Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Colorado Crime Scene - Cindi Myers (HI #1645 - June 2016)

Series: Men of Search Team Seven (Book 1)

An undercover agent falls for a beautiful target and could pay the ultimate price…

From his first glimpse of her, Luke Renfro can't forget reporter Morgan Westfield…or anyone she came in contact with. The FBI agent's photographic memory for faces -- and instant attraction to Morgan -- creates trouble for all of them as his team searches for a terrorist in Colorado. And to make matters worse, Luke suspects Morgan's estranged brother may be the target they're looking for. Falling for a criminal's sister could jeopardize his career. And both their lives. Still, resisting the beautiful journalist is almost as impossible as forgetting a face. With the clock ticking, Luke must focus on his assignment in order to protect the innocent -- and have any chance of seeing more of the woman he's falling for.

Good book, fast paced in both the suspense and the romance. Luke is part of a special FBI team whose expertise is facial recognition. They are on the trail of a terrorist group that has been setting off bombs at international biking events. As he searches downtown Denver, he recognizes Morgan as having been in London when a bomb went off there. After stopping her, he discovers that she is a journalist covering the races, but is also looking for her brother, a former racer who has been missing for almost a year.

Luke is caught in a dilemma. He is attracted to Morgan. He understands her worry about her brother, as his own has been missing for several months. But spending time with her is against the rules, because her brother has been seen with one of their suspects. He has to remain focused on the case and not let his growing feelings distract him.

Morgan is determined to find her brother. She knows that he wouldn't do anything to hurt fellow racers, but since his diagnosis he has been a changed man. Her work covering bike races has allowed her to continue her search for him, and she is certain that he is in Denver. Finding out that Scott is a person of interest makes her mad, but she also knows that Luke's help increases her chances of finding him.

I liked seeing the development of their relationship. Both Luke and Morgan find it incredibly easy to talk to each other. Both are strong, independent people, confident in their own abilities. But they are also rather lonely, their careers making it difficult to form lasting relationships. I loved how each of them understood the challenges of the other's job, making it easier to be apart when necessary. There were still rough patches, when Morgan's closeness to the investigation made it impossible for Luke to be with her. As the investigation went on, Luke became very protective also, wanting to keep her safe the way he hadn't been able to protect his brother. Their feelings for each other grew quickly, intensified by the constant feeling of danger. The ending was good, as they admitted their feelings and accepted how fast it had happened.

The suspense was really good. The whole thing takes place over just a few days. The team has their eye on a suspect, who in turn has made a connection with Morgan's brother. Scott suffers from schizophrenia and has had a hard time coping with the diagnosis. He has gotten tangled up with the bad guy, Danny, until he realizes that something isn't right. As Morgan and Luke find and lose Scott a couple times, each occurrence reveals some new information. But there are also the frustrations of never being able to get their hands on their suspect. The final confrontation was really intense. I really liked the way that Luke was able to get Scott involved and how it was Scott that came up with the plan that worked. I loved Morgan's strength of will as she endured what happened, and her confidence that Luke would find her. 

I liked Morgan's brother Scott, and the straightforward way his illness was treated. It felt realistic to me and made me want to root for things to get better for him. There was no miraculous cure at the end, just an honest look at what his future has in store for him.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. I'd like to know what happened to Luke's brother and if it has something to do with these same terrorists, though I suspect it does. I also want to see Luke's friend and fellow agent, Travis, get his own story. I really liked him. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Smoke and Ashes - Danica Winters (HI #1640 - May 2016)

Montana's bravest…and hottest

With a mysterious arsonist on the loose in Missoula, fire inspector Kevin Jensen saves more than Heather Sampson's house. The sexy single father rescues her from an abusive marriage -- and discovers his own past failures don't have to rule his life. Especially when sparks between him and Heather ignite irresistible desire.

But who's the arsonist? Why target Heather? What's his shocking motive? When Heather faces off with him in a brutal attack, she needs her "white knight" as much as he needs her. Both have looked into their souls and risked their broken hearts for each other. Now Kevin will have to risk his life and his heart.

I was a bit conflicted about this book. The setup was a little strange and for the first part of the book I wasn't sure if I even liked the main characters. The book opens with the arsonist about to set fire to Heather's house while she's sleeping in it. In his mind, he's looking at her as a martyr who will bring attention to bad marriages. Then the book cuts to several days before this takes place, to explain what is happening.

Heather finds a note from her husband telling her he's leaving. She's mad, but she's also convinced that it's all her fault, because it's always all her fault. She can't do anything right in his eyes anymore. All she can think about is that he has to come back. She is the classic victim of an abusive marriage. Then there's a knock at the door, where the single dad next door is asking for Heather's help watching his daughter because he's been called into work. Suddenly she's getting all hot and bothered looking at him. Hello - you're MARRIED! The marriage may not be the best, but you claim you love your husband, so why are you fantasizing about Kevin? This bugged me.

Kevin is a widower, raising his daughter and teenage son on his own. He is also a fire inspector for the city fire department, a job with often irregular hours. Work took over his life after his wife's death and his family life is paying the price, especially his relationship with his son. While his job is an important one, he has yet to find the balance he needs to make it work. I really didn't like the way that he was more willing to work than to make time for his family. To top it all off, there is a serial arsonist setting fires, and his boss is doing everything he can to make it difficult for Kevin to do his job. Kevin finds himself calling on Heather more often to bail him out of trouble. He's also very attracted to her, but tries to suppress the attraction because she's married.

Things got a bit interesting when Heather and her husband were at a neighborhood barbecue together. He was being a real jerk and Heather drank too much as a result. When she got sick in the car on the way home, he kicked her out of the car on the side of the road and drove off. Not wanting to go home, she went to Kevin's instead, and proceeded to make drunk advances to him. Even though he was tempted, Kevin was actually a gentleman and resisted. When Heather went home the next morning David made accusations and tried to force her to sign the divorce papers he had ready for her. This is where things got a little better because she actually began to stand up to him.

The development of the relationship between Kevin and Heather began to grow as his protectiveness came to the front. He had seen that all wasn't well in the marriage, and began to suspect that it was worse than he thought. I liked the way that he gave her a safe place to stay and tried to boost her confidence. I liked how Heather was there to help Kevin out with his kids, especially since he was having so much trouble. He is struggling with a lot of guilt because he feels that he is letting his kids down the same way he thinks he let his wife down. She tries to show him that things aren't as bad as he thinks. The sparks between them continue to burn hot, and they do give in to them, something else that bothered me because she was actually still married. I thought that things were going pretty well, until David made another attempt to reel her back in. I liked seeing Heather and Kevin get their happy ending, but they did have to work for it.

The suspense of the story was pretty good. There were sections that were done from the arsonist's point of view, giving us a glimpse of just how off he really was. Kevin had his work cut out for him, especially since his boss wasn't very helpful. I liked Kevin's determination to stop him before there was loss of life as well as property. There were several possible suspects, one of whom I thought had a good chance to be the culprit. It wasn't until the end that I thought I had a real handle on who it was. The final confrontation was intense, but I felt it wrapped up just a little too neatly. 

