!
Sheriff Craig Parker has forsworn love, but delightful Miss Starling intrigues him. And when events at the school turn dangerous, Craig won't let her face it alone. Gemma might just be the one woman he could ever love, but will the secret she's hiding tear them apart or bring them together by Christmas?
Very good book about two people who are looking for fresh starts in their lives. Gemma is a well educated and beautiful young woman who fled west after shooting a man in self-defense. She has put her education to use by becoming a teacher in the small mining town of Clear Springs. Craig is the new sheriff, who is looking for his own new beginning after his fiancee threw him over and married his brother instead. He plans to steer clear of entanglements for a good long time.
Gemma and Craig are first brought into contact by a difference of opinion over how she handles a fight between two of her students. They agree to disagree, but neither is able to forget their encounter. They're brought together again when Gemma receives a threatening note and Craig is determined to investigate.
Craig is impressed, and frequently frustrated, by Gemma's independence and reluctance to rely on his protection. I loved seeing him insist and use her own intelligence to show her what she needs. As he provides protection for her and they get to know each other, feelings begin to grow in spite of their intentions. But the more Craig gets to know her, the more he gets the feeling that Gemma is hiding something from him. Gemma knows she has to tell him what happened, but she's afraid of what his reaction will be. I liked seeing the way that she finally faced her past, knowing that it could have far reaching effects. Craig's reaction was understandable, though somewhat disappointing, but his actions redeemed him.
The mystery of who was threatening Gemma was very well done. It started slow with just a couple notes, but escalated quickly. From thinking it was a disgruntled student or parent to her past catching up with her, Gemma was afraid of what would happen next. The injuring of a harmless old man and the burning down of the school, made Craig and Gemma realize that whoever it was would not give up easily. The identity of the villain during the final confrontation was unexpected, and I loved how Gemma saved herself.