I liked the epilogue and Kevin's big moment. I thought the cheesecake was a pretty sweet touch.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Father's Desperate Rescue - Amelia Autin (HRS #1894 - Apr 2016)

Series: Man on a Mission (Book 7)

Widower Dirk DeWinter is a screen legend, but his favorite role is caring for his twin toddlers. So when his daughters are kidnapped while he's on location in Hong Kong, the desperate dad enlists the help of private investigator Mei-li Moore to track them down. But digging up secrets from Dirk's past unleashes something more potent -- and dangerous -- than either of them ever expected.

Mei-li knows Dirk is off-limits, both professionally and emotionally, yet she still can't help but fall for the doting father. As their mission threatens to unravel, will they risk their hearts and lives to save the twins -- and each other?

Fantastic book. By the end of King's Ransom I really wanted to see Dirk, a secondary character, get his own story. He was the actor playing opposite the heroine, Juliana, and a very good friend to her. At the end of the book, his beloved wife died after giving birth to twin girls. His devastation was heartbreaking and I really wanted to see him happy again.

This book begins two years later. Dirk is in Hong Kong filming a new movie. His daughters have traveled with him, along with their nanny and bodyguards. He arrives back at their hotel suite to find the nanny and a bodyguard bound and gagged and the girls missing. It turned out that Mei-li Moore, daughter of his producer/director, is a private investigator and hostage negotiator and is called in to help Dirk find his girls. 

I really liked Dirk. In both the previous book and this one, it was obvious that he was a good and honorable man. He had loved his wife and adored his daughters. He isn't the conceited jerk that so many actors are, but a very down-to-earth man. However, he is suffering from a boatload of guilty feelings. He blames himself for not protecting them better, especially when he discovers it's someone from his past trying to exact revenge. Many years before, Dirk had killed a man who had assaulted his girlfriend (later his wife). He also believes that his wife's death is punishment for what happened. For the most part, he is able to keep a level head while dealing with the kidnappers, though he does have the occasional lapse. I loved the way that he had complete confidence in Mei-li and her ability to find his girls.

Mei-li was fantastic. A beautiful woman, she is also intelligent and independent, and very good at what she does. I loved the way that she came in and took charge without being abrasive about it. It isn't too far into the story that we discover the very personal reason she became a hostage negotiator and private investigator. Having lost her fiance to a kidnapping and ransom gone wrong, she prides herself on doing whatever necessary to ensure a successful outcome. What she hasn't done is to move on from his death and open herself up to risking her heart again.

I loved the relationship that developed between Dirk and Mei-li. Though it was first and foremost a professional one, neither could deny the sparks that flew between them. One of my favorite things was that at no time did those sparks interfere with their goal, nor did they give in to them at inappropriate times. As they worked together to fulfill the kidnappers' demands, they also learned about each other, developing a trust that allowed them to share things they'd never told anyone else. Because of her own experiences, Mei-li was well aware of the pain Dirk was suffering, and I loved the way that she was determined to help him heal. It was even more moving because she had no idea if her feelings were returned, and knew that she could be setting herself up for heartbreak. Dirk had to allow himself to let go of his grief for his wife before he could contemplate a future with Mei-li. I loved his honesty when talking to Mei-li about those feelings. I especially loved his patience at the end, as he agreed to her conditions and her nervousness and vulnerability when those conditions were over. It was especially sweet to see how Dirk tries to think of every possible obstacle and find a way to overcome it.

The suspense of the story was great, starting from the very beginning. It opens from the bad guy's point of view, letting us know right away what his motivation was, as well as a glimpse of his intentions. From the moment the girls are taken, the action is almost constant. While Dirk and Mei-li are rarely in any physical danger, the mental and emotional turmoil is constant. They realize very quickly that there may be someone on the inside working against them, causing them to be able to completely trust only each other. There was enough doubt about each suspect that I never got a definite feel for who it was until the end, though there were a couple that I was pretty sure were innocent. I loved Mei-li's intensity and how it worked for them. Though there was some holding back on her part at the beginning, until she was certain of Dirk's commitment, once she was, their teamwork was outstanding. With each bit of information they uncovered, I could feel them getting closer to success, but it was still touch and go. I was intrigued by the assistance that Mei-li was receiving, and suspected the identity of that helper. As the deadline grew closer, the intensity increased. I loved the final confrontation and how satisfying it was to see Dirk and Mei-li be a part of it. I loved seeing all the bad guys get what was coming to them.

One of the greatest characters of the book was Hong Kong itself. The descriptions of the city, from the sights to the smells to the weather were so vivid that I felt as though I was there. The descriptions of the places where the ransom drops were made were so fascinating that I was compelled to look them up and see what they looked like, making the book even more realistic to me.

There were also two secondary characters that I really liked. Rafe, the bodyguard, who was also a retired Marine. He obviously loved the two little girls and his determination to help find them was awesome. I was also fascinated by what little I saw of Mei-li's brother Jason. I suspect that he has had a very interesting life and I would love to see him in his own book!

*copy received in exchanged for honest review.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Lady's Command - Stephanie Laurens (Mira - Jan 2016)

Series: Adventurer's Quartet (Book 1)

How does marriage work? If convention is set aside and is no longer there to guide...what then?

The instant Captain Declan Frobisher laid eyes on Lady Edwina Delbraith, he knew she was the lady he wanted as his wife. The scion of a seafaring dynasty accustomed to success, he discovered that wooing Edwina was surprisingly straightforward -- not least because she made it plain that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

Declan's vision of marriage was of a gently-reared wife to grace his arm, to manage his household, and to bear his children. He assumed that household, children, and wife would remain safely in England while he continued his life as an explorer sailing the high seas.

Declan got his wish -- up to a point. He and Edwina were wed. As for the rest -- his vision of marriage…

Aunt of the young Duke of Ridgware and sister of the mysterious man known as Neville Roscoe, London's gambling king, even before the knot was tied Edwina shattered the illusion that her character is as delicate, ethereal, and fragile as her appearance suggests. Far from adhering to orthodox mores, she and her ducal family are even more unconventional than the Frobishers.

Beneath her fairy-princess exterior, Edwina possesses a spine of steel -- one that might bend, but will never break. Born to the purple -- born to rule -- she's determined to rule her life. With Declan's ring on her finger, that means forging a marriage that meets her needs as well as his.

But bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is required to sail to West Africa. Edwina decides she must accompany him.

A secret mission with unknown villains flings unexpected dangers into their path as Declan and Edwina discover that meeting the challenge of making an unconventional marriage work requires something they both possess -- bold and adventurous hearts.

Good book, though rather different than the majority of Stephanie Laurens's books. As the book opens, Declan and Edwina are already married and quite happy with their marriage, though it is apparent that there is some difference of opinion of what makes a strong marriage. Declan looks at marriage in the more traditional sense, with Edwina remaining at home when he has to go to sea. Edwina has grown up in a family where the women are fully integrated partners in their marriages and is determined to have the same.

I really enjoyed seeing how happy they are together right from the beginning. It was also interesting to see how, once they were married, Declan began to see a different side of Edwina. Because they were on their honeymoon, Declan's business ventures are on hold, so their time together has little stress. Edwina is able to ease her way into Declan's personal life, showing him the benefits of her experience in society and how it can affect his own life. While she is aware of his business as a ship's captain, and intends to be a part of that life too, she doesn't know about the occasional secret missions he undertakes for the Crown. 

When their honeymoon is interrupted by an urgent need for Declan to go to Africa, his intent is to leave Edwina at home where it is safe. He can't tell her the truth behind the trip, which leaves them at odds over his refusal to take her along. I loved Edwina's realization that nagging isn't going to get her what she wants, so she has to be less direct. I loved her method of ensuring that she is included. It was clever and effective. Declan's reaction was not surprising, and it was fun to see Edwina let him rant on until he ran out of steam, and then point out the benefits of having her along. Once he confessed the real reason behind the trip, it was great to see them work out the best way to take advantage of her presence. I liked the fact that Declan didn't hold a grudge over being fooled and quickly saw her usefulness. 

I really liked the growth of their relationship. Now that they are married and thrown together in unusual circumstances, they are given the opportunity to get to know each other in deeper ways. I really loved seeing Declan experience all the different facets of Edwina's personality. His appreciation for her abilities continued to grow and began to open his eyes to the benefits of a true partnership. I also liked seeing how Edwina learned more about what made Declan the man he is. It was fun to see Declan's idea of marriage change as he experiences Edwina's version of what makes the best kind of partnership. I especially enjoyed the ending, as Edwina is shown as a full partner when they meet again with Wolverstone.

The mystery picked up once they arrived in Sierra Leone. With instructions to find out what they can about the missing men, but to NOT pursue what they learn, Declan and Edwina have to be careful not to give away their interest. I really enjoyed the way that it was Edwina that was able to discover that it was more than just the four men missing, that there are also women and children that have disappeared. Each bit of information they pick up adds to an increasingly disturbing bigger picture, but they need some more concrete information before they can return to London. An attack on them shows they are on the right track, but still missing vital proof. That proof comes from an unexpected source, putting Edwina in far more danger than they had expected. Fortunately Declan is able to manage her rescue and they have the proof they need. 

I loved encountering Wolverstone/Dalziel again, and seeing that he still has his hands in the business of the security of England. His determination that this problem not turn into another Black Cobra disaster was a nice tie in to the previous series. I liked his focus on the bigger picture, as he orchestrates the next step in the search for the truth. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Shameless - Joan Johnston (Dell - Jan 2016)

Series: Bitter Creek (Book 14)


Scorned, pregnant, and facing a life without promise, Pippa Grayhawk is stunned when her father announces that they’re leaving their home in Australia to take over his estranged father’s sprawling Wyoming ranch. Drawn into bitter family rivalries and feeling like an interloper in her new home, Pippa rides out into the wilderness and meets an intriguing stranger and his pet wolf. The wolf doesn’t scare her, but she’s very much afraid to trust another man with her heart.

Devon Flynn knows all about going it alone. He lives in an isolated cabin, away from his domineering father and the scandal surrounding his family. Devon’s attraction to Pippa is intoxicating and undeniable, but when he tries to get close, she’s as wary as his once-wild wolf. Devon is willing to defy his father, and hers, to claim Pippa as his own, but winning this wounded, wonderful woman’s love might be the greatest battle of all.

The continuing story of the Grayhawks and the Flynns. In the previous book, Sinful, Matt Grayhawk had moved his family from Australia back to his estranged father's ranch in Wyoming. The timing was good, in his opinion, because his twenty year old daughter is pregnant with a married man's baby and suffering from the small-minded attitudes of the locals. Moving to America will give her a fresh start.

But things aren't going smoothly. Matt's treatment of his half sisters, who were expecting the ranch to be theirs, is particularly nasty, and in turn they take out their frustrations on Pippa. Riding out to escape the tension, she meets Devon Flynn, a neighboring rancher and son of her grandfather's bitterest enemy. He provides a calm port in the turbulent storm of her life, and she accepts his offer of refuge at his home.

Devon is the youngest of the "Wild Flynns" and the one who avoids his family whenever possible. He has his own ranch a good distance from the rest of his family, where he works his land and cares for the injured animals he finds. He sees a lot of similarities between Pippa and those animals, and is determined to help her too. 

Devon and Pippa are attracted to each other from the beginning, but there are reasons to fight it. Pippa is still recovering from her broken heart and is wary of trusting another man. She's also carrying that man's baby and believes that would ruin any chance of a relationship with Devon. On his side, Devon is related to Pippa, he's older than she is, and there is the feud between their families. But he can't deny what is happening between them.

They began by becoming friends, attempting to bury the feelings of attraction. Working together with his animals and around the ranch, they took the time to get to know each other. There were many things they had in common and they grew closer. The attraction was also burning hotter and becoming harder to fight. Pippa knows she has to tell Devon about her pregnancy before they move to the next step, but she's afraid of what his reaction would be.

At the same time, there is major drama going on with the rest of the family, with a lot of secrets being kept. Pippa grew up without her mother, believing that the woman is dead. Thanks to manipulation and lies by their parents, Matt and Jennie had been separated. Through some devious efforts, Matt had taken custody of Pippa and fled to Australia, leaving Jennie behind. When all the truth comes out, there are hurt and angry feelings on all sides, with Matt deserving a great deal of what he gets. In the meantime, Devon, who has often felt different and isolated from his family, learns some devastating news that explains a lot. This, on top of finding out about Pippa's pregnancy, throws him into turmoil of his own. Then there is something going on between Angus Flynn and King Grayhawk, where Angus has been plotting some serious revenge that has dire consequences for the entire Grayhawk family. At the end of the book, two family members are missing in a forest fire, and their fate is unknown.

As everything comes to a head, Devon and Pippa have to decide if they can move past their own fears to a life together. In spite of what a jerk he can be, I liked the way that Angus Flynn provided a good example to Devon as to what was possible. I also liked seeing the way that Pippa discovered that she had the strength of will to go after what she wanted.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cowboy at Arms - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1887 - Mar 2016)

Series: Cowboys of Holiday Ranch (Book 4)

When single mom Trisha Cahill fled her deadly ex, she never expected to feel safe again. Yet Dusty Crawford is the protector she's always yearned for. She can't deny her attraction to the rugged cowboy, but how can she start a new beginning with evil lurking in her past?

Dusty has been intrigued by Trisha since she and her infant son arrived in Bitterroot, Oklahoma. When her life is threatened by a stalker, he won't hesitate to act as guardian. Trisha may be running from more than her bloody past, but Dusty will go to extremes to keep the vulnerable beauty safe.

Good addition to the series. This time it is Dusty's story. He is the best friend of Forest, from Cowboy Under Fire. We learned in that book that Dusty has a pretty big crush on Trisha, one of the diner waitresses. In this book he finally works up the courage to ask her out. 

Trisha has kept pretty much to herself, just working and taking care of her son. She came to Bitterroot while running from her ex, who she believes is responsible for the deaths of her best friend and her mother. She is constantly looking over her shoulder, expecting him to show up at any time. She has started to relax a little, and going out with Dusty is her first step to resuming a normal life.

I loved Dusty. Like all of the cowboys at the ranch, he has a turbulent past. He was raised by an abusive father, leaving emotional scars that still affect him. I loved his hints of vulnerability as he tried to work up the courage to ask Trisha out, and his nervousness when he finally did so. 

The development of their relationship was really sweet. Dusty is so careful to treat her with respect and his own brand of cowboy honor. I also liked the way that he immediately made her son Cooper an important part of the relationship. There were some really wonderful scenes of Cooper and Dusty together, as Dusty became the father figure he wished he had had himself. When the appearance of an apparent stalker freaked Trisha out, Dusty's protective instincts kicked in. I loved seeing the way that he took charge of her safety and that of her son. Trisha has spent so long doubting herself because of one bad relationship that she's a little extra cautious around Dusty. It didn't take her long to realize she could trust him. I loved seeing her allow herself to lean on him, as he gave her the courage to stand and fight rather than run again. I also enjoyed seeing the two grow closer as they shared the traumas of their pasts and began to hope for a better future. Things are moving along quite well until something happens that brings all of Dusty's insecurities flooding back and he tries to pull away. I loved seeing Trisha decide to stand up and fight for what she wants, and Dusty's reaction when she does. The epilogue was sweet.

The suspense of the story was good. There are two mysteries running through the book. The first is the mystery of the seven bodies that were found on the ranch. This one will run through the series. The investigation is at a bit of a standstill as there have been no new clues found. That is, until Dusty pulls up a skull at the end of his fishing line and it turns out to be the one missing from the collection of bones under the shed. However, there is nothing that indicates how it got into the pond.The police chief is frustrated but determined to solve the crime. I currently have two frontrunners in my suspicions, so we'll see if I'm right about either of them.

The second mystery is that of who is stalking Trisha. There are multiple suspects, from her ex to assorted customers at the diner. Trisha's fears for her safety and that of her son are real, especially after someone breaks into her hotel room and destroys it. As the attacks escalate, she fears more for Dusty's life than her own, as she's sure that she has brought danger to him. The occasional glimpse into the stalker's point of view only serves to increase the sense of danger. The final confrontation was intense, with an unexpected twist in the identity of the stalker. Help in finding Trisha also came from a truly unexpected source.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cowboy Under Fire - Carla Cassidy (HRS #1880 - Jan 2016)

Series: Cowboys of Holiday Ranch (Book 3)

Forensic pathologist Patience Forbes is a whiz with the dead--it's flesh-and-blood men who wreck her equilibrium. And cowboy Forest Stevens isn't fooled by the guarded beauty's icy facade. So when she's attacked, he appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Her "very" personal bodyguard...

Patience is determined to investigate mysterious bones on the Holiday Ranch--not fall into bed with her sexy protector. But Forest is too masculine, too willing to lay down his life for hers...and too set on living a different life from the one she's built. With danger closing in, can Forest tame the shrew before it's too late?

Good book, as the mystery of the bones under the shed continues. Patience is the forensic pathologist assigned to finding out whatever the bones can reveal. She is determined and focused on her job, to the exclusion of everything else. Forest is one of the cowboys who works the ranch. He is fascinated by Patience and wants to get to know her better, in spite of her hands off attitude.

Patience has the reputation around the ranch as a dragon lady. She appears to be constantly angry at those around her, especially anyone who tries to interfere with her work. She is very fact oriented and doesn't believe in emotions like love. She attributes her reaction to Forest to hormones and is determined to ignore them, but finds herself unable to resist his gentle but persistent insertion into her life. 

Forest is one of the former street kids brought to the ranch as a teenager. When his beloved parents died when he was seventeen he took to the streets rather than go into foster care. With his memories of how much they loved each other and him, Forest wants nothing more than to find the right woman to settle down with and make a family of his own. He's not sure why he finds Patience so fascinating. He knows that she's not the one for him, but he can't stop trying to get to know her.

I loved the development of their relationship. Forest is gentle, but persistent, and insists on getting Patience out of her self-imposed isolation. I loved his "barn dance" date with her. When she is attacked and needs looking after, Forest is the one who steps up to do it. Patience has never had anyone care for or about her like that and has no idea what to do with her reaction to it. Forest is convinced that she is in danger and appoints himself her bodyguard. It was really sweet to see the way he used that as an excuse to spend more time with her. I ached for him because he knew he was falling for her and that she would pack up and leave as soon as her job was done. He knew he was in for heartbreak, but couldn't stop caring about her. I loved seeing Patience start to come alive under Forest's attentions. Seeing the fun and friendship the cowboys have with each other, she began to see what is missing in her life. She fought what she was feeling for him, trying to convince herself that it was just chemistry not anything more. She is a bit disturbed by some of the things that Forest says to her, finding it hard to believe that he so easily understands what makes her tick. His protectiveness makes her feel cared for as she never has before. The ending was really sweet as she faces her fears to give she and Forest the future they both long for.

The suspense of the story was good. There is the ongoing mystery of who the bones belong to and how they got there. Patience and her assistant are meticulous in their efforts to extract every bit of information they can. As more information is uncovered, strange things begin to happen, including an attack on Patience. Is the killer still around and worried that she might uncover clues to his identity? As the attacks escalate, Patience is in even greater danger. A final confrontation yields an unexpected twist, but answers the question of who is behind the attacks and why. Meanwhile, the local police chief is becoming more and more frustrated by the lack of answers.

I loved the closeness of the cowboys who work the ranch. They have all been together for a long time and have built up great relationships. I really liked their inherent trust of each other, in spite of how bad things occasionally look, though the lack of progress is starting to wear on them also. I really enjoyed seeing how they all welcomed Patience when Forest got her to join them. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Trouble With Cowgirls - Amanda Renee (HAR #1600 - June 2016)

Series: Welcome to Ramblewood (Book 7)


Seeing the love of his life after ten years is a shock for Lane Morgan. Especially when he learns the Italian-born beauty who broke his teenage heart is now a widowed single mother. And she's the new barn manager at Bridle Dance Ranch -- a job that should have been his.

Lucy Travisonno never dreamed she'd return to the Texas horse ranch where she and Lane fell in love -- much less as his boss! The spark between them is stronger than ever. But there's something Lane doesn't know… If she reveals her long-held secret, will Lucy lose her second chance with the handsome cowboy?

Good second chance romance. Lane and Lucy had known each other as teenagers, when she used to spend summers with her cousin on the ranch. They had been in love and planning to marry after she finished school. Then she returned to Italy without a word, and he never heard from her again. Now she's back at the ranch, along with her daughter, and has been given the job that he wanted.

I have to say right off that I didn't like Lucy's cousin Nicolino. He displayed the worst kind of nepotism by giving Lucy a job that she really wasn't qualified for. And the way he treated Lane was inexcusable. Lane had been trained for the barn manager job by the previous manager and to find out that he'd been skunked out of the job the way he did was awful. He was rightfully angry and I wouldn't have blamed him if he had done his best to undermine Lucy. But he really was a good man and couldn't do that to her.

Lucy had come back to the ranch for a new start in life. Her ex-husband had died deeply in debt, leaving Lucy and her daughter Carina virtually penniless. When her cousin offered her the job, she was happy to take it, though she never expected Lane to be there. Finding out that he had expected the job to be his added to the stress she was already under. She struggled to give Carina the attention she needed while also doing her job.

It was obvious to both of them that the old feelings were still there, but working together made doing anything about it unwise. Plus, neither one really wanted to risk their hearts again. Having to work together gave them a chance to get to know each other again, which put a strain on their determination to keep apart. Lane was pretty quick to admit to himself that he still cared. That caring showed itself in the way that he was covering parts of her job because he could see how overwhelmed she was. He also got involved with Lucy's daughter, helping her to adjust to the changes in her life. Spending time with both Lucy and Carina made him long to make it more. Lucy also knew that she still cared for Lane, but there were things from her past that he didn't know and she was afraid of his reaction if he found out. I liked the realism of what happened when he did, and that they dealt in a pretty reasonable way. The ending was really sweet. I liked Lane's big moment with Lucy and later how he made Carina a big part of it also.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Having the Rancher's Baby - Cathy McDavid (HAR #1597 - June 2016)

Series: Mustang Valley (Book 7)


His family's Arizona cattle ranch is just the place for Cole Dempsey to hang his hat before he heads back to the rodeo circuit. That is, until Violet Hathaway makes Cole think twice about his future when the livestock manager delivers her game-changing news: she's pregnant! 

One passionate mistake could cost Vi her job at Dos Estrellas. And whatever growing feelings Cole and Violet have for each other, she knows the professional cowboy hadn't planned on settling down in Mustang Valley. When he hits the road again, he'll take her dream of them making a life together. Or is a rancher's legacy about to come full circle?

Good book. Cole is the brother who has had no intention of settling down. Inheriting a share of his estranged father's ranch has brought him there, but he's been counting the weeks until his two brothers can buy him out and he can return to the rodeo circuit. Then ranch foreman Violet gives him her life-changing news: she's pregnant and he's the father.

I liked Cole, though he certainly had his moments of cluelessness. He and his brother Josh had been taken away from their father and the ranch when their mother divorced their father. He grew up on his grandparents' ranch, listening to his mother's bitter rants about his father, and wondering why his father hadn't fought to keep them. He hadn't been at all happy about having to go to the ranch in Arizona and can't wait to leave. I found it interesting that, as much as he complains about the place, he still stepped up to do his part to keep it running. He also spends time training the horses from the mustang rescue that his future sister-in-law runs. Vi's news hits him right in his insecurities, as his example for a father wasn't a good one.  He's determined to do his best, but is afraid that he'll screw it up. He wants to take care of Vi and the baby, but feels that he has nothing to offer. His only way of making the money needed to support them is by going back to the rodeo circuit, but Violet has made it clear that she wants him to stay in Mustang Valley.

Violet is an independent woman, used to taking care of herself. She had been married before, but the marriage fell apart when she and her husband couldn't deal with the fallout from three miscarriages. Now she's pregnant with a baby she really wants, afraid that she'll lose it too, and worried that she'll lose her job on top of it. I liked the way that she told Cole, without playing any games or trying to manipulate him. She wants Cole in her life, but knows he has no plans to stay in Mustang Valley. Giving her heart to him is a sure way to get it broken, but she can't deny her feelings for him.

I really enjoyed the developing relationship between Cole and Vi. There had been sparks between them from the time Cole arrived on the ranch, but neither was willing to cross the boss/employee line. Then one night of unexpected passion left them dealing with the consequences. I loved the way that Cole was immediately willing to step up and accept responsibility, but also went beyond that. He was pretty sweet in his protectiveness, as he tried everything he could to relieve her stress. As they spend time together actually getting to know each other, the feelings of attraction grow into more. Cole is torn because he wants to stay on the ranch and be with Vi, but if he does, he has no way to support them. But returning to the rodeo circuit holds even less appeal. Until he can figure it out, all he can do is be there for her. I loved seeing the way that he took care of her and supported her as she dealt with her parents. I really enjoyed seeing him stand up to them without confrontation. Vi acknowledges her feelings more quickly, but doesn't know what his are and is afraid to ask. She doesn't want to drive him away by asking for more than he is willing to give. I liked the way that she understood his feelings about his father, but also tried to show him the good side that he didn't know about. When Cole was given the chance to do what he'd been dreaming about, he had to look deep inside to see if that was what he still wanted or if his dreams had changed, then decide if he had the courage to go after it. Violet also had to let go of her fears if she wanted a chance to have everything she dreamed of. I loved their big moment at the end when they finally opened up with all their feelings.

The family dynamics were also really interesting. I liked the way that Gabe, Josh and Cole had earned each other's respect and that they became a good team for running the ranch. Vi's parents were a real piece of work. I completely understood her need to get away from them and the way they used her to get at each other. Cole's mother was also a selfish woman and her attempts to get Cole and Josh back to California were pretty obnoxious. The big family dinner was so horrible that it was almost funny as the three of them pursued their own agendas with absolutely no consideration for anyone else's feeling. I loved seeing them all get shut down.

A SEAL to Save Her - Karen Anders (HRS #1902 - June 2016)

Series: To Protect and Serve (Book 5)

Running for their lives is imperative. Falling for each other is inevitable… 

The searing pain of navy SEAL Dex "Machine" Kaczewski's injury is a constant reminder of a mission gone wrong. Only the compassionate words of visiting US senator Piper Jones, his best friend's sister, help to clear Dex's dark thoughts -- and make his heart beat faster. So when insurgents storm a military hospital and target Piper, her protection is the wounded SEAL's only priority. 

As they flee for their lives in a hostile country, their mutual attraction smolders like the Afghan sun, but Piper's tragic past overshadows her surging desire. She tries to focus on keeping Dex alive and getting home safe. But until they know who wants Piper dead -- and why -- their only hope for survival is in each other's arms.

Excellent book, action filled and with an equally emotional romance. The story opens with Dex and his SEAL team ambushed on a mission, with three of his men killed and he and another one badly injured. Piper is currently serving out her husband's term as a US senator, after his death in an accident. When she learns of her brother's injuries, she immediately flies to Afghanistan to be with him. There she meets Dex, the man who saved her brother's life. There is an immediate connection between the two of them, but both try to ignore it. Besides being a SEAL, Dex is also Tyler's best friend, which means you don't get involved with his sister. On her part, Piper is still grieving the loss of her husband and unborn baby; getting involved with a man who has a dangerous career is just a bad idea.

Shortly after Tyler is evacuated to the hospital in Germany, the military hospital is attacked by insurgents. Dex is the only one there to protect Piper, who appears to be the target of the attack. Still dealing with his injuries, Dex and Piper go on the run. The intensity of the danger they are in, and the challenges presented by Dex's injuries, kept me riveted as they tried to escape their pursuers. Piper shows some amazing fortitude as she does what she must to help Dex as he has helped her.  With no idea who they can trust, Dex and Piper rely on each other, and find themselves getting involved.

I loved these two together, with their lighthearted wordplay even in the middle of some very intense situations. But both of them are wary of getting their hearts involved as they have been hurt before. Piper devoted her life to her husband's career and carrying on for him after his death. The growing feelings she has for Dex show her that she has been hiding without realizing it. Dex is known as "Machine" for his intimidating focus on a mission, but there is a softer side of him that comes out when he's with Piper. He's fiercely protective of her, but can also be amazingly tender in his comforting of her when she needs it. One of the things I loved about their relationship was the frank way they talked about their feelings and their fears. I ached for Dex at the end, when it looked like Piper was going to let her fears win. I laughed out loud at the way Tyler got her moving, and the reactions at the other end.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. At the beginning, the ambush looked like an intelligence failure, but with the attack on Piper, the complications just continued to pile up. Each time Piper and Dex learned something new, it only added to the questions they had. As readers we also see that there are others working on the same questions. I was just waiting to see what would happen when the NCIS guys finally caught up with Piper and Dex and I was not disappointed. As the people behind the attacks got more desperate, the action became more intense. The final confrontation was fast paced with different motivations coming to light before it was all over.

I really loved the two NCIS agents, Austin and Derrick. Their interactions were great, as they had respect for each other professionally, but also were very good at poking at each other's sore spots. I really hope they get their own books, as I suspect their stories are quite fascinating.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Chance of a Lifetime - Marilyn Pappano (Forever - Dec 2015)

Series: Tallgrass (Book 5)

Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it . . .

To Benita Ford, Tallgrass, Oklahoma, will always be home. It's where her beloved grandmother raised her and where she rode bikes with her two best friends-the man who became her husband and Calvin. And Tallgrass is where she stayed, even after her husband died while serving his country. Now Calvin is home from that same war, and the sensitive, mischievous boy she once knew is today a man scarred by wounds no one else can see. Falling in love with him is something Bennie never imagined.

Tallgrass still haunts Captain Calvin Sweet. Yet it's where he must go to see Bennie-the one woman he always loved but could never have. Calvin regrets so much about what happened years ago. Still he can't deny being with Bennie makes his future feel bright, like anything is possible. But the demons of his past won't be quieted that easily. As old hurts linger, threatening to pull them apart, Calvin and Bennie must take the ultimate risk for the love of a lifetime . . .

This was a terrific romance with a deeply emotional side to it. Benita, J'Myel, and Calvin grew up together in Tallgrass, three friends who went through the good and the bad together. J'Myel and Calvin enlisted in the Army together, promising to always have each other's backs. But multiple deployments brought changes to them both, including J'Myel's marriage to Benita. Then J'Myel and Calvin grew apart, destroying the link among the three, ending in J'Myel's death. Now Calvin is back in Tallgrass, lost and hurting.

How I ached for Calvin. The things that he saw and did, then the loss of his two best friends, left him feeling alone and hopeless. Combined with his PTSD, he attempted to take the only way out that he could see. Fortunately for him, he was stopped by a teenaged thief, which then got him the help he needed. But now Calvin has to face the loss of his army career and the feelings of shame over what he tried to do. Being back home in Tallgrass is both good and bad. Good because his family and friends are there to give him the support he needs, but bad because the good memories only emphasize what he feels that he has lost.

Bennie has spent her entire life in Tallgrass. It is home and she has no desire to leave. She has moved on pretty well from the death of her husband, though she still feels the loss of the life they could have had. She doesn't know what happened between him and Calvin, but she regrets that it ended her lifelong friendship with him. She knows he's coming back, and with the close relationships between their families, she knows that she will be seeing him again. She hopes to finally find out what went wrong.

I really loved seeing the relationship develop between Bennie and Calvin. She has become stronger and more independent since J'Myel's death. I liked seeing her ask Calvin straight out what had caused the rift, and that she was able to deal with the answer. I loved that she knows Calvin well enough to see that he has changed, even if she doesn't know what has caused the changes. I really liked seeing her try to draw him back into life in Tallgrass without making light of the pain that she can see in his eyes. For Calvin, it is a very slow process. He knows that his family is aware of what he did, and facing them is hard. Being around Bennie starts to bring a little light back into his life. He's always had feelings for her, but she was J'Myel's girl, then wife. Just because he's gone, doesn't mean that it would be right to move on those feelings, but how can he not.

I enjoyed Bennie's slow awakening to the way that her feelings for Calvin are changing from friendship to something more. Once she accepted those feelings she was ready to move forward with them, but found that there was something that was still holding Calvin back. I loved her patience and understanding as she told him that she would wait until he was ready. But her own nature also was evident when she told him that she'd only wait for so long before she would start pushing him. I really liked the way that Calvin was able to talk to one of the guys about what had happened with him. The way that he was listened to and not judged made it easier for Calvin to believe that he could move past it. I also liked the advice he got, that if he wanted a relationship with Bennie he was going to have to tell her everything.

The most moving and realistic part of the book was when he did just that. His nervousness and vulnerability were real and believable, as he opened up to Bennie and confessed all. I also liked her reaction of guilt that she hadn't recognized just how much he was hurting. It was something that was very realistic to me, as was her need to process what she had learned. Her talk with the hospital chaplain was an eye opener for her. I loved her big scene at the end as she showed Calvin just how deep her feelings were.

There was also a secondary romance running with Joe and Lucy. I liked seeing his patience finally pay off as Lucy reached the point of being able to accept his attentions. It was really sweet to see the way he took care of her, especially after what happened to her. Lucy had some self-esteem issues because of her weight. I liked that Joe didn't ignore them, but helped her deal with them.

I really enjoyed the importance of family and friends in this book. Calvin has come home to his family, who want to help and support him but are unsure how to do it. I loved his grandmother and Bennie's, who were best friends and pretty feisty old ladies. Neither had any trouble speaking their minds and frequently provided some excellent guidance. I also enjoyed seeing the arrival of Diez, the boy who had stopped Calvin's suicide attempt. It was really sweet to see the way that Calvin's family took him in and gave him something he'd never had - a real sense of love and family. It will be interesting to see more of him in later books. I also loved the Margarita Ladies group and how they were always there for each other.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Brody - Emma Lang (Brava - July 2012)

Series: Circle Eight (Book 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colton's Texas Stakeout - C. J. Miller (HRS #1892 - Apr 2016)

Series: Coltons of Texas (Book 4)

A cowboy falls for the beautiful cop investigating his sister! 

Hailing from a family full of law enforcement officials, rookie cop Annabel Colton expects to be treated like the dedicated officer she is. But her overprotective brothers want her off the dangerous case of the serial killer stalking their tiny Texas town. Her determination lands her a stakeout mission at the farm of the prime suspect's brother. Cowboy Jesse Willard -- too handsome, too challenging, too sexy -- claims he's not helping his estranged sister evade capture. But as Annabel gets closer and closer to the irresistible rancher, bullets start flying. And their lives -- and hearts -- will depend on the two of them working together.

Good book with plenty of suspense and terrific chemistry between Annabel and Jesse. The search for the serial killer continues, and has been tentatively identified as Regina Willard. She is half-sister to Jesse, who hasn’t seen or heard from her in six years. However, the local cops aren’t convinced and Jesse remains a person of interest to them.

When Jesse and Annabel meet, he has just finished a conversation with her brothers, trying to convince them to leave him alone. Their frequent visits and accusations against his sister are wrecking his business. As Jesse leaves in frustration, he bumps into Annabel. Both of them feel a sizzle of attraction, but doing anything about it would be a bad idea. Annabel is a cop who is involved in the investigation of the Alphabet Killer, and can’t get involved with a suspect’s brother. Jesse just wants them all to leave him alone.

Annabel is new on the police force, and with brothers who are also cops, is suffering from too much overprotectiveness. She's really tired of getting assigned to the missing animals and other nuisance calls. Her persistence finally gets her a shot at doing the surveillance at Jesse's farm. This leads to a confrontation with him, as he vents to her about his frustration with the whole issue, and his belief that there's no way his sister could be a murderer. He counters her arguments with comments about her connection to her father, another infamous serial killer. When she goes back later to try to mend fences, she and Dylan come under fire from an unknown assailant. He gets away, but in the meantime Annabel and Jesse have formed a connection that both want to pursue, in spite of the obstacles.

I liked watching their relationship develop. Annabel tries to resist because of what she sees as a potential conflict of interest, but she just can't do it. Despite her previous all-work attitude, her attention is now divided between work and Jesse. Both of them have issues from their pasts that have affected who they are today. Being the daughter of a serial killer has Annabel determined to show the world that she is nothing like him. It makes her very focused on doing everything right. Jesse came from an abusive father, whom he and his mother escaped from, but had to leave his half-sister behind. The hardships he and his mom faced have made him very sensitive to the difficulties of others. There are several places where his caring nature really shows, and adds to what Annabel is beginning to feel for him. One of the things I really liked about Jesse was the way that he respected Annabel's capabilities. Since she is still fighting for that respect from her brothers, it makes her feel really good. He still becomes very protective of her, but it isn't the same as the smothering she feels from her brothers.  I loved their way of working through the problems and coming out the other side without any major drama. The scene outside her house at the end was perfect for them.

The suspense of the story was really good. The search for Regina goes on as there is another attack. Some more information comes from this one, leading them to believe they are on the right track. When Annabel and Jesse are on the receiving end of gunfire at his house, and then her house is bombed, they must figure out if it is the Alphabet Killer or someone else. The pursuit of leads continued to increase the danger. The final confrontation is intense, and I loved seeing Annabel finally earn the respect of her brothers and coworkers. However, there are still unanswered questions that will carry over into the next book.

There are also ongoing issues within the Colton family. All of them are still dealing with the effects of what their father has done, and now have to go along with his latest whim. He has agreed to give each sibling a clue to where their mother is buried, but is really obnoxious about it. There is also the issue of what happened to their youngest sister Josie, who ran away at the age of seventeen. There have been several sightings of a woman that some of them believe is Josie, but others are skeptical. I suspect that it is, and I am looking forward to her story.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fortune's Special Delivery - Michelle Major (HSE #2467 - Apr 2016)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: All Fortune's Children (Book 4)


Everyone knows Charles Fortune Chesterfield. The flirty son of Sir Simon and Lady Josephine Fortune Chesterfield is famous for his wit, his charm…and his libido. He's left a trail of lovely ladies in his wake, but Alice Meyers stood out from the rest. The beautiful blonde Texan was shy, sweet and a virgin. Now, apparently, she is a mother. And guess who's a dad?

When Charles announces he is extending his stay in Austin to get to know his son, Flynn, better, Alice doesn't know whether to be happy or terrified. Will she once again fall prey to "the royal treatment"? Or could she and Flynn actually find a home in the handsome Brit's heart?

Very good book. I've been waiting for Charles's story and it did not disappoint. Charles is the charmer of the family, known for his flirty ways and ability to have a good time. He is the current face of British Tourism, nicknamed "Bonnie Lord Charles". He is in the US visiting family when he receives a phone call from Alice, a young woman he had met the year before. He is stunned to discover that he is a father.

Alice is an intelligent, but quiet and somewhat shy woman. When she met Charles at a tourism conference the year before, she couldn't believe that he wanted to spend time with her. The connection they felt spilled over into a night together, one that produced her son Flynn. Alice wasn't sure Charles would be interested in knowing that he has a child, but knew she had to tell him. 

I really liked both Alice and Charles. Alice is a woman that everyone underestimates, even her family and friends. I loved the way that she took control of her life when she got pregnant, developing an independence and confidence she didn't know she had. She's a wonderful mother, putting her son first in everything she does. What I loved about Charles was that he was a normal guy under that facade that he shows the world. He has some real self-confidence issues, feeling that what he does has no real worth. He sees the way he has charmed his way through life and feels that he has no real substance, and longs to be someone that his father would have been proud of.

From the moment they met again, the sparks between them are obvious. It's funny to see Alice experience (but deny) what she calls "the Charles Effect" as her attraction to him continues to grow. Seeing the way he steps up to be a real dad to Flynn just makes her fall harder for him. I loved seeing him with Flynn. There are some really sweet scenes of the two of them together. Charles is just as drawn to her, even though she's nothing like the women he usually dates. When he is with her, he feels like a different man, one who wants to be better than he has been in the past.

I loved watching their relationship develop. Though it's Charles getting to know his son that is supposedly the reason they spend time together, there is just as much time spent getting to know each other. It was great to see how Charles tried so hard to be the man he thought he should be. He really wanted Alice to be part of his life too, but couldn't see how she'd be interested in someone like him. At the same time, Alice was beginning to see the real man and wanting to be with him, but didn't think he'd want her. Even giving in to the heat between them didn't give either one the self-confidence that it could be permanent.

In the end, I really enjoyed seeing Charles and his siblings as he tried to explain his relationship with Alice to them. They could all see the truth that he was still blind to. When their relationship was exposed to the paparazzi things got a little rough. I loved Charles's big moment at the end, especially with his siblings as witnesses. It was sweet to see his vulnerability and how he pushed past his fears. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fortune's Secret Husband - Karen Rose Smith (HSE #2462 - Mar 2016)

Series: Fortunes of Texas: All Fortune's Children (Book 3)


She was only seventeen when Chase Parker swept Lady Lucie Fortune Chesterfield off her royal feet. His oil magnate father cut their love affair short and forced them to annul their union…or so he thought. Ten years later, the wealthy Texas rancher uncovers a secret -- he's still wed to the one woman he's never been able to forget!

Lucie was always "the quiet one." While her mom and sister have been tailed mercilessly by the tabloids, she's maintained a low profile and a gracious image. No one has ever uncovered her deep, dark secret -- an impulsive teenage marriage. When Chase tracks her down, she still finds him hard to resist. And as they prepare to untie the wedding knot, Lucie wonders: What if their biggest mistake was saying goodbye?

Good second chance story. Lucie and Chase hadn't seen each other in ten years, ever since their impulsive and short-lived marriage. Pressure from Chase's father forced them to annul their marriage, but they never really forgot each other. Ten years later, Chase discovers that the annulment never went through, so he and Lucie are still married. 

Lucie is in Austin, working with the Fortune Foundation, when Chase shows up to break the news. For the past ten years she has worked hard to stay out of the limelight, preserving her image as the quiet one in the family. The last thing she wants is for this news to come out and start a firestorm of scandal for the family. 

Getting together to talk about fixing the problem brings another issue to the surface. Neither Chase or Lucie has forgotten the way they felt, and those feelings are still there. But their lives have moved in opposite directions, so what chance do they have to make it work now?

I really enjoyed seeing the development of this relationship. At first, both are determined that the annulment go through as quickly as possible. But having seen each other again, they suddenly find themselves taking any chance they have to spend time together. I was a bit bothered by Lucie's obsessive fear of being seen together, but it was fun to see some of the lengths she went to in order to hide who she was. I liked Chase's protectiveness, as he went along with whatever she felt she had to do, just so long as he could be with her. As they got to know each other again, their hearts grew closer, but their heads could only see what was keeping them apart. 

There were several really terrific scenes that showed how right they were together. I loved seeing them work together at the church youth program, trying to pretend they didn't know each other, but constantly aware of where the other was. My favorite was when Lucie was babysitting her niece and Chase came over to be with her. I loved seeing him with the baby and how both of them felt like a family.

I liked the way that both Chase and Lucie came to see that neither had truly been ready for marriage all those years ago. Since that time, both have grown and matured into people who want to make the world a better place. The question becomes one of can they find a way to bring their worlds together. I loved the ending and how Lucie takes charge of her past and her future. Chase's big moment was sweet and romantic and I loved the timing.

There were a couple of mentions of the series theme dealing with the question of whether Gerald Robinson is actually a Fortune who walked away from his family and heritage. I'm looking forward to finding out more about it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Always - Lynsay Sands (Leisure - July 2000)

Bastard daughter to the king, Rosamunde was raised in a convent and wholly prepared to take the veil . . . until King Henry declared she would wed Aric, one of his most valiant knights. Suddenly she found herself promising to love, honor, and obey.

Rosamunde's education had not covered a wedding night, but the handsome warrior she was now bound to seemed intent on giving her a lesson in the art of pleasure. In no time, Aric was certain she would surrender to the irresistible passion he promised.

And while Rosamunde's spirited nature often put her at odds with her new husband, his mastery in seduction was quickly melting her resolve—and capturing her heart.

Fun book, with the author's trademark humor and bit of intrigue to spice up the romance. Rosamunde has been raised at the convent and is just hours away from taking her vows when her father shows up. He is determined to marry her off and has brought the groom with him. 

Aric had just ended his betrothal to a woman who was unfaithful. He's seriously considering remaining unmarried when the king arrives. The king won't take no for an answer and Aric soon finds himself married to the beautiful but innocent Rosamunde.

The first part of the book deals with the beginning of their marriage. Rosamunde is incredibly naive and the marriage instructions she received from the nuns were heavy on the anything to do with the marriage bed is sinful. The consummation scene, where they are rushed through it by her father, was awkward for both of them and set them up for more difficulties to come. The journey to their new home is an exercise in frustration for both of them. Aric feels badly about what he did and isn't sure how to fix it, plus doing it on the journey is just too awkward. He's attracted to her, and increasingly frustrated by his inability to do anything about it. Rosamunde has gone from a life of purpose, working with the convent's animals and other participation in convent life, to being allowed to do nothing. She's bored and frustrated and wondering just how miserable her future is going to be.

Once they reach their new home, Rosamunde's frustration continues to grow. Aric is busy learning the land and people, and is gone all day. Rosamunde was never taught about housekeeping matters and feels totally useless, especially since Aric won't even let her go to the stables to help with the animals. The arrival of his father and his friend Robert, along with Bishop Shrewsbury, brings some changes. The king has died and there is the possibility that Rosamunde is in danger. She has also reached the end of her patience and is determined to return to her work in the stables. There is a hysterical scene dealing with Aric's reaction to finding her there, and the compromise his father helps him find. This doesn't work out quite the way he intended and between the horse in the hall and her veterinary practice Aric is ready to blow. It takes his father, Robert and the bishop to calm him down in a scene that had me laughing out loud.

All of this does start to open Aric's eyes to the differences between Rosamunde and his former fiancee. He has been taking out his loss of trust in women on Rosamunde, who does not deserve it. I really enjoyed seeing him try to repair their relationship. This brings them back together physically, and Aric finally gets a chance for a re-do of the consummation, only to run into the roadblocks laid by the nuns and bishop. The chemistry between them is hot, and once Rosamunde gets a taste of passion she's all in. It was pretty sweet to see the two of them begin to actually get to know each other and the feelings between them grow.

But things are about to get really complicated. There have been several attacks on Rosamunde and Aric is determined to keep her safe and discover who is behind them. Unfortunately for him, she doesn't believe that she is in danger and resists all of Aric's attempts to protect her, setting up some very frustrating times for him. Called to London for Richard's coronation, there is yet another attack, this time on Aric. When they finally reach court, Aric believes he will finally be able to get at the truth. It's really interesting that it's through an unexpected encounter that Rosamunde discovers the truth. The final confrontation is intense and nervewracking as Aric and Rosamunde have to work together to end the threat. I loved seeing them finally come together with all their issues finally overcome.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Deceptions - Cynthia Eden (HI #1630 - Apr 2016)

Series: Battling McGuire Boys (Book 5)

People called Elizabeth Snow wild, and once she was. Now she's the straitlaced librarian with no interest in the wildest, sexiest McGuire…until she needs him to protect her from a murderous stalker. But former Delta Force Mac does more than protect -- he quickly unleashes her untamed side again, taking their attraction to the furthest edge of desire!

Secrets from their pasts threaten Elizabeth and Mac -- as much as"The Fixer," who seems to know their every move as they hunt this monstrous killer. Can they trust each other enough to go forward? Or will a shocking truth prove fatal?

This was a very exciting book, right from the opening pages. Elizabeth is the new librarian in town, and as she is locking up one night, she hears someone calling her name. This person makes threats against her, and she is only saved by the arrival of Mac. Mac has arrived just as the library is closing, supposedly to return an overdue book. What he's really doing is wangling some time with the woman he has a crush on, but who refuses to go out with him. He immediately steps in to protect her, not just then but also later that night when she runs toward even more danger.

I really liked Elizabeth. As a teenager she had been known as a wild child. But she had fallen in love with a boy and they were starting a new life when he was brutally murdered. After that, she took charge of her life, determined to make a better one. To that end, she has done her best to keep that life calm and controlled. Now that past has come back to haunt her. While she appreciates Mac's help, she doesn't want him to get hurt fighting her battles. 

I loved Mac. He is former Special Forces and is haunted by things in his own past, not just from his military service, but also from the murders of his parents. McGuire Security is his and his brothers' way of turning their pasts into something good. Mac is determined to do whatever is necessary to keep Elizabeth safe.

There was a connection between Mac and Elizabeth from the beginning, though she tried very hard to deny it. She was afraid that she would lose her new self-control if she let any of the passion that she felt reach the surface. Once she realizes that Mac will not walk away while she's in danger, she agrees to his protection and they begin the process of trying to find out why it is happening. As they worked together, I loved seeing how easily they understood each other's fears, and the support they provided. It was really fun to see the reactions most of his brothers had to the effect she had on him. The scene with Davis and Brodie was pretty funny. I loved the way that Mac realized his feelings first and that he had no trouble admitting them, at least to himself, and that he wasn't going to give up on trying to convince Elizabeth to take a chance. I also loved seeing the changes that Elizabeth went through, as she accepted that her past didn't have to define her present and future. She could be wild or straight-laced depending on her feelings at the time. Mac's big moment at the end was really sweet and romantic.

The suspense of the story was fantastic. The bad guy, "The Fixer", just wouldn't give up. Every time they thought they were safe, there he was again. Even when they had him in their hands, there was something creepily smug about him. I really didn't like that DA and his attitude, especially when Mac and Elizabeth tried to explain just how evil the guy was. Then came the information that the killer was just a hired gun, leaving them with the necessity of finding out who had hired him. I loved the outstanding detective work they did that brought them to that point. There was a very interesting twist to the end, that wasn't a total surprise. It certainly made for a very intense confrontation before it was all over.

There was also a very intriguing lead in to the final book in the series, dealing with Sullivan McGuire. He is the one who seems to be the most cynical and hardened of them all, and we got the briefest glimpse of what may have caused it. He also receives some information that may lead to solving the mystery of their parents' murder, a theme that has run through the entire series. I can't wait to see how his story goes!